b. 13/10/1830 Fontmell Magna, Dorset. d. 10/10/1857 Delhi, India.
Philip Salkeld (1830-1857) was born in Fontmell Magna, Dorset on 13th October 1830, the fourth son of 13 children to the Reverend Robert Salkeld, the local Rector. Despite financial constraints due to the size of the family, a sponsor was found and Philip was sent to Addiscombe, emerging with a commission into the Bengal Engineers. Like Duncan Home VC, he was employed in India in various canal and road construction projects. In 1853, he was stationed at Meerut and worked on a stretch of the Grand Trunk Road.
In 1856, he moved to Delhi as Executive Engineer with the Public Works. This meant that he was in Delhi when the Mutiny broke out and the rebels ran amok, killing all Europeans they could find. He narrowly escaped death in the early rioting and found himself with other survivors near the Kashmir Gate. With the enemy closing in, he led a group to the top of the bastion and helped form an escape rope from sword-belts. Under heavy fire, he managed to escape through the shanties and scrub north of the walls. He teamed up with a small party of four officers, one of whom was Lieutenant George Forrest (later VC) from the Delhi Magazine, who had been shot in the hand and was in a state of shock. Also in the party was his wife, who had been shot through the shoulder and his three daughters, the youngest being nine.
Together they suffered a torrid journey in which they had to wade across the Ganges Canal, the River Jumna and were robbed by bandits. Salkeld made the journey barefoot, having given his shoes to one of the girls. After considerable help from friendly villagers, they were eventually rescued by Lieutenant Hugh Gough with about forty loyal sowars of the 3rd Cavalry.
Returning from his ordeal, Salkeld returned to the Delhi Ridge with Wilson’s Meerut Column. When the Ridge was occupied, Salkeld’s sappers constructed artillery batteries by the Hindoo Rao’s House, a focus of heavy fighting during the siege. On 22nd June 1857, he took a party of sappers and blew up an important bridge carrying the Grand Trunk Road over the Nujufgurth Jheel drain. In the early hours of 14th September 1857, he was awoken and told to report to Lieutenant Home, who explained to him the planned attack on the Kashmir Gate and that he would be second in command.
During the assault on the Kashmir Gate, there was a huge explosion and Salkeld was severely wounded. He was comforted by Home and helped by Sergeant John Smith (later VC). He was taken to a field hospital, where his left arm was amputated. The insanitary conditions and shock of an amputation without anaesthetic contributed to Salkeld’s death on 10th October 1857. He had learned of the award of the VC just before his death, and he was presented with the crimson ribbon pinned to his bed-shirt by General Wilson. His joint citation with Duncan Home was published on 18th June 1858. Salkeld’s father was sent his medal in the post on 7th July 1858. Salkeld had been buried in an unmarked grave in the Old Military Cemetery in Delhi.
Salkeld had saved over £1,000, a considerable amount, which he intended to send home for his brother’s education at the Addiscombe Seminary. When the rioters looted and destroyed the London and Delhi Bank, the money was lost. A fund was raised in Salkeld’s memory, which was generously over-subscribed. His brothers’ received their education and a memorial was erected to Philip in Fontmell Magna at his father’s church. His medal is not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: OLD MILITARY CEMETERY, DELHI, INDIA. (UNMARKED).
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Salkeld VC Bridge in Sturminster Newton, Dorset.