b. 1812 Maghera, County Londonderry, Ireland. d. 02/02/1879 Manchester.
Robert Hawthorne (1812-1879) was born into an impoverished family in 1812 in Maghera, County Londonderry, Ireland. Due to the financial issues of his family, he was already working as a labourer at the age of 10. At the age of 14, he was enlisted as a boy soldier into the 52nd Regiment of Foot (later Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry) and saw service initially in the West Indies, Canada and Ireland. In 1853, the Regiment was sent to India and took part in the operations on Delhi Ridge.
On the morning of 14th September 1857, during the assault on Delhi through the Kashmir Gate. Hawthorne accompanied the explosion party led by Lieutenants Duncan Home and Philip Salkeld. When the explosion went off prematurely, a number of the men were thrown into a ditch. Several men were severely wounded including Salkeld. Both Sergeant John Smith and Bugler Robert Hawthorne went to his aid, and bound up his severely injured thigh and arm. They did this under heavy musket fire, and managed to get him removed on a stretcher to a field hospital. Sadly, Salkeld would die of his wounds.
Once the city had been captured, the 52nd was tasked with guarding the now empty city while flying columns were sent off in pursuit. Hawthorne was gazetted for the VC on the same day as John Smith on 27th April 1858. Hawthorne unlike Smith decided to leave the Army when he arrived back in England on 20th June 1861. Like John Smith, there does not seem to have been a presentation ceremony.
Hawthorne retired to Manchester and was employed as a porter at the bank of Cunliffe, Brooks and Company. He married and had five children. When he died on 2nd February 1879, his old regiment heard of his passing and arranged for a funeral with full military honours in Ardwick Cemetery, Manchester. Sadly, his headstone was removed during the 1950s when the cemetery was levelled. His VC and Indian Mutiny Medal were purchased by a group of officers of the 52nd Regiment of Foot and were donated to what is now the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
ARDWICK CEMETERY, MANCHESTER. (UNMARKED GRAVE). PLOT I, GRAVE 32291
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the plaque at Ardwick Cemetery.