Thomas Duffy VC

b. 1823/1824 Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland. d. 23/12/1868 Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland. 

Thomas Duffy (1823/4-1868) was born in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland in either 1823 or 1824, though sadly, very little is known about his life other than the actions which saw him receive the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny. When the Mutiny broke out in 1857, Thomas was 33/34 years old and a Private in Havelock’s Column. He joined the 1st Madras European Fusiliers and was one of the party, which included Captain William Olpherts VC’s battery, that spent the night of the 25th September 1857 outside the Residency of Lucknow.

T Duffy VC Medal

At dawn on the 26th, Olpherts saw that a 24 pounder gun, which had been used against the enemy the previous day, was in danger of being captured by the rebels. It was standing in a very exposed position and any attempt to approach it was met with heavy fire. Three men made the attempt; Olpherts, Crump of the Madras Artillery and Private Duffy. With a combination of daring and guile, Duffy managed to fasten a rope to the tail of the gun, which was then pulled back to the Olpherts battery. The gun then was effectively used to clear the road to the Residency.

Captain Olpherts recommended Duffy for the Victoria Cross, which was gazetted on 18th June 1858. He received his Cross in 1859 from Lieutenant-General Marcus Beresford at a parade in Mysore. There is no further information of his subsequent life following the Mutiny except that he died in Dublin, Ireland. He was believed to be buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Recent research has cast this information into doubt. It is probable that the man buried at Glasnevin Cemetery is not the correct man, and Thomas in fact died on 23rd December 1868 in Athlone. His place of burial has yet to be established. His VC was sold twice in the early 1900s, but is now in the National Army Museum, Chelsea, which is due to re-open on 30th March 2017.