Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton VC

b. 18/08/1856 Inistioge, County Kilkenny, Ireland. d. 03/09/1879 Kabul, Afghanistan..

Walter Richard Pollock Hamilton (1856-1879) was the 4th son of Alexander Hamilton JP, of Inistioge, County Kilkenny, Ireland, and Emma, his wife, daughter of the Right Honourable Sir Frederick Pollock, for who for 22 years was Lord Chief Baron of Her Majesty’s Court of Exchequer, and was the great-grandson of the Right Reverend Hugh Hamilton, Bishop of Ossory. He was born on 18th August 1856, and was educated at Eagle House, Wimbledon, and Felsted School in Essex. In January 1874, he obtained 21st place in an open examination for the Army and was gazetted to the 70th Regiment of Foot. He served a few months at the Depot, and then embarked for India in October 1874.

Walter R P Hamilton VC

On arrival, he joined the Regimental HQ at Rawalpindi. On being promoted, Lieutenant Hamilton was offered, and accepted, a commission in the Corps of Guides. Within three months of joining the regiment, he passed the higher standard of examination in languages, and was detailed to the Cavalry. He served throughout the Itwaki-Afridi Expedition of 1877-1878. He then served as Aide de Camp to the Commanding Officer, General Keyes.

On the 14th March 1878, he was present at the operations against the Ranizai village of Skhakat. In October 1878, in view of the threatened hositilies with Afghanistan, the Corps of Guides were moved to Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, and for a period of 6 weeks was engaged in reconnoitring the mountains around the Pass. In the first of the two ensuing campaigns, Hamilton participated throughout in the Cavalry. He was present at the capture of Ali Musjid. In March 1879, he commanded a troop on escort duty with a surveying party under Lieutenant Leach, which succeeded in beating off an attack from the Ghinwari tribe. At the very end of March, he was involved in the advance of General Gough’s Brigade towards Futtehabad. It was at Futtehadbad that Hamilton would distinguish himself to be eventually awarded the VC. At first, the War Office refused the recommendation. When at last they recognised his gallantry on 1st September 1879 (it was backdated two days to this date), tragically Hamilton was dead, and the medal would have to be posted to his father.

On the 2nd April 1879, he had led the cavalry charge against a larger force of enemy. It was then that his commanding officer, Major Wigram Battye was killed, and Hamilton assumed command. He encouraged the men forward to avenge Battye’s death. In the charge, he noticed that Sowar Dowlut Ram was down and surrounded by three of the enemy. Hamilton rushed to his aid and cut down the three men and rescued the Sowar.

Shortly afterwards, it was decided to send an Embassy to Kabul and Sir Louis Cavagnari was chosen as Minister, and he selected Hamilton as his political assistant as well as to command his escort of 70 men of the Corps of Guides. Tragically, after six weeks of residence in the capital, the entire escort and Hamilton were attacked by the enemy. Hamilton died charging an enemy gun, and his body was not recovered for burial. He died on 3rd September 1879, hence the backdating of his VC award to 1st September. His medals were passed through the family and are now owned by the Ashcroft Trust and displayed in the Imperial War Museum.