William Leslie de la Poer Beresford VC

b. 20/07/1847 Mullaghbrack, Ireland. d. 30/12/1900 Dorking, Surrey.

Lord William Leslie de la Poer “Ulundi” Beresford (1847-1900) was born on 20th July 1847, at Mullaghbrack, County Armagh, Ireland, the 3rd son of the 4th Marquis of Waterford, and of Christiana, daughter of Colonel Charles Powell Leslie, who hailed from County Monaghan. He was educated at Eton and entered the 9th Lancers in 1867, as a Cornet, and became Lieutenant in 1870. The Regiment was then stationed at Island Bridge Barracks, Dublin. He soon became known for his successfully amateur riding and was a member of the regimental polo team.

William L Beresford VC

In the autumn of 1874 he sailed with his regiment for India. Later that year, he was appointed Aide de Camp on the Staff of the retiring Viceroy, Lord Northbrook, who was being succeeded by Lord Lytton, to whom William later became Military Secretary, and remained in this capacity with four successive Viceroys until the spring of 1894.

He was promoted to Captain in 1876. His first active service was with General Keyes in the Jowaki Expedition of 1877-1878, when Lord Lytton gave him leave of absence. For his services he was to receive the Medal and clasp. In the second phase of the Afghan War, he again got a leave of absence to serve under General Sir Samuel Browne VC, and was mentioned in despatches. On hearing of the disastrous events at Isandhlwana in January 1879, he was determined to get to South Africa. He arrived in Durban in April 1879, and served in the Zulu War.

On 3rd July 1879, during the Battle of Ulundi, while a reconnoitring party was retiring, Captain Lord Beresford had to go to the assistance of Sergeant Fitzmaurice of the 24th Regiment of Foot, whose horse had fallen on him. The Zulus were approaching in large numbers, by William, with the help of Edmund O’Toole of the Frontier Light Horse managed to mount the injured man behind him. The man was so dizzy that O’Toole had to give up his carbine and hold on to him as they rode to safety.

Both men were gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 23rd August 1879, and Lord William Beresford received his medal the very next day from Queen Victoria at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. He received the medal whilst on a period of 18 days leave. He then returned to India and serving the Viceroys. It was there that he became interested in horse racing both as a rider and owner. When he left India in 1894, he was given a farewell banquet in Calcutta Town Hall.

On 30th April 1895, at St George’s, Hanover Square, London, he married Lilian Warren, daughter of Cicero Price, a Commodore in the US Navy, and widow of the 8th Duke of Marlborough. They had one son, William Warren de la Poer, who was born on 4th February 1897. In October 1895, the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) stayed with Lord Beresford and his wife at their home, “Deepdene”, in Dorking, Surrey. At the end of 1895, William entered into a racing partnership with Pierre Lorillard, and they had some notable successes. When Lorillard had to retire due to ill health, William took over the business.

William had numerous successes with several of his horses, but sadly, Lieutenant-Colonel Lord William Beresford VC passed away after a bout of peritonitis on 28th December 1900 aged 53. He was laid to rest in the family vault in Clonagam Churchyard, Curraghmore, County Waterford, Ireland. His medals are held by the Beresford family.