William Raynor VC

b. 07/1795 Plumtree, Nottinghamshire. d. 13/12/1860 Ferozepore, India.

William Raynor (1795-1860) was born in the village of Plumtree, Nottinghamshire. His parents were John and Elizabeth Raynor (neé Tongue) who were married on 22nd January 1793 in St. Mary’s Church, Plumtree. William had an older sister, Mary, who was baptised in St. Mary’s Church, Plumtree on 18th January 1794 but died in infancy (buried 22nd June 1795). William’s parents, Elizabeth (who died in July 1819, aged 63) and John (who died in October 1819, aged 57) are both buried in Plumtree churchyard.

Victoria Cross

In 1812, William enlisted into the service of the Honourable East India Company and he arrived in India aboard the “Hugh Inglis” in February 1813. On 8h October 1818, William married a widow called Mary Wilkinson, but sadly the marriage only lasted a matter of months as Mary passed away. In 1820, he was appointed as a Sub-Conductor in the Ordnance Commissariat Department and based at the Fort William Arsenal. In 1823, he was promoted to Conductor and moved to Cawnpore, and would serve there for over 20 years.

On 27th August 1823, he married for a second time, to Mary Anne Werrill in Cawnpore, and the couple went on to have five children: William Joseph (b.1826), Adelaide Louisa (b.1834), Richard John (b.1836), Thomas Samuel (b.1839) and Albert Charles (b.1844). In October 1843, he was promoted to the rank of Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance and posted to the Delhi Magazine where he would serve for the next 14 years.

In 1857, the Indian Mutiny broke out, and 62 year old Raynor was still posted at the Delhi Magazine. On 11th May 1857, Raynor was one of nine men led by Lieutenant George Willoughby in a desperate attempt to hold the magazine from falling into enemy hands. The men hatched a plan that if there was a chance of the magazine of being overrun, then the men would blow up the magazine including themselves. The rebels heavily outnumbered the defenders and the plan needed to be carried out. One of the nine men, John Scully, had the responsibility of setting light to the fuse to the gunpowder, and in the resulting explosion, five of the nine men defending the magazine were killed, including Scully. Willoughby, Raynor, George Forrest and John Buckley all escaped. Willoughby was killed in action against the rebels in the city two days later. The other three men all were captured by the rebels and spent a time in enemy captivity.

On 18th June 1858, in the London Gazette, the award of the Victoria Cross was announced for William Raynor, George Forrest and John Buckley. Raynor’s award was very notable in that, at the age of 61 years and 10 months at the time of the announcement, he is still the oldest recipient of the VC. It is a record unlikely to be broken as under current rules, retirement from the Army happens at the age of 55. Raynor was promoted to Captain around the same time of his award.

His medal was presented to him at some point in 1858 in India. Raynor died of natural causes two years later at Ferozopore on 13th December 1860, and he was buried in the Civil Cemetery at Ferozopore. Raynor’s medals stayed in the Raynor family until 1960 when his great grandson (a retired Indian Army Colonel) reluctantly had to sell his medals and they were purchased at auction by an American collector. The medals then stayed in private ownership until November 1987, when they were put up for auction at Spinks. William’s great great grandson (also called William) and great great granddaughter (Shirley) raised the £11,000 to purchase the medals. Having purchased the medals, they decided to donate them to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps Museum (now the Royal Logistics Corps Museum) at Deepcut Barracks, Camberley, Surrey. The medals are not currently displayed and can be viewed on request.