William Sutton VC

b. 1830 IGHTHAM, Kent. d. 16/02/1888 IGHTHAM, Kent.

William Sutton (1830-1888) was born in Ightham, Kent in 1830 but his early life is shrouded in mystery. When the 1841 Census was carried out, William was recorded as living with his two brothers, James and Joseph and sister Dorcas in an unnamed address in Borough Green. There was no mention of parents and it can only be guessed that they had passed away and 20-year-old James Sutton was the head of the family. The two elder brothers were both agricultural labourers.

William Sutton VC

It was probably not surprising, that as soon as he was old enough, William chose to enlist in the British Army. He enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the 60th Rifles (The King’s Royal Rifle Corps), and by the time the Indian Mutiny broke out in Meerut in 1857, he was a 27-year-old Bugler. He and a few others were able to escape the marauding sepoys and the remnants of the 60th Rifles subsequently joined the Delhi Field Force. When the Field Force reached Delhi it was firmly in rebel hands and Bugler Sutton helped to man the ridge outside the city where the Field Force was entrenched.

Subjected to repeated attacks, he distinguished himself by throwing himself into the thick of the fighting. At one point, seeing an enemy bugler about to sound off a command, Sutton shot him dead, thus leaving the rebels vainly awaiting orders from their leaders. When the decision was made to invest the city, Sutton volunteered to go out and reconnoitre a breach that had been made in the walls to assess its suitability for an all-out assault. Sutton was eventually elected for the VC by his comrades for the two listed incidents above which occurred on 2nd August and 13th September 1857.

Not much is known about his life after the end of the Mutiny. After his VC was gazetted on 20th January 1860, he was invested by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 9th November that year. He married Eliza and by the 1871, he was living in Rotherhithe with four children and his occupation as now a labourer. Sadly, life got harder for William. In 1872, he had to purchase a replacement VC when his original medal was lost. By 1881, he was a widower and living with his brother-in-law in Halling, Kent with two of his children. He was now working as a labourer for a bricklayer. Soon afterwards, he returned to his native Ightham. Sadly, he had fallen on hard times and entered the Union Workhouse in nearby Malling, where he died on 16th February 1888 at the age of 58. He was buried in an unmarked grave in St Peter’s Churchyard, Ightham. His replacement VC is now held by the Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester.