December 1st John Divane VC (Death)


Galway – born John Divane (1823 – 1888) grew up in Penzance and worked as a fish hawker.  He enrolled in the 60th Rifles in 1854 but kept getting into trouble and he was repeatedly imprisoned for short periods and sentence to forfeiture of his pay until 1857.  Divane was sent to India and was awarded his Victoria Cross (VC) for his actions on September 10th when his force attacked the city of Delhi.  He was badly wounded and, having had a leg amputated, was invalided out in 1858.

The citation of the award of the Victoria Cross stated that it was For distinguished gallantry in heading a successful charge made by the Beeloochee and Seikh Troops on one of the Enemy's trenches before Delhi, on the 10th of September, 1857. He leaped out of our trenches, closely followed by the Native Troops, and was shot down from the top of the Enemy's breastworks. Elected by the Privates of the Regiment.’

Semi-literate, it has been suggested that his surname was actually ‘Duane’ and mis-spelt when he signed up.  After leaving the army, he returned to Penzance but ended up in poverty and, after his death, was buried in a pauper’s grave with no headstone.   A headstone was erected in 1995 in a ceremony attended by the Field Marshal Lord Bramall and, in 2015 a plaque was unveiled at 35 New Street, his last known home.


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