George Richardson V.C.Private 4318, 34th Regiment of Foot, later the Border Regiment, and latterly Sergeant, Prince of Wales Royal Rifles of Canada
George Richardson was born August 1, 1831 at Derrylane, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan, the youngest son of John and Anne Richardson. His father was a linen weaver. Derrylane, where the Richardsons resided, is approximately four miles from Killeshandra. The baptismal register in the parish of Killeshandra gives 19 July 1834 as the date of his Baptism.
Little else is known about George Richardson in the intervening years, but he is known to have enlisted in the 34th. Regiment of Foot in 1855, having volunteered from the Cavan Militia, and this was to be the beginning of a chequered army career. Within two years he is recorded as having deserted in Edinburgh on 23 June 1857, for reasons unknown, before reporting back to his regiment on 18 September, and subsequently serving three months in Colechester for his troubles.
Shortly afterwards, the 34th Regiment was posted to India, where it took part in suppressing the Indian Mutiny, and it was during this time near Cawnpore, on 27 April 1859, that Richardson put his past behind him and went on to win the Victoria Cross in hand to hand combat. The London Gazette of 11 November 1859 gives the following fascinating account of his actions:
It was also said of Richardson that he was, on three other occasions during the mutiny, recommended for the Victoria Cross and that he also refused a commission. George Richardson was invalided home on the S.S. Startled Fawn, and was invested with his V.C. by Queen Victoria on 11 August 1860, at a ceremony in London's Hyde Park. He returned home to Ireland after his discharge from the Army, and he joined the Orange Order in 1861, quite probably in Killeshandra, where his family still lived.
Richardson emigrated to Canada in 1862, and worked for a while as a coachman in Montreal. In 1865 Richardson enlisted with the Prince of Wales Royal Rifles, being promoted to sergeant. He later homesteaded on land granted by the Ontario Government for his service at Stratton, where he lived with his wife, Elizabeth.
In l916, the Richardson's home caught fire and George then aged 85, picked up his unconscious wife, and carried her to the garden, but she sadly died of shock. He partially lost the sight of one eve as a result of burns. George placed Canada's wreath on the tomb of the American Unknown Warrior at Washington in 1921, and was a personal friend of Sam Hughes, the then Canadian Minister of Defence.
George Richardson died at the age of 92, of pneumonia, in the Westminster Hospital, London, Ontario, on 28 January 1923. He was laid to rest in the veteran's section (Plot 2751) of the Prospect Cemetery in Toronto, on 1 February, with full military honours. His Victoria Cross was eventually sold at auction to a private collector in 1975.
Since it was instituted by Queen Victoria on January 29 1856, and backdated almost two years to include acts of valour performed during the Crimean War, the Victoria Cross has been renowned and cherished as the world's most coveted medal for gallantry. Cast in bronze taken from the Chinese made cannons captured from the Russians at Sevastopol during the Crimean War, the Victoria Cross, with its distinctive crimson ribbon, has been awarded on 1354 occasions.