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A Tribute to

John Buckley VC

1813 - 1876
For gallant defence of the magazine at Delhi
Photo Of Victoria Cross

Born in May 1813 at Cocker Hill in Stalybridge, John Buckley was destined to have a tragic family life though he himself thwarted death many times. His early employment was in the textile industry working locally at Harrison's Mill and then Bayley's Mill. However, aged eighteen and recognising that his ambitions went beyond mill work, Buckley went to Manchester and joined the Bengal Artillery. Shortly afterwards came his first posting - to India in June 1832 as a gunner.

Photo of John Buckley VCIn India, Buckley met and married fourteen year old Mary Ann Broadway in 1835. Living in Calcutta the couple had three children but illness struck repeatedly and by 1845 Mary Ann and two of the children had died. Buckley remarried in 1846 but in 1852 he lost the surviving child of his first marriage and in 1853 two sons by his second marriage also died.

In 1857 Buckley, his wife and three surviving children moved to Delhi where he became Assistant Commissionary of Ordnance and was employed at the Delhi Magazine (storehouse for guns and ammunition). It was whilst at the magazine that his conduct merited the award of the Victoria Cross. The citation reads simply as follows :

'For gallant defence of the magazine at Delhi'

blue plaqueHe showed terrific courage, defying death. It was in May 1857 that the Indian Mutiny flared up against the rule of the British. The mutineers soon reached Delhi where Buckley and his fellow eight soldiers defending the magazine were vastly outnumbered. Rather than let the ammunition fall into enemy hands they decided to blow up the building and themselves. Miraculously four of them, including Buckley, survived. Buckley was captured by the enemy and soon learnt that his entire family had been ruthlessly murdered by the rebels. He had now lost two wives and eight children in total and wanted to live no longer. He begged for death from his captors but they refused to kill him on account of his bravery at the magazine. Buckley later escaped and rejoined the British army thence volunteering for all manner of dangerous missions in order to taunt death. He oversaw the execution of one hundred and fifty rebels who were strapped to the muzzle of a cannon and blown apart.

In 1858 Buckley was promoted to Lieutenant but shortly afterwards fell ill and was given two years leave. Back in England he received his Victoria Cross from Queen Victoria. He lived for a short while in Stalybridge before returning to India as a Major in October 1861.

The final years of his life were spent in London and he was buried in an unmarked grave in Tower Hamlets Cemetery. A memorial tablet at the Delhi Magazine bears testimony to the heroism of a man who suffered tremendous personal loss. His Victoria Cross is at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps Museum in Camberley.

Blue Plaque

A blue plaque to commemorate the life of John Buckley is sited at the Travellers Call Public House, Wakefield Road, Stalybridge.