Michael Francis O'Reilly
Alexander Wright VC (1835 - 1858):
Alexander Wright was one of the first Ulstermen to be awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the British armed services.
Wright was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, and during the Crimean War served in the 77th (East Middlesex) Regiment. On 22 March 1855, his courageous part in repelling an enemy attack on the regiment’s position was noted; on 19 April he displayed notable bravery when capturing and holding some Russian rifle pits under heavy fire (rifle pits were a kind of prototype military trench); on 30 August his valorous conduct was noted again.
The Victoria Cross was instituted as a direct result of the Crimean War. Before the War, there were rather few decorations for bravery, which was normally acknowledged by admission to chivalrous orders for senior officers, while junior officers and other ranks would receive promotions or financial rewards. In 1854, two new medals were instituted, but for other ranks only, and service-specific. What was notable about the new Victoria Cross was that it could be awarded to any rank in either service (army or navy). On 31 January, 1856 Queen Victoria signed the necessary warrant for the award, and this was published in the London Gazette on 5 February. In order to recognise considerable acts of gallantry during the Crimean War, which ended in March 1856, the new VC was made retrospective to the beginning of the war.
Wright was one of the first group of VC winners to be “gazetted”, on 24 February, 1857 (this list included several Ulstermen, one of these being Charles Davis Lucas, the first winner of the award). He died in Calcutta; his medal is now in the possession of his old regiment.
|Born:||4 April 1835|
|Died:||28 July 1858|
R Doherty & D Truesdale: Irish Winners of the Victoria Cross, Dublin, 2000; Farset Youth and Community Development Unit: Ireland's V.C.s: a comprehensive list of Irishmen who were awarded the Victoria Cross
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