Crimean War VC hero recognised in Co Antrim village

A hero of the Crimean War has been recognised in his Co Antrim birthplace with a stone plaque placed in his honour.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 5:46 pm
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Paul Michael and Lord Lieutenant of Co Antrim, Joan Christie are pictured with Wallace and Edmund McCurry as they unveiled the memorial to Pte Charles McCurry. Picture: Stephen Davison/Pacemaker

Private Charles McCurry (McCorrie) from Killead saved a number of lives when he picked up an enemy shell from his trench and threw it over the parapet before it exploded.

The bravery of Pte McCurry at Sevastopol in June 1855 would earn him the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy – the Victoria Cross.

The prestigious honour did not exist at the time of his near-fatal encounter with the Russian artillery, but the soldier of the 57th Regiment was one of those recognised retrospectively when Queen Victoria approved the new medal the following year.

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Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Councillor Paul Michael officiated at Friday’s unveiling ceremony along with Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for County Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie CVO OBE.

Also present were McCurry family members Edmund and Wallace McCurry who had been helped by Cllr Michael – the chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Antrim branch – to locate the grave of Pte McCurry in Malta.

A number of other RBL representatives and local residents attended the ceremony adjacent to the Presbyterian Church and manse.

Following the Crimean War, Pte McCurry VC was posted to Malta where he died aged 27.

His untimely death came before his medal could be presented and he was buried in the Msida Bastion cemetery near Valetta.

Speaking at the ceremony, Cllr Michael said; “The memorial stone is a fitting tribute to a man who dedicated his life to protecting others and I am honoured to commemorate the bravery of Private McCurry.”

The battle at Sevastopol went down in history as one of the classic sieges in the history of warfare and was the last major encounter of the Crimean War.

British forces were joined by French and Sardinian troops for the attack on the Tsar’s army.

The Victoria Cross was introduced in January 1856 to recognise the many acts of gallantry, involving all ranks, during the war of 1853-56.

The siege at Sevastopol lasted 11 months. Overall, the Crimean War claimed the lives of around 25,000 British and 100,000 French lives – mostly from disease rather than fighting. Up to one million Russians also perished.

Although originally said to have been made using bronze from a Russian cannon captured at Sevastopol, all 1,358 medals awarded have been manufactured from an earlier Chinese cannon.

Pte McCurry’s VC is held by the Middlesex Regiment but a replica hangs in the Royal British Legion in Antrim.