SIR WILLIAM PEEL

Sir William Peel V.C., K.C.B

Sir William Peel V.C., K.C.B third son of Prime Minister Peel, was the archetypical Victorian hero. He was born in 1824 and entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman at the age of 14. He saw action at the siege of Acre in 1840 and was soon promoted until by the 1850s, he was the youngest Captain in the Navy. In those days, when there was no action, Naval Officers were laid off on half pay. William Peel took time off to organise an expedition to the Nubian Desert in Egypt and wrote a book about his adventures entitled ‘A Ride through the Nubian Desert’. At the siege of Sebastopol in 1856, he was one of the first recipients of the Victorian Cross for outstanding bravery. He Saved the lives of his men after a live shell landed among their munitions Peel coolie picked it up and throw it back over the wall were it immediately exploded.  He went on to perform two other acts of bravery, which would have won him a bar to his medal today. He was commander of the Naval Brigade during the Crimean war. In September 1856, he commissioned HMS Shannon, a powerful 50-gun steam frigate and sailed to Hong Kong with the governor, Lord Elgin. On his return, his ship was diverted to Calcutta on the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny. On reaching Calcutta, he unloaded the latest armaments from his ship and had them hauled to Allahabad and then Lucknow. The Naval Brigade’s guns and Peel’s cool leadership played a major part in the suppression of the Mutiny and the relief of Lucknow. During the battle for Lucknow, he was injured by a sniper’s bullet. He was transferred to Cawnpore on a cart, which had previously been used for smallpox victims, which he contracted and died on 27th April 1858 at the age of 33. He was a brilliant leader, who would have undoubtedly gone onto an outstanding career. Peel by his heroism and untimely death was much lauded. Three marble statues were sculpted by William Theed. One is in Sir William’s parish church at Sandy, Bedfordshire, one in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and one in Kolkata (Calcutta), India

In Tamworth Sir William Peel V.C.  K.C.B. has a memorial plaque in St Editha’s Church and his portrait hangs in the chamber of the old council house. Few realise that as they enter Tamworth Castle Grounds via the gate house you see on the right a sea anchor this was captured by the same Sir William Peel V.C., K.C.B. during the Crimean War. This prize first resided in the grounds of the family estate of Drayton Manor and on the demise of the family fortune it was transported to its present location

for information on Sir Robert Peel 2nd Baronet PM and his descendants visit www.peelsociety.org.uk

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02.03.19

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