John Lucas was a native of Co Carlow Ireland. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for Gallantry in 1862. He won the award at the age of 35 for his actions during Taranaki-Maori War in New Zealand. The Victoria Cross is awarded for ‘most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy’. The Victoria Cross has been awarded to 168 soldiers from Ireland, two of whom were born in County Carlow.
John Lucas who was born at Clashganny, Borris, Co Carlow in 1826. He was serving as a Colour Sergeant with the 40th Regiment of Foot of the British army in New Zealand in 1861. Colour Sergeant Lucas and his party were acting as skirmishers on the Western side of the North Island of New Zealand during the Taranaki-Maori War. They were ambushed at Huirangi Bush and three of the party were wounded. For his actions during the ambush Lucas was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The citation for the award read: Three men being wounded simultaneously, two of them mortally, assistance was called for in order to have them carried to the rear: a file was immediately sent, but had scarcely arrived, when one of them fell, and Lieutenant Rees was wounded at the same time. Colour-Sergeant Lucas, under heavy fire from Maori warriors, who were not more than thirty yards distant, immediately ran up to the assistance of this Officer, and sent one man with him to the rear. He then took charge of the arms belonging to the killed and wounded men, and maintained his position until the arrival of supports under Lieutenants Gibson and Whelan.
Lucas was presented with his Victoria Cross at Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland, New Zealand on October 1st 1862. He was later promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major. When Sergeant Major Lucas retired from the British Army he returned to Ireland. He lived at ‘The Lodge’ Parkgate Street Dublin, the main entrance to the Phoenix Park, until he died on February 29th 1892 at the age of 66. He is buried at St James cemetery on James’s Street in Dublin. His Victoria Cross is held at the South Lancashire Regiment Museum in Warrington, England.
John Lucas was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry during an engagement in New Zealand which occurred in the year 1861 On This Day.