John Byrne VC DCM was born in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, Ireland on September 27th 1832. At the age of 22 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry while serving as a private in the British Army during the Crimean War. 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, six of whom were born in Kilkenny.
Having moved from Castlecomer to Coventry in England to find work John Byrne, at the age of 18, enlisted in the British Army on July 27th 1850. It appears he breached regulations during his first years in the army and was imprisoned on two occasions. He was released and joined his regiment, the 68th Light Infantry, when it set sail for the Crimea on in August 1854. In November 1854 Byrne’s regiment was involved in the Battle of Inkerman. When his regiment was ordered to retreat during the battle John Byrne went, under fire, towards the enemy lines at great risk to his own life, to help a wounded comrade to safety. Five months later on May 11th 1855 Private Byrne’s regiment was involved in a battle near Sebastopol in the southwestern region of the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea. During the battle Private Byrne, in defending his position, engaged in a hand-to-hand combat with a Russian soldier. He killed the soldier, captured his arms and prevented a breach of the British defences.
Private John Byrne was awarded the Victoria Cross Medal for his acts of bravery and promoted to the rank of Corporal. His award was presented to him by Major-General Sir George Buller on July 22nd 1857 while his regiment was stationed on the Island of Corfu.
John Byrne later served with the British Army in New Zealand where he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). In 1866 he was promoted to Sergeant and after having served for twenty one years in the British Army was discharged in Cork in 1872.
In 1878 at the age of 45 John Byrne began working for the Ordinance Survey in Wales. A year later he was involved in a dispute with a fellow workman called Watts whom Byrne accused of insulting the Victoria Cross. On July 10th 1879 he fired a pistol at Watts, wounding him slightly. Byrne himself died a few hours later in tragic circumstances. He is buried at St Woolos Cemetry, Bassaleg Rd. Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales.
Private John Byrne, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery at the battle of Inkerman during the Crimean war in the year 1854 On This Day.
Victoria Cross by Defence Images on 2012-10-01 14:10:51
Castlecomer by gabig58 on 2015-10-25 12:07:58