Forgotten hero honoured

A service has been held in Kirkdale Cemetery to honour one of Liverpool’s forgotten heroes.

William Connolly was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1857 for bravery during the Indian Mutiny. He is buried in an unmarked grave although there is a headstone to him near the cemetery entrance.

Now a flat stone memorial plaque has been unveiled to mark his grave andJoe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool laid a reath  at a service which was  attended by standard bearers from the Royal Artillery.

During the ceremony the Mayor  presented representatives of the Royal Artillery with a replica Victoria Cross in memory of Mr Connolly.

William Connolly was born in Liverpool in May 1817. He lived in Oakes Street, off London Road and worked as a stableman and groom before enlisting in the Bengal Army of the Honourable East India Company as a gunner, 1st Troop, 3rd Bengal Horse Artillery.

He won his VC for his bravery at Jhelum on 7 July 1857 when, despite sustaining three wounds to his legs through musket balls, he would not leave his post until he collapsed through loss of blood.  At one point his commanding officer ordered that he be removed from the action but, he reported “this brave man hearing me, staggered to his feet, and said, ‘ No, Sir,” ‘ I’ll not go there, whilst I can work here.”

He returned to Liverpool in 1859 living with relations before moving into lodgings off Netherfield Road.  His later life was spent in poverty and his VC was auctioned in 1886 for £10.

William spent some time in a workhouse in Rice Lane before moving to 14, Westminster Road, Kirkdale. He died on 31 December 1891and was buried on 4 January 1892 in a pauper’s grave.

Mayor Anderson said: “This was a man who showed outstanding bravery but has not been properly honoured in his home city. He spent the last years of his life in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave.  The regulations say that his grave cannot be individually marked, but we should recognise someone who was a real hero and this service  helped to do that.”

Kirkdale Councillor Joe Hanson added: “He was a local man whose life, unfortunately, ended in poverty. I became aware of his story after his memorial has suffered some damage which we were able to rectify. We thought that the actual grave of somebody who had won the VC should be properly marked so we  organised this rededication service.”