b. 19/02/1834 Drumgarole, County Armagh, Ireland. d. 07/08/1914 Great Culverden, Kent.
Charles Davis Lucas (1834-1914) was born at Drumgarole, in the county of Armagh, Ireland on 19th February 1834. He was born into a wealthy Irish landowning family with his father being Davis Lucas and his mother Elizabeth (nee Hill). Charles enlisted with the Royal Navy at the age of 13 in 1847 and served aboard HMS Vengeance, before at the age of just 18, he saw action in the Second Anglo-Burmese War on board HMS Fox. He participated in the captures of Rangoon, Dalta Pegu and Prome. The end of this war saw Burma annexed to the East India Company. For his actions, he was awarded the Pegu Medal. By the age of 20, he had reached the rank of Mate.
In 1854, the Crimean War against Russia had broken out, and the greatest naval danger was seen to be the Baltic Sea, where Russia’s main fleet were situated. Before War had been declared, the Navy had sought to reconnoitre the Baltic and despatched its new steam sloop, HMS Hecla, with Midshipman Charles Davis Lucas (who had recently transferred to the new ship) aboard, which had left Hull on 19th February 1854 (his 20th birthday).
The captain of the Hecla was William Hutcheson Hall, a man who would play a prominent part in Lucas’ life. In a voyage of over 3000 miles, often outrunning Russian frigates, she drew up charts of the Baltic which would prove vital later in the War. After a short return to Dover, the Hecla returned to the Baltic. The Hecla together with HMS Arrogant were the first vessels to engage with the Russian fleet amongst the Aland Islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia. Hall then led the Hecla into an attack on the formidable fortress of Bomarsund on the east coast of the main island.
The attack was against an enemy who outgunned them with over 100 guns compared to 38 between the Hecla, Odin and Valourous. Early in the fight, a live shell landed on the deck of the Hecla. A shout went up for all hands to fling themselves down onto the deck. Lucas ignored the advice, picked up the round shell with its fizzing fuse, carried it to the rail and threw it overboard. It exploded before it hit the water and two men were slightly wounded. Captain Hall showed his gratitude immediately by promoting Lucas to Acting Lieutenant. For his bravery, Lucas was awarded the gold Royal Humane Society Medal.
Just three years later, on 26th June 1857, Lieutenant Charles Davis Lucas stood fourth in line at the first investiture of the Victoria Cross in Hyde Park, London. Lucas did not see any further action in the Crimea, but steadily climbed the promotion ladder. He served on ships such as the Calcutta, Powerful, Cressy, Edinburgh. Liffey and Indus. In 1862 he was promoted to Commander and then to Captain in 1867, before retiring from the Navy on 1st October 1873. He retired to the Western Highlands of Scotland where he lived with his sister and her husband.
In 1878, Lucas received a summons to the deathbed of his former captain, Admiral Sir William Hutcheson Hall, who had an unusual request. He begged Lucas to take care of his wife Hilaire and to marry his only daughter Frances Russell Hall. Lucas agreed to the request, and married Frances, who was the granddaughter of the 6th Viscount Torrington in 1879. They went on to have three daughters.
They made their home at Great Culverden, near to Tunbridge Wells, Kent. In 1885, Lucas was promoted to Rear Admiral on the retired list. He then became a Justice of the Peace for Kent and Argyllshire. After a train journey back from Scotland, Lucas discovered that he had left all his medals including his VC in the carriage. They were not recovered and he was issued with a duplicate group. The back of his replacement VC is blank.
Charles died peacefully at his home, Great Culverden on 7th August 1914, aged 80, just as the First World War was breaking out. He was buried in St Lawrence’s Churchyard, in the village of Mereworth, Kent. His medals are held by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, though are not currently displayed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM, GREENWICH.
BURIAL PLACE: ST LAWRENCE CHURCH, MEREWORTH, KENT.
Charles Lucas' medal on the Maritime Museum website.
(not on display in Jan 2015)
VC Grove, Tunbridge Wells
Lucas' renovated grave courtesy of Steve Davies.