Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Malaya's first Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross  is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of the British Empire territories, taking precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. The first Victoria Cross awarded for action in Malaya was to Captain George Nicholas Channer. Though the citation for the award states that it was "for his gallant conduct during the recent operations against the Malays in Perak", the engagement in question was actually against the Malays in the Sungai Ujong War and not the Perak War. 

When the Dato' Kelana of Sungai Ujong (the area that is today known as Seremban) accepted a British Resident and agreed to it being a protected British state, Sungai Ujong was attacked by the Yam Tuan Antah of Seri Menanti. After a series of skirmishes, the Malays occupied a fortified position on the Bukit Putus pass. It was at this battle that Channer won his VC and below is the citation describing what occurred.

From the War Office, April 12, 1876

The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officer, whose claim to the same gas been submitted for Her Majesty's approval, for his gallant conduct during the recent operations against the Malays in Perak, as recorded against his name, viz.:-


Bengal Staff Corps

Rank and Name: 

Captain (now Brevet-Major) George Nicholas Channer

Act of Bravery for which recommended:

For having, with the greatest gallantry, been the first to jump into the Enemy's stockade, to which he had been dispatched with a small party of the 1st Ghoorkha Light Infantry on the afternoon of the 20th December, 1875, by the officer commanding the Malacca Column, to procure intelligence as to its strength, position, &c.

Major Channer got completely in rear of the Enemy's position, and finding himself so close that he could hear the voices of the men inside, who were cooking at the time, and keeping no lookout, he beckoned to his men and the whole party stole quietly forward to within a few paces of the stockade.

On jumping in, he shot the first man dead with his revolver, and his party then came up and entered the stockade, which was of a most formidable nature, surrounded by a bamboo palisade; about seven yards within was a log-house, loop-holed, with two narrow entrances, and trees laid latitudinally, to the thickness of two feet.

The Officer commanding reports that if Major Channer, by his foresight, coolness and intrepidity, had not taken this stockade, a great loss of life must have occurred, as from the fact of his being unable to bring guns to bear on it, from the steepness of the hill, and the density of the jungle, it must have been taken at the point of the bayonet.

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