Michael Daniels
Edward St John Daniel VC
 The story of the first man to forfeit the Victoria Cross



The Life of Edward St John Daniel


Decline and Fall

On 24th May 1860, exactly one month after his presentation to Queen Victoria, Edward St John Daniel was severely reprimanded when additional lieutenant on the sloop HMS Wasp for being twice absent without leave. Wasp was in the English Channel, due to leave for the Cape of Good Hope where Daniel had been appointed to HMS Forte. On 9th June he was found in the wardroom in a state of drunken torpor, when he should have been standing middle watch.


A court martial was held on the guard-ship HMS Impregnable at Devonport on 16th June 1860. Daniel pleaded guilty to the charge of drunkenness, but read out the following statement in his defence:

"It is from no unworthy desire to exaggerate the services in which I have been engaged since I entered the navy, in 1851, and I trust with no improper pride that I refer to the certificates I shall produce to the court, and the duties in which I have taken part in the Black Sea and in India, in the actions at Inkermann, before the Redan, and with the naval brigade, under Captain Peel, during the reduction of the Indian mutiny, for which I have the Victoria Cross, the Legion of Honour, the Order of the Medjidie, and the Crimean, Burmese, Turkish, and Indian medals."
(as reported in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 23 June 1860)

    HMS Impregnable
HMS Impregnable
off Devonport

The Court gave favourable consideration to his gallant services and privations in the Crimea and India, as well as his "previous good conduct", and he was sentenced only to be dismissed from the Wasp and to be placed at the bottom of the list of lieutenants for a period of two years. In 1860 he was also placed on half pay.

On 26th January 1861, Daniel was appointed to the screw steam ship HMS Victor Emanuel serving in the Mediterranean. On 25th June, he was placed under arrest and, the following day the ship proceeded to join Rear Admiral Dacres, Captain of the Fleet and Senior Officer at Corfu, where Daniel would clearly face another court martial. At about 10pm that night, the Master-at-Arms found that Daniel was missing from the ship. Two men were sent ashore to effect an arrest, but they could not find him.

On 28th June 1861, Daniel was marked "Run" (i.e., a deserter). Normally such a report would not be made for two weeks. Because of this fact, the suggestion has been made some researchers that the Navy might have colluded in Daniel's escape in order to avoid the scandal of a high-profile and embarrassing court martial. Alternatively, Daniel might have left a note explaining his desertion, although there is no surviving record of this.

In July 1861, Daniel's name was removed from the Navy List.


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