Published on 17 October, 2011
| Cpl Thomas Hancock was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) since his death over 140 years ago|
After demonstrating incredible bravery in the field of battle, Cpl Thomas Hancock, late the Lancers, was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), yet since his death over 140 years ago his grave had remained unmarked. He was also one of the first employees of The Corps of Commissionaires (Corps Security) and on the 15th October a memorial stone was unveiled in honour of his achievements and services to his country.
The event was the brainchild of respected naval and military historian, Brian Horton, who has made it part of his life's work to ensure that esteemed service personnel who have been awarded the Victoria Cross are properly commemorated.
Hancock was born in Ealing in 1822. At the age of 18 he joined the 3rd Light Dragoons and a year later he transferred to the 9th (Queens Royal) Lancers and was promoted from Private to Corporal.
Explaining how Hancock came to be awarded the VC, Horton said, "In 1857 he fought in the Indian Mutiny and the 9th Lancers were present in all three of the most notable events associated with it - the seizure of Delhi, the seizure of Lucknow and the relief of Lucknow. For their actions the Lancers were awarded 12 VCs, more than any other cavalry regiment. Hancock became one of the recipients after he saved the life of Brigadier J H Grant C.B when his horse was shot and he became surrounded by mutineers."
During his efforts to rescue Brigadier Grant, Hancock was also shot and subsequently lost an arm. As a direct result of his injuries he was discharged on arrival back in England.
While unemployed and living in London, Hancock wrote to Captain Sir Edward Walter, who had recently set up the Corps of Commissionaires as a way to provide gainful employment for ex-servicemen. He joined the Corps on the 12th March 1859 and was employed at Messrs Hunt & Roskell, silversmiths and jewellers to Queen Victoria. He has since become known as one of the ‘original eight' Corps employees.
Hancock remained employed by the Corps of Commissionaires until he was discharged on the 14th November 1865. Horton commented, ‘Little is known of his life after 1865 but he died on the 12th March 1871 at the Infirmary of the Earls Court Kensington Workhouse. His death was due to excessive fluid in the body through either a kidney or congestive heart failure. His funeral took place at Brompton Cemetery but due to his financial circumstances he was buried in an unmarked grave in common ground.'
After researching his life story Horton arranged the memorial service and for a stone to be placed at Hancock's final resting place. Draped in the Union Flag, the stone was unveiled by the wife of the event sponsor, Charles Ashton, himself a keen military historian.
Over 70 people including the Mayor of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, two Colonels of 9th Lancers, personnel from The Royal British Legion, and residents of Greenwich Hospital and The Royal Hospital Chelsea - home of The Chelsea Pensioners - attended the service. Also present were representatives from Corps Security, including a Commissionaire in full dress uniform, who laid a wreath at the grave.
Corps Security's chief executive, Peter Webster, concluded, "It is an honour to be able to remember the actions of, and pay tribute to, such a brave man. Thomas Hancock was one of the original beneficiaries of our services and we are proud to be in a position to offer employment to ex-service personnel 150 years after he joined."