Luke O'Connor

Luke O'Connor

Sergeant Luke O'Connor Winning the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Alma (1854). Oil by Louis William Desanges.
Born (1831-01-20)20 January 1831
Elphin, County Roscommon, Ireland
Died 1 February 1915(1915-02-01) (aged 84)
Clarges Street, London
Buried at St Mary's (RC) cemetery Kensal Rise
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1849–1887
Rank Major General
Unit 23rd Regiment of Foot
Battles/wars Crimean War
Indian Mutiny
Third Anglo-Ashanti War
Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Order of the Medjidie (Ottoman Empire)
Medal of Military Valor (Sardinia)

Major General Sir Luke O'Connor, VC, KCB (Irish: Lughaidh Ó Conchobhair; 20 January 1831 – 1 February 1915) was a British Army soldier from Ireland. He was the first soldier to receive the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.


Luke O'Connor was born in Kilcroy, Hillstreet, near Elphin, County Roscommon in Ireland. He was born to James O'Connor (born 1800) and Mary Gannon. Although descended from the Ó Conchobhair who were once Kings of Connacht and indeed Ireland itself, his branch of the family were not at all wealthy by the 19th century. He and his family were evicted from their farm because they were unable to pay the rent and decided to move to North America in 1839 in search of opportunity. His father James died at sea on route and his mother and a baby brother died at Grosse Isle, Quebec on arrival of cholera. Although Luke returned to Ireland as a boy, some of his other siblings remained in North America and fought in the American Civil War.


He enlisted in the British Army as a young man. At the age of 23, he was a sergeant in the 23rd Regiment of Foot (later The Royal Welch Fusiliers). During the Crimean War, the 23rd Foot were part of the British force sent to the Crimea. On 20 September 1854, at the Battle of the Alma, Sergeant O'Connor was advancing between two officers, carrying the Colour, when one of them was mortally wounded. Sergeant O'Connor was also shot at the same time, but recovering himself, he snatched up the Colour from the ground and continued to carry it until the end of the action, although urged to retire to the rear on account of his wounds. He also acted with great gallantry at the assault on the Redan (8 September 1855) where he was shot through both thighs.[1]

The Victoria Cross did not exist at that time, but when it was created in 1856 O'Connor was one of the 62 Crimean veterans invested with it during a ceremony in Hyde Park. He was the first recipient from the Army, as opposed to the Royal Navy.

He later achieved the rank of major general. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum in Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd, Wales.


He died in Clarges Street, London, on 1 February 1915.[2] He is buried at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Kensal Rise, London.

See also


  1. The London Gazette: no. 21971. p. 659. 24 February 1857.
  2. The Times, 4 February 1915, page 1
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