The remarkable and ultimately tragic life of a forgotten 19th century Victoria Cross winner has emerged after his letters home were discovered.
Robert Shebbeare was only 17 when he left Britain for India where he was shot six times during the Indian Mutiny of 1857.
After 16 years of service overseas he set out for home aged 33. When his ship arrived, his waiting family were told that he had died en route from an illness, probably malaria, and had been buried at sea.
Brevet Captain Shebbeare won his medal for twice leading charges against rebel defences during the infamous siege of Delhi in September 1857.
In a letter to his mother he wrote: “I was wounded by three bullets on 14th July and again by one on 14th September… In addition to these wounds, two musket balls went through my hat. “The first slightly grazed my scalp, giving me a severe headache and making me feel very sick. The second cut through a very thick turban and knocked me down on my face, but without doing me any injury.
“On the same day and shortly afterwards a ball hit me on the (right) jawbone but glanced off with no worse effect than making me bleed violently and giving me a very mumpish appearance for some days.”
He had fought non-stop for three months before the siege and was involved in fierce fighting as the British retook Delhi.
Afterwards he put together a Sikh regiment, the 15th Punjab, which later saw action in China.
The letters are published in the book, India Mutiny and Beyond, by Arthur Littlewood.