The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross
Awarded to Men of Portsmouth
- John Edmund Commerell VC -

Grave (2012)
The Commerell Grave in Folkestone
Headstone (2006)
The Commerell Grave in Folkestone
Full grave
The Commerell Grave in Folkestone
From "Monuments to Courage"
John Edmund Commerell
Vanity Fair Cartoon
John Edmund Commerell

John Edmund Commerell V.C.
Royal Navy
BORN: 13th Jan 1829, Park Street, Grosvenor Square, London
LIVED: Alverbank, Stokes Bay, Alverstoke. 1888-1891 Admiralty House, HM Dockyard, Portsmouth
DIED: 21st May 1901, 45 Rutland Gate, London, aged 72, from acute gout and kidney trouble
BURIED: Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkestone, Kent
V.C. WON: 11th Oct 1855. In the Sea of Azoff, Crimea
When commanding the Weser in the Sea of Azoff, crossed the Isthmus of Arabat, and destroyed large quantities of forage on the Crimean shore of the Sivash. The enterprise was performed by Commander Commerell at night, accompanied by William Rickard, Quartermaster, and George Milestone, A.B. Having hauled their small boats across the spit of Arabat, they traversed the Sivash to the Crimean shore of the Putrid Sea. The magazine of corn, of which they were in search, lay about two miles and a half off, and to reach it they had to ford two rivers, the Kara-su and the Salghir. The forage and corn, amounting to 400 tons, were stacked on the banks of the latter river, in the vicinity of a guard house, and close to from twenty to thirty Cossacks, who were encamped in the neighbouring village. Commander Commerell and his two companions contrived to ignite the stacks, the rapid blazing of which alarmed the guard, who pursued them to the shore with a heavy fire of musketry and very nearly succeeded in taking them prisoners.
See the Coastguards of yesteryear site for a fuller account
MEDAL PRESENTED: 08 JUN 1859 Queen Victoria, Buckingham Palace
FINAL RANK: Admiral of the Fleet VC GCB JP RN
Naval Career
19 FEB 1842 Volunteer 1st Class
1845-1846 Present during the operations up River Plate, Parava
20 NOV 1845 Present in the boats at the cutting of the chain across the river, under heavy fire when batteries of the Punta Obligado were attacked and destroyed
HMS Cornwallis in China
16 MAY 1848 Mate
HMS Firebrand
HMS Comus
13 DEC 1848 Lieutenant
18 APR 1849 HMS Dragon
08 AUG 1850 HMS Dauntless
15 FEB 1854 HMS VULTURE, Lieutenant, commanded by Frederick Henry Hastings Glasse, the Baltic and then (1855) the Black Sea and Sea of Azov during the Russian War
20 FEB 1855 HMS Weser, Lieutenant in command
29 SEP 1855 Commander
27 FEB 1856 HMS Snake
04 OCT 1856 HMS Fury, Commander in command on the East Indies and China Station and was present during operations in the Peiho 1859
18 JUL 1859 Captain
28 SEP 1859 HMS Magicienne on the East Indies and China Station
1865 HMS Scorpion
03 MAY 1866 HMS Terrible, and assisted in the laying of the telegraph cable 1865-1866
13 MAY 1869 HMS Monarch, Channel Squadron
DEC 1869 The ship carried the body of the philanthropist, George Peabody to the USA
14 OCT 1870 HMS Thalia
16 FEB 1871 HMS Rattlesnake as Commodore 2nd Class on the West Coast of Africa Station until
DEC 1873 During the Ashantee War he was severely wounded in the lung on the River Prah
03 JAN 1872 Appointed Naval ADC to Queen Victoria until 1876
23 APR 1874 Inspected the Naval Brigade at Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport
JUN 1874 Appointed Groom-in-Waiting to the Queen until DEC 1879
12 NOV 1876 Rear-Admiral
12 JUL 1877 HMS Agincourt in the Mediterranean
1877-1878 Second-in-Command, Mediterranean, during the Russo-Turkish War
14 DEC 1879 Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty until 11 MAY 1880
19 JUN 1881 Vice-Admiral
07 NOV 1882 HMS Northampton, Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station until SEP 1885
12 APR 1886 Admiral
20 JUN 1888 HMS Duke of Wellington, Commander-in-Chief and Flag Officer, Portsmouth until 21 JUN 1891
23 JUN 1891 Appointed Groom in Waiting to Queen Victoria and selected by her to be Senior
Naval Officer in attendance upon the German Emperor during his visit to England
14 FEB 1892 Admiral of the Fleet on the death of Sir Provo Wallis
Family History
John Commerell was born the second son of John William and Sophia Commerell. He was educated at Clifton and Royal Navy School. On 13th October 1853 he married to Matilda Maria, daughter of Mr Joseph Bushey of St Croix, West Indies, and 3 Halkin Street, Belgrave Square, London. They moved to Alverbank, Stokes Bay Road, Gosport where on 29th January, 1862, a daughter, Ella Maude Commerell was born. Two more daughters, Alice and Jessie, were born between 1863 and 1865.
In 1879 Commerell was appointed as a County Magistrate for the Fareham Division, including Fareham, Gosport and Havant and from 1885-1888, he was Conservative MP for Southampton and was re-elected June 1888 but resigned on being appointed CinC Portsmouth. He was a Director of the Royal Sailors Home, Queen Street, Portsea and a Member of the Board of Enquiry to the loss of HMS Captain, 1870, held on board HMS Duke of Wellington at Portsmouth 27 SEP 1870-08 OCT 1870
Plaque in St Ann's Church, Portsmouth Dockyard


The Commerell Grave
As can be seen by the photos above, the grave of Admiral Commerell was in a state of considerable disrepair in 2006. wever, in 2011 Ian Loftus of Folkestone was instrumental in restoring the grave to the condition that can be seen in the uppermost photograph.