The Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross
Awarded to Men of Portsmouth
- Thomas Reeves VC -


Location of Memorial:
Portsmouth Continental Ferry Port, in the passenger terminal near the arrivals gate. Adjacent to the plaque is an information board describing Thomas Reeves actions and a photograph of the painting of the first ever investiture of the VC by Queen Victoria in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857.

Plaque over the grave of Thomas Reeves
ROYAL NAVY 1828-1862
Thomas Reeves, one of the earliest naval VCs
lies buried within this port. He won the Victoria
Cross for Valour at the battle of Inkerman during
the Crimean War

Details of the Award
On 5 November 1854 at the Battle of Inkerman, Crimea, when the Right Lancaster Battery was attacked and many of the soldiers were wounded, Seaman Reeves, with two other seamen (GORMAN, J. and SCHOLEFIELD,M.) and two others who were killed during the action, mounted the defence work banquette and, under withering attack from the enemy, kept up a rapid, repulsing fire. Their muskets were re-loaded for them by the wounded soldiers under the parapet and eventually the enemy fell back and gave no more trouble. Later achieved rank of Captain of the Foretop.
[Gazetted 24th February 1857. The medal is not publicly held. Thomas Reeves was 10th in line to receive the VC from Queen Victoria on the first ever investiture in Hyde Park.]
Personal Information
Thomas Reeves was born at 50 Kings Street, Portsmouth, in 1828. He was a baker's apprentice prior to joining the navy in August 1846. By September 1850, he is recorded as being an Ordinary Seaman aboard HMS Albion. He later became Gunner's Mate and by 1856 was Captain of the Foretop whilst still on HMS Albion. He volunteered for an extra ten years in 1856 and took a gunnery course at HMS Excellent but was discharged for age and infirmity at age of 32 in 1860 with a pension of 25 pounds a year. He had married in 1856/57 and died on 4th August 1862, aged 34 from consumption, which he had suffered from for three years, at Portsea. He was buried on 9th August 1862 in the Portsea Island General Cemetery, Mile End, Portsmouth in an unmarked mass paupers grave (Plot 701, Grave 57).
The Grave
"... In the 1970s, Portsmouth's continental ferry port was expanded, engulfing the Portsea Island Cemetery. Before the expansion began, approximately 6000 bodies were transferred from Portsea to Portsmouth's Kingston Cemetery. However, records have now revealed that Reeve's remains were not among them and still lie in an unmarked grave beneath the ferry port car park, the Portsea Island Cemetery having disappeared. The Victoria Cross Memorial Fund is now campaigning to have a plaque erected in memory of Seaman Thomas Reeves VC, RN." [Daily Mail, 02/01/1999]
At the ferry port, his final resting place was finally marked by a plaque, which reveals the extent of Reeves' bravery at the Battle of Inkerman. Unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire Mary Fagan, the plaque was funded by the Royal Naval Association Victoria Cross Memorial Fund. At a brief memorial service before the unveiling, Admiral Sir Derek Reffell, president of the south coast area Royal Naval Association, paid tribute to Reeves. 'The 26-year-old mounted the firing step and kept a constant fire on the Russians,' he said. 'The injured soldiers who had been knocked off the firing step reloaded the guns while the seaman continued to fire.' He added: 'Let's hope there will always be men of the Royal Navy who will be willing to make sacrifices for other people.'
The plaque has been commissioned, with the help of the ferry port authorities, as part of a continuing campaign to ensure that all the graves of Victoria Cross holders are marked. Mick Barnbrook, secretary of the Greenwich Royal Naval Association Victoria Cross Memorial Fund, said: 'It is important for future generations and for national pride that all VC holders buried in unmarked graves should receive a fitting memorial. It has been really good working with the port and to know that millions of people will, in future, have the opportunity to learn about this Portsmouth hero.' Phil Gadd, ferry port manager, said: 'this is something we will put somewhere where the public can see it. We are pleased to be able to do something to help.'