Thomas Hancock (1823-1871) was born in Kensington, London in July 1823. At the age of 18, he joined the 3rd Light Dragoons and a year later transferred to the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers.
The regiment was involved in all three major campaigns during the Indian Mutiny, Siege of Delhi, Relief of Lucknow, and the retaking of Lucknow. On the 19th June 1857, during the Siege of Delhi, the saving of the guns had taken place, but a waggon of Major Scott’s battery had been blown up. During this incident, Brigadier J.H. Grant CB, who was commanding the Cavalry Brigade of the Field Force, noted the actions of a Sowar, Roopur Khan, and two men of the 9th Lancers, Privates Thomas Hancock and John Purcell. When Grant’s horse was shot down, all three men remained with him, and the Sowar’s horse was used to rescue Grant from the field.
Private Purcell’s horse was shot out from under him, while Hancock was severely wounded.
Hancock’s grievous wound during the action meant he was unable to continue serving with the regiment after the Siege of Delhi. As a direct result of his injuries he subsequently lost an arm and was discharged from the army on arrival back in England. Due to the letter of Brigadier Grant, both Hancock and Purcell were recommended for the Victoria Cross. Their citation was published in the London Gazette on 15th January 1858. Hancock was presented with his VC at Buckingham Palace by Queen Victoria on 8th June 1859.
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. Hancock joined the Corps on the 12th March 1859 and was employed by Messrs Hunt & Roskell, silversmiths and jewellers to Queen Victoria. He has since become known as one of the ‘original eight’ Corps employees.
Sadly, Hancock did eventually fall on hard times again, and he died in the Westminster Workhouse on 12th March 1871. He was buried in an unmarked grave on 20th March 1871 in Brompton Cemetery, West London. Following the work of a naval and military historian, Brian Horton, 140 years after Hancock’s death, his grave was found, and a memorial stone was placed on the spot on 15th October 2011. Hancock’s medals are not publicly held.