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John Edmund Commerell
Born (1829-01-13)January 13, 1829
Died May 21, 1901(1901-05-21) (aged 72)
Place of birth Grosvenor Square, London
Place of death Rutland Gate, London
Buried at Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkestone
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1842 - 1891
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held Cape of Good Hope Station
North America and West Indies Station
Portsmouth Command
Battles/wars Crimean War
Second Anglo-Chinese War
Third Anglo-Ashanti War
Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Order of the Red Eagle
Other work Member of Parliament

Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Edmund Commerell VC GCB (13 January 1829 – 21 May 1901) was an English Royal Navy officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was a Conservative politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1885 to 1888.

Early life and career

Commerell was born in London, the son of J W Commerell of Stroud Park, Horsham Sussex. He entered the Royal Navy in 1842 and was present at all operations at the Parana from 1845 to 1846. At Punta Obligado he helped cut the chain that defended the river. He served in Gulf of Bothnia in 1854 (medal), at Sebastopol and in operations in Sea of Azov, (medal with two clasps Legion of Honour, and Medjidie), twice mentioned in despatches, and received the V.C. for hazardous service in the Putrid Sea.[1]

Details of VC award

Commerell was 26 years old, and a Commander in the Royal Navy during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 11 October 1855 in the Sea of Azov, Crimea, Commander Commerell of HMS Weser, with the Quartermaster (William Thomas Rickard) and a seaman, went to destroy large quantities of forage on the shore of the Putrid Sea. After a difficult and dangerous journey they reached their objective - a magazine of corn - and managed to ignite the stacks, but the guards were alerted and immediately opened fire and gave chase. The pursuit was so hot that the men had difficulty in escaping, but they finally reached their ship and the lookouts later reported that the fodder store had burned to the ground.[2]

Later career

In 1859, Commerell commanded HMS Fury and a division of seamen in the Battle of Taku Forts (1859) when he was strongly mentioned in despatches. He served in HMS Magicienne during operations in China in 1860. In 1866, he commanded the frigate HMS Terrible assisting the Great Eastern to lay the fifth (and first successful) Atlantic cable. He was awarded the CB (military and civil) in 1866. From 1871 to 1873, he was Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station. However in August 1873, when he was making a reconnoitre up the River Prah, he was wounded in the lung, and had to resign his command. He was a naval A.D.C. to Queen Victoria from 1872 to 1877. He was awarded K.C.B. in 1874 and was a Groom in Waiting to the Queen from 1874 to 1879. From 1879 to 1880 he was a Junior Naval Lord. He became Commander in Chief on the North America and West Indies Station in 1882 holding the post until 1885.[1]

Political career

Commerel was a J.P. for Hampshire. In 1880 he stood unsuccessfully for parliament at Southampton.[3] However at the 1885 general election he was elected Member of Parliament for the seat,[4] which he held until he resigned from the House of Commons on 15 May 1888.[5] In June 1888 he became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.[6] He retired in 1891.[6]

Personal and legacy

Commerell married Matilda M Bushby, daughter of Joseph Bushby of St. Croix, West Indies in 1853. He died at the age of 72 and was buried at Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkestone.[7] Edmund Rock and Commerell Point in British Columbia, Canada, were named in his honour.[8][9] His VC is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Debretts Guide to the House of Commons 1886
  2. Find-A-Grave profile for John Edmund Commerell
  3. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 280. ISBN 0-900178-26-4. 
  4. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 189. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  5. Department of Information Services (9 June 2009). "Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1850". House of Commons Library. Retrieved 30 November 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 History in Portsmouth
  7. Location of grave and VC medal (Kent)
  8. "Edmund Rock". BC Geographical Names. 
  9. "Commerell Point". BC Geographical Names. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Lee and
Alfred Giles
Member of Parliament for Southampton
With: Alfred Giles
Succeeded by
Alfred Giles
and Francis Henry Evans
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir William Dowell
Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station
Succeeded by
Sir William Hewett
Preceded by
Lord Gillford
Junior Naval Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Anthony Hoskins
Preceded by
Sir Francis McClintock
Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station
Succeeded by
The Earl of Clanwilliam
Preceded by
Sir George Willes
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
Succeeded by
The Earl of Clanwilliam

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