The Royal Irish Regiment

Private Edmund Fowler VC

Private Fowler was awarded his Victoria Cross for bravery at Hlobane Mountain during the Zulu War. He was serving in the 2nd Bn The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) at the time. On 28th Mar 1879, when aged 20, he was part of a group that had been ordered by Evelyn Wood to dislodge enemy tribesmen from a commanding position in caves further up the mountain. The path was so narrow that they had to advance in single file. Captain Campbell of the Coldstream Guards who was leading the party was killed at the mouth of the cave and Lieutenant Lysons and Private Fowler rushed forward and cleared the enemy out of their stronghold. The awards of the VC to both Fowler and Lysons were gazetted on 5th April 1882.

Edmund John Fowler was born in Crook, Waterford in Feb 1859. He reached the rank of Colour-Sergeant and died in Colchester on 26th Mar 1926. His army career was a chequered one. He enlisted in the Cameronians at Waterford on 17th Mar 1877. After serving through the Zulu War he purchased his discharge for 18 pounds at Netley on 29th Jan 1880, but re-enlisted into the 2nd battalion Royal Irish in Feb 1882. He was promoted to Corporal and served in Egypt and the Sudan. He later served in India where he was hospitalised for enteric fever for 56 days. He transferred to the 1st Bn RI in Sep 1884 and returned home. He was promoted to Sergeant and posted to Clonmel.

Then, on 31st Dec 1886 he was in trouble and forfeited his Good Conduct pay. He was imprisoned and court martialled at Devonport on 24th Jan 1887 as a result of which he was found guilty of embezzlement, reduced to the ranks and stripped of his VC and medals. Apparently Queen Victoria heard of this and insisted that his detention was punishment enough and that his medals should be restored to him, which they were on 26th April 1887. His Good Conduct pay was restored the following year and he was promoted to Under Lance-Corporal on 1st Feb 1888. By 1891 he was a sergeant and in 1892 transferred to the 3rd (Wexford Militia) Battalion of the RI. In 1894 he was in the 1st Battalion and hospitalised for leg ulcers.

On 16th March 1896 he transferred back to the Cameronians, this time to the 3rd Battalion (formerly the Lanark Militia) with the rank of sergeant. He was posted to Hamilton and then Lanark where he was hospitalised for 59 days for severe leg ulcers. The following year, in May 1897, he was in Hamilton where he was again hospitalised (89 days) for the same complaint. His promotion to Colour-Sergeant came on 11th May 1898 but his legs were becoming chronic with varicose veins and ulcers. A medical board recommended his discharge and he was finally out of the army on 13th Feb 1900.

He had married Mary from Donegal on 8th July 1883 and they had 4 daughters and 2 sons. After the army he lived in Berechurch Road, St Giles, Colchester and owned a fruit shop, then a pub called the Live and Let Live in Stanwell Street, Colchester. He must have had little flair for business because his VC medal was sold at Sotheby's in Feb 1906, for 42 pounds. The medal can now be seen in the Cameronians museum in Hamilton, Lanarkshire. He died on 26th March 1926 and was buried in Colchester Borough Cemetery on 31st March. The photo shows him in the dress uniform of the Royal Irish Regiment.

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by Stephen Luscombe