|Edward St John Daniel|
Edward St John Daniel's story was a personal tragedy, of a young man whose naval career began with the brightest of hopes and highest courage and ended with dismissal with dishonour.
He first joined Peel on HMS Diamond when she was commissioned in 1853 and went with her to the Crimea and landed with Peel and the Naval Brigade. He along with Evelyn Wood of HMS Queen became ADC's to Peel. He was with Peel when he performed the three acts of gallantry that earned Peel his VC, including when Peel was wounded on the glacis of the Redan it was he who tied a tourniquet on his arm and brought him back whilst exposed to very heavy Russian fire. For his gallantry on these occasions Daniel was awarded the VC in the first list of 24th February 1857.
Things went well, at first, he was formerly invested with his VC in September 1859 where he shook hands with the Queen who was "much impressed by him." He was promoted to Lieutenant on 24th April 1860. However drinking too freely was to blight Daniel's career. Possibly Peel had been a father figure to him and Peel's death deprived him of the psychological support and encouragement he needed so desperately.
But the shadows were already closing around Daniel. In May 1860 he was severely reprimanded for twice being absent without leave. On 9th June when his ship was in the English Channel he failed to turn out for his middle watch, and was found in his cabin "in a state of torpor". He was court-martialled, pleading guilty to the charge of drunkenness. In extenuation he told the court of his experiences in the Crimean winter and the heat of India. He produced testimonials from past Captains and showed the court his VC and other decorations. The court were duly impressed and taking into account his gallantry in the face of the enemy, sentenced Daniel "only to dismissal from his ship" and to have his name placed at the bottom of the list of lieutenants. As he had only been a lieutenant for nine months he only had a little way to fall.
But he was soon to fall much further, on 21st June 1861 he was placed under arrest for what his captain described as "taking indecent liberties with four of his subordinate officer's". Going to his court-martial in Corfu at about 10pm on the 27th, the Master at Arms found that he was missing from the ship. So on the 28th, Daniel was formerly marked on the ship's papers as RUN. Normally it would be at least two weeks before this would be done, so it was assumed he was not coming back.
By failing to surrender to his trial, Daniel had undoubtedly saved the Navy some embarrassment. The trial of a VC hero of the Crimea, one of Captain Peel's young men on charges of indecent assault and desertion would have caused a major scandal. On 4th September 1861, the Queen, who had awarded Daniel his cross and shaken his hand, issued a Royal Warrant that made Daniel the first man to have his name erased from the VC roll.
Peels recommendation for the VC was made from despatches from Sir Stephen Lushington, enclosed in letters from Admiral Lord Lyons, 10th May 1856