James Edward Ignatius Masterson

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James Edward Ignatius Masterson
Born 20 June 1862
Birr, County Offaly, Ireland[1]
Died 24 December 1935 (aged 73)
Waterlooville, Hampshire
Buried at Hulbert Road Cemetery, Waterlooville
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1881 - 1912, 1914 - 1915
Rank Major
Unit Royal Irish Fusiliers
Devonshire Regiment
King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment
Battles/wars 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War
Tirah Campaign
Second Boer War
World War I
Awards Victoria Cross

Major James Edward Ignatius Masterson VC (20 June 1862 – 24 December 1935) was an Irish recipient of 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.

Early career[edit]

Masterson entered the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1881, and served in the 1882 Anglo-Egyptian War, including the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Devonshire Regiment on 15 July 1891, served in Burma from 1891 to 1892, and was promoted to lieutenant on 16 April 1895. From 1897 to 1898 he served with the 1st battalion of his regiment in the Tirah Campaign in the North-West Frontier of India under Sir William Lockhart.[2]

Second Boer War[edit]

The Second Boer War broke out in South Africa in October 1899, and the British government soon realized they would need more troops. Masterson arrived in late 1899 with his regiment, and were involved in the Relief of Ladysmith.

Victoria Cross[edit]

Masterson was 37 years old, and a lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, when the following deed took place on 6 January 1900, at Wagon Hill, Ladysmith, South Africa for which he was awarded the VC:

During the action at Wagon Hill, on the 6th January, 1900, Lieutenant Masterson commanded, with the greatest gallantry and dash, one of the three companies of his regiment which charged a ridge held by the enemy and captured their position.

The companies were then exposed to a most heavy and galling fire from the right and left front. Lieutenant Masterson undertook to give a message to the Imperial Light Horse, who were holding a ridge some hundred yards behind, to fire to the left front and endeavour to check the enemy's fire.

In taking this message he crossed an open space of a hundred yards which was swept by a most heavy cross fire, and although badly wounded in both thighs, managed to crawl in and deliver his message before falling exhausted into the Imperial Light Horse trench. His unselfish heroism was undoubtedly the means of saving several lives.[3]

He was severely wounded during the action, and placed in a field hospital. In February 1900 he was promoted to captain (the appointment was dated back to 1 January 1900).[4]

Later career[edit]

He transferred to the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment as a Major in 1911 and retired in 1912. In 1914 he returned to the Army as a Deputy Director of Railway Transport. He died at Waterlooville, Hampshire, England, on 24 December 1935, aged 73.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Military Museum of Devon and Dorset, Dorchester, Dorset, England.

His ancestor, also surnamed Masterson, captured a Napoleonic eagle at Barossa in 1811 and was given a field commission - this is portrayed in Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Fury


  1. ^ "James Edward Ignatius Masterson VC - WW1 memorial and Life Story". Imperial War Museum & D C Thompson. Retrieved 28 September 2016. 
  2. ^ Hart's Army list, 1901
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27320. p. 3769. 4 June 1901. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27167. p. 1172. 20 February 1900.

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