Cornet William George Hawtry Bankes
William Bankes was born on the 11 September 1836. He was educated at Temple Grove , and later at Westminster Schoo l . William Bankes did not go to College or University, instead choosing a life in the Military . This is believed to be more because of his social circle and friends at the time than a desire to become an Officer. WGH Bankes became Cornet Bankes of the 7th Queen's Own Hussars in the spring of 1857, enlisting into the Army at Aldershot .
By the time August had come the regiment were due for imminent departure to India to quell the Indian Mutiny . They set sail on 27th August 1857 aboard the clipper named "Lightning" and after 88 Days arrived at Calcutta . Although the Lightning arrived on November the 25th, the troops did not disembark until December 1st where they moved into Fort William .
The 7th then moved from Fort William via Rail to Rannegai ge. Ct Bankes commented in a letter home that Rannegaige terrain looked very similar to that of Studland Heath in Dorset . Once at Rannegaige they moved by foot (the Officers in Palanquins) 70 Miles to Allhabad were the Re giment were to take receipt of horses that had been secured by Colonel Hagart (Commanding O fficer 7th Hussars) and his advance party of Veterinary Surgeon J Barker, and two Sergeants, who had trave ll ed to India via road earlier. The 7th were in Allhabad by the 13th December and Bankes was quoted as saying that it only took them two weeks to break in the horses! This was quite remarkable considering that the mounts had never had a saddle on them before (today the Household Cavalry take between 7 - 8 months to break a horse in ready for duty). After breaking in the horses they then moved on horseback to Cownpore before ultimately departing for Lucknow .
The Manuscript Regimental R ecord states that the 7th were involved in active service as early as February, In one instance whilst escorting convoys from Cownpore to Lucknow between the 4th and the 24th February a group of the regiment was dispatched on an expedition under the command of Major General Sir J Hope Grant and were engaged with the enemy at Meangunge with 5 men being wounded. A further two squadrons along with the Regimental Headquarters were present at the repulse of the enem y's attack upon Sir James Outra m's position at Alumbagh. The strength of the unit repelling the attack was 92 whilst Colonel Hagart was in command.
The 7th Hussars were present and actively involved during the entire operation involving the siege and relief of Lucknow under the overall command of Sir Colin Campbell. At this point we now jump to March and back to a quote from the Regimental manuscript record: "On the 19th in a skirmish near the Moosabagh, Captain Slade and Lieutenant Wilkin were severely wounded, Cornet W G Bankes mortally and 2 men wounded. The latter Officer particularly distinguishing himself when his Captain (Slade) was wounded, by gallantly leading the troop, and thrice charging a body of infuriated fanatics, who had rushed on the guns employed in shelling a small mud fort, killing three of the enemy with his own hand, and receiving 11 wounds of which he afterwards died. He was awarded the V. C. for his gallantry on this occasion."
Although Cornet Bankes was severely wounded during the attack at Moos aba gh he did not die in the field as you are led to believe in the above quotation, he was transferred to the Military Hospital where he had his right arm and right leg amputated, and the remainder of his wounds treated. He received the best of medical treatment that was available and was even cared for by the Surgeon General appointed to S ir Colin Campbell himself. During this time the Surgeon General in question, along with Colonel Hagart wrote letters back to his Parents at Kingston Lacy informing them of his condition and expected recovery, the success of his recovery was so good that whilst talking with the established war correspondent from the Crimean War William Howard Russell, he spoke of going sailing upon his return to England. Unfortunately on April the 6th 1858 Cornet William George Hawtry Bankes died from infection to his wounds.
In memory of Cornet Bankes his father had a Stained Glass Window commissioned for the parish church at Studland , Dorset. There was also a stained glass window within Westminster A bbey. In addition to this a monument was raised at his former school " Westminster S chool " and from his brother officers of the 7th Hussars a marble monument was placed in Wimborne Minster, Dorset.
Before Cornet Bankes lost the fight for his life Queen Victoria herself wrote a letter to the Princess R oyal about his situation.
Letter Dated 5th May 1858 From Queen Victoria to the Princess Royal
There is a poor young man - of the name Bankes - who has been cut almost to pieces - he fell and was surrounded by a set of fanatics who cut at him, his thigh was nearly severed from his body - and so was his arm! Besides six other desperate wounds! He has had his right leg and his right arm amputated - and yet they hope he will live. This is, they say, the pattern of patience and fortitude.
The original medals of Cornet Bankes were intended for the Officers Mess of the 7th Hussars, however the Bankes family were concerned at the time for the future of the Cavalry so in 1933 they were presented to the Royal United Services Institute by J Bankes Esq. Brigadier J Stephenson OBE the director of RUSI then formally handed the medals to The Queen's Own Hussars Museum on the 9th November 1967. A replica of the Victoria Cross along with his Indian Mutiny medal with Lucknow clasp can be found within the museum, whilst the Regiment holds the Original of both medals .