Vicars, Hedley Shafto Johnstone (DNB00)

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VICARS, HEDLEY SHAFTO JOHNSTONE (1826–1855), officer in the Crimea, was born in the Mauritius on 7 Dec. 1826, where his father, Richard Vicars (d. 1839), a captain in the royal engineers, was then stationed. After passing his examinations at Woolwich, he on 22 Dec. 1843 received a commission in the 97th regiment, and in the following year proceeded to Corfu. On 6 Nov. 1846 he obtained his lieutenancy. In 1848 his regiment was removed to Jamaica, and in 1851 to Canada. In November of that year his mind took a serious turn, and henceforward his character was changed. He associated with Dr. Twining, the garrison chaplain at Halifax, became a Sunday-school teacher, visited the sick, and took every opportunity of reading the scriptures and praying with the men of his company. In 1852 he became adjutant of his regiment. In May 1853 the regiment returned to England, and in August he resigned the adjutancy. He also became a frequent attendant of meetings held at Exeter Hall and an active member of the Soldiers' Friendly Society, besides holding meetings with railway navvies on many occasions. Before his regiment left England for the Crimea, early in 1854, it was reported that ‘since Mr. Vicars became so good, he has steadied about four hundred men in the regiment.’ At the Piræus many men of the 97th died of cholera, and Vicars while conducting the burial parties took every opportunity of addressing the spectators at the graves. On 3 Nov. 1854 he was promoted to the rank of captain. On 20 Nov. 1854 he landed in the Crimea, and, with his regiment, took part in the siege of Sebastopol. Here he continued his religious work, holding prayer meetings in his tent, visiting the sick in the hospitals, and carefully looking after his men. On the night of 22 March 1855, while he was in the trenches, the Russians made a sortie in force from Sebastopol, and, taking the English by surprise, drove them out of their trenches. Vicars, keeping his men in hand, fired a volley into the enemy at twenty paces, and then ‘charging’ with the 97th he drove the Russians back and regained possession of the trenches. He cut down two men with his own hand before he fell, bayoneted and shot through the right shoulder. He was buried on the following day on the Woronzoff road, close to the milestone. In his despatch on 6 April Lord Raglan made special mention of Vicars's gallantry. ‘The Memorials of Captain Hedley Vicars’ (with a portrait and a view of his grave), by the author of ‘The Victory Won,’ i.e. Catherine M. Marsh, was published soon after his death. It had a large circulation, and was translated into French, German, and Italian.

[The Story of Hedley Vicars, by Lucy Taylor. 1894, with portrait; ‘H. V., captain in H.M. 97th Regiment,’ 1869; Walking with God before Sebastopol: Reminiscences of the late Captain Vicars, 1855; Military Obituary, 1855. In the Rev. S. F. Harris's Earnest Young Heroes (1896) a memoir of Vicars, with a portrait, is given on pp. 3–36.]

G. C. B.