Richard Ridgeway VC

Richard Ridgeway VC


44th (Sylhet) Light Infantry (A predecessor to 8th Gurkha Rifles)


Basuto War (Konoma, India)


22nd November 1879


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His Story

Richard Kirby Ridgeway was born in County Meath, Ireland on August 18th 1848 and would go on to join the 44th (Sylhet) Light Infantry (A predecessor to 8th Gurkha Rifles) in 1874. For much of its existence the regiment was involved in pacifying tribal groups in the north-east of India, including those dwelling in the Naga Hills, whose stronghold was a village called Konoma. Konoma had been fortified with a series of defensive terraces, each with stone walls and towers.

On November 22nd 1879, during a punitive expedition into the region, the 44th launched an attack against Konoma and managed to capture the outlying fortifications of the village. However, this still left the inner defences, which were made up of a stone wall, topped by wooden palisade defences, equipped with loop-holes for weapons-fire, about 12 feet high and defended by several thousand well-armed Naga fighters. The regiment’s attempts to capture this fortress proved initially unsuccessful, with even the regiment’s two seven-pounder mountain cannons, fired at a distance of less than 20 yards from the walls, proving only partially effective. Despite this, two further assaults were then made, both led by Lieutenant Ridgeway. On the second attempt Ridgeway reached the stockade and, though he had been shot through the left shoulder, managed to tear down a section of the planking and create an entrance which could be exploited by his men, remaining there under fire until his men had moved through.

After the expedition Ridgeway was promoted to Captain on January 8th 1880 and gazetted for the Victoria Cross on May 11th 1880. In 1891 Ridgeway had risen to command his regiment, then retitled the 44th Gurkha (Rifle) Regiment of Bengal Infantry, and led them in an expedition into Manipur where the now-Major Ridgeway was mentioned in despatches. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1894 and to full Colonel in 1898. He was finally appointed a Companion of the Order of The Bath in 1905 and retired the following year to Yorkshire, passing away on October 11th 1924 at the age of 76.

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