Shimonoseki Expedition, Japan
Duncan Gordon Boyes, Royal Navy, Midshipman of Her Majesty's Ship Euryalus For the conspicuous gallantry, which, according to the testimony of Capt. Alexander CB, at that time Flag Captain to Vice Admiral Sir Augustus Kuper KCB, Mr. Boyes displayed in the capture of the enemy's stockade. He carried a Colour with the leading company, kept it in advance of all, in the face of the thickest fire, his Colour-Sergeants having fallen, one mortally, the other dangerously wounded, and he was only detained from proceeding yet further by the orders of his superior officer. The Colour he carried was six times pierced by musket balls
Born 5 November 1846, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
Died 26 January 1869, Dunedin, NZ
Buried Andersons Bay Cemetery, New Zealand
Duncan Gordon Boyes was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the son of John Boyes Esq. and his wife Sabina on November 5, 1846. His sister Louisa Mary was later to marry Thomas James Young, who won a Victoria Cross at Lucknow, India in 1857.
Duncan was educated at Cheltenham College and joined the Royal Navy. He was assigned to HMS Euryalus on the East Indies station.
He won his VC at the age of 17, for his part in action at Shimonoseki, Japan on September 6, 1864
The toast of the Royal Navy, Duncan Boyes was invested with his Victoria Cross on September 22, 1865 by Admiral Sir Michael Seymour GCB (Commander-in-Chief to Portsmouth) on the Common at Southsea, along with William Seeley and Thomas Pride who also won their VCs at Shimonoseki. Hugh Talbot Burgoyne VC, John Edmund Commerell VC and others who had already won the medal also attended the ceremony.
Duncan's short life was to take a turn for the worse from then on. On February 9, 1867, he and another midshipman were court-martialled for disobedience of the Commander-in-Chief's Standing Order by breaking into the Naval Yard at Bermuda after 11 pm, after they had been previously refused admittance by the Warder at the main gate for not having a pass. Both admitted their guilt and were sentenced to be dismissed from the service. There is some speculation that there was more to this to warrant such a harsh penalty.
The disgrace of this was too much to bear for Boyes and he began to suffer tremendously from fits of depression and began drinking heavily. For the sake of his health he went to New Zealand to work with his brother on his sheep station, but the scandal appears to have followed him, for he was to suffer a complete nervous breakdown and he committed suicide by jumping from the window of a house on January 26, 1869 at Dunedin, aged 22 years 2 months. On his death certificate, the cause was listed as delirium tremens.
He was buried locally in the Dunedin Southern Cemetery with a stone at his head and feet, though on May 4, 1954 the Dunedin branch of the Royal New Zealand Returned Services' Association (RSA), in consequence of his VC, reburied him in the servicemen's section of Andersons Bay Cemetery.
Boyes' grave/memorial headstone is at Andersons Bay Cemetery, New Zealand, Anglican Southern Section. Block 6. Plot 24.
The original grave exists still in the southern cemetery, though looking quite weathered and scruffy.