The story here is not so much that Lane won a VC at the battle of Taku Forts in 1860 along with 3 officers from the 67th Regiment; it is that he acquired a second one along the way and both of them are now owned by the Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum in Winchester.
No. 612 Private Thomas Lane VC
Taku Forts 21st August 1860
‘For distinguished gallantry in swimming the ditches of the North Taku Fort, and persevering in attempting during the assault, and before the entrance to the Fort had been effected by anyone, to enlarge an opening in the wall, through which he and Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem eventually entered, and in doing so were both severely wounded.
‘London Gazette 13th August 1861
Private Thomas Lane’s Second VC
After leaving the Army, Thomas Lane went to South Africa where, at various times, he joined several mounted police forces. Unfortunately Thomas Lane was a habitual drinker, deserter and felon, which finally led to him being struck off the Victoria Cross Register resulting in him losing his pension and forfeiting his VC.
Although he gave himself up (as a deserter) his VC and other medals had been given to a friend for safe keeping and the War Office demanded their return by the authorities in South Africa. Having some spares for local issue and to avoid the wrath of the War Office, a VC complete with Lane’s details on it, but not the original, was returned to England to the War Office by the South African authorities. However, in 1909 two officers of the 2nd Hampshire found Lane’s original VC and his three other medals in a pawn shop in Pietermaritzburg and they were sent to Regimental Headquarters in Winchester, thus there were now two VCs said to be Lane’s.
The VC (not original) held by the War Office eventually found its way onto the market place where it changed hands several times and much debate followed as to which VC was the ‘right one’. It was in 1977 through scientific examination it was agreed that the VC held in Regimental Headquarters was the ‘original’ Lane medal being identical to the other three held (Burslem, Lenon and Chaplin) with the same metal content and engraving. The ‘War Office’ VC was also genuine in metal content but with variation in the engraving. In 1985 the ‘War Office’ VC was again sold by auction for £3,800 and the purchasers, Hamilton’s decided most generously, to donate it to the Regimental Museum.
His name along with seven others who had forfeited their VC was restored to the Victoria Cross Register by command of King George V in the 1920s who decreed no man should forfeit his VC even if he was a murderer!
So the story of two VCs of Thomas Lane came to an end some 125 years after his bravery was recognised at the storming of Taku Forts.
What a story and what an old soldier!