Objects of special interest – Portrait of Alfred Spencer Heathcote
This portrait of Alfred Spencer Heathcote is included in the Museum’s colonial exhibition.
During the Indian Mutiny 1857 - 1859 Alfred Heathcote of the British 60th Regiment of
Foot performed numerous acts of valour for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
He also served in the final stages of the Second China War 1857 – 1860 and later gave
military and civilian public service to Queensland and New South Wales.
In 1871 he raised a troop of part-time cavalry in Queensland and was appointed later that
year to be a captain of infantry in the newly-formed Permanent Military Forces of New
1832. Born on 29 March 1832 in London, Alfred Spencer Heathcote was the son of
Henry Spencer Heathcote and his wife Anne (née Currie).1
1841. The 1841 Census for England shows that Alfred, then aged nine, resided with his
family in Woodberry Down, Finsbury, London.
Secondary Education. Alfred was a student at Winchester College, an independent
boarding school in Hampshire, about 110 km south-west of London. He would become
the first of six former students of the college to be awarded the Victoria Cross.2
1855 - 1856. Alfred Heathcote was commissioned on 25 October 1855 as an ensign in
the 1st Regiment of the Royal Surrey Militia.3
On 16 May 1856, he was
commissioned as an ensign in the 60th Regiment of Foot,4
a British light infantry regiment
consisting of three battalions. The 60th Foot was also known variously as the 60th Rifles
or the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
At the time he was commissioned, only one battalion of the regiment was in Britain and
that was the 3rd Battalion stationed on the Curragh, a flat open plain between Newbridge
and Kildare, County Kildare, Ireland.5
1857 – 1859. By June 1857 Alfred Heathcote was a member of the 1st Battalion of the
60th Regiment of Foot (1/60th) stationed at Meerut in northern India, about 70 km northeast of Delhi.
Early the previous month, Indian troops of the British East India Company at Meerut
mutinied and had withdrawn into the ancient walled city of Delhi which today is part of New
Delhi, capital of India.
Delhi came under a slow but eventually successful siege by British troops who assaulted
and breached the city wall on 14th September 1857. For his part in operations extending
over some four months, Alfred Spencer Heathcote was awarded the Victoria Cross.
The VC citation reads ………… For highly gallant and daring conduct at Delhi throughout
the Siege, from June to September, 1857, during which he was wounded.6 He volunteered
for services of extreme danger, especially during the six days of severe fighting in the
streets after the Assault. Elected by the Officers of his Regiment.7
In June 1858 Alfred Heathcote was promoted from ensign to lieutenant.8
On 5 February 1859 he and Mary Harriet Thompson married in northern India. At the
time, both were residing at Dehra (Dehradun, today’s capital of the state of Uttarakhand,
about 260 km north of New Delhi).9
1860. After transferring from the 1/60th to the 2nd Battalion of the 60th Foot (2/60th),
Alfred Heathcote embarked at Calcutta, India on 28th February 1860 for action in the final
stages of the Second China War 1857 – 1860.
As part of an Anglo-French force, the 2/60th landed in north-eastern China in early August
1860 and was involved in the capture of Chinese defences known as the Taku Forts
located by the estuary the Hai River. After the forts were captured, the Anglo-French force
marched on Peking (Beijing, today’s capital of China) and occupied the city by midOctober.
The occupation led to a peace treaty being signed on 24 October 1860.
1862 - 1863. Following garrison duties in China, the 2/60th landed in February 1862 at
Portsmouth, Hampshire, about 120 km south-west of London.
The battalion remained at Portsmouth until at least early May 1863 but by early July that
year had relocated to Aldershot, also in Hampshire, about 70 km south-west of London.
thBy mid-August 1863 Lieutenant Alfred Heathcote had left the British Army after more than
seven years of full-time service.10
1864 - 1871. By March 1864 Alfred and Mary Heathcote had migrated to New South Wales
as one of their children was born in Sydney that month.11
The family subsequently moved
to Queensland where Alfred took up farming at Pikes Creek, about 260 km south-west of
Brisbane. While at Pikes Creek, he was in partnership with William C.G. Pery as "Graziers
and Sheep Farmers". The partnership was dissolved in September 1866.12
An 1870 electoral roll shows that Alfred Heathcote was residing in Warwick (about 160 km
south-west of Brisbane) where he had been appointed in February 1869 as the District Registrar of Births, Marriages and
He resumed military service in
February 1871 with the rank of captain
when he raised the Warwick Troop of
Volunteer Irregular Cavalry.14
The troop was the first of its type in Queensland.
A humorous poem about members of the
troop appeared in a Warwick newspaper
in April 1871. Here is a stanza from the
There rides the Captain on his charger
Proud as a lord, ready to do or die;
For he can fight as well as swear –
Those medals are a witness if I lie.15
1871 – 1872. On 1st August 1871 the
Governor of New South Wales
proclaimed the raising and embodying of
a Permanent Military Forces battery of
artillery to be known as the New South
Wales Artillery and two companies of
infantry to be known as the New South
In the same proclamation, Alfred
Heathcote was appointed as one of two
Located at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, the
two infantry companies were disbanded
on 31 December 1872 following a
resolution in the NSW Legislative Assembly.17
1873 - 1875. In mid-1873 Alfred Heathcote was appointed Clerk of Petty Sessions at
Tambaroora and nearby Hill End in the Central West region of New South Wales.18
Close to each other, Tambaroora and Hill End are about 75 km north-west of the city of Bathurst
in what at the time was a highly productive gold mining area.
He remained in the position for about two years, being succeeded on 1 April 1875.19
1876 – 1912 Allred Heathcote was residing in Hill End in 1876, during which or soon
afterwards he moved to Orange, NSW where he resided for some 17 years. He then
relocated to Sydney then to Bowral in the New South Wales Southern Highlands.
Alfred Spencer Heathcote, VC passed away at Bowral on 21st February 1912, aged 79
years. He was survived by his wife Mary, six daughters and a son.20 Mary Harriet Heathcote passed away at Katoomba in the New South Wales Blue Mountains on 8 July
1916, aged 85 years.21
In August 1996 the Berrima District Historical and Family History Society had a plaque
placed on Alfred Heathcote’s grave to mark the 125th anniversary of his appointment in
the New South Wales Permanent Military Forces. The plaque was unveiled by Colonel
Peter Martyn, President of the Army Museum Society, Victoria Barracks, Sydney.
There is also a plaque in St James’ Anglican Church, King Street, Sydney which
commemorates Alfred Heathcote’s gallantry at the Siege of Delhi. Arranged by an
unnamed person who served under him, the plaque also notes Alfred Heathcote’s raising
and command of the first troop of volunteer cavalry in Queensland.
1. Wikipedia website - Alfred Spencer Heathcote.
2. Founded in 1382, Winchester College is one of the oldest schools in the United Kingdom.
The six former students of the college awarded the Victoria Cross were:
Ensign Alfred Spencer Heathcote, VC (Indian Mutiny 1857 – 1859) (d. 1912);
Lieutenant Gustavus Hamilton Blenkinsopp Coulson, VC, DSO (Second AngloBoer
War 1899 – 1902) (KIA Lambrechtfontein, Orange Free State, 18 May
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-Wylie, VC, CB, CMG (First
World War 1914 – 1918) (KIA Gallipoli peninsula, Turkey 26 April 1915);
Captain Arthur Forbes Gordon Kilby, VC, MC (First World War 1914 – 1918) (KIA
Cuinchy in today’s Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region of France 25 September
Second Lieutenant Denis George Wyldbore Hewitt, VC (First World War 1914 –
1918) (KIA St. Julien, West Flanders province, Belgium 31 July 1917) and;
Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Burges, VC, DSO (First World War 1914 – 1918) (d.
(Source: Wikipedia website – List of Old Wykhamists.
3. Recorded in The Gazette (Edinburgh Gazette), issue 6547, 23 November 1855.
4. Recorded in The Gazette (Edinburgh Gazette), issue 6598, 20 May 1856.
5. Combined Arms Center, U.S. Army website - The Nafziger Orders Of Battle Collection.
6. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 26 February 1858, p. 3).
7. Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 22347, 20 January, 1860.
8. Recorded in The Gazette (Edinburgh Gazette), issue 6817, 25 June 1858.
9. British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns- Marriages Image (Parish register transcripts
from the Presidency of Bengal 1713-1948).
10. Recorded in The Gazette (Edinburgh Gazette) issue 7353, 14 August 1863.
11. National Library of Australia - TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 10 March 1864, p. 1).
12. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Brisbane Courier, QLD, 23 October 1866, p. 1).
13. Queensland Government Gazette, 1869, p. 252.
14. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Brisbane Courier, QLD, 27th February 1871, p. 2).
15. The poem was titled “The Warwick Irregulars” and appeared in The Examiner aTimes, Warwick, QLD on 29th April 1871. (p. 2).
(National Library of Australia – TROVE).
16. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 9th August 1871, p. 6).
17. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW, 4th January 1873, p. 7)
18. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Mail, NSW, 7th June 1873, p. 732).
19. National Library of Australia – TROVE. (The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, NSW, 17th April 1875, p. 493).
20. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Muswellbrook Chronicle, NSW, 13th March 1912, p. 4).
21. National Library of Australia – TROVE.
(The Sydney Morning Herald, NSW on 12th July 1916, p. 10).
Prepared by: K.J. McKay, July 2016