Lieutenant George Dare Dowell RMA VC - Viborg, Baltic Sea
Updated: Jul 14
Unit/ Formation: Victoria Cross Location: Russia Period/ Conflict: Crimean War Year: 1855 Date/s: 13 July 1855 Dowell was 24 years old, and a lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery, Royal Marines during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
George Dare Dowell (1831-1910) was born on 15th February 1831 in Chichester, Sussex, the son of George Dowell, a Paymaster in the Royal Navy and his wife Anne (nee Tulman). He was educated at the Royal Naval School, New Cross and entered the Royal Marine Artillery as 2nd Lieutenant on 26th July 1848, and in June 1849, joined the Artillery, to which branch of the Service he remained attached.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on 6th October 1851, and on 29th November 1852, he was appointed to the Magicienne steam vessel under Captains Fisher and Vansittart. On 22nd May 1854, Lieutenant Dowell was in action with the batteries at Hango Head, and afterwards was repeatedly in action, helping on 11th January 1855, in destroying the Cossack battery at Portsoiki. The following day, he was involved in the assault on Witog. Dowell was heavily involved in the assault and the subsequent actions in the Gulf of Finland. Early on the 13th June 1855, the boats of HMS Arrogant engaged the Russian gunboats, together with the fortress of Viborg.
On 13th July 1855, during the action at the fortress of Viborg, an explosion occurred in one of the three cutters of HMS Arrogant. Lieutenant Dowell, who was aboard HMS Ruby, took three volunteers and went out, under very heavy enemy fire and went to the assistance of the cutter. He took up three of the crew, and having rescued the rest and also the Captain of the Mast (George Ingouville), he then towed the stricken boat out of the range of the enemy’s guns.
Dowell was amongst the first recipients of the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 24th February 1857) and was present in Hyde Park on 26th June that year for the first investiture of the medal from Queen Victoria. He was then given the Brevet of Major (17th September 1861) and Lieutenant Colonel, and became an Inspector of Musketry.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE LONDON GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 24, 1857
An explosion having occurred in one of the rocket-boats of the "Arrogant," during the attack on some forts near Viborg, Lieutenant Dowell (who was on board the "Ruby" gunboat, while his own boat was receiving a supply of rockets) was the first to jump into the quarter-boat of the "Ruby," and with three volunteers, himself pulling the stroke-oar, proceeded instantly, under a heavy fire of grape and musketry, to the assistance of the cutter s crew. The Russians endeavoured to prevent his object of saving the men and boat, but Lieutenant Dowell succeeded in taking up three of the boat's crew and placing them on board the " Ruby;" and, on
his returning to the spot, was mainly instrumental in keeping afloat, and bringing off the sinking cutter.
(Dispatch from Rear-Admiral Honourable Sir B. S. Dundas, 17th July, 1855, and Letter from Colonel Wesley, Deputy Adjutant-General of Royal Marines.)
He married Mary, daughter of Colonel Robert and Mrs Mansel at Alverstoke, Hampshire. The couple went on to have nine children in total including five sons: George Cecil, Clement Coltman, Robert Arthur, Ernest and James Alaric. Their son George Cecil later became a Colonel in the Royal Artillery. The couple’s 4 daughters were Mary Constance, Clara Josephine, Gertude Annie and Lucy Violet. Lieutenant Colonel Dowell and his family emigrated to New Zealand, and Dowell died on 3rd August 1910 at The Haven, Remuera, near Auckland aged 79. He was buried in Purewa Cemetery in Auckland. His medals are held by the Royal Marines Museum, Southsea, Hampshire.