James William Adams

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James William Adams
Born (1839-11-24)24 November 1839
Cork, Ireland
Died 24 October 1903(1903-10-24) (aged 63)
Ashwell, Rutland
Ashwell Churchyard, Rutland
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Bengal Ecclesiastical Department
Battles/wars Second Anglo-Afghan War
Third Anglo-Burmese War
Awards Victoria Cross
Other work Honorary Chaplain to King Edward VII

Reverend James William Adams VC (24 November 1839 – 24 October 1903) was born in Cork and was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the first clergyman to be awarded the VC and one of only five civilians.


Reverend James William Adams was 40 years old, and a chaplain in the Bengal Ecclesiastical Department (serving as chaplain to the Kabul Field Force), British Indian Army during the Second Afghan War when on 11 December 1879 he carried out the actions for which he was awarded the VC. The citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 24 August 1881 (dated 26 August 1881) and read:

War Office, August 24, 1881.

THE Queen having been graciously pleased, by Warrant under Her Royal Sign Manual, bearing date the 6th of August, 1881, to direct that the decoration of the Victoria Cross shall be conferred on Members of the Indian Ecclesiastical Establishments who may be qualified to receive the same, in accordance with the rules and ordinances made and ordained for the government thereof, provided that it be established in any case that the person was serving under the orders of a General or other Officer in command of Troops in the Field when he performed the act of bravery for which it is proposed to confer the decoration :—

Her Majesty has accordingly been pleased to signify Her intention to confer this high distinction on the undermentioned gentleman, whose claim to the same has been submitted for Her Majesty's approval on account of his conspicuous bravery in Afghanistan as recorded against his name, viz. :—

Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment, late Chaplain to the Kabul Field Force, The Reverend J. W. Adams

During the action at Killa Kazi, on the 11th December, 1879, some men of the 9th Lancers having fallen, with their horses, into a wide and deep "nullah" or ditch, and the enemy being close upon them, the Reverend J. W. Adams rushed into the water (which filled the ditch), dragged the horses from off the men upon whom they were lying, and extricated them, he being at the time under a heavy fire, and up to his waist in water.

At this time the Afghans were pressing on very rapidly, the leading men getting within a few yards of Mr. Adams, who having let go his horse in order to render more effectual assistance, had eventually to escape on foot.[1]

For the above actions Adams was recommended for the VC by Lord Roberts. Along with the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic chaplains who also accompanied the force, Adams was three times Mentioned in Despatches during the campaign.[2][3][4] He received his medal from Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace on 1 December 1881.[5]

In 1885 he accompanied the field force under Lord Roberts in Burma, and he took part in the operations there.

Adams was appointed an honorary chaplain to the Prince of Wales on 7 May 1900,[6] and following the Prince's accession as King Edward VII he was confirmed in the post of Honorary chaplain to the King on 23 July 1901.[7] After the resignation of Reverend Moule to become Bishop in September 1901, Adams was appointed one of 12 Chaplains-in-Ordinary to the King.[8]

Adams died on 24 October 1903 and is buried at Ashwell Churchyard, Rutland, England where he was Rector. He had previously been the Rector of Postwick (1887–94) and Vicar of Stow Bardolph, Norfolk (1895-1902). His memorial was restored in 2007.[9]

In 1881 he had married Alice Mary, eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Willshire, 1st Baronet. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin[10] and ordained in 1863.[11]


  1. The London Gazette: no. 25008. p. 4393. 26 August 1881. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 24801. p. 218. 16 January 1880. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 24841. p. 2850. 4 May 1880. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 24909. p. 6538. 3 December 1880. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  5. "Documents online—Victoria Cross Registers—Medal listing of Reverend James Williams Adams" (Fee required to view full document). The National Archives. Retrieved 4 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. The London Gazette: no. 27190. p. 2920. 8 May 1900. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 27336. pp. 4838–4839. 23 July 1901. Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 27370. p. 7045. 1 November 1901.
  9. "War hero's memorial is restored". Rutland and Stamford Mercury. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 4 June 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Dictionary of Indian Biography (1906)
  11. Who Was Who, 1897-1916

External links