Harvey, Francis John William VC
Harvey, Francis John William

(1873 - 1916)

Local Connection:
Born in Sydenham

War Service:
Major Royal Marine Light Infantry.
A long serving Royal Marine officer descended of a military family, during his career Harvey became a specialist in naval artillery, serving on many large warships as gunnery training officer and gun commander. Specially requested for HMS Lion, the flagship of the British battle cruiser fleet, Harvey turned the ship into one of the best ships for gunnery in the Royal Navy. In her he fought at the battles of Heligoland Bight, Dogger Bank and Jutland. During this period, the guns under his command sank two German cruisers and almost destroyed the German battlecruiser flagship SMS Seydlitz.

After leaving school, Harvey chose a military career and was accepted by both the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and the Royal Naval College, Greenwich for officer training. Choosing the latter school as a Royal Marines officer cadet, Harvey graduated in 1892 and the following year was made a full lieutenant, joining HMS Wildfire for his first sea-going commission. After just a year at sea, Harvey was back on shore attending gunnery courses at HMS Excellent, qualifying in 1896 as an instructor first class in naval gunnery. Attached to the cruiser HMS Phaeton, Harvey travelled widely over the next two years but in 1898 he was given a reprimand from the Admiralty for an unfavourable report he released on San Diego Harbour.

Returning home the same year, Harvey was given the position of Assistant Instructor for Gunnery at Plymouth Division.

Victoria Cross

London Gazetted on 15th September 1916
Harvey's widow Ethel was presented with the award at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 15 September 1916.
The award was later presented to the Royal Marines Museum, Eastney Barracks by his son Lieutenant-Colonel John Malcolm Harvey of the King's Regiment in 1973.

Dispatch dated 23rd August 1916
In recognition of his bravery and devotion to duty. Whilst mortally wounded and almost the only survivor after the explosion of an enemy shell in "Q" gunhouse, with great presence of mind and devotion to duty he ordered the magazine to be flooded, truely saving the ship. He died shortly afterwards.

Digest of Citation for the Victoria Cross reads:
On 31st May at the Battle of Jutland, Major Harvey of HMS Lion, although mortally wounded and almost the only survivor after the explosion of an enemy shell in a gunhouse, ordered the magazine to be flooded. His presence of mind saved the ship, but he died on shortly afterwards.

A total of 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded during the First World War: 454 Victoria Crosses were awarded to UK-born recipients; 173 were awarded to servicemen who fought for Britain, but were born overseas; 1 person was awarded the Victoria Cross twice during the First World War. Special paving stones will be laid in the home towns of every UK soldier awarded the Victoria Cross as part of 2014's World War I centenary events. The specially-commissioned stones will be given to councils in the areas where the VC recipients were born. A total of 28 will be unveiled next year to commemorate medals awarded in 1914 and a further 600 will be laid in every year up to 2018. Harvey's will be laid in May 2016 at Victoria Cross Memorial.

He was lost at sea and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Location of Memorial:
He is commemorated on the Lewisham Shopping Centre Mural and Tribute at Royal Marine Museum. Southsea, Hants.

He was born on 29th April 1873 at Kirkdale Villa, Upper Sydenham and was the eldest son of John William Francis Harvey Commander RN Retired (1842 -) and Elizabeth Edwards Lavington Penny (1847 -). At age 11 in 1884, Harvey moved with his family to Southsea and he attended Portsmouth Grammar School, achieving excellent academic results and showing proficiency in languages and debating. Harvey was descended from a military family; his great-great-grandfather John Harvey had been killed in the Glorious First of June in 1794 and his great-grandfather Admiral Sir Edward Harvey, GCB, RN and grandfather Captain John Harvey of the 9th Regiment of Foot were also prominent military figures. In 1903 he married Ethel Marguerite Edye (1875 -) and had a son John Malcolm Harvey. He died on 31 May 1916 at the Battle of Jutland(killed in action).


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