But by the age of 15 or 17 Cecil had signed up in the Royal Navy. He would spend the rest of his life, with exception of only 1 year, wearing the uniform of a sailor.
Little is known about the sea life of Cecil Buckley in the early years, but the life of a seaman must have agreed with him. Within his first ten years he would move up to the rank of Lieutenant, and by March of 1855 he would be serving as a junior officer on the sail and steam powered 14 gun wooden sloop HMS Miranda.
On arrival in the evening of 28 March 1855 Admiral Lyons and several of his ships joined the rest of his squadron already at Genitchesk. The earlier vessels had already captured several enemy ships and were waiting for the rest of the squadron to arrive before attacking the town. To get into the straight was rather difficult, it being only about 50 yards wide with commanding cliffs and dangerous enemy fortifications along those cliffs. The straight was also shallow and so tides had to be right to accommodate some of the fleet vessels.
Soon after arrival the Admiral hoisted a Flag of Truce to allow the enemy to surrender, failing this he advised that all civilians in the town need to be evacuated by 9 a.m. the following morning as he then planned to attack. There were many important enemy vessels, ammunition dumps and corn storage facilities and other government holding that the British intended on either capturing or destroying and thus have a major impact on the enemy's war efforts.
Word came back that the enemy would not surrender and would use all in its power to resist any attack. And the Brits knew it had at least 6 large artillery pieces aimed at the approaches, some 200 men in position to deal with an immediate attack and the possibility of another Battalion of men in reserve. Thus the British decided not to attempt a run on the town just yet. They would wait it out till morning and hope that the enemy would reconsider. They didn't!
So the Fleet bombarded the shore lines, and sent several of the smaller vessels in and these managed to set three storage areas of corn afire and also 73 ships to boot. But then the tides shifted and they came out again. With the shifting winds some of the fires went out and that is when Lt Buckley and two others from another vessel volunteered to land and reset the fires. This was a very dangerous mission as it was broad daylight and the enemy still had lots to throw at the three. But nevertheless they were given permission, went in and successful set the flames again and still escape unscathed.
Then some of the boats from the fleet headed north to the area of Taganrog and now four men went ashore to light many a fire. By the time the day was done over 246 vessels that include four major warships were destroyed and about 16,000 pounds of corn also set ablaze.
Three of the four men involved in these actions were awarded the Victoria Cross and the awards were published in the London Gazette on 24 February 1857. Lt Cecil Buckley was the first listed and then three others followed. Of the 1, 357 Victoria Cross awarded since 1857, to 1,854 individuals (three got 2 awards), Cecil Buckley's award was the very first one in the history of the medal, to be gazetted.
Perhaps for one of the very first times, here in print, in this blog, is that London gazette entry. (it's been cut and pasted and takes two pictures to show, but regardless, here it is...
Little is known about Buckley's after these events other than that he continued his service for another 14 years serving on another half dozen vessels, and reaching the rank of Naval Captain just a few years after earning his VC. He continued on these ships till taking ill at the end of 1871, and died just a year later at Madeira and lies at rest their today.
So folks there you have it the man and the VC... the first ever by date of gazetting.