I have spent decades now advising numerous organisations that their military records are incorrect – that there were two Charles Pye’s from Staffordshire, England, who were enlisted in the British Army during a similar time period and that it was Charles Pye who was awarded the Victoria Cross and not Charles Colquhoun Pye.
Now with the creation of Ancestry and numerous other records online (newspaper images and military records) it is very easy to confirm this. Unfortunately, I still see new websites listing Charles Colquhoun Pye VC. Captain Charles Colquhoun Pye (11 Nov 1834 – 17 Feb 1872), was the son of Henry John Pye and Mary Anne Walker of Clifton Campville, Staffordshire. He married Barbara Wilberforce. He was with the 63rd Foot (The Manchester Regiment) and he fought at the Siege of Sebastopol in 1854 (Crimea) and from 1857 to 1861 was in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. He sold his commission on 16 August, 1861.
Initially the VC record at Kew, London stated that the medal recipient was born in 1822 at Rickets Coat, Staffordshire and died in August 1890 in Middlesex, London. I don’t know where this death date originated. I remember when my Pye research correspondent, the late Donald Charles Pye of NZ wrote to Kew in the 1990s informing them of our research data on the real VC recipient. Their response to Donald was that our data had “set a cat amongst the pigeons”. It is easy to understand that the military circles of the time would attribute the VC to Charles Colquhoun Pye because he was from the upper class and my Charles Pye was the son of a convicted felon and had died in Australia.
It seems that the confusion between the two men began as early as 1898. In a letter written by Thomas A Browne, the employer of Charles Pye’s father Thomas; Browne wrote, “he enlisted in the army after his father left for Australia, fought with distinction in the Crimea & Indian Mutiny – getting his commission as Lieutenant & V.C. – ‘for conspicuous gallantry before Lucknow” – tinge of romance about it, isn’t there? They were a game lot – father and son – anyhow”. The mistake Browne made in his letter being the mention of the ‘Crimea’, as it was Charles Colquhoun Pye who fought in the Crimea and Charles Pye who fought in India.
In an interesting aside: a family of Charles Pye’s second cousins in Staffordshire named their home “Clifton House” – the sons from this family were Charles Edward Pye and Major Henry Pye. Charles Colquhoun Pye’s father Henry John Pye was from Clifton Campville, Staffordshire. I have a sneaking suspicion that this family was trying to association themselves with the Henry John Pye’s and were not aware of their own claim to fame in being related to their distant cousin, Captain Charles Pye VC from an earlier era.
The full history of Captain Charles Pye VC and his father can be found in my book, Tapestry: Bold Blood”. Please contact me for details.