Location
In the entrance hall at HMS Nelson Ward Room.
 

Memorial
The Boatswain John Sullivan Cabinet
 
Photograph
Inscription

JOHN SULLIVAN
Boatswain of Portsmouth Dockyard 1873
 
Victoria Cross 10th April 1855
Conspicuous Gallantry Medal 1855, Crimea Medal, 2 bars, Inkerman & Sevastopol
Sardinian Medal for Valour, France, Legion of Honour, Turkish Crimea Medal
Royal Humane Society Silver Life Saving Medal 18th Sept 1858
 
Sullivan was a young Boatswain's mate on HMS Roxbury and when the Naval Brigade was formed was appointed captain of one of the guns from H.M.S. Terrible. He made the first breach in the Malakof and later removed to the Green Hill Battery. As the position of some Russian guns was hidden by a knoll he volunteered to plant a flag on the knoll to give the range. He dug a hole with his heel, collected stones to make the staff secure and came back unhurt although several Russian sharpshooters were firing at him. Commander Kennedy, commanding the battery, reported his bravery to Sir S. Lushington who recommended the award. Kennedy observed that Sullivan's gallantry was always conspicuous.
 
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These medals were presented by the Nova Scotian Government in exchange for the
William Hall Victoria Cross and Medals.
 


 
Further Information
There is some dispute about the Victoria Cross medal itself. Some sources say that the whereabouts of the medal is unknown, others that the original was lost and replaced, possibly at Sullivan's expense. It is not known whether the medal held in this cabinet is the original, a replacement or a replica.
 
What is certain however is that the Sullivan VC was presented to HMS Nelson in 1967 by the Nova Scotia Government in exchange for another VC awarded to AB William Hall who was only the third Canadian to merit the Victoria Cross. A detailed account of this transfer was posted on DoullBooks.com in connection with a proposed sale of original letters relating to the medals. A part of that account appears below.
 
"[The collection contains] ... a substantial portion of the three-year correspondence of Rear Admiral H. L. Pullen relating to his efforts to restore to prominence the name of William Hall, V.C. (1829-1904), a Canadian hero of the Relief of Lucknow, and to secure the repatriation from England of Hall's Victoria Cross medal group to the Province of Nova Scotia.....William Hall, V.C. was the first British serviceman of African descent to be awarded the Victoria Cross, also being the third Canadian to have merited this award. Hall was, for the greater part of the century following his death, little known outside the African-Canadian community of Nova Scotia, members of a few Royal Canadian Legion branches in the province, and among historically-minded individuals living close by in Hantsport and Hortonville, NS where Hall's memory was still kept alive. Beginning around January, 1966 Rear Admiral Pullen undertook to determine the whereabouts of Hall's Campaign Medals. Later, following the discovery of the medals in the Wardroom Officer's Mess, Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, England, Pullen negotiated for the loan of Hall's medals to the Atlantic Provinces Pavilion at the International Exposition at Montreal to be held in 1967. Having secured the loan of the medals, Pullen then simultaneously directed his efforts toward negotiating the permanent return of Hall's medals to the Province of Nova Scotia and the documenting of Hall's British naval service. Pullen's research began with the obtaining of transcripts of the earliest provincial newspaper records of Hall, dating from 1901 and 1904, and supplied him by Dr. W. P. Oliver, a prominent educator in the Nova Scotia African community. From this beginning on those particularly instrumental in assisting Pullen in achieving his several goals include Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton, Ministry of Defense, Stanmore, Middlesex, England, Registrar of Holders of the Victoria Cross; Commander R. E. de M. Leathes, Office of the Commodore, Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, England; Spink and Son, Ltd, London; E. K. Timings, Public Records Office, London; one Margaret Franklin of London (professional researcher?) who supplied Pullen the handwritten transcripts relating to Hall's naval service from nine Public Records Office Admiralty documents examined by her; Commander W. B. Rowbotham, author of The Naval Brigades in the Indian Mutiny; and the Honourable Robert L. Stanfield, who as Premier of Nova Scotia enabled Pullen to negotiate for the purchase Hall's medals. The concise account which follows is from a paper read before the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1996, "Before his burial in 1904, Hall's medals were removed from his suit. In 1925 they turned up in the Wardroom, Royal Naval Barracks, Portsmouth, England. The medals were lent for display in the Atlantic Provinces Pavilion at "Expo '67" in Montreal. The government of Nova Scotia showed an interest in purchasing Hall's Victoria Cross. After learning that John Sullivan's Victoria Cross, who had also served in the Royal navy, was available for purchase, the Nova Scotia Government obtained this medal. In December 1967, it presented the Victoria Cross of John Sullivan to the wardroom of the Royal Naval Barracks, in exchange for the Cross of William Hall." -- David W. States. "William Hall, V.C. of Horton Bluff, Nova Scotia Nineteenth-Century Naval Hero." in Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. Vol. 44, 1996, pp. 71-81. The Royal Naval Barracks of Portsmouth bought Hall's Victoria Cross medal group from Spink and Son, London for 70 in 1925, fulfilling their wish to preserve a naval service Victorian Cross for display in their wardroom. And it was in 1967 that Spink and Son expressly informed Pullen of their obtaining Boatswain's Mate John Sullivan's medal group, as Pullen had confidentially queried Spink earlier as to the prospects of locating a naval service Victoria Cross medal group suitable as an offering to the Royal Naval Barracks in exchange for the desired medals of William Hall. Interestingly, as late as 1967 Spink was asking the sum of only $3400.00 for Sullivan's medals, among which was also the medal awarded for Conspicuous Gallantry.
 

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