The Reverend Robert and Elizabeth Henrietta Salkeld brought a son into the world at the Rectory in Fontmell Magna during the later half of 1830. Philip Salkeld was the seventh child in a family of ten.
Little is known of Philip’s life before he joined the Bengal Army in 1848 although he is reputed to have been a good shot. Bullet holes found in the cock at the top of the village maypole are alleged to have been made by Philip with his rifle from the rectory nearly a mile away.
Despite his prowess with a rifle Philip’s military career was evidently less than spectacular as after seven years he had only attained the rank of Lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers when involved in the siege of Deli in September of 1857. It was however for his actions here that he was to the Victoria Cross, the first to be awarded posthumously, just one year after the award was instituted.
“On 14 September 1857 at Delhi, India, Lieutenant Salkeld, with another lieutenant, D.C. Home, a sergeant, John Smith and a bugler R. Hawthorne showed conspicuous gallantry in the desperate task of blowing in the Kashmir Gate in broad daylight under heavy and destructive musket fire, preparatory to the assault.”
Philip was mortally wounded and was to suffer for almost a month before dieing on October 10, 1857 in a military hospital. Philip Salkeld is remembered on a memorial cross in the peace of Fontmell Magna’s churchyard, but his body was buried on the stony, sun-scorched ridge, a waterless, wearying place which the British held for over 100 days.