Joseph Prosser was born in 1828 in the village of Monseygall, County Offaly, Ireland. At age 14 he enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Foot at Kinsale Barracks, beginning his military career as a drummer boy. He served in Canada, Barbados, Ireland and Cephalonia between 1842 and 1853, frequently serving spells of imprisonment for offences ranging from drunkenness to desertion. In 1855 he arrived in the Crimea and took part in the assault on Sebastapol and was awarded the Victoria Cross for two acts of bravery. The citation read:
"On the 16th June, 1855, when on duty in the trenches before Sebastopol, by pursuing and apprehending (while exposed to two cross fires) a soldier of the 88th, in the act of deserting the enemy. On the 11th August, 1855, before Sebastopol, by leaving the utmost advanced Trench, and carrying in a soldier of the 95th Regt. who lay severely wounded and unable to move. This gallant and humane act was performed under very heavy fire from the enemy"
After the Crimean War Prosser served in Malta and Gibraltar before being sent east to take part in the Second Opium War with China. Prosser, however, got no further than Hong Kong where he was hospitalised with hepatitis. He married one of his nurses, Katherine Riddle, and was subsequently discharged from the army as medically unfit in 1863. He moved to Liverpool where his brother lived and worked on the docks for HM Customs and Excise. He died of tuberculosis aged 39 in 1867 and was buried in Anfield Cemetery. (Section 14. Grave 389. Ref: CH-17-2124/Burial 8887). A headstone was erected in 1995.
Headstone in Anfield cemetery
The fullest account of his life and war service is to be found in James Murphy's excellent work Liverpool VCs [Pen & Sword 2008]
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