Drummer Michael Magner, 33rd regiment, was awarded a Victoria Cross for his act of bravery on April 13, 1868 during the Abyssinia Campaign (Ethiopia).
Michael Magner Barry was born in Fermanagh, Ireland on 21 June 1840. He enlisted in the British Army in 1854 at the age of 14, using his mother's maiden name Magner, for reasons that are not clear. In 1868 Magner's 33rd Regiment was sent as part of a contingent of 10,000 European and Indian troops to Abysinnia, where King Theodore had imprisoned the British Consul and other foreigners. The 33rd Regiment led the attack on the fortress at Magdala, where the King and his remaining troops were refusing to surrender.
Lieutenant General Lord Napier reported that while the head of the column of attack was checked by the obstacles at the gate, a small line of officers and men of the 33rd Regiment and an officer of Engineers broke away from the main approach to Magdala. They climbed up a cliff, reached the defences and forced their way over the wall, and through a strong and thorny fence, therein turning the defenders of the gateway. The first two men to enter were Drummer Magner and Private Bergin of the 33rd Regiment. They were both awarded Victoria crosses (London Gazette, 28 July 1868). The two men were awarded the Victoria Cross in August 1868.
Michael Magner married Margaret Carroll in 1873 and in 1886 they migrated to Tasmania, and then in 1893 moved to Melbourne, Victoria. He was a Chelsea Pensioner, receiving a pension from the British Government. Michael Magner died of tuberculosis on 6 February 1897, leaving 8 children aged from 23 to 3 years. He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Melbourne General Cemetery.
Staunton, Anthony (1985). 'Michael Magner VC', Journal of the Numismatics Association of Australia, Vol.1, July 1985.
Duke of Wellington's Regiment website http://www.army.mod.uk/dukes/vcs_and_awards.htm, accessed 31 Oct 2003.