Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Funerals of Two Crimea Veterans

Funeral Cortege of Joseph Harding [Bedfordshire Times]

Thursday 20th January 1916: The number of Bedfordshire’s surviving veterans of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny has now dwindled to a tiny remnant, following the funerals this week of two of their number. Joseph Harding of Lansdowne Cottages, Bedford Road, Kempston, died on Thursday 13th at the age of 79 and was buried with full military honours on Tuesday. He was carried to his last resting place by men of the Bedfordshire Regiment who had been wounded in France, with the Band of the 2nd Bedfords at the head of the procession. He was known as a “cheerful, entertaining, and genial old man”. About twenty years he was badly injured falling from a tree and had been unable to work since. Mr. Harding enlisted in the 38th South Staffordshires at the age of 17 and was sent to the front almost immediately, serving through the Indian Mutiny and and Crimean war, and being present at the taking of Lucknow. He served in the same regiment as another Bedfordshire veteran, George Smith of Sun Street, Biggleswade, who also fought in the Crimean campaign and the Indian Mutiny. Both men, with other veterans from the county, had the privilege of attending the Coronation of King George V.

When it was recently mentioned to Mr. Harding that the boys at the front were having a rough time he replied: “They’ll never have worse times than we did in the Crimea. They have never had their hair cut away from the ground before they could get up in the morning, but we have”. He recalled spending time in hospital, saying “Florence Nightingale was an angel. I remember recovering consciousness, and the first thing I knew was that Florence Nightingale was putting a teaspoonful of brandy to my lips”. He was discharged from the army due to heart disease and was granted a pension of five pence a day. Of his fourteen children only six now survive. Two of his four sons served in South Africa, another has been in the trenches, and the fourth has been attested under Lord Derby’s scheme; two of his grandsons have also fought in the trenches.

Another veteran, Mr. Samuel Cooper of 84, Iddesleigh Road, Bedford, died the day after Mr. Harding at the age of 82. Mr Cooper was born at Cotton End in 1833 and enlisted in the 3rd Buffs in his 19th year. When war broke out with Russia he volunteered for service and was transferred to the 42nd Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch). He went East in 1843 and remained for some time at Scutari before becoming one of the first to arrive in the Crimea, where he took part in the battles of Alma and Balaklava. In the trenches before Sebastopol he was wounded by a piece of shell and saved from death only by the purse he was wearing. While engaged in quarrying at Camp Kamara a large stone fell on his big toe, causing an injury from which he suffered off and on for the rest of his life. He returned from the Crimea in 1856 and was sent out to India the following year where he took part in the suppression of the Mutiny and was present at the capture of Cawnpore and Lucknow. After nearly 11 years in the Army he was discharged in 1862. After 12 months in the Bedfordshire Police he served for over twenty years in the Metropolitan Police. After his retirement from the police he opened the West End General Stores in Iddesleigh. His funeral took place yesterday, also with full military honours.

Sources: Bedfordshire Times, 21st January 1916; Biggleswade Chronicle, 28th January 1916.

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