29 March 2011

Joseph Crowe was born on 12th January 1826 at Vermaak's Military Post, Uitenhage, Cape Province, the second South African born recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Crowe died on the 12 Arpil 1876, aged 50, at Penge, South East London, from heart desease and was buried in West Norwood Cemetery. It was whilst in London in 1957 that Professor John Phillips of Natal University, the grandson of Joseph Crowe's sister Dorothya, visited West Norwood Cemetery where he found Crowe's grave in a very poor condition. He then decided to attempt to repatriate the remains of Joseph Crowe to his birth location at Uitenhage, Cape Province, South Africa. The project took ten years to come to fruition but Phillips was eventully successful and the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Crowe VC were removed from West Norwood Cemetery to South Africa in late 1976.

It was originally thought that Joseph Crowe would be buried in Uitenhage municipal cemetery, perhaps as a condition for release by the British authorities. A British-issued document titled "Licence for the removal of human remains" which stipulates.

  1. The removal shall be effected with due care and attention to decency, early in the morning.
  2. Freshly made ground lime shall be freely sprinkled over the coffin and the soil
  3. The remains shall be enclosed in a zinc lined shell, hermetically sealed
  4. The remains shall be transported to Uitenhage Cemetery, Cape Province, South Africa, and be there reinterred
This was signed on the 25th November 1976.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, a letter was written by the MOTH ( Memorable Order of Tin Hats ) Hall Management to the Historian of the Uitenhage Historical Museum thanking her for the suggestion to the town council that the burial of Joseph Crowe take place in the MOTH Garden of Remembrance. This was duly authorised by the Town Council and the Provincial Administration then formally granted the MOTH Garden of Remembrance status as a burial ground. This decision was unique in that it became the only known declared burial ground which would contain only one person, that of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Crowe VC. His remains were reinterred in the Garden of Remembrance plot on the 5th February 1977.

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Crowe
78th ( Highlanders ) Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • Indian General Service Medal ( 1854-95 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Persia"
  • Indian Mutiny Medal ( 1857-58 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Defence of Lucknow" - "Lucknow"

Unfortunately, it has recently been revealed that the Memorable Order of Tin Hats ( MOTH ) are in the process of selling their Hall, and with it the plot known as the MOTH Garden of Remembrance. This is to make way for a commercial development. Therefore, there is no doubt that the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Crowe VC will have to be removed but at present no suitable location has been found.

Crowe earned his VC during the Indian Mutiny whilst serving under Brigadier General Sir Henry Havelock's first relief force sent to relieve the defenders of Lucknow. Havelock's column broke through to the Lucknow garrison on the 25th September 1857 but owing to heavy losses, 535 men killed or wounded, was too weak to withdraw. Therefore, the relieving force joined the original Lucknow defenders.

On the way to Lucknow Havelock's force encountered a redoubt that was strongly defended by the enemy at Bourzekee Chowkee, near Busherut-Gunge. A decision was made to take the redoubt by storm as no guns were at hand and night was falling. Lieutenant Crowe was the first of the Highlanders to reach the redoubt and within one minute the place was captured and the enemy scattered.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 15 January 1858 ], Bourzekee Chowkee, Indian Mutiny, 12 August 1857, Lieutenant Joseph Petrus Hendrick Crowe, 78th ( Highlanders ) Regiment

For being the first to enter the redoubt at Bourzekee Chowkee, the entrenched village in front of the Busherut-gunge, on the 12th of August 1857.

( Telegram from the late Major-General Sir Henry Havelock to the Commander-in-Chief in India, dated, Cawnpore 18th August 1857 )

( Gazetted as Captain of the 10th Regiment ( Lincolnshire Regiment ))

It is believed Joseph Crowe's Victoria Cross and campaign medals were lost when his sister's farm, Firlands, at Rondebosch, Cape Province, was destroyed by fire.


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Iain Stewart, 29 March 2011