12 December 2003

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Chief Gunner Israel Harding
Royal Navy ( HMS 'Alexandra' )

  • Victoria Cross
  • Baltic Medal ( 1854-55 ) - not included
  • Ashantee Medal ( 1873-74 ) - not included
  • Egypt Medal ( 1882-89 )
    • 1 clasp:
    • "Alexandria 11th July"
  • Khedive's Star ( 1882-89 ) ( Egypt )
  • Brazilian Medal - not included

The Victoria Cross, Egypt Medal and Khedive's Star awarded to Chief Gunner Israel Harding, Royal Navy, have been sold at auction by London auctioneers Morton & Eden for £75,000. The VC was purchased on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

( Owing to the distribution of Israel Harding's campaign medals between his children the location of his Baltic Medal, Ashantee Medal and Brazilian Medal are not known ).

Among several specific instructions in Israel Harding's Will were the following bequests.
  • To his son Joseph:
    • Baltic Medal, Brazilian Medal
  • To his daughter Emma Castopa:
    • Victoria Cross
  • To his daughter Louisa Annette:
    • Ashantee Medal
  • To his daughter Annetta Alexandra:
    • Egypt Medal & Khedive's Star

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 15 September 1882 ], During the Naval Attack on Alexandria, Egypt, 11 July 1882, Mr. Israel Harding of Her Majesty's Ship "Alexandra".

"At about nine o'clock on the morning of the 11th July, whilst Her Majesty's Ship "Alexandra" was engaging the Forts at Alexandria, a 10-inch spherical shell passed through the ship's side and lodged on the main deck. Mr. Harding heard the shout "there is a live shell just above the hatchway", rushed up the ladder from below, and, observing that the fuse was burning, took some water from a tub near, and threw it over the projectile, then picked up the shell and put it into the tub. Had the shell burst, it would probably have destroyed many lives".
Israel Harding was invested with his Victoria Cross by, Admiral Sir Frederick Beauchamp Seymour, C-in-C Malta, on 14th November 1882.

An extract from an article in "The Strand Magazine, dated 12th October 1896, entitled "Sailor VCs"

That fine, jovial-looking seaman, Chief-Gunner Israel Harding, gained his V.C. on board the Alexandra, at the bombardment of Alexandria. At first the practice of the Egyptian gunners was somewhat erratic, but it improved and very soon well-placed shells were dropping here and there on the British ships. "One", says Mr. Harding himself, "fell close to the sheep-pen on the Alexandra and killed all the poor animals - the only damage the missile did.

The next shell tore away our strong iron stanchions, bounded along between Captain Hotham and Staff-Commander Hoskins, then tore a chunk out of the main-mast, and finally went overboard, little regretted. A third shell exploded in our steam launch, killing one man and maiming many others.

At this time I was passing through the main upper decks to inspect the supply of ammunition for the guns, when a huge shell from Fort Ada came plunging through the Alexandra's port bulwark - just past the feet of Commander Thomas, who was standing on the hammock netting. The projectile was deflected by a metal stanchion, and then entered the Commander's cabin, where it exploded with an appalling roar, tearing and destroying everything.

I was then about to descend the ladder of the next deck leading to the after powder magazine, when another great shell pierced the ship's side and passed through the torpedo lieutenant's cabin. It then struck the strong iron combings of the engine-room, and bounded onto the deck among the blue-jackets, who instantly screamed "A shell" A shell".

"My own course of action was decided upon as quick as thought. I just picked up that shell, and flung it into a tub full of water. It was heavy, hot, and grimy. It is dreadful to think what would have happended had the shell exploded. Close at hand was the hatchway leading to the magazine which at that moment contained twenty-five tons of gun powder. For this act of duty, concludes Mr. Harding modestly, "I was promoted to chief gunner, and later on recommended for the Victoria Cross."

Israel Harding died at his daughter's house, Silkstead House, Billinghurst, Sussex on the 22nd May 1917, aged 83, and was buried four days later in the Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth.


Go to VC UK flag Home Page

Iain Stewart, 12 December 2003