8 June 2008

Following his death on 1st February 1928, Private James Osborne VC was buried in St Bartholomew's Churchyard, Wigginton, Hertfordshire. However, over the years Osborne's headstone had weathered badly and was deteriorating fast, and this prompted Berkhampsted Royal British Legion to launch a three-year fundraising campaign to replace it.

Although raising the necessary funds was not easy, a number of British Legion branches within Dacorum and Chesham helped raise money, and generous donations were also received from Wigginton Parish Council and various military associations. At the end of March 2008 the target of £2,000 was reached and a specialist stonemason was employed to create a new headstone.

The appeal was such a success that there was a surplus of funds which will be used to set up a trust with the participation of Wigginton Church and Wigginton School to maintain Private Osborne's headstone and grave for the foreseeable future.

Osborne's grave:
before and after

At the end of the Zulu War of 1879, Britain's High Commissioner had failed to deliver the desired federal dominion of British colonies and Boer republics. Tension between the British and Boer farmers was mounting after the British government was not prepared to give back the Boer territory of the Transvaal which Britain had annexed, and Boer resentment was escalated further by the revenue-collecting activities of the Administrator of the Transvaal.

This, and allegations of undisciplined behaviour by British troops in the Transvaal garrisons, drove the Boers to boiling point, and on the 16th December 1880 they declared a republic.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 14 March 1882 ], Wesselstroom, 1st Boer War, South Africa, 22 February 1881, Private James Osborne, 2nd Bn, Northamptonshire Regiment.

For his gallant conduct at Wesselstroom, on the 22nd February 1881, in riding, under a heavy fire, towards a party of 42 Boers, picking up Private Mayes, who was lying wounded, and carrying him safely into camp.

When James Osborne returned to Wigginton at the end of the war he took a job on the vast Rothschild Estate as a labourer. Unable to read or write, he worked there for 26 years. In 1913 a stroke left him partially paralysed and he died on 1st February 1928, aged 71.


Go to VC UK flag Home Page

Iain Stewart, 8 June 2008