Here I am at the top of Crescent Road in Dukinfield in Greater Manchester where Andrew lived. I live nearby and jog passed this plaque three times a week (and salute.) It looks across onto a war memorial and I salute that as well. The poor lad isn’t buried in 100m away in Dukinfield Cemetery though but lies in Malta. Oddly after many years of fighting he died from drinking milk.
He attended the Wesleyan Methodist School and then worked in mills but aged 17 he enlisted in the 90th Regiment of Foot. They were based in Ashton, a short walk from his house on this road where I’m stood. For six years he remained in Ashton and got married aged 23. After a year of married life he was sent to the Crimea which was in a mess - Russia was expanding into the Danube region (now Romania.) Britain and France thought they may continue down and eventually come to British India. The loss of life in the war would be colossal: of 1.65 million soldiers who began the war 900 000 died.
On 8th September 1855 Andrew was 25, a sergeant, fighting in the trenches at Sebastopol and involved in the taking over Redan. The Russian army were high in number and heavily armed and pushed the British back. Andrew saw Lieutenant Swift was wounded while in a building and he re-entered it to rescue him. He was bayoneted twice and taken captive by the Russians. The British renewed their attack and after some vicious fighting they got Andrew back. However the Russians used their force again to drive the British soldiers back to their trenches. Here Andrew helped to save a wounded comrade despite his own injuries and at the end of a savage day he had twelve separate wounds.
In February 1857 he was presented with a Victoria Cross medal in Hyde Park in London. Afterwards he was promoted to Ensign and continued soldiering. He was sent to suppress the Indian Mutiny and involved in the attacks and captures of Bhugah and Sevrale. His final posting was in his early thirties when he was sent to Malta. He was promoted to Captain but tragically died at his home aged 36 from drinking unsterilized goat’s milk. He's buried in Ta Braxia Cemetery.
Once I was jogging near the blue plaque when a man and woman further down gestured for me to stop. They were both overweight, in their late fifties and looked dishevelled. What did they want? I was wearing sports clothes and trainers so had no money. I stopped, panting heavily, a typical mug.
“Do you know where the vicar lives?” the man asked.
“Yes, he lives just down there on Grenville Street by the park.”
“Please can you show us.”
“Er....yes....but it’s just that street there where that red car is.”
“Would you mind showing us please?”
Perhaps his eye sight was poor so, “Yes okay.”
“We’ve heard he makes sandwiches and soup for people,” the florid-faced woman said.
“Eer....yes I’ve heard people go there sometimes.”
“We haven’t eaten for three days and our bellies are hurting,” the man said.
“Yes, we've had anything. I’m not sure what happens inside but we’ve both got pains in our bellies.”
“Isn’t there someone who can help you at the council?”
They were both tired and a little bothered.
“I don’t know about the council," the man said, "but we heard the vicar feeds desperate people. We’ve starving. We had some lemonade yesterday and apples.”
We arrived at Grenville Street and I said, “I don’t know which house the vicar lives in but I think its half way along.”
“We were told he is at 22.” [I can’t recall the number.]
“Oh okay....good luck then. I hope the vicar is helpful.”
“Would you mind showing us to his door?”
“These are even numbers so it’ll be down there.”
The man looked a little embarrassed, “We can’t read numbers so can you show us please.”
I walked them to number 22 and thankfully someone opened the door, hopefully the vicar. I continued the jog while counting my blessings.
His grave in Malta...