Here I am in an abandoned graveyard at the grave of George Lambert. Little is known of his childhood and - until recently - little has been done to preserve his grave. Itís as though his life and bravery didnít matter. He lies in Wardsend Cemetery which is an overgrown Victorian cemetery in Sheffield. I struggled to find an entrance to it. Itís off a dead end road at the end of an industrial estate. That Sunday afternoon I was worried about leaving the car for an hour however then told myself the advantage of having an old embarrassing car is that nobody wants to steal it.
George is a long way from home as he was born in Markethill in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. He enlistment with the 84th Regiment of Foot in his twenties but thatís all thatís known. He saw a lot of battles and fought in the Indian Mutiny seeing action all over the place, getting severely wounded along the way. The acts of bravery that earned him a Victoria Cross are unknown now but they were for three separate incidents at Oonao (29th July 1857), at Bithoor (16th August 1857 where he helped drive back the rebels with a bayonet charge) and Lucknow (25th September 1857.)
Aged 39 he was promoted to Lieutenant on 17th December 1858 and aged 40 itís known he returned to the England and was stationed at Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield. Sadly George lived for only another six months and while on the barracks parade ground one Monday he collapsed and died instantly from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. He was only 40 and hadn't even been presented with this Victoria Cross medal. His funeral took place eight days later and his coffin was lead to his grave with the regimentís band marching at the head of the procession. He was buried in this beautifully bereft cemetery with military honours.
The 160+ year old graveyard is so overgrown in places youíd need a machete to reach some graves. I thought I may be searching in vain for an hour but luckily the old boy is buried just off a path. Itís difficult to think a brave soldier lies here and when he was lowered in the ground there were the usual military volleys fired in his honour. There was no red wreath, nothing but a wooden cross. I read the headstone has been jet-washed but it was in a grubby state when I found it.
I wanted to get back to the car but this graveyard deserved exploring. It was bought by a vicar from the nearby St. Philip's Church as an overspill burial ground (a railway line passes through it.) The very first burial was a 2-year-old girl named Ann Marie Marsden in 1857. Lots of soldiers from the First and Second World Wars are here too but oddly their graves aren't maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The place seemed to have been forgotten altogether but I since read there's a group that battles Japanese Knotweed and provides guided walks. It was a little scary even in daylight. I did a salute at George's grave and left.
The grave has since been cleaned up...