Strangely this soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy is buried at a posh boarding and day school surrounded by a hundred acres of parkland. In 1847 it was a boarding school for upper-class boys then in the 1970's it became a coeducational school and has nearly 800 students.
I left the motorway outside Leicester and drove up a tree-lined road hoping the school was open. It was a Sunday afternoon so I hoped there’d be some field event in progress. Yes, there was and I drove passed lots of cars and people playing football. Unsure where to go I pretended I was a teacher and confidently drove round the back and found myself amid a clutter of classrooms and outer building. Two cars passed me but I took refuge in the daydreams that flutter around my head for most of the day and made no eye contact. Why would a cemetery be in the grounds of a school?
Parking at the rear was a lashing of luck as I wandered through a nearby hole in a hedge to mown grass guarded by more hedges. A scattering of graves across the way. This had to be it. It was and I saw the “VC” on Joseph’s headstone within a minute.
As Joseph was born in 1819 there’s little know about him. He must have had a keen brain though as at 38 years old he was a surgeon in the British Army. He was fighting in The Indian Mutiny (a large part of the Bengal army in India were rebelling against British control.)
On 25th September 1857 Joseph helped charge at the enemy with guns and bayonets and capture two big guns. How many clashed at the blood bath - hundreds or thousands - isn’t known but it was hand-to-hand combat including guns, knives, axes and spears. Many lay wounded but Joseph went across no-man’s land many times attending to the injured and dying, dragging them onto cots and hoisting them onto the backs of comrades who took them to safety.
It wasn’t his day. Once this carnage was over he and his comrades were returning to their safe base when they were besieged by an overwhelming force of Indians. All night and the next morning they remained under heavy gunfire. His comrades were serving a 24-pound big gun but they were exposed and getting shot dead with their fingers still on the trigger. Joseph tended the wounded under a curtain of firepower. Eventually he helped move the wounded through a crossfire of transportable guns and musketry to their safe post.
Later he rose to deputy surgeon general and on 9th November 1860 Queen Victoria presented him with the Victoria Cross at Windsor Park, Berkshire.
I’ve not been able to find out why he’s buried here in this odd Rosminian Cemetery behind a school. He didn’t make it to 1900 and died in 1899 aged 80 years old. If there’s any justice these Victoria Cross recipients I visit should reach a minimum 100 years old then die a painless death following a fulfilled life.
Not sure I should be here…
Touching the “VC” and there it is on his chest…