Lance Corporal Henry Eric Harden VC, Royal Army Medical Corps

Discussion in 'RAMC' started by Tony56, May 18, 2016.

  1. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Lieutenant Christopher Furness VC, Welsh Guards
    2nd Lieutenant George Ward Gunn VC, 3rd Regt Royal Horse Artillery
    Lance Corporal Henry Eric Harden VC, Royal Army Medical Corps

    The ‘findmypast’ site has an interesting page on three VC winners and provides details of their actions:

    Without a subscription you can only view this introduction page but nevertheless the citations are there for anyone who happens to be interested in one of these three recipients.
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  2. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    All 3

    Name: Honourable Christopher Furness
    Birth Date: 17 May 1912
    Birth Place: Cambridge Gate, London
    Death Date: 24 May 1940
    Death Place: Arras, France

    Name: George Ward Gunn
    Birth Date: 26 Jul 1912
    Birth Place: Muggleswick, Durham
    Death Date: 21 Nov 1941
    Death Place: Sidi Rezegh Airfield, Libya

    Name: Henry Eric Harden
    Birth Date: 23 Feb 1912
    Birth Place: Northfleet, Kent
    Death Date: 23 Jan 1945
    Death Place: Near Brachterbeek, Holland

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  3. smdarby

    smdarby Patron Patron

    Have visited the site of Harden's VC a couple of times. Also his grave in Nederweert War Cemetery.

    DSCF2109.JPG DSCF3052.JPG
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  4. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad


    From Findagrave;-

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  5. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad


    From Findagrave ;-

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  6. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad


    From findagrave;-
  7. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Next year I'm going to be lucky enough to be taking a couple of Groups to visit the site of the action for which Eric Harden was awarded his posthumous Victoria Cross. I managed to get in touch with his wonderful Daughter, Julie, who wrote the following for me to read on the spot where her Dad was shot and killed. I thought some of you may like to see it?

    My father – H E Harden VC

    To everyone on Jonathan’s Tour.

    I would like to thank you so very much for your interest in this part of Limburg which means so much to me and my family.

    As you probably know my father was an ordinary butcher who, through his work with the local St John Ambulance, picked up a lot of the pieces left behind by the regular bombing of our part of Kent and who was admired for his courage and quiet efficiency. His trade put him in the ‘Reserved Occupation’ category so he was not called to combat but the casualties he attended (some of whom were children, neighbours and friends) left him determined to enlist – which he did in secret and much to the despair of my mother.

    He followed his brother-in-law into the Royal Artillery but on realising he had medical skills the Army very quickly transferred him into the RAMC. He acquired more of these skills during his home postings but was still frustrated by his lack of engagement in the conflict. This led to his application to join the newly forming Parachute Regiment but apparently he was too old at 30! My mother was happy, he was not! However, his application to the Commandos was successful and Mum was not happy...

    By now most of his training had been in the New Forest area, ironically with those very same commandos anyway where he was their chief carer (they later remembered their gratitude for his care of their blisters, a miserable and constant early problem) and being older than most of them they looked up to him as an almost fatherly type figure. At Achnacarry in Scotland he earned his coveted Green Beret and became part of A Troop, 45 Royal Marine Commando where bonds of friendship and loyalty where forged that still endured until the last of them died recently. A weekend leave from Scotland and a joyous reunion with Mum would produce a sister (me) for ‘Bobbie’, my dear brother!

    Embarking at Warsash he landed on 6 June 1944 at Sword beach during D-Day and spent nearly 4 months taking care of the men and earning the great respect and gratitude of the doctors in the field and the men in his care. Not liking alcohol himself he filled his water bottle with calvados, good for shock and I’d imagine a substitute for anaesthetic! I have read many accounts of those times and can’t begin to imagine the horrors the men faced and even more the courage of Dad in helping them to face it. Many folk have quoted to me that it is easier to be brave with a rifle than a stretcher. I like to think that my arrival, in July, while he was in Normandy helped his morale!

    His leave after Normandy was dogged by what we now know as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) as his letters apologised to Mum for his ‘quiet’ mood & lack of any enthusiasm for ‘going about’. However, he was soon back into training due to the Government’s aim of sending more men to the Far East in the war against Japan.

    This aim soon changed and in that freezing winter of 1944/45, following Christmas leave, he left home for the last time on 1stJanuary 1945. He embarked at Tilbury with his Troop bound for Belgium and from there by train to the Dutch border.

    A letter home told of his short time with the Dutch which gave him a great admiration for their courage but particularly their generosity despite their enormous suffering which provided the foundation of my own admiration and future friendship.

    There are many accounts in books of what happened as 45 Commando moved into the Maasbracht area but the most moving accounts I have heard were those told to me by the men who were there. The weather continued to be viciously cold, down to -14, and despite Intelligence, A Troop was caught in an ambush. In a snow covered field in the open, with no camouflage, Dad faced enemy fire for some considerable time returning from the farmhouse, which was their HQ, 3 or 4 times ministering to his wounded comrades. With freezing hands and freezing equipment he gave injections of morphine and bandaged wounds.

    You should be able to see the ‘gap in the hedge’ through which Dad, first on his own and later with volunteer stretcher bearers, carried the wounded. His death from a sniper firing from the nearby windmill left his friends distraught – they all cried when they spoke to me - and that night they retrieved his body from the field, through ‘the gap’, to lie beside the farmhouse. I was told they ‘wanted him by them’, unable to leave him on his own in the field.

    I have been immensely moved that a memorial, with both Dutch and British help, has been placed here where Dad died. Also, that the ‘gap in the hedge’ has so far been retained by the current owners of the farmhouse. We have become great friends with the son of the wartime owners of the farm who joins us for every Remembrance Service. A local schoolmaster, who lost so many of his own family at the same time, is now part of The Liberators’ Committee. This is a group who arranges and raises funds for many Remembrance services in the area and they’ve become our great friends to whom we give our deepest gratitude. Through them I learned where Dad and his dead comrades were first buried at 7 Klosterstraat, Maasbracht, in the grounds of a school and monastery, replaced by a care home and now some sort of co-operative. They have not forgotten what Liberation meant to them.

    I was 7 months old when my father was killed and my brother, Bobbie, was just 7. I would like to pay tribute to my mother’s great courage both before his death and subsequently after it when she faced so much pain and publicity with great dignity and fortitude.

    I feel privileged to be so cherished by so many people. I say so many times and I always mean it, that I lost an amazing father but he has given me a huge legacy of wonderful friends which is a very precious gift. Finally, again my thanks to you for coming here to remember my father who died where his memorial is placed, and also to remember all his comrades, some of whom would go on to die near Linne and at Belle Isle.

    I have been sent many quotations over the years but this speaks to me of Dad:

    "The universe is so vast & ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice"

    Julie Harden Wells

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