Monday, 2 May 2011

Anthony Clarke Booth VC, St Michael's Church, Brierley Hill.

On Sunday, in what turned out to be another lazy bank holiday afternoon (waiting for our mom to cook Sunday lunch) my brother suggested that we go and look for the grave of a VC recipient, that of Anthony Clarke Booth. He won his Victoria Cross in extraordinary circumstances at the Battle of Intombe.

We knew that Booth was buried somewhere within the grounds of St Michael's Church, Brierley Hill. Anyone who has been privileged to see a  grave of a WWI or WWII recipient of a VC in Belgium or France will know that they are easily recognisable as the iconic symbolic cross is engraved into the headstone. However we thought, correctly as it turned out, that the gravestone wouldn't follow this pattern introduced by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. After 15 minutes of carefully (with hindsight obviously not that carefully) searching we eventually managed to locate his final resting place.

Edit:
After a comment left on this post I released that I had shown the wrong grave! I had in fact detailed the grave of Booth's sons. Typically a grave will hold three people and the rest of his family are buried in a nearby plot. As we were in the area and the weather was fine we went for another look for the grave. The plot was actually pointed out to us by a passing police officer.


Booth VC grave detail
St Michael's Churchyard, Brierley Hill
Booth's grave is in the foreground

Aged 32 this sergeant from Carrington, Nottingham in the 80th Regiment of Foot  (later the South Staffordshire Regiment) staged a remarkable fighting retreat that saved the lives of dozens of his comrades but also saw the social disgrace of his, so-called superior, officer.

The citation is as follows:
On the 12th March 1879 on the Intombe River, South Africa (Zulu War), during an attack by a very large number of the enemy, Colour Sergeant Booth rallied a few men on the south bank of the river and covered the retreat of 50 soldiers and others for a distance of three miles. Had it not been for the coolness displayed by Colour Sergeant Booth, not one man would have escaped.

A more detailed account of the incident Intombi can be found here

The London Gazette has him as a Colour Sergeant, but on the day of the Battle of Ntombe he was actually a Sergeant. His promotion came the following day to replace a Colour Sergeant killed in the action. The gazetting of his VC was delayed due to the fact the surviving officer from the action, Lt. Henry Hollingworth Harward, was court-martialled for cowardice. The trial commenced on 20 February 1880, and concluded on 27 February 1880. During the course of the trial, Booth's award appeared in the London Gazette on 24 February 1880. Harward was actually found not guilty but his career was over and he resigned his commission in May 1880.

Booth's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Museum of the Staffordshire Regiment in Whittingham, Staffordshire at the old regiment's barracks.

Below are photos of the grave of Booth's sons.
Grave of sons

Booth VC sons grave detail
St Michael's Churchyard, Brierley Hill
The grave of Booth's sons is in the foreground
Note that Booth's son, Harry Charles also served with the 80th regiment.