75th anniversary of the death of Victoria Cross hero
Service marks 75th anniversary of the death of Gravesham Victoria Cross hero
A memorial service was held on Sunday (26 January) to honour the 75th anniversary of the death on the battlefield of one of Gravesham’s bravest sons, Lance-Corporal Henry Eric Harden VC.
Born in Northfleet on 23 February 1912, Lance-Corporal Harden was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross ¬– the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces – after his death on the battlefield in the Netherlands on 23 January 1945 at the age of 32.
Lance-Corporal Harden was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando at Brachterbeek in the Netherlands when three marines were wounded. Under intense mortar and machine-gun fire, Lance-Corporal Harden was wounded as he carried one man back to an aid post.
Against the orders of another medical officer he returned with a stretcher party for the other two wounded. While bringing back the third man, Lance-Corporal Harden was shot and killed. On Sunday his selfless bravery was celebrated in his home town with a service at All Saints Church, Northfleet, which was followed by a parade in his honour.
Those attending included The Dean of Rochester, Philip Hesketh; the President of the south region of the St John Ambulance, Dr Ian G C Jutting OSJ; the Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Gurdip Ram Bungar; the Leader of Gravesham Borough Council, Cllr John Burden; the Chairman of Kent County Council, Cllr Ann Allen MBE; and representatives of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC).
Speaking after the event, Cllr John Burden said: “Looking back on events of the Second World War from an era of peace, it is impossible for us to imagine the courage needed to put your own life on the line under intense enemy fire. “To give your life in your determination to save those of others is the ultimate sacrifice. As a borough, we are proud to call Lance-Corporal Harden one of our own and today’s service was a fitting tribute to an incredibly brave man.”
Eric Harden’s name lives on in Gravesham through the Eric Harden VC Memorial Hall and Harden Road in Northfleet. A memorial stone on a bridge close to where he died commemorates his life and death, and he is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Nederweert in the Netherlands.