Joseph Petrus Hendrik Crowe (12/01/1826 – 12/04/1876) earned his VC during the Indian Mutiny whilst serving under Brigadier General Sir Henry Havelock’s first relief force sent to relieve the defenders of Lucknow.
The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 22083, Page: 178, reads:
“78th Regiment, Lieutenant Joseph P. H. Crowe now Captain, 10th Regiment.
For being the first to enter the redoubt at Bourzekee Chowkee’, the entrenched village in front of the Busherut-gunge, on the 12th of August. (Telegram from the late MajorGeneral Sir Henry Havelock to the Commander-in- Chief in India, dated, Cawnpore, 18th August, 1857.)”
On 12 August 1857 at Boursekee Chowkee, the entrenched village in front of Busherutgunge, India, the redoubt was occupied by the enemy who were causing heavy casualties among the 18th Regiment. It was decided to take the place by storm, and the Highlanders dashed forward, Lieutenant Crowe being the first in, followed by his men. In less than a minute the redoubt was captured. Havelock’s column broke through to the Lucknow garrison on the 25th September 1857 but owing to heavy losses, 535 men killed or wounded, was too weak to withdraw. Therefore, the relieving force joined the original Lucknow defenders.
Unfortunately, the grave of Joseph Crowe has always seemed to be in danger. Following his death on 12 April 1876, he was interred in the West Norwood Cemetery in grave 15,950, square 79. That grave was located in 1957 and renovated. The original inscription read: .
J. P. H. Crowe, V.C.
Died 12th April 1876
Lord, I believe
To which was added:
First South African born
Recipient of the Cross
In August 1976 his remains were exhumed and returned to South Africa where he was interred in the MOTH Garden of Remembrance, Uitenhage on 5 Feb 1977, following a quasi-military ceremony in St Katherine’s Anglican Church. By 2011 the Moth Hall (Crown and Anchor Dinkie Di Shellhole) was up for sale and a new location for the grave had to be found, although a buyer for the hall was also not forthcoming. Google Earth Co-ordinates of the former hall are : 33° 46.083’S 25° 23.926’E. The VC was destroyed in a fire at his sister’s farm, and it is not known if an official replacement was issued.
In late March 2018 an offer was made for the former MOTH Hall and as a condition of the sale, the MOTH order would remove Crowe’s remains, the cannon and other items before any new owner took over the property. Port Elizabeth military history researcher Tim Bodill said his view was that the remains of Crowe and Nelson Mandela Bay’s two other VCs – James Craig, presently buried in St Mary’s Cemetery, and James Langley Dalton, in Russell Road Cemetery – should all be exhumed and re interred at Fort Frederick. (http://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2018/03/22/firm-offer-made-historic-moth-hall/)
**Update 20/11/2018** An advert in a PE newspaper points to the exhumation of the grave but as yet no further information was available. Joseph Crowe VC was finally reburied on Saturday, 24 Aug 2019 in the Heroes Acre section of the Jubilee Park Cemetery in Uitenhage.
Ronnie Lovemore was able to visit the grave at Jubilee Cemetery and sent along the following images:
Unfortunately the inscription is barely legible but Ronnie assured me that he is having that rectified and has also paid to have the burial plot cleaned. The headstone that was previously on the grave has been taken to the Winston Churchill MOTH Cottages as it belonged to the MOTH. I am hoping that we will be able to get more clarity on the headstone.
DRW © 2011-2021. Created 18 June 2011, Moved to blog 04/01/2015. Edited 17/05/2017, updated 25/03/2018. Moved to Musings 09/02/2021. Burial site information courtesy of Jonathan Ossher, with thanks to Clive and Tim Emmerson, as well as Kevin Brazier, author of “The COMPLETE VICTORIA CROSS, A Full Chronological Record of All Holders of Britain’s Highest Award for Gallantry“. Photograph of Joseh Crowe’s grave courtesy of Ronnie Lovemore (June 2011). Update information and 2021 images courtesy of Ronnie Lovemore, interment image by Michelle Beckley.