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OAP finds VC hero John Buckley's grave while tidying up Tower Hamlets cemetery

PUBLISHED: 00:01 11 December 2012

VC holder Maj John Buckley, 1813-67

VC holder Maj John Buckley, 1813-67

VC Trust

A pensioner helping to tidy up an overgrown cemetery in London’s East End has discovered the pauper’s grave of an Army major who won the Victoria Cross more than 150 years ago.

Cemetery park environment officer Kenneth Greenway marks hidden grave of VC decorated Maj John BuckleyCemetery park environment officer Kenneth Greenway marks hidden grave of VC decorated Maj John Buckley

The unmarked grave of Major John Buckley was found by Doreen Kendall at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park in Mile End.

Doreen, from Bethnal Green’s Cranbrooke Estate, was working with her daughter Dianne and the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park to clear an area ready for landscaping when she located the grave of Major Buckley, who won his VC during the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

Ken Greenway, environment officer for the Friends organisation, told the Advertiser: “We’ve known for 20 years that Major Buckley’s grave was somewhere here—but didn’t know exactly where. Doreen found it after linking burial records with Army archives.

“The grave was unmarked because Buckley had returned from India and was living in poverty and obscurity in Poplar when he died.”

Major Buckley won his VC in the British East India Company for destroying an ammo dump in Delhi on May 11, 1857. He was one of nine men defending the storehouse for five hours against mutineers and blew up the ammunition when the wall was being scaled and hope of rescue was gone. Six defenders and hundreds of rebels were killed in the explosion. Buckley and two others survived. He was wounded, then captured by the rebels—but escaped.

Victoria Cross Trust chairman Gary Stapleton said: “Major Buckley endured great personal loss while carrying out his duty. His wife and children had been killed by the mutineers on the same day. To find his unmarked grave is quite rare.”

Buckley died at 63 and was buried at Mile End in common ground in July, 1876.

Now the trust has started a £5,000 fundraising campaign to erect a headstone at the cemetery and lay a path, with a possible blue plaque at the site where Buckley lived with his third wife Sara at 213 East India Dock Road, Poplar.

His VC is displayed at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum at Camberley, Surrey, while the home of 9 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, Buckley Barracks in Wiltshire, and the official residence of the Bicester Garrison commander, Buckley House, are both named after him.

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