Indian Mutiny VC holder John Buckley gets Tower Hamlets memorial

Doreen Kendall by the spot where British Army Major Buckley is believed to be buried in Tower Hamlet

Doreen Kendall by the spot where British Army Major Buckley is believed to be buried in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. - Credit: Archant

The go-ahead has been given for a memorial to a Victoria Cross war hero later buried in a pauper’s grave in London’s East End who fought against the Indian Mutiny of 1857—despite fears that the local Asian community might react against it.

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

This week she learned that the Royal Legistic Corp of the British Army is donating £2,000 for a memorial headstone.

Doreen, a volunteer with Friends of the Cemetery Park, returned to the spot with her daughter Dianne on Saturday as the Victoria Cross Trust launched a £3,000 public appeal to landscape the area around the grave and lay a path for visitors.

But Trust chairman Gary Stapleton revealed: “It was difficult getting permission from Tower Hamlets council for a memorial—they didn’t know how the community would feel because Major Buckley won his VC fighting an India uprising during British colonial rule.

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“We persuaded the Mayor that it’s not appropriate for a VC winner to be buried in an overgrown, unmarked pauper’s grave—Buckley’s bravery is part of the East End’s heritage, whatever the politics of the day.”

The East End’s largest ethnic group today is from Bangladesh, which was then part of the British Indian Empire.

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Major Buckley won his VC as a soldier in the British East India Company for destroying an ammo store in Delhi on May 11, 1857. He was one of nine men defending the store against mutineers and blew it up when the wall was being scaled and all hope of rescue was gone.

Six defenders and hundreds of rebels were killed in the explosion. Maj Buckley was wounded and captured by the rebels—but escaped. His wife and children had been killed by the mutineers the same day.

He returned to east London and lived in poverty in Poplar at 213 East India Dock Road until he died aged 63 in July, 1876, and was buried in common ground at the Mile End cemetery.

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