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  • Christina Drummond

Lance Corporal Henry Eric Harden V.C., Royal Army Medical Corps

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1945, Lance Corporal Henry Eric Harden V.C., Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to 45 Royal Marine Commando, was killed in action during Operation Blackcock, at Brachterbeek in the Netherlands.

One of a family of eight children, he played the violin, was a keen sportsman, and having a great interest in things medical, he belonged to the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade. While at school he helped his brother-in-law who ran a butcher’s shop, and later left school early to take over the shop when his brother-in-law died.

In 1942 Lance Corporal Harden was conscripted into the Royal Artillery, but soon transferred to the Field Ambulance Section of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He volunteered for service with the Commandos and was appointed as Medical Orderly with 45 Royal Marine Commando. During the Normandy landings he was at Merville, tending to the wounded.

On the day of his death he was near the village of Brachterbeek, where his actions earned him the posthumous Victoria Cross. His citation reads: “The leading section of a Royal Marine Commando Troop having come under intense machine-gun fire was ordered to make for some houses close by. Four of the section had been wounded and were left lying in the open. Under continuous fire Lance Corporal Harden at once went forward and with great coolness and bravery attended to the four casualties. He then carried one of them back to cover. He was ordered not to go forward again and an attempt was made to bring in the remaining casualties with the aid of tanks, but this proved unsuccessful owing to the heavy and accurate fire of anti-tank guns. A second attempt under a smoke-screen also proving unsuccessful, Lance Corporal Harden insisted in going forward with a volunteer stretcher party and succeeded in bringing back another badly wounded man. He went out a third time, and whilst returning with the stretcher party, he was killed. Throughout this long period Lance-Corporal Harden displayed superb devotion to duty and personal courage of the highest order. His action was directly responsible for saving the lives of the wounded brought in, while his complete contempt for all personal danger, and the magnificent example he set of cool courage and determination to continue with his work, whatever the odds, was an inspiration to his comrades and will never be forgotten by those who saw it.”

Lance Corporal Harden’s comrades had to wait until nightfall to recover his body, when it was discovered he had been shot in the head and must have died on impact. He is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Nederweert, Limburg, in the Netherlands.

Henry, from Northfleet in Kent, was 32 years old and married with a son and daughter.

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