REGULARS from two Stalybridge pubs have raised hundreds of pounds to ensure one of the town’s military heroes is properly honoured.
Stalybridge-born John Buckley was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1857, for his extraordinary valour while serving in India.
However – despite his bravery being recognised with a blue plaque on the side of the Travellers Call pub, in Stalybridge - his final resting place in Tower Hamlets is unmarked and overgrown.
In December, Stalybridge and Hyde MP Jonathan Reynolds raised this issue in Parliament, calling on the Government to review the way recipients of the VC are honoured after their deaths.
And at the same time, the Victoria Cross Trust launched an appeal to fund the installation of a headstone to mark John Buckley’s grave.
Regulars at Stalybridge’s Travellers Call pub and the Old Fleece Hotel were determined to play their part by organising a series of fund-raising events, including a 12-hour darts marathon, a karaoke event and a raffle. And their contribution to the appeal – which is in excess of £700 – means work on John Buckley’s grave can now begin.
On Friday Mr Reynolds – who is Secretary of the Armed Forces All Party Parliamentary Group – will meet with landlord and landlady John and Jayne Taylor to congratulate them on their fundraising.
Mr Reynolds said: “The economic climate is marking it harder than ever to raise funds for good causes, but this appeal has clearly struck a chord with the people of Stalybridge.
“The money raised by the staff and the regulars at the Traveller’s Call is enough to ensure that work can now begin on the resting place of John Buckley and I am delighted that this is the case.
“However I also hope it will send a message to the Government that those who are awarded the UK’s highest military honour should be respected in death as well as in life.
“It is shocking to think that there are an estimated 78 recipients of the Victoria Cross – like John Buckley – who are lying in unmarked graves in the UK and a further 1300 recipients whose graves have fallen into disrepair.
“This cannot be allowed to continue – and I hope the Government will now review the way recipients of the Victoria Cross are honoured after their deaths.”
For some years the exact location of John Buckley’s grave was unknown, but the plot has now been located in a cemetery in Tower Hamlets.
The Victoria Cross Trust is now planning to erect a headstone and are continuing to raise funds for the grave’s ongoing maintenance.
Trust chairman Gary Stapleton said: “What the people of Stalybridge and particularly the regulars at the Travellers Call have done is absolutely fantastic.
“It means that John Buckley will have a headstone for the first time and he will finally get the recognition he deserves as a figure of historical importance.”
According to the Victoria Cross Trust, John Buckley was awarded the medal during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. He and eight other soldiers were defending an ammunition store in Delhi when they became outnumbered.
Rather than surrender the ammunition they were guarding, they chose to blow up the building and themselves.
John Buckley – one of four soldiers to survive - was taken captive, but he escaped and rejoined the British army. Later made Lieutenant, he spent the final years of his life in London and following his death was buried in an unmarked grave in Tower Hamlets.
More information about the work of the Victoria Cross Trust can be found atwww.victoriacrosstrust.org where there is a page dedicated to Mr Buckley.
Picture of John Buckley VC is reproduced courtesy of The Royal Logistic Corps Museum.
Published 5 April, 2013.