b. 06/08/1850 Churcham, Gloucestershire. d. 12/03/1905 Gloucester.
Alfred Henry Hook (1850-1905) known as Henry or Harry, was born on 6th August 1850 in Birdwood, near Churcham, Gloucestershire. He first served in the Monmouth Militia and enlisted into the regular army at Monmouth in March 1877 aged 26. It was shortly after this that as part of his new Regiment, the 24th Regiment of Foot (later South Wales Borderers), that he sailed for South Africa for service in the Zulu War.
By January 1879, Hook was serving at the Rorke’s Drift Mission when news filtered through of the heavy defeat at Isandhlwana, and that the large Zulu force was heading directly for the station. With the defences hastily organised under the leadership of Lieutenants Chard and Bromhead, supported by James Langley Dalton, Hook was in the hospital when the first attack came.
During the first Zulu assault on the station, Hook and two other Privates of the 24th were firing on the attackers from the windows and loopholes in the hospital wall. They held the hospital position for over an hour before their ammunition supplies began to run low. Suddenly, the Zulus burst into the room, and killed one of the men with Hook, and two of the patients. One of the other Privates, John Williams began knocking a hole in the wall of the room with his bayonet, and pulled two patients through the opening where he joined forces with Hook.
Between them, they managed to knock their way through three more partition walls, one holding the Zulus off with bayonet, whilst the other worked on knocking through a hole. They were able to save eight patients from the hospital and brought them into inner defences.
Hook was recommended for the Victoria Cross and was gazetted on 2nd May 1879, and received his medal on 3rd August that year from General Sir Garnet Wolseley at Rorke’s Drift where Hook had remained after the aftermath of the action. He had received a scalp wound from a Zulu assagai at Rorke’s Drift, which, in later years caused him some discomfort. He purchased his discharge from the regular army in June 1880, but later served 20 years in 1st Volunteer Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
On his return to England, he found that his first wife had run off with another man believing that he had been killed in South Africa. He would settle for a new life in Sydenham Hill in London, and worked at the British Museum. He re-married in 1897. In 1904, he retired from his job and then returned to his native Gloucestershire. Sadly, Hook’s retirement was very short, and he died of pulmonary tuberculosis on 12th March 1905 at his home, 2 Osborne Villas, Gloucester. He was buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Churcham. His medals are held by the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon, Wales.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOUTH WALES BORDERERS MUSEUM, BRECON, WALES.
BURIAL PLACE: ST ANDREW CHURCHYARD, CHURCHAM, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
James Mace – Image of the reverse of Hook’s VC medal.