b. 27/11/1856 Southgate, London. d. 06/01/1913 Chiswick, London.
Frederick Hitch (1856-1913) was born at Chase Side, Southgate, London on 29th. November 1856. He enlisted in London on 7 March 1877 aged 20 years. He enlisted with the 24th Regiment of Foot (later South Wales Borderers), and shortly following enlistment, he was sailing for South Africa and war with the Zulus.
On 22nd-23rd January 1879, Private Hitch was at Rorke’s Drift with his battalion when news came through of the dreadful events at Isandhlwana and that the large Zulu force was heading straight for the small medical post. During the first assault by the Zulus, Private Hitch and Corporal William Allen were busy running between the defences and the hospital, keeping communications open, allowing the men to direct their fire to halt the Zulu advance. They were both involved in holding a position, which was being raked by enemy fire from a nearby hillside. Both Allen and Hitch were hit and severely wounded. They were pulled to safety and taken to Surgeon Reynolds.
After a period of treatment, both men were determined to get back into the fray. They helped with the extrication of the patients from the hospital, and despite being unable to operate their weapons due to their wounds, they helped to serve ammunition boxes out to the men throughout the night.
Both men were recommended for, and awarded the Victoria Cross on 2nd May 1879. Hitch’s wounds were so severe that they led to his discharge from service upon the conclusion of the war. He was invalided back to England, and was a patient in Netley Hospital when he was present with his medal by Queen Victoria on 12th August 1879. He then moved from job to job, unable to perform manual work due to the damage to his arm (the bullet having shattered his shoulder bone) he had received during the battle.
He was married on 5th. July 1881 to Emily Matilda Meurisse. They had 11 children, three of whom died at an early age. He reportedly found life difficult living on his disability pension from the government, which amounted to just £10 a year. He then found employment as a Commissionaire at the Imperial Institute until in 1901, whilst climbing a ladder he suffered a fall. When he awoke in hospital his VC, which he always wore, had been stolen.
Forced to pay for a new one from his own pocket, Hitch also lost his job soon afterwards when he was accused of faking the fall to hide the fact that he had sold his medal to raise funds. This has never been proven. Hitch had eight surviving children, and managed to land a steady job, at first as a horse-drawn carriage taxi driver and later a motor car taxi service. This provided him with a comfortable income for some years. Some unforeseen, and unknown, disaster meant that by the time of his death in 1913 he was living alone in Chiswick, West London at 62 Cranbrook Road where he is commemorated with a blue plaque from English Heritage. He collapsed and died at his home whilst talking to a neighbour on 6th January 1913. He was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard, Chiswick, his funeral attended by a large number of London ‘Cabbies’ and still today there is the Fred Hitch gallantry award for Cab drivers. His replacement VC is held by the South Wales Borderers Museum, Brecon.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SOUTH WALES BORDERERS MUSEUM, BRECON, WALES.
BURIAL PLACE: ST NICHOLAS CHURCHYARD, CHISWICK, LONDON.
BLOCK P, GRAVE 17
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.