b. 20/10/1863 Barnfield House, Exeter, Devon. d. 18/10/1918 Rouen, France.
Theodore Bayly Hardy (1863-1918) was the third son of George Hardy and Sarah Richards Huntley (née Beedle). Sarah Huntley was the widow of Henry Huntley, an Exeter dental surgeon who had his home and his practice in what was then known as Barnfield Place. The Huntleys had three children – Henry, Georgina and Hubert. Henry Huntley senior died in the December Quarter of 1855.
George Hardy was a commercial traveller selling woollen cloth. He and Sarah married in the June Quarter of 1859 and moved into another large house in nearby Southernhay. As well as the Huntley children, the family of George and Sarah soon grew as during the next few years, four sons were born to them – Alfred, Ernest, Theodore (born 20 October 1863) and Robert. Then, in 1870, George died, aged 50, and Sarah was widowed for a second time. For a while, she stayed on in Southernhay, supporting her young family by running a small school with the assistance of her daughter Georgina.
But by 1881, Sarah had moved to London. The census return of that year shows two of her seven children still with her – Henry Huntley, by then 28, and Theodore Hardy, aged 17 and still at the City of London School. He went on to London University and in 1889 was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. The previous year, he had married Florence Hastings in Belfast. The couple went on to have a son and a daughter.
It wasn’t until he was 35, that Hardy was ordained as a deacon in Southwell. In the years up to the First World War, he was a schoolteacher, and a curate in Nottinghamshire. He then became a headmaster at Bentham Grammar School. Ill health meant a move to Hutton Roof in Cumbria as a parish priest, during 1913. His wife died a few weeks before war broke out.
Young men rushed to join up, and march to defend their country. Hardy by this time was over 50, but he felt that he should too serve his country in some way. The authorities felt that the front was no place for a clergyman of his age – in the summer of 1916, after the slaughter of the Somme, they relented, and Theodore Hardy was sent as chaplain to Etaples, a base on the channel coast of France. This was not enough for Hardy – he wanted to serve at the front, and to minister to the fighting men, in the mud and gore of the trenches. In December 1916, he persuaded the army to allow him to join the 8th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, at Vieille Chapelle.
Hardy ministered to the troops during the build up to Passchendaele, dodging the snipers, handing out sweets and cigarettes, writing letters for the troops, and calming many a lost and frightened soul. On the 31st July, the battle commenced with an attack on Riffle Farm. The battalion suffered 7 officers and 170 other ranks, as casualties in this action. All this time, Hardy was with his men, helping the stretcher bearers and bringing succour to the wounded. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work. He continued at the front, through September and into October and was awarded again, with the Military Cross “For repeatedly going out under heavy fire to help the stretcher bearers during an attack.”
The war ebbed and flowed, and in the spring of 1918, the Lincolns were moved to a position on the Somme. Hardy was in the thick of it, as usual, and his actions on the 5th, 25th and 27th of April 1918, resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross. On the 27th April, he was the last to leave a wood that the battalion were evacuating; he found a sergeant in a forward position, to accompany him back in to the wood and rescue a wounded man, the whole time under enemy fire. When told that he had been nominated for the VC he said “I really must protest”. On the 9th August, George V presented him with his award at Frohen-le-Grand. The King appointed him Chaplain to His Majesty, hoping to remove him from the front. Hardy had none of that, and returned to his battalion.
On 10th October 1918, he was hit by machine gun fire, as the Lincolns were crossing the river Selle by night. He died on 18th October 1918, three days before his 55th birthday. Hardy was buried in the cemetery at St Sever, near Rouen. Hardy is the most decorated, non combatant in the First World War. His medals are held by the Museum of Army Chaplaincy, Amport, Hampshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: MUSEUM OF ARMY CHAPLAINCY, AMPORT, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: SAINT SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN, FRANCE.
BLOCK S, PLOT V, ROW J GRAVE 1
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Lochnagar Crater Memorial
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the VC Stone in Exeter.