JAMES WARDLE – SURVIVOR OF THE CRIMEAN WAR & INDIAN MUTINY

James Wardle, a Dyer by trade was born in Macclesfield Cheshire in 1829. At the age of 18 he joined the Royal Artillery enlisting at Rochdale on the 23rd July 1847 for a life of daring do, and life and death heroic exploits in the far flung corners of the globe. He was 5ft 7 and half inches tall with a fair complexion grey eyes and light brown hair. By the end of his regular army service on the 29th December 1868 he had served a total of 21 years and 160 days fighting for Queen and country. In April 1864 he took the decision to accept promotion to Sergeant Major but after 102 days he decided enough was enough and reverted to the Rank of Sergeant until his retirement.

Gunners of the Royal Artillery at Sebastopol. (Copyright by kind permission of the Royal Collection)

Upon his discharge from the army at Pembroke Dock he came to live in Carmarthen and to take up a post with the Carmarthenshire Militia at Picton Barracks where he met his future wife Margaret Jones who lived in Richmond Terrace. They were married in Tabernacle Chapel, Waterloo Terrace in September 1881 and had several children. Margaret herself died in March 1916 and is also buried in St David’s Cemetery but as the burial plan has been lost and as the headstone does not include Margaret’s name on it no one knows for sure where she may be buried.
There is no doubt that given the fact James enlisted into the Royal Artillery he would have seen and have been involved in much of the fighting. The noise, smoke and smell of the cannon forever firing at the foe in the distance is one thing, and then there’s the hand to hand combat with sword and musket of his fellow comrades which he would also have witnessed. The 11th Battalion of the Royal Artillery played a key role in the Crimean campaign and suffered heavy losses, including many through disease.
James however, after nearly two years fighting in the Crimea survived his ordeal only to be sent immediately with his Regiment to Lucknow in India to quell the Indian Mutiny that had taken place there with the loss of thousands of lives, many succumbing to unspeakable deaths at the hands of the mutinous Indian soldiers. It is recorded in the local newspapers that Sergeant Wardle took great delight in speaking of his exploits in the Indian campaign and in the Crimean war…..if only these had been recorded for posterity so that we could all know exactly what happened and what he did !!
Nevertheless, in December 1896 James breathed his last and with him went his memories but not his medals.

James Wardle’s medals. Photograph curtesy of Bonhams.

These very fine set of medals were kept by his family for many years as a reminder of a great soldier and father figure and by remarkable coincidence in 2015 they came up for sale at Bonhams in London and were sold to an Australian dealer/collector never to return to these shores…or will they ? In recent weeks enquiries have been made in Australia and an advertisement is planned in the hope of locating these medals once again and to bring them back to Carmarthen where they belong, teaching future generations about the great history of this cemetery and those long forgotten heroes. As you can see from the photographs of his headstone, it was originally discovered lying flat on its back amongst the overgrowth, having laid there for decades. As a result, and as it is made of stone, the surface of the memorial has been seriously damaged in the lower section with the surface of the stone crumbling away due to the ingress of water.

lying flat amongst the overgrowth
Uncovering the buried memorial

In time the remainder of the memorial is likely to suffer the same fate. However, photographs have been taken of it for posterity. You will also see that the memorial has now been, like so many others over recent months repositioned and secured back into position and I have to thank Richard Holmes for doing an excellent job in once again restoring dignity to the gravesite and the memory of James Wardle. The Thomas & Elizabeth Mayhook Charity continue to carry out the final phase of it’s restoration of the cemetery grounds and remain confident of its completion this year after six years of effort.

Despite all his heroics, James died suddenly and unexpectedly of a Brain Haemorrhage and the following is an account of his demise.

SUDDEN DEATH AT CARMARTHEN. ANOTHER CRIMEAN VETERAN GONE.

Sergeant James Wardle, aged 70, died somewhat suddenly at Carmarthen on Monday night, and as Dr. Price was not certain whether the death was due to an ugly gash on the forehead of this Crimean veteran, who had also experienced many thrilling exploits in the Indian Mutiny, a post-mortem examination was ordered. At an inquest on Tuesday night – before Mr Thomas Walters, borough coroner- it appeared that, contrary to rumour, the deceased had lived happily with his wife at 39, Richmond-terrace, and was recently taken home, being covered with blood that oozed from his head, the result of an accident. He was confined to his bed and medically attended, dying on Monday night. Evidence of Drs. Parry and Price showed that the cause of death was haemorrhage of the brain—in fact, the demise occurred entirely through natural causes. The jury returned a verdict to that effect. The deceased had been in receipt of a weekly pension of 18 shillings, and had served in the Royal Artillery.

South Wales Daily News December 3rd 1896 page 6

The headstone re-erected into position and restored (where possible) providing dignity and a fitting tribute to a brave soldier.