War hero and lifesaver Eric is saluted, at last
PUBLISHED: 15:57 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:26 23 August 2010
A WAR hero posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after an act of bravery during WW2 has been honoured at remembrance services in both Holland and Northfleet. Henry Eric Harden, who was born in Northfleet and lived in Colyer Road, heroically saved the l
A WAR hero posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after an act of bravery during WW2 has been honoured at remembrance services in both Holland and Northfleet.
Henry Eric Harden, who was born in Northfleet and lived in Colyer Road, heroically saved the lives of two servicemen lying wounded in the open during the battle for the Roer Triangle in Holland in 1945.
Lance Corporal 'Doc' Harden, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, (RAMC) attached to 45 Royal Marine Commando, died on a third rescue attempt and was awarded the Victoria Cross - the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry, in March 1945. He was the only member of the RAMC in the war to receive the award. On Saturday, remembrance services marking the 65th anniversary of his act of bravery were held in Maasbracht, in the south east of Holland, near to the spot where he died, and also at All Saints Church in Perry Street, Northfleet.
Daughter Julia Wells, who organised the services with her cousin Marion Fielder-White, of Shorne, said she was "extremely humbled" by the service.
Mrs Wells, who lives in Norfolk, said: "Everybody who attended the service was very supportive and to see that many people turn out to pay their respects makes all of the family feel immensely proud.
"We are extremely humbled and very honoured by the service."
Mrs Fielder-White added: "It is very important to mark this anniversary, it means an awful lot to all those who knew him. It makes me very proud, and it is a story that is worth telling. It was a moment of bravery but more, it was an act of compassion for his friends."
Lance Corporal Harden was born in Northfleet in 1912. He joined the Northfleet St John Ambulance Brigade before he was conscripted in 1942.
In January 1945, the Royal Commando troop he was with was pinned to the ground by intense enemy machine gun fire near the village of Brachterbeek. The section was ordered to take cover, but one officer and three other men were left in the open.
Lance Corporal Harden ran 120 yards across open ground under a hail of machine gun fire to give aid to the four casualties. He carried one back to cover, returned and succeeded in bringing another back to cover. He went out a third time but was shot and killed on the return journey.
The service in Northfleet was attended by representatives from St Johns Ambulance, RAMC and the Royal Marine Commando's. In Holland, about 100 people paid their respects at a service and wreaths were laid at Harden bridge, which was named after him, near to the spot where he died and where a memorial stone has been erected.
Mrs Wells added: "They are extremely loyal in Holland. They celebrate him and talk about what he did all the time. have always considered the Dutch to be part of my family and they treat me as such. He is their hero."
Lance Corporal Harden, who was 32 when he died, was married to Maud and also had a son. The hero is buried in Nederweert War Cemetery in Holland.