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1091, Regimental Sergeant Major George GARDNER — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

He may have been born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, but more likely Hatfield Peverel, Essex, as he declared in Census .

George Gardner later said that he was in fact born in Witham, Essex. Given that Hatfield Peverel is only three miles from Witham, he probably said "Hatfield" for convenience. He added that his middle name was Dudley. [CP]


Enlisted into the 14th Light Dragoons at London on the 2nd of March 1841. Regimental No. 721.

Age: 21.

Height: 5' 7".

Trade: None shown. (Later said to have been a servant.)


Transferred to the 13th Light Dragoons on the 1st of June 1841.

From Private to Corporal: 13th of January 1843.

Reduced to Private by a Regimental Court-martial on the 16th of April 1844 but this sentence was remitted. "To remain in his rank."

Corporal to Sergeant: 30th of January 1846.

Promoted to Regimental Sergeant Major: 23rd of February 1853.

Gazetted as Cornet, dating from the 27th of September 1854, but he rode as R.S.M. in the Charge, in which his horse was killed under him. A certificate exists, signed by Colonel Doherty, "To enable Cornet George Gardner to receive the sum of £150.00 from the Regimental Agents." This was apparently something given to all newly gazetted "Other Ranks" for the purchase of clothing, etc, appropriate to their new rank.

He also took part in the affairs of the Bulganak and MacKenzie's Farm.

Returned to England aboard the "Aetenea" on the 8th of September 1855.

Lieutenant and Adjutant, 9th of October 1855.

[To] Officer Commanding Depot, 13th Light Dragoons

Topsham, Devon

Pressing. Horse Guards, 24th June 1856

Sir, — I am directed by the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief to desire that you will instruct Lieutenant and Adjutant Gardner, at present doing duty at the Depot under your command to proceed forthwith to Ballincollig to rejoin the Headquarters of his regiment, with which his services are required,

I have, etc, etc.

J.W. Repton, AAG.

Horse Guards, 25th June 1856

Sir, — By desire of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th inst, and to acquaint you that Lieutenant and Adjutant Gardner has been ordered to rejoin the Headquarters of the regiment under your command forthwith and also to observe that the Depot at Topsham will be sent to Ballincolling as soon as transport can be provided for its conveyance.

I have, etc. etc.,

Weatherall, DAG."

Captain: 9th of February 1861.

Retired from the service by the sale of his commission on the 6th of September 1862.


Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol.

Awarded the Order of the Medjidie, 5th Class.


Life after service

On his retirement, Gardner was for many years Governor of Her Majesty's Prison at Northallerton, Yorkshire. He was also at some time presented with a sword of honour and 120 guineas by the inhabitants of Hatfield, the presentation being made by Lord Rayleigh.

The following is taken from the Minute Book of the County Hall, Northallerton (QSM. 4/5 Special Orders Minute Book, at p. 270):

"It was ordered on July 1st 1862 that Captain George Gardner of the 13th Light Dragoons be appointed Keeper of the House of Correction (Northallerton) at an annual salary of £300, 'with the House, but no other allowances or perquisites'.

1871 Census

George Gardner, 48, Governor of North Riding Gaol, born Hatfield Peverel, Essex.

Selina Gardner, 40, born Maidstone.

Four children shown: Arthur 20, Lilian 17, Caroline 13, and George 10.

1881 Census

Her Majesty's Prison, North Allerton.

George Gardner is shown as Governor of the Prison, aged 58, born Hatfield Peverel, married.

Two daughters (Gertrude L. Gardner aged 26, born Birmingham, and Caroline A., aged 22, born Ireland) and a son (George J.E., aged 20, born Scotland, a "Solicitor's Clerk") are shown. [RM]

Also shown in the household is a "Matron", Lucy Norton aged 57, born Bewdley, Worcester.

1891 Census

Her Majesty's Prison, North Allerton.

George Gardner, 68, Governor of Prison, born Hatfield Peverel.

Selina, 58.

Lillian, 30.

George, 29.

In QSM. 4/12 Special Orders Book, at p. 3331 the following entries occur under the date, 22nd of October 1891:

Captain George Gardner stated that he was retiring from the service at the end of this month. He was appointed Governor at this prison by this Court at the Mid-Summer Sessions of 1862 and has therefore been Governor for over 29 years.

During the whole of this period he has worked in complete harmony with the Visiting Committee, who wish to express their deep regret at his retirement. He has always maintained good discipline at the Prison and at the same time been most kind and humane in the treatment of the prisoners.

When the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society was formed he undertook the chief work in connection with it, and it is mainly through his exertions that it has been so successful and useful.

The following letter from Captain Gardner was recorded in the Minutes:

H.M. Prison, Northallerton, 17th of October 1891

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen. As this is the last report I shall have the honour of presenting to you I wish firstly to thank you and through you, the whole Bench of Magistrates for the uniform kindness that I have received from your and their hands during my 29 years service. In that time 37,500 of all sorts and conditions of men, women and children have passed through my hands; to all of whom I have done my best to deal with impartially and without harshness or allowing those under me to do otherwise. As proof that I am within the mark by saying that not 100 of the 37,500 have complained of unfair treatment whilst in confinement here. During the whole of my service I have also received the greatest possible assistance from the North Riding and Borough Police, to whom I also return my grateful thanks.

To you, Gentlemen, for your ever readiness to assist me in maintaining discipline I am truly grateful, and beg to hope that you will continue the same to my successor. To my Officers, I shall always feel at all times obliged for their help in the maintenance of discipline. Since under the Government, three have been promoted to larger prisons and one to a Chief Clerkship at Wakefield, and I have not one under me that I would willingly exchange for any other.

Your very faithful Servant, George Gardner.

Death & burial

Died 5th of May 1895 at 370, Fulham Road, London.

The following reports of his death and funeral came from The Times of the 6th and the 11th of May respectively:

Death — Gardner. On the 5th inst. at No. 730 Fulham Road, London, S.W. Captain George Gardner, late 13th Hussars and for 29 years Governor of Northallerton Prison, aged 70 years.[sic] One of the Survivors of the Balaclava Charge:

"... In the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, Captain Gardner, with himself and his horse uninjured, got as far as the mouth of the Russian guns — when a shell burst in the chest of his horse and threw the rider into the air. When he recovered he found he was laid out on a Russian gun; he scrambled to his feet and ran a mile and three-quarters through a storm of shot and shell before he reached his comrades... He was buried with military honours at Northallerton, Yorkshire.

(His wife was later buried with him at Northallerton.)

In his will he left his personal estate of £33,854 to his wife, Elizabeth, and his daughter, Lilian Gertrude. One of his sons later became a doctor and lived in St. John's Crescent, Darlington.

Extract from a newspaper (unknown source), dated the 26th of September 1855, reprinted at the time of his death:

A public dinner was held in the National School at Hatfield under the chairmanship of Lord Rayley, who said in his opening speech — Lieutenant Gardner, I have been requested to preside on this occasion and am deputied by the inhabitants, the gentry, the landowners of your village, and many others, who have seized upon this opportunity of doing honour — where honour is due — to present you with a sword and purse. Your coming amongst us today arises from your having come from a humble station in life to the honourable one you now occupy — that of holding a commission in her Majesty's Service and being the Adjutant of your regiment.

I should like it to be known, not only as far as this room is concerned, but further still, that we first of all knew you as a boy, living in this parish, and on Fridays attending Chelmsford Market with your father to dispose of the products of his toil. We also knew you as a lad who, desiring to know your duty to God and man, trudged to Witham on your leisure days. We also knew you as a youth, who preferring independence made your way to the Metropolis, entered a chemical factory and afterwards introduced your brother into it, and when fourteen years ago, you enlisted into her Majesty's Service, rising step by step until you became what you were previously in conduct — a gentleman. We have humbly to thank God that you have been permitted to return to gladden the eyes of your aged mother and to be welcomed by your friends. In the name of the subscribers generally I present you with this sword and these purses, which contain 120 guineas...

Lieutenant Gardner, who was received with acclamation, said — I rise to return my thanks for the manner in which these tokens of your liberality have been presented to me and for the enthusiastic reception which you have given to me. But I can assure you that my tongue is unequal to express the feelings of my heart. I came to re-visit my native village after an absence of many years, expecting to find it inhabited by strangers, but instead of finding my name forgotten I find myself honoured and welcomed in a way which I cannot sufficiently acknowledge. About seventeen years ago I left this village as a poor boy. I had the whole wide world before me, but without any apparent prospect of winning a position in it... [Then follows a description of events in the Crimea, but little on Balaclava.]

I assure you that the sword you have just entrusted to my keeping shall never be dishonoured upon those who have so handsomely and kindly conferred it upon me; and God grant that my life shall be spared, so that I might hand it down to my son, and impress upon his mind the circumstances under which his father received it. The contents of these purses I promise you shall not be frittered away, but put to some account for the benefit of my family hereafter, As for the purses themselves I shall put them with the sword, and they shall go down from generation to generation to commemorate the ladies of Essex. My heart will not allow me to say any more. Again I return my thanks for the honour you have conferred upon me by so magnificent a present. My Queen has rewarded me by entrusting me with a commission and I will prove my gratitude by showing that it is in safe-keeping...

At the call of the Chairman the company arose and drank Lieutenant Gardners's health three-times-three.

Extract from the "Darlington and Stockton Times" for the 11th of May 1895:

"Death of Captain Gardner. — A Balaclava Hero:

"We regret to announce the death of Captain George Gardner, late Governor of H.M. Prison, Northallerton and Captain in the 13th Hussars. He died at his residence, No. 370 Fulham Road, London, at the age of 72. Captain Gardner acted for 29 years as Governor of Northallerton Gaol, and in that capacity earned the respect of all he met. On his retirement the magistrates and gentry of the town presented him with a purse containing £100 and some plate as a token of respect and a memento of his long service; and the presentation was made with eulogistic and appreciative speeches.

Prior to this, the Captain was a worthy officer in the Army, where, by his steadiness, application and courage, he rose from the ranks to become the Adjutant of his Regiment, saw all the horrors of war, and the worse ones of privation and cold in the memorable Crimea, took part in the glorious Balaclava or Charge of the Light Brigade, "Deathless in song," and returned, in the poet's word's, from the "mouth of hell", with the shattered remnant- he was one of the nine survivors — of his troop.

He, like Othello, could tell of "hairbreadth escapes, of imminent danger from the cannon's mouth and of being taken by the insolent foe."

On his retiring from the Army he was presented with 120 guineas, and also a sword, which was presented to him by the inhabitants of Hatfield, his native village, and also when he left a brother officer presented him with a gallant charger which had carried him through fire and slaughter and most memorable times. This animal was greatly cherished by the Captain for its "Old Lang Syne" memories; and he was allowed to live for many years in indulgent care at Northallerton, where on a review day it was one of the sights, all the old martial life in the charger being stirred into activity and fire by military memories.

In the charge at Balaclava the Captain, through the blinding smoke and shower of shot, got as far as the very mouth of the guns with both himself and his horse intact, and when he was just about to enter the enemy's lines a cannon ball struck his horse full in the chest and threw its rider into the air. When he recovered, he found himself laid out on a Russian gun, and amidst all the smoke and confusion, saw that the wretched remnant of his brigade was beating a retreat. The Captain scrambled from his position to face the more perilous position of running before the fiery avalanche of the Russian artillery up that "valley of death," through which there was a perfect hail of shot and shell. He had a distance of a mile and three-quarters to run through this deadly storm and in the stories that he told of that terrible three-year campaign he used to say that the shot seemed so close and thick around him that it seemed "impossible for a rat to escape...

The medals he obtained were the Order of the Medjidie, the Turkish medal and the Crimean medal with four clasps; for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. Captain Gardner, by virtue of his office, did not take an active part in public affairs. The Northallerton Cricket Club were proud to have in him a President, and when he left Northallerton — which he did immediately after his retirement, they gave a dinner in his honour.

Captain Gardner was thoroughly respected in Northallerton by all classes; he was courteous and urbane to all; an extremely kind master and Governor, beloved by his servants and even esteemed and honoured by the prisoners. In his dealings with mankind generally he was actuated by the nicest code of honour and etiquette, which was singularly harmonious with the best traditional manners of the British Army. He leaves a widow and two sons, Dr. Gardner, of Darlington and Mr. E. Gardner, solicitor, of Northallerton, as well as two daughters, one of whom is married, to mourn his death.

On Wednesday afternoon the funeral took place at Northallerton amidst tokens of general and profound respect. Shortly after three o'clock the coffin had arrived by a special railway carriage from London, and was met at the station by the members of the band attached to the 1st Vol. Batt. Yorkshire Regiment, who preceded the hearse, playing the Dead March in "Saul" down South Parade. All the blinds were drawn and the shop-windows closed as a mark of respect when the cortege passed by and the market was suspended in reverential respect.

The coffin, which was covered with beautiful wreaths, was made of polished oak, with brass mountings and a breast-plate inscribed: "Captain George Gardner of the 13th Hussars. Died 5th May 1895, aged 72 years." It was borne into the church by six warders from Northallerton Prison, of which the deceased was formerly the Governor. The service was fully choral, and as the coffin was being carried to the chancel steps the surpliced choir sang the hymn, "My God, my Father, while I stray." The service was performed by the Revd. Dr. Barmby, D.D. Rector of Northallerton, assisted by the Revd. Kirk, curate, and the Revd. D. Jacob, Chaplain to H.M. Prison, Northallerton."

Then follows a list of those present, and wreath-senders.

According to the Northallerton Cemetery records he was buried in Grave-space No. 2459, for which the exclusive right of burial was obtained. The head-stone which was erected is a marble cross on three plinths, surmounted by a dove of peace, and all are in a reasonable condition (1986).

The inscriptions on his gravestone:

On the top of the three-tier base: "In loving memory of George Dudley Gardner, late Captain 13th Hussars."

Below that: "And for 29 years Governor of Northallerton Prison, who died May 5th 1895, aged 72. "One of the Six Hundred."

On the bottom stone: "Also of Selina Elizabeth, who died April 10th 1926."

On the left hand side, facing, and on the top tier: "Charles Edward, the youngest son of George and Selina Gardner, who died Dec. 4th 1865, aged 2 years and 2 months."

To the right of this stone there is another, which has the inscription, "George James Ernest Gardner, Born October 11th 1860 — Died August 28th 1929." Underneath is Cecily Gardner. Born July 24th 1867 — Died May 1st 1925." and on the kerbed surround is "Grace Ingleby Gardner. Born August 27th 1893 — Died July 21st 1960." [Possibly a daughter of the above.]

To the right of this there is another small stone, about a foot high, which reads: "In loving memory of Arthur John Gardner, M.D.. Born Feb. 26th 1851 — Died October 3rd. 1930." Also of "Mary, wife of the above. Born April 13th 1857 — Died January 5th 1947.

See photographs of his and his wife's gravestone and those of his greater family in Northallerton Cemetery and of All Saints Church at Northallerton, from which he was buried.

Extract from the "Darlington and Stockton Times" for the 24th of April 1982:

Hero of Balaclava

It may seem a far cry from the carnage and turmoil of the Crimean War to seats in spring sunshine in an English county town, but that is the gap bridged by the opening of Gardner Court, Northallerton:

"The pleasant area of rest and contemplation at the end of South parade is a creation of the Grace Gardner Trust. So it is appropriate to consider the Gardner family, whose achievements in 120 years are unique in Northallerton's long history. The family first came to the town in 1862, when Grace's grandfather, Captain George Dudley Gardner, was appointed Governor of Northallerton Jail at the North Riding Mid-Summer Quarter Sessions. He was already a legend in his lifetime as one of the survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade, immortalised by Tennyson. Born at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in 1823, George Dudley Gardner had risen from the ranks to Captain in the 13th Hussars by the time of the famous charge, [sic]. He had reached the Russian guns when his mount was hit directly in the breast by shot, and he was flung on to a Russian cannon. In the confusion he retreated from the "mouth of hell" on foot for a mile and a half with the shattered remnants of his company, which emerged from the charge with only nine survivors.

The people of Hatfield presented him with £120 and a sword when he retired from the Army; and a fellow officer gave him a horse which had survived the Crimean campaign's sword and fire and that gallant steed now spent many years in indulgent retirement at Northallerton. Evidently, the old charger retained its liking for all things military and like its dignified owner, became a familiar and well-loved sight in Northallerton. When the Captain retired in 1891 he had been the prison governor for 29 years and at his retirement presentation he was visibly affected and said that with so many memories and associations "he felt more impressed than he was at the roll-call after Balaclava." An estimated 37,500 men, women and children had passed through his compassionate hands.

His funeral on Wednesday, May 8th, 1895, was one of the most imposing recorded in Northallerton. The Volunteer Band headed the cortege from the Railway station to the church with various dignitaries led by the local M.P and Chairman of the North Riding County Council. Mr. John Hutton. All the blinds were drawn along the route and the market was temporally suspended in reverential respect.

His grave in Northallerton Cemetery bears the epitaph, "One of the Six Hundred."

The Gardner tradition was carried on in the town by the Captain's second son, George Ernest, who qualified as a solicitor, married, and settled with his wife, Cecily, and their children, Grace and Dudley, in South Parade. George Ernest was perhaps the best-known solicitor in the area as the North Riding Northern Area Coroner and served on the Urban District Council for more than 20 years (he was Chairman in 1898) during which time vital amenities were introduced, including the water supply, sewage works and electricity.

Cecily, his wife, was equally active locally, particularly during the First World War, when the house, Alverton, became a repository for the collection and transfer to the Ladies Territorial Committee, London, of "old gloves, leather for soldiers' inner coats, etc., " By April of 1916, some 4,500 articles had been so dealt with and this flow, together with similar patriotic activities, continued until the end of the war.

First flyer

With such a background, the paths of Dudley and Grace were almost predictable and in following them they enhanced an already fine family record. Dudley, then only 18, was in the first batch of volunteers to leave Northallerton only six days after the war broke out in August of 1914.

He obtained a commission in the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards) and transferred in 1915 to exciting but equally dangerous duties as a pilot. He gained his wings in September 1915 at the Central Flying School, thus winning the distinction of being Northallerton's first aviator.

A distinguished war record followed. In 1916 he was mentioned in despatches in Egypt and Salonica; in 1917 he was awarded the silver medal for valour by the King of Italy, and he won the Military Cross in 1918, having been actively engaged on all fronts.

With all the dangers inherent in early military flying, he was probably as fortunate as his grandfather had been to survive. Still only 22, he ended the war as a Major, so having "equalled, if not surpassed, the valour of his grandfather..."

Grace Gardner, who also lived at Alverton, just along from Gardner Court, followed her mother in her unstinting voluntary efforts towards the aged and less fortunate, culminating in the Grace Gardner Trust.

In practical terms the Trust particularly helps the aged in Northallerton. The opening of Gardner Court is a tangible reminder of the Gardners' public service over more than a hundred years to town and country.

Photographs & illustrations

RM: Gardner appears in a Fenton group photo of Officers taken in 1855. He is shown a second from the left of the standing figures. See also full length portrait in uniform with medals KH coll and CDV which appeared on Ebay in May 2006. RM collection.

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