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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Theodore Hardy 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. He embarked on a career as a schoolmaster and it was not until 1898 that he was ordained. His career as a teacher continued and eventually, he became headmaster of Bentham Grammar School, a post he held until 1913.


When war broke out in 1914, Hardy immediately volunteered to go as a chaplain to the front but he was turned down as being too old. However, he persevered and, as more and more of the younger (and unarmed) military chaplains became war casualties, his services were accepted finally and in 1916 he was sent to Etaples on the French coast - quite a distance from the front line. Then, as the year ended, he got what he wanted most - a posting to the front line on attachment to the 8th Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment.


From then on, he went into the thick of every action and soon gained a reputation as a very courageous and compassionate man who was highly respected by the troops around him. In early Autumn 1917, after the fighting at Paschendale, he was awarded the D.S.O


"For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. He went out into the open to help bring in wounded. On discovering a man buried in mud whom it was impossible to extricate he remained under fire ministering to his spiritual and bodily comforts until the man died". 


The following month he was awarded the Military Cross "For repeatedly going out under heavy fire to help the stretcher bearers during an attack."


Hardy's Victoria Cross was awarded for a succession of acts of bravery which occurred in April 1918 and which are detailed below in the extract from the London Gazette. In September, the King tried to persuade him to return to England as his Chaplain but Hardy stayed on in France, always in the thick of the fighting. Just weeks before the war was concluded, on the night of 10 October 1918, as the Lincolns were fighting on the banks of the River Selle, Hardy was caught in machine gun fire and wounded. He was taken to a hospital at Rouen and in spite of every care, died of his wounds on 18 October, two days before his 56th birthday. He was buried in the St. Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen.


Theodore Bayley Hardy was the most decorated Army Chaplain of the First World War. He is remembered in Exeter by a plaque.
Theodore Bayley Hardy Plaque
©Richard J. Brine


From The London Gazette

11 July 1918:

"The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned:


The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy DSO; MC;

T./C.F; 4th Class, A. Chapl. Dept., attd. Linc.R.


For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on many occasions. Although over fifty years of age, he has, by his fearlessness, devotion to men of his battalion, and quiet, unobtrusive manner, won the respect of the whole division. His marvellous energy and endurance would be remarkable in a very much younger man, and his valour and devotion are exemplified in the following incidents:


An infantry patrol had gone out to attack a previously located enemy post in the ruins of a village, the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy (C.F) being then at company headquarters. Hearing firing, he followed the patrol, and about four hundred yards beyond our front line of posts found an officer of the patrol dangerously wounded. He remained with the officer until he was able to get assistance to bring him in. During this time there was a great deal of firing, and an enemy patrol actually penetrated between the spot where the officer was lying and our front line and captured three of our men.


On a second occasion, when an enemy shell exploded in the middle of one of our posts, the Reverend T. B. Hardy at once made his way to the spot, despite the shell and trench mortar fire which was going on at the time, and set to work to extricate the buried men. he succeeded in getting out one man who had been completely buried. He then set out to extricate a second man, who was found to be dead. During the whole of the time he was digging out the men, this chaplain was in great danger, not only from shell fire, but also because of the dangerous condition of the wall of the building which had been hit by the shell which buried the men.


On a third occasion, he displayed the greatest devotion to duty when our infantry, after a successful attack, were gradually forced back to their starting trench. After it was believed that all our men had withdrawn from the wood, Chaplain Hardy came out of it, and on reaching an advanced post, asked the men to help  him to get in a wounded man. Accompanied by a sergeant, he made his way to the spot where the man lay, within ten yards of a pill-box which had been captured in the morning, but was subsequently recaptured and occupied by the enemy. The wounded man was too weak to stand, but between them, the chaplain and the sergeant eventually succeeded in getting him to our lines. 

Throughout the day, the enemy's artillery, machine-gun and trench mortar fire was continuous, and caused many casualties. Notwithstanding, this very gallant chaplain was seen moving quietly amongst the men and tending the wounded, absolutely regardless of his personal safety."


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