|2nd China War medal with clasp Taku Forts 1860 to Private 3936 John Hodge 44th Regiment
John Hodge was born at Leybourne, West Malling, Kent, in December 1829 and worked as an agricultural labourer. He
enlisted on the 30th December 1846 at 6 p.m. with the 57th regiment of foot at Canterbury barracks, for a bounty of
£4.0.0d. Two days later he attested and served with this regiment as private soldier with the number 1999. The
regiment was known as the Die-Hards, a distinction gained in the Peninsula campaign at Albuhera, when, outnumbered
four to one they held their position, after their dying Colonel called out “Die hard the 57th, die hard”.
John Hodge was described as being 5’ 6 ¾” tall, with a fresh complexion, dark brown eyes and black hair. He continued to
serve with the 57th for over seven years until on the 26th April 1854 he was confined and then sentenced on the 29th by
court martial, to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour and loss of pay. The reason for his Court Martial cannot be
ascertained. His release came on the 26th May and a transfer was arranged for him to serve in the 44th Regiment on the
1st July 1854.
The 44th was at this time overseas, having spent April and May garrisoned at Malta, and then forming part of the 3rd
division based at Varna, in preparation for the invasion of the Crimea. They landed on the 14th September 1854, very
quickly seeing action at the battle of the Alma on the 20th September.
Private 3936 John Hodge was sent out to the Crimea as part of a draft to join his new regiment and arrived in time to
take part of the siege of Sebastopol, which began in September 1854. The 44th remained as part of Sir William Ayre’s
brigade in the 3rd Division, remaining in front of Sebastopol until September 1855. During that time they took part in
the attack on Dockyard Creek on the 18th June 1855 where they captured some buildings and a cemetery at Pickett
House ravine, which was then held all day under heavy artillery fire. The position later became part of the allied line
and was the only success achieved in that action.
John Hodge was promoted to the rank of Corporal on the 6th June 1855 and also received an additional 1d per day good
conduct pay from the 28th April 1856.
The regiment returned to Spithead aboard the steamship Colossus on the 18th July 1856 and disembarked in the Royal
Clarence yard. A special train was laid on to take the regiment to Aldershot. On the 31st July, the regiment, consisting of
798 men of all ranks, was inspected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They would remain in England for only a short
John Hodge was later awarded the Crimea medal with a single clasp for Sebastopol. On the 4th August 1856 he was
charged at Aldershot, under civil powers, for assault. He forfeited his good conduct pay from that date and was
convicted of the charge on the 13th October, being demoted to the rank of private and remained in custody until
the 31st March 1857. He was finally released from civil powers on the 12th April 1857. His good conduct pay of an
additional 1d per day was finally restored to him after a year.
In the meantime, the regiment had been ordered to India, in response to the mutiny which had broken out there. They
moved to Dover on the 6th August and then on the 26th August, three companies embarked followed by seven more
companies and H.Q. aboard the H.M.S. Khersonese on the 29th. These seven companies arrived at Madras on the 29th
November and garrisoned Fort St. George, where they remained until 1859. John Hodge, after his release in 1857, would
have rejoined his regiment with a new draft of men from England. As the mutiny in India slowly subsided, a crisis was
occurring in China.
The Chinese government had failed to ratify the treaty of Tienstin. When representatives from Britain and France tried
to proceed up the Peiho River to ascertain the problem, they found the waterway blocked. A passage was attempted but
the attack on the Taku forts was repulsed with heavy losses. The 44th regiment was ordered to China and embarked on
transports from Madras on the 3rd March 1860. The regiment consisted of 35 officers and 1,176 men organised into 10
companies. Upon their arrival in Kowloon, their commanding officer, Colonel Charles Staveley was appointed to command
the 1st Division of the 1st Brigade. Command of the 44th fell to Lieutenant Colonel MacMahon. John Hodges now seemed
to be behaving himself, as his good conduct pay was increased to 2d per day on the 13th April. Between the 24th July
and the 19th August, the regiment was involved in several contacts with the Tartars at Sin-Ho and Tangku. Although
casualties were light, with only four men wounded, the fighting was difficult, due to heavy rain and deep canals which
criss-crossed the landscape.
By the 21st August, the regiment was only 800 yards from the Taku forts, but the natural obstacles were formidable. The
44th were in the vanguard of the assault on the north Taku entrenchments. The attacking force crossed a series of ditches
and bamboo stake palisades under heavy Chinese musketry and tried to force an entry by the main gate. When this attack
failed, an assault party climbed a wall to an embrasure and forced entry into the fort. The first British officer to enter
the fort was awarded the Victoria Cross. The outer north fort was next to be seized after the garrison refused to
surrender and by evening the south forts were evacuated and in British and French possession. During the fighting, the
regiment had fourteen men killed, two officers, one drummer and forty five men wounded.
On the 25th August, the 44th was despatched to Shanghai, to protect it from the Taeping rebels. They landed at the city
on the 10th September. The war ended on the 13th October 1860, when the allied forces occupied one of the gates at Peking.
The 44th stayed on at Shanghai, where the regiment suffered much from fever and disease associated with an unhealthy
climate and poor accommodation, until the 15th November. They then embarked for Hong Kong, arriving there on the 27th
November. One wing of the regiment garrisoned Hong Kong Island, while the other quartered at Kowloon on the mainland.
John Hodges was stationed at both Kowloon and Hong Kong in early 1861, where he suffered an accident on the 2nd March
which resulted in lacerations to his left leg.
On the 25th April 1861 a regimental board met in Hong Kong to consider John Hodge’s own request for discharge from the
army. His conduct was reported as being good and it was confirmed that he was in possession of two good conduct badges,
although he had also appeared in the regimental defaulter’s book nine times. The free discharge was given and he was sent.
home on the 20th May. He was finally discharged on the 17th October, having served for 13 years and 203 days.
John Hodge returned home to Leybourne and resumed working there as an agricultural labourer.
A medal called the second China war medal for service in China between 1857 and 1860 was instituted in 1861 and then
issued on the 8th January 1863. 752 medals with the clasp Taku Forts were issued to the 44th Regiment. As John Hodge
had now left the army, his medal would have been posted to him. His Crimea medal and China medal later became split up,
although hopes of a re-unite still continue.
In the summer of 1865 he married Eliza Over at Malling. She was a widow and had a small son called Edward. Eliza had been
born in 1822 and came from East Malling, just a few miles away from Leybourne.
In 1881 he was still living at London Road, Leybourne according the census, together with his wife and son.
In the spring of 1907, Eliza died and John Hodges himself died in the spring of 1910 aged 81. The church nearest to where
they lived was St. Peter and St. Pauls but no gravestone could be located.
|44th Regiment Infantryman Map of the defences of Sevastopol.|
|Left: Taku Forts|
Below: Outer North Fort
Left: 2nd China War medal with
clasp Taku Forts 1860 awarded
to Private 3936 John Hodges
Right: St. Peter and St. Pauls,