The Will of an Old Sea Dog
MR. JOHN HARDING was a member of the China Naval Contingent of 1900 and served in the Boxer Rebellion with the Victorian Section. He had been a member of the Victorian Naval Forces and had served in HMVS Cerberus. He passed away on 8th October 1929. A couple of years before his death he called at the office of the China Contingent Association and drew up his will. It was straight to the point with no frills at all.
‘To the Secretary,
Having passed the allotted span, and feeling that the call will not be long, I forward the following request to members to carry out after my death. Do not let any long-faced undertaker grab the last few quid I leave behind. Knock up a box yourselves and cover with the Union Jack. Hire a truck and follow in a couple of taxis and bury me with my shipmates at Fawkner. Stop on the road at the nearest pub and have a drink, for which I leave 5 pounds. I'll be waiting outside. When reaching the cemetery, ask a ‘sky pilot’ to say a few words to Our Lord and ask Him to accept me as I am. Then when I am secured in the locker, get the bugler to sound the ‘Last Post’ as hard as he can, and put another notch on his bugle. I leave him £1 for his expenses. After this I request you all to wish me a sailor's farewell and proceed back to the club and drink to the memory of your old shipmate and our next meeting on Fiddlers Green.
(signed) John Harding
Pres. A. Currer, Sec.
Mr. Harding's request was carried out to the letter. The bugler was Tom Whitford, who was then (1929) serving in the RAN, and had been a bugler in the Victorian Navy. He had been presented with a silver bugle, and sounded it over the graves of the former China Contingent as they were laid to rest in the section of Fawkner Cemetery reserved for the 1900 China Contingent. Mr. Harding was buried with old mates in the manner in which he requested. He was typical of the old colonial naval men, whose humour lasted to the very end.
Naval Historical Review, December 1980