Obituaries Australia

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: use double quotes to search for a phrase
  • Tip: lists of awards, schools, organisations etc

Browse Lists:

Croft, Jonathan (1790–1862)

Laden with sorrows and infirmities, but pre-eminently distinguished by the cordial respect and esteem of all who knew him, Mr Jonathan Croft, an old colonist, for nearly fifty years in the service of his country, has, at length, passed away from amongst us. This gentleman, at the great age of eighty-two years, died at his residence in Balmain, at nine o'clock a.m. on Tuesday last.

Mr Jonathan Croft was born in London in the year 1780, and, early in the present century, under the patronage of his relative Sir Richard Croft, M.D. joined the Medical Department of the British Army, in which he remained actively engaged for several years until he obtained, at Malta, on the 10th of November, 1808, leave of absence to go to England on private affairs. He had then seen five years service in the Mediterranean, between three and four years of which he had been subject to the direct supervision and control of Mr. R. Green, the Deputy Inspector of Hospitals, having, during the whole of that time, given that officer the most perfect satisfaction from his punctual attention to his several duties, and his extremely correct deportment as a private individual. He was particularly recommended to Mr J. Wier, the Director-General, by his immediate superior as a most respectable young man, one in whom Mr Green felt so much interest that he warmly recommended him for future promotion. Duly appreciating his labours at Egypt, at Maida, and in the Mediterranean generally, Mr Surgeon-General Keate, at Albany, in 1809, gladly bore testimony to the attention, zeal, and ability which Mr Croft had even then displayed, abroad and at home, in the Purveying Department; as a proof of the sincerity of the good opinion which that experienced officer entertained of him, he adverted to the fact that he had urged that the deceased should, in the year previous, be ordered to Spain, where, as he considered, his services would be likely to be conspicuously useful. On the 16th of April, 1812, Mr Croft received his commission as Deputy Purveyor of His Majesty's Forces and eighteen years afterwards, on the 1st October 1830, he was appointed Purveyer to H.M. Forces, a rank he occupied until his death — having from about the month of October 1850, retired on half pay. From the date his first commission till the time of his retirement, Mr Croft was actively, honourably, and usefully employed in the peninsula, in Flanders (especially at Waterloo), in Ireland, and lastly in New South Wales. During this period he was once taken a prisoner of war at Scylla Castle, and was twice wounded. In 1815 Deputy-Inspector General P.M.O. Gunning, who was also surgeon to the King, in his report addressed to Inspector-General Grant, M.D., at Paris, bore witness to the services of Mr Deputy-Purveyor Croft, at that awful battle which decided the fate of Europe in the following highly flattering terms:— "I feel the greatest pleasure in having this opportunity of bearing testimony to the indefatigable exertions made by that zealous officer, Deputy-Purveyor Croft, in charge of this station (that of Brussels), in the several duties of his department, in the entire care of the Waterloo wounded — full 35,000 — to whom this station and the public service will be ever deeply indebted". Dr Gunning's report also, in reference to Mr Croft, said "Nothing, from myself can add to the high approbation he has met with in the heaviest and most arduous duty that ever fell to the lot of one individual, which he has performed in an exemplary manner: he has been fourteen years in the service, most actively employed, and is most worthy of recommendation". Notwithstanding all this, however, it was fifteen years before Mr Croft got that promotion which he had so nobly earned. Mr Croft's merits were nevertheless, such as left him not without warm friends, amongst whom were Mr Charles Surtees (who, in 1815 exerted himself in his behalf with his uncle, the Lord Chancellor), and Dr Hennen, the Deputy-Inspector of Hospitals. This latter gentleman, in a letter written from Edinburgh to the deceased, on the 21st of March, 1820, gives some interesting particulars as to the nature of Mr Croft's services in respect to those wounded at Quatre Bras. The letter is as follows — "Dear Sir,—Finding that Sir James Grant, now here, is doing you the justice of hearing testimony to your extraordinary exertions at Brussels, in the arrangements for, and subsequent attention to, the soldiers who were wounded at Waterloo, I cannot allow the opportunity to pass without offering my own sentiments upon the subject. I conceive myself authorised to do this, because you were under my own immediate eye during the whole of the hurried scene which took place for the first fortnight after the action, and having afterwards the charge of the Jesuits' Hospital and of the wounded officers. I do not hesitate in saying that to your judicious and incessant exertions was due the most serious service which any man in your department could confer on the wounded soldiers or the medical officers, and on the country which employed them; for, unparalleled as were the severities, your zeal and experience met and lessened them all. I can only add to this testimony of your services my sincere hope that they will be taken into consideration. I am, dear Sir, &c., J HENNEN, M.D., Deputy-Inspector of Hospitals." A more handsome acknowledgement than this of services performed it would be impossible to write. Subsequent to Mr Croft's tardy promotion to the grade of Purveyor to the Forces, in 1830, yet further testimony was borne to the merits of the departed until he ceased to be actively employed by the country, which he had served so long and so well. Inspector-General Keate, in London, in 1833, and Dr Dawson, Inspector-General of Hospitals in New South Wales (ten years after), both expressed themselves in the highest terms relative to that worthy officer, now deceased. But, as Dr Keate remarked, "the race is not always to the swift;" it is not every deserving officer that obtains that promotion and position to which he is justly entitled — nor, on the other hand, is it every officer whose biography, like that of Mr Croft, can be well-nigh written by the compilation of an abstract from numerous testimonials of good conduct and long and faithful service.

In 1835, several officers of the medical Staff having been ordered to Australia, Mr Croft, who had the management of the Military General Hospital at Cork for several years previous, set sail for this county in the Roslyn Castle, and arrived here with his family in safety. Before he left Ireland the local press spoke in high terms of his services during the prevalence of the cholera at Cork, reminding the public of his zeal and activity in the organisation of temporary hospitals for the reception and treatment of cholera patients, and expressing a well-grounded conviction that in parting with Mr Croft the poor had lost a benefactor and a friend. On his arrival at Sydney, Mr Croft was placed in charge of the military and convict medical depots of this colony — then far more extensive than at present. In the discharge of the duties thus devolving upon him, Mr Croft evinced all that regularity of attendance, energy, vigilance and scrupulous integrity by which he had ever distinguished himself.

Mr Jonathan Croft had the Peninsular medal, with six bars, having been concerned in six several engagements. He also had the Waterloo medal, and was distinguished with other especial but not very substantial marks of approbation in respect of his services. Subsequent to the Peninsular campaigns the Great Napoleon, expressly, and in the most handsome manner, recognised the extreme humanity and attention of the deceased to the French prisoners — those who were taken and wounded in that long and sanguinary struggle which took place between the British and Imperial forces on the fields of Spain. When the Emperor was afterwards himself a prisoner on a rocky island in the midst of the Atlantic, this circumstance was not forgotten by the deceased, and it is one of the many points which tend to illustrate, in a marked manner, the comprehensive observation and consummate tact of him who was one of the greatest of the generals and statesmen of modern times.

It is a matter of deep regret that the last few years of Mr Croft's life should have been overclouded with trouble and anxiety, arising out of his claim for consideration at the hands of the Colonial Government. In consequence of his appointment to what is called "mixed services" in this colony, and a misunderstanding which existed between the officials of the Imperial and Colonial Governments on the subject of his exact position, Mr Croft did not receive those advantages to which he would, under other circumstances, have been undeniably entitled. Mr Croft's case was one of those which have so often occupied attention in the colony — that of a military officer accepting employment under a semi-civil Government, and thereby surrendering that undisputed claim which he would otherwise have on the Imperial chest as a Crown servant. He first memorialised H.R.H. the Commander-in-Chief, and set forth at length all the particulars of his case, but without any satisfactory results. Subsequently he has been engaged in fruitlessly urging his case upon the attention of the local Legislature. The papers regarding his claim have all been printed, and are now actually on the table of the House. Whether the veteran officer's decease will debar his family from any remuneration arising from this claim — to an amount of some considerable value — we cannot say; it is at least fair to suppose the allegations set forth in his memorial being substantiated to the satisfaction of the Assembly, that his surviving relatives will receive the benefit. Mr Croft has left behind him a widow with a large family, consisting of three daughters and ten sons, some of whom are partially provided for. We believe that none of his sons are in the service of the Government — British or colonial — both of which Mr Croft served so long and so faithfully. The late Duke of Wellington, in consideration of Mr Croft's services, offered a commission to one of his family (Mr Herbert Croft) but the deceased was not able to avail him-self of that circumstance — the expense of a military education for his son being far beyond his very circumscribed means.

Mr Croft was taken seriously ill about five days ago, and continued to sink rapidly until Tuesday morning, when he expired. Anxiety respecting the future welfare of his family evidently troubled him not a little in his dying moments. His very last words to one of his sons were "Never relinquish your father's claims upon the Government".

No man in the country has seen more service than Mr Croft, and none have been more heartily respected by all classes of the community. Mr Croft has brought up a large family in a respectable manner, and upon a very limited income. It is much to be lamented that he should have had any reason of solicitude upon his death bed after such a long and well spent life. His numerous friends were desirous that he should have been honoured with a military funeral, but, although by no means unprecedented, such a thing is opposed, it seems, to the strict interpretation of military regulations. His funeral will take place this morning. The procession is to move from the residence of his son-in-law, Mr James Macnamara, in Hunter-street, at nine o'clock.

Original publication

Citation details

'Croft, Jonathan (1790–1862)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/croft-jonathan-29214/text36330, accessed 15 November 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019