In December 1938 newspapers across Australia reported the death of Charles Longden as 'Oldest Crimean War Veteran Dies at 105 years'. Only four months earlier Australian newspapers had celebrated his 105th birthday, saying he was still very alert with excellent sight and hearing.
But was Charles Longden the last surviving Crimean War veteran that they claimed? A search for details of his birth finds a Charles Longden who was born in Cheshire in 1833, but unlike the man of the same name in Brisbane, he married and stayed in England with a large family.
The newspapers said he joined the Royal Engineers, however, no record of his time in the war is available, as it was reported his papers were burnt.
It is claimed Charles arrived in Australia on the Quetta 70 years before his death, which would have been around 1867. Charles had said it was her first voyage to Brisbane. The RMS Quetta was a Royal Mail ship launched in 1881, with her first voyage being in 1883 to Brisbane. Sadly, it was wrecked in 1890 in northern Queensland, killing 134 of the 292 people on board.
The question of Charles' age still remains as in a news article in 1935 in the Brisbane Telegraph, it is claimed he is only 96 years old. Somewhat of a stretch to die three years later at 105. In the same article he said he and his wife arrived in Brisbane on the Quetta in 1896. As stated above, the Quetta had long sunk six years before.
After arriving in Brisbane his first job was as a coachman and groom to Mr T Merry, a Queen Street tailor. A few years after that Charles started Brisbane's first bus service, somewhat of a town sensation at the time. This can be confirmed from newspaper reports where he petitioned to change his bus run and one time was pulled before the court for animal cruelty to one of his horses.
The unmarked grave of Charles Longden. Courtesy Katrina of Findagrave.
One fact is certain, Charles Longden died on December 15, 1938 and is buried in the Toowong cemetery in Brisbane in an unmarked grave at Portion 10, Section 38, Grave Number 21.
'VETERAN DIES AGED 105', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld.) Friday 16 December 1938.
'Last Survivor of Crimean War', The Herald, Tuesday 12 April, 1938, Page 10
'Charles Longden', Ancestry, 'Cheshire, England, Parish Registers, 1538-1909, accessed 17th October, 2023, https://www.ancestry.com.au/discoveryui-content/view/486362:61760?tid=&pid=&queryId=242920181311bf0b6b02bc3e5ceb951a&_phsrc=fyW157&_phstart=successSource
'Charles Longden', The Telegraph, Saturday 14 September, 1929, Page 11
'RMS Quetta', Wikipedia, accessed 17th October, 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Quetta#:~:text=RMS%20Quetta%20was%20a%20Royal,of%20Queensland's%20biggest%20maritime%20catastrophes.
'Man who drove first bus to Redland Bay', The Telegraph, Brisbane, Saturday 5 October, 1935, Page 15
'Charles Longden', Queensland Births, Deaths, Marriages, accessed 17th October, 2023, https://www.familyhistory.bdm.qld.gov.au/
'Cruelty to Animals', The Telegraph, Brisbane, Wednesday 20 April 1887, Page 5