Know Your Minster: The Russian adventures of Yarmouth-born Harward Turner MD

Turner Harwood of Yarmouth

Turner Harwood of Yarmouth - Credit: Archant

A brass monument on the west wall of the south aisle is one of the few, which survived the Second World War. It commemorates Harward Turner MD, who was born in 1857.

He took up music as a profession. Finding this work involved considerable strain on his nervous system, he decided to enter the Church and he was ordained in 1883 serving in the Colonial Mission field in Labrador.

He suffered with a throat condition and had to move to lighter work at various continental chaplaincies, but later he gave up clerical work. He turned to medicine and studied at Bonn and later at Lille and Paris, graduating in 1895.

Soon he left Paris to travel in Russia, with the intention of introducing certain special uses of cocaine. He was in Moscow at the Coronation of the Czar and it was there he met the son of a Kirghiz Chief, who persuaded him to go back with him to see his father, the Sultan, who was ill. After a long and adventurous journey, they arrived at the settlement on the borders of Northern China.

After five months, as the Sultan lay dying, he refused to allow Turner to leave him, and he died in his presence, to the great anger of the Mullahs, who were annoyed that an English stranger and a Christian should have witnessed their Chief’s end.

Orders were given Turner was to be confined to his tent during the mourning period but before the funeral, he was sent safely out of the country in an ox waggon; the Sultan’s widow giving him some dried horse flesh for the journey and also a dirty quilt, which she had made. Turner arrived safely in Russia after many weeks of tedious travelling. Here he remained until 1899, when he was employed by the Russian Government to take charge of a medical expedition they were sending to the famine-stricken districts of Siberia.

In 1905, during the revolution of that year, Turner left his house in Kazan, Russia, as it was no longer safe to remain there. A week later his house was sacked and burnt. He caught the last train to Moscow and the same was the case for Warsaw.

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Turner settled in Paris to resume his medical work. In January 1906 he briefly came to England to see friends. He returned to Paris, where he died on 23rd of the same month at the age of 49.

Turner had never been strong since his sojourn in Siberia, where he caught Siberian fever. When he was in Yarmouth a week before his death, he seemed to have lost some of his energy and cheerfulness. He was buried in Paris’ Bagnuy Cemetery.

For some years Turner had spent the summer at La Bourboule in France; a spa he had great faith in, especially for the cure of skin diseases. He believed the baths and waters there were a cure for scurvy. He became a well-known authority on the water cures of Europe.