Forgotten Voices of Empire: Memories of Ladysmith.

“Interview with a Crowborough Man.”

In a interview with a “Courier” reporter, Mr David Buss related how he entered the army in 1895, and was for twelve years in the 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifles. He was in South Africa before hostilities broke out and first saw fire on October 15 1899. Incidentally there were three brothers serving during the South African War.

Buss

Mr David Buss a member of the  King’s Royal Rifles during the South African War.

For 118 days the garrison some 10,000 strong, under Sir George White was besieged in Ladysmith. There was also a big civilian population to feed, and horse and mule flesh for the greater part of the period formed a main item in the diet.

Tea leaves and coffee grounds also had their value as “articles” of food, consumable liquids of all kinds were also exceedingly scarce.

“And may I say,” observed Mr Buss at this stage, thirst is worse than starvation, any day!”

Mr Buss kept a diary of the siege, and interesting and revealing extract is given as follows:-

14 lbs oatmeal…………………………………………60/-

Condensed Milk per tin………………………….10/-

1 lb coffee………………………………………………..17/-

Eggs per Dozen………………………………………..48/-

Fowls Each……………………………………………….18/6

1 Doz Tomatoes ……………………………………….18/-

1 Doz Potatoes ………………………………………….19/-

1 Bottle Jam……………………………………………….31/-

1 lb Marmalade…………………………………………31/-

1 Doz matches……………………………………………13/-

1 Pk Cigarettes……………………………………………25/-

50 Cigars………………………………………………………185/-

1/4 lb cake tobacco………………………………………45/-

1/4 lb sailors tobacco…………………………………..43/-

1/4 lb Capstan Naval cut………………………………60/-

(Typical Infantry private’s pay 1/- a day)

“Articles in everyday use such as rice, starch, curry powders etc had vanished long ago. Violet powder was impounded and turned into mysterious blancmanges. Clothing also run short, especially for the feet and men’s stocks were very scarce.

ladysmith-trenches

Trenches around Ladysmith 1899

When a live shell was fired in Ladysmith in honour of the Prince of Wales birthday the whole population were in a ferment of excitement, they had thought it to mark the arrival of relief.

With Mr Buss in Ladysmith was one of his brothers and their numbers were respectively 9196 and 9238. Mr Buss’s brother was servant to Captain Northley now residing at Epsom.

During his Army service Mr Buss was also in India, and was at Delhi when Kind Edward VII was proclaimed and later attended the coronation ceremony.

“Rode in the King’s carriage”  

Mr Buss told the reporter that he was “a 1914 man” in the Great War (Interestingly his Service record states that he didn’t arrive in France until July 1915)  and was wounded in France in 1916 (GSW Left Arm)  and “gassed” in 1917. When in the King George V ward at Charing Cross Hospital he once had the privilege, as Mr Buss put it, of “riding in the King’s carriage.”

He was then transferred to a Bristol Hospital, where King George spoke to him when visiting.

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The Military service of David Buss later of the King’s Royal Rifles 1895-1907

In the later stages of the war he was attached to the Carabineers in Italy and was there when Armistice was signed.

Here, therefore, is a veteran who has been through two major wars. Today Mr Buss is seeking work, and his opinion was given to our representative in these words:

“In times of war it is Tommy this and Tommy that; but afterwards you just aren’t wanted”

However Mr Buss is by no means downhearted, and he meanwhile delights to get hold of an interested listener for his many army reminiscences.

Born is 1875, Mr Buss is a proud Surrey Man.

The Surrey Courier 30th December 1938.

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Charge of Light Brigade Veteran

Died in the Workhouse

Centenarian who was in the Light Brigade.

Probably the eldest survivor of the famous Light Brigade and the oldest inmate of the Belfast workhouse died on Sunday in the person of Robert Yeates at the age of 103.

Mr Yeates retained to the last a vivid memory of his adventure in the historical charge at Balaclava. He was born at Killynure, Carryduff near Belfast and joined the 17th Lancers with whom he went to the Crimea with.

Yeates

Robert Yeates 17th Lancers

The Veteran, in an interview some time ago, told a “Telegraph” representative how he remembered being wounded in the charge of the Light Brigade and lying bleeding beside his dead horse all night in the bitter cold.

After his discharge from the Army he served for a number of years on the L.M.S (N.C.C) Railway, and since the death of his wife, six years ago, he has been an inmate of the Belfast’s workhouse.

Unfortunately all his papers and military records were accidentally burned in his home and in the absence of these Army credentials the War Office turned a deaf ear to his appeals of assistance.

His person of 1s 3d a week was stopped by the authorities, and as he had no other means of support and was without any friends was compelled to enter the workhouse. Many applications were made to have his pension renewed, but in the absence of documentary proof even the meagre allowance he had received was not allowed the Crimean Veteran.

Mr Yeate’s only son resides in America and another relative is a sister in law residing in Purdysburn.

Up till the end the centenarian enjoyed his daily smoke, and and chatted happily with his fellow inmates. The workhouse authorities, and especially the Master, Mr James Mahood always saw to it that this aged figure, one of the Empire’s oldest soldiers, was kindly looked after, and his favourite seat was in one of the corridors, underneath a vividly coloured picture of the famous Charge at which he figured.

Ballymena Weekly Telegraph March 27th 1926

 

Sergeant H R Martineau VC

For Valour

Horace Robert Martineau (31 October 1874 – 7 April 1916) of the Protectorate Regiment (N.W. Cape Colony) was awarded his Victoria Cross on the 26th December 1899 in an action near Mafeking.

He originally enlisted in the 11th Hussars and served in India before buying his discharge and emigrating to South Africa.

On the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, Martineau joined the Protectorate Regiment (N.W. Cape Colony) as a sergeant. He was awarded the VC in an action near Mafeking. His citation in the London Gazette reads:

On the 26th December, 1899, during the fight at Game Tree, near Mafeking, when the order to retire had been given, Sergeant Martineau stopped and picked up Corporal Le Camp, who had been struck down about 10 yards from the Boer trenches, and half dragged, half carried, him towards a bush about 150 yards from the trenches.

In doing this Sergeant Martineau was wounded in the side, but paid no attention to it, and proceeded to stanch and bandage the wounds of his comrade, whom he, afterwards, assisted to retire. The firing while they were retiring was very heavy and Sergeant Martineau was again wounded. When shot the second time he was absolutely exhausted from supporting his comrade, and sank down unable to proceed further. He received three wounds, one of which necessitated the amputation of his arm near the shoulder.

martinuea

He was visiting New Zealand when the First World War broke out and he immediately  joined up as a territorial officer in the 14th (South Otago) Regiment, and enlisted as a Lieutenant. He subsequently served in Suez and at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, New Zealand and Australian Division of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ANZAC.

After falling ill he was evacuated to Egypt but was involved in an altercation with two other officers which which involved Martineau’s use of insubordinate language. After an investigation of the charge the Commandant of Base Headquarters Alexandria, Brigadier-General McGregor, sent a letter to General Headquarters at Mudros on 21 September 1915 recommending that as Martineau was in possession of the VC “his services be dispensed with without trial and that he be sent back to New Zealand”

He was stuck off the strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force but fell ill again and died in Dunedin Hospital. As the illness was a continuation of the sickness he first contracted while on Gallipoli, Martineau was categorised as having died after discharge from the NZEF from disease contracted while on active service, and was included in the roll of honour listing New Zealand’s war dead.

The Sphere 13th April 1901.