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

 

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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.

 

Corporal Harry Beet VC

Corporal Harry Beet (1 April 1873 – 10 January 1946) of the 1st Derbyshire Regiment was awarded his Victoria Cross on 22 April 1900 at Wakkerstroom, South Africa.

 

His Citation reads:

At Wakkerstroom, on the 22nd April, 1900, No. 2 Mounted Infantry Company, 1st Battalion Derbyshire Regiment, with two squadrons, Imperial Yeomanry, had to retire from near a farm, under a ridge held by Boers.

Corporal Burnett, Imperial Yeomanry, was left on the ground wounded, and Corporal Beet, on seeing him, remained behind and placed him under cover, bound up his wounds, and by firing prevented the Boers from coming down to the farm till dark, when Doctor Wilson, Imperial Yeomanry, came to the wounded man’s assistance. The retirement was carried out under a very heavy fire, and Corporal Beet was exposed to fire during the whole afternoon.

Beet

Corporal Harry Beet

He later achieved the rank of Captain. He later emigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, where he fought with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I. In 1936 he settled in Vancouver where he remained until his death in 1946.

Corporal Frank Howard Kirby VC

For Valour

Corporal Frank Howard Kirby (1871-1956) of the Royal Engineers was awarded his Victoria Cross for an action that took place on the 2nd of June 1900.

His citation reads:

On the morning of the 2nd June, 1900, a party sent to try to cut the Delagoa Bay Railway were retiring, hotly pressed by very superior numbers. During one of the successive retirements of the rearguard, a man, whose horse had been shot, was seen running after his comrades. He was a long way behind the rest of his troop and was under a brisk fire. From among the retiring troop Corporal Kirby turned and rode back to the man’s assistance. Although by the time he reached him they were under a heavy fire at close range, Corporal Kirby managed to get the dismounted man up behind him and to take him clear off over the next rise held by our rearguard. This is the third occasion on which Corporal Kirby has displayed gallantry in the face of the enemy.

Howard

Corporal (Later Group Captain) Frank Howard Kirby VC

He was presented with the medal by the Duke of York (later George V) in Cape town in August 1901. Hew was later awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his service in South Africa. The medal was presented to him in March 1902 after his return to the United Kingdom, in the presence of 1 000 Royal Engineers on parade.

Kirby was appointed a regimental sergeant major at Chatham in 1906. Five years later, in April 1911, he was gazetted with an honorary commission as a lieutenant, appointed a quartermaster, and posted to the newly formed Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers. He attended the first course at the Central Flying School in 1912.

Kirby subsequently transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (which had absorbed the Air Battalion) and he was commissioned as an Equipment Officer. Kirby was appointed the Stores Officer at the Central Flying School. Kirby served at No 1 Aircraft Depot at Saint-Omer in early 1916, and with No 3 Army Aircraft Park in July 1916. In December 1916 he became commanding officer of No 1 Stores Depot at Kidbroke.

He went on to achieve the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Kirby remained in the Royal Air Force after the end of the First World War and was granted a permanent commission as a wing commander in 1920. Kirby was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in July 1926. He eventually retired, with permission to retain the rank of group captain, in December 1926.

 

Sgt-Major W Robertson VC Gordon Highlanders

For Valour

Sergeant-Major William Robertson, Gordon Highlanders was awarded his Victoria Cross at Elands Laagte on the 21st October 1899, during the final advance on the enemy’s position when he lead each successive rush exposing himself fearlessly to the enemy’s artillery and rifle fire to encourage the men.

Robertson

William Robertson VC

After the main position had been captured he lead a small party to seize the Boer camp, and although exposed to a deadly cross fire from the enemy’s rifle fire he gallantly held on to the captured position, and continued to encourage the men until he was dangerously wounded in two places.

Robertson was later commissioned into the Gordon Highlanders as a quartermaster with the rank of lieutenant. He was promoted captain in 1910, major in 1915, and lieutenant-colonel in 1917. He retired in 1920. After his retirement he became honorary treasurer of the Royal British Legion Scotland.

 

He died in 1949

Forgotten Voices of Empire: A Soldier Poet

Private Alfred Roberts, of the Royal Irish Lancers, sends home some lines which a soldier comrade had written. They are remarkable both in sentiment and as possessing real poetic fire.

IF I SHOULD FALL!

If I should fall among the dead and dying,

  Amid the strife upon the blood-stained field,

My spirit, Lord, upon Thy love relying,

  To Thee I yield.

THEIR ORDEAL OF FIRE THE GRENADIER GUARDS AT THE BATTLE OF BIDDULPH’S BERG

THEIR ORDEAL OF FIRE THE GRENADIER GUARDS AT THE BATTLE OF BIDDULPH’S BERG 1900

I do not ask a respite from the grave;

  When duty calls I’ll hasten to my place,

But when my hour should come, one boon I crave

  To see Thy face.

THE GREAT ASSAULT ON LADYSMITH—THE DEVONS CLEARING WAGON HILL.

THE GREAT ASSAULT ON LADYSMITH—THE DEVONS CLEARING WAGON HILL.

For Thou hast been my friend and brother,

  And thro’ sweet nature all my joys I’ve known:

No earthly bond unites me to another,

  I stand alone.

FIX BAYONETS! REPELLING AN ATTACK FROM THE TRENCHES AROUND LADYSMITH.

FIX BAYONETS! REPELLING AN ATTACK FROM THE TRENCHES AROUND LADYSMITH.

For I despise the cant and double-dealing

  Which serve mankind, the humble and the proud:

How hard to find one heart with genuine feeling,

  In all the crowd

A PICKET OF 13th HUSSARS SURPRISED NEAR THE TUGELA RIVER HUSSAR HILL

A PICKET OF 13th HUSSARS SURPRISED NEAR THE TUGELA RIVER HUSSAR HILL

To Thee, to Thee, O, Father, I surrender.

  This earthly gift whene’er I hear Thy call,

But let my death be swift, the pang be tender,

  Yet like a soldier fall. 

For the Queen and old Ireland', 1900

 The Cheltenham Chronicle, Saturday March 7th 1900.

Sergeant T Lawrence 17th Lancers VC

For Valour
 
Sergeant T Lawrence 17th Lancers was awarded his Victoria Cross on the 7th August 1900.
He was on patrol with a private near Essenbosch when the two were attacked by twelve or fourteen Boers. The private’s horse was shot and he was thrown, dislocating his shoulder.
Sergeant Lawrence at once came to his assistance, extricated him from under his horse, put him on his own horse and sent him back to the picket.
Lawrence

Sergeant T Lawrence 17th Lancers

Sergeant Lawrence took the private’s carbine and with his own weapon kept the Boers off until the wounded man was out of range. He then returned for some two miles on foot followed by the Boers, and keeping them off until assistance arrived.
 
Lawrence later served in World War I and World War II and reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the 18th Royal Hussars (later 13th/18th Royal Hussars)
 
He competed in the 1912 Summer Olympics for Great Britain in eventing. He did not finish the Individual eventing (Military) competition, also the British team did not finish the team event.
 
He died in 1949.