WOUNDED AND CAPTURED AT ESTCOURT

WOUNDED AND CAPTURED AT ESTCOURT. “BOERS BEHAVE LIKE GENTLEMEN.”

A member of the Leeds Constabulary, Police-constable Kay, who left the force to join his old regiment, the West Yorkshire, and was wounded in Hildyard’s engagement near Estcourt, writes from that place on November 26 : —

Nothing happened of any note until the 22nd November, when we received orders to parade in fighting order to go out to attack the Boers, who were encamped upon the lop of a hill about ten miles away. It was 2.30 p.m. when we started, and we were marching and skirmishing until about 7 p.m, when the enemy’s guns opened fire on our scouts, and then we halted on the brow of a big hill to wait for orders.

West Yorkshire 1900

Men of the West Yorkshire Regiment bathing in a Stream, South Africa 1900 The Illustrated Police Budget.

We had nothing but our thin clothing on, and it rained and poured down, and we all got wet through. We slopped there until about 2 a.m., the 23rd November, when we advanced again to attack by surprise.

The commanding officer told us we were going to surprise the Boers and do a bayonet charge. Not a shot was to be fired, and there was to be perfect silence. Then we started off again, until we came to the foot of the hill where the Boers were, we fixed bayonets, opened out to single rank, and advanced up the hill, which was about 600 yards high. When we had got within thirty yards of the top, the Boer picket opened fire upon us. Then we charged and cheered, and when we got to the top of the hill they were just disappearing down the other side, and we opened fire on them for about five minutes.

Then w found out it was only a strong picket, and that the Boer main body was encamped on another hill on the opposite side. So we waited on the hill till daybreak. Then we opened fire on the Boers again, and kept it up for seven hours.

I was properly in the thick of it. You talk about raining! It wasn’t rainbut bullets that were coming! I could see our men falling, some shot dead, some wounded, and I thought it would soon be my turn. I did not in the least fear. I kept firing away. Then it was passed along that the enemy were getting a big gun in position, and we tried to stop them, with long-range volleys; but. it was no good, the range was too far for us, and we had no big guns with us.

Then they started shelling us to some tune. I saw a man not far from me get half his face blown off with a shell, and there were two or three who lost a leg. I went through all that lot without a scratch. There is no doubt that the Boers have lost a lot. Then we get the word to retire, and I turned round to do so. I had not gone two paces when I got shot through the back. I rolled ever about three times and thought I was a ‘gonner.” I tried to get up, but it was no go, and all the time I lay bullets and shells were flying around me like rain.

British Army Field Hospital Wynberg Camp 1900

It is a miracle that I escaped being shot a second time.

I could not walk so I pulled myself with my hands along the grass and got behind a stone, where I lay, bleeding, and parched in the sun for an hour and a half when the Boers came up and gave me come water and bandaged my wounds, and took me to their camp. I will give them their due: they behaved like gentlemen to us. There were two Leeds men amongst us. They gave us whisky and brandy but they have not much bread They live on what they loot, and on the 25th they sent all our wounded prisoners to our own hospital at Estcourt.

Leicester Chronicle – Saturday 30 December 1899

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Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards

Forgotten voices of Empire.

Walter Cooper a postman from Arbroath has recieved a letter from his son, Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards, from Modder River, and is dated 30th November. He says: “l have pulled through all safe up till now. I have been through all three battles€” Belmont, on the 23d,  Graspan. on the 25th, and Modder River on the 28th. So you can tell mother that we celebrated your silver wedding on the 28th in great style. There were plenty salutes fired anyway.

Belmont was a deadly fight. We charged right up the hill with fixed bayonets. The officer on my right was shot through the cheek, the fellow on my left was shot through the leg. Luck was in my way, and I got, to the hilltop all right. The Boers on the top did not stay long, I tell you.

There were thousands on the hill opposite, and they poured in volley after volley. Poor Sergeant Wilson, to whom I used to bowman, was killed the beginning of the fight. Belmont lasted fully six hours, eight hours, and Modder 14 hours. The General said it was one of the hottest fights in the annals the British Army. We lost heavily at the river. We fixed bayonets and charged right across the river.

Two fellows were drowned in crossing. It was very deep some parts. However, we did not forget the Boers when we did get across. We are about 122 miles from Kimberley. I hope to be home soon again if all goes well. Tell all the boys that l am getting on ‘champion.’ We get a  big feed some days, other days we have nothing to eat at all. There are plenty of ostrich farms round about here.

27-BBBB-The-Foot-Guards-at-Modder-River

Modder River


Private Walter Cooper was born in 1874 at Abroath, Scotland. He was a ‘Boot Finisher’ but joined the Scots Guards on the 5th of July 1895. On the 21st October 1899 his regiment was sent to South Africa, he spent a total of 180 days and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps for Modder River and Belmont. He served a total of 12 years with the colours before being discharged in July 1907. He emigrated in New Zealand and died there in 1932.

2nd Lieutenant John Norwood VC

For Valour

2nd Lieutenant John Norwood (8 September 1876 – 8 September 1914) 5th dragoon Guards was awarded his Victoria Cross for his actions on the 30th October 1900.

His Citation reads:

This Officer went out from Ladysmith in charge of a small patrol of the 5th Dragoon Guards. They came under a heavy fire from the enemy, who were posted on a ridge in great force. The patrol, which had arrived within about 600 yards of the ridge, then retired at full speed. One man dropped, and Second Lieutenant Norwood galloped back about 300 yards through heavy fire, dismounted, and picking up the fallen trooper, carried him out of fire on his back, at the same time leading his horse with one hand. The enemy kept up an incessant fire during the whole time that Second Lieutenant Norwood was carrying the man until he was quite out of range.

norwood

John Norwood VC

He served in Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, and was promoted to lieutenant on 27 June 1900. He stayed with the Guards regiment in South Africa until the war ended in May 1902, and left for Calcutta on the SS Umlazi two months later.

Norwood later achieved the rank of captain. He served in the First World War and was killed in action during the First Battle of the Marne at Sablonnieres, France, on 8 September 1914.

The Sphere 13th April 1900.

Corporal Frank Howard Kirby VC

For Valour.

Corporal Frank Howard Kirby (12 November 1871 – 8 July 1956) Royal Engineers holds not only the Victoria Cross, but also the medal for distinguished Conduct in the field.

He was awarded the Cross for actions on the 2nd June 1900, when he was one of 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.

Kirby

Frank Howard Kirby VC

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.

The Sphere 30 March 1900 Page 319

Wikipedia

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.