Captain George Chrystie 25th Cavalry.

I posted this picture of the 38th Dogras and the 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force) parade through Lahore, 1909 on Facebook and Twitter this week. Someone on Twitter pointed out that the officer on horseback in the centre of the picture was named but it was difficult to make it out.

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The 38th Dogras and the 25th Cavalry (Frontier Force) parade through Lahore, 1909                NAM. 1969-10-587-1-28 (1)

 

 

I decided to see if I could find out the identity of the unknown officer. First port of call was the Army and Navy Gazette,  I knew he was a captain but wasn’t sure which of the two regiments he belonged to, so I used the search terms Captain, 38th Dogras and 1909. After searching through the first few results, it became apparent that none of the officers named matched the caption.

I next tried to search the terms Captain, 25th Cavalry and 1909. After working through some of the results a name came up that seemed to fit. It was an entry in the Army and Navy Gazette of a Captain George Chrystie of the 25th Cavalry being appointed to the Kurram Militia wing commander. (2)

This surname seemed to fit so I decided to see what else I could find out about the officer.


George Chrystie and his twin brother, John were born on the 9th March 1872 to Colonel George Chrystie and Helen Ann Thomasina Myers. They were baptized on the 6th October  1872 in Masulipatam , Madras. (3)

He was born into a family who had spent generations serving their country and  his great-uncles. Lieut. John Chrystie. R.N., and Capt. Thomas Chrystie, R.N. served under Nelson. The former was in the Victory immediately before Trafalgar, but was transferred on promotion. The latter was at Trafalgar in the Defiance.

Born in India both boys were educated in England, first at Surrey County School and then Craideigh and Portsmouth Grammar School. They then both joined the British Army though in different roles, John joined the Artillery and George was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant in 1st Royal Dublin Fusillers on the 18th June 1892.

He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 25th June 1895. Chrystie seems to have been an excellent solider and on the 23rd October 1896 transferred to the Indian Staff corps and a year later was appointed to the 5th Punjab Calvary (as 25th Calvary was then designated). In 1901 he was promoted Captain and in 1910 to Major. (4)

He was married to Melver Campbell and they had three daughters, Aileen Margaret, Elizabeth Frances and Alice Helen. (5)

In 1913, Captain Chrystie and his regiment were based in and around Bannu (The town was founded in 1848 by Herbert Benjamin Edwardes) which is in Modern day Pakistan and was used during the Raj as as base for action against Afghan border tribes.

On the 29th April 1913, news came into the town that there had been a raid at Isa Khel, about 35 miles South of Bannu and that the raiders had carried off four Hindu boys and were making off for the passes to the North East.

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Possibly Captain (later Major) George Chrystie?

A brother officer then describes the action.

At 11.30 on Thursday we were in office when news came that the raiders had been seen at Naurang, about 12 miles south, that morning. Immediately two squadrons went out, Major Chrystie with B to Naurang, and Grant with A to Jani Khel, to hold the nullahs to the west in case they should try and break back. Two companies of Coke’s Rifles also went to Naurang. When Major Chrystie got to Naurang on Thursday he found the raiders had been sighted early that morning, but had got away from the police, and had gone off  to teh east followed by the police and villagers. So Major Chrystie went after them and soon caught up and passed the police and halted that night, having done 5 1/2 miles with barely a halt. 

On again at dawn Friday, over a bare waterless country with everything against him, and everything in favour of the raiders, but he stuck to it all that day and by 4pm reached teh edge of the Salt Range, 30 miles to the East of Bannu, having done over 100 miles since noon the day before. Then he lost trace of the raiders among the infernal Salt Hills and was just turning towards home, when he heard firing, and found that the Salt Mine Police had sighted the raiders, so he divided his squadron and sent half to head them off, and at last ran tehm to earth in a nullah. 

You must wonder why, having surrounded these fellows, he did not at once go in and finish them off, but you must remember that though one cannot help admiring these fellows for their guts, to use an expressive if vulgar term, they must have done 60 to 70 miles in 24 hours, carrying rifles and ammunition, yet they are such blackguards, with a list against them of the foulest crimes imaginable long enough to hang a hundred men, that one can only look on them as vermin, and as such to be destroyed in the safest way possible, and to rush them in the dark, quick though it would have been, would have meant certain death for at least four or five of our fellows. 

The Raiders rushed into this nullah, which had almost precipitous sides of shale about ten to twelve feet deep and they were fired at by our party.  Two were killed, the remaining three (there were eight to start with but two were killed before, and one got away) got behind some big shale boulders where they were absolutely under cover. Our people occupied the remaining sides and the forth was held by the police. As they were quite unget-at-able where they were in the dark, the deputy Commissioner, Bill, made big bundles of brushwood and straw and set alight to them and pushed them with a long stick over the edge of the nullah to smoke them out. Major Chrystie from the other side shouted to tell him where to push them, and then they pushed one over another. Those who where with him say that Major Chrystie raised himself on his knees and peered over to see where a bundle would fall, but it stuck on the edge of the slope and flared up, and by its light the raiders saw him and fired at fifty yards and the bullet struck him in the chest and he dropped forward stone dead. And so the dragged him behind the ridge and carried him down to the road two miles away.

Of all the crowd who raided Isa Khel only one escaped, so it has been a fine show as we have had for some time, but it isn’t worth losing a man like Chrystie for all the blackguards in Asia. He was the one man we could least afford to lose, one of the straightest and best men I had ever met, a man you could absolutely rely on, and a jolly good soldier to boot. (6)

As an aside note, the three Hindu boys were recovered and returned to their families. Major Chrystie’s body was carried back to Bannu, were he was buried in his local church. He left all is worldly goods to his wife and Daughters.

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The hand written will of Major George Chrystie. (7)

In a final twist of fate for the Chrystie family, his twin brother was killed in action in the First Battle of Ypres at Zillebeke. near Ypres on 17 Nov. 1914; and was buried in Ypres Cemetery.

His colonel wrote of him: He left behind him the lasting memorial of a shining example, of how we ought to live and die, and we shall not forget it. He came to this brigade at my invitation, stayed in it at my invitation, and so far as we all are concerned he remains in it for ever. We shall not see his like any more. (8)

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Major John Chrystie

So both twin brothers both died in the service of their country, George in an insignificant action in the wilds of the North West Frontier and John in the killing fields of Belgium during the bloodiest conflict man had ever known but both seemed to have been well liked and respected soldiers.

Both are commemorated on a plaque in All Saints Church, Witley.

 

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Memorial Plaque to the Chrystie Twins. All Saints Church

Sources.

  1. NAM. 1969-10-587-1-28
  2. Army Navy Gazette Saturday 05 June 1909 British Newspaper Archive. 
  3. FindMyPast British India Office Births & Baptisms. Record N-2-53 226.
  4. FindMyPast British Army, Army Lists 1839-1946. Image number: 682.
  5. Army Navy Gazette 10th may 1913. British Newspaper Archive.
  6. Army Navy Gazette 21st June 1913. British Newspaper Archive.
  7. FindMyPast British India Office Wills & Probate. Record L-AG-34-40-73
  8. masonicgreatwarproject.org.uk/legend.php?id=548
  9. Surrey in the Great War: A County Remembers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Death of a famous War dog.

Death of a famous War dog.

From Colchester is announced the death, by poison, of “Drummer” the celebrated dog of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

“Drummer” belonged to Colonel Ray, principal Medical Officer at the Military Hospital, served through the last Egyptian campaign and was in the fire line at Omdurman, where he snapped at bullets thinking they were flies.

At the beginning of the South African War “Drummer” went out with his regiment and served at Magersfontein, the relief of Kimberley and Wynberg, at which last place he was wounded in the shoulder.

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It was Queen Victoria’s intention to award him a medal, but technical difficulties arose and “Drummer” had to be content with miniature medals and clasp, which though bore no official sanction served to remind his friends of the many battles he had taken part off.

His decorations commemorated the engagements of Diamond Hill, Johannesburg, Paardeberg, Driefontien, Kimberley, Belmont , and Modder River. He had the further distinction of being the only dog which Lord Methuen permitted to accompany his force from Orange River.

The Illustrated London News 1st February 1902.

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.

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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.

Forgotten Voices of Empire: The Battle of Maiwand 27th July 1880 Part 1

The Battle of Maiwand was one of the principal battles of the 2nd Afghan War (1878-1880).  A British force consisting of  two Brigades of British and Indian troops under the command of Brigadier General Burrows (1827–1917) was defeated by an Afghan force under the leadership of Ayub Khan.

On the afternoon of 26 July information was received that the Afghan force was making for the Maiwand Pass a few miles away (half-dozen km). Burrows decided to move early the following day to break-up the Afghan advance guard.

As Afghan horsemen appeared the Burrows mistaken believed that they were the advance guard but it was Ayub Khan’s main force of 25,000 regular troops and five batteries of Artillery.

In the ensuing battle the British left flank, consisting of Indian regiments was rolled up and crashed into the British right and 66th Regiment was swept away.

Most of the regiment was caught up in the rout. Some 140 of them made a stand at the Mundabad Ravine, which ran along the south side of the battlefield, but were forced back with heavy losses. Eventually 56 survivors made it to the shelter of a walled garden and made a further stand. Eventually the 56 were whittled down to only 11 men—two officers and nine other ranks. An Afghan artillery officer described their end:

“These men charged from the shelter of a garden and died with their faces to the enemy, fighting to the death. So fierce was their charge, and so brave their actions, no Afghan dared to approach to cut them down. So, standing in the open, back to back, firing steadily, every shot counting, surrounded by thousands, these British soldiers died. It was not until the last man was shot down that the Afghans dared to advance on them. The behaviour of those last eleven was the wonder of all who saw it”

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Queen Victoria awarding the Afghan War Medal to Bobbie the dog, survivor of the Battle of Maiwand, and other members of the 66th Foot at Osborne House

The British Force was routed but in part by the ferocious  efforts of the British survivors and in part by apathy of the Afghans they managed to withdraw towards the relief force heading out from Kandahar.  The British and Indian force lost 21 officers and 948 soldiers killed, and eight officers and 169 men were wounded and the 66th lost 62% of their strength. Its believed that the Afghans lost up to 3000 men.

A medical officer who was present describes the the battle and the retreat to Kandahar.

 

Candahar (sic) August 21

On the morning of the fight we made a march of seven miles to Maiwand for the sole purpose of attacking a force of 1000 Ghaisais (Afghan fanatics), who were said to have occupied the place; but when we got within two miles of Maiwand we came across the whole force of Ayoob Khan _ I suppose between 15,000 and 20,000 troops, with 30 guns, occupying a very strong position.

Our force was a little over 3,000 strong, with six guns of the Royal Horse Artillery and four guns we had taken from the mutinous army of Shere Ali at Giriakh. The order was given to attack at once. The battle commenced about 11am and there was hard fighting up to about three pm, when our two native infantry regiments broke. This caused the retirement of the 66th, who I hear, fought splendidly.

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Afghan commanders after their victory at the Battle of Maiwand.

In the opinion of everyone all might yet have been well had the cavalry charged, but they refused to obey orders. They did not cover our retreat or protect the guns at all. The cavalry loss was very very small compared with the losses of all the other regiments and there is a very bitter feeling against them as they might have done so much to save the force.

When once the retreat commenced all the horrors of fighting savage nations began. Most of our wounded, poor fellows had to be left on the ground, and their fate, of course was sealed. It makes one’s blood run cold to think of the sad fate of such a number of gallant men.

That day we lost 20 officers killed and missing, and five were wounded, who I’m thankful to say, were all brought in here. The retreat from Maiwand to Candahar (sic) – close upon sixty miles – is an event that was never be forgotten by anyone who participated in it. We left Maiwand just a little after three pm and we reached Candahar at 3.30 pm on the following day.

During the whole of our march, up to within five miles of Candahar, there was not a drop of water to be obtained anywhere. This is one of the reasons why we lost so man men. They simply dropped on account of great thirst. In addition to this the inhabitants, of every village en route turned out and had shots at us. In fact many of the forces were under fire more or less, the whole way. 

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Lord Roberts (L), first Baron of Kandahar and Waterford and endeared to Tommy Atkins as ‘Bobs’ is one of our most distinguished Generals and established his fame in the Afghan War of 1880.

Our total loss was I believe :- 20 officers killed and missing, five wounded (and doing well) about 950, both native and European killed and missing, about 200 wounded, and about 550 camp followers killed and missing. Besides this the colours of the 66th and 1st Bombay native infantry were taken, and six guns- two of the Royal Horse Artillery, and the four we took from Shere Ali.

For a week before the battle I had been suffering badly from fever and was on the sick list, having been carried in a dooley on the 27th July. When the fight was going on I got upon my legs and tried to get a look at what was passing. I went to the rear and attended to one or two of the 66th who were wounded. 

I soon found that our force kept retreating and at last the general retreat took place. All the dooley walis had bolted and there was nothing left for me to do but to walk, which I did, I suppose for about a mile. I could not find my horse although I had given strong instructions to my ayse to keep close to me..

All this time I was feeling far from well and most awfully faint. I had only had a cup of tea and a biscuit in the early morning. Luckily I managed to get hold of a mule, and on this animal I got into Candahar. How I ever got in here alive I do not know. I have much to be thankful for.

I used to have to get off the mule every two miles and lie down and have about ten minutes sleep. On these occasions I always managed to get hold of someone to stay by me to help me on the mule again, for to have mounted without help would have been an utter impossibility, considering how fearfully weak and exhausted I was. 

How I got in will always be the greatest mystery to me, I lost all my kit, my horse and my salary. The first fortnight after this terrible affair I was laid up again with the fever.

Such a nice lot of officers have been taken away by this calamity – young fellows, mere boys, full of pluck. It is dreadfully sad and sickening when one thinks of how many good and valuable lives have been lost and of the number of homes that have been desolated. 

If there had only been water on our road back from Maiwand we should not have lost one half of the men. It is very slow and dull work being boxed up in Candahar. The enemy have as yet made no assualt upon the place, and the general opinion is that they will not do so. Generals Roberts and Phayre must soon be up. It is astonishing how all the fellows keep up their spirits. 

 

Part two is coming soon…

 

How the Guns were saved at Korn Spruit 1900

For Valor.

On the morning of the 13th March 1900 a British mounted force under the command of Brigadier General Robert George Broadwood were just striking camp at the railway station at Sanna’s Post (Aka Korn Spruit). Unbeknown to them a force of a force of two thousand Boers under command of the Christiaan de Wet had taken up position.

De Wet sent 1600 of his men under his brother Piet to attack Broadwood from the north, while he himself occupied Sanna’s Post to intercept their retreat.

At first light, Piet’s artillery opened fire on the British camp and as De Wet predicted they retreated towards his men hidden in a ravine.

Tactical surprise was complete and all were sent into a state of confusion. The civilian wagon drivers preceding the soldiers were seized by the Boers and told if they warned the British they would be shot. Therefore, the British soldiers suspected nothing and approached the river in small groups. As they did so De Wet’s troops ordered them to surrender, and approximately two hundred were captured, along with the six guns of U Battery.

Q Battery

All Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery 1900

Luckily for the British, an eagle eyed officer had noticed what happening and ordered Q Battery to gallop away. The British retired back towards the station which offered decent cover for the troops and Q Battery deployed in the open and returned accurate fire which combined with rifle fire from the station pinned down  Christiaan de Wet’s men but Piet de Wets’s force was increasing pressure on the British.

Broadwood’s ammunition was running out, and he decided to retire to the south. His guns had first to be recovered. Five were hooked up and towed away, but two had to be abandoned. Many British soldiers were killed crossing the 1300 yards of open ground to retrieve the guns, but unit integrity was maintained.

Eventually, Broadwood managed to break contact. Approximately three hours later the 9th Infantry Division commanded by Major General Sir Henry Colville arrived to relieve the mounted brigade, but de Wet’s men had withdrawn to highly defensible positions across the Modder River and both sides retired from the field. This nevertheless left Bloemfontein’s water works in Boer hands.

In all, the British suffered 155 men killed or wounded. 428 men, seven field artillery pieces and 117 wagons were captured. The Boer force suffered three killed and five wounded. But even more serious than the losses in the action was the loss of Bloemfontein’s water supplies. This greatly aggravated an epidemic of enteric fever dysentery and cholera among the occupying British army, which eventually caused 2000 deaths.

In recognition of the conspicuous gallantry displayed by all ranks of Q Battery on this occasion, Field Marshal Lord Roberts decided to treat the case as one of collective gallantry, under the Rule 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant. Accordingly, direction was given that one of the officers should be chosen by the other officers, one non-commissioned officer by the non-commissioned officers and two gunners or drivers by the gunners and drivers for the award of the Victoria Cross.

A difficulty arose with regard to the officer, owing to the fact that there were only two unwounded officers. Major Phipps-Hornby was chosen as the senior,

Major E J Phipps-Hornby

Major E J Phipps-Hornby VC

Sergeant Charles Parker was selected by the Non Commissioned officers.

Sergeat Charles Parker

Sergeant Charles Parker VC

Gunners Issac Lodge and Driver Henry Glassock were elected by the gunners and drivers.

Gunner Issac Lodge

Gunner Issac Lodge VC

Driver Henry Glassock

Driver Henry Glassock VC

The Sphere (7th July 1900) reported the action as:

The fine achievement of Q Battery may be recalled as follows: When the alarm was given Q Battery was within 300 yards of the Spruit. Major Phipps-Hornby who commanded it at once wheeled about and moved off at a gallop under a very heavy fire. One gun upset when a wheel horse was shot and had to be abandoned, together with a waggon, the horses of which were killed. The Remainder of the battery reached a position closer to some unfinished railway buildings, and came into action. 

When the order to retire was received Major Phipps-Hornby ordered the guns and their limbers to be run back by hand to where the teams of uninjured horses stood behind the unfinished buildings. The few remaining gunners directed by Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys, the only remaining officers of the battery, succeeded in running back four of the guns under shelter, one or two limbers were similarly withdrawn by hand but the work was most severe and the distance considerable. 

In consequence all concerned were so exhausted that they were unable to drag the remaining limbers of the fifth gun. It now became necessary to risk the horses, and volunteers were called for from among the drivers, who readily responded. Several horses were killed and men wounded, but at length only one gun and one limber were left exposed.

Four attempts were made to rescue them but when no more horses were available the attempt had to be given up. Driver Glassock was wounded in the attempt. 

Major Phipps-Hornby returned to the United Kingdom, and served as Aide-de-camp to Lord Roberts when he was Commander-in-Chief from 1901 to 1903. He later served in the First World War. He achieved the rank of brigadier general granted upon his retirement in 1918, after 40 years of service.

Sergeant Charles Parker rejoined the army and was seriously injured in World War I. He died in August 1918, aged 48.

Driver Glasock later settled in South Africa and served as a Conductor in the South African Service Corps he died in 1916.

Gunner Issac Lodge later achieved the rank of bombardier and died in 1923.

 

Pictures and words The Sphere 7th July 1900 page 7

 

 

Forgotten Voices of Empire: The Charge of the 21st Lancers 1898

On the 2nd September 1898,  General Sir Herbert Kitchener lead his army, made up of Regular British regiments and mixed Sudanese/Egyptian regiments into action against the army of Abdullah al-Taashi, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. Ostensibly the Battle the of Omdurman, as it became known was fought to help the Egyptian state reconquer the Sudan, though Kitchener was seeking revenge for the death of General Charles Gordon in Khartoum in 1885.

The battle has become famous/infamous for a number of reasons:

It demonstrated how a highly disciplined army, armed with modern rifles, artillery and machines guns could destroy an army twice its size but armed with obsolete weapons with minimal casualties. 16,000 dervishes attacked the British position, mainly armed with old rifles and spears, not one attacker reached within 50m of the British and suffered 4,000 casualties too artillery fire and then heavy volley fire and Maxim guns.

The battle was the first time that the Mark IV hollow point bullet, made in the arsenal in Dum Dum was used in a major battle. It was an expanding bullet and the units that used it considered it a great success though they caused dreadful wounds.

After a few incidences of wounded dervishes attacking British troops, Kitchener ordered all of the wounded the be killed and this brutal attack dogged him for the rest of his life, even Winston Churchill agreed he had gone to far.

Kitchener was anxious to occupy Omdurman before the remaining Mahdist forces could withdraw there. He advanced his army on the city, arranging them in separate columns for the attack. The British light cavalry regiment, the 21st Lancers, was sent ahead to clear the plain to Omdurman. They had a tough time of it. The 400-strong regiment attacked what they thought were only a few hundred dervishes, but in fact there were 2,500 infantry hidden behind them in a depression. After a fierce clash, the Lancers drove them back (resulting in three Victoria Crosses being awarded to Lancers who helped rescue wounded comrades)

The correspondent from Reuter describes the action:

Omdurman, September 4 (via Nasri, Monday)

There has been such a pressure of daily work that the great incident of the Battle of Omdurman has probably received less attention than it merited. This was the famous charge of the 21st Lancers against enormous odds.

Colonel Martin’s orders were to prevent the broken enemy from returning to Omdurman, five miles away from the filed of Battle. The 21st Lancers unexpectedly came upon the enemy’s reserve who were 2000 strong, but whose exact strength could not ascertained owing to the nature of the ground.

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The Charge of the 21st Lancers Drawn by John Charlton The Graphic 24th September 1898

The cavalry were then in form of troops. They deployed into line for the attack and charged. When they were within thirty yards of the entrenchments they found the enemy ensconced in a nulla and concealed by a depression of the ground.

The Lancers wild with excitement and coming on at full gallop for the attack, had not a single moment for hesitation. They charged gallantly home, the brunt falling on No.2 squadron, who absolutely had to hack their way through the enemy twenty deep, exposed to a withering infantry fire.

They struggled through, but every man who fell was immediately hacked to pieces by the swords of the fanatic foe.

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The London Illustrated News 17th September 1898.

The men of the British cavalry rallied, bleeding, on the far side of the lanes which they had cut for themselves in the enemy’s ranks and with admirable fortitude they re-formed as coolly as if they had been on parade.

One corporal, who was covered in blood, and reeling in his saddle, when ordered to fall out shouted , waving his bent lance- “Never! Form up No.2” meaning his squadron.

Then it was that young Grenfell was missed for the first time. Lieutenant de Montmorency, with Corporal Swarback dashed out to effect, if possible, the rescue of his body. They were immediately joined by Captain Kenna.

With their revolver fire the two officers kept the enemy forty yards away, and would have secured Lieutenant Grenfall’s body if the horse upon which it was placed had not shied with its burden.

Then seeing that a second charge would be futile, colonel Martin dismounted his men and with magazine and carbine fire drove the enemy steadily into the zone of the Anglo-Egyptian infantry fire, the Lancers having accomplished their object by covering the enemy line of retirement though at the cost of heavy casualties. This maiden charge of the 21st Lancers is regarded as an extremely brilliant affair.  [1]

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Officers wounded at Omdurman in the English Military Hospital at Abadia. Far right is Lieutenant C S Nesham 21st Lancers wounded in the charge. The Illustrated London News 8th October 1898.

 

Of less than 400 men involved in the charge 70 were killed and wounded and the regiment won three Victoria Crosses. These three were Private Thomas Byrne, Lieutenant Raymond de Montmorency and Captain Paul Kenna.

Winston Churchill was present at the battle and he rode with the 21st Lancers.

[1] The Citizen 10th September 1898.