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.

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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

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.

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.