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Murray's Horse and Scouts 6 years 4 weeks ago #22116

  • djb
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No I sadly. I just need that teleporter to apply what I know now to the younger me, much like you and those ABOs.
Dr David Biggins

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Murray's Horse and Scouts 6 years 4 weeks ago #22117

  • Doug
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Frank/David

Just updating and honing my wants list, for tomorrow!!

Doug.
Doug Jenkins

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Murray's Horse and Scouts 6 years 4 weeks ago #22118

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Frank's right that there are no shortage of medals available but supply isn't my issue :)
Dr David Biggins

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Murray's Horse and Scouts 6 years 4 weeks ago #22120

  • Frank Kelley
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Don't remind me, as a cross section of unresearched ABO's back then for £40-£60 each would, I am sure, have meant now having a good few real gems, all the more so given the numbers actually issued, but, I don't worry about it, they can still be had (at a price, of course!) if I wanted half a dozen tomorrow, no problem, they can be found here, it only comes down to having the money to pay for them.
You will, I am sure in time, get one of Murray's men! :woohoo:

"teleporter" I bet you used to watch Blakes Seven?

djb wrote: No I sadly. I just need that teleporter to apply what I know now to the younger me, much like you and those ABOs.

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Murray's Horse and Scouts 6 years 4 weeks ago #22156

  • Brett Hendey
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Here is a photograph of the medals awarded to Arthur Remmington Smith, one-time Trooper in Murray's Scouts.

His medals came with a copy of the relevant part of the QSA roll, together with a full set of his WWI service papers. The latter include the records that Smith was born in the Thornville District of the Colony of Natal, and that he later settled in the Transvaal. During WWI he served in German East Africa and, like so many men, he was incapacitated by malaria and discharged early as not fit for further military service.

Another man who served in Murray's Scouts was Joseph Forsyth Ingram FRGS. During the 'Relief of Ladysmith' operations he was seconded as an interpreter to the Provost Marshal for Natal, Major Alan Chichester. He later joined the FID and he was awarded both the QSA and KSA off the FID roll, with the medals named to 'Interpreter J F Ingram FID". Shown below is his QSA, and missing are his Zulu War medal and KSA. Ingram made a name for himself in Natal as an explorer, writer, artist, soldier and civil servant.

There is also photograph of the QSA awarded to Tpr R Buchanan of Murray's Horse, about whom I know next to nothing.

Brett






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Murray's Horse and Scouts 5 years 10 months ago #23289

  • Brett Hendey
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MURRAY’S HORSE & MURRAY’S SCOUTS

The first account of Murray’s Horse and Murray’s Scouts was in ‘Natal Volunteer Record’, which was published in 1900 by Robinson & Co, Durban. Since then little new information has been added to their records. This is not surprising given their short existence and limited complements, as well as their almost insignificant contributions to the British war effort during the Anglo-Boer War.

Nevertheless, since Murray’s Horse came into being at a critical time during the Natal Campaign, and since its formation and its fortnight-long existence were so unusual, it deserves its footnote in the annals of the War. By contrast, although numerically far smaller, Murray’s Scouts’ role in the War was a little more significant. Although the activities of individual members of these units were largely unrecorded, their medals are prized by collectors, and those named to Murray’s Scouts, which are rare, fetch relatively high prices.

In spite of the deteriorating relationship between Britain and the Boer Republics during the 1890’s, the former was ill-prepared for the war that broke out in 1899. By September 1899, when war was inevitable, the regiments making up the Imperial garrisons in the Cape Colony and Natal were recognised to be inadequate and hasty measures were taken to reinforce them. The Natal Government’s response was to dispatch detachments of its only full-time paramilitary force, the Natal Police, to the borders with the Republics to monitor the situations there. Next, Natal’s Volunteer Regiments (‘militia’) were mobilised. The Town Guards of Newcastle, Dundee and Ladysmith were also put on alert. Surprisingly, the District Rifle Associations, which were the ‘home guards’ of the rural areas of the Colony were not called out.

The War started on 11 October, and by the end of that month the Boers had effectively occupied Natal north of the Tugela River, with the besieged town of Ladysmith all that remained there under British control. Most of the Imperial and Colonial forces were then concentrated in the immediate vicinity of Estcourt. Largely unprotected and potentially vulnerable to Boer incursions at that time was the countryside west of Estcourt and Mooi River towards the Drakensberg, which formed the border with the Orange Free State.

The Honourable Thomas Keir Murray CMG was a prominent resident of the Colony of Natal, who had reached high local status in both politics and commerce. He took an active interest in military matters leading up to the start of the Anglo-Boer War. He was alarmed that the District Rifle Associations had not been called out and, after unsuccessfully meeting on this matter with the Governor and Premier of Natal, he decided to take matters into his own hands and raise his own group of volunteers to fill the gap in the defences of Natal’s rural areas.

Murray made good use of his experience with, and contacts in Government circles to facilitate the establishment of what was then referred to in official documents as a “volunteer cavalry corps” and “the special volunteer force”. For example, Murray requested that the Natal Police provide him with “a few pack saddles”. He also asked for “revolvers and ammunition for [his] special volunteers”. He asked that the General Manager, Natal Government Railways, be “instructed to convey by rail any men who may be proceeding to join the special volunteers force”. He also sought authority for himself and his deputy, H C Shepstone, to frank letters and telegrams on service. He evidently had a talent for finding men willing to serve under him and, in a matter of days, what was to become known as Murray’s Horse was ready for action.

On 31October, Brigadier-General J Wolfe Murray, the Officer Commanding the Colonial element of the military forces in Natal, asked Murray to assemble his men at Mooi River. On 2 November, the first 80 men of Murray’s Horse arrived in the town. This number was to rise to 147 of the targeted 150 men. They were to receive no pay, and were to provide for all their own needs, except for arms and ammunition. Soon after arriving in Mooi River, they were out on patrol west of the town, where many of the farmers had abandoned their farms and sought the safety of towns.

It probably would have been much simpler for the Government to have mobilised the Weston and other selected Rifle Associations, rather than having to accommodate Murray’s applications for so many dispensations in raising a substitute force. The most significant, and probably deciding factor was that Murray’s men did not have to be paid by the Government. Although the Government did not call out the Rifle Associations, it did request that R A members join the special volunteer force. In response, the Acting Honorary Secretary of the Howick R A offered to enrol the whole of his Association. By contrast, the Magistrate of Alfred County, which was on the border with the Cape Colony, wrote that it would be undesirable for the Harding R A to join “Mr Murray’s force as it would cause unrest amongst the natives and lead to raiding by the Pondos”.

In fact, as it transpired, most volunteers probably came from the general population. The QSA roll for Murray’s Horse has recorded in the remarks column the names of units from which the volunteers either came, or to which they were enrolled after it was disbanded. Only 34 names were linked to the Rifle Associations (viz. Weston – 13; Karkloof – 11; Mshwati – 5; Howick – 2; New Hanover – 2; Nottingham Road – 1). Given the haste with which men were assembled, it is likely that they heard of the unit’s formation by word of mouth. Thus, they are likely to have known Murray personally, or were known to his associates.

Murray’s Horse was out on patrol for only 13 days and evidently encountered no Boers. The men then returned to Pietermaritzburg, where they dispersed.

While the existence of Murray’s Horse may have been militarily insignificant, it might well have provided stern resistance to any Boer Commando it encountered in the no-man’s land it patrolled. Also, it probably did contribute to “the wave of enthusiasm that spread over the Empire” (Natal Volunteer Record, p 172). Its profile was helped by the fact that it was led by two prominent Natalians, Murray and his deputy, H C Shepstone, who was then the Colony’s Secretary for Native Affairs.

According to Natal Volunteer Record (pp 171, 172), Murray’s Horse was referred to in “General Orders” as follows:
“The services of the irregular corps raised by the Hon. T. K. Murray, C.M.G., having been dispensed with, owing to the arrival of reinforcements from the Cape, the Lieutenant-General Commanding desires to place on record his high admiration for the patriotic spirit with which the men of this corps responded to the call to arms at a critical time, and the efficient manner in which they have performed the military duties required of them. The thanks of the community are due to the Hon. T. K. Murray for which they have performed and executed such excellent service.”

While the military may have been finished with Murray’s Horse, Murray himself was not finished with the military. He joined Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Clery KCB, Commander of the British 2nd Division in Natal, as head of Intelligence. He was then transferred to the staff of General Sir Redvers Buller VC after his arrival in Natal. In his new capacity, Murray raised another irregular corps, Murray’s Scouts, which was made up 47 men, four of whom, including Murray himself, had served in Murray’s Horse. They were on duty throughout the operations to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith. As was the case with the men of Murray’s Horse, the Scouts received no payment for services rendered. Whatever remuneration the men may have been given must have come from Murray himself.

The men of Murray’s Scouts were presumably hand-picked by Murray. One such man was Joseph Forsyth Ingram FRGS, a long-time resident of Natal, an explorer of south-eastern Africa of note, and the author of several books on the geography of the Colony. An expert linguist, Ingram was enlisted as an interpreter and seconded to the staff of the Provost-Marshal of the Natal Army, Major Alan Chichester. He remained on the Provost-Marshal’s staff until after the Relief of Ladysmith, and his expert services were commended by Major Chichester.

The more conventional scouting role of Murray’s men was mentioned in a report published in the ’The Times’ of London on 13/2/1900. During the January 1900 move by General Buller to shift his attack on the Boers to the west of Colenso, the value of the scouting done by Murray’s men was graphically illustrated. One of the first objectives of the new strategy was to secure the bridge over the Little Tugela River at Springfield, which was on the road between Natal and the southern passes across the Drakensberg to the Orange Free State.

‘The Times’ report reads:
“From the other side of Springfield Bridge also diverge the roads leading to the three drifts across the big Tugela, Trichardt’s, Potgieter’s, and Skiet, each about five miles apart, which our present position now commands. Our occupation of it was therefore of the greatest importance. The country between Frere and Springfield Bridge is flat and open, but across the river it becomes extremely rough and hilly. It was known that the Boers had for some time been occupying the latter district in considerable force and had recently mounted there two of the field guns which we had lost at Colenso, and it was expected that there would be heavy fighting before the Tugela could be reached.

When, however, Lord Dundonald [of the Mounted Brigade] reached the bridge he was met by one of Murray’s scouts, who informed him that there were no Boers on this side of the big Tugela. Fearing to be cut off by the flooded river they had all retired whilst it was still fordable, though the fact that they had left Springfield Bridge standing made it look like an elaborate trap. Lord Dundonald decided on a bold step, and leaving 300 men and two guns to guard the bridge, pushed forward with the rest of his small force and that evening occupied the high hills immediately above Potgieter’s Drift, nine miles from Springfield Bridge. The Boers were taken completely by surprise.”

It is not too bold to claim that it was intelligence provided by one of Murray’s Scouts that allowed Lord Dundonald to use his initiative and retake for the first time a part of Natal that had been occupied by the Boers.

Men of the Mounted Brigade later led Buller’s army in their first successful crossing of the Tugela River itself. Subsequently, some of the Colonials in the Mounted Brigade clashed with a Boer patrol at Acton Homes, potentially opening a way to Ladysmith from the west. These advantages given to Generals Buller and Warren by his mounted troops were squandered and resulted in a retreat back across the Tugela, the defeats at Spioenkop and Vaalkrans, and, later, the even the more costly, but ultimately successful battles for the Tugela Heights.

The successful lifting of the Siege of Ladysmith was followed by a period of re-organisation in Buller’s army. There was rest and recuperation for those who had been besieged. Gaps in the ranks of both defenders and those who relieved them were filled by transfers and new recruits. It was during this period that Murray’s Scouts was disbanded. Thomas Murray’s private army had done its duty largely unnoticed by the British High Command. Its only appearances on the War’s honours’ lists were those for Murray himself, a Mention in Despatches by Lord Roberts on 4/9/1901, with the unit given as Murray’s Scouts, and, later, a knighthood (KCMG), with the unit given as Natal Guides.

A major change in the British Army in South Africa took place in July 1900 with the consolidation of all the intelligence-gathering units (scouts, guides, interpreters) into the Field Intelligence Department (FID). The Natal Corps of Guides (or Natal Guides) retained their identity and 96 men are listed as such on the FID medal roll.

Apart from Murray himself, at least 10 men from the ranks of Murray’s Scouts went on to serve with the Natal Guides (referred to as ‘Imperial Guides’ on the medal roll). Like Murray, some were Mentioned in Despatches and later decorated. These men included W A Knight, G L Langridge, T J M Macfarlane and W M Struben, all of whom were awarded the CMG.

The Murray’s Scouts medal roll lists 46 names, excluding Murray himself, and there are notes that 14 of them were awarded their medals off other rolls. There were, therefore, only 32 QSA’s named to Murray’s Scouts.

My thanks to David (djb), Frank Kelley and Adrian (‘cape police’) for help in compiling this report.

Brett Hendey
18/10/2014

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