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TOPIC: Colenso 15 December 1899

Colenso 15 December 1899 1 month 1 week ago #62457

  • ol43sg
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My grand mother's older brother was a Lance Corporal with the Royal Dublin Fusileers, part of the British Army which fought and lost at Colenso, Natal. He was Alphonsus (Alf) William Hayes, born 1876 in Manchester, Lancashire England. He enlisted in the Corps of Royal Dublin Fusileers at Sheffield on 29 January 1894; age 18 years one month, a painter by trade and he signed on for 12 years service (to 1906). Part of the 'Attestion' is missing and no service number is shown. However, I believe the Service Number to be 5023; he was a member of the 2nd Battalion R.D.F. which was based in Natal Colony from 1897 after moving from India.
I do not have details of his injuries or of his discharge from the British Army but family sources suggest that he lost either a foot or an entire lower leg during the the attempt to cross the Tugela River.
Alf married in 1904 and died in New York in 1946 leaving no family of his own.
I write to enquire whether the Forum or any member has further details of 'Alf'' -and/or of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusileers.

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Colenso 15 December 1899 1 month 1 week ago #62459

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Here is his FMP entry...….
Mike




First name(s) A
Last name Hayes
Service number 5023
Rank Lance-Corporal
Regiment 2 Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Literary references Second Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War 246
Biography
-
Notes
[Second Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War] QSA Clasps: Ta..
Event detail Wounded Severely on 15/12/1899 at Colenso
Event unit 2 Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Event source NFF
Gazetteer

[2828:2844-2950] a village in Natal Colony (Estcourt district; KwaZulu-Natal), 21 km south of Ladysmith. The town commanded a strategically important crossing by road and rail between northern Natal and the Natal Midlands. After the British retreat to Ladysmith*, the town was garrisoned by the 2nd The Royal Dublin Fusiliers and several locally recruited units as well as the Natal Naval Volunteers with two 9-pounder guns. The arrival of Boer artillery on the heights to the north of the river which command the town caused the evacuation of the garrison to Estcourt on 2/3 November 1899. Boer commandos crossed the river on to the plain surrounding the town on 14 November. On 15 December the Natal Army under Gen Sir R.H. Buller mounted an assault on the crossing, Maj-Gen A.F. Hart's 5th infantry brigade ordered to cross the river at Bridle Drift (1)* and then move eastwards towards the town whilst Maj-Gen H.J.T. Hildyard's 2nd infantry brigade was to make a frontal assualt after a preliminary artillery bombardment. Hart's brigade failed to find the crossing and was withdrawn under heavy Boer fire; Col C.J. Long, RHA, positioned his guns too close to the well hidden Boer front lines, was severely shelled and shot at and forced to abandon them; Hildyard's brigade was used to cover the retreat of these units. Five companies of the 2nd The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) regiment occupied Colenso before being ordered to withdraw. For gallantry in treating the wounded under heavy fire during this operation, Maj W. Babtie, RAMC, was awarded the Victoria Cross. For attempting to retrieve the abandoned guns of the 14th and 66th batteries Royal Field Artillery under heavy fire, Capt H.N. Schofield, Royal Field Artillery, Capt W.N. Congreve, Rifle Brigade, Lt the Hon F.H.S. Roberts, King's Royal Rifle Corps, Capt H.L. Reed, Royal Field Artillery, Cpl G.E. Nurse, Royal Field Artillery, and Pte C. Ravenhill, Royal Scots Fusiliers, were each awarded the Victoria Cross. DCMs were awarded to: Sgt IoM 1196 T Allen, Border Regt, "when officer of Maxim was shot took charge and worked gun to end of day with remarkable address" Pte 3837 W Seeley, Royal Irish Fusiliers, "When the retirement was ordered…Lieutenant Taylor and Private Seeley remained behind to bring back a wounded man (Private Murray), who was much exhausted. They had to retire with him very slowly under a heavy fire, and rest every two hundred yards or so. They eventually obtained a horse on which they placed their charge, bringing him out under the fire of a Boer Maxim gun". After a sequence of reverses upstream, Buller attempted to force the Thukela crossing downstream with a deserted Colenso village on his left flank. Preparatory to the main attack on 21 February 1900 against Boer positions based on Hlangwane*, the 2nd The Royal Dublin Fusiliers entered the village on 20 February followed by Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry; the latter unit crossed the river soon after daybreak on the following day when a pont was brought to the village. By 22 February Hart's brigade was positioned in Colenso ready to advance and the village was once again in British control. It was the location of a white concentration refugee camp. HMG I pp.262, 264, 267 and 345-375 (map nos. 15 and 15(a)), II pp.460-461, 468-469 and 533 (map nos.30(a) and 30(b)), IV pp.669 and 700; Times II pp.427-459 (map facing p.456), III pp.507 and 513-542 (map facing p.542); Breytenbach III pp.448-449 (map facing p.558); Wilson I pp.87-109 (map on p.95), II pp.458-462 (photographs and map on p.473); Trichardt pp.128-133 (map facing p. 119); Duxbury; Cd.819; Barnard cap.3 (map on pp.44-45); Griffith pp.177-209 (map on p.179);LG;Rudolf.

Country Great Britain
Record set Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902
Category Military Service & Conflict
Subcategory Boer Wars
Collections from Great Britain, UK None

HE ALSO SERVED IN W.W.1

First name(s) Alphonsus William
Last name Hayes
Age 18
Birth year 1876
Birth town Manchester
Birth county Lancashire
Birth country England
Service number 5023
Regiment Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Year 1894
Series WO 363
Series description Wo 363 - First World War Service Records 'Burnt Documents'
Archive The National Archives
Record set British Army Service Records
Category Military Service & Conflict
Subcategory First World War
Collections from Great Britain, UK None

Life Member
Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

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Life Member
Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

Colenso 15 December 1899 3 weeks 5 days ago #62603

  • ol43sg
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Thank you Mike, your swift response was greatly appreciated. In the interim week I have researched family details to enquire as to differences of detail. The most important detail being that at age 18 years 1 month in 1894 he commenced a '12 year enlistment'. But, in the 1901 Manchester, England Census he listed himself as 'Ex soldier' age 24 yrs. He is not shown (not found) in the UK 1911 Census, although I have some reason to believe that he was to be found as a 'Steward' living in Canada. I have not seen his Discharge papers which he would have had so as to describe himself as 'Ex soldier' on an official document - the Census.
Further - you highlight that he served in WW1; what evidence is available to you?
A more ancient (than even Myself) member of my extended and extensive family told me several years ago that Alf had been fitted with an artificial foot/leg after the "extensive injuries" sustained in the Colenso fiasco.
I continue to research/ask questions, in an attempt to build an accurate picture of the man and I again thank you and the web site volunteers for your assistance.

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