Trooper, "A" Squadron, Natal Carbineers
Trooper, Natal Voluntary Composite Regiment – Anglo Boer War
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Defence of Ladysmith & Transvaal to 424 Tpr. S.E. Waugh, Natal Carbnrs.
Squire, for one assumes that was the name used to address him, was baptised on 5 October 1876 in Rochdale, Lancashire. He was the son of Richard Waugh, a Wool Sorter, and his wife Mary, born Scholfield and the grandson of the well-known English Poet and Author, Edwin Waugh otherwise known as "the Lancashire Burns." The family lived in East Street, Rochdale.
At some point in time Waugh senior decided to take his family to South Africa wither they emigrated. Mr Waugh, continued his occupation as a Wool Sorter but added to it the pursuit of a Wool Merchant, taking up residence in Greyling Street, Pietermaritzburg where he and his wife continued to ensure their bloodline would survive with the addition of Annie (born in 1878), Ethel May, Charles Richard, Mabel Mary (born in 1885), Ivy Marion (born in 1886), Nina Isobel and Reginald – a total of eight children of whom Squire was the eldest.
Seemingly destined to follow in neither his father nor his illustrious grandfather’s footsteps, Squire became a Clerk situated at Wattle Grove, New Leeds a spot just outside of Pietermaritzburg. It was whilst here that he, on 31 March 1897, enlisted as a Trooper with A Squadron of the Natal Carbineers and with no. 424. Most young men of the period joined up with what passed for Natal’s version of the local Militia – it was the “done thing” and helped pass the time in an era where entertainment was in short supply. Attendance at compulsory drills and training camps became social occasions and Squire, most likely, met and made firm friends with young men of his age.
The Anglo Boer War which erupted on the South African stage in October 1899 had come as almost a surprise to the Colonial authorities. There had been long simmering tensions between the two Dutch-speaking Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal on the one hand and the British Government on the other but no-one had thought it would end in full-scale war. As it so happened Natal was one of the first territories to be invaded by the Boers.
A Squadron on 23 October - two weeks before the End Hill affair
The Natal Carbineers, called upon by the authorities to augment the meagre resources at the military’s disposal, were ordered out for active service on 29 September 1899 in anticipation of wat was to come. By 1 October every man had mustered in full service order at Ladysmith which was the northern-most bastion against any Boer invasion in the Colony. After a number of initial skirmishes with the invading forces, the Carbineers, along with all the Imperial forces withdrawn after the Talana and Elandslaagte actions, fell back on Ladysmith where General Sir George White determined that he would make a stand.
The Boers invested Ladysmith on 3 November and the Carbineers, along with several thousand other troops, were besieged. The Siege of Ladysmith was to last a long and draining three months – a period in which food supplies ran dry and men, in their hundreds, succumbed to Enteric Fever or other conditions which flourished in the unhygienic and unsanitary conditions.
The defences were always under threat by the Boer forces who, having surrounded the town by occupying all the prominent hills in the area, sat it out hoping to starve the British Forces into submission. On an almost daily basis the town and its people were subjected to bombardment from the Boer Big Guns which dropped shells into the town indiscriminately. Very little loss of life was occasioned by this but one never quite knew where the next shell might fall.
Waugh is fourth from the right in the bottom row (wounded arm in the sling)
The western sector of Ladysmith was particularly susceptible to a potential Boer action to enter the town and, on 3 November 1899 the Volunteer Brigade, with the Imperial Light Horse and artillery were sent out. They occupied End Hill, Middle Hill and Wagon Hills. A tremendous cross fire was concentrated on End Hill, and Major Taunton, whose A Squadron (Waugh included) held the west, was killed along with Sergeant Mapstone. Seven others were wounded, Trooper Waugh being one of them. But these are the bare facts which do not pretend to tell all. Let us turn to a succession of correspondents and diarists who were either present on the scene or had knowledge of it soon after in order to learn more.
The first entry we turn to comes courtesy of the "The Story of the Imperial Light Horse" by Lt. Gibson. The ILH were in forefront of the attack of which Major Taunton and A Squadron of the Carbineers formed a support.
As background, it must be said, the situation in Ladysmith at the commencement of November 1899 was grim. Despite the victory at Elandslaagte, other operations had far from improved the British situation and, by the 2nd, the town was under bombardment. The investment, however, was not thought to be complete. That same day, under the command of Brig. Gen. Brocklehurst, the defenders made a small scale probe to the West of the town with scant results. The next day, they were to try again towards the South West with an entire cavalry brigade supported by artillery.
What followed on the morning of the 3rd November was described as a "reconnaissance"; a reaction to a patrol report of enemy movement. Operating over "good cavalry country", it seems likely that Brocklehurst's brigade was strong enough to exploit any opportunity offered. Having no infantry component, his force would not have been able to take and hold ground. However, mobility and direct artillery support might allow the force to inflict a check on the activities of the besiegers.
Accounts differ as to the sequence of events; however two ILH squadrons under the temporary command of Maj. Karri Davies were thrown out early in the morning and well ahead of the main force. They were to draw whatever the enemy fire there was and fix his position. The enemy was located with at least one gun on Lancer's Hill (thus being able to dominate any activity in Long Valley and on the Colenso and Oliver's Hoek roads) and by 11h15, the 5th DG, 18th and 19th Hussars and 21st FB, RA were positioned to support the ILH and exploit any enemy weakness.
By 12h15, however, things began to unravel. Upon drawing enemy fire from Lancer's Hill and seeing what he thought was an enemy retirement, Maj. Karri Davies had dismounted his men, saying "Boys, load your guns". "You see that kopje, that's the Boer laager, we're going to take it". "Right squadron, go on. Left squadron in support".
Gibson added to what followed by extensively quoting the military correspondent of the London Daily Mail; G.W.Steevens:-
Steevens wrote that "the incident rose out of the prodigal valour of the ILH". They had lost their Colonel (late of the 5th Lancers) at Elandslaagte, he wrote, and General Brocklehurst, the new cavalry Brigadier, had incautiously given their new civilian Commanding Officer a free hand. "I've heard your men are very fine fellows, Major, do what you like". Steevens regarded Maj. Karri Davies as "no soldier" and commented that the hill was occupied by "at least eight hundred Boers".
The odds were stacked so heavily against success that fully half of "C" squadron refused to obey the order. Stevens says they "jibbed". Only thirty of the sixty-strong squadron responded -apparently led by Maj. Doveton - and they got to within 700 yards of the enemy before heavy fire and many casualties caused them to "shelter under ant hills" and could neither advance nor retire.
Extraction of the two squadrons was difficult. Seeing the rash advance, the Brigadier had his mounted units and artillery positioned for supporting fire and by 16h00 the ILH and the supporting elements were able to withdraw in extended order at no further cost - save dignity. Seeing that he had grasped a hornet's nest, the Brigadier ordered the force to retire to Ladysmith.
The second entry comes from the diary of Trooper A. J. Crosby, Natal Carbineers – a comrade of Waugh’s – it read as follows:-
“Paraded at 4 o’clock. Dismissed at 6 o’clock. Filed off to stables. At 1 o’clock we were ordered to saddle up immediately and within a few minutes galloped away to support the artillery and ILH at Bester’s. Shells were wizzing all round. Took up position at the gallop on the left flank of the artillery and right of ILH. Firing commenced as soon as we reached the top of the hill where we were under cross fire. Within quarter of an hour four of our men (A Squadron) were wounded, Charlie Miller, Solicitor, Estcourt, Watts, Waugh & Webber, the three last, Maritzburg boys.
Shortly after poor Major Taunton was shot dead through right side while taking observation with glasses. On retreating I helped to carry him down, and then went on in advance of our men with horses, when I had a narrow escape from being knocked over with one of our own shells which fell short. The artillery were firing to cover our retreat. Returned to camp under heavy fire the whole way. A Boer shell burst over the house adjoining the Royal Hotel, wrecking it completely, but no one was hurt. Capt. Knapp of the ILH was also killed in the afternoon engagement.”
The diary of Major George Tatham, a seasoned Natal Carbineers officer contained the following entry:-
“Quiet during morning. At noon Carbineers and other volunteers under Col. Royston were called out to End Hill to extricate Imperial Light Horse Squad from hot corner in dongas; result satisfactory though we lost several men, amongst whom was our good Major C. E. Taunton, whose loss we all felt very much as he was our most popular officer. He was shot through the heart and fell dead instantly.”
Nurse Bella Craw, who kept a meticulous diary during the Ladysmith siege wrote, on 3 November as follows:-
“This morning's excitement began by Wilfrid having another attack of the ague again. He was fearfully bad for six hours. I don't think he could stand another attack again tomorrow. Restlessness and suffocation was dreadful. As soon as he perspired relief came, but he is very weak. Cannons have been playing continually all day. It is only 2.30 now, and for the last half hour they have been shelling the town and it has been hot, and is. Just within the last few minutes shells have been bursting all round and overhead, but they were too high to hurt us.
A piece of shell fell in the next garden opposite. Humphry has it. Dr. Rouillard was here this morning and has just come in again. He is in a great state. A shell burst in his back yard. He has ammunition on both sides of him and they are trying to shell it. Bert has come now, all excitement. He was lunching at the Royal and a shell landed in the passage between the Hotel and house, broke the dining room window, also dishes and glass and chairs and never touched anyone. It is marvellous. It has been a very big battle today (Battle of End Hill in Besters). The rifle firing besides this booming of cannon is going on all round us. At times it is dreadful, and to think I am sitting writing while it is going on.
I couldn't have believed it a month ago. All our Carbineers are out. I do hope Alick and Willie Anderson will be alright. Uncle George did not go. The Gordon Highlanders all passed just now. They are a splendid lot of men. As soon as the firing and shelling has stopped a little I am going up with Bert to see the Royal Hotel. Just before dinner Alick and Willie came in. Poor old Willie had had a very narrow shave. A piece of an exploded shell cut the sleeve of his coat and his arm is bruised.
He just escaped a very nasty jar. Alick was in the thick of the fight. Two men fell by him. Poor Major Taunton was killed, also a Captain Knapp of the Imperial Light Horse.”
The official history of the Natal Carbineers by A. Hattersley, on page 38 carried the information that:-
“Major Taunton was killed at End Hill, west of Gun Hill, on the first day of the siege (Friday, 3 November), the town having been cut off from 3 p.m. of the previous day. The Free State commandos were closing in from the west and the Carbineers were dispatched to intercept them. The regiment took up position at End Hill and was immediately in action. Major Taunton, who was in command of “A” Squadron on the extreme right, was killed instantaneously by a bullet whilst using his field glasses, in sublime contempt for danger, to look for snipers.”
Dr Sam Campbell, a well- known medical Doctor who provided invaluable medical aid to the sick and wounded of Ladysmith, in a privately published book, was quoted as saying:-
“Have just finished a round of the wards, and before retiring to bed I write. Our troops have been engaged today – the Carbineers have been in a pretty tight corner – a good many wounded, and poor Captain Taunton killed, and one or two others will die.”
The wound to Waugh even made the English papers – the Lancashire Daily Post on Monday, 13 November 1899 carried the news that,
“Squire Edwin Waugh, grandson of the late Edwin Waugh, was one of the wounded at Ladysmith.”
The Siege of Ladysmith came to an end on 28 February 1899 and Waugh, by now recovering from his wound, went with his regiment on a break to recuperate from the travails they had experienced. Thereafter he went with Buller into the Transvaal (at that time Utrecht and points north were classed as being Transvaal territory) as part of the Natal Volunteer Composite Regiment with no. 267. This group of approximately 300 men was made up of volunteers from all the premier Natal regiments and assisted greatly in the expulsion of the remaining Boer forces from Natal. Waugh commenced service with them on 1 October 1900 until they were disbanded, their services no longer deemed necessary, in March 1901. The medal roll in respect of Waugh noted that he was discharged “Medically Unfit” – perhaps his wound hadn’t properly healed.
Back on home soil Waugh turned his attention to matters of the heart, wedding Louisa Mary More Palframan, a 21 year old damsel from New Leeds, at the Wesleyan Church there on 7 November 1901. He was recorded as being a 25 year old Book Keeper by occupation. His brother Charles Richard was a witness to the ceremony.
On 1 November 1903 he severed ties with the Carbineers after 6 years service.
His father passed away in Pietermaritzburg in 1913 and he himself lived until the age of 82 years 10 months, passing away on 15 June 1959 at his home in Pietermaritzburg. He was a retired Cartage Contractor at the time of his death and was survived by his wife (she died later that same year) and his children, Jessie Van Der Bosch; William Waugh, Nina Haldane, Elsie Grant, Amy Grant and Flora Flint.
The full photo with names
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