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TOPIC: Medals to Montmorency's Scouts

Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 11 months 3 days ago #65095

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Montmorency's Scouts was raised by Captain De Montmorency VC, 21st Lancers, in December 1899.

The medal roll in WO100/259 pages 87 to 94 lists 112 names. Volume 5 of the Times History gives their number at 100. The roll header suggests 56 medals and 126 clasps were issued.

Creswicke (Vol 3, chapter3) records an action for Captain De Montmorency but it is not clear whether the scouts has been formed at this time (24 December 1899(.

Owing to a series of successful skirmishes, in which a patrol under Captain de Montmorency, V.C., was engaged, the Boers thought discretion the better part of valour, and cleared out of Dordrecht, with the result that on the 24th of December Colonel Dalgety, of the Cape Mounted Rifles, with his force occupied the town.

But by the 29th, they were an discrete unit:

On the 29th [December], a pouring day, Captain de Montmorency started with his scouts and thirty Cape Mounted Rifles in hope of catching the enemy. But the Boers, under cover of the mist, took themselves off in the direction of the Barkly East district.

Creswicke reports another engagement on 30th December, giving the unit strength as 110:

On the 30th of December a hundred of Flannigan's Squadron of Brabant's Horse had a smart brush with an equal number of Dutchmen, retired, but unfortunately Lieutenant Milford Turner and twenty-seven men were left behind in a donga which none would leave, determining to remain there and protect Lieutenant Warren of Brabant's Horse, who was wounded. To their assistance went Captain Goldsworthy the next day, accompanied by Captain de Montmorency's scouts, 110 men, and four guns. These arrived on the scene so early as to surprise the Boers, who, after having been kept at bay by the small force of Colonials, had continued to snipe at them from a distance throughout the night. A sharp fight now ensued, and, after some clever manoeuvring on both sides, the enemy retired with the loss of eight killed, while the party in the donga was relieved, and returned in safety to Dordrecht. The rescue was highly exciting, as the Boers were finally sent helter-skelter just as our men, worn out with a night's anxiety in the nullah, had almost given up hope of release. As it was, they were restored to their friends in camp amid a storm of cheers.

Later, Creswicke notes:

Though General Gatacre's Division was merely the shadow of the division it should have been, and his strength, such as it was, materially thinned by reverse, he had at his elbow one man who was a host in himself. This man was Captain de Montmorency. He kept the Boers who were holding Stormberg in a simmering state of excitement and suspense. He and his active party of scouts were perpetually reconnoitring and skirmishing and emerging from very tight corners, getting back to camp by what in vulgar phrase is called "the skin of their teeth." One of these narrow escapes was experienced on the i6th January, when Captain de Montmorency and his men went out from Molteno to gain information regarding the whereabouts of the enemy. A smart combat was the result of their efforts, and when they were almost surrounded Major Heylen with sixty Police came to the rescue, and the whole force, after some animated firing, returned safely to Molteno, plus horses, mares, foals, and oxen, which had been captured from the enemy.

Black and White Budget (13 January 1900) commented:

Captajn de Montmorency, who is the commander of some mounted scouts with General Gatacre's force, is showing the great value of horsemen in fighting the Boers. As soon as the enemy find themselves out-flanked by Montmorency's men, they make a very hurried movement to the rear, and the fight is over so far as they are concerned. Captain Montmorency is the hero of the 21st Lancers, and won the Victoria Cross at Omdurman in 1898 by returning, after the charge, for the dead body of Lieutenant Grenfell, and carrying it off from among the enemy. He is the eldest son and heir of Major-General Viscount Frankfort de Montmorency, while his mother is the daughter of a Field-Marshal.

Black and White Budget (24 February 1900) reported an engagement at Sterkstroom:

While these operations were going on, General Gatacre was repelling a well-organised Boer attack at Sterkstroom. A feint at Penhoek was followed by a desperate attempt, supported by three guns, to capture our position at Bird's River. The Boers tried to capture a ridge which commanded our right, but were frustrated by a neat move on the part of Company A of the Royal Scots. The brunt of the fighting was then borne by the Cape Mounted Rifles and a Battery of Field Artillery, till Montmorency's Scouts and a company of Brabant's Horse, followed closely by the Royal Irish Rifles, came up to reinforce, and made it so hot for the Boers that they fled precipitately.

Unbeknown to B&W, De Montmorency was killed a day before their issued was published. Maurice gives more information on his death:

While the Colonial division was thus employed on the right front of the Illrd division, which on the 11th February numbered approximately 5,300 officers and men, Lieut.-General Gatacre ordered a reconnaissance on the 23rd February, to ascertain the truth of rumours that, in consequence of Lord Roberts' invasion of the Free State, the Boers were falling back from Stormberg. Five companies of the Derbyshire with one machine gun, and the 74th and 77th batteries, Royal Field artillery (four guns each), were posted north of Pienaar's Farm, while the mounted troops, numbering about 450, and consisting of De Montmorency's Scouts, four companies mounted infantry, and a party of Cape Mounted Rifles, were ordered to scout to the front as far as the height overlooking Van Goosen's Farm, and to try to lure the enemy towards the position occupied by the guns and the infantry. The scouts were fired on from a ridge held by the burghers ; their advance was checked, and General Gatacre, finding that the Boers were not to be tempted forward, ordered a general withdrawal. The reconnaissance was not effected without loss. About 10.30 a.m. Captain the Hon. R. H. L. J. De Montmorency, V.C., 21st Lancers, had mounted a small kopje, accompanied by Lieut. -Colonel F. H. Hoskier, 3rd Middlesex Volunteer artillery, Mr. Vice, a civilian, and a corporal, when sudden fire at short range was poured into the little party, and De Montmorency, Hoskier and Vice were killed. This was not at once known to those behind, who for a time were left without orders. The enemy's fire was so heavy that until 3.30 p.m. it was impossible to extricate the remainder of the scouts. The losses in De Montmorency's small corps were two officers and four rank and file killed, two rank and file wounded, one officer and five other ranks missing, of whom two were known to have been wounded. The result of the day's operations, in Lieut.-General Gatacre's opinion, tended to show that the enemy's force at Stormberg had diminished

On the day Roberts entered Bloemfontein, The Times History reported :

That same day Captain Hennessey, of the Cape Police, and Captain Turner, of De Montmorency's Scouts, hearing that the railway was intact to Springfontein, rode the 30 miles to the junction on a trolley, surprised eight Boers asleep in the station and disarmed them, and next day brought back to Bethulie two engines and over 40 trucks, the prize of their daring exploit.

Of Montmorency's Scouts, Stirling says "Their work during the next three months [from December 1899] was constantly referred to in terms of praise by Major Pollock and other writers on the operations in Central Cape Colony. In the last fortnight of December and in January they did particularly well. The corps lost their gallant leader in a skirmish near Stormberg on 23rd February 1900. It is said that he fired eleven shots after being mortally wounded.

Captain M'Neill, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who had been aide-de-camp to General Gatacre, succeeded to the command of the scouts on Montmorency's death.

When the Boers had been driven from the neighbourhood of the Orange, the corps took part in the operations for the relief of Wepener. They were in the advance to the Transvaal, and were among the first troops to gallop into Pretoria.

After Pretoria was occupied, Montmorency's Scouts were split up. In July a detachment served in the column of Lieutenant General Ian Hamilton, which did much hard work marching and fighting, both east and west of Pretoria, during July, August, and September 1900.


Spink sold a QSA to Montmorency's Scouts last week. Their description which was inaccurate regarding the number of medals issued given the information above read;

Montmorency’s Scouts took their name from the legendary ‘Omdurman V.C.’, Captain Raymond Harvey Lodge Joseph de Montmorency, who was killed during the action at Stormberg on 23 February 1900. A hand-picked - and feared - body of scouts, they caused some unrest within the Regular Army with their ‘skull and crossbones’ flag. Conan Doyle described their fight at Stormberg:

‘On February 23rd he (Gatacre) re-occupied Molteno, and on the same day sent out a force to reconnoitre the enemy’s position at Stormberg. The incident is memorable as having been the cause of death of Captain de Montmorency, one of the most promising of the younger officers of the British Army. He had formed a corps of scouts, consisting originally of four men, but soon expended to seventy or eighty. At the head of these men he confirmed his reputation for desperate valour which he had won in the Sudan and added to it proofs of enterprise and judgement which go to make a leader of light cavalry. In the course of the reconnaissance he ascended a small kopje … “They are right on top of us,” he cried to his comrades, as he reached the summit, and dropped next instant with a bullet in his heart. The rest of the scouts, being farther back, were able to get to cover and to keep up a fight until they were extricated by the remainder of the force. Altogether our loss was formidable rather in quality than in quantity, for not more than a dozen were hit, while the Boers suffered considerably from the fire of our guns.’

Byrne, his soldier servant, an Omdurman V.C. like his master, galloped madly off next morning with a saddled horse to bring back his Captain alive or dead, and had to be forcibly seized and restrained
by our cavalry’ (The Great Boer War, refers).

x633 Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (Scout W. A. Robinson. Montmorency’s Scouts.), good very fine and rare £120-160

Very few medals were issued named to Montmorency’s Scouts, perhaps around 20.
Dr David Biggins

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Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 11 months 3 days ago #65096

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City Coins catalogue 18, circa 1973, contained this entry:

108. MONTMORENCY'S SCOUTS: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal. to Scout M. Lightbourne. VF

An extremely rare South African unit.
The first recorded.

Sold for 81 Rand.
Dr David Biggins

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Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 11 months 3 days ago #65097

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The medal to Robinson which Spink sold last week was sold by City Coins #54, December 2004

166. – bars: CC, OFS, Tvl Scout W. A. Robinson
Montmorency’s Scouts.
EF 3.500-4.500
A most desirable unit.
Dr David Biggins

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Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 11 months 3 days ago #65103

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Two QSAs named to Montmorency's Scouts



Dr David Biggins
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Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 10 months 1 week ago #65517

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Picture courtesy of DNW

DCM Ed VII (Cpl. C. Roberts. Montmorency’s Scouts) official correction to unit having been gazetted as ‘Montgomery’s Scouts’;
QSA (3) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (Cpl. C. Roberts. Montmorency’s Scts.);
KSA (2) (1104 Serjt. C. R. Roberts. Frontier L.H.);
BWM & VM (1A2nd C./W.O. C. R. Roberts, 3rd S.A.I.)

DCM London Gazette 19 April 1901. The recommendation for the D.C.M. was submitted to the King on 18 April 1901 and the award was duly approved in AO 163/01 - the original submission erroneously listed his unit as ‘Montgomery’s Scouts’, an error that was corrected in a subsequent submission dated 3 August 1901. Official submissions aside, the best description of events at Dewetsdorp in April 1900 is that submitted by Winston Churchill on 22 May 1900, in his capacity as a war correspondent for the Morning Post:

‘A few days before, in an unguarded moment, I had promised to follow the fortunes of the Scouts for a day. I looked at the Boers, they were nearer to the white stone kopje than we but, on the other hand, they had a hill to climb, and were probably worse mounted.

It might be done, and if it were done - I thought of the affair of Acton Homes - how dearly they would have to pay in that open plain. So in the interests of the Morning Post I got on my horse and we all started - forty or fifty Scouts, McNeill and I, as fast as we could, by hard spurring, make the horses go.

It was from the very beginning a race, and recognised as such by both sides. As we converged I saw five leading Boers, better mounted than their comrades, outpacing the others in a desperate resolve to secure the coign of vantage.

I said, ‘We cannot do it,’ but no one would admit defeat or leave the matter undecided. The rest is exceedingly simple.

We arrived at a wire fence 100 yards - to be accurate 120 yards - from the crest of the kopje, dismounted and, cutting the wire, were about to seize the precious rock when - as I had seen them in the railway at Frere cutting, grim, hairy and terrible - the heads and shoulders of a dozen Boers appeared; and how many more must be close behind them.

There was a queer, almost inexplicable pause, or perhaps there was no pause at all, but I seem to remember much happening. First the Boers - one fellow with a long, drooping, black beard and a chocolate-coloured coat, another with a red scarf round his neck. Two Scouts cutting the wire fence stupidly. One man taking aim across his horse, and McNeill’s voice quite steady. ‘Too late; back to the other kopje. Gallop.’

Then the musketry crashed out, and the ‘swish’ and ‘whirr’ of the bullets filled the air.

I put my foot in the stirrup. The horse, terrified at the firing, plunged wildly. I tried to spring into the saddle. It turned under the animal’s belly. He broke away and galloped madly off.

Most of the Scouts were already 200 yards off. I was alone, dismounted, within the closest range, and a mile at least from cover of any kind.

One consolation I had - my pistol. I could not be hunted down unarmed in the open as I had been before. But a disabling wound was the brightest prospect.

I turned and, for the second time in this war, ran for my life on foot from the Boer marksmen, and I thought to myself, ‘Here at last I take it.’

Suddenly, as I ran, I saw a Scout [Roberts]. He came from the left across my front; a tall man, with skull and crossbones, on a pale horse. Death in Revelations, but life for me.

I shouted to him as he passed; ‘Give me a stirrup.’ To my surprise he stopped at once. ‘Yes,’ he said shortly. I ran up to him, did not bungle the business mounting, and in a moment found myself behind him on the saddle.

Then we rode. I put my arms round him to catch a grip of the man. My hand had become soaked with blood. The horse was hard hit; but, gallant beast, he extended himself nobly. The pursuing bullets piped and whistled - for the range was growing longer - overhead.

‘Don’t be frightened,’ said my rescuer, ‘they won’t hit you.’ Then, as I did not reply, ‘My poor horse, oh, my poor horse; shot with an explosive bullet. The devils! But their hour will come. Oh, my poor horse.’

I said, ‘Never mind, you’ve saved my life.’ ‘Ah,’ he rejoined, ‘but it’s the horse I’m thinking about.’ That was the whole of our conversation.

Judging from the number of bullets I heard I did not expect to be hit after the first 500 yards were covered, for a galloping horse is a difficult target, and the Boers were breathless and excited. But it was with a feeling of relief that I turned the corner of the further kopje and found that I had thrown double sixes again.

The result of the race had been watched with strained attention by the rest of the troops, and from their position they knew that we were beaten before we ever reached the wire fence. They had heard the fierce crackle of musketry and had seen what had passed.

All the officers were agreed that the man who pulled up in such a situation to help another was worthy of some honourable distinction. Indeed, I have heard that Trooper Roberts - note the name, which seems familiar in this connection - is to have his claims considered for the Victoria Cross. As to this I will not pronounce, for I feel some diffidence in writing impartially of a man who certainly saved me from a great danger.’

As stated above, Roberts was awarded the D.C.M. in April 1901, but in the years leading up to the Great War, he made a formal submission to the War Office to get his decoration upgraded to a Victoria Cross. He also wrote to Churchill regarding the same matter, the latter replying to him on 10 December 1913:

‘Dear Sir,

I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter enclosing a copy of correspondence with the War Office relative to your recommendation for the Victoria Cross.

I need not say that I have myself very great admiration for the coolness and courage with which you assisted me at Dewetsdorp. I have always felt that unless you had taken me up on your saddle, I should myself certainly have been killed or captured, and I spoke myself very strongly to General Rundle on your behalf.

I was very glad to see you had received the Distinguished Service Medal (sic) - a decoration of very great distinction and honour.

I fear it would be quite impossible to get the Authorities to reconsider their decision about the Victoria Cross, so many men have done brave actions in the war and especially when so many of the mounted branch have picked up dismounted comrades, that the Authorities have found it difficult to discriminate among them. Unless the General in the Field sends up a recommendation for the Victoria Cross, it is not possible for the War Office to award it; and at this distance of time, I do not think that Sir Leslie Rundle is likely to alter his decision; and if he did alter it, I do not see what grounds he would show for his change of mind.

The Victoria Cross is a decoration often very capriciously awarded and there is a great deal of chance in its distribution, but the Distinguished Service Medal (sic) is much prized and respected in the Army, and you will no doubt find it a satisfactory memento of what was, beyond all question, a very faithful and self sacrificing action on your part.

Let me, at this distance of time once again thank you for the service you rendered me.

Yours very truly

Winston S. Churchill’

In Churchill - Wanted Dead or Alive, Celia Sandys discusses her grandfather’s rescue at Dewetsdorp, her research having taken her to Durban, where she met Roberts’ daughter. From her she discovered the reason for the Montmorency Scouts transparent and touching concern for his injured mount - it was, in fact, his own horse “Rajah”, which he had bred and raised on his farm before the War. She also raises the issue of Roberts’ reward, stating that Churchill took up the matter with the High Commission in Johannesburg six years after the events that led to the award of his D.C.M. It is also clear from other sources that Churchill sent his rescuer a £10 cheque in later years, quite possibly forwarding it with the above quoted letter in December 1913.

Clement Richard Roberts enrolled in the Frontier Light Horse on 6 March, 1901, after the disbandment of Montmorency’s Scouts, and was finally discharged in the rank of Sergeant in June 1902. But he rejoined the Colours in the Great War, when he served in the 3rd South African Infantry until being discharged as a Warrant Officer 2nd Class in March 1918. He was awarded the Silver War Badge on the same occasion.

Note: Montmorency’s Scouts, strength 100, was raised by Captain the Hon. R. De Montmorency, V.C., 21st Lancers, in December 1899. Montmorency had earned his Victoria Cross for gallantry in his regiment’s famous charge at Omdurman the previous year. He was killed in a skirmish near Stormberg on 23 February 1900, when, it is said, he fired eleven shots after being mortally wounded. For services during the Boer War the unit won two D.S.O’s. and two D.C.M’s, all medals named to this unit being extremely rare.
Dr David Biggins
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Medals to Montmorency's Scouts 10 months 1 week ago #65540

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Sold in 2010 for 32,000 pounds!

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