Just a quick question regarding the battle for Wagon Hill and Ceasar Camp. I think the Leicesters were on Observation Hill, however I am interested in my next QSA purchase which states the recipient was wounded on Wagon Hill. Private J Richardson 4987. SAFF has him down as wounded but no mention of Wagon Hill although his date is the 6th Jan. Initial C not J recorded.
Your thoughts and information would be most welcome
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
Observation Hill is north of the town. Here's the Times history map of the siege, showing [green arrow] the attack by the Pretoria Cdo on Observation Hill 6 Jan 1900; and the view from Observation Hill towards Spion Kop.
The Boers called Observation Hill "Red Fort".
Deneys Reitz was involved in the diversionary attack on Red Fort, and describes the costly attack in vivid detail, beginning: "four hundred Pretoria men were to create a diversion by falling upon our old friend the Red Fort in order to draw off the enemy’s attention from the main objective while the Freestaters attacked Wagon Hill...
You can read Reitz's account free online, for example here:
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
Interesting poem from the Leicester regiment archive. Apologies for the composers one sidedness bias account.
Your thoughts welcome regarding a possible 70 men from the Leicesters on Wagon Hill?
Henry Keogh initially attested for the 3rd (Reserve)
Battalion of The Leicestershire Regiment on 13.4.1896. He was just 19 years old, under 5ft 9in tall, with a fresh complexion and brown hair. He was working for a shoe manufacturer in Humberstone Gate, Leicester. Before a month had passed he had re-attested and joined 1st Battalion The Leicestershire Regiment on 8.5.1896 as Private 4640. He served at home from 8.5.1896 to 28.4.1898 when he was posted to South Africa. Henry fought in the Second Boer War in 1st Bn. By the end of the Boer War Henry had been promoted to Lance-Corporal. He wrote a poem about the siege of Ladysmith. He was awarded the Queen’s South African Medal (with clasps for Talana, Defence of Ladysmith, Laing’s Nek, and Belfast) and the King’s South Africa Medal (with clasps 1901, 1902). He moved with the Bn to India in 1903, and left India in 1906 and arrived home on HMT Dongola on 10.11.1906. He died in 1910, and is buried in Gilroes Cemetery, Leicester.
The Siege of Ladysmith – composed on the field.
What tell you about the siege? It makes my blood run cold
To think how we defended Ladysmith against those warriors bold,
For one hundred and eighteen days without a flinch or tire
We kept those brutes at bay not heeding their heavy fire.
It was early in November for burial they put up their flag,
We gave them sufficient time respecting the white rag,
But instead up went their guns on north, south, east and west,
And to take our little garrison they tries their very best.
The bombardment now commenced, they meant to win the day,
Although they were five to one we kept the Boers at bay,
They had a pom-pom on Gun Hill which commanded near and far,
But this place was bravely checked by the Devons on Helpmakaar.
Now on Pepworths next to Gun Hill they had a silent gun,
But one shell from our Navy lads would make the beggars run,
The Leicesters, Liverpools, Devons and Glosters for months worked night and day
To defend east of our garrison and were nearest in the fray.
Although three thousand yards from their favourite gun Long Tom,
They had hard work to hit us, their range was always wrong,
The Leicesters and our Artillery of their services I must boast
Back corps in turn checked Paul’s race not far from Leicester Post.
Now here’s to our Navy lads, our Jolly Tars in blue,
But for their services in Ladysmith I don’t know what we’d do
Their quick firing forty pounds the …………………. borne
Good luck to them when they’re on the shore and when they’re on the foam(y brine).
Now the Boers on Surprise Hill some two thousand yards away
Here their quick firers was silenced by our R.A.
This gun was a four point seven of late improvement made,
It was charged and blown to atoms by the Leicesters and Rifle Brigade.
Now we travel west again, here we have the Boer
Hiding behind a rock as he was in the days of yore,
Six thousand yards on Blown Bank their guns they worked with zeal,
But they never charged us, they were afraid of our Maxim and our steel.
Now this position was commanded by the popular K.R.R.
On Riflemans Post, Leicesters Post and Craggs Post afar,
Hand in hand with our R.A. and Cavalry so true
We defended little Ladysmith and the Boers know it too.
Now south of our garrison is Wagon Hill, I remember well the date,
The Boers came on us in thousands, here brave Cunningham met his fate,
Sixth of January, two thirty a.m, in the sangar back to back
Seventy of us held our own when they made the fierce attack.
There was rifle, Mauser and Maxim fire whistling over our head,
And when the guns commenced to play the sound ne’er woke the dead,
The fight went on seventeen and a half hours in the blinding hail and rains,
It was here the brave Devonshire lads earned themselves a name.
The Boers rushed our sangar dressed in our clothes, ‘Hands up’ was their cry,
They little knew that very day that scores of them was to die,
Our troops had to fall back till reinforcements came,
Then a gallant charge by the Devons drove them back again.
Now on this hill the Manchersters, Gordons and R.A.
The Rifles and our Volunteers bravely fought that day,
The 18th Hussars charged with their swords when infantry there were nil,
And the Boers won’t forget in a hurry their attack on Wagon Hill.
Now here’s to our plucky Volunteers who fought against the Transvaal,
Their bravery and services are a credit to Natal,
To reconnoiter, scout or fight, the Vols were always near,
The first in the relief of Ladysmith was our dashing Volunteer.
Now our infantry did excellent works, likewise our Jolly Tars,
I must mention here the services of the 18th and 19th Hussars,
Them devils with knifes on sticks, those Boers would say Great Scott those curs would dance
When charged by our gallant cavalry lads with either sword or lance.
Now sixteen of the Manchesters were put to a terrible test,
They fought from early morning till the sun sank in the west,
Strongly surrounded on their right and left, they fought on without fear,
Their bravery we’ll ne’er forget, those sixteen from Lancashire.
Crack, Crack, went their Lee Metfords, those sixteen heroes brave,
When fourteen of them fell and found a soldier’s grave,
The surviving two like lions fought, against those treacherous cads,
We raise our hats in reverence of those fourteen Lancashire lads.
The services of our Lancers, they’re mentioned with renown,
We can’t forget the bravery of the little Harp and Crown,
The Irish 5th would make them trek in numbers often large,
They’ve a fond affection for the 5th especially in a charge.
Now during all this time our food was getting small,
And through weakness our garrison began to reel and fall,
Hospitals crowded here and there, on fever beds they lay
And having no medical comforts we buried ten a day.
Now our cavalry in January commenced duty on their feet,
They gave their horses for food and steak and potted meat,
Soups and Chevril, ham and tongue better were we fed,
We laugh at times when we think about our mute friends Paddy and Ned.
Now if we hadn’t this horseflesh our strength would hardly last,
I could gradually see my comrades to skeletons wasting fast,
But each man rose up bravely in the sangar day and night
Though starved with hunger, in possession of British pluck and might.
Hark, big guns are sounding, we listen on with joy,
In the distance shells area bursting, brave Buller is drawing nigh,
Good God he’s had to retire, strongly opposed all round
And this he had to do through the nature of the ground.
The Boers were strongly entrenched in positions high and low,
But we all had faith in Sir Redvers though advancing very slow,
For three long months he fought his ground we heard close by
And he moved those treacherous Boers from Tugela Heights so high.
Over veld they trekked, for mercy they did yell,
But General Buller gave them the Hanay ….ite shell,
Each position was abandoned, in thousands here they fled,
Not caring about their wounded, to the winds left their dead.
This was Feb the twenty seventh and on the following day
The Boers were trying their uttermost to get Long Tom away,
Ping went our Lady Ann and bang bang went our R.A.
We gave them a jolly sendoff on that memorial day.
Hark we hear great cheering, Oh God are we deceived
No, no it is Lord Dundonald with the Vols, Ladysmith relieved!
The cheering rang through our garrison form Wagon Hill afar,
Round about our outposts finishing at Helpmakaar.
I haven’t much more to say but we bless Sir Redver’s brave,
And may God bless the souls of his gallant men who are laid low in the grave,
The Boers tried hard to check him but Britons never yield,
He passed Tugela Majuba avenged, the Boers drom ne’er sealed.
Long life to General Sir G. White, a General we adore,
Hunter, Howard and Hamilton and comrades of each corp,
They defended little Ladysmith, to each we’ll give a toast,
For the Boers couldn’t get our garrison after all their brag and boast.
Now here’s to our Army and Navy. Likewise our Volunteers,
Our Militia and our Yeomanry, for each we give three cheers,
And if foreign nations interfere as in days gone by we’ve seen
We are ready to fight and die for our country and our Queen.
Date of Birth : 13.2.1878
Place of Birth : Aylestone, Leicester
Date of Death : 16.12.1910
Place of Death : Leicester
Civil Occupation : shoe manufacturer in Humberstone Gate, Leicester
Period of Service : 1896-1906
Conflicts : Boer War
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, Moranthorse1
When the poet says "Seventy of us..." one might take this as meaning "70 of us British soldiers...".
As far as I know, the garrison on Wagon Hill during the night of 5-6 Jan 1900 did not include any Leicesters, who were at Observation Hill. During the 6th Jan, the Leicesters were not brought to Wagon Hill as reserves, being fully engaged where they were.
The battle is described in great Detail in Maurice Vol 2 Ch 31
"Only against Observation Hill was there anything like a serious attack. Here the enemy advanced boldly under cover of a sustained bombardment, pressing on to within a few yards of the trenches, only to be
beaten back with considerable* loss by the detachment of the 1st Devon regiment, supported by three companies 1st Leicester regiment, and the guns of the 69th battery. Nevertheless, a heavy shell fire fell into nearly every British position about the town, and all the troops were kept in their sangars throughout
I could be wrong, but my hunch is that your man was a casualty at Observation Hill.
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
I've been loking at this again as Richardson's QSA has surfaced with the words "confirmed casualty" Wagon Hill.
I can't find any reference, even in the newspapers, that the Leicesters were involved at Wagon Hill.
As to the poem, "Seventy of us held our own when they made the fierce attack.", I agree with Rob, that is the Royal "us", i.e. the British soldier.
What is more interesting and potentially confusing is the role of the Devons, three companies charged at Wagon Hill, and according to some they were engaged at Observation Hill. Steve Watt states two Devons killed Jan 6 were at Observation Hill. I've not looked closely into the sources for this.
I have read more often that the Gloucesters, Leicesters and Liverpool were engaged on Observation, not the Devons.