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TOPIC: 4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bde. PoW 11/12/1899 Surprise Hill

4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bde. PoW 11/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46053

  • azyeoman
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The latest acquisition is a KSA, sadly missing it's "mother" the QSA with Cape Colony, Orange Free State, and Defence of Ladysmith clasps. The KSA has only one clasp the SA 1902, which Brown's papers confirm. Interestingly, he was invalided home from 25.7.1900 to 15.12.1901 with a GSW to his right arm. He was promoted to Cpl. on 18.1.1901.

I'd appreciate if anyone who knows the location of Brown's QSA and and SWB (B174318), would please contact me.

William James Brown was born in December, 1878 in Dover and enlisted in Canterbury on 28 December 1896 when he was 18 years old. He was a "boot repairer" and was 5'5" tall with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and red hair. He was C of E. He served in: Crete, Malta, India and at home as well as in South Africa. His mother was Charlotte and he married Maria Cartwright in Dublin on 2.10.1902. The had three children, one born in Malta, a second in Holywood and a third that died in Belfast during infancy.
In WWI, Brown enlisted in the Buffs (E. Kents) in 1914 and went back to the Rifle Brigade in 1915. He was issued a SWB (B174318). He was also given a 100% pension in December 1919 and discharged as unfit for duty due to having TB.

What's odd is that this medal was sold at Tennants on 17.6.2015 with the 1901 clasp too. It was recently sold as a "rare occurance of a single South Africa 1902 clasp" medal. It actually adds up to a single 1902 clasp medal as Brown was in SA from 2.10.1899 to 24/7/1900 and then again from 16.2.1901 to 13.5.1902. BBM states that the recipient would have had to have completed a total of 18 months between 1 January and 31 May 1902; but his papers specifically state that he was awareded the KSA with two (2) clasps, and he only served in SA for 15 months the second time. The KSA roll specifically states he did NOT serve in SA during 1901. It seems that someone took it upon himself to restore the medal to its original state and removed the 1902 clasp between 17 June 2015 when it was sold at Tennants and now.

Aside from Brown's QSA with CC, OFS and DoL clasp, there should be a SWB with this singleton.

A Photo is forthcoming.

Why I find the medal interesting is due to the 2nd Bn. Rifle Brigade being a awarded the "Defence of Ladysmith" clasp and more specifically that he was wounded and taken PoW on Surprise Hill.


The Surprise Hill sortie as written up by South African Military History.

Popular sentiment aside, the dramatic nocturnal action was one of the few positive pieces of war news to have reached the Natal press for some time. The British regulars, for their part, may have basked in the reflected glory of the Gun Hill expedition, but they were indignant at their exclusion from the successful foray, and welcomed the opportunity on 11 December to reap some glory for themselves with a similar, but more ambitious, raid on Surprise Hill/Vaalkop, utilising mainly the Rifle Brigade. The subsequent raid, although also successful, did not proceed as smoothly, and was prosecuted with a high cost in lives. In distant Kimberley, too, a similar attack on 26 November on fortified Boer guns had proven costly.

The casualty roll for Surprise Hill presents an important contrast between the two expeditions that were very similar in conception. For Ithe British, the fourteen killed or mortally wounded, and fifty more wounded, was regarded as a modest price to pay for the opportunity 'to resume their proper function of attack' (McHugh, 1900, p 128; and see Amery (ed), Vol III, p 172 and Churcher, 1984, p 55). The positive effects on propaganda and morale notwithstanding, adverse reaction in colonial circles to Surprise Hill and Colenso, on the other hand, points to concern about the Volunteers becoming involved in British operations that incurred similarly heavy casualties. ( samilitaryhistory.org/vol146mc.html )

The following is a write up in an Australian newspaper of the time:

ANOTHER SORTIE SURPRISE HILL CAPTURED. BRITISH BAYONETS AT' WORK. INFLICTING CONSIDERABLE LOSSES.
Dec. 13.
Another sortie was made from Ladysmith on Sunday night, a report of which has been received from General Sir George White.
Lieutenant-Colonel C. T. Eelin Metcalfe, at the head of 500 men of the second battalion of the Rifle Brigade (the Prince Consort's own), sallied out
on Sunday night and climbed Surprise Hill before the advance was discovered. The troops ejected the enemy, and Lieutenant Digby Jones destroyed the
4.7 howitzer which the Boers had mounted in this favoured position, and with which they had assisted in the bombardment of the town.In retiring, the British bayoneted
their way through Boer ranks, inflicting considerable losses on them. Twelve of the British were killed and 44 wounded, while six who were en trusted with the care of the wounded.
were captured.

Here's the excellent history of the 2nd Bn. from the Anglo Boer War site:

The 2nd Battalion sailed from Crete on the Jelunga on 2nd October 1899, and reached Durban on the 26th. At 3 am on the 30th the battalion got into Ladysmith by rail, and after a hasty meal set out to join the 1st Devon, 1st Manchester, and 2nd Gordons under Ian Hamilton at Limit Hill, north of the town, where Sir George's centre was that day (see 1st Liverpool). The brigade did not have much to do beyond sending help to Colonel Grimwood's brigade on the right or east. During the forenoon the battalion and the 2nd Gordons deployed and lined the crest of Limit Hill, from which they covered the retreat of Grimwood's brigade, they themselves eventually retiring about 3 pm.

From the commencement of the siege the battalion held King's Post and Leicester Post on the north of the town, and, unlike some other battalions, they strained every nerve for weeks to make these posts absolutely unassailable. The rocky nature of the ground, the want of suitable tools, and the fact that many of the diggers had to be on duty in the trenches all night, made the task superlatively difficult Observation Post, about a mile in advance of King's Post, was till 9th November held by a weak detachment of the 5th Lancers, who were attacked on that day, and the Rifle Brigade had to reinforce them. The attack was repulsed. The battalion's losses were 1 officer and 1 man mortally wounded and 4 men wounded. They had now to garrison this post and to set about making it impregnable. One very remarkable piece of work done by the battalion was the keeping down by the Lee-Metford fire of 'sharpshooters, many of whom were officers', of the Boer artillery-fire at ranges between 2000 and 2800 yards. On the morning of 8th December it became known that General Hunter with 600 men of the Imperial Light Horse and Natal Carabiniers had blown up two big guns on Lombard's Kop and captured a maxim. This fired Colonel Metcalfe to do something similar, and he got Sir George's sanction to endeavour to destroy the howitzer on Surprise Hill. On the night of the 9th he reconnoitred the route, and on the 10th at 10 pm started with five companies 2nd Rifle Brigade and a few Engineers under the ever-ready Lieutenant Digby-Jones. The hill-top was reached; after some delay the howitzer was found, not in its emplacement; the explosive was inserted; a fuse was lit, but no explosion happened; another had to be set. This time the gun was destroyed; but meanwhile the Boers had gathered in force on the hillside, and our men had to charge with fixed bayonets, never firing a shot. Many Boers were bayoneted. Colonel Metcalfe lost 1 officer and 11 men killed, 36 wounded, and 10 prisoners or missing, but a bit of good work had been boldly and skilfully executed. Sir George White in his despatch of 23rd March 1900 remarks that "the companies were, on the way back, admirably handled by their captains ... The affair reflects great credit on Lieutenant Colonel C T E Metcalfe and his battalion".

At three on the morning of 6th January the battalion heard the furious rattle of musketry round the southern defences, and about 5.30 they were ordered to send six companies to Caesar's Camp, four miles off, arriving there about seven. Five companies were pushed into the firing line, which was distant from the enemy only 80 yards. "For nearly the whole day the fight raged fiercely, first one side then the other gaining a slight advantage, but we could not succeed in dislodging the Boers" from the south-east of the hill. At 3.30 the enemy tried to rush forward, but were driven back, and shortly afterwards retreated under a heavy fire, "some companies firing their last round". The battalion this day lost 1 officer killed and 1 mortally wounded, and 20 men killed, 5 officers and 32 men wounded. That night officers and men lay on the stricken field soaked and physically wretched, but knowing that another big bit of work had been done. Five officers and 8 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Sir George White's despatch of 23rd March 1900.

On 7th January the battalion was ordered to take over Waggon Hill from the 1st King's Royal Rifles. The Honourable A Dawnay, adjutant of the 2nd battalion, in the account which he gives of the siege, already quoted from, says: "On arriving at Waggon Hill we were not best pleased at our change of quarters; we found none of those snug burrows or palatial residences that we had built with so much care in our old habitation, and the defensive works were few and far between. All the weary digging had to be started afresh, only under more trying conditions, as it all had to be done by night, it being quite impossible to attempt anything of the sort by day, since we were continually exposed to shrapnel at the convenient range of 3200 yards. Quite two miles of front had to be fortified, but in a very short time a complete set of works made their appearance, continuous sangars occupied a large portion of our front, wire entanglements were laid down all round the front of our position, and abattis made in places".

Perhaps the King's Royal Rifles thought that they did all the digging desirable, but various writers support the statements contained in the quotation. General Ian Hamilton has almost a faultless record in the campaign. He added to his reputation on the 6th January, but it does seem almost a fault that he allowed the battalions occupying Waggon Hill and Caesar's Camp to sit there without working at their defences as their brethren on the north side of Ladysmith were doing.

After the relief of Ladysmith the garrison was given a period to rest and recuperate, and never did men deserve that more. They were ready to go forward when General Buller moved north, and the 2nd Rifle Brigade were brigaded under General Walter Kitchener with the 1st Devon, 1st Manchester, and 2nd Gordons. In the fighting at Rooi Kopjes, 24th July, and Amersfoort, 7th August, the battalion took no prominent part, but they were to get a great opportunity in good time. When the force arrived at Geluk, 23rd August, it was evident the Boers were about to make a stand. On the 26th, at a conference between Lord Roberts and General Buller, it was arranged that the troops of the latter, being the old Ladysmith garrison, should attack the enemy's position on the 27th.

The position was an extremely strong one, stretching for miles on either side of the Belfast-Koomati Poort Railway. Bergendal, by which name the battle has become known, is the name of a farm, the house and buildings of which are situated on, or rather a little to the east of, a kopje. This kopje and the buildings, which were seen to be strongly held, lie to the south of the railway and to the west of a long ridge or series of kopjes running roughly north and south. These ridges seem to have been the Boer main position. They had guns on these as well as on the hills north of the railway. Sir Redvers decided that Bergendal kopje must be the first point attacked. It was slightly isolated, and formed a definite objective. He placed the Manchester Regiment, four naval 12-pounders, two 4'7 guns, two 5-inch guns, the 61st Howitzer Battery, and the 21st Battery on a ridge lying south of, and roughly parallel to, a line drawn from Bergendal to the Boer main positions. The 42nd Battery was farther to the right of the Manchesters. A Battery RHA and the 53rd RFA fired from a point about one and a half mile north of the other artillery and close to the railway. For three hours these guns kept up a furious fire on the buildings and kopje, but the Boers would not shift. The infantry were then ordered to assault, the 2nd Rifle Brigade to attack from near where the A Battery was—that is, from the west—the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from near the main artillery position, or the south. Between these battalions were the 1st Bevon and 2nd Gordons in support. The Rifle Brigade being extended to about ten paces, had reached a point 800 yards west of the kopje when there opened a terrific rifle-fire both from the kopje and from hills north of the railway. The attackers lay down, then after a great effort by our artillery the Rifle Brigade again advanced by rushes, and "there never was a waver from start to finish". The Boers of course bolted, but a pom-pom complete and 19 prisoners were taken: 14 of their dead were found. The Rifle Brigade lost 3 officers killed or mortally wounded, and 21 riflemen killed or died of wounds; 7 officers and 63 men were wounded. The losses of the other battalions were very slight. Many heroic deeds were done in the assault. Rifleman Durrant for carrying Corporal Weller a distance of 200 yards under a very heavy fire got the VC.

General Buller said: "The honours of the assault belong to the Rifle Brigade, as they had to attack that part of the kopje which had been most protected from our artillery-fire; but all the troops did splendidly, and the carrying of such a position, held as it was by resolute men (the famous Johannesburg Zarps), will always remain present to the minds of those who witnessed it as a most gallant feat of arms". After referring to the excellent way the maxims were handled and other dispositions made, Sir Redvers remarks: "The loss of the post at Bergendal led to the enemy abandoning in great haste the whole of their immensely strong position about Dalmanutha, and forced them to withdraw in great confusion beyond Machadodorp. In fact the capture of Bergendal by the Rifle Brigade and Inniskilling Fusiliers cleared the whole of the high veldt of the enemy".

Six officers and 8 non-commissioned officers and men of the 2nd Rifle Brigade were mentioned in General Buller's despatch of 13th September. Four officers and 3 non-commissioned officers were also mentioned in his final despatch.

The battalion crossed the railway along with General Buller and moved north towards Lydenburg, which, after some fighting, they reached on 7th September, and in that district they remained for a considerable time. Henceforth they were to have plenty of work and a fair amount of hardship, but they were to see no fighting to be compared with Bergendal. During the remainder of the campaign they were employed in the Eastern Transvaal. In March 1901 three companies accompanied Colonel Park on a night raid on Kruger's Post, which was entirely successful. In April the battalion was put into a column under General W Kitchener, and for the next three months did much hard marching, chiefly north of the Delagoa Railway. About the end of July 1901 the battalion took over a number of posts about Middelburg and garrisoned these for a long period.
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4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bgd. PoW 10/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46055

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John
Congratulations on acquiring a real prize, even though it is much diminished by the absence of other medals and the SWB. A medal to a Surprise Hill casualty must be a target for all Ladysmith Siege collectors. I hope that you manage to make at least some re-unites.
Thank you for posting this story, and for another view of the Surprise Hill raid.
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4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bgd. PoW 10/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46061

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Hello John

An interesting KSA indeed, a shame the clasps have been played with. No rivets to inspect!

The KSA medal roll states he served from 16-12-1901 - this is the date he embarked in the UK, no medals til Cape Town! But I believe time on board ship counted towards SA service. The 18 month rule for service in SA was flexed for casualties such as Brown who were invalided home - he was granted sick furlough to 23-11-1900 which counted towards SA service - ~13 months from October 1899. The KSA clearly states "no service in SA 1901".

He did not earn any medals for WW1 service, the SWB roll states he did not go overseas, so three less medals to search for. :)

I have not logged the QSA, the SWB will be jolly hard to find.

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Meurig
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The Register of the Anglo-Boer Wars 1899-1902
theangloboerwars.blogspot.co.uk/
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4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bgd. PoW 10/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46068

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Hi Meurig, Thanks very much for your research and it clarifies Brown's paperwork. : )

Thanks for looking him up on the KSA medal roll! So, from what you say, it's indeed a one clasp (SA-02) KSA. That's good to know. As for WWI, he enlisted in the E. Kents (Buffs) as a Pte. S/13654 and served at home from 5.10.1914 to 1.4.1915 and was discharged for "not being likely to become an efficient solder" at 36+ years old. The cause of his discharge was, "Tubercle of lung", which "Probably originated at Kildunna-summer 1913. Patient has had bronchitis for several winters. This year when on musketry course he had severe cough. I suspect a slight lession TB at right apex. His chronic bronchitis has practically cleared up. TB was twice found in his sputum" Med Bd - Not the result of service or climate permanent prevents 2. Record GS Wound of rt arm in South Africa - incapacity due to wound alone estimated at 1/4." This was dated 9.11.1912. On a subsequent page, it was written, "Dis docs showeing he re-enld on 4.8.15 into the Rifle Brigade and was invalided 1.3.1916. Rifleman S/13654 Service 4/12 Char good AFB 2042/27.1.1916. Tubercle of Lungs - active. Cough night sweats, crepitations and signs of excavation right apex. TB present in sputum not result of military service. Report from OC 14th Bn Rifle Brigade d 1/8/1916" The boards decision was "no grounds for increase". and this was dated 11/10/1916.

So in summary, it appears that Brown enlisted in the Buffs, and was discharged and then reenlisted in the Rifle Brigade and was discharge again due to TB and it appears that's why he was given only the SWB (B174318), which along with his QSA is missing.

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4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bgd. PoW 10/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46076

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Hello John

No worries, just the sort of info. that is on my website.

When verifying single clasp KSAs the KSA medal roll is an absolute must as it is the only document I have seen which lays out clearly dates served and states if sick furlough was granted on account of wounds or illness.

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theangloboerwars.blogspot.co.uk/

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4723 Pte. W. Brown, Rifle Bgd. PoW 10/12/1899 Surprise Hill 3 years 3 months ago #46077

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Hi John

An excellent write-up !!

I was fortunate in obtaining medals to 2 participants in the Surprise Hill episode: the QSA to Hibberd some 16 years ago and the pair to Godfrey in 2006. However, I labelled them for 11 Dec 1899.



Henk
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