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TOPIC: 5462 Cpl. S. Jones PoW Helvetia 29/12/1900

5462 Cpl. S. Jones PoW Helvetia 29/12/1900 3 years 6 months ago #44681

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King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902, 2 Clasps: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902; (5462 CORPL: S. JONES. LIVERPOOL REGT)

A King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902, 2 Clasps: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902, awarded to Corporal S. Jones, 1st Battalion, Liverpool Regiment, who was present during the Boer War in South Africa, and was taken prisoner of war at Helvetia on 29th December 1900 before being released by the Boers during a prisoner exchange.

Part of Buller's force long continued to garrison Lydenburg and the posts between that town and the railway. One of the posts, Helvetia, close to the line, was garrisoned by about 250 men of the Liverpools with a 4-7 naval gun (called the Lady Roberts) when the place was attacked and captured by a strong force of Boers on 29th December 1900. In his telegraphic despatch Lord Kitchener described Helvetia as a "very strong post", and he seemed to be surprised at its capture. Our losses were 11 men killed, 4 officers and 20 men wounded, and the remainder taken prisoners. No official explanation of the loss of the post has ever been made public, and from some points of view this is a matter of regret, as the incident, left as it is, tarnishes the reputation of a regiment which had done very good work. Very probably a few individuals were responsible for the Boers getting in; and it has been said that in any event there is very good ground for believing that it would be better for the regiment involved, and for the service generally, if the result of the official inquiry in such a case were published.

Here is another site that sheds light on the events and according to it, the Kings had been drinking and so didn't account very well for themselves. An excerpt is:

"Two hundred and thirty-four men of the Liverpool regiment marched in a long irregular file behind the gun. When the Boers had overrun the fort and the commanding officer was wounded, many of the Liverpools had filled their water bottles from the garrison’s barrels of rum. Some were already too drunk to walk, while others offered swigs to their captors. As the motley procession staggered up a long hill, thunder and lightning made the sky crackle. The air turned solid with rain. The gun team of 18 oxen struggled and slithered in the mud. Knots of unguarded prisoners followed along, not inclined to run off into the sodden veld. During the height of the downpour Schikkerling and a comrade named Malherbe dismounted and sheltered themselves under their blankets. When they rode on again, they passed straggling Tommies, miles behind the others, who inquired brightly if they were “right for the laager [camp].”



streamsandforests.wordpress.com/tag/battle-of-helvetia/





The monument on the battlefield at Helvetia.

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5462 Cpl. S. Jones PoW Helvetia 29/12/1900 3 years 6 months ago #44682

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A classic action - if not a "finest hour" for the British.

I would be interested to see verification of that story about the Liverpool's being drunk. This would appear to come from Schikkerling's account quoted on the website - although he wasn't even at the battle and only saw the aftermath.

The official report (WO108/372) into the surrender slams the King's for not "displaying soldierly" qualities and surrendering without a fight. The senior King's officer Major SL Cotton was court-martialled for his lack of leadership during the defence of Helvetia - "Shamefully delivering up his post". He was convicted and dismissed the service (LG 29-11-1901).

In late 1902 it was decided, on account of Major Cotton's wounding during the battle, to allow him to retire. His dismissal was cancelled in LG 02-01-1903.

Major Cotton was not awarded any campaign medals or paid the War Gratuity. The medal rolls states "withheld" and "Black List".

Jenny - the author of this page also mistakes the RN gun crew at Colenso for Boer gunners - "as those artillerists [in the picture] are certainly not British."

Regards
Meurig
Researcher & Collector
The Register of the Anglo-Boer Wars 1899-1902
theangloboerwars.blogspot.co.uk/
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