TOPIC: Defence of Ladysmith
Defence of Ladysmith 5 years 3 months ago #23467
Dr David Biggins
Defence of Ladysmith 5 years 2 months ago #23798
My first reaction to seeing this group was Wow! That seems to be an understatement.
Pictures courtesy of DNW
The important Rhodesia Pioneer’s campaign group of three awarded to Commander E. C. Tyndale-Biscoe, Royal Navy, who, having been invalided from the R.N. after gallant service in the Naval Brigade in Egypt & the Sudan, was appointed Officer in Command of Machine Guns in the Pioneer Corps - and hoisted the Union Jack at Fort Salisbury on 13 September 1890 - and afterwards commanded the ‘galloping Maxim’ in the Salisbury Horse in the Matabele Rebellion in 1893, in addition to serving in the Salisbury Field Force in Rhodesia 1896 and the British South Africa Company’s Police in Mashonaland in 1897 - thereby gaining entitlement to an excessively rare 4-clasp B.S.A.C. Medal: re-instated in the Senior Service, he then gained a “mention” and special promotion for his part in the defence of Ladysmith, thereby bringing full circle a remarkable career - the whole vividly described in his autobiography Sailor Soldier
Egypt and Sudan 1882-89, dated reverse (2) Tamaai, Suakin 1884 (E. C. Biscoe, Midn., R.N., H.M.S. Euryalus);
BSACM undated (4) Mashonaland 1890, Matabeleland 1893, Rhodesia 1896, Mashonaland 1897 (Lt. Tyndale-Biscoe, E. C. - Pioneers). last two clasp on the second attached by wire rivets.
QSA (1) DoL (Lieut. E. C. Tynedale-Biscoe, R.N., H.M.S. Powerful)
Edward Carey Tyndale-Biscoe was born in Holton, Oxfordshire, in August 1864, the fourth son of William Earle Tyndale (later Tyndale-Biscoe), and was educated at Foster’s School, Stubbington, Hampshire, prior to entering Britannia as a Cadet in January 1878 - among his fellow class mates were the Prince Albert and Prince George, otherwise known as “Sardine” and “Sprat.”
‘Great coolness and gallantry’ with the Bluejackets in Egypt & the Sudan
Appointed a Midshipman in 1881, he was present in operations off Egypt aboard H.M.S. Euryalus in the following year (Medal; Khedive’s Star).
Subsequently landed as a Sub. Lieutenant with the Naval Brigade for the protection of Suakin in 1884, when he was given charge of a Gattling gun, he was present at the battles of El-Teb and Tamaai, and was specially mentioned for his ‘great coolness and gallantry’, in addition to being awarded the 5th Class of the Turkish Order of Medjidie. Of events at Tamaai, Tyndale-Biscoe later wrote:
‘At this stage, we in the Naval Brigade had nearly run out of ammunition for our guns. The ammunition had been left behind in that part of the square that had stalled behind us. We were still at the edge of the khor. The men had to form round their useless pieces and continue desperate hand to hand combat. All three of our Navy Lieutenants and seven Bluejackets were cut to pieces in front of us. Midshipman Hewett and I were left to take over command of the Naval Brigade. Once again, we performed a strategic withdrawal. We provided machine-gun cover with our last few rounds, fighting the rearguard action as our men withdrew back behind us to the original square. We then disabled our guns ... ’
Advanced to Lieutenant in early 1886, he was granted convalescent leave on account of a stammer, but he returned to sea in the sloop Icarus before the year’s end. Unfortunately, it proved to be an unhappy appointment, his new captain suffering from mental health issues - so much so that he punished offenders by hanging by them by their thumbs from the yardarm.
By September 1887, Tyndale-Biscoe, aware of the growing unrest in the ship’s company, decided to take action and, when his captain was ashore at Accra, gathered the crew and told them their C.O. was suffering from a serious medical complaint - possibly caused by advanced syphillis. As a result, he informed them, he would resign his commission to bring the matter to Their Lordships’ attention. However, his captain got wind of the ploy and had Tyndale-Biscoe committed to a medical board on account of his ongoing stammer, as a result of which he was invalided from the service - ‘This was done more on the evidence of the Captain’s letter than upon the Surgeon’s own findings ... So, I knocked off duty.’
Pioneer and prospector - raising of the Union Jack at Fort Salisbury
Three months later, Tyndale-Biscoe pitched up at the London offices of the British South Africa Company, and ‘presented them with a copy of my credentials’. Duly impressed by said credentials, and following an exchange of cables, he was enrolled on the company’s books and set sail for Cape Town, taking with him a letter of introduction to Cecil Rhodes.
As it transpired, Rhodes was away at the time of his arrival in April 1890, so he was interviewed by Major Frank Johnson:
‘Johnson wanted to be assured that a navy man could also have riding and shooting abilities. He already knew my credentials as a gunner at sea and on land. I was at his house at 0500 the next morning, as agreed. Back in the saddle, I was soon put through my paces in every facet of horsemanship. I was then taken back to the stable to be questioned on stable management. Johnson seemed sufficiently satisfied with my prowess as a horseman to bring me down to the beach to test my shooting abilities as well. There were six other potential officers on trial including Captain "Skipper" Hoste and Sir John Willoughby. Captain Hoste had been Commodore of the Union Company and had commanded the "Trojan". This was the ship on which Cecil Rhodes had chosen him to take part in the occupation of Mashonaland. We shot at bottles, sometimes swinging, from varying distances and angles. We tested ourselves with rifles and pistols. My experience in deer stalking and shooting driven partridges had honed my marksmanship pretty well. Soon after that, Major Johnson signed on only two of us as members of his pioneer column. Part of his strategy must have been to see how we related to each other. Skipper Hoste was given B Troop to command. I was enrolled as Lieutenant (R.N. retired) under Captain Roach in C Troop. He and I would he in charge of the artillery.’
Here, then, the opening chapter of a remarkable career as soldier and prospector, a chapter highlighted by his raising of the Union Jack at Fort Salisbury on 13 September 1890 - afterwards the site of Cecil Rhodes Square, Salisbury, Rhodesia. In his own words:
‘Before he departed, Major Johnson issued an order that the Column would parade next day, Saturday 13 September, in full dress at 1000 hours. Our seven-pounder guns were to fire a Royal Salute to celebrate the occasion as soon as the British Flag had been hoisted. He had given me the honour of actually raising the flag. Being a naval man, there was no danger of the Union Jack being raised upside down! In the dawn I took members of my brigade to find the straightest pole we could find from the surrounding Masasa trees. Most branches were crooked, distorted by veldt fires. Skipper Host, in his enthusiasm, insisted on joining us in his new capacity as parade commander for that day. It did not take us too long to find a suitable pole. We rigged halyards and stays as we erected it in the middle of the site chosen for the fort. From thenceforth the site was known as Cecil Square. A smart long straight flagpole now marks the spot. At 1000 hours, the men paraded in front of our rough flagpole. In the centre were A and B troops of the Pioneer Column. On the right was C troop with two seven-pounder guns at the ready. B troop of the police paraded on the left. With me at the base of the flagstaff stood Colonel Pennyfather, commander of the B.S.A. Police force. With him were his A.D.C., Sidney Shepstone and Sir John Willoughby, the B.S.A.P. second in command. I stood there at attention with the flag rolled up under my arm while Canon Balfour gave a short address and an extempore prayer of thanks for our deliverance. His cossack billowed in the breeze. As he concluded the prayer, the bugles sounded "The Royal Salute". The parade presented arms while I slowly raised the furled Union Jack to the top of the mast. As I struck the flag, it unfurled itself into the breeze and my Naval Brigade fired a twenty one-gun salute. When the echoes of the last shot died away, the Colonel called for three cheers for Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria. The parade responded lustily. I was able to wave my naval sword instead of my hat! Mashonaland became part of the British Empire. We now had to defend and nurture it with an economy that would free the tribesmen from ignorance and poverty and provide paid work opportunities for everyone, including the Matabele. It was an emotional moment.’
The Pioneer Corps disbanded, and with prospects of gold mineral wealth beckoning, Tyndale-Biscoe formed a prospecting syndicate with, among others, the two Hoste brothers, operating in Mazoe area. But enforcing stability in the region, and ongoing expansion, oft intervened - thus a punitive expedition against Chief Mutusa in Manicaland in November 1890, when he carried despatches to Captain Forbes. A subsequent attempt to march on Beira was ended by the arrival of message from Queen Victoria - it being feared such actions would trigger an international incident owing to existing Portuguese interests.
Tyndale-Biscoe remained in Manicaland, exploring ancient gold workings, but to no avail, so commenced the long journey back to the police camp at Salisbury, a difficult journey owing heavy rainfall and the fact everyone in the party came down with malaria. Meanwhile, his earlier prospecting interests in Mazoe area had borne little fruit and, with news of the death of his mother, he returned to England in mid-1891.
Matabeleland 1893 - the ‘galloping Maxim’
Tyndale-Biscoe returned to Cape Town in March of the following year and, having undertaken further prospecting in Umtali, took up appointment as a Clerk of the Court at Salisbury.
In October 1893, however, he returned to uniform, being appointed a Lieutenant in ‘A’ Troop of the Salisbury Horse, with charge of the Nordenfeldt and Gardiner guns.
The campaign underway, the Salisbury Horse linked up with Major Alan Wilson’s column at Iron Mine Hill, and saw action against the amaNdebele at Shangani and Bembesi - Tyndale-Biscoe particularly distinguishing himself on a Maxim at the latter action:
‘As soon as the Matabele attacked, the guards rounded up our oxen and horses. They were grazing on the veldt close by. The oxen gave no trouble but the horses were terrified by the gunfire. They were brought into the Victorian laager. It was shielded from the enemy by our own laager. Before the guards could secure the horses, they started to lunge and rear. Then they managed to charge out of the laager in an avalanche of flowing manes and galloping hooves. More than two hundred galloped down the slope towards the enemy lines. If they were killed or captured, the columns were doomed. Without horses we would be immobilised. The Matabele would be free to wrought terrible vengeance on the helpless Mashona population. For a moment officers and men were frozen in horror as warriors ran out of the bushes to guide the horses to their destruction. At that moment, Sir John Willoughby and Captain Borrow jumped onto the backs of two picket horses tethered nearby. They raced towards the head of the stampede. One of the grazing guardsmen, Trooper Naylor, had pluckily stuck to his charges and was vainly trying to turn them. The two officers soon joined him. They rode under heavy fire from the exultant Matabele. They could not possibly reach the head of the stream of horses in time to save the day. More Matabele ran from the hush to foil them. At that stage, I managed to bring the maxim machine-gun into action. I crouched outside the laager with no cover. It was like old times. I aimed a stream of bullets between the horses and the triumphant Matahele. I had to be accurate. I gambled on plumes of dust being thrown upwards to form a dust screen. They did. The warriors leapt hack on their side of the dust harrier into safety. The horses veered away on their side. I played the gun so that the horses would be herded back towards us. Sir John Willoughby and his companions were able to catch up with the leading horses and brought them all back in a wide circle into safer country into the valley behind the Victorian laager. During their mad ride they were under constant fire. Miraculously not a man was hit neither did a horse stumble. Disaster had been averted by the grace of God. We were able to share a prayer and a drink together after the battle. Dr. Jameson joined us. He was a much-relieved man. Our B.S.A.P. Sergeant-Major later had my Maxim gun photographed for posterity.’
The campaign concluded, Tyndale-Biscoe undertook an expedition to N.E. Rhodesia for the Rhodesia Concession Company, where he investigated gold prospects in the Luangwa Valley but, following the Jameson Raid of December 1895, and the advent of another Matabele rising, he was quickly back in harness as a Captain in the Salisbury Horse, accompanying the force under Colonel Beal.
Later still, in Major White’s force, and once more in charge of the guns, Tyndale-Biscoe distinguished himself in the fighting around Hartley. In his own words:
‘The arrival of the Imperial troops in Matabeleland released us in the volunteer forces to return to operate from Salisbury. As soon as we arrived in mid July 1896, our first assignment was to relieve those in peril in the Hartley district. Our patrol numbered two hundred men under the command of Major White. Once again, I was put in charge of the guns. We had three fights on the way. The rebels had fortified some hills near the road. We attacked these and must have eventually killed about one hundred and fifty of the enemy. Our losses were minimal. One member of our patrol was killed and three were wounded. We also lost some of our horses. As we travelled, we came across the remains of two white miners who had been murdered on the road. They had been attempting to summon help from Salisbury. We were surprised to find ten men were still alive when we reached Hartley. They had built a fort on a granite hill. Five hundred rebels were camped close by, waiting in siege. Our maxim machine-guns inflicted great mortality upon them. A few managed to scatter. The siege was duly raised.’
Attached to the British South Africa Police in 1897-98, Tyndale-Biscoe saw further action and befriended Baden-Powell:
‘The Mashona Rebellion had lasted sixteen months. The white civilians killed amounted to three hundred and twenty-seven, and one hundred and twenty-seven wounded. These casualties represented one tenth of the White population. Over three hundred of our militia had been killed. The rebel casualties must have measured thousands.
I had been living the life of a soldier in both Matabeleland and Mashonaland for nearly two continuous years. Sleeping on the ground with rifle at my side and awakening for the pre dawn "Stand to" became a way of life. The forming of laagers and setting of guards were routine. I learnt how important it was to prepare every man in a patrol before delivering an attack. I used ground models of the terrain to illustrate the movements that had to take place. This was a graphical way of explaining strategy and inviting opinion. Every man had to know his whereabouts in the bush and exactly what was expected of him. Getting lost was a crime. Without a compass, a lost man tended to walk in circles. He became a liability. Being able to track spoor was vital. Ambushes were common on both sides. The crashing of our seven-pounder and the stutter of our maxims set my cars ringing thereafter, indistinguishable from the screeching of Christmas Beatles in the msasa trees. I don't think it is normally possible to be in the saddle for so long, or to endure such hunger and thirst on occasion, trying to read where rebels were going or already hiding. In such conditions, one develops a sixth sense. One has to.’
Following the end of hostilities, Tyndale-Biscoe returned to his gold prospecting and mining ventures in the Mazoe area with “Skipper” Hoste and, further afield, in the Bindura area, where they worked the Phoenix Prince Mine with some success.
Further gallantry with the Bluejackets - Ladysmith
Once again, however, hostilities intervened, Tyndale-Biscoe making his way to Durban, and thence Ladysmith, in October 1899, to offer his services to the Naval Brigade:
‘We arrived in Ladysmith about 1830 p.m. I managed to find a bed in the Railway Hotel. However, I could not find Captain Lambton of the Naval Brigade until Wednesday morning. I hoped that my experiences as gunnery officer in many land engagements in Africa would be of use. He welcomed me on as a member of his ship, H.M.S. Powerful. He had earlier lost his Commander who had volunteered for the Western front. I had the experience to help fill this role if need be. My expertise in gunnery was well received. We were able to jointly confirm that we were similarly decorated with the order of Medjidie. Lambton had also been present at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt at the same time that l was landing troops and material at Suez. I was invited to join his company as Naval Lieutenant (Retired) from 1st day in November 1899. Another Lieutenant, Edward Stabb, from the Naval Reserve also joined as a volunteer that day. That same afternoon, the enemy cut the telegraph wire and blew up the railway line from Colenso. The siege of Ladysmith began in earnest.’
Given charge of 12-pounder and Maxim gun, he quickly saw action:
‘We were returning the fire of the "Long Tom" that the enemy had dragged up onto Pepworth Hill. The Boers made splendid shooting. Their shells burst all round our position. About 0900 a.m. a flash and a burst of white smoke was seen again. We had about twenty-five seconds to take cover, but this shell unfortunately fell inside our bastion. It was not built high enough. Poor Lieutenant Edgerton was hit by the ninety-six pound shell. Three of our bluejackets were wounded at the same time. Edgerton lost his right leg above the knee and his left below the knee. I was close to him at the time. Surgeon Fowler was on the spot and did all he could for him. The bluejackets lifted him tenderly onto a dhoolie until he could be taken to hospital in an ambulance wagon. He was so plucky. He said that he was afraid that his cricket days would probably be over. He lit a cigarette as he was being carried down to the hospital. The doctor operated on him as soon as possible, but the shock was too great. Although he did regain consciousness after the operation, he died. Both legs had to be amputated. Everyone in the Naval Brigade was upset.’
Mentioned in despatches by Captain Lambton, Tyndale-Biscoe returned home in the Powerful, arriving to a triumphant reception at Portsmouth April 1900:
‘I had to undergo the painful operation of public dinners that had been arranged. The one given by the Mayor and corporation at the Portsmouth Town Hall on 30 April turned out to be a riotous affair. The bluejackets at the long tables cheered each other to the rafters, whilst the distinguished hosts and officers tried to listen to the toastmaster above the din. The Naval Officers gave us an additional dinner at their club in Portsmouth. We had to attend yet another dinner in London, given by the Mayor in the inspection of the Naval Brigade by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 2 May.’
Finally, in April 1902, he was specially promoted to Commander (Retired). Well, nearly finally, for during the Great War he served at Staff H.Q. in Delhi as a Major in the Censorship Office.
Retiring to the south coast in England, Tyndale-Biscoe nonetheless attended each 10th anniversary gathering at Salisbury up until 1940, the year before his death, having concluded in the interim that in Africa, ‘the choice between taking the high road or the low road, remains precarious.’
Dr David Biggins
Defence of Ladysmith 5 years 2 months ago #23808
Is this an incomplete group then, just looking at what he is wearing?
It also asks the question of a pure Boer War collector, is the extra premium actually worth it when you are paying 80% of it for other items!
Defence of Ladysmith 5 years 2 months ago #23811
The only two items missing were both issued unnamed, so the group can be easily completed.
Given it contains an extremely rare medal - the 4 clasp BSAC and the history of the man I think many collectors would be happy with just named medals. The price, though, is beyond most collectors.
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