Saturday 19 November 2016

1st Life Guards and the Relief of Ladysmith

Two officers and six men of the 1st Life Guards served in the campaign in Natal to relieve Ladysmith, all earned the Relief of Ladysmith clasp but only two, Lt JS Cavendish and Trpr T Pearce, the Tugela Heights clasp. A civilian groom also earned these two clasps.

Cpt Hugh C Keith-Fraser
Adjutant SALH, died 1906
Lt Lord John S Cavendish
1914 Star trio KiA 30-10-1914
Cpl 2051 WW Brown

Trpr 1860 Charles W Clark
1914 Star trio
Trpr 2036 Richard Collett

Trpr 1918 Thomas M Grayson

Trpr 999 JJ Nye
Servant to Cpt HC Keith-Fraser
Trpr 1122 Robert Pearce

Civilian W Head
Bronze QSA (J,DH,W,CC,TH,RoL)
Groom to Lt Lord JS Cavendish

Only one squadron of the 1st Life Guards was sent fight in a composite Household Cavalry regiment composed of a squadron each from the 1st and 2nd Life Guards and the Royal Horse Guards. They arrived at the end of December 1899 and were posted to the Western Front.

What was this group of eight men doing away from their regiment on the other side of south Africa? Cpt HC Keith-Fraser was Cpt and Adjutant attached South African Light Horse (SALH) with his servant Trpr JJ Nye. Cpt Keith-Fraser was appointed assistant Press Censor at the Cape in October 1899. Obviously he wanted to fight and secured himself the adjutancy with a premier colonial unit, the SALH. However, Keith-Fraser returned, probably invalided, to England in January 1900. In April he was appointed a Special Service Officer for service in South Africa but it does not appear he returned to the front as his name does not appear in the Shipping Lists published in The Times. Keith-Fraser is on the March 1901 census at the barracks at Windsor. Trpr Nye has not been traced on the 1901 census.

Lt Lord JS Cavendish was a Special Service Officer sailing on the SS Moor with Trpr Pearce (at least) on October 21st, 1899. Cavendish had been appointed Divisional Signalling Officer, 2nd Division (Major-General CF Clery), Natal Field Force. It would seem most likely that the other troopers were involved in signalling too, but no evidence has been found to support this. Papers have been traced for Clark, Collett, Grayson and Pearce, none indicate any training in skills such as signalling for which a soldier would have been employed extra-regimentally. On Trpr Pearce’s discharge in 1903 his “Special qualifications for employment in civil life” is “Valet”, perhaps he was Lt Cavendish’s servant.

Brown, Clark, Collet, Grayson earned the Paardeberg clasp, to qualify they had to be within 7,000 yards of General Cronje's final laager, or within 7,000 yards of Koodoe's Rand Drift between 17-26th February 1900. The Household Cavalry regiment was present at Paardeberg. Meanwhile Lt Cavendish, Trpr Pearce and civilian groom W Head qualified for the Tugela Heights clasp; they were employed in the operations north of an east and west line through Chieveley Station between the 14th and 27th February. It is most likely they were present for the actual relief of Ladysmith on February 27th. Pearce probably accompanied Cavendish and Head to the Western Front, but was struck down with enteric fever and separated from Cavendish. Pearce was in hospital in Bloemfontein on March 10th, moving south to hospital in Norval’s Pont in July and invalided to England aboard the SS Gascon which arrived back in August 1900. Pearce is on the March 1901 census in the barracks at Windsor.

Lt Cavendish was mentioned in despatches (08-02-1901) and awarded the DSO (19-04-1901) for his work in South Africa. Cavendish was attached the West African Field Force from 1907 to 1910. He was killed in October 1914 in France.

Robert Pearce was born in Laleham, Middlesex, his father was an agricultural labourer which was Robert’s job before enlisting. He took his discharge in 1903 after 21 years (and no LSGC apparently). On the 1911 Census he is the landlord of the Crown Hotel, Cookham, Berkshire, the pub still operates under the name of the Crown Inn. He enlisted in 1915 at the age of 52, landlord of The Duke of Wellington, Peascod St, Windsor (near the barracks), the pub does not exist today. He enlisted in 1915 into the 1st Life Guards and served for four years, home service only.