Saturday, 21 May 2016

“was lost and is found” The Military Story of GTW Webb

This research was inspired by Research puzzles - "Odd" casualties from war memorials.

George Theodosius Wynne Webb was born 2 March, 1876 in Woolwich (or Charlton) Kent to Capt (retd) John H and Edith G Webb. Cpt JH Webb had served in the 11th Foot and was a Higher Division Clerk in the Admiralty. The family was comfortably off, they had one or two servants recorded in the census. George, one of three sons, was educated at Merchant Taylors School. His two brothers Andrew Henry and William Vere Brandram were commissioned into the RGA. In September 1894, aged 18, George was commissioned into the Royal Marine Light Infantry. His career came to an end just 10 months later in July 1895 when he resigned his commission. His record in ADM196 darkly notes that “confidential reports whilst studying at RN College” were written. Obviously George was in trouble while studying at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

Determined on a military career George gets a commission in the Royal Jersey Militia RA as a route to getting a commission in the regular army. In October 1897 George secures a commission in the RGA. However, on the 12 July 1899 he leaves the Army, he did not resign or was court martialled. Records at the RA Library simply record he left, obviously by agreement and no doubt to save himself and his family from any shame for whatever transgressions occurred. There is no record in the London Gazette I can find. Having failed twice to embark on a military career George did what many troubled young men did and went overseas. George sailed to southern Africa where war clouds were gathering.

George ended up in Ladysmith by October 1899 where he unexpectedly pops up in the Digest of Service for the 10th mountain battery RGA. The 10th mountain battery were stationed in Natal before the war and formed part of Sir George White’s force defending Ladysmith. The Digest records that “Mr Webb (attached)” was among the officers captured at Nicholson’s Nek, "Mournful Monday", 30 October. A hand written marginal note adds “Mr Webb was a civilian”. This ties in with the record from The Times for “Sec Lieut GTW Webb” being released as prisoner of war. Whether George deliberately went to Natal to find former officer comrades is not known. But, he obviously knew the officers of the 10th mountain battery well enough to be allowed to accompany them on their attack. Whether he had a role beyond observer is not known. Like his previous military careers this one, albeit as a civilian, ended quickly and badly; George found himself in the officer’s prison camp in Pretoria for seven months.

On release from POW camp George “Left battery on occupation of Pretoria” as recorded on the medal roll. I cannot help think that in the enthusiasm for the first battles against “mere farmers”, George’s participation was evidence that some British officers did not take the war seriously. By June 1900, officers knew they were in a serious fight and there was no place for civilian hangers-on. Perhaps put off by his experiences George appears to get a job with the customs office in Utrecht, eastern Transvaal (National Archives of South Africa). How long he stuck at this is not known, but the lure of a soldier’s life was too strong. On 9 May, 1901 he enlists as Trooper 3783 Steinaecker’s Horse, claiming 5 ½ years’ service in the Royal Artillery. It is very unlikely he saw any active service as his fourth attempt at a military career came to an end just 20 days later. George died of pneumonia in Fort Napier, Pietermaritzburg and lies in the St George’s Garrison Church cemetery with a fine marble cross over his grave “Erected by his Sorrowing Parents”. The epitaph they chose is, I think, emblematic of a troubled soul, “was lost and is found”; from the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

George Webb’s QSA is correctly engraved to “Lieut. G.T. Wynne-Webb R.G.A.”, the surname an unfortunate error. His name as “Webb, GT Wynne” is found on the roll for the 10th mountain battery (WO100/146p66) appended in a different hand at the bottom of the list of Lieutenants, he has no rank. The medal with two clasps (Transvaal and Natal) was issued 9 April, 1902 with a note to correspondence “93883/19”. What it would be to find that correspondence, undoubtedly his parents and/or brothers petitioned the War Office for a medal engraved as an officer, which of course he was not entitled to. George appears on an Extra Clasp roll for Steinaecker’s Horse (WO100/276p168) and again there is some evidence of correspondence. His entry is crossed out and then re-entered with entitlement to the ‘South Africa 1901’ clasp no reference is made to his previous service or the issue of the clasp, which is not on the medal. There is a large asterisk against his name which is unexplained.

Not only did George’s family secure a campaign medal but they also got his name entered on the corp's war memorial with the rank he did not hold when he “won” his medal. Perhaps securing these recognitions was justice for the family regarding George’s troubles with the RMLI and RGA.

George’s two brothers were Andrew Henry (older) and Willam Vere Brandram (younger) who were both commissioned into the RGA. Andrew served in South Africa on the Western Front and also in WW1 as a Lt-Col. William did not see in any campaign service and emigrated to Canada, he enlisted in the CEF in 1916 for overseas service. I don’t know if he actually served abroad.

In the Spink April 2016 sale a number of Webb family medals were sold dating from the Peninsula to WWII. All the groups have research apart from the QSA and miniature to Lt GT Wynne-Webb RGA which simply states he was the great great nephew of Sir John Webb whose medals are first in the Webb family lots. Andrew’s CMG, DSO group was amongst the Webb family medals sold at Spink.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Russian Fighting For The Boer Cause

Yevgeny Avgustus
A Russian Fighting For The Boer Cause
Translated and edited by Boris Gorelik
The South African Military History Society
2016
52 pages, illustrations
ISBN 978-0-620-70253-9

This booklet is the first translation into English of part of the memoirs of Russian Army officer Lieutenant Yvengeny Avgustus. He traveled to South Africa in early 1900. Choosing the Natal front Avgustus relates with clarity his impressions of the Boer army, its leaders, burghers and other volunteers. Seeking action his group joined the Krugersdorp Commando shunning foreign volunteer groups riven with dissent.

As part of the Krugersdorp Commando Avgustus fought at Spion Kop - the battle was as hard and terrifying for the Boers as the British and Tugela Heights in February. Three days in a trench subject to artillery, machine gun and rifle fire he marvels at the tenacity of the British infantry, advancing into Boer machine gun fire to close with the bayonet; a weapon the Boers didn't possess and feared. With the British troops upon them Avgustus and a comrade managed to escape leaving many dead and wounded behind.

This well written, and well translated tale, ends with Avgustus negotiating the crush of fleeing Boers at Elandslaagte station heading north for safety. There is much of interest in this slim volume and is a good read.








Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Loxton's Horse - The Forty Thieves

Loxton's Horse was a small and little known unit on the British side during the Anglo-Boer War. They were raised for the duration of the war only like many other colonial units. But, Loxton's Horse was one of what were known as “loot corps”, whose purpose was to loot Boer farms – an extension of the concentration camp policy and farm burning. “Loot corps” were authorised by Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in south Africa.

Loxton's Horse was raised in early 1901 at Newcastle, Natal by Samuel Loxton who with his two brothers all won Distinguished Conduct Medals in the war. They were all in the Natal Corps of Guides and later the Field Intelligence Department. The Loxton's are an early settler family in the eastern Cape. The men were allowed to keep and sell the livestock they captured, but later were paid 1s 6d per day and allowed 75% of the livestock along with forage for one horse. The use of "loot corps" was raised in Parliament but more from the fact the public purse was receiving money from this unorthodox source rather than the morality of "loot corps" in the first place. [House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 38] 

Contemporary documentary evidence is scarce. The raising of the unit was reported by British newspapers in February 1901. The unit was to operate in the south-eastern Transvaal assisting the troops “by carrying off the enemy's stock and and supplying information of the Boer's movements”. Composed of “mostly young colonists possessing a thorough knowledge of the country...They are splendidly mounted, each man having a mounted native servant, leading two horses. They have dubbed themselves “The Forty Thieves”. [Aberdeen Journal 25-02-1901] 

From a diary entry written by a colonial soldier on 26 February 1901:
Utrecht district. Today we saw for the first time in this war a looting corps of 28 men called Loxton's Horse. They keep 75% of all they can loot, receiving no pay. This is a big shame as we who have been out 17 months cannot keep a horse, even if we catch them, and these men only follow us when we have cleared the country, like a lot of jackals."
[Coghlan, M. 2004. From the very beginning to the very end. The diary and letters of J B Nicholson, Natal Carbineers. Part 2. Natalia 34: 17-49.]

Loxton's Horse were reported returning to Newcastle on 17 March, 1901 from Utrecht district (Transvaal) “with a large quantity of stock” [Lancashire Evening Post 19-03-1901] In August 1901 they were in the Orange Free State and on the 20th they suffered their only recorded casualty, Cpl CW Abel killed at Nooitgedacht. Abel is not in the official casualty rolls, nor in The Times newspaper, the information comes from the medal rolls and Steve Watt's In Memoriam. The following month Loxton's Horse were on the Orange Free State border with Basutoland (Lesotho) apparently surrounded by a party of Boers. Pte P Mangnall, 3rd volunteer battalion Manchester Rgt wrote that they and some “Irregular Horse” were sent to rescue Loxton's Horse. However, on the march they met Loxton's Horse who had managed to extricate themselves only losing their “pack horses”. [Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 07-11-1901]

There is a medal roll (WO100/268p26) for Loxton's Horse with just two names, Troopers G Tustin and HH Tod. Apparent from the handwriting is that the roll was originally submitted with Tustin's name in 1906 and the medal issued in 1908, no clasps are indicated. The roll was signed by one Sidney W Reynolds “late OC Loxton's Horse” in Newcastle, Natal on 21 June, 1906. Reynolds, like Loxton's Horse, is mystery too – he does not appear on a medal roll, but there are civilian records for him in the National Archives of South Africa as a farmer in Newcastle. Tod's name was added in the same hand that wrote the note that his medal was issued in 1957, unfortunately there is no address shown. Neither Tod nor Tustin appear on any other medal roll for the war.

Other members of Loxton's Horse are known, and a nominal roll has been constructed primarily from the medal rolls where, fortuitously, service in Loxton's Horse has been noted by an assiduous clerk. There are 20 names, perhaps 1/2 of the total who served with the unit.

Nominal Roll:
  1. Abel, CW – Natal Carbineers
  2. Berg, Arthur - 1st Scottish Horse
  3. Berg, John – previous service unknown
  4. Clark, Alexander Stewart, Natal Government Railways (later Umvoti MR and SA Heavy Artillery)
  5. Cooper, HF - Natal Corps of Guides, Field Intelligence Department
  6. de Jager, LP - Field Intelligence Department
  7. Dorey, LA - Natal Police, Field Intelligence Department, Reynold's Scouts
  8. Harris, William de Montmorency – Natal Corps of Guides, Field Intelligence Department, died Newcastle, Natal July 1902
  9. Hester, Francis Danby – Natal Police, Utrecht-Vryheid Mounted Police, Steinaecker's Horse
  10. Loxton, Samuel – founder and commander, Natal Corps of Guides and Field Intelligence Department
  11. Malandaine (or Mallandain), R – Field Intelligence Department, Army Service Corps
  12. Miller (or Millar), Hugh – Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Imperial Hospital Corps, subsequently Bethune's Mounted Infantry, died of wounds March 1902
  13. Pocket, Arthur A - South African Light Horse
  14. Reynolds, Sidney W – sometime commander, previous service unknown, possibly commander of Reynold's Scouts
  15. Short, William Kirk - Natal Transport, Field Intelligence Department
  16. Taylor, Leonard – Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, Rand Rifles
  17. Thomas, Llewellyn Hartly – Brabant's Horse, Natal Corps of Guides, Newcastle Town Guard
  18. Tod, HH - previous service unknown
  19. Tustin,G Trooper - previous service unknown
  20. Wood, H – South African Light Horse, Field Intelligence Department, shown as number 39 Loxton's Horse on the FID KSA roll

The Bergs were brothers and are noted as “served with the Methuen’s Regiment and later Loxton’s Horse” [‘The Norwegian Settlers – Marburg, Natal 1882’ (Marburg Norwegian Lutheran Church, Port Shepstone, 1932), was translated into English in 1967 by A H E Andreasen.]

If you come across anymore references to Loxton's Horse, please let me know.

 Many thanks to Brett Hendey for the references from Coghlan and Andreasen; Ian Linney for references to Cooper, Dorey and Short from Field Intelligence Department 1899-1902 Honours and Awards & Casualties & Medal Rolls - compiled by David Buxton (2004), both via www.angloboerwar.com, Elne Watson for the House of Commons and JM Wasserman's DPhil thesis references from Facebook

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Silver QSA to Indians

In the late Victorian era the "followers" in a military campaign were awarded medals, but in bronze not silver as a cost saving exercise. These men performed non-military menial duties such grass cutting (for forage), ward sweepers, transport drivers, water carriers and so on.  Most commonly seen is the India General Service medal 1854-1895 in bronze for the campaigns of the 1890s covered by clasps such as Punjab Frontier 1897-98, Relief of Chitral 1895 and Tirah 1897-98.

This practice continued into the Second Anglo-Boer war and bronze medals were awarded to an officer's servant (irrespective of colour). The most bronze medals were awarded to Indians who came across with the very large numbers of white troops stationed in India. No official medals were awarded to the indigenous africans and other non-whites who performed a similar role to the Indian followers and many even bore arms; their story is for another post.

Collectors may see on the market a silver QSA named to an Indian in typical flowing script but on the medal roll it is clearly marked they were issued with a bronze medal. Is this a piece of fakery or not?

After the war in 1903 the Indian government decided to allow attested followers (except ward sweepers) silver medals. Un-attested and authorised followers ("private followers") were still awarded bronze medals.  This change of policy had its roots in the Anglo-Boer War, in May 1902 the Indian government allowed men to exchange their bronze medals for silver ones at their own expense when they enlisted as soldier. The date 1903 is critical as many medals to Indian followers had not yet been issued, therefore technically the new rules could apply to QSAs even though the campaign pre-dated the rule change. Whether this happened is not actually clear.

Here is an example of a silver QSA to an Indian who should have bronze QSA:

This medal is to M46 Dafadar Pat Ram I(ndian). P(ack). Mule Train.





The medal roll was prepared in Cape Town in September 1901, four men, all (Indian) Veterinary Assistants were to receive silver medals with clasps, these were issued in December 1904. For Pat Ram and the remainder it is clearly shown they were to be issued bronze medals without clasps (unlike the issue of the bronze IGS). These medals were sent to India for distribution, no date is shown.

One can assume then that Pat Ram received a bronze medal without clasps. So, how did his silver QSA come about? Under the 1903 rules it would appear he enlisted as a regular soldier and purchased a silver QSA.

However, the naming is an issue. The great collector and researcher into QSAs and KSAs to Indians, David Grant, has only seen verified exchange medals with impressed naming not engraved. David surmises that Ram's medal with engraved naming might then be a replacement medal, issued after 1903 according to the rules then in force. The Mint in Calcutta did not issue a replacement bronze medal. A number of blank silver QSAs were sent to India, an impressing machine was not sent until 1908. There is clearly more research to be done in this area.

If Ram had been issued clasps they would have been Transvaal, Defence of Ladysmith and Laing's Nek. However, he wasn't and his QSA (bronze or silver) without clasps illustrates the joy of collecting QSAs; the hidden facts that come with a bit of research.

David Grant has published on this topic in the journal of the OMRS and online on the Anglo-Boer War forum, see:

http://www.angloboerwar.com/forum/5-medals-and-awards/71-the-indian-contingent?start=54
http://www.angloboerwar.com/forum/5-medals-and-awards/71-the-indian-contingent?start=168#45827



Kakul POW Camp

Many thousands of Boer POWs were sent overseas to camps remote from South Africa, in places like Bermuda, Sri Lanka, St Helena, Portugal and India (and now Pakistan). One of the smallest and short-lived camp was in Kakul near Abbottabad in north-west India, what is now Pakistan.

The camp was set up in 1902 and existed for just a few months. One of the noted past-times of the Boer POW was to create handicrafts from whatever local materials they could find, wood, stone, bone and on Bermuda they wove neckties too. These items are highly collectible today. Handicrafts from the bigger camps such as on Bermuda and St Helena are not hard to find, those from smaller camps are rare and Kakul items must rank amongst the rarest due to it's small size and short life. In Pieter Oosthuizen's fabulous book Boer War Memorabilia: The Collectors' Guide (The Alderman Press, 1987) none of the items featured are from Kakul. The War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein only have a handful of examples.

The items illustrated below come from a collection of 16 Boer POW handicrafts collected by a British soldier who guarded the camp at Kakul. Eight of the items are marked 'Kakul'

 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Research Puzzles: "Odd" casualties from war memorials

War memorials are a great source of information and supplement the official casualty rolls, they can provide first names, biographical details, exact cause of death and a clue as to where a man came from.

However, there are names on war memorials that just don't make sense, they are casualties but just cannot be found in the usual sources. I will write about three examples that I recently resolved as they reveal interesting stories and illustrate the need to "keep digging".

After the war the Royal Artillery erected a large memorial on The Mall in London - just down the road from Buckingham Palace. On the plaques arranged by battery are the names of all the gunners who died during the war. There are two that, until, recently were a mystery: Lts FC Fox and GTW Webb. Neither man in the official casualty roll nor in the November 1899 Army List which implies they weren't serving officers during the war, why then are they on the memorial?

FC Fox:
On the casualty rolls there is an entry for a Trooper Francis Charles Fox, Border Mounted Rifles, the only similar record to Lt FC Fox RA; what if any is the connection. This research was resolved quickly by contacting the Library of the Royal Artillery. There records show Lt FC Fox was killed while serving as Captain with the Border Mounted Rifles. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1869 and resigned his commission in 1879. When he was killed at Caesar's Camp on January 6th, 1900 he was quite old for a trooper, fifty perhaps? I double checked his rank with a Border Mounted Rifles collector in South Africa and he was not a captain. Exactly how his name was added to the RA memorial is not known, but he had not served with the regiment for 20 years on his death. There must be other ex-gunners killed in the war who are not included. There is certainly a story to be uncovered on what Fox did between 1879 and 1900.

GTW Webb:
The Register, being an agglomeration of records from many sources, had a record for a GT (George Theodosius) Wynne-Webb, 2nd Lt RGA and Trooper Steinaecker's Horse who died May 28th, 1901 at Pietermaritzburg, previously a prisoner released June 6th, 1900 at Waterval. This last record comes from The Times and is not in the official casualty roll, he is described as "attached" to the RGA. Obviously there is a great similarity between GTW Webb and GT Wynne-Webb, but what is the connection between the two records?

A name like "George Theodosius Wynne-Webb" is ripe for internet searching, and so it proved. GTW Webb was born in 1876, educated at Merchant Taylors. He was first commissioned into the Royal Marines in 1894, resigned at his own request in 1895. His service record (ADM196/62/304) refers to "confidential reports". He then joined a militia unit, the Royal Jersey Artillery from which he was commissioned into the RGA in 1897. He left the RGA in July 1899, circumstances unknown. Almost immediately he sailed for southern Africa and on the outbreak of war was in or near Ladysmith where he became attached to the 10th mountain battery RGA. The Digest of Service for the battery describes him as "Mr Webb", hence The Times describing him as "attached". How this relationship came about is not known, perhaps he had pals in the battery who invited him along. Whatever the nature of the relationship "Mr Webb" accompanied the battery into battle on "Mournful Monday" and was captured in the ensuing debacle on October 30th, 1899. On his release from POW camp Mr Webb did not re-join the battery but instead turns up in Utrecht, eastern Transvaal employed at the customs office. On May 9th, 1901 he enlists with Steinaecker's Horse as Trooper 3783 but dies three weeks later of pneumonia. The connections that saw him attached as a civilian to the 10th mountain battery RGA persist after his death, his name is included on the RA memorial despite him not being a serving officer at the time of his death and his brief, and perhaps chequered, career when he was commissioned. As ever, "worthy of further research" - see this blog.

QM & Hon Captain EJ Piper:
The third example is Quartermaster & Honorary Captain EJ Piper 1st volunteer battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI). He is named on the Devonshire county memorial in Exeter Cathedral, but not the (KSLI) memorial in Shrewsbury which implies Piper did not die on active service with the KSLI. On the medal roll there is a record for a Lieutenant & Quartermaster EJ Piper 5th bn Imperial Yeomanry (IY), roll marked "deceased". His name is not in the official casualty rolls suggesting he died in the UK, but what are the connection between a man from Devon, the IY and the KSLI?

With no first names and a surname like 'Piper' there is not much to search on. Fortunately FindmyPast have uploaded a huge archive of British newspapers which are treasure trove for researchers. Experimenting with different first names "Edwin Piper" drew a direct hit. His obituary was published in the Western Times (Devon) on December 21st, 1900, and full obituary it is too.

Edwin Piper was born about 1841 in (or about) Exeter. He served for 30 years with the volunteers, the last 16 with the 1st vb KSLI and as Supply and Transport Officer, Welsh Border Brigade. On the otubreak of war he was offered the role of Supply and Transport Officer for the 5th bn Imperial Yeomanry, one company of which came from Shropshire. In South Africa he fell ill with dysentery and enteric and was invalided home. He had two operations in July, but never recovered. He left a widow and six children. He was a deacon in the United Methodist Free Church, Albert St.

I will continue to work through the "odd" casualties on war memorials, one that I am working on know is Lt SP Knowles, formerly 2nd Life Guards. So far I cannot find any likely casualties with which to work on; one day all will be revealed.


International History Conference 2014 - Talana

In October 2014 Meurig presented a paper on war memorials at the
International History Conference: From the Anglo-Boer War to the Great War at Talana Museum, Dundee, Kwazulu-Natal October 2014. Research for this paper has added 200 memorials to The Register - with more to come.

The proceedings of the Conference can be downloaded here