Medals and awards

Phipps-Hornby, Edmund John

1900, Sannah's Post

PHIPPS-HORNBY, EDMUND JOHN, Major, was born at Lordington, Emsworth, Hants, on 31 December 1857, the second son of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Geoffrey Thomas Phipps-Hornby, GCB, and Emily Frances, daughter of the Reverend Richard Cowper Coles, of Ditcham, Petersfield, Hants. He was educated at a private school and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, and entered the Royal Artillery in May, 1878. He served in Sir Charles Warren's Bechuanaland Expedition in 1884 and 1885, in the 2nd Mounted Rifles, commanded by Colonel Carrington, and became Captain in 1886. On 31 January 1895, at St Stephen's Church, Gloucester Road, London. Captain Phipps-Hornby married Anna, eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Jay, of Blendon Hall, Bexley, Kent, and they had two daughters, Irene and Betty. He was promoted to Major in 1895, served in the South African War of 1899-1902, was mentioned in Despatches and given the Brevet of Lieutenant Colonel on 30 November 1899; was ADC to Lord Roberts, 1901 to 1903, and won the Victoria Cross as described later in the Gazette. Brigadier General Phipps-Hornby writes: "On the night of 30-31 March, 1900, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, with Q and U Batteries, RHA, retired from Tabanchu on Bloemfontein, followed by a superior force of Boers. By 4 am the force was across the Modder River at the Waterworks, inside its own line of outposts. At daylight the heavy rifle-fire commenced and a few shells fell short. Soon afterwards the shells came over our heads and fell among the transport. The mules were at once inspanned, and each waggon moved off as soon as it was ready along the road to Bloemfontein. The two RHA batteries were ordered to cross the Korn Spruit and cover the retirement. When nearing the drift it was noticed that all the transport was halted at the drift and had spread out fan-like. U Battery was ordered to trot on. When I got about 150 yards from the tail of the transport, a man ran out to me and said, 'We are prisoners. The Boers are all round us'. I ordered the battery to wheel about and gallop away. As it did so a heavy fire was opened on it from the spruit and upset one gun and stopped another waggon. After galloping back about half a mile I saw the Cavalry Brigade moving towards us. I blew my whistle and brought the battery into action by the tin huts of the railway station. The battery remained in action till ordered out by General Broadwood, Commanding the Cavalry Brigade. There were only myself, Captain Humphreys (wounded), and eight NCO's and men left with the guns then. We had to man handle them back and get infantry to help us". He was awarded the Victoria Cross [London Gazette, 26 June, 1900]: "Edmund John Phipps-Hornby, Major, Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. Date of Act of Bravery: 31 March, 1900. On the occasion of the action at Korn Spruit on the 31st March, 1900, a British force, including two batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery, was retiring from Thabanchu, towards Bloemfontein. The enemy had formed an ambush at Korn Spruit, and, before their presence was discovered by the main body, had captured the greater portion of the baggage column and five out of the six guns of the leading battery. When the alarm was given, Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was within three hundred yards of the spruit. Major Phipps-Hornby, who commanded it, at once wheeled about and moved off at a gallop under a very heavy fire. One gun was upset when the wheel horse was shot, and had to be abandoned with another waggon, the horses of which were killed. The remainder of the battery reached a position close to some unfinished railway buildings, and came into action 1,150 yards from the spruit, remaining in action until ordered to retire. When the order to retire was received, Major Phipps-Hornby ordered the guns and their limbers to be run back by hand to where the teams of uninjured horses stood behind the unfinished buildings. The few remaining gunners, assisted by a number of officers and men of a party of mounted infantry, and directed by Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys, the only remaining officers of the battery, succeeded in running back four of the guns under shelter. One or two of the limbers were similarly withdrawn by hand, but the work was most severe and the distance considerable. In consequence, all concerned were so exhausted that they were unable to drag in the remaining limbers of the fifth gun. It now became necessary to risk the horses, and volunteers were called for from among the drivers, who readily responded. Several horses were killed and men wounded, but at length only one gun and one limber were left exposed. Four separate attempts were made to rescue these, but when no more horses were available the attempt had to be given up and the gun and limber were abandoned. Meanwhile the other guns had been sent on one at a time, and after passing within seven or eight hundred yards of the enemy, in rounding the head of a donga and crossing two spruits, they eventually reached a place of safety, where the battery was reformed. After full consideration of the circumstances of the case, the Field Marshal Commanding-in-chief in South Africa formed the opinion that the conduct of all ranks of 'Q' Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was conspicuously gallant and daring, but that all were equally brave and devoted in their behaviour. He therefore decided to treat the case of the battery as one of collective gallantry, under Rule 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant, and directed that one officer should be selected for the decoration of the Victoria Cross by the officers, one non-commissioned officer by the non-commissioned officers, and two gunners or drivers by the gunners and drivers. A difficulty arose with regard to the officer, owing to the fact that there were only two officers—Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys —available for the work of saving the guns, and both of these had been conspicuous by their gallantry and by the fearless manner in which they exposed themselves, and each of them nominated the other for the decoration. It was ultimately decided in favour of Major Phipps-Hornby, as having been the senior concerned. Charles Parker, Sergeant, was elected by the non-commissioned officers, as described above. Isaac Lodge, Gunner, and Horace Harry Glasock, Driver, were elected by the gunners and drivers as described above. From 1901 to 1903 Major Phipps-Hornby was ADC to Lord Roberts. For his services in this campaign he was mentioned in Despatches, and received the Brevet of Lieutenant Colonel. He became Lieutenant Colonel in 1903, and was given command of the 4th RHA Brigade at Woolwich and Aldershot till 1903, when he was promoted Colonel. In 1903 he was appointed Brigadier-General to command the artillery of the 4th Division, and remained in command of it till 1913. In 1911 he was created a CB. On the outbreak of the European War Brigadier General Phipps-Hornby was appointed to the command of the Artillery 3rd Corps, and went with it to France in August 1914, and commanded the artillery of the Southern Army in England from April 1916, to December 1918. He was mentioned in Despatches four times during the Great War, and was created a CMG in 1916. Brigadier-General E J Phipps-Hornby retired on 27 December 1918. He died on 13 December 1947 at Sonning, Berkshire.

His VC is located in the Royal Artillery Museum, Woolwich.

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