THE HISTORY OF LUMSDEN’S HORSE
A COMPLETE RECORD OF THE CORPS FROM ITS FORMATION TO ITS DISBANDMENT
HENRY H.S. PEARSE
AUTHOR OF ‘FOUR MONTHS BESIEGED—THE STORY OF LADYSMITH’ ETC.
WITH MANY PORTRAITS AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS AND A MAP
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK AND BOMBAY
Although this History of Lumsden’s Horse embraces a period in the South African campaign that was crowded with great issues, it makes no pretence to rank among the many able and comprehensive works dealing with those events. Elaborate descriptions and criticisms of operations as a whole have been purposely avoided, except so far as they serve to explain and emphasise actions in which the corps took part.
First of all, the book is intended to be no more than a regimental record, enlivened by the personal experiences of men who helped to make history at a time when the whole British Empire was moved by one impulse. India’s part in that movement is the inspiring theme, and one object has been to show how the idea of organising an Indian Volunteer Contingent for service in South Africa passed from inception to accomplishment, through the efforts of a Committee in Calcutta which made itself responsible for every financial liability in connection with the corps from its formation to its disbandment.
The cost of publication is being defrayed out of a balance of funds remaining in the hands of the Committee, and each member of the corps will receive a copy as a souvenir of his interesting experiences and a proof that his services are still remembered. Publication, however, is not restricted to members of the corps, and the Editor ventures to think that this book will suggest to general readers many points worthy of consideration. It illustrates the facility with which British subjects in India are able to band themselves together, and affords yet another instance of many in which the Indian Government has shown itself capable of utilising instantly its resources for the Empire’s benefit. And, more than this, it will stand as a proof of the cordiality with which the Indian public—British and Native—came forward at a time of Imperial need with offers of personal service or liberal subscriptions, which enabled the Committee to raise and despatch a Mounted Contingent completely equipped in every detail.
Among those who have assisted the Editor with information that has enabled him to produce this History, he has especially to thank the Committee, the Adjutant of the Regiment (Major NEVILLE TAYLOR, 14th Bengal Lancers), whose sketch-map of the positions at Houtnek was made from personal reconnaissance, and Messrs. D.S. FRASER, GRAVES, BURN-MURDOCH, KIRWAN, and PRESTON. He is also indebted to Major Ross, C.B., Durham Light Infantry, for interesting material. Acknowledgment is due to Messrs. JOHNSTON & HOFFMANN, Messrs. F. KAPP & CO., Messrs. BOURNE & SHEPHERD, and Messrs. HARRINGTON & CO., of Calcutta, and others, who have kindly placed photographs at the Editor’s disposal; and to the proprietors of the ‘Englishman,’ ‘Pioneer,’ ‘Indian Daily News,’ ‘Statesman,’ ‘Times of India,’ and ‘Madras Daily Mail,’ for permission to reproduce from their columns the personal narratives that brighten many pages of this book.
ARTS CLUB, LONDON: January 1903.
I. HOW THE CORPS WAS RAISED AND EQUIPPED
II. PREPARING FOR THE FRONT—DEPARTURE FROM CALCUTTA
III. OUTWARD BOUND
IV. NEARING THE GOAL—DISEMBARKATION AT CAPE TOWN AND EAST LONDON
V. AN INTERLUDE—THE RESULTS OF SANNA’S POST
VI. BY RAIL AND ROUTE MARCH TO BLOEMFONTEIN
VII. IMPRESSIONS OF BLOEMFONTEIN—JOIN THE 8TH MOUNTED INFANTRY REGIMENT ON OUTPOST
VIII. THE BAPTISM OF FIRE—LUMSDEN’S HORSE AT OSPRUIT (HOUTNEK)
IX. AFTER OSPRUIT—SOME TRIBUTES TO MAJOR SHOWERS AND OTHER HEROES
X. PRISONERS OF WAR
XI. TOWARDS PRETORIA—LUMSDEN’S HORSE SCOUTING AHEAD OF THE ARMY FROM BLOEMFONTEIN TO THE VAAL RIVER
XII. JOHANNESBURG AND PRETORIA IN OUR HANDS
XIII. ON LINES OF COMMUNICATION AT IRENE, KALFONTEIN, ZURFONTEIN, AND SPRINGS—THE PRETORIA PAPER-CHASE
XIV. ALARMS AND EXCURSIONS—BOER SCOUTING—A RECONNAISSANCE TO CROCODILE RIVER—FAREWELL TO COLONEL ROSS
XV. A MARCH UNDER MAHON OF MAFEKING TO RUSTENBURG AND WARMBATHS—IN PURSUIT OF DE WET
XVI. EASTWARD TO BELFAST AND BARBERTON UNDER GENERALS FRENCH AND MAHON
XVII. MARCHING AND FIGHTING—FROM MACHADODORP TO HEIDELBERG AND PRETORIA UNDER GENERALS FRENCH AND DICKSON
XVIII. HOMEWARD BOUND—APPROBATION FROM LORD ROBERTS—CAPE TOWN’S ACKNOWLEDGMENTS—FAREWELL TO SOUTH AFRICA
XIX. THE RETURN TO INDIA—WELCOME HOME—HONOURS AND ORATIONS—DISBANDMENT
XX. A STIRRING SEQUEL—THE STORY OF THOSE WHO STAYED—MEMORIAL TRIBUTES TO THOSE WHO HAVE GONE
I. ROLL OF LUMSDEN’S HORSE, INCLUDING TRANSPORT
II. MOBILISATION SCHEME FOR LUMSDEN’S HORSE
III. THE ADJUTANT’S NOTE-BOOK
IV. LIST OF OFFICERS, N.C.O.S, AND MEN WHO HAVE BEEN AWARDED DECORATIONS, COMMISSIONS, OR CIVIL APPOINTMENTS
V. HONOURS AND PROMOTIONS
VI. HONORARY RANK IN THE ARMY
VII. LUMSDEN’S HORSE EQUIPMENT FUND
VIII. FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS OF THE CORPS
IX. LUMSDEN’S HORSE RECEPTION COMMITTEE
X. THE FINAL ACCOUNTS
XI. REPORT OF TRANSPORT SERGEANT
XII. TOPICAL SONG BY A TROOPER
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
From Drawings, and from Photographs by Messrs. JOHNSTON & HOFFMANN,
KAPP & CO., BOURNE & SHEPHERD, and HARRINGTON & CO., Calcutta;
Messrs. ELLIOTT & FRY, London, and others.
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL D.M. LUMSDEN, C.B. Frontispiece
SIR PATRICK PLAYFAIR, C.I.E.
HIS EXCELLENCY LORD CURZON, VICEROY OF INDIA
BEHAR CONTINGENT OF LUMSDEN’S HORSE
MYSORE AND COORG CONTINGENT
THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
COLONEL LUMSDEN, C.B., SIR PATRICK PLAYFAIR, C.I.E., COLONEL MONEY, MAJOR EDDIS, MR. HARRY STUART
OFFICERS OF THE CORPS
COLONEL LUMSDEN, MAJOR SHOWERS, CAPTAINS TAYLOR, BERESFORD, NOBLETT, RUTHERFOORD, CHAMNEY, CLIFFORD, AND STEVENSON, LIEUTENANTS CRANE, NEVILLE, SIDEY, AND PUGH
MESSING AT CALCUTTA
HORSES IN CAMP AT CALCUTTA
ON PARADE, CALCUTTA
TAKING HORSES ON BOARD TRANSPORT 28
EMBARKATION AT CALCUTTA
H.E. THE VICEROY ADDRESSING THE CORPS
B COMPANY LUMSDEN’S HORSE LEAVING CALCUTTA
THE REGIMENT IN CALCUTTA
CAPTAIN HOLMES, SERGEANT DALE, C.V.S. DICKENS, N.J. BOLST, P.T. CORBETT
SURMA VALLEY LIGHT HORSE. CONTINGENT OF LUMSDEN’S B COMPANY
MAJOR (LOCAL COLONEL) W.C. ROSS, C.B.
TRANSPORT AND WATER CARTS
OUTLYING PICKET TAKING UP POSITION
HOUTNEK, SHOWING POSITIONS OF BRITISH AND BOER TROOPS
N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
SERGEANT F.S. McNAMARA, LANCE-SERGEANT J.S. ELLIOTT, CORPORAL A. MACGILLIVRAY, R.U. CASE, C.A. WALTON, A.F. FRANKS, J.S. SAUNDERS, R.N. MACDONALD, L. GWATKIN WILLIAMS
BRINGING HALF-RATIONS UP TO NORMAL
N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
H.J. MOORHOUSE, A.K. MEARES, W.K. MEARES, H.W. PUCKRIDGE, R.G. DAGGE, R.P. WILLIAMS, R.C. NOLAN, T.G. PETERSEN, S. DUCAT
N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
CORPORAL L.E. KIRWAN, J.S. CAMPBELL, C.E. TURNER, E.S. CHAPMAN, G. INNES WATSON, C.E. STUART, C. CARY-BARNARD, E.S. CLIFFORD, H. GOUGH
INVALIDED HOME AFTER THE SURRENDER OF PRETORIA
J. SKELTON, R.P. HAINES, H.W. THELWALL, C.K. MARTIN, H.S. CHESHIRE, H.B. OLDHAM, M.H. LOGAN, J.V. JAMESON, H. HOWES
NIGHT IN CAMP
T. HARE SCOTT, H.G. PHILLIPS, R.P. ESTABROOKE, J. BRAINE, R. PRINGLE, W. BURNAND
L. DAVIS, LEO H. BRADFORD, C.W. LOVEGROVE, S.W. CULLEN, F.C. MANVILLE, F.C. THOMPSON
H.P. BROWN, A TYPICAL TROOPER
N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
SERGEANT A.H. LUARD, CORPORAL G. LAWRIE, F.G. BATEMAN, L. KINGCHURCH, IAN SINCLAIR, PERCY COBB, HARVEY DAVIES, C.E. CONSTERDINE, D. ROBERTSON
N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
SERGEANT G.E. THESIGER, CORPORAL W.T. SMITH, E.B. MOIR-BYRES, J.A. BROWN, H. EVETTS, J.L. STEWART, H.N. SHAW, E.S. CLARKE, B.E. JONES
GAZETTED TO THE REGULAR ARMY
CORPORAL F.S. MONTAGU BATES, H.S.N. WRIGHT, J.D.L. ARATHOON, S.L. INNES, F.W. WRIGHT, R.G. COLLINS, A.E. NORTON, W. DOUGLAS-JONES, T.B. NICHOLSON
RECEIVING THE MAYOR OF CAPE TOWN’S FAREWELL
ADDRESS ON THE SOUTH ARM
CHEERING IN RESPONSE
HOME FROM SOUTH AFRICA—N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
SERGEANTS STOWELL, DONALD, RUTHERFOORD, FOX, FARRIER-SERGEANT EDWARDS, LANCE-CORPORAL GODDEN, S.C. GORDON, E.A. THELWALL, A.P. COURTENAY
HOME FROM SOUTH AFRICA—N.C.O.S AND TROOPERS
SERGEANT J. BRENNAN, H. NICOLAY, A. ATKINSON, C.H. JOHNSTONE, G. SMITH, N.V. REID, W.R. WINDER, R.M. CRUX, L.K. ZORAB
MEMBERS OF LUMSDEN’S HORSE WHO JOINED THE JOHANNESBURG POLICE, DECEMBER 1900
SILVER STATUETTE, PRESENTED TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL LUMSDEN
TABLET IN ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL, CALCUTTA
CAPTAIN NOBLETT (MAJOR ROYAL IRISH RIFLES), COMMANDING B COMPANY LUMSDEN’S HORSE
CAPTAIN H. CHAMNEY
CAPTAIN NEVILLE C. TAYLOR
H.C. LUMSDEN (KILLED IN ACTION, HOUTNEK, APRIL 30, 1900)
LIEUTENANT C.E. CRANE
HERBERT N. BETTS, D.C.M.
MAJOR EDEN C. SHOWERS (KILLED AT HOUTNEK)
BUGLER R.H. MACKENZIE
DAVID STEWART FRASER
WATERVAL PRISON, PRETORIA
PERCY JONES, D.C.M.
LIEUTENANT G.A. NEVILLE
LIEUTENANT H.O. PUGH, D.S.O.
WALTER DEXTER, D.C.M., CUTTING THE TELEGRAPH WIRES AT ELANDSFONTEIN
P.C. PRESTON, D.C.M.
CAPTAIN RUTHERFOORD, D.S.O.
CAPTAIN W. STEVENSON, VETERINARY SURGEON
SERGEANT ERNEST DAWSON
A TYPICAL BOER
J.A. GRAHAM, D.C.M.
A HALT ON THE MARCH TO BARBERTON: GENERAL MAHON AND COLONEL WOOLLS-SAMPSON
CAPTAIN C. LYON SIDEY
CORPORAL J. GRAVES
LANCE-CORPORAL JOHN CHARLES
SWORD OF HONOUR PRESENTED TO LIEUTENANT-COLONEL LUMSDEN
To Lumsden’s Horse belongs the high honour of having represented all India in a movement the magnitude and far-reaching effects of which we are only beginning to appreciate. While the stubborn struggle for supremacy in South Africa lasted, no true sons of the Empire allowed themselves to count the cost. Some were prepared to pay it in blood, others in treasure, to make success certain, and none allowed himself to harbour even the shadow of a thought that failure, with all its inevitable disasters, could befall us so long as the Mother Country and her offshoots held together. At the outset only those blessed with exceptional foresight could have believed in the completeness of a federation the elements of which were bound together by no other ties than sentiment. Selfish interests were merged in combined efforts for the common weal, and, while the necessity for action lasted, few cared to reckon the price they were paying for an idea.
Even the long-looked-for advent of Peace has hardly brought home to us a knowledge of all that War in South Africa meant, not only in a military sense, but also in its greater imperial significance. The men who fought and bled for the noble sentiment of British brotherhood never dreamed that they were doing more than duty demanded, though they had perhaps given up every chance of success in life to answer the call of patriotism; and among those who stayed at home there are millions untouched by the bitterness of personal bereavement who can have no conception of the sacrifices that were made to keep our Empire whole. Casualty lists, with all their details of killed and wounded, do not tell half the story. To know it all we must dip deep into the private records of every contingent, British and Colonial, that volunteered for active service, and deeper still to fathom the motives of men who, when their country seemed to need them, threw aside all other considerations and rallied to her standard.
Continental critics may sneer at us for making much of this idea, but none know better than they do the difference between loyalty expressed in such a noble form and the mere instinct of self-preservation that too often passes current for patriotism. They tell us that it is every citizen’s duty to be a soldier and every soldier’s duty to die, if necessary, for his country; but when they see self-governing nations from every quarter of the world coming into line by their own free will and all welded together by one sentiment, they have no better name for it than lust of empire. Nevertheless, they know it for what it is, a thing of which they had previously no conception, and they recognise in the impulses that led to this mighty manifestation the secret of Great Britain’s world-wide power. Let envious rivals say what they will. Let them magnify our reverses and minimise our triumphs, if the process pleases them. In spite of everything, the South African War stands a great epoch of an age that will some day come to be reckoned among the greatest in British History, and all who have helped towards the shaping of events at this memorable time can at least claim to have earned the gratitude of posterity.
And India may well be proud of her share in the work. Measured by the mere number of men whom she sent to the war, her contribution seems perhaps comparatively small; but when we remember the sources from which that contingent was drawn, the munificence of gifts from Europeans and natives alike for its equipment and maintenance, and all the sacrifices that war-service involved for every member of the little force, we cannot but admire the spirit that called it into being. A great crisis was not necessary to convince us that British residents in India would fight, if called upon, with all the valour that distinguished Outram’s Volunteers of old. Few, however, would have been bold enough to predict that for any conceivable cause hundreds of men would readily relinquish all that they had struggled for, give up the fruits of half a life’s labour, and calmly face the certainty of irreparable losses, without asking for anything in return, except the opportunity of serving their country on a soldier’s meagre pay. Still less could anybody have imagined that a time might come when Indian natives, debarred from the chance of proving their loyalty by personal service, would give without stint towards a fund for equipping a force to fight in a distant land against the enemies of the British Raj. If Indian princes had been permitted to raise troops for the war in South Africa, our Eastern contingent would have numbered thousands instead of hundreds. What natives were not allowed to give in men they gave in cash and in substance, according to their means, thereby showing that they were with us in a desire to defend the Empire against any assailant. In reality this meant more than an offer of armed forces, and to that extent it was worthy to rank with the self-sacrifice of Anglo-Indians who gave personal service, and thereby took upon themselves a burden the weight of which cannot be readily estimated. It must not be forgotten that raising a corps of Volunteers in India is a very different matter from the enrolment of a similar force at home, or wherever there are dense populations and ‘leisured classes’ to be drawn upon. There are no idle men in India, everyone having gone there to fill an appointment and earn his livelihood. When the call came, therefore, it could only be answered by sacrifices or not at all, and nobody is more conscious of this fact than the man whose laconic appeal for Volunteers brought three or four times more offers than he could possibly accept. In his opinion ‘the men who vacated appointments worth from 300 to 500 rupees a month and went to fight for their country on 1s. 2d. a day have given a much larger contribution to the War Fund than they could afford.’ As an instance he mentions three members of the medical profession, Doctors Charteris, Moorhouse, and Woollright, each of whom threw up a lucrative practice and joined the ranks as a trooper. These are not exceptional but simply typical cases. Scores of other men gave up equally remunerative appointments with the same noble unselfishness to enrol themselves in Lumsden’s Horse.
To Colonel Lumsden alone belongs the honour of having evoked this splendid manifestation of patriotic feeling. The idea of forming a corps of Indian Volunteers was his; and though similar thoughts may have been in many minds at the same moment, nobody had given a practical turn to them until his message—electric in every sense—startled all Anglo-Indians into active and cordial co-operation. How all that came about will be told with fuller circumstances in its proper place, but some reference must be made here to the man whose firm faith in the patriotism and soldierly qualities of Indian Volunteers led him to the inception of a scheme which events have so abundantly justified.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dugald McTavish Lumsden, C.B., needs no introduction to the East, where the best, and perhaps the happiest, years of his life have been spent. Without some details concerning him, however, completeness could not be claimed for any record of the corps which is now identified with his name. The eldest son of the late Mr. James Lumsden, of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, he was born in 1851. At the age of twenty-two he obtained an appointment on the Borelli Tea Estate, in the Tezpur District of Assam, and sailed for India. Consciously or unconsciously, he must have taken with him some military ambitions imbibed through intimate association with leaders of the Volunteer movement in Scotland. At any rate, he soon became known as a keen Volunteer in the land of his adoption, and when in 1887 the Durrung Mounted Rifles was formed, he was given a captaincy. A year later that corps lost its identity, as other local units did, in the territorial title of Assam Valley Light Horse, with Colonel Buckingham, C.I.E., as commandant, while Captain Lumsden got his majority and took command of F Squadron in the Durrung District. Subsequently he commanded the regiment for a time, and, though he left India in 1893, he did not lose touch with his old comrades. Every year he returned to spend the cold weather among his friends in Assam, showing always undiminished interest in the welfare of his old regiment. Thus, when the time came for a call to active service, he had no sort of doubt what the response would be from the hardy, sport-loving planters of Northern Bengal. Himself an enthusiastic shikari and first-rate shot, he knew how to value the qualities that are developed in hunting and stalking wild game. And his experience of Indian Volunteers was not confined to his own district. He knew every corps in Bengal by reputation, and could thus gauge with an approach to accuracy the numbers on which he would be able to draw for the formation of an Indian contingent. Much travel in many lands had also made him a good judge of men, as evidenced by the first thing he did when the idea of calling upon India to take up her share of the Imperial burden came to him.
At that time he was travelling in Australia, and had no means of knowing how deeply the feelings of British residents and natives of the East had been stirred by news of the reverses to our arms in South Africa. The dark days of Stormberg and Magersfontein had thrown their shadow over Australia as over England, chilling the hearts of people who until then had refused to believe that British troops could be baulked by any foes, notwithstanding the stern lesson of Ladysmith’s investment. Through that darkness they were groping sullenly towards the light, and wondering what national sacrifices would have to be made before the humiliation could be wiped out. It is in such moments of emergency that natural leaders come to the front. Among the few in England or the Colonies who realised the military value of Volunteers was Colonel Lumsden. Though thousands of miles away from the scenes of early associations, his thoughts turned at once to the bold riders and skilful marksmen with whom he had so often shared the exciting incidents of the chase. He made up his mind at once that the planters, on whose spirit he could rely, were the very men wanted for South African fighting. On the parade ground they might not be all that soldiers whose minds are fettered by rules and traditions would desire, but he knew how long days of exercise in the open air at their ordinary avocations, varied by polo, pig-sticking, and big-game hunting, had toughened their fibre and hardened their nerves. He could count on every one of them also for keen intelligence, which he rightly regarded as more important than mere obedience to orders, where every man might be called upon to think and act for himself. Colonel Lumsden would be the last to depreciate Regular soldiers, or undervalue their discipline, but experience had taught him that men who can exercise self-restraint and develop powers of endurance for the mere pleasure of excelling in manly sports, adapt themselves readily enough to military duties. To them, at any rate, the prospect of hardships or privations would be no deterrent, the imminence of danger only an additional incentive. On December 15, 1899—a day to be afterwards borne in mournful memory—Colonel Lumsden made up his mind that the time for action had come to every Briton who could see his way to giving the Mother Country a helpful hand. He cabled at once to his friend Sir Patrick Playfair in Calcutta his proposal to raise a corps of European Mounted Infantry for service in South Africa, and backed it with an offer, not only to take the field himself, but to contribute a princely sum in aid of a fund for equipping any force the Government might sanction. Then, without waiting to know whether his services had been accepted, he took passage by the next steamer for India.