Journal of Active Service.  Kept during the relief of Ladysmith and subsequent operations in northern Natal and the Transvaal, under General Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB

By Lieutenant Burne RN
Edward Arnold, London, 1902


CHAPTER I - Outbreak of the war—The Transport Service and despatch of Army Corps from Southampton—Departure of a Naval Brigade from England and landing at Capetown and Durban—I join H.M.S. Philomel

CHAPTER II - I depart for the front with a Q.-F. Battery from H.M.S. Terrible—Concentration of General Buller's army at Frere and Chieveley—Preliminary bombardment of the Boer lines at Colenso—The attack and defeat at Colenso—Christmas Day in camp

CHAPTER III - Life in Camp and Bombardment of the Boer lines at Colenso—General Buller moves his army, and by a flank march seizes "Bridle Drift" over the Tugela—The heavy Naval and Royal Artillery guns are placed in position—Sir Charles Warren crosses the Tugela with the 5th Division, and commences his flank attack

CHAPTER IV - Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz—General Buller withdraws the troops and moves once more on Colenso—We hold Springfield Bridge—Buller's successful attack on Hussar Hill, Hlangwane, and Monte Christo—Relief of Kimberley

CHAPTER V - Passage of Tugela forced and Colenso occupied—Another move back across the river to Hlangwane and Monte Christo—The Boers at length routed and Ladysmith is relieved—Entry of Relief Force into Ladysmith—Withdrawal of H.M.S. Terrible's men to China—I spend a bad time in Field Hospital—General Buller's army moves forward to Elandslaagte—Boers face us on the Biggarsberg

CHAPTER VI - End of three weary months at Elandslaagte—A small Boer attack—The advance of General Buller by Helpmakaar on Dundee—We under General Hildyard advance up the Glencoe Valley—Retreat of the Boers to Laing's Nek—Occupation of Newcastle and Utrecht—We enter the Transvaal—Concentration of the army near Ingogo—Naval guns ascend Van Wyk, and Botha's Pass is forced—Forced march through Orange Colony—Victory at Almond's Nek—Boers evacuate Majuba and Laing's Nek—Lord Roberts enters Pretoria—We occupy Volksrust and Charlestown

CHAPTER VII - Majuba Hill in 1900—We march on Wakkerstroom and occupy Sandspruit—Withdrawal of H.M.S. Forte's men and Naval Volunteers from the front—Action under General Brocklehurst at Sandspruit—I go to hospital and Durban for a short time—Recover and proceed to the front again—Take command of my guns at Grass Kop—Kruger flies from Africa in a Dutch man-of-war—Many rumours of peace

CHAPTER VIII - Still holding Grass Kop with the Queen's—General Buller leaves for England—Final withdrawal of the Naval Brigade, and our arrival at Durban—Our reception there—I sail for England—Conclusion

CHAPTER IX - Gunnery Results: The 12-pounder Q.-F. Naval gun—Its mounting, sighting, and methods of firing—The Creusot 3"-gun and its improvements—Shrapnel fire and the poor results obtained by the Boers—Use of the Clinometer and Mekometer—How to emplace a Q.-F. gun, etc., etc.

APPENDIX I - Hints on Equipment and Clothing for Active Service

APPENDIX II - Extracts from some of the Despatches, Reports, and Telegrams regarding operations mentioned in this Journal

APPENDIX III - Diary of the Boer War up to October 25th, 1900

APPENDIX IV - The Navy and the War: A Résumé of Officers and Men mentioned in Despatches for the Operations in Natal


For the Army, our comrades and our friends,
the Navy has nothing but the deepest respect and admiration.

This Journal, completed before leaving the front in October, 1900, does not assume to be more than a somewhat rough and unadorned record of my personal experiences during ten months of the South African (Boer) Campaign of 1899-1900 while in detached command of two 12-pounder guns of H.M.S. Terrible and H.M.S. Tartar. Having been asked by some of my friends to publish it, I am emboldened to do so, in the hope that the Journal may be of interest to those who read it, as giving some idea of work done by a Naval Brigade when landed for service at a most critical time. A few notes on Field Gunnery are appended with a view to give to others a few ideas which I picked up while serving with the guns on shore, after a previous experience as Gunnery Lieutenant in H.M.S Thetis and Cambrian.


For the photographs given I must record my thanks to Lieutenant Clutterbuck, R.N., Mr. Hollins, R.N., and other kind friends.

Twenty thousand men encamped under General Buller
A battery crossing the little Tugela
Naval battery of 4.7's and 12-pounders at Durban
Naval brigade pitching camp at Frere, December, 1899
Naval guns in action at Colenso
Lieut. Burne's guns firing at Spion Kop
4.7 emplaced on Hlangwane
Colt gun at Hlangwane firing at Boers
Naval 12-pounders advancing after Almond's Nek
4.7 on a bad bit of road
Bringing in a Boer prisoner
In camp at Grass Kop
One of Lieut. Halsey's naval 12-pounders
Lieut.-General Sir H. J. T. Hildyard, K.C.B.
Captain Percy Scott, C.B., R.N.
Naval 12-pounder emplaced
Boer gun positions at Colenso
Captain E. P. Jones, R.N
Map showing the operations of the Naval Brigade in Natal

Parent Category: Books
Category: Burne: With the Naval Brigade in Natal
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