From General Sir Redvers Buller, V.C., G.C.B.
[Extract.]December 17th, 1899.
I enclose a reconnaissance sketch of the Colenso position. All visible defences had been shelled by eight naval guns on the 13th and 14th. During all this time and throughout the day, the two 4.7 and four 12-pounder Naval guns of the Naval Brigade and Durban Naval Volunteers, under Captain E. P. Jones, R.N., were being admirably served, and succeeded in silencing every one of the enemy's guns they could locate.
[London Gazette, March 30th, 1900.]
From Captain E. P. Jones, R.N., Commanding Naval Brigade.
[Extract.]December 16th, 1899.
The whole force under Sir Redvers Buller advanced at 4 a.m. yesterday, intending to take the positions of the (p. 130) enemy on the other side of the Tugela. The Brigade under my command was disposed as follows:—Two 4.7 guns and four 12-pounders which were on the outpost line in a position 10,000 yards from the main works of the enemy, from which place we had been shelling them on the previous day, advanced to a small rise about 5,000 yards from the entrenched hills across the Tugela. Six 12-pounders under Lieutenant Ogilvy with Lieutenant James of H.M.S. Tartar and Lieutenant Deas of Philomel were attached to the Field Artillery under Colonel Long. Two 12-pounders under Lieutenant Burne held the kopje from which we advanced.
[London Gazette, March 12th, 1901.]
From Captain Jones, R.N., Commanding Naval Brigade, Natal.
Naval Camp, Spearmans Hill,
[Extract.]February 8th, 1900.
As to Vaal Krantz, the Naval guns were disposed as follows: ... Two 12-pounders with Lieutenant Burne on the plateau between this hill and the river. At daylight on the 6th, Lieutenant Burne's two guns were moved to a position at the east of Zwartz Kop.
February 18th, 1900. Lieutenant Burne with two 12-pounder guns was left with General Warren at Spearmans and marched on the 10th to Springfield Bridge where he remains under Colonel Burn-Murdoch.
From General Sir R. Buller to Admiral Sir R. Harris, March 5th, 1900. "I much appreciate your congratulations. I can hardly tell you how much of our successes are due to the Navy: their gunnery was admirable."
(p. 131) Report from Lieutenant Burne, R.N., February 16th, 1900, enclosed in letter of March 28th, 1900, from the Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station.
Report from Lieutenant Burne, R.N.
February 16th, 1900.
I have the honour to report as follows:—
Since being detached from Lieutenant Ogilvy's command I moved back across the Tugela river from the advanced kopjes on February 1st. On Sunday, February 4th, I learnt that I was attached to Sir Charles Warren's Division, and received my orders from him personally on that day on Gun Plateau, regarding the next day's operations; I also interviewed yourself on that day in reply to signal received. On Monday, 5th, my guns were shelling the enemy incessantly all day in conjunction with the feint on the left, and in reply to a Boer 3" Creusot and two Maxim Vickers 1-¼ lbs. I received many directions from both General Warren and General Talbot-Coke, as to points they wished shelled, and at the end of the day had expended 250 common and shrapnel shell. At 8 p.m. I received orders from General Warren to march at daybreak on Tuesday, and join the Commander-in-Chief at the fort of Zwartz Kop; this I did, and though delayed on the hill by wagons and by the 7th Battery R.F.A. coming up, and later, by streams of ambulance in the narrow road close to Zwartz Kop, I arrived and reported my guns to General Buller about 8 a.m., at the foot of the kopje. He told me to bring my guns into action, and help to silence the Boer 6" Creusot, and, if possible, the 3" Creusot, which were firing from Spion Kop (position 2) at our field batteries.
(p. 132) As I came into action, and was aiming my right gun at the Boer 6", a shell from it struck twenty yards in front, and covering us with dirt, jumped over our heads without exploding; the shell was plainly visible in the air to me on coming down, and I saw it strike on its side and the fuse break off. The shell was picked up intact at my wagons which were just coming up, by Edward House, A.B., and we have it now. I concentrated my fire on the 6" gun at 6,400 yards, and in an hour it was silenced for the rest of the day; this, of course, was effected in conjunction with the fire from the 5" guns just in front of me, and from one 4.7 on Signal Hill.
During the day my guns also drove back at least two Boer field guns at 6,500 yards, which had been brought down into Vaal Krantz, and which tried to find our range but just fell short; they shifted position, but were finally driven over the sky-line. There was also a 1-¼ lb. Pom-pom in a donga in the valley, which we silenced many times, and at the end of the day had fired some 230 rounds.
On Wednesday, February 7th, we commenced again at daylight; the 6" opened a heavy fire on one pontoon (No. 3), and on the field batteries in front of us, which had been pushed forward there before daybreak. My fire was directed solely at the big gun; my No. 2 standing by and firing directly he saw it appear. During the day my ammunition supply was kept up by direct communication by orderly with the column under Major Findlay. In the forenoon the Boer field guns were brought down again in the valley, and shelled the pontoon, Krantz Kop, and us; they were driven off in an hour or so, but recommenced again later.
In the afternoon, more field guns and Pom-poms on the burnt kopjes to the left of us opened a heavy fire on (p. 133) Krantz Kop, but were driven off by our guns, the howitzer battery (100 yards in our rear), and by the Naval guns on Zwartz Kop.
About 5 p.m. the fire from the Boer 100-pounder was very heavy, and came all round us, the Staff, and Infantry in reserve, and twice my crews only escaped by lying down. Just at that moment I got the order from Colonel Parsons, R.A., to withdraw my guns by moonlight, and cover our retirement on Gun Plateau. This was done, but the steep hill being jammed with traffic, I did not get up to my old position on Gun Plateau till next morning, when I reported to General Warren.
Between February 8th and 9th, I assisted to cover the retirement of our troops over the Tugela, and on the 9th was withdrawn at 11 a.m., and arrived at Springfield Bridge at 3 p.m.
On February 10th, by order of Colonel Burn-Murdoch (1st Dragoons) and the Camp Commandant, I placed my guns in the entrenched camp half a mile beyond the bridge, and up to 14th was employed in making gun epaulements and pits, and finding the ranges.
On February 13th, the Boers appearing in force on the kopjes to our left at 9,000 yards, I rode out with Colonel Burn-Murdoch and other Commanding Officers, to reconnoitre, and find gun positions. They sniped at us at 1,600 to 2,000 yards, and at the advanced Cavalry pickets all night, but next morning, the 14th, after "A" Battery Royal Horse Artillery and my guns had been pushed forward, they were found to have retreated altogether, and we surmised them to be a commando of Free State Boers returning to the Free State.
To-day, the 16th, we received news of General French's relief of Kimberley. All quiet in this neighbourhood.
At present I have 500 rounds of ammunition with me, (p. 134) and 300, in reserve, in charge of the officer of the ammunition column here.
I will conclude by saying that I have nothing but praise for the conduct and hard work performed by my men during the last ten days, especially when under fire; their spirit is now excellent. I should specially mention my captains of guns, T. Mitchell, 1st class P.O., and J. Mullis, 1st class P.O., for their hard work, the latter the best and quickest shot of the two. I must recommend E. A. Harvey, P.O., 2nd class, and leading shipwright, as rendering me most useful and clever work on the gun mountings, etc., and for further designs. Of the rest P. Treherne, A.B.; D. Shepherd, A.B., S.G.T.; Henry House, A.B.; W. Jones, A.B., S.G.T.; Fred Tuck, O.S.; C. Patton, signalman; and W. Dunetal, stoker, deserve special mention. Mr. White, midshipman, has rendered me useful assistance. Mr. Freeman, conductor, has done very well; and the white drivers, McPheeson and Blewitt, excellently. I find the gun teams of eight oxen under the two latter are very useful.
[The Times, Thursday, March 1st, 1900.]
The following despatch from General Buller has been received at the War Office:—
Headquarters, Hlangwane Plain,
February 28th, 8.5 a.m.
Finding that the passage of Langewachte Spruit was commanded by strong entrenchments, I reconnoitred for another passage of the Tugela. One was found for me below the cataract by Colonel Sandbach, Royal Engineers.
On the 25th we commenced making an approach to it, (p. 135) and on the 26th, finding that I could make a practicable approach, I crossed guns and baggage back to the south side of the Tugela, took up the pontoon bridge on the night of the 26th, and relaid it at the new site, which is just below the point marked "cataract."
During all the time the troops had been scattered, crouching under hastily-constructed small stone shelters, and exposed to a galling shell and rifle fire, and throughout maintained the most excellent spirit.
On the 27th General Barton, with two Battalions 6th Brigade and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, crept about one and a half miles down the banks of river, and, ascending an almost precipitous cliff of about 500 feet, assaulted and carried the top of Pieters Hill.
This hill to a certain extent turned the enemy's left, and the 4th Brigade, under Colonel Norcott, and the 11th Brigade, under Colonel Kitchener, the whole under General Warren, assailed the enemy's main position, which was magnificently carried by the South Lancashire Regiment about sunset.
We took about sixty prisoners and scattered the enemy in all directions.
There seems to be still a considerable body of them left on and under Bulwana Mountain.
Our losses, I hope, are not large. They certainly are much less than they would have been were it not for the admirable manner in which the artillery was served, especially the guns manned by the Royal Navy and the Natal Naval Volunteers.
(p. 136) [The Times, Thursday, March 8th, 1900.]
From our Special Correspondent.
The following special Army Order has been issued:—
"The relief of Ladysmith unites two forces which have striven with conspicuous gallantry and splendid determination to maintain the honour of their Queen and country. The garrison of Ladysmith for four months held the position against every attack with complete success and endured its privations with admirable fortitude. The relieving force had to make its way through unknown country, across unfordable rivers, and over almost inaccessible heights in the face of a fully-prepared, well-armed tenacious enemy. By the exhibition of the truest courage, which burns steadily besides flashing brilliantly, it accomplished its object, and added a glorious page to our history. Sailors, soldiers, Colonials, and the home-bred have done this, united by one desire, and inspired by one patriotism.
"The General Commanding congratulates both forces on their martial qualities, and thanks them for their determined efforts. He desires to offer his sincere sympathy to the relatives and friends of the good soldiers and gallant comrades who have fallen in the fight.
From Captain Jones, R.N., Naval Brigade.
[Extract.]March 10th, 1900.
I enclose reports sent in to me by Lieutenants Ogilvy and Burne, who were mostly detached from me.
(p. 137) Enclosure from Lieutenant Burne, R.N.
March 7th, 1900.
Since my last letter dated from Springfield Bridge, I have the honour to report that I left Springfield on February 23rd, marching with the York and Lancaster Regiment to rejoin the main column. We reached Chieveley Camp on the 24th, and I pitched camp on Gun Hill, where I found Lieutenant Drummond and the 6" gun. We remained here till a telegram and written orders were handed me on the night of the 26th, from Lieutenant Drummond, to march at daybreak with the York and Lancaster Regiment to join the 10th Brigade. We marched at 6 a.m. on the 27th, with the Regiment, by Hussar Hill round Hlangwane. Here we found the Commander-in-Chief, who told me, on my reporting the guns, that the 10th Brigade were in Colenso; he added that it was no fault of mine that we had come out of the way, as the orders had not been clear, but told me to cross the Tugela by the Pont as quickly as possible, the pontoon bridge having been removed. At the Pont I had to off-load all my wagons, as the drift below was impassable; and after having got one gun and ox team safely across, the Pont was upset in the middle of the river, and all the work was jammed. During this time there was a heavy shell fire on Colenso Station from a Boer 3" gun, but we were not touched. I had the Pont righted, and my men baled it out before daylight on the 28th, and I took my other gun and two wagons and loads of ammunition across, and hurried on to join General Coke. On the morning of March 1st a body of men rode in from Ladysmith. They proved to be Ladysmith scouts, and brought (p. 138) General Coke his first intimation of the relief of Ladysmith on the previous evening. My guns were in position, and we bivouacked with the troops for some days, but I have now pitched camp and withdrawn the guns. Hearing many rumours here that the Naval men are to return to their ships, I should like to bring to your notice the very excellent service which has been rendered me by my captains of guns, R. Mitchell, P.O., 1st class, and especially G. Mullis, P.O., 1st class, and the clever and hard work of F. Harvey, P.O., 2nd class (leading shipwright), and to mention the following names not before mentioned:—H. House, A.B., F. Long, O.S. (bugler), S. Ratcliffe, O.S., and to state my appreciation of the work done by all.
[The Times of April 16th, 1900.]
Extract from "Times" Natal Military Correspondent, dated March 22nd, 1900.
The Naval contingent of the Powerful left Ladysmith for England on the 7th, and that of the Terrible left to rejoin their ship on the 11th. The 4.7 guns remain in the hands of the Naval gunners of the Forte, Philomel, and Tartar, under Captain Jones of the Forte, but most of the 12-pounders have now been handed over to the 4th Mountain Battery. It seems a great pity that the Naval gunners of the Terrible could not have been spared to finish the campaign. Three months' practice ashore has made them nearly perfect in the management of their guns, and they themselves would be the first to admit that, at any rate in that part of the gunnery that was not learnt on board ship, such as rapidity of fire under their present altered conditions and mobility, they have (p. 139) improved twofold since they first landed. Their rapidity of fire was wonderful when it is remembered that their carriages are fitted with none of the automatic appliances for returning the gun to the firing position, but have to be dragged back every time by hand, and then carefully adjusted with the wheels at exactly the same level. As regards mobility, they have on at least one occasion—namely Zwartz Kop—taken their guns up a place condemned by the Royal Artillery as impossible. All this experience is now to be made no further use of, and the guns pass into the hands of men who will have to learn it afresh. A great advantage the Naval gunners had over the Royal Artillery was their use of the glass. Besides the telescopic sights used with the big guns, they were provided with a large telescope on a tripod, at which an officer was always seated watching the effect of the shells, and, in the case of an advance the movements of our Infantry as well, and they were never guilty, as the Royal Artillery have been more than once, of firing on our own men. On January 24th, whilst the fighting on the top of Spion Kop was taking place, the Naval guns on Mount Alice were able at a distance of rather over four miles clearly to distinguish our men from the Boers, and shell the latter. Compare this with one instance that came under my personal observation on February 27th. An officer in command of a battery was totally unable to distinguish, with a pair of the field-glasses supplied by Government, at a distance of a little over one mile, between our Infantry charging and the Boers running away. I see that your Cape correspondent has already said that in this campaign, where we are perpetually fighting against an invisible foe, good glasses are of paramount importance to the rifle. They are even more essential to the gunners than to the other branches of (p. 140) the service, and they are in this respect most inadequately supplied.
Speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Goschen) at Royal Academy Banquet, May 5th, 1900.
"I do not propose to dilate on the courage or resourcefulness, or other great qualities of the Naval Brigades. The nation has acclaimed them. The Sovereign with her own lips has testified to their deeds....
"The ships' companies of the Powerful and Terrible would be sorry if they were to monopolise the public eye, clouding the performances of men from other ships. Many other ships have sent contingents to the front—the Monarch, the Doris, the Philomel, the Tartar, the Forte—all these ships have sent men who have taken their part in those gallant combats of which we read."
Again at Reception of Naval Brigade (H.M.S. "Powerful") in London, May 7th, 1900.
"With your comrades in other forces of the Queen, by the defence and the relief of Ladysmith you have saved the country from such a disaster as has never fallen the British arms. The defence and relief of Ladysmith will never be forgotten in British history."
[London Gazette, March 12th, 1901.]
From Captain Jones, R.N., Naval Brigade.
De Wet's Farm,
[Extract.]June 5th, 1900.
"On May 14th, two more 12-pounders under Lieutenant Steele (Lieutenant Burne having had a severe fall from (p. 141) his horse, and being incapacitated) occupied another hill across the river....
"Lieutenant Burne has quite recovered from his injuries and has returned to duty at Glencoe."
From Captain Jones, R.N., Naval Brigade.
[Extract.]June 14th, 1900.
"It became apparent that the hill (Van Wyk) must be held. General Hildyard was out there and decided to hold it, sending back for the rest of the Brigade.
"I arrived back in camp at 4 p.m. and was ordered to start after dark—as the route was exposed to the enemy's fire—and, if possible, to get two 12-pounders (Lieutenant Burne's) up the hill by daylight, and the 4.7's to the bottom. This we did after a most difficult march, arriving at the bottom at 4 a.m. I halted the 4.7's and pushed the 12-pounders up to the top. One arrived at daylight, the other broke a wheel and did not get up to the top till we were able later to get another pair of wheels from a limber and adapt them."
From General Sir Redvers Buller, V.C., G.C.B.
Laing's Nek, Natal,
[Extract.]June 19th, 1900.
"On June 5th I directed General Hildyard, who with the 5th Division was encamped at De Wet's farm, to occupy on the 6th the height south of the Botha's Pass Road, marked on the map as Van Wyk.... The ascent of the hill was very difficult, and it was due to the energy of Captain Jones, R.N., and the officers and men of the Naval Brigade that one 12-pounder (Lieutenant Burne) was in position at Van Wyk at daylight. The other (p. 142) 12-pounder lost a wheel in the bad ground.... The Naval guns and the 10th Brigade were brought down from Van Wyk during the night. I may here remark that hard and well as Captain Jones and the men of the Naval Brigade worked during this war, I do not believe they ever had harder work to do or did it more willingly than in getting their guns up and down Van Wyk. They had to work continuously for thirty-six hours...."
From Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, V.C., G.C.B.
July 10th, 1900.
"I have much pleasure in supporting the recommendations put forward by Sir Redvers Buller on behalf of the Officers and Petty Officers of the Royal Navy."
Report from Lieutenant Burne, R.N.
H.M.S. Monarch's (late H.M.S. Tartar's) 12-pounder Q.-F. Battery,
Grass Kop, Sandspruit.
October 24th, 1900.
On withdrawal from the front, I wish to forward for the favourable consideration of the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir Robert Harris, K.C.M.G., a short report on detachment of H.M.S. Monarch's (late Tartar's) men now under my command, and who have served on shore with the Natal Army for over a year. Since my last report to Captain Jones, R.N., the Officer commanding Naval Brigade, on June 16th, after the victory of Almond's Nek, this battery has taken part in the march on Wakkerstroom and its occupation, the defence of Sandspruit and action four miles north of it, with Cavalry and other Artillery, under General Brocklehurst, M.V.O., which was a spirited little affair, and where the battery earned the commendation of the General on the shooting; later, the (p. 143) attack on Grass Kop and its occupation by the Dorsets was covered by these guns and other artillery on July 24th, and drew a heavy shell fire from four Boer Creusot guns in its defence, this battery at that time being led by Lieutenant Clutterbuck, R.N., when I was ill with jaundice, but whom I again relieved on July 27th, and have continued since that date in the defence of Grass Kop. My guns from here covered the right flank of two separate attacks in force on Comersfoort, the first under General Hildyard on July 30th, and the second under Sir Redvers Buller on August 7th, when the town was taken. We have also covered many reconnaissances, and have come into action at long ranges several times against marauding Boers on the plain at the foot of this hill, but hitherto they have not attacked us, as the hill is magnificently entrenched and has been held in turn by the Dorsets, the South Lancashires, and now the Queen's Regiment. The whole of the intelligence from Grass Kop as to movements of the enemy since July 24th up to this date, has been furnished by my look-outs with our long telescope; and this I need scarcely say has been a considerable and arduous duty for the men under the conditions of violent winds, rain, mist, and storms which prevailed up here (a height of 6,500 feet), since we occupied the hill. These wind-storms have destroyed our tents once, sometimes continuing for days, and have caused much discomfort both to ourselves and the troops, and I have lost a good many oxen by exposure and lung sickness. Orders having come for the withdrawal of the Naval Brigade, I can only say I have been well and faithfully served by the Officers and men of the detachment under my command; and during these months have formed a high opinion of their excellence as a battery, under the varying conditions of climate, heights, and positions, they have gone through (p. 144) in Natal, the Orange Colony, and the Transvaal. All these men, in spite of much sickness at times, have stuck to their work with the Natal Army for a year now, and consequently I think, fully deserve any advancement or reward it is possible to give them, and I am sure H.M.S. Tartar may be proud of the men representing her during the war. I wish to bring this general opinion of the men of the detachment, which I hold, to the favourable notice of the Commander-in-Chief, and to specially recommend the following for good service rendered with the guns:
A. L. Munro, C.P.O. and torpedo instructor (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
G. H. Epsley, P.O., 2nd class and captain 1st gun (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
E. Cheeseman, A.B., S.G., and acting captain 2nd gun (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
D. Smith, A.B., S.G.T., gun crew (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
J. Macdonald, A.B., S.G., gun crew (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
G. Baldwin, A.B., S.G., gun crew (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
J. Sawyer, A.B., S.G., gun crew (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
H. Wright, A.B., T.M., gun crew (late of H.M.S. Tartar).
For his good services as armourer and work drawing ordnance and transport, stores, money, and in charge of commissariat, I particularly recommend O. A. Hart, armourer's mate, H.M.S. Tartar (late), a man thoroughly reliable.
As regards the Officer and six men of H.M.S. Philomel attached to my command, three of whom have since been (p. 145) invalided, I must strongly recommend Mr. W. R. Ledgard, midshipman, who since July 28th I have detached, as ordered by G.O.C. 5th Division, in independent command of one gun, first at Opperman's Kraal, and then at Paardekop; he has carried out this duty with ability and success, and for a young officer I know it has been a trying one.
I also recommend T. Payne, A.B., S.G., H.M.S. Philomel, for good service with the guns.
Expressing my gratification at having had the opportunity to command H.M.S. Tartar's (now Monarch's) Detachment, I have, etc.