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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8534

  • Frank Kelley
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Good morning Brett,
A very special day indeed and a really magnificent medal here too, you are very lucky indeed, I don't know anyone else who has such a fine collection of Imperial Light Horse campaign medals for the Anglo Boer War.
Kind regards Frank :sick: :sick: :sick:

Brett Hendey wrote: Captain D F Gilfillan, Imperial Light Horse

Douglas Gilfillan was born in Cradock, Cape Colony, on 26/6/1865, where his father was a lawyer. He grew up in Cradock and was an exceptionally bright scholar. He left for Cape Town, where he served lengthy articles with a leading firm of attorneys. He was admitted as an attorney in 1886. He joined his future brother-in-law’s firm in Pretoria in 1888 and then moved to the gold-mining town of Barberton in 1889, where he was very successful. He married Sophia (Sophy) de Jongh in 1890, and they had four children, all born in Johannesburg, where they had settled in 1892.

In Johannesburg, Gilfillan became involved in politics and was a member of the Reform Committee, whose members spent time in jail after the abortive Jameson Raid. Gilfillan was released after his fine of £2000 was paid by Sir Abe Bailey, who also came from Cradock. Gilfillan’s legal practice prospered and he established the flourishing partnership of Bowman Gilfillan, which still exists today.

When war threatened in 1899, Sophy and her children left for Queenstown, Cape Colony, while Gilfillan moved to Pietermaritzburg, Natal, where he and ten other members of the Reform Committee played a prominent role in the formation of the Imperial Light Horse. Gilfillan was appointed as one of the three Lieutenants in ‘A’ Squadron, which was the first to be armed and equipped and which left for Estcourt on 13/10/1899.

‘A’ Squadron became part of the Composite Regiment of the Mounted Brigade in General Buller’s army, during the operations to relieve the siege of Ladysmith. The men were involved in scouting the area south of the Tugela River between the Drakensberg and Weenen, often in the company of men of the Natal Carbineers and Natal Police, who were from this area and who knew it well. ‘A’ Squadron was involved in the armoured train incident between Estcourt and Colenso, and also in the Battles of Willow Grange and Colenso. On 28/2/1900, Lieutenant Gilfillan was one of the men of the Composite Regiment who rode into Ladysmith to end the siege.
The other ILH squadron’s had distinguished themselves at the Battle of Elandslaagte and in the Defence of Ladysmith, where they played important roles in the raid on Gun Hill and the Battle of Wagon Hill.

Lord Roberts was so impressed by the performance of the ILH that he gave them the honour of leading the column to relieve the Siege of Mafeking. Gilfillan was promoted to Captain and given command of ‘F’ Squadron and he took part in this operation, thereby earning the rare distinction of having a “double relief” Queen’s South Africa Medal – Ladysmith and Mafeking. After Mafeking was relieved, the ILH moved into the Transvaal and took part in several engagements that led up the capture of Johannesburg and Pretoria. On 15/7/1900, Gilfillan resigned his commission as he had been appointed a member of the Special Judicial Commission in Johannesburg.

After the war, Gilfillan resumed his prosperous law practice and he played a prominent role in the affairs of Johannesburg, the Transvaal and South Africa. He died on 5/9/1948.



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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8538

  • Brett Hendey
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Thank you David and Frank for your kind comments.

Frank, I have seen the list of ILH QSA's that belong to another member of this forum. You would be overwhelmed by it. I was. Perhaps he will share at least some of them with us.

Regards
Brett

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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8539

  • Frank Kelley
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Hello Brett,
The best thing I can offer to this particular post is my very first QSA, bought as a boy, to Trooper Anderson, one of your "Ten"
Regards Frank




Brett Hendey wrote: The Composite Regiment, Mounted Brigade, during the Relief of Ladysmith


During General Sir Redvers Buller’s operations to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith in late 1899 and early 1900, the Mounted Brigade of the relief force was commanded by the Earl of Dundonald. This Brigade was made up of Imperial cavalry regiments (1st Royal Dragoons, 13 Hussars and 14 Hussars [2 squadrons during early 1900]), and irregular Colonial mounted regiments (South African Light Horse, Bethune’s Mounted Infantry [moved to the Zululand border during February 1900] and Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry).

The Mounted Brigade also included the “Composite Regiment” under the command of Major (later General Sir) Hubert Gough. The main elements of the Composite Regiment were detachments of units that were besieged in Ladysmith. They were:
Imperial Light Horse (“A” Squadron)
Natal Carbineers (Estcourt/Weenen Squadron [on their home turf])
Natal Police Field Force (Detachment of about 40 men)
2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps Mounted Infantry (One company)

Smaller numbers of men came from the following units:
Natal Mounted Rifles (26 men)
Border Mounted Rifles (10 men)
Natal Police – Estcourt District Police (Number not known)

A company of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Mounted Infantry was decimated during the Battle of Talana (20/10/1899), most men being captured by the Boers. This unit was in the process of being re-formed during the relief operations and it is possible that some men from it were part of the Composite Regiment at this time. The RDF MI were certainly active after the relief.

The army units in the Composite Regiment (i.e. excluding the Natal Police) all represented regiments the greater parts of which were besieged in Ladysmith. The besieged men were awarded the Defence of Ladysmith clasp on their QSA’s. The Relief of Ladysmith and Tugela Heights clasps of their Composite Regiment counterparts are therefore comparative rarities.

Since the Composite Regiment included many men who spoke Dutch and Zulu, and were familiar with the area of operations, it performed an invaluable role in intelligence-gathering patrols, guiding and the carrying of messages. For example, early in the Siege a Natal Police trooper safely escorted a 5th Lancers officer through Boer lines into Ladysmith. Later, on 28/11/1899, Estcourt District Police led an in-strength patrol of the Composite Regiment as far as Colenso, where it came under fire from the Boers. Also, apart from providing the Bodyguard for General Buller, the Natal Police provided orderlies for Major-General H J T Hildyard and the Earl of Dundonald.

The Composite Regiment took an active part in the Battle of Colenso (15/12/1899). It was part of the force that assaulted Hlangwane, the hill on the British right that was the Boers main stronghold south of the Tugela River. The assault failed for want of infantry support, although it was the disasters that befell the Irish Brigade and guns of the Royal Artillery that sealed the British defeat during this battle.

After General Buller shifted his attention to the Boer right flank in the vicinity of Spioenkop, it was the Composite Regiment that provided him with an early, but limited and short-lived success by crossing the Tugela, outflanking Spioenkop and ambushing a Boer patrol near Acton Homes. Had this success been exploited, it might have provided a ‘side-door’ access to Ladysmith from the west and so averted the costly assaults across the Tugela from the south that were to follow.

These assaults mainly involved the infantry, although the Composite Regiment was again actively involved in February at the start of the Tugela Heights campaign, when it repeated the attack on Hlangwane and other Boer-held hills south of the Tugela and, this time with infantry support, captured them.

It fell to men of the Composite Regiment to finally break the Siege of Ladysmith on 28/2/1900, when an advance party, which was probing the Boer lines after the conclusion of the Tugela Heights battles, found an opening and galloped into the town, thus bringing to an end the 118-day siege. Although the role of the Composite Regiment in this epic event is not disputed, reports on the units and the numbers of men involved do differ. The units most often credited are the Imperial Light Horse and Natal Carbineers. However, men of the Natal Police were certainly present, while the Natal Mounted Rifles and Border Mounted Rifles have also been credited, but perhaps later overlooked because of the small numbers of men involved.

Amongst the lessons learnt by the British high command during the early months of the War was the need to counter the Boers with the use of mounted infantry, rather than regular cavalry, as well as to make greater use of the knowledge and skills of Colonial forces. In his autobiography, General Sir Hubert Gough wrote that he had “learnt more in one day with the Natal Carbineers than … in 10 years with the regular cavalry”.

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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8541

  • Brett Hendey
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Frank

I remember Anderson's medal well and I think it is remarkable that, between us, we own 20% of the world's supply of a particular sort of medal. Should we claim some kind of official acknowledgement for this remarkable achievement?

Regards
Brett

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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8544

  • Frank Kelley
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Hi Brett,
I wish we were closer and not so far away, I think you and I would have a lot to talk about, Natal feels, familiar, in a strange way, yet I don't know why, funny really.
I was only a boy when I bought this one, I knew it was a good medal, but, I had to grow up before I realised how special it was, moreover, it was not even expensive back then!
Very happy days indeed! :)
Kind regards Frank

Brett Hendey wrote: Frank

I remember Anderson's medal well and I think it is remarkable that, between us, we own 20% of the world's supply of a particular sort of medal. Should we claim some kind of official acknowledgement for this remarkable achievement?

Regards
Brett

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The Relief of Ladysmith 11 years 3 months ago #8547

  • coldstream
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Hello Brett,
Thank you for posting these reports, they are very interesting reading.
I am very envious of the medal displays also :woohoo:

Regards
Paul :)
"From a billow of the rolling veldt we looked back, and black columns were coming up behind us."

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