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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73123

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DCM VR (3517 Cpl R.W. Feast. 5th Dragoon Gds. 2-8-00);
QSA (2) Natal, Tvl (3517 Corpl. R.W. Feast. 5th Dragoon Gds);
KSA (2) (3517 Corpl R.W. Feast. 7th Dragoon Gds);
BWM & AVM (9092 F. Sgt. R.W. Feast R.A.F.);
RAF MSM GV (9092 F/Sjt. R.W. Feast R.A.F.);
Metropolitan Police Coronation Medal 1911 (P.S. R. Feast)

Robert William Feast was born in St. Pancras in London and attested for the 5th Dragoon Guards at Oxford on 9 March 1891. He served with the Regiment in South Africa, 8 February 1900 – 31 December 1900, and 26 November 1901 – 1 August 1902. He was awarded the DCM for the abovementioned incident where he was taken prisoner and subsequently released.

The Regimental History gives the following additional details:

“The regiment continued to be employed on lines of communication till 1st May 1901, being kept most of the time split up in small detachments of half a squadron or even less. Patrolling was constantly carried out, so that there were daily some twenty patrols in constant touch with the Boers.

On 2nd August one such patrol was sent with a guide to a farm near Wakkerstroom. It was attacked by the Boers, and the guide was wounded. Corporal Feast, who was in charge of the patrol, could have got away, but he went back to assist the guide, and they were both captured.

Cpl Feast was afterwards awarded the DCM for his conduct on this occasion.”

Feast’s DCM must have been awarded as a direct result of the Court of Enquiry’s comment. Although he was mentioned in Army Order 163 of July 1901, he was never officially mentioned in the London Gazette. In addition, it is one of the very few Boer War DCM’s where the date of the act of gallantry was impressed as part of the naming.
Cpl Feast transferred to the 7th Dragoon Guards on 31 March 1902. He was discharged in March 1903 and joined the Metropolitan Police. He advanced to Sergeant (Mounted Police), before enlisting in the Royal Flying Corps on 31 August 1915. He served as a Flight Sergeant with the 8th Brigade, Royal Air Force, in the French theatre of war 22 May 1918 - 9 January 1919. Primarily a bomber formation, it became part of the Independent Air Force June 1918. He was discharged 30 April 1920.

DCM London Gazette 19 April 1901. M.S.M. London Gazette 3 June 1919.

Provenance: Elson Collection: Part 1, Glendining & Co, February 1963; Lovell Collection, Sotheby, November 1978; Donald Hall Catalogue, January 1984; Buckland Dix Wood, October 1993; Dix Noonan Webb, December 2016.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73127

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DCM EdVII (4572 Pte. J. Trainor. Liverpool Regt.)
[ QSA (3) ]
[ KSA (2) ]

On 21 August, during the operations near Van Wyk’s Vlei, Corporal Knight, Liverpool Regt., was posted in some rocks with four men, covering the right rear of a detach¬ment of the same company, who, under Captain Ewart, were holding the right of the line. The enemy, about 50 strong, attacked Captain Ewart’s right and almost surrounded Corporal Knight’s small party. This NCO held his ground, directing his party to retire one by one to better cover, where he main¬tained his position for nearly an hour, covering the withdrawal of Captain Ewart’s force and losing two of his four men. He then retired bringing with him two wounded men; one of these he left in a place of safety, the other he carried for nearly two miles. The party were hotly engaged the whole time.

For his gallantry on this occasion Knight was rewarded by the Victoria Cross.

4572 Pte. J. Traynor and 5360 Pte J McNamara were in Cpl. Knight’s party and were both awarded the DCM for the part they played in this VC action. All published accounts (Regimental History and London Gazette) as well as the DCM Issue Register incorrectly refer to No 4572 as Trainor, hence spelling of surname on the DCM. Traynor was also awarded a 3-clasp QSA and a 2-clasp KSA.

DCM Provenance: H Y Usher Collection.


Van Wyk's Vlei, 21-26 August 1900

“As soon as the troops engaged in the pursuit of De Wet became available for opera¬tions elsewhere, I redistributed the field army with the object, first, of advancing along the Delagoa Bay Railway to Komati Poort, and, secondly, of forming flying columns… the military situation was as follows:

On 10th August, Sir Redvers Buller’s forces reached Twyfelaar. French was in command at Middelburg.

On the 18th August, the Mounted Infantry were holding the line stretching from Wonderfontein to Doornkop, 12 miles north of Middelburg, and French’s Cavalry was distributed between Wonderfontein and Twyfelaar. On that date French rejoined his two Cavalry brigades.

On the 21st, Buller marched to Van Wyk’s Vlei, 15 miles south-east of Belfast, and two days later the 11th Division, under Pole-Carew, was concentrated at Wonderfontein. Buller met with some opposition on the 23rd in the neighbourhood of Van Wyk’s Vlei, and towards evening two companies of the 1st Battalion Liverpool Regiment entered by mistake a hollow, out of sight of the main body, where they came under a heavy fire, losing 10 men killed, and one Officer and 45 men wounded. The other casualties on this occasion were one man killed, and three Officers and four men wounded.

On the 24th August, I left Pretoria for Wonderfontein, and on the 25th proceeded to Belfast… occupied the previous day by the 11th Division. Some opposition was encountered, our casual¬ties amounting to one man killed, and one officer and 14 men wounded.

As soon as I arrived, it became apparent to me that we were already in touch with a part of the Boer main position. This position, extended from the neighbourhood of Swartz Kopjes on the north to Dalmanutha on the south, a distance of some 20 miles. It was furnished with numerous artillery… and was entrenched at various points of importance. My first idea was to hold the enemy in front with the 11th Division, whilst Buller and French turned their loft from the south.

On consultation, however, with General Buller, it seemed that the ground was not favourable to a turning movement from this quarter, and I therefore decided to contain the enemy’s front by the 18th Brigade and turn his right flank with the Guards Brigade, assisted by General French and Colonel Henry’s Mounted Infantry.

With this object French moved, on the 26th, from Geluk, 12 miles south of Belfast, and passing to the west of the town reached Lakenvlei, 6 miles to its north on the evening of this day. Pole-Carew, with the 11th Divi-sion, endeavoured to advance along the Lydenburg road in his support but came under so heavy a shell and rifle fire that he made but little progress. Buller, whose Artillery was engaged throughout the day, pushed back the Boers, who were holding a series of strong positions to the south-east of Belfast, to within 4 miles of the railway between that town and Dalmanutha.

Our casualties on this date amounted to five men killed, and two Officers and 56 men wounded.”
Roberts’ Despatch of 10 October 1900, published in the LG of 8 Feb 1901, p867.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73133

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DCM VR (2860 Cpl. W. McDonald, 2nd. Gordon High’drs)
IGS 1895 (3) RofChit, Punj Fr 97-98, Tirah 1897-98 (2860 Pte. W. McDonald 1st. Bn. Gord. Highrs);
QSA (4) Elandsl, DoL, L Nek, Belf (2860 Pte. W. McDonald, Gordon Highrs.);
KSA (2) (2860 Serjt. W. McDonald, Gordon Highrs.)

William McDonald’s handling of his machine gun attracted widespread attention at the time:

Buller’s Despatch of 13 September 1900 (LG 8 Feb 1901, p963): “One very noticeable incident in the attack was the great tactical skill with which the Maxims of the Gordons, Inniskillings, Rifle Brigade and Devons were handled by their respective detachments. The fire of these guns contributed materially to the successful result of the assault. General Kitchener especially brings to notice the conduct of No. 2860 Corporal William McDonald, Gordon Highlanders, and of Lieutenant A.C. Jeffcoat, of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, while in command of gun detachments”

Buller’s Despatch of 9 November 1900 (LG 8 February 1901, p977): No 2860 Corporal W. McDonald – ‘This non-commissioned officer was in charge of the machine guns of the battalion, and his conduct on all occasions was specially worthy of commendation’

Official History, Vol III, p400-1: ‘The lines of the Rifle Brigade rolled on, and they had come within eight hundred yards of the kopje, when the Police, who were watching keenly through the interstices of their toppling ramparts, showed that some of them still lived by delivering a fierce volley. It was followed by a withering magazine fire, not only from the kopje itself, but from some schanzes which, thrown up in advance of the main position north of the line, took the battalion in flank. Halting his men for a few moments to reply, Metcalfe deflected to the left one company from his reserve to deal with the northerly trenches, and another to the right to gain touch with the line of advance of the Royals. With the Rifle Brigade had gone the machine gun of the Gordon Highlanders, in charge of Corporal W. McDonald, who, utilising the pause, audaciously took his weapon into the foremost line, whence he poured bullets against the kopje.’

Times History, Vol IV, p454: “The Riflemen threw themselves on the ground and replied; their Maxim and that of the Gordons, which Corporal Macdonald had gallantly brought up in support, proving at this moment of great service”.

The Joyous Patriot: Ralph Verney, Editor David Verney, p19: “Several men deserved the V.C. that day, though they won’t get it, especially a Corporal of the Gordon Highlanders who brought a Maxim gun on his back right up into the first line amid a storm of bullets, and fired away as quietly as if he was practising on the range”.

Bergendal, 27 August 1900

“On the 27th, French advanced 8 miles further north, and drove the enemy from Swartz Kopjes. From this position he threatened the enemy’s line of retreat, although he could hardly yet be said to have turned their right flank. Meanwhile, however, General Buller was able to take more decisive action at the other extremity of the Boer line of defence. At Bergendal, 3 miles south-east of Belfast, the Boers had established a very strong position on a low rocky kopje, and in some farm buildings and plantations, which formed the key to that portion of the main position. The kopje was heavily entrenched and was garrisoned by the Z.A.R. Police with a pom-pom. The ground, which sloped gently away in all directions, afforded no cover.”
Roberts’ Despatch of 10 October 1900, published in the LG of 8 Feb 1901, p867.

The British bombardment began shortly before 11 am and the shelling continued for three hours without intermission. From the Times History: “no such severe and concentrated fire having been witnessed during the war since the days of Vaal Krantz and Pieter’s Hill. The top and all sides of the platform were swept by a hail of shrapnel, while the rocks themselves were torn and rent by the explosion of the lyddite shells. Smoke and sulphurous gases and rocks shooting up in the air made the place look like a Vesuvius in eruption. But the police lay close behind the rocks… For, in spite of the accuracy of the fire, the trenches were so good that its material results were almost nothing”.

Early afternoon the British infantry assault began. Again, quoting from the Times History:
“...the Riflemen swept onward towards the position regardless of their losses. Two captains, Lysley and Steward, and the adjutant, Maitland, fell; three other officers and seventy-five riflemen, dropping in their tracks, testified to the steadiness and marksmanship of the hard-fighting Zarp’s and Metcalfe himself fell severely wounded. The Zarps went on coolly firing till within the last five minutes, then, most of the survivors rushed to their horses in the kraal and galloped away… they found and took prisoner the brave commandant, Philip Oosthuizen, who was severely wounded. Lieutenant Pohlman was killed, and some forty others of the seventy-four were killed, wounded or captured… The pom-pom was also captured; the Maxim had already been blown to atoms by a shell”.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73139

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DCM EDVII (Tpr. Latham Imp: Lt Horse);
QSA (4) RoM, Tug H, RoL, Tvl (155 Tpr. G.W.J. Latham Imp: Lt Horse)

George Latham enlisted in the ILH at Pietermaritzburg on 22 September 1899 and was discharged on 12 October 1900. His DCM, as well as that awarded to Tpr James was gazetted on 27 Sept 1901 without a citation. However, Gibson in “The History of the Imperial Light Horse”, p220/1 describes the event that led to the two awards:

“When the column was climbing the high Nelshoogte (Nels Heights), which could have been held by a thousand determined men against an army, great difficulty was experienced in dragging the Naval guns and the wagons up the steep hills. To add to the diffi¬culty, a sniper on the side of the mountain kept up a persistent and effective fire, at about 800 yards range, getting a horse or dropping an ox dead in its yoke with every other shot. Two of the most experienced I.L.H. scouts, Troopers James and Bob Latham, were despatched to deal with the lone sniper and the firing soon stopped. The two scouts on rejoining the Regiment reported that they had found an old Boer with long white hair and beard, firing at the column with an ancient Martini Henry with a 100 or more cartridge in an old haversack by his side.

“What happened to him?”.

“We had to shoot the poor old chap, and this is his rifle, haversack and ammunition.”

“Why on earth did you not ‘hands up’ the old man and take him prisoner?”

“It is all very well to talk like that. The old chap had taken up such a position that we could neither flank him, or get behind him and it meant that we had either to get him or he would have got us, so in shooting him it really amounted to shooting in ‘self defence’!”

It was felt that it was a unique achievement for one old man, about 70 or 80 years of age to pit himself against some 5000 troops. He must have realised that there could only be one end to his foolhardy but glorious act. The men thought that the poor old Burgher was, no doubt, too old to go on Commando and scorned to be relegated to the lowly position of doing odd jobs about the wagons for the women and children, so he took a hero’s way out of his dilemma.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73155

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DCM EdVII (3356 Pte. J.W. Ewart, 20th Hussars);
QSA (4) Jhburg, D Hill, Witt, Belf (4479 Pte. J.W. Ewart, 10th Hussars);
KSA (2) (3356 Pte. J.W. Ewart. 20th Hussars )

John Walter Ewart was born in February 1873 and joined the 20th Hussars in March 1891. A qualified Marksman and Signaller, he served in England until 1895 and in India till 1898.

After the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa he was recalled from the Reserves, initially for service with the 10th Hussars, but afterwards with his old regiment, the 20th Hussars.

While attached to the 6th Dragoons he received the recommendation that resulted in the award of the DCM. Serving in “B” Squadron, commanded by Lieutenant Ewing Paterson, he took part in the affair at Tevreden, near Lake Chrissie. The Squadron, while keeping communication between other elements of the 6th Dragoons and 4th Brigade, found itself abandoned on the left flank.

Undeterred, Patterson led a spirited attack against the enemy displaying “great dash”.

Exactly what role Ewart played in the action is unknown but he must have shown considerable bravery, as a letter written by Paterson to Ewart in 1904 confirms:

“I was so glad you got the DCM but honestly you deserved the VC and I was sorry I was unable to get you it. You earned it if anyone did, but I am afraid I was not senior enough in rank to push it further….”

Ewart was mentioned in Roberts’ Despatch of 4 September 1901 (LG 10 September 1901, p5930) and awarded the DCM in the LG 27 September 1901, p6305.

He returned to civilian employ after the War, joining the Royal Borough of Renfrew as a Sanitary Inspector, a position which he held until his death in 1930.
Dr David Biggins
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DCMs for the Boer War 1 month 3 weeks ago #73159

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DCM EdVII (56654 B.Sjt. Maj. W. Cook. U. Bty. R.H.A.);
QSA (4) RoK, Paard, Drief, Tvl (56654 B.S. Major W. Cook. Q.B., R.H.A.);
KSA (2) (56654 B.S. Major. W. Cook. R.H.A.);
BWM (Lieut. W. Cook. 37 Cal. Presy. Btn. I.D.F.);
Coronation 1911 (unnamed as issued);
MSM GVI (56654 Sjt. Mjr. W. Cook. (D.C.M.) R.A.)
Army LS&GC EdVII (56654 Serjt. W. Cook. R.H.A)

William Cook enlisted in the Royal Artillery on 1 September 1886 and was discharged in Mhow, India on 28 July 1913. His intended place of residence was stated as “C/o Army School Mistress Mrs Cook, 14th Hussars, Mhow”. Cook was Battery Sergeant-Major and, therefore the Senior N.C.O. of ‘Q’ Battery in the action at Sanna’s Post on 31 March 1900. He was taken prisoner during the latter stages of the action and held at Waterval PoW Camp, north of Pretoria. After his release on 6 June 1900 he transferred to ‘U’ Battery and was once again the Battery Sergeant Major in the fierce action at Bothaville on 6 November 1900 where “notwithstanding a hail of bullets from the Boer sharpshooters, the gunners coolly unlimbered, opened fire, and continued in action for some hours, while their smoking guns grew white with the splashes of lead.”

‘U’ Battery records confirm that B.S. Major Cook was awarded the DCM for the Bothaville action (LG 27 September 1901, p6308). Cook died at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea on 14 September 1953 having been awarded the MSM in 1944.
Dr David Biggins
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