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Boer War DSOs 3 months 2 days ago #77033

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The DSO group to A M Foster sold for a hammer price of £2,000. Totals (inc VAT for UK only): £2,576. R49,100. Au$4,590. Can$4,270. US$3,470
Dr David Biggins

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Boer War DSOs 2 months 4 weeks ago #77087

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Picture courtesy of the London Medal Company

DSO VR;
OBE military, HM 1919;
QSA (6) Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen; (CAPT. P.J. BAILEY. 12/R.LCRS.);
KSA (2) (CAPT. P.J. BAILEY. D.S.O. 12/LCRS.);
1914 Star with Clasp; (MAJOR P.J. BAILEY. D.S.O. 12/LRS.);
British War Medal and Victory Medal; (MAJOR P.J. BAILEY.)

Percy James Bailey was born on 2nd December 1873 in London, the eldest son of Sir James Bailey M.P., of Loft’s Hall, Saffron Waldon, and after graduating from Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1892, he became a member of the Hurlingham Club Polo Association, and joined the British Army being commissioned and gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 12th The Prince of Wales Royal Lancers on 11th December 1895, and then shined in polo, being one of the runners-up in the 1896 Irish Command Inter Regiment Polo competition, before being promoted to Lieutenant on 12th May 1897

With the outbreak of the Boer War in South Africa, Bailey took part in the advance on Kimberley, including the action at Magersfontein, and was then present at the relief of Kimberley on 15th February 1900, and then on operations in the Orange Free State from February to May 1900, including the actions at Paardeberg from 17th to 26th February 1900, and Poplar Grove on 7th March 1900, where he was severely wounded.

The battle of Poplar Grove on 7th March 1900 saw the failure of both a Boer attempt to defend Bloemfontein and a British attempt to capture the main Boer army in the Orange Free State. The Boers at Poplar Grove were badly outnumbered. In the aftermath of the surrender at Paardeberg, only around 6,000 men were left to defend the Orange Free State capital. They had a new commander, Christiaan De Wet, who began work on a new defensive line on the hills around Poplar Grove. His main problem was that the morale of the Boer commandoes was at a very low ebb after Cronjé’s surrender. The British commander, Lord Roberts, decided to send two infantry division straight at the Boer position, while the cavalry made a wide flanking move to the south, coming up behind the Boers to prevent their escape.

His main problem was the poor condition of his cavalry horses. Many of them had been lost during the successful relief of Kimberley, while the remaining horses had been on short rations since the loss of the main supply column at the start of the operations in February. Worse, the commander of the cavalry, Sir John French, can best be described as being in a sulk. His mood was not improved by a dressing down he had received after the chief supply officer forgot to include the sick and injured horses in his calculations of required rations and accused the cavalry of taking too much food.

As a result, French moved very slowly on the morning of 7th March. He started late, and stopped twice to take long breaks to rest his horses. As a result the cavalry were nowhere near where they needed to be when the infantry advance began. That advance never needed to turn into an attack. The British infantry came into view from the Boer camp at about 8 a.m. Demoralised by recent events, the burghers simply turned and fled. De Wet blamed the fiasco on Cronjé’s surrender, only two weeks earlier, although it probably helped save his army. If the Boers had stood and fought at Poplar Grove then French would have been able to get into place to cut off their retreat, and the entire army might have been lost.

As it was, three quarters of De Wet’s men abandoned the fight, at least for the moment. When he made his next stand at Driefontein it was with only 1,500 men. Bailey though severely wounded, recovered enough in time to to see action at Driefontein on 10th March 1900, and in the action at the Zand River, and then served during the operations in the Transvaal from May to June 1900, including the actions at Lindley, Behtlehem, and Wittebergen, being then appointed Brigade Signalling Officer and graded as Staff Captain on 13th October 1900, and afterwards served on the Staff as a Staff Officer to a Column and Brigade Signalling Officer.

Bailey was promoted to Captain in April 1901, and for his gallant and distinguished services he was Mentioned in Despatches in the London Gazette for 17th June 1902, and appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order in the London Gazette for 26th June 1902, the award being present to him by His Majesty King Edward VII on Bailey's return from South Africa on 24th October 1902.

Bailey continued in the 12th Lancers after the Boer War, being appointed as Adjutant and Quartermaster at the Cavalry School from August 1905 to August 1909. Having married Dorothy Jessica in 1907, the daughter of Thomas Gibson Bowles, Esq. M.P. and of Jessica (who died in 1887), the daughter of General Evans Gordon, Bailey had then been promoted to Major on 22nd August 1908, and was still serving with the regiment on the outbreak of the Great War as a Major, having seen service in India, where he was noted for his involvement in game hunting, gaining a record head a some stage during his time in India.

With the outbreak of the war, the 12th Lancers was then stationed at Norwich, Norfolk, and Bailey who according to the Hurlingham Polo Association Handicap Official List as revised for August 1914, had a club polo handicap of '4', then served in France from 17th August 1914 with the British Expeditionary Force with his regiment as part of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and in command of 'C' Squadron, 12th Lancers.

On the 28th of August 1914 the 12th Lancers, specifically 'C' Squadron led by Lieutenant Colonel Wormold, made a charge with lances against the Prussian Dragoon Guards near the village of Moÿ de l'Aisne, near St. Quentin. This was the last, or one of the last, such events in modern warfare. The village planned a big centenary event in August 2014. A new memorial was also planned at or near the site of Moÿ Chateau from whence the 12th Lancers set forth on their charge. It was inaugurated during the centenary celebrations.

As noted previously Bailey was the 'C' Squadron Commander when the regiment went out to France, however though the regimental history records a Corporal London as having been the first casualty of the regiment in action on the evening of the 23rd August, the actual first casualty of the war for the regiment was Bailey, who on the morning of the battle of Mons, 23rd August 1914 as the regimental history puts it: 'The Regiment however had its first casualty, an unlucky one, that morning. Running up the stairs of his billet, Major Bailey, commanding 'C' Squadron, had the misfortune to shoot himself in the leg with his own revolver. He was sent to Maubeuge, then being put into a state of defence by the French, and was there when it was surrounded by the enemy. Finding himself the senior British officer present he co-operated with the French in the hopeless defence of the place until it fell.'

As such though Bailey did not take part in the regiment's most famous action of the war on 28th August, an action which could well have seen him go down in history as one of the most famous officers of the regiment if he had been there to command his Squadron, but may well have seen him killed, he did have the unusual honour of taking part in the hopeless defence of Maubeuge which lasted from 24th August to 7th September 1914, and was the most senior British officer present, and interesting record on its own account.

On the morning of 24th August 1914 General French briefly threatened to retreat away from the Charles Lanrezac's Fifth Army towards Amiens, until he was dissuaded by Joffre and French also considered withdrawing the British Expeditionary Force into the fortress of Maubeuge. Later that day German Second Army opened its attack on Maubeuge. Next day the German Second Army bypassed Maubeuge and left behind a corps to cover the fortress. French General Headquarters ( GQG ) ordered the fortress commander to hold on and German forces beyond, completed the investment of the fortified area. From 29th August to 5th September the Maubeuge fortresses were bombarded German heavy and super-heavy artillery. German infantry attacked the fortress on 5th September and next day stormed four of the bypassed forts. On the evening of 6th September fortified area of Maubeuge was surrendered to the Germans.

Bailey who as recorded, accidentally wounded himself, is also listed as wounded in action, this being uncertain as to whether he may well have also been wounded in action for real during the defence of Maubeuge from 24th August to 7th September 1914, but was is for sure is that Bailey was taken prisoner of war at the fall of the French garrison in the Maubeuge Fortress on 7th September. It is interesting to note that another account states that Bailey was himself taken prisoner on the 11th September 1914, it being possible that he went into hiding for a few days before surrendering.

Bailey was interned in Germany at Krefeld, and is recorded by name in an interview concerning time spent in captivity as given by Lieutenant Colonel R.G. Bolton, Scots Guards. iIt would appear however that Bailey later escaped to Switzerland and was interned there from 9th December 1917, there being no other reason why he would have been interned in Switzerland other than the fact that he must have escaped from German captivity, as his injury in the leg, or other possible wound, would if it had been serious enough, necessitated his being repatriated home or else handed over to the Red Cross for internment in Switzerland or Holland much earlier than December 1917.

With the cessation of hostilities, Bailey was repatriated from Switzerland on 6th December 1918, and was then appointed Assistant Commandant of the Remount Service at Shirehampton, as part of the Southern Command from 3rd January to 5th April 1919, and was then appointed Deputy Director of Remounts with the rank of Colonel, based at the General Headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine from 6th April 1919, being appointed an Officer of the Military Division of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the King's Birthday Honours List as published in the London Gazette for 3rd June 1919 'for valuable services in connection with the war'. This award is unusual in that though nothing can be stated as fact, this award was almost certainly for his services as a Prisoner of War, and presumably for his escape to Switzerland, he had rendered no service in the period after his release which would have merited the award otherwise.

Bailey retired after this appointment as a Lieutenant Colonel on 12th December 1919, and later lived at Fosseway House, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. He died on 1st February 1947.

£4,500
Dr David Biggins
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