CM (m) converted from b/b
CBE (1st, mil)
Afgha (2) Kabul, Kandahar (Lieut: M. O. Little. 9th Lancers);
Kabul to Kandahar Star (Lieut: M. O. Little 9th Lancers);
QSA (7) Belm MR RoK Paar Joh DH Witt (Lt. Col. M. O. Little. 9/Lcrs.);
KSA (1) SA02 (Col. M. O. Little. 9/Lcrs.);
Delhi Durbar, 1903;
Brigadier-General Malcolm Orme Little, CB CBE, was born on 29 November, 1857 at Sussex Square, Hyde Park Gardens, London, the second son of General Sir Archibald Little, K.C.B.. A scion of Clan Little from the Scottish Borders, he was from an old family of reivers, cavalrymen and equestrians - the old saying going: ‘If you see a Little, a horse won't be far away .’ He was initially commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Royal North Gloucester Militia in September 1877, and then obtained his first regular commission with the 17th Lancers in 1878, having passed out of the Royal Military College where he had been an Honorary Queen’s Cadet. Later that year he transferred into the 9th Lancers (his father’s regiment) as Lieutenant travelled to India to serve in the Afghan War of 1878-80, where he was Orderly Officer to Brigadier-General Hugh Gough V.C. C.B.. He was present during the march from Kabul to Kandahar and the battle which followed, and for this he was mentioned in despatches. A keen polo player, he took part in the 1886 International Polo Cup and was part of the winning team alongside John Henry Watson, Captain Thomas Hone, and Captain the Hon. Richard Lawley, 4th Baron Wenlock. He was considered ‘a great popular favourite and a more dashing forward never carried a polo stick’ (‘Polo, Past and Present’ by Dale refers). He was also a member of the teams which won the Inter-regimental tournaments of 1885,1889 and 1890 amongst others.
He came to full prominence during the Boer War and Little’s name was famously featured in Colonel Frank Rhode’s cryptic message to the defenders of Mafeking, as once the Mafeking Relief Column approached the town they sent a message to Baden-Powell to forewarn him about their strength. Little’s name featured in the code which Rhodes chose to encrypt his message should it have been intercepted by the Boers. As recorded in ‘The Times History’ this rather ‘Boy’s Own’ episode entered Mafeking folklore soon after: ‘At Baden-Powell’s request Mahon sent him an account of the numbers of his force, his guns, and the state of his supplies in the following enigmatic form, as he had no cypher: “Our numbers are the Naval and Military Club multiplied by ten [94 (Piccadilly) xio = 940]; our guns, the number of sons in the Ward family ; our supplies, the O.C. 9th Lancers [Little].”
As the 9th Lancers sailed for South Africa in September 1899, their Commanding Officer Colonel Bloomfield Gough was on sick leave in England and Little, as Second-in-Command, was temporarily placed in command until Gough returned to full health Little’s skill as a cavalry officer was noted early on during the campaign, when following a reconnaissance before the Battle of Modder River, he informed Lord Methuen that the Boers were present in greater strength than previously assumed. On this occasion Methuen chose to ignore Little’s report and sent his troops directly into the ambush at the river bank, but Little showed sufficient initiative with his troops to create a diversion and avoid a rout. The Times History again records that during the Battle of Modder River: ‘At one time during the morning the Boer guns brought a most effective fire to bear on a white house and kraal, a mile above Bosman’s Drift, in which a company of mounted infantry had ensconced itself, at the same time sweeping the line of retreat. Seeing that the little garrison would soon be annihilated, Major Little promptly created a diversion by advancing two squadrons of dismounted Lancers towards the river bank, and drawing the Boer fire till the mounted infantry had effected their retreat.’
Later, Colonel Gough was rather unjustly blamed for the failure of the cavalry to sufficiently press home the advantage at Belmont and Graspan (Lord Methuen even admitted that he had done everything possible under the circumstances) and was unceremoniously sacked, whereupon Little then found himself in command of the 9th Lancers. At the Battle of Magersfontein, Little was Mentioned in Despatches this time by Lord Methuen for his gallantry when the 9th Lancers, having been driven back by heavy enemy fire, were dismounted and placed in the firing line on the right flank: ‘Major Little, in the firing line, did good work all day ’ as detailed in Methuen’s Despatch dated 15 February 1900 in London Gazette 16 March 1900. Following this reverse at Magersfontein Methuen’s forces moved toward the Modder River, and here the 9th Lancers were continually employed in scouting and reconnaissance. When French departed in haste to relieve Kimberley on 11 February 1900, the 9th Lancers formed a part of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in his Cavalry Division. Little commanded the 9th Lancers with great elan and led them in the charge against the Boers at Klip Drift on 15 February. He was reported by French to Roberts, along with two other Cavalry Officers in the Relief Column, as having ‘commanded their regiments throughout with great dash and ability’ (War Office records refer). Little was Mentioned in Despatches for a second time in Lord Roberts’ Despatch of 31 March 1900 (London Gazette 8 February 1901 refers).
Little was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in March 1900 and in July that year was given command of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade with the local rank of Brigadier-General. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade was soon involved in the attempts to attack De Wet’s forces during which the Cavalry columns under Little and Broadwood’s, operating in tandem but failing to maintain communication, were outwitted by the Boer Intelligence Scouts of Theron and Scheepers. Continuing into August these columns, supplemented by an additional two, maintained their chase but failed to draw De Wet into a decisive engagement. Despite their efforts De Wet managed to escape and slipped from the Free State into the Transvaal. It was at this time that Little was severely wounded in August near Jacobsdal, in circumstances described by Roberts in his Despatch of 10 October 1900:
‘In view of De Wet’s return from the Transvaal to the district between Heilbron and Reitzburg, and the possibility of his collecting a fresh commando in that direction, I thought it desirable to concentrate a strong mounted force at Kroonstad and on the Rhonoster River. The Colonial Division, which had been attached to Lord Methuen’s column during the pursuit ofDe Wet, was accordingly ordered to march from Zeerust to Elandsfontein, via Krugersdorp. It left Zeerust on 25 August, being joined by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade under Colonel Little. The same day Colonel Little was wounded near Jacobsdal, and the command of the combined force devolved on Colonel Dalgety’ (London Gazette 8 February 1901 refers).
In extracts from his diary, Little covered the action in more detail:
[Sat. 25th] Ricardo as usual no idea of taking up his position. Started at 2 with brigade & 500 Colonials, Kaffirs etc., under Col. Dalgety. Found Boers in a drift, orange groves, etc. at Botha’s farm. 17th Lcrs. Advanced guard. Rode on to see the lay of the land when I got a short range from the donga. Had a squadron 17th working round on the left & squadron of 9th [Lancers] & 100 M.I. on the right. Reed, no reports from the 17th so took Brigade closer than I should have. Handed over command to Dalgety, after clearing out Boers bivouacked at Botha’s farm.’
The other extracts relate to his evacuation to Mafeking hospital by Lord Methuen and his subsequent journey in a hospital train. The last extract describes the serious nature of his wound: ‘Weds. 5 [Sept]. Miss Barnes Day sister. Put under the X-Rays saw bits of cigarette case, bone and bullet along course of bullet. Bullet took a curved course thro’ hitting thigh bone apparently.’ Little, described by one of his Subalterns as ‘an excellent Brigadier’ (as mentioned in A Soldier’s Diary), continued nominally in command of the Brigade until November 1900. He was awarded the rank of Brevet-Colonel and sent to England on sick leave. He did not return to South Africa until 1902.
Little took over de Lisle’s Column on 8 April 1902 and commanded it in the drives in North East Free State until the end of the War. He received a final Mention in Despatches from Lord Kitchener as follows: ‘Brevet-Colonel (local Brigadier-General) M.O. Little, gth Lancers has twice held command of British Cavalry Brigades, and has proved himself a capable leader of mounted troops in the field’ (London Gazette 3 December, 1902). He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and placed on half-pay in 1904. He was recalled temporarily from retirement in 1905 as a Staff Officer in the Imperial Yeomanry with the rank of Colonel, but again retired in 1908.
Recalled once again for service in the Great War, he served at Home in the Great Britain as Inspector of Remounts in 1914, and then as Commandant of the Yeomanry Brigade and Coast Defences from 1915 to 1917, for which he was appointed a C.B.E. He retired for a third and final time with the honorary rank of Brigadier in 1917, and on 19 January 1923, Little was commissioned as a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Warwick. He died some years later at his home in Rugby, on 7 February 1931, at the age of 73.
Ex Spink, ‘The Anglo-Boer War Anniversary 1899-1999’ Auction, 20 & 21 October, 1999, lot 285
Lockdales have these two items as a single lot in their next auction but appear to be separate pieces.
Picture courtesy of Lockdales
Boer war scarce telegram dated 8-9-1899 mobilisation telegram to LT Allhusen 9th Lancers from commanding officer, regiment orders South Africa (Rejoin at once acknowledge LT Allhusen regiment mobilised from Ootacamund). Comes with large portrait photo.
The photo is not of Captain F H Allhusen of the 9th Lancers.
We often read of men in the Army Reserve being recalled so it is good to see one form of the recall instruction.