The 28th Battn Mtd Infy (3 companies of Warwickshire, Lancashire Fusiliers and Derbyshire Regiments) under Major Dowell were led in an ambush on Blesboklaagte near Klip River Station (west of Heidelberg). The 250 strong Boer force under Generals Alberts and Grobler heavily attacked the left flank, held by the Lancashire Fusiliers under Captain Challoner.
After about an hour’s fighting and losing a good many men wounded, the latter began to withdraw to their horses, about two miles away. However, they were galloped down and nearly all captured by the Boers, Captains Challenor and Le Marchant being wounded. The Derbyshire Company on their right held their position until the Warwickshire Company retired through them. They then retired, some of both companies being captured. The battalion had only just arrived from Malta and had no experience of either South Africa or of Boer tactics. 1 Officer and 11 men were killed, 6 Officers and 36 men were wounded and 6 Officers and 87 men (including the wounded) were taken prisoner.
WO 108/372 “South African Surrenders”refers.
The Boers lost 5 men killed and a number of men wounded.
In his unpublished memoirs Veldkornet Kamffer of the Heidelberg Commando noted: “Andrew Brink and I then asked the wounded officers why they had not surrendered. They replied that they had been told that the Boers fought under a black flag and that there was no use in surrendering as they would be shot in any event.”
Charles Frederick McMann attested on 24 November 1898 at Manchester, aged 18 years. He served in the 28th Battalion Mounted Infantry, was killed at Blesboklaagte and is interred at the Macauvlei Cemetery.
QSA (4) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Major H. S. Lockhart-Ross, 5/Lanc: Fus:) engraved naming
Provenance: Usher Collection, 1975.
Henry Stuart Lockhart-Ross, Hereditary Armour-Bearer to the King, and Squire of the Royal Body in Scotland, was born in 1857, the son of the Reverend John Lockhart-Ross and his wife Isabella, daughter of Sir Reginald Seton Steuart, Bt., of Allanton. He was commissioned Captain in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, in 1891, before transferring to the 5th (Militia) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, and served as Second in Command of the Battalion in South Africa during the Boer War, during operations in the Orange River Colony, June to July 1901, and in Cape Colony, July 1901 to 1902. Whilst in South Africa he was employed as Commandant of the fortified posts and block-houses at Jagersfontein, Stormburg, and Aliwal North, and for his services he was Mentioned in Despatches (LG 29 July 1902), the General Officer Commanding noting ‘the excellent state of the block-houses of the 5th Battalion, and the speed with which they executed immediate works.’
Promoted Lieutenant-Colonel and Honorary Colonel on 31 March 1905, Lockhart-Ross served as Commanding Officer of the 5th Battalion in 1906. In civilian life he was employed as Land Agent to Sir Maurice Fitzgerald at Buckland in Berkshire, and in 1927 was granted a Testimonial on Vellum from the Royal Humane Society, and also received the Carnegie Hero Certificate, for gallantly (but sadly unsuccessfully) attempting to save a girl from drowning at sea.
Lockhart-Ross inherited the Allanton estate on the death of his cousin, Sir Douglas Seton Steuart, Bt., in 1930, the Baronetcy becoming extinct. He died of blood poisoning in London on 6 August 1935, aged 78.
QSA (3) Cape Colony, Transvaal, South Africa 1902 (Major C. L. Robinson. Lanc: Fus:)
Provenance: Dix Noonan Webb, March 2009.
Charles Lucena Robinson was born in Hong Kong on 14 June 1865 and was commissioned Lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers on 12 November 1884. He served with the Lancashire Fusiliers in South Africa during the Boer War, and took part in the operations in the Transvaal, February-May 1902. He was latterly a Major on Retired Pay and an Honorary Colonel in the Special Reserve.
Group to Major M. Higgin-Birket, Lancashire Fusiliers
OBE (Military) Officer’s 1st type breast badge, silver, hallmarks for London 1919;
QSA (5) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Capt. M. Higgin-Birket, 5/Lanc: Fus:);
1914 Star, with copy clasp (Major M. Higgin-Birket. Lan. Fus.);
BWM and VM with MID oak leaves (Major M. Hggin-Birket.);
Serbia, Kingdom, Order of the White Eagle, Civil Division, Fourth Class breast badge, silver, silver-gilt and enamel, significant damage to blue pendalia enamel and upper right quadrant of red enamel;
France, Third Republic, Croix de Guerre, bronze, reverse dated 1914-1918, with bronze star emblem on riband, generally very fine
Group to Captain W. Higgin-Birket, Lancashire Fusiliers,
QSA (4) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Lieut: W. Higgin-Birket, 5/Lanc. Fus:);
1914 Star, with clasp (Capt. W. Higgin-Birket. Lan. Fus.);
BWM and VM (Capt. W. Higgin-Birket.)
OBE LG 15 March 1918:
‘For services in connection with the war in Salonika.’
Serbian Order of the White Eagle, Fourth Class LG 7 June 1919.
Myles Higgin-Birket was born in 1873 at Richmond, Surrey, the son of William Higgin-Birket and Elizabeth Hilbro Higgin-Birket of Birket Houses, Winster, Westmorland and was educated at Heversham Grammar School and University College School, Hampstead. Commissioned Second Lieutenant into the 5th and 6th Battalions, Lancashire Fusiliers on 28 March 1898, he was advanced Lieutenant, 30 November 1899 and Captain, 16 March 1901. He served with the 5th Battalion in South Africa, 1901-02 where he was present at the Operations in Orange River Colony, June to July 1901 and the operations in Cape Colony, July 1901 to May 1902, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 5 clasps. He retired with the Honorary rank of Major on 10 May 1913 but rejoined for service with the Special Reserve as Captain (Hon. Maj. Ret.) in the 3rd Battalion of his old regiment, proceeding to France with the 2nd Battalion on 28 September 1914.
Wounded on 12 November, Higgin-Birket returned to London and was attached to the Foreign Office, March to October 1915 before being posted to Salonika on attachment with the General Staff of the General Headquarters. For his services as Cipher Officer, GHQ, Salonika Force, Captain (Hon Major) Higgin-Birket was awarded the OBE, and personally decorated by the Crown Prince of Serbia with the Order of the White Eagle, 4th Class. For these services he was also three times Mentioned in General Milne’s Despatches (LGs 6 December 1916; 21 July 1917; and 28 November 1917). After the war, from November 1918 to March 1920, he served as Camp Commandant GHQ Salonika and GHQ Army of the Black Sea, Constantinople.
French Croix de Guerre unconfirmed. William Higgin-Birket, younger brother of the above, was born in 1878 at Richmond, Surrey. Commissioned Second Lieutenant into the 5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers on 12 July 1900, he was promoted Lieutenant on 16 March 1901 and served with the 5th Battalion during the Boer War in South Africa, 1901-02, where he was present at the Operations in Orange River Colony, June to July 1901, and the operations in Cape Colony, July 1901 to May 1902, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 4 clasps.
Higgin-Birket was advanced Captain on 5 September 1903 and was still serving with the 5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers on the outbreak of the Great War. Proceeding to France with the 2nd Battalion, he served with B Company on the Western Front from 14 September 1914. Having crossed the Aisne under heavy fire in September, his battalion, as part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Division, was engaged during the Armentiéres and Messines operations in October, Higgin-Birket first gaining mention in the Regimental History for his part in the attack on Le Touquet on 18 October: ‘Early in the morning, “B” (Captain W. Higgin-Birkett) and “C” (Captain R. Luker) Companies advanced on the left of the Le Bizet-Le Touquet road, with “A” Company in support and “D” Company in reserve. The village was strongly held, the houses were loopholed and trenches were dotted about over open ground outside the village. Moreover the enemy was able to bring a cross-fire of artillery and rifles from the east bank of the River Lys and from the loopholed buildings of Frélinghien. As a result, progress was very slow, “B” and “C” Companies lost touch and a platoon of “A” Company was sent up to restore contact. But the enemy’s fire was so heavy that it was found necessary to reinforce this platoon...’(The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers 1914-1918, Volume I, by Major-General J. C. Latter, CBE, M.C. refers)
On 28 October 1914, Higgin-Birket was reported missing presumed killed after he had been wounded in leading his Company in a successful counter attack against German infantry of the XIII Corps divisions and Infantry regiments 107 and 179 from XIX Corps. The German units had infiltrated through ruined buildings and overrun a battalion of the 18th Brigade holding a salient east of the La Bassée–Armentières railway near Rue du Bois: ‘Again, scarcely had the relief been completed when, at 2am on the 28th, the enemy attacked the 2nd Essex Regiment on the right of the battalion, which went to its support and helped to repel the assault. A second attack was made on the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment of the 18th Brigade, but it was held up in the wire between the first and second lines of trenches and was driven back by a counter-attack launched by the East Yorkshire Regiment and “B” Company of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers. The enemy’s losses were estimated to be at least 200 killed. The battalion’s losses during the day were 4 men killed and Captain W. Higgin-Birket and 7 men wounded. Higgin-Birket had been hit in the head and started to walk back to the dressing station alone; nothing was ever heard from him again.’ (ibid)
Captain William Higgin-Birket has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Belgium.