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TOPIC: Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment

Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 1 week 17 hours ago #55070

  • Brett Hendey
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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment
(Later Sapper, South African Engineer Corps)

Herbert Henry Kelly was born in the Parish of St Sidwells, Exeter, in 1872. His father was Richard Kelly, 4 Strong’s Cottages, St Sidwells, where he lived with his wife, Emma, two daughters, Laura and Jessie, and another two sons, John and Frederick.

Herbert Kelly, who was employed as a Labourer, volunteered to serve in the Devonshire Regiment on 9 March 1888 (No. 2006). He was then a slight 18-year-old, who was 5 feet 6 inches tall, and weighed 121 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He was a member of the Church of England. His only distinctive marks were his initials tattooed on his left forearm.

He was posted to the 1st Battalion and served in England until 24 January 1891. He received his first award of Good Conduct Pay on 9 March 1890. He moved with his regiment to Egypt on 28 January 1891, and remained there until 28 December 1892. Kelly next went to India, where he received a second award of Good Conduct Pay, and a 3rd Class Certificate of Education. He returned to England on 26 February 1896, shortly before being placed on the 1st Class Army Reserve on 19 March 1896, having served for 8 years and 10 days. Although he had remained a Private, he was evidently a sound soldier with an unblemished record.

After leaving the army, Kelly found employment on 12 April as a Porter on the Great Western Railways. He remained with the GWR until October 1899.

With the Boer War impending, Kelly was recalled to his regiment on 9 October 1899, and posted to the 2nd Battalion. On 20 October the battalion sailed for South Africa, and, after its arrival in Natal during November, it was posted to the 2nd Brigade, which was under the command of Major-General Hildyard, and part of General Buller’s army based at Frere.

On 15 December the first set-piece battle of Buller’s campaign was fought at Colenso. The battle soon turned into a disaster for the British, whose high command had underestimated the abilities of the Boers, and the strength of their positions along the northern side of the Tugela River overlooking the Colenso plain. The decimation of General Hart’s Irish Brigade, and the loss of the Royal Artillery’s forward guns, are the episodes best known about this battle, but the 2nd Devons were also involved in a small, but embarrassing setback.

When the attack by the British was launched, the 2nd Devons, together with the 2nd Queen’s, made straight for Colenso itself, and drove out the Boers in the town. They then acted as cover for the forward guns deployed on the outskirts of the town, and which came under heavy fire from the Boers across the river. It was soon evident that the guns had moved too far forward and were in an indefensible position. At the same time, the Irish Brigade west of Colenso was trapped by heavy fire from across the Tugela. When General Buller realised the battle was lost, he recalled the units in the van. However, the Devons, who were so far forward that they received the order to retire too late, were soon surrounded by men of the Krugersdorp Commando, who had recrossed the river. The officer commanding the Devons, Lieutenant-Colonel G M Bullock, initially refused to surrender, but he was knocked to the ground by a rifle butt, and he, two other officers, and about 30 men, including Private Herbert Kelly, were taken prisoner. They were all moved to Pretoria by train, where they remained in captivity until their release on 6 June 1900.

Kelly’s absence from the regiment meant that he missed the other actions involving the 2nd Devons in the period preceding the Relief of Ladysmith. The regiment had many casualties in the days before the Battle of Spioenkop on 22 January 1900, and during the battles to capture Tugela Heights in late February. The regiment then took part in the British advance through northern Natal into the south-eastern Transvaal. By the time Kelly rejoined the regiment, it was garrisoned in the south-eastern Transvaal, where its casualties were caused by disease, rather than in actions against the Boers.

Kelly was finally discharged by the army on 8 March 1901. What transpired in his life after his discharge and the start of World War I is not known, but what is certain is that he had settled in Natal.

After World War I broke out in August 1914, South Africa joined in on the side of Britain. The country was unprepared for war, so there was a flurry of activity to mobilise and strengthen its military forces. Herbert Kelly was one of many to volunteer his services. On 3 October 1914, he enlisted as an electrician in “B” Company, South African Engineer Corps (SAEC), with the service number 268, and with the rank of Sapper. He gave his father Richard, who was then living at 21 Church Street, Exeter, as his next-of-kin.

The first task of the South African army was to put down a rebellion by dissident Boers, who were against the war with Germany. Next it undertook the capture and occupation of German South West Africa. This was achieved with an overland invasion from the south, and with landings by sea at two places on the coast, namely, Lüderitz (Central Column) and Walvis Bay (Northern Column). Kelly served in both these Columns.

The SAEC had a most challenging role to play in this campaign. The first duties of the men on arrival were to improve the harbours at Lüderitz and Walvis Bay in order to expedite the unloading of men and materials. Once ashore they were required to repair, improve and maintain the infrastructure needed to successfully undertake the campaign. This included attention to roads, railway lines, bridges, and water and electricity supplies that were often damaged by the retreating Germans. The most pressing and persistent problem related to supplying adequate potable water to the men and horses of the mainly mounted invading force. Water sources in the arid Namib Desert and further inland were very limited and often poisoned by the enemy.

Kelly’s deployment with the Central Column began when he disembarked from the ‘City of Athens’ in Lüderitz on 21 October 1914, a month after the first South African troops had landed there. Unfortunately, there is no record of what Kelly did while he was with the Central Column, nor when he moved to the Northern Column, and how he was occupied there. After nearly 10 months in South West Africa, Kelly departed on 3 August 1915, and he was discharged on 14 August.

After the GSWA campaign was concluded, many South Africans went on to serve in the military in German East Africa and Europe, but no record of Kelly doing so has been found. Kelly was rewarded for his services by the award of the 1914/15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal.

No record of Kelly’s civilian life has been found, but it is known that he died in Natal in 1940, aged about 68 years. He was single. His Death Notice, is in the Pietermaritzburg Repository of the South African National Archives (MSCE 31896/1940).

Brett Hendey
15 August 2017


For Roy:
The rather spindly shoulder title worn by the SAEC in GSWA.

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The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, Rory, Frank Kelley

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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 1 week 13 hours ago #55072

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Lovely group of medals Brett and you have added a fitting tribute to Kelly as well.

This sort of thing is just up my street.

Regards

Rory

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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 1 week 10 hours ago #55077

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Thank You Brett.......

Great piece of research.......

Is it Kelley on the medal????? As I have one where his name is spelt Kelly on he medal but is really Kelley, I wonder how often this happened.......

Mike

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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 1 week 9 hours ago #55080

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Rory & Mike
Thank you both for your kind comments. I think it was men like Kelly who made the British Empire - sound soldiers from humble backgrounds who did their duty, no matter what the odds.

Mike
It is 'Kelly' on all the medals and papers. I wonder if Frank can shed any light on the difference in spelling?

Regards
Brett

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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 5 days 8 hours ago #55094

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I think that is a very pleasing group, very much a text book one, a particularly good QSA, to a very typical Thomas Atkins, I would certainly be very happy with it.
The GWSA engineers shoulder title is rather scarce, they were worn on that lightning fast campaign by those engaged and seldom turn up these days.

Brett Hendey wrote:



Private Herbert Kelley, 2nd Devonshire Regiment
(Later Sapper, South African Engineer Corps)

Herbert Kelley was a labourer born in the Parish of St Sidwells, Exeter, in about 1870. His father was Richard Kelly, 4 Strong’s Cottage, St Sidwells, where he lived with his wife and another son named John.

Kelly volunteered to serve in the Devonshire Regiment on 9 March 1888 (No. 2006). He was then a slight 18-year-old, who was 5 feet 6 inches tall, and weighed 121 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He was a member of the Church of England. His only distinctive marks were his initials on his left forearm.

He was posted to the 1st Battalion and served in England until 24 January 1891. He received his first award of Good Conduct Pay on 9 March 1890. He moved with his regiment to Egypt on 28 January 1891, and remained there until 28 December 1892. Kelly next went to the East Indies, where he received a second award of Good Conduct Pay, and a 3rd Class Certificate of Education. He returned to England on 26 February 1896, shortly before being placed on the 1st Class Army Reserve on 19 March 1896, having served for 8 years and 10 days. Although he had remained a Private, he was evidently a sound soldier with an unblemished record.

With the Boer War impending, Kelly was recalled to his regiment on 9 October 1899, and posted to the 2nd Battalion. On 20 October the battalion sailed for South Africa, and, after its arrival in Natal during November, it was posted to the 2nd Brigade, which was under the command of Major-General Hildyard, and part of General Buller’s army based at Frere.

On 15 December the first set-piece battle of Buller’s campaign was fought at Colenso. The battle soon turned into a disaster for the British, whose high command had underestimated the abilities of the Boers, and the strength of their positions along the northern side of the Tugela River overlooking the Colenso plain. The decimation of General Hart’s Irish Brigade, and the loss of the Royal Artillery’s forward guns, are the episodes best known about this battle, but the 2nd Devons were also involved in a small, but embarrassing setback.

When the attack by the British was launched, the 2nd Devons, together with the 2nd Queen’s, made straight for Colenso itself, and drove out the Boers in the town. They then acted as cover for the forward guns deployed on the outskirts of the town, and which came under heavy fire from the Boers across the river. It was soon evident that the guns had moved too far forward and were in an indefensible position. At the same time, the Irish Brigade west of Colenso was trapped by heavy fire from across the Tugela. When General Buller realised the battle was lost, he recalled the units in the van. However, the Devons, who were so far forward that they received the order to retire too late, were soon surrounded by men of the Krugersdorp Commando, who had recrossed the river. The officer commanding the Devons, Lieutenant-Colonel G M Bullock, initially refused to surrender, but he was knocked to the ground by a rifle butt, and he, two other officers, and about 30 men, including Private Herbert Kelly, were taken prisoner. They were all moved to Pretoria by train, where they remained in captivity until their release on 6 June 1900.

Kelly’s absence from the regiment meant that he missed the other actions involving the 2nd Devons in the period preceding the Relief of Ladysmith. The regiment had many casualties in the days before the Battle of Spioenkop on 22 January 1900, and during the battles to capture Tugela Heights in late February. The regiment then took part in the British advance through northern Natal into the south-eastern Transvaal. By the time Kelly rejoined the regiment, it was garrisoned in the south-eastern Transvaal, where its casualties were caused by disease, rather than in actions against the Boers.

Kelly was finally discharged by the army on 8 March 1901. What transpired in his life after his discharge and the start of World War I is not known, but what is certain is that he had settled in Natal.

After World War I broke out in August 1914, South Africa joined in on the side of Britain. The country was unprepared for war, so there was a flurry of activity to mobilise and strengthen its military forces. Herbert Kelly was one of many to volunteer his services. On 3 October 1914, he enlisted as an electrician in “B” Company, South African Engineer Corps (SAEC), with the service number 268, and with the rank of Sapper. By the time of his enlistment he had added a second forename, Henry, perhaps to distinguish himself from a Herbert William Kelly, who was resident in Natal at that time. He gave his father Richard, who was then living at 21 Church Street, Exeter, as his next-of-kin.

The first task of the South African army was to put down a rebellion by dissident Boers, who were against the war with Germany. Next it undertook the capture and occupation of German South West Africa. This was achieved with an overland invasion from the south, and with landings by sea at two places on the coast, namely, Luderitz (Central Column) and Walvis Bay (Northern Column). Kelley served in both these Columns.

The SAEC had a most challenging role to play in this campaign. The first duties of the men on arrival were to improve the harbours at Luderitz and Walvis Bay in order to expedite the unloading of men and materials. Once ashore they were required to repair, improve and maintain the infrastructure needed to successfully undertake the campaign. This included attention to roads, railway lines, bridges, and water and electricity supplies that were often damaged by the retreating Germans. The most pressing and persistent problem related to supplying adequate potable water to the men and horses of the mainly mounted invading force. Water sources in the arid Namib Desert and further inland were very limited and often poisoned by the enemy.

Kelly’s deployment with the Central Column began when he disembarked from the ‘City of Athens’ in Luderitz on 21 October 1914, a month after the first South African troops had landed there. Unfortunately, there is no record of what Kelly did while he was with the Central Column, nor when he moved to the Northern Column, and how he was occupied there. After nearly 10 months in South West Africa, Kelly departed on 3 August 1915, and he was discharged on 14 August.

After the GSWA campaign was concluded, many South Africans went on to serve in the military in German East Africa and Europe, but no record of Kelly doing so has been found. Kelly was rewarded for his services by the award of the 1914/15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal.

No record of Kelly’s civilian life has been found, but it is known that he died in Natal in 1940, aged about 70 years. He was single. His Death Notice, is in the Pietermaritzburg Repository of the South African National Archives (MSCE 31896/1940).

Brett Hendey
11 August 2017

For Roy:
The rather spindly shoulder title worn by the SAEC in GSWA.

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Private Herbert Kelly, 2nd Devonshire Regiment 5 days 8 hours ago #55095

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There is absolutely no doubt, whatsoever, of this mans name.

QSAMIKE wrote: Thank You Brett.......

Great piece of research.......



Is it Kelley on the medal????? As I have one where his name is spelt Kelly on he medal but is really Kelley, I wonder how often this happened.......

Mike

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