QSA (4) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902, unofficial rivets between state and date clasps (Lieut: L. W. Armstrong, Imp: Yeo:) engraved naming;
1914-15 Star (Capt. L. W. Armstrong, A.S.C.);
British War and Victory Medals (Capt. L. W. Armstrong.)
Lionel Wellesley Armstrong was born on 8 June 1880. He served two years in the Queen’s Westminster Rifle Volunteers and then over two years in the Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. Serving with the 91st Company (Sharpshooters), he acted as Transport Officer to Colonel Damant’s Column for the greater part of his time in South Africa. He was wounded at Tafel Kop on 20 December 1901, during an action in which a large Boer force, disguised as British infantry, infiltrated a smaller British force. The latter composed of 2 guns 55 men under Colonel Damant, protected by 40 men of 91 Company Imperial Yeomanry. In the action that followed, the artillery horses and limbers were saved but at a cost - out of the 95 men of the column, Damant’s Horse and 39th Battery RHA lost 43 killed and wounded including Lieutenant-Colonel Damant himself who was wounded in four places. In this truly heroic action, 91st Company Imperial Yeomanry had 32 hit out of 40, and, in the words of Lord Kitchener, ‘sacrificed itself almost to a man to save Damant’s guns.’
For his gallantry that day Shoeing-Smith Ind was awarded the Victoria Cross. The following particulars of this gallant fight were obtained from the men engaged in it by the correspondent of the Central News:
‘The columns under Colonel Damant and Colonel Rimington left Frankfort on the 19th inst. and proceeded in the direction of Vrede. The force trekked all night through a most severe thunderstorm, during which three of our men were struck by lightning and killed. On reaching the neighbourhood of Tafelkop, Damant rushed a Boer piquet, killing one man and capturing Commandant Gyter. At daybreak the transport waggons were laagered, and were left behind in charge of a small escort, while Damant with two guns of the 39th Battery, and one pom-pom and ninety-five men all told, rushed forward. The little force deviated on the left flank, where a number of Boers had been located. On reaching a ridge Colonel Damant observed a party of seventy men dressed in British uniform busily engaged driving cattle in his direction. The strangers were at first taken to be a part of Rimington’s column which had gone out on the right flank. The mistake was soon discovered, however, and almost immediately another body of the enemy was located further to the left of the British laager. Our guns were speedily unlimbered, and quickly came into action. We had only been able to fire two shots when the Boers in charge of the cattle abandoned them and galloped boldly forward towards the British position. The enemy opened a galling fire on the gunners at a range of two hundred yards, and simultaneously another party of 150 Boers who had remained carefully concealed in ambush in the long grass at the foot of the ridge enfiladed the position. A large number of the gallant defenders fell at the first few volleys, but the survivors fought tenaciously, and the enemy were only able to rush and capture the position after all the men on the ridge had been either killed or wounded except three. Previous to this, however, some of the gallant gunners and the escort had succeeded in getting away the limbers of the guns, notwithstanding the heavy fire. The only gunner who had escaped the bullets then effectually destroyed the breech-blocks of the guns and rendered them utterly useless to the enemy. Out of a total force of 95 in action we had 75 killed and wounded, the 91st Yeomanry losing one officer and 14 men were killed and one officer and 16 men wounded. The Boers, who were under Commandants Wessels, Ross, and M. Botha - the latter the son of the Commandant-General - also lost heavily. They had Commandant Vandermerwe and 30 men killed. Three of the Boer dead were buried by our men, and the remainder were carried away.
Later in the day a Boer came in under a flag of truce and asked for an armistice in order to allow the enemy to attend to their wounded and bury their dead. The survivors on our side state that the Boers behaved badly to our wounded on the ridge after the position had been rushed. Every one who made a movement while lying on the ground was fired at. An officer of the Yeomanry (Armstrong??) asked permission from a Boer dressed in khaki to get water for our wounded. For reply the Boer discharged his Mauser point blank at the officer’s head, but fortunately missed him. Several more of the enemy robbed and stripped our wounded and dead, and were only restrained from perpetrating further outrages by their commandants. The Boers were terribly angry when they discovered they were unable to move or use the guns which they had captured. Meanwhile Captain Scott had got together a small force and came up to the assistance of Damant’s men. Scott prepared to charge the position, when the enemy, mistaking his men for Rimington’s column, hastily retreated. The fleeing Boers, however, fell right into the arms of Rimington’s force, which was coming up to Damant’s support. Rimington opened fire, and the enemy lost a few killed, while five were captured. Rimington, with the remainder of Damant’s force, chased the flying enemy across the Wilge River. There appears to have been lately a large concentration of the enemy under De Wet at Tafelkop. Large parties of determined fighters under the immediate command of M. Botha, Meintjes, Tallvaard, Steenkamp, and Bucknill are now laying in ambush about the district, waiting to attack small columns.’
During the Great War Armstrong served as an officer in the Royal Army Service Corps from 20 September 1914 until August 1916 when he relinquished his commission due to ill-health. Though never fully fit thereafter, he was re-gazetted to the A.S.C. in April 1917 and served until demobilized in March 1919.
QSA (3) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, unofficial rivets between second and third clasps (Lieut. E. J. Stourton. 32. Co. Imp: Yeo.) engraved naming, housed in a damaged fitted leather case
Everard Joseph Stourton was born at Knaresborough, Yorkshire, on 28 December 1864 and attested for the Imperial Yeomanry at Warwick on 2 January 1900, having previously served as a Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders. He served with the 5th (Warwickshire) Company, 2nd Battalion in South Africa during the Boer War from 20 January 1900, before being commissioned a Lieutenant in the 32nd (Lancashire Hussars) Company, 2nd Battalion, on 1 August 1900. He was captured and taken Prisoner of War whilst serving with the latter unit at Zeekoe River, along with another 55 men, on 7 April 1901, and was release the next day at Graaff-Reinet. He returned to England in time to have his medal presented to him in December 1901, and died at Forfar, Angus, on 2 March 1932.
I added the Armstrong group to my motley assortment of medals. I had had my eye on the group for many a month as it languished on a dealer's site for £895 and was very chuffed to get it for way below estimate when it was put up for auction.