After a quiet Christmas based at the Oceana Mine near Grootvlei, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Colville, 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, proceeded on a farm-clearing expedition, with a small column consisting of six companies of the 1st Battalion, a squadron of the 13th Hussars, four guns of 63 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, as well as one ‘pom-pom’. Colville left ‘F’ Company under the command of Captain Radclyffe, as well as some artillerymen, to guard the baggage wagons based at the mine. The Column moved out in the direction of Roodewal, where after five miles they became involved in a small skirmish at the first of the target farms.
During the skirmish, a large party of approximately 450 Boers were spotted heading towards the Oceana Mine and a signal was sent to Captain Radclyffe informing him of this development. He at once set about disposing his small force in an attempt to protect the baggage, with the pom-pom located near a small hollow. After a couple of hours had passed a number of mounted Boers appeared on a ridge a thousand yards away. As Radclyffe’s men opened fire the Boers dismounted, pushed forward, and sent out small parties to the left and right in an encircling movement against the Rifle Brigade position. Under heavy and accurate fire the pom pom was moved down towards the hollow and back towards the compound- of the nine men who assisted in moving the pom-pom one was killed and the other eight all wounded.
Seeing that the enemy were now advancing in considerable force, Radclyffe decided to send the baggage back to the Column, whilst attempting to hold the Boers in check for as long as possible. Under cover of heavy Rifle Brigade fire from behind the wagons, the native teams began inspanning the oxen. When they were ready to move the native teams started off the wagons in the direction of Colville’s column and, as they did so, the small Rifle Brigade covering party came under very severe fire and had to retire, as the Boers saw that they were losing their target. During this time, Radclyffe and his sections continued their holding action but suffered a number of casualties, with their ammunition running out fast. With the baggage now well on its way, Radclyffe, who was lying wounded, ordered those in advanced positions who could do so to retire to the compound so as to avoid capture.
No.1 section provided covering fire until their ammunition ran out, at which point the Boers advanced rapidly, forcing their surrender, along with the wounded soldiers. Fortunately, at this point, the main column appeared on the horizon, forcing the Boers to withdraw, leaving their wounded prisoners behind. For some time, the wounded on the ridge were exposed to fire from both the returning column and the Boers, and a corporal was seen to make a valiant attempt to carry the wounded Radclyffe to safety. Total losses that day were heavy, with 13 Officers and men killed, 44 wounded, and 19 taken prisoner. For his gallantry in defending the position, Captain Radclyffe was awarded the DSO.
QSA (3) Tvl, L Nek, SA01 (6104 Pte. J. Lowe. Rifle Bde.)
Date clasp loose on ribbon.
QSA (5) Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek (Capt: G. L. Paget. Rifle Bde.)
George Leigh Paget, Captain, 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, died on 9 October 1900, from the severe wound he received in the engagement at Kaapmuiden. He was the eldest son of Sir George Ernest Paget, of Sutton Bonnington, Loughborough, chairman of the Midland Railway Company. Captain Paget was born in July 1871, educated at Harrow, and entered the Rifle Brigade in November 1891, being promoted Lieutenant in December 1893, and Captain in June 1896. He served with the Natal Field Force from the commencement of the war, and was present at the battle of Colenso and all the subsequent fighting prior to the Relief of Ladysmith, and afterwards took part in the advance into the Transvaal. He was buried at Standerton and a memorial window was dedicated to him within St Michael’s Church at Sutton Bonnington.
A contemporary report published in London on 11 October stated:
‘A train at Kaapmuiden upset at a diversion over the Kaap river. Three artillery men were killed and fifteen injured. Lieutenant Hayke had his leg broken. An engine and trucks conveyed the engineer officers, Captain Paget of the Rifle Brigade, and 18 men of the Vlakfontein garrison to ascertain the nature of the damage along the line. The Boers, who laid in wait fired. Captain Stewart, of the Rifle Brigade, hearing the attack, hastened with 40 men to support Captain Paget. Captain Stewart was killed and Captain Paget dangerously wounded. Six others wounded and eleven captured.’
Pardon the quality of the photos. This group was recently acquired by myself but is in London at present.
The ABW pair is to 4902 Henry George Abbotts of the Rifle Brigade - they saw lots of action in the Defence of Ladysmith and then at Bergendal (Belfast) later on. He then served with the Machine Gun Company in France.
MC GV, reverse contemporarily engraved ‘Capt. L. Eastmead. Rifle Brigade 1st. Jan. 1918’;
Sudan (9321 Srgt. L. Eastmead, 2/R. Bde:);
QSA (1) Defence of Ladysmith (9321. C.Sgt. L. Eastmead. Rifle Brigade);
1914 Star, with clasp (Hon: Lt: & Q.M. L. Eastmead. Rif: Brig.);
BWM and VM with MID oak leaves (Q.M. & Capt. L. Eastmead.);
Coronation 1911, unnamed as issued;
Army LS&GC EdVII (9321 Sjt. Mjr. L. Eastmead. Rifle Bde.);
Khedive Sudan (1) Khartoum (Sergt. L. Eastmead. 2nd. Battn. Rifle Brigade 1898) regimentally engraved naming
MC LG 1 January 1918.
Leonard Ernest King Eastman was born at Gillingham, Kent, on 26 January 1873, and attested for the Rifle Brigade in 1891. He served with the 2nd Battalion as a Sergeant during the Sudan Campaign in 1898, and, having been promoted Colour Sergeant, served with the 2nd Battalion during the Boer War in South Africa, where he was present in the operations in Natal in 1899, including the action at Lombard’s Kop, and also at the Defence of Ladysmith, including the sortie on 10 December 1899 and the action of 6 January 1900.
Eastmead was appointed Quartermaster with the honorary rank of Lieutenant on 28 May 1910, and served with the 3rd Battalion during the Great War on the Western Front from 10 September 1914, serving with the Battalion continuously until the Armistice. For his services during the Great War he was three times Mentioned in Despatches (LGs 22 June 1915, 15 June 1916, and 22 May 1917), and was awarded the Military Cross.
Promoted Major on 1 April 1920, whilst serving at the Depot, he retired on 26 January 1925, after 37 years with the Brigade and died in Winchester on 8 July 1943.