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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 3 days ago #88918

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Alexander Stewart Crum

Lieutenant, 2nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry – Burma Campaign
Captain and Officer Commanding 67th Company, 18th Imperial Yeomanry – Anglo Boer War
Major, 36th Training Reserve Battalion (9th (Reserve) Bn, the Ox & Bucks. Light Infantry) – WWI

- India General Service Medal 1854-95 with clasp, BURMA 1889-92 to 2/LIEUT: A. S. CRUM. 2/OXF: L.I.
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Rhodesia to CAPT. A. S. CRUM. 18/IMPL. YEO.
- British War Medal to MAJOR A. S. CRUM.

Alexander Crum was born in Mearns, Renfrewshire, Scotland on 20 March 1867 the son of Alexander Stewart, a Merchant and Calico Printer employing 1500 people, and Margaret Stewart Ewing. Mr Crum senior was a philanthropist and Member of Parliament, on the Liberal ticket, for Renfrewshire until the constituency was split in 1885.

Broom House where Crum was born

As befitted his status as a prominent citizen and businessman, Mr Crum and his family had the house to match – their home being Broom Mansion, a sprawling double storey Georgian house in Mearns where, according to the 1871 Scotland census, Stewart (for thus was Alexander known) was 3 years of age, his brother Walter Ewing Crum (5) and his parents 42 and 30 respectively. No fewer than four servants ministered to their every need.

Having reached an age where further education became necessary, young Crum was sent up to Eton College to join his brother, Walter Ewing. According to the 1881 England census, he was a 14 year Boarder at that prestigious establishment. That he was musically inclined was vouched for in an article which appeared in the North British Daily Mail of 11 September 1884 – this “fashionable concert” was held in the Artillery Hall at Largs, a town in Ayrshire, in aid of liquidating the debt in connection with St. Columba’s Episcopal Church. The Crum family were out in force with “Haydn’s trio No. 1, for piano, violin and cello, being performed by Miss Crum, and Messrs. W.E. Crum and Sterne. Violin solos were given by Messrs. W.E. Crum and A.S. Crum, both of these young gentlemen showing great powers of execution, their mastery of difficult bowing being very marked.”

Crum at around the time he was at Eton

As was often the case with well-to-do families in the Victorian era, one or more of the sons were destined for the army – Stewart Crum, now finished with education, and equipped to face the world at large, was gazetted a Second Lieutenant in the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment on 17 September 1887 at the age of 20. Promotion to Lieutenant followed on 23 January 1892 by which time he had already been stationed in India with the 2nd battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry where he served in Burma in the Wuntho campaign in 1891. Here operations were carried out by the Northern, Southern, and Magaung columns of the Wuntho expedition, the objects of the expedition being to suppress a sudden outburst of rebellion which had broken out almost simultaneously in the extreme northern and southern limits of the hitherto independent State of Wuntho. To then depose and, if possible, capture the Sawbwa and his father; failing which, to drive them and all their adherents out of the country; and to annex, disarm, and permanently secure the future peaceful administration of the country. Burma, for most of the 1890’s, was to be a hotbed of rebellion and insurrection requiring an almost permanent military presence.

Officers of the Oxford Light Infantry at Wuntho

Whilst he was still stationed in the Far East he came to learn of his father’s death on 23 August 1893 where he dropped dead from apoplexy on the platform of the Thornliebank Station. He and his brother Walter were the main beneficiaries of the estate which was in excess of £105 000, a large amount of money by any standard.

Thornliebank House which became the Crum ancestral home

On 24 July 1897 Crum resigned his commission, having elected to remain in India. He did, however, return home for a short while – to wed Mary Henry at St James, Marylebone, London on 6 Sep 1897. After this short interlude he returned to India. A newspaper report which appeared in the Madras Weekly Mail of 13 January 1898 dealt with what must have been a very trying episode for him and his wife. Under the heading “Ceylon – Daring theft from a visitor”, the correspondent went on to relate: -

“A very clever theft of a leather bag containing articles to the value of R.s 3500 was perpetrated on Wednesday evening. Mr and Mrs A.S. Crum, now on a visit to the island from India, returned to Colombo by train on Wednesday evening from Dikoyo where they had been the guests of Mr Lane and Blair Athol Estate. On arrival of the train at the terminus, about 6.30 p.m., a peon of the Galle Face Hotel, where they were staying took charge of their luggage, which was loaded in a bullock cart for removal. Mr and Mrs Crum got into a hired gharry taking with them two leather bags. These were put on the back seat and the gharry drove off on the way to the Galle Face Hotel. After the gharry had passed the bridge near the stores of the Eastern Produce Co., the leather bag which contained money and jewellery, was discovered to be missing. The gharry was at once stopped and search was made for the bag, on the road and at the station, but without success. The driver of the gharry, and the pedestrians on the road at the time, denied any knowledge of it.

Information was given by Mr and Mrs Crum to the Police about 7 p.m., and Inspector Janez and several constables began to make enquiries. They were, however, unsuccessful and no clue was forthcoming. The driver of the hired gharry which, bore the No. 48, is a Sinhalese man, named Carolis, hailing from Galle, and he resides at Wolfendahl. The leather bag, ripped open and minus the contents, was found about midnight on Wednesday, at Wolfendahl near the residence of the gharry driver. The Police searched the houses of the driver and two other men who were suspected, but nothing was found.

Information of the theft with a list of contents of the bag, has been sent to all police stations and to the Criminal Investigation Department. A wire has been sent to the Galle Police to watch the relatives of the driver at Galle. The driver and his movements also are being watched by the Police. The contents of the bag were a tin despatch box, containing several pieces of valuable earrings, bracelets, studs etc., set with diamonds, brilliants and pearls, a letter of credit on Messrs. Cox & Co, London, for £200 sterling, Rs 320 in Ceylon currency notes, several certificates and other papers connected with investments, three or four photographs, a war medal with the name of Second Lieutenant Crum, a dressing case with brush, combs etc.

Mr and Mrs Crum were about to leave for India yesterday (6th) but their departure had to be postponed, owing to this unfortunate loss. Mr Crum has been an officer of the British Army in India for over ten years, and is now intending to buy land in South India or in Ceylon to plant tea. Inspector Janez reported the matter to the Police Court today. The Police have received information that the contents have been sold by some persons to a habitual receiver of stolen property.”

The Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, Ceylon

The sequel to this distressing incident was that most of the certificates and other items, including Crum’s war medal, were recovered and returned to him.

As the 19th century drew to a close, the rumblings of war in far- away South Africa grew ever loader. Crum, who had resigned his commission a few years earlier, now made haste for England. War erupted on 11 October 1899, between the two Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal and the might of Great Britain. The Imperial military presence on the ground was found wanting in numbers and was woefully inadequate to stem the Boer tide. A series of disastrous battles were fought in late 1899 which became known as Black Week and the British authorities, now well and truly alive to the fact that the Boers were no pushover, sent out a call for the raising of Yeomanry battalions, recruited from the members of the civilian population, to augment the numbers of men in the field.

One of these was the 18th Battalion (Sharpshooters), Imperial Yeomanry. This battalion was raised on 30 December 1899 and consisted of the 67th, 70th, 71st and 75th Companies. Promoted Captain on account of his previous war service, Crum was given command of 67th Company which was raised in London, and quartered at St. John's Wood Barracks. The battalion embarked for South Africa at Southampton on 6 April 1900 and would serve as part of the Rhodesia Field Force. The Birmingham Daily Post of that day reported that: -

“Four companies of the Sharpshooter Corps, in all nearly 500 officers and men, will sail for South Africa from Southampton tomorrow, aboard the Galeka. They are the embodied result of a memorandum submitted to the War Office in December. Colonel R.R. Parke is in command of the Corps, the company commanders being Lt. Col. T.A. Hill, Captain Sir Saville Crossley, Captain Warden and Captain Crum. It is hoped that this body will continue to exist after the war as a permanent part of the Imperial forces, specially chosen and paid for excellence in the use of a rifle.”

The Sheffield Daily News of 29 March 1900 reported that: -

“The Prince of Wales this morning inspected, at Chelsea Barracks, four companies forming the Battalion of Sharpshooters, raised by Lord Dunraven for service in South Africa. The men today carried rifles and side-arms, and looked very smart in their khaki uniform and long cavalry cloaks. Number 67 Company was commanded by Captain Crum, with whom were Lieutenants Jones, Langford, Curley and Dyke.

Arriving in Africa in May 1900, Crum and his compatriots landed at the swampy and insect ridden Mozambique town of Beira from where they proceeded directly to Twenty-Three Mile Creek. They were not many days in camp before many of the men went down with dysentery and fever, this thanks to the lack of decent water and the malarial fogs that crept in at night. Land crabs swarmed over the camping ground and each morning the tent floors would be pock-marked with them. One officer described the situation – “We had had no fighting but we had had something much harder to endure. For some weeks we were camped in a pestilential swamp near Beira, guarding 1500 horses. The work, both by day and night, was incessant and carried on under the outmost difficulties. The only food was bully beef and biscuits , the only drink putrid water.”

From there the Squadrons moved to Bamboo Creek, having to leave behind many who were still in hospital with malaria or, even worse, those who had died from fever and disease before seeing a shot fired. Here more of the same experienced at Beira awaited the men. Thence on to Umtali where the men’s health was beginning to be restored by the cool mountain breeze and the many shooting competitions between the locals and the Sharpshooters, all of which helped to boost sagging morale. Before leaving Umtali the battalion was inspected by General Carrington who undertook to “move you (them) on as fast as I can.”

Finally, on 17 June, the first Squadron moved out for Marandellas followed, over the next few days, by the others who were transported by train. Next followed a long 180 mile march to Victoria – the 67th pursuing this route only as far as The Range, proceeding from there to Bulawayo by road. On arrival the men were housed in a number of large mud huts, built for the purpose. The camp was situated on rising ground on the far side of the Umshagashi River. The Squadron left Victoria for Tuli and the long march south to where the action was, arriving in camp on the 24th September. They had completed the long march from Marandellas in 28 days but only stayed in the Matabele capital of Bulawayo for a week, marching for Tuli via Mazinyama, Pourri-Perri and Rietfontein. Joined by the other Squadrons of the 18th Battalion, the idea was to march on Pietersburg, then in the hands of the Boers.

Map detailing the places on the R.F.F. advance south

Halting for a night at Bryce’s Store they marched on to the Limpopo River, encamping in a strongly defensive position within a mile of Pont Drift – the scene of one of the earliest encounters of the war. Here they were to remain for nearly a month. Whether or not the fall of Pretoria rendered the proposed attack on Pietersburg superfluous; orders came for the Rhodesian Field Force to be removed by rail to Mafeking. At around this time Captain Crum was invalided, replaced by Lieutenant Jones on promotion. This was shortly after the 67th claimed the honour of being the first unit of the R.F.F. to exchange shots with the Boers. They were passing through Vryburg when information came in of the capture of a convoy by the enemy a few miles away. Hastily detraining, they formed part of the small force who were sent in pursuit, and after a sharp little fight in which three of the Imperial Light Horse were wounded, the Boers were driven off and the convoy rescued.

Crum’s war was now at an end. He returned to England and took no further part in the war which ended on 31 May 1902. Having, before the war, decided to pursue a business venture as a tea planter, he set about achieving this end. This was confirmed by a short insert in the Madras Weekly Mail of 11 June 1903 wherein it was noted that he was present at the Annual General Meeting of the Nilgiri Planters Association which had been held at Ootacamund on 8 June of that year.

The habits of a lifetime die hard and it came as no surprise to see Crum’s name among the officers selected for the newly formed Southern Provinces Mounted Rifles. This was a Mounted Volunteer Corps, in the Madras Presidency, composed exclusively of European gentlemen. Headquarters were fixed at Ootacamund and the Nilgiri planters and others from surrounding districts joined en bloc. Crum was appointed a Lieutenant in the corps.

That he made frequent trips home to England, either on business or to see family, is well known. The 1911 England census has him and his wife listed as “Visitors” staying at the Westminster Palace Hotel, 4 Victoria Street, Westminster on the night of the census. Crum is noted as an Eastern Products Planter.

Among his sporting pursuits he was noted to be an accomplished “pig-sticker” – to this he added the accolade of a decent horseman – The Overland Mail of 13 March 1913 referring to the Final Results in the Chart and Compass race of the Calcutta Light Horse “which was held in the vicinity of Dum Dum Saturday last” where it will be seen that first prize goes not to Corporal Constant but to Captain Crum. “The former rode the course in the shortest time, but has lost his place owing to Captain Crum having put in a much better report.”

As they sat on the veranda of their plantation sipping sun downers Gin and Tonics, it can be safely assumed that the Crums’ would have had no hint of what was to come in a mere year’s time. The world would be at war with the belligerents not some Burmese tribe or Boer Commando but the might of Imperial Germany and her Allies against Great Britain and her Allies.

Crum was already 47 years old and no longer in the prime of life when the Great War dawned on 4 August 1914. Irregardless of his age and health, he put his hand up for a uniform once more – serving as a Major, Second-in-Command of the 9th (Service) Battalion and in September 1916 in the same appointment with the 36th Training Reserve Battalion. He was awarded the British War Medal (confirmed as sole entitlement as per MIC) for his efforts. This was posted to him at “Ormesdale”, Dorking. He had been over to France but in a Draft Conducting capacity.

Crum in later life

The 1916 Nilgiri Guide and Directory indicate that Crum still retained his Indian interests at the time of war – he is listed, on page 194, as Proprietor of the Kotakul plantation, P.O. Kullakambay – an area of 100 acres at an elevation of 5000 feet of which 65 were under coffee. J.W. Trinder was managing this in his absence. Similarly, he owned another plantation – the Munjacombay – which was 160 acres at an elevation of 5400 feet, of which 80 acres were under coffee. No mention is made of who was managing this on his behalf.

In 1918 not only was the war over but, by the look of things, Crum’s romance with the east. He had returned to England to settle down and, according to the 1921 England census, was living at the Ormesdale address alluded to earlier. Now 54, he was a Major in the British Army “retired”. His 55 year old wife, Mary was at home along with his brother John Ludovic, who had come to visit. There were two servants, Margaret Kelly and Lizzie Sweetman to keep house and conversation with Mary who, having born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, was decidedly Irish.

Tragedy struck ten years later when Mary passed away on 12 September 1931 – the couple were living at St. Veronica’s in South View Road, Crowborough, Sussex when she died. The newspaper noted that both she and her husband had lived in the locality for some years. She left Crum the princely sum of £5 986 in her will.

Norah Crum at the time of her marriage to Alexander

Not one to live alone, Crum was married a year later – this time to a lady considerably younger than him. Born in 1897, Norah Malone was a New Zealander, who had come to England in the 1930’s where she plied her trade as a horse trainer and breeder. She came from a military family with her father a Lt. Colonel in the army; one of her brothers having won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and another brother the Military Cross in World War I. Whether or not the marriage was a happy one is unknown – the 1939 census indicating that the couple lived apart – Norah at “Seyne” near Hatfield where she is recorded as being a “Working proprietress of a riding stable” – and Crum at Willett’s Farm, West Chiltington, where he lived with his housekeeper, Esther Basset.

After a long, and some would say eventful life, Crum passed away in Hove on 24 July 1941 at the age of 74. He bequeathed an amount of £32 927 to his son, John Alexander Stewart Crum, a Lt. Colonel in His Majesty’s forces. To his wife he left not a bean.

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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 3 days ago #88920

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Fascinating research Rory; thank you for sharing.

I cannot find this man in either the Times Shipping Reports or The South African War Casualty Roll.
Not sure why?

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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 3 days ago #88921

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Thanks Rory
A very interesting piece of research
Couldn’t resist looking up his ancestral home in Mearns
It is now Belmont House school, founded in Glasgow in 1929 and moved to Broom House in 1934.
Now surrounded by housing including the Broom estate a large development from a few years ago.
The school prospectus says it was the mansion house of the Broom Estate and has some photos showing an impressive frontage, some of which remains.
Tried to look at the photos in your post, but each one had a message ‘ you do not have permission to access this page’
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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 2 days ago #88922

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That is odd Clive. I get the same message!

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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 2 days ago #88925

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Re the permission messages in the post, I am in tough with Rory about these.
Dr David Biggins
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Captain Alexander S. Crum, Coy. Commander of the 18th Imp. Yeo, Rhodesian F.F. 3 weeks 2 days ago #88927

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The Shipping Records tell us the Galeka arrived at Beira on the 4th May 1900 and I presume Alexander was amongst their number:

"London Times, 17 May 00 (Thursday)
p5b Dateline Beira, May 4. The Galeka arrived here yesterday with 1,100 men, including Imperial Yeomanry Sharpshooters under Colonel Parke and Colonel brought by the Leitrim."

The National Library of Scotland hold this photo, which I presume is Alexander's elder brother Walter Ewing. A search for other Crum portraits produced zero hits.

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