In November 1901 LtCol Callwell with a column of 350 was given the task of trying to mop up the Boer commandos that were causing problems in the Sutherland district.
On 14 November he was on the track of Commandant Japie Neser, driving him northwards. Neser was joined by Commandant Jaap van Deventer and 20 men and on the 15th they decided to attack Callwell’s encampment from a hill overlooking the homestead at the farm Brandekraal. Callwell’s force, mainly 5th Lancers, who thought they only had to flush out a few rebels, were completely overwhelmed and got out of the situation with difficulty. Van Deventer chased them along the road to Sutherland and Neser unsuccessfully tried to cut them off.
IGS 1854 (1) Burma 1885-7 (Lieutt. J.M. Vallentin 2nd Bn. Som. L.I.), officially corrected;
QSA (6) CC, Elands, DoL, OFS, Jhburg, D Hill (Maj J.M Vallentin, Som. L.I.);
KSA (2) (Major. J.M. Vallentin. Som.L.I.)
(KSA medal Officially impressed late issue: 24 June 1949)
Brevet-Major John Maximilian Vallentin, Somersetshire Light Infantry, was killed in the Bankkop action. He was the son of Sir J Vallentin, was born in February 1865, and educated at Haileybury. He entered the Somersetshire Light Infantry February 1885, was promoted Captain June 1892, and Brevet-Major November 1900. In August 1888 he married Helen Mary, daughter of Col. Carnegy.
He served in the Burmese Expedition of 1886-87 with the 2nd battalion of his regiment and received the medal with clasp. He graduated at the Staff College in 1897, and before the out¬break of the war in South Africa was brigade-major at Ladysmith, Natal. On the re-distribution of the brigades of the Natal Field Force after the arrival of Sir George White, Major Vallentin was appointed brigade-major to Lieut.-Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton. At the battle of Elandslaagte, Major Vallentin behaved with gallantry in rallying the flank attack during the most critical phase. He served throughout the siege of Ladysmith until January 1900 when he had a severe attack of enteric. When convalescent, he elected to return to his chief, Sir I Hamilton, and joined him at Bloemfontein just after his appointment to the command of a division.
After the occupation of Heidelberg, Major Vallentin was appointed Commissioner of that town. In the autumn of 1900, he was sent out with one of Roberts’ Proclamations to a commando in his neighbourhood and lived with the Boers for a week while the object of his visit was under discussion.
Vallentin served as Major in the South African Constabulary between 22 October 1900 and 29 August 1901. He then returned to his old Regiment and saw extensive service until he met his death while pursuing with about fifty men some Boers under Generals Opperman and Christian Botha, who were several hundred strong. His party suffered severely, but General Opperman, who held chief command over a group of commandoes as well as the personal leadership of the Swaziland Commando, was killed.
Major Vallentin was mentioned in despatches by White on 2 Dec. 1899 (LG 8 February 1901, p918) and again in the despatch of 23 March 1900 (LG 8 February 1901, p930); also in the despatches by Kitchener of 28 July 1901 (LG 20 August 1901, p5482 : In command of Heidelberg Volunteers rendered good service on 24th May, 1901”) and of 8 August 1901 (LG 15 November 1901, p7376: “For gallantry in action on 23rd July, 1901”).
M.C. London Gazette 27 July 1916. ‘No. 10281 C.S.M. Walter J. Holwill, 8th Bn., Devon R.’ ‘For conspicuous gallantry during an attack. When all the officers of his company had become casualties, he took command and ably led the company under heavy fire’.
Walter James Holwill was born in Penzance, Cornwall and enlisted at Exeter, Devon. Serving in the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, he saw his first active service on the N.W. Frontier, 1897-98. Soon after the battalion was sent to South Africa where they were engaged at the battle of Elandslaagte, 21 October 1899. The bulk of the regiment then went on to take part in the defence of Ladysmith; Sergeant Holwill did not, and was one of only 10 recipients of the single clasp ‘Elandslaagte’ on the Devonshire Regiment Q.S.A. roll.
With the onset of war Holwill served as a Company Sergeant Major in the 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment. The battalion entered the France/Flanders theatre of war on 25 July 1915. The first major action the battalion was involved in was the opening day of the battle of the Somme. The Battalion was in the 20th Brigade of the 7th Division and were in support of the 9th Devons and 2nd Gordon Highlanders in the assault on Mametz.
The leading two battalions went ‘Over the Top’ at 0730hrs on a beautiful summers day but immediately ran into heavy machine gun fire. C.S.M. Holwill was the C.S.M. of B Company, and as the leading troops advanced, moved B Company gradually forward into the Reserve Trench from which the attack had been started. At about 1030hrs orders came to advance and B Company went forward to fill a gap that had occurred between the 9th Devons and the Gordons. Moving past Mansel Copse B Company was caught by machine gun fire from an enemy position known as the Shrine, the Company Commander, Captain Mahaffy, was badly wounded and before long every officer in the company had been killed or wounded. As the men paused C.S.M. Holwill took charge, rallied his men and resumed the advance.
Shortly after midday it was clear that A and B Companies were both held up so Colonel James sent C Company forward to contact them and endeavour to renew the advance. The survivors of B Company were mostly in Mametz Trench and again organised by C.S.M. Holwill they reformed and began to advance once more. All the time under a devastating rain of machine gun fire. They reached the central area of the Brigade’s objective, clearing the dugouts in the high banks along the infamous Danzig Trench and Plum Lane, which connected with the Gordons. It was an important achievement and yielded many prisoners including several officers. The fighting continued for the rest of the day and by 1800hrs the whole of the Division's objective had been secured and was being consolidated. The 8th and 9th Devons all being mixed up just to the West of Mametz. The cost however had been enormous. The 8th Battalion had lost 3 officers and 447 men killed and 7 officers and 151 men wounded. Amongst the wounded was C.S.M. Holwill who had received a mortal injury.
Four days later while Holwill was being evacuated to England, 159 men of the 8th and 9th Devons were buried in a trench near Mametz. When the grave had been filled in a large wooden cross was put up which read - ‘THE DEVONSHIRES HELD THIS TRENCH: THE DEVONSHIRES HOLD IT STILL’. This trench grave later became a Commonwealth War Cemetery and was called Devonshire Cemetery.
Evacuated to England, Holwill died of his wounds on 22nd July 1916, aged 43 years, and five days later the award of his M.C. was announced in the London Gazette. He was buried in his home village, at Christ Church Parish Church, in Brentor near Tavistock. He was the husband of Elizabeth Francis Holwill of Moor View, Brentor. Sold with copied research including photocopied photographs of his grave and surroundings. Walter Holwill was the only C.S.M. in the Devonshire Regiment to be awarded the Military Cross in the the Great War.
DNW June 2007 £1,600 (hammer)
DNW July 2018 £1,400 (hammer)
My latest acquisition - a neat QSA / KSA to Cpl A. Spear (Devon's regiment) severely wounded at Elandslaagte. I have done no research but it is always great to get a pair that is still intact. He is mentioned in Dr David Biggins "Elandslaagte" so that will be my start in looking into this fellow.