Brewster L White of the Cape Field Artillery and Kimberley Horse 5 years 2 weeks ago #58678
Read the post below - I have appended an edited version
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Brewster L White of the Cape Field Artillery and Kimberley Horse 5 years 2 weeks ago #58681
Thanks for this interesting account, Rory.
It's strange that the SA Medal is named to 'C.F. Arty', when the unit's name at that time was 'Prince Alfred's Own Volunteer Artillery'. 'Cape' wasn't added to the name until 1891, and 'Field' until 1903.
There was a Permanent Force unit called the Cape Field Artillery, which existed from 1880 to 1884. Perhaps someone involved with the administration of medals got confused.
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Brewster L White of the Cape Field Artillery and Kimberley Horse 5 years 1 week ago #58786
Brewster Lewis White
1st Class Private, Cape Field Artillery – Ninth Frontier War
Sergeant Major, Kimberley Horse – Basuto Gun War
- South Africa General Service Medal with clasp 1877-8-9 to 1st Cl. Pte. B.L. White, C.F. Arty.
- Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal with clasp Basutoland to Ser. Maj. B.L. White, Kimb. Hse.
Brewster Lewis White, or Whyte as he became known in later years, was born in Hackney, Middlesex, in about 1859 the son of Felix Duppa White, a Clerk in the General Post Office, and his wife Elizabeth Mary. For reasons best known to his family Brewster was only baptised when an adult – this necessary function being performed in the Parish of St. Philips Dalston on 27 March 1877 when he was 18 years old.
At the time of the 1861 England census Brewster was 2 years old and resident in the house of his Grandfather, Richard Smallman White, a retired Post Office worker, at Western Villas, 1, Old Road, Edmonton, Middlesex. The house was rather a full one with Grandfather Richard and his wife Selena together with quite a number of Brewster’s aunts and cousins.
Ten years later, at the time of the 1871 England census he had been reunited with his parents. The family lived at 53 Eleanor Road North in Hackney. Mr White senior had come up in the world and was Assistant Superintendent of the General Post Office. Here we are able to catch a glimpse of who an 11 year old Brewster’s (he was called Lewis in this census) siblings were. Sisters Elizabeth (13), Selina (11), Ada (9) and Alice (4) and brothers Felix (6) and baby Cecil (4 months) rounded off the numbers.
At some point hereafter White decided to leave England’s shores heading to South Africa where he appears to have taken up residence in eastern part of the Cape Colony. In the absence of any regular military structure it was commonplace among men to join a local unit which might have sprung into existence. In the case of White he gravitated to the Cape Mounted Rifles where he formed part of the Artillery troop of that illustrious body of men, charged as they were, with keeping the peace along a very volatile frontier border with the black tribes in Pondoland.
The Artillery Troop had been organised by Lieutenant J.C. Robinson in 1874, and had only three guns until this section of the C.M.R. was augmented by the incorporation of the Cape Field Artillery, which had seven-pounder R.M.L. guns. The men, White included, would have been trained to field and mountain artillery work – the latter being something which would come in very handy indeed in a few years time. He was to get his chance for action ere long with yet another of the innumerable Frontier Kaffir Wars about to burst onto the landscape.
In October 1877 Kreli’s Galekas were harassing the Fingoes and, when called to a meeting to resolve the situation he refused pouring his Galekas across the Bashee River and linking up with some of the Tembu’s and Sandile’s Gaikas – the Ninth and final Kaffir War had begun.
The Cape Mounted Rifles, along with the Artillery Troop to which White belonged, played a pivotal role in the suppression and eventual defeat of the kaffir tribes that had taken up arms but the end of the seemingly interminable conflicts was not yet in sight. The siege of Moorosi's Mountain was one such conflict.
Moorosi was chief of the BaPhuthi clan who had lived for several generations in what is now southern Lesotho. He was a constant source of trouble to his neighbours and won a reputation as a cattle thief which lasted well into the 1870s. This is probably the main reason why the Cape colonial government decided to deal with Moorosi. The BaPhuthi, like many clans, had taken advantage of the availability of firearms at the diamond fields. This made them an ideal test case for the enforcement of the Cape's new disarmament laws.
The pretext was provided by the behaviour of Moorosi's son, Doda. Doda persuaded some of the BaPhuthi not to pay their hut tax. Mr Austin, the local magistrate then arrested a few of the supposed ringleaders and Doda said that he would rescue them. When he arrived at the magistracy, Austin tried to arrest him with only a few policemen to support him. He had to back down. Even worse, Doda had sufficient men to free those whom Austin had already arrested. Realistically, the Cape colonial government could not ignore the challenge to its authority that Doda presented.
Doda retired to his father's lands and a troop of the Cape Mounted Riflemen was sent to support Magistrate Austin. The CMR were promptly attacked. Moorosi was ordered to hand Doda over or be considered a rebel. When the Cape troops entered Moorosi's territory, they found that the outlying homesteads and fields had been abandoned and that Moorosi had fortified his mountain with great skill.
The mountain stands on a bend in the Orange River. Three sides are perpendicular cliffs and the fourth is a slope of about a mile. Across this slope, Moorosi had arranged the construction of a series of nine loopholed walls or schanzes. Access to the mountain was via a slope on the opposite height, which formed a nek, which led to a saddle, then a slope to the heavily fortified lip. Behind the lip was a gully and in the gully was a cave called the 'commandant's cave'. The nek had been quickly occupied by the Cape Mounted Riflemen at the beginning of the dispute. Two troops of the CMR were in position when the Cape forces started assembling for the first attempt on the mountain.
As a result of their experience during the 9th Frontier War, the Cape colonial government had reformed their forces. The C.M.R. were to be supported by three regiments of mounted yeomanry. The problem, in 1879, was that the regiments were still being organised.
The first attack was made on 8 April 1879. Col Griffith had under his command 97 CMR, 541 men of 2nd and 3rd Regiments Cape Mounted Yeomanry, 56 Herschel Mounted Volunteers, 42 Aliwal North Volunteers, 101 men of the Herschel Fingo Levy and about 600 Sotho clansmen. Griffith had about 557 men at or near the mountain. The rest were covering his communications.
Estimates of Moorosi's force vary from 200 to 1 500. The inhabitants of Basutoland were knowledgeable about firearms. Moorosi's men would have had few flintlocks and some percussion muskets, but mostly muzzle-loading and breech-loading rifles. Griffith had two 7-pounder RML mountain guns – those belonging to the Artillery Troop - these guns were completely ineffective. They had little impact on the stone walls and certainly did not keep anyone's head down.
Nevertheless the assault was launched. Thirty-nine men of the CMR and a hundred of the Cape Mounted Yeomanry attacked. They ran into heavy fire and rocks raining down. The reserves from the 2nd CMY were ordered forward. They, too, were pinned down. The BaPhuthi fire was heavy and, in combination with the stone walls, made the Cape forces' attacks futile. The attack cost Griffith's force five dead and twenty wounded. Some of the wounds were serious.
Another attack was being made on the stone walls. Sergeant Robert Scott of the CMR and three of his men attempted to use 7-pounder shells as hand grenades. One of the shells exploded before Scott could throw it and he was badly injured. After this failed attempt to capture the stronghold, the Cape forces built sangars and cut the mountain off from the outside world. Moorosi had foreseen this and had ample supplies of grain together with a large herd of cattle on the mountain.
On 11 April 1879, Colonel Brabant arrived with the headquarters and right wing of the 1st Cape Mounted Yeomanry. These reinforcements amounted to about sixty men. Colonel Brabant took over command of the siege and Colonel Griffith returned to his administrative duties. Patrols on 28 and 29 May 1879 cleared some caves in which some of Moorosi's clan had been hiding. The artillery available to the Cape forces had been increased by the purchase of a 12-pounder gun from the Orange Free State. This was used to cover a second attack on 5 June 1879. This was as unsuccessful as the first. The casualties were five dead and nine wounded.
On 1 July 1879, Colonel Brabant had, under his command, 124 CMR, 266 CMY, 278 Burghers, 50 Herschel Volunteers and 338 Fingo Levies. Brabant's men made fifteen patrols between mid-June and the beginning of October 1879. Only a small outpost kept watch on the mountain during the cold months of July, August and September.
Then, on 24 October, Colonel Bayly of the CMR took over command. The Cape Mounted Yeomanry were sent home and replaced by volunteers and black levies. Bayly had, under his command, 358 men of the CMR, 103 Stockenstrom Volunteers, 102 men of the Stockenstrom Contingent, 310 men of the Herschel Native levies, 23 men of the Berlin Volunteer Cavalry, 54 Queenstown Volunteer Rifles, 15 Cradock Mounted Rifles, 121 Basuto Native Contingent, and 30 Herschel Mounted Fingoes. The force mustered just over 1 100 men.
The most significant reinforcement was to Bayly's artillery. An 8-inch Iron Land Service Mortar, the 9 cwt (457 kg) version, was found in Cape Town and sent to Moorosi's Mountain. The arrival of the mortar dramatically changed the situation at Moorosi's mountain. Although the mortar was thirty years old, having been made in 1849, it could, unlike the 7pr and 12pr guns, drop its shell just behind the stone walls. Also, the gunpowder charge could do some damage to the walls themselves.
The defences were then subjected to a prolonged bombardment while Bayly waited for his scaling ladders to arrive. The gunners, of who White was doubtless one, very quickly mastered the art of aiming and fuze-setting for the mortar. They learned to fire the shell over the wall and then let it roll back down the mountain to explode among the defenders.
Meanwhile, Bayly conducted a careful reconnaissance of the mountain. He discovered that, on the south-east side of the mountain, there was a spring which the defenders used as their source of water. The cliffs were lower at this point and there was a rugged and broken path leading over boulders to the spring. Moorosi had not neglected this path, which was covered with loop-holed stone walls. Bayly choose this path for one of his storming parties. To the right of the spring, about 150 metres away, the cliffs were low enough to be climbed with the aid of the scaling ladders. A second storming party was assigned to attack at this point. A third storming party was assigned to attack at the point which had been designated the 'Commandant's Cave'. The fourth storming party was to attack at the Lip, once the other storming parties had achieved a lodgement. They had a difficult task because the Lip was where the two previous attacks had failed. The fifth storming party was assigned to infiltrate up the Gully to distract the defenders from the other attacks.
The storming parties assembled and moved to their starting points on the night of 19 November 1879. They moved to their positions at 23.45 with the intention of attacking an hour before dawn. The storming parties were deployed as follows:
No 1 Storming Party was under Captain Bourne with 171 men of the CMR at a low point in the cliff known as 'Bourne's crack'. No 2 Storming Party, 104 men under the command of Captain Montagu of the CMR, was to attack at the 'Commandant's Cave'. No 3 Storming Party comprised the Fingo Levy under Commandant Maclean with 150 men. No 4 Storming Party had Lieutenant Muhlenbeck in command of 40 men of the Wodehouse Border Guard and few volunteers. Captains Hook and Tainton commanded the 260 Fingoes and Tambookies of No 5 Storming Party.
The signal for the attack was the firing of three rockets. The attackers immediately ran into trouble. The men detailed to carry the ladders and water of No 1 Storming Party dropped their loads and fled when the first shot was fired. The CMR men had to carry their own ladders. Meanwhile, No 2 Storming Party found that they could not climb the cliffs at the 'Commandant's Cave' and so moved to support No 1 Storming Party. Finally, Captain Hook suspected that the Tambookies of No 5 Storming Party were going to defect, so he sent them back to camp, where a nervous camp guard kept an eye on them.
No1 Storming Party's ascent was headed by Lieutenant Sprenger, who climbed up the ladder into 'Bourne's crack'. There, he climbed a large boulder, at the top of which he encountered a BaPhuthi clansman, who threatened to shoot him and tried but missed during the attempt. Sprenger's return shot was fatal and soon the CMR had a foothold on the mountain which grew more secure as time passed. There was no BaPhuthi counter-attack. Maclean's Fingoes had a difficult struggle up to the Spring, but they, too, broke through to the upper mountain. They lost one man killed and one man wounded. Maclean led from the front. The Wodehouse Border Guard was very reluctant to advance. Hook and Tainton, with Storming Party No 5, managed to get their men across the danger zone and into the defences. Soon there were enough men on the summit to form a line. They charged the rallying BaPhuthi, who found that a rifle and bayonet are an unnerving weapon. Hand-to-hand fighting followed and the BaPhuthi broke and ran. Some were shot as they fled, while others fell to their deaths as they ran over the cliffs. Then the attackers divided into three parties and started to search for Moorosi and Doda.
One trooper, named Whitehead, was fired upon by a BaPhuthi clansman, who managed to shoot the cap off his head. Whitehead shot his opponent in the neck. The man crawled away to die. He was Moorosi. Five of his sons died in the fighting for the mountain. Doda threw himself down the mountain side and escaped. The attackers were stunned to find how well prepared the BaPhuthi were for a siege. There were stone houses on the top of the mountain and large stocks of food in caves.
The mortar was one of the keys to the Cape forces' success. The bombs killed and wounded the defenders (and some non-combatants) as well as some of the cattle. This the 7pr and 12pr guns were unable to do. In addition, the explosions kept the defenders awake. The fact that sentries were exhausted greatly contributed to the attackers' success in the final assault. Bayly's reconnaissance of the mountain was something that had been lacking in the first two attacks on the mountain. He found two further routes to the summit. The choice of dawn as a time of attack was a good way of negating the defenders' firepower advantage.
The defenders lost 70 killed and the attackers, one killed and seven wounded. It is probable that some of the defenders slipped away during the winter of 1879 when the approaches to the mountain were less well guarded.
Morosi now dead and the danger over, White (having been awarded one of only 39 S.A.G.S. medals with clasp 1877-8-9 to the C.F.A.) took his discharge, possibly to seek fame and fortune on the diamond diggings in Kimberley, joining the ranks of the Kimberley Horse for service in what became known as the Basuto Gun War of 1880/81. The Cape Governor, Gordon Sprigg, had determined that the Basuto must be dispossessed of their arms and sent an edict to their leaders to that effect. This riled the Basutos who had come by their weapon via honest means – through their labour on the diggings and the mines for which they had been, partially, compensated with rifles. They were not about to give these up without a fight and that is precisely what occurred.
White his leadership qualities recognised, was given the rank of a Sergeant Major with the Kimberley Horse. An article in the Volunteer Service Gazette of 27 November 1880 highlights some of the action in which they found themselves. Entitled THE DESTRUCTION OF LEROTHODI’S VILLAGE and written by Brigadier General Clarke it read as follows:-
October 22nd – leaving the laager near Mafeteng protected by the three Yeomanry units and the Kimberley Horse, I moved the force soon after three this morning against the village of Lerothodi, situated on a strong mountain position, some three miles distant.
As large numbers had occupied a rocky gorge on our right, in which they were secure from our fire, it was not deemed advisable to carry the village by a direct attack and the Kimberley Horse were soon after eight sent for from camp as our numbers were scarcely adequate to the storming of so formidable a position; they arrived at ten o’ clock.
The rebels on our right had by this time also taken possession of a dry sluit from which they supported those in the gorge. With the help of the Kimberley Horse the village was taken.”
On another occasion the Shields Daily Gazette of Tuesday, 21 December 1880 reported that:-
“The largest engagement that has yet occurred in Basutoland took place on the 13th instant. A patrol numbering 650 men moved out towards the north under Captain Brabant. On entering the Sita Nek they met a large number of the enemy. Captain Brabant retired on the village, and after communicating with Colonel Carrington, evacuated it, the enemy taking possession and firing heavily, killing one rifleman. Colonel Carrington’s division, which consisted of 500 men, then moved to the eastwards for three miles. The enemy charged repeatedly on all sides, wounding several men. The Kimberly Horse behaved splendidly, turning the enemy repeatedly. The number of the enemy engaged was from 9000 and 10 000. The enemy used explosive bullets.”
Another take on what role the Kimberley Horse (and White with it) played comes courtesy of an account form “A Kimberley Horse Man” who submitted the following to the Diamond Fields Advertiser:-
“Near Mafeteng Bakela – November 29
We have received no letters or papers for a fortnight, and I have not written because we have not had a whole day in camp during that time. I told, in my last, about the scrimmage we had, on wood fatigue, last Monday; since then, we have been under fire three times. On Friday Major Lowe was sent in command of an escort (for wagons returning to Wepener) 600 strong, including 60 of the Kimberley Horse, under Captain Tucker.
We did not see a single rebel until we got to the Kalabani, on our return; the videttes came in reporting a large body making for the mountain. The Kimberley Horse were sent up at once to the ridge to stop them. As soon as they saw us they, they stopped their course and watched. The column passed on quickly out of range. The rebels followed up, and opened a smart fire on us; but we were prepared for them, and for square.
With shell and bullet we soon forced them to clear off, and as we wanted some fun, we turned off the road (wagons and all) and pursued them for a few miles before returning to camp. Our old Major had as nice a square as any professional would wish to see; and was as cool as he always is under fire.
Yesterday, 28th, we left camp, under Colonel Carrington, with a total of 1200 men. Not a rebel was seen until we got about 6 miles from our old camp;
when, on getting over a ridge we suddenly saw masses of them straight in our front, about one and a half miles away. They were in a strong position so we drew laager and began cooking breakfast at 2 p.m. the rebels then had the check to come right on to our camp; but were soon driven back, as all the men turned out smartly. About sundown we returned to laager and at 9 p.m., while some were sleeping, suddenly there was a big volley poured into the camp- driving back our picquets sharp; and in two minutes all hands were in the trenches, and waiting.
Volley after volley was poured in at us, from about 700 yards; but did not do much damage, as the niggers fired very high. We tried to draw them nearer – and every few minutes gave them a cheer; to which they responded by a volley. We slept in the trenches that night and it was not very refreshing.
December 1st – since writing the last, we have seen some more shooting. Yesterday 600 men, from the various Mounted Corps, under Colonel Carrington, were sent out to reconnoitre. We went to the left, near a range of hills; the rebels were up these, but would not come down; and we returned to camp at 3 p.m., without any casualties, after having burnt several villages and leaving others for firewood. This morning the same number of men were sent out, to the right of the camp. The rebels you must know are in a strong position about 2500 yards from our laager; so they soon know where we are going.
We got about 2 miles out, when a fire was opened on us from the left. We soon took up our position and the ball began. The Basutos could be plainly seen coming up from all directions, and taking up ridges on our front and flanks. After about half an hours fighting the gun was disabled and the rebels got cheeky. Captain King, B Troop Kimberley Horse, was sent to support some Yeoman on a distant ridge and had a hot time of it. The D Troop was sent to a position on the left, where it was also pretty warm. We returned to camp about noon, with the loss of four killed and nine wounded. We are losing all our men in fooling around, as we are only 1200 strong and the rebels 12000.
December 3rd – We start for a place nearer the border tomorrow, to support 800 Burghers who have arrived at Wepener, bringing with them half a million of ammunition. Last night was as dark as pitch and raining heavily, so of course we had an alarm, and had to stand to our arms for an hour and more in our trenches, soaking wet. The alarm was caused by two sentries firing at each other. I will now turn back to the Kola Mountain affair. At one time things looked very bad there; and the A Troop Kimberley Horse under McPherson, were sent up to hold a ridge at all hazards. This they did, 35 men against from 1500 to 1800 Basutos, and the A Troop hunted them – but were not mentioned in orders, although the 2nd Yeomanry rallied in rear of ours, and were complimented for their gallantry. This is not the first time we have been passed over, and men praised who had given way and bolted. It seems there is a great deal of jealousy of everything connected with Kimberley.”
Having looked at the Kimberley Horse’s role in the war from almost every angle it would be apt to provide one last account, that from a serving Captain. The article, under the heading “A BRILLIANT DEFENCE” appeared in the Yorkshire Post of Wednesday, 2 March 1881 and read as follows:-
The following is an extract from a letter of Captain Tomes of the Kimberley Horse, he wrote:-
“This is the severest war ever known in South Africa, for the Basutos are well armed and all mounted, so that being unencumbered with baggage they can assemble at any place in a short space of time, and meet our forces before we are thoroughly aware of them.
For instance I will tell you of our engagement for which I got my lieutenancy. We went out in two bodies on the 1st December. We were composed of 500 men, Kimberley Horse, C.M. Rifles, D.E.O.V.R. and some Cape Yeomanry. The C.M. Rifles got orders to charge a hill some one and a half miles distant where the enemy were seen accumulating. Some of the troops followed without orders, left with 150 men in charge of the ammunition and ambulance waggons.
When our men had gained the hill the enemy, estimated at between 8000 and 10 000, charged down on our small body of men. Colonel Carrington gave orders to form a hollow square, with horses and waggons in the centre, which we did, the Kimberley Horse having to hold the near line of the square, where all the charges were made; at last they had us surrounded in horse-shoe fashion, only one side open towards a small hill.
Colonel Carrington saw the predicament we were in, sounded the retreat, and kept on firing. The enemy charged four times in succession, and were each time repulsed by our heavy fire (we had two 7-pounders); this saved us from being massacred to a man. The only side we had left open was at last charged by the enemy. Carrington, seeing that if this position was gained by the enemy we were lost; gave orders to the Kimberley Horse to charge, and we did in real god earnest.
I had to lead our troop as I was senior, both officers having been wounded before. We gained the summit simultaneously with the Kaffirs, and gave a cheer. They turned and fled. We quickened our pace, volley after volley from the men, so ended the day. Colonel Carrington said if it were not for the Kimberley Horse the square would have been broken.”
The above vivid accounts all serve to indicate that White and his Kimberley Horse comrades were far from being spectators in a small provincial skirmish – they were confronted by a force armed not with spears and assegais but by modern carbines and a resolute determination to win.
For his efforts White was awarded the Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal with Basutoland clasp – this medal was only authorised by Queen Victoria in 1900 – records show that the medal awarded to him was “engraved and forwarded to Cape Town” on 19 November 1902.
The Gun War over White was now at a loss as to what to do with himself. The answer lay to the east of the country in the Colony of Natal for it was here, in Pietermaritzburg, on 24 August 1883 that he attested for service with the Natal Mounted Police. Assigned no. 730 and the rank of Trooper he was described as being 5 feet 7 ½ inches in height with a fair complexion, light hair and grey eyes. He also sported a tattoo of an anchor on his right arm. By way of next of kin he supplied his father, Mr F.D. White of 95 Albert Road, Dalston.
White’s service in the Natal Police wasn’t a long one – he took his discharge on 31 August 1886 and, at some point, headed north to the gold fields of the Witwatersrand where he became a Speculator - like so many others lured by the potential of untold riches. It was whilst living in Johannesburg that, on a visit to Cape Town, on 21 March 1908, he wed Florence Marion Easton, after a Special Licence had been secured. He was a 47 year old bachelor at the time.
At some point thereafter, he moved to Rhodesia where, on 9 September 1930, he had the unpleasant task of identifying the remains of his dead son, Guy Felix White – who had perished at the Makovani Estate, Insiza District, from a bout of double pneumonia and cardiac failure at the age of 21.
It wasn’t many years later that he passed away from cardiac failure at the age of 77 years and 4 months on 3 May 1936. His usual place of residence (he was a Farmer) was the same Makovani Estate near Fort Rixon. For some reason known only to the family the surname White had become Whyte.
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Brewster L White of the Cape Field Artillery and Kimberley Horse 5 years 1 day ago #58904
A great read. Many thanks, Rory.
Dr David Biggins
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