1900, Colesberg

MILBANKE, SIR JOHN PENISTON, Major, was born 9 October 1872, at 30 Eccleston Street, London, the son of Sir Peniston Milbanke, 9th Baronet, JP, DL, Sussex, and Elizabeth, daughter of the Honourable Richard Denman. He was educated at Castlemount, Dover, and at Harrow, and joined the 10th Hussars on 26 November 1892. He succeeded his father in November 1899. He served in the South African War of 1699-1002, as ADC to General French; was mentioned in Despatches; received the South African Medal with six clasps; was promoted Captain (1900); awarded the Victoria Cross for the services thus described by a newspaper correspondent: "Another gallant act was that performed by Sir John Milbanke, ADC to General French. It was on the day of the Suffolk abortive charge. Sir John asked to be allowed to patrol for the purpose of reconnoitring a hill, and for this took a corporal of the 10th Hussars and three men with him. They came in for an exceptionally heavy fire, during which the corporal's horse was shot underneath him, and Sir John Milbanke, turning round in a perfect hail of bullets, found the rider was lying on the veldt some distance in the rear; notwithstanding the fierce fusilade, moreover that he himself was wounded, the aide-de-camp turned right about, galloped up to the corporal and rescued him. The return journey was performed safely, and none other of the enemy's missiles taking effect. Viewed from Coles Kop, our informant said they regarded it as impossible to return alive after exposure to such a fearful shower of bullets". A letter says: "He was unconscious when he got back. Had he been able to deliver his message the Suffolks would not have been captured". Sir John Milbanke received the South African Medal with clasps. His Victoria Cross was gazetted 6 July, 1900: "Sir John Peniston Milbanke Baronet, 10th Hussars. Date of Act of Bravery: 5 January 1900. On the, 5th January 1900, during a reconnaissance near Colesburg, Sir John Milbanke when retiring under fire with a small patrol of the 10th Hussars, notwithstanding the fact that he had been severely wounded in the thigh, rode back to the assistance of one of the men whose pony was exhausted, and who was under fire from some Boers who had dismounted. Sir John Milbanke took the man up on his own horse under a most galling fire, and brought him safely back to camp". On 6 December 1901, at St Peter's, Eaton Square, Sir John Milbanke married Leila, only daughter of Colonel the Honourable Charles Crichton (son of the 3rd Earl of Erne) and of Lady Madeline Taylour (daughter of the 3rd Marquis of Headfort). Their children were John Charles Peniston, born 9 January 1902, and Ralph Mark, born 11 April, 1907. In 1910 Sir John Milbanke retired from the Army. In August 1914, he rejoined. In October 1914, he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry (Sherwood Foresters), and went to Egypt in command of the regiment in April, 1915. Major Sir John Milbanke was killed in action 21 August 1915, in the Dardanelles, in charge at Hill 70. The following account is taken from part of an article by Mr Ashmead Bartlett in the 'Globe' of 4 September 1915: "The Yeomanry moved forward in a solid mass, forming up under the lower western and northern slopes. It was now almost dark and the attack seemed to hang fire, when suddenly the Yeomanry leapt to their feet, and as a single man charged right up the hill. They were met by a withering fire, which rose to a crescendo as they neared the northern crest, but nothing could stop them. They charged at amazing speed without a single halt from the bottom to the top, losing many men and many of their chosen leaders, including gallant Sir John Milbanke. It was a stirring sight, watched by thousands in the ever-gathering gloom. One moment they were below the crest, the next on top. A moment after many had disappeared inside the Turkish trenches, bayoneting all the defenders who had not fled in time, while others never stopped at trench-line, but dashed in pursuit down the reverse slopes. From a thousand lips a shout went up that Hill 70 was won. But night now was rapidly falling, the figures became blurred, then lost all shape, and finally disappeared from view. The battlefield had disappeared completely, and as one left Chocolate Hill one looked back on a vista of rolling clouds of smoke and huge fires, from the midst of which the incessant roar of the rifle-fire never for a moment ceased. This was ominous, for although Hill 70 was in our hands, the question arose could we hold it throughout the night in the face of determined counter-attacks? In fact, all through the night the battle raged incessantly, and when morning broke Hill 70 was no longer in our possession. Apparently the Turks were never driven off a knoll on the northern crest, from which they enfiladed us with machine guns and artillery fire, while those of the Yeomanry who had dashed down the reverse slopes in pursuit were counter-attacked and lost heavily and had been obliged to retire. In the night it was decided it would be impossible to hold the hill in daylight, and the order was given for the troops to withdraw to their original positions. Nothing, however, will lessen the glory of that final charge of England's Yeomen".

For a picture, see 'Black & White Budget' (Vol 3, p750) of 15 Sep 1900.

VC, QSA (6), 1914-15 Star, BWM, VM, 1911 Coronation Medal, 1937 Coronation Medal.

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