The Pre-1914 Wars




Prior to the First World War, British troops were involved in a number of foreign wars. If the broader definition of a 'Roll of Honour' is used i.e. 'a list of people whose deeds or achievements are honoured, or who have died in battle' quite a number of men with Loughborough connections can be included for wars prior to 1914. A few examples are given below.

The Peninsular War (1807 - 1814)

WILLIAM CARTER (1790 - 1867)

1st Battalion 95th Regiment of Foot, the 95th Rifles 

William Carter was born in Loughborough in July 1790, the son of William Carter, a waggoner, and Mary Carter. He was baptised at All Saints' Parish Church, Loughborough on 2nd September 1790.

Unfortunately we know nothing of William Carter's childhood or youth. On 1st April 1809, however, he volunteered from the Leicester Militia to the 95th Foot; altogether 250 men volunteered from the Militia, most of them going to the 95th, the others to the 43rd and 39th. A stocking weaver by trade, Carter had dark hair, grey eyes, fair complexion and at 5ft 8 ins was quite a tall man for the early 1800s. He joined the 1st Battalion 95th. A third battalion was raised at Ashford in the same month when over 1,000 men volunteered from the Militia in a matter of days. The green uniform and rifle was something of a magnet for recruits. The Medal Roll of the 95th shows William Carter being awarded the Military General Service Medal with clasps for Busaco, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Viittoria and Pyrenees. The column giving his company is blank, the only one in his section of the medal roll. However his Soldier's documents state that he was in Captain Charles Smyth's Company. As can be seen from the clasps William Carter's war was full of action; at Busaco he was part of Wellington's Army that defeated Massena's efforts to remove them from the ridge. The siege of Cuidad Rodrigo resulted in the Light Division losing its charismatic leader Robert "Black Bob" Crawford. Badajoz was one of the rare occasions when Wellington was seen to weep when confronted by casualties at the breaches. At Salamanca Wellington is said to have defeated 40,000 men in 40 minutes, and it is said, by some military historians, to be his greatest victory. At Vittoria he attacked the French in the valley bottom and outflanked them along the ridges. Finally there was the Pyrenees, and the long hard slog over mountains into France. Unfortunately William Carter only made it to France as an invalid; he was wounded in the left arm at the Puerto de Vera on November 11th1813. He had also been wounded in the left arm at Vittoria. After spending several months in hospital at Sala and Bordeaux William Carter returned to England, spending another six months in hospital in Dover. He was discharged from the service at York Depot and admitted as a Chelsea Out-Pensioner on 7th September 1814, after five years and four months service. His pension was one shilling per day. He did seek a rise in his pension in 1857 but was turned down.
 

For his part in the Peninsular War Carter received what was then a handsome reward of £3 2s 10 and a half pence in prize-money. It is probable that William returned to Loughborough soon after his discharge and began to rebuild his life as a civilian. The next occasion of note is his marriage on 26th September 1825 to Catherine Bishop at All Saints Parish Church, Loughborough. On the 1841 census Carter, who is now a fishmonger, and his wife have six children - Mariah, Elizabeth, Mary, William, Emma and James, and are living at Baxter Gate. On the 1841 census, he is now a married man of 50 with a wife and family of six children - four girls and two boys, living at Baxter Gate and a fishmonger by trade. The 1851 census finds William Carter and his family still living at Baxter Gate and William still making a living as a fishmonger, although now he is also listed as a "Pensioner (Chelsea)". On the 1861 census he has moved to Salmon Street - appropriate for an ex-fishmonger - and he is now listed as "Out-Pensioner Chelsea Hospital". This was the last census on which William Carter appeared. On 26th March 1867 William Carter died, aged 77, according to his death certificate of "Old Age".

His funeral took place on 30th March 1867 and he was interred at Loughborough Burial Ground, Leicester Road; grave 5 compartment C42. Unfortunately the ground has now been cleared and it is impossible to find exactly where the grave is. To have reached the age of 77 after having marched across Spain in the baking heat of summer and freezing cold of winter, being wounded twice and left for dead, would indicate a man mentally tough and physically robust.

The following obituary appeared in the Loughborough Monitor on 4th April 1867 - the obituary also appeared word for word in the Loughborough News.

 

              LOUGHBOROUGH MONITOR, THURSDAY  4TH APRIL 1867

              Funeral of a Veteran Soldier

 

One of the veterans of the Peninsular War has recently passed away from amongst our midst, we trust, to that land where "peace eternal reigns". William Carter, pensioner, was a native of Loughborough, and was one of the surviving few who had fought for the honour of his country under the command of the "Iron Duke". There are but few persons in this town of whom the form of Carter was unfamiliar, there are we believe none of whom he was not respected, and many have listened with pleasure to the old soldier's description of his own experience of the battlefield. By the members of the sixth Leicestershire Rifle Volunteer Corps he was regarded with feelings of peculiar interest, inasmuch as from the formation of the Corps he has taken an unwearyingly interest in its welfare. He invariably accompanied it when on drill or marching out, and also to the various battalion drills and reviews, in fact, nought, save that sickness, which was "unto death", prevented his attendance. As a brief account of his life may not be unacceptable to our readers, we subjoin the following particulars, which we received from him a short time previous to his death. He was born at Loughborough, in the month of July 1790, and in November 1809, enlisted into the regiment of Leicestershire Militia, then under the command of Colonel Winstanley. On the 1st April 1908, he volunteered into the 95th Rifles, led by Colonel Sir Sydney-Beckwith, and proceeded with it to the seat of the Peninsular War, in which he had the honour of serving under the Duke of Wellington. He was in action at Talavera, Busaco, Cuidad, Rodrigo, at the storming of Badajoz and at Salamanca, and Vittoria, in which last he received a musket ball in his left arm. On the 10th November 1813, he was again wounded in the left arm by a musket shot, and, being overtaken by the French, was stripped and bayoneted in the back and shoulder, entirely disabling his left arm.   He was left for dead by his regiment, and after lying for two days and two nights, was found by a regiment of Spanish soldiers, who humanely conveyed him in a blanket to a neighbouring town, where he was admitted into a hospital and remained until the following April. He was afterwards sent home "invalided" and landed at the Isle of Wight on the 4th June 1814. 

He passed the Board at Chelsea, and was pensioned off with 1 shilling per day, and was awarded a medal and clasps in honour of his services. On the formation of the sixth Leicestershire Rifle Volunteer Corps, Carter again volunteered; and though not sworn in, he evidently took as much interest in its proceedings as an actual member, and was always in the habit of attending the various drills, etc. He was also present with the corps at the grand review at York, in 1866, by the Duke of Cambridge. As recently mentioned in our columns, he has supplied oysters at the Dispensary Ball for the last 33 years; and doubtless many who were accustomed to patronize his "natives" - which by the way, Carter always took care should be of the best quality - will much miss him on future occasions. He breathed his last in Tuesday morning, March 26th, after a lingering illness, which was, however, considerably alleviated by the kind attention of many friends. It was Carter's frequently expressed wish that the Volunteers should take a part in his funeral obsequies; and in accordance therewith Captain Dobell kindly gave permission for him to be buried with full military honours. A large muster of members of the corps consequently took place on Saturday afternoon, and under the command of Ensign Cartwright marched to the house where the deceased had resided, where a procession was formed in the following order. 

Firing party of 12 Volunteers, under the command of Colour-Sergeant Brunt, with arms reversed. Band of the Sixth Leicestershire Rifle Volunteers with muffed drums, and plumes covered with crape. Bearers Private Berridge, Corporal Brown

The Hearse Bearers Sergeant Cumberland, Private Gimson, Lan. Corp. Thompson

Mourning Coaches containing relatives of the deceased,

Members of the Sixth Leicestershire Rifle Volunteers - at open distance - two abreast. 

Crowds of people thronged the route of the procession, which was along Fennel Street, Church Gate, the Market Place, High Street, and the Leicester Road, and a very large concourse of spectators accompanied the solemn cavalcade. The band played "The Dead March in Saul" uninterruptedly until their arrival at the cemetery gates, where the firing party formed right and left, standing at ease with arms reversed, and the coffin was borne slowly towards the chapel being met on the way by the Venerable Archdeacon Fearon who in a most impressive manner read the prescribed service in the chapel and at the grave. When the benediction had been pronounced the firing party fired three volleys over the grave, and the company being reformed, was marched back to town. It is but justice to add, that the proceedings throughout, were conducted with the utmost decorum. Superintendent Hague, with a body of police efficiently kept the ground, and preserved order.  

From the above description of his funeral it is quite clear that his fellow citizens of Loughborough had held William Carter in high esteem.

Military General Service Medal

In the Battle of Badajoz (16th March - 6th April 1812) an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington, besieged Badajoz, Spain and forced the surrender of the French garrison.

The siege was one of the bloodiest in the Napoleonic Wars and was considered a costly victory by the British, with some 3,000 Allied soldiers killed in a few short hours of intense fighting as the siege drew to an end, and as many as 4,000 allied Spanish civilians, including many women and children, massacred by the allied troops after the battle.

The Siege of Badajoz by Richard Caton Woodville

 

The Battle of Bussaco (27th September 1810) resulted in the defeat of French forces by Lord Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese Army, in Portugal during the Peninsular War.

Having occupied the heights of Bussaco (a 10-mile long ridge located at 40°20'40"N, 8°20'15"W) with 25,000 British and the same number of Portuguese, Wellington was attacked five times successively by 65,000 French under Marshal André Masséna. Masséna was uncertain as to the disposition and strength of the opposing forces because Wellington deployed them on the reverse slope of the ridge, where they could neither be easily seen nor easily softened up with artillery. The actual assaults were delivered by the corps of Marshal Michel Ney and General of Division (MG) Jean Reynier, but after much fierce fighting they failed to dislodge the allied forces and were driven off after having lost 4,500 men against 1,250 Anglo-Portuguese casualties.


British infantry deployed in line on the ridge at Bussaco during the Peninsular War.

 

 

Anglo-Dutch Java War 1810-1811

Charles Green, 59th Foot (1784 - 1869)

Charles Green was born at Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire, circa 1784, and enlisted into the 59th Foot at Nottingham on 8 April 1804. He served with the 1st Battalion of the regiment until his discharge on 23rd June 1828, aged 44, in consequence of being 'old and worn out.' He was present at the siege and capture of Bhurtpore in 1805 as well as the capture of Java in 1811.

After his discharge Charles Green returned to Leicestershire and became a framework knitter. On 14th September 1830 he married Ann Norton at Breedon on the Hill and the couple settled at Diseworth. Charles and Ann had three children, Hannah, Emma and Charles, before Ann's untimely death sometime between 1841 and 1851. Charles Green died at Diseworth on 5th December 1869.

East India Company's Java Medal issued in 1812 

Anglo-Dutch Java War - 1810-1811

French successes in the Napoleonic Wars left the French Empire at its greatest extent ever in 1810, and due to repeated military failures on the European mainland Britain was forced to look for other fronts on which to engage France and its allies. One such campaign was waged by the British East India Company against French and Dutch possessions in the East Indies. The cornerstone of this campaign was the war in which the Indonesian island of Java was taken, a campaign which began with the landing at and capture of Fort Cornelis. The conquest of the whole island rapidly followed, but it was returned to the Netherlands in the 1816 treaty negotiations that ended the Napoleonic Wars. For participation in this assault by Indian troops the East India Company had this medal struck at its Calcutta mint. The Persian inscription means: "This medal was conferred in commemoration of the bravery and courage exhibited by the Sepoys of the English company in the capture of the Kingdom of Java, in the year of the Hijra 1228". The medal was awarded, as this suggests, to Company Sepoys (Indian troops); European combatants had to wait until corresponding bars were awarded to the Military and Naval General Service Medals some thirty-five years later. The East India Company medals were issued unnamed, so the identity of the Bengali or Madras soldier who earned it is unknown.

 

  Battle of Waterloo - 1815  

Regimental Sergeant Major Richard Gamble

11th Reg. Light Dragoons 

Richard Gamble was born at Loughborough, Leicestershire, and enlisted at Leicester on 25th June 1797, aged 23. He took part in the expedition to Holland in 1799 where the regiment fought alongside Russian troops. A squadron of the 11th was engaged in an attack in the sand hills between Bergen and Egmont-op-Zee in October, and a few days later two squadrons were engaged at Wijk-op-Zee, whilst the other two squadrons were engaged at Beverwijk. The regiment lost 10 killed and several wounded and taken prisoner. Gamble was promoted to Corporal on 29th July 1804, and to Sergeant on 4th January 1810. He embarked for Portugal in April 1811 and joined Wellington's army near Badajoz. Besides several minor engagements the regiment fought at the action of El Boden on 25th September 1811, at the battle of Salamanca on 22nd July 1812, and in the retreat from Burgos in September of the same year.

After spending the winter months in Portugal the regiment embarked for England in April 1813. Gamble was made Troop Sergeant Major, on 19th January 1815, of No. 2 Troop, of which Captain Benjamin Lutyens took command in March. The regiment embarked for Holland in April 1815 and took part in the battle of Waterloo on 18th June 1815, having 1 officer and 11 men killed, and 4 officers and 34 men wounded, besides 23 men missing. Gamble was made Regimental Sergeant Major on 25th December 1815. The summer of 1817 was spent at St Omer where, during a grand review, Gamble was thrown from his horse breaking his arm and dislocating his shoulder. He was consequently discharged on 16th February 1818.  

Richard Gamble's Waterloo Medal

 

Battle of Waterloo by William Sadler

 

 

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18th June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. An Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher. It was the culminating battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the end of his Hundred Days' return from exile.

Upon Napoleon's return to power in 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Two large forces under Wellington and von Blücher assembled close to the northeastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the Coalition. The decisive engagement of this three-day Waterloo Campaign (16th-19th June 1815) occurred at the Battle of Waterloo. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life."

Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18th June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington's army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that moment, Wellington's Anglo-allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing Coalition forces entered France and restored Louis XVIII to the French throne. Napoleon abdicated, surrendered to the British, and was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.

The battlefield is in present-day Belgium, about eight miles (12 km) SSE of Brussels, and about a mile (1.6 km) from the town of Waterloo. The site of the battlefield is today dominated by a large monument, the Lion Mound. As this mound used earth from the battlefield itself, the original topography of the part of the battlefield around the mound has not been preserved.

Crimean War 1853 - 1856

John Clave Cripps (1835 - 1914)

45th Notts. Regiment & 38th Foot 

John Clave Cripps was born in 1834 in Richmond, Surrey, the illegitimate child of Ann Cripps, and was baptised on 14th December 1834 at St. Mary's Church, Mortlake. It is likely, but not proven, that his father was John Clave, a married riding master who had premises in Hill Street, Richmond from 1826 to at least 1841. The military career of John Clave Cripps is given in detail in his obituary below. After he was severely wounded at Lucknow in 1858 he was discharged by the Army in 1860. He then joined his mother, now known as Ann Curtis, and his two half-siblings William and Anne in Wraggs Yard, Baxter Gate, Loughborough. He subsequently became a rural letter-carrier and married Ann Harrison in Loughborough on 29th December 1864.

John Clave Cripps and his wife Ann had eight sons and two daughters and they and their family lived at various times in Sparrow Hill, Freehold Street, and Nottingham Road, Loughborough. John Clave Cripps died from 'senile decay' at 2 Sparrow Hill on 28th March 1914. 

The Loughborough Echo, 3rd April 1914, published the following obituary:

There died on 28th March 1914, Sparrow-hill Loughborough, an old Crimean veteran, his name was John Clave Cripps. He was in his 79th year, and he enlisted in the old 45th Notts, Regiment. Upon the outbreak of the war between Russia and England he volunteered, for the Crimea, joining the 38th Foot. 
Here he was quickly in action, and passed through the battle of the Alma, of Inkermann, and through the siege of Sebastopol with no other damage to him except a slight wound from a bursting shell. For this service he received the Crimean medal with three bars and the Turkish medal. Three years later he was in India, and defended his country through the Indian Mutiny, serving in Lucknow during the siege. The rough times however told upon him, and he had to enter a hospital, where he remained for nine months, after which he was invalided home and became an out-pensioner of Chelsea hospital. Later in life when boating with some friends on the Loughborough canal, Mr. Cripps had the misfortune to lose one of the medals from his breast while leaning over the side of the boat. The medal fell into the water and was given up as lost, another being obtained to take its place. Twenty years later, while the canal was being cleaned out, the medal was found, and is at present in the possession of a member of the family.

The old man was a member of the Primitive Methodist body, and the Rev J. T. Ecob, who had attended him during his later days, conducted the funeral service on Tuesday. According to the honourable custom which the Veterans Association have extended, the old veteran was looked after by the members, who loyally took care that the coffin should be draped with the Union Jack and decorated with the old man's helmet and bayonet. A firing party, under Quartermaster-Sergeant Diggle, attended from the Old Comrades Association, consisting of Corporals Brierley and Brown, Privates Stretton, Hallam, Mee, Hall, Neale, and Mayo. Several members of the Territorials and old Veterans Association attended, including Bandmaster Lovett, Band-Sergeant Jackson, Colour Sergeant Spencer, Sergeant Eagle, Corporal E. Seward, Gunners Pym, Cooper, Hedston, Privates Baker, Main, R.A.Cross, Franks, and T.Buswell. Four bearers and two buglers attended from the 17th Leicester's at Glen Parva, and at the close of the service three volleys were fired over the grave, and the "Last Post" was sounded. The military arrangements were made by Quartermaster-Sergeant Diggle and Corporal Seward.  In addition to the family wreaths were tributes from the Old Comrades and Veterans Associations. 

AN ECHO OF THE MUTINY

We take the following from the "Daily Telegraph" of 24th December 1907, from an account of the dinner given by the proprietors to the veterans who survived the golden commemoration of the Indian Mutiny. There were not a few among those who came from St. Pancras with interesting records, if they could only have been got to talk of their exploits. In one corner of a bus sat John Cripps, of the 38th Foot. He was one of the six men who were waiting for a gun to burst open the gate at Luck-now, when the Sepoys exploded a mine underneath. Four of his comrades were killed outright, and Cripps and another were severely wounded. That Cripps lived to tell the tale is the more remarkable from the fact that his clothes were set on fire, and though he had eighty rounds of ammunition upon him none exploded. 

John Clave Cripps his buried at Loughborough Cemetery 6 - 256 (no stone on grave).

 
Crimea Medal with 3 bars

 

The Battle of the Alma (20th September 1854), which is usually considered the first battle of the Crimean War (1853-1856), took place just south of the River Alma in the Crimea. An Anglo-French force under General St. Arnaud and Lord Raglan defeated General Menshikov's Russian army, which lost around 6,000 troops.
 
 
Battle of Alma by Horace Vernet
 
The Battle of Inkerman was fought during the Crimean War on 5th November 1854 between the allied armies of Britain and France against the Imperial Russian Army. The battle broke the will of the Russian Army to defeat the allies in the field, and condemned the war to the Siege of Sevastopol. The role of troops fighting mostly on their own initiative due to the foggy conditions during the battle has earned the engagement the name "The Soldier's Battle".
 
 Siege of Sevastopol by Franz Roubaud
 
The Siege of Sevastopol (sometimes rendered "Sebastopol") was a major siege during the Crimean War, lasting from September 1854 until September 1855. Leo Tolstoy's early book The Sebastopol Sketches (1855-56) detailed the siege in a mixture of reportage and short fiction.

Indian Mutiny 1857 - 1858

The Defence of Lucknow

Captain Clifford Henry Mecham (1831-1865)

Madras Army

 

Clifford Henry Mecham, the 3rd son and 6th child of Captain George Mecham of the 3rd Dragoon Guards and Harriet Catherine Hardy, was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire, on 24th November 1831. His mother came from Loughborough, and was married to Clifford's father at All Saints' Church, Loughborough on 15th June 1824. Clifford was baptised, however, in the parish of Melcombe Regis, Dorset, on 21st February 1832 as at the time his father was still with the Dragoons and had recently been involved in suppression of the Bristol Riots. His parents later moved to Bagot House, St. Saviour, Jersey, and Clifford was initially educated by a Jersey tutor.

Clifford was enrolled as a day pupil at Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire, at Easter 1845 and left in June 1847. During this period he apparently boarded with his maternal grandmother, Hannah Maria Hardy, who lived near the College. The main thrust of his education there was mathematical. The family was living on the Isle of Jersey, Channel Islands, when Clifford entered the Madras Army of the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) on 20th January 1849.

The family had a strong military service history. Clifford's father was a Dragoon Guards officer, his eldest brother, Richard (b.1826), was a Captain in Bengal Army; his second eldest brother, George Frederick (b.1827), was a Commodore in the Royal Navy and a noted arctic explorer. After Clifford, the next son, Maunsell (b.1833) was a Lieutenant in 92nd Highlander Regiment; then Arthur Reginald (b.1837) was a Captain in the Rifle Brigade. Following Arthur, Walter Alexander was in the Royal Navy briefly. Of the brothers born after Walter Alexander (b.1839), John Russell (b.1845) was a Colonel commanding two Highland districts. It was the two brothers, George Bridgeham Septimus (b.1841) and Augustus (b.1842), together with Walter Alexander, who emigrated to Australia, followed later by Arthur Reginald. The last born child, Francis Graham (b.1848) did not survive infancy. Clifford also had three sisters.

Soon after enlisting in 1849 Clifford Henry Mecham proceeded to India, leaving Southampton on HMS Indus, which took him as far as Suez; there he transferred to the steamer Haddington for the onward journey to Madras, arriving on 3rd March 1849. He was directed to do duty with the 52nd Madras Native Infantry (N.I) at Vellore, before joining the 27th Madras N.I. at Trichinopoly. At the end of 1851 he accompanied his regiment to Mangalore, and in 1854 to Mercara in Coorg. Whilst serving in India, Clifford learnt Hindustani, passing exams for the language in 1856. He was also an artistic and musical man. He played the flute and eventually had a book of coloured lithographs published, taken from drawings he made at Lucknow and Alambagh.

Lt. Clifford Henry Mecham c1856, photographed by Ahmed Ali Khan in Lucknow.

In February 1856, he was appointed Adjutant of the 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry at Lucknow and between July and November of that year he officiated as second in command. On Sunday 3rd May 1857, the Sowars of that corps refused to bite their cartridges and threatened to murder their officers. Sir Henry Lawrence, accompanied by as many European troops as he could muster, marched out to the Moosa Bagh to meet the disaffected men, who, on catching sight of a port fire lit by a British gunner, 'broke ranks in terror'. A few men returned to the lines next morning, but the regiment effectively ceased to exist.

After the Siege Mecham compiled a journal of his experiences, in the form of a letter to his mother, which has survived. The 82-pages of written reports are still in excellent condition. The journal has been lodged with the Rare Books Library of the University of Sydney to provide for safekeeping and access to researchers. A full transcript is available on the Families in British India Society (FIBIS) web site and a scanned copy has been retained by Mecham family historians. In 1957 to mark the centenary of the Siege of Lucknow, the Sydney Morning Herald published a series of articles based on the journal. 

Location of Lucknow in Northern India


Page 1 of Clifford's letter to his mother, introducing his account of the Siege of Lucknow


During the defence of the Residency, at between 5 and 6 a.m. on 18th August 1857, Lieutenant Mecham was on lookout with Captain Adolphe Orr and two sentries at the top of a house next to Sikh Square. One of the sentries spotted a rebel. Mecham fired at him, but missed. Then one of the sentries called out, "Mine, sir". What followed is best described in Mecham's own words: 'It was here that Captain Orr and myself, with ten Christian drummers who formed part of the garrison, were blown into the air by the explosion of a mine. I can assure my readers that an involuntary ascent of some twenty or thirty feet in the form of a spread eagle is by no means an agreeable sensation; and I was very thankful when I kissed mother earth again, albeit I should have certainly considered it rather too warm a maternal embrace on any other occasion. My brother officer had an equally providential escape, but the poor drummers, who had been sleeping a few yards off, were not so fortunate. One of them was blown outside our defences, and was immediately decapitated by the enemy; and, with but one exception, all the others were buried under the ruins, where they lie to this day.'



Pages from Clifford's journal describing this event

The explosion tore a thirty foot hole in the outer wall of the second enclosure that comprised Sikh Square. A general call to arms was sounded to prevent the enemy swarming through, and after a long struggle the gap was eventually closed in the afternoon with heavy shutters, brought down from the Residency, and hastily constructed into a temporary barricade under a storm of fire. Mecham was twice thanked by Brigadier Inglis for his services during the defence of the Residency.

With the arrival of the first Relief Force in September, Mecham was attached to the 1st Madras Fusiliers, and took part in the attempt to capture the Garden Battery, opposite the Cawnpore Battery of the British position. Some men of the 32nd Foot, four other officers and Mecham accompanied the Madras Fusiliers, under Major Stephenson. They came under very heavy fire so that it was impossible to hold the two enemy batteries they had seized. Mecham was with the party which had secured the second battery. Their position was so exposed that Stephenson ordered a retreat back to the main body, and during this retreat Mecham was one of four people who helped a badly wounded Fusilier sergeant go back with them. The captured guns could not be destroyed, so they were spiked, and then Stephenson ordered a general retirement. 

When the second Relief Force arrived at Lucknow in November, it was accompanied by Lieutenant Jones-Parry, who recorded: 'Curiously enough, the first man of the garrison I met was my old schoolfellow and chum, Mecham. He was an excellent specimen of the condition of the defenders, for he looked more like a greyhound than a man; he was as thin as a lath, and his eyes looked sunken into his head. No wonder, for in the first few months he had gone through untold dangers and miraculous escapes. He had only escaped being murdered by his own regiment by a narrow squeak; then he had weathered that awful battle of Chinhut, and finally, had been blown clean out of his own lines into neutral ground by the explosion of a mine that the enemy had succeeded in firing. All the others had been countermined and destroyed by the indefatigable exertions of Fulton, McLeod Innes, and others. Poor Mecham, his troubles were not yet over. We were glad to meet, and subsequently he got posted to do duty with us until his services were required elsewhere.' 

These are the last two pages of Clifford's journal discussing publication of his sketches: he wrote…..not they will be turned out uncommonly well (his sketches). The dedication to Her Majesty I will also send home with another to the memory of Sir Henry Lawrence should Sir George Cowper decide against the former when the latter will be substituted, though such is the interest and curiousity now universally felt in the siege of Lucknow that perhaps Her Majesty may deign to honour me. If so the thing will go down well; at all events I don't think I can lose by it - indeed, by advertising in the papers in this country my agents tell me that upwards of 100 copies have already been bespoke, which promises well. We are, I see, all granted six months - , which is about the least Government could have given us. This, for me, amounts to 75 pounds, which, together with my regulation compensation, will make up about 200 pounds. This will help to mend matters, though it falls very far short of what I have lost. But I am taking to grumbling, so shall bring this volume to a close as a dawk goes out from camp this day, the 29th of December. Adieu then my dearest Mother and with best…..

   

love to my dear Father, Emily, Louisa, Mary and all the family, also to Grandmama, Aunt Toppy, and Uncle, and till next opportunity.

Believe me,

Your ever loving and affectionate son,

Clifford

P.S. As I rightly conjectured, I eat my Christmas dinner in solitude on outlying picket, with the enemy's round shot occasionally playing at long bowls outside my tent. However, this did not prevent my thinking of you all, and drinking all your healths in a bumper of beer!! No other liquor to be had. I hope you'll be able to make out this book, for letter is no name for it but I have written it as legibly as the worst of ink and pens can enable me to do.

 

On the resumption of operations against Lucknow, Mecham transferred to Hodson's Horse which formed part of the cavalry brigade under Brigadier-General Campbell, and made the muddled and abortive attempt to cut off retreating rebel forces after the final capture of the city. Following the death of Hodson, a man who loathed 'red tape', Henry Daly was appointed to succeed him. To his horror Daly discovered that Hodson had kept no English paperwork whatsoever and that the administrative machinery of the Hodson's Horse was non-existent. Daly thereupon made Mecham second in command and gave him the unenviable job of accounting for some 120,000 Rupees (£12,000) disbursed since the enrolment of men had begun nine months earlier.

Mecham next took part in the hot-weather campaign in Oudh under Hope Grant, and at about this time was photographed as the central figure of a well-known group shot of Hodson's officers by Felice Beato. Although some have misidentified the figures in this photograph, the National Army Museum, correctly maintains that the central figure is Lieutenant Mecham flanked on his left by Assistant Surgeon Thomas Anderson, and this is further confirmed by other portrait photographs of Mecham taken by Beato and others at the same period. This group shot, and another taken at the same gathering, are shown below. Felice Beato's photograph taken of him soon after his harrowing experiences during the Indian Mutiny shows a gaunt 'Lieutenant Mecham of Hodson's Horse'. His jacket would have been dark blue with black cord frogging and his kummerbund red.

 

Lieutenant Mecham, centre and Assistant Surgeon Anderson, seated, of Hodson's Horse Regiment, with Sikh officers in 1858

Another rarely published view taken by Felipe Beato of mostly the same personnel. These are considered to be among the first very early war zone photos. This group has been misidentified as Fane's Horse on the notes on the photo mount border.

On Sunday 13th June 1858, a considerable rebel force, reckoned at 15,000, was brought to bay eighteen miles from Lucknow at Nawabgunge. Of this affair, Daly wrote: 'The ground between us and the enemy on the right, is well adapted for cavalry, for, although there was a ravine within a few yards of their front, it was not sufficient to stop a horse; as I deployed prior to making the charge, I detached Lieut. Mecham with Lieut. the Hon. J. H. Fraser and one hundred sabres to cross the ravine (which was deep higher up), and to bear down on their left flank. Finding the enemy in greater strength than could be observed from the front, this officer judiciously delayed the movement till the advance on the left took place. I must regret to state that in gallantly making the charge over broken ground, Lieut. Mecham was severely wounded, his horse received a couple of bullets and two sword cuts.' Mecham was subsequently mentioned in Hope Grant's despatch (Calcutta Gazette 10th July 1858).

In August 1858, Mecham officiated as Adjutant of 2nd Hodson's Horse, presumably until relieved by Fraser. He became officiating second-in-command of 3rd Hodson's Horse on 12 October 1858, and second-in-command of 2nd Hodson's Horse in March 1859. The following month he commanded a detachment of 3rd Hodson's Horse in a sharp skirmish at Gonda and, in May and June 1859, acted as the 3rd's Commandant. He went home on furlough shortly afterwards. During his absence, his elder brother, Captain Richard Mecham, Bengal Artillery, was murdered while travelling from Bannu to Kohat. Richard Mecham, who was very ill at the time, was waylaid by a gang of Darwesh Khel Waziri tribesmen, pulled from his doolie, and hacked to pieces before he could discharge more than one round from his revolver. Following his return to India in March 1861, the younger Mecham visited the scene of the crime and set up a monument on the right bank of the Changos Nullah, a quarter of a mile south of the Kohat - Bannu road, near Latammar, with the following inscription:


Near this spot
Was murdered on the night of the
5th of November 1859 by Waziree robbers
RICHARD MECHAM
Captain Bengal Artillery
being cowardly deserted by his police escort
This tribute is erected by his brother
Clifford Mecham Madras Army
on visiting the spot November 1863

 

Capt. Richard Mecham, Madras Army Horse Artillery, photographed in Jersey in 1858.

The murder of Richard Mecham led to the Kabul Khel Waziri Expedition of 1859-60, in which Neville Chamberlain demonstrated the ability of disciplined troops to operate in mountainous and hostile territory. In February 1861, Clifford Mecham was admitted to the Madras Staff Corps. From April 1863 until September 1864 he served as Commandant of the 9th Bengal Cavalry (late 1st Hodson's Horse) and marched with it from Cawnpore to Peshawar, before being posted to the 10th Bengal Cavalry (late 2nd Regiment of Hodson's Horse) in July 1865. Here, his career was cut short by his death from hepatitis only two months later on 12th September 1865, in his 34th year, at Kalka at the foot of the hills between Ambala and Kausali. He was buried at Ambala Cemetery with a monument that reads:

Here rests in hope the body of Clifford Henry Mecham Captain Madras Staff corps who died at Kalka 12th September 1865 aged 33 years. His short life was devoted to the earnest performance of his duty, and his memory lives in the record of the gallant defence of Lucknow, and the memorable events of that period. His end was peace. This stone is erected in affectionate remembrance by the officers of the 10th Bengal Cavalry.

Will

He had been unwell for some time and in August 1865 signed his will:

I Clifford Mecham Madras Staff Corps after paying all my just demands hereby bequeath my property as follows -

(1) One Share to be given my Brother John in the 27th Foot -

(1) One Share to be given to my brother in the Delhi Bank now in London.

(1) One Share to be divided between my two sisters Emily and Louisa for Expenses generously Incurred in Sending my Brother to Australia.

The pony to be returned to Major Miles at Benares My love to be given to my Dear Mother and Father to Say that my last thoughts on Earth were given to them that they must struggle against this Stroke of Providence & hope to meet them in a better and happier world.

My love to all my brothers and Sisters relations and friends.

 

Clifford and other family members are commemorated with inscriptions on the family monument at his mother's grave in the churchyard of St. Saviour's Anglican church, Jersey. This photo was taken in about 1880. The monument is still in good condition and photographs were taken of it in 2007. There are more inscriptions on the other faces of the monument.

The actual Lucknow Medal awarded to Mecham. It was sold at auction in 2005 with the following information: The Indian Mutiny medal to Lieutenant C. H. Mecham for services as Adjutant of the 7th Oudh Irregular Infantry, an original defender at Lucknow who survived the explosion of the only mine set off during the siege, and served afterwards with Hodson's Horse, a talented amateur artist responsible for Sketches and Incidents of the Siege of Lucknow
Auction house description:
Indian Mutiny 1857-59, 1 clasp, Defence of Lucknow (Lieut. C. H. Meeham, 7th Oudh Irreg. Inf.) note spelling of surname, suspension claw slack, some edge bruising, otherwise very fine £2500-3000 - sold for 7,500 sterling.

Another medal is known named to Mecham as a Lieutenant in the Madras Infantry.

 

More information:

Those wishing to know more detail on the career of Mecham are recommended to read:.

 

Fraser, John, 1982. Captain Clifford Henry Mecham. Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 60(243), 166-180.

Other sources include:

Cardew, Francis Gordon. Hodson's Horse, 1857-1922. Uckfield, E. Sussex: Naval & Military Press, 2006. Originally published 1928.

Daly, Hugh. Memoirs of General Sir Henry Dermot Daly, G.C.B., C.I.E., sometime commander of Central India Horse, political assistant for Western Malwa, etc. London: J. Murray, 1905.

Mecham, Clifford Henry. Sketches & incidents from the siege of Lucknow from drawings made during the siege. With descriptive notices by George Couper. London: Day and Son, 1858.

Rhé-Philipe, George W. de and Irving, Miles, comps. Soldiers of the Raj. Uckfield, E. Sussex: Naval & Military Press, 2002. Originally published 1910.

Wilson, Thomas Fourness. The defence of Lucknow: a diary recording the daily events during the siege of the European Residency, from 31st May to 25th September, 1857. By a staff officer; with a plan of the Residency. London: Smith, Elder, 1858.

Extracts from the transcript of Mecham's journal:

The following two pages are extracts from the 24-page typed transcript of his journal and are included to illustrate the ferocity of the fighting at Lucknow.

 

Death of Sir Henry Lawrence:

At daybreak the next morning the enemy besieged us most desperately and closely bringing their artillery to bear on all the houses in our position, into which round shot and shell crashed with deadly effect, and a perfect rain of bullets showered on every part of the position. I tried in vain to overcome the prostration I was suffering from, which though considerably better would not yet enable me to proceed to duty. For the first few days, therefore I was laid up in a room next to Sir Henry Lawrence were I was lying when the shell which caused his lamented death crashed through the partition wall and mortally wounded poor Sir Henry, as he lay on his bed. The noise it made of course was tremendous, and the dust so great that nothing was to be seen in the room till the smoke cleared away, when Sir Henry was found on the floor, with his right leg almost severed from his body at the hip joint, which was completely smashed. In company with several others, I rushed into the room, and assisted in carrying him out. Never shall I forget the scene as long as ever I live! Poor man! He exclaimed at once, though in the most intense agony that he was mortally wounded, and desiring that all the head men might be sent for, appointed poor Major Banks (destined shortly after to meet a similar fate) to succeed him, and addressing a few words to all around him, was carried away to the hospital. Here was indeed a blow! Our head man gone the first day. The most profound melancholy seized the whole garrison on hearing of it, and he died the second day after receiving the wound, suffering the most fearful agony the whole time.

 

Burying the dead:

Such, my dearest mother is a description, and but a very faint one, of what we had to undergo at this time. A more graphic  one it is out of my power to give - indeed words, however well expressed, must fail in conveying an adequate idea of our excessive labours and miseries at this time. The hospital very shortly became so crammed with victims both to the enemy's fire and cholera, that the unfortunate wounded had to be stowed away in any underground or tolerably secure corner that might be found. One grave was dug at night for all, and at this period of our sufferings from 30 to 35 corpses used to be thrown into it, officers, soldiers, ladies, children, and all Europeans promiscuously. This had always all be carried out in the dark, owing to the churchyard being commanded on all sides by the enemy, so that to pass through it in the daytime was almost certain death. Forty children fell victims the first fortnight, and many poor ladies, who were all stowed away in underground cellars, notwithstanding which two were shot dead the first week and several wounded. Things continued in this manner getting worse and worse daily till the memorable 20th July, on which date the enemy made their most determined effort to storm the place, but by the blessing of Providence were unsuccessful. Several parties were suspicious of their mining towards us, as large bodies of them had occasionally been seen digging. The engineer officers, however, with their usual incredulity persisted that such could not be the case, as they were unable to drive galleries any length. However, they were speedily undeceived on. this head, as will presently be narrated.

  

Repelling an attack:

About eight o'clock on the above day large masses of our foe were seen pouring into position around us, and complete regiments marching across the bridges into the city. This, of course, (dead beat as we all were from our incessant labour of the previous twenty days) sufficed to brace us up for the struggle, which we then felt certain was to take place. Accordingly extra grog was served out to the whole garrison, and I believe not a man of us differed from the general opinion of dying sooner than allowing the enemy to gain an inch of our ground. At half past nine the enemy sprung a very large mine, heavily loaded, which shook the entire position, throwing down several of the houses within our lines, and prostrating many who were near to it on their faces. The attack now commenced in furious style, the foe coming on in the smoke in strong columns, which were suddenly stopped short in their determined advance by rounds of grape and canister being rained in on them from two eighteen and two nine-pounders situated in the Medan Battery, which were discharged and reloaded till the guns were so hot that to serve them any longer became an impossibility. Repulsed in that quarter, the attack then became general all round our defences. My post was assaulted almost immediately after the explosion, but we were all ready for them, and from our loopholes poured in a continuous rattle of musketry so close that almost every shot told, notwithstanding which, as fast as one party was driven back another came on and was saluted in the same manner. The other officer and myself, who were commanding, each manned our loopholes, and we were obliged to change our muskets for fresh ones every ten minutes, as the barrels became so hot from rapid firing that it was impossible to hold them. Four poor fellows were, however, laid low by shots before twelve o'clock, received through the loopholes, and my cap was perforated by a bullet. At the above hour, after having repulsed numerous attempts and feeling ready to drop down from downright exhaustion, on they came again, and so far succeeded as to place scaling ladders against the wall of the house on the top of which we were stationed, but fortunately for us they proved to be too short, and the first scoundrel that did succeed in gaining our loopholes was bayoneted and shot through the same, which damped the spirit of the others, of whom there were at this time hordes so close under our walls that the muskets from the loopholes could not be depressed sufficiently to touch them. Accordingly it became necessary for us to mount the parapets and fire down on them, which we did with killing effect, they returning the compliment from beneath us also all round. Numbers of them shortly strewed the ground, and finding they had no chance they drew off, leaving their ladders and all their wounded, who were speedily decapitated by us. Several other attempts were made after this, but about two o'clock they began visibly to withdraw, and at three the attack ceased, though almost the usual amount of firing into our position continued.

 

News of relief column on way:

Still we kept on fighting day and night incessantly, no news of any description reaching us, except the enemy's reports of our relief being destroyed and no hope left! We remained in this wretched state of despair till the 22nd of September, on which date the joyful news reached us by a spy (the same who brought us the previous note) to the effect that succour was at hand, Outram and Havelock in full march to our assistance! Oh, what intense delight was visible in every man's face the morning after this announcement was made! Excessive joy took place of the most profound despondency, which was increased by distant guns being distinctly heard the same afternoon. A cheer rang through the garrison, which came from the inmost heart of everyone, though many were still afraid to be too sanguine. The next day, however, no doubt existed on the matter, and the day after that we saw from the look-out tower our deliverers at hand, fighting their way nobly through the city, the enemy raining down on them a storm of bullets from each side of the streets, leaving their track too plainly seen by the dead bodies of our gallant fellows, with which their path was strewn! Every man who could possibly manage it crowded to the look-out tower, and strained his anxious eyes in the direction of the firing. The most painful thing to us was being totally unable to assist them, as we could not possibly have sallied out, and to have fired in that direction would of course have endangered our poor fellows as much as the enemy.

Examples of Mecham's sketches

 


MECHAM, Lieutenant Clifford Henry. Sketches & Incidents of the Siege of Lucknow. From Drawings made during the Siege...with Descriptive Notices by George Couper, Esq. late Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Oude. London, Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen, 1858. FIRST EDITION. Large Folio (22 1/2" x 15".) [12] pp. Tinted lithographed title page with vignette and 26 fine tinted lithographed views on 17 plates, with original tissue guards. "Probably the most celebrated series of views of the Mutiny, showing in graphic detail the destruction wrought on the 37 acre Residency compound between June and November 1857. Also illustrated are tunnelling activities, a feature of the Siege. Mecham was a lieutenant in the Madras Army". Ladendorf, 635. (copy recently sold at auction for about $A400)

 

 

"The Bailley Guard Battery and Hospital"
 
 
"Interior of the Residency Billiard Room"
 
"Near view from the Highlanders Post"
 
This sketch of Lucknow's Alam Bagh was made by Lt. C. H.  Mecham on 25th December 1857 while fierce fighting raged on. In a note at the bottom of the sketch, the artist wishes "my future readers many happy returns of this festive season". (Source: BBC). He wrote his journal from this location.
 
 
Top: "Lying in Wait"   Bottom: "Sinking a shaft"
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The 3rd Anglo-Ashanti War 1873- 1874

William Moore, Pte. R.M. H.M.S. Druid.

William Moore was born in Loughborough on 23rd March 1843. He joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry in December 1861 and during his time afloat served in H.M. Ships Orontes, Skylark, Asia and Druid. Moore served ashore with the Naval Brigade during the Ashanti campaign and received the Medal with Ashanti clasp. He left Druid on 21st February 1874 and was invalided back to England, where he was discharged for 'length of service', on 9th April 1874. Fifty Coomassie clasps were issued to H.M.S. Druid.

A bush fight, Third Anglo-Ashanti War. The Graphic 1874

Ashanti Medal with Clasp Coomassie

 

First Anglo-Ashanti War

The First Anglo-Ashanti War was from 1823 to 1831. In 1823 Sir Charles MacCarthy, rejecting Ashanti claims to Fanti areas of the coast and resisting overtures by the Ashanti to negotiate, led an invading force from the Cape Coast. He was defeated and killed by the Ashanti, and the heads of MacCarthy and Ensign Wetherall were kept as trophies. At the Battle of Nsamankow, MacCarthy's troops (who had not joined up with the other columns) were overrun. Major Alexander Gordon Laing returned to Britain with news of their fate.

The Ashanti swept down to the coast, but disease forced them back. The Ashanti were so successful in subsequent fighting that in 1826 they again moved on the coast. At first they fought very impressively in an open battle against superior numbers of British allied forces, including Denkyirans. However, the novelty of British Congreve rockets caused the Ashanti army to withdraw. In 1831, the Pra River was accepted as the border in a treaty, and there were thirty years of peace.

Second Anglo-Ashanti War

The Second Anglo-Ashanti War was from 1863 to 1864. With the exception of a few minor Ashanti skirmishes across the Pra in 1853 and 1854, the peace between the Ashanti and the British Empire had remained unbroken for over 30 years. Then, in 1863, a large Ashanti delegation crossed the river pursuing a fugitive, Kwesi Gyana. There was fighting, with casualties on both sides, but the governor's request for troops from England was declined and sickness forced the withdrawal of his troops.

Third Anglo-Ashanti War

The Third Anglo-Ashanti War lasted from 1873 to 1874. In 1869 a German missionary family and a Swiss missionary had been taken to Kumasi. They were hospitably treated, but a ransom was required for them. In 1871 Britain purchased the Dutch Gold Coast from the Dutch, including Elmina which was claimed by the Ashanti. The Ashanti invaded the new British protectorate.

General Garnet Wolseley with 2,500 British troops and several thousand West Indian and African troops (including some Fante) was sent against the Ashanti, and subsequently became a household name in Britain. The war was covered by war correspondents, including Henry Morton Stanley and G. A. Henty. Military and medical instructions were printed for the troops. The British government refused appeals to interfere with British armaments manufacturers who sold to both sides.

Wolseley went to the Gold Coast in 1873, and made his plans before the arrival of his troops in January 1874. He fought the Battle of Amoaful on January 31 of that year, and, after five days' fighting, ended with the Battle of Ordahsu. The capital, Kumasi, was abandoned by the Ashanti and was briefly occupied by the British and burned. The British were impressed by the size of the palace and the scope of its contents, including "rows of books in many languages." The Asantahene, the ruler of the Ashanti signed a harsh British treaty, the Treaty of Fomena in July 1874, to end the war. Among articles of the treaty between H.M. Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and H.M. Kofi Karikari, King of Ashanti were that "The King of Ashanti promises to pay the sum of 50,000 ounces of approved gold as indemnity for the expenses he has occasioned to Her Majesty the Queen of England by the late war..." The treaty also stated that "There shall be freedom of trade between Ashanti and Her Majesty's forts on the [Gold] Coast, all persons being at liberty to carry their merchandise from the Coast to Kumasi, or from that place to any of Her Majesty's possessions on the Coast." Furthermore, the treaty stated that "The King of Ashanti guarantees that the road from Kumasi to the River Pra shall always be kept open..." Wolseley completed the campaign in two months, and re-embarked them for home before the unhealthy season began. There were 300 British casualties.

Some British accounts pay tribute to the hard fighting of the Ashanti at Amoaful, particularly the tactical insight of their commander, Amanquatia: "The great Chief Amanquatia was among the killed. Admirable skill was shown in the position selected by Amanquatia, and the determination and generalship he displayed in the defence fully bore out his great reputation as an able tactician and gallant soldier."

 

The 2nd Boer War 1899 - 1902

Corporal William Dolman Bees V.C. (1871-1938)

1st Battalion Derbyshire Regiment

 

William Dolman Bees was born on September 12th, 1871 at Midsomer Norton, a village situated southwest of Bath and mid-way to Shepton Mallet, Somerset. His father, William Bees (senior) was a farm labourer and born near Faulk-land, a hamlet five miles east of Midsomer Norton. His mother Jane (née Dolman) was born at Repton, Derbyshire. The threesome lived in a tied cottage and so when William died, in the 1870s, Jane had to return to her Derbyshire roots. 

The 1881 Census has Jane, his mother, employed as a cook, living in Branstone Road Borough Hospital, Burton-upon-Trent. Due to the nature of her job, William lodged at 45, Union Street. He was a nine years old scholar. It is written that he was Manchester born. 

By 1890, William Bees was at Loughborough, and may have received education at the local Board School. On March 7th1890, at Normanton Barracks, Derbyshire, he enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters for 12 years, and three years as reserve. He joined their 2nd Battalion in India, serving by Afghanistan's borders receiving the India Medal with Punjab Frontier and Tirah 1897-98 clasps. He transferred to the Army Reserve on January 25th 1898 and rejoined the colours in August 1898, and was stationed with the 1st Battalion in Malta when the 2nd Boer War began on October 12th 1899. 

Private William Bees, "C" Company, was present at the major action, but it was for his actions at a battle at Moedwill whereby 200 officers and men were killed, that he was awarded a Victoria Cross.

From The London Gazette Tuesday December 17th 1901: 

"The King has been graciously pleased to signify His intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the under mentioned soldier, whose claims have been submitted for His Majesty's approval, for his conspicuous bravery in South Africa, as stated against his name: Private W Bees, 1st Battalion of the Derbyshire Regiment.

"Private Bees was one of the Maxin Gun detachment, which at Moedwil, on the September 30th 1901, had six men hit out of nine. Hearing his wounded comrades asking for water, he went forward, under heavy fire, to a spruit held by Boers about 500 yards ahead of the gun, and brought back a kettle full of water. On going and returning he had to pass within 100 yards of some rocks also held by the Boers, and the kettle which he was carrying was hit by several bullets." 

After 12 years of service he retired from the Regiment as a corporal, but his heroism caught the public's imagination and songwriter, Mary Bradford Whiting, composed a popular music hall ballad; "The Old Kettle; A Ballad of The War". He returned to Loughborough and was employed as an engine driver at the Gas Works, marrying local girl, 27 year old Sarah Freeman, at All Saints Parish Church on April 25th 1903, aged 31. His best man was Harry Beet VC; they served together in the Army. Prior to marriage, William lived at 26 Bridge Street while Sarah was at 15 Freehold Street. Charles William known as Billy was born on March 25th 1904. William was a crane driver at an engineering works when Lillian Elizabeth was born on June 28th 1907, with the family living at 22 Freehold Street. 

They moved to 72, Albert Street, Coalville, several years before World War One, with William employed down the mines. In a seam collapse he received a serious spinal injury and this affected his future aspirations. Just after the Great War began on Tuesday, August 4th 1914, a British Expeditionary Force was sent to support France and Belgium. Lord Kitchener called for volunteers and ex-Corporal William Bees VC offered his services, On October 2nd at Glen Parva Barracks, Leicester, he joined the Army Reserve.

Passing his first medical he joined the 12th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, but on October 7th at Shoreham Camp, he was re-examined and discharged as unfit for duty due to a spinal injury. Undaunted, he tried to join the Royal West Surrey Regiment, but failed the medical.

 Finally, on April 6th 1915, he re-enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters and served at Whitburn, Sunderland, before transferring on October 28th to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry stationed at Blyth and South Shields. After 498 days with the Colours he transferred to " Class W" to become a miner, and was discharged on October 31st, 1916 as of "good character" but no longer physically fit for war service. 

William received the Silver War Badge, awarded to service personnel who were wounded or sustained a disability in the course of war and invalided out of the services. Worn on the lapel of civilian only clothing. William's badge was numbered 501519. His spinal injury had worsened and was no longer fit for the collieries. Despite this, he enlisted on January 30th 1918 into the Royal Army Service Corps- only to be transferred to "class Z" of Army Reserve and discharged on February 6th 1919. He returned to Coalville, moving to 78, Margaret Street, where he became a road-sweeper. On November 9th 1929, William was one of 321 VC's at a House of Lords Dinner. He spoke to the Prince of Wales and offered a whippet puppy from a bitch he'd had for two years. A few days later an unknown lady arrived at Coalville and bought the puppy for £5, the equivalent of £230 in 2010.

He was buried at London Road Cemetery, Coalville, on June 25th 1938. Thousands of folks lined the streets to pay their respects as the cortege slowly passed. Representatives of the Sherwood Foresters and 5th Leicestershire Territorial Battalion headed the procession, followed by the Hugglescote Band. 

Loughborough has not lost a Victoria Cross holder, they share his greatness with Midsomer Norton."  

Above Article written by local historian Michael Kendrick

 

 

Fifty Good Men and True 

Privately published by Michael Kendrick. Reviewed by Martin Hornby.

This book comes in two separate parts. The first part is dedicated to the call-up and training of 'The Famous Fifty' of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. 'The Fifty' all originated from the Coalville area of Leicestershire and fought together in the Great War. The book follows the fighting and horrors these men endured. It also includes first class maps, letters, pictures and moving personal accounts from some of the 'Fifty'. These accounts cover many of the battles on the Western Front. The second part of the book concentrates on individual accounts of each of the 'Fifty'. It covers their lives prior to the Great War, and if they survived their lives after the conflict.

This is a very well researched book which gives the reader an excellent insight into the Great War. It is well referenced and the index is first class.

Signed copies can be obtained from the author at £16.00 + £3.00 p & p.
Michael Kendrick, Holly Croft, 266 Forest Road, Old Woodhouse, Nr Loughborough, LE12 8UA