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SemperParatus

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  1. Sorry for my absence... Part 3. Wittebergen. At this point it became clear the enemy would not lay down their arms for the “mere proclamation" that the British have annexed the Orange Free State into the Orange River Colony. After being constantly pursued by General Leslie Rundle's 8th and Colonial Divisions, the Free State's President, Martinius Steyn, along with his government-in-exile, his generals and commandoes (representing the majority of Boer forces in the Free State) regrouped and concentrated in the Brandwater Basin – a valley surrounded by the Witteberg and Roodeberg mountains, and the headwaters of the Caledon, the Little Caledon, and the Brandwater rivers. Map of the Brandwater Basin, The War Office Official History of the War, 1910. On the 13th July, to aid in the Starving Eighth's attempt to encircle the Boers, 2nd Lieutenant Denison and the 1st Leinsters moved into Rooikranz. The 8th Division would suffer an early setback which would come back to haunt them. Leo Amery, war correspondent for The Times explains: “'Just after sunset on 15th July De Wet broke out with Steyn and his column and a convoy of 400 wagons and carts from Slabbert's Nek. There was no English force at the nek, and though English camp fires could be seen on the Senekal road further north, this huge column, extending over 5 000 yards [4 572 m] of road, passed within a mile of them so silently as not to attract attention. De Wet, indeed, had drilled those under his own immediate command to a most unwanted discipline on the march. The column was formed like a regular army, with an advance guard of the scouts and a few burghers followed by the President and his staff with their wagons, and De Wet's and General Botha's wagons; next followed the artillery - four guns and a Maxim - the convoy of wagons and Cape carts with the burghers riding on each side; and lastly a burgher rearguard.'” General De Wet's forces and the Free State's shadow government had broken out, but 7,000 troops remained in the Basin under General Martinius Prinsloo. It was time to press on with a combined attack. "We remained watching the Boers" from Rooikranz until July 20th, when the Leinsters marched to Hammonia (and happily, received their first tents of the campaign). They moved on to Fourriesburg, continuing their advance on the 28th of July. The 1st Leinsters, together with the 2nd Scots Guards were formed into the centre of a column comprised of units of the 16th Brigade. Some of General Clements' troops formed the advanced guard, elements from the Wiltshire Regiment moved on the right flank, elements of the Royal Irish on the left flank, and in the rear were the Royal West Kents. The advanced guard soon made contact with Boers holding a strong position at Slaapkranz, on the column's left front. Whitton describes what happens next: "We started at 4:30am, commenced fighting almost at once and fought all day. ... Slapkranz was a high kopje, almost perpendicular, facing our advance and sloping gradually towards the Boer laager in the rear. The edge towards us was covered with great boulders, which gave excellent cover to the Boers, while we had no cover from fire except some ant heaps, though the high grass gave some cover from view. British troops take cover in a firing line. © Imperial War Museum Q71942. The attack was made more difficult as on our right flank there was a perpendicular kopje with a narrow nek between the two, through which the road ran, so that we could not work round to the flank without coming under fire at close range. On the left the ground of our advance was almost as high as the Boer positions but was seperated from it by a somewhat deep ravine." Denison and his battalion continued on "advancing in column of half-companies at about ten paces interval and the men extended to one pace, and when we came into view the Boers opened fire with a field gun and one of the first shells landed right in the middle of the Battalion but fortunately did not explode. Our 5-inch gun at once replied and soon silenced the Boer gun." “A Royal Artillery gun in action against the Boers”. © Imperial War Museum Q72304. Under attack the 1st Leinsters advanced a little farther, and were ordered to support the flanks; with two and a half companies under Major Stavert on the right, the rest of the battalion on the left, and the Scots Guards filling in the centre. "The troops on the right moved forward under a hot fire till they arrived near the narrow nek, where the advanced troops had halted in a small kraal, and as the could get no farther remained there under fire until dark. Meanwhile the troops on the left advanced till they arrived at the ravine, which they could not cross under the hot fire, so they also continued to hold the ground they had gained." The Scots Guards moved up in support to hold the small hill between the two flank parties, and Denison and his men consolidated their positions. “British troops engaging the enemy with rifle fire”. © Imperial War Museum Q71941. After dark, the enemy fire ceased allowing food to be sent up. Colonel Harley, the chief staff officer of the 8th Division, ordered the men to take the Boer positions overnight. Attacking at 1am on 29th July, they found the enemy positions to be abandoned – even the defending troops had now withdrawn into the Basin's laager (a Boer term for an improvised fort made up of wagons). "It was very cold and as we had no warm clothing with us we were nearly frozen. Our guns came up in the early morning, and were trained on the Boer laager, which could be seen in the valley." The next morning, with his forces outmanoeuvred, General Prinsloo asked for terms. General Hunter demanded his unconditional surrender, and the next day the main body of Boers laid down their arms at Slaapkranz, resulting in 4,000 prisoners, including several commanders, and 3 guns taken. “Boer Prisoners Gathered in One Place”. © Imperial War Museum Q71951. The Times History of the War explains that “'In the course of this description of the Wittebergen operations an attempt has been made to point out the errors made on both sides. From the English point of view, of course, that which chiefly dims the glory is the escape of De Wet, owing to Hunter's delay at Bethlehem, though it may be said on the other side that if De Wet had been present it is doubtful if the Boers in the basin would have been brought to book so easily. Again, the escape of the Harrismith and Vrede commandos might conceivably have been prevented if the intelligence had been better and if Macdonald had not allowed a day to be wasted on the 27th after his success in clearing Naauwpoort Nek. Nevertheless, the Prinsloo surrender was one of the greatest military achievements of the war. When it is remembered that Hunter was working with a staff entirely strange to him, in a country which he had never seen before, and under great physical difficulties in communicating his orders to the various columns under him, the achievement appears all the greater. His final plan for a combined attack on all the passes was admirably conceived and carried out with remarkable exactitude, considering that the operations extended over nearly a hundred miles of country. After the escape of De Wet, his one mistake was in not closing Golden Gate soon enough. On the other hand, although the Boers surrendering here exceeded the number of those who surrendered at Paardeberg, the actual effect on the course of the war was not so decisive. Undoubtedly the most active and determined of the Free State fighters escaped with De Wet and Steyn and Olivier, and those who surrendered included many men already tired of the war. Moreover, while Paardeberg was the turning point in the war, the Brandwater surrender was to the Boers merely an incident which confirmed them in their already fixed determination to fight by guerrilla methods rather than in large masses.'” “Prinsloo and 5,000 Men Lay Down Arms Unconditionally After Pleading in Vain for Easy Terms.” Toronto Daily Star, 1900. Though flawed, it was a significant victory. Back home in Toronto, newsboys sang out the headline of 6 o'clock edition of the Toronto Daily Star - “Hunter takes a Boer Army!”. For his participation in the battle, 2nd Lieutenant Oliver Macklem Denison was awarded the "Wittebergen" Clasp to the Queen's South Africa Medal. To be continued... Sources: LCol F. E. Whitton. The History of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) Pt. 1, Aldershot, 1924. H.W. Kinsey. “The Brandwater Basin and Golden Gate Surrenders, 1900”. The South African Military History Society, Military History Journal Vol. 11 No. 3/4 – October 1999. L.S. Amery. The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902. London 1909. Butler & Tanner. A HANDBOOK OF THE BOER WAR: Chapter XII The New Colony. London and Aldershot, 1910. The Globe [Toronto]; 31 July 1900, Page 2 - “THE SURRENDER OF PRINSLOO” Toronto Daily Star, 30 July 1900, Page 1 - “HUNTER TAKES BOER ARMY”
  2. From wikipedia: The medal is awarded for twenty aggregate years of service and good conduct in the National Crime Agency, including previous service in HM Revenue and Customsand the NCA's precursor agencies, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, National Criminal Intelligence Service and National Crime Squad.[3] Cheers
  3. Sorry this will have to roll out slowly, not much free time these days. The majority of information is gleaned from Whitton's History of the Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Gale & Polden Ltd, 1924 ), and the quotes are those of Frederick Ernest Whitton. Part 2: A Taste of War After war was declared in South Africa, the Leinsters monitored the unfolding events with much hand-wringing. Confusing and contradictory orders came and went and the weeks and months dragged on. Denison's frustration increased upon reading aout his uncle, Major Septimus Denison, whose service with the Royal Canadian Regiment was circulating in the Canadian press. Major Denison would later have the distinction of serving as Lord Robert's Aide-de-Camp. Denison's uncle Septimus pictured in the Souvenir Album of the Toronto Contingent to South Africa. Toronto Printing Co. 1899. Finally, in March 1900, the Leinsters received long-awaited orders that they were destined for the Cape. On March 25th 1900, Canadian troops permanently took over the Halifax Garrison, and the Leinsters sailed to England to reorganize. From there, they left Southampton on April 18th on the SS Dilwara. About the 10th of May the convoy arrived at Cape Town, but left again on the 12th, and the troops disembarked at Port Elizabeth the following day. Denison and his men set off for Bloemfontein, where on the 28th of May, "We attended the Queen's Birthday Parade (and at the sports in the afternoon won the tug-of-war, physical drill, and some other events), and the Proclamation of the Orange River Colony." "Soldiers of an Irish regiment during military exercises at Bloemfontain in the Orange Free State, now South Africa, during the Boer War. 28 May 1900." © Hulton Getty From there, they set off for Hammonia to join the 16th Brigade under Major General Barringon Campbell (comprised also of the 2nd Grenadier Guards, 2nd Scots Guards, and the 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment. The 16th Brigade served in General Sir Leslie Rundle's VIIIth Division. The men got their first real taste of the war when passing through Senekal: "...six days after the Guards' fight at Biddulphsberg. There were many wounded in the hospital and they were a horrid sight as the grass had taken light and many of them were horribly burned. " Wounded men lying on the floor of a British Field Dressing Station. © IWM Q82958. "On 8th June we started again, with a convoy nearly three miles long, for Klip Nek and we came under fire for the first time as the Boers sniped at the rear guard".The initial phase of Boer invasions and pitched battles seemed to be over. A new phase of "constantly-waning organized resistance on the part of the Boers had now taken its place". In early June 1900, While the Boer capitals were occupied by Lord Roberts' Army, the 8th Division was tasked with preventing a Boer breakout south through to Senekal-Klip Nek-Hammonia -Ficksburg line, and the Division spent most of its time marching up and down the line holding those places. On "most days" the Leinsters skirmished with Boer troops, now believed to have a strength of 10,000 troops in the area north of Klip Nek near Rooikranz. British troops (fellow Irishmen of the Dublin Fusiliers) defending a piquet. © IWM Q72298. By late June, the Leinsters were camped on a plateau outside of Rooikranz, in pursuit of the Boers in miserable conditions. "...at first there was a good deal of firing at [Major Stavert's] picquets, and few days passed without sniping. The Boers apparently could not resist the temptation of firing at men trying to change their clothes or do some washing in some of the pools of water among the rocks of the plateau, and as we had no tents and this had to be done in the open a man without his clothes, or with little on, made a good target. As we always slept in our clothes, with our rifles at hand, and could often change nothing for more than a week at time, and as the veldt seemed actually to swarm with vermin, we were all at times covered with these pests. A bath was an impossibility except at long intervals and so there was no means of getting entirely rid of them and it was a horrid experience." Two British soldiers cooking their rations. © IWM Q72206 The 8th Division was now known as "The Starving Eighth"... "At this date we, for a time, only got one biscuit or a little flour each day and had no sugar or salt and very little tea. We were supposed to be living on the Country, according to General Rundle, but we were nearly starving..." Enduring these conditions, they were about to set off for their first major battle... To be continued...
  4. I imagine he was a bit of a black sheep to begin with, havent found any explanation as to why he lefy and joined the british army as a ranker... Thanks Noor I splurged and did the same - used the copying service from National Archives UK and received his Service File a little while back. Please keep everyone in suspense if you will. Cheers all
  5. For some reason this read in the voice of John Cleese during the Sex Education scene of The Meaning of Life. Well done.
  6. I am happy to say I am the new steward of these medals, thanks to fellow GMIC user Noor. I have done much research in the past couple of months and have learned some interesting information which I will post here as time allows. While the Denison family is well documented and celebrated - the search was difficult as Oliver Macklem Denison is not mentioned in any literature on the family that I could see. When digging deeper there were bits and pieces of information regarding him in newspaper clippings and archival holdings, yet after 1904, he all but disappears and newspaper articles go so far as omitting any trace of his existence, using terms like "both sons" when speaking of Col George T Denison III's boys, though he had three sons. When he dies in Toronto in 1942, no death notices, obituaries of burial information appear in any local newspapers, unlike the full page spreads when other Denisons die. I contacted numerous archivists and consulted family websites with no information on the man or what happened. The Hidden Denison: The Story of Lieutenant Oliver Macklem Denison. Part 1. Oliver Macklem Denison was born 7 August 1874 at Heydon Villa, Toronto, Ontario - second son of Col George T Denison III, a prominent figure in Canada's military history. His other brothers would famously serve in the South African and Great Wars. From 1884 to 1891, Denison attends the prestigious Upper Canada College in keeping with family tradition. After graduating, Denison is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Canadian Militia's 7th Battalion London Fusiliers, and attends the Royal School of Infantry at London, Ontario. Denison, promoted to Lieutenant, serves in the 7th Fusiliers until 1895. For Queen Victoria's 76th birthday, Denison participates in the Grand Military Review held in London, Ontario that same year. Suddenly, Denison resigns his commission and "pluckily" enlists as a private in the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, arriving in England in September 1895. His new battalion sailed to India for two years service at the Wellington station, then to Rangoon, Burmah for another two year posting (A History of the South Staffordshire Regiment p.114). Denison, having progressed to the rank of Sergeant in the 2nd South Staffs, is made 2nd Lieutenant on augmentation to The Prince of Wales's Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) - a British Army regiment originally raised in Canada but since relocated to Ireland as part of the Cardwell and Childers Reforms. In July 1898, Denison joins the 1st Leinsters at the Halifax station, in Nova Scotia. It will be the last infantry unit in the British Army to garrison Canada. Denison is likely one of the last (if not the last) Canadian-born officers of the Regiment. (Officers Group - 1st Bn Leinster Regiment, Halifax, ca. 1900 - Library and Archives Canada) Col. Whitton's regimental history picks up the story: "It is a vulgar error to associate Canada with perpetual frost and snow; as a matter a fact summers are hot and while at Halifax the thermometer touched 98°. There was plenty of tennis and cricket ; excellent fishing and delightful sailing both on the harbour and the North West Arm. And in more serious work the musketry camp on McNab's Island was extremely pleasant." They got along well with sailors in the port city... "We had, on the other hand, great friends in the Navy, and many were the cheery nights on board ship or in the mess-room at Wellington Barracks, where the two Services fraternized and ragged. 'Jacky' Fisher was the admiral, and under his regime there was no shortage of dancing becoming a lost art. His flagship, the Renown, was known as the House of Lords from the fact that among its officers were six scions of the peerage. These cheery entertainments would have been productive of enormous bills had it not been for the amazing cheapness of food and liquor. 'If memory serves aright, a small whisky and soda was about 5 cents or 2-1/2d. Eheu Fugaces." Later documents would describe Denison as "practically a Teetotaller", so it's not clear if he would have partaken in the above antics. Aside from the Navy, the young officers would got along well with Halifax's inhabitants as well: "In the winter there were, of course, skating, ice-hockey, sleighing and tobogganing, and the Battalion went in for ice-hockey to a great extent. These sports brought the officers in touch with the inhabitants a good deal and, in more than one archive consulted, there i an allusion to a custom extremely popular with detrimental subalterns by which, 'having settled on your particular charmer, it was customary to pair off for the season. There was no question of an engagement. It was quite customary to be asked out to dinner together, nor would there be any censorious criticism of little picnics 'a deux'. This camaraderie as between sexes was very delightful and all to the good.'" These care-free times, however, would not last. To be continued...
  7. Thankfully you used a truated dealer as the Air Crew Europe Star is one of the most faked medals out there.
  8. Hi Paul, For what it's worth, your post reminded me of an image of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles in Toronto in 1914. Here is a link to the photo (held by Library and Archives Canada): You will notice most of the enlisted men are without any capbadges on their service caps. Cheers Matt
  9. Poor man suffered the old police curse dying right after retirement. Upper Tooting. Only the English would come up with such a place...
  10. Love the thread idea. Excellent start. I hope to contribute stories when time allows...
  11. Excellent post Peter. Well researched and nicely written. Hosting a POW in your home must have been interesting... Cheers
  12. The plot thickens... And my 2 cents here: from what I understand starting in the spring of 1918 unit commanders were no longer required to forward a detailed recommendation for the MM, just the soldiers name they wished to reward, and in my experience I've had no luck finding written recommendations for MM's awarded after that time.
  13. The text translates to Machine Gun (Model 1907) Section. During the First World War the Italians used St Etienne machineguns acquired from the French in addition to the more widely used Fiat machineguns.
  14. Another great blog post from Brian and the sports bit had me dying.
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