|The VC General of the Boer War
General Redvers Buller was decorated
with the Victoria Cross for his heroic actions in the Zulu War. But
his distinguished career came to an abrupt end after military failings.
Inside Out looks at his story and the Victoria Cross.
a statute dominates one end of Queen Street.
General Sir Redvers Buller VC, resplendent on horseback, cuts a dash whist
hundreds may daily pass him totally oblivious to his courage.
letters VC after his name.
VC - 'For Valour'
He was one
of only 1,345 courageous servicemen to have received the award and although
a controversial figure, his military actions were heroic.
Cross (VC) is a military award "For Valour", and is only awarded
for actions "in the presence of the enemy".
It was the
General's actions "in the face of the enemy" that led to his
28, 1879, in the South African Zulu War, the, then, Lieutenant Colonel
Buller was being hotly pursued by ferocious Zulus during the retreat from
thought for his own safety, he rescued a young Captain of the Cape Frontier
Light Horse and carried him on his own horse until he overtook the rearguard
And, on the
same day, under the same circumstances, he executed another emergency
evacuation when he carried a lieutenant, whose horse had been killed under
him, to a place of safety.
Battle of Spion Kop was a bloody affair
in the same action, his valorous deeds went on - he saved a trooper whose
horse was exhausted, and who would otherwise have been killed by the Zulus
who were within yards of him.
argue with the award of the VC for such courage?
The VC was
instituted in 1856 by Royal Warrant of Queen Victoria but was also awarded
retrospectively to the autumn of 1854 to span the period of the Crimean
made the first presentations in Hyde Park herself in June, 1857, decorating
62 officers and men for their heroic actions in that war.
decoration is made by a small and not too conspicuous jewellers in Burlington
Gardens in London - Messrs Hancocks & Co.
|VCs in Figures
Up to 1914 - 522
World War I - 633
US unknown solider - 1
Between World Wars - 5
World War II - 182
Since World War II - 9
Total - 1352
them from cuttings from the bronze of a Chinese cannon captured from the
Russians at the siege of Sebastopol (1854 - 55).
time metal was needed for a batch of VC medals, in 1959, an amount of
bronze weighing in at 50 ounces was supplied to the jewellers.
a VC medal is required, the metal is hewn from the cannon's cascabel -
a large knob at the rear of the cannon that held ropes used when the cannon
was being man-handled. The two cannons, minus their cascabels, are currently
outside the Officers' Mess in Woolwich.
British troops suffered huge losses at the hands of the Boers
with the decoration of his VC, General Sir Redvers Buller, was not without
on, in 1899, General Buller was put in charge of some 50,000 troops sent
to quell the Boers' uprising in South Africa.
reluctant at the age of 60, he did not refuse the order. His reluctance
was founded on his knowledge of the formidable Boers.
his private doubts, Buller set off for South Africa, but the Boers were
ready - well armed with modern German Mauser rifles, and well dug in with
elaborate defences - determined to stop Buller.
of one battle, at Coleno, went so desperately wrong for the British forces,
and despite them being beaten by the tenacious Boers, they won a further
seven VCs while retrieving their naval field guns to try and sustain their
In a later
action at Spion Kop, further delays and confusion resulted in another
British troops were taught a tactical lesson by the Boers
was horrendous - 243 British dead, many lying in make shift trenches.
They had not taken enough shovels to dig proper trenches.
well-organised withdrawal was captured by the some of the first moving
picture cameras of war. But the reputation of the British command had
been badly damaged and Buller knew that he had to accept responsibility.
The War itself
continued for a further two years leaving over 22,000 British dead. After
Buller departed, the Boers continued with a campaign of guerrilla fighting.
the establishment was looking for someone to blame, and following an after
dinner speech in which the General was more than forthright with his views,
he was requested to resign.
- but that request was followed through.
returned to his beloved Downes House, Crediton - bloodied but most definitely
|General Buller was alive to witness the unveiling of his own statue
rallied to his support, and in 1905 a statue was erected in Exeter to
mark his exploits - a rare honour for a still living man.
on the base reads: "He saved Natal" - and despite the delays
and setbacks - that is true.
may be divided - some believe he was not fit to command a large force
in battle - others maintain he became the scapegoat for failures throughout
the British military command.
It has been
estimated that the chance of surviving a Victoria Cross act is 1 in 10
- and General Buller flouted the laws of averages many times - his winning
the VC is testament to that.