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Forum Home > For King/Queen and Country. > Miss-Placed Heroes.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

There were a few times in the history of our armed forces, when everything that could go wrong, actually did. Take that part of southern Africa, that was called Natal for instance, especially in 1878/79, for thats where our miss-placed hero found himself. Samuel Wassall, was born in Alcester Street, Deritend, Birmingham, in 1856, his father being a Wine Maker. When Samuel was 10, the family moved to Dudley, Worcestershire, and by 1870, he had become a Bricklayer. The area he lived in, 21, Ayers Yard, just off Tower Street, could not be described as a  " salubrious" district, by any stretch of the imagination. A change was called for, so the young lad upped sticks, went into Birmingham, and enlisted with the 24th Regiment of Foot. ( Later, The Warwickshire Regiment ) He was lucky, he was asigned to a small section of the Regiment that was mounted, no marching for Samuel then, except in a saddle. Adventure loomed as well, as they were posted to South Africa when trouble broke out with some natives, as it happened, The Zulus. So it was then, that on the morning of 22nd January, 1879, with a nice sunny day in the offing, they all awaited orders to move, from their temporary camp at Isandlwana.



It never happened, the Zulus overwhelmed the camp and slaughtered the soldiers of the 24th. Well not all of them. Young Samuel, cut off from the camp, fled to the river, and crossed over. Looking back, he saw another member of his troop, struggling in the water, so he went back, pulled him out, strapped him to his horse, and re-crossed the river under heavy rifle fire. For this action, he was rightly awarded the Victoria Cross, which he received from the Queen in 1880. Escaping death by mere inches, was enough adventure for Samuel, and he left the Army. Neither Birmingham or Dudley would see him again, for in 1880, he moved to Barrow in Furnace, where he enjoyed a long, and less exciting life. It's been claimed by some, ( who havn't done their homework ) that he was born in Dudley, or Walsall, and that he is therefore, one of " our " V.Cs. Sadly he isn't, Birmingham's certainly, but not a man of the Blackcountry. He died on the 3rd January,1927, in Barrow, so in truth, he belongs more to them, than to us. On the day though, a very brave and couragous man, Private Westwood, the man he rescued, would have quickly attested to that.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Buried in a quiet corner of a Brierley Hill Church, lie the mortal remains, of a brave and long serving Soldier. Once again, not a native of the Blackcountry, for Antony Clarke Booth, V.C, was born in Basford, Nottingham, in 1846. Choosing the Army as a career, he enlisted on 28th October, 1864, with the 80th Regiment of Foot, ( Later the South Staffordshire Regiment ) when he was 18 years old. He had  also previously tried, and failed, to enlist with the Royal Marines. The government of the day, following a long tradition of not having large numbers of Soldiers stationed in England, had based the 80th near Cork, Ireland, which is where Booth was posted. They were back in England in 1865, which is when Booth married Lucy O'Brian, at Stoke Damaral, Devonshire, in 1866. The 80th served in both India and China, which is why they were quickly sent to a remote spot in the Empire in 1876, Perak. Malaysia. Trouble had flared up, as the local ruler didn't believe he was getting a fair cut of the areas main export, Silver. For this campaign there was a medal, and for one little skirmish, a clasp as well. When trouble began in the Cape, in 1878, the 80th were shipped out, and Booth, now risen to the rank of Colour Sergeant,  found himself deep in Zulu territory.



On the morning of 12th March,1879, his company, escorting a convoy of waggons carrying supplies, were camped by the Intombe River, This camp was split, as an advance party of 30 men had crossed the night before, with the lead waggons. Suddenly, and without warning, the main camp, with 70 men, was attacked by over 1,000 very angry Zulus. Most of the men were butchered before they could get out of their tents. Alerted by the firing, and with only a handful of men, Booth set up covering fire to enable some of the main body to cross the river. Only a few made it, most without clothes or weapons. The officer in charge, ordered the men to retire, ( and sizing the nearest horse, hurriedly left the scene ) allegedly, he announced his intention of getting help, and swiftly rode away, leaving the Colour Sergeant to arrange a defence. Booth didn't panic, and keeping his small force close together, about 10 or 15 men, in line, fired volley after volley to impede any Zulus crossing. About 200 of the enemy did get across, and fighting a superbe rear guard action, for over 3 miles, this group managed to retire back to the base camp at Luneburgh, without losing a single man. This inspired leadership, earned the Colour Sergeant a Victoria Cross, which he received in 1880, when the 80th returned home. The Officer in charge escaped a charge of cowardice, but was forced to resign his commission in 1880.  Booth completed in all, thirty three and a half years with the Army, finishing his service as Drill Instructor, for " C " Company, 1st Volunteer Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, at Himley, Staffordshire, in 1897. He lived in the appropiatley named " Battle Cottages " in Wombourne, prior to his moving to Hall Street, Brierly Hill, and then to 19, William Street, where he unexpectedly died in 1899. It's a complement, I suppose, to claim he was a son of Staffordshire, for this reputedly quiet unassuming man, was a true hero of his times. A word, I should add, that has been vastly misused and downgraded in modern times. Only whimps cry, when they lose a tennis match.


Perhaps he also had another reason to select the Blackcountry. There were, amongst the 62 men who sadly lost their lives on the banks of the Intombe, some from not far away. Edward Julian Hart, who was born in Dudley about 1850. Joseph Green, believed to have been born in Bilston, about 1852, William Fox, from Wolverhampton, born between 1853 and 1856, and Edward Hadley, born about 1854, and could be from Rowley Regis. ( His body was never found ) 

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 27, 2012 at 11:36 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Another name associated with our region, is that of Edwin Hughes, the last survivor of The Charge of the Light Brigade, in 1854. Edwin was born in Mount Street, Wrexham, in 1830, the son of a Tin Plate Worker.  He didn't follow his fathers trade, but became a Shoe Maker, and in 1852, enlisted in the 13th Light Dragoons. ( Later changed to just Dragoons )



Someone, once again, has him serving in the 17th Lancers, which is of course, not correct. He was wounded in the charge, losing his horse as well, one of 335 animals killed on the day. Dispite the wound, he saw out the Crimean War, and went on to complete over 20 years service, being discharged in 1873, in Lancashire. One area of his service I should mention here, is that his eldest daughter, Blanche Hughes, was actually born, in 1868, in Toronto, Canada. Did the 13th Dragoons celebrate the 25th Aniversary of the charge with a tour?? From 1873, he began a long association with the Worcestershire Yeomanry, acting as an instructor up until 1886, when he finally retired from Army life. During this time, he lived at New Town, Upper Mitton, about a mile from Stourport, with the Yeomanry being based we believe, at Droitwich. When his wife died, he moved with his other daughter Mary, to 139, Mosely Road, Bordesley, Birmingham, and then on to 191, Grangers Road, Kings Heath, where, on the 1901 Census, he put his occupation down as a Shoemaker. By 1911, both of them where living at 42, Egerton Road, Blackpool, Lancashire, which was an area he knew well from his long army service. He died at this address, in 1927, ( there is a Plaque on the house wall.) the last man from the charge, old " Balaclava Ned ", as he was known, having made many friends on his extensive travels, it won't surprise anyone to know that the funeral was a rather grand affair. Just as the man deserved.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 5, 2012 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There have been a few comments recently, about a Walsall hero, and holder of the VC, John Carless, who died in action in 1916. There was however, no mention of another man, James Thompson, who is actually buried in the town, Carless having been buried at Sea. Mind you, Thompsons VC was earned many years before, during that period of history called " The Indian Mutiny ", in 1857.




James Thompson was born in Yoxall, Staffordshire, in July, 1832. It's fair bet that this date is correct, for he was christened on 29th July, in the Parish Church. There's now no way of knowing when he joined the Army, but he was still in Yoxall in June, 1851, serving as a Cow man, on a local farm. The Kings Royal Rifles was the Regiment he joined, also called the 60th Regiment of foot, and by 1856, his wish to possibly see a bit of the world had come true, he was in India. The Regiment was stationed, with units of the East India Companies troops, near Delhi, when the Mutiny broke out. The town was quickly overun with rebels, and with troops loyal to the Company, the 60th were confined to a ridge overlooking the town. They were regulary attacked by rebels, and during one attack, on the 9th July, 1857, Captain Wilmott, James Thompson's commanding officer, was cut off from the company, and rescued by Thompson, at great risk to himself. It was this action that earned him his VC. Delhi was now besieged by the British, and a plan was prepared for it's capture. This did not come about until 14th September, when several columns assaulted various gates into the town. Each column was led by about 30 men of the 60th, acting as skirmishers, but the 4th Column, under Major Reid, came under a very heavy attack, and stalled at the gate. James Thompson was in this column, and was badly wounded by grapeshot, which led to him losing his left arm. As a one armed soldier is of very little use to an Army, he found himself out of the military, with a pension, and back home in Yoxall. He had though, proved his bravery, and in March,1859, he married one Dinah Gilbert, at a lavish wedding in Burton-on-Trent. He was still living in Yoxall in 1871, in Wood Lane, with his wife and two sons, Edward and James. By 1891, he was living in Birchills, Walsall, at 51, Marlow Street, and shortly after the Census was taken, he died. That puts his age at 59, and he was buried in the Queens Street Cemetery, Walsall. Why here I wonder, and not back in his birthplace in Yoxall?. Is there still a headstone to his memory, and if anyone knows, could they let me know /

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 2, 2014 at 10:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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