Tag: Natal

Sir Walter Norris Congreve VC.

Walter Norris Congreve (20/11/1862 – 28/02/1927) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving as a Captain in the Rifle Brigade during the Anglo Boer War at the Battle of Colenso. Along with Lieutenant Frederick Roberts, Cpl George Nurse and  Harry Norton Schofield they were awarded the Victoria Cross for their attempt at “saving the guns” on 15/12/1899.

The Citation that was recorded in the London Gazette of Issue:27160, Page: 689, is about the actions of Captain William Congreve and Lieutenant Frederick Roberts. George Nurse is seemingly mention as an afterthought. The Citation reads:

“The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officer, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty’s approval, for their conspicuous bravery at the battle of Colenso, as stated against their names:—

The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own), Captain W. N. Congreve.

The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Lieutenant the Honourable F. H. S. Roberts (since deceased).

66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, Corporal G. E. Nurse

At Colenso on the 15th December, 1899, the detachments serving the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery, had all been either killed, wounded, or driven from their guns by Infantry fire at close range, and the guns were deserted.

About 500 yards behind the guns was a donga in which some of the few horses and drivers left alive were sheltered. The intervening space was swept with shell and rifle fire.

Captain Congreve, Rifle Brigade, who was in the donga, assisted to hook a team into a limber, went out; and assisted to limber up a gun. Being wounded, he took shelter; but, seeing Lieutenant Roberts fall, badly wounded, he went out again and brought him in. Captain Congreve was shot tbrough the leg, through the toe of his boot, grazed on the elbow and the shoulder, and his horse shot in three places.

Lieutenant Roberts assisted Captain Congreve. He was wounded in three places.

Corporal Nurse also assisted.”

Captain Congreve served held a series of command posts in Britain and Ireland and was served with distinction during World War I, deployed with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, and taking part in the Battle of the Aisne. He went on to command the 6th Division from May 1915 and then XIII Corps from November 1915. 

From 1924 to 1927, he served as the governor of Malta, where he died. He was buried at sea in the channel between the coast and Filfla Island.

Congreve’s son was Major William La Touche Congreve, VC – they are one of only three father and son pairs to win a VC (Frederick Roberts VC and Lord Roberts VC were also father and son) 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 14/06/2017. Taddy cigarette card by Card Promotions, © 1997, first issued 1902. Biographical Information sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Norris_Congreve.

 

Updated: 12/01/2018 — 07:17

George Nurse VC

George Nurse (04/04/1873 – 25/11/1945) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving as a corporal in the 66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, during the Anglo Boer War at the Battle of Colenso.

The Citation that was recorded in the London Gazette of Issue:27160, Page: 689, is about the actions of Captain William Congreve and Lieutenant Frederick Roberts. George Nurse is seemingly mention as an afterthought. The Citation reads:

“The Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Non-Commissioned Officer, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty’s approval, for their conspicuous bravery at the battle of Colenso, as stated against their names:—

The Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own), Captain W. N. Congreve.

The King’s Royal Rifle Corps, Lieutenant the Honourable F. H. S. Roberts (since deceased).

66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, Corporal G. E. Nurse. 

At Colenso on the 15th December, 1899, the detachments serving the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery, had all been either killed, wounded, or driven from their guns by Infantry fire at close range, and the guns were deserted.

About 500 yards behind the guns was a donga in which some of the few horses and drivers left alive were sheltered. The intervening space was swept with shell and rifle fire.

Captain Congreve, Rifle Brigade, who was in the donga, assisted to hook a team into a limber, went out; and assisted to limber up a gun. Being wounded, he took shelter; but, seeing Lieutenant Roberts fall, badly wounded, he went out again and brought him in. Captain Congreve was shot through the leg, through the toe of his boot, grazed on the elbow and the shoulder, and his horse shot in three places.

Lieutenant Roberts assisted Captain Congreve. He was wounded in three places.

Corporal Nurse also assisted.”

George Nurse achieved the rank of Lieutenant with the Royal Artillery during World War I and died in Liverpool on 25 November 1945.  He is buried in Allerton Cemetery, Liverpool in the Church of England section.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 13/06/2017. Taddy cigarette card by Card Promotions © 1997, first issued 1902. 

Updated: 12/01/2018 — 07:18

William Wilson Allen VC

William Wilson Allen (1843 –  12/03/1890) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle for Rorke’s Drift in January 1879.

The Citation reads:

“On 22 and 23 January 1879 at Rorke’s Drift, Natal, South Africa, Corporal Allan and another man (Frederick Hitch) kept communication with the hospital open, despite being severely wounded. Their determined conduct enabled the patients to be withdrawn from the hospital, and when incapacitated by their wounds from fighting, they continued, as soon as their wounds were dressed, to serve out ammunition to their comrades during the night.”

He is buried in Monmouth Cemetery, Monmouth, Wales. The surname on the grave is given as Allan as opposed to Allen. 

 

DRW © 2017-2018. Created 26/02/2017. Image courtesy of Mark Green. 

Updated: 11/01/2018 — 20:30

Robert Digby-Jones VC.

Robert James Thomas Digby-Jones was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Boer War in 1900.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 27462, Page: 5085 reads:

Lieutenant R. J. T. Digby Jones, Royal Engineers, and No. 459 Trooper H. Albrecht, Imperial Light Horse, Would have been recommended for the Victoria Cross had they survived, on account of their having during the attack on Waggon Hill (Ladysmith) of 6th January, 1900, displayed conspicuous bravery, and gallant conduct in leading the force which re-occupied the top of the hill at a critical moment just as the three foremost attacking Boers reached it, the leader being shot by Lieutenant Jones, and the two others by Trooper Albrecht.

digby-jones02

He is buried in Ladysmith Cemetery in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

© DRW  2015 – 2018. Created 06/10/2015. Image courtesy of Terry Cawood.

Updated: 10/01/2018 — 07:50

Alfred Henry Hook VC.

Alfred Henry Hook  (06/08/1850 – 12/03/1905) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle of Rorke’s Drift.

The Citation reads:

“On 22/23 January 1879 at Rorke’s Drift, Natal, South Africa, a distant room of the hospital had been held for more than an hour by three privates, and when finally they had no ammunition left the Zulus burst in, and killed one of the men and two patients. One of the privates (John Williams) however, succeeded in knocking a hole in the partition and taking the last two patients through into the next ward, where he found Private Hook. “These two men then worked together – one holding the enemy at bayonet point while the other broke through three more partitions – and they were then able to bring eight patients into the inner line of defence”

He is buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Churcham, Gloucestershire.

henry_hook_02

© DRW 2015 – 2018. Created 25/09/2015. Image courtesy of Steve Rolfe.

Updated: 10/01/2018 — 07:51

Lt Teignmouth Melvill and Lt Nevill Coghill

The Memorial to Lt Teignmouth Melvill (08/09/1842 – 22/01/1879) and Lt Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill (25/01/1852 – 22/01/1879) at Fugitive’s Drift, below Itchiane Hill. Photograph by Ian Uys. More information on the deaths of these two recipients at Rorke’s Drift may be found at the Rorkes Drift VC Website 

The Memorial to Lt Teignmouth Melvill and Lt Nevill Coghill

The Memorial to Lt Teignmouth Melvill and Lt Nevill Coghill

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 27986, Page: 325, reads:

“Lieutenant Teignmouth Melvill, 24th Foot.

Lieutenant Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill, 24th Foot.

Lieutenant Melvill, of the 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of the gallant efforts made by him to save the Queen’s Colour of his Regiment after the disaster at Isandlwanha, and also Lieutenant Coghill, 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of his heroic conduct in endeavouring to save his brother officer’s life, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived.” 

A further Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Issue: 24717, Page: 3178, reads:

“MEMORANDUM.

Lieutenant Melville, of the 1st Battalion 24th Foot, on account of the gallant efforts made by him to save the Queen’s Colour of his Regiment after the disaster at tsandlwanha, and also Lieutenant Coghill, 1st Battalion 24th Foot,-on account of hi& heroic conduct in endeavouring-to save his brother1 officer’s life, would have been recommended to Her Majesty for the Victoria Cross had they survived.”  

After the Zulu massacre at the Battle of Isandhlwana, South Africa, Lieutenant Melvill made a gallant effort to save the Regimental Colours. He and Lieutenant Coghill, who had tried to help, were pursued by Zulu warriors and they experienced great difficulty trying to escape across the swollen River Buffalo. The two officers were overtaken by the Zulus and after a short but gallant struggle the two officers were overpowered and killed. The Regimental Colour, which had gone drifting downstream during the struggle, was retrieved from the River Buffalo 10 days later.

Fugitives Drift Memorial Cross

Fugitives Drift Memorial Cross

Isandhlwana

Panoramic view. (1397×394)

© DRW 2011-2018. Created 04/10/2011. Moved to blog 10/01/2015. Edited 17/05/2017. Image of memorial by Ian Uys, image of cross  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, Isandhlwana images by Tony Wood. 

Updated: 08/01/2018 — 08:00

Henry Cecil Dudgeon D’Arcy VC.

Henry Cecil Dudgeon D’Arcy (11/08/1850  – 10/1881) was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 3 July 1879 at Ulundi, South Africa during the Zulu War.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of ssue: 24769, Page: 5830, reads:

“Frontier Light Horse, Captain (now Commandant) Cecil D’Arcy,

For his gallant conduct on the 3rd July, 1879, during the reconnaissance made before Ulundi by the Mounted Corps, in endeavouring to rescue Trooper Raubenheim of the Frontier Light Horse, who fell from his horse as the troops were retiring. Captain D’Arcy, though the Zulus were close upon them, waited for the man to mount behind him; the horse kicked them both off, and although much hurt by the fall and quite alone, Captain D’Arcy cooly endeavoured to lift the trooper, who was stunned, on to the horse, and it was only when he found that he had not the strength to do so that he mounted and rode off.

His escape was miraculous as the Zulus had actually closed upon him.”

He apparently left the house of Rev. Taberer in the Cape Province where he was staying to recuperate during the night of 6–7 August 1881, and his remains were found early the next year, although reports indicate that he may have faked his own death. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cecil_D%27Arcy). He is buried in a family plot in King Williams Town; Section D, Grave 32-33.

Grave inscription for Capt HCD D'Arcy VC.

Grave inscription for Capt HCD D’Arcy VC.

© DRW 2014 – 2018. Created 07/12/2014. Edited 17/05/2017. Image is courtesy of Terry Cawood 

Updated: 08/01/2018 — 07:51

Edwin “Ted”Swales VC. DFC.

Edwin Essery Swales (03/07/1915 – 23/02/1945) was born in Inanda, Natal, and flew as a pilot with Bomber Command during WW2. Flying as a Pathfinder he was awarded the DFC for his actions on the Cologne raid on 4 November 1944. He lost his life after the raid on Pforzheim when his badly damaged Lancaster stalled and crashed near Valenciennes, in northern France. For his actions he was awarded the VC Posthumously.

The grave of Edwin Swales VC.

The grave of Edwin Swales VC.

The Citation, recorded in the London Gazette of Supplement: 37049, Page: 2173 reads:

“Captain Edwin SWALES, D.F.C. (6ioiV), S.A.A.F., 582 Sqn. (deceased).

Captain Swales was ” master bomCaptain Swales was ‘Master Bomber’ of a force of aircraft which attacked Pforzheim on the night of February 23, 1945. As Master Bomber he had the task of locating the target area with precision and of giving aiming instructions to the main force of bombers in his wake.

Soon after he reached the target area he was engaged by an enemy aircraft and one of his engines was put out of action. His rear guns failed. His crippled aircraft was an easy prey for further attacks. Unperturbed, he carried on with his allotted task; clearly and precisely he issued aiming instructions to the main force. Meanwhile the enemy fighter closed the range and fired again. A second engine of Captain Swales’ aircraft was put out of action. Almost defenceless, he stayed over the target area issuing his aiming instructions until he was satisfied that the attack had achieved its purpose.

It is now known that the attack was one of the most concentrated and successful of the war. Captain Swales did not, however, regard his mission as completed. His aircraft was damaged. Its speed had been so much reduced that it could only with difficulty be kept in the air. The blind-flying instruments were no longer working. Determined at all costs to prevent his aircraft and crew from falling into enemy hands, he set course for home. After an hour he flew into thin-layered cloud. He kept his course by skilful flying between the layers, but later heavy cloud and turbulent air conditions were met. The aircraft, by now over friendly territory, became more and more difficult to control; it was losing height steadily. Realising that the situation was desperate Captain Swales ordered his crew to bail out. Time was very short and it required all his exertions to keep the aircraft steady while each of his crew moved in turn to the escape hatch and parachuted to safety. Hardly had the last crew-member jumped when the aircraft plunged to earth. Captain Swales was found dead at the controls. Intrepid in the attack, courageous in the face of danger, he did his duty to the last, giving his life that his comrades might live”

His is commemorated on the Roll of Honour at the South African Air Force Memorial in Pretoria

He was originally buried in Fosse’s USA Cemetery but his remains were relocated to Leopoldsburg War Cemetery.

He is also remembered with pride at his former High School where he was a pupil from January 1934 to December 1934.

He is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour of Durban High School.

Edwin Swales Drive in Durban was recently, and controversially renamed by the local authority.

© DRW 2014 – 2018. Created on blog 01/12/2014, edited 17/05/2017.  Photo Courtesy of Jim Mandelblatt, used with permission. Updated 08/07/2017, DHS images courtesy of Shelly Baker.

Updated: 08/01/2018 — 07:52

The Lady in White

During and after World War 2, hundreds of ships sailed from or arrived in Durban harbour en route to or from various theatres of war, their decks often packed with soldiers of the UDF and the Commonwealth. Below decks crew would be busy at their tasks and often patients would line the wards of the hospital ships. It must have been an emotional moment for everybody concerned.

Singing for her servicemen  was our own “Vera Lyn” who was popularly known as “The Lady In White”. The story goes that in April 1940, troops on board a troop ship goaded Perla Sielde Gibson, a soprano, to sing. “Hey Ma, sing us a song… Ma, come on, be a sport. Ma, give us Land of Hope and Glory Ma…” Perla was not perturbed and cupping her hands to her mouth broke into song. There was silence and then the troops joined in, their voices being heard above the hustle and bustle of wartime Durban. It was the start of a ritual which she would continue doing as long as there were troopships to sing to.

As the troopships undocked she would start singing patriotic songs, often with the aid of a megaphone. Then, as the ship turned in the harbour basin she would move to the North Pier, waiting for it to appear. As it passed slowly through the channel, she would sing, her voice carrying across the water to the men on board, saying her goodbyes in song, singing till long after the ship had crossed the bar and was out of earshot. It was a pledge by Perla to meet or send off each troopship. Dressed in white and wearing a white hat, she sang patriotic songs for more than 1000 troopships and over 350 hospital ships.

There is no doubt that this 50 year old mother of three made a difference as is testified by so many soldiers, sailor’s and airmen who were on board these vessels who remember her with fondness, her musical renditions  heard on board those ships, causing many a lump in many throats.  She never allowed the grief from losing one of her own sons to stop her singing to the troops. She passed away in 1971, just before her 83rd birthday, official recognition coming slowly.  A stone cairn with a bronze plaque was completed in June 0f 1972 on the North Pier where she would have stood, singing to her boys. It was donated by the men of the Royal Navy and reads:

Royal Navy Memorial

Royal Navy Memorial

To the Memory of Perla Gibson

“The Lady in White”

Who sang to countless thousands of

British Commonwealth and Allied Servicemen

As they passed through Durban over the years

1940 to 1971

This tablet was presented by

The Officers and Men of the Royal Navy

When the North Pier was redeveloped the plinth was moved to a temporary spot near the Ilanga newspaper offices until a decision could be made about its future. Although, given the nature of the subject it should realistically be sited in the harbour.  At the time of this update (03/06/2015) the plinth is situated at  29°52’17.99″S, 31° 2’55.87″E although it is not in view of the street.



In 1995 a statue to Perla was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II, it was commissioned in 1995 by Sam Morley who wrote the book “Durban’s Lady in White“. The statue was created by local artist Barbara Siedle, who is the niece of the ‘Perla Siedle Gbson, and it was placed in a prominent place next to the Emtateni Centre, which was part of the Ocean Terminal Building on the T-Jetty.  Unfortunately access to the memorial was almost impossible due to the security in the harbour.

The Perla Siedle Gibson Mobile Library was also founded to  serve British seamen on all ship and a 5 room unit at the Highway Hospice was created with funds raised in her memory.  The boarding establishment at Glenwood High School was named Gibson House after Roy and its colour is white in her honour.

The memory of Perla Siedle Gibson left an indelible mark on those servicemen who experienced her performance, and her dedication to her task was legendary, she did not miss a ship!

In June 2016 it was announced that the statue would be relocated to the Port Natal Maritime Museum as it was no longer accessible at the current location next to the former Ocean Terminal. (http://bereamail.co.za/85430/statue-to-be-relocated/). The move was finally made at the end of September 2016 and the statue was relocated next to the Britannia Room, but still within the harbour area. (http://bereamail.co.za/93965/lady-in-white-moves-into-new-home).

The statue as at 17/06/2017 

Further reading: Gibson, P.S., The Lady in White, Purnell & Sons, 1964.
Durban’s Lady in White. An autobiography.  Perla Siedle Gibson. Aedificamus Press, 1991.
Special thanks to Allan Jackson for the picture of Perla’s statue. Please visit Fad for more Facts about Durban. Also thanks to Shelly Baker for the images of the plinth and the statue.

© DRW 1997-2018. Updated 28/07/2011. Moved to blog 26/08/2014, updated 18/01/2015, 03/06/2015, 20/06/2016

Updated: 08/01/2018 — 07:22

Estcourt Garden of Remembrance

The Estcourt Garden of Remembrance was photographed by James Houston-McMillan, and these images are used with his permission.

The memorial is in Remembrance of 152 Imperial Soldiers that lost their lives in and near Estcourt and Frere during the Boer War. The town featured very strongly during the siege of Ladysmith, and Genl, Sir. Redvers Buller had his Natal Headquarters here.

The memorial may be found at Alexandra St in Estcourt, near the Bushmans River. Google Earth co-ordinates are: 29° 0.405′ S,  29° 52.868′ E. Images of the plaques are available on request.

© DRW 2014 – 2018. Created 16/02/2014. Images © James Houston-McMillan.

Updated: 06/01/2018 — 15:07
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