One time Victorians in the Great War

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One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby mike snook » 04 Aug 2014 23:00

It seems not inappropriate at this special time and on this extraordinary special anniversary, given that so many of the heroes, from all the Victorian Empire’s nationalities and ethnicities, marched on in the middle years of their lives to serve in the Great War, in so many, cases to fall for King, country, creed and values, that we say once again, here on VWF, ‘We Will Remember Them.’
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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Mark A. Reid » 05 Aug 2014 03:18

An excellent, and timely posting, Mike. One when considers the changes that a Victorian soldier would have seen on a First World War battlefield, the mind boggles. Despite the changes in recruiting, technology, training, etc. I wonder how many Old Soldiers realised how the basic soldierly qualities never really change?

If I may be permitted to show the faces of a few of these Victorian soldiers who went on to serve in 1914-18;

General Sir Francis Reginald Wingate GCB, GCVO, GCMG, DSO, etc. Joining the Egyptian Army immediately upon its reformation in 1882, Wingate played an active part in all operations against the Mahdi and his successor and eventually rose to the position of Sirdar. During the First World War he laid the foundations for the Arab Revolt, popularised by T.E. Lawrence, and ended the war in the unpopular position of High Commissioner in Egypt.

Major Samuel K. Flint enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles in 1879, eventually receiving a commission in the Egyptian Army in 1896 and soldiering on to earn a Khedive's Sudan Medal with a record 10 clasps. He continued to serve during the First World War.

Mr. Bill Smith, no post-nominal letters, served in the British Army during the South African War and afterwards emigrated to Canada. In 1914 he re-enlisted and served overseas, eventually returning to join the Canadian Militia and relate many tall tales in the military messes of Ottawa.

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Mark » 05 Aug 2014 15:32

An excellent idea, Mike! Here is a photo of (from left to right) CQMS F. Mander, CQMS W. Bailey, SM W.J. Davis, and CSM W.P. Jones of the 10th (Service) Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. The battalion was one of Kitchener's 'New Armies' units formed under K3 (although later transferred to K4). What is remarkable is that all four of these NCOs were present at the Battle of Kirbekan on 10 Feb 1885 with the same regiment. However, I don't think any of them saw actual active service during WW1, but rather trained new recruits before they were sent to France or elsewhere.

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Josh&Historyland » 05 Aug 2014 18:38

At the battle of Mons a German bemoaned the skill of the British which he reckoned was learnt in the Boer War.

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby QSAMIKE » 05 Aug 2014 19:11

Josh&Historyland wrote:At the battle of Mons a German bemoaned the skill of the British which he reckoned was learnt in the Boer War.


I just did a quick count and found that 17% of the QSA's in my collection are part of groups that contain medals for WW1 service.......

And 9% have 1914 Stars.....

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Mark » 06 Aug 2014 10:41

I would imagine many Boer War veterans, who were no longer serving, were recalled to the colours in 1914. No doubt others who served in the Sudan or on the North West Frontier of India also returned. It is a shame there are no reliable figures to show what percentage veterans of late Victorian campaigns made up the BEF in 1914.

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Rural53 » 09 Aug 2014 05:44

An article on some New Zealanders who served in the Boer War, WWI and WWII in one of our newspapers last week.

In the bowels of Archives New Zealand lie the files of more than 100 New Zealanders who were involved in the three major international conflicts of the early 20th century.
The Boer War, World War I and World War II spanned a period of 40 years.
By the time these men died, the majority of their lives had been spent in service to their country.
New Zealand Defence Force historian John Crawford has written on New Zealand's engagement in these conflicts, and says it is likely the soldiers would have seen the tail end of the war in South Africa as young men, fought in WWI during the prime of their lives, and then been called out of retirement in WWII to take on senior administrative roles.

Lieutenant Colonel Ivon Standish, pictured during World War II – the third great conflict he served in

One such man was Lieutenant Colonel Ivon Standish.
Having served in the second Boer War, Standish went on to be a highly regarded artillery officer in WWI, receiving a Distinguished Service Order for extinguishing a fire in the ammunition pit under a maelstrom of bullets.
He was called out of retirement during WWII to serve as adjutant-general, a chief administrative position.
Crawford says men like Standish would not have seen much action, if any, in South Africa as many would have arrived after the war was over.
But their arrival at the front during WWI was a rude awakening.
"South African war veterans talking about Gallipoli said how they'd seen more shells and more bullets in one day than they had in a year in South Africa."
Many would have seen friends killed in WWI, Crawford says.
By the advent of WWII, men like Standish who had been recalled to army headquarters would have sat there and thought, "Well here we go again."
Busy helping organise the dispatch of reinforcements to the New Zealand division of the Middle East, Standish would have known a lot of the young men were not going to come home.
"These veterans would be very aware of the reality of war," Crawford says.

Brigadier General Sir Herbert Hart, pictured in 1919, on his way to becoming a hero to many during a lengthy military career.

Brigadier General Sir Herbert Hart of Carterton, a lawyer and keen cyclist, is another example.
Having edited his diaries, Crawford is intimately familiar with Hart's career, which saw him wounded multiple times and lose beloved family and friends.
His career began when he lied about his age to travel with the 9th contingent to South Africa in April 1902.
Thirteen years later, he was severely wounded in Gallipoli, shot in the thigh by a bullet that had passed through an Australian soldier's head.
It struck a leather purse containing Hart's own bullets, creating an injury "10 times as big as a single bullet wound" on his leg.
Evacuated by ship to Cairo, Hart described "wounded men lying in every nook and cranny", some of whom "suffered intensely and groaned or screamed in agony the whole way across".
When Hart returned to the war months later, his unit was attacked with mustard gas, which left him blind for four days.
On his return to New Zealand, a huge crowd turned out to greet him in Carterton. They carried him on their shoulders down the street, which he called the proudest moment of his life.
WWII saw Hart return to the Middle East as the deputy commissioner of the War Graves Commission.
He was by then well acquainted with death, though one resounded with him like no other: that of his nephew, who was killed in Egypt.
Pain, both physical and emotional, made frequent intrusions into Hart's life, but never crushed his spirit.
Described as "the most loved man" in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, Crawford understands why.
"He comes across as the sort of man you'd like to have as a friend, a really good guy. He apparently was a charming man, very brave, sharp as a tack. He also had charisma.
"I spoke to one of his daughters not long before she died, and she said it was interesting that, even when her father was quite an elderly man, when he walked into a room at a social function, something made people turn around and look."
Standish and Hart were but two of the more than 100 New Zealanders whose lives were indelibly marked by three conflicts that shaped New Zealand's military history.
"One thing you'd have to say about these fellows is that they'd have seen more than their fair share of death and destruction," Crawford says.
"It must have been very hard for them."


The Boer War (1899-1902)

In the early 19th century, the Dutch-speaking Boers of South Africa maintained their enormous farms through slave labour, a practice that was abolished in 1834 after the British Empire took control of the region.

The Boers became frustrated with the rules imposed by the British, particularly the forced transition from their Afrikaans language to English. They fled to establish their own territories in southern Africa.

The British invaded the Boers' new territory in 1880 and were unsuccessful.

War broke out again between 1899-1902 and saw New Zealand's first ever contribution to an international conflict. By the end of the war, 6500 troops and 8000 horses had set foot on African soil. Seventy-one men died in action, and another 159 died due to accidents or disease.

The New Zealand contingents, all volunteers, were held in high regard despite their minimal training.

New Zealand's enthusiastic support for the British Empire's efforts set a precedent for future wars, where New Zealand would be called upon to serve the Empire on battlefields across the world.

World War I (1914 - 1918)

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, sparked a conflict that culminated in the biggest international war the modern world had ever seen.

More than 100,000 New Zealanders served overseas - more than 10 per cent of the population.

New Zealand leapt to the defence of its former colonial master to help protect its interests. It was also necessary for New Zealand protect its growing economy: heavily reliant on exports to Britain, it would have suffered tremendously if shipping routes were under another country's control.

Compulsory military training had been introduced in New Zealand in 1909, just five years before the war.

Soldiers emerging from this training formed the basis for the expeditionary force that fought in the major theatres of the war.

Tens of thousands volunteered to fight in the conflict but nearly 70 per cent of eligible men had not registered to enlist by 1916.

This saw the introduction of conscription, which pulled another 30,000 soldiers into the New Zealand contingent.

New Zealand suffered heavy losses during the war, particularly in the battles of Gallipoli and Passchendaele.

By the war's end, 17,000 men had been killed and 40,000 injured. The list of casualties was among the highest per capita losses of all countries involved.

World War II (1939-1945)

When war broke out in 1939, New Zealand again entered the fray to help protect the British Empire's interests.

Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage declared war on Nazi Germany just hours after Britain. New Zealand was involved in the war for longer than any other Allied country.

Nearly 150,000 New Zealanders served overseas in WWII, more than in the preceding war. However, the effort did not attract the same level of public fervour.

New Zealanders fought primarily on the battlefields of Europe and North Africa. Nearly 12,000 men were killed - a higher proportion of the population than any other Commonwealth country.

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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby trooper » 11 Aug 2014 04:39

Evan Jones from Ebbw Vale, a survivor of Rorkes Drift, later campaigned in Burma 1887-89 discharged 1920 after 43 years service. Trooper
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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Liz » 06 Dec 2014 00:30

Another interesting case is that of General Walter Congreve, who won a VC in the Boer War and who witnessed in the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914. He wrote to his wife about it, and his first-hand account of this event has apparently only just come to light, see
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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Frogsmile » 14 May 2015 18:34

And don't forget good old Private Frank Richards, 2 RWF, who unusually, wrote of his experiences both, as a Victorian/Edwardian regular and then as a recalled reservist for the war.
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Re: One time Victorians in the Great War

Postby Jonathan » 14 May 2015 19:04

Lt.-Col. George Henry Neale

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