ROYAL FLYING CORPS
The Royal Flying Corps existed for only six years, but it held a special place in the minds of the public depressed by ever-lengthening infantry casualty lists. The thrilling stories of machine-to-machine combats between these knights of the air might persuade the public that was could still be a gentleman's game played according to the rules of chivalry.
T. HUGHS enlisted 26 January, 1897. Formally Cpl. 2nd Balloon Company (Dismounted), RE, on 11 July , 1910 then Sgt 2 Company Balloon School (Dismounted), on mobilization of Air Battle RE. As a Sgt.., Aircraft Park in France from 16 August, 1914 earned 1914 Star Trio. Awarded D.C.M. as Flight Sgt L.G. 23 June, 1915 "For conspicuous zeal and devotion to duty, and the noticably efficient manner in which he has carried out his responsible duties." Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal as Sgt RFC in A.O. 125 of April, 1917. He had been promoted Tech WO 19 August 1916 and in the 1918 RAF Muster Roll as a Chief Mechanic.
Boer War medals named to: 742. SJT. T. HUGHS. RE.
Clasps: Cape Colony, Defence of Ladysmith, Orange Free State, Laing's Nec and Belfast.
D.C.M. named to 15 FLT. SJT. T. HUGHS. R.F.C.
LS&GC medal named to: 15 FLT. SJT. T. HUGHS. R.F.C.
Military aviation in Britain began in 1878 when the Royal Engineers formed a Balloon unit.
"A Contemptible Little Flying Corps" (page 53):
Medals Named to:
574. BGLR. Charles .E. Cullin R.E. Enlisted 31 December, 1896. Formally 574 Corporal Third Balloon Company RE (Dismounted) 11 July, 1910. He served as a Bugler RE in South African War with Balloons. 1914 Star (number 18), for service as Flight Sergeant with 2 Squardron in France from 12 August, 1914. M.I.D. L.G. 19 October, 1914 and 11 July, 1919. Army L.S.&G.C. (number 18), in A.O. 134 of April, 1915 as Flight Sergeant Royal Flying Corps. Commissioned 2 Lieutenant 0 October, 1917. In November, 1921 A.F.L. was Flying Officer (Stores) seniority 20 July 1920. Employed from 23 December, 1919 at Air Pilotage School (Cadre) Andover. Retired October, 1927. In 1937 Air Force List Flight Lieutenant (E) (Retd) (seniority 1 January, 1924), serving then in Equipment Branch, Reception Depot, West Drayton, Group in 'Webb collection Queen's South Africa Medal (number 574), (Bugler RE) clasps Defence of Ladysmith (23rd. Coy. Balloon Section), Orange Free State, Laing's Nek, Belfast, Cape Colony and S.A. 1901, 1914 Star and Bar Trio, Defence Medal and GV Army L.S.&G.C.
Father's Victorian L.S.&G.C. medal named to: 21659. H.C. CULLEN DIST. STAFF. R.A.
Charles E. Cullen 3rd Balloon Section (Third Field Troop), and previously 2nd Balloon Section during the Siege of Ladysmith. Later 1st Balloon Section, then 15th Coy RE. QSA issued 12 August 1903. He was a founder member of the RFC in 1912 as a Sergeant being given the number 18. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 July 1914 and proceeded to France with 2 Squadron, "C" Flight, on 13 August 1914, earning his 1914 Start and bar Trio. Cullen was mentioned in Sir John French's dispatches of 19 October 1914, the very first RFC mentions, in which Cullen is the first name.
Charles E. Cullen was born at Dover Castle, 30.10.1882, his father was a Gunner there. He joined the RE 20.12.1896 as Bugler, aged 14 yrs. 2 months. He served in the Defence of Ladysmith, in the Balloon Section, RE. In 1910 he appears on the list of the Balloon School as Cpl. In 1911-12 he is in 3rd Balloon Coy., RE. Joined the Royal Flying Corps on it formation, as SJt., and was promoted to Fl/Sjt 1.7.1914 going to France on 13.8.1914, "C" Flight, 2 Sq. The first name on the first list of Royal Flying Corps Mentioned in Dispatches, in French's Despatch of 8.10.1914. 12.3.1915 promoted to Sjt. Major, award L.S.&G.C. in April 1915 (one of only 37 Army L.S.&G.C. medals to the Royal Flying Corps).
10.1917 promoted to 2/Lt (Equipment Officer). 7. 1919 M.I.D., named as being in 59 Sqadron. 10.1927 Retired under the age ruling, on reaching 45.
24 Jun 1880- Balloons take part in military manoeuvres at Aldershot for the first time.
26 Nov 1884- A balloon unit attached to the Royal Engineers left England to take part in an expedition to Bechuanaland.
May 1890- The Balloon section of the Royal Engineers was formed.
1 Apr 1911- Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers formed at Larkhill in Wiltshire: No. 1 Company - Airships, Balloons and Kites. No. 2 Company - Aircraft. (Became 1 and 3 Squadrons in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in May 1912, and subsequently the RAF.)
13 May 1912- RFC assume control of Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers and Naval Air Organization. The Corps included a Military Wing, Naval Wing, a Central Flying School, a Reserve and the Royal (formerly Army) Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. Under the command of Captain FM Sykes, the Military Wing was to compromise, among other things, a Headquarters, seven airplane squadrons and one airship and man-carrying kite squadron.
September 1914- The first RNAS aircraft squadrons are formed:- 1 Squadron at Antwerp, Belgium; 2 Squadron at Eastchurch, Kent; 3 Squadron at St. Pol, France.
3 Jun 1918- The Air Force medals are instituted:- Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC); Air Force Cross (AFC); Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM); Air Force Medal (AFM).
The Royal Engineers are the scientific and engineering specialists of the British army. They had their origins in the siege trains set up during the Medieval period. They were used to carry out siege work such as undermining defences by digging tunnels under them and then collapsing them -- an example of this was the siege of Rochester carried out in 1215. This brought down the walls of castles. They also built defensive works such as those at Berwick upon Tweed.
The Royal Engineers were divided into two groups, one was the non-commissioned officers -- the sappers and miners who carried out the siege work. Then there was the Corp of Engineers, the officers who commanded the Sappers. These officers saw themselves as the professional elite of the army. They were responsible for a large number of scientific and technical developments throughout the Victorian period. The two groups were eventually amalgamated into the Royal Engineers. Their nickname is 'the Sappers'.
The Royal Engineers were the World's first aviators -- the early balloon and aircraft pilots all came from their ranks. They developed signaling equipment such as heliographs (a signaling system using sunlight reflected by mirrors) and telegraphs. They also developed the first torpedo system, the Brennan torpedo. They went on to devise the gas warfare devices deployed in the First World War. The skills of the Royal Engineers were put to use all over the British Empire building canals, roads, railways, telegraph systems and docks. Much of the railway system of modern India owes its origins to the system put in place by the Royal Engineers in the late nineteenth century. The Royal Engineers were also responsible for carrying out surveying work. Charles Gordon made his name surveying the Russian trenches in the Crimea. The modern Ordnance Survey in the United Kingdom owes its origins to the surveys carried out by the Royal Engineers. They carried out similar surveys, initially for military purposes, all over the Empire.
British units began mobilization for movement to South Africa. The single Balloon Section at Aldershot was formed into two sections in preparation for the impending war. The 2nd Balloon Section was under the command of Major Heath. Other section officers included Captain W.A. Tilney, 17th Lancers, and 2nd Lieutenant C. Mellor, Royal Engineers.
MILITARY OBSERVATION BALLOON
Battle for Ladysmith
As the days went by the Boers further tightened their noose by occupying Long and Pepworth Hills and Lombard's Kop, all prominent features, the possession of which would give the Boers a distinct advantage during any attack on Ladysmith. A British force from Ladysmith attacked the Boer positions on Long and Pepworth Hills on the 29th October. On the 30th an attack was made on the Boer position at Lombard's Kop. During this latter action Sapper Hunt made his first direct contribution to the military actions around Ladysmith. A balloon from the section was inflated and sent up to direct artillery fire against the Boer position. The next day two balloons were sent up over Ladysmith. Both were hit by shell fragments, however neither was seriously damaged and there were no casualties to the section.
Ladysmith, which occupied so important a place in the early part of the war, had been originally selected in 1897 as the station for part of the British forces in Natal, because it occupied a convenient position at a railway junction. There seems, however, to have been no idea of making it defensible, and no steps had been taken to construct any kind of fortifications around it. Indeed, judging from the evidence upon the subject, no one seems to have thought there was any probability of its ever being attacked. But, during the months preceding the outbreak of hostilities, great quantities of stores and food supplies had been collected there, and, when the reinforcements arrived in Natal in September and October, the larger part of the troops were sent to Ladysmith, which thus became, one might say almost by accident, the most important military station in the Colony.
The 23rd Field Company, Royal Engineers, commanded by Major S.R. Rice, had arrived in Ladysmith on 14 July, and was employed on work in connection with the military cantonment and hospitals until the declaration of war, when the exposed position of the place became evident, and preparations for putting it in a state of defence were commenced.
On the 20th October the British force from Glencoe, approximately 4,000 strong, under the command of General Penn Symons, engaged a Boer force of about equal strength commanded by General Lucas Meyer at Talana Hill, some 40 miles northeast of Ladysmith. The Boers occupied a strong position on the heights of Dundee, from which they were dislodged by the British infantry, with a loss of about 300 men. The British lost 19 officers, 142 men killed and wounded, and 331 prisoners, the latter a detachment of cavalry and mounted infantry who were surrounded by a superior force of Boers, and surrendered. General Penn Symons was mortally wounded during the engagement. This was the first of the actions leading up to the siege of Ladysmith.
The following day, at Elandslaagte, only six miles northeast of Ladysmith, General French with three battalions of infantry, five squadrons of cavalry, and 12 guns, attacked a strong Boer force under General Koch. The Boers occupied a strong position on the high ground near the Ladysmith-Dundee railway. They were driven from this position by the infantry and dismounted Imperial Light Horse with a loss of 250 killed and wounded, and 200 prisoners, including General Koch. The British losses were 35 officers and 219 other ranks. Although the battle at Elandslaagte might have been considered a victory by the British, it was becoming apparent to the troops in Ladysmith, that the Boers were tightening their circle around the town.
On the 30th an attack was made on the Boer position at Lombard's Kop. During this latter action Sapper Hunt made his first direct contribution to the military actions around Ladysmith. A balloon from the section was inflated and sent up to direct artillery fire against the Boer position. The next day two balloons were sent up over Ladysmith. Both were hit by shell fragments, however neither was seriously damaged and there were no casualties to the section.
After the Battle of Lombard's Kop on October 30th, the British force was concentrated in and close to the town, which by then was surrounded by the Boers. The units now present at Ladysmith consisted of the 21st, 42nd, and 53rd Field Batteries, Royal Artillery, a battalion of Naval Artillery, two guns of the Natal Naval Reserve, Natal Mounted Volunteers, the 5th Lancers, 19th Hussars, 1st Battalion Liverpool Regiment, 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, the 1st Manchesters, several companies of Mounted Infantry, the 23rd Field Company and 2nd Balloon Section, Royal Engineers, Medical and Veterinary Corps detachments, and a detachment of Colonial reinforcements from Maritzburg, and a Naval Brigade force of 750 men. From Glencoe the Ladysmith garrison was reinforced by the 13th, 67th, and 69th Field Batteries, Royal Artillery, the 18th Hussars, an additional force of Natal Mounted Volunteers, 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment, 1st and 2nd Battalions King's Royal Rifle Corps, 2nd Battalion Dublin Fusiliers, several companies of Mounted Infantry, and a Field Hospital Corps unit. In all these units comprised the defending force of about 13,550 men. Their adversaries, a combined force of Boers from the Transvaal and Orange Free State, numbered approximately 30,500.
On the 2nd November communications with the outside world was cut off. Sapper Hunt and the garrison of Ladysmith were now trapped in the beseiged town. From this date until the relief of the town on 28 February 1900 the Royal Engineers of the garrison were continuously employed in constructing and strengthening the works of defence. Major S.R. Rice, commander of the 23rd Field Company, was appointed Commander Royal Engineer by Sir George White.
The South African campaign emphasised the value of the British balloon section of the Army, and
revealed services to which it was specially adapted, but which had previously more or less been ignored.
The British Army possessed indifferent maps of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. This
lamentable deficiency was remedied in great measure by recourse to topographical photographs taken
from the captive balloons. The guides thus obtained were found to be of extreme value.
During the early stages of the war the hydrogen was shipped in cylinders from the homeland, but
subsequently a manufacturing plant of such capacity as to meet all requirements was established in South
Africa. The cylinders were charged at this point and dispatched to the scene of action, so that it became
unnecessary to transport the commodity from Britain. The captive balloon revealed the impregnability of
Spion Kop, enabled Lord Roberts to ascertain the position of the Boer guns at the Battle of PAARDEBERG,
and proved of invaluable assistance to the forces of General White during the siege of Ladysmith.
The captive balloon equipment comprises the balloon, together with the observer's basket, the wire-cable
whereby it is anchored and controlled, and the winding apparatus. Formerly a steam engine was
necessary for the paying in and out of the cable.
Royal Engineers trek across the veldt with their observation balloon at the ready.
A British drummer boy writes to his mother.
During the Boer War in South Africa, 1899-1902, a balloon is used to watch for the Boers.
Royal Engineers making gas for one of the War Balloons at Slingersfontein, South Africa
Taken from a Diary of a Sapper, RE (not Pte. Cullin), in the Balloon Section during the Defence of Ladysmith:
If the reader can now imagine that Sapper Hunt kept a diary during the days he was besieged in Ladysmith it would not be far from the truth to imagine that it read like this:
2 November 1899
The Dutch have completely surrounded us now as we have been informed by Major Heath. He tells us that a relief force will be here soon, so that we have very little to worry about. Our position is strong and there is little chance that the Boers will be successful. He warned us about the dangers from Boer artillery and we are all aware of where the nearest shelters are located.
3 November 1892
The Boers shell the town with great frequency making our work somewhat dangerous. It is difficult working under fire, but we keep busy sending balloons up. No casualties in our Section so far.
4 November 1899
We are keeping very busy sending balloons up to observe the Boer positions. Major Heath says our efforts are giving very good information with regard to the enemy's movements.
5 November 1892
Balloons up again today.
6 November 1899
Major Heath told us today that he had talked to a Boer prisoner. The man said that the enemy had a particular dislike for the balloonists. Our constant reporting of their movements was causing them quite a bit of trouble. The whole section cheered at hearing this news. We now have a feeling that we are doing our bit to assist in the defence. Of course we all realize now that we will be receiving more attention from the Dutchmen and can expect to be shelled with even greater frequency than before.
7 November 1899
A balloon was sent up today to direct the fire of a Naval "Long Tom" gun against the enemy.
8 November 1899
Word received today of the first Sapper casualty since the siege began. Major S.C.N. Grant, an engineer officer who I believe is on Sir George White's staff, was severely wounded by shell fire.
9 November 1899
The Boers made two rather large attacks on the town today, one in the north, and the other in the south. Both were repelled with heavy losses to the enemy. Another Sapper officer, a Major Gale, was reported wounded by shellfire in the center of town while sending a telegraph message.
10 November 1899
A balloon was sent up today to look for signs of Sir Redvers Buller's relieve column. To my knowledge the column was not sighted.
11 November 1899
Another engineer staff officer hit today. Major H. Mullaly was severely wounded by shellfire. The enemy seems to have it in for Field Officer.
12 November 1899
A balloon up today. The rumour is that the relief column has been sighted
13 November 1899
Shelling of the town continued today. No Sapper losses.
14 November 1822
Some Boer troops took up a position on a small kopje and one of our batteries tried to rout them. There was some smart cannonading, till our lads were forced to fall back on the town. After this day assault, the Dutchmen tried a new trick - a midnight attack. All their guns simultaneously opened fire on the town, turning the whole place into a burning hell. Several buildings caught fire, and the whistling and shrieking shells at intervals made a terrifying sound in the weird silence of the night. None of our lads were hit.
15 November 1899
A balloon was sent up today. I believe that I heard Lieutenant Mellor say that heliograph messages had been sent to the relief column. Everyone is anxious to hear that the column is close by.
16 November 1899
The constant shelling is beginning to wear on everyone's nerves.
17 November 1822
Another balloon sent up today. The section QMS told me today that the gas supply for the balloons is getting low.
18 November 1899
The enemy hit the Royal Hotel squarely with a large shell today. Dr. Stark, a naturalist who had come to Natal to study birds, was killed as he was standing near the door of the hotel. The shell came square through the roof and out by the door.
19 November 1899
The shelling is beginning to get to the men. Some are saying they do not believe that the relief column is coming. Major Heath is trying to reassure us all.
20 November 1822
The men are beginning to look tired and pale. No one has come down sick yet, although some of the lads look like they should be in hospital already.
21 November 1899
An inhumane action defaced the ordinary program of war today. The Town Hall has been turned into a hospital for the sick, and this, by reason of its conspicuous clocktower with the red flag flying above it, made a convenient mark for the shots of the enemy. In spite of a number of warnings the Dutch gunner proceeded to batter the place with shells, killing one patient and wounding nine others.
22 November 1899
A report of the first Sapper death today. 25178 Driver E.J. Herbert died of enteric fever. More lads are going down sick each day.
23 November 1899
Gas supply running low but the balloons are still going up. There are reports of contact with General Buller's force.
24 November l899
Another balloon up today. Major Heath says the Boers are fortifying positions near Potgieters.
25 November 1899
Shells and flies very numerous, but the latter more annoying.
26 November 1899
Major Heath went up again today. He reported to Sir George that the Boer position at Potgieters appears to be meant to stop General Buller's advance.
27 November 1899
Another balloon up today to observe the enemy's movements near Potgieters.
28 November 1899
The supply of gas for the balloons is almost gone. A balloon went up today to heliograph information to General Buller regarding the enemy position at Potgieters.
29 November 1899
A message from the Prince of Wales was received today, thanking officers and men for the birthday congratulations we had succeeded in forwarding to him. Hopes of a speedy relief revived.
30 November 1899
Unfortunately, all available gas with the section is exhausted. Further supply is unobtainable from the field gas factory at the base. All balloons are grounded. That is not the only bad news today. Three more Sapper casualties reported:
811 Sapper J. Milne - severely wounded
1435 Sapper A.E. Knight - slightly wounded
27281 Sapper J. Wilkins - killed
1 December 1899
Without gas we no longer serve any useful purpose as a Balloon Section. My days as an engine driver are over at least for a while. Major Heath has informed the section that we will be used to augment the work of the other Sappers on the defensive works around the town.
2 December 1899
We were told today that most of our work will be done in the areas of Waggon Hill and Caesar's Camp, on the south side of the town.
3 December 1899
Today we began work on improving the defences on the south side of the camp. Heavy artillery fire by day makes it necessary to do most of the work at night.
4 December 1899
We continue working at night, under the most unfavorable conditions, over difficult ground, and with an inadequate supply of tools.
5 December 1899
I find myself becoming weak from the work and want of food. Many of us have already collapsed.
6 December 1899
Our men are becoming so weak from sickness and the lack of food that we can no longer march to our-work sites. We are now being taken to the work sites in wagons to help conserve our strength.
7 December 1892
Major Heath commended all in the section today on behalf of the General. Sir George gave us the highest praise for our determination and self-sacrifice.
8 December 1892
Word received today that General Hunter carried out a brilliant operation against the Boer guns at Lombard's Kop. Two Sapper officers distinguished themselves during the attack. Captain Fowke and Lieutenant Turner, with great skill destroyed a 6-inch gun and a 4.7-inch howitzer with guncotton. They also captured a Maxim.
9 December 1899
The section has been given orders to work on the construction of a number of batteries, magazines, and bombproofs. The health of the men is failing, and the Boer shelling makes work difficult.
10 December 1899
We have now been also given the mission of placing lines of abattis and wire entanglements around the positions at Waggon Hill and Caesar's Camp. We have been told that these two positions are the key to the defences on the south side of the town.
11 December 1899
Other new tasks given to us today. Electrical and mechanical mines are being improvised and emplaced. Also, roads have to be made to various points, and two bridges must be built over the Klip River.
12 December 1800
We assisted in moving two naval guns from the north of Ladysmith to Caesar's Camp and Waggon Hill. We are constantly in danger while working in these positions as they are the focus of the Boers' attention. 28797 Sapper L. Hibberd was hit and severely wounded. We learned that he has died.
13 December 1899
The routine now is the same from day to day. Hard work, mostly at night, little food or rest, constant shelling, more sick, fear. Will the relief column never come? I am so tired it is difficult for me to even write down these few lines in my diary each day.
18 December 1899
Quite a few days since my last entry. Nothing has changed very much, except that everyone is a little more miserable. 829 Sapper W. Fuller killed by enemy fire today.
21 December 1821
Christmas is only a few days off. Major Heath says that some activities are planned which will lift our spirits.
Christmas Day 1899
Christmas passed off well. Hope revived. News of Lord Methuen's victories have refreshed our ears. A series of sports of various kinds helped to impart to, the day a suitable air of festivity.
27 December 1822
The number of sick in hospital continues to grow. Some diseases, I fear, will soon reach epidemic proportions.
29 December 1822
Enteric fever claimed another sapper today; 19408 Corporal F.R. Wooley died.
31 December 1822
New Year's eve. Sickness is rife throughout the town. Fortunately there are many doctors here of repute, not only in the Army Medical Department, but also independent practitioners. Medicines are now growing scarce, and milk, which seems to be all that some of the sick can digest, is not to be had anymore. It is pathetic to think of the losses that have occurred through the lack of suitable nourishment for those whose cases, not in themselves serious, only required care and sustenance. Perhaps the New Year will bring us speedy relief.
1 January 1900
Heavy enemy bombardment today. A shell landed near the railway station where a cricket match was underway. It killed an officer who was in the act of bowling. I am told that he dropped with the ball still in his hand.
5 January 1900
Enteric fever claimed yet another sapper today; 323 Driver R.E. Burke died in the hospital.
6 January 1900
A fierce engagement was fought during the early morning on Waggon Hill. Lieutenant R.J.T. Digby-Jones of the 23rd Field Company led a section of sappers in a gallant defence of the position. Poor Digby-Jones was killed. I understand he has been recommended for the Victoria Cross. I had a long talk with Sapper George Hall, whose home is in Newcastle. He was one of the 33 sappers with Digby-Jones during the fight. From what Hall could gather the Boers apparently began to ascend the southern face of the southern defences at around 3 a.m. Without normal military discipline, some of the burghers crept away from the fight in the darkness. But others climbed steadily upwards through the night - and those Boers who were farthest ahead were over to the west at Wagon Point. Lieutenant Digby-Jones and Hall, and the other sappers arrived at Wagon Point in the dark to assist in the emplacement of some naval guns. Two 12-pounder guns were put in place and then a 4.7-inch gun was brought to the northern foot of Wagon Point, escorted by 13 sailors and 170 Gordon Highlanders. It remained there while the sappers prepared its emplacement. Hall said that everybody was busy doing something. The gun cradle was being lifted and mounted. The Royal Navy master-gunner (and a gentleman bully he was, according to Hall) was doing all this. When they got the gun up, they couldn't swivel it. The master-gunner was furious and began cursing everyone. They had to take the gun down again and dismantle it. It was while they were doing this that Hall heard the report of rifles. They kicked out their lamps and dashed for their rifles. Into the sangar they went. Some poor devils panicked - they couldn't find their rifles, so they began to run. Young Digby-Jones jumped on to a rock and drew his revolver and said to the stampeding men "The first man that passes me I'll shoot him dead...", and then poor old Digby got it, right through the throat. Hall was within 50 yards of him. The Boers were within 150 yards. One old Boer, de Villiers, Hall thinks it was, came over the top of the sangar and told them all to surrender. A bloke put up his rifle and missed him. Can you imagine him in the gun-pit, about 16 feet across, telling everyone to surrender?
After Digby-Jones was killed there was much confusion. Hall said that he was shooting at the Boers and they were shooting back. Nobody seemed to be in charge. The two lieutenants, a sergeant, a corporal, and a lance corporal were all dead. The master-gunner took charge and began bossing the sangar. Hall recalls that all this started at roughly two in the morning. It went on till about four o' clock in the afternoon - then Hall heard a cheer, and it started to rain. Men were lying all around - shot through. Hall said they covered the dead over so they wouldn't have to see their faces.
7 January 1900
The casualty list was posted today of the sappers who fought on Wagon Hill yesterday. I lost a number of good friends:
Lieutenant R.J.T. Digby-Jones - killed
2nd Lieutenant G.B.B. Denniss - killed
21027 Sergeant C. Jackson- killed
25723 2nd Corporal E.J. Hunt - killed
26046 2nd Corporal H.A. Bailey- killed
1439 Sapper W.G. Simmons - killed
1414 Sapper W. Bland - killed
1986 Sapper C. Catchpole- severely wounded
1520 Sapper W. M'Carron- severely wounded
28753 Sapper H. Rutt - severely wounded
28457 Sapper S.F. Hudson- slightly wounded
1531 Sapper A. Powell- slightly wounded
I, and a number of the other men of the Balloon Section were acquainted with some of these men. Not only had we been serving together here in Ladysmith since the beginning of the siege, but we were also friends from our days at Chatham and Aldershot.
8 January 1900
They have finally had time to sort out, in detail, the fight on Wagon Hill. Major Heath gave us an official accounting of what had happened. It appears that as the Boers came over the top some of the troops stampeded just as George Hall related the story to me. Six known men stood their ground and ordered a halt. They were Colonel Hamilton, Major Wallnutt, Captain Fitzgerald, Sergeant Lindsay and Trooper Albrecht (Imperial Light Horse) and Gunner Sims, Royal Navy. They stopped the flight. About twelve Boers were on top. Then, from the Imperial Light Horse fort, which was about 200 yards to the rear, came a blast of fire at the Boers. All, save three, took cover; these three were de Villiers, de Jager and Gert Wessels. These men, apparently, were incapable of going backwards. They raced for the gun pits. But also Colonel Hamilton and company were set on the gun pits. It was a lethal race. First was Colonel Hamilton, who leaned on the sandbag parapet and fired at the nearest Boer with his revolver. Trooper Albrecht fired next. And then Lieutenant Digby-Jones with Corporal Hockaday appeared, each firing at a Boer. Suddenly, almost everybody was shot. De Villiers, de Jager and Gert Wessels lay dead. Major Wallnutt got a bullet through the head and Trooper Albrecht fell a moment later. Lieutenant Digby-Jones ordered some of his nerve-shattered men back to their positions and then, as George Hall had described, was shot through the throat, and died. Lieutenant Denniss ran to his side to help and was also shot. Colonel Hamilton miraculously stood unharmed. It is believed that de Villiers shot Major Wallnutt and Digby-Jones shot de Villiers. It was the Devons who gave the loud cheer that George Hall heard as they charged to clear the hill.
13 January 1900
23262 Lance Corporal G.B. Renyard died of dysentery today.
20 January 1900
Two more sapper losses today. 1848 Sapper T. Cox died of wounds received a few days ago. 19466 Corporal W.H. Hill died of enteric fever. More and more sickness being reported in town.
28 January 1900
Major Heath informed us today that Sir Charles Warren, after holding a position at a place called Spion Kop, was forced to retire leaving the Boers undisturbed in their occupation of a commanding position. Our casualties were very great. Yet another set-back for us.
29 January 1900
19557 Corporal J.W. Stedman died today of peritonitis.
30 January 1900
Two more losses today from disease. 156 Sapper A. Drew, and 27805 Sapper G. Finch, both died of enteric fever.
31 January 1900
1358 Sapper H. Manders died today of peritonitis. This diary is beginning to read like an obituary.
1 February 1900
The story of famine is an insidious story, a creeping horror that, scarcely visible, yet slowly and very gradually saps first the spirit, then the energy, then the blood, and finally all the little sparks of being that serve to divide us from the dead. The seal of hunger is set on every one
of our actions, yet no one complains. We are cramped up in our quarters and shelters scarcely as conscious of the danger from shot and shell as we are of the aching void in our stomachs.
2 February 1900
The work parties continue to go out each day. But each day with fewer men. It takes all of our resources just to march. Our lungpower is scant and short-lived.
3 February 1900
Out on fatigue duty again today. We all seem to be moving like shadows. I noticed today how prominent everyone's cheek bones are. In ordinary life you don't look upon cheekbones as a feature of the face. Usually, you take stock of a fellow's eyes, nose, mouth, possibly his ears. Here in Ladysmith you look at the other fellow's cheekbones and the tone of the tanned skin stretched across them.
4 February 1900
28933 Sapper C.F. Snuggs died today of enteric fever.
5 February 1900
The men are very near the brink of starvation. A shell plumped into the mule lines today and killed one of the animals. Shells followed on the first, crashing all around, but the famished racing throng did not heed them. Their one desire was to get to the dead mule. They cut off great chunks of meat and ran to safer quarters.
9 February 1900
Caught today in a violent artillery attack while I was up at Caesar's Camp. Not injured, but very unnerving.
12 February 1900
Peritonitis claimed 29240 Sapper W. Kenyon today.
13 February 1900
Two more deaths today. 24158 2nd Corporal J.W. Askham and 28838 Sapper J.J. Mudd, both of enteric fever.
15 February 1900
Using the horses for food. No milk or vegetables left.
18 February 1900
399 Driver P. Cross died today of enteric fever.
21 February 1900
Melancholy and depression reign everywhere in the town. We have almost ceased to talk to each other, for there is nothing left to talk about. All but a few have given up any hope of General Buller's arrival.
23 February 1900
28964 Sapper J. Carroll died today of enteric fever.
24 February 1900
So many men are in hospital that we hardly have a Section left. We cannot go on much longer like this.
25 February 1900
I was up on Waggon Hill today when the Boers fired a violent barrage on the position. Many around me were hit but I escaped unharmed. On returning to town I learned of another death among the sappers; 370 Sapper Chesher, of enteric fever.
27 February 1900
Fatigue duty today at Caesar's Camp. We are to spend the night at the position.
28 February 1900
A GLORIOUS DAYI WE HAVE BEEN RELIEVED! At six o'clock all the suffering and tension came to an end. Our obstinate resistance, the heroic combats, the semi-starvation, all were over. In the late afternoon we saw in the valley horsemen recklessly approaching, riding at full gallop. At first we did not know what to make of it. Were they Boers or Buller's cavalry? There was a wild cheer as the horsemen became distinctly visible. It was a squadron of our cavalry and they were making straight for Ladysmith. The relief column had arrived. But among all this joy there was still sorrow. 25987 Sapper C. Mardon died of enteric fever without ever knowing that the relief column had arrived.
1 March 1900
We are all now getting a well-earned rest and plenty of food. The rumour is that we will rest at Ladysmith for some time before moving on. I would prefer to leave this place.
2 March 1900
Major Heath related some interesting information to us today. Ladysmith at the commencement of the siege held some 13,496 fighting men and over 2,000 civilians. Owing to sickness and hard fighting the number diminished to 10,164. There were 2,000 in hospital, but the death rate practically increased only when, after January, food, nourishment of all kinds, and medical supplies grew scarce. At that time sickness of whatever kind assumed an ominous aspect. From the 15th January the daily death rate increased dramatically. Many died from wounds, very slight wounds, from which they had not the stamina to recover. The fevered and weakly dropped off from sheer starvation and famine. The deaths as a result of fighting were 24 officers and 235 men, while those attributed to sickness numbered six officers and 520 m-en, exclusive of white civilians. Among the Sappers, our casualties to date are nine wounded and 28 dead of wounds or disease.
9 March 1900
21291 Sergeant W. Burtenshaw died today of enteric fever. The horrors of the siege are still with us. I had originally intended that this journal only be a diary of the siege. But as we are resting and recuperating now I have plenty of time to continue writing. I believe that I will continue the diary until we receive orders to march.
14 March 1900
2119 Driver G.H. Arthur died of enteric fever yesterday. Today that dreaded disease took 29284 Driver F.W. Morris. There seems to be no end to our losses.
18 March 1900
We received word today that Major Heath had asked for and received permission to reorganize the 2nd Balloon Section. We are to be converted into the 3rd Field Troop, R.E. to work with the cavalry. We will be assigned to Lord Dundonald's 3rd (Mounted) Brigade in Sir Redvers Buller's Natal Field Force. We will leave all our balloons and engines behind. I am now to be a mounted sapper!
23 March 1900
We learned, with great pride, that Major Heath has been mentioned in Sir George White's despatches of this date. The mention reads as follows:
"Major G. Heath, in charge of Balloon Section, is a bold and enterprising aeronaut, and rendered useful service; the constant watch which he kept on the enemy's movements being a source of much disquiet to them."
While the M.I.D. was for Major Heath specifically, we all felt a sense of pride and accomplishment for doing our bit during the siege.
31 March 1900
2908 Sapper A. Wyth died today of phthisis. I had no idea of what this disease might be so I visited a pal of mine, Private Marsh, of the Army Medical Corps. He was down with enteric so I went to the hospital to see him. He did not look very well at all, but as weak as he was he was able to tell me that phthisis was another name for consumption, or tuberculosis.
1 April 1900
We left Ladysmith today and set up an encampment at Bug's Farm, not far from town. It is rumoured that we will remain here for some time to recuperate and make preparations to take part in the general advance against the Boers now being planned by General Buller.
7 April 1900
I learned today that my A.M.C. pal, 11596 Private S. March died of the fever.
8 April 1900
Another death today; 27706 Sapper R. Elliot, of dysentery. The sooner we leave this bloody place behind the better I will like it.
30 April 1900
The boredom is beginning to tell on everyone. We are ready to move on. The longer we stay here the more we hear about the deaths of more of our friends. Since Elliot died on the 8th we have lost the following men:
10 April - 27308 Driver W. Knight-died of debility
14 April - 2075 Sapper W. Wharton-died of diarrhoea
21 April - 320 Driver H. Garrett-died of enteric
26 April - 693 Sapper J. Palmer-died of enteric
26 April - 27244 2nd Corpl. E.H. Cowie - died of enteric
3 May 1900
Major Heath says we will be moving on very shortly. It cannot be too soon for me.
8 May 1900
Two more of our lads dead of disease today:
322 Driver W. Hubbard died of enteric fever
28546 Driver E.C. Thomas died of dysentery
11 May 1900
Orders were issued today for the Troop to assemble in the vicinity of Sunday River Drift, south of Elandslaagte. The general advance is about to begin. I shall pack away this diary for safe keeping for I doubt if there will be much time to continue writing it during the advance.
the time to remember.”
And this is all that is left of it!
Only a moment, a moment of strength,
In August 1912, the Blériot Experimental 2 earned the highest marks in aircraft trials at Larkhill. During the competition, the two-seater broke the British altitude record, climbing to 10,560 feet. Equipped with a more powerful engine, the unarmed B.E.2a was introduced in 1913 and was the first British aircraft to arrive in France during World War I. Featuring built up cockpit combings, the B.E.2b was introduced in 1914 but was soon followed by the B.E.2c. Often called the "Quirk," the B.E.2c was armed with two machine guns and had a modified wing and tail configuration designed to provide a stable reconnaissance platform. In 1915, when air combat began in earnest, squadrons equipped with the B.E.2c suffered heavy losses to more maneuverable enemy aircraf
“And this is all that is left of it!
Only a moment, a moment of strength,
of romance, of glamour - of youth!
A flick of sunshine upon a strange shore,
the time to remember.”
In August 1912, the Blériot Experimental 2 earned the highest marks in aircraft trials at Larkhill. During the competition, the two-seater broke the British altitude record, climbing to 10,560 feet. Equipped with a more powerful engine, the unarmed B.E.2a was introduced in 1913 and was the first British aircraft to arrive in France during World War I. Featuring built up cockpit combings, the B.E.2b was introduced in 1914 but was soon followed by the B.E.2c. Often called the "Quirk," the B.E.2c was armed with two machine guns and had a modified wing and tail configuration designed to provide a stable reconnaissance platform. In 1915, when air combat began in earnest, squadrons equipped with the B.E.2c suffered heavy losses to more maneuverable enemy aircraft
The BE-2 biplane was first developed by in Geoffrey De Havilland1912 and by August 1914 was the standard military aircraft employed by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Although slow, it was stable and therefore played an important reconnaissance role in the early part of the First World War The design of the plane was constantly being revised and during the war there were five different versions.
The BE-2, with improved tail and wing design; was used by RFC for reconnaissance and light bombing on the Western Front during 1914. The BE-2b had better cockpit protection and more refined controls. By autumn 1915 the BE-2b had been withdrawn and replaced by the BE-2c. With its modified engine for extra stability and the addition of an observer's machine-gun, the BE-2c was Britain's attempt to cope with the superior German Fokker D-VII The BE-2d could travel longer distances and the BE-2e (introduced in 1916) was faster than previous models. The BE-2e remained in use on the Western Front until the middle of 1917.
Country: Great Britain
Manufacturer: Royal Aircraft Factory
First Introduced: 1912
Number Built: 3,535
Engine(s): Renault V8, 70 hp [65 kW]
Wing Span: [11.23 m]
Length: [8.3 m]
Height: [3.45 m]
Empty Weight: [621 kg]
Gross Weight: [972 kg]
Max Speed: [116 km/h]
Ceiling: 10,560 ft [3,050 m]
Endurance: 3 hr 15 min
Armament: 2 machine guns, 7.7 mm (B.E.2c)
"A great deal of an aeroplane could be holed without affecting its ability to fly. Wings and fuselage could be—and often were—pierced in 50 places, missing the occupants by inches (blissfully unaware of how close it had come until they returned to base). Then the sailmaker would carefully cover each hole with a square inch of Irish linen frayed at the edges and with a brushful of dope make our aircraft 'serviceable' again within an hour." Cecil Lewis
Author of the aviation classic, "Sagittarious Rising," Lewis joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. In 1916, he flew the Morane Parasol in combat and won the Military Cross for his actions during the Battle of the Somme. Flying the S.E.5a with 56 Squadron, he was credited with eight victories during May and June of 1917. At the 1938 Academy Awards ceremony, Lewis, George Bernard Shaw, Ian Dalrymple and W.P. Lipscomb received Oscars for their screen adaptation of "Pygmalion." One of the founders of BBC Radio, he served with the Royal Air Force during World War II.