The Boer War Gun – Major Charles Bosvile Tottenham D.S.O

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Through extensive research and by obtaining a copy of the original records we can say that this gun was made for a Charles Tottenham Esq. Steeped in Irish history, this sporting arm was made for Charles of the Tottenham family of Tudenham House, County Westmeath, Eire.

Through dating of this sporting arm and through the family records it is most likely that this was made for Major Charles Bosvile Tottenham D.S.O (19th October 1869-2nd November 1911).

Tottenham was the eldest son of Colonel Charles George Tottenham former M.P for New Ross, Wexford. He was educated at Eton and Sandhurst and joined the Scots Guard in 1890. He was later transferred to the 14th Hussars. Promoted to Captain in April 1900, he served throughout the Second Boer War 1899-1902. He was mentioned in despatches in 1901 and received the Queens South Africa Medal with seven clasps and Kings South Africa Medal with two clasps. 13th October 1900, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O) for his command of the rear guard when retreating from Geluk, Transvaal, an action which saw the Victoria Cross be awarded to his commander Colonel Edward Douglas Brown-Synge-Hutchinson. He was promoted to Major in 1905 and married in 1907. He left the army in 1910 due to ill health and died the following year.

Geluk, 13 Oct 1900

The war, according to Lord Roberts was over, and he had relinquished command after annexing Transvaal. Kitchener was left in charge to mop up. The cavalry was re-organised so that the 14th Hussar were now in a new brigade commanded by Colonel B T Mahon. Their fellow regiments were the 8th Hussars, Mahon’s Horse and M Battery RHA. On 12 Oct they marched to Heidelberg with a large transport column, and on the first day bivouacked on a ridge at Geluk. This was stalked by Boers in the night and attacked at dawn. They were forced to retire to Dalmanutha but they were slowed down by the wagons. A picquet of the 8th Hussars lost 2 officers and several men killed and wounded. A Squadron of the 14th under Capt Tottenham was dug in on the forward slope of the ridge covering the retreat. When the wagons were out of range of enemy fire Major E D Brown, second in command of the regiment, rode back to extricate A Squadron. This involved the men leaving the trenches one at time and running for the horses, a distance of 150 yards. M Battery came under heavy fire and lost men and horses so that the guns had to be manhandled out of action under covering fire from A Squadron. Major Brown and their horses were in a dangerous position, being fired on from two sides. This made the animals very agitated but two Troops managed to get away. One Troop of A and one of C Squadron were having trouble getting mounted but three men were helped by Brown. He then rescued Sergeant Hersey whose horse was killed. Then, together with Trumpeter Leigh he rode back to check that no-one was left behind. They found one unmounted man, Private Gregory, but he was too heavy to ride behind the saddle so Leigh gave him his horse and got up behind Major Brown. This was all done under heavy fire but they got themselves clear. Meanwhile Sergeant Hersey found another unmounted man and rescued him.

Tottenham halted his squadron to take up a position from where they could cover C Squadron’s withdrawal. This time the horses were not exposed and it was easier for them to retire. But one officer, Lieutenant J G Browne could not mount his horse although he had a hold of the reins. Major Brown was still keeping an eye on the rearguard and saw the Lieutenant’s difficulty. He galloped over and held Brown’s horse until he was mounted. They both survived, later to become commanding officers of the 14th. Major Brown was awarded the Victoria Cross and altered his name later so that he became Colonel Edward Douglas Browne-Synge-Hutchinson VC CB, commanding the 14th from 1907 to 1911. Lt John Gilbert Browne reached the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the 14th from 1921 to 22, and the 14th/20th Hussars from 1922 to 25. The brigade casualties amounted to 70 killed and wounded while the 14th had one man killed and 9 wounded, with 5 horses killed and 10 wounded. Sgt Hersey had been wounded and was decorated for his bravery, as was Trumpeter Lance-Corporal Leigh and Private Shenton. 28th May 1900. The Fourteenth had 2 men and 6 horses wounded. Major Brown, Captain Tottenham, and Lieutenant and Adjutant R. Lawrence, D.S.O., had their horses shot under them. Engaged at On the 2gth, 2 squadrons of the 7th Dragoon Guards and 2 squadrons of the Fourteenth gallantly stormed and captured a kopje near Doornkop.

On the 1 2th there was considerable opposition encountered Engaged at in the advance. A squadron of the Fourteenth, under Lieu- nea/Komati tenant Hill-Whitson, came across a party of the Boers on the right flank and drove them off. The remainder of the regiment I 9. had to dismount and lead their horses up a very rugged and steep hill, which they had been ordered to occupy by Brigadier- General Gordon, commanding the ist Cavalry Brigade. Lieutenant the Honourable H. Grosvenor took a squadron to occupy a nek to the right, while Captain Tottenham, with his squadron, pushed on in advance and occupied a position on the higher hills beyond. This was effected without any loss. Lieutenant Grosvenor’s squadron became hotly engaged, and his dismounted men did good work with their carbines, driving off the enemy and only losing one horse. Lieutenant Campbell had been ordered to push on as advance-guard to a convoy in front of the infantry (two battalions, commanded by Lieutenant- Colonel J. Spens, Shropshire Light Infantry) ; he came under a very hot fire from both flanks, but he took the kopje, the enemy retiring when he got within 300 yards of the position. Presently the infantry came up and occupied it. This was Nel’s Hoek. Next day, i3th, the ist Brigade, consisting of the Cara- Dash for biniers, Scots Greys, Inniskillings, and Fourteenth made a dash cavalry under for Barberton over Nel’s Hoek, Lieutenant-General French ^chf^ leading. Captain Tottenham’s squadron of the Fourteenth was September sent forward from a hill, 7 miles from the town, where the cavalry was concentrated about 1.30 P.M., and brought back the Military Governor, Van der Post. At 5 P.M. the cavalry moved to a point 3 miles from Barberton, where they bivouacked, and the town was quickly evacuated by the Boers.

Captain Tottenham’s, the ‘ A ‘ squadron, lined the trenches nearest the enemy, and was much exposed to fire. During the withdrawal of a picquet of the 8th Hussars which was nearly cut off, Lieutenant Wylam, 8th Hussars, and several men of his picquet were killed ; Lieutenant Gilmore of the 8th Hussars and several men were wounded, and the adjutant of the 8th Hussars, Lieutenant Jones, was killed. The Fourteenth had 2 men and 5 horses Casualties of killed, 9 men and 10 horses wounded, and Lieutenant Harvey *’ had his horse shot under him. Major E. D. Brown, 1 4th Major Brown, Hussars, behaved most gallantly during this action : he brought a sergeant and a trumpeter out of action on his lantly – own horse one after the other, their horses having been shot, and himself remained behind under a very heavy fire to assist Lieutenant J. G. Browne to mount his horse, which was restive under the galling fire of the enemy and would not stand still. He was afterwards awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery on this occasion. 1 The ‘ M ‘ Battery

Major Tottenham, of the 14thHussars, with Mrs. Tottenham, passed through Rawal Pindi en route for Kashmir, last April. Recently we were grieved to hear that he had been seized by paraysis whilst staying at Gulmarg. He was brough down by easy stages in a motor car, and arrived here on the 3rdNovember, stayed with the Regiment until the 6ththen proceeded, accompanied by his wife and sister, to Bombay, there to embark for home. His friend’s in the Tenth hope he will make a speedy and good recovery. – The Tenth Royal Hussars Gazette

TOTTENHAM, CHARLES BOSVILE, Captain, was born 19 October 1869, at 57 Belgrave Road, London, elder son of Colonel Charles George Tottenham, of Ballycurry, County Wicklow, late of the Scots Fusilier Guards, and formerly Member of Parliament for New Ross, Wexford, and Catherine Elizabeth (who died in 1905), daughter of the Honourable and Reverend Sir F Stapleton, 7th Baronet, of Gray’s Court, and granddaughter of the 22nd Lord Despencer. He was educated at Eton and Sandhurst, and joined the Scots Guards 29 October 1890, and was transferred a few months later to the 14th Hussars (14 January 1891). He became Lieutenant 23 November 1892, and Captain 16 April 1900. Captain Tottenham served in the South African War, 1899-1902, and was present at the Relief of Ladysmith, including the operations of 5 to 7 February 1900, and action at, Vaal Kranz; operations on Tugela Heights 14 to 27 February 1900, and action at Pieter’s Hill; operations in the Orange Free State, February to May 1900, including actions at Houtnek (Thoba Mountain) and Zand River; operations in the Transvaal in May and June 1900, including actions near Johannesburg, Pretoria and Diamond Hill (11 and 12 June); operations in the Transvaal, east of Pretoria, July to 29 November 1900, including action at Belfast, (26 and 27 August); operations in the Transvaal 30 November 1900 to January 1901; operations in Orange River Colony, February to 31 May 1902; operations on the Zululand Frontier of Natal in September and October 1901. He was mentioned in Despatches [London Gazette, 10 September 1901]; received the Queen’s Medal with seven clasps, the King’s Medal with two clasps, and was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order [London Gazette, 27 September 1901]: “Charles Bosvile Tottenham, Captain, 14th Hussars. In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa”. He was awarded the DSO for his successful command of the rear-guard when the column was retreating from Geluk, Transvaal, on 13 October 1900, when Colonel Brown-Synge Hutchinson (who is also in the 14th Hussars) won his VC. He was promoted to Major 14 January 1905. Major Tottenham was a noted rider, and won many regimental races. He married, in 1907, at Christ Church, Folkestone, Ruby, daughter of Mr and Mrs Piercy Benn. He left the Service in October 1910, owing to ill-health, and died on the 11th February 1911, at Mentone. (An obituary notice appeared in the ‘Times’ of 14 February 1911.)

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The Boer War Gun

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