Boer War Colenso D.S.O. group, Major , King’s Royal Rifle Corps, severely wounded at Colenso when acting as A.D.C. to Major-General Arthur Fitzroy ‘No-Bobs’ Hart, 5th (Irish) Brigade

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Medal Description

D.S.O. (V.R.), complete with top suspension,  Q.S.A. 4 clasps, C.C., O.F.S., Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal (Maj: Hon:  D.S.O, K.R.R.C.),  K.S.A. 2 clasps, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Capt. Hon. D.S.O. K.R.R.C.)

D.S.O. L.G. 19/4/1901: "’The Honourable Henry St Leger Jervis, Captain, King's Royal Rifle Corps. In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa.’

M.I.D. L.G. 18/11/1900 & 9/11/1901

The Hon. St Leger Henry Jervis B. 1863, at Godmersham Park, Canterbury, Kent, fifth son of the 3rd Viscount St Vincent and Lucy, daughter of Baskervyle Glegg, of Withington Hall, Chester. Commissioned in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, 1885,  Captain in 1893. He served in South Africa, 1899-1902, on the Staff, as A.D.C. to Major General Arthur Fitzroy Hart, 5th Infantry Brigade, to 15 December 1899, (when wounded), and 9 July to 17 November 1900,  Brigade Major 18 November 1900 to 7 November 1901.  He was present at the Relief of Ladysmith, including action at Colenso (severely wounded). Twice mentioned in Despatches. Retired from the King's Royal Rifle Corps, 12 October 1904. On the outbreak of the war he became Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel, 3rd Battalion Norfolk Regiment. (no medal entitlement)

At Colenso, On the left of the British line Hart’s Irish Brigade left camp at around 4.30am, advancing on the river soon after dawn.  Hart’s orders were for his brigade to cross by the Bridle Drift.  Accompanying Hart at the front of his brigade the native guide indicated that the route was to the right into one of the large loops in the river.  In fact Bridle Drift was on a straight stretch of the Tugela River well to the west of the loop. Hart’s staff remonstrated that Bridle Drift lay further west and that the loop was a death trap.  Hart chose to follow the guide’s directions.  It is clear that the guide was confused and indicating Punt Drift at the head of the loop, not Bridle Drift.  It did not help that the guide spoke no English. Hart ordered the  attack in close order with himself  and his staff  mounted.  As Hart led his brigade into the loop towards the river bank the commanding officer of his leading battalion, 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers, ordered his men into open order.  Hart directed the fusiliers to remain in close order. As Hart’s men advanced into the loop the Boer riflemen and guns on the far side of the Tugela opened fire, immediately inflicting extensive casualties on the exposed clustered Irish regiments. The soldiers of Hart’s four battalions spread along the river bank in the loop but they were unable to identify any fordable part of the river by which they could cross to the Boer bank.  Various groups tried to swim across, several soldiers being drowned.  Those who made the crossing found that once on the far side there was nothing they could achieve and swam back.

Eventually Buller intervened and ordered Hart to withdraw.  A major of the Connaught Rangers took the order down to the most advanced troops and a withdrawal took place, although some men did not receive the order and a few were captured later in the day.  Hart’s brigade suffered some 500 casualties in an action lasting around an hour.

Major St. Leger Jervis fell severely wounded not returning to duty until the following July. His elder brother, the 4th Viscount St Vincent (b. 1850) died of wounds received at the battle of Abu Klea whilst serving with the 16th Lancers. At Colenso his Brigade Commander, Major-General Arthur Fitzroy Hart, was known as “General No-Bobs” because he never ducked when shells passed overhead, and he deliberately exposed himself to rifle fire.

Lovell Collection, Sotheby, November 1978.

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