Distinguished Conduct Medal (VR) superb group with single date D.C.M. for Gunner, 66th Bty. Artillery for gallantry in the attempt to save the guns of the 14th & 66th at Colenso

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Product code: A5213

Quantity in Stock: 1 item(s)

Item condition: V.F./G.V.F.

Our price: £7,250.00

Medal Description

D.C.M., (V.R.) (14177 Gnr: H. S. Gilberry. R.F.A. 15-12-99), Q.S.A., 5 clasps, Cape Colony, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Belfast ( Gnr., 66th. Bty: R.F.A.),  I.G.S. 1908,  clasp, North West Frontier 1908 (Corpl.  18th By. R.F.A.), 1914-15 Star (B.S. Mjr. . R.F.A.); B.W.M., Victory Medals (Lieut.) 

Hugh Squire Gilberry

D.C.M. London Gazette 8 February 1901: Recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal ‘For gallant conduct at the Battle of Colenso, 15th December, in attempting to extricate the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries.’

At Colenso , Colonel Long took a decision to move his two field batteries forward towards the river to enable them to fire more effectively on the Boer positions in the hills.  Two of Long’s subordinate officers objected to this risky move.  Long sent forward two scouts who returned to report there was no sign of the Boers.  Long  ordered the 14th and 66th Field Batteries  to move to a position nearer the river. The two field batteries moved forward, overtaking Hildyard’s Brigade, and took up positions opposite Fort Wyllie.  The guns were unlimbered and about to come into action when the Boers opened fire from the far side of the river.  Along with the devastating rifle fire a Boer one pounder pom pom and other field guns fired on the British gunners.  The nearest Boer riflemen in Colenso were only 300 yards to the left of the British gun line which was 500 yards from the river bank to its front. 

Within minutes most of the horses of the two batteries and two thirds of the gunners were dead or wounded, including the battery commanders.  Long, shot through the arm and liver, was urged to order the survivors to abandon the guns and escape.  Long is reputed to have retorted “Abandon be damned.  We never abandon guns.”

Finally only one gun was being fired and that by two gunners.  One of the two was hit and the other turned to walk back to cover.  He was struck and the two batteries ceased firing.  The few survivors, mainly wounded, lay in a donga behind the gun line with the injured Long, who was reported as saying in delirium “Ah my gunners.  My gunners are splendid.  Look at them.”

Buller was overwhelmed by the casualties in Hart’s Irish regiments and by the loss of the two batteries of Long’s guns.  Buller resolved to call off the battle and withdraw.  But first the abandoned guns must be recovered if possible.

General Buller directed his ADC Captain Schofield to call for volunteers to recover the stranded guns.  Major Prince Christian Victor, Queen Victoria’s grandson, Captain Schofield, Captain Congreve and Lieutenant Frederick Roberts, Lord Robert’s son, took up the invitation.  The four officers with five teams of horses and limbers galloped over the open ground to the guns under a storm of fire.  Two teams were brought down and Christian Victor, Congreve and Roberts were wounded. The remaining three teams under Schofield and Nurse reached the guns, hitched up three guns and began the return to cover. A shell hit one of the turns turning it over and bringing down the team. Two guns reached safety.

A further  attempt to reach the guns was made by Captain Reed of 7th Battery but this was abandoned before reaching half way to the guns.

Victoria Crosses were awarded to Captain Congreve, Captain Schofield, Captain Roberts (posthumously ) and Corporal Nurse. A fifth Cross was awarded to Captain Reed and a sixth to Major Bebie, R.A.M.C. forpulling in the mortally wounded Roberts.

Of the Distinguished Conduct Medals for Colenso, five were gazetted specifically for the attempt to extricate the guns, being, Bombadier  Knight, Gunners Gilberry and Billingham of the 66th and also Drivers Bodill and Parmenter of the 14th.

The D.C.M. book records Gilberry as receiving a single dated medal 15/12/1899, details L.G. 8/2/1901, award L.G. 19/4/1901 and presented by the King at St. Jame's Palace, 25/7/1901.

A classic DCM.





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