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War Memorials

LETTER FROM ABLE SEAMAN FREDERICK IRELAND OF TORQUAY - 1899

 

From the Royal Naval Museum site:

"Naval brigades were detachments from ships consisting of seamen and Royal Marines (which were soldiers on board ships) who were landed ashore to undertake naval operations or to support the army in a wide variety of campaigns. During the period from 1850-1914, the Navy did not fight any ship-to-ship actions, and most British seamen who were on active service in operations did so as part of a Naval Brigade.

The Naval Brigades were professional organisations. Both officers and men received regular training in the techniques of land warfare at the gunnery school, HMS Excellent, at Portsmouth.

During World War I, the naval brigade idea of using naval personnel to fight ashore was used for naval reservists and the Royal Naval Division was formed to assist the army in various theatres of war. The RND was disbanded in 1920."

 

The part played in the Boer War by Royal Navy personnel may surprise some people. Two letters arrived in at the home of Courtney Ireland, a local painter and decorator in Torquay, on 17 January 1900 and what appears below is culled from both letters. This large family included several boys - the writer of the letter was 189193 AB Frederick Herbert Ireland then aged 19.

 

With the Naval Brigade

At Modder River

 

"The Brigade have been trying for seven days to get the Boers out of the hills near Modder River. No doubt you have heard of our Brigade charging the hills at Graspan, and taking them with 175 casualties out of 400. A Boer prisoner told us that there were about 8000 Boers on the top of the hills so you see our charge came out well.

 

We had a lively time here at Modder River. We started at about 6 am and knocked off at about 8.0 pm. We are going to stop here for Christmas I believe, and from what I can hear we are going to have a lively time of it.

 

You can see the news in the papers at home. I stopped one of the Boer bullets, it hit me just above the heart ( I did not know that I had one before that). It did me no harm, only making a dent in the strap. Then I thought it was time to shift. I had only been gone a few minutes when  one of the lads that was lying close to me got shot in the head. We lay down about an hour, then we advanced again. There was not a shot fired by the enemy all this time.

 

We thought it was going to be a walk-over for us, and go right into Ladysmith, but we were stopped. When the enemy saw we were coming near, they started up and the shot and shell fell thick and fast. It stopped us for a few minutes, but when we got around they started again. The firing lasted about eight hours.

 

The dead, wounded and missing are 114 in our regiment. Our Colonel has been taken prisoner with half a company."

 

 
 
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