General Rt.Hon. Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB

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Statue of Sir Redvers Buller, Exeter

Sir Redvers Buller was a professional soldier who came from a family long associated with Devon. For rescuing three of his men from the Zulus in the Zulu War of 1879, he was awarded the VC. Altogether, in the years between the purchase of his commission in 1858 and 1885, he served in five wars and colonial campaigns. By all accounts, he was an outstanding cavalry commander and an officer for whom there was great respect.

Statue of Sir Redvers Buller, Exeter 

When war broke out between the British and the Boer settlers in South Africa on 11 October 1899, his selection as Commander of the Field Force for Natal seemed like a good omen for a speedy conclusion to this affair.

Throughout the County and beyond, streets and children were named in honour of him. The birth registration of little George Redvers Charles Buller Stentiford early in 1900 in Plymouth conjures up visions of the kind of adulation reserved for footballers these days. There is no doubt that to people in this County, Sir Redvers Buller was regarded as a hero.

General Rt.Hon. Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB
General Rt.Hon. Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB

 

Leading an army of 70,000 men - larger than any British Army previously sent abroad, Buller was defeated at the Battle of Colenso in December 1899. His suggestion to the Garrison Commander in the besieged town of Ladysmith that he should surrender earned Buller the nickname "Reverse" Buller. His attempt to relieve Ladysmith in January 1900 was successfully repulsed by the Boers who inflicted terrible damage on the British troops at Spion Kop and for all these set-backs, Buller was held accountable although, after 118 days, he did eventually relieve Ladysmith.

He was replaced in South Africa as Commander-in-Chief by his rival, Lord Roberts and when he returned to England, was posted to an army training depot at Aldershot.

In October 1901, the Times published an anonymous letter criticising the telegram which Buller had sent to Ladysmith suggesting surrender. Sir Redvers Buller asked to be allowed to publish the full text of the actual telegram in rebuttal but permission was refused. At this point, he chose to read it out at an official luncheon - an action which led to Lord Roberts demanding - and getting - Buller's immediate dismissal for indiscipline.

 

Downes, Crediton

Downes, Crediton

ęDevon CC

 

His career lay in ruins and he came to live, for the few years remaining to him, at Downes, the ancestral family home on the outskirts of Crediton. (Downes Farm, where Francis Long worked as a herdsman, being part of the Downes Estate). Sir Redvers Buller died at Downes on 2 June 1908, aged 68,  and was buried in Holy Cross Church in Crediton. His Victoria Cross is kept in the Museum of the Royal Green Jackets in Winchester.*

 

Memorial tablet to Sir Redvers Buller

Memorial tablet to Sir Redvers Buller in Holy Cross Church, Crediton

 

*Thomas Packenham, in his book The Boer War, sets out a military explanation for the events in the second part of Buller's life story which throws fresh light on his apparent failure.

 

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  Last modified:
30/09/2005