THE MILITARY SALE Historically Important World Medals and Militaria Go Under the Hammer in London 6th November 2013 sees Baldwin’s and Dreweatts hold the second of their bi-annual Military Sales, comprising 320 lots of Medals, Militaria and Military ephemera. The sale will be held at Dreweatts Lo
lightly-equipped force of 1700 men led by Major General Woodgate, comprising eight companies of the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, six of the 2nd Royal Lancasters, two of the 1st South Lancashires, one-hundred and eighty men of Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, and half a company of Sappers, slowly climbed the hill and cleared a Boer piquet which was taken completely by surprise, and they began with difficulty to entrench their rocky position.
Once daylight had broken on the morning of the 24th, their mistake was realised, as the British & Colonial troops discovered to their cost that they had only cleared the first part of Spion Kop, and that a larger Boer force remained at its true summit, and furthermore, Boer troops and artillery commanded three further opposing hills, bearing down on their position. Boer snipers and shelling wrought havoc on the British troops below, and fearing for their own reasons that the British would take and hold this tactical position, and charge was launched by some 300 burghers of the Pretoria Commando, with their Mausers and hunting knives, where brutal hand to hand fighting ensued, resulting in an exhausted stand off for both sides, as the shelling resumed upon the British. Major-General Woodgate was killed by shrapnel, and soon after other senior officers including Colonel Blomfield of the Lancashire Fusiliers, fell in quick succession, the latter severely wounded. Colonel Malby Crofton of the Royal Lancasters, who was totally overwhelmed by finding himself in command, managed to semaphore for help from the hill, pleading: “Reinforce at once or all is lost. General dead.” Without being able to provide any meaningful leadership, Warren sent runners to appoint Thorneycroft to command, who led a counterattack and personally prevented the surrender of wavering British troops for just long enough for reinforcements to arrive from Coke’s Brigade. Acting as a courier between Spion Kop and Buller’s Headquarters that day, a young Lieutenant and journalist Winston Churchill reported of the scene: "Corpses lay here and there. Many of the wounds were of a horrible nature. The splinters and fragments of the shells had torn and mutilated them. The shallow trenches were choked with dead and wounded." By nightfall of the 24th, roughly 24 hours into the battle, Thorneycroft ordered his remaining exhausted, unfed and thirsty troops to retreat to the foot of the hill, leaving the equally weary remaining Boer troops in control of the hill.
In the course of the day’s fighting the British suffered 243 killed and around 1,250 wounded or missing. Boer losses were also heavy by proportion, with 68 killed and 267 wounded or missing. The 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers of Woodgate’s Brigade suffered heaviest of all, with eight officers amongst the number killed or wounded, and it was here at Spion Kop that Captain Gilbert McDonald Stewart was killed in action, this believed his first experience under enemy fire, and his name is inscribed on a memorial tablet outside of the New Memorial Library at Dulwich College, as well as his name