Personal info

  • Name: Edmund John PHIPPS-HORNBY
  • D.O.B: 31st Dec, 1857
  • D.O.A: 31st Mar, 1900
  • D.O.D: 13th Dec, 1947
  • Award: Victoria Cross
  • Occupation at time of action: Major, Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery
  • Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
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North of Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa 13 March 1900

13 March 1900

More details about:
The Second Boer War 1899 - 1902 

Following the relief of Kimberley and the surrender of Cronje’s army at Paardeberg, on 7 March 1900 Roberts began the advance towards Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State. After a skirmish at Poplar Grove the only serious resistance the British encountered was at Driefontein on 10 March. Bloemfontein surrendered on the 13th. That same day, a small force under Brevet Major Aylmer Hunter Watson blew up a double-spanned culvert on the railway line north of Bloemfontein, trapping 25 engines and 108 coaches and trucks in the capital. On their way back through Boer lines Watson and his men ran into a party of Boers. For their part in assisting the escape from the enemy, Sergeant H W Engleheart was awarded the VC and Corporal F H Kirby the DCM (he was later awarded the VC for an action on 2 June 1900).


 On the occasion of the action at Korn Spruit on the 31st March, 1900, a British force, including two batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery, was retiring from Thabanchu towards Bloemfontein. The enemy had formed an ambush at Korn Spruit, and before their presence was discovered by the main body had captured the greater portion of the baggage column and five out of the six guns of the leading battery. When the alarm was given Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was within 300 yards of the Spruit. Major Phipps-Hornby, who commanded it,at once wheeled aboutand moved offata gallop under a very heavy fire. One gun upset when a wheel horse wasshot,and had to be abandoned, togetherwith a waggon, the horses of which were killed. The remainder of the battery reached a position close to some unfinished railway buildings and came into action 1,150 yards from the Spruit, remaining in action until ordered to retire. When the order to retire was received Major PhippsHornby ordered the gunsand theirlimbersto be run back by hand to where the teams of uninjured horses stood behind the unfinished buildings. The few remaining gunners, assisted by a number of Officers and men of a party of Mounted Infantry, and directed by Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys, the only remaining Officers of the battery, succeeded in running back four of the guns under shelter. One or two of the limbers were similarly withdrawn by hand, but the work was most severe and the distance considerable. In consequence all concerned were so exhausted that they were unable to drag in the remaining limbers or the fifth gun. It now became necessary to risk the horses, and volunteers were called for from among the drivers, who readily responded. Several horses were killed and men wounded, but at length only one gun and one limber were left exposed. Four separate attempts were made to rescue these, but when no more horses were available the attempt had to be given up and the gun and limber were abandoned. Meanwhile the other guns had been sent on, one atatime,and after passing within 700 or 800 yards of the enemy, in rounding the head of a donga and crossing two spruits they eventually reached a place of safety, where the battery was re-formed. After full consideration of the circumstances of the case the Field-Marshal Commanding-inChief in South Africa formed the opinion that the conduct of all ranks of Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, was conspicuously gallant and daring, but that all were equally brave and devoted in their behaviour. He therefore decided to treat the case of the battery as one of collective gallantry under Rule 13 of the Victoria Cross Warrant,and directed that one Officer should be selected for the decoration of the Victoria Cross by the Officers, one non-commissioned officer by the noncommissioned officers, and two gunners or drivers by the gunners and drivers. A difficulty arose with regard to the Officer, owing to the fact that there were only two unwounded Officers – Major Phipps-Hornby and Captain Humphreys - available for the work of saving the guns, and both of these had been conspicuous by their gallantry and by the fearless manner in which they exposed themselves,and each of them nominated the other for the decoration. It was ultimately decided in favour of Major Phipps-Hornby as having been the senior concerned. 

(The London Gazette of 26 June 1900, Numb. 27205, p. 3964)

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