The Lindley Affair

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The Lindley Affair

Postby euryalus on Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:13 pm

On Sunday 27th May 1900 the 13th Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry, comprising about 500 predominantly Irish volunteers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Basil Spragge, was ambushed by a force of 2,000 Boers at Lindley, about 45 miles to the east of Kroonstad in South Africa. Spragge, on discovering that Lindley was occupied by the enemy, withdrew to a position on a kopje outside the town and reported the situation to Major-General Sir H.E.Colvile, who was then about eighteen miles away. However, although he received the message next morning, Colville refused to send help, and suggested that Colonel Spragge’s beleaguered force should retire.

As soon as he heard that the 13th Battalion was under attack, Lord Roberts ordered Lord Methuen to proceed to Lindley with a relief force which included the 3rd, 5th and 10th Battalions, but they did not arrive until Friday 1st June - by which time Colonel Spragge’s heavily-outnumbered Yeomen had surrendered.

Two officers and nineteen men were killed outright or died their wounds, while over 400 were captured – among them many prominent figures from Dublin legal circles and Trinity College Dublin. The following account of the Lindley disaster was published in The Times on 23rd July 1900:

“THE DISASTER TO THE YEOMANRY AT LINDLEY - Our Dublin Correspondent telegraphs that Mr Justice Ross has compiled from private letters written by the men a surprisingly accurate and comprehensive narrative of the circumstances connected with the mishap to the 13th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry at Lindley.

The facts are briefly as follows: On Friday, May 25, the battalion, consisting of the Dublin and Belfast Companies and the Duke of Cambridge’s Own, reached Kroonstad, where they received urgent orders to join General Colvile at Lindley, a town about 50 miles distant. They started immediately, having with them a convoy of wagons but, finding it impossible to obtain more than one day’s rations, they had very little food on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon they entered Lindley, not suspecting that it was in the enemy’s hands.

A sharp fire was opened on them from the windows of the houses and it was then discovered that the place had been evacuated by the British at sunrise of that day, and that the enemy were in the houses and in large numbers round the town. The battalion established themselves on two or three small hills, being surrounded by De Wet’s commandos. Fighting went on continuously till nightfall. During the night the men worked hard to fortify the position.

On Monday the 28th, firing began at daybreak and continued on that day and Tuesday and Wednesday, when the enemy were reinforced. At daybreak on Thursday, the 31st, a part of the Dublin company made a determine bayonet charge under Lord Longford, in the course of which he and Lieutenant Villiers Stewart were wounded. They carried the position and held it for some time. The enemy now pressed the attack in overwhelming numbers and shelled the battalion with heavy guns and pom-poms. At midday the Boers captured a kop which commanded the position held by the Duke of Cambridge’s Own, At 3 o’clock, after a gallant resistance, the company was obliged to surrender.

The whole weight of the enemy’s guns was now concentrated on the Dublin and Belfast companies, which resisted for more than an hour, and only surrendered at the command of the officers when the fight was becoming a massacre. During the 96 hours of the battle, the Yeomen were without sleep end almost without food. During the last 48 hours each man’ allowance consisted of one meat lozenge and two spoonfuls of jam.

The Yeomen numbered about 370, of whom the loss in killed and wounded amounted to 78. The enemy numbered according to different accounts, from 1,000 to 4,000 men. Prisoners were treated by the Boers with kindness and consideration. On Friday evening Lord Methuen, to whom messengers had been sent, arrived at Lindley after a rapid march, and drove out the Boers.

The correspondence to which Mr Justice Ross had access to includes no complaints against the action of the generals or commanding officer. Mr Justice Ross’s letter is accompanied by a letter from Lord Farnham, which declares that it a not the object of the memorandum in any way to reflect on the conduct of the generals commanding the district or the colonel commanding the corps”.

My purpose in posting these details is to spread the word about a proposed event at Lindley, in which the "Yeomanry" will be granted the freedom of Lindley - I am wondering, however, if there are any supporters groups or re-enactors who could represent the Irish yeoman?
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Re: The Lindley Affair

Postby brendan on Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:14 pm

Euryalus, not sure if anyone does that time period - though I am sure that some could
If you have copied this in from somewhere can you provide a reference?
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Re: The Lindley Affair

Postby euryalus on Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:17 pm

Hello Brendan,

The text was taken from my notes on the Imperial Yeomanry in the Boer War, which appear in the "Time Line" section of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust web site. I would agree that few re-enactors seem to "do" the Boer War, but the event might be of interest to anybody who studies the late Victorian/Edwardian era.

The reason I have mentioned the forthcoming Lindley celebrations is to spread the word - just in case there are any Irish-based re-enactors who might wish to attend the event in June 2011 (which will include a battlefield tour and a re-enactment, with the option of a visit to Rorke's Drift). At the present time, the the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars (represeneted by the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust) and the only yeomanry unit involved - but it would be good if Ireland could be represented in some way.
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Re: The Lindley Affair

Postby brendan on Fri Oct 22, 2010 1:26 pm

no problem - wanted to make sure that the work was correctly attributed is all; we had an incident a while back where someone started posting chunks of stuff copied from elsewhere without stating its source...
It does look tempting, but I have to draw the line somewhere in terms of time periods that i cover(!)
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Re: The Lindley Affair

Postby mikesteemson on Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:48 am

Hullo Euryalus,

I have recently discovered a consuming interest in the Lindley Affair. My Tuam, Co. Galway, grandfather, James John Clarke, was a private with 45 Company, Imperial Yeomanry (regimental number: 9651), who fought and was captured at Lindley.

My fascination stems from my discovering, in an old family chest, the skeleton of a war diary kept by Trooper Clarke during his months in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. I say "skeleton" because the diary is merely a succession of often single-line notes copied into the book I have found. They bear the notation in, I believe, my Grandfather's hand: "Copied from note-book, January 28th, 1901" ... about three weeks after he got back to Ireland.

Grandfather's notes concerning the Lindley engagement are slightly more detailed than the rest of the diary. They read:

    (Sunday) May 27th: Reached Lindley & were attacked in the town. Retreated about three miles & took up a position.
    (Monday) May 28th: Heavy sniping all day. Six or eight casualties, two killed. No 2 troop (Stannus) out with colt gun. very hot fire
    (Tuesday) May 29th: No 2 out with Longford and part of Nos 4 & 1. Very hot fire going out. One man wounded.
    (Wednesday) May 30th: No 2 out holding stone kraal. Heavy sniping.
    (Thursday) May 31: Charged kopje at daylight and drove Boers off. Gun brought to bear on us. Retired to Lord Ennismore. Completely surrounded by 2pm & had to surrender. Marched about a mile the opposite side of Lindley and bivouaced (sic).


I have added the days of the week, otherwise this is exactly how Grandfather recorded those fateful days. At the end of the notes, he drew a rough sketch of the position of the protagonists and where some oi the battle action occurred. I hope to be able to interpret this once I have learned more about the event.

I am in the process of writing a fuller narrative of the parts of the war linking with Grandfather's cryptic notes. My research is based on what I can uncover on-line in the multitude of websites recording that fascinating period of history about which, hitherto, I knew almost nothing. It was during my Web search that I came across your contribution to the Livinghistory.ie site. I have only a spectator's interest in re-creating military actions, but I would be very glad to know what else you have discovered about the Lindley Affair since your original posting.

I would be happy to share with you what I have learned so far and, should you still be interested, to let you have copies of the diary notes, the battle sketch plan and everything I produce.

I look forward to corresponding with you. My email address is steemson@xtra.co.nz.

Cheers,

Michael Steemson,
Wellington, NZ.

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Re: The Lindley Affair

Postby euryalus on Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:12 pm

Hello Michael,

There are at least two diaries covering the Lindley affair in the Oxfordshire Yeomanry Trust collection, and as the OY have been on a battlefield tour, they are still collecting information about the incident. I can, if it will help, put you in touch with them.
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