Lieutenant James Edward Ignatius Masterson

1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.

6th January 1900
Lieutenant James Edward Ignatius Masterson VC

    On January 6, 1900, after seven weeks of continual bombardment and all the privations of a close siege, the Boers found Sir George White's gallant garrison as stubborn as ever, and, with Buller's battalions steadily, though slowly, creeping to its relief, they began to entertain doubts whether Ladysmith would fall as easily as they had once expected. They therefore determined on a general assault on the town, hoping that disease and starvation had sapped the strength of the defending garrison. Though the British ranks had been sadly thinned since the commencement of the siege, the indomitable pluck of the British had in no way diminished, and, second to none, the Devonshire Regiment acquitted itself on that day, in a manner worthy of its best traditions. At Waggon Hill, three of its companies, one of which was led by Lieutenant Masterson, made a dash for a ridge, strongly held by the enemy, and captured it, but became at once exposed to a terrible fire from the right and left front. The position becoming almost untenable, Lieutenant Masterson undertook convey a message to the Imperial Light Horse, a hundred yards distant, to direct their attention to the left front, and endeavour to check the enemy's fire from that point. The ground which he had to traverse was absolutely without cover, and swept by a galling fire, and before he had crossed it he was shot in both thighs. With undaunted courage, struggling up, he contrived to crawl along and deliver his message before falling exhausted in the trench held by our men. By his heroic devotion, Masterson was the means of saving many lives.

   Major Masterson, born on June 25, 1862, enlisted at an early age in the 87th Royal Irish Fusiliers, with which famous regiment he fought at Tel-el-Kebir, gaining medal with clasp, and Khedive's Star. Commissioned into the Devonshire Regiment in 1891, he served in the operations in Burma (medal and clasp) ; and in 1897-8 took part in the fighting on the North-West Frontier of India (medal and two clasps). This officer's career is one of the many instances—from Luke O'Connor onwards—in which men, who in their early days served as private soldiers, have gained the Victoria Cross and eventually risen to high rank.



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