Captain Walter Norris Congreve

2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade

15th December 1899
Walter Norris Congreve VC

     On December 15, 1899, at the battle of Colenso Bridge, during the early part of Buller's advance to the relief of Ladysmith, the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries R.F.A. had dashed forward, far in advance of their flank supports, and opened fire on the Boer position. Without shelter of any description, and in full view of the enemy strongly entrenched, they became the object of as fearful and pitiless a storm of bullets and shell as any battery has had to face in modem war. The horses were torn to pieces, the gunners littered the ground around the guns, but, with that dogged and stolid endurance, and that incapability of the British soldier to know when he is beaten, officers and men, with a heroism unsurpassed before or since, worked their guns in a desperate and hopeless endeavour to turn the tide. At last hardly enough remained to serve the guns, and any attempt to bring relief from the donga, five hundred yards to the rear, seemed only to increase the blizzard of shot and shell which swept, with out intermission, the space between the donga and the guns. Soon the batteries had no one to serve them, and they were deserted, but there were some heroic spirits who echoed Colonel Long's words, uttered as they removed him from the storm-stricken gun by which he had fallen, " Abandon be damned ! we don't abandon guns ! " General Buller, on hearing of the disaster, called for volunteers to attempt to bring them in. His call was readily answered by, among others, Captain Schofield, Captain Congreve, Captain Reed and Lieutenant Roberts, son of the Commander-in-Chief. Captain Schofield got together his team, and was able to bring in one of the only two guns which were saved. Captain Congreve and Lieutenant Roberts started out on their almost hopeless task, getting as far as hooking a second gun to a limber, and, though it was brought back, it cost the life of Lieutenant Roberts, who fell mortally wounded. Captain Congreve, badly wounded, made for the donga, but he saw his brother officer fall, and bravely returned through the hail of fire and brought him into shelter. Captain Reed brought up three teams to see what could be done at this point, and heroically dashed for the guns, but the horses could not be induced to face the storm, and, as men were falling fast at every attempt, no further endeavour was made and the remaining guns had to be abandoned. Corporal Nurse, for his gallant services during the awful ordeal, was, with the four officers, awarded the Victoria Cross. Further details of Captains Schofield and Reed, Lieutenant Roberts and Corporal Nurse are given under their respective headings.

   Captain Congreve, son of the late William Congreve, J.P., of Congreve, Staffordshire, was born on November 20, 1862. Educated at Harrow, he entered the Rifle Brigade February 7, 1885, becoming Captain in December, 1893, Major in the regiment and Army Lieut.-Colonel December 21, 1901. Served on the Staff in South Africa as A.M.S. and private secretary to Lord Kitchener, after which, in November, 1902, he became Assistant Military Secretary and A.D.C. to H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught in Ireland, being made a member of the Royal Victorian Order by His Majesty the King when on a visit to that country in 1903.


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