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The seige of Ladysmith

1899



Provided by John Lobb to whom many thanks

Trooper James Robert CRICKMORE, the son of William Almond CRICKMORE was killed during the seige of Ladysmith. He was a member of the Bellair Troop of the Natal Mounted Rifles, and has mention in Nevinson's"Diary of a Seige" as follows. Nevinson was a war correspondent for the Daily Chronicle.

'The Boers had placed a new gun on Gun Hill in the course of November and this gun gave us a lively time morning and afternoon. I think he was trying to destroy the Star Bakery, about one hundred yards below my cottage. The shells pitched on every side of it in succession. They destroyed three houses. An NMR trooper riding down the street was killed, and so was his horse. The trooper was James R CRICKMORE, one of our finest men - a mere boy - he was exercising a horse at the time"

Major Tathan's account follows. It can be found in Vol 1 of the Ladysmith Historical Society's publication "Diary of the Seige of Ladysmith"

"Friday 1st December...shelling from Bulwan (Umbulwana) commenced early. Trooper J R CRICKMORE and horse struck while passing Town Hall. I was riding past office just behind this poor chap"

Bella Craw's account (in No 2 of the same publication) says

"A shell came from Umbulwana and he (her uncle George) saw it strike a man on horseback. The horse fell dead and the man ran for a short distance. He (George) said he though he was not hurt, but came in later to say that the doctors said that he was very badly hurt. A piece of shell had entered the chest just below the heart. Later this afternoon we hear he is dead. He was one of the NMR, Crickmore by name from Bellair."

Arthur Joseph of the Natal Carbineers in No 5 of the same publication:

"Shortly after 10 o'clock a shell burst in the road opposite hosptal mortally wounding a man named CRICKMORE from Bellair of the NMR. The horse he was riding belonged to the Quartermaster was killed."

William Dixon-Smith was Lieutenant Quartermaster of the BMR. He kept this small notebook to record matters such as rations and daily events in the unit. He wrote:

"Ladysmith 1st December 1899 . Trooper Crickmore NMR killed near the Town Hall by Shell. 2nd Dec Sports held on the Parade Ground - really a good day in spite of the Shells bursting over us Trooper Crickmoor buried at 6 p.m."

*These were combined sports among the regiments attended by nearly all the townspeople in Ladysmith. Life went on despite Trooper Crickmoor's tragic end the day before."

Herbert Watkins-Pitchford's "Besieged in Ladysmith", the entry marked 3rd December 1899:

"On Friday evening a huge shell struck the hospital which is in the Town Hall ... etc. ... Yesterday two deaths were caused by the same means, one of our Durban men being swept off his horse by a piece of shell embedded in his chest just below the heart, while the horse was blown open, the other poor chap having his legs carried away."

Note: [Watkins-Pitchford wrote his account during the siege in the form of a letter to his wife, who was then on her way to England.]

Note: As you may know, at this stage of the siege (i.e. Dec 1899) Ladysmith was being shelled daily and frequently even after dark, as the Boers were closing in on the town - though they did no shelling on Sundays, this being reserved for religious services. The important thing for the besieged British was to keep up the morale of the men hence much sporting activity as noted above.
The Bellair troop of the Natal Mounted Rifles was formed about 1898 so this troop was just in time to join in the Anglo-Boer War 1899.

Two letters referring to this event may be seen here

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