Herbert Stephen Henderson VC

b. 30/03/1870 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 10/08/1942 Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Herbert Stephen Henderson (1870-1942) was born on 30th March 1870 at Hillhead, Glasgow, Scotland, the fourth son of William Henderson, who worked at Bishop Street Engineering Works, and the grandson of James Henderson, a ship builder from Glasgow. He was educated at Kelvinside Academy, Hillhead, and served a five year apprenticeship with J and J Thomson Engineers, Glasgow, before moving to Belfast to work for Workman, Clark and Company. In 1892, he left Belfast to work professionally in South Africa, before in 1894 moving to Rhodesia, to be an engineer in the Queen’s Mine.

Herbert S Henderson VC

By the end of March 1896, conditions for the Matabele people in the new Rhodesia drove them to rise up in rebellion. The BSAC could not keep control, so a relief force – the Bulawayo Field Force – was raised, comprising one group under Major Herbert Plumer, which entered the chief town of Bulawayo in May, and additional imperial troops under Sir Frederick Carrington, who joined Plumer’s men in June.

Included in the latter force was Robert Baden-Powell who was the chief of staff, and it was his prowess in scouting out and spying on the enemy that was responsible for much of its success. The Matabele tribesmen worked in small groups, using their knowledge of the terrain to set up mountain strongholds from which to carry out raids and ambushes. The campaign was one of small encounters, which were finally brought to and end when Baden-Powell’s chief native scout, Jan Grootboom, managed to get the Matabele chiefs to attend a parley with Cecil Rhodes.

On the morning of the 30th March 1896, just before light, Captain Macfarlane’s party was surprised by the natives. Troopers Celliers and Henderson, who formed part of the advanced guard, were cut off from the main body, and Celliers was shot through the knee. His horse also was badly wounded and eventually died.

Henderson then placed Celliers on his own horse, and made the best of his way to Bulawayo, The country between Campbell’s Store, where they were cut off, and Bulawayo, a distance of about thirty-five miles, was full of natives fully armed, and they had, therefore, to proceed principally by night, hiding in the bush in the daytime.

Celliers, who was weak from loss of blood, and in great agony, asked Henderson to leave him, but he would not, and brought him in, after passing two days and one night in the veldt without food.

Henderson was recommended for, and gazetted for the VC on 7th May 1897, and was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Governor of Cape Colony, Lord Milner, in Bulawayo on the 14th November 1897. After the award of the VC, and the end of the rebellion, Henderson returned to his occupation of an engineer in the mines. He remained in this profession for the rest of his working life.

Henderson died on 10th August 1942, aged 72 at his home in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He was buried in the Bulawayo Town Cemetery. His medals were left to his two sons in his will, and they kept the medal in their possession until 2007, when they decided to donate the medal to the National Army Museum, Chelsea. In May 2007, Lieutenant Henderson’s grand-daughter personally travelled with the medal from her home in South Africa to present the medal to the museum. Sadly, the medal is not currently on display.






Thomas Stewart – medal group at the National Army Museum.