b. 07/12/1839 Crediton, Devon. d. 02/06/1908 Crediton, Devon.
Sir Redvers Henry Buller (1839-1908) was born on 7th December 1839 in Downes, near Crediton, Devon, the son of James Wentworth Buller MP, and Charlotte, daughter of Lord Howard. He was educated at Eton, and following his schooling was commissioned as an Ensign in the 60th Rifles on 23rd May 1858. Within two years, he was present at the taking of the Taku Forts in China, and the advance on Peking. He received the China Medal with two clasps. In 1870, he took part in the Red River Expedition in Canada, where he was promoted to Captain.
In 1873-1874 he was the intelligence officer under Lord Wolseley during the Ashanti campaign, during which he was slightly wounded at the Battle of Ordabai. He was promoted to Major and appointed CB. He then served in South Africa during the 9th Cape Frontier War in 1878 and the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. In the Zulu war he commanded the mounted infantry of the northern British column under Sir Evelyn Wood VC.
On 28th March 1879, during the retreat from Inhoblana, whilst they were being pursued by the Zulus, he realised Captain D’Arcy of the Frontier Light Horse, who was retiring on foot, was in trouble. He went back and carried him on his own horse until they passed the rear guard. Soon afterwards, he went to the aid of Lieutenant C Everitt who had had his horse shot from under him. He took him to a place of safety. He went on to do a similar action for the third time, saving another man from the Frontier Light Horse.
He was recommended for, and awarded the Victoria Cross on 17th June 1879, and was presented with his medal by Queen Victoria at Balmoral Castle on 9th September 1879. Following his VC action, he was given command of the Desert Column in 1885, and created KCMG. In 1886, he was sent to Ireland to reorganise the Constabulary. He then became Quartermaster-General of the Forces. In 1898, he was posted to Aldershot, and on the outbreak of the Boer War on 11 October 1899, he was selected as Commander of the Field Force for Natal.
Leading an army of 70,000 men – larger than any British Army previously sent abroad, Buller was defeated at the Battle of Colenso in December 1899. His suggestion to the Garrison Commander in the besieged town of Ladysmith that he should surrender earned Buller the nickname “Reverse” Buller. His attempt to relieve Ladysmith in January 1900 was successfully repulsed by the Boers who inflicted terrible damage on the British troops at Spion Kop and for all these set-backs, Buller was held accountable although, after 118 days, he did eventually relieve Ladysmith.
He was replaced in South Africa as Commander-in-Chief by his rival, Lord Roberts and when he returned to England, was posted to an army training depot at Aldershot. In October 1901, the Times published an anonymous letter criticising the telegram which Buller had sent to Ladysmith suggesting surrender. Sir Redvers Buller asked to be allowed to publish the full text of the actual telegram in rebuttal but permission was refused. At this point, he chose to read it out at an official luncheon – an action which led to Lord Roberts demanding – and getting – Buller’s immediate dismissal for indiscipline.
His career lay in ruins and he came to live, for the few years remaining to him, at Downes, the ancestral family home on the outskirts of Crediton. Sir Redvers Buller died at Downes on 2 June 1908, aged 68, and was buried in Holy Cross Church in Crediton. His Victoria Cross is kept in the Museum of the Royal Green Jackets in Winchester.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL GREEN JACKETS MUSEUM, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: HOLY CROSS CHURCHYARD, CREDITON, DEVON. FAMILY PLOT
Kevin Brazier – Buller VC Grave
Thomas Stewart – Buller VC Medal Group Royal Green Jackets Museum, Winchester
Alastair Kennedy-Rose – Buller VC Statue and Memorial in Exeter Cathedral.