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General Sir Redvers Buller VC was born at Downes, near Crediton, on the 7th December 1839, to a long standing west country family. Three generations of Buller's before him, had served as Member of Parliament for Exeter. The young Redvers joined the King's Own Rifles at the age of 18. He soon gained a reputation for daring and when serving in Canada, he took part in a mission to drive the separatist Louis Riel from Fort Garry. He also served in China and the Gold Coast before being sent to South Africa to fight in the Zulu Wars. Buller's Flying Column was employed in scouting ahead of the main British force. It was in 1879 that Buller's 400 irregular horsemen were involved in an action against 4,000 Zulus at Hlobane mountain - the operation went wrong and Buller had to withdraw under intense fire. Buller and his men had to repeatedly go back to retrieve dismounted and injured men. Buller was awarded one of five Victoria Crosses for that days action, during which he rescued three comrades from certain death. Upon his return to Crediton, he was mobbed by a cheering crowd, who dragged his carriage to Downes, and a month later, he was honoured at Exeter with a banquet.
After the Zulu War, Buller served in the Sudan, helping in the abortive rescue of General Gordon at Khartoum. In the 1890's he was promoted to Adjutant-General and worked to reform, what was up till then, a civilian run army supply and transport system by forming the Army Service Corp. By 1899, Britain was heading to war in South Africa once again, and Buller was sent to command the forces. The Boer War was a difficult campaign, against an enemy that was mobile and elusive. When the Boers marched into Northern Natal, and put Ladysmith under siege, Buller personally commanded the British response. Political bungling and difficult conditions led to several failed attempts to relieve the siege. Eventually, Buller's forces reached Ladysmith, and went on to drive the Boers out of Natal. But the damage to the General's reputation had been done and he retired to England under a cloud. This, despite enjoying the complete trust and popularity of his men.
General Sir Redvers Buller died on the 2nd June
1908, of cancer. Thousands of people from all over the country attended
his funeral, and his favourite horse from his campaign in Natal was led
after the gun-carriage that carried his coffin. In fact, my grandfather
purchased a postcard, of the show of flowers and wreaths, at the
cemetery at Crediton, along with a swatch of ribbon that was attached
to one of the wreaths. He wrote to his mother on the back of the card:
This is a bit of ribbon off General Bullers grave off one of the wreaths.
Don't give it away - take care of it.
I have seen his grave. This is where he is buried Crediton Devonshire.
It somehow shows the respect the nation had for him. There is a bust of him in Exeter Cathedral, and of course, the statue at the Queen Street and New North Road intersection next to Bury Meadow. More on the Buller Monument . Above Left - Buller's funeral and favourite horse and right, postcard from the cemetery with the swatch of ribbon.
General Buller. Postcard from General Buller's funeral - it includes a swatch of ribbon from one of the wreaths. The General's horse being led at his funeral
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