Queen’s South Africa Medal, 3 bars, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek, South Africa 1901, 6104 Private J. Lowe, Rifle Brigade.
Officially engraved: “6104 Pte. J. Lowe. Rifle Bde.” Confirmed on the roll, SA 1901 date bar loose on ribbon as issued after medal.
On Boxing Day, 1900, following a quiet Christmas stationed at the Oceana Mine near the mining town of Grootvlei, a small detachment left behind under Capt Radclyffe to guard the valuable Baggage Wagon as the main column set off on a “farm-clearing” expedition, would fend off a large force of approximately 450 Boers, who encircled their position. During this action the 9 brave gunners who manned the Pom Pom had 1 killed and the other 8 all wounded.
A small party of Rifle Brigade men under Radclyffe lay down covering fire in an attempt to save the Baggage Wagon and get it to the main column, during which Radclyffe was wounded, he lay wounded and ordered his men in advanced positions to retire to the compound to avoid capture.
At the final moment the Rifle Brigade were all out of ammunition, the Boers advanced and forced their surrender, they were fortunate that the Main Column returned just in time, forcing the Boers to withdraw.
Private Lowe was amongst the extensive casualties, 13 Officers and men were killed, 44 wounded and 19 taken prisoner, Capt Radclyffe earned the D.S.O, a Corporal was also spotted attempted a daring rescue to carry the wounded Radclyffe to safety.
Robert John Lowe, who served as “John Lowe” was born in Little Thetford, Ely, Cambridgeshire around 1880.
He attested for service aged 18 on 10th August 1898 at Pontefract for service with the Rifle Brigade, he was serving with the 3rd Yorks and Lancs Regiment of Militia.
He saw the following service: Home, 11th Aug 1898 – 3rd March 1900
South Africa, 4th March 1900 – 4th April 1901
Home, 5th April 1901, 15th Dec 1901.
South Africa, 16th Dec 1901 – 15th August 1902.
Home, 16th August 1902 – 16th August 1915.
His papers show he was admitted into hospital for 30 days from 14th August 1901 until 12th September 1901 for treatment from a gunshot wound whilst at home.
During WW1 he was posted to 14th Battalion Rifle Brigade on 7th November 1914, being appointed Acting Corporal on 13th October 914, Corporal on 17th November 1914, Sergeant on 18th June 1914.
He was discharged on 16th August 1915 on expiration of his period of service.
The Battle at Grootvlei:
“After a quiet Christmas based at the Oceana Mine near Grootvlei, Lieutenant-Colonel A. Colville, 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade, proceeded on a farm-clearing expedition, with a small column consisting of six companies of the 1st Battalion, a squadron of the 13th Hussars, four guns of 63 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, as well as one ‘pom-pom’.
Colville left ‘F’ Company under the command of Captain Radclyffe, as well as some artillerymen, to guard the baggage wagons based at the mine. The Column moved out in the direction of Roodewal, where after five miles they became involved in a small skirmish at the first of the target farms.
During the skirmish, a large party of approximately 450 Boers were spotted heading towards the Oceana Mine
and a signal was sent to Captain Radclyffe informing him of this development. He at once set about disposing
his small force in an attempt to protect the baggage, with the pom-pom located near a small hollow. After a
couple of hours had passed a number of mounted Boers appeared on a ridge a thousand yards away. As
Radclyffe’s men opened fire the Boers dismounted, pushed forward, and sent out small parties to the left and
right in an encircling movement against the Rifle Brigade position. Under heavy and accurate fire the pom pom
was moved down towards the hollow and back towards the compound- of the nine men who assisted in moving
the pom-pom one was killed and the other eight all wounded.
Seeing that the enemy were now advancing in considerable force, Radclyffe decided to send the baggage back to the Column, whilst attempting to hold the Boers in check for as long as possible. Under cover of heavy Rifle Brigade fire from behind the wagons, the native teams began inspanning the oxen. When they were ready to move the native teams started off the wagons in the direction of Colville’s column and, as they did so, the small Rifle Brigade covering party came under very severe fire and had to retire, as the Boers saw that they were losing their target. During this time, Radclyffe and his sections continued their holding action but suffered a number of casualties, with their ammunition running out fast. With the baggage now well on its way, Radclyffe, who was lying wounded, ordered those in advanced positions who could do so to retire to the compound so as
to avoid capture.
No.1 section provided covering fire until their ammunition ran out, at which point the Boers advanced rapidly,f orcing their surrender, along with the wounded soldiers. Fortunately, at this point, the main column appeared on the horizon, forcing the Boers to withdraw, leaving their wounded prisoners behind. For some time, the wounded on the ridge were exposed to fire from both the returning column and the Boers, and a corporal was seen to make a valiant attempt to carry the wounded Radclyffe to safety.
Total losses that day were heavy, with 13 Officers and men killed, 44 wounded, and 19 taken prisoner. For his gallantry in defending the position,
Captain Radclyffe was awarded the DSO.”