Queen’s Sudan, Queen’s South Africa, bar Relief of Ladysmith, Khedive’s Sudan, bar Khartoum, 4794 Private Charles Whitehead, 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, killed in action at the battle of Spion Kop.
“I very much regret to have to tell you that there seems to be no doubt that he was killed at the battle of Spion Kop on January 24. One of his comrades who is here (a Prisoner of War) slates that he saw him up there shot through the head.” The letter sent by Colonel Blomfield.
With original letter to David Barnes, Bolton, who was the brother of Pte Whitehead, sent from Colonel Blomfield, 2nd Lanc Fusiliers, who commanded Private Whitehead’s Battalion, whilst still a prisoner of war in Pretoria, dated June 2, 1900.
Medals are untouched and unworn, with silk ribbons as issued, his initial is incorrectly engraved as ‘J’ on the Sudan and Khedive’s Sudan, but he never had the chance to correct them before his death at Spion Kop shortly after being in Sudan.
The 2nd Bn were serving as part of the 11th Brigade, with the 2nd King’s Royal Lancaster Regiment, 1st South Lancaster Regiment & the 1st York and Lancashire Regiment. All under the command of Major General Woodgate.
Spion Kop was a chance for the British Army to relieve their countrymen who were besieged by the Boers in the Natal town of Ladysmith and be home by Christmas.
It is regarded as a massive tactical mistake by the British, leading to the deaths of approximately 332 Killed, 563 Wounded and 163 taken Prisoner.
The Lancashire Division was 1700 strong, planning to march on Ladysmith, but the first obstacle were passing four Hills, Goenkop, Conical Hill, Spion Kop & Twin Peaks. The plan was to quietly ascend one face of the Spionkop and entrench upon the top.
The letter reads:
I have Today received your letter of the 12th April regarding your brother Pte Charles Whitehead of “E” Coy in the Battalion under my command. I very much regret to have to tell you that there seems to be no doubt that he was killed at the battle of Spion Kop on January 24. One of his comrades who is here (a Prisoner of War) slates that he saw him up there shot through the head. Unfortunately our losses at the battle were very heavy and more than 40 men reported as “missing” were actually killed but apparently not properly identified at burial.
Captain Elushie who commands “E” Company tells me that your brother was an Excellent Soldier and bore a very good character. I join with Captain Elushie in sending to you or to your family our sincerest sympathy at his death, but it will be a consolation to you all to reflect that he died a gallant death, fighting for his Queen of Country in an engagement in which his Regiment earned the highest praise from the Commander-In Chief-
The Lancashire Fusiliers
P.S. On our return to England it is in my – to have a tablet erected in Bury Parish Church to the memory of the Officers, Non Commissioned Officers & Men who have fallen in this Campaign. Each man’s name will be recorded on the tablet. I fear the list will be a long one”