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 Samuel John Witheridge (1851–1881)

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PostSubject: Samuel John Witheridge (1851–1881)   Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:47 pm

"Samuel John Witheridge, born in January 1851 in Plymouth, was the third son of Thomas Witheridge (born 1820, Devonport) and Mary Ann Garry (born 1820, Exeter). On 30th March 1851, aged three months, he was in the family home at 1 Woolster Street, Plymouth Charles, with his parents and paternal grandfather Joseph Witheridge (born 1788, Wembury, not Holsworthy as the census states). At some time between 1851 and 1854, the family moved to 10 Lower Batter Street. On 2nd April 1854, Samuel's six-month-old brother, Joseph William Witheridge, died there of pneumonia. In 1855 his younger sister, Elizabeth Jane Witheridge, was born, but on 8th September 1857, Samuel's father Thomas Witheridge, a bargeman, died there of phthisis and diarrhoea.

Mary Ann Witheridge was thus left a widow, with four surviving children, all under the age of ten. Samuel's brother Edmund later wrote that Mary Ann kept the family out of the workhouse 'by turning a mangle'. By 7th April 1861, Mary Ann, with Thomas, Edmund (wrongly listed as Edward) and Elizabeth, had moved to 9 Looe Street, Plymouth Sutton, where Mary Ann was a laundress, but Samuel remained with his grandfather Joseph Witheridge at 10 Lower Batter Street.

In 1865 Samuel joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor, and soon progressed to ordinary seaman and then to able-bodied seaman. By 1871 he was serving on HMS Caledonia which naval records state was based in Malta, but census returns place in Naples. In 1873 Samuel was transferred to HMS Cambridge, where he served until July 1874. During this time he was promoted from able seaman to TM, and his character was 'very good'. He then served as a TM on HMS Topaze from July 1874 to April 1876, when he was promoted to Leading Seaman. His character throughout was 'exemplary'.

In 1877 he went to the Portsmouth shore base, HMS Excellent, where he received gunnery training, and later served as an instructor to both Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. When he married, on 8th March 1878 at Portsea, Hampshire, Mary Ann Cruwys, age 24, he was described as a Seaman, RM of HMS Excellent. Throughout his time on HMS Excellent, his conduct remained exemplary.

In April 1878 he was appointed Petty Officer 2nd Class on the newly-launched HMS Boadicea, a Third-Class Screw Corvette, which soon sailed for the Africa station. By July 1878, Samuel had been promoted to Petty Officer 1st Class, and was later appointed Quartermaster. In Africa, a number of Boadicea's crew were seconded to the Naval Brigade to reinforce troops in the Zulu Wars, and Samuel served in Pearson's column at Gingindhlovu and in the relief of Eshowe. He was awarded the Zulu Wars campaign medal, but its present location is unknown.

When the Zulu Wars ended, the crew returned for a while to HMS Boadicea, but in 1881 were again called upon to serve in the First Boer War, under the command of Sir George Pomeroy-Colley. After a number of failed encounters with the Boers, by mid-February it was apparent that Colley had made a number of serious errors of judgement, and may have been having a breakdown.

In a disastrous manoeuvre kept secret from other commanders, Colley led his motley collection of troops (who had never served together before) on a night trek up the treacherous south face of Mount Majuba to capture this strategic point 6,000 feet high. Although they secured the summit plateau, no proper reconnaissance had been made, and no entrenchments or fortifications were dug, except by the Naval Brigade. As a result, on the morning of Sunday 27th February, the Boers crept up a gentler slope of the mountain and over-ran the British troops. Throughout the ensuing battle Colley failed to issue a single order, and in the resulting chaos many lives were lost unnecessarily. Colley himself was eventually shot and killed.

The attrition rate was highest among the Naval Brigade, the most disciplined and well-trained troops there, as they guarded the retreat position, covering the fleeing troops. Among those who died were Samuel John Witheridge and his friend George Hammond, also from Plymouth. The two died side by side, shot through the head by Boers. Later, a Boer commandant pointed them out to a British officer as brave men 'who had stayed at their post till the last'. They were mentioned in despatches when details of the battle were published in the London Gazette on 3rd May 1881.

Samuel John Witheridge and George Hammond are both buried in the small cemetery on the summit of Majuba, and are commemorated on the Boadicea memorial in Haslar Cemetery, Portsmouth. Sadly, the cemetery at Majuba has been desecrated, partly because of the strong feeling that this was an unjustified battle, and partly because local tribesmen believed that 'white men's bones make good magic'. It is not known whether Samuel's grave is intact, but the memorial stone to the men of HMS Boadicea bears a large bullet hole."

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PostSubject: Samuel John Witheridge    Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:34 am

This may be a silly question , does anyone live near Majuba ??. Is so is there any chance we can get a photo of his grave ? . Thanks in advance if its possible .
Cheers 90th. Salute
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PostSubject: Re: Samuel John Witheridge (1851–1881)   Wed Oct 07, 2015 9:35 pm

90th there's images of the War Memorials on the summit of Majuba


Extract from Page 358 - The-Royal-Navy-A-History-Volume-VII

"28th, Lieutenant Cochran came up from camp with a burial party, and with stretchers and medical comforts. Of the fifty–
three men who were bmied on the summit, ten belonged to the Naval Brigade. But these were not the whole of the naval
casualties. The Boadicea lost Lieutenant Trowel' and 10 men killed, and Commander Romilly and 5 men mortally wounded.
The Dido lost 3 men killed. In addition, 10 Boadicea's and ;~ Dido's were wounded; so that of the total nayal force engaged,
33 (being practically 50 per cent.) were put out of action. Trower's body was found on the extreme ridge, and, being taken back to camp, was buried there . Romilly died on March 2nd. A Boer commandant pointed out to Cochran the bodies of
two men who had most bravely stood their ground and perished there. They were those of George Hammond and Samuel Witheridge, quartermasters, R. . Mahon, who reached camp at 5 P.M. on the 28th, with five ambulances full of wounded, behaved throughout with magnificent devotion and gallantry."

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PostSubject: Samuel John Witheridge ( 1851 - 1881 )    Thu Oct 08, 2015 1:18 am

Hi Littlehand
Witheridge is on the HMS Boadicea Medal Roll for the South African War Medal , entitled to Clasp 1879 . When the Holt's tour finished last year , and we made our way to J'burg Airport , we stopped for lunch at Majuba , although just the base , we didnt have time to climb it .
90th Salute
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Samuel John Witheridge (1851–1881)
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