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 Commandant George Hamilton-Browne

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PostSubject: Commandant George Hamilton-Browne   Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:04 pm

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Hamilton-Browne was the archetypal colonial adventurer. He was originally from Ulster, born of a soldiering family in 1847. He failed to enter Sandhurst or Woolwich and had to progress the hard way. His deep-seated respect for commissioned officers is clear throughout the biographies he wrote after his retirement. He was almost continuously in action for more than 30 years between 1866 and 1897. Browne started as a driver in the RHA, then served a time in the Papal Zouaves before his first colonial adventure in New Zealand in 1866. This was as far as he could go to avoid the consequences of a duel in Italy that ended with the death of his opponent. He served as a major in Tempsky's Forest Rangers and ended up as a captain in the 1,000 strong Field Force under Colonel Whitmore. He saw a great deal of action in the campaign against the Maori leader Te Kooti. During his time there he learned the Maori language and earned the life-long nick-name of 'Maori' Browne. He left NZ in 1870 and went to Australia where he was badly wounded in the chest. After he recovered he went to the United States to fight against the Sioux.
In 1877 he went to South Africa and met Colonel Pulleine of the 24th who offered him a command position in Pulleine's Rangers, an irregular infantry unit made up of railway navvies, to take part in the 9th Cape Frontier War. There wasn't much fighting and the war soon ended. His next commission was as commandant of the 3rd Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent to serve in the invasion of Zululand. The three regiments of the NNC were made up of primitive black people who had been driven into Natal over the years by the warlike activities of the Zulus. Hamilton-Browne had a low opinion of their usefulness but found that he was lucky enough to have 3 companies in his battalion which were made up of Zulus who had formerly served in Cetshwayo's army but had been driven out by the men under Silhayo's command. These 3 companies contained good fighters, warriors keen to get revenge for their forced exile.

In his book 'A Lost Legionary in South Africa' Browne gives a full description of his activities in the war including the attack on Silhayo's kraal and the events leading up to the catastrophe of Isandhlwana. The NNC were mostly discredited on that day and the 3rd Regiment was disbanded. After the Zulu War he was in the Bechuanland Expedition and then, while in Kimberly, he joined the Diamond Fields Horse. He took part in the 1888 campaign in Zululand and later the First and Second Matabele Wars of 1893 and 1896. The photo shows him as a square-jawed 43 year-old major, adjutant of the Diamond Fields Force c1890. He lived until the age of 69 and died in Jamaica in 1916.

Books by G Hamilton-Browne

With the Lost Legion in New Zealand (Werner Laurie 1900)

A Lost Legionary in South Africa (Werner Laurie 1911)

Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion (Werner Laurie 1912)

Source: Source:http://www.britishempire.co.uk/
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PostSubject: Re: Commandant George Hamilton-Browne   Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:51 pm

I didn't think any photos exsisted of him. Only a drawing in his book. Always good to put a name to a face.
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PostSubject: Re: Commandant George Hamilton-Browne   Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:33 pm

Spent his life looking for trouble.
There is a picture of him in ZR by Knight but not being at home, I can't check if the portrait is well drawn pencil sketch or a photo.
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PostSubject: Re: Commandant George Hamilton-Browne   Fri Jan 18, 2013 10:45 pm



"In the course of the eighty-two wars waged by the British Army during the reign of Queen Victoria1 there were many opportunities for men of adventurous habits to serve alongside units of the Regular Army. These corps were raised in many parts of the world, were known by all sorts of titles, ranging from “Somebody’s Horse” to “Armed Constabulary”, were recruited from any races available, not always the most warlike, and gave their officers plenty of opportunities of seeing active service under the most varied conditions. It was seldom possible to officer these local corps from the British Army; the most that could usually be done was to appoint the commanding officer and adjutant from Regular or ex-Regular officers. There grew up a class of men who drifted about the world from one war to another as occasion offered and made excellent and experienced leaders. Of this type was the subject of this sketch, a man who fought more or less continuously from 1866 to 1897, and, unlike most of his brother officers, has left, in three books published after his retirement, a very fair picture of what he saw and did himself. When he retails the experiences of other men he is not so trustworthy, but as far as his own deeds are concerned the facts and dates fit in well with other, including official, accounts. Possibly today his style would be considered rather flamboyant. He probably wrote as he talked.
“Maori” Browne, to give him the nickname by which he was generally known (it derived from his knowledge of that language), was born of a soldiering family in Ulster in 1847 and destined for the Army. For various reasons he failed to enter either Sandhurst or Woolwich as he wished and, like so many others of this type, obviously regretted it to the end of his days. His admiration for the officers and men of the British Army shows plainly right through his books – especially his great liking for the long-service soldier as opposed to the short-service man of his later campaigns. In support of this attitude he quotes Lord Roberts, though he does not seem to have realised that the Field-Marshal later changed his views completely.

After a short spell as a driver, R.H.A. (he was apparently bought out), and a few months’ experience in the Papal Zouaves, he found himself in 1866 in New Zealand, in consequence of a duel on the Continent which had ended fatally for his opponent. We had been fighting the Maoris in the North Island since 1861, and as there were about 10,000 New Zealand Militia and Irregulars serving, the decision was taken to withdraw the Regulars during 1866. Browne enlisted in Major von Tempsky’s Forest Rangers – we should class them as Commando troops today – who had been three years in the field and were composed of what someone once described as “well seasoned material”. With them Browne learnt all there was to be known about bush-fighting in an appallingly difficult country. Like the British Regulars there, the New Zealanders wore a blue serge frock or jumper cut long but with a slouch hat instead of forage cap; trousers were worn in camp only; in the bush a shawl was used as a kilt, with a blanket-roll on the back holding rations and whatever else was required. The Rangers were very well armed with a breech-loading carbine8 and a muzzle-loading revolver, much superior to the double-barrelled smoothbore guns carried by most of the Maoris. Later in 1869 the New Zealand troops were issued with the Snider. Browne did not see a great deal of the Regulars, but he gives a notable account of the great admiration felt by the Rangers for the 57th (1st Middlesex) when the latter rushed a stockade in close order with their pioneers out in front demolishing it.

The Rangers, who included many old soldiers and sailors, and a few ex-pirates from the South Seas, were a typical corps of experienced fighters from all over the world. With them Browne served a very thorough apprenticeship. They had a mounted section in which Browne also served, and in 1867 he got a commission in the New Zealand Mounted Defence Force, transferring to the Armed Constabulary and finishing as a captain in the “Field Force”, a corps about 1,000 strong, forming part of a force under Colonel (later General Sir George) Whitmore, of whom Browne had a great opinion. In this corps Browne saw a great deal of guerrilla warfare of a most exacting sort against Te Kooti, a Maori leader who thoroughly understood what he was doing. Browne gives, presumably verbatim, an account of the opinions of a Maori chief on the British way of warfare. Though the two sides had a most excellent opinion of each other as fighting men, our opponents could never understand what they considered our most unsportsmanlike habit of trying to cut off supplies from our enemies. This the Maoris never did, as they felt that the better fed and fitter one’s opponents are, the greater will be the honour of fighting them.

After the end of the fighting in 1870 Browne went to Australia, and it was probably there when fighting bushrangers that he collected a bad chest wound. He went next to the States, where he served against the Sioux, and after a short visit to his family sailed in 1877, on doctor’s orders, for South Africa. After landing at Cape Town he found himself by chance at East London. Hearing that the 1st/24th (South Wales Borderers) had their headquarters not far off at Kingwilliamstown, he went there and called on the officers, some of whom he knew. The Ninth Kaffir War was in progress, and the battalion commander, Colonel Pulleine (afterwards killed at Isandhlwana), was raising an irregular infantry unit, largely from navvies who had been brought out from England on railway construction, which had been held up by the war. The Colonel asked Browne to take over a company of Pulleine’s Rangers, as the corps was called. This he did, finding the men good enough material in the field but quite impossible in civilisation. There was not much fighting, and at the end of hostilities in 1878 Browne again found himself at a loose end.

He next drifted to Durban and on the outbreak of the Anglo Zulu War was offered a commission as major commanding the first battalion of the 3rd Regiment of the Natal Native Contingent under Commandant Lonsdale, formerly in the 74th (2nd Highland Light Infantry).This contingent was mainly composed of what were known as Natal Kaffirs, men of the same stock as the Zulus, of whom they had a wholesome dread and whom they had little intention of fighting. Browne, however, was lucky in having three out of his eight companies formed from an ex-regiment of the Zulu army, which had been forced to live in Natal after a quarrel with a senior regiment. The men of these companies were perfectly willing to fight against other Zulus. The officers and N.C.Os. were all Europeans, one of the sergeants being Browne’s Irish servant, and the Europeans and 10 percent of the Africans carried Martini-Henry rifles, a further percent having muzzle-loaders as well, and shield and assegais. The officers were most of them good men; and the 3rd Regiment, as well as having an excellent C.O., had as intelligence officer Lieutenant (later Colonel) Hartford, 99th Regiment (2nd Wiltshire Regiment), who spoke fluent Zulu and has also left an account of the campaign. The only difference in appearance between Browne’s men and their enemies was that the former wore a piece of coloured rag round their heads.

This was a very different kind of soldiering from any with which Browne had up to now been accustomed, though Lonsdale had already had a taste of it commanding Fingo levies in the late Kaffir War, men who fought better than the Natal Kaffirs. It was difficult to forecast what the latter would do in action, and those with firearms were always prone to shoot their own comrades by mistake, besides displaying little attention to their officers once they were committed to an attack. On the 11th January, 1879, Lord Chelmsford, G.O.C., South Africa, crossed into Zululand with a strong column of all arms, including Lonsdale’s 3rd N.N.C. Before the force camped at Isandhlwana Hill on the 20th, Browne had been engaged in two skirmishes and realised that only his three Zulu companies were of the least use. On the 21st Chelmsford sent out a small force of mounted men with Lonsdale’s command about thirteen miles from camp. There was some fighting; the force bivouacked, and next morning, the 22nd January, the G.O.C. sent out six companies of the 2nd/24th, with four guns and some African pioneers, to reinforce his advanced party. He accompanied them in person, and after more skirmishing he withdrew Browne’s battalion from the front and ordered him back to camp to help strike it. Three of Browne’s companies had been left at Isandhlwana, including one of the Zulu companies. At about 9 a.m. he was on his way, the men, who had had no food, moving very slowly and unwillingly. At 10 a.m. he captured two Zulus, who told him, perfectly correctly, that the main Zulu army was close to the camp and going to attack it. Browne at once sent an officer (they were all mounted) to Chelmsford with a note. Not long afterwards he came in sight of the camp, and at 11 a.m. he sent another note back to say that part of the Zulu army was in sight near the camp. At midday he could hear the guns at the camp in action, and at 1.30 p.m. he could see the camp and masses of Zulus moving round to the rear of Isandhlwana Hill. In all, he sent four messages, all of which were received by staff officers and eventually reached the G.O.C., who was some distance to the front, but not before 2 p.m. Already at 9.30 a.m. Lord Chelmsford had received a note from Colonel Pulleine, then commanding the camp; but a staff officer, sent to high ground from which he could see it through glasses, had reported all was correct there. After receiving Browne’s messages the G.O.C. rode back and at 2.30 p.m. met him retiring with his men. According to Browne’s account, Lord Chelmsford was surprised and annoyed to find Browne so far from camp and quite incredulous when told that the camp had been taken. However, shortly afterwards Commandant Lonsdale arrived. He had ridden back to Isandhlwana suffering from sunstroke and in some extraordinary manner escaped, although he had actually ridden in among Zulus wearing the red coats of the dead men of the 24th Foot.

His arrival convinced the G.O.C. of the destruction of the whole force left in camp and he at once collected the advanced troops and moved on the camp, reaching it after dark and after the Zulus had left. The story of Isandhlwana and of the fight put up by the two guns of N5 Battery R.A., the five companies of 1st/24th and one company 2nd/24th, with some M.I. and colonials, is too well known to need repeating, as is that of the defence of Rorke’s Drift, but both Browne and Harford have given us an account of an episode which happened on the morning of the 23rd January, which is perhaps of interest and not generally known. Chelmsford’s force slept among the debris of the camp and moved off at dawn. As the light came they could see masses of Zulus retiring after their repulse at Rorke’s Drift. They moved past the British column within range, without making any move to attack, watched with no little anxiety especially, no doubt, by the men of the native contingents. There are two accounts of why the column was not attacked, both gathered from Zulu sources. One is that the Zulu impis were fought out after the severe losses they had sustained and their officers did not want to commit their men to further fighting and inevitably heavy casualties. The other explanation is that the regiments who had fought at Isandhlwana thought they had killed all the redcoats – they had been ordered by their king to concentrate on them – and thought it was a ghost army passing in the half-light. Browne’s experiences on the 22nd were probably the most interesting of his career. An experienced man, fully able to grasp any military situation as it presented itself to him, he was forced to move on by himself continually collecting more and more evidence that a most serious disaster was taking place a few miles off, unable to understand why his repeated messages had no effect and entirely powerless to do anything of any use. It should be added that he had and kept a great respect and liking for the G.O.C. and that he writes in no spirit of trying to impute blame to anyone. It must have been a curious and unforgettable experience.

Immediately after the disaster of Isandhlwana Lonsdale’s regiment was disbanded, the officers and N.C.Os. being employed mainly as scouts, in which capacity Browne remained for some time at Rorke’s Drift. From both his and Harford’s accounts, it is obvious that the Natal Kaffirs had, by this time, no fighting value at all and the Zulu companies (one of which had been wiped out at Isandhlwana) were dismissed at the same time. Lonsdale was sent to the Cape to raise an irregular corps of mounted riflemen. Browne went with him and returned to Natal with a batch of recruits. Sent with despatches to Lord Chelmsford, who was for a time commanding the Southern Column, he came in for the laager fight at Ginginhlovu on the 2nd April, 1879, where the G.O.C. defeated a large force of Zulus from the southern part of Zululand. Browne, who was there merely as a spectator, watched the fight from behind a Gatling of the Naval Brigade and was very impressed with its performance, as was Lord Chelmsford. He also watched a small Zulu child, employed as a carrier for the kit of a warrior, run unharmed from among the fighting men through our musketry into the ranks of the sailors. He was duly “captured,” adopted, and in time entered in the Royal Navy. Browne then went back to Cape Town and was badly kicked when helping to load mules onto a transport. This injury made him miss the Sekukuni campaign of 1879, but he recovered in time to see some service in the Basutoland Rebellion of 1880-81 in the Transkei. Of this he tells us nothing, except that his Irish servant, of whom he was very fond, was killed by his side. They were probably in the Umtata Volunteers, one of the many small units raised, often for privilege of rank, in the Cape Colony for this campaign,14 usually with a uniform of the men’s own devising, willing enough to fight, but strongly objecting to being amalgamated with other corps or to being drafted.

Browne’s next service was with Warren’s Bechuanaland Expedition of 1884-5, which saw no fighting. He was commissioned as Major in Lieut.-Colonel Hugh Gough’s 3rd Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and he gives a lively account of the raising and disciplining of the 500 men raised in Kimberley, of which he had recruited the last hundred in twenty-four hours. Browne had a great brief for his O.C. He remained in Kimberley after the breaking up of Warren’s force and in 1886 was appointed Adjutant of the Diamond Fields Horse, raised in the town in 1876 and known for a short time as the Dutoitspan Hussars. They had served with credit under Colonel Warren, as he then was, in the Kaffir War of 1877 and the Northern Border war in the Kimberley area in 1878, and were now busy reorganising themselves in their original roll of cavalry, besides adding a battery of four field guns to their four squadrons. They were composed of excellent material and very smart, and Browne was in his element. In 1888 he was wired for to go to Natal and take over a battalion of Africans, mainly Zulus, one of three commanded by Lieut. Colonel Carrington, 24th Regiment, forming part of a small force operating in Zululand against rebel elements of the Zulu army.

The other two battalion officers were a Captain Thompson, who had been with Browne in Lonsdale’s corps, and Major Deare of the Cape Colony staff, another experienced Kaffir fighter. Browne adds very little to what we already know about this campaign, which, as readers of the journal are aware, was the last occasion on which the red coat was worn in action. He seems to have found his men as unsatisfactory as he had in 1879, and was probably quite pleased to return to his adjutancy, which he kept till 1891 when he went to Mashonaland, today part of Rhodesia, in charge of a party sent up by de Beers.
The First Matabele War broke out in 1893 and Browne was appointed staff officer to a force collected at Salisbury under Major P.W. Forbes, Inniskilling Dragoons, who was serving as second-in- command of the British South Africa Company’s Police. Forbes was much the younger man, and this may have been the reason why the two men did not get on, and Browne resigned. This incident and the account of his share in the Second Matabele War of 1896 are not mentioned in his books. We know from two accounts of the campaign, one written by Lieut.-Colonel R.S.S. Baden-Powell, 13th Hussars, whom Browne had met in 1888 in Zululand, and one by Lieut.-Colonel E.A.H. Alderson, Royal West Kents, that Browne commanded the Umtali Rifles, a corps of Europeans 120 strong, including a mounted section. Both the above officers were sufficiently interested in him to record some of the events of his past. It appears to have been his last campaign and was a very different one from his first. He had used one of the first breech-loaders to be issued to British troops, and seen a machine-gun, the Gatling, in action, the first time one was fired in anger by our forces; now in Rhodesia, he was to see the automatic Maxim in action, using both black and smokeless powder, with the black powder Martini and the cordite Lee-Metford magazine rifle in use in the same firing lines. The red coat had gone, except on parade, and so had the blue and white of his Kimberley Volunteers, and everybody wore khaki. It was the day of Mounted Infantry; Alderson had a battalion of four companies – “English,” “Rifle,” “Highland” and “Irish” – each formed from four battalions, as had been the case at Abu Klea; and both Mounted Infantry and mounted riflemen charged mounted, the latter firing from the saddle, a foretaste of the South African War in its later stages. There was the same high proportion of little units ranging from a small troop to a couple of squadrons, the sort of commands which had given men of Browne’s stamp the chance to make good; and there was the usual lack of supplies for man and horse, besides transport difficulties with animals dying from want and disease. Browne died in Jamaica in 1916. He was not exceptional in any way except, perhaps, that he seems to have kept more notes than most of his kind, and this adds greatly to the value of his books. Like all the “Lost Legionaries,” as he like to call himself (from the poem by Kipling) he was willing to take any risk; he was also a good shot and a good horseman, with the knack of handling men. In his account of Warren’s Expedition he quotes a set of doggerel verse, written by a sergeant of the Inniskillings, which concludes with a warning to all youngsters who are thinking of joining some irregular corps. The last line runs: “And whate’er you do, you idiot, don’t you ever volunteer!” Advice which “Maori” Browne and his like would never take.

1 See Miller T. Maguire, “Guerrilla or Partisan Warfare,” pub. Hugh Rees, 1904, pp.1 and 109.
2 Mainly in Southern Africa, but all over the British Empire; see the list in Maguire, p.109, quoted above, and not only in the British forces. For example, there were a number of these officers with General Gordon’s “Ever Victorious Army” in China in 1863 (Butler, “Life of General Gordon,” pub. Macmillan,1989, p.50 et seq.).
3 All published by Werner Laurie and illustrated by Valda; “With the Lost Legion in New Zealand,” 1900; “A Lost Legionary in South Africa,” 1911; “Camp Fire Yarns of the Lost Legion,” 1912.
4 For Roberts’ speech at the Mansion House early in 1881 in support of long service see Buchan, “Lord Minto,” pub. 1924, p.58. For his changed views, Fortescue, “Following the Drum,” p.160.
5 Journal, Vol. XII, p.123.
6 Sir John Fortescue, who knew New Zealand well, covers the wars there in Vols. XII and XIII of his “History of the British Army.” Vol. XIII, p.512, covers the withdrawal of the regulars; and p.490 the uniform worn. For details of the strength of the N.Z. forces see “Land Forces of the British Colonies and Protectorates,” pub. H.M.S.O., 3rd Ed., 1906, by the Director of Military Intelligence.
7 Killed later in the fighting.
8 From Browne’s account of the difficulty of tearing open the cartridge and putting the cap on the nipple when lying behind a tree-stump under close fire, it is most probably the Calisher & Terry capping carbine, as issued experimentally to British cavalry from 1864. The New Zealand Government bought a considerable number. (Note from Mr. R. Scurfield.)
9 Fortescue, Vol. XII, p.406.
10 Journal, Vol. XX, p.226.
11 Harford, Colonel C. H., who published his memoirs in the Natal Mercury in 1935. He was born in Natal.
12 See the Official History of the Zulu War, H.M.S.O., reprinted 1907, and Coupland’s “Zulu Battle Piece,” pub. Collins, 1948.
13 Longstaff & Atteridge, “Book of the Machine Gun,” Hugh Rees, 1917, p.34.
14 For Basutoland, see journal, Vol. XV, p.98; for Sekukuni’s Mountain, see Vol. XXIX, p.128.
15 Journal, Vols. XXX, p.169, and XXXIV, p.171.
16 Served in the Langberg, Bechuanaland, campaign of 1897, the South African War of 1899, and was then merged in the Kimberley Regiment.
17 Major-General Sir Frederick Carrington; starting as a subaltern in 1877, he served continuously in Kaffir Wars and commanded in Rhodesia in 1896-97. Journal, Vol. XV, p.98.
18 Journal, Vol. XXIX, p.48.
19 George Russel Deare, a veteran of the Franco-German War, who served in all the Kaffir Wars from 1877 and published his memoirs in the Durban Week End Advertiser, April, 1931. He was employed by Lord Wolseley to assist with the compilation of the official accounts of the Zulu and Sekukuni Wars. 20 Major Forbes’ “Report on the Matabele Campaign of 1893,” pub. B.S.A. Company, 1894.
21 Baden-Powell, “The Matabele Campaign,” pub. Methuen, 1896; Alderson, “With the M.I. and the Mashonaland Field Force,” pub. Methuen, 1897; see also Lieut.-Colonel H. Plumer, “An Irregular Corps in Matabeleland,” pub. Kegan Paul, 1897, and the B.S.A. Co’s “Report on Native Disturbances,” pub. 1897.
22 Major-General Sir C. Callwell, “Small Wars,” pub. H.M.S.O., 1906, p.423, for the M.I. charging with fixed bayonets; as was done once by a battalion of Imperial Yeomanry in the South African War. Burnham, “Scouting on Two Continents,” pub. Heinemann, 1926, has an illustration of the Afrikander Troop charging and firing from the saddle, a common practice with the Republican commandos at the end of the South African War.
23 Rudyard Kipling, “The Lost Legion,” first published in “The Seven Seas,” and also on p.195 of the “Definitive Edition” of his verse. Browne has many references to the title of this poem."
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