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 Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Duncan, Royal Artillery

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PostSubject: Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Duncan, Royal Artillery   Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:49 pm

"Artillery Observer’s Hispano-Moroccan War 1859-1860, Ashantee War 1873 to 1874 Defence of Fommanah Commander’s Mentioned in Despatches and Casualty, and Zulu War Battery Commander’s group awarded to Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Duncan, Royal Artillery, who having distinguished himself in the defence of Fommanah on 2nd February 1874, then commanded ‘O’ Battery in Zululand, where he command the artillery in the advance of Clarke’s Flying Column on Ulundi".
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"Alexander William Duncan was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Royal Artillery on 7th April 1856, and first saw active service as an observer attached to the Spanish forces in North Africa in 1860 when he took part in the Hispano-Moroccan War of 1859 to 1860.

Throughout the 19th century, Morocco suffered military defeats at the hands of the Europeans, notably in the Franco-Moroccan War in 1844. In 1856 the British were able to pressure Morocco into signing the Anglo-Moroccan treaties of Friendship which instated limitations on Moroccan Customs duties and brought an end to Royal monopolies.

The Spaniards saw the Moroccan defeat in 1844 and the 1856 treaties with the British as a sign of weakness. Spurred by a national passion for African conquest, the Spaniards declared war on Morocco.

In the late 1859, Moroccan tribesmen raided a Spanish garrison on the outskirts of Ceuta, provoking a response from the Spaniards who, ignoring Britain's pleas for a peaceful settlement, invaded Morocco; they quickly defeated the Sultan's Army near in Ceuta.

The Spanish expeditionary force, which departed from Algeciras, was composed of 36,000 men, 65 pieces of artillery, and 41 ships, which included steamships, sailboats, and smaller vessels. General Leopoldo O'Donnell, 1st Conde de Lucena (later created Duque de Tetuán), a future Prime Minister of Spain, personally took charge of the expedition and divided these forces into three corps. These were commanded by General The 5th Marqués de Torreblanca, General Antonio Ros de Olano and General Ramón de Echagüe. Reserves were placed under the command of General The 1st Conde de Reus. Admiral Segundo Díaz Herrero commanded the fleet.

The objective of the Spanish forces was to take Tetuán, which had served as a base for raids on Ceuta and Melilla. Hostilities between Moroccan and Spanish troops began on 17th December 1859 when the column commanded by The Marqués de Torreblanca occupied the Sierra de Bullones. On 19th December, Echagüe captured the Palacio del Serrallo. The Conde de Lucena commanded a force that landed at Ceuta on 21st December. By Christmas Day, the three columns had consolidated their positions and awaited orders to advance towards Tetouan.

On 1st January 1860, the Conde de Reus advanced towards the port of Guad al Gelu. The Marqués de Torreblanca’s forces and the Royal Spanish Navy guarded his flank. Clashes continued until 31st January 1860, when a major Moroccan offensive was stopped. The Conde de Lucena began a march towards the objective of Tétouan, and was supported by forces composed of Catalan volunteers. Covering fire was provided by units commanded by General The Conde de Reus and General Ros de Olano. Spanish artillery inflicted heavy losses on the Moroccan ranks; the Moroccan forces that remained took refuge in Tétouan.

The Spaniards reached Tetuán on February 3rd, 1860. They bombarded the city for the following 2 days which allowed chaos to reign free, Riffian tribesmen poured into the city and pillaged it (mainly the Jewish quarters). The Moroccan historian Ahmad ibn Khalid al-Nasiri described the looting during the bombardment:

‘A tumult broke out in the town,... the hand of the mob stretched out to plunder, and even [normal] people took off the cloak of decency.... People of the Jabal, and the Arabs, and the riffraff began to pillage and steal; they broke down the doors of the houses and the shops.... keeping at it the whole night until the morning.’

On February 5th the Spanish entered the city, ending both the battle and the war. Alarmed by the Spanish victory at the battle of Tetuán, the British put pressure on both the Moroccans & Spanish to make peace which resulted in the Spanish demand of 20 million duros (Peseta) or $4 million in 1861 US dollars. The British lent the Moroccans £500,000 to aid in the repayment. The Spanish continued to occupy Tetuán until the Moroccans paid their debt and deployed customs agents to Moroccan ports as they often collected Morocco customs revenue as payment.

Duncan was promoted to Captain on 29th August 1866, and was next actively employed during the Ashantee War of 1873 to 1874, when he served as a Transport Officer and found himself participating in the defence of Fommanah. The book ‘Narrative of the Ashantee War’ takes up the story.

‘On the morning of the 2d [February 1874], he [Colonel Colley] pushed on to Fommanah, and on his arrival found the place warmly attacked on all sides. The post was in command of Captain Steward, 1st W.I.R., who had a garrison of 1 officer and 38 non-commissioned officers and men, 1st West India Regiment; and Lieutenant Grant, 6th Regiment, with 102 of the Mumford company of Russell’s Regiment. There were also present two transport officers - Captain North of the 47th Regiment, and Captain Duncan, R.A. - three surgeons, and two control officers; and in the palace, which was situated in the middle of the main street of the long straggling town, and used as a hospital, were 24 European soldiers and sailors, convalescents. The picquets had reported Ashantis in the neighbourhood early in the morning, and had been reinforced; but the village was far too large to be capable of defence by this small garrison; and when, about 8.30 a.m., the place was attacked from all directions by the enemy, they were able to penetrate into it. Captain North, in virtue of his seniority, assumed the command, but while at the head of his men was shot down in the street of the village, and was obliged by severe loss of blood to hand over the command to Captain Duncan, R.A. The enemy, as has been said, penetrated into all the southern side of the village, which they set on fire; meanwhile the sick from the hospital were removed to the stockade at the north end of the village, which was cleared as rapidly as possible, the houses being pulled down by the troops and labourers acting under Colonel Colley’s orders.

At half-past two Colonel Colley reported as follows: “We have now cleared the greater part of the village, preserving the hospital and store enclosure. Difficult to judge the numbers of the Ashantis; they attack on all sides, and occasional ones creep boldly into the village, but generally keep under cover of the thick bush, which in places comes close to the houses.” The firing ceased about 1 p.m.; but on a party going down for water an hour later, they were hotly fired upon. No further attack was made upon the post. Captain North was severely wounded, dangerously so, and one of the convalescents in the 42d Regiment severely.

Other Europeans were slightly wounded, among them Captain Duncan, R.A., five West Indians, and three privates of Russell’s Regiment. Colonel Colley reported that he would be unable to move any more convoys on from Fommanah for the present.’

Duncan was subsequently Mentioned in Despatches for his ‘energetic defence of the post’ and given the Brevet of Major on 1st April 1874.

Promoted to substantive Major on 1st April 1875, by the outbreak of the Zulu War in 1879 was serving as a Brevet Major. Duncan was in command of ‘O’ Battery, 6th Brigade. The Battery arrived at Durban from England in April 1879, the right half proceeding to the Lower Tugela to form the ammunition column of Crealock’s Division. After getting there, Duncan sent a detachment to Fort Chelmsford to form a separate column, thereby allowing convoys that were proceeding backwards and forwards to be supplied with ammunition at that position, while reserve ammunition could be served at the Tugela to the troops advancing. On the forward movement being made by the Division to Port Durnford, the Battery became again united, and Duncan went on to command the artillery in the advance of Clarke’s Flying Column on Ulundi.

Cetshwayo had been sheltered in a village since 3rd July and fled upon hearing news of the defeat at Ulundi on 4th July 1879. The British forces were dispersed around Zululand in the hunt for Cetshwayo, burning numerous kraals in a vain attempt to get his Zulu subjects to give him up and fighting the final small battle to defeat the remaining hostile battalions. He was finally captured on 28 August by soldiers under Wolseley's command at a kraal in the middle of the Ngome forest. He was exiled to London, where he would be held prisoner for three years. Wolseley, having replaced both Chelmsford and Bartle Frere, swiftly divided up Zululand into thirteen districts, installing compliant chiefs in each so that the kingdom could no longer unite under one ruler. Cetshwayo was restored to the throne of the partitioned Zulu kingdom in January 1883 shortly before his death in 1884.

Duncan returned to Natal following the capture of King Cetshwayo, and having been posted home, then retired as an Honorary Lieutenant Colonel in 1880 due to ill health, no doubt brough on by his extensive service in Africa."



Source London Medals
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