The unique Great War German East Africa Campaign October 1917 Gunner’s Distinguished Conduct Medal group awarded to Battery Sergeant Major later Lieutenant H.E. Bushell, Royal Garrison Artillery, who saw service as B.S.M of the 134th (Cornwall) Heavy Battery out in German East Africa from 24th December 1915. Present on operations in British, German and Portuguese East Africa, Nyasaland, and Northern Rhodesia from 24th December 1915 right through to 30th January 1918, he was awarded a unique Distinguished Conduct Medal, the only such award to the Royal Artillery for the campaign, his award being ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty’, he having rendered most valuable service in assisting in transport work, and at all times set a fine example under fire. The nature of the difficulties encountered by the transport teams during the campaign is detailed below, but needless to say often required considerable ingenuity and varying modes of carriage from motor lorry, to railway track to oxen. He appears to have particularly distinguished himself as part of the Lindi Column in the final eviction of the German and Colonial troops from German East Africa. Commissioned in the field in October 1917, the same month as the announcement of his award, he at some stage had command of a howitzer battery during the final weeks of the campaign. Bushell ultimately appears to have seen service with the re-organised 134th Cornwall Heavy Battery, by then retitled as the 546th Battery, during its time spent out on the Western Front during August to November 1918 when part of the Second Army.
Group of 4: Distinguished Conduct Medal, GVR bust; (33101 A.BY: S.MJR: H.F. BUSHELL. R.G.A.); 1914-1915 Star; (33101 B.S.MJR. H.E. BUSHELL. R.G.A.); British War Medal and Victory Medal; (2.LIEUT. H.E. BUSHELL.)
Condition: note first medal has middle initial ‘F’ instead of ‘E’ as detailed on his other awards, this is however explained, Good Very Fine.
Herbert Edwin Bushell was born on 18th September 1880 in Foulsham, Swanton Morley, Norfolk, the son of William and Harriett Bushell. His is listed in the 1911 Census under the name of Herbert Frederick Bushell, and his D.C.M. gazette entry also details him under this name, and whilst his M.I.C initially does, the middle initial ‘F’ for Frederick is then crossed out and replaced by the ‘E’ for Edwin.
Sometime prior to the outbreak of the Great War, Bushell enlisted into the Royal Garrison Artillery, most probably with the Territorial Force as a member of the Cornwall Royal Garrison Artillery. However with the outbreak of the war he then found himself serving with the 134th (Cornwall) Heavy Battery, a war raised howitzer battery which was formed from the coast defence unit of the Territorial Force in Cornwall, the Cornwall R.G.A. Bushell was promoted to Battery Sergeant Major.
134th (Cornwall) Heavy Battery was formed in July 1915 by Nos 1 (Padstow) and 2 (Penzance) Heavy Btys of the Cornwall (Duke of Cornwall’s) Royal Garrison Artillery. It went to Woolwich about 250 strong on 12 August, from where it supplied reinforcements to RGA units fighting on the Western Front, at Gallipoli and in Egypt. On 20 November the battery was ordered to mobilise as a howitzer battery for service in the East African Campaign. With a strength of 124 all ranks it embarked at Southampton on 26 December 1915, arriving at Mombasa on 1 February 1916. At Maktau it took over four Indian Army pattern 5.4 inch howitzers, which were drawn by oxen. 633 Company Army Service Corps was formed on 12 January 1916 as the Ammunition Column (Motor Transport) for the battery.
On 5 March the battery received orders to join in the Kilimanjaro offensive with 2nd Division of the East African Expeditionary Force. It moved out via the Serengeti rail head and on 9 March took part in a demonstration against Salaita Hill (where the Imperial forces had been repulsed the previous month). Its first position was out of range of the enemy positions because of inaccurate maps. However, it moved forward and engaged the hill with Lyddite shells until the infantry reached the top. Next day it crossed the drift on the Lumina’s River and on 11 March it fired in support of an attack on Latema Hill (the Battle of Latema Nek). After the German withdrawal the battery bivouacked at Taveta and then at Himo until May.
On 21 May the battery began a long march along the Pangani River as part of the Force Reserve. It also manned the ammunition column for the 13th Howitzer Bty, whose 5-inch howitzers were towed by lorries but relied on oxen for ammunition supply. For part of June the gunners were employed in road-making, then marched with the force reserve in a wide turning movement. Once back on the road the battery had to wait for its lorries to bring up supplies while its smiths and fitters worked to repair the German light railway. It spent July camped at Lukigura Bridge and then Msiha. The battery was never deployed 'in action' during this whole time, though it was sometimes under fire from longer-ranged German guns.
During August the battery supported the 1st East African Brigade, which was to attack Ruhungo, but flanking moves caused the Germans to retire and the guns were not needed. During the month the battery moved via Turiani and Dakawa to the Mgerengere River. On 28 August it reached Morogoro. Here the offensive was halted by rain, exhaustion and German defences on the River Mgeta, so the force camped and reorganised. The battery commander was appointed post commandant of Morogoro and the battery carried out garrison duty in the town until 20 December, while the motor transport section brought up supplies and ammunition for the force.
On 20 December the battery left Morogoro on a three-day march to Duthumi, where it stayed for the rest of the month. On 31 December it moved into prepared positions about 500 yards (460 m) behind the front line trenches and established an observation post (OP) on Kitoho Hill. The following day it opened fire to support the Nigerian Brigade's attack , but having ranged on the German trenches, the forward observation officer (FOO) with the Nigerians could see nothing, though reporting heavy rifle fire from a flank. That position was shelled, and the enemy were seen leaving. The battery then 'searched' the ground in front of the Nigerians, lifting its fire as they advanced. When the infantry reached the Mgeta river they found the bridge commanded by two Maxim gun positions; they withdrew a little and two of the battery's guns opened fire on these machine guns while the remainder fired on trenches and a wooded donga. At 16.30 the battery was ordered to advance towards the river as soon as the Nigerian Brigade considered it advisable. The battery could only get 1,000 yards (910 m) forward, and prepared to fire from this position at long range. However, the enemy were in retreat and the battery camped for the night. During the engagement one of the battery's guns suffered a premature shell burst, which blew away 6 inches (15 cm) of the muzzle, killing one gunner and wounding three others.
The battery remained at Duthumi until 14 February 1917, when it was ordered to march back to the railway, arriving at Mikesse on 18 February. Here it handed in one of its remaining 5.4-inch howitzers and proceeded to Dar es Salaam. On 1 March it was ordered to send a detachment of one officer and 21 men with one howitzer to Lindi. The detachment boarded the SS Barjora and arrived at Lindi on 5 March, establishing their gun position on Kitolo Hill as part of the defences for Lindi. The rest of the battery moved from Dar es Salaam back to Morogoro at the end of March for training.
At Lindi the detachment had no transport for their howitzer, but they crewed a 4-inch gun for the Royal Marine Artillery and a 3.7 inch trench mortar, and did some mortar and Grenade training for parties from the King’s African Rifles, West Indies Regiment and 5th Light Infantry of the Indian Army.
On 28 May 134th (Cornwall) Bty at Morogoro handed its two remaining 5.4-inch howitzers over to 11th (Hull) Heavy Bty for training, and took over a 5-inch howitzer from that battery. It then returned to Dar es Salaam and on 11 July took the Barjora to Lindi, where the detachment also handed in its 5.4-inch howitzer. Leaving some men to operate a Stokes mortar battery, the rest of 134th Hvy Bty (32 all ranks) with their 5-inch howitzer, were taken by a Tugboat to Mingoyo, where they bivouacked at Lower Schaadel Farm with an escort from the KAR. They adapted two Flat wagons so that the howitzer and its limber could be moved along the German light railway, hauled by local porters.
The Lindi Column began probing forward at the beginning of August and from 1 to 11 August there was a prolonged action against the enemy at Tandimuti Hill, with the howitzer firing in conjunction with the monitors HMS Mersey and Severn firing from offshore. The battery then advanced about 6 miles (9.7 km) along the rail line to a new camp, and on each of the next few days moved out to various positions for shoots on Narunyu on the bank of the Lukuledi River. On 27 August the 5-inch was registered on various targets with the aid of an observation aircraft, and then took part in a general bombardment, firing 10 rounds at each of the registered targets. That evening the 5.4-inch howitzer was brought up from Lindi to rejoin the battery. On 29 and 30 August both howitzers and the Stokes mortars fired at targets to try to get the enemy to reveal their positions, despite a large number of misfires from the old 5.4-inch. On 31 August the 5-inch bombarded Nirunge Hill, from where an enemy patrol had been harassing the KAR picquets. On most days in September one or both howitzers went out to shell Kilossa Ridge or the enemy-held bomas and trenches in front of Narunyu. The Lindi Column was now reinforced. On 15 September, 11th (Hull) Hvy Bty's last 5-inch howitzer arrived from Morogoro for 134th Hvy Bty, together with the rest of 134th's men who had been at Morogoro and two of its Napier lorries.
Lindi Column resumed its advance against Narunyu on 23 September, with one column making a two-day flank march to cross the Lukuledi while the battery bombarded the German positions. The flank move caused the Germans to abandon their positions. The roads were impassable for the heavy lorries, so the two howitzers with the force reserve (one 5-inch had blown out an oil pipe in its recoil mechanism) had to move up on their railway trollies to the end of the line at Mtua (28 September) and then be dragged forward by porters while light Ford cars brought up ammunition. On 30 September the guns were in position but the Germans had already retired out of range. Thereafter the battery took part in No 3 Column's pursuit, still dragged by porters until the Napiers caught up on 2 October. On 5 October the battery bombarded the high ground across the Nyengedi River, exchanging fire with a German gun. Daily firing continued as the column obtained a bridgehead, and then pushed the German rearguards back.
Between 15 and 18 October, the Lindi Column fought the Battle of Mahiwa, one of the bloodiest battles of the whole campaign, with the battery firing a large number of rounds in support of the failed attack. However, the German force had also lost heavily, and it began a retirement towards Portuguese Mozamique, harried by a few howitzer rounds each day, though spotting fall of shot in the dense bush was problematic because of wireless difficulties with the Royal Naval Air Service observation aircraft. The battery reached Ndanda on 16 November. German East Africa had been cleared, and the remaining German forces adopted guerrilla tactics in Mozambique. The Allied forces had to reorganise for this phase of the campaign, and 134th Hvy Bty's slow-moving howitzers returned to Nyangao on the Lukuledi by the end of the month. In December the Lindi force was broken up and all of its exhausted and sickly British and Indian units were sent home. On 10 December 134th Hvy Bty was ordered back to Lindi. It boarded the SS Salamis for Dar es Salaam, where its remaining guns were handed in. On 19 December 1917, 134th (Cornwall) Heavy Battery, with 5 officers and 59 other ranks, embarked on the SS Caronia at Dar es Salaam en route for Durban and then England.
In the meantime, Bushell as Battery Sergeant Major, had seen service right through the campaign.
The London Gazette of 27th October 1917 published his award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the citation reading as follows: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has rendered most valuable service in assisting in transport work, and has at all times set a fine example under fire.” Bushell’s award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, whilst a scarce award as is for the German East Africa campaign, is unique to the Royal Artillery / Royal Garrison Artillery for the campaign.
In addition, Bushell had been commissioned ‘in the field’ as a 2nd Lieutenant back on 7th October 1917, begins to get a mention in the Battery War Dairies, and on the day of his commissioning, he was assigned as a liaison officer to Column 4 of the Lindi Column, and then on 13th October he is noted as having relieved the Forward Observation Officer just prior to the battery’s involvement in the Battle of Mahiwa. After the capture of Mahiwa, Bushell is noted as having command of a howitzer battery some 500 yards southwest of Mkwere village. Whilst near to Mkwera village on the 11th November, Bushell had command of the elements of the battery left behind,
Fortuitously Bushell also has an entry in the War Service of Officers which confirms that Bushell was on continuous service out in British, German and Portuguese East Africa, Nyasaland, and Northern Rhodesia from 24th December 1915 right through to 30th January 1918, which indicates that he must have parted ways with the 134th Heavy Battery when it returned home in December 1917.
War Service of Officers then confirms that Bushell went on to see service towards the end of the war on the Western Front from 24th August to 11th November 1918 when most probably with the 546th Siege Battery, which was formed after the re-organisation of the 134th (Cornwall) Heavy Battery on its returned to the United Kingdom. The 546th Battery, equipped with four 6-inch guns, landed on the Western Front on 25th August, and served with the Second Army through to the Armistice. Bushell was promoted to Lieutenant on 7th April 1919 and relinquished his commission on 13th September 1919. He died in Denton, near Canterbury, Kent on 21st February 1965.