The very good South Africa Boer War Advance on Pretoria, Diamond Hill and probable Wittebergen operations Distinguished Conduct Medal group awarded to Sergeant later Colour Sergeant and ultimately Warrant Officer 1st Class and Regimental Sergeant Major H. Snaith, 1st Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, who was present during the Boer War on operations with his battalion as a part of the 21st Brigade from March 1900, and was with Ian Hamilton’s northern force during the advance on Pretoria from May 1900. Present at Johannesburg and then in action at both Diamond Hill and Wittebergen, it was at Diamond Hill on 11th to 12th June 1900 that his battalion particularly distinguished themselves having established themselves on the northern end of the ridge, as they began to retreat, the Boer’s found themselves exposed to a heavy rifle-fire at 1200 yards from the troops who were holding the front, including the Royal Sussex. On 12th June the 1st Battalion were on the left in support of the Guards Brigade. Lord Roberts wrote: "The troops advanced under artillery fire from both flanks, as well as heavy infantry fire from the hill itself. The steadiness with which the long lines moved forward, neither faltering nor hurrying, although dust from bullets and smoke from bursting shells hung thick about them, satisfied me that nothing could withstand their assault. The position was carried at 2 pm ... Fighting continued till dusk, the Boers having rapidly taken up a fresh position near the railway". The Royal Sussex were led throughout by their brilliant commander, Colonel du Moulin until his death in action in January 1902. Snaith was one of 16 non commissioned officers who were Mentioned in Despatches in Lord Roberts' final despatch as published in the London Gazette for 10th September 1901, and he was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the award being published in the London Gazette for 27th September 1901. He later served with the international force sent in response to the Theriso revolt in Crete in 1905, and having retired to Ireland, was living at Lisnagen, Rathcormic, Country Cork, when with the Great War he once again answered his country’s call, and then saw home service as the Sergeant Major of the 10th Reserve Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, which was retitled as the 23rd Training Reserve Battalion in September 1916.
Group of 3: Distinguished Conduct Medal, Victoria issue with coat of arms to obverse; (2055 SERJT: H. SNAITH. RL: SUSSEX REGT.); Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902, 4 Clasps: Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen; (2055 SGT. H. SNAITH. 1ST. RL. SUSSEX REGT.); King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902, 2 Clasps: South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902; (2055 CLR:-SERJT: H. SNAITH. RL: SUSSEX REGT.), mounted swing style as worn on old ribbons.
Condition: slight contact wear, specifically to second, overall about Good Very Fine.
Together with the recipient’s British Army Statement of Services Certificate, a certified true copy, dated 29th November 1916.
Henry Snaith was born in the parish of Allsaints, Hastings, Sussex, and having worked as a labourer, then enlisted into the British Army at Hastings on 12th October 1885, joining as a Private (No.2055) the Royal Sussex Regiment. Posted to the 1st Battalion, he was appointed to Lance Corporal on 9th September 1886, and promoted to Corporal on 27th March 1888, before being appointed to Lance Sergeant on 16th December 1889, and promoted to Sergeant on 19th December 1890, and to Colour Sergeant on 15th May 1892.
Snaith reverted to Sergeant at his own request on 1st February 1894, but was then tried by District Court Martial for embezzlement on 31st March 1896, found guilty and sentenced to be reduced to Corporal. Having re-engaged at Brighton on 7th October 1897, he was once again appointed to Lance Sergeant on 19th October 1897, and promoted to Sergeant on 19th September 1899 before being posted to the Depot on 18th October 1899.
Having so far seen home service, Snaith was then posted back to the 1st Battalion on 16th December 1899 on which date he was posted to Malta, and with the Boer War having just broken out, he then found himself posted to South Africa on 21st February 1900. The 1st Battalion disembarked at the Cape about 20th March 1900. Along with the 1st Derbyshire, 1st Cameron Highlanders, and the City Imperial Volunteers, they formed the 21st Brigade, which was created after the occupation of Bloemfontein, the brigadier being Bruce Hamilton, who at the commencement of the war was a major in the East Yorkshire Regiment, and had been in Natal as AAG in General Clery's division. The brigade was certainly most fortunate in its commander, although it was a surprise to many to see one so young get the post. That the selection was right was proved, for no man in the whole campaign did more consistently brilliant work. His record is faultless. He was equally successful as an infantry brigadier and as commander of a number of mobile columns harassing the enemy and capturing laager after laager in the Eastern Transvaal, where he was so long pitted against Louis Botha.
The 21st Brigade was ordered to join Ian Hamilton, who was to command the army of the left flank in the northern advance, and linked up with his force on 2nd May 1900.
Snaith as such then saw service on operations in the Cape Colony, and his battalion was first in action at the battle of Doornkop or Florida on 29th May, when 5 men were killed and 15 wounded. Snaith was then present at Johannesburg on 31st May 1900, and after the capture of Pretoria Ian Hamilton's Infantry Division was broken up, Smith-Dorrien's brigade being needed on the line between Kroonstad and the capital; the 21st Brigade, however, remained under the two Hamiltons, and at Diamond Hill had the most prolonged fighting they had seen. The successes of De Wet and the Free State Boers against the lines of communication had encouraged the Transvaalers to close in on the east of Pretoria, and it became necessary to drive them off.
Snaith was in action at Diamond Hill on 11th to 12th June 1900. On 11th June the position roughly was—French with two Cavalry Brigades, or what was left of them, was on the left; Pole-Carew with the Guards and Stephenson's 18th Brigade in the centre and left centre; the 21st Brigade on the right centre; and Broadwood's and Gordon's cavalry brigades on the right. The position could not be turned, and the mounted men could no more than hold their ground. Mr Churchill in his excellent account of the battle says: "Ian Hamilton directed Bruce Hamilton to advance with the 21st Brigade. This officer, bold both as a man and as a general, immediately set his battalions in motion. The enemy occupied a long scrub-covered rocky ridge below the main line of hills, and were in considerable force. Both batteries of artillery and the two 5-inch guns came into action about two o'clock. The Sussex Regiment, moving forward, established themselves on the northern end of the ridge, which was well prepared by shelling; and while the City Imperial Volunteers and some parts of the mounted Infantry, including the corps of guides, held them in front, gradually pressed them out of it by rolling up their right. There is no doubt that our infantry have profited by the lessons of this war. The widely extended lines of skirmishers moving forward, almost invisible against the brown grass of the plain, and taking advantage of every scrap of cover, presented no target to the Boer fire. And once they had gained the right of the ridge it was very difficult for the enemy to remain. Accordingly at 3.30 the Boers in twenties and thirties began to abandon their position. Before they could reach the main hill, however, they had to cross a patch of open ground, and in so doing they were exposed to a heavy rifle-fire at 1200 yards from the troops who were holding the front".
On the 12th the action was renewed, the Guards supporting the 21st brigade. The Derbyshire advanced on the right, the City Imperial Volunteers in the centre, and the Sussex on the left. Progress was slow, as the enemy's position was very strong, but the 82nd Battery, having been hauled on to the plateau where our troops were lying in extended order, by its splendid devotion maintained the ground won, beat down the Boer fire, and saved a withdrawal; but, as usual when a regiment or battery does a fine feat, the toll had to be paid. Mr Churchill says: "But the battery which had reduced the fire, by keeping the enemy's heads down, drew most of what was left on themselves. Ten horses were shot in the moment of unlimbering, and during the two hours they remained in action, in spite of the protection afforded by the guns and waggons, a quarter of the gunners were hit. Nevertheless the remainder continued to serve their pieces with machine-like precision, and displayed a composure and devotion which won them the unstinted admiration of all who saw the action". In the afternoon two other batteries and more troops were pushed to the front, and that part of the position was carried. During the night the enemy withdrew entirely. All accounts of the battle praise unstintingly the work of the 21st Brigade. Lord Roberts says: "The troops advanced under artillery fire from both flanks, as well as heavy infantry fire from the hill itself. The steadiness with which the long lines moved forward, neither faltering nor hurrying, although dust from bullets and smoke from bursting shells hung thick about them, satisfied me that nothing could withstand their assault. The position was carried at 2 pm ... Fighting continued till dusk, the Boers having rapidly taken up a fresh position near the railway".
No sooner was Diamond Hill over than Ian Hamilton, with, among other troops, the 21st Brigade, was despatched to the north-east of the Free State against the Boers there who were damaging the lines of communications. The general met with an accident near Heidelberg, breaking his collar-bone, and his place was taken by Sir A Hunter.
Snaith then found himself present in the operations at Wittebergen which lasted from 1st to 29th July 1900. About 8th July Reitz was reached, where the 21st Brigade were to remain a few days. Thereafter a series of rather complicated movements (detailed in Sir A Hunter's despatch of 4th August 1900) took place, with the object of getting possession of the doors leading into the Brandwater basin and locking the enemy in. On the 16th July the Sussex occupied Meyer's Kop, ten miles west of Bethlehem. On the 20th and 21st Bruce Hamilton had the Camerons heavily engaged at Spitz Kop, but the position was gained. On the 23rd the Sussex had a task which was found rather too heavy, but with the assistance of other troops the objective was gained next day. For some days further Bruce Hamilton had fighting, marching, and stiff hill-climbing, but the result of the operations was worthy of the loss and labour, 1300 of the enemy surrendering on the 30th to Bruce Hamilton, and a large number to other generals,— about 4000 in all.
After 31st July the doings of the brigade are not easily followed. It may be said to have been broken up, although General Bruce Hamilton had the Sussex and Camerons, along with the 2nd Bedfordshire and other troops, in a column which operated in the Kroonstad district during the autumn of 1900. Snaith was promoted to Colour Sergeant on 20th October 1900.
Twelve officers and 16 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch as published in the London Gazette for 10th September 1901, one of those being Sergeant Snaith, and he was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the award being published in the London Gazette for 27th September 1901.
By early 1901 Colonel du Moulin was put in command of a small column, including his own battalion. During the remainder of the campaign this column operated in the Orange River Colony, chiefly to the west of the Bloemfontein railway. On 28th January 1902 the column was bivouacked behind a small kopje on the south of the Riet, near Abraham's Kraal. At 1 am the picquet holding the kopje was rushed. Colonel du Moulin as he hurried out to repel the enemy was killed, but Major Gilbert taking command, the kopje was recaptured and successfully held against a second attack. The Sussex lost, in addition to their colonel, 10 men killed and 6 wounded. Speaking of the colonel's death, Lord Kitchener used the words, "Whose loss to the army as a leader of promise I greatly deplore". At one period of the war, when mounted men were much in demand, the colonel of the Sussex got his whole battalion on horseback. Snaith is shown as having gained his Mounted Infantry Certificate, which was eventually awarded to him on 9th September 1903.
With the end of the war, Snaith was posted home with his battalion on 5th June 1902, and then back to Malta on 2nd December 1904, before being posted to Crete on 29th May 1905 as part of the international response to the Theriso revolt. Snaith was posted home again on 14th March 1906 and discharged on 11th October 1906.
With the outbreak of the Great War, Snaith was living in Ireland at Lisnagen, Rathcormic, Country Cork, and he then attested as a Private (No.T.R/10/8072) with the Royal Sussex Regiment at Fermoy on 2nd October 1914, being immediately reinstated as an Acting Colour Sergeant and posted to the 10th Reserve Battalion in that rank on 31st October 1914. The battalion was then stationed at Dover. Appointed an Acting Company Sergeant Major on joining the battalion, he was promoted to Warrant Officer 1st Class and Regimental Sergeant Major on 21st January 1915, and then having moved with the battalion to Colchester in April 1915, on it being retitled as the 23rd Training Reserve Battalion in September 1916, he continued as the Regimental Sergeant Major. He is believed to have been discharged in November 1916, and having seen home service, is not entitled to any further awards.