Thomas Henry Musgrove (1872-1919)
Thomas Henry Musgrove was born at Furnace Row, Pye Bridge In 1872. He is recorded in the 1891 census as a Pork Butcher. He managed his father’s shop which was situated at 14, Lower Somercotes. Sometime in the following few years he joined the British Army. An extract from the Boer War records show:
Royal Artillery - 7th Battery
Colenso, 15 Dec 99
Thomas Musgrove served in the 7th Battery, Royal Field Artillery. This unit was posted to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. The 7th Battery took part in several major actions, and on the 15 December won great distinction at the Battle of Colenso in efforts to rescue the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries of the R F A, where Thomas won the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The War Diary of the 7th Battery, R F A records the journey to South Africa and the Battle of Colenso. An extract follows:
Ogden's Cigarette Card showing Driver Thomas Henry Musgrove D.C.M.
(Note that the card states he received the D.S.O., but he was actually awarded the D.C.M.)
Further information on the heroic action taken by soldiers on that day can be seen in the Despatch from General Redvers Buller to the Secretary of State for War [who at the time was The Marquess of Lansdowne] which read: “From the General Commanding-in-Chief the Forces in South Africa to the Secretary of State of War”. Chieverley Camp Dec. 16, 1899.
Sir, I have the honour to bring the following cases of Distinguished Service in the Field to your notice: “At Colenso, on December 15, the detachments serving the guns of the 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery, had all been either killed, wounded or driven from their guns by infantry fire at close range, and the guns were deserted.
About 500 yards behind the guns was a donga, in which some of the few horses and drivers left alive were sheltered. The intervening space was swept with shell and rifle fire.
Captain Congreave, Rifle Brigade, who was in the donga, assisted to hook a team into a limber, went out and assisted to limber up a gun, being wounded, he took shelter, but seeing Lieutenant Roberts fall badly wounded, he went out again and brought him in. Some idea of the fire may be gathered from the fact that Captain Congreave was shot through the leg, through the toe of his boot, grazed on the elbow and the shoulder, and his horse shot in three places. Corporal Nurse, Royal Field Artillery, 66th Battery, also assisted. I recommend the above three for the Victoria Cross.
Drivers H Taylor, Young, Petts Rockall, Lucas and Williams, all of the 66th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, rode the teams, each team brought in a gun. I recommend all six for the Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field.
Shortly afterwards Captain H L Reed, 7th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, who had heard of the difficulty, brought down three teams from his battery to see if he could be of any use. He was wounded, as were five of the thirteen men who rode with him; one was killed, his body found on the field, and thirteen out of twenty-one horses were killed before he got half-way to the guns, and he was obliged to retire.
I recommend Captain Reed for the Victoria Cross, and the following non-commissioned officers and men, 7th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, for the Medal for Distinguished Service in the Field: 86208 Corporal A Clark, wounded; 87652 Corporal R J Money; 82210 Acting-Bombardier J H Reeve; 28286 Driver C J Woodward; 22054 Driver Wm. Robertson, wounded; 22061 Driver Wm. Wright, wounded; 22051 Driver A C Hawkins; 26688 Driver John Patrick Lennox; 22094 Driver Albert Nugent, killed; 23294 Driver James Warden; 32087 Driver Arthur Felton, wounded; 83276 Driver Thomas Musgrove; 26523 Trumpeter William W Ayles, wounded.
I have differentiated my recommendations, because I thought that a recommendation for the Victoria Cross required proof of initiative, something more, in fact, than mere obedience to orders, and for this reason I have not recommended Captain Schofield, Royal Artillery, who was acting under orders, though I desire to record his conduct as most gallant.
Several other gallant drivers tried, but were all killed, and I cannot get their names – I have… etc.
REDVERS BULLER, GENERAL”
(Note: Captain Schofield’s actions were considered to be so gallant that he was eventually awarded the Victoria Cross)
Thomas was badly wounded in a further action and returned home in 1900 to a hero’s welcome. It was reported that he was carried shoulder high by locals from Pye Bridge Railway Station to his home.
Thomas Henry Musgrove D.C.M.
During his time serving in South Africa Thomas posted letters to his parents, some of which were published in the Alfreton Journal newspaper. Transcripts of two letters follow:
Published in the Alfreton Journal, 5th January 1900:
"LETTER FROM A SOMERCOTES SOLDIER. The following letter from Driver T. Musgrove, of the 7th Battery of the Royal Field Artillery, has been received by his parents residing at Lower Somercotes:
Battle Field, Colenso, South Africa, December 6th, 1899,
My dear Mother and Father, Just a few lines to let you know I am going on all right; you must excuse black lead at these times. I expect you know as much about the War as we do out here. We can get no papers. Just now the enemy blew up a fine railway bridge here, the same day as we got here. I expect you have read in the paper of the great fight at Modder River. It lasted ten hours and & half; the troops were without bread or water all the time. It is the greatest battle in the annals of history. General Buller says our Army lost 69 killed and 360 wounded. The Boers lost thousands. I see Walter and Charlie Battison were in it. I came out of an engagement here at Estcourt on Nov. 26th. We are going to relieve the ten thousand troops at Ladysmith. I am on General Buller’s column. We are 25,000 strong. We have lost no men up to now. We have captured thousands of all sorts, I sold a Boer horse for £1. The infantry have got a lot of horses. It is awful how the Boers have raided farm houses and smashed all the furniture, and pianos up. Before we came all the houses were empty and the people gone away. We expect to be back by the middle of your next summer. We got a paper this morning to say the 63rd Battery on its way out to Africa has gone down at sea and lost nearly all her horses and six big guns, but no men. I am in the best of heath. This is all the news this time. So I conclude with fond love to all at home. I remain, your affectionate, loving son.—T. MUSGROVE."
Published in the Alfreton Journal, 12th April 1900
"LETTER FROM A SOMERCOTES SOLDIER. The following letter has been received from Driver Thomas Musgrove, of Somercotes:
Elandslaagte, South Alfrica, 11th March, 1900.
Dear Mother and Father, Just a few lines in answer to your kind and ever welcome letter I received to-day (Sunday). We are at rest in camp just now. We are staying here a few weeks so they say. I was sorry to hear of Battison’s sons being wounded and Davis being killed. It is nothing fresh to me to see rows of graves. I saw 47 in one grave all in a row; they were all our soldiers. I expect you have heard of the relief of Ladysmith. We stayed in Ladysmith only a few days, because there has been 2,000 die of dysentery and enteric fever. The poor fellows have been on one biscuit and ¼lb. of horseflesh per day. We have been trying to get to Ladysmith since the 15th of December till the 1st of March. They would never have held out much longer. They could not get out; the enemy was all round them. There were 10,000 of our men in Ladysmith starving till we relieved them, and the enemy firing at them day and night; it must have been awful. The men looked as thin as rails. We gave them all we had. They said they could hear our guns weeks before, and they used to say, ‘‘they are coming to relieve us’’; but we have got there at last. We are now fifteen miles from Dundee. We are waiting for Roberts to come up. The Boers seem to think our fighting is nearly over; they are getting tired of it. They have lost thousands as well as us. It is quite correct about me getting the Distinguished Service Medal at Colenso on the 15th of December. I am certain of that one. 0ur major told us the other day he hoped we would live long to wear it. We get £5 the day we get the medal .... I don’t think the war will last much longer … I never felt in better health in my life. We are getting a fine camp here just now; a nice river to bathe in, and wash our clothes. Remember me to all inquiring friends round Somercotes. From your affectionate and loving son, T. MUSGROVE."
He married Charlotte Herbert in 1903 and they had six children, one of whom was born in Somercotes. Thomas found employment at Hampton Court Palace (recommended due to his war service). His wife Charlotte died in 1915 and in 1918, Thomas, in poor health, returned and settled in Leabrooks. He died in November 1919.
A report on his death was published in the Ripley & Heanor News on Friday 14 November 1919, which read: “DEATH OF A SOLDIER HERO – DRIVER T H MUSGROVE D.C.M. OF SOMERCOTES – The death took place on Thursday last at Belper Infirmary, of ex-Driver Thomas Henry Musgrove D.C.M. at the age of 48 years. Many will remember [the] deceased as one of the Colenso heroes in the Boer War, of whom General Buller in his report to the War Office said they were worthy of the Victoria Cross. Lord Roberts’ son won his V.C. on the same occasion. Musgrove’s letters from the front were published and read with avidity at the time. After being invalided back to England and the time came for him to visit his home at Somtes, news spread like wildfire and a huge crowd assembled at Pye Bridge Station to welcome him. After Driver Musgrove’s discharge from the Army, caused by the effects of wounds, through the influence of Lord Roberts he was placed on the staff at Hampton Court Palace. Increasing infirmity caused him to relinquish the position and the last few months he has struggled on until a few weeks ago he came to Leabrooks where his motherless children were living with relatives. About a week before he passed away, we regret to say that he was removed to Belper Workhouse Infirmary. Through the good offices of Mr A J Gwatkin, the official visitor of the Alfreton District of the Hearts of Oak, arrangements were made for the internment to take place at Leabrooks Cemetery on Sunday last. A bearer party from Derby, under Sergt. Riffel of the Notts and Derby Regiment, carried the coffin which was draped with the Union Jack and the “Last Post” was sounded by Bugler Nadin, Notts & Derbys. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Birtwistle, vicar of Somercotes. The mourners were the six children, Mrs. Hole (sister of Sunderland), Mr John Musgrove (brother of Heanor), Miss Musgrove (sister of Somercotes), Mr and Mrs Elmes (brother-in-law and sister, Marehay), Mr Saml. Herbert (brother-in-law of Ripley) and Mrs Peat (sister-in law of Leabrooks). Owing to infirmity, the mother of the deceased was unable to attend; also the brother, Arthur of Hull was not able to follow. Messrs Jones, Oakley, Brown and Needham represented the Discharged Sailor’s and Soldier’s Association; ex-Sergt. Brewster of Alfreton, an old friend of the deceased, and Mr A J Gwatkin of the Hearts and Oaks Benfit Society were also present.
An artificial wreath was subscribed for by Riddings and Somercotes members of the Heart 0f Aok. “In remembrance” the other wreath was “With deepest sympathy, from Children, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Joe and Cousin Lizzie””.
Some information about Thomas Henry Musgrove was kindly provided by Gordon Elmes (Thomas was Gordon’s Great Uncle).