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General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines. The term ''general'' is used in two ways: as the generic title for all grades of general officer and as a specific rank. It ...
Sir Redvers Henry Buller, (7 December 1839 – 2 June 1908) was a
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces. , the British Army comprises 80,040 regular full-time personnel and 30,020 reserve personnel. The modern British Army traces back ...
officer and a recipient of the
Victoria Cross The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously a ...

Victoria Cross
, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare, general good or advantage", dates ...

Commonwealth
forces. He served as
Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in South AfricaThe Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in South Africa was the title of the British Army general who held command of British forces during the Second Boer War. The Commander-in-Chief were: Notes References Senior appointments ...
during the early months of the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War (11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and th ...
and subsequently commanded the army in Natal until his return to England in November 1900.


Origins

Buller was the second son and eventual heir of
James Wentworth Buller James Wentworth Buller (1 October 1798 – 13 March 1865) of Downes, Crediton, Devon, was a British Whig Member of Parliament for Exeter, in Devon, from 1830 to 1835, and for North Devon from 1857 to 1865. Origins He was the son of James Buller ...
(1798–1865), MP for Exeter, by his wife Charlotte Juliana Jane Howard-Molyneux-Howard (d.1855), third daughter of
Lord Henry Thomas Howard-Molyneux-Howard Lord Henry Thomas Howard-Molyneux-Howard (7 October 1766 – 17 June 1824), known as Henry Howard until 1812, and as Henry Molyneux-Howard until 1817, was a British gentleman who served as Deputy Earl Marshal in the latter part of the reign of Geo ...
, Deputy Earl Marshal and younger brother of Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk. Redvers Buller was born on 7 December 1839 at the family estate of Downes, Crediton, Downes, near Crediton in Devon, inherited by his great-grandfather James Buller (1740–1772) from his mother Elizabeth Gould, the wife of James Buller (the younger), James Buller (1717–1765), MP. The Bullers were an old Cornish family, long seated at Morval, Cornwall, Morval in Cornwall until their removal to Downes. The family estates, including Downes, inherited in 1874 by Redvers Buller from his unmarried elder brother James Howard Buller (1835–1874) included of Devon and of Cornwall, which in 1876 produced an income of £14,137 a year.


Early career

After education at Eton College, Eton, he Purchase of commissions in the British Army, purchased a commission in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, 60th Rifles in May 1858. He served in the Second Opium War and was promoted Captain (land and air), captain before taking part in the Canadian Wolseley Expedition, Red River Expedition of 1870. In 1873–74, he was the intelligence officer under Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, Lord Wolseley during the Anglo-Ashanti wars, Ashanti campaign, during which he was slightly wounded at the Battle of Ordabai. He was promoted to major and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath.


Zulu War and Victoria Cross

He then served in South Africa during the Xhosa Wars, 9th Cape Frontier War in 1878 and the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. In the Zulu War he commanded the mounted infantry of the northern British column under Sir Evelyn Wood (British Army officer), Evelyn Wood. He fought at the British defeat at the Battle of Hlobane, where he was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery under fire. The following day he fought in the British victory at the Battle of Kambula. After the Zulu attacks on the British position were beaten off, he led a ruthless pursuit by the mounted troops of the fleeing Zulus. In June 1879, he again commanded mounted troops at the Battle of Ulundi, a decisive British victory which effectively ended the war. His VC citation reads: In an interview to ''The Register (Adelaide), The Register'' newspaper of Adelaide, South Australia, dated 2 June 1917, Trooper George Ashby of the Frontier Light Horse (also referred to as "Henry Burmester Pulleine, Pulleine's Pets") attached to the 24th Regiment gave an account of his rescue by Col. Buller:


First Boer War, Sudan and Ireland

In the First Boer War of 1881 he was Sir Evelyn Wood (British Army officer), Evelyn Wood's chief of staff and the following year was again head of intelligence, this time in the Egypt campaign, and was knighted. He had married Audrey, the daughter of the John Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend, in 1882 and in the same year was sent to the Sudan in command of an infantry brigade and fought at the battles of Battle of El Teb, El Teb and Battle of Tamai, Tamai, and the expedition to relieve General Gordon in 1885. He was promoted to major-general. He was sent to Ireland in 1886, to head an inquiry into moonlighting by police personnel. He returned to the Army as Quartermaster-General to the Forces the following year and in 1890 promoted to Adjutant-General to the Forces, becoming a Lieutenant-general (United Kingdom), Lieutenant general on 1 April 1891. He was appointed Colonel (United Kingdom)#Honorary Colonel, Honorary Colonel of the 1st (Exeter and South Devon) Volunteer Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, on 4 May 1892. Although expected to be made Commander-in-Chief of the British Army by Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, Lord Rosebery's government on the retirement of the Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, Duke of Cambridge in 1895, this did not happen because the government was replaced and Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, Lord Wolseley was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Army instead. On 24 June 1896 Buller was promoted to full
General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines. The term ''general'' is used in two ways: as the generic title for all grades of general officer and as a specific rank. It ...
.


Second Boer War and sacking

Buller became head of the troops stationed at Aldershot in 1898. He was sent as commander of the Natal Field Force in 1899 on the outbreak of the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War (11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and th ...
. On seeing the list of troops which would make up his Corps Buller is said to have remarked "well, if I can't win with these, I ought to be kicked." By early September 1899 he had serious doubts that the Boers could not easily be browbeaten, and that George White (British Army officer), White's forces in Natal might receive some punishment if they deployed too far forward. He arrived at the end of October. He was defeated at the Battle of Colenso, during what was later to become known as Black Week. Defeats at the Battle of Magersfontein and Battle of Stormberg also involved forces under his command. Because of concerns about his performance and negative reports from the field he was replaced in January 1900 as overall commander in South Africa by Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Lord Roberts. Defeats and questionable ability as commander soon earned him the nickname "Reverse Buller" among troops. He remained as second-in-command and suffered two more setbacks in his attempts to relieve Ladysmith, South Africa, Ladysmith at the battles of Battle of Spion Kop, Spion Kop and Battle of Vaal Krantz, Vaal Krantz. On his fourth attempt, Buller was victorious in the Battle of the Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith, lifting the siege on 28 February 1900, the day after Piet Cronje at last surrendered to Roberts at Paardeberg. After Roberts took Bloemfontein (13 March 1900), Buller correctly predicted that the Boers would take to guerrilla warfare. Later he was successful in flanking Boer armies out of positions at Biggarsberg, Laing's Nek and Lydenburg. It was Buller's veterans who won the Battle of Bergendal in the war's last set-piece action. Buller was also popular as a military leader amongst the public in England, and he had a triumphal return from South Africa with many public celebrations, including those on 10 November 1900 when he went to Aldershot to resume his role as General Officer Commanding Aldershot District, later to be remembered as "a Buller day". He spent the following months giving lectures and speeches on the war, was promoted to a Order of St Michael and St George, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) in Nov 1900, and received the Freedom of the City, Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Plymouth in April 1901. However, his reputation had been damaged by his early reverses in South Africa, especially within the Unionist government. When public disquiet emerged over the continuing guerrilla activities by the defeated Boers, the Minister for War, St John Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton, St. John Brodrick and Lord Roberts sought a scapegoat. The opportunity was provided by the numerous attacks in the newspapers on the performance of the British Army. The matter came to a head when a virulent piece written by ''The Times'' journalist Leopold Stennett Amery, Leo Amery was publicly answered by Buller in a speech on 10 October 1901. Brodrick and Roberts saw their opportunity to pounce and, summoning Buller to an interview on 17 October, Brodrick, with Roberts in support, demanded his resignation on the grounds of breaching military discipline. Buller refused and was summarily dismissed on half pay on 22 October. His request for a court martial was refused, as was his request to appeal to Edward VII, the King.


Later life

There were many public expressions of sympathy for Buller, especially in the West Country, where in 1905 by public subscription a notable statue by Adrian Jones (sculptor), Adrian Jones of Buller astride his war horse was erected in Exeter on the road from his home town of Crediton (facing away from Crediton to the annoyance of its inhabitants). Buller described himself as a Whig (British political party), Whig and a Liberal Unionist Party, Liberal Unionist, but declined a number of offers, from both sides, to stand for parliament at the 1906 United Kingdom general election, 1906 election Buller continued his quiet retirement, until on 29 May 1907 he accepted the post of Principal Warden of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, Goldsmiths' Company which he held until his death in 1908.


Marriage and progeny

In 1882 at the age of 43 he married Lady Audrey Jane Charlotte Townshend (d. 1926), widow of Greville Howard (son of Charles Howard, 17th Earl of Suffolk) by whom she had issue, and daughter of John Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend by his wife Elizabeth Jane Crichton-Stuart, daughter of Lord George Stuart, younger son of John Crichton-Stuart, 1st Marquess of Bute. By his wife he had issue an only child and daughter: * (Audrey Charlotte) Georgiana Buller (1884–1953), awarded the Royal Red Cross (R.R.C.) and a Dame Commander, Order of the British Empire (1920), of Bellair House, Exeter. She served as an administrator of the War Hospitals in Exeter during World War I and died unmarried in 1953.


Death, burial and succession

Buller died on 2 June 1908, at the family seat, Downes House, Crediton, Devon, and is buried in the churchyard of Crediton Parish Church, Holy Cross Church in Crediton. The entire western side of the chancel arch inside the church forms an elaborate monument to Sir Redvers. As he died without male progeny he was succeeded in the family estates by his next surviving younger brother Arthur Tremayne Buller (born 1850), his father's fifth son.


Legacy

Historian Richard Holmes (military historian), Richard Holmes (1946–2011) commented that Buller has gone down as "one of the bad jokes of Victorian military history", and quotes a famous verdict that he was "an admirable captain, an adequate major, a barely satisfactory colonel and a disastrous general". Reginald Brett, 2nd Viscount Esher, Viscount Esher called him "a gallant fellow but no strategist". Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley, Wolseley praised his "stern determination of character". At least one recent historian has been kinder to his reputation:


Place name tributes


England

In England the Royal Corps of Transport barracks at Aldershot Garrison, Aldershot is named after him, as is a road in North Camp between Farnborough and Aldershot, and Buller Court in Farnborough (built upon the site of Buller House). Two adjacent roads in Tottenham, London, namely Redvers Road and Buller Road (adjacent to Mafeking, South Africa, Mafeking Road), bear his name, as do a road in Brighton, Redvers Buller Road in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Derbyshire (adjacent to Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, Baden Powell Road and Lord Roberts Road (after Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Lord Roberts of Kandahar)), Buller Street in Derby, Buller Road in Croydon and Buller Street and Mews in Bury, Lancashire (yards from the old Lancashire Fusiliers Wellington Barracks on Bolton Road). Leicester also has a Buller Road adjacent to other streets named after Anglo Boer War Generals. Brighton also has a Redvers and a Buller Road, along with other references to the war: Mafeking Road, Ladysmith Road and Kimberley Road nearby. Buller Road in Exeter is close to Redvers Road, crossed by Nelson Road. Exeter School has a Buller House.


Canada

In British Columbia Buller Street in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Ladysmith is named after him, near Roberts Street and Kitchener Street. The town of Redvers, Saskatchewan, Redvers, in Saskatchewan, is named after him. In Ontario, Buller Street in Woodstock, Ontario, Woodstock is named after him.


Trinidad and Tobago

Buller Street in Port of Spain is one of seven streets bearing the names of officers of the British Army who distinguished themselves during the
Second Boer War The Second Boer War (11 October 189931 May 1902), also known as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War, was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic (Republic of Transvaal) and th ...
: Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Roberts, Herbert Kitchener, Kitchener, Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, Baden-Powell, Buller, Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen, Methuen, Hector MacDonald, MacDonald and William Forbes Gatacre.


Monuments

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum in Winchester, England.


Winchester Cathedral

There is a memorial to Buller, in the form of his recumbent effigy, in the north transept of Winchester Cathedral, England. The inscription reads, "A great leader – Beloved of his men."


Exeter

A bronze Equestrian statue of Sir Redvers Buller, equestrian statue of Buller by Adrian Jones (sculptor), Adrian Jones (1905) is situated in Exeter at the junction of New North Road and Hele Road, on the route between the city and Buller's home at Downes, Crediton, and since 1970 it has stood outside Exeter College, Exeter, Exeter College. In January 2021, Exeter City Council voted to move the statue away from the college on the grounds that its connection to "British imperialism" meant it was "inappropriate" to be "outside an educational establishment which includes young people from diverse backgrounds". In February 2020, the council abandoned plans to move the statue, though temporary information boards will be installed and the council will consider removing the words "He saved Natal" from the plinth.


Crediton

The entire western side of the chancel arch inside Crediton Parish Church, Holy Cross Church in Crediton forms an elaborate monument to Buller, designed by William Douglas Caröe with sculpture of St George by Nathaniel Hitch (1845–1938). A brass mural tablet was erected in Crediton Church by his only daughter Georgiana Buller. The Wetherspoons public house in Crediton bears his name.


Footnotes


Bibliography

* * * * * * * *


Further reading

* *


External links


Location of grave and VC medal
''(Devonshire)''
General Sir Redvers Buller Statue in Exeter


, - , - , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Buller, Redvers Henry 1839 births 1908 deaths Anglo-Zulu War recipients of the Victoria Cross British Army generals British Army personnel of the Anglo-Egyptian War British Army personnel of the Anglo-Zulu War British Army personnel of the Mahdist War British Army personnel of the Second Boer War British Army personnel of the Second Opium War British Army recipients of the Victoria Cross British military personnel of the 9th Cape Frontier War British military personnel of the First Boer War British military personnel of the Third Anglo-Ashanti War British recipients of the Victoria Cross Governors of Natal King's Royal Rifle Corps officers Knights Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath Members of the Privy Council of Ireland People educated at Eton College People from Crediton People of the Fenian raids People of the Red River Rebellion Under-Secretaries for Ireland Buller family, Redvers