Header
Home / Historical / TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 21 AUGUST
Amphibic Design - Websites - Graphibic Design
PT-Thomas_Lane-1860
Thomas Lane

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 21 AUGUST

UPDATED: 21/08/2019

21 August 1860, Thomas Lane, who is buried in Kimberley, wins the Victoria Cross at Taku Forts, China.
21 August 1878, Rev David Brown, the first Presbyterian minister for Kimberley, arrives.
21 August 1880, Rev Jas Hughes, the first Baptist minister for Kimberley, arrives.

DID YOU KNOW

Private Thomas Lane VC 67th Regiment (later the Royal Hampshire Regiment) died in Kimberley on 12 April 1889 and is buried in the Gladstone cemetery. Pictured is Thomas Lane plus the exterior of the northern fort and the interior of the same fort, both photographs taken immediately after the battle.

On 21 August 1860 at the Taku Forts, China, Private Lane and a lieutenant Nathanial Burslem, of 67th Regiment of Foot displayed great gallantry in swimming the ditches of the North Taku Fort and attempting, during the assault and before an entrance had been effected by anyone, to enlarge an opening in the wall, through which they eventually entered. In doing so, they were both severely wounded.

PT-Interior_of_the_North_Fort-1860

Interior of the North Fort

The Taku Forts action:

On each bank of the River Pei-Ho there was a detached fort lying to the west of a larger fort. The detached 130 square yards of mud fort on the north bank dominated the approaches, so it was considered by General Grant to be the vital ground of the position, which needed to be taken first. Montauban did not agree and thought that Grant was taking too great a risk, as he would not be making the most of his naval firepower, but later accepted the plan. He had preferred a more direct simultaneous assault against the forts on both sides of the River. Twenty-three artillery pieces were positioned facing the fort and gaps were bridged. The deep mud made their movement extremely difficult. Some guns needed a team of 6 horses to pull.

Exterior of the North Fort

In general, the ground was all mud and swampland with deep water courses intersecting it in all directions. General Grant stated that “It is simply a matter of the degree of filth our men must traverse”. For part of this stage of the campaign the headquarters of the 1st Division was under a foot of water. The Chinese defences consisted of a deep ditch, a blocked gap, a wet ditch, 20 feet of ground covered with pointed bamboo stakes, a second wet ditch, another staked space and finally a thick brick wall with loopholes for artillery pieces.

The assault across the 4 mile gap from Tang-ku began on 21st August, at daybreak with artillery fire and diversionary fire from 4 French and 4 British gunboats on the southern forts. Brig Reeves commanded the British assaulting troops of 2500 men. The French assaulting force consisted of 700 men under General Collineau. Four 8-inch guns, two 8-inch howitzers, two 32-pounders and three 8-inch mortars provided indirect fire support.

PT-Victoria_Cross-1860

The Victoria Cross

The 37 Chinese guns fired from the northern fort, as the allied force advanced, but most rounds went over the heads of the allies. At 6 o’clock the powder magazine blew up, followed by another in the larger fort 30 minutes later, which was probably hit from a shell from an allied gunboat. The navy was now bombarding the Chinese positions from the west. The 44th and 67th (South Hampshires) advanced upon the gate, with the French, under General Collineau, on their right next to the river. The 67th was to gain its four VCs in this battle. Labourers carried scaling ladders for the French and stood in the water up to their necks holding the ladders up to make bridges above them. They were preceded by sappers carrying pontoons for crossing the obstacles, but they got in the way and held up the advance.

The 67th had to swim across ditches. A Maj Anson, General Grant’s aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant-Colonel Mann of the Royal Engineers cut the ropes of the drawbridge and the drawbridge fell down. However, the gate was still closed, with a shell-hole next to it. Lieutenant Nataniel Burslem of the 67th headed for it, even though he had received a bullet in the chest. He was joined by Private Thomas Lane, who tried to enlarge the shell-hole, but was stunned by a 12-pounder shell. He got up, but was spiked by an enemy bayonet. In spite of their difficulties, both men continued to enlarge the hole until it was big enough for a man to get through. The French got into the fort first closely followed by Ensign John Chaplin carrying the Regimental Colour of the 67th and another officer of the Regiment, Lieutenant Edmund Lenon. Chaplin was hit twice by bullets in the forearm and shoulder, but both officer climbed up the wall and reached the parapet. Chaplin was then again wounded-this time in the abdomen, but he succeeded in unfurling the Colour and supporting it in place of the Chinese flag. At the same time Lieutenant Rogers of the 44th assisted him. After three and a half hours of fighting the fort was taken. Burslem, Lenon, Chaplin and Lane were all awarded Victoria Crosses, as was Rogers of the 44th.

UPDATED: 21/08/2017

21 August 1860, Thomas Lane, (pictured), who is buried in Kimberley, wins the Victoria Cross at Taku Fort.
21 August 1878, Rev David Brown, the first Presbyterian minister for Kimberley, arrives.
21 August 1880, Rev Jas Hughes, the first Baptist minister for Kimberley, arrives.

DID YOU KNOW

Thomas Lane (1836-1889) was born in May 1836 in Cork, County Cork, Ireland, and served in the 67th Regiment of Foot (later Hampshire Regiment) at the time of being awarded the Victoria Cross.

When, in 1860, the Chinese Emperor declined to reply to a note demanding an apology for firing on British ships and his government’s failure to act on the provisions of the Treaty of Tientsin, a combined Anglo-French task force was sent to enforce compliance. The aim of the expedition was to force the Chinese from the Taku Forts positioned at the mouth of the Pei-ho river. In overall command of the assault was Major General Sir Robert Napier whose task was to expel the Chinese from the well defended Small North Fort.

At 06h00 on 21 August 1860, Napier gave the signal for the assault to begin. The attackers surged forward crossing a dry ditch and pouring through the abatis that had been smashed by the artillery. Two wet ditches were then crossed with great difficulty and upon reaching the fort wall the French erected ladders only to have them thrown down by the defenders. The troops, whose units had inevitably become intermingled, were crowded together at the base of the wall, being pelted with grenades, cannon shot, jars of quicklime and ‘stinkpots’ that gave off clouds of smoke. Desperate measures were needed urgently if the assault was to succeed. Close to the gate was Lieutenant Nathaniel Burslem and an Irishman, Private Thomas Lane, both of the 67th Regiment, who scrambled up to a narrow embrasure which they proceeded to widen, both sustaining serious wounds.

Not far away were Lieutenant Robert Rogers and Private John McDougall of the 44th Regiment who had swum the wet ditches, together with Lieutenant Edmund Lenon and Ensign John Chaplin, both of the 67th, the latter carrying the Queen’s Colour of the regiment. Lenon pushed his sword deep into the mud wall, supporting the hilt while Rogers used it as a step, fighting his way into the embrasure above. More men pushed their bayonets into the wall, creating a ladder up which Lenon, Chaplin and McDougall and others clambered to join Rogers. At about the same time Burslem and Lane broke through their embrasure on to the ramparts. Men from both regiments then swarmed through the embrasures fighting their way at the point of the bayonet up the tower’s ramp enabling Chaplin to plant the Colours on the summit.

The will of the Chinese, who until this point had fought stubbornly, suddenly collapsed and it was estimated that of the fort’s 500-strong garrison, 400 were either killed or wounded.

Following the publication of his VC on 13th August 1861, he received his medal on 28th November 1862 in Shanghai, China from Brigadier Staveley. After leaving the Army, Thomas Lane went to South Africa where, at various times, he joined several mounted police forces. Unfortunately, Thomas Lane was a habitual drinker, deserter and felon, which finally led to him being struck off the Victoria Cross Register (7th April 1881) resulting in him losing his pension and forfeiting his VC.

(His name along with seven others who had forfeited their VC was restored to the Victoria Cross Register by command of King George V in the 1920s who decreed no man should forfeit his VC even if he was a murderer.)

21 August 1860, Thomas Lane, (pictured), who is buried in Kimberley, wins the Victoria Cross at Taku Fort.
21 August 1878, Rev David Brown, the first Presbyterian minister for Kimberley, arrives.
21 August 1880, Rev Jas Hughes, the first Baptist minister for Kimberley, arrives.

DID YOU KNOW

Thomas Lane VC (May 1836 – 12 April 1889) was an Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

He was born in Cork, Ireland in May 1836, and served throughout the Crimean War in the 47th Regiment of Foot.

On 21 August 1860 at the Taku Forts, China, Lane, then aged 24 and a Private in the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot (later The Royal Hampshire Regiment), British Army and a lieutenant (Nathaniel Burslem) of his regiment displayed great gallantry. They swam the ditches of the North Taku Fort and attempted, during the assault and before an entrance had been effected by anyone, to enlarge an opening in the wall, through which they eventually entered. In doing so, they were both severely wounded. For this action both men were awarded the Victoria Cross. His medal is displayed at The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum & Memorial Garden in Winchester, Hampshire, England.

He fought in the Anglo-Zulu War as a Sergeant with the 3/NNC. This unit was disbanded at Rorke’s Drift after the siege and the officers and non-commissioned officers formed three troops of the Natal Horse. He also fought in Landrey’s Light horse in Basutoland 1881–82. His VC gratuity was paid from the consulate in Boston, USA, and also in Auckland, New Zealand, during the 1870s. Lane was one of eight men whose VCs were forfeited. He was stripped of the medal on 7 April 1881 after being convicted of desertion on active service and theft of a “horse, arms and accoutrements”.

He died in Kimberley, South Africa on 12 April 1889 as a member of the Kimberley Police.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt

x

Check Also

PT-Professor_George_H_Darwin-1905

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 5 SEPTEMBER

5 September 1897, John McLauchlin of Church and McLauchlin drowns in a ...

PT-Harry_Oppenheimer-1973

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 4 SEPTEMBER

UPDATED: 04/09/2019 4 September 1890, Cecil Rhodes entertained at a civic function ...

Website by amphibic.design