Bryant Redhouse, Dr Tom Shelley’s father’s mother’s brother and the Charge of the 9th Lancers .

This page is a tribute not only to Bryant Redhouse, but to all the brave young men who went out and died in the First World War, and the brave young men who have gone out and died for obscure causes in every other war before and since. May the soil rest lightly on all of them.

From notes made by Dr Shelley’s father.

Bryant Redhouse was born in Liphook, Hampshire in the South of England, on June 8th 1884. How he acquired the name of Tom, nobody knows, except he did not like the name, Bryant. In the Lancers, he was known as Joe.

He was six feet tall and fair haired. He loved life, his two great passions being cycle racing and horses.

My father and his brother Tom considered Uncle Tom to be their favourite uncle.

My father’s grandfather had a trap and an ex polo pony named Sammy. Uncle Tom was the only member of the family who could ride him, which he often did bare back. He said he could guide the pony with his knees, and used to hold the mane with one hand. On occasions, Sammy would break loose. Nobody could understand how until one day, my father’s mother saw Sammy lift the gate latch with his nose. Uncle Tom happened to be home so hunted the lanes and commons for him and rode him home, bare back as usual.

On another occasion, he placed a number of turnips on sticks along the length of the field and made a lance out of a bamboo curtain pole with a carving knife tied to one end. He then amused himself charging up and down the field, piercing the turnips on his home made lance. At Homoko, the fields covered 12 acres, a third of which at the lower end was a water meadow down a steep bank. Another trick of Uncle Tom’s was to ride Sammy bare back at the top of the bank, vault off him and allow Sammy to slide riderless down the bank. To this exhibition, grandfather would shout, "You will break you B neck one of these days". As Sammy spent most of the time in the field alone, he thoroughly enjoyed Uncle Tom’s company, and when he saw him, would come up to him with obvious pleasure. But when anyone else had to catch him to pull the trap, it was a major exercise. It was this passion for horses which led Uncle Tom to join the cavalry.

Some cows also used to graze in the field. Uncle Tom would tease one and lure her with a red cloak until she came up to the fence. Then, when she lowered her horns to make a thrust at him, he would just drop the cloak and use the cows horns as levers to help him vault over the fence.

He was fond of playing Ludo for money with the boys, always allowing them to win. Then, when they had gone to bed, he would get their mother to retrieve it for him as he was always hard up.

There was a large coppice and a small river as a boundary to the grounds at Homoko. When on leave, Uncle Tom would quietly borrow Grandfather’s shot gun and carry it in two parts under his coat, so that grandfather would not see it. He would then vanish into the undergrowth. Some time later, a shot would he heard and Uncle Tom would reappear with the gun back under his coat, triumphantly holding either a pheasant or a rabbit.

On another occasion, he raided the family barrel of home made wine. He used to take the bung out of the top and lower a small medicine bottle in through the bung hole on a string. He was on leave and it was a hot summer and the wine seemed to be evaporating quickly. The truth did not come out until my father’s brother, Tom, who was grandfather’s favourite, told grandfather how Uncle Tom let in the little bottle, and how it made a gurgle, gurgle noise as it filled up.

His first regiment was the 21st Lancers and he served with them in South Africa. He then transferred to the 9th, and was stationed at Canterbury in Kent. Just before the 1914-18 war, he was transferred to the reserve, and was working as a mess caterer at the Mess of the 15th Hussars at Longmoor, Hampshire, when war broke out. He at once rejoined the 9th Lancers and went overseas with them on August 14th from Tidworth. He was in the retreat from Mons. He took part in the charge of the 9th on August 24th 1914. Under heavy fire, they rode at a battery of eleven German guns posted in a Compiegne Wood. The guns had been causing terrible losses to the British infantry. According to the press account published at the time, the 9th made a furious charge, reached the battery, cut down all the gunners and put the guns out of action.

After this charge, the survivors volunteered to a man to save the British guns whose teams had all been killed. During this exploit, Captain Grenfell, who led the gallant band, was hit in both legs and had two fingers shot off. He was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross. At the time, the German forces were only 30 miles from the outskirts of Paris.

Uncle Tom was killed on October 11th 1914 while on outpost duty at night. He was shot in the back by a sniper’s bullet. He was found next day, dead in a deserted farm house where he had crawled, with his field dressing tied over his wound. His horse was still alive, nibbling the grass outside. He was buried by his comrades at Merville, then a small industrial centre. They made a crude cross out of bricks. Also in front of it was a wooden cross of the war graves commission. Merville and Uncle Tom’s grave were later both obliterated by the subsequent fighting which raged to and fro repeatedly churning up the mud of Flanders.

Captain Grenfell was killed in another heroic action on May 24th 1915.

Bryant Redhouse’s name is inscribed on the Menin Gate, along with many thousands of others with no known grave. His name, along with that of Captain Grenfell V.C. and his other comrades are commemorated on a stone tablet in the cloisters of Canterbury Cathedral, surmounted by crossed lances. Uncle Tom is also commemorated on the War Memorial in Bramshott Churchyard in Hampshire. Merville was rebuilt after the war and in 1939 had population of 71,000.

At the time of the Charge of the 9th Lancers, the accounts in the British Press did not reveal what had really happened. An honest account had to wait more than a year, when one was printed in The War Illustrated dated October 9th 1915:

"When the war broke out, the 9th Lancers left Tidworth for the front, as one of the three regiments in the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, the one under General De Lisle. During the fighting around Mons on Sunday, August 23rd, they were in reserve, but not for long did they remain there. On the 24th our 5th Division was in a very tight place, and the cavalry was sent to its assistance, the 2nd Brigade reaching the scene of the action first. The Germans were advancing in great masses, so near the village of Audregnies, General De Lisle ordered his men to dismount and to open fire on them. They did so, but the enemy still came on in good order. The general then decided on a charge, and for this chose the 9th Lancers who, at the word of command, mounted their horses and rode steadily at the enemy.

It was Balaclava over again. The squadrons rode to death, and the colonel, so we were told, said that he never expected a single lancer to return. In face of a torrent of shot and shell from guns and rifles, they dashed on until they found themselves against two lines of barbed wire, where men and horses fell over in all directions. This ended the charge. The survivors were ordered to return into shelter, and out of more than four hundred who had ridden out, only seventy two at first answered their names, Later some two hundred others turned up, but the regiment had lost heavily. Major V. R. Brooke D.S.O. was among the killed. However, the charge was not altogether fruitless. The Lancers had drawn the enemy’s fire and so had done something to help the harassed 5th Division. One trooper described the charge as "magnificent but horrible", while a Frenchman who rode with them wrote: "My God! How they fell."

Charges at the Marne

But the Lancers had not finished their days work. When the survivors arrived at a railway embankment near Doubon, they found themselves in the company of some gunners, who had been driven from their guns with heavy loss. Captain F. O. Grenfell, now the senior officer of the Lancers, who had been wounded in the charge, but had managed to keep his squadron together, went out into the open, and at the peril of his life, found a way of saving the guns. On his return, he asked the men to follow him. Leaving their horses, they rushed out, reached the abandoned guns, and trundled them into safety. For this heroic deed, Grenfell received the Victoria Cross.

By September 6th, when the decisive battle of the Marne began, the 9th Lancers had been rested and reinforced, and were ready to take part in driving back the enemy. On the 7th the Germans were in full retreat, and this retreat was covered by their cavalry. Whenever they got a chance, our regiments charged the enemy, and although they were fewer in numbers they had much the better of this cavalry battle. They caught the Germans in a clear space between some woodlands, and riding at them with yells of triumph they cut down hundreds with their swords. On the next day the cavalry forced a passage across the Petit Morin, and made their way towards the Aisne, where the real trench warfare began. In the September fighting the 9th lancers lost two very competent company officers - Captain D. L. K. Lucas-Tooth, who had won the Distinguished Service Order for gallantry at Audregnies, and Captain R. N. Grenfell, the bearer of a great and martial name. In addition, their colonel, Lieut.-Col. D. G. M. Campbell had been wounded.

Like Othello, the cavalry now found that their occupation was gone or nearly so. During October they made fruitless attempts to get across the Lys, but in general, they were employed just like the infantry to man the trenches.

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