On Monday, 13th October Buller biographer and historian Michael Pentreath gave a very interesting talk about General Sir Redvers Buller. His exploits in the Boer & Zulu wars in South Africa are well known but Mr. Pentreath had researched his other campaigns, listed on the Buller statue in New North Road, Exeter. Buller was first and foremost a career soldier who, over a period of 40 years, played a leading role in military campaigns in several continents.
In 1858, at the tender age of 19, Buller’s father bought him a commission in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps – at a cost incidentally of £450, which in the 1850’s would have purchased a terrace of houses! Before long he took part in the second Opium War in China, where the harsh reprisals carried out by the British was something Buller appears not to have been proud of. After his father died in 1865, he rejected the option to return to run the family’s large and profitable estate, instead committing himself to his army career.
Later he spent several years in Canada, putting down a serious rebellion by those sympathetic to the French. His bravery and leadership skills became so well known that he was continually being promoted and commanding officers began to request his participation in yet more campaigns. He was regarded as one of the most proficient horsemen and riflemen and was extremely popular with his troops. It appears that most campaigns were about preserving Britain’s trade links and campaigns in Ashanti (the Gold Coast, West Africa) and Egypt followed. When not at war, his skills in intelligence were most commonly utilised by the Ministry in London.
Mr Pentreath displayed many attractive sketches drawn by people on the spot during some of these campaigns, including one of Buller with a telescope to his eye, standing upright on top of a camel, clearly checking what the enemy was up to!