GENERAL Sir Redvers Buller VC is one of the best-known sons of Crediton; and Robert Guyver’s talk for Crediton Area History and Museum Society (CAHMS) set out to tell us how that came to be.
Buller was a major military figure in the late Victorian hey-day of the British Empire, playing a substantial role in several campaigns around the world in the 1870s, 80s and 90s.
Britain’s colonial history has been re-appraised by many commentators in recent years, but Robert’s talk told Buller’s story “in the context of his time”, with several examples of how he was respected by his soldiers and loved by the British public.
Buller was awarded the Victoria Cross in fighting against the Zulu army in 1879 when he rescued three of his fellow soldiers with scant regard for his own safety.
At Robert’s invitation, Buller’s descendant Henry Parker read the VC citation to our audience. Hearing that story told in the clipped, matter-of-fact military language of the time added a real immediacy to the presentation.
Robert ended his talk by showing us a selection of the “Welcome Messages” presented to Buller on his return from the Boer War.
This unique collection, totalling more than 17,000 personal messages from people around Britain, gives an indication of the depth of public respect and support enjoyed by Buller at the end of his military career.
Robert showed us some of the messages sent by Crediton people.
Many are simple expressions of thanks and appreciation, but others are distinctive and memorable – “Buller: Britain’s Bravest Bulldog!” looks as though it might have been penned by a headline-writer for the tabloid press.
Robert has been given the opportunity of cataloguing and transcribing the whole collection – and has invited CAHMS and other local history societies to help (let us know at: [email protected] if you would be interested in helping).
The next talk in the CAHMS programme will be on Monday, November 13, when Dr Des Atkinson will be giving us a presentation on The Norden Survey of the Crown Lands of Devon.
Some readers will be aware that John Norden undertook a survey of Crediton in the 1590s: this talk will focus on another survey in which he covered several locations around Devon in the following decade, providing many insights into our county as it was over 400 years ago.
It will take place at the Boniface Centre, starting at 7.30pm, the cost for CAHMS members £2, non-members £5.
For further details see our website: www.creditonhistory.org.uk .