Lieut.-Colonel John Vaughan, D. S. O.
He was quick in mettle, when he went in school,
So he is now, in execution of any bold or noble enterprise
He is a great observer, and he looks quite through the deeds of men.
How aptly these immortal lines of the bard of Avon apply to the subject of these memoirs.
Colonel John Vaughan started his soldiering life as a 7th Hussar; the official record of his service informs us that he was born on the 31st July, 1
871, consequently he was under 20 years of age when he received his commission as Second Lieutenant on the 11th March 1891. Three years and a half later, 4th September 1894, he was promoted to Lieutenant, obtained his troop on the 9th October 1899, given the brevet of Major on the 29th November 1900, substantive Major on the 14th May 1904, Lieutenant-Colonel , 7th May 1908. He became a Tenth Hussar on the 3rd October 1904.
Of his history in the 7th Hussars we know that, from the time he joined that Regiment, there was no useful work undertaken in which he did not take an active and successful part. With it he saw active service in the campaigns against the Matabeles in 1896, and in Mashonaland in 1897. From participants in those wars we learn that Mr Vaughan was then possessed with the spirit of restless energy and indefatigability: they saw little of him except when actually trekking with his squadron; if the squadron sat down for a day or two, he was off and away, employed in scouting , in which duty he did exceedingly successful work. Accompanied by trust natives of his own selection, he never failed to return with, or send in, information which was of the greatest value to the Commanders of the operations.
In the following year, 1898, we find him serving under Lord Kitchener, in the final and victorious overthrow of the Madhi in the Soudan. With the 21st Lancers, he took part in the famous charge at Omdurman.
Before another year had elapsed, the war had been declared against the Republics of the Transvaal, and The Orange Freestate, and, as was most inevitable, Captain Vaughan was amongst the earliest parties who found their way to the seat of war. He secured a Staff appointment, first as a Brigade Major, then as a D. A. A. General on the staff of General French. When his Regiment arrived in the county he rejoined it and served with it until 1901. In 1902 he again served on the staff, and subsequently commanded a column. He was severely wounded at Boesman Kop, near Springs and was invalided to England. He took part in the arduous operations near Colesberg in the end of 1899, and early apart of 1900 was present at the Relief of Kimberley; took part in the operations in the Orange Freestate, February to May 1900, in the Transvaal in May and June 1900, in the Transvaal east of Pretoria, in the Cape Colony south of the Orange River; in the Transvaal March to May 1902, and in the Orange River Colony and Cape Colony. (Mentioned in despatches, and Brevet Major.)
Had these war services been rendered in the Tenth, some attempt would be made to do such scant justice as is possible in relating them. From want of knowledge however, that attempt is not made, and we are, perforce, compelled to limit this brief epitome to the information obtainable from the restricted records available.
These do not include the incident in which in a history of the war in South Africa, especial prominence is given to the important part played by Major Vaughan, in the fight of Holspruit Farm on the 1st April 1902. The historian writes: “All went well with the expedition as far as Holspruit, the farm they had started to search. Commandant Pretorius, to whom it belonged, was taken by the energy of Major Vaughan, who pursued and overtook his cape cart. This capture had an unquestionable influence of the fight, wherein three squadrons of the Bays, the 7th Hussars and some guns where opposed to a very superior number of the enemy. The bays were, in the beginning of the battle, unsupported in their efforts to overcome Albert’s command, which had taken up a strong position at the farm. The night was dark and it was almost muzzle to muzzle, with the greatest difficulty in telling friend from foe. The three squadrons (Bays) fell back upon some rising ground, keeping admirable order under most difficult circumstances. In spite of darkness the attack was pressed most fiercely home, and with their favourite tactics, the Burghers rapidly outflanked the position taken up by the cavalry. The British moved by alternate squadrons to a higher, rocky Kopje on the east, which could be vaguely distinguished looming in the darkness, against the skyline. “B” Squadron, the last to retire, was actually charged and ridden through by their brave assailants, firing from their saddles as they broke through the ranks. The British had hardly the time to reach the kopje, dismount, and line its edge, when the Boers, yelling loudly charged with their horses up the steep flanks. Twice they were beaten back but the third time they seized one corner of the hill and opened a hot fire upon the rear of the line of men who were defending the other side. Dawn was now breaking and the situation was most serious, for the Boers were in very superior numbers, and were pushing their pursuit with the utmost vigour and determination. A small party of Officers and men whose horses had been shot, covered the retreat of their comrades, and continued to fire until all of them, two Officers and twenty three men, were killed or wounded the whole of their desperate defence being conducted within from thirty to fifty yards of the enemy. The remainder of the Regiment now retired to successive ridges, each of which was rapidly outflanked by the Boers, whose whole method of conducting the attack was extraordinarily skilful. Nothing bu the excellent discipline of the over-marched troopers prevented the retreat from becoming a rout. Fortunately, before the pressure became intolerable, the 7th Hussars, with some artillery, came to the rescue and turned the tide. The Hussars galloped in with such dash that some of them actually got among the Boers with their swords, but the enemy rapidly fell back and disappeared”.
So reads one page of the history of Colonel Vaughan, in the South Africa War, and there is no doubt that many, equally honourable to him, could be recounted were we familiar with his deeds from the night when he acted as a guide to us, from Rensberg to Maeder’s Farm, on the eve of our first big battle with the Boers, the 1st January 1900, to the day when a Boer bullet laid him low. Colonel Vaughan is in possession of:
The medal for operations in South Africa 1896-7
The British medal with clasp for Soudan 1898
The Khedive’s Medal
The Queen’s Medal for South Africa, with 6 clasps
The King’s Medal with 2 clasps
The decoration of the Distinguished Service Order.
After the war he entered the Staff College, Camberley, passing out in 1903. He then took up the appointment of Brigadier-Major of the Aldershot Cavalry Brigade, and relinquished it on October 1904, when he was transferred to the Tenth, as Second-in-Command.
Were we living in those so-called romantic ages of the past, when poets and minstrels were not restrained from painting, in the glowing colours which they deserved, their thoughts of the deeds and lives of men, and did so without fearing that their expressions would suggest adulation, then would the history of Colonel John Vaughan be a veritable saga. But in this prosaic age, to do so would invite ridicule, or at least an accusation of hollow hero-worship. It is only left then to record in cols phraseology, the biography of one, who, from the time he first donned the uniform of a Hussar, has extracted the admiration of all, the implicit confidence that whatever he does is the right thing to do, and much better, the love of his comrades of all ranks. Of him it can be asserted without fear of contradiction, he is nothing if not a soldier. Those who believe the doctrine of re-incarnation will declare that the martial instincts, displayed from his earliest days, must be the outcome of previous accumulations, and could we trace back through his genealogical tree, it would be surprising if we did not find among its branches an Owen Glyndwr, a Cadwaladyr, a Llewelyn, or others of the renowned warrior Kings, who abound in the pages of history of the Principality which gave him birth.
Looking back on his period of command, Colonel Vaughan can congratulate himself on the existence of the most agreeable relations between him and all ranks of the Regiment. It has been his aim to promote not only the fame of the Tenth as a Cavalry Regiment, but also the material welfare and happiness all those who served in it. The results of his judicious rule are evident today; no soldiers serve under better of brighter conditions and surroundings than those of the Tenth, whilst nothing has been left undone that would increase its standing as the most efficient Regiment in the country. In fact the prosperity and progress visible on all sides are indisputable proofs that his efforts have been attended by complete success.
The readers of the Gazette will recall the many triumphs of Colonel Vaughan, which have from time to time been recorded in its pages. These include the winning of the Kadir Cup in 1907, his exploits as a shikari, the hard fought-out sword competition in the Divisional Assault-at-Arms in 1909, when he secured the first prize, having met the best of the swordsman this gigantic Division can produce; and at out smaller regimental meetings, there was no Officers’ completion in which he did not compete, and frequently win.
But his most notable achievements were those in the polo field. To his capable and tactful management of the Regimental Team must be credited the almost phenomenal list of wins, of which this Gazette contains a record. His influence will doubtless continue to stimulate teams in the years to come, and assist them to retain the proud position in the polo world which is now assigned to The Tenth.
Colonel Vaughan’s is a dominant and strenuous personality. He possesses in a marked degree that curious intangible quality of popularity, that power which attracts, draws men to him and inclines them to do his bedding without question, feeling that whatever he decides is the outcome of sound judgement and a ripe experience. Not, may we say, by subtle diplomacy or courtly phrases does he bend men to his will. On the contrary, like the good soldier that he is, he goes to the point by the most direct course, never leaving any doubt of his views on the subject in hand, and never fails to describe those views in the shortest and most lucid terms. Already since he left us, many of the sayings of John Vaughan have been quoted as examples of that wit which is exemplified by brevity.
As a contributor to the Gazette he will be much missed, but we hope that our readers will, in the future be given the opportunity of enjoying many an entertaining and instructive article written by him.
He was ordered, while en route for home, to make detours in Italy and France and visit the Cavalry Schools of those countries at Tor di Quinto and Saumur, to acquire so knowledge of the methods followed in those Institutions. We are sure that, brief though his stay with our neighbours necessarily was, he would, as speedily as anyone, determine what was worth imitating, and what was it be avoided. Possibly he may give us a narrative of his experiences at the schools of the two countries.
Colonel Vaughan can have only one regret associated with his service as a Tenth Hussar, that is, the opportunity he was never given, to take the Regiment on active service. The Regiment shares that regret with him, and does the only thing left with it to do – entertain a strong hope that, when it is its good fortune to take the field, Colonel Vaughan may be the Commander of the forces of which it forms a part.
The Tenth Hussars will watch closely every incident in the career of this popular and highly-esteemed Officer, the latest in the role of former Commanding Officers of the Regiment , convinced that the universal anticipations that fame and distinction awaits him, will be realised.
All Tenth Hussars that have served under him are convinced that he would ably fill the highest rank, and to see him in it will be the wish of all.