General Rt Hon Sir
Redvers Buller

Son of James Wentworth Buller, M.P., of Crediton, Devonshire, and the descendant of an old Cornish family, long established in Devonshire, tracing its ancestry in the female line to Edward I., he was born in 1839 at Downes, Crediton, Devon, and educated at Eton. He was a major benefactor in Crediton and Exeter during the early years of the last century. He was General Officer Commanding at Aldershot, October 1898 to October 1899 and January to October 1901

Commissioned into the 60th Rifles (King’s Royal Rifle Corps) in May 1858 he served in the Peking expedition of 1860, in the Red River Rebellion (Canada) 1870, and Ashanti (Ghana) 1873-4, where he came to the notice of General Garnet Wolsley. He then served in South Africa during the Kaffir War, 1878 and the Zulu War, 1879, where he commanded a regiment of irregular horse. Buller lost approximately ninety men of his force in the retreat from Inhlobane where he was awarded the Victoria Cross for rescuing three of his men from the Zulus.

He served as Chief of Staff in the first Boer War and then to General Wolsley in both the Egyptian campaign of 1882, where he was commended for coolness under fire at Tamai, and the Gordon relief expedition of 1885. He was employed as a civilian on police duties in Ireland in 1886 but returned to the Army as Quartermaster General and then Adjutant General for the next eleven years, from 1887 to 1897.

As GOC at Aldershot in 1899 Buller became commander of the Field Force for Natal during the South African War. Following a series of setbacks in South Africa, Lord Roberts replaced Buller. Notwithstanding that, Buller returned to a heroes welcome in Aldershot in January 1901.

A disagreement over policy led to his retirement in October 1901 and he died in Devon in June 1908, aged sixty-eight. He is remembered as the ‘father’ of the Army Service Corps (now incorporated in the Royal Logistics Corps). The Royal Logistics Corps barracks, in Aldershot, bear his name.

Many references to his name and deeds can be found in Exeter, including Buller Road and Ladysmith schools. At the junction of New North Road and Hele Road in Exeter can be seen the statue of the General sat astride his horse, as he must often have been seen leading his troops on the battlefields of South Africa. The statue was unveiled in 1905 and thousands of people attended, including General Buller himself. Seen as the saviour of the Boer War, he was acclaimed as having saved Natal from the Boers.

Extract from "British Commanders in the Transvaal War 1899-1900" published by W.D. & H.O. Wills Ltd:


The Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Natal, was born in 1839. He has a noble ancestry (the Duke of Norfolk being a great uncle), and is eminently endowed with those faculties which go to make a successful soldier, viz. :—smartness, determination, fearlessness, and patience. Though born into an environment of wealth and affluence, he entered the 60th Rifles in May, 1858. Two years later he was busily engaged in the China War, and afterwards rendered splendid service in the Ashanti, Kaffir and Zulu Wars, and in Egypt.

War becoming inevitable between Great Britain and the Boer Republics, Sir Redvers Buller left England on October 14th, 1899, to take supreme command of the British forces in South Africa. Upon the operations assuming unwieldy proportions Lord Roberts was appointed Commander-in-Chief, and General Buller was directed to concentrate his attention on the situation in Natal. His resource and patience were taxed to the uttermost in his repeated attempts during Dec., 1899, and January, 1900, to relieve the British garrison in Ladysmith, Natal, which town the Boers—having so carefully and completely chosen and fortified their positions—had invested since 3rd Nov., 1899. Success came at last, for the Boers being compelled to send reinforcements from around Ladysmith to assist in repelling the attacks of our Army from other quarters, General Buller's forces marched into Ladysmith on the 28th February, 1900.

Last updated 17 February, 2009
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