Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (12 November 2020)

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Date of Auction: 12th November 2020

Sold for £4,800

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

A fine Boer War D.S.O. group of three awarded to Captain M. A. Hilliard, New South Wales Mounted Infantry, who was decorated and mentioned in despatches for leading bayonet charges at Vet River and Diamond Hill, 1900.

Distinguished Service Order, V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 4 clasps, Cape Colony, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill (Capt. M. A. Hilliard, D.S.O., N.S.W., M.R.) officially engraved naming; Coronation 1902, silver, unnamed as issued, minor enamel damage to obverse wreath of DSO, otherwise good very fine (3) £3,000-£4,000

Footnote

D.S.O. London Gazette 19 April 1901: Captain M. A. Hilliard, New South Wales Mounted Infantry.
‘In recognition of services in connection with the Campaign in South Africa, 1899-1900.’


Maurice Alfred Hilliard was born at Gladstone, Queensland on 19 March 1863, the third son of Captain W. E. Hilliard, of Kensington, near Sydney and was educated at Sydney Grammar School. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Artillery, 1886 and Lieutenant, Illawara Light Horse, 1887. Appointed Adjutant, Senior Cadet Battalion, 1891-92, he then served in India from 1892 to 1894 attached to the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays) and the 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. In 1894, he was appointed to the General Staff, and the following year was promoted Captain. From April 1894 to June 1895, he was Adjutant, 3rd Infantry Regiment, and from 1895 to 1900, Adjutant, 4th Infantry Regiment.

Captain Hilliard left for South Africa with the 2nd Contingent, New South Wales Mounted Infantry, in 1900, where he saw fighting from Modder River to Bloemfontein with Lord Roberts, thence with Major-General Sir E. T. H. Hutton, C.B.; under General French to Kronstad and with Major-General Ian Hamilton to Pretoria and beyond. In a letter to an unnamed Colonel dated 11 July 1900, Hilliard described the attack at the Vet River:
‘The 5th May saw us (for the first time actually engaged under General Hutton) at the Vet River. My Squadron led the attack and after a sharp gallop under shell fire we left our horses under cover and advanced in extended order on foot. The advance was over perfectly level ground without any cover whatever and as the firing was very heavy (shell fire, pom-pom, Maxim and rifle) we had a trying time, but rapidly crossing over the 1,500 yards of open, succeeded in driving the Boers out of the drift. Taking a breather under this welcome shelter we again advanced across the open on the opposite side and stormed the kopje held by the enemy. Our advance was so rapid they were obliged to leave a Maxim behind which we captured. We also seized six or seven prisoners and accounted for a good many killed. None of our men were killed and only a few slightly wounded, which considering the rain of bullets is to me marvellous. I can only attribute such luck to the rapidity with which we moved and the excellent way intervals were maintained. General Hutton was too generous in his remarks when congratulating me personally - but the warm praise he bestowed upon my Squadron in particular and the Regiment generally was well deserved and will ever be warmly cherished by us all.’


The same letter contains an account of his experiences at the Battle of Diamond Hill 11-12 June 1900:
‘On the 11th and 12th inst. we had some of the hottest fighting on the Campaign... Just about 3:00 p.m. our turn came - advancing across the veldt for about half a mile (in columns of troop in extended order) at a walk we then broke into a hot trot and when another half mile had been covered we broke into a gallop and made for the sheltering base of part of the Kopje straight in front of us. After a most exciting gallop of a mile partly under fire we reached the shelter for our horses, dismounted and then scaled the Kopje. My Squadron was first up. It was a difficult climb especially after a trying gallop but our men never hesitated and we soon reached the first rugged "table top". The bullets began to hiss in real earnest so we dashed across the open and gained the next line of pinnacle rocks. Keeping firing we halted for a little while and then made another rush for the next line of shelter. Seeing the Boers retreating bayonets were fixed and a dash forward made which was too much for them and they "scattered". A Field Cornet was shot and his cousin after narrowly shooting Lieutenant Newman through the head was made prisoner. The Boers managed to get away all their other dead and wounded. At this juncture they opened a big gun on us at very short range also two pom poms, and discovering that we were being enfiladed with rifle fire on the left, I ordered the men to lie flat behind cover and so we remained and longed for darkness not daring to lift our heads up to reply to their fire except by an occasional volley. Poor Drage fell just on my left shot through the left head – also though he lived a little while he was dead when I saw him. Captain Holmes was wounded in the right forearm but pluckily stayed with me all night on the Kopje which we had to hold. Harriott's loss was a great sorrow to me as I had become greatly attached to him... Next day finding the Boers had cleared we gave chase and got on to their rear guard about 6 miles out and chased them up at the historical Bronkhorst Spruit.’


Hilliard was mentioned in Lord Roberts’ despatch of 29 November 1900 (London Gazette 16 April 1901) in connection with his leading of the bayonet charges at Vet River (1900) and Diamond Hill (1900) and was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, the insignia being presented to him by the Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales on his return to Australia. He continued to serve on the General Staff, New South Wales Military Forces and, as Adjutant, 1st Infantry Regiment, he was selected to serve as an advance agent for the New South Wales detachment of the Coronation Contingent which sailed for England in April 1902. He died at Sydney, New South Wales on 11 April 1907.

Note: This lot is available for viewing in Swanbourne, Western Australia, by appointment with our Australasian representative, John Burridge.