Redvers Buller Commemorative Silverware

Sir Redvers not only won a Victoria Cross in that campaign for rescuing two officers and a trooper from certain death at the hands of the enemy, but was one of its few successful commanders. It was this success in command of a Flying Column to which the people of Devon paid homage when they inscribed the plaque: To Col Sir Redvers Buller VC from nl,tmerous friends and neighbours in testimony of their appreciation of the very important services he rendered his country during the campaign in South Africa 2 October 1879. Mrs S R Parker who has lent this striking example of Victorian commemorative silver comes, like Buller, from Devon. She wishes the nation to have an opportunity to see 'what the grateful people gave in those days'.

In October 1879, barely six weeks after the hero's return from the battlefield, the Colonel was given a banquet by his fellow county men in Exeter. Almost 500 guests drank a toast in the Victoria Hall to 'Colonel Buller, our guest and a Devonshire man'. In his reply, Buller spoke of fellow-Devonian campaigners, and expressed his thanks for 'the magnificent testimonial you are giving me as a memorial of your kindness'.

However he made no direct reference to the centrepiece, which probably was not handed over on that occasion. The Illustrated London News of 18 October 1879 referred to the Devonian piece as yet to be presented, but it was probably completed by the end of the year, for it bears the London date-letter for 1879-80. The execution of the silver by Stephen Smith, 35 Kings Street, Covent Garden can have been no speedy project for it measures 3ft 8in long and is 2ft high; it is surmounted by a figure of Buller in campaign dress with a Zulu attendant, and incorporates equestrian figures, trophies, winged figures and the Buller coat of arms.

Redvers Buller

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by Stephen Luscombe