Captain John Ramsay Slade

John Ramsay Slade was born at Tisbury in Wiltshire on 16 Mar 1843, the son of Lieutenant-General Sir Marcus Slade and Charlotte Ramsay. After attending RMA Woolwich he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 18 Dec 1861, promoted to captain on 16 Jan 1875. The photo shows him in the rank of lieutenant with a crown badge of rank on the collar of his dress uniform. He was part of the Bazaar Valley Expedition in in 1878 and was a survivor of the catastrophic defeat of the British/Indian column led by Brigadier-General G R S Burrows at Maiwand on 27 July 1880. The column was accompanied by native troops employed by the Wali of Kandahar who were given guns by the British Commander. These were four 6-pounders and two 12-pounders, all smooth bore. However, these troops mutinied on reaching the River Helmand and tried to make off with the guns. When these guns were retrieved they were placed under the command of Captain Slade.

At Maiwand nearly all the casualties in the RHA were due to enemy artillery fire. Major Blackwood was wounded early in the day and Captain Slade took over command. Slade wrote about the battle in a letter to a fellow officer, from Camp Kokwean on 9 Sep 1880 in which he said:

‘The enemy had to advance over a distance of almost 600 yards and during this time were exposed to a very heavy fire of both musketry and Artillery but tho’ they fell in hundreds they were not to be deterred, and poor Maclaine waited a moment too long and lost his guns — they were within 15 yards of us when I limbered up — besides being in our rear. I then formed close interval and retired to a position about 400 yards back where I came into action again to cover the retreat. Owing to the Artillery being so heavy I’d had to leave 67 horses dead or severely wounded on the field — besides 3 wagons completely disabled. Poor Osborne was shot dead just as we were limbering up to retire….

‘I am afraid my letter is a very disconnected one — but I have so much to do — and so much to think about that I hardly know which way to look. Besides I am off to again tomorrow. Yours very truly, John R Slade.’

Captain Slade was praised by Major-General Sir E May RA in his book of 1893 for covering the retreat to Kandahar:

‘The manner in which the Horse Artillery (E/B, now 58th Field Battery) under Captain (now Colonel) J R Slade behaved during the retreat from Maiwand enabled them by their excellent discipline and staunch courage to materially assist in averting complete ruin.’

John Slade’s career progressed and during the First Boer War of 1881 he served on the staff. He was then sent to Rome in 1887 as a Military Attaché and accompanied General Antonio Baldissera when he was sent to take command in Ethiopia in 1896. In 1903 he was promoted to Major-General and commanded British troops in Egypt. He retired from the army in 1905, appointed KCB.

He was married twice. His first wife was the young Lucia Aurora di Ramos who he married on 9 Sep1871. They had a son, Victor, on 16 Oct 1872 but Lucia died 5 days later. The infant Victor died on 21 Jan 1873. John Slade’s second wife was Janet the daughter of Major-General Robert B Wood. They were married on 7 Nov 1882 and had a daughter named after his first wife, Lucia, born on 23 Aug 1883. He gained a knighthood in 1907 and was appointed Gentleman Usher to both Edward VII and George V. At the age of 70 he was Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery in 1912 but died the next year, at Salisbury, on 4 Sep 1913.

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by Stephen Luscombe