Boxer Rebellion Despatches (Royal Navy)
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DESPATCHES of which the following are Copies, have been received from the Commander-in-Chief and the Rear-Admiral on the China station, relative to the attempted relief of the legations at Peking; the capture of the Taku forts; and operations at Tientsin :—
Admiral Seymour's Despatch
Letter No. 384, from Commander-in-Chief on the China Station, dated 27th June, 1900.
Combined Naval Expedition to attempt the Relief of Legations at Peking.
Tientsin, 27th June, 1900.
WITH reference to my Submission No. 366 of 30th May forwarding copies of telegrams I had received from H.M. Minister on the above subject, I have the honour to report the course of events bince that date.
On 29th May I received a telegram from H.M. Consul at Tientsin reporting that Fengtai, the railway station next to Peking, had been burnt, also five stations on the Peking-Hankau line, and on the following day (30th) H.M. Minister at Peking informed me that the situation there was "extremely grave, the soldiers mutinous and people very excited," and that European life and property was in danger.
Both the "Orlando" and "Algerine" were then at Taku, and thirteen ships of various other nationalities. The "Algerine" on her arrival on 30th had immediately disembarked twenty-five marines, who had been sent up as a guard for the Legation at Peking before it was known that affairs had assumed such a serious aspect. On the following day the "Orlando" landed fifty marines and sixty-seven seamen and the "Algerine" ten seamen. The "Algerine's" men were subsequently sent back to their ship, from which they could not well be spared, and were replaced on 4th June by a field gun's crew from "Centurion."
The men were disposed of as follows:—Captain Bernard M. Strouts, R.M.L.I., commanding Tientsin Winter Guard; Captain Lewis S. T. Halliday, R.M.L.I., H.M.S. Orlando; Captain Edmund Wray, R.M.L.I., Wei-hai-wei detachment; 25 marines, Tientsin Winter Guard; 26 marines, H.M.S. "Orlando "; 25 marines, Wei-hai-wei detachment; making a total of 79 officers and men at Peking, and 104 seamen and marines at Tientsin.
The guards for Peking arrived there on 31st May by train, the total number of all nationalities forwarded to Peking being 337.
After receiving the Minister's telegram before mentioned, I decided, in view of the gravity of the situation, to proceed off Taku itself, and left on the afternoon of 31st with Whiting in company, leaving the Rear-Admiral (H.M.S. Barfleur) at Wei-hai-wei, with orders to send on Endymion, which was expected there the next day, and also the Fame.
On arrival off Taku (13 miles distant from the anchorage) on 1st June, I telegraphed at once to H.M. Minister and informed him I was prepared to land two hundred more seamen and marines, and awaited an intimation of his wishes. On 2nd June a telegram from him was received (dated the previous day) stating that the guards had arrived at Peking without any opposition, aad that affairs were quieter, at the same time asking if I was coming up. This I could not do, but on 3rd June I landed at Tongku and went to Tientsin by train to see the arrangements made for our guards, and also to have some conversation with our Consul, and learn as far as I could the actual state of affairs at Tientsin and in the neighbourhood.
While there, I heard that an attack had been made a day or two previously on an armed party of over thirty Belgians who were coming in with their families from Pao-ting-fu, on the Peking-Hankau railway line now under construction. It was supposed that some of the party had been killed as nine were missing.
I was also informed of the murder of an English missionary, Mr. Robinson, and the abduction of another, Mr. Norman, at Yungching, some thirty miles from Tientsin. Bishop Scott asked me to send out a party to attempt to rescue Mr. Norman, but before any action could be taken it was ascertained that he too had been murdered.
The situation at the Palace was said to be strained, the Dowager Empress being credited with a wish to put down the Boxers, but not daring to do so on account of their numbers and support by some of the princes. It was rumoured that she contemplated withdrawing from Peking to the ancient capital, Sian Fu, in Shensi Province. My object in going to Tientsin was also partly to return to Taku by river in order to know something about it in case we required to use it for transport, &c. This I did and returned to my flagship.
On 4th June a gun's crew and gun were sent up from Centurion, to Tientsin in response to a request from the Consul, and on 5th a force of one hundred men from "Centurion" was sent  to H.M.S. "Algerine" in the river off Taku to be ready for immediate landing if required, as the distance at which the ships lie from Taku, about thirteen miles, causes great delay in receiving messages; and sending in men such a long distance over a bar, which can only be crossed even by a steamboat at near high-water, loses several hours.
Matters remaining serious and the gravity of the situation in no way abated, but likely to increase, the Chinese Government being up to this time quite inactive, although the "Boxers" were near Tientsin in force and had committed outrages such as destroying property and burning railway in several places, I proposed to Rear-Admiral Courejolles (French), then the next Senior Naval Officer present on the 5th instant, that the Senior Naval Officers should meet together to discuss the situation and arrange for mutual action. Rear-Admiral Courejolles agreed, and suggested that the meeting should be held on board "Centurion," in which I acquiesced, and at 4 p.m. the same day our first meeting took place, officers of seven nations besides our own being present. The proceedings were marked by great unanimity.
On 5th June I received a requisition from H.M. Consul at Tientsin for a vessel to protect Pei-tai-ho (a watering-place a few miles south of Shan-hai-kuan) as several British subjects and much British property were there. I informed him that I would send a ship there to protect lives of Europeans and to embark them if necessary, but that I was unable to give protection to property, and that British subjects if in danger should embark and go to Chifu. The " Humber," then at Wei-hai-wei, was ordered to proceed there, taking twenty-five marines in addition to her own crew. I sent her partly because she has accommodation for people.
The "Aurora," which had arrived at Wei-haiwei on 4th June, was ordered to Taku in case a larger landing force became necessary, and arrived on 7th.
Having received a message from H.M. Consul requesting an increase of guard, fifty seamen of "Centurion" were sent to Tientsin on 6th, and also seventy-five marines. The latter were to be sent on to Peking if required by H.M. Minister, from whom I had received an inquiry whether that number could be spared, without stating whether they were actually required or whether, he was only making an inquiry in case of further developments.
On 5th June the Consul in a telegram advocated permission being given to guards "to take active measures of hostility," but this I did not accede to, my view being that our mission here was solely for the protection of European lives, and property also, as far as might be, with which my colleagues concurred.
On 6th a meeting of the Senior Naval Officers was again held, and it was generally agreed that in case communication with Peking became cut off it should be reopened, using whatever force was necessary with this object.
The Austrian Captain informed me that he would be glad if his men at Tientsin might be placed-under the orders of the Senior British Naval Officer at Tientsin. I thanked him for the honour he paid me by making this request, and I instructed the officer in charge of our guards accordingly.
Rumours were afloat that the Boxers intended to attack the Foreign Settlements at Tientsin on 19th June, the anniversary of the massacres there in 1870. If this was to have been carried out the community should have been fully prepared to meet them.
On 7th June I received intelligence that General Nieh, who had been ordered by the Chinese Government to march on the rebels then assembled in great force twenty miles from Tientsin, had an engagement and had killed five hundred. It appears from subsequent information that this number was greatly exaggerated.
On the morning of 9th June another conference of the Foreign Senior Naval Officers took place. On the same day, at about 11.30 p.m., I received an urgent telegram from H.M. Minister informing me that unless those in Peking were relieved soon it would be too late. I immediately acquainted my colleagues with the tenor of the telegram, at the same time informing them that I was starting with all our available men at once, and expressing a hope they would co-operate.
The officers and men of the squadron were then sent in to Tongku, in "Fame," "Whiting," and a tug, and about 6 a.in. were entrained and reached Tientsin about 7.30 a.m. After paying a visit to H.M. Consul, the train started about 9.30 a.m. for Peking. The numbers in the train were as follows:—300 British, 112 United States, 28 Austrian, and 40 Italian.
The train proceeded without any obstacle beyond Yungtsun, near which there was a camp of four thousand Chinese troops under General Nieh. About 3.30 p.m. the train had to be stopped for repair of damages to railway a few miles this side of Lofa, and remained for the night.
Two more trains joined here, bringing up the total force to (62 officers, 640 seamen, and 213 marines) 915 British, 25 Austrian, 40 Italian, 100 French, 450 German, 54 Japanese, 112 Russian, 112 United States.
Early next morning (June 11th) the trains proceeded to Lofa Station, where the engines were watered. A fourth train joined here with two hundred Russians and fifty-eight French, making a total force of over two thousand. The train proceeded at 11.30 a.m. A guard of one officer and thirty men (afterwards reinforced to sixty) was left at Lofa to protect the line.
About 6 p.m. when beyond some three miles short of Langfang Station, some " Boxers" were seen approaching; they had previously endeavoured to cut off an advanced party with railway repairing gear, but had failed, and now came to the attack of No. 1 train; they advanced in skirmishing order, and were soon repulsed by our rifle fire, leaving about thirty-five killed.
All trains proceeded to Langfang (June 12th) as soon as the line was repaired. It was found thafc the line beyond had been much cut up, the damage being apparently done recently by bodies of men as we approached, and evidently not far ahead. As some time would have to be spent at Langfang repairing bridges, &c., Lieutenant Smith, of " Aurora," commanding her men, was sent with a party of three officers and forty-four men.to try to get, if possible, to Anting, thirteen miles on, to prevent more damage being done to the line, and to hold the railway station there. He occupied a village on the line the following morning, and' early in that morning was attacked by Boxers three times in succession, who, however, retreated on a few volleys being fired, with a loss of fifteen men. At 10.30 a final and more determined attack was made by about fpiir hundred and fifty Boxers, who charged in line with great courage and enthusiasm, but were repulsed with heavy loss, estimated (with those killed in previous, attacks) to be about 150. The party being then short of ammunition, Lieutenant Smith wisely decided to return, and rejoined at 2.30 p.m
Major Johnstone, R.M.L.I., was sent forward in the afternoon (June 13th) with sixty men towards Anting1, to try to prevent the line being broken up ahead. He was attacked by the Boxers in a village adjoining tho railway a few miles on the "railway, .which had been destroj'ed for abcut a mile, and the sleepers, &c., carried away. The " Boxers " lost about twenty-five killed, and there were no casualties on our side. He returned on the evening of 14th.
Langfang.— At about 10.15 a.m. (June 14th) the outposts were seen running in and reported the Boxers close to in great numbers
- they were closely followed by the
Boxers, who made a most determined rush at the fore part of the train which was then drawn up alongside a well, where many -of our men were engaged in watering. They came on in great numbers in loose formatipn and with the utmost courage under a withering fire, some of them even reaching the train before they were killed. They did not retreat until they had suffered a loss of about one hundred. I regret to say that we have to deplore the loss of five Italians, who formed the picket near a deserted village, which was used by the Boxers to conceal their approach. At 5.30 p.m. a messenger arrived on a trolley from Lofa Station to report that the guard there was being attacked by a large body of the enemy. No. 2 train then being ready, I took it down the line at once to assist the Lofa guard. On arrival it was found that the brunt of the attack was over, the "Boxers" then being on the retreat; they were harassed in their retreat by the reinforcements, and left about 100 killed behind. Two small cannon were taken from them. I regret to say that two seamen belonging to H.M.S. "Endymion" were here wounded, one seriously, and the other dangerously, who has since died.
The trains remained at Langfang (June 15th) while the line ahead was being repaired, a strong guard being detached with the construction train to protect the workers. A train which had been sent back to Lofa returned and reported, that the line we had repaired had been much broken up again below that place. Later on, the officer of the station guard at Lofa came up with an engine and reported that he thought an attack in force by Boxers might be expected, as he had seen three large bodies moving about in the distance. They eventually moved off without attacking, being probably only making for the line lower down to break it up towards Yungtsin.
A train left at 4 a.m. (June 16th) to endeavour to get through to Tientsin, but came back at 3 p.m., having found the line too much destroyed to repair with their resources. It being evident that the line was much damaged between Yungtsnn and Lofa, I decided to return and investigate, and Jeft Langfang in No. 1 train at 4 p.m. Nos. 2 and 3 remained at Langfang, and No. 4 at Lofa, to follow later on if the development of affairs at those places seemed to render such a course desirable. It appeared to me probable that the attempt to relieve Peking might have to be made by river for the following reasons :—
1. We were so much delayed that more provisions were required by many of the force, and would in a very few days run short. Ammunition was also getting short.
2.. That it seemed unlikely we could get nearer Peking than Anting, or a little beyond it; some transport would be needed, and we could not go without it.
3. That we were quite cut off from our base, and ignorant of what was happening there, having had no communication since 13th.
4. It was necessary to take some steps to protect the line in our rear as trains had ceased to run. On the night of 16th-17th, No. 1 train remained on the line betwepn Lofa and Yangtsun, and in the morning, as soon as repairs were effected, reached the latter place, where the station was found to be entirely demolished, communication with Tientsin by rail impossible to re-establish with the resources at disposal, and, consequently, no possibility of obtaining any supplies or necessaries.
A few days previously I had endeavoured to send down orders to Tientsin for junks, provisions, and ammunition to be sent to Yungtsun with a view to establishing a base there from which to start, if found desirable, by river to Tungchow, marching thence to Peking, as pur alternative route. Not one of these couriers reached Tientsin, the surrounding country being at that time overrun with Boxers or hostile Chinese, but had they done so it would have been impossible to have complied with my requisition, owing to the state of affairs at Tientsin which was itself then in a state of siege and being bombarded by the Chinese. Of this I was in complete ignorance at the time, as no news whatever from outside reached me between 13th and 26th June. I had also tried to get messages, to the General at Hong-Kong to send immediately all available troops, having at the commencement of the march to Peking, when. the hostility of the Chinese authorities and their active support of the Boxers was not known, only asked for the troops (650) then ready, whom it was intended, to employ as guards at the railway stations selected to be held against; attack by Boxers and for guard at Peking to enable men of the fleet to return to their ships.
On 17th messages were sent back to Lofa and Langfang to recall Nos. 2, 3, and 4 trains, it being evident that the advance by rail was impossible, and the isolation and separate destruction of the trains a possibility. No. 3 returned on the afternoon of 18th June,, and in the evening Nos. 2 and 4 from Langfang. Captain Von Usedoni (His Imperial German Majesty's Navy), the senior officer present with Nos 2 and 4 trains, reported that they had had a severe engagement with the enemy, who unexpectedly attacked them at Langfang about 2.30 p.in. on that day (18th) in great force estimated 'to be-fully 5,000 men (including cavalry), large numbers of whom were armed with -magazine rifles of the latest pattern. The banners captured show them to have belonged to-tho army of General Tung Fu Hsiang, who commands the Chinese troops-in the Hunting Park- outside Peking, and it was thus definitely known for the first time that Imperial Chinese troops were being employed against us. The attack was made in front and on both flanks, the enemy pouring in a heavy fire on the allied forces coming out to engage them ; they were driven off with much loss, but when they saw our forces retiring towards the trains they rallied and made another attack ; a halt was then made and the men were once more beaten off with greater loss than before, and then finally retreated. In this action the Chinese lost over 400 killed, the allied forces 6 killed and 48 wounded.
While at Yangtsun we had endeavoured to open friendly relations with the headmen of the town (distant one mile), but their promises to furnish supplies were not fulfilled, probably owing to pressure from Boxers, who seemed to be in strength in the locality.
At a conference of the officers commanding, of various nationalities, it was decided on 19th June to desert the trains and withdraw on Tientsin, marching by the left bank of the river and conveying the wounded and necessaries in junks, four of which had been, taken by the Germans from some Boxers below Yangtsun on the previous day.
Preparations were rapidly made, and the wounded having been safely embarked and made as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, a start was made at 3 p.m. Soon afterwards some delay was caused by the junks grounding in a shallow reach of the river, but when this difficulty had been overcome satisfactory progress was made and we bivouacked for the night 21⁄2 miles down the river without further incident. A six-pounder Q.F. gun of "Centurion" had to be thrown overboard to lighten one of the junks before she would float off.
Early on 20th June the march was resumed, progress being regulated by the speed of the junks with wounded, and none of our men being skilled in handling such craft, and Chinese impossible to gel, their movements retarded the advance of the forces on the river bank. At 9.15 the enemy opened fire on our approach to one of the villages; they were driven out after some resistance, falling back on the next in our line of advance. Several villages in succession nad to be carried either by rifle fire, or, failing that, at the point of the bayonet. The charge with bayonets was always very effective, the cheers of the men as they advanced appearing to intimidate the Chinese, who without waiting to receive the charge, would fall back immediately. In the afternoon a one-pounder Q.F. gun was brought into action by the enemy for the first time, and although not much damage was actually done by it, the effect of its fire was harassing to those on the march, especially when an exposed space had to be crossed. Its position could not be accurately located as the nature of the country and the use of smokeless powder enabled them to mask its position both on this and subsequent occasions. After fighting during the whole day a suitable place for bivouac was selected at 6 p.m. The distance made good during the day was estimated to be about eight miles.
March was resumed at 7.30 a.m. (June 21st). About an hour later a body of from 150 to 200 cavalry was observed in the distance on our left flank of advancedguard. At firstit was hoped they might be Cossacks coming to our relief, but as they approached nearer to reconnoitre it was seen that they were Chinese troops. After satisfying themselves they withdrew, but hovered about the left flank for the remainder of the day, firing when favourable opportunities offered: several well directed shrapnel from the nine-pounder did much to discourage them and to keep them at a distance.
A few minutes after the withdrawal of the cavalry referred to above the enemy opened fire Avith a field gun and one-pounder Q.F. Their fire was returned by our nine-pounder and machine guns, and the position of their field gun being disclosed by its smoke our fire was successful in checking it; although it was brought into acfton again during the day from time to time, but with the same result as soon as its position was known.
Fighting was carried on continuously throughout a succession of villages and in the town of Peitsang, which is the chief place between Tientsin and Yungtsun, and at 6 p.m., the enemy being then in a very strong position from which we were unable to dislodge them during the evening, a halt was made, and further movements considered. It was then decided that after supper and two or three hours' rest the forces should make a night march, starting after midnight as our best chance of getting through.
Our advance during 21st was probably not more than six miles owing to the stubborn resistance of the enemy and their increased gun power.
The field and machine guns had been placed in a junk taken on the previous day, and at 1 a.m. (June 22nd) the march commenced. As we passed along fires were seen at one or two places a little distance off the river bank, evidently signalling our advance, but nothing occurred until about 11⁄2 miles had been covered, when heavy fire was opened on the advanced guard from a village about two hundred yards off in the direct line of advance. The marines then fixed bayonets and carried the position without further opposition.
The lighter containing our guns filled and sank about this time, probably owing to the fire of a field piece from ahead of us, and so had to be abandoned, the maxims only being saved.
At 4 a.m. we arrived opposite what proved to be the Imperial Chinese Armoury near Hsiku (on right bank of river). Two unarmed soldiers were seen coming out of a house one hundred yards from the bank, evidently to communicate. A halt was made to hear what they had to say, which was some simple enquiries as to who we were and where going, &c. These advances seemed perfectly friendly, and the men walked leisurely back to the house, which they had no sooner reached than a heavy fire was opened on us from rifles and several guns. Fortunately, good cover was close at hand in a village, and behind the river embankment, which was immediately taken advantage of. The rear columns had not come up, nor the junks with wounded, but the latter were carried down by the river before they could be brought up, and although placed in the best position possible under the circumstances could not be entirely sheltered and were occasionally struck.
Rifle fire was directed to a 47 mm. Hotchkiss gun at the north corner of the armoury, and two 10 cm. guns on the river front. Some of the men at the guns were killed and others driven from them. Major Johnstone, R.M.L.I., of "Centurion," was then sent higher up the river to cross over unobserved with a party of 100 marines and seamen to rush the position at the north corner. There is a village about 150 yards from this which enabled the attacking force to come up without being seen until they emerged from it, when they charged with a cheer joined in by those on the other side of the river, and the Chinese in that part of the armoury fled precipitately. At the same time, lower down the river, a German detachment crossed over and captured two guns (10 cm. Krupp) in their front, and subsequently several others. The marines also took two more guns (47 mm. Krupp). The two detachments then cleared the whole armoury grounds.
In the afternoon the Chinese made a most determined but unsuccessful attempt to retake the armoury, trying to drive us from the place by shell fire and to carry it by assault. Their losses were heavy, but we also suffered severely, losing, amongst others, Commander Bucholtz, Imperial German Navy, a valuable officer whose death was a blow, not only to the Germans, but to the whole force.
The main body of the forces and wounded crossed the river at 3 p.m., and occupied quarters in the armoury. Conditions and prospects were now somewhat better than they had been, as the place could be defended by the captured guns, but as provisions for only three days at half-allowance remained we were still in a somewhat precarious position.
The importance of communicating' our position to our forces in Tientsin was urgent, as to proceed by water was impossible, and to carry our wounded would take nearly all our force and leave no one to protect them. I had sent various messengers without success, and therefore on the evening of the 22nd, ordered Captains Richard O. M. Doig and Henry T. R. Lloyd, R.M.L.I., with 100 marines to start after dark and try to make their way into the foreign Settlement by a detour to the northward and along the railway. This was the route recommended by Mr. A. Currie, C.E., of the Imperial Chinese Railway, who accompanied our force for the repair of the line. Mr. Currie now gave his services as guide. The party reached the railway and at once encountered active resistance, the alarm bugles sounded in various places, and having lost four of their number they had no option but to return to us.
At daylight(June 23rd) the Chinese made another unsuccessful attempt to retake the armoury which was continued until nearly 8 a.m. Captain Beyts, R.M.A. ("Centurion"), was killed while defending the east front, and there were several other casualties.
When everything was quiet and only a desultory shell fire kept up, a thorough search of the contents of the various buildings was made, about fifteen tons of rice being found. In the "armoury" we discovered immense supplies of guns, arms, ammunition, and war material of latest pattern. Their discovery gave us what we most needed, viz., food and ammunition, and enabled us, if need be, to hold out here for several days. The necessity of carrying our wounded—now 230 in number—prevented our forcing our way down to Tientsin. Efforts were made to convey there information of our position and condition, but the couriers were at first killed or stopped.
Several guns were mounted on the various fronts, and in the afternoon we assumed the aggressive by bombarding a Boxer stronghold near the armoury and a Chinese fort lower down the river. This seemed to have an excellent effect, as we were afterwards but little troubled by the enemy.
A native courier sent out this day managed to get through to Tientsin and give an account of our condition. He had been captured by Boxers and tied to a tree, but, having destroyed his message before being taken, nothing incriminating was found upon him, and he was eventually released; his life was for some time in danger, and after escaping from the Boxers he had some difficulty in getting safely inside the lines round Tientsin Settlement. None of the couriers previously sent had got through, the surrounding country being so closely watched.
A Chinese soldier, wounded and captured while trying to enter the armoury (June 24th), stated that General Nieh's army were much discouraged at their want of success, and that the attempts to retake the armoury were made with twenty-five battalions (nominally, of 500 men each, but probably of not more than 300 to 400 men). During the day the Chinese fort was again bombarded.
Early in the morning (June 25th) one of the guns in the fort below the armoury was observed to be firing towards Tientsin, and to create a diversion two of our guns were got into position and bombarded it. The gun then turned its fire towards the armoury.
About 6 a.m. European troops were reported to be in sight, and at 7 a.m. a relief column under the Russian Colonel Shirinsky, composed of forces of the various nations, arrived outside the armoury.
Preparations were then made—
1. For the evacuation of the armoury; the wounded were transported across the river in the afternoon, the whole force following later and bivouacked on the river bank for the night.
2. To set on fire and destroy this very important arsenal, said, by some who should know, to contain 3,000,0001. worth of warlike stores.
At 3 a.m. on 26th the return march with the relieving column commenced, and the combined forces arrived at Tientsin about 9 a.m. without further incident. The wounded were immediately placed in the hospitals, and the various detachments joined their respective forces in Tientsin.
After the return march had commenced, Lieutenant Edward G. Lowther-Crofton and Mr. Charles Davidge, Acting Gunner of H.M.S. "Centurion," remained behind to set fire to the ammunition and other storehouses in the armoury. Fires were lit in five separate places, and judging by the great volume of smoke continually rising, with occasional explosions, the destruction must have been fairly complete. After doing their work those officers crossed the river, mounted ponies which were waiting for them, and rejoined the main body.
During the expedition the hostile villages, which afforded shelter to the enemy from which to attack the force, had to be burnt and destroyed as a matter of military necessity.
The number of enemy engaged against us in the march from Yungtsun to the armoury, near Hsiku, cannot be even estimated; the country alongside the river banks is quite flat, and consisted of a succession of villages of mud huts, those on the outskirts having enclosures made of dried reeds; outside, high reeds were generally growing in patches near the villages, and although trees are very scarce away from the river, alongside it they are very numerous; these, with the graves, embankments for irrigation and against flood, afforded cover to the enemy, from which they seldom exposed themselves, withdrawing on our near approach. Had their fire not been generally high it would have been much more destructive than it was. The number of the enemy certainly increased gradually until the armoury, near Hsiku, was reached, when General Nieh's troops and the Boxers both joined in the attack.
In the early part of the expedition the Boxers were mostly armed with swords and spears, and not with many firearms; at the engagement at Langfang, on 18th June, and afterwards, they were armed with rifles of late pattern; this, together with banners captured and uniform worn, shows that they had either the active or covert support of the Chinese Government, or some of its high officials.
The primary object of the expedition, viz., to reach Peking and succour the Foreign Legations has failed. Success was only possible on the assumption that the Imperial troops, with whose Government we were not at war, would at least be neutral; their turning their arms against us, and certainly conniving in the destruction of the railway (probably actually joining in it), made failure inevitable.
For the undertakings of the expedition, for its conduct and its issue, I am responsible.
The destruction of the valuable "armoury" near Hsiku, may be regarded as some object at least gained.
When the somewhat unusual character of the force, viz., the combination of eight different nationalities, is considered, it may, I think, be conceded that their harmonious action reflects credit on the various members of the expedition, and I venture to think it will tend to foster international sympathies.
I have with pleasure to acknowledge my gratitude to the various commanding officers for their hearty co-operation and accordance to my wishes, which is the more creditable to them as our position was often an anxious one.
Both officers and men have suffered a good deal of pecuniary loss of clothes, &c., as we had to leave behind in the trains nearly all that we could not personally carry, yet no want of cheerfulness was observable. As regards our own service, I shall submit claims for compensation for the above to their Lordships.
I have written officially to the respective Admirals or Senior Naval Officers of the several foreign nationalities preeent to thank them for their cordial co-operation throughout our short campaign, and to express my sense of the service rendered by the officers and men in question.
I have especially referred to Captain von Usedom, of the Imperial German Navy, who was senior officer present after myself. I nominated this officer to direct the expedition should I fall; and after I was deprived of the services of my Flag Captain, by his wound at the battle of Peitsang, I requested Captain von Usedom to act as my Chief of the Staff, in which capacity he rendered very valuable service, and I beg to submit the same to their Lordships. Captain von Usedom was slightly wounded at Langfang.
I must also specially refer to Captain B. H. McCalla, of the U.S. Navy, who was of the greatest value to me and to all concerned. He was slightly wounded in three places, and well merits recognition.
Before closing my despatch I have the very pleasing duty of reporting to their Lordships that the officers and men landed from H.M. ships, and present with me, acted throughout, as regards energy, courage, and cheerfulness, in a manner well worthy of the high traditions of H.M. navy. I might with truth mention favourably all names; it is hard justly to discriminate, and there are probably others who deserve special mention fully as much as those named below.
I feel it right specially to recommend for their Lordships' favourable consideration the following officers:—
Captain John R. Jellicoe, my Flag Captain, who was, as always, of most valuable help, both by his judgment and action, till disabled by a serious wound at the battle of Peitsang on 21st June.
Commander Charles D. Granville, of my Flagship, who ably commanded the Naval Brigade with me after my Flag Captain was wounded.
Commander William O. Boothby, of H.M.S. "Endymion," in command of the seamen from that ship, and at times, of others also. He was in every engagement, and I specially noticed his energy and activity.
Lieutenant George M. K. Fair, of my Flagship, employed on my Staff in Intelligence Department, &c., but diverted as required to other duties, such as the very important one of getting along the junks with wounded.
Lieutenant Horatio W. Colomb, of H.M.S. "Endymion," was twice slightly wounded on different days. He had charge of Lofa Station Fort, defended it against various attacks, and showed good judgment while in separate command.
Lieutenant Edward G. Lowther-Crofton, of my Flagship, most intelligent and active; with great risk to himself he remained behind in the Hsiku Armoury on 26th instant, when we left for Tientsin, to set fire to and destroy it, having made the preparations for so doing, which were carried out by him most satisfactorily. This important service reflects very great credit on him.
Lieutenant Arthur G. Smith, of H.M.S. "Aurora," led and commanded an advanced post above Langfang, on the line towards Peking, with zeal and good judgment.
Midshipman William B. C. Jones, of H.M.S. "Centurion," who took command of Lieutenant Wyndham L. Bamber's company in the operations on 21st June, after the latter officer was wounded.
Mr. Charles Davidge, Acting Gunner of "Centurion," who ably assisted Lieutenant Crofton in the destruction of Hsiku Armoury, and shared the risks with him— they two being alone.
Major James R. Johnstone, R.M.L.I., of "Centurion," has been most active throughout. He often commanded all the marines present. He kept pushing ahead of the trains on our advance, to clear and protect the line. He it was who led the storming party I sent round on 22nd June to carry the north angle of the armoury, near Hsiku, and he has rendered very good service.
Captain Richard O. M. Doig, R.M.L.I., H.M.S. "Endymion," has been very active throughout, and commanded the night expedition of one hundred men, on 22nd June, sent from the armoury to try and communicate with Tientsin, which attempt he made with skill and credit.
Mr. Francis C. Alton, my secretary, has been near me throughout, and, as at all times, was of the greatest assistance and value by his grasp of matters and good judgment and sense.
Mr. Charles J. E. Rotter, Assistant Paymaster of my Flagship, was in charge of the commissariat arrangements, a most difficult task under the circumstances, but performed by him with constant efforts and all possible success. To this, having regard to our foreign allies, Mr. Rotter's knowledge of German, and well-known tact and good temper, much contributed.
Fleet-Surgeon Thomas M. Sibbald, H.M.S. "Centurion," has had charge of the hospital arrangements throughout, and has also been much under fire. His activity, attention, and constant cheerfulness have gone far to mitigate the sufferings of the wounded, and have met with my entire approval.
Mr. George H. Cockey, Engineer, H.M.S. "Centurion," took over the duties of company officer of the "Centurion's " marine detachment after Captain H. W. H. Beyts, R.M.A., fell on 23rd June, until their arrival at Tientsin, 26th June, and was of the greatest assistance to Major Johnstone, R.M.L.I.
Mr. Arthur E. Cossey, Assistant Engineer, H.M.S. "Aurora," at much risk to himself returned from our most advanced post towards Anting Station to bring important news.
Mr. Clive Bigham, late Grenadier Guards, honorary attache to H.M. Legation, at Peking, has been attached to me as Intelligence Officer, and shown much zeal and ability as such he has been of great value to me.
Mr. Archibald Currie, C.E., B.Sc., resident engineer in charge of railway line between Tientsin and Peking, came with us to take charge of the trains and their personnel, and to repair the line. In this he worked with a skill and energy not to be surpassed. He acted in opposition to the Chinese director-in-chief of the railway, for pur benefit, and H.M. Service and the Allies owe him a debt of gratitude which I submit must be acknowledged and repaid. He has lost his home and nearly all his worldly possessions out here, destroyed by the Chinese.
Mr. C. W. Campbell, H.M. Consul for Wuchow (on leave), accompanied us as interpreter, and was of the utmost value by his knowledge both of the language and customs of the Chinese. He showed untiring zeal, and I would submit him for the decided acknowledgments of H.M. Government.
When the fact of the Chinese having beheaded anyone they got is considered, the conduct of such officers or men as risked themselves to such capture is to be praised far more than if against a civilised foe.
I have, &c.,
E. H. Seymour,
The Secretary, Admiralty.
List of officers who accompanied. Expedition, and guns :
H.M.S. "Centurion" Sir Edward H. Seymour, K.C.B., Vice-Admiral; Fredk. A. Povvlett, Flag Lieutenant; Francis G. Alton, Secretary; Wm. G. Littlejohns, Secretary's Clerk; Hy. W. E. Manisty, Secretary's Clerk; John R. Jellicoe, Flag Captain, wounded 21 June, Peitsang; Charles D. Granville, Commander; George M. K. Fair, Lieutenant; Edwd. G. Lowther-Crofton, Lieutenant; John L. F. Luttrelli, Lieutenant; James M. Fairie, Lieutenant; Wyndham L. Bamber, Lieutenant, wounded 21 June, Peitsang; Claud H. Sinclair, Lieutenant; James R. Johnstone, Major R.M.L.I.; Herbert W. H. Beyts, Captain R.M.A., killed 23 June, Hsiku; Rev. Emt. F. Harrison Smith, M.A., Chaplain and Naval Instructor; Thomas M. Sibbald, Fleet Surgeon; Morris E. Cochrane, Sub-Lieutenant; Edward B. Pickthorn, Surgeon ; Charles J. E. Rotter, Assistant Paymaster; George II. Cockey, Engineer; George H. Starr, Assistant Engineer; Charles Davidge, Acting Gunner (T.); Frank Sarnmels, Acting Gunner (Q.D.D.); James Attrill, Carpenter; Hector Boyes, Midshipman; Wm. B. C. Jones, Midshipman; Charles D. Burke, Midshipman, wounded 21 June, Peitsang; Sidney R. Bailey, Midshipman ; St. Andrew St. John, Midshipman; Guy B. Alexander, Midshipman; Hardinge L. Shepard, Midshipman; Philip W. Douglas, Midshipman ; Robert L. Jermain, Midshipman; Edwd. O. B. S. Osborne, Midshipman; Frank O'B. Wilson, Midshipman, wounded 21 June, Peitsang; John C. Davis, Midshipman; Augustus E. Tabuteau, Clerk, wounded 21 June,Peitsang.
H.M.S. "Aurora": Arthur G. Smith, Lieutenant; Hy. T. R. Lloyd, Captain, R:M.L.I.; Arthur E. Cossey, Assistant-Engineer; Thomas R. Fforde, Midshipman; Charles B. Dickson,Midshipman; George M. Hill, Midshipman.
H.M.S. "Orlando": Francis E. M. Garforth, Lieutenant; Edward F. Murray, Assistant Paymaster; Patrick McGuire, Gunner; Cloudesley V. Robinson, Midshipman; Herbert F. Littledale, Midshipman; Charles P. Dumaresq, Midshipman;
H.M.S. '"Endymion" Wm. O. Boothby, 'Commander; Horatio W. Colomb, Lieutenant, wounded 21 June, Peitsang, (wounded 27 June, Tientsin Arsenal); Frank rowell, Lieutenant; Richard O. M. Doig, Captain, R.M.L.I.; Revd. John - C. Leishman, Chaplain; Lawrence W. Braithwaite, Sub-Lieutenant, wounded 22nd June Hsiku ; Eric D. Macnamara, B:A., Surgeon; Ethelbert S. Silk, Engineer; Henry J. S. Brownrigg, Midshipman ; Guy D. Fanshawe, Midshipman; Eric G. Robinson, Midshipman; Edwin A. Homan, Midshipman; Norman M. C Thurston, Midshipman ; Fras. S. McGachen, Midshipman; Herbert R. McClure, Midshipman; Stuart E. Holder, Midshipman;
Numerical Strength of Expedition.- Austrian: 1 officer, '24< 'men, Lieutenant Prochasca in command.. British: 62 officers, 640 seamen, 213 marines, 1 6-pr. Hotch. Q.F., 3 9-pr. M.L., two '45 .Maxim, six '45 Nord., Vice- Admiral Sir Edward H. Seymour,- K.C.B., hi command. French.: 7 officers, 151 men, 1- field gun, Captain de Marolles in command. German: 23 officers, 427 .men, 2 Maxims, Captain von .Usedom in command. Italian:' 2'officers,. 38 men, 1 Maxim, Lieutenant Sirianni in command. Japanese: 2 officers, 52 men, Captain Mori..in command. Russian : 7 officers, 305 men, 1 field gu/i, Commander Chagkin in command. 'United States: 6 officers, 106 'men, 1 13-pr.', 1' Colt automatic, Captain B. H. McCalla in command; making -a total of 110' officers, 1,956 men, and 19 guns. (All'the officers in command were naval officers.) . . . . Casualty List... British: "Centurion." officers, wounded, 5; seamen, &c., killed, 9;' wounded, 36; Marines, killed, 1 officer and 6 men; wounded, 7. ."Aurora," seamen, &c., wounded, 2; Marines, killed, 3; wounded, 5. kt Orlando," seamen, &o., killed, 1; wounded, 13. "Endymion," officers, wounded, 3; seamen, &c., killed, .5; wounded, 15; Marines, killed, 5; wounded, 6. VVei-hai-wei detachment, Marines, wounded, 5.; making ia total of officers, wounded, 8; seamen, &c., killed, 15; wounded, 66; Marines, killed, 1 officer and 14 men; wounded, 23. Foreign: Austrian, seamen, &c., killed, 1; wounded, 1. French, seamen, &c., killed, 1; wounded, 10. -German, officers, killed, 1; wounded, 6; seamen, '&c., killed, 11; wounded, 56. .Italian, seamen, &c., killed, 5; wounded, 3. Japanese, seamen, &c., killed, 2; wounded, 3.. Russian, officers, wounded, 4; seamen, &c., killed, 10; wounded, 23. United States, officers, wounded, 2; seamen, &c., killed, 4; wounded, 25; making a total of officers, killed, 1; wounded, 12; seamen, &c., killed, 34; wounded, 121; milking a grand total of officers, killed, 1; wounded, 20.; seamen, &c.. killed, 49; wounded, 187; Marines, killed, 1 officer and 14 men; wounded, 23.
Summary. . . Killed: 2 officers, 63 men, total 65; wounded: 20 officers, 210 men, total 230 ; making a grand total of 295 officers and men killed and wounded. Copy of Letter despatched to the Commander-in- Chief or Senior Officer of each Nationality on the Expedition's return to Tientsin. Tientsin, 27th June, 1900. YOUR EXCELLENCY (or SIK), THE late, allied Naval Expedition for the attempt to reach Peking and succour our respective Legations in that city having now terminated, I have the honour, as the Senior Naval Officer of Ihe various National Forces engaged therein to address your Excellency (or you) on that subject.
First, to officially thank your Excellency (or you) for sending the officers and men belonging to the (nation) in company with those of Her Majesty the Queen, of England, to act in concert with them.