Lot Archive


№ 411


8 December 1994

Hammer Price:

An exceptional and rare Kumassi D.S.O. group of six awarded to Major C.E. Luard, Norfolk Regiment, who was severely wounded in the Ashanti campaign and killed in action on the Aisne in 1914

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER, V.R., silver-gilt and enamels; AFRICA GENERAL SERVICE 1902-56, 2 clasps, B.C.A. 1899-1900, Somaliland 1902-04 (Lieut., Norfolk Regt.) officially engraved naming, the first clasp very rare-, ASHANTI 1900, clasp, Kumassi, high relief bust (Lieut., D.S.O. Norfolk Regt.) officially impressed naming; 1914 MONS STAR (Capt., D.S.O. Norf. R.); BRITISH WAR AND VICTORY MEDALS, M.I.D. (Major) the first three on original cavalry style mounting as worn, nearly extremely fine and unique to the Norfolk Regiment (6)

Major Charles Elmhirst Luard, the eldest surviving son of Major General C.E. Luard, R.E., F.R.G.S., of Ightham Knoll, Kent and Caroline, youngest daughter of Thomas Hartley of Gillfoot, Cumberland, was born on 5 August 1876. He was educated at Harrow and the R.M.C. Sandhurst and gazetted to the Norfolk Regiment on 18 November 1896 becoming Lieutenant on 10 February 1898. In 1899, Luard was seconded for service in British Central Africa and took part in the expedition against Thwamba. The following year he was employed in West Africa and took part in the operations around Kumasi which resulted in the successful suppression of the Ashanti rebellion.

On 21 September, Luard, commanding a company of the 1st Central African Regiment marched out of Kumasi with a fighting column under Lt-Col. Montanaro, R.A., in the direction of Ofinsu, a large Fetish town, where followers of Chief Kofi Kofia were massing. Ten miles out of the capital, Montanaro's scouts reported the beating of war drums near the village of Nkaku Buoho. Continuing cautiously, Major Melliss, commanding the advance guard, opened with his Maxim guns intending to draw the enemy's fire and pinpoint their exact position. The enemy however refused to be drawn, but as their shouts and drumming now clearly gave away their whereabouts, Melliss ordered Luard's and Margesson's companies to follow him up the road in a charge and drive the Ashantis into and out of the village, an operation which was successfully accomplished by 3.30 pm. Next day the column surprised the enemy in the village of Danasi and engaged them in a sharp fight lasting forty-three minutes. Thirty-four Ashanti dead were counted, 'the bush being saturated with blood, so much so that officers' gaiters and putties were covered with spots of blood'. The night of the 22nd was spent at Ankua, about four miles from Ofinsu which was entered unopposed on the 23rd. Five Chiefs surrendered and 341 firearms were confiscated. On the 24th the surrounding villages were destroyed and burnt and on the 25th Ofinsu was levelled. Montanaro's column returned to Kumasi on the afternoon of 26 September. On the 29th, Luard and his company marched with a 1200 strong column in response to reports that Ashanti rebels had been reinforced by several thousand Achamars and other western tribesmen at Berekum north west of Kumasi. On the morning of the 30th after a night of torrential rain, the column's scouts were fired on halfway between the villages of Adada and Obassa, and immediately fell back. Montanaro came up and deployed his advance guard in spear head formation with its apex on the Berekum road. Hacking their way through the dense bush on either side, the advance guard quickly established the enemy's position by sight as well as sound and after twenty minutes the ceasefire was sounded preparatory to the charge. As had happened on previous occasions, the Ashantis also stopped firing, but at the first signs of the charge they redoubled their fire effectively holding up the attack. Montanaro called on his 'support to the advance guard' for reinforcements and in due course Melliss arrived with Luard and his company. Montanaro's account of 'The Ashanti Campaign of 1900' states: 'Lieutenant Luard's company of the 1st Central African Rifles, ... 'was sent into the bush to the left with orders to continue the spear-head formation. By this time many of our men had been wounded. Major Melliss returned from the firing line, and reported that the men were losing touch with each other, and that in consequence, it would be dangerous for Luard's company to fire, so, knowing the Commandant's (Colonel Sir James Willcocks's) successes through the use of the bayonet, I ordered the 'cease fire' again to sound, following it up with the 'charge'.' Luard attempted to advance, but at this point he was hit and fell 'severely wounded' losing the sight of one eye. The rebel position was finally carried in a subsequent charge by the 36th Sikhs who, joined by several staff officers caught up in the 'excitement of the moment', successfully concluded the last occasion on which the Ashantis 'fought the white man in any numbers'.

For his services in Ashanti, Luard was mentioned in Willcocks's despatch of 25 December 1900, being described as 'A gallant and reliable Officer whom I recommend for a reward'. On 26 April 1901, the London Gazette duly announced the award of Luard's D.S.O. In 1903-4 he served in Somaliland where his brother, Eric, a Lieutenant in the Royal West Kents attached to the 2nd K.A.R., succumbed to enteric fever at Garrero in November '03. However, while still serving in Africa in 1908, he was fated to be hit by a far greater family tragedy.

On the afternoon of 24 August, General Luard discovered his wife's body lying in a pool of blood on the veranda of a neighbour's summer house in Kent. Caroline Luard had been viciously beaten about the head and shot twice with a small calibre revolver, behind the right ear and over the left temple. Three rings had been violently ripped from the fingers of her left hand and strangely an entire pocket of her dress had been cut out and her purse removed. The statements of several locals confirmed General Luard's movements on the afternoon of the murder and he was quickly eliminated from the Police enquiry. Scotland Yard detectives pursued the line that robbery had been the motive and that the brutal murder had been perpetrated by a hop picker, tramp or other itinerant, but their tireless investigations failed to produce either a murder weapon, or any of Mrs. Luard's rings, or even a witness who could recall seeing any strangers in the area. Public interest in the case was considerable and, despite evidence to the contrary, rumours of the General's involvement began to circulate.

A steady stream of hate mail poured into Ightham Knoll, the Luards' moated manor house. The General read each one and day by day he descended into an irretrievable state of despair. Finally on 17 September he could stand the private accusations no longer and threw himself in front of a train at Teston, near Maidstone. Charles Luard, who had been granted leave following his mother's death, learnt of the suicide from a family friend only hours later on disembarking from the Union Castle liner Norman. The perplexing murder of Caroline Luard has baffled criminologists down the years. However, in recent months evidence has come to light suggesting that Caroline Luard was having an affair with a certain 'Dr. Cecil' and that the .320 calibre pistol used in her murder lies at the bottom of a Kentish pond near Ightham Knoll. Sevenoaks Council are currently considering a local historian's request for permission to search the pond.

Charles Luard continued in the Army and having been promoted Captain in 1905, went on to pass the Staff College. He married, in 1913, Dorothy, the daughter of Major William Barrett, D.L., J.P., of Moredon, Somerset. They had one son. On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Luard went immediately to France with the B.E.F. in command of 'C' Company, of the Norfolks' 1st Battalion, and was involved in the fighting at Elogues (Mons), Le Cateau and on the Marne. On 15 September he took part in an attempt by twelve mixed companies of the 13th, 14th and 15th Brigades to clear a spur of Chivres Hill near Missey-sur-Aisne. During the attack he and another officer and twenty-five men got too far forward and all were either captured or killed. Luard was initially posted as missing. On 8 March 1916 the Times confirmed that he had in fact been killed in action.