Sold with a copy of The Story of the Imperial Light Horse in the South African War 1899-1902, by George Fleming Gibson (1937 edition), and a quantity of uniform buttons and rank insignia.
Captain Charles William Henry Fowler, D.S.O. was decorated for his gallantry while commanding the troops on Wagon Hill during the great Boer attack of 6.1.1900.
Fowler had already distinguished himself during the night raid of 7.12.1899 when the Colonials disabled two Boer artillery pieces and is noted in the above history as one of the men who were in the gun pits themselves. When the attack on Wagon Hill began, Fowler took 'F' Squadron to assist their Imperial Light Horse comrades and fought with them in the morning.
The Colonel Wounded and Fowler Takes Command
'The Colonel then tried to move along to Wagon Point, but could not do so, the bullet through the neck and shoulder having partially paralysed him. Otherwise he felt capable of carrying on and wished to do so. The I.L.H. Medical Officer, Major Billy Davies, careless of danger, had been tirelessly tending the wounded lying on the exposed outcrop. He worked his way back to the Colonel and after examination, ordered him to be taken to hospital in Ladysmith, along with others who could be removed without undue risk.
At about 10.30 a.m. the Colonel handed over the command to Captain C.H. Fowler, 'F' Squadron, the senior unwounded officer present (both Majors Doveton and Davies having been wounded), and was then carried to an ambulance.
Captain Fowler remained in command and held the position intact, until the action closed at about 7 p.m., without reinforcements being sent to him and without so far as he knew, any attempt being made to relieve him, until the Devons charged at 6 p.m.
The Colonel, while being moved to the ambulance, was astonished and furious when he saw a number of troops, snugly under cover within 50 yards of his temporary "headquarters", sitting apparently unconcerned - doing nothing. Recalling Bowen's brave but futile dash, his lack of proper support - which he now saw to be available - recalling also the abandonment of his own regiment to a "lone hand" fight, his resentment will be understood and forgiven.
On taking over, Captain Fowler sent Captain P.D. Fitzgerald to Wagon Point to control the position there. He then decided upon a personal examination of the whole position, the extreme risk of which was obvious. His survey revealed to him a critical situation along the whole length of his weakly manned front. He had full need of all the coolness, resolution and resource, which the next searching, anxious eight hours proved him to possess. Some 25 percent of his all too small force had already been killed or wounded. In places as few as nine yards separated the contestants, and the intervening space, void of cover, was watched so viligantly that any movement of men in formation was a sheer impossibility, unless undertaken in the manner of the "Devons' Charge" described later.
During the morning there were several examples of stupid orders and gallantry of officers and men in trying to carry them out. Three or four advances, in formation, by small bodies of men across the flat crest to the southern edge were ordered. It was sickening to watch these pathetically few but glorious men form up and "go out" without the semblance of a chance. It was futile hopeless slaughter.
Captain Fowler had crawled back for water when he came across Lieutenant Tod of the 60th getting ready for one of these futile advances; Tod asked Captain Fowler for information and was told exactly where the Boers were placed and that he would have to go through the I.L.H., who were close to the Boers. He knew he had not a chance and said so. Captain Fowler could only advise him where best to take cover as they advanced. He saw them start and saw Lieutenant Tod drop dead within half-a-dozen paces and many of his men knocked over, well behind the I.L.H., who occupied good cover. The defender's losses on Wagon Hill should never have been what they were. As long as the Boers were provided with targets like this they were happy. As a result of these advances, however, some men who had dropped unwounded crawled up to a place between the I.L.H. files where they obtained some cover and were able to get in a shot occasionally and so be usefully employed. The line across Wagon Hill from the main sangar at the Nek to where it joined up with Caesar's Camp thus received a supply of men from other units who acted as reinforcements to the I.L.H.
Intermittent fire went on for hours varied with heavier bursts, as the enemy endeavoured to advance, only to be repulsed. So long as the main 'C' Squadron sangar was held, the hill could not be taken as it dominated the whole position. Captain Fowler had moved as many 'F' Squadron men to it as could be effectively used there and made it his headquarters.
The fight was now between two rough lines of men largely acting on their own initiative. Cramped behind their selected cover the men of the little force spent the long day on their bellies, the fierce Natal sun blistering their necks, the stones too hot to touch; all tortured with thirst. It was a duel between two hidden bodies of expert riflemen - adept at making use of any cover - each side hoping to get in the first shot. The best a man could hope for, boulder a yard or two ahead, was to get a shot at the foot or elbow of an opponent. A favoured method was to fire at a slanting rock, in the hope that the bullet might be deflected to hit anyone who had taken cover behind a boulder close by, or to cause him to change his position. In view of this state of affairs, the only possible course was to hold on. An exposed man was a dead man' (The Story of the Imperial Light Horse refers).
Captain Fowler joined the S.A.C. in October 1900 and remained an Officer until 1904.