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Lieutenant Masterson

James Edward Ignatius Masterson is thought to have been born in Ireland on 20th June 1862. He was a 37 years old Lieutenant serving with the 1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment, during the Boer War 1999-1902 in South Africa.

The Battalion was a part of the British garrison during the Siege of Ladysmith and on 6 January 1900, Wagon Hill Point, a key location on the Ladysmith defensive perimeter, was under attack by the Boers. Lieutenant Masterson commanding one of the three companies of Lieutenant Colonel Park's 1st Devons was dispatched from Devon Post at the south of the town's defences to mount a counter-attack in order to restore the line at Wagon Hill/Caesar's camp. Having climbed the hill and formed up in a depression, in the midst of a rainstorm, the Devons charged and re-captured most of the position held by the enemy. The Devon companies were now exposed to very heavy small arms fire from the right flank and from their left front. In order to direct the fire of a supporting detachment of the Imperial Light Horse onto the enemy to the left of his company, Lieutenant Masterson at once volunteered to take a message back to their commander. To achieve this, Masterson had to cross 130 yards of flat open fire swept ground. Colonel Park described the fire of the Boers as 'like the crackle of a piece of gorse in a blazing fire'. He had sprinted across most of this distance before he was wounded in a thigh but he carried on and was hit again in the other leg. He dragged himself to the Imperial Light Horse's trench and delivered his message before falling, badly wounded, suffering from shock and exhaustion. His bravery saved the Devons in their isolated positions from being wiped out by Boer fire and allowed other units to advance on their flanks to secure the position.

To gain promotion, Masterson transferred out of the Devons and reached the rank of Major and saw service in the early part of the Great War (1914-15). He died in 1935.

Lieutenant Masterson's Citation

The London Gazette

Published by Authority - Tuesday, June 4, 1901 - War Office, June 4, 1901.

The King has been graciously pleased to signify His intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the under mentioned Officer for conspicuous bravery in South Africa.

1st Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment.

Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) JEI Masterson.

During the action at Wagon Hill on the 6th January, 1900, Lieutenant Masterson commanded with the greatest gallantry and dash, one of the three companies of his Regiment which charged a ridge held by the enemy and captured their position.

The companies were then exposed to a most heavy and galling fire from the right and left front. Lieutenant Masterson undertook to give a message to the Imperial Light Horse, who were holding a ridge some hundred yards behind, to fire to the left front and endeavour to check the enemy's fire.

In taking this message he crossed an open space of a hundred yards which was swept by a most heavy cross fire and although badly wounded in both thighs managed to crawl in and deliver his message before falling exhausted into the Imperial Light Horse trench. His unselfish heroism was undoubtedly the means of saving several lives.