THE VICTORIA CROSS AWARDED TO MAJOR CHARLES HERBERT MULLINS, IMPERIAL LIGHT HORSE ( NATAL ), HAS BEEN LOANED TO THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON.
7 March 2006

The Victoria Cross awarded to Major Charles Mullins, Imperial Light Horse ( Natal ), South African Forces, has been loaned by a member of the immediate family to the Imperial War Museum, London.


Medal entitlement of Major Charles Herbert Mullins - Imperial Light Horse ( Natal ), South African Forces

  • Victoria Cross
  • Companion, Order of St Michael & St George ( CMG ) ( Civil )
  • Queen's South Africa Medal ( 1899-1902 )
    • 3 clasps:
    • "Relief of Mafeking" - "Elandslaagte" - "Defence of Ladysmith"
  • King's South Africa Medal ( 1901-1902 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "South Africa 1901" - "South Africa 1902"


Charles Mullins' Victoria Cross group, comprising Companion to the Order of St Michael & St George ( CMG ), Queen's South Africa Medal and King's South Africa Medal, were left to St Andrew's College, Grahamstown, upon the dealth in 1963 of Charles Mullins' eldest son, who had inherited the group. Much later a family member travelled to South Africa to visit the Mullins clan in Grahamstown and took time out to view the medals in St Andrew's College. To his consternation they were not on display and were found to be missing. A search of the college discovered the Victoria Cross, which fortunately had not been with the original display, but not the CMG, QSA and KSA, which are still missing.

As a consequence, in 1998, the original Victoria Cross was purchased from St Andrew's College by Mrs Mary Mullins, the daughter-in-law of Charles Mullins VC, and was placed into the guardianship of Charles Mullins' only grandson. At the same time a perpetual trust to support the curator of medals at the Albany Museum in Grahamstown was set up so that the Victoria Cross might be displayed. This arrangement continued until the death of Mary Mullins, at the grand old age of 98, in December 2004. In January 2005 a decision was made by Charles Mullins' grandson to loan the Victoria Cross to the Imperial War Museum in London, where it will be on display with the museum's other VC collection.


On the 19th October 1899 Boer forward patrols seized the Elandslaagte railway station and mine village and cut rail and telegraph communication between British forces in Ladysmith and Dundee. A British reconnaisance party was sent to check the Elandslaagte area on the 20th October where it was discovered the station and area were held by Boer forces.

Major-General Sir John French made a reconnaisance on Elandslaagte but owing to prompt and startling return Boer fire was forced to withdraw with his small force of Natal Mounted Rifles, Natal Field Artillery and Imperial Light Horse. French called for considerable reinforcements and these were swiftly mustered - 2 batteries of Royal Field Artillery, followed by armoured trains carrying the 1st Manchesters, 1st Devons and 2nd Gordon Highlanders, escorted by the 5th Lancers and 5th Dragoon Guards.

The British attack on Elandslaagte began at 15:30 on 21st October 1899 with a brisk and accurate artillery barriage. The Boers, hidden away behind the huge rocks or in the rough schantzes replied with withering rifle fire, yet the British forces advanced to take cover behind anthills, rocks and in a shallow donga to await the flank attack.

Away on the far right, amongst the dismounted Imperial Light Horse, Captains Johnston and Mullins carried out their gallant action which resulted in their award of the Victoria Cross. At 16:30 a terrific thunderstorm burst over the area adding the pounding of hail and the crack of thunder to the battle. As the British forces pressed forward the Boers retreated across the plain towards Biggarsberg, but General Kock, the Boer commander, turned his forces and led a heroic and desperate counter-attack, which failed.


[ London Gazette, 12 February 1901 ], Elandslaagte, 2nd Boer War, South Africa, 21 October 1899, Captain Robert Johnston & Captain Charles Herbert Mullins, Imperial Light Horse ( Natal ), South Afican Forces.

On the 21st October 1899, at Elandslaagte, at a most critical moment, the advance being momentarily checked by a very severe fire at point blank range, these two Officers very gallantry rushed forward under this heavy fire and rallied the men, thus enabling the flanking movement, which decided the day to be carried out. On this occasion Captain Mullins was wounded.

Charles Mullins and Robert Johnston were invested with their Victoria Crosses by King Edward VII at St James' Palace on the 25th July 1901.


Charles Mullins was wounded during his VC action at Elandslaagte in October 1899 and was seriously wounded again later in the war on 13 May 1900 at Maritsani, taking no further part in the war. Mullins died in Johannesburg on 24 May 1916, aged 46, not having fully recovered from his wounds. He was buried in his home town of Grahamstown, East Cape, in the town's Old Cemetery. The grave and headstone are still being maintained by the Mullins family.


Charles Mullins' fellow officer, Captain Robert Johnston, also awarded the Victoria Cross for the same action, continued his service career into the First World War. He died in Kilkenny, Ireland, on the 24th March 1950, aged 78, and is buried in St Mary's Churchyard, Inistiogne, Co Kilkenny.

Medal entitlement of Major Robert Johnston - Imperial Light Horse ( Natal ), South African Forces

  • Victoria Cross
  • Queen's South Africa Medal ( 1899-1902 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "Elandslaagte" - "Defence of Ladysmith"
  • King's South Africa Medal ( 1901-1902 )
    • 2 clasps:
    • "South Africa 1901" - "South Africa 1902"
  • King George V Coronation Medal ( 1911 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )

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Iain Stewart, 7 March 2006