In 1897 Captain Hedworth Lambton commanded HMS Powerful, which was one of the largest warships of the time, on a posting to China. On the return voyage in 1899 he was ordered to Durban, South Africa at an important point in the Second Boer War. He stopped at Mauritius, and on his own initiative picked up a battalion of soldiers stationed there. Knowing that the British forces at Ladysmith urgently needed more powerful guns, Captain Percy Scott from the Powerful's sister ship, the Terrible, devised carriages to transport naval cannon, and Lambton then led a Naval Brigade from Powerful to the rescue with four twelve-pounders and two other guns.
The journey to Ladysmith from Durban was 189 miles. They began by special train then with oxen pulling the guns but when the oxen died the sailors took over pulling the guns themselves. In this endeavour they manhandled the guns "through the wild and broken country" of the South African veldt and "arrived in the nick of time" to play "a most important role in the defence of the town" Although the Boer attackers were kept at bay unfortunately the Naval brigade became besieged themselves. A second Naval brigade from HMS Terrible left Durban for Ladysmith and joined with the relief column led by General Buller and assisted in the lifting of the siege.
The field gun competition commemorates the participation of Terrible and Powerful in the relief of Ladysmith.
One of my fondest memories as a