China War (Boxer Rebellion) 1900-01 – The Boxers were a secret society known as the I-ho-Ch’uan or The society of righteous and harmonious fists (hence boxers) whose aim was to expel all foreigners and christians from China (supported by the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi).
Violence erupted and with the foreign community in Pekin at risk a small international force of around 2000 strong was landed under Admiral E.H. Seymore on 10th June 1900. Whilst it had some successful actions, facing more substantial numbers of troops, it retreated towards Tientsin and captured Hsi-ku Arsenal and held it until relieved on 26th June.
The Taku Forts were captured on 17th June followed by Tiensin on 14th July after which the situation in Pekin worsened with the Empress instructing that all foreigners be killed.
By early August, allied troops reached over 20,000 and on 5th August, the Chinese were defeated at Peit-sang. They reached Pekin on 13th August and relieved the defenders of the cathedral and legations who had been under constant attack. on 14th August, the Imperial City was attacked and occupied by the allies
2 VC’s were awarded for this campaign.
280 Medals issued for HMS Endymion with Relief of Pekin Bar.
Relief of Pekin (Battle of Pekin)
The assault on Peking had taken on the character of a race to see which national army achieved the glory of relieving the Legations.
The commanders of the four national armies agreed that each of them would assault a different gate. The Russians were assigned the most northerly gate, the Tung Chih (Dongzhi); the Japanese had the next gate south, the Chi Hua (Chaoyang); the Americans, the Tung Pein (Dongbien); and the British the most southern, the Sha Wo (Guangqui). The French apparently were left out of the planning.
The gate assigned to the Americans was nearest to the Legation Quarter and they seemed to have the best opportunity to reach the legations first. However, the Russians violated the plan, although it is uncertain whether it was intentional or not. An advance Russian force arrived at the Americans’ assigned gate, the Dongbien, about 3:00 a.m. on 14 August. They killed 30 Chinese soldiers outside the gate and blasted a hole in the door with artillery. Once inside the gate, however, in the courtyard between the inner and outer doors, they were caught in a murderous crossfire that killed 26 Russians and wounded 102. The survivors were pinned down for the next several hours.
When the Americans arrived at their assigned gate that morning they found the Russians already engaged there and they moved their troops about 200 yards south. Once there, Trumpeter Calvin P. Titus volunteered to climb the 30-foot-tall wall, which he did successfully. Other Americans followed him, and at 11:03 a.m. the American flag was raised on the wall of the Outer city. The Americans exchanged fire with Chinese soldiers on the wall and then climbed down the other side and headed west toward the Legation Quarter in the shadow of the wall of the Inner City.
Meanwhile, the Japanese had encountered stiff resistance at their assigned gate and were subjecting it to an artillery barrage. The British had an easier time of it, approaching and passing through their gate, the Shawo or Guangqui, with virtually no opposition. Both Americans and British were aware that the easiest entry into the Legation Quarter was through the so-called Water Gate, a drainage canal running beneath the wall of the Inner city. The British got there first. They waded through the muck of the canal and into the Legation Quarter and were greeted by a cheering throng of the besieged, all decked out in their “Sunday best”. The Chinese soldiers ringing the Legation Quarter fired a few shots, wounding a Belgian woman, and then fled. It was 2:30 p.m on 14 August. The British had not suffered a single casualty all day, except one man who died of sunstroke.
About 4:30 p.m., the Americans arrived in the Legation Quarter. Their casualties for the day were one man killed and nine wounded, plus one man badly injured in a fall while climbing the wall. One of the wounded was Smedley Butler who would later become a general and the most famous Marine of his era. The Russian, Japanese and French forces entered Peking that evening as Chinese opposition melted away. The Siege of the Legations was over.