ON THIS DATE in 1899, fourteen-year-old bugler John Francis Dunne became a British folk hero with his valor during the Boer War Battle of Colenso. Dunne sounded the advance as his battalion, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, splashed across the Tugela River in the face of Boer fire. After a bullet went through his right arm and a chunk of shrapnel struck his chest, Dunne shifted his bugle to his left hand and continued to blow the sound of the advance. By some accounts he was the first of his battalion to reach the opposite bank before collapsing from his wounds.
On receiving a silver bugle from Queen Victoria, Dunne was asked by the monarch what he would most like. “Leave to go to the front again,” he said.