Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Loxton's Horse - The Forty Thieves

Loxton's Horse was a small and little known unit on the British side during the Anglo-Boer War. They were raised for the duration of the war only like many other colonial units. But, Loxton's Horse was one of what were known as “loot corps”, whose purpose was to loot Boer farms – an extension of the concentration camp policy and farm burning. “Loot corps” were authorised by Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in south Africa.

Loxton's Horse was raised in early 1901 at Newcastle, Natal by Samuel Loxton who with his two brothers all won Distinguished Conduct Medals in the war. They were all in the Natal Corps of Guides and later the Field Intelligence Department. The Loxton's are an early settler family in the eastern Cape. The men were allowed to keep and sell the livestock they captured, but later were paid 1s 6d per day and allowed 75% of the livestock along with forage for one horse. The use of "loot corps" was raised in Parliament but more from the fact the public purse was receiving money from this unorthodox source rather than the morality of "loot corps" in the first place. [House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, House of Commons and Command, Volume 38] 

Contemporary documentary evidence is scarce. The raising of the unit was reported by British newspapers in February 1901. The unit was to operate in the south-eastern Transvaal assisting the troops “by carrying off the enemy's stock and and supplying information of the Boer's movements”. Composed of “mostly young colonists possessing a thorough knowledge of the country...They are splendidly mounted, each man having a mounted native servant, leading two horses. They have dubbed themselves “The Forty Thieves”. [Aberdeen Journal 25-02-1901] 

From a diary entry written by a colonial soldier on 26 February 1901:
Utrecht district. Today we saw for the first time in this war a looting corps of 28 men called Loxton's Horse. They keep 75% of all they can loot, receiving no pay. This is a big shame as we who have been out 17 months cannot keep a horse, even if we catch them, and these men only follow us when we have cleared the country, like a lot of jackals."
[Coghlan, M. 2004. From the very beginning to the very end. The diary and letters of J B Nicholson, Natal Carbineers. Part 2. Natalia 34: 17-49.]

Loxton's Horse were reported returning to Newcastle on 17 March, 1901 from Utrecht district (Transvaal) “with a large quantity of stock” [Lancashire Evening Post 19-03-1901] In August 1901 they were in the Orange Free State and on the 20th they suffered their only recorded casualty, Cpl CW Abel killed at Nooitgedacht. Abel is not in the official casualty rolls, nor in The Times newspaper, the information comes from the medal rolls and Steve Watt's In Memoriam. The following month Loxton's Horse were on the Orange Free State border with Basutoland (Lesotho) apparently surrounded by a party of Boers. Pte P Mangnall, 3rd volunteer battalion Manchester Rgt wrote that they and some “Irregular Horse” were sent to rescue Loxton's Horse. However, on the march they met Loxton's Horse who had managed to extricate themselves only losing their “pack horses”. [Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser 07-11-1901]

There is a medal roll (WO100/268p26) for Loxton's Horse with just two names, Troopers G Tustin and HH Tod. Apparent from the handwriting is that the roll was originally submitted with Tustin's name in 1906 and the medal issued in 1908, no clasps are indicated. The roll was signed by one Sidney W Reynolds “late OC Loxton's Horse” in Newcastle, Natal on 21 June, 1906. Reynolds, like Loxton's Horse, is mystery too – he does not appear on a medal roll, but there are civilian records for him in the National Archives of South Africa as a farmer in Newcastle. Todd's name was added in the same hand that wrote the note that his medal was issued in 1957, unfortunately there is no address shown. Neither Todd nor Tustin appear on any other medal roll for the war.

Other member's of Loxton's Horse are known, and a nominal roll has been constructed primarily from the medal rolls where, fortuitously, service in Loxton's Horse has been noted by an assiduous clerk. There are 19 names, perhaps 1/2 of the total who served with the unit.

Nominal Roll:
  1. Abel, CW – Natal Carbineers
  2. Berg, Arthur - 1st Scottish Horse
  3. Berg, John – previous service unknown
  4. Cooper, HF - Natal Corps of Guides, Field Intelligence Department
  5. de Jager, LP - Field Intelligence Department
  6. Dorey, LA - Natal Police, Field Intelligence Department, Reynold's Scouts
  7. Harris, William de Montmorency – Natal Corps of Guides, Field Intelligence Department, died Newcastle, Natal July 1902
  8. Hester, Francis Danby – Natal Police, Utrecht-Vryheid Mounted Police, Steinaecker's Horse
  9. Loxton, Samuel – founder and commander, Natal Corps of Guides and Field Intelligence Department
  10. Malandaine (or Mallandain), R – Field Intelligence Department, Army Service Corps
  11. Miller (or Millar), Hugh – Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Imperial Hospital Corps, subsequently Bethune's Mounted Infantry, died of wounds March 1902
  12. Pocket, Arthur A - South African Light Horse
  13. Reynolds, Sidney W – sometime commander, previous service unknown, possibly commander of Reynold's Scouts
  14. Short, William Kirk - Natal Transport, Field Intelligence Department
  15. Taylor, Leonard – Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry, Rand Rifles
  16. Thomas, Llewellyn Hartly – Brabant's Horse, Natal Corps of Guides, Newcastle Town Guard
  17. Tod, HH - previous service unknown
  18. Tustin,G Trooper - previous service unknown
  19. Wood, H – South African Light Horse, Field Intelligence Department, shown as number 39 Loxton's Horse on the FID KSA roll

The Bergs were brothers and are noted as “served with the Methuen’s Regiment and later Loxton’s Horse” [‘The Norwegian Settlers – Marburg, Natal 1882’ (Marburg Norwegian Lutheran Church, Port Shepstone, 1932), was translated into English in 1967 by A H E Andreasen.]

If you come across anymore references to Loxton's Horse, please let me know.

 Many thanks to Brett Hendey for the references from Coghlan and Andreasen; Ian Linney for references to Cooper, Dorey and Short from Field Intelligence Department 1899-1902 Honours and Awards & Casualties & Medal Rolls - compiled by David Buxton (2004), both via www.angloboerwar.com, Elne Watson for the House of Commons and JM Wasserman's DPhil thesis references from Facebook

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