Sunday 26 November 2023

New Zealand Mounted Rifles in numbers

 In 1992 Richard Stowers, chronicler of the 1st Contingent New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR), wrote:

"There is no accurate figure for the total number of New Zealanders who served in the New Zealand Contingents. This is mainly due to many men returning to South Africa in later Contingents and others joining Contingents in South Africa." (p. 275 Kiwi versus Boer)

Work by Colin McGeorge* published in 2003 on the question of "How many New Zealanders served" arrived at a figure of 6,080. He created a database from nominal rolls and resolved many duplications noted at by Stowers. I have used, perhaps for the first time, the medal rolls. 

As part of my work in creating an accurate QSA and KSA medal roll index with medal roll pages I have just finished the NZMR rolls. They are complicated, as Stowers points out, by the "many men returning...[or]...joining Contingents in South Africa.". I can add another complication, not every man serving in a subsequent contingent is mentioned on that contingent's roll, there is just a note on the roll for the first contingent he served with. 

But, using a database one can untangle much of this and identify men who joined in South Africa. Using nominal rolls for each contingent Stowers presents a figure of 6,495 men in the NZMR. I conclude a total of 6,164 men served in the NZMR, this includes 11 British officers and men attached. Medal rolls do not indicate nationality. Ideally medal roll data should be combined with nominal roll, social and geographical data.

The NZMR was composed of 10 contingents, the first leaving in October 1899 and the last in April 1902. The final three contingents, 8, 9 and 10 were divided into two regiments, North and South Island. In the medal rolls the men of the 9th are not shown by regiment, only the 8th and 10th contingents are sub-divided and shown in The Register as '1/8', '2/8', 1/10' and '2/10'. The war was the first time New Zealand had sent a military force overseas. The men were all volunteers and most had experience as civilian soldiers, they had no experience in warfare.

This table shows the figures for each contingent and how many men were returning for a second, third or fourth tour. Also included under "Rejoiners" are the 11 men, mostly officers, but all from the British Army to provide expertise in campaigning and liaison with the British army in South Africa.

I have included Stowers' figures for comparison, he does not split out the 8th, 9th or 10th contingents by regiment.

The table shows 6,080 men first enlisted in the NZMR while 6,164 men served. This discrepancy reflects those men who joined the NZMR having served in another unit in the war prior to enlisting.

The chart shows the Rejoiners in graphical form, the yellow line is the percentage of each contingent's strength made up by Rejoiners.

Returning for more service was not uncommon and accelerates from the 6th contingent with 14% peaking at 35% for the 9th contingent. The number of rejoiners "crashed" for the 10th because the number of available rejoiners had volunteered for previous contingents, also the 6th to 9th Contingents were on active service into 1902 when the 10th was raised. It is possible word was out the war was drawing to a close, indeed the 2/10th arrived five days before peace was signed. These men spent more time at sea than they did in South Africa. Six men served in four contingents and 84 men served in three contingents.

The Rejoiners provided valuable experience to the in-coming contingent, they occupied all ranks from Private/Trooper (both ranks are used on the medal rolls) to Major. The table (left) shows how many of each rank was a Rejoiner, many getting a promotion on re-enlisting. In John Crawford's assessment, The Best Mounted Troops in South Africa?* he wrote, "The later New Zealand contingents benefited greatly from having a core of South African veterans in their ranks."

Providing "new  recruits" with direct, relevant campaigning experience  contributes greatly to the success of a unit. This kind of injection of experience throughout the ranks was not available to most units deploying to South Africa.

The majority of Rejoiners were from the NZMR, but those who served in South Africa represented a wide range of 33 different units such as; Kitchener's Horse, Robert's Horse, South African Light Horse, Australian units, Imperial Light Infantry, and Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry. Two of the most unusual units are the St John Ambulance Brigade (SJAB) and the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (SVAC).

Adolph Gricourt first served in the war with the SVAC, a very small unit of 22 first aid trained men. They were attached to various RAMC hospitals, in Bloemfontein they worked under Dr Arthur Conan Doyle. They only served in 1900. In August 1901 Gricourt set sail from London aboard the SS Paparoa bound for Wellington, the passenger list shows he was a 21 year old "Farm Cadet". The record of Military Pensions to members of the NZMR (1902 no. 54) shows his contact in New Zealand as "Friend: Harold Maffy, Post-Office, Palmerston". He enlisted for the 1/8th contingent in January 1902, number 5209.

The St John Ambulance man was Percy Growcott Hulme who served in Natal in 1900 with the SJAB. He was enlisted aboard the SS Cornwall on the 15th March, 1902. His enlistment form, digitised by the NZ Archives, is entirely handwritten on notepaper. He appears to have been working as an iron moulder in Sydney, New South Wales. How he came to be Trooper 5997 1/8th contingent NZMR and not a member of an Australian unit is a mystery. Hulme was a traveller, he received the clasps 'Transvaal' and 'South Africa 1902' in 1907 in Burma where worked as a locomotive driver.

The NZMR was not the only unit to receive significant numbers of rejoiners. It is common amongst the many South African raised colonial units. Continuing work on the QSA and KSA medal rolls will enable detailed statistics such as these to be produced.

* Colin McGeorge, The Social and Geographical Composition of the New Zealand Contingents, "One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue", ed. John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2003.

* John Crawford's article was published in "One Flag, One Queen, One Tongue", ed. John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2003.

Thursday 26 October 2023

Where exactly did that battle take place?

The war was fought across much of South Africa's 1.2 million square kilometres - a huge area, twice the size of France. Much of the fighting took place in rural areas with no roads, away from settlements, there was little in the way of sign posts to tell British troops where they were. Navigation was from farm to kopje to river to farm using maps created during the war by the Field Intelligence Department (FID). The next problem was that the British spelling of Afrikaans names was sometimes phonetic, or inconsistent leading to confusion. To compound that confusion many farms shared the name and there was no way of exactly locating a farm. Often times the best way to locate the farm was just "near town X", but to the north, south, east or west and how far away?

The recording of place names in official British military records reflects the imprecision. The official casualty rolls and reporting in the newspapers many times just gave the farm name with no clue as to where in that vast 1.2 square kilometres it was located. Researching casualties was frustrating and mostly impossible with the information at hand.

This situation led to my late Father and I starting a project in the 1990's to create a gazetteer of locations related to the war. We started with the contemporary histories, as many of the FID maps we could locate, lists of farms and settlements (including the fabulous four volume set The Encyclopaedia of South African Post Offices and Postal Agencies by Ralph Putzel, Hale & Putzel, Cape Town, 1986) and copies of the current topo-cadastral maps of SA. In 1999 we published A Gazetteer of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 (Military Press, Milton Keynes) which listed 2,346 locations where military action took place. The work was very well received by researchers. Unfortunately we couldn't get any major military history publisher interested, so the small print run was quickly sold out.

I have continued adding to the Gazetteer with my work revising and adding to the casualty rolls published on The Register of the Second Anglo-Boer War. To date I have added 384 entries to the gazetteer, enriching the information available when researching casualties. These are locations not mentioned in the histories but are in the casualty rolls or other sources such as Soldier's Effects. They require far more effort to track them down on a map.

Today I worked on one new location which is illustrative of the problem mapping locations. I was looking for a farm called Tweefontein there are already four farms called Tweefontein in the Gazetteer.

The incident at Tweefontein was an action on 14th November, 1901 where Kitchener's Fighting Scouts (KFS) lost two killed and nine wounded. Four officers (including one who was killed) were mentioned in dispatches "For conspicuous gallantry in action near Heilbron" - note the imprecision "near Heilbron". The casualty rolls list the action as "Tweefontein", this is copied by newspapers. Fortunately there is only one "Heilbron", a town in the Orange Free State which narrows down the search area. This Tweefontein is not named in the contemporary histories.

However, in an example of how confusing the recording of the Guerilla Phase of the war can be. This incident is recorded in the Official History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902 (Maurice and Grant, 1906) vol 3 p.333 as occurring on 16th November at Jagersrust. Jagersrust does occur in the casualty rolls, for one soldier of the KFS who was wounded on the 29th November, 1901. Jagersrust is shown on map 64 (left) of the Official History south-east of Heilbron, Tweefontein is not. Crucially this map narrows down the area of search further and allows us to consult more maps. 




The next map to consult is the modern topo-cadastral map, sheet 2728 that covers Heilbron and the area to the south-east. Locating Jagersrust we can look about for a Tweefontein. Six kilometres to the north-north-east is a Tweefontein (right).

The next complication in trying to locate place names that existed 123 years ago is that place names change and disappear. We must find other evidence to corroborate this is the correct Tweefontein. The London Gazette carries the dispatches from Lord Kitchener, the commander of British forces in South Africa. In the dispatch published on the 17th January, 1902 on p.370 there is a description of this fight, neither Tweefontein or Jagersrust is mentioned. Critically the location is "some few miles to the south of Heilbron". This Tweefontein is approximately 26 kilometres or 16 miles south-east of Heilbron. The commando that attacked the KFS was drawn from men under General C.R. de Wet's command. Unfortunately he doesn't mention this episode in his Three Years War. Stirling's The Colonials in South Africa mentions the fight on the 14th November but does not give a location.

What did occur on the 14th November, a British column with "an unwieldy mass of cattle and vehicles"  was returning to Heilbron when it was attacked. The KFS formed the rearguard and were hotly engaged, the Boers were driven off "who left eight on the field and carried off many more" (Official History p.333).

The Gazetteer provide unique data to allow researchers to accurately locate where casualties occurred. In The Register 45% of casualty locations have been mapped and 81% of all casualties have been linked to a mapped location. The movements of British columns in the Guerilla Phase can be mapped very accurately using the Gazetteer providing a new view of the efforts track down commandos.


Monday 4 September 2023

Uncovering a sleeper: The man who started a scandal

I was recently asked by a client to research a Queen's South Africa medal named "H.W. Penn" Imperial Military Railways (IMR). A fairly typical medal to a civilian organisation for which there is no official records beyond the medal rolls (WO100-252).

The medal had been sold with the following attribution from an unidentified newspaper:

"Having gone on to work on the railways in South Africa, in 1969 Penn is recorded as 84 years old, and having attended the the 30th Anniversary event for the Blue Train Special, he having presumably been a driver on this famous train service which travels the 1600 kilometre journey between Pretoria and Cape Town."

"Driver Penn" of the famous Blue Train. My client was concerned that given the year and age of Mr Penn, he would have been 15 years old in 1900. Could a 15 year old have been an engine driver? Additionally, and more concerning "HW Penn" could not be located on the medal rolls hosted by Ancestry. Resolving such issues is a speciality of mine. The Ancestry index is full of spelling mistakes for surnames, incorrectly transcribing initials and mangling unit names, all of which can hide names from a researcher. The issue in this case, and it is not an isolated example, is that Ancestry are missing medal roll pages for both the QSA and KSA medals. It appears that the copy of WO100 that Ancestry are working from is faulty in this regard, or they somehow omitted pages when creating the index.

I have the missing pages for the IMR and locating "HW Penn" was a quick job, here is the entry:

This is the only Penn on the IMR roll. Note the trade "Examiner", not "Driver". Of real interest is the faint pencil note, "? 51+415 Pburg LH", indicating possible service in the Pietersburg Light Horse (PLH). Checking their roll reveals a "John William Heartey Penn" number 51 and 415 who also served in the Bushveldt Carbineers (BVC). This roll has two contradictory remarks:

On the right it reads "Not identical with W.H. Penn/ I. M. Raily" and on the left "M & CC issued AG2/M/7379". The left hand reference is to the IMR roll on which "Examiner HW Penn" appears and is shown above. To resolve which remark is correct we are fortunate in that a biographical roll and history for the BVC and PLH was published by Bill Woolmore (Slouch Hat Publications, 2002). In compiling his roll Bill consulted the attestation papers (The National Archives, London - WO126) which supply details of former service, age and next of kin.

The entry for John William Hartley [sic] Penn, age 33 (in 1901 on attestation into the BVC), former service, Examiner, Imperial Military Railways. His calculated birth year is 1868, so he can't be "Driver HW Penn" of the Blue Train, that piece of circumstantial evidence is discarded. The former service links the men in the medal rolls and the left hand remark on the BVC roll is correct and the right hand "not identical" comment is incorrect. The difference in initials is frustrating, especially the lack of a 'J' on the IMR roll. But we know individuals drop forenames and clerks make mistakes. The next of kin is given as, wife Mrs ASA Penn, Fordsburg, Johannesburg, they had one son.

Using the excellent we learn that his wife was Angenesse Sussana Amarentie de Villiers (nee Buekes, baptised 1857 Cape Colony). They got married in 1893 in Molteno, Cape Colony, John was a butcher. Obviously butchering wasn't to his liking and he headed north to seek his fortune on The Rand. We assume he joined the railways prior to the war to learn his trade as an 'Examiner' - inspector of rolling stock, and remained on The Rand after war was declared. What prompted him to join the BVC is anyone's guess.

The scandal. The BVC became an infamous unit on account of the "Breaker Morant Affair". Cpt HH "Breaker" Morant and other officers were accused of murdering civilians and Africans. In a trial that remains controversial to this day Morant and fellow officers were tried by a military court, found guilty and executed. The spark to this affair was a letter of complaint alleging crimes by Morant and others to the commander of the Lines of Communication, Colonel FH Hall, RA. The letter was signed by 15 men of the BVC, one of those being John Penn. He is also listed as a witness at the trial.

John appears to have been issued one medal, that off the IMR QSA roll which should have a Cape Colony clasp. This may have been taken off by an ignorant dealer or collector believing all IMR QSAs were issued without clasps, which is patently untrue. The BVC/PLH roll is marked "address not known, P.A. (assumed Personal Application) till for appn.", there is a reference and a date in 1908 which could indicate the issue of clasps Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902.

What happened to John after the war is not known, until his death in August 1931, long before the 1969 Blue Train reunion. He is buried in Grasmere Cemetery, Krugersdorp. His wife, Angenesse died in 1937 and is buried in Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg.



Sunday 20 August 2023

The Queen's Mediterranean Medal

The Queen's Mediterranean Medal was approved by King Edward VII (Army Order 32 1902) to recognise the service of militia battalions sent to serve in garrisons in the Mediterranean. No clasps were awarded with the medal.

If a soldier served at all in South Africa and also in the Mediterranean then they were awarded the The Queen's South Africa with clasps as appropriate. 

The medal roll for the The Queen's Mediterranean Medal is WO100-368.

The militia battalions of the regular army regiments could not be sent overseas unless they first volunteered. Such was the enthusiasm to serve Queen and Empire in 1899 many militia battalions volunteered to serve overseas. Some were sent to fight in South Africa, others were sent to replace regular battalions sent to the war in their garrison stations. The majority were sent to Malta and Gozo, one battalion was sent to Egypt. These battalions did not, as if often stated, guard Boer prisoners of war. There were no Boer POWs on Malta, Gozo or in Egypt. Some militia battalions did guard Boer POWs on St Helena - these men were awarded the Queen's South Africa medal without clasp.

Unit Location Number on Roll Medals Issued
Royal Garrison Artillery not shown 1 1
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 3rd battalion Malta & Gozo June 1901-February 1902 753 766
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 3rd battalion Malta 1900-1901 202 not shown
Northumberland Fusiliers, 5th battalion Malta 1900-1901 579 560
Royal Munster Fusiliers, 5th battalion Malta & Gozo 1901 548 542
Royal West Kent Regiment, 3rd battalion Malta 1900-1901 1152 975
Seaforth Highlanders, 3rd battalion Citadel Barracks, Cairo February 1900 - May 1901 821 794
West Yorkshire Regiment, 3rd battalion Malta 1901-1902 880 868

The second page of the roll states "Total OR [other rank] issues 4,711". The issue numbers above, assuming 202 issued for the Loyal North Lancashire Rgt , show a total of 4,708 medals (officers and attached personnel included) were issued. The number of medals issued is taken from the numbers issued as recorded on the rolls, it doesn't take into account medals forfeited after issue or medals returned. The actual number of medals that could be in existence will be slightly less.

The 3rd Loyal North Lancashire Rgt arrived on Malta in January 1900 and left for the war in South Africa on March 2nd, 1901. This accounts for the small number of Mediterranean medals issued to the battalion.

The 3rd Seaforth Highlanders were stationed in Cairo alongside their regimental comrades of the regular army, the 1st battalion. It is ironic that, while performing the same duties, only one battalion received a medal and the other didn't.

A number of officers were attached to some of the battalions above, and two Armourer Sergeants of the Army Ordnance Corps were attached:

Officers attached to King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry  
Bedfordshire Regiment 1
Border Regiment 1
Connaught Rangers 1
Derbyshire Regiment 1
Hampshire Regiment 1
King's (Liverpool) Regiment 2
Lancashire Fusiliers 1
Leicestershire Regiment 1
Middlesex Regiment 1
Rifle Brigade 1
Royal Fusiliers 1
Royal Munster Fusiliers  1
West Surrey Regiment 1
Worcestershire Regiment 1
Officers attached to the Royal West Kent Rgt  
King's (Liverpool) Regiment 1
Manchester Regiment 1
Army Ordnance Corps (two NCOs) attached to  2
Royal Munster Fusiliers   
The Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)  
West Yorkshire Regiment  

The table shows the number of deaths that occurred in these battalions during this period. The majority died in Malta or Cairo, a few died in England and one at sea. These casualties are not included in the official casualty rolls and those publications that simply copied the rolls.

Royal Garrison Artillery 0
King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 3rd battalion 4
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 3rd battalion 0
Northumberland Fusiliers, 5th battalion 5
Royal Munster Fusiliers, 5th battalion 0
Royal West Kent Regiment, 3rd battalion 9
Seaforth Highlanders, 3rd battalion 9
West Yorkshire Regiment, 3rd battalion 1            

The vast majority of Mediterranean Medals appear as singles, they do exist in groups but they are rare. Many men of the rolls enlisted in a wide variety of regular army units. No doubt many Mediterranean veterans served in World War 1. Re-uniting a Mediterranean Medal with other medals, usually WW1 medals is not easy. The example below to Robert Francis illustrates the problem.

The Mediterranean Medal is named to Pte 484 Royal West Kent Rgt, the British War Medal, which is sole entitlement for WW1 is named to Pte 25964 Essex Rgt. The only service papers traced are for his service in the West Kents. The medals were sold by DNW in 1996 "mounted for wear", when they reappeared in 2016, still a pair, they were not mounted and the Mediterranean Medal had new ribbon.

Fortunately for researchers he was issued a Silver War Badge (B328322) which is missing. The SWB roll gives his age as 43 on discharge in 1919. The birth year of 1876 matches exactly that derived from the WO96 service papers for his West Kent service.

The complete medal roll and casualty roll for the Queen's Mediterranean Medal is available on The Register:

Thursday 1 June 2023

The King's South Africa medal, it's clasps and issue regulations


Queen Victoria died in January 1901 while the war raged on. Her son and successor, King Edward the VII, decided he wanted to award a campaign medal to mark the war that was ongoing when he came to the throne. 

To avoid the expense and complexity of issuing clasps for distinct actions, of which there were many small ones during 1901 and 1902, it was decided to just use date clasps of which there are two; South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. 

To qualify for a KSA a recipient had to be serving in South Africa in 1902 and have spent 18 months on war service in South Africa. Service could be broken, for instance wounded or debilitated soldiers sent to the UK for convalescence and then returning. 

The KSA was always issued with a clasp, except to nurses and civilians. It is most commonly found with the two date clasps, to have one clasp is rare and always needs to be verified on the medal rolls. The KSA was almost always issued complete. In some circumstances where a man had been issued the dates clasps off a QSA Supplementary Roll then a KSA with no clasps was issued.

The Queen's South Africa medal, it's clasps and issue regulations

QSA medalThe issue of the QSA can be complex. Each unit created a nominal roll and entered the clasp entitlement. This was sent to the War Office for checking who then created lists for the Mint who made the medals. The first nominal rolls were completed from April 1901, this, the "Main Roll", covered 24 clasps for the QSA. The two date clasps were not issued on this roll. In October 1902 another roll was issued to allow for the claim of the date clasps on the QSA (see below for issuing regualtions). Known as the "Extra Clasp" roll the three state bars, Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal could also be claimed on this roll. 
For a unit there are usually more than one Main Roll and very many Extra Clasp rolls. The movement of soldiers in and out of units during the war made the completion of the rolls a difficult job. When verifying a QSA medal entitlement is it is necessary to check both Main Rolls and Extra Clasp rolls. If a man served in more than one unit, which is common for colonial units, then it is necessary to check all the unit rolls. 
A man could qualify for different clasps with different units; for example a soldier in the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers would typically qualify for the Rhodesia and Relief of Mafeking clasps. This unit was disbanded in mid 1900. Many men then served in other units and would earn clasps such as Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Main Roll for the Southern Rhodesian Volunteers wouldn't show the Transvaal and Orange Free State clasps because the roll was prepared before the man earned them. 
In The Register you will see many Medal Roll references for a soldier. Some records, though, where more than one unit in listed but have only one Medal Roll reference are incomplete. This is because the initial record was taken from one unit's Medal Roll which was annotated with the other units this soldier served with. To trace through each man's service on the Medal Rolls is a huge job. It is easier and quicker to do one unit at a time.

Twenty-six clasps were created for the QSA:
Clasp AbbreviationQualification
BelfastBfAll troops who, on 26th or 27th August, 1900, were east of a north and south line drawn through Wonderfontein (the garrison and troops quartered at Wonderfontein on those dates did not receive the clasp), and west of a north and south line through Dalmanutha Station, and north of an east and west line through Carolina.
BelmontBAll troops under Lieut. General Lord Methuen's command who were north of Witteputs (exclusive) on 23rd November, 1899.
Cape ColonyCC11th October, 1899 to 31st May, 1902, inclusive, who had not received a clasp for a specific action in the Cape Colony, or the " Natal " clasp.
Defence of KimberleyDoKAll troops in the garrison of Kimberley between 14th October, 1899 and 15th February, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Defence of LadysmithDoLAll troops in Ladysmith between 3rd November, 1899 and 28th February, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Defence of MafekingDoMAll troops in the garrison of Mafeking between 13th October, 1899, and 17th May, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Diamond HillDHAll troops who, on 11th or 12th June, 1900, were east of a north and south line drawn through Silverton Siding and north of an east and west line through Vlakfontein.
DreifonteinDAll troops with Army Headquarters, and Lieut. General French's column, i.e. the left and centre columns, which advanced from Poplar Grove on 10th March, 1900.
ElandslaagteEAll troops at Elandslaagte on 21st October, 1899, who were on the right bank of the Sunday river and north of an east and west line through Buys Farm.
JohannesburgJAll troops who, on 29th May, 1900, were north of an east and west line through Klip River Station (exclusive), and east of a north and south line through Krugersdrop Station (inclusive).
Laing's NekLNAll troops of the Natal Field Force employed in the operations and north of an east and west line through Newcastle between 2nd and 9th June, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Modder RiverMRAll troops under Lieut. General Lord Methuen's command who were north of Honey Nest Kloof (exclusive), and south of the Magersfontein ridge (exclusive) on 28th November, 1899.
NatalN11th October, 1899 to 11th June, 1900, both dates inclusive who had not received a clasp for a specific action in Natal.
Orange Free StateOFSAll troops in Orange River Colony at any time between 28th February, 1900 and 31st May, 1902, inclusive who had not received a clasp for a specific action in the Orange River Colony.
PaardebergPAll troops within 7,000 yards of General Cronje's final laager, between midnight of the 17th and midnight of the 26th February, 1900, and to all troops within 7,000 yards of Koodoe's Rand Drift between the same dates.
Relief of KimberleyRoKAll troops in the relief column under Lieut. General French who marched from Klip Drift on 15th February, 1900, and all the 6th Division under Lieut. General Kelly-Kenny who were within 7,000 yards of Klip Drift on 15th February, 1900.
Relief of LadysmithRoLAll troops in Natal north of and including Estcourt between 15th December, 1899, and 28th February, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Relief of MafekingRoMAll troops under the command of Colonel Mahon who marched from Barkly West on 4th May, 1900, and to all troops who were under Colonel Plumer's command between 11th October, 1899, and 17th May, 1900, both dates inclusive, and who were south of an east and west line drawn through Palachwe.
RhodesiaRAll troops who were under the command of Lieut. General Sir F. Carrington and Colonel Plumer in Rhodesia between 11th October, 1899 and 17th May, 1900, both dates inclusive, or who landed at Beira between 11th October, 1899 and the 25th May, 1900, both dates inclusive.
South Africa 1901SA01All troops who served in South Africa between 1st January, 1901, and 31st December, 1901, both dates inclusive, who were not eligible for the King's South Africa Medal.
South Africa 1902SA02All troops who served in South Africa between 1st January, 1902, and 31st May, 1902, both dates inclusive, who were not eligible for the King's South Africa Medal.
TalanaTaAll troops under Lieut. General Sir W. Penn Symon's command on 20th October, 1899, who were north of an east and west line drawn through Waschbank Station.
TransvaalTAll troops in the Transvaal at any time between 24th May, 1900 and 31st May, 1902, inclusive who had not received a clasp for a specific action in the Transvaal.
Tugela HeightsTHAll troops of the Natal Field Force, exclusive of the Ladysmith garrison, employed in the operations north of an east and west line through Chieveley Station between the 14th and 27th February, 1900, both dates inclusive.
WepenerWeAll troops engaged in the defence of Wepener between 9th April, 1900 and 25th April, 1900, both dates inclusive.
WittebergenWAll troops who were inside a line drawn from Harrismith to Bethlehem, thence to Senekal and Clocolan, along the Basuto border, and back to Harrismith, between lst and 29th July, 1900, both dates inclusive.

These can be broken down into:
  1. The "state clasps": Cape Colony, Natal, Orange Free State, Rhodesia and Transvaal.
  2. The date clasps: South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902
  3. The Defence and Relief clasps: Defence of Kimberley, Defence of
    Ladysmith, Defence of Mafeking and Relief of Kimberley, Relief of Ladysmith and Relief of Mafeking.
  4. The remainder are known as "battle clasps".
There are rules for the award of the clasps:
  1. No state clasp can be awarded if the recipient has been awarded another clasp for an action that took place in that state.
  2. Defence and Relief clasps for the same siege cannot be awarded together.
    • Belmont, Defence or Relief of Kimberley, Defence or Relief of Mafeking or Modder River occurred in the Cape Colony
    • Elandslaagte, Defence or Relief of Ladysmith, Talana, Laing's Nek and Tugela Heights occurred in Natal
    • Dreifontein, Paardeberg, Wepener and Wittebergen occurred in the Orange Free State
    • Belfast, Diamond Hill and Johannesburg occurred in the Transvaal
    • There are no battle bars for Rhodesia
  3. The Cape Colony and Natal clasps cannot be awarded together.
  4. The date clasps are awarded if the recipient served less than 18 months in South Africa and was present in 1901 and/or 1902.

The QSA was awarded without clasps. Nurses and civilians were not allowed to be awarded clasps even if they qualified for them. Soldiers guarding Boer prisoners on St Helena were not awarded clasps either.There was no qualifying time limit for the award of the QSA or any of the clasps (subject to the rules for that clasps). The only rule was that the recipient had to be on the strength of a unit to qualify for a clasp. A soldier arriving in Cape Town and joining his unit in Pretoria would only qualify for the Transvaal clasp despite travelling through the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State. There are many anomalies to be found on QSAs and the clasps fixed by the issuing authorities; the issuing clerks did not always understand the rules and of course made errors. 

 Medals and clasps were very often issued in-complete. A soldier would get his medal with state or battle bars attached and then some time after, maybe years, the award of the date clasp(s) would be confirmed and a loose clasp(s) sent to him. It was the responsibility of the soldier to get the clasp affixed, many didn't bother, some did with crude wire others attempted to replicate the riveting method used by the Mint. This explains why you often find medals missing clasps or with clasps fitted unofficially which casts doubt as to the validity of the clasps. In these cases the medal rolls should always be consulted to verify the clasps.

Friday 31 March 2023

Battles of the Boer War - who was W Baring Pemberton?

Having recently read this book and been impressed by it's novel approach I wanted to know more about "W Baring Pemberton. The 1972 edition by Pan Books did not have the usual blurb about the author.

Thankfully he was an active member of the community in West Sussex where he lived so I quickly learnt about an erudite man of varied interests. But, the first two-thirds of life were a blank. How could a name like "W Baring Pemberton" not exist in newspapers or even the census?

I stumbled on his birth name, "Noel William Baring Pemberton" - Noel! or Noël - those four letters unlocked his life story.

Noel William Baring Pemberton (left, from Ancestry) was born 13 December 1897 near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. One of six children born to Colonel WW Pemberton and Adele MacDonald. Noel was educated at Wellington College and Oxford University where he read History and Law. Noel married Mary Burder, they would have two sons and a daughter. He passed his Bar Examination for Lincoln’s Inn in October 1935 [The Times 18 October 1935]. He appears to have dropped his first name “Noel” and published as “W Baring Pemberton”.

He does not appear to have pursued a career in law, preferring a career in the arts. In 1932 he was listed as a Director of Flicker Productions with studios at Shepperton, they aimed to produce six “book movies” on “sport and other subjects”. [Kinematograph Weekly 04 February 1932] In 1933 he was credited with adapting a story for the film “Watch Beverley” (rated U). 1936 saw his first history book published, Carteret, The Brilliant failure of the eighteenth century that was well received. A reviewer in Truth [3 June 1936] wrote “This is a book which will probably appeal more to historians than to the general public, for although readable throughout, and is often enlivened by strokes of Mr Pemberton’s dry and incisive wit, it assumes…a knowledge greater than most lay readers are likely to possess.” Encouraged, he produced a biography of Lord North in 1938 “directed at the serious historian and specialist”.

The outbreak of the Second World War interrupted his writing career, in 1940 he took a post at Eton college teaching history. The end of the war bought another chapter, he moved his family to West Sussex living at Morriswood, Holbrook, Horsham and Manor House, Billingshurst. Not forgetting his law training he became a magistrate in Horsham, joined the local Conservative Association. In 1949 he published a biography of William Cobbett. In 1952 his first play “Cactuses and Kings” had its premiere at the Court Royal, Horsham. The play had been written before World War II. Described as a satirical comedy about King Boris who, in league with republicans, agrees to stage a fake revolution forcing him to abdicate and live a comfortable life in retirement with his “beloved cactuses” (sic). [The Stage 7 February 1952] I think he would have enjoyed the irony of his story with the reality the UK has suffered in recent years with the real life Boris. He became Chair of the Theatre Royal Guild & Theatre Club. Just two years later he published a biography of Lord Palmerston in 1954, again well received, “a straightforward, informative, and readable life”.

Noel’s art career expanded to broadcasting and he was regular lecturer to local societies on historical topics. His talents extended to music as an Associate of the Royal College of Music, a “talented pianoforte player” [West Sussex Gazette 1 November 1956] , and painting joining the Association of Sussex Artists. He was also a member of the Circle of Glass Collectors.

1962 saw his first foray into military history with Battles of the Crimean War”, noted for his “considerable research on both published and unpublished sources”. Perhaps, encouraged by this work he became a member of the executive committee of the National Army Museum. Working quickly his second military history work was published in 1964, “Battles of the Boer War”.

Battles of the Boer War” is a slim volume of just 208 pages, not much tree pulp and ink for nearly three years of intense warfare. However, Baring Pemberton’s abilities at distilling information and organising facts is immediately apparent. He has picked just five battles to analyse, not simply recount the dates, movements, names and numbers involved. This is not a re-tread of what you think you know about Belmont, Modder River, Magersfontein, Colenso and Spion Kop.

He sets out his stall with admirable honesty and intelligence. Admitting he “must tend to be one-sided…. Unfortunately the best Boer accounts have never been translated and I know no Afrikaans.” He ignores “nearly all accounts written by ‘Our Special Correspondent in South Africa’. Except when from the pen of Winston Churchill, these are of little worth and deeply coloured by prejudice. Accepted avidly by a jingoist British public, they passed into common currency where they are still found.” A statement that rings true today for the “history” written by the inheritors of the victory in 1910. A large number of personal papers were read from key actors and witnesses such as Lord Methuen, General Pole-Carew, Hughes-Hallett, Birdwood, Hubert Gough and a host of officers from the artillery and infantry. In seeking balance he also corresponded with people in South Africa. The result is a startling analysis of each battle in three acts; prelude, (in)action, consequences. Criticism is freely offered and the recollections of some, such as Buller, are forcibly rebuked.

Baring Pemberton also earns praise for his treatment of the casus belli, “…it was not as simple as that”. In just a few pages he clearly lays out the complexities of the history, politics, economics and personalities that led to the invasion of the British colonies.

I think this book deserves a wide audience; it won’t break the piggy-bank. The book was re-published in 1969, 1972 and 1975.

W Baring Pemberton died 3 November 1966, not knowing the success of his last book. He led a varied and interesting life and left a lasting legacy. Thank you.

                                                        West Sussex County Times 1954