The Last Post was compiled in 1903 by Mildred Dooner to commemorate the officers who died during the Anglo-Boer War. These officers “died heroic deaths” and it was her aim that their memory should not “fade into oblivion”. Dooner, the daughter of Colonel WT Dooner, compiled her information from a variety of sources; casualty lists, memorials and correspondence. Dooner recognises her list may not be entirely accurate. There has been no revision to The Last Post until now using the updated casualty roll in The Register.
Dooner also included two appendices one for nurses and the other for war correspondents. Nurses are an obvious choice and were beloved by the officers and men, it was the nurses who endeavoured to keep the sick and wounded alive. The war correspondent is a somewhat odd choice as these men (and one woman) merely reported the war, they did not fight or help the sick and wounded. Indeed many officers did not like war correspondents, they resented their quest for information and many thought their reports biased and unhelpful. Although some senior officers manipulated the press. However, this information exists nowhere else, modern day researchers must be thankful to Dooner for this anomaly.
To revise Dooner I have checked every entry in her book against the casualty rolls and a variety of other sources but primarily the medal rolls, war memorials and The Times newspaper. I have verified 1,159 entries, these include 14 war correspondents and 10 nurses. Unfortunately a number of errors and inaccuracies have crept in.
There are three duplicate entries: Betty/Kemmis-Betty, Birch/Burch, Chapman/Clapham. Dooner has included four officers who died after the war but not from related illness or wounds. Another, FE Hancock, was not apparently serving when he died of enteric fever in 1902. The Official Casualty Roll shows him as a civilian and the medal roll indicate he was entitled to the “South Africa 1902” clasp. It is not clear if Hancock was serving the military in a civilian capacity. Dooner does include one civilian, Mr F Chapman, a farmer, was a guide to the British forces attacking Willow Grange (23-11-1899) when he was shot dead. Two men were not commissioned officers when they were killed, G Falcon and A Spencer (Cape Medical Staff Corps) and there is no indication they were about to be commissioned. The unit for Lt AG Warren is incorrect, he was in the Cape Police not the Cape Mounted Rifles.
For the vast majority Dooner has given the exact cause of death, “enteric” instead of “disease” as often seen in the Official Casualty Roll. However, for some the exact cause is not shown which may be to protect the sensibilities of the family. Lt HG Berghuys, Kitchener’s Horse “died of wounds..in Feb., 1901”, in fact he was murdered by Trooper F Carpenter in a row over leave in November 1900. Trooper Carpenter was executed. Four officers committed suicide (as per Official Casualty Roll), others died of self-inflicted wounds. Cpt MMD Morrison according to Dooner died of asthma, the Official Casualty Roll shows “Died of wounds Revolver, self inflicted”.
There is one man listed who I cannot trace in any source as a fatal casualty: Captain EB Muller, Kaffrarian Rifles killed at Ramathlabana 31-03-1900 with Colonel Plumer’s column during the relief of Mafeking. There was a Captain EB Muller, Kaffrarian Rifles who survived the war, he was not involved in the relief of Mafeking neither were the Kaffrarian Rifles. Then there is the case of Lt WBM Carruthers, Canadian Mounted Rifles. Carruthers was widely reported as being killed at Brakspruit March, 3rd 1901, naturally Dooner picked this up and included him in The Last Post. Carruthers was not killed in the war, but died in 1910 from tuberculosis apparently contracted on service in South Africa.
As to the omissions from the The Last Post I have traced 22 officers, one war correspondent and 20 nurses who died in South Africa during the war. Of the 22 officers 16 are from colonial units, a group Dooner admitted having difficulty finding information about. I have also included in this group Captain HH Morant, Bushveldt Carbineers, who was executed by the British for murdering Boer civilians. Dooner may have deliberately left him out. The additional war correspondent turns out to be the most interesting WH Mackay. Mackay, from Scotland, was a newspaper editor in Pretoria and Reuters agent at the outbreak of war. He remained in Pretoria and handled the telegraph communications between Winston Churchill when he was a prisoner and his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. Mackay is also credited with breaking the news of the relief of Mafeking to Britain. News of the relief reached Pretoria on the same day, May 17th, Mackay bribed an engine driver to take his despatch to Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa where it was sent on reaching Britain the next day. He died suddenly in Pretoria in July 1900. I have traced information on his death to a notice in the Dundee Evening Post, July 21st. Mackay is on the War Correspondents memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, London and on the War Correspondents medal roll, but is not shown as deceased. A further 25 officers and two nurses died outside of South Africa or after the war in South Africa.
Other revisions to Dooner include adding first names, correcting minor errors in the biographical information, and these records also have medal entitlements, memorials and gazetteer information. Biographical information has been added where possible to the "new" records. Having revised Dooner the numbers of officer, nurse and war correspondent fatalities directly attributable to the war can now be stated as:
Officers: 1,187 (plus 25 died outside South Africa or after the war in South Africa)
War Correspondents: 14
Nurses: 30 (plus two died after the war)