Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Russian Fighting For The Boer Cause

Yevgeny Avgustus
A Russian Fighting For The Boer Cause
Translated and edited by Boris Gorelik
The South African Military History Society
2016
52 pages, illustrations
ISBN 978-0-620-70253-9

This booklet is the first translation into English of part of the memoirs of Russian Army officer Lieutenant Yvengeny Avgustus. He traveled to South Africa in early 1900. Choosing the Natal front Avgustus relates with clarity his impressions of the Boer army, its leaders, burghers and other volunteers. Seeking action his group joined the Krugersdorp Commando shunning foreign volunteer groups riven with dissent.

As part of the Krugersdorp Commando Avgustus fought at Spion Kop - the battle was as hard and terrifying for the Boers as the British and Tugela Heights in February. Three days in a trench subject to artillery, machine gun and rifle fire he marvels at the tenacity of the British infantry, advancing into Boer machine gun fire to close with the bayonet; a weapon the Boers didn't possess and feared. With the British troops upon them Avgustus and a comrade managed to escape leaving many dead and wounded behind.

This well written, and well translated tale, ends with Avgustus negotiating the crush of fleeing Boers at Elandslaagte station heading north for safety. There is much of interest in this slim volume and is a good read.








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

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Silver QSA to Indians

In the late Victorian era the "followers" in a military campaign were awarded medals, but in bronze not silver as a cost saving exercise. These men performed non-military menial duties such grass cutting (for forage), ward sweepers, transport drivers, water carriers and so on.  Most commonly seen is the India General Service medal 1854-1895 in bronze for the campaigns of the 1890s covered by clasps such as Punjab Frontier 1897-98, Relief of Chitral 1895 and Tirah 1897-98.

This practice continued into the Second Anglo-Boer war and bronze medals were awarded to an officer's servant (irrespective of colour). The most bronze medals were awarded to Indians who came across with the very large numbers of white troops stationed in India. No official medals were awarded to the indigenous africans and other non-whites who performed a similar role to the Indian followers and many even bore arms; their story is for another post.

Collectors may see on the market a silver QSA named to an Indian in typical flowing script but on the medal roll it is clearly marked they were issued with a bronze medal. Is this a piece of fakery or not?

After the war in 1903 the Indian government decided to allow attested followers (except ward sweepers) silver medals. Un-attested and authorised followers ("private followers") were still awarded bronze medals.  This change of policy had its roots in the Anglo-Boer War, in May 1902 the Indian government allowed men to exchange their bronze medals for silver ones at their own expense when they enlisted as soldier. The date 1903 is critical as many medals to Indian followers had not yet been issued, therefore technically the new rules could apply to QSAs even though the campaign pre-dated the rule change. Whether this happened is not actually clear.

Here is an example of a silver QSA to an Indian who should have bronze QSA:

This medal is to M46 Dafadar Pat Ram I(ndian). P(ack). Mule Train.





The medal roll was prepared in Cape Town in September 1901, four men, all (Indian) Veterinary Assistants were to receive silver medals with clasps, these were issued in December 1904. For Pat Ram and the remainder it is clearly shown they were to be issued bronze medals without clasps (unlike the issue of the bronze IGS). These medals were sent to India for distribution, no date is shown.

One can assume then that Pat Ram received a bronze medal without clasps. So, how did his silver QSA come about? Under the 1903 rules it would appear he enlisted as a regular soldier and purchased a silver QSA.

However, the naming is an issue. The great collector and researcher into QSAs and KSAs to Indians, David Grant, has only seen verified exchange medals with impressed naming not engraved. David surmises that Ram's medal with engraved naming might then be a replacement medal, issued after 1903 according to the rules then in force. The Mint in Calcutta did not issue a replacement bronze medal. A number of blank silver QSAs were sent to India, an impressing machine was not sent until 1908. There is clearly more research to be done in this area.

If Ram had been issued clasps they would have been Transvaal, Defence of Ladysmith and Laing's Nek. However, he wasn't and his QSA (bronze or silver) without clasps illustrates the joy of collecting QSAs; the hidden facts that come with a bit of research.

David Grant has published on this topic in the journal of the OMRS and online on the Anglo-Boer War forum, see:

http://www.angloboerwar.com/forum/5-medals-and-awards/71-the-indian-contingent?start=54
http://www.angloboerwar.com/forum/5-medals-and-awards/71-the-indian-contingent?start=168#45827



Kakul POW Camp

Many thousands of Boer POWs were sent overseas to camps remote from South Africa, in places like Bermuda, Sri Lanka, St Helena, Portugal and India (and now Pakistan). One of the smallest and short-lived camp was in Kakul near Abbottabad in north-west India, what is now Pakistan.

The camp was set up in 1902 and existed for just a few months. One of the noted past-times of the Boer POW was to create handicrafts from whatever local materials they could find, wood, stone, bone and on Bermuda they wove neckties too. These items are highly collectible today. Handicrafts from the bigger camps such as on Bermuda and St Helena are not hard to find, those from smaller camps are rare and Kakul items must rank amongst the rarest due to it's small size and short life. In Pieter Oosthuizen's fabulous book Boer War Memorabilia: The Collectors' Guide (The Alderman Press, 1987) none of the items featured are from Kakul. The War Museum of the Boer Republics in Bloemfontein only have a handful of examples.

The items illustrated below come from a collection of 16 Boer POW handicrafts collected by a British soldier who guarded the camp at Kakul. Eight of the items are marked 'Kakul'