Monday 10 October 2016

Sgt-Major Mauchle's Missing Diary

I have in my collection an Anglo-Boere Oorlog medal to a Sergant-Major Freidrich Traugott Mauchle of the Transvaal Staatsatillerie. Mauchle was one the few professional soldiers in the Transvaal and was most likely German or Swiss. He fought on the Natal Front from October 1899 and later in the Transvaal.

In the National Archives London amongst the papers in CO 417 - Colonial Office: High Commission for South Africa, Original Correspondence there is printed document Translations of Boer Documents by the Director of Military Intelligence, South Africa. Item 9 is the Translation of Diary of Sergeant-Major Mauchle of State Artillery, the diary is identified as Diary No. 3 pieces 1 and 2 are noted as missing. Mauchle was taken prisoner at Zusterhoek, Transvaal on 26 October, 1901. No doubt this was where the British got his diary which covers the period 15 July to 24 October, 1901. I have long wondered what happened to Diaries 1 and 2.

Reading around on a different topic I was surprised to find a direct account of  Mauchle's capture with some amusing detail. In Jim Wallace's account of the Canadian Scouts Knowing No Fear he relates that Mauchle was captured by the Canadian Scouts. When Mauchle arrived at the PoW camp in Pretoria he wrote to the camp commander complaining that he and his comrades had been robbed of their money and his diary had been taken. Mauchle maintained that a major of the Canadian Scouts took their names and amounts of money taken promising the money would be returned when they reached the PoW camp. The camp commander passed the details onto the Provost Marshall who wrote to Major CJ Ross, Canadian Scouts. Major Ross replied he would have forwarded the money "had he known the whereabouts of these men". It would be interesting to know if the Canadian Scouts had taken all three of Mauchle's diaries and parts 1 and 2 somehow got lost in transit to Military Intelligence. In January 1902 Mauchle was sent to Deadwood Camp on St Helena, it is not known when he returned to South Africa.

After the war Mauchle went to work at the Daspoort Bacteriological Institute and Laboratory in charge of the library and stock records. The Institute was led by Arnold Theiler (from Switzerland) who pre-war served as a Transvaal government veterinary surgeon. In 1898 Theiler set up the Daspoort Institute. During the war Theiler served as veterinary surgeon to the Staatsartillerie and perhaps where he first met Mauchle. In 1901 the British allowed Theiler to continue his important research at Daspoort.

Mauchle married Mathilde Henriette (nee Stohr) who died in 1925.

Nothing more is known of Mauchle.

Saturday 8 October 2016

The unfortunate death of Private 4991 John Hood, 2nd Dragoons

The casualty rolls show Pte 4981 (sic) J Hood 2nd Dragoons died of exposure at Dorsfontein (sic) April 25th, 1902. Exposure is not an uncommon cause of death - the climate in South Africa can be harsh - not just heat and dust but rain and freezing temperatures were common place. In the field men usually did not have tents and often slept in wet clothes under a single blanket. Often the blanket was frozen solid in the morning.

Was Pte Hood a victim of the climate? Reading around we find from the most unlikely sources the circumstances of his death. Currently I am researching the Royal Artillery Mounted Rifles (RAMR). In about 1905 Colonel TS Baldock RA wrote a short history of the RAMR for the Royal Artillery Institution. Today this monograph is very scarce if not rare, there are no copies in the British Library or other lending libraries in Britain. The copy held by the RA Library is now in store. There was only one copy available to purchase.

On page 471 Baldock relates how, on April 24th,  a patrol of the RAMR came across a "naked and nearly dead" soldier in a burnt out farmhouse in the area between Pretoria, Elandsfontein and Balmoral. The soldier was "too crazy from starvation and exposure" to give a full account. However, his rescuers ascertained he was from the 2nd Dragoons and had been captured and stripped as was common. However the Boers abandoned him in the shell of the farmhouse with no food. The man the RAMR rescued was Pte Hood, the RAMR camp was at Dorstfontein. The casualty rolls do not show Pte Hood being captured. Turning to The Times they record Pte 4991 W (sic) Hood, 2nd Dragoons captured and injured by a fall from his horse at Irene April 18th. So, Hood had spent six days without food, warm clothing and decent shelter before being found.

The RAMR patrol took him back to camp where he died the following day. Soldiers' Effects show John Hood was a miner who had enlisted at Niddrie, Edinburgh on April 30th, 1900. He was unmarried his war gratuity and pay was distributed amongst his father, three sisters and a brother.