Sunday 28 October 2018

George Ives, the last veteran.

Trooper 21198 George Ives, 1st (Wiltshire) Company, 1st Battalion Imperial Yeomanry is believed to be the last surviving veteran of the Second Anglo-Boer War. Born in Brighton on November 17, 1881 he died on April 12, 1993 aged 111. Although one obituary states he was born in France but his birth was registered in England to avoid being called for French military service.

He enlisted for the Imperial Yeomanry at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire on January 30, 1901, aged 20 years old, a grocer by trade. He served in South Africa from March 1901 to August 1902, he was grazed by a bullet across his cheek which left a scar. This wound was so slight it did not merit a mention in the official casualty rolls. He was discharged in England in September 1902 after serving for one year and 216 days.

For his service he was awarded the Queen's South Africa medal with the clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902.

After the war he decided to settle abroad and a toss of the coin sent him to Canada in 1903 where he set up a famr with his father. He married in 1910, retired from farming in 1941 aged 60 but continued to work in various jobs until a final retirement aged 75.

In 1992 he was bought over to attend the Remembrance Day parade in London.

In the attached PDF are two obituaries and a short article on his visit to the UK in 1992.

Monday 8 October 2018

That Armoured Train Incident: 15 November, 1899: An analysis of casualties

Before we dive into the casualties the location of the incident needs to accurately stated. The incident is popularily known as "Estcourt" and less so "Chieveley", both in Natal south of Colenso and Ladysmith. The train left Estcourt towards Chieveley, on its return journey it was derailed and ambushed on the farm "Blaauwkrantz", here is the entry form the Gazetteer:
a farm in Natal Colony (Estcourt district; KwaZulu-Natal) on which the village of Chieveley is situated.  Variant: Bloukrans (Afrikaans spelling as used on the 1: 250,000 map).  The armoured train derailment and the capture of 80 prisoners by the Wakkerstroom and Heidelberg commandos, including Mr. W.L.S. Churchill, on 15 November 1899 took place on the farm Blaauwkrantz.  The train was manned by A company 2nd bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers, C company Durban Light Infantry and sailors from HMS Tartar. The area had particular significance for the Boers since the Blaauwkrantz Monument commemorating the voortrekkers killed during the Weenen massacres had been dedicated here only on 16 December 1895.  The incident is referred to by British historians as taking place at Chieveley and Estcourt. 
A Gazetteer of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, Jones HM & MGM (Military Press, Milton Keynes 1999)

The composition of the force on the train is generally stated to be a company (or half company) from the 2nd battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers (A company) and the Durban Light Infantry (C company) and sailors from HMS Tartar manning a 7pdr gun. Although the chief eyewitness, war correspondent Winston Churchill states the sailors were from HMS Terrible (My Early Life, 1930). The train was run by civilian crew and a number of gangers and platelayers accompanied the train. At the time British newspapers reported the force to number between 180-190 men (The Times 18-11-1899).

However, the war correspondent, Bennet Burleigh, gives a detailed account in his book The Natal Campaign (Chapman & Hall, 1900). He gives these figures, but did not include the surgeon Francis Napier:

Cpt JAL Haldane, Gordon Highlanders in command
73 - Royal Dublin Fusiliers
47 - Durban Light Infantry (Our Colonials, Stirling, 1907, states 60)
 6 - HMS Tartar
 7 - Platelayers
 1 - Telegraphist
 3 - Engine crew (not given by Burleigh, my estimate: driver, fireman and guard?)
 1 - War correspondent - Winston Churchill
 1 - civilian surgeon - Francis Napier

Total: 140

The train was ambushed and partially derailed. The Boers shelled the train and poured in a heavy rifle fire. A stout defense was made but the 7pdr was soon disabled by Boer artillery. The engine and tender remainded on the rails and smashed through boulders placed across the line. The engine and tender returned to Estcourt with a number of men and some wounded.

The Natal Field Force roll lists 47 casualties:

HMS Tartar Dublin Fusiliers Durban LI Gordon H Train Crew War Corres Total
Killed 0 3 0 0 0 0 3
DoW 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Wounded 0 5 12 0 3 0 20
POW 0 22 0 0 0 0 22
POW & Wo 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Missing & Wo 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Missing 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Total 0 32 12 0 3 0 47

I have traced a further 50 from the following sources; The Times 18, 19 & 20-11-1899, Army & Navy Gazette 18-11-1899, Sunderland Daily Echo 17 & 18-11-1899, Penrith Observer 21-11-1899The Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War (Romer & Mainwaring, 1908). The complete casualty breakdown is now:

HMS Tartar Dublin Fusiliers Durban LI  Gordon   H Colonial Scts Train Crew War Corres Total
Killed 0 3 1 0 0 0 0 4
DoW 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 3
Wounded 0 3 14 0 1 4 0 21
POW 4 33 10 1 0 1 1 51
POW & Wo 0 2 3 0 0 0 0 5
Missing & Wo 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Missing 0 4 6 0 0 3 0 13
Total 4 46 37 1 1 8 1 97

The Boers claimed British casulties were four killed, 14 wounded and 56 POWs. The wounded were retained as POWs, an ambulance train sent out by the British to recover the wounded was not allowed to recover any men. Some of the wounded had returned on the engine and tender, and some made their way back on foot.

Interestingly only five men are listed as wounded and POW, there must be some imprecise reporting of casualties amongst the wounded and POW group, not all the wounded would have got away.

Having advanced the known casualties to 96, the question researchers and medal collectors want to know, "who else was there?". The sources I used to get the extra casualties have revealed another thirteen names*. Disappointingly, Romer's history for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers only mentions Pte 5256 M Kavanagh who was awarded the DCM.

There are though some discrepancies when looking at the medal rolls. According to the medal rolls four men earned the Defence of Ladysmith clasp and yet were named as missing. The siege of Ladysmith began 2 November, 1899, no British troops entered the the town until it's relief on 28 February, 1900. The four are:

Cpl 576 D Brown Durban Light Infantry - The Times, 20 November, 1899 (crushed under a truck 15-11-1899, died 23-12-1899 buried Intombi Camp, Ladysmith)
Pte 689 GB Humphreys Durban Light Infantry -  The Times, 20 November, 1899
Pte 4685 G Reynolds Dublin Fusiliers - Romer & Army & Navy Gazette, 18 November, 1899
Pte 540 AG Woodward Durban Light Infantry - The Times, 20 November, 1899

There is an error somewhere, either the medal roll or the printed casualty list.

* Napier's name comes from a letter he wrote printed in the The Southern Reporter ,21-12-1899. I am indebted to Berenice for this information.