Thursday 2 February 2023

JP Tinling - Administrator of the Annexed Transvaal

The QSA medal roll give the information that JP Tinling was a “Civilian Conductor of Watchmen” attached to the Army Service Corps. There is just one name on the page, the roll was prepared in the War Office, London on September 1, 1903, the signature is indistinct. The medal was despatched nine days later. The single name on a page prepared in London by a person (presumably an Army officer) not necessarily connected with the war suggests a personal approach by JP Tinling himself. The whereabouts of the correspondence between Mr Tinling and the War Office is unknown.

Back in 2017 when I started researching the medal the first port of call for researching a civilian living in South Africa was NASA (National Archives of South Africa), an excellent source. There were a number of hits for a “John Parr Tinling” from the Transvaal Archives and a couple from the Natal and Cape Archives.


John Parr Tinling was born in 1851 in Bath, Somerset to Edward Douglas and Catharine Maria (nee Elton) Tinling. His father was a Vicar and would later be Canon of Gloucester Cathedral and worked for HM Inspector of Schools. He baptised his son in his own parish of Walcot, Somerset. John was educated at Winchester College and Christ Church, Oxford. When he went travelled to southern Africa is not known. He next appears in Pretoria having been a appointed a clerk in the Governor’s Office on May 31, 1879. The Transvaal had been annexed by Britain on April 12. He was still working there on November 10, 1880 when the archives record he acknowledged receipt of legal documents. The next day hostilities began when armed Boers disrupted an auction of goods seized by the British administration trying to recoup unpaid taxes. Outright war broke out shortly afterwards and Pretoria was besieged by the Boers.

 In 1881, Britain had lost the war and the Transvaal regained independence. John is effectively unemployed but the Natal Archives hold a letter from Cpt Henry Hallam Parr, CMG, 13th Foot (a senior soldier in South Africa) recommending him for a position in the Natal government. Henry was a cousin on his mother’s side. He appears to have been successful but it is not known exactly what job he held. In September 1881 John was in Kimberley and wrote to Lord Chelmsford who had led the British invasion of the Zululand in 1879. It is not known exactly in what capacity John was writing to this controversial soldier, but it is obvious he admired him greatly:

 “..But if the Govt, at home can make a mess of Colonial affairs they will do it.

Ever since the day when you gave up the command of the troops to Sir Garnet Wolseley, the management of S. African affairs has become involved in a hopeless muddle…for the settlement of Zululand was so bad, that it is only a question of time when the next Zulu war will break out.

These are not my opinions only, they are those of the Colonists of South Africa – men who will persist in their belief, despite the denial by the Colonial Office at home, that there was only one man who could have brought this country safely through all its troubles, and that was Sir Bartle Frere.” [Lord Chelmsford and the Zulu War, The Hon G French DSO, Pen & Sword Books 2014 pp246-247]

In 1889 John is back in the Transvaal where he marries Rebecca Bourhill, daughter of JCH Bourhill of De Beers, Kimberley, on January 19 at St Mary’s, Johannesburg. In December 1892 a daughter was born in Lichtenburg, two years later a son was born in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. It is not known what he employment he found on the Rand but he fell foul of the authorities, Transvaal Archives record the Public Prosecutor taking action against John in 1894 and 1895. In December 1896 he applies for a permit to purchase a “government gun” (a Mauser presumably) on the same terms available to Transvaal citizens. There the trail goes cold, we know war broke out three years later. Whether John and his family had to leave the Transvaal as refugees or had left before the exodus in September 1899 is not known.

During the war he found employment as Conductor of Watchmen – in charge of guards, probably Africans. It is not known whether he was in the Cape Colony or Natal or how long he held this post. In 1901 he was in London, recorded by the census as a boarder, his profession given as “agent/speculator” living on “own means”. John returned to Cape Town, by 1907 he was working in the Cape Colony Customs Department, later working for the Statistical Bureau.

In WW1 his son Douglas Edward volunteered and served with the 4th SA Infantry. He was killed on September 21, 1917 and is remembered on the Menin Gate, Ieper. Douglas’ medals were sold by City Coins in 2017 with the QSA to JP Tinling in separate lots but noted as “father & son”.

Within a year John was dead, he died of influenza at Claremont, Wynberg on June 22, 1918. He was buried in Plumstead Cemetery, Wynberg.

In the Transvaal Archives is a photograph of 19 men, “residents of Pretoria” they have dated to 1880-1881. Only 15 are named: G Lys, A Bates, F Jeppe, Troye, JP Tinling, G Hudson, F Stiemans, Jorrisen, Palmer, Davis, Swart, H Nourse, H Bousfield, J Swart, (M)S Melville.

Those so far identified:
HB Bousfield – first Bishop of Pretoria

G Hudson – Cape Colony civil servant, appointed Colonial Secretary, Transvaal February 1880

FH Jeppe – Surveyor-General

EJP Jorrissen – attorney-general dismissed 1878, adviser to SJP Kruger and PJ Joubert

Nourse H – helped raise Kimberley Light Horse, Cpt Ferreira’s Horse, commanded Transvaal Mounted Rifles, Nourse’s Horse in ABWI. In ABWII Lt-Col Chief Staff Officer Cape Colony forces.

Troye – probably Gustav A Troye German born cartographer

The surname Tinling.

Gerald French quoted “one John Parr Tinling” writing to Lord Chelmsford. Some pages earlier French notes that Chelmsford’s mother was Anna Maria Tinling. He does not make the connection. John’s grandfather was Rear-Admiral Charles AS Tinling (1765-1840) whose brother was William Tinling (1749-1836) who was Anna Maria’s father. John and Lord Chelmsford are second cousins. Although a select quote, I believe the tone of the letter John wrote to his second cousin is more familial than business.