Sunday, October 28, 2012

Passengers to Natal: Venice July 1880

The Natal Witness of 15 July 1880 reported the arrival, 12 July, of Venice, C.R.M., of London, Brown, from Cape and intermediate ports, carrying passengers and a general cargo.

Passengers from Cape Town:
Captain and Mrs Heavy, two children, and servant
Mrs Staple, three children, and servant
Mr Bruss
Mr and Mrs Van Coller and child
Mrs F Wilson
Venice Passenger List: Natal Witness 15 July 1880
Mr Rossenburg
Messrs Dark and Stoner

From Algoa Bay:
Mr Kisher

From East London:
Miss and Master Butler
Mr Herman Rule
Bonsseimer (?) and Dach

From London:
C Holland
H Levy
HJ Poole
J Schoultz
Miss M Hunter
Mr and Mrs Everst and child
Mr and Mrs Watson and child
Mr and Mrs Pawson and two children
Miss Jane McQuadrie
Mrs Sullivan and three children
Mrs McKwan and three children
Mr and Mrs Locke and infant
Mr TBL Edgecome
Mr and Mrs Hopkins and child
Mr Walter Brayshaw
Mr and Mrs Gorrie and three children
J Watson
D Jeckie
J Patterson
G Adamson
D McLellan
A McAlpine

Agent: DC Andrew

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Passengers to Natal on Nyanza: the Willowfountain settlers


In February 1878 the Natal Land and Immigration Board (LIB) acquired 5000 acres of farmland south of Pietermaritzburg for the purpose of bringing settlers from England to farm there. This land had been granted to a former Voortrekker, Paulus Hermanus Zietsman, who had named it Wilgefontein. In August 1879, the LIB commissioned James Methley to sail to England and find agricultural families for thirty of the forty plots; the remaining ten plots were to be sold to farmers who were already in Natal.

The plan was for all families to live on their own capital for the first two years, until houses, fences, roads, irrigation and crops were established, before they had to start paying for their land in ten instalments over the next ten years. These prospective settlers had to not only produce proof of enough capital, but had to deposit it into a bank in England and were unable to access it until their arrival in Natal. This was to prevent the same mistakes made with the Byrne settler programme, in which settlers had delved into their capital before arriving in the colony. Because of both the stringent requirements and the penalties for default, Methley only managed to find twenty-three families, many of which were not even farmers.

Passengers on deck of  Nyanza 1877
The settlers came mainly from the Midlands of England, with a few from Scotland, southern England and Wales. They departed from Southampton on the S.S. Nyanza on June 11th 1880, and arrived at Durban via Madeira and Cape Town on the 12th July 1880.
While anchored in Durban bay that evening, the male heads of the families gathered in the ship's saloon with the representatives of the LIB to draw slips of paper from a bag for their Lot numbers.

The following day, because there was no actual quay, the disembarkation process took most of the day. Each person had to be lowered in a basket down to a tug next to the ship, and then transported ashore in the tugboat. Late that afternoon, a specially commissioned train carried the settlers inland to Inchanga Station, which was as far as the railway line had been constructed. The journey was continued over the next three days in twelve ox-wagons.

At around noon on Friday 16th July, the wagon train came over the crest of a hill, giving the settlers the first sight of their new home. The so-called 'promised land' did not look impressive, mainly because a veld-fire had blackened the land in recent weeks, adding to the bleak, treeless appearance. Three of the families - the Hanns, the Liddels and the Rowlings - elected to stay on the wagons and continue into Pietermaritzburg to either settle there or return to England in due course. The accommodation on the lots consisted of tents, which were supposed to be available to the settlers for the first three months, but were never claimed back by the LIB. One lucky man, a bachelor called William Clarke, had drawn the lot with a shale house on it. Another, larger house was on the Government Reserve land, which was to be common property for the use of all the settlers. In 1884 it was put to use as a school for male children of the settlers, and the motto was 'Semper Paratus' - Always Prepared. This farmhouse was the same one later inhabited by the last members of the Hall family, the last people to move in 1975 from their farm, which they had called Brandon. The papers and documents collected and kept by Dudley T. Hall (himself a descendant of original settlers Brown and Clarke), form the basis of the Willowfountain file in the Killie Campbell Africana Library in Durban, from which much of this material was sourced.

Some of those who chose to stay were soon to regret their decision, upon realisation that their new land was steep and stony, did not have enough fertile soil, decent roads, reasonable access to water, or even trees for firewood. In fact, the local farmers had been aware of the poor conditions there, so the ten plots originally intended for sale locally had never found buyers for this very reason. Within a few months all unoccupied lots were offered to the new settlers as well. Many settlers acquired a second lot in the hope of farming for profit rather than mere subsistence, which was all the original small lots could promise. The most popular crop to be grown was barley, which was needed to supply the garrison at Fort Napier. Due to the increased presence of Imperial Troops in the Colony, fodder was needed for cavalry horses, as well as mealies for the troops fighting in the Basuto War. Many settlers also kept cattle, which were allowed to graze on the twelve or so acres of common land.

Some families fell on bad times personally, with death or illness, crop failure or the lack of roads causing delays in getting their produce to the Market, thus spoiling on the wagons and failing to fetch the intended price. Barnett left after the first year when he realised he would never be able to make a living from his land, and Hamlyn left soon after to work for Natal Government Railways (NGR) in Durban in order to have a steady income and to live closer to a school for his children. After the first year, Mr CA Butler from the Land and Immigration Board (LIB) visited the settlement and was satisfied that most of the eighteen families of settlers that were left were progressing well, except for Bradley, Walker and Roberts. The Bradley brothers left during the second year. Unfortunately, floods, drought and Rinderpest disease took their toll on many settlements before the first instalment fell due after two years. Once the repayments began, only about two families were not in arrears at any one time.

In the Spring of 1886, the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, combined with a drought in Natal, tempted the sons of settlers, if not the settlers themselves, to leave Willowfountain and journey north in search of the fortunes needed to pay off their farms. In 1888, having exhausted their original capital, both Aitchison and Haworth joined the gold rush and illegally sublet their farms.

Many petitions were sent to the LIB regarding lack of roads and right of way of water. In April 1887, Roberts, Walker, Oldfield and Powdrill spearheaded a petition to reduce the original purchase price of the land by 50%. Eventually, in 1888, the LIB agreed to reduce the price by 10% and to give the settlers an extra four years to pay, but at an interest rate of 5%. Pleas and petitions abounded from desperate settlers who had sunk life savings into their plots and couldn't afford the interest, especially since the land was clearly not worth it. Their cries were eventually heeded, and the prices were reduced by 20%, and the extension was granted for another four years, at no interest, meaning that all plots had to be paid for by 1900.

In 1889, another law was relaxed, enabling settlers to sublet their allotments and seek employment elsewhere. This was necessary because at least two settlers, Parkin and Clements, had died, leaving their widows to bring up several children and work on the farm alone - an impossible task under the circumstances. Haworth had died in Johannesburg and his widow left Willowfountain to settle in Pietermaritzburg. Christieson left to become a carpenter in Pietermaritzburg. By 1889, the population of Willowfountain had reduced from 137 to 65.

Only four families paid off their allotments within the original 12 years, and another three had paid by the end of 1892. The LIB disbanded in 1894, and the Willowfountain community began to break up as most settlers sold their allotments immediately they received their title deed upon full payment. The Surveyor-General's Office (SGO) sent letters to the remaining ten defaulters in 1895, reminding them they were in arrears. Most settlers acknowledged this and assured the SGO that they intended to pay as soon as they were able. A further five settlers paid by 1900. All allotments were eventually paid for, with the last payment being made only in 1927, having thus taken 47 years for the owner to pay it off!

A Wesleyan Church was constructed on the settlement, as well as a graveyard, and some settlers were buried there. Those settlers of the Anglican and Presbyterian faiths went to Church in town, and when they died, they were buried there. In 1932, a Memorial to the settlers was erected next to the Wesleyan Church and cemetery at Willowfountain, to commemorate those who stayed to become part of South Africa's history. This stone, unveiled by the Honourable Dr W J O'Brien, mentioned the names of the original heads of families who settled there.

Names of the original settlers and their apprentices and wards include Aitchison, Barnett, Bradley, Brown, Christieson, Clarke, Clements, Delvin, Hadden, Hamlyn, Haworth, Leiper, Martin, Neden, Oldfield, Parkin, Pearse, Powdrill, Roberts, Symons, Thornycroft and Walker, who later changed their name to St Goran.

The writer of this article (Susan Roberts) is indebted to the 1949 thesis of Donald William Bosch for much of the information contained herein.

BOSCH, Donald William; 1949; The Wilgefontein Settlement 1880, thesis presented in the University of Natal for the degree of Master of Arts; University of Natal; Pietermaritzburg.

Susan Roberts

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Passengers to Natal: Nyanza July 1880

The Natal Witness July 15 1880 reported the following:

Arrived: July 12, Nyanza, U.R.M.S., of Southampton, 2128 tons, Ballard RNR, from England and the Cape. Cargo general.

Passengers from England:
Nyanza passengers arrived Natal 12 July 1880
Reported in The Natal Witness 15 July 1880
Mr, Mrs, Miss and Master Methley
A Stanley
W Clifford
JB Gribble
Mr and Mrs Neden
Messrs W and J Neden
Misses Neden (5)
Mr, Mrs and Misses (3) Laddle
Mr, Mrs and Masters (3) Aitchesen
Brudley (4)
Mr and Mrs Barnett
Misses Barnett (2)
Master Barnett
Mr an Mrs Clements
Master Clements (3)
Misses Clements (4)
Mr, Mrs, Miss and Master Clarke
Mr and Mrs Christieson
L Hadden
Mr and Mrs Oldfield
Masters Oldfield (6)
Miss Oldfield
Mr and Mrs Roberts
Messrs Roberts (2)
Miss B Roberts
Mr and Mrs Symons
Mr, Mrs and Miss Martin
Mr and Mrs Rowlings, Masters (4), and Misses (2) Rowlings
Messrs Liepir (2)
Miss Liepir (2)
Mr and Mrs Haworth
Misses Haworth (3)
Masters Haworth (4)
Mr Clark
Mr and Mrs Powdrill
Misses Powdrill (4)
Master Powdrill
Mr and Mrs Walker
Misses Walker (8)
Masters Walker (3)
Mr and Mrs Hamlyn
Masters Hamlyn (2)
Misses Hamlyn (5)
Mr and Mrs Neden
Master Neden
Misses Neden (3)
Mr, Mrs and Miss Hann
Mr and Mrs Brown
J Brown
Masters Brown (2)
Misses Brown (3)
Mr and Mrs Parkin
J Parkin
G Parkin
Miss Morriss
Mr Barrett (2)

From Cape Town:
Mr Thirsby

- E. Baynton, agent.

See also on this blog:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Passengers to Natal: the Roman December 1878

The Times of Natal reported in its edition of December 11 1878, the arrival on the 6th of the Union Royal Mail Steamer Roman, of Southampton, 1200 t, Captain Caines RNR, from England and Cape ports with passengers and a general cargo.

Arrival of URMS Roman
 Times of Natal 11 Dec 1878
Troop movements related to the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 are evident. Note that though higher ranks are named, '80 non-commissioned officers' are not. Invisible ancestors. In this instance, their regiment is not given.

From England
Captain the hon. A Campbell
Major Bangeugh and man servant
Capt Cherry
Capt Buller
Capt Mackregor and man servant
Capt Hart
Capt Essex
Capt Gardiner
Capt Barton
Capt Huntley
Capt Bacon
Mr C Bartlett
Mr Schubert
Mr H Granger
Mr A Short
Mr G Bates
Mr E Forster
Mr J Henwood
Mrs S Winter
Mrs S Clarke
Mr W Thomas
Mrs Thomas
Mr W Griffin
Mr G Dykes
Mr W Dykes
Mr W Peach
Mrs Peach
Mr S Peach
Master W Peach
Miss N Peach
Mr A Woodward
Mr J Reed
Mr W Pascoe
Mrs R Window
Miss A Window
Mr D Petrie
Mr J Smith
Mr St Frei
Mr Donald
Messrs Kneebone (3)
Mr Lawn
Mr Davidson
Major Hall
Mr Walker
Mr Gauph
Captain de Burgh
Captain Carrol
Captain Holder
80 non-commissioned officers
3 Zulus
R Baynton, agent.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Death at Sea: Tragedy on the Conway Castle 1880

This was the headline in the Natal Witness of January 8 1880 and the original report follows:
A tragic event occurred on the Conway Castle during her voyage out this last time, particulars of which have been furnished us (Advertiser) by a gentleman who arrived here on Melrose and was a witness of the whole affair. It appears that a man named Robert Ross took a steerage passage in this steamer and came out to work for a firm in Durban. He had not been long at sea, in fact was in the Bay of Biscay, when he expressed himself dissatisfied with the arrangements below, and told some to whom he was known that he should sleep upon the deck. This was on Sunday night before reaching Madeira and the next morning (Monday) at 7.30, there was a cry of 'man overboard', and it was found that Ross had disappeared in the sea. The boatswain states that Ross leaped overboard, but there were many who had their doubts of this. Anyway, the ship was stopped for half an hour and Mr Brown, the first officer, in a very smart manner, got a boat lowered and went down himself in charge. The search proved unsuccessful and the boat was hauled up, when, just as the vessel was under weigh, they passed the body floating face upward in the water. The captain was on the bridge, but said it was no use stopping, the man's head was knocked in and he was dead, and the vessel proceeded on her voyage. Our informant asks the rather pertinent questions: How could Captain Jones  know this? And would it not have been more satisfactory to make himself and all on board assured of the fact? For our own part, having known Captain Jones when on the Florence, we cannot believe him capable of doing anything that lacks of courtesy and consideration for the feelings of others, but at the same time are fully convinced of the correctness of our informant's story. Ross leaves a wife and family at home to mourn his untimely end. The passengers on board got up a subscription for them. 

The story illustrates the fact that even by 1880, there was a chance that those leaving England for South Africa may well have said a last farewell to their home and loved ones and that the great adventure held as many hazards as did the days of sail.

It's also useful as a practical example of how to find maritime events: the precise death date of the unfortunate Robert Ross is given on under the collection 'United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933':  Robert Ross, death, 1 Dec 1879, vessel Conway Castle. The Conway Castle reached Natal by 8 January 1880 but the death at sea occurred about a month before while the ship was in the Bay of Biscay, as reported in the Natal Witness. From the FamilySearch site there's a facility to follow up the information on and, for a fee or through subscription to the latter site, to obtain an image of the register page giving further details.

Conway Castle (2,966 tons) built in Glasgow in 1878, was a regular mail steamer until 1883, during which period the above tragedy occurred, and was later transferred to the intermediate service when the Roslin Castle, Norham Castle and Hawarden Castle joined the Line. She underwent considerable improvements in 1892, fitted with triple-expansion engines, her funnel lengthened and with iron bulwarks replacing the open deck rails. The passenger accommodation was upgraded too, with refrigerating machinery and electric light being installed. Not long afterwards, on the Mauritius route, she ran ashore on May 10th 1893 50 miles south of Tamatave while on a voyage to Durban. Her passengers were ashore for 10 days until the Union liner Arab conveyed them to South Africa. But it was the end of the Conway, which could not be brought off the rocks and finally broke up.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Diary of the Siege of Ladysmith on Kindle

A Diary of the Siege of Ladysmith by Brian Kaighin is now available in a Kindle Edition.

It is a day by day account of the struggle for Ladysmith during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Passengers to Natal: the Elizabeth Martin 1873

On 5 August 1873 the Natal Mercury announced in eulogistic terms the arrival on the 3rd of the Currie Line steamer Elizabeth Martin from East London from which she had sailed on the 2 August under Captain Deacon. She carried a general cargo and only 8 passengers were named, viz:

Mr W Palmer
Mr Fuller
Mr and Mrs Garbut
Mr N Garbut
Mr Steel
Mr MacKenzie
Mr Deare

Black, Baxter & Co were the agents.

At three o'clock last Sunday afternoon (3rd August) a large steamer was sighted to the westward. She steamed round the Bluff at 3.40 p.m., anchored in the roadstead, and was made out to be the Elizabeth Martin, 906 tons, Captain Deacon (late of the Gothland), of Messrs. Donald Currie & Co's line. The tug went out to her about half past four o'clock, towing a cargo boat. The bar was rough, and the sea outside ran so high that the mails could not be put on board the tug. They were trans-shipped into the lighter, which arrived back in the bay very soon after the tug. There were 33 bags of mails, and our packet of extras, containing the latest European news, to the 25th June.
The Elizabeth Martin is a very fine, handsome, smart, and comfortable steamer. The passengers who have come up in her speak in the highest terms of her steaming capabilities, and of the courtesy and ability of her commander and his officers. She had a head wind all the way up from East London, and yet she made the run in about 24 hours. She was off the Umkomaas about 1 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. We are glad to hear that she is to be kept on the coast until the Florence arrives out, about the end of September.
She has brought up eight passengers, whose names will be found in our shipping column. Amongst them we are glad to welcome back our much-respected fellow-townsman, Mr W Palmer, who has had a pleasant trip through the Transvaal, Diamond Fields, and Cape Colony; whose health, we are glad to say, is thoroughly re-established; and who has many an interesting tale to tell of absent Natalians with whom he met and conversed during his wanderings.
The steamer's mail bags arrived at the post-office in town about six o'clock in the evening, and were delivered about nine o'clock. The steamer has only a small quantity of cargo for Natal, the manifest of which, together with that per Teuton, will be found in our extra. She discharged a great deal of cargo at Algoa Bay and East London. She is to come inside to-day, and all who can should pay her a visit. She is the largest steamer that will have crossed our bar, her gross tonnage being 1260.  

Natal Mercury 7 August 1873:
The entrance of the Elizabeth Martin into our inner harbour is an event worthy of special notice in the records of our port. This fine steamer is much the largest vessel that has yet crossed the bar. Her burthen is over 1200 tons, her register shows upwards of 800 tons. She is 250 feet long. Nevertheless she entered the harbour safely and easily at dead neap tides. We congratulate both her commander and our Port Captain upon this interesting fact. Some months ago, when referring to the trade of the River Plate, we pointed out that there was no reason why vessels of large tonnage should not be built so as to come inside, and the present incident is proof of the fact. If a permanent depth of 18 feet could be secured on the bar steamers of 2000 tons might ply direct between England and Natal without the drawback of detention at the outer anchorage. It is of the utmost importance however, that the condition of the inner harbour should be improved, and the present channels, which are ever shifting and shoaling, be permanently straightened and deepened. We are glad to hear that Sir Benjamin Pine intends to visit Durban next week, with the especial purpose of inspecting both the harbour and the works. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Births, Deaths and Marriages at Sea on FamilySearch

It’s impossible to count the number of queries received on this topic so the following should be good news for many family historians

The new FamilySearch  has added UK Maritime Births, Marriages and Deaths 1787-1933. For anyone who believes an ancestor may have died (or been born or married) while at sea between UK and South Africa - travelling in either direction – this is a search worth doing and it is free.

On the main page, scroll down to Browse by Location, then click on United Kingdom and Ireland. Up comes the list of available Historical Record Collections. Scroll down to UK Maritime Births, Marriages and Deaths 1787-1933. Click on that and fill in the resulting search form as best you can depending on how much you know: surname is obviously a must, and if you can include two forenames that could be helpful in identifying a specific person with a commonly-found surname. Choose the type of event – birth, marriage or death – and give a reasonable date parameter.

Testing this facility, I instantly found a relevant record for a death at sea: the ship was on a voyage from SA to UK in the mid-1880s. The first name of the deceased was given as Ellen, though family information gave her name as Helen. Since this person was of Scottish origin, and Ellen and Helen are virtually interchangeable in Scotland, this slight variation is acceptable. The middle initial given on the death record is as it should be and provides confirmation that this is the right person. The year of death, 1885, also fits.

I clicked on the name of the deceased: FamilySearch directed me to an image of the record viewable on a partner site stating that ‘By clicking here you will be leaving (fees and other terms may apply)’. Having a subscription to findmypast I followed the instruction and obtained an image file showing the death listed in the relevant register: as well as age (again confirming identity), cause of death was given, precise day, month and year of death, and name of ship.

'... when we go back to the sea,
we are going back from whence we came ...'

Friday, October 5, 2012

Natal Militia 1910

Under the Natal Militia Act of 1903, the Colony converted its old Volunteer units to Militia Regiments, although enlistment in them continued to be voluntary. For those who did not volunteer the Militia Reserves were designed. This group photograph shows those who attended the Natal Militia General Training Camp in 1910. The photographer was William Watson-Robertson who had a studio in Pietermaritzburg at that time.

Among the notable persons in the group are:
Col Sir Duncan McKenzie, KCMG, Commandant General and on his left, Lieut-Col H Lugg, Intelligence Officer.
On Lugg's left is Lieut-Col J R Royston, DSO, of the Border Mounted Rifles.
Lieut-Col H Watkins-Pitchford, Principal Veterinary Officer, remembered for his book Besieged in Ladysmith, is seated next to Lieut-Col C Henwood of the Natal Mounted Rifles.
Capt 'WAC' Campbell of the Natal Mounted Rifles, Canon G Pennington, Senior Chaplain,
Lieut J G Fannin of the Natal Carbineers, Capt R L Goulding of the Durban Light Infantry,
Capt and Quartermaster Alexander Lyle of the Natal Carbineers ...

The names read like a roll of Natal's colonial families.
Look closely - perhaps YOUR ancestor is among them.
Many of the people shown would have served in the Natal Rebellion of 1906 (Bhambatha Rebellion)
and some also during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.
The photograph, with its diagrammatic key and identification of almost every person in the group, is an unusual survival.

Click to zoom each pic

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Boer War: Ladysmith index

Was your ancestor among the approximately 21 000 people besieged in Ladysmith during the Anglo-Boer War?

At the start of the Siege, troops under Sir George White numbered 572 officers and 12,924 men. In this total there were about 10 000 efficient combatants of the cavalry, artillery, irregulars, Natal volunteers and Naval Brigade. Over and above this were 2 000 civilians, 2 440 blacks, 750 people of mixed race, and 2 470 Indians. The total number of mouths to feed thus numbered over 21 000 - of whom no more than half were fighting men. (These statistics appear in With the Flag to Pretoria; there may be slight variations in other sources.)

Brian Kaighin, a specialist in this phase of the Anglo-Boer War in Natal, has compiled two indexes which are an invaluable aid to anyone researching ancestors (residents) who were among the besieged in Ladysmith, or among the casualties, civilian or military. His databases consist of:

1. An index to those resident in Ladysmith up to 1900: over 16 000 names. Note that this also includes certain people from Dundee and Newcastle, since many of these names have Ladysmith connections. The database is an on-going project and Brian would welcome any additional information on the families mentioned.

2. An index to British Military deaths: over 24000 names covering the whole of the Boer War i.e. those Killed in Action, Died of Wounds, Died of Disease, or natural causes. This list is in addition to the list of residents.

Brian mentions that 'information is taken from the births, death, marriages, deceased estates, regimental museums, War Office releases at the time and a register compiled by a local Ladysmith resident, Wally Hyde, of all Natal Casualties.'

If your ancestor was among the besieged, or died during the Boer War, Brian generously offers look-ups in his indexes, currently at no charge. He is also prepared to do further in-depth research for a small fee. 

UPDATE: Brian's new site is at

Murchison Street, Ladysmith 1899

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Boer War: Winston Churchill capture site

15 November 1899

A detachment of Free Staters demonstrated against the British forces at Colenso on 1 November 1899. From Grobler's Heights they shelled the Colenso garrison at Fort Wylie keeping up the bombardment until the evening of 2 November. On the morning of 3 November the British garrison retired on Estcourt.

On 15 November an armoured train was sent from Estcourt to Frere and beyond to establish how far the line could be used for transporting troops. On the train was Winston Spencer Churchill, war correspondent of the Morning Post. The train reached Frere safely and was proceeding towards Chieveley when an advance party of Boers under Adjutant B van der Merwe heard the train approaching and made preparations for an ambush. Three guns and a pom-pom were placed in position and the Boers lay in wait in pouring rain. About one and a half miles from Frere the Boers were sighted and the train stopped, then began to reverse but on rounding the bend the last truck was derailed, toppling out members of the reconnaissance party and platelayers (some of the latter were badly injured or killed in the derailment). The Boers attacked and fierce fighting ensued. Those of the British who had not been killed were taken prisoner, including Winston Churchill.

On 6 December 1899, a small graveyard was consecrated to those who fell at Chieveley. Over 2 000 troops were present and the Dublin Fusiliers, who with the Durban Light Infantry had borne the brunt of the fight, were the last to march past in honour of their comrades.

The monument shown commemorating the wreck of the armoured train and the capture of Churchill was originally erected in 1917.

Churchill tells the story in his book My Early Life 1874-1908:
...two figures in plain clothes appeared on the line ...'Boers!' My mind retains its impression of these tall figures, full of energy, clad in dark, flapping clothes with slouch, storm-driven hats, poising on their levelled rifles hardly a hundred yards away. I turned again and ran back towards the engine, the two Boers firing as I ran between the metals. Their bullets, sucking to right and left, seemed to miss only by inches. We were in a small cutting with banks about six feet high on either side. I flung myself against the bank of the cutting. It gave no cover. Another glance at the two figures; one was now kneeling to aim. Movement seemed the only chance. Again I darted forward: again two soft kisses sucked in the air; but nothing struck me. This could not endure. I must get out of the cutting ... I jigged to the left and scrambled up the bank ...I got through the wire fence unhurt. Outside the cutting was a tiny depression. I crouched in this, struggling to get my breath again. Fifty yards away was a small platelayer's cabin of masonry: there was cover there. About 200 yards away was the rocky gorge of the Blue Krantz River; there was plenty of cover there. I determined to make a dash for the river. I rose to my feet. Suddenly on the other side of the railway ... I saw a horseman galloping furiously, a tall, dark figure, holding his rifle in his right hand. He pulled up his horse almost in its own length and shaking the rifle at me shouted a loud command. We were forty yards apart. That morning I had taken with me, Correspondent-status notwithstanding, my Mauser pistol. I thought I could kill this man, and after the treatment I had received I earnestly desired to do so. I put my hand to my belt, the pistol was not there. When engaged in clearing the line, getting in and out of the engine etc, I had taken it off ... I was quite unarmed. Meanwhile ...the Boer horseman still seated on his horse and covered me with his rifle. The animal stood stock still, so did he. I looked towards the river, I looked towards the platelayer's hut. The Boer continued to look along his sights, if he fired he would surely hit me, so I held up my hands and surrendered myself a prisoner of war. 
'When one is alone and unarmed,' said the great Napoleon ...'a surrender may be pardoned.' ... my captor lowered his rifle and beckoned to me to come across to him. I obeyed. I walked through the wire fences and across the line and stood by his side. He sprang off his horse and began firing in the direction of the bridge upon the retreating engine and a few straggling British figures. ... when the last had disappeared he re-mounted and at his side I tramped back towards the spot where I had left Captain Haldane and his company ... They were already prisoners ... We continued to plod on until we reached the general gang of prisoners and found ourselves speedily in the midst of many hundreds of mounted Boers who streamed into view, in long columns of twos and threes, many holding umbrellas over their heads in the pouring rain. 
It was not until three years later, when the Boer Generals visited England to ask for some loan or assistance on behalf of their devastated country, that I was introduced at a private luncheon to their leader, General Botha. We talked of the war and I briefly told the story of my capture. Botha listened in silence; then he said, 'Don't you recognise me? I was that man. It was I who took you prisoner. I, myself,' and his bright eyes twinkled with pleasure. Botha in white shirt and frock-coat looked very different in all save size and darkness of complexion from the wild war-time figure I had seen that rough day in Natal. But about the extraordinary fact there can be no doubt. He had entered upon the invasion of Natal as a burgher; his own disapproval of the war had excluded him from any high command at its outset. This was his first action. But as a simple private burgher serving in the ranks he had galloped on ahead and in front of the whole Boer forces in the ardour of pursuit. Thus we met.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Boer War: Medical Corps

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps (NVMC) were the two main units in charge of the wounded in the Natal field.

Indian stretcher bearers
The Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps was supplemented by the Natal Indian Volunteer Ambulance Corps performing essential duties in retrieving the wounded from the field. The Indian unit (about 1100 strong) was one of two raised and commanded by Mohandas K Gandhi - the Volunteer Ambulance Corps in 1899 followed by in 1906 the Indian Stretcher Bearer Corps.

The British Red Cross Society and St John's Ambulance also played a part in the treatment of British military and civilian casualties.

For further detail on all the above see

Royal Army Medical Corps:

Natal Volunteer Medical Corps:

RAMC memorial, Intombi, Ladysmith

RAMC memorial, Intombi, Ladysmith