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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

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WARNING: This site contains: names, information and images of deceased people; and, language which may be considered inappropriate today.

Friday, 28 November 2003
1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles, Organising the Men from Yass, Letter, 9 January 1900
Topic: BW - NSW - 1NSWMR

1st NSWMR 

1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles

Organising the Men from Yass

 

Letter from Lieutenant J. Howard requesting Rail Passes.

 

The following series of letters, telegrams and orders illustrates the work that went on behind the scenes to provide three men from Yass for the 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles Contingent that embarked for South Africa on 17 January 1900. The correspondence indicates that it almost did not happen.

 

Letter from Lieutenant J. Howard requesting Rail Passes.

Yass, 9th January 1900

From the
Officer Commanding "F" Company
To the
Officer Commanding 1st Infantry Regiment

Subject: Railway Passes, application for.

Sir,

I have the honour to apply for a Railway Pass for four men to proceed to Sydney and report themselves for the Third Contingent.

These men reported themselves before and were told off to the Third Contingent, but having business to transact in Yass, Major Knight gave them permission to leave and told them they could come down again later on.

They intend leaving here on Friday night.

I have the honour to be Sir your most Obedient Servant,
Lieutenant JW Howard
Commanding "F" Company, 1st Infantry Regiment.

 

John William Howard, Biography

John William Howard. Born 24 May 1857. Appointed Second Lieutenant  with the 1st Infantry Regiment 12 June 1893. Promoted to Lieutenant and appointed Officer Commanding "F" Company (Yass), 1st Infantry Regiment, 18 November 1895. Passed exam for promotion to Captain at Infantry School, 1900 and promoted to Captain, 1 October 1900. He was placed on the Unattached List 9 February 1904 and then the Reserve of Officers, 10 December 1912.

 

The response from Major WJN Oldershaw

Officer Commanding "F" Company

Furnish names! How can the matter be dealt with when we do not know the names?

Major WJN Oldershaw
Commander, 1st Infantry Regiment.
12 January 1900

 

William James Norman Oldershaw

 

William James Norman Oldershaw, Biography

William James Norman Oldershaw. Born in South Melbourne, 24 April 1856 and educated at Wesley College. Served in the Victorian Voluntary Artillery from 7 February 1877 to 1 January 1884. In that time he was promoted to Lieutenant on 31 July 1881. Transferred to New South Wales and appointed Second Lieutenant with the 1st Infantry Regiment on 22 February 1886. He remained with the 1st Infantry Regiment to be promoted to Lieutenant 15 November 1888, Captain 1 July 1893, Major 3 December 1898 and Lieutenant Colonel 1 January 1900. During this time he was also heavily involved in shooting. He won the Queens Prize in Melbourne, then the chairman of the National Rifle Association of New South Wales (1903-1905), and captained the Australian rifle team which won the Kolapore Cup at Bisley in 1903. He was placed on the Unattached List 1 September 1905 and then the Reserve of Officers, 21 October 1907. He retired on 31 March 1913 with the title of Honorary Colonel. During the Great War was appointed Sugar Commissioner. On 18 March 1918 he was awarded the honour as a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE). He died in London on 17 October 1926.

 

Since Lieutenant Howard had not received word from Major Oldershaw regarding the passes, he despatched a Telegram on 12 January 1900.

 

Lieutenant Howard's Telegram, 12 January 1900.

 

Lieutenant Howard's Telegram, 12 January 1900.

Telegram from Yass Station.

Addressed to the Adjutant, 1st Infantry Regiment, Victoria Barracks, Paddington, 11.34, 12 January 1900.

Please wire reply to my two letters re passes for Comapny and passes for men leaving active service tonight.

JW Howard, Lieutenant, WX7.

 

The response was rather confounding as the men were about to depart as their ship was due to embark in five days.

 

Major Oldershaw's response, 12 January 1900

 

Major Oldershaw's response, 12 January 1900

Telegram to Yass Station.

Addressed to the Officer Commanding "F" Company, 1st Infantry Regiment.

No authority to issue passes for Company to visit Sydney. The men for Third Contingent may wait as there is no hurry.

WJN Oldershaw
12 January 1900.

 

The men departed with Railway Return Tickets and embarked for South Africa on Active Service.

The following information was sent by Lieutenant Howard in response to Major Oldershaw's request of 12 January 1900 for the names.

 

List of Rail Pass Holders

 

Response from Lieutenant J. Howard regarding Rail Passes.

Return of men to whom Railway Return Tickets were issued, in order to proceed to Sydney for examination for Active Service.

        Regt. No.  Rank   Name
        266  Corporal   Tonkin, CJ
        158  Private   Murphy, WH
        210  Private   Jones, C
        816  Private   Mote, FA

Those from the list who embarked to South Africa for Active Service were:

281 Private Charles John TONKIN, "D" Squadron, 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, Murray p. 69. He was wounded at the Zand River and invalided back to Australia, arriving on 15 September 1900. At the conclusion of his service, he was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with two clasps: Driefontein, and Cape Colony.  (Brother of Francis Henry TONKIN.)

70 Private William Henry MURPHY, "E" Squadron, 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, Murray p. 40. He saw 15 month's service in South Africa. At the conclusion of his service, he was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with four clasps: Johannesberg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen and Cape Colony.  During the Great War, he enlisted for service in the AIF and embarked as 53 Sergeant William Henry MURPHY with "A" Squadron, 12th Light Horse Regiment.

325 Private Collin JONES, "C" Squadron, 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, Murray p. 66. After completing his contract for service with 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, he re-enlisted in South Africa with the 3rd New South Wales Imperial Bushmen. At the conclusion of his service, he was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with five clasps: Driefontein, Johannesberg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen and Cape Colony. Additionally, he was awarded the King's South African Medal with two clasps.

And one who did not see Active Service:

Frederick Arthur MOTE.

 

Promotions to fill the vacancy, 22 January 1900.

 

Notification of the Promotions, 22 January 1900. 

 

Yass, 22 January 1900
From the Officer Commanding "F" Company
To the Officer Commanding 1st Infantry Regiment

Subject: Promotions, Temporary

Sir, In accordance with Routine Order No. 2 of 1900, I have the honor to submit the names of the following for promotion to the ranks set against their names:

No. 261 Corporal Curl, CH, to be Lance Sergeant vice Tonkin, FH;
No. 668 Private Fairley N to be Corporal vice Curl CH;
No. 836 Private Edwards AA to be Corporal vice Tonkin CJ;
No. 161 Private Burgess ML to be Lance Corporal vice Brewer MC, resigned.

Lance Sergeant Tonkin FH and Corporal Tonkin CJ are absent on Active Service.

I have the honour to be Sir your most Obedient Servant,
Lieutenant JW Howard
Commanding "F" Company, 1st Infantry Regiment.

 

402 Private Francis Henry TONKIN, "D" Squadron, 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, Murray p. 69. He was wounded at the Zand River and invalided back to Australia, arriving on 6 August 1900. At the conclusion of his service, he was awarded the Queen's South African Medal with two clasps: Driefontein, and Cape Colony.  (Brother of Charles John TONKIN.)

 

This exchange indicates the difficulty that was faced in organising an enterprise such as a Regiment of mounted men for Active Service in South Africa. Every name is a story and every story needed to be set into the context of the larger enterprise. This chain of correspondence was replicated many times over during the Boer War campaign. 

 

Further Reading:

1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles

1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles, Roll of Honour

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles, Organising the Men from Yass, Letter, 9 January 1900

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 10 May 2010 11:46 AM EADT

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