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Saturday, 15 February 2003
1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Contents
Topic: BW - Tas - 1TIB

1st TIB 

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen





1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Outline


Bufton Account

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Bufton Account, Part 1 

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Bufton Account, Part 2


Photograph Albums

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen Album

Lieutenant Bisdee, VC, Snapshots on the Field


Nominal Roll

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Nominal Roll



Roll of Honour

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Roll of Honour 

Lest we forget


Further Reading:

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Roll of Honour 

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 7 July 2011 8:32 AM EADT
Friday, 14 February 2003
1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Outline
Topic: BW - Tas - 1TIB

1st TIB 

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen



Map illustrating the activities of the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen in South Africa, 1900.

[From: Chamberlain, M., The Australians in the South African War 1899-1902, Canberra, 1999.]


In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray, produced a marvellous Boer War reference detailing all the contingents sent from Australia to South Africa, giving a brief history of the formation and finally, listing all the soldiers who saw service in South Africa with that unit. The book was called, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. It is now the standard reference and starting place for any person interested in pursuing information about Australian involvement in the Boer War.

Murray, P. L., Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, pp. 555 - 558.


Third (First Tasmanian Imperial) Contingent.

Paid by the Imperial Government; the Tasmanian Government acting as agents. This was a corps, consisting of one Squadron of Imperial Bushmen, of the same character as those already specified. For pay, equipment, qualification for enrolment, etc., see New South Wales Imperial Bushmen. The engagement was for twelve months or the duration of the war. This Contingent gained the unique distinction of having won two Victoria Crosses.

Establishment was:-

1 Captain,

4 Subalterns,

1 Sergeant-Major,

1 Quartermaster Sergeant,

5 Sergeants,

1 Farrier-Sergeant,

2 Buglers,

107 rank and file.

Departure and Return

The Contingent left on 26th April, 1900, consisting of - 5 officers, 117 others, with 133 horses. Two officers, 4 others, died or were killed; 2 officers, 20 others were struck off in South Africa; 1 officer, 1 N.C.O. were commissioned in the Imperial Army; 4 officers were promoted from the ranks; 4 officers, 88 others returned.

Promotions, etc.

Lieutenant A. A. Sale, to Captain, February, 1901.

Lieutenant G. G. E. Wylly, VC, received an Imperial Commission.

Lance-Corporal G. A. Douglas received an Imperial Commission.

Trooper J. P. Egan was commissioned in South African Field Force.

Corporal L. S. E. Page, promoted Lieutenant, 6th December, 1900.

Corporal R. L. Williams, promoted Lieutenant, 8th February, 1901.

Sergeant A. Stocker, promoted Lieutenant, 10th April, 1901.

Sergeant H. R. Reynolds, promoted Lieutenant, 12th April, 1901.

Sergeant G. Shaw, promoted Lieutenant in 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen's

Trooper L. H. Laughton, promoted Lieutenant in 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen's Contingent.

Trooper W. K. Barwise, promoted Lieutenant, "E" Company, 1st Australian Commonwealth Horse.

Sergeant E. W. Stephens, Promoted Lieutenant, "C" Squadron, 8th Australian Commonwealth Horse.

For promotions of N.C.O.'s and men, vide nominal roll.


Embarked at Hobart on the troopship Manhattan on 26th April, 1900; arrived at Beira on 28th May, and proceeded to Durban, arriving on 3rd June. From thence the troops, which included the 4th South Australians and the 4th Western Australians, were sent to Port Elisabeth, where they disembarked on 19th June. These three Contingents formed together the corps known as the 4th Imperial Bushmen, under Lieut: Colonel J. Rowell, of South Australia.

About the middle of June, operations were commenced encircling the Boers who were in the Wittebergen or Brandwater Basin; a mountain stronghold in the North-East Orange River Colony. Rundle, with the VIII. Division, and Brabant, with the South African Colonial Division, were holding the line from the Senekal eastwards to the Basutoland border. Clement. and Paget, on the middle frontier west, were about Lindley, the south-west point of the Boor strong hold. These masses of men either could not live, or were not allowed to live, in the country; hence huge convoys of supplies wets required to be sent from the railway.

On 23rd June a very large convoy left Kroonstadt for General Paget's Force at Lindley. The escort was commanded by Colonel Brookfield, 14th Imperial Yeomanry, and consisted of 200 of that corps, 114 other Yeomanry, 900 Imperial Bushmen (namely, two Squadrons South Australians, one Squadron Western Australian, and one Squadron Tasmanians), 27 of Rimington's Guides, 98 Prince Alfred's Guards, 2 guns 17th Royal Field Artillery, 4 guns City Imperial Volunteer Battery, half-battalion of Yorkshire Light Infantry, and the 3rd East Kent (Buffs) Militia. The Australians were considered as one Regiment, under Colonel Rowell.

On the morning of the 26th June, Theron's scouts suddenly attacked the convoy near Eland's Spruit, but they were driven off. In the afternoon, near Swartz Farm, Piet De Wet attacked. The Australians were ordered to dismount, and advancing with great dash, the enemy was again driven off. On the 27th, the convoy marched 18 miles; the assort being engaged practically all day. Near Lindley, the traction engines stuck in the spruit. The 4th were the rearguard, and were hotly preened by the enemy who endeavoured to cut o$ the Tasmanians forming the rear screen, but the City Imperial Volunteer Battery did good work; and Colonel Brookfield, having sent fresh Squadrons to Colonel Rowan's assistance, he was able to keep the Boots of the convoy.

Next day Lindley was reached. In a despatch to General Kelly-Kenny, commanding in the Orange River Colony, the Chief of the Staff said that Lord Roberts was of opinion that the convoy had been conducted with skill and foresight, that no precautions were neglected, and that the behaviour of the troops was creditable to all ranks. "His Lordship is glad to observe that, besides the regular troops employed, the Militia Battalion, the Corps of Imperial Bushmen, the Imperial Yeomanry and the City Imperial Volunteers, distinguished themselves on this occasion."

Colonel Brookfield and most of his troops now joined General Paget's command. After doing some work about the Bethlehem-Winburg district, they formed part of the escort which took the Boer prisoners from Wittebergen to the railway. On the 14th august, the Contingent entrained for Pretoria; and, on the 18th, they marched past Lord Roberts, who was very complimentary. On the same day they marched out to join General Paget, under whom they were during the next three months, to see hard marching and still fighting. "We were constantly under the fire of the enemy; pretty well every day brought its contribution of experience in the shape of small engagements." (On the Veldt, by Captain R. C. Lewis, Hobart, 1902).

On 20th August, the Contingent was put into the Mounted Brigade of Colonel Hickman, under whom they acted, until he left the Column in December. He almost invariably asked them to act as his advanced guard when he expected to fight the enemy. On the 1st September, 20 men of the Squadron, under Lieutenant G. G. E. Wylly, went out after cattle; they were surrounded and retired with difficulty. Trooper Brown was killed, and Lieutenant Wylly and four others were wounded.

It was on this day that Lieutenant Wylly and Trooper J. H. Bisdee both earned the Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Wylly's conduct was thus officially recorded: "Although wounded, this officer, seeing that one of his men was badly wounded in the leg and that his horse was shot went back to the man's assistance, made him take his (Wylly's) horse, and opened fire from behind a rock to cover the retreat of the others, at the imminent risk of being cut off himself."- (London Gazette, 13th November 1900). Colonel T. E. Hickman. D.S.O., considered that "the gallant conduct of Lieutenant Wylly saved Corporal Brown from being killed or captured; and that his subsequent firing to cover the retreat, was instruments in saving the other men from death or capture." Lieutenant Wylly subsequently obtained a commission in the South Lancashire Regiment, and was wounded on the night of the 7th January, 1901, when the Boers fiercely attacked the posts on the railway about Belfast. He was appointed an aide-de-camp to Lord Kitchener.
Bisdee's achievement is recorded as follows:- "On the 1st September, Private Bisdee was one of an advanced scouting party, passing through a rocky defile near Warmbad, Transvaal. The enemy, who were in ambuscade, opened a sudden fire at close range; and six out of the party of eight were hit, including two officers. The home of one of the wounded officers broke away and bolted. Private Bisdee gave the officer his stirrup-leather to help him out of action; but finding that the officer was too badly wounded to go on, he dismounted, placed him on his horse, mounted behind him, and conveyed him out of range. This act was performed under a very hot fire and in a very exposed place." – (London Gazette, 13th November, 1900.)

On 4th November, the South Australians and Western Australians joined Colonel Hickman, and the Regiment was together again. At Rhenoster Kop, 29th, the Tasmanians were escort to the guns. In December, Captain Lewis was invalided with enteric, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Sale, under whom the Squadron, much reduced in numbers, took a prominent part in the pursuit of De Wet, through and out of Cape Colony. Captain Lewis rejoined before the march to Pietersburg took place. After the town was occupied (8th April, 1901), the Tasmanian being the first to enter, Captain Bale, with a small troop galloped to a ridge beyond ; he was shot by a Boer concealed in the long grass, a few paces to the left; and Lieutenant Walter, going to his assistance was mortally wounded.

On 25th April, Sergeant Stocker gained great distinction for his share in the capture of 35 prisoners. In May, the Squadron operated under General Plumer, through the Eastern Transvaal to Bethel and Piet Retief.

Operations, and Corps or Columns served with, may be summarised thus: Operations Eastern Orange Free State, including actions at Lindley,

Bethlehem, Twin Hills, and Slabbert's Nek, under General Paget.

Present at capture of Prinsloo's laager.

Operations in North-East Transvaal, around Sybrant's Kraal, Warmbad,

Nylstroom, Rhenoster Kop (29th November, 1900), under General Paget. Operations in Western Transvaal, Rustenburg, Scion's River.

Operations in Cape Colony, commencing February, 1901, to check De Wet's raid, under General Plumer.

With General Plumer to Pietersburg, April, 1901.

The Squadron embarked in the transport Britannic at But London on 7th July, 1901, and arrived in Tasmania on 5th August ; having visited on rouse Albany, Adelaide, and Melbourne. Disbanded 14th August.

War Service and Honours.

Lewis, Captain R. C. - Operation east of Orange River Colony North-East Transvaal, Western Transvaal, and Cape Colony, between June, 1900, and June, 1901, including actions at Lindley, Bethlehem, Twin Hills, Slabbert's Nek, Wittebergen, Sybrant's Kraal, Warmbad, Nylstroom, and Rhenoster Kop. Despatches, London Gazette, 16th April, 1901. D.S.O. Queen's Medal with three clasps.
Perkins, Lieutenant R.-Operations and actions as stated. Despatches, London Gazette, 16th April, 1901. D.S.O. Queen's Medal with three clasps.

Wylly, Lieutenant G. G. E.-Operation and actions as stated. Despatches, London Gazette, 13th November, 1900. VA. Queen's Medal with three clasps

Safe, Captain A. A.-Operation and actions as stated. Mentioned in Commander-in-Chiefe's Despatches, 8th March, 1901. Killed in action at Pietersburg, 9th April, 1901.

Walter, Lieutenant C. H. - Operation and actions se stated. Killed in action at Pietersburg, 9th April, 1901.

Page, L. S. E., Williams, R. L., Sleeker, A., and Reynolds, H. R. (Lieutenants.) Operations and actions generally as stated. Queen's Medal with three clasps.

Lieuts. Page and Williams returned to South Africa in October, 1901, and were commissioned in the Cape Colony Field Force.



Further Reading:

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Roll of Honour 

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Outline

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 5 July 2011 9:13 AM EADT
Thursday, 13 February 2003
1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Nominal Roll
Topic: BW - Tas - 1TIB

1st TIB 

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

Nominal Roll


In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray, produced a marvellous Boer War reference detailing all the contingents sent from Australia to South Africa, giving a brief history of the formation and finally, listing all the soldiers who saw service in South Africa with that unit. The book was called, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. It is now the standard reference and starting place for any person interested in pursuing information about Australian involvement in the Boer War.

Murray, P. L., Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, pp. 558 - 560.

Note: Each link leads to a photograph of the soldier contained in the:

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen Album


1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen


16 Trooper Angus Robert ADAMS


28 Trooper William Kenyon BARWISE

18 Trooper Ernest Amos BELLETTE

25 Trooper William BERWICK

24 Trooper John Hutton BISDEE

17 Trooper Henry BLACKABY

31 Trooper Daniel William BOSTOCK

22 Trooper William John Colin BREWER

27 Trooper Walter McIntosh BRIDLEY

19 Trooper Albert Melton BROWN

11 Corporal Edward Stanley BROWN

30 Trooper Godfrey Hugh BROWN

20 Trooper Eric Lindsay Douglas BROWNELL

21 Trooper Lewis Berkley BRUMBY

26 Trooper Allan Thomas BULL

29 Trooper Leslie Douglas BURBURY

23 Trooper Louis George BUTCHER


25 Trooper William James CAMPBELL

28 Trooper Alfred Victor CHESTER

26 Trooper Peter CLARK

33 Trooper James CLIFF

F. Cook, did not embark.

29 Trooper Joseph COOPER

27 Trooper Albert Edward COSTELLO

2 Sergeant William CRACKNELL

34 Trooper Reginald Calder CRAWFORD

40 Trooper Edward Barclay CROSBY


42 Trooper Frank D'ALTON

41 Trooper Herbert Frank DAVIS

43 Trooper William Walter DAVIS

44 Trooper William James DAWES

46 Trooper Gordon Adye DOUGLAS

45 Trooper James DUDFIELD


47 Trooper William Lawrence EDDY

48 Trooper James Patrick EGAN


50 Trooper Benjamin Thomas FERGUSSON

51 Trooper Albert Alexander Crossley FIRTH

49 Trooper Percy James FLEMING


55 Trooper Arthur Joseph GARDINER

56 Trooper Edgar Albert GARROTT

F. Gatenby, did not embark.

53 Trooper Leslie Harry GEERES

54 Trooper James GERRAND

60 Trooper Denis GLEESON

58 Trooper Richard GREEN

59 Trooper James GRIFFIN

52 Trooper Francis Arthur GROOM

57 Trooper Robert William GUEST


65 Trooper Albert Xavier HAIZ

66 Trooper Henry William Vere HAMILTON

63 Trooper Edward Francis HARRADINE

61 Trooper Albert Ernest HAYS

62 Trooper Lewis Arthur HERBERT

64 Trooper Charles HEYNE

68 Trooper Walter Frank Cecil HODGKINSON

67 Trooper Robert HUMPHREYS

69 Trooper Leonard HUTTON


70 Trooper Henry Gabriel ITCHINS


73 Trooper Charles Albert JACKSON

72 Trooper Alfred JOHNSON

71 Trooper Clarence Albert James JOHNSTONE


75 Trooper William KENWORTHY

74 Trooper Peter KEOGH

76 Trooper Charles George KING


79 Trooper Louis Horace LAUGHTON

80 Trooper William LAWFORD

78 Trooper Owen Effingham LAWRENCE

12 Corporal Harold Joseph LESTER

81 Trooper Louis Francis John LETTE

Captain Richard Charles LEWIS

77 Trooper Arthur Frederick LITCHFIELD

83 Trooper Mervyn James LITTLEJOHN

82 Trooper Darcy LUTTRELL


89 Trooper Trevor Ellis MACE

90 Trooper William Alfred MAGUIRE

85 Trooper William MCCLELLAND

88 Trooper Andrew MCGUILLAN

87 Trooper Percy Douglas MCLAREN

86 Trooper Albert Arthur MCLEOD

84 Trooper Robert MUCKLE


5 Sergeant Arthur William NETTLEFOLD


91 Trooper Sydney Robert O'MAY


9 Corporal Louis Sydney Eccles PAGE

Lieutenant Raymond PERKINS

92 Trooper William George PILSBURY


10 Corporal Hubert Ross REYNOLDS

93 Trooper Edward John RYE


Second Lieutenant Arthur Arnold SALE

4 Sergeant George SHAW

7 Farrier Sergeant James SHAW

117 Trumpeter Sergeant Major William Lowry SHEGOG

94 Trooper James Robert SHIELDS

T. Shore, did not embark.

97 Trooper Arthur Whitfield SIMPSON

95 Trooper Charles SIMPSON

96 Trooper Walter John SIMPSON

98 Trooper Harold SKINNER

99 Trooper Norman Banks SMITH

102 Trooper Archie STOCKER

101 Trooper Cameron Richard STOREY

3 Sergeant Edward Williams STEPHENS

8 Corporal Joseph STEPNELL

6 Sergeant Mervyn Alfred SUMMERS


103 Trooper George Ernest TAYLOR

1 Quartermaster Sergeant Percy James TOWNLEY

15 Trumpeter Charles Arthur TURNER


104 Trooper Arthur Edward VINEY


114 Trooper William Isaac WADLEY

100 Trooper George WALKER

Second Lieutenant Crosswell Herbert WALTER

116 Trooper George Albert WALTERS

32 Trooper Thomas WALTON

107 Trooper Kenny WARD

14 Trumpeter William Henry WARD

108 Trooper Gustav Henry WEBER

115 Trooper Charles Walter WESTBROOK

113 Trooper William Patrick WHELAN

111 Trooper George WHITE

109 Trooper John William WHITMORE

106 Trooper Herbert Mouat WILLIAMS

13 Corporal Robert Llewellyn WILLIAMS

112 Trooper Samuel WILLOUGHBY

105 Trooper Andrew WRIGHT

110 Trooper Robert Oliver WYATT

Lieutenant Guy George Egerton WYLLY



Further Reading:

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Roll of Honour 

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Nominal Roll

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Wednesday, 6 July 2011 11:07 PM EADT
Wednesday, 12 February 2003
Boer War, 1899 - 1902, Australian Forces, 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
Topic: BW - Tas - 1TIB

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Australian Forces

Roll of Honour

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra


The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men known to have served at one time with the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen and gave their lives in service of Australia, whether as part of the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen or another unit during the Boer War.


Roll of Honour


Geoffrey Hugh BROWN


Louis Frances John LETTE




Arthur Arnold SALE


William Isaac WADLEY

Crosswell Herbert WALTER


Lest we forget


Further Reading:

1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

Boer War, 1899 - 1902

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Boer War, 1899 - 1902, Australian Forces, 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Monday, 29 October 2012 9:31 AM EADT
Tuesday, 11 February 2003
Our War Letters, Town and Country Journal, 23 December 1899
Topic: BW - Boer War

Our War Letters

The Town and Country Journal, 23 December 1899


The Imperial Light Horse detachment that fought at Elands Laagte.

[From: The Town and Country Journal, 23 December 1899, p. 21.]


The following piece is an extract from The Town and Country Journal, 23 December 1899, pp. 21 - 22.









ESTCOURT, November 10. - After seventeen days of weary waiting, in absolute ignorance of the happenings In South Africa, we are at last at Durban - picturesque, easy-going Durban, with its semi-Oriental population, its rickshas, and its debilitating fever-laden heat. Not alongside, though, for all the wharfage accommodation is required for her Majesty's service, and nothing so commonplace as a merchantman or a mere passenger ship can obtain a berth for love or money.

In vain did our genial captain implore, cajole, fume, and storm in turn. Even the promise to evacuate the berth the moment it should be required by the Imperial authorities availed him nothing, for Durban is in the hands of naval and military potentates, and martial law is as immutable as the law of the Medes and Persians. It is no game of bluff this time. Riding at anchor, the Terrible, the Forte, the Thetis, and the Spartan, (the latter converted into a hospital ship) are pitching lazily in the open roadstead about a mile distant, and almost abreast of the Bluff lighthouse, their pennants streaming, and the good old flags flapping lazily astern. Plying to and from Capetown are others of H. M. ships conveying wounded and prisoners, and stores and forage for the troops that are sadly needed, and will arrive when that tardy machine - the British War Office - commences to work in earnest. We signal for a tug, but the ball is up at the semaphore at the Bluff, and our flags seem likely to blow to shreds before our request is complied with.

At last, after two hours' pitching and plunging, the Natal, a well-found Government tug, is seen crossing the bar, over which the white-crested breakers are tumbling in the sunlight. It is alongside, and we are dumped overboard in the basket that takes ten at a trip, and will comfortably hold about half that number. Her head is turned away from the good ship Wilcannia, which has carried us so comfortably, albeit so slowly, from Australia.

A ringing cheer for the captain and officers, and the few passengers left to continue the journey and we steam shorewards. "'Got to wait for the call," snaps the Natal's skipper when we mildly suggest that we are not on a yachting cruise – and wait for a call it is, the little craft gaily bobbing about the while off the Bluff like a bladder in an artesian bore. At last the call drops, and making a graceful curve to the south'ard, we run straight for the narrow opening between the wooden break-waters. A squish, a plunge, and an equilibrium-destroying bump, and we are inside and moored in a twinkling. After the elements, we have to settle with the Customs. Firearms have to be registered and stamped, cameras, saddles, etc., passed and paid for. Then hey for a gliding, exquisitely comfortable ricksha, and a cool, fresh shower before a tardy lunch. At the port are more signs of the despotic reign of the War Minister. Kaffir boys are howling and croning over iron-bound cases of ammunition, blue jackets are superintending the transit of stores, and everywhere, blended with the gay colouring of native dress, the horned and bewinged - ricksha "boys" and the white turbaned coolies, is seen the quiet-toned, business-like khaki uniforms of officers and men shouting orders and hurrying to and fro.

Thanks to that confounded call, we just missed a eight worth seeing, the significance of which will strike everyone, An hour before .we landed a company of 250 gunners and bluejackets from the battleships had rattled through the town, accompanied by no fewer than 35 guns, 18, 12-pounders, four 4.7 in 46-founders, one 9-pounder; one 9 pounder, two Nordenfeldts, and nine Maxims. There were four bullock - wagons with big guns and ammunition, and one waggon with the carriage of the biggest gun, which was carried in a trolley. These were followed by 13 trolleys of ammunition, with a gun trailing behind. The procession extended fully a mile, and marched to the inspiriting strains of the band from H.M.S. Terrible, which was stationed at the Town Hall. The guns were mounted on the hills at Berea, the fashionable suburb, and along the way to Umbilo, while others were sent by rail to Umgeni. In fact, Captain Scott, of the Terrible, who has succeeded Colonel Bethune as commandant of the port, has made arrangements to command the whole line from Tugela Drift downwards, a this would be the probable route of raiding Boers.

That the occupation of Natal was the enemy's original intention they now make no secret of. And had they started hostilities about a week before they did they would have done it. It was a fine strategic move, it would have carried the brunt of the fighting beyond their own territory, and to have dislodged them we should have been compelled to destroy Maritzburg. That they did not do so was no fault of ours.

On arrival at the hotel we received the first authentic account of the fighting that had taken place while we were on the water - how there
had been some very hard fighting; how two whole British regiments had disappeared; how the force 22,000 had been driven from Glencoe, leaving numbers of horses and enough provisions for 20,000 men for months; and how the Gordons and the Imperial Light Horse wiped out Majuba at Elands Laagte; all of which, of course, you know.

Owing to she very strict censorship of all press messages, the people of Durban were perhaps kept in more complete ignorance of the details of the fighting than were the people in Australia. For every press message was subjected to the closest scrutiny, and even letters were opened if it were suspected that they contained details of the war. No cypher code was allowed to be used across the Natal telegraph lines, and even code addresses were prohibited. Everything was absolutely under Control of the military.

Natives were all expected to be out of the streets by 9, when all the public houses closed, and any European out after 11 who could not give a satisfactory account of himself got into serious trouble. The inspired cable messages were of the most meagre description, and the authorities were absolutely dumb. One thing, however, was certain. The Boers had completely surrounded Ladysmith, and had cut White's force off completely.

The nearest point to the fighting it was possible to get at present was Estcourt, and to Estcourt, as fast an the train would carry me, I accordingly went. Here was stationed a force of about 3,000 men, eagerly awaiting reinforcements to relieve Ladysmith, and General Gatacre was expected in about four days. Everything was quiet when I arrived, but shortly after a prolonged cannonading could be heard further up the line.

The voice of "Long Tom" could be distinctly heard, answered by the deeper boom of the 54-pounder from the Powerful, which, after fruitless attempts to mount it on sleepers, had at last been accommodated with a concrete bed. The firing was continuous for some hours, and it was estimated that a big artillery duel bard been fought.

A somewhat startling development was reported to have occurred the other day. A young lady, a, leader of fashion, in Maritzburg, and the daughter of a Boer millionaire, was said to have been arrested with dispatches for the enemy concealed about her. And it is whispered that during the season several Boer ladies had held open house in the Natal capital, which is a favourite holiday resort for the burghers, and had pumped our gallant officers to their hearts' content. This, however, is mere rumour. It is anticipated that little will be done before General Gatacre arrives, when one of the bloodiest battles ever seen in Africa will probably take place.

(Evidently at the last General Buller decided to go to Natal himself, instead of sending General Gatacre. Ed.)

Further Reading:

Boer War, 1899 - 1902 

South African (Second Boer) War, 1899 - 1902, Australian Forces, Roll of Honour 

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Our War Letters, Town and Country Journal, 23 December 1899

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 27 April 2010 11:10 AM EADT

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