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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

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