South African Military History 


Newsletter No 63 December/Nuusbrief Nr 63 Desember 2009

SAMHSEC's 9 November 2009 meeting opened with The Act of Remembrance. Richard Tomlinson then continued his series on British fortifications of the Anglo-Boer War with the masonry blockhouses which he has termed the Orange River Octagonal Pattern. This sophisticated design is 3-storeyed and 7.7m square overall with the corners cut off, thus nearly 50% larger than the Standard Pattern. The 1st floor entrance is reached by a fixed steel stair, with gantry hoist by the door to help loading stores and a steel-shuttered window offset in each of the other 3 walls. The 2nd floor is enclosed all round, but has similar windows in the centre of each wall leading onto steel machicouli galleries. The building is covered with a shallow-pitched corrugated roof which rises with 8 hips to a central ventilated cupola. The example measured at Riversford, 40 km south of Bloemfontein, was restored in 1997, but damaged by a storm in 2008. One of two defending the bridge at Norval's Pont has survived as a residence.

The curtain raiser by Ian Pringle was on the Grey High School War Memorial, which was dedicated on 10 March 1948 by Field Marshall Smuts in memory of the 184 Old Greys who died in both World Wars. The Grey High School was founded 1856 and moved to its present campus in Mill Park, Port Elizabeth in 1915. The War Memorial is in the main building quadrangle. The names of 680 Old Greys who served in The Great War and the 82 units in which they served are recorded on 6 panels in the school hall. Fifty five died on active service. The need for a War Memorial was expressed by Rector William Archer Way in January 1919 as follows "It is up to us for whom these have suffered to see that their sacrifice has not been in vain and that their memory is kept green, not only by a permanent memorial to be erected in The Grey itself, but by resolving each for himself that he will do his best to make the school and later the city and nation something the better in imitation of their splendid example". Poppies and wheat are planted in front of the Memorial, so that poppies are blooming during the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony on 11 November.

Malcolm Kinghorn's main lecture was on The Queen's Scarves. Queen Victoria crocheted eight scarves during the Anglo-Boer War for presentation to four regular and four colonial forces soldiers. The scarves are approximately 1,5 metres long and 25 cms wide. There is a 10 cms long tasselled fringe on each end. The Queen's monogram is embroidered in red silk on one corner. She sent the scarves to Lord Roberts prior to his departure for South Africa. Roberts recorded "Her Majesty Queen Victoria was graciously pleased to send me woollen scarves worked by herself for distribution to distinguished private soldiers serving under my command". Recipient selection for these Gifts of Honour was to be by officers commanding, it being understood that gallant conduct in the field for which no other recognition had been awarded was the primary consideration.

Regular Forces recipients: Colour Sgt Clay, East Surrey Regt, is mentioned in the Regimental History as having been wounded at Colenso and again at Vaalkrantz. His scarf is in the Regimental Museum in Dover. Colour Sgt Colclough, Devonshire Regt, was selected as a recipient by his battalion commander from 8 candidates nominated by fellow soldiers. After the war, he emigrated to Canada & served in the Canadian Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. His scarf is in the Manitoba Museum. Colour Sgt Ferret, West Surrey Regt, is mentioned in the Regimental History as having been awarded his scarf in August 1901. It is in the Regimental Museum in Guilford. On 21 January 1900, during the Spioenkop operations, when his company was pinned down by enemy fire on Thabanyama, Colour Sergeant Kingsley, West Yorkshire Regt, brought the mortally wounded Company Commander under cover. Later, when the only other officer present was wounded, Kingsley took command and successfully withdrew the company to safety. Kingsley was recommended for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, which was not approved. The whereabouts of his scarf is not known.

Colonial Forces recipients: Trooper Chadwick, Cape Colonial Forces, was an American serving in Robert's Horse. His scarf was awarded for gallant conduct at Sanna's Post. He had previously been awarded a US Navy gallantry medal in the Spanish American War. After the war, he returned to the United States. The whereabouts of his scarf is not known. Private Coutts, New Zealand Contingent , was also awarded his scarf for gallant conduct at Sanna's Post. He returned to New Zealand amidst great public acclaim. He served a second tour of duty in South Africa. His scarf is in the New Zealand War Museum. On 18 February 1900, after a failed daylight charge on the Boer laager at Paardeberg, Private Thompson, Royal Canadian Regt, ran to assist a wounded man in front of the Boer positions. Exposed to enemy fire, Thompson lay beside the man, stopping bleeding for seven hours until reached by stretcher bearers under cover of darkness, thus saving the man's life. At first light on 28 February 1900, after a failed night attack, Thompson ran 300 metres under fire to the assistance of a wounded man in front of the RCR position, arriving just before the wounded man was killed by another bullet. The Boers surrendered an hour later. The recommendation for the award of the Victoria Cross to Thompson was not approved. Thompson died in 1908 and is buried in Chelsea, Quebec. The RCR lays a wreath on his grave on 11 November each year. His scarf is in the National War Museum in Ottawa. Private A.H. Du Frayer, NSW Mounted Rifles: In April 1900, a Recce Patrol of 12 men was ambushed near Karee. Private Clark's horse was shot and, in falling, stunned his rider. Du Frayer turned back under heavy fire, dismounted, shook Clark into a semi-conscious state and mounting again, got Clark up behind him and out of danger. A similar exploit was recognised by the award of the VC to Lt Doxat, VC, 3rd Bn Imperial Yeomanry. The scarves were long enough to be worn as a sash similar to a Colour Sergeant's sash of the period, which was how it was always worn by Du Frayer, but it was probably not intended to be worn as a sash. Du Frayer received great public adulation on his return to Australia, with media claims that the Queen's Scarf was equivalent to the VC. He adopted the post nominal letters QS. He later returned to South Africa and served in German South West Africa and German East Africa, where he was Mentioned in Dispatches and awarded the OBE. He died in 1940 in Tanganyika (Tanzania). His epitaph reads "Major A.H. Du Frayer, QS, OBE". His scarf is in the Australian War Museum. His son's attempts to acquire VC recipient widow's benefits for his mother were fruitless, War Office correspondence making it clear that the Queen's Scarf was not considered an official award.

SAMHSEC's next meeting will be at 1930 on Monday 14 December 2009 at the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club in Port Elizabeth. After Richard Tomlinson's series on British Fortifications of the Anglo-Boer War, there will be presentations by Fred Nel on his 2009 tour to WW2 North African battlefields, Ken Stewart on the Military Career of Robert Hart 1795 to 1824 and Malcolm Kinghorn on the Evacuation from Ambrizette.

Malcolm Kinghorn.
082 331 6223

South African Military History Society /