The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 19 No 1 - December 2020

Private G.E. Trowbridge identified from his grave more than a hundred years after the war

Robin Smith

There are still some graves of British soldiers who died in the Anglo Boer War that are yet to be identified, even after nearly 120 years. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, whose responsibility it is to maintain such graves, still receives phone calls and e-mails from people informing them of graves and monuments in obscure places. A recent communication included photos and map coordinates of one such grave in the garden of a house in the small settlement of Jericho in the bushveld north of the town of Brits.

View of grave

As you can see from the pictures, that grave seems to have been looked after and has not been vandalised but there is no name on the plaque. Locating the place on the survey map was not difficult, the name of the town is clear enough and is located on the farm Palmietfontein portion 229JQ.

In Steve Watt’s list of Imperial casualties in his book ‘In Memoriam’ there is a casualty listed as ‘Died of wounds’ at Palmietfontein, Regimental number 7951, name of Private G.E. Trowbridge of Hampshire, 3 on 18.02.1901. Unusually, there are no other details given because this entry originates from the official casualty list which has only those details.

Without the additional information that this Palmietfontein is in the settlement of Jericho, it would have been almost impossible to locate the place since Palmietfontein is a very common South African farm name. There is no mention of any engagement in that locality on that day in either ‘The Times History of the War in South Africa 1900-1902 Volume V’ or the official history ‘History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902 Volume 4’ so it must be presumed that the casualty resulted from a patrol or reconnaissance in the area.

The regiment is given as ‘Hampshire, 3’ meaning, according to Steve Watt’s usual notation, the 3rd Battalion of that regiment. Edgar Trowbridge of the 3rd Battalion was in fact a volunteer. He served with the 2nd Battalion which was the only representative of the regiment which served in the Anglo Boer War. It is clear from the list of casualties given in the official list that at least part of the regiment was based in Pretoria at that time.

Rusted remains of plaque on headstone

An additional reference is ‘A Soldier’s Story’ by Murray Cosby Jackson. Jackson was a member of the Hampshire Regiment who kept a diary during his war service in South Africa. Most of the regiment were given horses and formed into mounted infantry (MI), originally the 7th MI and later the 27th MI. Their service was in the Orange Free State and the eastern Transvaal but not all of the regiment became MI. These others would have constituted the elements in Pretoria and elsewhere.

It is gratifying that this grave and the name of the casualty can be positively established. Hopefully, measures can be put in place to preserve the grave for another 120 years.

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