The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 10 No 5 - June 1997

(incorporating Museum Review)

Casualties and Memorials in South Africa

by P Beighton, J C de Villiers

It is anticipated that the forthcoming centenary of the South African War of 1899-1902 will stimulate interest in memorials of soldiers who died in South Africa during this period. Amongst these individuals were some sixty members of the St John Ambulance Brigade, the majority of whom died of disease while nursing their comrades. In 1978, in an excellent and comprehensive article, Cole-Mackintosh(1) published a list of names and affiliations of the St John Ambulance Brigade personnel who died in South Africa and mentioned memorials which had been located in Britain. We have now endeavoured to locate their graves and memorials in South Africa and our findings are presented in this article.

Historical background
The Order of St John was founded in Jerusalem during the Crusades in the twelfth century as a religious body dedicated to the care of the sick. Thereafter, the Knights Hospitaller of the Order had a long and eventful history, and established links in many European countries. The British Order was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1540 and revived in the nineteenth century.

A military surgeon, Major Peter Shepherd, of the Royal Herbert Military Hospital, Woolwich, together with Colonel Francis Duncan, initiated the teaching of First Aid to lay persons in 1877, within the ambit of the St John Ambulance Association.(2) In the decade that followed, this group became the St John Ambulance Brigade(3), which was organised geographically into four major districts, with subordinate corps and divisions. Enthusiasm for the brigade was high in industrial and coal-mining regions, where the availability of personnel trained in First Aid and the transportation of casualties was of prime importance during the frequent accidents which occurred in the workplace.(4) The police forces, fire brigades and railways were other organisations within which the brigade thrived and the Victorian values of discipline and altruism were factors which played a role in the development of the movement and the members had a strong sense of duty and service to their fellow men.

Soon after the onset of the South African War on 11 October 1899, it became obvious to the British authorities that the Royal Army Medical Corps would not be able to cope with the numbers of casualties from battle and disease. A call went out for volunteers from the St John Ambulance Brigade to serve for six month tours in South Africa; these personnel would mainly be posted to base hospitals, thus freeing RAMC members for service at the front.
Volunteers came forward in large numbers and, after being equipped at the headquarters in Cripplegate, London, the first batch of 23 St John Ambulance Brigade members sailed for South Africa on 3 November 1899 aboard the HMS Princess of Wales.(5) Thereafter groups of SJABs (or 'Johnnies' as they were known) were mobilised for South Africa, and approximately 1 800 served during the period 1899-1902. About 60 of these young men died in South Africa(6), the majority from enteric (typhoid) fever, which they contracted from their patients. This number is imprecise, as some members lost their lives while serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, or with other units, during second tours of duty or following discharge in South Africa.

The SJABs who served in South Africa were awarded a bronze medal which bore the uncrowned head of Edward VIII.(7) Their service numbers, ranks, initials, names and units were engraved on the rim in large block letters. The silver Queen's South Africa Medal was also awarded with details impressed on the rim and the unit shown as 'St John Ambulance Brigade'. Both medals were awarded posthumously and a few examples, which were awarded to casualties, have appeared in medal dealers' catalogues during the last decade.
Details of the names, service numbers, units, dates of death and places of burial in South Africa were found in a number of publications.(8) The following available sources of information were reviewed by the authors.

Book of Remembrance, St George's Cathedral, Cape Town
This illuminated work contains the names of 27 000 officers and men who died during the South African War (1899-1902). Eighty-two names are shown under the heading 'Volunteer Ambulances' and the remark, 'St John Ambulance Brigade', is appended to 63 of the names. Rank is indicated, but apart from the initials, no other details are provided. There are a few minor errors; the name 'Ion' is misspelt 'Ton', 'Massey' is repeated incorrectly as 'Imassey', while the 'Jones' listed does not appear to have been a member of the SJAB. Apart from a few minor differences in spelling, the details are generally concordant with the information which appeared on the Clerkenwell Memorial (see below). The names are presented in alphabetical order in the book and, as this format is of considerable practical value to the researcher, the members of the SJAB have been listed in Table 1 (see below).

Book of Remembrance,
St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

Giddens C                       Plumb W
                                Willmore CI
Alder GW            Green G*        Pegram WC
Applegate DJ        Harris T        Pearce C
Barrett JVL         Hawkins, EA     Pegley W*
Birtwistle SH       Haywood, J      Pickles GH
Bettles CR          Holden GE       Pickles J
Borer HJ            Huggell JW      Powell CH
Brock JT            Houghton E      Robertson F
Brown TJ            Howarth TH      Richardson WR
Buck P              Jones RE(0)     Sawford JW
Clarkson SHT        King J          Siddle F
Clements W          Knight W        Smith S
Cooper FH           Lanchberry WE   Stonier T
Cox W               Leader FG       Symes EB West
Doe B               Lister H        Taylor W
Ellis A             Malkin JW       Thornbery WH
Dixon W             Maddock J       Thornley W
Errington J         Manship A       Ton WW(&)
Farrow A            Marsden A       Windle T
Goodwin JH          Massey R        Woodhams A
Grace R
*       1st Class Sergeant
(0)     possibly not a member of the SJAB
(&)     Ion WW

National Monuments Council. Pretoria, South Africa
Miss J L Beater of the British War Grave sub-division of the National Monuments Council of South Africa kindly provided a list of the names of St John personnel who were buried and commemorated in South Africa. The list contained names, ranks, service numbers, dates of death, places of burial and details of known memorials in this country. Information concerning 48 SJABs was included, of whom two (Inder and Redhead) did not appear in the Book of Remembrance.

W S Inder, On Active Service in South Africa
The most comprehensive account of the activities of the St John Ambulance Brigade in South Africa is to be found in the book, On Active Service in South Africa by William Sidney Inder of the Kendal Division, Westmoreland, who undertook two tours of duty in South Africa.(9) Inder's book is based upon his diary and it provides a vivid picture of the daily lives of the members of the SJAB. It is of great historical importance that the names of many SJABs are mentioned in the book (some of whom appear in photographs) and service numbers and units are often provided. The authors of this article have constructed a name index from this book, with the result that additional information concerning some of the SJAB casualties is now readily available.

Clerkenwell Memorial, London
The Order of St John in London worshipped at the Priory Church, Clerkenwell, which contained an alabaster memorial bearing the names of members of the St John Ambulance Brigade who died of disease in South Africa. The memorial, which was unveiled by His Royal Highness King Edward VII, the Grand Prior, on 11 June 1902, was destroyed when the church was bombed during a German air raid in 1941. Fortunately, a photograph was preserved in the archives at the St John Museum in Cripplegate and a copy was made available to the authors by the deputy curatrix, Ms Pamela Willis. Sixty-one names are listed and, in addition to rank, the forenames and units are also shown.

Churchyards and Gardens of Remembrance
Using the information provided by the National Monuments Council, personal visits were made to churchyards and gardens of remembrance throughout South Africa. Inscriptions on gravestones and monuments were transcribed and collated with existing data.

Based on the above-mentioned sources, details of memorials to the St John Ambulance Brigade's casualties in South Africa are presented below:


Cape Town:

Garden of Remembrance, Woltemade Cemetery, Goodwood
Central memorial:
'Imperial Forces dying in Cape Town or in the adjacent region. Some previously buried in the Maitland (Fort Knokke) Military Cemetery and reinterred in 1927':

Guild of Loyal Women Memorial:
'Imperial Forces dying of wounds or diseases in Cape Town': Methodist Church Cemetery, Wynberg,
Memorial (Figure 2)

Figure 2: Memorial Stone, Methodist Church, Wynberg
(Photo: Beighton & De Villiers)

St John's Church Cemetery, Wynberg


West End Cemetery
Names on a plaque on the central memorial:

Figure 3: Plaque, Pte A Woodham (Woodhams), Kimberley

Deelfontein, Northern Cape:
Imperial Yeomanry Hospital Memorial:(10)

Noupoort (also spelt Naauwpoort):
Garden of Remembrance



President Brand Cemetery
Names on the Central Memorial:


Garden of Remembrance

Figure 7: Detail of the headstone of Pte W Williams, Springfontein
(Photo: Beighton & De Villiers)


Military Cemetery


Garden of Remembrance
Names on central memorial:


Garden of Remembrance

Figure 8: The headstone of Sgt C Giddens, Kroonstad
(Photo: Beighton & De Villiers)


Old Municipal Cemetery

Figure 9: The iron cross on the grave of Pte F G Leader, Winburg
(Photo: Beighton & De Villiers)


Braamfontein Garden of Remembrance
Names on central memorial


Church Street West Cemetery


Garden of Remembrance
Names on central memorial:


Primrose Garden of Remembrance

Mafeking (now Mafikeng):


Garden of Remembrance




Graves not identified:
Doe, Bertie, Pte, 973, Metropolitan Corps (Wembley).
Dixon, William, Pte, Bolton Corps.
Farrow, Albert, Pte, 1762, Northampton Corps.
Harris, Thomas, Pte, Great Western Railway (attached).
Heywood (Haywood J?), Joseph, Pte, 340, Oxford Division.
Huggell, John W, Pte, 1043, Nelson Corps.
Howarth, Thomas H, Pte, 979, Edenfield Division.
Lanchberry, William E, Pte, 20, Westgate-on-Sea Division.
Lister, Higson, Pte, 511, Shipley Division.
Manship, Ernest, Pte, 1122, Sheffield Corps.
Pegley, William (1st Class Sgt), 114, Metropolitan Corps.
Pegram, William C, Pte, 818, Great Eastern Railway (attached).
Powell, Charles H, Pte, 118, Crewe Division.

The illustrations were selected in order to depict the various styles of memorial and to represent as many cemeteries as possible. In addition, photographs of memorials which relate to individuals about whom there is doubt concerning the spelling of their names or their affiliations with the St John Ambulance Brigade have also been included.

On a number of the memorials and in several of the published sources, the cause of death is given. This is almost always quoted as enteric or typhoid fever, but pneumonia or dysentery are sometimes mentioned; it is likely, however, that these latter ailments were actually complications of typhoid fever. There are no known instances of death from military action.

The authors are grateful to Miss J L Beater of the National Monuments Council, Pretoria, for data from her files, and to Ms Pamela Willis of the St John Museum, Cripplegate, London, for a copy of the photograph of the Clerkenwell Memorial. The Dean of St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, kindly gave access to the Book of Remembrance and the Vicar of the Wesleyan Church, Wynberg, made it possible for the memorials in the church and graveyard to be viewed. Thanks are also offered to Mrs E Briggs of Accrington, UK, for providing information concerning memorials to Pte H C Fletcher and to Ms Fiona Barbour for access to photographic records of graves in cemeteries in Kimberley. The authors are most appreciative of the efforts of Gillian Shapley who prepared the manuscript with her customary enthusiasm and efficiency.


1. Cole-Mackinosh, R E, 'St John Ambulance Brigade: Boer War Casualties' in the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, Vol 17(4), 1978, pp 248-55.
2. Pearn, J, 'The earliest days of first aid' in the British Medical Journal, No 309, 1994, pp 1718-1820.
3. Fletcher, N C, The St John Ambulance Association: Its history and its part in the ambulance movement (London, St John Ambulance Association, 1929).
4. Toffolo, J, St John in Focus: A history of St John Ambulance in photographs from the Museum of the Order of St John (1987).
5. Inder, W S, On Active Service with the St John Ambulance Brigade: South African War, 1899-1902 (Kendal, Atkinson and Pollit, 1903).
6. Joslin, E C, Litherland, D R, and Simpkin, B J, British Decorations and Medals (London, Spink & Son, 1988), p 205.
7. Tozer, C W, The insignia and medals of St John Ambulance Association (London, Haywood, 1975), p 46; Hibbard, M G, Boer War Tribute Medals (Cape Town, Constantia Classics Publications, 1982), pp 237-40.
8. Cole-Mackintosh, 'St John Ambulance Brigade: Boer War Casualties', pp 248-55; Feyver, W H, 'Queens South Africa Medal Roll for the Portland Hospital' in the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, Vol 17(4), 1978, pp 244-8; Feyver, W H, 'Queens South Africa Medal Roll for the Van Alen American Field Hospital' in the Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, Vol 17(2), 1978, pp 120-22; South African Field Force Casualty List, 1899-1902 (Pub. Oaklands Book Division, 1972), p 104; The South African War Casualty Roll (Pub. Hayward, Suffolk, 1982); Watt, S A, 'Deelfontein' in Military History Journal, Vol 7 No 4, December 1987, pp 151-9; Howe, Countess [formerly Georgina Curzon], The Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals in South Africa, 1890-1902, Volumes 1 and 2 (London, 1902).
9. Inder, On Active Service.

Footnote: The following comment was e-mailed by Anthony Hickson in July 2004:
I see that on the web page http://samilitaryhistory.orgvol105de.html you have shown, as "Graves not identified:"
Lister, Higson, Pte, 511, Shipley Division.
There is a gravestone to Higson LISTER in the St Paul's Churchyard in Shipley, see

Addendum in December 2021:
Shirley Penman e-mailed:
I have for several years now been searching for an image of the St. John“s Ambulance Memorial which was in St. John“s Priory Church at Clerkenwell and destroyed by enemy action in 1941.

[Despite the reference in the acknowledgements, no photograph has been located in South Africa - Ed]

Here are two images from our town (Clitheroe)

WW1/WW2 Memorial of a Grenadier Guard sculpted by Louis Roslyn.

The whole of the castle (Grade 1 listing) and castle grounds (16 acres Grade 2 ) were bought by the citizens of Clitheroe as a WW1 memorial at a cost of £9,500. £15,000 was raised and paid for the groundwork for a park and leisure garden.

The next image is of our Boer war/ South African War Memorial (Grade Two scheduled). It was unveiled in 1907 on the outside wall of our library but moved here in 1934 to the Memorial Garden.

The Clerkenwell Memorial

A description of the Clerkenwell Memorial from a report of its unveiling
from Lloyds Weekly Newspaper dated 11-May 1902

An image from Messrs. Powell who made the memorial.

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