Steve on Sunday

31 January 2021

Greetings fellow worriers and warriors

Has been another wet week but we’re not complaining here on the fringes of the Kalahari. Several roads are closed to traffic thanks to the overabundance of raindrops, especially in the Danielskuil and Kuruman region, all very reminiscent of the 1988 floods in this area.

With all this water lying around and with the plague proclamations banning people from going on to beaches and rivers for recreational purposes, I must mention a cartoon doing its rounds. I thought it was clever.

It is a lady in a bikini sitting and splashing away in a road pothole that’s filled with water. The caption relates: They can take away our beaches, they can take away our rivers, but they can’t take away our potholes!

I was in the Boshof (Free State) region a few weeks back. Quite a few potholes between Kimberley and Boshof. Let me be honest, thousands of potholes between Kimberley and Boshof.

In the Boshof military cemetery, a section that is rarely visited by any other than die hard Anglo-Boer War enthusiasts, lie several men who when alive were very well-known characters. The obvious one, the Comte de Villebois-Mareuil, has been re-interred at Magersfontein, but his Boer comrades remain in Boshof. The Comte’s original headstone, one of two paid for by Lord Methuen during the war, however, is in its original spot, and in close proximity lie a mass grave of Boers, plus those of Imperial soldiers Sergeant Patrick Campbell, Lt William Croker, Captain Cecil Boyle, and Lt Williams.

A little further away is an interesting headstone that relates that Ewan Christian of the Rimington’s Guides, was killed on 28 February 1900, and that “he died to save a comrade.” How he came to be buried in Boshof when he was killed at Makouw’s Drift in the Paardeberg battle region is a mystery which hopefully someone will solve. Also on the headstone are the words Floreat Etona that suggest that he was educated at the famous Eton College in England. (He was).

The Cape Times of 7 March 1900 states in a communiqué from Osfontein, Lord Roberts’ HQ at the time, that Trooper E Christian was “dangerously wounded, since dead.” Captain L March Phillips of the Rimington’s Guides, (the Guides were acting as advance scouting guides for Roberts march on Bloemfontein), writes in his memoirs that between 27 February and 5 March the Guides had skirmishes with the Boers daily. “We lost poor Christian yesterday in one of these little encounters. He was mortally wounded in stopping at short range to pick up a friend whose horse had been shot.”

Ewan Christian and his un-named scouting partner, were indeed close to Makouw’s Drift when they were fired on by Boers from close range as they passed a small kopje. Christian’s comrade had his horse killed and Ewan rode back to bring him away from the killing ground. As he bent over to help his friend on to his own horse he was fatally wounded, the bullet passing through his back and out of his chest. He rolled off the horse and told his comrade to make good his escape, which he then did.

Continued Phillips: “There was no-one in the Corps more popular. ‘Tell the old dad I died game’ was what he said when the Major, coming up with supports, knelt down to speak to him.”

The Major was the commanding officer, Major F.M. Rimington. While retiring with the mortally wounded Christian the party was ambushed and several more horses, including that of Rimington, were killed. Yet another source states that Christian was buried with full military honours, but that was not in Boshof, but rather close to Makouw’s Drift proper as Boshof at that stage was under the control of the Boers. It is likely that Trooper Ewan Christian was re-interred in Boshof at a later date, perhaps even in the 1960s.

Ewan Christian (born 1861) was the son of Henry Bailey Christian and Mary (nee Dreibelbis) of Port Elizabeth, and brother to Maud Elizabeth Solomon (nee Christian). HB Christian, a MLC for the Cape Colony, was a friend of Cecil Rhodes and a Director of the Cape Diamond Mining Company in 1879. Maud Solomon (1859-1920) was the wife of Sir William Solomon, one-time lawyer of Kimberley who lived at The Bungalow (Rudd House). Maud was engaged to be married to Neville Pickering, friend of Cecil Rhodes, when Pickering died in 1884. (At the age of 35 Sir William became a Judge in the High Court of Griqualand West. Like most of the Solomon’s he was a small man, and he was affectionately referred to by his colleagues as “Baby”, and in later life he was called “the little Judge”. After some ten years in Griqualand West he was transferred to the Supreme Court of the Transvaal and in 1910 was appointed to the first Appeal Court of the Union of South Africa. In 1928 he became Chief Justice of South Africa and was also elected to the Privy Council in the UK to culminate an outstanding career. William Solomon retired from the Bench in 1930 after a phenomenal forty-three years as a judge. According to Allan Solomon, he is ranked with Rose-Innes, Wessels and J.G.Kotze as one of South Africa’s greatest judges.) Ewan Christian was married to Ethel (nee Holland) at the time of his death.

Lord Roberts obviously thought that Christian did die a hero’s death in that he was mentioned in his despatches of 31 March 1900.

2nd Lt William Croker of C Company 1st Btn Royal Munster Fusiliers was killed in a skirmish with the Boers near Boshof on 23 February 1902 together with Lance Corporal J. Cahill (No 4441) of the same regiment. They had been on convoy duty and the group of sixteen, under command of Croker, had separated from the main body when they came across a large body of Boers. Upon being called upon to surrender Croker refused, whereupon the Boers opened fire and he was killed. Corporal Cahill, who took over command, also refused to give up, and like his officer before him, was also killed. Five Privates were killed in the same action making a total of some 7 dead, quite horrendous figures for the time in the Kimberley region.

Croker was the only son of Major W Croker of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was born at Trough Castle, Limerick, Ireland in June 1882. He was commissioned into the Royal Munster Fusiliers in May 1900 after graduating from the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst).

Cecil Boyle of the Oxfordshire Yeomanry cavalry was killed in the action 10 kilometres from Boshof on 5 April 1900, the same battle where the French Colonel Comte de Villebois-Mareuil was killed. He was the first officer of the Imperial Yeomanry to be killed in the war. He had gone to South Africa in December 1899 taking some 30 horses with him. A keen sportsman, he was well known in hunting circles.

2nd Lt Arthur Cole Williams of the Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Foresters) Yeomanry Cavalry was a victim of the white flag abuse by the Boers when he was killed at the “Battle of Boshof” on 5 April 1900. Educated at Wellington from 1887 to 1891, he was for a time in the Surrey Militia before becoming a brewer. He joined the Yeomanry in February 1900 and proceeded immediately to South Africa.

More headstone stories from Boshof cemetery, are those of Sergeant Patrick Campbell, Lt Amedroz and General Badenhorst.

Patrick W Campbell was born in England in 1863, and educated at Wellington College. His father had been the manager in Hong Kong of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, and had settled back in England with his second wife at Sydenham Hill. Patrick was a product of the first marriage, as was his brother Alan, an officer with the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, who had distinguished himself at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir.

Patrick met Beatrice Stella Tanner in 1883 when he was twenty and she 17 years of age, Beatrice describing Patrick as “…good looking, with unusually well-bred gentle manners, a great affection for his home and people, and a passionate love for his dead mother.” He knew all the names of birds and wild flowers. After four months of first meeting they eloped and were married at St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate Street.

The union produced two children, Alan (Beo), and Stella, within three years.

Most biographers of Mrs Patrick Campbell, as Patrick’s famous wife was known, state that they were separated or estranged. The reason for their separation was twofold; in that Patrick travelled extensively away from home in failed attempts to make his fortune, including travelling to Australia, Mauritius and Borneo; and that his doctor had advised him to because of his failing health, to move away from England to a healthier climate.

He left England for Australia on 5 October 1887. By 15 December he was in Brisbane and had started work at £2 a week. This did not last long as by 28 July 1888 he was in Mauritius waiting for a ship to take him to South Africa, and then on to Kimberley where he was keen on joining a planned expedition to Mashonaland.

By 17 September 1888 he was employed by Barney Barnato’s Kimberley Central Diamond Mining Company Ltd at £300 per annum as a clerk, one of his letters stating that Kimberley “…seems a splendid place for making money.” On 12 November he was still employed by the KCDMCo and busy putting together a diamond display for the forthcoming Paris Exhibition, and despite the fact that amalgamation with Rhodes’ De Beers Mining Company was well underway, was still working at Barnato’s Stockdale Street offices – now the De Beers Consolidated Mines Head Office.

His views of the diamond city changed, as in January 1889 he wrote to his wife that “I am beginning to hate Kimberley; what I want is for Rhodes to send me up into the interior to Lobengula’s country, Matabeleland…I shall do my best to get sent.”

Still employed by the Central Company on 16 September 1889, he was quite despondent and was still trying to get involved with the planned expedition to Mashonaland. By 14 October 1889 he was unemployed but by 8 November wrote to Beatrice telling her he was on his way to Matabeleland. “There are 15 of us going, all connected with the De Beers Company, and mostly friends of Rhodes. We…are sworn in and attached to E Troop Bechuanaland Border Police, with Troopers pay, about £5 a month (and all found). Rhodes and all the Directors tell me to go, and I shall never regret it…”

He transferred to the British South Africa Company Police on 1 April 1890 as one of Rhodes’ Apostles, the favoured few, joining the Pioneer Corps on 14 July that same year as a member of B Troop, and three days later transferred to A Troop as a Trooper, his number being 163.

He then served as Secretary to AR Colquhoun during 1890 and 1891, and in 1891 went into partnership with WL Cornwall. At the Pioneer Dinner on 12 September 1891 in the then Salisbury he proposed the Toast of the Army and Navy. This business was short-lived as in 1893 he returned to England and his wife. On 6 September 1893 he wrote “I long to leave Africa, where I have had nothing but bad luck.” He was back by early 1894, his wife now a successful professional actress using the name Mrs Patrick Campbell. But he was ill with malaria and struggled to maintain what health he still had.

With the Anglo-Boer war having just begun, Patrick volunteered as a member of the 10th Imperial Yeomanry under Lord Chesham, and was appointed a Sergeant. The unit arrived in Kimberley in March 1900 and was with Lord Methuen when he advanced and encamped at Boshof in early April. The attack on Comte de Villebois-Mareuil’s volunteer force is well-known, resulting in the death of not only the Comte, but also Patrick Campbell. “We attacked the enemy,” wrote Lord Chesham to Beatrice, “Patrick Campbell was among the first (we were within fifty yards of the Boers with fixed bayonets and charging) when he fell, death being instantaneous. We, his comrades, honour him as a brave soldier…No-one was doing better in the regiment than your husband, and his loss will be much felt…we buried them by moonlight on April 6th with many a sore heart.”

  1. Davie, a member of the Kimberley Mounted Corps at the action of Boshof on 5 April 1900 where Patrick Campbell was killed, recalled in his memoirs that “…early that morning I had picked up a piece of English paper and read in it that the only Private of the British Army who had the privilege of shaking hands with the Prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII) before leaving for Africa was Private Campbell of the Yeomanry. I did not know he was with us until I heard of his death…” Sgt Davie was a member of the Diamond Fields Horse who had also been with Mahon’s Mafeking relief column.

Beatrice continued her life as an actress, and was involved in a longtime affair with George Bernard Shaw. Patrick’s and Beatrice’s son, Beo, was killed in action in the Great War on 30 December 1917 as acting Lt-Commander in the Royal Navy, but gazetted as a Captain in the Highland Light Infantry with whom he was serving at the time. During the war he had fought at Gallipoli, at Paschandaele, and Cambria, being killed on the Welsh ridge. Was awarded the Military Cross on 1 January 1917 and the bar to the MC on 17 January the same year

A little about Mrs Patrick Campbell.

Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940) was a British stage actress, and the most successful of her generation. She was born Beatrice Stella Tanner in London, of English and Italian parents. She made her stage debut in 1888, four years after her marriage to Patrick Campbell, and became successful as a result of starring in the play, The Second Mrs Tanqueray in  1893, following the death of her first husband in 1900, she eventually remarried, but continued to use “Mrs Patrick Campbell” as her stage name. In 1914, she played Eliza Doolittle in the original production of Shaw’s Pygmalion; though much too old for the part, she was the obvious choice, being by far the biggest name on the London stage.

2nd Lieutenant William Henry Amedroz of the 3rd Battalion South Wales Borderers, died of enteric fever at Boshof on 25 May 1900. He was educated at Elizabeth College, Guernsey, and joined his regiment in January 1900 just in time to travel to South Africa.

On the other hand, General Christoffel Cornelius Jacobs Badenhorst, also buried in the Boshof cemetery, died many years after the war, having survived the tragic 2 year 8 month conflict.

Born on 11 August 1871 at Biesjiesfontein in the Boshof region, he was with the Boshof Commando at the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, seeing action at Belmont, Graspan (Rooilaagte), Modder River and Magersfontein. At the latter battle on 11 December 1899 he was in the section of trench that bore the brunt of the fighting. By March 1900 he was a Veldcornet and at Brandwater Basin where so many Boers surrendered he managed to escape with General Christian de Wet. Shortly after this he was made Commandant of a combined Boshof/Hoopstad Commando. With this 1000 strong commando he operated in the area between Petrusburg and Bloemfontein, and even managed to start a Women’s Laager.

On 11 October 1901 he was made Assistant Chief Commandant for the North-West region. One of the last actions of the war was when he attacked a British column on 8 April 1902, managing to capture some 90 prisoners, and soon after was made a General. On 14 June 1902 he and his commando handed over their weapons at Brandfort. After the war he published his memoirs in “Uit den Boeren-Oorlog 1899-1902”.

He died on 29 November 1911 in the Christiana region.

I thank you.

By Editor

2 thoughts on “SOS – Steve On Sunday”
  1. Fascinating Steve

    Supporting trivia = some 400 Old Etonians got killed in the Boer War

    As a military school it’s without peer and among its numerous medallia are 37 Victoria Cross

  2. What a wonderful read and rich history. Thank you so very much for sharing. It is fascinating to read both sides of history, as the story that survives is usually the victors to tell. The boers have their stories to tell as well and provide a wonderful tapestry to the very colourful history to our continent.

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