There are signs of conflict in various parts of South Africa. These come in the form of battle sites, monuments and graves. It was customary at the time of the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) for the British to bury soldiers in individual graves if this was possible. A number of British military cemeteries relating to this war indicate, however, that soldiers were interred in groups – sometimes regimental groups – with the event as well as the name, rank and regiment of the dead provided on a monument of some sort. Metal crosses, such as this one, are common.
It was on Tuesday 17th September 1901 that a battle was fought at Blood River Poort, near Dundee along the Springspruit. Major Hubert Gough’s 24th Mounted Infantry, while searching for a group of Boers led by Louis Botha, came across some 300 dismounted Boers and attacked them, unaware that Botha was on his flank with the balance of his 1 000 strong force. I read that 16 British Officers and 273 were either killed or captured.
I am no military historian, so the actual details of the whys and wherefores are of lesser interest to me than the people who died in this conflict so far away from home. Thirteen men are buried here: how old they were at the time and what led to their deaths I will never know. However, when I look at names like these, I wonder about the families they left behind; about their hopes for the future; and whether anyone related to them has ever seen where they are buried – this is such a lonely place, where the wind whistles and bird song is scarce. Yet, it is a place of remembrance – for them.
Five men from the 3rd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps are there:
Sergt. J. Pidgeon; and Privates H. Archer, F. Day, J. Phroffitt, and W. Strange.
The 3rd Battalion sailed on the Servia on 4th November 1899, arrived at the Cape about the 24th, and from there was sent on to Durban.
There are two Privates from the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusilliers: C. Donohoe and J. Wilson.
Lt. Corpl W. Budd and two Privates, J. Frost and J. Royal, from the 1st Battalion Durham Light Infantry are interred in the same grave.
This battalion sailed on the Cephalonia on 24th October 1899, arrived at the Cape about 18th November, and was sent round to Durban.
The 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles were also involved in this battle. Lt. Corpl W. Budd and two Privates, W. Highfield and H. Fogden, lost their lives here.
Known as the Cameronians, the 2nd Battalion sailed on the City of Cambridge on 23rd October 1899, and arrived at Durban about 21st November.