GRAVELY INTERESTING

While in the Free State, I was initially attracted to this grave of Hatherley George Moor in the Garden of Remembrance in Lindley firstly because of the design of the Celtic cross and then by the inscription.

I couldn’t help wondering how a young man (only 28), the son of a churchman in Cornwall, would end up commanding the First West Australian Contingent during the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. I do not pretend to have all the answers yet have enjoyed a little sleuthing on the internet to satisfy my curiosity. I discovered that in February 1900, the West Australian First Mounted Rifles Contingent were sent to the Colesberg district to join forces under General Clements – what a coincidence that Major Hatherley Moor’s father is noted as being in St. Clement in Cornwall.

During July 1900, the First West Australians formed part of the force which Sir Archibald Hunter led into the north-east of the Orange River Colony with the view of surrounding the Boer forces led by General Christiaan De Wet in the Wittebergen district. On the night of 15th July, De Wet, along with about 1 500 men and some guns, escaped from Slabbert’s Nek from where they reached the railway and cut the line. The ensuing engagement on the 19th July took the form of a running fight over about thirteen kilometres in the Palmietfontein area. This is when Major Moor was critically wounded in the hip and died shortly afterwards. Although he was initially buried at Palmietfontein, his remains were reinterred in Lindley’s Garden of Remembrance in 1958.

Hatherley George Moor, born in July 1871, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in November 1890. He was a professional soldier who had seen service in Mauritius, South Africa and Rhodesia. It was in June 1899 that he was appointed to command the Permanent Artillery Garrison at King George’s Sound, Albany in Western Australia and he was promoted to Major on 14th October 1899.

Source of photograph: https://www.bwm.org.au/soldiers/Hatherley_Moor.php

I have not come across the term ‘ubique’ on a grave before. It is Latin for everywhere.

Rudyard Kipling penned a lengthy poem, Ubique, the title of which is derived from the Motto and Battle Honour of the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

You can read it in full at https://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/ubique.html. Here is an excerpt:

Ubique means the long-range Krupp be’ind the long-range ‘ill –
Ubique means you’ll pick it up an’, while you do, stand still.
Ubique means you’ve caught the flash an’ timed it by the sound.
Ubique means five gunners’ ‘ash before you’ve loosed a round.
 
Ubique means Blue Fuse, an’ make the ‘ole to sink the trail.
Ubique means stand up an’ take the Mauser’s ‘alf-mile ‘ail.
Ubique means the crazy team not God nor man can ‘old.
Ubique means that ‘orse’s scream which turns your innards cold!

Useful sources:

https://www.bwm.org.au/soldiers/Hatherley_Moor.php

https://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/australian-units/168-west-australia/408-west-australian-1st-contingent

https://familyhistoryact.org.au/boer_war/biography/moor.php

BRYNBELLA BATTLEFIELD

Near Estcourt, in KwaZulu Natal, one can see the historical Brynbella Battlefield stone wall that forms the boundary line between the farms Glenbello (historically known as Tamboekieskraal) and Stockton.

Now a National Monument, this wall built from dolerite boulders was used by both the Boers and the British soldiers during a skirmish on the 23rd November 1899. At the time, Brynbella Hill (Harris Hill/Willow Grange) was occupied by the Boers under General Joubert as part of their intention to advance further south into Natal.

Prior to this they had successfully ambushed the reconnaissance/armoured Train near Frere on the 15th November 1899 – where Winston Churchill was taken captive. Although the British were forced back, General Joubert decided to withdraw behind the Thukela River afterwards.

According to the Times History, the total (British) casualties had been sixteen killed and over sixty wounded, mostly from the West Yorkshire Regiment. Among those killed was Trooper George J. FitzPatrick, whose grave I have featured before. What I have since discovered is that the wounded comrade he was carrying at the time of this death was also from the West Yorkshire Regiment.

Other British soldiers killed were Private F.E. Reeves from the East Surrey Regiment and the following Privates from the West Yorkshire Regiment: W. Morgan, H. Benson, J. Smith, J. Thornton, S. Tobin, J. Newton, and A. Rudd.

Note the ubiquitous blackjacks in the foreground – they arrived during the Anglo-Boer War.

It is said that the Boer casualties were about a quarter of the British. Among them were D. F. Joubert, C. H. Parker, and N. Smit.

https://www.angloboerwar.com/images/pdf/TimesHistory02-08.pdf

BLOOD RIVER POORT

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.

https://www.royal-irish.com/events/goughs-mounted-infantry-fierce-fighting-blood-river-point

https://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/imperial-units/566-kings-royal-rifle-corps?showall=1

https://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/imperial-units/549-durham-light-infantry

https://www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/imperial-units/660-cameronians-scottish-rifles

 

OX SHOES

We are used to horses being shod for the protection of their feet. It is such a common thing that it hardly bears thinking about. Discarded horse shoes are, for some reason, regarded by some as symbols of good luck and even protection – some go as far as to say it is good luck to find one. This Horse Memorial at Weston Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal, dedicated to horses, mules and other animals that perished serving men in the Anglo-Boer War, is made up of horseshoes found in the area, where an estimated 30 000 horses and mules are believed to have been buried on the farmlands.

Less commonly known is the practice of shoeing oxen. This was particularly so for oxen required to draw wagons transporting goods or people. Such ox-wagons were the dominant mode of long-distance transport in South Africa over typically rough terrain before clearly marked roads or the railways existed and so, to protect the hooves of the trek oxen, special metal shoes were forged in two sections to accommodate the split hooves.

These ox shoes are also known as cues. Each animal would require eight of these crescent-shaped iron plates, fastened with nails. As you can tell from the photograph above, they were thin and broad to fit the hooves of the oxen. As a matter of interest, while we talk of shoeing a horse, I understand the term used in the context of oxen was to cue an ox – thus the person skilled in this would be known as an ox-cuer rather than a farrier. Being hand-forged, the ox shoes were shaped by a blacksmith.

Oxen used as draft animals or worked over hard ground were shod both to protect their hooves (hard surfaces could wear down the hooves faster than they could grow) and to provide traction. Nail holes are smaller than those used for horses as the hoof wall of oxen are thinner.

MOTHER’S DAY 2020

It is Mother’s Day and I received a message from one of my children very early this morning, with more messages to follow. I regularly wished my own mother ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ even though we lived too far away from each for me to actually see her in person to give her a hug. Hugs are what I have missed so much during this pandemic-induced lockdown period.

Mother’s Day has never been quite the same for me since my mother died. I look at the advertisements, at bouquets of flowers and the beautiful messages that do the rounds on social media and feel an instant, deep-seated ache for my mother. Even though we saw relatively little of each other once I had left school for university and then settled far away from her to bring up a family of my own, we corresponded weekly and spoke to each other regularly on the telephone.

How she would have enjoyed the close connection photographs and instant messages WhatsApp and other mediums bring us today! I receive the odd voice notes from my youngest grandchildren now and then, while the older ones sometimes phone ‘for a chat’ or ask for help with their homework even though they now live continents away.

Mothers are special. Here is my father’s mother whom I never knew as she died while he was still at school.

She worked as a governess on the Andaman Islands. How she met her husband, a British tea planter in India, I have no way of knowing. He died of the Spanish Flu while they were living in the then Calcutta, not long after my father was born. She later returned to England and after some time married again – her daughter died earlier this year aged 94. Here my paternal grandmother is holding my father.

My maternal great-grandmother – Granny Joan to all who knew her – boarded a sailing ship from England to start a new life in this country. An interesting thing happened during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1901): she invited another woman and her daughters to shelter in her home when Colesberg was beset with soldiers on both sides and during this time one of her sons fell in love with one of the visiting daughters!

This was my maternal grandmother – seen in the background on the left, with my mother in the background on the right. No guessing that I am the only girl in the foreground!

In due course my mother (born in Johannesburg) met my father (born in Calcutta) and they became engaged.

She was the only daughter and had two brothers; I am the only daughter with three brothers; and I have an only daughter and two sons; she has an only daughter with one son. Here we are: all mothers of children who are greatly loved and who are loved in return by them.

It is an odd Mother’s Day with this pandemic that keeps us all apart. Motherhood through the ages though is a strong bond that transcends such things.