Updated 11 Nov 2009

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Boer War Presentation 1902

This page is about the Presentation to soldiers returning from the Second Boer War in Africa, pictures of the event (held in the Market Place) and the cups, a magnificent report from the "High Peak News", and the tablet for the three dead in the Parish Church, about 300 yards from the Market Place. Also the Return of Captain Gell, and the heartwarming welcome he received. Could anything like this happen today?
Thanks to Susan Hatton for supplying the HPN cuttings. More links to the Census will be added.

3 men from Wirksworth,
died in the 2nd Boer War

This tablet lies in the Parish Church,
near the lectern in the Nave


To the glory of God and in memory of

1st Battalion Kings Royal Rifles,
killed Octr 20th 1899 at Talana Hill Natal.

87147 Driver ALBERT BROUGH
42nd Battery Royal Field Artillery,
killed May 1st 1901 at Machadodorp.

1st Battalion Derbyshire Regiment
died Augt 14th 1900 at Pretoria.

Who lost their lives in the service of their Country during the South African War 1899 - 1902

This tablet is erected by subscription from the residents of Wirksworth and neighbourhood.
(Brass tablet)

The platform in the Market Place, Wirksworth on 14 Oct 1902

The Presentation in the Market Place on 14 Oct 1902. In the front row (left to right) are: Private George H Walton, William Goodwin, Walter Maskrey, Trooper Corbett Bartlett, Private Ernest Pearson
An enlargement of the silver Presentation cups on the table. Where are they now?

    From "High Peak News" dated Saturday 18 Oct 1902
    sent by Susan Hatton


An important function

Public presentations. A glorious event

The town en fete. Honouring the killed

    Wirksworth never does things by halves, and it culminated all its kindly and patriotic receptions of the returning warriors from the front on Tuesday afternoon, when each of the returned received a handsome token of the town's esteem. There was a fund raised, it will be remembered, for the purpose of giving the warriors some permanent token, and a considerable sum was quickly raised. The outcome of the arrangements was a public presentation and public evidence of thanks and appreciation of their splendid services to the town, to country, and King. The presentations took place on Tuesday afternoon, at 3 o'clock, in the Market Place, and in honour of the auspicious occasion the town decorated profusely, and all the elite turned out in full strength to honour the occasion, while the
    gave a general holiday. The weather was, fortunately, appropriate for an outdoor occasion and there was sunshine.

    A stage had been erected in the Market Place by the committee, and on the front of it was a motto, as follows: "For God, for King, and Country" in coloured letters on a white ground. The stage was carpeted, and the steps were also laid with cloth, and on a table on the platform were the cups for presentation, in full view of the assembly. The committee for carrying out these arrangements were Dr A E Broster,
    Mr G Marsden,
    Mr A de M Severne,
    Councillors J Walker, J P,
    G W Walker, and
    C Barker,
    Messrs Tait and
    J K Fritchley.

    Dr Broster, as chairman of the committee, presided. He was supported on the platform by Mr H Chandos-Pole-Gell,J P (Hopton Hall),
    Mrs Pole-Gell,
    Captain Pole-Gell,
    Mr H Walthall-Walthall, J P, ex-High-Sheriff (Alton Manor),
    Mrs Broster,
    Mrs Meade Waldo,
    Miss E E Arkwright,
    Mr F C Arkwright, D L, J P (Willersley),
    Mrs and Miss Kathleen Arkwright,
    Mr G H Wheatcroft, J P,
    Mr and Mrs Blythwaite,
    Mr J B Wood (Henley Hall, Salop),
    Miss Wood,
    Canon Gem (Vicar of Wirksworth,
    the Misses Meade-Waldo,
    Lieut. Price Wood,
    Mr A F Hurt, J P (Alderwasley Hall),
    Mrs and Miss Constance Hurt,
    Lieut Arkwright and Mrs Arkwright,
    Mr S Hurst,
    Dr Harvey,
    Councillor Walker, J P,
    Mr A de M Severne,
    Mis Crompton, etc

    There was a contingent of the Wirksworth Volunteers, "E" Company, as a guard of honour round the sided of the stage, under Captain C Barker Symonds, the officer commanding, and Lieutenant Wheatcroft. There was the Band of the United present, under the conductorship of the Bandmaster Gallimore, and during the ceremony they played:- March, "Battle and the Breeze"; "Rule Britannia"; selection, "Songs of England"; march, "Hero of Trafalgar"; march, "Red, White and Blue", and other patriotic airs, including the National Anthem.

    The cups were real gems. They were of very chaste design of solid silver with a rich gold lining. They stood on black pedestals. They were made for the occasion, by Hunt and Roskells, of London, and they had engraved the following inscription:-"Presented to -- by his fellow-townsmen of Wirksworth, in grateful acknowledgment of services rendered to king in the South African War, 1899 and 1902"

    by the Chairman addressing the crowd. He had a hearty reception. He was pleased to see such a large gathering to do honour to the soldiers who had returned from the South African war, and who had there served their Queen, King, and Country. Many of the Wirksworth men went out to the front and had returned, some had served as regulars, some had served in the Imperial Yeomanry, and some had gone as Volunteers. Some had also gone and taken part in the war as civilians, civilians who had risked their lives and sacrificed home comforts, and were ready to do their duty to lay down their lives, that the honour of that country might be maintained. It was no little matter if they would only think of it for a man to leave his home, his friends, his country, and to fight in a foreign land, and on the chance of being shot at any moment, and of never returning to those friends and his country again. But these men had dared all that, in fact they had looked into the very jaws of death. They had done nobly, and they were that day there to recognise what these men had done. They had gone through unspeakable hardships, and they had borne sufferings with every patience, and they had proved in the general conclusion of the war that they had done everything nobly. And those that they had left behind had never had them out of their thought, and they had gone through an immense amount of mental suffering on their behalf, and now they were heartily pleased for the safe return of these soldiers. All that had gone out from the Wirksworth district had returned with the exception of three, and these never would return, for they had found graves in South Africa. They would not be lost sight of for the way they had nobly sacrificed their lives in the late war everyone there could not fail to extend sympathy to their bereaved relatives. Moreover it was the intention of all concerned to hand down their names to posterity by the erection of a
    in the Parish Church recording their services; and he might tell them that he had a message from Mr Crompton, who was sorry he could not be present that day, but who wished to add £10 towards the fund for the placing of this tablet in the Parish Church. It had been the wish of the committee in Wirksworth that every soldier that returned should have some present to mark their appreciation of his services when called to fight for his country, and hence the cups before them would be given to each soldier (Applause)
    Mr G Marsden said it was his happy duty to place a resolutiom before them which he knew they would entertain unanimously, and that was to ask their esteemed and respected friend, Mr Walthall, of Alton Manor, to present the cups to the soldiers. (Applause)

    Mr A De M Severne seconded, and said he was very pleased indeed to be permitted to second such a resolution, as they had the right man in the right place in Mr Walthall. (Applause). They all knew how he discharged his public duties, and how he kindly and generously supported charities and all the movements for the furtherance and prosperiyu and welfare of the people of that vicinity. He congratulated the men on their safe return, and the duties they had to do had been discharged very faithfully, and had been watched with keen interest by all their friends. Even at home the little duties done by the people, if as faithfully carried out, would be sure to bring about the prospering of such a nation as this: indeed the prosperity of that country depended on how they feared God and honoured the King. (Applause).

    Mr Walthall then made the presentations. He thanked the proposer and seconder for the resolution asking him to present the cups. He felt highly flattered, and more so, as he did

    not think that he was the right man, as it should have been, really, a lady, as they had no Kitchener or Roberts among them to do service. They were very handsome cups, and he knew they would be duly appreciated by the recipients. And it would show them that they had never been forgotten while they had been away. They had gone through many hardships, but he was pleased they had not had to go through such as the Crimean winter in the Crimean war.

    As each cup was presented there was cheering from the populace.


    and of the three deceased, was as follows:

    Capt Pole Gell 2nd Coldstream Guards
    Lieut. Hurt Royal Welsh Fusiliers
    Lieut. Pryce Wood, 12th Prince of Wales's Royal Lancers
    Lieut. B Arkwright, Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry
    Lieut. B Claxton, 1st Batt Imperial Yeomanry
    Sergt Richard Casterton, 1st Derby Volunteer Company
    Private Frank Hollingworth, Second Grenadier Guards
    Private George H Moore, 3rd King's Royal Rifles
    Private George H Walton, 3rd Grenadier Guards
    Private Ernest Pearson, 1st Grenadier Guards
    Private Edward Ault, 10th Royal Hussars
    Gunner Walter Maskrey, 76th Battery Royal Field Artillery;
    Private Joseph Brocklehurst, 5th Royal Field Artillery;
    Driver Thomas Lee, 20th Company Army Service Corps;
    Albert T Goodwin, Royal Army Medical Corps;
    Trooper Isaac Walker, Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry;
    Trooper Corbett Bartlett, Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry
    Private Harry Lenton, 1st Derbyshire Regiment (Volunteer Company);
    Private Edward Boden, 1st Derbyshire Regiment (Volunteer Company);
    Private Harry Udale, Malta Mounted Light Infantry;
    Lance Corp Joshua Greenhough, 1st Kings Royal Rifles (deceased);
    Driver Albert Brough, 42nd Royal Field Artillery (deceased);
    Private Thomas Sherrin, 1st Derbyshire Regiment (deceased)

    Captain Pole-Gell, who was greeted with loud applause, said it was his pleasing duty to thank those who had subscribed for the handsome cups, and the committee for the way in which the presentation had been made to them. To the members of the Wirksworth contingent of the South African Field Force he must say their reception as they returned was magnificent, and for his part and that of the men he knew it would always live in their memories. But the cup would not only live in their memories, but would be handed down when they were gone, and, in fact, would never be forgotten while ever the cup existed. He wished to take that occasion to thank them for their proof of affection to the soldiers at the front in the way they had sent presents in clothing, newspapers, and tobacco, and endless plum-puddings. (Laughter). These plum-puddings, he might say, were very comforting, and, in fact, every thing they sent, and if they had only known how those presents cheered them to do their duty in the weary war just terminated they would know that everything sent had been fully appreciated. And for all that had been sent he desired to thank everybody. He also took the opportunity of thanking them on behalf of the relatives of their dead comrades they had left in South Africa. No doubt they had been through a great deal of hardship, and had had to suffer unusual endurance, but their return home - well, if they had nothing else for it the return home they had had at Wirksworth both in the reception and in that presentation

    them for all the duty they had had to undertake in the war. He could not conclude without referring to the Soldiers and Sailors Friendly Association. It had done excellent work; it had promised that the wives of soldiers at the front should be cared for, and they had been cared for, and words of his could not express what he felt in thanking them all, both for the reception of the cups and for their attendance to the soldiers' wives and families while they had been to war. Once more he thanked them and Mr Walthall heartily. (Applause)
    Canon Gem said he had duty to perform, a brief duty and a pleasing one, and that was that their best thanks be tendered to Mr Walthall for the presentation of the cups to the soldiers, those soldiers who had served their King and their country well in south Africa. Mr Walthall, he thought, could well say that he had never taken a part in such an interesting and historical ceremony as he had that day in those presentations. And in the crowd he saw around him he saw many young fellows, and he hoped it would help them to do their duty in any station of life in which they might be placed and should any occasion arise on which they could be required to serve their country, he hoped they would come forward in as hearty a manner as Wirksworth had done during the late war in South africa. And he hoped that
    as heartily appreciate her soldier sons as they had those taking part in the late war. Those men that had gone to the front had laid themselves open to death; they had self-sacrificed everything; they had left their homes; and their best thanks were due to them. And he knew they would appreciate the little they had done that day and at the time they returned from the war.
    Mr G H Wheatcroft seconded in an able speech. He heartily supported what had been done that day, and knew Wirksworth would do its duty, as it had done in the past. Mr walthal said he had never been so highly flattered in his life. Moreover, he did not see any reason why he should be asked tp present those cups, because he was not a military man, and the only interest he had taken that way was in the Volunteers. It was not that he did not appreciate and follow with interest the Wirksworth soldiers who had been to war. He thanked them for the hearty manner they had passed that vote of thanks.

    Mr Price Wood proposed a vote of thanks to their Chairman, whom he said he had known since he was a little boy, and his cheery presence was as good as a tonic. He called for three cheers for Dr Broster, which were heartily given.

    The Chairman replied, and said all they had done was to show the soldiers who had been to South Africa from Wirksworth that they appreciated all they done in the past two years, and to make their welcome home and the preentation of these cups such an event in their lives that it would never be forgotten.

    were given for the King, and the National Anthem concluded the event.

    Mr Marsden announced that, in honour of the occasion, the Band would give a concert on the platform at 6.30, when the following was the programme:-
    Selection..."Maud De Rohan"
    Valse......."River of Pearls"
    Selection..."Songs of england"
    Selection..."Songs of Other days"
    Selection..."Garland of Songs"
    National Anthem

  1. The Lieut Hurt referred to is Francis Cecil Albert HURT, 1878-1930, Lord of Alderwasley Manor 1907-1930. His early active service was with 23rd Welch Fusiliers, stationed in Africa.

    From "High Peak News" dated Saturday 18 Oct 1902
    sent by Susan Hatton





    Captain Harry Chandos-Pole-Gell, of the 2nd Coldstream Guards, returned by the 6.30 train to Wirksworth on Thursday night. A very large number of people gathered at the Midland Railway Station and lined the streets en route to the Market Place. The streets were very extensively decorated, and many of the houses had Chinese lantern window decorations: numerous flags were flying throughout the town. The night was very wet and the road fearfully muddy, but nevertheless one of the largest crowds ever seen in Wirksworth to welcome home home the returned warrior. A large torchlight procession assembled at the station to meet Captain Gell.

    The Wirksworth United Brass Band (under the conductorship of Bandmaster W Gallimore) was in attendance and played suitable marches, etc: the Wirksworth Ambulance Brigade was present, under Superintendent J K Fritchley and 1st Officer Holmes; the Wirksworth troop of Yeomanry; the "E" Company Volunteers, under Captain Symonds and Lieutenant J A Wheatcroft; the soldiers who have previously returned from South Africa; the Urban District Council, in brake; and a number of local gentlemen on horseback; Mr Baker, with his Naval Brigade and their "Long Tom" and carriages; and a number of torch and lantern bearers.

    The procession started from the station and paraded on the North Street, and then down St John Street to top of Warmbrook and up to Market Place, where it halted. Captain Chandos Pole-Gell was in a two-horse carriage with some of his family and Dr Broster and Canon Gem. On halting in the Market Place, at a signal from Mr C Wright, jun, who had the marshalling of the procession, coloured fires were lit all round the Market Place, and these, with the large number of lanterns and torches, had a very fine and impressive effect.

    Cannon Gem rose and made a splendid speech. He said he was pleased to accord to Captain Harry Chandos-Pole-Gell the hearty welcome of all the townspeople of Wirksworth on his return from South Africa. It had been a most pleasant duty. he had lived in many parts of England, and had taken part in and seen many demonstrations of one kind or another, but he must admit he had never seen a gathering where such loyalty and affection were shown as on the present occasion. He thought loyalty was one of the grandest things and Englishman could show and it was due to the loyalty of our brave soldiers that England held the position which she today did hold. He spoke of the three years war in South Africa. Captain H.Chandos-Pole Gell went out at the commencement of this war, at a time when we very much under-rated the strength of the Boer army. He had served in many hard battles - at Graspan, Modder River, et etc. He had been taken a prisoner of war and kept for six months at Pretoria, and he was sure all would admit he had had a hard share of the long war which, he thanks God, had now come to a conclusion. He loved to see loyalty and affection shown to everything that is good and noble. He again thanked Captain Harry Chandos-Pole-Gell, on behalf of himself and all the townspeople of Wirksworth, for his noble and distinguished services in South Africa. He called for three cheers for Captain Chandos-Pole-Gell, which were most heartily given.

    Captain Harry Chandos-Pole-Gell now rose, and addressing Canon Gem and all present, said "I thank you all very much for the splendid welcome you have accorded me. I can scarcely find words suitable to thank you. There is one time which is most sweet to a soldier, and that is when he comes back and is welcomed by all those kind relations and friends whom he loves and has not for a long time seen. I have the happy time now. I went out to south Africa with our troops thinking we were going to bring the war to an early finish, but we found a much harder task before us than we thought, and months and months of fighting went on and on. I must say that the parcels of comforts which have been received in South Africa from kind friends at home came at most needy times, and were most eagerly looked forward to. At times I have heard a great shout go up in the various camps and have thought it must be peace declared or something like that, and it was the arrival of the mails with parcels of comforts and letters from home to soldiers who were ever looking forward to news from home and old friends. It is the happiest time I have known to be back among old friends whom I have known from a boy. I can never forget the warm welcome you have given me this night, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart". (Loud cheers).

    The Band here played the National Anthem, the people joining in singing. The children round the carriage sang heartily, "For he's a jolly good fellow", followed by loud cheers. The procession now formed again to escort Captain Harry Chandos-Pole-Gell to his home at Hopton Hall.

    The reception Committee had spared no pains to make the reception a thorough success. The order of the procession was as follows: Yeomanry, flag bearer, Wirksworth United Band, Wirksworth Volunteers, the returned warriors, the Urban District Council, ambulance, Detachment of Yeomanry, brake with Captain Gell (also Mrs Meade-Waldo and Miss Meade-Waldo, Canon Gem, Dr A E Broster, Col Chandos Pole, Mr H Chandos-Gell's carriage, Mr Baker's Naval Brigade, boys with lanterns under Mr A Hawley, general public, etc.

    The procession started from the railway station, and went to the Lime Kiln Inn, thence to Warmbrook, and on to the Market Place. Here Canon Gem was asked to address Captain Gell on his safe return, then the band played "God save the King" and the Market Place was lit up with coloured lights. Following this the lads of the town collected round the carriage to sing "For he's a jolly good fellow", under Mr Preston's supervision, all the time pretty effects being made with coloured lights. From there, Captain Gell passed up the West End, brilliantly illuminated, the band playing as far as Yokecliffe House, then the band started again at Godfrey Hole, as far as Mr Blore's house, where the procession was met by Mr Walter Taylor and between 60 and 80 people from the neighbourhood, and the tenants of the Hopton Estate, accompanied by torch bearers. Mr Walter Taylor welcomed Captain Gell to the precincts of Hopton village and the procession then proceeded to hopton Hall. here the Hall was illuminated, and the son received by his father. In conclusion the band played selections of music at the Hall, which was lit up with coloured fires at intervals.

    The brakes were supplied by Mr Joseph Talbot, and the proceedings carried out by the Reception Committee, viz: Messrs J K Fritchley, Nowell-Usticke, J Logan, H Brown, Tait, A Hawley and C Wright, junr.

    On Sunday there was a thanksgiving service held at Carsington Church.

    From Hubert Harrison memoirs
    Hubert [1901, 1891] was a native of Derbyshire who took the time to write his memoirs prior to his death in 1977 at the age of 90. He donated these memoirs to Derbyshire Record Office in 1976 to ensure their long term survival. The memoirs contain stories and reminiscences from his childhood in the Wirksworth area from the end of the 19th to the start of the 20th century.
    The homecoming of Wirksworth soldiers from the South African War impressed my boyish mind as each one was given an official welcome and was made the central figure of a torchlight procession, headed by the town brass band, with flags out and garlands across the streets. These events were all separate occasions as the men were demobilised. In all twelve men from the town served in the war and all returned, I believe. Among the names I remember were Isaac Walker, Harry Lenton, Corbett (Cob) Bartlett, Richard Casterton, Bertram Arkwright (son of the Vicar, Rev H Arkwright), all volunteers, also two Regular soldiers, Albert Goodwin (RAMC), and Anthony Maskrey ("Rev Tant"), also Harry Gell, of Hopton Hall.

    The principal organiser of these processions deserves mention not only for this but for his efforts for the youth of the town over many years, as he ran the Church Lads' Brigade, with its own drum and fife band, its meeting place in a gymnasium near the railway station, where there were horizontal and parallel bars, weight lifting apparatus, trapezes, boxing gloves, etc, largely provided by Charlie Wright, who took the boys to camp and recruited gymnastic instructors for them. All this was before the Boy Scouts were formed by Baden Powell of the defence of Mafeking fame. Mr Wright was the son of Charles Wright, head of the wines and spirits business, and after he retired he lived first on the French riviera, then at Fort house, Bolehill. Charlie Wright died at Scarborough aged about 90, largely forgotten in Wirksworth as he had been so long absent from the town. As I remembered his many services for youth I wrote my tribute to his memory for the local papers, cuttings from them being pasted in many scrapbooks of townspeople who had known him, especially the lads of the Brigade long grown to manhood. The Brigade Room, also used by the St John Ambulance Corps for instruction classes in first-aid was destroyed in a disastrous fire many years ago. Dr A E Broster was the first-aid instructor and it was not until the doctor died that I learned that he had served as a surgeon with the Turkish Army during the siege of Plevna and decorated by the Turkish Govt for his work there.

    Very few people ever knew that the face of a saint or an angel in the stained glass memorial window of the Wrights in Wirksworth church is an actual photograph of Charlie Wright's mother, much respected by everybody who knew her. The family lived at Yokecliff, West End, Wirksworth, in considerable style.
    Hubert Harrison

Emails on the subject

    Susan Hatton writes:
    Walter Maskrey was born in about 1886, the only son of Anthony Maskrey and Ann Whetton who were married in 1886. Children born to them, Ann Elizabeth Wetton in 1855, Bertha 1865, Rosetta 1886, Walter 1869 and Mary 1871.

    Walter's life, from the census forms, began when he was described as "a scholar", then an errand boy but on his death certificate he is described as a stonemason - as were so many men who lived in Wirksworth at that time. On the 1901 census he was described as a lodger living in the house of Annie Maskrey whose husband Joseph had been a distant cousin of Walter Maskrey.

    The story (I thought apocryphal) was that Walter had joined the Boer War because he had been involved in a fight and had left a man for dead. Now I am not so sure. I have obtained details of Walter Maskrey's military history from Kew and find that:

    He was 21 years 4 months of age when he joined the army.5ft 6 1/2" tall, He had fresh completion, grey eyes and was a Methodist. He had no distinguishing marks. He was passed fit at Derby in March 1890

    There are two. Short Service - attestations of Water Maskery of Wirksworth, a British citizen joined the Royal Artillery on 14 April 1890 at Sunderland.

    Military History Sheet - he served at home in 1890, India for 7 years between 1890 and 1897, home for 2 years and South Africa for 278 days then home on 6 October 1900. His next of kin was his Mother, Ann, who lived at Wash Green, Wirksworth. Special instances of galant conduct. In S Africa in 1899, Johannesburgh and Kimberley (Roll 400). I have obtained copies of his medals from the internet and I believe that he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps for the various battles in which he fought. He also transferred to the horse artillery and so learned to ride in the army. A Statement of the 1889 services: he was tried and imprisoned for periods ranging from 14 - 56 days. Charges not known. He left the war with a War Gratuity of £5 paid in 1901 paid by the Distrct Paymaster at Woolwich and appears in full uniform - as do all the returning soldiers -

    My search for Walter Maskrey began when I read an article about men returning from the Boer War on the wonderful and comprehensive Wirksworth website where there is a photograph of the jubilation on the return of these men.. He was known as "Rev. Maskrey" because, I believe, and the above confirms, that he was anything but reverend. In fact, he lived perhaps a brave or possibly foolhardy existence. In the photograph he looks a small, rather bemused man and so he must have been, having come from a military prison and to being feted by people of the town as a returning hero. The soldiers rode into the main square of the town with bands, flags flying, patriotic songs being sung and all the local dignitaries standing on a dais with the rest of the population enjoying a day off work!

    But my research has raised as many questions as it has answered and I shall go on searching. What became of Walter's medals and what has become of the splendid silver and gilt cups presented by public subscription to each of the men returning from the Boer War? Is there one in a museum? Does anyone in the town have such a cup or have any leads which I could follow? Does any one remember any of the stories handed down about these men? There is, I know, a memorial to the dead of the war and I have received much of this information from the High Peak news dated 18 October 1902 kindly provided by Derbyshire County Council. It is the personal questions which remain unanswered.

    Walter Maskrey died of cancer of the tongue aged 54 on 26 December 1922 at Bannisters Yard, Wirksworth. The death was reported by Mary H Huddlestone, his sister, who was present at the death. She lived at Tamworth Street Duffield.

    The principal reason for my interest - it is possible that Walter Maskrey is my husband's maternal grandfather!!!

Item for sale on Ebay
Relating to Private Harry Lenton No.7566
1st Derbyshire Regiment
(Volunteer Company)


(Sold for £175 after 26 bids on 8 Nov 2009)


          My Easter Greetings
Friends & Relations in the land of the free 
Easter Greetings I send on a bit of Khaki 
Its not a choice card or sweet scented packet
For twas torn from a piece of my old Khaki Jacket
It has covered me long through storm & calm 
The hardships I have bourne I have come to no harm 
I trust that the day will not remote be
When you welcome again your Lads 
                     in Khaki
       To a Friend from Pte H Lenton No7566
                        1st Derbyshire Regt
                             Oliphants Nek
                                 Sth Africa

"Our Regiments in South Africa, 1899-1902:
Their Record, Based on Dispatches"
By John Stirling



The 1st Battalion left Suez on 28th November 1899. On arriving in South Africa about 14th December it was sent to assist Sir W. Gatacre, who had just suffered his reverse at Stormberg (see 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers). Shortly after landing the battalion was sent to Sterketroom, and afterwards it held Bushmanshoek, and they remained in this district until after the advance on Bloemfontein compelled the Boers in the colony to slacken their hold, and so allowed General Gatacre to move north to Burghersdorp and Bethulie. In this advance the enemy was seen, but his bullets were seldom felt except at and about the crossing of the Orange River. There seems to be no doubt that the road bridge over the river was saved by the gallantry of Lieutenant Popham and some of the Derbyshire Regiment. Under a heavy fire these brave men rushed on to the bridge and cut the wires which were intended to fire the mines set for blowing up the bridge.

When several new brigades were being born in March and April 1900, the 21st, composed of the 1st Sussex, 1st Derbyshire, 1st Camerons, and City Imperial Volunteers, was brought into existence under


Bruce Hamilton. The work of the brigade is sketched under the 1st Sussex. The 21st Brigade was, along with the 19th, put under General Ian Hamilton, to be a part of the army of the right flank, and some account of their advance is given under the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.

In the many actions on the right flank between 3rd and 24th May 1900 the 21st Brigade and its commander did well, and the Sherwood Foresters soon added to their reputation. While at Florida or Doornkop, fought on 29th May, after Ian Hamilton's force had become the army of the left flank, the battalion bore a distinguished part. An account of the action is given under the 1st Gordons, who made the assault. At Diamond Hill this battalion did good work. The 21st Brigade was engaged in the operations which culminated in Prinsloo's surrender, but the Derbyshire Regiment had not such severe fighting as some other battalions, being engaged on convoy work a good part of the time. De Wet, it will be remembered, broke out on 16th July with 1600 men. Broadwood went in pursuit, and finding the Foresters escorting a convoy on the Lindley road, he snapped them up to assist in doing some trekking after the fleet and ever-fleeing Boer. On 5th August De Wet was still practically surrounded south of the Vaal, but on the 7th he crossed the river, broke out, and eventually escaped.

In Lord Roberts' final despatches of 2nd April and 4th September 1901, 16 officers and 18 non-commissioned officers and men of the battalion were mentioned.

During the latter part of 1900 and early months of 1901 the battalion did much marching, but it was

P. 265

not till 28th May 1901 that any good opportunity for gaining distinction came. On that date Colonel Dixon was moving about near Vlakfontein, north-west of Krugersdorp, in difficult country ; his force being, — Left, under Major Chance : 2 guns of 28th Battery, 1 pom-pom, 230 Imperial Yeomanry, one company Derbyshire Regiment. Centre : 2 guns 8th Battery, 1 howitzer, two companies King's Own Scottish Borderers, one company Derbyshire. Bight : 2 guns 8th Battery, 200 Scottish Horse, two companies King's Own Scottish Borderers. 1 Under cover of a grass-fire the enemy broke the screen of the left column, driving in the Yeomanry and seizing the two guns. Things were looking hopeless, but the infantry rose to the occasion, and by a charge which is unsurpassed by any similar feat in the history of the war the men of the Derbyshire Regiment recaptured the guns, but at a terrible cost, — 18 of their number being killed and about 70 wounded. Other troops assisted the Foresters, but to them belongs the glory of a magnificent achievement.

Two officers and 6 men were mentioned by Lord Kitchener in his despatches for gallantry at Vlakfontein. The number appears few, but where practically every man belonging to the two companies present displayed absolutely unsurpassable gallantry it must have been difficult to select names. The cause of mention in the case of Colour-Sergeant Henod is worth quoting, the circumstances being so unusual. "After being taken prisoner, exhibited great courage and coolness in removing our wounded from bursting of our shells." This looks worthy of the coveted cross.

1 Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th July 1901.


On 30th September 1901 the same column, now under Kekewich, was again fiercely attacked at Moediwill in the Megaliesberg range. The words of Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th October may be given: "At dawn on the following morning his camp was heavily attacked by a force of at least 1000 Boers under Generals Delarey and Kemp, who had evidently followed up our column from the valley of the Toelani. The attack, which lasted from 4.45 A.M. till 6.45 A.M., being delivered upon three sides of our camp with great vigour and a lavish expenditure of ammunition, was quickly repulsed after severe fighting, in which all ranks displayed great gallantry, the conduct of the 1st Battalion Derbyshire Regiment being especially distinguished. The enemy, foiled in their attempt to rush the position, were compelled to fall back, and they apparently retired in a northerly and north- westerly direction. Our losses in this action were severe, 1 officer and 31 men being killed, and 26 officers, including Colonel Kekewich, and 127 men wounded. To give some idea of the severity of the fire to which the troops were subjected, it may be mentioned that three picquets were practically an- nihilated, and that out of a party of 12 men of the IfcrhyAire »,)_* which SU« . drift, 8 men were killed and 4 wounded. Upon Colonel Kekewich being incapacitated by wounds the command of the column was temporarily assumed by Lieut- Colonel Wylly, Derbyshire Regiment" Official recognition was this time bestowed on exceptional work.

Private Bees, one of nine in the maxim detachment, six of whom were hit, went forward to a spruit held by Boers 500 yards away for water for wounded comrades, passing within 100 yards of rocks held by

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Boers. He brought back a kettle full of water, the kettle being hit several times. Bees got the Victoria Cross. One officer, Lieutenant Mills, who was killed, and 6 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th October 1901 for deeds of magnificent heroism, almost equal to that of Private Bees. Altogether the Derbyshire Regiment had 8 officers and 22 non-commissioned officers and men mentioned in despatches written by Lord Kitchener for surpassingly gallant work, and in his final or supplementary despatch he added the names of 5 officers and 6 non-commissioned officers.

The Mounted Infantry company of the Sherwood Foresters saw a very great deal of fighting and came up to the high standard of the 1st Battalion. Corporal Beet gained the Victoria Cross at Wakkerstroom, in the Orange River Colony, on 27th April 1900. An Imperial Yeoman being wounded in a retirement, Beet remained with him, placed him in cover, bound up his wounds, and by firing prevented the Boers approaching, so that at dark a doctor was able to go to the wounded man's assistance.



The Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) was formed during the Childers Reforms in 1881 from the amalgamation of the 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment of Foot and the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment of Foot.

The outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 found both regular battalions in Malta and during November of that year the 1st Battalion sailed for South Africa where they were to remain until the end of the War in 1902. They took part in most of the major battles and shared all the hard marching and privations of that long campaign. On one occasion they marched 400 miles in 45 days and were engaged with the enemy 28 times. The 4th Battalion and service companies of the Volunteer Battalions also took part in the campaign with great credit. The 2nd Battalion, still stationed in Malta, provided volunteers for the many mounted infantry companies. Two additional VCs were won by Cpl H Beet and Pte W Bees, while amongst the many other decorations bestowed on Foresters were no fewer than twenty-two Distinguished Conduct Medals.

Arthur Conan Doyle,
The Great Boer War
London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1902

The Winter Campaign (April-September, 1901)

paragraph 17:

"On May 26th Dixon's force, consisting of Derbyshires, King's Own Scottish Borderers, Imperial Yeomanry, Scottish Horse, and six guns (four of 8th R.F.A. and two of 28th R.F.A.), broke camp at Naauwpoort and moved to the west. On the 28th they found themselves at a place called Vlakfontein, immediately south of Oliphant's Nek. On that day there were indications that there were a good many Boers in the neighbourhood. Dixon left a guard over his camp and then sallied out in search of the buried guns. His force was divided into three parts, the left column under Major Chance consisting of two guns of the 28th R.F.A., 230 of the Yeomanry, and one company of the Derbys. The centre comprised two guns (8th R.F.A.), one howitzer, two companies of the Scottish Borderers and one of the Derbys; while the right was made up of two guns (8th R.F.A.), 200 Scottish Horse, and two companies of Borderers. Having ascertained that the guns were not there, the force about midday was returning to the camp, when the storm broke suddenly and fiercely upon the rearguard."

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