Boer War Soldiers 2016-10-25T14:25:45+00:00

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BOER WAR SOLDIERS FROM THORNBURY 1899 – 1902

On 18th December 1902 after the end of the Boer War the Western Daily Press reported that the Permanent Memorial Committee had met Mr Oatley the architect to discuss plans for the erection of a stone clock tower on The Plain in Thornbury to commemorate those who died in the war.  This clock tower was never built and so there was no public record of those who died in the Boer War.

Unfortunately we don’t have any lists of the Thornbury men who served in this War, nor any details of any who may have perished there.  We do know from researching the families for Thornbury Roots that the following men with local connections served in South Africa in the War.  We would be grateful to hear from anyone who can tell us the names of anyone else who served there from Thornbury and provide us with any other information:

William Holpin – was born in Tytherington in 1869, the son of Henry Holpin, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Emma.  By 1891 the Census shows that he was working in the quarry.  William enlisted on 16th June 1892 at Woolwich.  He initially a driver.  He received the India Medal of 1895 and was posted to the North West Frontier in India from 1897 to 1898 and to South Africa in 1899.  He was appointed acting bomber in 1898.  His record says that he was back in Britain from January 1898 to December 1899 and presumably this is why he married in 1899.  He was promoted to Bomber in 1900 and that year was involved in the Relief of Kimberley in 1900 and one of his medals was for this campaign.  William was away at the time of the 1901 Census – he was in South Africa fighting in the Boer War.  William was discharged from the army in June 1904.  Click here to read more about William and his family

We are grateful to Denise Cousins for allowing us to see William’s diary which covers 6 months in 1900 when he was serving as a bomber in the Boer War.  We are particularly interested to read about the distances which William’s unit covered during those months and it is worth referring to the places he names using an atlas or Google Maps.  Click here to read the diary

John Banks Jenkinson – was born in Cadogan, London in 1881, the eldest son of George Banks Jenkinson and his wife Madeline.  The family’s home was in Gloucestershire, initially at The Elms, Falfield and then when at Eastwood Park.  John joined the Rifle Brigade at Sandhurst in 1899.  He served in the Boer War with the Mounted Infantry, and he obtained the Queen’s medal with five clasps.  He was said to be a very enthusiastic sportsman and fond of hunting, shooting and polo.  He was especially keen on shooting expeditions abroad, and when able to do so, always spent his leave on such expeditions and trips to the Rockies, Caucasian Mountains, Asia Minor and North Africa.

John became Captain in 1908 and General Staff Officer, Eastern Command by 1912 and Brigade Major 3rd Infantry Brigade in 1913.  He went to France, as Brigade-Major, in August 1914.  He was involved in the Retreat from Mons, and the Battle of the Aisne, at which he was killed on 14th September 1914.  His last words were said to be ” Fight on.”  He was buried at Vendresse British Cemetery France.  Click here to read more about John and his family

Robert Mills – born in 1878, the son of Georgina Mills, Robert was brought up by his grandparents.  We understand that Robert volunteered as a soldier in the Boer War and that the family has his campaign medal.  Robert returned to Thornbury, became a painter and house decorator and eventually settled to live with his wife and children at 28 Castle Street.  Click here to read more

John Thomas Oates – was born in Cheadle in Staffordshire in 1873.  He was the son of John Oates who came from Ireland and his wife, Eliza (nee Rugman) who was born in Thornbury.  He enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry at Taunton in 1891 when he was just 18 years of age.  His initial period of service was to be 7 years.  During this time, he served in Gibraltar from 10th November 1891 to 18th December 1893.  He moved from there to the East Indies where he served from 19th December 1893 to 14th February 1899.  Although the records refer to the ‘East Indies’ as his base, he spent considerable time in India where he was awarded the India Medal with clasps for ‘The Relief of Chitral 1895’ and ‘Tirah, Semana and Punjab Frontier 1897’.  The Chitral Campaign took place in North West India (now Pakistan) in 1895.  Rebels had taken over the district and killed the ruling chief.  British troops were sent to re-establish order.

On 15th February 1899 John was sent home to UK and he was transferred to the Army Reserve on 19th October 1899.  He moved to Thornbury to join his mother.  We understand John was employed as a ‘birdscarer’ when he met ‘Annie’, whom he married in Thornbury Congregational Chapel on Easter Monday, 3rd April 1899.  At the time of his wedding he described his occupation as ‘formerly a soldier’, but John didn’t hang around long after the wedding.  With trouble brewing in South Africa, he was recalled by the Army on 9th October 1899.  He was given the rank of Sergeant and sent off to South Africa where he helped in the ‘Relief of Ladysmith’.  This British-controlled town was under siege by the Boers from 2 November 1899 to 28 February 1900.  As a result of his efforts here he was mentioned in the dispatches of Lord Roberts, published in the London Gazette sold on Tuesday 10th September 1901, as having given special meritorious service during the campaign in South Africa.  On 5th July 1901 he returned to the UK where on 15th January 1902 he was awarded a Medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field on 29th November 1901.  He was discharged from the Army on 17th February 1902.   Click here to read more

John Langfield Pegg – born in Cardiff in 1878, the son of Samuel Pegg, master mariner and his wife, Charlotte Elizabeth.  The family moved to the Thornbury area by 1890.  Newspaper reports in 1901 show that Samuel’s son, John Langfield (who became known as ‘Jack’) served in the 1st Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry.  He was reported as to being given a hearty welcome home when he returned from the Boer War in South Africa.  ‘A large concourse of people assembled, and the hero of the hour was escorted to his father’s house, the Alveston Band playing’.  On his return he had a difficult time and appears to have moved to New Zealand where at the time of the First World War he enlisted with the Otago Mounted Rifles, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, embarking on 14th February 1915 sailing to Suez.  When he enlisted Jack was a farmer living in Wellington, NZ.  Jack is listed on the Aukland War Memorial.  He appears to have been killed in 1918.  His next of kin included his brother W. S. Pegg of the Swan Hotel, Thornbury.  Click here to read more

Sidney Albert Symes – born in 1860, the son of William Symes, a tailor and his wife, Matilda.  Sidney joined the Royal Engineers and became a Company Sergeant Major in the Boer War.  He died in Bristol in 1910.  Click here to read more and see a photo of Sidney

Hugh Champneys Thurston – born in 1862, the son of Obed Edward Thurston, a solicitor and his wife Louisa.  In 1887 Hugh joined the Royal Army Medical Corps as a surgeon.  He served in Burma in 1891 with the Wuntho Field Force under Sir General Wolsley and received the Indian Frontier Medal with a clasp.  In 1899 Hugh became a Major and served throughout the Boer War between 1899 and 1902.  He was present at the Relief of Kimberley and took part in many other operations there.  He was mentioned in dispatches and received the Queen’s medal with five clasps and the King’s medal with two clasps and honoured with the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (C.M.G.).  Thornbury Museum is lucky enough to hold a letter from Hugh Champneys Thurston written from Heidelburg during the Boer War (in fact dated 28th October 1900).  This letter gives a very graphic account of the scenes around him.  Hugh became Deputy Assistant Director General in the War Office from 1904 to 1908.  He died in St Margaret’s Babbacombe in Devon on 17th August 1919.  Click here to read about Hugh and his family, see the contents of his letter and see a photo of him

John Robert Wilcox, who was born in Mannington near Wimborne in Dorset in 1876, the son of Charles Henry Wilcox, a woodman and his wife, Fanny.   John became a soldier, enlisting on December 18th 1893 at the age of seventeen and a half in the 2nd Dorset Regiment (54th Foot).  He met his future wife, Sarah MacIlhenny, whilst he serving in Ireland and they were married on 17th December 1895 in St Columbo’s Church, Waterside, Londonderry.  Sarah moved with John to wherever he was based.  In 1901 they were living in Shorncliffe Camp, Kent, where their two sons were born: John Arthur born on 14 October 1899 and Frederick Robert born in December quarter 1901.  During this period, John spent some time in South Africa helping to fight the Boers.  Click here to read more

Joseph Thomas Wilson – born in 1872, the son of Thomas Wilson, a beerhouse keeper and his wife, Anna Maria.  Joseph enlisted in the Royal Engineers on 9th August 1893.  He was aged 21 years and 6 days and had previously been employed as a harness maker at Embleys of Thornbury.  He was 5ft 11 inches, 149 lbs with 38.5 inch chest when expanded, fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. Joseph served in Natal, South Africa during the Boer War and was awarded the South Africa Queen’s Medal and South Africa Rings.  He was promoted to Sergeant in 1902 and posted to mounted duties in 1903, qualifying as a ‘Superior saddle and collar maker’.  Joseph extended his service and continued through to the First World War.  There is a hand-written note in the service file saying ‘Harness Maker – Killed’.  We are not sure of the implication of this as Joseph was discharged from the service following completion of his second period of engagement on 5th August 1916.  Click here to read more

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