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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Forgotten Heroes

Yesterday I took a trip to Clouston Garden of Remembrance, about 30km north of Estcourt, and 5km from the small town of Colenso on the Tugela river. British troops who fell during the Battle of Colenso 15th December, 1899, were reburied here in the early 1960's. Originally the troops were buried where they fell, singly or in groups. Virtually every town and village in South Africa has British troops buried nearby or in the old cemetary. Now forgotten, not many people know about them except Anglo/Boer War history buffs.

On the 15th of December 1899, British forces, numbering about, 18,000 men, under General Buller's command attacked about 4,500 Boer troops ensconced in the hills north of the Tugela river. This was an attempt to relieve the beseiged British garrison in Ladysmith. By the end of the day British casualties were, 145 dead, 762 wounded, and 220 missing or prisoners. Boer casualties were minimal.

The Anglo/Boer war led to three years of intense and unnecessary suffering. Concentration camps cost the lives of 26,000 Boer women and children, about 20, 000 black South Africans also died in concentration camps, official British figures are about 14,500. British casualties were, 28,000 dead, about 20,000 of whom died of disease. About 450,000 British and Empire, (Australia, New Zealand and Canada)  troops were deployed in South Africa. Boer casualties were about 4000 killed. Boer forces never had more than 40,000 troops in the field at any one time, in the last half of the war this number dropped to about 20,000.

Link to piece on concentration camps

Entrance to Clouston. The garden of remembrance is maintained by the National Monuments Commission.

They died together, they're buried together.

Another nameless grave.

Pvt. Ford of the 14th Hussars at least had his name recorded, the two on either side of him are nameless.
Graves in the shade of an African thorn tree. If things had been different their graves would have been under an English oak, somewhere in England.

This marker, "Known only unto God," between the two graves above

Peaceful setting.
Most British troopers just have the markers above to mark their graves, no name.

Above two comrades of the Natal Carbineers Regiment. Both drowned in the Tugela river, one trying to save the other. The Anglo/Boer War has also been described as a civil war, the name on the right hand tombstone is Boshoff, a well known Boer name, fighting on the British side.
Lt. Freddy Roberts, VC. Son of General Roberts, wounded while trying to save the guns at Colenso. It took three days for him to die of an abdominal wound. General Roberts received news of his sons death as he was boarding ship for South Africa, to take over command of the British forces.

This markers tells it's own story.

Gunners badge.
Natal Carbineers Monument.

Lonely grave in the African veld of Capt. M. L. Hughes, R.A.M.C. Aged 30.

The waste of war. Marker at the foot of Captain Hughes' grave.

Photo above shows the ground the British forces had to cross before reaching the Tugela river at the foot of the hills on the north bank. Boer forces had a clear view of their every move. December being the rainy season the river was in flood, with only a few places where it could be crossed.

Partial view over the Garden of Remembrance. Wandering about I found the atmosphere very peaceful and quite. All the anger and hatred had been spent and dissipated over the last 100 years.

This link below has a complete article on this battle.

The Wikipedia link below gives a broad overview of the Anglo/Boer War,


Jo said...

Hi Phil, what an eye-opener. I read every word and felt sadder and sadder at the waste of war. Bethlehem in the Free State also has a British Soldier cemetery. I think I'll get Grant to stop there when we next pass through. These places are peaceful. Blessings and love, Jo

Kay L. Davies said...

A beautiful post, full of heartache.
When we were in France this spring, we visited Dieppe, where many Canadian soldiers are buried. The ones with no name made me cry.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Rosemary said...

Very very sad, Phil. And still war rages today!

Rosemary (Sissie)