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KHEIS DRIFT - the breaking of one military career but the making of another. 4 months 1 week ago #80869

  • Smethwick
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The Birmingham Daily Post, Friday 13th July 1900.



“Writing to a London friend, Mr. Philip J. Reid, formerly of Warley Abbey, who has recently been serving with the Warwickshire Company of the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa, gives the following account of his experiences since he had the misfortune to be wounded at Kheis, British Bechuanaland. The letter is dated Kheis Drift, June 11. ‘Our company had an exciting time at the Drift. It was my first time under fire and it was a pity to be knocked out so soon. Of course I was very lucky. The wounds were made by Mauser bullets, for one thing; and for another I was hit when only about a yard from cover. Other fellows got hit by explosive bullets, which made fearful holes, and, besides that had to be left lying out in the shallow water near the bank, or on the shingle of the beach. We were hit at a range of 150-200 yards, and a Mauser bullet at this range is merciful. It makes a small hole, and goes clean through what it strikes without any fuss. We are in a temporary Field Hospital, and begin a fortnight’s journey to Prieska tomorrow in wagons. Since my leg – thigh bone – was set I have been on a bed, and I am to have this placed on a wagon. It was our luck to have in the Warwickshire Company a fully qualified doctor, who comes of a sporting family, and came out to the front just for the fun of the thing. I shall never forget Dr Unwin’s (of Dunchurch, Rugby) kindness. He was in risk of being killed all the time, as the bullets were coming dangerously near, and the Boers had got into practice, firing at the Red Cross. It would have been, I think, the bitterest sorrow of my life if he had been hit. I shall be on my back for nine or ten weeks, but have now taken the turn, and if the wagon journey does not upset us we should all be on the mend soon.”

One senses Philip anticipated returning to the fray but I don’t think that was the case. He returned to Blighty in December 1900 and arrived on the same day as HM Hospital Ship Simla docked at Southampton. His service record classed his wounding as “severe” and that it left him with a “permanent limp”. After another two months he was discharged from the army and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal with only one clasp – “Cape Colony”. He returned to the world of newspapers and was the news editor for the Middlesbrough Daily Gazette, founded by his father. He did good works as Honorary Secretary of the Middlesbrough Guild of Hope and wrote letters to other papers regarding tariff reform and equality of opportunity. Come WW1 he enlisted in the “Hussars of the Line” and his attestation papers show he admitted to his wound. He never left Blighty and 15 months later was discharged medically unfit. He died in 1932 aged 55.

So, who was Dr Unwin who expertly ministered to Philip at Kheis Drift? At the time he was Lance Corporal 258 Thomas Barton Unwin. Below is his full military career found on a website regarding RAMC Officers who served at Malta Garrison in WW1. As you can see somebody obviously noticed his medical skills during the 28 May 1900 engagement at Kheis Drift!

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Barton Unwin
OBE (1919) MB (Edinburgh 1899)
7 Mar 1874 (Wigan) – 5 July 1945 (aged 71, Bournemouth)
Service Record
28 May 1900 – 13 Nov 1900 Served as a Civil Surgeon Imperial Yeomanry.
14 Nov 1900 Appointed Lieutenant RAMC from the Imperial Yeomanry.
1900–1901 Served in South Africa (invalided). He took part in the action at Rhenoster Kop, action at Kheis, and operations in the Orange River Colony.
14 Nov 1903 Promoted Captain RAMC.
1903–1907 Served in Ceylon.
1911–1914 Served in West Africa.
14 Nov 1912 Major.
28 July 1914 Start of the Great War.
4 Aug 1914 Britain declared war on Germany.
1914–1915 Served with the British Expeditionary Force in France.
1915–1916 Served in East Africa.
1917–1919 Commanding Officer No 39 Stationary Hospital France.
1921–1926 Served in India.
23 Feb 1923 Lieutenant Colonel.
22 Mar 1927 Arrived in Malta from England.
He was a man of few words, a great believer in brevity being the soul of the wit.
1928 On duty at Malta.
8 Feb 1929 Left Malta for England.
7 Mar 1929 Retired.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Dave F

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