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The send-off for the Uitenhage Volunteer Rifles and Captain Peter Gent 1 week 6 days ago #85758

  • BereniceUK
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I've transcribed this article as it appeared in the Congleton Chronicle, so there are two spellings of Uitenhage in it - the correct one and "Uitenage."

....A copy of the "Uitenage Times," which is the "Government Gazette for the Divisions of Uitenage, Humansdorp, Port Elizabeth, Alexandria, Graaff Reinet, Somerset East, Jasenville, and Willowmore" districts of South Africa, dated December 6th, 1899, has reached Congleton, and from this "native" print we are enabled to cull some news which is peculiarly of local interest. We give it literatim et verbatim:—
...."The Uitenage Volunteer rifles left for the front by special train at eight o'clock on Monday night.
...."Their original instructions from Lieutenant-Colonel Fairholme, Commandant at Port Elizabeth base, were to hold themselves in readiness to move on Sunday, but subsequently this order was countermanded, and the corps were notified that they would depart on the following evening. At about six o'clock, when the men "fell-in" at the Drill Hall, a crowd commenced to gather on Market Square. The Union Jack was proudly flying above the Town Hall, and numerous business places in town, as well as over the official quarters of the Volunteers themselves, and
was visible on every side. It was known that the Volunteers were to be officially farewelled by the Mayor and Town Council, so that the vicinity of the municipal buildings was early the scene of great activity. The balcony and windows were occupied by ladies, and on the steps below and in their immediate neighbourhood a promiscuous multitude of all sexes, ages, and colours, gathered to give "our boys" a fitting good-bye. The Band of the Marist Brothers' College took up a position on the Town Hall steps, and rendered a number of patriotic and popular airs. Shortly after 6.30 p.m. the Volunteers marched out of the Drill Hall, and, 'midst the strains of "Soldiers of the Queen," they paraded before the main entrance to the Town Hall. Being, as they were, in full "war paint," the men presented a very smart and serviceable appearance, and seemed to be elated at the prospect of encountering
The corps have been disappointed on previous occasions, but, if looks mean anything, they intend to redeem their ill fortune, if possible, in the present and most important war South Africa has ever witnessed. When the Volunteers paraded in front of the Town Hall, a dense crowd hemmed them in on every side. Several thousand people had assembled, and the men were loudly and heartily cheered. The Mayor (Mr. H. J. Gibbon, himself an old campaigner and ex-Lieutenant of the U.V.R.), Town Councillors Macpherson, Mills, Nicholl, Taylor, Wilde, Channer, Edy, Dolley, andBubb, and the Town Clerk, took up a position at the top of the steps, and others prominently associated with them were Mr. Garcia, C.C. and R.M., and the Hon. John Dolley, M.L.C.
...."When the cheering had subsided Captain Gent, the officer in command of the corps, read the following official letter from the Mayor, bidding the Volunteers good-bye on behalf of the town:—
Town Office, Uitenage,............
4th December, 1899.......
....To Captain Gent, officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Uitenage Volunteer Rifles—On behalf of the Town Council and the citizens of Uitenage, I beg to tender to you our heartiest congratulations on your having attained such numerical strength, and received such efficiency as to warrant the military authorities in calling you out for military service, as they have now done, at this momentous period in our country's history. We are all justly proud of your martial appearance and general fitness for taking the field; and we have every confidence that the Uitenage Volunteer Rifles will at all times be prepared to give a good account of themselves, and maintain the high reputation that Volunteers and other forces from this town have already won in the field.
....In proceeding to the front, you will take with you our sincere wishes for a speedy termination of hostilities, and our earnest hope that you may all safely return to your homes amongst us at an early date. But whether your return to Uitenage be sooner or later, rest assured that you will always, during your absence, occupy a foremost place in our thoughts, and nothing will give us greater pleasure than news that "our boys" have been taking their share in the operations of the field, and winning fresh laurels for their corps.
....With these remarks, I now beg, in the name of the Council, and on behalf of the inhabitants, to bid you good-bye and wish you "God-speed" on the service upon which you have entered.
(Signed) H. J. GIBBON, Mayor.......
....Renewed cheering followed—for the Queen, the officers, the corps in general, the townspeople, and so on.
....The Mayor then addressed the Volunteers, remarking that he felt proud to have the opportunity of addressing such a fine body of men as these now before him. He was sure they would compare favourably with any that had gone to the front. Indeed, any town might well feel proud to send such a fine lot of men to take part in the work of expelling the invader from their country. (Cheers.)
....The Hon. J. F. Dolley, M.L.C., who was loudly cheered, said— "Captain Gent, officers, and men of the Uitenhage Volunteer Rifles, you are just proceeding to the front to fight the battles of your country."
....We, as Uitenhagers, are proud of you; we are proud of the Volunteer Rifles, because we know you will do your duty. Where your lot may be sent for service—whether it be in guarding important points at the base of operations, or in the battles of Kimberley, Bloemfontein, or Pretoria—we know that every man of you will do his duty, as Uitenhagers have always done in the campaigns of the past. (Cheers.) We shall follow your movements very closely, we shall watch with keen interest your doings in the field, and we hope you may share in the success of many battles. You are going to fight for the cause of freedom and justice, and for equal rights for your countrymen, and for the supremacy in South Africa of that great Empire to which we all belong. (Cheers.) We know that every man will do his utmost, and that you will keep up the old and noble traditions of the British soldier. (Cheers.)
....Mr. Garcia, C.C. and R.M., reiterated all that had been said by previous speakers, and described the Volunteers as men of proper grit, who would give a good account of themselves in action. He hoped they would return without a gap in their ranks.
....Captain Gent, who was received with enthusiasm, briefly responded. He thanked the Mayor and Town Council and people of Uitenage, on behalf of the corps for their hearty and enthusiastic send-off. The Volunteers never expected such an ovation. Wherever they went, and in whatever they did, they would endeavour to uphold the credit of Uitenage and the Empire, and so sustain the reputation of the U.V.R. (Loud cheers.) He (Captain Gent) was proud to be in command of such a fine body of men. They were happy and contented, and they worked together well, and he was confident that they would at all times do their duty as men and soldiers. (Cheers.) They would never forget the kind treatment they had received that day. In the name of the corps, he thanked the public for their hearty send-off, and bade them an affectionate farewell. (Loud and prolonged cheers.) The National Anthem was then rendered, and the Volunteers continued their march to the railway station, accompanied by the band and followed by eager thousands.
.... Beggars description. Never before had been witnessed such a crowd or so much enthusiasm in Uitenhage.
....Is now 200 strong, and consists of two companies. The officers accompanying "A" Section were Captain Gent and Lieutenant Buck."
....The evidently very popular Captain Gent, our readers will be interested to learn, is Mr. Peter Gent, the eldest son of Mr. James Gent, of this town [Congleton]. Mr. Peter—Captain Gent we should say—is an old St. James' scholar. As a lad he was one of the late Mr. John Wilson's "boys" of St. James' Church Choir, and, afterwards, his voice developing into a good 'bass,' he in time became to be one of the principal 'basses' of the choir. On the last Sunday evening prior to his departure "over the sea and far away," the anthem "Ye shall dwell in the land" was sung by the choir at St. James' Church, and Mr. Peter Gent gave a memorable rendering of the solo. On the day following he proceeded en route for Australia. That was about fifteen years ago. He sojourned in Australia for five years, during which period he had the misfortune to lose his wife, who was the eldest daughter of the late Mr. Charles Berisford, J.P. He then paid a welcomed visit to his native town—'dear little Congleton' as he described it. He once again joined his old colleagues in the rendering of the services at St. James' Church, and then occupied precisely the same position in the choir as he did in the earlier years. At the expiration of this holiday he sailed for South Africa, where he has ever since remained, and we are very glad to know that he is now loyally doing duty at "the Front" in the present war. We hope and trust that he will come safely through, and that some day we may see him in good old Congleton once again. We must not omit to mention the fact that Mr. Gent was for several years a popular member of the local companies of the 5th V.B.C.R., and had attained the rank of corporal.
Congleton Chronicle, Saturday 27th January 1900

Born in Congleton in 1865, Major Peter Gent, J.P., was a member of the Liquor Licensing Court for the Kroonstad District in 1924.
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