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High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire 1 year 7 months ago #84287

  • Neville_C
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I have checked the C.I.V. Reports (Newton, 1900), and find that 872 Private H. CURTIS served with the 1st Tower Hamlets R.V.
This suggests that he was living in London, so your suggestion that the two missing men lived away from High Wycombe is a plausible one.
No other men with the name Curtis and initial "H" served with the C.I.V.

129 Private G. COULTON served with the 16th Middlesex (Royal Irish) R.V., so, again, may have resided in London.
After serving with the C.I.V., he joined the Cape Mounted Rifles on 10/02/1901, serving as 3662 Private G. Coulton.

I hope this helps.
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High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire 3 weeks 2 days ago #94024

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Berenice did not unearth details of Lieut J F Harper who heads the list on the High Wycombe Boer War Memorial. I am now able to correct that more than a little.

Firstly he receives a brief mention in “The Last Post” by Mildred Dooner, my edition is dated 1980 but from her preface it was first published in 1903.

Harper. – Lieut. J. F. Harper, 4th Batt. I.Y., was killed in action at Ladismith, Cape Colony, Sept. 10th, 1901. He first served as a trooper in the I.Y. and was appointed lieut. March 14th, 1901 with the rank of lieut. in the army.

The South Bucks Standard of 20th September 1901 was far from brief.

THE WAR – LIEUT. HARPER, I.Y., KILLED IN ACTION.

Among the list of casualties issued by the War Office this week appeared the name of Lieut. J. F. Harper, 104th (Derbyshire) Company, Imperial Yeomanry, killed in action near Ladysmith [sic], on the 10th inst.’ At dawn. The deceased officer was very well known in Wycombe. He was born at Rochester, Kent, nearly 24 years ago, and was educated first at Woodhouse Grove School, Leeds, and afterwards at Wyckliffe College [sic], Oxford. He came to Wycombe some six years ago with his parents, the Rev. Richard and Mrs Mary Ann Harper, the first named taking up the position of Superintendent of the local Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, and of minister of Wesley Chapel, Priory Road, Wycombe, being succeeded by the Rev. W. Earl, who in turn, was succeeded by the Rev. T. H. Penrith, the present minister. The son, John Fox Harper, meanwhile served as assistant in the shop of Messrs. R. D. Vernon and Co., ironmongers, etc., in Church Street, and he remained in the town after his parents left it. About three years ago he left the employ of Messrs. Vernon and co. and joined a Mr Donaldson in a printing and stationary business, which they carried on in the Desborough Road, and which business is now conducted by Messrs. Moyes and Gurney. In January 1900, when the 38th (Wycombe) Company Imperial Yeomanry was being formed, he was among the first to offer his services, and was duly enlisted, and he left with the Company for South Africa in the “Norman”. He saw fire in no fewer than 50 engagement, and had his horse shot under him on four occasions. He was considered a very clever and capable young man, of great administrative ability, and had he been spared he would undoubtedly have proved himself a very capable officer. He was promoted from the ranks to Lieutenant on the personal recommendation of lord Methuen, for conspicuous service rendered in the field. It was just prior to the 38th Company returning home in June this year that the deceased was given a commission and transferred to the 56th Company, from which he was afterwards transferred to the 104th. The deceased was engaged to be married to Miss Nellie Jane Goodearl, daughter of Mr Councillor and Mrs Henry Goodearl, of Trezelah, Priory Avenue and much sympathy is felt with the young lady in the loss she has sustained.

Mildred was correct in the location of his death. For Wyckliffe College one needs to read Wycliffe Hall which is still functioning and is part of the University. The 38th Company were part of the 10th Battalion, the 56th were part of the 15th Battalion and the 104th were part of the 4th Battalion. So whether you consider the memorial is right in naming him as a member of the 10th Battalion I leave up to the reader.

His paperwork from his 38th Company days has survived. This tells us he attested in High Wycombe on 8th January 1900, he was exactly 6 feet tall and weighed 10 stone 12 lbs, had a dark complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He set sail for South Africa aboard the Norman on 10th February 1900. Shipping records confirm this and add that as well as the 10th Battalion IY the Norman also carried a number of “distinguished” passengers including the Duke of Westminster. By the 15th February she had reached Madeira for “coaling” and finally docked at Cape Town on 1st March 1900. His service record shows he passed an instruction course in “Chiropody etc” and was mentioned in “public despatches”. He was commissioned on the 14th March 1901 and transferred to the 56th Company at the same time. During this time he earned the right to the three state clasps for his future QA Medal.

At the time of his death the 104th Company were part of Colonel Eyre Macdonnell Stewart Crabbe’s column operating in Cape Colony and Lieutenant Harper’s death received coverage in the writings of Colonel R L Birkin in his “History of the 3rd Regiment Imperial Yeomanry 28-1-00 to 6-8-02”. The mention is in the section on the 111th Company who were also part of Crabbe’s Column – I have to thank Paul Dunn (dunnboer) for giving me access to the relevant pages.

According to Birkin on the 10th September 1901 Crabbe’s Column had surrounded a Boer commando led by Van der Mewer. Before going in for the kill Colonel Crabbe decided to bring up a gun and -

During the interval a lieutenant of the Derby Imperial Yeomanry was responsible for an act – brave and reckless though it was – which cost him not only his own life but also the lives of two of his men. To the front was a farm house from which the Boers had fled to the kopje but was still held by some of the enemy. Calling to two of his men, the lieutenant asked them if they would rush the farm with him. They got to within thirty yards of the place, when the Boers shouted “hands up”. The order was complied with, when they were immediately shot, the two men were killed outright and the officer mortally wounded. Colonel Crabbe called for volunteers to fetch in the lieutenant (who was writhing on the ground) and two men of the 111th volunteered. They reached the lieutenant in safety and were in the act of carrying him away when the enemy again fired, blowing off a portion of Trooper Coulson’s foot with an explosive bullet. Promptly he hopped behind an adjacent rock and thus saved his life. Here must be recorded a noteworthy deed of heroism. Trooper Featherstone, undaunted by the fate of his comrade, took the Lieutenant upon his back and, despite his remonstrances, commenced to carry him back towards the British lines. They were now under the concentrated Boer fire from the farmhouse and had proceeded but a short distance when the Lieutenant was shot through the heart, while still upon Featherstone’s back. All unconscious that he was carrying a corpse, the trooper with his inanimate burden reached the Column and was personally congratulated by the Colonel on his bravery.

Coulson & Featherstone were both members of the 111th Company and were later mentioned in despatches by Lord Kitchener for “Good service with Colonel Crabbe’s column in Cape Colony”.

This modern looking memorial I found on the eGGSA website and it tells us who all three men of the 104th were:



Filling in some missing information as mothers also mourned their sons:

As already stated Lieutenant John Fox Harper was the son of the Rev Richard & Mary Ann Harper. Richard was a Wesleyan Methodist Minister.

QMS Harold Wentworth Vergette was the son of Edward and Louise Vergette. Besides being a solicitor his father had also been Mayor of Peterborough in 1884/5 and had died 7 years before his son. However, his mother was still alive and her 1919 obituary described her as “an esteemed lady”. Like John Fox Harper, Harold Wentworth Vergette was a soldier of note – he had lied about his age when he first enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry in February 1900 and had received rapid promotion and at the time of his death was reputed to be the youngest QMS in the British Army.

Joseph Thomas Eley was the son of Joseph and Millicent Eley of Swarkstone where Joseph was an agricultural labourer – such is life, move on David.

There are two other detailed accounts of the death of these three men in which Troopers Coulson & Featherstone do not get a mention and John’s approach to the farmhouse is not described as “reckless” but as they both contain obvious errors I will not quote them. However, there is little doubt in my mind that Harold and Joseph had first carried John away from the farmhouse but in doing this had been killed with Harold allegedly being shot through the brain.
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