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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 2 years 2 months ago #81990

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Portrait of Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace

John Spottiswoode Eustace, affectionately known to his nearest and dearest as 'Jack,' was born on 24th July 1868 in Dublin, Ireland. He was the son of James and Emily Eustace of Castlemore House, Tullow, County Carlow, Ireland. James (22/06/1839 to 10/09/1905) was Justice of the Peace for Co. Carlow, and in 1874 served as the High Sheriff of Carlow for a tenure of twelve months.
John's mother was born in India, the daughter of General Sir Maurice Stack and Cecilia Spottiswoode (hence John's middle name).
There were another four children of the family Eustace as follows:
Maurice James Eustace (b.28/06/1867 to 08/08/1924).
Cecil Robert Eustace (b. 28/06/1934 to 18/04/1934).
Emily Alison Eustace (b. 24/09/1878 to 09/01/1879).
Roland Charles Eustace (b. 04/05/1880 to 04/03/1948).
The family home 'Castlemore' in Tullow, Co. Carlow was close to the Irish capital Dublin, and was a huge crenellated stately pile that had been in the Eustace family for some time as a part of the Newtown Estate. Sadly, the house is now derelict and in a state of disrepair.
Indeed, the Eustace family had held estates in the northern half of Co. Carlow for four centuries and James was probably the only Eustace still with land holdings in the late 19th/early 20th centuries.
The online webpages 'Eustace Family Association' claims that with 'near certainty' the Eustace family of Carlow are direct descendants of the 1st Viscount Baltinglass, who had a young son Edward Eustace of Kilknock, who was born around 1510. The website has a published lineage giving details of persons, dates, marriages etc.leading upto John and his siblings.
Therefore, the Eustace family can be considered part of the Irish Ascendancy. These were the movers and shakers of Irish society and were wealthy, aristocratic families loyal to the British Crown and major landowners. Many of their number were individuals who wielded power and administrative control as clergy, judges etc.
The Eustace pedigree and history of Castlemore makes for fascinating reading but is far too extensive to repeat here!

As we are getting to know the subject of this biography a little more, I will now refer to him as Jack.

The 1881 Census of England records Jack as a 12 year old Scholar at the Forest School, Walthamstow, West Ham, London and Essex.
He would have been a boarder at this one of the top schools of it's day, which is still operating presently. I would assume that the school very actively encouraged excellence in sports both now and during Jack's era (cricketer Nasser Hussain is among the sporting alumnii).

At some point Jack and his brother Cecil made their way to South Africa. I have yet to find a Passenger List detailing their voyage out.
Also, Jack took a Rosamund Evans as his wife in the 4th quarter of 1895. Rosamund taking the Eustace name. I think the marriage took place in the UK.
Sadly, their union was not blessed with children and Jack died without issue.


Lance Corporal John 'Jack' Spottiswoode Eustace of the South African Light Horse on the left in a studio portrait with his brother Cecil, a Trooper in Bethune's Mounted Infantry. Photograph taken in 1899.

Jack attested to the South African Light Horse on 10th November 1899 being issued with the service number 451 and assigned to 'A' Squadron. He did not declare the Spottiswoode part of his name at attestation. His age was 29, married, nationality Irish and his father back in Newtown, Co. Carlow was given as next of kin.
From this document we are able to identify Jack's occupation prior to volunteering for service with S.A.L.H. It would appear that he was involved in the mining business as a Cyanide Manager. But no details of employer were required in filling out the form, which is a pity for the researcher!

Jack's QSA with clasps for Cape Colony and Relief of Ladysmith (lower number on labelling is my catalogue number!). The medal was originally in the collection of Henk Loots and appeared in the City Coins Postal Medal Auction #71.


Those readers who have read about the action at Robinson's Drift will be all too aware of the 'fog of war' surrounding events of the day, where casualty status was misreported and it is only when one delves deeper into the available information that we gain some sort of understanding of what actually became of Jack and his comrades.

I will begin by quoting David Gruber from The Orders and Medals Research Society journal of Spring 1997 (this report cane with the medals and part of Henk Loots' research):

"A Forgotten Action of the South African Light Horse"
"On 20th January 1900, 2 squadrons of the South African Light Horse,led by Major Childe, attacked and captured Bastion Hill, an important position running at right angles to the main range of Spion Kop. This attack is mentioned in many books on the Boer War, mainly due to the gallantry of Pte. Tobin who led the charge up the hill and the subsequent death of Major Childe from shellfire.
The previous day the regiment was involved in a small action which has been overshadowed by the above events. What follows is a description compiled from letters sent home by some of the men involved and published in the local newspapers.
On the morning of 18th January, 2 troops of 'A' Squadron South African Light Horse advanced in extended order towards the Tugela river near Colenso. Their aim was to reconnoitre the south bank in search of the enemy and to ascertain whether Robinson's Drift was fordable or not. The latter objective was given to the centre section of 15 men under sergeant-major C.T.Mudford;to do this they had to ride 2000 yards down a gentle slope to the river with little cover to hide them from the Boer positions on the opposite bank only 100 yards from the Drift.
Cpl. H. Clarke, L/cpl. G.P.Tice, Tpr. H. Sole, Tpr. Basterfield rode down to the river but found that the bank was one mass of barbed wire. After succeeding in getting through it, Cpl. Clarke rode into the river, whereupon the Boers opened fire on the party. On finding the ford impassable he, Rice and Sole rode back up the hill and after making his report to the officer commanding, Clarke rejoined his men back down the hill, where the rest of the section had taken cover behind a few stunted bushes. By this time the whole of the enemy were engaged, firing in a deadly crossfire from trenches on the left and right at the 25 strong section. For around 3, hours the men lay, firing whenever the opportunity arose.
Cpl. Clarke and his 3 men had taken cover behind a small kopje, while Basterfield held the horses and Tice and Sole watched the enemy; Clarke fired at anyone he could see, which wasn't much, although he did stop the Boers signalling by heliography with a well aimed shot which broke the signalling mirror.
Their position was well within range of the enemy and when, at last he decided it was getting too hot, Clarke gave the order to retire; this entailed mounting in full view of the Boers and in doing so Tice broke a stirrup leather and fell . Shaken he told the others to leave him, but Clarke remained, ordering the others to go, he assisted Tice to mount and together they rode, amidst a fusilade of shots, back to the safety of their lines over a mile to the rear, Tice without stirrups or reins and Clarke carrying Rice's rifle.
During this action Tice received a slight bullet wound to the nose and Basterfield was shot in the arm while holding the horses.
While this small group was being pinned down, Sgt. Mudford and his 10 men were also trapped on the riverbank. Mudfords behaviour was later described as extremely plucky. Although within a few hundred yards of the enemy he walked from man to man encouraging and chatting with each and when he gave the order to retire about 3 hours later, finding that 6 of his men did not respond, he returned to look for them, without success and rode back up the hill alone, with the whole of the Boer fire concentrated on him. Miraculously he reached safety without a scratch.
The total casualties for the day were 7 horses and 6 men missing. The 6 men were later discovered to have been captured by the Boers. Their names are as follows
451 Cpl. J. Eustace
371 Pte. H. W. Eldred
450 Pte. J. Jolliffe
31Pte. H. E. Gilbanks
26 Pte. A. W. M. Brown
803 Pte. C. F. F. Licky

General Barton later sent for Sgt. Mudford and expressed his gratifications at the way in which he had carried out his orders and said that every man who went down the hill was deserving of a V.C. Sergeant Mudford was awarded a D.C.M. for his actions and Cpl. Clarke received a mention in dispatched."

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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 2 years 2 months ago #81998

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Colenso, Ambleside Cemetery

Elmarie Malherbe
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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 2 years 2 months ago #82053

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Thank you for coming back for the second instalment of Jack's story.

Clearly, there was a discrepancy in the day's casualty report as detailed in Part One!

I will now quote from the City Coins Postal Medal Auction#71 where the medal to Jack was sold as part of Henk s collection:


"On the 19th January there was a skirmish at Robinson's Drift in which six of the South African Light Horse were taken prisoner." Times History, Vol. Iii, p.242-3.

"The above sentence was based on two reports in Cd 968(p. 39-41, the so-called "Spion Kop Despatches", presented to Parliament in 1902."

"The first report was from Lt. Col. Thorold, Commanding the 1st. Btn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and the second from Maj. Gen. G. Barton, Commanding at Chieveley. The second report detailed the circumstances under which the six men surrendered to the Boers, and also listed their names."

"The Natal Field Force Casualty Roll lists Cpl. Eustace and Tprs. Elder, Jolliffe, Gilbanks and Brown as 'Misding-Released', Natal 19/01/1900 and Trooper Lilly as 'Wounded, Natal 20/01/1900.'

"Opposite Trooper Elders name the date of release is given as 06/06/1900. The incident was covered in an article ",A Forgotten Action of the South African Light Horse" by David Gruber in the OMRS Journal, Spring 2997, p.12-13 which gave the names of the 6" prisoners" as they were noted in the SAFF Casualty Roll."

"However, the 4 men, Viz. 26 Pte A W M Brown, 451 Cpl. Eustace, 31 Pte. H E Gilbanks and Pte. J Jolliffe were actually killed and only 371 Pte. H W Eldred and 803 Pte. C F M Lilly were taken as prisoners of war'to Pretoria. The names of the 4 casualties are shown on the Memorial Tablets in All Saint's Church in Ladysmith and also appear in the handwritten Natal FF Casualty Roll."

Interestingly, the QSA to 450 Private J. Jolliffe was also listed as Lot 68. Eustace was Lot 69.

It is now established that Jack and his three comrades had made the ultimate sacrifice and were indeed killed in action.


Following the skirmish at Robinson's Drift, some of the surviving members of 'A' Squadron were among the burial party detailed to recover their fallen comrades remains and inter them in their final resting place.
A letter of testimony to the witnessing of the burial of Jack exists on Ancestry which has a heavily embossed official letterhead and reads as follows:

'Thiis is to certify that I was present at the burial of Corporal J. Eustace South African Light Horse who was killed in action at Robinson's Drift, Tugela River on January 19th 1900, and that his body was identified by me.
May 7th 1900"

"We the undersigned such that we consisted the burial party of Corporal J.Eustace who was killed at the Tugela River, Natal District on the 19th January 1900 and that we identified the corpse of Corporal Eustace and interred the same.
J. T. Mumford Sq. Sergt. Maj.
Sgt. McSorley.
'S' Squadron.
R.F. Dobson 'A' Squadron SALH."

These men paid their respects to their comrade in personally burying him. I have not seen one of these testimonials before, very poignant.

Jack's grave marker.

An extract from another letter from Jack's brother Cecil, who served with Bethune's Mounted Infantry, to his parents is also posted on Ancestry:

"C-Camp 21 Apr.
---I got leave yesterday to ride over to see Jack's grave by Robinson's Drift.
Found it without difficulty. The SALH have put up a good substantial cross painted white attached to which is a bottle with the following, inside securely corked. "Sacred to the Memory of Corpl. J. Eustace of Pilgrim's Rest and S.A.L.H. killed in action Jan 19th. Aged 30 years.
He is buried by himself, the three others by his side. He is well buried which is more than some of the others are; seems as well done as could be under the circumstances.
The country is very bare affording no cover except a few straggling bushes on this side--on the Boer side there is rather long grass and in a dip in the ground, running parallel to the river and situated about 100 yards from the bank is a trench; from this side the trench is quite invisible so you can well imagine what a death they were led into. I picked up two shrap. Bullets in the grass beside the grave which I shall keep. I have made a sketch of the place."
"This is an extract from a letter written by my father (then Trooper Cecil Robert Eustace Bethune's Mounted Infantry) to his parents, James and Emily Eustace of Newtown about their son Jack. The two brothers were in the same battle, and afterwards when Jack did not return, Cecil went round the battlefield looking for Jack. He found him, but the Boers had already rifled his signet ring and watch.."
Shelagh Emily Eustace.

The Record of Deceased Soldiers Effects (86124) records the sum of £7 and 10 shillings to Jack's account. There are no details of recipient for this, but one may surmise that his wife Rosamund would have received it.


Along with Privates Brown, Gilbanks and Jolliffe, Corporal J. Eustace is commemorated on the Clouston memorial for the men that fell at the Battle of Colenso and Robinson's Drift. The memorial informs us that their remains were reinterred at Ambleside Cemetery.

I have also found a beautiful brass tablet as shown in the above image, though I do not know it's precise location, I would hazard a guess that it may be in Ireland and perhaps commissioned and installed by Jack's grieving parents.
My sincere apologies for the poor resolution of the image. It is perfectly legible if you could please zoom in.

It would appear that Jack held the rank of Corporal at the time of his death in contradiction with the rank of Lance Corporal as officially impressed to the rim of his QSA.

I will leave the last word on this thread for now to an extract from page 62 of Chapter XIII of "THE WAR MEMOIRS OF COMMONDANT LUDWIG KRAUSE 1899-1900":

"The enemy now came back to the camp at Chieveley. Their tents were scattered all over the plain beyond. One day about twenty of their scouts came down to the river in our direction. Why on earth they chose to do so is a mystery only explainable by the brilliant light of the British officer's intellect. We allowed them to come within easy range, and then let them have it. Half of their number were left on the field--the others pulled up sharp, turned and made off. In revenge we were subjected to a furious bombardment..
Towards the evening we heard the most agonising cries coming from across the river. Some of us undressed, went across the river, and found two of the wounded scouts of the enemy. The others were killed outright; but these two fellows had been lying without water in the broiling hot sun all day, their attempts to make themselves heard being drowned out by the cannon. They were in a pitiable condition. Their moans were heart-rending. With infinite care and tenderness we brought them across to our camp, and tended them. Everyone wished to do something for them; some brought coffee, others brandy, others various delicacies. The doctor, when he came, had to order the men away in order to give the wounded men rest and quiet."

There may be more information about Jack out there. Maybe in newspaper reports or in local history groups in Ireland? Research will be ongoing.
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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 2 years 2 months ago #82054

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I would like to thank everyone who has posted information on Jack Eustace, particularly capepolice (Irish connection) and ResearchRescue (for the Spottiswoode middle name). Elmarie for the grave marker pic and Henk for the wad of references that came with the QSA. It has all helped to tell us about this soldier. Indebted.
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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 1 year 10 months ago #84050

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February 1900

"Death of Mr. John Eustace, South
African Light Horse.

We deeply regret to announce the death
of Mr. John Spottiswoode Eustace,
second son of James Eustace, Esquire, of
Newstown, Carlow.
When war broke out in South Africa, Mr.
Eustace did not wait his country's call,
but immediately on commencement of
hostilities he joined the South African
Light Horse Volunteers, in which
splendid corps of irregulars, his fine
horsemanship, soldierly and manly
bearing and behaviour was soon
conspicuous, and he was promoted to
the rank of Sergeant,no slight honour
where all are so good.
Those of his friends at home, who
watched the doings of the regiment must
have noticed how frequently he was in
action, and on January 19th, he was
killed at his post doing his duty.

How noble a death is this!"

Note: during my research I have found no evidence of his promotion to the rank of Sergeant. He was however, promoted Corporal. His QSA bears the rank Lance Corporal.

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451 Lance Corporal John Spottiswoode Eustace; S. A. Light Horse. KIA 19/01/1900 1 year 10 months ago #84064

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Steve - there is evidence that John Spottiswoode Eustace did have issue:


John Spottiswoode Eustace appears in 31 Public Family Trees on Ancestry. One is named "The Eustace Family" and has John arriving in NY on 12th May 1888 and marrying Hattie Belle Hale in one of the Dakotas in December 1888 with James Lionel Eustace (1891-1944) being a product of the union.

Also I think you may have missed my "Is a QSAM with only a date clasp a possibility?". I suspect your Private 7211 William Morley QSAM may be very pertinent to the discussion as he spent 6 months rubbing shoulders with the 8 Smethwickians mentioned in the post.
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