When you look at Robert Taylor McArthur's medal group you are drawn to his WW1 DSO and its attendant trio and can be forgiven for brushing past the simple , no bar QSA named up to a civilian. Research reveals that his Boer War experience was anything but mundane.
McArthur was born in Scotland in 1877 and came to Natal in 1897 to take up a position as a telegraphist based at Glencoe Post Office ( about 5 miles from Dundee ) After the battle of Talana, McArthur joined the stream of refugees going to Ladysmith. He offered his services to the Military and was one of the two telegraphists on the Armoured train which was ambushed by the Boers on 15th November 1899.
An account of his experiences was published in Benett Burleigh's "The Natal campaign'. I quote from page 82 ...."the telegraphist , Mr R T McArthur, furnished , perhaps the clearest and most succinct account. He said :-
We left Estcourt at 5.30 am and ran on to Ennersdale, and reported by wire , 'All clear '. Shortly before reaching Frere we met and spoke to some Natal Police, who had been bivouacking upom the kopjes. They told us that the Boers had all gone back the previous night. Then we went to Frere, where we wired the General, "all well ' and without waiting for a reply ran on to Chieveley. Shortly before entering that station we saw 50 Boers going west at a canter with some waggons, as we thought. We waited a few minutes at Chieveley , and then started back. About 3 miles out , or 2 miles north of Frere , we noticed several hundred Boers about 800 yards off, on the west side. Then we saw more on the east of the line. They began firing at us , first with rifles and then with Maxim-Nordenfeldt cannon. One of their shots made a big dent in the rear armoured truck , but did not enter. Their guns were behind the kopje: at least two repeating cannon, which shot a steady flame and a heavier piece, that threw shrapnel at us. But a few yards on, our rear , then the front truck ran off the line, shaking and jolting terribly, and ours, the next or armoured one, followed suit, and soon all three left the rails. The next thing I knew we were all upset, and strangely, only one man was killed. We all scrambled out . Sitting down, the soldiers began firing volleys at the Boers, who responded by peppering us with more shot and shell. In about 5 minutes, Mr Churchill came from what was the front of the train , took charge , and asked for volunteers to shift the trucks. About 15 men helped to do so, but the waggons were too heavy to move. Then the engine managed to smash through , breaking them up, and getting knocked about in doing so. All this was done under heavy fire. We tried to couple up the trucks that had been in front , but could not, the line being blocked. Then, picking up all the wounded we could see , we started for Frere to get assistance. My instuments were smashed , and we found that those at Frere had been carried off by the police for safe-keeping. From there we pushed ahead to Ennersdale , whence I wired to the General , giving him a few details. We had several men shot down whilst we were putting the wounded on the tender , although our troops did their best to cover the operation by firing volleys. Several of the shells struck the telegraph wires and poles, cutting and knocking down the line "...
The following user(s) said Thank You: djb, QSAMIKE, RobCT, pfireman
That is a very nice group. From what I have seen on roll pages, railway staff sometimes had a difficult time! As well, I always liked the Railway Pioneer Regt (I have a DCM group to that Regiment).
What did Robert Taylor McArthur do to get his DSO?