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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44740

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Dr Robert Andrew Buntine

Captain, Natal Carbineers attached to the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps – Anglo Boer War
Major, Natal Medical Corps – Bambatha Rebellion

- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Laings Nek and Defence of Ladysmith to Capt. R.A. Buntine, Natal Volunteer Medical Corps
- Natal (Bambatha) Medal with 1906 clasp to Major. R.. Buntine, Natal Medical Corps

Robert Buntine’s story is an epic one. It’s the story of a man highly revered by medical colleagues, friends, patients and constituents alike as well as a man who, were he not to have incurred the wrath of a senior, might well have been only the second Doctor in history to have been awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.

Buntine as he appeared in a sketch in Lloyd's Weekly late 1899

Born on 13 November 1869 on the Gippsland station of his father, Robert Buntine, a breeder of Hereford cattle who had emigrated from the Scottish Lowlands to Australia in mid-Victorian times. As a boy he was driven to Scotch College, then in the centre of Melbourne, a distance of 120 miles occupying two days, in a buggy and pair at the opening of each term.

A natural athlete, he once succeeded in winning both the 100 yards sprint and a gruelling 10-mile obstacle race in which entrants had to swim a river twice. He established a new record in the inter-varsity quarter mile at Queens College, Melbourne where he graduated with honours in medicine. After only a brief period as house surgeon in Melbourne, he yearned to see more of the world and shipped as a surgeon on a vessel bound for Natal.

Thus it came about that, less than two years after he had been admitted to the additional degree of bachelor of surgery, he was licenced to practice in the colony of Natal. On his first arrival in 1894 he was glad to accept, for financial reasons, the appointment under Dr J.F. Allen, of resident surgeon at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg – a city that was to become his home.

Described as impulsive, gay and open-hearted, no surgeon was more popular in humble circles. The most unpretentious of men, he would drive round the town and its outskirts in a dog-cart, behind a spirited horse named “Midnight” and accompanied by his Irish terrier “Ginger”, which would fly out from under the cart at all other vehicles and animals on the road. Arriving at a patient’s house, he would leave Ginger in charge of the dog-cart, vault the hedge and enter the house, usually by a window, seldom by the front door. Inevitably he was a source of great fascination to children.

Buntine and his dog "Ginger"

By 1896 he had entered into a partnership with Dr Oswald Currie and had rooms at 155 Pietermaritz Street in Pietermaritzburg; where he was contracted to, among others, the Natal Government Railways for the medical reports and consultations of their personnel – a professional report, according to an invoice submitted in respect of a Mrs Heeley on 5 May 1896, cost £1.1.0.

Now established as a Doctor and with a growing practice in addition to his work at Grey’s Hospital Buntine turned his attention to matters of the heart and it was his marriage to Mary Ann Pinson at St Peter’s Cathedral in Pietermaritzburg on 6 August 1898 to which we owe his decision to remain in Natal and build a career on our shores more than anything else. Mary Ann was the daughter of Henry Pinson, former Australian sheep farmer, who came to Natal in the early 1860’s. Aged 29 when he married his bride was 28.

1898 was also to be a year of some drama for Buntine on the work-front. Having been appointed as Assistant Medical Officer for Pietermaritzburg one of his many responsibilities was to ensure the health and welfare of the many Indian Indentured Labourers on the farms around the city. Once he had completed an inspection he was required to submit a report to the Office of the Protector of Indian Immigration. At one point Buntine, owing to the fact that his partner Currie was on leave, was required to call on Mr Joseph Baynes, a redoubtable old colonist and a farmer of considerable means after whom Baynesvlei is named. Judging by the correspondence that ensued things didn’t exactly go according to plan. The correspondence went thus:

Minute Paper dated 20 September 1898 entitled - A.M.O. did not visit Mr Bayne’s farm during the month of August (remember he had married on the 6th of that month)

“In view of what took place at the Board meeting of 13 last I wrote to Dr Buntine in receipt of his report for August as I noticed that Mr Bayne’s name did not appear.

I wrote to Dr Buntine on the 19th instant pointing out that the very task the Board directed him to do had not been done. He replied on the 22nd instant. As it was possible that Dr Buntine has not been shown the Board’s letter on the matter I wrote to him and his reply was received on the 27th instant.

Do you wish any further action taken?

MJ Polkinghorne

On 3 October 1898 the reply came that “No further action appears to be necessary at present.

MJ Polkinghorne, Chairman”

The memo sent to Buntine from the Office of the Indian Immigration Trust Board of Natal
Durban, Natal dated 19 September 1898 had read,

“Dear Sir

When Dr Currie obtained a leave of absence he was written to as per copy attached.

The very thing the Board directed in the matter has not been done.

The Rules provide for the visitation of Mr Bayne’s Estate every 14 days, which means two visits every month, while for the month of August you made no visit.

Yours sincerely

MJ Polkinghorne

To this Buntine replied,

“Dear Sir

In answer to your note received yesterday.

I have no record of Mr J. Bayne’s place being visited during August.

His place was visited on 22nd July and then on the 3rd September – his Indians were again seen on the 14th September.

I am, yours sincerely

R.A. Buntine”

Displaying his sensitive side he added in a later memorandum,

September 1898

Dear Sir

I am in receipt of your letter of yesterday.

In answer, I saw and read the Circular re: Visitation of Estates from the Indian Trust Board – that is I think the letter to which you refer as 13th May.

I must conclude from your letters that you are dissatisfied with my work as A.M.O. for the Maritzburg Circle. If I have failed in an instance to carry out the instructions of the Board to the letter, I must ask your consideration as in all cases of sickness reported I have consciously attended and devote a considerable portion of my time to the regular visitation of Estates.

I can only assure you that I do not willingly omit any of my duties and had been of opinion that I had given general satisfaction.
I may state that in the case of Mr J. Bayne’s Estate on more than one occasion one of us has called and been made to find Owner or Manager round the buildings and have had the report of “no sickness” from one of the employees.

Frequently it might happen that a day after the visit to an Estate a case of sickness occurs and necessitates a second visit.
Since most employers prefer to send a telegram informing us of sickness as a visit when there is no sickness inconveniences the work of the farm without doing any good.

I am Dear Sir,

Yours sincerely

RA Buntine
A.M.O. Maritzburg”

The incident seems to have run its course and the normal equilibrium of life returned.

The next event of import in his life came on 16 May 1899 with the birth of the first of his two daughters – Adelaide Jesse Pinson Buntine. “Jessie” was baptised at St Peter’s on 6 August 1899. Buntine, as he held the infant child in his arms would have been unaware of the events that would explode onto the world stage in matter of two months’ time and how they would impact on his life.

On October 11 1899 the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State declared war on Great Britain and her Empire giving rise to what became known as the Anglo Boer War. Buntine was already a Medical Officer on the strength of the local regiment (he had joined the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps in July 1899) the Natal Carbineers and, with the Boers invading Natal a day after war had been declared he was soon pressed into action. As part of the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps he held the rank of Captain, along with his friend and partner Currie, as one of the complement of 78 who constituted the Corps under Colonel James Hyslop.

Attached to the Carbineers during the Siege of Ladysmith

The war was to bring out the best in Buntine and was, in many circles to be regarded as his finest hour. His acts of selflessness and bravery are well documented and I will try and give them justice by recounting many of the comments made about him for acts that, despite their heroism, brought him official censure as opposed to the Victoria Cross many felt he was entitled to. But what am I referring to? I leave it to the Donald MacDonald, author of “How we kept the flag flying”:

“..The medical profession had already won much honour in the campaign. A week before (Elandslaagte), Dr Buntine, of Maritzburg, was out with the Carbineers, who had a brush with the Boers, during which Lt Gallwey, son of the Chief Justice of Natal, was taken prisoner. As the Carbineers retreated one of the trooper’s horses fell, partly stunning him. Dr Buntine, who is a Victorian, rode back under fire, and helped him to safety.” This was the Bester’s Station fight of 12 October 1899.

William Harding in his “War in South Africa” took up the story as well,

“It was in the very first fight of the campaign that Dr Buntine, the Victorian surgeon, distinguished himself. The volunteers with whom he served were the first to get touch with the Boers of the Free State commandos as they came through Van Reenen’s Pass. They engaged the enemy but were compelled to retreat, and Dr Buntine seeing one of his men down, rode back under a heavy fire, placed the wounded man behind him on his horse, and rode back in safety with his burden to the regiment. Later on in the campaign it became necessary to discourage brave exploits of this particular kind, and Sir George White issued a general order in which he pointed out that there was no reason to assume that the wounded would be treated otherwise than humanely by the Boers, and consequently it was very undesirable that men should leave the ranks to help a wounded comrade.

Dr Buntine, however, was the first man to attempt the dangerous feat of rescuing a wounded man under fire, and his action was regarded at the time as one which entitled him to the Victoria Cross, for which indeed his name was mentioned, and which he probably would have received but for the necessity which afterwards arose of discouraging similar acts of rescue. Both Dr Hornabrook and Dr Buntine at the very outset of the campaign afforded by their conduct under fire many examples of the cool courage and resourcefulness which have distinguished the Australians all through the war.”

The Natal Witness of Tuesday, March 27th 1900 in an article headed “Brave M.D’s” also made mention of the incident,

“What Non-Combatant Surgeons Have Done On The Battlefield”

Some of the greatest deeds in the history of the Empire have been performed by Doctors. Next to the gallantry of General Symons stands the plucky deed of Dr Robert Andrew Buntine, of Maritzburg, who carried a wounded man out of action amidst a perfect storm of bullets. Many a similar act has gained the Victoria Cross, and it is more than likely that Dr Buntine will yet get his reward. The surgeon had a reputation as an athlete in his younger days, and the training then received has apparently stood him in good stead.”
According to John Sterling, who wrote “Colonials in Africa” in 1907, Sir George White’s dispatch of 2 December 1899 when commenting on the Rietfontein incident of 24 October stated that,

“Also on the same date, to the gallant behaviour, and devotion to the wounded, under a heavy fire, of Captains Platt and Buntine of the Volunteer Medical Staff”

The Poverty Bay Herald of 14 December 1899 carried a letter received by Dr Morrison, Principal of the Scotch College, Melbourne from an old pupil, the Reverend J.M. Macdonald, an army chaplain at Pietermaritzburg, who wrote about the incident thus,

“The other night Dr R.A. Buntine and I were yarning about our old school, so, though I am working under high pressure, I hasten to tell you that a despatch from the general officer commanding in Natal, Sir George White V.C., goes home by tomorrow’s mail, bringing to the notice of Her Majesty the conspicuous bravery under fire in the face of the enemy of Surgeon-Captain R.A. Buntine, of the Natal Volunteer Medical Corps. He is recommended for the V.C. It would be nice if the first Australian to get the V.C. should be an old Scotch College boy. Please put up a shield in the long class-room for conspicuous bravery, civil or military, and put Dr Buntine on it for 1899.”

This last request would have been premature and, as events were to show, misplaced – there was to be no V.C for Dr Buntine. Instead, according to contemporary accounts, he incurred the censure of Sir George White for placing himself in danger unnecessarily and failed to secure even a “Mention”

The moment passed and Buntine, if he was ever concerned with honours and accolades in the first place, was kept too busy as the casualties mounted and the queue of sick men grew by the day. By now he was firmly ensconced as one of the Defenders of Ladysmith and had been since the very beginning of the Siege. Officially he fulfilled a dual medical role - that of Officer-in-Charge, Ladysmith and Officer-in-Charge, Assembly Hospital. It was here amidst the harsh conditions of the three month-long siege that he made the acquaintance of one of the most well-known and respected medical men in Natal, Dr Sam Campbell. Campbell wrote a number of letters to his daughter from Ladysmith in addition to keeping a comprehensive diary. This was duly published many years later and an extract from one of these letters reads as follows,

“A very cordial relationship obtains between Imperial and Volunteer forces, and there can be no doubt that the Regular Officers very much appreciate the special service which the Colonial Troops can give them. Little stories of individual gallantry are cropping up as the War progresses. One of the most brilliant, so far, was the plucky conduct of Dr Buntine, of Maritzburg, who was out with the Carbineers during the brush with the Boers, when Lt Gallwey was lost. As the Carbineers retreated, one of the horses fell and threw his rider heavily, who was partly stunned. Dr Buntine rode back and picked him up, and was helping him along, on foot, under fire, when Dr Buntine’s orderly, named Duke, went back to their assistance. The injured trooper was put upon the horse of the orderly, and Dr Buntine brought the man back, holding on to his stirrup-leather… Dr Buntine is an Australian.”

As the siege wore on various attempts, some of them half-hearted, were made to harass the surrounding Boer forces. Likewise the Boers tried to infiltrate the town and one such effort was the Battle of Wagon Hill where a Boer force launched an attack at 02h30 on the morning of the 6th January 1900. After an entire day’s fighting the attack was repulsed with heavy losses on both sides and, true to form, Buntine’s expertise was called upon – “How we kept the flag flying” is called upon once more to recount the story,

“The more I see of our two young Australian doctors, the greater my pride in my countrymen. In the hottest of the fight at Wagon Hill, Dr Buntine, exposed to a cross fire, sat down calmly, and performed the delicate operation of tracheotomy upon a wounded officer who had been shot through the throat. His conduct was everywhere the theme of admiration”

But the biggest challenge facing Ladysmith wasn’t the Boer bullets – it was rather the silent killer – Enteric Fever – that was laying the troops and inhabitants low. According to MacDonald “Enteric is just typhoid under another name – though Dr Buntine says that they have adopted local usage, for the mention of typhoid generally kills the patient through fear, though most of them are confident that of being able to grapple with Enteric.”

Buntine is second from left in the second row from the top

After the siege of Ladysmith was lifted on 1 March 1900 Buntine continued to serve and was involved in the Laings Nek leg of the conflict earning the clasp awarded for that action to go with his Defence of Ladysmith clasp to his Queens Medal. He returned to his old country, Australia, for a visit soon after returning to South Africa in April 1902 aboard the “Narrung 1”. With the Boer War over on 31 May 1902 life returned to normal and Buntine, full-time to his practice. Shortly afterwards he received the honour of being made appointed as the Health Officer for the Colony and a member of the Board of Health.

Returning to normality meant that Buntine could turn his attention to the not unpleasant task of adding to his family. His second daughter, Noelle Minnie Pinson Buntine, was born on 25 December 1902 and baptised on 7 February 1903. The baptism must have been a very sombre affair; the most notable person absent from the occasion being the child’s mother – Mary Ann Buntine had passed away at the age of 33 on 9 January 1903 – 15 days after giving birth. Although it is nowhere reflected in the records it would appear that she had never recovered from the strain of childbirth.

Buntine at the age of 34 was a widower with two very young children to raise.

Natal after the conclusion of the Boer War was in state of fiscal turmoil. The war had exacted a heavy toll on the finances of the Colonial Government and plunged the Colony into a recession. Money was scarce and the authorities, in a bid to earn additional income, decided to impose a poll tax of £1 on the head of every black male of a certain age in the Colony. This was met with docility on the part of some chiefs who signalled that they would comply with the stipulation and would provide the Magistrates tasked with the taxes collected, and with hostility on the part of other chiefs who saw this as an attempt to further impoverish their people. In the latter camp rested very firmly the person of Bambatha, a relatively minor chief of the Zondi tribe based in the Kranskop area near Greytown. Bambatha was young and ambitious and, from the outset, made it known that he was not going to toe the line. On the contrary, he actively campaigned for support in resisting the tax among his fellow chiefs going so far as to try and enlist the support of the Zulu monarch.

The Natal Militia were called out by the Colonial Government before, after an initial period of resistance, being demobilised and sent home. This was early in 1906 and, in April, the mercury rose again requiring the Militia to be called on once more. On this occasion Bambatha and his followers were far more aggressive and there had already been a number of casualties, both civilian (one of them being the murder of Herbert Munro Stainbank, the Magistrate of Mahlabatini) and Military (several members of the Natal Police had been brutally murdered). Buntine was by now a Major and second-in-command of the Natal Medical Corps responsible for overseeing the deployment of medical staff to both accompany the various columns of troops raised as well as to attend to the wounded and sick.

For his efforts he was mentioned for Meritorious Service in the Honours List which appeared in the Natal Government Gazette (this according to the list published in J Stuart’s History of the Zulu Rebellion. For his efforts he was awarded the Natal Rebellion Medal with clasp 1906.

Once more Buntine had been involved in a conflict where h had been able to put his medical skills at the disposal of his fellow man. Back in practice he continued with his surgical work as an attending Doctor at Grey’s Hospital and in private practice with a new partner in the form of Dr Gordon Ernest Oddin-Taylor. Life couldn’t have been easy juggling the needs of his many patients with that of his two girls who were growing apace. A moment of triumph for the family came in 1910 when youngest daughter Jesse came home with a silver medal for her efforts in the Young Peoples Industrial Exhibition which was doing the rounds of the Empire in that year. It came thus as no surprise when Buntine took the decision to send his girls off to school in England. Sailing with them in 1914, just before the outbreak of war, he was to return a number of times in the intervening years for visits and to check on their progress.

To fill the gap left by their departure from home he threw himself into politics and was elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly of the Union of South Africa as the representative for the Maritzburg South constituency. This was on the South African Party ticket – the party led by the indefatigable General Louis Botha.

Sadly the decision to send his children overseas was one which was to have fatal consequences for him and his family. On 17 June 1918 he arrived in England aboard the S.S. “Iyo Mara” with the intention of fetching his daughters’ home their schooling having been completed. Scheduled to sail back to South Africa in September when the school year was over he booked passage for the three of them aboard the S.S. “Galway Castle” little knowing that this was to be one of the last things he ever did.

On the morning of 13 September 1918 South Africa and the world awoke to the dreadful news that the “Galway Castle”, carrying wounded and recovering South African troops, in the main, together with a number of civilian passengers, had been sunk by a German torpedo two days out of England on its voyage to South Africa. This monstrous act was made all the more calamitous when news started to seep through that Dr Buntine and his daughters were aboard the ship. The Natal Witness, to whom the Pietermaritzburg public turned for any news, carried the story as it slowly evolved. Under the banner “Ocean Tragedy – South African Liner Attacked – Enemy Submarine Act – Torpedoed on Outward Voyage – 149 Missing – it was revealed that loss of life had been reported and that “Maritzburg had suffered a heavy blow in the inclusion of Dr Buntine, M.L.A. among the missing”

Buntine as he appeared in the paper after the Galway Castle tragedy

This was further exacerbated when lists of those missing began to appear; that of the 15th September reporting for the first time that Miss J Buntine was missing along with her father. On Monday, 16 September the Natal Witness wished that “Everyone in Maritzburg will hope to hear that Dr Buntine and his daughter have been found. The popular Dr Buntine left for England a few months ago to fetch both his daughters home to Maritzburg. From the cable received it would seem that the other one was saved.”

In a feature article a reporter of the Witness wrote under the banner “Dr Buntine – A Letter a Week Before He Sailed” that,
“The Many friends of Dr Buntine, to whom allusion is made in our leading columns today, have now, a week after news of the “Galway Castle” outrage was first received, regretfully given up the hope which still lingered that he and his daughter might be found.

We understand that the Government cabled from Pretoria three days ago to the High Commissioner in London, urgently requesting news, but so far no reply has come.

By the current English mail a letter was received from him by a friend in Maritzburg to whom, under date August 3, only nine days before the disaster overtook him, he wrote:-

“I am doing National Service till my chance of returning with my girls arrives. I hear now that an application for No. 1 priority will be successful: I shall be so pleased to step foot in South Africa again, with my responsibilities here finished”

“I am very hard worked, but find time and have many opportunities of meeting statesmen in the evenings, from Lloyd George downwards. I was offered the chairmanship of a medical tribunal in Ireland, but had to decline”

Evidently the sailing priority to which Dr Buntine alludes came earlier than he expected. As a matter of fact the “Galway Castle”, with him and his two girls on board, sailed on the 11th or only about a week later.”

Messages of sympathy began to filter through with the Witness carrying one to “Dr Buntine’s Constituents – The Premier’s Sympathy”
“The following telegram has been received by His Worship the Mayor from General Botha – “I cannot tell you how deeply I feel this terrible loss. My heart goes out to all those who are suffering in this tragedy. Will you please convey to the constituents of the late Dr Buntine my sincere regret and heartfelt sympathy in our loss.

To me he has been a dear friend and a great help and support in our South African troubles, and I shall miss him greatly”

Another newspaper report entitled “How Dr Buntine Met His Fate – Heroic End” read thus,

“The last news about Dr Buntine, who was lost in the “Galway Castle” disaster, was given to a “Witness” representative by the Minister of Finance, who arrived by train from Pretoria yesterday afternoon.

Mr Orr said that Dr Buntine saw his two daughters in the water, and sprang to help them. He and his eldest daughter were not among the rescued, and their bodies have not yet been recovered. Mr Burton took charge of the younger daughter and she is now with her school-mistress at Tunbridge Wells.”

On 21 September 1918 the Witness carried the following touching obituary:-

“Hoping against hope, we have waited a week before coming sadly to the conclusion that Dr Buntine’s fate, and that of his charming and accomplished daughter, was sealed when the “Galway Castle” went to its doom on September 12th. Today therefore, we would pay our tribute of affection and esteem to one who was our friend and confidant. As we said earlier in the week, the news that he was among the missing cast upon the City the gloom of a personal bereavement.

Few men of our acquaintance had a larger number of personal friends, or friends who were sincerer in their attachment. Dr Buntine had a most winning personality – a fact which accounted, no doubt, for the large extent of his practice, especially among children. He was beloved by the little ones, by whom he was always looked upon less as a doctor than as a friend and playmate of the sick room. In scores of City houses, therefore, his loss has come as a personal bereavement - and how poignantly it is felt we, who have had to answer some of the telephone queries, can say.

One prefers to dwell thus on the human side of the man, rather than on the political. Our impression of the Member for Maritzburg South was that he was never really at home in politics. Earnest, sincere, outspoken, and scrupulously honest – he was all that, and it was perhaps the defects of his qualities which unfitted him for the “dirty game of politics”. Anyway the writer’s belief, gained from personal contact with him, was that Dr Buntine would shortly have resigned from Parliament, devoting himself once more again exclusively to the profession he loved, and in which he shone so conspicuously.

Of late years his thoughts had centred deeply on re-forming around himself the family circle which fate and circumstance broke up many years ago. To that end he went to England, resolved as soon as possible to bring his two daughters back with him. Yet there seems to have been in his mind a presentiment of the disaster that has befallen him. This writer, who was in his company the night he left Maritzburg for England, saw that he was worried and depressed. One remark of his, when the dangers of ocean travel cropped up, seems now to have been prophetic. “I don’t much mind what happens,” he said, “provided it happens on the voyage back. Then if I go down I will have the girls with me, and we will all go down together, which might not be a bad thing after all!”

Well, prophetic or otherwise, that suggestion has been partly realised by the bitter fact; and today the kind friend of so many who loved and liked him, lies in an ocean grave side by side with the sweet young girl who has gone with him to the Beyond. No need to expend upon them needlessly our human sympathy, which at best must stop short of the grave, beyond which mortal eyes can discern so little. Rather let us direct it towards those who are left behind, mourning more poignantly and sorrowing more bitterly than we: and in their grief reaching out towards all others upon whom today the sackcloth and the ashes lie.”

In yet another obituary the writer wrote:-

“The loss of Dr Buntine in the Galway Castle disaster has caused much gloom in Maritzburg, where he was exceedingly popular. The telegram received by the Mayor from General Botha leaves no doubt that he has been drowned. Dr Buntine was born near Melbourne, and was a member of a well-known and respected family there. He came to Natal exactly a quarter of a century ago, and built up a large medical practice at Maritzburg. When the Boer War came he took part in it with the Natal Medical Corps. He was attached to the Natal Royal Rifles but afterwards left this regiment and went through the Siege of Ladysmith, in connection with which he was mentioned in despatches for distinguished service in the field.

Politics and Dr Buntine became acquainted at the last General Election, in October 1915, when he replaced Mr W.H. Griffin as member for Maritzburg South. The retiring member polled 424 votes and the Doctor 868. Dr Buntine’s election was a very popular one. Both candidates belonged to the South African Party, and the election was fought on personal grounds – not personalities, but on personal popularity, qualities and qualifications.

Dr Buntine entertained political ideas of an advanced character unusual to be found in a member of the S.A. Party, but he realised the vast difference between the political conditions of Australia and those of South Africa. In addition he recognised that in the time of national peril his duty was to give General Botha his loyal support, and this he continued steadfastly to do. But while he wore the uniform of his party, he did not wear its livery. One of the principle achievements of private members during the last session of the Union Parliament was the motion carried by Dr Buntine for the Government encouragement of industries in the Union.

Dr Buntine married a daughter of the late Mr Henry Pinson, whose membership of the Natal Legislative Council in the early nineties is remembered by his stout opposition to the introduction of responsible government, and by the establishment of a system of postal house-to-house delivery. Mrs Buntine died 18 years ago at the time of the birth of her second daughter, fortunately saved in the Galway disaster who was called Noelle in commemoration of the fact that she was born on Christmas Day. The elder daughter perished with her father.

The late member for Maritzburg South was a man of culture, and he delivered not very long ago on the remote and recent causes of the present World War. Personally he was a man of great kindness of heart. No one will ever know the number of patients whom he attended without fee or wish for reward. At the time of the anti-German riots on Ascension Day, 1915 following on the Lusitania tragedy, the doctor hospitably sheltered on his farm an old Maritzburg friend of his of Teutonic nationality. It is a sad reflection that his life should be now cut short by the ruthless Teutonic enemy. Dr Buntine’s residence in Pietermaritzburg is called Waratah, his favourite Australian flower but more familiarly known in South Africa as the name of the Blue Funnel liner that was lost on our coast and never afterwards heard of.”

Robert Andrew Buntine was no more – taken from us too soon at the age of 49.


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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44741

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Thank You Rory......

Another great piece of research......

Life Member
Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44746

  • Brett Hendey
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I have looked forward to this story for a long time, and it has turned out to be far better than I had expected. Congratulations and many thanks.
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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44759

  • Rory
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Many thanks Mike and Brett

It's comforting to know that there are people out there who actually read these posts!



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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44772

  • Frank Kelley
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I think a great many people not only read your posts, but, also quite enjoy them too, those are a super pair, even if one only looked at them, purely from a numismatic point of view, the naming on 1906 medals granted to commissioned officers is superb and always a nice thing to see, but, then you also have this particular recipient to take into account.
A truly magnificent pair of medals, I suspect a certain collector in Kloof would rather like to see them in his own collection! :ohmy:

Rory wrote: Many thanks Mike and Brett

It's comforting to know that there are people out there who actually read these posts!



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Robbed of a VC? The Robert Buntine story 4 years 6 months ago #44785

  • Rory
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Thanks Frank.

I must say I derive huge enjoyment from researching and "writing up" my recipients and believe in sharing their stories. How else can one bring them back to life, albeit fleetingly, after so many years.

I had, at last count, 4 or 5 Natal Medals with 1906 clasp to officers and, quite aside from the attractiveness of the medal itself, I rather like the running script engraving on them.

My next monumental task is to write up Lt Colonel William Park Gray -- ex O.C. of the Natal Light Horse, a Natal Carbineer man and the chap Churchill attempted to bribe with 20 pounds to get him into Ladysmith during the siege.



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