QSA (1) Orange Free State (Mr. W. D. Alexander. Imp: Mil: Rly:)
The Imperial Military Railway operated from the Orange River Colony into the Transvaal from mid-1900 to December 1902. After the occupation of Bloemfontein in March 1900, there was a great need for the transport of large quantities of supplies.
Dr David Biggins
The following user(s) said Thank You: Moranthorse1
I thought it time to breath new life into this interesting thread - counted among my prized medals - not because of value because that is not the issue here - but because of their interesting stories; are the brother Curry - all 3 served with the NGR in various capacities. I also have the medals to the fourth brother but these are WWI to a chap who served in France and was wounded there. I will attach the links to their "stories".
Many thanks to Rory for letting us get to know of the service of the Curry brothers.
I would like to add the following gentleman to the thread. I do not have his QSA in my collection, but found a letter home from him to his family in Wales and thought I would like to share this with the forum in order to inform the reader that being a railwayman during the conflict often entailed more than repairing the railway infrastructure following train wrecking and damage to the road.
FREDERICK HAVARD: NATAL GOVERNMENT RAILWAYS.
GANGER AND FORMAN PLATELAYER.
Fred Havard was born at St. Mary's, Monmouthshire, Wales on 26th November 1876 to parents Benjamin, a chair maker and Ellen. They resided at Harper's Yard.
Something of a domestic upheaval must have occurred because the letter written by Fred as an adult from South Africa was addressed to his foster mother.
Fred married in the fourth quarter of 1896. According to Findmypast this match was with either Kate Hutton or Adelaide Lloyd.
At some point Fred was part of the large emigration event of the late 19th century when thousands of skilled men journeyed to South Africa to chase their fortune. Railwaymen were in high demand. I will now let the letter from Fred inform the interested reader of Fred's experiences during the early battles leading up to the Boer Investment of Ladysmith.
From the South Wales Daily News dated 1st December 1899; p.6:
LETTERS FROM THE SEAT OF WAR.
A BRECON PLATELAYER AT LADYSMITH.
"Mr. Fred Havard, of Brecon, who was some time engaged as foreman Platelayer on the Transvaal Railway, but who is now employed by the Government at Ladysmith, writing home on the 23rd ult.. gives a very interesting account of the armoured train conflicts and the battlefield.
The letter which is headed "Ladysmith, October 23rd, 1899, and has just reached Havard's foster mother at Brecon, reads thus:- "just a line to let you know I am all right. I am now employed by the Government at this camp, and we are just awaiting orders to go out with the armoured train. I have been out all day on Saturday and Sunday-with our train repairing the road which the Boers had broken up in four places. The enemy fired on our train, four shells came within about 30 yards of us, but we came out all right. After the troops left our train I went with them upto the battlefield. The fight started about 3:30 p.m.. we got through and charged about 6:25. It was an awful fight. The Boers had five big guns, but we took them all and two flags. We lost about 80 men, and had a terrible lot wounded. After the fight was over we took the train to Elands Laagte station, and captured two trains which were in the possession of the Boers. I got two Mauser rifles and lots of things. As it was dark when the fight finished we slept in the waggons that night. It is hard to describe the terrible sight, horses and men lying all over the place. I took a bottle of brandy in my pocket and gave about 20 of the wounded just a small drink. After we got the sick away to Ladysmith Hospital we came back to Ladysmith, and we were expecting to go out every minute now. The Glencoe camp has had a big battle and they have lost alot of men. The Boers are coming into Natal by three or four different ways, and it is hard to prevent them in the four places. They fought well at Elands Laagte. Our greatest loss was to the 92nd, but the Devon's took and charged the guns. We had five trains on the go. I think we are going into the Free State today; we follow up behind the troops. Buller is not out here yet. General White is in command. I don't know how long this will last, but things are in an awful state at present. I think the 5th Lancers did very well in their charge, but it is hard to tell one regiment from another, as they are all dressed in kharki, the same colour as the grass."
Fred Havard was entitled to the Queen's South Africa medal without clasps as detailed on the medal rolls for the Engineers and C Department of the Natal Government Railways (WO100/279) , signed off at Durban, Natal on 24th June 1904.
Fred is shown to be a Ganger on the roll. In the Remarks column we find the following: "Thro' Siege Assisting Generally." This comment backs up what Fred had related to his foster mother in his letter.
What happened to Fred later and whether his QSA is still extant, I have no idea, but it sounds like he lead an adventurous life out there in South Africa and would have had many more tales to tell.