Medals to Kitchener's Horse 6 years 3 months ago #56456
From the next DNW auction
Picture courtesy of DNW
OBE (Mil) HM 1918
QSA (4) RoK Paard Drief Joh (Lieut: A. M. A. Struben, Kitchener’s H.)
Arthur Marinus Alexander Struben was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on 28 May 1871, and was educated at Pietermaritzburg High School and the South African College, Cape Town. Proceeding to London, he studied at the Crystal Palace School of Art, Science, and Literature, and was awarded a Bronze Medal from the School of Practical Engineering, after which he worked as an apprentice engineer for the firm of Baldry and Yerburgh, and was appointed an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He was employed as a surveyor for the construction of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire railway; railway work in Nottingham and London; and in South Africa on the railway at Vryburg and the Mafeking extension. He was subsequently appointed assistant engineer in the Public Works Department of the Cape Colony.
Following the outbreak of the Boer War, Struben was commissioned Lieutenant in Kitchener’s Horse, and saw action during the Relief of Kimberley, and the actions at Paardeberg, Driefontien, and Johannesburg. Upon the conclusion of the War, he returned to his engineering career, and for the next decade was involved in various irrigation and hydrographic surveys in both the Cape Colony and Transvaal. On the outbreak of the Great War he was commissioned into the South African Engineers, and was subsequently promoted Major on attachment to the Royal Air Force, although he never saw active service. For his valuable War service he was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Year’s Honours List.
Sold together with the Bestowal Document for the O.B.E., named to Major Arthur Struben, R.A.F., and dated 1 January 1919; a South African Constabulary Cyclist Contingent Prize Medal, silver, the reverse engraved ‘Pte. A. Struben 1st. 1887 S.A.C.C.C.’, date corrected; a Crystal Palace School of Art, Science, and Literature Prize Medallion, bronze, the reverse engraved ‘To A. M. A. Struben, Student, Crystal Palace School of Practical Engineering, for course satisfactorily passed, April 19th 1890.’, in John Pinches, London, case of issue, together with an extract from the Examiners’ Report; and a post card photograph of the recipient in later life surveying.
Dr David Biggins
Medals to Kitchener's Horse 6 years 2 months ago #56803
His fuller story is as follows:
Arthur Marinus Alexander Struben was born on his father’s farm “The Willows” which was situated approximately 15 kilometres east of Pretoria, South Africa, on 28 May 1871. He was the eldest son of Hendrik Wilhelm (Harry William) Struben and his wife Mary Lydia Cole whom he married in 1868, their marriage producing eight children. Arthur’s father, together with his uncle Frederick Struben, discovered the first gold mining operation on the Transvaal Reef. The two brothers were the sons of Johan Marinus Struben a South African Republic official and his Scottish wife Frances Sarah Beattie. His grandparents emigrated to Pietermaritzburg in Natal in 1850 and moved to Pretoria five years later. In October 1876 Harry was elected to represent Pretoria East in the Volksraad - the parliament of the South African Republic. The two brothers became hugely wealthy and successful through their early discoveries of goldreefs on what later became known as the Witwatersrand. Harry Struben was elected to the first Diggers’ Committee in Johannesburg in March 1887, and later that same year became the first President of the Chamber of Mines which was founded to promote the mining industry in the Transvaal. He also served as board member for a number of mining companies, and was one of the first Directors of the Delagoa Bay Railway in 1875. Due to ill-health he sold his mining rights on the farms Driefontein and Vogelstruisfontein in 1889, and retired to Rosebank in Cape Town where he built a magnificent house which he named “Strubenheim”.
In later years his family donated this house to the University of Cape Town and it was here, in its opulent drawing room that the well-known Dulcie Howes first established her Ballet School which later led to the establishment of Capab which is now known as Cape Town Ballet.
Soon after Arthur’s birth Harry and his young family moved to the Diamond Fields in Griqualand West but due to his young wife’s ill health they returned to Pretoria where Arthur’s early life was spent on their farm, enlivened by trips on horse-back, in cape-carts and ox-wagons. In 1880 Harry travelled on holiday to England unknowingly leaving Arthur and several members of his family at home to endure the Siege of Pretoria by the Boers in 1881. It was during his time that the young Arthur gained his first glimpse of the British Tommy and war conditions although he was only old enough to help water horses and fetch rations. Later, when Harry returned to Pretoria, he found that his farm had been ruined and that most of his possessions had been either stolen or trashed.
Arthur received his early schooling in the Transvaal and Natal, firstly by private tuition and later at Maritzburg College for a few months between May and September 1885 where his character was described as: Steady and industrious. He then entered the South African College School in Cape Town where he completed his school studies in early 1888. He also learned to ride, handle horses, donkeys and oxen, to swim, shoot and look after himself in the veld and to dance and play the piano indoors.
After completing his schooling he proceeded to London where he studied at the Crystal Palace School of Art, Science, and Literature, being awarded a Bronze Medal (6th in the class) from the School of Practical Engineering. He then served a tutelage with Henry Oswald Baldry who was a senior partner of the well-respected London engineering contracting firm Baldry and Yerburgh. It was here that he was introduced to railway work being engaged as a surveyor for the construction of the heavy section (including the Annessley tunnel) of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire railway extension to London and undertaking railway work in both Nottingham and London.
He also attended a further special course of study in Engineering Electric and Science at the University College London. Whilst still living in England he investigated the Ffestiniog and various other narrow gauge railway systems in Wales on behalf of the Cape Government. Returning home to Cape Town he worked on the Table Bay harbour works for a short time before joining the engineering staff of the Cape Government where he was first engaged on the survey of irrigation schemes in the Oudtshoorn district. In 1893 he was appointed as an Assistant on Sir Charles Metcalfe’s Staff during the construction of the Vryburg to Mafeking railway line. In subsequent years Sir Charles served extensively as a consulting engineer for the British South Africa Company helping to realise Rhodes’s dreams of expanding British influence northwards from South Africa. The following year Arthur returned to England being articled to the Metcalfe’s London Engineer employer who was none other than the distinguished Sir Douglas Fox. It was here that he was able to gain an insight into consulting work. Amongst many other projects Sir Douglas designed Crystal Palace in Hyde Park.
Returning once again to South Africa he took up the position of Manager of the African Saltpetre Co Ltd. it being their intention to develop an industry in Nitrite of Potassium but soon returned to the employ of the Public Works Department for the Cape Government working on irrigation projects at Calitzdorp, the Hartz River and Odendaalstroom. Having been a student member for several years he was admitted as an Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers during January/February 1897. Later that year he married Catherine Ethel Bousfield on 20 July 1897 with whom he had three children. Catherine, or Kate as she was usually called, was the daughter of Henry Brougham Bousfield, the Bishop of Pretoria.
In 1897 he published "Notes on Dr [Alexander] Buchan's discussion of the rainfall of South Africa during the years 1885-1894" in the Report of the Meteorological Commission of the Cape of Good Hope, in which he analysed the rainfall maps and classified the colony into seasonal rainfall areas.
Following the outbreak of the Boer War, Arthur Struben was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Volunteers Rifles (D.E.O.V.R.) being one of seemingly only six Dukes Officers who were soon transferred to Kitchener’s Horse on 1 February 1900. (Approximately 250 members of the Dukes were posted to Kitchener’s Horse). Whilst serving with Kitchener’s Horse he saw action during the Relief of Kimberley and at Paardeberg, Driefontien and at Johannesburg. It is perhaps not too surprising that soon after the battle of Diamond Hill that his railway engineering expertise came to the fore and resigning from Kitcheners’s Horse on 20 June 1900 he joined Sir Percy Girouard’s Staff on the Imperial Military Railways, being engaged on repairs of war destruction, survey, construction and the maintenance of railways. Surprisingly, it would appear that his name is not recorded on any Anglo Boer War medal roll associated with the I.M.R. He joined the United Services Lodge of Masons in Pretoria and resigned his officer’s commission with the D.E.O.V.R. in 1904.
In 1903 he was seconded from the I.M. Railways which by that time had become known as the Central South African Railways to the Transvaal’s Public Works Department under the Directorship of Colonel, later Lieutenant General Sir George Henry Fowke. Here Arthur inaugurated the Hydraulic Engineer’s Office, of which he was the head. He also started the Hydrographic Survey and the Water Boring Branches and did much original investigative work on the ground water of the dolomite areas.
He prepared numerous reports and gave evidence and advice to various commissions which led to the acceptance of legislation dealing with irrigation and water supply problems and which laid the foundation of what would later become the Irrigation Department. This Irrigation Department was formed by Lord Milner with William Lumisden Strange (loaned from the Indian Irrigation Service) as Director. Arthur and his Hydraulic Engineer’s Office were soon transferred to it from the P.W.D. with Arhur serving as second in command to Strange in this new Department (being paid a not unsubstantial salary of £1000 for that time in 1906). After a year Arthur resigned in order to establish his own private practice as a consulting engineer in Pretoria, designing and supervising he construction of various water supply, irrigation and road schemes.
He was called upon to give expert technical advice in several major law suits and arbitration cases; he prepared parliamentary plans for hydroelectric development; dealt with land and mining development and carried on a diverse general civil engineering practice. Works carried out under his control included railway bridges, earth and concrete dams and weirs, reservoirs, irrigation canals with gates, flumes, escapes etc., water supply mains, roads and a host of other engineering projects. He also served as a technical member of the commissions on water supply for Middelburg, Standerton and Mooi River and wrote the Report of the Mooi River Commission, with two appendices and one map (Pretoria, 1906). That same year he published an article on "Some problems in Transvaal irrigation" in the Transvaal Agricultural Journal. In later years he wrote a short book on Tidal power, dealing with the tides and their management, the estimation of potential tidal power, and the methods for harnessing it.
His consulting practice was interrupted by the Great War. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the South African Engineer Corps and served with the Union Defence Force in German South West Africa. He dealt with water supply and railway work and before long was promoted in the field to the rank of Captain. Bravenboer and Rusch in their publication “The First 100 Years of State Railways in Namibia” record the following:
“On 30 January Major Beaton and Captain Struben left Walvis Bay by boat for Swakopmund where they were to conduct a survey and oversee the construction of the railway line from there. By 31 January the railhead was nine miles (14,5 kilometres) from Walvis Bay. The railway followed the foreshore, a few feet above the high water level, for almost its entire length. Thus they avoided the more formidable and troublesome drifting sand dunes, although there were two or three smaller shifting sand dunes en route. Great difficulty was not anticipated from the sand drift at these places, which only occurred at rare intervals when the wind blew from the east, as the trend of the sand drift is parallel to that of the railway line during the greater part of the year.”
Major Beaton in his subsequent report after the end of this campaign which was attached to Sir William Hoy official Parliamentary Report on the campaign recorded the following:
“Captain Struben, S.A.E.C., rendered me valuable help from time to time on survey work, also in connection with reconstruction works of various kinds.”
Major, later Lt. Colonel Angus John Beaton was subsequently awarded the CMG for his service during the Great War.
After the successful termination of the GSWA campaign Arthur travelled privately to England with his wife and 13 year old son in July 1916 and was soon engaged in the War Office and Air Ministry on the selection and planning of aerodromes in Great Britain and Ireland. He attained Field Rank being appointed Temporary Major on 1st April 1918 and was admitted as an Officer in the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. After serving as a Major and Staff Officer (Class 1) he was transferred to the unemployed List on 1 February 1920. However he continued to serve in the Air Ministry in the role of Superintending Engineer (First Class) in the Works and Buildings Department until 1922. He then retired from active practice in the engineering profession but still continued to take an interest in some of its activities, and in those of kindred societies. After his retirement he carried on private research work and invented a new process for extracting oils from shales, torbanites, coal and other carbonaceous substances. He wrote widely on his thoughts of the possibility of harnessing energy from the tides and his prediction that fuels would one day be extracted from plants rather than fossil fuels. In the mid 1930’s he developed a new survey instrument which he called the "Struben Curve Ranger" which enables curves for roads and railways etc. to be set out simply and quickly by one person.
Arthur Struben became a member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1899 and remained a member to 1907. In 1904 he became a member of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, serving on its council as one of the representatives of Pretoria during 1907-1910. By 1906 he was a member also of the Geological Society of South Africa. He was a keen member of the Society of Engineers which subsequently became the Institution of Electrical Engineers and served term as President of the Society in 1934.
After the death of his wife Catherine in Surrey on 26 September 1940 he returned to live in South Africa and is recorded as living with his nephew (his sister’s son) on his Farm “Hazeldean” outside Pretoria which Arthur had inherited from his father in 1915. Arthur sold the farm to his nephew in 1944 and returned to Cape Town where he took up residence at 29 Weltevreden Avenue, Rondebosch just a stone’s throw from where I have lived for 40 years! Once again naming his home “The Willows” he died there aged 91 years on 18 July 1962.
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