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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60521

  • LinneyI
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The total Tasmanian manpower contribution to the Imperial Cause during the South African campaign (both as an Australasian Colony and later as a State of the Federated Commonwealth of Australia) was 858 all-ranks; making up five Contingents according to Stirling, plus several Squadrons of the Australian Commonwealth Horse. Medals awarded to men who served with any of the Tasmanian Contingents are very scarce indeed. However, in a recent Noble Numismatics Pty. Ltd. auction, IL was the fortunate winning bidder for the following -
QSA medal (type 3 rev.) with clasp "Cape Colony" and entitlement to additional clasps "South Africa 1901" and "South Africa 1902", impressed to "124 Pte. G.R.Brooks, Tasmanian I.B."




For posterity, small portraits of the great proportion of Tasmanian volunteers for South Africa were published between pages 331 - 386 of John Bufton's "Tasmanians in the Transvaal War" (published Launceston, 1905) and here is that of Pte. G.R.Brooks -


Initial research revealed that George Robert Brooks served with No.1 Company (A Coy) of the 4th (Second Imperial Bushmen) Contingent; known more simply as the Second Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen (2TIB). Our man appears to have hailed from the town of Launceston. The Contingent comprised two Companies of 253 all-ranks with 289 horses. The term "Bushmen" in the title meant volunteers who came from rural Australia - and "Imperial" indicated that the unit was raised at Imperial request and was the responsibility of the Home Government in all matters of pay, allowances and pensions.
Competition for places in the Imperial Bushmen's Contingents was considerable; stringent physical, riding and shooting standards eliminated many. In addition, profiting from experience, the IB were fortunate in being given a month or more of basic training before embarkation. 2TIB arrived at Port Elizabeth on 24.4.1901 and were in the field a matter of weeks later as a component of one of the many columns hunting down the Boer and Rebel bands in Cape Colony. Craig Wilcox, writing in "Australia's Boer War" comments " ..that the 2TIB would come to know the region better than any other Australians.
The active service of 2TIB is recorded in several sources - Murray's "Official Records", Stirling's "The Colonials in South Africa", Wilcox's "Australia's Boer War" (ISBN 0 19 551637 0), Chamberlain and Droogleever's "The War with Johnny Boer" (ISBN 1-876439-02-5) and the website of the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre were at the fore. IL respectfully acknowledges the value of each resource in this post (as well as in many others!).
Despite the expulsion of DeWet from Cape Colony at the end of February 1901, a legacy of unrest remained. Certain regions of the Cape appeared to have been ideal guerilla territory - and Vol.II of Cassell's "History of the Boer War" describes the task which lay ahead of General French in the Cape at that time in the following terms ; - "True it is that the country was just about as bad for the movement of troops as any country could well be, that water for the horses and men could hardly be come by, that there were no roads to speak of, and that the population warned the enamy and misled the British on every possible occasion". The objective of the remaining Boer bands was to stay in being, attack weak and isolated detachments and - in short - to keep the Colony in a perpetually nervous state.
Trawling the sources cited above, the active service of 2TIB was -
8-10 th May 1901, Action at Ganna Hoek, driving Cdt. Scheeper's Commando out of Cradock district.
19th May, 1901, Joined General Scobell's Column (one of the more successful) operating about Cradock
1st June, 1901, Joined Colonel Gorring; whose force was formed into a "Flying Column" (so designated as it was without wheeled transport). Fight at Aliman's Fontein the same day.
8th June, 1901, Fight at Reitfontein, Cdt. Malan's Commando.
3rd July, 1901, Fight near Zuurburg.
29th July, 1901. Fighting near Schilder Kranz.
1st August, 1901. Chased enemy into Munro's Column.
13th August, 1901. Fight at Roodepoort. S/Maj. Young of Cape Police with two named NCOs and eight un-named Troopers of 2TIB, charged a strongly entrenched kopje, captured Cdt. Erasmus, Cachet and others of Gen. Kruitzinger's Commando. S/Maj. Young awarded the Victoria Cross for that action>
14th August, 1901. Fight with Gen. Kruitzinger at Lamenkrost.
16th August, 1901. Chased Gen. Kruitzinger across Orange River.
16th September, 1901. Surprised Commando at Wildeschutt's Berg, capturing some prisoners; operations against Gen. Smut's Commando in Drakensburg District.
21st October, 1901. Fight with Cdt.Van Reenan's Commando.
23rd November, 1901. Captured Cdt. Besters and ten others.
13th February, 1902. Colonel Doran took over the Column and 2TIB served with him until 4th May, 1902.
February, 1902. A Sqn. of 2TIB on operations with 17L at Bamboo Mountain.
18th February, 1902. 2TIB suffered several casualties during the capture of Cdt. Judge Hugo at Grootfontein.
10th March, 1902. Captured Cdt. Rhudolph at Klein Taffelburg.
3rd. April, 1902. Engagement with Cdt. Malan at Loskop.
3rd of May, 1902. Talk in camp of Peace proposal. Operations wind down and 2TIB gets warning orders for Home. It has to be recorded that the last weeks of service for 2TIB saw a degree of boredom set in, with some lack of discipline evident and considerable unruly behaviour on a number of occasions.
22nd May, 1902. 2TIB embarked on the transport "Manila" at Durban and arrived in Tasmania on 25th June, after having called at Albany, Adelaide and Melbourne en route. The Contingent was dsibanded on 30th June, 1902.
Any summary of 2TIB's activities would recognise virtually twelve months of constant employment - necessitating long marches often conducted at night - and also record several important captures and losses inflicted on the elusive enemy. Of course, the strain on men and horses was very heavy. Overall, the Columns with which 2TIB served (those of Scobell, Gorringe and Doran) did excellent work and were frequently complimented by General French and Lord Kitchener. The various leaders also commended 2TIB for fearlessness, good horsemanship and cheerful endurance of the greatest hardships.
An interesting aspect noted on the medal rolls of 2TIB is that it's CO put his men in for the "Orange Free State" clasp as well as that for "Cape Colony" and the date clasps which would follow. See WO/100/293). With a handful of exceptions, these OFS claims were disallowed. It is entirely possible that - in one or more of the free-ranging captures and pursuits - 2TIB did cross into the OFS. For example, the incident of 16/8/1901; whereCdt. Kruitzinger was recorded as being chased across the Orange River. A geographical boundary would count for little in hot pursuit - even if officers and men knew of them. However, crossing a boundary once or twice may not necessarily be enough!
It is assumed that George Robert Brooks returned to his civilian pursuits in peaceful Tasmania. He did not serve overseas during the Great War according to AWM records. His memories of South Africa doubtless included many hardships - hopefully leavened by recalling comradeship around the campfires.
A long post for the stalwarts of the Forum to plough through. Perhaps it is not inappropriate to finish with an extract from Kipling's "The Parting of the Columns" -

You had no special call to come
And so you doubled out.
And learned us how to camp and cook
And steal a horse and scout.
Whatever game we fancied most,
You joyful played it too
And rather better on the whole
Good-bye, Good Luck to You!

Regards to all
IL.
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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60522

  • Frank Kelley
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Very nice indeed, Ian, I would think very scarce too.
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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60523

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Frank
Hard to put a scarcity rating on these; however during my QSA collecting periods, (40 years total), I have noted just four Tasmanian examples for sale. And missed all but one!
Best regards
IL.

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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60528

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LinneyI wrote: Frank
Hard to put a scarcity rating on these; however during my QSA collecting periods, (40 years total), I have noted just four Tasmanian examples for sale. And missed all but one!
Best regards
IL.


IL.....
Great medal and writeup, just wish I had one LOL.....
I know what you mean by waiting, I am just remembering when I got a dated reverse.....
Mike
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Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60552

  • Frank Kelley
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Hello Ian,
Well, I think it is a particularly pleasing medal, so four examples, in four decades, I suppose I would really have to remove the word scarce and replace it with the word, rare, although, to be quite honest, medals to the Australian continents do seem very scarce in general, they are far from cheap either when they do turn up, even medals to Australian recipients serving elsewhere seem very sought after.
I wonder what proportion of those that remain extant today are actually in Australia, in collections there, or still in the actual procession of the families of those recipients, might be?
Interestingly, I have never found this the case with the New Zealand recipients, despite them actually being rather scarcer still.
There certainly seems a romanticism around these men and those that would serve just twelve more years or so down the line, I blame Mel Gibson!:ohmy:
Again, a super medal.
Regards Frank


LinneyI wrote: Frank
Hard to put a scarcity rating on these; however during my QSA collecting periods, (40 years total), I have noted just four Tasmanian examples for sale. And missed all but one!
Best regards
IL.

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QSA to 2nd TASMANIAN IMPERIAL BUSHMEN. 2 years 10 months ago #60553

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Frank
Regarding the scarcity of medals named to Tasmanian contingents which served in South Africa, I think that keen interest from the local collecting community would have contributed over the years. After all, 858 all-ranks is not an awfully big catchment. I think it was our Host, David Biggins, who once estimated the survival rate of QSAs bearing a certain clasp - the percentage reflecting medals lost or simply thrown away or sold for silver content over the last hundred or more years.
Another example of scarcity, both currently and in the past, are 1st NSWMR medals bearing or entitled to one or more Battle clasps. Not so much the later contingents, however. And then there is the example of the survival of QSAs to Colonial Australian Contingents which bear or are entitled to the "Rhodesia" clasp. There were quite a lot of these issued to Bushmen's units - just try and find one!
I have to say that I really enjoyed finishing and submitting the Brooks 2TIB post. The amount of detailed information able to be dug out was remarkable. Someone at the time clearly had access to detailed diaries. That detail reflects the reality of active service during the South African campaign. There is a similar situation in the case of the activities of the NSW Imperial Bushmen. Still working on that one.
In summary, regarding the scarcity or indeed rarity of Colonial Australian QSAs, I could echo the words of our Brett Hendey - who said words to the effect that Australians are very proud of their military and that is reflected in the scarcity of our earlier campaign medals.
Thanks again for the kind words.
Best regards
IL.

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