TOPIC: Fitzpatrick of the Standerton Mounted Police
Fitzpatrick of the Standerton Mounted Police 2 months 1 week ago #63585
Bernard John Gowran Fitz-Patrick
Trooper, Standerton Mounted Police – Anglo Boer War
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasp Transvaal to Tpr. B.J.E. Fitzpatrick, Standerton M.P.
Bernard Fitzpatrick was born in Little Sutton, Cheshire on 28 September 1875 the son of the Very Reverend Bernard Gowran Fitzpatrick and his wife Ada Sarah. Rev Fitzpatrick was a highly thought of and esteemed priest with the Church of England and, according to the younger Bernard’s baptismal entry of 2 December 1875, a Gentleman.
The 1881 England census revealed that the family (Reverend Fitzpatrick always seemed to be on the move) was now living in the Parish of Madron in Cornwall. A 5 year old Bernard was the eldest child, followed by William Ernest (3) and Winifred Constance (1). A 15 year old Boarder, Frederick Applewhite, and two servants, Margaret Trembath and Rosina Treloar made up the remainder of the household. Reverend Fitzpatrick was described as a Clergyman without the care of souls.
At some point thereafter Rev. Fitzpatrick (now an Archdeacon) must have decided to carry his Ministry to the Dark Continent, setting sail with his family aboard the “Athenian” from Southampton on 4 June 1885, headed for Natal where, on arrival, they trekked inland to the small town of Estcourt in the Natal Midlands. Bernard attended the Primary School there and, obviously a diligent and bright pupil, he earned a bursary to attend the well-known Maritzburg College in Pietermaritzburg.
He attended Maritzburg College as a Boarder from 1888 until 1891 and, thanks to a contribution he wrote which was published in the College Magazine, we are able to gain insight into what his school days were like. It read as follows: -
A Trip to Howick – B. Fitzpatrick
Three weeks ago, a merry little party, composed of some friends and myself, set out from Maritzburg for a rough and tumble outing on the banks of the Umgeni at Howick. It was a lovely day and hardly a cloud was to be seen in the sky as we set out from home to the railway station. Everything was prepared the night before. An early breakfast enabled us to catch the 8.45 a.m. train, which landed us at Howick station a little after 10 o’ clock.
Arriving there we turned sharp to the right and made towards Otto’s Bluff. To walk over the flat was easy work, but when we came to a large krantz overlooking the river our real trials began. This krantz was between 300 and 400 feet high, the surface of which was covered with large rocks, stones and trees. These trees were a great nuisance, the branches in places were so low that we had to crawl like snakes under them.
The descent was accomplished without any serious mishap; an occasional rollover, which at first looked very serious, only added to the fun. About half way down a buck jumped up almost under our feet, and trotted off to safer quarters. At last we reached the river after a good half hour’s scramble. Having put out rods together we were soon busy fishing, but for some time the fish would not bite at all, till we threw some bait into the river. This brought success.
The first fish, a beautiful half pounder, fell to H’s rod. Within half an hour five more were added. We then moved on to another place where the flat rocks jutted out into the bed of the river. There we added two more to the number. The accidents were almost as numerous as the fish. Two rods were broken, half of another lost, and a fish ran off with one boy’s line, float, hook and all. At half past twelve we had lunch and thankful we were to get it.”
His schooling over, accompanied his parents when they moved to, at first Pretoria, and then to Boksburg, a small settlement to the east of Johannesburg where Rev. Fitzpatrick was permanently appointed in 1890. They weren’t to stay there long and were soon on the move to the bustling gold mining town of Barberton in the Eastern Transvaal where his father had the living at All Saints. The family arrived there on 8 April 1892 when Bernard was 17 years old. Tragedy struck the family on 15 July 1897 when Rev. Fitzpatrick passed away at the early age of 48 years, leaving his wife and seven living children to fend for themselves.
Bernard was 22 at the time and, possibly to ease the pressure on the household, moved away from home. The outbreak of the Anglo Boer War in October 1899 between the two Dutch-speaking Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal found Fitzpatrick resident in the Transvaal town of Standerton. It is not immediately apparent how he escaped the attentions of the Boer authorities who made it their business to command English-speaking residents of the Republic to join the local Commando for service against their countrymen.
The early stages of the war saw the Boers triumph in a number of theatres before, with the assistance of many locally raised outfits, the British forces began to gain the upper hand, rolling the Boers back deep into the Transvaal and wresting towns like Standerton from Boer control. As they moved on they set up local bodies of men to keep the peace and act as a deterrent should the Boers attempt to reclaim what they had lost.
Fitzpatrick joined the ranks of the Standerton Mounted Police, a small body of men who, nevertheless, had quite a bit of skirmishing. This was reported in the English Press in a number of newspapers, one of which, The Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer of 31 December 1900, carried the following: -
The mounted police here are proving themselves a very useful body. They have already brought in a large quantity of cattle and mealies. On the 26th, while a patrol of this force was rounding up to save a herd of cattle near Vlaklaagte, the Boers opened a smart fire on them. They were driven off, however, and the police succeeded in bringing in 50 head of cattle and 500 sheep without having sustained any casualties.”
Three weeks later, The Northants Evening Telegraph of 18 January 1901, under the banner “Sharp Boer Attack – Cavalry Forced to Fall Back” reported thus: -
“Vlaklaagte (undated) via Standerton, Friday.
Colonel Melville’s mobile column while marching from New Denmark to Vlaklaagte was attacked by a considerable force of the Boers, led by Breytenbach. The enemy was reinforced overnight by Spruyt and Meyers, thus bringing their total strength up to about one thousand. They had one pompom.
The Boers made a determined attack on the baggage, which was guarded by an escort consisting of 300 men of the Rifle Brigade, and fifty Standerton Police. Their pompoms kept up continuous fire without, however, doing much damage. At the same time an attack was made on the cavalry forming the rearguard.
Spruyt, leading about 400 Boers, charged our cavalry, forcing them to fall back. Four companies of the Rifles were concealed behind some high ground, prepared to receive the enemy at the point of the bayonet, but the Boers on reaching their vicinity beat a hasty retreat, not giving our men a chance of getting at them with the bayonet.
The enemy, however, came under a heavy fire, leaving dead and wounded men and horses on the veldt. Eventually the Boers were repulsed with great loss, our battery doing great execution.”
The Gloucester Citizen of 3 April 1901 carried an article under the heading, “Mrs Botha Returns to Pretoria. The Surprise of a Dance Party”
Standerton, Sunday – Mrs Louis Botha passed through here today on her way to Pretoria, having returned from visiting her husband. Five Burghers of Breytenbach’s commando surrendered today. It is expected the whole commando will shortly surrender. A party of 25 surrendered burghers are now here under guard of 35 Standerton police, who surprised them at a dance party last night. Three men were captured and others surrendered. The police also secured 100 cattle, 20 horses and six rifles.”
As the tide inexorably turned against the Boers reports such as that contained in the Aberdeen Press & Journal of 4 May 1901 appeared more frequently: -
“Boers Surrendering Daily”
Standerton, Friday – Boers in small parties continue to surrender almost daily. The Burgher Corps, supported by the Standerton Police, have secured a further batch of 100 horses at Bushmansky. The enemy offered a slight opposition when the Burghers attempted to round up the cattle, but fell back when the police opened fire.”
The Boers, their goose thoroughly cooked, finally gave up the fight on 31 May 1902 and peace was declared. Fitzpatrick, for his efforts, was awarded the Queens Medal with Transvaal clasp issued off the roll dated at Bethal on 18 August 1901. He was to take no further part in the war.
His alma mater, in February 1901, established the Maritzburg College Memorial Fund and Fitzpatrick’s name was among those on the subscription list, having donated the princely sum of £1.1.1 towards what he deemed a good cause.
At the age of 34 he turned his attentions to matters of the heart, wedding 26 year old Hilda Byerley at Barberton on 14 July 1910. A succession of children followed with the baptismal certificate of his son Denis (born 6 December 1911) revealing that the family had moved to Witbank and that Fitzpatrick was a Schoolmaster with the Transvaal Education Department by occupation.
Bernard Fitzpatrick’s movements thereafter after not well documented. Following almost in the family tradition he fathered a number of children – six in all – before passing away in Lourenco Marques, in Portuguese East Africa (Mocambique) On 9 May 1945 at the age of 69.
Fitzpatrick is the chap on the right
Walking behind the ladies
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