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TOPIC: Ericson of the B.S.A.P. & Natal Carbineers

Ericson of the B.S.A.P. & Natal Carbineers 1 year 2 weeks ago #63771

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Johan Ericksson

Sergeant, British South Africa Police – Anglo Boer War
Quarter Master Sergeant Farrier – WWI

- Queens South Africa Medal with clasp Rhodesia to 902 Serjt. J. Erickson, B.S.A. Police
- 1914/15 Star to Pte. J. Erickson, 2nd M.R. (Natal Carbineers)
- British War Medal to S.Q.M.S. J. Erickson, 2nd M.R.
- Victory Medal to S.Q.M.S. J. Erickson, 2nd M.R.

Johan Erickson was born Johan Edvard Eriksson on 21 December 1861 in Motala in the Vadstena area of Ostergotlands, Sweden. At some point in time he decided to move south from his native Sweden, settling in South Africa. Moving north to the fledging territory of Rhodesia, he enlisted with “A” Troop of the Mashonaland Division of the British South Africa Police for service on 19 July 1898 with the rank of Trooper and no. 902.

The B.S.A.P. were tasked with the policing of the territory, an important task so soon after the recent Matabele Rebellion of 1896 and the ill-fated Jameson Raid which had drained the country of its Police Force exposing the settlers to danger. Erickson and his compatriots weren’t to know that, just over a year later, on 11 October 1899, the Anglo Boer War would break out, pitting the two Dutch-speaking Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal against the might of Imperial Britain.

Situated as they were, to the north of the Z.A.R., they were not under immediate threat with the Boers focusing their attentions on laying siege to the towns of Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith.

In the earlier stages of the war this fine force did particularly valuable work - when war was declared their strength was 1,106 of all ranks,—a most useful body of trained horsemen, good shots, and wily to the last degree. The bulk of the regiment was employed on the Rhodesian border, used on patrol work.

When Colonel Plumer with the Rhodesian Regiment reached Tuli, near the northern border of the Transvaal, on 11th October, 100 men of the BSA Police were already there with 3 guns and 2 .450 maxims; another detachment being on the railway north of Gaberones under Colonel Nicholson, the Commandant of the Police. Both these bodies took part in endless skirmishes and had to keep watch over a very extended front. He also referred to the work of the Police, and said their shooting was better than that of any other troops he had commanded.

In 1901 and 1902, down to the close of the war, the BSA Police did good work on the Rhodesian border and in the western and northern districts of the Transvaal, and their services were of great value when some native chiefs took their followers into the field. Erickson would have missed out on the later actions, taking his discharge on 22 July 1901 with the rank of Sergeant.

His active participation in the war over, he was awarded the Queens Medal issued off the roll dated at Salisbury on 22 August 1901. Because he was not involved in either the siege or relief of Mafeking he earned the Rhodesia clasp to his medal. This was later supplemented by the award of the South Africa 1901 clasp.

The Boer War over, Erickson, at some juncture, betook himself to the Dundee area of Natal which is where he, most likely, was residing when the Great War broke out in early August 1914 – 12 years after the last shot of the Boer War had been fired in anger. Enlisting for service with the 2nd Mounted Rifles (Natal Carbineers) on 26 October 1914, he was assigned the number SA 34 and the rank of Private. The 2nd M.R., as opposed to their 1st M.R. cousins, were based and raised in the northern interior of Natal. Their first order of business, along with a number of other regular outfits, was to help suppress the internal rebellion which sprang up the moment Prime Minister Botha had announced his intentions of siding with Britain against the Germans.

Pockets of disaffected Boers in the Orange Free State and Western Transvaal, whose memory of the Boer War hadn’t dimmed, rose up in opposition to the government and, before a serious attempt to invade German South West Africa could be made, had to be dealt with summarily. Botha took to the field against men who not too long ago had been his brothers in arms and Erickson and his Carbineers comrades were called up for action to guard portions of the main railway line, in the main, and as reserve troops at Harrismith in the Orange Free State.

By late November 1914 the threat had diminished and men and material began to be shipped from Cape Town to either Walvis Bay, Luderitzbucht or Swakopmund in German South West Africa. The 2nd M.R were part of Military District No.4 and entered the territory as part of the Central Force on 28 November 1914 docking at Luderitz Bay under their Officer Commanding, Col. J.P.S. Woods.

Erickson, who had supplied his next of kin as C. Erickson, Sweden, had been promoted to Farrier Sergeant on 1 November. This was followed, literally the next day, with promotion to Quartermaster Sergeant Farrier – the rank he was to end the war with.

But what role did the Natal Carbineers play in what was a dirty, dusty and hot campaign? The answer was, partially, provided in a letter a fellow trooper wrote home and which appeared in The Express and Advertiser of 12 June 1915. It read, edited in parts, under the heading “West African Fighting – Burnley man’s interesting letter home” as follows:

‘… We have a letter from Private George Carter of Church Street, Burnley who is serving with a cavalry regiment in British (sic) South West Africa. The letter which is dated May 7th, and from an address in Cape Town contains the following:

Here we are in Gibeon after a nine day trek of 230 miles. We have been on quarter rations of food each since we started, except for meat of which we procured plenty, this having been left behind in the flight of the Germans, and we have had as much of that as we wanted. The horses – poor beggars – are looking very poor. They have had to live on the country and what “country” – nearly bare – so they have had to pick whenever they get the chance, which is not very often.

Our Flying Column is composed of the Natal Carbineers, Natal Light Horse, Natal Mounted Rifles and two squadrons of the Imperial Light Horse – altogether about 3000 men. We did not get too much sleep on the way, had to snatch an hour or two whenever we could, and I got quite used to dosing in the saddle. Forty-five miles were covered without a drop of water. All along we had to go long stretches without water until we got there and then lo and behold – what nearly blinded us – a river, and didn’t we make the most of it.

On the ninth day of our trek, it was morning about 3 o’ clock, we were called to go into action at daybreak, as the mounted infantry had ben scraping all night. Up we galloped, saw the Germans in the distance with their armoured train fighting away with our mounted infantry, got our guns into position and let them have it.”

The 2nd Mounted Rifles, as part of Mackenzie’s 7th Brigade, had not been in the advance party which attacked the Germans at Gibeon station as they were trying to get their men away to the north by rail. They were, however, called upon to help extricate the Natal Light Horse and others who had got into difficulty through having launched a premature attack on the enemy position which was almost indefensible and which led to many prisoners initially being taken.

Erickson was admitted to the Hospital at Keetmanshoop on 25 May 1915 suffering with Malaria, a strange complaint given his surroundings and one more prevalent in German East Africa where the climate was tropical. After 3 days he was discharged to duty and re-joined his regiment. On 25 June, having been sent down to Cape Town, he was admitted to the Hospital at Wynberg with Bronchial Catarrh - inflammation of the mucous membranes in one of the airways or cavities of the body, usually with reference to the throat and paranasal sinuses.

He took his discharge on 6 July 1915, a few days before the war in German South West Africa came to an official end. For his efforts he was awarded the three medals for World War One.

Nothing more was heard from Erickson and it is left to his daughter, Ester Antonia Ericson (sic) to fill in a few of the gaps. Her death notice at Betania Mission Hospital, Dundee on 18 June 1928, revealed that her father had passed away as had her mother, Jenny Ericson, born Landelius. Ester had been born in Vadstena, Sweden on 6 July 1888.

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