Trooper, Gorringe’s Flying Column
Trooper, Bedford District Mounted Troops – Anglo Boer War
-Queens South Africa Medal with Cape Colony clasp to Tpr. R.J. Pringle, Bedford D.M.T.
Robert Pringle was part of the extensive Pringle family, who since their forebears had arrived as part of the 1820 Settlers, had prospered and multiplied in the Eastern Cape that they had made their home. The Pringles’ (one could almost call them a dynasty) were of farming stock with deep roots in the Bedford and Adelaide regions of the Cape Colony.
Born on 1 August 1869, Robert was the son of Robert Pears Pringle and his wife Martha Eliza Pringle. Pringle senior owned the farm “Glen Thorn” on which most of his offspring were either born or thrived. Robert had siblings aplenty in the form of John Elliott Boog Pringle, Richard Graham Hove Pringle, Thomas Elliott Pringle, Norman Pringle, Archie Douglas Pringle, Mark Elliott Pringle and Minnie Pringle (the only girl among them).
Belonging to a family which had thrived in the face of adversity, Pringle was well placed to offer his services to the Colonial government when the Anglo Boer War broke out in October 1899. Although there was no immediate need to do so, the war initially being waged far north of the Eastern Cape, many local outfits sprang up in readiness to “take on the foe” – one such was Gorringe’s Flying Column (somewhat disparagingly referred to as Gorringe’s Light Oxen on account of their “lack of rapidity.”) – this outfit was raised by Lt. Colonel G.F. Gorringe and saw much service against various Boer Commandos in the Cape.
Pringle, along with almost all his brothers as well as a few cousins, enlisted with them as a Trooper on 8 January 1901
On 19 February 1901 the G.F.C. were in the Bethesda Road area of the Eastern Cape hot on the heels of the Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers who had split off from Kritzinger in an attempt to evade capture. Kritzinger himself was in an engagement with Col Gorringe north of Cradock at the Fish River Station on 23 and 24 February but gave the British the slip and on 3 March 1901 surrounded the village of Pearston before making his escape. The 24th was an important date for Pringle as it was on this day, after the aforementioned engagement, that he took his discharge from Gorringe’s after a mere 6 weeks service.
It was here that he earned the Cape Colony and South Africa 1901 clasps to the Queens Medal he was to receive.
Undaunted, Pringle set his sights closer to home, enlisting with the local Bedford District Mounted Troops. This body of men, unlike their Town Guard counterparts, were required to protect the area and countryside around the village of Bedford. By their very definition they were able in the saddle as well as good shots – skills which they were to put to good use in the coming months.
That they were in the line of fire was amply evidenced by a report appearing in the London Evening Standard on 9 May 1901. The article, referring to an action in which they were involved, stated that:
“Casualties in Bedford District Mounted Rifles (sic) at Buffelskloof, March 14: - Trooper Weeks (slightly wounded). Taken prisoners: Lieutenants R.J.W. Trollip and A.W. Pringle, Trooper R.J. Pringle etc..” In total 26 men of the Bedford D.M.T. were taken prisoner by the Boers, including 5 Pringle relatives.
Their captivity, such as it was, would not have lasted long – the modus operandi of the Boers was to strip the prisoners of their clothing, weapons and other belongings (including their horses and rifles) and set them free, stark naked for the most part, in the area where they had been captured. Such was most likely the fate of our man Pringle.
The medal earned by and awarded to Pringle is unusual in that it was issued off the D.M.T. roll and thus one of a very few D.M.T. medals with clasps.
Robert Johnstone Pringle continued in the family tradition, farming for his own account on Springvale in the Tarkastad district. He married Norah at some point and was the father of no fewer than three children. He passed away at the age of 89 on 17 April 1959.