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TOPIC: Flanagan of the Cookhouse Town Guard and Brands Free State Rifles

Flanagan of the Cookhouse Town Guard and Brands Free State Rifles 2 weeks 2 days ago #66941

  • Rory
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Louis John Flanagan

Private, Cookhouse Town Guard – Anglo Boer War
Lieutenant, Brand’s Free State Rifles- WWI


- Queens South Africa Medal to 115 Pte. L. Flanagan, Cookhouse T.G.
- 1914/15 Star to Sjt. L.J. Flanagan, Brands F.S. Rfls.
- British War Medal to Lt. L.J. Flanagan
- Victory Medal to Lt. L.J. Flanagan


Louis John Flanagan, also known as John Aloysius Flanagan, was born in the small Eastern Cape hamlet of Cookhouse in 1877 the son of Irish immigrants Charles Flanagan and his wife Maria. Charles Flanagan was a well-respected man in his community and was a Justice of the Peace for the Cape Colony.

Young Louis was joined in the house by brother, Charles Benedict Flanagan, making the household a relatively small one by Victorian standards. After he had finished with his secondary education Flanagan either went into apprenticeship as a Surveyor or attended an institution of higher learning in order to acquire the skills for his chosen profession.

When he was 22 years old, the Anglo Boer War burst onto the world stage. This conflict between the two Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and Great Britain commenced on 11 October 1899 and, despite the pundits’ predictions wasn’t “over by Christmas” but was to drag on in its various guises until May 1902.



Flanagan is the chap on the left

Initially the Eastern Cape where Flanagan and his family were domiciled wasn’t in the firing line but, as the Boer Commandos became more adventurous and more desperate for supplies and additional manpower from the regions Dutch-speaking population, they strayed further south and invested, on many occasions, the small towns and villages that dotted the landscape.

Town Guards, comprised of men and youths from the various settlements were called into being as were District Mounted Troops, the rural equivalent. Their task was to guard the property and people of their towns and the farms and livestock of the surrounding areas, respectively and it was to the Cookhouse Town Guard that Flanagan gravitated enlisting, along with his father Charles, for service under Captain A.J. Beaton.

Assigned no. 115 Flanagan commenced service. In order to gauge to what extent the Town Guard was involved I turn to an article entitled Captain Beaton’s Farewell which appeared in the Somerset Budget (the newspaper printed in the neighboring town of Somerset East, on Thursday, 30 January 1902. It read, in part, as follows:

“Captain Beaton, Officer commanding Town Guard, on the eve of his resigning his command of the Town Guard, invited the officers, non-commissioned officers and men to a smoking concert and social, held at Kluge’s Railway Hotel on Friday, the 20th instant.

Captain Beaton, in opening the proceedings said: Comrades in Arms, we are meeting tonight under more auspicious circumstances than we could a month or two back. The district is at present free from our unwelcome visitors, the Boers, and this in a degree is due to the activity of the Cookhouse Town Guard, who at all times since I have been your Captain were always ready and willing to obey orders, turning out of your beds at all hours, when the alarm sounded.

I found it a difficult matter sometimes not to offend some of the members, sending detachments out on patrol or in the armoured wagons, as all wanted to be where danger was greatest, some had to be kept in the forts to defend the town. Colonel Cavaye desired me to convey his personal thanks to you for the great services rendered in being always ready and willing to go anywhere or do anything.

I feel proud at having commanded you for the last nine months.” The toast was proposed by Mr Flanagan, J.P. (Louis Flanagan’s father)

The war over, Flanagan turned his attention to his peace-time profession – that of Surveying. He seems to have moved to the Cathedral City of Grahamstown in order to practice his craft.

The world now enjoyed a period of tranquility only to have this rudely interrupted, on 4 August 1914, by the Great War. South Africa, so recently a place of the greatest unhappiness between Boer and Brit, was called upon to enter the conflict on the side of the British Empire and Louis Flanagan, now aged 37, never hesitated. On 21 October 1914 he attested with Lt. Colonel Pyper’s 5th Regiment of the 5th Mounted Brigade for service in German South West Africa with the rank of Private and no. 046. Providing his father of Box 98 Grahamstown as his next of kin, he joined what was known as Brands Free State Rifles.

But before Wilson and his comrades could take the fight to the Germans they had a far more thorny issue to deal with at home – many Free State and Transvaal Boers, disgruntled by the Government’s decision to fight with the British (their sworn enemies of only twelve years prior), decided to take up arms against Louis Botha and his army. They joined Commandos and confronted the Union forces pitting, in some cases, brother against brother, in an internal rebellion. Botha was forced to delay his invasion plans to first subdue the rebels and it was to outfits like Brand’s Free State Rifles that he turned to suppress the rebellion.

A graphic description of an action that took place wherein he would have been involved is contained on page 68 of the book Urgent Imperial Service by Gerald L’ange it reads as follows:

“Making only one brief stop in the march from Winburg, Botha’s force reached Mushroom Valley just before dawn on November 12 (1914). Lukin, Brits and Brand (Flanagan’s outfit) were moving into position. As the dawn light spilled into the valley, Botha, sitting on his camp stool, turned his binoculars on the tiny figures of De Wet’s commando, 4000 yards away.

Loyal commandos began galloping hell-for-leather on either flank. The rebels were beginning to stir round their cold campfires when Botha gave a curt order: “Skiet” (Shoot). The first shell bursting above the camp had a galvanising effect on the rebels. Abandoning everything but their rifles De Wet’s men leaped on their horses and raced out of the valley.”

Once order within South Africa’s borders had been restored the fight went to German South West Africa and Flanagan with it, on 27 March 1915 aboard the S.S. “Gaika” as part of the 5th Mounted Brigade’s Left Wing – 1st Troop, “A” Squadron. He was initially promoted to Sergeant on 9 February 1915 and then commissioned as a Lieutenant with effect from 19 May 1915.

From the same book, on page 295, comes the following account as the campaign in German South West was nearing an end:

“The official history of the campaign says that Manie Botha’s 5th Brigade had been ordered to advance to Otjikurume, south of the Elefantenberg, where the Germans were believed to be strongly positioned. The brigade encountered the German outposts while it was still dark ‘and rushed them at such a rate that they had no time to let off the rockets and light signals prearranged to warn the main body’.

A regiment of the 5th Brigade under Lt. Colonel Pyper was sent swinging out to the west and came in to attack Otavi from that direction, the open side, expediting its evacuation by the Germans.”

The German effort was finally defeated with their surrender at Otavi on 9 July 1915 and, on 30 July Flanagan was released from service to play no further part in the war.

For his efforts he was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal to go with the Queens Medal he was awarded for the Boer War.

Back in “civvy street” Flanagan turned his attention to matters of the heart. On the 11th day of December 1916 John Aloysius Flanagan (also known as Louis John Flanagan), a Surveyor of Bloemfontein, and Theresa Mary Greger, completed an Ante-Nuptial Contract preparatory to their nuptials. Three children were born of the union: Sheila Mary born on 18 November 1917, John Charles born on 31 August 1919 and Dennis Louis born on 25 March 1921.

Louis John Flanagan passed away at Carlington Private Hospital in Claim Street, Johannesburg on 19 September 1937 at the age of 50 years and 10 months. His address was given as Waverley Road, Bloemfontein and he was survived by his wife and children. He left behind his Plymouth motor car as well as his Surveyors Instruments along with 5 shares in the Southern Cross (Catholic newspaper). His estate came to a sizable (for the times) amount of £3971.






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Flanagan of the Cookhouse Town Guard and Brands Free State Rifles 2 weeks 2 days ago #66942

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Thank You Rory, a great story..... Do you know the other man in the picture.....

Mike
Life Member
Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591

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