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TOPIC: Harold Livingstone Wood - a Ladysmith Defender and Mafeking Reliever WIA 6/1/190

Harold Livingstone Wood - a Ladysmith Defender and Mafeking Reliever WIA 6/1/190 2 weeks 6 days ago #68370

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Some time ago I posted Wood's story but, subsequent to that, new information has come to light which I have included in the account below.

Harold Livingstone WoodWounded at Wagon Hill – 6 January 1900

Trooper, Cape Mounted Rifles
Trooper, 1st Battalion, Imperial Light Horse
Trooper 2nd Battalion, Imperial Light Horse
Lieutenant, East Griqualand Mounted Rifles – Anglo Boer War


- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony and SA 1901 - also entitled to Defence of Ladysmith, Relief of Mafeking and Transvaal

Harold Livingstone Wood was born in Tonbridge in the county of Kent, England, the son of Richard Wood and his wife Eliza Annie (born Evens) in 1878.

On 31 March, at the time of the 1881 census, the Wood family was resident at 16 Albert Street in Tonbridge. Wood senior was a Canvas, Rock, Cloth and Tarpaulin Maker by profession. Harold, aged 3, was joined by siblings Grace (6) and Stanley (5) to complete the family unit.

Ten years on, at the time of the 1891 census, Harold Wood, aged 13, was a school boy. The family had moved a few houses up and was now occupying 22 Albert Street. In addition to the family there were also two Boarders, William Mitchell, a Draper, and Edgar Coleman who was a Tailor Manager.

At some stage in the last few years of the 19th century, Wood made his way to South Africa where he attested for service with the H.Q. Squadron of the Cape Mounted Rifles at King Williams Town on 21 April 1898. According to the C.M.R. Enrolment Register, Wood, now aged 19, was 5 feet 7 inches in height with a brown complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was a Sailmaker by trade probably having been apprenticed in his father’s business to “learn the ropes”.

On 1 October 1898 he was posted to Kokstad, the eastern frontier of the C.M.R. and bordering on Natal where he was assigned to “F” Squadron. A mere 10 days later the Anglo Boer War commenced with the two Boer Republics launching attacks into Natal.

From almost the very outset Harold Wood was to prove that he and the discipline required for military life were to be strangers to one another.

After eighteen months of blemish free service he committed his first offence, and a serious one at that, of Desertion on 25 October 1899. With Corporal Kelly as a witness he was sentenced by the A.R.M. Kokstad to a fine of 40 /- or 14 days internment with Hard Labour. This sentence could well have been meted out in absentia as, four days later, on 29 October 1899; having made his way overland to Pietermaritzburg, he enlisted with the Imperial Light Horse as a Trooper with no. 681. This was done without the knowledge or say-so of his C.M.R. Officers.

Possibly he felt that garrison style duty far from the action was no way for a young man to serve King and country and this fuelled his decision to do a runner.

Having enlisted a few days before White’s men were driven back to Ladysmith he ended up being garrisoned there during the 118 day long Siege which started on 2 November 1899 and ended on 28 February 1900. His time there was not without incident – he was Severely Wounded in the seminal battle that took place during the siege – that of Wagon Hill on 6 January 1900.




Stirling’s “With the Colonial Forces in South Africa” gives a good account of the many actions and skirmishes in which the I.L.H. were involved during the siege: -

During the siege of Ladysmith, the regiment had very frequently a prominent part to play. Sir George White's despatch of 23rd March 1900 states that on 3rd November Major Karri-Davies, reconnoitring with four squadrons, found a body of the enemy with one gun on Lancer's Hill, and asked for reinforcements to drive them off. Three cavalry regiments and the 21st Battery were sent to his assistance. The battery quickly silenced the gun. "Believing the enemy were evacuating the hill, the two squadrons of the ILH who were facing Lancer's Hill made a gallant but somewhat ill-advised attempt to occupy it, but though they seized and occupied a portion of the hill the enemy was in too great strength for further progress". The enemy being now strongly reinforced our troops withdrew.

On 7th November Caesar's Camp was subjected to heavy artillery and long-range rifle fire, and the regiment with the 42nd Battery were sent to reinforce the point attacked.

On the 14th the regiment with the Natal Mounted Volunteers, two cavalry regiments, and two batteries, were sent across the Klip River to work round Rifleman's Ridge. The regiment and the Natal Volunteers seized Star Hill, but General Brocklehurst decided that the enemy's position was too strong, and retired his force. On the night of 7th December Major-General Sir A. Hunter, with 500 Natal Volunteers, which included 100 Border Mounted Rifles under Colonel Royston, and 100 ILH under Lieutenant Colonel A. H. M. Edwards, with a few guides, engineers, and artillerymen, made his famous sortie to capture and destroy the enemy's artillery on Gun Hill.

"Sir A. Hunter's arrangements were excellent throughout, and he was gallantly supported by his small force. Gun Hill was taken, a 6-inch creusot and a 4.7 howitzer were destroyed, and a maxim captured and brought into camp". Sir A. Hunter was most highly praised by Sir G. White, and Colonel Royston, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards, and Major Karri-Davies were specially mentioned in the body of the despatch.




Before dawn on 6th January 1900 the Boers commenced their very determined, but fortunately unsuccessful, attempt to carry Ladysmith by storm. The attack was mainly developed on the southern defences, at Caesar's Camp and Wagon Hill. The usual garrison of Wagon Hill was composed of three companies 1st King's Royal Rifles and a squadron of the ILH. On the evening of the 5th a detachment of the Natal Naval Volunteers, with a 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun, had been sent to Wagon Hill. Two naval guns had also been taken to the foot of the hill, and some sailors, Royal Engineers, and men of the 2nd Gordons had accompanied the latter guns.

The attack commenced at 2.30 am. "It fell directly on the squadron of ILH, under Lieutenant G M Mathias, and the Volunteer Hotchkiss detachment, under Lieutenant E N W Walker, who clung most gallantly to their positions and did invaluable service in holding in check till daylight the Boers who had gained a footing on the hill, within a few yards of them. The extreme south-west point of the hill was similarly held by a small mixed party of bluejackets, Royal Engineers, Gordon Highlanders, and Imperial Light Horse, under Lieutenant Digby-Jones, RE. The remainder of the hill was defended by the companies of 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifles". An officer on the Natal Volunteer staff has informed the writer that at one time the Hotchkiss detachment was driven from their gun. Lieutenant Mathias gallantly ran forward and with the assistance of two of his men pulled the gun under cover.

The first reinforcements ordered to Wagon Hill were the remainder of the ILH. These reached the hill at 5.10 am "and were at once pushed into action. They pressed forward up to and over the western edge of the flat crest of the hill, to within a few yards of the enemy, who held the opposite edge of the crest. They thus afforded a most welcome relief to the small garrison of the hill, but they themselves suffered very severely in occupying and maintaining their position". Other troops arrived, and several attempts were made to clear the hill, but these failed. Never during the whole war did the Boers show finer courage.




About mid-day the fighting slackened, but at 1 pm " a fresh assault was made with great suddenness on the extreme south-west of the hill, our men giving way for a moment before the sudden outburst of fire and retiring down the opposite slope. Fortunately, the Boers did not immediately occupy the crest, and this gave time for Major Miller-Wallnutt of the Gordons, Lieutenant Digby-Jones, RE, Lieutenant Fitzgerald, ILH, Gunner Sims, Royal Navy, and several NCO's of the ILH, to rally the men. The top was reoccupied just as the three foremost Boers reached it - the leader being shot by Lieutenant Digby-Jones, and the two others by No 459 Trooper H Albrecht, ILH.

At 4.45 pm, during a storm of wind and rain, our troops were again driven from the south-west point of the hill, but they were again rallied and reoccupied it. At 5 pm Lieutenant Colonel Park, with three companies of the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, finally cleared the hill by a magnificent bayonet-charge. Sir George White added "I desire to draw special attention to the gallantry displayed by all ranks of the ILH, some of whom were within 100 yards of the enemy for 15 hours, exposed to a deadly fire.

Their losses were terribly heavy, but never for one moment did any of them waver or cease to show a fine example of courage and determination to all who came in contact with them". Towards the close of his despatch Sir George, again, said: "Of the Imperial Light Horse, specially raised in Natal at the commencement of the war, I have already expressed my opinion. No praise can be too great for the gallantry and determination which all ranks of this corps have invariably displayed in action". The accounts given by 'The Times' historian and other writers regarding the attack of 6th January bear out all that Sir George White said as to the unsurpassable conduct of the corps.




The losses of the regiment on 6th January were - Lieutenants W F Adams and J E Pakeman, and 23 non-commissioned officers and men killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel A H M Edwards, Majors Karri-Davies and D E Doveton, Captain Codrington, Lieutenants Richardson, P H Normand, and D Campbell, and 27 men wounded. Major Doveton died of his wounds.

Down to the close of the siege the regiment bore its share of the work and the hardships, now, after 6th January, daily increasing.

Five squadrons of the regiment were under Sir George White in the actions before referred to, and in the defence of Ladysmith.”

Wood appeared among the list of casualties published in various newspapers – the Manchester Courier of 17 January 1900, under the banner “LADYSMITH CASUALTIES” stated that: -

The following has been received by the War Office:

The following casualties are reported by the General; Ladysmith (add Colonial troops, wounded), 6th January: -

Sergeant –major H.C. Greenall, Imperial Light Horse, slightly; Trooper H.L. Woods (sic), severely….”

Closer to his family home, the Seven Oaks Chronicle of 26 January 1900 reported that: -

“Trooper Harold Livingstone Wood, of the Imperial Light Horse, who was amongst Wednesday’s list of severely wounded at Ladysmith, is the second son of Mr Richard Wood, of Holmdene, Tonbridge. Two years ago he went out to South Africa and joined the Cape Mounted Rifles. Three months ago when the war clouds began to break he volunteered and was accepted to serve with the Imperial Light Horse, but no news was heard of him until his name appeared in the papers on Wednesday amongst the list of wounded at Ladysmith. Young Wood – he is only 21 years of age – is well known in Tonbridge”.

It becomes obvious to the reader, having been exposed to Wood’s previous transgressions, why “no news was heard of him”.

Having recovered from his wounds Wood made his way with the I.L.H. to Mafeking and was part of the relief force that entered there at 03h30 on the morning of 17 May 1900, ending the siege there, earning the coveted Relief of Mafeking clasp to his Queens Medal.

On the formation of the 2nd Battalion of the Imperial Light Horse on 30 November 1900 Wood took a transfer but, the very next day, 1 December 1900, he surrendered himself and was brought on strength of the Cape Mounted Rifles (C.M.R.). Having now returned to his parent regiment he was transferred to H.Q. Squadron. C.M.R. on 7 December 1900. This is where his run - ins with authority became more and more frequent.

On 14 February 1901 he was sentenced to 10 days C.B by Captain Taplin after being found guilty on two charges, Drunk in Camp and Resisting escort. On this occasion Sergeants Cope, Becker and Trooper Dahler were the witnesses. On 1 May 1901 he was transferred to “A” Squadron, of the C.M.R.

Two weeks later, on 14 May 1901 he was sentenced to 7 days internment with Hard Labour and loss of pay and service, 14 to 27 May, inclusive by the O.C. C.M.R. for being Absent without leave until 1 p.m. on the 17th inst. The witnesses were Sergeants Cope, Elliott and Keys

On 15 June 1901 he was fined 50/- or 21 days internment with Hard Labour for being Improperly dressed in town and Escaping from military custody. The witnesses were Corporals Long, Dyer and Grosskopf. Not to be thwarted Wood was sentenced to 10 days C.B. by Captain Taplin on 25 July 1901 for being Absent from Roll Call and Absent from Camp whilst under open arrest. Sergeant Catchpole and Corporal Pritchard were witnesses to these charges.

He followed this up on 29 July 1901 where, having been found guilty of being Absent from Camp from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. as well as Improperly dressed in town, Wood was sentenced to 10 days C.B. by Captain Taplin. Witnesses were Corporal Waterfall and Sergeant Holden

Finally, on 15 October 1901, Wood was Discharged with Ignominy from the C.M.R. by the O.C. after being found guilty of being Absent from Camp when a defaulter and being Found in the Masonic Hotel improperly dressed. Witnesses were Sgt Catchpole, Corporal Holden. (No mention is made of whether or not Wood was alone in the hotel at the time…)

Losing no time in his search to quench his thirst for adventure Wood re-enlisted with the 1st Battalion, I.L.H. on 21 October 1901. This stint of service was, however, to be short lived as he was discharged from them on 10 December 1901, a mere 40 days later.

Wood’s war was not over; on 12 December 1901 he was commissioned into No.3 Troop of the East Griqualand Mounted Rifles as a Lieutenant.

“The E.G.M.R. were European volunteers formed in seven independent troops, at Kokstad dismounted under Captain James Barclay, and mounted at Matatiele under Captain Hugh Nourse, Umzimkulu under Captain Robert Strachan, Newmarket under Captain W.F. Raw, New Amalfi under Captain C.R.B. Bovil, Mpatoane under Captain C.R. Rennie and Droevig under Captain G. Wedderburn They saw quite a bit of fighting against Boer raiding parties comprising mainly Cape rebels.”

With the conclusion of the Anglo Boer War on 31 May 1902 Harold Wood was released from service. He would seem to have redeemed himself in the eyes of the authorities after what could only be described as a tricky start to military life.

Despite being entitled (according to the I.L.H. medal roll) to the Defence of Ladysmith, Relief of Mafeking and Transvaal clasps, Wood was issued with a Queens South Africa Medal from the East Griqualand Mounted Volunteers roll with the clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1901. The C.M.R. records also indicate that this is what he was issued with. An annotation on the I.L.H. roll refers to “Believed from … C.M.R.)

Post - war little is known about Harold Wood. He set sail from Cape Town for Southampton at the age of 58 aboard the “Winchester Castle” arriving there on 2 August 1937. He was reported to be a Miner resident in Southern Rhodesia at the time. His destination was Tonbridge, Kent implying that he still had family there.

Harold Livingstone Wood passed away at Selukwe Hospital in the Gwelo region of Southern Rhodesia on 14 January 1953 of a cerebral haemorrhage and hypertension. He was 75 years of age at the time and was a Farmer/ Trader by occupation living on his Umguruguru Farm in the Selukwe area.

Despite having never married, Wood was survived by a daughter, June Wood, born on 1 June 1934 and Richard Wood, a nephew resident at Bulawayo.

He was buried in the Selukwe cemetery.

An interesting man.








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