Hennessey of the Natal Police, ILH and Utrecht Vryheid Mounted Police 1 year 1 month ago #70103
Claude Augustus Hennessey
Trooper, Natal Police
Trooper, 1st Imperial Light Horse
Trooper, Utrecht/Vryheid Mounted Police – Anglo Boer War
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Natal, Transvaal and South Africa 1901 to 2007 Tpr. C. Hennessy, Natal Police
Claude Hennessey was a man of many parts – having made his way to South Africa in the 1890’s, he served with various regiments in the Boer War and then, unlike so many of his countrymen who opted to remain in Africa, returned to the United Kingdom.
Born in Chorlton on Medlock, Lancashire in 1879 (he was baptised in the church of St. John the Baptist, Hulme on 16 October 1879) he was the son of Irish immigrant, Bernard John Hennessey and his English-born wife, Sarah Elizabeth, born Woolford. At the time of his baptism, Hennessey’s father was described as a Mechanic by trade.
Of him in the 1881 England census there is no sign, which is odd as he would have been a mere 2 years old. We have to wait for the 1891 census before we get our next glimpse of him. On this occasion he was with his family in their house in Pomona Square, Hulme in Greater Manchester. Aged 12 he was next in line after brother, George (14), and then followed by a myriad of siblings in the forms of Rose, Nicholas, Elizabeth, Henry and John. His father was a Blacksmith and Striker by trade at this point in his life.
Old enough, by Victorian standards, to fend for himself, he took passage to South Africa in early 1896, when 17 years of age to pursue a work opportunity. His emigration was part of a scheme, under the auspices of the European Immigration Department. He completed the Passage Application form for this in January 1896, whereby he applied for assisted passage to Natal. Assigned a Registration Number of 322 he was deemed to be 17 years of age, a Farm Assistant by occupation and gave an address of 21 Upper Wilmot Street, Stratford Road, Manchester, England.
Accompanying this application was a signed contract which reveals who had sponsored his passage and why. The contract was between Hennessey and none other than a prominent Mayor of Pietermaritzburg and the Officer Commanding of the Natal Carbineers – George James Macfarlane – whereby Hennessey agreed to tender Macfarlane “his services at all fair and reasonable times, and in the capacity of Farm Assistant for three years commencing from the date of arrival in Natal.
For his part, Macfarlane agreed “to pay the said Claude Hennessey as such servant as aforesaid, wages after the rate of £2 by the month.” This contract was signed in England on 24 January 1896 in the presence of the Rector of St. Philip’s in Hulme.
With prospects of a bright future in a new land, Hennessey landed in Natal and commenced employment on Macfarlane’s farm just outside Pietermaritzburg. Things were not, however, destined to run smoothly - that Hennessey had received a reasonably decent education is evidenced by a letter he penned to the Department of European Immigration, Durban from Pietermaritzburg on 21 April 1896. It read as follows:
I write these few lines hoping you will favour my request. I was engaged from England as Farm Assistant by Mr G.J. Macfarlane of this town at £2 month and received papers in England to sign, one for the Agent General telling me I was not to pay my passage back being a nominated passenger. That one Mr Macfarlane has got.
I came out here on the Greek which arrived here on 15th March and so my month finished on the 15th April and I went to him for my pay and he offered me 10/-, telling me he would pay me 10/- a month until I had paid my passage money off. Of course I refused and told him I wanted my full money and he said he’s going to pay me the passage money and I told him he had got the Agent General form who told me not to pay it and he said who is going to pay me. Then I told him I didn’t know and he put the 10/- in his pocket and walked away.
A week has now passed and as he has not give it me, I write to you to get it me or give me a note to show him that he has to pay me and I will be very thankful. I came out here from a good home and do not know anyone here and my parents think I am doing well, and this is the way I am being treated the first month too. I am sure you would not like a son of yours to be treated the same so do what you can for me and oblige.
Yours truly Claude Hennessy, Post Office, Pietermaritzburg.
(Please address your answer to this address and oblige, yours anxiously)
The answer wasn’t long in coming. On 30 April the Secretary of the Department wrote back thus:
With reference to your letter of the 21st instant previously acknowledged – I have now to inform you that enquiries have been made into the subject thereof, and it would appear that your employer, Mr Macfarlane, was induced to advance the cost of your assisted passage to the Colony on an expression of your willingness “to work for nothing till you had paid off every penny.”
Mr Macfarlane is thus merely putting into effect your own proposition and agreement, and it does not seem that you have good ground of complaint. I should therefore advise you to accept the amount tendered to you. It is true that the sum is small, but you will bear in mind that the larger the monthly deduction from the amount owing to you, the sooner will your liability be cleared off.”
There letters having crossed in the post – Hennessey’s of the 29th April read thus:
I have received no further information about my wage and want to know if you can supply me with any, it is now a fortnight late and I am beginning to look on the matter seriously as I can’t even write a letter home while I am in this situation.
Believe me, yours truly.
Hennessey would have received the earlier reply a day or two after his follow-up and it would have brought him nought but cold comfort.
Irregardless, he seems to have stuck it out in Macfarlane’s employ but without any intention of making a career of it. On 25 October 1897 he attested for service with the Natal Police at Pietermaritzburg and was assigned no. 2007 and the rank of Trooper. Settling down to his police duties, Hennessey seems to have kept his nose clean – a thorough look through the Natal Police Daily Orders Book failed to reveal any entries in respect of himself which was always a good sign. Those who blotted their copy book were sure to gain a mention.
Almost exactly two years after he enlisted, Hennessey, along with thousands of others, found h-speaking himself at war with the two Dutch-speaking Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. On 12 October the Boer forces invaded Natal in a pincer movement, some from the Vryheid border with Natal and others over the Drakensberg mountain range. After a series of battles, the Boer Forces met up outside Ladysmith, besieging that town and the garrison that had fallen back on it, at the beginning of November 1899.
The men of the Natal Police were split up, some were caught up in the Defence of Ladysmith, others with Buller’s force trying to relieve the town whilst others still were deployed to the small towns dotted around Natal to continue their normal policing duties whilst doubling as an information gathering source for the Imperial and Colonial forces. It is suspected that Hennessey fell into the latter category – not for him were the battle clasps and actions that thrilled the nation. Instead he qualified for the more mundane “Natal” clasp to his Queens medal, issued to him later.
Chaps who enlisted with the NP did so on a 3 year contract, with the option to extend if need be. Hennessey, most likely tiring of his work, elected to take his discharge and the Natal Police Daily Order No. 479 on page 508 read thus:
“Tpr. No. 2007 Hennessy, having been discharged at his own request on 27 October 1900, is struck off the strength of the Force from that date.”
Where to now? The war was still raging and Hennessey was barely 21 years of age. With his thirst for adventure not yet sated, he turned his attention to one of the most illustrious of Colonially-raised units, the 1st Imperial Light Horse, attesting with them for service at Pietermaritzburg on 16 October 1900. Assigned no. 1456 and the rank of Trooper he set about the business of fighting the Boers. It must be remembered that the glory days of the ILH, whilst not quite all behind them, were at the time of Elandslaagte, the Relief and Defence of Ladysmith and the Relief of Mafeking – in all of these they had acquitted themselves so well that they had gained an envious reputation as a fighting force. After Mafeking, however, the “original 500” had been steadily replaced by fresh recruits and Hennessey was one of these.
In December 1900 and January 1901 the 1st ILH, Hennessey among them, was operating south of the Magaliesberg in the Transvaal under Babington. On 31st December Lieutenant D Magwell and a trooper were wounded at Haartebeest, and on 6th January there was severe fighting at Naauwpoort in which the regiment lost Captain Yockney and Lieutenant Ormond and 20 non-commissioned officers and men were killed.
On 7th January 1901 Major C J Briggs, King's Dragoon Guards, assumed command of the 1st ILH – a command which he retained until the close of hostilities. Throughout January and February, the regiment was constantly in touch with the enemy, and frequently suffered some losses. In March there was some very heavy fighting. In his despatch of 8th May 1901, Lord Kitchener said: "On the 22nd March a strong patrol of the 1st ILH, consisting of 200 men and a pom-pom, was attacked near Geduld by General Delarey with 500 men and 2 guns. The enemy, of whom 11 were killed and 13 wounded, were completely defeated. Commandant Venter was found among the dead, and Field Cornet Wolmarans, who was severely wounded, fell into our hands". The patrol was commanded by Major Briggs. The ILH lost 6 killed, including Lieutenants J Ralston and A R Halling, and Regimental Sergeant Major Hurst, and 18 wounded, including Captain J Donaldson, and Lieutenants J R Stone and J H Dryden.
On the 23rd and 24th General Babington followed up this action and inflicted a severe defeat on the enemy, capturing 140 prisoners, 3 guns, 6 maxims, many wagons, etc. 22 dead and 32 wounded Boers were found on the field. Our losses were 2 killed and 7 wounded. Of these the ILH had 4 wounded. In both these affairs the regiment did splendidly, and many mentions were gained. The 1st ILH continued to do much trekking and skirmishing in the Western Transvaal under General Babington and other commanders.
After a stint of 6 months with the ILH, Hennessey took his discharge on 20 May 1901. He took time to consider his next move and weigh up his options before, on 17 June 1901, joining the ranks of the newly-formed Utrecht/Vryheid Mounted Police. This body of men had been brought into being for the express purpose of policing and patrolling the Utrecht and Vryheid districts which had been detached from the Transvaal and annexed to Natal. They were to maintain this role until peace was declared. Hennessey had, therefore, come full circle, from leaving one police force to ending his time in uniform with another. But not for him any extended length of service, he took his discharge from the UVMP on 19 August 1901, after 2 months.
For his efforts he was awarded the Queens Medal with the relevant clasps – this medal was obviously lovingly worn as it shows signs of wear.
Opting to return to England at some point, Hennessey appears to have fallen on awfully hard times. The Register of Deaths for the West Didsbury Workhouse in South Manchester recorded his death there on 6 April 1914 as an inmate at the young age of 36.
The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, jim51
Hennessey of the Natal Police, ILH and Utrecht Vryheid Mounted Police 1 year 4 weeks ago #70115
Does anyone know where the medal roll is for U/V Mtd Police is? I have had a look in WO/100 without success.
Hennessey of the Natal Police, ILH and Utrecht Vryheid Mounted Police 1 year 4 weeks ago #70117
WO100/261 page 192-204
Part time researcher of the Cape Police and C.P.G Regiment.
Hennessey of the Natal Police, ILH and Utrecht Vryheid Mounted Police 1 year 4 days ago #70721
A trawl through some of my Natal Police posts unearthed a group photo (1909) wherein Hennessey appears. I have added it to my original post above.
Looking at the photo I found I have the medals to Webb, Caminada, Whitaker and now Hennessey - not a bad score!
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