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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 1 year 1 week ago #71679

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The Railway Pioneer Regiment undertook a huge amount of work to both protect and repair the rail lines north from Cape Town. Their attestation papers are available on this site.


Picture courtesy of DNW

MC GV;
QSA (4) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 (Lieut., Rly. Pnr. Regt.);
1914-15 Star (Capt., R.E.);
British War and Victory Medals, MID oakleaf (Capt.)

MC London Gazette 1 January 1917. ‘Temp. Capt. Lewis Collings Boyle, R.E.’

MID London Gazette 4 January 1917.

The recruiting for the Railway Pioneer Regiment began in Cape Town on about 18 December 1899. Before Lord Roberts commenced his advance from Bloemfontein to Pretoria the first battalion was organised, its work being to assist in protecting the railways and to repair bridges, culverts, and lines when broken. Without outside assistance the corps of Royal Engineers could not have faced the enormous amount of work naturally falling to their department. From the Railway Pioneer Regiment they received very valuable help. The efficiency of the Regiment was greatly assisted by a leavening of Royal Engineer officers. Of such value was the work of the Railway Pioneer Regiment that before the close of the war a fourth battalion had been organised. The battalions were employed chiefly on the Cape-Pretoria railway, but they were also on the Krugersdorp line, and sometimes operated as a fighting force a considerable distance from railways. The regiment also did admirable service on the armoured trains which did so much to make railway traffic possible during the guerilla war stage of the conflict.

In his evidence before the War Commission (vol i p. 445), Lord Roberts said: "An enormous amount of reconstruction was carried out by the Railway Pioneer Regiment and the Railway Companies Royal Engineers. The Pioneer Regiment consisted almost entirely of civilian refugees, mostly mechanics from Johannesburg, and it rendered excellent service. To its aid and that of the Royal Engineer officers and men we were indebted for the fact that the railways very seldom lost touch with the fighting portion of the army, and that we were able to seize Johannesburg and Pretoria, distant about 1000 miles from our base upon the coast, and 260 miles from Bloemfontein, our advanced depot, with such rapidity that the enemy were unable to concentrate their resources and offer a strongly organised resistance”.
Dr David Biggins
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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 1 year 1 week ago #71680

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From Black and White, 5 May 1900



Lieutenant C J Price, Captain J F Fisher RA, Lieutenant C E Hutton, Lieutenant D L Morton

Lieutenant E F Mitchell, Major G A Goodwin, Captain P Cazalet

Lieutenant L C B Boyle, Lieutenant J F Perry, Lieutenant C P Saner
Dr David Biggins
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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 1 year 1 week ago #71688

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HAYWOOD, A. L. V. (Alaric Leopold Victor)

REG. NO.: 2250
RANK: PRIVATE
REGT: RAILWAY PIONEER REGIMENT
BARS: ORANGE FREE STATE, TRANSVAAL

REMARKS / HISTORY:

1. SERVICE DOCUMENTS ON MAIN FILE.
2. 2nd BATTALION, R.P.R.
3. ENLISTED 11-12-00
5. VERIFIED: By Winefred Scott (1990)
4. FROM ANGLO BOER WAR FORUM (Frank Kelley): While Haywood's medal was issued from the 4th RPR roll in WO100/265 page 315, he had also served in the South African Light Horse as number 2796 and appears on their rolls in respect of his OFS, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and 1902 clasps in WO100/275 pages 28 and 63.

The Times, Monday, January 22, 1900 :

The Situation In Cape Colony
(FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT)

Cape Town, Jan.3.

The Railway Pioneer Regiment, recruiting for which is busily going on here, at Port Elizabeth, east London, and Durban, is already over 300 strong and has gone out to camp at Stellenbosch. It is expected within a very short time to reach the limit of 1,200 men at present sanctioned. The object of this force is primarily to help in the repairing of the railway wherever broken up by the enemy, but being armed and drilled as a regular battalion it will also serve the purpose of a force for defending lines of communication, and thus release an equivalent number of regulars for service at the front. It is under the command of Major Capper, R.E., and the rest of its officers are composed about equally of Royal Engineers and leading mine managers and engineers from the Rand. The combination seems to work admirably, and the greatest keenness is displayed by both the Imperial and the volunteer officers to make their force a really useful military unit.



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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 1 year 1 week ago #71689

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BLACKIE, J. (James)

REG. NO.: 1324
RANK: LANCE CORPORAL
REGT: RAILWAY PIONEER REGIMENT
BARS: CAPE COLONY, ORANGE FREE STATE, TRANSVAAL

REMARKS / HISTORY

1. ON LISTING OF 4th R.P.R., CROSSED OUT & CHANGED TO 1st R.P.R.
2. STATES TRANSFERRED FROM 2nd R.P.R.
3. ENLISTED 14-12-00
4. APPOINTED LIEUTENANT 3-7-01
5. DISCHARGED TO RESERVE 30-06-02
6. NOTE MEDAL IS NAMED TO LANCE-CORPORAL AND NOT LIEUTENANT
7. FROM ANGLO BOER WAR FORUM (Frank Kelley): Whilst Lieutenant Blackie QSA was issued from the 2nd RPR roll in WO100/265, he additionally earned his South Africa 1901 and 1902 Clasps, which were issued from the 1st RPR supplementary roll in WO100/265 page 106.





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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 10 months 12 hours ago #73106

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From the next City Coins auction, November 2020

De Wets Railway attach, North Kroonstad, 7 June 1900

Although the British had taken Pretoria two days earlier, the Orange Free State forces remained very active, blowing up bridges and ambushing supply convoys. As a result, Roodewal Station, which had been taken by the British on 23 May and garrisoned with men of the 4th Derbyshires, was the temporary railhead where goods were off-loaded until the railway to the north could be brought back into commission. De Wet captured a wagon train en route to Heilbron from Vredefort Road Station at Zwavelkrans, near the Rhenoster River on 5 June. It surrendered without resistance as the 200 men on board were outnumbered three to one.

Fifty-six wagons of supplies were taken. On 6 June, still undetected, De Wet returned to the railway line where he divided his force into three. The first (300 men and one 75mm Krupp under Steenekamp) had to deal with Vredefort Road Station at sunrise the next day: they took 38 prisoners with ease.

The second (another 300 men, two Krupps and a Pom-Pom under Froneman) were ordered north to attack the British camp at Rhenoster River bridge: in heavy fighting 36 men were killed, 104 wounded and 486 officers and men surrendered to the Boers. De Wet himself, with eighty men and one Krupp, headed for the station at Roodewal itself. The British, who were attacked at dawn, resisted fiercely and De Wet’s men were pinned down until the northern party had succeeded at the camp and brought two more 75mm Krupps south to help. The increased artillery fire forced a British surrender.

De Wet observed that their fortifications were constructed of bales of clothing and blankets, which kept British fatalities down to twenty-seven men, while 200 or so were captured.

The richness of the prize was beyond Boer powers to exploit, for they lacked the transport to carry it away. The post-bags were opened and looted by Boer and British alike and what the commando could not carry off was to be burnt. De Wet had to work hard to ensure a place for rifle ammunition among the goods his men took, then, according to De Wet:

“When the sun set, the burghers were again on the march. But what a curious spectacle they presented! Each man had loaded his horse so heavily with goods that there was no room for himself on the saddle; he had, therefore, to walk, leading his horse by the bridle.”

QSA (3) CC, OFS, Tvl (85 Pte. R. Walker. Rly. Pnr. Rgt.)
KSA (2) (85 Pte. R. Walker. Rly. Pnr. Rgt.)

Robert Walker served in No 5 Company, 1st Battalion, Railway Pioneer Regiment.

According to the SAFF Casualty Roll he was wounded at Rhenoster River (Rhenoster Spruit per Record of Service) on 7 June 1900.

However, Walker stated in his Medical History Papers that this left little finger had to be amputated, following the bursting of a shrapnel shell when in action at Roodewal on 7 June 1900.
Dr David Biggins

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Medals to the Railway Pioneer Regiment 10 months 11 hours ago #73109

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From the next City Coins auction, November 2020

Sand River, 14 June 1900

On 13 June the newly appointed General (Rev) Paul Roux with the Senekal Commando, another 200 men of the Ladybrand Commando, Capt John Hassell with his American Scouts, two pom-poms and a field gun advanced towards the British post at Virginia to destroy the important railway bridge over the Sand River. Lt Col Capper, RE, in command of 730 men (mainly Railway Pioneer Regiment and Royal Lancaster Militia), had been warned of the impending Boer action by a “hensopper” and the British positions on both banks of the river which had been well entrenched.

Early on the 14th the Boers advanced, chiefly under cover of dongas and scrub on the east and west and initially wasted time and ammunition firing on empty tents left by Capper when he shifted camp. Although the nature of the ground gave them excellent cover and a potential advantage, the Boers retreated by noon, after some hours fighting, when a body of some 170 Yeomanry appeared on the scene.

QSA (2) CC, OFS (Major L.I. Seymour, Rly. Pnr. Rgt.)
Engraved naming.

Louis Irving Seymour was born in Whitney Point, New York in the USA in 1860 and came to South Africa in 1889 to work as a Mechanical Engineer with De Beers in Kimberley. In 1896 he was appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer to Rand Mines and other companies in the Eckstein Group. He left Johannesburg via Delagoa Bay on 14 October 1899. Arriving in Cape Town he was instrumental in the formation of the Railway Pioneer Regiment which recruited mainly from engineers and mechanics of all kinds from the Rand.

Major Seymour was killed in the 14 June action at Sand River.

Lt Col Capper, in his despatch of 15 June 1900 (LG 8 Feb 1901, p904), stated: “I especially deplore the death of Major Seymour, whose loss will not only be felt by us as a regiment, but by the whole of South Africa. He was killed while advancing with the extended line through the bush, to clear out the snipers.”

His memorial stone stands in the small military cemetery near the old railway station at Virginia.

In July 1900 his friends and colleagues decided to establish a technical library in his memory. A sum of £11 477 was collected and the Seymour Memorial Library was opened in 1905. It is now one of the special libraries falling under the Johannesburg Public Library.
Dr David Biggins

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