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First a Boer and then a Brit - where did Richard Reynolds' allegiance lie? 1 year 7 months ago #72617

  • Rory
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Richard Reynolds was one of those rare men who fought for both sides in the Boer War. Whilst with the Ladybrand Commando, he was taken P.O.W. at Colesberg and sent to Green Point. Having signed the Oath of Allegiance he was allowed to return home where he then became a "Joiner", serving with the Orange River Colony Volunteers for four months before finishing off the war as one of only 8 members of the Ladybrand Town Guard.

Richard Reynolds

Burgher, Ladybrand Commando
Private Orange River Colony Volunteers
Private, Ladybrand Town Guard – Anglo Boer War
3rd Class Trooper, South African Constabulary – Post Boer War


- Queens South Africa Medal to R. REYNOLDS, LADYBRAND T.G.

Richard Reynolds was a mere boy when he, as a Burgher of the Orange Free State took up arms against the British. Having been taken prisoner, he then signed the Oath of Neutrality in order to effect his release. From there he joined the Orange River Volunteers, followed by the Ladybrand Town Guard. After the war was over, he enjoyed a brief, yet unsatisfactory stint, with the South African Constabulary.

Born on 24 January 1883, Reynolds was the son of his namesake, Richard Reynolds, a Merchant and Store Keeper in the town of Ladybrand, and his wife Christina Sophia. He was baptised in the Parish of St. Augustine’s (Modderpoort) in the Diocese of Bloemfontein on 25 February 1883, scarcely a month after he first saw the light of day.

Ladybrand is a small town in the eastern part of the Orange Free State, not far from the border with what was then known as Basutoland and not very far from Natal. The O.F.S. was a Dutch-speaking Republic and a close ally of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (Transvaal) to the north. Although much more moderate in her approach to the presence of British settlers on her borders with the Cape and Natal colonies, she had signed a pact with her northern neighbour which would bring her into a war against Britain should Kruger’s Transvaal go that route.

Life in and around Ladybrand would have been peaceful and both Boer and those burghers of British descent resident there, co-existed in mutual harmony, going about their business without rancor. This all changed in October 1899 when President Kruger of the Z.A.R. issued an ultimatum to the British which, going unanswered, precipitated hostilities between his country and Britain. By virtue of and in keeping with, the pact, the Orange Free State went to war as well. Suddenly the landscape had changed – those who were Burghers of the O.F.S. were required to report to their Veld Kornets, preparatory to joining their locally raised Commando, and then it was off to war.

Under normal circumstances, the researcher relies on the details provided by the recipient on his Vorm B (the Boer fighter’s application for the Anglo Boere Oorlog medal), in order to determine in what battles and skirmishes he fought. In the case of Reynolds, who as a Burgher of the Orange Free State, dutifully reported for service with the Ladybrand Commando, there is no such evidence as he did not apply for this medal. Fortunately for the reader, he was taken prisoner of war at Colesberg in the Cape Colony on 4 February 1900 – we thus know exactly where he was.

Davitt in Chapter XXVIII, described the campaign around Colesberg from the Boer point of view, and wrote in a very detailed account: -

“Following the defeat of the Suffolks, Piet De Wet and Schoeman took the aggressive in a two days' series of detached engagements, and forced the enemy back again southward over the old ground in the direction of Rensburg. On the 9th of January General De la Rey arrived from Magersfontein as fighting general and lost no time in forcing the fighting.

French had likewise been reinforced, but by a much larger body of troops and guns; still the great prestige of De la Rey and his reputation for a series of triumphs gained without, as yet, a single defeat at the hands of the enemy, put the burghers and Cape Volunteers in the best fighting spirit, and soon the lines round Colesberg were held in greater confidence than before, with the English forced into the adoption of defensive tactics.

On the 15th of January a body of Australian troopers with some English cavalry surprised and took a hill called the Zwartsrand which had been held by a few burghers. The attacking force was 300 strong, and they easily gained and held the position for a time.

A small body of burghers, numbering only thirty men, believing a position held by some New Zealanders was not in possession of more than fifty of the enemy, charged it and fell into an ambush of Yorkshires and New Zealand troopers, 150 strong. Three-fourths of the burghers were killed or captured.

A few days following this Boer mishap, an almost identical encounter took place, with the fortunes of war reversed; a score of Australian horsemen finding themselves surrounded by superior forces and compelled to surrender to Piet De Wet's men.

On the 5th of February a detachment under De la Rey, who were hotly engaged with a body of British near a place called Polfontein resorted to a stratagem borrowed from the military tactics of the ancients. Being in greatly inferior numbers, and as the English held the stronger position, the burghers collected about 100 horses from spare mounts and neighbouring farms, and, driving them into something like a line, whipped them straight across the open space between the opposing forces. The enemy fired on the galloping horses, but this in no way arrested their frantic career over the veldt. Behind the flying steeds the burghers charged safely over the ground and, taking advantage of the confusion caused by the horses, shot the enemy back upon French's main lines at Rasfontein.

Another account wrote that:

“On January 29th Lord Roberts summoned General French to Cape Town, and entrusted to him the responsible task of relieving Kimberley. When General French left for Cape Town on January 29th, the Boers, strongly entrenched, held Colesberg with about 8,000 men, five field guns, two long-range guns, and five smaller quick-firers; there was also a big gun at Colesberg and one at Achtertang. Any effort to dislodge them would have required the whole attention of a much larger force than was then available.

On 3rd February General French returned to Rensberg, and on the 6th was on his way to Modder River with his cavalry. His departure left a considerably smaller, less mobile force under General Clements, who had replaced General French. Well aware of this Gen de la Rey renewed his attacks and by the 14th February 1900 he succeeded in driving the 6,000 remaining British troops back to Arundel – the position General French had started from just under three months before.”

There was much action in and around Colesberg between mid-January and 23 February 1900 and, as has been seen, Reynolds was one of those taken prisoner. Assigned no. 6318, he was sent down to Green Point in Cape Town, one of the largest P.O.W. camps but, unlike most of his comrades, he wasn’t sent on by ship to either St Helena, Bermuda or Ceylon, instead he was repatriated to his home in Ladybrand, no doubt after he had taken the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.

At the age of 17, Reynolds was still, quite literally, in his teens. With no end to the war in sight he became a Joiner, that much despised category of men who, having fought for the Boer side, switched their allegiance to that of the British, thus taking up arms against their fellow countrymen. He now joined the ranks of the Orange River Colony Volunteers – a unit of renegade Boers under the surrendered Boer Commandant Vilonel, regarded by most Boers as a traitor. His address, provided on the medal roll, was revealed as the “Smaldel”, in the vicinity of Ladybrand.




Reynolds spent four months in their service and was eligible for a Queens Medal as a result – not surprisingly, the majority of medals issued off this roll were returned to the Mint as Unclaimed. From there Reynolds decided to throw his lot in with the Ladybrand Town Guard – this was one of the smallest Town Guards raised with a total manpower of no more than 8.

Post-war, Reynolds took up the trade of Stone Masonry and, it is this capacity we find him, when, on 10 July 1902, barely 6 weeks after the cessation of hostilities, he completed the Attestation Paper for enrolment with the South African Constabulary. Signing up for 3 years service he confirmed his Boer War service (with the notable omission of the time he spent on Commando and as a P.O.W.).

Assigned no. E4020, he was 5 feet 7 inches in height, had brown eyes, dark brown hair and had a dark complexion. He weighed 120 pounds and was a member of the Church of England. By way of distinctive marks about his person, he sported a scar over his left knee cap and one on the calf of his left leg.

Having joined 20 Troop, he was posted to Sand River Sub Depot on 1 March 1903 and then to Modder River on 16 November of that year. From then on to Edenburg where he appears to have disgraced himself - his Record of Conduct indicating that, on 27 April 1905, he had made himself guilty on two counts of misconduct - the first was "Refusing to obey and order" and the second, being "Drunk". For his troubles he was fined 5 Pounds and awarded 16 hours of Hard Labour.

Despite requesting to extend his engagement for another 2 years, it seems he wasn't highly regarded - his discharge as “unsuitable” coming on 31 May 1905 whilst at Winburg.

Richard Reynolds disappears almost without trace thereafter.
















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First a Boer and then a Brit - where did Richard Reynolds' allegiance lie? 2 months 1 week ago #82859

  • Rory
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Thanks to the ever-vigilant Elne Watson, the envelope below, for sale on EBay, is now on its way to me for the Richard Reynolds file. What is particularly pleasing about this little bit of ephemera is the date stamp which places Reynolds in Green Point until at least 21 July 1900.

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