William Lammas was born in the last quarter of 1879 at Whitcombe.
The hamlet of Witcombe is located in the county of Somerset, South West England, four miles south of the town of Somerton.
In 1881, aged 2, William was living with his parents and grandparents at number 8 cottage in Yarnton in the parish of Woodstock Oxon.
Father Phillip worked as a farm labourer and his mother Mary was a dressmaker. The family shared the cottage with Phillips parents.
Ten years later (1891) the family are residing at St Aldgate Oxford 7 Kings row.
The head of the household is Williams mother Mary, along with his brother Hubert and sisters Lily and Martha. William is 12 years old and still attending school. There is no mention of Mary's husband Philip.
After his education, William finds work as an agricultural labourer. However in 1898 William Lammas decides to join the colours of her majesty's service. Aged 19 years and 6 months William attested for the 7th Dragoon Guards on the 8th March at Norwich.
With his time working on the farms, William was deemed fit to serve and weighed in at 9 stone 6 pounds, standing at 5 foot 6 inches with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and dark hair, sporting a black dot on his left forearm and a religious denomination of Church of England, his calling to the Dragoons was complete. Private Lammas was no stranger to military procedures as he had served in the 3rd Milita Royal Berkshire's and was still serving with them before he joined the Dragoons. With his basic training completed, it wasn't long before the 7th Dragoon Guards were on their way to South Africa.
7th Dragoon Guards Egypt circa 1882
The regiment sailed on the Armenian on Thursday 8th February, 24 officers, 565 men and 506 horses, reaching Cape Town on 3rd March 1900, then going by train to De Aar. Dressed in khaki, and armed with swords and carbines, they were placed in the 4th Brigade with the 8th and 14th Hussars under the command of Maj-Gen Dickson at Donker Hoek. They were employed in patrolling and reconnoitering near Bloemfontein.
7th Dragoon, South Africa
Brief information pertaining to the actions of the 7th Dragoons in S.A
Roodikop and Thaba Nchu, 24th and 27th April 1900
By the end of April the regiment were bearded and dirty. They fought as mounted infantry because Boer tactics did not allow for set piece cavalry actions. A and B Squadrons fought a dismounted skirmish on a ridge at Roodikop near Dewetsdorp, along with the 9th Lancers and 14th Hussars. The latter regiments suffered heavy casualties and the 7th DG lost one man. On 27th April they covered an infantry attack. They became separated from the infantry and came under fire from a force of 1,200 Boers so they dismounted and returned fire as best they could with their carbines. Dickson had to order a withdrawal at dusk and the 7th retired under fire. As this was taking place Captain Roland Haig showed great bravery when he rescued 2nd Lt Vaughan who had been shot from his horse. He also saved a private who had become dismounted. These acts were carried out under heavy fire and should have brought him a VC but it was not to be.
Zand River operations.
Zand River, 10th May 1900
The 4th Brigade were in support of the 1st Union Brigade, all under French's command, in the advance to Pretoria. They were heading for Kroonstadt and had crossed the Zand River when the 1st Brigade were pinned down by 800 Boers. Two squadrons under Colonel Lowe occupied a hill to provide covering fire with carbines and a Maxim Gun. They then rejoined the regiment and they and the 8th Hussars were ordered to occupy a kraal on the enemy right. While heading towards the kraal some Boer horsemen came out of cover and fired on the two regiments. Since the enemy were out on the open plain, 1,000 yards away, they took the opportunity to charge them with drawn swords. This was a rare chance to effect a proper cavalry charge, but it had be be aborted halfway. Luckily for the British, they spotted a ravine running across their path which would have been fatal if they had all tumbled into it. The order came "Troops left wheel!" and the disappointed troopers turned away in time. It had been a trick to lure the two regiments on but the casualties were few compared to what might have been. Four injured men, of whom one, Sergeant Wilson, later died.
Diamond Hill, 11th June 1900
Diamond Hill Pretoria was occupied unopposed but the war went on. Louis Botha and a force of 6,000 Boers were massed for 30 miles, on the kopjes overlooking the plain to the west of Pretoria. The central kop, Diamond Hill, was the highest and rockiest and had to be assaulted by infantry. General French's cavalry were to contain the enemy on the left. The 7th Dragoon Guards suffered a great loss of horses through sore backs, exhaustion and laminitis (The horse will show an inability or reluctance to walk or move and may possibly lie down, displaying an unwillingness to get up) which meant that they only had 73 mounted men. The other cavalry regiments fared just as badly.
The battle began at 8am on 11th June and did not go well for the cavalry. A Squadron were fired on from a ridge 800 yards to their right and had to dismount. They took cover and were soon joined by B and C Squadrons as well as the 8th and 14th Hussars. They formed a line a mile long, 240 men, but the only effective reply to the Boer fire came from O Battery RHA. They made a heroic stand out in the open, firing shrapnel at the Boers with their 12-pounders and managing to silence the 2 Boer Krupp guns and pom-poms. Meanwhile the cavalrymen with their ineffective carbines were trapped all day. When night came they were still unable to get away, but were able to improve their sangars with more rocks, so on the 12th they had to endure another day of heat, thirst and lack of ammunition. At dawn on the 13th the enemy fired on them once more then departed. So ended one of the last set-piece battles of the war. The casualty figures were minimal, only 4 wounded, but the demoralising effect was devastating.
Conan Doyle's 1st phase map Diamond Hill
Onderste Poort, 11th July 1900
The 7th had been the luckiest of all the cavalry regiments at Diamond Hill in terms of casualties, but one month later C Squadron were ambushed by a force of 300 Boers near Onderste Poort. Captain Church, attached from the 6th DG, and Lieutenant MacKellar were killed along with four men. The rest, some of whom were wounded, were captured and 2 of them later died.
By October the Boers no longer fought in force but adopted guerilla tactics. The British cavalry were re-organised and dispersed to separate mobile columns to combat the fragmented way of fighting. They were issued with new rifles, the infantry pattern Lee-Enfield .303 calibre. And their swords were replaced by bayonets. Their tasks involved the destruction of farms in an effort to cut off the Boer's food supply, and the rounding up of Boer civilians suspected of aiding the fighters. In 1901 they spent much of their time chasing the elusive Christiaan De Wet and his commandos. The 7thDG had as their guide, none other than his brother ex-General Piet De Wet. When Christiaan himself finally surrendered, on 25th April 1902, he was invited into the mess of the 7th at Willowglen, to dine with the officers. Although he could not be tempted to drink anything stronger than lime juice.
No battle clasps were awarded to 4343 Private Lammas, however, he was present and undoubtedly took part in actions in and around Cape Colony & the Orange Free State. Unfortunately, I do not have precise details on when William contracted enteric fever. What I do know is that he was transferred from his battalion sometime in May 1902, and was transferred to Number 3 General Military Hospital Kroonstad Orange River Colony for medical treatment.
Military Hospital similar to where William would have been treated.
Image shown is Number 10 General Military Hospital
Having spent over 2 years serving in South Africa his final days were fast approaching. Ironically, he survived to witness the end of the conflict in May 1902, although we do not know what his condition was like during this time. Alas, William succumbed to his illness on the 27th June 1902. Watts Memoriam doesn't record he died from disease. His papers do record enteric fever. He is believed to be buried in Kroonstad cemetery. Not sure if there is a grave marker to him. But he is remembered on the memorial plaque at Norwich Cathedral.
Located Norwich Cathedral
Private William Lammas QSA & KSA