Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me
  • Page:
  • 1


John W. Barritt, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles - died on Table Mountain 29.10.1902 6 days 25 minutes ago #73013

  • BereniceUK
  • BereniceUK's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Senior Member
  • Senior Member
  • Posts: 2311
  • Thank you received: 1116

....Last night Mr. John Barritt, son of ex-Councillor Charles Barritt, of Burnley, returned home after being in South Africa since May, 1898, and at the wish of an "Express" representative gave some interesting facts as to the present crisis in South Africa. Since going "out" eighteen months ago Mr. Barritt has continued in the occupation he has been brought up to, that of a butcher. He went direct to Bulawayo, but soon tired of the place, and the rest of his stay has been chiefly in Johannesburg. This place he left just as all English people have vacated the Transvaal, and went to Durban, fully intending that when the war was over he would go back. One or two of his boxes are at Johannesburg now. At Durban - and the same applies to Port Elizabeth and Cape Town - the place is full of the people who have left the Transvaal. The uncertainty as to when war would break out, and the continual delays, have made a great many consider it wisest to return home instead of "hanging on," spending the same money in keeping themselves there, at the same time earning nothing. It was this reason, coupled with the influence of a desire on the part of his relatives, that he has returned home. He wished to explain that he "has not run away from the fighting." On the contrary he and others offered to enlist at Durban, but the authorities are not accepting inexperienced men, as they would consume the keep of more serviceable and disciplined fighters.
....Asked as to the country itself, Mr. Barritt said that Rhodesia was a good place. It was fertile, but needed development. Whilst there he saw a lion in the bush, but the animal ran away.
....What sort of fellows are the Boers? - Well, most of them are something like a navvy here. They don't shave as a rule, but grow bushy whiskers and long hair. Occasionally you see them trekking with 14 oxen or so, and you would not give 30s. for all there is on the waggon. They are going to start another farm somewhere.
....And the system of Government in the Transvaal? - It is bad. It wants altering. The laws are good, but badly carried out. There is a lot of corruption. You can, if it expresses it, buy the law over, and Dutchmen get the best of the law.
....Speaking of the situation, Mr. Barritt said there seemed to be many questions mixed up. The Dutch think that it is a money question with England, and that the capitalists are trying to get hold of their country. But they intend to fight for their country or die, because they say they might as well do that as have no country.
....And if they do fight? - Well, there will be the Orange Free State, the Transvaal, and Cape Colony to meet.
....But Cape Colony is English? - Yes, but there is a bond between the Dutch of Cape Colony and the Transvaal and Orange Free State, and the impression is that they will all come out to fight together.
....Mr. Barritt went on to say that as he came down from the Transvaal frontier he saw 9,000 British troops at Ladysmith, and there were others all the way to the coast.
....The Boers mean to fight? - They tell you so flatly. They say they have seen our flag. It was white at Majuba Hill, and it will be white again.
....They must be ignorant of England's strength? - Yes. There are a few enlightened Dutchmen, but even if you tell these about our Gatlings and Maxims they don't believe you. He went on to say that the Boers were putting wire round the forts, but they never seem to think that the English would simply put tarpaulin or planks over. Their warfare is primitive.
....The English residents are with England, of course? - Yes, they are loyal, and want the country to be English from Cape Town to Cairo.
....They are at one with the English Government? - Mr. Barritt replied that at the bottom the English emigrants were. A good many went out, and, making good wages, did not bother their heads about the franchise as they intended to come home to enjoy their money. Some of these thought that the capitalists were trying to lower wages, but apart from this idea in some places, they were at one with the Government. There is no doubt that English rule will be a good thing, and that it is needed.
....There is a good opening in the Transvaal? When this thing gets settled there will be a hum" from the Cape to the Zambesi. Anyone who goes out wants to be in a business that the country will give him return.
....He went on to say that the Basutos, from whom the Orange Free State Boers took rich land, were only waiting their opportunity to get it back again.
....What about the atrocities that we hear of? - In reply to this question Mr. Barritt said that he saw the whole of the Wolff Joe murder trial through, and everybody was surprised at the verdict. The whole evidence pointed to the fact that the prisoner was guilty, but the jury were evidently frightened of saying so.
....But about the outrages to English people leaving the "up-country"? - Yes, those are right. Just now the Boers would like to kill you, if they durst do so, as soon as look at you.
Burnley Express, Wednesday 11th October 1899

. . . Mr. John Barritt, who has just returned to Burnley, visited Majuba Hill on his way from Johannesburg, and he declares that the Boers enjoyed an enormous advantage in securing this position.
Burnley Express, Saturday 14th October 1899

....Writing to the Editor Mr. J. W. Barritt, son of Mr. Charles Barritt, Burnley, informs him he has joined the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles at Durban. He warns anybody about coming out to South Africa in the present unsettled state of the country. He or she does so at a very big risk unless there is a "berth" to come to. "There is no doubt about it," he says, "the country has a big future before it, but it is not ripe yet by any means. When I came out I had a berth to go to, but when I got on this side of the water I find I cannot get any nearer to it than Durban unless I join a regiment to qualify for a discharge to have a first chance on the Rand, backed up by the Outlander Committee and the military. So the only thing for it was that I was literally compelled to join the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, along with hundreds more; because if you go and enquire after a situation they ask to look at your discharge papers, and if you cannot show them they gently tell you to go and do your little bit at the front. Now, I call this conscription in a gentlemanly sort of a way. In an English Colony, what do you think about it? Not that I mind fighting when I am forced; so I am going to laugh it out now that I am dressed in khaki and mounted on a bunch of bones - excuse me, I mean a horse. It may seem cowardly and poor patriotism to wait until you are forced, but ask Tommy Atkins or anybody who has been up at the front, whether it is a picnic or not, and they will tell you. Well, by and bye I will give your readers my experience of it."
Burnley Express, Wednesday 9th January 1901

....Mr. J. W. Barritt, in his last letter home, says he was never in better health, and that his parents and friends need have no anxiety on his account.
Burnley Express, Wednesday 20th February 1901

Extract from a letter by an unnamed Burnley soldier with the East Lancashire Regiment, dated Springs, 25 miles north-east of Johannesburg, 19/1/1901: - " . . . By the way, you will know Mr. C. Barritt, formerly a butcher in Yorkshire-st., who was on the Burnley Town Council three years ago? Well, he has a son who has been out here four years. I met him in the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles. He said he had been home since the war started, and was in Burnley at the general election, but he thought the war was over and came out again, so had to join the Mounted Rifles rather than be sent over the border."
Burnley Express, Saturday 9th March 1901

....In the casualty list on Thursday the name was recorded of Private J. W. Barritt, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, who was reported as having been severely wounded in an engagement near Graskop on May 5. Pte. John Wm. Barritt is the son of Mr. Charles Barritt, of Church-st., Burnley, an ex-Councillor and retired butcher, and this is his second visit to the Cape. The first visit was just about three years ago, when he went to Johannesburg as a butcher, obtaining a good place. On the war troubles arising, and when all the British were ordered out of the Transvaal by the Dutch, Mr. John Barritt went to Durban, which was full of refugees. Finding nothing to do he came home to Burnley. He was here about a year, and towards the end of 1900 he sailed once more for South Africa, having a position to go to in Johannesburg. Arriving at Durban, he found hostilities were still so vigorous that the military refused passage up the railways to any except soldiers. Therefore to get near Johannesburg he joined a new colonial corps, so that on his discharge he could be one of the first in the field in regard to work.
....It has been no "picnic" for the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles. They have been scattered all over the Transvaal, and have suffered, of late, most severely. But they have done magnificent work. Since the above letter, the Editor has only had one message from Pte. Barritt, in which he described Johannesburg as deserted. He is now lying seriously wounded, but where Graskop is we do not know. We sincerely hope the wounds may prove less dangerous than the alarming announcement would portend, and that Mr. John Barritt may be really soon well enough to tell us his experiences.
Burnley Express, Saturday 11th May 1901

....In response to enquiries respecting Private J. W. Barritt, son of Mr. Charles Barritt, who, we announced last week, had been wounded, the War Office have sent the following letter to the young Colonial's home in Church-street, Burnley: - "Sir, With reference to your application, I am directed by the Secretary of State for War to acquaint you that no further particulars have been received regarding 143, Private J. W. Barritt, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, since he was severely wounded on the 5th May, near Gras Kop. If his name does not appear again in the casualty lists, it may be presumed that he is progressing favourably."
....This has been our presumption since the announcement, and as Private Barritt's name has not appeared in the dangerously ill list we conclude satisfactory progress was being made.
Burnley Express, Saturday 18th May 1901


....As good as his promise, Trooper Barritt, of the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, has written to the Editor to give the Express" readers an account of his experiences. The letter, received on Sunday, was written on April 23rd, or twelve days before he was severely wounded, so that the most important experiences of his campaigning occurred after he pencilled the note we reproduce. No doubt in a few weeks we shall be furnished with the particulars of the unfortunate engagement in which he was injured - luckily, not dangerously. It is interesting to note how Trooper Barritt characterises the Boer resistance - the burghers are shooting down our men because they are not burdened with their families, whom the English are caring for!
....Writing from Volksrust, Private J. W. Barritt says: - "I will just take the opportunity of giving your readers a few of my experiences in the J.M.R., as just at present I have some spare time to kill. As I write this, leaning back against my saddle and blankets on the veldt, I have that famous mountain, Majuba, directly in front of me, within four miles. To get here I rode past poor General Colley's grave, also those of his men, who perished in 1881. I could not help thinking as I rode past 'Well, they are avenged at last, after twenty years.' Whether it is for the better or worse for the workers in this part of the country, time alone will tell. To begin with we left Johannesburg for the Springs about the beginning of January. Our duties there chiefly consisted of going out on patrols and locating the enemy.
....I remember very well the first time I was under fire. It was about 5 a.m. on January 6th. We had left our camp at 2 a.m. under cover of darkness. Just as it was breaking day, we were going over a sharp rise on the veldt in skirmishing order, when all at once, pi-hu-pi-hu, the Mauser rifles rang out all over. I could hear the bullets flying past my head, making a noise something like Z-u-u. A good many went into the ground at my horse's feet, plop-plot all around. But none of us were touched. immediately we had orders to retire at the gallop, having done our work in locating the enemy. They galloped after us for about one mile, and then left us. Well, this went on for a few mornings, when we laid an ambush for them, by going out at midnight to a Kaffir Kraal. About fifty of us stayed in the kraal, while about twenty scouts went forward to fire on them about a mile away at day-break. They had orders to let the Boers chase them, and ride past our kraal, which they did, and as soon as our men passed us we let rip into them (the Boers). They were nearly all dressed in khaki. We killed and wounded about ten, and then mounted and rode off for our lives, as the commando was after us on hearing our fire. I looked back when I thought I had gone a safe distance. There I saw the Boers surround the kraal and fire three volleys into it, then setting it on fire so that we should not have it again.
....We got our brigade gradually formed and ready for the march about the 22nd of January under General Dartnell. It consisted of C.C. bodyguard, Goff's M.I., J.M.R., and the Staffords as infantry. We marched on that date, and all were in high hopes that the Boers were going to stand, and that we should have a good fight. We had a 4.7 gun, four twelve pounders, two maxims, two Colts, and a pom-pom. But, no fear, Johnny Boer would not stand. I think he has been going ever since, for we have chased them all over the country, and only got a few. We have visited Ermelo, Intombi Spruit, Paul Petersburg, Vryheid, and a score more places - all jawbreakers, so I won't trouble you with them - along the Zululand border, and into the bush country, where neither man nor beast can exist for long, setting fire to his farms and mealies and bringing his wife and children along with us, also his stock.
....This is easier said than done, it means some very risky work, crossing rivers up to the neck, sleeping all night wet through in wet blankets, and having no dry rags for the day time. I have been fourteen days without a dry rag to my back, it raining all the time, breaking all previous records, and living - well, I will give you the menu. For the most part of the march, two biscuits per day, and coffee without sugar - worse than drinking medicine. But there was one thing we could have a surfeit on, and that was mutton. It was mutton morn, noon, and night, without salt. We ate so much of it one time, having nothing else, until we all began to 'baa' when any of our officers came near us, to give them a broad hint! Considering all things, I think the whole brigade took the hard times very well. A couple of our squadron went up to our leader and asked him if he could let them have a head stall and rein apiece? Not suspecting anything, the captain asked, 'What do you men want with them? Have you managed to obtain some more horses?' 'Oh, no, sir,' the troopers replied, 'we only want to knee-halter ourselves to go out grazing with the horses!'
....As we marched along our horses began to die, and it was no uncommon sight to see men and officers mounted on mules, donkeys, and mares, which had little foals galloping along with them. This puts me in mind of a little incident back at Intombi Spruit. You must know first we had a lot of goats along with us, which we milked whenever we got a chance. One morning a trooper called out in the lines 'Does anybody want a drop of fresh milk in their coffee?' 'Here you are, mate,' cried one of the men, 'I don't mind a drop if there is any going.' Without further remarks the trooper emptied a fair amount of the white fluid into his canteen, which he drank at once, with a grin on his face. The donor asked 'How does it go?' 'Fine, why?' 'Why, because it's mare's milk, not cow's, as you thought.' 'Oh, that's all right, old boy. I couldn't tell t'other, from which. Gie us some more.' Well, there were scores of more incidents, but I am sure you are all growing weary, so I will bring my letter to a close by wishing you could just have a peep at us. I fancy I can ha you remark they look like a lot of rag and bone pickers. Nearly all of us are growing whiskers."
...."P.S. - My opinion of the war is that it can easily last two years yet, because the Boer knows very well his wife and children are getting well fed and cared for by the British Government. He himself is enjoying living on the veldt and murdering our poor soldiers and wrecking trains!"
Burnley Express, Saturday 25th May 1901

....At last we have heard from Trooper J. W. Barritt. His letter is so far reassuring that he is not seriously wounded and that he is recovering as well as can be expected. Trooper Barritt, who is the on of ex-Councillor Barritt, and who was a Liberal worker for Mr. Stanhope at the last Parliamentary election, cannot be accuse of want of sympathy for the Boers. Yet he himself describes his wound as having been the result of "Boer Treachery." It seems that Trooper Barritt and several others had surrounded a Boer force and called upon them to surrender. Under the pretence of picking up their blankets the enemy seized their rifles and shot down our men, the soldier on Trooper Barritt's right being killed by a bullet which passed through his head. As Mr. J. W. Barritt was at one time between both Boer and British fires the wonder is not that he was wounded, but that he escaped with his life. We congratulate him both on his escape, on his progress towards convalescence, and on the cheerfulness he displayed in the condition he must have been at the time he wrote his interesting missive to us.
Burnley Express, Wednesday 19th June 1901



....A member of the "Express" staff received, on Saturday evening, a cheery letter from Mr. J. W. Barritt, son of ex-Councillor Barritt, who is now in Johannesburg. Mr. J. W. Barritt, it will be remembered, returned to South Africa several months ago, and joined the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles. In one engagement he was wounded in the foot, and had to remain in hospital some time. Mr. Barritt has previously described the incident in our columns, and declared in the most emphatic manner that he owed his wound to "Boer treachery." In his last letter Mr. Barritt says he is sending home the boot and hat he was wearing at the time he was shot, and then his relatives and friend can see how he fared. He proceeds: - "Well, all's well that ends well, and I can now walk as well as ever I could in my life. All that can be seen are two round dots where the bullets went in and come out again, so that I shall carry Oom Paul's tattoo marks to the grave. Of course I feel proud of them. You talk about me looking thinner in the photograph I sent you. Well, I am about as fat as the sheep I am selling now. We should all make good lanterns if we had candles placed in our insides. Nevertheless we are quite healthy, and living in hopes of putting some mafutu (fat) on our bones some time. I am discharged medically unfit for further service in the field, and am now selling meat here that you would never look at at home, never mind buy. We call them De Wet's running dogs, and they run 1s. 3d. per lb. very fast, isn't it? Johannesburg at present is very quiet and full of dust. It will give you an idea of the condition of the streets if I tell you that the tram lines are fully four inches above the road, and I think it will take all the glass in St. Helens to glaze the window frames again. While I was down in Durban recruiting I saw the quays packed with machinery, timber, etc., ready for the first opportunity of tranship to the Rand. I was talking to a friend of mine - an engineer - the other day, and he tells me that when they try to get steam up in the boilers the tubes burst through standing so long doing nothing. Everything will have to be overhauled. We have not much faith in the brigandage finishing for a long time yet. The feeling here is that when the Boers have done all the mischief they can in the late Orange Free State and Transvaal they will trek into the Colony. My opinion is that the English Government have been far too lenient with the Boers. All through magnanimity has been mistaken for weakness, and thus we have lost double the lives that we ought to have done. I will now conclude with best wishes to all, and a right good old-fashioned Merry Christmas when it comes and a prosperous new year for the "Express."
Burnley Express, Wednesday 9th October 1901



....Burnley people who knew Mr. John W. Barritt, and those who have become familiar with his name through our columns, will be shocked to hear of his tragic death in South Africa. Briefly, on October 29th, he was in Cape Town enjoying a short holiday, and set off to climb Table Mountain. He disappeared, and after nearly three weeks his mutilated remains were discovered at the foot of a precipice directly under the summit of the mountain. He had been staying in Cape Town with some friends, formerly of Burnley, and his remains were most reverently interred, many people from this district attending the funeral of the unfortunate young man. Mr. John Wm. Barritt was the only son of the late Mr. Charles Barritt, of Church-st., Burnley, an ex-councillor for St. Peter's Ward, and a retired butcher. The bereavement for the mother and five sisters, coming after the death of Mr. Barritt, in February last, is a terrible one, and the sadness of the circumstances is accentuated by the fact that the young man, who was about 27 years of age, had served a long time in the late war, and had recovered from a serious wound received in May last year. He was a frequent contributor to our columns, and many descriptive sketches of South African life have been published in various issues.
....He had been to the Cape twice. The first visit was about five years ago, when he went to Johannesburg as a butcher, obtaining a good place. On the war troubles arising, and when all the British were ordered out of the Transvaal by the Dutch, Mr. John Barritt went to Durban, which was full of refugees. Finding nothing to do he came home to Burnley. He was here about a year, and towards the end of 1900 he sailed once more for South Africa, having a position to go to in Johannesburg. Arriving at Durban, he found hostilities were still so vigorous that the military refused passage up the railways to any except soldiers. Therefore, to get near Johannesburg he joined a new colonial corps, called the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, so that on his discharge he could be one of the first in the field in regard to work.
....A letter arrived on Monday morning, only a day after a young man named Varley had brought home Mr. Barritt's khaki jacket and belt as souvenirs of his campaigning experiences. He had sent home the boot, which had been penetrated by a Boer bullet, previously. Mrs. Pickering, of Porter-terrace, Woodstock, Cape Town, formerly of Burnley, had previously communicated to the relatives of Mr. Barritt that he was missing, and on the 19th of November she wrote confirming the worst surmises. Naturally she was deeply pained to be obliged to inform the mother that John's remains, dead, had been found on the mountain. He was found on Sunday morning, the 16th of November, and the police brought him down the mountain. They went for David Edmondson (son-in-law to Mr. Holdsworth, painter, Burnley) to identify him, but there was no doubt in the matter, for in his pocket book were his discharge from the the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, and his mother's bangle. It would be some consolation to know that the remains were found so that his friends could give him decent burial. He was buried with as much respect as though he had been at home, and not only in every way equal to his social position, but equal to the love and respect in which he was held out there. Mr. Edmondson and Mr. Paul Fenny went to Mowbray Cemetery to select his last resting place - just under the shadow of the mountain he had such a fascination for, and which proved fatal to him. Mrs. Pickering added that she had just returned from the funeral - three weeks to the day since he took the fatal walk. It would seem that he got to the top of the mountain, and a heavy mist came on about noon. All the experienced climbers say that from the position he was fond in, he had missed his footing in the heavy fog and fallen. He fell a great many feet, and it would be a consolation to know that t was instant death, and that he did not lie there in lingering agony. He was buried by Mr. Nuttall, the Wesleyan minister, who was in Burnley a short time ago, and the Rev. Mr. Gresley, the Church of England minister, also came as a follower to the grave. The Rev. Mr. Gresley is, we believe, a son of the sister of the late Mrs. Townley-Parker.
....On Wednesday, October 29, the deceased set off from Reibeck-square, with the intention of climbing Table Mountain, as he was leaving Cape Town the following day. According to the enquiries of the newspaper reporters, Mr. Barritt had been awaiting a permit to go back to the Rand. During the earlier part of October he climbed the mountain, and enjoyed the glorious panorama so much that he determined to make a second excursion, as the following note, left behind to Mr. Edmondson, shows: -
...."Dear Dave, - I am just going to have another view off the mountain, where we both were together, before I go up-country, because you know we have no such scenery upon the Rand. It will kill the day nicely until I am waiting for my permit. - Yours, CHIPS."
....Mr. Barritt never returned, and grave fears being entertained as to his safety, the secretary of the Mountain Club was communicated with. Search parties were organised, and several of the best known routes, where it was thought the missing man might have gone, were canvassed, but the quest met with no success. The day after, five members of the Mountain Club, along with two of the deceased's friends, made search. They examined the foot of the waterfall up to Stinkwater Gorge (where he had been before), and swept the whole face of the mountain fruitlessly. On the Saturday and Sunday the mountain was again searched by parties. The secretary of the club (Mr. G. F. Travers Jackson) and others went along the ledges of Kloof Corner, and to Groote Ravine, Stinkwater Gorge, and along all the kopjes, but no traces of Mr. Barritt were found.
....At five o'clock on the morning of November 6, three members of the Gerroan Gymnastic Club - Messrs. George Kuhn, Franz alter, and George Ebber - set out on an expedition to the mountain-top, starting from the City Reservoir, and climbing right up the mountain-front. When about 200 feet below the summit, the party found it impossible to proceed any further, , and the descent was accordingly begun. On reaching the plateau below, the climbers, who had during the ascent noticed several pieces of clothing attached to a projecting rock, as ell as some signs of human remains, were horrified and alarmed to find the mutilated body of a man. The head and face were terribly mangled, and the legs were separated from the body and were found some distance off. The description of the man tallied in most respects with that of the missing young man, and it was most likely that he fell from the summit, a distance of about 600 feet, to the spot where the dismembered remains were found. The body had struck and rebounded off the projecting rocks. The police started at ten the next morning to bring in Mr. Barritt's body.
....Another account states that in their attempt to reach the summit the German gymnasts had frequently to use a strong rope, some 36 feet long. On the descent the mangled body, evidently that of a white man, was found. The skull was smashed and depressed, and the face battered, and the legs were separated from the trunk. The body, which was clothed in a blue serge suit, was undoubtedly Barritt's. It was impossible to remove all the remains at once. The discovery took place about 400 feet below the summit at the right-hand side of Platteklin Gorge, and it was evident deceased fell down the mountain face.
Burnley Express, Wednesday 10th December 1902

He was buried at St Peter's Cemetery, Mowbray, Cape Town, but his grave may be lost now, as many of the graves have been exhumed in recent years, with the remains being cremated and placed in a mass grave. Monuments and gravestones were destroyed. I wonder how many other ABW-related graves have also been lost there.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Page:
  • 1
Moderators: djb
Time to create page: 0.444 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum