Three: Band Sergeant G. J. Finlay, Wiltshire Regiment, who was taken P.O.W. at Rensburg in February 1900
Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 3 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal (1541 Cpl. G. J. Finlay, 2nd Wilts. Regt.); King’s South Africa 1901-02, 2 clasps, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (1541 Corpl. G. J. Finlay, Wiltshire Regt.); Army L.S. & G.C., E.VII.R. (1541 Cpl. G. J. Finlay, Wilts. Regt.), the first two with contact marks and somewhat polished, nearly very fine, the last rather better
George James Finlay was born in Dartmoor, Devon, and enlisted in the Wiltshire Regiment as a boy recruit in Dublin in July 1886, aged 14 years. He subsequently served out in India as a Drummer and Lance-Corporal from November 1886 until November 1895, and in South Africa as a Corporal from December 1899 until May 1903, the latter period witnessing active service in the Boer War and his capture by the enemy at Rensburg on 14 February 1900.
The disaster that befell the 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment at Rensburg stemmed from ‘D’ and ‘G’ Companies not being informed of a changed time to withdraw to Arundel. As a result, the two Companies, under Major F. R. MacMullen, set off at daybreak, as originally instructed, and soon came under heavy fire. Thereafter, as one correspondent put it, ‘For more than two hours these gallant men fought against overwhelming odds, and not until their ammunition was exhausted did they surrender’. Casualties were high, the Wiltshires suffering 14 killed, including Major MacMullen, and 45 wounded, and altogether 130 officers and men became prisoners - luckily to be released on the fall of Bloemfontein a few weeks later.
Advanced to Band Sergeant in the 2nd Battalion and awarded the L.S. & G.C. Medal in April 1905, Finlay, ‘ a very good cornet and violin player’, was finally discharged in the rank of Band Sergeant in July 1907. Re-enlisting in April 1915, he was appointed a Sergeant Bugler in the Royal Irish Rifles, but saw no service overseas and was demobilised in early 1919. He died in Belfast in October 1936
I have been away from my research and this website for a while, mainly due to shift working, but I have a new job now with normal hours!
I have just read this post with interest. I am writing a history of the Wiltshire Regiment during the Boer War. 1541 Cpl G J Finlay is not known to me as a prisoner. The medal roll transcriptions I have do not list him as a Rensburg prisoner.
I do not doubt the details of your post, but wonder if my transcriptions are inaccurate or whether this detail is recorded on his service papers, which I assume you have? and not on the medal roll?
Potentially, you have helped me identify another name and I must add him to the names in my book. I thought I had been most careful when extracting names from the casualty lists and other material I have.
I thought this might be of interest. The attached is the Minutes of Evidence from the Court of Enquiry.
My own Great Grandfather was captured at Rensburg. Lt Col Carter who commanded the Wiltshire's was blamed by some, but the Court of Enquiry exonerated him; this event was nobody's fault, just bad luck. My Great Grandfather said this of his Commanding Officer upon his return to resume command after recovering from his wounds:
“When the old man returned, he brought us all together, those of us from D and G Companies who had been taken prisoner at Rensburg that is, and talked to us at great length about what had happened and about the suffering we had endured. We spoke about Major MacMullen’s death and you could see that the whole affair troubled him. He was alright, old Carter” – 3629 Private J Heath, D Company.
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