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Philp Baily Eastwood - a Rand Pioneer and Soldier 1 year 9 months ago #83114

  • Rory
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Philip Baily Eastwood

Died on Service – 17 November 1917

Private, Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles (D.E.O.V.R.) -Basuto Gun Wars
Captain, Transport & Remount Section, South Africa Service Corps (S.A.S.C.) – WWI

- Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal with Basutoland clasp to PTE. P.B. EASTWOOD. D.E.O.V. RIFLES
- 1914/15 Star to LT. P.B. EASTWOOD, S.A.S.C.
- British War Medal to CAPT. P.B. EASTWOOD
- Victory Medal to LT. P.B. EASTWOOD

Philip Eastwood was one of those larger than life characters one finds in the pages of the Boy’s Own Annuals. Having come to South Africa in search of adventure, he found it aplenty, dying far too young in the process.

Born in Bradford, Yorkshire on 15 August 1861 he was the son of a businessman and banker, William Eastwood and his wife Emily Anne, born Baily. At the time of his christening on 6 September that year, his parents were living at 3 Claremont Terrace. His father was recorded as being a Bank Manager.

In 1870, at the age of 8, he was sent, along with his brother William, to a private boarding school for boys in 5 Balmoral Place, Halifax. This school, according to the 1871 England census where we find a nine year old Philip; was run by two sisters – Miss Ann Gooch (58) and her sister, Miss Elizabeth Smith (52). Much of the anecdotal side of Philip’s life is documented in a privately published book entitled “A Peep into My Life” written by his brother William with whom many early adventures were shared. The aforementioned ladies were known to the pupils as Miss Passion and Miss Moody and were described thus by William, “They both had side curls, spectacles and wore crinolines. They snarled, raved and did everything but bite. I may add, we had been thoroughly recommended to this school by friends of theirs. These dear old things should never have kept a boys’ school. They were much more fitted to have been occupied in looking after two dry old bachelors.”

After a torrid first term, the boys went home never to return – the following trimester they were enrolled in the Bradford Grammar School where they remained until moving on to Giggleswick then under the stewardship of Headmaster, Rev. Dr George Style. Style encouraged the boys to participate in sports and, as we will see later, he had a ready recruit in Eastwood.

Having finished his schooling, Eastwood set his sights on making his way in a country far from his home – he settled on South Africa which, at the time, was a combination of two Crown Colonies – in the form of Natal and the Cape Colony – and their landlocked northern neighbours – the two Dutch-speaking Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

Residing, initially, in Cape Town, he was soon part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles, a regiment with an illustrious pedigree and one to which many young men of the city and surrounds flocked to for Militia service as well as the chance to interact, socially, with their peers. It wasn’t long before he was thrust into action in what became known as the Basuto Gun Wars. African history is littered with the bones of small conflicts and skirmishes between Colonial powers and the indigenous populations they were wont to subjugate to their rule.

Matters had come came to a head in 1879, when Governor Henry Bartle Frere reserved part of Basutoland for white settlement and demanded that all natives surrender their firearms to Cape authorities under the 1879 Peace Protection Act. The Cape government of Sir John Gordon Sprigg set April 1880 as the date for surrendering weapons. Although some Basotho with great reluctance were willing to surrender their guns, the majority refused; government attempts to enforce the law brought fighting by September of that year.

Within months, most Basotho chiefs were in open rebellion. Colonial Cape forces sent to put down the rebellion suffered heavy casualties, as the Basotho had obtained serviceable firearms from the Orange Free State and enjoyed a natural defensive advantage in their country's mountainous terrain.

On the 22 September 1880 Eastwood was one of a contingent of 9 Officers and 290 men of the Dukes that were placed on active service. They left Cape Town on the 25th September aboard the Steamer Melrose destined for East London, whereafter they then began the long march arriving at the Basutoland border on the 16 October 1880.

The rebels relied primarily on guerrilla warfare, ambushing isolated units to negate the British/Cape superiority in firepower. In October, Basotho forces ambushed a mounted column of British Army lancers at Qalabani (present-day Lancers Gap, near Maseru), killing 39. The defeat of an experienced and well-armed cavalry column discouraged Cape authorities. The costs of the war when added to the earlier war with the Xhosa and renewed troubles in the Transkei were dragging the Cape Colony towards bankruptcy. The war was also becoming increasingly unpopular, and the Sprigg government was replaced by the Thomas Scanlen government.

A peace treaty was signed with Basotho chiefs in 1881, in which colonial authorities conceded most of the points in dispute. The land remained in Basotho hands and the nation enjoyed unrestricted access to firearms in exchange for a national one-time indemnity of 5000 cattle. However, unrest continued and it quickly became clear that Cape Town could not control the territory.

For his efforts, Eastwood was awarded the Cape of Good Hope General Service Medal, oddly only authorised by Queen Victoria on 4 December 1900, at which point those still living could apply for their medal. The Basutoland clasp was awarded for operations from the 13 September 1880 to 27 April 1881. Prize money for cattle confiscated from the Basuto was also awarded to the rank and file, with Eastwood getting his fair share, according to the roll in 1883.

Perhaps his first taste of action had whetted a young Eastwood’s appetite for more – at the age of 21 on 9 July 1883 he enlisted with the Cape Mounted Rifles as a Second Class-Private, No2 Troop, with no. 416. His former occupation was listed as “D.E.O.V.R.” suggesting that he had remained with the regiment after the recent war. As next of kin he provided the name of his father of The Crouch, Seaford, Sussex. Physically, he was described as having a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair; he was 5 foot 7 inches in height.

On 23 April 1885 he purchased his discharge for the sum of £12 and, after 1 year and 281 days service with the C.M.R., said farewell to a uniform. Now 23 years old, he was described as being of Good Education, Sobriety, Zeal and Efficiency. No reason for his discharge is provided but it would appear that Eastwood had more ambition than to be a Trooper.

Having made his plans, he set off for the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg (or the Witwatersrand Goldfields as it was then labelled). Johannesburg offered the young and intrepid of spirit every opportunity for advancement. These were the formative years of the place and, with prospecting for gold as the major endeavour, it soon became a booming, if somewhat lawless, shanty town where the colour of your money (or gold) bought you whatever your heart desired.

Eastwood’s obituary, which came many years later, mentioned that, “He was riding across what is now the Rand when he saw a few tents and was told of the gold discovery and he remained.” In the process he became a Rand Pioneer.

Johannesburg slowly but inexorably developed from a few tents in the veldt to the proportions of a large city with Eastwood developing along with it. We pick up the narrative as told by his brother relevant to 1887 when he arrived from England to join him.

“My brother Phil met me between Potchefstroom and Johannesburg, at a small wayside outspan, with an American spider and two ponies. He packed the cart and designedly put my bowler hat on the top. I had unearthed a soft felt hat by that time. We jogged along and the first suitable rut in the road saw my bowler hat under one of the wheels and all he said was, "Good shot!”

He was then prospecting for gold on a farm called Witpoortjie, some ten miles west of Johannesburg, with a partner called le Roux. This was our destination and we spent a couple of weeks there, panning for gold and living on mealie-pap with treacle and fresh milk, which I thought was splendid. We occasionally had eggs and occasionally went without.

For a special event, Phil one day took a large square basket on horseback to fetch eggs and bread from a neighbouring farm. He carefully put the loaves at the bottom of the basket and the eggs on top and, on nearing the house, something startled the horse, it bolted and, as it passed the door, I noticed him holding the basket well out at arm's length to prevent jolting and the horse making for its shed, inside a stone kraal. He jumped the wall, the bread rose, (I doubt whether it had ever risen before) the eggs rolled under the bread, there was a splash and a yellow veil enveloped poor old Phil. He came in to change; I did not ask any questions but I noticed there was only mealie-pap for supper that evening.

Prospecting for gold is really exciting. You have your gang of boys opening up surface indications on what is known as the ‘banket' or conglomerate formation, then as you get down on the reef you take samples and, after reducing them to a fine powder with pestle and mortar, you put the residue in a circular basin or pan and commence to wash it, the heavy metal gradually finding its way to the bottom. As you proceed you push off the top surface and at the end of the process you find, (sometimes) a light streak of pure gold and your spirits rise or fall, in proportion to the length of the streak. You hear of ‘finds’ on adjoining farms in similar formations and interest never flags.”

Eastwood, along with his brother and Captain Maynard, shared a thatched building of three rooms in Ferreira’s Township, just outside the then centre of the town. This was for use when he came into town or Camp as it was called. The three, firm friends, joined The Rand Club, of which Maynard was Chairman, by so doing becoming three of the original two-hundred members, who formed the first syndicate.

Eastwood and his partner were having no luck on Witpoortjie, the farm they were prospecting and, returning to Johannesburg, founded the firm of Eastwood Brothers and Le Roux. A signboard was placed outside their offices advertising themselves as ‘Company Promoters, Financial Agents, Accountants, Secretaries of Companies and Insurance Brokers.’ This enterprise didn’t appear to last for any length of time with Eastwood moving to Potchefstroom where he went into partnership with an Irishman called Peard. They had floated a syndicate and were making money. According to Eastwood’s brother. “They had a very nice house and were living in the lap of luxury. They paid a coloured woman £10 a month to do the cooking and housekeeping. She was a noted cook and a more noted thief. Well, I settled down and soon began to notice things. The first Sunday they had hot sirloin of beef for dinner at midday, a joint certainly weighing 9 lbs. Naturally, I expected to see it cold for supper, but was surprised to see a cold leg of mutton. On the Monday for lunch they had steak, so I said to Phil, “what about the sirloin and mutton?” He replied, "Oh, we never see a joint twice and I really never gave it a thought.” It appeared that every evening when the cook returned to the location, she was accompanied by half a dozen members of the family, who took the surplus with them.”

Previous mention was made of the attention given to sporting recreation at Giggleswick and as mentioned, Eastwood took full advantage of this becoming something of a prize pugilist or “champion fighter” whose prowess was about to be put to the test - Potchefstroom was a delightful place with the Kimberley coach to the Rand passed through the dorp. The Post Office became a rendezvous for people collecting their mail and seeing the new arrivals. The coach was driven by a coloured man, a ‘bruiser’ from Cape Town, who was the terror of the town and used to insult everyone, white or black. Eastwood who, when in the Cape Mounted Rifles, had fought in the ring, knew that eventually he would have to take him on. He was not keen on the job but just kept himself fit and awaited events. The ‘bruiser’ with free license became worse and worse and he was a great topic of conversation, amongst the white inhabitants.

Eastwood had a native driver called Tati, who simply worshipped him. He was a boy you could trust with anything. At times when money up to £150 had to be left in the house for paying licences on claims or options on farm, Eastwood had hidden such sums between his mattresses and had told Tati to look after it. He had never failed. Eastwood’s brother took up the story,

“Well, one day we found the boy in great distress, for the ‘bruiser’ had told him that if his ‘boss’ did not look out, he would put him across his knee and spank him. To hear such an insult to his ‘boss’ had simply stricken Tati. Phil saw trouble ahead and made preparation to square matters with the cause of it, so one evening we went down to the hotel stables, where the coach was outspanned and Phil went up to the ‘bruiser’ and said he understood he wished to speak to him. Without any hesitation, they both stripped, a crowd collected and they were at it.

When in the C.M.R. Phil had seen a great fight, between a ‘non-com’ in the Seaforth Highlanders and a Malay man. The soldier had lost the fight, because he had gone for the Malay's face and smashed up his hands. For the first two rounds of the fight I am describing, Phil was inclined to follow the Highlander’s tactics, but found he could make no impression on the Cape boy, who was holding his own. Time was called and they went to their corners. Then Phil decided to alter his mode of attack.

The third round started furiously. My brother was perfectly cool to outward appearances but no doubt boiling inside. In the middle of the round Phil caught the boy in the wind with his left, the boy’s head came forward and, with a terrific uppercut with his right under the chin, the boy dropped like a stone. He lay on the ground half insensible and the fight was over. News of the event spread through the town and Phil had made a name for himself, which never left him. Couper, the English middleweight, told me he had never met a man of Phil’s weight with such a wonderfully cool head for fighting and one who could hit so hard. The only damage Phil suffered was that one knuckle of his right hand was forced back quite half-an-inch with the force of the final blow and remained so. Phil was a most even-tempered man when trouble was about, but never avoided it when it was forced upon him.”

After a number of failed business ventures, Eastwood was appointed, in 1896, as the assistant manager of a land company in the Northern Transvaal, later becoming the manager. He also purchased a Bushveldt farm in the Waterberg near Nylstroom where he had good shooting. The homestead was described as a perfectly sheltered spot, with a thatched cottage, a small orchard, and a garden from the stoep of which you looked over a lovely patch of tobacco, which Eastwood had succeeded in growing after re-planting five times. Beyond it was a very useful dam.

The outlook from the stoep (veranda) was simply grand overlooking bush country, with that lovely effect of light and shade on the mountains beyond. His brother wrote that, “In those mountains were situated two of the most beautiful farms in the Waterberg and Phil always used to say that if he could acquire them, he would want nothing else on earth. He bought them later on and entered into a labour contract with the Chief Zebedela whose territory adjoined, by which the latter was to supply so many hundred boys per annum, who would be sent down in squads to the mines, in exchange for which Zebedela was to be allowed to cultivate on Phil's farm, some thousands of acres, for his overflowing population.

He subsequently sold the farms and contract to Offie Shepstone, a son of Sir Theophilus, who was a great authority on native land. Shepstone was a great friend of his and they were both well satisfied with the deal. A large amount of money was involved. It was not very long afterwards that Shepstone found that it was not panning out to his liking. He got behind in his instalments and, finally, repudiated the deal.

It naturally meant a lawsuit which was tried before three judges in Pretoria, with General Smuts as Counsel for Shepstone and Advocate Wessels (afterwards Chief Justice) for Phil. When Smuts was briefed, he told Shepstone he had not a leg to stand on but that he would sleep over the case and see whether he could find a loophole. (Smuts told this to Phil, some years afterwards) Well, Shepstone’s Counsel raked up some old Roman Dutch Law which he thought might apply. The upshot was that this contention was upheld and the judges expressed their reluctance in having to give Shepstone the benefit of the doubt. I had given evidence and was in court when the verdict was announced. Phil was called up and addressed by the senior judge, who said that he had acted most honourably throughout and made other complimentary remarks. Shepstone was called and received a considerable telling off, for the way in which he had acted. The labour contract was cancelled and Phil only received a very inadequate amount for the farms. They were 28,000 acres in extent and were bought by the Zebedela Estates, the largest citrus proposition in the world.”

In 1898 Eastwood undertook a trip to the United States of America – the “Teutonic’s” manifest of 7 December indicating that P.B. Eastwood, Farmer, aged 37, had embarked at New York bound for Liverpool. When he returned to South Africa is unknown.

The years building up to the end of the 19th century were tumultuous ones. Rancour between the governments of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and the British Government was fast spilling over into open talk of war. Eastwood’s farm in the Waterberg was smack-bang in the middle of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek and choices would soon have to be made. On 11 October 1899 war erupted which saw an exodus of British subjects from the Republic. Where Eastwood was and what he was up at the time, for he did not take part in the war at all, is contained in the pages of his Compensation Claim, submitted to the authorities on 6 April 1903 in respect of his farms – Uitkyk and Blindefontein - in the Waterberg district.

An amount of £520 was eventually awarded to him. In a statement he declared that the amount claimed was “a fair one and the values reasonable. The cattle etc. were taken from my farms Blindefontein or “Rickertsvraag” or adjacent farms by the Boer forces acting in the name of General Beyers who was commanding in the Waterberg district and of Commandant Rensburg, of the government of the South African Republic.”

An Alfred William Stone was deposed whose statement read, “I live on the farm Rickertsvraag. I know P.B. Eastwood, I was managing his farms before and during the war. P.B. Eastwood left the country two weeks before the war to undergo an operation in the Colony (Cape). When he left, he left me in charge of 56 head of cattle – his own property – 16 oxen and a number of cows and calves.

On the 21st October 1900 General Beyers sent three men who commandeered ten young cattle and gave me the receipt attached.”

As a precursor to the above Eastwood had, via the solicitors Rooth & Wessels, on 11 November 1901, written to the G.O.C. Nylstroom as follows,

“We have received a communication from Mr P.B. Eastwood who is a British subject informing us that he has just returned from England and has received intelligence that damage has been done to his house and property but that it is impossible for him to file a definite claim until he can come up and go into the matter.

He is also the Manager of the Northern Transvaal Lands Company, a London company, and he has also received information that their property has suffered and that the whole of their stock and livestock has been taken.”

Whether or not Eastwood was in the Cape undergoing an operation (as per Stone) or in England (as per his solicitors, which is the more likely case), he was not an active participant in the Anglo Boer War.

That he was held in high regard was obvious with his appointment as Acting Commissioner of Lands under Lord Milner, who was in charge of the post-war British Administration of the Transvaal. It was also around this time, on 4th September 1902, that Eastwood married Sara Blanche Buyskes in Pretoria. He was a 41 year old bachelor living in Arcadia Street, Pretoria and she, a 25 year old spinster from Caledon in the Cape Colony who was living in Beaufort West at the time of the union.

Soon after he took himself off to run the newly created Potchefstroom Experimental Farm where his skills were greatly appreciated. The Experimental Farm in Potchefstroom was founded in 1902 on 1 087 morgen of former Potchefstroom town lands at the behest of Lord Milner.

After the advent of Union in 1910 Eastwood’s presence became redundant and he purchased and worked a farm in the Wolmaransstad area of the Transvaal.

War clouds were gathering once more and, on 4 August 1914, the world found itself at war on a far larger scale than the one twelve years before. South Africa was prevailed upon to enter the conflict on the side of the British Empire, tasked with the “urgent Imperial service” of invading the neighbouring German South and neutralising the German communication threat to Allied shipping that then existed.

Eastwood, staunch citizen that he was, volunteered his services. On 27 January 1915, when the invasion of German South West was beginning in earnest, he enlisted with the South African Service Corps, Remounts and Transport department, with the rank of Captain.

He provided his wife, of Willow Poort via Christiana as his next of kin. At 53 he was no longer in the first flower of youth but was determined to give it his all. The campaign over on 9 July 1915, he returned to the Union. Remaining in uniform he was admitted to Kimberley Hospital for an Appendix Abscess on 22 November 1915 in a serious condition. He gradually improved and returned to duty. On 12 December 1915 he was granted two months recuperative leave “after healing of operation wounds.”

This was a temporary reprieve it seems as, on 17 November 1917, at the age of 56 years and 3 months, Philip Eastwood passed away at the Military Hospital in Potchefstroom whilst still on active military service. The cause of death was an intestinal obstruction which led to shock. He was the officer in charge of Animal Transport at the time and is buried in the Military Cemetery in Potchefstroom.

As almost a postscript to his life, the London Gazette of August 1918 announced that he had been Mentioned in Despatches for “Unremitting zeal and devotion to duty. Has rendered invaluable service throughout the campaign.” – that, in a nutshell, described Philip Baily Eastwood.

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Philp Baily Eastwood - a Rand Pioneer and Soldier 1 year 9 months ago #83117

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What an interesting story. Thanks for posting it, Rory.
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