The only officer not wounded at the engagement at Bronkhorstspruit in the Transvaal on 20 December 1880 was the Paymaster of the 94th, Captain J M Elliott. Like the other prisoners, he had been marched to Heidelberg, arriving on 23 December 1880. There he met Captain R H Lambart, 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers, who had been purchasing horses in the OFS to use in Pretoria. On the 18th, Lambart and his horses had been captured by the Boers.
Both officers were given the choice of continuing as a prisoner or being released on parole to leave to Transvaal and not take up arms again during the conflict. They both chose the latter and left on Monday 27th. They were instructed to cross at a Vaal drift 25 miles away and were given an escort of two men for their journey. Lambart who knew the area well detected that they were not being led to the drift. They did reach a drift the next day and found the river in flood. A small punt, capable of carrying 2 men was available but Lambart pointed out that it was not large enough for their horses and wagon. He asked to the taken to the correct crossing. On the journey the escort disappeared so the two men agreed to follow the Vaal until they reached a better crossing point. During this search they were confronted by two Boers who informed them they had broken their parole by not leaving the Transvaal. They were taken down to the Vaal at night and told to cross immediately. The two men also noticed that the size of their escort had suddenly been increased. Despite Lambart appreciating the futility of the attempt he started to drive the horses into the river. Their wagon became stuck. While they debated whether to abandon the wagon and swim, a crack of rifle fire rang out. Lambart turned to see Elliot gasp and fall into the water. Lambart dived in after him but, having been swept along by the flow, failed to find him. Shots were again fired. Lambart struck out for the far bank which took him 10 minutes to reach. He scrambled through the mud and kept running. It was not until 1pm the next day that he chanced upon the farm of Mr groom who fed and clothed him. Lambart then made his way back to Pietermaritzburg.
Some time after, Elliott's body was recovered from the water by a Free State farmer called Prinsloo who buried it and informed the authorities. The Landdrost of Heilbron, My Steyn, and Dr Vowell exhumed the body. Four wounds were found, two sufficient to be fatal. From a description of his clothes, Lambart was able to confirm it was Elliott.
In his pockets were found £20 in ones, 6s in silver and a Victory Cross named to Private FitzPatrick, 94th Foot, which was being looked after by Elliott.
Private Francis Fitzpatrick won the VC for saving the life of an officer during the attack on Sekukuni's Town on 28 November 1879.
The National Army Museum states that he lost his VC and South Africa General Service Medal at Bronkhorstspruit. He later applied for replacement medals and these, along with his QSA, are in the National Army Museum collection (NAM. 1951-02-17-1).
Dr David Biggins
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