The splendid field hospital and bearer company furnished by New South Wales were organised and commanded by Colonel W D C Williams, of that Colony. They arrived in South Africa in two portions: the first, 50 beds and half a bearer company—91 all ranks—was accepted about 11th October 1899, and sailed on the 28th; and the remainder was accepted in December of the same year, and sailed in January 1900.
The corps saw an immense deal of service. On arrival in South Africa, the first detachment went to the De Aar-Modder River line. Under Surgeon Major Dodds they served with Colonel Pilcher in the expedition to Sunnyside about 1st January 1900 (see 1st Queensland Contingent), and in other operations in that neighbourhood; and they took part in the advance from Modder River to Bloemfontein. The second portion was in the operations for relieving Wepener, the cool work of Major Eames and Captain Green under shell-fire being much praised.
On the way to Pretoria the NSW Field Hospital was attached to the army of General Ian Hamilton, who, it will be remembered, had constant fighting between 3rd May 1900 and 5th June. In July the hospital was with Hutton east of Pretoria, but a detachment was in the Orange River Colony for a time; and Captain H R Howse, of the Medical Staff Corps, won the Victoria Cross at Vredefort on 24th July. Captain Howse went out under a heavy cross-fire, picked up a wounded man, and carried him to a place of shelter.
After advancing from Pretoria to Belfast in July and August, one portion of the hospital and bearer company accompanied General Hutton in his memorable march over the Kaapsche Hoop Mountains in the Eastern Transvaal (see 1st Victoria Contingent); another portion accompanied General French in the equally arduous march to Barberton (see Imperial Light Horse).
In a telegram dated 20th September 1900 Lord Roberts mentioned that Captain Perkins, of the
NSW Medical Staff, and some non-commissioned officers and men had been taken prisoners near Rustenburg, but they were soon afterwards released. The Boers, however, did not return the ambulances at the time, as they said they found in them some rifles. Probably these were curios which the men had been intending to take home. In December a detachment was with General Clements when he met with his reverse at Nooitgedacht on the 13th. 'The Standard' correspondent, in a letter describing this action, said that the Red Cross flag brought no protection, owing to the terrible cross-fire; and he mentioned that Captain Green and his bearers attended to the wounded in a hail of bullets which actually splintered some of the stretchers.
In the second phase of the war a detachment was for a considerable part of 1901 with Colonel Williams, who commanded a column composed of Australian troops (see 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles). A detachment—3 officers and 27 men—sailed for home on 31st March 1901.
During a great part of 1901 Colonel R V Kelly commanded a NSW Hospital in the field, and when the Commonwealth troops were sent in 1902, New South Wales contributed to the Army Medical Corps a detachment of about 40, all ranks.
In the despatch of 31st March 1900, mentioning those who had distinguished themselves at Paardeberg, Poplar Grove, and Driefontein, Lord Roberts, in mentioning Major J H Fiaschi, NSW Medical Staff Corps, said, "Is deserving of special mention on account of the assistance which he rendered to the sick and wounded, as well as on the efficient condition in which he has kept the ambulance under his command, the services of which, ever since its arrival, have been most valuable".