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The inception and service of this volunteer unit was described by Gandhi, its founder, in his Autobiography: 'When war was declared, my personal sympathies were all with the Boers, but I believed then that I had yet no right, in such cases, to enforce my individual convictions. I have minutely dealt with the inner struggle regarding this in my history of the Satyagraha in South Africa, and I must not repeat the argument here. I invite the curious to turn to those pages. Suffice it to say that my loyalty to the British rule drove me to participation with the British in that war. I felt that, if I demanded rights as a British citizen, it was also my duty, as such, to participate in the defence of the British Empire. I held then that India could achieve here complete emancipation only within and through the British Empire. So I collected together as many comrades as possible, and with very great difficulty got their services accepted as an ambulance corps. The average Englishman believed that the Indian was a coward, incapable of taking risks or looking beyond his immediate self-interest. Many English friends, therefore, threw cold water on my plan. But Dr. Booth supported it whole-heartedly. He trained us in ambulance work. We secured medical certificates of fitness for service at the front. Mr. Laughton and the late Mr. Escombe enthusiastically supported the plan, and we applied at last for service at the front. The Government thankfully acknowledged our application, but said that our services were not needed. I would not rest satisfied, however, with this refusal. Through the introduction of Dr. Booth, I called on the Bishop of Natal. There were many Christian Indians in our corps. The Bishop was delighted with my proposal and promised to help us in getting our services accepted. Time too was working for us. The Boer had shown more pluck, determination and bravery than had been expected; and our services were ultimately needed. Our corps was 1,100 strong, with nearly 40 leaders. About three hundred were free Indians, and the rest indentured. Dr. Booth was also with us. The corps acquitted itself well. Though our work was to be outside the firing line, and though we had the protection of the Red Cross, we were asked at a critical moment to serve within the firing line. The reservation had not been of our seeking. The authorities did not want us to be within range of fire. The situation, however, was changed after the repulse at Spion Kop, and General Buller sent the message that, though we were not bound to take the risk, the Government would be thankful if we would do so and fetch the wounded from the field. We had no hesitation, and so the action at Spion Kop found us working within the firing line. During these days we had to march from twenty-five miles a day, bearing the wounded on stretchers. Amongst the wounded we had the honour of carrying soldiers like General Woodgate. The corps was disbanded after six weeks' service. After the reverses at Spion Kop and Vaalkranz, the British Commander-in-Chief abandoned the attempt to relieve Ladysmith and other places by summary procedures, and decided to proceed slowly, awaiting reinforcements from England and India. Our humble work was at the moment much applauded, and the Indians' prestige was enhanced. The newspaper published laudatory rhymes with the refrain, 'We are the sons of Empire after all.' General Buller mentioned with appreciation the work of the corps in his despatch, and the leaders were awarded the War Medal.... I cannot forbear from recording a sweet reminiscence of how human nature shows itself at its best in moments of trial. We were marching towards Chieveley Camp where Lieutenant Roberts, the son of Lord Roberts, had received a mortal wound. Our corps had the honour of carrying the body from the field. It was a sultry day - the day of our march. Everyone was thirsting for water. There was a tiny brook on the way where we could slake our thirst. But who was to drink first? We had proposed to come in after the tommies had finished. But they would not begin first and urged us to do so, and for a while a pleasant competition went on for giving precedence to one another.'

As unpaid civilians, the Natal Volunteer Indian Ambulance Corps were not eligible to receive Medals. Dean Booth lobbied the Secretary of State for War, St. John Brodrick on behalf of the 34 Leaders. He already had a report on the NVIAC placed before the Queen and he asked Brodrick to award Medals to the Leaders, who had given their services free but would prize such a reward. Lord Wolseley decided this should be agreed to because if it was brought to the Queen's notice she would undoubtedly demand that it be done.

Gandhi's QSA is in the Nehru Museum, New Delhi.

34 men received the QSA.

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(30 Records)

 Surname   Forename/inits   Regimental no   Rank   Notes 
BoothLancelot ParkerRev Canon DrPage 80. Dean on Umtata. 1850 -1925. Lancelot took the LRCP and S (Ed) in 1876, after which he entered the service of the colony of Natal, in the Indian Immigration Department. Determining to enter the Church, he was ordained in 1883 by the Bishop of Maritzburg as assistant to the bishop of Indian missions, subsequently becoming diocesan superintendent of Indian missions and Canon of Maritzburg. In 1887 he obtained the degrees of MD and CM from Toronto University, which, in 1902, conferred upon him its degree of DD, and in 1896 he graduated as MD at Durham University. In 1900 he was appointed dean of St John's, Kaffraria, and Rector of Umtata, and at the same time resumed the medical profession, to serve in the Boer War as medical officer of the Natal Indian Ambulance, receiving QSA (2) TH & RoL. In 1912 he went to Cape Town, where he was vicar and subdean of St George's Cathedral, and in 1913 was appointed rector of St Barnabas, Cape Town. Lancelot gained a commission in the RAMC as a temporary Captain on 14th November 1916 and served in France with the South African Native Labour Corps until 1918, when he served in a South African Military Hospital at Richmond, England. His only son, Lieutenant Ainslie Booth, R.A.M.C. was killed in action in France on 30th April 1916. Lancelot was the son of Mr L P Booth of Bishop Auckland. He died at Seapoint, Cape Town.

Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
ClarenceMrSuperintendent - Indian Ambulance Cps. MID LG: 8 February 1901, page: 948. Source: General Buller. 30 March 1900. Re: Ladysmith
This page contains all the London Gazette pages for the Boer War
ClarenceP KSuperintendentPage 80. QSA (2) TH RoL
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
DhundeN PPage 82. Served at TH. Served with the Corps 1899-1900. Bronze medal.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
GabrielLLeaderPage 80.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
GandhiMohandas KaramchandBearerPage 81.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
GhandiMrAssistant Superintendent - Indian Ambulance Corps. MID LG: 8 February 1901, page: 948. Source: General Buller. 30 March 1900. Re: Ladysmith
This page contains all the London Gazette pages for the Boer War
JacksonMBearerPage 81.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
JonathanWBearerPage 81.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
KhanR KBearerPage 81.
Source: QSA medal roll in WO100/298
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