Monday 03rd of February 2003 03:43 AM 
Biographies: South African Military Figures

Click on thumbnails to see larger images

Please note: I have added flags at the head of each biography in order to give visitors a way of seeing, at a glance, where the person was born, where they spent most of their life, and which side they fought for in the Boer War.

1st Flag=birthplace (if known)
2nd flag=main nation of residence (no second flag if birthplace was nation of residence)
3rd flag=side figure fought (or acted) for


FranceUnited Kingdom
BETTINGTON, Colonel Rowland Albemarle Arthur (1852-1933)

South African soldier. Born in Boulogne, France, he intended to join the Navy, but in 1872 went to South Africa and began farming near Grahamstown. He served in the 1877 Galeka War and in the Gaika War of 1878. In 1884 he raised the Kaffrarian Rifles. For a short while in 1887 he edited the East London Advertiser jointly with Bertram Mitford but in 1888 moved on to Johannesburg where he joined the Stock Exchange while continuing his volunteer soldiering. Deeply involved in the preparations for the Jameson Raid, he organised and commanded Bettington's Horse which attempted to bring help to Jameson and his troops. For this he was arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Later he distinguished himself in the South African War.


NorwayUnited Kingdom
BRU-DE-WOLD, Colonel Hilmer Theodore (1842-1913)

Born in Norway, he joined the navy of that country and first reached Natal by deserting his ship. Settling near Port Shepstone, he became a successful coffee planter. He also joined the volunteers and served in the Zulu War of 1879. He helped to establish and became commander of the Umzimkulu Mounted Rifles, later merged with the Natal Mounted Rifles. After service in the War in which he was severely wounded, he was appointed commandant of the Natal Volunteers in 1902. This post he held through the Zulu rebellion of 1906 until his retirement in the following year. One of his lesser-known achievements was the authorship of the famous Springbok War Cry (based on a Zulu hunting call) used by the Natal Volunteers.

ScotlandUnited Kingdom
BURNS-BEGG, Colonel Robert (1872-1918)

Head of the Transvaal Police. Born in Kinross, Scotland, he was a descendant of the poet, Robert Burns. He studied for the Bar at Edinburgh, and was admitted in 1895. Three years later he settled in Rhodesia where he practised for a year until the outbreak of the South African War. Having served with distinction in the campaign he was appointed to the Attorney-General's Department at Pretoria and later to the police.

IrelandUnited Kingdom
BYRON, Brigadier-General John Joseph (1864-1935)

South African soldier and legislator. Born in County Wexford, Ireland, he went to Australia and served with the forces there, commanding the Queensland Regiment of the Royal Australian Artillery from 1895 to 1899. During the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, he acted as attaché to the American forces. He distinguished himself and was severely wounded during the South African War, as aide-de-camp to Lord Roberts. From 1907 to 1910 he was a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Orange River Colony and upon the establishment of Union became senator for the next ten years. During World War I he commanded the Infantry Brigade in the campaigns of German West Africa. He served in Flanders and was second in command of the famous Dunster Force in Persia.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
CARRINGTON, Major-General Sir Frederick (1844-1913)

Born in Cheltenham, he was educated at Cheltenham College and entered the 24th Regiment in 1864. He went to South Africa in 1875, his first campaign being in Griqualand West, followed by the Galeka Campaign of 1877, in which he raised and commanded the Frontier Light Horse. He then went north, and as Commandant of the Transvaal Volunteers, stormed Sekuni's stronghold. In the Gun War he commanded at Mafeteng, which was besieged by the Basuto; later led the Colonial troops in that theatre and was badly wounded. In 1884 he commanded the Second Mounted Rifles, and was Commandant of Native Levies in the Zululand troubles of 1888. He became Commandant of the Bechuanaland Border Police in 1893. The same year the Matebele War began and he was Military Advisor to the High Commissioner. In the Matebele Rebellion of 1896 he was General Officer Commanding. During the South African War he commanded a Rhodesian force designed to invade the Transvaal from the north.

EnglandCape ColonyUnited Kingdom
CREWE, Sir Charles Preston (1858-1936)

South African soldier and Cabinet Minister. Born in England, he came to the Cape as a young man. He served in the Cape Mounted Rifles from 1878-1881, taking part in several native campaigns. During the War he raised and was in command of the Border Horse. Entering politics, he became Colonial Secretary in 1904, and later Secretary of Agriculture. After Union, he was a member of the South African Defence Council and Chief Recruiting Officer during World War I.



DARTNELL, Major-General, Sir John George (1838-1913)
Born in Canada, he entered the army in 1855 and served in India during the Mutiny. On taking his discharge in 1869 he went to Natal and served in the Zulu War of 1879, the Basuto War (Gun War) in 1880, and in both the first and second South African Wars. In 1874, he established the Natal Mounted Police, which he commanded in various campaigns. He retired in 1903.



EnglandCape ColonyUnited Kingdom
GARLICK, John (1852-1931)

South African department store owner and industrialist. Born in Algarkirk, Lincolnshire, he arrived in South Africa in 1874 and opened his first shop in Strand Street, Cape Town in 1875. He extended his operations first to the Diamond Fields and later to the Rand, Pretoria and Rhodesia. In the 1880s he set up one of the first modern shoe factories at the Cape. Establishing a special office equipment company, he introduced the typewriter to South Africa in 1887. He also pioneered the sale of gramophones and bicycles, and in 1888 imported for resale the first motor-car and fuel. During the South African War he raised a company of cycle riders and motor-car drivers as part of the Cape Town Guard. He was a Member of Parliament for a short time and a supporter of the University of Cape Town.

EnglandRhodesia - British South Africa CompanyUnited Kingdom
GIFFORD, Colonel Maurice Raymond (1859-1910)

Rhodesian soldier. Born in Gloucestershire, England, he joined the training ship Worcester and from 1876 to 1882 was in the Merchant Navy. In the Egyptian War of 1882 he served as a galloper to Mr. (later Sir) Godfrey Lagden and was an army scout in the Louis Riel Rebellion in Canada in 1885. In South Africa in 1890 he served in the Salisbury Column, and in the 1893 Matabele War in Rhodesia and in the 1896 Matabele Rebellion, for which he raised and commanded two troops of 'Gifford's Horse'. He lost an arm in 'circumstances of great gallantry' on April 6, 1896, and was decorated by Queen Victoria, in whose Diamond Jubilee procession (1897) he commanded the Rhodesian Horse contingent. During the South African War he served with the Kimberley Mounted Corps in the relief of Mafeking.

AustraliaUnited Kingdom
KARRI-DAVIES, Major Walter (1867-1926)

South African soldier. Born in North Adelaide, South Australia, as Walter David Davies, in 1897, through association with the Karri hardwood industry, he formally assumed the name of Karri-Davies. Educated in Adelaide and Melbourne, he qualified as a civil engineer and worked in the mining industry and on large irrigation projects. In 1893 he settled in Johannesburg, becoming a very successful importer of Australian timber. Deeply involved in the Reform movement during the Jameson Raid period, he raised a force of 1000 men, was imprisoned for 14 months and fined £2000. On the outbreak of the South African War, he returned to help raise the Imperial Light Horse. He then served in the field without pay and won great distinction when he was wounded at Ladysmith and has his horse shot twice beneath him. After the war he set up in Johannesburg as a consulting engineer.

LEUCHARS, Sir George (1858-1924)

Natal soldier and politician. Born in Durban and educated at Hermansburg and Diocesan College, Cape Town, he entered the well-known family business of Hunt, Leuchars and Hepburn. During the South African War he commanded the Umvoti Mounted Rifles, and again during the 1906 Zulu Rebellion. He served as Secretary for Native Affairs and Minister of Works in the Natal Colonial Government, and was afterwards Minister of Commerce and Industries.

MACKENZIE, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Duncan (1859-1932)

South African soldier. Born in Natal and was educated at Hilton College. He served in the South African War, the Natal Native Rebellion and other campaigns, becoming commander of the Natal Carbineers.

IrelandUnited Kingdom
O'MEARA, Colonel Bulkeley Ernest Adolphus (1867-1917)

Rhodesian pioneer and soldier. Born in Ireland, he arrived in Kimberley in the 1880s, where he worked for De Beers. In 1890 he joined the Pioneer Column, proceeding with a party to cut the road from Shashi to Tuli. He returned to De Beers after the occupation of Mashonaland, and held the rank of major in the Engineers during the siege of Kimberley in the South African War. In World War One he served in the East African Campaign, but died of malaria.

ROYSTON, Brigadier-General John Robinson (1860-1942)

South African soldier, born in Natal. His gallantry in the Zulu and the South African Wars won him the nickname of 'Galloping Jack.' He also distinguished himself in the 1906 Bambata Rebellion, and in German South-West Africa and the Middle East during World War I.

ScotlandUnited Kingdom
SANDILANDS, Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon (1865-1922)

Born in Scotland, he joined the Royal Scots and served in the expedition to Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana)under Sir Charles Warren in 1884 and in the Zulu Rebellion of 1888. Settling on the Rand, he retired from the Royal Scots in 1895 and became involved in the Jameson Raid. During the South African War he commanded the Transvaal Scottish Volunteer Battalion, raised by Lt-Col the Marquis of Tullibardine (who had raised and commanded the Scottish Horse during the late war) and Mr Thomas Law of the Witwatersrand Caledonian Societies. Sandilands retired in 1908, but in 1914 accepted command of the newly-raised 2nd Battalion Transvaal Scottish, which served in German South-West Africa, before retiring again for 'business reasons'.

My sincere thanks to James H. Mitchell for his contribution to this biography.

SILBURN, Colonel Percy Arthur Baxter (1876-1929)

Born in Durban, he joined the Cape Mounted Rifles at 16 and, in 1893, helped in the annexation of Independent Pondoland. Sent for training to the British School of Gunnery in 1898, he served in the South African War, taking part in the relief of Ladysmith and other actions. Later he commanded the Natal Volunteer organisation and sat in both the Natal and Union Parliaments. During World War I he served in Central Africa. He wrote extensively on South African and imperial defence.

SPARKES, Lt-Col Harry (JP)

Lt-Col SparkesColonel Commanding the Natal Mounted Rifles; Zulu War Medal and Bar, Boer War medals and 5 bars, and V.D. medal; Member of the Legislative Assembly for Durban County; born at Springfield, Durban County, Natal; 2nd son of David Sparks, educated at High school Maritzburg, the whole family were taken prisoners by the Griquas during the Griqua Rebellion. His residence was "Calthorpe House" Sydenham, near Durban. He joined the Durban Mounted Rifles in 1876, and as a Trooper took part in the Zulu War - several minor engagements, including the Battle of Nyezane. He was Appointed Lieut. of the Victoria Mounted Rifles in 1887, and took command of the contingent on the death of Capt. Cowley. On the amalgamation of the Durban, Victoria, Stranger, and Alexandra Contingents, he became Captain in 1888, and as such served through the Boer War. He was engaged at the battle of Elandslaagte, was in Ladysmith during the siege, in the Transvaal, Orange River Colony, and the battle of Laings Nek. He was with the columns that suppressed the native uprising (1906 Bambatha Rebellion).
From December 1896 to January 1897 he led the demonstration against the arrival of large numbers of non-indentured Indians, and Indian traders, among whom was Mahatma K. Gandhi. He ended his Parliamentary career in 1901, and then devoted himself to his business ventures. He was responsible for the naming of the Durban suburb of Mayville, in honour of the Duchess of York popularly known as Princess May. He was a member of the following clubs: Vice President of Natal Coast Rifle Association, President of Mayville F.C.; Vice President Y.M.C.A. C.C.; Vice President Mount Edgecombe C.C. A member of Rothesay Lodge Freemasons, and a Director of a few Companies.

EnglandCape Colony
TAMPLIN, Colonel Herbert Travers (1853-1925)

Colonel TamplinSouth African soldier and legislator. Born in London and educated at Sherborne School. In 1880 he began practice at the Bar in Grahamstown, where he edited the Cape Law Journal. As colonel he commanded the First City Volunteers in the Langeberg campaign of 1897. During the South African War he was again on active service, and administering a large area in the Karoo which had rebelled. From 1891 to 1902 he was a member of the Cape Parliament, where he had considerable influence as a Progressive.


EnglandUnited Kingdom
TREMEER, Colonel Charles Arthur Claude, D.S.O. (died 1918)

Colonel Charles TremeerOf the Farrar Anglo-French Group of Mines; son of Thomas Brockwell Tremeer of Cornwall, England. Educated at Belgrave House School, London. He came to South Africa in 1875 and joined the Frontier Armed and Mounted Police, serving in the Native Rebellion in the Transkei and in the Gaika and Galeka Wars under General Sir Evelyn Wood, acting principally in the Convoy Department and subsequently as Extra Staff Officer to the General. In 1880 he was sent to Umtata in command of a division of Volunteer Artillery and later became Staff Officer to Sir Henry Elliott. In 1886 he proceeded to Johannesburg and retired from the Colonial Volunteer Forces, gazetted as retaining the rank of Major. In 1887 he organized the firm of Tremeer and Cumings and in 1892 joined the staff of the Farrar Anglo-French group of Mines . For the part he took in the Reform Movement in 1895-96 he was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. He paid a fine of £3,000 in lieu of this. Other members of the Reform Movement, like Sir George Farrar, paid fines of £21,000 in lieu of the death sentence.
On the declaration of war (Boer War) in 1899 he joined Sir George Farrar at the Cape to assist in recruiting the South African irregular Forces. In February 1900 he received the appointment of Commandant of the Rosebank Recruiting and Training Department, until, ordered to join Lord Roberts' staff as Field Staff Officer for the Colonial Forces. He afterwards returned to Cape Town to organise fresh recruiting and during this period he enlisted the Mines' Defence Division. In 1901 he returned to Johannesburg, where he was appointed Officer Commanding the Eastern District of the Rand, being also chosen as one of the Commissioners of the Military Compensation Court, which office he held until 1902. For his valuable and unselfish services he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
In the 1914 German South West Campaign he was appointed Lieut-Col and D.A.Q.M.G. with General Sir Duncan Mackenzie's Central Force and was afterwards with the Northern Force.
Colonel Tremeer enjoyed a wide popularity in Johannesburg. He was a member of the Rand New Clubs and the Transvaal Automobile Club. To the Transvaal Rifle Association he was a good friend, always undertaking the task of collecting subscriptions among the commercial community for the annual prize meetings.
Colonel Tremeer was married twice and his descendants are scattered in the Eastern Cape and in Johannesburg. He was a staunch supporter of the Rand Pioneers Association and his registration certificate is dated 11th January, 1905. He died as a result of a motor car accident. He had alighted from a friend's car at the corner of Fortescue and Morgan Roads and was knocked down by a passing car, sustaining a fractured leg and severe injuries to his head. It was dusk and the driver of the car was dazzled by the lights of an approaching car and did not see anyone in the roadway. Col. Tremeer was conveyed to the General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries the next day - 2nd November, 1918. His grave is in Brixton Cemetery.
Click here to read a letter from Col. Tremeer to his brother.

My thanks to Keith Edwards for this biography.

TREW, Colonel Henry Freame (1872 - 1948)

Born in Stawell, Victoria, Australia, he received a commission in the regular forces of that country in 1890. During the South African War he served with the Australian Bushmen, joined the South African Constabulary on its formation on July 10, 1902 but returned to Australia for a short while to go farming. Back in the Transvaal he rejoined the police and in World War I commanded General Louis Botha's bodyguard in the South-West Africa Campaign. In 1919 he became Deputy Commissioner of the South African Police. He retired in 1929 and wrote two books on his experience.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
WILLOUGHBY, Major Sir John Christopher (1859-1918)

Rhodesian soldier and 'pioneer'. Born in England and educated at Eton and Cambridge, he entered the Army in 1879 and served in Egypt. In 1890 he was appointed second-in-command of the Pioneer Column. He served in the Matabele War and took a leading part in the Jameson Raid, for which he received a sentence from the British courts. In the South African War he had charge of transport for the Flying Column for the Relief of Mafeking.

EnglandCape ColonyUnited Kingdom
WILSON, Sir Jeremiah (1860 - 1930)

South African Postmaster-General. Born in England, he joined the British telegraph service, and in 1880 arrived at Beaufort West, at the Cape, as an operator. During the South African War he was seconded for special duties. As the first Postmaster-General after Union in 1910, he was responsible for merging the postal services of the four provinces, setting up wireless telegraphy and developing the telephone system. He retired in 1920.

Cape ColonyUnited Kingdom
WOOLLS-SAMPSON, Sir Aubry (Cape Town 1856 - Johannesburg 18 May 1924)

Born in Cape Town, he was educated there and at 14, on his first visit to the Diamond Fields, supported the move to set up a 'Diggers' Republic.' In 1873 he moved to Eastern Transvaal. He took part in the Sekuni and Zulu Wars, the Majuba Campaign and the Basutoland Gun War. After a spell in early Rhodesia he settled on the Witwatersrand, where he was involved in the Reform Movement. Imprisoned after the failure of the Jameson Raid, he and Karri-Davies alone sat out their sentences, refusing to pledge themselves to give up politics. He founded the Imperial Light Horse and as a major in such he was wounded at Elandslaagte and recommended for the Victoria Cross, which he failed to receive for technical reasons alone. He served in the Defence of Ladysmith and at Cyferfontein and Bakenlaagte. On 11 January 1901 he handed over command of the Imperial Light Horse to Colonel Briggs. He was appointed a CB in 1901 and created a KCB in 1902. He added his mother's maiden name, Woolls, to his surname. In 1906 Woolls-Sampson served in the Bambata Rebellion. He was a member of the Transvaal Government from 1907 to 1910 and an MP for Braamfontein from 1910 to 1915.

Mr J. M. Nunn (Suffolk, UK)
Belfield, Eversley. The Boer War. Hamden: Archon, 1975.
C.F.J. Muller, 500 Years: A History of South Africa. Cape Town: H & R Academia, 1981.
Rosenthal. Eric [comp.] Southern African Dictionary of National Biography. London: Frederick Warne, 1966.
Uys. South African Military Who's Who.


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Further Reading

Tamarkin, Mordechai. Cecil Rhodes and the Cape Afrikaners: the Imperial Colossus and the Colonial Parish Pump. London: Frank Cass, 1996.

Wulfsohn, Lionel. Rustenburg at War: the Story of Rustenburg and its Citizens in the First and Second Anglo-Boer Wars. Cape Town: C.T.P. Book Printers, 1987.