By Peter Beighton
This essay was first published in ‘The Manchester Genealogist’, 2000, Vol 36, No 3, pp186-187 published by Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS)
A hundred years ago, on May 30th, 1900, five Blackpool men were fighting for their lives. They were members of a small British army column that had been surprised by the Boers in a dawn attack at Faber’s Put, about fifty miles west of Kimberley. Of the five comrades, one was killed, and another was wounded in this battle.
The Anglo-Boer War broke out in October 1899 and after a series of early defeats, the British army called for volunteers from the contemporary equivalent of today’s Territorials. Many came forward, but only the best were chosen; in this way, on January 4th, 1900, the five Blackpool men attested for service in South Africa with D squadron of the 23rd Company, Imperial Yeomanry. For the next four weeks the 120 horsemen in this unit practised cavalry manoeuvres on Blackpool beach and improved their shooting skills on the rifle range at Rossall.
On February 10th, the troopers and their mounts were given a hearty send-off when they entrained at North Station for Liverpool, to commence the three-week voyage to Cape Town in the troopship “Afric”. On arrival in South Africa they were posted to a dusty camp at Picketberg Road, a dry mountainous region about 60 miles north of Cape Town. In early May, the 23rd IY travelled by train for three days to Belmont, on the railway line to the south of Kimberley, where a major battle had been fought a few months previously. Here they joined a column tasked with clearing the Boer commandos who were still active in these parts. Their new comrades included half a battalion of a famous Cape Town unit, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Volunteer Rifles and a small detachment of Canadian artillery. In all they totalled about 500 men.
Three days later the column reached Faber’s Put, (well or water hole), about fifty miles to the west of Kimberley. They settled down for a cold night on the open Veldt, in a shallow valley ringed by small hills. During the night, the Boer commandos avoided the sentries and crept close to the camp, firing on the British from three sides at first light. Two hours later, it was all over; the British had 23 dead and 32 wounded, while the Boers had similar casualties. Of the Blackpool men, William Coulston had been killed by a Mauser bullet, while Reggie Carter had been shot in the foot.
The participants on both sides have not been completely forgotten and on May 27th, 2000, a service of commemoration was held on the site of the battle at Faber’s Put and a monument was unveiled. The Blackpool men are also named on a memorial plaque in the Town Hall. A few facts are known about them:
William Coulston: (killed) Born 1865. Blackpool, plumber by trade, living at 102 Caunce St. Husband of Kate and father of Leonard and John Noble. He was a son of John Coulston.
Reginald Percy Bell Carter: (wounded) Born 1876, Stockton-on-Tees, auctioneer, living at 102 Bloomfield Rd. son of Thomas Carter.
Albert Hilton: Born 1871, Manchester. publican, living at Ivy Villa. Dickson St with his mother, Selina. After the war, Hilton served for many years in the Blackpool troop of the DLOY, whom he represented at the coronation of King George V. He had family links with the Clarence Hotel, Hyde Rd, Manchester.
John Marland Partington: Born 1874, Rochdale, joiner, son of William Partington.
Frederick Whalley: Born 1876, Rochdale, draper, living at 104 Caunce St, son of Christopher Whalley.
The first batch of volunteers had signed on for a 12-month period of service and in early 1901, they were replaced by a Relieving Draft. The second group of Blackpool men are named on the Town Hall memorial:
H Barnes; J C Butler; H Calderbank; J Cooke; W E Fisher; W E Gormlie; T E Lewthwaite; A McQuade; R Riddehough; E Round; W Talbot; J W Towler; W Tranter; H Wilson; W Womack; J Yates.
Information concerning these men is scanty, although a few details are known about the following:
Randolph Riddehough: Born 1874, Darwen, Coachman. living at 7 Yates St. Gunshot wound to the abdomen at Willowvale on 6.11.1901.
William Talbot: Born 1880, Blackpool. fruiterer. 101 Warbreck Rd, son of Jacob Talbot. (recruited by Corporal RHO Hill. who subsequently owned a well-known departmental store in Blackpool.)
Joseph William Towler: Born 1880, Blackburn. Plumber (apprenticed to Coulston), 29 Regent St, son of Robert Towler.
William Womack Born 1879. Rochdale. Engine Cleaner, 10 Ribble Place, son of Samuel Womack.
Further recruitment took place in the closing stages of the war. Three Blackpool men who were posted to the 32″ Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry are listed on the Town Hall Memorial:
F Parkinson; F Smith; H Webb
Fleetwood Parkinson: Born 1882, Blackpool. He settled in Kimberley where he became an engineer in the diamond mines. Parkinson achieved considerable distinction in World War 1, when he raised a troop of horsemen for the allied attack on German South West Africa (now Namibia). Parkinson’s Horse, as they were known, took part in a daring crossing of the Kalahari Desert which took the German forces in the rear and hastened their surrender.
Fleetwood Parkinson kept his links with Blackpool and married Maude, the eldest daughter of Sir John Bickerstaffe who masterminded the building of the Blackpool Tower. The couple eventually returned to Blackpool and lived in Hornby Rd. Parkinson died in Blackpool in 1947.
The Author: Professor Peter Beighton of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town, Medical School. At the time of original publication, Professor Beighton was writing a book on the activities of the Blackpool Volunteers in the Anglo-Boer War (See Sources & Further Research below). He was asking for any available information from the descendants of these men or any other Blackpool Volunteers who served in South Africa. Access to diaries and photographs would be especially welcomed.
Transcribers Note: It is worth recording that the Memorial includes the names of 24 Members of the St John Ambulance Brigade and 2 Blackpool Police Officers.
Sources and Further Research
Beighton, P., 2000, ‘The Manchester Genealogist’, Vol 36, No 3, pp186-187, Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS)
Beighton, P., 1998, The Blackpool Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade: The Early Years, ASIN: B0000CP8V6. (Currently out of Print). Available at: Imperial War Museum Catalogue Ref: LBY 98/1940
P Beighton, P., & de Villiers, JC, 1997, ‘The St John Ambulance Brigade In The South African War 1899-1902: Casualties and Memorials in South Africa’, Military History Journal (incorporating Museum Review), Vol 10 No 5, June 1997, The South African, Military History Society. Available at: https://www.samilitaryhistory.org/vol105de.html Accessed July 15-16, 2020
Images Copyright by Mike Coyle
Transcribed by MPC