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TOPIC: Active service in the Boer War and Second World War

Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61942

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Picture courtesy of DNW

QSA (3) CC OFS Tr (296 Sgt. F. A. Newman, A.P.O. Corps);
KSA (2) (296 Qr:-Mr:-Serjt: F. A. Newman. A.P.O.C.);
BWM & VM (2573 W.O.Cl.2 F. A. Newman. 8-Lond. R.);
TFEM (2573 C.Sjt. F. A. Newman. 8-Lond. R.);
Army MSM GV (370746 Q.M. Sjt: F. A. Newman. 8/Lond: R.);
Volunteer Force LS EdVII (4593 Pte. F. A. Newman. 24/Middx: V.R.C.);
Defence Medal

MSM London Gazette 18 January 1919: ‘In recognition of valuable services rendered with the Armies in France & Flanders.’
Dr David Biggins

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Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61944

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I don't know that the Defence Medal which was awarded for 3 years home service could class his service as "active" David - but still a very nice group.

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Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61945

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It is an amazing long service group, covering the reign of four monarchs. I don't know how active he was by 1940 in the second war but he deserves our admiration.
Dr David Biggins

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Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61960

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David and others interested
I agree. It is a remarkable grouping and whoever takes custody of the group hopefully will appreciate it. Regarding the inclusion of the WW2 Defence Medal in QMS Newman's group, I noted that his WW1 service was with the 8/London Regiment. Perhaps he resided in London? With his volunteer service in mind, further volunteering in a civilian capacity during WW2 would be logical. Let's face it, thousands of others did so.
When seeing a WW2 Defence Medal alone or in a group, I am always reminded of a passage in Robert Gould's "Campaign Medals of the British Army, 1815-1972" regarding the Defence Medal. I hope that that author (or the publishers) will not mind me mentioning the following remarks:
"Owing to the terms of reference for the (WW2) campaign awards it is not unusual to find a man with several stars who has never heard a shot fired in anger. Conversely, a man with only a Defence Medal who earned it, for example, whilst serving with the fire or rescue services in London or any other city subjected to constant air attack, wears a medal worth having. In common with all other decorations and medals, only the man who wears the medal knows how it was earned".
Regards to all
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Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61963

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Sub-Lieutenant to Captain, A/Rear Admiral
1894 to 1945

Midshipman: July 6th 1894
a/Sub-Lieutenant: October 15th 1898
Sub-Lieutenant: November 15th 1898
Lieutenant: April 1st 1901
Commander: December 31st 1913
Captain: December 31st 1918
a/Rear Admiral: January 7th 1942

1914-15 STAR
INTERALLIED VICTORY MEDAL (M.I.D. - M02606/15 – for Dreadnought Submarine Incident)

Life Member
Past-President Calgary
Military Historical Society
O.M.R.S. 1591
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Active service in the Boer War and Second World War 1 year 4 months ago #61983

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I finally sat down and wrote up the group to Major T J May who saw pre-Boer War service, then Boer War , WWI and WWII


• CMG, Neck Badge
• CGS, clasp Bechuanaland: Lieut, DEOVR
• BSA Co, reverse Rhodesia 1896: Lieut, MRF
• QSA, clasps DoK, OFS: Major, Diamond F Arty
• KSA, clasps SA’01, SA’02: Major, Dmd Fld Art
• 1914 Star : Major, CMG, RFA
• BWM, AVM: Major (CMG, RFA privately added)
• Atlantic Star, DefM, WM: unnamed as issued
• Kimberley Star: unnamed as issued

Thomas James May was born on 17 March 1864 and came to South Africa in 1880 with his father, who held the appointment of Naval Ordnance Officer at Simonstown.

He saw his first military service in the 3rd Mounted Rifles (Gough's Horse), a unit raised in Kimberley at the end of 1884 to serve in Warren's Bechuanaland Expedition. Sir Charles Warren and his force of some 4 000 men marched to Vryburg and Mafeking in December 1884 to assert British Authority and put an end to the two Boer Republics, Stellaland and Goshen. This bloodless campaign without any fighting, ended on 24 January 1885 when President Paul Kruger and Sir Charles met at Fourteen Streams and agreement was reached on the border disputes.

In 1885 May served in the Victoria Rifles in Kimberley and was a member of the Diamond Fields Horse between 1889 and 1895.

March 1896 saw the start of the Matabele Rising in Rhodesia and this led to the recruiting of volunteers at Mafeking and Kimberley to aid the BSA Company. Thomas May duly signed up and joined the Matabeleland Relief Force under Colonel Plumer. He saw action at Umguza River and in the Matopos and earned his first medal as a Lieutenant in “B” Squadron, MRF, having seen seven months’ service up to 4 December 1896.

His next stint of active service was in the Langeberg Campaign, serving as Lieutenant in the Mounted Infantry Co of the D.E.O.V.R. under Col Spence from February to August 1897. He was Mentioned in Despatches (according to his Who-was-Who entry) and received the CGS Medal with clasp Bechuanaland.

On 1 April 1899, Capt T J May became the third Officer Commanding the Diamond Fields Artillery. He was commissioned as Major on 16 October 1899, two days after the start of the Siege of Kimberley. On 27 October 1899 the Kimberley Garrison had their first encounter with the Boers at Macfarlane's Siding and the ridges east of Dronfield. At one moment in the day the section of the D.F.A. under Maj May, which had gone out to support Col Scott-Turner, was nearly cut off by the Boers who had got in between them and the mounted troops. They held their ground most gallantly until the arrival of the North Lancashire Regt reinforcements induced the Boers to retire. At that time the escort had fired their last cartridges and the guns had only six rounds left.

Major May was mentioned in LtCol Kekewich's report of 15 February 1900, (London Gazette of 8 May 1900, p2918): "Captain (local Major) May, Diamond Fields Artillery, has invariably handled his guns with much coolness under fire. He is a most deserving and efficient officer". He was created a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George on 29 Nov. 1900 for his services during the Siege of Kimberley, and was again mentioned "for meritorious services performed" in Lord Roberts' Despatch of 2 April 1901 (London Gazette of 16 April l901, p2610).

Major May was District Commandant, Barkly West District, during the second half of 1900 and in 1901. Between 9 and 29 August 1901 he and 13 NCO's, Gunners and Drivers of the DFA were in Cape Town to exhibit the famous Kimberley-made gun "Long Cecil" during the visit of Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. In 1902 he was District Commandant for the Hay District.

In addition to the CMG, he received a QSA with clasps DoK & OFS, a 2-clasp KSA and a Kimberley Star for his Boer War services.

After the Boer War he resided in the Transvaal, and was on the Reserve of Officers, Transvaal Horse Artillery, between 1907 and 1911. In 1911 he went to London as Commissioner of the SA Section of the Imperial Exhibition and Festival of Empire.

In 1914 he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, British Expeditionary Force, and served throughout the First World War in France and Salonica with the rank of Major (1914 Star, BWM, AVM). According to his MIC he was awarded a Silver War Badge No 383081: circumstances unknown.

Although he took up permanent residence in the UK after the Great War, he maintained ties with the Union of South Africa. In 1924 he was in charge of the Educational, Botanical and Chemical sections of the SA Pavilion at the British Empire Exhibition held at Wembley.

From 1940 to 1944 he served in the 12th Batt, City of London Home Guard and qualified for the Defence Medal. At this time (1942-43) he was also the Finance Officer (Diamond Control) in the Ministry of Supply. Then, in 1944, this remarkable old soldier turned sailor by serving in the Royal Navy Emergency Crew (Small Vessels Pool) when more than 2 000 volunteers helped to crew all types of craft, new, old, British or Allied, vital to the Navy as domestic helps to the Normandy Armada long before and long after D-day. As he put it in a letter to the Kimberley Siege Association in March 1950: "...as one of a Volunteer Emergency Crew for special duties with the Fleet covering the landing operations in Normandy. It was an interesting experience - and I was over 80 years of age at the time...” For this service he was awarded the France & Germany Star and War Medal.
(Supplied by Cam Simpson)
In March 1910 he applied for the Volunteer Officers Decoration which was in 1911 amended to an application for the Colonial Auxilliary Forces Officers Decoration. These were turned down, due to insufficient length of service. Over the next 35 years he from time to time re-opened the matter but every time his method of calculating length of service was rejected by the authorities. In a final letter, dated 2 Oct 1945, the Adjutant-General, Union Department of Defence stated “...Major May has on ten occasions been advised that he is not eligible....” and also “.... further correspondence on the matter will serve no useful purpose”.

Major May died at Rochford, Essex on 23 October 1952.

He had been a fighter all his life and, over a period of some 60 years, served in one military expedition, two campaigns and three wars!!

The only medal I do not have confirmation for is the Defence Medal. I understand that the “Home Guard Officer’s List 1939-1945" is now available on a CD. Would a member with access to the CD be willing to let me have an e-mailed scan of the listing for Major Thomas James May according to above service details?

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