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TOPIC: From the Boer War to WWII - Donald Henry Frazer's story

From the Boer War to WWII - Donald Henry Frazer's story 3 months 1 week ago #57406

  • Rory
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Donald Henry Frazer

Trooper, Border Horse – Anglo Boer War
Corporal, South African Native Labour Corps - WWI
Private, Essential Services Protection Corps - WWII

- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1901 to Tpr. D.H. Frazer, Border Horse
- British War Medal to Cpl. D.H. Frazer, S.A.N.L.C.
- Victory Medal to Cpl. D.H. Frazer, S.A.N.L.C.
- War Medal 1939/45 to 700245 D.H. Frazer
- Africa Service Medal to 700245 D.H. Frazer

Donald Frazer wasn’t afraid of a uniform it would appear. He donned khaki for the first time during the Boer War against the dreaded Boer going on to serve his country with the S.A. Native Labour Corps in France during World War I and then, some twenty years later, he saw home service with the E.S.P.C. – essentially South Africa’s version of the Home Guard – in World War II.

Frazer was born in Tsomo in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa on 11 May 1881 the son of Donald Henry Frazer and his wife. Tsomo, by dint of its rural location, is a very pastoral place with nothing to bring the traveller’s attention to it save the odd farmstead dotting the landscape. It was in this setting that a young Donald would have honed his hunting, shooting and horse riding skills.

Having completed what can only assume for the times to have been a rudimentary education he was despatched East London - the only town of any considerable size where he was indentured to H. Dudridge, Carriage Builder, of Albany Street to learn the trade. It was whilst he was an apprentice that the war clouds which had been gathering over South Africa for some time finally burst.

Long-simmering tensions between the British Empire and the two Dutch Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State finally came to a head and, with the expiry on 11 October 1899 of an ultimatum sent a day or two earlier, the southern tip of the Dark Continent found itself at war. Initially the inhabitants of the Eastern Cape, Frazer included, could have been forgiven for thinking that the war was of no relevance to them. Geographically-speaking the war was centred in Natal and the Western parts of the Cape Colony – far from Tsomo, East London and surrounding parts – and it was only later on that Boer incursions into the south-east of the Cape started to take place and gain momentum as the Boers pushed for new recruits and supplies of arms, ammunition and foodstuffs to keep their faltering war effort afloat.

Many localised regiments were raised at this time with the Border Horse being one of them and it was to this unit that Frazer was drawn. The Border Horse were raised in February 1900 under Colonel Crewe, and were soon thrust into the action when General Brabant was driving the Boers from about Dordrecht, where 200 of the corps joined Major Maxwell at Labuschagne's Nek on 5th March. On the 4th Maxwell's Colonials had established themselves on a mountain 1500 feet high on the east of the Nek, but the troops in front of the position had been held up, and later withdrawn.

'The Times' History of the Boer War, (vol iii p 491), mentioned that the two squadrons of the Border Horse, when they arrived on the 5th, "proceeded to storm the Boer schanzes. By noon the whole Boer force was in full retreat towards Aliwal North", to which place Brabant and Maxwell followed. On the 5th the Border Horse lost 2 killed and several wounded.

In April 1900 they were stationed at Aliwal North, and were reviewed there by General Brabant, under whom they were to act in the operations for the relief of Wepener. In the advance to Wepener they were in the forefront, and several times had sharp fighting with casualties. Their work was highly spoken of by those who witnessed it.

After Wepener (no medal clasp was awarded for this) was relieved the Border Horse was a component part of the Colonial Division under General Brabant, and in the advance to the Brand water Basin in the Orange Free State, the whole of the Division often had fighting. The scouting and patrol work was constant, hard, and, from the nature of the country, very dangerous, and casualties were frequent. Of the work and the losses the Border Horse had their full share, but they had the satisfaction of helping to hem in Prinsloo and his 4000 men. Lieutenant L G Longmore was severely wounded near Hammonia towards the end of May, and on the same occasion 3 men were killed and several wounded.

At Doornhoek, on 26th August 1900, the corps was heavily engaged, and had Major M W Robertson severely wounded and about 20 other casualties. Towards the close of 1900 the Border Horse were with Colonel Crewe in the Winburg district, and at Tabaksberg, on 29th January 1901, they had 10 casualties, including Captain Cameron wounded. They took part in further fighting about Winburg towards the end of February. Under Colonel Crewe a portion of the corps were engaged in the pursuit of De Wet in Cape Colony, and the very arduous work by which he was driven back across the river and through the central district of the Orange River Colony in February and March 1901.

Sergeant Major Cruden and 1 man were wounded at Petrusburg in that district on 9th March. Throughout the remainder of the year the Border Horse operated chiefly in Cape Colony under various column commanders, and saw much fighting.

Frazer missed out on the earlier actions documented above by virtue of the fact that he attested for the regiment at East London on 28 June 1900 – his attestation papers confirming that he was 20 years of age and a Carriage Worker by trade. His address was provided as c/o J.H. Saunders of Albany Street, East London. Interestingly his papers state that he was posted to 1st Brabant’s Horse but this is crossed out and replaced by “Border Horse”. Assigned the rank of Trooper and no. 32 Frazer was accepted into the regiment.

He took his discharge from the regiment on 4 July 1901 having been paid the princely sum of £17.15 on the return of his saddle, arms and other equipment to the Quartermaster. For his efforts he was awarded the Queens Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1901.

The war over and peace restored Frazer returned to his trade as a Carriage Builder. This lull was to last for no more than twelve years before the world was, yet again, plunged into conflict – on this occasion on a much larger scale than hitherto. The Great War as it became known pitched the might of the British Empire against that of Imperial Germany and her Allies. South Africa was slow to get off the mark having to contend with an internal rebellion inside her borders before she could accede to the request for her to assist in German South West Africa.

Come the dawn of 3 May 1917 Frazer, a late starter, attested for service with the South African Native Labour Corps with number 583 and the rank of Corporal. Having relocated to Cape Town in the intervening years his address was 1st Avenue, Parow. He had also acquired a wife in the form of Winnie Adelaide Frazer who was his next of kin. Frazer confirmed his Boer War service with the Border Horse and that his occupation was that of a Carriage Smith and that he was 36 years and 10 months old. For the first 54 days he was based on home soil sailing for England on 26 June 1917.

From England he entered the theatre of war at Boulogne on 30 July 1917 before being sent to Havre on 5 August 1917 to do duty with No. 3 Company. At this juncture it is worth noting that the S.A.N.L.C. comprised mainly black African men who had been employed to do menial labour – anything from off-loading supplies at the docks to erecting tents and other temporary buildings and fortifications closer to the front line. There was also the famous sinking of the SS Mendi where hundreds of black troops of the S.A.N.L.C. lost their lives.

Frazer, being of European extraction, was placed in command of a section of these workers – much like an Overseer of yesteryear - seeing to it that they put their shoulders to the wheel as it were. On 7 October 1917 he was transferred to No. 12 Company before being transferred to No. 32 Company on 1 November 1917. On 12 December he was taken on strength of No. 34 Company based at Abancourt where he spent a number of months before his final transfer to No. 37 Company on 5 August 1918. On 19 September 1918, the war almost over, he was sent back to England arriving there in time to sail for South Africa and home.

On arrival on home soil he was discharged at Charlie’s Hope, Rosebank, Cape Town on 24 February 1919. His Proceedings on Discharge form confirmed that he was an Acting Sergeant on discharge and that he had a Military Character of Very Good having served one year and 298 days.

Another twenty-odd years of relative peace followed as the world licked its collective wounds and economies recovered. Peace was not to last though and on 6 September 1939 the two old foes were at it again – this time a new generation of leaders had failed to ensure a lasting peace.

No longer in the first flush of youth a 60 year old Frazer nevertheless felt it his duty to don a uniform for the last time. On 16 May 1940 he attested with the Essential Services Protection Corps with no. 700245 to “do his bit”. Physically he was described as being 5 feet 2 ½ inches in height with brown hair, a fair complexion and blue eyes. He weighed 103 pounds and was free of any marks about his person. Now a Carpenter by trade he was still married to Winnie and lived at 111 First Avenue, Parow.

The E.S.P.C. were, to all intents and purposes, a Home Guard taking the place of the younger men who could be freed up for active service by protecting national “key points”. This Corps continued in this role up to the 1948 South African elections due to the ever-present threat from right-wing extremists.

Frazer served in the Cape Town area for a full five years and 189 days before being discharged on reduction of establishment on 19 November 1945. Many of these men were reluctant to part ways with their uniforms having become semi-dependant on the pay they received.

For his efforts Frazer was awarded the War Medal and Africa Service Medal despatched to him on 3 March 1954.

This was to be the last time that Donald Frazer donned an army uniform – having relocated to Port Elizabeth at some point he passed away at his home at 18 Terance Avenue, Kabega on 4 May 1962 at the age of 80 years and 11 months. His wife had predeceased him on 15 November 1960. He was survived by no fewer than nine children bequeathing to them an amount of R 2312.87 divided equally among them.

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From the Boer War to WWII - Donald Henry Frazer's story 3 months 1 week ago #57408

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Good Morning Rory.....

Of course he loved khaki..... He was a Fighting Scot with a name like Frazer......
Thanks for another great piece of research......


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From the Boer War to WWII - Donald Henry Frazer's story 3 months 1 week ago #57421

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Thanks Mike - Frazer was one of those rare beasties who had papers for all three conflicts - makes my task so much easier.



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