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TOPIC: A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson

A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 4 days ago #64148

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Alfred Janson

Trooper, French’s Scouts – Anglo-Boer War

- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1901 to 37756 Tpr. A. Jansen, French’s Scts.

Alfred Janson wasn’t your typical colonial volunteer in fact he wasn’t a colonial man at all (in the African sense); he was an American national born in Varberg, on the western coast of Sweden, south of Göteborg in 1873. More specifically a place called Getterön, which was a small island off Varberg, inhabited by crofters and fishermen. Today it has a land connection with Varberg. At some point he changed the name he initially answered to – Alfred Johanson – to what we know him as – Alfred Janson.

His odyssey started with his departure from Goteborg (Gothenburg) in Sweden on 29 September 1899 aboard the “Ariosto” bound for Hull in England. His birth place on the ship’s manifest is stated as America (USA). What was he doing in Sweden? He was more than likely paying a visit to relatives there, having been granted, according to the Illinois Northern Districts Naturalisation Records, naturalisation in the U.S.A. on 22 October 1892 - he was resident at 177 Larrabee Street.

Having arrived in England, and after a short wait, he boarded the “Oceanic” on 4 October 1899 bound for New York sailing from Liverpool. Janson would have reached home to learn that the Boer War was underway and, possibly thirsting for adventure, made his way to South Africa in the next 12 months.

On 11 December 1900, having arrived in Cape Town, he volunteered for service with French’s Scouts for the first time and was assigned no. 20366 and the rank of Trooper. His Attestation form reveals to us that he was a Warder by occupation (perhaps a Prison Warder) and that his next of kin was his father, Johan Bernhard Johanson of Varberg, Sweden. He was 27 years old and single.
Serving until the expiry of his 6 month term on 1 July 1901 he took his discharge, time expired with a character rating of Very Good. His discharge address was 7 Natal Road, Observatory, Cape Town.




He next volunteered for a second six months, on this occasion with no. 37756 at Greenpoint in Cape Town on 22 August 1901. Physically he was 5 feet 9 ½ inches in height, weighed 168 pounds and had fair hair, blue eyes and golden coloured hair betraying his Scandinavian heritage. Claiming now to be a Tailor by trade Janson was also a Presbyterian by way of religious affiliation and had married in the intervening period (to Mabel Beatrix Johanson, born Byrne), who was his next of kin c/o Mrs Crammond of Glastonbury Road, Kenilworth, Cape Town.

The Scouts were operational in the Cape Colony, the Orange Free State and Transvaal Republics involved in the broad sweeping movements employed by their namesake, General French, to squeeze the ever diminishing number of Boers into a corner and thereafter surrender.

The Derbyshire Times of Saturday, 14 September 1901 carried an article headed, “A Bolsover man with French’s Scouts – The Encounter with Theron’s Commando which shed light on what they got up to:

“The recent engagement between French’s Scouts, about 50 strong, who were proceeding to join a column near Bethesda, and Theron’s Commando was noticeable for the magnificent defence of the Scouts, although surrounded in the hills and greatly outnumbered, they offered a splendid resistance before they surrendered. Donald Spencer who is on of French’s Scouts wrote as follows:

Graaff Reinet, August 14, 1901 - We have been on the trek for these past three weeks, and being on the veld it is impossible to write. We arrived here day before yesterday. You will be sorry to ere that we were captured by the Boers, 50 miles out of this place. It was a terrible affair but could not be helped. We being only 50 strong were marching from a place called Bethesda Road Station, to the town of Bethesda, a distance of 18 miles.

Having to form a rear-guard and advance-guard, it left very few to do the scouting; however we managed to scrape up about 20 for scouting, these going ahead by about 1 ½ miles. When we got within three miles of the town, the Boers opened fire upon us, (the advance scouts); we were just going through a nek, and the Boers were on each side of us and in front of us, and later we discovered they had surrounded us.

By this time all hands were blazing away for all they were worth. Mind you we had absolutely no cover, except our horses, being in the nek and on the road. The fight continued three hours and twenty minutes, from 1 p.m. to 4. 20 p.m., and a hot time we had. At last both carbine and revolver ammunition ran out, until the last round was fired, then down came the Boers onto us. There was nothing to do but “hands up”. There were 14 of us severely wounded, including our Commander, Captain Henry Bettelheim, and one man killed.

Seventeen Boers were wounded and 5 killed; this we learned afterwards. However we took good care they got no ammunition, it having all been used. The Boers being in possession of the town they marched us to it, and there they put us in the gaol, and kept us there for the night. Next morning they took all our boots, socks, leggings, coats, blankets, money and whatever they fancied and let us go to walk to Graaff Reinet, a distance of 50 miles bare-footed, no coats and no blankets for the nights, which are yet very cold, however we have arrived safely although a little foot-sore.”

As can be seen the business of scouting was a dangerous one. The Sketch publication of 23 October 1901 carried an article entitled General French and his Scouts which shed further light on their activities:

“The chase after this redoubtable guerrilla chief – for this is all that Scheepers has been these many months past – was both a stern and a long one. The pursuit, indeed has been carried out unceasingly since the beginning of last July. On several occasions he has been all but laid by the heels. Thus, on 14 July, General French despatched four columns to Graaff Reinet and nearly succeeded in taking him prisoner. In some extraordinary way however he managed to effect his escape. A few weeks later he was engaged by another column operating in the south western portion of the colony, and was forced to abandon his supplies and beat a hasty retreat to the north.

Following on his trail night and day, French’s Scouts eventually traced him to a farmhouse at Kopjeskraal, where he was in hiding. The building was promptly surrounded by a patrol of the 10th Hussars, and Scheepers placed under arrest. The corps of scouts whose success in locating the hiding place of Scheepers was primarily responsible for his capture by the Hussars belongs to one of the many Colonial contingents who were raised in South Africa some months ago.

So far as possible, all its members are of Colonial extraction. Splendid shots and horsemen and adepts in the science of “veld-craft” they form ideal soldiers. They have but scant respect for pipeclay, certainly, and are, perhaps, apt to attach more importance to outpost-duty than to mere barrack-square drill; in the presence of the enemy however, they have invariably contrived to give an admirable account of themselves. Their Commanding Officer is Captain Bettelheim, and among his subordinates are Lieutenants Pietersen, O’ Sullivan and Lowndes.”

Janson took his discharge from the Scouts on 31 December 1901 – the date on which the unit appears to have been disbanded. For his efforts in the war he was awarded the Queens Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal and South Africa 1901.
Like so many before and after him Janson, once the war was over and the dust had settled, decided to remain in South Africa.

Gravitating to the Witwatersrand, he became an Underground Gold Miner. He passed away at the Discoverer’s Hospital in Roodepoort on 18 February 1943 at the age of 69 years and 9 months from Phthisis. He was survived by his wife and two daughters – Hilda Bretta McWade and Mabel Doreen Janson. The family were living at 3 Alberts Road, Delareyville, Transvaal.








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A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 4 days ago #64150

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Good Evening Rory...… Went looking this morning and thought you had forgotten us..... Just had to wait a little longer for my fantastic reading fix...… Thank You Very Much...….

Mike
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A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 3 days ago #64153

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Very nice Rory, for some reason, which I don't understand, medals to members of French's Scout seem to turn up here only very seldom, that example is particularly nice because of the nationality of it's recipient.
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A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 3 days ago #64165

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Rory
Frank's comments about the scarcity of QSAs to French's Scouts rang a bell. Stirling says the unit was comprised of "about three squadrons". About ten years ago, I put a winning bid up on a QSA to -
"10003 Tpr. H.L.Taylor, French's Scouts" with clasps CC/OFS/JHB/DH/BELF/1901. I don't think I have seen another since. Certainly not locally.
Your excellent post on has made me decide to check it out further!
Regards
IL.
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A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 2 days ago #64179

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Hello Ian,
It was simply an observation, but, I don't know really why that should be, French's Scouts were raised in Cape Town, initially as just a single squadron, during December 1899, with official authority only forthcoming in the new year, certainly from memory, at least, the 13th of January, they were subsequently disbanded at Middleburg on the 31st of December 1901.
Harry Taylor's medal is a particularly nice example, he appears to have been discharged upon the 6th of May 1901, a brief glance at WO100/247 does confirm his medal and clasps were sent to the OC DDCT (Officer Commanding Discharge Depot Cape Town} on the 26th of March 1906.
Surviving papers for rankers in French's Scout are in WO126/45-46 at Kew and may yield a little more information, notwithstanding, on the face of it, I think you certainly have a very good medal.
Regards Frank


LinneyI wrote: Rory
Frank's comments about the scarcity of QSAs to French's Scouts rang a bell. Stirling says the unit was comprised of "about three squadrons". About ten years ago, I put a winning bid up on a QSA to -
"10003 Tpr. H.L.Taylor, French's Scouts" with clasps CC/OFS/JHB/DH/BELF/1901. I don't think I have seen another since. Certainly not locally.
Your excellent post on has made me decide to check it out further!
Regards
IL.

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A Swede in French's Scouts - Alfred Janson 5 months 2 days ago #64181

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Including duplicates there are over 450 names on the unit page: www.angloboerwar.com/unit-information/so...s/334-frenchs-scouts
Dr David Biggins

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