- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1901 to Corpl. S.B. Bartlett, Nesbitt’s H.
Sam Bartlett was born in the small agricultural settlement of Bathurst, between Grahamstown and Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape of South Africa on 3 August 1867, the son of William Bartlett, an 1820 Settler and his wife Selina Anne (born Purdon). He was baptised on the 22nd of that month in the Lower Albany Circuit.
The Bartlett family named their farm “New Bristol”, probably in remembrance of where they had come from in the “old country.” “New Bristol” was in the Clumber district of Bathurst and, at the time of Sam’s birth, was very much a Frontier settlement, a bulwark between the marauding tribes to the east and the Cape Colony to the west.
It followed that a young Sam would follow in his father’s footsteps – farming the land. Life would have been hard, lonely, but rewarding when the crops came in and the herds of various animals started to multiply. The scene was peaceful and idyllic and very little would have troubled the equanimity of the district once the final Kafir War of 1879 had come and gone.
Even the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War between the might of the Empire and two Dutch-speaking Republics in the form of the Orange Free State and Transvaal in October 1899, would have failed to have much impact on the life of those in the sleepy rural Eastern Cape. Word would have reached the communities of the Sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley to the north but that was far away and of little import to them.
But things were about to change, the war which many thought would be over by Christmas of 1899 dragged on, entering a new and ominous phase, that of guerrilla warfare where small highly mobile Boer Commandos would attack isolated British patrols and lines of communication, plundering the wagons for supplies and equipment, and then fleeing into the distance before help could be summoned.
The call went out for the raising of several Colonial regiments to assist the thinly stretched Imperial troops and Bartlett, by now a man of 32, responded to the call joining the ranks of Nesbitt’s Horse at Elephant Park on 13 February 1900. The attestation paper he completed confirmed that he was a Farmer by occupation and that his private address was “Clumber.” He swore to faithfully serve in the Corps designated Nesbitt’s Horse, “from this date until the end of the hostilities, within the area for which this Corps has been formed (namely the District of Bathurst and adjacent districts)
But who were Nesbitt’s Horse? This corps, about 300 strong, had been raised in December 1899 by Colonel Nesbitt, "a veteran South African campaigner". As in the case of many other Colonial bodies, the strength varied greatly in the course of the campaign, being at one time about 5 squadrons, but probably not much more than a squadron was in the field when peace came.
When Lord Roberts was advancing to Bloemfontein disaffection broke out to the west of the De Aar line. Among other troops employed on the Lower Orange and about Prieska was one squadron of Nesbitt's Horse which did much hard patrol work – it was to this squadron that Bartlett most likely belonged. They operated during part of March and April 1900 under Lord Kitchener and General Settle, and were present with Colonel Adye in a sharp fight in the Kheis district, Griqualand West, on 28th May 1900, when Lieutenant Venables and 1 man were wounded. The total British losses in Adye's action were about 7 killed and 20 wounded, and that of the enemy was heavier, 20 of them being taken prisoners. This squadron of Nesbitt's remained in the Prieska district for over one year.
During the second phase of the war Nesbitt's Horse was employed in Cape Colony. They were frequently engaged, and took part in many pursuits. On 14th December a small post near Colesberg, garrisoned by 14 of the corps, was attacked. Lieutenant Kelyl and several men being severely wounded. For a great part of 1901 a portion of the corps was in the western district doing column work under Colonel Capper and Major Jeudwine, and their fine scouting often prevented loss.
Bartlett appears to have taken his discharge towards the middle of 1901 – this is borne out by the lack of either the South Africa 1902 clasp to the Queens Medal he was awarded, or the absence of a Kings Medal which would denote service of at least 18 months. His medal was awarded off the roll dated 17 September 1901 at Steynsburg. That he had acquitted himself well was evidenced by his elevation to the rank of Corporal.
His war over Bartlett repaired to his farm once more and, ere long, married a local girl in the form of 26 year old Daisy Emmeline Watmough Bradfield, the daughter of another early Settler. Bartlett was 35 years old at the time of his nuptials on 21 January 1902. The couple set about the making of a family with Muriel Watmough Bartlett, followed by Hazel Bradfield Bartlett, Francis Ralph Bartlett and Ellen Jean Bartlett.
Like many others who, having reached retirement age, move away from their farms into town; Bartlett moved to his “coastal retreat” in Van Der Riet Street, Port Alfred. He passed away in the Settlers Hospital in Grahamstown on 23 January 1943 at the age of 75 years 6 months from Thrombo Anyeitis Obliterans and was buried on the family far at Clumber. He had also, towards the end, had his leg amputated and was suffering with senility. After all debts were settled he bequeathed the tidy sum of £3 915 to his wife and children.
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