Gates of Warwick's Scouts and the C.C.C.C 10 months 1 week ago #66898
Charles Arthur Atkinson Gates
Sergeant, Warwick’s Scouts
Lieutenant, Cape Colony Cyclist Corps – Anglo Boer War
- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1901 (also entitled to Transvaal clasp) to Lieut. C.A. Gates, C.C.C.C.
Charles Gates was born in Beaufort West in the middle of the Karoo region of the Cape Colony in about 1864, the son of Arthur Gates, a Bank Manager and Justice of the Peace for the Cape Colony, and his wife Mary Maria, born Thomas.
Little is known of his early years although, as the family hailed from Cape Town, it can be surmised that a young Charles would have been sent down to that city to further his education. When at home he would not have wanted for playmates – his parents having provided him with a number of siblings in the forms of Mary Catherine Alice; Maud Constance; Isabella Maria; Marian Ellen Pritchard; Florence Winifred and Thomas Lloyd St. Winifred.
Time moved on and, at some point, Gates made the move to Pretoria, the capital city of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek (otherwise known as the Transvaal) – it was here on 31 August 1892, in the Magistrate’s Court, that he wed a 28-year-old, Grahamstown–born Alice Julia Gooch. Aged 26 he was a couple of years younger than his bride but, as events will show, she was destined to outlive him.
Eight years later South Africa, made up of various British Colonies (Cape and Natal) and two Boer Republics (Transvaal and Orange Free State), was at war. October 1899 saw the commencement of hostilities and, with it, the invasion of Natal and parts of the Northern Cape Colony by Boer forces. Towns like Kimberley and Mafeking were besieged and, certainly initially, the Imperial forces were on the back foot, overwhelmed by both the numbers and the speed at which the Boers invested these towns.
Help was at hand with more troops being sent from all parts of the Empire as well as locally raised units to aid in the fight. Warwick’s Scouts, a small body raised by Captain J A Warwick early in 1900, primarily for the class of work indicated by their name, was one of these. They saw service in many parts of the seat of war where their scouting expertise and general knowledge of both the land and the languages spoken, stood them in good stead.
After the relief of Kimberley in mid-1900 they operated as part of Lord Methuen’s division in the Boshof and Warrenton districts of the Orange River Colony. They then accompanied that General eastwards towards Lindley, and saw some fighting there at the end of May and in June.
Along with the remainder of Lord Methuen's column they were railed from Kroonstad to Krugersdorp in the Transvaal on 12th July, and advanced with him in a pursuit of De Wet northward to Olifant's Nek, where there was some fighting which Warwick's Scouts had two casualties.
After this the corps saw endless marching and skirmishing in the Western Transvaal.
For a fuller account of the actions they were involved in, we turn to contemporary newspapers reports. The Gloucestershire Echo of 19 April 1900 reported from Boshof on the “Western Border” that “A patrol of the Cape Police belonging to the Kimberley Mounted Corps and Warwick’s Scouts under Major Berrange, returned here this afternoon with two wagons, spans of oxen and two hundred head of cattle which they had captured ten miles from here. A Boer piquet was seen at daybreak, but the patrol returned to camp safely with their booty.
The weather is execrable, with constant rain, but the health of the troops is remarkably good. An officer, while riding beyond the outlying piquet yesterday evening came in contact with several Boers who, however, retired precipitately on seeing men arriving to strengthen the piquet.”
In a letter to his people at home in Warwickshire, a Trooper Collins of the Imperial Yeomanry wrote:
“We have just got back to Boshof after being away nearly a fortnight. We went from Boshof to a place nearly half-way to Hoopstad. So one morning we had orders for all the mounted troops to saddle up, and about 500 infantry to get ready. We are with Lord Methuen, who has about 2000 troops with him, and about half us of us went out from here.
Well we had not gone about five miles before the Boers started firing at the scouts. You know I am a scout, but there are about 30 older men called the “Warwick’s Scouts”. They know the country and go first, and from the one end where they were to the other end was four miles.
We turned around and started to advance on the kopje at one end of their fire, then the scouts said there was a wire fence between us and this kopje, so Lord Chesham ordered the men out with wire nippers to go and cut it.”
The Bradford Observer of 25 February 1901 carried the following article:
“The War Office on Saturday issued a list of casualties sustained by Lord Methuen’s column on the march through Wolmaranstad to Klerksdorp. On the 16th several casualties were sustained at Rietfontein by the Bushmen. In the contest at Hartbeesfontein on the same day the losses were given as follows:
Warwick’s Scouts – Captain J. Warwick severely wounded in the left hip and thigh.”
Given the fact that the Officer Commanding of this small unit was now out of action it came as no surprise that the end of the Scouts, as a fighting unit, was nigh. The Ipswich Journal of 18 May 1901 quoted a “Clark Kennedy (who has been with Warwick’s Scouts on the column) came back yesterday to rejoin; so many of the Scouts (including Captain Warwick) were wounded in the late fighting that they are disbanding them.”
That the Scouts were in the thick of the action as the advance guard, in most instances, meant that casualties were high. Gates served as a Sergeant with no. 39 until they were disbanded, moving on to the Cape Colony Cyclist Corps in May 1901, as their Paymaster and on promotion to commissioned rank.
Perhaps it was the stress of what had he had seen and experienced as a Scout that drove Gates to the bottle, perhaps he had a predisposition to alcohol? Whatever the case may be he took to drinking rather heavily which had disastrous consequences. The Western Times of 26 November 1901 carried the sad tidings under the banner “Casualties”:
“Lieut. Charles Atkinson Gates of the Cape Colony Cyclist Corps, died at Naauwpoort on November 22, and enquiries are being made as to the cause of his death.”
His Death Notice, signed at Rondebosch, Cape Town by his wife on 13 January 1903, confirmed that he was 37 years and 6 months old when he died at the Field Hospital in Naauwpoort and that, aside from his wife, he was survived by his daughter, Gladys Mabel Gates. But it was the death certificate completed by the District Surgeon on 30 December 1901 that provided the cause of death – this read that at Naauwpoort in the Colesburg district, Gates had passed away from Delirium Tremens – a condition associated with the excessive consumption of alcohol. He had suffered for two days before his demise.
His Queens medal was issued posthumously, off the C.C.C.C. roll dated at Cape Town on 19 August 1903. His wife Alice Julia Gates passed away in Pretoria on 18 September 1930.
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