- Queens South Africa Medal with clasp Defence of Ladysmith to 67 Tpr. A. Miles, Natal Carbnrs.
Alex Miles was born in Surrey England in 1856, the son of Thomas and his wife Ann Miles.
What prompted him to emigrate to South Africa one will probably never know but, having made the trek out to South Africa, he settled in Richmond, a small farming hamlet just outside of Pietermaritzburg where, at St. Mary’s Church on 8 January 1885, he wed Rosa Anna Hall of “Fairfield”, Mid-Illovo. He was recorded as being a Farmer on “Newton” in the same area.
On 2 March 1888 he attested for service with the Natal Carbineers, busying himself with annual shoots and other drill days which volunteers were called upon to present themselves for from time to time.
October 1899 shook the equanimity of the Colony of Natal, and the rest of the country with it, with the declaration of war between the two Boer Republics and the might of the British Empire.
Miles, with no. 67 confirming his early association with the regiment, mustered as a Trooper on 29 September 1899 - with war clouds looming the local military outfits didn’t want to be caught napping. The morning dawned with the various squadrons assembling on the Market Square in Pietermaritzburg. As a resident of Richmond; Miles was part of No. 4 Squadron under the command of Major G.F. Macfarlane, the then Mayor of Pietermaritzburg.
The regiment immediately proceeded to Ladysmith on the northern Natal battle front. Having arrived there the bulk of the unit was initially tasked, on 2 October 1899, with patrolling the likely Boer invasion routes on the frontier of the Orange Free State in the vicinity of Van Reenen’s Pass avoiding engagements if possible.
On 24 October the Ladysmith based squadrons, including Miles’, joined an “expeditionary” force that was sent out to Tinta Inyoni on the Newcastle road. This was before dawn and the purpose was to escort the retiring column of General Yule and protect it from Boer attack.
Required, likewise, to fall back on Ladysmith, Miles became besieged in that small but bustling town. Hardships there were aplenty chiefly because the Siege lasted a lot longer than initially anticipated with Buller, the Reliever, having to endure many setbacks to his plans to liberate the town.
All told the Siege was to last three months and, with the troops reduced to eating horse meat and enteric and other conditions rife, it was small wonder that life was unpleasant. To add insult to injury there was also the Long Tom guns of the Boer forces which peppered the town and its inhabitants with shells fired randomly. This caused more of a nuisance that injury to life and limb but it was a sober reminder that freedom of movement was severely restricted and liberation still distant.
Possibly as a result of deprivations experienced in the siege Miles was, at the age of 45, discharged from Carbineers, being taken off strength on 7 March 1901 on account of ill health.
He was awarded the Queens South Africa Medal with single clasp the Defence of Ladysmith.
He returned to his civilian pursuits and fathered no fewer than six children: Ada Elizabeth Harding; William Alexander Miles, Florence Ann Lowe, Percy Jex Miles, Agnes Ethel Vear and Frank Norman Miles. There was a seventh, Charles Reginald Miles, but tragically for the family, he was Killed in Action as a Signaller with the 6th S.A. Infantry Regiment in German East Africa at the age of 21 on 18 June 1916
But what of Miles himself? He seems to have joined the employ of the South African Railways & Harbours at some point. He passed away at the age of seventy-six years and seven months at “Hillglen” his property in the Avoca area near Verulam north of Durban, on 6th May 1932. He had moved to the North Coast area in 1907 where he had purchased several properties.
That is a really superb QSA, I have to say I am with envy, a very interesting biography on Miles too!
I have always prefered the battlefields of Natal to all others.
As a matter of interest and of course to make me even more just how many Natal Carbineers do you actually have?
Kind regards Frank
Well I guess South Africa is the place to find them as they very seldom turn up here, you are very lucky indeed, with the Elandslaagte to 641 Trooper Allerston in particular, a lovely medal! almost impossible to find those here.