Battery Sergeant Major, South African Field Artillery
Service in G.E.A. and Palestine WW1.
Percy Gascoyne was born in Wiamata, New Zealand, in 1881. A carpenter by profession he was of small build, being recorded as only 5’ 2” tall with hazel eyes, dark brown hair and a “fresh” complexion according to his WW1 attestation papers. He also sported a tattoo on his left forearm. He received education at the Government School, Smith Street, Durban. His interesting military career spanned 20 years and he served in three wars without apparently receiving as much as a scratch from enemy action.
He enlisted with the Natal Field Artillery as a gunner on the 1st September 1899 and was mobilised for service on the 30th September 1899. He was present at the Battle of Elandslaagte on the 21st October 1899 where the regiment and it’s six seven-pound rifled muzzle loading screw guns of Anglo Zulu War vintage, under the command of Major Taylor, were deployed on a low ridge to the west of Elandslaagte Station. At about 09:30 they commenced fire at the Boers who could be clearly seen wandering around the station area.
One shell hit the railway carriage carrying new furniture for the Mine Manager, David Harris, while another fell near the Boer Ambulance. Walter Herald, who was acting as ambulance assistant for the Boers, noted:
“The next shot struck one of the mules, and took half it’s head away. The third shell burst close by, and part of it went bang through the wagon in which I was dressing, and was within a foot of finishing my little career. A few more shots came near us, when the Boers began to fire from the kopjes, revealing their position, so the battery turned their fire on them. After half an hour’s firing, which the Boers returned with interest, the British retired over the hillside”
The Boer guns soon found their range with 2 rounds exploding around the NFA Battery. One of these shells badly damaged the team and gear of the ammunition wagon fortunately not igniting it; the damage was however extensive enough for the wagon to be abandoned. The Boer shells continued to fall for about 10 minutes on the ridge occupied by the NFA, but thankfully for the Natalian gunners, many of the Boer shells were incorrectly fused and buried themselves in the soft earth before exploding.
The NFA guns futile attempt to engage the Boer artillery on the Elandslaagte Ridge was also recorded by the famous author Conan Doyle:
“.. the six little guns lay back at their extreme range, and all barked together in impotent fury”
Sir John French assessed the situation and ordered the battery to withdraw and cover the armoured train at Modderspruit Station, as far as is known they took no further part in the Battle of Elandslaagte.
The unit was later in action on “Mournful Monday” and was tasked to take part in the assault force assembled for the sortie to destroy the Boer guns on Lombards Kop on the night of the 7th and 8th December 1899 but did not go into action and left later that night for Colenso. The unit along with the Durban Light Infantry and the Dublin Fusiliers was stationed at towns of Colenso and Estcourt to protect the Colony of Natal, where they were frequently in minor skirmishers with the enemy. After the Relief of Ladysmith the NFA served with Lord Dundonalds Calvary Division until the Natal Volunteer Brigade was disbanded in October 1900.
Gascoyne then volunteered to join the Commander in Chiefs Bodyguard as Trooper 27428 enlisting on the 24th May 1901 being discharged only 2 months later on the 16th July 1901. During this spell with the unit he earned the Cape Colony bar for his QSA.(I have slipped on a CC Bar as the medal did not have one when group was acquired)
He rejoined the NFA as a Bombardier in September 1901and took part in operations on the Zululand frontier from September to October 1901, when there was threat of a Boer invasion into the northeast area of Natal. He was finally released from service on the 31st May 1902.
During the Bambata Rebellion in 1906 Gascoyne once again rallied to the call to arms, serving with “A” Battery NFA under Major Colin Wilson, which served with Colonels Mackay’s column. Due to service of less than 49 days Gascoyne was issued with a “no-bar” medal.
Nine years later with the outbreak of World War 1 he joined the 5th Mounted Rifles (Imperial Light Infantry) with the rank of Sergeant for service in the German South West African Campaign. With the surrender of the German forces in that campaign the urge to return to the artillery got the best of him and he enlisted for service at the age of 37 with the South African Field Artillery, again as a Sergeant on the 1st September 1915. He went on the serve with the SAFA in the German East African and Palestine campaigns and his World War1 BWM and Victory medals are named up with the rank of Battery Sergeant Major.
He was finally discharged on the 21st June 1919 after 3 years and 294 days service. He died in Johannesburg in 1944 at the age of 63 leaving his wife, as beneficiary to his will.
Appologies for Picture I will endeavour to rectify ASAP.
3235 Dvr Arthur Turner
42nd Battery Royal Field Artillery
Arthur Turner born 1874 in the Parish of West Row near the town of Mildenhall in the County of Suffork and worked as a labourer, attested with the Royal Artillery on the 20th March 1894 at Ely in Cambridgeshire. At the time of attesting for full time service he was serving in the Militia with the 4/Suffork Regiment. At 19 years and 9 months and 5 feet 10 inches, weighing 137 pounds and fresh complexion he was considered “fit for the Army” on the 21st March 1894 and his final approval was signed on the 24th March.
He joined the Royal Artillery at Woolwich on the 26th March being posted to the 2nd Depot, 1st Battery as a driver. Over the next few years he changed batteries due to re-organisation and transfers first with the 87th Battery and then with the 29th Battery, it was with the 29th Battery that he left England for overseas service in India on the 13th October 1897. He remained in India for 1 year and 339 days.
With the eminent outbreak of the war in South Africa he was transferred to the 42nd Battery and less than a week later he was sent to South Africa, sailing with his unit on the 17th August 1899. On arrival in Durban they were posted to Ladysmith and were there when the war was declared on the 11th October 1899. The battery’s work at Elandslaagte (21st October 1899), Rietfontein (24th October 1899), and during the Siege of Ladysmith (2nd November 1899-28th February 1900) was most highly praised. The 42nd was part of the usual garrison of Ceasar’s Camp, and was heavily engaged on the 6th January 1900. Major Goulburn was mentioned in both of the despatches of the 2nd December 1899 and 23rd March 1900, and 1 other officer, 4 non-commissioned officers, and 1 man in the latter. The good work of the battery at Bergendal, 27th August 1900, was acknowledged in General Buller’s despatch of 13th September, and in his final despatch 1 officer and 2 non-commissioned officers were mentioned. The battery continued to operate in the Eastern Transvaal and was present at the last set piece action of the war, the Battle of Bergendal (21st to the 27th August 1900) also known as the Battle of Belfast.
Turner left for home on the 13th October 1902 after spending 3 years and 26 days in South Africa. After 4 years of overseas service he was finally on his way home where he continued to serve until his term of 12 years expired on the 19th March 1906.
His full medal entitlement was a QSA (Ghost dates)with Elandslaagte, Defence of Ladysmith and Belfast clasps. He was also entitled to a KSA with SA 1901-1902 clasps unfortunately the latter medal is missing.