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John Robertson, 2nd Queensland Mounted Infantry Contingent - suicide, 28.11.1900 1 week 1 day ago #72225

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John Robertson, at the time of his volunteering, was employed by the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company; he was a single man, with his address being given as "care of E. Easton, Mount Morgan." He seems to have had the unusual nickname of "Wire Fence".

...."Patriot," Mount Morgan, writes: "In your 'Stray Notes' of the 13th instant, you say there are plenty volunteering to fight the Boers. The number is more apparent than real. According to the Fatman's lying press there were 39 volunteered from Mount Morgan, yet only three were considered fit to go with the contingent, and these three - Gabriel, Gaffan, and Robertson - by no means the pick of or young men. Are we to suppose that the Mount Morgan boys are such a sorry lot that only three out of 39 were fit to manure the Transvaal with. I resent such a insinuation as an insult to our whole community, and state emphatically that had 39 volunteered at least half of them would have been as good and better than the three selected to go with the contingent. The fact is that 39 never volunteered nor the third part of 39, the large number was given to decoy soft horns in other parts of the colony to offer their carcases as targets for the Boers to shoot at and thus help the poor Fatman to get his shent per shent."
The Worker [Brisbane], Saturday 27th January 1900

* 'The Fatman' was a euphemism for capitalist businessmen. The Worker was a Brisbane newspaper, affiliated with the Australian Labor Party.

Extract from a letter sent by a Rockhampton member of the Second Contingent, dated S.S. Maori King, Albany, 29/1/1900: - "I may as well endeavour to give you from memory the names of men from or late of the Rockhampton district - namely, Captain W. G. Thompson; Veterinary Captain A. W. Barnes; Privates E. Johnson, A. Dodd, and J. J. Trickett, of Rockhampton Mounted Infantry; Privates G. Stenhouse, W. Brady,, S. Landsborough, "Chippy" Carpendale, P. Gabriel, T. Cochrane, T. Laffan, W. J. Fisher, F. Haylock, J. Robertson ("Wire Fence"), C. Ross, and E. Smith ("Stringy Bark")."
Morning Bulletin [Rockhampton], Tuesday 13th February 1900

Extract from a letter sent by a member of the Second Contingent, dated Bloemspruit, via Bloemfontein, 12/4/1900: - "Mr. Fox, supernumerary lieutenant, and Privates Colin Ross and J. Robertson ("wire fence") have been invalided to Capetown, as has also Captain Pinnock, of the first contingent, while we have quite a number of men in the various hospitals at Bloemfontein."
The Capricornian [Rockhampton], Saturday 2nd June 1900

He was invalided back to Australia, suffering from enteric fever and pneumonia, arrived at Brisbane on the 18th of September 1900, and then had 8 days' accommodation at the Empire Hotel paid for by the Government, at 5 shillings per day. He was discharged on 26th September, and arrived back at Mount Morgan on the 30th of that month. He was granted ten weeks' pay, at two-thirds of the Contingent rate.

He appears to be listed as J. Robinson here (the next-to-last name) - marinersandships.com.au/1900/08/143dam.htm

(From Our Own Correspondent.)

....The returned invalided soldiers Privates H. Johnson and J. Robertson met with a most enthusiastic reception on their arrival at Mount Morgan last evening. A large crowd assembled at the railway station, and as the train steamed in the Mount Morgan Brass Band struck up "Home, Sweet Home." The soldiers were loudly cheered as they stepped from the train. Amidst the greatest enthusiasm, they were placed on the gun carriage of "Long Tom," draped with the Union Jack, and, to the strains of "Soldiers of the Queen" by the band, and the frequent discharge of musketry along the line of march, escorted to the Foresters' Hall, where they were entertained. The Mayor (Alderman M'Laughlin) occupied the chair. The evening was spent in conviviality and several Royal toasts were duly honoured. Mr. J. H. Gowdie proposed the health of the guests of the evening, which was responded to by Messrs. Johnson and Robertson. The former entertained those present with his experiences, pretty much as reported in the "Bulletin" this morning. The singing and playing of "God Save the Queen" brought the proceedings to a close about half-past nine o'clock.
Morning Bulletin, Monday 1st October 1900



....Two members of the Queensland Mounted Infantry serving in South Africa returned to Rockhampton on the 28th of September. They have been invalided home through having suffered from enteric fever. The returned soldiers are Privates Harold Johnson and John Robertson, both employees of the Mount Morgan Gold-mining Company. They were met at the railway station by Sergeant-Major Colquhoun and Mr. H. Patterson, Mount Morgan, and taken to Mount Morgan by the afternoon train, leaving at four o'clock.
....Private Johnson was one of the Mount Morgan members of the first Queensland contingent who left here on the morning of the 1st of November, and subsequently sailed for South Africa in the s.s. Cornwall. Private Johnson had his first taste of fighting at Sunnyside, where Private Victor Jones, one of the left flank patrol, was killed on New Year's Day. Private Johnson was one of the main column on that occasion. He was attached to Major-General French's column on the march to the relief of Kimberley, and, on the day following the relief, was with the Queenslanders who fought in the battle at Dronfeldt, seven miles to the north of Kimberley, and shifted the Long Tom that had been playing on Kimberley for such a long time. After a few days' spell at Kimberley the Queenslanders set off to join Major-General French's force, and Private Johnson took part in the fighting at Poplar Grove (where they were joined by the second Queensland contingent) and Koodoestrand where General Cronje surrendered on the 28th of February. The battle of Driefontein was the last big stand made by the Boers before the fall of Bloemfontein, and Private Johnson states that the casualties were heavy on both sides. It was here that Lord Kitchener's column met with the disaster that resulted in some 400 casualties. The occupation of Bloemfontein followed a day or two afterwards. Then came a few weeks' rest in the Free State capital. Towards the end of March Major-General Broadwood was advancing eastwards when he fell into the Boer ambush at Sanna's Post - better known as the Doornspruitt disaster - which was followed by the capture of a number of British prisoners and the guns belonging to Q Battery. "We fell into the ambush in the early morning," says Private Johnson, "and for the whole of the day were exposed to a heavy shell fire from the Boer guns at distances ranging from 500 yards to 1500 yards, while an incessant rifle fire was also kept up from their Mauser rifles. We were slightly exposed as we were lying down on the low kopjes, and we returned the fire for the rest of the day, although the Boers occupied by far the best position. On the evening of the 31st of March - never will I forget that day - Captain Dowse sent Sergeant-Major Breydon, Privates Spurway (Rockhampton), Reece (Mount Morgan), Staines, Weick, and myself to hold a drift which he pointed out. He told us to hold it at any cost and we galloped over to it. We held the drift for a time; but there were about 800 Boers coming round us, and poor Reece was killed - shot through the head with an explosive bullet. The rest of us were quickly surrounded and taken prisoners. We were asked to give up our rifles, while at the same time a dozen rifles were pointed at us. I threw my rifle in a river, and a Boer, becoming angry, told me he was nearly shooting me for it. We were then marched over to General De Wet's laager."
....Private Johnson, continuing his story, said he saw General De Wet, who is a man of about thirty-eight years of age and not the young man he is made out to be. De Wet told the captives to take five days' rations each out of the British convoy that had been captured, as well as blankets, and they did as he told them. Private Johnson took a loaf of bread, 1 lb of tea, and some sugar, and a mate of his laid hold of a leg of mutton. They then marched for eight miles to Wynberg, where they entrained for Pretoria. At Kroonstad they saw ex-President Steyn, who looked into the train. They arrived at Pretoria at eleven o'clock on the night of the 4th of April, and there was a large crowd of people to meet them. Ex-{President Kruger was at the station, and many persons looked into the carriages and sarcastically asked if Roberts or Buller were there as they wished to see them. On the following day the prisoners were taken to Waterval, a distance of fourteen miles, when they alighted from the train for the first time since they entered it. The prison at Waterval consisted of a barbed wire enclosure with a few sheds which provided only poor protection. There were about 4000 prisoners then at Waterval and they presented a very nondescript appearance. Some were in patched clothes, others in garments borrowed from the Boers.
....Private Johnson continued: "On the way from Wynberg to Pretoria we were well fed with bread and corned beef; but it was at Waterval that our troubles commenced. We were each allowed 1 lb of meat, 2 lb of mealie meals for making porridge, and 2 oz. of salt per week, with a loaf of black bread every day. Tea and coffee were unknown luxuries for a time; but these were afterwards sent in to us from British sympathisers outside. If it had not been for these people helping us from the outside, there would have been a good many deaths in Waterval from sheer starvation. They gave us very little water for washing, and we were for weeks without a bit of soap. When it rained the rain came into the sheds and we got wet. The result was that in a fortnight I was sent to the hospital in the enclosure suffering from enteric fever."
....The treatment at the hospital was much better owing to the gifts of food received from the outside. Private Johnson was some weeks in the hospital. In the beginning of June some excitement was caused by seeing the Boer commandants coming in with their heads and arms bandaged. Two trainloads of British prisoners were taken away from Waterval - about 950 men altogether - and they thought they were going to be removed to Pretoria to be handed over to the British. The 18th Hussars, who were captured at Dundee, Natal, in October, 1899, and consequently in prison for nearly eight months, were under orders to proceed by the next train when the British suddenly appeared over the kopjes in the distance and the big guns could be heard sounding. Two sentries then cleared away from Waterval to the position occupied by General Botha overlooking the prison camp. As soon as the sentries disappeared, the British prisoners made a bolt for it. They cut the barbed wire fence and set off towards Pretoria. Private Johnson being sick, fell behind the others and saw no less than twenty shells fall near the prison camp and the railway station. On reaching Pretoria he found the town in the possession of the British. He took a relapse and was sent to the Guards' Hospital where he remained until July. He was then sent down to Bloemfontein Hospital for a fortnight, when he got better and took the train to Capetown. He wished to go back and rejoin his regiment, but was told that once a soldier had enteric fever he had to be invalided home, either to England or Australia, whichever place he chose. Private Johnson preferred to return to Rockhampton, and left Capetown in the s.s. Medic with sixty other Australians. They met with a cordial reception at Melbourne and Sydney, and were allowed to travel in first-class carriages to Brisbane. At the latter place, however, they were not so well received, and had to be content to sit in a crowded second-class compartment although they were not in the best of health.
....Private Robertson has little to add that is new. He took part in all the fighting from Poplar Grove to the Vaal River, where he took enteric fever, and, after a few months in the hospitals, elected to return to Australia, and came by the Medic. He would have liked to rejoin his regiment after he got well; but the order which prevented his comrade from doing so also prevented him.
....Both men speak highly of the treatment they received at all the British hospitals. The field hospitals were a little rough; but they always received beef tea made from Bovril and any luxury that could be obtained. At the base hospitals the attention was simply perfection, as they received milk, eggs, and everything else they wanted. Private Robertson says the nurses deserve great thanks for the work they perform. One nurse at a field hospital looked after thirty men for some time with only an orderly to assist her in carrying water.
The Capricornian, Saturday 6th October 1900

....A determined case of suicide took place at the Market Hotel, East-street, yesterday afternoon, the victim being Trooper John Robertson, one of the returned invalided Queensland soldiers from South Africa. Robertson was a miner employed at Mount Morgan by Mr. Edward Easton, manager of the Rockhampton Prospecting Company. He came down to Rockhampton on Tuesday morning to spend a few days. About half-past two o'clock yesterday afternoon he went into the shop of Mr. J. Wilson, gunsmith, and chose a five-chambered revolver. He bought five cartridges to fit the revolver and made arrangements to purchase the weapon. At Robertson's invitation, Wilson went to the Market Hotel with him to have a drink. Leaving Wilson in the bar, Robertson said he was going to show the revolver to a friend, and went out to the back. As he did not return for some time, Wilson started to look for him, and found him in the closet. Robertson was speaking to himself. Wilson called out to him to come away. Immediately a shot was fired, and Wilson, opening the closet door, saw a pool of blood on the floor. He reported the matter to Constable Cavanagh, who was on duty in East-street, and the constable was quickly on the scene. He found that Robertson had shot himself through the head, the bullet having penetrated the brain, and he died in about ten minutes. Robertson was a single man of about twenty-seven years of age. He was one of the Mount Morgan members of the second Queensland contingent which left here on Christmas night for South Africa and returned here as an invalid on the 28th of September. He took part in all the fighting from Poplar Grove to the Vaal River, when he contracted enteric fever, and after a few months in different hospitals, was invalided home. He was employed by Mr. Easton soon after reaching Mount Morgan, and kept to his work until Saturday last. He did not turn up on Monday, and early on Tuesday morning he met the eight-year-old son of Mr. Easton. He told the little fellow to give his pipe to his (Easton's) elder brother and also asked him to say goodbye to the little girl. Yesterday morning Mr. Easton received the following wire from Rockhampton: - "Please put someone in my place."
Morning Bulletin, Thursday 29th November 1900



....A magisterial inquiry was held yesterday afternoon into the circumstances surrounding the death of a man named John Robertson, who committed suicide by shooting himself in an outhouse of the Market Hotel on Wednesday, the 28th of November last. Sergeant Ryan conducted the inquiry.
....John Wilson, gunsmith, carrying on business in East-street, stated his place of business was situated opposite the Market Hotel; at about 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, the 28th of November last, the deceased John Robertson came into witness's shop; Robertson said, "I want to see a pistol for theatrical purposes;" witness said, "I have none, but I have a revolver;" he showed Robertson a revolver; Robertson said, "I want some cartridges;" witness answered, "I have none, but I can get them for you;" Robertson said, "I will come back this afternoon;" witness got a revolver and five cartridges; he loaded the revolver and gave it to Robertson; the revolver produced was the one he gave Robertson; Robertson said, "Come over and have a drink;" witness said he did not go, but Robertson insisted and he went with him to the Market Hotel; Robertson said, "I have a friend over here, and I want to show him the revolver;" they had drinks at the hotel; Robertson went out of the back door and witness followed him; there was nothing peculiar about Robertson's behaviour, except that he was absent-minded; Robertson went into the water-closet, and witness waited outside the door; after waiting a while witness tapped on the door, but got no answer; witness afterwards heard a sound of talking in the closet; he heard the report of a firearm in the closet and on opening the door he saw blood on the floor; witness went out into East-street and reported the matter to Constable Cavanagh; he never saw Robertson afterwards.
....Michael Cavanagh, police constable, stationed in Rockhampton, stated that on Wednesday, the 28th of November, at about 2.45 p.m., he received a report from Mr. J. Wilson, and he went to the water-closet at the rear of the Market Hotel; he saw a man lying on the floor of the closet face downwards with his legs and arms partly gathered under him; the face was in a pool of blood; as the man was breathing witness got assistance and turned the man over on his back; witness found the revolver produced lying under the left knee; the revolver was loaded in four chambers, the fifth chamber having only recently been discharged, as it smelt of powder; Mr. J. J. Ross kindly telephoned for Dr. Voss and also to the Inspector of Police; Dr. Voss arrived shortly afterwards and did all he could for the dying man; the man died shortly afterwards in the presence of the doctor; the body was removed to the morgue; on searching it witness found a silver English lever watch, with two silver chains, a British five-shilling-piece, a Transvaal shilling, and a threepenny bit attached; deceased also had on him a silver watch case, an expanding bullet, a penknife, some cigarettes, links and studs, and 5s. 3d. in silver; a young man named William Livingstone identified the body as that of John Robertson; Livingstone said the deceased was also known as Jack Shannon; Mr. J. J. Ross, insurance agent, said he knew the deceased as John Robertson.
....The inquiry was adjourned for the production of further evidence.
Morning Bulletin, Thursday 6th December 1900

....The inquiry was continued on Wednesday afternoon before Mr. S. Wolff, J.P., into the circumstances surrounding the death of John Robertson, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a revolver in an outhouse of the Market Hotel on the afternoon of Wednesday, the 28th of November last. William Livingstone, jockey, gave evidence to the effect that he was with deceased on the 28th of November; deceased said he was going to join Cogill's theatrical company, and asked witness where he could get a pistol; witness directed him to Mr. Wilson's shop; deceased went into Mr. Wilson's shop and when he came out witness asked him if he were coming up the street; deceased nodded towards the Market Hotel and said he was going over there; that was the last time he saw deceased alive; he afterwards identified deceased's dead body. The inquiry was further adjourned.
Morning Bulletin, Friday 14th December 1900

I've been unable to find a report of the resumed inquiry, but there's a record of it online which I haven't yet been able to access, nor was there any mention in the papers of his funeral - he was interred at South Rockhampton Cemetery in an unmarked grave. However, it's known which row he's in, and there's now a photo of the row on Find A Grave. www.findagrave.com/memorial/160399392/john-robertson
Although his age at death was reported to be around 27, Find A Grave gives it as 28.

What's currently unknown is anything relating to his life before his volunteering. In all the reports there are no mentions of his family or where he came from. Was he someone who had immigrated to Australia, leaving all relatives behind?
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John Robertson, 2nd Queensland Mounted Infantry Contingent - suicide, 28.11.1900 4 days 10 hours ago #72309

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Hi Berenice,

I have had a look at the Ozboerwar site and it doesn’t shed any mote light on Robertson. Trove may be worth checking, I’ll have a look tonight.
A very well researched post.
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