On the line of communications in June 1900 there occurred several "regrettable incidents" (as the press would describe them) whereby a large bag of British POWs were taken by the Boers; who at the same time wreaked havoc upon Lord Roberts' supply line. One such incident involved the surrender on 07061900(after a stiff fight and many casualties)of the 4th Militia Bn of the Derbyshire Regt. at Rhenoster camp.
Several Bns of the Militia were in SA following the national uproar over Black Week. Amongst other sources of manpower, nine Militia Bns were asked to volunteer for active service. The 4th Derbys duly left Southampton on the transport "UMBRIA" on 11011900 and landed at Port Elizabeth on 02021900 for duties on the LofC.
323 Sgt. W.Walters would have been a valuable addition to what was plainly a "raw" unit. He enlisted into the Derbys in 6/1882 and had seen active service in India between 2/1883 and 12/1892 (IGS 1854 bar "SIKKIM 1888") and had rapidly progressed from L/Cpl to Sgt. in just 3.5 years.
The action about to be described on the LofC has been mentioned in most of the more detailed works on the ABW. Some describe it as having taken place at Roodeval (including the SAFF casualty list) wheras others correctly locate it at Rhenoster camp. Sometimes the details vary - however it is sufficient to record that DeWet's forces conducted a triple hit on the British LofC in the OFS and, in the words of Conan Doyle, at Rhenoster camp, the Derby Militia were outnumbered, out generalled and without guns.
They had been tasked with guarding the supply depot on both sides of the Rhenoster river; however no entrenching was conducted. The Boers under Froneman hit the camp with concentrated rifle fire at 0200 and later employed artillery. At 1000 hrs, after suffering 156 killed and wounded, the camp surrendered and about 500 men went into captivity. The 1900 edition of Conan Doyle's work comments that "there was no shadow of stain upon the good name of the only militia Bn which was ever seriously engaged during the war". Some opined that bad staff work was the root cause of the incident.
The Times edition of 18071900 records that 323 Sgt. W. Walters together with his fellow captives were "now at Ladysmith" after having been released from Waterval. To go with his IGS, Sgt. W.Walters was presented with his QSA (bars C/O/T/01) by the King on 29071901 and he was finally discharged in 1903; wearing four GC badges but no LSGC. His time with the army was not quite over; for he reenlisted into the Sherwood Foresters on 09011915 at age 49yrs and 10 months and was promoted Color Sgt on the ame day. Two weeks later, he was appoinied QMS (without pay, however) and was finally dsicharged as "no longer physically fit" on 03051917 without any more overseas service.
The IGS of the illustrated pair is marked "duplicate" and the QSA is impressed in square caps. I would dearly love to know when the IGS was re-issued: was it so he could appear "regimental" in front of his Sovereign - or was it later in time for his WW1 service? I will probably never know. Still, the pair is one of my favourites.
Thanks to all who read this far.
I would have expected the IGS 1854 roll to tell us when the duplicate was issued to William Walters, but, it does not, it merely confirms his service for the clasp from the 15th of March 1888 to the 14th of June 1888 and that he was not already in possession of the 1854 medal.