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TOPIC: An Artillery Trooper in the Bulawayo Field Force

An Artillery Trooper in the Bulawayo Field Force 7 months 2 weeks ago #58548

  • Rory
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David Annand Ogilvy

Gunner, Artillery Troop, Matabele Rebellion – Rhodesia 1896

- British South Africa Company Medal (Rhodesia 1896 reverse) to Gnr. D. A. Ogilvy, A.T.

David Ogilvy was born in Cortachy in the county of Forfarshire, Scotland on 3 December 1876 the son of Lauchlan Ogilvy, a farmer, and his wife Catherine, born McKenzie. His birth certificate records that his father was a Shepherd who had married his mother in Cortachy on 30 July 1864.

According to the 1881 Scotland census the family, resident near North Road, Kirriemuir, was a large one comprising David (4), along with his many siblings William (15), Susan (14), James (11), Jane (9), Alexander (7) Isabella (5), Charles (2) and baby Margaret (2 months). As if that weren’t enough Mrs Ogilvy’s brother – 32 year old John McKenzie was resident on the farm as well.

By the time the 1891 Scotland census came round the family’s address was the Alton Farm House in the district of Cortachy and Clova and 14 year old David was a school boy.

At some point between 1891 and 1896 a young Ogilvy took the bull by the horns and emigrated to Rhodesia. In those heady pioneering days that territory was sparsely populated and largely wild with teeming masses of game and little else populating the landscape. This was aside from the human inhabitants – comprised mainly of two tribes, the Matabele and the Mashona - Rhodesia had a large black population which busied itself in the main with subsistence farming and little else.

Resentment among these black tribes started to grow commensurate with the influx of European pioneers who came up from the Cape with a speculators eye and a yearning in their heart for wealth and prosperity. These pioneers, it was felt in some quarters, began encroaching on the lifestyle of the black tribes and simmering tensions between the two finally culminated in the outbreak of the Matabele Rebellion in 1896 (there had been earlier trouble in 1893).

Bulawayo, one of the only settlements with anywhere near a concentration of Europeans, was seen as a definite target by the Matabele and, along with their Mashona counterparts, was laid siege to. The settlers couldn’t afford to wait for the relieving columns being sent either from Beira or Mafeking to come to their aid and so created a Bulawayo Field Force which was raised on the 25th March 1896 and disbanded on the 4th July 1896. It consisted of the following sub units: Artillery troop, Engineer troop, Greys Scouts, Dawsons Scouts, Afrikander Corps and Giffords Horse.

One of the first priorities for this small force was to ride out into the territory surrounding Bulawayo and bring into the laager that had been created, as many of the traders, farmers etc. and their families that they could get to safety. It was to the Artillery Troop that Ogilvy gravitated having arrived in the country as a Prospector of either gold or diamonds – both of which were supposedly to be found in abundance.

On April 25, 290 white troopers and friendly natives under the command of Captain Ronald Macfarlane left Bulawayo to scout the Unguza. Supported by an artillery section consisting of a 1-pounder Hotchkiss gun and a Maxim, the patrol soon encountered several hundred Ndebele. A skirmish line of mounted scouts managed to draw the warriors into range of the two larger guns, and a fierce firefight erupted. ‘Bullets of all sorts came whistling along, from elephant-guns, Martinis, Winchesters, and Lee-Metfords, and for about an hour things were decidedly unpleasant, wrote Lieutenant Claude Grenfell. The Ndebele made two determined rushes to reach the Maxim gun, but were driven back with heavy losses.

On 11 May, 1896, a column of about 42 officers and 613 men commanded by Colonel William Napier set out from Bulawayo with the object of opening the road to the Tchangani River where it was hoped to meet up with the relief column from Salisbury under Colonel Beal. Colonel Napier's force was composed of, among others, the Artillery Troop comprising four officers and 34 men under Captain Biscoe. They were armed with one 7-pounder, one 2.5 gun, one Hotchkiss, one Nordenfeldt and one Maxim. They saw much action against a Matabele impi formidable in size before returning to Bulawayo at the request of Earl Gray.

As can be ascertained Ogilvy, young as he was (he was only about 20) saw plenty of action and, for his efforts was awarded the British South Africa Company Medal off the medal roll dated at Salisbury in May 1898. His medal was sent c/o the Standard Bank of South Africa, Cape Town.

Ogilvy was not destined to live a long life – the life of a Prospector in a savage territory is of necessity a hard one and it appeared to have exacted its toll on him. He passed away on 21 August 1902 at the Ayrshire Mine at the age of 26 leaving behind a few claims and mining interests. He had never married and it was found that his assets equalled his liabilities – the former including gold claims: ten named “Forfar”, ten named “Esk” (both of these in the Salisbury Mining District) and shares in various others. The claims were put up for sale but, sadly, there were no takers and they ended up being forfeited on 29 July 1905.










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An Artillery Trooper in the Bulawayo Field Force 7 months 1 week ago #58571

  • Frank Kelley
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You know my thoughts upon these medals, Rory, it is always a pleasure to see them, they are only seldom encountered here these days.
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