William Henry Ferry was born in Co. Kildare, Ireland, in September 1876 and emigrated to South Africa, where he was employed as a Railway driver. He served during the Boer War as a Corporal in the Railway Division of the Mafeking Town Guard, and was part of the garrison of Mafeking under the overall command of Major-General Baden-Powell that was besieged by the Boers from 13 October 1899 to 17 May 1900. During the siege the Railway Division was organised under the command of Captain John More, a resident railway engineer, and it is believed that Ferry was a member of the Nordenfelt gun crew on one of the armoured trains. What is certain is that Ferry was the driver of the train that pushed two trucks of dynamite out of Mafeking on 13 October to a distance of about five or six miles. Upon seeing a party of Boers in the distance Ferry shunted the dynamite in their direction before steaming back to Mafeking. The Boers fired on the truck which exploded with a huge bang, although Ferry returned with the train to Mafeking unharmed.
In April 1902 Ferry was one of the two drivers of the ceremonial funeral train that bore Cecil John Rhodes’ coffin from Cape Town to be buried in the Matopo Hills in Rhodesia, an epic journey where the train stopped at every station along the route to allow mourners to pay their respects. In later life he was employed on the Cape Town to Simonstown line.
William Ferry married Miss Mary Ann Crament in Bechuanaland, with whom he had five children, one of whom, Gerald Edgar Ferry, was Mayor of Cape Town between 1967 and 1969. William Ferry died in Cape Town on 17 October 1944.
Trooper David Francis died of wounds at Mafeking on 3 February 1900. ‘A shell from the 94-pounder struck one of the splinter roofs at Cannon Kopje, smashing right in killing one man (Knox) who was really suffocated before he could be got out, breaking another man’s leg (Francis) and badly injuring another man’s back (T. Goddard). A heavy beam had fallen across his chest trapping him, he could be heard calling but could not be got out.’ Francis died after an operation proved to be too much for him. He is buried at Mafeking in a private grave with his brother, 2576 Trooper Walter Francis, B.S.A. Police, who was killed at Mafeking on 6 May 1900.
They were killed three months apart but within a few yards of each other, close to Cannon Kopje. Both are commemorated on the obelisk in the Town Hall Square, Mafeking.
Walter Francis’ Q.S.A. was sold in the Spink Anglo-Boer War Anniversary sale, October 1899.