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Photographs from postcards, courtesy of Clive Wood
South African 'Boer' War 1900

Ambulance Corps
St John Ambulance Brigade - Rushden Volunteers 1900
Back: Pte. A Okins, Pte. H Swindall, Pte. J Wooding, Pte. A Taylor, Pte. C E Long, Pte. A E Beardsmore.
Front: Pte. J Tompkins, Pte. W J Warner, Pte. J C Wright, Sergt. W Knight, Pte. L Baxter,
Pte. L Munday, Pte. F Tassell.

Rushden Echo, 15th December 1899, transcribed by Kay Collins

Private Green, of the Wollaston Ambulance Corps, has been selected for service in South Africa. Private Green is well known as goalkeeper for the Rushden Town Football Club. He left Wollaston on Wednesday. Just before he departed the members of the corps assembled at the Co-operative Hall, where Staff-sergeant Watts, addressing the men, congratulated Private Green who said his aim would be to do his duty. He was presented with a Bible, diary, and fountain pen by the corps, and ambulance kit, and three books on ambulance work, by Chief Supt. Hilton. The employees of Mr Pratt Walker on Wednesday also presented Private Green with a silver-mounted cigar case and a box of cigars, and wished him a safe journey, and a speedy return.

Rushden Echo, 22nd December 1899, transcribed by Kay Collins

A Good Send-off for Rushden Ambulance Men
This morning three members of the Rushden Ambulance Corps, Private L Baxter, Corporal W Knight and Private L Munday, were given a hearty send-off on staring for South Africa. They were met at the Coffee Tavern by the other members of the Corps, and the Rushden Temperance Band led the way to the station. As they were leaving by the 12.50 train there was a large gathering of the townspeople to witness their departure, and Superintendent A Cave and First-officer Swindall accompanied the men to Wellingborough whence they left for St Pancras, en route for Southampton. Before the train started from Rushden, Supt. Cave addressed the men, and said they were bidding good-bye to three of their best members, and he was sure they all wished each of them well and a speedy return. He presented each of the departing ambulance men with a fountain pen. Fist Officer Swindall added a few words, and wished the men a speedy return. He was sure they would uphold the honour of the Rushden corps. Messrs Cave and Sons gave each man a pair of army boots and a pair of army canvas boots, the first of a large army order. Next Wednesday another detachment of Ambulance men will leave.

Rushden Echo, 5th January 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

Ambulance Men to the Front—Not long ago we reported that three Rushden men, Corpl. Knight and Ptes. Baxter and Munday, had left Rushden for the Transvaal. On Monday four more left, Sec. Wright, Ptes. Beardsmore and Warner (Rushden), and Pte. Abbott (Higham Ferrers). A procession, headed by the temperance Band, was formed at the Coffee Tavern, and marched to the station, the band playing lively airs on the way. At the Station a large concourse of people had assembled. The officers present were Supt. A Cave, First Officer Swindall, First Officer Groom (Higham Ferrers), and Mr John Claridge, president of the Rushden Branch.

Rushden Echo, 16th March 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

A Rushden Ambulance Man in Port Elizabeth
Private Leonard Baxter, of Rushden, one of the members of the Rushden Ambulance Corps, who recently went to South Africa for ambulance work, sends us the following interesting letter:-

Drill Hall, Base Hospital, Port Elizabeth, Feb 17, 1900
To the Editor of the Echo.

Dear Sir—After staying at Cape Town for a fortnight we received orders to proceed to port Elizabeth on the S.S. Umbria. We arrived here Feb 2nd. The harbour is not deep enough to allow large vessels to come right to the quay, so had to come ashore in barges towed in by tugs. Port Elizabeth is a town which an Englishman would describe as a quite but very pretty place, standing high above the sea level, with hills rising to a great height and covered with furze. Standing on the top of one of these is the Drill Hall, the home of the local volunteers, the Prince Alfred’s Guards, now serving on the lines of communication. It is now being used for hospital purposes. At present it contains sixty beds, but is capable of holding many more. We have not got many patients here now. Many have rejoined their regiments strong and well and ready to fight for their Queen and country. Although Port Elizabeth is a quite place yet it can with its 40,000 inhabitants rise to an occasion as it did on Friday, when the news came that Kimberley had been relieved at last. There was no time to organise any demonstration, but the Union Jack was to be seen flying in all directions. One exciting incident occurred, a German firm hoisting their national flag which was quickly hauled down and the Union Jack run up into its place amidst loud cheers and singing “Rule Britannia.” Many private houses were illuminated with coloured lanterns and flags. The vessels lying in the harbour sent up a large quantity of rockets and coloured lights. The electric cars were a very pretty sight. They were decorated with coloured electric lamps with the Union Jack flying on all sides. A large party took possession of them and travelled backwards and forwards cheering and singing till late at night. The climate here is everything one might wish for except just in the middle of the day it is rather hot. Being high up, however, there is a lovely breeze. We have a splendid view of the harbour from the hospital grounds, which is a blessing for the poor chaps that are here as they are not allowed outside the grounds, to have something to attract their attention. There are a large number of refugees here, chiefly Kaffirs, who are always walking about looking for work, food, etc. They are being treated with every respect and kindness. They live outside the town in huts which at a distance look like so many bee hives, being built with mud, etc. Thanksgiving services are being held to-morrow in all places of worship. In conclusion may the tide which seems to be turning still flow on.

Yours, etc.
Leonard Baxter.

Rushden Echo, 23rd March 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

Rushden Ambulance Men - Off to the Seat of War
To-day (Friday) witnessed the departure of four more members of the Rushden Ambulance—Privates J Tomkins, Edgar Long, Arthur Ellis and F Tassell—for South Africa. Private F Millard had also volunteered and had been selected, but last night he received a wire telling him that he had been rejected on medical grounds. It is much to be deprecated that our War Office is so bound by red tape that these utterly ridiculous rejections should be sprung upon the men at the last minute. With commendable patriotism and humanitarianism Mr Millard had resigned his situation and had obtained his kit, and now he is not allowed to go.

The employees of Messrs John Cave Ltd., have presented Mr J Tomkins, their fellow workman, with a smoker’s outfit complete, and with a purse of money on his leaving for the front.

Last night a farewell tea and meeting were held in the Public-hall, Rushden, amongst those present being Messrs John Claridge, Arthur Cave, T Swindall, Audland, and C R Owen, Mrs Vann (president of the Ladies’ Ambulance Class), and others.

Rushden Echo, 29th June 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

[Extract from a longer article]
When the ambulance men went out from Rushden for the front, Messrs Cave supplied each of the men from their factory with a pair of these very boots and a pair of canvas shoes. Sergeant Knight, who returned to Rushden last Monday, has brought with him the pair of boots given to him. After four months’ wear they are in splendid condition and have needed no repairs.

Rushden Echo, 6th July 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

Private J C Wright, of the Ambulance Corps, arrived home on Tuesday from South Africa where he was engaged in hospital work when he contracted enteric fever and was invalided. He would have remained at the front for another six months but was not allowed to do so after his illness. Private Taylor, who went out with Private Bettles (whose death we record today), is on his way home, having completed his term of service.

Rushden Echo, 31st August 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins

Private Edgar Long, who accompanied the late Private A Ellis in the last detachment of Ambulance men from this district, returned to Rushden on Saturday last, in excellent health.

Rushden Echo, 5th April 1901, transcribed by Kay Collins

Off to the Front—Two Rushden young men Messrs. Harold Swindall and Sam Newell, will sail on Saturday, to join the hospital division of Major General Baden-Powell’s Police Force. The former left Rushden last week, in company with Private Long, of the Ambulance Corps, while the latter leaves this evening.


Pte. A Ellis
Died Johannesburg
22nd August 1900
The Obelisk commemorating these two men stands near the main entrance
gate of Rushden Cemetery.
Pte. C R Bettles
Died Bloemfontein
29th June 1900
Northampton Mercury, 1st August 1902

A ceremony of an interesting character took place at Rushden cemetery on Saturday afternoon, when in the presence of a large number of the inhabitants and ambulance men from a wide surrounding district, a memorial, which had been erected to the memory of two Rushden men who died from enteric whilst on service in South Africa, was unveiled by Mrs Paul Cave. The ceremony was taken part in by ministers of nearly all the Free Churches in the town, as well as by the Chairman of the Urban Council, and address was given by Chief Supt. Hilton, who mentioned the interesting fact that no less than 52 men of the Wellingborough Division volunteered for service at the front. The memorial to the deceased men consists of a granite obelisk bearing a suitable inscription.


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