Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Boer War

The above poster was used, presumably, as part of a recruiting drive for the Imperial Yeomanry who were to fight in what became known as The Second Boer War, 1899-1902. The king referred to must have been Edward VII who came to the throne after Queen Victoria died in 1901. The only member of our clan who served in the Second Boer War was 38432 Private John McIlhagga who was in the 134th Company, the 29th (Irish Horse) of The Imperial Yeomanry. In Ireland 120 men were recruited in February 1900, as reported in The Irish Times. My understanding is that the 29th was raised in 1901, and therefore must have taken part in what is referred to as the Third Phase of that war, when the Boers adopted guerilla tactics. This was from September 1900 to May 1902, so started in Victoria's reign, which is interesting because John was awarded the QSA. the Queen's South Africa Medal. This award may mean that he was discharged, perhaps wounded, before the death of Queen Victoria. I have not been able to confirm this.

A Wikipedia article on this phase of the war includes the following rather derogatory comment on the Regiment: '(t)he Boer commandos were especially effective during the initial guerilla phase of the war because [Commander Lord] Roberts had assumed that the war would end with the capture of the Boer capitals and the dispersal of the main Boer armies. Many British troops were therefore redeployed out of the area, and had been replaced by lower-quality contingents of Imperial Yeomanry and locally-raised irregular corps'. "Lower quality" or not, John won the QSA medal! I'm afraid I cannot be certain to which clan family John belonged, though he may have been the John G. McIlhagger who returned to Ireland to work in the Belfast Shipyards as a joiner.

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