“A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (3)

The Second Boer War (1899 – 1902) was fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer (Dutch) states, the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, over the British Empire’s influence in South Africa. The British Empire owned Cape Colony and the Bechuanaland Protectorate:

The catalyst for the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states.

Arthur John Thurman was born on May 8th 1875, the son of Edward Harrington Thurman and Ann Eliza Thurman. The family lived in Castle Street off Sneinton Hollows. Edward was a maltster with business premises at 33 Sneinton Road. The family house in Castle Street would eventually be given the name of “Gloster Villa”. Here’s present-day Castle Street:

Castle Street is within sight of St Stephen’s Church, the place where DH Lawrence’s parents got married. Here’s the church:

And here’s the High School’s most famous Old Boy:

Arthur John Thurman entered the High School on June 2nd 1888 as Boy No 723. He was thirteen, and he left at the end of the Christmas Term, 1889.

Arthur played for the High School First Team at football on a number of occasions, although the match reports in the school magazine, “The Forester” are not sufficiently detailed to record his rather irregular appearances. Arthur then played for a number of years for Gedling Grove FC before joining the “Notts Club” (today’s Notts County) where he became:

“a valued playing member of the Reserves. He will be remembered by a great number of football enthusiasts as a useful player. Upon the accident to W Bull, he found a place in the League team”.

Here’s Notts County around this time. If you know how to play musical chairs, you won’t be surprised to know that this team doubled up as the Notts County Musical Moustaches team:

On December 3rd 1898, Walter Bull, the regular First Team Number 4, was seriously injured during County’s 0-1 defeat at Meadow Lane. They were playing Everton, a team who had fielded seven international players for the game.

Initially Bull’s place was taken by Alfred B Carter in a 4-1 victory over Bury. On December 17th though, Arthur Thurman took Alfred’s place in the Notts County team. Making his début, he performed well as a right half in a 1-1 draw at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground, in front of some 4,000 spectators. County’s goal was scored by Harry Fletcher. On December 24th, Arthur was equally successful in a 1-0 home victory over Aston Villa. He gave what “The Forester”, called “an exceedingly creditable exhibition as a hard and consistent half back.” County’s winning goal came from Alexander Maconnachie. This was a famous victory as Aston Villa would finish this, the 1898-1899 season, as League Champions.

Here’s a County v Villa game of the period. Strangely, the goalkeeper seems to be dressed the same as the rest of the team, except for his cap:

After the  Aston Villa game, County’s number four shirt went to Ernie Watts for six games until Walter Bull had recovered. Then Walter got back his old shirt and Ernie Watts kept his place in the team, for the rest of the season.

Arthur would probably have played many more games for Notts County, but the Second Boer War broke out in October 1899, caused by the shocking treatment by the Boers of British gold prospectors in the Transvaal. A completely understandable reason for a war, and the deaths of 30,000 men. Bad treatment of our gold prospectors? Unforgivable. The “bad treatment” seems to be getting really out of hand at this point :

According to “The Forester”, Arthur was

“among the first to volunteer to join the Imperial Yeomanry, a mounted unit made up exclusively of volunteers.”

They were never a particularly effective regiment. Many of them had already :

“been captured two or three times, giving the Boers on each occasion a free horse, a free rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition “.

Arthur was accepted into the Imperial Yeomanry and left England in the SS Winifredian. Here’s the Imperial Yeomanry and their Dad. You may laugh, but I’ve seen the paternity test results :

During the voyage Arthur impressed his superiors with his demeanour and his always immaculate appearance, and he was promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant in the 12th Company of the 3rd Battalion of the Yeomanry. He was ordered to join Lord Methuen’s force and duly proceeded to Boshof in the Orange River Colony.

At Boshof he was seized with enteric fever and he died on May 30th 1900, presumably without seeing a single Boer.

There were 23,026 British casualties during this war, but the majority, some 60% at least, succumbed not to the Boers, but to enteric fever, or typhoid, as it is now called.

The news of Arthur’s death was received:

“……….with deep regret by a large circle of friends and acquaintances in Nottingham.

The announcement of his untimely death, at the early age of 25, comes in singularly sad circumstances. He leaves a widow and one child, born subsequent to his departure for the seat of war.”

Arthur’s death is commemorated on the Boer War Memorial which used to stand in Queen Street in the city centre, but was moved in 1927 to the Forest Recreation Ground. He is recorded as “S.Q.M.S. A. Thurman”, one of three members of the Imperial Yeomanry / South Notts Hussars who died.



Filed under Africa, History, military, Nottingham, Politics, The High School

30 responses to ““A long forgotten war, wasted young lives” (3)

  1. Thank you for making it possible for us to remember all those young people who lived for such a short while. They should be remembered.

    • Indeed they should. I was surprised to see that at one point in this African war, the British were sending their prisoners all the way to India and Sri Lanka to be held captive. There were also Indian volunteers who fought for the British, and Wikipedia adds :
      “The policy on both sides was to minimise the role of nonwhites but the need for manpower continuously stretched those resolves. At the Battle of Spion Kop in Ladysmith, Mahatma Gandhi with 300 free Indians and 800 indentured Indian labourers started the Ambulance Corps serving the British side.”

    • Wars always seem to resemble the fire engine rushing to the fire. A political crisis, a solution based on violence, whether a just or an unjust one, but then, thirty years later, everybody is friends again.
      And always forgotten are the more than 100,000 human beings who died as a direct result of the conflict.

  2. Sad but interesting read. The impact of disease in war is often overlooked.

    • Yes, it is often overlooked. The Crimean War was a good example of the usual situation. 4,602 were killed in battle and 17,580 by disease. The First World War was the first war where the British had more killed by the enemy than by disease.
      The reason was that the British Army had 10,000,000 vaccine doses against typhoid and vaccination was compulsory. Had this not been the case, calculating by Boer War figures, total British casualties would have been 3,354,792 dead. And that is without counting any possible typhoid outbreaks in Great Britain, brought back by returning soldiers.

  3. GP

    The Boer Wars I did learn about in school. I wonder why they chose those, when you and Derrick agree that they were a waste.

    • I suppose they were a good example of a colonial war and the difficulties it posed. By the end, the whole situation was a disaster. Boer civilians were being interned in camps, where they died by the thousand from disease, and the Boer soldiers became untouchable guerillas who slipped away into the night. Try:
      To me, some aspects of the situation are perhaps rather redolent of Vietnam, but that is only a guess, and in any case, I had always supposed that you were too young to be at school during the Vietnam years !

      • GP

        I lived with those casualty lists in the newspapers each day, John. I remember too much about Vietnam.

      • The casualty lists in the newspapers always have a huge impact on people. During WW1 in England the people who had shouted for Germany to be taught a lesson began to realise that there was a large cost in British lives for everything that the Germans learnt.

      • GP

        In reality, no one wins in a war.

  4. 23,000 deaths is a huge number, especially when the majority were from disease! Very little Is ever said about the Boer war, let’s hope the First World War doesn’t go the same way!

    • I have a blog post scheduled about WW1 and the fact that it was the first war where the British had more killed by the enemy than by disease.
      The British Army had 10,000,000 vaccine doses against typhoid and vaccination was compulsory. If they had not done this, calculating by Boer War figures, total British casualties would have been 3,354,792 dead.
      We forget that typhoid has never really gone away, with 500 cases still recorded every year and a major outbreak in Aberdeen as recently as 1964.

      • Wow! I didn’t realise that. These diseases really are nasty. You can see why some evil minded soul made the link between them and biological warfare.

      • Yes, you can. Covid appears not to be artificially created but, sadly, most countries have at least one evil minded soul, and people like that are more than capable of manufacturing dreadful diseases worse than Covid.
        Could you imagine what we would need to do if the Russians dropped some Novichok on us? We wouldn’t stand a chance!

      • We certainly wouldn’t!

      • Jan

        That typhus and the other traditional “war plagues” did not decimate both frontlines during WW1 is a testament to the scientific approach towards a war of attrition. What is less well known is that in 1915 the Central Powers held-back from attacking Serbia because of a typhus epidemic. And in 1917, after the cessation of hostilities with Russia, the Germans were unable to immediately redeploy their forces to the West, because of the danger of bringing back the disease from Eastern Europe, where it was endemic.

      • Thanks a lot for those two insights. I hadn’t realised that that was the case at all, although it doesn’t surprise me too much.

  5. All three of these posts highlight the absolutely stupid and wasteful thing war is. I will find you a photograph of the Boer War Memorial in the main street of Ballarat. It might take a while.

  6. Pingback: The Boer War. – Paol Soren

  7. Huge lump in my throat especially after seeing that picture of just going into high school. I’m SO done with war, John, for my soul cries out PEACE. Such tragedies and so many young lives taken all over greed. It’s sickening!

    • It certainly is, but don’t despair. There has been peace in Western Europe now for 80 years and in North America for even longer. Most of the wars seem to be in Africa or Asia and a great many of them boil down to religion. Perhaps one day people will find better things to do than fight and die about such things.

  8. I’ve looked a bit in to my English ancestor who served in the Boer War, but it’s not a conflict I know heaps about. Perhaps you can add to my knowledge?
    George Herbert Whitley DOB October Qtr 1867 attended the Crossley Orphan Home and School, Savile Park, Skircoat, Yorkshire from around 1875 to 1883. The 1912 “Old Boys” publication claims he “Did duty through the siege of Mafeking” but I’m not sure his war records substantiate that.
    On 20th Jul 1895 he headed for Algoa Bay (near Port Elizabeth) via Capetown per the Lismore Castle. Listed on both manifests as a “miner” (gold, silver or tin?), he returned per “Guelph” on 13 Nov 1899.
    Perhaps he once more returned to Sth Africa and was on the scene when the 2nd Anglo War broke out, or he enlisted from England.
    I can definitely place him as a Section Leader attached to Brigade 6 in the Imperial Stretcher Corp on 23rd March 1900 and Discharged 7 May 1901 on “completion of service”.
    He applied for the Queen’s South Africa Medal on roll #4957 Was awarded the Queens South African medal (QSA) with the clasps Belfast, Laings Nek (both Natal) and also the South Africa 1901 i.e. three clasps.

    Any thoughts gratefully accepted.

    After the war it seems he stayed on in South Africa and even had a government job for some time – still to be fact checked. He spent time in South Africa, Gibraltar and Canada where he married at age 58. Ultimately he settled in Tasmania Australia where in 1933 aged 65 he declared himself a “retired civil servant”. Died there in 1958 aged 90! Occupation “Gentleman”. 🙂

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