Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards

Forgotten voices of Empire.

Walter Cooper a postman from Arbroath has recieved a letter from his son, Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards, from Modder River, and is dated 30th November. He says: “l have pulled through all safe up till now. I have been through all three battles€” Belmont, on the 23d,  Graspan. on the 25th, and Modder River on the 28th. So you can tell mother that we celebrated your silver wedding on the 28th in great style. There were plenty salutes fired anyway.

Belmont was a deadly fight. We charged right up the hill with fixed bayonets. The officer on my right was shot through the cheek, the fellow on my left was shot through the leg. Luck was in my way, and I got, to the hilltop all right. The Boers on the top did not stay long, I tell you.

There were thousands on the hill opposite, and they poured in volley after volley. Poor Sergeant Wilson, to whom I used to bowman, was killed the beginning of the fight. Belmont lasted fully six hours, eight hours, and Modder 14 hours. The General said it was one of the hottest fights in the annals the British Army. We lost heavily at the river. We fixed bayonets and charged right across the river.

Two fellows were drowned in crossing. It was very deep some parts. However, we did not forget the Boers when we did get across. We are about 122 miles from Kimberley. I hope to be home soon again if all goes well. Tell all the boys that l am getting on ‘champion.’ We get a  big feed some days, other days we have nothing to eat at all. There are plenty of ostrich farms round about here.

27-BBBB-The-Foot-Guards-at-Modder-River

Modder River


Private Walter Cooper was born in 1874 at Abroath, Scotland. He was a ‘Boot Finisher’ but joined the Scots Guards on the 5th of July 1895. On the 21st October 1899 his regiment was sent to South Africa, he spent a total of 180 days and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps for Modder River and Belmont. He served a total of 12 years with the colours before being discharged in July 1907. He emigrated in New Zealand and died there in 1932.

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Sergeant H R Martineau VC

For Valour

Horace Robert Martineau (31 October 1874 – 7 April 1916) of the Protectorate Regiment (N.W. Cape Colony) was awarded his Victoria Cross on the 26th December 1899 in an action near Mafeking.

He originally enlisted in the 11th Hussars and served in India before buying his discharge and emigrating to South Africa.

On the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, Martineau joined the Protectorate Regiment (N.W. Cape Colony) as a sergeant. He was awarded the VC in an action near Mafeking. His citation in the London Gazette reads:

On the 26th December, 1899, during the fight at Game Tree, near Mafeking, when the order to retire had been given, Sergeant Martineau stopped and picked up Corporal Le Camp, who had been struck down about 10 yards from the Boer trenches, and half dragged, half carried, him towards a bush about 150 yards from the trenches.

In doing this Sergeant Martineau was wounded in the side, but paid no attention to it, and proceeded to stanch and bandage the wounds of his comrade, whom he, afterwards, assisted to retire. The firing while they were retiring was very heavy and Sergeant Martineau was again wounded. When shot the second time he was absolutely exhausted from supporting his comrade, and sank down unable to proceed further. He received three wounds, one of which necessitated the amputation of his arm near the shoulder.

martinuea

He was visiting New Zealand when the First World War broke out and he immediately  joined up as a territorial officer in the 14th (South Otago) Regiment, and enlisted as a Lieutenant. He subsequently served in Suez and at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Infantry Brigade, New Zealand and Australian Division of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps ANZAC.

After falling ill he was evacuated to Egypt but was involved in an altercation with two other officers which which involved Martineau’s use of insubordinate language. After an investigation of the charge the Commandant of Base Headquarters Alexandria, Brigadier-General McGregor, sent a letter to General Headquarters at Mudros on 21 September 1915 recommending that as Martineau was in possession of the VC “his services be dispensed with without trial and that he be sent back to New Zealand”

He was stuck off the strength of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force but fell ill again and died in Dunedin Hospital. As the illness was a continuation of the sickness he first contracted while on Gallipoli, Martineau was categorised as having died after discharge from the NZEF from disease contracted while on active service, and was included in the roll of honour listing New Zealand’s war dead.

The Sphere 13th April 1901.