Tribute To Boer War Heroes Finally Comes Home To Derbyshire

By David Prudames | 17 February 2004
Shows a photograph of a large hand painted roll of honour, which as well as featuring lists of names, carries a map, several photographs and a number of painted images.

Photo: the roll of honour details the 128 soldiers from Derbyshire who volunteered to fight in the Boer War in South Africa. Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.

A hand painted roll of honour, offering a unique glimpse into the Boer War (1899-1902) escapades of a single Derbyshire battalion, has been given to the county’s record office.

Measuring 91cm (three ft) by 75cm (two ft, six inches) the document had hung in the local British Legion in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, until it was donated to Derbyshire Record Office last week.

"I am sure there will be a great deal of interest in the roll of honour amongst local people, history enthusiasts and those with a special interest in historical battles," said Cllr Bob Janes, Derbyshire County Council cabinet member for community services.

"It will provide an insight into the lives of ancestors for older generations and bring history alive for younger people."

On January 20, 1900 128 soldiers and seven officers of the Derbyshire contingent of the fourth Battalion of the eighth Company Imperial Yeomanry set off from Derby to South Africa.

Shows a close-up photograph of a group photograph of an entire battalion of men, dressed in uniform, some holding rifles.

Photo: the entire battalion, photographed before it embarked for South Africa in 1900. Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.

The survivors arrived back on June 9, 1901 having fought in no less than 73 battles. This incredible record was commemorated in a roll of honour commissioned by the battalion and hand painted by Mr A Roberts of Otter Street, Derby.

Recording the names and brief addresses of everybody in the contingent, the document includes a number of original photographs depicting the entire group as well as all seven officers.

A detailed map of South Africa shows the area in which the conflict took place and offers a context to the battalion's year-long campaign.

Most-poignantly the names of those who were killed in action, taken prisoner, wounded or, at the time, dying of disease are also listed.

Shows a close-up photograph of a series of portrait photographs of officers. Their names are written in scroll-style banners next to each photo.

Photo: Courtesy Derbyshire Record Office.

Speaking to the 24 Hour Museum the record office’s Margaret O’Sullivan explained that with such a high level of detail about the battalion’s war effort, the artefact is of great historic significance.

"It’s very interesting because it’s uncommon to get such a clear impression of the campaign," said Margaret.

"It shows every little spot they passed through and shows all the names. Even with diaries they only show the main places where they camped and so on."

Despite this level of national significance, as Margaret explained, the roll of honour is of specific interest in Derbyshire and many local families might find the names of their ancestors on it.

"As well as the names, it gives their addresses," she added. "We know there are likely to be local descendants, it covers everybody from the ordinary working class to gentry families."

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