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Did the RAMC send anyone into the South African Union Defence Corps during WWI?


I have a Dereham soldier who fought in the Boer War and although there was no real reason for him to be in the First World War - he was 37 when it started and had served his 12 years (mostly as a reservist) that he had signed up for in 1900. I have a post card which I firmly believe to be from him, sent to his wife (all names fit correctly) it doesn't have a readable date on it apart from it being 191 something. The soldier in it looks exactly like one of him in a group (RAMC soldiers) I found from the Boer War in which he is named - well, in mine he is obviously older and he is dressed in the new army uniform (1908 +) so it can't be of him in the Boer War.

For more details please look under -- Soldiers, Dereham - Alfred Thomas COOPER, watchmaker.


I would just like to know if any British soldier in the RAMC would have been sent there in the capacity of helping the wounded as I can find no mention of it anywhere and yet I have this post card which if it's true, proves they did, well at least once.


Has anyone else come across anything like this?


Thanks and take care, Kitty


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The RAMC were certainly in South Africa.  Durban was a major hospital centre with a couple of convalescent depots.


The major source of casualties was from East Africa, as the campaign there progressed sick and wounded soldiers were evacuated by hospital ship  from Dar es Salaam to South Africa (and elsewhere). 


Your man appears to have been attached to the South Africa Union Defence Corps. I can't tell you how that worked but probably some sort of liaison role from the postcard in the other thread.



Edited by kenf48
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Thanks Ken

I've had some good answers to my questions today/tonight - to which when I posted them I had thought I was either going ever so slightly insane or just chasing my tail (which could have been a long job as I haven't got one) going round and round in circles. So, feeling much more hopeful now that I am once again encouraged to going back to writing my book.


It's difficult when you have the honour of having a very rare Great War post card given to you by a family member who knows nothing nor even wants to know about their family history. And then you read on the back that it is definitely their family and they just say "Oh yes, so it is". But you know it's not the Boer War as the uniform is post 1908 - clothing is one of my things - I used to make many Tudor & Victorian costumes when I did enactments for English Heritage and the National Trust (and of course there would be enactors being soldiers at these events too).


So now I have decided to put this wonderful card into my book later on and to cover Alfred's Boer War story along with several other good uns in Chapter 1. This chapter shows what the town was like before WWI and the contrast in the letters which the town soldiers sent back home from their various locations during both wars. Alfred wrote two very good letters describing life in the Boer War and what he had to do – which was principally going round camps to find the wounded or sick.


The card will now go into the 3rd chapter - 1915 where I feature several other 'Dare Devils' as they were nicknamed - the Despatch Riders - we had several from Dereham all of whom seem strangely to have been given different motor bikes - so far, a Singer, Norton, Ariel, Douglas, and another one which motor nut hubby is trying, with his friends to work out what it is as there is no name, logo or badge on it. All we know is it’s not an Enfield.


And then also finding a record which fits his (Alfred) age and regiment along with some of his best friends going with him not only to the Boer War but also three of them - or so I was told as a teenager (way back in the late 1960's) all then returning to South Africa with at least one other to help in the South African company in France. I found WWI records for all of these four friends who returned but not Alfred's, - well only the Forces War Record. Also as teenagers they were all in the 3rd VBNR until it changed in 1908 and became the 5th BNR.


There are also many newspaper reports of them having various accidents and incidens with various officials in town – just boy type pranks but it does show how close they all were.


Added to this there is the fact that one of their number was to become quite famous in 'Natal' as an engineer - G. S. H. Cooper, junior - 5 generations away from Alfred, so a very distant cousin in more ways than one, as from Feb 1902 George S H Cooper junior was in South Africa never to return not even for his father's funeral that year (his father was a solicitor in town and very influential - so it is highly possible that Alfred went there himself without even enlisting - there were in fact 5 very different  Cooper families in town, each having at least two Georges in their families but thankfully all with a different second Christian name - it's been a long hard job sifting through them and sorting them all out but I've now managed it - well for the Cooper families. Alfred had both a younger borther called George Edward and an uncle called George Benjamin.


However, I've still got all the Guymer's, Kerrison's and Barnes's to sort - one of the Barnes family had 7 sons fighting - 2 killed, 3 wounded but that was nothing compared with another family I’ve found with nearly all their family wiped out – 1 woman had - 8 boys, 2 uncles, 1 brother and 3 son-in-laws killed or severely wounded within 2 years – God I can’t imagine what that must have felt like nor do I ever want to with three children and five grandchildren.


So with the second part of Alfred Thomas Cooper history going into the 1915 Daredevil slot and a Gladys Gossip selection (which doesn’t have to be 100% certain – hence its creation) he is now finished and it’s time to turn to another soldier on Monday.


Thanks to all of you who helped but from now on I think I'll have to enter just the soldier's name as the title and then tag it Dereham etc. Otherwise it might become too confusing over time and I also think there might be more hits with a name.


I'll try it and see on Monday unless of course Keith & the rest of admin would rather I just had one very long tread entitled Dereham - and it could get quite long, hence confusing with many different soldier's names. After all I've been researching for almost 50 years now and have gathered a lot of info - I personally never realised how much until I started trying to write these books, (yes, I'm doing one called Inebriated Heaven and another called Past Shops of Dereham - what can I say, I get bored easily when just doing one thing). People like Neil Storey (Crime and Norfolk War Historian) and Ian Clarke (EDP news desk and former editor of Dereham and Fakenham Times) keep telling me I know a lot or that I'm the oracle of Dereham. No, I never am - there's still loads to discover and learn, thankfully - some might say after that last sentence - yea, grammar.


Thanks and take care, Kitty




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