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Private John Brooks

Private John Brooks was a man who was identified by some to be of Australian Aboriginal descent, but was West Indian, from Maindample near Mansfield in Victoria he joined the Mounted Infantry squadron of the First Victorian Contingent for the Boer War. Half of this contingent was infantry but they were mounted in South Africa.

In a letter home he described how an English officer came over to chat with the men of the first Victorian contingent and seeing Brooks he asked pompously "Ah, so you must be the black tracker".

At the Battle of Pink Hill in February 1900 John Brooks showed great heroism and deserved at least a ‘mention in despatches’. He was well written up in Major W.T.Reay’s book FROM MELBOURNE TO BLOEMFONTEIN:

"To the names of those who have already been mentioned as having shown individual heroism on that fatal day I must add that of Private Brooks of Mansfield. This man saw Lieutenant Roberts fall and, under a terrific cross-fire went to his aid. He gave the doomed officer a drink and helped to dress his wounds. He was sent back across the fire zone, crossed it safely and actually returned – three trips in all, with the bullets cutting the ground all around him. Brooks helped to carry Roberts off, and gave similar assistance when Lawdorn fell wounded."

On 1 May 1900 he transferred to the Provisional Mounted Police. After his return home he joined up again and went back to South Africa, serving in the 2nd Australian Commonwealth Horse.

Bill Woolmore

  

Source: Flinders Ranges Research
 

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