The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Captain Fletcher Quintal MID

Captain Fletcher Evelyn Quintal, NSWIB, 3NSWMR, ‘Quintals Scouts’? Norfolk Island’s most senior soldier and descendent of Bounty Mutineers.

Fletcher Quintal enlisted with other Norfolk Island volunteers in the NSW Imperial Bushmen (6th Bushmen Regiment) in 1900 as a private (No175). He was a first generation Norfolk Islander and a descendant of Fletcher Christian and Matthew Quintal. He was slightly wounded at Buffels Hoek 18-8-1900 and promoted to Lance Sergeant 1-12-1900. When the unit returned to Australia in May 1901, many members agreed to serve on in South Africa often with offers of promotion. Some soldiers agreed to serve a full 12 months tour and were posted to new units such as 3NSWIB or 2NSWMR. Others signed on initially for only six months and remained posted to their existing unit even though that unit no longer existed but were attached for duty to another unit. Quintal was commissioned as a lieutenant and remained posted to NSWIB and attached for duty with 7th New Zealand Contingent in Lt Col Grey’s column which also included the 6th Queensland Imperial Bushmen.

Thus Quintal was still posted to NSWIB when he received a Mention in Dispatches (8-10-01 published in the London Gazette 3 Dec 1901 page 8544 position 1)

John Stirling’s account of the action is as follows:

"In August Garratt's column made substantial captures at Bultfontein on the 12th, and on the 16th he detached 330 mounted troops under Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable H White, who at dawn on the 19th completely surprised Spannerberg's Laager, taking 25 prisoners, including Mr Steyn, Landdrost of Vredefort, 31 rifles, and much transport. Lord Kitchener noted that White's men covered 56 miles in 36 hours. At daylight on the 24th 3 Boers were killed, 8 taken prisoners, and again many waggons and Cape carts were captured. The enemy, numbering about 300, made a determined attempt to retake their convoy, but after five hours' fighting they were driven off”

The MID citation reading:

"Greatly distinguished themselves (with Captain C Simpson 7th NZ Regt) in the night capture of Spannersburg’s Laager near Honingspruit 16 August 1901”

He was thus attached to the 7th NZ Contingent but still listed in the award as ‘NSW Bushmen’. In June 1901 he was involved in an incident at Kaffir Spruit with Captain Richard Seddon, the son of the then Prime Minister of New Zealand. This led to a famous libel action in New Zealand in 1904 (Seddon/Taylor case). Quintal gave evidence in the case on Seddon’s behalf. Part of his evidence is as follows:

"The evidence of Fletcher Quintal, taken on commission in Wellington, was then rendered by Dr Findlay (Seddon’s KC), and it was to the effect generally that Captain Seddon had acted, from a military standpoint, in the best possible- manner on the occasion of the Kaffir Spruit engagement. Referring to the death of Dillon, he stated that when Dillon was wounded he was sitting on his horse in an exposed position. My horse was hit at the same time. If Dillon had chosen to take cover the chances are that he would have escaped. I consider that Dillon's exposing, himself in this manner, though a very brave act, was very unwise, looking at the number of Seddon's troops and the Boers, and the nature of the attack, the scouts were receiving as much support as circumstances justified." In conclusion he added: "From first to last that day I could see nothing amounting to cowardice on the part of Captain Seddon. I saw nothing on that day amounting to desertion of the scouts or his men by Captain Seddon. From the time we sighted the Boers to the close of the engagement I saw nothing which in my opinion amounted to an error of judgment on the part of Captain Seddon”

Lt Col Francis Garrett (6th Dragoon Guards) took over the column at the end of June and was then common practice created his own reconnaissance squadron. On his World War One enlistment form Quintal refers to it as the ‘OC’s Scouts’ a term which has created confusion with historians including suggestions that it might have meant Kitcheners Scouts. He seems to have been attached to it at some point late in 1901. The rank of Captain which he apparently had at the end of the war would indicate that he was actually in command of it at the end of the war and trooper Bluegum confirms that. The personnel for this unit would have been drawn from 6QIB and 7NZ Cont. It is possible too that Charles Cox’s 3rd NSWMR who were operating nearby and later seemed at least for a while to be under Garrett’s command (notes imply that near the end of the war Garrett had command of several columns) may have also supplied men for this group. It is certainly true that Quintal was placed on the 3NSWMR medal roll for the purposes of receiving his KSA. Conan Doyle gives an account of action involving 7NZ and Cox’s 3NSWMR in February 1902:

"This was delivered shortly after midnight on February 23rd. It struck the British cordon at the point of juncture between Byng's column and that of Rimington. So huge were the distances which had to be covered, and so attenuated was the force which covered them, that the historical thin red line was a massive formation compared to its khaki equivalent. The chain was frail and the links were not all carefully joined, but each particular link was good metal, and the Boer impact came upon one of the best. This was the 7th New Zealand Contingent, who proved themselves to be worthy comrades to their six gallant predecessors. Their patrols were broken by the rush of wild, yelling, firing horsemen, but the troopers made a most gallant resistance. Having pierced the line the Boers, who were led in their fiery rush by Manie Botha, turned to their flank, and, charging down the line of weak patrols, overwhelmed one after another and threatened to roll up the whole line. They had cleared a gap of half a mile, and it seemed as if the whole Boer force would certainly escape through so long a gap in the defences. The desperate defence of the New Zealanders gave time, however, for the further patrols, which consisted of Cox's New South Wales Mounted Infantry (3NSWMR), to fall back almost at right angles so as to present a fresh face to the attack. The pivot of the resistance was a maxim gun, most gallantly handled by Captain Begbie and his men. The fight at this point was almost muzzle to muzzle, fifty or sixty New Zealanders and Australians with the British gunners holding off a force of several hundred of the best fighting men of the Boer forces. In this desperate duel many dropped on both sides. Begbie died beside his gun, which fired eighty rounds before it jammed. It was run back by its crew in order to save it from capture. But reinforcements were coming up, and the Boer attack was beaten back. A number of them had escaped, however, through the opening which they had cleared, and it was conjectured that the wonderful De Wet was among them. How fierce was the storm which had broken on the New Zealanders may be shown by their roll of twenty killed and forty wounded, while thirty dead Boers were picked up in front of their picket line. Of eight New Zealand officers seven are reported to have been hit, an even higher proportion than that which the same gallant race endured at the battle of Rhenoster Kop more than a year before. It was feared at first that the greater part of the Boers might have escaped upon this night of the 23rd, when Manie Botha's storming party burst through the ranks of the New Zealanders. It was soon discovered that this was not so, and the columns as they closed in had evidence from the numerous horsemen who scampered aimlessly over the hills in front of them that the main body of the enemy was still in the toils.”

Interestingly enough he gravitated to Charles Cox’s 6th ALH Regiment in World War One. (Cox was CO of 3NSWMR) The customs of the day were that these scouting units were named either after the column commander or the unit commander (In Ingouville Williams column it was ‘Hasler’s Scouts’ after the OC Captain Julian Hasler), so either Garrett’s Scouts or Quintal’s Scouts perhaps? It appears that Buffel Hoek was not the only time that he was wounded with family records indicating that he was shot three times during the war although not seriously.

After the war he apparently attended the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 although how he came to do that is not clear as he is not listed on any contingent roll (a photo once existed of him in uniform with fellow officers outside Buckingham Palace) He did however receive the Coronation medal in silver so it is thought that he received a special invitation and travelled direct from South Africa.

When World War One broke out he hurried to Sydney to enlist but was not offered a commission in the AIF. Perhaps his age at 46 might have had something to do with it. Instead of waiting for his chance he enlisted with the ‘A’ Squadron, 6th ALH Regiment where he came to know ‘Trooper Bluegum’ (Oliver Hogue) and figured in a news article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in December 1914. He was promoted to corporal and served with the regiment at Gallipoli. There on 12 June 1915 he was shot through the eye the bullet exiting the skull. After a long recovery and amazing recovery he was discharged from the AIF in 1916 and returned to Norfolk Island.

  
  

He was apparently assigned as an escort officer for the Governor General, HRH, The Duke of Gloucester when he visited the Island in 1946.

This article was submitted to the NBWM webmaster without citation.
 


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