The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Trooper George Wall

George Henry Wall was one of the Australians who served in the Boer War. He was born at Currajong-Bushman's in 1872, (renamed Parkes in 1873) in Central Western New South Wales. Little is known of George, his family or background until his Boer War service. Records show that his 'next of kin' was located at the township of Young, NSW. What we do know of George is that he would have been around 27 or 28 at the time of his enlistment. He would have been single, have a chest measurement of 86 centimetres or greater, be a good rifle shot and also a good horseman as these were some of the selection criteria for Boer War Volunteers. We have been told, first hand, that George was around 180 centimetres tall.

George joined D Squadron, 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles as a Trooper and his service number was 1408. Following initial training in very early 1901, D Squadron sailed for South Africa on the 15th March 1901 aboard the SS Marplemore. On the 3 April 1901, Trooper Wall and his Squadron disembarked at Port Elizabeth, South Africa under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Frederick Cox who had already served in the Boer conflict, as had all the officers of D Squadron.

From the 3 May 1901 until the 28 April 1902, George and his Squadron were attached to British Colonel Rimington's column which served in the Eastern Transvaal and the Eastern Orange Free State as this was where the main military action was taking place at that time. The tactics had, by now, changed primarily to that of Guerrilla Warfare. Both the 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles and the defending Boers were well suited to this form of combat. These Guerrilla manoeuvres included many 'Drives' the principle engagements being:

The 'Harrismith Drive' which took place in the early part of 1901 and resulted in the capture of 251 prisoners, 26,000 cattle and 2,000 horses;

Participation in the Boer Breakout at 'Langverwacht' which occurred in February 1902.

On the 4 May 1902, Trooper Wall and D Squadron, 3 New South Wales Rifles, again under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Cox embarked at Cape Town for Australia aboard 'RMS Aurania'. The Squadron reached Sydney on the 3 June 1902, after stopping at Albany, Adelaide and Melbourne.

For his Boer War service, George was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with five Clasps.

Following his discharge from the 3rd New South Wales Mounted Rifles, George once again faded into obscurity. The NSW and Victorian Electoral Roles show that he resided at:

• 1930 – Labourer at Howlong – NSW

• 1936 – Miner at Wooragee – Victoria.

The Admission Register of the Ovens Benevolent Asylum in Beechworth record that George was an inpatient there from the 6th April to the 5 November 1936. It could be assumed that on his discharge from that Institution that he settled in the Wooragee Valley. This picturesque valley is situated to the east and below the Goldfields Town of Beechworth in North-East Victoria. It was first settled in the 1840’s, primarily for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, along with some tin and gold mining exploitation. It would appear that George lived in the Wooragee Valley as a miner from December 1936 until his death in mid-1949. Here he lived alone in a canvas tent on the Fanning property which is still owned by the family today.

On the 25 July 1949, Trooper George Wall was again admitted to the Ovens Benevolent Asylum in Beechworth where he died the following day. The cause of his death was recorded as 'old age'. He was buried in the Beechworth Cemetery on the 29 July 1949, aged 77 years in an unmarked grave which is located in Roman Catholic Section A – Plot 124. Tragically, George is buried with two former patients from Mayday Hills Mental Hospital. This signifies that he was likely to have been buried as a pauper. The only attendees on the day of his funeral were:

• Father Ryan – the Roman Catholic Priest,

• a Beechworth RSL Sub-branch Bugler and;

• the Wooragee property owner, Tom Fanning and his wife Margaret, along with their young children.

To date, Trooper Wall is one of only two Boer War soldiers commemorated in the Beechworth Cemetery. Trooper George Hodgskin Nethercott of the Rhodesian Regiment was killed in the first weeks of the commencement of the Boer War. Although his body lies in an unmarked grave near the junction of the South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana borders, his family organised a monument in his memory in the Beechworth Cemetery. George Nethercott was born in Beechworth in 1866.

The Beechworth Cemetery Trust, in conjunction with the Beechworth RSL sub-branch is arranging to have a headstone erected in memory of Trooper Wall, recognising his service to his country. This will culminate with a headstone unveiling and official RSL Memorial Service to be held on the 31 May 2017 – exactly 115 years to the day of the ending of the Boer War.

References and Acknowledgements

Trove – Sydney Morning Herald (Friday – 23 June 1902)
PL Murray – 'Official Records of the Australian Military Contingent to the War in South Africa'
National Boer War Memorial Association
Bernard Fanning – Property Owner – Wooragee, Victoria
The Beechworth RSL Sub-branch
Australian Light Horse Association Ltd
Australian Light Horse Research Centre

Robert Scott for the Beechworth Cemetery Trust
May 2017


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