The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra
|Lieutenant Stanley Spence Reid MID - 2 and 6 WAMI|
Victorian Football League Player, Clergyman and Western Australian Soldier
Stanley Reid born in 1872 was a son of the Presbyterian Minister in Swan Hill, Victoria and Boulder in Western Australia. He attended at Caulfield Grammar School, Scotch College and Ormond College, University of Melbourne where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1896. From 1894 he played for the Victorian Football Association club Fitzroy in the back pocket. The Age at the time noting his first game commented
"he is a decided acquisition to the team and that Reid among the backs played almost perfect football throughout".
In 1897 the Fitzroy football club left the VFA and took part in the first VFL competition. Reid went on to play a total of 24 VFL games during the 1897 and 1898 seasons. During 1897 a special game was arranged between the new VFL competition and the Ballarat Football Association effectively a city versus country match. Reid joined the team as a late addition. His final VFL match was the 1898 grand final, ironically one of his Essendon opponents was Charlie Moore, the only other VFL player to die in the war.
As well as his studies and his involvement in the VFL, Reid also joined the Volunteers in Melbourne as a member of the Victorian Mounted Rifles. Reid had served for 18 months as a member of the Victorian Mounted rifles when he moved to Western Australia. On graduating in theology from Ormond College, he was ordained as the first minister to the newly formed Saint Georges Presbyterian Church in the Western Australian gold mining town of Boulder on 15 March 1899 having arrived there in December 1898.
He was a highly skilled horseman and after taking up his post at Boulder he competed in the military sports division of a four-day carnival arranged to aid the St Georges Presbyterian Church in Boulder. He competed in the tilting at the ring without success came second in the tent pegging competition third in the umbrella and cigar race came second in his heat of the rescue race and won his first bout on horseback wrestling only to rip lose his second out to a much heavier and stronger opponent. He was also regarded as an excellent rifle shot.
Shortly after the Boer War broke out he volunteered as Chaplain to the 2nd Western Australian Mounted Infantry contingent only to be told that there was no provision for one. He then volunteered as a private soldier. He thus established a tradition that saw a number of clergy serve as soldiers in World War One.
At a farewell 26 December 1899 Reid a detailed his reasons for joining. He said that whilst he had got over the youthful glamour of war he was also totally prepared to take his part in what was in store to him in South Africa, he added that he hoped that if he returned, those present would be able to say that they have given a farewell to a man who had taken his part for the British Empire. He also stressed that his enlistment had been thought out at some length and was not a consequence of the momentary whim, remarking that to outsiders it might seem peculiar for a clergyman to join as a common soldier, however, in his view when the time and opportunity offered every man should act patriotically as well as talk patriotism and that although there might be questions as to the beginning of the war it was clear that now that it had started they should all unite to see it through.
2 WAMI - six Officers and 97 other ranks with their 125 horses, sailed from Fremantle on the SS Surrey on 3 February 1900. Immediately the Western Australian contingent arrived in South Africa they were attached to the 11th Division of the South African Field Force commanded by Lieutenant-General Reginald Pole Carew. They took part in significant actions in the advance on Pretoria, at Vet River, Zand River, Six-Mile Spruit and Diamond Hill in June 1900. There followed three weeks of patrolling railways in Orange Free State, then the advance on Komati Poort. On 25 July 1900, the division began its advance to Komati Poort on the Komati River at the frontier between Mozambique and South Africa. At Bronkhurst Spruit there was a severe storm that disrupted troop and supply movements. Ptes Reid and J B Campbell were detailed to await a supply wagon. It never came and the two soldiers were thought to have been captured, and listed as ‘missing’ on 28 July. However they turned up on 9 August, having crossed country to avoid capture, reaching Middelburg and the 6WAMI which had halted there to defend the railway. The division eventually reached Komati Poort on 24th September. Now occurred a major scandal. The Western Australian newspaper obtained a letter of his sent to his mother and noting that ‘this letter gives an account of his experiences during a very anxious time’ (that is the time he was missing) published it on 11 October 1900 without seeking Reid’s permission to do so. In it he accused a superior of cowardice. As soon as the military authorities in South Africa became aware of the letter’s publication Reid was placed under arrest and repatriated to Australia although he reached Fremantle along with the rest of the 2nd Western Australian Mounted Infantry contingent on 8 December 1900. No Court Martial was called. To clear his name, Reid demanded a Court of Enquiry, at which his assertions were supported by other witnesses. Having been released from custody and having been selected as one of the 25 returned soldiers to represent the State of Western Australia at the celebrations held in Sydney to celebrate the Federation of Australia on 1 January 1901, Reid was promoted to lieutenant on 7 March 1901, and he joined the 6th Western Australian Mounted Infantry contingent joining 13 other officers
- one of who was his brother, the surgeon, Capt Francis Bently Reid - and the 214 ORs and 237 horses on the SS Ulstermore departing Fremantle 10 March 1901. Reid’s unit saw action in the eastern Transvaal and on 16 May 1901, Reid was badly wounded in the stomach in a heavy firefight on a farm near Brakpan. Reid was taken to a field hospital 62 kilometres from Carolina. Both Reid and his brother were mentioned in dispatches for their bravery at this time. The citation reads;
"Lieutenant S.S. Reid at Brakpan remained with his men though severely wounded early in the fight."
Reid, recovered, rejoined 6th WAMI and was wounded again at Renshoogte on 23 June 1901. His brother was not able to save him.
His brother was to give an account of the operation that took his life.
"On 23 June as soon as it was light enough to march, the 5th and 6th WAMI and Imperial Light Horse, with two colt guns left camp to reconnoitre the surrounding country as the Boer snipers have been giving a lot of annoyance on the previous day. On a kopje about 5 kilometres from camp we lodged the guns in a position in which they had command on all sides with a range of about 3000 metres. From the kopje we advanced the 5th on the left and the 6th in the centre and on the right. We advanced 4 kilometres from the guns to some Kaffirs kraals, where we halted, while Stanley was further ahead with his troops in skirmishing order to see what was over the skyline which was about 5 kilometres away from us. They advanced slowly and when they were near the skyline we heard heavy firing going on. Stanley and his troops disappeared from view behind a ridge and the rifle fire became very heavy and continuous in their direction. Then we saw about 20 mounted men appear from the ridge over which his troops had disappeared from view. We took them to be our men returning until they came within 300 metres or so. Then we discovered that they were Boers chasing two of Stanley's men. We opened fire on them and drove them back. Then these two men told us that of Stanley’s troops two men were killed and three were wounded, the rest being taken prisoners. In the meantime the 5 inch gun had been sent for and taken into position alongside the Colt guns. These now commenced firing on the enemy for a while at a range of about 8 kilometres. After they finished my orderly and myself rode across with the Red Cross flag to the scene of the troop’s engagement. There we found two dead and three wounded-Stanley through the stomach, his sergeant in three places through the neck through the leg and through his lungs; and a private through the chest. We at once dressed Stanley's wounds and made him as comfortable as possible, the men of ours doing all they could to make him comfortable taking off half their own clothes to make a bed for him and to cover him. In about an hour and a half the ambulance wagon came and we took them all back to camp."
Stanley died three days later on the morning of 29 June 1901, his brother again wrote a letter to his parents
"Stanley died at five o'clock. Since he was wounded I have been with him all the time and was with him when he passed away. I had all the surgeons in the camp but they all agreed it was hopeless. He was in considerable pain but stood it as I have seldom seen a man stand it. The men of the contingent fairly worshipped him and are very cut up over his death. Poor Stanley's grave is the best I have seen in South Africa. The men asked leave from the captain to look after the grave. Leave was granted and they worked away at it and made it up splendidly. He was buried in a grave by the men he commanded, situated between those clump of Australian wattles, the large wooden cross bearing his name at its head, with full military honours in a ceremony attended by the commanding officer Colonel Campbell and his staff and representatives of all the regiments comprising the sixth WAMI and conducted by the regimental chaplain, Reid’s old friend, Mr Collick."
His Queen’s South Africa Medal has clasps for Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, Cape Colony, Orange Free State and South Africa 1901. He is buried in Middelburg’s Garden of Remembrance in Transvaal.
John Sweetman with additions by David Deasey