The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Captain (later Brigadier General, MID) Duncan Glasfurd

Ancestor Details

Ancestor's Name: Duncan John Glasfurd

Ancestor's date of birth: 22/11/1873

Ancestor's date of death: 12/11/1916

Cause of Death: Died of Wounds, Somme, WW1

Service and Life Before the Boer War: Born Matheron, India. Educated Fettes College, Edinburgh. commissioned 2nd Battalion Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders in October 1893. Three years later promoted to lieutenant, Adjutant 1 Battalion May 1898. South Africa 1889

Service Number: Officer no number

Colony or State of enlistment: Not Australia, Place of Enlistment: UK (Scotland)

Unit: 1 Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders

Rank attained in Boer War: CAPT, Date Effective: 01/1900

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): BRIGGEN, Date Effective: 01/03/1916

Murray Page: Not applicable, did not serve in an Australian unit.

Contingent: Not applicable

Ship: Orcana, Date of Sailing: 27/10/1899 (from Scotland)

Memorial details: Heilly Station War Cemetery 'A brave man and a Gallant Soldier'

Awards/Decorations/Commendations: Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps. 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, Mention in Despatches. (list unlikely to be comprehensive)

Personal Characteristics: Height: 182 cm, weight 73 kg (1914) From Brigadier General CBB White: 'of all officers I have ever met, Duncan was the most gallant and the most devoted to duty, I have never known anyone in whom the sense of duty was stronger.'

Reasons to go and fight: Soldiering was his profession.

Details of service in war: On arrival at Cape Town the 1st Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders were made part of the 3rd or Highland Brigade under Major General Wauchope, and after his death, under Brigadier General Macdonald. In November 1900 the Brigade was part of Lord Methuen's column advancing up the western railway to attempt to relieve the siege at Kimberley. They took part in Belmont, Grasspan and Modder River, the covering force battles that preceded Magersfontein. At Magersfontein the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the third battalion in the advance to the kopjes. General Wauchope had intended that they should deploy to the left of the Black Watch, but immediately before firing broke out he ordered them to deploy to the right of the two leading battalions. One company was in the act of doing this when the Boers started firing. The front companies merged in the firing line of the Black Watch and Seaforths, and the rear companies remained all day about the right rear of the Black Watch. A portion of a company on the right succeeded in wiping out, either killing or capturing, a party of about 40, chiefly Scandinavians, who had been pushed forward by the Boers. Although not suffering so seriously in the first outburst as the Black Watch and Seaforths, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were fully exposed all day to the terrible fire from the Boer trenches. Their casualties were about 26, killed and 67 wounded. One officer and 3 men were mentioned in Lord Methuen's despatch of 15 February 1900.

At Paardeberg the battalion was on the right of the. Again it was, as regards casualties, rather luckier than the sister regiments. Losses, however, were heavy enough: 13 non-commissioned officers and men with the battalion were killed, and 7 officers and 78 men wounded. Colonel Hannay, who had commanded the battalion until June 1899, and who was in command of a force of Mounted Infantry, was killed, and Lieutenant Courtenay of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Mounted Infantry company was also killed. One officer and 4 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' despatch of 31 March 1900.

On the way to Heilbron the services of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as rear-guard were very valuable. The least unsteadiness would have been disastrous.

On 12 July the battalion left their Highland brethren, going from Heilbron to the Transvaal, where they formed, along with the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Border Regiment, and the 2nd Berkshire Regiment, a new brigade under Brigadier General Cunningham, and part of a force under Lieutenant General Ian Hamilton. Hamilton's force was the left wing of Lord Roberts' army in the advance towards Balmoral, 16 to 25 July 1900. Thereafter Hamilton was sent north-west of Pretoria, and after some stiff fighting this column again went east to Balmoral and thence to Nelspruit, arriving there on 4 September. At the end of September the battalion was withdrawn from the Delagoa line and again sent west of Pretoria under Cunningham, and for some months they assisted in guarding Rustenburg, Oliphant, and Megato Neks, and escorted convoys from Commando Nek to Rustenburg. During these actions was seriously wounded in October 1900. He was invalided to the UK. []

Service and life after the Boer War: From April to November 1901, Glasfurd participated in operations against the Mad Mullah in Somalia. He returned India but was again redeployed to participate in further operations against the Mad Mullah in 1903-04, in which he commanded the 4th Somali Camel Corps. For his services in Somalia, Glasfurd was mentioned in dispatches.

After another tour in India, Glasfurd returned to Scotland in June 1908, where he became staff captain for coast defences, Scottish Command. Later that, year he was selected to attend the staff college at Camberley, England. Graduating in 1909, he rejoined his regiment in Malta in May 1910. In November, he was appointed brigade major of the Lothian Infantry Brigade.

On 24 June 1912, Glasfurd was seconded to the Australian Army as Director of Military Training, with the rank of captain. He was responsible for the program of compulsory training of cadets. Glasfurd was enthusiastic about the task, but dissatisfied with the quality of training being carried out by some of the area officers, whom he regarded as unsuitable for this particular task. He was also concerned about the volume of clerical work that the area officers were burdened with. On 20 September 1913, Glasfurd was promoted to major in the British and Australian Armies.

When war was declared in 1914, Glasfurd immediately requested permission to rejoin his regiment. Permission was not forthcoming; Major General Bridges needed a staff college graduate for his 1st Division Headquarters and Glasfurd was chosen. He was appointed to the AIF on 15 August 1915 as General Staff Officer (2nd Grade) (GSO2) with the rank of major. As such he was particularly responsible for training, and the training of the 1st Division at Mena Camp in Egypt was supervised by Glasfurd.

Glasfurd landed at Anzac at 5:35 am on 25 April 1915. He climbed Ari Burnu straight to Colonel E. G. Sinclair-MacLagan's headquarters, where he was informed that the 2nd Brigade, instead of coming in on the left, would, owing to the 3rd Brigade having landed too far north, be diverted towards Lone Pine on the right. He returned to the beach where he found the senior officer ashore of that brigade, Lieutenant Colonel H Elliott. In the original plan, Glasfurd was supposed to meet the 2nd Brigade and guide it ashore. In actuality, Glasfurd had come ashore a few minutes later than Elliott and the rest of the brigade was not yet ashore. Glasfurd decided to form up units in Shrapnel Gully as they arrived, and started with Elliott's battalion, which he directed to Lone Pine.

Glasfurd did not always get along with his superior, Lieutenant Colonel C White, who gathered all the staff functions to himself, leaving Glasfurd with little to do. When White became sick, Glasfurd took over as GSO1 of the 1st Division. White did not return, instead becoming Brigadier General General Staff (BGGS) of ANZAC, and so on 1 October 1915, the appointment became permanent and Glasfurd was promoted to lieutenant colonel. During the evacuation of Anzac, Glasfurd represented the 1st Division on the Rear Party staff of A. Russell, which controlled operations at Anzac until Russell handed over to Colonel J. Paton. For his services at Anzac, Glasfurd was mentioned in dispatches and made a brevet lieutenant colonel in the British Army in January 1916.

On 1 March 1916, Glasfurd was appointed commander of the newly formed 12th Infantry Brigade, with the rank of colonel and temporary brigadier general. His first test was a route march across the Sinai Desert. By the simple expedient of resting his men from 08:50 to 15:25 he managed to avoid the hottest hours of the day and still make good time. Although many men fell out, the brigade reached its bivouac in good order.

The 12th Brigade moved to France in June 1916 and on 4 July entered the line in the 'nursery' sector near Armentieres, where Glasfurd was slightly wounded on 7 July. In August 1916, the brigade was committed to action on the Somme sector, in the fighting on the Pozieres Heights and Mouquet Farm. On 12 November 1916, the brigade was sent into the line again at Flers. While inspecting the line into which his brigade was about to move, Glasfurd was wounded by a German shell in 'Cheese Road'. After an agonising ten hour stretcher journey from the front line to the advanced dressing station, Glasfurd died that night at the British 38th Casualty Clearing Station. He was buried in the Heilly Court Cemetery at Mericourt-l'Abbe, France. For his services on the Western Front, he was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Divorced from his wife, Sons Eric, Duncan and Colin were at Geelong Grammar at the time of his death. [Wikipaedia and National Archives of Australia]

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Susan Amelia Glasfurd, Swanbourne WA
Relationship to Ancestor: grand daughter


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RUSI of NSW Boer War Battlefields