The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Warrant Officer James Mitchell

Ancestor Details

Name of Ancestor: James Mitchell

Ancestor's date of birth: 24/04/1841

Ancestor's date of death: 17/08/1900

Cause of Death: Died of wounds (amputation of leg at Elands River).

Service Number: 508

Colony or State of enlistment: NSW Place of Enlistment: Tenterfield NSW

Unit: A Squadron, NSW Citizens' Bushmen

Rank attained in Boer War: WO2, Date Effective: Pre 1900

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): Did not survive the Boer War.

Murray Page: 204

Contingent: Third New South Wales

Ship: Eurylis, Date of Sailing: 10/03/1900

Memorial details: Tenterfield War Memorial. His original headstone is on Display in Boer War section of the Australian War Memorial Canberra. Grave in Swartruggens cemetery South Africa, with a guild cross on top of grave.

Decorations: Queen's South Africa Medal with Rhodesia and Transvaal clasps.

Personal Characteristics: Hard worker, skilled horseman, resourceful. At 15 years was an agricultural labourer when he emigrated to NSW with his parents Hugh and Agnes in 1856. In 1861 began work at "Moredun" assisting in the cartage of wool to Grafton.
In 1862 gained employment as stockman and labourer with his father at "Barney Downs" station.
In 1872 married australian-born Emily Elizabeth Baker.
In 1882 moved to Scrubby Gully then Moleyard Creek and finally to a freehold selection at "Barney Dawns".
In 1885 joined the Tenterfield Mounted Rifles Corps.
In 1890 had risen to Sergeant-Major.
In 1900 was selected from volunteers who showed quality of horsemanship and resourcefulness for the Boer War and on the 10 March 1900, was aboard the Euryalis in Melbourne with the 3rd NSW Contingent ("Bushmens").

Reasons to go and fight: He had been a member of the New South Wales Mounted Rifles at Tenterfield.

Details of service in war: From April 1900 as Squadron Sergeant Major, A Squadron, NSW Citizens' Bushmen in Rhodesia, west Transvaal including defence of Elands River Post (4-16 August 1900) where he was wounded, then died after a leg amputation on 17 August 1900. James Mitchell, a native of Ayshire, Scotland, was in his fifty-eight year when he enlisted with the NSW Bushmen's Contingent. At a public farewell to the Tenterfield, NSW, recruits in the local gymnasium, he expressed a wish to bring back two of Kruger's teeth'1 Sergeant Major Mitchell sailed with the contingent on 28 February 1900, arrived in Capetown on 2 April and then proceeded via Marandelles to Bulawayo, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). His squadron served under General Plummer in the engagements at Mafeking and Rustenburg. In a letter dated 14 June 1900, from Captain Thomas in Rustenberg, he remarked that the NSW Bushmen were: leading an irregular, nomadic gypsy sort of life, but with plenty to do - rising often at 2am, to set out on a march, with the frost on the ground all the Tenterfield boys are well, but Sergeant Major Mitchell was left at Bulawayo.2 Mitchell rejoined the squadron and with about 50 men from other details, defended Eland's River against De la Rey with 1,000 men and guns for 13 days, refusing to surrender on any terms. They were eventually relieved by Lord Kitchener's force on 15th August and Lord Methuen's column which arrived from the north on 18th August, 1900.3 Mitchell was wounded on 8 August.
The Rev James Green wrote:
"Sergt-Major Mitchell, was badly hit in the knee. When the doctor put Mitchell under chloroform to examine the wound, he pulled his hand away from me (he was only partially under the influence), and waved it over his head, crying out: 'Now then, men, get out on parade'. Later, as he went quite under the power of the anaesthetic, he whispered: 'My word, they're getting me out on parade'. As the result of the doctor's examination, it was obvious that the only hope for Mitchell was the amputation of the leg above the knee. It was my duty to persuade him to submit to the operation, which was very cleverly performed in twenty-five minutes. Poor Mitchell, however, sank and died three days after. Whilst the grave was dug for Mitchell, the Boers opened out on the burial party, some of whom took refuge in it. Col. Hore had forbidden me to conduct services over the dead at night, as it withdrew many men from the trenches in spite of orders. This was a double danger: it made a big mark at the grave for Boer rifle-fire, and left weak spots in our line of defence. Hitherto I had gone out; and, though I did not conduct any service - that was to be held later, when the relief came, which we were always expecting - I used to pray briefly.4 The burial service did not take place until 17 August. At this time, the Rev James Green took the opportunity to read the burial service over the graves of Sergeant Major James Mitchell and Troopers James Duff, John Waddell, James Walker. A single piece of slate served as a headstone for the four Bushmen. Mitchell, a father of six, was mourned by his family and the community of Tenterfield. His wife Emily was recommended for a pension of £40 per year and a gratuity of one year's pay."
The original headstone of slate that stood over the graves of Mitchell and his three fellow Bushmen is now on display in the Australians in South Africa gallery at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. A number of years ago, four individual metal crosses replaced this headstone, which was then brought to Australia.

Service and life after the Boer War: Did not survive the Boer War.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Marie Hodgkinson, Toowoomba QLD
Relationship to Ancestor: Great Great Uncle

Name of Descendant: Elva Perrin, Lane Cove NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Grand Daughter

Name of Descendant: John Brian Mitchell, Idalia QLD
Relationship to Ancestor: Great Grandson

Name of Descendant: Kenneth Denver Mitchell, Taree NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Grandson

Name of Descendant: Lorene Hare, Deniliquin NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Gr Grand Daughter

Name of Descendant: Marie Patricia Larnach, Gosford NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great Grand Daughter

Name of Descendant: Sharon Skinner, Salamander Bay NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great Grand Daughter

Name of Descendant: Martyn Ross Mitchell, Oatley NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great grandson

Name of Descendant: Jonathan James McConkey, Mosman NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great-great Grandson

Name of Descendant: Karlee Walker, Menai NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: great great grand daughter

Name of Descendant: Ryan Walker, Menai NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: great great grandson

Name of Descendant: Courtney walker, Menai NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: great great granddaughter

Name of Descendant: Janyne Walker, Menai NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: great granddaughter

Name of Descendant: Sheldon Mitchell Maher OAM, Lismore Heights NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Great Grandson


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RUSI of NSW Boer War Battlefields