The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Private John Fisher

Ancestor Details

Acsestor's Name: John William Winston Fisher

Ancestor's date of birth: 1879

Ancestor's date of death: 1947

Cause of Death: age related

Service and Life Before the Boer War: Born in Guyong, NSW, parents were farmers at 'Fairview Farm'. He served in the local infantry volunteer Company in Orange prior to the war and was vice President of the debating society and a member of the local church and choir. Was often called William or Bill and Murray lists him as W J W Fisher whilst the Coronation Contingent has him as W J Fisher

Service Number: 374

Colony or State of enlistment: NSW, Place of Enlistment: Orange

Unit: 'C' Sqn 1 NSWMR

Rank attained in Boer War: PTE, Date Effective: 1900

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): No record of post Boer War promotion.

Murray Page: 65

Memorial details: Millthorpe War Memorial and Honour Roll

Awards/Decorations/Commendations: Queen's South Africa Medal with Dreifontein, Diamond Hill, Johannesburg and SA 1901 clasps. 1902 Coronation medal.

Personal Characteristics: Detail not provided.

Reasons to go and fight: Detail not provided.

Details of service in war: Selected as part of the Australian Coronation Contingent, also noted as being at Slingersfontein 15 April 1900 noted as rescuing a wounded Cpl, Cpl Gribble under fire 2-4-1900. This gave rise to the story that he had been awarded the DSO and a Queens Scarf. However, like some other Australians his gallant action whilst reported in Newspapers went unnoticed and unrecognised by authorities although it is believed that he was personally congratulated by the Brigade commander (de Lisle) and he was certainly selected for the Coronation contingent. It should be noted also that the DSO is an officer's decoration and not awarded below the rank of Warrant Officer and only rarely to that rank. He suffered from attacks of Malarial Fever on return from the war. It is believed that he may also have served in 'A' sqn of the regiment.

John Fisher's letters to his mother published in the Orange Leader and Milthorpe Messenger 6 June 1900

Bloemfontein March 21, 1900

Just a few lines to let you know how I am getting along A1. I tell you things have been rough since we left we had a fair trip over so far as weather was concerned but it was a long one as we were 34 days on the water and never stayed anywhere on the way. I was not disappointed when I got to Cape Town as from the Bay as it was the best site I ever saw. Table Mountain towers right over the town and it seems to rise right from the water's edge. The Bay was crowded with boats, steamers and ships of every description. There was troops marching, bands and bugles flying all over the place, but the town was small and dirty and crowded with Kaffirs, and Niggers of all sorts, shapes and sizes; white people seem very scarce over here. We only stayed a few days in Cape Town and then left for the front. We boarded the train to Modder river on Sunday and road in it till Wednesday morning, over 950 kilometres. The country is mostly level and not a town or a tree (except fruit trees) the whole way. What they call towns out here is only a few houses close together. Blayney would be called a city. After leaving Modder River we had to rough it; marching day and nights, through heavy storms without shelter of any kind. We have had to lay on the ground whether it was wet or dry. We cannot carry anything with us for very long. We had no blankets and twice we were washed out of sleep. Someone cut a big dam and let it run onto us in the night. We did not know what was the matter till morning. I bet you would not know me now. Our rations have been three biscuits a day and meat for dinner for the first week and since that it has been getting less, till last Sunday morning I told as there was none at all! We only had one and a half on Saturday so we eat that for breakfast, and I tell you we were hungry on Sunday to be told there was nothing to eat. They are expecting supplies every day. We get some flour from the Blomfontein now so we make dampers and we have plenty of cattle, so we get fed sometimes. By this time I've had a fair go at soldering. It is not the game is cracked up to be, though I have enjoyed myself fairly well and saw much that was worth seeing and some that I would not care to see again. A man is not supposed to think of anything out here; no matter what they want a man for the first man they come across has to go whether he likes it or not and as soon as he has got a start they sent another, and so on till they get an answer. One day Col. Langley wanted to find out if they could find shelter for 500 men and horses about a kilometre from where we were fighting across a plain, so he roared out for the four on the left to go. I was the third man from the end and when I heard it, it made me feel sick, but had no time to think, so off we went as hard as we could. Nearly all the way we had to go you could see the shots tearing up the ground. I never looked towards the Boer lines the whole way, but we reached the hill in safety. Four more were sent as soon as we left, one of them got shot and two of their horses. When the horse fell the man got up and pull the gear off him then shot him dead and ran for the hill. 150 of the York Regiment were lying dead and wounded up the side of the hill, about as far as it is from the house to the 40 acre stacks, and nobody seems to care a straw. They run over them and never look under their feet. Lord Roberts is a fine little general, but Kitchener is stern and hard and all the men are afraid of him. We have a war balloon and three big naval guns with us and about a kilometre of artillery with all sorts of guns in it. We are saying if a spell. I wrote to mother and told her how we were doing for tucker. We got the first supply this morning and had a good feed. Blomfontein is a pretty little place about the size of Orange and much like it.
Karee April 10, 1900;

Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive and well. We are right at the front now and spend most of our time firing. We are in sight of the Boers and have to watch them day and night. I've lost all my mates, George Alley (Orange) was taken to hospital since I wrote you he being the last of four. We spent all Sunday week digging trenches and sleep in them at night, so you can guess what sort of a time we had. I wrote this letter about a fortnight ago and carried it with me ever since, they tell us will have a chance to post in a day or two, so I'd I am scratching this in a hurry; ink is out of the question say you must forgive this. I will not do anything about the war for I am sick of the sight of it. The country here is rough and hilly, but there are some beautiful flowers and plants, and jackals and Boers is about all we see. There was a beautiful bridge over the river at the Glen blown up by the Boers the other night.

This letter is from Trooper Jones New South Wales Mounted Rifles to his mother about Fisher's gallantry.

Four scouts from our squadron were surprised by a dozen Boers yesterday and they had to gallop for their lives. They found they were in a kind of trap and their way out of it was putting their horses at three barbed wire fences of five wires each, all barbed. There was no help for it and at them they went with the bullets whizzing all around them to urge them on. Two horses fell at the first fence but the riders mounted again and were soon on the track of the two that got over safely. Just before reaching the second fence one of the horses received a bullet through the shouldering came down. It struggled to its feet again and got through the fence somehow with its rider Cpl Gribble, but after going another 30 yards or so it fell for the last time. By this time the rearmost man of the other three, a chum of mine, named Bill Fisher from near Orange, was some 70 metres ahead. Cpl Gribble gave a shout as he fell the second time and Fisher seeing his plight, luckily went back for him. The Boers by this time had galloped forward within range and firing at them, both of them, all the time. The Cpl mounted behind Fisher and the horse was raced at the last fence with its double burden. It cleared the fence in great style after a further gallop of a couple of miles the party pulled up safely, not one of them being hit.

Service and life after the Boer War: He returned to the Orange area and married Mary E Dudley (from Lucknow) in 1908 and had four children, she died in 1915 and he never remarried and was unable therefore to participate in WW1. He became a fettler on the railway and resided at Greghamstown.

Welcome home reported in the Orange Leader and Milthorpe Messenger 13 July 1901.

On Friday, 5 July the residents of Guyong and neighbourhood showed their appreciation of Mr W Fisher the Guyong native, who distinguished himself at the war, by giving him a social and presenting him with a solid gold medal and a pair of sleeve cufflinks. Mr J Holland was in the chair and fully 200 people were present in the Federation Hall when the presentation was made by the chairman. An extensive musical program was gone through in a splendid supper partaken of at the conclusion. The speakers were, the chairman, the Rev Whitley, Messrs Bartley and C Rodwell. Mr Fisher suitably replied. After supper dancing was indulged in until three o'clock in the morning. In late May 1901 he arrived home on the 7.10 p.m. train to Millthorpe station to a tumultuous welcome. About 150 people greeted him and as the buggy approached the old Homestead a large number of old schoolmates and friends lit a bonfire and cheered him William leapt from the buggy to greet them all, and after much handshaking and backslapping the happy party moved up to the house. His father Mr Edward Fisher had invited a large number of friends to spend the evening. Over the porch was the word 'Welcome' whilst Mrs Stokes played 'Home Sweet Home' on the piano. The veranda had been decorated with Chinese lamps and the Union Jack and Federation flags completed the exceedingly pretty seen. William regaled the gathering of about 80 people with his stories of life in South Africa. After dinner games were started and another bonfire lit at about 11 PM, the party continued on until about 6 AM when everyone started to leave.

The Official Welcome to Returning Soldiers reported in Orange Leader and Milthorpe Messenger 27 July 1901

An official welcome home, in the form of smoke social, was held at the Good Templar's Hall, Millthorpe, on Wednesday night 24th of July 1901. The event was welcoming to 10 of Millthorpe district returned warriors, A Whiley, J Nicholls, F Nicholls, W Thomas W Fisher J Schussler, J Bannon, J Nicholls, B Ryan and H Brooks. In front of 125 gentlemen from all around the district William responded to the welcome; He said he was pleased to be home. From his early days he had a desire to see real war and when he left home he never expected to see it again. He left home at four hours notice and was away 16 months. On the ship he was so bad with sea sickness that he wouldn't have cared of the old vessel had turned upside down. 13 days after landing 16 of their chaps were shot. The finest sight he ever saw was 45,000 Imperial soldiers on foot. He watched them march pass from daylight until past 10 o'clock. On the first day of action he felt nervous. The same afternoon he saw 17 Lancers buried, sad afterwards he got lost in the bush and laid on the veldt all night. He felt hungry sore, sick, sad and sorry. He was now thankful that he left home and pleased to reflect that he and his comrades had done nothing to disgrace themselves or their country. They have a good name wherever they went, and never turned their backs on any duty they were told to perform.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Robin Oates, Millthorpe NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: distant cousin


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