The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Lieutenant John Hodgins

Ancestor Details

Name of Ancestor: John Hodgins

Ancestor's date of birth: 01/01/1879

Ancestor's date of death: 04/02/1964

Cause of Death: Carcinoma of the prostate, urinary tract infection

Service Number: Officer, no number.

Colony or State of enlistment: Not applicable, Place of Enlistment: Dublin, Ireland

Unit: Royal Dublin Fusiliers

Rank attained in Boer War: LT, Date Effective: During war

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): CPL, Date Effective: 28/04/1915

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

Contingent: Not applicable.

Ship: Not known

Memorial details: Fusilier's Arch, Dublin, Ireland

Decorations: Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps, 1915-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Personal Characteristics: Height: 1.85 m, Weight: 76.2 kg (1915). My grandfather served in the Boer War enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, Ireland which was then part of the UK so was not there as part of the Australian contingent. He reached the rank of Lieutenant whilst on active service until 1905 and then 2nd Lieutenant as a Reservist until his resignation in 1910.

Reasons to go and fight: Not known. May have been for family reasons, adventure or employment or all three.

Details of service in war: On 20 October the 2nd Dublins took part in the first major battle of the war, at Talana near Dundee. The Boers had appeared on Talana Hill in the early morning and after they launched a few shells at Dundee, the garrison responded and attacked the hill. The 2nd Dublins took part in the attack and, after some fierce fighting, removed the Boers. They suffered heavy casualties in the process, losing, amongst others, Captain Weldon, the first officer of the Dublins to be killed in the war. The British had to abandon Dundee soon afterwards, withdrawing to Ladysmith. The Boers besieged the town in late October. On 30 October the garrison's commander, Sir George Stuart White VC, ordered an attack on Lombard's Kop which the Dublin Fusiliers took part in.

On 15 November 1899, a detachment of Dubliners and the Durban Light Infantry were garrisoning an armoured train operating from Estcourt with the objective of monitoring Boer movements. The Boers ambushed them on their return and a section of the train was de-railed in the chaos. Among the passengers was Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent accompanying the detachment, who helped load the train engine with wounded before it made an escape attempt, pushing through the de-railed section that blocked its path and making it through safely. The remaining troops put up a stout defence until they were eventually compelled to surrender, including Churchill who had returned to the remaining defenders. Churchill later made a successful escape attempt from his prison in Pretoria. He wrote glowingly of the gallantry displayed by the Dublin Fusiliers and the other troops that were present during the ambush.

The Dublin Fusiliers actively took part in the efforts to lift the Siege of Ladysmith, which lasted from 30 October 1899 to 28 February 1900. On 15 December the 2nd Dublins took part in the Battle of Colenso. The Dublins were part of the 5th Brigade (known as the Irish Brigade) who crossed the wrong part of the Tugela River and suffered heavy casualties in the process. The battle was a defeat for the British forces and became part of a notorious period for the British in the war, known as "Black Week". The defeat, however, did not discourage further attempts being made. The Dublins did not participate in any more attempts until January 1900 when they took part in the Tugela campaign, collectively known as the Battle of the Tugela Heights. February saw the Dublins take part in heavy fighting before, on 27 February, they supported the Royal Irish Fusiliers in their final charge on Pieter's Hill, suffering heavy casualties though taking the position. This victory led to the siege of Ladysmith being lifted the following day by cavalry, with the main force of infantry arriving on 3 March. For their bravery, Queen Victoria decreed that a sprig of shamrock be adorned on the headdress of Irish units on St Patrick's Day to commemorate their actions in South Africa. This tradition remains in existence.

In May, the British began their advance towards the Transvaal -- one of the Boer republics -- and early the following month the Dublins took part in the effort against Laing's Nek during the attempt to achieve an entry into the Transvaal. This was successfully achieved and the capital, Pretoria, was captured on 5 June. The war, however, did not end and the Boers began a guerrilla campaign against the British. During this phase of the war, many blockhouses were constructed to help restrict the movement of the Boer guerrillas and men of the Dublin Fusiliers helped to garrison them. This phase of the war also saw the mounted infantry companies, among which were Dublin Fusiliers MI, in their element, hunting the (now small) groups of Boers. The Dublin Fusiliers also took part in the hunt for Christiaan De Wet, a prominent Boer officer.

The last of the Boers surrendered in May 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging formally ending the conflict. During the war, volunteers from the three militia battalions of the Dublins had been used to provide reinforcements for the two regular battalions fighting in South Africa. The 2nd Dublins had left South Africa in January 1902. The Dublins suffered nearly 700 casualties (killed, wounded, missing) during the conflict, many of whom died of disease, indeed the vast majority of British Army casualties were from disease. As a side-note, the distinguished service of the Irish regiments compelled an Irish Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons to request the establishment of an Irish regiment of Foot Guards; this happened, and the Irish Guards were formed on 1 April 1900.

Service and life after the Boer War: My grandfather emigrated to Australia with my grandfather circa 1911-12. He enlisted in the AIF on 17 August 1914 at the outbreak of WWI. He was shot through the neck at Gallipoli, evacuated and was discharged from Melbourne on 30 September 1916. He then became one of the founding members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia (the precursor to the RSL I understand) serving as its Treasurer until 1920.(I hold supporting documents as proof of this). He was employed in the Department of Repatriation where he remained until his retirement. I understand his work involved assisting war veterans through the red tape to be approved for a War Veterans Pension. Although your Association is concerned with Australian forces participation in the Boer War, I am very interested in this project given my grandfather's history.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Suzanne Hilliad Marks, Dulwich Hill NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Granddaughter


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RUSI of NSW Boer War Battlefields