The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Colonel (later Major General KCMG, CB, ON) Sydenham Smith

Ancestor Details

Ancestor's Name: Sydenham Campbell Urquhart Smith

Ancestor's date of birth: 01/01/1859

Ancestor's date of death: 01/01/1940

Cause of Death: Age related

Service and Life Before the Boer War: Sydenham was born in Madras, India; a son of DR George Smith, Surgeon General of the Madras army. He joined the Royal Artillery, Woolwich in 1879. In 1896 whilst an instructor at the School of Artillery in the UK, he appears to have been selected by George French to command the NSW Artillery. By the beginning of the Boer War he was a Major RA but held the local rank of Colonel. He had cousins living in Australia whom he visited whilst in Australia.

Service Number: Officer - no number

Colony or State of enlistment: Not Australia, Place of Enlistment: Woolwich UK

Unit: A Battery Royal Australian Artillery

Rank attained in Boer War: COL, Date Effective: 11/10/1899

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): MAJGEN, Date Effective: 1918

Murray Page: 49, 50, 53.

Contingent: Second New South Wales

Ship: SS Warrigal, Date of Sailing: 30/12/1899

Memorial details: Brighton, UK

Awards/Decorations/Commendations: KCMG, CB, Order of the Nile 2nd class. Queen's South Africa Medal with Cape Colony and South Africa 1901 Clasps. 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.

Personal Characteristics: British soldier.

Reasons to go and fight: A professional British soldier and Commander of the NSW Artillery RAA.

Details of service in war: Colonel Smith's war was quite different to the rest of his battery. The battery was broken up and he occupied a number of administrative and local command postings during his tour Here is his account of it.

7 March 1900 - Arrived near Draghoender about 18:00 hrs, in a heavy downpour of rain; 500 mm in three quarters of an hour.

31 March 1900 - Camped awaiting supplies. A small column with one section Royal Australian Artillery, under Sweetland, proceeds to Upington. We are all put on half rations.

2 April 1900 - General Settle left for Upington and left me in command here at Draghoender. I'm guarding a swinging bridge, which is the only means of crossing the Orange River anywhere for miles, and is known as Coejas Pont. Received a report that the Boers, who are very active North of the river, proposed to cut the wire of the bridge. Sent out a troop of Yeomanry to reinforce 40 men of Orpen's Horse holding the position.

3 April 1900 - Our patrol on the other side of the river had a brush with the enemy no casualties.

12 May 1900 - I am still at this station, Draghoender as military commandant. We are not to shift at present as we are forming a supply depot for future use. We are confronted by about 400 Boers just across the river, who were anxious to destroy the flying bridge here, so as to check our advance. They attacked us on the 13th of last month. We had two killed and one wounded (none of the Royal Australian Artillery); their loss being 12 killed and others wounded. Owing to the ground on this side of the river being flat, I have made my defences on the other side, as it is hilly. With 120 men and one gun I can keep the Boers at bay unless they procure guns, which so far they have failed to do, although they have been trying to get them. Their numbers have been increasing and we have been expecting further attacks daily. A patrol was attacked on 28th April, we lost six horses. We have about 65 kilometres of River to guard and patrol. An apprehended attack on Upington and caused General Settle to order the two guns I had at Kenhardt to proceed to Upington and, so that now, four guns are there under Lts Christian and Sweetland. I have dispatched Captain Dangar to take command.

10 July 1900 - on 2 July two guns stationed here (Draghoender) were ordered to De Aar This leaves me here 'gunless'. I have applied to be relieved of my command here, so as to rejoin my four guns at Upington and, but to date have received no reply.

20 July 1900 - Major Mynors arrived and I handed over my command to him. Lt Taylor, the Rev E Beck (Chaplain) and Headquarters Staff proceeded by a march route to Upington and where we arrived on the 23rd. Upington is 385 kilometres from Orange River Station - the nearest point of the railway. I found the officers and men of the battery all well. Between August and November he operated from Upington.

4 August 1900 received orders to proceed with a patrol of 50 men of the Border Scouts, Orpen's Light Horse and Imperial Yeomanry, down the Orange River towards German territory I was away eight days and patrolled the country 145 kilometres west. I marched every morning at 06:45 hrs and made nine or 16 before breakfast, then 22 kilometres between that and lunch and 9 to 12 kilometres in the afternoon. We averaged just over 8 km/h I have just heard from Lt Anthill that his section have been ordered back to De Aar. The officers are worse off for clothes than the men and wander about in a sort of collection of patches.

25 October 1900 - My battery has now it's right section at Vryberg, its left at Prieska and the centre here thus covering a front of 580 kilometres. The men of the battery continue to keep their health well and have throughout their stay in this country in this respect, shown a marked difference to other troops.

13 November 1900 - Lt Sweetland with his two guns march for Prieska. I left for Prieska today (14 November) to take over command of the district.

17 November 1900 - Now in command at Prieska, which is at present garrisoned by three companies, third Welsh, one Squadron Nesbitt's Horse, a few Border Scouts, and Cape Police.

4 December 1900 - Heavy rain fell today, one and three-quarter inches. Our Christmas beer en route to here, (Prieska) was intercepted by the Boers and a convoy of much-needed clothes was also commandeered by them.

25 December 1900 Christmas day - still no reported advance of the Boers. Men had a capital Christmas dinner, with plum pudding and beer.

5 February 1901 - In my last I was not in a position to say what was happening with in the two outlying sections of the battery. It appears the right section, under Lt Anthill, went off with a column to Kuruman. On 2nd January, the Boers had surrounded the town. They arrived and relieved the town without opposition. On their way back they were attacked and drove the Boers off without any Royal Australian Artillery casualties. They are now back to Vryberg, which was attacked on the 2nd of this month; the Boers being again easily repulsed. Lt Christian and his two guns from Petrusville joined Colonel Crabbe's column: operating between Orange River and De Aar, to oppose any further incursions of the Boers. The battery is doing very well indeed, and the men's behaviour is exceptionally good compared with other troops with which they are quartered and I have every reason to be proud of them. With his battery scheduled to withdrawn and the end of his posting commanding the NSW Artillery in sight he returned to Australia on the SS Aberdeen in June 1901.

Service and life after the Boer War: After the war he held various posts in the artillery in the UK. This included Chief Instructor, School of Gunnery for Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery 1909-1911, he then went back to India where he was Commander, Royal Artillery in India 1911-1914. He served in various capacities in World War One in both India and in Egypt. This included Staff Royal Army Corps Headquarters as a Brigadier General and later as a Major General. At some point in the war he was awarded a CB. In 1918 he was awarded an Order of the Nile 2nd Class by the Sultan of Egypt. He retired from the Army, 1 January 1919 as a Major General and was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, KCMG. In his retirement he is known to have visited India on at least one occasion.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: John Martin, Slade Point QLD
Relationship to Ancestor: Second Cousin


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RUSI of NSW Boer War Battlefields