The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

Lieutenant (later Captain) William Ponsonby DSO

Ancestor Details

Name of Ancestor: William Randall Ponsonby

Ancestor's date of birth: 01/08/1874

Ancestor's date of death: 18/01/1919

Cause of Death: Not stated

Service Number: Officer - no number

Colony or State of enlistment: Not applicable, Place of Enlistment: South Africa

Unit: D Troop Thorneycroft's Horse

Rank attained in Boer War: LT, Date Effective: Not known

Highest Rank attained (if served after war): CAPT, Date Effective: 19/01/1901

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

Contingent: Not applicable

Ship: Travelled privately to South Africa

Other Boer War Service: He served in Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry from 12 November 1899 to 8 April 1901. He then transfered to to the South African Constabulary,served until 1901.

Memorial details: Buried St Eadbrugh's Churchyard Broadway Worcestershire UK

Decorations: Distinguished Service Order, Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps.

Personal Characteristics: William was the eldest son of Colonel Justinian Gordon Ponsonby. He had been in the Royal Navy then a Police Officer in Pilliga NSW before he went to the Boer War

Reasons to go and fight: Detail not provided

Details of service in war: Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry was to become famous in the course of the war, was raised at Pietermaritzburg by Major A W Thorneycroft of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. The unit fought at Spion Kop, Colenso and in many engagements across Transval and the Orange Free State in 1900. He served in Thorneycroft's Mounted Infantry 12 November 1899 to 8 April 1901. Transfered to South African Constabulary and served from 1901. He was wounded in Colenso 15 December 1899. He was created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, London Gazette 19 April 1901 "W.R. Ponsonby, Lieutenant, Thorneycroft's Horse, in recognition of services during the operations in South Africa". The insignia was presented by the King on 29 October 1901. [Source: Natal Field Force Casualty Roll pg 232.]

A Victoria Cross is pretty sure to be awarded Lt Ponsonby, of D Troop Thorneycroft's Light Horse. Mr. Ponsonby is well known in the Pilliga NSW district, having served in the Police Force there. The conspicuous deed of gallantry which is going to earn him this distinction is described in the Natal 'Witness' of December 22, which giving an account of the battle of Colenso, says: -  Thorneycroft's provided a hero in the person of Lt Ponsonby, of D troop, who when his section was recalled, on account of the heavy fire remained behind with a wounded man, whose wounds he dressed. Then he tried to carry the man to safety. Whilst so engaged his helmet was pierced with a bullet, but he stuck with his task and moved forward with his burden. The injured man's life was; however, short, as while being carried a bullet lodged in his stomach, causing almost instant death. The dying man's movements when writhing on the ground drew fresh fire and Ponsonby sought shelter for a short time. He then pushed on, receiving a flesh wound on the left arm, while his coat was perforated. Noticing his condition a Boer advanced to 80 metres to make sure of his victim, but Ponsonby drew his revolver, and shot him dead. When he returned to camp he received a well merited ovation from his friends. Later on our hero went back to the fighting line, and again succored a wounded comradre, this time saving him." [Source: Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners Advocate dated Wednesday February 1900.]

Service and life after the Boer War: He was gazetted to the 3rd Dragoon Guards and retired. He married in 1902 to a Lillian Patterson daughter of Sir Leslie Nickllas and his wife Florence daughter of TS Womersley.

Descendant Details

Name of Descendant: Hilda Wilkinson, Weston NSW
Relationship to Ancestor: Distant relative


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