Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

J. Lewis

J. Lewis :

J. Lewis : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Defence of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Defence of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'

Unfortunately we don't know this man's first name or anything about his early life or family.

He joined the Manchester Regiment in late July 1897 and was given the service number 5171. He was serving with the 1st Battalion by 1899. That August the British Government decided to send the battalion to South Africa in case war broke out between British and Boer settlers there.

The 1st Battalion sailed to Durban and was stationed in the small town of Ladysmith in Natal when war was declared on the 11th October. The war began badly for the British and by the 30th Ladysmith was under siege.

They fought hard to stop Boer attempts to take the town; the 1st Battalion would attack Boer artillery to stop it from shelling their positions. By the end of the siege food was in short supply and disease was widespread. Ladysmith was relieved on the 28th February 1900.

After Ladysmith the British Army tried to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August 1900 at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. This soldier took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so he stayed in South Africa.

In order to quickly and efficiently cover the vast distances in South Africa the British began to form Mounted Infantry Battalions. Mounted Infantry carried very little equipment. They were able to move fast and catch up with Boer guerrillas. They dismounted from their horses before entering combat. They were formed by taking a company from every infantry battalion in South Africa, converting them to the role and then grouping the Mounted Infantry Companies into Mounted Infantry Battalions.

This soldier joined Number 4 Company of the 19th Mounted Infantry Battalion, although we don't know when. This Company consisted of officers and men from the 1st Battalion.

This man fought with this unit until the 4th October 1901, when he was killed during fighting at Witklip near Lydenburg in the modern South African Province of Mpumalanga. At the time this was in the Transvaal. Two of his comrades were severely wounded in the same engagement.

His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 1949.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council