Boer War Page 71g

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Great Boer War Discoveries ( June 2005)

Lt. TPW Nesham RHA - Cpl. William Knisley DCM - 1902
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Boer War Battlefield Sketch, Feb. 1902 - LT TPW Nesham, Royal Artillery
Orig. sketch - Image Size - 7.25" x 10.75"
Found - Wales, UK
Backed by signed sketch of Castleacre Priory ruins, Michael Kidman 1938
At the time Lt. Nesham drew this sketch, William Knisley MC, and the Canadian Mounted Rifles were advancing in the same region. The sketch shows clearly the terrain the Canadians were operating in and the obstacles they had to overcome.

The two men died in action in the same area of the Western Transvaal in the last weeks of the war.

For the past 100 years the two soldiers in arms have rested - as neighbours - in adjoining graves in the small town of Ottosdal.

Brothers in Arms: Brothers in Death
Lt. Thos Peere Wm Nesham: Only days before he was to die, in a truly heroic Victoria Cross fashion, at Tweebosch in the Western Transvaal, Lt. Nesham drew this rare battlefield sketch of the terrain across which the British - using his guns in the middle distance - were attacking Boers who were in the hills in the background.
Cpl. William Knisley: Only three weeks after the death of his comrade in arms, William - with several companions - died in heroic action in the same region, being overwhelmed by a large Boer force when they had run out of ammunition.

This extremely rare sketch was typical of those made by Victorian Army officers either to better lay out the plan of battle, or to record for regimental histories, an action that had taken place, while it was still fresh in their memories.

Very few of these sketches have survived 100 years, let alone one by an officer who, a few days later, would die a heroic death, that should have netted him the Victoria Cross.

This sketch was recently found inside the back of an old picture, being used as backing for another original sketch (above) signed "Michael Kidman 1938." Someone, scores of years ago, decided the cardboard backing for the old Abbey was more valuable than the sketch by Lt. Nesham that was glued to the other side.



Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
A - Kopje set on fire by the 38th Battery Shelling. Under Lieut. Nesham .V.C. (Since Killed while serving his own guns
with case shot and refusing to surrender to Boers although all his Battery excepting Sgt. Jtir, were Killed or wounded
March the 30th 1902 Lord Methuen captured at the same time.
E - 4th Cameronians G. Company. under Lieut RM Glossop driving Boers of D at the Point of the Bayonet
avec Très Bien (Éclat) loosing 4 men Killed and 3 wounded Killing 9 of the Enemy.
K - Kraal from which Boers brought heavy fire to bear on the Cameronians
H - N Fusiliers attacking Boer Left Flank.
38th Battery Covering Lieut Glossop's advance.
A colleague of Lt. Nesham's filled in the details of the drawing, including the later death of his lamented colleague. But he got the date wrong, mixing up the date for the Battle of Boschbult Farm, on Mar 30 - an action during which Knisley was killed, and which happened in the same area - with the Battle of Tweebosch, which occurred earlier, on Mar. 7, 1902.

At the bottom left I Convoy of Food for Boshof Garrison coming up.

The map is probably not of a specific battle with a name but is a snapshot in the midst of a general clearing action as the British Army was trying to scoop up Boer commandoes from the Boshof region of the Orange Free State, across into the remote parts of the Transvaal.

The central action of this battle is classic Boer War: the British guns - in this case at F, the guns of Lt. Nesham - are "softening up" the Boers who are hiding among rocky hills (kopjes) and a stone corral, or kraal in this case, at K, and firing down on the British troops advancing across the open plain, in a spread out line, to dislodge them. The Boer have their horses, on the back side of the hills in a laager, ready to jump on and ride to safety on, when the British infantrymen get too close.

High explosive lyddite shells are exploding on top of all the hilltops; on the left at A, the shells have set the grass on fire - a common occurrence during the war. The sketch notes "House Blown up by Shells, Killing two Boers therein."

Three lines of British Tommies are in this attack: in the left background L the ant-like Imperial Yeomanry are advancing on a farmhouse B and Boers on that hill C; in the foreground the Cameronians E are attacking the kraal K, while on the right the Northumberland Fusiliers H are launching a flanking assault to take the Boers from the side.

On March 7, 1902, at the Battle of Tweebosch, Lt. TPW Nesham continued to fire his gun alone, being the lone survivor of his gun crew. The Boers, admiring his courage, called on him to surrender. Nesham refused, calling out, "I prefer death to surrender." He was shot down, in the best Victoria Cross tradition. But in 1902, those who died doing heroics were not eligible for the VC.

Lord Methuen (right) the only British General captured by the Boers during the war, was also grievously wounded and taken prisoner in the same engagement when the British were overrun and captured.

Right, a major sketch by E Prater, of the Death of Lt. Nesham was featured prominently in Wilson's After Pretoria: The Guerilla War to inspire a new generation of young Englishmen to do their duty for King and Empire. And just in time - World War I was just around the corner.

A Mother's Grief

Lt. Thomas Peere William Nesham (1880-1902) was an only son. His stone bears the following inscription:

Lieutenant Royal Field Artillery
Only son of the late Rear Admiral Nesham and
Constance, his wife.
Born 2nd May 1880.
Killed while gallantly serving his guns.
Tweebosch 7th March 1902.
He preferred Death to Surrender.
This cross is placed by his mother in loving memory.
Pro Christo, Rebe et Patria."

The story is about that Lt. Nesham's mother was so distraught about her son's body, lying lonely and abandonned in Africa, that she visited his grave in Africa.

There are those who say she spent the night there, grieving, and was seen, shortly after, departing, carrying a substantial box.

Legend has it that she brought the bones of her beloved son back for a proper burial, close to kin, in England.

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000