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Fourth Imperial Contingent logo


Total establishment: 629 with 778 horses and 11 wagons
Comprising: 31 Officers, 34 Staff-Sergeants, 25 Artificers,
10 Buglers, 529 rank and file.
Departed Melbourne 1 May 1900 in transport Victorian
Lt Col Nicolas William Kelly
CO of the 4th, Lt-Col
Nicholas William Kelly,
WIA Hartebeestfontein.
Principal engagements: Ottoshoop, Malopo Oog, Wonderfontein,
Hartebeestfontein, Uitval's Kop, Doornbult, Wolmaransstad,
Hoopstad, Zeerust,  Philipstown, Read's Drift, Sea Cow River.
The Regiment was involved in many successful small actions.
But on 11th and 12th January 1901, the Victorians occupied the
town of Wolmaransstad, after some resistance, taking many
prisoners, and capturing arms, ammunition and supplies. The 4th Victorian
Imperial Bushmen were the most highly decorated of all the Victorian units.


by Robin Droogleever

‘That Ragged Mob’ is the story of the Victorian 3rd and 4th Contingents sent to the war in South Africa in 1900. In the campaign they rode into battle with Western Australians, New South Welshmen, Queenslanders, South Australians, Tasmanians, New Zealanders and Imperial Yeomanry. Over 200 descendants have assisted the author in some way to complete this book. It is as much a tribute to those families as it is a glorious chapter in Australia’s military history. The reader will be able to follow the campaign and learn about a period in history which has long been overlooked. ‘That Ragged Mob’ is 720 pages in length, in hard cover format with dust-jacket, indexed, and profusely illustrated with photos not seen before. Included is a detailed biographical roll on each man who served with the two Victorian units and Cameron’s Scouts. There are relevant references to the Victorian nurses that accompanied the 3rd Contingent. It should be of value to local historical societies, libraries, archives, genealogical societies, military history groups, medal collectors, military historians, and of course, the families of those who served. The Genealogical Society of Victoria has described the publication as "meticulous research and precise writing...complemented by maps and a generous supply of illustrations...The text...portrays with graphic intensity the guerilla war in South Africa..." (see The Ancestor, Vol. 30, Issue 1, March/April 2010, page 21). [isbn: 9780646518169] $64.90 which includes postage throughout Australia (in the 3kg red bag). Cheque or money order to Robin Droogleever, P.O.Box 42, Bulleen, Victoria, 3105. SOLD OUT

SOLDIER PROFILE: Laurie Marshall

Photo og Laurie Marshall in Melbourne   Laurie Marshall
Trooper No. 100 of the 4th Victorian Imperial Contingent.
Detail from a photo taken in Allans Studios, Melbourne,
prior to his departure. Photo thanks to Craig Little.

"It ain't all Lavender over here, Dear Lucy".

 Laurie Marshall, Fred Peterson and 'Susie'
Laurie Marshall (left), Fred Peterson and 'Susie'. Photo kindly provided by the proud grandson
of Laurie Marshall, Craig Nielsen Little.
Lawrence George Hatton Marshall was said to be the youngest man to enlist for service in the Victorian Contingents. Not accepted for service as a soldier, he managed to join as a farrier on the strength of previous part-time experience as a blacksmith's striker. He later transferred to the 4th Victorian 'Imperial' Contingent of the Victorian Mounted Rifles as a Trooper.
"It is an awful place this for illess. I have
had the good luck to escape the fever so far".
Part of Laurie's Boer War kit   
Part of Laurie Marshall's Boer War kit. The mess
kit (left)  held his billy (top)  and pannikin (right).
The sword-bayonet is the Pattern 188 Mk II
suiting either the magazine Lee-Enfield rifle or
the Martini-Enfield Artillery carbine. The broken
wooden wedding spoon (a Boer family heirloom)
bears an inscription in Laurie Marshall's own hand:
'Found in the trenches at Maggers [Magersfontein]
April 1900'. Photo provided by his grandson,
Craig Little.
Laurie's letter (quoted here) was written to his sweetheart (later wife) 'Dearest Lucy" from Hillside Camp, Bulawayo, on 13 March 1901:
  '. . . Excuse me for not sending any xmas cards as
you know what sort of a place S. A. is . . .'.
After returning from the Boer War, Laurie Marshall next earned attention as a great pioneer aviator. During the war he had time to study soaring vultures, and to consider the possibilities of flight. He experimented with glider designs during 1904-5, only a year after the Wright Brothers' first powered flight, but no records are believed to have survived. He then entered a Commonwealth competition in 1909 to devise an aeroplane, capable among other things, of 'poise' in the air. But since no-one understood what this meant, controversy resulted.
The engine is thought to have been painstakingly constructed in an Armidale (Victoria) garage, and the aeroplane itself was constructed at Fairfield. The first attempt at flight is believed to have taken place in 1911, but the craft never left the ground before ending nose up with a broken wing and propellor. The daring would-be aviator, Laurie Marshall, suffered a broken arm.
A successful hop with a new, imported engine took place on 18 February 1912, but this quickly ended in another crash. Marshall probably stalled it on takeoff.
The Marshall aeroplane
The only known photograph of the Marshall aeroplane
constructed for a prize originally offered by the then
Commonwealth government in 1909. The plane was
30 feet long with a wingspan of 32 feet and weighed
585 lbs. Photograph kindly provided by Craig
Nielsen Little.
On 14 April 1912, three successful flights were made, the best reaching 30 feet and covering 500 yards. The event was featured in the Melbourne Argus newspaper next day in a brief paragraph with the headline 'Melbourne Airman--Successful Flights'.
Despite this, Laurie Marshall inexplicably did not win the 10,000 pounds Commonwealth prize. Writer Jim Fullarton wondered whether the imported J. A. P. engine scuttled Laurie's hopes. With mounting losses, the plane was soon seized by Northcote police and mortgages were foreclosed. It took 12 years for Laurie Marshall to recover financially.
He next tried to succeed in politics, being elected as a Labour councillor to the Northcote Council. He even served as Mayor between 1936-7, a grand comeback for someone bankrupt only a few years earlier. Attempts to enter State politics failed (he was once beaten by only 17 votes).
Laurie Marshall died in 1966 aged 82.

SOLDIER PROFILE: Private Frankland 'Frank' Smith, No. 491
Photo of group including F. Smith
Frank Smith is centre, back row.
Born in April 1877, Frankland Smith grew up in Maryborough,
Victoria. He was working as a surveyor's assistant when the
Boer War broke out.He joined the 4th Contingent early in 1900.


March 13th

Grahamstown: It was the only town we have struck in Cape
Colony where the inhabitants are all British. They gave us a
great reception. The ladies nearly killed us with kindness; they
kept coming into camp all day with baskets of fruit and cake,
and books for us to read; one very pretty girl gave me a bible.
But these good things did not last long.
March 23rd
On the 23rd I went out on patrol with Lieutenant Mason and 14
men. We had only gone about 3 miles from camp and were just
going over a small kopje (hill) when we saw about 500 mounted
men coming towards us. At first we did not know who they were;
we could see a lot of them were dressed in khaki; but we were
not left long in doubt, for they had extended along in front of us
and around each flank and opened fire on us.
As 15 against 500 was rather long odds we thought it best to bolt.
We had only one way to go and that was across a plain back to
camp. I will never forget that gallop. The bullets were coming from
right and left, and behind them, and the explosive bullets were
cracking over our heads like stockwhips.
I was on the little roan pony that I got at De Aar. He battled along
bravely, but was soon left behind by the big horses, and when we
got about half way across the plain he was hit in the leg by a bullet,
and went down, but he got up again and started off better than
ever. The bullet had only grazed the bone and he took me out of
range, to where the others were waiting for me behind a kopje.
They heard the shooting from the camp and came out to help us,
and although there were only 200 of us we soon drove the Boers
from the kopjes, and chased them for several miles.
None of our chaps were hurt, but several had narrow escapes.
Some had bullets through their clothes, and Jack Barry from
Maryborough, was wounded in the hand slightly.
We lost several horses. And my pony, although very lame for a few
days, is all right now.
Source: Dunolly-Maryborough Advertiser, 29 May 1901
* Information and photo provided by Frank Smith's proud grand-
daughter Sharon Broad, who seeks help in identifying the other
men in the photo.

Books about Australia's part in the Boer War
(have a peek without leaving this site)


Other Victorian Mounted Contingents to the Boer War

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