Charles Ward and the Boer war

Charles Ward was born in January 1880 in Islington, London. His father William Hargrave Ward was born in Scarborough and had moved to London some time before 1871 to seek employment as a cabinet maker, which was his trade. William made a brief return to Scarborough to marry Jane Gray on the 8th July 1874 and took his new bride back to London to live. They had 3 children, the first child William Hargrave Ward was born in July 1875, he was either stillborn or died soon after birth because his death is registered in July 1875 as well. Their second child was George Stanley Ward and Charles was their third and last child. Major illness shortened their father's life and meant that the two boys had to return to Scarborough to be looked after by their grandparents. In the 1891 census Charles was living with his Grandfather and Grandmother Gray whilst George Stanley was living with his Grandmother Ward and Great Aunt Pecket. There mother, who had been a widow for 4 years was working in London as a domestic servant. Family legend has it that Charles and George used to meet up, whenever they weren't at school, and spend hours playing around Scarborough castle. As the 19th century was drawing to a close war was threatening in South Africa and Charles answered the call to serve his country by enlisting with the 3rd (Prince of Wales's) Dragoon Guards which was a cavalry regiment in the British Army. It is unclear why he joined a cavalry unit, but it is quite possible that he could have been employed as a stable lad in Scarborough and thereby learned how to handle a horse. His regiment was deployed to the Boer War in 1901.
The British soldiers' thought that the Boer War would be over by Christmas, but the reality was that nearly three years later the Boer War had been the most bitter, cruel, and most savage war fought between white men since the Crimean war. To the British soldiers, South Africa was anything but what they expected. The land, beautiful though it was, seemed inherently hostile. The culture shock for the thousands of soldiers who had come from England must have been great. The unending miles of plains where horizons didn't exist, but seemed to dissolve into each other was so alien to them that they must have realised that the war was going to be great trial to them. As the soldiers began to march across the north-eastern Cape and southern Free State, walking in columns consisting of several thousand men, and following endless lines of hundreds of supply wagons, drawn by thousands of horses and oxen, the dust chafed their skins, clogged their lungs and noses and burnt their eyes. As the scorching days went by, the sun fried the skin off their faces, ears and noses, and huge, angry sun blisters and painfully chapped lips made their lives a misery, and each night when the men removed their boots, they pulled off their blood soaked socks to examine their badly blistered feet, it must have made them wonder why they ever joined up. Each day brought hunger, thirst and utter exhaustion. The river beds were dry in the beginning, so water was scarce for drinking and unavailable for washing. The men lived and slept in one set of clothes and after weeks of marching they were beyond the meaning of filthy. But when the rains came they only replaced one set of miseries with another. The British camps were quickly turned into squelching quagmires. The ammunition wagons sank down into the mud, and were practically immovable. The rain was torrential, probably the like of which the soldiers had never seen before, and they had quite often no shelter for the night as the supply wagons were bogged down in the mud. Surviving must have been a living nightmare as each season changed. In the winter several men died from cold and exposure. But this was not the end of the British army's miseries. The medical services of the army proved to be woefully inadequate, and by the time the soldiers reached Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange Free State Republic, a massive proportion of the army was sick to the point of death. At the battle of Modderrivier the desperate men had drunk water that was contaminated by the corpses of dead Boers, horses and cattle. Dysentry was raging, typhus fever was running uncontrolled and fever and other diseases were killing dozens of troops a day. The hospitals were overflowing and thousands of troops died. It was an uphill battle for the soldiers to stay healthy on a diet of army biscuits and bully beef. Eventually far more soldiers died of disease than from being casualties of war. Typically the symptoms of enteric fever, which is better known as typhoid, include a general ill-feeling and abdominal pain, a high temperature of over 103 degrees, fever and severe diarrhea occur as the disease progresses along with delirium and hallucinations. Charles Ward was one of these unfortunate men, he died of enteric fever on the 3rd April 1901 having just reached the age of 21. One has to wonder what Charles must have gone through being so ill and so far from home, and how often he must have wished himself back in Scarborough safe and well. He was a sad loss of a handsome and promising young son, brother and grandson in the prime of his life.

Charles's death as it was recorded in the Times Newspaper

South African Field Force Casualties

Killed in action 51852565774
Died of wounds 18318352018
Died of Disease 3391291113250
Prisoners died in captivity 597102
Accidental deaths 27711738
Total deaths in South Africa October 1899 - May 190210722081021882
Prisoners and missing 105
Sent home as invalids 311672314
Of the 72314 men sent home as invalids 508 died, 8221 wounded, 5789 discharged as unfit for service and 63644 were sick
Total casualties in South Africa October 1899 - May 190241889322997717
Information from an article entitled Long Tom's War Zone written by Herman Labushagne, was used in this document