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News > Heritage > South African War (1899-1902)

South African War (1899-1902)

Old Bradfieldians remembered
17 Oct 2023
Memorials in Chapel
Memorials in Chapel

The South African War Roll of Honour features eight OBs whe were killed while fighting in South Africa: Captain Hugh Wharton Fife (Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry), Captain Henry Herbert Sambrooke Crawley (Imperial Yeomanry), Lieutenant William Earnest Streatfeild Woodgate (King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment)’ Lieutenant Mark Hastings (Imperial Yeomanry), Trooper Ernest Arthur Dawson (City Imperial Volunteers), Trooper Leslie Blomfield Gray, Paget’s Horse, Trooper Eric Templeton Campbell (Imperial Yeomanry) and Lieutenant Geoffrey Norman Shea (Royal Munster Fusiliers). In 1902 the College created a South African War Memorial Fund to raise money to put a Memorial Tablet featuring their names in the College Chapel and also considered a memorial glass window to honour them at a total cost of £300.

The obituary for Geoffrey Norman Shea was published in the Bradfield Chronicle of June 1902. Geoffrey was shot dead on April 20th 1902 while leading a charge on a farm near Schotland West, in Kroonstad district if the Orange River Colony. He came to Bradfield in September 1891 and left at the end of the Summer term in 1899. Those who knew him at school will always remember the energy and thoroughness with which he carried out all that he undertook, whether in the classroom, the football field or the Rifle Corps. Leaving Bradfield a Prefect, an Officer in the Corps and a football colour, he entered Sandhurst, being placed 102nd in the examination. He was promoted to Under Officer and in his last term was chosen to represent the Royal Military College at the Military Tournament, where he carried off two prizes for fencing. He passed out of Sandhurst first on the list and received the Sword of Honour and the Victoria Medal. Shortly after this he joined his regiment, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Muster Fusiliers, in the Transvaal and after seeing service with various columns was finally killed while attached to the Mounted Infantry detachment, but a few short weeks before the conclusion of peace. His determination, power of leadership and enthusiasm for the profession he had chosen had carried him far and in the short time he had done much to fulfil the promise of a brilliant career. But it was not to be.

Sadly he was not the final Bradfieldian to die as a result of the South African War, as Trooper Eric Templeton Campbell from the 49th (Welsh) Imperial Yeomany had been severely wounded in action in Onderstepoort, Transvaal in August 1901 and sadly died from his wounds in September 1902.

On St Andrew’s Day November 30th in 1903, the chief feature of the day was the unveiling of a stained glass window and tablet in memory of the OB community who fell in South Africa. There was a short service at 12:30 in Chapel on the conclusion of which Mr Blackall Simonds unveiled the two memorials. The window in the south transept consists of three lights depicting scenes from the life of David. Each light contains a single figure, on the east David preparing to confront Goliath, in the centre David as King and Psalmist and on the west David as the armour bearer of Saul. Under the figures are smaller groups, representing respectively the slaying of the lion, the anointing by Samuel and the incident at Bethlehem when David poured out the water that his men had brought him from the well. Above the central figure of David are the words “Pro Patria”. The window was generally pronounced good both in design and in colour. The design had been commissioned by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars. The marble tablet is positioned near the window on the east wall of the transept.

The memorial window was produced by the leading British glass makers, James Powell and Sons (also known as Whitefriars Glass). The firm, originally established in 1710, had been taken over by the Powell family in 1834, and at this period its factory was located between Fleet Street and the River Thames. Powell and Sons was known for its elegant tableware, striking decorative glass and evocative stained-glass windows. During the nineteenth century, it collaborated with important architects and designers including Thomas Graham Jackson and Edward Burne-Jones, and created the glassware for William Morris’s Red House. Powell and Sons had also developed innovative processes for the production of new colours and heat-resistant glass.  The head of the company’s stained-glass department was James Crofts Powell (1847-1914). He was a skilful artist and designer, responsible for many significant projects, including stained glass for the Cathedrals of Salisbury, Wells, Winchester, Liverpool and New York.

Pictures of the Memorial Tablet and Window in College Chapel are shown in the gallery below.


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