Anzac Old Boys - Boer War


Three young Nelson men,  who died in the Boer war..

William Aubrey Jennings (2 May 1877 - 29 November 1900)1

William JenningsWilliam Jennings
Photo supplied by Cheryl Carnahan
Click image to enlarge

William Aubrey (Aub) the son of James and Susan Emma Jennings nee Worster, was born in Nelson on 2 May 1877. Aub attended Bridge Street School from 1888 to 1890.  Before joining up for the Boer War, Aubrey was a labourer, employed by Mr. C.J. Harley a lawyer of Nelson. He also worked as a labourer in Wanganui. He joined the 2nd Contingent Units three and four as a private. The 2nd Contingent consisted mainly of men already trained in volunteer units. Aub and his horse were both regimental number 394 and his gun a carbine number 349 and 1175. He was drafted from the Nelson Rifles, of which he had been a member for 2½ years.

Aub departed on the SS Waiwera, from Wellington 20 January 1900 bound for South Africa, via Albany, Australia.1 The Contingent disembarked at Cape Town on 27 February 1900. They then entrained to Victoria Road in Northern Cape Colony and trekked in a column under Colonel Sir Charles Parsons for one month, before moving onto Bloemfontein.  They were the first troops to enter Brandfort on 3 April after contact with the Boers. On 4 May they helped dislodge the Boers from Constantia Hill, their rifle fire proving too much for the enemy on. There was shooting on 5 and 12 May, when the contingent came under fire at the crossing of the Zand River, before entering Kroonstad.

On 26 May they had a sharp engagement at Rietspruit. On 28 May the New Zealanders were sent forward to hold a hill (Van Wyk's Vlei) coming under fire for most of the next two days.

On 29 November, the Second and Third Contingents formed part of the Force that attacked 1,000 Boers under the command of General Ben Viljoen at Rhenoster Kop in the northern Transvaal. The New Zealanders suffered particularly badly in this battle. William Jennings was killed in an engagement at Reitfontein, 29 November 1900, during this battle. He was  buried on Reitfontein farm about 20 miles north of Balmoral.  A stone tablet bearing his name and those killed in the South African war is in the Nelson Cathedral. His name is also on a statue of remembrance in the Queen's Gardens Nelson.

William's brother, Albert Charles Jennings, also fought in the Boer war - he survived to die in World War I.

Gunner John Moeller 2

John Moeller, image supplied by Gina Fletcher and Nelson College Old Boys Association
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Poor Moeller succumbed to enteric fever at Springfontein in the Orange Free State, and he was interred at Bloemfontein.....  Jack Moeller, as he was always known to his friends, took a keen interest in the progress of the College, and he was an extremely popular Old Boy.  Telegraphic intelligence of his death reached College on Thursday morning, 6 July, and it created a profound sensation.  The College flag was suspended half-mast high in mute evidence of the loss of an enthusiastic and devoted Old Boy.  The deceased attended College as a boarder during 1890-1, and he was a prominent footballer.  On leaving College his name became extremely well-known in Wellington Football, Rowing and Volunteering circles, and on his departure with the Second Contingent for South Africa several handsome presentations were made to him by his numerous friends.  The death of one so intimately allied to us in the comparative solitude of that distant African township brings home to one with vivid insistence the reality of the colonial sacrifice in the interests of the Empire. 

Trooper Poole, image supplied by Gina Fletcher and Nelson College Old Boys Association
Click image to enlarge


Trooper T W Poole3

Trooper T W Poole was ..a boarder at Nelson College in 1891, and a member of the Cadet Corps.  He was a West Coast boy, and on leaving College he entered the Railway Department.  He volunteered and was accepted for the 2nd Contingent at Invercargill, where he had joined the Southland Mounted Rifles.  His photograph had been procured from his mother for reproduction in this magazine just the day before the receipt of the cable message announcing his death.  He was always keenly interested in athletics, especially in rowing, and his untimely death is mourned by a large circle of friends.  A pathetic interest now attaches itself to Moeller's discovery of Poole's identity as an old Boy during the voyage to South Africa.  Moeller at once apprised us of this addition to our list, little dreaming that in a few short months the names of both would be coupled in an obituary notice. 


Updated: April 2020

Sources used in this story

  1. Crawford J & Ellis, E. (1999) To Fight for the Empire - An Illustrated History of New Zealand and the South African War 1899-1902  Wellington, N.Z.: Reed,  pp 53, 93,99

    Hall, D. (1949) The New Zealanders in South Africa 1899-1902, Wellington, N.Z. :War History Branch, Dept. of Internal Affairs, p. 90.

    Nelson Evening Mail
    (1900, February 14): 

    Stowers, R. (2002) Rough Riders at War (2nd ed.) Hamilton, N. Z. : R. Stowers

  2. Old Boys Military News (1900, September) The Nelsonian  
  3. Old Boys Military News (1900, September) The Nelsonian  

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