QUEEN’S SOUTH AFRICA 1899, 3 CLASPS CAPT COLONY, ORANGE FREE STATE, TRANSVAAL ‘SERJT. W. MARTINSON. VICTORIAN M.R.’
Sergeant William (Willie) Martinson, born 1861, was a cook at the Imperial Restaurant, in Franklin Street Melbourne when he enlisted in the Left Wing on 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles on 28 January 1901. He was slightly wounded at disastrous action at Wilmansrust, 12 June 1901 but continued to serve, finally sailing for home on 13 October 1901. The Weekly Times (Melbourne), notes that Sergeant Martinson suffered gunshot wounds in both thighs, back, right arm and left hand at Wilmansrust.
Martinson was further entitled to a South Africa 1901 clasp, but this was returned unclaimed on 13 September 1913.
At Wilmansrust the Boers under General Muller and with some 150 men, fell on the encampment of the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles and (approximately 350 men),the whole camp was over-run in minutes. 17 of the Australians were killed in action plus a Boer “hensopper” who was executed, on the spot. Additionally 38 were wounded, the remainder either briefly captured or escaped the scene. The 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles captives were abandoned as the Burghers made off with the very considerable spoils, including food, ammunition and the two pom-poms. This was bar far the worst loss suffered by and Australian unit during the Boer War and combined with other casualties they suffered during their service, the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles suffered more casualties than any other Australian unit during the War.
Total Australian Boer War casualties were 251 killed in action and 735 wounded.
See the following links for excellent descriptions of the action:
“WILMANSRUST. SOME FURTHER DETAILS. (FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.) CAPE TOWN, July 4.
Details of the unfortunate Wilmansrust affair have no doubt reached you by cable. Nothing has been allowed by the censors to be published here, and the general public repose in sub-lime ignorance until the English mail brings the description appearing in the London newspapers. It appears that the 300 Victorians formed the left wing of Colonel (or General as he temporarily is) Beatson's flying column operating in the country around Middelburg. They were surprised in the dark, while halted, by a force of the enemy commanded by General Ben Viljoen. They were surrounded on all sides, and they could not tell whether there were 400 or 4,000 Boers. The first they knew of the enemy's presence was the pouring into their midst from every corner of a deadly fire. They were completely flabbergasted. Bullets simply hailed amongst them. With the first couple of volleys Dr. (Surgeon-Lieutenant) Palmer and 19 others were killed, and a couple of score wounded. For a brief space all was hopeless confusion. Then before they knew where they were the force had been taken prisoners. The whole affair was over in five minutes or so. The Boers stripped the Victorians of their arms, helped themselves to our two pom-poms, collared everything that possessed the triple virtue of being light and movable and useful, and strolled away,leaving the prisoners where they were, to worry around for themselves. In the morning General Beatson turned up with help. But by that time the enemy were 12 miles away, and have not been tackled since. Our wounded—the lists have been officially communicated to Melbourne during the past fortnight—were taken to the military hospital at Middelburg. Trooper Mack was so badly wounded that he died a couple of days later. Lieutenant Guy was also seriously battered, but is pulling round, while Trooper H. Grimes (there are two brothers, and both were wounded, W. Grimes slightly) had to have his leg amputated. The others are all, I am glad to say, doing well.
Some of this information may seem rather belated, but I would point out that thanks to the hole-andcorner system that prevails, it is not even now supposed to be known in this part of the world, and that the "official" answer given to any inquiry on the subject is that the whole thing is a pro-Boer fabrication. It is this sort of thing that sorely tends to anathematize the Imperial military all their ways. The cause of the disaster is, to a certain extent, shrouded in mystery. So complete was the surprise that one can only conclude that neither pickets nor scouts hail been sent out. One cannot so easily conclude that Australians, usually so cautions were responsible for this neglect. But an inquiry is to be hold, and a court-martial is pending, so before long some light may be thrown upon what is at present very obscure…”
Condition V, small EK or better. A very scarce Australian casualty medal for an auction that there is a great deal of research for available online and published.