The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Lancer - Corporal Ben Harkus

(Rowland) Ben Harkus was a Lancer who has a particularly poignant story. It is a story of sacrafice, a soldier that lies now in an unmarked grave in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Ben was a committed soldier. A messenger ar Parramatta Post Office, he joined the Regiment's newly established K Troop at Parramatta in 1891. He was a skilled horseman and soldier. 1899 saw him as a corporal who had already gained accolades for his skill at UK tournaments two years earlier. He was one of the 75 who raised the £20+ to go to England and train at Aldershot, he was recently married and took his wife and young child with him.

When all but 29 of the 75 left the ship at Cape Town to fight in the Boer War, Ben did not. He chose to go home, settle his family back in Parramatta then return to the fray. Back home, he and the others were pilloried for deserting their comrades. Undeterred Ben stuck to his plan, fighting Post Office bureaucracy, the NSW Post Office not permitting married staff to the war, he was given command of the second Lancer reinforcement draft (quite an honour, the first was commanded by a major, the third by a Captain) leaving Sydney in January 1900.

March saw the draft join Lancer Squadron in Bloemfontein. A hiatus in the fighting was in place. The Boers had been driven north from the town along the road to Pretoria, the fighting from Belmont in November 1899, however, had taken its toll, the pause of a month was essential to gather the resources for the British including our New South Welshmen to advance.

The second Lancer Draft Corporal Harkus is to the right of the image.

It was autumn, Bloemspruit, the local water supply was slow flowing and became contaminated by the influx of men and animals. Two Lancers Corporal Ben Harkus and Trooper Franz Fetting died from the typhoid epidemic that raged in the town. Both are buried at President Brand Cemetery at Bloemfontein.

Ben's resting place.

In 2019 Ian Hawthorn did a piece sponsored by the NSW Government "Heritage Near Me" programme...

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