The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Lancer - Corporal Fred Kilpatrick

Frederick Isaac Kilpartick was born in 1873 at Adelong in New South Wales where his father John and mother Eliza ran a 16-hectare dairy farm. He was the youngest of seven children (4 brothers and 2 sisters). His parents saw the benefit of education and had their brood tutored at home. In 1884, the family moved to Leichhardt where Fred was able to attend Leichhardt public School. Finishing his education at grade eight, he must have done well, he was appointed a pupil teacher at Petersham Public School on 26 October 1888 at the age of 15 years and 6 months.

He then taught at a number of schools, in 1891 being granted a scholarship in teacher training at Fort Street Superior School under the auspices of the University of Sydney. On completion of his training in 1893, he taught at Woolhara, Leichhardt, Ebenezer and Sawpit Gully (near Appin) public schools.

1897 saw Fred teaching at Carlingford. He was lodging with Mr Ridal and his family in George Street Parramatta. Fred was a tall lad, 190 cm, and a member of the Leichhardt Rowing Club. William Kennedy his headmaster at Carlingford described him as a "thoroughly conscientious and painstaking teacher". Mr Ridal was also a Sergeant Major in the New South Wales Lancers and introduced Fred to the Regiment. Early 1899 saw Fred as a Lance Corporal when he grabbed wlat he and 74 others saw as the opportunity of a lifetime. For £20 he could go to the UK and train with British cavalry. He cashed in his savings, sold his horse and in April 1899 headed off for adventure.

To cross the sea and learn from those who appeared to be masters of the art of mobile warfare was a fascination any intelligent young man would be drawn to. Training complete, the Lancers headed home. The day after the Lancers’ transport SS Nineveh pulled out of Southampton on 10 October 1899, the Boer Republics of Transvaal (ZAR) and Orange Free State declared war on the British, and the British government reciprocated. Rumours of a possible conflict had been swirling for some months. The contingent’s commander Captain Charlie Cox had been lobbying his UK masters for his squadron to be involved. Just before departure he had cabled the New South Wales Government asking for permission to fight should war erupt. On arrival at Cape town on 2 November, permission to stay and fight was waiting.

The Lancers including the now Corporal Fred Kilpatrick were moved to camp at Stellenbosch about 30 km inland. With no horses, the men caught, broke and trained Cape Ponies, nowhere near the stature of the Walers horses the first reinforcement contingent was to bring, nonetheless hardy and well suited to local conditions. The stature was a challenge for tall men like Fred, requiring long legs to be tucked up when crossing rough terrain. Fourteen days after disembarkation saw the squadron at the rail junction of De Aar 750 km to the north east.

The rail yards at De Aar in 2018

There Fred wrote home:

"De Aar 17 November 1899


On arrival at the Cape 70 of us decided to stay, or rather someone decided for us - but more of that later. We were sent to Stellenbosch, a re-mount station where we put in 12 days training ponies. Although our horses are being sent from Australia, it seems that we are to go to the front on these rats. From there we went on to De Aar. No sooner had we put out horse lines down than we to go got the order to go on; but this was countermanded. This is an awful place - clouds of dust day and night, and water scarce. We just head that 27 of our men are to go on to the Orange River. We might be in the thick of it soon. I'm writing this in a marquee which the residents have erected and set out as a soldiers' home. While I'm writing, hymns are being sung and prayers said. The 27 men going to the Orange River are to fill the vacancies of the 9th Lancers. We have just received word from Colonel Burns to the effect that they have been insured our lives for £200 each, and he desires best to say how we wish it to be dispersed in the event of us 'snuffing out'.

Your Friend


The letter was to a friend Owen Cox of Carlingford. Fred had a circle of good friends, one of which Norman Smith of Parramatta died in January 1900, a few days after Fred was KIA.

Soon after Major Lee arrived with the Lancers' first reinforcement draft, the remaining Lancers at De Aar were placed under command of Colonel Porter of the 6th Dragoon Guards with whom they had trained in England. Sent by train across to Noupoort where they were part of a force required to move north and re-take the rail junction at Colesberg. Near Arundle around 30 km from the objective, where Fred Kilpatrick described his first encounter with the enemy inwhat was to be his last letter to Owen:

"It was a great bit of excitement the first day we were fired on. We were riding across a plain when all at once dirt began to fly. There was no shelter. We broke and galloped as fast as we could out of range. Bullets followed us for about 200 metres. They also fired four pom-pom shells. One horses shot down and three others came down as the ground was rough. I took a man up behind me and we had a great ride."

Short of the objective, Frederick and his colleagues moved into camp at Slingersfontein near Rensberg Farm.

Slingersfontein then and now

At 03:00 hrs on Tuesday 16 January 1900 a patrol of 21 Lancers and Australian Horse left camp. There task was to ride into enemy territory using the scrubby ground directly to the north and establish enemy strength and dispositions between the camp and the settlement at Colesberg, four kilometres hence. Riding out, the patrol stuck to the high ground making use of the available foliage for cover. Lieutenant Willoughby Dowding of the Australian Horse was in command. Major Lee rode with them for the first half hour, he left the troop when he was certain they were headed in the right direction and were certain of their task.

At 13:00 Warrant Officer Duncan and two troopers were detached to check-out a farm owned by a Boer named Foster. On completion of their task and finding nothing suspicious, they attempted to re-join the patrol. The patrol had moved on, the rocky and hard ground made it difficult to track. The trio returned to Slingersfontein.

In the vicinity of 14:30, two Boer parties numbering about 40 ambushed the patrol in the close country near the south - north ridgeline. The fighting was intense. Troop Sergeant Major George Griffin of the Australian Horse was killed when the first shots were fired. A farmer from Gundagai, he was the first New South Welshman to die in battle. Many Lancers had their horses shot from under them. CPL Kilpatrick was shot through the jaw and lungs, others were wounded.

The Boers treated their enemy well. Dressing wounds and taking most as prisoners. CPL Kilpatrick was considered far too gone to move. His wounds were dressed, and he was left in the hope of recovery by his own countrymen. The night was cold, Fred's last communication was to write the word COLD in the dirt.

The field ambulance was ordered forward under flag of truce. On return the medical officer reported that he had buried TSM Griffin on the spot where he had fallen, and that Fred Kilpatrick was in the ambulance expiring. Corporal Kilpatrick died, at 17:10 on 17 January 1900. He was buried next to two New Zealanders on the slope above Slingersfontein Farm.

Post war Fred's body was re-interred in the Colesberg Boer War cemetery. Their grave markers were of cast iron these having been removed and sold as scrap years ago, their names are at least etched on the monument that stands central in the town plot.

The British Colesberg Boer War Cemetery 2016

There are memorials to Corporal Kilpatrick at Carlingford and Leichhardt schools. The memorial at Leichhardt is illustrated below:

The inscription states:'In Memory of , Corporal Frederick Isaac Kilpatrick of the N.S.W .Lancers, For many years a scholar and teacher of this school He was killed at Rensburg, South Africa, on the 16th January 1900 At the age of 26, and was one of the first of the N.S.W. volunteers To fall in the defence of the empire This tablet was erected by the teachers, scholars, residents of Leichhardt and friends of the deceased'.

There is also a memorial at Carlingford Public School:

John Howells 2022


PV Vernon (Editor) "The Royal New South Wales Lancers 1885-1985".
Lawrie Daly 1999 "Frederick Isaac Kilpatrick - Teacher and Soldier of the Queen".
Cumberland Argus 24 January 1900.

© New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881; Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
Postal Address: PO Box 7287, PENRITH SOUTH NSW 2750, AUSTRALIA; Telephone: +61 (0)405 482 814 Email:
Click to contact
website designed and maintained by cibaweb Site Disclaimer

go to top of page

Find and compare hotels near The Royal New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum through HotelsCombined for the cheapest rates.

Image loading please wait
Donate to the Museum
Image loading please wait Like us on Facebook RUSI of NSW The NSW Lancers Museum acknowledges Vergola for their generous assistance