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Joe Wade - South Africa Part II

October 6th 1899 The Irish Brigade, which would have included my Great Grandfathers brother Joe Wade, marched through the streets of Johannesburg with the Brigade flag flying over their heads and Martini-Henry and Mauser rifles on their shoulders. Then traveling by train to Volksrust where they waited to receive their orders to advance. There they were addressed by General Joubert, the Commandant General of the South African Republic.


On Oct 9th 1899, Joubert ‘sent a demand to the British Government for the recall of the English troops from the Transvaal border. The British declined, all communications were broken off, and war was declared on the following day, October 11th.’ The Boer offensive began with a cold, and stormy start. The Irish Brigade joined them as they set off on horseback into the Laing’s Nek pass.



Source: Louis Creswicke, South Africa and the Transvaal war, ii(London, 1900), p9

During one of the first exchanges the Irish advanced on the town of Newcastle. John MacBride describes that the enemy abandoned the town without a shot being fired. The Irish Brigade tore down the Union Jack and replaced it with the Vierkleur, (Flag of the South African Republic) as well as raising the Brigade’s flag.


The Irish Brigade took part at the Battle of Dundee. They had camped 7 miles outside of Dundee and the following day spotted a column of English across the Valley. They had spotted the highly trained 18th Hussars, a British Cavalry, who were led by Colonel Moller. The Boer and some of the Irish Brigade followed after them. After a few exchanges Colonel Moller and 196 of the 18th Hussars had surrendered to what Colonel Blake described as ‘Forty untrained farmers.’


In an article from 1905 John MacBride wrote the following;

‘At the head of the brigade a green flag which had been specially made for the expected rising in Connaught in ’67, was held proudly aloft by Sergeant Joe Wade, of Balbriggan, and the sight of its green folds fluttering in the breeze thrilled every heart with thoughts of what might have been, and still more with hopes of what might be in a not too distant future, when yet another fight for Irish freedom would be waged. During the course of the battle of Dundee the boys had, for the first time, the satisfaction of pouring a few volleys into the enemy’s (The British) ranks.’

Around a week later at Modderspruit Colonel Blake had been injured by a pellet from an exploding shell, which meant he had to leave the battle. Under heavy bombardment The Boers fell back as ammunition for the guns began to run out. Volunteers from the Irish Brigade were called for and these men were placed under the command of Joe Wade. ‘Amid showers of bursting bombs, they serviced the guns.’ One of the Boars commented afterwards ‘Allmachta! You Irish fear neither God nor the big guns.‘


A 155mm Creusot ‘Long Tom’ being loaded. Source: Unknown


Despite the heroism shown they lost that day and a number were wounded and died. One of those first casualties was Hugh Carberry, a friend of Joe Wade. He had been shot in his forehead and taken to the field hospital where the bullet was removed. Remarkably within three days he was able to get onto his feet at the field hospital and was then subsequently moved to recover in Pretoria. It is documented that Joe Wade visited Hugh Carberry in hospital but sadly, despite making progress, died a few months later from a stroke. An impressive monument standing 7ft was erected in Armagh in his memory.


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