|This bicycle owning soldier is identified of the reverse this photograph as No 1015 Sergeant J. Alexander of the
Edinburgh Company, Royal Horse Artillery, Natal Field Force.
Alexander's militia attestation papers state that he was born at Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland in 1868. No
information regarding his family has come to light. He was a resident of Edinburgh, Scotland at the time of his
enlistment and was described as five feet, seven and a half inches tall with a fresh complexion and brown eyes and
black hair. The Statement of Services page of his militia papers is fragmentary but the following can be made out:
Attested Gunner: 6 March 1888
Promoted Corporal: 21 May 1888
Tried and Reduced to Gunner: 23 April 1890
Re-engaged: 1 July 1893
Promoted Corporal: 27 May 1895
Attested with Militia Reserve: 11 July 1896
Promoted Sergeant: 30 May 1898
Joined Service Company for Service Abroad: 8 July 1899
Embodied Sergeant: 2 December 1901
Re-engaged Militia: 18 February 1902
Re-engaged Sergeant: 3 March 1906
Absent: 3 June 1907
Struck off Strength: 24 June 1907
As stated above No. 1015 Sergeant John Alexander was a member of the Service Company of the Edinburgh Royal
Garrison Artillery (Militia). According to the Queen's South Africa Medal Roll dated 3 September 1903 Alexander
was originally entitled to the Queen's South Africa Medal with the clasp "South Africa 1901". A second roll dated 15
July 1907 shows his entitlement to the clasps for "Transvaal" and "Natal". That roll lists Alexander's medal as "not
receivable". A third roll dated 21 September 1908 shows Alexander also being credited with the clasp "Orange Free
State". This second roll was amended with the "Orange Free State" being struck through and a note added stating
"No clasp" and that Alexander had deserted on 4 June 1907.
Alexander was not quite alone in disappearing. Of the twenty men of the Service Company, Edinburgh Royal
Garrison Artillery (Militia) listed on that page of the medal roll over half had in one way or another fallen by the
wayside in the few short years between the compiling of the first roll in 1903 and the issuance of the second in 1908 -
No. 2268 Gunner William Clark was also listed as a deserter and had his entitlement struck through. Another man,
No. 2613 Gunner John Cavanagh was simply listed as "Not heard of for over two years." Eight men are listed as
either "No reply" or "No known address". No. 2704 Gunner Peter Mann had his entitlement struck through with the
notation that he had been convicted of a felony.
While the Queen's South Africa Medal Rolls list Alexander as having deserted, his militia service papers simply
show him as absent in early June 1907 and then being struck from strength later that month. It does not appear that
he was ever heard from again by his militia unit nor does there appear to have been any attempt to find him. For all
appearances, it looks as if John Alexander simply quit the militia after almost 20 years of service including time
spent overseas during the Anglo-Boer War.
No further record has been found of Alexander after 24 June 1907.
R. Murton - Photographer
Durban, Natal, South Africa