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2nd Lieutenant Hylbert John Birkbeck of the 1st Battalion, West India Regiment.

He was the son of John Birkbeck Jr., a magistrate, and Rachel Wilhemina Stansfield. He was born at Giggleswick, Yorkshire on 5 September 1879.

The photograph was probably taken at his commissioning since he first appears in Hart's Army List for 1900. Hylberts' army career appeared to be very short - he fails to appear in the 1901 edition of Hart's. An entry in the London Gazette for 3 April 1900 states rather abruptly "The West India Reg. - Sec. Lt. H. J. Birkbeck is removed from the Army under the provisions of Article 100, Royal Warrant, May 30, 1900."

An additional mention of Birkbeck has been found in a publication titled Charter House Register 1872-1910, Volume II,  1892-1910. The book in two volumes was published by the school of the same name and listed brief biographical outlines of all the graduates of the school between the dates mentioned. Birkbeck's entry states that he was "b. 5th Sept. 1879. Joined the West India Regiment in 1899; retried 1900; served in the S. African War as
Quarter-Master-Capt., Border Scouts".

The rolls for the Queen's South Africa Medal lists Lieut. H. J. Birkbeck as being entitled to that medal with the single clasp "Cape Colony". The roll shows Birkbeck as first being a member of Orpen's Horse and then transferring to the Border Scouts. In both cases, his rank is that of Lieutenant.

Orpen's Horse served in the far west of Cape Colony. Raised as a 300 member unit in 1900, the men enlisted for an initial six months but served for a full year. At the end of that period, about 2/3rds of the men took their discharge. Some of the remainders continued to serve under Major Orpen while others including H. J. Birkbeck transferred to other units such as the Border Scouts

The Border Scouts were a locally raised British/South African cavalry unit whose ranks were filled by troopers of mixed European and African blood. The unit was raised in May of 1900 which explains the April 1900 Gazette statement of Birkbeck leaving the army. The regiment patrolled the north-western district of Cape Colony during the Anglo-Boer War.

A Major John Birkbeck of the 4th Battalion, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) is also shown in the Medal Roll as serving in both Orpen's Horse and the Border Scouts. I believe that this John Birkbeck is in fact Hylbert John Birkbeck's father.

Hylbert's older brother Victor John was listed as a 2nd lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment in the Army List of 1895.

According to a family memorial located in the Holy Ascension Churchyard, Settle, North Yorkshire, Hylbert John Birkbeck died and was buried at Capetown on 2 June 1915. One may infer from this that he remained in South Africa after the end of the Anglo-Boer War.

Cabinet Photograph
Wyrall & Son - Photographer
Aldershot, England
22 August 1899

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