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Walter John Cumberledge Fletcher


UPDATE: 18/10/2021

18 October 1858, Wilfrid Gore-Brown, first Anglican Bishop of Kimberley.
18 October 1873, First execution on the diamond fields for murder – Kleinjan at Barkly West.
18 October 1899, First British Officer in the Boer War to die, Lt Walter Fletcher LNL.
18 October 1935, Historian George Beet dies.
18 October 1936, The bust of General Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Lukin unveiled near the Cenotaph.
18 October 1956, Frances Baard charged with high treason.

The first British officer to die in the 1899-1902 conflict

Walter John Cumberledge Fletcher (pictured) of the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment has the dubious distinction of being the first British officer to die during the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902.

His death from heat fatigue in Kimberley during the siege on 18 October 1899 came a week after the war started and a mere four days after the siege had begun. He was a month short of his 20th birthday.


Last letter written by Walter Fletcher

Walter was born on 26 November 1879, the son of Mr and Mrs WRB Fletcher, and was educated from 1894 to 1898 at the Tonbridge School in Kent, England, considered one of the top ten schools in the United Kingdom.

He was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Regiment on 14 February 1899 and transferred to the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in May 1899, joining them in Cape Town prior to their being sent north to the Orange River.

Together with half the battalion under command of Lt-Colonel Robert Kekewich he arrived in Kimberley on 20 September 1899, the other half battalion remaining to serve with Lord Methuen on his advance to relieve Kimberley in November that same year.


Last letter written by Walter Fletcher

In his last letter written (pictured) he complains about the temperatures experienced while on exercises saying they should hold these later in the day when it is cooler.

Upon his death in the Kimberley hospital he was accorded a full military funeral and is buried in the Gladstone cemetery. He left his mother and sisters to mourn his passing.

His sisters placed a wreath each year upon his grave on the anniversary of his death, this practice ceasing in 1940. Upon the 100th anniversary of his death in 1999 a memorial service was held at his grave, attendees including high ranking members of the British High Commission as well as the Band of the Kimberley Regiment and their commanding officer.



UPDATE: 18/10/2019

18 October 1858, Wilfrid Gore-Brown, first Anglican Bishop of Kimberley.
18 October 1873, First execution on the diamond fields for murder – Kleinjan at Barkly West.
18 October 1899, First British Officer in the Boer War to die, Lt Walter Fletcher LNL.
18 October 1935, Historian George Beet dies.
18 October 1936, The bust of General Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Lukin (pictured) unveiled near the Cenotaph.
18 October 1956, Frances Baard (pictured) charged with high treason.


Frances Baard


Wilfrid Gore Browne was born in India on 6 May 1859, the youngest of the family of Col Sir Thomas Gore Browne KCMG, spending his early years in New Zealand where his father was Governor. He was educated, with his brother Frank Gore Browne, K.C., at Harrow School (from 1873) and at Trinity College, Cambridge where he took his degree in 1881.
Before his ordination Gore Browne enlisted with the 11th Hussars for six months “with the object of getting experience which would help him in his work among men.”

Ordained deacon in the Diocese of Durham in 1882, priest in 1883, his first post was as Curate at Pallion, 1882-3. He served subsequently at St Hilda, South Shields, 1883-7; St John the Evangelist, Darlington, 1887-9; and as Perpetual Curate/Priest in charge of St Hilda’s, Darlington, 1889–1902; before a posting to South Africa which he took on account of serious lung trouble.

A correspondent describing his pioneer work at St Hilda’s mission in a slum district of Darlington wrote of “a sheer spiritual romance, full of interest, delight and humour. The vicar’s enthusiastic joy in the life of the Church was amazingly infectious. On one Easter Day, coming down to the chancel steps to preach at the Eucharist, he gave out his text, ‘The Lord is risen indeed!’ and after a moment’s silence, said, with a smile that was all but a laugh, ‘It’s no use, dear people; I can’t say anything more,’ and returned to the altar.”

Gore Browne was described at this time as “a thorough Catholic and a true Evangelical.” His church of St Hilda’s was, apart from the mother parish of St John’s, the only church in Darlington then where Catholic ceremonial was in use and all sacramental privileges provided.


Bust of General Sir Henry Tim Lukin

In South Africa, as Rector of Pretoria, 1902–1909, then Dean of Pretoria he was instrumental, as he had been in England, in setting up fledgling churches.

Promotion to the Episcopate came in 1912 following his election as the first Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, a vast, newly established diocese, 305,000 square miles (790,000 km2) in extent, carved out of the existing Diocese of Bloemfontein, with a portion from the Diocese of Cape Town, and half of Bechuanaland Protectorate which had until then been administered as part of the Diocese of Mashonaland (Southern Rhodesia). He was Consecrated at Bloemfontein Cathedral on 29 June 1912.

He was enthroned at St Cyprian’s Cathedral in Kimberley in a similarly impressive service the following day, 30 June 1912. Soon the work organising the new diocese was presenting immense difficulties. His Dean, T.C. Robson was away ill, leaving the cathedral in his hands. There were no funds. With the outbreak of war in 1914 the Kimberley mines were shut down, causing huge loss of jobs; further afield in the diocese “droughts seemed almost continuous” and “poverty irremediable.”

Gore Browne raised funds for the Diocese on return visits to England. He was also able to recruit new clergy who numbered only 22 in 1912. In 1916 there were ten African clergy and more than this number by the end of the 1920s. Gore Browne also opened new parishes and districts and saw to the building new churches such as at Batlharos.

During sixteen years in Kimberley and Kuruman Bishop Gore Browne is recorded as having visited and ministered in every part of his far-flung diocese (which has since shrunk, no longer including the enormous area which is now the southern half of Botswana). “He spared himself nothing on his long treks,” the Church Times obituary notes, “often having to walk for hours through deep sand when his motor stuck.” There were parts that could be reached only by ox wagon. Gore Browne is well known for the special ministry he developed to the migrant workers and convicts on the mines in Kimberley, amongst whom he was “trusted and greatly loved and respected”.

Bishop Wilfrid Gore Browne died unexpectedly following emergency surgery at Kimberley Hospital on 15 March 1928.
Gore Browne was assisted in many ways by his sister, Miss Mabyl Gore Browne, who lived with him at Darlington, Pretoria and Kimberley. She died in Kimberley in May 1926. According to one source, Mabyl was instrumental in the establishment of Bishop’s Hostel for Anglican boys attending schools in Kimberley.

The 1913 Synod resolved to transfer the Perseverance School from St Cyprian’s to the diocese. In order to present more than mere schooling the diocese had the government Education Department officially recognise Perseverance, in 1917, as a teacher training centre. In the following year 430 children and 92 student teachers were enrolled.

Perseverance had originated as one of a number of educational initiatives of the 1870s at St Cyprian’s Parish on the Diamond Fields. A St Cyprian’s Grammar School and St Michael’s School for girls had not been able to compete with government schools once they were brought into existence, and it was against this background that the Bishop’s Hostel for Anglican boys attending other schools in Kimberley was established in January 1915, the Bishop himself as its first warden.

A fitting memorial to Bishop Wilfrid Gore Browne was the establishment of the Gore Browne (Native) Training School, several years in the making, and opened officially on 29 October 1938. “Gore Browne”, as it was known, was dis-established in 1954 and closed as a result of Bantu Education and Group Areas legislation under Apartheid.

Bishop Wilfrid Gore Browne was an accomplished watercolourist who left a sizeable collection of painted studies (and sketches) of Africans with whom he met or engaged in the Kimberley mine compounds and during his travels around his vast diocese. Hailed as being of importance as ethnographic record by A.J.H. Goodwin, they depart from stereotype and, unusually for the era, sensitively depict real individual and often named personalities from the margins of South African society. The collection is preserved at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley, and was show-cased in a patronal festival exhibition at the cathedral under Dean Thomas Stanage in 1976 and in an exhibition opened by Dean Brian Beck of St Cyprian’s at the William Humphreys Art Gallery in 2003.

(Mostly from Wikipedia).

18 October 1873, First execution on the diamond fields for murder – Kleinjan at Barkly West.
18 October 1899, First British Officer in the Boer War to die, Lt Walter Fletcher LNL.
18 October 1935, Historian George Beet dies.
18 October 1936, The bust of General Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Lukin (pictured) unveiled near the Cenotaph.
18 October 1956, Frances Baard charged with high treason.


Shortly after sunrise on Saturday 18 October 1873, Kleinjan, a young black man, was executed on the gallows in the Klipdrift (now Barkly West) jail for the murder of a shepherd earlier that year in the Griquatown region of the Griqualand West magisterial region. He was hanged in the presence of several persons who were required to be there by law, but the rope used was not the strongest and broke in the fall. Kleinjan fell with his face on the ground, but fortunately for him, he was already dead. The body was again strung up upon the gallows as the law insisted it should, the rope being attached to the portion still around his neck, and the corpse remained there for a short period. “This is the first execution that has ever taken place on the Diamond Fields and we hope it will be the last”, the Diamond News proclaimed.

Kleinjan, aged between 16 and 17 years old, had “…by no means a bad face. His skin is of the blackest, but he has rather a good natured face and…a very evenly balanced head…his eyes are bright and intelligent.”

The circumstances of the crime are were that a young boy, younger than Kleinjan, was sent out early one day in 1873 to the veld in the Griquatown region with a flock of sheep and goats. He did not return and later that day his body was discovered “tied by the neck to a boulder in the veldt dreadfully mangled and strangled.” Kleinjan and a younger boy – who became the main state witness in the case – had gone out to the boy minding the flock and asked him for a sheep. The young shepherd boy replied that he could not, so Kleinjan took one, forcing the shepherd to attempt to retrieve his property. Kleinjan then threw stones at the shepherd, caught him, tied him up, and then tried to strangle him but without success. He then dragged him to a boulder, tied a piece of leather rope to his neck and attached it to a boulder; and then pulled upon his legs until the leather tightened around his neck so he could not breath and lost consciousness. When the shepherd was nearing death, Kleinjan battered his head with stones until he died. He then stripped the body of clothes, took several sheep and disappeared.

Kleinjan was soon captured and confessed to the killing, although he later denied it. In his defence at the trial, he said that the witness was lying and that the quarrel was about some tobacco. The Diamond News states that the Judge’s summing up was impressive, but that “it did not affect the prisoner in the least, and it is doubtful in our mind whether the unfortunate wretch comprehended his situation. If he did he did not appear to do so.” He was sentenced to death and to Kleinjan goes the rather dubious honour of being the first person ever executed on the Diamond Fields, but there is considerable doubt that it was the first murder committed on the Diamond Fields.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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