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The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:22 pm
by Steve_Butler

John Howard Alexander, hailed from Dublin and he was a genius - a man with a great mechanical mind coupled with Military perception. His designs for water pumps and horse tack are being posted here:
but I need help to gain the rest of his story.

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:05 pm
by hbtoday98
Spear point pump ,norton tube that's a great photo with a lot of detail.Great work Steve.thanks Mal

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sat Jun 19, 2010 9:47 pm
by Jonsig
Great to see
Look forward to seeing the rest of the Photographs of the loads.
Much like some of the work i have been doing on pack horse and camel equipment...

Regards Jonathan

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 11:31 am
by Steve_Butler
Our next intriguing link to John Alexander - David Porter in England - where are you - this man has Warwickshire connections :D
an interesting item on a SA Military site includes this statement:
Then, on 9 February 2002, the writer received an e-mail from Mrs Linda Atkins of Ashorne Hill Management College, Leamington Spa, in Warwickshire, UK. An old trunk belonging to a Lt Col John Howard Alexander DSO MC had been discovered in the attic. Col Alexander was born in Dublin in 1880. His military records indicated that he had served in the Royal Engineers and had been awarded his Military Cross on 26 June 1916, and his Distinguished Service Order on 4 January 1919. He had been Mentioned in Despatches on four occasions - on 31 May 1916, 29 September 1916, 6 July 1917 and 12 January 1918. In 1918, he was Deputy Controller of Baghdad Railway. Apparently, Col Alexander managed Ashorne Hill during the Second World War for the British Iron and Steel Confederation when the Staff was evacuated from London. His American wife was in charge of the catering and housekeeping. The colonel's records also indicated that he had served as a temporary major (substantive captain) in the Union Defence Force in 1912, and that he was fluent in English, isiZulu and French. Mrs Atkins also found a letter addressed to him as Maj J H Alexander, Royal Engineers CRE Anzac Mounted Division. His role in South Africa has still to be researched, but there are spears mounted on the wall in the Great Hall of the Conference Centre at Ashorne Hill which indicate that he must have played a role in Natal at some stage of his career.

read the full article at:

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 1:09 pm
by Steve_Butler
This will brighten up your day:
Photograph from the camera of John Howard Alexander - a series of photos numbered 1-14
this image and number 3 and relates to notes I have written on the image here below.


Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:11 pm
by Steve_Butler
Here we go - this is a bit exciting!
Items I found at: ... 23&cid=8#8

NRA 7796 W Sussex mis

Letters and papers of Lt.-Col. John Alexander, R.E Add Mss 17776 - 17825 1900-1938
These documents are held at West Sussex Record Office

Source of acquisition: presented by Dr. M. Clough, 2 Sherborne Road, Chichester, July 1975.

Administrative history:
John Howard Alexander was born in Dublin in 1880. He started work in a draper's shop, a job he seemed to dislike, and which he tried to forget in later life. He left the shop to join the Imperial Irish Yeomanry, with whom he served in the Boer War from 1899 to 1902. On leaving the army, he eventually found a position as an inspector of buildings for the Zululand Railway, when this line was completed in 1903, he moved firstly to the Natal Government Railway, then to the Public Works Department of Natal. He stayed with the Public Works Department from 1903 to 1910, with the exception of the years 1906-1907 when he joined the Army to fight against the Zulu Rebellion. In 1910 he joined the Dundee Coal CO as assistant engineer. In 1911 he began to make the arrangements for the setting up of a farm of his own, but unfortunately he had only been established on the farm for a short time when the 1st World War brought him back into the army again. The war took him through Africa, to Egypt, Palestine and Turkey, and he was awarded the D.S.O. and the M.C. From the signing of the Armistice until 1920, he was Military Director of the Baghdad Railways. On leaving the army he became resident engineer for British Thomson Houston CO, and then in 1923 their head representative on the contract for the electrification of the Natal Railways. In 1924 he was compelled to return to England for family reasons, and found it very difficult to obtain employment in his specialised field. He therefore undertook various positions as Golf Club secretary until 1933 when he was put in as manager of a margarine and cheese factory in Mitcham in an attempt to save it from bankruptcy.
Unfortunately the chief debenture holder died, and his executors foreclosed, and in 1935 Lt.Col. Alexander was once more seeking employment. It is to this period that the final group of letters belong.
Lt.Col. Alexander married in 1934 Miss Francis Marie Callow.
Lt.Col.Alexander was a very keen amateur photographer and a considerable number of photographs taken in South Africa, and while on active service in the Near East, are now in the photographic collection of W.S.R.O.

Additiona info at National Archives England:
Letters from J.H. Alexander [no ref.] 1900-1919
These documents are held at West Sussex Record Office

Letters to his mother Add Mss 17776 April 1900 - September 1901
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17777 January - April 1902
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17778 May - September 1902
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17779 September-December 1902, and 1903
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17780 1904 and 1905
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17781 1908 and 1909
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17782 1910
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17783 1911 and January 1912
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17784 1913
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17785 1914
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17786 1915
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17787 1916
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17888 1917
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17789 1918
Letters to his mother Add Mss 17790 1919

Letters to J.H. Alexander [no ref.] 1900-1934

Miscellaneous [no ref.] 1900-1952

· Diaries kept while on active service Add Mss 17812-815
[West Sussex Record Office, Additional Manuscripts...]
Date: 1916 - 1919 Source: Access to Archives (A2A): not kept at The National Archives

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 3:43 pm
by David_Porter
Hi Steve,

You beat me to it.
The collections at West Sussex Record Office can be searched here ...

Several Egypt & Palestine references in the Photography collection plus those of J.H. Alexander himself.

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:56 pm
by Steve_Butler
Thanks David.
Unfortunately I can see no thumbnail images to get a handle on what they have - they might be all images rowing down the Nile?

John Alexander signs this tech drawing:

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:49 pm
by Steve_Butler
I hope everyone is excited as myself over the next series of emails, as I tried tracking down John Alexander's life in South Africa during the 1899-1902 Boer War and the subsequent Rebel uprising of 1906. I took the opportunity to write to the "South African Military Historical Society". Here is the correspondence:

Your Societies page at: has proved to be an important source to our Association as we research an Anzac soldier of WW1.
The soldier, Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) John Alexander appears to have played a part in South Africa's military past.

We wish to use some of your research on this man that you have published through Mr Ken Gilling’s article, and in doing so we are linking back to your site and its relevant page mentioned above - we hope this meets with your approval. (If this is not in your interest we will remove the link)

We are compiling material at the present and have posted a page on Alexander on our website at:

We offer all our material free to the public to download and use, and if any material here is of use to your article or site we readily offer anything here for you to use as you see fit.

Steve Butler
Vice President
64+9 8469784

Mornin' Steve

We are happy for you use our material as long as the usual
acknowledgement is made. You can contact [address witheld - will supply on request -Ed]
- he has retired, to work as a tour guide, and might be very interested in your web-site.

kind regards

Forwarded by: transmon
Forwarded to: joan
Date forwarded: Sun, 20 Jun 2010 08:41:58 +0200

Dear Ken
We hope the decision of the '' to allow our Association to link and use a portion of the article you wrote for them meets your approval.
As described below, your article touched on a person of interest to our research - a certain Major JH Alexander.
This man was instrumental in defeating the Turk in the sands of the Sinai in 1916 with his mechanical and military know how, and an important player in the Anzac story.
We have created a page with a reference to you and your article at:
Thank you very much for you work you put together.
Steve Butler

Hello Steve.
What a fascinating e-mail. Of course you may use my article - especially if it results in more responses such as yours.

So that is where John Howard Alexander ended up next. I wonder why and how he ended up in Zululand during the 1906 Poll Tax / Bambatha / Bhambatha Rebellion.

When Ashorne House Management College in Leamington Spa contacted me (many years ago now), they sent me most of the negatives that were discovered in his trunk in the attic. Most were photos of the Bagdad railway (evidently he ended up as head of the organisation at one stage) but there were others of what appeared to be sites in South-West Africa (now Namibia). The photo I was desperately trying to find was the one he referred to of Bhambatha's head (he referred to his as Bambatha). That photograph will probably solve the riddle of the chief's death.

I have given all the negatives to the Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg and have attached a photograph of Col Alexander to check if it the same person you have referred to. Any further links or information will be wonderful.

Just a suggestion, though; my name appears as 'Willings' in the article on your website. If it is corrected to 'Gillings' it may result in more links.

Ken Gillings
[Note: Spelling error corrected on - Ed.]


this appears to be the same man as the photos researched off the Austrlian War Memorial site - long shape face, fair hair, narrow nose - this photo in a small size at present will post adjustment shortly. - We appeciate your efforts in supplying this important photo,thanks Ken.

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 11:43 pm
by Steve_Butler
Mr. and Mrs. George Heithersay, of George-street, Goodwood, whose son, Lieu tenant Austin J. Heithersay died in Egypt on January 12, from a wound received three days earlier in a fight with the Turks at Rafa, on the border of the Sinai Peninsula and Palestine, have received several letters of condolence from officers attached to the Anzac Mounted Division, with which the late soldier was connected. Brigadier-General Cox of the 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, writes:- "Please allow me to offer my most sincere sympathy for you in the loss of your son, Lieutenant "Heithersay, one of the best officers that I ever had. He found most of the water used, by this brigade in the last stages of crossing the Sinai desert, and made several trips with small parties into Wadi Elarish, before we made our big march, to find what water was there, and all the information he brought back was most reliable. He was within five yards of me when he was wounded, and we were talking together only a few minutes before. 1 heard the shot hit him, and all he said was, 'Oh!'" Major J. H. Alexander, R.E., O.C., 1st Field Squadron Engineers, describes the late Lieutenant Heithersay as the best subaltern he had, and a pattern to the other officers and men. Major Alexander adds that Lieutenant Heithersay, was hit by a bullet in the top of the head during the Action at Rafa. The missile lodged in the brain, and he never regained consciousness. He died on January 12. A special memorial, in the form of a broken column, was placed over Lieutenant Heithersay's grave.

Above - from the Adelaide Advertiser, Sat, May 15th 1917.
A mention of Alexander jh


Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 9:59 am
by Steve_Butler
Dublin 1880
post WW2 - 194?
first known rank:
Trooper, Boer War
first unit:
Royal Irish Yeomanry
rank WW1:
Major Royal Engineers
unit served:
ANZAC Mounted Division:
Officer Commanding Field Engineers
Military Cross 26th June 1916
4 times Mentioned in Dispatches.
rank post WW1:
Lieutenant Colonel
Francis Marie (nee Callow)
1920: appointed
Military Director of the Baghdad Railways
negative held Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg S.A.

computerised colour photograph from original circa 1914 (rank Captain). Photograph forwarded by Ken Gillings, from negative held in South African Museum Natal.
(rank Captain - note Fusilliers "bomb" lapel collar button, may therefore be pre-WW1 photograph - more research needed)

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:13 pm
by hbtoday98

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:38 pm
by Steve_Butler

this photograph relates to Alexander's list - photo number 6. He writes:
6. G.S. Lift and Force Pump and Worthington Pump attached to Spear Point by Brass Unions also various fittings by themselves.

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:30 am
by hbtoday98
thats for posting that Steve

Re: The Irish Anzac

PostPosted: Mon Jun 28, 2010 12:10 am
by hbtoday98
the pumps are they piston pumps