Sydney and Ramsay Harrhy - Mafeking cadets

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Sydney and Ramsay Harrhy were two members of the original Mafeking Cadets Corps. Their father was William Harrhy, a surgeon in the Mafeking area. When he died in 1892, Sydney was seven, Ramsay was three, and their older brother Stanley was nine.

Their mother Sarah married her second husband, Charles Gwynne, in April 1899, six months before the siege began. Charles Gwynne was officer in the Bechuanaland Rifles, a regiment mostly of Mafeking men. At the time of the siege they lived in a small home in Mafeking.

In October 1899, Sydney (aged 14) and Ramsay (10) stayed in Mafeking as the siege approached, because the trains away from Mafeking were full and there was no-one in Cape Town for them to be sent to. Their older brother Stanley was not at Mafeking, as he had earlier been taken prisoner by the Boers with his aunt, uncle and cousins.

During shelling, they took cover in roofed trenches in the laager, the campsite for women and children. In the crowded laager, sickness was common, and many children and babies died. Later in the siege they suffered badly from hunger as rations continually had to be reduced. The trenches were hot, dusty and crowded, and many young children were cooped up in close confinement for hours on end. They were often forced to sleep in the trenches, using tents near the trenches only if the shelling was not heavy. Sydney and Ramsay sometimes shared a tent with another cadet, Alec McNicol.

In February 1900, Sydney was enrolled in the Mafeking Cadets, and Ramsay joined the next month. Sydney was a Corporal, one of the four officers in the corps of 38 Cadets, and on 28 April he won `a pair of bullet and silver links for being the neatest, best-drilled and most regular attendant at the cadet parades, etc.' Ramsay won a good conduct stripe.

Mafeking was relieved on 16 May 1900. Sydney died as the result of a bicycle accident in December, six months after the siege ended. He is buried in the Mafeking cemetery. Ramsay died in 1918 in France during the First World War.

Primary sources[edit]

  • 'Lord of Hosts on our Side': Mafeking Diary of Sarah Dixon Gwynne, 1996 by John Bennie and Grant Christison, Little Oribi Press
  • Defence of Mafeking Roll, A Chimperie publication