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Mahatma Gandhi's role in 1899 Anglo Boer War.... Very Few people know this.

Natal Indian Ambulance Corps

(The Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902)

During the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 M. K. Gandhi, who was a lawyer working for Muslim Indian Traders in Natal, formed a volunteer Ambulance Corps for the British Army.
The Natal Indian Ambulance Corps, led by M. K. Gandhi, was composed of 300 free and 800 indentured labourers sent by their employers. Its task was to take the wounded brought by the Natal Volunteer Ambulance Corps from the battlefield and carry them to the railhead. It left for the front on December 14, 1899. It reached the field hospital at Chieveley the next day and was immediately employed in carrying the wounded from the battle of Colenso. It was moved to Estcourt on December 17, and temporarily disbanded two days later.

Due to the rocky and broken terrain surrounding the Kop horse drawn ambulances were unusable. The task of getting the British wounded down from Spion Kop and back to the field hospital, a march estimated by Gandhi to be some 25 miles, fell instead to Gandhi and his stretcher bearers. Gandhi and his men worked tirelessly in oppressive heat with little water or cover from the sun or the enemy. It is likely many more men would have died if the Indian Ambulance Corps had not been there to evacuate them.
The Corps was reformed on January 7, 1900, and was again stationed at Estcourt. It was summoned on the eve of the battle of Spion Kop. During the big battle there on January 24, when British suffered heavy casualties, members of the Corps agreed to receive the wounded under fire and carry them from Spion Kop to the base hospital at Frere, more than twenty miles away. Gandhi lived in South Africa for over 20 years, arriving in 1893; he became a prominent member of the Indian community in South Africa campaigning for the rights of other Indian émigrés.

The British commander General Buller mentioned the Corp in despatches and Gandhi and 34 of his men were awarded the Queen’s South Africa campaign medal.

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Comment by Indraneel Kasmalkar on September 30, 2017 at 5:54

Hi Nitigya, thank you for your post. I have been studying Gandhi's time in South Africa and your post was very helpful in getting a sense of the ground reality of Gandhi's ambulance corp.

I invite you to read my blog post When Gandhi Became Gandhiwhich is part of my blog The Civil Tactician: The History, Philosophy and Strategy of Mahatma Gandhi. Part 2 of my blog post references your post regarding Gandhi's experience in the ambulance corps.

Comment by Noel Moitra on March 3, 2017 at 11:36

The Battle of Spion Kop, an extremely bloody battle, was fought about 38 km (24 mi) west-south-west of Ladysmith on the hilltop of Spioenkop along the Tugela River, Natal in South Africa from 23–24 January 1900. It was fought between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one hand and British forces during the Second Boer War campaign to relieve the besieged city of Ladysmith in Natal. It was a Boer victory.

As stated above, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took part in the Boer War, leading the Indian Ambulance Corps on the side of the British Forces. He was a Warrant Officer since Indians could not be commissioned unless they were Rajas or Maharajas.

The British suffered 243 fatalities during the battle; many were buried in the trenches where they fell. Approximately 1,250 British were either wounded or captured. Mohandas Gandhi was a stretcher-bearer at that battle and was decorated. HE WAS DECORATED! I have written a detailed story about this battle, because, at one time, he, Winston Churchill, a journalist stationed in South Africa who had also been commissioned as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse, and General Botha, who was the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, were within 100 metres of each other at Spion Kop on 24 Jan 1900. They were to meet in their individual capacities over the next forty-plus years.
British arrogance was at its peak. Their rate of advance in any battle was tortoise-like. The baggage would invariably carry an Iron bathtub for the General in command, plus other stuff like a complete kitchen plus bar, shitpots/commodes, and so on. Look up www.griquas.com/2006/kop.htm

Comment by Nitigya Mansinghka on June 8, 2014 at 13:40

This is the Medal he received...

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