Born: 1870, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Died: 6th January 1900; age: 29; KiA at Colesberg, Northern Cape, South Africa.
Family Residence: 79, North Street, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Occupation: a Porter at St. George’s Hospital, London.
Ambrose had served with the Colours for 7 years and 4 years with the Reserves.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 2299.
Regiment: Suffolk Regiment, 1st Battalion, South Africa Field Force.
Clasp Awarded: Cape Colony.
1871 79, North Street, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Ambrose was 6 months old and living with his parents & siblings.
James Sillitoe, 33, a Butcher’s Assistant, born Sudbury.
Emma Sillitoe (nee Cook), 32, a Dressmaker – own account, born Sudbury.
George Sillitoe, 9, born Sudbury.
Alice Emma Sillitoe, 7, born Sudbury.
James Sillitoe, 4, born Sudbury.
Elizabeth Sillitoe, 2, born Sudbury.
1 butcher’s servant.
1881 79, North Street, Sudbury, Suffolk.
Ambrose was 10 years old and living with his parents & siblings.
James, 44, a Butcher.
Emma, 42, a Dressmaker – own account.
George, 19, a Mat Weaver.
James, 14, a Baker’s Boy.
Emma Sillitoe, 7, born Sudbury.
Harry Sillitoe, 4, born Sudbury.
Haverhill Echo – Saturday, 20th January 1900 – SUDBURY SOLDIER KILLED IN ACTION
In the disaster which happened to the 1st Suffolks at Rensburg, on the 6th inst., No. 2299 Private A. Sillitoe was killed. He was a native of Sudbury, and the son of Mr. James Sillitoe, who resides in a cottage in Suffolk Square. The unfortunate man was a smart broad-shouldered young fellow about 31 years of age, and had served with the colours seven years, and been in the Reserves nearly four years. At the time the Reservists were called out he was a porter at St. George’s Hospital, London, and the two days previous to rejoining the Colours he spent with his father at Sudbury. He was then in the best of health and spirits, and his many friends wished him “God speed and a safe return.” The first intimation his poor aged father had of his death was when a friend called at his cottage to inquire if the number 2299 in front of Private A. Sillitoe published in the list of casualties at Rensburg corresponded with that of his son. Looking at a small Bible which his son had when serving with the colours, there was printed in large figures the fatal Number 2299. It was impossible to describe the poor old man’s grief. He trusted there might be a mistake, but, alas! it was not so, as in due course he received the following letter: –
Bury St. Edmunds.
11th Jan., 1900.
No. 2299, Private A. Sillitoe.
Sir, I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that the casualty as per margin (in which was inserted the word “killed”) occurred in the 1st Battalion Suffolk Regiment at Rensburg, South Africa, on the 6th inst. I am also to express to you Lord Lansdowne’s sympathy and regret.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
Colonel Commanding 12th
Much sympathy is felt for Mr. Sillitoe in his sad bereavement, as his son was a good, honest, manly young fellow, and, when he responded to the “Call to Arms,” he did not forget to make provision for his gaed father, who is just recovering from the effects of a broken leg. It will be remembered at the end of last July he had the misfortune to meet with a serious accident in North Street, from which he has hitherto been incapacitated. Although nearly 63 years of age, he followed the avocation of a journeyman butcher, and in stepping out of his employer’s cart he in some way slipped and broke his left leg in two places. Being possessed of a good constitution, and skilfully treated at St. Leonard’s Hospital, he has made such progress that now he is able to walk with a stick and a crutch. Allusion to his son’s death brings tears to his eyes. “Ah!” he remarked, “I remember my poor lad coming home after he left the colours and went on the Reserve. He had been home about a month when his mother died. That will be four years ago come next March.” He then went on to say that he should miss him very much, as he was ever kind and good to him, concluding with the words, “I little thought when he came over to bid me good-bye it would be the last time I should see him. Poor lad, he now sleeps in a soldier’s grave in South Africa. I know he would be brave fighting for his Queen and country.” The following letters written by the deceased, who arrived at the Cape on the 18th November last, will be read with interest: –
“I have had a splendid voyage out. The weather has been lovely. I have just arrived at the Cape. We have only been 16 ½ days out. The ‘Scot’ was a splendid boat, and we had plenty of good food. I have met Bert Harper, aporter who was at the Hospital with me. He is in the same Regiment. I hope this war will not last long, and I hope soon to be home again. I am in the best of health and spirits. Up till now, I was not sea-sick. I was very lucky.”
Writing from Naauwpoort on the 3rd December, he says: – “I hope you are all quite well at home, as I am pretty well in health at the present. There is plenty to do out here. We have not yet done any fighting, but I daresay we shall not be long before we do. Things are awfully dear, and if you want anything you have to pay for it. I don’t go in for much, as we get plenty of good food at present. We have not much to grumble at. All that our regiment has been doing since we have been out is guarding the railway and the bridges. That is quite enough, I can tell you. I am getting quite used to it now. I am longing for a glass of beer. I have not tasted a drop since we came out, and I don’t suppose I shall until I get back. Love to all at home. Good-bye and good luck.”
Writing from Naauwpoort, on December 4th, he says: – “I have much pleasure in writing this most welcome letter, hoping you are all well, as it leaves me pretty well. Send word about how you are getting on, as it seems so long since I heard from you. We are getting well up country. I daresay we shall soon do a bit f fighting, especially by the time you get this letter. I expect we shall be right in it, but I hope I shall get through it alright. I am always thinking about you all at home. I know you all pray for my return. It is very warm here in the day, but very cold at night. I wish you all ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.’ I hope you will all enjoy yourselves. I don’t expect I shall have much of a Christmas.”
Writing from Naauwpoort, on December 18th, he says: – “I received your kind and welcome letter quite safe, and was pleased to hear all was quite well at home. I am quite well. I hope it will please God to spare me to come back safe to you all. We have not been in a big fight, but we have been in a small one; out of which I came alright. We have got some Boer prisoners in our camp whom we caught. They are a funny lot of people, and I hope we shall soon get some more of them. Africa is a funny country. It is composed of all big hills, and they run for miles and miles. The Boers are on the top of them, and when we fight we have to climb the hills to get them off, so we have a stiff job with them I can tell you. If we could get them off the hills into the open, they would be no good at all. This country is very hot, and we have to do some heavy marching. No one knows what we have to go through and the hardships we have to endure. I have not had a shave for six weeks, so I can tell you we all look funny. Water is scarce, and we have to be very careful what we drink, as the Boers poison the water if they get a chance. This is all till next time, with love to all at home.”
One of the notable Battles with a large loss of Suffolk life was the “Battle of Suffolk Hill” at Colesberg, Northern Cape 5th- 6th January 1900. The hill was originally called Red or Grassy Hill. The Suffolk Regiment was ordered to make a night attack on a Boer position on the heights, four companies, 354 of all ranks, set out at midnight under the command of Col. Watson. A storm of bullets met the Suffolks. The Colonel was amongst the first to fall, and the party later retired with 11 officers and 150+ men killed, wounded or captured.