Born: 1882, Gaywood, Norfolk.
Baptised: 19th November 1882, at St. Mary’s Church, Amner, Norfolk. Parents Julia & Harry Derisley, a Bailiff.
Died: on Christmas Day morning, 1901; age 19; KiA by the Boers in their charge on the camp of Major Williams, Tweefontein, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Residence: Grange Farm, Turnpike Road, Palgrave, Suffolk.
Occupation: a Clerk at a merchant’s office, London.
Enlistment Date: 24th January 1901.
Rank: Private; Service Number: 22445.
Regiment: 53rd (East Kent) Company, 11th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry – being attached to Colonel Firman’s Column.
Clasps Awarded: Cape Colony, Orange Free State & Transvaal.
The cairn at Tweefontein (also known as Groenkop). This commemorates all of those who died in the battle. The original grave stone now relocated to Harismith together with the remains. All of the Other Ranks were buried in the one grave whilst the Officers had individual graves.
1891 Grange Farm, Turnpike Road, Palgrave, Suffolk.
Charles was 8 years old and living with his parents & brothers.
Harry Derisley, 35, a Farmer, born Anmer, Norfolk.
Julia Jane Derisley (nee Fincham), 37, born Kenninghall, Norfolk.
Frank Martin Derisley, 5, born Docking, Norfolk.
William James Derisley, 4, born Docking.
Philip Harold Derisley, 3, born Docking.
1 general domestic servant.
Charles was educated at Eye Grammar School.
Charles’s leisure time was devoted to athletics and he excelled particularly in swimming.
Soldiers’ Effects to Harry Derisley – father.
Diss Express – Friday, 3rd January 1902 – PALGRAVE – A VICTIM OF THE WAR – We deeply regret to notice the death of C.H. Derisley, of the 53rd Company of the Imperial Yeomanry, on the 25th December, at Tweefontein. A son of Mr. Harry Derisley, of Palgrave, he was educated at Eye Grammar School, where he won the approbation of his masters. He then entered a merchant’s office in the City of London, where by his steady attention to business he continued to gain the goodwill and esteem of his employers. In his leisure time he devoted great attention to swimming, in which he excelled. About a year ago he volunteeres for the Yeomanry and having passed as an excellent shot he was soon en route for South Africa. He has written home capital letters from time to time. In De Wet’s murderous charge on Col. Firman’s camp at Tweefontein he fell mortally wounded on Christmas Day last. We take this opportunity of expressing our deep sympathy with the bereaved parents. The following letter from the deceased, which was received by Mrs. Derisley on Saturday has a pathetic interest :-
“Near Harrismith, South Africa,
6th December, 1901.
My dear Mother, – We went from Olivier’s Hock to a place called Vetche’s Hock about a fortnight ago to try and catch a party of Boers, but we could not get near enough to them to do anything except fire a few shells at them from the big guns. My horse went lame while we were out and I had to walk 19 miles back in one day. Then two days later we left Olivier’s Hock for Harrismith and I had to walk another 17 miles. We only stayed in Harrismith one day and we left there for here, which is called Glenkenny and is 11 miles outside Harrismith on the road to Bethleham, and I think we are to stay here until after Christmas. The weather is getting very hot now, but we have had a few terrible thunderstorms and torrents of rain, and it is no exaggeration to say that some hailstones were as big as marbles; it is almost impossible to bear being in one of these hailstorms. We are out here protecting the Engineers who are making a new railway from Harrismith to Bethlehem. I have no more to say now so with best love to all and wishing you all a happy and prosperous New Year, from your loving son, CHARLIE.”
Charles is also remembered on a private brass war memorial at St. Peter’s Church, Palgrave, Suffolk.
Harry & Julia lost three sons during the First World War.
Herbert Derisley, KiA 1st June 1916, age 32. He was ranked a Lance Corporal, service number F/28, for the Duke of Cambridge’s Own, Middlesex Regiment, 17th Battalion, 1st Footballers Battalion. Herbert was laid to rest at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. Herbert resided at 4, Cintra Park, London. He was a Draper/Tailor and an Honorary Steward of Croydon Common Football Club.
Images Courtesy of Operation: Picture Me.
Frank Martin Derisley, died of wounds at 1:30am, 6th November 1915, at No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station, age 30. Frank was wounded in the head at noon on the 5th November by a rifle bullet, while on duty in G2 trench. He never regained consciousness. He was ranked a Lance Corporal, service number 73211, for the Saskatchewan Regiment, 28th Battalion, Canadian Infantry. Frank was laid to rest at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
Frank had immigrated to Canada in April 1911, and had settled in Rouleau, Saskatchewan, as a Farm Labourer.
William James Derisley, died 31st December 1916, age 29, at Turkey. He was ranked a Driver, service number 46820, for the Royal Field Artillery, 63rd Battery. William was taken prisoner at Kut. He was originally laid to rest at Tarsus Cemetery, Asia Minor before his body was exhumed and reburied at the Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq.
NORWICH MERCURY – 1st March 1902
GENERAL GATACRE AT PALGRAVE
BRASS TABLET UNVEILED
An impressive ceremony was witnessed by a large concourse of people in St. Peter’s Church, Palgrave, on Tuesday afternnon, when General Gatacre, K.C.B., D.S.O., commanding the Eastern District, unveiled a brass tablet in memory of Charles Harry Derisley, age 19, of the 53rd Company Imperial Yeomanry, who fell at Tweefontein, South Africa, on Christmas Day. The deceased was a son of Mr. Harry Derisley, a widely-esteemed and respected gentleman, living at the Grange Farm, Palgrave. He was educated at the Eye Grammar School, afterwards entering a merchant’s office in the City of London, where by his steady attention to business he soon gained the goodwill and confidence of his employers. His leisure time was devoted to athletics and he excelled particularly in swimming. Some fifteen months ago he volunteered for one of the London Companies of Imperial Yeomanry, and having no difficulty in passing the riding and shooting tests, he was quickly at the scene of operations in South Africa. His splendid physique served him well on may occasions but De Wat’s murderous charge on Colonel Firman’s camp at Tweefontein last Christmas Day, he fell mortally wounded. Almost his last letter home has a particularly pathetic interest, for in it the deceased was looking forward to Christmas, and he detailed the luxuries he and the men anticipated having on that festive day.
The inhabitants of Palgrave and surrounding places were not slow in recording their deep-sympathy with Mr. and Mrs. Derisley in their loss of so young and promising a son. The suggestion of the Rector, the Rev. E.L.L. Savory, of erecting a brass tablet in the church met with a ready response, and the Churchwarden (Mr. A. Rushton) and Mr. F.W.D. Hammond soon obtained the necessary subscriptions for the purpose. General Gatacre most kindly consented to perform the unveiling ceremony, and the event was one which will not easily be forgotten by the present.
The gallant General arrived at Diss station just before three on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by Major McNeil, A.D.C. They were met by the Rev. E.L.L. Savory, and outside the Station, where a large crowd had gathered, a detachment of the Diss Volunteers, under Lieut. C. Gaze in command, and Lieut. Hamilton, were drawn up as a guard of honour. The General made a brief inspection of the men, and then drove on to Palgrave Church, which was crowded to its utmost capacity, hundreds were unable to gain admission. The congregation were in black. The Rector was assisted in the service by the Rev. R. Holt Wilson, of Redgrave, and as the General and clergy proceeded up the aisle to the chancel the Eye Volunteer Band, under Bandsmaster Burrows, played the National Anthem. The service commenced with the hymn, “O God, our help in ages past,” led by the Band, after which a shortened form of evening service was gone through. The lesson, read by the Rev. Holt Wilson, was taken from the funeral service, and the hymn “O God, Our Banner, Lord of Might,” known as the Aldershot soldiers’ hymn, was sung whilst a collection was made on behalf of the Soldiers and Sailors’ Widows and Orphans Fund. This realised £4 14s 7d. The tablet was placed on the south side of the church, veiled with the Union Jack. The tablet was guarded by Private Bryant, aged 69, formerly of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, wearing the Sebastopol clasp, and by Sergeant George Baldry, aged 60, formerly of the Northumberland Fusiliers, wearing the Afghanistan war medal, where he served under General Roberts. General Gatacre unveiled saying – Sir, – As General in Command of the Eastern District, I unveil this tablet in memory of Charles Harry Derisley, of the 53rd Company of Infantry Yeomanry, who fell at Tweefontein last Christmas Day, and I ask you, as Rector of the Parish, to receive the same and dedicate it to the use of the church and to the glory of God. The Rector replied that he should have much pleasure in complying with the General’s request.
The inscription on the tablet was as follows:-
In memoriam of Charles Harry Derisley, 53rd Company Infantry Yeomanry, who fell at Tweefontein, on December 25th, 1901, aged 19.
Erected by parishioners and friends.
After special prayer and pronouncing the Blessing by the Rector, the band played the “Dead March” very effectively. Miss Benson presided at the organ. Mr. and Mrs. Derisley, father and mother of the deceased, were present with members of their family. Relatives included Mrs. Ruffles (Cockfield), Mrs. and Miss Fincham (Attleborough); whilst amongst the numerous friends of the bereaved parents were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pymar (Blo’ Norton), Mr. and Mrs. Simpson (Burgate), Miss E.M. Simpson (Palgrave), Mrs., Miss, and Mr. Charles Pymar (Langmere), Mrs. Hayden (Sible Hedingham), Mr. and Mrs. George Symonds (Warham), Mrs. Webb (Diss) etc. A large number of Volunteers were present, including Major Robinson, Captain C.F. Wright, Lieutenant Marriott, and Sergeant-Instructor Merritt, all of Eye; whilst the Diss Company was represented by the following members, who have served their country in South Africa:- Sergeant J. Baldwin, Privates Larter, T. Pullen, Knight, Stannard, and Clark. Representatives of the Palgrave Parish Council present were Messrs. Rushton, Corbett, Cobb, and Moore. The seating arrangements were in the hands of Messrs. A. Rushton and F.W.D. Hammond, assisted by the sidesmen. The tablet was engraves by Messrs. Hawes and Son, Norwich, and was erected by Mr. Marcus Nurse, stonemason, Victoria Road, Diss.
After the service Mr. Derisley was presented to General Gatacre, who afterwards took tea at the rectory.
The Battle of Tweefontein 25 th December 1901 and Pte Harry Derisely
Tim Rayson, Hon Secretary
In the summer of 2020 an Order of Service for the unveiling of a brass memorial to Pte Harry
Derisely of the 53 rd (Royal East Kent Yeo) Company came up for sale on Ebay. Having
looked at it and an image of the memorial I thought that it was a worth a punt to acquire it for
the Museum Trust. I was fortunately successful and thought that I would share the story of
Tweefontein and the images in the Journal before they are transferred to the Museum Trust.
The following is the account of the battle according to De Wet:
We succeeded in coming to the mountain unobserved, and at once began the climb. It was
exactly two o clock in the morning of December 25th, 1901.
When we had gone up about half-way we heard the challenge of a sentry:—
Halt; who goes there?
Then followed a few shots.
My command rang out through the night—Burghers, Storm!
The word was taken up by the burghers themselves, and on all sides one heard ;
It was a never-to-be-forgotten moment. Amidst the bullets, which we could hear whistling
above and around us, the burghers advanced to the top, calling out, Storm! Storm!
The mountain, however, was so steep that it can scarcely be said that we stormed it; it was
much more of a climb. Often our feet slipped from under us, and we fell to the ground; but in
an instant we were up again and climbed on, and on, to gain the summit.
I think that after the sentry heard us, three or four minutes must have elapsed before the
troops, who were lying asleep in their tents or on the veldt, were awakened and could come
out, because their camp was about a hundred paces distant from our point of attack.
Directly we reached the top the deafening roar of a heavy fight began, and lasted from
fifteen to twenty minutes. Shortly before this the Armstrong gun and the Maxim-Nordenfeldt
had each fired two shots, but they fired no more; as we reached the top the gunners were
shot down at their guns.
After a short but desperate struggle the English gave way, or surrendered, and we took
possession of the Armstrong and Maxim-Nordenfeldt.
We continued to fire on the troops, who had retreated to a short distance. Again they gave
way, and took up another position a little further on, and so it went on for about two thousand
paces, and then the English took to flight.
As we had no horses with us and it was dark, we did not pursue the fleeing enemy, but
returned to the camp. The whole engagement lasted, so far as I could judge, for about an
hour. I cannot say for certain, because I made no note of the time.
It was a party of Yeomanry with whom we had been dealing, and I must say they behaved
very gallantly under exceptionally trying circumstances; for it is always to be expected that
when men are attacked during the night a certain amount of confusion must ensue.
A force of infantry from the other camp, sent to investigate, was repelled and the Boers
hastily looted the camp, loading wagons and leaving with 500 horses “in the pink of
condition” (de Wet), the two guns and a great quantity of rifles and ammunition. British
losses were about one hundred and sixteen dead and wounded, and two hundred and forty
prisoners of war. The prisoners were released the next day – without their outer clothing,
which had also been appropriated by their captors. The Boers lost 14 dead and 30
wounded, with two more dying later.
A granite obelisk commemorating the Battle of Tweefontein was erected on the peak of
Groenkop, listing the names and units of the seven officers and 51 other ranks killed in the action.
The KSY archives record 24 members of the Kent IY as killed or wounded in the action:
36th (WKY) Company
Lt J.S. Hudson
Pte R.W. Bond
Pte J.H. Chudleigh
Pte G.A. Lambert
Pte T. Mannering
Pte A. Massey
Pte W. South
Pte E. Stevens
Pte H.P Thirkell
53rd (REK) Company
Capt H.S. Crawley (k)
Lt H.E Parsons (w)
Lt Mowatt (w)
WO2 J. Mahon
Cpl H.S. Akehurst
Pte P. Orchin
Pte F.A. Davies
Pte C.H. Derisley
Pte E. Collard
Pte F.E. Ward
Pte W.J. Hopkins
Pte C. Rumfitt
Pte P.J. Grist
Sgt J. Strand
Pte M. Clapton
Pte H.A. Wilson
Pte J.W. Sansom
The officers were also given individual graves and headstones. In 1958 the South African
War Graves Board exhumed the remains, moving them, and the memorials, from their
isolated, vulnerable and neglected spot, to a memorial garden in Harrismith.