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MORRISBY, BERNARD  (BERNIE) W. CLAIR.  (1874-1900).

 (The following information has been kindly supplied by Reg Watson)

 

Regimental Number:    No 20

Contingent: South African Light Horse.

Where Buried: Colesberg. Rank:   Private.

 

Bernard Morrisby is one of those Tasmanian casualties whose records are scattered, no doubt, because he served with French's Scouts of the South African Light Horse.  There is no mention of him in the South African Field Force Casualty List nor Murray's and Bufton's work.  The Office of National Monuments Council in South Africa does not record him either, although  record is found of him in the local newspapers of the time. 

Bernard, a very handsome young man, not to be confused with Frank Morrsiby his cousin (see following inclusion), was born August 11, 1874 at Glenorchy probably in the house "Ravensdale" (Chapel Street) or possibly "Tolsa" both of which have long since been demolished.  His father was Tasman Morrisby, his mother Rosetta Victoria nee Belbin.  An elder sister, Elsie, a pianist, married Ben Sheppard senior, the designer of the Memorial on the Hobart Domain. Ben died in South Africa from T.B. but the family believes he used Bernard as a model for the bronze war memorial, Hobart. 

Bernard was shot while scouting at Plewinan's farm and died the following day, February 27th 1900.  He was buried at Colesberg. 

A rather large report of how Bernard was killed appeared in the Tasmanian Mail June 23, 1900, page 19.  The account is by a Theodore Buxton of French's Scouts  who relates that having been shot, Morrisby was founded by a party of Australians  the following day, alive, but unconscious.  He was brought into camp by ambulance having been shot through the head, but with such a wound he could not survive.  He died quietly  at 3 o'clock Tuesday afternoon February 27, 1900.  Buxton goes on to say... "About half-an-hour after Lieutenant H.E. Spencer brought me a large bunch of roses he had gathered from the farm garden and asked if I would like to make a wreath for him which I did by twisting some vines from the willow tree into a wreath and twining the roses in them.  We then went and dug the grave just at the side of the farm and buried him at 6 o'clock.  All the scouts that were in camp attended the funeral, the service being read by the Rev. Mr Wilson of Colesburg, who led the procession the coffin being covered by the Union Jack with the wreath of roses on top.  We followed the firing party and also many others that knew him.  He lies buried by the side of Australians and his grave is marked by a large wooden cross painted white and his name and corps when he died cut deep and legibly on it.".   

An Examiner report of April, 2 1900 (P.6) relates that he left Hobart in 1896 or late 1895 to join his brothers* who were engaged in the mining industry in Johannesburg. 

Apparently he met with considerable success, but with the coming of the war he left the city to escape (so says family records) conscription into a Boer Commando unit.  He then went to England arriving back in Cape Town January 5 1899.  He then joined Major Little's Scouts under the command of General French.  

Bernard was related to another South African veteran with the same surname, Captain Arthur Morrisby who was in charge of the Second Federal Contingent (3rd).  It was to this contingent that Cundy and Hodgman belonged. 

His father went to South Africa soon after the war had ended and sought his son's grave.  Morrisby senior was a keen photographer and recorded his mission for other members of the family.  An interesting report on this is found in the Mercury April 25, 1990. 

Bernard Morrisby's name is contained on the Hobart Memorial, but not on the Launceston one.  

* Brothers would have been Percy Tasman, Arthur Clayton and Fred Bertram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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