|2086 Pte. J. Blackham, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Queen’s South Africa Medal clasps Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901,
South Africa 1902.
Dangerously wounded in action Bakenlaagte 30 October 1901.
With a CD-ROM containing 175 pages of pension invalidity papers.
John Blackham enlisted as number 464 25 October 1897 aged 20 years 8 months.
Born Derby. Occupation iron twiner. A court of enquiry in Aldershot 6 June 1898
investigated the circumstances of an injury to his knee and concluded it was not likely
to interfere with his efficiency as a soldier. Another court of enquiry at Cork 17
December 1898 investigated the circumstances of a glass cut injury to his foot and
concluded it was not likely to interfere with his efficiency as a soldier.
In both cases half of his hospital stoppages was remitted. Discharged by purchase
(£18) at Cork 4 February 1899. Conduct very good. Re-enlisted at Kirby Lonsdale as
number 2086 16 September 1899 with £12 of his discharge payment refunded.
Occupation clerk. In 1900 he had one entry in the defaulter book for being drunk
returning to barracks.
He was one of 20 men of the First Section, No. 1 Company, 25th (KRRC) Mounted
Infantry under Sgt. Ashfield at Bakenlaagte. While three men held the horses in the
rear, the other 17 settled into three small depressions to defend their position on Gun
Hill. In the fierce Boer attack all 17 were hit, only the horse holders remaining
unscathed. He was lying down with his legs crossed when hit by an expanding bullet.
The bullet passed through the head of his right tibia, leaving a small hole, before
expanding and blowing away half of the head of his left tibia. This resulted in
compound fractures of both tibias. Admitted to XX General Hospital, Elandsfontein 4
November 1901 with both wounds having turned septic and the infection having spread
into his left knee joint. His left leg was amputated above the knee and two months
later a small piece of bone was removed from the stump and the track of the bullet in
the right tibia was scraped.
A medical report from the hospital in April 1902 stated that he was totally incapacitated and the medical board recommended
his discharge from the army. Invalided to England on S.S. Nubia 20 May 1902 and admitted to Netley Hospital where he
refused further surgery to treat the unhealed sinus in his right tibia. Discharged medically unfit for further service at Netley
21 October 1902. Conduct very good. A medical report in August 1903 stated that several pieces of bone had been surgically
removed from his right leg but the wound was still unhealed. His capacity for work was considered to be totally impaired.
A medical report in September 1904 stated that no more bone had come away and his wound had healed but his artificial leg
was rather short. Although he was earning £1 per month as a casual clerk his capacity for ordinary labour was totally
impaired. In May 1918 he petitioned for an increase in his pension as he was unable to do more than the lightest work and had
six children under the age of fifteen. However, in October 1943 he declared that he had no wife or children. The wound in his
right leg broke down in July 1944 and he had chronic discharge of the sinus of his right tibia.
In early 1945 the authorities were prompted into action because in addition to his condition he was homeless, unemployed and
had no relatives. He was found to be living in Norton Street Salvation Army hostel in Liverpool. He was considered “more or
less totally incapacitated” and his situation “very distressing for a man who has known better days and who is extremely neat,
tidy and clean” and was admitted to Childwall Hospital in Liverpool. In March 1945 he appeared before a medical board which
found that he required daily dressing of his broken wound and assessed his disability at 100% and permanent. By 1947 he was
an in-patient at Chapel Allerton Hospital in Leeds although he resided in Nottingham.
In January 1948 he was treated for chronic osteomyelitis of the right tibia but it was decided that amputation was not
desirable because of the previous amputation and his age. Died of myocardial degeneration at Chapel Allerton Ministry of
Pensions Hospital in Leeds 4 September 1953 aged 76. His death certificate states he was otherwise known as Matthias
Blackham. Served in 4th Battalion and 25th Mounted Infantry in South Africa.