McCorkell, John (Private, b.1878 - d.1902)

Accession Number PR04403
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement 1 wallet: 1 cm
Object type Diary
Maker McCorkell, John
Place made South Africa
Date made 1901-1902
Access Open
Conflict South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain

Copying Provisions Copying permitted subject to physical condition

Collection relating to the Boer War service of 727 Private John McCorkell, 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (5th VMR), South Africa, 1901-1902. Collection consists of an original handwritten diary, with the opening entry dated 3 March 1901 and the closing entry dated 14 January 1902.

The diary details conditions and activities during McCorkell’s service. He embarked on the 'Argus', 15 February 1901, disembarking at Port Elizabeth in March 1901. While entraining in Port Elizabeth, McCorkell suffered his first bout of illness. Following recovery, he re-joined the 5th VMR, which was proceeding through Cape Colony and Orange River Colony to Pretoria, where the regiment was mobilized between 24 March and 4 April, 1901. McCorkell records place names in his diary, including Wakkerstroom, Bronkhorstspruit, Pretoria, Colenso, Ladysmith, Vryheid and Buffalo River. Routine activities of the 5VMR include expelling Boer families from their farms, capturing their livestock, and assisting other Australian and Imperial units in large operations against Boer commando groups. McCorkells’s diary entries occasionally note the number of Boers expelled or killed.

Throughout 1901, McCorkell and his unit travelled almost daily, trekking through harsh conditions. McCorkell writes of long, exhausting treks in ‘miserable wet conditions’. Sudden changes of operational orders often caused confusion for units and led to additional gruelling night marches. Camping conditions were very basic, with disease easily spread.

In December 1901, the 5th VMR moved to the Transvaal town of Wakkerstroom, for operations and supply renewal, but also to join other Australian and British Empire units for Christmas. McCorkell died there, of enteric fever, on 21 January 1902.