Grieve, Gideon James (Lieutenant, b.1864 - d.1900)

Accession Number PR05497
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 74 cm; Box/es: 2; Oversize: 1
Object type Letter, Document, Souvenir, Map, Postcard, Photograph
Maker Grieve, Gideon James
Place made Australia, South Africa, United Kingdom
Date made 1883-1963
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 South African War service of Lieutenant Gideon James Grieve, Black Watch, South Africa and Australia, 1883-1963.

Lieutenant Gideon James Greive was born in Midlothian, Scotland in 1864. At the age of just 15 he joined the Midlothian Artillery, a career choice that he continued when he arrived in Australia in 1885, becoming one of the founding members of the New South Wales’ Scots Rifles (later part of the 5th Infantry Regiment). Grieve gained his commission in the same year then was made adjutant of the 6th Regiment (Australian Rifles) two years later soon after being appointed to the permanent staff.

Grieve volunteered to go to South Africa in early October 1899, departing on 28 October aboard the SS Kent, arriving in Cape Town on 1 December 1899. Grieve was one of the initial four Special Service Officers (there would end up being 35 in total throughout the war) sent to South Africa from the permanent colonial forces to gain active service experience to bring back to Australian militia units. Following his arrival in South Africa, Grieve was assigned to the Railway Communications Staff Office, where he reluctantly remained until 11 December 1899 when at the Battle of Magersfontein the 2nd Battalion Black Watch suffered a disproportionate number of casualties. Grieve saw his opportunity and within hours was appointed command of the 2nd Battalion Black Watch. Grieve held command of this Battalion until his death on 18 February 1900, after fighting in battles at Koedoesberg and Paardeberg. It was at the latter that Grieve lost his life, sustaining fatal bullet wounds while attempting to bring an injured soldier out of the firing line.

Around 6000 people are reported to have attended Grieve’s funeral, with instructions given to all officers of the Australian Rifles to wear a black crepe band on their left arm for three months as a mark of respect. Following Grieve’s death, a memorial drinking foundation was established in Watson’s Bay funded by members of the surrounding community to which Grieve himself belonged. This was the first war monument in Australia to be dedicated to an individual.

Box 1 consists of 8 wallets containing letters and other related ephemera largely from the scrapbooks in box 2. A typed list of the order the letters were originally arranged and stored in with the scrapbooks, is included at the beginning of the box. The letters retain their original order and are only loosely chronologically sorted. The second folder in wallet 7 and the folder in wallet 8 are the only exceptions, with loose documents similar to those found in the albums, which were likely originally housed in the scrapbooks but had since been removed, and a decorated invitation given to Grieve.

Wallet 1:
Consists of 36 letters. This wallet is almost completely comprised of letters written between Grieve and his wife from the period of his brief training in Australia for South Africa to just prior to his death on 18 February 1900. Also interspersed within this wallet are letters and newspapers clippings sent to Grieve during his period in South Africa, and several condolence letters. The letters written by Grieve to his wife discuss training in Australia; travel around Australia; and the boat journey on SS Aberdeen to Cape Town, with a stop in Albany. On reaching South Africa, Grieve’s letters discuss the poor training of British soldiers put under his command. He also discusses subjects such as the food and hospitality that he and his soldiers are given. Grieve’s final letter, written in the week before his death, discusses a recent skirmish with Boers and how he was forced to single-handedly protect some of the soldiers under his charge due to their inexperience. It appears he was killed in action while protecting his men in a later but similar situation. Also included in this wallet the letter written by Grieve to be given to her in the event of his death. The letters written to Grieve by his wife largely discuss family affairs and the progress that his young children are making in their education. Several condolence letters are also included in this wallet.

Wallet 2:
Consists of 29 items including letters and various other related ephemera. Letters are largely those written to Grieve from various friends and family, including his children. Many were sent in the period immediately prior to his death and have been redirected to the ‘dead letters office’. One of the returned letters, remains unopened. Many of the letters discuss Grieve's being wounded at Koodesberg Drift and his subsequent ‘gallant’ actions. Within this wallet is also a sheet entitled “patriotic song on the departure of the volunteers for the Soudan” attached to a letter dated 18 February 1900, and a letter recovered from the wreck of SS Mexican which was sunk on 5 April 1900 off the coast of South Africa.

Wallet 3:
Consists of 45 condolence letters and cards written both to Mrs Grieve and her daughter Euphrosine.

Wallet 4:
Consists of 40 items, largely condolence letters and cards addressed to Mrs Grieve. Also included in this wallet is a New South Wales Military Forces General Order dated 19 October 1900 commending Grieve’s actions and the great loss felt by his death. Several other accounts of his military career are also included, as written by people expressing their grief in condolence letters to Mrs Grieve, and a photo of colonial soldiers standing in ranks.

Wallet 5:
Consists of 37 letters and telegrams relating to Grieve’s death. The majority of these are condolence letters written to Mrs Grieve. Included in this wallet are several letters from Members of Parliament and local councils.

Wallet 6:
Consists of 82 condolence cards, letters and other related ephemera. The wallet begins with a variety of condolence cards from friends and relatives of Grieve, and ends with a selection of letters written to Grieve by his wife and children. The letters discuss general home news, with some of the envelopes featuring the ‘Dead Letter Office’ stamp.

Wallet 7:
Folder 1 consists of 54 items. Most of these items relate to the death of Grieve, including a second copy of New South Wales Military Forces General Order dated 19 October 1900, condolence letters and cards. Also included in this folder are miscellaneous pieces of ephemera including postcards, newspaper clippings, Christmas cards, invitations, maps, and a typed schedule of sports to be conducted aboard the SS Aberdeen.
Folder 2 consists of 16 loose items likely once housed in one of the two scrapbooks. This includes: one letter from Windsor Castle regarding photographs of Grieve sent to Queen Victoria; a brown leather pouch; letters to his children; references from his place of employment in London dated 1883-1885; and a letter from the Republic of South Africa Department of Education, Arts and Science Government Archives advising a relative on how to visit his grave site.

Wallet 8:
Consists of one decorated invitation to Grieve from his “friends and well wishers (sic)” to an informal lunch for his farewell to “the Transvaal.” The invitation is decorated with watercolour cartouches featuring Scottish thistles and the Australian and United Kingdom’s ensigns with other small decorative flourishes. The invitation is housed in a brown faux leather wallet with decorative gold embossing along the borders.

Box 2 consists of two large scrapbook albums with brown fabric covers and brown faux leather spines and corners. Within these albums were originally housed the letters and other paper ephemera relating to Grieve. These were placed in paper sleeves, four to a page, within the albums with hand-written captions below most of them. Within box 1 is a list of the order that these letters were originally arranged and stored in. Also included in box 2 is a brown fabric covered folder with a white silk patterned lining, containing a commission certificate, issued posthumously, to Grieve awarding him the honorary rank of Lieutenant. The certificate still retains the original egg-shell blue embossed paper covering the official seal.

Oversize material consists of:
1 x map of Transvaal, with parts of the Orange Free State and Natal, as issued from the “Supplement to Army and Navy Gazette, November 25, 1899”. Map by George Philip & son, London & Liverpool and printed by permission by Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, E.C.;
1 x parcel cover dated 1900, addressed to Mrs G J Grieve; and
1 x “Supplement to the Cape Times / Wednesday, December 13, 1899, 5pm / Battle of Magersfontein / List of British loses / Long and ghastly death toll / Boer losses terrible” listing British losses for the day.