Pearce, Robert St Julien (Lieutenant Colonel, b.1862 - d.1922)

Accession Number PR00025
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 6 cm; Wallet/s: 3
Object type Document, Diary, Postcard, Manuscript
Place made Australia, India, South Africa
Date made 1894-1915
Access Open
Related File This file can be copied or viewed via the Memorial’s Reading Room. AWM371 91/0880
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 Copyright expired. Copying permitted subject to physical condition. Permission for reproduction not required.

Collection relating to the South African War (Boer War) and First World War service of Major Robert St Julien Pearce, New South Wales Field Artillery, South Africa, Australia, and India, 1900-c.1915.

Collection consists of:

Wallet 1:
- 1 x line of command orders from Lieutenant General L Kenny Kelly, delivered at Bloemfontein, dated 27 August 1900. This discusses appointments, command, discipline, and notes an engagement at Winburg;
- 1 x letter from the Government Offices, Bloemfontein stating that Pearce served as “Intelligence Officer on the Staff of the Military Governor, Orange River Colony, from the 10th August 1900 until the 2nd November 1900”;
- 1 x run-sheet for HRH the Duke of Cornwall and York’s visit to inspect troops in Melbourne on 6 May 1901;
- 1 x account of an interview that Pearce conducted with Commandant Gideon Scheepers – a famed Boer leader who was captured and later executed on 18 January 1902 for alleged war crimes. This document mentions a very small skirmish at ‘Oertel’s farm’ in which the two men were directly fighting against each other. Commandant Scheepers also acknowledges the Boers’ poor chances of being victorious and notes that he believes they will surrender if President De Wet is captured. This event is also noted in a later diary;
- 1 x ‘Army Orders South Africa’, dated 16 November 1901;
- 1 x letter from a ‘Kenny Paulus(?)’ to Pearce asking him for help in the enlistment process of his son, dated 13 January 1894;
- 1 x hand-written document entitled ‘How The Guns Where (sic) Captured at Sauna’s Post on April 1st 1900 by De Wet’, describing the skirmish and tactics employed;
- 2 x copies of a manuscript entitled “With the British Army in India / A lecture delivered at the United Service Institute, Sydney on Friday 8th July 1910 / By Major R. S. Pearce. AFA.” This manuscript is a chronological account of a journey Pearce took to India in early 1910, with several of his own opinions interwoven. Of note, the manuscript mentions topics such as the horses used in Australia and comparing them and their training to those in Australia, the manufacturing process of arms in India, education of the local population, the camaraderie among local and British troops, a tourist trip to the Khyber Pass, and the elite mountain fighting units from within the Indian Army;
- 1 x ‘extract from army orders, South Africa’, dated 29 October 1900, appointing Pearce to be intelligence officer to the Military Governor, Bloemfontein;
- 1 x telegram, dated 26 November 1901, on ‘Orange River Colony Telegraphs’ headed paper, addressed to Major Pearce, appointing him to a NSW regiment; and
- 1 x postcard depicting Strand Street, Cape Town, c. 1915 addressed from ‘Eric’ to (then) Lieutenant Pearce’s wife.

Wallet 2:
- 1 x black faux-leather covered notebook used by Pearce spanning the period 10 August to 26 October 1900. Within the front cover are Pearce’s name, unit, and description as ‘Intelligence Dept. Bloemfontein’. The final 7 pages have been torn out. The notebook contains notes relating to training exercises, news reports of war-related events, telegrams received and sent, and notes on schools (in civilian life, Pearce was a teacher);
- 1 x red felt-covered ‘Army Book 153’ notebook with brown leather strap (broken), spanning the period 7 February to 1 November 1900. The notebook retains copies of messages sent by Pearce to various people working under him while he acted as Intelligence Officer. The messages largely relate to issuing informants with passes to enable their travel, remuneration, or notices to arrest people of suspicion;
- 1 x dark green felt-covered notebook with brown spine and marbled edges with diary spanning the period 17 January to 12 August 1900. The diary begins with Pearce’s departure from Sydney aboard the SS Moravian. It then recounts his journey across Australia via Melbourne and Albany, before sailing to South Africa. Initially the ship is directed to Natal, but then is told to change course to Cape Town, much to Pearce’s dismay. While aboard the Moravia, Pearce is given command over the horses on the ship and subsequently many of his entries during this period relate to the health and treatment of the animals. After arriving in South Africa on 18 February, Pearce spends the next few weeks getting established in South Africa, with frequent complaints about the lack of action that he and his unit are seeing, until he finally sees action in early March. This action seen is the Battle of Driefontein on 10 March 1900, where he describes the large amount of Boer casualties. The remainder of the diary broadly discusses everyday tasks such as the organisation of other soldiers and supplies, small skirmishes, souvenirs taken either from prisoners or captured farms (many of which also get raided for food), and prisoners of war that are captured then often released. Other notable items include a brief meeting with Winston Churchill and a discussing with Lieutenant Colonel (later General) Harry Chauvel, along with discussions about the Boer tactic of displaying a white flag before firing upon investigating British soldiers and the surrender of Pretoria on 4 June where Pearce is one of the first soldiers into the city and receives the Boer surrender at the city’s barracks. The diary concludes with Pearce’s appointment to Intelligence officer of 9 August. In the rear of the diary are general notes and addresses of friends and family.

Wallet 3:
- 1 x black faux leather covered notebook used as a diary spanning the period 13 August to 23 November 1900. The diary discusses Pearce’s work as intelligence officer working in the Orange Free State. This includes interviews with Boer prisoners, the management of British spies and censorship of mail. There is also a mention of the large amount of refugees that were in Cape Town. The diary ends with Pearce’s organisation of transport to Australia aboard the SS Sophocles.
- 1 x dark green felt-covered notebook with brown spine and marbled edges with diary spanning the period 23 July 1901 to 11 March 1902. This diary notes Pearce’s return to South Africa aboard the SS Orient. Upon his return, he discusses his appointment to Naauwpoort as Railway Station Officer, noting its drop in pay and importance compared to his previous roles. Over the next few months, Pearce notes several visits to various places around South Africa to see friends and other officers, occasionally on official business. Included are several mentions of the South African countryside, particularly the large amounts of locusts that Pearce encounters. Also noted are three interviews with Commandant Scheepers (transcript of one interview in wallet 1). The diary concludes with Pearce’s return to Australia aboard the SS Manchester Merchant. During this journey, Pearce notes the poor behaviour of the troops under his command, and upon reaching Australia refuses to give them on-shore leave owing to fears that they will get drunk not return to the ship on time. In the rear of the diary are notes of accounts paid and pays received.

Major Pearce continued his service into the First World War, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.