Herbert and Rosa Stentiford
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We first mentioned Herbert Samuel Stentiford in Issue 47. In this Issue, Janet Hiscocks expands the story of Herbert Stentiford (who appears in her family tree) and his family:


Herbert Samuel Stentiford was the fourth son born to James and Mehala Stentiford. The family lived in Zeal Monachorum and Herbert was baptised in the parish church on 25 July 1875. By 1887, the family had increased by five - four more sons and one daughter. James was certainly a gardener all his working life and it is quite probable that Mehala worked as his assistant.


The family must have lived in a small and rather overcrowded cottage though it is true to say that as the older children grew, they left the family home and were apprenticed locally as live-in servants. So by 1881, when Herbert was five, eleven year-old William was already living at Higher Week in Zeal Monachorum as a farm servant. By 1891, Herbert himself was living in Down St. Mary, an adjoining parish, at Higher Living Farm employed by farmer Joseph Cheriton. So the young Herbert grew up in a predominantly rural society. Zeal Monachorum is described by W. G. Hoskins in his book "Devon" as  "a small cob and thatched village in unfrequented country."


Looking over to Dartmoor from Zeal churchyard

Looking across to Dartmoor from the churchyard at Zeal Monachorum

©Richard J. Brine


In 1895 Herbert changed the course of his life. He enlisted at Exeter, joining the Army Service Corp, 151 Company, the 3rd Devonshire Regiment. At enlistment, he was described as being 5 feet 3¼ inches tall with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He had a scar on his chin. This twenty year-old Devon farm labourer, having lived all his life in and around Zeal Monachorum, travelled to Aldershot for training.  It was possibly his first venture outside Devon, presumably by train, and made with a certain degree of trepidation.


By November 1896, he was attested as a driver - not of a motorised vehicle but as part of a horse team pulling guns or baggage carts. He was at home again from 23 November 1896 until October 1899 when the 2nd Boer War began to loom on the horizon for Herbert.


ASCDrivers waiting to embark1914

ASC Drivers waiting with their teams to embark in 1914

It's not easy to see in this very old photograph but each team 

consisted of six horses and three drivers. 

The baggage carts they pulled held everything troops needed 

at the front from food to ammunition.


At this time, Britain desired the unification of the whole of South Africa under British rule and clashed head on with the two Boer Republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. This clash between British imperialism and Afrikaner nationalism was further exacerbated by the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in the Transvaal in 1886. With the arrival of large numbers of  prospectors, the Afrikaners felt that their independence was threatened even further and restricted severely the franchise of the newcomers.


This did not seem too important to the prospectors but the British Government saw it differently and the disagreement deepened.  Many politicians, both in England and in South Africa were imperialists and their actions heightened Boer mistrust of the British Government's intentions. The flash point erupted in 1899 following various manoeuvres on both sides and the South African Republic (the Transvaal) issued an ultimatum to Britain on 9 October 1899, calling for the removal of all imperial troops from the Republic's borders within forty eight  hours with the alternative of formal war.


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Last modiied: 29/12/2007