I is for George Ives

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for Round 21 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme. But finding suitable characters is getting harder, so apologies in advance if there are repeats of previous posts.

The term ‘old soldier’ would suit no-one better than George Frederick Ives who, when he died in 1993 at the age of 111, was the last surviving veteran of the Boer Wars.

Ives was born in Brighton in 1881 although the family moved to Bristol to work for the Tidmarsh family. As a boy, Ives trained to be a jockey but then worked in his father’s workshop.

The Second Boer War broke out in South Africa in October 1899 and in December the same year, the Britsh forces were routed at the Battle of Colenso in Natal. This news prompted the nineteen-year-old Ives to enlist in the army.

He was posted to South Africa where he was assigned to the Royal Yeomanry sent to support Scottish troops. Thanks to his training with horses, Ives was promoted to cavalry scout and would spend days in the saddle trying to locate the Boer enemy.

Horses were the most important piece of military equipment during that war. As Ives wryly observed: ‘There were lots of veterinaries but not many doctors. A horse cost £40 while a man was only worth a dollar.’

As a scout, Ives became a messenger between the troops scattered across the veldt and would regularly cover distances of fifty to seventy miles through enemy territory which he managed to do by taking two horses and hiding in the hills during daylight hours.

Of the 122 men who made up his company, only seventeen survived. Ives returned to England but then he emigrated to Canada where he and his father bought 160 acres of prairie land for $10. He married Kay Nelson in 1910 and went on to father three sons and three daughters.

Ives with Princess Diana

Ives tried to enlist during World War One but was rejected because of a heart murmur and in 1919 his family moved to White Rock, British Colombia, where he owned a farm until he retired in 1941. However, he said that retirement was just an excuse to change jobs and he spent another fifteen years in a shipyard building wooden scows.

His wife died in 1984 and in 1992 Ives fulfilled his ambition to lay a wreath at the War Memorial in London, becoming the oldest man to cross the Atlantic. During his visit, he met the Queen, the Queen Mother, Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher and the then prime minister John Major.

Ives returned to his home in White Rock where he died in April the following year, but below is a video of an interview he gave before his death.

For further information, see Ives‘ Wikipedia page, Gerontology and the Baltimore Sun.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • abcwednesday21 6th September 2017

    That is not only an impressive person but age as well. I don’t know if I want to get that old 😉 All depends on health I guess…

    Have a splendid, ♥-warming ABC-Wednes-day / -week
    ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

  • Roger O Green 6th September 2017

    Fascinating history


  • Hildred Finch 6th September 2017

    A fine old veteran – I think it also takes a lot of courage to live to be 111!!!

  • Daphne 7th September 2017

    Another great person that not fast will be forgotten for what he did.
    Have a nice ABC~week!!
    Daphne, ABCW~team


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