Roland Jasper Ferry


How Trooper AJ Bennier Was Killed

Author: Port Pirie Memorials

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Roland Jasper Ferry was born in 1876, one of 14 children born to John and Emma Ferry (nee de la Hant) of Sandalgrove, Port Pirie, South Australia.

Roland was a gardener and secretary of the Port Pirie Agricultural Bureau when he enlisted for The Boer War in 1901 at age 25.

Roland asked for 12 months leave of absence from the bureau to enable him to go to South Africa as a member of the Fifth Contingent. The bureau granted it and commended ‘the spirit of patriotism and loyalty’ which had prompted Trooper Ferry to volunteer.

Trooper Ferry, regimental number 320, was afforded a farewell social in the Port Pirie Institute Hall with 7 other troopers, including John Fitzgerald, Frederick Sampson, John Gribble, George Lush, David Stuckey, Sydney Fuller and John Patterson on Thursday 23rd January before heading into camp at the old Exhibition Grounds in Adelaide.  

Roland was promoted to Sergeant along with John Fitzgerald before The Fifth South Australian Imperial Contingent boarded troopship ‘SS Ormazan’ on Saturday 9th February 1901 for South Africa.

The Ormazan was a very slow old boat that made about 200 miles per day and sometimes less. It was all right as an ocean tramp but a poor substitute for a troopship with a near-flat bottom which made it roll terribly in fairly smooth seas.

The long, weary, monotonous journey had no place for drill or exercise until the poultry and some of the sheep had been eaten and then the poop deck could accommodate a few men. They had 50 Martini rifles on board for drill purposes and volley firing at boxes thrown overboard was undertaken. They arrived in Cape Town on the 19th March 1901.

The majority of the Fifth Contingent arrived back in Australia on April 22nd 1902 after being involved in a few minor engagements. Roland, along with Frederick Sampson and two others missed the boat and later returned to Port Pirie on the 1st May where they were welcomed by 3,000 enthusiastic people in front of the Town Hall.

Promoted for a second occasion, Sergeant Major Roland Ferry was wounded in action and in an extraordinary misadventure, shot one of his own comrades whom he mistakenly identified as a Boer. He wrote a heart wrenching letter to the parents of Alfred Bennier confessing to the unfortunate deed and asking for their forgiveness.

During his 12 months in the Orange River Colony, Roland took extensive notes on the pastoral industry in South Africa and presented them for discussion among his peers in the Port Pirie Agricultural Bureau when he returned.

Roland Jasper Ferry married Mary Eva McLeod and settled in Western Australia to raise cattle and farm from about 1904.


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