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Capture of Boer soldiers by cyclists


‘Capture of Boers by cyclists near Eerste Fabrieken’.

This somewhat romantic illustration appeared in After Pretoria: the guerilla war, which was published in London in 1902. The author, Herbert Wilson, claimed that this was the only time in the South African War that cyclists chased and captured Boer soldiers.

The cyclists were led by Lieutenant Alexander Wynyard-Joss, ‘Auckland’s favourite mandolinist’, who had moved to Australia before going to South Africa in charge of the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen’s cycle section. He described the incident in a letter that was published in a Brisbane newspaper, The Queenslander, on 22 June 1901:

I am pleased to say that I have been personally congratulated by General Plumer for the smart capture of a small Boer convoy, consisting of nine Boers, four waggons, and 160 head of cattle. I took them completely by surprise with eight of the Cycle Company, and had the pleasure of smashing up their rifles and burning all their ammunition, securlng for myself a lovely Mauser carbine and Boer bandoleer full of cartridges.

Although each of the main centres had a volunteer cyclist company by 1898, New Zealand did not send any cycle units to the South African War. It is quite possible that other New Zealanders served in cyclist companies in South Africa, though Wynyard-Joss is the only one we have been able to confirm.

Later in the same letter Wynyard-Joss noted some of the pros and cons of using bicycles in the war:

We have had a terrible lot of horse sickness in the camps, and over 200 have been walking these last few days. This sickness does not attack the bikes, but, oh! the prickles and punctures are awful. The [Massey-Harris] machines I must say have stood well.

Wynward Joss (1872-1954) was born in Scotland but his family probably moved to New Zealand when he was still at school.  By 1890 he was competing in cycle races in Christchurch. He then moved to Whanganui, where he taught mandolin and guitar before moving to Auckland and becoming manager of the the Cleveland Cycle Agency about 1898.

In mid-1900 he moved to Brisbane to managed the Cleveland Cycle Agency there. In 1901 he joined Queensland’s 5th Imperial Bushmen Contingent and was appointed officer in charge of the 500-strong cycle section, which arrived in South Africa in early April. He stayed with this unit until May 1902, when he served briefly with the New Zealand 8th Contingent.

By 1914 Wynyard-Joss was manager of the Canada Cycle and Motor Co. Agency, Brisbane. He enlisted for the First World War as a lieutenant in the Austalian Imperial Force’s 301st Mechanical Transport unit.  Promoted to major, he was in 1919 awarded an OBE for his war service. In the 1930s he leased Cid Island in the Whitsunday group, north of Mackay. Alexander Wynyard-Joss died in Queensland in 1954.


H.W. Wilson, After Pretoria: the guerilla war, Amalgamated Press, London, 1902

How to cite this page

Capture of Boer soldiers by cyclists, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated