Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rogers, James (1873–1961)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

James Rogers (1873-1961), soldier and farmer, was born on 4 July 1873, at Woodside Farm, Moama, New South Wales, son of Welsh-born John Rogers, farmer, and his wife Sarah Louisa, née Johnstone, from Sydney. Rogers was educated locally at public schools. In 1886 his family moved to Heywood, Victoria, where he later worked on his father's farm and joined the local company of the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1898. He was 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall, 12 stone (76 kg) and a superb horseman, tough bushman and crack rifle-shot.

When the South African War broke out Rogers enlisted and in November 1899 disembarked at Cape Town as a private, 1st Victorian Mounted Infantry Company. On 1 May 1900 he was seconded as a corporal to the Provincial Mounted Police, Orange River Colony. Instead of returning home with the Victorian Contingent in November he joined the South African Constabulary as a sergeant. In June 1901 he was part of its No.6 Troop, commanded by Lieutenant Frank Dickinson. The troop joined a 200-man column of the Royal Irish Rifles which patrolled from Thaba'Nchu to Tabaksberg in search of Boer forces. On the return march, about ten miles (16 km) north of Hout Nek, the column came under Boer sniper fire. Dickinson with six men, including Rogers, waited in ambush at a kraal while the column returned to camp. They surprised the Boers and then Dickinson withdrew his men to rejoin the column. About two miles from it sixty Boers tried to cut them off. When Dickinson's horse was shot Rogers, despite heavy enemy fire, rode back, pulled him up behind him on his horse and carried him out of danger. Rogers returned twice more to rescue two men who had let go of their horses when they had dismounted to fire. He then caught and led back to the firing line two horses which had escaped from other men. He returned to Australia late in 1901 and Dickinson recommended that his gallantry be recognized; Rogers was awarded the Victoria Cross on 18 April 1902, having previously been mentioned in dispatches.

A month later he again left for South Africa as a lieutenant with the 6th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse. However, the war had ended and the battalion returned home. Rogers tried to obtain a commission in the Australian Military Forces but was unsuccessful. After buying and then selling a farm at Yea, Victoria, he returned to South Africa where he served as a special detective with the Cape Police until February 1904. On 25 April 1907, describing himself as a mounted trooper, he married Ethel Maud Seldon at Portland, Victoria; they had two sons. By 1912 Rogers was a marker at Williamstown rifle range and by the outbreak of World War I he was an assistant ranger there. On 6 December 1914 he was commissioned in the 3rd Light Horse Brigade Train, Australian Army Service Corps, Australian Imperial Force. He was seriously wounded at Gallipoli on 4 August 1915 and evacuated to Egypt. He then served with the Anzac Provost Corps before returning to Australia on 18 July 1916.

Rogers resumed work at Williamstown as a range assistant, then in 1921 became an assistant storeman, Ordnance Branch, A.M.F., Victoria. He resigned in 1922 and resumed farming. He lived at Kew, Melbourne, for over thirty years; then, after his wife died, with his one surviving son at Roseville, Sydney. He died in Concord Repatriation Hospital on 28 October 1961, and was cremated with military honours in Melbourne. His name is commemorated on a memorial cairn at Heywood. His Victoria Cross is on display in the Hall of Valour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • R. L. Wallace, The Australians at the Boer War (Canb, 1976)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily, revised and condensed by J. Williams and A. Staunton (Canb, 1986)
  • Leader (Melbourne), 4 Nov 1899, 7 June 1902
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 31 Mar 1902, 20 Sept 1902
  • Weekly Times (Melbourne), 14 June 1902
  • Age (Melbourne), 19 Sept 1902, 15 Sept 1962
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 28 June 1959
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 30 Oct 1961
  • Times (London), 30 Oct 1961
  • Lummis, V.C. and G.C. files (Military Historical Society, London)
  • CRS MP744/44,45 CRS B4418 (National Archives of Australia)
  • W032 7476 (National Archives of the United Kingdom)
  • PR 88/10 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Rogers, James (1873–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/rogers-james-8257/text14461, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 21 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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