Return of Ambulance Man from the Front

July 1901

Mexborough and Swinton Times, July 5.

Return of a Conisborough Ambulance Man from the Front

The inhabitants of Conisborough gave another reception to one of its heroes on Wednesday night.

About 12 months ago, Mr TW Downing, of Well gate, Conisborough volunteered for service at the front and was accepted, and it was to welcome his return that the inhabitants of that historic village rejoiced on Wednesday evening.

Since he went out Mr Downing has earned the respect of his superiors, and arrives home with a couple of stripes, or in other words, a corporal.

It will be fresh in the memory of some of our readers how Downing, who is a Sergeant in the Conisborough Fire Brigade, saved a child from a fire at Kilnhurst. For that act of heroism the vicar of Kilnhurst, the reverent, P. Houghton, presented him with a badge, which he wears on his right shoulder.

Downing arrived at Conisborough about seven o’clock, having travelled from London. A great number of people from the district had collected outside the station, waiting for the returned hero. The reception have been got up solely by the Fire Brigade, which body, as already stated, Corporal Downing was a sergeant.

First in the procession came the Conisborough brass band, under the leadership of Mr F Keys. Then came a landau, with Corporal Downing and family in, accompanied by Capt Jones, of the Fire Brigade, and Mr C Holmes, Chairman of the Parish Council. Next came the members of the Ground United Order of Odd fellows in their regalia, of which body Corporal Downing is also a member. Then came the Fire Brigade, in charge of Sgt Senior, one of the firemen triumphantly holding aloft the shield which they won at the inspection at Rotherham a week or two ago. A few private vehicles followed, and a large assembly of people.

The route taken was by way of Low road, Sheffield road, Holywell Lane, Chapel Street, West Street, Church Street and Wellgate, the home of Downing. Flags were flying all along the route, and streamers could be seen. The band played appropriate music.

Arriving at Well gate, Mr Jones welcomed Mr Downing home again on behalf of the Fire Brigade, and Mr C Holmes, also gave him a hearty welcome on behalf of the inhabitants of Conisborough. Corporal Downing, then briefly responded, and gave a lucid account of his experiences at the front, which was listened to with great interest.

The band and friends were afterwards entertained at the Fire Station. Speaking with Corporal Downing afterwards, he told our representative that he sailed from Durban on 5 June in number two hospital ship, “Simla” they arrived at Plymouth on Saturday evening, about five o’clock on 29 June. They then went on to Southampton, where they arrived on Sunday morning at a 8:45 o’clock, June 30.

It is a most remarkable coincidence that it is exactly 12 months ago to the day since Corporal Downing sailed from Southampton. Corporal Downing looks remarkably well, though he has been down with malarial fever and jaundice for seven weeks, but has now thoroughly recovered.

He stated that they had on-board between 400 and 500 men, and disembarked all the patients for Netley, afterwards receiving their discharge.

On his character, given by surgeon Maj Gen Kilkenny, of the Grenadier Guards, and P. M. O. for the I. Y. hospital at Pretoria, it stated that he had served under him for 10 months. He (Downing) volunteered for service of any kind out of the Fire Brigade. He had 29 firemen under him, and was promoted three months after he got out. He was stationed in the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Pretoria. They were seven weeks in getting up to Pretoria. He went to the front as an orderly, and he had to work himself up. The I.Y. Hospital was at first a branch hospital, but is at present the head hospital.

Although he has not been really in the thick of the fighting, Downing has had the usual risks, bullets he states whizzing unpleasantly near him at times. He could often see the shells bursting on the firing line from the ambulance tent. If they had been besieged they had enough food in Pretoria to last them a couple of years. While he was out he was made a cook, and got up to be second cook, and had under him six natives and two white men. Corporal Downing has a sawmill at Kilnhurst.


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