WILLIAM L’ESTRANGE EAMES, DOCTOR, SOLDIER & SPORTSMAN [SOUTH AFRICA]
More than a dozen covers came to auction on Ebay, mainly addressed to Mrs. L’Estrange Eames, but a few to her husband William, both from South Africa and England, mostly 1900-1901. These covers prompted me to research this man. The first was written by William to his wife, with a manuscript ‘On active service no stamps available’ on an Afrikaans printed cover, postmarked FIELD POST OFFICE/ 31/ JY 3/ 00/ BRITISH ARMY S. AFRICA, and the cover was taxed ‘1D’ (Figure 1).
The next was an ‘On His Majesty’s Service’ cover addressed to Surgeon Major Eames C.B., Newcastle, New South Wales, and it had a green double oval hand-stamp ‘MILITARY GOVERNOR’S OFFICE/ 17 OCT 1901/ PRETORIA, signed at lower left by a Major Peters, emanating from the Military Governor’s Office Pretoria. The stampless cover was postmarked ‘ARMY POST OFFICE/ 8/ OC 18/ 01/ PRETORIA (Figure 2).
The third cover had a rose 1d Cape of Good Hope stamp postmarked 16 OCT (year obscured)/ CAPE COLONY, addressed to Surgeon Major Eames, NSW Bearer Company, Field Force, Pretoria, but the cover was redirected to Newcastle, NSWALES, Australia (Figure 3).
William L’Estrange Eames was born in 1863 at Neemuch near Poona, India, son of William Leslie Eames, an Anglican chaplain attached to an East India Company regiment, and his wife Henrietta, née L'Estrange. As a small boy he went to England and was educated at Oswestry Grammar School and Caius College, Cambridge, with the intention of entering the Church. When his mother died he altered his plans and became a medical student at Trinity College, Dublin. He was interested in soccer, rugby and rowing, and in April 1885 he was one of the youngest captains for the Irish national soccer team. Also in 1885, while he was still an undergraduate, the Sudan War broke out, and he enlisted in a medical unit but the war ended, prior his embarkation.
In Dublin he graduated in medicine in 1886, applied to join the Army Medical Corps but there were no vacancies, and he decided to sail for Australia. In August 1887 he arrived in Sydney and settled at Newcastle where he was associated in a busy general practice which was largely concerned with the shipping industry. On 19 November 1888, at Christ Church, Newcastle, he married Elizabeth Jane Lockhead, and they had two daughters. He remained in practice at Newcastle until 1914 and was a foundation member of the Newcastle Club.
In 1891 Eames joined the New South Wales Army Medical Corps (later part of the Australian Army Medical Corps) as a captain, and on the outbreak of the South African War volunteered for service. He left Sydney on 17 January 1900 as a major in the corps' second contingent and disembarked at East London on 22 February. After arrival he organized and commanded the No.2 Bearer Company.
Eames served during operations in the Orange Free State from February 1900 to November 1900, and he was taken prisoner by the Boers, but Eames was released, and resumed active service. For his work in South Africa he was appointed C.B., awarded the Queen's Medal and mentioned in dispatches. By early 1901 he was back at Newcastle and in 1903, as a brevet lieutenant-colonel, was given medical responsibility for the army in the Newcastle area. He become a lieutenant-colonel in the A.A.M.C. in 1909.
In 1914 Eames and his family visited England for a holiday, and war broke out and he was keen to enlist, but at 51 was considered too old and was precluded by Commonwealth policy from enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force overseas. Eames was appointed to command a hospital staffed by Australians in London, and for his services he was appointed a C.B.E. In April 1919, he resigned his command, returned to Australia, and that year he retired from general practice. He was active in retirement, with business interests in Newcastle and Sydney, becoming a director of the City of Newcastle Gas & Coke Co. He was an ardent golfer and was keenly interested in horse racing. He died at Rose Bay, Sydney on 26 October 1956, survived by his two daughters. Tall and dignified, possessed of endearing charm and dry humour, he was a distinguished professional man who radiated kindly benevolence.
This paper relies heavily on the information found in the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.