Hans Jebsen BECK (1878-1901)

Hans Jebsen BECK served and died with the 5th NZ Contingent in the South African Boer War.  A monument (below) was erected in Norsewood in recognition of his service.

Hans Jebsen Beck memorial in Norsewood, Hawkes Bay

The inscription on the memorial reads: Erected to the memory of Trooper H.J. Beck, 5th N.Z. Contingent who was wounded in action at Lichtenburg South Africa 3rd March 1901. Died of his wounds 24th March 1901. Age 23.

Hans Jebsen BECK was born 1878 in Hawkes Bay, the son of Mathias Peterson BECK and Anna Maria HANSEN who had migrated from Denmark to Napier on the “Fritz Reuter” in 1874.

On 27 March 1900 he enlisted as “John Beck” to serve with the 5th New Zealand Contingent of imperial troops in South Africa. The following reports in the Bush Advocate give an account of how he was wounded in action and the unveiling of his memorial (shown above).

The War

Mrs P. M. Beck, of Norsewood, has received the following letter from South Africa relating to the manner in which her son, Gunner J. Beck, received the wound which had, fatal consequences :-
5th March, 1901.
Mrs Beck, Ormondville,
Dear Madam, I much regret having to send this letter to tell you of a mishap that, has come to your son John. But as you will probably see the news in cablegrams from here it seemed better to let you know how he was getting along. Last Sunday morning we were attacked by the Boers, who managed to get into the town and very close to the entrenchments where the guns were. The men were, of course, on their guns and with nothing to eat or drink. Your son offered to run across an open space to bring something to the enclosure, and unfortunately while coming back was struck in the leg, the bullet going right through and breaking the bone. The doctor came as soon as possible and made him as comfortable as he could. We had him removed to the hospital the same night, where he is now doing very well. He has of course a good deal of pain, but is bearing up well and when the swelling has gone down and the doctors have set his leg, I hope he will mend rapidly, for otherwise he is in splendid health. We are all extremely sorry for his mishap, his good nature and cheerfulness having made him everybody’s friend in the battery. I trust he will soon be well enough to send you the news of his safe recovery. It is at present necessary that he should be still, which explains why he is unable to write himself. – I am, etc.,
C. T. Major,
Captain N.Z. Battery.
From Bush Advocate 18 May 1901

The Late Trooper Beck

The largest concourse of people that has ever assembled at Norsewood met on Sunday afternoon to witness the ceremony of unveiling the monument to the late Trooper Beck who fell so heroically while helping to get succour for his comrades in South Africa.
A detachment of the Union Rifles acted as a guard of honour, and the Brass Band was in attendance and played most appropriate music.
Punctually at 2.30 Mr P. Martin, the energetic secretary, mounted the platform and read apologies for non-attendance from the Very Rev. the Dean of Waiapu and Pastor Ries. The latter wrote as follow: – In reply to your kind invitation, dated January 15th, I beg to state that it would have given me great pleasure indeed to have been with you on the 26th at the unveiling of the Beck Memorial Monument; but as I have to be in Makaretu on the last Sunday in each month, and this is the last Sunday in this month, I could not possibly be with you. I honour and esteem any young man who shows regard to his country, and I am very glad to learn of the way in which the Norsewood community has deemed it proper to commemorate the deeds of our late trooper, young John Beck. I trust that the monument you are about to unveil will be an everlasting teacher of two things, – Firstly, that the Danish subjects in this colony are loyal to the British Crown, and at all times willing to give their lives for the service of the Empire; secondly, that the people of the colony honour and respect any man who does bis best to help to uphold the prestige of the British Empire. I pray to God that He will comfort the parents and other relatives in their sorrow over the loss of their son and brother. In conclusion, sir, as I understand that you are short of funds for the monument, and that a collection will be taken up, I beg to enclose cheque for £l, which you will kindly add to your collection. You have my best wishes for a successful meeting.
Mr Martin then called upon Mr Hall, M.H.R., who, having; made a few introductory remarks, asked Mrs Ole Ericksen to unveil the monument, a ceremony which that lady gracefully performed, during which the volunteers presented arms, and the “last post” was sounded.
Mr Hall then proceeded with his address, in which he eulogised the bravery shown by Trooper Beck. He also informed his hearers that a cross had been erected over the grave of deceased at Lichtenburg (where he met with his fatal wound) by his comrades-in-arms.
Addresses were also given by Mr C. A. Foston, Adjutant Cook, the Rev Canon Webb, and Pastor Topholm, the last speaker reminding his hearers that though he was not an Englishman by birth, he was a loyal subject of the King. He had traveled in several foreign countries and was conversant with their laws, and could say without fear of contradiction that there was no freer country in this world than that over which flew the English flag.
During the afternoon a collection was taken up and responded to with such good will that the monument is paid for, £12, the amount required, being taken.
Mr Hall, at the wish of Mr M. Beck, father of deceased, then read a few words of heartfelt gratitude to all those who bad helped in erecting such a memento to his son, after which Mr Foston moved that this meeting protests against the recent vile aspersions cast upon the British troops and affirms its belief in their honour and integrity.
Pastor Topholm seconded and the resolution was carried amidst loud cheering, the proceedings being brought to a close by the Band playing “God Save the King.”
The monument, which is a very handsome marble one and comes from the works of Mr J. Waterworth, of Napier, bears the following inscription: “Erected to the memory of Trooper H. J. Beck, 5th New Zealand Contingent, who was wounded in action at Lichtenburg, South Africa, 3rd March, 1901. Died of his wounds 24th March, 1901. Aged 23.” “In grateful remembrance of a brave soldier who gave his life in defence of the Empire.” The monument stands on a 3-tier concrete basement, which was erected by Mr Crossland, of Ormondville, and which does him infinite credit.
From Bush Advocate 27 January 1902

The image below is of the headstone erected by his comrades at Lichtenburg, South Africa.

Grave headstone image
Headstone erected over the grave of Hans Jebsen Beck at Lichtenburg, South Africa

Details of Hans Jebsen BECK, his parents and siblings can be viewed on RootsWeb.


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