b. 02/11/1893 Johannesburg, South Africa. d. 27/10/1920 Johannesburg, South Africa.
Oswald Austin Reid (1893-1920), the third child in a family of seven, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 2nd November 1893. He was the eldest of three sons, the others being Victor and Clifford, and he also had four sisters. His father, Harry Austin Reid, was a pioneer architect of Johannesburg and formerly a captain in the commander in chief’s bodyguard regiment (Lord Roberts’ Regiment). He had been awarded medals for the South African Wars of 1877, 1881 and 1899-1902. Oswald’s mother, Alice Gertrude Reid, was also well connected, being a pioneer of both Johannesburg and Kimberley.
Oswald was educated at the Diocesan College, Cape Town, and later at St John’s College, Johannesburg and at Radley College, England. He arrived at Radley in 1910, and although he was only 17, he could be mistaken for 21. He soon earned the the nickname “Kaffir Reid”, and was captain of the rugby and cricket teams, and was a senior prefect. He was also a Colour Sergeant in the college Officer Training Corps.
He became an agricultural student and was later given a position in the Agricultural Department in South Africa. However, the outbreak of war put paid to this, and he joined the Army on 14th August 1914 as a Second Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was promoted to Full Lieutenant on 5th March 1915 and his battalion left for Le Havre, arriving the next day, and he began his service as bombing officer. His battalion was part of Sirhind Brigade, and saw action at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. A month later he was wounded by a gunshot to the scalp and in the left cheek from a grenade during the Second Battle of Ypres on 27th April.
He initially suffered from headaches, but they gradually relented and he appeared before medical boards. On 28th August he was back in France, this time with 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, and was promoted to Captain. He was wounded at Arras and left France on 6th May. He was transferred to Peshawar, India on 21st August for service with 2nd Battalion, who had been in India since the beginning of the war. He took part in the Mohmand campaign until November, when he embarked for Mesopotamia, and would take part in the operations at Kut-el-Amara, Baghdad, and Samarrah.
On 8th – 10th March 1917 at Diyala River, Mesopotamia, Captain Reid consolidated a small post with the advanced troops on the opposite side of the river to the main body, after his lines of communication had been cut by the sinking of the pontoons. He maintained this position for 30 hours against constant attacks by bombs, machine-guns and rifle fire, with the full knowledge that repeated attempts at relief had failed and that his ammunition was all but exhausted. It was greatly due to his tenacity that the crossing of the river was effected the next night. During the operations he was wounded.
After the war, he was decorated by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 22nd February 1919 and was accompanied by Victor, one of his younger brothers, who was training as a pilot with the RAF. At some point, he left for Russia as a member of the Slavo-British Legion Force to relieve the White Russians in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. On 6th February 1920 he was discharged from military embodiment when back in Johannesburg and became Secretary of the Comrades of the Great War League. He decided to take up politics and in March stood unsuccessfully for the Troyeville constituency.
There is little doubt that his wounds and service in the First World War had undermined his health, and in the autumn he became ill with gastroenteritis and pneumonia. He was unable to fight it off and died in hospital on 27th October 1920. He was buried in Braamfontein Cemetery, and two years later, a VC memorial was unveiled in the cemetery. In addition to the VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Medaglia Al Valore Militaire and was Mentioned in Despatches. His medals are held by the National Museum of Military History, Johannesburg, South Africa.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MILITARY MUSEUM, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA.
BURIAL PLACE: BRAAMFONTEIN CEMETERY, JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA..
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
SECTION E.C. PLOT 22932.