M.V.O. London Gazette 20.2.1903.
Mr. John Gardiner Hamilton, M.V.O., was awarded a unique M.V.O. for his services in the Boer War as the Honorary Director, Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals. This Royal award was to compensate Hamilton for a regrettable error by Lord Kitchener's Chief of Staff that deprived him of a well-deserved C.M.G. in 1902.
Hamilton, a prominent figure in Johannesburg and Vice-President of the Chamber of Mines, devoted himself to the cause of the Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals during the Boer War. The Imperial Yeomanry Hospitals were the largest private hospitals in South Africa and had more branches than any other. They were originated by Lady Chesham and Lady Georgina Howe (Countess Curzon) and it was the latter who brought Hamilton to the notice of Lord Kitchener in September 1901.
'I hope you will pardon me for troubling you with a letter upon a subject which will require no answer, but which I would earnestly ask you to bear in mind when the right time comes.
The terms of approbation in which you have spoken of the Yeomanry Hospitals have been reported to me by Colonel Kilkelly, and I am anxious to bring to your notice the valuable services of Mr. J.G. Hamilton, the Hon. Treasurer and Civilian Director of our hospitals in Africa. For nearly two years, the Yeomanry Hospitals have been at the disposal of the South African Field Force, and during that period, Mr. Hamilton has devoted his whole time to the business and financial administration of our hospitals. His services were, of course, given free and I can assure you that the post he held has been no sinecure. All intricate negotiations with military and civilian authorities have been invariably brought to a successful issue by the great tact he has throughout displayed. As Chairman of the I.Y. Fund Committee, I know that I can truly say that if you find it in your power to recommend Mr. Hamilton for any special recognition of his services, such recognition would be considered by the members of the Committee as a direct compliment for their individual arduous labours. I am convinced Colonel Kilkelly will endorse my words about Mr. Hamilton.
It is with much hesitation I write, not only because it is intruding on your valuable time, but because I dislike the idea of asking for rewards; but my excuse is that Mr. Hamilton's devotion to his work has been so marked, and yet so unostentatious, that I think it might be passed over and remain unknown. In addition to this, Mr. Hamilton is a civilian, and represents in Africa an organisation that has been managed entirely by a Committee of ladies. Consequently, I hardly see who will place his name before you unless I do so myself. I feel sure I can safely leave the matter in your hands.'
Colonel Kilkelly did indeed back the Recommendation of Hamilton for an award and wrote to Major Congreve, Kitchener's Military Secretary:
'I have just spoken to Colonel Hamilton about a namesake of his who is the Honorary Director and Treasurer of the Imp. Yeomanry Hospitals in S.A. He has done very good work and consistently so ever since the I.Y. hospitals were first started. He has not been mentioned in any of the late despatches. He represents the committee out here and Countess Howe (our Chairman) has written to me and is particularly anxious for some notice to be taken of him. I have explained everything about his case to Hamilton.
His full name is: J.G. Hamilton, Honorary Civilian Director and Treasurer of Imp. Yeomanry Hospitals.'
Hamilton was Mentioned in Lord Kitchener's final Despatch (London Gazette 23.7.1902 refers) but did not receive any other reward, which prompted Lady Howe to write on 3.12.1902 to an un-named General [but probably Ian Hamilton]:
'I returned from South Africa on Saturday, and am indeed most frightfully disappointed at seeing no mention of Mr. J.G. Hamilton's name in the last List of Honours. You will remember that I wrote to you on this subject, but I also wrote to Lord Kitchener, and from him I had a most favourable reply. In fact, he told me that he had recommended Mr. Hamilton for the C.M.G. On all sides, Mr. Hamilton's work on behalf of our Hospitals has been most highly praised. While I was in Africa, and indeed, in England before I left, I heard nothing but praise of the manner in which he had carried through all work in connection with the Yeomanry Hospitals in Africa. It does really seem most hard that after giving up the whole of his time for two years to voluntarily work for our hospitals, he should be passed over when many others who held similar positions to other private hospitals did not have their names omitted from previous Lists.'
This letter prompted rapid enquiries at the War Office, resulting in a note from a Civil Servant one week later which showed that 'someone had blundered', the 'someone' being Ian Hamilton:
'In the original list of recommendations from Lord Kitchener, Mr. J.G. Hamilton was put down for a C.M.G. When Mr. Brodrick [Secretary of State for War] asked for statements as to the grounds on which those who were down for the C.M.G. were recommended, Sir Ian Hamilton wrote 'Lent a palatial mansion and extensive grounds for nearly two years to the military for a hospital.' On 16th Oct. 1902, Col. Hanbury-Williams informed Mr. Bayly that Messrs. T.R. Price and J.G. Hamilton were to be struck out of the list' (War Office records refer).
Hamilton went on to be a Member of the Legislative Assembly for the Transvaal and was employed in China in connection with the negotiations and arrangements for the supply of Chinese labour for the Rand Mines, an employment which sparked the notorious Chinese problems in South Africa in 1903. He also became the first Commanding Officer, later Honorary Colonel, of the Witswatersrand Rifles in 1903.