Boyd Alexander CUNINGHAME

Regiment:               Northern Rhodesia Rifles
                               Formerly Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders,
                               5th Btn.  

Rank & Number:     

19 July 1871; Sale, Victoria, Australia  

16 March 1917; Elizabethville, Belgian

Other:                      Mentioned in despatches  

BOYD ALEXANDER CUNINGHAME was born 19 Jul 1871 in Sale, Victoria, Australia, to parents William Boyd Cuninghame and Marion Harriett Paterson.  He died, aged 46, on 16 Mar 1917 in Elizabethville, Belgian Congo of typhoid fever while on leave, and was buried at Lubumbashi Cemetery, Congo.  He is commemorated on the M.C.C. members’ memorial at Lords Cricket Ground.  

In 1916 (Jul-Sep), he married Elsie Burrell at St. George, Hanover Square, London.   He was the nephew of Mrs John Cuninghame of Creich, Fairlie, with whom he stayed after being invalided home from German East Africa in early 1916.     


Served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in the Boer War, where he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps.  At the outbreak of the First World War he owned an estate in Northern Rhodesia, and was instrumental in raising volunteers to form the Northern Rhodesia Rifles.  He was given command of a force, and rendered valuable military service against the Germans - his medal index card shows entry into theatre of war in German East Africa on 2 Feb 1915.  He received the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals, and was mentioned in despatches.  After the war, his aunt, Mrs. John Cuninghame of Creich, Fairlie applied for his medals on behalf of his widow.

Largs & Millport Weekly News, 31 March 1917

The death of Major Boyd A. Cuninghame, which occurred on N.W. Rhodesia on the 16th inst., brings to an untimely end the career of one who, a few years ago, was one of the best known and most popular figures in the county, and whose achievements in the realm of sport commanded the admiration of a wide circle.    

A straight and true rider to the hounds, when “Bailey’s Magazine” some years ago balloted for the twelve best men to hounds in Great Britain, he found himself placed third, in good company with “Charlie Southampton” and Lord Lonsdale as first and second.  As a cricketer he was generally regarded as the finest batsman of his time in Scotland, and his exhilarating displays and scoring feats, while a member of Lord Eglinton’s XI, brought him such prominence that he received a pressing invitation from Middlesex to qualify to play for them in English County Cricket.  At golf he achieved similar success, being a scratch man in Prestwick Club, whilst he was also esteemed one of the finest game shots in the county.   

When the Boer War broke out Major Cuninghame went to Africa with his regiment, the 4th A. & S.H., and later on was given command of a Mounted Infantry Commando.  At the close of the war he went with the Tanganyika Concessions Expedition to Angola, where he took the first soundings of Lobito Bay in 1902.  In 1905 Major Cuninghame embarked on a big Wagon Trek, cutting a Wagon Road from Lobito Bay to the Luabula River, a distance of 1,215 miles, and taking machinery to the alluvial gold fields at Rueve-Katanga.  His return freight included the transport to Lobito of the first copper smelted in Katanga.  This double trip of 2,430 miles is regarded as a record journey by ox-wagon, and was certainly an adventurous achievement.  At a later period Major Cuninghame crossed Africa from Lobito Bay to Lhinde, via Nyassaland, and five times he walked from Lobito to Elizabethville in the Congo State.  On one of these trips, throughout a distance of 1,450 miles, his party made the remarkable average of fifteen miles a day.   

Five years ago Major Cuninghame acquired an estate in Northern Rhodesia, and settled down to planting and farming, and at the outbreak of the present war he was given command of a force operating in this region.  In that capacity, he rendered valuable military service against the Germans.  In particular, he distinguished himself in charge of a wagon journey of 500 miles in the height of the rains, cutting the road which took the Northern Rhodesian Rifles to the German East African Border in December and January, 1914-15, and into the fighting line.  Unfortunately, the hardships of the campaign made serious inroads on his health, and about a year ago he was invalided home.  This furlough he spent with his aunt, Mrs. Cuninghame, Creich, Fairlie.  Prior to leaving he married Miss Elsie Burrell, daughter of the late R. Burrell, Esq., of Thetford, for whom the deepest sympathy is felt.   

His career was a brief but crowded one, and his death at a comparatively early age will occasion deep sorrow amongst all who knew him.  Frank and manly in disposition, he was a sportsman of the truest and finest type, while his solid achievements in Africa will entitle him to a high place among the pioneers who so bravely “carry on” for us on the outposts of our Empire.

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