Captain, 3rd Queensland Mounted Infantry, Boer War
Major Royal Army Medical Corps, WW1
Legion of Frontiersmen, Bournmouth, United Kingdom
Distinguished Service Order
Gazetted 19 April 1901, p2702
In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa.
(This was the only DSO awarded for the Elands River Siege)
Mention in Despatches
Gazetted 22 June 1915, p6006.
Distinguished Service Order
Queens South Africa
1914 Star and bar
5th Aug-22nd Nov 1914
British War Medal
Mention in Despatches
Born 18 April 1866 St George Hanover Square, London, England,
Died 15 September 1923 New Milton, Bournemouth, England
Behobeho East Africa 1915 - 1917 Nyangao Kilimanjaro Great War 1917 Belgium 1914 -18
Official website of the
Legion of Frontiersmen (New Zealand) Command
Captain Duka was born on 18th April 1866 and was born 18th April 1866, in St George Hanover Square, London. His father was Lieutenant Colonel Theodore DUKA, MD, FRCS, of HM Indian Medical Service. He was educated at Cheltenham College then at Cambridge University where he graduated BA, in 1888 and MA, in 1892. He then worked at St George's Hospital London. He was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians (London).
Surgeon Capt. Albert Duka migrated to Australia, Mackay, Queensland in 1897. He was commissioned in the Queensland Army Medical Corps on 9th March 1899 and appointed Surgeon-Captain in the Queensland Defence Force. On 20th January 1900, as a Captain in the AMC, he wrote from Mackay to the Assistant Adjutant General, Brisbane, volunteering for special duty as a Medical Officer with the 3rd contingent for South Africa.
Capt Duka was a member of M Coy, QMI, when he was appointed Medical Officer to accompany the Third Contingent of the QMI to the Boer War. He was engaged for the voyage to South Africa only and embarked with the 3rd QMI from Brisbane on 1st March 1900 aboard the ‘Duke of Portland’. Fortunately for all concerned, the military authorities in South Africa attached him for duty to his own contingent. Capt Duka distinguished himself in attending to the wounded under very heavy fire during the Eland's River siege and on other occasions.
The Hero of the Elands River Siege
The third Queensland contingent was landed at Beira in Portuguese East Africa and then made their way through Rhodesia to become part of Plumer’s force marching to the relief of the besieged town of Mafeking. Surgeon Captain Duka rode with this force and his charges included a small ambulance section and medical team from the Queensland Army Medical Corps.
Following the Relief of Mafeking the 3rd QMI were engaged protecting the lines of communication between Rustenburg and Mafeking. On 19th July 1900 the 3rd QMI became part of a small force at Elands River guarding a large build-up of stores which had become attractive to the Boers. The Elands River Post was besieged by Boer General De la Rey from 4th to 16th August, with a vastly superior Boer force armed with modern artillery. The defenders had only one outdated 7 pounder muzzle loader with limited supplies of faulty ammunition. They were severely battered by the besieging Boers in what was to become the first major gallant defence by Australian forces.
Throughout the 12-day siege Surgeon Captain Duka operated a hospital under canvas in the centre of the camp. While the command and the troops were relatively safe in their hastily dug trenches, Duka had to openly move around the siege area. He was much admired by the garrison for the way he fearlessly went about his work tending the wounded and overseeing the health of the garrison.
During the siege he performed many operations under fire in the hospital including a number of amputations. Lord Roberts and the Army had given up on the Elands River Post believing they could not hold out and assuming they had surrendered. When they finally realised that this garrison of Australians and Rhodesians had not surrendered the siege was lifted by a large column led by Lord Kitchener himself. When the relief force arrived the Elands River garrison gathered round the flag and sang ‘God Save the Queen’. They then gave three cheers for ‘the Doctor’ as a mark of their appreciation for his efforts during the siege. Many of the Elands River garrison felt the ‘the Doctor’ should be awarded the Victoria Cross. He was Mentioned in Despatches by Lord Roberts and awarded the only DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER for the Elands River Siege.
Some months later Surgeon Captain Duka was granted leave to proceed to England to tend to some urgent family business. This may have had something to do with his father who died in 1908 or his former wife and son, Robin. He was presented with his DSO during a parade at Mackay, Queensland, for King Edward’s coronation in 1903. His 10-year-old son, Robin was standing on the dais with him.
In 1903 his second marriage took place in Melbourne to Jean Helpman, the daughter of Major Walter Helpman of Warrnambool, Victoria. Her nephew was to become the famous Australian dancer/actor, Sir Robert Helpman. On his return he resumed his position with Queensland Defence Force. In 1903 he went into a medical practice partnership with Dr Smith Hozier of Lismore and in 1904 he was appointed Captain in the Army Service Corps. Capt Duka sold his medical practice in Lismore, NSW and left for England on 21st October 1905.
World War One
At the outbreak of World War 1 Albert Duka and his wife were in England. He joined up and was appointed a RAMC surgeon. In August 1914 he joined the British Army as a temporary Lieutenant in RAMC, although he was still listed on the Reserve of Officers for New South Wales. He served with the British expeditionary Force in France where he served in the advance on and retreat from Mons. He earned the 1914 Star and clasp and was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ by General French.
After one year he was appointed Captain and then Major on 26 September 1915. Later, in England, he was in charge of the clearing hospital at Eastleigh. After the war he served in the Ministry of Pensions Department at Southampton until his death at New Milton, Bournemouth in September 1923 at age 57.
Some of his other appointments include in Australia in 1897 Dr Duka was Vice-President of the Mackay Cricket Association and he was also appointed Honorary Surgeon at Mackay District Hospital. In England after WWI, he was a member of the Bournemouth Town Council, and a prominent local Freemason being a past Worshipful Master of Boscombe Lodge.
Legion of Frontiersmen
Captain Duka would have joined the Legion of Frontiersmen sometime after his return to England in 1905, as his portrait is displayed in the April 8th, 1909, Bournemouth Graphic, listed as Captain H.T. Duka, DSO (late of the Queensland Mounted Infantry, serving in South Africa during the Boer War) Surgeon of the Staff of the Legion. He was living in Bournemouth and most likely was a member of the “New Forest Troop’, Hants Squadron, London Command, under LTCOL Driscoll, DSO. Their headquarters at Bournemouth was the Metropole Hotel at Lansdowne. A well-known hostelry still today.
In a newspaper article published on 21 May 1901 the writer states, 'I cannot close this article without a word of testimony to our gallant medical officer - Surgeon-Captain A.T. Duka, of our Third Contingent. He quickly had a temporary shelter built for a hospital, and, absolutely unsparing to himself, unwearying tended the wounded - black and white - day and night, with a skill, gentleness, and devotion worthy of the highest praise. His name will never be forgotten by any of the garrison.'
Geoff Pocock adds: My suggestion is that he settled in Bournemouth for financial reasons. Wealthy people who had ailments (or thought they did) made their home in either
Bournemouth or Torquay for the sea air and mild climate of the south. In addition, the smell of the many pine trees in Bournemouth was thought to be good for the lungs and general health. He would have, and certainly did, earn a very good living attending to the wealthy of Bournemouth. A smart fine-looking man who was a decorated soldier who had served honourably in both Boer War and First War and had an intriguing Australian accent would have been a popular doctor with the rich, especially the ladies. He was mentioned quite regularly in the Bournemouth Graphic including at least for one Legion of frontiersmen meeting.
• The Bournemouth Graphic, April 8th, 1909
• Boer War Memorial Association, Boer War Dispatches, March 2013, Victoria & Tasmania
• National Boer War Association, Monumentally Speaking, Queensland Edition, Vol 2, No3, September 2010
• The W. Woolmore Collection of Anglo Boer War Medals - Aust. - Noble Numismatics
• Geoffrey A. Pocock, History and Archives, Legion of Frontiersmen