The 1st Battalion sailed on the Cephalonia on 24th October 1899, arrived at the Cape about 18th November, and was sent round to Durban. Along with the 2nd Scottish Rifles, 1st Rifle Brigade, and 3rd King's Royal Rifles, they formed the 4th Brigade under Major General N G Lyttelton. The work of the brigade has been sketched under the 2nd Scottish Rifles, and that of the Natal Army generally under the 2nd Queen's, Royal West Surrey.
At Colenso the battalion was not heavily engaged. After moving to Potgeiter's they took part in various demonstrations and feints, but it was not until 5th February, when called on to storm Vaal Krantz, that the Durhams knew what it was to be under a hail of shells and bullets. Their final charge that day was carried through in a way worthy of the battalion. The words of Sir Redvers Buller are, "The men would not be denied". Their losses were heavy: 2 officers and 12 men killed, 6 officers, including Colonel Fitzgerald, and 76 men wounded.
Six officers and 8 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned by General Buller in his despatch of 8th February 1900 for good work at Vaal Krantz.
The battalion took part in the last and successful attempt to relieve Ladysmith, and was almost constantly engaged between 13th and 27th February. On the 18th the battalion and the 1st Rifle Brigade attacked and carried the ridge between Monte Cristo and Green Hill, and losing no time, captured the Boer laager. The 4th Brigade were on the left in the final assault on the 27th. The battalion's losses during the fourteen days were approximately 2 men killed and 51 wounded.
Six officers and 13 men were mentioned in despatches for good work in the relief operations, 3 men getting the distinguished conduct medal, — another man of the Mounted Infantry got that medal for excellent work at Alleman's Nek,—and in General Buller's final despatch 12 officers were mentioned.
After the entry into the Transvaal the history of the battalion was not very stirring. Like the remainder of the brigade, they were chiefly employed on the Natal - Pretoria Railway, and in column work from the railway line towards the Orange River Colony.
In Lord Roberts' final despatch 9 officers and 16 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned.
The Mounted Infantry company of the Durham Light Infantry was present at Sannah's Post, 30th and 31st March 1900 (see Household Cavalry). When Q Battery found itself forced to come into action at 1200 yards from the spruit where the Boers lay, the Mounted Infantry company, "which was acting as right-flank guard to the retirement, promptly occupied a position on the right and left flank of the battery, thus checking any intention the enemy had of advancing from the spruit". Speaking of the retirement of the battery, Colonel Broadwood said, "The whole of this operation was carried out with perfect steadiness by all concerned, the action of Q Battery, the company of the Durham Light Infantry, and of Lieutenant Colonel Pilcher's regiment of Mounted Infantry being specially worthy of notice".
Three officers and 3 men of the company were mentioned in Colonel Broadwood's report. The Mounted Infantry company of the regiment gained many mentions throughout the campaign.
A party of the battalion was present in Gough's Mounted Infantry force which was ambushed and destroyed on 17th September 1901. On that occasion 1 officer and 1 man were mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatch for great gallantry. In Lord Kitchener's final despatch 4 officers and 6 non-commissioned officers were mentioned.
Captain De Lisle, DSO, of the Durham Light Infantry, earned great distinction as a leader of mounted infantry and column commander, was mentioned several times, and gained his CB by splendid work.
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