2nd Battalion

The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Dunera on 18th March 1900, and arrived at the Cape about 11th April. Along with the 2nd Scots Guards, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment, and 1st Leinster Regiment, they formed the 16th Brigade under Major General Barrington Campbell, and part of the VIIIth Division under General Leslie Rundle.

The division arrived while Lord Roberts was still in Bloemfontein, but worried by the raids which the enemy had made with success at Sannah's Post and Reddersburg. Wepener was still blockaded, and the division was accordingly railed to the Springfontein-Edenburg district, and immediately took the field at Orlogspoort and Dewetsdorp. There was no severe fighting. The enemy held strong positions about the latter place; but the force employed was overwhelming, and the Boers retreated from these and from the neighbourhood of Wepener, which was relieved on 24th April.

The division followed General French to Thabanchu, which they occupied on 28th April, a few days before Lord Roberts commenced his northern advance on Pretoria. The division now followed Ian Hamilton, who commanded the army of the right flank, and Colvile, but rather to their right rear. Hence they were generally a long distance from the railway; and as we had still great scruples about commandeering, and transport was ill to get, Sir Leslie Rundle's division was soon known all over the world as "the starving VIIIth". The work they had to do from now till the end of the campaign was not of the glory-begetting sort, but they did it faithfully with a minimum of grumbling.

General Rundle did not remain long at rest at Thabanchu. A few days after his arrival there he commenced to spread out his division so as to hold the country on Lord Roberts' right rear. On 15th May M'Quetling's Nek and the Modder Poort were occupied, then ClocoIan and Ladybrand. On the 26th he occupied Senekal, and on the 28th he received a message from Colonel Spragge that his battalion of Yeomanry were hard pressed at Lindley. It is well to recall the general position at this time. Lord Roberts, with two divisions and a large force of cavalry and artillery, had moved up the railway to the Vaal. Ian Hamilton, with a division and a brigade of cavalry, had accompanied him on his right flank via Lindley and Heilbron. Colvile, with a brigade and less than 100 mounted men, had followed Hamilton, and found it difficult to pass out of Lindley. Spragge, with 500 Yeomanry, had moved from the railway to Lindley to join Colvile; but the latter had left, and when he got Spragge's call for help, had found himself unable to give it. As regards the enemy, the whole fighting force of the Free State was massed in the Senekal-Lindley-Bethlehem district. South and west of these points the country was practically free from Boers. South-east of Senekal they were, however, stoutly opposing Rundle's right.

Lord Roberts says: "General Rundle could not go to Spragge's relief, as he had been called on to support Brigadier General Brabant in the direction of Hammonia, nor could he leave Senekal until the arrival of Major General Clements, who with a portion of his brigade was proceeding to that place from Winburg. Under the impression, however, that he might indirectly relieve the hostile pressure on Lieutenant Colonel Spragge's detachment, General Rundle, with a force of six companies of Yeomanry, two field batteries, Major General Campbell's brigade, and the 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment, moved out four miles on the Bethlehem road and encountered the enemy, who were in considerable strength, at Kuring Kraus. After an engagement (generally known as Biddulphsberg) which had no decisive result, General Rundle fell back on Senekal, his casualties amounting to 30 killed and 150 wounded".

This reference is unsatisfactory, and the unofficial accounts of the engagement are more so. On the 28th it had been seen that the enemy's position was strong, but on the 29th an attempt was made on his flank. The hill was shelled heavily, but our field artillery were, it is said by 'The Daily Telegraph' correspondent, who was present, unable to silence one Boer gun. During this artillery 'preparation' several fires were started in the 4-foot-long grass,—one fire the same correspondent attributes to the carelessness of a Yeomanry officer. The infantry now advanced, the Grenadiers leading; but these fires embarrassed them greatly, causing the most horrible suffering to, and indeed the death of, many wounded men. After approaching the foot of the hill the troops were withdrawn. The correspondent imagined (on the 31st) that the action had relieved Spragge and helped Lord Methuen. As a matter of fact, its only result was that it gave the VIIIth Division, still strange to South African fighting, lessons they seem to have required, and fortunately did not forget.

All accounts agree that the Grenadiers behaved with the most perfect steadiness throughout a very trying day. Their losses were approximately 35 men killed and 5 officers and nearly 100 men wounded. Colonel Lloyd was wounded three times, the last in the abdomen. It was while holding his hand on his colonel's wound that Drummer Haines had his arm smashed.

A week after this battle was fought Lord Roberts occupied Pretoria, and having by the action at Diamond Hill (11th and 12th June) driven the enemy back from the east of the capital, he at once commenced a series of operations with the view of surrounding the Boer forces in the north-east angle of the Orange River Colony. A strong column under Sir A Hunter was sent via Heidelberg and Frankfort towards Bethlehem (see 1st Sussex Regiment). Clements and Paget moved towards, and after stiff fighting occupied, Bethlehem on the 7th July (see 1st Royal Irish Regiment). Rundle's division, also placed under the general direction of Sir A Hunter, occupied a line from Biddulphsberg to Ficksburg, ready to move inwards — i.e., north — at same time preventing the enemy from breaking south. The entrances to the Brand water basin at Slabbert's Nek (see 1st Royal Irish), Retief Nek (see 2nd Black Watch), and Golden Gate having all, after severe fighting, been secured, Hunter and Rundle moved on Fouriesburg, whither Prinsloo and over 4000 Boers had retired. Driscoll's Scouts of the VIIIth Division, after a forced march of twenty-five miles from Commando Nek, boldly entered the town on 26th July, other troops followed, and Sir Archibald Hunter himself arrived on the scene. The enemy had meanwhile retired in a north-easterly direction to Golden Gate, where Macdonald was in command. General Hunter followed on the 28th, and on the 30th Prinsloo and over 4000 men surrendered. Thereafter the VIIIth Division provided garrisons for Senekal, Bethlehem, Fouriesburg, Ladybrand, and Thabanchu. Until the close of the campaign the division remained in this district, which, from its mountain fastnesses and fertile valleys, was the chief stronghold of the enemy in the Free State.

On 26th October 1900 Rundle, moving from Bethlehem to Harrismith, had stiff fighting with a strong force of Boers who held hills commanding the road. The troops engaged that day were the 2nd Grenadiers, 2nd Scots Guards, and Hampshire and Gloucestershire companies of the Imperial Yeomanry. The position was cleared "in spite of a very stubborn resistance", Rundle's losses being 3 killed and 20 wounded. During the two years and one month, commencing 20th April 1900, some part of the division was almost daily engaged. They had no great battle, but unceasing hard work and constant need for watchfulness. It is to their credit that they had no disasters or surrenders. At Tweefontein (25th December 1901) the disaster took place in Rundle's district, but the garrison was mainly Yeomanry. In dealing with that affair Lord Kitchener hinted that there had not been sufficient watchfulness. It would be tedious, indeed impossible, to recount the innumerable moves made, and little actions fought, by Rundle's troops. Some of the battalions were always on garrison duty, and others trekking with columns to denude the country of supplies, to take convoys to the garrisons and to the mounted columns, and to capture commandos, while blockhouse-building also occupied a great part of their energies between August 1901 and the close of the campaign. During that period the 2nd Grenadiers were mainly employed in the Brandwater basin or about Harrismith and Bethlehem. Thirty three officers and 36 non-commissioned officers and men of the Grenadier Guards were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatches of April and September 1901. These mentions embraced both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions. In Lord Kitchener's despatches during the war 2 men of the 2nd Battalion were mentioned, and in Lord Kitchener's final despatch 8 officers and 9 non-commissioned officers and men of the Grenadiers were mentioned.

3rd Battalion

The 3rd Battalion sailed from Gibraltar in the Ghoorkha on 25th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 15th November. Along with the 1st and 2nd Coldstreams and the 1st Scots Guards they composed the 1st or Guards Brigade, under Major General Sir H E Colvile.

This brigade and the 9th Brigade, formed partly of troops in South Africa when the war broke out, were the infantry of Lord Methuen's force when he advanced from Orange River Bridge about 21st November. The other component parts of his force were the Naval Brigade, 9th Lancers, two companies Mounted Infantry, and the 18th and 75th Batteries RFA. On the 22nd Lord Methuen reconnoitred the extensive and very strong position held by a Boer force of from 2000 to 2500 men near Belmont. The general's orders for the 23rd were, briefly, that at 3 am the Guards Brigade were to advance on a hill called Gun Kopje, the 9th Brigade to advance on the west side of another hill called Table Mountain. The 9th Brigade, having secured Table Mountain, to advance along the high ground from east to west. In the darkness the Grenadiers seem to have slightly lost direction, and became committed to a frontal attack on a hill actually intended to be taken by the Coldstreams. This probably made little difference in the total casualties, as Lord Methuen's force was not strong enough or sufficiently provided with mounted men to actually outflank his opponents and threaten their rear. Lieutenant Colonel Crabbe was wounded, and Major Kinloch took command of the battalion and headed the assault on the second or final position. The behaviour of the battalion in the seizure of the hill seems to have gained the praise of everybody who saw them.

In regard to the alleged loss of direction, it should be stated that the map served out was not at all correct, and this was the real cause for the Grenadiers not arriving at the point Lord Methuen intended.

General Colvile, in his 'Work of the IXth Division', 1901, pp 3, after explaining how the wrong hill came to be assaulted, says: "That was how Belmont became a soldier's battle, and a very good one too. The men did for themselves what no general would have dared ask of them, and in four hours had taken a position which, had the scheme been followed, might not have yielded in twelve. ... It was a fight of which all who took part in it had good reason to be proud—regimental officers and men of themselves, and generals of their troops". The losses of the Grenadiers were very severe, being approximately 2 officers and 23 men killed and 7 officers and 97 men wounded: they had practically one-half of the total losses of the force engaged. The position assaulted by the Grenadiers was in their hands before 5 am, and by six o'clock the enemy had been driven from their last ridges. By 10.30 am the force was back in camp. Fifty prisoners, 100 horses, 64 waggons, and some cases of big-gun and rifle ammunition were captured. Lord Methuen continued his advance on the 24th, and on the 25th fought the battle of Enslin or Gras Pan (see 1st Northumberland Fusiliers). The 9th Brigade and Naval Brigade did the attacking, and the Guards Brigade had no fighting and incurred no loss.

The advance was again continued, and on the 27th Lord Methuen reconnoitred Modder River. From what he saw, or did not see, he thought the Boers had retired to Spytfontein (beyond Magersfontein), and he resolved that he would leave a battalion to cover the rail-head and march east via Jacobsdal to attack the Boer left flank. Early on the 28th he learned that the village of Modder River was strongly held, and he made up his mind that it had to be taken. He advanced the division, which had been augmented by the 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in widely extended order. The 3rd Grenadiers had a front of practically a mile. The Guards Brigade on the right were to develop the attack first. The 1st Scots Guards were on the right of the brigade, the 3rd Grenadiers in the centre, and the 2nd Coldstreams on the left to keep touch with the 9th Brigade. The 1st Coldstreams in reserve at the right rear. "At 8.10 am a sudden and very heavy fire announced that the enemy held the river in great strength, and perfectly concealed. Many casualties now occurred, and the Scots Guards maxim detachment was completely wiped out". The 1st Coldstreams now prolonged the line to the right, but there the Riet River prevented further advance. Most gallant attempts were made to find a passable drift, but without success. The brigade had simply to lie down about 800 yards from the river and await events. Fortunately the 9th Brigade (see 1st Northumberland Fusiliers), having successfully assaulted some buildings and little hills which commanded a ford, were able to throw some men across, and in the afternoon a portion of the village had been taken. About 5.30 pm Lord Methuen was slightly wounded. General Colvile took over the command, handing the Guards Brigade to Colonel A H Paget. After dark the enemy retired, getting away all their guns. Our own artillery—the 75th, 18th, and 62nd Batteries — had done splendid work. The 62nd only joined the force during the battle, having marched from Belmont. The total casualties were about 475. The Grenadiers lost 12 men killed and 3 officers and 50 men wounded. Two officers, 2 non - commissioned officers, and 1 private were mentioned in Lord Methuen's despatch of 1st December 1899.

On 10th December Lord Methuen subjected the Boer position at Magersfontein to heavy artillery-fire, and arranged to assault it at dawn next morning. The action is dealt with under the 2nd Black Watch, the regiment which was to have led in the assault, and which will for generations remember that awful morning. On the 11th the Guards Brigade protected the right and rear of the Highlanders over a front of about two miles, the Yorkshire Light Infantry being on the extreme right. The two Coldstream battalions were pushed well into the main action, especially the 1st Battalion, which lost heavily. In the afternoon the 3rd Grenadiers were ordered to be ready to assault the Boer position at dusk, but Lord Methuen ultimately determined not to attempt another assault. On the 12th the Guards covered the retirement of the Highland Brigade, and it is to be hoped they never will have a sadder task. The losses of the Grenadiers on the 11th were trifling.

For the ensuing two months Lord Methuen's force had rather an unexciting time. When on 11th February Lord Roberts commenced his eastern advance, the Guards, under General Pole-Carew, were left at Modder River; but on the evening of the 18th they were ordered to advance to Klip Drift, and after Cronje's surrender on the 27th they had to move forward again, arriving at Osfontein on 6th March. They now formed part of the centre of the army in the advance eastwards, but they were not seriously engaged at Poplars Grove (7th March) or Driefontein (10th March) (see 2nd East Kent Regiment). On the 13th the brigade marched into Bloemfontein, On the 15th the 3rd Grenadiers and 1st Scots Guards entrained for Springfontein to join hands with Gatacre. This was done without any fighting, and the brigade was shortly afterwards stationed at Glen, north of Bloemfontein. It was here that the unfortunate affair occurred when (on 23rd March) Colonel Crabbe, Captain Trotter, and Lieutenant the Honourable E Lygon of the Grenadiers, and Colonel Codrington, Coldstream Guards, rode eight or nine miles beyond their camp without an escort except one trooper. They were fired on: Lieutenant Lygon was killed, and the others all severely wounded. The Boers took care of them and sent them in next day.

After De Wet's successes at Sannah's Post (31st March) and Reddersburg (3rd April) the Boers invested Wepener, and a very elaborate moving of troops into the south-east of the Orange River Colony took place. Major General Colvile's IXth Division from Bosnian's Kop, Major General Pole-Carew with the Xlth Division, composed of the Guards Brigade under Colonel Inigo Jones as brigadier, and Stephenson's 18th Brigade, taken out of the Vlth Division, from Bloemfontein, General Chermside's IIIrd and Rundle's VIIIth Divisions from about Reddersburg, Generals Hart and Brabant from Aliwal North, all moved into the southeast of the Orange River Colony. Before such an overwhelming strength the Boers fled, and Wepener was relieved on 24th April, the British force employed being much bigger than that available for relieving Ladysmith.

In the beginning of May Lord Roberts was ready to advance to Pretoria. He moved out on the 3rd. The infantry accompanying the Commander-in-Chief were Pole-Carew's Xlth and Tucker's VIIth Divisions; the 3rd Cavalry Brigade joined him on the 8th; Hutton's Mounted Infantry, and afterwards General French with the 1st and 4th Cavalry Brigades, were out on the left flank, while Ian Hamilton and Colvile were far out on the right. The flanks had heavy fighting, especially Ian Hamilton (see Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry), and Colvile had also much to do (see 2nd Black Watch); but the centre was barely opposed, and had nothing worthy of being called a battle between Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

On 3rd May Brandfort was occupied. On the 6th May the Yet River was crossed and Smalldeel occupied. On the 10th the Zand River was crossed. On the 11th Geneva Siding was reached. On the 12th Kroonstadt was entered, and the force halted till the 22nd. On the 23rd the Rhenoster River was reached. On the 24th Vredfort Road station was occupied, and on the same day French and Hutton crossed the Vaal. On the 25th Ian Hamilton crossed the front of the army of the centre and moved forward on the left. On the 27th Lord Roberts crossed the Vaal, and after two marches reached Germiston on the 29th. This day Ian Hamilton had very heavy fighting (see 1st Gordons). Early on the 31st Johannesburg surrendered and the VIIth and Xlth Divisions marched in. On 3rd June the advance was resumed, and on the 5th the capital was entered.

The enemy still lingered east of Pretoria, and had to be driven farther back: with this object the stiff battle of Diamond Hill was fought. The troops engaged were, from the left, French with the 1st and 4th Cavalry Brigades, and Hutton's Colonials, Henry's Mounted Infantry, the Xlth Division, with naval and siege guns, Ian Hamilton's column, Broadwood's 2nd and Gordon's 3rd Cavalry Brigades. French could not get round, and an attempt to outflank by the cavalry on the right was also unsuccessful; but Bruce Hamilton's 21st Brigade (see 1st Sussex) did splendid work, and seized Diamond Hill on the 12th. Fighting continued till dusk, but on the 13th it was found the Boers had fled. The Guards Brigade supported Bruce Hamilton's, but were not heavily engaged on either the 11th or 12th.

After the battle the Xlth Division remained east of Pretoria. About the middle of July the advance towards Koomati Poort was commenced, but again the centre had no heavy engagement. Middelburg was occupied on the 26th, and the Xlth Division was distributed along the line between that town and Balmoral.

The operations against De Wet necessitated another halt, but about the middle of August Lord Roberts was ready to move east again. On the 24th Pole-Carew's division entered Belfast, beyond which lay the Boer position, one of the greatest natural strength, stretching for twenty miles. An attempt by French and Pole-Carew on the enemy's right made little progress, but on the 27th Buller's troops, chiefly the old Ladysmith garrison, drove the enemy from Bergendal, near his left (see 2nd Rifle Brigade), and after this defeat the Boers did not make any great stand. Koomati Poort was entered by the Guards Brigade on 24th September, after a march of exceptional difficulty.

On 28th September General Pole-Carew held a review in honour of the birthday of the King of Portugal, and a few days afterwards the Guards Brigade entrained for Pretoria, where it was concentrated in the beginning of October. The 3rd Grenadiers were present at the ceremony of proclaiming the annexation of the Transvaal on 25th October. Within the next few days the 3rd Grenadiers, 1st Coldstreams, and 1st Scots Guards were despatched from the Transvaal to Cape Colony to watch the drifts on the Orange River, as De Wet was now making an earnest endeavour to get into the colony.

In the middle of December Kritzinger with 700 men and Hertzog with 1200 got across the Orange River. Many columns were organised to pursue these commandos, and the Grenadiers under Colonel Crabbe and the 1st Coldstreams under Colonel Henniker now took up a new role, and one which they were bound to find the most trying and tiresome of all their experiences in South Africa. On 10th September 1901 Colonel Crabbe's column surprised Commandant Van der Merwe, who was killed and 37 of his followers, and much ammunition, etc, captured. In his despatch of 8th October 1901 Lord Kitchener says: "I must also make allusion to a very gallant stand made on the 17th September by 9 men of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards under Lieutenant M Gurdon-Rebow, who found themselves attacked by some 30 to 40 of the enemy near Cypher Kuil. A summons to surrender was refused, and it was not until Lieutenant Gurdon-Rebow and one man had been killed and two others dangerously wounded, as the result of three hours' fighting, that the remaining men were overpowered and captured. The sergeant of the patrol was drowned in a gallant attempt to cross the Carolus River in search of help".

On 16th December 1901 some men of the 3rd Grenadiers wounded and captured Commandant Kritzinger and 12 followers.

As late as 3rd February 1902 Colonel Crabbe's column, mainly the Guards Mounted Infantry, had very severe fighting in the Fraserburg district.

To give details of the endless chasing and skirmishing would be absolutely impossible, and even if possible, it would be profitless. Good work was often done, and the Guards certainly helped to make the invasion by De Wet and his assistants a very fruitless effort.

The end of the war found the Guards still trekking about the and region of Western Cape Colony or occupying blockhouses and posts. The 3rd Grenadiers for many months held the line from Hanover Road towards De Aar.

As to mentions by Lord Roberts, and by Lord Kitchener in his final despatch, reference is made to the 2nd Battalion.

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