Apart from the question of seniority, that is, the relative dates of birth of the various corps; it is unlikely that any one will be found to deny the outstanding claims of the ILH to the first chapter in a record such as this claims to be. No other corps can point to a prouder history so far as the South African War is concerned; and where many regiments or contingents did splendidly, no other had quite the same opportunities, and none used their chances to finer purpose. The inception of the ILH took place at Pietermaritzburg in September 1899, when war was a practical certainty. The word "Uitlander" has well-nigh been forgotten, but between 1895 and 1899 it was in every man's mouth. In September and October of the latter year men who had been resident in the Transvaal, but who had retained their allegiance to Britain, were ordered, with their families and dependents, to leave the country. The scenes on the down-journey need not be recalled. Let us hope both sides will forget them. In Natal many of the Uitlanders had congregated, a workless crew, but keen to be of use to their old flag.
In his evidence before the War Commission, Sir Archibald Hunter, after speaking of the Natal Volunteers, said: "Then the other force was the Imperial Light Horse ; they were the picked 1200 men out of about 12,000 refugees from Johannesburg; all the British refugees from Johannesburg were well-to-do men; they were all men getting big wages; they were either mine owners or mine managers, or electrical engineers, experts of one sort or another; many of them were men on the Stock Exchange, lawyers, doctors, solicitors, and very few of them were engaged in trade-shopkeepers and suchlike; and they were all men who either in prospecting, or as contractors, or as wood-merchants, or in one form or another, had done a lot of transport-riding to and fro; they were the pick and the cream of the intelligent men who were going out to South Africa, and, naturally, physically they were very fine.
The first time I ever saw them was on the first day I arrived at Pietermaritzburg. It was the first day they had ever been on parade as a regiment; up to that time they had only paraded as squadrons under their squadron leaders; it was the first day that Colonel Chisholme had ever had them under his command.
Sir Walter Hely Hutchinson drove up on to the ground, as he wanted tothem, and he asked me to go round and look at them. I had not long come from a tour abroad, where I had seen nothing but the picked guards of Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Prussia, and Saxony, and there was nothing I saw on the Continent then, and nothing I have ever seen here, except the Irish Constabulary, that could put a patch on them. You can tell 'men' when you look at them. Every man was a picture of manhood; he was beaming with intelligence … They were a great success, a most undoubted success. They were the finest corps I have ever seen anywhere in my life".
Sir Archibald overstates the strength of the corps. Doubtless he saw 1200 men, but part of these did not belong to the ILH. The strength of the first regiment was 502. From the appendices to the War Commission Report we learn that on 13th October 1899, that is, the day after the declaration of war, the ILH, there stated to number about 350, but actually rather stronger, were stationed at Maritzburg; they were, however, taken to the front within the next few days, and were at once put to a severe test. The Boers had not declared war until their forces were concentrated for the invasion of Natal, and before many days they had crossed the passes, and had begun to overrun the northern and western parts of the colony. The first reference in despatches to the work of the ILH occurs in Sir George White's despatch of 2nd November 1899, describing the battle of Elandslaagte, which was fought on 21st October. The General states that he ordered Major-General French to move out from Ladysmith at 4 am with five squadrons of the ILH and the Natal Field Battery, followed at 6 am by a half battalion 1st Manchester Regiment and telegraph companies by rail. The enemy were found, and one squadron of the ILH, under Major Woolls- Sampson, moved to the north of them, and the battery opened fire, but the enemy replied with artillery and disclosed his position, which was found too strong. Reinforcements were wired for, and arrived in the early afternoon. General White says (para 17), "As the reinforcements gradually reached him, Major-General French pushed forward again, throwing out one squadron 5th Lancers and four squadrons ILH, under Colonel Chisholme, to the right, to clear a ridge of high ground parallel to the enemy's position, from which he considered that an attack could best be developed. This movement was well carried out, the enemy's advance troops being driven back and the ridge gained". After describing the attack by the infantry, the 1st Manchesters, 1st Devons, and 2nd Gordon Highlanders, General White, at para 23, said "that the Manchesters and Gordons, with the ILH on their right, continued to press forward, losing but few men, until a point was reached about 1200 yards from the enemy's camp". Here the ridge became bare of cover, but the men, well led, crossed the neck in brilliant style, although the losses were heavy. After the enemy's guns were reached a white flag was shown, but when the British stood up the enemy's fire broke out again, and the attack had to be renewed. The Boers now fled in confusion. "The ILH and the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, who encountered the severest resistance during the progress of the attack, suffered the most severely". The losses of the regiment were 1 officer, Colonel Scott-Chisholme, Squadron Sergeant-Major Cuthbert, and 9 men killed, and 9 officers, namely, Major A Woolls-Sampson, Captains John E Orr and C H Mullins, Lieutenants M. W Currie, A D Shore, R W R Barnes, W Lachlan Forbes, Douglas Campbell, and P H Normand, and 34 men wounded. Colonel Scott-Chisolme was a Roxburghshire man who, as a captain in the 9th Lancers, had gone through the Afghan War, 1879-80, and had then been twice wounded.
It was no small compliment to the ILH that they had been chosen as the reconnoitering force at this the first engagement of Sir George White and General French. Their conduct showed that the confidence reposed in them was not misplaced. The material value of the work which they did could not be more satisfactorily proved than by the wording of the Gazette which conferred the Victoria Cross on Captain C H Mullins and Captain R Johnstone, both of the ILH " On 21st October 1899, at Elandslaagte, at a most critical moment, the advance being momentarily checked, these two officers very gallantly rushed forward under this heavy fire and rallied the men, thus enabling the flanking movement, which decided the fate of the day, to be carried out". On this occasion Captain Mullins was wounded.
On 24th October Sir George White fought at Rietfontein in order to occupy the attention of the enemy and so prevent them falling on General Yule, who had on the death of General Penn-Symons succeeded to the command of the troops in the north of the colony, and finding that after the battle of Talana Hill there was danger of being cut off from Ladysmith, had decided to retreat to that town. The engagement at Rietfontein was successful in obtaining for Yule's force a retreat unharassed by the enemy. The ILH, along with the 5th Lancers, did good service in the action in seizing the ridges south of the Modder Spruit, and they thus protected Sir George's right flank.
At Lombard's Kop, on the 30th, the regiment was again engaged, this time chiefly in the centre under Colonel Ian Hamilton, whose troops had little to do except to cover the retirement of Grimwood's Brigade on the right. In this action Sir G. White found that he was not strong enough to drive back the enemy, and the result was that his troops were surrounded in Ladysmith. During the siege of Ladysmith the regiment had very frequently a prominent part to play. Sir George White's despatch of 23rd March 1900 states that on 3rd November Major Karri-Davies, reconnoitering with four squadrons, found a body of the enemy with one gun on Lancer's Hill, and asked for reinforcements to drive them off. Three cavalry regiments and the 21st Battery were sent to his assistance. The battery quickly silenced the gun. "Believing the enemy were evacuating the hill, the two squadrons of the ILH who were facing Lancer's Hill made a gallant but somewhat ill-advised attempt to occupy it, but though they seized and occupied a portion of the hill the enemy was in too great strength for further progress". The enemy being now strongly reinforced our troops withdrew.
On 7th November Caesar's Camp was subjected to heavy artillery and long-range rifle fire, and the regiment with the 42nd Battery were sent to reinforce the point attacked.
On the 14th the regiment with the Natal Mounted Volunteers, two cavalry regiments, and two batteries, were sent across the Klip River to work round Rifleman's Ridge. The regiment and the Natal Volunteers seized Star Hill, but General Brocklehurst decided that the enemy's position was too strong, and retired his force. On the night of 7th December Major-General Sir A. Hunter, with 500 Natal Volunteers, which included 100 Border Mounted Rifles under Colonel Royston, and 100 ILH under Lieutenant Colonel A. H. M. Edwards, with a few guides, engineers, and artillerymen, made his famous sortie to capture and destroy the enemy's artillery on Gun Hill. "Sir A. Hunter's arrangements were excellent throughout, and he was gallantly supported by his small force. Gun Hill was taken, a 6-inch creusot and a 4.7 howitzer were destroyed, and a maxim captured and brought into camp". Sir A. Hunter was most highly praised by Sir G. White, and Colonel Royston, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards, and Major Karri-Davies were specially mentioned in the body of the despatch.
Before dawn on 6th January 1900 the Boers commenced their very determined, but fortunately unsuccessful, attempt to carry Ladysmith by storm. The attack was mainly developed on the southern defences, at Caesar's Camp and Wagon Hill. The usual garrison of Wagon Hill was composed of three companies 1st King's Royal Rifles and a squadron of the ILH. On the evening of the 5th a detachment of the Natal Naval Volunteers, with a 3-pounder Hotchkiss gun, had been sent to Wagon Hill. Two naval guns had also been taken to the foot of the hill, and some sailors, Royal Engineers, and men of the 2nd Gordons had accompanied the latter guns. The attack commenced at 2.30 am. "It fell directly on the squadron of ILH, under Lieutenant G M Mathias, and the Volunteer Hotchkiss detachment, under Lieuteant E N W Walker, who clung most gallantly to their positions and did invaluable service in holding in check till daylight the Boers who had gained a footing on the hill, within a few yards of them. The extreme south-west point of the hill was similarly held by a small mixed party of bluejackets, Royal Engineers, Gordon Highlanders, and Imperial Light Horse, under Lieutenant Digby-Jones, RE. The remainder of the hill was defended by the companies of 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifles". An officer on the Natal Volunteer staff has informed the writer that at one time the Hotchkiss detachment was driven from their gun. Lieutenant Mathias gallantly ran forward and with the assistance of two of his men pulled the gun under cover. It was probably for this act that Lieutenant Mathias was awarded the DSO long afterwards.
The first reinforcements ordered to Wagon Hill were the remainder of the ILH. These reached the hill at 5.10 am "and were at once pushed into action. They pressed forward up to and over the western edge of the flat crest of the hill, to within a few yards of the enemy, who held the opposite edge of the crest. They thus afforded a most welcome relief to the small garrison of the hill, but they themselves suffered very severely in occupying and maintaining their position". Other troops arrived, and several attempts were made to clear the hill, but these failed. Never during the whole war did the Boers show finer courage. About mid-day the fighting slackened, but at 1 pm " a fresh assault was made with great suddenness on the extreme south-west of the hill, our men giving way for a moment before the sudden outburst of fire and retiring down the opposite slope. Fortunately the Boers did not immediately occupy the crest, and this gave time for Major Miller-Wallnutt of the Gordons, Lieutenant Digby-Jones, RE, Lieutenant Fitzgerald, ILH, Gunner Sims, Royal Navy, and several NCO's of the ILH, to rally the men. The top was reoccupied just as the three foremost Boers reached it - the leader being shot by Lieutenant Digby-Jones, and the two others by No 459 Trooper H Albrecht, ILH. Had they survived I should have great pleasure in recommending both Lieutenant Digby-Jones and Trooper Albrecht for the VC. I regret to say that both were killed before the conclusion of the action". At 4.45 pm, during a storm of wind and rain, our troops were again driven from the south-west point of the hill, but they were again rallied and reoccupied it. At 5 pm Lieutenant Colonel Park, with three companies of the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, finally cleared the hill by a magnificent bayonet-charge. Sir George White added "I desire to draw special attention to the gallantry displayed by all ranks of the ILH, some of whom were within 100 yards of the enemy for 15 hours, exposed to a deadly fire. Their losses were terribly heavy, but never for one moment did any of them waver or cease to show a fine example of courage and determination to all who came in contact with them". Towards the close of his despatch Sir George, again, said: "Of the Imperial Light Horse, specially raised in Natal at the commencement of the war, I have already expressed my opinion. No praise can be too great for the gallantry and determination which all ranks of this corps have invariably displayed in action". The accounts given by 'The Times' historian and other writers regarding the attack of 6th January bear out all that Sir George White said as to the unsurpassable conduct of the corps.
The losses of the regiment on 6th January were - Lieutenants W F Adams and J E Pakeman, and 23 non-commissioned officers and men killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel A H M Edwards, Majors Karri-Davies and D E Doveton, Captain Codrington, Lieutenants Richardson, P H Normand, and D Campbell, and 27 men wounded. Major Doveton died of his wounds.
Down to the close of the siege the regiment bore its share of the work and the hardships, now, after 6th January, daily increasing.
Five squadrons of the regiment were under Sir George White in the actions before referred to, and in the defence of Ladysmith. One squadron, 'A', raised simultaneously with the others, had been ordered to Estcourt, and was on duty there when the others were sent forward to Ladysmith. 'A' Squadron took part in General Hildyard's action at Willow Grange on the night of 22nd November 1899. Along with the other mounted troops, the squadron is said in the official account to have behaved "with much coolness and gallantry" when covering a retirement. They lost 1 killed and 3 wounded. Although no great loss was inflicted on the enemy, the action undoubtedly induced him to give up all thought of invading Lower Natal. The squadron was present in all Sir Redvers Buller's operations for the relief of Ladysmith. At Colenso, 15th December 1899, they were hotly engaged on the right, and lost 4 killed and 7 wounded. In the turning movement, via Spion Kop, 'A' Squadron was in a composite regiment consisting of themselves, a company of King's Royal Rifles Mounted Infantry, and a squadron of Natal Carbineers. It was this regiment which captured a party of about forty Boers at Acton Homes on 18th January 1900. On the 19th Lieutenant A D Shore of the ILH was dangerously wounded. He had been wounded at Elandslaagte. The squadron had one trooper wounded. Up to the relief of Ladysmith, this composite regiment, under Major Herbert Gough, did very fine work.
About the middle of April 1900 Sir Archibald Hunter with the Fusilier Brigade, the Irish Brigade, and the ILH were brought round by sea from Natal to Cape Colony, and these troops concentrated near Kimberley. The ILH, Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. M. Edwards commanding, were chosen to accompany Colonel Mahon on his hazardous march to the relief of Mafeking, the other troops of his column being 'M' Battery RHA 4 guns, the Kimberley Mounted Corps, and a composite company of infantry made up of four sections of twenty- five selected men each, from each of the regiments in Barton's Fusilier Brigade. The column assembled at Barkly West on 2nd and 3rd May, and set off on its perilous march on the 4th. On the 5th Sir Archibald Hunter attacked the Boers at Rooidam with the object of allowing the column a free road so far, which object was attained; Vryburg was reached on the 9th. Few Boers were seen till the 13th. Colonel Mahon having learned that the enemy was at Koodoesrand Ridge to block his path, moved off to his own left. In the afternoon the Boers, realising what he had done, came up with the right flank near Maritzani and attacked that flank and at the head of the column. The enemy's attack was favoured by the bush; but the troops did well, and the attackers withdrew with a loss of about 20 killed. Colonel Mahon estimated that the enemy numbered 900, with 4 guns. The British loss was approximately 7 killed and 20 wounded, of whom the ILH lost 6 men killed, Major C H Mullins and 14 non-commissioned officers and men wounded. Before dawn on the 14th the column again set off, and reached the Molopo, about eighteen miles east of Mafeking, at 5.30 am on the 15th. At daylight touch was gained with Plumer's column, which had come from the north; Mahon crossed the Molopo, and both forces were now combined under him. At 7.30 am on the 16th the column set its face eastwards, towards the little town whose fate had for seven months engrossed the most anxious attention of the empire. At 1.45 pm, the ILH on the left front became engaged, and it was seen that the enemy were to oppose the relievers. A fiercely fought action followed, in which the Boer threatened both flanks and rear and heavily shelled the convoy; but again all behaved splendidly, and about four o'clock the enemy began to give way. This corps had Lieutenant Campbell Ross and two men wounded.
Major A W A Pollock, who accompanied the force, in his `With Seven Generals in the Boer War,' says, at page 252, "Ground was now being gained continuously by the left wing under the clever leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Edwards; whose own corps, the Imperial Light Horse, led the advance with the skill and courage that they have so consistently displayed throughout the war". After describing the general advance, in which the enemy's centre was pierced and his right driven off the ground before darkness set in, Major Pollock says "Then the Brigadier wisely decided to halt until the moon had risen, and meanwhile sent forward Major Karri-Davies with six volunteers of the ILH to announce the victory to Baden-Powell, and report that the relief column would enter Mafeking during the night". The troops entered the town at 3.30 am on the 17th. In his report, dated 23rd May 1900, printed among the despatches, Colonel Mahon praised all the troops, but selected the Royal Horse Artillery and Imperial Light Horse for special mention.
The forces of Mahon and Plumer remained at Mafeking until the 28th, when an order was received that Mahon's force was to join General Hunter at Maribogo. At 3 pm, the column started, and marching south-east joined Sir Archibald Hunter, and afterwards marched via Lichtenburg and Potchefstroom to the central Transvaal, arriving at Krugersdorp on 18th June. At Lichtenburg Colonel Woolls-Sampson had joined the regiment with a welcome draft. Mahon was now ordered to take his column, including the ILH, to Irene, east of Pretoria. In his telegram of 5th July Lord Roberts said, " I have recently inspected Mahon's small force, which did such excellent work in the relief of the Mafeking garrison. The Imperial Light Horse, which I purposely brought from Natal to take part in the expedition, are a most soldierly and workmanlike body of men".
In July Mahon's force was, with others, employed in driving back the Boers who were hanging about the country east of Pretoria, and he was afterwards ordered north of the capital for a similar object. On 6th and 7th July there was severe fighting at Witklip, in the Bronkhorst Spruit district, when the ILH lost Captain Curry and Lieutenant Kirk and 7 men killed, and 8 non-commissioned officers and men wounded. In his telegram of 18th July Lord Roberts said: "One squadron of this distinguished corps pressed [by ?] a very superior force of the enemy in a gallant attempt to carry off a wounded comrade, to which is attributable the heavy losses it sustained".
About the middle of July Lord Roberts commenced a further advance eastwards from Pretoria. Mahon's troops, which included the ILH, were put under General Ian Hamilton, who commanded a strong force, which, starting on l7th July, marched eastwards on the north of the Delagoa Railway. On the 25th Hamilton occupied Balmoral. On the 27th he started to return to Pretoria to operate against a concentration of Boers in the Rustenburg district. Pretoria was left again on 1st August, and the column throughout the month did much heavy marching and some stiff fighting as at Zilikat's Nek, where the Berkshire Regiment distinguished themselves, and bore heavy losses. After taking part in a pursuit of De Wet, then in progress, Hamilton's force returned to Pretoria, which was reached on 28th August. During the four weeks 400 miles had been covered on low rations. In August Lord Roberts renewed his advance eastward to join General Buller and the Natal Army about Belfast, and on the 30th Mahon left Pretoria for that district. His force now was "M" Battery Royal Horse Artillery, 3rd Corps of Regular Mounted Infantry, Queensland Mounted Infantry, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, 79th Company Imperial Yeomanry, Imperial Light Horse, and Lumsden's Horse.
On 27th August Buller had thoroughly defeated the Boers at Bergendal, near Belfast, and General French had been ordered to seize Barberton, marching via Carolina. On 3rd September, when Mahon arrived at Belfast, he was ordered to join French at Carolina. This he did on the 5th. French now advanced through most difficult country; very high mountains had to be crossed, several times in face of opposition, but a general who made no mistakes was in command, and Barberton was taken on the 13th. The official despatches do not do sufficient justice to the splendid daring of General French, and the marvelously fine work of the troops on this fighting march; but Mr Goldmann, in his most valuable book, `With General French and the Cavalry' (Macmillan, 1902), gives a fine account of the fighting, and of the wonderful marches by which the troops and their guns and baggage crossed stupendous mountains by mere tracks. The strength of the regiment with Mahon at this time is put down at 26 officers, 367 men, with 444 horses, and Mr Goldmann frequently refers to their outstanding work. After a very short rest in Barberton the mounted troops pushed towards the north-east, and, as mentioned by Lord Roberts, a detachment of the ILH captured, near French Bob on the 21st, 20 prisoners, 200 rifles, and a quantity of ammunition. On 29th September the regiment left General Mahon's force, marched to the railway, and were shortly afterwards entrained for Pretoria.
In his despatch of 15th November 1900, para. 12, Lord Roberts said "On 18th October Colonel Woolls-Sampson with the Imperial Light Horse joined Barton at Frederickstad, and on the 20th the camp was attacked, and an engagement ensued. The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers had one officer and one man killed, and the Imperial Light Horse 12 men wounded". Barton's force had further heavy fighting on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th, which resulted in the thorough defeat of the Boers, who were driven across the Vaal River. The actual losses of the regiment at Frederickstad were 2 men killed and 8 wounded. The regiment remained for the following eight months in the south and southwest of the Transvaal.
Towards the close of 1900 a second regiment of ILH was raised, and it at once took the field in the Eastern Transvaal. The command of the 2nd Regiment was given to Major D M`Kenzie, and the "second in command" to Major J R Royston, both officers of the Natal Volunteers who had greatly distinguished themselves during the siege of Ladysmith and elsewhere.
In December 1900 and January 1901 the 1st Regiment was operating south of the Megaliesberg under Babington. On 31st December Lieutenant D Magwell and 1 trooper were wounded at Haartebeest, and on 6th January there was severe fighting at Naauwpoort in which the regiment lost Captain T Yockney and Lieutenant A Ormond and 20 non-commissioned officers and men killed, and Captain and Adjutant B M Glossop (5th Dragoon Guards) and 27 men wounded.
On 7th January 1901 Major C J Briggs, King's Dragoon Guards, assumed command of the 1st Regiment – a command which he retained until the close of hostilities. Throughout January and February the regiment was constantly in touch with the enemy, and frequently suffered some losses. In March there was some very heavy fighting.
In his despatch of 8th May 1901, para 11, Lord Kitchener said: "On the 22nd March a strong patrol of the 1st ILH, consisting of 200 men and a pom-pom, was attacked near Geduld by General Delarey with 500 men and 2 guns. The enemy, of whom 11 were killed and 13 wounded, were completely defeated. Commandant Venter was found among the dead, and Field Cornet Wolmarans, who was severely wounded, fell into our hands". The patrol was commanded by Major Briggs. The ILH lost 6 killed, including Lieutenants J Ralston and A R Halling, and Regimental Sergeant Major Hurst, and 18 wounded, including Captain J Donaldson, and Lieutenants J R Stone and J H Dryden.
On the 23rd and 24th General Babington followed up this action and inflicted a severe defeat on the enemy, capturing 140 prisoners, 3 guns, 6 maxims, many waggons, &c; 22 dead and 32 wounded Boers were found on the field. Our losses were 2 killed and 7 wounded. Of these the ILH had 4 wounded. In both these affairs the regiment did splendidly, and many mentions were gained. Other Colonials, notably the New Zealanders, also did work which was highly praised. The 1st Regiment continued to do much trekking and skirmishing in the Western Transvaal under General Babington and other commanders. On 17th July a strong force of the enemy, well posted, were attacked, 1 officer and 5 men gaining mention on this occasion for great dash and courage. On the 31st of that month Lieutenant L. S. Sanders and 1 man were killed near Lichtenburg.
In the third quarter of 1901 many troops were taken from the Western Transvaal to other districts; a movement which doubtless had an important bearing on the disaster suffered by Lord Methuen's slender resources in February and March 1902. The 1st ILH were taken to the north-east of the Orange River Colony.
Since taking the field the 2nd ILH had been almost wholly employed in the Eastern Transvaal, where they had done good work under Major-General Smith-Dorrien, Major-General F. W. Kitchener, and other leaders; while Colonel Woolls-Sampson, acting as Intelligence Officer to Colonel Benson, had gained the praises of the Commander-in-Chief.
The 2nd Regiment had fighting on many occasions and sometimes losses. On 25th January 1901, at Twyfelaar, Major Maude and Lieutenant Briscoe were wounded. On 6th February, when Smith-Dorrien's force was fiercely attacked by Botha at Bothwell, Lake Chrissie, the regiment had 2 killed and 4 wounded. The attack was driven off, the enemy leaving 25 dead. During February and March Smith-Dorrien's column was one of those acting under General French when he swept the Eastern Transvaal, driving the enemy to the borders of Zululand, and capturing all his artillery and many prisoners.
In January 1901 many troops were sent from the Transvaal to Cape Colony in consequence of the reinvasion of the Colony by De Wet's men. About the end of January a portion of the 2nd Regiment ILH was railed from the Eastern Transvaal to the south, and in the beginning of February detachments of ILH, South African Light Horse, and Nesbitt's Horse came in contact with the enemy about Colesberg. Between 3rd and 23rd February there was almost constant skirmishing, and many stiffly contested rearguard actions. On the 10th Lieutenant D. Farquharson and two men of the ILH were wounded; one of the men died of his wounds. The enemy was driven to the west of the railway on the 16th, and having failed to cross the Lower Orange he turned east again. On the 24th Lord Kitchener was able to wire: "Plumer reports Colonel Owen, with detachments King's Dragoon Guards, Victorians, and Imperial Light Horse, captured De Wet's 15-pr and pom-pom. Enemy in full retreat and dispersing. He is being vigorously pursued. De Wet's attempt to invade Cape Colony has evidently completely failed".
In his despatch of 8th September 1901, para 6, Lord Kitchener said, "A third mobile column, which will work from Bethlehem (Orange River Colony) as a centre, has just been organised at Harrismith: it will be under the command of Brigadier-General Sir John Dartnell, and will consist of the two regiments of ILH specially equipped with a view to securing increased mobility". In September it became apparent that Botha was about to attempt a reinvasion of Natal ; and in the despatch of 8th October, para 8, after describing certain operations about the Brandwater Basin, east of Bethlehem, in which the ILH took part, Lord Kitchener mentioned that Brigadier General Dartnell, with the 2nd ILH, was ordered to Eshowe on the Zululand Border to assist in keeping the enemy out of Natal. At para 9 Lord Kitchener said that the 1st ILH remained to act independently from Bethlehem. "This force which was specially organised with a view to mobility has already justified its existence, and some excellent long-distance raids have been undertaken. The most successful of these took place on the night of the 28th September, when after a circuitous march of 38 miles from Bethlehem Lieutenant Colonel Briggs surrounded the town of Reitz at dawn on the 29th. Here he captured 21 prisoners, &c. His return march, however, was much opposed, and several unsuccessful attempts were made at night by parties of Boers, said to be under De Wet, to surround and rush his force". In the despatch of 8th November para 6, Lord Kitchener said, " From Bethlehem Lieutenant Colonel Briggs with the 1st ILH has carried out several long-distance raids in all directions, whereby the country round for a radius of 25 miles has been completely cleared". He also mentioned that the 2nd Regiment had returned by march- route from Zululand to Harrismith on 3rd November. A great converging movement was also foreshadowed, and among the troops to be employed the 1st Regiment was to act from Bethlehem and the 2nd from Harrismith. In the despatch of 8th December the results of that movement are given, but the main body of the enemy, which it was hoped to surround, escaped. Lord Kitchener praised highly the way in which the troops bore the very great strain. About the middle of November both regiments were again in a big operation, but few of the enemy were found. On the 24th the 1st and 2nd Regiments "surprised Laurens' commando between Eland's River Bridge and Bethlehem, killing 2 Boers in their attack and capturing 12 prisoners". This success was followed up on the 27th by a combined force of the 1st and 2nd ILH under Lieutenant Colonel M`Kenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Briggs, in which 24 prisoners, 150 horses, and 800 cattle fell into our hands. The despatch of 8th January 1902 describes further operations under General Elliot, in some of which the ILH took part. When returning to Eland's River Bridge General Dartnell was hotly attacked. "After leaving Bethlehem on the morning of 18th December the latter officer found himself opposed by a large force of Boers under De Wet, who, occupying a position along the Tyger Kloof Spruit, disputed his further advance, whist he vigorously assailed General Dartnell's flanks and rearguard; sharp fighting was maintained throughout the day. Every successive attack was gallantly repulsed by the two regiments of the ILH until the approach from Bethlehem of the column under Major-General B. Campbell, who had established signaling communication with General Dartnell during the progress of the fight, finally compelled the enemy, about 3 pm, to beat a hurried retreat" in the direction of the Langberg. In this engagement Surgeon-Captain T Crean, Captain G T Brierley, Captain W Jardine, Lieutenant J O'Hara, and 7 men were wounded. It was in this engagement that Surgeon-Captain Crean gained the Victoria Cross. A few days after this, before dawn on the morning of the 25th December, the enemy surprised and captured the camp of a battalion of Yeomanry at Tweefontein, inflicting great loss. As soon as the disaster was known the ILH were ordered to the spot, but the Boers, who had got a good start, were not overtaken. It says a very great deal for the watchfulness and care of the ILH that they were so long in this difficult country, surrounded by a cunning enemy in great strength, but without giving that enemy a chance of doing damage by surprise.
The despatch of 8th February 1902 detailed further operations in the same district, which took place about the end of January, in which substantial loss was inflicted on the enemy. During these some great marching was done; the 2nd Battalion Mounted Infantry (Regulars) covered 82 miles in thirty four hours, the ILH and other troops performing similar feats of endurance. Between 25th and 29th January 1902 there were some casualties about Newmarket, 3 men being killed and Lieutenant Bamford and several men wounded.
The despatches of 8th March and 8th April describe the great combined drives in the north east of the Orange River Colony, in which a large number of prisoners, over 1500, were captured. The work of the ILH was specially singled out in the account of the Press Association correspondent. They stopped one very determined rush, when the enemy tried, in the darkness, to break through the line at their part. The 1st lost 4 killed. In the drive from the Vaal to Harrismith about 520 prisoners and 1400 horses fell into the hands of the 1st ILH.
In the despatch of 1st June 1902 Lord Kitchener details the operations undertaken in the Western Transvaal to clear that district after the disasters suffered by Lord Methuen. Troops were taken from "other districts, and the ILH recrossed the vaal. On 11th April Colonel Kekewich had heavy fighting. Soon after starting in the morning the advance guard under Von Donop was attacked: the enemy "advanced rapidly to close quarters in very compact formation, the Boers riding knee to knee, and in many places in two ranks, whilst their attack was supported by a heavy fire from skirmishers on both flanks. Many of the men of our advanced screen in forward positions were ridden over by the enemy, who pressed on rapidly to within 700 yards of the main body and convoys, keeping up an incessant magazine-rifle fire from their horses as they approached. Here, however, they were checked by Lieutenant Colonel Greenfell's troops which were at the head of the main body, the Scottish Horse, 5th IY, and South African Constabulary dismounting and moving forward steadily on foot to meet the coming charge. This was the crisis of the fight, and it was one which terminated quickly with the complete repulse of the Boers and the death of their Commandant, Potgeiter, who was conspicuous in leading the attack until he fell, only 90 yards in front of our troops. So far, however, it was only a repulse, but the arrival of Lieutenant Colonel Briggs with the ILH, detached upon the enemy's right flank from Sir H.Rawlinson's force, turned the repulse into a rout". Colonel Briggs, hearing the heavy firing, of his own initiative took the ILH to the scene of the action. Fifty-one dead and 40 wounded Boers were found on the ground, and in the subsequent pursuit by the 1st ILH and troops of Colonel Kekewich two 15-pounder guns, one pom-pom, some vehicles, ammunition, and 36 unwounded prisoners were captured.
Further successful drives took place in the south west Transvaal in which the ILH were engaged. Thus from Elandslaagte to the very last stage of the war did this splendid Volunteer Regiment keep steadily at work. Throughout the whole war they had done nobly; no regular troops could have reached a higher standard, and if they were largely men who had a personal stake in the Transvaal, they did all that men could to assist the mother country in the struggle for the maintenance of British sovereignty in South Africa.
Peace was declared on 1st June. On the 17th, both regiments having been brought into Johannesburg marched past Lord Kitchener, who complimented them and some other distinguished Colonial corps also present. The Commander-in-Chief expressed the hope that he would be able to make arrangements for keeping up the ILH as a permanent volunteer corps.
The foregoing account has been read over by Major Sir W. Codrington and other officers of this distinguished regiment, and the casualties, &c., have been duly checked.
The following are the Honours and Mentions gained by the corps:-
Captain Mullins and Captain Johnston, both 1st Regiment, won the Victoria Cross at Elandslaagte under the circumstances set forth in the test, and as mentioned in the text Trooper H Albrecht (killed) gained the Cross at Wagon Hill. Surgeon Captain T J Crean, 1st ILH, also got the Cross for "during the action with De Wet at Tyger Kloof, December 18, 1901, this officer continued to attend to the wounded in the firing line under a heavy fire at only 150 yards range, after he had himself been wounded, and only desisted when he was hit a second time, and, as it was at first thought, mortally wounded".
Mentions in Despatches
Sir George White’s despatches:
2nd December 1899 Colonel J J Scott-Chisholme (killed in action); Majors A Woolls-Sampson and W Karri- Davies; Captains J E Orr, C H Mullins, J C Knapp (killed in action).
23rd March 1900: Major D E Doveton, died of wounds; Surgeon Major W T F Davies; Captain C H Fowler; Corporals C Russell, W Weir; Major (Local Lieutenant Colonel) A H M Edwards, 5th Dragoon Guards, commanding ILH, twice - one time for gallant behaviour at Gun Hill; Major Karri-Davies for same; Lieutenant Y D Fitzgeald, 11th Hussars, attached ILH.
General Buller’s despatches:
30th March 1900: Lance Corporal A B Duirs on several occasions carried out dangerous reconnaissances; Captain H Bottomley ; Lieutenant G T M Bridges, RA, attached; Corporals E W Warby, H Savory; Lance Corporal W H Norton; Troopers H London, W Francis, F H Metcalfe.
Lord Robert’s despatches:
2nd April 1901: Colonel F Rhodes; Lieutenant Colonel Woolls-Sampson; Majors H Bottomley, D E Doveton (died of wounds), W Karri-Davies, C H Mullins, Surgeon Major Davies; Captains Curry (killed), C H Fowler; Lieutenants D Huntly, Kirk (killed), P H Normand; Corporals C H Russell, H Savory, E W Warby, W A Weir, W H Norton; Troopers W Francis, James, Latham, London, Metcalfe.
4th Sept. 1901: Corporal W. F. Loveland.
Lord Kitchener’s despatches:
8th May 1901: Major C J Briggs, 1st King's Dragoon Guards, commanding ILH, exhibited marked ability and coolness in the action of 23rd March, and handled his command well on the two following days. Captain P. H. Normand, DSO, Lieutenants Dryden and Holbrig, since dead, Captains G S Brierley and Donaldson, for excellent services rendered in capture of Delarey's guns and convoy on March 24th. Captain W R Codrington, 11th Hussars, attached, an officer of great promise, has several times done good work when placed in command of detached parties. Trooper D Brown, promoted Corporal, carried Sergeant Currie, whose horse had been shot, out of close range under fire on 22nd March. Trooper Despard, promoted Corporal, although wounded in two places continued to fire until surrounded, same date. Sergeant Osborne went back under heavy fire and took out of action Trooper Law, who would otherwise have been captured.
8th July 1901: Lieutenant D L Maxwell, on December 31, at Hartebeestefontein, though wounded, remained with his patrol till he fainted through loss of blood. Sergeant E A Belton, for good service in Eastern Transvaal during General French's operations, February, March, and April 1901.
8th August 1901: Lieutenant B F Webb, recommended for VC, on July 17th, at Bultfontein, charged Boer position with only twelve men and took it, shooting two Boers himself with his pistol. Corporal W G Hughes, promoted Sergeant, Troopers T Kelly, M Symonds, D Johnston, promoted Corporals, the first men up in charge on a position held by a strong force of the enemy at Doornbult, Western Tranavaal, July 17. Trooper J B Rowell, promoted Corporal, in charge of pack-horse with ammunition, and accidentally left behind when patrol retired; though hotly pursued by enemy, who at one time got within fifty yards of him, and heavily fired on, stuck to his pack-horse and brought it out safely. Trooper J P Smith, at Doornbult, Western Transvaal, July 17, a party retiring and one man being dismounted, he, at great personal risk, returned and took him out of action on his own horse, enemy at time within 400 yards.
8th October 1901: Corporal R. Waldeck, 2nd Regiment, promoted Sergeant, gallantry in action on Oliphant's River, July 30, when troop attacked by very superior numbers.
8th December 1901: Captains W Jardine, J Donaldson, on September 27, were conspicuous for their coolness and promptitude in fighting in Reitz district. Trooper R E Search, promoted Corporal, in action near Reitz, September 28, seeing enemy making for important position, galloped along across their front and occupied it against them till reinforced, and then continued to fight though wounded. Corporal R F Matheson, promoted Sergeant, Trooper A J Phillips, promoted Corporal, for good capture of three armed Boers, September 22.
8th March 1902: Captains G T Brierley and W Jardine, both 1st ILH, for good work in holding their position at Langberg, December 18. Trooper H D Osmond, promoted Corporal, for single-handed capture of eight armed Boers in the Langberg, January 11.
1st June 1902: Lieutenant B Nicholson, with Troopers W G Forder, W A Allen, E Eldridge, promoted Corporals, captured eighteen Boers at Yser Spruit, April 15, after a long chase.
23rd June: 1st Majors W Karri-Davies, H A Rogers; Lieutenant S Tryon ; Regimental Sergeant Major Harrison, 19th Hussars; Squadron Sergeant Majors R Bombal, T Sullivan; Sergeants J Cranna, T Curry. 2nd Lieutenant Colonel D Mackenzie, CMG; Major D W Mackay; Captain J C Pollock; Regimental Sergeant Major Sutherland; Sergeant H Millor; Privates C K Mackenzie, A Mansen. Lieutenant Colonel J R Royston, who had served with the Natal Volunteers, had commanded the 5th and 6th West Australians, and for a time the 2nd ILH, was awarded the DSO. Colonel Woolls-Sampson, CB, was gazetted to have rank of colonel in the army. Local Lieutenant Colonel C. J. Briggs, promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. Lieutenant G M Mathias, mentioned in the body of Sir George White's despatch regarding the attack on Ladysmith on 6th January 1900, was awarded the DSO.
Note that in the following nominal list there are duplicated names; some with fill forenames and some with initials.
See the forum posts on medals to the ILH.
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