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In October 1899 the NRR were commanded by Captain A Williamson, had a strength of 150 and were based in Estcourt.

Sixty men of the Durban Light Infantry formed part of the personnel of the armoured train which at this time patrolled daily from Estcourt to Colenso. On 15th November a rail was removed or twisted, and the train was attacked; 2 men of the Durban regiment were killed, Captain J. Wyllie and 15 were wounded, and 19 were taken prisoners, of whom 8 were wounded, 1 mortally. A squadron of Carbineers and one of Imperial Light Horse came out to the help of the armoured train. These reinforcements drove back the enemy, killing 3. Some of the Durban Light Infantry, Natal Royal Rifles, a squadron of Carbineers, and some of the Police were present in the action at Willow Grange on 22nd and 23rd November under Colonel Martyr (see General Hildyard's Report of 24th November 1899). Four guns of the Natal Artillery were out on reconnaissance work in the same district about this time. On the 27th the Volunteers moved forward to Frere, but when General Buller arrived he sent most of them back to the lines of communication. On 9th December a detachment of Naval Volunteers, 2 officers and 47 men, joined the Naval Brigade of Captain Jones, RN, and with him worked the big guns throughout the relief operations. It was soon found that the services of the mounted men would be needed at the front, and a composite regiment was made up, including 1 squadron Imperial Light Horse, 1 squadron Carbineers, some regular Mounted Infantry, and some of the Police. This regiment was, on 15th December, in the battle of Colenao with Lord Dundonald, on the right, at Hlangwane Mountain; the Volunteers were heavily engaged, losing 4 men killed, 2 officers, Lieutenants D. W. M'Kay and R. W. Wilson of the Carbineers, and 6 men wounded. The regiment accompanied Dundonald to Potgieter'e Drift, Trichard's Drift, and Acton Homes (see Imperial Light Horse and South African Light Horse). The regiment remained with Dundonald throughout the great struggle to break through the chain of Boer defences. Like the remainder of Dundonald's Brigade they did fine work at Acton Homes on 18th January 1900, where the Carbineer Scouts were the first to discover the enemy; also at the seizure of Cingolo, Monte Cristo, and other important positions (14th to 27th February). In these operations the Volunteers suffered a few casualties.

While General Buller was pounding away along the Tugela some of the Natal Volunteers under Major G. Leuchars were usefully employed about Greytown and the Zululand border. The Umvoti Mounted Rifles, about 80 strong, with 50 Police, were at Greytown and Tugela Ferry from the beginning of the war, and 2 guns of the Natal Field Artillery and 150 Natal Royal Rifles were after 10th January in the Melmoth Field Force operating from Eshowe. The Greytown force did most excellent work; they were practically isolated from 18th November to 13th February, when they were joined by Bethune's Mounted Infantry. During that period the posts and drifts held by the Umvoti Mounted Rifles and Police were repeatedly attacked. On 23rd November a commando 400 strong attacked 100 men holding the drift, but the enemy was driven off. The stubborn defence made by Major Leuchars and his men prevented an invasion from that quarter and had a great moral effect, as was proved by the tenor of despatches from General Burgher to General Joubert which were captured. In this affair Sergeant Major Ferguson was severely wounded.

In General Buller's movement which commenced on 7th May for turning the Boers out of the Biggarsberg, and so clear Natal, the Volunteers were in the 3rd Mounted Brigade (see South African Light Horse). The Brigade was engaged almost daily between 10th and 19th May. Colonel Bethune co-operated from Greytown, and joined General Buller on 13th May (see Bethune's Mounted Infantry). Bethune's force was composed of 5 squadrons of his own regiment, 1 squadron Umvoti Mounted Rifles, two 12-pounder guns worked by men of the Royal Garrison Artillery, two 7-pounder guns, Natal Field Artillery, 2 Hotchkiss manned by the same corps, and 6 companies of the Imperial Light Infantry, a corps which was raised in the Colony. For seven months this force, or portions of it, had done good work in protecting the north-east of Natal from invasion or raids. On 19th May the Durban Light Infantry and Natal Royal Rifles were ordered to garrison Dundee. When Laing's Nek was turned by General Buller (see South African Light Horse), the Natal Mounted Volunteers were the advanced-guard of General Clery's force, which crossed the Nek itself on 12th June. Dundonald's Brigade had been split up, and the South African Light Horse were part of the turning force.

On 21st September 1900 authority had been obtained from Lord Roberts to raise among the Natal Volunteers a composite regiment of 300 mounted men to take over the duties hitherto performed by the Volunteer Brigade, and thus facilitate the return of the remainder of the Brigade to their daily avocations. The Volunteer Composite Regiment was made up as follows:

 

 

Officers

Men

 

Natal Carbineers

6

125

 

Natal Mounted Rifles

5

32

 

Umvoti Mounted Rifles

1

13

 

Border Mounted Rifles

3

48

 

Natal Field Artillery

-

19

 

Natal Royal Rifles

-

8

 

Durban Light Infantry

-

39

 

Hotchkiss Gun Detachment

-

6

 

Volunteer Medical Corps

1

4

 

 

16

294

The regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Evans, Natal MR, did much hard and effective work down to the close of the campaign.

The following text is taken from the Black and White Budget of 24 Feb 00, page 28.

As all men are talking of the gallant way the Natal Volunteers have turned out in defence of their hearths and homes, a sketch of one of their chief corps will not come amiss:- The Natal Royal Rifles was formed thirty-four years ago, and is one of the oldest corps in the Colony of Natal. Originally known as the Maritzburg Rifles—or more familiarly termed by their admirers the "Mud Rats" (Maritzburg being famous for its mud in those days)—the organisation grew from one company of about 60 men into a really fine regiment of about 400 strong. It was during the governorship of Sir Arthur Havelock that the Royal Durban Rifles were linked to the Maritzburg Rifles, and the combined corps was then called the Natal Royal Rifles. The regiment, in camp for the first time under its new name, presented a fine appearance, and was one of which the colony was justly proud. Unfortunately, in later years, differences sprang up between the two half-battalions, ending in the Durban half being formed into a separate corps. This latter half is now the flourishing Durban Light Infantry; for whereas while the Maritzburg battalion was much the strongest during the time the two were one regiment, the Durban Light Infantry, since the separation, has increased in point of numbers, while the subject of this sketch, still retaining the name of the Natal Royal Rifles, has declined steadily, until the number of its members is now only 160. On being called out for service in the campaign now being waged its numbers could very easily have been increased to 500 had it been advisable to enrol so many new members. This was considered unwise, however, efficiency being the first consideration. Doubtless, on its return from active service the regiment will recruit in earnest, when it is anticipated its numbers will exceed those reached at any previous lime in the existence of the corps.

On September 29th, 1899, at 6p.m., the corps received orders to proceed to the front at 4 p.m. the following day. In spite of the short notice—many men not receiving it until the following morning—the whole of the corps, with the exception of a few who were ill and half a dozen who had left the city, mustered at the appointed hour. The sight on the departure of the Rifles was a memorable one. Great crowds assembled, and gave an enthusiastic send-off to fathers, sons, and brothers who were giving their services to Queen and country. The sacrifice to many was a great one, but, to their credit be it said, it was acquiesced in without a murmur; in fact, cheerfulness to a degree was the prevailing sentiment. The love of country, no less than that of Queen, dominates loyal Natal, which is, and ever will be, let us hope, a bright gem in the Imperial crown. The Colony of Natal is justly proud of its Volunteers, as the Homeland is of its Colonial sons.

The corps was dispatched to the front on September 30th, and remained for long at Estcourt, about forty miles from Ladysmith and the same distance from the Free State Border. The main duty of the corps until the arrival of the Army Corps was to keep open the lines of communication; many important bridges in the neighbourhood requiring close watching. How they did this work in the face of enormous difficulties is well known.

This is the second occasion on which the corps has been called out for service, the first being during the Zulu War. At that time, however, the men were not taken out of the city, being employed in making and manning the laager that was then constructed in the centre of the town.

The officers on active service with the corps are: Captain A. S. Williamson (commanding), Captain Bird, Lieutenant Smith, and Lieutenant Jackson (newly joined, but very popular, being the best of Yorkshire-men). Surgeon-Captain Buntine is the regimental doctor. He, however, is serving with the more advanced troops, Surgeon-Lieutenant Briscoe being attached to the corps in the meanwhile. The relations between officers and men are cordial, the popularity of the former being undoubted. The doctor had a great send-off on his departure from Estcourt to Ladysmith, which had since been made the main base of operations, and quickly proved his mettle. The Natal Royal Rifles are justly proud of him, for in the first engagement, in which a small party of Natal Volunteers kept an immeasurably superior force at bay, Surgeon-Captain Buntine earned the distinction of being the first man in the Natal Field Force to be mentioned in dispatches, he being recommended for distinguished service in the field, having rescued a wounded comrade from the very clutches of the enemy. He was the last man to leave the kopje, after satisfying himself that all our force were away. He then overtook a wounded trooper of the Natal Carbineers, and brought him safely through under a heavy fire. Deeds such as the gallant doctor's do an incalculable amount of good in bracing men to fight against heavy odds, and if only as an emulation to others, apart from humane considerations and the kindred feeling which throbs in the heart of the true Englishman, deserve recognition.

The Maxim Gun Detachment of the corps is second to none in the Colony, Lieutenant Smith, the officer in charge, and Sergeant Ash having brought their men to a high state of efficiency. The Regimental Sergeant Major J J Walsh, late of the West Riding Regiment, has exercised great tact and taken immense pains in the matter of drill, and the result of his labours can be seen in a corps of which any man might be proud to command.

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(182 Records)

 Surname   Forename/inits   Regimental no   Rank   Notes 
AlcockG T278Sergeant BuglerServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AndersonA359PrivateServed 29 Jan 00 to 26 Oct 01.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AndersonC W358PrivateServed 29 Jan 00 to 26 Oct 01.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AndersonJ W H327PrivateServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AndersonR J350PrivateServed 30 Sep 99 to 10 Oct 00.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AnsellJ E4Sergeant CookServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AshH T75SergeantServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AxfordH J344PrivateServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AxfordW345PrivateServed 30 Sep 99 to 31 Dec 00.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
BalmakE A291PrivateServed 30 Sep 99
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
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