The Western Light Horse was formed in April 1902 by Major Paris, on Lord Kitchener's orders, by bringing together Scott's Railway Guards, Cullinan's Horse, the Cape Police Specials, Hannay's Scouts and Dennison's Scouts.
Major Dennison of Dennison's Scouts became its second-in-command. Its formation, soon after De La Rey's defeat and capture of Lord Methuen, was the result of discussions at Army HQ in Pretoria as to how best to use the units that were based in the Vryburg area and, as witnessed by the disaster to Methuen, were losing the battle to De La Rey and his "bitterenders". Initially, it had been proposed that Dennison would raise a new unit, as he related in his autobiography, A Fight to a Finish:
'General Hamilton wrote me that it was the wish of the Commander-in-Chief that I should raise the nucleus of a corps by enrolling fifty Britishers and augmenting them from time with such of the surrendered rebels who preferred five shillings a day to a scanty subsistence ... I now had positive instructions verified officially a few days later, and in a very short time had over a hundred men enrolled, consisting of fifty Britishers, principally South Africans, and the balance of the class I was instructed to enrol, viz. surrendered rebels, whom I would much rather have met in the field as enemies than have their service; but these were my orders and I carried them out.'
Elsewhere, Dennison remarked that 'great bitterness, of course, existed among the Boers against this class'. In the event, 'the life of the corps was a short one, for peace soon followed, and, excepting a bit of a skirmish outside the town, practically the last of the war down west, the Western Light Horse saw no service in the field' (A Fight to a Finish refers).
It was disbanded a week after peace.
Few of the Boers that fought with the British forces bothered to collect their medals after the end of the war. Often ostracised by their fellow Afrikaners (to the extent that a "National Scouts" church was formed), many preferred to forget that they had forsaken their brethren and sworn an oath of allegiance to the King. Few Queen's South Africa Medals to Cullinan's Horse are recorded and few to the Western Light Horse, not only on account of the number of Boers that enlisted but also because the majority of Britishers had seen service with previous units (such as Scott's Railway Guards and the Cape Police Specials) and their medals were issued off the rolls of those units.
- Next >>