The regiment sailed on the British Princess, Ranee, and another ship, and arrived at the Cape about 7th December 1899. For a time they were employed in patrol work and in protecting the lines of communication between the Orange and Modder Rivers. In February 1900, when Lord Roberts was ready to move, they were put into the 1st Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier General Porter along with the 6th Dragoon Guards and one squadron of the 6th Dragoons, also two squadrons of Australians, who were attached to the Greys. The work of the brigade is sketched under the 6th Dragoon Guards.
With the rest of the brigade the Greys took part in the relief of Kimberley, the fighting on the way to Bloemfontein, and in the advance to Pretoria. Outside Kimberley on 16th February the regiment was engaged very heavily, Lieutenant Bunbury being mortally, and Lieutenants Fordyce and Long severely, wounded.
On the evening of 12th March, after a thirty-mile march, Major H J Scobell with a squadron, about 65 men, put a very smart thing to the credit of the regiment. An excellent account of the affair is given by Mr Goldman. General French had desired a hill east of the railway to be seized, and Scobell was sent to do it. With great difficulty the railway was crossed, the wire being too strong for the cutters. Nine horses were hit during this operation. There was no time for scouting, so Scobell dismounted all the men he could and ascended the slope as quickly as possible. Arrived at the top, he heard voices, and thinking these were some of Roberts' horse, he signalled to them but got no response, and walking across the flat top he saw 400 Boers fleeing across the plain. The squadron held their ground during the night, and found in the morning that the hill commanded Bloemfontein at 4,000 yards.
Three officers, 1 sergeant, and 1 private were mentioned in Lord Roberts' despatch of 31st March 1900. In July Captain Miller, adjutant of the regiment, was appointed to General French's staff.
In the beginning of July the brigade was temporarily split up. The Greys were ordered to occupy and hold certain passes in the Megaliesberg. One squadron was left at Uitval, or Nitral Nek, where on the 11th it was joined by Colonel Roberts with five companies of the Lincolns. Colonel Roberts took over the command, and according to Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900, para 20, the disaster which occurred was "mainly owing to the defective dispositions of the officer in command". The troops made a good stand, but the enemy captured nearly the whole squadron, two guns of O Battery, and some 90 of the Lincoln Regiment. Major Scobell fortunately escaped "amid a storm of bullets". Mr Goldman gives a detailed and clear account of the unfortunate affair. Seeing that the nek is only eighteen miles from Pretoria, it does seem strange that help could not be sent in time. The losses of the squadron were 2 officers and 1 man killed, and 1 officer and 17 men wounded.
Henceforth the history of the regiment is very similar to that of the 6th Dragoon Guards, as for long the two were acting together and did splendid work. In describing the taking of Barberton in September 1900, Mr Goldman, p 380, recounts another very daring deed done by Major Scobell and 60 men of the Greys, not unlike that which he did outside Bloemfontein. By his smartness and decision some vehicles containing hundreds of rifles and much ammunition were captured.
In his despatches of 2nd April and 4th September 1901, Lord Roberts mentioned 7 officers and 8 non-commissioned officers of the regiment for good work up to the time of his leaving South Africa.
Unfortunately the Greys were to suffer two nasty mishaps in the second phase of the campaign. On 30th December 1901 a party fell into an ambuscade at Groenfontein and lost 5 killed and 13 wounded. The other affair is mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th March 1902, para 1, as follows: "On the 18th February General Gilbert Hamilton was sharply engaged at Klippan, twenty miles south-east of Springs, with a body of Boers which was estimated to number about 500. Upon this occasion, I regret to say, a portion of a squadron of the Scots Greys detached to one flank was cut off, surrounded, and partially captured. Our casualties were Major Fielden and Captain Ussher mortally wounded, Lieutenant Rhodes and 2 men killed, and 6 wounded. The Boers were reported to have 8 men killed and wounded".
Lieutenant Colonel Scobell was appointed to command the 5th Lancers, a reward for his unusually brilliant work.
Two officers and 2 non-commissioned officers were mentioned by Lord Kitchener in his despatches during the war, and in the final despatch 3 officers and 4 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned.
See the forum posts on the 2nd Dragoons.
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