The 1st Battalion was stationed in South Africa when the war broke out, and on 20th September 1899 the headquarters and four companies of the battalion were sent to Kimberley, followed in a few days by 2 officers and 21 non-commissioned officers and men of the Mounted Infantry of the regiment. The other regular troops in Kimberley during the siege were the 23rd company, Western Division, Royal Garrison Artillery, six 7-pounder guns, one section 7th company Royal Engineers, and small detachments of the Army Service Corps and Royal Army Medical Corps. Colonel Kekewich had also under his command the local Volunteer forces—namely, a battery of the Diamond Fields Artillery, six 7-pounder guns; Diamond Fields Horse, about 150; the Kimberley Regiment, 300; and the Town Guard, over 1000. Before the investiture was complete he had been joined by over 400 Cape Police, and before the war was many days old he had greatly increased the numbers of Volunteers, and in the latter half of October the Kimberley Light Horse were raised by Major H S Turner (Black Watch), afterwards killed.
Without disparaging the splendid work of the Police and local troops, the presence of the four companies of the Loyal North Lancashire was of immense value to Colonel Kekewich. With their assistance the defensive works were brought into an efficient state in a marvellously short space of time, while the moral value of a disciplined body of regulars in the besieged town was unquestionably very great.
In the very modest despatch of Colonel Kekewich he barely does justice to the splendid work of himself and his force. Many little actions and sorties are passed unnoticed, but the fact that he and his little band defended successfully a widespread town of 40,000 inhabitants from 12th October to 15th February will not soon be forgotten.
The remaining companies of the battalion were put into the 9th Brigade when Lord Methuen organised his column at Orange River in November 1899, the other battalions of the brigade being the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, 2nd Northampton Regiment, and 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The work of the brigade is sketched under the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers.
At Belmont, 23rd November 1899, the Loyal North Lancashires were not actively engaged. At Enslin, 25th November, they had heavy work and did well. In his telegram of 26th November Lord Methuen says, "The Naval Brigade, Royal Marines, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, and Loyal North Lancashire Regiment especially distinguished themselves". At Modder River, 28th November, the half-battalion again did splendid work, being the first troops to attempt the crossing on the British left and seizing some kopjes which were of great value afterwards. In both battles they escaped with comparatively slight casualties— about 30 altogether.
After the relief of Kimberley and the occupation of Bloemfontein the battalion operated for a time with Lord Methuen in the Kimberley-Boshof district and then accompanied him to the Lindley district. In July they were railed to the Transvaal, and about the 22nd the battalion was left to hold Oliphant's Nek in the Megaliesberg. They marched from that place with Baden-Powell about 8th August. Six days afterwards De Wet, finding the pass unoccupied, slipped through it and escaped from Lords Kitchener and Methuen, who had been at his heels for a week. No one blamed the battalion for leaving the post, but there had been a misunderstanding somewhere. The battalion once more joined Lord Methuen and marched with him to Mafeking, operating thereabouts and in the South-West Transvaal for many months.
In the end of October and in November 1900 the headquarters and two companies of the battalion accompanied Major General Douglas on a long trek to Klerksdorp, when much stock and some prisoners were captured.
Thirteen officers and 17 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch.
In February 1901 the battalion marched with Lord Methuen from Taungs to Klerksdorp. On the way the enemy made an obstinate stand in a strong position at Haartebeestfontein, but were driven out. In his telegram of 21st February Lord Kitchener mentions the Loyal North Lancashire as having "greatly distinguished themselves". They lost 6 killed and 8 wounded.
A portion of the battalion was in the escort of a convoy going to Ventersdorp, which was very heavily attacked on 23rd May 1901. The attack was driven off. One officer and several men of the battalion gained mention in despatches for exceptional gallantry on this occasion. Later in that year four companies were in a column under Lord Methuen which did endless trekking and fighting in the Western Transvaal.
The battalion shared the grievous misfortune which befell Lord Methuen's force on 7th March 1902, one company being, along with two companies of 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, in the column on that occasion as escort to the waggons. The infantry held out "in a most splendid manner", said Lord Methuen, after the bulk of the mounted men had incontinently fled. On this occasion the Loyal North Lancashire lost 5 killed and 1 officer and 10 men wounded.
This mishap to Lord Methuen did not in any way sully the battalion's very fine record. Altogether 2 officers and 7 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned during the campaign in despatches by Lord Kitchener, but this is in their case no indication of the very hard fighting the battalion saw in the latter phases of the war. In Lord Kitchener's supplementary or final despatch 4 officers and 7 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned.
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