The 1st Battalion sailed from Gibraltar and was in Natal when Sir George White arrived on 7th October 1899.
The battalion was moved up to Ladysmith, and was present with General French at the battle of Elandslaagte on 20th October (see 1st Devons). In that battle the battalion did very well. Their losses were 11 men killed, and 5 officers and 26 men wounded.
At the battle outside Ladysmith on 30th October (see 1st Liverpools) the 1st Manchester Regiment was in Ian Hamilton's brigade (see 1st Devons), and had no heavy fighting and few casualties.
Soon after this battle the town was cut off and besieged. The Manchester Regiment was stationed on Caesar's Camp, and on 11th November they had fighting practically the whole day. Four men were killed and 2 officers and 15 men wounded.
In repelling the great assault on 6th January (see 1st Devons) the Manchesters played a very important part. The battalion, under Colonel Curran, along with the 42nd Battery, some of the Naval Brigade, with a 12-pounder and some Natal Volunteers, formed the garrison of Caesar's Camp. Sir George White expressed the opinion that the enemy got into position close to our defences through deceiving the picquets as to their identity; but precise details could not be got, as nearly all the defenders of the south-east portion of Caesar's Camp were killed. The enemy got possession of that portion, but the defenders clung most gallantly to little sangars and bits of cover here and there. Sundry reinforcements were sent to Colonel Curran, and ultimately, about 5.30, after fifteen hours' continuous effort on both sides, the Boers were driven entirely off the hill. The losses of the Manchesters were very severe: 33 men were killed, 4 officers and about 37 men wounded. Four officers and 14 men of the battalion were mentioned in Sir George White's despatch of 23rd March 1900, and Private R Scott and Private J Pitts were subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for "holding out in their sangar for fifteen hours without food or water, all the time keeping a sharp look-out, although the enemy occupied some sangars on their immediate left rear", and of course all round their front. Three officers and 1 non-commissioned officer had already been mentioned in the despatch of 2nd December 1899 for excellent work prior to the investment.
The battalion formed part of the force which General Buller led to Lydenburg (see 1st Liverpool Regiment).
At Bergendal, the battalion being detached to the right, were directed to intrench themselves on the eastern crests of the ridge, and under cover of the regiment the artillery were brought into action against Bergendal. General Buller mentioned that the fire of the battalion was of great service, preventing reinforcements from reaching the farmhouse and kopje.
Four officers and 2 non-commissioned officers were mentioned in General Buller's despatch of 9th November 1900. Nineteen officers and 35 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch, but these included both 1st and 2nd Battalions.
In the second phase of the war the battalion was many times engaged, but never had very heavy losses. To the close of the campaign they continued in the Eastern Transvaal, sometimes on garrison duty, at times doing column work under General F W Kitchener, Colonel Park, and other commanders.
For gallant conduct and good work, mainly about Lydenburg and Badfontein, 5 officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 1 private of the 1st Battalion were mentioned by Lord Kitchener in his despatches. In the supplementary or final despatch 9 officers and 10 non-commissioned officers were mentioned, but these embraced both battalions.
The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Bavarian on 16th March 1900, and arrived at the Cape on 6th April. Along with the 1st Worcestershire, 1st South Staffordshire, and 2nd Royal West Kent, they formed the 17th Brigade under Major General Boyes, and part of the Vl11th Division under Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Rundle. The work of the division has been briefly sketched under the 2nd Grenadier Guards. The battalion was not in any big battle, but did consistently good work.
There follows an extract of the war services of the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment. This bears out what is said under the other battalions of the VIIIth Division as to the work done and the hardships suffered by Rundle's people:—
20th to 24th April 1900. Engaged in operations for the relief of Wepener; thereafter marched north. May. Operating between Thabanchu and Senekal. 4tth June. Occupied Ficksburg; held it till 20th. Frequently shelled.
20th June to 29th July, Holding Hammonia and part of line, Ficksburg westwards, to keep in Prinsloo's Boers.
29th July to 4th August. Marched to Harrismith, 115 miles in seven days. Thence by Reitz and Vrede
to Standerton. Arrived there on 30th.
"During these four months the division was on very short rations, their boots and clothing were worn out, many of the men wearing sacks. A hundred men of the battalion were sent back from Reitz to Harrismith as they had no boots. At Standerton the men received fresh boots and clothes, and after that time supplies were more regular".
Marched from Standerton, via Vrede and Bethlehem, to Senekal. Had fighting there, and near that town some waggons, a gun, and 17 prisoners taken. On 30th September reached Reitz again. On 14th October occupied Harrismith. Left on 3rd November as escort to convoy; had fighting daily,—Lieutenant Woodhouse being killed on the 8th.
And so on with these interminable treks and constant skirmishes, sometimes developing into quite fierce actions, as at Reitpan on 6th January 1901. At times the battalion got a spell of garrison work, as at Bethlehem between 30th January and 27th April, during which time no mails got in.
During May and June 1901 half the battalion went out with a column under Lieutenant Colonel Reay of the regiment. This column, working in the Brand water basin, had fighting every day.
During August to November the battalion was always on column work, pursuing Boers or taking out convoys. The enemy got numerous and daring in November, and the skirmishes were frequent and fierce. Captain Noble was killed, and another officer died on the 12th of that month.
From the end of November 1901 till the declaration of peace the battalion was constructing and occupying blockhouses on the line Harrismith-Van Reenens and Harrismith-Oliver's Hoek. That they held them well is proved by the largeness of the captures in the drives to that corner in February and March 1902.
Over three companies of the battalion were mountedx and did excellent work.
Four officers, I non-commissioned officer, and 1 private of the 2nd Battalion were mentioned during the war in despatches by Lord Kitchener.
Reference is made to the note under the 1st Battalion regarding mentions in the final despatches of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener.
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