Life in camp on the Maidan was becoming somewhat monotonous to men whose ardent spirits panted for opportunities of distinction in the Empire’s service, and for freer movement on the vast South African veldt. For traces of this yearning one may search in vain through pages of diaries, to which men do not commit all their secret thoughts. Perhaps they regarded a parade of warlike sentiments as bad form even in the written impressions that were intended only for private perusal. So they contented themselves with noting briefly the minor events of listless days and the mild excitements of evenings that passed swiftly enough in such social pleasures as dining, theatre-going, or listening to the latest London melodies at a smoking-concert organised in aid of the war fund. Even a flower-show was regarded by some as an amusement. We come across frequent references to baths at the Swimming Club, tiffin at Pelité’s, and luxurious little dinners at the Bristol, the Continental, or the Grand; but only by inference, from the sudden importance given to these everyday incidents of civilian life, can we gather what a contrast they were to the coarser fare and rougher surroundings of meals in camp. There is not a hint of discontent at being reduced for the first time in their lives to soldiers’ rations or at the hard fatigue work they were put to as a necessary part of the daily routine. These manly young troopers were beginning to learn the soldier’s lessons of subjection to discipline and endurance of discomforts that must have seemed sufficiently like hardships to most of them, but they had not acquired the habit of grumbling which is Tommy’s cherished privilege. The visits of crowds to that camp on the Maidan every Sunday were evidence enough of the great interest taken by all classes of citizens in Lumsden’s Horse, who were properly appreciative of those attentions, and not quite insensible to the sweet flattery of admiring glances from pretty eyes. The motto that ‘None but the brave deserve the fair’ is one in which gallant soldiers from all time have found encouragement, and Lumsden’s Horse were beginning to appropriate it with other soldierly attributes, for were they not all brave and resolved to prove it? Their only fear was that the chance of doing knightly deeds might not come to them, and that they would land in South Africa only in time to learn that the war had been finished before the tardy transports could get there. Nevertheless, we know that they relaxed no efforts to make themselves fit for the fray. From contributions by troopers to the Indian papers we may learn how zealous they were to master the least attractive duties of military life, and Staff officers bear witness to the sincerity and success of these endeavours. Mere forms of discipline might have been lacking, and one cannot wonder that men who had lived similar lives, sharing the same sports and social pleasures, found it difficult at first to fall into their relative positions, some as officers, others as troopers, and to keep each his own proper groove, ignoring old associations. But the right spirit of subordination was there, and a commander of Irregulars does not ask for more if he has the true capacity for leadership. The daily routine of duties in camp on the Maidan was designed to foster this spirit without making the yoke of essential discipline too galling. A description of it as given by one in the ranks will show that Lumsden’s Horse were by no means pampered Sybarites even at that early stage of their soldiering:
At 6 the ‘rouse’ sounds, and, some minutes later, men clad in khaki breeches, putti gaiters, and flannel shirts issue from the little bell tents into the clammy mist of early morning, and after obtaining a cup of tea at the mess, remove the jhools—which are a most necessary protection against the heavy dew—from their horses, and give them a rub down. At 7 we hear the bugle call ‘Saddle up,’ and at 7.30 the men are all fallen in on the Maidan in column of sections, and go through the various evolutions, special attention being given to mounting and dismounting on saddles packed with full kit, and the leading of horses, the correct and rapid performance of which is so important in Mounted Infantry work. The regiment is divided into two companies, each company consisting of 120 men formed into four sections, and these again divided into permanent sub-sections of four men each. As a rule the sections work independently, each under its own commander. Blank ammunition is liberally expended in order to accustom the horses to the rattle of musketry. Most of the men are mounted on country-breds; but several ride shapely walers averaging 14.2. Considering that 50 per cent. of the horses are quite untrained as chargers, they are astonishingly quiet and well-behaved; the C.B.s—with the exception of an occasional kicker, which plays havoc in the ranks, and is a source of some danger to his unfortunate companions, both men and horses—are quick, handy little brutes, and already they have learnt to lead steadily and well. There are, of course, a good number of trained horses in the ranks; the Mysore men, for instance, being almost without exception mounted on Silidar horses, which are proving most satisfactory chargers and are expected to do well in Africa. After parade the horses are watered, fed, and groomed by their respective owners, and then, as Mr. Pepys would have said, ‘to breakfast,’ under a large shamiana placed at one end of the camp in the shade of sycamore-fig trees. The morning passes quickly while men are drawing and marking kit, cleaning rifles, or doing fatigue duty at pitching tents and other healthy exercises. At noon we water and feed the horses, and 1 o’clock is the tiffin hour. At 4.30 there is an afternoon parade, sometimes by companies, and sometimes the whole regiment parading under the Colonel or Major, after which water, feed and bed-down, and then dinner, and an early retirement to bed. But not for all is this happy rest. There are two guard tents, at opposite ends of the camp, each company providing a sergeant and three men for guard every twenty-four hours, while a man from each company is on sentry throughout the night, his duty being to see that the horses are properly secured—head and heel—and be on hand in case of sickness.
They were not all tyros in war. Burma ribbons on the breasts of some Surma Valley Volunteers who were at Manipur told of previous service in the field, though against enemies very different from the ‘slim,’ evasive Boer. Others who wore no badges of distinction were believed to have fought in more than one campaign; at least, the fair visitors declared that such a martial mien as some men bore could only have been acquired on active service: it bespoke a consciousness of great deeds gallantly done. The heroes of these flattering tributes lived up to their reputations by putting on an air of mystery, which the Colonel alone could have dispelled, for none but he knew the history of every man in the regiment. Still, nobody would have thought of looking for suspected Boers or Boer spies in the ranks of Lumsden’s Horse. A good story, however, is told in this connection at the expense of an officer who overheard two men in the uniform of Lumsden’s Horse talking, in a tongue that was not English, at one of the hotel bars. The officer, not recognising either of them, listened curiously, and caught a few phrases which he declared to be German by the sound (and he claimed familiarity with that, though he did not know enough of the language to repeat the words he had heard). ‘It was German, and no mistake,’ he said, ‘and those two men in our uniform were talking it fluently. What could they be but Boer spies?’ One had a distinctly Boer face, he thought, and, deciding that something ought to be done at once, he assumed his most nonchalant air and asked the two men politely for their names. In reply they gave names so common in England that he could only regard them as aliases. His suspicions being thus seemingly confirmed, he took into his confidence two brother-officers, who, when the two ‘spies’ were pointed out to them, saw the possibility of playing off a joke on the amateur detective, for they recognised in the one with a ‘distinctly Boer face’ a young planter from Behar whose fresh, boyish appearance had won for him the nickname of ‘Baby.’ He looked innocent enough to be capable of anything. Admitting that both these men had come with them from up country, the two mischievous friends added, ‘But we don’t know much about them.’ That was enough for the investigator, who rose at dawn next morning to prepare a circumstantial report for submission to the Colonel. He declared this to be ‘his duty,’ and announced a stern determination to go through with it in spite of pretended protestations from many comrades who had somehow got wind of the story. Their pleadings and wily persuasions only served to goad him on. The responsibility of silence, which they sought to impose upon him, was too much for one in his position to bear, so he hurried off towards the Colonel’s tent, eager to make his startling disclosures. On the way, however, he met a trooper, who unwittingly ‘gave the whole show away’; and the crestfallen officer learned that the men whom he was going to denounce as Boer spies had been coffee-planting for several years in Coorg, and that the language they talked when exchanging confidences in a public place was not German but Canarese. Such incidents as these helped to while away the tedium of life in camp when the iron hand of discipline was beginning to make itself felt lightly but firmly. A very little humour provokes much mirth when other entertainments are scarce. By that time even the sing-songs in camp were being cut short, and the only note of revolt that Lumsden’s Horse were ever known to have sounded arose on that account. It did not grow loud enough to reach the commanding officer’s ears, but is recorded in the diary of a trooper who, after describing a very pleasant little camp-fire concert, says: ‘We were all packed off to bed at 9.30 by the Sergeant-Major, to our indignation.’
Public efforts for their amusement, however, did not flag, nor were camp regulations always enforced so strictly. These facts we may gather from an entry that would have delighted the methodical Samuel Pepys. ‘After dinner drove to the Grand. Played snookers and won. Afterwards to the Biograph, to which we were invited for nothing. Rather a noise cheering for the Queen, Colonel Lumsden, &c. Marched back singing, though someone tried to stop us. The Colonel came too and bade us sing. Had supper and more songs, and three cheers for the Colonel, and to bed at two.’ These frank revelations are worth whole columns of detailed description as giving an insight into the character of the men who formed Lumsden’s Horse and their adaptability to circumstances that marked the later days of their camp life on the Maidan. The time for such festivities was drawing rapidly to a close, and none but Puritanical moralists would blame them for making the most of it after the manner of light-hearted youth. They had serious thoughts on occasion, however, and all their letters show how deeply impressed they were by one ceremony. The date of embarkation was still uncertain when on Wednesday, February 14, some two hundred officers and men under Colonel Lumsden’s command, headed by the band of the Royal Irish Rifles, marched from their camp to the Cathedral in Calcutta, where a special evening service of farewell was to be celebrated. The Viceroy and Lady Curzon, Sir John Woodburn, Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, nearly every officer of the Viceregal and District Staffs, with regimental commandants and representatives of other Presidencies, attended, and a sympathetic congregation filled every part of the building. Soldiers and civilians joined in singing the Processional hymn, ‘Onward, Christian soldiers,’ their voices mingling with an effect never to be forgotten by anybody who took part in that devotional service. The Lieutenant-Governor read the First Lesson and Colonel Lumsden the Second. The choir sang ‘Fight the good fight,’ and a deep silence fell on the congregation when Bishop Welldon began his address to the contingent that numbered in its ranks many men whose course in life had been guided by the high principles instilled by him when he was master and they schoolboys at Tonbridge and Harrow. In a clear strong voice, the ring of which they knew so well, he spoke to them and their comrades, saying:
This is a service of unique interest in the history of our city, and of our cathedral. It is one of those occasions which make us realise, amid many differences, the essential fact of our national spiritual unity. All who are loyal, all who are patriotic in Calcutta, are gathered or would have gladly gathered within this cathedral to-night. There is not in all this congregation—there is not, I think, in all Calcutta—a British heart that is not moved with sympathy and admiration for you, my brethren, who are going forth to the war in South Africa. And surely there is not a British heart but feels how just it is, how wise and how truly consonant with the best traditions of our race, that it should be your wish on the eve of your departure to seek the protection of, invite the benediction of, and to consecrate yourselves to the name and service of the Most High God. For if it has been possible at other times and in other places within the last few weeks to strike a note of felicity and festivity—I do not say that they have been unduly prominent, but who has not heard them?—if there has been excitement, merriment, and applause on your behalf, it is a note that I would not sound this evening. You are going, I know, with deep solemnity and resolution, and you are going as men who have undertaken a noble duty from which you might have held aloof without reproach, in the full consciousness of its cost and peril, and in the sure conviction that the part you are playing is not unworthy, as indeed it is not, of the British race and the British Empire. You are proud, then, of your self-chosen mission, but it may well be that someone who looks forward with eager anticipation to the future is yet, in his heart, possessed with the not ignoble anxiety that warfare is no child’s play. It is stern and awful. He who enters upon it with a light heart is no true soldier of God or man. You are assembled now within the sanctuary of religion. In a few hours or days you will set sail for a distant land. It is certain that you all will be exposed to the strain and danger of the battlefield, and it is by no means certain that all will return to their homes in safety. Some who hear me now will probably yield their lives for the Empire. Can I forget how, on the 24th day of last September, I shook hands at the Kidderpore Docks with the gallant officer commanding the Gloucestershire Regiment, and how within a few weeks from that day he had fallen—shot dead at the head of his regiment? As his fate was, so may be yours. That is the nobility and dignity of your service. The people of Calcutta would not throng into this cathedral to pray for you, with you, if it were not impressed upon their minds that you are inspired with the brave ambition that makes great Empires great. When they shall bid you farewell, as the troopship slowly passes into the distance, it will be with full hearts, and believing that you will be true even to death, that they will one and all say, ‘God bless you.’ You go for the conservation of the Empire. I look upon the British Empire as the highest of human institutions, and realise that the Empire appeals to the spirit of chivalry, magnanimity, unselfishness, and devotion in all its members. Nobly, indeed, has India, European and Native, responded of late to that inspiring appeal. Who is there that has not felt his pride of Empire to be quickened by the generous loyalty not of Englishmen only but of the princes and nobles of India to her Majesty the Queen-Empress? For that loyalty, unexampled as it is in the history of other peoples, is itself a witness to the beneficence of British rule. May I venture, if only in passing, to express the hope that such an exhibition of loyalty may bring comfort to the sick-bed of that illustrious soldier, the Commander-in-Chief, who in a retrospect of his life can recall many a battle in which Europeans and Indians have fought side by side for the Empire? But if to the princes and nobles—may I not add to the people of India?—the thought of the Empire makes a paramount appeal, how much more to every man and woman of us.
The Imperial spirit is in the air, it has passed from the chamber of philosophical thinkers to the common life of the nation. We are all Imperialists now, and it may be said in the sacred language, of our country in relation to her colonies and dependencies, that ‘her children have risen up and called her blessed.’ So in the hour of her stress and suffering there is not one colony that has failed to render her aid with the resources of its wealth, strength, and its armed men. Well is it, then, that Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen resident in India should take their stand with the colonists, not of South Africa only, but of Australia and Canada, in a cause which makes them one, for the Empire means not conquest alone. It means the principles upon which the modern Christian world is broadly based—justice, equality, freedom of thought and speech, intellectual progress, pure religion, and the sense of personal responsibility to God. You go forth, and by your going you assert that all the constituent members of the Empire are one. As the Apostle said of old, ‘We are members one of another’; and again, ‘If one member suffer all the members suffer with it.’ It is not nothing to you, and it is a matter which vitally and personally touches your interest, that to your fellow-subjects in South Africa should have been denied the elementary rights of citizenship and the common privileges of humanity. The injury that has been done to them is done to you. That you should go forth in a right and reverent spirit is the prayer of all who worship with you in this cathedral. Is it possible—I hardly like to suggest the reflection—but is it possible that we have lately thought too little of Almighty God? Is it possible that we have entered upon the war with something like levity in, the reliance upon our army and upon our pecuniary military resources rather than upon Him who has made and sanctified our Empire? Is it possible that we have forgotten that even if the ‘horse is prepared against the day of battle’ yet victory is of the Lord? If so, let us return to Him in penitence and prayer.
Let us, confess our many failings and shortcomings, our imperfect sense of responsibility to Providence, and our disloyalty, if such there has been, to His commands. May you go forth, brethren, as trusting in Him, for you believe that your cause is just. If it were not just, if it were the cause of oppression or aggrandisement, may He Himself forbid that it should prosper; but if it be His will to use you in His service, to make you the instrument of His providence in the subjugation and pacification of the country which has flouted the majesty of the British Empire, if He has called you, and you have responded to His call, then His blessing will abide with you always. It is in this spirit that we bid you an honourable farewell. It may be that when you are severed by thousands of miles of ocean from the country of your birth or of your adoption, the memory of this service shall not wholly fade from your hearts. Here, in India, where the majesty of the Empire was most fiercely assailed and most successfully vindicated—here in this cathedral, where many monuments eloquently remind you of the courage, faith, and heroism of your race down to the memorial of those young Englishmen who laid their lives down for their country saying that they were not the last English—here, in the presence of the Power which controls the destinies of nations, we invoke the Divine blessing upon your arms. One last word, one inspiring motto, we will offer you. It is the watchword of our race: it is ‘Duty.’ ‘I thank God,’ said Nelson to Captain Blackwood, on the morning of Trafalgar, ‘for this great opportunity of doing my duty.’ ‘Whatever happens, Uxbridge,’ said the Duke of Wellington on the morning of Waterloo, ‘you and I will do our duty.’ That the thought of ‘duty,’ inspired and sanctified by Heaven, may dwell in your hearts is our prayer for you all—the highest prayer that man may offer for man. May the God of our fathers be with you always, and help you to be brave, generous, and merciful, and vouchsafe to you safety; and if it be His will may victory and peace restore you to those who love you so well at home or in India, and grant you in life or in death to prove yourselves worthy citizens of the Empire, faithful servants and fellow soldiers of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
The choir next sang
‘Soldiers of Christ, arise, And put your armour on,’
and this was followed by two special prayers. Then came the National Anthem, in the singing of which the whole congregation joined, and then the Recessional hymn, ‘For all the saints who from their labours rest.’ The service over, Lumsden’s Horse marched back to camp through roads that were thronged with enthusiastic spectators.
The next ten days were crowded with necessary preparations that left the men little leisure for enjoyment of social entertainments arranged in their honour, yet they found time for a pleasant gathering as spectators at an amateur performance in the Calcutta Theatre, and possibly for some tender leave-takings of which no note was made. They were not, at any rate, allowed to go away without many manifestations of good-will from all classes and abundant proofs of appreciation and care for their welfare by the Government of India. It has already been said that his Excellency Lord Curzon accepted readily the rank of Honorary Colonel of the corps, while both he and Lady Curzon took every possible opportunity of identifying themselves with a force in which they continued to show the liveliest personal interest throughout its career of active service. Sir William Lockhart, then Commander-in-Chief, was lying in Fort William, Calcutta, dangerously ill of the malady from which he died not long afterwards, and was therefore unable to see the corps, but he sent to Colonel Lumsden and the executive committee several messages of kindly encouragement. The contingent was inspected on its parade-ground by General Leach, C.B., commanding the troops in the Presidency District. Sir John Woodburn, Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal and Honorary Colonel of the Behar Light Horse, also paid an official visit to Colonel Lumsden and made a farewell speech to the corps on parade the Sunday before its first company embarked.
Orders for the front had come at last, but one of the transports had not. So it was necessary for Lumsden’s Horse to go off in detachments. The ‘Lindula’ was alongside the wharves in Kidderpore Docks, but she had no room to spare for more than a hundred and fifty troopers, with their officers and the necessary number of horses. Colonel Lumsden and the headquarters were to go in her with A Company and the Maxim Gun detachment, leaving B Company still camped on the Maidan, where Major Showers would take over the command. Delays and alterations of dates with regard to troopships, for which nobody in India was responsible, would have been still more serious but for the resourceful energy of Captain Goodridge, R.N., Director-General of Marine to the Government of India, and Captain Gwynne, R.N., the executive transport officer at Calcutta, who did all in their power to expedite matters and to meet the wishes of Colonel Lumsden, whose one anxiety was for the comfort and well-being of his men on the voyage.
Before daybreak on Monday, January 26, 1900, bugles were sounding the reveillé for A Company, and from that moment its camp was a scene of liveliest activity. Though the men whose turn to embark might not come for a week or two longer went about their ordinary duties with assumed unconcern, they cast many wistful glances at the busy preparations of their envied comrades. Life in Calcutta had been pleasant enough to make parting ‘such sweet sorrow’ for many that they would fain have prolonged it at the last, but none gave a thought to such things in the dawn of the day so long desired. For them all, South Africa was then the goal of hope, and naturally the troops to go first were deemed most fortunate. An old campaigner might have told them of the days to come, when, in the weariness of a realisation more hollow than their dreams, they would be haunted by the music of that last waltz in Calcutta, and longing to hear once more the rustle of palm fronds under soft Indian skies, to breathe the sweet fragrance of oleanders and roses. These thoughts, however, were unspoken, and if anybody had ventured to hint at them he would have been rightly scouted as a sickly sentimentalist by Lumsden’s Horse, who were going forth to do the work of men. Yes; but somehow they were not all adamant when they heard the cheers of thousands greeting them as they marched through streets crowded with Europeans and natives. The service company, in full campaigning kit, took the lead, proudly conscious that all this was meant as an enthusiastic farewell to them and for the gallant Colonel at their head; and B Company followed, wearing simple drill order, with becoming modesty. An escort of ladies and gentlemen on horseback accompanied the marching contingent. So uncontrollable did the excitement of spectators become that they broke in upon and mingled with the ranks, a confused mass from which it was difficult for Lumsden’s Horse to disentangle themselves and pass in any semblance of military formation through the dock gates, within which they dismounted. Embarkation of their horses would in ordinary circumstances have occupied a whole day if the slow system of hoisting by slings had been adhered to. Major Taylor, however, suggested the use of zig-zag gangways, ascending by easy inclines stage above stage. To this arrangement the broad wharves of Kidderpore Docks were admirably adapted. Captain Gwynne, with a seaman’s ready appreciation of common-sense proposals, consented to this departure from former methods. The gangways were rigged accordingly, and so the horses walked quietly up the slopes to their berths on different decks instead of being slung on board in the barbarous old fashion. The whole operation thus took an hour instead of a day, and not a single horse was injured or had its temper upset. While horses were being got on board the companies drew up to await the Viceroy’s coming, where burning sunlight fell full on the white helmets that were not to be worn again for many a day. All their march from the Maidan had been like a triumphal procession, to the accompaniment of cheers and waving handkerchiefs; but a scene even more inspiring awaited them at the docks, where a great crowd had assembled, making the grimy wharves bright with the colours of dainty costumes. People lined the parapets of surrounding houses in masses uncomfortably dense, and a multitude thronged the jetty, alongside which the transport ‘Lindula’ lay waiting to receive her full complement of troops. Enclosures reserved for favoured spectators were filled to overflowing, and at least 2,000 of the number assembled there had to stand, the 3,000 chairs being mostly occupied by ladies.
Judges of the High Courts and senior officials of all departments were present. Lumsden’s Horse lined one side of a great quadrangle facing the flower-fringed daïs from which Lord Curzon was to deliver his farewell speech. Behind them, stretching from end to end of the line, were gay streamers bearing the time-honoured mottoes that served to inspire Roman legions when they set out in galleys to conquer the world. ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ and ‘Fortes fortuna juvat’ are sentiments that have happily not lost their meaning or their power to influence the actions of men even in our unromantic age. The crowds had gathered there to bid ‘God speed’ to the first contingent of Volunteers that had ever left India to fight for their Queen and country. And each unit of that assemblage seemed eager to do or say something that might emphasise the heartiness of the farewell. So general and earnest was this desire that the police had great difficulty to keep the pressing spectators within bounds.
On arrival at the dock gates, their Excellencies the Viceroy and Lady Curzon were met by his Honour the Lieutenant-Governor and officers in attendance, who conducted them to the Viceregal platform, above which the royal standard was hoisted. Lord Curzon then inspected the ranks of Lumsden’s Horse, chatting with their Colonel the while. This inspection over, his Excellency returned to the daïs, and, in a voice that carried far among the silently attentive spectators, addressed the corps in these words:
Colonel Lumsden, Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and men of Lumsden’s Light Horse: In bidding you good-bye this afternoon, I feel that I may claim to speak for others besides myself. I do not appear here merely as the Honorary Colonel of your corps, proud as I am to fill that position. Nor am I merely the spokesman of the citizens of Calcutta, European and Native, among whom you have spent the past few weeks, and who desire to wish you all success in your patriotic enterprise. I feel that I am more than that, and that I may consider myself the mouthpiece of public opinion throughout India, which has watched the formation of this corps with admiration, which has contributed to its equipment and comfort with no illiberal hand, and which now sends you forth with an almost parental interest in your fortunes. At a time when the stress of a common anxiety has revealed to the British Empire its almost unsuspected unity, and its illimitable resources in loyalty and men, it would have been disappointing to all of us if India had lagged behind—India which, even if it is only peopled by a small minority of our own race, is yet the noblest field of British activity and energy and devotion that the world can show. Already the British regiments that we have sent from this country have helped to save Natal, and many a brave native follower has borne his part in the struggle. But as soon as the electric call for volunteer help to the mother land ran round, India responded to the summons. She has given us from the small civil population of British birth the 250 gallant men whom I am now addressing, and she would have given us as many more as Government would have been prepared to accept. I doubt not that had we been willing to enrol 1,000 instead of 250, they would have been forthcoming; and that had not one thousand but many thousand volunteers been called for from the native races, who vie with us in fervent loyalty to the same Sovereign, they would have sprung joyfully to arms, from the Hindu or Mussulman chief of ancient lineage and great possessions to the martial Sikh or the fighting Pathan.
You, however, are the 250 who have been chosen, the first body of Volunteers from India that have ever had the chance of fighting for the Queen outside their shores; and you, Colonel Lumsden, to whose patriotic initiative this corps owes its being, and from whom it most befittingly takes its name, are the officer who is privileged to command this pioneer body of Indian soldiers of the Empire. Officers and men, you carry a great responsibility with you; for it will fall to you in the face of great danger, perhaps even in the face of death, to sustain the honour of the country that is now sending you forth and of the race from which you are sprung. But you will have this consolation. You are engaged on a glorious, and as I believe a righteous, mission, not to aggrandise an Empire, not merely to repel an unscrupulous invasion of the Queen’s territories, but to plant liberty and justice and equal rights upon the soil of a South Africa henceforward to be united under the British and no other flag. You go out at a dramatic moment in the contest, when, owing to the skilful generalship of an old Indian soldier and Commander-in-Chief, and to the indomitable gallantry of our men, the tide of fortune, which has too long flowed against us, seems at last to have turned in our favour. May it carry you on its forward crest to Pretoria itself! All India applauds your bravery in going. We shall watch your deeds on the battlefield and on the march. We wish you God speed in your undertaking; and may Providence in His mercy protect you through the perils and vicissitudes of your first contact with the dread realities of war, and bring you safely back again to this country and to your homes.
Colonel Lumsden and men, on behalf of your fellow-countrymen and your fellow-subjects throughout India, I bid you farewell.
There is ample evidence from the letters of troopers themselves to prove that Lord Curzon’s eloquent words inspired them with an ideal which they determined at all hazards to live up to, and perhaps it is not too much to say that the conspicuous gallantry everywhere and at all times displayed by all ranks of Lumsden’s Horse is directly traceable to the high conception of their duty breathed in every sentence of the Viceroy’s speech, though they paraphrased it in more homely language, taking for their regimental motto ‘Play the game.’ For a while after Lord Curzon had finished speaking the troops were silent. Then they raised lusty cheers for his Excellency and Lady Curzon and the people of Calcutta, who in their turn cheered Lumsden’s Horse again and again. The Viceroy and his suite, accompanied by Colonel Lumsden, Sir Patrick Playfair, and other members of the executive committee, then went on board the ‘Lindula’ for a final inspection of the arrangements made for the comfort of the corps, whose horses had already been shipped. Meanwhile Mrs. Pugh had presented each officer and trooper with a Prayer-book, and in giving it she said a few simple words that touched all hearts. Some tender scenes of leave-taking had been enacted, and men came back to their places in the ranks with faces not quite so hard as they thought. There may have been sobs in the sweet voices that whispered ‘Good-bye!’ but if so they were lost in the loud chorus that rang out from comrades cheering each other. Then the band struck up ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ and the troopers of A Company marched on board the ‘Lindula.’ As she cast off from her moorings amid many touching demonstrations and more enthusiastic cheers, the strains of music changed to ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ The sun had set then, but crowds lingered, cheering still and waving handkerchiefs until the transport disappeared in the gathering darkness. She dropped down to her anchorage in Garden Reach that night, and when Calcutta awoke next morning she had gone, bearing the first contingent of Lumsden’s Horse towards South Africa. Colonel Lumsden’s appreciation of all that had been done for the corps was expressed in the following letter:
To the Editor of the ‘Englishman.’
SIR,—On the eve of leaving India for South Africa with the corps which I have the honour to command there is one pleasant duty which I have to fulfil. This is to convey, in the most public manner, to all who have helped me in raising ‘Lumsden’s Horse,’ my grateful thanks for their sympathy and support. To the Viceroy, who has accepted the Honorary Colonelcy of the corps, I owe more than can be stated in this letter, for his Excellency removed all difficulties which lay in the way of sending an Indian Volunteer Contingent to the seat of war. To his Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal and his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief I am indebted for their support and sympathy. Sir Edwin Collen, Military Member; Sir Edmund Elles, Adjutant-General; Major-Generals Maitland and Wace; Surgeon-General Harvey; Brigadier-General Leach; Colonel Money and Captain Drake-Brockman; Colonels Buckland and Spenser, Army Clothing Department; Captain Gwyn, Royal Indian Marine; Captain Philipps; Colonel Mansfield, Commissariat Transport Department; the Commissariat Staff in the Presidency District; one and all gave me the benefit of their experience in military matters in addition to official assistance which was of the highest value. There were many occasions when their personal influence smoothed over difficulties connected with organisation and equipment, and made my task much easier than it would otherwise have been. I wish gratefully to acknowledge the special kindness of Major Pilgrim, I.M.S., who medically examined the members of the corps. To the executive committee—Sir Patrick Playfair, Colonel Buckingham, Colonel Money, Major Eddis, Major Dolby, and Mr. Harry Stuart—I am most deeply indebted, for they have all worked hard from first to last; to the general public who responded so handsomely to the appeal for subscriptions; to the Press, who gave full publication to the movement; to the donors of camp equipment, kit, and things in kind; to the railways for their assistance; and to the India General and River Steam Navigation Companies, who carried the Assam Volunteers free of cost; to these I must express the warmest thanks, not merely on my own part, but on behalf of every officer and man of the corps. They, indeed, rendered it possible for my scheme as a whole to be carried out. To Mrs. Pugh and the ladies of Calcutta we can only say that their labour of love will never be forgotten by ‘Lumsden’s Horse.’
Four days later welcome orders came for B Company to be ready for embarkation, and, early in the morning of March 3, Major Showers, in command of all that remained of Lumsden’s Horse on the Maidan, marched out of camp, escorted by Europeans and natives principally on horseback. For them the enthusiasm that had marked the departure of their comrades was revived with even greater fervour, and though this second leave-taking was less ceremonious than the first, it lacked nothing of the heart-stirring eloquence that rings through the voices of people when they are moved by great impulses. The Viceroy, when he addressed Colonel Lumsden and A Company, had spoken his farewell to the whole regiment. This second demonstration, though accompanied by many signs of official interest, was in all essential characteristics a popular movement in which all classes joined with the more impressive warmth because it was the last tribute they could pay to Lumsden’s Horse before the corps might be called upon to take its place in the fighting line. The Lieutenant-Governor (Sir John Woodburn) and the Bishop of Calcutta made eloquent speeches that were emphasised by repeated cheering; and with many cordial words of farewell ringing in their ears, to the musical accompaniment of ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ Major Showers and his hundred troopers embarked on board the ‘Ujina.’ After she had steamed down the Hugli there was no more work to be done by the committee, whose members had laboured with patriotic self-sacrifice to raise and equip Lumsden’s Horse and send the contingent forth a perfectly organised force in all respects. The executive committee then practically handed over all its authority to Sir Patrick Playfair, who never ceased for a moment to watch over the interests of the Contingent, for which he had already done so much. The following letter shows how greatly Lumsden’s Horse were indebted for their rapid and complete organisation to the business capacity and indefatigable industry of Sir Patrick Playfair:
S.S. ‘Lindula,’ en route for South Africa: March 12, 1900.
My dear Playfair,—I have felt ever since leaving Calcutta that I never half thanked you for what you did for Lumsden’s Horse, and no one knows so well as myself, or appreciates more to the full, the work you did on its behalf. Now, when I have time to think calmly over the events of the past two months, I can see plainly that the successful issue things were brought to, financially and otherwise, was entirely due to your energy and guidance; and this without in the slightest degree depreciating the valuable services of your fellow-workers on the committee, as I feel confident one and all of them would coincide heartily with my sentiments....