The Cyferfontein action is also referred to in the ILH History as “Frederikstad” and also “Naauwpoort Nek”.
The ILH suffered a serious setback on this date when 2 squadrons under Colonel Wools-Sampson set out as part of General Babington’s column of some 1600 infantry, cavalry and guns to intercept Generals de la Rey and Kemp’s Commandos some 50 km west of Krugersdorp. A number of Boers were noticed on the hills on the farm Cyferfontein and Babington ordered Woolls-Sampson to drive them off. The latter set off impetuously without sending out advancing scouts and at such a pace that his two horse-drawn pom-poms under Captain Brierly could not keep up with him.
When he eventually sent out 4 scouts, he still followed them too closely and his party ran into the withering fire of more than 700 dismounted Boers concealed in long grass on the hill-top, some 100m away. The left squadron under Major Briggs managed to deploy in time, but the right squadron, with the rash Woolls-Sampson at their head, galloped straight for the crest.
Men and horses were mowed down, but those who survived the first volley leapt from their horses and, taking whatever cover they could find, returned the fire. After 10 minutes the still-mounted Woolls-Sampson realised the hopelessness of the situation and ordered the retirement of his men. Brierly however, on instructions from Briggs, only moved the pom-poms to a better location and poured rapid fire into the remounted commando, thereby causing the Boers to retire. In this ill-fated charge the ILH lost 18 killed and 32 wounded. In addition, of the Imperial Yeomanry attached to the ILH, 7 were killed and 7 wounded. .
QSA (2) Tvl, SA01 (1235 Tpr. H H Nash Imp: Lt Horse)
Herbert Nash attested in the ILH at Cape Town on 29 October 1900 and was killed in action at Cyferfontein after only 9 weeks’ active service.
Arthur Halling had one year’s pre-war service with the Cape Town Highlanders. He then served as Lieutenant in the Colonial Scouts from 14 Dec 1899 and resigned on 21 March 1900. The next day he enlisted in the 1st ILH at Pietermaritzburg as Trooper No 770 and was commissioned on 24 January 1901. He was mortally wounded in the action of 22 March and died of his wounds the next day.
Captain Normand of “C” Squadron reported the afternoon that “We picked up the wounded, among whom was Lt Halling, shot through the spine and in extremis”.
Halling, under the name of “Lt Holbrig (since dead)”, was MiD by Gen Babington with 9 other officers as being “Brought to notice for excellent services rendered by them in capture of De la Rey’s guns and convoy on 24th March”.
“On the 17th Hickie’s camp at Doornbult was attacked with some determination by 200 Boers, to drive off whom some close fighting was necessary.”
“Official History” Vol IV, p191.
QSA (0) (T. Kelly. C.G.R.);
QSA (1) Tvl (2188 Tpr. T. Kelly. Imp. Lt. Horse.)
(double issue to the same recipient)
Rim edge knock on second QSA medal
Vernon Doran (alias Tom Kelly), was born in East Dulwich, London in 1883. He ran away from home at the age of 15 and joined the Royal Navy. After deserting at Port Elizabeth in 1901, he attested with the Imperial Light Horse under the name of Tom Kelly on 16 May 1901.
His original parchment certificate of discharge from the I.L.H. (dated 24’h November 1901) is included and indicates service in engagements with Col. Hickie, Genl. Dartnell and Lt. Col Briggs.
He was MiD by Lord Kitchener and promoted Corporal for Distinguished Gallantry in the Field for being the first man (with three others) up in charge on a position held by a strong force of enemy at Doornbult, Western Transvaal, on the 17th July 1901 (LG, 15 Nov 1901, p7380).
After his discharge from the ILH he joined the Cape Government Railways and served as Engine Driver and Locomotive Inspector.
Steinaecker’s Horse was raised in June 1900 by Major F. von Steinaecker (who had served earlier as a lieutenant in the Prussian Army) to operate in Zululand and on the Swaziland border of the Transvaal.
In time, Steinaecker’s Horse occupied the entire lower veldt to the Olifant’s River, manning over a dozen permanent posts. On 22 July 1901 approximately 100 troopers from Steinaecker’s Horse returned from a mission bringing in some prisoners, stock and some surrendered Burghers to Bremersdorp in Swaziland.
Following them was a force of Boers under Generals Opperman, Smuts and Grobbelaar, which outnumbered Steinaecker’s Horse. Steinaecker’s men quickly abandoned Bremersdorp, but on 23 July 1901, the Boers caught up with the unit and began a running battle in which Steinaecker’s Horse lost 4 men killed in action, numerous wounded and captured and the loss of their baggage train.