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Smith of Kitchener's Horse, Warren's M.I & the Border Scouts. 2 months 3 weeks ago #77139

  • Rory
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Arthur Smith

Trooper, Kitchener’s Horse
Sergeant, Warren’s Mounted Infantry
Sergeant, Border Scouts – Anglo Boer War

- Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill and Wittebergen to 4110 Tpr. A. Smith, Kitchener’s Horse
- Kings South Africa Medal with clasps South Africa 1901 & 1902 to 570 Sjt. A. Smith, Border Scouts

Arthur Smith saw plenty of action during the Boer War – as was almost commonplace with men who attested with Colonial units – he saw service in no fewer than three.

Born in Bengal, India in 1876 he was the son of James Benjamin Smith, a government official, and his wife Henrietta Adelaide. Little is known of his early childhood, save for the fact that he had a sister, Florence Margaret Smith, who married an employee of William Watson & Co, Bombay, Charles Frederick Albert Howard, and who, for all of the time he spent in uniform, was his next of kin.

Readers will forgive me mentioning the fact that Charles Howard was the son of Dr John Simpson Howard, an Indian-born Surgeon attached to the armed forces there.

With the outbreak of war between the two Dutch-speaking republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal and Great Britain in October 1899, a 25 year old Smith found himself in South Africa. The reason why is not immediately apparent but he was recorded as being a Seaman by occupation – perhaps he was docked in a South African port and, having been aware of the progress of the war, decided to volunteer his services.

Whatever his reasons, Smith enlisted with Kitchener’s Horse at Cape Town on 19 February 1900, signing on for 5/- per day, in addition to rations, clothing and equipment. Assigned no. 4110 and the rank of Trooper he took to the field. The formation of Kitchener’s Horse was mentioned in Lord Roberts’ despatch of 6th February 1900 wherein he stated that: "Two other regiments, designated, at the particular request of the members, Roberts' Horse and Kitchener's Horse, have also been formed, chiefly from men who have found their way to South Africa from various parts of the world" (this was decidedly true in Smith’s case). These corps were at first intended to be called 'The second and third regiments of the South African Light Horse', but the names were changed as a compliment to the new Commander-in-Chief and his chief of the staff.

Raw recruits for Kitchener's Horse

Having missed out on the action at Paardeberg, Smith’s first encounter with the enemy was, most likely on 7th March 1900, when they were engaged at Poplar-Grove. Five officers and five non-commissioned officers and men gained mention in the despatch of 31st March for good work on the way to Bloemfontein. According to the official statement, the strength of the corps when it entered Bloemfontein on 13th March was 26 officers, 402 men, 270 horses, and 2 maxims.

About the beginning of March Kitchener's Horse had been, along with the 6th and 8th Regiments of Regular Mounted Infantry, the City Imperial Volunteers Mounted Infantry, Nesbitt's Horse, and the New South Wales Mounted Infantry, put into the 2nd Brigade of Mounted Infantry under Colonel P W J Le Gallais. The regiment fought with Le Gallais and General Tucker at the battle of Karee Siding on 29th March 1900, and they were attached to Ian Hamilton's force, which, towards the end of April, set out first to clear Thaba Nchu in the eastern Free State and thereafter take part in the northern advance.

Winston Churchill, in his 'Ian Hamilton's March' relates that on 26th April Kitchener's Horse and a company of regular mounted infantry were told to hold a kopje near Thaba Nchu for the night, but about dusk they were ordered to retire. This the Boers endeavoured to prevent, attacking the force with great determination: however, the attack was driven off, and the little body got into camp during the night. Captain F J Warren was severely wounded, 1 man killed, and several wounded.

On the 30th, at the battle of Houtnek, the regiment, with great boldness and skill, seized Thoba Mountain, and it was during the enemy's attempt to regain this commanding position that a party of about 12 Gordon Highlanders and 13 of Kitchener's Horse under Captain Towse of the Gordons made the famous stand and bayonet charge. In his telegram of 2nd May Lord Roberts remarked: "Kitchener's Horse is spoken of in terms of praise". On 4th May Ian Hamilton was again engaged, "and succeeded in preventing a junction of two Boer forces by a well-executed movement of some of the Household Cavalry, 12th Lancers, and Kitchener's Horse, who charged a body of the enemy and inflicted serious loss. They fled leaving their dead on the field, and their wounded to be attended by our doctors" The 'Standard' correspondent drew attention to the good work of the regiment at the crossing of the Zand River on 10th May. For his efforts in this theatre of the war, Smith was awarded the Wittebergen clasp to his Queens Medal.

The regiment was present at Ian Hamilton's other actions on the way to Pretoria and at Diamond Hill (11th and 12th June) where they started as a portion of Hunter's force designed to surround General Prinsloo, but like Roberts' Horse were detached to pursue De Wet instead. An eye-witness account by E.D. Curran, a man who served with Smith was published in an American newspaper on 29 December 1900, it read as follows:

“The longest fight we were in was at Diamond Hill, 20 miles north of Pretoria. We fought 2 days and 2 nights with General Botha. The Kitchener Horse seemed to have the worst of that battle. On the morning of the first day they made us stand stock still 50 feet apart for 3 hours, while other regiments were moving around to the enemy’s rear. We were just picked off like ten pins. Its standing like that and being shot at that scares a man. Finally, we got the order to charge and everything was alright again. Later in the day Lord Kitchener rode down the line and said he was proud to have a regiment like that bear his name.”

On 24th July the regiment lost 9 men wounded at Stinkhoutboom, but about the same date they captured 5 of De Wet's waggons. When De Wet left the Reitzburg Hills Kitchener's Horse again crossed to the north of the Vaal and operated under Ridley, Hart, Clements, and other commanders in the district west of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

In the despatch of 10th October 1900 Lord Roberts mentioned that "De Lisle's corps of mounted infantry was withdrawn from Clements' column and moved by rail on 17th September to Rhenoster, where it was joined by 250 men of Kitchener's Horse from Kroonstad". This portion of Kitchener's Horse took part in the pursuit of De Wet on the south side of the Vaal and other operations under General Knox in the Kroonstad district during September, October, and November, and were present on 27th October when 2 guns were captured at Rensburg, and in the very successful action of Bothaville on 6th November when 6 guns, a pom-pom, a maxim, and 130 prisoners were taken.

The regiment was with General Clements when he was attacked and met with disaster at Nooitgedacht in the Magaliesberg on 13th December 1900. It will be remembered that a high hill commanding the camp, and which was garrisoned by 4 companies of the 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, was assaulted by the enemy in great force and was captured. Kitchener's Horse and the 2nd Battalion Mounted Infantry were on the west or left front of the camp; the enemy attacked upon this side in a most determined manner, and although some pickets were captured or wiped out entirely, the attack on the west was driven off, the enemy losing very heavily in his endeavour to push into the camp from that direction. When, however, it was seen that the high hill commanding the camp had been captured by the enemy, the General decided to retire.

With difficulty General Clements got away his guns and most of his ammunition, but the camp was left standing and some stores were lost. The losses of Kitchener's Horse were severe: Lieutenant Skene and 8 men were killed, and Captain Stevenson and about 12 men wounded and about 40 taken prisoners. Some of the latter were wounded. Several mentions were gained by the corps on this occasion, and those who were present praised very highly the conduct of Kitchener's Horse and their old comrades the 2nd Battalion Regular Mounted Infantry, also the 2nd Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Shortly after this, at Cape Town on 18 December 1900, Smith took his discharge from the regiment on completion of service. He received a Very Good character rating and was credited with 303 days of service. His next of kin was provided as Mrs. C.F.A. Howard c/o William Watkins & Co., Bombay.

The war wasn’t yet over and neither was Smiths contribution – on 12 January 1901 he attested for three months’ service with Warren’s Mounted Infantry as a Sergeant with no. 114. This corps, about 3 squadrons strong, had been raised the previous month, and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel F J Warren, who had already seen service in other Colonial regiments.

An advert for Warren's M.I.

Warren's MI were operational in the western district of Cape Colony in April 1901. Their principal work was to pursue scattered commandos. Sometimes a few prisoners were taken, but the corps do not seem to have been in any satisfactory stand-up fight. Smith took his discharge on 13 April 1901.

After a four month hiatus, Smith betook himself to the Border Scouts, attesting at Green Point in Cape Town for service with them on 31 August 1901 with the rank of Sergeant and no. 570 (37848). His attestation form shed some light on his profile – aged 26, he was a British subject, and a Presbyterian by faith. A small man at 5 feet 4 inches in height; he weighed 120 pounds had a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He also sported a scar on his forehead. He once more provided his sister, Mrs C.F.A. Howard c/o Dr J.S. Howard of St. Helen’s Road, Hastings as his next of kin.

But who were the Border Scouts? Raised at Upington in May 1900 they were initially a local defence force, whose men were all half-castes, chiefly descendants of Boer farmers and native women; many of them were well-to-do farmers having large herds, others were hunters in the Kalahari Desert. All could ride and shoot. Their knowledge of the country and excellent eyesight made them invaluable as scouts. In January 1901 they numbered 500; and shortly afterwards grew to 8 squadrons — a total, all ranks, of 786. The officers and Non-Commissioned officers were all European.

The north-western district of Cape Colony, which the regiment patrolled, extended from Oomdries Vlei on the south to Rietfontein on the north, a distance of 400 miles; and from Prieska on the east to O’ Okiep on the west, about 350 miles.

In November 1901, several months after Smith had joined them, the Border Scouts were ordered to return to the north-western district of the Cape Colony, as several commandos had moved north. On this trek they had a running fight with Van Reenen's commando, but owing to the horses being in a miserable condition only two prisoners were captured. They arrived in Upington in December, after having been as far south as Piquetberg Road Station. On one occasion they had been snowed up for three days in the hills near Sutherland.

The regiment received no pay during the time it was on column, and Major Birkbeck, the commander, found on his return to Upington that all communication between that place and De Aar had been cut for several months. The wire was down for miles, and post-carts had been captured by the enemy, while there was hardly enough food for the garrison for one month, apart from the civilian population; lastly, there were not twenty pounds of money in the town. Meat rations became the order of the day, and remained so until the corn ripened at Keimeos, on the banks of the Orange, thirty miles from Upington. At this time there were about 600 rebels under arms in the district, while several commandos were being pushed into it by the columns in the south. On one occasion at this time 60 Border Scouts, under Captain Bracy Ramsbotham, DSO, did a good piece of work. They had gone out to get sheep, and, hearing of the enemy, they succeeded in ambushing a party of 80 Boers under Conroy. The enemy fled, almost after the first volley, being completely surprised. They left 15 dead and 8 severely wounded.

The regiment not having drawn any pay for many months, and the authorities stating it was impossible to get money safely through, Major Birkbeck decided to make his own money. A block stamp was cut out of wood to represent a jackal, as that animal's skin was worn on the men's hats. Underneath was written, "Issued by Paymaster Border Scouts, pay to Bearer"; then signature, John Birkbeck, Major, OCBS. The notes were issued for £5, £2, 10s, and 2s on cloth, and as few of the men could read, ink of a different colour was used for each value.

A 2/- shilling "note"

In January 1902 General Smuts came into the district to organise the Boer forces: with him he had the commandos of Maritz, Lategan, Conroy, and Louw. The Border Scouts were now divided as follows: 350 at De Aar for convoy duty, 50 at Prieska, 150 at Kenhardt, and a like number at Upington. The only other troops at these last two towns were Native Town Guards, each 100 strong, armed with very old rifles, mostly useless. Conroy seized this opportunity to reap the harvest at Keimeos, for the ripening of which Upington had been wearying. News came that he was cutting the wheat and building trenches on the kopjes.

He had with him about 100 men. The same evening Major Birkbeck marched for Keimeos with 100 of the Scouts mounted on half-starved horses. He arrived at Keimeos while it was still dark; dividing his force, he crept up the kopjes occupied by the enemy. At the first sign of dawn Captain Tabuteau shot a Boer who stood up within a yard of where he himself was hiding, and in a few seconds it was found that Boers and Border Scouts were lying mixed up amongst the rocks. No one could move an inch. Unable to move, both parties lay still all day, and when it was dusk orders were shouted to the Scouts to fix bayonets and be ready to charge: a previous signal had been arranged and a place to reassemble fixed. The latter signal having been given after dark, and the Scouts having reassembled, some men were sent into the village of Keimeos: they found that the Boers had fled. Captain Tabuteau remained out with 50 men, the others returning to Upington; 3 Boers were buried on the following morning.

The Border Scouts lost 2 mortally wounded, and 20 others slightly wounded. The regiment now brought in and stored at Upington 1500 sacks of grain—a task which could not have been accomplished but for the marvellous scouting which prevented all interference with the working-parties or enabled them to beat off the attacks. Much has been heard lately of the qualities needed in scouts. A British officer who served with this regiment says that the men could always tell whether distant dust was made by ostriches, springbok, locusts, or mounted men, and never made a mistake in their judgment. If a party of horsemen had passed over the road they could roughly estimate the number, and could tell how many horses were ridden and how many led. They travelled by night as easily as by day, always going straight across country and never on the track. Not a waggon of any sort accompanied the regiment, the blanket being under the saddle and an overcoat strapped in front. They carried no cooking-pots nor food, as when on trek they only used meat. Spare ammunition was carried on horses.

The regiment's record is one of which they had every reason to be proud. They lost 1 officer killed and 1 wounded, 19 non-commissioned officers and men killed and over 100 wounded, but not a single man ever surrendered, although many times an unwounded man lay by a wounded comrade till dark. Not a single despatch rider was caught, although several got in only on wounded horses or on foot. These despatch riders had to cross from Kenhardt to Upington and Prieska once or twice a week, often on starved horses. Curiously enough, no man of the regiment died of disease.

Perhaps a telling comment appeared on Smith’s discharge paper, completed at Cape Town on 27 May 1902 – his cause of discharge was said to be. “Unsuitability for Coloured troops”. This despite his character being described as Very Good after 270 days service.

Smith’s whereabouts post-war are unknown. Could he have stayed on in South Africa? An Arthur Smith passed away in Krugersdorp on 9 July 1927 at the age of 51 years and 6 months. Could this have been him? Many of the known details tally.

The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, David Grant, jim51, RobCT, BereniceUK, goose, Moranthorse1

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Smith of Kitchener's Horse, Warren's M.I & the Border Scouts. 2 months 3 weeks ago #77140

  • QSAMIKE's Avatar
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Absolutely great Rory...... Especially with an name like Smith...... Can we have a Jones next,,,,, Opps checked archives and we already have 2 Jonse's and 5 other Smith's....... Anyway it is a great piece of research......

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Smith of Kitchener's Horse, Warren's M.I & the Border Scouts. 2 months 3 weeks ago #77141

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Hi Rory,
Thanks for this fascinating, concise account.

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Smith of Kitchener's Horse, Warren's M.I & the Border Scouts. 2 months 3 weeks ago #77145

  • RobCT
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Thanks for the write-up Rory!

The Border Scouts is one of my favourite units and along with the Namaqualand Border Scouts and the Bushmanland Borderers is of special interest to South African Boer War collectors.

In you writeup you do not mention the well-known action at Naroegas and for interest I attach below the introduction and auction catalogue writeup of two lots which comprise the medals awarded to recipients who were involved in this action.

The study of the various military clashes in this area of the Northern Cape right from the Griqua War in 1878, the Northern Border War in 1878/79, the ongoings surrounding the Warren Expedition in 1884, the Langeberg Campaign in 1897, the ABW, the Ferreira Raid of 1906, the Herero Rebellion of 1907, the 1914 Rebellion and the lead into the campaign in GSWA in 1915 and the Bondelswartz Rebellion of 1922 make a very interesting collector's theme in an often forgotten part of South Africa.

23 May 1901: Naroegas

“Yesterday at Naroegas 2½ hours north this Patrol of 60 Border Scouts were attacked at 9am by 94 Rebels. Engagement lasted until 3pm when enemy retired and ceased firing. Sent cart for dead. Rebel losses 15 dead counted. 5 known to be wounded. Commandant Jan Nel severely (wounded and) left behind. One Jacobs rebel from Kakamas brought in. Others left behind. Jooste of Kakamas also prisoner. Many rebel horses killed. 1 saddle, 2 horses, arms and ammunition (explosive) brought in. Explosive ammunition freely used by rebels. Our losses one man wounded. By accident 7 horses killed. Officers and men of Border Scouts fought with great bravery.”

Telegram: Acting Resident Magistrate, Kenhardt, to Lex (Law Department) Cape Town, 24/05/1901.

“Shortly after he (Conroy) took command, he decided to attack Kenhardt. While he was making ready for this with about 170 men al Dwaalgees, 12 miles north-west of Kenhardt, he learnt that an English patrol was waiting for him at Naroegas on the Keimoes road. P. Gresse and Christiaan Emmenis went to investigate and observed about six saddled horses on the farm. Without further scouting of the terrain, Conroy sent 28 horsemen to catch the ‘kakies’. While they were riding unsuspiciously in the ‘sandloop’ (sandy riverbed) to the farm they were unexpectedly put under a murderous crossfire from the ridges by the Basters of Captain Ramsbottom and Lieutenant McCloud.

Those who could sought shelter behind meagre rocks and bushes outside the ‘sandloop’, where they had to endure the accurate fire of the Border Scouts for the whole day in the scorching heat. Only when it became dark could Henry Wickens risk taking a report to Conroy at Dwaalgees. Reinforcements were hastily sent to the scene of the disaster, but the coloureds had already left the ridges and were on their way to Kenhardt.

Almost all the horses fell in the battle. A number of burghers (Emmenis and Willem Walton) were dead. Jacobus Bonthuys and Kootjie Knouwds were seriously wounded but escaped with the help of friends and could join the commando later. H.L .Jacobs who was wounded in the foot and A.C. Jooste who surrendered to the enemy were taken as prisoners to Kenhardt. The claim that wounded Boers were killed with stones after the battle cannot be substantiated”.

Translated extract from History of Kenhardt compiled by W A Burger in 1952.

Pair QSA, 1 clasp CC: (344 Tpr. R. van der Colff. Orpen’s Horse); KSA, 2 clasps SA’01, SA’02: (539 Serjt. R. van der Colff. Border Scouts)

Robert van der Colff enlisted in Orpen’s Horse on 11 May 1900. On 31 January 1901 he
transferred to the Border Scouts.

His involvement in the Naroegas skirmish is confirmed in a lengthy Afrikaans account of the
action by Jesse Strauss. He mentions, inter alia, “Robert van de Colff stood up on the flats of
his feet while firing at the Boers”. Van der Colff was subsequently mentioned in despatches by
Kitchener (LG 29 July 1902, p4857): one can speculate that this was coupled to the fight with

[b]Single[/b] ABO: (Burger W.C.V. Nel); with a short length of Wound Riband (LvW)

T & D Shearing notes in the “Rebel Record” that Willem C.V. Nel, a Cape Rebel from Kakamas/Kenhardt, joined Conroy’s Commando during March 1900 and re-joined during February 1901. Nel, on his Vorm “B”, only states service from April 1901 to the end of the war.

Nel suffered multiple wounds in the “Narugas” action: bullet wounds in left shoulder, left ear and right arm.

Before closing I hope that this posting may lead to a reunite.

I have the QSA medal (single clasp Cape Colony) awarded to Squadron Sergeant Major P. Laing of the Border Scouts. Unfortunately, his companion KSA medal also named to the Border Scouts is missing.

Corporal Percy Laing initially served as a Corporal (No 1317) with the Cape Police, District 1, during the Siege of Mafeking (service period recorded as 11 October 1899 to 21 February 1901) and is credited with the two clasps “Defence of Mafeking” and “Orange Free State” on the Cape Police medal roll. A note on this roll records that “CC clasp to be recvd”, his QSA medal with it’s single Cape Colony clasp clearly having been issued earlier (31 January 1905) off the medal roll for the Border Scouts. He is recorded as serving with the Border Scouts from 22 February 1901 through to 31 May 1902. Percy Laing returned to service with the Cape Police, now being renumbered as No 1514, and later transferred to District II on 9 August 1902.

Fortunately, the medal came with the two loose clasps for the Defence of Mafeking and the Orange Free State but interestingly he never returned the Cape Colony clasp!

The addition of the missing KSA would make a tremendous reunite and if any Forum Member can find it they would certainly be very generously rewarded!


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Smith of Kitchener's Horse, Warren's M.I & the Border Scouts. 2 months 3 weeks ago #77147

  • Rory
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Hi Rob

Smith only joined the Border Scouts on 31 August 1901 - the Naroegas incident took place in May 1901, some three months prior. I don't include information about a regiment unless my man was with them at the time it happened.

I particularly like the medal to Laing and will add it to the mental list I have of medals that need to be reunited.



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