This ill-fated expedition, led by Dr Jameson, was conceived by Cecil Rhodes, Premier of the Cape and his co-conspirator and business associate, Alfred Beit. Its purpose was two-fold, to deliver the riches of the Transvaal by precipitating the overthrow of the legitimate Kruger government and ensuring the annexation of the republic to the British Empire. The means were the huge resources and discontent within the disenfranchised British community living and working within its borders and who produced much of its vast wealth
The force that rode out from Pitsani camp on the 29 December 1895 numbered close to 600 and consisted of almost 400 Rhodesian Police who were employed by the Charter Company, 120 men recruited at Mafeking and some Cape ‘Boys’. They had six Maxims, two 7 pound mountain and one 12 and half pound guns. The plan was a three day hard ride to Johannesburg where the majority, the disenchanted Uitlanders, the mainly British expatriate community, would rise up on this catalyst against the Transvaal authorities and tip the republic neatly into the welcoming and grateful arms of the Empire. To the participants they were embarked upon a great adventure and one which they were led to believe had ‘official’ sanction.
It was an enormous political and military gamble, the stakes were exceedingly high and success would undoubtedly have changed the course of history in Southern Africa. It is left to speculation quite how much of the plan the Colonial Secretary in London, Joseph Chamberlain, knew in advance, but the overthrown of a sovereign government was the ultimate goal of this exploit.
On the 2 January 1896, the force stopped at day break at a farm called Doornkop in the Transvaal. They were much in need of rest and had ridden the 170 miles without sleep and under constant harassing fire. They were just two hours’ ride from Johannesburg and before them lay the alluring sight of their prize and yet it was not to be; for here they would receive the bitter news that the city had not risen to support them, they were surrounded, outnumbered and cut off.
Jameson’s force had never enjoyed the element of surprise and had been monitored by Transvaal commandos from the moment they crossed the border and for two days continuously they had fought a running rear-guard action, sustaining losses in both dead and wounded.
At Doornkop the fighting intensified and the number of casualties rose to 65 killed and wounded. Unaided Jameson’s position was untenable and his small force was doomed against such determined and overwhelming opposition. Surrender became their only option and this took place at 8 pm when following the burial of the 16 British dead, the remainder were led away to prison in Pretoria. Their great gamble had failed.
Composition of Jameson's force
The following information is taken from the 1930 book, 'The Jameson Raid' by Hugh Marshall Hole.
In general charge : Dr Leander Starr Jameson, CB
In military command: Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Christopher Willoughby, Baronet (Major, Royal Horse Guards).
Major Honourable Robert White (Captain, Royal Welch Fusiliers), Senior Staff Officer.
Major Charles Hyde Villiers (Captain, Royal Horse Guards).
Captain Kenneth J. Kincaid-Smith (Lieutenant, Royal Artillery), Artillery Staff Officer.
Captain Charles Frederick Lindsell (late Royal Scots Fusiliers), i/c Scouts.
Captain James Hutchinson Kennedy (BSA Company's Civil Service), Quartermaster.
Captain E Holden (Derbyshire Yeomanry), Assistant Quartermaster.
Surgeon Captain W Farmer (BSA Company's Civil Service).
Surgeon Captain Seaton Hamilton (late 1st Life Guards).
Lieutenant Harold M Grenfell (1st Life Guards), Remount Officer.
Lieutenant James Charles Jesser-Coope (Rhodesia Horse Volunteers), Transport Officer.
Veterinary Surgeon Lieutenant A H C Masters (Mashonaland Mounted Police).
Attached to Staff:
Major John Bourchier Stracey (Scots Guards).
Major Maurice Heany (late Mashonaland Pioneer Corps).
Captain Cyril Foley (3rd Royal Scots).
Lieutenant H R Holden (late Grenadier Guards).
MASHONALAND MOUNTED POLICE
In command: Lieutenant Colonel Honourable Henry Frederick White (Major, Grenadier Guards).
Second in command: Major William Bodle (Chief Inspector, MMP).
Captain Martin Straker (Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant Rowan Cashel (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant Harry J. Scott (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
B Troop :
Captain Lawson Leigh Ballantyne Dykes (Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant A T Tomlinson (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant H Chawxier (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Captain William John Barry (Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant A Cazalet (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant G H P Williams (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Captain Gordon Valiancy Drury (BBP, attached MMP).
Lieutenant W E Murray (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant Harry Constable (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
Captain Frank L Bowden (Inspector, MMP).
Lieutenant W S Spain (Sub-Inspector, MMP).
NCO's and men, 356.
BECHUANALAND BORDER POLICE
In command: Lieutenant Colonel Raleigh Grey (Major, 6th Dragoons).
Second in command: Major Honourable Charles J Coventry (3rd Worcesters).
Captain Audley Vaughan Gosling.
Lieutenant A H J Hore.
Lieutenant Edward Alien Wood.
Captain C L D Munro (Seaforth Highlanders).
Lieutenant W G McQueen.
Surgeon-Captain Edward Charles Frederick Garraway.
Veterinary Lieutenant W Lakie.
NCO's and men, 113.
NCOs & men
Grand total (white troops) 511
In addition to the officers named above, Major Crosse, late 5th Dragoons, accompanied the column as a spectator.
There were 8 maxim guns, 2 7-pounder guns and 1 12½-pounder gun, 640 horses and 158 mules with the force, and about 150 native drivers, leaders, etc.