When Sir George White arrived in South Africa, shortly before the declaration of war, the 5th Lancers were stationed in Ladysmith. They did not take part in the battle of Talana Hill, but were present at Elandslaagte, 21st October 1899 (see 1st Devonshire Regiment), and they have the satisfaction of knowing that they took part in the one real cavalry charge of the campaign, because, after all, on the way to Kimberley it was a gallop through a position, not a charge in the old sense.
The 5th Lancers, along with the 19th Hussars and Imperial Light Horse, were in the action of Rietfontein, 24th October (see 1st Liverpool Regiment). The 5th Lancers seized and held ridges to protect Sir George White's right flank.
In the battle of Lombard's Kop or Ladysmith, 30th October (see 1st Liverpool), the 5th Lancers and 19th Hussars were under General French on the right, their objective being to get round the enemy's left; but as a matter of fact the cavalry were pushed back and could not hold their own, so strong was the opposing force.
Throughout the siege the 5th Lancers frequently had fighting. In his despatch of 23rd March 1900, para 27, Sir George White, speaking of a reconnaissance made on 8th December 1899, says, "It was carried out in a very bold and dashing manner by the 5th Lancers and 18th Hussars". They were sent to reinforce Waggon Hill in the great attack on 6th January. The miseries of being constantly under shell-fire are apt to be lost sight of, but the fact that on 22nd December one single shell wounded 5 officers and the Sergeant Major of the 5th Lancers, makes one realise the ever-constant danger and strain during the four months' siege.
Major King was twice mentioned by Sir George White, and another officer was once mentioned.
In the northern movement under General Buller the 5th Lancers were brigaded with the 18th and 19th Hussars under Brocklehurst, and accompanied General Buller to Lydenburg. On this march the 5th were very frequently engaged; indeed between the middle of July and the end of September they were fighting practically every day. The services of the brigade were praised by General Buller.
In August 1900, when Macdonald occupied Harrismith, after the surrender of Prinsloo, a portion of the 5th Lancers and 13th Hussars came up Van Reenen's Pass and took over the occupation. In the beginning of November 1900 about 250 men of the regiment were with Smith-Dorrien, south of Belfast, when he had very hard fighting and no little difficulty in saving his guns. In December, after Clements' reverse at Nooitgedacht (see 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers), part of the regiment was taken west of Pretoria to help in clearing the Megaliesberg.
In his final despatch of 9th November 1900 General Buller mentioned 6 officers, and in Lord Roberts' final despatches 5 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers were mentioned.
A portion of the 5th Lancers, about 75 officers and men, were with General French near Colesberg in November 1899. This squadron took part in the northern advance on Pretoria, and frequently had a few casualties. They were present at Diamond Hill, 11th and 12th June 1900 (see 1st Royal Sussex Regiment).
During the second phase of the war the 5th Lancers were mainly in the Eastern Transvaal operating under Smith-Dorrien, Spens, and other commanders. They took part in the sweep into the Vryheid district. A portion of the regiment was in Cape Colony in 1901 and 1902, and had rather an unhappy time on the Zeekoe River near Aberdeen on 6th April 1901, when they lost 2 killed, 9 wounded, and 23 taken prisoners.
Lieutenant F B Dugdale gained the VC on 3rd March 1901 for bringing 2 wounded men to safety under a heavy fire. Four non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment gained mention in despatches by Lord Kitchener, written during the war, and in the final despatch 2 officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 2 men were mentioned.
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