The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Sumatra about 16th December 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 8th January 1900. Along with the 1st Royal Irish Regiment, the 2nd Wiltshire, and 2nd Worcestershire, they composed the 12th Brigade under Major General R A P Clements.
The brigade sailed as part of the Vlth Division under General Kelly-Kenny, but shortly after landing that general and his other troops were taken to Modder River for the eastern advance, and the 12th Brigade was, during an important stage of the operations, to act as an independent force, its place in the division being taken by General T E Stephenson's 18th Brigade.
Shortly after their arrival the 12th Brigade were sent to the Colesberg or central district of Cape Colony, Major General Clements with the Royal Irish and 2nd Worcesters coming into French's lines on 18th January, and when French was called away from that district to command the cavalry in the Kimberley relief expedition, General Clements was left in charge at Arundel. French had in a wonderful way not only been able to contain the Boers at Colesberg on a line of thirty-eight miles, but had successfully compelled them to withdraw over and over again. When, however, he left early in February the bulk of his horsemen went with him, and the Boers were not long in discovering that the force opposed to them was no longer so elastic or mobile, and they soon forced Clements' Infantry back from many of the advanced positions French's men had gained, and on 12th February Clements was under the necessity of withdrawing from Slingersfontein, near which the Royal Irish were posted, and on the 13th he had to move back from Rensburg to Arundel. Probably it was part of the scheme that he should do this so as to tempt the Boers to go farther into Cape Colony, and render it less likely that they should interfere with the great movement from Modder River and Ramdan. By the end of February 1900 Clements was finding that Lord Roberts' successful operations were having the effect which was to be expected on the enemy in the central district. On the 28th the British found Colesberg evacuated. On 3rd March Achtertang, where the Boers had formed and kept a great depot of stores, was occupied, and on 9th March Clements was able to seize Norval's Pont and the adjacent drifts. He soon pushed across the Orange River, and moving north-west by Fauresmith, and swinging round by Petrusburg, he arrived at Bloemfontein and joined the main army on 2nd April, having en route lifted two guns which the enemy had hidden in a mine-shaft.
The 12th Brigade had lost their place in the Vlth Division, in the Paardeberg - Bloemfontein advance, and Stephenson's 18th Brigade, which had taken their place, had the luck to be selected as one of the units in the movement on Pretoria. The 12th and 13th, Kelly-Kenny's original troops, being allotted the difficult and onerous, but less showy, work of guarding Bloemfontein, Kroonstad, and the lines of communication after 3rd May, when the Commander-in-Chief left for the north. During February and March about thirty Militia battalions had arrived from England, and these to some extent set free the regiments of the first line; but an enormous force was needed to look after the hundreds of miles of railway. At the end of May the 12th Brigade was ordered to Senekal. After the occupation of Pretoria and the driving of the Boers from their very strong position at Diamond Hill, east of the capital, Lord Roberts at once set himself to deal with the Boer army under Steyn, De Wet, and Prinsloo, which had hung on the right flank of the British all through the northern advance — an army which had given Ian Hamilton and Colvile a very hot time, and which among other exploits had on 31st March smashed Broad wood at Sannah's Post, gobbled up 500 Royal Irish Rifles at Reddersburg in April, and 500 Imperial Yeomanry at Lindley on 29th May, besides capturing several trains and convoys. Ian Hamilton had been appointed to command the splendid force—as fine a fighting force as ever stood to arms, to quote Sir Archibald Hunter—which was intended to capture or at least disperse this Boer army; but having been injured by a fall from his horse, Sir Archibald Hunter was appointed his successor, and right well did he do the work.
The 12th Brigade under Clements had since 31st May been assisting Rundle to prevent Steyn's army from breaking south of the line—Kroonstad, Senekal, Ficksburg. At the beginning of June the brigade was at Senekal, and this place was Clements' headquarters and starting-point when his time to move came, about 26th June. Clements had in addition to his own brigade 1000 mounted men from the 8th and Colonial Divisions, 400 mounted men from Bloemfontein, one battery RFA, and two 5-inch guns. Lord Roberts' instructions were that Clements from Senekal and Paget with the 20th Brigade from Lindley should converge on and take Bethlehem. Each general had some fighting; on 2nd July, however, they joined hands. Bethlehem was summoned to surrender, but this was met by a refusal, De Wet having confidence in his ability to hold his very strong position on the hills south and west of the town. To quote Lord Roberts: "On this demand being refused Paget moved to the north-west with the object of turning the enemy's left, while Clements' troops operated on their right flank. On the morning of the 7th a general assault was made, and by noon the place was in our hands, and the Boers were in full retreat to the north-east". After further fighting the neks entering into the Brandwater basin were seized, and the Boers driven back beyond Fouriesburg, where Prinsloo and over 4000 of his people surrendered to Sir Archibald Hunter on 30th July 1900.
In all these operations the battalion took an honourable share.
Soon after this the 12th Brigade was broken up; General Clements with one of his regiments was taken to the Megaliesberg. The Bedfords remained in the Orange River Colony, and for a considerable time operated in the north-east of the colony with General Hunter. Thereafter the battalion was for a time in a column under Major General Bruce Hamilton which operated from Kroonstad. The battalion did excellent service in the action near Winburg on 27th August 1900, which resulted in the capture of Olivier and his sons. On 31st August one wing entrained for Bloemfontein and was sent to garrison posts on the line between the capital and Thabanchu. Many attempts to cross the line were repulsed with loss to the enemy. On 14th December a Boer force of about 3000 driven north by Knox attacked the line, and after severe fighting got through, but minus a pompom, twelve waggons, and much ammunition, captured by the men holding the line. The mounted troops also captured a 15-pounder and 30 prisoners. The headquarters and about half the battalion remained near Sannah's Post till peace was declared. From August 1900 till the close about four companies were generally on column duty. They acted under General Macdonald, Colonel Henry, and Colonel Sitwell.
Eight officers and 12 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch.
Throughout the campaign the Mounted Infantry of the regiment did excellent work. For example, one section under Lieutenant Stevens was at Colesberg, the relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Sannah's Post, all Ian Hamilton's actions, Diamond Hill, and the surrender of Prinsloo. In Lord Kitchener's despatches of 8th July 1901, and subsequent dates, 4 officers and 6 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned for exceptional work. These belonged chiefly to the Mounted Infantry. In his final despatch 2 officers and 4 men were mentioned.
Colonel Pilcher distinguished himself as a column leader on many occasions, and earned the CB by very fine work.
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