This regiment, made up of one squadron 1st Life Guards, one squadron 2nd Life Guards, and one squadron Royal Horse Guards, sailed on the Maple-more on 30th November 1899, and on the Pinemore on 4th December, the vessels arriving, respectively, at the Cape on the 24th and 29th December.
After their arrival the regiment was sent to General French in the central district. One squadron or another was constantly taking part in General French's numerous little engagements between 7th January 1900 and the end of that month, when the general was ordered with most of the cavalry to Modder River. In General French's despatch of 2nd February 1900 Major Carter, 1st Life Guards, was mentioned for skill and resolution in leading, and Lieutenant C C De Crespigny, 2nd Life Guards, for great gallantry in bringing wounded men out of action.
On 3rd February 1900 Major General Macdonald was ordered to take the Highland Brigade, two squadrons of the 9th Lancers, and the 62nd Battery RFA westward, and to seize Koodosberg Drift on the Modder River. On the 6th a cavalry brigade under Major General Babington, consisting of the Household Regiment, 2nd Dragoons, 10th Hussars, and a portion of the 6th Dragoons, was sent to Macdonald's assistance. After pursuing the enemy for some distance the whole force returned to Modder River.
A large mounted force was now got together and placed under General French, with orders to press through to Kimberley via Ramdan, De Kiel and Waterval Drifts on the Riet, Klip Drift on the Modder, and so, skirting Cronje's left, to Kimberley. French's cavalry division consisted of—1st Brigade, Brigadier General T C Porter, 6th Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers), 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys), and part of the 6th Dragoons (Inniskillings); 2nd Brigade, Brigadier General R Broadwood, Household Troops, 10th Hussars, and 12th Lancers; 3rd Brigade, Brigadier General J R P Gordon, the 9th and 16th Lancers with seven batteries RHA—namely, G, O, P, Q, R, T, and U, some Mounted Infantry, Australians, and part of Rimington's Guides.
French had no very severe fighting. The rapidity of his movement enabled him to take the enemy by surprise, and the drifts were seized with little loss. Early on the 15th he came against a strong position, or rather two positions. French with the 2nd and 3rd Brigades galloped through the defile between the two in extended order until he reached some low hills, from "which he was able to cover the advance of the rear troops". The enemy made a fair stand, but few of French's people got to close quarters. On the same day the troops entered Kimberley.
There was to be little rest or respite. At 3.30 am on the 16th General French started to drive the Boers from their positions north of Kimberley, and part of his force became very heavily engaged. Had the general foreseen the orders coming from headquarters he would have spared his men and horses. After midnight a message was received from Lord Kitchener that Cronje had retreated, and French was asked to head him. At 3.30 am on the 17th Broadwood's brigade was ordered to start on this errand. The artillery accompanying Broad wood were G and P Batteries. At 12.15 pm "the first shell headed Cronje's leading waggon as it stood with its drivers just ready to descend into the drifts". The 10th Hussars then galloped for a kopje, just beating some Boers by a neck. All afternoon the two batteries poured shells among the waggons crowded near the drift. In the late afternoon the dust of Kelly-Kenny's division was seen in the west, but it was the morning of the 18th before the infantry came into contact with Cronje's force; fortunately he had not slipped away during the night as he might have done. The remainder of the story of Paardeberg is an infantry one, and has been sketched under 2nd East Kent Regiment and 2nd Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.
It is unfortunate that no official despatch regarding the relief of Kimberley, or Paardeberg, deals, except in the most meagre and inadequate way, with the work of the cavalry. Lord Roberts' despatch of 28th February 1900 does not mention the heading of Cronje on the 17th; indeed one would gather from that despatch that French's force only came into contact with Cronje on the 18th. General Kelly-Kenny's despatch of 20th February gives the same impression, but in the commendations attached to his despatch of 31st March Lord Roberts, in mentioning Lieutenant General French, says, "After engaging the enemy on the 16th he made a forced march to Koodoesrand Drift and cut off the line of retreat of the enemy's force". The dates and hours given above are those in Mr Cecil Boyle's valuable article. Fortunate it is that he had written it before he fell near Boshof on 4th April following. The writer is indebted to an artillery officer who was present for the statement that the artillery accompanying Broadwood were G and P Batteries.
The battle of Osfontein or Poplars Grove was fought on 7th March. In his telegram of that date Lord Roberts said: "We have had a very successful day, and completely routed the enemy, who are in full retreat. The position they occupied was extremely strong and cunningly arranged with a second line of intrenchments, which would have caused us heavy loss had a direct attack been made. The turning movement was necessarily wide owing to the nature of the ground, and the cavalry and horse artillery horses are much done up. The fighting was practically confined to the cavalry division, which, as usual, did exceedingly well". Broadwood's brigade took a foremost place. One officer and 1 man of the 12th Lancers were killed, 1 man of the 2nd Life Guards was killed, and there were several officers and men wounded in these regiments and in the 9th Lancers and 10th Hussars.
The army again advanced, and on the 10th Lord Roberts fought the battle of Driefontein (see 2nd Buffs —East Kent). The 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades endeavoured by a turning movement to compel the enemy to evacuate their position, but the long-range guns of the Boers enabled them to hold on until an assault by the infantry of the VIth Division cleared the kopjes. There has been much criticism of the work of the cavalry on the 10th: it has been said French should have pushed in harder. The criticism seems to be most ungenerous, especially when one considers what men and horses had done in the previous five weeks. Attacking trenches and hills held by riflemen is not the role of a cavalry division when the infantry are at hand.
On the 12th French with the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades seized positions to the south and south-west of the capital, which commanded the town, and on the 13th it was entered by Lord Roberts.
For the operations prior to 13th March 3 officers and 3 non-commissioned officers of the Household Cavalry were mentioned in the despatch of 31st.
The Field-Marshal and many others seemed to think that the enemy's opposition in the Free State was practically over, and soon some columns—dangerously small, as it turned out—were sent out from Bloemfontein to distribute proclamations and complete the pacification of the Free State. Major General Broadwood went towards Ladybrand, but, from what he saw of the strength of the enemy, deemed it advisable to return. On 30th March Broad wood was camped at Thabanchu with Q and U Batteries, Household Cavalry 160, 10th Hussars 160, Alderson's Mounted Infantry 800. Broadwood retired on Sannah's Post, having to fight a rear-guard action. The baggage was sent on in advance, arriving at the bivouac at 11 pm, the rest of the force reaching the camp at 3.30 am. At daylight Boers in force were seen to the north and east, the camp being shelled from the latter direction. A continuation of the retirement was ordered. A spruit had to be crossed about 2000 yards from the camp. Much of the baggage had descended into the spruit; U Battery had approached close to the bank, and Q Battery was not far behind, when about 600 Boers in the spruit opened fire. Q Battery galloped back so as to come into action about 1000 yards from the spruit.
Broadwood ordered the Household Cavalry and 10th Hussars to get into the spruit higher up; this was done. The Mounted Infantry company of the Durham Light Infantry acted as escort to Q Battery, and Alderson with more Mounted Infantry covered their final retirement. Eventually the bulk of the force got across the spruit, where the cavalry had secured a passage; but the whole of the baggage, five guns of U Battery, and two guns of Q Battery were lost. It was very unfortunate that the baggage and artillery were not preceded by a mounted screen, but the whole circumstances pointed to the attack coming from the north or east, and undoubtedly Major General Broadwood was led or driven into an extremely clever ambush. Lord Roberts stated that he was of opinion "that no specific blame can be attributed to the general officer commanding the force".
Towards the end of April General Ian Hamilton commenced his operations round Thabanchu preparatory to moving north on Winburg. On 26th and 27th April Gordon's 3rd and Dickson's 4th Cavalry Brigades had stiff fighting. These brigades soon left with General French to join the main army. On 4th May Broad-wood's 2nd Brigade joined Ian Hamilton when he was being opposed by about 4000 of the enemy with thirteen guns, while another party was moving up from the west. Broadwood grasped the situation, "and with two squadrons of the Guards and two of the 10th Hussars seized" a ridge between the two Boer forces. This prevented a junction there, and the enemy soon fell back. At the crossing of the Zand the Boers looked like making a stand, but it was only a faint one. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade did some useful work on this occasion. There was little more fighting on the way to Pretoria except at the battle of Florida or Doornkop, 29th May (see 1st Gordons). The cavalry on that day had endeavoured to get round the enemy's right, but had failed to do so.
At Diamond Hill, 11th and 12th June (see 1st Sussex), French with the 1st and 4th Cavalry Brigades was on the extreme left and Broadwood and Gordon were on the right. On both flanks the cavalry failed to carry out a turning movement. "Broadwood was indeed at one time hardly pressed". "The enemy came on with great boldness", getting close to Q Battery. "To help the guns Broadwood ordered the 12th Lancers and Household Cavalry to charge. Both charges were successful". On the 12th the infantry gained the ridge in front, and that night the enemy retired.
Towards the end of June the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Brigades started with General Hunter from Heidelberg for the north-east of the Orange River Colony, where it was hoped to corner a big force of the enemy. On 15th July the 2nd Brigade was detached from Sir A Hunter's force and next day was in pursuit of De Wet, who was followed to the Vredefort-Reitzburg district (see 1st Northumberland Fusiliers). After a very long chase De Wet escaped through the Megaliesberg on 15th August. The brigade thereafter accompanied Lord Kitchener to Elands River in order to relieve Colonel Hore and his 300 gallant Australians, who had been holding out for weeks against a great force of Boers. The brigade marched back to Pretoria via Banks, arriving at the capital on 30th August. In the meantime Lord Roberts had started on his advance to Koomati Poort, so that the 2nd Brigade missed that bit of the campaign. On 23rd September Broad wood's brigade and some infantry again left Pretoria for the Rustenburg district and operated there for some time. In his despatch of 15th November 1900 Lord Roberts mentioned that the brigade had marched 1200 miles between 29th April and 28th August. In his despatch of 4th September 1901 12 officers and 12 non-commissioned officers and men of the Composite Household Regiment were mentioned.
On 7th November 1900 the Household Regiment sailed on the Hawarden Castle for home.
Two officers and 3 non-commissioned officers of the 1st Life Guards, 1 non-commissioned officer of the 2nd Life Guards, and 2 officers of the Royal Horse Guards who had remained at the front, were mentioned in Lord Kitchener's final despatch.