The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Britannic about 26th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape on 14th November.  They were at once sent round to East London, and got into Queenstown on the 18th.  It was intended that they should form part of Major General Hart's Irish or 5th Brigade, but the exigencies of the situation had made it necessary that the other battalions of that brigade should be diverted to Natal.  The divisional commander was to have been Sir W F Gatacre.  He disembarked at East London, but the Irish Rifles alone out of his eight battalions joined him.  The 1st Royal Scots and 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, originally sailing as corps troops, were landed at East London soon after the Rifles, so that the general had shortly at his command three full battalions, half of the 2nd Berkshire Regiment, some companies of regular Mounted Infantry, and some useful local troops, such as the Cape Mounted Rifles, Kaffrarian Rifles, and Brabant's Horse, all of whom were soon to be got into shape, and turned out capable of very good work.

The first serious fighting was at Stormberg, and that melancholy story has already been briefly told under the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers.

No one could blame the Rifles; had they shirked the attack their losses would have been very much less serious.  As it turned out, these were approximately 12 men killed, 8 officers, including Colonel Eager, who afterwards died, and 45 men wounded, and 3 officers and over 200 men taken prisoners.  It is said that Colonel Eager reached a higher point than any one else in the assault and there was shot down.  The evidence given before various courts of inquiry, an abstract of which is printed in the proceedings of the War Commission, shows (1) that the companies who had been foremost in the assault were partially stopped in their progress by the fire of the British artillery, and (2) that these companies were not properly notified of the general's decision to retire.

The battalion, shortly strengthened by drafts from home, remained with Sir W F Gatacre in the Queenstown-Molteno district until Lord Roberts' advance from Modder River to Bloemfontein scared the Boers out of Cape Colony.  General Gatacre moved north via Stormberg and Burghersdorp, and crossed the Orange River about the middle of March.  The general's headquarters were at Springfontein, and in accordance with Lord Roberts' desires columns were sent out from the line to distribute proclamations.  The enemy, taking heart at the halt which had to be made after the occupation of Bloemfontein, swooped down first on Broadwood at Sannah's Post and then farther south to Reddersburg, where they came upon a detachment which consisted of three companies of the Royal Irish Rifles and two companies of Mounted Infantry, chiefly of the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers.  Early on 3rd April the enemy attacked with rifle and artillery, over 2000 Boers being present.  On the morning of the 4th the force surrendered.  Two officers of the Fusiliers and 9 men, chiefly of the Rifles, were killed; 2 officers and about 35 men were wounded, and the remainder taken prisoners.  The evidence given before the courts of inquiry shows (1) that the position taken up was too large for the force available; (2) that men and horses were exhausted by the previous forced march, short rations, and want of water; (3) that the absence of artillery was against a successful defence, and that the enemy numbered four times the defenders and had four guns.

Again the battalion had suffered a grievous defeat, perhaps through no fault of their own.  This disaster, following on Stormberg, sealed the fate of General Gatacre.  He was ordered to England; but in connection with this latter mishap it has to be borne in mind that, a very few days before Sannah's Post, Lord Roberts himself was convinced the country to the south of Bloemfontein was settling down.  We had not yet learned the enemy's marvellous ability in the way of making sudden raids on isolated posts.

In General Gatacre's evidence before the War Commission he did not defend his conduct of the Stormberg expedition, but said the seizure of that place had been suggested to him by the Commander-in-Chief at Cape Town.  As to the Reddersburg affair, he said the small force was sent to Dewetsdorp on the orders of Lord Roberts, dated 28th March, that Lord Roberts was to make the road from Bloemfontein to Maseru (near Ladybrand) "safe", but that through Broadwood's mishap and the withdrawal of British troops from the Waterworks neighbourhood, that road was left unoccupied, and the force at Dewetsdorp became exposed.  This through no fault of General Gatacre's.

Two such disasters as the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles had suffered seriously affected their career in the campaign, and henceforth they were to be employed chiefly on garrison work in the Orange River Colony.  In the summer of 1900 they were part of the garrison of Bloemfontein, from which they were temporarily withdrawn in the beginning of September to join a column for the relief of Ladybrand, which was duly accomplished.  In the autumn of 1900 two companies of the battalion were in a column under Lieutenant Colonel White which operated in the south-east of the Orange River Colony.  A small detachment from the regiment were, along with three companies of the 2nd Gloucesters and one company of the Highland Light Infantry, at Dewetsdorp when it was attacked and taken by De Wet about 23rd November 1900.

The battalion furnished two excellent companies of Mounted Infantry, which did good work in 1901 under Colonel Western and other commanders.

Eight officers and 13 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatch.  Two officers and 2 men were mentioned by Lord Kitchener during the campaign, and in his final despatch the names of 3 officers and 6 non-commissioned officers and men were added.

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(1087 Records)

 Surname   Forename/inits   Regimental no   Rank   Notes 
AbernethyR3145PrivatePrisoner. Reddersburg, 4 April 1900
2nd Battalion. Released
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AdamsW1959PrivatePrisoner. Reddersburg, 4 April 1900
2nd Battalion. Released
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AdamsonA2502PrivatePrisoner. Stormberg, 10 December 1899
2nd Battalion.
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AdyeWalterMajorWalter Adye was born in November 1858, the son of Major-General Goodson Adye of Milverton, Warwick, and was educated at Leamington College and Sandhurst. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 83rd Regiment (The Royal Irish Rifles) in January 1878, he was advanced to Lieutenant at the end of the same year, and quickly witnessed active service in the Second Afghan War. Adye was, in fact, detached for special duties, and ‘served throughout the second campaign, firstly as Transport Officer on the Kandahar line, having charge, for six months, of the stations of Dozan and Darwaza in the Boland Pass, and afterwards as Brigade Transport Officer, 1st Division, Kandahar Field Force, at Kandahar. Performed garrison duty throughout the siege. During the retirement of troops from the sortie to Deh Khwaja distinguished himself by carrying, under a heavy fire, two of the wounded to places of safety. Was present in the reconnaissance of 31 August 1880, and the battle of Kandahar. Proceeded to India in November 1880, to rejoin his regiment prior to embarkation for Natal. Recommended by the Commander-in-Chief, and by General Primrose, for the Victoria Cross' (Shadbolt refers): Adye actually descended by a rope ladder from the Kabul Gate when sallying out to rescue the second man. Having witnessed further active service - back with his regiment - in the First Boer War 1881, Adye was advanced to Captain in November 1884 and served as Adjutant of the Auxiliary Forces 1885-1890. Further promotion followed in March 1893, with his appointment as Major, and by the eve of the Boer War he was serving as DAAG to the Army. He subsequently joined Sir George White's staff out in Natal at the commencement of hostilities, and quickly made his mark with his senior, being described by him as a ‘capital officer' who knew ‘every inch fo the ground', the latter accolade presumably on the back of his earlier experiences in the First Boer War 1881. Be that as it may, and having witnessed the costly affair at Lombard's Kop, Adye was instrumental in persuading White to let him take a column to Nicholson's Nek to protect the west flank of the infantry assigned the storming of Pepworth, and to block off the enemy's line of retreat. In the event, the column was commanded by Adye's regimental C.O., Lieutenant-Colonel Carleton, which from a career point of view was probably as well, for the whole met with disaster: ‘ ... From earliest daybreak Boer scouts were reconnoitring, and about 8 o'clock mounted Boers could be seen galloping in small groups to the cover at the reverse of the hill on the west. Later two strong parties of mounted men took position on the far side of the two hills commanding the kopje from the west. About 9 o'clock these two parties had crowned the hills and opened a heavy fire at short ranges right down upon the plateau. Our men made a plucky attempt to return this fire, but it was impossible; they were under a cross-fire from two directions, flank and rear. The two companies of Gloucesters holding the self-contained ridge were driven from their shelter, and as they crossed the open on the lower plateau were terribly mauled, the men falling in groups. The Boers on the west had not yet declared themselves, but about 200 marksmen climbed to the position which the two companies of Gloucesters had just vacated. These men absolutely raked the plateau, and it was then that the men were ordered to take cover on the steep reverse of the kopje. As soon as the enemy realised this move, the men on the western hill teemed on to the summit and opened upon our men as they lay on the slope. They were absolutely hemmed in, and what had commenced as a skirmish seemed about to become a butchery. The grim order was passed round - “Faugh-a-Ballaghs, fix your bayonets and die like men!” There was the clatter of steel, the moment of suspense, and then the “Cease Fire” sounded. Again, and again it sounded, but the Irish Fusiliers were loth to accept the call, and continued firing for many minutes. Then it was unconditional surrender and the men laid down their arms ... ' (The Transvaal War refers). Adye was one of 954 officers and men to be taken prisoner that day, a bitter blow to Sir George White, a day that one famous historian has described as ‘the most humiliating in British military history since Majuba': it is said that the officers of the Royal Irish Rifles were ‘so exasperated at the exhibition of the white flag that they set to work and smashed their swords rather than give them up'. Adye was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 8 February 1901 refers) and, on being released, served as DAAG at Army HQ from July 1900 until February 1904. He was advanced to Lieutenant Colonel in the latter year, when he was appointed a General Staff Officer, and thence to substantive Colonel in October 1907. Appointed CB in 1909, he served briefly as Deputy Assistant Inspector of Remounts, Eastern Command, from 1914 until his death in September 1915. CB (mil), Afghan (1) Kandahar (Lt, Trans Dep), QSA (1) Natal (Major, R Irish Rifles), 1902 Coronation. DNW Dec 05 £3,200.
AllenW4488PrivatePrisoner. Stormberg, 10 December 1899
2nd Battalion.
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AlsopC2287SergeantDied of disease. East London, 21 December 1899
2nd Battalion.
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AlsoppC 7 T2287Sergeant2nd Battalion
Demise: Died of disease 21-12-1899
Place: East London
Source: In Memoriam by S Watt
AndersonB740PrivatePrisoner. Reddersburg, 4 April 1900
2nd Battalion. Released
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AndersonP2720PrivatePrisoner. Stormberg, 10 December 1899
2nd Battalion.
Source: South African Field Force Casualty Roll
AndersonR2628PrivateSource: DCM recipients
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