The 2nd Battalion sailed on the Pavonia about 22nd October 1899, arrived at the Cape about 18th November, and was immediately sent round to Durban. Along with the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, they formed the 6th or Fusilier Brigade under Major General Barton. An account of the work of the brigade is given under 2nd Royal Fusiliers, and of the Natal Army generally under 2nd Queen's, Royal West Surrey.
At Colenso, 15th December, when the brigade were on the right of the infantry, the Royal Scots Fusiliers had only four companies present in the firing line, the remainder of the battalion having been ordered to detail a guard for the baggage. In his account of Colenso Mr Bennet Burleigh l says: "The Queen's and others of the 2nd Brigade with a few of Barton's, chiefly the Scots Fusiliers, were quite near the iron bridge and the river. Regardless of the wildest fusilade ever heard from an enemy our men tried to bore in farther" and again, speaking of the men we lost as prisoners, he says: "The Scots Fusiliers in that connection had very bad luck, for they got left in an untenable position and were surrounded". The battalion had 12 men killed, 20 wounded; 6 officers and 39 men taken prisoners.
It certainly was very hard on the battalion and on the 2nd Devons that the somewhat unnecessarily precipitate abandonment of the attack should have left those stranded and helpless who had pushed in with most magnificent courage.
Private C Ravenhill of the battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross for great gallantry in leaving shelter and assisting in the efforts made to rescue the guns of the 14th and 66th batteries.
On 23rd January 1900 the battalion was taken to Spearman's Farm as corps troops, and about 1st February was moved to a camp between Mount Alice and Doornkloof, finding picquets for Swartz Kop prior to and during the action of Vaal Krantz (see Durham Light Infantry). The Scots Fusiliers also assisted in "the formation of a road to the top of a very precipitous hill and the occupation of its summit by guns". The general said, "I must bear witness to the admirable way in which the Naval Brigade, the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, and the Royal Scots Fusiliers worked at this arduous duty". In reference to this 'Linesman' says, "Along the terraces and in the dense woods of Swartz Kop men were straining and hauling all night at steel hawsers, until with almost superhuman labour heavy ordnance was actually perched on the flat summit, a sight almost as wonderful to behold as the terrible work they did next day".
In the fighting between 13th and 27th February the battalion took a full share of the task in hand.
On 18th February the battalion was first line in the attack on Green Hill, which was "well carried by the Royal Scots Fusiliers". In his telegram of 20th February the Commander-in-Chief mentioned three infantry regiments as doing specially noticeable work, one of these being the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
In the final assault on Pieter's Hill General Barton's force was the Royal Scots Fusiliers, Royal Irish Fusiliers and Dublin Fusiliers. In his telegraphic despatch of 28th February General Buller says, "They crept about one and a half miles down the bank of the river, and ascending an almost precipitous cliff of about 500 feet, assaulted and carried the top of Pieter's Hill". It will be remembered that after taking the summit, which, as so often happened, was found to be larger than anticipated, General Barton's force was heavily attacked from the north and east and south-east. As to this General Buller says: "General Barton's force had to bear a heavy attack for a considerable time single-handed. His dispositions were extremely good; his three regiments were very well handled; his men fought most gallantly, and stubbornly maintained their position".
The battalion's losses were in the fourteen days' fighting approximately, 4 officers and 26 men killed, 9 officers and 72 men wounded.
Colonel Carr, 2 other officers, and 4 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in General Buller's despatch of 30th March 1900. Colonel Carr was wounded, and Sergeant Major Steele was mentioned in despatches for "conspicuous coolness and devotion in building up stone sangar under heavy cross-fire round Lieutenant Colonel Carr, who was lying wounded, and protecting his commanding officer until he was removed after dark".
The brigade having been brought round to Cape Colony about the middle of April 1900, was concentrated at Dronfield, north of Kimberley, about the 22nd, as a component part of the Xth Division under Sir Archibald Hunter. On 5th May the battle of Rooidam was fought, and the Boers driven across the frontier as a preparatory step in the relief of Mafeking. The brigade then marched to Fourteen Streams, Christiana, Taungs, and Vryburg; then, leaving the Mafeking Railway, across a poorly watered country to Lichtenburg, Frederickstad, and Potchefstroom. The brigade was now broken up, and the Royal Scots Fusiliers and Royal Welsh Fusiliers remained with General Barton in the Krugersdorp district, in which they were to see a great deal of fighting.
After De Wet had broken out of the Brandwater basin in July 1900 he made for the rugged district south of the Vaal. On 7th August he crossed the river. Barton's force took part in the pursuit.
On 5th October General Barton left Frederickstad, this battalion forming part of his column. He engaged the enemy at Muller's Drift, Dweefontein, Dewar's Vlei, Welverdiend, and the Gatsrand hills. In a fight on the 15th "the Scottish Yeomanry under Sir James Miller and the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers behaved with great gallantry". On 17th October Barton marched to Frederickstad, fighting the whole way, and on the 20th came in contact with De Wet in command of some 3000 men. On the 25th Barton attacked the enemy facing him. Three companies of the Scots and half a battalion of the Welsh Fusiliers delivered the attack "and scattered the Boers in all directions". They left 24 dead and 19 wounded, besides 26 prisoners, in our hands. On the 25th, the day of the battle, Barton was joined by the 1st Essex, 2nd Dublins, and some Imperial Light Horse with a convoy of ammunition and stores. These reinforcements did not take part in the action.
In Lord Roberts' despatches of 2nd April and 10th September 1901, 12 officers and 17 non-commissioned officers and men of the battalion were mentioned.
In November the battalion was about Frederickstad, Colonel Carr having been appointed commandant of that town.
From December 1900 to May 1901 the battalion was part of the garrison of Johannesburg, forming the outposts for the defence of the town, and holding the water-works, twenty miles outside,—and in the latter month was sent to the Krokodil Valley, holding Nelspruit and other posts, and occasionally coming into action against Boers attempting to blow up the line. In November 1901 the battalion replaced the 2nd East Kent in the column which had been under Colonel Benson, and was taken over by Colonel Mackenzie. The column operated in the Carolina and Ermelo district; and on one occasion the infantry were congratulated by Lord Kitchener for having made the splendid march of thirty-eight miles in twenty hours, a march which led to a considerable capture. In February 1902 part of the battalion was attached to Colonel Allenby's column, which operated towards the Swazi border, thence west towards Standerton. Shortly before peace was declared the battalion came together at Middelburg, where the headquarters had been for some time.
During the second phase of the war eight mentions were picked up by the battalion, and in Lord Kitchener's supplementary despatch he added 4 officers, 1 non-commissioned officer, and 1 private.
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