This corps, consisting of two squadrons and a maxim gun detachment, represented Britain's great Dependency in the South African War. It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel D M Lumsden, of the Assam Valley Volunteers; while Lieutenant Colonel Eden C Showers, Commandant of the Surma Valley Light Horse, went as second in command with the rank of Major. 'A' Company sailed from Calcutta on 26th February 1900, and 'B' Company on 3rd March. 'A' Company landed at Cape Town and 'B' at East London, and both joined the army of Lord Roberts at Bloemfontein in April. On the 21st Lumsden's Horse marched out of camp to join General Tucker's Division, which had been holding the hills won at the battle of Karee Siding, 29th March. They were attached to a mounted infantry corps commanded by Colonel Ross, which consisted of Lumsden's Horse 240, Loch's Horse 220, West Riding and Oxford Light Infantry MI 220, and the 8th Battalion Regular MI 420.
On 29th April Ross received orders to make a demonstration against the Boer right, to draw them out, if possible, and allow Maxwell's Brigade to seize their position. Henry's Mounted Infantry were to co-operate. Lumsden's Horse occupied various spurs about 1500 yards from the Boer position; but the enemy moved out and took the offensive with vigour. Major Showers, who was exposing himself with rash bravery, was killed early in the action. So strong and determined was the enemy that Lumsden's men were ordered to retire. Lieutenant Crane, who with his section had been detached from Lieutenant Colonel Lumsden's command, did not receive this order. He and his men held on to the position which they were holding, and were cut off and captured. The casualties of the two squadrons in this their first engagement were most severe. Major Showers and 5 men were killed, and Lieutenant Crane and 5 non-commissioned officers and men were wounded. After the engagement, General Tucker complimented Lumsden's Horse, but 'rebuked' them for an exhibition of bravery which, he thought, bordered on rashness and the unnecessary courting of danger.
On 3rd May Lord Roberts commenced his advance to Pretoria. During this movement Lumsden's Horse scouted and skirmished in front of the right centre of the great army. At the Zand River on the 10th, at Viljoen's Drift on the Vaal on the 26th, and near Elandsfontein on the 29th, Ross's Mounted Infantry, including Lumsden's, did well, and their work was much praised by various correspondents. During the advance, and particularly after the Vaal was crossed, Lumsden's men had several casualties.
After the occupation of Pretoria, Lumsden's Horse were employed about Irene and at Springs, where they had the usual hard outpost work and some skirmishing. On 22nd July they marched into Pretoria and joined a force under Colonel Hickman, with whom they did some patrol work. About this time Lumsden's Horse left Colonel Ross, who issued an order in which he bestowed on them the highest possible compliments.
About the beginning of August the corps, now under Brigadier-General Mahon and General lan Hamilton, started on a march to Rustenburg, thence to the country north of Pretoria, and back to the capital, which was reached about the end of August. At Zilikat's Nek there was stiff fighting, in which the Berkshire Regiment did very well.
Mahon was now ordered to make a forced march to Carolina. He arrived there on 6th September in order to co-operate with French in the march to Barberton — a splendid effort on the part of all ranks.
Lumsden's Horse next took part in the march from Machododorp to Heidelberg along with the other troops of Generals French and Mahon. After some very severe fighting Heidelberg was reached on 26th October, and the corps then marched to Pretoria.
On 23rd November Lumsden's Horse left Pretoria for India. Lord Roberts telegraphed to the Viceroy expressing his 'appreciation of their excellent services', and said: 'It has been a pride and a pleasure to me to have under my command a volunteer contingent which has so well upheld the honour of the Indian Empire'.
The Mentions gained by the corps were as follows:—
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCHES: 2nd April 1901.—Colonel D M Lumsden (awarded CB); Major H Chamney (awarded CMG); Captain J B Rutherford; Lieutenant H O Pugh.
4th September 1901.—Captains J H B Beresford (Indian Staff Corps), L H Noblett (Royal Irish Rifles), F Clifford, B AV Holmes, C L Sidey; Lieutenant C E Crane; Surgeon Captain S A Powell, MD; Company Sergeant Major C M G Marsham; Sergeants E R Dale, G E R Llewellyn; Corporals. P Jones, G Peddie, C E Turner; Troopers J A Graham, P C Preston, H N Betts, W E Dexter, J Graves, D S Eraser, H R Parkes.
1st March 1902.—Captain N C Taylor, Indian Staff Corps.
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCH: 8th March 1901.—Troopers Kelly, Granville, P Jones. Captains N C Taylor, Beresford, and Noblett received Brevet Majority.
Clasps: CC, OFS and Tvl.
Awards: 0 VC, 1 CB, 1 CMG, 2 DSO, 6 DCM
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