This corps was, at the beginning of the war, stationed about Mafeking. A company, 81 strong, under Captain Cowan, formed a valuable part of the garrison.
In the actions of 7th November and 26th December (see Protectorate Regiment) the Rifles took a prominent part, and their work was several times highly praised by Colonel Baden-Powell. In his despatch Captain Cowan was mentioned. He had his corps in such a "condition of efficiency as enabled me to employ them in all respects as regular troops. He was at all times ready, and zealous in the performance of any duty assigned to him".
After the relief of Mafeking the corps was employed, not only in Bechuanaland, but also in Cape Colony and all over the Western Transvaal. In 1901 a squadron was in Lord Methuen's column, which did much good work in the south-west of the Transvaal (see despatches of 8th July 1901 and other dates). They took a prominent part in many engagements down to the close of the campaign, and frequently had a share of the casualties. At Zandfontein, 2nd-3rd September 1901, 1 man was killed and Lieutenant T E P More and 1 man were wounded. On 4th October 4 men were killed near Zeerust, and on the 18th 2 men were killed at Rhenosterfontein. Captain Cooke was severely wounded on 2nd January 1902, and the corps had casualties at Trenafontein on the 21st. The corps gained distinction at Rhenosterfontein on 5th September 1901, and at Kleinfontein, near Zeerust, on 24th October 1901. In each of these engagements the enemy exhibited very great determination and boldness, and only with difficulty were they driven off. On the latter date they left over 40 dead on the ground.
In January, February, and March 1902 the Bechuanaland Rifle Volunteers were generally with or under Lord Methuen. A detachment was in the force which escorted the convoy captured near Klerksdorp on 25th February 1902. On this occasion the Rifles had 5 killed and about the same number wounded.
It will be remembered that the Western Transvaal had been dangerously denuded of troops while the great driving operations were in progress in the eastern part of that country and in the Orange River Colony, hence Lord Methuen was unable to cope with Delarey and other leaders, strengthened as they were by commandos driven from elsewhere. (See Cape Police.)
When the forces in the Western Transvaal had been strengthened, the Bechuanaland Rifles took part in the last great drives which, under the direction of General Ian Hamilton, finally broke Delarey's power. At Rooival on 11th April there was a well-fought engagement, when the Rifles had about 9 casualties. Thus, from the commencement of the war to its close, Major Cowan's little body did work of outstanding value, and all through the two years and nine months maintained the splendid degree of efficiency which they had shown when the siege of Mafeking commenced.
The Mentions gained by the corps were as follows:—
COLONEL BADEN-POWELL'S DESPATCH.—Captain Cowan (see above); Sergeant Lionel Cook, for clever and plucky scouting and gallantry in action.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCH.—Captain Cowan and Sergeant Rowlands.
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCHES: 8th October 1901.—Captain Cowan; Sgt-Major Watts; Sergeant Shipman; Trooper Austin (promoted Corporal), gallantry at Rhenosterfontein, 5th September 1901; Lance Corporal Sutherland (promoted Corporal), in same action retained two prisoners under fire of 30 Boers.
8th November.—Sergeant Rowlands, for marked gallantry in collecting men and carrying messages under heavy fire, Colonel Von Donop's action at Kleinfontein, 24th October 1901 (twice previously mentioned).
8th March 1902.—Lieutenant Shipman, at Jackalsfontein, 8th February, attacked a laager with his troop and held them till reinforcements arrived.
23rd June 1902.—Major B W Cowan; Lieutenants T Christie, S Hall; Sergeants A W Shipman, R Galbraith, G Gordon; Corporals B Roy and H B Wall.
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