During February 1900 this corps, which was raised in the eastern portion of Cape Colony, did very good work in the Colesberg district as part of the mounted troops under Colonel Page Henderson, particularly between the 20th and the 24th when Clements' force had much fighting round Arundel. On the 24th he endeavoured to push back the Boers who were threatening to cut him off from Naauwpoort. Little progress was made, but on the 27th the enemy was found to have retired. The plight of Cronje was having effect on the Boers under Delarey and Grobler in the colony. On the 24th the Eastern Province Horse had 3 killed and several wounded. On the 28th Clements' force commenced their advance first on Colesberg and thereafter into the Orange River Colony. The corps was taken north to Bloemfontein, and when Sir H E Colvile was about to set out with the Highland Brigade from Bloemfontein towards Winburg and Heilbron, the Eastern Province Horse, one squadron, under Captain Higson, was sent to Colvile as his complement of mounted troops. Sir Henry has been blamed for not recovering Broadwood's guns at Sannah's Post, and for not rescuing the Irish Yeomanry at Lindley at the end of May,—in the first case, without a shadow of justification, the writer thinks; in the second, with perhaps a very little. But General Colvile's critics and judges never seemed to take into account how the difficulties of the task set to him had been incalculably increased by the non-provision of a reasonable mounted force. A week after the Eastern Province Horse joined Colvile they were taken away again to escort a convoy to the Xlth Division, of which Colvile's Brigade formed no part. After that they were employed on cattle gathering, and when they got back to Colvile their horses were utterly unfit to do the scouting necessary for an infantry brigade in most difficult country, and with the enemy in strong force all round. On 2nd May, when the advance had barely commenced, Colvile wrote to the Chief of the Staff: "About 50 of the EPH are dismounted owing to their last week's work with the Xlth Division. Their blankets and kit have not yet arrived".
About 15th May Lieutenant Bowker and 12 men of the EPH were sent on a mission some distance from the brigade and were captured. Some drafts, however, shortly arrived, making up the corps to 107 mounted men, but these were still utterly inadequate to scout in front of and on the flanks of a column which was always, at least, three and a quarter miles long. About the 24th, 1 man was killed and Lieutenant Bertram and 3 men were wounded in endeavouring to ascertain the strength of the enemy who were then opposing the advance. On the 26th, in the action at Blaauwberg, the corps was heavily pressed at different times. Speaking of this, General Colvile said: "The Eastern Province Horse, whose scouting was very bold, suffered much more heavily in proportion, losing 4 men killed and 8 wounded and 6 horses, nearly all in the first fusillade" and again, "This movement was greatly helped by Lieutenant Kirkwood and the remainder of the EPH, who made a wide sweep round the hill". When the Boers retreated their string of waggons could be seen filing out of their laager two and a half miles away, but Generals Colvile and MacDonald could do nothing, owing to the want of mounted men and horse artillery. The EPH horses were by this time reduced to 80; of these 55 were on the flanks".
At Roodepoort, on 28th May, there was again heavy fighting. At page 197 of his work General Colvile says: "The day had been a trying one, and with less trustworthy troops might have ended badly for us, but the Highlanders, who had always been ready to go ahead against any odds, had by this time picked up a good many wrinkles from their enemies, and were as clever as the Boers in making the best use of ground. The excellent practice of the two batteries had enabled us to clear Roodepoort with hardly any loss, and later the naval guns had kept those of the enemy at a distance, while the Field Battery had removed the pressure on the Seaforth and materially helped the Argyll and Sutherland to hold their own. The Eastern Province Horse, by this time reduced to 35 mounted men, had enabled us to seize the advanced position". At Roodepoort the tiny mounted force had Sergeant Deynedale and Troopers Lee, Corbett, and Wright killed, and 3 corporals and 3 troopers wounded. On 29th May, the day on which Colvile had been ordered by Lord Roberts to be at Heilbron, he occupied that town.
After General Colvile left the force the Eastern Province Horse remained with the Highland Brigade under General MacDonald at Heilbron till July, and then assisted in the operations for surrounding Prinsloo in the Brandwater Basin. When De Wet broke across the Vaal in August, the Eastern Province Horse followed to the north side of the river and were employed in the Krugersdorp district during September and October. On several occasions they had severe fighting. On 18th September 1 corporal and 2 men were killed, and shortly before that three others of the little band had been wounded.
The corps remained in the field throughout 1901, but got no opportunities of gaining distinction such as fell to them in May 1900.
The Mentions gained by the corps were:—
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCHES: 2nd April 1901.—Lieutenant E H Higson, Lance Corporal Abrahamson, Troopers Collett and Ruddlesdin, Sergeant P T Sherriff (17th Lancers).
4th September 1901.—Trooper T Adams (afterwards Rand Rifles) and Trooper Honman.
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See the forum posts on the EPH.
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