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At the commencement of the war there were in existence and stationed at Kimberley the following volunteers:—
  • Diamond Fields Horse, strength 178
  • Diamond Fields Artillery, strength 97 and 6 guns
  • Kimberley Regiment, strength 352
  • Kimberley Town Guard, strength 1303

These were afterwards increased in numbers, and the Kimberley Light Horse and Kimberley Mounted Corps were organised.

These various corps were so constantly mixed up, and partook so largely of the same work, that it will be well to deal with them under one heading. The first and greatest debt under which they laid the Empire was their share in the defence of Kimberley. The town was one of the three which the Boers had shown themselves very desirous of occupying; its name was familiar all over the world as the place where the great diamond mines were located. Mr Rhodes had gone to his residence there before the war broke out, and it was, for South Africa, a large town. From a census taken during the siege the population was roughly 48,000—18,000 of whom were Europeans, the remainder blacks. The above total includes 22,000 women and children.

When the siege commenced there was in the garrison half a battalion, 444 all ranks, of the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The only other regular troops in the garrison were the 23rd Company, 93 all ranks, Royal Garrison Artillery, with six 7-pounder RML guns; 1 section, 1 officer, and 50 men of the 7th Field Company Royal Engineers; 5 non-commissioned officers and men of the Army Service Corps; and 1 officer and 5 non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In his report, dated 15th February 1900, Colonel Kekewich said: "Every effort was made to increase the numbers of this volunteer force, and to provide horses for the mounted portion thereof ... The Right Honourable C J Rhodes, and also the De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, came most generously to my assistance in the matter of providing horses and mules". By 26th November the strength of the Town Guard, which was to perform valuable service, had been increased to 130 officers and 2520 non-commissioned officers and men.

Hostilities commenced near Kraaipan on 12th October when the armoured train was taken. By the evening of 22nd October the various detachments of the Cape Police, who had been stationed along the railway from Vryburg southwards, had retired on Kimberley. In his evidence before the War Commission Colonel Kekewich referred in somewhat ungenerous terms to the retirement of these detachments, but there seems to be no doubt whatever that the Police did the right thing. Had they endeavoured to hold the posts at, say, Vryburg or Fourteen Streams, each lot in turn would have been cut off and captured, and Colonel Kekewich would have had 350 fewer fighting-men in Kimberley. On 19th October Major H S Turner of the Black Watch, who was a son-in-law of one of the directors of De Beers, was appointed to command the mounted troops, and with splendid energy he set to raising and training the Kimberley Light Horse, which, by 26th November, numbered 360. On 24th October there was a fight at Macfarlane's Siding in which considerable loss was inflicted on the enemy.

On 3rd November the Boers made an attempt to drive off the cattle, but were themselves repulsed, and on the same day the Kimberley Light Horse and Police had an engagement on the west of the town in which the enemy were again driven back. On the 4th the surrender of Kimberley was demanded and refused. On the 16th Major Scott Turner took out detachments of Diamond Fields Horse, Light Horse, and Police, and drove the enemy back towards Alexandersfontein. In this affair Captain Bodley of the Diamond Fields Horse was wounded. After this there were very many skirmishes and sorties in which the mounted men did most of the fighting; while the infantry, including the Town Guard, held the trenches and defensive works. In the making of these works coloured labour, largely provided by the De Beers Company, was mainly employed. Very soon the defences were so strong that the Boers were afraid to face an assault indeed, all through the siege the defenders did most of the active or attacking work, the enemy relying mainly on artillery and long-range rifle-fire. Of course the little guns in the town were hopelessly outranged, and it was not until the De Beers workshops had, on 19th January 1900, turned out 'Long Cecil', under the superintendence of the gifted Mr Labram, that the British had a gun worthy of modern warfare. 'Long Cecil' was a 4'1 breech-loading weapon, and threw a 30-pound shell. The manufacture of this powerful gun was commenced about Christmas, and it was completed in a marvellously short time.

On 25th November Major Scott Turner with the mounted troops made a reconnaissance, and succeeded in surprising the enemy at Schmidt's Drift Road. He inflicted some loss and captured 29 prisoners, his own casualties being—Cape Police 2 killed, Captain Rush and 6 men wounded; Kimberley Light Horse 3 killed, Captain Bowen and 13 men wounded; Diamond Fields Artillery, Captain Hickson and 2 men wounded. Major Scott Turner's horse was killed, and he was slightly hit on the shoulder.

On the 28th a demonstration was made towards 'Wimbledon Rifle Range'. "Major Scott Turner, with mounted troops, attacked enemy's right flank, capturing laager and three works; enemy in fourth work offered stubborn resistance, when Turner was killed; we captured many shells and destroyed other stores". Our other casualties on this occasion included—Cape Police, 2 men killed, 8 wounded; DFH, 3 men killed, Captain S P Waldeck and 8 wounded.

Major Peakman, a colonial officer, was appointed to succeed Major Scott Turner in the command of the Kimberley Light Horse. Major Peakman had been slightly wounded early in November.

In his report, para 34, Colonel Kekewich said: "My general pIan for the defence of Kimberley was based on the principle of always keeping the enemy on the move and constantly in fear of attack from an unexpected quarter ... It will be observed that portions of the mounted corps were employed on every occasion. The work which fell on the detachment (mounted) of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, Cape Police, Diamond Fields Horse, and Kimberley Light Horse, and the Diamond Fields Artillery was in consequence very arduous: not only did the corps mentioned respond cheerfully, but nothing can exceed the bravery and dash with which these troops attacked the enemy on several occasions in his entrenched positions".
Down to the day of the relief the tension remained very high, and the Kimberley troops had to be ever on the alert and always ready for fighting. They had many little engagements not mentioned in the report of Colonel Kekewich; indeed one feels that that report was scarcely worthy of the occasion.

According to the casualty list 'during the siege', published on 24th April 1900, the colonial forces had the following losses; but this list is clearly supplementary to the losses already noted on the occasion of the sorties in November:—

Diamond Fields Artillery—Sergeant Major Moss killed and 11 men wounded. Diamond Fields Horse—14 killed; Captains Bodley and Waldeck, Lieutenant Smith, Sergeant Major Macdonald, and 10 non-commissioned officers and men wounded. Cape Police—12 killed; Major Ayliff and Captains White and Rush, and 27 non-commissioned officers and men wounded.

The historian of the defence of Kimberley will require to deal with the disagreeable subject of the alleged friction between Cecil Rhodes and Colonel Kekewich. From the evidence of the latter before the War Commission it is clear that friction did exist. Men of very different minds have sometimes had difficulty in appreciating one another. Than Rhodes no man of the day was more highly endowed with the gift of being able to stir others to almost any degree of effort. He has been called the Napoleon of South Africa. Flattering, in a sense, that characterisation may be, but it was inadequate. His energy, the grandeur and wealth of his conceptions, were worthy of the great Emperor; but he had qualities the latter had not, chief of which was the ever-present desire, not, we believe, the outcome of ambition alone, to treat with friendly consideration, with far more than the stinted measure of conventional justice, those of a subject or of a veiledly hostile race. The measure of Rhodes' greatness will never be correctly taken if we overlook his ascendancy over the despised black man or the respect in which he was held by great numbers of the non-British colonials. Colonel Kekewich is of a very different stamp. He does not appear to be greatly endowed with the gift of inspiring enthusiasm, although his other military qualities are of a very high order. Referring to Rhodes in a report regarding the defence, Colonel Kekewich said: "Took a special interest in the raising of the Kimberley Light Horse, and worked most zealously in providing horses for all the mounted troops in Kimberley. To him, therefore, is in a large measure due the credit for the rapidity with which the mobility of my mounted corps was obtained". And it is due to Colonel Kekewich to say that he has been just enough to deny the allegation that he had ever said or hinted that Rhodes threatened to bring about surrender if relief did not come quickly. Lord Roberts had apparently gathered that this threat had been uttered. It is possible that Colonel Kekewich carried to excess some of the theories held as gospel truths by many regular officers. One would gather this from what he told the War Commission. In face of the splendid work which he himself saw done by the commanders of the Imperial Light Horse, Kimberley and other Colonial mounted troops, and what he knew to have been done by men like Brabant, Dalgety, Colenbrander, Woolls-Sampson, Spreckley, Peakman, and others, he said in his written memorandum: "I think that to get the best value out of all irregular corps it is very important that regular officers should command, and that the staff and at least one non-commissioned officer per squadron should be regulars".

As Sir Edward Brabant has pointed out, it is perhaps unfortunate that there was no South African or Australian Colonial on the Commission, who could by a little cross-questioning have brought out points which, in justice to the Colonials, the Commissioners should have had before them.

After the relief of the town the Kimberley and Diamond Fields mounted troops were amalgamated under the title 'Kimberley Mounted Corps'. According to the despatch of 21st May 1900, para 24 and note, the KMC were at this time 600 strong.

The corps, under Lieutenant Colonel Peakman, who had commanded the mounted troops since Major Scott Turner's death, operated with Lord Methuen in the Boshof district. On 5th April Lord Methuen was successful in surrounding a detachment under Villebois de Marueil. The kopje on which the enemy had taken up a position was, after shell and rifle fire, assaulted with the bayonet. The enemy lost 7 killed, 11 wounded, and 51 unwounded prisoners. In his report of 6th April Lord Methuen spoke in terms of praise of the way the troops worked, and mentioned Lieutenant Colonel Peakman.

The corps continued with Lord Methuen chiefly about Boshof during April, and frequently had skirmishing. At the end of that month they moved west to join Colonel Mahon's column, which was to start from Barkly West on 4th May for the relief of Mafeking. The work of Mahon's column has already been touched on under the Imperial Light Horse. In Major Pollock's account of the relief, he said: "Finally, just to give one more instance of the fine spirit that animated this gallant little force, it should be mentioned that Lieutenant Watson of the Kimberley Mounted Corps, who was on sick leave at Cape Town, heard of the march to Mafeking, hurried back to the front, and having ridden absolutely alone all the way from Barkly West, joined the column on Sunday, just in time for the fight (near Kraaipan), having covered 220 miles in five days. With such officers and men a commander may safely face pretty long odds". In that fight Captain Maxwell of the KMC and 4 men were wounded.

On the 16th May was fought the stiff engagement outside Mafeking. The Boers attacked Mahon's flanks and rear. Speaking of the latter attack, Major Pollock said: "But the brigadier had complete confidence in Lieutenant Colonel Peakman, who had command of the rearguard, and right well did this gallant officer fulfil the trust committed to him. A considerable number of mounted Boers galloping down by the village of Saani gained the bed of the Molopo river, and from there sought to assail the rear-guard, but so accurate was the fire of the party of Kimberley Mounted Corps that the enemy was not only checked, but was also unable to retire until after nightfall. Lieutenant Colonel Peakman was praised by Major Pollock for the cleverness with which he chose the ground, yet the trial, in spite of the excellent cover, was no light one, the Boer shells pitching all over Peakman's position. Captain C P Fisher and several men of the corps were wounded.

Mahon's column marched from Mafeking to Potchefstroom, and there most of the KMC left the column, which continued its march to Krugersdorp. A portion of the KMC operated for a time with Baden-Powell in the Mafeking-Zeerust district (see Lord Roberts' despatch of 14th August 1900, para 33).

In his brief despatch regarding the relief of Mafeking, dated 23rd May 1900, Colonel Mahon mentioned that on 5th May, the day after leaving Barkly West, he detached Captain Rickman with one squadron of the KMC to join Sir Archibald Hunter, who was then driving the enemy from the border near Warrenton, and whose force marched into the Transvaal and was joined by Mahon at Lichtenburg on 6th June.

In July and onwards part of the KMC were employed in the Krugersdorp-Potchefstroom district. On the occasion of a train being derailed near Bank Station about 20 non-commissioned officers and men were captured, and about the same time one man was killed and Lieutenants Drew and Watson and some men were wounded. On 25th July Klerksdorp, where a squadron was stationed, seems to have been surrendered by Captain Lambart without any serious defence being made (see 'The Times' History, vol iv p 362). On 7th August and for some days thereafter a portion of the corps was in contact with De Wet's forces when these broke across the Vaal. At this time a portion of the corps was employed about the Kimberley - Mafeking line, and a squadron was with Lord Erroll in the Western Transvaal in August and September.
In October, November, and December 1900 the Diamond Fields Horse was in the column of Major General Settle which assisted to clear the western portion of the Orange River Colony (see Cape Police). On 28th November the DFH were in a sharp skirmish near Luckhoff.

When it was seen that Hertzog and other leaders were penetrating to the south-west of Cape Colony the corps was put into Colonel Bethune's column, which, in January and February 1901, assisted to drive these commandos out of Cape Colony. In March, April, and May the DFH were in central Cape Colony, where they were frequently in action under Major Berrange and other commanders. On 1st May Lieutenant Matthews was severely wounded near Cradock.

From May 1900 to May 1901 a section of the Diamond Fields Artillery was in the garrison of Boshof which successfully held that town and repelled many attacks. The main portion of the garrison was the 4th Scottish Rifles (Militia), and a good account of their work is to be found in Colonel Courtenay's record of that battalion.

Captain Robertson of the Kimberley Light Horse was appointed Assistant Resident Magistrate at Koffyfontein, a small mining town in the south-west of the Orange River Colony. In the beginning of October 1900 there was a recrudescence of Boer activity in the district. Robertson found himself the only military man in the town, but he armed some fifty miners. On 12th October Commandant Viser demanded the surrender of the place, which was refused. On the 16th Robertson withdrew from the town and occupied a position at the mines which he entrenched. On the 21st the enemy attacked but did not press home. On the 23rd Robertson raided a farm-house occupied by the enemy, and a fierce hand-to-hand struggle took place. One man on each side was killed and two Boers were captured. On the 25th Hertzog demanded surrender and next day attacked fiercely, but the enemy was driven off. On 3rd November the gallant garrison was relieved by Sir C Parsons. Lord Roberts complimented Captain Robertson and his men.
Among the numerous columns at work during the second phase of the war was one known as the Kimberley Column, which for some months was composed as follows: 74th Squadron Imperial Yeomanry, 125; Kimberley Light Horse, 94; Dennison's Scouts, 81; Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 20; Volunteer Company of the Northumberland Fusiliers, 102; 3rd Leinsters, 100; 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers, 38; 2 guns of the 38th Battery RFA; and 13 men of the Diamond Fields Artillery with a maxim. During 1901 this column under Major Paris long operated in the west of the Orange River Colony, and was also at work in the south-west of the Transvaal. On 2nd August 1901 Captain G C Gory Smith, of the KLH, was wounded at Zwartputs, and there were several other casualties on this occasion.

In 1902 the Diamond Fields Horse and Artillery still kept the field and were in many engagements. Major Paris's column was part of Lord Methuen's force in his disastrous engagement of 7th March 1902 (see Cape Police). In his report Lord Methuen said that the column before being reinforced at Vryburg consisted of the 86th Imperial Yeomanry, 110 men; Diamond Fields Horse, 92; Dennison's Scouts, 58; Ashburner's Light Horse, 126; 2 guns 38th Battery; 1 pom-pom of the Diamond Fields Artillery. In the fighting on the 7th the Kimberley troops suffered very severely, the Diamond Fields Horse having about 20 casualties and the Artillery detachment had several killed and wounded.

In May some of the Kimberley troops were operating in the Douglas district, west of the railway. On the 21st Lieutenant R J Stone and one man of the Light Horse were wounded.

The Mentions gained by the Kimberley troops were as follows:—

COLONIAL ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT. Captain C L Rickotts, proved himself most valuable officer.

COLONEL KEKEWICH'S REPORT: 18th February 1900.—Captain (local Major) May, invariably handled his guns with much coolness under fire, is a most deserving and efficient officer. Surgeon Lieutenant A J Ortlepp, attached, rendered considerable assistance to wounded in the field.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCH: 2nd April 1901.—Major T J May, who afterwards got the CMG, Surgeon Lieutenant Ortlepp, Gunner F D Payne.
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCHES: 8th October 1901.—Lieutenant A Kidd, for excellent work in difficult situation near Griquatown, 24th August.
23rd June 1902.—Captain C C Sheckleton.

COLONEL KEKEWICH'S REPORT.—Major T H Rodger, is a resourceful and excellent officer, always ready and cool under fire; Sergeant A B Nicholetts, on several occasions undertook duties which involved great personal risk; he carried despatches to our troops engaged on 28th November.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCH: 2nd April.—Major Rodger, and Sergeant Nicholetts.
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCH: 8th October 1901.—Trooper J Evans, on 12th February a cattle guard of four men being surprised by enemy kept them off single-handed, sent off remaining man and saved whole herd and killed two Boers.

COLONEL KEKEWICH'S REPORT.—Lieutenant Colonel R A Finlayson, commanded his regiment and a section of defence with marked success; Major A O Black, commanded a section of defence and rendered good service; Captain and Adjutant E T Humphrys, performed his duties with great zeal and tact. Surgeon Major J A J Smith, attached, rendered most valuable assistance to wounded in the field. Sergeant S H MacCullum, is deserving of mention for good work.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCHES: 2nd April 1901.—Lieutenant Colonel Finlayson, awarded CMG; Sergeant MacCullum.
4th September 1901.—Captain Humphrys.
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCH: 8th July 1901.—Lance Corporal G R Mason, in action at Koffyfontein, on 3rd June, a man being wounded in an exposed position Mason went to his help and remained with him under fire until an ambulance fetched him.
LORD KITCHENER'S FINAL DESPATCH.—Major A O Black, Captain Sheckleton, Sergeant Instructor D K Macfarlane.

COLONEL KEKEWICH'S REPORT.—Major (local Lieutenant Colonel) T C Peak-man was associated in early days of siege with organisation of Town Guard; his experience and local knowledge were of great assistance to me; subsequently he commanded a squadron of Light Horse, and on death of Lieutenant Colonel Turner was selected by me for command of all mounted corps; he has shown much courage under fire, and is a most deserving and excellent officer; wounded November 18th. Major R G Scott, VC, is an officer of tried experience and gallantry, has on all occasions exhibited the best qualities of an officer. Captain H T Ap-Bowen, commanded a squadron with much success, and has on several occasions shown great gallantry in action; very severely wounded, November 25th. Captain H Mahoney, performed distinguished service; wounded November 25th. Captain J A Smith, as Quartermaster, performed much hard work in connection with equipping irregular forces under great difficulties. Captain J W Robertson, performed the duties of Paymaster and also acted as galloper to Lieutenant Colonel Turner in a most efficient manner. Captain W E Rickman, handled his men with great coolness; his conduct on many occasions has been most distinguished. Captain G Heberden, medical officer, frequently accompanied mounted troops in sorties and reconnaissances, and rendered most valuable service in attending to wounded. Lieutenant C A Hawker, performed excellent service; wounded November 22nd. Lieutenant W Newdigate, did much good work with his squadron; has also executed valuable survey work in connection with defence. Lieutenant D B Fenn, proved himself an invaluable officer; he supplied much valuable information before the outbreak of the war, and has done real good work with the mounted troops from the first day Imperial troops arrived in Kimberley. Lieutenant G Harris, Kimberley Light Horse, good service and conspicuous gallantry. Lieutenant R Chatfield, an excellent officer, has shown conspicuous gallantry. Sergeant Major W H Oatley, Corporal H Harris, Trooper A H Armstrong, are deserving of mention for good work.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCHES: 2nd April 1901.—Majors Peakman, who got the CMG, R G Scott VC, Captain W E Rickman, Sergeant Major Oatley, Corporal H Harris, Trooper A H Armstrong.
4th September 1901.—Captain Ap-Bowen.
1st March 1902.—Captain F J Frost, Troop Sergeant Major C J Greetham (Lieutenant Johannesburg Mounted Rifles).
LORD KITCHENER'S DESPATCH: 23rd June 1902.—Captain H P Browne, Trooper J T Halkett.

Major J R Fraser, late Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, retired, at first as Staff-officer and later as CO, did excellent work, and has shown great energy and resource. Captain C A Blackboard did much good work in connection with interior economy of the Guard and keeping order in Beaconsfield. Captain W Nelson, valuable services in collection of information and procuring enemy's cattle for food of garrison. Lieutenant Colonel D Harris, VD, arrived when Town Guard was being raised, threw himself most heartily into work, and was of greatest assistance; much praise is due to him for his good work in looking after comforts and interests of Town Guard in works and redoubts, which entailed much hard work and fatigue. Captain B Richards, good work as Staff-officer. Captain B E A O'Meara performed duties of garrison-adjutant and quartermaster with much zeal and energy; rendered valuable services. Captain T Tyson performed duties of assistant military censor to my complete satisfaction. Captain W Pickering, rendering much valuable assistance from date of my arrival, and during a portion of siege commanded a section of defence with success. Captain T L Angel did good work in command of Cyclist Corps. Lieutenant E F Paynham, assistant to the Intelligence Officer, rendered very great assistance in dealing with correspondence of a confidential nature. The following officers also did good work:—Captains F Mandy, J R Grimmer, W S Elkin, H Pirn, J Adams, C E Hertog, J Morton, C Tabuteau, E H Moseley, G White, W H Faulkner, A Blum, H Rugg, J Armstrong; Lieutenants C D Lucas, H Tabuteau, J J Coghlan, T Callen, W G Wright, J A Carr, J Brander- Dunbar, S O'Molony. Sergeant Major J P Russell, late RE, as warrant officer, did much valuable work in connection with superintendence of native labour employed on construction of defence works. Sergeant J Russell, Cyclist Corps, is deserving of mention for good work.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCHES: 2nd April 1901.—Lieutenant Colonel D Harris, VD, who got the CMG, Captains T L Angel, F Mandy, B E A O'Meara, W Pickering, S Richards; Lieutenants C J Lucas, E F Paynham, Sergeant Major J P Russell, Sergeant J Russell.
4tA September 1901.—Major J R Fraser, Captain W Nelson, Captain L R Grimmer, Lieutenant J Brander-Dunbar (Captain, 3rd Cameron Highlanders).

Lieutenant W A Williams.

Click here for individual attestation papers for Kimbeley Horse.

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