|The 13th Hussars in the
South African War (Boer War)|
Up to the end of February the health of the regiment was exceptionally good, the number of men sick in hospital on the last day of the month being 36.
With the horses it was another matter. They had been disembarked after a voyage of twenty-four days, and without being allowed any time to acclimatise had been immediately sent up country and worked hard. Up to this date the casualties among the horses numbered 108, but many of these were remounts that could not stand the work, and had to be returned to a sick horse depot at the earliest opportunity.
The brigade halted at Nelthorpe on March 2. This day Captain Tremayne went to hospital with enteric, and his duties as adjutant were undertaken till his return on June 24th by Lieutenant E. W. Denny.
The relieving force entered Ladysmith on March 3, the 2nd Division leading, with the cavalry brigade in rear, and followed by the 5th Division. Sir George White and his staff stood opposite the town hall, and Sir Redvers Buller at the end of the town.
The 2nd of March was employed in cleaning up, as if for a review; instead of mopping up the Boer guns and waggons. On the 3rd, the day of entry, the force solemnly marched through the town, past the garrison, who were under arms, dressed in their best clothes, and many scarcely able to stand up under arms. There was little enthusiasm either that day or the day before, as far as the regimental soldier was concerned. Both the Ladysmith Garrison and the Natal Force viewed the two days with a dull anger. Both knew what a chance was being cast to the wind. The mounted arm also felt that to date they had practically been looking on. But so it was. The brigade took over quarters in "Tin Town," and were _just getting the horses in when the enemy was reported to be about five miles away. The whole brigade was turned out, but nothing happened, and in the evening the men returned to quarters.
The next day Lieut.-Colonel Blagrove went into hospital with enteric, and the command devolved on Major Close until April 21.
On the 6th the brigade marched to Elandslaagte, where it went into bivouac.
The same day the 5th Dragoon Guards, who had been through the siege, were added to the brigade, but remained in Ladysmith. The 14th Hussars were withdrawn from the brigade on the 7th and left for Capetown.
Lieutenant Marchant also remained in Ladysmith in charge of details, as also did Lieutenant Pepys, who was sick. The latter officer, a few days later, went down to Durban, rejoining his regiment on March 21.
On March 7th A Squadron was sent on outpost duty to Sunday's River, and Lieutenant J. T. Wigan with five men as an officer's patrol was sent on to reconnoitre towards Meran, a distance of about five miles.
After going about three miles they came under the fire of about 30 Boers concealed in a kraal. Lance-Corporal Watt was killed, Lieutenant Wigan shot through the shoulder, a severe wound, and Private Rugg was hit in the thigh. Private Farrance very pluckily came
back to assist Lieutenant Wigan, for which his name was mentioned in despatches. Lieutenant Wigan's wound was very severe, he was invalided home, and did not rejoin the regiment till April 1901.
Two days later the regiment moved on nearer to Sunday's River. Here news came that the Royals on outpost duty were being attacked, and A Squadron was sent on to support them.
The first draft, consisting of 23 non-commissioned officers and men, arrived from England on March 23.
Two days later 2nd Lieutenant G. H. Hodgkinson joined from England.
While on outpost duty at Weazel's Nek on April 5, Privates Morris and Hazel were taken prisoners. Private Hazel remained prisoner at Pretoria till the British occupied that place. Private Morris, who was wounded in the leg, was sent to Newcastle in an ox waggon, where Mrs Potter, the wife of a missionary, nursed him. He died from the effects of the wound on May 14.
Furnishing one squadron each day for outpost duty, the regiment remained at Sunday's River Camp until April 8, on which day with the Royals they marched to Star Hill Camp, Ladysmith.
Captain Smythe, who was with Clery's Division at Elandslaagte, having gone sick, Captain Battye was sent thither to take over charge of his men on April 9, and on the same day C Squadron went as outpost squadron to Thabanyama.
Heavy firing in the direction of Elandslaagte was heard on the 16th at 8 A.M. A Squadron, with the Royals, turned out in support. It appears that the irregulars under Lord Dundonald, who took up the outpost line on Sunday's River when the 1st Cavalry Brigade left on the 8th, did not keep so sharp a look-out as their predecessors. This the Boers speedily discovered, and attacking them, drove them into their camp, which they then proceeded to shell heavily. While the 13th and the Royals had held this line for over a month, not only had they warded off any attack, but had also managed to obtain much useful information.
On the 11th the camp was moved from Star Hill to Niblick Hill, a distance of about one mile and a half.
During the remainder of the stay of the regiment at Ladysmith, which town it left on August 4, one squadron was employed each week as an advance squadron. This was at first posted at Clydesdale Farm, but on May 25th its position was withdrawn to a pleasant camp at Arcadia, about seven miles from Ladysmith.
On April 23rd Lieutenant Stern's troop was ordered as an advanced post at Blaawbank, but when the squadron was withdrawn to Arcadia it rejoined.
The second draft, consisting of 35 non-commissioned officers and men from England, joined on April 13. For a few days after the 17th Boers were reported to be near Clydesdale, but they did not venture to attack the troops.
On April 10th 450 of the Queen's chocolate boxes arrived and were distributed.
Captain Smythe was appointed signalling officer, 1st Cavalry Brigade, on April 25.
April 30. Major Smithson went down to Durban sick, and rejoined the regiment on May 21.
During the time the regiment was at Sunday's River, Elandslaagte, and Ladysmith, there was much sickness. Five men died in March, and seven in April. In the same period 106 horses were received from the remount department, 35 had died or had been destroyed, and 112 had been sent to the sick horse depots. Horse sickness was at this time most prevalent.
On May 5th a draft of 27 non-commissioned officers and men arrived from England.
On May 7th B Squadron, under Captain Wiggin, marched to Modder Spruit to act as divisional cavalry to General Clery, and in consequence the following pages for some time will be concerned with the A and C Squadrons only. The record of the services of B Squadron will follow in its turn.
During this month Major Lambkin, R.A.M.C., left the regiment, and Captain M'Laughlin, R.A.M.C., joined.
The 13th Hussars now became part of the Drakenberg Defence Force under Major-General Downing, remaining at Ladysmith when the Royals and the 5th Dragoon Guards left under General Burn-Murdoch to be employed in the Ingagane District.
A welcome and large consignment of underclothing and comforts for the non-commissioned officers and men, collected and sent by Lady Russell, and another by Lady Wiggin, arrived during May, and were highly appreciated.
On May 17th and 18th Mafeking was relieved.
On receipt of the news the 13th Hussars sent a wire of congratulation to Major-General Baden-Powell, and eliciting a grateful reply. The wire concludes: "MacLaren progressing well."
Captain Kenneth MacLaren, 13th Hussars, who it will be remembered was for a time adjutant of the regiment, was in July 1899 acting as A.D.C. to General Sir Baker Russell. He was then ordered to South Africa, as Colonel R. S. S. Baden-Powell had applied for his services.
Captain MacLaren had been seriously wounded outside Mafeking, March 31, 1900. Details of what occurred are given elsewhere. During the month of June there is nothing to record except that on the 21st, 2nd Lieutenants Gubbins and Lambert arrived from England with a draft of 7o men.
On the 22nd, 2nd Lieutenant Marchant went down to Durban sick, and after a seven weeks' stay on board the hospital ship Trojan, was employed until October on the Remount Department at Durban.
A Kaffir scout on the 29th brought in a report to Major Williams at Arcadia, that he had overheard a Boer plan to take prisoner Mr Giles, the magistrate of the Upper Tugela. Major Williams was ordered to send out a troop to reconnoitre between Maria's Head and Potgeiter's Drift, a troop being sent out from Niblick Hill under Lieutenant Clutterbuck to reinforce Arcadia if necessary. No Boers were seen, and this troop returned to Niblick Hill about 8.15 P. M.
Sickness by the end of the month was very rife, there being no less than 126 men down, the cases being mainly enteric or dysentery.
July 1. Lieut.-Colonel Blagrove was promoted Brevet Colonel. On the same day Lieutenant and Quartermaster G. Rupert, who had been in the hospital in " Tin Town " for some days, was sent down to Princess Christian Hospital in Pine Town, and was thence invalided home. He rejoined at Heidelberg May 2, 1902.
Early in the morning of July 7, orders were received for a troop to go out to escort rations and to meet about 100 yeomanry and militia prisoners whom De Wet had released. Lieutenant Jarvis was detached for this duty. Most of these prisoners had been captured at Lindley, and appear to have been well treated in the main by the Boers.
Seventy-eight yeomen were attached to the regiment till the end of the month, during which time endeavours were made to instruct the majority of them how to ride in comparative safety the quietest of the worn-out horses that were issued to them by the Remount Department.
On the 9th, 2nd Lieutenants Jenkins and Cosens joined from England.
On the 27th C Squadron moved to Besters. A Squadron remained at Arcadia. Headquarters and the men really belonging to B Squadron went with General Clery to Smith's Crossing. Those men of B Squadron had been collected by men coming out of hospital and the proportion due to that squadron from drafts.
Nest day one troop of C Squadron under Lieutenant Clutterbuck was sent from Besters to Kirkintulloch.
At the end of July the strength of the 13th Hussars was as follows With the regiment near Ladysmith, 18 officers, 379 non-commissioned officers and men, and 388 horses ; with the 2nd Division, 5 officers, 99 non-commissioned officers and men, and 103 horses. There had been little if any diminution of sickness during the month. S1 noncommissioned officers and men were in hospital, and 5S had been invalided home.
The yeomen left the regiment on July 28, marching to Modder Spruit under Lieutenants Stern and Jarvis, proceeding thence to Pretoria. The two officers rejoined the regiment at Newcastle on August 31.
The month of August was eventful. On the 4th, orders were issued in the afternoon for the regiment to march and occupy Van Reenan's Pass in the night. All were delighted to escape from the unhealthiness of Ladysmith and the monotony of life thereabouts.
With the 13th went Major Spurrell's squadron of the 5th Lancers. The pass was occupied by midnight without opposition, in bitterly cold weather.
At dawn the cavalry moved to Albertina and halted at Mr Smith's farm, the pass and berg being occupied by the Gloucesters, the Derby Militia, two guns of the Field Artillery, and a mountain battery.
C Squadron and the squadron of the 5th Lancers after a two hours' halt went on to Harrismith, where they found that General Hector Macdonald had just marched in. That night the two squadrons bivouacked in the show yard.
At 4.30 A.M. on August 6th C Squadron, under Major Smithson, marched out to Wilge river bridge-about six miles distant-to take over a heavy gun from General Macdonald's force and guard it until the arrival of the force under General Rundle. They handed over the gun and returned to Harrismith about 10 A.M. A map and a guide were applied for by Major Smithson when engaged on this duty, but neither could be supplied, and C Squadron had to start in the dark to go six miles in an unknown country.
Next day the C Squadron and the squadron of the 5th Lancers returned to Albertina, remaining there till August i1. Here patrols were sent out over a large tract of country to collect arms, but few only were brought in.
Next day the regiment marched from Albertina to Van Reenans, and on the morrrow left in six trains for Newcastle. The first train left at 8.30 A.M., the last at 9.45, and the camp at Newcastle was reached about 6 P.M.
Half the C Squadron under Lieutenant Wise went on with the maxim gun to Donga Spruit that night, and next morning Major Smithson took the other half squadron out to Mathew's farm.
At Newcastle the strength of the 13th Hussars was 16 officers, 314 non-commissioned officers and men, and 14o horses. With the 2nd Division there were 6 officers, 142 non-commissioned officers and men, and 34o horses. From Donga Spruit Lieutenant Wise was ordered to patrol to Doornkop and also to Coetze's Drift, where the 5th Dragoon Guards had a post. The other half squadron patrolled to Wool's Drift and also along the Nkandu river, and then were to join with the Royals from Duck Pond Farm. Now it was understood that there was a Boer laager of strength unknown behind the hills north-east of Wool's Drift, and that the main body was at Welgevonden, about eleven miles from the laager in the same direction. Daily patrols went out from the camp towards Muller's Pass, Monkey Pass, Donkey Pass, and Donavon.
On August 15, at about 6.30 A.M., a verbal message from the officer commanding the 5th Dragoon Guards at Coetze's Drift reached Lieutenant Wise at Donga Spruit, telling him to bring all his available force to support his right flank, as he was going to attack Doornkop. A party of the 5th Dragoon Guards had stampeded the Boer horses during the night. Lieutenant Wise got in touch with the 5th Dragoon Guards, but they had been driven back, after having
chased a party of Boers beyond Doornkop. He then received orders to retire.
For the next four days all was quiet at Donga Spruit. News was, however, received that a patrol of the 5th Dragoon Guards from Coetze's Drift had been fired on, and that the Boers to the east of Newcastle were in fairly strong force.
On the 19th twelve remounts of possibly worse character than usual, though not much, arrived from the remount department. Five of these after trial were returned. Mounted on such useless brutes, the men were at a most distinct disadvantage when patrolling in a country known to be full of the enemy.
On August 10th a message was received from Major Smithson to the effect that the troop of the Royals at Duck Pond Farm had been attacked by some 400 Boers and compelled to retire on Fort Macready. Major Smithson endeavoured to cut off the Boers, and went as far as the junction of the Ingagane and Buffalo rivers, but the Boers retired, and he took on his troops towards Wool's Drift. From camp the squadron turned out and reconnoitred towards the Ingagane and Buffalo rivers, but no sign of the enemy was visible.
From Donga Spruit that morning a patrol was kept well occupied. It appears that about 250 or 300 Boers were on the flats under Doornkop. They were being watched by a patrol under Sergeant Miller. The Boers tried to cut the party off, and to prevent this Lieutenant Wise turned out with his inlying picket, upon which the enemy retired. When Sergeant Miller's patrol in retirement reached the river, the horse of Private Graham fell just as he got into the water. Private Graham hid in some long grass, and eluding the search made for him by the Boers rejoined Lieutenant Wise on foot. Lieutenant Wise reported that this patrol behaved well, and that Sergeant Miller showed coolness and discretion.
All the patrols of the 5th Dragoon Guards were fired on that day, two men being wounded and one taken prisoner.
On the 21st news came about 8.30 A.M. that an attack was being made on Donga Spruit. The squadrons turned out and went in that direction, but were met by intelligence that the enemy had retired.
It seems that the Boers had kept up a very heavy and accurate pom-pom fire on the post, but the horses were well concealed in a donga and the men placed under good cover, so that the only damage done was two mules killed and a waggon slightly injured.
By 11.30 there were two Royal Field Artillery guns under Captain Spencer, R.A., and two companies of the Middlesex Regiment on the ridge west of the railway, under Windsor Castle. The two squadrons of the 13th Hussars were then ordered to reconnoitre down to the Buffalo river. As soon as the advanced scouts had crossed the stream, the enemy came on in considerable force. Both squadrons came under a heavy rifle and pom-pom fire, and retired to the ridge between two and three miles west of Wool's Drift. The enemy then retired towards Doornkop. The casualties that day in the regiment were Privates Gilchrist and Willis slightly wounded, and five horses wounded. The squadron under Major Smithson at Mathew's Farm was ordered to be relieved on the following day by Major Williams's squadron. About 8 A.M. news came to Major Smithson that about zoo Boers were crossing the Buffalo river near Wool's Drift.
Now owing to the number of men employed in patrolling, the squadron was reduced to one weak troop. With this, however, Major Smithson advanced to a slight rise, since known as Smithson's Ridge, and at about one and a half mile west of Wool's Drift, the intention being to check the Boers' advance. A message was sent back to Major Williams, who was unaware that the enemy were attacking, and had already started for Mathew's Farm, to give him information of the state of affairs. This troop (Lieutenant Lyons') was attacked heavily on three sides. Major Smithson gave the order to fall back on A Squadron, and was almost immediately shot through both knees. Corporal Cooke also was wounded in the arm.
Major Smithson was taken prisoner, wounded, but was very courteously treated by the Boer Commandant Opperman,—one of the 13th, whose horse had been shot, and who had been taken prisoner, being sent in to get an ambulance and guide it to Major Smithson. But the resistance offered by the troop bore ample fruit. A Squadron had time to come out and engage the enemy well away from the town, and the guns also were able to be brought out. The C and A Squadrons had practically defeated the attack, and a round or two from the guns completed the discomfiture of the enemy. The Boers retired, and were eventually driven back across the Buffalo River. More than one gallant action was performed on that day. Private Dempsey of the A Squadron dismounted and assisted a comrade, whose horse had been shot, on to his own mount. Holding on to the stirrup, he was in the act of retiring when the brave fellow was shot and died within the hour. The name of this gallant soldier, had he lived, would have been brought forward for a Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Jenkins, despite the efforts made to bring him in, was taken prisoner.
The troop of Lieutenant Jenkins had dismounted to cover the retirement of the troop of C Squadron. When Major Williams gave the order for this troop to mount and take up another position, the horse of Lieutenant Jenkins, which was being led up to him by Private Herbert, fell shot. Private Herbert rode to the officer and offered his own horse, an offer which Lieutenant Jenkins refused. Private Herbert then rejoined his troop. Lieutenant Jenkins then took hold of the stirrup of Sergeant-Farrier Hunt, and ran alongside for a short distance, but soon fell, and in falling injured his hip. The enemy were now quite close. Sergeant-Farrier Hunt then rode up to Major Williams and reported that all the troop were mounted and coming away except Lieutenant Jenkins. Major Williams said to him that as he had a big horse he might try to pick the Lieutenant up, if he liked to chance it. Sergeant-Farrier Hunt then rode back to Lieutenant Jenkins, who, however, still refused assistance and would not mount Hunt's horse. It was perfectly certain that both would be taken prisoners, and Lieutenant Jenkins was disabled. Sergeant-Farrier Hunt then galloped back to his troop, running the gauntlet of a heavy fire. Private Herbert and Sergeant-Farrier Hunt were both mentioned in despatches for their behaviour on this occasion, but while Private Herbert subsequently received a medal, Sergeant-Farrier Hunt was unrewarded. Lieutenant Jenkins was released by his captors on October 9, and rejoined the regiment at Heidelberg on November 1.
Major Smithson reported to the Officer Commanding as follows: Private Cooke, who was hit alongside of me, behaved very well, as also did the others.
Our casualties on this day were: One man killed, Major Smithson and one man wounded, Lieutenant Jenkins missing, four horses killed, sixteen horses wounded.
Lieutenant Church, who left with two troops of A Squadron to relieve Lieutenant Wise and his two troops at Donga Spruit, was opposed by a considerable number of Boers, who galloped down to the line and blew up a culvert near Wessel's Farm, doing but little damage. Lieutenant Church undoubtedly prevented further damage being done. When the Boers attacking Mathew's Farm retreated, this force retired, and Lieutenant Church proceeded to Donga Spruit.
This was intended by the Boers to have been the main attack, and to have ended in the capture of Newcastle. The enemy under Commandant Opperman numbered 2000 and were so sure of success that they wired that Newcastle had been captured, a message that appeared in some Dutch papers in Europe. That this was so intended was confirmed later, and also after peace had been declared. The Boer excuse for failure was that one commando under Lucas Meyer, the distinguished commandant, arrived too late, and that in consequence they were beaten in detail. Colonel Blagrove was complimented by the General Officer Commanding on the excellent work done by the regiment during the day.
Major Smithson was invalided home in October, and rejoined the regiment again in August 1901.
On August 22nd a 12-pounder gun was sent out to Sikafu, and having successfully negotiated the hill was mounted during the night. On the morrow another gun of similar calibre was mounted on Windsor Castle.
About 8 A.M. on the 24th the Boers again attacked the troop of the Royals at Duck Pond Farm and drove them in. At the same time they threatened Donga Spruit with another force and a pom-pom. The 12-pounder from Sikafu, however, knocked out the pom-pom on Whitestone Ridge at the first shot, and the enemy left Donga Spruit severely alone in future, as long as the 13th were holding that post.
The Boers then advanced and occupied the heights to the northwest of Tondga, detaching a party at the same time, who took away with them l00 lb. of dynamite, a number of detonators, and a mule waggon with a span of mules from the collieries. They were forced to retire, however, at 11.30 A.M., owing to their flank being turned to the south by the Royals, and on the north by a force under Colonel Blagrove, consisting of one squadron 13th Hussars, two guns of the Royal Field Artillery, and a company of the Middlesex Regiment.
On the same day it was decided by the Officer Commanding the Defences, Colonel W. Hill, Middlesex Regiment, to discontinue holding Mathew's Farm as a night outpost, and the advanced squadron holding that place were ordered to retire each night to the plate-layers' hut, near the spur of Windsor Castle. Every day, however, at dawn, Mathew's Farm was occupied and held as before. Only six Boers were seen on August 25.
On the 26th 2nd Lieutenant Lambert went to hospital. Later he was invalided home, rejoining the regiment in April 1901.
On August 27th the following orders were received: The available cavalry will leave here (Newcastle) at 11.30 A.M., supported by two companies of infantry and two guns, R.F.A., the latter to move at first to the ridge under Windsor Castle, and afterwards with your (O. C. Defences) direction to cover Wool's Drift. The Royals at Rooi Pynt have been ordered to support on the right by Dick's Drift, and to push patrols towards Utrecht. The half squadron at Mathew's Farm was, accordingly, ordered to Wool's Drift, and to send a patrol on to Middlesex Hill. C Squadron and headquarters proceeded to Wool's Drift, placing an observation post on Umbana.
The half squadron under Lieutenant Church at Donga Spruit sent a patrol to Doornkop, and a troop under Lieutenant Bayley that was temporarily lent by General Burn-Murdoch went to the sangar on the south-east end of Whitestone Ridge.
From C Squadron a patrol consisting of Corporal Crook and six men was sent to reconnoitre towards Welgevonden, passing between Doornkop and Umbana; but after proceeding about two miles this patrol was driven in. Another patrol, Corporal M'Elhannen and two men, sent in the same direction, was also driven in. Lieutenant Denny, who had been ordered to stay out with an observation post and see these patrols in, came under a somewhat heavy fire. The half squadron from Donga Spruit reconnoitred all round Doornkop, discovering about 40 Boers engaged in covering a larger force, of which the numbers could not be ascertained. When these parties had all been collected, and the presence of the enemy on and near Bastion Hill determined, the regiment retired at 5.30 P.M.
The enemy on the 28th and 29th was nowhere to be seen. At midnight on the 28th a spark from a heavy train in passing the platelayer's but set fire to the grass. This caused a stampede of about 20 horses and 4 chargers. During the next day the horses were all recovered, but most of them were badly cut by barbed wire.
In a despatch dated November 9, 1900, General Sir Redvers Buller details the work of the force employed in safeguarding the lines of communication from Ladysmith to Heidelberg, from July to September, and in mentioning the name of General Burn-Murdoch says that his excellent arrangements and the rapidity of his movements secured the town and district of Newcastle from invasion, despite the fact that it was on many occasions attacked seriously by superior forces. He instances August 20, 21, 22, and 29. The names of the following officers, non -commissioned officers and men of the 13th Hussars appeared in this despatch: Brevet Colonel H. J. Blagrove, Major Smithson, Lieutenant F. H. Wise, Captains E. A. Wiggin, J. H. Tremayne (Adjutant), A. H. Taylor, Lieutenant E. W. Denny, Squadron Sergeant-Major Prentice, Privates Pritchard, Farrance, and Herbert.
Captain Ogilvy and Lieutenant Spencer joined from England on September 3. The latter officer had been invalided home since going into hospital in January.
later a movement in conjunction with Generals Hildyard and Talbot-Coke was
ordered. The information given to the 13th was as follows:—
It is the intention of the G.O.C. (Burn-Murdoch) to demonstrate by Wool's Drift bridge to Utrecht, in order to prevent the enemy's forces in that direction from reinforcing Wakerstroom.
At the beginning of these operations some slight confusion was caused owing to General Hildyard and General Talbot-Coke working by Cape time, while the 13th and the rest of that force were working by Natal time, a difference of more than thirty minutes.
The force from Newcastle was composed as follows: one squadron of the 13th Hussars and three squadrons of the Royal Dragoons under Colonel Blagrove; half a battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, four guns of the Royal Field Artillery, and a half section field hospital under Colonel Hill.
The two troops of A Squadron, leaving the platelayer's hut, arrived at the junction of the Ingagane and Nkandu rivers by daybreak to watch the right flank, proceeding later to Pamelo's Drift. From Donga Spruit the two troops of A Squadron took up a position on Whitestone Ridge, and reconnoitring Doornkop watched the left flank. C Squadron sent out a troop at 5 A.M. to Mathew's Farm, patrolling towards Donga Spruit and Wool's Drift.
The remainder of Colonel Blagrove's force started at 6.30 A.M., three troops of the Royals being on the right. At 8.40 A.M. Umbana and Middlesex Hill were occupied. Nothing happened till 1.30 P.M., when small parties of Boers approached Umbana from the east, possibly to ascertain if the British artillery was present. A brisk interchange of rifle-fire took place at long range, and lasted for about ten minutes, after which the Boers retired.
All this time the infantry and artillery had been posted on Smithson's Ridge, but during the evening they came on to Umbana and bivouacked. C Squadron and the Royals bivouacked at the same place, Major Williams's two troops near Pamelo's Drift, and Lieutenant Church's under Whitestone Ridge.
About 8 A.M. on the 6th General Talbot-Coke, who was at Pimple Hill, asked that the force should operate along the south-east of Doornkop towards Welgevonden.
It was found that there were a few Boers holding Bastion Hill, and in consequence the guns at Umbana fired a few rounds at them, which drove them farther back along the hill. About 4.45 that afternoon a staff officer rode over from General Talbot-Coke, and shortly afterwards the 13th retired to Umbana and bivouacked.
Next morning, starting at 8.30 A.M., the country was carefully searched as far as the foot of the berg, especially where the track led up to the top of the berg above Welgevonden Farm, C Squadron meanwhile occupying bastion Hill till relieved by the infantry later in the day.
About noon some 80 to 100 Boers were sighted, and a squadron of the Royals galloped on and opened a long-range fire on the enemy, but the wire fences much hampered the movement.
The Welgevonden Farm mentioned purported to be a hospital, and red cross flags were hoisted there. On examination the only patient proved to be an idiot boy, and no medical appliances were visible. Red crosses were painted on some waggons, but the paint was still wet. Boreman's Farm was burnt by General Talbot-Coke. The next morning patrols were sent out, but about 11 A.M. the half squadrons posted at Donga Spruit and the platelayer's hut were ordered to retire to their respective quarters, while C Squadron and headquarters returned to Newcastle.
On the 9th a sudden order came for the 13th to proceed from Newcastle to Umbana. It started at 9 A.M. Umbana and Bastion Hill were clear of Boers, but Private Trustram was wounded in the arm by a sniper, of whom there were a few about.
Most of the 10th was employed on and around Bastion Hill. The Royals advanced to the berg, and within a mile of Utrecht, but no Boers were visible. That night the 13th went into bivouac.
Next day an advance was made on Utrecht. At 11.40 A. M. the scouts had been round and beyond the town. Heliographic communication was established with General Hildyard at 2 P.M., and it was learnt that he had met with but slight opposition.
The bivouac that night was at a spot two miles west of Utrecht, and on the morrow at 12.30 P.M. orders came to return to Umbana. On September 13th three troops of A Squadron, two companies of the Middlesex Regiment, under Major Close, remained at Umbana; while the remainder of the regiment marched back to Newcastle, with the exception of one troop under Lieutenant Church, which went again to Donga Spruit.
The regiment was now employed in seeing convoys through to Utrecht via Umbana, and in patrolling from Donga Spruit and from Newcastle to the berg on the west.
September 14. Lieutenant Bayley returned to the staff.
As a patrol was fired on from the pretended hospital at Welgevonden Farm, where the red cross flags were still flying, the place was blown up on the 17th by the orders of General Hildyard.
An enormous swarm of locusts annoyed the troops in camp on the 22nd. There was a very high wind blowing, and the locusts were driven against men and horses with considerable force. During the afternoon, in consequence, the men had to stand to the heads of the horses. It was a most unpleasant experience.
In co-operation with the troops from Ingogo, A Squadron reconnoitred Monkey Pass and Donovan's Farm on October 1. No Boers were seen, and camp was regained about 3.30 P.M. On that day Captain Battye, who had been transferred from B to A Squadron, arrived.
Second Lieutenants Twist, Marchant, and Hodgkinson were promoted lieutenants on October 3, and on the same day a troop was detached to occupy Fort Biddulph.
From the 5th to the 15th the weather was very bad, dust storms causing great annoyance.
On the 8th, in compliance with a request from the District Commissioner of Utrecht, Colonel Blagrove was ordered to take a force to clear the top of Belalas Berg. Two squadrons of the 5th Dragoon Guards, two troops of the Royals, and six troops of the 13th Hussars were engaged on this duty. The force had its rendezvous at Bezendenhout's Farm at 8.15 A.M. During the whole day they were employed in collecting stock and clearing farms in this rough and precipitous district. Altogether 40 horses, 80 cattle, and 1100 sheep were driven in, and the troops regained the camp at Umbana at 9 P.M. At the approach of a squadron the Boers made off, but two men belonging to a strong patrol of the 5th Dragoon Guards were hit.
On October 11th Lieutenant Marchant rejoined.
Four days later Sir Redvers Buller passed through Newcastle for Durban on his way home.
It was reported on October 26th that during the previous night the Boers had burnt Waschbank station and destroyed the line. At noon on this day A Squadron, under Major Williams, left for Dannhauser, where they arrived at 5 P.M. Here news came that the Boers were advancing north towards One Tree Hill, and would bivouac there that night. Major Williams wired to Newcastle to ask that a squadron of the Royals, then on the rail for Glencoe, might be intercepted to co-operate with him at dawn next morning at One Tree Hill. The reply was that this should be done. Accordingly, at 3 A.M. next morning A Squadron marched to One Tree Hill, and arrived there at 5.30 only to find that the enemy had left two hours previously over the berg. The squadron of the Royals had not yet arrived, and Major Williams waited till 8.30 A.M., when he started to return to Dannhauser. He had hardly done this when he was called up by the heliograph of the Royals, who had now reached the place where they were expected to be at 5 A.M. The message informed Major Williams that the Royals were going after the Boers. To this Major Williams replied that the enemy had left before his arrival. A second message came saying that the Royals were going on, and asked for his support. He followed them, therefore, for about eight miles, but nothing was seen of the enemy. The orders received by Major Williams from General Hildyard on that morning were to hold the railway, and only to send out patrols. He, however, took the squadron in the hope of making a capture, as under the circumstances every man might be needed.
On October 29th A and C Squadrons concentrated at Newcastle preparatory to a change the next day, when they entrained for Greylingstad, Waterval, Vlakfontein, Eden Kop, and Heidelberg.
The strength of the various detachments on November 1st was as follows:
Heidelberg,—Colonel Blagrove, commanding; Captain J. H. Tremayne, Adjutant; Lieutenant E. W. Denny, Acting Quartermaster; Lieutenant F. W. Jarvis, Transport Officer; Captain M`Laughlan, Royal Army Medical Corps; Lieutenant Houston, Army Veterinary Department; three troops of C Squadron; Captain A. H. R. Ogilvy, Lieutenants F. H. Wise, G. H. Hodgkinson, C. E. Jenkins, F. W. V. Cosens, and Clutterbuck (4th Hussars); 1 warrant officer, 161 non -commissioned officers and men, 132 troop horses and 30 chargers.
Eden Kop.—1 troop of C Squadron, Lieutenant Lyons, 2S noncommissioned officers and men, 26 horses and 3 chargers. Greylingstad.-Major C. Williams, Lieutenants H. J. J. Stern, T. H. S. Marchant, So non-commissioned officers and men, 72 horses and 8 chargers.
Waterval.—Major M. A. Close, 2nd in command, Captain L. R. S. Battye, Lieutenants J. F. Church and A. W. Spencer. Seventy noncommissioned officers and men, 63 horses and 11 chargers. The strength of the B Squadron at Standerton was Captain E. A. Wiggin; Lieutenants A. Symons, W. Pepys, and E. F. Twist; 2nd Lieutenant L. B. B. Gubbins; 159 non-commissioned officers and men, and 152 horses.
The total strength of the regiment at the front was therefore 25 officers, 1 warrant officer, 497 non-commissioned officers and men, and 445 horses.
At this period the enemy were most actively employed in blowing up the line and holding up trains whenever practicable. This gave the regiment constant work patrolling the line, in addition to which the irksome duties of supplying escorts to convoys, cattle guards, &c., fell to its lot.
The camp at Heidelberg was close to the station, where a depot of the Army Service Corps with a considerable quantity of stores also existed. The station was supposed to be in a condition capable of defence, but the defences, considering the importance of the place, were decidedly weak. General Cooper, who was then in command of the Heidelberg sub-district, in consequence authorised the employment of Kaffir labour, and with this aid the three troops commanded by Captain Ogilvy speedily put the defences of the place into such a condition that an attack by the enemy was a thing ardently to be desired. Major Close now took over the command of Waterval, and had besides the two troops of the A Squadron, two companies of the Scottish Rifles, and two guns of the 64th Battery Royal Field Artillery under Lieutenant Spiller. Here, too, the defences were weak, and their strengthening was pressed on with all the rapidity possible.
On November 4th Lieutenant Wise went home on leave, granted by Lord Roberts. He resigned his commission on May 4, 1901.
On November 5th Captain Ogilvy took out 62 men from Heidelberg, leaving at 4 A.M., and proceeded to the Nigel Mines, reconnoitring thence towards Boschmanskop. There he met with very considerable numbers of the enemy about, and retired on the Nigel.
On the same day Lieutenant Lyons was unfortunately wounded in the leg by a ricochet shot. His wound necessitated his being sent up to hospital at Pretoria, which was now in our hands. Subsequently he was invalided home. He sailed for South Africa again on May 31, 1902, and rejoined the regiment then at Pretoria. The circumstances were these: Lieutenant Lyons was ordered to take his troops out from Eden Kop to hunt for some cattle supposed to be concealed in a kloof. The country was very rocky and precipitous, and when the section Lieutenant Lyons had taken on was retiring, about half a dozen Boers crept up and opened fire.
On the 9th the enemy made an attack on the Nigel, but were repulsed by the company of infantry that was posted there. C Squadron, which had turned out from Heidelberg when the attack was reported, after proceeding a short distance returned.
At Eden Kop, on October 12, Lieutenant Spencer took over the command of the troop owing to the wound of Lieutenant Lyons, Second Lieutenant Jenkins taking the place of Lieutenant Spencer at Waterval. On the same day Colonel Blagrove was placed in command of all troops in garrison at Heidelberg, as well as of those in its immediate neighbourhood. Lieutenant Clutterbuck of the 4th Hussars, who had been attached to the regiment since it sailed from England, now left to rejoin his regiment in India.
But the enemy was active in the district at this time. Two night attacks on the Vaal station, about three miles from Waterval, took place, one on the 11th and the other on the 15th. They were both repulsed by the Scottish Rifles there, under Captain Barton, who had only two casualties.
A place known as Horne's Farm, and supposed to be held by from 80 to 100 Boers, now required to be cleared of the enemy. In consequence A Squadron and the Scottish Rifles from Greylingstad, being available for the purpose, turned out. A farm near was blown up, but Horne's Farm was found to be strongly held, and in a very snug position. As the squadron and the Scottish Rifles returned to camp they were followed by the enemy, who fired on them but without inflicting loss. On the 24th of the month, however, A Squadron working in concert with the column commanded by Colonel Bewicke-Copley drove the Boers out of Horne's Farm and blew it up. It was then discovered that the enemy numbered nearly 400.
On the 18th C Squadron was out most of the day engaged in watching the front, while a post at Houtpoort was being established. The enemy was numerous, but retired to safe positions in the hills whence they occasionally sniped the men, but the squadron suffered no casualties.
Next day a party of about 16 Boers attacked one of the posts at Waterval. Private Elsegood was wounded in the leg, and the horse of Private Elliott was killed, while he was injured by the animal rolling on him. The men in another post on the left turned out and drove off the enemy.
On this day Lieutenant Stern with his troop went out on reconnaissance duty from Greylingstad. Seventy Boers attacked the party. Lieutenant Stern, however, extricated his men with skill, and beyond two horses being wounded suffered no casualties.
Corporal Jackson on this occasion behaved with coolness and decision. His name was in consequence submitted to the officer commanding for early promotion. Corporal Jackson was promoted sergeant on October 24.
Accompanied by some of the Scottish Rifles, Major Williams took his squadron to Daas Poort on the 20th, returning the same evening. Two days later the same force, working in conjunction with Colonel Bewicke-Copley's column, made a demonstration towards the gold mine south-east of Greylingstad.
For the month of November there is but little to record. The Waterval detachment was for some days occupied in clearing farms and collecting provisions-during which time Guide Waite with his six native scouts did good work. The detachment was fired upon daily while so employed.
The force at Heidelberg was augmented on November 26th by the arrival of the 7th Dragoon Guards and the 14th Hussars, under Brigadier-General G. Hamilton.
Field-Marshal Lord Roberts was now about to give up the command of the army in South Africa. His successor was General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. On the 29th of November Lord Roberts published his farewell to the troops in an Army Order dated from Johannesburg.
The passage of Lord Roberts down country by rail was watched with great care, and special precautions were taken to prevent the enemy from committing any outrage.
At the close of the month the comfort of the regiment was much increased by a generous and kindly gift from the workers at the factory of Messrs J. & P. Coats of Paisley. The large quantity of socks, tobacco, cocoa, &c., forwarded on this occasion being very much appreciated.
The Boers in December renewed their activity in railway destruction. On the 7th, 70 men from C Squadron marched out at 12.30 A.M. and joined a force of 250 of the King's Royal Rifles with 2 guns under Lieut.-Colonel Bewicke-Copley. The force proceeded to a ridge overlooking Deepkloof. A force under General G. Hamilton and Colonel Colville, which had marched earlier that night, co-operated. The intention was, if possible, to surround the Boers in the kloof, but the operations were not successful. Farm clearing occupied the morrow, when several women and children were brought in, and the force returned to Heidelberg that night. The women gave as much trouble as possible—one who insisted in being brought in gave birth to a child on a waggon during the journey.
On December 8th the Boers destroyed the line near Vlaklaagte and held up a train. Lieutenant Church with his troop turned out from Waterval, but found the enemy off and away. Shortly after the B Squadron under Captain Wiggin arrived from Standerton, but the enemy had too long a start and escaped safely. On this occasion Sergeant Hetherington did very well. His duty was to patrol towards Vlaklaagte daily at 4.15 A.M. Hearing firing beyond that place he pushed on, opening fire on the Boers. The enemy retreated, driving off about 100 horses, but two truck-loads of horses were saved by the timely attack of this patrol. The engine-driver of the train was slightly wounded. An attempt by the Boers to drive off some ponies from Waterval failed, and they lost a man wounded.
On the 13th the Boers derailed another train near Vlaklaagte, but were beaten off by the escort of Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. Two scouts were unfortunately injured when the train left the rails. Again Sergeant Hetherington's patrol came up and assisted in the discomfiture of the enemy. Lieutenant Jenkins with his troop from Waterval and troops from Standerton also turned out but could not arrive in time.
The behaviour of Sergeant Hetherington on these two occasions received the commendation of General Wynne.
On December 15th Lieutenant A. Symons sailed for England to join the Staff College.
Three days later rifles in lieu of carbines were issued to A Squadron, B and C Squadrons receiving theirs on the 21st and 25th respectively.
On the same day a non-commissioned officer and six men were attached to the infantry post at Frischgevaad, about seven miles from Heidelberg. One of these men, Private Lee, was wounded the next day while patrolling.
December 24. Lieutenant Marchant with a troop of A Squadron from Greylingstad was attached to the mobile column under Colonel Colville for a few days.
On that day half the Eden kop troop under Lieutenant Hodgkinson went out with 150 men of the 2nd Devons and one pom-pom foraging,—Captain Vigors of the 2nd Devons commanding the whole party. His report of the occurrence which took place is as follows:
When seven miles out from Eden hop, and whilst the waggons (eight) were loading, about 100 Boers attempted to surround my party.
My left guard of 50 men, 2nd Devons, had got farther than I intended, leaving a gap between the main body and them. That the Boers did not break through this gap was largely due, I consider, to the excellent work done by a party of the Cavalry.
The party covering the waggons were attached by about 40 Boers. They were warned by a scout, Private Blackley, 13th Hussars, that the enemy were advancing. He dismounted and assisted in the attempt to repel the Boers, and when matters got critical mounted and brought away Corporal Warmacott, 2nd Devons, clinging to his stirrup. Corporal Warmacott informed me that had it not been for Private Blackley's assistance he could not have got away. From the fact that the covering party had three killed, three wounded, and ten taken prisoners, I am of opinion that the conduct of this man deserves special mention.
Private Blackley was mentioned in despatches.
The last act of railway destruction by the enemy took place on December 29, when a supply train laden with canteen stores was derailed near Vaal. The Boers, some 200 to 300 strong, first looted and then burned the train. This affair brought out Lieutenant Church with his troop from Waterval, a half company of Scottish Rifles from Vaal, Lieutenants Stern and Marchant with their troops and a company of Mounted Infantry from Colonel Colville's column at Greylingstad. But the enemy retired, and beyond long-range firing nothing eventuated.
Meanwhile, on December 16th Lieutenant Jarvis and 30 men of the C Squadron had left Heidelberg to join Colonel Colville's column at Modderfontein on the Zuicherbosch river. The column was about 600 strong, and consisted of the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade, the 63rd Battery Royal Field Artillery under Major C. H. de Rougemont, and a pom-pom (Captain Patch).
Thus augmented by Lieutenant Jarvis's party the column advanced on the 17th towards Malan's kraal. There were no other mounted troops, and the thirty men had to furnish advance-, rear-, and flank-Guards—a difficult piece of work. The duty before the column was to clear the country between the railway line and the Vaal, and to work down to Standerton. Several small parties of the enemy were about, and the men of the 13th were daily under fire.
On the first day the advance-guard was checked pro tem by a superior force. Lance-Corporal Bradley was wounded and fell from his horse. Thereupon, under a heavy fire, Private Dempster galloped up to his assistance, and taking him up on his own horse afterwards sent him in to the ambulance. Private Dempster, then on foot, joined the advanced company of the column. For this gallant action Private Dempster was mentioned in despatches.
Next day the column marched to Grootvelt and there halted till December 19. Lieutenant Jarvis with a patrol of twelve men was sent out to reconnoitre. He found a strong party of Boers holding a ridge near the camp. Two companies of infantry were then sent out, and the enemy were driven from the ridge. They, however, received a strong reinforcement, and a sharp skirmish ensued before they were driven off. Private M'Masters was wounded, and two horses were hit. After a day's halt the column marched to Leeuwspruit and camped above Balk Spruit. Supplies were running short, as a prearranged and expected convoy to Moddersfontein had not arrived. Lieutenant
Jarvis was therefore sent to Vlakfontein to make inquiries. On arrival he was informed that the convoy was not to proceed without an escort of at least three companies of infantry. But this force was not available for the duty, and so the supply convoy had not been sent. Lieutenant Jarvis returned to the column and reported. Colonel Colville then determined to take his column to Vlakfontein.
The force marched at 5.30 A.M. in a dense fog on the 21st. Halfway the fog cleared, and a force of some 400 Boers was almost at once discerned by the advanced scouts. The enemy were concealed behind a small kopje.
There was a sharp fight, which lasted till about 12.30 P.M. The column reached Vlakfontein at 2 P.M.
With reference to this affair the summary of news contained the following:—
Colonel Colville, with moveable column, engaged two separate commandoes on the 21st near Vlakfontein. Enemy retired before our attack when infantry was within 600 yards of their position, and lost several men. Our casualties were three wounded. Colonel Colville attributes small loss to excellent shooting of 63rd Battery, and skilful leading of Lieutenant Jarvis, 13th Hussars, Captain Talbot, and 2nd Lieutenant White, Rifle Brigade.
On December 23rd the column marched out to the South Rand mine. Next day a start was made to attack the strong position held by the enemy on the north-west corner of the Rooi Kopjes. In this very little success could be attained; but two farms at the foot of the hills were burnt. A troop from A Squadron under Lieutenant Marchant joined the column from Greylingstad that day.
Christmas Day was passed in camp.
On the morrow a second attempt was made against the Rooi Kopjes at a spot rather more to the west. A company of the Rifle Brigade under Captain C. E. Radclyffe, with a pom-pom (Major Harvest) which had joined at Vlakfontein, was left to guard the camp. The troops of Lieutenants Marchant and Jarvis formed the advance- and right flank-guard, and the rear- and left flank-guard respectively. Some Boers concealed in a donga speedily opened a heavy fire on the right flank-guard, but bolted when the guns got into action. The column then advanced and destroyed a farm about a mile from the kopjes, despite the strong resistance of the enemy. Here several casualties occurred among the Rifle Brigade. Several parties of Boers were at the same time seen to be galloping away and disappearing over the ridge behind the house of one Commandant Buys. Their intention was suspected, and the suspicion proved true, that they purposed getting round the flanks and attacking the camp some five miles distant. This was twice reported to Colonel Colville before 10 A.M., and a message was sent into camp. At 1 P.M. it was found that the enemy were resolutely attacking the camp. The column retired, followed up by the enemy, from the hills, and arrived in time to drive away the Boers. But at the camp the pom-pom had lost all its horses, and it had been needful to run it in by hand to prevent capture, while Major Harvest and Captain Radclyffe were both wounded. The total casualties on that day were nearly seventy killed and wounded, about two-thirds of the number being those who remained in camp. The enemy, though driven off, had not yet finished. About 8.30 P.M. they renewed their attack, but the outposts were able to deal with this.
On the following morning at 8.30 A.M. the column marched to Greylingstad, and on December 30th Lieutenant Jarvis and his troop returned to Heidelberg by rail.
A seasonable gift of comforts arrived at this time from Lady Russell, who thus again showed her kindly interest in the regiment. A handsome present of pipes and tobacco also arrived from Colonel and Mrs Spilling, and were most welcome.
From the reserve squadron, too, came out a generous supply of Christmas puddings, which ought to have reached the regiment by Christmas, but did not. However, early in January the somewhat belated Christmas fare arrived and duly disappeared again.
On December 31, 1900, the strength of the regiment at the front was 21 officers, 1 warrant officer, 452 non-commissioned officers and men, and 407 horses. Wanting to complete—5 officers, 54 noncommissioned officers and men, and 46 horses.
On the last day of the year an Army Order received contained a telegraphic message from Her Majesty the Queen to Lord Kitchener of good wishes to all ranks.
During the year 1900 the deaths in the regiment were as follows: Killed in action, 2; died of wounds, 1; enteric, 27; dysentery, 6; drowned, 1; other causes, 3. Total, 40.
201 men had been invalided home.
The drafts from England amounted to 221 non-commissioned officers and men.
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Copyright © Lewis P.