1st Battalion sailed in the beginning of October 1899, and being early
on the scene, was employed on garrison duty in Cape Colony till Lord
Methuen commenced his advance from Orange River.
that there had been little fighting on the borders of the colony, but
in a reconnaissance from Orange River on 10th November 1899 the battalion
lost Colonel Keith-Falconer killed and two other officers wounded.
consequence of some of the brigades originally intended for Lord Methuen's
command having been diverted to Natal for the relief of Ladysmith, a
brigade, afterwards known as the 9th, was formed of troops which were
available, the component parts being the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers,
2nd Northampton Regiment, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, and part of
the 1st Loyal North Lancashire; the other companies and headquarters
of the last-named regiment being the main part and only regular troops
of the Kimberley garrison when the war broke out. Some companies of
the 1st Munster Fusiliers were temporarily attached to the brigade,
and were present with it at Belmont. Major-General Fetherstonhaugh was
appointed to the command of the 9th, but had the grievous misfortune
to be wounded in their first battle at Belmont. The command was then
given to Colonel Money of the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, who acted
as brigadier during the latter part of the battle of Belmont, 23rd November,
and at Enslin, 25th November. Major-General Pole-Carew, who had gone
out to South Africa as commandant of headquarters, was thereafter appointed
to command the brigade, and it was under his leadership that the 9th
distinguished themselves greatly at Modder River and did useful work
the day of Belmont, 23rd November 1899, Lord Methuen led into action
the Guards Brigade, the 9th Brigade, 9th Lancers, two companies of Mounted
Infantry, the 18th and 75th Batteries R.F.A., and a Naval Brigade. A
field battery and a moiety of the slender mounted force available were
on either flank. The 9th Brigade formed the left of the infantry in
the advance into action. Lord Methuen's orders were that they should
advance on Table Mountain, and " having secured it, swing round left,
then advance east to west"; 1 but on account of one of the
Guards battalions having taken a slightly different direction in the
darkness from that originally intended, the first instructions, under
which the 9th were to have " the lion's share of the work," were modified.
The brigade moved into action with the Northumberlands on the left,
the Northamptons on their right, the Yorkshire Light Infantry and two
companies Munster Fusiliers being in rear. The two regiments in the
front rank performed their task - a difficult one in the most satisfactory
way, dislodging the enemy from Table Mountain and other defensive positions
in the best style. The casualties of the Fusiliers were 2 officers and
12 men killed, 4 officers and 36 men wounded.
25th November Lord Methuen, continuing his northern advance, fought
the battle of Enslin, sometimes called Gras Pan. The troops present
were practically the same as at Belmont, but the serious work at Enslin
fell to the 9th Brigade under Colonel Money and to the Naval Brigade.
In his despatch Lord Methuen says: "The 9th Brigade was distributed
as follows: five companies of Northumberland Fusiliers remained as a
containing line in front of right of enemy's position and did not advance
until the end of the engagement; two companies Northumberland Fusiliers
escort to guns; the remainder of the brigade attacked the kopjes on
left of Boer position. The fire from here was very heavy, and the Naval
Brigade suffered severely, keeping in too close formation. The officers,
petty officers, and non-commissioned officers led their men with great
gallantry." In another part of his despatch the general states that
the position "was well prepared by shrapnel," and the Naval Brigade
suffered through not "taking advantage of cover."2 The casualties
of the Fusiliers at Enslin were very slight.
28th November Lord Methuen, still pushing northwards, fought the very
stiffly contested battle of Modder River. The Boers had a splendid defensive
position on the Modder, near its junction with the Riet.
Methuen's intention was to leave the railway viā Spytfontein. At that
time the general believed the Boers to have vacated the village, but
on the morning of the 28th he received information that it was strongly
held, and he thereupon decided to have it cleared. The British troops
were the same as those engaged at the two previous actions, with the
addition of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who had in the meantime
joined the force; the 62nd Battery R.F.A., after a long march, came
into action in the afternoon. The Guards Brigade (see 3rd Grenadier
Guards) were on the right near the junction of the rivers; the 9th Brigade,
now under General Pole-Carew, on the left. After stating that the Guards
Brigade could not effect a crossing in face of the awful fire, and had
merely to lie down and take what cover they could, chiefly behind ant-hills,
Lord Methuen said:-
the 9th Brigade had advanced, the Northumberland Fusiliers along the
east side of the railway line, supported by half a battalion of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Yorkshire Light Infantry advanced
along the west side of the railway, supported by the remaining half-
battalion of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The half-battalion Loyal
North Lancashire prolonged the line to the left, and endeavoured to
cross the river and threaten the enemy's right flank. The six companies
Northamptons acted as a baggage-guard.
9th Brigade had the same hard task before it that faced the Guards Brigade:
on the extreme left an outcrop of rocks and small kopjes on the left
bank of the river, considerably in advance of the enemy's main position,
were strongly held by the enemy, and checked the advance of the Loyal
North Lancashire. Some 600 yards east, the same side of the river, a
farmhouse and kraal on a slight eminence covering the darn and drift
at the west end of village, also strongly occupied, checked the advance.
A withering fire from these buildings checked the advance of the brigade.
They were, however, carried early in the afternoon by two companies
of the Yorkshire Light Infantry under Lieut.-Colonel Barter, together
with some Highlanders and Northumberland Fusiliers. Lieutenant Fox,
Yorkshire Light Infantry, gallantly led this assault; he was severely
wounded. Almost at the same moment the rocks and kopjes on the extreme
left were carried by the Loyal North Lancashire. We had now won the
river "(which was crossed)" and west side of village, out of which the
enemy were soon chased. Major-General Pole-Carew led his men in a gallant
manner for three-quarters of a mile up the bank, when he was forced
back and had to content himself with holding a fairly good position
he had gained on the right bank."3
accounts say that Pole-Carew's men were shelled by our own guns-if so,
there must have been some bad staff-work, as none of the movements were
hurried or unforeseen.
in the previous battles, the whole of the troops behaved magnificently,
and the crossing of the river by the 9th Brigade is undoubtedly one
of the finest feats in the war. At Modder River the Fusiliers lost approximately
11 men killed and 34 wounded. Two officers and 4 men were mentioned
in Lord Methuen's despatch for good work and great gallantry.
11th December, the day of Magersfontein, the 9th Brigade, minus the
Yorkshire Light Infantry, were not in the principal action, but were
engaged holding the camp and making a diversion along the railway to
the left of the real attack. The Yorkshire Light Infantry were engaged
on the extreme right.
the next three months the 9th Brigade had little fighting, as until
Lord Roberts was ready to advance from Modder River to Bloemfontein
Lord Methuen remained quiescent in his camp. When the advance commenced
that general and the 9th Brigade moved up to Kimberley and Warrenton.
Sir Archibald Hunter's division then came round from Natal to the Kimberley
district, and Lord Methuen was able to move farther east. He operated
about Boshof till 14th May. Lord Roberts having advanced from Bloemfontein
in the beginning of May, Methuen was ordered to move inwards-that is,
towards the main army. 4 He occupied Hoopstad on 17th May,
and was then directed to go to the Kroonstad district to protect the
lines of communication in Lord Roberts' rear.5
Guards Brigade having gone with the main army to Bloemfontein and Pretoria,
Lord Methuen's division was now composed of the 9th Brigade, now under
Major - General Douglas, and the 20th under Major - General Paget, the
Yorkshire Light Infantry being transferred from the 9th to Paget's brigade.
29th May Methuen was ordered to go towards Lindley to assist Colvile
and the Highland Brigade, who were then rather hardly pressed. On his
way he received a message from Colonel Spragge of the Irish Yeomanry
stating that he was much pressed and short of food. Methuen pushed on
with his mounted troops, covering forty-four miles in twenty-five hours,
and arrived at Lindley on 2nd June, but Spragge had surrendered on 31st
May. Methuen then attacked and completely defeated the Boer force in
the neighbourhood.6Paget's brigade was left in Lindley (see
1st Royal Munster Fusiliers), and Lord Methuen with the other brigade
was ordered to move to Heilbron with supplies for Colvile.
7th June the Boers attacked and captured the post at Rhenoster Bridge,
held by the 4th Derbyshire Militia, the garrison losing 5 officers and
32 men killed, 100 wounded, and the remainder taken prisoners. On the
11th Lord Methuen arrived near Rhenoster, and attacking the enemy, again
defeated them, recapturing the Imperial Yeomanry field hospital.7
Methuen then went to Heilbron with supplies, and thereafter moved to
Paardekraal, where he captured immense quantities of stock and some
prisoners. On 12th July he was ordered to take his column to Kroonstad,
and thence rail it to Krugersdorp. This was accomplished by the 16th,
and he then marched to Rustenburg to assist Baden-Powell. There was
an engagement on the 21st, but the enemy scattered. The 1st Loyal North
Lancashire were left to hold Oliphant's Nek, and Methuen marched south
again with the remainder of his force. He had fighting on the 28th,
and entered Potchefstroom on the 29th. His force now was the 1st Northumberland
Fusiliers, 2nd Northampton Regiment, 750 Imperial Yeomanry, six guns,
two howitzers, and two pom - poms.8 De Wet, who had been
on the Reitzburg hills for two weeks, crossed the Vaal on 7th August.
On the 8th and 9th Methuen engaged his rear-guard and continued the
pursuit until the 15th, when it was discovered that the Boers had slipped
through Oliphant's Nek, from which by some misfortune or mistake the
Loyal North Lancashire had been removed. In the pursuit Methuen captured
a gun, some prisoners, waggons, &c., and released about 60 of our men,
who had been having an indescribable time, some of the poor wretches
being absolutely unable to crawl when they slipped off the waggons or
dropped behind. Methuen's own men had a time during the first fortnight
of August which none of them are likely to forget. Various other columns
took part in this pursuit.
Methuen now moved viâ Zeerust to Mafeking. Leaving Douglas and
a part of his force at Mafeking, he marched towards Schweizer-Reneke,
and on the way captured a gun, about 50 prisoners, much ammunition,
and an enormous quantity of stock. His own force had almost no casualties.
This was the first of many very substantial successes which should not
be lost sight of when we think of the disasters which were to come,
when his own force was weakened by withdrawals and his enemy strengthened
by commandos driven from other districts.
Lord Roberts' final despatches 24 officers and 37 non-commissioned officers
and men of the Northumberland Fusiliers were mentioned, but these included
the second phase of the campaign the 9th was entirely non - existent
as a brigade acting together. The 1st Northumberland Fusiliers at times
alone remained with Lord Methuen, and often only a portion of the battalion
accompanied the general on his endless treks during the latter part
of 1900 and beginning of 1901.
hundred men of the Northumberland Fusiliers and 200 Imperial Yeomanry
were the garrison of Lichtenburg under Colonel Money when that place
was, on 3rd March 1901, attacked by a Boer force of 1500, with a gun,
under Delarey, Smutz, and Celliers. "The attack commenced at 3 A.M.
and continued till midnight, when the enemy retired, having been completely
repulsed at all points, with a loss of 60 killed and wounded and 7 prisoners.
The casualties of the garrison, who made a gallant defence,"9
were 2 officers and 13 men of the Fusiliers, and 1 other killed and
about 26 wounded, of whom the majority belonged to the battalion.
officers and 7 non-commissioned officers and men of the battalion were
mentioned in despatches for great gallantry on this occasion.
some months in 1901 the Volunteer Company, along with a company of Leinster
Militia, formed the infantry of a column based on Kimberley which did
useful work in the west of the Orange River Colony.
October ,1901 Lord Methuen was operating near Zeerust. He had detached
from his force a small column under Von Donop. A most determined attack
was made on this column by Delarey with 1000 men, who rode up through
the bush to close quarters and made great efforts to capture the two
guns of the 4th Battery. The artillerymen were practically all shot
down. A few of the Northumberland Fusiliers formed the escort, and of
these 12 men were killed, and 1 officer and 13 men were wounded. The
Boers were driven off, leaving 40 dead.10 In this affair
5 non-commissioned officers and men of the battalion gained mention.
25th February 1902 Colonel Anderson of the 5th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry,
with that battalion, three companies of the Fusiliers, including some
militia attached, two guns and a pom-pom, was taking an empty convoy
to Klerksdorp when he was attacked by Delarey with 1500 men at dawn.
Twice the attack was driven off, but the third time the enemy broke
the screen and got in. 11 The casualties were very heavy,
those of the Fusiliers being approximately 3 officers and 9 men killed,
2 officers and 62 men wounded. Of the Militia attached the 3rd South
Wales Borderers had 1 officer and 2 men killed, and 1 officer and some
men wounded; and the 3rd South Stafford had 8 killed and 25 wounded.
days of tribulation were not yet over. Delarey, flushed with success
and strengthened greatly by Boers driven from other districts where
Lord Kitchener was massing large forces and making great sweeping drives,
swooped down on Lord Methuen upon 6th and 7th March 1902. Lord Methuen's
force was perhaps the most heterogeneous ever seen on a field. He had
900 mounted men from nine different units-200 of the Fusiliers, 100
of the Loyal North Lancashire, two guns of the 4th Battery, two of the
38th, and two pom-poms. On the 6th there "had been some sniping at the
rear by about 100 men of Van Zyl's commando. Seeing some confusion,
I went back myself. . . . I found the rear screen, which consisted of
the 86th company Imperial Yeomanry, very much out of hand, and lacking
both fire discipline and knowledge how to act. There seemed to be a
want of instructed officers and non-commissioned officers." Van Zyl's
commando being accurately shelled, retired to a "good position in the
bed of the Klein Harts River. 12 From this they were cleared
out by Major Berange of the Cape Police. For this work the Police and
their leader were praised by Lord Methuen. Next morning at 3 A.M. the
convoy had moved off. At 5 A.M. an intense fire was opened on the rear
screen, and soon the right flank was attacked. The infantry extended;
but about 6.30 the bulk of the mounted troops bolted, "and galloped
in complete confusion past our left flank, leaving the two guns of the
38th Battery unprotected, but these were served till every man was shot."
Lord Methuen remained with the guns and infantry till wounded. Captain
Montague of the Fusiliers and his infantry held out till 9.30 "in a
most splendid manner."13 The Fusiliers had about 20 casualties.
In his telegram of 10th March Lord Kitchener says: "Sections of the
4th and 38th Batteries showed great gallantry, and 330 men of the Northumberland
Fusiliers and Loyal North Lancashire Regiment showed conspicuous courage
in protecting the waggons, and refused to surrender until resistance
was a sad close to two and a half years' splendid work. No battalion
had done more continuous hard work throughout the campaign, and none
had done their allotted task in a worthier manner.
Lord Kitchener's final despatch 6 officers and 6 non-commissioned officers
of the regiment were mentioned.
2nd Battalion sailed on the Kildonan Castle early in November 1899,
arrived at the Cape about the 23rd, and was sent round to East London,
where Sir W. F. Gatacre was urgently in need of men. The battalion sailed
as corps troops, but the whole of the IIIrd Division, except the 2nd
Royal Irish Rifles, having been sent to Natal, the Fusiliers, 1st Royal
Scots, and 1st Derbys were successively sent to General Gatacre. The
Derbys did not arrive until after Stormberg was fought. The general
had also three companies of Mounted Infantry, some local troops - about
1000, mostly mounted - and half of the 2nd Berks, who had been in Stormberg
when the war broke out. The district he had to protect was wide, deeply
disaffected, and threatened by the enemy from the north and east. In
these circumstances General Gatacre, although he was aware that he was
weak in numbers, decided that it was desirable to capture the strong
position at Stormberg Junction, which had been occupied by the Boers
on the withdrawal of the British garrison.
7th December the general announced14 that he would entrain
for Molteno on the afternoon of the 8th and thence march on Stormberg.
The expedition was postponed until the 9th. At 4 A.M. the infantry were
astir and at work about the camp, an unfortunate proceeding, as the
men's actual work was to commence after dark that night, and they had
thus to begin it almost exhausted. In the whole management of the affair
the same lack of consideration, or, one is inclined to say, common-sense,
forces itself on one. The actual entraining commenced in the afternoon;
the railway arrangements were faulty, the trains being two hours late
in arriving at Molteno.
had been intended to leave Molteno at 7 P.M., but the force could not
move out till 9.15. The Irish Rifles leading,15 followed
by the Northumberland Fusiliers, 74th Battery, Cape Mounted Police,
one company Mounted Infantry, 77th Battery, one company Berkshire Mounted
Infantry, and some engineers. Guides were taken from the Police, but
it will be observed that the only regulars who were acquainted with
the district brought up the rear. As Major Pollock points out, it is
strange that the four companies of the Berkshire, then at Queenstown,
did not form part of the expedition, seeing they had constructed the
defences at Stormberg, and their officers doubtless knew every inch
of the ground. Captain Tennant of the Intelligence Department, who is
also said to have known the ground, was also left in camp. The infantry
marched with fixed bayonets. The Boers were not expected to make a cavalry
onslaught, and why this additional strain was laid on the men does not
appear. It had been intended to halt at Goosen's farm, some two miles
short of the position, rest there a few hours, and attack that-the south-east
portion-at dawn, 16 but the general seems to have changed
his mind as to this, and when en route he decided to attack on the west
side, necessitating a change of direction, which took the column off
the main road into difficult country Part of the column, coming up some
distance behind, actually continued on the originally intended road,
and would have marched in innocence into the Boer position had they
not been warned by Major Pollock.
3.45 the Irish Rifles, still in fours, were fired on from a strong position.
The despatch states that thereupon "three companies of the Royal Irish
Rifles formed to the left and occupied a kopje , the remainder of the
battalion and the Northumberland Fusiliers advanced up a steep hill
against the enemy's position. The artillery was ordered forward to the
kopje occupied by the three companies Royal Irish Rifles, and in crossing
a nullah one of the guns unfortunately stuck and was temporarily abandoned.
The team was subsequently shot down, and it was impossible to get the
gun away The two batteries took up position, one on and the other immediately
west of the kopje. The Mounted Infantry endeavoured to turn the Boer
right, but fell back on the kopje occupied by the three companies Royal
Irish Rifles. After about half an hour the officer commanding 2nd Battalion
Northumberland Fusiliers, finding his position untenable, gave the order
to retire across the open to a ridge beyond, but a large proportion
of his men, and also of the Royal Irish Rifles, remained behind (that
is, in front), and were eventually taken prisoners."
his evidence before the court of inquiry, printed in the proceedings
of the War Commission, Captain Fletcher, of the Northumberland Fusiliers,
said " that, by edging to the left flank, he had taken his men halfway
up the kopje. He then saw a retreat going on below, but he himself had
no such orders, and there was nothing, so far as he could judge, to
prevent him from going straight up the hill. Then the British began
shelling their own troops, and he was compelled to retire to the base
of the hill, where he remained and subsequently surrendered."
officers and men were exonerated. One of the courts added, "There seems
to have been great confusion and lack of definite orders."
6 A.M. the retirement on Molteno commenced. At first it was orderly
and creditable, but soon, owing to the utter exhaustion of the men,
became straggling and disorderly
Fusiliers' casualties were nearly 400, of whom 12 were killed and about
70 wounded. Six officers were among the prisoners.
is painful to have to mention the details of this defeat, but as it
involved practically the destruction of two fine battalions, in justice
to them the causes of the disaster have to be pointed out. 17
19th December the shattered remnant of " the Northumberland Fusiliers
departed for East London." 18
was a considerable time before the battalion was in a fit state to take
part in active operations at the front, and unfortunately in their next
prominent appearance they were to be associated with a disaster.
Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900, dealing with the escape
of De Wet from the Brand-water basin and the steps taken to pursue him,
his lordship mentions that the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers were about
the end of July taken from the garrison of Bloemfontein and put into
a brigade under Hart, who was then assisting to enclose De Wet in the
Reitzburg Hills (see 1st Northumberland Fusiliers). In September 1900
the brigade of General Clements was broken up, and he was given a column
to operate in the Megaliesberg range, chiefly between Rustenburg and
Krugersdorp. His force consisted of the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers,
2nd Worcestershire Regiment, 1st Border Regiment, 2nd Yorkshire Light
Infantry, 900 mounted troops under Colonel Ridley, and the 8th Battery
R.F.A. 19 Much hard and useful work was done, but, as a rule,
the enemy retired and would not fight. He was waiting for an opportunity
came in December, when Clements was out with only a part of his force,
and the Boers had been able to gather a very large body The words of
the despatch are " General Clements' force, which had encamped immediately
south of Nooitgedacht Pass (in the Megaliesberg Mountains, N W of Pretoria),
was attacked before daylight on 13th December 1900 by the combined forces
of Delarey and Beyers. Four companies of the Northumberland Fusiliers,
who were holding the ridges overlooking the camp, were surrounded and
captured by the enemy The loss of the outpost rendered the camp untenable,
and though the Boers suffered heavy loss in pressing home their attack,
General Clements found himself obliged to fall back on Commando Nek."20
The attacking force was probably about 4000. The losses of the Fusiliers
in killed and wounded were about 100, and neither Lord Kitchener nor
General Clements seemed to be at all dissatisfied with the defence made
, and it is satisfactory to know that 1 officer and 12 men were mentioned
in despatches for exceptional gallantry
this the battalion had little fighting.
1 Lord Methuen's despatch
of 26th November 1899 and enclosures.
2 Lord Methuen's despatch
as to Enslin, 25th November 1899.
3 Lord Methuen's despatch
as to Modder River, 1st December 1899.
4 Lord Roberts' despatch
of 14th August 1900, para. 6.
6 Ibid., para. 18.
7 Lord Roberts' despatch
of 14th August, para. 30.
8 Ibid., 10th October 1900,
paras. 22, 23, 28, 30.
9 Lord Kitchener's despatch
of 8th May 1901, para. 11.
10 Ibid., 8th November 1901,
11 Lord Kitchener's despatch
of 8th March 1902, para. 3.
12 Lord Methuen's despatch
of 13th March 1902.
13 Lord Methuen's despatch
of 13th March 1902.
14 Major Pollock's ' With
Seven Generals in the Boer War,' Skeffington, 1900, p.
15 General Gatacre's despatch
of 19th January 1900.
16 The Times' History, vol.
ii. p. 366.
17 Lord Roberts' covering
despatch of February 1900 contains his lordship's criticisms on the
18 Major Pollock, p. 86.
19 Lord Roberts' despatch
of 10th October 1900, para. 39.
20 Lord Kitchener's despatch
of 8th March 1901, para. 4, and his telegrams at time, also letter from
The Standard' correspondent, who gave a clear account. He said, that
in addition to the four companies of the Fusiliers on the berg, two
companies were with the baggage, near which were the 4.7 gun and two
sections of the 8th Battery Eight hundred yards west were the 2nd Mounted
Infantry, Kitchener's Horse, the Fife, Devon, and Sussex Yeomanry, and
four guns of P Battery. On the extreme left were 400 Yorkshire Light
Infantry. The Mounted Infantry were very heavily attacked at dawn, but
the enemy was repulsed. Firing was then heard on the berg, and a message
came asking assistance. The Yeomanry were sent. Before they got to the
top of the kloof the Boers held the position, and the Yeomanry had very
heavy casualties. Clements and the remainder of his force by a splendid
effort saved the guns and reached a position of comparative safety.