The 1st Battalion sailed on the Bavarian on 10th
November 1899, arrived at the Cape about the 28th, and was sent on
to Durban. Along with the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 1st Border
Regiment, and 1st Connaught Rangers, they formed the 5th Brigade under
Major-General Fitzroy Hart.
The 2nd Battalion was in Natal before the war broke out,
and took part in the battle of Talana Hill (20th October) and in the
subsequent retreat to Lady-smith. Before that town was shut in Sir
George White sent them down the line, and when General Buller was
ready to advance, the 2nd Battalion seem to have been ready also,
and the history of the two battalions is so mixed up during all the
Ladysmith relief operations that reference can only be made to what
is said under the 2nd Battalion. During the actual relief operations—that
is, from the beginning of December 1899 to 3rd March 1900—A, B, and
C companies of the 1st Battalion were attached to the 2nd Battalion,
which actually took the place of the 1st Battalion in the Irish Brigade.
During that period the remainder of the 1st Battalion garrisoned Moor
River and other posts on the lines of communication. A sketch of
the work of the relief force is given under the 2nd Queen’s, Royal
West Surrey, and the work of the Irish Brigade is dealt with under
the 1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
The 1st Battalion, now united, was at Colenso from 3rd March
to 6th May, when they joined Talbot Coke’s brigade at Elandslaagte
and then crossed the Biggarsberg with him.
At Alleman’s Nek on 11th June 1900 the 1st Battalion had
heavy fighting on the right flank, but did very well. Their losses
were 3 men killed, 2 officers, Colonel Mills being one, and 15 men
wounded. Colonel Mills and 2 men were mentioned in General Buller’s
despatch of 19th June. On 29th June the battalion was in an engagement
at Amersfoort, and lost 2 killed and 1 wounded.
Five officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 2 men were
mentioned in General Buller’s final despatch of 9th November 1900,
and 23 officers and 40 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned
in Lord Roberts’ final despatches. These latter commendations embraced
both the 1st and 2nd Battalions.
The 1st Battalion long continued to operate on the Natal-Transvaal
border and on the lines of communication. One hundred and fifty men
of the battalion were in the column of Colonel E. C. Knox in the first
quarter of 1901—one of those columns which swept through the Eastern
Transvaal to the Swazi border.
The Mounted Infantry of the Dublin Fusiliers was represented
in the little garrison of Fort Itala, which made such a splendid defence
when the place was attacked by Botha with an overwhelming force on
26th September 1901 (see 2nd Royal Lancaster). Major Chapman of the
1st Dublins, who commanded the garrison, received promotion. Lieutenant
Lefroy and several non - commissioned officers and men were also mentioned
in despatches by Lord Kitchener at the time for great gallantry.
In the beginning of 1902 the 1st Battalion was moved west
to Krugersdorp to relieve the 2nd Battalion.
In the supplementary or final despatch 4 officers and 11
non - commissioned officers and men were mentioned, these included
The 2nd battalion was in South Africa when war was declared,
and when Sir George White landed at Durban was stationed at Glencoe,
along with the 1st Leicestershire Regiment, 1st King’s
Royal Rifle Corps, 18th Hussars, and the 13th, 67th, and 69th Batteries
R.F.A., under General Pema-Symons. The 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers arrived
in time to be also sent to Glencoe, completing an infantry brigade
before the battle on 20th October 1899 (see 1st Leicestershire Regiment
and 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers). The 2nd Dublins took a very important
share in the fighting. Their losses were approximately 2 officers
and 8 men killed, and 3 officers and 50 men wounded. With the rest
of the troops the 2nd Dublins retreated to Lady-smith. They were present
in the action of Lombard’s Kop on 30th October 1899 (see 1st Liverpool
Regiment), but were much split up, three companies acting as escort
to artillery, one on outpost, &c. They did not suffer many casualties.
On the same evening the battalion was “hurriedly entrained” and sent
down the line to occupy Fort Wylie and protect the great bridge over
the Tugela, but the advancing tide of Boer invasion soon lapped round
them and they had to move still farther south. Three sections were
in the unfortunate armoured train which was derailed on 15th November
1899. Before General Buller made his first advance the 1st Battalion
had arrived in Natal as part of the Irish Brigade. In the Colenso
despatch, list of troops engaged, the 1st Battalion Dublin Fusiliers
is mentioned, but the casualties of the regiment are debited to the
2nd Battalion. The fact seems to be that three companies of the 1st
Battalion were added to the 2nd, and thus really both fought at Colenso
and the other engagements prior to the relief of Ladysmith. The work
of Hart’s brigade in Natal is sketched under the 1st Royal Inniskilling
Fusiliers, and that of the relief force generally under the 2nd Queen’s.
At Colenso the Irish Brigade got into a hot place, coming
under a very heavy fire before extending, and after their extension
they pushed into a peninsula formed by a loop of the river, where
they were subjected to severe fire from the front and both flanks,
but all stood the severe trial splendidly The casualties of the regiment
were heavy, approximately 2 officers and 50 men killed, 3 officers
and 176 men wounded. The three companies of the 1st Battalion were
the chief sufferers. Of these losses their share was 1 officer and
31 men killed, and 1 officer and 133 men wounded.
At Venter’s Spruit on 20th January the 2nd Dublins and the
three companies of the 1st Battalion were in General Hart’s force.
Their casualties were approximately 1 officer and 5 men killed, and
1 officer and 30 men wounded.
In the fourteen days’ fighting between 13th and 27th February
Hart’s men were at first near the rail-head, and were brought down
to Colenso village on the 2 0th. On the 23rd Hart was ordered to attack
the main Boer position. A short account of this action is given under
the Inniskilling Fusiliers, who led in the assault, but the Connaught
Rangers and Dublins also pushed in close and lost most severely Colonel
Sitwell was among the killed.
The regiment was still to take part in another memorable
assault before the close of the relief operations, being transferred
to the command of General Barton for the last great effort on the
27th, when Barton attacked and carried the eastern portion of Pieter’s
Hill. In addition to the Dublins his troops that day were the Royal
Scots Fusiliers and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The assault reflected
credit on every one taking part in it, and gained the praise of General
Buller. In the fourteen days’ fighting the Dublins’ losses were approximately
1 officer and 20 men killed, and 6 officers and over 100 men wounded.
Eight officers and 7 non-commissioned officers and men of the 2nd
Battalion were mentioned in General Buller’s despatch of 30th March
1900, 5 of the latter being recommended for the Distinguished Conduct
The battalion was specially selected to march into Ladysmith
at the head of the relieving force.
In glancing at the doings of the 2nd Dublins one cannot
but be amazed that a battalion should so constantly be in big affairs.
The history of the war shows that some battalions can slip through
a long campaign with little fighting, few casualties, and small notoriety
of any kind, while others, such as the Dublins, Derbys, Gordons, or
Rifle Brigade, seem to be out of one big thing into another. It may
be luck,— and no doubt chance has something to do with it,— but there
is a contrast so obvious between the records of, say, the Dublins
and Gordons on the one hand, and some regiments very far their senior
on the other, that it is impossible not to notice it.
After the relief of Ladysmith the two battalions of Dublins
were to be separated. The 2nd, which had been fighting constantly,
and had suffered terribly from 20th October to 27th February, was
taken by sea to Cape Colony in April and remained with General Hart,
the other battalions in his brigade being the Somerset Light Infantry,
Border Regiment, and Con-naught Rangers. Henceforth the battalion
was to have fewer drains on its strength. Their doings between April
and October 1900 are very similar to those of one wing of the Somersets,
whom the 2nd Dublins accompanied on many wanderings in that period,
and to avoid repetition reference is made to the Somersets.
In his despatch of 10th October 1900, para. 27, Lord Roberts
says “On 22nd July the Boers made a determined attack on the post
at Zuickerbosch Spruit, thirteen miles east of Heidelberg The post
was held by two companies of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 110 men of
the Royal Engineers, and 10 men of the Imperial Yeomanry, under Major
English of the first - named regiment. Hart proceeded at once with
reinforcements from Heidelberg, but before he arrived the enemy had
been beaten off, great credit for the achievement being due to Major
English and his small party” The two companies here referred to were
of the 2nd Battalion.
The following notes from the diary of Captain A. E. Mainwaring
of the 2nd Dublins show the severity of the work of an infantry battalion,
apart altogether from the strain of being opposed by an active and
enterprising enemy “Friday, 7th September 1900. Marched all night,
did ten miles through a difficult pass in Gatsrand. Saturday Company
Set off again at 10 P.M., marched till 6 A.M. on Sunday
At 7.30 A.M. went out with Bradford and St G. Smith and two companies
to collect forage. Waggons bogged, men hauled them out, getting soaked.
Marched back to camp, arrived there at 5.30 P.M. Found force gone.
Ordered to follow at 6 P.M. Five hundred Boers reported on left flank.
Some skirmishing Arrived at Potchefstroom at 10 A.M. on Monday” The
distance from the camp referred to, to Potchefstroom, was thirty-six
miles, it was done in sixteen and a half hours by men who had been
hard at work for the previous forty-eight hours.
About the middle of October 1900 the battalion, along with
the Essex Regiment and Strathcona’s Corps, was sent to the Krugersdorp
district to assist General Barton, who at the time was almost hemmed
in by De Wet near Frederickstad. On the 25th General Barton took the
offensive, and defeated and scattered his opponents, inflicting heavy
loss. The reinforcements did not take part in the fighting.
The battalion was mainly about Krugersdorp during the latter
phases of the war, and part was with General Cunningham and other
commanders in several engagements in that district.
In General Buller’s final despatch of 9th November 1900,
1 officer and 6 non-commissioned officers and men of the 2nd Battalion
were mentioned for continuous good service in the Mounted Infantry,
and under Lord Kitchener the battalion added three more “mentions.”
As to mentions by Lord Roberts, reference is made to the notes under
the 1st Battalion.
The battalion sailed from Durban for Aden in January 1902,
getting a “tremendous send off” from the Natal folks, for whom they
had fought so ungrudgingly Lord Kitchener sent them a most appreciative
telegram, of which the battalion was naturally very proud.
Out of the officers commencing the war at Talana only one
escaped unwounded, apart from those taken prisoner in the Mounted
Infantry with Colonel Möller on 20th October 1899 (see 18th Hussars)
and in the armoured train at Frere on 15th November 1899.