2nd Battalion sailed for South Africa on 7th November 1899 After their
arrival they were for about two months mainly employed on the lines
of communication in Western Cape Colony, the headquarters being at Orange
River Station, with a detachment at Zoutpans Drift. On Lord Roberts'
arrival at Modder River they, along with the 2nd Duke of Cornwall's
Light Infantry, 1st Gordon Highlanders, and Canadian Regiment, were
put into the 19th Brigade under Major - General Smith - Dorrien, and
formed part of the IXth Division under General Sir H. E. Colvile. The
work of the division and of the brigade has been sketched under the
Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.
At Paardeberg the Shropshire Light Infantry did excellent work. On the
night of the 21st they made, what General Colvile called, "a fine
advance to within 550 yards of the Boer trenches," and by spade-work
this distance was subsequently diminished. At Paardeberg the battalion
had about 50 casualties.
In Lord Roberts' despatch of 31st March 1900, Colonel Spens, 1 other
officer, and 5 non-commissioned officers and men gained mention.
In the northern advance, which commenced about the end of April, the
19th Brigade formed part of Ian Hamilton's army of the right flank,
and in all his numerous actions the Shropshire Light Infantry did well
when it came to their turn. In his excellent account of the work of
Ian Hamilton's force, which he accompanied, Mr Winston Churchill, describing
the battle of Thoba Mountain on 1st May, says "Parties of the Gordons
and Canadians succeeded in gaining possession of the two peaks of Thoba
Mountain. Besides this, half a company of the Shropshires under Colour
- Sergeant Sconse managed to seize the nek between them, and though
subjected to a severe crossfire, which caused in this small party ten
casualties out of forty, maintained themselves stubbornly for four hours.
The points which dominate the flat top of the mountain were thus gained."
After Pretoria had been occupied the 19th Brigade guarded the railway
for some distance south of the capital,1 the headquarters of the Shropshire
Light Infantry being at Rhenoster, in Orange River Colony On 10th July
Smith-Dorrien was ordered to take the Shropshire Light Infantry and
the 1st Battalion of the Gordons to collect supplies in the Krugersdorp
district , but on the 11th he found himself opposed by a very strong
force of the enemy, and it was with great difficulty that he could save
his guns, which had been too far pushed forward.
On 16th July the Shropshire Light Infantry formed part of the garrison
of sundry posts, which were very heavily attacked, but the attacks were
On 30th July the battalion had the misfortune to lose 13 men killed
and 38 wounded through a train being derailed on the line between Krugersdorp
In a telegraphic despatch dated 13th August 1900 Lord Roberts said,
" Smith - Dorrien reports that the 2nd Shropshire Light Infantry
marched forty - three miles in thirty-two hours and the City Imperial
Volunteers thirty miles in seventeen hours, in the hope of being able
to prevent De Wet from crossing the Krugersdorp - Potchefstroom Railway
" The battalion took part in the pursuit of De Wet's forces to
the Megaliesberg, and in the relief of Colonel Hore at Eland's River.
In August 1900 Lord Roberts moved a great part of his army along the
Delagoa Railway in preparation for his final advance to Koomati Poort.
The Shropshire Light Infantry were taken to Belfast, and had some fighting
in that neighbourhood on several occasions in the latter part of August.
On 6th September the battalion joined General French at Carolina,2
and under that general marched to Barberton, where they were stationed
for three weeks. In October the battalion came back to Belfast, and
were again put under Smith - Dorrien, who on 1st November 3
started out with two small columns to attack the enemy at Witkloof.
On account of a very severe night, with a temperature close on freezing
and torrents of rain which numbed the men and horses, the general decided
to retire without attacking, and during the retirement had to fight
a steady rear-guard action. On the 6th he again essayed the same task
and had severe fighting, the casualties being 6 killed and 20 wounded,
“mostly of the Shropshire Light Infantry, whose conduct was much
praised." 4 On the following day the fighting was still
heavier, the enemy
being strongly reinforced. On this occasion the Royal Canadian Dragoons
and Canadian Artillery did splendid work. The dragoons gaining three
In Lord Roberts' final despatch 12 officers and 18 non - commissioned
officers and men of the battalion were mentioned.
The battalion formed part of the garrison of Belfast when it was attacked
on the night of 7th January 1901, and on that occasion they had about
20 casualties. For the remainder of the campaign they were chiefly employed
in the Eastern Transvaal. The headquarters were generally at Belfast
or Carolina, and one-half of the battalion was almost always out on
column work. Many treks were done under Colonels Williams, Park, and
Fortescue, whose columns were constantly engaged.
In the second phase of the war 4 officers and 2 men gained mention in
despatches by Lord Kitchener for excellent work, and in his final despatch
he added the names of 3 officers and 4 non - commissioned officers and
Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900.
2 Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900, para. 35.
3 Ibid., 15th November 1900, para. 25.
Ibid., para. 26.