Officers of the Natal Carbineers who served during the siege of Ladysmith:

   
Officers in Ladysmith
Officers in Ladysmith

  

Back row: Sergeant Nourse Varty, Captain Hair, Sergeant Townsend, Sergeant Comrie, Sergeant Sparks, Sergeant Rodwell, Sergeant Smalie.

3rd row: Sergeant Tanner, Captain Buntine, Lyle, Captain Currie, Captain Crompton, Captain Lucas, Sergeant Gage, Sergeant Bartholomew.

2nd row: Captain Shepstone, Major Hyslop, Major McFarlane, Colonel Greene, Major Addison, Captain Weighton.

Front row: Sergeant Currie, Sergeant van der Plank, Captain Tatham, Captain Foxon, Sergeant Burne.

A brief History

The regiment was ordered out for active service on September 29, 1899, and although its members reside in all districts of the Colony, by October 1 every man had mustered in full service order at Ladysmith, with the exception of No. 5 (Estcourt) Squadron, which was ordered to remain at Colenso.

The day after reaching Ladysmith, Nos. 1, 3, and 4 Squadrons, commanded respectively by Major Taunton, Major Addison, and Major Macfarlane, were sent out in different directions towards the Free State border, to watch the passes over the Berg. These squadrons did a great deal of hard patrolling on very scanty rations. The headquarters of the regiment and remaining squadrons, under Col. Greene, left Ladysmith for the foot of the Berg, near De Beer's Pass, about October 8.

On October 18 the first fight took place near Bester's Station, where 600 Free Staters were attacked by Colonel Greene's column, which had been joined by Major Addison. A stiff fight ensued, but the enemy, being largely reinforced by a commando which had come down Van Reenen's Pass, were found to be well posted on kopjes, and, as Colonel Greene had no artillery, he retired, upon instructions received by wire from General White, to Nicholson's Nek, near Ladysmith. Two horses were shot, Tpr. Spencer was wounded, and Lieut. Gallwey captured. Majors Taunton and Macfarlane were also under fire that day. The following day the whole regiment was recalled to Ladysmith. On October 20, the regiment formed part of a column, under Major General French, sent in the direction of Elandslaagte, to make a reconnaissance in force: few foes were seen, but two prisoners were taken.

On October 24, the Natal Carbineers took an active part in the engagement at Rietfontein, better known as Tinta 'Nyoni, under Sir George White. By a skilful flank movement, the N.C., with the other Natal mounted volunteer corps, succeeded in turning the enemy from their main position. Here Sergt Colville and Tpr. Cleaver were killed—the first time the volunteers were under shell fire. Next day the regiment, with other mounted volunteers, met General Yule's force retiring from Dundee, and brought it into Ladysmith on Oct. 26. The regiment was next engaged at the battle of Farquhar's Farm, or Lombard's Kop. Bulwana Hill was held by Colonel Greene and 100 men, and Lombard's Kop by Major Macfarlane and 40 men. On Nov. 2 the regiment formed part of a force under General French, sent out in the direction of Table Hill to attack a Boer laager. Under shell fire the enemy retired.

The defences of Ladysmith were threatened in the west, and on Nov. 3 the Volunteer Brigade, with I.L.H. and artillery, were sent out. The Brigade occupied End Hill, Middle Hill, Mounted Infantry and Wagon Hills. A tremendous cross-fire was concentrated on End Hill, and Major Taunton, whose squadron held the west, was killed; also Sergt. Mapstone. This was the severest engagement in which the regiment took part. Troopers C W. Watts, C. Miller, and D. A. Shaw, of No. 1 Squadron, here carried Tpr. Webber, wounded, from under a heavy rifle fire, and in so doing the first two were wounded; the third escaped with a bullet through his tunic. Their heroic conduct was recommended by Sir George White for recognition.

On Dec. 7, mounted volunteers were offered the opportunity of storming Gun Hill, on which the Boers had planted a "Long Tom" and a couple of smaller guns. Under the leadership of Major-General Sir A. Hunter, they made a night assault, and destroyed all the guns found thereon. The storming party consisted of 100 of the N.C., under Major Addison, and 100 I.L.H., under Lieut.-Colonel Edwards. The force received the thanks of Gen. White.

From this date the Boers were most persistent in shelling the place where the Carbineers were encamped—hearing that that regiment had been instrumental in destroying their big gun. On Dec. 18, Umbulwana "Long Tom" dropped a 100lb shell in the horse lines, when the men were at stables, killing Tprs. Buxton, Milne-Miller, Craighead Smith, and Elliott, and wounding seven, besides killing 11 horses.

At the fight on Jan. 6, at Caesar's Camp and Wagon Hill, the N.C. had one troop under Capt Lucas engaged, two men being wounded. The remainder stood under arms as reserves. Enteric fever and dysentery played sad havoc, and towards the end of the siege, out of 450, barely 120 were available for garrison duty.

On the never-to-be-forgotten day of the relief, Feb. 28, it was an enhancement of the regiment's delight to find that the first men they met galloping in were their comrades of Estcourt Squadron, under Major McKenzie. No. 5 had proved itself a valuable unit in the relief force, receiving unstinted praise from Sir Redvers Butler.

 

Oct. 1.—No. 5 Squadron at Colenso with D.L.I.

31.—Reinforced by Dublin Fusiliers and NFA.

Nov. 2.—Sharp skirmish on the Colenso-Ladysmith Road; one of the Fusilier Mounted men killed; several of the enemy killed and wounded. Patrol retired. In the afternoon came into contact with enemy mounting gun on Grobler's Kloof. Boers shelled the camp; repitched out of range. Major McKenzie arrived from Eng-land and took command. Camp struck again.

3.—Colenso evacuated. Retired on Estcourt.

9.—Reconnaissance along Weenen Road. In touch with enemy near Hodgson's Hill. Ordered to retire. One Boer killed, several wounded.

15.—Armoured train disaster. Ordered out with 60 Imperial Light Horse. Near Ennersdale we met engine returning with wounded; also several survivors who escaped along the line. Boers chasing them now retired. Whilst they were cutting wire fence we opened fire, which was briskly returned. Three of the foe were killed, several wounded. A large force advanced to cut off our retreat, so we retired. I.L.H. wounded.

19.—Left Estcourt for Willow Grange.

20.—Enemy engaged near Highlands all afternoon. One Boer killed, five wounded.

21.—-Ordered to fall back on Estcourt. 22.—Re-advanced. Assisted to mount naval gun on Beacon Hill in terrific hailstorm. The Boers shelled our gun, and their fire was answered. Returned to Estcourt in heavy rain.

23.—Battle of Willow Grange.

27.—Left Estcourt; camped at Frere.

30.—Patrolled to Weenen with I.L.H. Big commando previous day captured Boer horses.

Dec. 11.—Reconnaissance to Colenso by Lord Dundonald's mounted men and Royal Artillery. Unmasked the Boer guns, which fired 36 shells.

13.—Advanced on Chieveley; pitched camp.

15.—Colenso. Moved out at 3 a.m. and discovered Boers in possession of Hlangweni. Sent down, dismounted, with I.L.H., to take it. The enemy, from almost impregnable position, poured in terrible fire at 80 yards range. Retired, leaving Tprs Jenner, Adie, Warren, and Gray dead on the field. Lieut. McKay and five men severely wounded. Brought in our dead.

16.—.Armistice. Burials near railway line.

20.—One troop, under Lieut. Sllburn, surprised Boers at Hussar Hill, and killed two attempting to rob an Hussar, killed there the previous day. News brought in that the troop was surrounded. Major McKenzie and men in camp, accompanied by I.L.H. galloped out to their rescue, but the troop had evaded the enemy. Great reception on return by Hussars.

24. — Reconnaissance at Doornkop, with Bethune's Horse, escorting General Buller.

Jan. 6, 1900.—Lady smith attacked. Demonstration before Colenso trenches. No reply.

10.—Left Chieveley. Seized bridge at Upper Tugela. Took possession of hills beyond.

11.—Pitched camp on Spearman's farm.

16.—With two days' food advanced on drift.

17.—Crossed the Tugela at Trichardt's, with cavalry, under Lord Dundonald. Heavy dragoon horses, losing their footing, were swept down by the current, one man being drowned. Tprs. David Sclanders and Fred T. Wood saved several lives, for which Sclanders received the Royal Humane Society's silver medal.

18.—Advanced on Acton Homes, with Imperial Light Infantry and King's Royal Rifles. Carbineer Scouts reported enemy advancing to seize kopjes. After an exciting gallop of five miles, led by Major McKenzle, we reached the kopjes three minutes before the Boers; on whom at 100 yards we opened fire—emptying several saddles. They retired, in confusion to strong position among stones at 200 yards. After an hour's continuous firing, the white flag was hoisted. Major McKenzie and others stood up, fire ceasing. The Boers again fired, wounding Tpr. Higgins. The major warned them that if firing was not stopped instantly no surrender would be allowed. Other prisoners then came up, making the total 25. We found nine dead, and three severely wounded. Diggers' News report was 25 prisoners, 14 killed, 40 wounded. The I.L.H. had two wounded, K.R.R. two killed.

21-25.—At Acton Homes during Spion Kop.

26.—Crossed Tugela to Spearman's Camp.

27.—Moved camp to Mount Alice. Feb.

5.—Advanced to Potgieter*s Drift.

6.—Took position under our guns, shelling Boer positions at Vaal Krantz. Heavily shelled.

7 —Retired two days behind Mount Alice.

9.—Returning to Chieveley, as escort to guns.

10.—Pitched camp near Stewart's farm.

12.— Hussar Hill; scouting Cingolo Hills,

14.—Climbed Cingolo as Boer patrol retired. Returned to camp near the Blaauwkrants.

15.—Ordered to re-ascend with I.L.H. Boers surprised amid bush. Charged the hill under heavy fire. Tpr. Goldstein killed. Reinforcements of infantry cleared the rest of ridge. Bivouacked at the foot. Several Boer casualties; eight saddled horses taken. Thus commenced the turning movement which resulted in relief of Ladysmith. Dundonald's Mounted Brigade complimented by General Buller.

16.—Seized extreme right of Monte Cristo, overlooking the Tugela. Two Boers wounded, horses shot under them. Infantry stormed the position, the Boers retreating over Tugela, leaving their laager. Relief now appeared imminent.

17-19.—Returned to Monte Cristo. Picket duty along the ridges: shelled by the Boers.

20-21.—Lay at the foot of HIangweni, protecting right flank. Lieut. McKay rejoined

22-24.—Advanced along the line towards Pieters, and, crossing the pontoon, three days awaited orders - under heavy rain, continuous shelling, and rifle fire night and day—whilst infantry attacked.

25-26.—Returned to Monte Cristo: reported that Boers would attempt to re-take positions.

27.—Excitement: the infantry successful all round; Boers retreating. Queen's chocolate served out amid great enthusiasm. Returned to hills overlooking Pieters Station.

28.—Fifty six prisoners come in. Advanced on Pieters Station; found ammunition and 140 saddles. Dead Boers about. Enemy's rearguard retreating rapidly. Advance on hills round Ladysmith. Boer laager deserted. 5.30 p.m.: On the last kopje, the town beneath us. "We shall go in to-night." Orderly from Captain Bottomley rode up, and asked if Imperial Light Horse might ride in with us. Formed in half sections, with N.M.R. and N.P., and led by Major Gough, Major McKenzie, and Captain Bottomley, made for the town at a gallop, cheering and shouting. The besieged turned out en masse to welcome us, in wild delight. Among those first met was our respected commandant, Colonel Royston. Five weeks later he succumbed—a lost leader hard to replace. Engagements, 5. Killed, 5. Wounded, 7. N.M.R, B.M.R, and members of other squadrons N.C. were attached to Major McKenzie.

Lord Dundonald, in saying good-bye to No. 5 squadron, said: You belong to a regiment whose reputation stands high, and you have done much to cover it with honour. For the time I have commanded you, you have had much hard and dangerous work; but I have never feared that, however difficult the task set you to perform, and however dangerous that task, it would be well accomplished; and were I intending to join any regiment, and were it open for me to choose, I would prefer to join the Natal Carbineers. I wish you all good-bye.

After recuperating for a month at Highlands, the strength of the regiment was raised to 520 men, and at the request of General Buller, the whole of the mounted volunteers returned, and proceeded to Elandslaagte, in the 3rd Mounted Brigade, under the Earl of Dundonald.

Early in May the regiment began to help in the movement to clear the enemy out of Natal. During an affair of outposts at Waschbank, Tpr R A Lindsay was wounded. In all the operations the regiment was able to afford the greatest assistance: not a road, by-road, footpath, or wire fence in the whole of the northern parts was unknown to members. Nos. 6 and 7 Squadrons were especially useful.

After chasing the enemy along the Biggarsberg till they took possession of Lang's Nek, the regiment encamped, with the UMR, at Mount Prospect, and held the position from Inkwelo on the left, to the Buffalo on the right. The flanking movement up Botha's Pass caused the enemy to evacuate Lang's Nek, which was then, with Charlestown and Volksrust, occupied by our forces, whilst at Mount Prospect the volunteer camp was daily shelled by "Long Tom" on the Pogwane. Along the Blggarsberg, No. 4 Squadron (Captain Lucas), attached to General Littleton's Brigade, entered the Transvaal as far as Utrecht.

From Volksrust, the regiment returned to Dundee, and, with the whole Volunteer Brigade, under General Dartnell, guarded lines of communication, from Waschbank to Dannhauser. Portion of the regiment was on continuous outpost duty, or patrolling towards the Berg and the Buffalo. On the river Captain Foxan and eight men had a brush with 40 Boers. The captain was wounded, and two men captured. Tpr Bowman, No 4 Squadron, rode back with a comrade's horse to within 150 yards of the enemy, under heavy direct fire. His plucky action saved his comrade. Whilst scouting towards Wakkerstrom on Aug. 28, Tprs Rundle and Blaikie were taken prisoners, as the result of treachery of Natal natives.

The last operation was the advance on Vryheid under General Hildyard. from the direction of Wakkerstroom and Utrecht. From the Blood River the regiment was sent on patrol toward the Zululand border—resulting in the capture of an important Natal rebel, besides others, with large numbers of stock.

The Volunteer Brigade was now informed it would be released provided 300 of all arms remained in the field. These were easily obtained, the Natal Carbineers, led by Major' McKenzie, providing 125. The rest left Dundee on Oct. 8th. and reached Maritzburg on the 9th, after twelve months and nine days in the field.

Lieut. Gallwey returned from captivity a month before. His squadron had been ordered to attack an unknown force near Bester's, in October, 1899, and found itself in a basin, without cover, commanded on all aides. He was disabled and taken prisoner, although his men fought splendidly, and some endeavoured to effect the rescue which all offered to attempt. Lieut. Gallwey was confined to bed a fortnight at Harrismith, and on route to Bloemfontein saw crowds of burghers riding and driving to the front, beside 16 train-loads. In Pretoria Gaol he was scurvily treated. He witnessed the bombardment of eight miles of hills round the capital on June 4, when Commandant Botha tried to remove, the officers, but the officers arrested him, and were themselves released by Lord Roberts. Having become secretary to General Maxwell, Governor of Pretoria, Mr. Gallwey, at his own request, left to rejoin his regiment, but, as the railway was not open, became adjutant and quartermaster of the Rest Camp, whence he took 200 men to reinforce the Lincolns at the time of the Zilikat Nek disaster.

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