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At the start of the campaign the NMR were commanded by Major R. W. Evan and were 220 men strong based in Ladysmith.

On 12th October war was declared, the enemy entered Natal, and their movements were reported by the Carbineers. When Major Taunton reported the enemy's movement, the Intelligence Department discredited this, and he had to send a patrol to locate, or rather look into, the hostile laager. On the 17th, No. 1 squadron of the Border M.R., under Captain Royston, was fired on at the foot of the Tintwa Pass; and on the same night Captain Wales, Volunteer Staff, with a troop of Natal M.R., set out to patrol the Waschbank Valley, passing through several parties of Boers and covering 126 miles in forty-eight hours. On the 18th Sir George White asked the Natal M.R. for a bodyguard of 24 non-commissioned officers and men; Captain F. S. Tatham of the Carbineers was chosen as commander. On this date the enemy advanced in force, and the Border M.R. from Acton Homes and the Carbineers from Van Reenen's and other passes had, according to the GOC's orders, to retire nearer to Ladysmith.

On the 21st General French and Sir George White fought the battle of Elandslaagte. In his despatch of 2nd November 1899, para. 14, Sir George mentioned that before that battle the Natal Field Battery moved out with General French at 4 am; some of the Natal M.R. and Carbineers were also with him. Before the main action commenced one squadron from each of the 5th Lancers, 5th Dragoon Guards, and Natal M.R. were sent out to turn the enemy's right flank and harass his rear. Two squadrons of the Natal M.R. took part in the final pursuit.

On the 22nd Surgeon Hornabrook, medical officer of the Natal M.R., when seven miles out from Ladysmith, met a Boer patrol of 25 men. Although alone he shouted to the party to surrender, as the Boers had been defeated and they were surrounded. The demand was promptly obeyed, the party giving up their rifles to three of their own number, and the triumphant doctor led his 25 prisoners into Elandslaagte Station. If this tale were not vouched for by the Natal Staff it would probably not be credited.

In his despatch of 2nd December 1899 Sir George White mentions that the Natal Mounted Volunteers were with him at Rietfontein on 24th October (see Imperial Light Horse). After the engagement was well developed "the Natal Mounted Volunteers, who had been with the Cavalry, had been recalled, and as the enemy showed some disposition to work round my left flank as if to cut me off from Ladysmith, I sent this force under Colonel Royston to work round the Boer right and cover my left flank, a movement which was most successfully performed." In a report to the Chief-of-Staff Colonel Royston drew attention to the gallant manner in which Major Taunton, Natal Carbineers, afterwards killed, and Major Sangmeister, Border Mounted Rifles, seized a kopje under heavy fire, and bringing a maxim gun into action speedily cleared out the enemy. Also, on the same date, to the gallant behaviour, and devotion to the wounded, under a heavy fire, of Captains Platt and Buntine of the Volunteer Medical Staff. Colonel Royston also detailed gallant acts on the part of Troopers Seed (Police) and C. E. J. Miller, D. A. Shaw, and Rowland Watts (Carbineers). The gun team alluded to lost 2 killed; the other casualties among the volunteers were - Border M.R. 9 wounded, Carbineers 2 killed, 10 wounded, and Natal M.R. 3 wounded.

On the 25th Colonel Royston took out the whole of the Mounted Volunteers to assist Yule, whose force was found eighteen miles out. The roads were beyond description, and the rear of the column had to wade, often beyond their knees, in liquid mud. On the 26th, Yule's column entered Ladysmith. On the 27th and two following days most of the Mounted Volunteers were out, and found the enemy gathering in great strength beyond Lombard's Kop. In describing the battle of Lombard's Kop, 30th October 1899, Sir George said that 200 Natal Mounted Volunteers were sent out on the evening of the 29th to hold Lombard's Kop and Bulwana Mountain; and the remainder of the Mounted Volunteers, with the 5th Lancers and 19th Hussars, moved out with 'General French at 3 am on the 30th to endeavour to cover the right flank in the main action. The Natal Field Battery formed part of Grimwood's force on the right of the infantry line. It will be remembered that General French could not get much beyond the Pass between Lombard's Kop and Bulwana; while Grimwood's Brigade was heavily pressed on its right, and the whole force had ultimately to retire on Ladysmith. In the same despatch, speaking of Colonel W. Royston, Sir George said "The services which Colonel Royston and the forces under his command have rendered to the State and Colony have been of the very highest value. In him I have found a bold and successful leader, and an adviser whose experience of the Colony and of the enemy has been of great value to me. Employed on arduous duty from the commencement of the campaign, in touch with the enemy, I have found him prompt and ready for every emergency; he and his force reflect the greatest credit on the colony of Natal." On the 30th the Natal M.R. lost Lieutenant Clapham killed and 3 men wounded.

When the siege commenced the following were part of the garrison:

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Staff, including Medical and Veterinary

11

 

Natal Carbineers

390

 

Border Mounted Rifles

260

 

Natal Mounted Rifles

200

 

Natal Naval Volunteers

65

 

Hotchkiss Detachment

20

 

Natal Police

40

 

 

986

These formed the Volunteer Brigade under Colonel Royston, with Lieutenant Colonel H. T. Bru-de-Wold as Chief Staff Officer. The Naval volunteers were generally split up throughout the siege, part being on Caesar's Camp and part at Gordon Post. Between 1st November and the end of February the Natal Mounted Volunteers were frequently engaged. On 2nd November they were, with other troops, out reconnoitering; on the 3rd they were sent to cover the retirement of another force. On this occasion the Carbineers had Major Taunton and Sergeant Mapston killed, and the Border M.R. lost Captain Arnott and 11 men wounded. Section D of the defences of Ladysmith was placed under Colonel Royston. This included the thorn country north of Caesar's Camp and the Klip River Flats. Colonel Royston lost no time in building sangars and digging trenches, and soon had his section greatly strengthened. On 9th November the enemy attacked, firing 800 shells into the town; but their attack was driven off. On the 14th the Volunteers were out with Major-General Brocklehurst, and, along with the Imperial Light Horse, seized Star Hill; but it was not held permanently. When Sir Archibald Hunter made his deservedly famous sortie on 7th December to destroy the Boer guns on Gun Hill, his force consisted of 500 Natal Mounted Volunteers under Colonel Royston, 100 Imperial Light Horse (see that regiment), and a few Royal Engineers, artillerymen, and guides. The storming-parties were 100 Carbineers, Major Addison, and 100 ILH, Lieutenant Colonel Edwards. Two big guns were destroyed and one maxim brought back. Colonel Royston was among those specially mentioned in the body of the despatch. Sir George White had the ILH and Volunteers paraded on the following day, and, addressing them, said " that he did not wish to use inflated or exaggerated language, but the men of Sir Archibald Hunter's party were a credit, not only to the colony, but to the Empire. There was a lot of severe fighting to do, but it was a gratification to a General to have the help of such men."

The town and camps were during the siege constantly under shell-fire, and on 18th December one 6-inch shell bursting in the camp of the Carbineers killed 4 men, wounded 6 men, and destroyed 10 horses. The times were trying, but hard digging, sangar building, and brigade sports kept the men fairly fit. In the repulse of the great attack of 6th January 1900 the volunteers took a prominent part. The following is the report furnished by Colonel Royston to the Chief of the Staff : "I have to report that on Saturday, 6th inst., at about 4.15 am, I received information by telephone from headquarters that the enemy were making an attack on Wagon Hill. I at once despatched 80 men of the Natal MR, under Major Evans, to strengthen the outposts on the Flats, then held by 1 officer and 40 men Natal Police, attached to Volunteers, and 1 officer and 20 men Natal Carbineers. The Town Guard was also directed to stand fast at its post on the left bank of the Klip River. As it had been intimated that a battery of artillery would be placed at my disposal, I directed two squadrons Border MR, with one maxim, to accompany the guns. Major Abadie, at about 5.40 am, reported his guns in position near the point where the road to Caesar's Camp crosses the town rifle-range. On my arrival at the outpost line, at 5 am, the enemy were occupying the extreme south-eastern point of Caesar's Hill, well under cover amongst the rocks and bushes. About 50 men were visible from the Flats, but more appeared to be pushing on from the west in small parties. These men were being fired on from the thorn trees and from sangars below by my men as soon as they appeared in sight. A few minutes after my arrival the enemy advanced north along the top of the hill, firing at a party of 'Gordons' near a sangar about 500 yards to their front. I requested the officer commanding the battery to open fire, which he did with good effect, stopping the enemy's advance, and driving them into the rocks. As there appeared to be only a small party of the 'Gordons' opposed to the enemy at this spot, as far as I could see from below, I directed a squadron of Border MR, under Lieutenant Royston, to climb the hill and go to their assistance dismounted. This would be about 6 am. On my men joining the Gordons the party advanced towards the enemy in the rocks, but were at first driven back by their heavy fire, and the enemy again advanced. The battery again opened fire, and the 'Gordons' and the Border MR again advancing, drove the enemy over the point of the hill, and they never again mounted to the crest. At mid-day the enemy had retired about half way down the southern slope of the hill, but still kept up a heavy fire. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get at these with artillery fire from where the battery was limbered, owing to the danger of hitting our own people on the crest of the hill, and the officer commanding the battery did not consider it advisable, owing to the rough ground to cross, and to exposure to Bulwana, to advance any of his guns as far as our outpost line, from which point the enemy could be reached. Rifle-fire was kept up until the enemy finally got into the bed of the Fourie Spruit, where he could only be reached from the top of Caesar's Hill. A heavy fire was kept up until dark, when it gradually ceased, and the enemy appeared to be retiring up the Fourie Spruit. My casualties were 4 men killed and 2 officers and 10 men wounded. I wish to bring to notice the gallant manner in which the battery of artillery, under Major Abadie, stuck to its ground under the very heavy fire from the 6 inch gun and another long range gun on Umbulwana, and also the excellent practice made by the battery. I also consider that Lieutenant Royston, Border MR, did good service with his men. The behaviour of Captain Platt and Lieutenant Hornabrook, Vol. Med. Corps, in attending to the wounded throughout the day under heavy fire, deserves special mention; the last-named officer was wounded, besides having his clothes pierced by a bullet."

A detachment of the Natal Naval Volunteers, with a 3-pounder Hotchkiss, were part of the garrison on Caesar's Camp, and took part in the struggle. On Wagon Hill the Hotchkiss gun, manned by Volunteers under Captain Walker, was very heavily attacked. Case shot was used with some effect, but the gun detachment, having lost 2 killed, were driven back. Captain Walker succeeded in dismantling the breech before leaving.

One of the outposts which were first attacked on the Flats was held by Natal Police; the officer commanding it being absent, the senior non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Woon, although severely wounded in the neck, assumed command, and held the post until reinforced by a squadron of the Natal Mounted Rifles.

Colonel Royston was again most highly praised by Sir George White for his work on the 6th. The Naval Volunteers had 2 killed and several wounded, the Carbineers 4 wounded, the Natal Mounted Rifles had Lieutenant Richardson killed and several other casualties. Captain Wales of the Volunteer staff was killed, and the Police also had a few casualties.

On 18th January Lieutenant Colonel Bru-de-Wold was severely wounded by shrapnel. On the 22nd Troopers Inman and Agnew, Natal Mounted Rifles, volunteered to attempt to blow up railway bridges used by the enemy. These two men made their way through the investing lines, but found the bridges very closely guarded; eventually they succeeded in joining the troops south of the Tugela. On 1st March, the day after Dundonald rode into Ladysmith, Colonel Royston took out 150 Volunteers; he came in contact ''with the enemy; in this affair 1 officer and 2 men of the Police were wounded.

When Dundonald rode into Ladysmith on the evening of 28th February, he was accompanied by some Carbineers, Natal Mounted Rifles, Border Mounted Rifles, and Natal Police, the officers being Major D. M'Kenzie, Lieutenants Silburn, M'Kay Verney, Richards, Ashburnham, and Abraham. None of those present will ever forget this ride, probably the most memorable occasion in the lives of any of them.

After the relief of Ladysmith the Volunteer Brigade was allowed some time to recuperate, and was reorganised. On 3rd April 1900 it consisted of the Natal Carbineers, Natal Mounted Rifles, and Border Mounted Rifles, temporarily under Lieutenant-Colonel Bru-de-Wold.

On 21st September 1900 authority had been obtained from Lord Roberts to raise among the Natal Volunteers a composite regiment of 300 mounted men to take over the duties hitherto performed by the Volunteer Brigade, and thus facilitate the return of the remainder of the Brigade to their daily avocations. The Volunteer Composite Regiment was made up as follows:

 

 

Officers

Men

 

Natal Carbineers

6

125

 

Natal Mounted Rifles

5

32

 

Umvoti Mounted Rifles

1

13

 

Border Mounted Rifles

3

48

 

Natal Field Artillery

-

19

 

Natal Royal Rifles

-

8

 

Durban Light Infantry

-

39

 

Hotchkiss Gun Detachment

-

6

 

Volunteer Medical Corps

1

4

 

 

16

294

The regiment, under Lieutenant Colonel Evans, Natal MR, did much hard and effective work down to the close of the campaign.

On 18th January Lieutenant Colonel Bru-de-Wold was severely wounded by shrapnel. On the 22nd Troopers Inman and Agnew, Natal Mounted Rifles, volunteered to attempt to blow up railway bridges used by the enemy. These two men made their way through the investing lines, but found the bridges very closely guarded; eventually they succeeded in joining the troops south of the Tugela. On 1st March, the day after Dundonald rode into Ladysmith, Colonel Royston took out 150 Volunteers; he came in contact ''with the enemy; in this affair 1 officer and 2 men of the Police were wounded.

On 20th February 1902 a patrol of the regiment, consisting of one squadron under Captain Adams, and accompanied by Lieutenant CoIonel Evans, officer commanding, and Major Blunt, the staff officer to General Blomfield, made a night raid on a Boer farm near Hlobane, Vryheid district. Only one man of the force was wounded, but these two distinguished officers, who were present practically as onlookers, were killed. Colonel Evans was one of the best known and most popular citizens of Durban.

Sir G. White's Despatches: 2nd December 1899: Captain F. S. Tatham, Mounted Rifles.

Captain Jones' report to Rear-Admiral Harris, of 2nd March 1900: Lieutenant N. W. Chiazzari, Natal Naval Vols., has been most useful, especially in getting into working order and working the punts across the river, both at Potgieter's and Colenso, by which all the troops crossed.

Sir R. Buller's despatch of 30th March 1900 as to relief operations: Lieutenant N. Chiazzari, Natal Naval Vols., was in charge of a detachment who were associated with the Naval Brigade, and took their full share of the good work done by the brigade.

23rd March 1900: Captain F. S. Tatham, Mounted Rifles; Lieutenant Colonel E. M. Greene, Carbineers ; Majors R. W. Evans, Natal M.R..

Lord Robert's despatches: 4th September 1901: Natal M.R: Trooper Redpath.

Lord Kitchener's despatches 23rd June 1902: Natal Police Field Force - Sub-Insp. J. Hamilton; Sergeants Newson, Goode. Natal Vols: Captain E. K. Whitehead. Composite Regiment - Lieutenant Col R W Evans (killed in action).

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(1016 Records)

 Surname   Forename/inits   Regimental no   Rank   Notes 
AbrahamJLieutenantQSA (5)
Source: List of QSAs with the clasp Elandslaagte
AbrahamJ327LieutenantServed 29 Sep 99 to 31 May 02. Reserve
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AbrahamJames373TrooperServed 22 Mar 00 to 08 Oct 00.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AbramsF284TrooperQSA (5)
Source: List of QSAs with the clasp Elandslaagte
AbramsF284TrooperServed 29 Sep 99 to 08 Oct 00.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AbreyRTrooperNatal 1906 (1)
Source: Recipients of the Natal 1906 Medal
AcuttR LCorporalNatal 1906 (1)
Source: Recipients of the Natal 1906 Medal
AdamsATrooperNatal 1906 (1)
Source: Recipients of the Natal 1906 Medal
AdamsC70LieutenantServed 29 Sep 99 to 31 May 02.
Source: Nominal roll in WO127
AdamsC SLieutenantQSA (5)
Source: List of QSAs with the clasp Elandslaagte
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