The 1st Battalion sailed on the Orcana about 27th October 1899, and arrived at the Cape about 18th November. Along with the 2nd Black Watch, 1st Highland Light Infantry, and 2nd Seaforths, they formed the 3rd or Highland Brigade under Major General Wauchope, and after his death, under Brigadier General Macdonald.
When Lord Methuen started on his way to Kimberley he took with him the Guards Brigade and the 9th Brigade, made up of troops then in South Africa. At Belmont and Enslin or Graspan these brigades had stiff work; he accordingly called up the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders when he was moving from Graspan, and they were with him on the day of Modder River, 28th November. The battalion was placed under the commander of the 9th Brigade, Major General Pole-Carew. A short account of the work of that brigade, including an excerpt from the despatch as to Modder River, is given under the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers. At 6.30 am the battalion was in reserve, but before 7.30 am they were in the firing line. They extended on both sides of the railway, and those on the right of it, having little cover, suffered very severely. It will be remembered that notwithstanding every effort the Guards Brigade on the right of Lord Methuen's line could not effect a crossing of the river. Lord Methuen then directed his attention to the left and left centre. In the afternoon Colonel Barter with two companies of his men, the Yorkshire Light Infantry, assisted by men of the other regiments, carried a house and some rising ground which the Boers held on the near or left side of the river. Lieutenant Thorpe of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, acting directly under the orders of General Pole-Carew, boldly took his company into, and across, the river. The battalions in the firing line were mixed, and some of the Yorkshire Light Infantry and the Northumberlands accompanied Lieutenant Thorpe. The Boers still offered fierce opposition, but a battery galloping up helped to keep down the enemy's fire; it is said, however, to have unwittingly put some shells among our own people. Soon more men got over, and General Pole-Carew was then able to advance up the north bank with some 400 men.
The losses of the battalion at Modder River were nearly double those of any other battalion engaged, being about 20 men killed, 2 officers and 93 men wounded, yet, strange enough, Lord Methuen gave the battalion no mentions. Several unofficial accounts of the battle, including those of Mr Julian Ralph, who was present, gave special praise to the conduct of the battalion.
At Magersfontein (see 2nd Black Watch) the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were the third battalion in the advance to the kopjes. General Wauchope had intended that they should deploy to the left of the Black Watch, but immediately before fire broke out he ordered them to deploy to the right of the two leading battalions. One company was in the act of doing this when the Boers started firing. The front companies merged in the firing line of the Black Watch and Seaforths, and the rear companies remained all day about the right rear of the Black Watch. A portion of a company on the right under Sergeant Hynch succeeded in wiping out, either killing or capturing, a party of about 40, chiefly Scandinavians, who had been pushed forward by the Boers. Lieutenant Neilson with some men of the battalion was able to help Sergeant Hynch. These names are mentioned because the credit for this affair has in some quarters been given to another regiment. Although not suffering so seriously in the first outburst as the Black Watch and Seaforths, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were fully exposed all day to the terrible fire from the Boer trenches. Their casualties were about 26, killed and 67 wounded. Colonel Goff was killed and Major Robinson mortally wounded. None of the critics seem to have had any shafts to level at the battalion for its work or conduct on that memorable day. One officer and 3 men were mentioned in Lord Methuen's despatch of 15th February 1900.
At Paardeberg the battalion was on the right of the brigade and merged into the men of the Vlth Division. Again it was, as regards casualties, rather more lucky than the sister regiments. Its losses, however, were heavy enough: 13 non-commissioned officers and men with the battalion were killed, and 7 officers and 78 men wounded. Colonel Hannay, who had commanded the battalion until June 1899, and who was in command of a force of Mounted Infantry, was killed, and Lieutenant Courtenay of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Mounted Infantry company was also killed. One officer and 4 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' despatch of 31st March 1900.
The fighting on the way to Heilbron has been dealt with under the 2nd Black Watch. At Roodepoort on 28th May 1900 the services of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as rear-guard were very valuable. The least unsteadiness would have been disastrous.
On 12th July the battalion left their Highland brethren, going from Heilbron to the Transvaal, where they formed, along with the 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Border Regiment, and the 2nd Berkshire Regiment, a new brigade under Brigadier General Cunningham, and part of a force under Lieutenant General Ian Hamilton. Hamilton's force was the left wing of Lord Roberts' army in the advance towards Balmoral, 16th to 25th July 1900. Thereafter Hamilton was sent north-west of Pretoria (see 1st KOSB), and after some stiff fighting this column again went east to Balmoral and thence to Nelspruit, arriving there on 4th September. At the end of September the battalion was withdrawn from the Delagoa line and again sent west of Pretoria under Cunningham, and for some months they assisted in guarding Rustenburg, Oliphant, and Megato Neks, and escorted convoys from Commando Nek to Rustenburg. Six companies were for a time with General Broadwood.
Thirteen officers and 22 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts' final despatches.
In April 1901 the battalion was taken to the Eastern Transvaal, where one half-battalion was placed under Colonel Beatson and the other half under Colonel Benson, both columns operating north of Middelburg. About June the battalion was brought together and acted as Colonel Benson's infantry, operating from Lydenburg on the north to Ermelo on the south. During the months June to October Benson's column did wonderfully fine work, capturing very many prisoners; and no little credit was due to the extraordinary marching of his infantry escort. About a fortnight before Baakenlaagte (see 2nd East Kent), the Argyll and Sutherlands took over the railway between Erstefabriken and Balmoral. In March 1902, after Lord Methuen's reverse, they were hurriedly railed to Klerksdorp, and operated under General Walter Kitchener, and were also in the big drives of General Ian Hamilton, to the Vryburg line and back, getting into Klerksdorp about ten days before peace was declared.
One officer was mentioned in Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th March 1901, and 4 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers in the final despatch.
The battalion along with the 2nd Black Watch provided a detachment as escort to Captain Bearcroft's naval 47 guns in Lord Robert's advance to Pretoria (see 2nd Black Watch).
It is very difficult to give an account of the very valuable work done by the Mounted Infantry. The following sketch of the work of a section —1 officer and 34 non-commissioned officers and men— of the Argyll and Sutherland Regiment has been furnished by Lieutenant K M Laird of that regiment, and it is printed here as an excellent example of the work of the Mounted Infantry generally. The section was part of the 2nd Battalion Mounted Infantry, which was composed of four companies, each company containing four sections from four different regiments. Sixteen regiments were thus represented. Two machine-gun detachments, with two maxims each, were attached. The 2nd Battalion mobilised at Aldershot on 8th October 1899, and one-half sailed on the Orient on 22nd October. On arrival at the Cape, 13th November, the battalion proceeded by train to De Aar, and were soon sent over to Naauwpoort and Arundel. In that district there was constant work, one of the most striking bits being the seizure of M'Kracken's hill by part of the Mounted Infantry and four companies of the Berkshire Regiment. On 6th February the battalion left for Modder River to take part in Lord Roberts' advance. The Argyll and Sutherland section was present in the fighting at Klip Drift, Paardeberg, where Lieutenant Courtenay commanding the section was killed, at Poplar Grove, Driefontein, the occupation of Bloemfontein. Then was with Ian Hamilton at Houtnek, Zand River, Doornkop, Diamond Hill. Under Sir A Hunter at Wittebergen (the surrounding of Prinsloo), the pursuit of De Wet. With Lord Kitchener at the relief of Hore and his gallant Australians at Elands River. Put into Clements' column operating in the Megaliesberg; present at Nooitgedacht 13th December, where Lieutenant Reid commanding the section was killed. Lieutenant Laird got the section, and they were shortly put under Sir Henry Rawlinson, and with him operated in the Western Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and then in the Eastern Transvaal as part of Bruce Hamilton's force. Marched back to the Orange River Colony and took part in many drives in the Harrismith-Lindley-Heilbron triangle. After Lord Methuen had met with his disaster marched to the Western Transvaal to finish with the driving work there.
The other sections in the company whose doings are here described were provided by the Royal Scots, the Scottish Rifles, and the Dorsetshire Regiment.
The Argyll and Sutherland Regiment had other two sections in the 12th Battalion Mounted Infantry raised about December 1900.
- Next >>