The 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers is one of the oldest regiments in the service. It was raised in February and March, 1661, to form the garrison of Bombay, which had been ceded to the Crown as part of the dowry of the Infanta of Portugal, on her marriage with King Charles II. It then consisted of four companies, the establishment of each being one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, two sergeants, three corporals, two drummers, and 100 privates, and arrived at Bombay on September 18th, 1662, under the command of Sir Abraham Shipman. Under various titles it took part in nearly all the continuous fighting of which the history of India of those days is principally composed, being generally known as the Bombay European Regiment, until in March, 1843, it was granted the title of 1st Bombay Fusiliers. In 1862 the regiment was transferred to the Crown, when the word 'Royal' was added to its title, and it became known as the 103rd Regiment, The Royal Bombay Fusiliers. In 1873 the regiment was linked to the Royal Madras Fusiliers, whose history up to that time had been very similar to its own. By General Order 41, of 1881, the titles of the two regiments underwent yet another change, when they became known by their present names, the 1st and 2nd Battalions Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
The 2nd Battalion first left India for home service on January 2nd, 1871, when it embarked on H.M.S. Malabar, arriving at Portsmouth Harbour about 8 a.m. on February 4th, and was stationed at Parkhurst. Its home service lasted until 1884, when it embarked for Gibraltar. In 1885 it (p. vi) moved to Egypt, and in 1886 to India, where it was quartered until 1897, when it was suddenly ordered to South Africa, on account of our strained relations with the Transvaal Republic. On arrival at Durban, however, the difficulties had been settled for the time being, and the regiment was quartered at Pietermaritzburg until it moved up to Dundee in 1899, just previous to the outbreak of war.
The late Major-General Penn-Symons assumed command of the Natal force in 1897, and from that date commenced the firm friendship and mutual regard between him and the regiment, which lasted without a break until the day when he met his death at Talana. The interest he took in the battalion and his zeal resulted in a stiff training, but a training for which we must always feel grateful, and remember with kind, if sad, recollections. It was his custom to see a great deal of the regiments under his command, and he very frequently lunched with us, by which means he not only made himself personally acquainted with the characters of the officers of the regiment, but also had an opportunity of seeing for himself the deep esprit de corps which existed in it, and without which no regiment can ever hope to successfully overcome the perils and hardships incidental to active service.
As the shadow of the coming war grew dark and ever darker on the Northern horizon, the disposition of the Natal troops underwent some change, and General Penn-Symons' brigade, of which the regiment formed part, was moved up to Dundee, and was there stationed at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. In spite of the long roll of battle honours, of which both battalions are so justly proud, the South African Campaign was the first active service either had seen under their present titles, and the first opportunity afforded them of making those new titles as celebrated as the old ones which had done so much towards the acquisition of our Indian Empire. Imbued with these feelings the regiment lay camped within full view of Talana Hill, waiting the oncoming (p. vii) of the huge wave of invasion which was so shortly to sweep over the borders, engulf Ladysmith, and threaten to reach Maritzburg itself. But that was not to be. Its force was spent long ere it reached the capital, and a few horsemen near the banks of the Mooi River marked the line of its utmost limit in this direction.
The present work only claims to be a plain soldier's narrative of the part taken by the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in stemming this rush, and its subsequent efforts, its grim fights on the hills which fringe the borders of the River Tugela, its long and weary marches across the rolling uplands of the Transvaal, and its subsequent monotonous life of constant vigil in fort and blockhouse, and on escort duty.
All five battalions took part in the war. The 1st sailed from Ireland on November 10th, 1899, and sent three companies under Major Hicks to strengthen the 2nd Battalion. They arrived in time to share in the action at Colenso on December 15th, and all the subsequent fighting which finally resulted in the relief of Ladysmith, after which they returned to the headquarters of the 1st Battalion, which formed part of the Natal army under General Sir Redvers Buller, and later on advanced through Laing's Nek and Alleman's Nek into the Transvaal. The 3rd Battalion sent a very strong draft of its reserve, and the 4th and 5th Battalions volunteered and came out to the front, where they rendered most excellent service. In addition to the battalions there were a good many officers of one or other battalion employed in various ways in the huge theatre of operations. Major Godley and Major Pilson had been selected for special service before the war, and the former served in Mafeking during the siege, while the latter served under General Plumer in his endeavours to raise it. Captain Kinsman also served with the latter force. Major Rutherford, Adjutant of the Ceylon Volunteers, arrived in command of the contingent (p. viii) from that corps. Lieutenants Cory and Taylor served with the Mounted Infantry most of the time, as did Lieutenants Garvice, Grimshaw, and Frankland, after the capture of Pretoria, while Captain Carington Smith's share in the war is briefly stated later on. Captain MacBean was on the staff until he was killed at Nooitgedacht. The M.I. of the regiment served with great distinction, and it is regretted that it is impossible to include an account of the many actions and marches in which they took part, but the present volume deals almost exclusively with the battalion as a battalion.The authors are desirous of expressing their most hearty and cordial thanks to all those who have assisted them in the preparation of this volume. They are especially indebted to Colonel H. Tempest Hicks, C.B., without whose co-operation the work could not have been carried out, for the loan of his diary, and for the sketches and many of the photographs. To Colonel F. P. English, D.S.O., for the extracts from his diary containing an account of the operations in the Aden Hinterland and photographs. To Captain L. F. Renny for his Ladysmith notes. Also to Sergeant-Major C. V. Brumby, Quartermaster-Sergeant Purcell, and Mr. French (late Quartermaster-Sergeant), for assistance in collecting data, compiling the appendix, and for photographs, respectively.