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.
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 Gras Pan these brigades had stiff
work, he accordingly called up the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
when he was moving from Gras Pan, 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 A.M. the battalion was in reserve, but before 7.30 A.M. 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.
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.
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.
Paardeberg the battalion was on the right of the brigade and merged
into the men of the VIth 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.
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.
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 Lieut. -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 K.O.S.B.), 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.
officers and 22 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in
Lord Roberts’ final despatches.
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, 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
officer was mentioned in Lord Kitchener’s despatch of 8th March
1901, and 4 officers and 5 noncommissioned officers in the final despatch.
battalion along with the 2nd Black Watch provided a detachment as
escort to Captain Bearcroft’s naval 41 guns in Lord Robert’s
advance to Pretoria.
has already, in the Introduction, been made to the difficulty, almost
impossibility, of giving 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 kindly furnished to
the writer 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, Driefonten, 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.
other sections in the company whose doings are here described were
provided by the Royal Scots, the Scottish Rifles, and the Dorsetshire
Argyll and Sutherland Regiment had other two sections in the 12th
Battalion Mounted Infantry raised about December 1900.