1st Battalion was at Glencoe when the war broke out, and fought at the
battle of Glencoe or Talana Hill on 20th October 1899 (see 1st Leicestershire
Regiment and 1st Royal Irish Fusiiers). The battalion did splendid work
in that action, and their losses were very severe. Colonel Gunning and
4 other officers and 13 men being killed, and 6 officers and 75 men
30th October, at Lombard’s Kop or Ladysmith, the battalion was
with Grimwood (see 1st Liverpool Regiment). Like the rest of his force,
they were hard pressed, their losses being 3 officers and 1 man killed,
1 officer and 32 men wounded, besides about 30 taken prisoners. In the
appendices to the Report of the War Commission, p. 375, it is noted
that “this party was sent on in advance at the battle of Lombard’s
Kop, but were left behind on the general retirement of the force, no
order having apparently been given to them to retire.” The party
endeavoured to retire, but it was too late, they were surrounded, and
after a sharp fight surrendered.
the great attack on Ladysmith on 6th January 1900 (see 1st Devonshire
Regiment), the 1st King’s Royal Rifles were in the thick of the
fight. The usual garrison of Waggon Hill was three companies of the
battalion, among other reinforcements, four other companies reached
the hill at 7 A.M., and all day long the fiercest fighting of the campaign
surged about the crest and side of the hill until the final charge by
the Devons, shortly after 5 P.M., cleared the ground. The losses of
the battalion on the 6th were about 10 killed and 20 wounded. Three
officers and 5 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Sir
George White’s despatch of 23rd March 1900.
Sir Redvers Buller’s northern movement the 1st King’s Royal
Rifles were in the IVth Division under Lieut. - General Lyttelton, and
in the 8th Brigade under Major - General Howard, — the other regiments
of the brigade being the 1st Liverpool, 1st Leicestershire, and 1st
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Near Amersfoort on 24th and 25th July
1900 there was stiff fighting, in referring to which Lord Roberts says,
“On which occasion the 13th and 69th Batteries R.F.A., the 1st
King’s Royal Rifles, and the 2nd Gordon Highlanders distinguished
themselves, especially the Volunteer company of the latter regiment.”
at Amersfoort on 7th August, and near Geluk between 21st and 24th August,
there was fighting, but the Boers were always driven back till the great
position at Bergendal was reached. There a really important battle,
opening as it did the way to Koomati Poort, was fought (see 2nd Rifle
Brigade). In this action the 1st King’s Royal Rifles were not
Bergendal the IVth Division went with General Buller to Lydenburg, in
which neighbourhood other actions were fought. The force then marched
up and down the awful sides of the Mauchberg and other mountains, and
afterwards back to the railway In the operations about Badfontein en
route for Lydenburg the Leicesters and 1st King’s Royal Rifles
were mentioned by Lord Roberts “as dragging the guns of a battery
up a steep hill, whence a heavy fire was brought to bear on the Boers.”
On 9th September the 1st King’s Royal Rifles dislodged the enemy
from a position on the Mauchberg In his final despatch of 9th November
1900 General Buller mentioned 7 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers.
battalion was brought into Pretoria to be present at the proclamation
of the annexation on 25th October 1900, — an honour which was
deserved as well as appreciated.
Lord Roberts’ final despatch 28 officers and 40 non - commissioned
officers and men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps were mentioned.
These commendations included the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions.
the second phase of the war the battalion was employed in the Eastern
Transvaal, and afterwards in Cape Colony During part of 1901 they were
doing column work under General Babington, Colonel Campbell, and other
commanders. On 16th July 1901 the battalion entrained from Balmoral
to De Aar, where they took over the guardianship of seventy miles of
railway, building and occupying the blockhouses. They were still on
this duty when peace was declared.
Baakenlaagte on 30th October 1901, when Colonel Benson’s rear
- guard was destroyed and he himself killed (see 2nd East Kent Regiment),
the King’s Royal Rifles were represented in the force by the 25th
Battalion Mounted Infantry, which did very excellent work. The 25th
Mounted Infantry was composed of one company from the 1st Battalion,
two companies from the 4th Battalion, and one company from the 3rd Battalion
King’s Royal Rifles. Three officers and 15 men of the 1st company
held out on the gun - ridge until the Boers retired after dark. Two
officers, Lieutenants Bircham and R. E. Crichton, 4 non-commissioned
officers, and 1 rifleman were commended for distinguished gallantry.
Fourteen men of the regiment were killed, and 3 officers and 24 men
wounded. Altogether about 7 officers and 13 non - commissioned officers
and men were mentioned in despatches by Lord Kitchener during the campaign,
and m his final despatch 11 officers and 16 non - commissioned officers
and men were mentioned. Some of these names were stated to belong to
the 1st and some to the 3rd Battalion, but in other cases the battalion
is not mentioned in the despatches. The 1st could certainly claim the
V.C. gained by Lieutenant the Hon. F H. S. Roberts in the attempt to
rescue the guns at Colenso is at least one of the dearly-paid-for trophies
secured by the regiment, if it cannot be claimed by the 1st Battalion.
2nd Battalion was one of the infantry battalions which, between 16th
and 30th September 1899, were sent from India to Natal. The battalion
was first engaged on 24th October at Rietfontein, outside Lady-smith
(see 1st Liverpool Regiment). The 2nd King’s Royal Rifles were
at first with the baggage, and afterwards half the battalion was in
the reserve line. They had no losses.
the battle of Ladysmith on 30th October the battalion was with Grimwood
on the right (see 1st Liverpools) and was hardly pressed all morning
Their losses were approximately 1 officer wounded, 8 men killed, 29
wounded, and some missing In the great attack of 6th January (see 1st
Devons) four companies of the 2nd King’s Royal Rifles were sent
in the early morning as reinforcements to Waggon Hill, where they took
part in the furious fighting. One company under Lieutenant Tod attempted
to rush the eastern crest, then held by the Boers, but the attempt failed,
Lieutenant Tod being killed. The battalion’s losses that day were
4 officers and 7 men killed and about 35 wounded.
officers and 6 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Sir
George White’s despatch for excellent work during the siege. Six
officers and 4 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in General
Buller’s final despatch of 9th November 1900, three of these officers
having gained their commendations with the Composite Rifle Battalion
in the relief operations.
the relief of Ladysmith the battalion marched north to the Transvaal-Natal
border, and in July was ordered to sail for Colombo with prisoners.
Mounted Infantry company remained in South Africa and saw endless fighting
Lieutenant L. A. E. Price-Davies was awarded the V C. for great gallantry
in dashmg among the enemy and trying to save the guns at Blood River
Poort (Gough’s disaster), 17th September 1901.
3rd Battalion sailed on the Servia on 4th November 1899, arrived at
the Cape about the 24th, and was sent on to Durban. Along with the 2nd
Scottish Rifles, 1st Durham Light Infantry, and 1st Rifle Brigade, they
formed the 6th Brigade under Major-General N G. Lyttelton. An account
of the work of the brigade is given under the 2nd Scottish Rifles, and
of that of the Natal Army generally under the 2nd Queen’s.
Colenso the battalion was not m the thickest, being, along with the
2nd Scottish Rifles, escort to Captain Jones’s two 41 naval guns
and four 12-pounder guns. They had almost no casualties. Their first
heavy fighting was on 24th January 1900. A sketch of the great combat
on Spion Kop is given under the 2nd Royal Lancaster, and reference is
also made to the 2nd Scottish Rifles, whose task that day was not unlike
that of the 3rd King’s Royal Rifles. In the Natal Army despatches
(Blue-Book, p. 79) there is an admirably clear report by Major Bewick-Copley
of what the battalion did. Leaving Spearman’s Hill at 10 A.M.,
they crossed the Tugela and advanced in widely extended order against
the Twin Peaks north-east of Spion Kop, the right-half battalion attacking
the right bill, called Sugar-Loaf Hill, and the left-half battalion
the other hill. Both hills and the nek between them were strongly held.
At 4.45 P.M. the Sugar-Loaf Hill was carried, “the Boers only
leaving as the men’s swords came over the crest-line.” Lieut.-Colonel
Buchanan-Riddell was killed as he cheered his men in the final rush.
Shortly afterwards the left hill was carried by Major Bewick-Copley’s
command. “Though still under a galling fire from both flanks,
we were able to stop the fire of the machine guns 150 yards to our front,
and also to keep down the fire of the Boers, which was being directed
on to the right flank of Sir Charles Warren’s troops, holding
the main ridge of Spion Kop.” About 6.30 the battalion received
General Lyttelton’s order to retire, and “by midnight had
recrossed the Tugela practically unmolested.” The fact that the
hills were so very steep, and that the operation was very skilfully
carried out, rendered the casualty list less heavy than was to have
been expected. The battalion’s losses were approximately 17 killed
and 61 wounded, almost precisely the same as that of the Cameronians.
Another very good account of this engagement is to be found in the King’s
Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle for 1901.
evacuation of Spion Kop has been greatly discussed by those who are
in authority and by those who are not, but the evacuation of the Twin
Peaks seems to have been criticised by the latter class only The question
has been touched on under the Royal Lancasters. No doubt General Lyttelton
had reason to be nervous about the safety of the battalion, but it is
a truism that in war big risks must be taken. The Commander-in-Chief
was the one to take the risk, and we are forced back to the belief that
a greater centralisation of authority in himself and more rigorous use
of it, regardless of all susceptibilities, might have made the story
of the 24th January less heartrending This is, of course, the tenor
of Lord Roberts’ covering despatch of 13th February 1900.
battalion took part in the storming of Vaai Krantz, where their losses
were approximately 1 officer and 20 men wounded. They were also in the
work between 13th and 27th February, and after the Tugela was crossed
had some very heavy fighting During the fourteen days’ fighting
the losses of the King’s Royal Rifles, including those of officers
and men in the Composite Battalion, were approximately 1 officer and
16 men killed, 5 officers and 84 men wounded.
officers and 25 men were mentioned in despatches for work in the relief
operations, 3 men being recommended for the distinguished conduct medal.
3rd King’s Royal Rifles, like the other regiments of the 4th Brigade,
were chiefly employed in guarding the railway line and fighting on either
side of it after the forces of Lord Roberts and General Buller had joined
General Buller’s final despatch of 9th November 1900, 3 officers
and 5 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned.
28th July 1900 Major-General Cooper, with the 3rd King’s Royal
Rifles and 1st Rifle Brigade, took over Heidelberg from Hart, and in
this district the home or headquarters of the battalion was long to
remain. Garrison duty and column work occupied their energies to the
close of the campaign. For about the last eight months of the war the
battalion was garrison at Machadodorp.
note as to commendations by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener see 1st
4th Battalion sailed from England on 9th December 1901, and after the
disaster at Tweefontein, 25th December 1901, the battalion, along with
the 1st Black Watch, newly arrived from India, were sent to reinforce
Bundle’s command in the north-east of the Orange River Colony,
being employed chiefly about Harrismith till the close of the war (see
Lord Kitchener’s despatch of 8th January 1902 and King’s
Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle). During the period they were in this district
several very fruitful drives were carried through, the excellent way
m which the infantry held the blockhouse lines and posts contributing
greatly to the successful results obtained.