1st Battalion was stationed in South Africa when the war broke out,
and on 20th September 1899 the headquarters and four companies of
the battalion were sent to Kimberley, followed in a few days by 2
officers and 21 non - commissioned officers and men of the Mounted
Infantry of the regiment. The other regular troops in Kimberley during
the siege were the 23rd company, Western Division, Royal Garrison
Artillery, six 7-pounder guns, one section 7th company Royal Engineers,
and small detachments of the Army Service Corps and Royal Army Medical
Corps. Colonel Kekewich had also under his command the local Volunteer
forces—namely, a battery of the Diamond Fields Artillery, six
7-pounder guns, Diamond Fields Horse, about 150, the Kimberley Regiment,
300, and the Town Guard, over 1000. Before the investiture was complete
he had been joined by over 400 Cape Police, and before the war was
many days old he had greatly increased the numbers of Volunteers,
and in the latter half of October the Kimberley Light Horse were raised
by Major H. S. Turner (Black Watch), afterwards killed.
Without disparaging the splendid work of the Police and local troops,
the presence of the four companies of the Loyal North Lancashire was
of immense value to Colonel Kekewich. With their assistance the defensive
works were brought into an efficient state in a marvellously short
space of time, while the moral value of a disciplined body of regulars
in the besieged town was unquestionably very great.
In the very modest despatch1 of Colonel Kekewich he barely does justice
to the splendid work of himself and his force. Many little actions
and sorties are passed unnoticed, but the fact that he and his little
band defended successfully a widespread town of 40,000 inhabitants
from 12th October to 15th February will not soon be forgotten.
The remaining companies of the battalion were put into the 9th Brigade
when Lord Methuen organised his column at Orange River in November
1899, the other battalions of the brigade being the 1st Northumberland
Fusiliers, 2nd Northampton Regiment, and 2nd King's Own Yorkshire
Light Infantry. The work of the brigade is sketched under the 1st
At Belmont, 23rd November 1899, the Loyal North Lancashires were not
actively engaged. At Enslin, 25th November, they had heavy work and
did well. In his telegram of 26th November Lord Methuen says, “The
Naval Brigade, Royal Marines, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, and Loyal
North Lancashire Regiment especially distinguished themselves."
At Modder River, 28th November, the half-battalion again did splendid
work, being the first troops to attempt the crossing on the British
left and seizing some kopjes which were of great value afterwards.
In both battles1 they escaped with comparatively
slight casualties—about 30 altogether.
After the relief of Kimberley and the occupation of Bloemfontein the
battalion operated for a time with Lord Methuen in the Kimberley-Boshof
district and then accompanied him to the Lindley district. In July
they were railed to the Transvaal, and about the 22nd the battalion
was left to hold Oliphant's Nek in the Megaliesberg. They marched
from that place with Baden - Powell about 8th August. Six days afterwards
De Wet, finding the pass unoccupied, slipped through it and escaped
from Lords Kitchener and Methuen, who had been at his heels for a
week.2 No one blamed the battalion for leaving
the post, but there had been a misunderstanding somewhere. The battalion
once more joined Lord Methuen and marched with him to Mafeking,3
operating thereabouts and in the South-West Transvaal for many months.
In the end of October and in November 1900 the headquarters and two
companies of the battalion accompanied Major-General Douglas on a
long trek to Klerksdorp, when much stock and some prisoners were captured.4
Thirteen officers and 17 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned
in Lord Roberts' final despatch.
In February 1901 the battalion marched with Lord Methuen from Taungs
to Klerksdorp. On the way the enemy made an obstinate stand in a strong
position at Haartebeestfontein, but were driven out. In his telegram
of 21st February Lord Kitchener mentions the Loyal North Lancashire
as having “greatly distinguished themselves." They lost
6 killed and 8 wounded.
A portion of the battalion was in the escort of a convoy going to
Ventersdorp, which was very heavily attacked on 23rd May 1901. The
attack was driven off. One officer and several men of the battalion
gained mention in despatches for exceptional gallantry on this occasion.
Later in that year four companies were in a column under Lord Methuen
which did endless trekking and fighting in the Western Transvaal.5
The battalion shared the grievous misfortune which befell Lord Methuen's
force on 7th March 1902, one company being, along with two companies
of 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, in the column on that occasion as
escort to the waggons. The infantry held out “in a most splendid
manner," said Lord Methuen, after the bulk of the mounted men
had incontinently fled. On this occasion the Loyal North Lancashire
lost 5 killed and 1 officer and 10 men wounded.
This mishap to Lord Methuen did not in any way sully the battalion's
very fine record. Altogether 2 officers and 7 non-commissioned officers
and men were mentioned during the campaign in despatches by Lord Kitchener,
but this is in their case no indication of the very hard fighting
the battalion saw in the latter phases of the war. In Lord Kitchener's
supplementary or final despatch 4 officers and 7 non - commissioned
officers and men were mentioned.
1 Dated 15th
February 1900, with covering despatch of Lord Roberts dated 20th March
1900. Gazette of 8th May.
2 Lord Roberts' despatch of 10th October 1900.
4 Ibid., 15th November 1900, para. 8.
5 Lord Kitchener's despatch of 8th July 1901.