THE 1st Battalion sailed on the Aurania
and arrived at the Cape about 11th November 1899. Along with the 2nd
Black Watch, 2nd Seaforths, and 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders,
they formed the Highland Brigade, first under Major-General Wauchope,
and after his death at Magersfontein, under Brigadier - General Macdonald.
The work of the brigade is dealt with under the 2nd Black Watch.
Magersfontein the Highland Light Infantry, being the battalion in
reserve, did not suffer so severely as the others in the first outburst
of the enemy’s fire, but its losses throughout the day were
heavy. Approximately these were 2 officers and 12 men killed, 7 officers,
including Colonel Kelham, and 73 men wounded. Five officers and 9
non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Methuen’s
despatch of 15th February 1900 for exceptional gallantry, one of those
mentioned, Corporal J Shaul, getting the V. C. for several specific
acts of great bravery
Highland Light Infantry were not present at Paardeberg, having been
left at Klip Kraal, and it was not until the 1st of May 1900, as General
Colvile was starting on the northward march, that they rejoined the
the advance from the Waterworks to Heilbron the brigade was constantly
engaged against very strong forces of the enemy, and in the fighting
the Highland Light Infantry took their share.
the operations for enclosing Prinsloo’s force in the Brandwater
basin the battalion did much useful work, particularly at Retief’s
Nek on the 23rd July That day they “gained a footing, albeit
not a very firm one, on the lower spurs and kloofs of the rocky height
to our left of the nek.” The Black Watch obtained possession
of another hilL “During the night a portion of the Highland
Light Infantry, guided by several men of Lovat’s Scouts, succeeded
in gaining possession of the highest peak of the hill on the east
of the pass, a point of vantage whence a successful occupation of
the whole height was made next day.”1
the surrender of Prinsloo the Highland Brigade operated under Sir
A. Hunter in the Bethlehem-Heilbron district. On 15th August General
Hunter had a stiff action at Witpoort, near Heilbron, where the Highland
Light Infantry had most of the work. They lost approximately 3 men
killed, Colonel Kelham and 40 men wounded.
13th September the Highland Brigade had a very successful action on
the south of the Yet River, m which they and Lovat’s Scouts
captured 7 prisoners, 31 waggons, many oxen, stores, &c.
October the brigade was moved to the south of the Orange River Colony
in consequence of the Boers appearing on the borders of Cape Colony
in some strength. The brigade was split up, and the same remark applies
to the Highland Light Infantry When Dewetsdorp was attacked and captured,
18th to 23rd November 1900, one company of the battalion was part
of the garrison, the remainder of the garrison being three companies
2nd Gloucesters, some Royal Irish Rifles, and 2 guns 68th Battery
Three men of the battalion were killed, Lieutenant Milne Home and
18 men were wounded, and the remainder were included in the surrender.
Bearing in mind that we had made strong defensive works at Dewetsdorp
on sites of our own selecting, the taking of the place was a brilliant
exploit on the part of De Wet, and its loss the reverse of creditable
to the British. One can find none of the excuses available in the
cases of Stormberg, Reddersburg, or Nicholson’s Nek. To Lord
Roberts it must have been a very sickening episode, happening as it
did while he was handing over his command. To the battalion the affair
was not without its compensations, gallant deeds were done, and Private
C. Kennedy, for “on the 22nd carrying a comrade to the hospital
three-fourths of a mile under a very hot fire,” and on the 23rd
“volunteering to take a message across a space over which it
was almost certain death to venture,” gained the Victoria Cross.
officers and 18 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in
Lord Roberts’ final despatch.
few days after Dewetsdorp a half-company of the battalion under Lieutenant
Blair did a fine piece of work in retaining their hold on Commissie
Bridge, on the Caledon River, against De Wet and probably 2000 Boers,
who after twenty-four hours gave up the attempt to take the post.
Lieutenant Blair and 4 men were mentioned by Lord Kitchener in despatches
for exceptionally good work on this occasion.
after this the battalion was taken to Aliwal North, and was employed
in that district during the remainder of the campaign. There was often
much skirmishing in this neighbourhood, but the Highland Light Infantry
had no fighting which entailed heavy loss.
officers and 1 private were mentioned during the latter stages of
the war, and in the final despatch the names of 5 officers and 6 non-commissioned
officers were added.
Sir A. Hunter’s despatch of 4th August 1900, para2. 20 to 22.