Extract taken from 'Our Regiments in South Africa' by John Stirling
published by Naval and Military Press Ltd

THE 2nd Battalion sailed on the Assaye on 4th January 1900, and arrived at the Cape on the 23rd. Along with the 2nd Lincolnshire, 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and 2nd Hampshire, they formed the 14th Brigade under Brigadier – General Chermside, and part of the VIIth Division under Lieut.-General Tucker.

The VIIth Division took part in the advance from Modder River to Bloemfontein. On 11th February 1900 the division moved from Enslin and Gras Pan to Ramdan; on 12th to Dekiel Drift on the Riet River. The 13th was occupied in getting waggons across. On the 14th the division moved from Dekiel Drift to Waterval Drift, where Lord Roberts had on that day his headquarters. On the evening of the 14th the division moved to Wegdraai Drift, still on the Riet. On the 15th part of the division occupied Jacobsdal, to which place Lord Roberts moved his headquarters on the 16th. On the 18th, the day of the battle of Paardeberg, the 14th Brigade, under Cherinside, was ordered to march from Jacobsdal to Paardeberg, where it arrived on the evening of the 19th. Thereafter the 14th Brigade sat down at Paardeberg till Cronje came out, but it also did very important work in assisting to repel and defeat the Boer reinforcements coming to his assistance. The 15th Brigade, under Wavell, was ordered to bring up the last convoy from the Modder River camp, and to be at Osfontein, east of Paardeberg, on 7th March; no easy matter, as the drifts were swollen with heavy rains. On the 7th was fought the battle of Poplars Grove. In his despatch of 15th March Lord Roberts says: “The 14th Brigade of the VIIth Division, with its Brigade Division of Field Artillery, Nesbitt’s Horse, and the New South Wales and Queensland Mounted Infantry, was ordered to march eastward along the south bank of the river for the purpose of threatening the enemy, distracting attention from the main attack on Table Mountain (intrusted to the VIth Division), and assisting the cavalry in preventing the Boers from crossing the river at the Poplar Grove Drift.” On the 8th and 9th March the army halted at Poplars Grove, but on the latter date Lord Roberts issued his instructions for his next advance in three columns on Bloemfontein. Lieut.-General Tucker commanded the right or southmost column, consisting of the VIIth Division, the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, and Ridley’s brigade of Mounted Infantry, and he was instructed to march viâ Petrusburg, Driekop, Panfontein, to Venter’s Vlei, eighteen miles from Bloemfontein, in four marches; but on the 10th, after the battle of Driefontein or Abraham’s Kraal had been fought by the left and centre columns, Lord Roberts asked Lieut.-General Tucker to halt his force at Driekop. The division did not reach Bloemfontein till the 14th, Lord Roberts having entered the town on the 13th.

The division had no very serious fighting in the course of the eastern advance. One captain and one corporal of the Norfolk Regiment were mentioned in Lord Roberts’ despatch of 31st March 1900 for good work on the way to Bloemfontein. After passing through Bloemfontein the division was posted north of the town, General Maxwell succeeding to the command of the 14th Brigade when General Chermside was given the IIIrd Division.

On 29th March Lieut. - General Tucker, with the VIIth Division, 1st and 3rd Cavalry Brigades, and Le Gallais’ Mounted Infantry, fought the action of Karee Siding to drive the Boers off a line of kopjes from which they had been doing some mischief. The operations were successfully carried out.1 The enemy held several strong positions in the line of hills. Le Gallais on the right and French on the left found their projected turning movements very difficult, the enemy retaining their positions and even taking the offensive at parts until the infantry closed in in the afternoon. The Norfolks were the first in the infantry advance and seized the position allotted to them. Our total casualties were about 170. The battalion lost 1 man killed and 2 officers and 20 men wounded. After the action the VIIth Division retained the hills they had won, thus keeping open the door for the subsequent advance on Brandfort.

When Lord Roberts moved north from Bloemfontein to Pretoria the VIIth and XIth Divisions formed the centre of the army, the XIth, on the left centre, being under Pole-Carew, and consisting of the 1st or Guards Brigade, and the 18th Brigade under Stephenson, composed of the 1st Yorks, 1st Essex, 1st Welsh, and 2nd Warwicks. The VIIth Division was on the right of the XIth in the advance. Brandfort was occupied on 3rd May, Smaildeel on the 6th, Kroonstad on the 12th, Pretoria on 5th June. On the way some fighting had to be done, but the centre was never so seriously engaged as the right and left wings of the army. On 10th May at the crossing of the Zand River the enemy had a strong position and was inclined to make a stand, and the 15th Brigade had some fairly stiff work.

After Johannesburg had surrendered on 31st May 1900 the WIth and XIth Divisions marched past the Commander - in - Chief in the town, and when Lord Roberts moved on to Pretoria the 15th Brigade, Wavell’s, was left as garrison at Johannesburg.2 The Vllth Division did not act together again. After Pretoria was occupied on 5th June the 14th Brigade,3 Maxwell’s, was detailed to garrison that city, Major-General Maxwell being appointed governor.

The Norfolk’s were present at the ceremony of proclaiming the annexation of the Transvaal on 25th October 1900.4 During the later stages of the war the battalion was employed mainly in the Central Transvaal, being for a considerable time the garrison of Rustenburg.

Twelve officers and 14 non-commissioned officers and men were mentioned in Lord Roberts’ final despatches, and 4 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers in Lord Kitchener’s final despatch.

1 Lord Roberts’ telegram of 30th March 1900.
2 Lord Roberts’ despatch of 14th August 1900, para. 19.
3 Ibid., para. 23.
4 Lord Roberts’ telegram of 25th October 1900.

Last updated 17 February, 2009

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