On 10 October 1899 the Second Boer War broke out in South Africa. As a result of the military reverses at Magersfontein, Stormberg and Colenso in the ‘Black Week’ of 9-15 December 1899 an appeal was made for extra troops from all quarters including the Volunteer Force which had until then been only liable for Home Service and only then on the occasion of danger to the United Kingdom.
On 2 January 1900 the War Office sanctioned the raising of 66 Active Service Companies from the volunteers, to be attached to regular battalions in South Africa on a year’s engagement.
The 1st Bucks Rifle Volunteers had to find approximately 60 men for the composite active service company to be attached to the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry (the 43rd).
The Volunteer Service Company was enlisted for one year, or until the end of the war.
Date of attestation, 19th January 1900; Embarked l0th March 1900; Arrived at Cape Town, 31st March 1900.
Officers: Captain M. F. Lathy (1st V.B.) in command, Lieut. L. C. Hawkins, and Lieut. C. A. Barron (1st Bucks).
Strength ; 1st (Oxford University) Vol. Battn., 1 Sergeant, 15 R. and F.; 2nd Vol. Battn., 25 R. and F.; 1st Bucks, 1 Colour-Sergeant, 3 Sergeants, and 66 R, and F.
Total of all ranks, 114,
The following extracts are based on the Regimental Chronicles of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry 1900 and 1901
The Volunteer Service Company served as a company within the 1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire Light Infantry. It is a regimental custom that Company's are known by the Company Commanders name i.e the Volunteer Company was known as "Captain Lathy's Company". Below is a battalion orbat which when the names of officers are quoted in the chronicle extracts below can be married up to the company concerned.
1st Battalion, The Oxfordshire Light Infantry Lt Col Dalzell - Commanding Officer Major Porter - Second in Command Capt Cobb - Adjutant Lt Ross - Quartermaster
A Company - Lt Foljambe, Lt Sullivan B Company - Capt Henley, Lt Henley C Company - Capt Lethbridge, Lt Hammick, Lt Stapleton D Company - Capt Wayy, Lt Wood E Company - Major Mockler, Lt Scott F Company - Capt Lamotte, Lt Ball-Ashton H Company - Major Day, G (Mounted Infantry) Company - Major Evelegh, Capt Colville, Lt Forrest, Lt Ballard, Lt Brooke I (Volunteer) Company - Capt Lathy, Lt Hawkins, Lt Barron
REGIMENTAL CHRONICLE OF THE OXFORDSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY THE 1st BATTALION IN SOUTH AFRICA, 1900.
12th May, 1900 :--The Regiment moved on the 7th to Sussex Hill Camp, four miles out of the town, to relieve some Mounted Infantry. The Gloucester went to the Waterworks, and two Regiments of Clements' Brigade are out in the country round the town ; so our Division is pretty well split up, and I am afraid there is small chance of our moving on towards Pretoria. Our Volunteer Company turned up from England on the 8th; there are a lot of Oxford Undergraduates in the ranks. Life here is a bit slow now, though we have a nice roomy camp, a bit higher than the town. We keep the men fit by playing football when we are not on duty; but there is a heap of enteric about, and a certain number of officers are down with it.
KROONSTAD AND DETACHMENTS. June 6th — Received orders to move at once to Kroonstad, as De Wet is threatening the railway at Rhenoster River. Porter, with 500 men, left at 4 p.m., remainder followed at 7.30 p.m. in coal trucks. Cold night and rain.
June 7th. — Reached Kroonstad at 3.30 p.m. ; heavy rain and hail. Detrained and moved into bivouac, north-west of the town. Heard on arrival that Christian De Wet had already cut the railway line, captured Roodeval and its garrison, as well as the Derbyshire Militia at Rhenoster. Reinforcements of the Buffs, and 4th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders arrived a little later, but no guns or Cavalry. Got to the bivouac ground in the dark : no baggage and only one blanket apiece. Cutting wind and hard frost ; sleep out of the question. Took up a strong outpost line, as there was a probability of being attacked ; but, owing to the lateness of our arrival and ignorance of the country, it was quite a chance whether the outposts were in the right place. However, nothing happened, though we could see the reflection of the Boer signal lights in the sky all night.
June 8th. — Hard at work intrenching ourselves all day. General Charles Knox arrived and took over command. The kits came in the evening, and blanket shelters put up, but of little use, as they would not keep out the driving cold wind and frost. No. 17 Battery, R.F.A., and a few Yeomanry and Prince Albert's Guard joined us.
June 9th. — Very cold and freezing hard. At 4.15 a.m. paraded for a reconnaissance in force the Battery, Yeomanry, half our Battalion, half the Buffs, and half Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Moved north, up the railway to America Siding. Enemy had left that morning, but our Basuto scouts tracked them on a kopje about three miles north. Returned to camp at 7 p.m. Day very hot.
June 11th and 12th. — Busy intrenching the camp; made ourselves fairly secure, and have now got three 5-inch guns. No tents ; days very hot, and hard frost at night.
June 13th. — At 11 p.m. orders came for headquarters and 500 men of the Regiment, with two guns of the Battery, to entrain at once for Ventersberg Road. The remainder of the Battery and some Yeomanry started by road. News had come in that the Boers were gathering round Zand River—a post on the railway to the south of us—where there is a quantity of stores and ammunition.
June 14th.—Reached Ventersberg Road Station at 6.30 a.m. The stationmaster reported that a loud explosion had taken place at 6.15a.m., and after that telegraphic communication with Zand River had ceased. We wired up for the remainder of the Battalion and some Mounted Infantry. About 7 a.m. we heard heavy firing in the direction of Zand River (about 13 miles). Set to work at intrenchments, and when the Yeomanry and the remainder of the Battery reached us, we moved on, leaving a Company to hold the Station. The guns and Yeomanry went by road, we by rail, pushing on as fast as possible, as we could still hear heavy firing, and knowing that our Zand force had no guns, we fancied that the Boers would be giving them a bad time. Firing ceased suddenly at 3.30 p.m., and we imagined that it was all up with the Zand garrison. We pushed on to Riet Spruit, where there is a big bridge which the Boers had previously blown up, and which had been repaired. Here we detached the Battery and one Company (under Porter), and they set to work to intrench themselves, while the rest of us went on down the rail. We had to stop to examine every culvert, so progress was necessarily slow. At last we reached the break (l 1/2 miles from Zand)—a culvert blown up and the telegraph wire cut. We sent some Yeomen into Zand with information that we were at hand if any help was wanted, but the answer came back that the garrison had repulsed the enemy with small loss to themselves. On hearing this we returned to Riet Spruit (about two miles), where we bivouacked for the night, sis of our men and a sapper going back when it was dark and mending the break and laying new rails. About midnight Ballard and 50 men, escorting some sappers to mend the telegraph, marched into the bivouac from Ventersberg Road.
June 15th.—The C.O., Adjutant, and the Volunteer Company railed down to Zand River. The garrison had had a tremendous fight, but the officer in command had got wind of the coming attack, and had made his plans accordingly. His camp was on the top of a hill, but after dark he evacuated it, and took up a position lower down. The garrison dug hard all night, and in the morning had excellent cover. The consequence was that the Boers came along and blazed all they knew into the deserted camp, then walked unexpectedly up to the trenches, where they got more than they bargained for. The Zand people lost five killed and the same number wounded, took eight Boer prisoners, and picked up about a dozen corpses within ten yards of the trenches. Porter, with two Companies (Lamotte's and Watt's) and two guns, remained at Riet Spruit Siding, the remainder returned to Yentersberg Road.
June 16th.—Mockler and his Company and the Maxim gun were left at Ventersberg Road, and the rest of the Battalion went back by rail to Kroonstad, which was reached at 10 p.m. Bivouacked on new ground in pouring rain.
June 17th.—Got our tents and pitched camp, and we were fairly comfortable for some days, though the weather was wet and cold.
June 25th.—The Regiment went out to America Siding to escort back two guns of the 17th Battery. Out till 6 p.m.; nothing happened. The Regiment has had 80 deaths from disease up to date. After this we had comparative peace for about a month, though, as Christian Be Wet was hovering about, we always had 400 men ready to turn out, and guards and picqnets stood to their arms at 5 a.m. daily.
July 12th.—Our detachments came in from Riet and Ventersberg Road, where they had not a very happy time. Always in a state of intrenching and expecting attacks, which never came off.
July 26th.—Piet De Wet and his staff came in through our outpost line, and surrendered to Lathy (Volunteer Company), who was on picquet. Our original Brigade has been split up long ago. General Knox is here in command of the Station ; General Kelly-Kenny is at Bloemfontein ; the Buffs are at Pretoria, the Gloucesters at Bloemfontein Waterworks, and the West Ridings somewhere about Lindley or Winburg. Rough estimate of regimental casualties up to date :—Killed in action and died of wounds, three officers and 31 men ; wounded, three officers and 74 men ; died of disease, 52 men ; invalided home, six officers and 150 men. This does not include casualties in the Mounted Infantry Company.
OPERATIONS AGAINST DE WET.
August 1st.—Got sudden orders to leave Kroonstad at 2.30 p.m. Rendezvous, on the other side of the line, near our old camp. General Knox in command. Troops: Oxfordshire Light Infantry, 600 ; Royal Scots Militia, 400; five guns and a " pom-pom," and 250 of Sitwells Mounted Infantry. Marched due west, nine miles, and bivouacked near a spruit. No tents with us. Carried four days' rations.
The officers who marched out with the Battalion were:-- Lt.-Col. Dalzell; Major Mockler; Captains Lamotte, Childers, and Lathy ; Lieutenants Scott Ballard, Foljambe, Sullivan, Simpson, Ward, Hawkins, and Barron; Captain and Adjutant Cobb ; Lieut, and Quartermaster Ross ; Captain Rattrar, R.A.M.C. Captain "Watt and Lieut. Hammick remained in Kroonstad in charge of the Depot of the Battalion ; and Major Porter and Captain Lethbridge in hospital.
August 2nd.—Stood to arms at 5 a.m., and marched at 6.30 north-east towards Rhenoster Kop (a large wooded kopje, six or seven miles round the base, and 340 feet high—a favourite Boer stronghold). Sitwell found about a hundred Boers on the kopje, and drove them off towards Bothaville. Halted for a couple of hours near a farm, and then marched north, passing to the right of the kopje. Halted at Belmont. Day's march, 19 miles.
August 3rd,—Stood to arms at 5 a.m. (a standing order now) ; waited for news all the morning, and marched west at 2.30 p.m. Left the kopje on our left, and halted on top of a rise called Boschkopjes (seven miles). Laagered for the night in form of a square. As we got into camp in the dusk, heard Sitwell firing his guns on our right front. Hard frost all night; blankets stiff and white in the morning.
August 4th.—Marched north at 6 a.m. After about six miles, heard the Mounted Infantry engaged. About a mile further on, and when within a mile and a quarter of Rhenoster River, the Boers opened fire on us. Halted on the ridge overlooking the river, the Battery shelling the river bed, and driving out what Boers there were (fifty or sixty), who cleared out across the open plain. A sergeant of the Royal Scots was mortally wounded.
The troops formed up, had some food, and fell out until 3 p.m. Then crossed the drift, and advanced across the open towards a line of kopjes two or three miles on. Reached the top of the highest kopje (Rhebokfontein—wooded, rocky, and covered with sheep-pens) at 5.30 p.m., Mockler's Company remaining there on outpost duty for the night, while the remainder of the force bivouacked on the ground below. Day's march, 10 miles.
August 5th, -Sunday.—Halt. Kitchener and Broadwood visited the camp. Any number of troops about here—after De Wet, who is said to be north of us, in the Wit kopjes.
August 7th.—Received orders to move in early morning. Marched at 10.30 a.m., mostly over rough undulating ground. The Mounted Infantry were fired on, just before reaching camp, from a kopje above a farm-house. Encamped at Doornhoek, on a rise near Kaffir Kraal, and intrenched ourselves, which took till nearly midnight. Opened up communications with Broadwood by lamp. Just as we got to camp, we heard a lot of firing in the direction of the hills, where we could see our Cavalry, They came across about 40 of the enemy, and were fired on at close quarters; one man wounded and two missing. Hard frost at night. Day's march, 12 miles. Heard afterwards that Scott-Murray and a draft of 100 men joined our depot at Kroonstad today.
August 9th.—Marched at 2 p.m., leaving Rietzburg on our right; then over open country, with range of kopjes on each side. Hit the Vaal Riverfor the first time, after about five miles. Followed the bank for another six miles ; camped opposite to Venterskroon (about a dozen houses). Hard frost at night. Day's march, 13 miles.
August 10th.- Started east at 8.15 a.m., first along the river and then inland, between high hills. Met the Vaal River again at Rensburg Drift. Bivouacked half a mile from the river. Boers supposed to have crossed by this drift. Fine scenery along the river ; high, rocky hills, and a good many trees. Day's march, seven miles.
August 11th.—Terrific wind and dust all the morning. Two or three veldt fires in camp, one nearly reaching our bivouac lines, after passing through the gunner lines and doing some damage to saddlery. At 2.30 suddenly ordered to march ; crossed the drift (knee deep) and marched for about a mile into the Transvaal, then returned, fairly soaked, to our old bivouac at 5 p.m. Hard frost at night.
August 12th.—Halt at Rensburg Drift. Scouts out all day trying to discover whereabouts of Kitchener and Methuen, but without success.
August 13th.-—Marched at 1.30 p.m., south-east, to Vredefort (a small town with a few shops); got in 5 p.m.; seven miles. Bought up everything in the town, though not much to be had. Orders from Lord Roberts to proceed to the drift at Scandinavia.
August 14th.—Moved at 7.30 a.m.; halted at Rietzburg for two hours in the middle of the day. Went on to Vlackfontein, which was reached at 6.30 p.m.; 14 miles.
August 15th.—Left at 7.30. a.m.; through open country; reached the Vaal River at Scandinavia (Forssman's Drift), at noon. Day's march, 10 miles
August 16th.—Halted. Sharp night.
August 17th.—Halt. Heard that De Wet had trekked to Rustenberg.
August 18th.—Halt. Hammick, Ballard, and 100 men of the Regiment brought in a convoy from Kroonstad. On full rations again, though nothing but water to drink still.
August 20th.—Marched at 7.15 a.m.; open country all the way ; passed Doornhoek, and then approached the Rhenoster River. Crossed at Kerr's Drift. Got in at 3.30 p.m., after a 16 mile march. Ox convoy did not arrive until 7 p.m.
August 21st.—Marched at 7.15 a.m., as usual. Kept along the left bank of the river till we came to Honing's Spruit. Crossed, and encamped half a mile off, at Wet Kop. Day's march, 13 miles.
August 22nd.—Marched at 7.15. a.m., for nine miles ; crossed a dry drift, and then a mile on to camp (Gansvlei), arriving at 1.30 p.m.
August 23rd.—Marched at 6.30. a.m. After seven miles came to a lot of low kopjes and the Rhenoster River. Passed De Wet's burnt farm : marks of old encampments about; some shells picked up—probably the remains of Roberts' advance. Crossed the river, and 1 ½ miles further on struck the railway at Kopjes Station. Encamped on kopjes about a mile from the station. Day's march, 12 miles.
August 24th.—Halted, Made walls all round camp. Strong cold wind blowing all day. The General, Colonel, and Quartermaster went off to Kroonstad to get supplies, etc. Heard that Lethbridge and 100 men have gone to Holfontein. Severe frost at night.
August 25th.—A warm day, no wind. Halted.
August 26th.—Halted. The General and party returned from Kroonstad. "Coats, warm, British," served out, and very welcome.
August 27th.—Left at 12.30 p.m.; proceeded along the railway to some hills overlooking Vredefort Station. Got in about 4.30 p.m., after nine miles march. Dug shelter-trenches round the bivouac until 11.30p.m. A lot of thunder and lightning in the evening, and a little rain.
August 28th.—Marched at 6.30 a.m. Some Boers were reported to be at a farm on the road ; the pom-pom went after them, but they cleared off. Crossed a spruit and encamped at 10.30 a.m. near a storehouse known as Shepstone's Farm. Day's march, 10 miles.
August 29th.—Heavy rain at 6 a.m., in spite of which we marched at 7.30, wearing greatcoats over everything. The coats, of course, did not meet in front, so were of little use. Rained in torrents the whole march. We had been intended to march to Vredefort Town, but as the convoy could not be brought out from Vredeforft railway station on account of Boers being about, we had to march back to Vredefort Station. The going was very bad, both for men and animals, and we lost several mules —already weakened with continuous trekking. Halted at a kopje with English farm 1 1/2 miles from the station at noon, after marching 13 miles. Rain cleared off a bit in the afternoon, but came on again at 6 p.m., and poured hard all night.
August 30th.—Cleared up in the morning, and the sun came out, at which all the men cheered. Heavy shower at noon, after which we managed to dry our kits to a certain extent.
August 31st.—Cloudless morning, following a dewy night, which had made all our things wet again. Marched at 7 a.m. north-west; thought we were going towards Parys, but route altered at the last. March through open country, in places a perfect swamp. Ox transport could not get along, so halted on some high ground after going six or seven miles. Barron went into Kroonstad to do duty with the depot.
September 2nd.—Marched at 7 a.m. After six miles passed a lot of farms and kraals, and drove in a good quantity of cattle. About four miles further on, struck the road by which we had formerly marched to Kopjes Station. Another two miles brought us to our destination (Gansvlei) at 2 p.m. De Wet reported to have been here last week, and now to have gone off to Winkle's Drift. Natives say he has no wagons, and only 200 men, but we believe nothing that we hear now.
September 3rd.—Marched at 7 a.m. Crossed Rhenoster River at a mile from our bivouac ; it was dry when we crossed here before, but now knee-deep. Took two or three hours to get all the transport across. Bivouacked at Kristal Kopje (Kitchener's camp when we were at Rhebokfontein). Heard seven explosions in the evening, which we learned later were caused by the blowing up of the line at Honing's Spruit. Day's march, five miles.
September 4th.—An empty convoy went off to Honings Spruit to get supplies, Mockler went off on this job with 300 of our men, two guns, and 50 Cavalry. They; had a fairly good march of 10 miles to the railway. The remainder of us moved at 10 a.m. to Roodeval Vlei. Just after crossing the drift over the Honing's Spruit we came to a farm, where the men who had blown up the line the night before had slept. The farm was burned. March, 5 ½ miles.
September 5th.—The men of the Regiment left in camp, with two guns, a pom-pom and Mounted Infantry, went out in the morning to clear Boers off Rhenoster Kop, but after marching all day saw none of the enemy,
September 6th.—Marched early and reached Driekopjes at 4.30 p.m., where we bivouacked. Found Mockler's convoy had arrived at 1.30 p.m., having marched from Honing's Spruit to our old camp yesterday, and on here, with General Knox and the rest of the column, by Lace Diamond Mine and Valsch River today.
September 7th.—Marched at 7 a.m.; reached Blesboklaagte at 11.30 a.m., after an eight mile march. The Mounted Infantry and the pom-pom went out at 9 p.m.
September 8th.—Marched at 7 a.m. Thought we were going southwest to Smalldeel, but on starting the direction was altered to north-east. The Boers hearing that we had gone west yesterday trekked north. Day's march, 15 miles. Bivouacked at Tweekuil.
September 9th. Parade postponed until 7.30. a.m., then moved to ground near dam, and bivouacked for the day. Started for a night march at 6.45 p.m., by road all the way ; halted, after doing 12 miles, at 11.30 p.m., and bivouacked near a farm. Three Boer prisoners were caught yesterday with valuable information regarding De Wet ; one was carrying despatches to the Boer Commandant at Bothaville, telling him to be at Paardekraal on the 12th.
September 10th.—Off at 3.30 a.m. in the dark, and marched to surprise Rhenoster Kop. Reached the kopje at daybreak, and marched all over it without seeing a sign of a Boer (though plenty of game was put up). Moved on to a bivouac near Belmont, and halted at 10 a.m. Started again at 1 p.m. for Honing's Spruit, and arrived at 5.45 p.m.,having completed 31 miles in the 23 hours.
September 11th.—As we were within the picqnet lines of the Honing's Spruit Garrison, we did not stand to arms at 5.0 a.m., the first time for six weeks. Marched at 8 a.m., crossed the line, and then on to Boschpoort (nine miles); bivouacked near a dam.
September 12th.—Started on a night march last night at 11 p.m., the idea being to surprise Paardekraal, about ten miles away. The convoy was left behind with a guard to come on afterwards. Halted every hour for ten minutes. We were to have marched till daylight, and consequently carried no coats or blankets. At 2.30 a.m., however, the force was found to be only a mile or two from Paardekraal, so was formed up and bivouacked in strict silence, and a good deal of shivering until 5.30 a.m. The regiment then led the way to the farm, which was empty, except for one of our Mounted Infantry, who told us that the rest of the Mounted Infantry had passed at 4 a.m. There was nothing further to be done, so we halted, and our transport came up in the afternoon. The Boers had left the place yesterday.
September 13th.—Marched at 5 a.m. towards Kroonstad. Halted at Hout Kop at 10.30 a.m. after 15 miles.
September 15th.—Marched at 4 p.m. four or five miles nearer to Kroonstad, and halted for the night at Welgevenden.
September 16th.—Marched at 5 a.m. to Kroonstad. Crossed the drift, and halted half a mile from the river. Went into our Depot camp in the afternoon to get kit, etc. Been out 47 days, instead of the original four days. Distance marched, roughly, 350 miles.
September 17th.—Off again on another job at 5 a.m. Marched along the Senekal road (14 miles), and bivouacked at 10.30 a.m., at Ranjeslaagte, on the Bloem Spruit. The Cavalry of the 3rd Brigade, and four R.H.A. guns, now forming part of our force, preceded us over-night, and moved on ahead again as we arrived at our bivouac News was brought in later that the Cavalry had located the Boers on Klompje Dooms, and that an officer of the 16th Lancers had been shot in the arm from a farm-house.
September 18th.—Marched at 5 a.m. Heard on the march that a laager had been sighted by the Cavalry, and after we had gone about eight miles the R.H.A. and our battery opened fire. The Royal Scots moved round the right flank, and fired a few rounds at some retreating Boers, while we moved round the left flank, but saw only a few Boers in the far distance. The laager had cleared off in the early morning. Our advanced Cavalry, we heard, nearly came to grief; a party of Boers dressed in khaki beckoned to them, and then opened fire, but made away as soon as they saw the Infantry advancing. The casualties were two men of the 16th Lancers killed, five Cavalry men and one gunner wounded. Two dead Boers were found. We halted from 11 a.m. till 2 p.m., then bivouacked for dinner, and moved in the evening on to higher ground (Blaauwboschbank) for the night. There are now seven columns advancing from the south, and the object of our force is to prevent the enemy breaking north.
September 19th and 20th.—Halt.
September 21st.—Marched at 5 a.m.,and reached Kroonstad at 5 p.m., having marched the whole 25 miles straight off, in order to get a day's rest in tents at our Standing Camp.
September 22nd.—Had an easy morning ; did not stand to arms.
September 33rd.—Away again at 5 a.m. on the Heilbron road (by which we had returned from Paardekraal). Were to have gone this trek to Bothaville, but the route was changed last night. Halted on oar old ground at Hout Kop (15 miles).
September 24th.—Moved at 5 a.m. to Paardekraal, 15 miles.
September 25th.—Marched at 5 a.m. to Paardekraal North. Came across De Lisle's force at the drift over Rhenoster at Vaalkrans ; 14 miles.
September 26th.—Heard guns to the north. General Knox rode on to join the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, who were engaging the enemy near Heilbron. Our C.O. assumed command of the Column, and we moved on to Leeuwfontein, on the Heilbron road, 5 miles.
September 27th.— Moved at 5 a.m. due west to Uitkijk. 15 miles.
September 28th—October 1st.—Halted at Uitkijk.
October 2nd.—Marched at 6 a.m. to Hartebeestefontein, 15 miles.
October 3rd.—Marched into Heilbron and bivouacked on the south side of the town, re-opening the railway, which had been closed for seven months. Childers (with H Company), Lathy (with I Company), and Barron and Sullivan went off at 3.30 p.m. by armoured train on detachment to Gottenberg, a bridge on the Heilbron—Wolvehoek line (about 17 miles from Heilbron). A few miles from Gottenberg, the train was attacked by a party of Boers who, however, soon dispersed when our men opened fire.
HEILBRON AND DETACHMENTS.
From October until the end of the year the headquarters of the Regiment were at Heilbron, with four Companies out on detachment in the neighbourhood, guarding the railway line. Nothing of great importance took place during this period, though the Headquarter Companies were constantly called upon to make sudden marches to endeavour to cut off small parties of Boers, and destroy farms that harboured the enemy, and the isolated detachments were occasionally attacked, and were frequently threatened.
Extract of a letter from Major R. W. Porter, dated Heilbron, 5th November, 1900:-- We are anchored down here for a bit, I fancy, and not sorry that the trekking after De Wet is over, as far as we are concerned. We are left here with a 5-inch gun, two field guns, 40 or 50 Yeomen, and ourselves, as a garrison for this town, Roberts having promised the inhabitants that it shall not be again evacuated. The Regiment is well up to strength again, since the draft of 140 men joined us on the 22nd October, and we can turn out 820 men, including all the detachments. Lamotte and 60 men are at a bridge four miles from here; Childers, with his Company and part of the Volunteer Company, at Gottenberg (half-way to Wolvehoek), and the other half of the Volunteer Company is at two small posts close by.
Diary :-- November 5th.—Moved at 10 a.m. with 200 men of the Regiment, 2 guns, and 20 Yeomen. Visited Hartebeestefontein, burned the house (good substitute for fifth of November bonfire!), and took the family back to the town. Then proceeded to Brakfontein farm, which had been already burned by a former Column, but which had been re-roofed and occupied by several families. We took all the women and children back to Heilbron.
November 6th.—Sent out a wagon at 7 a.m. this morning, with an escort of 12 men, under Sergeant Bibby and 6 Yeomen, for the purpose of destroying the roof of Brakfontein farm, and bringing away the iron work. About noon heard firing in that direction, and 20 Yeomen, 100 Infantry, and 2 guns went out, and took up a position on a ridge above the farm. Found the wagon in the low ground, and the escort taking cover in a spruit. Located enemy in a kraal, about 3,000 yards away. Shelled them, and the rocky ridge above the farm. Enemy cleared off, and we brought the wagon in. The escort had been attacked soon after leaving the farm on the return journey, and, being surrounded, took cover in the spruit. The Boers kept up a continuous fire, but only killed one mule and wounded four (of which three had to be destroyed). When first attacked, one of the Yeomanry galloped back to give the alarm to camp, but his horse was killed before he had gone 70 yards.
November 7th.—Hammick's outpost on Kraal Hill heavily fired on at 5 p.m.
November 9th.—Foljambe went out with a party of our men and some Yeomen to destroy farms at Skeit Kraal and Damplaats, both of which were the resort of Boer sniping parties. The enemy kept up a brisk fire from a distance during the operations.
November 12th.—Burned two farms—Luyts and Badenhorst. Drove in a quantity of stock. A good deal of resistance from Boers, who had to be shelled out of their positions.
November 13th.—Wagon sent to Luyts Farm to fetch in wood, etc., attacked by a party of Boers. Simpson took a party out and drove the enemy off. No casualties.
November 26th.—The Holfontein detachment (Watt and Hawkins) came in.
Diary :-- December 8th.—The sentry at Leeuwpoort bridge was fired on at about 11 p.m., and had a narrow shave, one of the three shots they had at him passing through the skirt of his jacket.
December 12th.—A small mixed force went out at Leeuwpoort and Steyn's Halt to try and round up some Boers. Saw about 20 of them in the far distance and shelled them. Killed one and wounded another.
December 18th.—Two armed Boers came in and surrendered. Both had Lee-Metfords, bandoliers, and ammunition. One rifle belonged to the Lancashire Fusiliers, the other to the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
December 19th.-Tried to come the "slim" over the Boers, by hiding some men in farms which the enemy were known to frequent. They were too cunning to be caught, however, and they gave our Yeomen a bad time. Eventually Lathy and 50 men went out to cover the retirement, and the guns did a bit of shelling. Hot day and rain all night.
PARTICULARS OF DRAFTS SENT TO THE 1st BATTALION IN SOUTH AFRICA IN 1900.
5th February.—Captain E. M. Childers (2nd Battalion), Captain G. F. Paske (3rd Battalion), Lieuts. Christie-Miller and R. M. Logan (3rd Battalion), Lieut. S. G. R. White (4th Battalion), 85 Details, 43 Section D Reserve, 59 Militia Reserve (4th Battalion), and 113 3rd Battalion.
19th March.—2nd Lieuts. H. F. Ward and R. V. Simpson, 62 Details, 12 Militia Reserve (3rd Battalion), and 26 Militia Reserve (4th Battalion).
29th April.—2nd Lieut. Kirkpatrick, 30 Details, and 70 Transfers from 7th Battalion Rifle Brigade.
28th June.—2nd Lieuts. Scott-Murray and Higgins, 30 Details, 15 3rd Battalion, and 25 Transfers from the Border Regiment.
21st September.—101 Details and 41 3rd Battalion.
THE VOLUNTEER COMPANY.
This Company left England on the 10th March to join the 1st Battalion in South Africa, and consisted of—Captain M. F. Lathy (1st Oxford University), Lieuts. L. C. Hawkins and C. A. Barron (1st Bucks), and 111 N.C.O.'s and men. During the year two men died of disease and seven men were invalided home, their places being supplied by others sent out from England. Strength of the Company in South Africa on 31st December 1900, three officers and 106 N.C.O.'s and men.
REGIMENTAL CHRONICLE THE OXFORDSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY THE 1st BATTALION IN SOUTH AFRICA, 1901.
Regimental Diary :--
January 1st 1901.—The Headquarters of the Battalion were at Heilbron, Orange River Colony ; Lieut.-Colonel Hon. A. E. Dalzell was in command of the Battalion, as well as of the Station and the lines of communication between Heilbron and Woolvehoek; Major R. W. Porter, Assistant Provost-Marshal, Heilbron ; and Captain and Adjutant C. H. Cobb, Station Staff-Officer. The Battalion furnished the following detachments : (1) Leeuwpoort Halt (about four miles up the line towards Woolvehoek, where a deep spruit is crossed by a long bridge)- A Company, consisting of Lieut. Hon. G. W. F. S. Foljambe (commanding), Lieut. J. F. C. Fuller, and 65 N.C.O.'s and men ; (2) Gottenburg (further up the line and about 14 miles from Heilbron), Major G-. F. Mockler (commanding). Lieut. H. L. Wood, 2nd Lieut. F. J. Scott-Murray, and 165 N.C.O.'s and men.
Heilbron is situated about 50 miles north-east of Kroonstad, and is the terminus of a branch line which joins the main line at Woolvehoek, 30 miles to the north-west. There is telegraphic communication with Woolvehoek, heliographic with Vredefort Road (a station on the main line about 22 miles to the west), and by heliograph and lamp with Gottenburg and Leeuwpoort Halt. Two trains run per week (Tuesdays and Fridays), arriving at 9 a.m.. and leaving again at 1 p.m.
Boers are always to be seen on the hills round the town, especially to the east, where they take up a position watching the road to Frankfort, 30 miles east of Heilbron. Communication with Frankfort is maintained by means of native runners, who manage to get through by travelling at night across the veldt and away from the road.
January 2nd.—Information having been received that a gun was buried on the farm of a man named Schoeman at Bronkhorstslaaifontein, about 12 miles south-east of Heilbron, the following force paraded at 5 a.m., under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Hon. A. E. Dalzell: 2 Companies, 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry (Captain Childers' and Captain Lathy's, each 100 strong) ; 2 guns, 17th Battery R.F.A. ; 30 men, 77th Company Imperial Yeomanry ; 10 mounted men, 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry; 1 Maxim gun.
The morning was dark and cloudy, and at about 7 a.m. a heavy downpour of rain set in, accompanied by thunder and lightning, which lasted up to 11.30 a.m., and made the going very heavy. On approaching the farm, many Boers were seen on the farms around, and they opposed our advance considerably. Bringing the guns into action, and sending the mounted men forward, the main kopje overlooking the farm was taken, and the other hills round were also soon in our possession. The farm itself was then occupied. A search was then instituted, and several likely spots were dug out, but without result. Then font natives were sent into the dam, to feel about in the mud at the deep end, when, after a little time, a gun-wheel was located. The search was now prosecuted thoroughly, and the following were found, with great difficulty dragged to land, and placed on wagons : 1 Krupp gun-carriage, 1 ammunition wagon, 2 limbers, 5 wheels, 16 metal shell boxes, 16 leather cartridge cases, 2 long rammer brushes, and a great quantity of shells, rifle ammunition, and other articles. During the time that the things, were being collected, the enemy kept up a continuous fire on our posts on the surrounding hills. Though the gun itself had not been found, it was deemed advisable, owing to the time it had taken to get together what we had found, not to delay any longer, especially as we knew that the enemy were being reinforced, with a view to opposing us on the march back. Accordingly, at 2 p.m., a start was made on the return journey, and we had not proceeded far when a heavy fire was opened on us from Spitz Kop, a hill on our left which was strongly held, the fire soon becoming general from all sides. In this manner we were opposed the whole way home until within three miles of Heilbron.
Troops readied camp at 6 p.m. Our scouts afterwards reported that the Boers brought two ambulances on to the field, and were busy loading them, Commandant Wetman being severely wounded.
January 8th.—Firing was heard at dawn from the direction of Vecht Kop, south-east. General C. Knox was expected to arrive soon from that direction.
January 9th.—Big guns were heard at 6 a.m. to the south-east, and in the same direction again in the evening. Scouts brought in word that a large British Column was advancing from the Lindley direction, and another was moving towards Reitz.
January 11th.—This morning at Leeuwpoort Halt at 3.25 a.m. one of the sentries (Private Venn, 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry) was sniped. Two shots were fired at him, one bullet passing through his helmet, the other through the sleeve of his coat. This man had previously been sniped when on sentry at Leeuwpoort one night about two months ago, and on that occasion had two bullets through his clothes; he also had two more through his clothing at the battle of Paardeberg on February 18th, 1900.
At 4.40 a.m. Lieut. Hon. G. Foljambe went out with a mounted patrol in the direction of Gottenburg. When the patrol had reached the high ground above Steyn's Halt, and were just going down the other side, Lieut. Foljambe looked to his left to see what Private Appleby was doing, and saw about 20 Boers to his left rear. He immediately gave the signal to retire, and all got away under a heavy fire, except Private Appleby, 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry, who was shot through the head and killed.
January 19th.—A terrific storm struck the camp at 2 p.m., doing considerable damage. The roof of the Officers' Mess was blown off. The Mess was composed of railway sleepers, with a roof of sheets of corrugated iron. The roof contained 32 sheets of corrugated iron, held down on each side by a 30-foot steel railway rail weighing over 500 lbs. The whole roof was blown away in one piece, and fell 30 yards from the Mess, where it broke up and scattered, one piece of corrugated iron being picked up 132 yards away. The rail on the side on which the storm struck was blown over the building, and fell 30 yards away behind the Quartermaster's tent. Terrific rain and hail lasted till 3.30 p.m.
January 24th.—A convoy of 53 wagons arrived at Heilbron escorted by 200 Mounted Infantry, under command of Lieut.-Colonel Williams (the Buffs). During the afternoon 300 men and a Maxim, Royal Sussex Regiment, and 50 Yeomanry arrived by train to join his Column.
January 25th.—Lieut.-Colonel Williams left Heilbron at 5 a.m. with the above-named force (plus one 15-pounder field-gun lent from the Heilbron garrison) en route for Frankfort.
January 30th.—Guns were heard this morning in the Frankfort direction about 11.30 a.m., probably Lieut.-Colonel Williams engaging the enemy on his return from Frankfort.
February 1st.—Frankfort having been evacuated, the garrison, consisting of the following, came into Heilbron : 2nd Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment; two guns, 2nd Battery R.F.A.; 33rd Company Imperial Yeomanry.
February 4th.—Lieut.-Colonel Williams moved off with his Column at 4.30 a.m., taking with him also 6 officers, 271 men, 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry ; 5 officers, 186 men, 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment; 2 guns, 2nd Battery, R.F.A.
The officers of the Battalion accompanying Colonel Williams' Column were : Captains Lamotte, Childers, and Lathy, Lieuts. Sullivan, Hawkins, and Barron. They moved in a southeasterly direction towards Spitzkop, the intention being to clear the country to the south and south-west of Heilbron.
February 6th.—Guns heard in the direction of Spitzkop; probably Williams' Column.
February 7th.—Williams' guns again heard to the south.
February 9th.—Heard from Colonel Williams, at Rhenoster Drift, Zwavel Krans, saying that he had handed over to a Column, which had met him from Rhenoster Station, 15 ox-wagons, containing 171 people and one prisoner of war, and a quantity of sheep and cattle and that he had burned immense quantities of mealies, forage and food supplies. He intended crossing the river at Slootkraal, then moving north and crossing Elands Spruit, and clearing Spitzkop (this is one not to be confused with the one mentioned on February 4th. That one is south-east of Heilbron ; this one is west of it).
February 10th—We saw Colonel Williams' Column at 9 a.m. moving north, about seven miles west of Heilbron. Enemy were following him, and fighting was going on.
February 13th.—Colonel Williams arrived at Berlin, south-west of Gottenburg, and north-west of Heilbron. He sent into Gottenburg 64 Dutch and 31 natives, also 2,000 sheep and 200 cattle.
February 14th.—Colonel Williams today moved on to Elaudskop, north-east of Heilbron, always a favourite resort of the Boers. A Column moved out from Heilbron (under Major Western, 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment) to demonstrate to the east.
February 15th.—Colonel Williams arrived at Leeuwpoort to get supplies. A force of 110 Infantry, 24 Yeomanry, under command of Captain E. A. Lethbridge, moved out to Kalkfontein Farm (north), and brought in a quantity of mealies.
February 16th.—Colonel Williams' Column left Leeuwpoort, moving south.
February 17th.—Colonel Williams was at Paardekraal North, south of Heilbron, on the Kroonstad road.
March 2nd.—The detachment at Gottenburg, under command of Majo G. P. Mockler, rejoined headquarters, being relieved by the 2nd R. W. Kent Regiment. The detachment marched into Heilbron, arriving at midnight. Twenty men proceeded to Elandsfontein to join the M. I. Company.
March 8th.—Guns were heard to westward at 7 a.m.
March 9th.—Guns were heard to south-west at 9 a.m.
March 15th.—At 2 a.m. Lieut. Hon. G. Foljambe signalled from Leeuwpoort that loud explosions were taking place up the line beyond him. Directly after several more loud explosions were plainly heard at Heilbron, Lieut. Foljambe then signalled that heavy firing was taking place at the next post up the line. Reinforcements were at once sent out to Leeuwpoort. In the morning it was found the Boers had blown up three culverts, four telegraph poles, and damaged two miles of the permanent way. A construction train was sent for to mend the break.
Telegraphic communication was stopped at 2 a.m., but messages were got through by signal to Gottenburg, and thence by wire on.
By 4 p.m. telegraphic communication was re-established, and the line repaired by 9 a.m. the following morning.
March 18th.—A force of 150 Infantry and 50 Yeomanry paraded at 3 a.m., and proceeded to a place known as Pierce's Trees, about four miles out to the east, the object being to seize the high ground there before daybreak and hold it all day, in order to give the large amount of cattle a good day's grazing. Sniping went on all day; result, one Boer killed and three wounded, our casualties nil. With the force were 100 men 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry, under command of Lieut. C. F. Henley and 2nd Lieut. F. J. Scott-Murray. In the evening a flag of truce came in from Christian De Wet bringing two letters, one for Lord Kitchener, and the other addressed to the O.C., Heilbron, asking him to forward the letter to Lord Kitchener.
At 9.45 p.m. a special troop train arrived from Virginia Siding bringing two officers (Captain Lathy and Lieut. Barron) and 93 N.C.O.'s and men from Lieut.-Colonel Williams' Column.
March 19th.—2nd Lieut. F. J. Scott-Murray proceeded to Pretoria by train today, to convey C. De Wet's letter to Lord Kitchener.
March 27th.—At 1 p.m. today a force moved out from Heilbron with eight days forage and rations, under command of Major Western, 2nd Royal West Kent Regiment, to operate in conjunction with Lieut.-Williams' Column. With the force were 150 men 1st Oxfordshire Light Infantry, under command of Lieut. H. L. Wood and Lieut C. A. Barron.
April 1st—The telegraph wire was cut during the night, and communication interrupted between Heilbron and Wolvehoek. The line was found to have been cut in two places at 13 and 18 mile stones ; in one place a whole span of wire had been taken clean away ; it was mended and working by 2 p.m.
April 3rd.—Major Western's column returned. Orders were received to send the Volunteer Company to Cape Town en route for England,
April 4th.—The Volunteer Company (85 strong) under command of Captain Lathy and Lieut. Barron, left Heilbron at 2 p.m. for Cape Town. The Company was played down to the railway station by the band. Lieut. Hawkins was left behind, sick in hospital.
April 8th.--Lieut Hawkinsleft for Cape Town, en route for England.
May 7th.—Lieut. Stevenson and 25 N.C.O's and men belonging to the Volunteer Battalions of the Regiment arrived from England and joined the Battalion.
Sources The Oxfordshire Light Infantry Chronicle, 1900. The Oxfordshire Light Infantry Chronicle, 1901
The Trainmakers: the Story of Wolverton Works. Author Bill West. 1982
Call to Arms: The Story of Buck's Citizen Soldiers. Author Ian Beckett. Buckingham, Barracuda. 1985.
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