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Regimental History - 19th & 20th Century

The Campaigns in South Africa

Notes produced for the commemorative visit and battlefield tours to South Africa by the 1st Battalion, King's Own Royal Border Regiment in 1999 by Museum Curator Peter Donnelly.


History of the Zulu War 1879

On 10th and 13th December 1878 the 2nd Battalion embarked for service in Natal during the Zulu War. Queen Victoria presented the Battalion with new Colours on 6th December, prior to its departure. The Battalion, much to its disappointment, spent the whole of the war guarding lines of communication, apart from a detachment which served as Mounted Infantry with Colonel Evelyn Wood’s column, and saw action at the Battle of Inhlobana Hill, Kambula, and during the reconnaissance before the Battle of Ulundi. On 8th September 1879, after the main campaign was over, three companies of the Battalion took part in the attack on the caves of the Zulu Chief Manyanyoba, during which two NCOs were killed and one man wounded, probably the last casualties of the war. The Battalion embarked at Durban for Bombay on 8th February 1880. All ranks received the South Africa Medal, the majority with the date clasp ‘1879’. For its services during the Zulu War the Regiment was awarded the Battle Honour SOUTH AFRICA 1879.

History of the South African War 1899-1902


Relations between the British and Boer in South Africa had been deteriorating for a number of years. The Boers under Kruger had an anti-British policy, not exactly the best policy to adopt when the British were your most powerful neighbour. The Boer government placed undue pressure upon the British settlers, who in turn petitioned London for help. In 1899 British forces were sent out to the Transvaal Frontiers, and this was mirrored by the Boer military preparations.

In October 1899 President Kruger proposed the settlement of all disputes by arbitration, but at the same time demanded the removal of all British forces from the frontier. The British government rejected this ultimatum, and war was declared. The South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one side, and the British on the other in Cape Colony.

Following the declaration of war on Britain by the Boer Republics on 11th October 1899, the two British Colonies in South Africa, Natal and Cape Colony, were invaded, and the towns and garrisons of Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith besieged.

Three Divisions were quickly formed in England and sent out to South Africa under the command of Sir Redvers Buller VC. In November 1899 the 2nd Battalion King’s Own, based at Whittington Barracks in Lichfield, was mobilised and formed part of the 11th (Lancashire) Brigade, 5th Division.

Reservists came in to the Depot at Lancaster and were sent in to the Depot at Lancaster and were sent to bring the Battalion up to strength, embarking for South Africa on the 30th October.

The British forces had in the meantime suffered defeats at Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso in their attempts to relieve the besieged towns.

Militia Battalions

As well as the involvement of the 2nd Battalion on 14th December the 4th (Militia) Battalion was embodied and was one of the first Militia units to volunteer for overseas service. The offer was accepted and the Battalion sailed on 11th January 1900, having laid up its Colours in Lancaster Town Hall.

The 3rd (Militia) Battalion was also embodied, laid up its Colours in Lancaster on 8th February and sailed on the 12th February from Southampton on SS Majestic. Both the 3rd and 4th Militia Battalions wore their scarlet tunics when they left England, which were exchanged for khaki on arrival at Cape Town.

Volunteer Service Companies

The Volunteer Battalions (the 2nd was formed in 1900) provided the first of two Volunteers Service Companies attached to the 2nd Battalion. Men were drawn from Lancaster, Morecambe, Barrow, Ulverston, Millom, Dalton and Hawkshead. As each unit arrived and departed from Lancaster it received tremendous acclaim from the general public, who were gripped by a mixture of civic pride and patriotic enthusiasm. The 1st Company left Lancaster on 16th March 1900 and embarked for South Africa on the SS Tagus at Southampton.

With the departure of both Militia Battalions on active service, the 1st Battalion was ordered back from Singapore in February 1900 to act as the drafting unit for the Battalions in South Africa.

Active Service Companies Memorial

Actions in South Africa

During the course of the War almost 500 officers and men were sent out as reinforcements to the 2nd Battalion which, following its arrival in the Cape, joined Buller’s forces in a second attempt to relieve the garrison of Ladysmith, which involved breaking through Boer Positions on the heights above the Tugela River. The Battalion took part in a series of actions from 20th January 1900 at Trichards Drift, Venter’s Spruit, Spion Kop, Vaal Krantz and Onderbrook Hill until, on 28th February 1900 the victory at Pieter’s hill finally opened up the road to Ladysmith. When the troops entered the town on 3rd March to a tremendous reception, The King’s Own saw General Sir Archibald Hunter at the side of Sir George White and gave them a special cheer as they passed. The cost to the Battalion in these actions had been high, with 111 dead, 237 wounded and 28 taken prisoner.

Spion Kop

The whole force gathered at 10.30pm (23rd January 1900) for the attack, which would be carried out in silence, without lights, and bayonets fixed, so there would be no firing.

At 1 am on the morning of 24th January 1900 Thorneycrofts Mounted Infantry led the way up the long climb. Woodgate and his staff, the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Royal Engineers, the King’s Own and the South Lancashire Regiment followed. The night was intensely dark with a gentle drizzle as the column advanced, the hill-side increased in difficulty at every yard. In spite of the utmost care the noise was considerable; the picks and shovels on the Royal Engineers’ mules clattered against each other, the men’s hob nailed boots slipped on the rocks, and the mess-tins rattled. It seemed as though the Boer sentries were asleep, or they would surely have heard the column long before it gained the top. When the watershed was reached the men brought their right shoulders forward and moved along the ridge for the rest of the way.

At about two o’clock the leading company reached a broader slope and the battalion was ordered to ‘front form’ by companies. The first short rang out, quickly followed by fifteen or twenty more. The men dropped down on their knees for half a minute till the firing ceased. Then they ran forward to Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry to find that they and the Lancashire Fusiliers were in full possession of the hill. Woodgate formed up the brigade and, as a mist had risen which prevented signalling, he ordered the men to give three cheers to let the army know that the hill was taken.

Littered around the ground which had been occupied by the Boer picquet were blankets, great-coats, and a few rifles and bandoliers, and lying outside the trench was a dead Boer who had been bayoneted. It was impossible to see the shape of the hill and the order was given to extend the companies along the crest and to start digging shelter trenches. A few picks and shovels were available, but the majority of the men had to work with Wallace spades and could make little impression on the rocky ground. Most of them, as soon as they had scooped out a shallow hole and put a few small stones in their front, were content to lie down and go to sleep.

While the Battalion was engaged on this work, a Boer rode out of the mist, his Mauser slung across his back, to visit the picquet on the hill. He rode almost into the midst of the King’s Own before he discovered his mistake, and galloped away down the steep slope, about half a dozen rifles being discharged after him without effect.

A momentary lifting of the mist enabled the Boers to bring their guns to bear on the British trenches, which were discovered to be hopelessly out of place. The line which should have been held was some way in advance, and the King’s Own found themselves a hundred and fifty yards short of the crest. At eight o’clock, when the mist finally lifted, the Boers poured a terrific fire. Shell after shell burst when the men lay thickest. At about 8.30 am four companies of the King’s Own forsook the trenches for the crest-line, where they lay among the rocks. Those on the right under Captain Kirk and Captain Sandbach came under a concentrated cross-fire from the Boer supports on Green Hill, form those on the knoll at the end of the north-western spur, in the dongas at the foot of the mountain, and along the slopes of the main ridge, but the two companies on the left under Major Matthews and Captain Carleton were not so exposed.

Woodgate, whose undaunted spirit and courage ever put heart into the troops, walked recklessly along the trenches urging more men forward to the crest. At about 8.45 am while standing near the left of the main trench he was shot through the head. He was carried to the First Dressing Station, while Colonel Blomfield of the Lancashire Fusiliers made his way across to Colonel Crofton, commanding the King’s Own, and informed him that he was now the senior officer on the hill.

Colonel Crofton decided to ask for reinforcements, but the signallers could not be found, for so hot a fire had been directed on them as soon as they began to use their heliograph that they had changed their position. They were even now sending Woodgate’s last message, dictated after he had received his mortal wound:

“Am exposed to terrible cross-fire, especially near First Dressing Station, can barely hold our own; water badly needed; help us.”

Bullets were whistling all around and shells hurtling overhead while the officers from time to time crawled round on hands and knees to wake up those men who had gone to sleep. The Boers under cover of their fire were creeping up the otherside of the mountain. Nothing could be seen, but their approach was heralded by the sudden cessation of the shelling and by the crack of rifle bullets fired at close quarters. Shouts of ‘Reinforce the right! Reinforce the left!’ were borne back to the ears of the men in the trenches; all along the front help was dribbled forward, and the strength of the firing-line was more or less maintained. The loss was appalling. It was impossible for any man to look over the edge of the hill and remain alive, and so deadly was the cross-fire that it was difficult to determine which side of the shallow trenches was the safer.

An officer of the Lancashire Fusiliers rose from the trench to lead his men to the crest; he was hit and fell dead. Lieutenant Wade of the King’s Own ran out to take his place, falling dead by his side. Lieutenant Nixon, also of the King’s Own, thinking that Wade was only wounded, went out to bring him in. As he reached him, he in his turn was hit, but although severely wounded he had strength enough to crawl back under cover.

A signaller sent the message:
‘Colonel Crofton to GOC Force [General Buller]. Reinforce at once or all lost. General dead.’

General Woodgate was not actually dead - but wounded he was no longer in command. For the next few hours no one was actually in command. Colonel Crofton was the most senior Colonel on Spion Kop, but neither Colonel Crofton nor Colonel Blomfield of the Lancashire Fusiliers was favoured by General Buller and Colonel Thorneycroft was eventually made a temporary brigadier-general and put in command.

The Boer advance was eventually brought to a halt. At around one o’clock Colonel Crofton saw a company of another unit running back from the crest of the hill. Shouting to an officer ‘Advance, Sir advance!’ a young bugler, by name Russell, who was standing by his side, without orders stood up and sounded the Advance, which, clearly heard above the uproar, carried the whole company back into its position. In this confusion other troops also advanced and one of the Boer positions was over run.

British reinforcements now arrived, including a company of the Middlesex Regiment. At about 2.30pm the Boers realised that they could not drive the British from the summit, retired to their entrenchments and brought all their guns to bear upon the hills.

There was no water, no food, and ammunition was running short. At 6.30pm Thorneycroft reported the situation and asked for instructions. No orders had reached him since he took over command.

Thorneycroft met for three of four minutes in the dark with his senior officers and decision was made to retire. The Boers on the other side of the hill fearing that they were outnumbered and about to be defeated made the similar decision to retreat.

At about 9.30pm the troops moved off, bivouacking at dawn on the ground which they had occupied on the 23rd.

So great were the casualties at Spion Kop that the arrangements for evacuating the wounded completely broke down. Private Collins of the King’s Own was wounded in the arm towards the end of the day. No field dressings had been issued, and a man called Roberts saved Collin’s life by tearing a band off his haversack to make a tourniquet. No stretchers were available and Collins was carried down the hill to the Field Dressing Station, whence he was evacuated by bullock wagon to Spearman’s Camp. After ten days there he was carried on a stretcher twenty four miles to railhead at Frere and put on the train. Arriving at Pietermaritzburg, Collins was put into the Garrison Church Hospital, where four rows of ten beds each had been arranged down the centre of the nave.

His fellow soldiers presented Collins with an engraved silver cigarette box. Collins later became Mayor of Newport on the Isle of Wight.

Most of the casualties on Spion Kop were from the King’s Own, Lancashire Fusiliers, South Lancashire Regiment and Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry. The King’s Own alone lost four officers and 48 other ranks killed, three officers and 90 other ranks wounded and one officer and 27 other ranks taken prisoner (later released). In addition, Major-General Sir E R P Woodgate KCMG CB, a former King’s Own officer commanding the Lancashire Brigade on Spion Kop, was also mortally wounded near this spot; he died on 23rd March 1900 and is buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard, Mooi River.

The British dead on Spion Kop were buried in the front line trench where many of them were killed.

The British War Memorial stands at one end of the mass grave, and nearby is the Regimental War Memorial.

Onderbrook Hill

The attack was timed for 1.30pm on 22nd February, and early that morning the King’s Own, the South Lancashire Regiment, and the Rifle Battalion, which now formed the 11th Brigade, moved up the railway until they were about two miles away from the river. The King’s Own was to occupy a kopje about one and a half miles away, the South Lancashire Regiment some kopjes on the right, and the Rifles were to come up on the left. No opposition was anticipated. Their instructions were to gain the far crest of the hill, if possible without being seen, and there to halt. A clump of trees was clearly visible on the kopje to be attacked, and these trees were to mark the Regiment’s left.

For some time the enemy had been shelling the artillery in rear of the King’s Own, but little damage had been done. As the advance formed up the Boers began sniping, and General Wynne was wounded in the thigh; Colonel Crofton then took over the brigade and Major Yeatherd the Battalion.

The men passed through a railway cutting in single file which rather delayed their advance, but when they emerged they moved on rapidly in extended lines some two hundred yards apart, each line consisting of two companies. There was little firing as they moved forward over the rough ground of the Onderbrook valley, but climbing up Wynne’s Hill they came under a heavy cross fire. As the first line reached the top it was met by a tremendous fusillade, and only with difficulty succeeded in reaching some cattle kraals on the near crest.

The right-hand companies of the King’s Own alone managed to advance a short way on to the plateau along a bush-covered ridge, but they suffered severely, losing most of their officers, including Major Yeatherd. Here, on a slope the whole of which was exposed to long-range fire from the keen-eyed marksmen scattered over the surrounding heights, they clung until about six o’clock in the evening. Towards dusk the Boers increased their fire and began cautiously to push forward. The advanced companies of the King’s Own were barely holding their own when suddenly the Retire was sounded and slowly, man by man, they began to withdraw below the crest of the hill. But the call had been blown by a Boer bugler, and the three companies in support, led by Major Matthews, charged up the hill with such impetuosity that they swept the front line on with them, and the original position was regained.

When darkness fell sentries were posted, and Major Matthews went back for orders. Although the men lay down to rest little sleep was to be had. Except on the top of the rough ground afforded good cover for enemy marksmen; the Boer trenches almost enfiladed the British position, and any one showing himself against the skyline drew a hail of bullets.

When Major Matthews returned he brought news that the East Surrey Regiment was to relieve the Battalion at 4.30am. They did not, however, arrive until 6.30pm, when it was already getting light, and the King’s Own had to double back across the open under fire.

The Regiment’s casualties were heavy. Two officers were killed, four officers wounded of whom two afterwards died, twenty-eight other ranks were killed, and a hundred and four wounded. There was one prisoner.

Private Humphrey was carrying the Queen’s chocolate in his pocket when he was hit. The bullet was deflected by the tin and in this way his life was saved. After the battle he sent the tin to Her Majesty, together with the bullet by which it had been struck, and the Queen was graciously pleased to present him with a new one.

On the evening of the 23rd the 11th Brigade returned to the railway line and the position on Wynne’s Hill was taken over by the 2nd Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel Yeatherd commanded the 2nd Battalion for one day.

Wynne's Hill Memorials

Pieter’s Hill

The attack across the river required the pontoon bridge to be relocated down the Tugela River. This was done and the King’s Own provided a guard for its demolition.

First Barton’s brigade moved off; then came the 11th Brigade, which now consisted of the West Yorkshire Regiment, the King’s Own, the South Lancashire Regiment and the York and Lancaster Regiment. On reaching the mouth of the donga which runs down to the Tugela from the valley between Pieter’s Hill and Railway Hill, Brigadier General Kitchener halted and formed up for the attack. The orders were that Barton’s Brigade upon the right should attack Pieter’s Hill, and the Rifle Brigade on the left Railway Hill, while Kitchener in the centre should move against a kopje which lay between the two hills and was known as ‘A’ Rock Kopje. The brigade was formed up with the West Yorkshire Regiment on the right, supported by the South Lancashire Regiment, and the King’s Own on the left, supported by the York and Lancaster Regiment. Two companies formed the first line of the King’s Own, half of each company being in the firing-line and half in support; then, at a distance of two hundred yards, came two companies in the same formation in the second line, two companies at an equal distance in the third line, and two in the fourth. The brigade started up a rocky slope from which the attack was to develop; beyond of the slope was the railway line with barbed wire on either side, through which the men crawled. They advanced under fire across a thousand yards in the open to some stony ground, where they stopped, fixed bayonets, and swept on in a great wave of khaki up the steep hill-side.

About half-way up, the Battalion came under a heavy flanking fire from Railway Hill upon its left; the four leading companies were struggling forward, when Lieutenant C W Grover with his company came up from the reserve and moved to the left to silence the fire from the hill, for the Rifle brigade had not yet reached its objective. The company charged straight up the steep slope killing and capturing a few of the enemy, and secured a lodgement on the crest, whence it brought a cross-fire to bear upon the Boers in the main trench. This movement to the left made it impossible for the King’s Own to keep in touch with the West Yorkshire Regiment on their right, and the South Lancashire Regiment came up to fill the gap with such speed that they were in the firing-line in time to take part in the final charge. The King’s Own had farther to go, and had not drawn level with the West Yorkshire Regiment when the assault was delivered. The two leading companies had only one officer each, both of whom were already dangerously wounded, and for want of leadership the attack hung fire, but only for a moment, for Lance Corporal Hannah, seeing the lyddite from the British shells was dropping only fifty yards ahead of the advancing infantry, rushed forward with his helmet on the point of his bayonet waving a signal for the shelling to discontinue. Rush succeeded rush, and as the Regiment topped the crest Private Gage was the first to enter the Boer trenches. Some of the enemy ran out with their hands up; others turned tail and fled to a position about a thousand yards away, whence they kept up a desultory fire until nightfall. The Rifle brigade came up on Railway Hill and relieved the King’s Own company there, and the whole battalion was soon concentrated on the kopje.

The regimental casualties were three officers wounded and seven other ranks killed and thirty one wounded. Lieutenant Vaughan had been hit in the charge up the hill. He was carried down by Private Dermody, a hundred and fifty yards over open ground, under heavy fire from the enemy trenches, but died shortly afterwards.
Entry into Ladysmith

After the action at Pieter’s Hill the road to Ladysmith was open, and on 3rd March 1900 Buller made his public entry into the town. As it marched in with the leading brigade the King’s Own, led by Major Matthews, had but two captains, two subalterns, and one colour-sergeant; the men’s boots were worn out, their clothes, which they had not taken off for nearly three weeks, were torn and dirty.

The relieving force received an immense ovation as they passed along the streets lined by the sickly looking troops of the garrison who stood in the sun and cheered till they became exhausted. By the special request of Sir Redvers Buller they were allowed to sit down, and the men of the relieving force threw them tobacco as they passed. Sir George White and his staff on horseback took their stand under the damaged clock tower of the Town Hall, and each regiment gave him a special cheer as it passed, particularly the men of the King’s Own, who saw General Sir Archibald Hunter at this side. The army passed through the town, the King’s Own with the 11th Brigade encamping about two miles to the north, and the Boers fell back to Biggarsberg, which lay across the line of march from Ladysmith to Northern Natal and the Transvaal.

All Saints Church, Ladysmith, South Africa

After the Relief of Ladysmith

Both the 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions were employed guarding lines of communication in Cape Colony and Orange Free State as Lord Roberts VC advanced to capture Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The 4th Battalion provided guards on the railway line in Cape Colony at the important junctions of Naauwpoort and De Aar from early February 1900, while the 3rd Battalion moved to Virginia Siding, on the Zand River north of Bloemfontein, in late May, remaining in the area until September 1901. Both Battalions saw little action and suffered the majority of their causalities through disease. However, in two isolated actions, the 3rd Battalion at Zand River Bridge on 14th June 1900 and the 4th Battalion at Fish River Station on 23rd February 1901, both held out against superior Boer forces.

The 2nd Battalion remained in Natal and in late May 1900 formed the advance guard as the Army moved against Utrecht. It was present at the actions of Botha’s Pass and Alleman’s Nek on 8th and 11th June, which opened up routes through to Drakensberg Mountains, Laing’s Nek, where the railway line from Ladysmith crossed into Transvaal, was occupied on the 12th.

Lancaster Hill, Vryheid

On 6th December 1900 Wakkerstroom were shelled for two hours; on the 9th and 10th large parties of Boers were seen all around Utrecht and the garrison was ordered to occupy its alarm posts; the Boers did not attack by passed rapidly to Vryheid.

Some twenty five King’s Own mounted infantry were position on an isolated kopje about a mile from the town were surprised by the Boer arrival and the position was captured without a shot being fired. Silently the Boers crept forward towards the plateau below Lancaster Hill. At 2.15am the Boers broke into the British lines. Fire was thrown into the camp. Lieutenant Woodgate, rushing out of his tent, tent-mallet in hand, was shot down on refusing to surrender. The Boers attempted to rush the maxim gun but were stopped by the barbed wire, and retired in haste under a heavy fire.

It became light at around 4am and as soon as Colonel Gawne in Vryheid could see what was happening he brought out from the town about forty men of D Company under Captain Paton. Under heavy fire they were forced to take upon a position close of Markes which they were able to maintain through the day. All attempts by the enemy to approach Lancaster Hill from the southwest could be stopped.

At about 6.30am on his way up to the hill to the main camp Colonel Gawne was mortally wounded. He was carried under cover behind a small wall where he lay for six hours, until he was brought in by a Red Cross party and taken to hospital. He died the next day.

Several determined attacks were on Lancaster Hill were made by the Boers, and the brunt of the fighting fell upon the south gun position held by H Company. Here, when one of the gun crew was hit, Corporal J Scott crossed the open under heavy fire to take his place, an action for which he was afterwards mentioned in despatches. Sergeant H Smith and Private J Devine was also mentioned. The former carried a message across eight hundred yards under fire from Barrow point, where ten men under Lieutenant Lippert were holding a detached post. The resistance made by this detachment was heroic until their ammunition running short, they were forced to attempt to withdraw one by one. Only three succeeded in reaching the main camp, of whom one was wounded in both legs. Lieutenant Lippert was killed, three of his men dangerously wounded, and four taken prisoner. Private Devine distinguished himself by ‘running about with ammunition and carrying messages under fire’.

At about 4pm the Boer fire redoubled on the south gun position, but Captain Mangles had erected excellent entanglements and breastworks and the defence was maintained. Three hours later all firing ceased, and next day it was found that the enemy had moved away.

Captain Mangles received the DSO for the action on Lancaster Hill. He was the son of Mr Ross Mangles, who won a civilian Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny when he took part in an expedition to relieve the town of Arrah near Dinapore, Bihar Province, in June 1857.

With the death of Colonel Gawne, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Matthews, who was on sick leave, was promoted Lieutenant Colonel to command the battalion. Matthews had been promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 29th November from Major.

Two important lessons were learnt from Lancaster Hill:
the value of barbed wire as an obstacle;
the great effect of un-aimed and indirect fire at extreme ranges.

On 23rd December the garrison at Utrecht was again attacked, but not in force. On 15th January the companies at Vryheid, with the exception of one, were relieved and marched off with a convoy for Dundee. Until the end of the War Battalion Headquarters remained at Dundee.


For the remainder of the war the Battalion’s role in northern Natal and the Transvaal was the guarding of lines of communication and the building and manning of the ‘block house’ system, which formed barriers to prevent cross-country movements by Boers.

In order to operate over long distances and deal with the widespread groups of Boers, mounted infantry units were formed; both the 2nd and 3rd Battalions formed detachments in 1900. From the beginning of 1901 the war entered into a phase of guerrilla warfare, until peace was signed on 31st May 1902. The use of mounted infantry then became essential since so many troops were tied down guarding strategic positions. In July 1900 the 1st Battalion started to train men for the mounted infantry units at Aldershot, the first of which arrived in January 1901. In all, nearly 450 officers and men of the 1st Battalion served with five Mounted Infantry Battalions from February 1901 until December 1902.

The first troops to return were men of the 1st Volunteer Service Company; both Lancaster and Barrow gave their own men civic receptions. The 4th and 3rd Militia Battalions received similar welcomes in Lancaster, as they paraded outside the Town Hall to receive back their Colours in August 1901 and February 1902. The 2nd Battalion, which did not return to England until March 1903, came up to Lancaster to collect its Colours, which had been laid up for the duration of the war in the Priory Church. The Regiment received the Battle Honours RELIEF OF LADYSMITH and SOUTH AFRICA 1899-1902 for service in South Africa. The Militia Battalions received separate Battle Honours for their Colours, SOUTH AFRICA 1900-02 for the 3rd and SOUTH AFRICA 1900-01 for the 4th.


Honours and Awards

Over 3,500 all ranks of the regiment served in South Africa and they qualified for the Queen’s South Africa Medal. The majority were awarded with one or more of the following clasps: Cape Colony, Natal, Tugela Heights, Orange Free State, Relief of Ladysmith, Transvaal, Laing’s Nek, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. Those men who were serving in South Africa on or after 1st January 1902, and who completed 18 months’ service there before 1st June 1902, qualified for the King’s South Africa Medal with the date bars South Africa 1902 and 1902. In addition the following decorations were awarded: one CB, on CMG, and 14 DSOs to officers and 20 DCMs to NCOs and other ranks of the Regiment.

Regimental Chapel, Lancaster

The chapel was built as a memorial to those who had died on active service in South Africa during 1900-1902.

The foundation stone for the Regimental Chapel was laid on 7th August 1903 by Constance, Countess of Derby, and the Chapel was dedicated by the Bishop of Manchester on 29th July 1904. A Memorial Brass to those who had fallen during the Boer War and a stained glass window in memory of Lieutenant Colonel Gawne, killed at Vryheid in December 1900, were unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC on the same day.

Key Regimental Personalities:

General Sir Archibald Hunter

Accompanied Sir George White as Chief of Staff to South Africa and was in the Defence of Ladysmith until relieved 1900.
In the advance on Pretoria and in command of the drive against the Boers in the Orange Free State.
Governor of Bloomfontein and Lieutenant General 1900.

Major General Sir Edward Robert Prevost Woodgate

Ensign 7th April 1865 from the 56th Fusiliers in India. Served with the Regiment in Abyssinia in 1868. The Ashantee War 1873-74, Zulu War, 1879, Commanding the 1st Battalion King’s Own between 1893 and 1897, and then in 1898 was in Sierra Leone.

Major General 13th November 1899 to command the 9th Brigade in South African War. The 9th Brigade landed at Durban with the goal of the Relief of Ladysmith.

Mortally wounded on 24th January 1900 on Spion Kop and died two months later.

Lieutenant Colonel Malby Edward Crofton

Born 25th January 1847. Joined the King’s Own on the 6th June 1866. Lieutenant Colonel in 1895 and commanded the 2nd Battalion in South Africa. Commandant of Ladysmith after its relief. Died at Bath on 14th April 1929, age 81. Was by that time the tallest officer who served in the Regiment being 6ft 8inches in height.

Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Walter Yeatherd

Severely wounded at Relief of Ladysmith 22nd February 1900. Died 26th February 1900.

Lieutenant Colonel John Moore Gawne

Lieutenant Colonel 23rd February 1900. Killed at Vryheid on 11th December 1900

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Broadwood Matthews

Born in 1857 he joined the King’s Own in 1876 and took part in the Zulu War in 1879. He was promoted Lieutenant Colonel on 13th December 1900 and commanded the 2nd Battalion from that date.

During the First World War he was Embarkation Commandant at Newhaven from 14th August 1914 to March 1919.

Major John Edward Ignatius Masterson VC

Joined the King’s Own as a Major on 18th August 1911 from the Devonshire Regiment. After service in the Egyptian War (1882) and the Burmese Expedition (1891-92) he served in the South African Campaign. He was present during the Defence of Ladysmith and received the Victoria Cross for the following act of Courage:

During the action at Wagon Hill 6th January 1900, Lieutenant Masterson commanded with the greatest gallantry and dash, one of the three companies of his regiment which charged a ridge held by the enemy and captured their position. The Companies were then exposed to a most heavy and galling fire from the right and left front. Lieutenant Masterson undertook to give a message to the Imperial Light Horse who were holding a ridge some hundred yards behind, to fire to the left front and endeavour to check the enemy’s fire. In taking this message he crossed an open space of 100 yards which was swept by a most heavy cross fire; and although badly wounded in both thighs, managed to crawl in and deliver his message before falling exhausted in to the Imperial Light Horse trench. His unselfish heroism was undoubtedly the means of saving several lives.

Promoted Captain 1900, Brevet Major 29 November 1900. Retired from King’s Own on retired pay 25th June 1912. Died at Waterlooville, Portsmouth, 1936.

Private William T Collins

Private W T Collins lost his arm on Spion Cop on 24th January 1900. Sent back to England his fellow soldiers presented him with a silver cigarette case which was purchased by the museum a couple of years ago. In 1931 Collins became Mayor of Newport on the Isle of Wight.


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