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Regimental History - 19th Century

On display in the museum is a Memorial recording the names of the Officers and Men of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment who served in the South African War, or ‘Boer War’ 1899-1902.

In January 1900, the Volunteer Battalion of the King’s Own was asked to form an Active Service Company to be attached to the 2nd Battalion King’s Own which was serving at the front in South Africa.  Volunteers poured in and eventually the following men were selected:

            50        from Lancaster
            32        from Barrow in Furness
            9          from Ulverston
            6          from Hawkshead and Kirkby Ireleth
            4          from Dalton
            3          from Millom

On 10th February 1900 these men assembled in Lancaster where the 50 locals were accommodated at Bowerham Barracks and the remaining 54 slept in the drill hall in Phoenix Street.  A long table was placed along the middle of the drill hall for the purpose of serving breakfast and tea while dinner was served at Bowerham Barracks where they spent the days training.  On 16th March, watched by cheering crowds and accompanied by the Volunteer band playing 'Soldiers of the Queen', the Active Service Company marched to the railway station from where they departed to Southampton to embark on the S.S. Tagus.

About one month later the Company was part of 250 men who joined the 2nd Battalion at Elandslaagte on Good Friday, 13th April 1900.

The Volunteer Company had been called up for only one year and therefore a waiting company of volunteers was organised in Lancaster.  At this time the establishment of the volunteers was expanded and two battalions were formed in the place of one, the first with its headquarters at Ulverston and the second at Lancaster.

The 2nd Active Service Company arrived in South Africa in May 1901 to relieve 1st Active Service Company.

Following the signing in Pretoria on 31st May 1902 of an agreement that ended the war the Volunteers departed for England in the early part of June.  It had suffered no casualties in action and no deaths from disease, only eight men having been invalided home during the whole of its year abroad.

The Roll of Honour lists the officers and men of No. 1 and No. 2 Active Service Companies which served in South Africa as complete companies attached to the regular battalion and also No. 3 Active Service Company, on which information in scarce, but possibly provided drafts of men in support of those companies in South Africa.

One of the Lancaster soldiers was Private Samuel Cooper and he sent home a hard-tack biscuit.

For more information we recommend The King's Own The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume 2 1814-1914 by Colonel Lionel I Cowper - the best history of the King's Own.  On a CD-rom, viewable through a computer.  Price including UK postage £12.75

© 2012 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum