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D I A R Y   O F
T H E   S T A F F 0 R D S H I R E   S Q U A D R 0 N
0 F
I M P E R I A L   Y E 0 M A N R Y
I N
S 0 U T H    A F R I C A.

January 1900 – May 1901.

-------------------------

Gerard Clay.
Captain, 4th Regt.
Imperial Yeomanry.


P R E F A C E.

 

I claim for this Diary, that it is
brief and accurate.  If it is also
uninteresting, I can only apologise,
and hope that an abler pen may
some day take the tale in hand.

(Signed): Gerard Clay.

Burton-on-Trent, December 1903.

Drafted  S.S. Cedric[1]  17/3/03


Note:

This version has been transcribed by Gerard's eldest grandson, Robin Clay, 111 years later.

I have taken various liberties:-

  • Where Gerard puts a date, I have for clarity put
    the complete date, but omitting the year
    e.g for "On the 29th" I put "On Saturday, 29th June"
  • I have changed the spelling of names to their current usage where necessary
  • I have expanded abbreviations
  • This is Gerard's "official" diary; I have added his personal diary after.
  • I have added explanatory end-notes and an index, covering both diaries

Robin_B.Clay@virgin.net


DIARY OF THE STAFF0RDSHIRE SQUADRON

IMPERIAL YEOMANRY IN SOUTH AFRICA.

On the 10th of January 1900, the Staffordshire Squadron of the fourth regiment of Imperial Yeomanry[2] mobilised at Lichfield.  On the 2 January, it sailed from Liverpool, together with the Derbyshire Squadron, on the S.S. Cavour[3] - this being the first occasion in English history, that units of Yeomanry ever left these shores.

On the 4th of February, the Cavour reached Las Palmas, and, sailing the same night, after a prolonged and rather stormy passage, dropped anchor, on the 21st February, in Table Bay.

On the 24th February, the Staffordshire Squadron disembarked, and moved up to the great cavalry camp at Maitland, . . .
                                          Next

 

 

 

 

 

On the evening of the 5th of March, the Squadron entrained for De Aar, where it arrived two days later; and, on the following evening [8th March], it commenced its first trek westward to Britstown [].  0n the 14th March, the mounted troops, Kitchener's and Nesbit's horse, the Australians, and the Stafford, Warwick, and Oxford I. Y. left Britstown for Howater, where they were joined on the 15th, by Lord Kitchener, with more troops, including the Hampshire and Lancashire Squadrons of I. Y.

On the 16th March, the Column pushed on to OmdraaVlei; and on the 17th March, the 7th Dragoon Guards, and other, troops, came in.

On the 19th March, the DoringBerg was safely crossed, and that night, the mounted troops galloped into Prieska, from which the Boers fled hurridly.

Two days were spent in restoring law and order to the Town, and, on the 22nd March, a portion of the column was dispatched to Kenhardt to stamp out the embers of rebellion there, while the remainder marched back, through heavy rain, to De Aar.

On the 28th March, the Staffordshire Squadron went up thence by train to Noupoort, where it spent ten days in drill and rifle practice with the Yeomanry of General Brabazon's command.

On the 10th of April, it arrived by train at Springfontein, and, on Good Friday (13th April), marched with the other five squadrons and sixty wagons, under Colonel Hellier, towards Edenburg.

On the 15th April, it was sent on alone to Reddersburg with despatches from the Commander-in-Chief to General Chermside[4], and after a brief stay there, in drenching rain, it joined the combined 3rd and 8th Divisions at Rosenholt, and was absorbed into the irregular cavalry of General Sir Leslie Rundle's command.

On the 19th April, the 8th Division moved eight miles nearer to DeWetsdorp, camping at Oorlog Port, from which the advance guard drove a Boer patrol, and on the following day, the Staffordshire Squadron saw its first action.

The morning of Friday, April the 20th opened fine and frosty.  At 6 o'clock, the 4th and 7th Regiments Imperial Yeomanry (3 squadrons each) together with a company of Derbyshire Mounted Infantry, the whole forming a mounted reserve, moved out of camp, and marched North-East towards DeWetsdorp. About the same time, the advance guard opened fire on a Boer patrol, and drove it in.  At 10:30, the Derby M.I. with the Stafford and Suffolk I.Y. in support, was pushed on round the right flank, with orders to clear a kopje, and then to act as the OC thought advisable.  At 11:00, the kopje was cleared of some thirty Boers, and the advance continued downwards, and right-handed, to the low ground round the farm of Constantia.    Dismounted and extended in front of the farm, the Squadrons came under a heavy rifle fire from the front and left flank, and it became obvious that the advance had been pushed too far, and that a stronger and more useful position could be found on the kopje in rear.  The retirement to this position was carried out with the utmost steadiness, under severe rifle and pom-pom[5] fire.  The Stafford squadron had only one casualty, the others suffered more heavily.  At noon, the kopje in rear was again occupied, and held till 5:00, despite an intermittent fire from two guns and two pom-poms, which did little harm.  Meanwhile, the infantry advance, in the centre, presented a magnificent spectacle, as wave after wave crossed the open shell-swept ground, and pressed up into the rock-strewn kopje, and the firing line ahead.

At 2:00, an abortive attempt was made by the Staffordshire Squadron to advance, for the pom-pom fire again proved too severe; and it was not till 4:00, that any British guns came into action; while at 5:00, a general retirement was ordered to camp three miles in rear, and the day's fighting ended.

Next day, the yeomanry, on reconnaissance under General Brabazon, pushed round the Boer left, and almost looked into DeWetsdorp, and, if then supported by infantry, they might have taken the town out of hand, and the following day's delay, and consequent risk to Wepener, might have been avoided.  That evening, the Boers shelled the camp, and Sunday was spent in shifting it to a more secluded spot.

On the 25th April, the mounted troops paraded at 5a.m., and pushed rapidly round the left of the Boer position, till, at 3:00, the effected a junction with general French's cavalry in rear of DeWetsdorp, and saw the Boer rear-guard disappearing into the hills North-West.  General Brabazon started in pursuit, but was recalled by general French, who sent him Eastward to the relief of Wepener, and at 6 o'clock, after twelve hours in the saddle, his force at last off-saddled, but without transport, food or forage.  Wepener was reached on the 26th April, but the Boers had already retired, and as the gallant Colonials needed no assistance, General Brabant hurried back to DeWetsdorp, and on Sunday the 29th April, marched thence, with the 7th Regiment and Stafford Squadron, towards Thaba 'Nchu.  The following day, Monday, 30th April, he picked up the Derbyshire Squadron and a company of Scots Guards, who had been held up while escorting a convoy, and late that night, reached Thaba 'Nchu. 

On Tuesday, May the 1st, the Stafford Squadron formed part of a composite force of Imperial Yeomanry to Sanna's Post, whence it returned on the Thursday, 3rd May with a full convoy.  On Saturday, 5th May, a rather futile reconnaissance took place to the North-Eats of Thaba 'Nchu, caution predominating until 4p.m., and rashness after; however, the Yeomanry returned safely to camp at 7:30, thought he horses were in a pitiable condition; and from that time, the English ones collapsed rapidly, from cold, hard work, and insufficient forage.

On Monday and Tuesday, 7th and 8th May, the Stafford Squadron was out on patrol Northwards to Houtnek, and for the next four days, two troops were stationed there, in company with the Manchesters, and were daily out on patrol.

On Friday, 11th May, the Division moved towards Senekal, but the Squadron was left at Thaba 'Nchu for patrol and escort duties.  It remained there till Wednesday, the 23rd May, when it was relieved by another squadron of yeomanry, and moved up to Winburg, when it joined General Clement's Brigade, and with it, set out to Senekal, which was reached on Wednesday, 30th May [the day Johannesburg surrendered to Lord Roberts].

The following day, Thursday, 31st May, the Squadron rejoined the 8th Division in Senekal, which forthwith marched towards Ficksburg; and for the next three weeks, with headquarters at Hammonia, the Division was spread out along the Senekal – Ficksburg road, and the Yeomanry were kept very fully employed, on outpost, patrol, and convoy work.  On Sunday the 3rd of June, the Squadron went out to the nek above Klip Drift, and patrolled the Senekal road, returning to Hammonia on Tuesday, the 5th June [the day Pretoria was occupied]. On Saturday, the 9th June, its first, and only, draft, of twelve men, arrived.  On Monday, 11th June, after standing to horses from 3 to 7a.m., a small force, consisting of the Stafford and Hampshire Imperial Yeomanry, and a squadron of Brabant's Horse left, under Colonel Blair, for Trommel.  There, it met a convoy from Wynberg, and, after seeing it safely on its way to Harmonia, it continued on patrol towards Senekel, till it rejoined at the Klip Drift camp on the 14th. On the 16th, the squadron was sent on outpost to a kopje in front of Harmonia. The position was a difficult one to hold, and too large for the force employed, and, after the Boers had given trouble on the 18th and 19th, the post was strengthened by a company of Leicesters. On the 20th the West Kent Yeomanry took over the post, and the Staffords returned to camp. There, at midnight, they were ordered to Klip Drift, where cattle-reading Boers had crossed the cordon. These, however, made a timely retirement, and early on the 21st, the squadron returned to the Nek, and, meeting General Rundle’s column there, encamped with it at Klip Drift. On the 22nd, Generals Rundle and Brabant moved towards Senekal, and the squadron was fighting on the right flank. On the 23rd, the fighting was continued, and the mounted troops held back the Enemy, while the column enemy, while the column entered the Time. On the 25th, the Stafford and Middlesex Squadrons were attached to the second Regiment of Brabant's Horse, and transferred to General Clements, who was expected in from Wynberg the next day. That night, his mounted troops, including the Stafford Squadron, in all about 600 men, with two field guns, moved out ten miles north-west of Senekal and camped at a place called Lillefontein, with the intention of attacking in its rear, a commando which was opposing the General's advance. At daylight on the 26th, the force was itself surrounded, and severely attacked, by a thousand Boers, with three Krupps, a pom-pom, and machine guns. At 10:30, it was relieved by the 1st Regiment of Brabant's from Senekal, and returned thither, with the loss of 23 killed and wounded, and 53 horses. At 6:30 am on the 28th, General Clement's 12th Brigade left Senekal, and marched eastward towards Bethlehem. The Stafford Squadron was in action at 10, when the fighting became general on both flanks, and so continued, till camp was reached at four. Half the squadron remained on outpost, and was sniped at dusk. On the 29th, the brigade marched to the Zand River, and was again opposed all day with considerable determination. Squadron was divided, half acting on the right, and half escorting guns. On the 30th, the column turned towards Lindley. The squadron, advance guard, was in touch with the enemy at daylight, and fully engaged all day. till Kruisfontein, 6 miles from Lindley, was reached at four. On 1 July, the brigade did not move, but the mounted troops went out, and had some severe fighting in difficult country. On the second, general Clements on the right, and general Padgett, from Lindley, on the left, moved on Bethlehem, and the Boers, evidently disconcerted by this sudden change in direction, were seen flying in large numbers, driving their cattle and wagons towards the Wittebergen. At daybreak on the third, the mounted troops were warmly shelled on the right flank, and the fighting continued constant to Elandsfontein was reached at five. On the 4th the same opposition was encountered, and an ultimatum was sent in to Bethlehem. On the fifth, a short and unopposed March in the afternoon, brought the two brigades in front of Bethlehem, and early on the sixth, they changed their respective positions, General Padgett crossing to the right, and general Clements to the left. The mounted troops of the 12th brigade, under Col Grenville, paraded at 9.45, with orders to turn the right flank of the Boer position. The Stafford Squadron, detailed as advance guard, moved off on a widely extended front, and advanced two miles to the Liebenberg Vlei, which was found to be deep, wide, impassable, and held by the enemy. Afford was ultimately found at Muller's Roost, higher up the flay, at which the squadron crossed unopposed; but the ridges beyond were all strongly occupied, and despite continued efforts, no advance had been made at five, at which are, Col Grenville abandoned the attempt, recrossed the flay, with the loss of a gun recovered in the morning, and regained camp at 10. At six next morning, the mounted troops were shelled in camp, and moved further To the North East, where they remained spectators of the very gallant and successful infantry attack; and at 2 PM, when the time was occupied, they swept round to intercept the flying enemy, but only succeeded in capturing two or three, and returned to Bethlehem at 5.30. In brigade orders 7/7/00, general Clements "congratulated his command on the way it had distinguished itself during a trying time since it marched from Seneca, during which the mounted troops had had very hard work, and had seen a good deal of fighting."

On the ninth, the brigade marched out Bethlehem, by the direct sun a call road; and on the 11th, having met with but little opposition, it took over the camp of the eighth division near the delves Berg, while the division moved on to which a cup. On the 14th, mounted troops were detached from the 12th brigade, and joined the eighth division, and on the following day, they were engaged near Rooi Kranz, 10:00, where Brabants lost 30 horses, and the Stafford Squadron had its for share of fighting. During the next two or three days, the squadron was out on patrol; and on the 21st, together with the other mounted troops, it rejoined general Clements brigade. And now, the English columns still closing in, had driven the bores into their last stronghold, and the great fortress of the Witte Berg and they bear to the assault. Monday, July 23, broke cold and wet. The 12th brigade left camp at 7 AM, and turning slightly left-handed, drew somewhat nearer to General Paget's Brigade. 9:00, the combined forces were close under the Witte Bergen, whose peaks towered rough and sterile, above Slobbert's Nek. General Padgett threatened the left. At 10:00, after a short preliminary bombardment, the mounted troops were sent forward to secure the lower features; while the infantry, in widely extended formation waited the order to advance. Dismounting in a donga, the Staffords followed its windings for some distance, then crossing to another, which again led nearer to the hills, they finally raced across half a mile of bare and burnt ground, and up the first rough percent; and there threw themselves into some kraals, or further to the right, found cover from the hail of bullets, under a narrow overhanging ledge. In front, a chaos of great rocks slipped upward, at first gently then more abruptly, to small detached Kopje; while beyond and still far above them, the great Hill itself hung threateningly. The boars were in force among the rocks 500 yards away, on the small kopje, and on the heights above; while the guns, on the opposite side of the Ne, enfiladed the flank. To this, and similar positions to the right, the mounted troops held on to 1:00 p.m., when the Royal Irish and second Wiltshires came up, and shortly after, took the position in front, by direct assault. At 5:00, all the lower features of the hills were occupied, though the Boers still swarmed above, and kept up a fitful fire on the piquets, till long after dark. Among the day's casualties, Stafford Squadron had one man killed, and an officer slightly wounded. At earliest dawn, and with little further resistance, the Royal Irish, and a squadron of Brabant's horse, turned the enemies flank on the big kopje; and that afternoon, the brigade moved through the Nek, and camped in the Brandwater Basin.

Extract from brigade orders 24/7/00 - the G.O.C.wishes to congratulate all the troops of the 12th brigade on the successful issue of the operation of the last two days, which ended in the capture of Slobbert's Nek. The mounted troops, – Brabant's horse, and the Staffordshire and Middlesex Yeomanry – had a most trying time yesterday and night, and most gallantly held the Boers at very close quarters."

During the following three days, the enemy fled, with only slight resistance, through the little town of Fouriesburg, and away into the desolate hills that border Basutoland.

On the 28th, the 12th brigade, with the Staffordshire Squadron in support of its advance guard, crossed the little coloured in, and advanced through a difficult, but magnificentlyto S wildap country, Kranz, where the Boers made their last stand. The mounted troops, sent out on the left flank, held strong position all day, only getting into camp at 7:00, by which time, the infantry advance had finally driven the Boers from all their positions.

On the 29th, General Prinsloo surrendered; and the following. Days were occupied in bringing in, disarming, and sending down the prisoners, who, to the number of 4000, seemed heartily tired of the war.

On 1 August, the Yeomanry to its great regret, was detached from Brabant's horse, and returned to the eighth division, which forthwith marched to Harry Smith, well, at length, the squadron had a few days rest, and was able, for the first time, to reclaim itself, and to obtain rebalance and other necessaries.

On the 14th, it was sent out to eland's river bridge, where was a small post, held by a company of Leinsters with a field gun, and then spent a few pleasant days, patrolling the country round, and visiting farms. On the 19th, it was back in Harry Smith; and on the 25th, the 16th Brigade, under Gen Campbell, with three squadrons of the 1st IV, and the Stafford Squadron attached, left the town, on what was afterwards known as "the long trek". On the 31st, it reached Bethlehem, without opposition, the balls seeming, for the time being, to have entirely surrendered that part of the country. On the first and second of September, the squadron was out from burning, and on the fourth, the brigade marched to Retief's Nek, and passing through the Brandwater Basin, Commando Nek, and Ficksberg, reached.Spitz Kop, Between Harmonia and trauma, on the evening of the ninth; and remained there till the 16th. During this halt, the squadron was out daily, visiting and burning farms, bringing in prisons, ponies, and cattle, and generally clearing the country.

On the 16th, the brigade marched north, towards the Wynberg – Senekal Road; where, on the 18th, it joined Smith-Dorian's mounted troops, under Le Gallais; while Generals Runble and Boyes, with the 17th Brigade, lay away to the north of Senekal

for the next three days, these columns followed the flying balls, by which Kop and the Sand River, towards Bethlehem, which was reached on the 22nd; on which day, the Stafford Squadron went out 6 miles from the column, burning a farm, and bringing in prisoners. On the 24th, the brigade moved on, and the Reitz Yeomanry burnt five farms round Muller's Rust.

On the 26, the squadron reported 1500 balls and three guns, which were laagered between Reitz and the Leibenburg Vlei Mill, under Harzbrook and Veld-Corbet Beukes. On the 27th Yeomanry was burning farms 6 miles on the left of the column, when they came in contact with two or 300 balls of this commando breaking size. After an amusing but indecisive struggle, the balls, who outnumbered the Yeomanry, drew off, and continued their flight.

On the 28th, the Staffords, advance guard, drove the enemy for them all day, from several strong positions, which they seem to very little anxious to hold. On the 30th, general Rundle, together with Col Blair and the other three squadrons of the 4th I V, left the 17th brigade, which went in to Reotz, and joined the 16th, which camped that night, together with Le Gallais' mounted infantry, at Conveniente  Mill on the Liebenueg Vlei, from which, the enemy had hastily fled. On 3 October, the brigade marched on Vrede, drove the Boers was off Tafel Kop; the Staffords quadrant, on the right flank, getting its share of the work. On the fourth, there was no fighting, but the squadron was out farm burning on the right flank.

At 4:00, on the morning of the 5th, Vrede was occupied after a short resistance; and on the 6th, General Campbell set off for standards in in the Transvaal, to bring back badly needed supplies. After an uneventful March through the difficult Leeuwpoort, the column crossed the Klip river at De Lange's Drift, and entered standards and on the seventh. On the 11th, on its return March through Leeuwpoort, the yeomanry had some hard, but satisfactory fighting, the Stafford Squadron being particularly successful. Vrede was reached that night, and on the 12th, general Rundle sent out all the yeomanry, (first and fourth regiments) three companies of grandiose, and guns, "to lay waste the country's south and south-east of the town". Only one farm was burnt, but that was placed inside difficult opposition, that a very small body of boars was enabled, from the hills above, to do a good deal of mischief, and to get away unharmed. One troop of the Stafford squadron came under heavy rifle fire, but suffered no loss, and the troops returned to camp at 4:00 p.m.

At 10:30, on the morning of Sunday the 14th, the brigade marched out of Vrede in a howling dust storm, and taking the Reitz Road, camped at David's Vlei at 5:00. The Staffords were rearguard, and thus left flank was slightly bothered by boar snipers from 4 o'clock onwards.

On Monday, the march was continued in comparative quiet to Wilge River. On Tuesday, the brigade did not move;

 

After , , , , more to follow . . .

 

 

 

SS Mongolian[6] 

 


 

Explanatory End Notes

 

[1] SS Cedric

Gerard writes “SS Cedric” in March 1903.  The RMS Cedric’s maiden voyage departed Liverpool on 11 February, 1903 for New York, and was the largest ship ever until then.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Cedric

 

[2] Imperial Yeomanry - by David Biggins       http://www.angloboerwar.com/imperial-yeomanry

Imperial Yeomanry

Contingents

Brief history of the IY

Royal Warrant of 24 Dec 1899

Images

All Pages

The original proposal to organise regiments of Yeomanry for service in the Boer War was made by Lord Chesham and other Yeomanry officers in Oct 1899.  On 13 Dec 1899, the War Office decided it would allow a contingent of volunteer forces based on the standing yeomanry regiments to serve overseas. 

Under a Special Army Order of 4 Jan 1900, a committee of Yeomanry officers was constituted to administer the force.  The committee was dissolved in May 1900, the administration being taken over by the War Office.

The standing Yeomanry regiments were asked to provide service companies of around 120 men each. The new Imperial Yeomanry (IY) were to be raised on a county basis with the core being the men of the existing volunteer units.  The remaining numbers were to be recruited from individuals that met the necessary service criteria.

Simultaneously with the establishment of the IY, Volunteer Service Companies, each of which contained 116 men, territorially affiliated to the Infantry, were also established.  66 Volunteer Service Companies (7,427 men) served during the Boer War.

There were 3 contingents:
 First Contingent - 10,242 men - Early 1900
 Second Contingent - 16,597 - Spring 1901
 Third Contingent - 7,239 - Dec 1901

A list of the men who served in the IY can be found here: http://www.britishmedals.us/kevin/intro.html.  The medal entitlement can be found in the book "The Roll of the Imperial Yeomanry, Scottish Horse and Lovat's Scouts.  2nd Boer War.  Being an alphabetical list of the 39,800 men of these volunteer forces who enlisted for the 2nd Boer War.  Listing regimental details, clasps to Queen's South Africa Medal and casualty status".  Compiled by Kevin J Asplin.  Second edition available from DP&G Publishing, PO Box 186, Doncaster, S Yorkshire, DN4 0HN.

The awards received by the IY were: 1 VC, 10 CB, 1 CMG, 96 DSO, 113 DCM.

 

[3] S.S. Cavour:-

http://www.oulton.com/cwa/newsships.nsf/pages/012F76DED0D511E4852573FB006CAE96  Launched Greenock, No. 87958 ?

http://mobius.mysticseaport.org/detail.php?module=objects&type=related&kv=169683

https://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/lamport.shtml :-

   S.S. Cavour (4,914 tons) Launched 1895       1899-1900 Boer War transport, scrapped 1929

[SS Cavour was owned by Lamport & Holt Line. She was 4914 tons and sailed from 1895 to 1929.]

https://www.naval-history.net/OWShips-WW1-08-HMS_ArmadaleCastle.htm

[3] https://wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?65633  Launched Clyde, 1891, torpedoed  Irish Sea, 21/7/1918

[4] General Chermside -

[5] "pom-pom" - was a nickname used for a light autocannon whose sound was described as "pom-pom", a 37mm QF 1 pounder infantry gun made by Maxim-Nordenfelt and Vickers-Maxim.  Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:QF1pounderGunIWMApril2008.jpg 

 

[6] SS Mongolian

[6] https://wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?65633  Launched Clyde, 1891, torpedoed  Irish Sea, 21/7/1918

 


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