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The Boer War

1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment

26th September 1899 - Left Calcutta on the 'India' and arrived at Durban on 13th October 1899.

They moved by train to Ladysmith and arrived just in time to be caught in the siege.

In an attempted breakout the 1st Battalion lost Lieutenant-Colonel Wilford and 8 men killed, with 56 men wounded.

On 30th October 1899 a force from Ladysmith, consisting of 6 companies of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 4 and a half companies of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and No. 10 Mountain Battery, attacked the Boer positions at Lombard's Kop and Tchrengula. During the day a small party of 10 men from the 1st Battalion Glosters was isolated under intense fire from the Boers. After almost all were wounded, and believing that they had been cut off, Captain Stuart Duncan decided to surrender his party. He raised a white towel on his sword. But the party were in fact still in the British lines and the Boers assumed that the whole British force was surrendering. They stood up from there positions cheering their 'victory'. The confused British troops, seeing the situation, believed that they had surrendered and gave up!

An account written by an officer of the Gloucestershire Regiment:

"Hospital, Wynburg, November 1899.
We were ordered out with 6 companies of Royal Irish Fusiliers and No.10 Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, to make a night march through the Boer lines and hold a hill behind their right flank till the rest of the troops took us off, which they expected to do about 11 am. As it turned out, they were not able to do this, but they did keep the Boer guns employed, luckily for us. We started off at 8.30 pm, and got to the foot of our hill about 2 am. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were in front, then the battery and S.A.A. mules, and last ourselves. The Royal Irish Fusiliers had got part way up the hill - a very steep one - when 3 mounted Boers galloped down amid clouds of dust, rolling stones, &c They started off the battery and S.A.A. mules, the Boers firing as they passed. The mules cut right through the regiment, and was chaos for a time. It was pitch dark, and the noise of the mules and the loads and the stores falling about was enough to put any one off: Several men were hurt, some got in next day, some are missing. Part of Stayner's, Fyffe's, and my company were cut off from the rest altogether, and when we got them in some sort of order, we had quite lost the rest of the column. The orders were to push on, no matter what happened, and every one left to look out for himself. After some time trying to find the path, we came across a straggler, who told us which way the regiment had gone, and eventually we found them on the top of a hill. We were ordered, as soon as we got on the hill, to put up sangars, which we worked at by the light of a very small moon till daylight. Then the Boers began on us all round, not very many, till about half-past eight. From then till 2.30 the fire was hot, and hottest at 2.30, when our ammunition being almost down and the fire devilish from all sides, we had to give in. I got a grazing shot on my left hand and a bullet in my right forearm early (about 8.30 am, and 2 more grazers - right thigh and left elbow) later, finally, a bullet from behind through the right shoulder about a quarter of an hour before the end. I don't know who gave the order to 'Cease fire,' The firing could not have gone on 5 minutes more on our side for want of ammunition, and the Boer fire was tremendous from all round. It was like 'magazine independent' at the end of field-firing. The astonishing thing is so few were hit. If we had had our guns and ammunition, I think we could have held on until night and then got off; but there were 1200 of them, they said, to our 800, not counting gunners, and you could not till the very end see a dozen of them. The way they take cover is simply wonderful. All the prisoners were marched off at once and sent by rail to Pretoria. It was a terribly hot day, and no shade or water except what the Boers gave us. They were very good about water, giving us all they had, and fetching more from the bottom of the hill, one and a half mile away."

Father L. Matthews, chaplain, Royal Irish Fusiliers - "After 12 o'clock there was a general cry of 'Cease fire' in that direction. Our fellows would not stop firing. Major Adye came up and confirmed the order to cease fire. Then the bugle sounded 'Cease fire.' In our sangar there was a rumour that the white flag was raised by a young officer who thought his batch of 9 men were the sole survivors ...... I think that the surrender was a great blunder; and was caused by a mis-understanding. Major Adye was much put out. The white flag was not hoisted by the Irish Fusiliers."

(The Royal Irish Fusiliers had just been ordered to fix bayonets ready to charge ... "fix your bayonets and die like men!" When the cease fire was sounded some the Fusiliers were furious and some of their officers smashed their swords rather than give them up.

32 Gloucesters, 10 Royal Irish Fusiliers and 10 Artillerymen were killed. 150 wounded men were brought in and around another 70-100 men escaped back to Ladysmith. The other 843 men were prisoners of war and were sent to Pretoria.

Officers captured from the Gloucestershire Regiment - Major S. Humphrey, Major H. Capel Cure, Major W.R.P. Wallace, Captain S. Duncan, Captain R. Conner (both slightly wounded), Lieutenant A. Bryant, Lieutenant F.C. Nisbet, Lieutenant J. O'D. Ingram, Lieutenant R.M.M. Davy, Lieutenant C.S. Knox, Lieutenant W.A.M. Temple, Lieutenant A.H. Radice, Lieutenant F.A. Breul, Lieutenant W.L.B. Hill, Lieutenant P.H. Short, 2nd-Lieutenant H.H. Smith, 2nd-Lieutenant W.S. Mackenzie, 2nd-Lieutenant R.L. Beasley, Lieutenant & Quartermaster R.J. Gray.

Captain Duncan was forced to resign over the incident. He was killed 13th November 1914 serving with the 2nd South Lancashire Regiment.

This left only 400 men of the 1st Battalion as part of the garrison at Ladysmith. The siege ended 24th February 1900. The men of the 1st Battalion were sent to Durban to recuperate. The prisoners were liberated in June 1900 when Pretoria was captured, and rejoined the battalion in Natal.

The 1st Battalion sailed for Ceylon, escorting Boer prisoners and guarding them on the island. Several men transferred to the 2nd Battalion and thus stayed in South Africa.