The 4th Battalion and Saint Helena
Soon after the Boer War broke out, the 4th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment (Royal North Gloucester), was ordered to form at Cirencester on January 11th 1900. Commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Bathurst, the battalion entrained for Holyhead, via Cheltenham, Birmingham and Crewe.
They arrived at North Wall in Ireland and went onto Athlone, with companies despatched to Galway and Castlebar. At Athlone were 400 young soldiers of the 2nd Glosters, unfit for service in South Africa. They were to be trained with the 4th Battalion. 2 officers and 38 men of the 4th Battalion went to South Africa to join the regulars.
The Battalion had volunteered for service in South Africa 'or anywhere.' When Lord Roberts captured the Boer forces under General Cronje at Paardeburg (27th February) it was decided to send the Boer prisoners to St. Helena. The 4th Battalion was asked to go to St. Helena to guard the prisoners, and accepted.
"Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept the voluntary offer made by the undermentioned embodied Militia Battalion to serve out of the United Kingdom:- 4th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment."
The Battalion embarked on the RMS Goth at Queenstown on April 2nd 1900. After a short stay in Gibraltar, they left for St. Helena. The officers of the Battalion were:
Earl of Bathurst
Major A.L. Paget
Major H.S. Goodlake
Captain J.D. Gouldsmith
Captain A.B. Bathurst
Captain C.H. Harding
Captain M.E.G.R. Wingfield
Captain W.J.P. Marling
Captain C. Capel
Lieutenant T.B. Ponsonby
Lieutenant M.H. Hicks-Beach
Lieutenant J.B.W. Robinson
Lieutenant R.H. Pollen
Lieutenant L. Inglis
Lieutenant H.S. Marsham-Townshend
Lieutenant C.H. Smith
Captain and Adjutant J.S. Hobbs
Captain and Quartermaster B.N. Spraggett
The Battalion arrived at St. Helena on the 21st April. The Battalion and prisoners were stationed at Deadwood Plain. 'B' Company escorted 34 Boer officers to the Camp, with some 400 other prisoners following with the rest of the Battalion. Already on the plain were 2 companies of the North Stafford Militia, who were guarding prisoners already landed. 2 companies of the 3rd West India Regiment were also in residence.
The 4th Battalion marching to Deadwood Plain, St. Helena. April 1900.
Another 1100 Boer prisoners arrived on May 22nd and a few days later 200 men from the 2nd Battalion at Athlone also arrived to reinforce the guard. The prisoners were encamped behind a barbed wire fence and one man was shot by a Stafford sentry for trying to climb the fence. However, the prisoners were well cared for and often supplied with fresh meat, while the guards received tinned meat.
A guard of a captain, a subaltern, and around 50 men was mounted daily. The rest of the men were drilled, trained and games of football, hockey and cricket were arranged between the Glosters and other troops and the crew of the guard cruiser, HMS Niobe.
In December another 200 prisoners arrived and a week later 2nd Lieutenant A.D. Law and 82 time-expired men of the 1st Glosters arrived from South Africa. Another 200 prisoners arrived on January 12th 1901 and the guard was reinforced by 114 men of the 2nd Glosters and 117 men of the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regt. who had volunteered for service.
A second prisoner camp was opened at Broad Bottom and 2 companies of the 4th Battalion, with the men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, went to guard it. On January 22nd the news arrived of the death of Queen Victoria.
In February another 2000 Boers arrived. A second prisoner was shot dead when repeated warnings about throwing stones at guards was ingored. On May 5th news arrived that the 2nd Warwicks would leave Durban to relieve the 4th Glosters. But after an outbreak of plague in Africa, the move was postponed. On June 7th news arrived that the 3rd (Militia) Wiltshire Regiment was to leave England on June 20th to relieve the 4th Glosters (the men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions would remain on the island).
The Wiltshires arrived on July 6th and the men of the 3rd and 4th Glosters embarked on the Mohawk for home. They arrived at Southampton on July 26th but did not disembark until the next day.
The men of the 3rd and 4th Battalions received the Queen's South Africa Medal.
Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard - 3rd August 1901: "Last Saturday the 4th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, under the command of Colonel Earl Bathurst, returned to their headquarters after close uopn a year and a half's service with the colours, and recieved a hearty reception at the hands of the townsfolk, which by its spontaneous enthusiasm must have assured officers and men of the cordiality of their welcome; and shown them with what interest and appreciation their doings had been watched by those at home. The arduous character of the task undertaken by the North Gloucesters and their trying example are well known."