5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

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5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby Bushman » 08 May 2016 02:06

I was Always under the impression that the 5th Royal Irish Lancers early period in the Boer War was at Ladysmith. Holmes' book on Sir John French talks about elements of the regiment being with him at Colesberg in November 1899. I can find nothing on this, can anyone shed any light on this incident?
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby QSAMIKE » 08 May 2016 03:11

From the Anglo-Boer War Website......

When Sir George White arrived in South Africa, shortly before the declaration of war, the 5th Lancers were stationed in Ladysmith. They did not take part in the battle of Talana Hill, but were present at Elandslaagte, 21st October 1899, and they have the satisfaction of knowing that they took part in the one real cavalry charge of the campaign, because, after all, on the way to Kimberley it was a gallop through a position, not a charge in the old sense.

The 5th Lancers, along with the 19th Hussars and Imperial Light Horse, were in the action of Rietfontein, 24th October. The 5th Lancers seized and held ridges to protect Sir George White's right flank.

In the battle of Lombard's Kop or Ladysmith, 30th October, the 5th Lancers and 19th Hussars were under General French on the right, their objective being to get round the enemy's left; but as a matter of fact the cavalry were pushed back and could not hold their own, so strong was the opposing force.

Throughout the siege the 5th Lancers frequently had fighting. In his despatch of 23rd March 1900, para 27, Sir George White, speaking of a reconnaissance made on 8th December 1899, says, "It was carried out in a very bold and dashing manner by the 5th Lancers and 18th Hussars". They were sent to reinforce Waggon Hill in the great attack on 6th January. The miseries of being constantly under shell-fire are apt to be lost sight of, but the fact that on 22nd December one single shell wounded 5 officers and the Sergeant Major of the 5th Lancers, makes one realise the ever-constant danger and strain during the four months' siege.

Major King was twice mentioned by Sir George White, and another officer was once mentioned.

In the northern movement under General Buller the 5th Lancers were brigaded with the 18th and 19th Hussars under Brocklehurst, and accompanied General Buller to Lydenburg. On this march the 5th were very frequently engaged; indeed between the middle of July and the end of September they were fighting practically every day. The services of the brigade were praised by General Buller.

In August 1900, when Macdonald occupied Harrismith, after the surrender of Prinsloo, a portion of the 5th Lancers and 13th Hussars came up Van Reenen's Pass and took over the occupation. In the beginning of November 1900 about 250 men of the regiment were with Smith-Dorrien, south of Belfast, when he had very hard fighting and no little difficulty in saving his guns. In December, after Clements' reverse at Nooitgedacht, part of the regiment was taken west of Pretoria to help in clearing the Megaliesberg.

In his final despatch of 9th November 1900 General Buller mentioned 6 officers, and in Lord Roberts' final despatches 5 officers and 5 non-commissioned officers were mentioned.

A portion of the 5th Lancers, about 75 officers and men, were with General French near Colesberg in November 1899. This squadron took part in the northern advance on Pretoria, and frequently had a few casualties. They were present at Diamond Hill, 11th and 12th June 1900.

During the second phase of the war the 5th Lancers were mainly in the Eastern Transvaal operating under Smith-Dorrien, Spens, and other commanders. They took part in the sweep into the Vryheid district. A portion of the regiment was in Cape Colony in 1901 and 1902, and had rather an unhappy time on the Zeekoe River near Aberdeen on 6th April 1901, when they lost 2 killed, 9 wounded, and 23 taken prisoners.

Lieutenant F B Dugdale gained the VC on 3rd March 1901 for bringing 2 wounded men to safety under a heavy fire. Four non-commissioned officers and men of the regiment gained mention in despatches by Lord Kitchener, written during the war, and in the final despatch 2 officers, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 2 men were mentioned.

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Hope that this is of some help......

Mike
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby Bushman » 08 May 2016 05:57

Thanks Mike. This is good but does not resolve my Colesberg quandary. Holmes seems to have taken his information from Amery or Maurice. ( I haven't checked these yet) Vernon's book on the NSW Lancers lists French's forces similar to Holmes with the key exception where Holmes talks of elements of the 5th Royal Irish and the Squadron minus (my terminology) of the NSW Lancers providing the mounted element of French's force, Vernon only lists the two under strength troops (2 x 1+20) of the NSW Lancers. This paints surely quite a radically different picture of French's chances of moving against the Boers in the Colesberg/ Rensburg area as opposed to say a Squadron of the 5th being available to him. Hence my question.
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby SWB » 08 May 2016 09:23

The regtl history makes no mention of anyone being with French in November 1899.
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby Bushman » 09 May 2016 03:41

Thanks SWB it certainly looks as though my suspicions were correct
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby Bushman » 24 May 2016 04:27

Charles Sydney Goldman in his work With General French and the Cavalry in South Africa on p 36 says this about the force at Naauwpoort 21 Nov 1899
The garrison numbered 945 men with two nine pound muzzle loading guns, Half a battalion of the Berkshires with two Maxims, half a battalion of the Black Watch with one Maxim a detachment of the NSW Lancers to which was joined a small party of the 5th Lancers (75 men and horses in all and 25 Cape police.
I take it that the figures in brackets mean total cavalry so knowing that the NSW Lancers had 42 on the ground that gives circa 33 for the 5th. The 5th Lancers officer was apparently Lt West.
So still some confusion in my mind
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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby SWB » 24 May 2016 07:53

Lt West


From The Register:

Capt EE West - OC French's Scouts, attached NSW Lancers; this explains his presence there.

West qualifed for the clasps J,DH,W,CC,SA01, so looking for similar 5th Lancer entitlements shows another 18 5th Lancers who were on the Western Front from November 1899 onwards.

Thinking on many cavalry regiments had "odd men" on attachment like West and these other men - not fighting as their parent unit but with other units. Perhaps Holmes' description of the numbers (what were his actual words?) is misleading.

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Re: 5th Royal Irish Lancers Colesberg

Postby Bushman » 25 May 2016 06:02

Richard Holmes work is The Little Field Marshal- A life of Sir John French p 74 says His force consisted of two half battalions of infantry, a mixed detachment of 5th Lancers and NSW Lancers, some Cape Police and two 9 pounder muzzle loaders.
SWB says and I think rightly that 5th numbered only 18 and were likely LOB details. The key person is West. The NSW Lancers had only 42 two of whom were officers Capt Cox the squadron commander, shortly to be superceded by Maj George Lee, and Lt S F Osborne. Another troop commander would have been a godsend. In any accounts it only ever mentions patrols by the NSW Lancer troops augmented by Cape Police. Was it possible that given the tiny nature of the force, that French used the presence of a few 5th Lancers to create the impression of a much larger and more professional cavalry force? ie a deception plan. He certainly ran his two troops all over the countryside even moving them by train.
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