By 1878, Yeomen were recruited in Brighton to serve in A Troop, while B and C Troops were recruited in London. Detachments were based at Brighton and Kingston where drills were frequently carried out. The Regimental Headquarters was moved from Uxbridge to London in 1878 and based at 25a Chapel Street, Edgware Road. In 1884 they were given the title The Duke of Cambridge’s Hussars having been granted permission by the Duke who was a field marshal and Commander-in-Chief. This was announced at the regimental dinner on 24 April 1884. The CO, Lt-Col W H Harfield read a letter from Horse Guards saying that Her Majesty the Queen had been pleased to approve of the Middlesex Yeomanry Cavalry being in future designated The Middlesex (Duke of Cambridge’s Hussars) Yeomanry Cavalry.
Application Form 1890
Men wishing to join the Middlesex Hussars were given a questionnaire form to complete, asking the following questions:
1. Do you keep a horse, or can you furnish a certificate from a relation, friend or employer to provide you with a horse suitable for the Yeomanry service, whenever required?
2. Are you an efficient horseman?
3. What is your a) age b) height c) weight d) chest measurement?
4. What is you business or occupation?
5. Can you leave it whenever called upon?
6. Have you ever served in any branch of Her Majesty’s Forces? If so, specify the Corps of Regular or Auxiliary Forces in which you served, the length of your service, your rank on leaving, and the date of your resignation if a Commissioned Officer, or of your discharge if of any other rank.
7. Do you understand that any Member leaving the Corps before he has completed his term of service is liable to a fine of 5 pounds, and 2 pounds for each unexpired year of the term for which he is attested, towards the expenses of his outfit?
8. Are you willing to be attested for four years?
9. Are you willing to pay one guinea to the Member’s Fund, on joining the Corps?
10. Have you read the accompanying “List of Outfit” and do you clearly understand which articles have to be returned into store at the termination of your service, as distinguished from those which are furnished at your own expense and remain your own property?
11. Have you made yourself thoroughly acquainted with the annexed Conditions of Service, and are you willing to undertake the obligations thereby entailed?
List of Outfit supplied by the Commanding Officer
Wallets and 3 straps
Arms and Accoutrements
The following articles to be furnished by Members at their own expense:-
Wellington Boots with swan-necked spurs (for dismounted duties)
Hessian Boots (Regimental Pattern) with buckle spurs (for mounted ditto)
Saddle (Regimental Pattern)
Girth with Loop to receive Surcingle.
Conditions of Service
I. Recruits, immediately on joining, must attend a Class of Instruction under one of the Staff Sergeants, in order to obtain from the Adjutant a certificate of their proficiency in Carbine and Sword Exercise and in Riding.
II. The annual attendance of Yeomen is compulsory at:-
Not less than six preliminary Foot Drills (12 drills for recruits first year)
Not less than five preliminary Mounted Drills (four of which may be done on the two days immediately preceding the Annual Training.
III. Attendance at the preliminary Drills is necessary to entitle a Yeoman to receive pay during the Annual Training, and, in default, he is liable for the amount of the Capitation Grant (2 pounds) in addition to the Regimental Fines.
IV. Not less than 25 rounds of Ball Cartridge must be fired by every Yeoman each year.
V. The attendance of all Yeomen is compulsory when called out in aid of the Civil Power.
VI. By Section 2 of “The National Defence Act, 1888,” the Yeomanry are liable to be called out for Military Service whenever an order for the embodiment of the Militia is in force. This applies to all Yeomen attested after the passing of “The National Defence Act 1888.”
VII. In all cases of retirement from the Corps, all Uniform, Accoutrements, Arms, &c., furnished at the public expense, are to be returned into store, and any loss or damage (beyond fair wear and tear) must be paid for; and all fines settled before the resignation can be accepted.
VIII. No Yeoman is exempt from the duties of his engagement, even though he may have served his full time, until he has obtained the Certificate or Parchment of Discharge, signed by his Commanding Officer.
11th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry
The regiment did not serve as a unit in the Boer War, but companies were raised from the Middlesex Hussars to be sent out to South Africa to form battalions with other Yeomanry groups. They were called companies (120 men) rather than squadrons because they were fighting as mounted infantry. The first three companies raised from volunteers were the 34th, 35th and 62nd. The 34th and 35th were in the 11th Battalion IY with the 33rd East Kents and the 36th West Kents. The 11th Battalion was part of the 17th Brigade commanded by Major-General Boyes. And this brigade was in Sir Leslie Rundle’s 8th Division, operating in the eastern part of the Orange Free State. The 34th Company was the first company raised, formed in December 1899. It remained on active service from April 1900 to June 1901. During that period it lost half of its fighting strength.
Raising of the Companies
From 20 Dec 1899 volunteers applied at Regimental HQ which at that time was at 1 Cathcart Road, South Kensington. Only 30 of the company were former members of the Middlesex Yeomanry, the rest, about 90 officers and men, were volunteers. The volunteers had mostly served previously in the regular army and there was a degree of contempt for the Yeomen who for the most part had not seen active service.The company was commanded initially by Major Henry Shelley Dalbiac RHA, and organised in 4 sections. Lord Denman was also an officer in the 34th Company. Training was carried out at Knightsbridge Barracks, the home of the Household Cavalry. Troopers of the Blues were astonished at the harshness of the training that the Imperial Yeomanry were put through. Uniforms did not arrive until 20 Jan 1900.
Voyage to South Africa, Mar 1900
On 28 Feb the company along with some of their horses marched to Maiden Lane goods station and entrained for Liverpool. There they embarked on the SS Cymric with other IY companies and sailed the following morning, 1 Mar 1900. The Cymric was a new twin-screw steamship, one of the largest cargo and passenger ships afloat. The 1,106 soldiers and 450 horses on board included nine Imperial Yeomanry companies from Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Glamorganshire, Fife, Kent and Middlesex. They reached Table Bay on 20 March but could not disembark until 23 Mar. From Cape Town they marched to Maitland Camp where they stayed for a month.
Senekal, 25 May 1900
On 19 April the battalion and their horses travelled north by train. They bivouacked at Norval’s Pont and trekked on to Bloemfontein. They spent some time in camp at Bester’s Flats during which there was much patrolling and foraging. They left Bester’s Flats on 22 May and headed towards Senekal. Sixty men of the 34th commanded by Major Henry Dalbiac were in the advance guard of General Rundle’s force, and entered Senekal Town. Half the company were sent out on ‘Cossack post’ duty. While there they came under attack from a large force of Boers of Prinsloo’s Commando.
Around 150 Boers occupied a high kopje to the east of the town which Dalbiac and about 30 of his mounted men attempted to storm. In this charge, some men were shot from their horses. Soon after dismounting, Major Dalbiac was shot through the neck and killed. Trooper Deane was firing from the lying position and was shot in the forehead. He rolled over, dead. Trooper Weisberg was hit and wounded. Sergeant-Major Roller, a long-serving member of the Middlesex Hussars, struggled hard to get Weisberg onto his horse and get mounted himself. He managed to escape the firefight and bring Weisberg back for treatment. Sergeant Shells was shot in the back and killed. Up on the north Cossack Post, the small group of men came under a separate attack and had to retreat, but Trooper Unwin was having trouble with his horse and was the last man to vacate the post. He was shot and wounded as he made his getaway. He reached the town and was treated, but he died at midnight.
The casualty list shows that four men were killed in this battle: Major Dalbiac, Sergeant Shells, Trooper Deane and Trooper Unwin. There were four badly wounded: Lieutenant Kennard (Grenadier Guards), Corporal Agnew, Private Webster and Private Weisberg. Thirteen men were captured, and according to the account of one of the prisoners they were treated well by the Boers. CSM Roller would have received the VC since he was recommended for it by General Rundle, but Roller declined to give evidence and made light of his part in the action. Instead he was given a commission. Command passed to Captain Prideaux Brune with Lieutenant Roller second in command.
Middlesex Kopje, 13 - 16 June 1900
The Yeomanry were camped at Klip Nek in June 1900. The Boers were reported to be gathering in strength in the area, and on 12 June rifle fire was heard and some men of the Derbyshire Yeomanry were seen galloping towards the camp. On 13 June a large force which included the 34th and 35th Companies rode up a high kopje northeast of the camp and waited several hours. Then in the afternoon the 34th were ordered to move south to another position beyond a spur jutting from the tableland which was to be where they stayed for the next few days. Their position was named as Middlesex Kopje. The company commander Prideaux-Brune sent out an advance scouting party of five men; Sergeant Harmer and Troopers Trooper G G Grout, Banks, Bradley and Caldwell. Harmer unwisely took the patrol out of sight of the company and headed towards a farm. They were attacked by Boers and Harmer, Grout and Banks were hit. The wounded sergeant ordered Bradley and Caldwell to make a run for it, and they managed to get away. They found out later that Sergeant Harmer was wounded in the leg and J Banks was shot in the chest so that his lung was pierced, the bullet touching his heart. G G Grout was hit in the femoral artery and died.
Some men of the other companies came under fire and the 34th dismounted and advanced at the run. Trooper Palmer was agitated at the apparent loss of the three casualties who had not returned, and mounted up to make a desperate lone rescue attempt. He was restrained by Captain Charles C Newnham who calmly organised the men behind the cover of boulders and told the men to sight their rifles at 1,200 yards. They fired on the Boers as they appeared and forced them to retreat. Later as the sun went down the Boers returned and were met by fire from a Maxim gun which discouraged them once more. Little happened on 14 June and they were reinforced on the Kopje by a party of 70 Derbyshire Yeomen. The Boers handed over wounded soldiers who were taken to the camp at Klip Nek. On 15 June artillery fire was brought to bear on the Boer Farm but the Company played no further part in the battle. On 16 June they were ordered to Hammonia, acting as rearguard to a huge ten-mile convoy.
Ficksburg, 17 - 24 June 1900
The battalion camped at Ficksburg from 17 June and were out on constant patrol and foraging duty. Food such as chicken, eggs, bread, milk and butter were bought from Boer farmers. The weather was wet at this time of year, the South African winter. The Yeomanry carried out their duty wearing helmets, not the slouch hats seen in photos. William Corner wrote on 20 June: ‘My helmet was like pulp this morning after the storm, and I had to give it a day’s sun-baking. The campaign is telling dreadfully on our clothes. Some of us are mere tramps, with sleeveless tunics and kneeless breeches. The friction of our knees against the saddle wallets very quickly wore out our breeches.’ On 24 June they rode back to Klip Nek, suffering greatly from cold and lack of food. They remained there until 12 July. The strength of 34th Company at this time was around 100 men, divided into two sections plus a gun section composed of ten men. Towards the end of July they were at Fouriesburg near the Brandwater Basin.
Prinsloo’s Surrender, 30 July 1900
They received news of the surrender of Prinsloo’s Commando on 29 July, and 13 men of the Company were chosen to provide an escort for General Hunter. The ceremony of surrender took place the next day, 30 July, on a hill that came to be called Surrender Hill. They estimated that 2,000 men would give themselves up, hand over their weapons, and become prisoners. Eighteen men of the 34th were given the task of escorting several hundred Boer prisoners to a camp. The captured horses provided remounts for the Yeomanry who were badly in need of replacing their worn out, hungry and overworked mounts. More escorting of prisoners was needed the following day and when they pitched camp that evening William Corner was ordered to stand guard at midnight. The temperature dropped to below freezing and he had to keep moving to try and stay warm. He was not relieved, and remained on guard for seven and a half hours. By 2 August the 34th handed over the prisoners to men of the Leicester Regiment who took them to Winburg. For the rest of August the Company trekked from place to place without any actual fighting.
Farm Burning, Sept 1900
While they were based near Bethlehem the 34th Company marched out, on 9 Sep under Captain Newnham. They were ordered to burn a farmhouse that had housed hostile Boers who had fired on some of the Company patrolling nearby earlier that day. Corner wrote: “It was our first experience in farm burning, and we did not go at it heartily, but we all thought it was a just sentence and one that had to be carried out.’ On 20 Sep they marched through Senekal on to Tafelberg. Two companies, the 36th West Kent IY and the 34th Middlesex IY were ordered to burn a number of farms from which shots had been fired at patrols. The two companies were split up and sent off to different locations. Corner described the first burning:
‘There were an old man and his wife and two daughters in the farmhouse, and there was a good outhouse; the latter we did not burn. We took out all the furniture and placed it in the yard and garden. There was a big American reed organ in one of the rooms, which we brought out with much care. When the house was well alight the eldest daughter, a dark, stout girl, opened the organ and played and sang to the burning of the building; she as quite dramatic, one could regard the scene with a mixture of feelings. She suddenly closed the instrument, and running up to me she screamed, “God will curse you! God will bless us! Why do you do this?” I opened my hand and showed her a number of discharged Mauser cartridges which I had found about their yard, and said these were the reasons.’
Action at Bethlehem, 22 Sep 1900
The Yeomen rode out of camp towards Bethlehem and took up a position on hills to the north of the town. Trooper Barton caught sight of a mounted Boer trying to escape from the town and went after him. He intercepted him and told him to surrender, which he appeared to do, but when Barton started to dismount, the Boer shot him through the thigh, and as he fell to the ground shot him again in the shoulder. Another shot missed Barton but the Boer then approached him and started to take his binoculars and ammunition. The rest of the company had by this time been alerted and galloped towards the now retreating Boer. Lance-Corporal Thornton and Lieutenant Roller pursued him for three miles until the Boer took cover among some rocks. He fired his Mauser at them at close range but missed, and Thornton leapt on him so that a hand-to-hand fight ensued. They were at each other’s throats and Roller found himself out of pistol ammunition so he managed to whack the Boer with the pistol butt. He was finally persuaded to surrender and they brought him back to camp. Trooper Barton was found and they patched him up as well as they could. He survived his injuries and was invalided back to England. Following this incident General Rundle ordered that the soldiers should continue to shoot until the enemy threw down their arms.
The Standerton Trek, 4 Nov - 12 Nov 1900
The 34th left their camp at Harrismith on 4 Nov 1900 to act as left flank guard to a large convoy trekking to Standerton. On 6 Nov, near Cornelis River they were fired on, and Trooper Rhodes was hit in the abdomen. He died soon after and was buried on the north side of the river in a ceremony attended by General Boyes. On 7 Nov the brigade were in action all day, and the 35th Company commanded by Lord Denman were on the right flank where they had 3 men wounded. The 34th reached a low ridge and the Boers showed a white flag. Corporal Thornton broke cover to look through his binoculars but was hit in the wrist by a Mauser bullet that travelled the length of his forearm and came out at his elbow. They were in a desperate situation but were rescued when two companies of the Manchester Regiment dispersed the Boers. The next day they were again in constant action, encountering Boers at every ridge. After a wet night they faced more of the same action on 9 Nov. Three times they were under heavy fire, and Trooper Edwards was shot at, receiving a curious head wound. The bullet hit his scalp and passed over his head without penetrating the skull.
Fighting Near Newmarket, 19 Nov 1900
They stopped at Vrede on 10 Nov and in the afternoon set off for Standerton under a sky that was inky black. At one point, in an area that contained iron stone, they were in action against a party of Boers in heavy rain, when a blinding flash of lightning enveloped them, followed by a huge, deafening explosion of thunder. This temporarily stunned everyone. They arrived at Standerton on 12 Nov and on 16 Nov the rain was heavier than anyone had ever experienced so that their camp was flooded out. On the return journey they formed the advanced guard with scouts out front. On approaching a ridge one of the scouts peered over and saw a large party of Boers waiting to ambush them. Recently commissioned Lieutenant Gray went to look for himself and was fired on. At that point the Company came under fire from the front and the right flank. Trooper Jack Morgan, one of the younger men, was hit in the cheek, the bullet touching his eye and passing into his shoulder. Gray was hit on the elbow. The approaching infantry caused the Boers to begin their retreat so that the rifle fire subsided. A padre came up to the Company’s position and offered his services but they managed to laugh it off and say that so far only a doctor was needed.
Bringing up the Guns, 20 Nov 1900
The 34th and 35th Companies were kept active again on 20 Nov. The 34th were acting as gun guards to an artillery battery that caused trouble for the Boers. In the afternoon the two companies went out on reconnaissance with scouting parties out front. Sergeant F W Scott led the foremost patrol and reported a party of 30 or 40 armed Boers to their front. The warning was too late as men were being hit by sniper fire. Lord Denman was wounded in the leg and Sergeant Scott was shot through the arm. One other group of Boers were dressed in khaki to fool the soldiers, and managed to gallop off before an effective volley could be directed at them. The rest of the Boers mounted up and rode off, pursued by the Yeomen. After a few miles the enemy took refuge on a large kopje and the 34th turned their attention to a farm from which firing had come. This farm was burned and they returned to aid the gunners. The artillery was brought up and the Boers on the Kopje were shelled causing heavy casualties as they had not expected guns to be brought out that far. They camped at Mill River and the next day another recce party including the 34th, a company of Infantry and a gun, but they did not make close contact with the Boers. On 23 Nov they reached Harrismith.
Drowning at Maperi Spruit, 2 April 1901
In his history of the 34th Company IY, William Corner tells of a tragic incident in which two men drowned in Maperi Spruit near Clocolan Stores, as the column was trekking towards Ficksburg. They had camped on the north bank and the intention was to cross the drift the next day for a reconnaissance in force. However, it rained heavily in the night and on the morning of 2 April the river was swollen, brown and turbulent. At 10am 34th Company was ordered to mount up and cross the drift on the pretext of wood fatigue but it became clear that Colonel Harley, commanding the 11th Battalion, only wanted to see if the river was safe to cross. They managed to get there and back with moderate difficulty. The reconnaissance set off at 2pm, the 36th West Kent Company IY leading, with 34th and 35th following on. Trooper Corner noticed that the level of the water had risen a foot higher since he and his comrades had crossed the drift four hours earlier, so he watched in trepidation as the men of the 36th entered the river. The horses were in a poor condition and it looked like an impossible task. About 12 riders managed to cross with difficulty but then the horse carrying Trooper Kennard slipped over and when it regained a footing the rider was missing. Many of the waiting Troopers laughed at this but Corner, observing from 50 yards back, realised the seriousness of the situation. Kennard could be seen being washed downstream in turbulent water, and a wagoner’s whip held out to him went untouched. He now appeared to be unconscious. Men jumped in as far as they dared to make a grab but were unable to reach him.
The first serious effort to save him was by Trooper Bernard Pitt of the 36th, regarded as a strong swimmer, who plunged in and managed to grab Kennard’s hair. Corner and Charles Boughton of the 34th ran to the bank. Corner was a non-swimmer but Boughton removed his cloak and tunic and stood in the water. He wasn’t able to reach the two men. On the other bank, Trooper Williams of the 36th ran ahead and entered the spruit to try and intercept Pitt and Kennard. He managed to get hold of Kennard but all three were in great danger in the rapids. Boughton looked set to dive in and Corner tried to talk him out of it. Knowing it was a forlorn hope Boughton still went in. ‘I shall never see a braver act than that.’ he wrote. For a few moments he swam towards them but then he was caught by a strong current, and ‘as if he had been a straw’ he shot downstream. Efforts were made by some others who tried to grab him as they ran along the bank. Ahead of Boughton was a group of boulders with furious waters tumbling and boiling. He was pitched into this death-trap and killed. Kennard’s body went the same way and was swallowed up in the cauldron. Williams had been forced to let Kennard go but was able to save Pitt and push him to the bank. Men jumped in and pulled Pitt and Williams out. Pitt was unconscious and Williams was greatly exhausted. Everyone was stunned by the tragedy that had cost two lives, and Colonel Harley cancelled the planned reconnaissance. An attempt at finding the bodies was made by fixing a rope across so that some of them could hang on and feel under the water with their feet.
End of their Service, 10 June 1901
The 34th Arrived at Harrismith once more on 9 June 1901 amidst strong rumours that they had made their last trek which was from Elands River Drift through Naauwpoort Nek and Golden Gate. The strength of the company was three lieutenants, Barrington, Agnew and Hall, with 17 troopers and a gun section consisting of two men and Lieutenant Evans. They had two men attached from other units and three servants. On 10 June there was more definite news of a return to England; saddlery was handed in to the stores. Several men had volunteered to stay in South Africa, and had been promoted. Horses had to be handed over. William Corner was sorry to part with his horse Prinsloo but was pleased that Lieutenant Hall took him as his own charger. On 12 June four companies, the 34th, 35th, 36th and 53rd paraded at the railway station at Harrismith. The train journey had several stops; at Standerton, Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Naauwpoort, De Aar, and it wasn’t until 26 June that they arrived at Cape Town. They had to hand in rifles and equipment, and collect kit that had been left at Maitland Camp when they arrived in SA in March 1900. This was a sad moment as they saw bags of kit labelled for dead comrades, that would never be claimed. They embarked on the Manchester Merchant on the same day; twelve men of the 34th with one officer, Lt Barrington. The voyage was uneventful and they arrived at Southampton on 18 July. They boarded a train for Hounslow Barracks and were there entertained at a dinner, by the Middlesex Yeomanry, Colonel Mitford presiding. On 26 July they assembled at Wellington Barracks and went to Horse Guards where, during a ceremony lasting 3 hours, 3,000 Imperial Yeomen received their war medals from King Edward VII.
Casualties of the 34th Company IY 1900 - 01
The 34th Company was just one of the companies raised by the Middlesex Yeomanry for the Boer War. The 34th started off with 120 men. The number of men killed in action or died of wounds was 10. One man, Trooper Boughton was drowned in a fatal accident. Ten men died of sickness, nearly all from Enteric Fever (Typhoid). The number of wounded was 19, of which some were able to return to active service while most were invalided out of South Africa. There were some men attached to the 34th: The Staffordshire Yeomanry sent a detachment to join the 34th and of these, 3 men died of sickness and two were wounded.