Thomas Cook enlisted for the Imperial Yeomanry on the 15th of February 1901 at Doncaster. On enlistment he was described as a
20 year old, born in Osgodby near Selby, Yorkshire and a postman by trade – at the time he was serving with the Yorkshire
Hussars. After receiving his notice from a man by the name of Latham Huckle and having been sworn in by Captain W.G. Eley he is
given a medical which finds him to be 5ft 9in tall, 11 stone 2lbs, 34 inch chest, fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair – his
religious denomination was Church of England. The surgeon finds him fit for service and his service is approved on the 19th of
February, at which point he is numbered as No.27941 and sent to Aldershot for training. He embarked for South Africa on the 14th
of March 1901 as a member of the 11th Company, 3rd Battalion Imperial Yeomanry (Yorkshire Dragoons) and returned to England
on the 24th of August 1902, a period of 1 year and 163 days overseas service. For service in the Boer War he is granted the Queen’
s South Africa Medal with clasps for Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 & South Africa 1902. He is
discharged at Aldershot on the 30th of August 1902 at the termination of his engagement, giving his place of residence as his father’
s house (18 Providence Terrace, Harrogate). Thomas Cook wrote an account of his period in South Africa, and this was kindly sent
to me by Natalie Cook, a descendent of his. His picture and account of his period in the war is given below.
With The 11th Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa 1901-1902
By Thomas Cook
On the 15th February 1901 I enlisted in the 2nd contingent of Imperial Yeomanry for South Africa at Doncaster, from there a batch
of about 100 of us were sent down to Aldershot for a short military training prior to joining a draft for the front. On 14th March
1,500 of us irregulars embarked on board the SS Avondale Castle forming the 5th draft of troops for active service. When the ship’
s bell signalled the weighing of the anchor almost every man on board was above deck to get the last glimpse of ‘Old England’. We
passed the ‘Needles’ at dusk and were then started in earnest for a foreign shore.
Our daily routine on board was not at all hard, commencing with reveille at 6.00 am, breakfast at 7.30 am, and drilling from 9.00 am
to 12 o’clock. Hammocks were drawn at 7.00 pm and lights out went at 9.00 pm. A 24 hour guard was mounted at sunset every
evening, the sentries doing duty mainly on the officers’ deck and main gangways.
We made Tenerife on the 19th, only staying an hour or so. Next day we called at Las Palmas to take on coal; this business taking
up half a day, we had plenty of time to trade with the foreigners who were swarming round the ship before the anchor was down.
Little boys from 6 years of age thought nothing of diving from the boat deck for pence thrown into the water. One man with his
whole family on board upset the boat and they held on underneath for four or five minutes before righting it, then rowed round
asking for their reward to be thrown into the water. We passed quite close to St Helena on the 2nd April but were not much struck
by its appearance, nothing but cliffs and rocks being visible.
We then had some very rough weather and a good half of the men were ill. Apart from one night when I succumbed, seasickness
did not trouble me very much, but I was not sorry when, on the 6th April, we steamed into Table Bay after being 24 days on the
water. We did not get a look at Capetown as by midday on the 7th we were all disembarked and busy preparing for our journey up
country. We entrained the same night and started off on our journey, crossing into the Orange River Colony on the 11th. The
Orange River forms the border between Cape Colony and Orange River Colony and is spanned by a bridge 500 years long supported
by eleven pillars, part of which had been blown up earlier in the war. Bloemfontein and Kroonstad were the largest towns we
passed. I had a look round both of these and they were a long way beyond my expectations of South African towns. On the 13th
we arrived at Germiston, 1,013 miles up country. Leaving the train we marched to Elandsfontein Camp, then the base of military
Two days were occupied here joining the different battalions, then the forty of us who belonged to the 11th Yeomanry were sent
down to De Aar where they were based. After training here for seven days the whole squadron, 147 strong, entrained for Graaf
Reinett which was to be our Regimental Depot during our stay in South Africa, to complete our training. Graaf is a fine little town
with a population of about 3,000 native residents and 5,000 whites, and we saw a good deal of it, going in whenever we needed
remouts or clothing.
May was spent in training and patrolling, and all of us being sick of camp and training, we were delighted when on 2nd June we
received orders for trekking the next day. All tents and spare kit were left behind, while two blankets and a waterproof sheet each,
which was to serve as a bed, were rolled up and put on the wagon with the whole squadron’s kit. Generals French and Stephenson
were in charge of operations in the Colony having their headquarters in Middelburg. The column we joined was a flying column
commanded by Colonel Doran and very small; it comprised: 100 cyclists, three squadrons Warren’s Mounted Infantry, two guns
Royal Horse Artillery, 40 Scouts and the 11th Yeomanry. Our convoy wagons numbered 50, two to each squadron or company, and
were driven by native boys who are as a rule a lot of thieves and not much good – of course, there are good and bad but the latter
are decidedly in the majority; some of their habits are barely civilised.
On the 15th a patrol 200 stong was told off and, accompanied by the artillery, we marched at 5.00 am, and about 15 miles from
camp, at Hellimus Kraal, we found the enemy. My troop and a troop of Warrens Mounted Infantry took a ridge and hut but were
soon recalled as the Boers were surrounding us and cutting off our retreat. The 11th troop drew off, but Warrens stayed, their
officer thinking there was no danger and he could move later. Shortly after, he and his sergeant were killed and the whole troop
captured. Eventually the whole patrol retired; the enemy having over 500 men were too strong for us, especially as we were unable
to get our guns in a position to shell them. We rejoined the column and, with reinforcements (two companies of Yeomanry and 150
Cape Mounted Rifles) coming out to us, we scoured the Candeboos district for a month, covering about 25-40 miles a day. The
horses were soon worn out and they got very little to eat. Just 10lbs of corn per day was their ration, but they hardly ever got
even this. The men’s rations were four biscuits, 1lb of bully or fresh meat and a quarter pound of jam per day. We had wagons for
14 days’ full rations, but very often they lasted 20. We trekked through Rierston, an ugly place with scarcely an Englishman in it.
There is no garrison there, and most of the population are Dutch rebels. Pietersburg further among the kopjes is as bad. We
followed the Boers through this town and up a kopje that took four hours to ascend, moving as sharp as possible.
On 11th July we had a brush with the enemy, capturing a party of seven prisoners who were sent under escort to Aberdeen
garrison, which is in the charge of British troops. Most of the towns have a garrison of some sort, generally British Infantry. A few
have Colonials or a Town Guard, formed of loyal Dutchmen and black boy residents who, during the war, did duty in blockhouses
and forts erected for the defence of the towns. Smuts and his Commandos were just now very troublesome but would not engage;
having transport he was able to trek much faster than we could, but we followed him very close through Murraysburg, one of the
towns where no garrison was stationed. Here several rebel residents joined his Commandos. One storekeeper, a Scotchman, had
his home and store burnt down for refusing to fight against the British. Pursuing closely we trekked through Richmond and
Hanover. Both these towns being garrisoned; the Boers made a detour, regaining the road some distance beyond them. Our
rations running short, we lost a little time obtaining more. Arriving at Hanover Road we found the Boers had been repulsed in an
attempt to cross the line and had taken another route.
On the night of 31st July we did some extra marching in the hopes of surprising a ‘Laager’, the whereabouts of which we had
learnt. You must guess what a grumbling went on when, after being laid for two hours nearly frozen (the African winter being then
at it’s worst) round the supposed laager, we found the scouts had made a mistake and we were surrounding the wrong farm, the
real laager being two miles further on! We arrived there just at daylight, and the Boers’ outposts had aroused them and they
seemed in a great hurry to be off, their Commandant running up a kopje in his shirt. Myself and several others with the Major
galloped to a kopje on the right intending to work round on the Boers’ flank, but at the top we found ourselves in a ticklish position,
the 24th Yeomanry in the rear and the Boers in front, both firing on us. After dodging this lot we were only able to attack the rear
of the flying Boers. Altogether we accounted for 37 Boers, 7 captured, the column having only about 8 casualties. We left
Rybuckfontein and made for Graaf Reinett, and leaving our prisoners there we marched to Blawater where we found evidence of the
enemy’s recent presence. Taking up their spoor we stuck it to the Willows Farm, where we shelled them heavily, but could not get
to close quarters. The Willows is an ostrich farm where about 500 birds were kept, 64 were either shot or strayed during six
months of the war, each bird being valued at £80. We then trekked for Carlton sidings where Negroes fired on us. Shortly after
this we camped at Middelburg where General French had his headquarters, and were inspected by the General and supplied with
During August we worked in conjunction with a number of other columns, all being under Generals French and Stephenson, who
being in charge of the colony had arranged a drive whereby we were to force the Boers to a given point where block columns were
lying in readiness. The route to which we were appointed ran through Cradock and Garsland Kloof where we skirmished with Lotter’
s Flankers. The same night Colonel Scobell, who was in charge of a column working with us, made a skilful movement and captured
the whole Commando unit 170 strong.
After this we had some easy marches for a day or two along Fish River, for which we were thankful, having been trekking and
skirmishing night and day for almost three weeks. The rainy season was now just commencing and we were sometimes three or
four days wet to the skin without shelter or dry fuel to cook food, so we had to be content with bare biscuit and bully.
Trekking further north we encountered Smuts’ Commandos on the 15th September and drove him towards the Kei River which,
having no transport to bother with, he succeeded in crossing about half an hour before we reached it on the 16th. The heavy rains
had changed a dry bed into a rushing torrent in a short time so it was impossible for us to cross as the mules could not move
against the current. We had to stay there two days, nursing our impatience, half-starved and unable to find any dry wood to cook
our food. We eventually crossed on the 18th, leaving several wagons overturned in the drift.
Meanwhile Smuts had wasted no time and on the 18th he was attacking the 17th Lancers. On approaching their camp he was
challenged by the outpost to whom he replied in English that his was a British Column. The majority of the Boers being dressed in
khaki, the outpost were misled but could not have done anything even if they had realised they were the enemy, for they were
almost on top of them before they were seen. Smuts riding right into their camp, they had very little chance against him, but he
did not get off scot free, and he left with two wagon loads of dead.
Six hour’s trek after crossing the Kei we were at Tarkastad and had just drawn our remounts when a galloper came in from the
Lancers calling for reinforcements. The 11th were at once ordered to mount, a difficult job, the remount being all youngsters. Two
chums and myself saddled the one I had drawn in 15 minutes. When I mounted he protested in real earnest. However, we all got
started and after galloping 13 miles arrived just too late at the scene of the disaster. The camp was in a dreadful state, but we
stayed the night finding pickets for the camp, and on the 19th we rejoined our column and trekked to Maltens district. This was the
only place where we had coal, mines being very thick about there. The RHQ Guns left us at Martinmas Siding and the 38th Battery
RFA joined us – they had with them one of the guns captured at Colenso, afterwards recaptured. Routing snipers we trekked
through Bedford and Adelaide to Cookhouse, from where we entrained for Mount Stewart to take part in a big drive. We stayed for
a few hours at Port Elizabeth where the Ladies Loyal Guild invited us to a splendid breakfast at the Feather Market. This was one of
the towns were martial law did not exist, and several of our men were soon in the prisoners’ truck – tight! Cape smoked was too
much for them. We moved on the same afternoon, and next morning found us at our destination – Mount Stewart.
By that evening we were in readiness to trek at the shortest notice. Communication was kept up between all columns connected
with these drives by means of the heliograph in the daytime, and lanterns worked on the same system at night. Flags were used to
signal short distances. This move, which lasted until the end of October, took us through Jansenville to Buffles Hook over a pass
that took us a whole day to ascend. The mules were unable to drag some of the wagons up and oxen had to be commandeered.
The Boers would not engage us so we had to keep driving them on. One of our scouts, a very clever fellow, was captured here and
at Dawn Bosch, half a day further on, 150 District Mounted Troops surrendered without firing a shot. This corps is composed of
loyal Dutchmen and colonials.
We trekked the whole of the drive from 37-50 miles every day, and the hard going soon knocked men and horses up. We were
reduced to 40 duty men, often having to go on picquet duty three nights in succession. From 3 to 12 men and one NCO form a
picquet, according to the number of sentries mounted. The camp is surrounded by a chain of picquets, each sentry in touch with
another; dismounted picquets are posted about 1000 yards out, and if the camp is in a mountainous part, mounted men are posted
about 3 miles out. If a sentry sleeps at his post he is at once made prisoner to await a Court Martial, when he invariably gets
sentenced to 68 days field imprisonment No. 1.
During this time he does all camp fatigues, and on the march he is not allowed the use of his horse but has to walk whatever
distance is trekked, unless the doctor passes him as unfit for duty. On arriving in camp at night he is tied to a stationary object for
one hour, before being allowed to get something to eat.
At Cradock our part in this drive ended. This is one of the biggest rebel districts in the Colony, men leaving the town every day to
join Commandos. If caught, these rebels got the voyage but they were a slippery lot. We spent a day or two routing these chaps
who are very fond of sniping but will not stand. Then we made our way to Bethesda Road where we arrived on 21st October. After
a week’s rest we trekked again, but owing to drifts being swollen and impassable, the drive ended, and on 30th October we camped
at Lets Kraal, a small railway siding, entraining on the 1st November for Willowmore. Entraining is a lengthy business, each
Squadron or Company having a separate train. The 11th in this instance was the first to move off. The train is made up by two
officers’ carriages in front followed by ration trucks, two open trucks of men (‘Tommy’s Pullmans’), 8 covered vans for horses and
mules, the guardsvan and a truck of men as rear guard. We started on our journey about 10.30 am on 1st November.
At about 5 o’clock the following morning just as we were entering Graaf Reinett, those of us occupying the first two trucks were
awakened by a severe jolting, and were horrified on looking behind us to see the trucks containing the horses had broken away and
left the line and were lying in a heap on the banking. One of them had rolled into a river bed – crossing the bridge spanning this had
caused the coupling to break. Entering Graaf there is an incline about three miles long, at the bottom of which is a bridge 150 yards
long, spanning the Sunday River. Coming down the incline the brakes refused to respond to the driver and those in the rear
guardsvan were not strong enough to check the train, so we came on to the bridge at the rate of 60 miles an hour, the swaying of
the trucks causing the coupling to break. The guard and the men in the rear had a miraculous escape; the van in running off the
line caught in the sandbag fort, one of which is erected at each end of all bridges out there. The truck was thrown on end and the
men severely shaken, but no-one was seriously injured. Those of us in the first portion of the train were not pulled up till two miles
past where the disaster occurred. We at once ran back and set to work to save what horses we could from the wreck. The
ironwork of the smashed trucks kept the animals imprisoned and the stuggling and screaming of the injured animals was too
dreadful for description. Out of a total of 120 horses and 30 mules, only 20 horses and 23 mules were fit for use, the remainder
were either killed outright or so badly injured that they had to be taken to the remount depot to be patched up and rested. We
retrucked the horses fit for use, and after a day’s work that none of us are likely to forget we continued our journey and arrived at
Willowmore on Sunday, 3rd November. No time was lost in supplying us with remounts – they came up to us on the 4th and the
following day the Column moved off in search of Malan’s Commandos.
On 6th November we engaged Malan’s Commandos, and our Chief Officer Colonel B Doran got badly wounded in the thigh and was
also crushed by his horse falling on him. He went into hospital and we lost him for good as on his recovery he was given the
command of another column. Colonel W Doran took command of our column about the end of November. Meanwhile, under the
temporary command of Major Edwards, we followed the Boers, skirmishing with them daily, finally abandoning the chase at
Setjesbosch for want of provisions, having existed for several days on mealy flour (ground Indian corn) which we had
commandeered. Our cooking utensils were very primitive, anything in the way of old tin pans or bits of slate coming in handy. Of
the flour we either made porridge or cakes; these cakes were warranted to kill at a thousand yards.
At Setjesbosch our new Colonel joined us and we took up the chase of Malan again. At Sutherland he doubled, and hearing of
another command we left him to the care of other columns. In Sutherland we were unable to buy even matches; the inhabitants
were in a half-starved state, the children would hang round our camps all day for scraps. When we left we took 50 of the garrison
with us on trek to guard the convoy and any prisoners that might be taken.
On 9th December we engaged Lotter’s Commandos and relieved Loubelbosch-Kock in the Calvinia District where rebels were very
thick and causing a lot of trouble. We returned through Sutherland and leaving our prisoners in the gaol there we trekked for
Magersfontein taking in charge there a convoy of provisions which we escorted safely back to Sutherland. Two days before
Christmas we were existing on beltong and short biscuit rations, so you may guess how delighted we were when, on Christmas Day,
we were met by wagons containing rations and a few early Christmas parcels. Being on the Karroo Desert where extras of any kind
were unobtainable, these were not left whole long, everyone wanting to sample the Christmas cheer from home. At night camp fires
were made up and we enjoyed ourselves in earnest.
On 30th December we camped at Ceres, one of the prettiest towns I ever saw. Nestling in amongst great kopjes, you had no idea
of its existence until right into it. Fruit growing was the principal trade and we lived on dainties the two days we stayed there. We
then trekked for the Karroo; this desert covers 11,000 miles of the Colony and, excepting a few farms dotted here and there, is a
barren wilderness, nothing but sand meeting the eye for miles. Water is very scarce, being found only on farms which are from 12
to 40 miles apart, and is very brackish. It reminded me of the old Sulphur Well at home in Harrogate. The water is said to be good
for rheumatism but the smell is repulsive.
On 11th January we had a hard day’s fighting near Bickerfontein. The Cape Police who had joined us at Ceres did some good work.
On 24th January we camped at Elandslaagte. Water here was fairly plentiful, being stored in great dams for fruit growning, and we
had not been offsaddled long before we learnt that. The grapes attracted most of us and, just being ready for eating, we soon
lightened the vines. After resting here two days a good half of the column left us and returned to Ceres. The remainder, about 270
strong, consisting of three Squadrons of Yeomanry, one of the Cape Mounted Rifles and the 38th Battery RFA, trekked in search of
We reached Actor Kop on 4th February and, learning that the Boers were in the vicinity, a patrol composed of 100 men was at once
picked out to follow and engage them. On these patrols our cloak and one blanket were strapped on the saddle and rations for
three or four days taken in the wallets. We always carried 200 rounds of ammunition, 150 in bandoliers and 50 rounds in wallets.
Leaving the Kop at midnight we found Johnny Boer about dawn and commenced a race from ridge to ridge till the middle of the
afternoon when, our horses being done up, we had to camp.
Meanwhile, those left behind with the convoy trekked after us camping at noon at Middlepost Farm, Dchoop District, some 20 miles
distance from us. At about 1 o’clock clouds of dust were reported on their right flank, but expecting it was the patrol returning not
much notice was taken until the quantity of dust convinced the officer in charge that it was some larger party. The scouts were sent
out but soon returned reporting from 500-800 Boers rapidly approaching. Preparations were at once made for the attack but our
position as well as numbers were alike inferior to the Boers who were the joined Commandos of Smuts, Van de Venter, Fouchee
and, I think, Malan. Fighting went on till late at night, then the Boers seized the wagons and set fire to them. Our party were again
at a disadvantage, the blaze giving away their position completely. They therefore shifted some small distance and took the kraals
and some ridges as their position. A successful attempt was made to send a despatch rider to the patrol whose picquets he
surprised about 4 in the morning. We saddled at once and arrived at Middlepost just before noon. We acted in reserve until 5 o’
clock when a retirement was made. The guns with only three rounds left came first then the men, who after fighting 27 hours were
faded out, filed through our line. We closed in and the march to Ceres commenced.
That the Boers had had enough was proved by their not attempting to follow us. Their casualties numbered over 100 and an
armistice for the purpose of removing the dead and wounded was arranged early in the morning and 42 Boers were removed from
one ridge, our ambulance wagon being used. About 45 of our chaps fell. Our kits containing what few curios we had collected were
burnt along with all the rations. A wagon with some shells packed on it was also among the captured lot and blew up while we were
there, bursting the wagon and scattering the rest which kept going off as long as the fire lasted. We left our wounded in charge of
a doctor and orderlies, who also buried our dead. None of those left behind, except the doctors and orderlies, ever joined us again
but were invalided home, most of them from Wynberg Hospital.
We trekked on that night to the farm where the patrol had been camped. Next morning we were served out with a cup of porridge
made of mealy flour and water, prepared for us by the wife of the farmer. For seven days after this we existed on a small cup of
flour per day and fresh meat when we could get it. The flour we commandeered from the few farms we passed on our way, but as
they were so far out we could not take much, they having much difficulty getting it for themselves. At Waggon Drift we had the run
of some goats that were half wild, and these appeased our hunger a little.
Two days from Ceres we met wagons bringing food out to us. You can imagine they were heartily welcomed – I shall not easily
forget. One night on that trek it had been raining nearly all day, we were wet through and hungry, so had two evils to choose from:
either sleep on the wet ground or walk about feeling an awful sort of emptiness under our belts. I slept, with the consequence that
I should have liked crutches to get about with for days after. We arrived in Ceres on 14th February. The townspeople were
expecting us and turned out en masse to greet us. The ladies invited us to a tea and concert the same night, and almost every
night we stayed there. Bedding and clothes were served out to us here; no horses being kept we entrained for Matjiesfontein, a big
Remount Dept where we were all supplied with new mounts.
We trekked north again, keeping near the line for about 400 miles. Every thousand yards a blockhouse is erected, these are
garrisoned by regulars and militia and in the flat districts a few are trusted to armed black boys. On either side of the line are high
rails with barbed wire so arranged on them that it is a hard task to climb over them or knock them down. In the centre of the
barbed wire runs a wire rope, the whole length of the route, and this is attached to a spring gun at each blockhouse, so that
touching or cutting the rope fires the gun and warns the sentry that something is wrong. One night we had been in our blankets
some time when we were aroused and marched off to the assistance of a blockhouse from which proceeded the sounds of heavy
firing. On arrival there we found the native boys in charge firing wildly at the supposed foe, which, on our reconnoitring turned out
to be an ostrich that had got entangled in the fence and had fired the alarm gun! The blacks were glad when we left them and I
think they would turn no other column out without due cause!
Eventually we left the railway and trekked amongst the Britstown Hills in pursuit of Conroy’s Commandos, a party that were
wrecking the farms and homes of people loyal to the British. On 22nd March we entered Britstown and here took charge of a
donkey convoy proceeding to Preisha. 1,100 Infantry (Liverpool and Middlesex) were already attached to this convoy as guard, so
our duty was to scour the country in the direction the wagons were moving, travelling about 50 miles a day to the convoy’s 20.
Conroy did not give us much chance of getting very near him, but on the 27th at Amdensplay we caught him napping and peppered
him hotly with shell and rifle fire before he got away from us. You must remember we were only a small column, 250-odd were all
the men we could muster, quite unequal to surrounding and forcing a Commando of upwards of 500 men to engage us, and these
rebels were having far too good a time to fight, unless forced. Consequently our attack had to be either in mass or by manoeuvres
on flanks or rear. Eventually we got the convoy safely to Preisha, frustrating all Conroy’s attempts to capture it. We returned to
Britstown and from there trekked to Deelfontein where one of the biggest hospitals in the Colony is situated. We rested here, and
during our stay played football against the RAMC. Biscuits proved unequal to the strain, for the bread men licked us to the tune of
3 to 1. After three days’ rest we moved off and about the 20th April were engaging Malan near Lafleberg. We then trekked into
Graaf Reinett as remounts were needed. After being fit up with all needfuls we made for the Candeboos, a favourite district of the
Boers in winter.
On 28th April 100 men were detached from the column and, accompanied by the Artillery, were ordered to thoroughly scout Platt
Drift, a dangerous valley often occupied by the Boers. The guns were marching with their escort in the centre of the party. My
troop was in the rear, five of which, myself included, were 1,000 yards behind, acting as point. The valley was flaked by great kopjes
on the right and several ridges on the left. The space between them was covered by prickly pear bushes which overlapped the road,
so as to only allow us to pass along in files. Halfway down the valley a road branched off to the left. This was the only outlet the
artillery could take advantage of, as a mere goat track was the only means of getting over the kopjes at the further end of the valley
which was impossible for the guns. The main body were just crossing a drift about 20 yards past the road on the left when a heavy
fire from the kopje on the right took them completely by surprise. They could not return the fire for the Boers were completely
hidden by the bushes, so they took cover in the drift and waited in the hopes that the rear would get a position and cover their
retreat. When the firing commenced the officer in charge of the rear troop gave the order to “Close up”, but the leading files must
have misunderstood for they passed the word back to retire. The rear files immediately wheeled about and galloped down the road,
meeting us as we were closing up. We joined in the retreat which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for our
party, and galloped about 500 yards down the road. We then turned off towards the ridges on the left. Taking these we poured a
heavy fire on the enemy’s position, thereby drawing their fire and enabling the artillery to unlimber and turn about, then with a rattle
and rush the guns galloped into safety taking advantage of the road halfway down the valley. The other troops also got into
position and peppered the Boers hotly for two or three hours before returning to camp. Horses proved to be our greatest loss
here; only four men were killed, one of whom, a heliographer, belonged to my company, and his instrument was missing, the Boers
having commandeered it. The Boer casualties were heavy, their numbers I forget.
We that took the ridge were like a lot of porcupines, the valley being thick with prickly pears growing something like a cactus
reaching the height of 8 to 10 feet, the leaves being covered with spines. Our gallop through these bushes resulted in our being
studded with their spines, so we spent the next day pulling them out of each other. One man who had the misfortune to be thrown
in them was covered from head to foot.
Soon after this engagement the artillery left us about worn out. The column moved into Graaf Reinett and was reinforced there by
the 17th Lancers, Bethune’s Mounted Infantry, two Maxims and a pom-pom. Trekking again we were soon driving Malan and
Fouchee amongst the Candeboos. On the 10th May we got to close quarters, but they would only make a short stand. However,
we got the pom-pom working on them finely; on some kopjes we took, pools of blood gave evidence of heavy casualties. Following
the spoor of the enemy we trekked through Rierston and Somerset East into the Cradock district, camping on 15th May at Larka
Bridge; most of us were fast asleep when the news of peace came into camp, but the few that had not turned in soon had us all
awake by their cheering and shouting. A rough and ready concert was on the go at once and kept up well into the morning.
On 2nd June patrols were sent out as peace envoys to farms and Commandos in the district. The one picked from the 23rd had
bad luck; about 8 miles from camp they came up with the rear guard of Fouchee’s Commandos. The officer in charge, losing his
presence of mind, ordered his men to retire, and the Boers not knowing of peace and seeing an armed party galloping away from
them fired, killing the officer and two men, and wounding two. It was hard luck to have been trekking just a year and then to be
killed after the proclamation of peace. Only one of the patrol escaped capture, and when he arrived back at camp while we were
having dinner, we were ordered to saddle up at once and galloped off to give what help we could. We arrived too late to be any
good. From a fine position, under orders not to fire until fired upon, we watched the Boers pass below us in mass. The Boer
commandant sent a galloper in to our colonel inquiring as to the terms of peace. On receiving these he marched his forces into
Cradock and surrendered.
We patrolled about the district in search of rebels until 10th June. We then pitched camp at Cradock and were catered for by the
Solders’ Home, which was a fine thing, though these extras had to come out of our own pockets. The column disbanded and the
Lancers, Cape Mounted Rifles and Bethune’s Mounted Infantry trekked to their different headquarters. The three companies of
Yeomanry stayed six days at Cradock and, discipline having relaxed a little, we had a rare old time. Marching on the 16th we passed
through Middleburg where our Colonel left us, giving us a grand testimonial as to our serve with him. We trekked on through
Richmond to reach Victoria West Road on 24th, where the 11th with the rest of the 3rd Regiment was mobilising. Our horses were
taken from us and we were in the hopes that we were for home at once – but no such luck. We had Infantry drill until 1st August
and then entrained for Cape Town taking up our quarters in Greenpoint Camp on the 3rd. On the 5th we embarked on board the
SS Kinfawns Castle. Duty was very light coming home – we had practically nothing to do but sleep and get fat. On 18th we called
at Madeira for coal, and on the 23rd we steamed into Southampton docks, the decks crowded with men all eager to recognise some
relative or friend welcoming them to Englandfontein. On the 30th August 1902 at Aldershot we were paid what money they owed
us, and our military career was over.
|Thomas Cook- 11th Company Imperial Yeomanry