Monday 19 June 2017

Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles and the South African Light Horse.

One feature of the Second Anglo-Boer War was the fervor among civilians (men and women) to volunteer for the forces of the British Empire. Many civilian units are well known that were raised in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Canada . Volunteers from the UK arrived in 1900 with the Imperial Yeomanry, but a small number were determined to join the fray before then.

Calls in the UK in 1899 to raise a civilian volunteer force were rejected by the War Office. One of those calling for this force was Sir George Canning, Lord Harris, a man with interests in South African mining businesses. Lord Harris was also Honorary Colonel of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles, rebuffed by the War Office he encouraged his own men to go to South Africa and join one of the many units being raised there. Eleven men came forward and traveled in November 1899 to enlist in the Imperial Light Horse. They, or Lord Harris, paid their passage and they took out their own kit. Lord Harris was a noted cricket player and this group were soon nicknamed "Harris' Eleven", their departure did not go unnoticed by the newspapers:

"It is impossible to estimate the far-reaching effects of the patriotism of the dozen (sic) men of the East Kent Yeomanry.." [The Globe 21-12-1899]

When they arrived in Cape Town they learned that the ILH had been besieged in Ladysmith, so they decided to join the South African Light Horse being raised in Cape Town.

The 11 men are:

822 Sergeant-Major Charles Tilleard Mudford
823 Trooper A Monckton
824 Sergeant HH Clarke
825 Trooper AD Butcher
826 Trooper A Goodhew
827 Trooper George Percy Tice
828 Lance-Sergeant H Foster
829 Trooper Ernest Albert Sole
830 Trooper Thomas Owen Robinson
831 Trooper Thomas Morgan Deveson
832 Trooper Thomas Banbury Palmer

They served through the Relief of Ladysmith campaign and the clearance of Natal. It did not take long for them to draw praise from their Army commander, Maj-Gen Sir Redvers Buller, VC, himself a noted leader of irregular cavalry: 

"Among the best irregulars I have here are a party of the East Kent Yeomanry Cavalry" [The Globe 21-12-1899] 

Buller was an advocate of raising a large force of irregular cavalry and was undoubtedly using these 11 men as an example to further his agenda. One newspaper report labels these men as "pioneers of the Imperial Yeomanry". [London Evening Standard 27-07-1901]

This group suffered just one casualty, Ernest Sole died of enteric fever at Standerton on July 21st, 1900. He is remembered with a memorial in St Mary's Church, Stodmarsh, Kent and the Kent units memorial in Dane John Park, Canterbury, Kent. 

Sgt-Major Mudford was MID and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (London Gazette 08-02, 27-09-1901). Sgt HH Clarke was MID (London Gazette 08-02-1901).

Of the remaining 10 they all returned home in 1900 apart from GP Tice who was commissioned into Robert's Horse and later served with the Prince of Wales Light Horse, South African Mounted Irregular Forces and finally 9th bn Imperial Yeomanry. Tice remained in South Africa taking part in the 1906 Natal Rebellion (L-Cpl Transvaal Mounted Rifles). He fought in World War I as a Major in the Lancashire Fusiliers. 

The 10 received their medals from King Edward VII on July 26th, 1901 in a large parade. The weather was foul, rain delaying the start. When the men received their medals, they were without clasps, these were issued later. I have recorded six of the eleven QSAs: Clarke, Butcher, Deveson, Mudford, Robinson and Tice. The medals to Clarke, Butcher and Deveson are named to the "RL: E. KENT M.R.".

Tice's QSA, because he was commissioned, is named to the SAMIF, not the unit he first served as when he was an other rank.

Main image is from The Transvaal in War and Peace, N Edwards, H Virtue & Co, 1900 page 201. The picture was taken before they left for South Africa. Sgt-Major Carlisle did not go to South Africa.

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