The Boer War (1899-1902)
On the 9th October 1899, the 2nd Battalion received orders to mobilise for service in South Africa. The war started three days later, when the Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers) invaded Natal. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions of The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) served in the war, in addition to providing a section of mounted infantry which grew into a company of Gough’s Mounted Infantry.
The 2nd Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Cooke and formed part of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division. Comprising 25 officers and 936 men, the Battalion arrived at Durban on the 21st November. The 4th Brigade played a supportive role in an attack on Colenso, covering the withdrawal of the 2nd Brigade, commanded by Sir Redvers Buller, who suffered over 1,100 casualties.
The 2nd Battalion played a vital role in the Battle of Spion Kop on the 23rd and 24th January 1900. Spion Kop was the largest hill in the region, and its capture represented a significant victory over the Boers and a step towards relieving besieged British forces in Ladysmith. Over 1,700 of the defeated British forces were killed or wounded, including 26 dead and 61 wounded from the Scottish Rifles.
After reaching Ladysmith, the next stage of the campaign was to take Natal, the Transvaal and Pretoria.
Following this, there was a period of guerrilla warfare by the Boers, during which the Scottish Rifles were stationed at Greylingstad Kopje, guarding important lines of communication. On leaving the area on 19th September 1901, the Battalion left their mark in the form of the letters ‘S.R.’ built in stone on the hillside.