The Pembroke Yeomanry
LT-COL. R. L. HOWELL, M.B.E., T.D.
Part 4 – The Boer War
Great Britain could never afford a standing Army sufficient for her needs and, in the early days of the Boer War, Sir Redvers Buller was appealing for 8,000 irregulars ‘able to ride decently, but shoot as well as possible.’ In October, 1899, sanction was given for the formation of ‘The Imperial Yeomanry’ for service in South Africa. The Pembroke Yeomanry raised the 30th Company, one-third from its own ranks and the remainder volunteers: commanded by Major E. T. D. Cropper, they landed at Cape Town in April, 1900. At home two new Squadrons were raised, one each in Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire. A second 30th Company was formed to relieve the first, reaching Cape Town on February 25th, 1901, and completing the relief after preliminary training on the 1st June. An even larger body of Pembrokeshire men in the 34th (Welsh) Battalion, commanded by their own Lt.-Col. T. J. Roch, set out before peace was signed in 1902. The role of the Imperial Yeomanry was Mounted Infantry: Bedford cord breeches, khaki tunics and slouch hats had replaced the blue uniform, rifles the swords and carbines.
Both the 30th Companies saw considerable action in this first venture overseas. The first, with White’s Column, distinguished themselves many times, mostly in pursuit of De Wet. They charged to rescue the Rough Riders, ambushed between Springfontein and Bloomfontein, and again with the 16th Lancers at Aasvogel Kop. At Kaffir Kop Major Cropper received three bullet wounds when leading them across broken ground, later dying of pneumonia. The second 30th joined Damant’s Column, charging with a Squadron of Damant’s Horse to the rescue of Damant himself, when he was overwhelmed with the guns at Tafel Kop. They were with him when De La Rey was beaten off by Cookson at Baschbult, receiving especial mention in the history by Conan Doyle. The 34th Battalion came too late to fight, but rendered valuable assistance patrolling on the Zulu Border. From this campaign the Pembroke Yeomanry gained their second Battle Honour, ‘South Africa, 1901’.