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Scottish Yeomanry in South Africa 1900 - 1901
Chapter I


THE week that followed the dark and anxious Christmas of 1899 saw arrangements being made to raise and equip 10,000 Yeomanry Volunteers for service in South Africa, under the name of ' Imperial Yeomanry?' The new year saw the officers and staff of the different Scottish Yeomanry companies busily engaged receiving the applications of intending Volunteers, examining their soundness, their proficiency in riding and shooting, and hurrying forward the necessary preparations for mobilisation and training.

By Monday, 22nd January, 1900, the four companies forming the Scottish Battalion were brought together at their respective headquarters to undergo drill and training till such time as the Government could place a transport at their disposal. The Queen's Own Glasgow Company—to be known as "The 18th Company Imperial Yeomanry "mobilised at Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow; the Ayr and Lanark, or 17th Company, at Ayr; the Lothian and Berwickshire, or 19th Company, at Edinburgh; and the Fife Light Horse, or 20th Company, at Cupar in Fife. Colonel C. R. Burn was appointed in charge of the battalion, with Major Coke second in command.

Four and- a half weeks elapsed before we sailed, and the time was spent in drills—mounted and foot—gymnastics, and learning cavalry methods of managing horses. The old mansion-house of Ruchill was fitted up for our accommodation, and, thanks to Colonel Neilson, of the Queen's Own, we fared well and lacked nothing. Owing to frost, which prevailed the greater part of the time, we did not get much mounted work; and those whose first experience on a horse's back had been gained in one or two lessons in a riding-school were only too pleased to be excused from making an exhibition of themselves at a jump, or of their capacity to stick on without stirrups. They feared lest they might get plucked, even at the eleventh hour, should they come too prominently under the The Regimental Sergeant-Major's notice or the regimental sergeant-major, our riding instructor.

It was a time of enthusiasm, excitement, and restless expectation. Each man could hardly believe his luck in being among the chosen, and caught his breath at the thought that some condition might still be imposed which he could not fulfil, or some test be applied which he could not pass. One or two men had been rejected at a second medical examination, after having left their situations, done a week's drill at the Barracks, and received all sorts of presents and farewell banquets. So we could not feel safe till we were clear away.

I think our many friends must have appreciated our motives and the sacrifices we were about to make better than we did ourselves. We were very much carried away by the novelty and excitement of the moment, and considered we were extremely fortunate to get the chance of going out to the war under such exceptional circumstances. Too much, of course, was made of us, but it was all extremely pleasant, unless, perhaps, the reception in St. Andrew's Hall, where we received at the hands of the Lord Provost and Councillors the much-prized burgess tickets. There, so much was said and sung in our praise, that, had we been allowed, we might have lost our newly-gotten, but still unearned, reputation for bravery by running away from the place altogether.

On 23rd February—a Friday—three companies of the Scottish Battalion, with complete outfit and horses, sailed from the Clyde on board the Allan Line steamship "Carthaginian." The Fife Company went by Southampton. The enthusiasm of our send-off at Prince's Dock baffles description. The citizens of Glasgow turned Out by the thousand, and their numbers were swelled by friends of the other companies from Lanark, Edinburgh, and Ayr. It was a scene that we can never forget, and was a final proof that we carried with us the kindly thoughts and good wishes of those who had already done so much for our comfort and success by showering upon us everything that could possibly be of use in our future campaigning.

"Will ye no come back again?
Better lo'ed ye canna be;
Will ye no come back again?"


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