[Boer War diary of British army officer.] Autograph diary of 'L. K. Smith [Leonard Kirke Smith] The Royal Scots 2nd. B[attalio]n. Mounted Infantry 2nd. Cavalry Brigade', seeing service in the Battles of Paardeberg, Poplar Grove and Driefontein and

Colonel Leonard Kirke Smith (1877-1941), C.B.E., D.S.O., The Royal Scots, Egyptian Army 1910-1923 [The Second Boer War, 1899-1902]
Publication details: 
South Africa, 1899-1900.
SKU: 15748

70pp., 8vo, in 'Campbell's Albany Diary and Almanac for 1900' (Glasgow: Duncan Campbell & Son), 'Printed 2nd September, 1900. Ownership inscription on front free endpaper: 'L. K. Smith | The Royal Scots | 2nd. Bn. Mounted Infantry | 2nd. Cavalry Brigade'. Internally in fair condition, on aged and worn paper, in heavily worn and stained red cloth binding. Entries dating from 1 October 1899 to 26 May 1900. An interesting first-hand account, conveying a vivid sense of immediacy, from an officer who saw a deal of action and distinguished himself during the campaign. (The Times of 4 November 1899 reported that 'Lieut. L. K. Smith, 1st Batt. Royal Scots, has been selected for employment with the Mounted Infantry in South Africa.' And on 5 May 1900 the same newspaper reported that Smith had 'done specially good service with the Mounted Infantry'.) Smith writes hurriedly, in an untidy hand, and some of the following readings are doubtful. The first entry sees Smith hunting in Rotherham area of Yorkshire (Denaby Wood, Hooton Cliff, Ravenfield) and travelling to Belfast, from whence, on 5 October 1899, he 'Received orders "mobilizing" for Service in S. Africa'. Five days later he leaves Holywood Barracks, Belfast, 'with Mounted Infantry Section, for Aldershot for Service in S. Africa'. On 23 October he 'Embarked 300 M.I. Coy on S.S. "Normandie" Albert Docks, for S. Africa.' And the next day he records: 'Embarked for S. Africa on S.S. "Cephalonia" Cunard Line 5600 gross tons with M.I. Coy. under Capt De Lisle D.R.I., composed of R. Scots. Lt. /Smith | Sco. Rifles Lt. White | Dorset Regt. Lt. Saunders | Arg[yle] H[i]gh[lander]s. Lt Courtenay | F. W. Jeffcock, S.A.S. P.Q.S. see me off | c/ Durham Light Infantry also on board, & 4th Bge Staff & 2nd. Car. Bde Field Hospital'. The ship arrives at Capetown on 18 November, and from then on Smith records his service. On 8 December he writes: 'Returned from De Aar & was sent down with 4 men to Wildfontein to prevent 3000 sheep belonging to rebel farmer by name Venter, being driven over to Boers at . Find Venter has gone to , so order sheep to be driven over to Station. Returned to Hanover Road'. On 6 January 1900: 'Formed up to attack Pink Hill with Cav. & Artillery at 4.30 a.m. after being called out at 3 a.m. by heavy firing by Enemy & Suffolk Regt. which attempted night attack Attack Repulsed Suffolk being 30 killed <?> Col & Adjt <?> 1 missing & 11 officers wounded & missing. Days operations suspended.' 25 January: 'Started from Hobkirk's Farm at 6.30 a.m. for attack on Rietfontein. M.I. sent to occupy forward position, which was done without loss. Wilts relieved us & we rejoined Cav. Bde. Artillery came into action shelling possition 3000 yd range. Wilts attacked on left of ridge Yorks & Essex on right. Cor <?> M.I. kept on left flank. Gen. French ordered infantry not to push attack home if they met with much opposition. Infantry ultimately retired. 1 off 10 men of Wilts wounded. Fight resolved itself into a demonstration on our part. I think our shells did damage. Theirs being ineffective. M.I. had small action on left. Reached Camp at 10 p.m.' Entry for 18 February 1900, headed 'Battle of Paardeburgh [sic]': 'Sunday. 18 | March 15 miles along Modder River with convoy escorted by E. Coy. M.S. | Big fight at Paardeberg Drift. <?> & Cronje surrounded Heavy loss on both sides. | Courtenay wounded early on long dies during the night. Percival killed. D<?> seriously wounded'. On 7 March 1900 the entry is headed 'Battle of Poplar Grove': 'The whole army Corps moved off at 2 a.m. to attack Boer position to the West. Gen Kelly Kenny's Division Cavalry Div. & M. S. sent round Boer left flank. Boer fled on our approach leaving nothing behind except their guns. We pursued them to Poplar Grove about 10 miles up river, but were unable to cut them off owing to their great mobility. At Poplar Grove Boer shell us with percussion shell, one horse in M.S. being hit. Halt at Poplar Grove & bivouac for night having been in saddle for 16 hours. Boer strength about 14,000. Our casualties insignificant. Reswick, 12th Lancers, killed.' And on 10 March 1900, under the heading 'Battle of Driesfontein': 'Marched off from Roodewal with R. E. & came in contact with Boer position at Driesfontein about 9 a.m. M. S moved forward. R. Scots section sent on to scout position. Boers opened heavy fire on us at 400 yds. Section retired losing 1 horse killed, 3 men & 2 horses captured (Pte Thompson, Lamerson, Anderson). Scottish Coy then forward firing line on left of Hart's Coy. We being in open under shell fire until Infantry came up & relieved us at 1 p.m. M.S. then moved with Cavalry to our right flank. Boers fled leaving 103 lead <?> in trenches. Our casualties about 400. Got back to camp at 12 midnight, having been 18 hours in saddle without food.' Three days later he reports the 'Capture of Bloemfontein': 'Marched off in direction of Bloemfontein. Coy. is detached & sent down railway to guard a German ambulance train at Kraal Spruit where we bivouac for night. Lord Roberts, 2nd. Lar. Bde. & Western Coy. M.S. march into Bloemfontein unopposed'. On 31 March he notes that 'Boer using expanding bullets. They also shot down native drivers & unarmed men with wagons.' On 9 April he goes into hospital with a sprained knee. On 5 May 1900 he embarks for home on the Cephalonia. Smith's entry in Who Was Who gives the following account of his career: 'Entered Army, 1897; Capt. 1903; Maj. 1915; Lt-Col 1923; served S Africa, 1899-1902; relief Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Bloemfontein, etc. (despatches twice, two medals six clasps, DSO); Egyptian Army, 1910-23; Adjutant-General, 1919-23 (1914 Star, Medal, Victory Medal, Sudan Medal, 2nd Class Order of the Nile); retired pay, 1926'.?>?>