Paget’s Horse in the Boer War

A colonial pattern helmet of Paget’s Horse showing one version of the helmet flash (Author’s collection)

Paget’s Horse was an elite unit whose four companies (51st, 52nd, 68th and 73rd) 1 made up the 19th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. “They were public school-educated men recruited through advertisements in gentlemen’s clubs.

The battalion was raised by George [Thomas Cavendish] Paget, the son of a British general and a compulsive amateur soldier with a penchant for getting himself involved in any conflict that afforded the chance of action. He never seems to have been a regular officer but served in the Russo- Turkish War of 1877-8 and the Greco-Turkish War of 1897, as well as the Zulu War in 1879. Although aged 46 when the Boer War broke out, he went out to South Africa as second-in-command of his regiment and proved himself to be a man of some courage, being wounded twice. A portly figure who felt at home in the dining rooms and smoking rooms of Pall Mall, Paget recruited 500 officers and men from a tiny, hopelessly inadequate room at the Imperial Yeomanry Committee’s offices in Suffolk Street. However, it at least had the advantage of being only a short stroll from the clubs of which he was a member. Paget’s Horse wore a badge made up of the letters PH which provided a source of instant merriment for the wags on the streets of London, who suggested that it stood for ‘Piccadilly Heroes’ or more commonly for ‘Perfectly Harmless’.” 2

The 51st, 52nd and 68th companies departed on the troopship Tagus on the 16th March 1900 with the 73rd company following on the 31st March 1900 on the Delphic. 3 The battalion arrived in Cape Town, South Africa in April 1900 and was sent to Maitland Camp situated near Cape Town where it spent many weeks waiting for the arrival of its horses and was occupied in cleaning stables, fetching food and forage, striking tents etc. 4

A splendid photograph of a trooper of Paget’s Horse wearing the slouch hat which became so popular during the 2nd Boer War. Note the flash does not have the embroidered initials of “PH” but does have the metal roundel (Photo courtesy of James Holt)

On the morning of the 30th May 1900 a small detachment of Paget’s Horse, led by Lt. J.G.B. Lethbridge, 52nd company, together with other Imperial Yeomanry units, Royal Canadian Artillery, and companies of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own, was engaged in an action at Faber’s Put, in Griqualand West. Lt. Lethbridge was severely wounded with his left forearm being shattered and Trooper Mather was mentioned in despatches for assisting in bringing in the Lieutenant under “very heavy fire.” 5 Casualties were heavy with Rose-Innes stating “twenty-six killed and fifty-one wounded” of the entire force engaged.6

Another variation of the Paget’s Horse flash with no roundel and no evidence of one ever having been fitted (Photo courtesy of James Holt)

Another variation of the Paget’s Horse flash with no roundel and no evidence of one ever having been fitted (Photo courtesy of James Holt)

Paget’s Horse took part in several further actions, as well as convoy duty, including one “general engagement just outside Malmami where Sir Frederick Carrington and Lord Errol commanded. We galloped about from place to place the whole morning without firing a shot… We were not, I think, under actual fire altogether for more than half an hour, although the engagement itself lasted all day.” 7 Four squadrons of Paget’s Horse were present at this action. 8

Another version of the helmet flash showing the roundel separate from the embroidered initials (Photo courtesy of Neville Constantine.)

Another version of the helmet flash showing the roundel separate from the embroidered initials (Photo courtesy of Neville Constantine.)

There were many small engagements in which Paget’s Horse played a part, in conjunction with Colonial forces of New Zealand and Australia. The main area of activity was western Transvaal notably around Mafeking, Ottoshoop, Rustenburg, Zeerust, Lichtenburg, Schweizer-Reneke and the Elands River Staging Post.

“On Friday, the 26th day of July 1901, by command of His Most Gracious Majesty the King, we paraded at the ‘Horse Guards’ to receive our medals.” 9

Trooper Cosmo Rose-Innes author of "With Paget's Horse to the Front"

Trooper Cosmo Rose-Innes author of “With Paget’s Horse to the Front”

1 The 51st and 73rd companies transferred to the 12th Battalion in 1902.
http://www.angloboerwar.com/
2 Bennett, Will, Absent Minded Beggars, Pen & Sword Books, 1999.
3 http://www.angloboerwar.com/
4 Rose-Innes, Cosmo, With Paget’s Horse to the Front.
5 The London Gazette, February 8, 1901, p908.
6 Rose-Innes, Cosmo, With Paget’s Horse to the Front.
7 Ibid.
8 The London Gazette, February 8, 1901.
9 Rose-Innes, Cosmo, With Paget’s Horse to the Front.

9 thoughts on “Paget’s Horse in the Boer War

  1. Benny Bough

    A well researched, written and presented glimpse of Paget’s Horse. I can thoroughly recommend both books written by Stuart Bates & Peter Suciu.

    Reply
  2. Charles Traill

    My father was a member of Paget’s Horse for 1.5 yrs and received the King and Queen’s medals, was wounded at Zeerust and was at the Relief of Mafeking. He then served 1.5 yrs with the Bechuanaland Mounted Police. He later came to Australia, joining the AIF in 1914. Served on Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He was very badly wounded at both sectors. He was awarded the MC at the Battle of Lone Pine on Gallipoli and the DSO in France. He was 3 times Mentioned in Despatches. He finished the war as Lt Col J C M Traill DSO, MC . C O 5th Batt. AIF. He was on Active Service from day 1 of WW2 and died in 1942 as C O VDC Home Forces. I was just 10.

    Reply
  3. Damon

    In researching the life of one of my wife’s ancestors Stanley Winther Caws (68th Coy Paget’s Horse) I came across this website and I agree with David Wanless’ comment that this is the best article I have discovered so far. Out of interest Stanley Winther was a 22 year old electrical engineer who went with the second contingent in January 1901. After returning home post-war he went to Canada in 1903 and did some prospecting and wore the colours of the North West Mounted Police (forerunner to the Royal Mounted Police) in addition to volunteering with the 19th Alberta Dragoons, no doubt putting to use what he learned in South Africa with PH. In 1905 he was a founder of the Lac Ste Anne Legion of Frontiersmen. In 1914 he returned to England with the first contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force but discharged his rank of sergeant with the 19th for the purposes of being appointed to a commission with the 10th Squadron Royal Flying Corps in early 1915. He died on September 21st the same year, shot dead at 10,000 by Max Immelmann ‘The Eagle of Lille’, his observer managed to regain partial control of the rapidly descending aircraft but it took a hard crash landing from which the observer crawled free whilst the wreckage and Stanley Winther Caws burned to a cinder.

    Reply
  4. Stuart BatesStuart Bates

    Hello Damon,

    thanks for the kudos and what a wonderful addition your reply makes. It is always rather pleasing when someone reads our articles but more so when they have a personal aspect to add.

    Thanks,

    Stuart

    Reply
  5. Pingback: A soldier safely residence from the war (this time) – Cover Letter

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