King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
On the Veldt: The British Army in South Africa 1899-1902

Arrival in South Africa


Letter home from CreteA note from CreteColour-Sergeant John Archer, 2nd battalion Rifle Brigade, was amongst the first British soldiers to be deployed to South Africa.

On 14 September 1899 he was already on his way to South Africa before hostilities had been formally declared.

From Crete he wrote home a short note to his mother about this sudden movement. He did not write home again until 26 October after he had landed in Durban.

Cape Town

Captain Henry de Lisle arrived in Cape Town on 19 November 1899 to take command of two companies of Mounted Infantry.

Upon first meeting the local residents, de Lisle said: '[I] felt certain I could count on their assistance and co-operation. I was much struck by the Cape Colony Boer: for the word Boer means farmer. He is usually a fine man over six foot; in looks and and nature not unlike the Scotch farmer.’ (Reference: De Lisle 1, ‘My narrative of the South African War’, Vol. 1)


Colonel Gordon 1900 alamanacExtract from Gordon's diaryColonel James Redmond Gordon received orders on 1 January 1900 to take command of the 17th Lancers.

He was stationed in India at the time and was to proceed directly to South Africa. He travelled via mail train from Meerut, near New Delhi, to Bombay before embarking for Durban on 13 January 1900.

He landed at Cape Town on 1 February 1900 after a voyage of seventeen days at sea. (Reference: Pyman 20, ‘Rough Diary and Almanac 1900’)

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