It was well on in the day before the 1st Battalion got back to its camp at the Railway Cutting.
On Sunday, March 4th, a Thanksgiving Service was held on the flat ground between the Convent Hill and the Naval Brigade Hill, which was attended by Generals Buller and White, and on its conclusion the battalion moved into tents outside the works and in front of Gloucester Post.
It was a strange experience moving out into the open, away from the protection of the works. The nerves of most had had a severe strain from want of food and continual anxiety.
It was the anxiety which killed. There is nothing more conducive to the deterioration of men’s minds than false alarms on an empty stomach.
EVENTS FOLLOWING THE SIEGE OF LADYSMITH, AND THE ADVANCE NORTH UNDER SIR REDVERS BULLER
The first few days following the relief were employed in the sorting and reading of four months’ mails and the opening up of presents. Many complimentary telegrams were received by the battalion from England.
Major Davies, Captain Bartlett, and Lieutenant Willis, all of whom had been doing duty with the 2nd Battalion during the relief operations, joined the battalion on the 7th with some eighty-six men who had been sent from Jullunder.
The two battalions were together for a few days only, as the 2nd Battalion after a short rest proceeded with Sir Redvers Buller’s force towards Modder Spruit.
On March 10th the Ladysmith garrison was reorganized, the battalion being placed in the 7th Brigade with the Gordon Highlanders, the Manchester Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade. This brigade was commanded by Colonel W.G. Knox, C.B.
Colonel Park, unfortunately struck down with enteric fever on the last day of the siege, was shortly afterwards invalided to England. In his absence Major Davies took over command of the battalion, and Major Curry having been appointed Commandant of Ladysmith, Captain Jacson took over the duties of Second-in-Command. On March 14th the 7th Brigade marched to Arcadia, seven miles out of Ladysmith on the Vanreenen’s Pass road, camping on a kopje overlooking Dewdrop Spruit. The men were then occupied in route marching and generally getting fit.
[Illustration: Brigadier-General Walter Kitchener]
Brigadier-General Walter Kitchener arrived in camp on the 26th March and took over the command of the 7th Brigade from Colonel Knox, and on April 2nd the battalion, accompanied by General W. Kitchener, marched to Brakfontein, seventeen miles distant under Spion Kop, stopped there in camp on the 3rd, when parties of men went off to view the Boer positions on Spion Kop and Vaal-Krantz, and returned to Arcadia on the 4th.
Innumerable presents were continually arriving from England for the battalion, and the thanks of all are due especially to Mr. Young of Torquay for the indefatigable manner in which he worked, and for the numerous bundles and boxes of presents which he was instrumental in collecting and dispatching both at this time and also afterwards. All these presents were highly appreciated.