The 3rd Battalion had returned home in 1872 after fifteen years in India without active service. It was now to distinguish itself in three successive campaigns. It was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel W. Leigh Pemberton. Both he and his Second-in-Command, with other officers and men, had been transferred from Hawley's 4th Battalion.

In 1879 the Battalion, then at Colchester, received sudden orders to embark for South Africa in consequence of the defeat of Lord Chelmsford's troops by Cetewayo, the Zulu King, at the Battle of Isandhlwana. It landed at Durban and marched direct to the Tugela, where under Lord Chelmsford himself it formed part of the column to relieve Fort Pierson.

Ginghilovo, 2nd April. Leaving the Tugela on 25th March, it took part in the Battle of Ginghilovo on 2nd April, when the Zulu impis charged up to the muzzles of the men's rifles. After a short half-hours fighting the Zulu army withdrew, leaving an immense number of killed and wounded behind them. The casualties were light, but the Battalion sustained a great loss in the death of Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel F. V. Northey, who was mortally wounded early in the action.

Ulundi. In June the Battalion was engaged in the second advance on Ulundi under Sir Garnet Wolseley; and in the subsequent pursuit and capture of Cetewayo, which brought the Zulu war to a close.

In this campaign Brevet Lieutenant-colonel R.H. Buller was awarded the Victoria Cross.


Eighteen months after the Zulu War the Transvaal Boers, long discontented, decided to rid themselves of British control, and in January, 1881, invaded Natal under General Joubert.

The Third Battalion, now under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Cromer Ashburnham, was then at Pietermaritzburg, in Natal.

Laing's Nek, 28th January. Major-General Sir George Colley, The High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief, having assembled at Newcastle a small force, which included the 3rd Battalion, advanced and attacked the Boers on the 28th in position at Laing's Nek. The Battalion in part covered the left flank, and in part formed a reserve to the assaulting column. The attack was repulsed with heavy loss, and the Battalion covered the retreat.

Ingogo, 8th February. A few days after their success at Laing's Nek the Boers made an attempt to cut Colley's communication with his base at Newcastle. Colley took a small force of two 9 pounder guns, thirty-eight men of the Mounted Infantry and five companies of the 3rd Battalion, under Ashburnham, and crossing the Ingogo River occupied a small plateau on the height beyond. Here the force was attacked and surrounded, the Boers having the advantage of good cover. After seven hours of fighting the night came on and the enemy withdrew. The Battalion lost five out of thirteen officers and 119 out of 293 other ranks. The survivors brought away the guns and marched back to camp. The Adjutant, lieutenant E.O.H. Wilkinson, and six Riflemen who returned to bring in wounded were drowned recrossing the river. Colley's despatch contained a highly complimentary reference to the 3rd Battalion.

Majuba, 27th February. On the night of 26th February Sir George Colley decided to seize Majuba Hill by a night march - a hazardous undertaking which was ably executed. The following day the Boers in three assaulting columns, covered by rifle fire, carried the mountain with great gallantry, and completely defeated the small British force of 414 soldiers and sailors which held it.

Two companies of the 3rd Battalion were posted upon the lower spurs of the mountain, and with a third company, sent out later with ammunition, they covered the retreat.

Colley died a soldier's death upon the summit of the mountain.

The peace which immediately followed gave the Transvaal Republic its independence, but laid the seeds for future conflict.


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