The Old and the Bold

Mounted Infantry Company

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One of the first decisions made by Lieut.-Colonel D. P. Driscoll on arrival in East Africa, quite possibly influenced by his experience in command of Driscoll’s Scouts during the Second Anglo-Boer War, was to form some of the battalion into a Mounted Infantry section.  Almost immediately on the battalion’s arrival in theatre, small numbers of troops from the battalion had been detailed off to various defensive positions on the Magadi branch railway, linking the main Uganda Railway with Lake Magadi, to counter German attacks against that line.  To assist these troops and to enable a quicker response against any German threats in the area the mounted infantry section of the battalion was also formed.  On 18th May 1915, just two weeks after its arrival in theatre, the first mention of “mounted infantry” in the battalion’s war diary “20 Rank and File (Infantry) 16 Mounted Infantry and 2 Officers proceeded by 9.o’clock train to Mile 56, Magadi.” was made.  A later war diary entry, a month or so later, identifies this “mounted infantry” more specifically as “Mounted Infantry (R.F.)”.

The battalion’s mounted infantry section appears to have stayed in and around the Lake Magadi district, patrolling the area around the railway line from the lake to a point on the railway referred to as Mile 56, until the end of August 1915 when it entrained for Maktau.  Here they were combined with men of the 2nd Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, released from the recently disbanded Cole’s Scouts, another mounted section, to form a 100 strong Mounted Infantry Company initially under the command of Captain J. S. Woodruffe, Royal Sussex Regiment attached 2nd Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Just a few days later, on 3rd September 1915, this newly formed Mounted Infantry Company was involved in an action S.S.W. of Maktau in which it fared badly at the hands of a German patrol, sustaining a number of casualties and after which Lieutenant W. T. Dartnell of the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers was subsequently awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross {See Maktau 3rd September 1915}.

As with much of the early campaign of patrolling and counter-patrolling a chance for quick retribution against the same German patrol manifested itself eleven days later when the Mounted Infantry Company and 100 rifles of the 130th King George’s Own Baluchis was able to ambush the patrol seven miles S. W. of Maktau and inflict heavy casualties upon them.

In excess of sixty officers and men of the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers served at some time in the Mounted Infantry Company which, for the most part, was used as divisional mounted troops in a reconnaissance role or as infantry support in actions such as those at Salaita and Latema-Reata in February and March 1916.  The war diary, detailing the company’s activities between September 1915 and 6th May 1916 when all of the officers & men of the 25th Royal Fusiliers, at that time consisting of Lt. J. P. Grenfell, Lt. M. Ryan, & 38 other ranks, left the Mounted Infantry Company and re-joined the battalion, can be found here: {See Mounted Infantry War Diary}

WO95/5340 - 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers War Diary 1915 May - 1916 November.

WO95/5336 - Mounted Infantry War Diary 1915 September - 1916 July.

WO95/5363 - Maktau Post Base Commandant War Diary 1915 August - 1915 December

Official History. Military Operations East Africa, Volume I, August 1914 - September 1916 compiled by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hordern.

Image courtesy of “The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment Museum via Harry Fecitt”