Click here to read about Lieutenant James Masterson VC, 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment in the Boer War whose heroic action won him the Victoria Cross.
The 1st Battalion were stationed in India in 1899, having just taken part in the Tirah Campaign. Their numbers were greatly depleted by sickness, having discharged 253 men back to England in December 1898. They were well aware of the problems in South Africa but were not anticipating any 'real action' on their part. Therefore there was great excitement on 8th September 1899 when the men received their Warning Order to sail for Durban. Men were transferred to them from other Regiments to make up numbers, and they set sail from Bombay on Sutlej on 21st September 1899. Major Park was Commanding Officer and Major Curry was Acting Commanding Officer in his absence. Their strength was 25 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer and 842 other ranks. Archie Tringham, an Officer transferred from The Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment wrote home that "The Devons are a very nice lot of fellows and the men are a fine lot and very keen on going out". He felt discipline was somewhat lax however! Tringham was looking forward to going to the Transvaal. "I believe the climate is very healthy and we should get a nice, dry heat ... The exciting part is that we do not know if there is going to be a war."
The journey was reasonably pleasant on board the Sutlej. The weather was settled and there was space to move around. Each day began at 6am with physical drill. The men played games and read. They listened to the Band whose services were in constant demand. The food was dull but edible, sometimes accompanied by pickles to add excitement. Instruction given in first aid and field dressings.