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A Waiting Game At Ladysmith

The 1st Devons embarked in Durban over the 5th and 6th October and journeyed to Ladysmith in cattle trucks. They were cheered along by crowds wearing Union Jacks. Once at Ladysmith they set up camp and undertook field days and drill. Everyone was anxiously waiting for news. The rumour mill was working overtime and hard fact was hard to come by. On the 12th October the 'B' Company clerk received the official message from Secretary of State for War that "War has been declared by the South African Republic."

The atmosphere was described as "jumpy". Tringham remarked that "This is an extraordinary war. There are several ladies here yet it is possible we may be attacked any day. We had Church Parade today". The situation did not seem real, almost as if no-one quite believed war would come. Everyone was playing a waiting game, wondering where and when the Boers would attack. There was a false alarm on October 13th. The 1st Devons were sent to Van Reenan's Pass along with 4 Cavalry Regiments, 4 Gunner Batteries, The Liverpool Regiment and the Gordon Highlanders. Devonshire's Captain Lafone, freshly arrived from England, galloped straight off to join them only to find the whole force already returning to Ladysmith having seen no sign of any Boer advance.