Battle Honour RELIEF OF LADYSMITH

Event
Wednesday, 28 February, 1900
Battle Honour RELIEF OF LADYSMITH

The Battle Honour RELIEF OF LADYSMITH is emblazoned on the Regimental Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment. It is one of only six such distinctions that were authorized for the two and a half years' fighting in South Africa.

The British mounted a fourth attempt from 14-27 February 1900 to force a crossing over the Tugela river in order to relieve Ladysmith. General Sir Redvers Buller's force included the 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Major General Hart's 5 Irish Brigade and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Faughs) in Major General Barton's 6 Fusilier Brigade. Buller's plan was to seize the hill features, known collectively as the Tugela Heights, that dominated the approaches and crossing points of the river, especially Hlangwane which the Boers had occupied to such effect during the Battle of Colenso.

At first, Hart's Brigade with the Inniskillings deployed to secure the railhead and provide manpower for pickets, logistic support tasks, and escorts to the Royal Navy's guns. On 17 February, the Faughs secured a hill on the left of the Boer line with few casualties, then scaled Green Hill the following day with the Scots Fusiliers. The Boer's left flank was turned and on 19 February Barton's Brigade seized the key hill feature of Hlangwane where, although the Boers had abandoned it the night before, the Faughs had to drive back a Boer counterattack. Buller was then able to prepare for crossing the Tugela on 21 February and the Inniskillings crossed with Hart's Brigade on the morning of 22 February. Hard fighting followed and the Inniskillings attack on the 23 February against the Boers, on what came to be known as 'Inniskilling Hill', resulted in 60 killed, 168 wounded and 24 missing out of a strength of 512.

Barton's Fusilier Brigade formed up to attack Pieter's Hill shortly after noon on 27 February. The Faughs were on the left attacking with three companies up and, as last light was approaching, the Fusilier battalions fought their way to the top where the Boers still held the north end. Barton ordered forward three companies of the Faughs to drive out the last of the Boers. The enemy inflicted heavy casualties on the officers in particular but the Faughs clung on in the dark to find that by midnight the remnant of the Boer force had slipped away. The Faughs casualties amounted to just over 100 during the fighting for the Relief of Ladysmith.

Buller had at last destroyed the Boer's Tugela River defences. Throughout the next day, 28 February 1900, the Boers' siege ended as they withdrew northwards beyond Ladysmith. On the evening of 1 March 1900, a cavalry force led by Lord Dundonald entered Ladysmith while Buller, with the remainder of his troops, marched into Ladysmith on 3 March 1900.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria heard of the dreadful losses that the Irish Regiments suffered during the fighting and she sent the following telegram to General Sir Redvers Buller:

'I have heard with the deepest concern of the heavy loss sustained by my brave Irish soldiers. I desire to express my sympathy and my admiration of the splendid fighting qualities which they have exhibited throughout these trying operations. - VRI'