When stationed at Aldershot, the regiment received, on the 12th Feb. 1879, a sudden order for service in South Africa. With the least practicable delay volunteers made it up to war strength from other corps, horses also being transferred; and on the 27th Feb. the left wing embarked at Southampton, under the command of Major Marter, in the hired transportation the right wing, with HQ, following next day, under Col. Alexander,In the Egypt. Both ships reached Durban on the 18th April, and each wing disembarked in order of arrival.
The Regiment. marched to Pietermaritzburg by wings, the left arriving on the 18th and the HQ on the following day. The Regiment. thus united left Pietermaritzburg on the 28th April, and proceeded to Dundee, where it was shortly afterwards joined by the 17th Lancers. On the 19th May both regiments. The brigade being under Gen. Marshall Marched Rorke’s Drift, bivouacking en route, and near the drift.
Before daylight on the 21st the brigade crossed the Buffalo River, and advanced with such speed as due precaution would allow to the battleground of Isandlwana. Many bodies were recognized and buried, and thirty- Nine waggons and a rocket-cart were brought away, every available horse of the transport service having been taken for the purpose.
The regiment. after a day’s rest, set out for Landsman’s Drift, and then proceeded to Koppie Allein, on the Blood River, where it arrived on the 26th May. On the 27th two squadrons under Major Marter made a lengthened Reconnaissance into Zululand, in order that the line of advance for the 2nd Div, then assembling at Koppie Allein, might be determined.
On the 1st June about 174 of all ranks, under Major Marter, marched into Zululand with the 2nd Div. forming two strong field squadrons in single rank. The HQ and four troops marched to Conference Hill, there to be stationed, and two troops, under Capt. Willan, set out for Rorke’s Drift, to support that post. The detachment under Major Marter formed p art of the cavalry force which went out of the camp at Itelezi Hill, under Gen Marshall, on the 2nd June, to search for the Prince Imperial’s body, one troop, with a troop of the 17th Lancers, forming the escort on the way in.
On the 6th June Major Marter’s two squadrons took part in the recon naissance made b y Gen. Marshall in the neighbourhood of the Upoko River. Some of Col. Buller’s men from Wood’s column joined the force en route.The Zulus were found strongly posted in a wood at eZungeni, which was intersected with dongas, and in front of which was a line of four kraals. Buller’s men managed to fire the kraals, but a heavy fusillade was poured upon them from the wood, and several of their horses were killed and their men wounded, they retired. Col. Lowe then took the 17th Lancers to within 1 50 yards of the wood, and, dismounting some men, opened fire. Seeing this, and fearing the Zulus might rush out upon the horses, the K.D.Gs. formed up on the flank and right rear of the 17th; the Zulus, however, remained completely concealed in the wood. After a time the troops retired by Gen. Marshall’s order, the enemy following in skirmishing order and round by their dongas on either flank. The Dragoons had barely crossed the Upoko, in which were quicksands, when a brisk fire was opened upon them from the further bank.
On the 8th June Major Marter’s detachment took part in a reconnaissance in force round the hills where the cavalry affair had taken place on the 6th. So me h und reds of Zulus were seen, and about twelve kraals were shelled and burnt. The detachment left the 2nd Div. on the 17th June, being ordered to proceed to Fort Newdigate in order to reconnoitre the country towards Ulundi by the Nhlazatshe Mountain, and assist in escorting convoys to ward s the front. Major Marter took command of the fort, the garrison consisting of (besides the Dragoons) two cos. 21st Fusiliers, one co. Bengough’s Native Contingent, two Gatling guns with detachment R.A., and sixty mounted natives. On the 21st Col. Davies, Grenadier Guards, arrived and assumed command as senior officer.
From date of reaching Fort Newdigate (17th June) until 26th July the detachment was employed almost without Intermission in reconnoitring distant parts of the country, being generally in the saddle from before daylight till after dark. In these raids some scores of native villages were destroyed. From the same date all stores for the front were escorted up by the detachment alone as far as Fort Newdigate or Fort Marshall, for which purpose it had very frequently to proceed to Koppie Allein (twenty-five miles distant), bivouac, and return with its charge next day. Whilst the detachment was at Fort Newdigate, Major Marter and three of his men, at the suggestion of Col. Davies built a monument over the spot on which the Prince Imperial’s body was found.