• Harry Fecitt

BRITISH ARMOURED CARS FIGHT ALONGSIDE THE MOUNTED INFANTRY COMPANY AND BELFIELD'S SCOUTS


Country in the Maktau area


The Mounted Infantry (MI) Company, now under the command of Captain George Atkinson of the Loyal North Lancashires and based at Maktau Camp, patrolled the Voi-Taveta branch railway line in late 1915, skirmishing with small parties of Germans and bringing the company .303-inch machine gun into action whenever a suitable field of fire could be obtained amongst the thick clumps of bush that dominated the landscape.


On 9th December 1915 a large contact developed between German raiders and another British East Africa (BEA - Kenya) mounted infantry unit, Belfield’s Scouts, which was supporting four British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) armoured cars under Lieutenant Commander H.G. Nalder. Four officers, one machine gun and 75 rifles of the MI Company were sent out to reinforce Belfields’ Scouts, whose commander, Major A.F. Arnoldi, had been killed in action as the contact developed. Belfield’s Scouts was a unit of mostly Boer farmers from western BEA who had decided to support the British whilst many of their brethren across the border in GEA had sided with the Germans.


Royal Naval Air Service armoured cars


George Atkinson found that Belfield’s Scouts were more than holding their own against a superior force of enemy as the heavy machine gun fire of the British armoured cars, whilst not very accurate because of the thick bush, demoralised the German Askari. The MI Company pursued the withdrawing enemy for 3.5 miles through bush 1,200 yards south of the Maktau – Taveta road.


The Mounted Infantry Company practising dismounted drills


This chase wore out the mounts and the company moved onto the road where it took prisoner two German whites and five Askari. Meanwhile a group of Belfield’s Scouts under Lieutenant N.J. Grobler had killed around 20 of the enemy and taken two German whites prisoner; one of the Europeans, Volunteer Otta Spinge, was recognised as having been at the scene of the fight on 3rd September, when wounded men of the MI Company were overrun and killed or captured. Most of the German troops in the action came from 19 Field Company. The captured Europeans were later shipped to Prisoner of War Camps in India. Lieutenant Nick Grobler, Belfield’s Scouts, was later awarded a Military Cross.


Maktau Camp in late 1915 and early 1916


The next morning the MI Company returned to the scene of the action to search the area and had another contact with enemy troops who were also searching for wounded men and discarded weapons. Due to thick bush the contact was inconclusive but at least one enemy Askari was killed. Patrols and small actions continued for the remainder of December.


For gallantry displayed on 9th December 1915 No. 9671 Private W.R. Higgins, 2nd Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and the Mounted Infantry Company, was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. His citation read:


For conspicuous gallantry, under heavy machine gun & rifle fire, in going to the assistance of an officer. In endeavouring to place the officer on his mule the animal broke away. Private Higins then ran some 600 yards, again under heavy fire, to the armoured cars which were in action, and warned them of the officer’s predicament which led to his rescue.


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