Two Irish Commandos fought alongside the Boers against the British forces during the Second Boer War (1899–1902).
Irish Transvaal Brigade
The Irish Transvaal Brigade was organised by John MacBride, who at the time was employed at the Band mines. Most of the battalion-strength Brigade were Irish or Irish-American miners living in the Transvaal, who were willing to fight with the Boers against the British. The Brigade was bolstered during its campaign by a contingent of volunteers who came from Chicago and by a variety of Irish volunteers, who travelled from America and Ireland for the purposes of joining the Brigade.
John MacBride wrote his own account of the Irish Transvaal Brigade. This is to be found in Anthony J. Jordan's edited version of the writings of MacBride.
The brigade (also known as MacBride's Brigade) was operational from September 1899 to September 1900. In that time, the brigade fought in about 20 engagements, with 18 men killed and about 70 wounded from a complement of no more than about 300 men at any one time. When it disbanded, most of the men crossed into Mozambique, which was a colony of neutral Portugal. Colonel John Y. F. Blake, a former United States Army officer was the brigade's commander. When he was wounded, his second-in-command, Major John MacBride, took command.
Prior to the siege of Ladysmith,the commandos were involved in guarding the artillery under Carolus Johannes Trichardt.The brigade also provided signal service at the battle of Modderspruit. At the Siege of Ladysmith, they serviced the famous Boer artillery piece, called Long Tom, and they fought at the Battle of Colenso. Having worked in the gold mines, they had a well-deserved reputation as demolition experts and it was they who delayed the British advance on Pretoria by blowing up bridges. The brigade disbanded after the battle of Bergendal.
The brigade received letters of thanks before they left South Africa from State Secretary F. W. Reitz, Comdt.-Gen. Louis Botha and General B. Viljoen.
The Second Irish Brigade was formed in January, 1900 by former members of the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Former Le Journal correspondent Arthur Lynch was appointed as the unit's commander. The brigade consisted of 150 commandos from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Including among others Irish, Australian, Greek, German, Boer and Italian members.
The brigade remained attached to General Lukas Meyer's command in Natal, retiring to Laing's Nek after the siege of Ladysmith.The brigade fought in the rear guard, during the retreat from Ladysmith to Glencoe.The brigade was later ordered to Vereeniging, but was disbanded while in Johannesburg. After the dissolution of the brigade, Lynch together with a small group of Irishmen joined various commandos along the Vaal river.