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In the Ranks of the C.I.V., by Erskine ChildersIn the Ranks of the C.I.V.

A biographical account of Erskine Childers' service with the CIV artillery battery at the end of the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, 1900.

As with most men of his social background and education, Childers was a steadfast believer in the British Empire. Indeed, for an old boy of Haileybury, a school founded to train young men for colonial service in India, this outlook was almost inevitable, although he had given the matter some critical consideration. In 1898, then, as negotiations over the voting rights of British settlers in the Boer territories of Transvaal and Orange Free State failed and the Boer War broke out, he needed little encouragement when in December Basil Williams, a colleague at Westminster and already a member of the volunteer Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), suggested that they should enlist together. It was, therefore, as an artilleryman that Childers joined the City of London Imperial Volunteers (CIV), something of an ad hoc force comprising soldiers from different territorial regiments, but funded by City institutions and provided with the most modern equipment. He was classed as a "spare driver", caring for a pair of horses and riding them in the ammunition supply train. The unit set off for South Africa on 2 February 1900 and here Childers's sailing experience was useful: most of the new volunteers, and their officers, were seasick and it largely fell to him to care for the troop's thirty horses. After the three-week voyage it was something of a disappointment that the HAC detachment was, initially, not used. It was not until 26 June, while escorting a supply train of slow ox-wagons, that Childers first experienced enemy fire, in three days of skirmishing in defence of the column. However it was a smartly executed defence of a beleaguered infantry regiment on 3 July that established their worth and more significant engagements followed.

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