C.B. London Gazette 25.6.1904.
C.B.E. London Gazette 3.6.1919.
Brigadier-General Malcolm Orde Little, C.B., C.B.E., was one of that distinguished band of Cavalry Commanders during the Boer War which included Haig, Allenby and Byng. As well as his exploits as a Brigade and Regimental Commander in many of the major engagements, his name will always be remembered as having featured in Colonel Frank Rhodes' cryptic message to the defenders of Mafeking. As the Mafeking Relief Column approached the town they sent a message to Baden-Powell in order to forewarn him about their strength. Rhodes chose a code which would be unfathomable to the Boers if the message was intercepted. The Times History's rather dry account understates a 'Boy's Own' episode which rapidly entered Mafeking folklore: 'At Baden-Powell's request Mahon sent him an account of the numbers of his force, his guns, and the state of his supplies in the following enigmatical form, as he had no cypher: "Our numbers are the Naval and Military Club multiplied by ten [94 (Piccadilly) x 10 = 940]; our guns, the number of sons in the Ward family ; our supplies, the O.C. 9th Lancers [Little]."'
Leadership at Modder River and Magersfontein
When the 9th Lancers sailed for South Africa in September 1899 their Commanding Officer, Colonel Bloomfield Gough, was in England on sick leave and Little, as Second-in-Command, was temporarily commanding. When Gough resumed command in South Africa, Little reverted to Second-in-Command and first came to prominence when, following a reconnaissance before the Battle of Modder River, he advised Lord Methuen that the Boers were stronger in numbers than previously thought. Methuen ignored Little's report and sent his troops into the ambush at the river bank. The Times History records of the Battle of Modder River that: 'At one time during the morning the Boer guns brought a most effective fire to bear on a white house and kraal, a mile above Bosman's Drift, in which a company of mounted infantry had esconced itself, at the same time sweeping the line of retreat. Seeing that the little garrison would soon be annihiliated, Major Little promptly created a diversion by advancing two squadrons of dismounted Lancers towards the river bank, and drawing the Boer fire till the mounted infantry had effected their retreat'.
Little had superseded Gough in command of the 9th Lancers when the latter was blamed for the failure of the cavalry to press home the advantage after the victories at Belmont and Graspan and unceremoniously sacked. Gough was sent in disgrace to Stellenbosch on 26.11.1899 and for the rest of the War the term 'Stellenbosched' came to be the euphemism used for Officers relieved of their command. Gough never recovered from having been superseded and committed suicide in March 1900.
Little was Mentioned in Despatches by Lord Methuen for his gallantry at the Battle of Magersfontein where the 9th Lancers, having been driven back by heavy fire, were dismounted and placed in the firing line on the right flank: 'Major Little, in the firing line, did good work all day' (Methuen's Despatch dated 15.2.1900 in London Gazette 16.3.1900 refers).
Dash During the Relief of Kimberley
Following the defeat at Magersfontein Methuen's forces retreated to the Modder River and the 9th Lancers were continually employed as scouts. When French took off on his dash to relieve Kimberley on 11.2.1900, the 9th Lancers formed a part of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in his Cavalry Division. Little commanded the 9th Lancers with elan and led them in the charge against the Boers at Klip Drift on 15 February. He was reported by French to Roberts, along with two other Cavalry Officers in the Relief Column, as having 'commanded their regiments throughout with great dash and ability' (War Office records refer). Little was Mentioned in Despatches for a second time, in Lord Roberts' Despatch of 31.3.1900 (London Gazette 8.2.1901 refers).
Command of 3rd Cavalry Brigade as Brigadier-General
Little had been promoted Lieutenant-Colonel in March 1900 and in July 1900 was appointed to command the 3rd Cavalry Brigade with the local rank of Brigadier-General. The 3rd Cavalry Brigade was immediately involved in the attempts to attack De Wet's forces during which Little and Broadwood's Columns, supposedly operating in tandem but failing to maintain communication, were outwitted by the Boer Intelligence Scouts of Theron and Scheepers. Through into August these Columns, supplemented by two more, kept up the chase but failed to draw De Wet into a decisive engagement. It was a wild nightmare of a pursuit and De Wet kept evading the marauding Columns and slipped from the Free State into the Transvaal.
Little was severely wounded in August in circumstances described by Roberts in his Despatch of 10.10.1900: 'It may be mentioned here that, in view of De Wet's return from the Transvaal to the district between Heilbron and Reitzburg, and the possibility of his collecting a fresh commando in that direction, I thought it desirable to concentrate a strong mounted force at Kroonstad and on the Rhenoster River. The Colonial Division, which had been attached to Lord Methuen's column during the pursuit of De Wet, was accordingly ordered to march from Zeerust to Elandsfontein, via Krugersdorp. It left Zeerust on 25th August, being joined by the 3rd Cavalry Brigade under Colonel Little. The same day Colonel Little was wounded near Jacobsdal, and the command of the combined force devolved on Colonel Dalgety' (London Gazette 8.2.1901 refers). In extracts from his diary (copy accompanies lot) Little covered the action in more detail: '[Sat. 25th] Ricardo as usual no idea of taking up his position. Started at 2 with brigade & 500 Colonials, Kaffirs, etc., under Col. Dalgety. Found Boers in a drift, orange groves, etc., at Botha's farm. 17th Lcrs. advanced guard. Rode on to see the lay of the land when I got a short range from the donga. Had a squadron 17th working round on the left & squadron of 9th [Lancers] & 100 M.I. on the right. Recd. no reports in from 17th so took Brigade closer than I should have. Handed over command to Dalgety, after clearing out Boers bivouacked at Botha's farm.' The other extracts relate to his evacuation to Mafeking hospital by Lord Methuen and his subsequent journey in a hospital train. The last extract details the serious nature of his wound: 'Weds. 5 [Sept]. Miss Barnes day sister. Put under the X-Rays saw bits of cigarette case, bone and bullet along course of bullet. Bullet took a curved course thro' hitting thigh bone apparently.'
Honoured and Invalided
Little, described by one of his Subalterns as 'an excellent Brigadier' (A Soldier's Diary refers), continued nominally in command of the Brigade until November 1900. He was awarded the rank of Brevet-Colonel and sent to England on sick leave. He did not return to South Africa until 1902.
Return to South Africa
Little took over de Lisle's Column on 8.4.1902 and commanded it in the drives in north-east Free State until the end of the War. He received a final Mention in Despatches from Lord Kitchener: 'Brevet-Colonel (local Brigadier-General) M.O. Little, 9th Lancers has twice held command of British Cavalry Brigades, and has proved himself a capable leader of mounted troops in the field' (London Gazette 29.7.1902 refers).
Little was originally commissioned into the 9th Lancers in 1878 and served in the Afghan War of 1878-80, participating in the march from Kabul to Kandahar and the subsequent battle and was Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette 3.12.1880 refers). He commanded the 9th Lancers from the end of 1902 to 1904 when he was created a Companion of the Order of the Bath and placed on Half-Pay. During the Great War he served in the United Kingdom as Inspector of Remounts in 1914 and Commandant of the Yeomanry Brigade and Coast Defences from 1915 to 1917, for which he was appointed a C.B.E.