The Second Boer War had proven a very difficult political and military campaign for Great Britain to positively conclude. By 1900 the combination of the vastness of the South African veld and the ravages of disease and hard soldiering for men and horses meant that more men were required to be released from home service units to fight overseas. Patriotic fervour was running high across the British Empire and many citizens from the British Colonies had enlisted to serve in Lord Roberts, Commander in Chief’s army in South Africa. As Lieutenant Colonel Lionel James DSO describes in his history of the unit (The History of King Edwards Horse (The King's Overseas Dominions Regiment
). London: Sifton, Praed & Co, 1921), George Hamilton (Figure 1), a solicitor and a member of the Committee of the Colonial Club in London, suggested that there should be a home defence yeomanry unit, raised purely from overseas volunteers’ resident in England.Figure 1: Lieutenant Colonel George Hamilton (wearing Officers Service Dress uniform with the cap bearing the later King Edward's Horse headdress badge) who first conceived of the formation of the King’s Colonials, circa 1910-12. He joined the King’s Colonials upon its formation in 1901 and although having retired in 1912, he served extra-regimentally during the Great War (Lieutenant Colonel Lionel James. The History of King Edwards Horse (The King's Overseas Dominions Regiment). London: Sifton, Praed & Co, 1921).
Together with fellow Committee member, Lieutenant Colonel Nesbit Willoughby Wallace (Figure 2) they sought endorsement of the proposal from all the Colonial representatives in London of the senior members of the Empire: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India. Although supportive, the New Zealand Agent General had doubts that there were sufficient numbers of New Zealanders living in England to enlist.Figure 2: Lieutenant Colonel Nesbitt Willoughby-Wallace, first Commanding Officer of the 4th County of London (King’s Colonials) Imperial Yeomanry 1901-04 (Lieutenant Colonel Lionel James. The History of King Edwards Horse (The King's Overseas Dominions Regiment). London: Sifton, Praed & Co, 1921).
Some seventy men came forward as being willing volunteers when a recruiting advertisement was run in the London papers in the summer of 1900. Having gained the approval of Lord Roberts, the 4th County of London Imperial Yeomanry (King’s Colonials) was formed on the 29th November 1901 at Charing Cross, London. The Regiment was 50th in precedence within the yeomanry. The Lord Lieutenant of the County of London, Lord Fife become Colonel in Chief and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and York, K.G. (later King George V) became the Regiment’s Honorary Colonel in December 1901 (see Figure 3). His Royal Highness was the first Officer gazetted to the Regiment and his enthusiastic support saw the unit fulfill numerous ceremonial duties as a highly-popular overseas Dominion unit raised in the County of London. The King’s Colonials have the distinction of being the only Colonial unit administered from Whitehall.Figure 3: His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Officers of the 4th County of London (King's Colonials) Imperial Yeomanry in Full Dress uniform at the Inspection and Official Opening of the Drill Hall in the King's Road, Chelsea on 6th May 1902 (Lieutenant Colonel Lionel James. The History of King Edwards Horse (The King's Overseas Dominions Regiment). London: Sifton, Praed & Co, 1921).