The drama in Natal having been concluded, the curtain rose on the last act of the drama in Orange River Colony, the final scenes of which went "on greased wheels," as it were, owing to the tremendous energy and talent in the field of; first, General Sir Leslie Rundle, who had had all the hard preliminary work to do; second, Generals Clements and Paget, and finally of the greatest martial performer of all-
Near Lindley, as we are aware, as a commencement of the combined closing in movement, Generals Clements and Paget had effected a junction. The Boers clustering in the neighbourhood of Winburg and Senekal were known to be yet active, though many of their number came in at times and surrendered, while others, longing to do likewise, were caught sneaking forth and were sjamboked by their compatriots. In fact, strong guards had to be posted round desertion of Boers of pacific tendencies. they fought well and tenaciously, and amount of trouble at every turn of the laagers to prevent the Still, when they fought, managed to give a vast the road.
General Paget, on the 3rd, attacked the Dutchmen in their strong position at Pleisirfontein, driving them off across Leeuw Kop to Broncrifontein. He bivouacked for the night in the position he had secured, not without some fierce fighting, an account of which was given by one of the Imperial Yeomanry
"We moved from Lindley on the morning of July 2, and by midday were in touch with
the enemy, who had taken up a position on some kopjes over-
"We camped that night at a farm which the enemy had occupied all day. They retired
some distance, and continued shelling our camp till dark, and though some of their
shells fell into our camp and among the waggons no harm was done. Our casualties
were two of our men wounded. Mter we had pitched our camp it came on to rain, so
we had to lie down in our wet blankets on the damp veldt. We were, however, able
to get plenty of wood from the farmhouse, so we made a large fire which, with some
warm tea, was a comfort. Next day we moved camp at 8 A.M. and proceeded, after the
Boers had dropped a few shells into us. Our artillery went on ahead, and took up
a position on a kopje, and shortly after we located the Boer guns on another kopje.
As may be imagined the situation was now verging on disaster. Major Oldfield had
received his death-
On the following day, 4th, the enemy was pursued as far as Blaauw Kop, fifteen miles
On the 5th the position at Doornberg, on the Winburg-
To return to the Dutchmen inside Bethlehem. The town, like many other South African
towns, is dominated by cliffs or kopjes, two of these being on the north-
General Clements's column, consisting of the Royal Irish, Worcesters, Wiltshires,
a battery of Field Artillery, and two 5 inch guns moved about six miles on the left
rear of General Paget's force towards the east of the town; where, on all the available
ridges and cliffs were Boer trenches and gun emplacements, some of these knowingly
and skilfully arranged at a right angle with the cliffs and with their backs to the
town, in order that any approaching force could be swept from all directions as
they neared the position. General Clements sent to De Wet a flag of truce demanding
the surrender of the place, and on receipt of a refusal the hammer-
Both Generals simultaneously attacked from different points, but owing to the crusted and gibbose nature of the ground in this part of the Orange Colony it was impossible for the Cavalry to attempt any very wide turning movement. The result was that on the dash and daring of the Infantry much was found to depend. and that eventually carried all before it. The Cavalry, the 14th and 15th Imperial Yeomanry, and Imperial Australian Regiment operated on the right, and made themselves masters of a position on a kopje at the northerly ridge of the eminences held by the Boers. General Clements engaged the foe in his eastern fastnesses, capturing them on the following day through the gallantry of the Royal Irish Regiment, while the Infantry with General Paget fought with splendid persistence, till their ammunition being exhausted they finally charged with' the bayonet so gallantly, so effectively, that the Boers were routed, and General Paget at nightfall found himself in possession of a kopje which faced and was the key to the terrific steeps leading to the precipitous peak of Woihunter's Kop. This charge of the Munsters,was supported by the Yorkshire Light Infantry, was described by one of the officers of the former splendid regiment in glowing terms: "The Royal Munster Fusiliers had to storm a kopje at the point of the bayonet. For the last 8oo yards my men had not a round of ammunition left. We kept advancing, cheering as we went on, with bayonets fixed. We got within fifty yards, when the Boers fired their last volley and bolted. The position was won. The G.O.C., in his despatch to Lord Roberts, said the gallantry displayed by the Munsters was beyond all praise. . . . My men behaved excellently. I never want finer fellows to be with in an attack."
Mr. Blundell, of the Morning Post related a characteristic anecdote which served
to show the debonnair spirit, the coolness and aplomb of some of the doughty band:
"In the midst of the rush past some Kaffir kraals a goose waddled out through the
line, and a man, not too preoccupied to forget the future, lowered his bayonet, swung
the bird over his shoulder in his stride, and took possession of the captured position
with his dinner on his back." The goose was eaten in face of the frowning Wolhunter's
Kop, which next day, the 7th, fell into the hands of the British through a series
of ingenious martial manoeuvres, assisted by the brilliant execution of the 38th
Battery R.F.A. and the C.I.V. Battery under Major M'Micking. The decisive move in
the operations was brought about by the splendid persistence of the Royal Irish,
who, extended in three lines, stormed a formidable kopje amidst cascades of fire,
dropping, and sweating, and shouting, yet never halting till they had reached the
crest, captured it, and in addition to it a prize-
The casualty list on the first day, considering the magnitude of the operations and
the strength of the positions assailed, was not large: Thirty-
The wounded officers were: Lieutenant A. H. D. West, 8th Battery Royal Field Artillery; Captain T. W. Williams, 5th Volunteer Battalion Liverpool Regiment (attached Royal Irish Regiment) ; Captain G. D. M'Pherson, 1st Munster Fusiliers; Captain W. C. Oates, 1st Munster Fusiliers ; Lieutenant Conway, 1st Munster Fusiliers; Second Lieutenant Boyd Rochford, 4th Scottish Rifles.
The following casualty occurred on the 7th: Captain J. B. H. Alderson, 1st Royal Irish Rifles, wounded (since dead).
On the morrow, Broadwoods Brigade, preceding General Hunter, arrived.
After this, by systematic and strategic pressure, the Free Staters were being pushed
off their impregnable heights to a mountainous place called the Brandwater Basin,
some fifteen miles square, in the region of the Caledon River, leaving us in possession
of practically the last of their towns-
Nevertheless while General Hunter, on one side, actively engaged in reconnoitring the positions held by the remainder of De Wet's forces between Bethlehem, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Retief's and Stabbert's Neks, General Little (temporarily commanding the 3rd Brigade) pursued De Wet himself, and the force that had recently broken through the cordon was found to be hovering between Bethlehem and Lindley. A smart contest ensued, which lasted till dusk, when the Boers broke up into two parties and again vanished, leaving several dead and two wounded upon the field.
On the same day, i9th, General Broadwood, commanding 2nd Cavalry Brigade, who had been following up the fleeing Boers since the 16th, spent some hours in an animated engagement near Palmietfontein, between Ventersburg and Lindley. The enemy, with swelled numbers, and said to be accompanied by Steyn and one of the De Wets, had been wheeling round the railway communications as moths circle around a chandelier. Having caught them here General Broadwood made a brisk fight of it, but the Boers under cover of darkness evaded pursuit. On the following morning it was found that they had doubled back to Paardekraal during the night. The line on the north of Honing Spruit showed signs of their depredations, and on the western side the telegraph wires to Pretoria Via Potchefstroom were cut. During the fight Major Moore, West Australian Mounted Infantry, was killed, and Lieutenant the Hon. F. Stanley, 10th Hussars, Lieutenant Tooth, Australian Contingent, and fourteen men were wounded. General Broadwood proceeded to Vaal Krantz, which place was reached on the 22nd.
Meanwhile the desperadoes, routed on all sides, made a rush upon the line near Roodeval, :,tore up the rails, and succeeded in capturing on the night of the 21st, between Kroonstad and the Vaal, a supply train with two officers and a hundred men of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. De Wet's force, doubtless well pleased with itself, then moved via Vrede fort in a north easterly direction, quickly pursued by General Broadwood, who, in his turn, was followed by General Little. The former officer succeeded on the 23rd in capturing some of De Wet's waggons at Vredefort, at which place he halted till joined by General Little. On the 25th De Wet, ubiquitous, was found posted on some comfortable heights at Reitzburg, some seven miles south of the Vaal, while General Broadwood, like a cat watching a bird, was preparing to spring. But the bird was too wary, and kept his wings flapping for flight at the first provocation. Indeed, he had dodges at his fingers' end, and tried a new variety every time he was warned of the British approach. One of these was at a certain place to keep a dozen or so Boer hats, which had previously been strung on a line, continually bobbing over a certain entrenched spot in order to impress the British and lead them astray, while he and his horde tbok an opposite direction.
While the chase was going forward some fighting took place, in which the Berkshire Yeomanry, the Imperial Bushmen, and the 38th Field Battery took part. They disputed the possession of a high hill to west of Bethlehem, but as possession makes nine points of the law, the Boers, posted in strength upon the hill, caused the small force to retire. During the retirement one oflicer and nine men were lost. General Bruce Hamilton also engaged in some active work, which cost him three of the Cameron Highlanders, whose regiment, assisted by 500 Mounted Infantry and the 82nd Battery, succeeded in securing a strong position on Spitzray. Captain Keith Hamilton, Oxford Light Infantry, was wounded severely, and Captain Brown, Captain A. C. McLean, and Lieutenant Stewart, Cameron Highlanders, Captain E. S. C. Hobson, Mounted Infantry Worcester Regiment, and thirteen Cameron Highlanders were all more or less severely injured.
Of the terribly hard work done by the 21st Brigade it has been impossible to take
due note. Since the 28th of April they had covered on foot some 1200 miles, and had
done more fighting and marching than any brigade at the front. They could count
as many as forty-
Operations were now carried forward with additional vigour, for it was known that
Boers, some 6ooo of them, led by Roux and Prinsloo, who had not bolted with De Wet,
must still be in the neighbourhood of the Caledon Valley, the river behind them,
the only passes available among the snow-
To appreciate the nicety of the movement a glance at the map is necessary. The geographical nature of the situation in which the Boers found themselves after the battle of Bethlehem was thus concisely sketched by Mr. Spenser Wilkinson:
"The Boers were holding a great mountain horse-
"Outside the horse-
Having blocked the passes to the best of his ability, General Hunter hoped for the
best. He knew the Boers might evaporate-
The first attack on Retief's Nek was made on the 23rd by General MacDonald, the
Highland Brigade, Lovat's Scouts, Remington's Guides, and a battery and two 5-
The losses so far were sufficiently large, but the importance of the position gained they were looked upon as insignificant, and General Hunter formally expressed the opinion that it was owing to the excellent work done by Lovat's Scouts, who for days in advance had scouted, stalked, and "spied" over the country, that so few losses were recorded.
The casualties at Stabbert's Nek were :-
Those at Retiefs Nek were
The 25th found Generals Hunter, Clements, and Paget in possession of Brandwater Basin, while Generals MacDonald and Bruce Hamilton were blocking Inguwooni and Golden Gate. Fouriesburg was occupied by the Eighth Division, and there they found a number of British prisoners and Mrs. Steyn, who was left in charge of the chief of the Commissariat Department. Generals Hunter and Rundle paid the lady a complimentary visit. On the following day General MacDonald, who had kept an eye on Naauwpoort's Nek and Golden Gate, had a hard day's fighting outside Naauwpoort in the Bethlehem Hills, but the effect of this doughty rearguard action was the blocking of Naauwpoort's Nek for the Boer waggon traffic, and without their precious carts the Boers were "winged."
Among the wounded were Lieutenant A. M. Brodie, Lovat's Scouts; and Lieutenant W. E. Campion, Mounted Infantry Company, East Yorkshire Regiment.
On the 28th, Hunter, with Clements's and Paget's Brigades, attacked the Boers, who were posted on two neks. The first nek, after a vigorous fight, was secured by the Royal Irish, Wiltshire, and Leicester Regiments; the final position; Slaapkrantz, later on and under cover of the dusk, by the brilliant dash of the Scots Guards. During the operations Lieutenant Hon. R. B. F. Robert son, 1st Battalion Imperial Yeomanry (Machine Gun Section), and Second Lieutenant F. G. Alston, 2nd Scots Guards, were wounded.
The net result of all the combined blockage of the passes was a demand on Sunday
morning, 29th, from Prinsloo, under a flag of truce, for a four days' armistice in
order to enter into peace negotiations. As this demand was tantamount to saying,
"Hold on while I get wind for another bout," General Hunter sent a message refusing
to enter into any negotiations, and saying that the only terms he could accept was
unconditional surrender. Until these were complied with, hostilities could not cease.
This settled the matter. Prinsloo, knowing it was impossible to get his guns and
waggons over the mountains, forthwith handed himself over-
The finale at Fouriesburg was an impressive affair. The Generals, their staffs,
Sir Godfrey and Lady Lagden from Basutoland, grouped on horseback, were surrounded
by the troops drawn up in two lines on the hills overlooking the valley. Between
the lines thus made rode Prinsloo, tall, fair-
July ended with a triumphant flourish of trumpets in honour of the united labours of; first, General Sir Leslie Rundle, who may claim the east of the Orange Colony as his military perquisite, and finally General Sir Archibald Hunter. Prinsloo's surrender was followed by that of 1200 more Free Staters, and the Commandants. Roux and Fonternel. To General Bruce Hamilton came Commandants Deploy, Potgieter, and Joubert, and Lieutenant Alderson, a Danish officer of Staats Artillery, and with them 1200 rifles, 650 ponies, and an Armstrong gun.
The Free State army was therefore only represented by De Wet and his followers-
|The Growth of the Transvaal|
|The Web Thickens|
|The Zulu War|
|Isandlwana, an hour by hour account|
|Affairs at Home|
|The First Anglo Boer War|
|Between the Wars|
|The Fate of SGT Elliot|
|The Siege of Pretoria|
|The Reform Movement|
|The Critical Moment|
|The Fate of the Raiders|