Against the misfortunes of Koorn Spruit and Reddersburg we would place one brilliant victory-
It may be remembered that Lord Methuen at the end of February took up the post of Administrator of the Kimberley district, which extends as far south as the Orange River, subsequently leaving Colonel Kekewich in command of the local forces. The General commenced active operations on the western frontier,. for the purpose of clearing the country of rebellious obstructions,. and protecting the lines of communication with the north.
At Boshof there was concentrated a comparatively large army, composed of two batteries of artillery, about 6ooo infantry, and 1000 mounted infantry, which were massing together to march to Kroonstadt, where they expected eventually to take their place as the left wing of the main army. The town itself presented a desolate aspect, all the Dutchmen being absent on commando under Commandant Duplessis, and being in force on the Vaal River, some miles distant.
Lord Methuen hearing that a detachment of the enemy was moving along the Jacobsdal road, and threatening his communications, ordered Colonel Peakman to effect its capture. As a result of this order a most successful fight took place, some five miles east of Boshof, on the 5th of April.
Taking part in the action were two companies of the Bucks Yeomanry, one of the Berks Yeomanry, one company of the Sherwood Rangers, one of the Yorkshire Yeomanry, and also the Kimberley Mounted Volunteers. With these was the Fourth Battery R.F.A.
The Imperial Yeomanry under Lord Chesham on this occasion had their first chance
of distinguishing themselves and seized it, behaving, as some one who looked on said,
"like veteran troops." The affair began in haste. A Yeomanry patrol suddenly discovered
the enemy and announced his near approach. There was a rush. "To horse! to horse
! "sang out the troopers keen for action. Their steeds were grazing, but in less
than thirty minutes every man was careering off to duty. The Boers, some sixty-
At this time the men had gained the hill and were within seventy yards of the Boer trenches. But the Boers, notwithstanding their display of the white flag1 continued to blaze with their rifles till a Yeomanry officer shouted that he would continue to fire unless the enemy threw down. their rifles and put up their hands. This threat brought the cowards to their senses. They obeyed, and the position was gained with a rousing, ringing cheer. Then came the sad part of triumph, the collection of the gallant dead and the succour of the wounded. Among the first were three, Captains Williams and Boyle, and Sergeant Patrick Campbell. The enemy's dead and wounded numbered fourteen, while our wounded numbered seven.
Captain Cecil Boyle was shot through the temple within eighty yards of the Boer
position while gallantly leading his men. He was a soldier to the core, one who,
merely from a sense of patriotic responsibility, was among the first to leap to his
country's call, and who threw into his work so much energy, zeal, and grave purpose
that the atmosphere of the camp made him feel at the end of a week as if, to use
his own words, "I had done nothing but soldiering all my life." He, at the invitation
of his old chum, Colonel Douglas Haig, began work at Colesberg "to watch the cavalry
operations." There he had what he thought the supreme good luck to be appointed galloper
to General French. After the relief of Kimberley and the capture of Cronje he went
to the Cape to meet the Oxford-
At the dose of the fight the clouds which had been lowering over the position like a pall of purple suddenly burst. Torrents descended, saturating the heated troops and sopping the ground whereon lay the maimed and slain. With thunder bellowing and lightning splitting the skies, with an accompaniment of deluge and darkness, the troops and their prisoners found their way to camp.
Under cover of the obscurity some of the latter made a wild endeavour to escape, but the Yeomanry were too proud of their "bag" to allow a single one to get free, and finally had the satisfaction of seeing their bedraggled prize lodged in jail;
Lord Methuen commanded, and expressed himself much gratified with the success of
the operations, with the courage and coolness and method with which all his orders
were carried out. Colonel Peakman, of Kimberley fame, who had already accomplished
a quite unusual record of fighting, displayed an immense amount of talent in the
field, and his corps, in every way worthy of him, cut off the enemy's retreat with
remarkable skill. So much indeed, that the Boers complained of the slimness of the
troops who, by apparently retiring hurriedly, drew them within range of the British
volleys! Our troops were pitting themselves now against no unruly or uninitiated
barbarians, for the hostile force was under the command of the notable Frenchman,
Colonel de Villebois-
The courage and dash of the Imperial Yeomanry was eulogised on all sides, even by
the Colonials, who hitherto had been somewhat disposed to look down on their brother
Volunteers from civilised and inexperienced England. The magnificent spirit which
inspired one and all, the grit displayed by the wounded, and their selflabnegation
were the subject of much comment. A Colonial trooper, writing home his applause,
said: "Where all behaved so well it is almost invidious to mention any one in particular,
but as an instance of the fine spirit which animated them, I would mention two whose
names I have ascertained, Sergeant-
From all accounts the French colonel who fell was entirely confident of success. Before the engagements he sent an invitation to his compatriots to join his force. He thought he had discovered the flaws in the Boer armour, and was bent on giving the Federals an object lesson in how to defeat and scatter the British. He also issued a manifesto addressed to the French legions, the translation of which ran thus
To the Legionaries, who have known me as their comrade.-
He also wrote to the Parisians
"The Dutch are splendid at defence, but they cannot follow up a defeat and crush the enemy, which the French legionaries would be able to do some and I will receive you here; and I promise you that very few days shall elapse before we will show the world the mettle of which the French legionaries are made."
The display to unprejudiced onlookers was distinctly poor, however, and the example of strategy set by the gallant Gaul scarcely served to demonstrate astounding military genius.
The Colonel's plan of campaign was nevertheless most carefully made out, as a document which subsequently fell into Lord Methuen's hands served to show. Very dramatic sounds the orders for the movements on April 4, as translated by the correspondent of the Daily Telegraph
"The Hoopstadt and Kimberley roads cross in the interior of the town.
"The plan of attack will be carried out under the following conditions: At eleven
o'clock in the evening, the Boers under Field-
"In the approaching march the commandants will give their orders in a low voice,
and the men will be ranged in line, so that they can see the heads of groups and
lie down instantly. It is of importance, also, to watch the investigations of the
"Continuing their march, the two other echelons will pass a well behind the kraals,
and will attack the English camp outside the town. In this effect, the French 6chelon,
after firing two volleys, will advance at the charge, with the cry 'Transvaal and
Free State!' and will thus complete the panic. As there are no bayonets, the rifles
will be kept loaded and carried under the arms at the position of the charge. After
having crossed the camp from the east to the south, the rout will be accomplished
by firing. Lieutenant Bock's echelon will remain under the orders of the General,
as a reserve, should the Boers placed on the Kimberley road on the kopje C have
to deal with the fugitives. He could also render assistance, if the enemy issuing
from Boshof should endeavour to turn the attack. He would then be informed of this
eventuality by Field-
"To facilitate recognition the brim of the hats will be covered with a white handkerchief.
"The meagreness of our information does not permit of even an approximate estimate of the English force. The forces in Boshof seem, however, to be between 300 and 400 men. Whatever happens, the assailants should remember that their moral superiority is overwhelming, and even in the event of retreat, they can easily, covered by the darkness, regain their horses and retire from Boshof without risk."
In view of these magnificent preliminaries, one may look with-
"We received orders to turn out as soon as possible; we were soon all bustle, caught
and saddled our horses, and off we went post-
The blow so deftly and quickly struck at the marauding parties of the Boers was valuable
from many points of view. It served to restore confidence in Lord Methuen's leadership-
On the 7th of April, at dawn, Lord Methuen marched ten miles on the Hoopstadt Road
to Zwartkopjesfontein Farm without opposition. On the 8th he proceeded further, but
finally, by Lord Roberts's orders, retraced his steps to Zwartkopjes. On the 10th,
at daybreak, two flying columns started forth-
In the Kimberley district the First Division had been rearranged as follows
Northamptonshire, 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry. 20th Brigade (Major-
Field Batteries; 37th Howitzer Battery. Brigade Imperial Yeomanry (Colonel
Cape Police, Diamond Fields Horse, Part Kimberley Light Horse, Diamond Fields Artillery.
|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|