Amongst other things, it was known in Ladysmith on the 18th of October that General Koch's commando was moving to the Biggarsberg Pass on the way to Elandslaagte. The advanced guard of the Boers finding a train at the Elandslaagte station, attempted to seize it, but the driver with remarkable pluck turned on steam, and, though pelted with bullets, got safely to Dundee. The second train was captured, however, and with it its valuable cargo of live stock, and two newspaper correspondents, who were made prisoners. Finding that the enemy was gathered in force round Dundee, and that an attack there was hourly to be expected, and, moreover, that several Free State commandoes were shifting about round Ladysmith, the inhabitants of that town had an uneasy time. Major-
General French's orders were simple and explicit, namely, to clear the neighbourhood of Elandslaagte of the enemy and to cover the construction of the railway and telegraph lines. The troops slowly proceeded along a low tableland which terminated in a cliff On a plain below this cliff lay the station and village of Elandslaagte, and round and about this settlement mounted Boers were swarming. These no sooner espied the British than they made off as fast as their nimble steeds could carry them, ascending iri the direction of a high kopje some 5000 yards away. Those who remained in the station were fired on by' our Volunteer Battery, while a squadron under Major Sampson moved round to the north of them.
The first two shells caused considerable consternation among the Dutchmen, but they
were soon returned with interest. Though the enemy used smokeless explosives, their
battery was revealed by the yellow flash of the guns in the purple shadow of the
hill. These guns were worked with marvellous accuracy, but, fortunately, many of
At 3.30 P. M. General White arrived on the scene, but the executive command of the
troops engaged remained in the hands of General French. The Boers were discovered
to be magnificently posted on a horseshoe-
The first battalion Devonshire Regiment, with a frontage of 500 yards and a depth
of 1300 yards, was halted on the western extremity of a horseshoe-
Now, no sooner had the Devonshire Regiment commenced to move forward than they attracted the shell of the enemy, but owing to the loose formation adopted, the loss at this time was slight. In spite of the furious fire, the regiment still pushed on to within 900 yards of the position, and then opening fire, held the enemy in front of them till 6 P.M. The batteries also advanced and took up a position on a ridge between the Devonshire and Manchester Regiments, about 3200 yards from the enemy. Then began an animated artillery duel, the roar of guns mingling with the thunder of heaven, which at this juncture seemed to have attuned itself to suit the stormy state of the human tempest that was raging below. At this period considerable damage was done. Captain Campbell, R.A., was wounded, an ammunition waggon overturned,' and many men and horses were killed or injured. For some time the interchange of deadly projectiles was pursued with vigour, then the 42nd Field Battery came into action. The Imperial Light Horse now moved left of the enemy's position; some mounted Boers at once pushed Out and engaged them. Soon after this the guns from above ceasing firing, our gunners turned, their attention to the mounted Boers, who rapidly fell back. Then, as the sun was setting and dark clouds were rolling over the heavens and screening the little light that remained, the infantry pressed forward. The plan was that while the Devonshire Regiment made a frontal attack, the Manchester Regiment, supported by the Gordons with the Imperial Light Horse on the right, were to advance along the sloping ridge, turn the enemy's flank and force him back on his main position. This movement was to be supported by the artillery, which was to close in as the' attack developed.
The Devons, under Major Park, marched out, as said, leading the way across the plateau
and into the valley coolly and deliberately, though under a terrific fire from above.
The Boer guns, which were served with great courage, invariably gave tongue on the
smallest provocation, and the ground was ploughed up in every direction with bursting
shell. But fortunately few of the gallant Devons were hit. Later on they drew nearer
the position, and the regiment, halted under cover of convenient ant-
Meanwhile the Manchesters, with the Imperial Light Horse and the Gordons, were winding
round the lower steeps, the Gordons bearing to the right through a cutting in the
hills. Here, ascending, they came under the artillery fire of the enemy, the Boers
having moved their guns. Shells, and not only shells but huge boulders, dropped among
the advancing troops, crushing and mutilating, and leaving behind a streak of mangled
bodies. But though the ordeal was terrible, and the sound and sight of wounded and
bleeding were enough to paralyse the stoutest heart, the ever "gay" Gordons plodded
on, passing higher and higher, while their officers leading, cheered and roared
them up the precipitous ascent. Thus they clambered and plodded, with men dropping
dead at their elbows, with torn and fainting comrades by their sides. A storm of
rain from the gathering thunderclouds drenched them through to the skin, but they
heeded it not. A storm of bullets from the Boers sensibly diminished their numbers,
but they never swerved. Then their gallant commander fell. Colonel Dick-
At last the signal for the charge was sounded. The bugle blared out and was echoed
To account for the presence of the Devons in the grand melee it is necessary to go back somewhat, as the great assault was not accomplished in a moment.
Our men were advancing in short rushes of about fifty yards, the Boers all the while lying under cover and shooting till the troops were within some twenty or thirty yards of them. Then the Dutchmen, as suited their convenience, either bolted or surrendered.
When the end ridge was gained and the guns captured, the enemy's laager was close
in sight. A white flag was shown from the centre of the camps. At this Colonel Hamilton
gave an order. The "Cease fire" was sounded. There was a lull in the action, some
of our men commencing to walk slowly down-
But this ruse was a failure and their triumph shortlived. The 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, who, as we know, had been holding the enemy in front during the commencement of the infantry attack, and had since then pushed steadily forward, had now reached to 350 yards from the enemy. Here they lay down to recover breath before charging with fixed bayonet. Five companies assaulted the hill to the left and five to the right; and a detachment of these, arriving at the critical moment when the Boers were making their last stand, helped to bring about the triumphant finale.
Like the lightning that shot through the sky above, the Boers, at the sound of the
united cheers, had fled! Some scampered away to their laager on the Nek, and from
thence to other kopjes. Others filed in troops anywhere, regardless of consequences.
While they were in full retreat, and the mists of darkness, like a gathering pall,
hung over the scene, the 5th Lancers and the 5th Dragoon Guards charged the flying
The despised worms-
The cost of victory, however, was heavy. Roughly estimated, we lost 4 officers and 37 men killed ;31 officers and 175 men wounded. Ten men were missing. The Boers lost over 300 Burghers killed and wounded, besides several hundred horses. Their hospital with wounded prisoners was placed under the care of the British hospital, they having only one doctor, who, with his primitive staff, was quite unable to cope with the arduous work of attending the multitude of sufferers.
Numbers of the enemy of all nationalities-
"General Koch was Minute-
"Advocate Coster was State Attorney at the time of the Reform trials, but resigned owing to President Kruger having insulted him at a meeting of the Executive. He was an accomplished man, a member of the Inner Temple, and was very popular with the Dutch Bar.
"General Ben Vujoen was responsible for most of the fire-
"Colonel Schiel was court-
The courage of the Boers during this battle was immense. About two thousand were
engaged, and these, though certainly aided by the strength of their position, fought
valiantly, facing doggedly the heavy consummately well-
An interesting incident is mentioned in connection with the battle~ When the fire of the British guns became overwhelming, eight plucky Boers dashed forward from cover, and, standing together, steadily opened fire on the men of the Imperial Light Horse, with the evident purpose of drawing their fire; while. their comrades should change position. Out of this gallant little band, only one man. was left to tell the tale !
The following is the casualty roll of officers killed at the battle of Elandslaagte
Imperial Light Horse.-
The following tribute to the memory of Colonel Scott Chisholme is taken from Mr. John Stuart's correspondence to the Morning Post
"No death has been more severely felt than the Colonel's. He was a good man and a
good soldier, brave to the point of recklessness, a wonderfully-
' Colonel John James Scott Chisholme, who was killed at Elandslaagte, belonged to
the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, and who was detached on special service in South
Africa, came of an old Scottish family, the Chisholmes of Stirches, Roxburghsh ire,
his family seat being situate at the latter place. He was the only son of the late
Mr. John Scott Chisholme (who assumed the name of Scott in 1852 under the will of
his uncle, Mr. James Scott of whitehaugh), by his marriage with Margaret, eldest
daughter and co-
"During the fight he only.took cover once or twice, going from troop to troop, praising and encouraging the men in words that were always well chosen, for no man could phrase his blame or praise more aptly. At the last ridge he stopped to tie up the leg of a wounded trooper, and was shot himself in the leg. Two of his men went to his assistance, but he waved them off; telling them to go on with their fighting and to leave him alone. Then he was shot in one of the lungs, and the men went to his help, but while they were trying to get him to cover, a bullet lodged in his head and killed him. The last words he was heard to say were, 'My fellows are doing well.' His fellows will always remember that.
"I may be allowed to recall one or two interesting recollections of the Colonel.
One is the speech he delivered when the Maritzburg Club dined him and his officers.
Both he and General Symons spoke. Neither man was an orator, and yet each was more
convincing than many orators, speaking simple, soldierly, purposeful words, words
whose simplicity drove them home. Almost a week before the battle I saw the Colonel
arranging his camp. He had taken off his tunic and helmet, and did twice as much
direction as' any other officer, and he worked as hard as any of the men. It was
then, when I saw his vigour in full activity, that I realised his woriderful capacity
"The last time I saw him was at the outspan before the battle began. He came to
a group of us and gave one or two orders in such pleasant words that one knew that
to obey him must in itself be a real delight. Then he sat down and gossiped with
us, first about his luck in the morning, when a shell that hit the ground between
his horse's feet had failed to burst, and afterwards about luck in general. He advised
the officers to tell their men to sleep while they could, and then he said, 'Now
"I like to think that before death smote him he knew that the battle was won, and
that his fellows bad done well, as he expected that they would, as he had helped
them to do by example and generous encouragement." -
A private of the Gordon H ighlanders, in a letter dated Ladysmith, November 2, gave
a vivid account of the charge of the Gordons at Elandslaagte, and described how Lieutenant-
Here we have a proof how much the morale of soldiers may be influenced by their immediate chief.
The Natal Advertiser in its account of the final scene said :-
So many acts of gallantry were performed that they cannot all be related. It is impossible, however, to allow the wondrous pluck of Sergeant Kenneth M'Leod to go unrecorded. During the charge this gallant Scot was twice struck, once in the arm and once in the side. He however continued to pipe and advance with the Gordons to their final rush. Presently came more bullets, smashing his drones, his chanter, and his windbag, whereupon the splendid fellow had to give in.
Perhaps the most heart-
An officer who was wounded, and who spent the night in the terrible scene, thus
described his dwn awful experiences: "I lay where I fell for about three-
They then gave me some beef-
The amazing spirit of chivalry that animated all classes, general officers, medical
officers, chaplains, and even stretcher-
The following, from a Congregational minister of Durban, who had volunteered to
go to the front as honorary chaplain to the Natal Mounted Rifles, in which corps
many of his congregation enrolled, is of immense interest. It gives us an insight
into the inner core of valour-
"The Lancers, who were mistaken by the Boers in the growing darkness for a body
of their own men, fell upon them and turned a rout into a wild flight. Commander
Schiel was very furious at losing the battle, and said he would like to kill every
man, woman, and child in Natal. In this he was the exception to the rule, for the
captives whom we liberated said the Boers bad treated them with great kindness. After
the battle Dr. Bonnybrook and I spent the night on the field of battle, and also
followed the retreating Boers for a distance of six or seven miles, searching for
and tending the wounded and dying. In the early hours of the morning we came to a
Among other heroes of Elandslaagte was Lieutenant Meiklejohn of the Gordon Highlanders.
This young officer, one of the "Dargai boys," helped the charge in an endeavour
to embarrass the Boer flank. Supported by a party of Gordons, so runs the narrative,
Meiklejohn waved his sword and cried out to his party hastily gathered round him.
But the Boer ranks were alert, and poured in a deadly fire on the gallant band.
Lieutenant Meiklejohn received three bullets through his upper right arm, one through
the right forearm, a finger blown away, a bullet through the left thigh two bullets
through the helmet, a "snick"in the neck, while his sword and scabbard were literally
shot to pieces. He has by now lost his right arm, but, happily, being left-
A private soldier in the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders recounted an extraordinary
personal experience. He said :-
"We, the Devons, Imperial Light Horse, and others, had a fight at Elandslaagte with
the Boers, and I never enjoyed myself so much before. You first have to get christened
to fire, and then you think nothing of the shells bursting about you, and the bullets
which go whistling past like bees. We went forward by fifty-
|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|