The Boers, triumphant With their success at Koorn Spruit, scurried to Dewetsdorp, drove out the British detachment which had been posted there by General Gatacre, and on the 4th of April came in for another piece of luck, for which we had to pay by the loss of three companies of Royal Irish Rifles and two companies of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
The unfortunate occurrence took place near Reddersburg, somewhat to the east of Bethanie
Railway Station. A party of infantry, consisting of three companies of Royal Irish
Rifles and two companies of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been in occupation
of Dewetsdorp, and engaged on a pacification mission on the east of the Free State,
were ordered on the 3rd to retire to Reddersburg, a place situated some thirty-
Hoping and waiting and fighting; so passed the dreadful hours of dark. Then, with the dawn, the enemy, flushed with triumph, commenced to pound their prey with redoubled vigour, while our parched and almost ammunitionless troops, in a ghastly quandary, alternately fought and prayed for relief!
Meanwhile the news of the affair having reached Lord Roberts, General Gatacre, on the afternoon of the 3rd, was ordered to proceed from Springfontein to the spot, while the Cameron Highlanders were despatched from Bloemfontein to Bethanie.
General Gatacre, with his main body and an advance guard of mounted infantry under
Colonel Sitwell, then marched via Edenburg to the succour of the detachment. On the
morning of the 4th, Colonel Sitwell having arrived at Bethanie, some fifteen miles
from Mosterts Hok, heard sounds of artillery in the distance, and believing that
the engagement was going on, prepared to rush to the rescue. But with the small
force at his disposal, he deemed it impossible to try a frontal attack, and decided
to make an attempt to get round the enemy's right flank. The manoeuvre was unsuccessful,
for a party of hidden Boers, from a kopje north-
General Gatacre, finding further effort useless, then occupied the town of Reddersburg. There, the Boers had hoisted the Free State flag, and were making themselves generally objectionable. Quickly the Boer banner was torn down and the Union Jack run up, though during the operations the General narrowly escaped assassination. He was fired at from a house, but fortunately escaped with only a scratch on the shoulder.
By evening acting on instructions from Bloemfontein, and owing to the fact that
the enemy was massed in all directions and surrounding the town, the force and its
prisoners returned to Bethanie, and there encamped to mount guard over the rail.
Details regarding the movements of the troops on this grievous day Were. given by
a correspondent, in the Daily Telegraph, whose version throws a somewhat depressing
light on the sufficiently depressing affair. The writer declared that :-
"About midnight, the order was given to return to Bethanie again, and the men, who could hardly crawl, were awakened, the march resumed, and Bethanie was reached about 7 A.M. on April 5, after great and unnecessary distress both to men and animals, while no object was gained, the whole expedition being a miserable fiasco, disheartening and humiliating to every one present.
"To whom blame is attributable it is difficult to say, as the officer in command seemed not to have a free hand, but to be directed by wires received at intervals, which must have taken five or six hours to reach him. Either the relief ought never to have been attempted, or it ought to have been carried out expeditiously and with determination."
Mr. Purves, who, as a lance-
"Reaching Dewetsdorp on the morning of Sunday, April 1st, we first became aware that
our progress was being watched by the Boers. Just as we were about to camp outside
the dorp, our scouts exchanged a few shots with those of the enemy. Beyond a temporary
disarrangement of our plans, nothing happened, as the main body of the enemy did
not show at all, and things quieted down till nightfall, when another alarm was
caused by the arrival of the Mounted Infantry (Royal Irish Rifles and Northumberland
Fusiliers), who were mistaken by our people for Boers, as their arrival was unexpected,
and our presence in the position occupied by us was a surprise to them. The Mounted
Infantry actually dismounted to prepare for business, when fortunately a mutual recognition
took place, and a hearty greeting to the brave fellows who were to bear the brunt
of the coming action was extended by our force. Captain Casson (one of the first
to fall at Mosterts Hock) commanded the new-
The casualties were as follows
Lieut. Stacpole (Northumberland Fusiliers) was also wounded on the 4th. He was riding for reinforcements, and as he approached Reddersburg, unknowing the place was in the hands of the Boers, he was greeted with shots which killed his horse, wounded him, and placed him at the mercy of the enemy, by whom he was captured. The Boers in their retreat, however, left their prisoners behind. The total of killed and wounded numbered between 50 and 150. The strength of the British was 167 mounted infantry, 424 infantry. The enemy were said to be 3200 strong.
The unlucky termination of the affair completed the eastern flanking movement of
the Boers, who were now trickling over the country from Sanna's Post on the south
to a point east of Jagersfontein road. They soon held the Free State east of the
railway beyond Bethulie, and considerable numbers went south towards Smithfield and
Rouxville, their determination, after their recent successes, being to harass the
British force as much as possible. It was now becoming evident that all the present
trouble was due to over-
To this cause may be attributed the sudden return of so-
|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|