1899 - 1902



Anglo Boer War
Home Reasons/Intro Build Up Battles / Sieges Deaths VC's Photographs


The sole officer who escaped from the massacre at Bronker's Spruit was Captain Elliot, who was subsequently treacherously murdered while crossing the Vaal.  The account of this tragedy was given by Major Lambart in a report to Sir George Colley, and should be read by all who wish to get a fair view of the events of that period, particularly by those who insist on our  brother-relationship to the Boers

"SIR,-I have the honour to report, for the information of his Excellency, that as I was returning from the Orange Free State on December 15 (where I had been on duty buying horses to  mount Commandant Ferreira's men for the Basuto, war, and also remounts for my troop of Mounted Infantry and the Royal Artillery), when about thirty miles from Pretoria, on the road from Heidelberg, I was suddenly taken prisoner  by a party of twenty or thirty Boers, who galloped down on me (all around), and, capturing the horses, was taken back to Heidelberg. After being there some six or eight days, I was joined by Captain and Paymaster Elliot, 94th  Regiment (the only officer not wounded in the attack on the detachment of the 94th Regiment), who arrived with some forty prisoners of war of the 94th Regiment. On the following day (the 24th of December) we received a written  communication from the Secretary of the Republican Government, to the effect 'that 'the members of the said Government would call on us at 3.30 that day,' which they did. The purport of their interview being 'That at a meeting of Council they had decided to give us one of two  alternatives.

(1) To remain prisoners of war during hostilities in the Transvaal.
(2)To be released on parole d'Aonneur, that we would leave the Transvaal at once, cross into the Free State under escort, and not bear arms against the Republican' Government  during the war.' Time being given us for deliberation, Captain Elliot and myself decided to accept No.2 alternative, and communicated the same to the Secretary of the South African Republic, who informed us, in the presence of  the Commandant-General, P. Joubert, that we could leave next day, taking with us all our private property. The following days being respectively Christmas Day and Sunday, we were informed we could not start till Monday, on  which day, having signed our parole Critonneur, my horses were harnessed, and we were provided with a duplicate of our parole or free pass, signed by Commandant-General, and escort of two men to show us the road to the  nearest drift over the Vaal River, distant twenty-five miles, and by which P. Joubert personally told us both we should cross, as there was a punt there. We started about 1 P.M. from the Boer camp, passing through the town of Heidelberg. After going about six or eight miles  I noticed we were not going the right road, and mentioned the fact to the escort, who said it was all right. Having been 'lookout' officer in the Transvaal, I knew the district well. I was certain we were going wrong, but we  had to obey orders. At nightfall we found ourselves nowhere near the river drift; and were ordered to outspan for the night, and next morning the escort told us they would look for the drift. Inspanning at daybreak we again  started, but after driving about for some hours across country, I told the escort we would stop where we were while they went to search for the drift. Shortly after they returned and said they had found it, and we must come,  which we did, eventually arriving at the junction of two rivers (Vaal and Klip), where we found the river Vaal impassable, but which they said we must cross. I pointed out that it was impossible to get my carriage or horses  over by it, and that it was not the punt the General said we were to cross. The escort replied it was to Pretorius' Punt that the General told them to take us, and we must cross; that we must leave the carriage behind and swim  the horses, which we refused to do, as we should then have had no means of getting on. I asked them to show me their written instructions, which they did (written in Dutch), and I pointed out that the name of Pretorius was not  in it. I then told them they must either take us back to the Boer camp again or on to the proper drift. We turned back, and after going a few miles the escort disappeared. Not knowing where we were, I proposed to Captain Elliot  we should go to the banks of the Vaal and follow the river till we came to the proper punt. After travelling all Monday, Tuesday, and up till Wednesday about 1 P.M., when we found ourselves four hours, or twenty-five miles, from Spencer's Punt, we were  suddenly stopped by two armed Boers who handed us an official letter, which was opened and found to be from the Secretary to the Republican Government, stating that the members were surprised that as officers and gentlemen we  had broken our Paro/e dHoniieur and refused to leave the Transvaal; that if we did not do so immediately by the nearest drift, which the bearers would show us, we must return as prisoners of war; that as through our  ignorance of the language of the country there might be some misunderstanding, they were loth to think we had willingly broken our promise. We explained that we should reply to the letter, and request them to take it to their  Government, and were prepared to go with them at once. They took us back to a farm house, where we were told to wait till they fetched their Commandant, who arrived about 6 P.M., and repeated to us the same that was complained of in our letter of that day. We told him we were  ready to explain matters, and requested him to take our answer Lack to camp. He then ordered us to start at once for the drift. I asked him, as it was then getting dark, if we could start early next morning, but he refused. So  we started, he having said we should cross at Spencer's, being closest. As we left the farm-house, 1 pointed out to him that we were going in the wrong direction, but he said, 'Never mind, come on across a drift close at hand.'  When we got opposite it, he kept straight on; I called to him, and said this was where we were to cross. His reply was, 'Come on.' I then said to Captain Elliot, 'They intend taking us back to Pretorius,' a distance of some  forty miles. Suddenly the escort (which had all at once increased from two to eight men, which Captain Elliot pointed out to me, and I replied, I suppose they are determined we shall not escape, which they need not be afraid  of, as we are too keen to get over the border') wheeled sharp down to the river, stopped, and pointing to the banks, said, 'There is the drift; cross. Being pitch dark, with vivid lightning, the river roaring past, and as I  knew impassable, I asked, 'Had we not better wait till morning, as we do not know the drift?' They replied, 'No; cross at once.' I drove my horses into the river, when they immediately fell; lifted them, and drove on about five  or six yards, when we fell into a hole. Got them out with difficulty, and advanced another yard, when we got stuck against a rock. The current was now so strong, and drift deep, my cart was turned over on to its side, and water  rushed over the seat. I called out to the Commandant on the bank that we were stuck, and to send assistance, or might we return? to which he replied, 'If you do we will shoot you.' I then tried, but failed to get the horses to  move. Turning to Captain Elliot, who was sitting beside me, I said, 'We must swim for it,' and asked could he swim? to which he replie d, 'Yes.' I s aid, ' If you can't, I will stick to you, for I can.' While we were holding this conversation, a volley from the bank, ten or fifteen yards  off, was fired into us, the bullets passing through the tent of my cart, one of which must have mortally wounded poor Elliot, who only uttered the single word 'Oh!' and fell headlong into the river from the carriage. I  immediately sprang in after him, but was swept down the river under the current some yards. On gamma the surface of the water, I could see nothing of Elliot; I called out his name twice, but received no reply. Immediately  another volley was fired at me, making the water hiss around where the bullets struck. I now struck out for the opposite bank, which I reached with difficulty in about ten minutes; but as it was deep, black mud, on landing I  stuck fast, but eventually reached the top of the bank, and ran for about two thousand yards under a heavy fire the whole while. The night being pitch dark, but lit up every minute by vivid flashes of lightning, showed the  enemy my whereabouts. I found myself now in the Free State, but where I could not tell, but knew my direction was south, while, though it was raining, hailing, and blowing hard, and bitterly cold, an occasional glimpse of the  stars showed me I was going right. I walked all that night and next day till one o'clock, when I eventually crawled into a store kept by an Englishman called Mr Groom, who did all in his power to help me. I had tasted no food  since the previous morning at sunrise, and all the Dutch farmers refused me water, so without hat or coat (which I had left on banks of Vaal), and shoes worn through, I arrived exhausted at the above gentleman's place, who  kindly drove me to Heilbron, where I took the post-cart to Maritzburg. I fear that Captain Elliot must have been killed instantly, as he never spoke, neither did I see him again. I have to mention that both Captain Elliot and  myself, on being told by South African Republican Government that the soldiers who had been taken prisoners were to be released on the same conditions as ourselves, expressed a wish to be allowed to keep charge of them, which  was refused, but we were told that waggons, food, and money should be supplied to take them down country. But when they reached Spencer's Punt over the VaaI were turned loose, without any of the above necessaries, to find their  way down country. They met an English transport rider named Mr F. Wheeler, who was going to Pietermaritzburg with his waggon, which had been looted by the Boers, and who kindly gave them transport, provided them with food, and  is bringing them to the city, which; as I passed them at the Drakensburg on Tuesday, they should reach on Sunday next-consisting of one sergeant and sixty-one men, all that remain of our Leydenburg detachment and headquarters  of the 94th Regiment.-I have the honour to remain, Sir, your obedient servant,


Captain Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Major Lambart's report speaks more eloquently than many descriptions, as to the character of the "simple-minded  Boer." We discovered to our cost during the Indian Mutiny that the "gentle native" was not all our fancy painted him, and it may be as well to realise that our simple-minded and pious brother in the Transvaal is  scarcely so righteous as we have been led to suppose.