Some definite action was now bound to be attempted, for after the evacuation of Willow Grange the investment of Estcourt was practically complete. The enemy, some 7000, with eight big guns and led by the Commandant-
The curious entanglement of military operations at this time formed a puzzle that, had the British not been too gravely interested, would have afforded them entertainment. The rules of no known military war game could be applied to the situation, and its uniqueness was a matter as incomprehensible to the tactician as to the ignoramus. For instance, from Maritzburg to Ladysmith one side alternated with the other at intervals along the line. There were British troops at Maritzburg, Boers at Balgowan; British at Mooi River, Boers at Willow Grange; British at Estcourt, Boers at Ennersdale; British within Ladysmith, and Boers without. To the Commander this complicated sandwich of friend and foe must have been most confounding, and the upshot of the war, even by experts, could no longer be hopefully foretold.
Sir George White was surrounded at Ladysmith, General Hildyard at Estcourt, and General Barton at Mooi River, and the Boers seemed able, after detaching troops sufficient to form three forces, consisting in all of about 17,000 men, still to be going onward with 7000 odd towards the sea.
During the afternoon of the 22nd of November a column moved out of camp in the direction
of Beacon Hill to check the Boer advance. No sooner had they started than a tremendous
Unfortunately the troops, while taking up their position at the base of Beacon Hill, were discovered by the enemy, who at once blazed out with their artillery. Thereupon the Naval gun from its post on the hill snorted defiance, and from this time the Boers remained on the alert. Nevertheless in the grey gloom of the early dawn the ascent was begun, the West Yorks, supported by the Queens and East Surreys, struggling to the summit over steep and rocky ground. From the base of the hill on the left flank of the enemy's position a wall led straight to the crown, and this wall and the absence of beaten tracks helped to make the already hard task additionally arduous. However, by patience and perseverance the crest of the hill was at last gained, and the troops, with a lusty cheer, cleared out some 150 Boers at the point of the bayonet. These with remarkable agility fled to a second position, on which the bulk of their force was situated. So precipitate was the flight that thirty horses were left behind and captured, together with saddlery and camp equipment. The West Yorks then took up a position on the hill behind a barricade of stones.
Meanwhile hard work during the afternoon and night of the 22nd and 23rd had been taking place in other directions. The Naval gun, supported by the Durham Light Infantry, with the greatest difficulty had been transported over the veldt, and lugged by sheer force of muscle up the almost inaccessible mountain. The route of the strugglers lay either across sponge or rock, and the choice was not exhilarating. The 7th Battery of Field Artillery also toiled manfully in bringing guns up the steep incline.
When the day broke, the enemy opened fire from the surrounding kopjes, and the Yorks
finding the Boers had to an inch the range of their position, were then forced to
retire. A heavy Boer gun had bee~posted on a hill to west of Willow Grange Station,
and this murderous weapon blazed away at the infantry with unabated zeal, though
our guns warmly returned the fire. The Boer shells did practically no damage, while
our shots from the Naval gun failed to reach the hostile quarters, its range being
shorter than that of the Boer weapons. However, the object of the reconnaissance
was attained, namely, to prevent the enemy from taking up certain positions overlooking
Estcourt and from spreading farther to the south. The mounted troops, under Lieut.Colonel
Martyr, were directed to co-
Many acts of gallantry and devotion were performed, especially by Lieutenant Nicholson,
Corporal Wylde, and Private Montgomery. Private Montgomery, though shot through the
thigh, went on firing, and when shot through the other thigh, refused to be taken
to the rear for fear of exposing the stretcher-
During the fight tieutenant Bridge, R.A., attached to the Imperial Light Horse, under
a heavy fire of both shot and shell rushed to a wounded man of the West Yorks, picked
him up, slung him over his shoulder, and brought him to a place of safety. Trooper
Fitzpatrick, I.L.H., brother of the author of "The Transvaal from Within," and a
prominent member of the Reform movement-
This highly successful night attack was, strategically speaking, of prodigious value. The hostile hordes that were advancing to the south with the intention of overrunning the Colony of Natal were summarily disposed of; their treatment at the hands of Colonel Kitchener and his small force being such that they preferred not to try conclusions with him again for some time to come. They at once took themselves off to Colenso, and in a very short space of time the telegraph lines and rails between Weston, Estcourt, and Frere were restored. The arrival of the first trains in camp was greeted with uproarious cheers.
|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|