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Cover of Victoria's Guns  Major Bill Billett's authoritative field guide
to Victoria's Guns: Scienceworks: Melbourne: 1994. The book is available
from Scienceworks, the Museum of Victoria's bookshop, Information
Victoria and Napoleon's Bookshop in Melbourne.
 
 Also available from Maj. Bill Billett is:
War Trophies of the First World War 1914-18, Kangaroo Press, 1999.
Also available from Napoleon's and Dymocks.
   
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READING ROOM INDEX

Battle of Rensburg, 12 February 1900

Lt. Cmdr W.J. Colquhoun, Feb. 1900

The Wilmansrust enquiry, June 1901

Victorian Nurses in the Boer War

Victorian Navy monument




BATTLE OF RENSBURG (Hobkirk's Farm "Pink Hill"), 12 February 1900


Account by a Boer prisoner to a correspondent of the The Daily Mail of the trap into which the 2nd/Worcesters had fallen and the attempted rescue of them by the Australians under Major Eddy, at Hobkirk's Farm, near Colesberg, 12th February 1900.
I saw a long row of their dead and wounded laid out on the slope of a farmhouse that evening - they were all young men, fine big fellows. I could have cried to look at them so cold and still. They had been so brave in the morning, so strong, but in the evening a few hours later they were dead, and we had not hated them nor they us.

It was a cruel fight. We had ambushed a lot of the British troops - the Worcesters, I think they called them. They could neither advance nor retire; we had them penned in like sheep, and our field cornet, van Leyden, was beseeching them to throw down their rifles to save being slaughtered, for they had no chance. Just then we saw about a hundred Australians come bounding over the rock in the gully behind us. There were two great big men in front cheering them on.

We turned and gave them a volley, but it did not stop them. They rushed over everything, firing as they came, not wildley, but with the quick sharp upward jerk to the shoulder, the rapid sight then the shot. They knocked over a lot of our men, but we had a splendid position. They had to expose themselves in order to get to us, and we shot them as they came at us. They were rushing to the rescue of the English. It was splendid but it was madness.

On they came and we lay behind the boulders, and our rifles snapped and snapped again at pistol range but we did not stop those wild men until they charged right into a little basin which was fringed around all its edges by rocks covered with bushes. Our men lay there as thick as locusts, and the Australians were fairly trapped. They were far worse off than the Worcesters up high in the ravine.

Our field cornet gave the order to cease firing and called on them to throw down their rifles or die. Then one of the big officers -- a great rough-looking man, with a voice like a bull, roared out "forward Australia! no surrender!" These were the last words he ever uttered for a man on my right put a bullet clean between his eyes and he fell forward dead. We found later that his name was Major Eddy, of the Victorian Rifles. He was as brave as a lion but a Mauser bullet will stop the bravest. His men dashed at the rocks like wolves; it was awful to see them. They smashed at our heads with clubbed rifles or thrust their rifles up against us through the rocks and fired. One after another their leaders fell. The second big man went down early, but he was not killed. He was shot through the groin, but not dangerously. His name was Captain McInerney.

There was another one, a little man named Lieutenant Roberts; he was shot through the heart. Some of the others I forget.
The men would not throw down their rifles; they fought like furies. One man I saw climbed right on to the rocky ledge where big Jan Aldrecht was stationed. Just as he got there a bullet took him and he staggered and dropped his rifle. Big Jan jumped forward to catch him before he toppled over the ledge, but the Australian struck Jan in the mouth with his clenched fist and [he] fell over into the ravine below and was killed.


We killed and wounded an awful lot of them, but some got away; they fought their way out. I saw a long row of their dead and wounded laid out on the slope of a farmhouse that evening - they were all young men, fine big fellows. I could have cried to look at them so cold and still. They had been so brave in the morning, so strong, but in the evening a few hours later they were dead, and we had not hated them nor they us.


SOURCE: THE MELBOURNE ARGUS, WEDNESDAY MAY 23rd 1900.  BACK TO 1st AUSTRALIAN REGIMENT PAGE.




NURSES
SISTER BERNHARD SMITH, VICTORIAN NURSE.
Wrote to her mother on June 15th 1900 from Umtali, Rhodesia.

Sister Dorothy Smith had a nasty accident to her hands. She poured pure carbolic over them, but has not gone off duty at all. The left hand is so deeply burnt that she has a neuralgic pain in it nearly all day and night.

Sister Langlands had a touch of fever but worked through it. So far I have been all right but working very hard.

There have been between 50 and 60 Yeomanry in the hospital for the last ten days or two weeks. Seven deaths in one week - two coma after malaria, and five dysentery.

We have been at our wits end to keep clean towels, or whatever we could get hold of, to change the beds of the patients ill with dysentery. The cases that have been sent out by the Warrnambool, Bendigo and Brighton people have been our salvation. We do want foment flannel and bandaging material badly.

The men are lying on stretchers, their own mackintosh, sheet and blankets, and overcoats if further warmth is needed. Fortunately the doctors bought a supply of pillows, and where we are short we use the men's coats folded into pillow cases, the kindly gift of the Umtali ladies.


SOURCE: THE ARGUS, THURSDAY 2nd AUGUST 1900




AUSTRALIAN NURSES IN THE BOER WAR
By Max Chamberlain

More than 60 Australian nurses appear to have gone to the Boer war, either provided by governments or by privately raised funds or at their own expense. They served with the New South Wales Army Medical Corps units, in British hospitals - Field, Stationary and Base - or on hospital ships and trains. Initially they experienced some resistance from the regular British Army Nursing Service and local nurses, but performed well in scattered groups or singly from Cape Town and Durban to Rhodesia. They nursed the wounded but found a higher proportion of cases suffered from diseases such as enteric fever (typhoid).

A group of 14 New South Wales nurses departed Sydney on the Moravian with the 2nd NSW contingent on 17 January 1900:
E J Gould   P Frater   E W Lister    N Newton   M Steele   J B Johnston   A C Garden   M Martin   E Nixon
T E Woodward   A Austin   E Hoadley   A J Matchett   A B M Pocock

Arriving at Cape Town in February 1900, six went to the Base General Hospital (BGH) Wynberg, Cape Town, four to No 2 Stationary Hospital, East London, and four to the Field Hospital, Sterkstroom, serving with the NSW AMC. Following the advance from Bloemfontein they served at No 3 BGH, Kroonstad and No 2 BSH, Johannesburg. In August 1900 four were at No 17 BSH, Middelburg, No 6 BGH, Johannesburg, and then No 25 BSH, Johannesburg, from September 1901 to February 1902, then at No 31 BSH, Ermelo.

A group of nine nurses was raised with private funds in South Australia:
M Bidmead   A G Cocks   A Watts   Milne   N B Harris   M A O'Shanahan   M A Glenie   Samuels
A B Stephenson.

Bidmead, Glenie and  Harris are believed to have gone earlier than the others who sailed on the Australasian on 21 February 1900. They served at No 2 BGH, Wynberg and at Bloemfontein and until March 1901 at Pretoria. Some served on hospital ships and one served on No 4 Hospital Train.

A group of ten nurses from Victoria went on the Euryalus with the 3rd Victorian Bushmen contingent on 10 March 1900:
M Rawson   F E Hines  E Smith   A E H Thomson   D Tiddy   E Walter   D Smith   E Langlands   I Ivey
J B Anderson.

They accompanied the Bushmen contingent to Rhodesia and served at Salisbury, Fort Charter, Bulawayo, Hillside, Mafeting, Springfontein and Tuli. Nurse Hines died at Memorial Hospital, Bulawayo on 7 August 1900, the only Australian nurse to die in this war.

A group of 11 nurses raised by a public appeal in Western Australia sailed on the Salamis from Albany on 21 March 1900:
M Nicolay   L A Naylor   M Plover   E A Bole   I Tchan   A Emmins   B Brooks   E E Speers
S Armstrong   B Milne   L E Rogers

They were employed in the Natal area at Mooi River, Howick, Estcourt and Volksrust. One reference states that they were disbanded in Cape Town and individuals joined Princess Christian's Army Nursing Service Reserve (PCANSR).

Individuals who went to this war served in several theatres. Some appear to have been with PCANSR, enlisted direct into the Imperial service:
A R Chutt (V) R Gwyer (N) M G A Warner (T) L Dawson (T) D Burgess (V) L H M O'Ryan (T) A Teesdale (SA) M A Grace (T) G Fletcher (N) M A Robertson (T) K O White (T).

Others who paid their own way are mentioned in the references: B Hutson (Q) R L Shappere (?V) J M Lempriere (V) E Orr B Kennedy A McCready (N) E Marsh E M McCarthy A M Chatfield (Q) L Mansfield (T) R A Hinton (Q).

Hutson served at BFH, Rondebosch, Green Point, near Cape Town, where she nursed Boer prisoners; No 11 BFH, Kimberley, and at Somerset. McCready was at Fort Napier Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, Kennedy at Estcourt and Shappere was in Ladysmith and at Johannesburg. Fletcher and McCarthy were Australians in the British Army Nursing Reserve.

Three Australian nurses were awarded the Royal Red Cross - Sisters Bidmead (SA), Nixon (NSW) and Rawson (Vic.); three were mentioned in Dispatches - Sisters Ivey (Vic.), Pocock (NSW) and Shappere (?Vic.); and two received the Devoted Service Cross - Sisters Bidmead and Glenie (SA).

Max Chamberlain is a member of the Anglo-Boer War Study Group of Australia.
  You can also read Max's article about Australia's Early War Correspondents.



VICTORIAN NURSES IN BULAWAYO DURING THE ANGLO-BOER WAR

With sickness taking its toll of the Bushmen in Bulawayo, the Victorian nursing sisters established an Australian hospital in the pavilion at the recreation ground.

Sister Ellen Walter wrote on 15 July 1900:

'We started the hospital here for the troops, and it has been a great business getting things fixed. It is just a large room in the athletic sports ground, formerly used for a gymnasium and which we use as a ward. The grandstand is boarded up for the doctors and for our rooms-all wood and iron-hot in the day and cold at night. Sister Julia Anderson and I are doing all the nursing work at present, as it takes Sister Marianne Rawson all her time looking after the housekeeping. Sisters Diana Tiddy and Annie Thomson are still at the civil hospital here, as there are a few men there still.
'Each intake of men who arrived in camp had such a lot ill with fever, dysentery and pneumonia. So far no typhoid among our men. We now have 30 in the ward, and 11 in tents with measles, and such a lot of New Zealanders arrive with it. Four nurses are still at Umtali and will come on here later, as the base hospital is to be here. Sister Frances Hines is at Enkeldoorn, but we expect her here soon. She has been a long time alone there. We are anxious to go with troops, and the Colonel in command has promised to send some of us on when the Imperial contingents have passed.'
The Victorian nurses suffered a fatality when Sister Frances Hines contracted pneumonia. She was buried at Bulawayo with full military honours.
Captain W. W. Dobbin, a Victorian Bushman, wrote: 'You have no doubt heard of all the misfortunes, disease and discomfort encountered by the troops unfortunate enough to be sent to Beira, Marndellas, etc. Our nursing sisters were the only sisters who ventured into these districts, and they have indeed done more than their share of work. At times one, sometimes two, would be trekked off on a week's coaching journey to some fever bed where the troops are falling ill, with possibly no accommodation but a deserted public house. I have seen two sisters on their knees scrubbing and cleaning such a place to receive their patients, and in the middle of their work 10 or 12 sick and dying men dumped down from an ox wagon, and no orderlies detailed and no native servants.
'The nurses would be obliged to take off some of their own clothing to make pillows for sick men, and then go outside to cook food under a blazing sun. They were never with us after Beira, but some of our troops, and men from other contingents write and speak in most grateful terms of their willing services.'
SOURCE: Wallace R.L.: The Australians at the Boer War: AWM & AGPS : Canberra: 1976: pp.249-250
Back to Nurses webpage.



Books about Australians at War
(Have a look without leaving this site)






Victorian Navy Monument, Williamstown Cemetery
 
Erected by the Officers, Petty Officers and Men of the Permanent Naval Force of Victoria
 
In Memory of their Deceased Comrades
 
Large Monument surmounted by Large Anchor

Name Rank Date
J. Buse A.B. 28.2.1883
C. Smith BOY 29.2.1884
J. Doolan S.D. 16.10.1886
E.J. Huysman F.E. 14.11.1889
A. McLean A.B. 27.12.1891
N.W. Marr S.D. 17.2.1896
I.P. Mulholland A.B. 29.1.1898
F. McLoughlan Lst 11.5.1901
T.W. Goding P.O. 20.8.1904
J.B. Miles T.A. 28.12.1908
G. Cann C.P.O. 30.1.1916
Next Column (2nd)
Name Rank Date
C. Hume S.R. 1.1884
J. Sansom M.A.A. 15.2.1885
S. Clapp C.B.M. 5.4.1888
J. Hannah S.R. 19.5.1891
E.S. Stevens P.O. 13.6.1894
H. Corrigan ENGr 29.8.1897
J.E. Simper A.B. 11.11.1898 C. of E. N
Name Rank Date
G. Skinner L st 13.5.1901
J.A. Lake 1ST C.P.O. 2.8.1907
E. Young A.B. 9.11.1909
F. Tickell Rear ADM1 19.9.1919 C.M.G., R.A.N.
 
Next Column (3rd)
Name Rank Date
H. Auld S.C. 26.1.1884
J. Ovendon C.B.M. 6.10.1886
M. Murray A.B. 29.6.1889
1 J. Stewart S.R. 10.10.1891
J.H.W. Cutler C11.S.B.A. 10.7.1895
J. Jacobs S.R. 11.10.1897
A.A. Gibbs BOY 18.10.1900
R. Temple W.O. 16.9.1901
W.J. Colquhoun CAPT. D.S.O. 17.8.1908
W.G. Robertson ENGr l LEUT. 10.12.1910
J.Gabriel A.B. -
Second Side
Name Rank Date
J. Fitzgerald O.S. 10.10.1917
B. Moore C.P.O. 1.1.1920
M. Fitzpatrick C.P.O. 8.7.1920
D. Ogilvie W.O. -
W. McLeod C.P.O. -
C. Critten C.P.O. 27.7.1920
S. Gamon W.O. -
J.H. Tubbs C.W.O. 8.11.1922
H. Cooper L.S. -
W. Irnons A.B. -
D. Jones LIEUT. -
O. Burford CAPT. -
-- Michelson P.O. -
A.W.B. McInnes C.P.O. 26.7.1923
Second Column
Name Rank Date
H. Claringbould W.O. 16.4.1918
A. Robertson A.B. -
T. Francombe A.B. 6.7.1935
W. Freeman Sr 16.9.1936
R. Vaughan C.P.O. 14.6.1936
J. Blair LIEUT. 29.8.1936
W. Robertson W.O. -
J. Miles C.P.O. 28.12.1908
S. Blair C.P.O. 8.11.1925
W. Nicol C.P.O. 26.3.1918
-- Gibbs BOY -
W.M. Davis E.R.A -
Third Column
Name Rank Date
H. Coster Officers Std 17.1.1940
  
SOURCE:: Helen Harris, OAM
Back to the VICTORIAN NAVY webpage.





W I L M A N S R U S T   E N Q U I R Y
 
PROCEEDINGS OF A COURT OF INQUIRY ASSEMBLED AT UITGEDACHT, TRANSVAAL, 15TH JUNE 1901, by order of MAJOR GENERAL S.BEATSON, taking evidence with regard to the night attack on the camp at WILMANSRUST on the night of the 12th June 1901.
LETTER FROM MAJOR C.J.N.MORRIS, R.F.A. TO MAJOR GENERAL BEATSON, Uitgedacht, 15th June 1901:
Sir, I have to report that my camp at Wilmansrust (consisting of 4 companies of V.M.R. [E, F, G, H] and the B/B and E/E sections Pompom) was rushed and taken by the Boers on the 12th inst. at about 7.30 p.m.
The position of the camp will be best described by a reference to the accompanying sketch. The camp was across a spur and faced south-east. The high ground to the right was over 2000 yards distance. The spruit which runs round the front of the camp, the direction from which the attack came, was at least 800 yards. On this side after crossing the spruit the camp could not be seen until within 250 yards owing to the fall of the ground; down this forward slope between four and five hundred yards to the front where they could see down into the spruit was placed the picquet (marked [C] in the sketch). About 70 to 80 yards to the right rear was a good sized stone cattle kraal [A] and close to this was a small farm house. It was in a lean-to against this house that I was sitting with Captain Watson, my staff officer, when the attack commenced.
To the rear of the camp the spur dropped slightly making that end of it on which the camp was situated almost a knoll. The position of the picquets are marked A, B, C, D on the sketch; they were reported to me as having men mounted about half an hour after dark.
The positions of the picquets were chosen personally by me and I took Captain Watson round the ground to where each picquet was to be; he in turn showed them to Lieutenant Power, an adjutant of the VMR, who afterwards stated that he had mounted them himself.
My information led me to believe that there might be from 150 to 200 Boers within ten miles of me, and during the afternoon some 20 came down the opposite slopes to within 3000 yards of the camp. These were driven away by a few shots from the pompom, one man being wounded.
About 7.30 p.m. I was talking to Captain Watson when a crash came followed by rapid firing. We at once rushed towards the horse lines, he going by the north side of the house, I by the south. This was the last time I saw him alive. The Boers were then in line across the front of the camp, inside the pompoms and the fire coming from their rifles made a long line of continuous flame. Many horses stampeded and what followed can best be described as a panic and in the pitch darkness I was quite unable to rally the men. Three time I mistook Boers for my own men, but the fourth time on approaching three of them I was seized by two of them and pushed down on to the ground where there were three other men under the charge of a sentry. It was at this same moment that the cease fire was sounded twice on the bugle, by whose order I am unable to say, but from the commencement of the attacks there had been cries of cease fire all over the camp. The whole affair could not have lasted more than ten minutes. When the firing ceased it was 7.40 p.m. At this time there did not appear to be more than 30 men in the camp and they were without arms.
When the attack commenced the Boers advanced in a straight line through the camp discharging their rifles rapidly in many cases without raising them to their shoulders. The main attack came upon the front of the camp, but there was another attack at the same time, the fire from which swept across the rear of the horse lines at right angles to the frontal attack. This fire ceased directly the main line of the Boers reached the end of the horses, the latter continued to advance clearing the ground in front of them.
My intention had been to rally what men I could and take them to the kraal [A] but I found it impossible to get hold of any men with arms. It was whilst attempting to do this that I was made a prisoner and the firing ceased almost at the same moment. I then told the man who was sentry over me who I was and requested to be taken to their commandant. This was done and he told me he was General Muller. The latter then placed me under charge of one man and permitted me to go round the lines. Being unable to find the doctor I asked General Muller to release a group of prisoners to collect the wounded from amongst the horses. This he did on my giving a promise that they would not touch any rifles. At this time I imagined that the remainder of the men had got away. I now discovered that the Doctor was amongst the killed and I requested General Muller to permit me to send two men to the main camp for medical assistance and to give them a written pass for their safe conduct to the camp. This request was at once granted and he supplied me with two horses for the purpose. The Boers cleared away about 10.45 p.m. taking with them practically all blankets and clothing. It was now that I became aware for the first time that there were over 100 of my men in the hands of the Boers. We were all marched down to the spruit, when General Muller told me that the men could return to the wounded, but that he would give me a horse and take me with him. A little later he told me to return with my own men.
On getting back to the camp I organised a thorough search for wounded and missing men, collected all the wood that could be found and lighted big fires to keep them warm. During this search I found that about 100 rifles had been overlooked by the Boers and 44,000 rounds of ammunition. I directed the kraal to be strengthened and occupied by the men whom I was able to arm. I also had all rations which could be found taken there. At daylight I discovered that the picquet to the south west of the camp in the rocks, consisting of 20 men had remained undiscovered by the Boers. I gave orders to hold on to this post. About 6.30 a.m. on the 13th inst. a few Boers rode down to collect straying animals, but on being fired on they dispersed leaving one killed. Soon afterwards General Beatson arrived with relief.
To my knowledge 3 Boers were killed and their wounded were taken away in our Cape carts.
Veterinary Lieutenant Sherlock in the absence of a doctor did all that was possible for the wounded men.
In addition to the above-mentioned picquets, I always had an inlying picquet of 20 men who slept in front of the guns. This picquet did not go to its post until after their evening meal, and was probably not there on the night of the attack owing to the early hour at which it was made. The total strength of the force was 342 officers, N.C.O.s and men.
Strength of the picquets: A - N.C.O. and 12 men B - 1 N.C.O. and 6 men C - 1 N.C.O. and 6 men D - 1 Officer and 20 men Inlying picquet - 20 men
 
I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant. Etc
GENERAL SIR BINDON BLOOD'S SUMMING-UP OF THE DISASTER, WEST ALLEN CAMP, TRANSVAAL, 24TH JUNE 1901:
[1] PRIMARY CAUSES OF THE DISASTER:
It seems clear that the success of the night attack on Major Morris's camp on the 12th inst., was due primarily to the following causes, namely: a) The two picquets [B] and [C], close to which the enemy's attacks passed, did not do their duty; in as much as they either failed through want of due vigilance to discover the proximity of the enemy in time and warn the camp, or else, having discovered the enemy, they failed through cowardice to give warning. b) The arrangement intended to provide defence for the camp itself on the first alarm and until the main body of the force could get into position; though duly ordered was not made, and had it been made it would have been insufficient. It was meant to consist of one inlying picquet of an officer and 20 men, which was to have been posted in front of the guns, but at the time of the attack, some two hours after sunset, it had not been so posted. And at least two more inlying picquets of this strength were necessary for the security of the camp; all being posted, with sentries in front of them, at sunset.
[2] MINOR CAUSES OF THE DISASTER:
The following defects in the arrangements also contributed to the success of the attack, though in a less degree than the causes above detailed, namely: a) Picquets [B] and [C] (1 N.C.O. and 6 men) were too weak, which probably affected their behaviour. b) The picquets were changed after dark, and the change appears to have been very casually carried out. c) Fires, apparently large, were burning inside the perimeter of the camp after dark up to the time of the attack, at which time also many men were sitting round them. d) The guns were left after dark on or near the perimeter, where they were much exposed, while as they were not case-firing guns they were useless there at night. e) The men not on picquet did not have their rifles and ammunition beside them individually in their bivouacs.
[3] REMARKS ON THE SITE OF THE CAMP AND DEFENSIVE ARRANGEMENTS GENERALLY:
So far as can be judged from the sketch, Major Morris selected the position for his camp judiciously. But he did not place his picquets well, and they were too few in number, though as it happened these defects did not immediately affect the result, since the two attacks happened to pass close to two of the picquets, who should have heard them and given warning.
[4] THE ONUS OF RESPONSIBILITY:
Of course Major Morris was responsible for these errors and for the others previously noted. But I would observe that they were errors of judgement, due to want of knowledge and experience and not the result of carelessness or neglect. They were the sort of errors that one sees made daily by our officers, whose practical field training, as we all know, is very deficient; especially as regards outpost duty, and more especially as regards the outpost and defensive arrangements of small camps.
[5] PICQUETS [B] & [C]:
Personally I am of opinion that picquets [B] and [C] close to which the enemy's two attacks passed, heard them, but failed to fire on them as they should have done, through fear that their so doing would bring the enemy down on them. As they were only 7 rifles each, there is excuse for them. They were tired too highly considering that they were raw and partially trained soldiers.
[6] THE V.M.R. GENERALLY:
Similarly, in considering the chicken-hearted behaviour of the officers and men generally of the Victorian Mounted rifles on this occasion, we must remember that they were all a lot of recruits together, and that their behaviour was only what was to be expected in the circumstances. Of course had these circumstances been different - if the outposts and defences had been properly arranged - the attack, well carried out as it was, could not possibly have succeeded, and this consideration makes the whole affair additionally unpleasant to think of.
LETTER FROM GENERAL KITCHENER, COMMANDING-IN-CHIEF, SOUTH AFRICA, TO UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR, LONDON. FROM ARMY HEADQUARTERS, SOUTH AFRICA, PRETORIA, 5TH JULY 1901.
Sir, I have the honour to forward the original proceeding of a Court of Inquiry on the circumstances connected with the successful Boer attack on the camp of a detachment of Major General Beatson's force at Wilmansrust (Transvaal) on the night of the 12th June 1901.
Major Morris, Royal Field Artillery, who commanded the detachment has been censured.
I enclose a copy of notes of the Defence of Camps and Bivouacs which has been issued to the troops.
Back to the WILMANSRUST webpage.



Lt. Cmdr W.J. Colquhoun
BATTLE OF PAARDEBERG, 18-27 February 1900

Lieut-Commander W.J. Colquhoun, of the Victorian Naval Defences, also served as a Special Service Officer at Paardeberg. When he first arrived in the country Colquhoun found himself tied to a transport office post at the Cape before he managed to become attached to the Naval Brigade on the western front. He arrived in time to join the batteries shelling the Magersfontein ridge. Captain G.J. Johnstone described how 'whenever Grieve, Umphelby and myself had nothing in particular to do on the Modder we used to go over and have a yarn with Colquhoun, and watch him shelling Magersfontein. Every day in the cool of the evening the Boers used to come out of their trenches for a stroll, and our gunners used to have a go at them. We three used to sit on a breastwork and chaff Colquhoun about his shooting.'

On the drive with French to Kimberley Colquhoun commanded one of the 12-pounder naval guns in the action on the Modder at Klip Drift, where the gun he was working was hit by a shell which smashed one of the wheels. The wheels and the carriage had been hastily improvised at Simonstown. Not to be beaten Colquhoun surprised everybody, including Lieutenant Dean of the Royal Navy who commanded the other 12-pounder gun, when at the end of 12 hours solid work and improvising in the field he succeeded in modifying the wheels of a buck wagon sufficiently to fit them to the gun carriage. The gun was ready for action again.

The naval guns were in action quite early at Paardeberg participating in the shelling of Kitchener's Kopje and in the bombardment of the laager. The day before the surrender both of the 12-pounder guns became immobilised through wheel troubles.

Under instructions to get the guns to the depot at Cape Town, a mission that would have taken some weeks, Colquhoun chose to do a daring thing. He decided to vary the orders by taking the guns to Kimberley. At Kimberley he appealed to Cecil Rhodes for assistance. Rhodes placed the De Beers engineering shop at his disposal. The Australian scrounged around Kimberley and managed to find wheels that could be used. Soon the guns were mounted for service again. Colquhoun got both guns back to the army at Paardeberg in time to join the column about to set out for Bloemfontein. The naval guns took part in every action right up to the entry into Bloemfontein.
The resourcefulness shown by this Australian officer was praised by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr G.J. Goschen, in announcing the award of the Distinguished Service Order to Lieut-Commander Colquhoun. Colquhoun later visited London and was decorated personally by Queen Victoria.

SOURCE: Wallace, R.L.: The Australians at the Boer War: AWM & AGPS: Canberra: 1976: pp.136-7





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