- Parent Category: Units
Sandspruit, Ladysmith, Colenso, Spioenkop, Vaalkrans, Lang's Nek, Botha's Pass, Alleman's Nek, Donkerhoek, South Eastern Transvaal, Van Wyk's Vlei, Bergendal, Waterval Onder, Geluk, Machadodorp, Witkloof, Lake Chrissie, Bakenlaagte and Oshoek
The Commando was formed in 1895, having previously been a Veld cornetcy of the Lydenburg Commando. Comdt David Johannes Joubert, a nephew of the Comdt General PJ Joubert, was appointed the first commanding officer and was responsible for building the Commando up. Their first action as an independent command was the Jameson Raid in 1896. The commando mobilised and rode throughout the night to Krugersdorp, but upon arriving there found that the skirmish at Doornkop was over.
The next engagement was in the war against Mphephu (1897-98) where the unit received its baptism of fire. As Comdt Joubert had also become a member to the first Volksraad he was obliged to resign his commission in October 1898, being unable to occupy both paid positions simultaneously. Comdt HF Prinsloo was elected to replace him and was responsible for re-organising the commando to make it combat ready. The total number of available burghers, between the ages of 18 and 60, was 506. It is possible that for a variety of reasons, not more than 400 burghers could be fielded – it was accordingly one of the smallest commandos.
When it became apparent that war was inevitable the burghers were mobilised on the 4th October 1899 under three veld cornets. Ward 1, 2 and 3 under AJ de Lange, WH de Villiers and Andries Viljoen respectively. Due to a scarcity of horses several members had to walk to Lochiel. The unit, together with 500 men of the Lydenburg commando, was placed under Gen Schalk W Burger. On the 17th October Gen Burger, David Joubert and 250 burghers journeyed to Natal, arriving at Ladysmith on 27 October. The rest of the Commando remained at Oshoek where they patrolled the Swaziland border. Towards the end of November, under Comdt Prinsloo, the remaining burghers left for Natal, arriving there early in December.
On the 30th October Gen Burger and his men were engaged at the Battle of Modderspruit where they suffered no casualties.
On the 13th November 42 Carolina burghers forming part of a force of 3000 burghers crossed the Tugela River. Of these a force of 500 men under Comdt David Joubert thoroughly reconnoitered the area south of the Tugela. The Commando was present at the ambushing of the armoured train at Chieveley. On 15 November Comdt Joubert with the Carolina and 450 men of the Middelburg commandos advanced to Weenen whilst the rest of the force advanced southwards under Gen Louis Botha. The village was invested. David Joubert advanced to Mooi River where on the 22nd November, the village was shelled by the four field pieces that formed part of his force. Mooi River was again attacked in pouring rain on the 24th November with General Louis Botha now in command, both groups having been re-united. The Boer presence at Mooi River caused much consternation in Durban with some citizens sleeping on ships.
The Mooi River attack was repulsed. On the 25th November the force was withdrawn to the Tugela and by the 27th was back at Ladysmith.
During the Battle of Platrand on the 6th January 1900, as a feint the Carolina burghers attacked Ladysmith itself in an attempt to prevent reinforcements from being sent to Platrand and to deceive the defenders from ascertaining the real purpose of the attack. The engagement lasted the entire day with the Boer forces withdrawing that evening. The Carolina commando suffered few casualties, one of which was Veldcornet Viljoen, who suffered a slight head wound.
On the 16th January 1900 Gen Buller's force crossed the Tugela at Trichardtsdrift and on the 18th January Lord Dundonald's cavalry engaged the Boers at Acton Homes. Very few Boers had occupied the Upper Tugela and had Lord Dundonald a greater force and more support from Gen Warren he may well have been able to reach Ladysmith. Gen Louis Botha proceeded to reinforce the Upper Tugela and the Carolina Commando together with 100 Lydenburg Commandos, under the command of Gen Schalk Burger, was sent to Three Tree Hill.
On the 20th January the British attacked the Tabanyama ridges and after a four day engagement were driven back. On the evening of the 23rd January Spioenkop was attacked and the crest of the hill taken. Gen Louis Botha ordered Gen Schalk Burger to drive the British from the crest, promising reinforcements. He and Comdt Prinsloo decided to send Corp Abraham Smit and 25 burghers to Spionkop to reconnoiter and hold what could be held.
Once it became light Comdt Prinsloo himself, selected the positions from which his artillery could cover the crest while remaining out of range of enemy fire he, though the heliographist L Bothma, directed the Boer artillery's deadly fire. A further 40 burghers were sent at 6.30 am to assist Corp Smit; the remaining Carolina and Lydenburg burghers returning to Three Tree Hill, other than 20 men held in reserve. Amery in the Times History had this to say "where many on both sides showed conspicuous courage, the palm must go to the little band of Carolina men – their losses 57 out of 85, 65 percent equal the best achievement on either side during the war, and the part they played that day was a splendid testimony alike to their valour and to the skill with which they had posted themselves."
After the Battle of Spioenkop the Carolina Commando was not allocated fixed assignments but formed part of the reserve, taking part in several engagements in which the reserve was required. They were engaged at Vaalkrans and a group of Carolina burghers, under Comdt Prinsloo were engaged at Pieters Heights at the point where the fighting was the heaviest.
Once Ladysmith was relieved on the 27th February, the Carolina Commando withdrew to the Biggars Berg and took up a position near the present Dannhauser, where they remained inactive for a considerable period. On 19 March JC Fourie was appointed Assistant Field General to supersede Gen Schalk Burger who had been recalled to Pretoria. On the 9th April 1900 a section of Carolina and Lydenburg commandos were engaged at Elandslaagte. On the 8th May Gen Buller advanced and the Boers, while offering resistance were forced to retreat. The Carolina and Lydenburg commandos defended Botha's Pass where on the 6th June an engagement occurred. On the 8th June the British shelled the Boer positions in force. Gen Fourie withdrew to Allermans Nek, suffering on the road thereto several casualties during a skirmish at Gansvlei.
On 11 June Gen Buller attacked Allermans Nek with a large artillery bombardment, followed by an infantry attack. Again, suffering casualties, Gen Fourie withdrew to Sandspruit and from there to Skulpspruit. On the 23rd June Gen Fourie attacked Platrand Station, again suffering casualties.
For several weeks the commando remained in the vicinity of Amersfoort, returning to their respective districts on the 20th July. Once the British advance on Belfast began the Carolina Commando took a position in the Witrand, near the Komati River, on Gen Fourie's farm Welgevonden. They formed the extreme left flank of Gen Louis Botha's defensive line which stretched from the Komati, past Berg-en-Dal to the Steenkamps Berg.
The Witrand is a plateau which gradually drops down to the Klein Komati. On the eastern ridge of the plateau, was a stone wall used by Gen Fourie to fence off an area. The wall was about 700 metres long. Some of the Carolina commando took up positions behind this wall. The burghers built low stone schanzes 30 metres from the wall where it disappeared behind the ridge. This wall was Ward 1's position, with Ward 2 more to the right and Ward 3 to the left near the Klein Komati.
With these positions prepared, the Boers actually had a long wait for the next British advance. Gen Buller was advancing from Volksrust, past Amersfoort and Ermelo. On the 14th August they were at Naudesbank and Gen Buller sent a cavalry regiment to take the town. On the 15th August Gen Buller reached the farm Twyfelaar which was Lord Roberts' right flank. Gen Buller bivouacked there. At this stage Gen Botha sent the Standerton Commando to take the high ground across the Komati, being concerned of being encircled by the British.
On 21 August Buller advanced on Vanwyksvlei and his advanced guard reached the Witrand Plateau. They clashed with the Carolina Commando and a stiff engagement, lasting the entire day, ensued. At 8 pm the British, with 36 casualties, retreated. Three of the commando were injured. The British attacked again on the following day but retreated at 3 pm with a further seven wounded. On the 23rd August Buller's infantry advanced northwards with his right flank still in contact with Gen Fourie's forces. At the same time a cavalry regiment was despatched to the south and engaged the Standerton and Carolina commandos left flank. A fiery engagement (particularly the artillery) took place and the enfilading movement was repulsed.
The infantry again advanced on the eastern ridge of the Witrand Plateau and engaged Gen Fourie's force. The British advanced over open country while the Boers sought cover behind the stone wall and schanzes. The British had to quickly to drop flat and seek cover to survive. Reinforcements were sent to the British but they were forced to abandon the attack and dashed for cover.
Towards evening the Boers rushed the British, forcing them to retreat – in the course of which they were subjected to merciless fire. British casualties were 74 dead and wounded. Gen Buller's troops dug graves that night on the western ridge of the plateau.
On the 27th August Buller broke through at Berg en Dal and the Boers were forced to retreat. The Carolina and Standerton commandos retreated with their artillery to Dwaalheuwel, south of Waterval Onder, and bivouacked there on 29th August. On the 2nd September Gen French left Machadodorp for Carolina. Gen Fourie, taking a Krupp and pom-pom, tried to prevent his advance. Comdt David Joubert remained at Dwaalheuwel with Ward 3's men and other unmounted burghers totalling 70 in all. They were attacked on the 3rd September. The British attacked again on the 7th September and were repulsed. Certain of the Ermelo burghers had joined wards 2 and 3 of the Carolina and Standerton commandos and they attempted to attack Gen French at Rooihoogte on the 9th September when he left Carolina. A skirmish took place. The British outflanked Gen Fourie's left flank forcing the Boers to retreat to the Swartrand, on the other side of Badplaas. Thereafter Gen Fourie returned and took up a position on Nelshoogte.
On the 9th September, Ward 3 of the Carolina Commando, reinforced by some Irish Americans under Luther were strongly posted at Weltereden (David Joubert's farm) on Pole-Carew's right flank. A vigorous attack by Henry's force, in which the "J" Battery distinguished themselves, soon drove back the Boer centre and the Boers were forced to retreat with several casualties. The commando withdrew to Uitkomst where a further skirmish occurred and then on to Nelshoogte where Gen Fourie had taken a position above Nelsberg. The old road went through the kloof and was very steep. Gen French, on the morning of 12 September heavily shelled the ridges where the Boers were posted. At the same time his main force advanced on the kloof. As the road was so steep the horses had to be led. The British advance was forced to stop and a static rifle skirmish ensued. Gen French was eventually able to encircle the Boer left flank and the burghers had to retreat down the South of Nelsberg with the loss of several wagons. Wards 1 and 2 returned to Leliefontein under Gen Fourie and Comdt Prinsloo. Ward 3 remained in the area below Sewefontein under the command of Gen David Joubert. Those burghers who were near their farms returned there but they remained ready to be called up.
Continued attacks on the Delagoa Bay railway forced the British to remove the Boers from the Komati area. On the 2nd October the British attacked a Boer observation post. This led to skirmishes in several places as Gen Fourie rallied his men to assist. The British withdrew to Belfast. Gen French with a force of 3 000, including 16 guns, left Machadodorp on his first sweep to remove Boers from the highveld. The Carolina commando, assisted by a group of Ermelo commandos under Comdt Hans Grobler took up positions on the Witrand from where they had, several months earlier, fought the British. Their total force was 500 men and a gun from Ermelo. A short but fiery engagement took place and the British withdrew. They then advanced by means of another route and on 15 October re-occupied Carolina, departing therefrom the following day.
Gen French was attacked by Gen Fourie on the road to Chrissiesmeer and forced to alter course. Gen French advanced to Ermelo being continually harried by the Boers. The commando returned to Leliefontein after these skirmishes.
As in the past Gen Fourie's headquarters were posted on Leliefontein. Observation and advanced guards were placed on Frischgewaand and van Wyksvlei to warn against attacks. On the evening of the 2nd November 1900 Gen Smith-Dorien and Lt-Col Spens, with two companies of troops left Belfast, intending to attack the burghers. Gen Smith-Dorien advanced over Berg-en-Dal and along the Witrand to Frischgewaand. Spens advanced to Van Wyksvlei. Gen Smith-Dorien encountered heavy rain at dawn near Welgevonden. The Canadian Mounted Rifles became engaged at this stage. The main force advanced to Van Wyksvlei. At Van Wyksvlei Spens became involved in a major engagement. Repeated requests for assistance from the Canadian Mounted Rifles were ignored as they were still engaged at Welgevonden. A heavy thunder storm drenched everyone and Smith-Dorien decided to return to Belfast.
On 6 November 1900 Smith-Dorien left Belfast with 250 cavalry, 900 infantry, 8 guns and a Vickers maxim section, bound for Carolina. He caught Gen Fourie not quite unprepared. At approximately 8.30am the Boers attacked at Eerstelingsfontein but from rather poor positions. They slowly retreated whilst remaining in contact with the British, eventually reaching strong positions along the Komati – from Witkloof to Leliefontein. Several frontal attacks were made by the British, drawing heavy rifle fire. Repeated attempts by the cavalry to encircle the Boer right flank, failed. Smith-Dorien sent cavalry and infantry to attack the Boer left flank on Leliefontein forcing Gen Fourie to withdraw towards Carolina.
The Carolina and Ermelo officers decided that evening to attack the British at Leliefontein the following morning, Ermelo on the left, with Carolina lodging a frontal attack. Early the following morning the British did not advance to Carolina as expected, but moved in a northern direction along the Komati, towards Witkloof. The Ermelo burghers prepared their outflanking maneuver, missing the British as a result of their northerly advance. Gen Fourie and the Ward 1 burghers advanced along the Boesmanspruit and then turned in the direction of Witkloof. Comdt Prinsloo of Ward 2 advanced over Nooitgedacht and Burnside, crossed the Komati and noting that Gen Fourie had already attacked the troops on Witkloof, ordered his men to attack. During the course of this advance they were brought under heavy artillery fire by Smith-Dorien. The engagement continued ferociously until 11 that morning whereupon Smith-Dorien slowly retreated. At one stage the Boers tried to take two British guns. The Canadians attempted to protect the guns, giving them a chance to withdraw. The Canadians that were not wounded were taken prisoners. Three Canadians received the Victoria Cross in this action.
At two that afternoon the Boers attacked again, nearly capturing one of the guns. A group of British troops took up position in a pan whilst the gun was withdrawn. The Boers following behind the gun charged and fell into an ambush. The British opened fire when the Boers reached them. The Boers dismounted whilst Gen Fourie was hit while still mounted, and instantly killed. Comdt Prinsloo was hit while trying to dismount, and killed. The engagement stopped and Smith-Dorien was able to return to Belfast unhindered having incurred 14 casualties and 16 captured. The Boer losses were the two senior officers killed and five wounded – a heavy loss for the commando. A few days later the commando assembled at Bonnefoi where David Joubert was elected the leader.
The burghers now operated in small independent groups, some of whom joined Gen Botha and assisted at the attack on Belfast on 7 January 1901. They also assisted Gen Botha's attack on Smith-Dorien's Chrissiesmeer camp on the 5th and 6th February 1901 and Gen C Botha's invasion of parts of Natal in September 1901.
The remaining members laid down the arms at Twyfelaar in June 1902, with heavy hearts.