The attack begins--Description of ground--Capture of Boer advanced position--Night-fall.

On Monday, the 11th of June, began two days' heavy fighting; the operations were on a large scale against a strong and well-found enemy, posted, as we saw afterwards, in a position almost impregnable, along a front of six or eight miles, with his line of retreat open.

On the first day, the 11th of June, we were the leading battalion of the column, the Camerons being on baggage and rear guard and the Derbyshire and C.I.V's. with us. We marched at six o'clock and moved off towards the west; after trekking for a few miles we halted for some time under cover of a rise in the ground, from which we could see that the mounted troops were pretty heavily engaged in our front, over a considerable area. Away to our right front there was a plateau of great extent with a kopje of some size rising out of it; this kopje was being shelled with much spirit by the enemy, and on looking through our glasses we could see a fairly large party of mounted troops, either cavalry or mounted infantry, who were ensconced under cover of the kopje. To all appearance they were hung up in a state of compulsory inaction, as they could neither leave its cover nor take any offensive steps. They appeared to be quite safe, however, as regards shell fire, for the shrapnel seemed to burst beyond them or on the far side of the hill each time.

After a time we were put in motion again, but now in extended order, moving in columns of companies at wide intervals, G company, under Lieut. Nelson, leading, followed by H under Captain Wisden and A under Captain Blake (Major O'Grady being temporarily on the sick list), and the remaining companies in the usual order.

The three leading companies moved along towards a deep ravine, at the head of which they halted in accordance with orders; but from there G and H, under command of Captain Wisden, were directed to advance across the open and occupy a kopje to the left front. On the left of this ravine were some farm houses lying under the lee of two small hills, from the summit of which a fairly extensive view would be obtained. The ground in front of these two hills was quite open for about a mile, but to their left a smooth grassy range of hills rose and extended back for some considerable distance, swinging round, about a mile and a half away, to the left and diminishing in elevation until the plain was reached, and thus forming a deep re-entrant angle, the inside of which was very fairly wooded and looked rocky on the top.

On our left the ground remained open, though undulating; but a wooded kopje rose out of the plain about a mile away, with two other kopjes of a lesser elevation on its right, and bearing off towards the re-entrant angle already mentioned.

This wooded kopje was the one that Captain Wisden was ordered to seize, and accordingly he sent off his companies in succession, in the usual widely extended formation, while Captain Blake followed with A company as a support, at a considerable interval. Captain Wisden met with a pretty wide and deep donga when he had gone about half way, and, while crossing this, a dropping fire was opened on him, but at a very considerable range (perhaps, 1,200 or 1,500 yards), apparently from the thickly wooded range of hills on his right. One or two sections were promptly formed to the right and replied to this fire, being relieved by A company, who came up very shortly and devoted themselves to pouring in a steady fire on the enemy, thus leaving Captain Wisden's two companies at liberty to continue their advance.

Just about this time, five mounted men were seen to leave this kopje and to move towards the range of hills, so G and H companies pushed on, while our battery, from the rear, opened fire and shelled the kopje over their heads. The companies led on steadily, and, when the guns had finished shelling, they rushed the hill and climbed to the top, where they remained, holding it for some little time.

Directly they showed that they were in possession of the hill, a move was made by A company towards the low kopjes on the right of that held by Captain Wisden; in this they were supported by the advance of B, C, and D companies under Major Panton, with Lieut. Nelson and Lieut. Ashworth in command of the latter two companies; the machine gun under Captain Green came along also. A company reached and occupied these small hills, and, the other companies coming up, fire was opened on the wooded and rocky hill beyond, which, it was now seen, was separated from us by a grassy valley about half-a-mile in width. The Maxim came into action also, and remained at this spot firing over our heads and covering our advance for some little time, after which it followed us. A consistently steady dropping fire was maintained on us all the time, and nothing could be done except to rush across the open, gain the end of the spur in front, and then, turning to the right, swarm up the hill in the hopes of taking the Boers in flank. We moved down the valley and across, and, when within a long run of the foot of the spur, the bugle sounded and off we dashed, shoving on our bayonets as we went, yelling and shouting like fiends. Breathless, we reached the foot of the hill, turned to our right, and commenced to climb it; the enemy had gone, and we were quite free from annoying Mauser bullets for a time; at least so we thought, until someone went a little too far and showed himself on the edge of the hill, facing the east, when one or two shots soon came whistling over his head.

Seemingly, the majority of the enemy were in position on an appalling high and continuous range of hills, stretching to north and south, as far as we could see. A deep and grassy valley about 1,500 to 2,000 yards in width separated us, but we had no time to waste in looking about us, as we had yet to reach the top of the spur, at whose foot we had only just arrived; so, keeping on the lee side of the hill, we ascended the spur until we reached the top, where we halted to await orders. In our rush across the little valley three or four men had been wounded.

While this little attack was being carried out, the Volunteer company had moved out in support of G and H companies, then in occupation of the wooded kopje, but had somehow left the kopje on their right and had gone off in a north-easterly direction towards the tremendous range of hills to which we found that the enemy had retired. The Volunteers met with some firing on their way, but were allowed by the enemy to come within about 800 yards, when suddenly a furious outburst of fire descended on the unfortunate company, compelling it to retire somewhat precipitately, until it got beyond range. The Boers must have watched their approach and concentrated their fire in anticipation of the Volunteers coming within medium range, for the number of rifles employed against the Volunteers was very large: the ground all round and amongst the men was covered with spirts of dust, while the noise was perfectly deafening and reminded one of the last stage of the attack at a field-day when every man is anxious to finish his ammunition. Wonderful to relate, only two men were wounded; but this was doubtless due to the very extended line maintained, both in the advance and the retirement. The enemy had a pom-pom on the hill which also contributed its quota of noise and clouds of deadly fragments and flying splinters.[7]

The battalion, after remaining until dusk on the top of the hill, received orders to march back to camp near the farm from which it had, earlier in the day, advanced to the attack. Three companies, however, had to remain on picket, including H company, which was to stay on the kopje it had originally occupied. G company was therefore sent for and posted on the top of the hill, and A was directed to remain about half way down the spur, while the remaining companies made the best of their way back to camp, which they reached about six o'clock.

We had to wait some time for our baggage; E and F companies, who were escort to the two five-inch guns, did not come into camp at all that night, but joined us late the next morning.


[7] Our casualties during the day were as follows:

WOUNDED. Lce-Cpl. G. Washer, B Company. Private A. Hobden, C Co. J. Clapshaw, B Co.  E. Baker, Vol. Co.  J. Caldwell,  Vol. Co.  J. Miles, G Co.  T. Gainsford, A Co. 

MISSING. Ebsworth,     F Company.

This man of F Company seems to have wandered off, without permission, to a farm, where he was promptly sniped by some Boers, wounded and taken prisoner: a lesson to others: some men, however, will only learn by bitter experience.