REPORT OF ATTACK ON PUDUHUSCHE, MORNING OF 9th MAY. RETURN TO RYAN’S ON 10th MAY.
11th May, 1897.
To the Secretary for Defence.
Sir,—I have the honour to report that at 8 p.m. on the evering of the 8th May, 1897, I moved off from Oliphant’s Kloof with a Column composed as follows:—
“E” Squadron, C.M.R. 3 Officers. 60 Other ranks. No horses
Artillery Troop, C.M.R. No officers. 16 Other Ranks. 16 horses
P.A.O.C. Artillery. 2 Officers. 22 Other ranks. 4 horses
D.F. Artillery. 1 Officer. 11 Other ranks. 1 horse
D.E.O.V.R. Mounted. No officers. 2 Other ranks. No horses
Gordonia Volunteers. 2 Officers. 48 Other ranks. 50 horses
Vryburg Volunteers. 1 Officer. 32 Other ranks. No horses
Mount Temple Volunteers. 2 Officers. 23 Other ranks. 1 horse
Native Contingent. 1 Officers. 4 Europeans other ranls. 26 Native other ranks. 5 horses
Volunteer Medical Staff. 3 Officers. 10 Other ranks. 4 horses
C. T. Highlanders and P. A. Guard. 4 Officers.71 Other ranks. No horses
D.E.O. V. Rifles. 5 Officers. 102 Other ranks. 1 horse
Staff. 5 Officers. 2 Other ranks. 12 horses
Totals: 29 Officers. 429 Other ranks. 94 horses
all dismounted with tho exception of 50 Gordonia Volunteers
Captain Johnson in command of another column, 273 strong, also dismounted, having preceded me by two hours; his destination being the heights on the southern side of Puduhusche Kloof. After marching through the night the column under my command reached the entrance to Puduhusche about 7 a.m., laagered the wagons, and as soon as the sun was fairly high I distinguished with the glasses Captain Johnson’s column on the sky-line; and between 7 and 8 a.m. he signalled that he would be in position to cover our attack at about 10 a.m. but that his men were very tired and were also in a bad way as regards their water supply, as the water-bearers had thrown away their water bags and bolted.
At about 11 a.m. I received a message that his men were in position, that all the rebels had been seen making for the northern side of the kloof, and that he thought that the attacking party had better keep close to the southern side.
I accordingly detailed the C.M.R. under Captain Woon, and the Cape Town Highlanders and the P.A. Guard under Captain Searle, to advance up the kloof, the D.E.O.V.R. being on support and reserve, and the whole column to attack under command of Colonel Spence. The rebels allowed the mounted scouts to pass without attempting to fire, and then when the line of skirmishers came about abreast of them poured in a well directed fire from artificial schanzes on the left which had been carefully marked out, and at the same time the rebels opened fire both on the front and right of the line of the attacking party, seeing which Captain Johnson sent down the Gordonia men with him to take the rebels, who were firing on the front and right between the two fires. The attack lasted continuously from 11 a.m. till 3 p.m. when the schaozen were rushed on the left and right by the D.E.O.V.R. and Cape Town Highlanders, and Gordouias respectively, and the Puduhusche Valley was virtually taken. The position was a very strong one and was well defended by the rebels, fighting in their sckanzen to the very last, numbers of them being shot by our men inside the schanzen.
The stench in the kloof from animals that had died of rinderpest, and the swarms of flies were simply sickening, and on examination it was found that there was no water in the kloof except a tiny stream in a very nasty position some way up the mountain side, and about a mile and a half beyond where I could take the water carts. Under these circumstances, and as Captain Johnson had reported his column as being very tired and in want of water, I determined to remain for the night in the laager I had formed at the mouth of the kloof, and as the light had failed I sent a message by flag to Captain Johnson to get his men together and move down to join me at the laager.
Colonel Spence with his attacking column had in the meantime moved back to the laager, which he reached soon after 6 p.m., while Captain Johnson’s column got in at 8 p.m. The 12 pounders under Major Inglesby made excellent practice from the laager, and were of great assistance in keeping down the rebels’ fire, especially from the terraces of schanzes across the centre of the kloof, while the 7 pounder under command of Lieutenant Rayden, D.F. Artillery, did excellent work with Colonel Spence’s column; and I cannot speak too highly of the behaviour of the Maxim detachment under Captain Lukin, also with Colonel Spence’s column. This detachment under heavy fire from the schanzen, and in a very exposed position, did their utmost to keep down the enemy’s fire, in which they succeeded. I have the honour to mention the names of the following members of the force under my command for special commendation, viz:—
Colonel Spence, who commanded the attacking column; Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel Hartley, V.C., and Privates Livingston and Gott, B. Company, V.M.S. Corps, the former of whom was attending to the wounded under heavy fire, while the two latter under the same fire, conveyed water to the wounded and others engaged.
Captain Lukin who was in command of the Maxim, Captain Johnson who commanded the mountaiu column, which had a most trying and arduous night march.
Captain Searle of the Cape Town Highlanders, Lieutenant Malley, D.E.O.V.R., and Sergeants Soholtz and Wills, Gordonia Volunteers, who were conspicuous in attacking the enemy’s schanzen.
The enemy lost about 70 killed besides a large number wounded, and several rifles and other guns were captured. Our casualties were as follows:— Killed—Privates Bayly, Price, Milne, C.M.R. Dangerously wounded— Privates Van der Spuy and Cair, D.E.O.V.R. Severely wounded—Private Driscoll, Bugler Muller, D.E.O.V.R.; Private Castleman, P.A. Guard; Gunner Johnson, D.F. Artillery. Slightly wounded—Sergt. Court, Corporal O’Connor and Private Goldwyn, C.M.R.; Corporal Bunn, D.E.O.V.R.; Private Watkins, P.A. Guard; Sergt. Scholtz, Gordonia Vol.; Private Jearey, Medical Staff.
At 7 a.m. on the morning of the 10th instant, I broke up laager and moved to Ryan’s, which I reached about 1 o’clock.
I have the honour to attach reports from Colonel Spence, D.E.O.V.R.; Captain Johnson, Duke’s Mounted, and Captain Coombs, Gordonia Volunteers, which are marked A. B. and C. respectively.
(Sgd.) E. H. DALGETY, Lt.-Col.,
Commanding B.F. Force.
Ryan’s Farm, Bechuanaland,
11th May, 1897.
Sir,—I have the honour to report for your information the following particulars of the engagement at Puduhusche on the 9th inst.
About 10 a.m. I was ordered to advance with the following details on a signal being given by Captain Johnson from the high hill opposite to us:
C.M.R. About 60, all ranks
C.M.R.. 1 Maxim fun, 10 all ranks
D.F A.. 1 7-pr, 10 all ranks
D.E.O.V.R. 110 all ranks
C.T.H. and P.A.V.G.. 70 all ranks
Basuto Natives. 20 all ranks
Mounted Scouts. 16 all ranks
About 11 a.m. the signal was given from the mountain for us to advance. (I was under the impression that on that signal being given Captain Johnson’s column would descend the mountain simultaneously with our advance.)
We advanced for attack in the following order : —
Mounted Scouts on left and right in advance.
“E” Squadron C.M.R., C.T.H. and P.A.G. forming firing line.
D.E.O.V.R. and Basuto Natives, supports and reserves.
One Maxim, C.M.R., and one 7-pdr. advanced ready to take up any position that might be required.
After advancing for about 1,000 yards, a strong fire was opened on the left of our firing line by the enemy, who were established in a strong position on the slope of a kloof on the left. They were established in well protected schanzes.
This fire was somewhat of a surprise, as the mounted men on the left passed the enemy’s position without being fired upon.
At the same time the enemy’s fire was opened on our right and front.
The fire was so great that the advance was stopped, the supports and reserve reinforced the firing line, and a general halt was made under cover of bushes. The Maxim was stationed about the left of the line.
A continuous fire from both Maxim and infantry was kept up for some time, which had the effect of silencing the enemy’s fire, although they were still in possession of their strong positions both right and left.
I then determined to seize the kopje on our left and right, and, having received a further supply of ammunition, I detailed No. 2 Company, D.E.O.V.R., together with Basuto natives, to ascend the kopje on the left, and so get above the schanzes and fire down on the enemy, and the C.T.H. and P.A.G. to advance and take possession of the enemy’s position on the right.
This was done, and during the ascent and advance the Maxim and No. 1 Company D.E.O.V.R. kept up a continuous fire both left and right to cover the advance.
This attack was completely successful as the enemy were driven but of both positions, and we occupied them both left and right.
During the engagement I expected Captain Johnson’s Column to be descending the mountain. I then observed he was still at the top, when I signalled to him to come down at once, as it was all clear for him.
This was about 2.15 p.m. Shortly after when you visited the scene of action, I reported that I had sent these orders. I watched for some time for the descending Column, until I received instructions from you not to wait longer than 6 p.m., at which time I retired on laager, arriving about 6 p.m.
During the engagement I would beg to report most favourably to you of the conduct of officers and men engaged therein. The opening fire on left was somewhat of a surprise as the enemy permitted the Mounted Scouts to advance without firing on them.
The fire was extremely heavy, and the men took possession of all available cover and kept up a heavy fire.
I would beg to mention specially the conduct of Captain Lukin, C.M.R., and men of Maxim gun, who kept up a heavy fire on the enemy, although in a very exposed position. All the officers generally displayed great coolness and maintained control of their men at the most critical points of tlie engagements.
Specially Captain Searle, C.T.H.
I would also beg to mention Lieutenant Malley, D.E.O.V.R., who frequently under a heavy fire conveyed orders from me to several points of the lino, and also acted as signaller, together with Corporal Campbell, C.M.R.
The list of killed and wounded was very heavy, and some of the wounded men still continued in action until the engagement was over.
I have, &c.,
(Sgd.) W. A. SPENCE,
I would further beg to bring to your notice the conduct of the noncommissioned officers and men of A and B Companies, Medical Staff, under Surgeon Lieut.-Colonel E. B. Hartley, V.C., C.M.R. The heavy list of casualties made their work very arduous, and the manner in which they carried the dead and wounded from the field of action under heavy fire is most praiseworthy.
I would specially beg to mention the name of Private Gott, B. Company, Medical Staff, who, under a heavy fire conveyed water to the wounded, and men engaged in action in the final engagement on our left.
I would also beg to bring to your notice the services rendered by Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel Hartley who, during the whole of the action from 11 a.m , until its conclusion, dressed the wounds of many of the wounded and made all necessary arrangements for their being conveyed into the laager.
(Sgd.) A. SPENCE, Lieut.-Col.,
To O.O., Bechuanaland Field Force.
11th May, 1897.
The Officer Commanding Bechuanaland Field Force.
Sir,—In pursuance with Field Force orders of 8th inst., I have the honour to report that I left the laager near the mouth of Oliphant’s Hoek at 6 p.m. on that date in command of a column composed as follows:—
Duke’s Mounted under Lieut, de Havilland. 91 all ranks
No. XIII Mounted Bifle Club under Capt. Pringle. 35 all ranks
Vryburg Mounted Volunteers under Commandant Weasels. 60 all ranks
Gordonia Mounted Volunteers under Capt. Coombs. 64 all ranks
Native Contingent under Lieut. Miller. 12 all ranks
Medical Staff under Surg.-Lieut. Fraser. 11 all ranks
34 Natives were also attached to Medical Staff as water carriers, each carrying four bags containing one gallon each.
My orders were to proceed up Oliphant’s Kloof and, ascending the mountain, to halt at the highest point till daylight, when I was to move down the spur on the southern side of Puduhusche Kloof and cover the advance of the Main Column, from the front, into the Kloof, by keeping down the fire of the enemy, believed to be strongly schanzed in a ridge across the Kloof. Directly the Main Column had entered the mouth of the Kloof, I was to move my left round as fast as possible and work down the northern ridge and thus prevent escape of rebels to western side of the mountains, and at the same time by occupying all surrounding hills to ensure safety of the Main Column in Kloof below.
At 7 p.m. I halted to give the men a few minutes rest, and the water carriers, imagining that the enemy had caused the check, promptly dropped the water bags and bolted, being only stopped and brought back after a struggle with the rear guard. The result of this unfortunate incident was the loss of 101 out of the 136 gallons of water.
Marching in absolute silence, the column reached the junction of Oliphants and Kiet Kloofs with Lokeng Valley at 9.10 p.m., and at once commenced to climb the mountain. With a rest of five minutes every half hour the climb was continued until 12.55 a.m. on the 9th inst. when, having apparently reached the highest point and the men beginning to get tired, I halted, and, having posted piquets the men lay down in their places in the order of march, till 4 40 a.m. when we again moved on. At 4.50 we took 15 head of cattle and a few horses—that were straying about in a wretched state—and a few minutes later came upon two large parties of the enemy who were in temporary camps, evidently engaged in drying the meat of cattle that had died from rinderpest—large numbers of dead animals in all stages of decomposition lying around their grass huts, which were cunningly constructed amongst ridges of rocks. No. 1 Division of Mounted Dukes at once formed a line and charged the right camp of the enemy, who after firing a few shots bolted down the very steep face of the mountain under a heavy fire from the Division on the top, which killed several. At the same time No. XIII Rifle Club and Vryburg Mounted Volunteers drove the rebels from the camp on our left down the western side of the mountain, killing at least two, whose rifles were taken and broken up. At this point we found a number of donkeys, and a few very miserable looking horses, but I did not waste time in collecting and driving them on. At 8.5 a.m., after over three hours of a very trying march over an extremely rough country, we reached Puduhusche Kloof with the hogsback of the mountain.
Here I left Captain Beaumont, with 70 men, in order to be able to check any attempt on the part of Mohaling to send rebels over from Rietfontein to assist Toto. I gave Captain Beaumont written orders that directly he saw a party returning up the ridge to relieve him, he should push round the head of the kloof and come down the mountain ridge to clear it of the rebels I could see making for those heights.
At 8.20, the sun having come out, I was able to send a heliographic message, reporting soarcity of water, and stating that I should not be in position before 10 a.m., and at once commenced to move down the back of the ridge, the Gordonia Volunteers, as the advance guard, occupying the various kopjes along the ridge.
At 9.40 I heliographed that the water was very far up the kloof, and that the natives were in numbers on the northern ridge, but that I could see no signs of them on the hills to your left and ridges to your front.
At 10.10 a.m., having reached a position three-quarters of the way down the ridge, I sent the Gordonia Volunteers, with 10 of the Vryburg Mounted Volunteers, to occupy the low ridge and kopjes at the extreme eastern end of southern ridge, and having got the range across the kloof, and by long range fire having driven the rebels out of their laagers in the valley, I heliographed that I was in position, and suggested the Main Column advancing.
From this hour till 3 p.m. it was impossible to use the heliograph, owing to clouds, or, when the strong opposition which was offered to your advance from what looked, from my position, like chalk or clay pits, I should have asked permission to move down with half my force, and take the rebel position from the rear.
However, until 2.55, it was impossible to either receive or send any messages.
At 12.15 p.m. a party of rebels crept up a ravine on our right rear, evidently with the intention of getting above the Gordonia Volunteers, but coming unawares on my position opened fire at 150 yards, but the cover, being good, without effect. A party of Vryburg Volunteers and No. XIII Rifle Club, under Captain Pringle, then rushed the ridge from which the rebels were firing and killed two of the enemy and took one prisoner, the remainder of the party escaping.
At about 1 p.m., when I saw the Infantry advance towards the “clay pits,” I ordered Captain Coombs to co-operate by moving to his left front, crossing the road and dry bed of water-course, to work up the low ridge running north and south across Puduhusche about 600 yards in rear of the clay pits, and, consequently, when the rebels finally bolted from that position, the Gordonia Volunteers poured such a heavy fire on them that instead of falling back on the northern ridge they turned to their right and fled over the “nek” towards Gamasep.
The Gordonia Volunteers then worked up the eastern edge of the northern ridge, driving the rebels across the valley to their right.
About 2 p.m., seeing that the main column was not advancing into the Kloof, and being unable to signal, I sent a note by Sergt.-Major Hellawell asking for orders, and at 3.5 received your reply by flag from the Maxim.
“Received note per Hellawell. Please come in as soon as you can get Beaumont.”
I sent a note to Captain Beaumont at once to retire on me, but owing to the distance and extremely rugged ground, it was past 5 p.m. before he joined me, and in the dark the descent was commenced.
Owing to several men having sustained injuries through falls, progress was very slow, and I only reached the Main Column at 8 p.m.
It is impossible to adequately describe the difficulty of carrying out any operation on the summit oi a mountain as waterless, rugged, and vast as the Langberg, and after ten hours climbing it is impossible to expect Europeans to be able to fight and move rapidly from one position to another, for not one in fifty yards is level, every move means either climbing up or climbing down;—could men be allowed a day’s rest after reaching the summit the matter would be different, but this is impossible, owing to the necessity of doing what has to be done without an hour’s delay and before men get exhausted from want of water, which, after all, is the one almost insuperable difficulty, and I am firmly of opinion that no continuous and consequently successful operations can be carried out on the mountain without the assistance of a large native contingent.
Another fact that I am sure the Medical Officers who have been with me up the mountain on three occasions will bear out is, that, should one of the men get wounded it would simply be physically impossible to carry him, and the Officer in command would only have two unpleasant alternatives to choose from, viz., either to abandon his wounded and proceed, or to enschanze himself and remain with the wounded, with the certainty of his whole force being thrown away and useless as far as co-operating with a column below, and the equal certainty of being promptly surrounded by the enemy as soon as they knew his difficulty, and thus hopelessly cutting him off from possibility of getting water or meat.
Wherever one goes on the top of the mountain, dead cattle are to be seen in large numbers, and in the kloof below, every cattle kraal has a number of dead animals in it, whilst both mountain and kloof are cursed with a pest of flies, evidently caused by the enormous number of rotten carcases everywhere to be seen.
On the other hand, although I could see over miles of the top of the mountain, I did not observe more than 50 head of live cattle, and in all, perhaps 2,000 sheep and goats.
The little water visible high up in a ravine at the top of Puduhusche Kloof was in such a rocky and inaccessible position that it would have been impossible to have got water carts within 1.5 miles of it.
In conclusion, I should like to specially mention the excellent work done by the Gordonia Volunteers under Captain Coombs.
I have, &c.,
(Sgd.) F. JOHNSON,
Captain S. O.
11th May, 1897.
Gallantry of Sergeant-Major Will and Sergeant Scholtz, Gordonia Volunteers—Reporting.
Sir,—I have the honour to report for your consideration what I deem to be gallantry deserving of recognition of Sergeant-Major F. Will and Sergeant Scholtz, Gordonia Volunteers, now under my command.
On the 9th inst., during the action at Puduhusohe I received an order from you to occupy a certain ridge extending into a kopje on the north line of mountains commanding Puduhusche Kloof. In carrying out the order, owing to the length of the ridge, very few men were available for assaulting the kopje, which at that time was not believed to bo strongly held. Sergeant- Major Will and Sergeant Scholtz knowing that a number of the enemy were shooting from the summit of the kopje, on receiving the order from me to charge, rushed forward in such an intrepid manner that they were almost alone when the natives were facing them behind the stones at a distance of a few feet. Shots were exchanged nearly within touch of the muzzles of the guns, and both men (who are good athletes) climbed into the schanzes and without looking for any signs of support proceeded to shoot a number of natives who were enchanzed there. One native who was armed with a loaded double-barrelled gun presented the piece at Sergeant Scholtz, but the trigger of the weapon not being cocked it did not explode. Sergeant Scholtz seized it by the barrels, and Sergeant-Major Will then shot the native through the head. During the melee Sergeant Scholtz received a bullet which struck him in a glancing direction across the back making two holes in the back of his coat and passing through his sleeve. he was not injured beyond a bad bruise on the back. Although he was evidently in considerable pain, he stated in reply to a question from me, that he would not go to the Medical Staff for treatment unless he was physically compelled to.
These facts being under my immediate observation, and other instances having occurred of such conduct on the part of these two non-commissioned officers, I have pleasure in recommending that some acknowledgment be made to them, and I believe it would be in accordance with tho wishes of members of the Corps of all ranks who have served with them.
I have, &c.,
(Sgd.) E. COOMBS,
Captain Commanding Gordonia Volunteers.
The Staff Officer, B. F. Force.