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June 2, 1901: Attack on Jamestown 6 years 2 weeks ago #41309

  • Henk Loots
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Hi
Something about a lesser knpwn Boer War skirmish.




QSA, no bar: 7 Pte P Labuscagne Jamestown M T G
The "First Occupation of Jamestown" took place on 18 November 1899. On the previous day the 30 strong garrison of Cape Police under Inspector Halse received notice to quit Jamestown and proceed to Dordrecht. There was no Town Guard at the time and the Boers under General Olivier, flushed as they were with their capture of Aliwal North, met with no opposition in taking Jamestown.
In due course the Boers withdrew from that part of the Cape Colony, and British rule returned to Jamestown.
Then, on 2 June 1901, a Boer Commando under General Kritzinger, to quote the "History of the War in South Africa" by Grant, Vol IV, p79, "....boldly charging the cordon, surprised the small and somnolent garrison of Jamestown..." By this time there was a Jamestown Town Guard, 40 strong, and they manned the trenches on the perimeter of the town. A koppie about 1000 yards from the town was defended by 16 men of the Dordrecht District Volunteer Guard and 11 more of the DDVG held a trench near the road to Aliwal North. The Boer forces numbered some 500 men and the defenders of the koppie were the first to surrender after 4 of them were killed. The total action lasted some 3 hours. The Boers only had one casualty: a young chap who had donned the greatcoat of one of the British casualties, and was mistakenly shot by his own people.



Unfortunately Labuscagne is not identified on the above group photo entitled "Jamestown Garrison: Attacked on 2nd June 1901".
It is not clear why the word "Mounted" was entered in a different hand between Jamestown and Town Guard
on the QSA Roll. A possible explanation is that they were a mix of town and district men, hence the hybrid between a TG and a DMT!

Henk
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June 2, 1901: Attack on Jamestown 6 years 2 weeks ago #41326

  • Brett Hendey
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Henk

Thank you for another interesting account of a little known event in the Boer War. The only Boer casualty was a sad case of mistaken identity. It was a 'no-win' situation for the poor boy, because had he later been captured by the British, he would have been deliberately shot (executed) for wearing that greatcoat.

It wasn't only the Boers who made such mistakes. During the Battle of Willow Grange, a British soldier shot a local farmer who was guiding the British, because he looked like a Boer.




Regards
Brett
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June 2, 1901: Attack on Jamestown 6 years 1 week ago #41462

  • Rory
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Another great rarity and a cracking medal into the bargain Henk!!

Regards

Rory

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June 2, 1901: Attack on Jamestown 2 weeks 6 days ago #76594

  • BereniceUK
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Came across this account of the June 2nd, 1901, attack on Jamestown. Apparently, the Boers admitted to twelve killed and fourteen wounded. The British deaths were Firnhaber, John Mundell, Clement Robarts, and Robinson.


....Mr William Barker, who belongs to New Seaham, writes home to his father, Mr R. Barker, under date June 6th last, from Jamestown, Cape Colony, where he is master of the public school. The letter gives details of the recent attack made by the Boers upon the town. He says that on Tuesday, May 28th, reports were received that the Boers were around Jamestown. The Town Guard, 40 in number, slept in the trenches, wire entanglements were put up, and a kopje which commanded the town was held by 16 of the District Volunteer Guard. Mr Barker was not a member of the Town Guard, but formed one of a sort of reserve, and he promised to sleep in the trenches when danger threatened. Word was sent to the authorities of the danger, and news came that reinforcements were being sent. The weather was bitterly cold, and there was a fall of snow. He continues:—
....At five o'clock on Sunday morning, June 2nd, we all stood to arms in the Town Guard trenches. The morning was dull, cloudy, and bitterly cold. At a quarter to six two shots were fired from No. 1 trench, and our commandant came over and took up his position in No. 4. Then three shots were heard from the D.V.G. kopje, and we waited for more, but all was quiet. Five minutes after we saw a number of men coming down from the kopje in black overcoats. At first we thought they were our own men coming down from the kopje, but the number excited suspicion, and as they came on through the wire entanglements at the foot of the kopje the commandant fired a shot in the air. They were at once seen to dart for cover, and then we knew they were the enemy. It made us feel very downhearted when we realised that the kopje, which we had deemed impregnable, and which commanded all our trenches, was taken; but that soon passed, and we all determined to do our duty. By this time tbe bullets were cracking round us from Boers who had already got into the village. Each man of our little band calmly and coolly took aim and fired whenever a Boer showed himself. Within ten minutes the enemy had taken up positions behind garden walls, houses, the gaol, in the barracks and around it, and all this only at a distance of from 500 to 60 yards from our trench. The whole of the attack was concentrated on us. No. 3 trench was altogether out of action, and all that Nos. 1 and 2 could do was to keep the enemy from rushing on our eastern side.
....The whistling and crackling of the bullets over our heads was deafening, as, crack, crack, whuz-z-z, crack, they went over our heads and struck the church near. We were all novices at this game but two, yet we kept cool. One man was firing from behind the gaol, but our commandant fired and took away a corner of the brickwork just at his head and wounded him. The gaoler said he cleared over the wire fence like a buck. Then three of us caught sight of Boers near the barracks, and cleared them out of that. Then three others and I took the drift, and as the Boers made rushes across we volleyed into them. Just a bit before this Mr G. B. Gatt, of Sunderland, who has been out here over seventeen years, and was teacher here before I came, ran into the trench. His home was only one hundred yards away; but the Boers were already in the gardens, and it was a wonder how he reached the trench safely. All the time crack, crack, ping went the bullets, and struck against our sandbags, covering us with dust and gravel, and half blinding us. "Keep cool, men, keep cool," said our commandant. A shot struck the loophole of the next man to me. "There, that shot came from the barracks window," he said. He fired, and the next man to him, and after half a dozen shots no more was heard from the barracks; but afterwards we found the place like a shambles; at least three men had met their end in there, and one had been shot through the head. The Boers were now more on the village side of us, so I changed my loophole, and took one near Le Roux, the postmaster. An old man named Robinson was shooting over the top of the bags at men in a garden not sixty yards away. "There, that got him," he said, as he dodged down after firing a shot, and the women who could see what was going on said a Boer fell with a wound in his chest. Men were seen to go to his assistance and carry him.
....Two rifles were now smashed by bullets in the trench, and Le Roux gave his gun to one who was a better shot, and began to open packets of cartridges for the others. The enemy were now all around us, and they were beginning to fire on us from the kopje. "What?" said Kritzinger, as he stood near Lieut. Horne on the kopje, "that fort is still holding out! " and he ordered up another commando. There were already fully five hundred attacking us—fifty to one is rather big. The Boers were ordered to rush, but dared not, for the shooting was so accurate and incessant when there was anything to shoot at. Two men were now seen carrying flags of truce, so we were ordered to cease fire. Our commandant said, "What shall we do?" "Well," said we, "we leave that to you," and he went out to meet the flag-bearers. But you may be sure we all kept under cover as we waited. The Boers now took up fresh positions. The gardens around were black with them, and it was only at this time we realised the number against our small ten. A letter was given to Mr Kidwell, written and signed by Commandant Lotter, and demanding unconditional surrender of the town. A postscript was added by Commandant Kritzinger, giving ten minutes in which to surrender.
....Our commandant looked around, and seeing the overwhelming numbers against us, and hearing the kopje had fallen and four of its gallant defenders were killed and one wounded, and there being no signs of any reinforcements for some time, he decided to surrender, as he believed it would be nothing short of murder to continue. The Dutch officer told him their force numbered fifteen hundred, and we found afterwards this was even an under-estimate, for the troops who followed them gave the number as nearer two thousand. He complimented Mr Kidwell on the plucky stand his trench had made, and said their men dare not rush it, though ordered to do so.
....Thus at nine o'clock we surrendered, after having kept five hundred of the enemy off for three long hours. Our rifles and bandoliers were taken from us, and we were prisoners of war. We walked out feeling very down-hearted, but we had done our best, and reinforcements did not appear until thirty-four hours afterwards. Not one in our trench was hit. We were marched into the barracks, and left there under guard. Here we saw the effects of our bullets, and found bloodstains all over the place. It was in the barracks we heard the details of the fall of the kopje. The Boers crept up near the entanglements in the dim light, and cut the wires. Then, before the pickets were aware, they were on the top, and it appears fired on our men as they rushed to take up their positions. Poor Robinson, son of the old man in our trench, was shot through the head. Clement Robarts fell with five bullets in him, and John Mundell was also killed. Sergeant Firnhaber wrenched a rifle from a Boer, and was then shot through the breast, and only lived an hour afterwards. John Robarts was wounded through the shoulder. Two were married men. Firnhaber, poor fellow, has one little son (Charlie), a fine little fellow. His mother died only a year ago; she was a sister of the Robartses. Now looting began—clothing, boots, fancy goods, provisions, shawls, forage, and blankets were taken until the stores were stripped. There was a big run on pickles and sauce. Then, when they had satisfied their needs, we were marched out of town for two miles, and then released. We walked slowly back to the village, and the women came out to meet us. I felt a bit lonely then. At night another commando came in, under Lieut. Fouche, and these men broke and smashed what they could not carry away. The sound of breaking crockery was awful. They also attempted to set fire to a store and a hotel, and Fouche—not the commandant—threatened Mr Kidwell. I must say this of Kritzinger: he and his men were well behaved when compared with our second batch of Brother Boers.
....On the Monday a third commando came in. They were orderly, and went through the farce of giving receipts for what they stole. On the Tuesday thousands of troops passed near us and through the village, and what we wish to know is why two hundred or so were not sent via Dordrecht to reinforce us, when they knew the combined columns were driving fifteen hundred Boers on to our poor little village with its seventy or so defenders.
....The Boers confessed to losing twelve killed and fourteen wounded. I should think these numbers are fairly accurate, for seven wounded men were seen by the women, and four dead were seen being carried away.
Sunderland Daily Echo, Monday 8th July 1901
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June 2, 1901: Attack on Jamestown 2 weeks 5 days ago #76619

  • gavmedals
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Hi Berenice,

A very interesting read and more detail relating to this incident. The odds were certainly against the defenders.
Regards

Gavin

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