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July 22nd 9 years 1 week ago #4703

  • djb
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1900 - Lemmer attacks 300 Bushmen under Col. Airey near Selons River. Coke captures Graskop.


The Battle of Koster River, South Africa, 22 July 1900

Koster River, a controversial action fought on 22 July 1900 (during the Second South African War), on the road between Rustenburg and Elands River in western Transvaal. After a Boer commando led by General H.L. Lemmer had cut the westward route towards Zeerust and Mafeking, thereby preventing supplies from reaching British forces stationed at Rustenburg under Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, late on the afternoon of 21 July a detachment of 270 Australian Bushmen (from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia) was sent from Magato Nek (or Pass) under Lieut. Colonel Henry Airey with orders to 'brush aside' the enemy and return with a convoy from Elands River.

At about 8 a.m. the next day Airey's column was ambushed by Lemmer at Koster River, a tributary of the Selons. The Boers allowed the Australians' advance guard and flanking scouts to pass before opening a heavy fire on the main body from a horseshoe of kopjes (low hills) 730 metres away. Forced to seek concealment in the long grass beside the road, in an area offering little cover such as stones or boulders and only a few thin trees, the Bushmen were pinned down and over 200 of their horses stampeded or shot. Airey, finding that his force was unable to move, determined to hold out until help arrived. The action accordingly lasted throughout the day, with the Boers' numbers - initially put at 400-increasing to about 1,000.

At one stage in the heated engagement, an isolated party of an officer and ten men raised a white flag to give themselves up. Airey considered that this act compromised the integrity of the defence, and felt honour-bound to surrender his entire command. I His decision was flatly opposed by the officer commanding the Western Australians, Major Harry Vialls, who reportedly 'stamped and swore' at what he regarded as a shameful order. Attempts to surrender were ignored by the Boers anyway, and in the face of the enemy's unrelenting fire the column was obliged to keep fighting.

After word of the Australians' predicament was carried to Magato Pass by a young Englishwoman who lived on a farm at nearby Woodstock, a relieving force (comprising 200 Australians from Magato Nek and a portion of the Bechuanaland Protectorate Regiment sent out from Rustenburg) proceeded to the scene. When these reinforcements arrived at about 2.30 p.m. and began to threaten the flanks of the Boer position, the enemy broke off the action and rode away. There were 39 casualties incurred by Airey's men in the six-and-a-half hour fight: six killed, three later died of wounds, 23 wounded, and seven men missing.


Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 82-83.
Dr David Biggins

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July 22nd 1 week 1 day ago #77514

  • BereniceUK
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1900 - R. J. Francis wrote a letter to his brother, who lived at Stockland Farm, St Fagan's, near Cardiff, on this day.

...."Writing to his brother at St. Fagan's, under date July 22nd, from Ficksburg, Trooper Francis, of the Glamorgan Company of Imperial Yeomanry, who is Major Wyndham-Quin's groom, says :—We had a big battle here this morning. A few of the artillery were injured. We were called out at 4.20 a.m., and had our breakfast, and had mounted our horses ready for fighting at 6 o'clock at daylight. It is now 2 p.m., and the big guns are still sounding. The roads here are only sand and grass, and are very rough. We expect to have a big battle here this week, which will about finish the war. The Boers are very poor shots. We can see the Boers from the hills here. A lot of them are dressed in our khaki clothes, taken from the prisoners. One of the Middlesex Yeomanry, who had been a prisoner with the Boers for 20 days, escaped a few days ago, and came in here. He says that most of the prisoners the Boers got are officers. All they had to eat are mealies.. He says that the Boers are sick of the war, and that it is the Boer generals, etc., who keep them together. The Basutos are longing to have a pop at the Boers. The Basutos come into our camp daily. We get a lot of provisions from Basutoland. The land of the Basutos is a very fine country, but very hilly, more so than this. We can see the snow on the Basuto hills from our camp. We go down to the Basuto river to water the horses every day. Our people have profited by the Boer example. We are only 2,000 strong defending this town, and we have put up about four miles square of barbed wire between our hill and the enemy. One night the Boers advanced to retake the town, and got fast in the wire, and our guns firing on them several of the Boers were killed. The Dutch women all came out of their houses longing to see their husbands back as soon as the firing begins. As soon as they heard the guns going off they cooked ham and eggs, and dried shirts, &c., expecting their husbands home, but they made a big mistake. When the big guns start we tease the Boer women, and they get wild. The Boers fire on us sometimes when we go to water the horses, but the shells fall short. Gen. Rundle is fighting day to day at Hammonia, driving the Boers down here. It is expected that after we get them in close quarters they will surrender, after they have put us to all the expense they can. We have to work very hard here. We sleep in the trenches or on guard nearly every night. I look after Major Quin's horses as well as my own, and only do one guard a week. It is bitterly cold in the night time, and we get a lot of white frost. One tent was blown to pieces last night. We managed to change our clothes often enough after we arrived at Ladybrand, but when we were on the march our clothes were nearly sticking to our backs. I took off my socks at Ladybrand to wash my feet one day, and while I was washing my feet the socks walked back to camp. I was nearly captured here by the Boers one day, but they were not smart enough. I have driven two horses to death, and nearly driven another in the same way, so you may imagine how much riding I have done. I now close, as it is watering time."
South Wales Daily News, Tuesday 28th August 1900


1901 - Albert William Hull died today.

....Private A. W. Hull, son of Mr. Albert Hull, of Frisby House, Billesdon, whose dangerous illness of enteric fever was notified last week, died on the 22nd ult. at Springfontein, South Africa. The deceased, who was in his twenty-third year, was a member of the 57th (Bucks) Imperial Yeomanry.
Grantham Journal, Saturday 3rd August 1901

Billesdon is a village between Oakham, Rutland, and Leicester.
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