Doctor Osborn's account of the engagement at Boshof which resulted in the death of Count Villebois-Mareuil.
The position apportioned to our Field Hospital in the Boshof Camp was between the cemetery wall, loopholed for musketry, on the one hand, and a kopje on the other, upon which was the signalling station and an embrasure for a gun. We saw at once on getting our tents pitched that we were in a warm corner should an engagement take place, and to have blamed the Boers for firing upon the Red Cross flag would have been ridiculous, as we were placed undoubtedly in a strategical position. This proved subsequently correct, as in the plan of the night attack found in the possession of General de Villebois Mareuil it was at this point that the attacks was to commence, and on the very night that we took up our position.
Now began work in earnest, and the Imperial Yeomanry received their baptism of fire, and a terribly wet night it was, sufficient to damp any one’s ardour. The enemies’ forces were under the command of that very able and gallant Frenchman, General Villebois, who fell at the head of his gallant band of followers, who were largely composed of Frenchmen; not a Boer amongst them, for they, to the number of several hundreds, had deserted and abandoned their friends when actual fighting began. We lost two officers, Lieutenants Boyle and Williams, and Mrs. Patrick Campbell’s husband, besides having several wounded. Amongst the latter was Mr. A. Little, an old Eton boy, who was shot through the lungs, but who subsequently made a wonderful recovery. The wounded were brought into hospital about twelve o’clock at might, and I was oppressing their wounds until well into the morning. Amongst those brought in wounded were some nine or ten Frenchmen, Monsieur Feissal, a cousin of Count Villebois, amongst the number. It is gratifying to know that they expressed the greatest satisfaction at the manner in which they were treated. In fact, I possess some most gratifying mementoes of their sojourn in our hospital, which they insisted upon my accepting when they bade me farewell; for, not only looking after their necessary requirements, I supplied them with tobacco and cigarettes ad lib., and wrote postcards and letters for them to their relations and friends at home. The funeral of General de Villebois was one of the most impressive spectacles I have ever witnessed. It took place in the dusk of the evening, with thunder reverberating in the distance, and with an occasional flash of lightning across the sky. All the troops were drawn, up in three sides of a square, General Methuen, his staff and the French prisoners being also present. The body was carried between two lines of the soldiers, who saluted as it passed. There was no band in the camp to play the Funeral March from Saul, but, what was far more impressive, all the bugles rang out in unison the call of ‘The Last Post’. Nothing could have been more appropriate nor more in keeping with a soldier’s funeral. Lord Methuen subsequently ordered a tombstone to be erected to the memory of a true and gallant soldier, although ere now an enemy.