Skirmish at Elandspruit / Klein Suikerboskop 19 December 1901

Driving out of Dullstroom on the R540 towards Lydenburg one will first find a beautiful little valley with the Lunsklip river running through it. Another few kilometers along the road on the left-hand side one will see graves. Few stop these days to visit and pay their respects to the fallen. Even less actually know what happened there.

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This is their story…

 

Yet another attempt was being made to capture the Boer Government, currently situated on the farm Windhoek west of Dullstroom.  Colonel Urmston, marching from Belfast was to co-operate with Colonel Park from Lydenburg.

Departing Lydenburg 18th December the column bivouacked at Witklip for the night.  Early next morning B and C companies of the 1st Manchester Regiment, under Major Hudson, left camp for the hills above the Weimershoek valley, followed an hour later by the remainder of the column, who passed through the valley, outspanning about 2½ miles from Weimershoek farm. A report was received that the Mounted Infantry was engaged in action with the Boers.

G and H Companies were dispatched to assist the M.I causing the Boers to retire.

The column moved forward, bivouacking at Elandspruit most of the pickets being posted on the high ridges to the northeast of the camp.  8.30 p.m. the Manchester’s and rest of the columns are aroused by a heavy outburst of fire from the north-west and south.

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Map of skirmish of Elandspruit 10 December 1901

 

The Boers had returned to attack, their plan of action was for Groenewald and Nolte to shoot from the east, as many men and horses as possible, BUT NOT TO STORM THE CAMP; Trichardt and Krige would fire from the west to cause as much havoc as possible, BUT NOT TO STORM THE CAMP; and Muller, with a pom-pom, would shoot from the south.

Trichardt did well and got very close to the pickets on the high ridge opening fire.  Captain Deakin, ‘E’ Company,  was shot almost at once through the throat and Sergeant Danvers wounded.  Command fell to 2nd Lieutenant Gordon who successfully repelled the attack, the enemy leaving 4 dead and 3 wounded.  Meanwhile, Captain Deakin was being carried to the field hospital by Privates Carter and Stevenson.  On the way, they were stopped by a party of Boers who stripped Stevenson, Carter escaped, Deakin was robbed, finally being carried in by Sergeant Derbyshire.

Lieut. Terry was being attacked and the pickets were being driven in.  The fire on the camp was heavy, large numbers of transport animals were hit – chaos! Hearing the pickets were being driven in the Commanding Officer sent out a small party under Captain Menzies to try and recover ground lost, to be followed by a larger party under Major Hudson.

Leaving some reinforcements with Gordon, Hudson made his way along the line until nearly opposite ‘A’ Company.   A heavy volley of fire and Major Hudson, Colour-Sergeant Martin and Sergeant Davies and a private are hit.

A heavy fog rolled up over the position under cover of which the Boers retreated.  The Boers were fighting with great tenacity and were unaware that the Middelburg commando under commandant Trichardt had stormed the position nine of their comrades being killed, some as a result of being caught in the crossfire.

The same mist which enabled the Boers to withdraw made retrieval of the dead and wounded difficult, some remaining out until next morning.

The total casualties were as follows:

KILLED

4631   Sergeant F. Ford                                            5193   Sergeant A. Davies

3808   Private R. Redford                                         3559   Private P. Bohin

3267   Private R. Brundritt                                        6568   Private W. Frost

3521   Private H. Holmes

 

1st Bat Manchester Regiment graves – 19 December 1901 – Elandspruit

WOUNDED

Officers

Major A.T.P. Hudson, leg, dangerous    (died)

Captain F.F. Deakin, throat, dangerous

Lieutenant E.E.G. Terry, hand, slight

Second Lieutenant J.G.B. Gordon, hand, slight

Second Lieutenant A.L. Prince, hand, slight

N.C.O.’s AND MEN

3217   Colour-Sergeant T. Martin, dangerous   (died)

1067   Sergeant W. Hart, dangerous

3154   Private J. Walker, dangerous

5240   Private H. Hilton, severe

3507   Private J. Armitt, severe

3558   Private G. Jones, severe

4947   Lance-Corporal T. Dyson, severe

5462   Private E. Smith, severe

5119   Sergeant A. Chase, severe

2135   Private J. Driscoll, severe

3355   Private J. Stuart, severe

3731   Private W. Fleet, severe

4466 Sergeant H. Danvers, slight

3210   Private A. Berry, slight

Staff – Captain Spry, severely wounded

Mounted Infantry – Five men wounded

Animal casualties – 49 killed; 44 wounded and five missing.

Enemy found – Eight Boers killed; three Boers wounded.

 

A regimental South African War Memorial (the work of William Hamo Thornycroft) in St Ann’s Square, Manchester

 

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