Topic: BatzB - Sunnyside
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Sunnyside, South Africa, 1 January 1900
Sunnyside, an action fought on 1 January 1900 during the Second South African War, in which a ‘flying column' of less than 500 British, Canadian and Australian troops under Lieut.-Colonel T.D. Pilcher of the Northumberland Fusiliers attacked a laager (camp) of some 180 Boers near the township of Douglas on the western border of the Orange Free State. Elaborate security precautions masked Picher's departure from Belmont on 31 December 1899 and ensured that when he began his attack on the enemy camp the next day at 11.25 a.m. with a barrage from two guns, the Boers were taken completely by surprise.
While many of the enemy were seen to immediately take flight, the remainder adopted a defensive position on a kopje (small hill) in front of their laager and opened fire on a company of advancing Canadians and some 40 British mounted regulars. Meanwhile, two companies of the Queensland Mounted Infantry Regiment (who had joined Pilcher's garrison at Belmont less than two weeks earlier) were sent around the right flank. The Queenslanders came into action about an hour later, suffering their first casualties - also the first of any contingent sent from the Australian colonies to the war - when a five-man scouting patrol rode into Boer fire. The enveloping movement was continued and progressively pushed to within 50 metres of the Boer position. Although some more the enemy had managed to escape while this movement was being carried out, the rest were now trapped and, after another 45 minutes of firing, were forced to hoist the white flag of surrender shortly after 3 p.m.
Boer losses in this action were 14 dead and 38 prisoners taken (seven of whom were wounded), along with all their stores and wagons. Pilcher's force had only two men killed and two wounded-these all being from the Queensland Mounted Infantry. The commander of the company to which the dead men belonged, Captain Harry Chauvel, recorded after the action that: 'We had great difficulty in preventing the men from bayoneting the Boers as they fired a few shots after they put up the white flag'.
Although the action was only a minor success, wide publicity given to the steadiness of the Queenslanders under fire helped to modify the unfavourable opinion of colonials which was then current among British regulars. The engagement also enabled Douglas to be entered the next day and its British population freed from the Boers, who hastily fled. Although the inhabitants implored Pilcher to leave a detachment of troops to defend them, he refused this request as being beyond the scope of the expedition. When the column marched out on 3 January, it was accordingly accompanied by some 90 loyalist refugees.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 63-64.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
L.S. Amery, (ed.) The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. 3 (1905), London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co.
F. Maurice (ed.) History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902,
Vol. 1 (1906), London: Hurst & Blacken;
R.L. Wallace (1976) The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra: Australian War Memorial & Australian Government Publishing Service.
Citation: The Battle of Sunnyside, South Africa, 1 January 1900, Outline