Topic: BatzB - Pink Hill
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Pink Hill, South Africa, 12 February 1900
Pink Hill, a famous action during the Second South African War, fought between Australian (and British) troops and a Boer force on 12 February 1900 some thirteen kilometres north-west of Colesberg in central Cape Colony. The engagement occurred after the Boers, realising the weakness of the column of 6,600 men under Major General R.A.P. Clements which opposed them about Colesberg, moved to drive in the British flanks and force a retreat back down the railway line towards Naauwpoort. Clements' left flank rested on a low rocky ridge known as Pink Hill, which was held by 75 men of the Victorian Mounted Rifles, 20 South Australians and 100 British regulars (50 Inniskilling Dragoons and an equal number of infantry of the Wiltshire Regiment).
When the enemy assault began shortly before noon, carried out by the bulk of General E.R. Grobler's force of 1,000-2,000 men, the post was commanded by Major G.A. Eddy of the Victorians who had just taken over from an Imperial officer that morning. Soon the defenders were being lashed by close-range fire from three pom-pom quick-fire weapons and a field-gun, as well as innumerable Mauser rifles. Throughout the battle Eddy moved among his men, giving encouragement and directing their fire. After two hours, however, it was obvious that the position must eventually fall. Eddy accordingly instructed the Wiltshires to retire while the mounted troops continued to provide covering fire. Once the infantry were safely away, he then gave the order for the rest to follow, but no sooner had he done so than he was killed by an enemy bullet through the head. The action ultimately cost six Australians killed (one of whom died of' wounds the following day) and 22 wounded; two of the wounded and one other man were taken prisoner, although one of these (a wounded officer) was released the following day.
The gallant defence maintained on the hill ultimately proved to be a futile gesture. By 3 p.m. Pink Hill was in Boer hands. Since the right flank was also successfully pushed back by the Boers, Clements had no alternative but to withdraw south and adopt a new defensive line around Arundel. The action in this quarter has been likened by Field to 'a little Anzac' (q.v.):
It was a defeat which led to a major withdrawal from the area; it involved proportionately high casualties: and it was praised as a great display of Australian courage and honour in war.
Apart from the laudatory comments made at the time about the Australians' performance, however, there was also some criticism of Eddy for not having given the order to evacuate sooner and reduce needless losses.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 66.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
F. Maurice (ed.) History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902. vol. 2 (1907), London: Hunt & Blackett.
P.L. Murray (1911) Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, Melbourne: Government Printer.
L.M. Field (1979) The forgotten War, Carlton, Vic. Melbourne University Press.
R.L. Wallace (1976) The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra: Australian War Memorial & Australian Government Publishing Service.
Citation: The Battle of Pink Hill, South Africa, 12 February 1900, Outline