Topic: BatzB - Coetzees Drift
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900
Sydney Mail Account
After the engagement at Coetzee's Drift, the Australian newspapers relied upon telegrams from their correspondents to build a picture. The report in the Sydney Mail, 12 May 1900, p. 1095 was skewed towards the Australian involvement and as such omitted key information which is detailed subsequent to the report.
Sydney Mail, 12 May 1900, p. 1095.
Lord Roberts, in a cable to the War Office, states that the Canadian. New South Wales, and New Zealand Rifles, and the Queensland Mounted infantry vied with each other in their determination to close with the enemy on Friday during the fighting on the banks of the Vet River. The troops captured a Maxim gun and 25 Boers. The British casualties amounted to 15 wounded , one killed, and three missing.
Other accounts state that the Queensland mounted force was the first to cross fire Vet hirer, out. flanking the Boers, seizing a commanding kopje, and expelling the enemy. At nightfall the British troops bivouacked on the captured positions. The Boers had during the daylight.
The Canadian role in the engagement at Coetzee's Drift.
The Canadians took the lead role in the action at Coetzee's Drift with one officer being awarded the DSO, (the Distinguished Service Order), the second highest award for bravery in the British Empire for his bravery in the face of the enemy.
Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner, (25 July 1871 – 19 June 1961), was a man destined to greatness through his bravery. He was the eldest son of Richard Turner, MLC from Montreal. He was educated at Quebec, Canada, and entered part time military service with the Canadian volunteer unit called the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders rising to the rank of Captain. At the outbreak of the the Boer War he received a commission as Lieutenant with the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles and allotted to the 1st Battalion, "B" Squadron as Officer Commanding the 3rd Troop. For his bravery at at Coetzee's Drift he was awarded the DSO for repeatedly swimming across the Vet River, to draw the fire of the Boers who were dug in on the north bank. This act was one in a string of brave actions which culminated in being awarded the Victoria Cross at Komati River, 7 November 1900. During the Great War, as a Brigadier General, Turner commanded the 3rd Brigade of 1st Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force, on the Western Front and rose to becoming a Lieutenant General and given a knighthood.
Assisting Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner was Lieutenant Harold Lothrop Borden, (23 May 1876 - 16 July 1900), from Canning, Nova Scotia and the only son of Canada's Minister of Militia, Frederick William Borden. His military career began in 1893, when he entered the King's Canadian Hussars. In 1897, as a member of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Contingent he received the Jubilee Medal. By 1899 he had risen to Major in commond of this corps. At the outbreak of the the Boer War Borden received a commission as Lieutenant with the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles and allotted to the 1st Battalion, "B" Squadron as Officer Commanding the 4th Troop. He was brought to Lord Roberts' attention for swimming with Turner across the Vet River.
The death of Lieutenant Harold Lothrop Borden at Witpoort on 16 July 1900 occurred when Lieutenant John Edgar Burch and he, when rendering assistance to the Royal Irish Fusiliers and some New Zealanders to withstand a Boer assault on Witpoort ridge, they led a counter-attack. It was successful, but Boer marksmen standing at less than 200 metres, shot them as they stood up to lead the assault. Lord Roberts reported to the War Office that Borden and Burch "were killed while gallantly leading their men in a counter attack upon the enemy's flank at a critical juncture of his assault upon our position."
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900, Roll of Honour
Citation: The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900, Sydney Mail Account