Topic: BatzB - Elands
The Battle of Elands River
The Times, 22 September 1900.
The following letter, dated Brakfontein, received from a young cavalry officer:
I cannot omit to tell you about the very finest thing of the whole campaign, and probably the finest thing ever done. Colonel Hors's column consisted of 300 Bushmen from Australia, and he had with him a convoy with immense supplies for us. On march they got to this place, Brakfontein, which is commanded all round by kopjes. De la Rey here surrounded them with 2,800 to 3,000 men and eight guns-seven big guns and one ‘Pompom’. Colonel Hora had two guns - a 9-pounder muzzle-loader and one Maxim. There was absolutely no cover for them, and the first day the Boers fired 1,700 shells into them. Under cover of darkness they decided they would never surrender, and sent word to that effect to the Boers. Then they began to dig, and before daylight dawned they had made huge excavations. On the third day the Boers sent a flag of truce, saying that, owing to their gallant defence, they would, if they now surrendered, be allowed three days' rations, be escorted back to the British lines, and the officers allowed to retain their arms; but if they did not surrender at once they would be all blown off the face of the earth forthwith. The Bushmen sent back word, "We are all underground now; we have dug a tunnel down to the river, and you can shoot away as much as you like; we shall fight to a finish." The Boers answered, “We do not want you, we want your Supplies.“ “If you want them come and get them," was the only answer. They were days and days march from anywhere. Carrington, who had come to their relief, had been beaten back, nearly lost a gun, and the Boers spread the report that they had surrendered, in order that no more help should come. However, one runner managed to get through, which saved them. The officers behaved wonderfully well; one of them, Captain Annat, remained out in the open all day, and every day, with his 8 giving the ranges to his men. He was first shot through the forehead. Luckily it did not seem to affect him, and he still remained on the parapet doing his duty, when a shell caught him in the back, blowing him to fragments. Out of 600 horses 60 alone are unhurt and alive. The dead ones are all heaped up in the rear as a further parapet. I visited the place yesterday, and Cronje's laager was a joke to it. Yesterday was the thirteenth day and they lost 77 men. It is impossible to give you anything like an idea of what they must have gone through. I do hope Great Britain will show its gratitude to these Australians for its brightest page in the history of the war. Let it be known far and wide. Come out and see the place, and if your heart does not tingle with pride, or a lump get in your throat, and if a prayer does not fly to heaven at the sight, you must be harder and colder than an iceberg. I tell you these men deserve anything the Old Country can give them.
Citation: The Battle of Elands River, Letter from Brakfontein, 22 September 1900