"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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The Battle of Poplar Grove, South Africa, 7 March 1900, Outline Topic: BatzB - Poplar Grove
The Battle of Poplar Grove
South Africa, 7 March 1900
Poplar Grove, a minor action of the Second South African War, fought on 7 March 1900 during the British advance on Bloomfontein following the capture of Cronje's force of Boers at Paardeberg (q.v.) a week earlier. In an effort to delay the progress of Field Marshal Lord Roberts' large army, 7,000 burghers under General Christiaan De Wet prepared to make a stand on ridges near a drift (ford) over the Modder River some 90 kilometres west-north-west of the Orange Free State capital. Although occupying strong ground on both sides of the river, the enemy were dispirited by their recent defeat. By 7.30 a.m., and before the British artillery could be brought into action, the Boers began abandoning their positions. They had seen Lieut.-General Sir John French's cavalry division embarking on a wide flanking movement to their left and panicked at the idea of being cut off.
During the battle the New South Wales Mounted Rifles and Queensland Mounted Infantry were attached to the 14th Infantry Brigade, which was assigned the role of harassing the enemy on the south bank of the river and diverting attention from the main attack being delivered by French. Although the British infantry was soon in possession of the enemy's prepared trenches, some of which would have proved almost impregnable if defended, the cavalry's flanking move had been too slow to catch the better-mounted Boers. Losses on the British side amounted to no more than 50 casualties, including five men killed. De Wet's forces remained intact to mount a renewed defensive effort.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 70.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
R.L. Wallace (1976) The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra: Australian War Memorial & Australian Government Publishing Service.
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