Topic: BW - Tas - 2TIB
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
Tasmanians at Elands River
Both Goucher and his batman, "Mickey" Phelan were captured by the Boers at Elands River.
In 1904, John Bufton was commissioned to write the history of Tasmania's role in the Boer War. The finished work was called Tasmanians in the Transvaal War, and published at Hobart in 1905. Below is an account of the action at Elands River through the eyes of the Tasmanians.
John Bufton, Tasmanians in the Transvaal War, Hobart, 1905, pp. 172-3:
From Mafeking we trekked to Zeerust, a distance of forty miles. While here we saw General Carrington pass through with a small column to the relief of the gallant little band of bushmen and South Rhodesian Volunteers who were besieged at Elands River by De la Rey, with a large force of Boers and artillery. The garrison had only an old seven-pounder muzzle-loader and a Maxim for defence. Two Tasmanians were among the besieged-S.M. Goucher and Trooper Phelan.
The attempt to relieve them by General Carrington proved an utter failure, and some very hard things have been said about the half-hearted way in which the attempt was made. Then followed the retreat to Mafeking, which no Australian who took part in it will forget. The retreat was orderly enough, for there was plenty of time, as no signs of Boers were to be seen in pursuit. An immense pile of stores, estimated at £100,000 worth, was set fire to ; and then how the Boers must have laughed at the spectacle of nearly 2000 men, with about a dozen guns, running away from nothing for it is said that only 25 Boers entered the town after the British forces left it. Certain it is that De la Rey did not follow, and the Boer force under Commandant Lemmer was not more than Boo, and without artillery, which occupied the district when evacuated by the troops under Carrington. After a rest of three or four days we marched out again to Malmain, 22 miles, and found the village of Ottoshoop occupied by the Boers, who fled at our approach. Early next morning the advance guard came into action with the enemy, and by midday a general engagement was in progress , the Boers occupying a long ridge crossing the main road to Zeerust, and four miles from Malmain. By nightfall the enemy had been driven from every position and scattered . Our loss was light-about half a dozen casualties. After occupying the position for a couple of days, the troops retired into Ottoshoop. when General Carrington left us, earning an unenviable reputation among the men under his command.