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"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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Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Driefontein, South Africa, 10 March 1900, Contents
Topic: BatzB - Driefontein

Driefontein

South Africa, 10 March 1900

Contents

 

Driefontein, an action of the Second South African War, fought on 10 March 1900 during the advance on Bloemfontein by a large British force under field Marshal Lord Roberts.

 

Items

 

Driefontein - Description of Battle, South Africa, March 10, 1900 

Driefontein, South Africa, - From the Australian perspective - The Town and Country Journal, 17 March 1900

Driefontein, South Africa, - BOER TREACHERY pt 1 - The Times, 20 March 1900

Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 1

Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 2

Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 3

Driefontein, South Africa, - BOER TREACHERY - The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 4

Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 5

 

Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Driefontein, South Africa, 10 March 1900, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 8:49 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2009 11:12 PM EADT
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Driefontein, South Africa, March 10, 1900, Outline
Topic: BatzB - Driefontein

The Battle of Driefontein

South Africa, 10 March 1900

Outline

 

Map detailing the movement of Lord Roberts to Bloemfontein.

[Click on map for larger version.]

 

Driefontein, an action of the Second South African War, fought on 10 March 1900 during the advance on Bloemfontein by a large British force under field Marshal Lord Roberts. Following the fiasco at Poplar Grove on 7 March, Boer General Christiaan De Wet succeeded in persuading 5,000 - 6,000 burghers to mount a further delaying effort about 30 kilometres east, along a line of ridges south of the Modder River. Although aware that the enemy was holding the hills near Abraham's Kraal beside the river, and those a little further to the south-east at Damvallei, the British did not initially realise that other parties were occupying the Driefontein - Boschrand ridges as well. This fact only became apparent during the morning of the 10th, as elements of the British force progressively scouted and probed the enemy lines.

 

A contemporary post card illustrating the charge of the Buffs at Driefontein.

 

From 3.30 p.m. the British began steadily pressing in against the 1,500 burghers holding the Driefontein kopjes (hills), judged to be the key to the position, until from about 5 p.m. it was observed that there was a growing trickle of Boers leaving the battlefield in twos and threes. This led to the mounting of a final charge at 6 p.m. which carried the position and sent the Boers streaming away to the north-east. Although British mounted troops (including some Australians) attempted a pursuit from the southern flank, these were unable to intercept a withdrawal in such a direction - because of the poor condition of their mounts - and returned empty-handed as dusk fell. Although the Boers were still in possession of the northern hills, the retention of these was now pointless and they were evacuated, too, during the night. The day's fighting cost the British 424 casualties, 82 of whom were killed or died of wounds; the Boers lost about 300 men, including about 100 killed.

In the morning's fighting, Captain John Antill's squadron of New South Wales Mounted Rifles was engaged in reconnoitring the limits of the enemy's right (north) flank near the river. While performing this work, the Australians had one man killed by a shot fired from a farmhouse flying a white flag of neutrality. Also during the morning, the squadrons of the New South Wales Lancers and 1st Australian Horse (another New South Wales unit) were active on the same flank-both units being attached to the cavalry brigade commanded by Colonel T.C. Porter. Shortly before midday, however, these were switched to Colonel R.G. Broadwood's brigade opposite the enemy's left flank. Here, they took part in the later cavalry movement to follow up the Boer retirement, until forced to retire by enemy artillery and pom-pom fire.

Also among the British casualties for the day was a Victorian, Lieut.-Colonel C.E. Umphelby, serving as a special service officer with the artillery, who was mortally wounded by a sniper late in the afternoon and died three days later.

 


334 Trooper John William Haydon, in the uniform of the 1st Australian Horse, was wounded in action at Dreifontein.
 
[From: AWM P01578.002] 

 


Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 70-71.

 

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.

 

Further Reading:

The Battle of Driefontein

The Boer War

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Driefontein, South Africa, March 10, 1900

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 28 February 2010 11:29 AM EAST
Sunday, 19 April 2009
Driefontein, South Africa, The Town and Country Journal, 17 March 1900
Topic: BatzB - Driefontein

Driefontein

South Africa, 10 March 1900

The Town and Country Journal, 17 March 1900

 

The Town and Country Journal, 17 March 1900, p. 13.

 

The account is transcribed below.

 

THE BATTLE OF DRIEFONTEIN.

LONDON, March 12, 4.40 a.m.-

Colonel Breadwood, disrovering the enemy in strength on the Driefontein kopjes, posted his mounted troops on a kopje facing the enemy's centre, and awaited the arrival of Major-General Kelly- Kenny's division.   

The enemy, with three guns and two Vickers-Maxims, shelled freely, and fought obstinately.

The Essex Regiment, the Yorkshires, the Gloucesters, and the Buffs were conspicuous in the attack.

The 1st Australian Horse, with the Scots Greys, advanced within eight hundred yards of the enemy, under a heavy fire.

One trooper was wounded in the shoulder, and another had his leg fractured, and his horse killed under him.

The New South Wales Lancers, with Major General Porter's brigade, were under shell fire.

The Welsh Regiment in the evening carried the central position at the point of the bayonet, and the cavalry turned the position, the enemy fleeing northwards at night.

The horses of the Australian Cavalry alone were enabled to pursue the enemy.

Lieutenant Colonel Knight's and Captain Antill's mounted troops, with Colonel Le Gallais's Brigade, did splendid service.

The British artillery was very effective.

Dr Fiaschi's ambulances were all night collecting the wounded.


LONDON, March 12 7.10 am

The Boers at Driefontein numbered six thousand, newly arrived from the south. Their mobility and the moving of the guns was more remarkable than ever.

The New South Wales mounted troops gallantly bu unsuccessfully attempted to capture one gun with outranged ours, and the bluejackets were too late.

The enemy evacuated their positins and then reoccupied them, subtly concealing their intention and withdrawing the guns only when likely to be captured.

The withdrawals fatigued the cavalry horses.

Lord Robers resumed the advance, and has arrived at Aasvogel.


LONDON, March 12, 8.50 am.

Lord Roberts telegraphed from Driefontein on Sunday:-

"The enemy opposed us throughout yesterday's march, giving us, owing to their intimate knowledge of the country, considerable trouble.

"The conduct of the troops was admirable.

"The Welsh and Essex Regiments expelled the enemy from two strong positions at the point of the bayonet.

"Our wounded include Colonel Umphelby (Victorian), who was wounded dangerously in the abdomen.

"The Boers suffered heavily, 102 of their dead being abandoned.

"I have telegraphed to the Presidents as follows:-

"'Another instance of the gross abuse of the white flag and raising of hands in token of surrender was witnessed at East Driefontein by staff officers and myself, resulting in the wounding of several officers and men.

"'If such abuse recurs I shall reluctantly by compelled to diregard the white flag entirely.

"'A large quantity of explosive bullets of three kinds was found in General Cronje's lassger, also after every engagement with your Honor's troops.

"'Such breaches of recognised usages of war and of the Geneva Convention are a disgrace to any civilised Power.

"'A copy of this telegram has been sent to my Government requesting it to be communicated to the Neutral Powers.'"


LONDON, March 12, 3.30 pm

During the battle of Driefontein, in order to ecape the artillery fire while crossing the open veldt and while a squadron of cavalry was moving on its flank, a large commando hoisted the white flag.

When the British advanced to accept the surrender, another section of the enemy fired repeated volleys on the advancing force, wounding a number.

The British ran short of ammunition during the battle, owing to the infantry being relieved of weight to facilitate marching.


AUSTRALIANS AT THE FRONT

LONDON, March 11, 4.25 am.

Private C Wargalt was dangerously, and Private J McCracken seriously, wounded during the fighting at Poplar Grove.

Both belong to the New South Wales Contingent.


LONDON, March 11, 3.30 pm.

In the operations at Osfontein and Poplar Grove and the Queensland Mounted Infantry were conspicuous. Their scouting is described as excellent.



 

Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Driefontein, South Africa, The Town and Country Journal, 17 March 1900

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2009 10:51 PM EADT
Friday, 17 April 2009
Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 1
Topic: BatzB - Driefontein

Driefontein

South Africa, 10 March 1900

The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 1

 

The Times, 20 March 1900, p. 5.

 

The account is transcribed below.

 

LATEST INTELLIGENCE.

THE WAR.

LORD ROBERTS'S ADVANCE.

SHARP FIGHTING.

BOER POSITIONS CARRIED.

The following telegrams from Lord Roberts have been received at the War Office:

Driefontein, March 11, 7.15 a.m.

The enemy opposed us throughout yesterday's march, and from their intimate knowledge of the country gave us considerable trouble. Owing however, to the admirable conduct of the troops they were unable to prevent us reaching our destination.

The brunt of the fighting fell on Kelly-Kenny's Division, two battalions of which, the Welsh and the Essex, turned the Boers out of two strong positions at the point of the bayonet.

I have not been able as yet to get the exact number of casualties.

Among the killed are:-

  • Captain Eustace, the Buffs;
  • Captain Lomax, Welsh Regiment ; and
  • Mr. McKartie, a retired Indian civilian attached to Kitchener's Horse.

Wounded:-

The Buffs:

  • Colonel Hickson, leg, severe, bone not broken;
  • Lieutenant Ronald, shoulder, light.

Gloucesters:

  • Captain Jordan, leg, slight.

Welsh Regiment:

  • Second Lieutenant Torkington, leg, slight;
  • Second Lieutenant Pope, abdomen, dangerous;
  • Second Lieutenant Wimberley, abdomen, severe.

Essex Regiment:

  • Captain Broadmead, leg, slight.
    Royal Field Artillery:
  • Lieutenant Devenish, neck, severe.

Royal Army Medical Corps:

  • Major Waite, chest, severe;
  • Lieutenant Berne, neck, slight.

Royal Australian Artillery:

  • Colonel Umphely [? Umphleby], abdomen, dangerous.

9.55 a.m.

I cannot get precise number of casualties before I march, but will communicate it as soon as possible.

The Boers suffered heavily; 102 of their dead were left on the ground.
We captured about 20 prisoners.

 

 

Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 1

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2009 8:57 PM EADT
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 2
Topic: BatzB - Driefontein

Driefontein

South Africa, 10 March 1900

The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 2

 


 The Times, 20 March 1900, p. 5.

 

The account is transcribed below.

 

(FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.)

DRIEFONTEIN, March 11.

The army left Poplar Grove yesterday.

At 10 o'clock the cavalry unexpectedly found the kopjes at Driefontein, eight miles south of Abraham's Drift, strongly occupied, and immediately attempted to outflank the enemy under a heavy shell and Vickers-Maxim fire.

Leaving a thin containing line, the 2nd Brigade pushed south, finding the Boer position of great length in that direction.

At 1.30 the 6th Division arrived, and the 13th Brigade, led by the Buffs, and the 18th Brigade, led by the Welsh Regiment, proceeded to clear the kopjes under a hot and bewildering fire, the Boers succeeding in doubly enfilading the troops from kopjes to the east and south-west near the main ridge. The artillery made magnificent practice, though outranged by two Elswick 12-pounders.

The 9th Division and the Guards arrived at 4 o'clock, too late to join in the fight.

The Boers have a strong position in the kopjes, but probably will be unable to prevent our advance. Many of them fled north. It is reported that they lost a Vickers-Maxim gun.

The engagement was signalized by many acts of bravery, especially in connexion with the supply of ammunition, which ran short because the men, having to march 13 miles, had been relieved of 50 rounds.

The storming of Alexander Kopje by the Welsh Regiment was an extremely fine piece of work. The troops showed skill in securing cover while their advance was being supported by a heavy artillery fire. They were almost invisible, except when actually moving.

Finally, bayonets were fixed and the top was cleared, the Boers barely escaping under a heavy fire, losing many horses and leaving several Wounded and two dead.

The incident was small as regards numbers, but was most creditable, and Lord Roberts expressed great satisfaction.

The mobility of the Boers in moving their guns was more remarkable than ever.

The New South Wales Mounted Infantry made a gallant, but unsuccessful, attempt to capture a gun.

Later reports state that the Boers have entirely disappeared, but in spite of this an engagement to-day is not unlikely.

 

Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Driefontein, South Africa, The Times, 20 March 1900, Item 2

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 22 April 2009 8:44 PM EADT

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