Topic: BatzB - Leeuw Kop
South Africa, 3 July 1900
Leeuw Kop (also known as 'Bakenkop'), was an action fought during the Second South African War on 3 July 1900 in the northern Orange Free State, during a British advance from the north-west against the town of Bethlehem. During fighting the previous day a British column under Major-General A.H. Paget had succeeded in pushing back the right wing of an opposing Boer force under General Piet de Wet, and occupied the ridge line known as Plesierfontein thirteen kilometres east of the town of Lindley. Among the 1,000 mounted troops included in Paget's column was a battalion of 400 Imperial Bushmen from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania commanded by Major Rose (a West Australian).
Following Paget's success de Wet retired to Leeuw Kop, about ten kilometres to the south-east, and established a new defensive line along a ridge line running north-east which had Bakenkop as its most prominent feature. On 3 July Paget moved his infantry and two guns into the intervening valley towards Leeuw Kop, while sending 800 of his mounted troops with six guns against Bakenkop on the left. The commander of the latter detachment, Colonel A.M. Brookfield, took his men onto a ridge 4,000 metres from his objective and returned the fire of five Boer guns which had begun to engage him. The British guns were distributed in pairs along the ridge line, and although not spaced widely the undulations of the ground meant that no section could actually see any of the others. The mounted troops covering the artillery were also positioned at intervals along the ridge, mostly in rear of the guns.
After an inconclusive duel, it was found that the guns of Brookfield's detachment were beginning to run short of ammunition. The artillery commander accordingly gave the order to cease fire and the crews were ordered to lie down beside their guns. At this point the Boer guns suddenly renewed their fire with increased intensity, causing the British mounted troops not already sheltering behind the ridge to fall back for cover. The heightened barrage was, however, also the prelude to an assault by two Boer parties-each 100-200 strong-who had crept up through fields of Indian maize flanking the British position on both sides. When delivered, this attack caught the guns effectively without any protection. The left flank guns saw the danger of the approaching Boers and opened fire on them, but on the right the enemy approach was not observed until too late and the position was quickly taken. The centre section immediately limbered up and made to join the left section: one crew mistakenly went towards the right section, however, and both men and horses were promptly shot down so that a third gun was added to the Boer booty.
Amidst this confusion, an artillery officer managed to mount a horse and gallop to the rear. I lore he came upon a detachment of South Australians under captain A.E.M. Norton who had been ordered to retire, and these he led hack to the ridge line in time to prevent the Boers from carrying away the captured guns. When confronted with the Australians' fire, the burghers promptly retreated taking some of the captured gunners with them as prisoners. The enemy party attacking the left gun section also now broke contact and withdrew. Meanwhile Paget had seized Leeuw Kop and from here was able to direct flanking fire from his guns against the Boers' artillery, whereupon de Wet abandoned Bakenkop and made off towards Bethlehem.
During the short but sharp battle, Major Rose and about a dozen South Australians were wounded. The Tasmanian squadron, having been kept on other duty near Lindley, did not join in the fighting until the action was in its final stages with the Boers already being driven off.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 81-82.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
L.S. Amery, (ed.) The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. 4 (1906), London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co.
John Stirling (1907) The Colonials in South Africa, 1899-1902, Edinburgh: W. Blackwood & Sons
R.L. Wallace (1976) The Australians at the Boer War, Canberra: Australian War Memorial & Australian Government Publishing Service.
Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Leeuw Kop, South Africa, July 3, 1900