Topic: BatzB - Rhenoster
South Africa, 29 November 1900
Rhenoster Kop, an action during the Second South African War, fought on 29 November 1900 about 32 kilometres east of Pretoria. A British column commanded by Major-General A. Paget, comprising two infantry battalions, nine guns and a mounted brigade which included Australian Bushmen (from Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria) and New Zealand Mounted Rifles, attacked a 1,200 - strong commando with two guns led by General Ben Viljoen which had been harassing the railway line to Delagoa Bay. Although numerically weaker, the Boer main body of 650 men occupied a strong defensive position atop a crescent-shaped line of kopjes (hills) covered with rocks and small bushes. The feature-known generally as Rhenoster Kop after the highest point on the south-western end-gave a commanding view of the northern approach over a wide open slope, while deep ravines on both flanks restricted the scope for attacks from these quarters.
Paget marched out at 4 a.m. to begin the action with a frontal infantry assault across hundreds of metres of' flat grassy ground against the Boers' left and centre. This movement was soon stalled by the enemy's fire. On the infantry's left, the Queenslanders and New Zealanders also went into action in a dismounted role-the latter reaching within 400 metres of Boer positions. At the far end of this flank were the Victorians and West Australians, who advanced on foot under the covering fire of a British field battery. This enabled them to secure a rocky ridge opposite the far right end of the enemy's line, but they were prevented from making further progress by deep ravines across their front; the bulk of the Bushmen were-like the rest of the British force engaged along a front of more than six kilometres-pinned down on the open veldt.
The stalemate which had been reached by 7.30 a.m. lasted for the next twelve hours, with the attacking troops forced to remain in their exposed positions under a glaring hot sun while suffering great thirst. At 7 p.m. part of the Boer force under Vecht-General C.H. Müller launched an unsuccessful hour-long counter-attack against the New Zealanders, whose gains were closest to the enemy. Thereafter the troops worked under the cover of darkness to begin digging trenches, aiming to make their positions more secure when the fight resumed next morning. This effort proved to be pointless, as when dawn arrived it was found that the Boers had abandoned the fight and safely withdrawn. In this action - the last pitched battle of its kind during the war - the Boers had suffered 31 casualties and a few men captured, compared to British losses totalling 85, (30 of whom were among the mounted troops).
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, p. 88.
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.
History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. 3 (1908), London.
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: Rhenoster Kop, South Africa, November 29, 1900