Topic: BatzB - Hartebestfontn
South Africa, 14 February-21 March 1901
Hartebeestfontein, an action fought on J 8 February 1901 (during the Second South African War) about 25 kilometres north-west of Klerksdorp in western Transvaal On receiving information on the 17th that scattered bands of Boers from several commandos were concentrating on the village of Hartebeestfontein, Lieut.-General Lord Methuen moved out to attack them with a column of 900 men which included Victorian Bushmen. He was not aware until he approached the enemy position, occupying the Cyferlaagte ridge north of the town, that the burghers originally reported there had been reinforced by a roving force under General J.H. De la Rey and now numbered 1,300 - 1,400 men. Undeterred by his inferior strength, Methuen resolved to press ahead with his planned attack.
The assault which was begun at 8 a.m. initially made no impression on the Boer defence, even after reinforcements (including the Victorians) were sent to bolster the pressure applied against the enemy's right flank. At 11 a.m. De la Rey made a counter-attack against the British left which was also unsuccessful. Later that afternoon he decided to abandon his positions, leaving eighteen dead on the field. The sharp little action had cost Methuen 49 casualties, three of the dead and eleven of the wounded being Victorians.
A month later, the area around Hartebeestfontein was the scene of further clashes between two British columns pursuing De la Rey, after the latter had staged a raid on Lichtenburg in the north on 3 March. A party of New Zealanders and Australian Bushmen from the column led by Major-General J.M. Babington reportedly fought an action on 21 March which was notable for entailing an 'old-fashioned cavalry charge' which forced the Boers to flee in terror. While details of this incident are difficult to verify, the New Zealanders and Bushmen undoubtedly played a leading role in chasing down De la Rey's Boer wagon train three days later at Wildfontein, taking 140 prisoners, several guns and large quantities of rifles and ammunition.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 89-90.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:L.S. Amery, (ed.) The Times History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. 5 (1907), London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co.
MH Grant, History of the War in South Africa 1899-1902, Vol. 4 (1910), London.
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.
Citation: Hartebeestfontein, South Africa, February 18 to March 21, 1901