Topic: BatzB - Coetzees Drift
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900
The Times Account, 8 May 1900
The account is transcribed below.
The Times, 8 May 1900, p. 5.
(THROUGH REUTER'S AGENCY.)
VET RIVER, May 6.
At daybreak yesterday morning General Pole-Carew's Division set out for the Vet River, a long march of 10 miles. About 1 o'clock the West Australians, who were scouting, came into contact with the enemy, who were found to be holding the river. The 34th and 85th Batteries were ordered to advance, and, opening fire, unmasked the enemy's guns, which were six in number, two of them being long-range weapons. A fierce artillery duel ensued. The enemy unmasking guns on our right flank, the 84th Battery was ordered away to engage them. The 85th Battery then became the mark for the whole of the guns along the Boer front. The enemy's shooting was very accurate, and their shells, both shrapnel and percussion, fell amid the battery, but our. fire never slackened.
Subsequently two naval 13-pounders came into action, followed shortly afterwards by two 4.7 guns, and half an hour later by two 5in. siege guns, the whole making an astonishing din. Considering the accuracy of the enemy's fire, it was marvellous that nobody was injured.
The fire continued unabated till sunset. We silenced two Boer guns, but only temporarily. Between the two forces lay the river, into which shells dropped every now and again. One Boer gun was obliged to remove to a safer distance. Even when dusk came on a desultory fire continued.
Meanwhile, firing had been heard to the left, where General Hutton was engaged. He started early for the purpose of finding a drift to the west. When he arrived ho discovered that the drift was strongly held and protected by two guns - a Maxim and a "Pom-Pom." General Hutton immediately engaged the enemy, who enfiladed our dismounted firing line with their Maxim. Our force, however, pushed steadily forward with a "Pom-Pom" and a galloping Maxim, and compelled the enemy to leave the bed of the river. As the Boers emerged they encountered a hot fire.
The whole force subsequently crossed the river, threatening the Boer right. About the same time the enemy must have received the news of General Hamilton's occupation of Winburg.
Towards sunset 26 West Australians, who originally discovered the Boer advanced position on a small rocky kopje, crept round unseen towards the river bed. Finding themselves in the rear of a kopje held by the enemy, they immediately opened fire and then, fixing bayonets, took the kopje with a rush. All this was done on their own initiative. Two companies of the Guards were immediately sent forward and occupied the kopje.
Night fell with the fight to all appearance unfinished. In the early morning, however, it was discovered that the whole Boor force had fled during the night.
General Hutton during the night sent two squadrons to blow up the line near Smaldeel. We discovered yesterday, concealed every 100 yards along the railway, small packets of a high explosive. The Boers had destroyed three bridges over the spruit between here and Brandfort, but in every case it was possible to make a detour. The bridge over the Vet has been completely destroyed.
The enemy yesterday seemed to fight with I much less spirit than usual. It is reported that they were commanded by General Lucas Meyer. Our mounted infantry, who advanced across the open under a heavy fire, lost very little and drove off the Boors with unaccustomed case.
General Hutton captured a Maxim and 12 prisoners.
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900, Roll of Honour
Citation: The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900, The Times Account, 8 May 1900