Topic: BatzB - Sunnyside
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Sunnyside, South Africa, 1 January 1900
Town and Country Journal Account
The full story is transcribed below.
QUEENSLANDERS UNDER FIRE.
THE N.S.W. AMBULANCE AT WORK.
(FROM OUR SPECIAL WAR CORRESPONDENT, MR. H. H. SPOONER.)
BELMONT (CAPE COLONY). January 4: The ambulance waggons under Captain Roth have just arrived here from Sunnyside, attended by several waggon loads of refugees from Douglas, and an escort of Queensland Mounted Infantry, Imperial Mounted Infantry, and a few Canadians.
A skirmish which took place at Sunnyside has been grossly exaggerated by pressmen at the front, who appear to be thirsting for sensational copy. The Queensland troops, and indeed, all concerned, behaved admirably throughout, and the skirmish was eminently successful; but the occasion did not call for special acts of bravery, and cannot be construed into the glorious victory which it has been represented to have been. There were at most liberal estimate 190 Boers and no guns on the kopje when they were surprised; but from several independent accounts I gather that not more than 100, and possibly only about 80, took part in the fighting. Against this force we had at least 550 men, with artillery and Maxims, made up a follows: Queensland Mounted Infantry (Lieutenant-Colonel Ricardo), 235; Royal Canadian Regiment, C. Company (Captain Baker), 120; Royal Horse Artillery, two guns, (Major D. E. Ronjemont); Munster Fusiliers, 25 r 30; and two companies of the Cornwalls.
The force left Belmont at 2.30 on New Years Eve, and arrived at the farm of a man named Coles, after twenty miles' march, at 7.30. En route they captured two Cape arts full of men and women going to make merry with the Boers on New Year's Eve. Owing to the fact that it is difficult to get really trustworthy guides here, the authorities have conceived the brilliant idea of importing guides from Natal who know absolutely nothing of this country, and sending men from here to the other colony. Hence it is naturally difficult to obtain any vary valuable information from the genuine article, and some man with local knowledge is to he found to assist the guides. In the case young Degene, of Smithfield, who know the country like a book, was chosen, and he directed the party so skilfully that they completely surprised the Boers, notwithstanding that the district was a perfect hotbed of disloyalty, and Boer informers an everywhere. Coles farm was left at 6 a.m. January 1, and the Boer position at Sunnyside Farm was reached at 10 am. It was discovered that the Boers held a position behind a kopje which was not entrenched, the sharpshooters taking shelter among each and bullock waggons. Our advance was made on the plain in front of the kopje occupied by the enemy, who kept up a steady fire for some time before they were dislodged. Their shooting was abominably bad and it was only towards the end of the fight that poor Trooper McLeod (of North Pine), "B" Company. Queensland Mounted lnfantry, was killed. Then were no further casualties in the main advance, which took up position as follows: On the right flank were the Artillery and Maxims, then came the Queenslanders, who bore the brunt of the fire, and the Munsters, while the Canadians supported the guns and the Cornwalls were held in reserve, being practically out of the fight.
Before opening fire, Colonel Pitcher sent Lieutenant Adie and four troopers (Herman, Butler, Rose, and Jones) on picket duty seven miles to the extreme left flank to discover the line of the enemy's retreat. On rounding a kopje they saw four Boers retreating from a kopje on their right. Adie ordered them to stand and deliver up their arms but before anything could be done twelve more of the enemy were seen descending a hill, and simultaneously from about 26 yards range a volley was fired, which shot Trooper Jones through the heart, wounded Adie in two places, and killed both their horses. Butler's horse, startled by the firing, got away, and Rose and Herman, finding the fire too steady, retreated; but noticing that Adie, covered in blood, was limping away towards him. Rose caught Butler's horse amid a hail of bullets, and helped Adie to mount. No sooner was Adie up in the saddle than his horse bolted away with him, and Rose was left behind to look after Butler, whom he was attempting to mount behind him when a bullet pierced his calf and killed his horse under him. Meanwhile Adie, on his bolting horse, had fallen in with Herman, who went to inform the colonel of what had taken place, and to send an ambulance. Shortly after this, weakened by loss of blood, Adie fell from his horse, and lay for some time senseless on the veldt. He was afterwards attended by Captain Dodds, of the Queensland corps, who accompanied the party, and rendered invaluable assistance to the wounded, both Boer and Britisher.
The firing to the direction of Adie's party was the signal for our artillery to open fire, which it did with a will, our men keeping up a steady rifle fire, which was responded to by the enemy, who, with the exception of Commander Merits, who held a Mauser, were all armed with Martinis. A desultory fire was kept up after volley firing ceased, till about 2 p.m., when the enemy showed the white flag. The colonel immediately ordered our men to cease but a few seconds after a volley was fired by the Boers, to which we responded. The enemy then threw down their arms, and huddled together on a kopje like sheep. So far as could be ascertained 12 or 14 of the enemy were killed, 44 taken prisoners. In the laager were found a number of Martini rifles, 40,000 rounds of ammunition, horses and waggon, and 14 bell tents belonging to the Cape Government.
Every captured man had in his possession a document written on Government paper, with the British arms embossed; to the effect that he had been commandeered. There were no real Free Staters or Transvaalers in the fight, the kopjes having been occupied entirely by rebels, who lived at Douglas and the neighbourhood. During the fighting Bugler Morris, of Townsville, was thrown from his horse, and broke his collar-bone but he is doing well. After the engagement Sunnyside Farm was sacked. Rifles, ammunition and transport waggons were burned, and only what was useful to the expedition was retained.
Jones (who came from Rockhampton) and McLeod (who hailed from North Pine), were buried by our boys, who erected a rude cross over the solitary graves, and then a start was made for Down farm, owned by a rebel named Piet Faber. There were found incriminating evidence, such as Boer permits, arms, and ammunition, which were hidden to a corn bin. One of the ambulances with Dr. Roth started on the return journey under escort the other waggons accompanying the Imperial Mounted Infantry and two sections at artillery to Tenylos, where about 100 refugees were granted escort back to Belmont.
The Boers had threatened in the event of the inn of Douglas refusing to join the commando to shoot the men and dishonour the women, and the loyal inhabitants were naturally alarmed at what might happen when the troops had left. As matter of fact no sooner had our men left the town than a number of the enemy, who had been hiding in surrounding kopjes, entered the town, and grave fears were entertained for the safety of four of the townspeople, Messrs. Turner and Son, Stale, and Nicholson, all well-to-do farmers, who by reason of their large belongings were loath to leave at the short notice that could be allowed by the colonel.
All the force engaged at Sunnyside, with the exception of those who accompanied ambulance and refugees, have gone to meet the Scots Grey to execute a special mission which will probably resupply two or three days, as provisions for three days were sent out to-day from here.
When the little cavalcade arrived at Belmont about 6 p.m. the whole of the men encamped there turned out, and enthusiastically greeted their comrades who, if not perhaps the heroes that certain hysterical scribes have written them, at least did their duty like men, and very successfully carried out a mission which, for all they knew, might have proved a very dangerous one.
Lieutenant A. G. Adie, who hails from Clifton, Queensland, arrived singing blithely as though nothing had happened, and when I interviewed him seemed as happy as a prince. He was wounded in the stomach by a bullet which passed right through him from side to side, and by another which struck him in the fleshy part of the back, high up, and passed through the shoulder. In spite of these seemingly serious wounds, Dr. Roth has every confidence that he will soon recover, and he himself expresses his intention of having another slap at the enemy in a month. Although his view may be somewhat sanguine, his friends may rest assured that he has had a miraculous escape, and that his fine physique and healthy constitution will help him to pull through in time to see the entry into Pretoria, unless something very unforeseen occurs.
Private A. Rose, who comes from Toowong, is only slightly wounded in the calf of the leg. and should be at the front again in a month. The Boer wounded were greatly surprised at the kindness which was extended to them, having been led to believe that any wounded that fell into the hands of the British were always treated in the most inhuman manner.
The Lendrost at Douglas has been circulating the most ridiculous reports of British reverses and Boer victories. According to him, the Boers occupy De Aar with an enormous commando, and the Transvaal flag floats at Wynburg, a suburb of Capetown.
The Boer prisoners who have been brought in are a mean-looking, dirty, despicable lot, who one can imagine might be easily led by the nose by any designing scoundrel who cared to attempt the feat.
Among the refugees who came down from Douglas is Mrs. Hilliard, wife of the magistrate of Kuruman, who is still holding the town, and sticking to his post. (Kuruman has since been taken. Ed. "T. and C.") Mr. C. Hilliard was recently visited by Commander Fisher and a commando, who gave him till 9 next morning to deliver up his keys and generally surrender to the enemy. "I have received no instructions." said the magistrate. "But if between this and 9 to-morrow I do I shall be most happy." As soon as the Boers had retired Mr. Hilliard commenced throwing up redoubts, and by 9 next morning had all the men in the place who could hold a rifle into the trenches ready to give a decided answer to Myneer Fisher. For six days the little garrison held the town against 600 Boers, with the Union Jack flying above them, and for all I know they are still there. In this country of rebels each an incident is refreshing.
Note: HH Spooner died of enteric fever (typhoid) at Deelfontein few months after writing this article.
The Battle of Sunnyside, South Africa, 1 January 1900
South African (Second Boer) War
Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Sunnyside, 1 January 1900, Town and Country Journal Account