Battle of Elandslaagte

Last updated

Battle of Elandslaagte
Part of Second Boer War
Battle of Elandslaagte Map.png
Positions at noon, before the battle
Date21 October 1899
Location
Elandslaagte, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

28°24′S29°57′E / 28.400°S 29.950°E / -28.400; 29.950 (Battle of Elandslaagte) Coordinates: 28°24′S29°57′E / 28.400°S 29.950°E / -28.400; 29.950 (Battle of Elandslaagte)
Result British victory
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom Flag of Transvaal.svg  South African Republic
Commanders and leaders
John French
Ian Hamilton
Johannes Kock
Adolf Schiel
Strength
3,500
18 guns [1]
1,000
3 guns [1]
Casualties and losses
55 killed
205 wounded
46 killed
105 wounded
181 missing or captured

The Battle of Elandslaagte (21 October 1899) was a battle of the Second Boer War, and one of the few clear-cut tactical victories won by the British during the conflict. However, the British force retreated afterwards, throwing away their advantage.

Contents

Prelude

General Kock, his staff, and officers of the German Corps on the eve of the Battle Group portrait of Boer General Kock and his staff before the battle of Elandslaagte 21 October 1899 (retouched).jpg
General Kock, his staff, and officers of the German Corps on the eve of the Battle

When the Boers invaded Natal, a force under General Johannes Kock occupied the railway station at Elandslaagte on 19 October 1899, thus cutting the communications between the main British force at Ladysmith and a detachment at Dundee. De Kock's forces consisted mainly of men of the Johannesburg Commando with detachments of German, French, Dutch, American, and Irish Boer foreign volunteers. [2] [3]

Learning that the telegraph had been cut, Lieutenant General Sir George White sent his cavalry commander, Major General John French to recapture the station. Arriving shortly after dawn on 21 October, French found the Boers present in strength, with two field guns. He telegraphed to Ladysmith for reinforcements, which shortly afterwards arrived by train.

The battle

Charge of the 5th Lancers at Elandslaagte, from a drawing by Richard Caton Woodville Elandslaagte 1.jpg
Charge of the 5th Lancers at Elandslaagte, from a drawing by Richard Caton Woodville
Memorial plaque commemorating the Natal Field Artillery's participation in the battle City Hall and Francis Farewell Gardens, Durban VVV.jpg
Memorial plaque commemorating the Natal Field Artillery's participation in the battle

While three batteries of British field guns bombarded the Boer position, and the 1st Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment advanced frontally in open order, the main attack commanded by Colonel Ian Hamilton (1st Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, 2nd Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders and the dismounted Imperial Light Horse) moved around the Boers' left flank. The sky had steadily been growing dark with thunderclouds, and as the British made their assault, the storm burst. In the poor visibility and pouring rain, the British infantry had to face a barbed wire farm fence, in which several men were entangled and shot. Nevertheless, they cut the wire or broke it down, and occupied the main part of the Boer position. [4]

Some small parties of Boers were already showing white flags when General Kock led a counterattack, dressed in his top hat and Sunday best. [5] He drove back the British infantry in confusion, but they rallied, inspired by Hamilton (and reportedly, a bugler of the Manchesters and a Pipe Major of the Gordons) and charged again. Kock and his companions were killed.

As the remaining Boers mounted their ponies and tried to retreat, two squadrons of British cavalry (from the 5th Lancers and the 5th Dragoon Guards) got among them with lances and sabres, cutting down many. This was one of the few occasions during the Boer war in which a British cavalry charge made contact. [6] Some of the retreating Boers were also killed by the lancers after already clearly surrendering.

The two Boer field guns fell into British hands. They were found to have originally been British and had been captured by the Boers in the aftermath of the Jameson Raid. [7]

Aftermath

Battlefield at Elandslaagte Elangslaagte.jpg
Battlefield at Elandslaagte

The way was now clear for the British detachment at Dundee to fall back on the main British force, but Sir George White feared that 10,000 Boers from the Orange Free State were about to attack Ladysmith, and ordered the force at Elandslaagte to fall back there. The British were tired and many officers had been killed, and the retreat became a disorderly scramble. [8] The detachment at Dundee was once again isolated, and was forced to make an exhausting detour before they could reach safety. The Boer forces re-occupied Elandslaagte two days later. [9]

General Johannes Kock was captured by the British and died from his wounds shortly after the battle. Also captured in the battle was Adolf Schiel, a German officer who had lived in South Africa since 1878. Schiel, who held the commission of Lieutenant Colonel, lead a German commando in the battle. Schiel returned to Germany after the war, but died from wounds he had received at Elandslaagte in 1903. [7]

Among the British dead was Colonel John James Scott-Chisholme, commander in the Imperial Light Horse. He was killed while leading from the front and encouraging his men by waving a coloured sash. [10]

The Battle was also notable for being the first and last battle of the volunteer Hollanderkorps. The Hollanderkorps was a group of ca. 150 Dutch volunteers which had been established a mere month earlier. During the battle the Hollanderkorps suffered 9 fatalities, including Herman Coster, along with fellow officer Cars Geerts de Jonge and seven soldiers: P.J. van den Broek, H. van Cittert, J.A. Lepeltak Kieft, Jan Moora, J.Th. Rummeling, M. Schaink, and F.W. Wagner. A further 35 of the Hollanders were taken prisoner by the British. [11] Among the prisoners was Willem Frederik Mondriaan (brother of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian) who was wounded in the battle. Although he was able to crawl away from the battlefield he was taken prisoner by the British shortly after. He was later sent to Saint Helena as a prisoner of war, returning to South Africa in 1903. [12] Cornelis Vincent 'Cor' van Gogh, the brother of the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, also fought in the battle [11] where he was wounded and taken prisoner. He died shortly after. The Boer generals were deeply unhappy with the Hollanderkorps' performance, and it was disbanded after the battle though several hundred Dutch volunteers continued to fight in Boer regiments. [11] The names of the deceased Hollanders, including Coster, were inscribed at a monument at the location of the battle. The monument was destroyed by vandals in 2014. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Second Boer War War between the United Kingdom and two Boer Republics

The Second Boer War was fought between the British Empire and two independent Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. The trigger of the war was the discovery of diamonds and gold in the Boer states. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. Initial Boer attacks were successful, and although British reinforcements later reversed these, the war continued for years with Boer guerrilla warfare, until harsh British counter-measures including a scorched earth policy brought the Boers to terms.

Piet Joubert Boer politician and general

Petrus Jacobus Joubert, better known as Piet Joubert, was Commandant-General of the South African Republic from 1880 to 1900. He also served as Vice-President to Paul Kruger from 1881 - 1883. He served in First Boer War, Second Boer War, and the Malaboch War.

Battle of Spion Kop battle

The Battle of Spion Kop was fought about 38 km (24 mi) west-south-west of Ladysmith on the hilltop of Spioenkop(1) along the Tugela River, Natal in South Africa from 23–24 January 1900. It was fought between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one hand and British forces during the Second Boer War campaign to relieve Ladysmith. It resulted in a Boer victory.

Charles Mullins Recipient of the Victoria Cross

Major Charles Herbert Mullins VC CMG was a South African recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Siege of Ladysmith Engagement in the Second Boer War

The Siege of Ladysmith was a protracted engagement in the Second Boer War, taking place between 2 November 1899 and 28 February 1900 at Ladysmith, Natal, a township founded in 1850.

Battle of Modder River battle

The Battle of Modder River was an engagement in the Boer War, fought at Muddy River, on 28 November 1899. A British column under Lord Methuen, that was attempting to relieve the besieged town of Kimberley, forced Boers under General Piet Cronjé to retreat to Magersfontein, but suffered heavy casualties themselves.

Battle of Colenso A battle between British and Boer forces, South Africa on 15 December 1899

The battle of Colenso was the third and final battle fought during the Black Week of the Second Boer War. It was fought between British and Boer forces from the independent South African Republic and Orange Free State in and around Colenso, Natal, South Africa on 15 December 1899.

Battle of Paardeberg 1900 battle of the Second Boer War

The Battle of Paardeberg or Perdeberg was a major battle during the Second Anglo-Boer War. It was fought near Paardeberg Drift on the banks of the Modder River in the Orange Free State near Kimberley.

Battle of Belmont (1899) Battle of the Second Boer War

The Battle of Belmont was an engagement of the Second Boer War on 23 November 1899, where the British under Lord Methuen assaulted a Boer position on Belmont kopje.

Boer foreign volunteers Foreign volunteers who took part in the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902) alongside the Boer commandos

Boer foreign volunteers were participants who volunteered their military services to the Boers in the Second Boer War.

Battle of Diamond Hill

The Battle of Diamond Hill (Donkerhoek) was an engagement of the Second Boer War that took place on 11 and 12 June 1900 in central Transvaal.

J. W. B. Gunning South African scientist

Jan Willem Boudewijn Gunning, was a Dutch physician, who served as the director of both the Staatsmuseum and what was then known as the Pretoria Zoological Gardens.

Willem Johannes Leyds Dutch laywer and statesman

Willem Johannes Leyds was a Dutch lawyer and statesman who served as state attorney and state secretary of the South African Republic. From 1898 to 1902, during the crucial period of the Second Boer War, he was the Republic's special envoy and minister plenipotentiary in Brussels, accredited to several European states.

Battle of Elands River (1901)

The Battle of Elands River took place near the Elands River Poort mountain pass on 17 September 1901 during the Second Boer War. During the battle a Boer raiding force under Jan Smuts destroyed a British cavalry squadron led by Captain Sandeman, a cousin of Winston Churchill, on the Modderfontein farm. This battle is therefore also known as the Battle of Modderfontein.

The Battle of Ladysmith was one of the early engagements of the Second Boer War. A large British force which had concentrated at the garrison town of Ladysmith launched a sortie on 30 October 1899, against Boer armies which were slowly surrounding the town. The result was a disaster for the British. The main body was driven back into the town, and an isolated detachment of 800 men was forced to surrender to Commandant De Wet. The Boers did not follow up their advantage by proceeding towards the strategically important port of Durban, and instead began a Siege of Ladysmith, which was relieved after 118 days.

The South African Light Horse regiment of the British Army were raised in Cape Colony in 1899 and disbanded in 1907.

Johannes Hermanus Michiel Kock South African politician

Johannes Hermanus Michiel Kock was a Boer general and politician.

Burgher (Boer republics) Citizens of South Africa

In the Boer Republics of 19th century South Africa, a burgher was a fully enfranchised citizen. Burgher rights were restricted to white men, in particular Boers.

Adolf Schiel German officer, farmer, and writer

Adolf Friedrich Schiel was an officer in the South African Republic's military forces during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902.

Herman Coster Dutch lawyer

Hermanus 'Herman' Jacobus Coster was a Dutch lawyer and State Attorney of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.

References

Notes

  1. 1 2 "Battle of Elandslaagte". britishbattles.com. Retrieved 9 October 2019.
  2. Kruger 1964, p. 84.
  3. Viljoen 1902, p. 24.
  4. Pakenham 1979, p. 137-138.
  5. Kruger 1964, p. 86.
  6. Pakenham 1979, p. 139-140.
  7. 1 2 Gomm 1971.
  8. Kruger 1964, p. 88.
  9. Gillings 2003, p. 33.
  10. "Roll of Honour - Roxburghshire - Hawick South African". www.roll-of-honour.com. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  11. 1 2 3 Kuitenbrouwer 2017, pp. 233–250.
  12. Bosch 2013.
  13. "Horror destruction of Elandslaagte battle memorial". Archived from the original on 2 April 2017. Retrieved 28 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

Sources

Further reading