The Battle of Tugela (or Thukela) Heights, consisted of a series of military actions lasting from 14 February through to 27 February 1900 in which General Sir Redvers Buller's British army forced Louis Botha's Boer army to lift the Siege of Ladysmith during the Second Boer War.
Buller's army had made three earlier attempts to raise the Boer siege of Ladysmith. The battles of Colenso, Spion Kop and Vaal Krantz each resulted in embarrassing British defeats at the hands of Botha's army of Boer irregulars. In three months, British casualties rose to 3,400 men while Boer losses were much lower. On 12 February, Buller ordered a fourth attempt to relieve Ladysmith. He hoped to exploit his ten-to-one superiority in artillery and four-to-one advantage in numbers.
The direct route to Ladysmith lay along the railroad, which ran mostly north and south. The railroad crossed the Tugela River at Colenso, ran along the north bank of the river, snaked between Railway Hill and Pieters Hill and continued to Ladysmith. While their main defences were north of the river, the Boers also held a number of ridges south of the river and east of Colenso. The Tugela runs generally east to Colenso, but near the railroad bridge the river turns north, then northeast. Along the northeasterly stretch, the river and railroad are commanded by a series of hills which represented the Boer main line of defence.
A 500 feet (150 m) high ridge named Hlangwane rose northeast of Colenso on the south bank and overlooked the railroad. During the Battle of Colenso, a British attack on Hlangwane was repulsed. Since that time, the Boers had greatly strengthened the ridge. With Hlangwane in his possession, Buller could dominate the Boer positions at Colenso, and safely cross there. To capture Hlangwane, Buller realised that he would first have to rout the Boers from all their positions south of the river, but even with the south bank in his possession, Buller would still have to fight through the Boer-held hills to the north on the river.
On 12 February, Lieutenant-Colonel Julian Byng led a reconnaissance in force to Hussar Hill, a position southeast of Colenso. The position fell on 14 February to Colonel the Earl of Dundonald's mounted brigade, and 34 artillery pieces soon crowned Hussar Hill. With the support of the guns, Major-General Neville Lyttelton's 4th Infantry Division struck to the northeast on 15 February. Cingolo Hill, to the northeast of Hussar Hill, fell next. On 18 February, while, hundreds of miles to the west, General Kitchener's army was fruitlessly attacking Piet Cronjé's surrounded army, an event known as Bloody Sunday, Major-General Henry J. T. Hildyard's 2nd Brigade captured the 1,000 feet (300 m) height of Monte Cristo, and Major-General Geoffrey Barton's 6th Brigade cleared Green Hill. The outflanked Boers abandoned Hlangwane and the south bank entirely on 19 February. Immediately, the British installed heavy artillery on the summit of Hlangwane.
Buller preferred to avoid the obvious route north along the railroad, but his intelligence officer informed him that an advance north across the river from Monte Cristo was impracticable. Therefore, the British were forced to find a way to overcome the main Boer positions. British infantry occupied Colenso on 19 February and the railhead was advanced to Colenso Station. On 21 February, the pontoon bridge was positioned under the western brow of Hlangwane and the army began to cross. Major-General Arthur S. Wynne's 11th Brigade captured Boer positions at Horse-shoe Hill and Wynne's Hill 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Colenso on the evening of 22 February. Major-General Fitzroy Hart's 5th (Irish) Brigade attacked the next high ground to the northeast, Hart's Hill on 23 February. Not waiting for all his battalions to arrive, Hart sent his troops up piecemeal and they were repulsed with almost 500 casualties. Two battalions of reinforcements arrived in time to prevent a rout. Two colonels were among the dead and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers lost 72% of their officers and 27% of their rank and file. During this engagement Edgar Thomas Inkson carried a young officer, who was severely wounded and unable to walk, for three or four hundred yards, under very heavy fire, to a place of safety for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
On 25 February, a six-hour armistice was arranged to recover the British wounded on the upper slopes of Wynne's and Hart's Hills. On one section of hillside, 80 were killed and only three survivors were recovered.
Buller began to look for another way to flank the Boers. It turned out that in front of the Boer positions, the Tugela entered a gorge. The pontoon bridge was moved north to the mouth of the gorge so British soldiers could cross and move to the northeast along the riverbank, unseen by the Boers. Meanwhile, a trail was located by which the British artillery was moved into supporting distance on the south bank. Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren's 5th Infantry Division was directed to attack the Boer left flank. The brigades would strike from east to west, first at Pieters Hill, then Railway Hill and finally Hart's Hill. Meanwhile, Lyttelton's division would threaten the Boer center and right flank. For once, Botha failed to anticipate Buller's moves.
Barton's brigade attacked Pieters Hill shortly after noon on 27 February. Behind an early use of the creeping barrage by field artillery pieces as heavy as 4.7-inch naval guns, the 6th Brigade's advance was rapid at first. Then, about 14:00, as the British infantry moved out of artillery observation and Botha reinforced his threatened flank, the attack stalled. The reserve was put in at 14:30 and repulsed due to tough Boer resistance and enfilading fire from Railway Hill to the west.
At 15:00 Colonel Walter Kitchener's 5th Brigade attacked Railway Hill. After working their way slowly uphill, the soldiers carried the nek (saddle) between Hart's and Railway Hills in a brilliant bayonet charge, capturing 48 Boer prisoners. The last to move forward, Major-General Norcott's 4th Brigade, began its assault on Hart's Hill. The close artillery support proved decisive, as trench after trench was overwhelmed by direct fire. A final infantry charge cleared the crest, compelling a Boer retreat. As Botha's men fell back from the heights, the British infantry gave out a cheer.
On 28 February, the besieged defenders of Ladysmith observed a great column of Boer horsemen and wagons moving rapidly north, just outside artillery range. Some time after 5:00pm, two squadrons of British mounted infantry commanded by Major Hubert Gough from Buller's army rode into Ladysmith and ended the siege. Botha retreated to a new defensive line 60 miles to the north.
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.
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.
In a disastrous week during the second Boer War, dubbed Black Week, from 10–17 December 1899, the British Army suffered three devastating defeats by the Boer Republics at the battles of Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso, with a total of 2,776 men killed, wounded and captured.
General Sir Walter Norris Congreve was an English Army officer in the Second Boer War and the First World War, and Governor of Malta 1924-1927. He received 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.
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.
Colenso is a town in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It is located on the southern bank of the Tugela River. The original settlement was contained within a loop on the river, but it subsequently expanded southwards and eastwards. It lies on the main Durban - Johannesburg railway line some 190 km (118 mi) north-west of Durban.
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.
The Battle of Magersfontein was fought on 11 December 1899, at Magersfontein near Kimberley, South Africa, on the borders of the Cape Colony and the independent republic of the Orange Free State. British forces under Lieutenant General Lord Methuen were advancing north along the railway line from the Cape in order to relieve the Siege of Kimberley, but their path was blocked at Magersfontein by a Boer force that was entrenched in the surrounding hills. The British had already fought a series of battles with the Boers, most recently at Modder River, where the advance was temporarily halted.
The Battle of Berg-en-dal took place in South Africa during the Second Anglo-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.
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.
When the Second Boer War broke out on 11 October 1899, the Boers had a numeric superiority within Southern Africa. They quickly invaded the British territory and laid siege to Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking. Britain meanwhile transported thousands of troops both from the United Kingdom itself and from elsewhere in the Empire and by the time the siege of Ladysmith had been lifted, had a huge numeric superiority.
The Battle of Vaal Krantz was the third failed attempt by General Redvers Buller's British army to fight its way past Louis Botha's army of Boer irregulars and lift the Siege of Ladysmith. The battle occurred during the Second Boer War.
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 Second Boer War saw attempted application of bombardment as an alternative to the use of ground forces. In most battles fought during the conflict this was proved not to be possible. There was competition from the other side's ability to undertake evasive measures. The opponent was able to use cover to protect himself and hide his position. Nonetheless, the tactic of the creeping barrage, used at the Relief of Ladysmith, has been described as "revolutionary".
Major General Sir Eric Stanley Girdwood, KBE, CB, CMG was a British military officer who served as General Officer Commanding the Northern Ireland District from 1931 to 1935.
Major General Sir Geoffrey Barton, of the 7th Regiment of Foot, served the British Army from 1862 until 1904. Although he saw service in Ireland, Hong Kong and India, the majority of his campaigns were on the African continent. During the Second Boer War he was put in command of the 6th Brigade of the South Natal Field Force, taking part in the Relief of Ladysmith and the Relief of Mafeking. When he retired to Scotland he took an interest in local politics, the Red Cross Society and the Boy Scout Movement.
Major-General John Talbot Coke (1841–1912) of Trusley in South Derbyshire was a British Army officer that served in the 25th Foot between 1859 and 1901. He wrote a family history book called "Coke of Trusley, in the County of Derby, and Branches Therefrom; a Family History" which was published in 1880. He was a Brigade Commander during the Second Boer War having a prominent role in the battles of Spion Kop and the Tugela Heights during the relief of Ladysmith.
The Natal Field Force (NFF) was a multi-battalion field force originally formed by Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley in Natal for the First Boer War. It was later re-established for the Second Boer War (1899–1902) and commanded by Major-General Sir Redvers Buller VC GCB GCMG.
The South African Light Horse regiment of the British Army were raised in Cape Colony in 1899 and disbanded in 1907.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of the Tugela Heights .|