Under the Union Jack, No. 13, Vol. 1, February 3rd 1900

Feb. 3>19:0 .]UNDER THE UNION JACK. BAT T LING FO REM P IRE .BEYOND THE T U GEL A .AGAIN it must be said that operations of high importance are proceeding as these pages togo press. Sir Redvers Buller gave his word that his attack should be decisive. “We are going to the help of our comrades there shall be no turning back.” The lessons of the campaign were not lost, and excellent caution marked the early movement across the Tugela. It does not appear that the generals on the spot were well informed concerning the topography of the country in which they are fighting, and it is not to be wondered at that people at home have failed to understand the character of some of the movements. It will be useful to recall briefly the course of events since Sir Redvers Buller left the railway to make his flank march. Sir Charles Warren’s Division joined him at Frere, and the combined force left that place on January nth ,well provided with artillery, including the 61st Howitzer Battery and the Naval guns, and accompanied by a considerable force of cavalry, regular and irregular, under Lord Dundonald, while General Barton was left at Chieveley to hold the Boers in check in the neighbourhood of Colenso. The force from Frere extended for a length of nineteen miles, and was accompanied by 400 waggons and 5,000 transport animals. On January 10th Lord Dundonald occupied Zw art Kop, and on the next day the south bank of the Hooded river was seized. General Lyttelton’s Brigade crossed at Potgieter’s Drift on the 1 6th and advanced about two miles, operating to hold the Boers in check in that quarter. The full force of the advance lay with Sir Charles Warren’s Division, which crossed at Trichardt’s Drift between the 10th and 18th. The enemy had had ample notice of what was going forward, and was very strongly entrenching the position on his extreme right, which it was Warren’s purpose to turn. Dundonaid’s cavalry went ahead, and, after having a successful engagement with the Pretoria-Heilbron com­mando to the west of Acton Homes, in which the enemy was driven from the kopje he had occupied with a loss of twenty killed and wounded and fifteen prisoners, seems to have advanced further, though the movements 01 the mounted force have not, as we write, been reported. The Boer position on this flank rests upon a range of hills running north-west from the river, and of which Spion Kop, facing Trichardt’s Drift, and separating it from Potgieler’s, is the key. All the picturesque glimpses of the war come from Boer sources, and a telegram from Spion Kop itself has given an account of the scene when the British troops crossed the Tugela. The gloom was broken by fitful flashes of lightning from thunderclouds, but these broke and the moon out,shone while the Boers began to sing their Dutch hymns, repeated from kopje to kopje, “the effect being strangely weird and highly inspiriting alike to greybeards and beardless youths.” To this strong position Creusot and other guns had been dragged, and the place was heavily entrenched. On the evening of January 23rd Sir Redvers Buller telegraphed that at night an attempt would be made to capture the height. It appears that Spion Kop is the eminence from which the Voortrekkers, who accompanied Potgieter across the Drakensbergen, spied out the then barbaric land of Natal and found it fair in their eyes. Sir Char les W arr en’s Operations. When Sir Charles Warren crossed the river it was expected that he would be able to make a rapid advance, but owing to the strength and position of the Boers— which extends for six miles on the long high ridge, with entrench­ments in the rear— the plan was changed. His attack began on Saturday, January 20th. At dawn the guns occupied a kopje on the east and fire was opened at seven o’clock. After four hours’ bombardment, General Hart’s Brigade advanced* the York and Lancaster Regiment and the Lancashire Fusiliers leading. Their waylay along a rocky uneven spur, and was commanded by the enemy from three directions, but the troops kept well undercover, and bivouacked at night within 500yds. of the enemy’s right wing. The whole situation bears a considerable resemblance to that which confronted Lord Methuen, and just as the Boers abandoned their positions at the Modder River, those encountered by Sir Charles Warren left their first advanced position at night Sir Charles, however, is avery cautious soldier, and would not imperil his forces by headlong advances. The movement had been most skilfully effected, at first by small parties widely scattered, but succeeding one another quickly, and full advantage was taken of cover, the advance extending rapidly from kopje to kopje. The batteries and Maxims did excelled work during the day, though it was difficult to locate thv exact positions of the enemy, and the attack which had been intended to complete the operation was not delivered, for the men had had long and heavy lighting. At daybreak on the next morning, Sunday, January 21st, the attack was resumed all along the line, but it was discovered that the Boers were occupying Spion Kop and the ridge in great force, and that the approaches were very difficult. But those who had been driven out from their trenches on the previous day were slowly pushed back, and progress was made from kopje to kopje, the enemy acting on the defensive throughout, except that at onetime they attempted to outflank our left and were signally checkmated. The result of the second workday’s was that our forces occupied the lower crest 011 the left of the advance, and were preparing to make a converging movement. It did not appear that the enemy showed great tenacity, and they clearly shrank from the British bayonets but their main position was one of great strength, though they did not bring many guns into use at the Onetime. Nordenfelt, which our soldiers christened“ Buck-up,” was, however, fired very frequently. After the exertions of the troops in this cautious advance, a day of rest was necessary, and on January 23rd Sir Redvers Buller telegraphed that Sir Charles Warren was holding the position he had gained. In front of him, at about 1,400yds., the enemy was in strength west of Spion Kop upon much higher ground than our troops occupied, with open bare slopes intervening, while the ridges upon which Sir Charles Warren had established himself were so steep that guns could not begot into position, and it became necessary to shell the Boers with howitzers and field artillery placed on the lower ground behind the infantry. The artillery duel seemed to be to our advantage, though there was no real certainty as to this. In view of the difficulty of the advance, Sir Redvers Buller decided to attempt to seize Spion Kop at night, and as these lines togo press success is announced. It is reported that the Boers are under command of Pretorius, but that Botha and Cronje were sent to Spion Kop. While the direct the direct attack was being made the guns on Mount Alice continued a terrific cannonade of the hills occupied by the enemy, while General Lyttelton made a demonstration from his camp near Potgieter’s Drift. W e shall have more heavy fighting to record before we can speak of the relief of Ladysm ith. Rumours had been spread that the Boers were retiring, but this was quite incorrect, for they had latterly brought up new guns, and had rapidly taken up fresh positions, involving a partial change of front. The country lends itself extremely well to their method of warfare, and all the hills surrounding The back numbers of “UNDER THE UNION JACK,” can be had of GEORGE NEWNES, Ltd.
Add Names


We have sought to ensure that the content of this website complies with UK copyright law. Please note however, that we may have been unable to ascertain the rights holders of some items. Where we have digitised items, we have done so with items that to the best of our knowledge, following due investigations, are in the public domain. While the original works are in the public domain we reserve all rights to the usage of the digital works.

The document titled Under the Union Jack, No. 13, Vol. 1, February 3rd 1900 is beneath this layer.

To view this document now, please sign up as a full access member.

Free Account Registration

Please enter your first name
Please enter your surname
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your password
By creating an account you agree to us emailing you with newsletters and discounts, which you can switch off in your account at any time

Already a member? Log in now
Small Medium Large Landscape Portrait