Under the Union Jack, No. 14, Vol. 1, February 10th 1900

FA. 9,1900.] UNDER THE UNION JACK. 315 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. FIGHTING ON THE TUGELA. WHEN these pages went to press last week it was believed that Sir Charles Warren had secured a great success by his brilliant capture of Spion Kop. That hill, which is likely to occupy a notable place in our military annals, is the highest point of the range of hills which runs north-west from Trichardt’s Drift, where Sir Charles Warren had crossed the Tugela on January 17th and 18th. It is a place almost inaccessibly steep, except atone point where the nek joins the kop to the main range, and it was certainly captured and held by the troops in the most brilliant manner. Those who have travelled through mountainous country will know the difficulty of appreciating the exact command of any particular hill over the surrounding country, and the difficulty became manifest in the case of Spion Kop. It had been thought that this position once captured would render that of the enemy untenable, but instead, when our men had gained the crest they found themselves subjected to what one correspondent describes as a hell of fire. The attack began on the night of January 23rd, and was completed in the early morning of the next day. The Boers were taken in some measure by surprise. Our troops left camp at 1.30, and a guide led them up a narrow steep pass to the southernmost part of the kop. At three o’clock in the morning they reached the first Boer trenches, but the enemy, after firing a volley at short range, fled to the second line, from which they blazed away but our troops gallantly pushed forward, and by four o’clock had seized the highest part of the hill. It was intended to send guns up during the day that fo’lowed, so as to complete the command of the enemy’s position, but when the mists cleared away at eight o’clock 011 the morning of January 24th avery different situation was revealed, for the enemy immediately opened a terrific rifle and gunfire, compelling a temporary retirement. From the position which our men held at the time there was a slight descent to a flattened area, which was again succeeded by around stony eminence held in great force by the Boers. The intelligence of the movement had been carried to the Boer laager by the men who fled, and before dawn the Heidelberg and Carolina contingents had begun to ascend the hill by climbing three rocky spurs, their horses being left below, and when these men had gained the height they opened their terrific fire. Sir Charles Warren had hurried up with reinforcements, but it became impossible to hold the place. The fighting, however, continued all day, and the Maxims and Nordenfelts of the Boers did great execution in our ranks. The tide of battle on the hill surged to and fro, and it is said that our ammunition threatened to give out. A strong force of the enemy thereupon crept forward, and there was a sanguinary conflict almost at our trenches. The murderous work went on until dusk put an end to the fray. According to the Boer accounts our troops were gradually pushed back under the tremendous fire, whereupon the assailants rushed up, despising shelter, to our trenches, shouting “Hands up !weapons down! ”They met with their reward from the 'defenders. Our men had fought with the utmost gallantry, and the 2nd Cameronians and the 3rd King’s Royal Riile Corps, who attacked the mountain on the steepest side and fought their way to the top, covered themselves with honour, while the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers and the 2nd Middlesex maintained the best traditions of the Army, supported by Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, who fought alongside them throughout the day. The tale of slaughter was terrible. Gallant General Woodgate, commanding the 10th Brigade, was dangerously wounded. In all, the officers killed numbered 22, while 20 were wounded and 6 were missing. The heaviest loss fell upon Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, which had not less than 7 officers killed and 4 wounded. In the ranks, the 3rd King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the Cameronians, as well as Thorneycroft’s Horse, suffered very heavily. asSad was the catastrophe, we may yet feel proud of the spirit shown by these devoted troops, and Her Majesty’s expression of her admiration conveyed to them was well justified, for, indeed, in the language of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, the heroism of the soldiers in the field, and of the sailors and marines landed to co-operate with them, has not fallen short of the noblest traditions of our military history. The Retirement .Before the news arrived in England of the successful seizure of the kop the retirement had been made. The officer who succeeded General Woodgate in command decided, certainly upon excellent grounds, to abandon the position. If there had been no other reason for his action, the large area of the hill and the scarcity of water, to which Sir Redvers Buller alluded in his despatch, would have made the holding of it difficult or impossible. Sir Redvers reached Sir Charles Warren’s camp at 5 a.m. on January 25th, and immediately decided that a second attack would be useless, and that the enemy’s right was, in fact, too strong for him to force. He therefore came to the decision to withdraw the troops to the south of the Tugela. Within an hour after his arrival the withdrawal began, the men marching sadly down the hill, leaving the wounded behind, and two days later the whole of Sir Charles Warren’s Division was concentrated, “without the loss of a manor a pound of stores,” 011 the south side of the river. No doubt, as Sir Redvers Buller remarked, the successful accomplishment of this retreat, with a cumbrous ox train, including the crossing of a swift river 85yds. broad with 20ft. banks, was equal testimony to the soldier-like qualities of our troops and to the respect they had inspired in the enemy. Nevertheless, the effect upon the country was depressing, although England was not dismayed, and will not be, even if greater reverses should occur. The country is strong in its demand that the Government shall take immediate steps to leave not the smallest doubt that success will crown our arms. During the retirement of Sir Charles Warren, General Lyttelton’s Brigade, which had crossed at Potgieter’s Drift,, lower down the Tugela, made a successful demonstration to cover the right of the troops. As to the situation in Lady­ smith, we are at the moment of writing without exact knowledge, though there is no reason to suppose that the town is in great straits. The Boers have been too much occupied in resisting the advance of Sir Redvers Buller to make any further attacks upon that place, which, moreover, has been greatly strengthened. At the same time, though confidence still prevails in Ladysmith, it is very clear that a garrison which has been long beleaguered, and has seen the second great attempt for its relief defeated, may well have its power of resistance reduced. The Boers seem to expect that in ths last resort Sir George White will make a desperate sortie and attempt to cut his through.way O n theM odder River .The position in Lord Methuen’s camp is, as we writjr practically unchanged, and it is needless hereto do more than say that he has been engaged in shelling the enemy’s batteries. Thus on January 22nd the howitzers did good work, silencing one gun and blowing up an entire magazine of black “UNDER T IIE UNION JACK ’’—PHOTOS. OF ALL THE GENERALS AT THE FRONT.
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