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As the main British offensive neared the Transvaal capital of Pretoria, other forces, columns of predominantly 'colonial' and Imperial Yeomanry British militia mounted infantry were pursuing Boer forces in the northern and western Cape Colony. The choice may have been due to the presence of a comfortable farm house, which the British commander appropriated as his living quarters.

The choice was not a good one, as a number of ridges within rifle range overlooked the farm buildings. That evening, Boers surrounded the position.

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A party of Boers crept past the British outposts and into the camp under the cover of darkness. Against them were no more than 70 or 80 Canadians firing from the open veldt , although other Canadian companies were fed into the battle as they became available. The Canadians were on their own for several hours, until the threat created by the other British crossings forced the Boers to break off the engagement. The Royal Canadians, despite having been outnumbered by better than ten to one at some stages of the battle, stood fast. Canadian casualties were remarkably light - two killed and two wounded.


Back to Exhibitions. The heat of the African sun and the bites of the insects added to their misery as they lay trapped. When the Light Infantry panicked and ran many of them were shot down from behind. Following Colenso, Buller was reinforced by troops under General Warren, who had spent the previous year in retirement.

While crossing the Tugela, Warren spent so much time supervising the crossing of his own baggage that the Boer defenders grew to ten times that number. Buller made Warren commander at the Battle of Spion Kop. Neither Buller nor Warren ordered proper reconnaissance of the hill they were planning to attack. - South African War - Battle of Zand River

With little purpose, plan or information, Warren ordered General Woodgate — a man even Buller considered stupid — to lead an advance. He gave Woodgate neither machine guns nor a telegraph team to keep in touch. Ill-equipped and ill-informed, Woodgate and his men fought their way to what they thought was the top of the hill, but was actually a plateau mid-way up.

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  • The Boers took the ridges and rained down death from three sides upon the British, who could not even dig in on the rocky ground. It was nine hours before Warren thought to send reinforcements, by which time Woodgate was dead and his men in retreat.

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    When a war correspondent named Winston Churchill had urged Warren to act earlier in the day, Warren had ordered him arrested in a fit of rage. Ordered to keep his horse artillery at least two and a half miles back, Long instead ordered them to gallop forwards, leaving behind the infantry meant to protect them. A thousand yards from the Tugela River, Long set up his guns in what he considered a pleasingly straight line and began firing at the Boers across the river.

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    Not to be outdone, another of the officers at Colenso, Major-General Hart, ordered his men to advance towards the enemy in close order in broad daylight.