Die Boere-aanval op Majuba – Deel 14: Geveg teen die Britse reserwe

Die Boere-aanval op Majuba – Deel 13: Aanval op die bergkruinrant (Roos, Ferreira en De Wet)
February 15, 2021
Die Boere-aanval op Majuba – Deel 15: Laaste vuurgeveg op die bergkruin
February 15, 2021

Christo HC Geldenhuys

 

Die Boere het die bergkruinrant bereik en Hamilton-koppie beset.

Stephanus Roos vertel:

“Naderhand wyk di Engelse terug en hulle skiit hou op, mar ek hoor an di skote dat Ferreira di kop an di ander kant bestorm en net hard veg. Ek dog: Nou is myn tyd. Ek was di voorste van myn manskap en tel myn kop op om o’er ‘n klipkoppi bo op di kop te kyk. Mar ek skrik toen ek di mag van Engelse bo op di kop siin, hoewel ‘n end van ons af was di digte trop, en an di ander kant veg hulle hard met Ferreira. Ek buk dadelik weer (hulle het my ni gewaar ni), en ek kyk om. Toen siin ek eers hoe min manskap by my is, en hoe enkeld en uit makaar myn mense ankom.

Dit is oor hierdie klippe wat Stephanus Roos geloer het. (Christo Geldenhuys, Desember 2020)

“Ja, onse liwe Here weet dit, toen sink myn moed ver’ n o’enblik weg. Ek dag: ag, di Engelse kan kom en vang ons klompi hiir met di hande en maak ons almal vas. En dan het ek geweet, as dit tot di uiterste kom sal di Engelse ons storm met di baionette. En ek wil ni ontken ni, toen het ek gebruik gemaak van ’n leuen. Ek hoop onse liwe Here het my dit vergewe! Ek wenk toen met myn hoed en ek sê: ‘Kerels, kom nou! Kom gou! Di Engelse vlug!’ A ja, toen borl myn kerels agter di klippe uit, en di agterste kom an dat dit help. Ons storm toen somar bo op di rant, ek denk ons was daar omtrent ’n 40 of 50 man, en di Engelse was ’n 30 of 40 tré van ons af.

“Ons vuur toen op di Eugelse so hard as ons kan, want hulle staan toen oop en bloot en ons het tog ’n bitji skuiling agter di klippe. Di Engelse wil ons toen storm met di baionette, mar ons skiit hulle tot twe male terug.”[1]

Kommandant Ferreira maak ook melding van die Britte met gevelde bajonette. (Alhoewel hy hier nie so duidelik na die Britse reserwe verwys het nie, is dit waarskynlik, want die beskrywing stem ooreen met dié van Roos):

“De soldaten rukten met gevelde bajonetten op ons aan, maar wij losten zulk een vuur op hem, dat zij niet nader dan twintig treden van ons af konden kommen.”[2]

Daar is verskillende weergawes oor die aanwending van die Britse reserwes. Wat wel duidelik is, is dat al die oorblywende reserwes by die hoofkwartier, gestuur was om die Boere-aanval op die bergkruinrant te gaan teenstaan. Hulle het egter nie tot daar gevorder nie, want hulle is deur Boerevuur tot stilstand gedwing. Intussen is Hamilton se “picket” ook feitlik uitgewis en sy oorlewewende vyf manne het ook oor die kruinrant in die rigting van die hoofkwartier gevlug.

Die “Digest of Service” van die 92nd, opgestel deur Majoor White, skryf die volgende:

“By this time, the supports had been greatly decreased by the call for reinforcements from different points to keep down the fire and approach of the Boers, whose parties now nearly surrounded the hill. The few men left in support, chiefly sailors and 58Th men, were now brought up towards the western face, but were halted short of the position from which our men had been driven. Finding that they could not shoot over the brow they were withdrawn and formed behind the ridge. (Rif bo-op Majuba)

“At about a quarter to 1 P.M. the Boers’ fire, which up to this had been much brisker than ours (I should say they had fired six shots to our one), almost entirely ceased.”[3]

Dokter Mahon vertel: “At about 1 o’clock they advanced in force on the E.N.E. front, and poured in a tremendous fire. Some blue jackets and some of the 58th were sent to reinforce the 92nd, and the Boers retired, but immediately advanced in greater numbers a little more to the left. The fire now became so hot, and the hospital being partially exposed to it, I had the Commander removed on a stretcher by Bevis and Bone, L.S., to a sheltered spot on the south-west front.”[4]

Luitenant Wright vertel die volgende:

“About one we saw some heads appearing over the top. The 92nd rushed forward in a body and drove them for the moment back – we lost about fifty killed and wounded. Then, strange to say, the word to cease fire came distinctly to where Hay and I were, and immediately after retire. We all ran back to the ridge in the middle of the hill, which allowed the Boers to gain the hill.”[5]

Luitenant Hamilton se vertellings is in verskeie bronne weergegee:

“The survivors of the picket with the pursuing Boers reached the rim together, and became visible to the main force. Astounded by this apparition, the troops who were lying down in the saucer rose up together, and some accoutred, some with their coats off, Highlanders, sailors, and linesmen, ran forward and fired a ragged volley. The Boers immediately lay down and replied, causing heavy loss.

“A furious musketry fight followed between the Dutch in cover along the rim and the British among the rocks across the centre of the saucer.”[6]

Luitenant Hamilton skryf later: “I never saw such a mob as this reinforcement … Some were properly dressed, others were without helmets, coats or belts. The whole formed a sort of mixed crowd being led on by their officers. I fancy they were considerably startled by being so suddenly hurried up, many of them out of a sound sleep. Anyway, I did not like the way they came on. As they approached the place where my men had been, they opened a heavy fire, though I don’t quite think they saw what they were firing at.”[7]

Hy skryf ook:

“Reserves came up to fill this, but stopped short of the original line. There was an exchange of fire with an invisible enemy and then a terrible fusillade from the knoll caused heavy loss to the reserves. Suddenly the gap in the line where the reserves had been was filled with Boers advancing with their rifles in their shoulders ready to fire. Hamilton made a hasty retreat with the remainder of his men to the crest, and as he turned to run, he saw the Boers swarming out of the ravine straight at him. Thirteen of his eighteen men were killed or wounded and he himself in his perilous dashes to headquarters had shave after shave. His kilt and coat were cut in several places by bullets, one passed a quarter of an inch under his armpit and another between his legs.”[8]

“… a terrible fusillage from the knoll …” Hierdie foto is van Gordonkoppie af geneem – Ferreira se manne …

Carter beskryf dit as volg (in ’n telegram aan die Times of Natal): “It was about one o’clock that of a sudden and most terrific fire came from our left. Immediately every available man of reserves were hurried up to meet it, and they answered it well for about ten minutes. There were men from the Naval Brigade, Highlanders and 58th Regiment all firing as best they could – perhaps 50 against 200 Boers. The Boer fire was now very telling; our men were shot right and left at this point as they exposed themselves. No man could show his head without a dozen shots being fired at him. In ten or fifteen minutes the men wavered and broke, but in answer to shouts of officers – ‘rally on your right!’ (that would bring them more to the left rear where, where the general and about fifty men were) …”[9]

Carter beskryf dit in meer detail in sy boek, A narrative of the Boer War:

“… there came of a sudden a terrific outburst of fire from the Boers, just on the other side of the slope of the basin on which we were at this time talking. There was something extraordinary in this, because the fire was in volleys, not in single shots, as had been going on all day and from the sound we could tell the enemy delivering it were very much closer to the hill-top than ever anyone expected or could have known. It was such a fire as had not been heard as yet, and from the way the bullets pinged on the boulders above our heads, it was evidently concentrated on one point. Our men facing it on the slopes outside the basin at this point had a particularly warm time of it, as there were not more than fifteen or sixteen Highlanders at that point.

“Immediately almost Colonel Stewart (I think it was) and two or three other Officers came running from the direction of the left rear to where the reserves were lying right down in the basin and ordered the greater portion of them to reinforce the Highlanders facing this unexpected fusillade. The reserves obeyed the order, but my impression at the time while looking on was, that there was a want of alacrity shown by the men which was not altogether reassuring. There was a good deal of shouting and ordering, ‘now will you step up quick there!’ by the officers, which was not unnecessary to the occasion. The reserves, 58th, 92nd, and Naval Brigade disappeared in skirmishing order over the ridge to meet the enemy and returned the fire rapidly. That of the Boers from this point after a couple of minutes seemed to slacken, and I thought our men had driven them back. I had put my note book, in which I was writing, in my waist-belt when this sudden attack developed. My field-glasses and case, clasp-knife (used as a sardine tin-opener at lunch), remains of a loaf of bread, riding whip, and other small articles were lying by my side, and I was about to gather them up. Before I could do so, the reserve body which had been taken over the ridge to reinforce the fighting line at the point threatened, came rushing straight over me, making for the ridge nearest Mount Prospect. To gain that they would have to traverse the basin or hollow down one side (from which they came), across the bottom, past the wells that had been dug, and up the rise forming the other side of the basin. I did not stop to collect my personal effects, as I thought the Boers must be chasing our men, and close up to the ridge of the basin, and I ran with the rest at a moment’s notice into the bottom of the basin.

“On the left rear of this ridge over which our men came streaming at the double-quick in disorder (in fact, at a spot on the continuation of this ridge forming the edges of the basin), I knew there was a good complement of our men, and, after the first flush of surprise made towards that point only forty yards distant.

“Attention being called to this precipitate retreat, officers from every side who witnessed the affair shouted frantically, ‘Rally on the right! rally on the right!’ That call was in every one’s mouth. The men in flight had their backs turned on the enemy; ‘the right’ of those retreating was therefore really the left of our fighting line, which was the principal line of the enemy’s attack. The men responded to the call, and, making a half-turn when they reached the bottom of the basin, came back again to the ridge, but to a point to the left of that from which they had been so suddenly driven. They therefore in their retreat and rally had described a semicircle. Arriving at the rallying point, I saw at a glance that there were so many men here that those who a minute ago had been extended beyond the edges of the basin in front of this spot out to the brow of the hill, must have fallen back when their comrades on their right retired.”[10]

 

Samevatting en evaluering

Die Britse reserwe, wat oorspronklik bestaan het uit ’n kompanie elk van die 58th en 92nd, sowel as ’n aantal vlootsoldate, het veilig in die pannetjie suid van die rif op Majubakruin gerus. Hulle getalle was al uitgedun deurdat klein groepies reeds na die bergkruinrant ter versterking gestuur is. Na die besetting van Gordonkoppie deur die Boere, toe die offisiere die manne in reserwe opdrag gee om gereed te maak, het hulle voorkoms en houding teleurgestel – krygslus het ooglopend ontbreek. Die reserwe het in ’n uitgespreide linie in ’n noordwestelike rigting op die bergkruin beweeg. Hulle het nie die kruinrant bereik nie. Hulle het hewige vuur in die rigting van die Boere, wat waarskynlik grootliks onsigbaar vir hulle was, gelewer.

Toe Stephanus Roos oor die kruinrant geloer het, was die Britse reserwe saamgebondel en oop en bloot op die kruin, omtrent 30 tot 40 tree vanaf die kruinrant. Daar is teenstrydige weergawes tussen Boere- en Britse vertellers aangaande bajonetstormlope wat toe volgens Boerevertellers deur die Britte uitgevoer sou word. Die Britse vertellers maak glad nie melding van bajonetstormlope deur die reserwe nie. Die Boere het waarskynlik nog nooit ’n bajonetstormloop gesien nie en het waarskynlik die vorentoe beweeg van die reserwe as ’n bajonetstormloop beskou. Die taktiek van die Britse reserwe was hier eerder soortgelyk (alhoewel op baie kleiner skaal) as tydens die slag van Ulundi in 1879 – benut nie dekking nie, maar poog om die vyand met vuurkrag te stuit. Vir ’n kort rukkie het dit gelyk asof die taktiek hier ook sou werk, want die Boere se vuur het aanmerklik afgeneem. Dit was egter nie toepaslike taktiek teen ’n vyand wat nie vorentoe storm nie, maar van agter dekking die vuurgeveg wen. Die Boerevuur op kort afstand op die Britte het hewige verliese veroorsaak.

Die oorlewendes van die Britse reserwe het terug (suidwaarts) tot oor die rif op Majubakruin gehardloop. Verwarrende bevele van offisiere lei daartoe dat die meerderheid agter die westelike deel van die rif eindig (linkerkant van die Britse stelling op die rif), i.p.v. agter die oostelike deel van die rif, waarheen die offisiere wou gehad het hulle moes gaan. Die verskillende eenhede se lede was toe vermeng met mekaar, wat die impak wat offisiere kon uitoefen, laat afneem het.

Die laaste vuurgeveg op Majubakruin sou volg …

  

Bronne:

British Government Publication. The London Gazette.  TSO (The Stationery Office) under the superintendence of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO), part of The National Archives.  (Datum van publikasie soos in die voetnota vestrek.)

Carter, Thomas Fortescue. 1896. A narrative of the Boer War: its causes and results. New edition. London: John Macqueen.

Churchill, Winston Spencer. 1900. Ian Hamilton’s march. London and Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co.

Cromb, James. 1891. The Majuba disaster. A story of Higland heroism told by officers of the 92nd Regiment. London.

Hamilton, Ian B.M. 1960. The happy warrior. A life of General Sir Ian Hamilton, GCB, GCMG, DSO. London.

Norris-Newman, Charles L. 1882. With the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange Free State in 1880-1. London: WMH Allen and Co.

Otto, W. 1981. Die Slag van Majuba 27 Februarie 1881. Science Militaria. South African Journal of Military Studies, 11(1).  

“S” (Skrywer onbekend). 1896. Die Slag van Amajuba, Ons Klyntji, Deel 1, No. 1. Maart. Paarl: D.F. du Toit en Co. Beperk, Drukkers en Uitgewers.

Weilbach, Kommandant J.D. en Du Plessis, C.N.J. 1882. Geschiedenis van de Emigranten-Boeren en van den Vrijheids-oorlog. Kaapstad: Saul Solomon & Co.

 

[1] Stephanus Roos in Ons Klyntji, p. 12.

[2] Ferreira aangehaal in Weilbach & Du Plessis, p. 268.

[3] White, in die “Digest of Service”, soos aangehaal in Cromb, The Majuba disaster, p. 16.

[4] Dr. Mahon, London Gazette 3 May 1881, p. 2019.

[5] Luitenant Wright, soos aangehaal in Cromb, The Majuba disaster, p. 18.

[6] Churchill, Ian Hamilton’s march, p. 118.

[7] Hamilton in Otto, Die Slag van Majuba, 27 Februarie 1881. Science Militaria.

[8] Hamilton, The happy warrior, p. 43.

[9] Carter se telegram aan die Times of Natal, soos aangehaal in Norris-Newman, With the Boers in the Transvaal and Orange Free State in 1880-1, p. 202.

[10] Carter, A narrative of the Boer War, pp. 269-270.