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On the Veldt: The British Army in South Africa 1899-1902

The heat of battle

The experience of battle and being under fire from bullets and shells was both a scary and exciting encounter.

Pieters Hill, February 1900

Battle of Pieters Hill 1900Battle of Pieters Hill in progress One remarkable item held in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives is a photograph of a battle in progress.

The Battle of Pieters Hill was part of the much larger Battle of the Tugela Heights which took place between 14 - 27 February 1900.

The photograph is annotated with the positions of attacking infantry, Boer defensive works and white clouds showing the explosion of shells.

The battle was a success for the British Army and opened the way for the Relief of Ladysmith the following day.

Surprise Hill, December 1900

Night Attack on Surprise Hill poemSurprise Hill poemBritish soldiers recorded their experiences of military action in their letters home and personal diaries.

One soldier, Private J. Gibbons, recorded his reflections on battle in the form of a poem titled ‘The Night Attack on Surprise Hill’.

A transcript of the poem is on the left.

The skirmish took place on the night of 10 December 1900.

The British objective was to attack and capture Boer artillery on top of a hill outside of Ladysmith. The main gun was 4.7 inch naval cannon usually found on warships.

The battle was a success.

Lake Chrissie, February 1901

Lieutenant George Crossman described the action at Lake Chrissie on 6 February 1901. In the early morning light he saw 300 to 400 Boers ‘coming in literally swathes...coming straight for our picquet.’

He continued, saying that ‘at 2.55am a determined attack was made by the Boers on our camp. The main attack being delivered on that position of the outpost line held by the West Yorkshire Regiment. The attack lasted ‘til 4.10am when the enemy retired. The men behaved with great coolness and steadiness and made a most determined stand.’

Crossman was wounded in the fight and later awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his brave leadership in rallying the men under fire. (Reference: Crossman 7, ‘1900 Dec 23 - 1901 Mar 4 Lake Chrissie & Map’).

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