THE BATTLE OF ELANDSLAAGTE—CHARGE OF THE 5th LANCERS.
Drawn by R. Caton Woodville.
The following is the casualty roll of officers killed at the battle of Elandslaagte:—
Imperial Light Horse.—Colonel Scott Chisholme, commander, killed; Major Wools Sampson, bullet wound, thigh, severely; Captain John Orr, bullet wound, neck, severely; Lieutenant William Curry, bullet wound, foot, severely; Lieutenant Arthur Shore, bullet wound, chest, severely; Lieutenant and Adjutant R. W. Barnes, wounded severely; Lieutenant Lachlan Forbes, wounded severely; Captain Mullins, wounded; Lieutenant Campbell, wounded; Lieutenant Normand, wounded. 21st Battery Field Artillery.—Captain H. M. Campbell, bullet wound, chest, severe; Lieutenant W. G. H. Manley, shell wound, head, severe. Staff.—Captain Ronald G. Brooke, 7th Hussars, bullet wounds, thigh and head, severe. 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment.—Second Lieutenant H. R. Gunning, severely, bullet wound in chest; Second Lieutenant S. T. Hayley, severely, bullet wounds in hand and leg; Second Lieutenant G. F. Green, severely, bullet wound in forearm; Captain William B. Lafone, slightly, bullet wound. 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment.—Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Curran, bullet wound, shoulder; Captain Charles Melvill, bullet wound, arm, severe; Captain William Newbigging, bullet wound, left shoulder, severe; Captain Donald Paton, bullet wound, thigh, severe; Lieutenant Cyril Danks, bullet wound, scalp, slight. 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders.trophy
—Killed: Major H. W. D. Denne, Lieutenant C. G. Monro, Second Lieutenant J. G. D. Murray, Lieutenant L. B. Bradbury. Wounded: Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham, bullet wound, arm, severe; Major Harry Wright, bullet wound, right foot, severe; Captain J. Haldane, bullet wound, leg, severe; Captain Arthur Buchanan, bullet wound, right side, severe; boers by irregular miniatures
Lieutenant M. Meiklejohn, fractured humerus, severe; Lieutenant C. W. Findlay, bullet wound, arm and thigh, severe; Lieutenant J. B. Gillat (attached from Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders); Second Lieutenant I. A. Campbell, bullet wound, head and chest, dangerous; Lieutenant A. R. Hennessy (3rd Batt.), bullet wound, head and chest, severe.red jackets?
The following tribute to the memory of Colonel Scott Chisholme is taken from Mr. John Stuart's correspondence to the Morning Post:—
"No death has been more severely felt than the Colonel's. He was a good man and a good soldier, brave to the point of recklessness, a wonderfully-inspiriting leader, and, as I judged from about a month's knowledge of him, single-minded, fervent in all his work, passionately in earnest. His regiment almost worshipped him. On the day of the fight their keenness was increased because he was keen, and they ignored the hardships they had gone through because he shared them and took them lightly, and did his best to improve matters.
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"During the fight he only took cover once or twice, going from troop to troop, praising and encouraging the men in words that were always well chosen, for no man could phrase his blame or praise more aptly. At the last ridge he stopped to tie up the leg of a wounded trooper, and was shot himself in the leg. Two of his men went to his assistance, but he waved them off, telling them to go on with their fighting and to leave him alone. Then he was shot in one of the lungs, and the men went to his help, but while they were trying to get him to cover, a bullet lodged in his head and killed him. The last words he was heard to say were, 'My fellows are doing well.' His fellows will always remember that.
"I may be allowed to recall one or two interesting recollections of the Colonel. One is the speech he delivered when the Maritzburg Club dined him and his officers. Both he and General Symons spoke. Neither man was an orator, and yet each was more convincing than many orators, speaking simple, soldierly, purposeful words, words whose simplicity drove them home. Almost a week before the battle I saw the Colonel arranging his camp. He had taken off his tunic and helmet, and did twice as much direction as any other officer, and he worked as hard as any of the men. It was then, when I saw his vigour in full activity, that I realised his wonderful capacity for work—a capacity of which I had often heard, but which I had not been able to comprehend before.
"The last time I saw him was at the outspan before the battle began. He came to a group of us and gave one or two orders in such pleasant words that one knew that to obey him must in itself be a real delight. Then he sat down and gossiped with us, first about his luck in the morning, when a shell that hit the ground between his horse's feet had failed to burst, and afterwards about luck in general. He advised the officers to tell their men to sleep while they could, and then he said, 'Now I'll go and get half-an-hour's sleep myself.' But at that moment an aide-de-camp came saying that General French wanted to see him. When the Colonel returned, it was to order his regiment to saddle up and prepare to mount. In half-an-hour he was leading the attack on the first kopje.
"I like to think that before death smote him he knew that the battle was won, and that his fellows had done well, as he expected that they would, as he had helped them to do by example and generous encouragement."gordons
A private of the Gordon Highlanders, in a letter dated Ladysmith, November 2, gave a vivid account of the charge of the Gordons at Elandslaagte, and described how Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham was wounded when leading his men, and that officer's chagrin at his being rendered impotent. He said: "We charged three times with the bayonet, and my gun was covered with whiskers and blood, though I don't remember striking anybody, but I was nearly mad with excitement, shells bursting and bullets whizzing round like hail. I was close behind the commanding officer when he was wounded. He was shot and had to sit down, but he cheered on his men. 'Forward, Gordons,' he cried, 'the world is looking at you. Brave lads, give it to the beggars, exterminate the vermin—charge.' He then started crying because he could no longer lead his battalion, and he would not retire from the field until the day was won. He is a fine man to lead a battalion—as brave as a lion. The Gordons were the last line, and we raced through the Manchesters and the Devons and the Light Horse Volunteers, all charging together."light horse volunteer
Here we have a proof how much the morale of soldiers may be influenced by their immediate chief.
The Natal Advertiser in its account of the final scene said:—
"By a quarter past six the Devonshire Regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, and the Manchester Regiment, with the Imperial Light Horse, were in a position to storm the Boer camp from the enemy's front and left flank, and the signal for the bayonet charge was sounded. Then was witnessed one of the most splendid pieces of storming imaginable, the Devons taking the lead, closely followed by the Gordons, the Manchesters, and the Light Horse, in the face of a tremendous, killing fire, the rattle and roar of which betokened frightful carnage.... A bugler boy of the 5th Lancers shot three Boers with his revolver. He was afterwards carried round the camp amid cheers."
So many acts of gallantry were performed that they cannot all be related. It is impossible, however, to allow the wondrous pluck of Sergeant Kenneth M'Leod to go unrecorded. During the charge this gallant Scot was twice struck, once in the arm and once in the side. He however continued to pipe and advance with the Gordons to their final rush. Presently came more bullets, smashing his drones, his chanter, and his windbag, whereupon the splendid fellow had to give in.
Perhaps the most heart-rending period was that following the last gleam of daylight, when the Medical Staff went forth to do their melancholy duty. All were armed with lanterns, which, shining like pale glow-worms, made the dense gloom around more impenetrable still. Yet, groping and shivering through the black horror of the night, they patiently pursued their ghastly task with zeal that was truly magnificent. Dead, dying, wounded, were dotted all over the veldt. There, bearded old Boers, boys, Britons in their prime, were indiscriminately counted, collected, tended, the Field Hospital men and Indian stretcher-bearers working incessantly and ungrudgingly till dawn.
Gruesome and heart-rending were the sights and scenes around the camp-fires when such wounded as could crawl dragged themselves towards their comrades.
Pitiable the faces of the survivors as news came in of gallant hearts that had ceased to beat. A pathetic incident was witnessed in the grey gloom of the small hours. One of the bearers chanced on an ancient hoary-headed Boer, who was lying behind a rock supporting himself on his elbows.boer artillery
The bearer approached warily, as many of the enemy were known to have turned on those who went to their succour. This man, however, was too weak from loss of blood to attempt to raise his rifle.
Between his dying gasps he begged a favour—would some one find his son, a boy of thirteen, who had been fighting by his side when he fell.
The request was obeyed. The little lad, stone-dead, was discovered. He was placed in the failing arms of his father. The unhappy old fellow clasped the clay-cold form, and hugged it despairingly to himself, and then, merciful Providence pitied him in his misery—his stricken spirit went out to join his son.
An officer who was wounded, and who spent the night in the terrible scene, thus described his own awful experiences: "I lay where I fell for about three-quarters of an hour, when a doctor came and put a field-dressing on my wound, gave me some brandy, put my helmet under my head as a pillow, covered me with a Boer blanket which he had taken from a dead man, and then went to look after some other poor beggar. I shall never forget the horrors of that night as long as I live. In addition to the agony which my wound gave me, I had two sharp stones running into my back; I was soaked to the skin and bitterly cold, but had an awful thirst; the torrents of rain never stopped.
On one side of me was a Gordon Highlander in raving delirium, and on the other a Boer who had his leg shattered by a shell, and who gave vent to the most heart-rending cries and groans.
War is a funny game, and no one can realise what its grim horrors are till they see it in all its barbarous reality. I lay out in the rain the whole of the night, and at daybreak was put into a doolie by a doctor, and some natives carried me down to the station.
The ground was awfully rough, and they dropped me twice; I fainted both times. I was sent down to Ladysmith in the hospital train; from the station I was conveyed to the chapel (officers' hospital) in a bullock-cart, the jolting of which made me faint again.
I was the last officer taken in. I was then put to bed, and my wound was dressed just seventeen hours after I was hit. They then gave me some beef-tea, which was the first food I had had for twenty-seven hours."
The amazing spirit of chivalry that animated all classes, general officers, medical officers, chaplains, and even stretcher-bearers, in this campaign has been the subject of much comment. It was thought that modernity had rendered effete some of the sons of Great Britain, and the war, if it should have done no other good, has served to prove that times may have changed, but not the tough and dauntless character of the men who have made the Empire what it is.
The following, from a Congregational minister of Durban, who had volunteered to go to the front as honorary chaplain to the Natal Mounted Rifles, in which corps many of his congregation enrolled, is of immense interest. It gives us an insight into the inner core of valour—the valour of those who, unarmed, share the dangers without the intoxications of the fight. It runs:—
"The Lancers, who were mistaken by the Boers in the growing darkness for a body of their own men, fell upon them and turned a rout into a wild flight.
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Commander Schiel was very furious at losing the battle, and said he would like to kill every man, woman, and child in Natal. In this he was the exception to the rule, for the captives whom we liberated said the Boers had treated them with great kindness. After the battle Dr. Bonnybrook and I spent the night on the field of battle, and also followed the retreating Boers for a distance of six or seven miles, searching for and tending the wounded and dying. In the early hours of the morning we came to a Boer field-hospital, and shouting out, 'Doctor and Predicant,' we entered and rested, and slept there awhile. By daybreak we were out again. About six miles from camp Dr. Bonnybrook rode up to twenty-five mounted and armed Boers, and told them they were his prisoners. Ordering two to take the weapons of their comrades, he marched them into camp prisoners. For an unarmed man to accomplish alone, this was an exceedingly brave thing to do. After the battle one of the captured held up his gun and said, 'Look through this. I have not fired a shot. I am a Britisher. They forced me to come.'"
Among other heroes of Elandslaagte was Lieutenant Meiklejohn of the Gordon Highlanders. This young officer, one of the "Dargai boys," helped the charge in an endeavour to embarrass the Boer flank. Supported by a party of Gordons, so runs the narrative, Meiklejohn waved his sword and cried out to his party hastily gathered round him. But the Boer ranks were alert, and poured in a deadly fire on the gallant band. Lieutenant Meiklejohn received three bullets through his upper right arm, one through the right forearm, a finger blown away, a bullet through the left thigh, two bullets through the helmet, a "snick" in the neck, while his sword and scabbard were literally shot to pieces. He has by now lost his right arm, but, happily, being left-handed, it is hoped he may remain in the profession he is so well calculated to adorn.victoria mounted rifles
A private soldier in the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders recounted an extraordinary personal experience. He said:—
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"We, the Devons, Imperial Light Horse, and others, had a fight at Elandslaagte with the Boers, and I never enjoyed myself so much before. You first have to get christened to fire, and then you think nothing of the shells bursting about you, and the bullets which go whistling past like bees. We went forward by fifty-yard rushes, and at every rush you could hear a groan, and down would go one of our comrades, either killed or wounded, poor chap. When we were miles from the enemy they opened fire on us with shell, and as we were going along in mass, one of the shells burst on the left of the company, and one of our men of my section—Bobby Hall—got shot dead with a piece of the shell going straight through his head. That was what made more than one wish to turn and run. But what would Britain do if her soldiers ran from the enemy? At last we got to where we could get a shot at the Boers with our rifles, and you may bet we gave them more than one, as perhaps the papers have told you. I got through the rifle-fire down to the bayonet charge on the hillside, when I felt a sting in the left arm, and looking down, found I was shot in the wrist. In changing my position I got shot in the centre of the forehead. The bullet did not go straight through. It glanced off my nose-bone, and came out above my right temple.... On looking round, I was just in time to see the blood squirt from the first wound. I shifted my position in quick time, for I did not want another from the same rifle. I lay still after doing this for a while, when the thought came to me to get my wrist bandaged and try to shoot again. On changing my position I got a bullet right in the 'napper.' I was out of action then, for all was dark. I heard the officer I was going to get the bandages from say, 'Poor chap! he's gone.' But no, I am still kicking."
The Boer War, marked Canada's first official dispatch of troops to an overseas war.The british needed natural horsemen and none were better than the "cowboys"of Canada so strathcona organised a canadian Corps.
In 1899, fighting erupted between Great Britain and two small republics in South Africa. (See map) The two republics, settled by Boers, descendants of the region's first Dutch immigrants, were not expected to survive for long against the world's greatest power. Pro-Empire Canadians nevertheless urged their government to help. The war, they argued, pitted British freedom, justice, and civilization against Boer backwardness.
While many English-Canadians supported Britain's cause in South Africa, most French-Canadians and many recent immigrants from countries other than Britain wondered why Canada should fight in a war half way around the world. Concerned with maintaining national stability and political popularity, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier did not want to commit his government. Yet the bonds of Empire were strong and public pressure mounted. As a compromise, Laurier agreed to send a battalion of volunteers to South Africa.
Over the next three years, more than 7,000 Canadians, including 12 women nurses, served overseas. They would fight in key battles from Paardeberg to Leliefontein. The Boers inflicted heavy losses on the British, but were defeated in several key engagements. Refusing to surrender, the Boers turned to a guerrilla war of ambush and retreat. In this second phase of fighting, Canadians participated in numerous small actions. Gruelling mounted patrols sought to bring the enemy to battle, and harsh conditions ensured that all soldiers struggled against disease and snipers' bullets.
Imperial forces attempted to deny the Boers the food, water and lodging afforded by sympathetic farmers. They burned Boer houses and farms, and moved civilians to internment camps, where thousands died from disease. This harsh strategy eventually defeated the Boers.
Of the Canadians who served in South Africa, 267 were killed and are listed in the Books of Remembrance. The Canadian government claimed at the time that this overseas expedition was not a precedent. History would prove otherwise. The new century would see Canadians serve in two world wars, the Korean War, and dozens of peacekeeping missions.
During the South African War, apart from the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, all Canadian units that served in South Africa wore Stetsons. The hat became firmly identified with Canada and the Canadian military presence in South Africa.
Ironically, the hat was a product of the John B. Stetson Company, one of the more successful nineteenth-century American headwear manufacturers. Made of tan felt, with a large flat brim, and an oval cylindrical crown with indentations, it became very popular amongst cattle drivers of the western plains. Its trade names of "Boss of the Plains " and "Pony Hat " reflected its largely cowboy clientèle, and it is listed on inventories of stores of Canadian units headed for South Africa as "Hat, Cowboy." Stetsons had been worn unofficially by members of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) since 1895, an increasing number of whom preferred it to the standard-issue white pith helmet. Its adoption for use by Canadian units in South Africa was probably due to the fact that many members of Canada's second contingent were former members of the NWMP.
When issued, the hat was provided with a silk, grosgrain ribbon hatband, and a leather lace. An optional leather, buckled hatband was available that could be worn over the ribbon. Many men also made their own customized versions from belts and straps. Tooled leather bands were also common.
The legacy of the Stetson's use in South Africa was its adoption as the official headwear of the NWMP in 1903. It had also been taken into use by the South African Constabulary. Formed by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert-Baden Powell in 1900, the South African Constabulary was a British military unit that included over 1,200 Canadians among its personnel. Baden-Powell, who had seen members of the Royal Canadian Field Artillery wearing Stetsons at the relief of Mafeking, ordered 10,000 directly from the American company to outfit his constabulary. This was also the style of hat that he approved for his Boy Scout movement in 1907. Its continuing popularity is attested to by its recent adoption by the Ontario Provincial Police
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