This withdrawal allowed Lt. Cool Plumer to move towards Mafeking,
joining forces with other Rhodesians at established posts along the
railway. The troops under Lt. Col. Baden-Powell at Mafeking included
10 officers and 81 men of the Bechuanaland (3rd) Division of the BSAP.
Despite suffering many casualties in frequent skirmishes, they played
a vital role in ensuring the trains continued to run by repairing
damage to the line and culverts, and by constant patrolling.
After Mafeking was relieved, the Rhodesians accompanied Baden-Powell's troops on his march to Pretoria, from where they were sent north along the railway to Pietersburg. At Warmbaths station they were attacked by a Boer commando but resisted so strongly that the Boers were routed and their commandant, Potgieter, was killed. Baden-Powell's force was then ordered south, and at Pienaar's River Bridge the BSAP's guns were served with such proficiency that a determined Boer attack was driven off and the station was never again in danger.
The Rhodesian troops, including the BSAP, were withdrawn in late 1900, although some volunteered to continue the fight and joined irregular corps. Two of these were the Commander-in-Chief's Bodyguard, which was subsequently wiped out in an ambush, and Kitchener's Fighting Scouts. This unit, commanded by J Colenbrander, served continuously in the areas north of Warmbaths, as far east as the Kruger National Park, as far west as Bechuanaland and as far north as Louis Trichardt. In September 1901 Lord Methuen invited 124 BSAP to join his column as part of his personal bodyguard. Shortly after joining they were involved in the successful action at Vuurfontein. Thereafter, they were drawn into numerous no-win situations owing to their attachment to cumbersome British columns. The end came in March 1902 when Lord Methuen surrendered to De la Rey at Tweebosch. Two months later the war was over and the BSAP were sent home to resume normal duties.
The main lecture of the evening, given by Hendrik van Eck, dealt with
Sir Charles Warren's campaign in the northern Cape, May to July 1900.
After the relief of Kimberley, Lt. General Warren succeeded Lt.
Colonel Kekewich as military governor of the Cape Colony north of the
Orange River. He was well acquainted with the area, and his task was
to suppress the Boer rebels active in Griqualand West.
At the beginning of the war the Orange Free State proclaimed military rule of the area, and commandeered large numbers of men sympathetic to the Boer cause. Their commander was General P J "Hartjie" de Villiers. About 2 000 mainly inexperienced British and Colonial volunteer troops gathered at Belmont station to serve under Warren. His objective was to drive the Boers from their strongholds at Douglas, Campbell, and Griquatown, and from there to Kuruman into the arms of the British garrison at Mafeking.
Douglas was occupied on 21 May after sporadic fighting. The Boers
retreated northwards to the Ghaap plateau and Campbell. Warren camped
at Fabersput, about halfway between Douglas and Campbell, to await
reinforcements and supplies. Situated on a wide, open plain surrounded
by densely wooded hills, Fabersput had ample water, but the troops
were totally exposed to fire from the neighbouring ridges. Despite
British reconnaissance, the Boers surrounded the encampment before
dawn on 30 May. Comdt. Jan Vorster's men were to launch the attack
from the hills to the north-east, where Warren's headquarter were. On
the south-east, 57 sharpshooters infiltrated the garden to within
30-50 metres of the Yeomanry asleep in their saddle circles. The rebel
groups in the south under Venter surprised one of the few British
pickets. When he fired, the Boers opened up from all sides, and
confusion reigned in the British camp.
Venter's men stampeded the British horses while de Villier's inflicted heavy casualties from the garden. However, Vorster's group fled under heavy fire. The British tried to position their four canons and mounted a Maxim gun on the roof of Warren's headquarters. From there they fired on the garden, where most of the 14 Boer casualties occurred. The Boers retreated after about two hours when their own horses were endangered by canon fire. The British lost 25 dead and 37 wounded.
On 4 June Warren's troops drove the Boers from Campbell, where approximately 33 rebels surrendered and the rest abandoned ammunition and supplies. The Canadian, Sam Hughes, occupied Griquatown on 9 June. Warren's force followed the rebels northward via Papkuil to Danielskuil. On 22 June. Hughes, who had been critical of Warren's leadership at Fabersput, rounded up several hundred Boers at Bilkfontein, confiscated their horses and weapons and turned them loose. Warren, who wanted no less than surrender and capture, was furious.
George Barrell (Scribe) (011) 791-2581
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