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Red Bull

By July 31, 2015February 18th, 2021No Comments

Now the conical kopje was the key of the position, and the infantry, who had been set the task of carrying it, had their hands quite full. For the slopes of the hill were quite smooth. There were very few stones there, or inequalities which would afford cover. It was, in fact, like assaulting a redoubt with a very long glacis leading up to it. Talbot-Coke sent his ‘Die-hards’ round to the right a little, so as to work up the right face of the kopje. With the Dorsets he assaulted the very front of the hill. The infantry line came on in one huge unbroken wave of men. Over the ridge where they had halted; straight across the intervening low ground; over the plateau where the gunners were sitting; down into the low ground at the foot of Almond’s Nek – they marched in silence, as English soldiers commonly do. And on the heights in front the Boer riflemen also preserved an ominous silence.

Suddenly the great line of infantry split. The Dorsets and the Middlesex Regiment faced a little to the right; the 2nd Brigade bore somewhat to the left. One thousand eight hundred yards from the crest the climbing began, and then the Boer riflemen opened fire.

With dauntless tread and fearless if not contemptuous valour, the infantry marched on without halting or slackening speed. They minded the Mausers on the heights no more than if they had held blank cartridge. Round swung the Middlesex Regiment, marching for the base of the kopje to the right. The old ‘Die-hards’ marched well and steadily. The Queen’s and East Surreys, with the West Yorkshires in support, rushed for the wooded bluff at the double, scrambling up anything and everything, thinking not of death or wounds by the way, but only of the position to be carried at the top.

All this was fine soldiering, but it was as nothing compared to the onslaught of the Green Linnets. The Dorset boys, lads from the rock of Portland and the sunny town of Weymouth, from Poole and Wimborne, and the fair fields round about Dorchester, had to face not only the worst position but the best and bravest burghers whom Botha commanded, the Lydenburg commando.

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The Dorsets had now to dash across the saddle and sweep the ridge as far as the nek. Every inch of the way was commanded by the rifles of the burghers, and the total distance was something like 400 yards. Lying down on the kopje, the Dorsets poured in a heavy fire, in which they began to be assisted by some of the Middlesex men who had struggled up on the right. The guns on the plateau in front now turned their fire upon the ridge and converted it also into an inferno.

Then the colonel of the Dorsets said a word or two: the men rose from the ground and swept down and up again across the saddle. They were met by the most deadly fire they had experienced. Man after man dropped dead or bleeding. At one moment it seemed as though they must fail, after all. But officers shouted to their companies and sections, themselves jumped to the front and waved the men on; and gathering themselves together with the dogged determination of the Saxon, the Dorsets dashed once more at the double straight for the enemy’s rifles. At fifty yards they wavered again for a single instant. A stalwart private jumped forward and yelled something. Again the Dorsets pulled themselves together and dashed on. They leapt the schanzes and sangars. They flew into the trenches in the face of the withering fusillade. Many a bayonet took toll of the brave Lydenburgers.

And after five minutes’ rough and terrible melee the farmers broke and fled. Almond’s Nek was won.

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Of really effective pursuit there was practically none; and the Boer army, after running away in some confusion several miles, drew together again in the marvellous way that these men had of recovering from a defeat.

On the 12th of June, Buller with his flanking column was encamped in the Transvaal at Joubert’s Farm, four miles north of Volksrust. The Boers had abandoned Laing’s Nek and Majuba, and the whole position in Northern Natal, immediately after the battle of Almond’s Nek. Clery promptly struck camp and marched from Ingogo over the pass.

By the grace of God and the ability of her Majesty’s generals the enemy had at last been swept from the territories of the Queen.

Danes R, History Of The Boer War, 1902, London: Cassell, pp 1241-44