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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials



From The Second Boer War

by John P. Wisser


(John Wisser was an American Captain who was Instructor in Tactics and Strategy to the United States Artillery School. His appraisal of the war up to that date was published in 1901.)


"On 21 October 1899 Dundee and Glencoe had to be abandoned and a position nearer Ladysmith taken up. General White decided to reopen communication with General French by attacking the Boers at Elandslaagte. General French was sent out by rail with the advance guard at 4.0 am but the main body under White did not arrive till 3.30 pm when the battle opened.


The British forces were about 3,400 strong, comprising

1st Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment

Half of the 2nd Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders

Half of the 2nd Battalion, the Manchester Regiment

The 5th Lancers

One squadron of the 5th Dragoons

The Natal Carabiniers

The Imperial Light Horse

2 Field Batteries

The Natal Field Battery"


A type of  hill known as a kopje in South Africa

A Kopje

(from a contemporary photograph)


"The Boers( the advance guard of Kock's column) occupied two kopjes, or heights, their principal camp being between these kopjes in the saddle between them, the artillery (2 guns) being entrenched on the lower of the two  heights.  They were about 1,400 strong. At about 4.0 pm, the British artillery opened from a position 4,400 yards from the Boers and prepared the attack for the infantry. This artillery preparation was deemed sufficient in about half and hour, and General French decided to make the infantry attack, the artillery moving up to its second position at 2,250 yards from the Boers, finally supporting the advance at 1,950 yards."


Map showing battle positions at Elandslaagte

Sketch map of the Battle of Elandslaagte


"The Devonshire Regiment attacked in front, advancing over perfectly open ground. Three companies were deployed in first line on a front of 380 to 500 yards, furnishing their own supports. The other four companies remained in reserve in single-file columns at 50 paces interval, the latter being increased when the Boer artillery opened on them.


When the regiment arrived at about 1,200 yards from the enemy's position, Major Park, commanding the first line, halted it and opened fire, the only protection for the men being low ant-hills. the advance was continued, and, after a few volleys executed at a halt, the line was reinforced by the supports, and again advanced. In spite of the hail of bullets, the line moved on without a break, unhesitatingly, to within 750 yards of the enemy, and there remained lying down for a full half-hour, exposed to artillery and infantry fire, awaiting the signal for the final assault. Their khaki uniforms and the approaching darkness probably saved them from destruction.


Meanwhile, a flank movement was executed by the Manchester Regiment, which, after passing the guns, was joined by a dismounted squadron of Imperial Light Horse, the Gordon Highlanders following in support. The movement was over the lowest of the chain of heights, turning the left flank of the Boers. On arriving at the foot of the hill a heavy storm broke forth, and when it was over, the Gordon Highlanders found themselves among the rocks covering the crest of the hill, and exposed to the enemy's fire. The supports then entered the line, filling up the interval between the columns. A small plateau was then crossed, next a depression between the hills, and finally a steep slope had to be scaled, but in spite of the difficulties and losses the line steadily advanced to within 600 yards of the enemy. the ground was entirely open as regards trees, but covered with stones and wire entanglements. The colonel, Dick Cunyngham, of the Highlanders, had been twice wounded, and h alf the officers were laid low, when Colonel Hamilton ordered a trumpeter to sound a charge, which was taken up by all the other trumpeters, and Drum-Major Lawrence jumped to the front and placed himself at the head of the line, playing the national air.


The entire line now advanced.


At 6.30pm the Boer's position was taken, two of their guns being captured. The 5th Lancers were sent in pursuit. The Boers lost 100 killed, 108 wounded and 188 prisoners, including General Kock and Colonel Schiel (commanding the German volunteers); the British lost 6 officers and 49 men killed, 29 officers and 178 wounded and 10 men missing "


Roll Call following the Battle of Elandslaagte
Roll Call on the day following the battle - 22 October 1899

From a contemporary sketch



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