Elands River Post

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The Defence of Elands River Post 4 – 16 August 1900

Elands River, fought on 4-16 August 1900 during the Second South African War, entailed the heroic defence of a staging post in Western Transvaal by a mixed force of British colonial troops.


The defenders comprised some 300 Bushmen from various Australian colonies (105 From New South Wales, 141 from Queensland, 42 Victorians, nine West Australians and two Tasmanians), along with 201 Rhodesians, two Canadians and three from British units – the whole commanded by Lieut.-Colonel Charles Hore, a British officer.


The garrison was supported by only one Maxim and an old 7-pounder screw gun. Opposing this force were 2,000 – 3,000 Boers armed with six 12-pounder field-guns and three quick-firing automatic guns known as pom-poms, commanded by General J.H. De la Rey and General H. L. Lemmer.

The garrison was there to guard a large accumulation of supplies intended for other British columns operating in the region, and the latter represented the Boers’ primary reason for attacking. The main camp occupied a small rocky ridge situated in the centre of a natural amphitheatre about two hectares in extent, about a kilometre east of the river, but detachments of troops also held two small hills on the riverbank.

An attack on the exposed outpost had been anticipated before the siege began on 4 August, although it was hoped that a column of 1,000 New South Wales Imperial Bushmen and South African irregulars under General Sir Frederick Carrington would arrive before this eventuated.


As a precaution, though, a defensive perimeter was hastily improvised using ox-wagons and boxes and bags taken from the stores depot. 


Major Tunbridge worked untiringly under fire, to try and keep the gun in service; four times it had to be dismantled to effect repairs. Tunbridge spent a day and a night with a file repairing some of the shells, many of which had been damaged in transit.

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