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Important Relics from Boer War

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When the Boer War commenced in 1899, the Boer regular Forces were more prepared then the British. This was clearly

seen when they besieged Mafeking - Kimberley and Ladysmith.

Kimberley was in the Cape Colony and the loss of revenue from diamonds and gold was very serious to our war efforts.

Major General Lord Methuan was given 8000 men - including a Brigade of Scottish Regiments - and was told to relieve the

Siege. His opponent - General De la Rey , led 9000 Boers. The Briish were equipped with the 10 round Lee Metford rifle

whilst the Boers used mainly the Mauser and additionally, older Martini Henry rifles. The Boers had just pulled off a coup by

buying and landing safely, 30,000 Mauser Rifles together with ammo. - plus, in addition a range of French and German Field

Guns, in varying sizes.

11th.of December 1899 - our troops were marching to the Relief of Kimberley - they were 6 miles (app.8Kms) North of the

Modder River - which was in the North West of Cape Colony and near to Kimberley. The land was mainly dry, flat veld - or,

plains and across this flat expanse were a series of low hills. The Boers were ready for the British attack - you would have

expected them to be on the hills for better range - however, they had dug trenches at the foot of the hills. This took the British

Artillery by surprise as they laid down heavy fire on the tops of the hills - leaving the Boers almost untouched.

With the hindsight of History, it is easy to make derogatory comments about the Generals - however, it is generally admitted

that our leaders were always still fighting the last campaign. This was unfortunately to be the case at the Battle of Modder River.

Discussion was held amongst our Generals on how best to keep casualties down as the advance was made on fixed positions.

Chief amongst these was the need to keep open order and take advantage of the land. This was not to be - The Highland

Brigade - under Major General Wauchope - a famous hero of his day - advanced on the Boer positions in close columns.

They were pinned down and exposed to heavy fire for over 9 hours . With many casualties, the Highland Regiment fell back and withdrew

We had been badly beaten.

The Highland Brigade lost 53 Officers and 650 men. Brig. Wauchope and three Commanding Officers were killed.

A total of 948 British officers and men were killed or, wounded. The Boers had 236 killed.

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This picture shows the vast open area of the plains - or, Veldt, as it is called in Sth. Africa - stretching away into the

distance. The Boer trenches can still be seen at the foot of the hill.


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Now we come to the two buried and damaged bayonets. They are Martini Henry 1888 pattern - 2nd pattern. These were

the bayonet used on the Lee Metford.

Without doubt thay are from the Highland Brigade and from soldiers killed in action. How can I tell that ? Deduction.

The bayonets were found without scabbards - so they would have been fixed to the rifles. When their owners were killed, the

rifles and bayonets would have been left in situ. The Boers never used bayonets - so, they would have collected the rifles and

left the bayonets. The lady who brought them in dug them up herself with her husband. They were clearing for a golf course and

using a JCB. This accounts for the broken blade. She has given a letter of authenticity.

I regard these as important relics - ones that have a sad and poignant story with them. I will ensure that they are treated with

great respect.


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Very interesting. The last lot of Patten 1888 bayonets like those that I saw with broken blades from the Magersfontein area came from the graves of Scottish soldiers when they were moved in the 1960s. It would seem that it was a Highland tradition to break the blade of the bayonet belonging to the fallen soldier upon burial.

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