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    On 1 January 1900 General French attacks the Boer forces at Colesberg, attempting to work around their right flank and threatening both their rear and their line of retreat to the Colesberg bridge.


    Simultaneous attacks on Jasfontein and Skietberg are launched to keep Schoeman’s forces occupied and to divert their attention from the flanking move. The attack is only partially successful and the British lose 6 killed and 22 wounded compared to nine Boers wounded. The Boers, however, do not follow up their success.

    The next day French again attacks the Colesberg position, keeping the defenders pinned down with shelling and rifle fire while an 800-strong column cuts the telegraph line to the Colesberg road bridge. French also succeeds in pushing his positions and outposts closer to Colesberg.


    On 4 January General Piet de Wet launches a counterattack against French’s troops threatening Colesberg. A group of his men surrounds a British detachment but due to a lack of support by General Schoeman and effective countermeasures by French, a group of burghers is cut off and forced to surrender after fighting a rearguard action.

    De Wet loses five killed, ten wounded and 21 captured while the French lose seven killed and 15 wounded.


    On 5 January, while personally reconnoitring positions west of Colesberg in preparation for an attack on Graskop, General French and his bodyguard are fiercely attacked by a group of Johannesburg Police. French loses three seriously wounded and five taken prisoner.


    Trying to force the Boers to abandon Colesberg, General French attempts outflanking their positions by sending some 300 men of the Suffolk Regiment under Lt-Col Watson to occupy Graskop (Grassy Hill). Setting out in the early hours of 6 January the troops scale the supposedly unoccupied hill but clash unexpectedly with 100 men of the Heilbron Commando near the summit. The Boers are joined soon afterwards by some 15 crack shots of the Johannesburg Police. 

    The Suffolks fight on gamely, but, at 4:30 when they come under “friendly fire” from their own artillery, a number of the British retire and those left behind surrender at sunrise, losing 37 killed and 52 wounded with 99 taken prisoner. The Boer casualties are 7 killed and 15 wounded.


    “The attack [on 1 January] was carried out in every detail as ordered. The four companies of the Berkshire Regiment rushed the hill most gallantly, driving off a strong picquet of the enemy, who retired 
    in great disorder and with loud shouts. They were completely surprised. 


    The hill to the east of this, immediately overlooking Colesberg town, was strongly occupied by the enemy, and a hot fire was for some minutes poured on the column in the darkness. The Berkshire Regiment commenced their assault at 3.45am, and the dawn of day found our troops in possession of this important outwork of Colesberg.”

    Lt Gen French’s Despatch. (LG 4 May 1900, p2839).

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