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    After three unsuccessful attempts to relieve Ladysmith (Colenso, Spioenkop and Vaalkrans), Buller decided to shift his attention to the 500 feet (150 m) high ridge named Hlangwane northeast of Colenso which overlooked the railroad. With Hlangwane in his possession, Buller could dominate the Boer positions at Colenso and safely cross there and exploit his ten-to-one superiority in artillery and four-to-one advantage in numbers.


    By the second week of February 1900 the Boer positions east of the Tugela River were not confined exclusively to Hlwangane but stretched eastward over a distance of more than 6 miles. Of the more than 5000 Boers with their 12 guns around Colenso and at least 2000 men with four or five guns held positions east of the river.


    To capture Hlangwane, Buller realized that he would have to route the Boers from all their positions south of the river and then fight through the Boer-held hills to the north of the river. 

    Starting on 12 February, British forces steadily advanced, driving back and causing the outflanked Boers to abandon Hlangwane and the south bank entirely on 19 February. Immediately, the British installed heavy artillery on the summit of Hlangwane. British infantry also occupied Colenso on 19 February and the railhead 
    was advanced to Colenso Station.


    On 21 February a pontoon bridge was positioned under the western brow of Hlangwane and the army began to cross. Wynne’s 11th Brigade captured Boer positions at Horseshoe Hill and Wynne’s Hill 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Colenso on the evening of 22 February. 

    On 23 February Hart’s 5th (Irish) Brigade attacked the next high ground to the northeast. Not waiting for all his battalions to arrive, Hart sent his troops up piecemeal and they were repulsed suffering almost 500 casualties. Two battalions of reinforcements arrived in time to prevent a rout. Two colonels were among the dead and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers lost 72% of their officers and 27% of their rank and file. 


    On 25 February, a six-hour armistice was arranged to recover the British wounded on the upper slopes of Wynne’s and Hart’s Hills. On one section of hillside, 80 dead and only three survivors were recovered.


    Buller now began to look for another way to outflank the Boers. It turned out that in front of the Boer positions, the Tugela entered a gorge. The pontoon bridge was moved north to the mouth of the gorge so that the British could cross and move to the northeast along the riverbank, unseen by the Boers. Meanwhile, a trail was located 
    by which the British artillery was moved into supporting distance on the south bank.
    Warren’s 5th Infantry Division was directed to attack the Boer left flank.


    The brigades would strike from east to west, first at Pieters Hill, then at Railway Hill and finally at Hart’s Hill. Meanwhile, Lyttelton’s division would threaten the Boer centre and right flank. Botha failed to anticipate Buller’s moves.Barton’s brigade attacked Pieters Hill after noon on 27 February. Behind an early use of the creeping barrage by field artillery pieces as heavy as 4.7-inch naval guns, the 6th Brigade’s advance was rapid at first.


    Then about 14h00 as the British infantry moved out of artillery observation and Botha reinforced his threatened flank, the 
    attack stalled. The reserve was put in at 14h30 and repulsed due to tough Boer resistance and enfilading fire from Railway Hill to the west. At 15h00 Walter Kitchener’s 5th Brigade attacked Railway Hill. After working their way slowly uphill, the soldiers carried the nek (saddle) between Hart’s and Railway Hills in a brilliant bayonet charge, capturing 48 Boer prisoners.


    The last to move forward, Norcott’s 4th Brigade, began its assault on Hart’s Hill. The close artillery support proved decisive as trench after trench was overwhelmed by direct fire. A final infantry charge cleared the crest compelling a Boer retreat. As Botha’s men fell back from the heights the British infantry gave out a cheer.


    On 28 February the besieged defenders of Ladysmith observed a great column of Boer horsemen and wagons moving rapidly north just outside artillery range. Sometime after 17h00 two squadrons of British mounted infantry commanded by Major Hubert Gough from Buller’s army rode into Ladysmith and ended the siege. Botha retreated to a new defensive line 60 miles to the north.

    Pte Adams was recommended by Buller for the award of the DCM in the LG of 8 February 1901, p940: 
    “9893 Private J Brown and 9520 Pte T Adams, 23rd February: Gallantry in repeatedly carrying wounded to dressing station under very heavy fire”. 


    The award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was announced in the LG of 19 April 1901, p2708. 



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    Pte O’Keefe was recommended by General Redvers Buller for the award of the DCM in the LG of 8 February 1901, p938: “6830


    Lance-Corporal W Bell, 5802 Pte W O’Keefe and 5708 Private A Benton, 24th to 27th February. Great gallantry as stretcher bearers in removing wounded”. 


    The award of the DCM was announced in the LG of 19 April 1901, p2707.


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    Posted (edited)

     DTD & ABO: Komdt. J.F.W. Mostert; 
    With length of Wound Riband (LvW)

    Johannes Frederik Wilhelm Mostert served as Field Cornet in the Fordsburg/ Johannesburg Commando under Commandant Ben Viljoen and took part in major Natal battles such as Elandslaagte, Colenso, Spioenkop and Pontdrif (Vaalkrans). 

    He was severely wounded at Pieters Heights on 27 February 1900: fractured jaw caused by shrapnel, bullet wound through left elbow and shrapnel wounds in hip and shoulder. This is confirmed in the Official hand-written ZAR Casualty Return where it is stated that V.C. (Veld Cornet) Mostert was admitted to the Hospital at Van Reenen’s Pass/Harrismith on 3 March 1900.

    Mostert saw active service as a Major in the Carolina Commando during the suppression of the 1914-15 Rebellion, but this did not qualify him for any WWI awards.


    He applied for the DTD, ABO and LvW in September 1921. On Vorm “A” he stated his rank as Field Cornet and, when wounded, as Vecht Generaal (Fighting General). He also stated under Date of Service “1 October 1899 till 27 February 1900 when wounded 
    and in hospital (Natal) till 2 months after peace.


    On Vorm “B” he had the same claim about rank but amplified his medical woes: “Severely wounded at Petersheights 27 Feb 1900, from there to Harrismith Hospital and thence to Pretoria Hospital. Later sent to Merebank Camp. Discharged 2 months after Peace was declared”.


    Vorm “C” saw a statement “wounded 27 February 1900 and afterwards in hospitals till 2 months after Peace”.


    The Medal Advisory Commission, surprisingly in the light of the rather unusual medical history,  approved of the award of the DTD, ABO and LvW in the rank of Veldkornet and this was published in the Government Gazette No 1191, dated 11 November 1921.

    On 7 February 1922 Mostert acknowledged receipt of his awards but expressed disappointment at the rank. He said that he at least expected the rank of Commandant and repeated that he was a Vecht Generaal when wounded. The Commission re-assessed the claim and asked Mostert on 25 July 1922 to return the awards for the rank to be altered to Kommandant and asked him to supply service dates  regarding his three claimed ranks.


    He replied on 2 August 1922 “I was acting in the position of the late General Ben Viljoen from the Battle of Pontdrif/Rooi Randjies (Vaalkrans- 5 February 1900) when he suffered bomb shock to his head and went to hospital, up to when I was wounded.”


    The amended awards were sent to Mostert under cover of a letter dated 6 October 1922. The DTD was skimmed and completely re-impressed and a freshly named ABO was issued. 


    The amendments were published in the Government Gazette No 1270, dated 13 October 1922.


    Unfortunately, the Medal Advisory Commission seemed to have been unaware of statements in two contemporary publications which would have refuted almost all of Mostert’s claims and which would have rendered him ineligible for any award!


    General Ben Viljoen in “My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War”, London, 1902, dealt with the Battle of Vaalkrantz in Chapter X. On p91-2 he described the effect on him of a lyddite shell bursting overhead on 5 February 1900, resulting in him being hospitalized, On p100 he noted:
    “…my faithful adjutant, J du Preez, who had taken my place for the time being,…”. 


    After some time in hospital, he recuperated at home. He returned on 27 February 1900 and on 28 February was brought up to date with news about the Pieter’s Hill battle by Field Cornet van der Byl (p102-104): “…we were attacked on our left flank and in the rear. Assistant-Commandant du Preez and Field Cornet Mostert were both severely wounded, but are now in safe hands…”. 


    Dr J Fessler, one of the German medics attending to Boer wounded, wrote in “Onder de Roode Kruis in Transvaal”, Amsterdam. 1904 (p146-7, freely translated):
    “Among the wounded, that we encountered during the Boer retreat on 28 February, were the Acting Commandant of the Johannesburg Commando, Du Preez from Krugersdorp, and Field Cornet Moustard of the same commando; both severely wounded”. 
    He then relates how the two men managed to find their way via Van Reenen’s Pass to Harrismith where they were attended to by another German, Dr Schelkly, who removed the bullet from Du Preez’ chest, and mentions that both men’s wounds were completely healed. He adds:


    “I later met Du Preez in Krugersdorp, where he owned many properties, on the day the British entered the town (June 1900). He stood there and watched the entering troops: he definitely had no desire to fight again… By chance, some weeks earlier,


    I saw Field Cornet Moustard in the Grand Hotel in Krugersdorp. His jaw, which was treated, initially by Dr Schelkly and later by the First Dutch Ambulance in Pretoria, had healed completely as was the case with his elbow, which he could bend again. He also did not return to the battlefield and was quite curt and aloof when I recognised and spoke to him. He was elegantly dressed”.

    In 1937 Mostert used his “illegal” awards to successfully apply for a war veteran’s pension at a rate applicable to that of Commandant.


    Edited by archie777
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    Posted (edited)

    DCM (VR): Sgt. J.J. Miller, 1st York & Lanc Regt.; 
    QSA, 5 clasps CC, Tug H, OFS, RoL, Tvl: 1543 Sgt. J.J. Miller, 1st Yk & Lanc Regt.; 
    KSA, 2 clasps SA’01, SA’02: 1543 Clr.-Sgt. J.J. Miller, York & Lanc Regt


    Sgt Miller was recommended by General Redvers Buller for the award of the DCM in the LG of 8 February 1901, p939: 1453 Serjeant J. Millar, 27th February: 


    Colonel Kitchener, Commanding Brigade, reports that “he did excellent work under my personal observation. His gun was under heavy fire and he never slacked off or made a mistake, its coming into action on our right rendered advance possible.”


    The award of the DCM was announced in the LG of 19 April 1901, p2707. An eyewitness account of the day’s action was given by Pte A. Long in his handwritten “Rough Diary of York & Lanc Regt in South Africa”:

    “The order came ‘Maxim gun up quick’. Quick as a flash one of the gunners had his rifle slung on his back (Pte Koerner by name) and getting on top of the cutting had the gun handed up to him by 3 or 4 men standing about 2 feet above each other. Shouldering the gun, he carried it to the top of the hill although burning his neck both sides as the barrel was full of boiling water… 


    One of the W Yorks carrying the tripod whilst the Sergt carried two boxes containing two loaded belts. Through a very heavy shower of bullets they carried them to a suitable place behind one of the enemy’s trenches which proved to be too high for it but he soon removed the top stones which a bullet struck whilst he was in the act of removing, but there was no time for hesitation, the Maxim being set it soon started its deadly work pouring a rapid fire into a donga, 830 yards off which soon cleared the enemy.”

    James John Miller enlisted in the York & Lancaster Regiment on 23 August 1886 and slowly but surely moved up the ranks with his final promotion to Colour Sergeant on 19 February 1901. He was discharged on 13 April 1906 after serving 19 years and 234 days.


    Edited by archie777
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