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    Colonel Bethune and about 500 men were ordered to march from Dundee to Newcastle. Although the Boers had evacuated Dundee, scattered groups remained in the vicinity and on 16 May 1900, Bethune was ordered to pursue some of these who were reported to be near Nqutu.


    His mounted infantry found no Boers at Nqutubut hearing of a commando in the Blood River valley, moved off northwards in pursuit. By 20 May he was in the vicinity of Scheepers Nek where a small force of Boers (Vryheid and Swaziland Commando’s under Commandant Blignaut) was concentrated in a valley behind the nek. 

    Capt Goff, who was in command of “E” squadron, was considerably in advance of the rest of the force and rode into Scheepers Nek. They approached the Boer position without noticing the guards, giving them the opportunity to disperse before the British could attack.


    The squadron found itself in an exposed position on a slope where ant heaps formed the only cover. The Boers deployed to the ridges and opened fire, creating havoc amongst the British squadron’s horses.


    The dismounted infantry replied as best they could and made good use of their maxim gun. However, the hot Boer fire forced the British to withdraw before the main body arrived. Very few of the men managed to escape. 

    British losses were 28 men killed (including Capt Goff and 2 subalterns), 30 were wounded and 6 were taken prisoner. The Boers captured a machine gun and 26 horses, while losing one burgher killed, one wounded and one taken prisoner. As a result of the action Bethune fell back on Nqutu and eventually to Dundee.


    DCM (Edw VII): Sq.S.Mjr J.H. McBeath. Bethune’s M. I.;
    QSA, 6 clasps CC, Tug H, OFS, RoL, Tvl, L Nek: 726 T.S.Mjr. J.H. McBeath. S.A.C.; 
    KSA, 2 clasps SA’01, SA’02: 726 T.S. Mjr. J.H. McBeath. S.A.C.

    John Home McBeth (as per DCM Issue Register, Nominal and QSA rolls for Bethune’s M.I. & the QSA 
    roll for the SAC); McBeath (as per KSA Roll for the SAC) and as Macbeth (as per Roberts’ Mention in Despatches in LG of 8 February 1901, p965) had an interesting career in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. 
    The following comes from his extensive file under surname McBeath for service in “A” Division, SA Constabulary.
    December 1897. Sgt McBeth deserts from 2nd Btn, KRRC at Wynberg, taking about £21 from the Sergeants Mess Funds, he being caterer at the time.
    20 October 1899. McBeth enlists in Bethune’s Mtd Infy with rank Squadron Sergeant-Major.
    20 May 1900. McBeth in Scheepers Nek engagement. Ken Gillings, in an article “The Helpmekaar Duel” states that McBeth’s DCM was awarded after this action.
    6 October 1900. McBeth discharged from Bethune’s MI.
    22 October 1900. McBeth attests in the Transvaal Constabulary.
    14-23 November 1900. Correspondence: Chief Staff Officer, SAC and O/C 2nd KRRC: McBeth exposed as deserter and thief. 
    10 January 1901. Letter from Baden-Powell to Chief of Staff, Pretoria, forwarding McBeth’s confession and expressing hope for a pardon.
    4 April 1901. McBeath attests in SAC, back dated to 22 Oct 1900.
    LG 19 April 1901. Award of DCM to McBeth.
    1 June 1901. Note on McBeath’s SAC Record of Service, congratulating him on having been awarded the DCM for distinguished gallantry in the field on the Natal side when serving with Bethune’s MI. It would therefore appear that he was pardoned.
    21 April 1902. Another note on McBeath’s SAC Record of Service, recording his gallantry and good work in the action at Spion Kop on 11 March 1902.
    31 August 1907. Discharged at own request from SAC with character noted as “Exemplary”.
    3 December 1908. Medals lost.
    4 January 1912. Medals replaced on repayment.
    An interesting man: brave but with a (temporary?) criminal streak. Worthy of further research.



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