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    Posted (edited)

    In the Battle of Witpoort, British commander Edward Hutton had four companies of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the 1st Mounted Infantry (which was made up of the 1st and 2nd Canadians who had arrived in camp on 15 July), as well as the Australians of the Queensland Mounted Infantry. Under the command of Major Munn were three companies of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and 60 troopers of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles.


    The men were placed on the three hills straddling the Witpoort Pass. General Ben Viljoen had positioned his troops for attack during the night of 15 July and then launched a three-pronged assault on Major Munn and the Irish positions at daybreak.


    Viljoen ordered a ‘general storming of the 
    British’s entrenchments’. The battle opened at 06h45 with heavy shelling on Major Munn’s troops. Boer fighter Roland Schikkerling (who published his Boer War diary under the title “Commando Courageous”) and his comrades went to the north of the New Zealanders’ ridge and then charged under heavy rifle fire.


    The New Zealanders surrendered one of the three hills they occupied, putting the Boers in possession of the higher hill which commanded the lower middle hill. Schikkerling captured a captain and twenty New Zealanders and some continued right over the ridge and captured a number of horses. The Canadians mounted a counterattack. 


    Colonel Edwin Alderson sent two squadrons of the Canadians to assist ‘the Irish on the kopje which had been vacated by the New Zealanders’ and, with the fire from the guns, the position was regained.Lieutenants Borden and John Edgar Burch of ‘B’ Squadron led a counterattack.


    They were successful, but at the cost of their lives. Boer marksmen less than 200 yards distant shot them as they stood up to lead the rifles forward. Lord Roberts reported to the War Office that Borden and Burch “were killed while gallantly leading their men in a counterattack upon the enemy’s flank at a critical juncture of his assault upon our position.”

    At 14h00, British officer Edward Hutton moved all of his available troops onto the desperately regained positions and by sundown the battle of Witpoort had ended.


    Hutton’s losses were seven killed with 30 wounded. Two officers and 22 soldiers had been taken prisoner. The Canadian losses were heavy and included Lt Borden, the son of the Canadian Minister of Defence. 
    See Mil Hist Journal Oct 1999 p137-148.


    Joseph Kennington served in the 3rd New Zealand Mounted Rifles, raised and equipped by the people of Canterbury. He was one of the 20 men from the unit who were taken prisoner at “Funk Kopje” during the Witpoort skirmish. Later the rest of the unit was in the advance east which ended in the capture of Barberton on 13 September 1900 when their comrades were released.

    Due to an administrative problem, men of the 2nd and 3rd NZMR had unnamed medals issued to them. (Kennington received his QSA at Wellington on 19 June 1901). 

    As a consequence, the medals were named by local jewellers, the details engraved in different styles (and not impressed), with variations in rank and unit titles and usually taking up the whole rim. Many early medal collectors rejected these medals, considering them to be fakes and/or renamed specimens. The result is that QSA’s to the 2nd and 3rd NZMR are rare today.


    Edited by archie777
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