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    The Siege of Elands River began on 4 August 1900 when over 2500 Boers under General Koos de la Rey surrounded the camp. The Boers had five modern artillery pieces as well as three 1pdr pom-poms and two Maxim machine guns.


    The men within the compound numbered about 500 there being almost 300 Australians, 200 Rhodesians, a few British and Canadians and some civilians and native porters all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hore. Their only heavy weapons were two machine guns and an old muzzle loading 7pdr gun.


    The camp was a supply depot which held supplies estimated at around £100000, including 1500 head of livestock and horses, making it an appealing target for the Boer forces. With little warning, the defenders began construction of defensive trenches far from the camp.


    A hospital was constructed out of biscuit boxes and a Red Cross flag raised over it. At the time of the initial attack the trenches did not provide adequate protection and the men had to shelter behind rocks piled up into a defensive wall. The Boers began the attack with an artillery and pom-pom gun barrage.


    At an early stage an Australian, Trooper John Waddell, was hit by a pom-pom shell and died within a few minutes. A couple of minutes later James Duff, another Australian, also receiving a pom-pom shell to the chest and was killed instantly. During that first day, the Boers fired an estimated 1700 shells into the besieged camp and killed five men: two Australians, two Rhodesians and a native worker. Most of the 1500 animals were either killed or wounded by the shells.


    Little could be done for wounded animals as men assisting them were targets for Boer snipers. On the second day, a relief force under Maj-Gen Frederick Carrington was seen in the distance and much of the Boer force was moved to meet this new threat and Carrington’s column fell back after a brief skirmish with the Boers.


    Carrington mistakenly told his superior Lord Roberts that the camp had fallen and as a result a second larger relief force under Baden-Powell turned away from the camp. On the 8th General de la Rey sent an offer of honourable surrender to the besieged.


    This offer was dismissed out of hand by the Rhodesian Captain Butters who was first to receive the message. Also, on the 8th a shell hit the hospital. On the 13th a runner reached the British with a message that proved that the camp was still holding out.


    Upon hearing the news General Kitchener, without waiting for orders, immediately moved two brigades to go the relief of the camp. They arrived on the 16th to break the siege. Captain Albert Duka, a doctor from Queensland who had treated all of the wounded, listed 73 casualties, including 16 killed: 8 were Australian, 4 were Rhodesian and 4 were natives.

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