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    “On the 27th, French advanced 8 miles further north, and drove the enemy from Swartz Kopjes. From this position he threatened the enemy’s line of retreat, although he could hardly yet be said to have turned their right flank.


    Meanwhile, however, General Buller was able to take more decisive action at the other extremity of the Boer line of defence. At Bergendal, 3 miles south-east of Belfast, the Boers had established a very strong position on a low rocky kopje, and in some farm buildings and plantations, which formed the key to that portion of the main position.


    The kopje was heavily entrenched and was garrisoned by the Z.A.R. Police with a pom-pom. The ground, which sloped gently away in all directions, afforded no cover.”
    Roberts’ Despatch of 10 October 1900, published in the LG of 8 Feb 1901, p867.


    The British bombardment began shortly before 11 am and the shelling continued for three hours without intermission.


    From the Times History: “no such severe and concentrated fire having been witnessed during the war since the days of Vaal Krantz and Pieter’s Hill. The top and all sides of the platform were swept by a hail of shrapnel, while the rocks themselves were torn and rent by the explosion of the lyddite shells. Smoke and sulphurous gases and rocks shooting up in the air made the place look like a Vesuvius in eruption.


    But the police lay close behind the rocks. For, in spite of the accuracy of the fire, the trenches were so good that its material results were almost nothing”.


    Early afternoon the British infantry assault began. Again, quoting from the Times History:
    “...the Riflemen swept onward towards the position regardless of their losses. Two captains, Lysley and Steward, and the adjutant, Maitland, fell; three other officers and seventy-five riflemen, dropping in their tracks, testified to the steadiness and marksmanship of the hard-fighting Zarp’s and Metcalfe himself fell severely wounded.


    The Zarps went on coolly firing till within the last five minutes, then, most of the survivors rushed to their horses in the kraal and galloped away… they found and took prisoner the brave commandant, Philip Oosthuizen, who was severely wounded. Lieutenant Pohlman was killed, and some forty others of the seventy-four were killed, wounded or captured… The pom-pom was also captured; the Maxim had already been blown to atoms by a shell”.

    Casper Hendrik du Plessis held the rank of Sergeant in the elite ZAR Police unit. His initial service was in Natal (Colenso and Ladysmith), followed by Abrahamskraal (Driefontein). At Dalmanutha he was one of 74 ZARPs who were entrenched among the rocks on the Bergendal Koppie and were subjected to the fire of Buller’s thirty-eight guns. Miraculously, the 27-year old Du Plessis was neither wounded nor killed but was taken prisoner and sent to St Helena as PoW No12217.



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    DCM (VR) 2860 Cpl. W. McDonald, 2nd. Gordon High’drs;
    India Medal 3 clasps RofChit, Punj Fr 97-98, Tirah 1897-98: 2860 Pte. W. McDonald 1st. Bn. Gord. Highrs; 
    QSA 4 clasps Elandsl, DoL, L Nek, Belf: 2860 Pte. W. McDonald, Gordon Highrs.; 
    KSA, 2 clasps SA’01, SA’02: 2860 Serjt. W. McDonald, Gordon Highrs. 

    William McDonald’s handling of his machine gun attracted widespread attention at the time:
    Buller’s Despatch of 13 September 1900 (LG 8 Feb 1901, p963):


    “One very noticeable incident in the attack was the great tactical skill with which the Maxims of the Gordons, Inniskillings, Rifle Brigadeand Devons were handled by their respective detachments. The fire of these guns contributed materially to the successful result of the assault.


    General Kitchener especially brings to notice the conduct of No. 2860 Corporal William McDonald, Gordon Highlanders, and of Lieutenant A.C. Jeffcoat, of the Inniskilling Fusiliers, while in command of gun detachments”

    Buller’s Despatch of 9 November 1900 (LG 8 February 1901, p977): No 2860 Corporal W. McDonald 
    – ‘This non-commissioned officer was in charge of the machine guns of the battalion, and his conduct on all occasions was specially worthy of commendation’


    Official History , Vol III, p400-1: ‘The lines of the Rifle Brigade rolled on, and they had come within eight hundred yards of the kopje, when the Police, who were watching keenly through the interstices of their  toppling ramparts, showed that some of them still lived by delivering a fierce volley.


    It was followed by a withering magazine fire, not only from the kopje itself, but from some schanzes which, thrown up in advance of the main position north of the line, took the battalion in flank. Halting his men for a few moments to reply, Metcalfe deflected to the left one company from his reserve to deal with the northerly trenches, and another to the right to gain touch with the line of advance of the Royals.


    With the Rifle Brigade had gone the machine gun of the Gordon Highlanders, in charge of Corporal W. McDonald, who, utilising the pause, audaciously took his weapon into the foremost line, whence he  poured bullets against the kopje.’

    Times History, Vol IV, p454: “The Riflemen threw themselves on the ground and replied; their Maxim and that of the Gordons, which Corporal Macdonald had gallantly brought up in support, proving at this moment of great service”.


    The Joyous Patriot: Ralph Verney, Editor David Verney, p19: “Several men deserved the V.C. that day, though they won’t get it, especially a Corporal of the Gordon Highlanders who brought a Maxim gun on his back right up into the first line amid a storm of bullets, and fired away as quietly as if he was practising on the range”.


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