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    The night of January 7th exhibited every circumstance of vileness which is prejudicial to defence. It was intensely dark; a fine cold rain fell persistently, and a piercing easterly gale, which deadened the ears of sentries, did nothing to dissipate the driving mist which blinded their eyes.


    With everything in their favour, the various Boer detachments gathered, and at midnight each hurled itself upon its appointed victim. Machadodorp, the headquarters of Reeves’s section of the line, was attacked by Viljoen’s Lydenburgers from the north, and on the other side by the Ermelo men, under Smuts.


    The garrison consisted of the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers, with guns and cavalry, disposed on three heights, Rocky Hill, Natal Hill, and Signal Hill, all of which were separately engaged by the enemy and stoutly defended. On the first-named where a remarkable combat in which ninety-three men of the Fusiliers and six artillerymen withstood and finally repulsed the onset of nearly seven times as many burghers.


    Natal Hill and Signal Hill though closely beset, were in little danger from smaller commandos, and by 3am on the 8th the whole attack, decisively defeated, was withdrawn. Belfast, the key of the line, and Smith-Dorrien’s Headquarters had a far more severe trial. Monument Hill, to the north-east of Belfast, and about one and a half miles from it, was crowned by a fort containing a company of the Royal Irish Regiment.

    The first and heaviest stroke fell upon Monument Hill. Nowhere were the fog and drizzle thicker than here, so dense, indeed, that not only did the sentries fail to detect the approach of an enemy, but the Boers themselves, about 500 Johannesburgers and Boksburgers under Muller, saw nothing until they were through the outlying posts, which, in consequence, fell into their hands.


    They then broke through the entanglement and rushed upon the fort calling upon the garrison to surrender. The soldiers, unable to stop them with their rifles, answered with defiant shouts as they met them at the parapet, and a fierce melee ensued in which bayonets and butts of rifles were freely used, some even fighting with their fists, whilst others wrestled upon the ground…


    Amongst so much valour as was displayed the most conspicuous was shown by Private J. Barry (No. 3733). Seeing the regimental Maxim gun surrounded by the enemy, this brave soldier burst into the group and proceeded to smash the lock in order to render the trophy useless; and this, in spite of threats, he persisted in doing, until one of the Boers, less chivalrous than the rest, shot him dead. 

    For half an hour the struggle continued before the garrison, having lost 38 of its number, was overpowered. 
    Official History, Vol IV, p35-8

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