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    On this date the left wing of the 5th Victorian Mounted Rifles (Squadrons E, F, G, and H) encamped at Wilmansrust farm, between Middelburg and Ermelo. This location was noted later as being dominated by three nearby koppies (hills) and not easy to defend.


    The security of the encampment was entrusted to four widely spaced outposts.This was “in accordance with Indian Cavalry practice” as the camp C/O, Major Morris of the RFA had recently arrived in South Africa from India. No standing patrols were ordered between outposts and there was no inner picket line.

    Trouble hit at 7.45pm when Gen Muller and some 150 men, guided by the farm owner, sneaked past the sentries without being challenged. Inexcusably, the VMR men did not have their rifles at hand, confusion reigned supreme and panic quickly spread.


    The whole camp was over-run in minutes. The price was reportedly 22 KiA (including a Boer “hensopper” summarily executed), 42 WiA and the remainder either briefly captured or escaped the scene. The 5th VMR captives were abandoned as the Burghers made off with the very considerable spoils, including food, ammunition and the two pom-poms.


    Unfortunately, the defeat at Wilmansrust caused Gen Beatson to describe the 5th VMR; the “Fateful Fifth”, in terms which included “wasters… In my opinion they are a lot of white-livered curs”. This resulted in rebellious conduct by several rank-and-file: subsequent Court Martial sentenced 4 men to be shot, later reduced to 10 years hard labour and finally quashed by Kitchener. 

    The inevitable Court of Enquiry on the action itself found the camp commander, Maj. Morris, responsible for the defeat. Gen. Beatson was later transferred back to India after only serving six months of his secondment.


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