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    On this date De Wet, with a force of some 700 men, made an uncharacteristic major mistake. At Tiger Kloof Spruit, some 30km from Bethlehem on the road to Harrismith, he laid an ambush for a British force that he believed to be between 600 and 700 strong, accompanying a convoy with provisions.


    The British column (1st and 2nd Imperial Light Horse and some Yeomanry) under command of Gen Dartnell left Bethlehem at 08:00 on 18 December: some 1200 men, unencumbered by transport but with two field guns (79 Bty, RFA) and two pom-poms. Dartnell, furthermore, had been fore warned about De Wet’s plans by a traitor from his commando. 

    De Wet had posted half of his men on a spur overlooking the Tigerkloof Spruit, while the remainder were concealed in the ravines at the eastern end of the Langberg.


    The men on the spur were to make a frontal attack on the British as they neared the spruit while the rest were to attack the rear.


    The signal for the simultaneous attack was to be a shot from De Wet’s only pom-pom. De Wet fired his signal shot at 11:00 but only the 2ndILH, forming the advance guard, were charged from the spur by 200 men.


    The attack was repulsed by the ILH, who promptly occupied the spur only 3 men wounded. The Boers then turned their attention to the rest of the column, in the middle of which were the Yeomanry and artillery and to the 1st ILH, the latter having occupied a rise to the rear, three kilometres distant.


    The Boers were beaten off, retired to the Langberg, and then were seen retiring south-eastwards towards the hills and ravines 10km away. 


    The British casualties totalled 19, of whom, according to the Times History of the War in South Africa, Dartnell’s losses were one man killed and 14 men wounded. 


    The Boer losses, according to Three Years’ War, were four killed and five wounded. 


    For gallantry on this occasion Surgeon Captain T J Crean of the 1st ILH was later awarded the Victoria Cross. 


    At 15:00 Dartnell moved on, reaching Elands River Bridge 25 kms away the following day.

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