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    Groenkop/Krismiskop is a prominent hill, north of Tweefontein, 20 km from the village of Kestell in the Free State. On the east the base is broad and the ascent gentle.


    The hill, at a height of some 75 m, is reduced to a plateau about 230 m in diameter, in the midst of which is a rocky knoll some 6m higher still. On all sides except the east this plateau drops sharply, particularly on the western side.

    On 24 December, the Infantry withdrew and the British force on Groenkop mainly consisted of the 11th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry (34th, 35th, 36th and 53rd Companies) with a Pom-Pom and one gun of the 79th Battery, RFA.


    The withdrawal of the infantry to Tradouw was observed by the Boer General de Wet from an excellent observation point some 60 m higher than Groenkop. This gave him a birds-eye view of the British camp and enabled him to easily observe all the selected sites of the British pickets.

    The night of 24 December was moonlit, but the shadows of passing clouds and a light veil of mist shrouded the march of the Boer force and not long after 1 am on the morning of the 25th the Boers were massed at the north-western foot of Groenkop.


    Leaving the horses and pom-pom with some 100 men at the foot of the hill, De Wet’s Burghers silently, on stockinged feet, start to climb the hill. At 02:00, after a brief rest just below the summit, De Wet shouts, “Burghers! Storm!”, and they swarm over the crest, overwhelming the sleeping


    They take the higher positions and unleash murderous fire on the tented camp. The surprise is complete. Several soldiers are hit in their tents. The horses stampede and about a third of the British soldiers flee down the hill in their night-clothes.

    Some officers vainly try to establish some resistance, but within a few minutes it is all over. The burghers, barefoot and dressed in rags, loot with enthusiasm – thoroughly enjoying their Christmas fare.


    At least 57 British soldiers are killed (the bodies of 25 blacks are later found on the battlefield), 84 are wounded and some 200 soldiers (including the wounded) fall into De Wet’s hands. On the Boer side 14 men are killed and 30 are wounded.


    Two soldiers of a patrol sent from Rundle’s camp to investigate, are also captured and Rundle’s contribution to the battle is a few shells falling among the wagons as they are removed by the victors. Contrary to their custom, De Wet takes the unwounded prisoners with him to put them across the Basutoland border a few days later.
    “Monuments & Battlefields” by J L Smail, p35 and “The Anglo-Boer War: a Chronology” by P Cloete, p287.

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