Battle of Stormberg
Battle of Stormberg was the first British defeat of Black Week, in
which three successive British forces were defeated by
in the Second
4 See also
6 Printed sources
7 External links
When the British first drew up a plan of campaign against the Boer
republics, it was intended that the 3rd Division commanded by Major
William Forbes Gatacre
William Forbes Gatacre would secure the area known as the Cape
Midlands, immediately south of the Orange Free State, in preparation
for an advance along the railway running from
Cape Town to
Bloemfontein. In the event, many of the division's troops had to be
diverted to Natal after disasters there, and Gatacre's reduced force
arrived late. By the time they were ready to take the field, Boers
Orange Free State
Orange Free State had already seized the important railway
junction of Stormberg.
Gatacre heard of the loss of Stormberg on 8 December at Graaff Reinet.
He determined to make an immediate counterattack to recover the place.
A force of 3,000 was to be taken by train to Molteno, the nearest
railway station to Stormberg still in British hands, and march by
night to attack a hill known as the Kissieberg, which dominated the
Boers' position. The force consisted of the 2nd Battalion, the
Northumberland Fusiliers (960 men), the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Irish
Rifles, (840 men), the 74th and 77th batteries of the Royal Field
Artillery and 250 mounted infantry detached from various infantry
battalions. Other detachments (including the 1st Battalion, the Royal
Berkshire Regiment) which were intended to join the force failed to
arrive because telegraph orders were not sent.
There was no time for reconnaissance, and preparations were rushed.
Early the next day, the British troops hastily boarded the trains, but
then sat for hours under a hot sun while locomotives were found. They
were already tired when they reached Molteno, to set off on a night
march with fixed bayonets after a hasty meal and very little rest.
Gatacre's locally engaged guides were soon lost, and the force
wandered about the veldt all night.
As dawn broke, the British at last came in sight of the Kissieberg. A
Boer picket with one 75mm
Krupp gun under Sergeant Hendrik
Muller of the Free State Artillery Corps, opened fire. Although
Gatacre's force had merely to march around the hill to force the Boers
to retreat, about half the infantry rushed forward without orders to
storm it. They found that the hill was a typical kopje, ringed by a
vertical rock face, which most of them were unable to climb. A few
soldiers scrambled to the top, only to be swept off by the British
guns which came into action with the rising sun in the gunners'
The commanding officer of the
Northumberland Fusiliers took it on
himself to order a retreat, and most of Gatacre's force began to fall
back in disorder. Gatacre gave the order to retreat to Molteno.
Boer reinforcements appeared and attacked from both sides. The
retreat of the exhausted British infantry was covered by the mounted
infantry and the artillery, although two 15-pounder guns were lost.
Not until they reached Molteno did Gatacre realise that over 600 men
had been left behind on the Kissieberg. Hopelessly cut off, they were
forced to surrender.
The Free State Boers and local rebels were slow to take advantage of
Gatacre's defeat. By the time they did so, British reinforcements had
arrived, and the area was secure.
Although General Sir Redvers Buller, the British Commander-in-Chief in
South Africa, publicly ascribed the defeat to bad luck only, and it
was also suggested that his guides had been treacherous, Gatacre was
blamed by many soldiers and commentators for the defeat. He was known
for restless activity and for imposing needless marches and labour on
his troops. He remained in command of the understrength 3rd
Division, but after General Lord Roberts replaced Buller as
Commander-in-Chief, he was sidelined to various occupation and
"mopping-up" duties. He was eventually relieved of command after
failing to rescue the Royal Irish Rifles who surrendered to Orange
Free State Commandant-General
Christiaan de Wet
Christiaan de Wet after a siege at
Reddersberg on 3 April 1900.
Military history of South Africa
^ a b c Conan Doyle, Ch. 10
^ Kruger, p.123
^ a b Kruger, p.124
^ Kruger, p.125
^ Pakenham, Thomas. The
Boer War. Cardinal. p. 395.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1917). A History of The Great War (Chapter 10
- The Battle of Stormberg). George H. Doran company.
Rayne Kruger (1964). Goodbye Dolly Grey: Story of the
Boer War. New
English Library. ISBN 0-7126-6285-5.
"Battle of Stormberg — The
Boer War". British Battles. 2007.
Archived from the original on 24 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
External link in publi