Skirmish - Hussar hill Natal 1900
14 February 2018
On the 12th February 1900 the next phase in his final plan to relieve Ladysmith was brought took place, when Colonel the Earl Dundonald's cavalry occupied Hussar Hill, which was named af...ter an action between the Boers and a picket of the Hussars six weeks earlier).
Dundonald's force comprised 700 mounyted troops, the 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers,64th Battery RFA and a Maxim battery.
Hussar Hill was occupied by a small force of burghers from the Middelburg Commando and the Boksburg Commando, headed by Field Cornet A J Dercksen. as Dundonald's force headed in their direction, they fired at them and the British responded with rifle and Maxim fire. Dercksen's 12 year old son had a narrow escape when a bullet passed through his jacket without striking his body, and Dercksen was forced to abandon his positions.
Buller arrived with his generals and his Staff and from the summit of Hussar Hill they were able to note the Boer positions along the south bank of the Tugela River. The decision was taken to roll them up using several brigades in tandem - a significant departure from tactics used previously.
While they stood watching, Dercksen led his burghers forward and as the British began to withdraw, they fired sporadically. Young Winston Churchill was present, having joined Colonel "Bungo" Byng's South African Light Horse. So was his brother Jack and Winston made his way towards him. He wrote: "The ground two hundred yards further back was all alive with jumping dust. I along the line of riflemen towards Jack when I saw him start in a quick, peculiar manner of a stricken man."
Jack Churchill had been struck in the leg and was sent back to Durban to be treated aboard the hospital ship, the Maine - as one of his mother's first patients!
The 13th February 1900 was too hot for any fighting to be undertaken. The scene was, however, set for the beginning of the biggest battle fought by the British in Africa until the Second World War; the Battle of the Tugela Heights...
Source : Ken Gillings