Battle of Klipriviersberg (Doornkop) SAR 1900
28 May 2017
British strategy for occupying Johannesburg
After the occupation of Bloemfontein the British High Command ordered Lord Roberts to move against the Transvaal Republic as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, an outbreak of enteric among the British forces caused the campaign to be delayed by seven weeks, which meant that the main British force only reached the banks of the Vaal river on the 25 May 1900.
Robert's strategy for occupying Johannesburg was to mount a three prong attack on the town. Lord Kitchener and his troops were instructed to move up the main Durban/Johannesburg railway line and attack from the East, a mounted force of over 20 000 men, under the command of Major-General French and Colonel Ian Hamilton was instructed to attack Johannesburg from the west, while Roberts with his infantry forces would follow the main Vereeniging/Johannesburg road and attack from the south.
Boers position themselves in the Klipriviersberg
The Boer forces who had occupied Vereeniging decided that they were badly outnumbered and retired to the area around the Kliprivier railway station. Their departure meant that the British troops could move into Vereeniging without a shot being fired. The British forces then started moving towards Johannesburg.
Boer intelligence sources had kept the Boer High Command informed about the movement of the British forces. This information enabled the Boer to prepare their defenses in preparation of the arrival of the Brits. General Oosthuizen was charged with impeding the progress of French and his troops in the west. The arrival of General Koos de la Rey and his troops saw a substantial increase the size of the number of Boer forces in the west. Commandant.
Havemann had been tasked with erecting barbed wire barricades on the western slopes of the Klipriviersberg. Generals Grobler and Lemmer were subsequently appointed to command of the area covering the main Vereeniging/Johannesburg main road. General Fourie was appointed commander of the troops on the eastern flank.
The advance force of British troops arrived at the Gatsrandberg an May 27 and immediately came under fire from Boer forces. The barrage of rifle fire was so intense that the British had to retreat beyond the range of the Boer guns. The arrival of the main British force on 28 May enabled the British to cross the Klip river. Led by inaccurate intelligence information they were soon in trouble. Unaware that seven canons under the command of Capt. Von Dalwig had been carefully positioned on the slopes of the Klipriviersberg, overnight, the advancing British forces were cut to pieces once they came within range of the canons. The effectiveness of the barrage forced the British forces to retreat beyond the range of the canons.
The arrival of a cavalry regiment, field canons and machine guns greatly improved the British fire power, however, in spite of this the Boers were able to force the enemy to retreat. Meanwhile, on the western flank the Boers had managed to halt the advance of French and Hamilton. General Fourie had engaged the British forces led by Lord Kitchener in the east. The Boers had every reason to be very proud of their efforts and there was a feeling of optimism that the British could be defeated.
However, the Boers had badly underestimated the size and strength of the British war machine. On May 30, the British had over 32 canons shelling Boer positions and the infantry troops where making steady progress in their attempt to overrun Boer positions.
The Boer high command met to assess their position and agreed that because of the sheer weight of numbers facing them, defeat was inevitable and that there was no point in continuing to resist the British onslaught and an order for a general retreat of Boer forces was issued. First to leave the scene of the battle were the troops defending the western flank. The British troops immediately occupied Doornkop and because it was dusk they did not press home the advantage. Not only did the Boer forces escape but had they pressed home the advantage that they had gained they could have occupied Johannesburg.
Following a request by Dr. F.E.T. Krause, that the British delay their occupation of Johannesburg by 24 hours in order to allow all the Boer forces to leave the town. On May 31 1900 British forces entered Johannesburg.