Battle of Allemansnek Natal - Skirmish Rhenosterriver(Honingskoppies) OFS 1900
11 June 2017
Battle of Allemansnek.
Following the Battle of Botha’s Pass on the 8th June 1900, General Sir Redvers Buller had now broken out of Natal and decided to head via Gansvlei and Allemansnek into the Transvaal.
On the 11th June 1900, Colonel the Earl Dundonald advanced until he was approximately 5 km from the entrance to Allemansnek, while Boer skirmishing parties harassed him from that direction. His men could clearly observe the Boers strengthening their positions by entrenching on either side of the nek. General Chris Botha’s front extended about 12 km along the Versamelberg range of mountains with two pom-poms and two field guns deployed in well concealed positions straddling the nek. The burghers were mainly from the Pretoria, Bethal and Standerton Commandos although the Lydenburgers from Botha’s Pass and elements of the Wakkerstroom and Swaziland Commandos were also present in smaller numbers. Botha established his HQ on the nek near former Commandant General Piet Joubert’s farm Rustfontein. The total number of burghers entrenched along this front probably numbered no more than between 450 and 600.
The Infantry advance then commenced at 14h30 – some 8 hours after Dundonald’s initial contact. It was a classic conventional movement, honed in on the tactics that changed considerably during the Battle of the Tugela Heights (12th to 28th February 1900). The Queens’ (Royal West Surrey Regiment) formed up on the right of Brocklehurst’s cavalry brigade. On their right came the 2nd East Surrey Regiment, with the West Yorkshire Regiment and half a battalion of the Devonshire Regiment on the right flank of the East Surreys (the other half remaining with the heavy artillery). Coke placed the Dorsetshire Regiment on the right flank of the East Surrey Regiment. Their task was to secure the prominent conical koppie at the entrance to the nek. Eight companies of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers were tasked with a flanking movement to the right of the Dorsets while the Middlesex Regiment was placed in support between the Dorsets and the Dublin Fusiliers.
As the infantry advanced, the well concealed Boer guns opened fire, accompanied by very heavy rifle fire from the entrenched burghers. The British guns then detected the Boer artillery and directed heavy fire onto them. Without artillery support, the Boer riflemen simply couldn’t counter the surge of British infantrymen despite their determination. The Dorsets increased their pace and the veld caught alight. The south-westerly wind blew the smoke in the direction of the burghers effectively screening the infantrymen.
Buller then brought forward 7th and 64th Batteries RFA and two naval 12-pdr guns and the battery commanders directed fire over the heads of the advancing infantry into the nek. The burghers’ courage broke and they began to abandon their positions astride the nek. Once the Dorsets occupied the koppie, it brought them within view of the opening of Allemansnek and once the high ground to the south had been captured by the cavalry, all Boer resistance broke and the road from the Free State to the Transvaal was cleared.
Casualties are difficulty to confirm, but officially the British lost 19 killed and 123 wounded. Boer casualties were 3 killed. General Christiaan Botha noted that 7 members of his Swaziland Commando were wounded. The British dead have been relocated to the Volksrust Garden of Remembrance. The Boer dead have been buried on Koringplaas Farm.
Buller was now 15 km behind the main Boer entrenchments at Lang’s Nek and had he followed up his victory at Allemansnek, he would have wreaked havoc with the demoralised and diminished remnants of the burgher forces. Instead, he remained in position, thereby enabling the Boers to withdraw from Lang’s Nek.
Volksrust was occupied by Wynne’s Brigade on the 13th June, by which time Lord Roberts had not only occupied Pretoria (on the 5th June 1900), but was planning his next phase which was the eastwards sweep. Buller was ordered to support this, and commenced his northwards advance. The scene was set for the final set piece battle of the Anglo-Boer War – Bergendal, on the 27th August 1900.
Text by Ken Gillings