Battle of Frederikstad TVL 1900
20 October 2017
Battle of Frederikstad
The battle of Frederikstad involved the British on the one side and Boer commandos from the Transvaal and the Free State. The background to it is that the British were moving out of Krugersdorp along the railway line to Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp. At Frederikstad they met up against Boer forces trying to block their advance. It happened that also Generaal Christiaan de Wet from the Freestate was present helping in the endeavour. The British forces were surrounded and it was thought a good idea to cut them off from their water supply. That supply came from under the railway bridge to the east of the station. And this was were the main action of the battle was, also resulting in the most casualties. The Boers took their position over night and surprised the water fetching British in the morning.
The easiest is to let PJ du Toit take over the story, he was there and an eyewitness to the events:
25.10.1900: At 6 a.m. we rode out and could already hear the roaring cannons. The bridge had been taken that night by Conradie, Cilliers and Wessels. Last night late, Generals Liebenberg and Froneman were with them at Wolmerans Brug and it was then and there decided to take it. Louis Wessels had inspected it, made a sketch, shown it to De Wet and he thought he could hold it. Gen.Liebenberg had admonished them not to hold it if they thought they could not, and on return to the wagon a report was sent to De Wet to be on his guard, and informing him that the men had gone in. What an anxious time we are spending on the kopje, watching the continued bombardment of the bridge, where some of my best friends are defending their very lives. Now we see some infantry storming a koppie close by, but we are confident that our men will hold on, if only till dark, when they might be able to effect a safe retreat. They are subjected to a crossfire now. O horrors! What do we see: some dark objects moving slowly from Welverdiend. They are cattle grazing in the distance. I had another good look and sure enough there is a big laager moving slowly towards the beleaguered camp with a mounted troop leading the advance. Already the scouts have joined hands. Poor people at the bridge! My mind was agitated, tears were flowing from my eyes and my whole body shook as I took my pen to report this to De Wet. Where were Theron, Francis and Van der Merwe? Why no report from any of them or from De Wet? Our men were still holding on bravely, but o Good Lord, if they are surrounded! It was about 12 o'dock. After arrival of the reinforcements no time was lost in trying to dislodge our men at the bridge. They were stormed and not wishing; to fall into the hands of the enemy jumped out and made for the river, a distance of about 6 000 yds, over an open flat. There most were shot dead with shrapnel, lyddite and Lee Metford, wounded or caught, only a comparative small number escaping unhurt. Schuster went in with the ambulance, but was not allowed to do anything. From information gained two were shot, 13 wounded and six taken prisoner. Some of our men have come out, some wounded, some (5) missing, including Conradie. Of Klerksdorp 51 went in. I am trying to get a complete list of the names. I am glad my friend Bassie van Niekerk is only wounded. Poor Pieter Brits is gone. What a sad day for Klerksdorp. We have lost heavily and most of our best men, and it has cast a gloom over the whole camp. What evil will it not bring over Klerksdorp? If we had succeeded, all the laurels and thanks would have gone to Klerksdorp. We did not, and are deeply affected. The Free State must have lost heavily too, and some of De Wet's best men are gone. We have not heard from him yet.