David Codrea is still under the weather, so I get to do THIS DAY IN HISTORY again!!
The Boer War:
The Boers, only some 1,200 in number, were led by Viljoen in a spirited defence of Val Krantz, while the Boer rifle and artillery fire built up from the surrounding hills.
At dawn on 6th February 1900 the Boer artillery began a heavy bombardment with guns that had been brought up during the night.
Lyttelton and other generals urged Buller to commit more troops and expand the position by attacking Doorn Kloof. A council of war was held but Buller could not be persuaded to take the risk. On the Thursday night the operation was abandoned and the British troops withdrew across the Tugela River, ending the battle known as Val Krantz.
The British suffered 400 casualties and Buller attracted the nicknames of “the Tugela Ferryman” and “Sir Reverse Buller.”
The Boer War was a serious jolt for the British Army.
At the outbreak of the war British tactics were appropriate for the use of single shot firearms, fired in volleys controlled by company and battalion officers; the troops fighting in close order. The need for tight formations had been emphasised time and again in colonial fighting. In the Zulu and Sudan Wars overwhelming enemy numbers armed principally with stabbing weapons were easily kept at a distance by such tactics; but, as at Isandlwana, would overrun a loosely formed force. These tactics had to be entirely rethought in battle against the Boers armed with modern weapons.
In the months before hostilities the Boer commandant general, General Joubert, bought 30,000 Mauser magazine rifles and a number of modern field guns and automatic weapons from the German armaments manufacturer Krupp and the French firm Creusot.
The commandoes, without formal discipline, welded into a fighting force through a strong sense of community and dislike for the British. Field Cornets led burghers by personal influence not through any military code.
The Boers did not adopt military formation in battle, instinctively fighting from whatever cover there might be. The preponderance were countrymen, running their farms from the back of a pony with a rifle in one hand.
These rural Boers brought a life time of marksmanship to the war, an important edge, further exploited by Joubert’s consignment of magazine rifles. Viljoen is said to have coined the aphorism “Through God and the Mauser”. With strong fieldcraft skills and high mobility the Boers were natural mounted infantry.
The urban burghers and foreign volunteers readily adopted the fighting methods of the rest of the army.
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