The South African Bush War

Thought’s Of A Middle Aged Man Part Three


Thought’s Of A Middle Aged Man Part 3

Boers left their horses in the valley while British guns blasted many to smithereens

“See that hill over there”,pointing to Wagon Hill looming up in front of us. “That’s where General De Villiers attacked the Engelsmanne in 1900.” He told us of the attack and how the British lost over a hundred and seventy men and that more than fifty Boers were left on the battlefield once they retreated back down the hill. He told us how the Boers had left their horses in the valley where we were camped and how the British guns had concentrated fire on them and blasted a good many to smithereens. The rest of the injured beasts had galloped away in all directions, many cracking limbs on the rocks and Acacia scrub.  “On a night like this” he said,” If you are very still and very quiet, you can still hear the sounds of galloping hooves and neighing horses. They are the ghosts of Waggon Hill.”  and with that the lieutenant bid us farewell. We climbed into our sleeping bags, not one of us sleeping, but all just staring into the darkness straining our ears for the sounds of horses. Jackson, who was standing watch saw a dark shadow and shouted ” Who’s there!”

It was then that all hell broke loose. Flashes of light and explosions going off all around us. Not only us but all the other sections too. The sky was illuminated by strange bright lights that seemed to float in the sky. Smoke made visibility poor. There was screaming and mayhem and that’s when I saw Dali in the bush hat. He had three rifles over his shoulder and was shouting at the top of his voice “you must look after your girlfriend in the bush otherwise I will take her from you”. In all the confusion, it began to rain. Soon it was bucketing down so hard that the shouting became faint echoes and the ground became a quagmire of mud. Lightning was crashing all around us and the ironstone rocks reflected their light. The rank retreated to the comfort of their tents back at the shooting range.

The ‘attack’ was over and all that remained for us was to scrape our possessions together, stuff them into our grootsak’s and scramble to some form of shelter. We climbed the dark hill, slipping and sliding and found an old ruin made of sandbags. There were others there already and they were just as sorry as us. We all crowded up to each other, draping a muddy ground sheet over us while trying to put on our poncho’s. We looked like drowned rats clinging on to each other. One or two guys were trying to light a cigarette with a wet lighter while others had only just discovered that they were missing their rifles.

As the rain turned to drizzle, the lightning slowly marched off down the valley until it was a slight flicker on the horizon. The drizzle stopped and the sun slowly drew up over the distant hills. When the warm light touched my cheeks, I looked around to see guys lying all around, a sorry sight of boys that had almost been  broken. As I looked around I realised that we had taken shelter in an old sanger that had been built by the British to defend Wagon Hill against attack by the Boers.

– by ThoughtsOfAMiddleAgedManBlog


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