WOUNDED AND CAPTURED AT ESTCOURT. “BOERS BEHAVE LIKE GENTLEMEN.”
A member of the Leeds Constabulary, Police-constable Kay, who left the force to join his old regiment, the West Yorkshire, and was wounded in Hildyard’s engagement near Estcourt, writes from that place on November 26 : —
Nothing happened of any note until the 22nd November, when we received orders to parade in fighting order to go out to attack the Boers, who were encamped upon the lop of a hill about ten miles away. It was 2.30 p.m. when we started, and we were marching and skirmishing until about 7 p.m, when the enemy’s guns opened fire on our scouts, and then we halted on the brow of a big hill to wait for orders.
We had nothing but our thin clothing on, and it rained and poured down, and we all got wet through. We slopped there until about 2 a.m., the 23rd November, when we advanced again to attack by surprise.
The commanding officer told us we were going to surprise the Boers and do a bayonet charge. Not a shot was to be fired, and there was to be perfect silence. Then we started off again, until we came to the foot of the hill where the Boers were, we fixed bayonets, opened out to single rank, and advanced up the hill, which was about 600 yards high. When we had got within thirty yards of the top, the Boer picket opened fire upon us. Then we charged and cheered, and when we got to the top of the hill they were just disappearing down the other side, and we opened fire on them for about five minutes.
Then w found out it was only a strong picket, and that the Boer main body was encamped on another hill on the opposite side. So we waited on the hill till daybreak. Then we opened fire on the Boers again, and kept it up for seven hours.
I was properly in the thick of it. You talk about raining! It wasn’t rainbut bullets that were coming! I could see our men falling, some shot dead, some wounded, and I thought it would soon be my turn. I did not in the least fear. I kept firing away. Then it was passed along that the enemy were getting a big gun in position, and we tried to stop them, with long-range volleys; but. it was no good, the range was too far for us, and we had no big guns with us.
Then they started shelling us to some tune. I saw a man not far from me get half his face blown off with a shell, and there were two or three who lost a leg. I went through all that lot without a scratch. There is no doubt that the Boers have lost a lot. Then we get the word to retire, and I turned round to do so. I had not gone two paces when I got shot through the back. I rolled ever about three times and thought I was a ‘gonner.” I tried to get up, but it was no go, and all the time I lay bullets and shells were flying around me like rain.
It is a miracle that I escaped being shot a second time.
I could not walk so I pulled myself with my hands along the grass and got behind a stone, where I lay, bleeding, and parched in the sun for an hour and a half when the Boers came up and gave me come water and bandaged my wounds, and took me to their camp. I will give them their due: they behaved like gentlemen to us. There were two Leeds men amongst us. They gave us whisky and brandy but they have not much bread They live on what they loot, and on the 25th they sent all our wounded prisoners to our own hospital at Estcourt.
Leicester Chronicle – Saturday 30 December 1899