WOUNDED AND CAPTURED AT ESTCOURT

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.

West Yorkshire 1900

Men of the West Yorkshire Regiment bathing in a Stream, South Africa 1900 The Illustrated Police Budget.

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.

British Army Field Hospital Wynberg Camp 1900

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

Advertisements

Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards

Forgotten voices of Empire.

Walter Cooper a postman from Arbroath has recieved a letter from his son, Private Walter Cooper, of the Scots Guards, from Modder River, and is dated 30th November. He says: “l have pulled through all safe up till now. I have been through all three battles€” Belmont, on the 23d,  Graspan. on the 25th, and Modder River on the 28th. So you can tell mother that we celebrated your silver wedding on the 28th in great style. There were plenty salutes fired anyway.

Belmont was a deadly fight. We charged right up the hill with fixed bayonets. The officer on my right was shot through the cheek, the fellow on my left was shot through the leg. Luck was in my way, and I got, to the hilltop all right. The Boers on the top did not stay long, I tell you.

There were thousands on the hill opposite, and they poured in volley after volley. Poor Sergeant Wilson, to whom I used to bowman, was killed the beginning of the fight. Belmont lasted fully six hours, eight hours, and Modder 14 hours. The General said it was one of the hottest fights in the annals the British Army. We lost heavily at the river. We fixed bayonets and charged right across the river.

Two fellows were drowned in crossing. It was very deep some parts. However, we did not forget the Boers when we did get across. We are about 122 miles from Kimberley. I hope to be home soon again if all goes well. Tell all the boys that l am getting on ‘champion.’ We get a  big feed some days, other days we have nothing to eat at all. There are plenty of ostrich farms round about here.

27-BBBB-The-Foot-Guards-at-Modder-River

Modder River


Private Walter Cooper was born in 1874 at Abroath, Scotland. He was a ‘Boot Finisher’ but joined the Scots Guards on the 5th of July 1895. On the 21st October 1899 his regiment was sent to South Africa, he spent a total of 180 days and was entitled to the Queen’s South Africa medal with clasps for Modder River and Belmont. He served a total of 12 years with the colours before being discharged in July 1907. He emigrated in New Zealand and died there in 1932.