Impressions of Spion Kop

The Battle of Spion Kop was fought about 38 km (24 mi) west-south-west of Ladysmith on the hilltop of Spioenkop along the Tugela River, Natal in South Africa from 23–24 January 1900. It was fought between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one hand and British forces during the Second Boer War campaign to relieve Ladysmith. It resulted in a Boer victory.

LETTERS FROM ISLE OF WIGHT MEN AT THE FRONT.

Impressions of Spion Kop.

Lance-Corporal W. Hobbs, 2nd Scottish Rifles, writing home to Wootton, I.W., of the battle of Spion Kop, says, “We have just returned from another fierce battle, the biggest that has been fought yet. Our battalion lost a lot of men — l4 killed, 74 wounded. The Lancashire Fusiliers and Middlesex Regt. received an order to attack the hill under the cover of darkness, which they did successfully. They found only a small party of Boers, who immediately ran away to another hill some 800 yards away, and they were afterwards reinforced by another large force, with some quick-firing guns, which were mowing our troops down in all directions.

British dead on the field of Spion Kop, taken by the Boers after the withdrawal, 23 January 1900 NAM. 2003-06-39-3

Our General then sent us and the 3rd Kings Royal Rifles to their relief, and we arrived at a most critical moment, for I think that had we been later our other troops would have had to surrender. We managed to hold our own, but were obliged to leave the position, as we could get no guns up the hill, as it was so steep. I shall never forget the sight we saw as we were going up the hill. It was most revolting. There were poor fellows by the dozen, coming down on the stretchers, some with their legs blown off, and some with their faces blown to pieces with shells.

It made me feel quite sick to see them, and so mad with rage that I could have done anything to avenge them. We were engaged in carrying water to tho wounded in the trenches, and the sights there were most awful. I saw one poor fellow going into the trenches have his head blown completely off by a shell. How anyone of us managed to get safely through that hailstorm of bullets and shell I don’t know. It took us all night to get to the bottom of the hill when we retired. General Buller personally thanked us for what we did, and said that our timely arrival, and the way the relief was carried out, saved the British forces in Natal from a very bad defeat.

Isle of Wight Observer – Saturday 10 March 1900

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