The memorial in Devonport to the Royal Marine and Royal Navy casualties
from HMS Doris during the Boer War, headed by Major Plumbe of the
Royal Marines, killed at Graspan. Major Plumbe's body was watched over
by his Jack Russell terrier for 6 hours until he was found.
Winner: The British.
Royal Horse Artillery: G and P Batteries.
Royal Field Artillery: 18th, 37th, 62nd and 75th Batteries.
Royal Engineers: 7th Field Company
Royal Army Medical Corps: 19th Field Hospital.
Army Service Corps
The Naval Brigade comprising Royal Navy and Royal Marines Light Infantry.
The Guards Brigade (Major General Colville)
3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards.
1st and 2nd Battalions, Coldstream Guards.
1st Battalion, Scots Guards.
9th Brigade (Major General Pole-Carew)
1st Northumberland Fusiliers: now the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
Manchester Regiment: now the King’s Regiment.
2nd King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry: now the Light Infantry.
2nd North Lancashire Regiment: now the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.
2nd Northamptonshire Regiment: now the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Lord Methuen’s task with his division was to force his way north up the railway to raise the Boer siege of Cecil Rhodes’s diamond town, Kimberley.
Methuen moved off from his forward base on the Orange River, with the Naval Brigade, the Guards Brigade, the 9th Brigade, the 9th Lancers, 2 batteries of artillery and Rimington’s scouts.
Arriving at Belmont station it was apparent that the Boers were in position on the range of Belmont Kopje behind the road to the North.
Methuen directed the Guards Brigade to advance by way of a night approach march up to the Boer positions. Delays caused by agricultural fencing and defective maps found the Guards well short of the line of Kopjes at dawn; the Boers opening fire on the exposed lines of Guardsmen stretching across the open ground at the bottom of the hillside. The 9th Brigade also found themselves in open veldt when dawn broke.
The two brigades launched their attack from the open ground up onto the hills under heavy rifle fire from the Boers entrenched on the crest.
The Boers did not wait for the final bayonet attack, hurrying away down the far hillside to where their ponies were tethered and riding back to the next line of kopjes, pursued for some distance by a small force of 9th Lancers and Mounted Infantry.
Following the battle for Belmont the Boers fell back to the next station on the line, Graspan, where the fighting was similar in pattern. The Boers occupied positions on the neighbouring kopjes and were this time assaulted by the Naval Brigade with the 9th Brigade. Again the infantry advanced across open country and stormed the Boers’ hilltop positions, a small force of 9th Lancers and Mounted Infantry giving chase to the Boers as they cantered away across the veldt on the far side of the hill line, inflicting some casualties.
The way was now open for Methuen to reach the Modder River; within striking distance of Kimberley.
Casualties: British casualties at Belmont were 200 and at Graspan 197. Boer casualties at each battle are unknown but are thought to have been slight.
Follow-up: Methuen marched his force up to the Modder River, where the Boers had assembled in strength by drawing off burghers from the siege lines around Kimberley and Mafeking. There Methuen fought the battles of Modder River and Magersfontein.
The conduct of the small Naval Brigade in storming the Boer hill top position at Graspan attracted considerable attention in the British Press. The public imagination was particularly taken by the Jack Russell of Major Plumbe from the Royal Marines found guarding the body of his dead master on the embattled hillside.
The Boer War is widely covered. A cross section of interesting volumes would be:
The Great Boer War by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Goodbye Dolly Gray by Rayne Kruger
The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham
South Africa and the Transvaal War by Louis Creswicke (6 highly partisan volumes)
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