Sunday, June 12, 2011

The First British Offensive Fails

Meanwhile, the first British reinforcements had already arrived in South Africa. General Sir Redvers Buller, the British Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, soon after his arrival in South Africa on 31 October 1899, decided to relieve Ladysmith and Kimberley as soon as possible and to try and halt the Boer offensive in Natal and the Northern Cape. With this objective in mind, Lord Methuen had to proceed along the western railway line to relieve Kimberley while Major-General JDP French and Lieutenant-General Sir William Gatacre had to repulse the Boer invasion of the Cape Colony at Colesberg and Stormberg respectively. 

Tile tableaux's by Cornelius de Bruin of the battles of Colense, Magersfontein and Paardeberg - War Museum of the Boer Republics 

On 25 November Buller arrived in Natal. His reinforcements at Frere soon numbered more than 21 000 men and 46 guns. North of Colenso Louis Botha and his 4 500 Transvalers and 5 guns blocked the way to Ladysmith. Along the upper Thukela a force of 2 000 Freestaters were waiting. On 15 December 1899, Buller's forces suffered a disastrous defeat at Colenso. Buller's first attempt to relieve Ladysmith thus ended in dismal failure. In an attempt to occupy Ladysmith General Schalk Burger and Chief Commandant Marthinus Prinsloo launched an attack on Platrand on 6 January 1900. The lack of leadership and cooperation and the valiant defence of the British troops caused the attack to fail. 

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