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7 November 1900

War: Boer War 1899-1902
Where: Lelifontein
South Africa


Belligerents: Canada Transvaal
Britain Orange Free State
Major-General Horace Smith-Dorrien

Boer Victory

Casualties: Canada & Allies Opponents
Moderate Light

The Battle of Leliefontein occurred on November 7th, 1900 and was an action which severally tested Canadian troops. The troops had been destroying local homesteads and Boer crops when they decided to withdraw. The main force under the command of Major General Horace Smith Dorrien was to withdraw while the Royal Canadian Dragoons were to cover this action. The Boer forces struck quickly as the withdrawal was taking place and threatened to overrun and capture two Canadian Artillery pieces.  The Dragoons fought valiantly and saved the guns while effecting extremely heroic actions.

It was during this action that 3 Canadians committed acts that would win them the Victoria Cross. Lt Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn managed to rally panicked men to resist the Boer attack reorganized the defence for the withdrawal. Although successful, Cockburn and his men were overrun and taken prisoner.

Lieutenant  Richard Turner also refused to let the guns be taken and shouted during the engagement "Never let t be said that Canadians let their guns be captured." Turner had already been awarded the DSO for his heroic actions during the battle at Coetzee' Drift encourage his men, who were all killed, wounded or captured.  to actions which did save the guns.

The third Canadian to win the VC at Liliefontein was Sergeant Edward James Gibson Holland. Holland used his colt gun to hold off the Boers for as long as he could but when he realized that the gun carriage could not be saved, he hoisted the gun off the carriage and holding it under one arm, mounted his horse and managed to gallop off with the piece.

Although the Battle was considered a defeat for the British, the considered actions of the Canadians mad the loss one that was bearable and productive of building moral for the Empire's troops.

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