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28 November 1899

War: Boer War 1899-1902
Where: Modder River
Cape Colony
South Africa


Belligerents: Canada Transvaal
Britain Orange Free State
Lord Methuen
Piet Cronje
Koos de  la Rey
Forces: 8,000 Men, 20 guns 9,000 Men, 6 guns. 1 pom pom

British Victory

Casualties: Canada & Allies Opponents
Killed - 72 Killed/Wounded - 75
Wounded - 372  
Missing - 7  

When substaintial British forces arrived in Cape Town on October 30, 1899, under the command of General Sir Redvers Buller, they were inended to be used to invade Natal and relieve Kimberley from a seige. A datrachment of three infantry brigades, some atillery and supporting armes,  was given the assignemnet of Kimberley under the command of Lord Methuen. He began his operations by travelling aong a railway line to the Orange River station  and then continuing North towards Rhodiesia with Kimberley being the target on the way. He quickly engaged the Boers in two successive actions att Belmont and Graspan where the British artillery were able to pound the Boer positions on hilltops and force hem to retreat. Due to a lack of calvary the British were not able to conclusively follow up these victories and the Boers escaped.  

The Boer partnership which included the Orange Free State and the Transvaal was constructed with a system which recognized a duel command structure with a commander from each Republic. The commander of the Boers from the Transvaal was De La Rey who recognized that the hill top strategy was not working and was determined to adapt his tactics to meet and defeat the British. He felt that entrenching on a plain or along a river would provide better defensve protection for his men and chose the Modder River as a good position to employ this new strategy. He ordered his men to dig trenches along the river bank at the Riet River junction just south of the Modder River station.

On November 28th, 1899, the British advanced on the Modder River position but the Orange Free State troops under another command opened fire almost immediately and warned the British of the strength of the dug in Boer positions. The British Foot Guards swung around to the eastern flank of the Boer position and narrowly missed discovering the river ford which could have made the attack a success when General Colville withdrew the Coldstream Guards back from the river bank.

The British artillery then opened up on the Boers and put pressure on tehir positions while they looked for a ford on the river that they could cross. They finally found a spot to the west of the railway bridge and with artillery support rushed the position forcing the Orange Free State troops back across the river. De La Rey respnded quickely with his Transvaal troops and were able to hold the British off until the evening when an organized retreat could be accomplished by the Boers.


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