Before recounting the tactical operations, a brief review of South African tactics as they had been developed in the past by operations under the Commando system may help to a better understanding of the incidents in this campaign. In the past, the life and environment of the South African had fully developed every possibility presented by the horse and rifle. In later years opportunity for this was restricted, but the tradition was there, and certain standards of riding and shooting are maintained and live on as an ideal in the minds of the younger generation who eagerly avail themselves of the facilities offered by the Defence Force to realize this ideal of individual development as a marksman and rider. The tactical result of this is a soldier who can deliver quick, sure and economical fire while availing himself of every scrap of cover as he works forward, who can ride over almost any ground and who uses his horse to rush the fire position from where he will have the best advantage over his opponent. But his traditions lean towards independent action, fire control is difficult and manoeuvre control would have been impossible were it not for the commando influence. In the chapter on Organization of the troops, it was pointed out that the result of forming the commando out of recruits from the same area, was cohesion and good understanding within the Unit. Besides this there are Commando traditions, individual and collective, the recruit knowing what the “Some.where.burg” Commando, to which he belongs had done when his father was member of it, he further knows what is generally done on Commando and what not, so that every trooper has a general knowledge of elementary tactics. These factors and the interrelation between officers and men, produce a curious phenomena that tactically the Commando operates more by instinct than on command. Like a herd of antelope, moving off or wheeling simultaneously, the Commando performs many operations without command and with a spontaneity that gives them a whirlwind character. On getting fire unexpectedly the head of the column will extend automatically and with inconceivable rapidity, and will further almost invariably do what a skilled tactician would have commanded under the circumstances, either making use of the ground on which deployed or charging forward or backwards to a better fire position. Every trooper of a Commando knows nearly as much about the general situation as the Commanding Officer. The information of the scouting patrols had been discussed the night before, the Commandant had told his friends what the Generals opinion was and the family spirit of the unit after having digested all the information available, seems to suggest the best course for all concerned when the time for action comes. What may be called the herd instinct, not unkindly but appreciative of all its qualities that have contributed to the success of this campaign, is also to be seen on the march. No orders, and no disorders, in the early morning or midnight march off. The men wake, saddle and move off at the appointed time, the only discoverable intimation of which may have been a remark by the Commandant the previous night on the bad luck of again having to march at one o’clock. The operations of a commando are thus spontaneous and natural while those of a regular unit appear artificial and restrained in comparison. But while the high qualities of initiative, cohesion, individual efficiency and the rapid appreciation of a situation are very valuable, the inclination to independent action is always a danger. The ultimate tactical value of a Commando Unit depends on how far the officers have realized this fact, some having increased the tactical efficiency by wisely not interfering with what was good but using powers conferred by the Defence Act to tighten up and train with a view to better cooperation with other units, while others have merely destroyed what was good without substituting what was required. In general however, the troops had the good qualities associated with the Commando while Defence Force training had developed the ability to operate brigaded.
The scarcity of water anywhere within striking distances of Walvis Bay or Swakopmund probably accounts for the fact that the enemy did not dispute the landing of Colonel Skinner with 7 guns of the Artillery Brigade, 1 Mounted Regiment and 2 Infantry Brigades at Walvis Bay on Christmas Day 1914. A few days later Colonel Skinner advanced on and occupied the port and town of Swakop, the enemy outposts retiring after inflicting light casualties by sniping and exploding several observation mines laid where the advancing troops had to pass over them in close formation. The occupation of these two places was consolidated and the construction of a railroad from Walvis Bay to Swakop was commenced. On the 23rd February an advance in force was made to clear the country in the vicinity of the Swakop River and the railway to Karibib. General Botha had arrived in February and the Northern force had been increased by a Battery of Field Artillery and a Mounted Brigade. The enemy retired before this advance with a loss of 12 prisoners and the country was cleared for a distance of 20 miles inland as far as Rossing and Heigamchb. The reconstruction of the railway line could now proceed and advance depots were established for the next forward move. On the 18th March another advance was made which the enemy determinately but unsuccessfully disputed on the 20th of March at Riet, Pforte and Jackhalswater, retiring on the night of the 20th with considerable loss. On the 26th of April the enemy attacked the Railhead and Railway Protective Troops under Colonel Skinner at Trekkoppies (see Diagram 5a). The attack, which was with the object of covering the enemy retirement northwards from the Karibib area, was repulsed with considerable loss to the enemy. Preparations were now complete for the advance on Karibib (See Strategic Operations and Diagram5a), and the advance which commenced on the 27th April ended at Karibib on May 5th after slight enemy resistence at Otjimbingue. Windhuk was occupied on the 12th of May and on the 18th of June the advance Northwards was commenced (see diagram 6) The 5th Mounted Brigade under Brig General Manie Botha had an important and successful action at Osib, Elephants Neck and Otavifontein on July 1st. The 1st Mounted Brigade under Brig General Brits captured the Namatoni garrison after slight resistance on the 6th of July, and the 2nd Mounted Brigade and the right wing of 3rd Mounted Brigade, under Brig General Myburgh, drove the enemy from Chaub on the 4th of July and captured the Tsumeb garrison after slight resistance on July 6th. Besides numerous advance guard, patrol and outpost encounters the Northern Force thus had one defensive action (Trekkoppies) and seven offensive action, of which the Riet Pforte, Trekkoppies and the Elephants Neck Otavi will now be described in more detail.
The Riet Pforte action
From diagram No7 it can be seen that the topography of the Riet Pforte area is in a high degree suitable for defence towards the West from where the Union advance would come. The “Langer Heinrich” or Riet Berg, a bare open sloped hill more than two thousand feet above the river bed, extends for many miles eastward along the south bank of the Swakop River for twenty miles to the Geisib Berg North Eastwards having only a few narrow gaps. The old railway line from Karibib to Swakop passes through one of these gaps. This line which had taken up before the war on completion of the Northern better graded line was relaid by the enemy from Karibib over Jackalswater to Pforte. From Jackalswater a branch line, not shown on diagram No.7 was laid over Modderfontein nearly to Riet. The enemy was thus able to have railway transport from his base almost into the fire position. The nearest water to the West is at Husab where the Union Force had established their furtherest advanced depot. The Pforte position was known to be occupied by at least 2 mounted companies (German company 175 to 200 rifles) and a section of Field Artillery. The Riet position by at least four mounted companies and a battery of Field Artillery, while a general reserve of two batteries and four or five companies was at Jackalswater and Modderfontein.
On the 18th of March the Union Forces of:
Transvaal Horse Artillery Battery (4 Guns) and 1st Mounted Brigade under Colonel (later Brig General) Brits 4th Permanent Battery (4 guns) and 2nd Mounted Brigade under Colonel Alberts
left the camps at Nonidas and arrived at Husab on the morning of the 19th after a thirty mile waterless march. On the evening of the same day they left Husab, the force under Colonel Brits being ordered to march South of and along the Swakop river with the enemy positions at Riet Berg as the objective to be attacked the next morning at day break. On the maps the available, the Riet or Langer Heinrich Mountain was shown isolated from the mountains to the East and with a road passing through the gap. The force under Colonel Brits was therefore instructed to detach the Bloemhof Commando of 300 Rifles to make a detour southwards until they got on the road shown and to attack the rear of the Riet position. This however was a topographical error on the map, the Riet mountain being connected by very formidable hill features which did not even present a bridle path so that this detachment had to return. The force under Colonel Alberts was ordered to advance with the battery of Artillery and the Right Wing of the Brigade under Colonel Commandant Badenhorst, direct against the Pforte position while the Left Wing under Colonel Commandant Collins was to make a detour to the North and advance from the North West on Jackhalswater detaching a force to cut the railway North East of Jackhalswater to prevent the enemy training reinforcements down from Karibib. The Force under Colonel Brits got into action with the enemy at 5.30 on the morning of the 20th, finding them holding the Riet Berg from the highest peak downwards along a spur to the bed of the Swakop River. (see diagram No.7) Colonel Brits attack developed towards his left but was held up, the country being very rough and offering no possibility of getting round that flank. In the afternoon he developed an attack from his right, direct on the enemy left position. This attack had made considerable progress by nightfall having nearly carried the highest peak from where the whole enemy position could be rolled up, when the enemy retired under the cover of darkness. The situation with the Right Wing of the 2nd Mounted Brigade under the Brigade Commander Colonel Alberts and Colonel Commandant Badenhorst the Right Wing Commander, was as follows. At 6.30 the Battery of Artillery and the Right Wing of the Brigade under Colonel Commandant Badenhorst, direct against the Pforte position while the Left Wing under Colonel Commandant Collins was to make a detour to the North and advance from the North West on Jackhalswater detaching a force to cut the railway North East of Jackhalwater to prevent the enemy training reinforcements down from Karibib. The force under Colonel Brits got in action with the enemy at 5.30 on the morning of the 20th, finding them holding the Riet Berg from the highest peak downwards along a spur to the bed of the Swakop river. (See diagram No.7), Colonel Brit’s attack developed towards his left but was held up, the country being very rough and offering no possibility of getting round that flank. In the afternoon he developed an attack from his right, direct on the enemies left position. This attack had made considerable progress by nightfall having nearly carried the highest peak from where the whole enemy position could be rolled up, when the enemy retired under cover of the darkness. The situation with the Right Wing of the 2nd Mounted Brigade under the Brigade Commander Colonel Alberts and Colonel Commandant Badenhorst the wing Commander, was as follows… At 6.30 in the morning the Ermelo and Standerton B Commandos were a few miles ahead with instructions to attack the Pforte Gap area. When at point H on the diagram they recieved heavy artillery fire from the enemy position at D as the ground was quite open affording no cover whatever they were forced to deviate considerably before getting to their objective. At the same time Swart’s Scouts were in the action at the gap marked F. This was lightly held by the enemy but was heavily mined with contact mines which however failed to explode or were discovered in time. On getting through this gap the Scout Corps made a wide detour and got into action at L near the railway at 7.00 am. Here we have an instance of rapidity of Commando tactics, a force attacks and carries a position and within about thirty minutes has travelled at least eight miles and is in action again. A mounted body of the enemy (marked at E on diagram 7), moved as on the diagram to intercept the scouts, while at the same time the enemy artillery was withdrawn from position D to the new position shown on the diagram. The main body of the right wing then cleared the ridge on either side of gap D and poured through the gap taking up positions K and L shown on the diagram, a manoeuvre which was also performed at full gallop. The country on which the operations now took place was more undulating and afforded cover. On the diagram the features are not shown as they will obscure what is already a somewhat complicated diagram, also the distances between troops are exaggerated for the sake of clearness, the position L being much nearer the enemy than shown. By the time the position K and L were taken up the two commandos shown at H had got into action at their objective, soon getting a high point of the ridge in their possession. From the diagram it will be seen that the situation was now likely to confuse the unit commanders, the air was dense with the fine dust raised by the retreating troops and the heat mirage which becomes troublesome very early, also helped to obscure vision. Commandant Piet Botha, from the point he had gained on the ridge saw artillery almost immediately below him, firing eastwards, while he had to deal with the enemy still holding the ridge close to him. He personally descended the ridge to find out what artillery this was and so dense was the dust that he was right up to the enemy section before he could distinguish them. On the pretext of having come to demand their surrender he interviewed the Commanding Officer and returned to the ridge from where the rifle fire of his troops soon became inconvenient to the Officer he had interviewed. By about 8.30 the section of artillery was captured as also 9 officers and 200 other ranks of the enemy force in this particular area, the broken ground and dust haze however making escape easy. A small body of enemy held out till 3 p.m. when they surrendered on the point of the ridge marked G, this and the spent condition of the horses prevented the troops from operating further towards the enemy at Jackalswater on that day. The Left Wing of the 2nd Mounted Brigade which had to cut the railway east of the junction of the branch to Riet, arrived at the place marked M on the diagram, about 5 a.m.. Discovering that the guides had led them too far Westwards one detachment was sent to cut and hold the railway at N while another detachment occupied the Jackhalswater station. The enemy General Reserve attacked them at 6.30 and as they had no artillery and were unfavourably disposed in three detachments they had to retire at about 10 a.m. with the loss of 43 men taken prisoners in consequence of their horses being killed. This force although unable to realize the whole their mission which was to block the enemy line of retreat as well as divert his general reserve and intercept his reinforcements from Karibib (of the latter they captured one troop train with infantry which however had to be abandoned when retiring) contributed considerably to the success of the operations. If the strong general reserve of the enemy which at all cost had to keep their line of retreat open had been free to devote their attention to the Pforte situation, the position of the troops shown at L in diagram 7 would have been extremely uncomfortable. The sincerity of the left wings endeavour is clear from the fact that the German General Reserve was in no condition to interfere to their left or rear after the left wing of the 2nd Mounted Brigade had retired but were satisfied to remain at Jackhalswater holding the position, which covered the general retirement that night. The enemy losses on this day were… 2 Field guns, 9 officers and 275 other ranks prisoners while 4 officers and 12 other ranks killed were left on the field together with one officer and 20 other ranks wounded.
The Union casualties were: 2 officer and 11 other Ranks killed 5 officer and 36 other ranks killed 43 men captured at Jackhalswater.
The result of the days operations was that the pick of the German troops had with considerable loss, in one day been turned out of strong and carefully prepared positions which topographically were ideal for their purpose. They had every advantage, interior lines, local knowledge of the intricate terrain, water, and railway transport nearly to their fire positions. The reasons of their subsequent reluctance to try tactical conclusions with the Union troops are thus not difficult to conjecture.
The action at Trekkoppies
While the strategic direction of advance was along the Swakop river the Northern Force had also to reconstruct the railway to Karibib (see diagram 5 A) so as to have no delay in achieving the final strategic objective after the first was obtained. Colonel (now Major General) C.P.B. Skinner was in command of the troops protecting this reconstruction. On the 26th of April his force consisting of the 2nd Transvaal Scottish, 1st Rhodesian and 2nd Kimberley Battalions were at Trekkoppies while Colonel Skinner personally was about eighteen miles in advance with his mounted troops (Imperial Light Horse, three squadrons). At 1 a.m. on the 26th April these mounted troops located an enemy column marching South and later on one going South West. Leaving two troops to observe the enemy Colonel Skinner returned to Trekkoppies to await the enemy attack. The section of Heavy Artillery had been withdrawn a few days previously to take part in the advance on Karibib so this force had only one 15 pdr Armstrong Field Gun converted into an Anti Aircraft gun. At 5.45 the enemy blew up the railway to the North of the camp by mistake instead of the South. At 7.40 the action began by the enemy shelling with two batteries of Field Artillery from a range of hills that extended parallel to the railway line to the N.W. The range was about 5000 yards. Under cover of this fire the enemy dismounted attack developed from the North and mainly from the West where cover was better for an advance. At 10.30 this attack had spent itself, and the Kimberly Battalion, which had borne the brunt of the attack, together with the Transvaal Scottish and the Imperial Light Horse Regiment counter attacked towards the enemy right. The counter attack without artillery support could however not make much progress in the face of the enemy artillery fire which now increased in intensity to cover his retirement. At 11.30 the enemy artillery withdrew and the action terminated. The Section Armoured Cars effectively cooperated although the ground was most unfavourable.
Union casualties 3 officers 6 other ranks killed 2 officers 12 other ranks wounded
Enemy left 2 officers 5 other ranks killed 2 officers 12 other ranks wounded 13 prisoners
The attack was repulsed before the reinforcements that had been sent to take part in the action.
Actions at Elephants Neck and Otavi.
On the 30th of June 1915 General Botha the Commander in Chief was at Omarassa with the center of the strategic advance consisting of the 5th and 6th Mounted Brigades, the 1st Infantry Brigade being two days march in the rear. The enemy was known to hold the Elephants ridge (diagram No. 8) in strength with his camps and depots at Otavi and Otavifontein. It was known that the enemy had heavily mined the gaps and flanks of the Elephants ridge from where he had a good view and command of the flat plain below. There was no water between Okaputa and Otavifontein. The 5th Mounted Brigade under Manie Botha was ordered to march that night from Okaputa at 6 p.m. on to Otjikurume while the 6th Mounted Brigade under Brig. General Lukin had to march from Omarasen half an hour later, the intention of the Commander in Chief being to have the 5th Brigade as his right and the 6th as his left in the attack on the Elephants Ridge the next day. The 5th Mounted Brigade got into contact with the enemy outposts (see diagram 8) while it was still dark and rushed them at such a rate that they had no time to let off the rockets and light signals prearranged to warn the main body. Brig. General Manie Botha who appreciated the possibility of the situation, pursued the outposts with his whole Brigade in the hope of surprising the main body instead of continuing his march to Otjikurume as ordered. His initiative in accepting the responsibility of such a deviation from his orders was rewarded by there being a considerable element of surprise in his attack on the Western flank of the Ridge at about 6.30 a.m. Owing to the want of water near the Ridge, the enemy did not hold it in full strength but relied on timely warning, which failed, to garrison from the main body at Otavi and Otavifontein. By about 7 a.m. the western flank was turned and what other enemy troops were further East on the Ridge had retired. Advancing a few miles the 5th again got into action with what was probably belated reinforcements from Otavi. This action, which was the most severe of the day, was fought on the flat, dense bush country, the enemy right still clinging to the hill West of the railway line (diagram No.8). After a few hours the enemy retired to the western flank of the Otvavi range and the 5th again got into action at about 12 noon driving the enemy further North on the the Khorab hills where the final surrender took place eight days later. About 9.30 a.m. the Commander in Chief General Louis Botha and Brig. General J.J. Collyer the Chief of Staff met with Brig General Manie Botha near the West flank of the Elephants Ridge. The Brigade Commander of the 5th then explained his reasons for departing from his orders and also his action in engaging his whole brigade without retaining a reserve. A portion of his Brigade once committed to a running fight in close country densely covered with bush, became difficult to direct or recall. What has previously in this chapter been said about the Commando psychology may now help to illuminate the situation in which Brig General Manie Botha found himself. He is one of those officers who perfectly realizes the strength and limitations of the commando spirit, so he decided to push the attack and bring all his force into action in support of the portion committed. The result of his rapid action was that the enemy who hoped to, for once at least, have their own way tactically, only succeeded in bringing a small portion of their force into action the remainder having rapidly to retire under cover of rearguard actions at C and D on diagram No.8. General M. Bothas command numbered 4 guns and 1958 officers and other ranks. The German strength at Otavi and Elephants Neck was 36 guns 22 machine guns and 3372 officers and other ranks. A study of diagram No.8 will show that there is a great deal of truth in the Chief of the German Staffs declaration a few days later at the armistice interview, that if they only had one hours time to occupy their carefully selected positions, General Louis Botha with his two Brigades would never have got back to Okaputa. In numbers the Commander in Chief, General Louis Bothas force of two mounted Brigades was about equal to the German force which however in Artillery outnumbered the Union guns by more than four to one, besides having the advantage of an ideal position as can be seen from the diagram. Had the Union troops been checked and held up for one day they would have been forced to return the forty miles to Okaputa for water. That the German troops with fresh horses would then have become an inconvenient factor can be imagined. The 5th Brigade in the running fight captured men from the 1st, 2nd and 5th Regular Companies and from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Reserve Companies, so it cannot be said that the German Outpost line was weakly held. The union casualties were 4 killed and 12 wounded.
General Botha's first operational order:
the history of the tactical operations of the Northern Force, it may
not be out of place to give a copy of the first Operation Order issued
by the Commander in Chief, General Louis Botha. The document is not
only of historical interest by being the first to direct the operations
of the Northern Force but instructive as to the general conditions and
difficulties. The Order was in connection with the advance on
Heigamchab and Goanikontes which was not seriously resisted by the
OPERATION ORDER No1 BY GENERAL THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LOUIS BOTHA, COMMANDER IN CHIEF THE UNION FORCES IN THE FIELD.
General Headquarters, Swakopmund 22 Febuary 1915
Reference to map S.1 issued herewith.
The following information as to the enemy’s disposition is mainly based
upon intercepted wireless telegraph messages and has NOT been verified
by actual observation. The information should, therefore, be regarded as the best obtainable but as based mainly on assumption. Our
position at Swakopmund has since the arrival of our troops been under
close observation by the enemy who occupies a position in contact with
our outposts on the East of the town. The strength of the forces
occupying this position is unknown but as far as can be ascertained no
troops other than the 2nd reserve company have been in the position.
The peace strength of a mounted company is 120 men which may have been
increased to 150 or even more. At Goanikontes there are apparently
the headquaters of the 2nd reserve (Captain Schultetus) and whatever
strength of that company is not at any time immediately before
Swakopmund, the 5th reserve company (Captain Ohlenschlager) half a
battery of mounted artillery and six machine guns. Unless other
troops happen to arrive at a time when an attack is made on Goanikontes
therefore a liberal estimate of the force of the enemy to be expected
there would be 300 mounted men, 2 mounted guns and six machine guns. No information is to hand of the existence of any hostile force at Heigamchab. There
is however a force of the enemy at Jackalswater and it is reasonable to
assume that some connecting force may be at Heigamchab. The presence of
such a force should, therefore, be calculated with and steps should be
taken to guard against its sudden arrival. Nothing is known about the
strength at Jakalswater but from indications it would seem that about
500 mounted troops, a battery of Field Artillery, and a mounted Battery
may perhaps be there. This is, however, merely assumption on meager
data. In any case no reinforcement from Jakalswater could probably
reach Goanikontes in less than five hours.
2. It is the
intention of the General Officer Commanding in Chief simultaneously to
attack the enemy in his positions immediately East of Swakopmund and at
Goanikontes early on the morning of Tuesday the 23rd instant. For
this purpose the forces disposable will be divided into three forces
and a general reserve, and a special task will be assigned to the 1st
Imperial Light Horse.
A Force will be under the command of Colonel P.C.B. Skinner, and will consist of: 4th Permanent Field Artillery D and F Batteries Heavy Artillery 3rd Infantry Brigade
B Force will be under the Command of Colonel J.J. Alberts and will consist of: The Right Wing, Second Mounted Brigade Two Mounted sections machine guns to be detailed by Major Giles who will accompany B Force.
C Force will be under the command of Colonel Commandant W.R. Collins and will consist of:
The Left Wing, Second Mounted Brigade, less such portion of that Wing as is detached for the General Reserve. One mounted section machine guns to be detailed by Major Giles.
The General Reserve will consist of:
portion of the Left Wing, 2nd Mounted Brigade of which the horses are
judged to be unfit for the duty assigned to C Force under the command
of Colonel Commandant L.J. Badenhorst. Rand Rifles 1 mounted section (I.L.H.) Machine Guns. The
General Reserve will be under the direct command of the General Officer
Commanding in Chief who will exercise general control over the whole
3. The attack on the enemies positions immediately
East of Swakopmund will be carried out by A Force under the command of
Colonel P.C.B. Skinner to whom the hour of the commencement of the
attack will be communicated. B Force under the command of Colonel
J.J. Alberts will move on Goanikontas from Swakopmund at an hour and
under instructions which will be communicated to Colonel Alberts. C
Force (under the command of Colonel Commandant Collins) will move on
Goanikontas from Swakopmund at an hour and under instructions which
will be communicated to Colonel Commandant Collins. The 1st Imperial
Light Horse, under the command of Major H.G.L. Panchaud, will move from
Swakopmund at the same time and in company with C Force leaving that
force at a point and under special instructions which will be
communicated to Major Panchaud. The Mounted troops from the 2nd
Mounted Brigade for the General Reserve, and the Rand Rifles, will
parade at a point and an hour which will be communicated to Colonel
Commandant Badenhorst and Lieutenant Colonel Purcell respectively.
The line of defence hitherto occupied at night by infantry of the 3rd
Infantry Brigade will be taken over on the night of the 22nd 23rd
instant at 8.00 p.m. by the South African Irish under the command of
Lieutenant Colonel F.H. Brennen, V.D. The Officer Commanding, 3rd
Infantry Brigade, will indicate the line of defense to be occupied to
Lieutenant Colonel Brennen who, immediately the line has been occupied
by the regiment under his command, will report in writing to that
effect to the Chief Staff Officer at General Headquarters.
The Staff Officer Signalling will make arrangements for communications
between the forces in agreement with the plan of operations which will
be communicated to him, and will especially ensure as rapid and
effective communication as possible between Goanikontes and General
Headquarters. The Staff Officer Signalling will not later than 6.00
acquaint all Commanders of forces and detached units with the details
of the scheme of intercommunication, (including the strength of
personnel and nature of means of communication allotted to each Force
or Unit) and will report to the Chief Staff Officer in writing that
this has been done when all acknowledgements of these details have been
received from the Commanders referred to.
6. Medical units are allotted as under:
To Force A B Section 2nd mounted brigade Field Ambulance To Force B B Section 9th mounted Brigade Field Ambulance To Force C A Section 9th Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance Sick and wounded will be evacuated to Swakopmund.
An officer from each of the following units will report at General
Headquarters at 10 minutes to six o'clock this evening to take the
official time in agreement with which all movements will take place. S.O. Signalling, Headquarters Staff. A Force B Force C Force 4th Permanent Field Artillery Battery Heavy Artillery Brigade 1st Imperial Light Horse Portion of 2nd Mounted Brigade in General Reserve Rand Rifles 2nd Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance 9th Mounted Brigade Field Ambulance Commanding
Officers of the Units referred to will arrange for the correct time
being made known in their commands after receiving it from General
8. Two days rations will be carried by B Force and one days rations by the remainder of the troops mentioned in this Order. Commanding
Officers will make the best possible arrangements to carry as
substantial a feed as possible for the horses in the nosebags. 9.Every
Commander of a Force or detached unit will be held responsible for
assuring himself that every unit attached to his command reports at the
proper hour and moves off with his Force. 10.Hand flags for officers will be issued for the purpose of identifying bodies of our own troops.
11 The General Officer Commanding in Chief will be at the trenches now occupied by the Transvaal Scottish East of the Lazaretto.
Signed J.J. Collyer, Colonel Chief Staff Officer
THE CENTRAL FORCE The
enemy did not resist the landing of the first Union troops under
Colonel, later Brigadier General P.S.Beves, at Luderitz Bay on the 18th
of September 1914. The reasons for not doing so probably also being the
want of water anywhere within striking distance but out of range of the
escorting cruisers guns. The union troops were reinforced later (see
Chapter on Organisation) and commenced by Brigadier General Sir Duncan
Mackenzie, the opposing enemy force being commanded by Major von Bauzus. The
Central Force had a long period of defensive waiting until the Union
Government had its hands free from the incubus of the Rebellion and
could prosecute the South West campaign vigorously. Then the Central
Force cooperated by exerting strategic pressure inwards until it came
before Aus where the strong positions of the enemy and the want of
water for the union troops made a direct attack inadvisable before
strategic pressure from the other union forces had influenced the
situation. This pressure caused the enemy to evacuate Aus and retire
General Mackenzie following up with his three
mounted brigades. In addition to a number of patrol, outpost and
advance guard encounters, the central Force had one important tactical
operation near Gibeon.
THE ACTION AT GIBEON
MacKenzie left Aus on the 16th of April with one 6 gun battery of Field
Artillery and three Mounted Brigades. After a march of 160 Miles he was
near the point of C (on diagram No.9) at 6 p.m. on the 26th April. Here
he received intelligence that an enemy force under Major von Kleist
with two guns was at Gibeon Station. There was also a train with steam
up at the station. Brig General MacKenzie then pushed on with the
intention of capturing this body of the enemy. When at point B on
diagram No.9 he detached Colonel Royston with one Brigade and one
Regiment and instructed him to make a detour to the East, get astride
the railway North of Gibeon and cooperate in the attack on the enemy
next day at dawn. General MacKenzie with the remaining half of the
force marched on and bivouacked at point K. Colonel Royston got on
to the Railway at A about 1 p.m. the next morning. He had disposed his
force unfavourably and when attacked by the enemy had to retire with
the loss of 3 officers and 41 other ranks killed 49 wounded and 72
missing. This was about 3 a.m. on the 27th of April. At 5 a.m. on the 27th April Brig General Mackenzie advanced from his bivouac at K on the enemy at Gibeon. The
enemy was disposed at H about 2.5 miles North of Gibeon station, from
where they were driven to the second position D on the diagram. About 8
a.m. they were driven from the second position D with the loss of their
two guns, the 72 prisoners captured early that morning from Colonel
Roysten at A were also recovered here. Brig General MacKenzie in
this operation under his personal conduct, lost three killed and 13
wounded, the enemy leaving 11 killed, 30 wounded and 188 prisoners on
This force of about 5000 rifles
and one battery of Artillery was, on the 1st January 1915, disposed as
on diagram No.3, previous to that date having had the task of resisting
any German advance into the Union or preventing any rebel bodies from
escaping into enemy territory. The enemy force immediately opposed to
it was under Major Ritter and was based on Keetmanshoop. Ritters force
comprised a battery of Artillery and four mounted companies together
with a body of rebels numbering about 800 under Maritz and Kemp. This
latter body which acted independently had been reinforced by the
Germans with a mounted company and an artillery battery with 4 field
guns and two pompoms. Besides a number of patrol, outpost and
advance guard encounters, the Southern Force had three defensive
actions and three offensive engagements in the course of its work of
exerting strategic pressure from the South and South East.
Defensive action at Nydasputs About
400 rifles of the Southern Force were camped at Nydasputs 45 miles N.W.
of Upington, and were attacked there at daybreak on the 18th January by
about 800 enemy and the Artillery under Maritz and Kemp. They were
compelled to retire with the loss of 9 killed 20 wounded and 170
prisoners. The enemy loss could not be ascertained. The experienced
enemy troops, of the same tactical quality as the Union troops and
superior by two to one besides having Artillery, had availed themselves
of all the advantages derivable from an intimate knowledge of the
methods and weak points of the Union Commandos, and it required some
dexterous handling to extricate the somewhat rawer Union troops without
greater casualty. Defensive action at Upington On the 24th
January, the same enemy force under Maritz and Kemp, but reinforced by
300 German Rifles under Schoeman, attacked Colonel J. van Deventer at
Upington. The Union forces, 12 commando units, about 2400 rifles, and a
six gun battery of artillery, were attacked at dawn, the attack lasting
till about 12 noon when it had spent itself. Colonel van Deventer then
counter attacked and pursued the enemy for some distance. Union casualties 7 killed 24 wounded Enemy casualties 18 killed and 23 wounded 85 prisoners. The
result of this action was that Kemp surrendered unconditionally with
nearly the entire force a few days later Marittz and Schoeman with a
few followers and the Artillery retiring on the enemy troops under
Defensive action at Kakamas Kakamas was
occupied by 5 commando units (bout 1600 rifles) disposed on both sides
of the Orange River which was in flood. This unfavourable disposition
was due to the fact that as late as December 22nd the enemy had
attacked Nous 17 miles South of the river at Schuit Drift. As there
were interests to be protected on both sides of the river at Kakamas
the disposition remained as during the time when the place was
threatened from both sides. On the morning of the 4th February Major
Ritter with a force of 4 guns and about 400 rifles attacked the Union
Troops on the North bank of the river. By about 11 a.m. the attack was
beaten off, the enemy leaving 12 killed and 12 prisoners on the field
but removing his wounded. Offensive action at Nabas. During the
advance of the Southern Force towards Keetmanshoop Major Smith was
instructed to attack Nabas, about 10 miles North of Ukamas (diagram
No.4). His force numbered 270 rifles and the enemy was about 160 rifles
strong. On the morning of the 8th of March, Major Smith surprised the
enemy and compelled them to retire with the loss of all their transport
and supplies and leaving 1 killed and 3 wounded on the field.
Offensive action at Platbeen. In
the course of the further advance to Keetmanshoop Colonel D. van
Deventer with about 300 rifles of his brigade attacked the enemy
numbering about 200 rifles at Platbeen on the morning of 27th March,
Colonel van Deventer compelled the enemy to retire with the loss of
their transport and supplies, 14 prisoners and 6 wounded.
Offensive action at Kabus On
the 20th April, Colonel D. van Deventer with about 1400 rifles of his
brigade, attacked the enemy numbering 2 guns and about 300 rifles at
Kabus. He was later on reinforced by 300 rifles from Berranges Eastern
Force and the enemy then retired with the loss of 2 killed and 16
wounded, the Union casualties being 10 wounded.
OPERATIONS OF THE EASTERN FORCE This
force was constantly engaged in advance guard and patrol affairs. It
had no defensive actions of any magnitude and had four offensive
Offensive action at Rietfontein. On the 19th
March, Captain van Vuuren of this force with 1 command squadron (about
100 rifles) attacked about 200 enemy rifles at Rietfontein. The enemy
retired with the loss of their transport and supplies at this place and
left 4 killed, 20 wounded and 2 captured in the field. The Union
casualties were 1 killed and 2 wounded. In view of the importance of
the water at Rietfontein and the enemy superiority in numbers, Captain
van Vuuren may be considered as having operated in a highly creditable
Offensive action at Koes On the 5th April, Colonel
van Zyl with 2 commando squadrons attacked the enemy at Koes. With a
loss of one man wounded, Colonel van Zyl captured one prisoner and
several hundred head of cattle. Offensive action at Kiries West On
the 16th April the enemy with 2 guns and about 300 rifles was attacked
at Kiries West by Colonel Berrange who had 1 Regular Regt. (5th Regt.
South African Mounted Riflemen) and 2 Commando Regiments. The enemy
retired with a loss of 4 killed, 1 wounded and 8 captured. The union
loss was 1 killed and 1 wounded.
Offensive action at Kabus On
the 20th April Colonel D. van Deventer of the Southern Force had
commenced an attack on this place at dawn (see OperationsSouthern
Force, action at Kabus) later in the day he was reinforced by 300
rifles from Colonel Berranges Eastern Force. This reinforcement largely
assisted in the success of the operations on that day, the enemy
retiring with a loss of 2 killed and 16 wounded. The Union casualties
being 10 wounded.