25 NOV 1899: The Boer War and today sees members of the New South Wales Lancers involved in the battle of Graspan, South Africa. This, one of the series of defeats suffered by the British in the opening months of the Boer War, involved 29 members of the NSW Lancers, the first Australian troops to reach South Africa.
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.
British casualties at Belmont were 200 and at Graspan 197. Boer casualties at each battle are unknown but are thought to have been slight. Photo; NSW Lancers at Stellenbosch, South Africa. More; http://ow.ly/Mae9306ve44