South African Battle: 3 & 4 April 1900

Battle of Reddersburg

On 2 April 1900, Captain McWhinnie and his column left Dewetsdorp in order to convince farmers in the immediate vicinity that the war was over and they should lay down their arms. Boer General de Wet was aware of what was happening and had scouts monitor McWhinnie’s movements. Wet conditions forced his column to camp for the night on a farm about 12 km from Reddersburg.

On the morning of 3 April McWhinnie’s scouts informed him of the presence of Boers tracking his force. At 10 a.m. the Boers decided to attack the column and McWhinnie ordered his men to form a ‘defensive’ on the nearby hill of Mostert’s Hoek. Mostert’s Hoek is described in ‘The Times History of the War in South Africa’ (page 52 Vol. lV) as such – “This is a horse-shoe shaped ridge standing on a plain of undulating ground about 4 miles north-east of Reddersburg, and about eighteen from Bethany. The English force had first become aware of the Boer pursuit on approaching the ridge. Realising its defensive value, McWhinnie ordered the mounted infantry to seize its western extremity and the infantry the eastern.”

General de Wet who commanded the Boer force sent a message to McWhinnie telling him that he was totally outnumbered in men and artillery and that he should surrender. This in fact was not the case however, as de Wet’s re-enforcements had not arrived, and McWhinnie chose not to surrender. De Wet had rounded up about 300 men, many of whom had laid down arms after the fall of Bloemfontein, and his re-enforcements were making their way from Sanna’s Post. At midday de Wet’s re-enforcements arrived with three guns and the Boers, who now numbered over 2 000, started shelling the British position, with the three guns that had just arrived. Hostilities ceased when night fell.

McWhinnie and his men had a very uncomfortable night with no food and very little water, and early in the morning on 4 April, the Boers managed to over-run one of McWhinnie’s outposts. Fighting continued for most of the morning but eventually McWhinnie was forced to surrender.

British General Gatacre, who was in the vicinity, was made aware of de Wet’s presence and of the predicament in which McWhinnie’s force found themselves. His scouts, on approaching Mostert’s Hoek, heard heavy rifle fire and instead of pushing forward, he decided to retire. Gatacre, who was the commander of the British disaster at Stormberg was relieved of his command and departed for England several days later.

British casualties were 10 killed, 37 wounded and 388 taken prisoner. De Wet also captured the convoy with a number of rifles and ammunition.

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