The Battle of Glencoe

Twas in the month of October, and in the year of 1899,
Which the Boers will remember for a very long time,
Because by the British Army they received a crushing blow;
And were driven from Smith’s Hill at the Battle of Glencoe.

The Boers’ plan of the battle was devised with great skill,
And about 7000 men of them were camped on Smith’s Hill;
And at half-past five the battle began,
And the Boers behaved bravely to a man.

At twenty minutes to six two of the British batteries opened fire,
And early in the fight some of the Boers began to retire;
And in half an hour the Boers’ artillery had ceased to fire,
And from the crest of the hill they began to retire.

And General Symons with his staff was watching every detail,
The brave hero whose courage in the battle didn’t fail;
Because he ordered the King’s Royal Rifles and the Dublin Fusiliers,
To advance in skirmishing order, which they did with three cheers.

Then they boldly advanced in very grand style,
And encouraged by their leaders all the while;
And their marching in skirmishing order was beautiful to see,
As they advanced boldly to attack the enemy.

For over an hour the advance continued without dismay,
Until they had to take a breath by the way;
They felt so fatigued climbing up Smith’s Hill,
But, nevertheless, the brave heroes did it with a will.

Then they prepared to attack the enemy,
And with wild battle-cries they attacked them vigorously;
And with one determined rush they ascended the hill,
And drove the Boers from their position sore against their will.

But, alas, General Symons received a mortal wound,
Which caused his soldiers’ sorrow to be profound;
But still they fought on manfully without any dread;
But, alas, brave General Symons now is dead.

Oh! It was a most inspiring and a magnificent sight,
To see the Hussars spurring their steeds with all their might;
And charging the Boers with their lances of steel,
Which hurled them from their saddles and made them reel.

The battle raged for six hours and more,
While British cannon Smith’s Hill up tore;
Still the Boers fought manfully, without dismay,
But in a short time they had to give way.

For the Gordon Highlanders soon put an end to the fight,
Oh! it was a most gorgeous and thrilling sight,
To see them with their bagpipes playing, and one ringing cheer,
And from Smith’s Hill they soon did the Boers clear.

And at the charge of the bayonet they made them fly,
While their leaders cried, “Forward, my lads, do or die”,
And the Boers’ blood copiously they did spill,
And the Boers were forced to fly from Smith’s Hill.

And in conclusion I hope and pray
The British will be successful when from home far away;
And long may the Gordons be able to conquer the foe,
At home or abroad, wherever they go.

The Battle at Glencoe

The first complete official telegram came from General Yule, who took command on the disablement of General Symons. It was addressed to General Sir George White at Ladysmith, who at once sent it forward. The date from Ladysmith is Friday, 5.30 p.m.:—

“Glencoe Camp.—We were attacked this morning at daylight by force roughly estimated at 4000. They placed four or five guns in position on a hill 5400 yards east of the camp, and fired plugged shot into camp. Their artillery did no damage. Our infantry formed for attack opposite their position. After enemy’s position had been assailed for a time, infantry advanced to the attack; and after hard fighting, lasting till 1.34, almost inaccessible position was taken, enemy retiring eastwards. Cavalry and artillery are still out. Our losses are heavy, and will telegraphed as soon as possible. General Symons severely wounded in the stomach.”

Further telegrams stated that the Boer position. with all their guns (four or five), had been captured, and that our cavalry were in pursuit. “The important success,” it was added, “is due to General Svmon’s great courage, fine generalship. and gallant example, and the confidence he gave to the troops under him.”

The main position of the enemy was stormed by one o’clock, the Dublin Fusiliers and the King’s Royal Rifles being credited with the honour of having led the way in the final assault. The Boers fled in an easterly direction towards the Buffalo River drifts, pursued by our cavalry. It is stated that while 4000 Boers were actually under fire, the total force in the neighbourhood is about 9000. The British troops at Glencoe numbered 4000 men. Central News telegram says: —The credit on the infantry side to-day must be accorded to the Dublin Fusiliers. Their dash was splendid, and they fought coolly and steadily when the bullets were flying. They were first in the Boer lines, and captured the guns. The British artillery work was beyond praise. The King’s Royal Rifles also did splendid work.

With reference the expression “plugged shell” in messages from the scene of the fighting, the Press Association states that a plugged shell is an unloaded one, which, although capable of being fired bodily, yet would not explode because not charged either for want of a suitable fuse and tube, or lack of an explosive agent.

The following account the battle comes from the correspondent the “London Daily Mail”:—

Glencoe Camp. Friday, 2.30 p.m.—The battle to-day has been brilliant success for us, and the Boers have met with a reverse which may possibly—for a time, at anyrate—check all aggressive action.

Our artillery practice in the earlier part of the day decided the battle.

The seizure of Dundee Hill by the Boers was asurprise, although the pickets had been exchanging shots all night. It was not until a shell boomed over the town into the camp that their presence was discovered. Then shells came fast. The hill was positively alive with swarming Boers. Still, our artillery got to work with magnificent energy and precision.

The batteries from the camp took up position to the south of the town, and. after quarter of an hour’s magnificent firing, silenced the guns on the hills. From the camp I could see the shells dropping among the Boer pieces with remarkable accuracy and doing tremendous execution, for the enemy were present in very large numbers, and in places considerably exposed. By this time the enemy held the whole of the hill behind Smith’s farm and Dundee Kopjie right away to the south, in which direction our infantry and cavalry moved. The fighting raged particularly hot at the valley outside the town.

Directly the Boer guns ceased firing. General Symons ordered the infantry to move on the position. The British infantry charge was magnificent. The way in which the King’s Royal Rifles and the Dublin Fusiliers stormed the position was one of the most splendid sights I have ever seen; the rifle firing of the Boers was not so deadly as might have been expected from troops occupying such a magnificent position. But the infantry lost heavily going up the hill. Only the consummately brilliant way in which General Symons had trained them to fighting of the kind saved them from being swept away. Indeed, the hill was almost inaccessible to a storming party, and any hesitation would have lost the day.

The guns, far as I could see, were all abandoned as the Boers had no time to recover them.

I am sorry to say that General Symons was wounded early in the action, being shot in the body. The command then devolved upon Brigadier-Genera! Yule.

The enemy, as they fled, were followed by the cavalry, the mounted infantry, and the artillery.

Inverness Courier, 24th October 1899

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