This is the British Counter-Initiative to Boer Initiative 4.
The gun team progressed down the road with its extra horses, 2 wagons,
pack animals, mounted gunners and staff escort. As they approached
Waschout Hill, they found was simply no way here was no way to screen
them from the British fire coming down from the Kraal. O' Doul's plan
instead was to pin down some of the British with fire from supporting
troops whilst racing his supply column forward under fire at top speed
and then taking advantage of some dead ground on the west side of the
hill to shelter from fire and reorganise before continuing in
comparative safety in the lee of the hill.
To O'Doul's eye the British dispositions, although strong, were flawed,
as the curvature of Washout Hill would block line of sight from the
Kraal position to the road to the west, so that if the supply column
could survive the long range fire directed at it in the approach to the
hill, and if the British troops in the Kraal were pinned down by Boer
fire, then the rest would be easy. He chuckled to himself as to the
ingenuity of all Boers and the stupidity of all British.
The supply column raced forward under fire from the Kraal. Almost
immediately a horse in the gun team was hit, but the Boers quickly cut
it free and continued. Two pack animals went down in quick succession,
and two more, panicked by their unaccustomed exposure to fire, bolted
off the road, one laming itself in its panic. There was no time to
gather these animals in as the column sped forward. One mounted Boer
gunner was killed by plunging fire, and a second wounded but still in
the saddle. Two gunners had their horses shot out from under them, one
of these men having his legs smashed as he went down in the saddle. A
driver of one of the wagons was killed and the wagon was then pulled
off-road by the frightened horses, where it promptly broke an axle. A
horse on another wagon was wounded but was still on its feet. A second
horse on the gun team was hit and started rearing in pain. O'Doul
personally shot it as the gunners cut it free and let it fall to the
side of the road.
Finally the firing stopped. The supply column had gained the safety of
the base of the north-west spur of Waschout Hill. O'Doul surveyed they
damage. It was extensive, but he still had the gun and enough horses to
pull it, half his wagons and two-thirds of his pack animals, and enough
gunners to operate the piece provided a couple of troopers could be
seconded to the battery to do the heavy lifting.
The Boers paused for two minutes, refastening loads and replacing the
wounded wagon horse with one of the gunner's riding horses, and putting
the wounded gunner in the back of the wagon. O'Doul then got the men
moving again just in case the British tried to redeploy under fire to
cover the road.
As the Boers proceeded forward for the next 100 yards, there was no
firing at all in their vicinity. An increasing sense of elation came
over O'Doul. He had done it! True, this was only one gun, but having got
this one through, he would be able to get two more through the same way.
His mission would be successfully fulfilled.
Sadly for O'Doul, however, his reverie was cut short by a shattering
volley of rifle fire from somewhere up the slope of the hill. Man and
horse were laid low as the Boers looked in vain for the 10 British
soldiers in rifle pits that was the source of the firing. A second
volley continued the slaughter. This was too much for most of the party,
who rode for their lives in any direction that seemed to offer a chance
of escape. The pack animals were abandoned to their fate, whilst the
wagon was immobilised with both its horses hit. There was still an
unwounded horse remaining pulling the gun, but as Doul and a couple of
die-hard gunners tried to detach its dead teammates from the limber, one
of the gunners was killed and O'Doul himself was hit in the shoulder.
The brave effort to save the guns would have to be abandoned.
O'Doul disengaged from the wreckage of the column now blocking the road
and, doing the best to ignore the agony of his shoulder, galloped south
down the road back towards the two remaining guns that would shortly be
attempting the passage. He now understood that the British main position
had largely been a ruse to distract attention from the carefully
concealed ambush party that had laid low his men and whose precise
location still could not be identified. He realised that the move must
be stopped or these columns would suffer the fate of the first or worse
if they tried to advance without the hill first being cleared of
defenders through a combination of Boer infantry and artillery. He would
signal this from the base of the hill as soon as he had line of sight to
the other teams.
Finally O'Doul reflected bitterly on the lessons he had learned that
1. Supply and transport columns are very vulnerable to enemy fire.
2. Never underestimate the British!