The South African War: Source 1 page 1

[Please note not all the document has been transcribed for purposes of the task]

From General Buller to Secretary of State for War
Chieveley Camp,
15 December 6.30pm

I regret to report serious reverse. I moved in full strength from Camp near Chieveley this morning at 4am. There are two fordable places [where the river could be crossed] in the Tugela and it (was) my intention to force a passage through at one of them. They are about 2 miles apart and my intention was to force one or the other with one Brigade supported by a central Brigade. General Hart was to attack the left drift, General Hidyard the right, the main road, and General Lyttleton in the centre to support either. Early in the day I saw that General Hart would not be able to force a passage and directed him to withdraw. He had however attacked with great gallantry and his leading battalion the Connaught Rangers I fear suffered a great deal…
The whole under Colonel Long Royal Artillery were out of action as it appears that Colonel Long in his desire to be within effective range advanced without any scouts or effective infantry supports close to the river. It proved to be full of the enemy who suddenly opened a galling fire at close range killing all their horses and the gunners were compelled to stand to their guns…
The day was intensely hot and most trying to the troops whose conduct was excellent. We have abandoned the guns and lost by shell fire one. The losses in General Hart’s Brigade are I fear heavy though the proportion of severely wounded is I hope not large.

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Look at Source 1.

A report written by General Redvers Buller, Commander of British forces in South Africa, describing their defeat at Colenso during an attempt to cross the Tugela River, 15th December 1899, Catalogue ref: WO 32/7887.

  • Who is General Buller reporting to?
  • Why is he making this report?
  • How soon after the attack was this written?
  • According to Buller, what was the British plan of attack?
  • How did Boer forces halt the British artillery’s advance?
  • Did Buller consider the weather a factor in the British defeat?
  • During so called ‘Black Week’, the British were also defeated at the Battles of Magersfonein and Stormberg. Can you find out why the Boers were so successful?