Wednesday 24 November 2021

Guest Post - Encounter on the Orange River, 1900

Today I have a Guest Post from fellow Reject, John. He moved home not so long ago but made sure to reserve some wargaming space in his loft. This is a game he played earlier in the year and decided to share via the medium of my blog. The words and pictures are all his, so I can't take any credit for what looked like a thoroughly enjoyable game. 

It is summer 1900 at a drift on the Orange River some miles south of Kimberley. A company of the Cape Town Rifles are guarding the drift and the railway bridge over the river. Not expecting much action, they have neglected to dig any defensive earthworks but have covered the bridge and drift with maxim guns and placed a 15 pounder field gun on the kopje overlooking the river. Their mission is to prevent the Boers from using the crossing in readiness for the relief of Kimberley. The remainder of the regiment is billeted 5 miles south undertaking gunnery practice.

At daybreak 3 Boer Commandos come into view. They are tasked with taking the bridge and drift in preparation for a Boer attack into Cape Colony. Should this prove impossible they are to destroy the bridge and fall back on Bloemfontein.

Heliographers from the detachment contact the CTR HQ who immediately break camp and march for the drift. On hearing of the developments, OC for the area despatches other units to support the Cape Town Rifles, but it will be sometime before they can arrive at the action.

Meanwhile, at the drift, the Boers dismount and advance on foot while a rather ineffective artillery duel takes place between the rival gunners. As they approach the river the Boers come under accurate fire from the maxim guns and, as the range decreases, from the British 15 pounder as well. The Boers keep on coming and their accurate rifle fire drives the defenders from the riverbank. At the drift, the maxim gun is lost while the one covering the railway bridge is destroyed by the Boer pom-pom gun. This allows the Krugersdorp Commando to clear the drift while the Boksburg Commando crosses the river via the rail bridge. 

The 15 pounder on Big Kopje continues to give the Boers trouble, causing casualties to the Utrecht Commando as they gallop across. At the southern end of the kopje, the rest of the Cape Town rifles have arrived and started to climb the hill. Far to the south dust can be seen in the distance along the railway tracks.

The Utrecht Commando make their way unopposed through the dorp where they block the railway line and dig rudimentary trenches ready for the expected assault. On Small Kopje the remnants of the bridge guard are finally overcome by the Boksburg Commando who can now see the rapid approach of the Imperial Light Horse and the South African Light Horse. 

Over on Big Kopje the northern end has been secured by the Krugersdorp Commando while the southern edge has been scaled and occupied by the Cape Town Rifles; a bloody firefight now ensues for possession of the hill. While this is going on the Devonshire Regiment is making its way up from the south while the Gordon Highlanders are approaching from the southeast

As the ILH ride into action, they are checked by a whirlwind of shells from the Boer 75mm field gun across the river and rifle fire from the Boksburg Commando causing them to dismount and go to ground. On seeing this the SALH take the same course of action. Meanwhile over in the dorp the Devonshire’s walk into a hail of gunfire from the unseen trenches and take many casualties. The Gordons then change formation into a line in preparation for an attack on the Boer position.

Meanwhile, on Big Kopje the Boers rush the British line but are repulsed. The encounter has fatally weakened both units so all they can do now is hold their respective ends of the hill and await developments. Over on Small Kopje, the ILH are worn down by pom-pom and rifle fire and they too are no longer in a condition to advance, while the SALH make a rush to the foot of the hill to escape from the withering rifle fire that is taking a steady toll on the unit.

The climax of the battle is now approaching as the Gordons and Devonshire’s creep slowly towards the Boer position between the two kopjes. The Gordons then fix bayonets and charge the Boer positions. After a brief fight, the Gordon Highlanders prevail sending the Utrecht Commando running for their horses. At the same time the SALH charge the Boksburg Commando on Small Kopje. Once again, the British bayonets prevail, and the Boers fall back on the railway bridge which is destroyed after the last of the Boers has crossed.

These actions make the Krugersdorp Commando’s position on Big Kopje untenable, so they retreat across the drift to their horses. Apart from the Gordon Highlanders and the SALH (who are too far from their mounts), the British units have taken too many casualties to pursue the retreating Boers, who are allowed to go unmolested.

Thanks to John for letting me put this on my Blog and sharing some of his excellent collection of figures and homemade terrain. 


  1. Great post! I like the scenario. Love the kopje!

  2. Glad you liked it. All the scenery is home made. The idea behind the set up was to give each side a 50:50 chance of winning. The British had more figures (as was always the case) but the Boers had an advantage when firing (as was always the case). As it turns out the Boer dice rolling wasn't that great hence the defeat.


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