a farm in Natal Colony (Estcourt district; KwaZulu-Natal) on which the village of Chieveley is situated. Variant: Bloukrans (Afrikaans spelling as used on the 1: 250,000 map). The armoured train derailment and the capture of 80 prisoners by the Wakkerstroom and Heidelberg commandos, including Mr. W.L.S. Churchill, on 15 November 1899 took place on the farm Blaauwkrantz. The train was manned by A company 2nd bn Royal Dublin Fusiliers, C company Durban Light Infantry and sailors from HMS Tartar. The area had particular significance for the Boers since the Blaauwkrantz Monument commemorating the voortrekkers killed during the Weenen massacres had been dedicated here only on 16 December 1895. The incident is referred to by British historians as taking place at Chieveley and Estcourt.A Gazetteer of the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, Jones HM & MGM (Military Press, Milton Keynes 1999)
The composition of the force on the train is generally stated to be a company (or half company) from the 2nd battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers (A company) and the Durban Light Infantry (C company) and sailors from HMS Tartar manning a 7pdr gun. Although the chief eyewitness, war correspondent Winston Churchill states the sailors were from HMS Terrible (My Early Life, 1930). The train was run by civilian crew and a number of gangers and platelayers accompanied the train. At the time British newspapers reported the force to number between 180-190 men (The Times 18-11-1899).
However, the war correspondent, Bennet Burleigh, gives a detailed account in his book The Natal Campaign (Chapman & Hall, 1900). He gives these figures:
Cpt JAL Haldane, Gordon Highlanders in command
73 - Royal Dublin Fusiliers
47 - Durban Light Infantry (Our Colonials, Stirling, 1907, states 60)
6 - HMS Tartar
7 - Platelayers
1 - Telegraphist
3 - Engine crew (not given by Burleigh, my estimate: driver, fireman and guard?)
1 - War correspondent - Winston Churchill
The train was ambushed and partially derailed. The Boers shelled the train and poured in a heavy rifle fire. A stout defense was made but the 7pdr was soon disabled by Boer artillery. The engine and tender remainded on the rails and smashed through boulders placed across the line. The engine and tender returned to Estcourt with a number of men and some wounded.
The Natal Field Force roll lists 47 casualties:
|HMS Tartar||Dublin Fusiliers||Durban LI||Gordon H||Train Crew||War Corres||Total|
|POW & Wo||0||1||0||0||0||0||1|
|Missing & Wo||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
I have traced a further 49 from the following sources; The Times 18, 19 & 20-11-1899, Army & Navy Gazette 18-11-1899, Sunderland Daily Echo 17 & 18-11-1899, Penrith Observer 21-11-1899The Second Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the South African War (Romer & Mainwaring, 1908). The complete casualty breakdown is now:
|HMS Tartar||Dublin Fusiliers||Durban LI||Gordon H||Colonial Scts||Train Crew||War Corres||Total|
|POW & Wo||0||2||3||0||0||0||0||5|
|Missing & Wo||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||1|
The Boers claimed British casulties were four killed, 14 wounded and 56 POWs. The wounded were retained as POWs, an ambulance train sent out by the British to recover the wounded was not allowed to recover any men. Some of the wounded had returned on the engine and tender, and some made their way back on foot.
Interestingly only five men are listed as wounded and POW, there must be some imprecise reporting of casualties amongst the wounded and POW group, not all the wounded would have got away.
Having advanced the known casualties to 96, the question researchers and medal collectors want to know, "who else was there?". The sources I used to get the extra casualties have revealed another twelve names. Disappointingly, Romer's history for the Royal Dublin Fusiliers only mentions Pte 5256 M Kavanagh who was awarded the DCM.
There are though some discrepancies when looking at the medal rolls. According to the medal rolls four men earned the Defence of Ladysmith clasp and yet were named as missing. The siege of Ladysmith began 2 November, 1899, no British troops entered the the town until it's relief on 28 February, 1900. The four are:
Cpl 576 D Brown Durban Light Infantry - The Times, 20 November, 1899 (crushed under a truck 15-11-1899, died 23-12-1899 buried Intombi Camp, Ladysmith)
Pte 689 GB Humphreys Durban Light Infantry - The Times, 20 November, 1899
Pte 4685 G Reynolds Dublin Fusiliers - Romer & Army & Navy Gazette, 18 November, 1899
Pte 540 AG Woodward Durban Light Infantry - The Times, 20 November, 1899
There is an error somewhere, either the medal roll or the printed casualty list.