Saturday, 25 July 2015

Q Battery RHA at Sanna's Post 31st March, 1900

The Register of the Anglo-Boer War has been updated with the names of the 138 men from Q Battery Royal Horse Artillery who served in this classic action. Three Victoria Crosses were awarded Q battery; one officer and two men who were elected by their comrades. The names are taken from a panel created by the battery to be placed in the men's mess wherever the battery was stationed. The location of the panel is unknown, it may have been destroyed during the bombing of London during World War II.

Sanna's Post or Koornspruit was the comprehensive defeat in an ambush of a British column by Christian de Wet was the first reverse suffered by Lord Robert's all conquering army. Lord Robert's army had in four weeks reversed the defeat suffered by Lord Methuen at Magersfontein that had stalled the British advance in the west. Robert's men had driven the Boers back, captured over 4000 at Paardeberg and captured Bloemfontein the capital of the Orange Free State.

At Bloemfontein Robert's army rested, and allowed the Boers to regroup. de Wet was very keen to carry the war on and the ambush at Sanna's Post signalled his intent to attack wherever he could; a pattern that was to develop into the protracted guerrilla phase (October 1900 to May 1902).

Sanna's Post was a postal agency and railway station in the course of construction 30 km east of Bloemfontein. The action took place in a drift across the Koornspruit (a left bank tributary of the Modder River) on the farm Klipkraal. The location of the drift named after the farm, Klip Kraal Drift, is difficult to determine.  It is not marked on any contemporary map and may well be a variant of 'Waterworks Drift' - at the Bloemfontein waterworks on the Thaba Nchu-Bloemfontein road.

In order to destroy the Bloemfontein waterworks on the Modder River east of Sannah's Post and cut off the return of Brig-Gen R.G. Broadwood's force from Thaba Nchu to Bloemfontein, Chief-Cmdt C.R. de Wet took a commando of some 1,600 burghers and, splitting it in two, prepared an ambush in the bed of the spruit just west of the incomplete buildings of the railway station.  Broadwood's column arrived early on 31 March 1900 and bivouacked west of the Modder around Sannah's Post.  As dawn broke a few hours later, the bivouac was shelled by guns from the remainder of the commando led by Veg-Gen P.D. de Wet and orders were issued to continue the move westwards towards Bloemfontein.  As the transport waggons jammed together at the drift across the Koornspruit they were ambushed by C.R. de Wet's party which also took six guns of 'U' battery Royal Horse Artillery. Broadwood managed to marshall the remains of his convoy to a drift upstream and continue westwards, but one-third of his column had been either killed, wounded or captured and he had lost seven guns and 83 supply waggons.  In considering the record of the attempts to save other guns from capture, Field Marshal Lord Roberts decided that this was a case of collective gallantry by the officers, drivers and gunners of 'Q' battery Royal Horse Artillery.  Accordingly Victoria Crosses were awarded to Maj E.J. Phipps-Hornby, Sgt C. Parker (elected by the noncommissioned officers) and Gunner I. Lodge and Driver H.H. Glassock (elected by the drivers and gunners).  For his gallantry on the same occasion, Lt F.A. Maxwell, Indian Staff Corps attached to Roberts' Light Horse, was also awarded the Victoria Cross.