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A Handbook of the Boer War

And another group at Damvallei


Reinforcements

of "Zarps" from the Transvaal, and of contingents under Delarey and P. de Wet, came in, and a force of about 5,000 men was rallied, to make one more rearguard stand against Lord Roberts. In the absence of C. de Wet, who had been called away to Bloemfontein, Delarey was in command.

Lord Roberts' scheme for the advance on Bloemfontein was based on reports that the Boers would take up a strong position a few miles N.W. of the capital. He divided his force into three columns, each having a cavalry brigade attached to it, which, marching by different routes to a point south of the city, would cut the railway and turn the Boer flank. On March 10 the advance began, French being in command of the left column, which alone was seriously engaged during the march.

The position taken up by the Boers at Abraham's Kraal at first only included a group of kopjes near the river, and another group at Damvallei, but eventually it was extended further south to Driefontein and Boschrand, in order to command another road to Bloemfontein.

In accordance with Lord Roberts' instructions, and to the great disappointment of Delarey, who hoped to commit the left column to a frontal attack on the Abraham's Kraal and Damvallei Kopjes, which lay on the direct road to Baberspan, where it was due to bivouac that night, French avoided them, and changed direction towards Driefontein and Boschrand. Delarey, finding

that he was not to be attacked on his right, reinforced Driefontein Hill, which, as it happened, had just been evacuated by De Wet, who had returned from Bloemfontein. The occupation of a detached spur of the Boschrand by a chance body of mounted infantry from the centre column, and a threatening movement of that column's cavalry brigade, had drawn him away from Driefontein on to the crest of the Boschrand. French's change of direction caused the march of his column to converge upon that of the centre column, and he was now crossing the front of a sinuous line of ten miles occupied by the enemy, and extending from the Boschrand, through Driefontein, Damvallei, and the Abraham's Kraal Kopjes to Oertel's Drift on the Modder. The right of the line had already diverted French from his march on the appointed bivouac, which he now proposed to reach by turning the left.

Suddenly Delarey opened fire from Driefontein on the cavalry, and the advance of the infantry had to be delayed while the situation was examined. The result of the reconnaissance determined Kelly-Kenny, who was in command of the left column's infantry, to attack the minor features of Delarey's position. He was unable to communicate with French, but the latter, as soon as he saw that Kelly-Kenny had achieved his object, ordered a turning movement by the cavalry.

The cavalry of the centre column, which earlier in the day had been informed that French was not in need of its assistance, co-operated imperfectly. The afternoon was wearing away, and Kelly-Kenny, while waiting impatiently for the turning movement to take effect, received a message from Lord Roberts, instructing him to push on, as it was believed that the enemy's position was not held in great strength.


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