The Second Anglo Boer War centenary celebrations took place in 2001, and since that time we saw a flow of new historical writings on the subject. These articles just illustrate how the great fight between the South African Boers (Burghers) and the British of more than a hundred in years past continue to exercise a fascination. The Anglo Boer war was not yet another war. It was a war that will happened in a very exciting time in our own history, the beginning of the technological age. The most fascinating question of this battle was probably how the 60, 291 Boer Burghers (untrained, unskilled and undisciplined) could hold the 458, 610 well trained soldiers of the British at bay for so long. The answer might are located in the fact that the British seriously underestimated the fire power of the HUGE GUNS of the Boers.
The secret weapon of the Boers that made a big difference was the legendary LONG TOM. The 155mm Creosot gun, earned this nickname (given by the British) due to due to the long barrel and its lengthy firing range. President Paul Kruger was not very pleased with this name, however it soon became a popular word upon everybody’s lips and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it. Kruger imported these guns from Schneider and Co in Creosot (France) within 1886, mainly to serve as castle guns to protect the city of Pretoria from enemy attacks. Each of the four Long Toms ordered was provided complete with 8000 shells. This was a great fortress gun, because when raised, the 94 lb (42, six kg) shells could fired far away of about 11 000 yards (10 154 m), which was the longest range of any gun in use in that time. Each of the four guns received a name based on the name of the hill on which the fortresses were positioned, intended to defend the main methods to Pretoria, namely Wonderboompoort, Klapperkop, Schanzkop, and Daspoort. Recoil goes together with a heavy firing power. To maintain the big gun in position after a photo it had to be mounted on a special bottom plate with the brakes bolted lower. Later during one of the wars the particular Boers used these pieces in action without a base plate, which send out the gun running backwards with regard to 40 meters. The Boers after that realized that this was a good strategy to use if they need to retreat quickly.
When war broke out between Britain as well as the Boer Republics in September 1899, the Boer War Council figured out their careful plans to assault the British forces. They decided to attack the two main forces in Ladysmith and Dundee. It was only then that the council decided to send two Long Toms to the battlefront. These guns were certainly not designed as a field gun and the Uk nowhere nearly imagined to find themselves end up in a duel with these weapons.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was your weight of these heavy guns, because each gun weighed nearly seven tons. The ammunition of a Long Tom was just as heavy since the gun itself, weighing about 40kg each. It was beyond everybody’s imagination that these guns could be transported more than rough terrain to the battlefield, and definitely not up a mountain. Twelve to fourteen oxen were required to pull these guns on level ground, and up to another twenty to forty oxen were required for large angles or difficult terrain. But the Boers made a plan. They were initially transported by rail as far as probable and only later pulled by a carriage and oxen. These guns then arrived in Natal by rail during October 1899, and they were eventually dragged to the battle fields along with great success and with the admiration from the British gunners.
Already during the 1st battles in Natal, the British forces realized that their own artillery were much inferior to the long range Boer guns. After the successes on Elandslaagte and Rietfontein, Joubert as well as the State Artillery were moving to Ladysmith across form Dundee, and the Free Staters were to the northern and west. The two forces ultimately united to attack General White-colored in Ladysmith. The main difficulty that will both armies experienced in this area had been of course the geography. There are plenty of hills, up’s and down’s, with the Tugela river twisting through the area. To go the LONG TOMS was not easy, but they did it. To make things even worse, they also had to reckon with an periodic thick blanket of mist that will caused bad visibility, and then the normal rain, hail and thunderstorms. They will even had to cross a lake! This of course did not discourage their state Artillery and they reached the area of Ladysmith. The next challenge was to haul the heavy guns up the steep and slippery hills. Astonishingly the also succeeded with this procedure, and the Boers soon occupied several strategical positions on the hills close to Ladysmith.
The siege of Ladysmith was slowly falling into location.
The commandos soon occupied Umbulwana, Pepworth, and Nicholsnek. From this higher ground they had a good view on the town of Ladysmith during fine and clear days. The initial position from the State Artillery was upon one of the spurs of Signal Hill, exactly where they had two 75mm Krupp weapons and three other lighter weapons Commandant S. P. E Trichard was in charge of the 1st Battery of the State Artillery and Gran Wolmarans in charge of the 2nd Battery. As the day went on, the artillery strength on the hills around Ladysmith increased steadily. Some guns were positioned on Pepworth Hill, including a Long Tom. The activities on Pepworth (3 miles away) were clearly visible through Ladysmith, and the British observed the operations with astonishment. Here’s more information on px4 storm f visit our web site.
The British did not have guns that were the match for the BIG GUNS from the Boers. White did order a few long range Navel guns from Captain Percy Scott, but they had been still underway. The Republican causes of Joubert were positioned in the half circle from the north towards the south east of Ladysmith. During the day General Joubert joined up with Christiaan de Wet. On his arrival it was resolved that the Transvalers should proceed to the north of Ladysmith and occupy positions on the east of Nicholson’s Nek, whilst the Free Staters were to go to the west and north-west of that town.
Surrounded by Boer commandos and artillery, the town associated with Ladysmith was captured in a siege, a typical Boer strategy.
The LONG TOMS unfortunately had a big drawback, it still used black natural powder. A cloud of white smoke could be seen from a long distance after each shot. This, unfortunately, revealed its position. It has been said that the Long Tom that was used to pound the besieged town of Ladysmith, took 30 seconds from the period that its white puff had been sighted by a lookout, to once the heavy projectile slammed into the town. It was not long before the smoke from your LONG TOM revealed it place to the British. The State Artillery weapons on Pepworth hill showed incredible courage during this battle. They kept their positions at a stage when the British artillery managed to launch an extremely fierce and intensive attack on them. The crest of the hill has been literally transformed into a continuous blaze of exploding bombs, bursting shells and flying shrapnel. The gunners maintained serving the guns until extremely badly or mortally wounded. Many of them even continued fighting even though they lost an arm or hands.
Dr Holhs, from the medical employees of the State Artillery was frantically helping the wounded gunners till he was also killed by a covering. With only a few guns, the State Artillery managed to hold their ground across the fighting front of almost eleven kilometers long. They became each feared and famous during the discord, and many stories about these guns still remain to this day. It afterwards became evident that the heavy shooting power and long range of the Long Toms made life very difficult for the British Army.
story often told is how, on Christmas day, the Boers had shot a Long Tom shell off to Kimberley. Upon digging up the cover from the place where it experienced struck, the souvenir-hunters discovered, for their utter astonishment, a small token from the Boers’ unique sense of humor. The shell contained a Christmas pudding, perfectly wrapped in an Union Jack, with the words: “Compliments of the Season, inch written on it!
The Boers furthermore had a mournful day on the 9th of December. During the nights, groups of British soldiers would sneak from the besieged town to try and harm the Boers. During the night of 9 Dec, such a party of daring troops had snuck out and was able to sneak up Lombards Hill. Their state Artillery gunners were taking a crack from the long day of providing the Long Tom near Weapon Hill and the Bronkhorstspruit Commando would be to take over the watch. They dropped asleep themselves, leaving the Long Tom unguarded and allowing the British soldiers to sneak passed them and capture the weapon. Luckily (due to its size) the British soldiers could not proceed it, but only removed the breech screw and then damaged the breech and muzzle by pushing a bundle of gun cotton straight down its throat and firing it off. To add insult to injury they then absconded with its sponges, the particular immensely heavy and all-important breech-block, and the gun sight, still sighted at 8, 000 metres! The Boers had to send their large weight champion off to Pretoria, where the damaged part was cut-off, and the barrel shortened.
These repairs were done by the workshop from the Dutch South African Railway Corporation. After that, this Long Tom grew to become widely known as “The Jew! ”
Since then the night of 9 December was remembered as the “night associated with disgrace”. As punishment the State Artillery members had to abstain from sleeping on the night time of 9th December. This “punishment” is still one of the voluntary traditions from the Transvaal State Artillery today.
During the early stages of the Anglo Boer War, the British were outranged from the guns of the State Artillery. This took the commanding officers (e. g. Buller) some time to realize which they were hampered with this out-of-date army strategy, and that this strategy did not work against the Boer strategies. It often led to many casualties and deaths since the Boers were equipped with quick firing rifles and were excellent marksmen. The British also had drawback that some of their weapons were quick becoming obsolete. At this stage they required the navy’s assistance. The re-enforcement of the forces with naval weapons was later described as ‘the guns which saved Ladysmith. ‘ Afterwards, the heavy guns were used, but in penny packets ‘because they were there’, and not in their proper tasks.
Captain Percy Scott was the navy’s foremost gunnery expert at that time, and had to decide which gun to provide. It had to be a gun with a greater range than that available to the army at that stage and that could deal with the Boer guns. Certainly one of his options was to use guns held in the various depots ashore and guns mounted in the boats of the Cape Squadron, although these types of guns were not normally considered to be used ashore. His first choice was the 12-pounder 12-cwt Quick Firing weapon. This gun was specially designed for use against torpedo boats. With a selection of 8000 yards (7385 m) regarding common shell and 4500 yards (4154 m) for shrapnel, it might be able to hold its own against the modern guns of the State Artillery. Scott bought a pair of Cape wagon tires, and an axletree. The father, shipwrights and blacksmiths worked 24 / 7 and in 24 hours the first gun has been ready. Although the result looked amateurish, it worked, and some trial rounds were fired to ensure that all had been well. In the face of some official obstruction, Scott produced four guns by 25 October. Longer in the barrel (and in range) than the army’s 12-prs, these guns were quickly to be known as ‘Long 12s’.