British Soldiers Boer War

A Great Tale Of Military Bravery - But It’s Unlikely You’ve Heard It

British Soldiers Boer War

It’s one of the early 20th century's greatest tales of military bravery - but it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of it.

Today marks 117 years exactly since the Battle of Leliefontein - one of the most difficult battles faced by the Canadian infantry, who were fighting for the British, during the Boer War of 1899-1902.

It was early in the morning of November 6th when the British troops set out from the South African town of Belfast, riding south to disperse a Boer camp situated near the Komati River.

Part of the formation was made up of the Canadian Mounted Rifles, the Royal Canadian Dragoons, and one section of "D" Battery, Royal Canadian Field Artillery, with two 12-pounder guns.

Successful in forcing the Boer troops across the river, the column set up camp for the night near a farm named Leiliefontein.

Canadian Soldiers Boer War
PICTURED: Canadian Soldiers Heading Off To Take Part In The Boer War

Fearing the addition of Boer reinforcements overnight, however, the British commander issued orders for a return to the town.

Under the leadership of Lieutenant-Colonel François-Louis Lessard of the Dragoon, the Royal Canadian Dragoons were ordered to cover the withdrawal.

With only 90 men and a horse-drawn machine gun, the troop fended off a series of attacks from the Boers, culminating in a charge of over two-hundred mounted warriors firing from the saddle.

This attack came close to capturing the field guns carried by the troops.

However, thanks to the gallantry of the small party of Dragoons, the Boer commanders were killed and the Canadians able to re-join the retreating British column.

The battle now goes down in history as the most difficult and desperate situations faced by the Canadian element of the British Army during the Boer War.

Luckily, of the 90-odd troops involved, only three were killed.

Thanks to the bravery of the Dragoons, it is also one of the most highly decorated - Victoria Crosses were awarded to Lieutenants H.Z. C. Cockburn, R.E.W. Turner and Sergeant E.J. Holland.

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