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Dornoch Sutherland Volunteers leaving for Boer War
Dornoch Sutherland Volunteers leaving for Boer War

Monochrome group photograph labelled Labelled ‘Dornoch Sutherland Volunteers Leaving for Boer War'.

Back row third from right John Grant of Grant and Sons’

Most of the men are recognisable from 2012.037.03

Front row left to right: – Sergt. Logan; unknown; Pte. A. Murray

Back row left to right: - unknown; Pte. Wm. Ross; L. Corpl. Gunn; Pte. Jas. Aitken; Pte. A. Matheson; Pte John Grant ; Pte. A. MacBeath; Pte. C. Morrison
Picture added on 26 September 2012 at 12:20
Oops...there were a couple of typos in my first version. Here is the amended version...

Seeing this photograph of “Dornoch Sutherland” volunteers leaving for the Boer War brought to my mind an interesting incident that took place at the Second Boer War, Magerfontgein Battle museum, in 1980. This battle took place took place on the 11th of December 1899 a few miles from the town of Kimberly in South Africa and was contested by British forces pitted against Boer forces who were trying to maintain the now famous Kimberly siege. I was then in the Zimbabwe Police’s Fraud Squad and was in Kimberly from Johannesburg and Harare to visit the De Beers Diamond HQ on an illicit diamond dealing investigation that had its origins in Zimbabwe. I was accompanied by a Lieutenant Crappie Deerans of the South African Police’s Diamond Squad…he was my “foot in the door” and interpreter at De Beers. As luck would have it we finished our work earlier than expected and decided to visit the museum.

The museum was then tucked in a hidden saddle of the largish koppie that was the backdrop to the battle field. In front of this koppie there was still visible the long line of trenches which the Boers fought from with devastating effect against the advancing British forces. The museum was well stocked with interesting displays which included the actual uniforms used by the opposing forces. Also displayed were photographs, plans and maps which showed how the Boers lured the British soldiers into their deadly rifle fire from their concealed positions in the newly dug trenches. While my South African colleague and I were studying these displays he got more and more emotional and enthusiastic while bragging of the cunning and marksmanship of the Boers. This I had to endure as it was a long walk back to Johannesburg from Kimberly…!

As we were finishing our tour of the museum we came across a number of desks which had large leather bound registers which gave the names and regiments or units of all the soldiers and seamen…yes British seamen gunners… killed in the battle. I immediately sought out the register that listed the Scottish dead from the battle as I knew from history that the Highland Brigade led by Major General Wauchope played a vital part in trying to storm the trenches. As I paged through this register with Crappie Deerans looking over my shoulder I was shocked by the numbers of “Macs” that were killed and more particularly the number of “Mackays” listed. There was then a deathly hush from my companion and after a rather long and emotional gulp he eventually managed to stammer, “Well Ken, I guess you are looking at this battle from a different angle to me”.

In the battle the Highland Brigade lost over 700 men killed and this number included Major General Wauchope himself. The 2nd Black Watch, the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders, the 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the 1st. Highland Light Infantry were in the first attacking wave and later in the battle The Gordons and The Scots Guards were brought in as reinforcements. The Boer forces were led by their generals Cronje and De La Rey. Both these generals are still held in very high esteem by most Afrikaaners today. The overall British commander was Lord Methuen who prior to this battle had extensive experience and successes in fighting poorly armed indigenous troops in the Sudan and Zululand but here he completely miscalculated the excellent marksmanship of the Boers and the deadliness of their newly issued German made Mauser magazine fed rifles.

Many thanks for your fascinating comment - Administrator
Added by Kenneth Mackay on 25 December 2013
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