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Battle of Roodewal - 11 April 1902

Near Delareyville

After the battle of Boschbult and several failed drive operations of the British troops, the British supreme resolved to send Sir Ian Hamilton to West-Transvaal to take over command for the final onslaught against Gen. De la Rey's commando. Hamilton joined Col. Kekewich on Middelbult, which he would use a head quarter.

In short, Hamilton's plan was: "...to sweep around the south and east in a semicircle of 140 miles (163 km), by the Great Hart's River and the Vaal, and so to Klerksdorp." The whole operation had to be concluded within 4 days as supplies could only be taken for 4 days. Only enough for one manoeuvre. "The first day was devoted to preliminary movements. At the end of the second day the troops were to take up an in trenched line on the Brak Spruit, with the right touching the Great Hart's. On the third day they were to march due south for forty miles; and on the forth to swing round to the east, till the right touched the Vaal, and then drive to Klerksdorp." (Times History, Vol V, p. 528). Kekewich was on the right flank, Kitchener in the middle and Rawlinson on the left. Rockfort would lie still next to the Vaal.

On 10 April the massive war machine moved into position for one of the biggest cattle operations that Africa has ever experienced. Although Kekewich were not in position due to a misunderstanding, the situation was corrected by nightfall. The human pitfall was ready on the evening of 10 April. The Boers and the British realised that it was the threshold of the last great battle of the war in SA. Gen. De la Rey was in Klerksdorp for peace negotiations and Gen. JC Kemp was in command of the Boer forces.

His decision that night on the court martial to attack the English overweight, was strongly objected to by among others Cmdt. Potgieter of Wolmaranstad. Also Oom Niklaas Siener warned Kemp. Kemp's commando was as follows: Gens. Liebenberg (Potchefstroom and Wolmaranstad), Celliers (Lichtenburg and Bloemhof), Cmdt. Potgieter (Rustenburg, Pretoria-West and Krugersdorp). He led Kemp's commandos.

Kemp's decision to attack was influenced by information of his scouts that Kekewich was not in position and he was not aware that it had been corrected. Hamilton was almost sure that Kemp would attack that position and Kekewich ordered to march in closed order and not in spread lines. With first light on 11 April 1902, the Boers started their now famous charge. However, it soon became clear that they underestimated the enemy's force on that flank.

The body of Comdt. Ferdinand Potgieter. He was buried on the same spot.
Heavy barrage killed the Boer lines mercilessly. Burghers on the left wing did penetrate to Kekewich's wagons, but were demolished in the middle. Rawlinson arrived and chased Liebenberg away from the right flank and Kemp instructed that the commandos fall back. It was too late for Cmdt. Potgieter. He died 70 yards from the English trenches. According to his last wish the previous night, he was buried right there, and in the position that he died.

50 Boers were killed and 30 were wounded according to British sources. Boer sources say that 32 were killed and 120 were wounded.

Info by P.J.de Jager, Ottosdal.

Battlefield Cemetry - Roodewal

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