Let us pass on to the 21st of August, 1900. Buller's army had by this time effected a junction with that of Lord Roberts' between Wonderfontein and Komati River. The commandos under Generals Piet Viljoen and Joachim Fourie had now joined us, and taken up a position on our left, from Rooikraal to Komati Bridge. The enemy's numbers were estimated at 60,000, with about 130 guns, including twelve 4•7 naval guns, in addition to the necessary Maxims.
We had about 4,000 men at the most with six Maxims and about thirteen guns of various sizes. Our extreme left was first attacked by the enemy while they took possession of Belfast and Monument Hill, a little eastward, thereby threatening the whole of our fighting lines. My commandos were stationed to the right and left of the railway and partly round Monument Hill. Fighting had been going on at intervals all day long, between my burghers and the enemy's outposts. The fighting on our left wing lasted till late in the afternoon, when the enemy was repulsed with heavy losses; while a company of infantry which had pushed on too far during the fighting, through some misunderstanding or something of that sort, were cut off and captured by the Bethel burghers.
The attack was renewed the next morning, several positions being assailed in turn, while an uninterrupted gunfire was kept up. General Duller was commanding the enemy's right flank and General French was in charge of the left. We were able to resist all attacks and the battle went on for six days without a decisive result. The enemy had tried to break through nearly every weak point in our fighting line and found out that the key to all our positions existed in a prominent "randje" to the right of the railway. This point was being defended by our brave Johannesburg police, while on the right were the Krugersdorpers and Johannesburgers and to the left the burghers from Germiston. Thus we had another "Spion Kop" fight for six long days. The Boers held their ground with determination, and many charges were repulsed by the burghers with great bravery. But the English were not to be discouraged by the loss of many valiant soldiers and any failure to dislodge the Boers from the "klip-kopjes." They were admirably resolute; but then they were backed up by a superior force of soldiers and artillery.
On the morning of the 27th of August the enemy were obviously bent on concentrating their main force on this "randje." There were naval guns shelling it from different directions, while batteries of field-pieces pounded away incessantly. The "randje" was enveloped by a cloud of smoke and dust. The British Infantry charged under cover of the guns, but the Police and burghers made a brave resistance. The booming of cannon went on without intermission, and the storming was repeated by regiment upon regiment. Our gallant Lieutenant Pohlman was killed in this action, and Commandant Philip Oosthuizen was wounded while fighting manfully against overwhelming odds at the head of his burghers. An hour before sunset the position fell into the hands of the enemy. Our loss was heavy—two officers, 18 men killed or wounded, and 20 missing.
Thus ended one of the fiercest fights of the war. With the exception of the battle of Vaalkrantz (on the Tugela) our commandos had been exposed to the heaviest and most persistent bombardment they had yet experienced. It was by directing an uninterrupted rifle fire from all sides on the lost "randje" that we kept the enemy employed and prevented them from pushing on any farther that evening.
At last came the final order for all to retire via Machadodorp.