My Grandfather's War. The Armoured Train incident at Estcourt! (forum archive)
|Posted by CockneyTone » Tue May 05, 2009 1:53 pm|
|The Borders set about reinforcing Escourt, with Ladysmith besieged the Boers were expected to attack at any moment! However the days dragged on and strangely there was no sight or sound of them! At this stage an armoured train arrived on the scene and it was rather rashly sent out daily to reconnoitre towards the town of Colenso which now lay in Boer occupied country! The Border Regiment took it in turns with the Dublin Fusiliers to provide troops to ride on the train as an escort! On the 14th November 1899 it was the turn of a Company of the Borders under Captain Vaughan. He proceeded very slowly and with extreme caution, on reaching Frere he sensibly dropped off a small covering party of men to protect his withdrawal, As they approached Chieveley they came under sniper fire, which they hastily returned. Vaughan immediately halted the train and was astonished to see a party of 200+ mounted Boers galloping in the distance, apparently intending to cut of his retreat! He wasted no time and ordered an immediate withdrawal at full speed, only stopping to pick up his covering party at Frere! Thankfully they returned to Estcourt with no injuries.
The Irony of Fate. The English mail was delivered as the engine and tender of the wrecked armoured train laden with dead and wounded, arrived at Estcourt the day of the disaster at Chieveley, Nov. 15th (drawn by Rene Bull.)
Private Harry Phipps who was not actually on the train interestingly recorded in his diary an account “Great uneasiness was caused by the non-appearance of a company of ours who had gone in the Armoured Train up to Chieveley. All kind of rumours were knocking around and every catastrophe had happened to them, eventually they turned up with nothing more serious happening to them than being half starved. They were the heroes of the hour, for some had actually seen some Boers, and some had really fired at the enemy, although nobody took any notice of the fact they scooted back when the enemy started to advance.”