The Battle of Slingersfontein 12th February 1900

The 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment left Bermuda on 25 November 1899 under the command of Lt. Col. C. Coningham. They landed at Southampton and spent ten days at Aldershot in freezing winter weather, before leaving for South Africa from Southampton on 17 December 1899 aboard SS Tintagel Castle.

The Battalion arrived at Cape Town on 12 January 1900 where the Boer War had been in progress for three months.  They travelled by train to Rensburg and then marched 18 miles to take over the outpost at Slingersfontein from the cavalry. Slingersfontein was a farm on the extreme right flank of the British line.

British encampment at Slingersfontein

 Patrols were in action every day and captured several Boers from whom they learned that an attack was imminent. The attack came before dawn on 12 February 1900, exactly a month after the Battalion had arrived in South Africa. They were attacked by 300 of the South Africans Republic (Transvaal) Police, known as the “Zarps”, the storm troops of the Boer Forces.

The weight of the attack was at the extreme right held by A, C and E Companies under Battalion Major Stubbs. The forward picquets were overrun, but no ground was lost. The landscape was hilly scrub land and the battle was centred around Pinnacle Hill, Burnt Hill and Signal Hill.

Lt. Col. Coningham went to take command, but was shot in the head by a sniper as he directed operations from the top of Pinnacle Hill. Major Stubbs and Captain Thomas were also killed. Captain Hovell assumed command of the three companies.

A sentry on Pinnacle hill

Pinnacle Hill was held throughout the day. E Company led by Major Stubbs held onto the lower slopes assisted by C Company and well directed fire from A Company. In spite of heavy attacks during the day, they held fast and did not give ground. They made several counter attacks, but were unable to drive the Boers from the crests of Signal Hill and Burnt Hill.

The defence was helped by fire from four guns of J Battery, RHA and one lowitzer, which kept all lost ground under heavy bombardment and eventually setting fire to the scrub on Burnt Hill, enveloping the position in clouds of smoke.

After the all day fight, with great casualties inflicted on the enemy, the Boers retired. Three officers had been lost, 22 men killed and three officers and 47 men wounded.

The Worcesters burials at Slingersfontein, note Lt.Col Coningham and Major Stubbs crosses in the foreground

The successful defence was largely due to the high standard of musketry in the Battalion. Boers taken prisoner were reputed to have said that they had never met such accurate and well directed fire.

The Worcestershire Regiment Monument below Pinnacle Hill, Slingersfontein, South Africa

 A memorial was erected below Pinnacle Hill over the graves of the fallen. It occupies a prominent spot some 200 feet above the surrounding country. It is a granite cross, and at its foot, a plaque is inset into the mound naming Lt. Col. Coningham, the Officers, N.C.O.s and men who died. The foundation of the memorial contains the empty rifle cartridges from the battle.