19 February 1900, Lord Roberts takes command of the British army at Paardeberg.
19 February 1900, Various buildings in Kimberley taken over for use as temporary hospitals by the British army.
DID YOU KNOW
The distant rumble of guns alerted the citizens of Kimberley to yet another large battle in the near vicinity on the 18th February 1900, this time at Paardeberg, some 41 kilometres east of the town.
Lord Kitchener, in temporary command of the British army while Lord Roberts was indisposed, launched frontal assault after frontal assault on the dug-in Boers of General Piet Cronje at Vendutie Drift and along the Modder River. It would result in the worst casualty figures for the British during the entire war – 320 soldiers killed and 942 wounded.
Despite his illness, on 19 February Lord Roberts arrived to take command and immediately halted the insane infantry charges on the Boer laager. His immediate concern was the wounded soldiers and he dispatched Kitchener to Kimberley where he arranged that both Christian Brothers’ College and Nazareth House be turned into temporary hospitals. The Masonic Temple too, would be utilised as a hospital.
CBC was closed because of the siege (recently lifted on 15 February) and with the Nazareth House sisters being medically trained it would help the British army immensely.
By late that day of 19 February the wounded were being brought in to the temporary hospitals by wagons and carts.
Both CBC and Nazareth House would remain as hospitals until May 1900 with further influx of British soldiers because of the water-borne diseases enteric and dysentery.
19 February 1900, Lord Roberts VC of Kandahar (pictured) takes over command of the British army at Paardeberg from Lord Kitchener.
19 February 1900, General Naas Ferreira (pictured) accidentally killed at Paardeberg.
DID YOU KNOW
It would seem that Lord Kitchener had no qualms about his handling of the British forces at Paardeberg; but this is not entirely true, for on the day after Kitchener ordered the assault on General Cronjé’s laager, the American military observer attached to Lord Roberts’s troops overheard the celebrated English General say: ‘If I had known yesterday, the 18th, what I know today; I would not have attacked the Boers in the river bed; it is impossible against that rifle.’ These words were not those of a person pleased with his recent actions. There is no doubt that Kitchener believed he was right in attacking the laager, but it is also obvious that he questioned the methods by which he attempted to achieve his ends.
On Monday, February 19, 1900, Lord Roberts arrived at Paardeberg and once again took over the command of all the troops. At first he agreed with Kitchener to renew the attack because of the possibility that Cronjé might receive substantial assistance, but after surveying the situation, Roberts decided against such action. He believed his forces were strong enough to beat back any commandos attempting to rescue Cronjé, and that the respite would be most beneficial to his forces and mounts which had suffered a costly setback on the previous day.
Early this same Monday morning, while General Naas Ferreira was making the rounds of his position outside the British lines, surrounding the laager, he found one of his sentinels asleep at his post. He prodded him with the butt of his Mauser to rouse him, when the burgher, startled from his slumber, and prompted by the thought that he was attacked by the enemy, seized the general’s gun at the breech, when the weapon went off, killing the Commandant-General; the bullet passing through his heart as he was leaning over the frightened burgher. A hero of Magersfontein, Naas Ferreira was one of the best of men, loved by all who knew him, and his brief head commandant-ship of the western Free State forces in succession to General Wessels, who had resigned, was very popular with all the burghers. His tragic death was a severe blow to the already sorely-tried defenders of Cronje’s laager. General Christiaan De Wet was immediately appointed Chief Commandant of the Free State army, in succession to Ferreira.