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Freddie Tait

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY 07 FEBRUARY

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7 February 1900, Famous British golfer, Freddie Tait, killed fighting Boers at the battle of Koodoosberg Drift.
7 February 1900, The Boer Long Tom fires into Kimberley for the first time at 11am.
7 February 1901, Military stores burnt out at the Transvaal Road siding.
7 February 1910, The farms Magersfontein and Wildebeestkuil, owned by the late John Bissett, sold on public auction.

(Pictured is Freddie Tait in Black Watch uniform, in the painting that graces the main entrance at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St Andrews, talking with Old Tom Morris, and lining up a putt at the Old Course.)

DID YOU KNOW

Freddie Tait’s death

On the Koodoosberg the fight had intensified by midday on the 7th, the Black Watch in particular on the British right flank skirmishing along the edge of the hill coming under some intense fire from the Boers who at most were some 300 yards off. The heat was intense and there was great difficulty in resupply of ammunition and water up the steep slope to the soldiers in the frontline – this steepness preventing evacuation of most of the wounded.

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Freddie Tait

It was shortly after midday that Freddie Tait and Cecil “Roger” Eykyn were mortally wounded. Major Mowbray Berkeley was with Eykyn when he was shot, stating “Poor Roger was bowled over by my side, mortally wounded, though we did not realize it at the time. He was able to walk away, and was then carried down on a stretcher.”

Private James Scott, one of Tait’s H Company had been right next to him when Tait was fatally wounded. “I got down beside our officer, Lieutenant Tait, on his right hand. He said: ‘Now men, we will fight them at their own game.’ That meant each man was to get behind a rock and just pop up to fire and then down again. And we found it a good way, for we were just as good as they were at it, and we did not forget to let them know it either, for whenever one showed himself down he went with a half-a-dozen bullets through him. After firing for about half an hour the Boers stopped firing, and the order was given not to waste our shot. Lieutenant Tait’s servant came up with his dinner, and he asked me if I would like a bit of dinner, and I said ‘I would’, and thanked him very much. He gave me and another man half his dinner between us. Little did I think when we were joking with one another that we were helping him to eat his last dinner.

“Just as we finished he said: ‘I think we will advance another fifty yards, and perhaps we will see them better and be able to give it to them hot.’ We all got ready again, and Lieutenant Tait shouted, ‘Now boys!’ We were after him like hares. The Boers had seen us and they gave us a hot time of it. But on we went. Just as our officer shouted to get down he was shot. I was just two yards behind him. He cried out ‘Oh! They have done for me this time.’ I cried up to him, ‘Where are you shot, Sir?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ …and never spoke again.”

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Freddie Tait & Tom Morris

Scott himself was later wounded in the leg.

The Boer Long Tom starts firing into Kimberley – from the diary of Winifred Heberden.

Feb 7th. This morning ‘Long Cecil’ had been firing a few shells when suddenly a tremendous bang and the horrible ‘whirr’ of a large shell passed right over the hotel, falling somewhere in the centre of the town.

I jumped to the conclusion that ‘Long Cecil’ had exploded and reversed itself and sent the shell over our heads in consequence, so I rushed up to the top room facing the No.2 Redoubt and Kamfersdam, and looked out, Reggie coming up with me. Whilst we watched I saw a big smoke rising up from Kamfersdam, and, directly after, a shell fell just over the Redoubt into some debris about 300 yards away from the hotel, scattering shrapnel all around and over us, and breaking windows on the other side.

We promptly ran down to the basement, and soon after another shell fell down the road, some 250 yards off, smashed up a Club House and killed a horse at the farrier’s next to it.

It was then that we heard these are 100 lb shells from a 6-inch gun on Kamfersdam, 3.25 miles off. The pieces are of great thickness. This gun has been got up in a wonderfully secret manner, owing to all the machinery and buildings on Kamfersdam obscuring the view, it has been invisible to those on the Conning Tower. It is supposed to be either the Mafeking or Magersfontein gun, most probably the latter.

One piece, 13.5 lbs in weight, entered the open windows of an office next to Mr Labram’s in De Beers Office, struck the safe, glanced off, hit the wall opposite, finally depositing itself in the fireplace, after having completely circled round the owner of the office – who sat still in the middle of the room!

From 12 to 4 p.m. they left us in peace. Then the big gun began again. I was sitting in the hall with Jack and some others, when a 100 lb shell fell into an ironmongers exactly opposite our door across the road. An enormous column of dust arose, for the shell, making a small hole where it entered the roof, fell at an angle to the bottom corner of the store where the explosion made a hole 10 feet wide and 6 feet high, smashing an iron pole across, and doing enormous damage inside. Harry Gibbs had a narrow escape. He was coming down the Market Square and was within 100 yards of the explosion. Jack brought in a workman from the store who was injured; and on examination found him completely scarred with splinters from head to foot. His back had the appearance of that of a man who had been flogged with the ‘cat’.

He had another interval of peace, during which time we managed to eat our horse-meat and pickles; and from 6 to 7 p.m. they shelled us harmlessly with their smaller guns.

From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

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