The Second Anglo Boer War centenary celebrations took place in 2001, and since then we saw a flow of new historic writings on the subject. These articles just illustrate how the great battle between the South Photography equipment Boers (Burghers) and the Uk of more than a hundred years ago still exercise a fascination. The particular Anglo Boer war had not been just another war. It was a war that happened in a really exciting time in our background, the beginning of the technological age. The most fascinating question of the war was probably the way the 60, 291 Boer Burghers (untrained, unskilled and undisciplined) could hold the 458, 610 well trained soldiers of the United kingdom at bay for so long. The solution might lie in the fact how the British seriously underestimated the fire power of the LARGE GUNS of the Boers.
The key weapon of the Boers that will made a big difference was the well-known LONG TOM. The 155mm Creosot gun, earned this nickname (given by the British) due to due to the long barrel or clip and its long firing variety. President Paul Kruger was not very pleased with this name, but it soon became a popular word on everybody’s lips plus there was nothing he could perform about it.
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Kruger imported these types of guns from Schneider and Co in Creosot (France) in 1886, mainly to serve as fortress guns to protect the city of Pretoria through enemy attacks. Each of the 4 Long Toms ordered was supplied complete with 8000 shells. This was an excellent fortress gun, because when elevated, the 94 lb (42, 6 kg) shells could fired at a distance of about 11 500 yards (10 154 m), which was the longest selection of any gun in use during that time. Each of the four guns received a name based on the name of the hill where the fortresses were situated, intended to defend the main approaches to Pretoria, namely Wonderboompoort, Klapperkop, Schanzkop, and Daspoort. Recoil goes hand in hand with a weighty firing power. To keep the best gun in position after a photo it had to be mounted on an unique base plate with the brake systems bolted down. Later throughout one of the wars the Boers used these pieces in action without a base plate, which send the gun working backwards for 40 meters. The Boers then noticed that this was a good strategy to use when they need to retreat quickly.
When war broke out in between Britain and the Boer Republics in September 1899, the particular Boer War Council figured out their careful plans in order to attack the British causes. They decided to attack both main forces in Ladysmith and Dundee. It was just then that the council chose to send two Long Toms to the battlefront. These weapons were certainly not designed being a field gun and the British nowhere nearly imagined to find themselves end up in a duel with these guns.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was the excess weight of these heavy guns, as each gun weighed nearly 7 tons. The ammunition of a Long Tom was just as heavy as the weapon itself, weighing about 40kg each. It was beyond every person’s imagination that these guns could be transported over rough landscape to the battlefield, and definitely not really up a mountain. Twelve to fourteen oxen had been required to pull these weapons on level ground, or more to another twenty to 40 oxen were required for large angles or difficult landscape. But the Boers made a strategy. They were initially transported simply by rail as far as possible in support of later pulled by a carriage and oxen. These guns then arrived in Natal simply by rail during October 1899, and they were eventually pulled to the battle fields along with great success and with the affection of the British gunners.
Already during the first battles within Natal, the British makes realized that their own artillery had been much inferior to the long range Boer guns. After the successes at Elandslaagte and Rietfontein, Joubert and the Condition Artillery were moving to Ladysmith across form Dundee, and the Free Staters were to the north and western world. The two forces eventually united to attack General White in Ladysmith. The main difficulty that both armies encountered in this area was of course the particular geography. There are plenty of hills, up’s and down’s, with the Tugela river twisting through the region. To move the LONG TOMS was not easy, but they did it. To make things worse, in addition they had to reckon with an periodic thick blanket of mist that caused bad presence, and then the regular rain, are and thunderstorms. They actually had to cross a riv! This of course did not discourage the State Artillery and they arrived at the area of Ladysmith. The next challenge was to transport the heavy guns up the steep and slippery hills. Astonishingly the also succeeded with this operation, and the Boers soon occupied a few strategical positions on the hills close to Ladysmith.
The siege of Ladysmith was slowly dropping into place.
The commandos soon occupied Umbulwana, Pepworth, and Nicholsnek. From this higher ground they had a good approach to the town of Ladysmith throughout fine and clear times. The initial position of the State Artillery was upon one of the spurs of Signal Mountain, where they had two 75mm Krupp guns and three other lighter guns Commandant S. P. E Trichard was in charge of the first Battery of the State Artillery and Mayor Wolmarans in charge of the 2nd Battery. As the day time went on, the artillery strength on the hills around Ladysmith increased steadily. Some guns were positioned on Pepworth Hill, including a Long Tom. Those activities on Pepworth (3 mls away) were clearly noticeable from Ladysmith, and the British observed the operations along with astonishment. The British did not have guns that were a match for the BIG WEAPONS of the Boers. White do order some long variety Navel guns from Captain Percy Scott, but they were still underway. The Conservative forces of Joubert were positioned in a half circle from the north to the south east of Ladysmith. During the day Common Joubert joined up with Christiaan de Wet. On his appearance it was settled that the Transvalers should proceed to the northern of Ladysmith and take up positions on the east of Nicholson’s Nek, whilst the Free Staters were to visit the west and north-west of the town.
Surrounded by Boer commandos and artillery, the town of Ladysmith was captured in a siege, a typical Boer strategy.
The LONG TOMS unfortunately had a big disadvantage, it still used black powder. A cloud of white smoke could be observed from a long distance after every shot. This, unfortunately, uncovered its position. It has been stated that the Long Tom which was used to pound the besieged town of Ladysmith, got 30 seconds from the period that its white smoke was sighted by a lookout, to when the heavy projectile slammed into the town. It was not long before the smoke from your LONG TOM revealed this position to the British. Their state Artillery guns on Pepworth hill showed extraordinary bravery during this battle. They held their positions at a stage when the British artillery was able to launch a very fierce plus intensive attack on them. The particular crest of the hill has been literally transformed into a continuous blaze of exploding bombs, bursting shells and flying shrapnel. The gunners kept on serving the guns until quite badly or mortally injured. Some of them even continued combating even though they lost a good arm or hand.