The story of veteran Gordon Cummings had long eluded war historian, William (Bill) Streeter of Southampton until 2017.
Gordon Cummings was born on December 13th, 1875 in Saugeen Township (Bruce County).
His parents were Patrick and Barbara and his father Patrick was the reeve of Saugeen Township in 1900 and was also the Warden of Bruce County.
The British were at war with the Boers in South Africa in 1900 and Gordon sailed to England and joined Kitcheners’ Horse brigade that August and soon found himself in South Africa fighting in the war.
The Boers were comprised of the combined forces of the South African Republic and the Republic of the Orange Free State.
After the British invaded Pretoria in June 1900, the Boer troops commenced guerrilla warfare throughout the region that continued until war ended in 1902. The Western Transvaal area was suited for this type of warfare and the Boers led by General Koos de la Rey were often successful.
Nootigedacht is included in a long list of battles that the Boers had success in. It was here that the British camped at a farm that was owned by a British family. They were led by General-Major R. A. P. Clement with 1,500 men, nine canons and more than 100 wagons of supplies.
The farm was at the base of a mountain in a gorge and the British had 150 men at the top, on watch, overlooking the camp and the surrounding area.
The Boers, under de la Rey, were joined by a group led by Christiaan Beyers which gave them a larger force totaling 2,100 compared to the 1,500 British under Clement.
In the dark of night, Boer commandos climbed the mountain and attacked the British outlooks. This is historically analyzed as one of the most able and courageous attempts in the war.
The success of the commandos led to the British in the gorge below being exposed to fire from above and they were trapped, unable to exit the gorge due to being outnumbered by the Boers.
Gordon Cummings died attempting to provide the look-outs on the mountain with additional ammunition from the base camp.
General Major Clement, in fear of having his group annihilated trapped in the gorge, led his troops on horseback through the Boer guerrillas, attempting to escape. The result was the largest loss of British lives in the Boer War.
Rather than pursue Clement and his troops, the Boers instead looted the massive supply train which gave them much needed supplies and ammunition.
In the battle, the British lost 650 men, either killed, wounded of captured out of a total of 1,500. The Boers lost only 30 men.
The battle was fought on December 13th, 1900 … it was Gordon Cummings 25th birthday.
Researched by G. William Streeter