Inniskilling Hill, Northern Natal.

Event
Friday, 23 February, 1900 - Sunday, 25 February, 1900
Battle for Inniskilling Hill.

On 23 February 1900, General Sir Redvers Buller's corps, in yet another major attempt to relieve Ladysmith, attacked the Boer position on the heights near Colenso. The 1st Battalion The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers played a leading role in the 5 (Irish) Brigade attack against the key feature later known as 'Inniskilling Hill'.

There were three separate desperate assaults by the Inniskillings, supported by The Royal Dublin Fusiliers and The Connaught Rangers, to dislodge the Boers from this heavily defended position. Under accurate Boer fire, the Inniskillings forced their way up, scrambling over and around boulders, until they eventually reached a false crest near the summit. As they crossed the crest the Boers, from their well sited trenches, opened fire and inflicted many casualties. 'There was no enemy to see and nothing to fire at. All we had to do was to lie as close to the ground as we could, watch the bullets pitting the earth round us and wonder whose turn it would be to be hit next'. The attack could go no further.

Men sought what cover they could but, without entrenching tools, made little impression on the hard rocky soil. There was hardly any water available as hundreds of wounded lay groaning in the open. Those officers still alive tried to re-organise the unwounded men below the false crest and waited for further orders which did not arrive. The Commanding Officer was a casualty too and command of the Battalion changed four times in 24 hours.

Soon after dawn on 24 February, the Inniskillings were ordered to withdraw. Meanwhile the wounded remained in the open on the hillsides for another night until a truce was arranged for the morning of the 25 February. During the truce, many Boers left their positions and gave water, cigarettes and medical assistance to those wounded. By the end of the fighting, the Inniskillings had suffered 60 killed, 168 wounded and 24 missing out of a strength of 512. Boxes containing chocolate were found on the bodies of many of the dead; these had been a Christmas present sent by Queen Victoria to all troops serving in South Africa. The Battalion Medical Officer, Lieutenant E T Inkson RAMC was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Winston Churchill wrote in the 'Morning Post':

'The Inniskillings had almost reached their goal but they were too few: thus confronted, the Irish perished rather than retire'.