SOUTH AFRICA 1877-9, CLASP, 1879 ‘1441 PTE. F. J. PIKE, 3/60TH FOOT’
Private F. J. Pike, 3/60th Rifles served with his Regiment during the Zulu War of 1879 when as part of the 2nd Brigade, they formed part of the Eshowe Relief Column and were present at the Battle of Gingindlovu on 1st April 1879. Here their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Northey, was killed in action. The Regiment remained in South Africa and were present at the disastrous battle of Ingogo River, 8 February 1881. Casualties to the 3/60th at the battle amounted to 4 officers and 61 other ranks killed or died of wounds, a few of whom were drowned. A further 2 officers and 53 other ranks were wounded. Five companies of the 3/60th were involved in the battle of Ingogo River, totalling 289 men. However ‘K’ company, 72 strong had been left on a hill overlooking the river, in reserve. So that actually only 217 men were actually engaged during the battle. This makes the 120 casualties suffered by the regiment all the more devastating, a rate of 56%.
‘The Battle of Schuinshoogte, also known as Battle of Ingogo, was fought on 8 February 1881 during the First Boer War. General Sir George Pomeroy Colley's communications with Newcastle were under constant harassment by mounted Boer patrols under Commander J D Weilbach after the Battle of Laing's Nek (another British defeat) and as a result he planned to clear a path along the Newcastle- Mount Prospect road to better protect the British supply line, and receive fresh reinforcements he needed to bolster his ranks.
At roughly 9 a.m. he left the Mount Prospect camp with a force consisting mostly of infantrymen. A company of the 60th Rifles (King's Royal Rifle Corps) and two artillery pieces were left at a ridge overlooking the Ingogo River, while a handful of mounted men and infantry covered the drift.
As Colley advanced up the slope of the Ingogo he received word from his scouting party that a mainly mounted Boer force under Gen. N J Smith and Comdt. J D Weilbach was approaching nearby. The British formed circular/squared defensive positions on the crest of the ridge with 240 infantry, 38 cavalry and two pieces of artillery while the roughly 300 Boers attempted to surround them and cut them off from escape.
From noon until about 5:00 that evening a series of close range engagements was fought and the British suffered heavily from the accurate and concentrated Boer fire. Although the 60th Rifles wore dark green (in fact, almost black) uniforms, these were still in contrast to the light-coloured South African veldt, the only concession to camouflage being the white foreign service helmet stained khaki with tea. The gunners and mounted troops also wore dark uniforms, but the gunners in particular were exposed when working their guns. In contrast the Boers wore khaki coloured clothing, and were also expert at fieldcraft, thus being able to blend into the environment.
Afterward heavy rain began to fall and the battle came to an abrupt end. Rainfall swelled the Ingogo river, making it very difficult to ford. Boer forces, imagining that the British would be unable to cross, especially with artillery, waited during the night to resume the battle the next day. Colley's men, meanwhile, made a desperate night march, and managed to escape, horses, guns and all, although several men drowned in the river crossing. The Boer failure to assault and capture the guns during the rainstorm, allowing the British column to escape, probably represents their only major error during the war.’
According to Colonel Sir Percival Marling, V.C., C.B;
‘Nothing could have been more gallant than their behaviour, many of them being quite young soldiers.’ Casualties in the 3/60th at Ingogo River amounted to 4 officers and 61 other ranks killed or died of wounds, a few of whom were drowned. A further 2 officers and 53 other ranks were wounded.’ Condition edge bruise, otherwise EF. Ex DNW July 2003. A fine and scarce Ingogo River casualty medal.