September 26th, 1914 - Battle of Sandfontein
Pictured - South African cavalry cross a river in Southwest Africa. It has often been said that horses were the real heroes of the African campaign.
The South African force that invaded German Southwest Africa was divided into separate columns, one of which was Force A, around 3,000 men and four guns commanded by Sir Henry Lukin. This battle group marched towards the town of Sandfontein in late September, hoping to revitalize the men after a tiring journey with the wells of the town. However, they failed to pay heed to the movements of the German forces known to be in the area.
The South African forces straggled onwards, exhausted and dehydrated, without worrying about the German dispositions. Suddenly, a German trap was sprung, and four German machine guns opened fire on the surprised South Africans. The machine guns gave cover to the 1,700 German riflemen, almost entirely askaris (black African soldiers).
The German pounce was led by Joachin von Heydebreck, who performed his task well. His ten artillery places had excellent positions and they rained down fire from a mountain onto the South Africans. The men of Force A, using a small building as a hospital-cum-headquarters, tried to return fire with their four cannons. Shortly, their guns were knocked out and their telegraph lines to the rear cut.
Realizing that they had run out of options, the South Africans waved a white flag. The German fire ceased and Heydebreck went to take his prisoners, who outnumbered his own force by about two-to-one. Heydebreck congratulated the South African officers on their gallant defence, and set about burying the dead of both sides.