During the earlier part of 1880, the Headquarters of the larger portion of the King’s Dragoon Guards, as well as the Headquarters of the 58th Regiment were established at Wakkerstroom. In July and August these troops were withdrawn from Wakkerstroom and replaced by one company of the 94th Regiment under Captain Froom. He was relieved on 17 December by Captain H.M. Saunders, with two companies of the 58th Regiment. The garrison strength consisted of 120 men. Volunteers were called for from the town and about 45 men responded.
On 30 January, 1881, the garrison made a successful raid on a farm occupied by the Boers, capturing 150 horses and cattle, plus blankets and provisions. On 22 February a skirmish took place when the Boers attempted to cut off some natives returning to their kraals near the town. During the fight, Private Mayes’ horse was shot, and he was wounded and hid in the long grass. Another dismounted man, Private William Bennett, was shot after being knocked off his horse. His leg was shattered and he lay for two hours in the grass until a Boer, having seen the incident, waved a white cloth and planted it near where the man lay to indicate his whereabouts, and that he needed help. A stretcher party was sent out and he was brought into camp, but amputation of his leg was necessary and he died that night.
Having seen Private Mayes fall, Private James Osborne rode straight from cover to the spot – from two to three hundred yards – in front of a line of some 40 Boers. He managed to drag Mayes on to his horse, and slinging Mayes’ rifle over his shoulder, and with bullets flying all round – one hit Osborne’s rifle – both men and horse escaped. Their comrades had helped by keeping up an accurate fire on the Boers. Private Osborne was awarded the coveted Victoria Cross for his bravery.
On 24 March Lieutenant Gossett of the 95th Regiment arrived, notifying the garrison that peace had been made.
The casualties during the siege were two killed – Privates William Bennett and Owen Byrne – both of the 58th Regiment.
- Bellairs, Lady. The Transvaal War, 1880-1881
- Brinton, Wilfred. History of the British Regiments in South Africa, 1795-1895
- Lehmann, Joseph. The First Boer War
- Nixon, John. The Complete Story of the Transvaal
- Orford, Julian. The Men who were there