(William Topaz McGonagall)

The Battle of the Modder River

Twas at the Modder River there was a great battle,
Where British shells and cannons loudly did rattle;
Oh! it was a long and very heroic fight,
It lasted fourteen hours, but the Boers were put to flight.

The battle was fought in November in the year 1899,
Which will cause many wives for to repine
For the loss of their husbands that were killed in Boerland,
Who fell fighting heroically in combat hand to hand.

At Modder River the Boers were on the right side,
Determined to hold that position whatever did betide;
They were strongly entrenched with a frontage about eight miles long,
And their strength was about 11,000 strong.

Their position was semicircular, and the British had but one chance,
For up the semicircle they had to advance;
Because they were enfiladed on both sides,
Yet, not the least daunted, they marched on with quick strides.

The battle opened with an artillery duel on the right,
And they wrought hard at their guns with all their might;
And the Grenadier Guards and Scots Guards behaved manfully in the fray,
While in the midst of a shower of bullets without dismay.

The River was forded by the Guards on the right,
Also the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders all eager for the fight;
Which certainly was a most beautiful sight,
To see them fording the river on the left and right.

When the British infantry moved towards the river they met with a terrible fire,
But, to their honour be it said, they didnt retire;
While the Boer sharpshooters simply mowed them down,
But they, brave heroes, held their own and didnt frown.

Yes, for hours they fought on and didnt retreat an inch,
Resolved to fight it out, but never to flinch;
While the sharpshooters upon them their fearful fire showers,
While the battle raged fearfully for fourteen hours.

At last they lay down to escape their fearful fire,
They thought it more brave to do so rather than retire;
But one of the most heroic deeds of the day
Was a party of the Coldstream Guards who swam across the river without dismay.

And as the sun was setting the fire slackened its fearful din,
But the musketry was still proceeding as darkness set in;
Then the British retired, and a camp was formed near the battlefield
For the Boers had had enough of it, and had to yield.

The scene on the Boer side of the river was fearful to behold,
It was enough to make ones blood run cold,
To see the field strewn with dead bodies all around;
And in a few houses dead bodies of the Boers were found.

The Naval Brigade played a very noble part,
Because they were skilled in the gunnery art;
They drove the Boers from their position and made them run,
Until they cried, Heaven save us, or we are undone.

It was the British superior artillery which won the day,
And the courage of the gunners, who wrought without dismay;
And also through brave Lord Methuen, who encouraged them in the fight
By crying, Forward, my lads, and give it them left and right.

He congratulated the force on its hard won victory,
Which helped to fill the brave heroes hearts with glee:
Long may the British Army be victorious in the fight,
And may Heaven always guard the right.

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