“Spion Kop”

Wednesday, June 20 – 1900
By Corporal James Blake,
2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles.

To the Memory of the Officers, N.C.O.’s and Men of the 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles, who fell in the Battle of “Spion Kop,” on January 24th, 1900.

Ladysmith relieved at last, we’ll loudly give the
‘Twas nobly done by Britain’s sons, who showed no
signs of far,
And though the fights were stubborn, we’ve proved
again at last,
For Queen and Country, Britons fight just now as in
the past.

How grand, how beautiful the sight, when Buller
reached the town
That held our kindred prisoners, for four long months
tied down;
None knowing when by shot or shell, their long last
days had come
No more to hear the sound og bugle, pibrech, fife or

Yes, the fights were hard and stubborn, and I often
picture now
The fighting up on “Spion Kop,” where, over ridge
and brow,
The gallant Scottish Rifles had answered to a man
And advanced to meet the foemen as only Britons

Though worn and tired by marching on a hot and
cloudless day,
They halted but a moment to hear their Colonel say:
“Our comrades are on yonder hill, outnumbered ten
to one,
And we must help to save them, the battle must be

No other words were needed, for eight hundred faces
Towards the towering mountains, and then each brave
heart ‘yearned
For those who werein danger, and each said that he’d
To reach the top and show the world their motto,
“Do, or Die.”

Onward, upward, to the summit, huge boulders to
impede the way;
Stumbling, climbing, closer, closer, forward to the
battle’s fray.
Shrapnel bursting, shells a-shrieking, billets whizzing
left and right;
Nothing daunted, pressing closer, till the trenches are
in sight.

Bayonets glistening, still advancing, then the grand
old British shout;
See them charging, many falling, dead and wounded
all about.
Yet they gained the foremost trenches, panting ‘neath
excitement’s strain,
Each man proud, an honoured soldier, hard the fight,
but not in vain.

Though the fight grew hotter, fiercer, bravely did
they make the stand,
Officers and men alike, enduring pain like heroes
And when the shades of night had fallen, there came
an order to “Retire,”
An order sounding strange, appalling, more dreaded
than the foeman’s fire.

Slowly down the mountain side, tired and wearied,
pale but stern.
Sorrowing for their fallen comrades, now and then
their heads to turn
Towards some comrade, who, for water, was craving
with a piteous cry;
Hearts were aching, none to offer, each man’s water-
bottle dry.

And the following morning roll-call proved how hard
the fight had been;
Absent ones, no more to answer another roll-call for
their Queen.
All honour to the officers who led them that memor-
able day.
All honour to the ones that fell in their dull Khaki

May they wear the crown of victory, may they proudly
take their stand
With other British heroes in that far-off better land.
Yes, the fights were hard and stubborn, bravely fought
and bravely won.
And while the British Flag is flying, thus the duty
will be done.
(Lancashire Evening Post, 20-06-1900, © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

Spion Kop 1900 poem

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