Daily Colonist – September 5, 1900
“THE ATTACK ON ROD HILL.Some Useful Lessons Learned During the Mobilization of Troops
“Esquimalt was taken,” was the alarming news that ran about town on Monday morning. A second’s thought with most of the citizens robbed it, however, of all its martial terrors, for then, it was remembered that in a mimic war an attack was to be made on a portion of its defences on Monday. Further details set forth also that it was not Esquimalt itself that had thus suffered, but only Rod Hill, the little fortress that guards the western side of the entrance to the harbor that had been captured by “A” co., R.C.R. Col. McKay had his company snug on the top of the big kopje back of the battery and fired a few volleys of plunging rifle fire into the fort.
The cleverly led force had demonstrated that a party of 45 men could get through, to all intents and purposes, unhindered and unlet, a screen of troops of several times their number, and inspect the very working of the Rod Hill guns before their presence was detected.
So much for the results of the field day. They constituted the finale of a day of mimic war in which the military forces of the Coast, both regular and volunteer, were mobilized to defend Esquimalt from the occupation of a foe. In this the Fifth Regiment, (G.A.) of Victoria, the Connaughts’ Own Rifles, of Vancouver and New Westminster, together with the Imperial troops, 745 in all, assumed the defensive. The city supposed to have been taken by the enemy, all the bridges across the harbor and up the Gorge are blown up or strongly guarded and a screen of troops occupy the shore from the railway bridge to Macaulay Plains.
This duty fell to the volunteer corps. At Macaulay Plains the Fifth Regiment spent the day with the big guns. Companies Nos. 1 and 2 were given a tough job at the outset but they strained well on the frag ropes and shortly after 8 o’clock they had three guns dragged over from Work Point to the crest of the hill. They were soon in position and from them some forty rounds were fired during the day. Nos. 3, 4 and 6 were also at the guns, having been sent to man the batteries at Macaulay Point itself. No. 5 company, under Major Hibben was told off to a different task and spent the day at submarine mining.
Of the Sixth, Connaughts’ Own Rifles, two companies, “E’ and “F”, under Lieuts. Boyd and Ackroyd respectively, were told to assist in the defence of the works at Rod Hill. These were subsequently reinforced by the New Westminster companies “A’ and “H” under Lieut. Dockerill and Capt. Henderson, while of the Royal Garrison Artillery and the Royal Engineers, a force of nearly 250 officers and men had been detailed to the fortress itself. The Rifles were detached for patrolling purposes and occupied the Goldstream and Metchosin roads, this side of Colwood, as well as covering the by paths and trails of the adjoining properties.
Most of the labor of the day fell to the R.C.R.s. This little body had been sent down to Albert head early in the day, by the little steamer Sadie. From there they had a five mile march, feeling their way along the Metchosin road up to the junction of the Sooke road. Finding a patrol party near the bridge over the dry creek near Demers’ the half companies separated near the Colwood schoolhouse, Col. McKay turning off to the right under cover of the Hatley Park woods in an almost direct route to Rod Hill. This course brought their several lines within sight of the cordon of patrols. However, they dis the serpents’ trick and forged ahead. In the meantime Mr. Clarke with his half company struck out northward behind the park until they reached the Goldstream road, down which they slowly followed, keeping in the woods on either side. The road was well guarded, but the Canadian regulars picked up the patrols one by one.
Near the hotel a company or more of a second cordon of patrols was discovered. They were from the Vancouver volunteers and a couple of volleys let them know that there were others. They stampeded, but rallying a little, began a more dignified retreat, which was accompanied by lots of firing. Clarke’s force had, however, wheeled about and began a semi-circular movement down the ravine to the rock which they reached just five minutes after Col. Clarke. They whole company then advanced under cover of rocks and brush up over the kopje, to its face, and began to pick off the unthinking gunners, with the results afore given. Just after the bugle called Mr. Ackroyd’s company of rifles came in on the double, but it was too late to save the swords of the gallant officers of Rod Hill. The R.C.R.’s then marched to barracks, thereby completing their dozen miles tramp.
After nightfall the Sadie made repeated efforts to run past Rod Hill into the harbor but the electric search lights caught her on every tack and the night attack from the water side was frustrated.
At 11 o’clock Cols. Gregory and Worsnop took over their commands and the corps marched off the veldt, the Fifth to home and its comforts, and the Sixth to their blankets aboard the Yosemite, and the mobilization of 1900 became a matter to be but talked about.