The Project Gutenberg EBook of South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 3 (of 6), by 
Louis Creswicke

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Title: South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 3 (of 6)
       From the Battle of Colenso, 15th Dec. 1899, to Lord
              Roberts's Advance into the Free State, 12th Feb. 1900

Author: Louis Creswicke

Release Date: July 27, 2011 [EBook #36866]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Brownfox and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Team at (This file was produced from
images generously made available by The Internet Archive)

[Pg i]


[Pg ii]

Photo of General Roberts, with his signature

[Pg iii]

South Africa
and the
Transvaal War










[Pg iv]


[Pg v]


The Situation 1
Doings at Chieveley 8
Christmas at the Cape and Natal 14
Mafeking 19
Kuruman and Elsewhere 25
Mafeking, November 31
Kimberley 39
Life with General Gatacre 47
With General French 52
The Colonials at Belmont 60
Colonel Pilcher’s Raid 61
Activities and Surprises 68
At Modder River 72
Christmas at Ladysmith 79
The Attack on Wagon Hill 81
Buller’s Second Advance 92
The Flank Movement 97
The Battle of Spion Kop 104
The Third Great Effort—Vaal Krantz 117
Disappointment at Ladysmith 125
Lord Roberts at the Cape 131
The Wonder of the World 136
First Canadian Contingent 138
The Second Canadian Contingent 144
Strathcona’s Horse 146
New South Wales 148
Victoria 150
New Zealand 151
Queensland 153
South Australia 154
West Australia 157
Tasmania 157
The Bushmen’s Corps 158
India’s Contingents 159
The South African Volunteers—  
Cape Colony 161
Natal 166
The Imperial Yeomanry 167
The City Imperial Volunteers 171
At Colesberg 174
Lord Roberts’s Advance 183
“Fighting Mac” at Koodoesberg 186
The Story of Spion Kop 190
List of Staff 199

[Pg vi]


Bird’s-eye View of the Ground Covered by General Buller’s Operations At Front
Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, V.C. &c. Frontispiece
Sergeant-Major—Imperial Light Horse 24
Army Service Corps 40
Household Cavalry—Captain, 2nd Life Guards 80
Royal Field Artillery (Action Front) 100
Cyclists—Lancashire Fusiliers 120
Private, Drummers, Piper, and Bugler—The Black Watch 134
Officers—City of London Imperial Volunteers 176
A Picket of 13th Hussars Surprised near the Tugela River 8
A Reconnaissance in Force with General French’s Cavalry near Colesberg 56
Colonel Pilcher’s Attack on Sunnyside Kopje 64
H.M.S. “Powerful” 84
The Great Assault on Ladysmith 88
Pietermaritzburg from the East 92
The Crossing of Potgieter’s Drift, January 16 96
Taking the 4.7 Naval Gun across the Tugela 104
Going out to the Attack on Spion Kop 112
The Scene on Spion Kop 116
Falls on the Tugela River 124
Arrival at Cape Town of Wounded from Natal 132
Lady Minto Presenting Colours To Herchmer’s Horse 144
The City Imperial Volunteers Crossing Westminster Bridge 168
New Zealanders Saving a Picket of the Yorkshire Regiment near Slingersfontein 184
“Fighting Mac” and the Highland Brigade in Action at Koodoesberg 188
Lieut.-General Forestier Walker, K.C.B. 16
Major-General Lord Kitchener of Khartoum 32
Major-General Sir W. F. Gatacre, K.C.B. 48
Major-General Hector A. Macdonald, C.B. 72
Lieut.-General Sir Charles Warren, G.C.M.G. 128
Colonel W. D. Otter 136
Hon. W. P. Schreiner, C.M.G. 152
General Brabant, C.M.G. 160
Map—The Seat of War 9
Sketch of Positions at Mafeking 20
Outpost and Intrenchment at Mafeking 24
Facsimile of Handwriting of Col. Baden Powell 32
Plan of Kimberley 40
Splinter Proof Shelter at Kimberley 43
Map of Movements of Gatacre and French 51
Map of Colonel Pilcher’s Raid 62
Lord Dundonald’s Galloping Gun Carriage 70
Maxim Automatic Gun or Pom-Pom 75
Map of Ladysmith 87
Mountain Battery 97
Sketch, &c., of Spion Kop 107
Plan of Engagement of Spion Kop 111
Plan of Engagement of Vaal Krantz 120
British 7-Pounder Field Gun 126
Siege of Ladysmith 128
Naval 12-Pounder Field Gun 132
Mr. Kruger’s Autograph 134
South African Scout 163
12½-Pounder Field Gun (C.I.V.) 172
Map of Position at Colesberg 179
Sketch of Position at Colesberg 181
Map illustrating Movement To Koodoesberg 187

[Pg vii]



17.—Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, K.P., G.C.B., V.C., &c., appointed Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, with Lord Kitchener of Khartoum as his Chief of the Staff.

War Office issued orders under which the remaining portion of the Army A Reserve were called up; and large reinforcements were to proceed to South Africa without delay.

General Gatacre advanced from Sterkstroom to Putters Kraal.

General French established his headquarters at Arundel.

Offers of Second Contingents by the Colonies accepted.

18.—Additional Battalions of Militia embodied. There were now fifty-four Battalions of Militia embodied.

Sir Charles Warren and the Staff of the Fifth Division left Cape Town.

Reconnaissance by General French. Sortie from Ladysmith.

19.—Important order issued from the War Office, announcing that the Government had decided to raise for service in South Africa a Mounted Infantry force, to be called “The Imperial Yeomanry.” The force to be recruited from the Yeomanry.

21.—Mr. Winston Churchill arrived at Lourenço Marques after an adventurous journey.

23.—Departure of Lord Roberts from London and Southampton for the Cape.

24.—Dordrecht occupied by General Gatacre.

Sortie from Mafeking.

Two British officers captured by Boers near Chieveley.

25.—Bluejackets blew up Tugela Road bridge, and cut off Boers with their guns.

Colonel Dalgety with Mounted Police and Colonial troops held Dordrecht. (Gatacre’s Division.)

26.—Sir Charles Warren arrived at the Natal front.

Boers appeared at Victoria West.

Mafeking force attacked a Boer fort.

27.—Boers unsuccessfully bombarded Ladysmith.

28.—H.M.S. Magicienne captured German liner Bundesrath, near Delagoa Bay, with contraband of war on board.

30.—Skirmish near Dordrecht. Boers defeated with loss. Two British officers captured through mistaking Boers for New Zealanders.


1.—Enrolment of the first draft of the City Imperial Volunteers.

Surrender of Kuruman, after a stout resistance, to the Boers. Twelve officers and 120 police captured.

General French occupied a kopje overlooking Colesberg. Flight of Boers, leaving their wrecked guns and quantities of stores.

Brilliant manœuvre by Lieutenant-Colonel Pilcher at Sunnyside. Captured the entire Boer camp, made forty prisoners, advanced and occupied Douglas on Vaal River.

Colonel Plumer and Colonel Holdsworth from Rhodesia continued their march to the relief of Mafeking.

2.—Loyal inhabitants of Douglas escorted to Belmont.

General French still engaged with enemy at Colesberg.

[Pg viii]

3.—General French reinforced from De Aar. Boers being surrounded; fighting in the hills.

General Gatacre repulsed Boer attack on position commanding Molteno.

Colonel Pilcher, for “military reasons,” evacuated Douglas.

4.—General Gatacre occupied Molteno; Boers retreated to Stormberg with loss.

General French manœuvring to enclose Colesberg; further fighting.

5.—General Gatacre hotly engaged at Molteno by Boers from Stormberg; drove them off, inflicting heavy losses.

6.—Great battle at Ladysmith. Boers repulsed on every side with heavy loss.

General Buller made a demonstration in force to aid General White.

General French inflicted severe defeat on Boers at Colesberg. A Company of the 1st Suffolk Regiment captured.

9.—British troops invaded Free State territory near Jacobsdal. The Queensland and Canadian Volunteers cleared a large belt across the Free State border.

10.—Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener arrived at Cape Town.

Forward movement for the relief of Ladysmith from Chieveley and Frere.

11.—Sir Redvers Buller crossed the Little Tugela, and occupied the south bank of the Tugela at Potgieter’s Drift.

Lord Dundonald and Mounted Brigade crossed the Tugela at Potgieter’s Drift.

General Gatacre made a reconnaissance in force towards Stormberg.

13.—The City Imperial Volunteers left London for South Africa.

15.—Boers attacked General French and were repulsed at Colesberg.

16.—General Lyttleton and Mounted Brigade crossed the Tugela at Potgieter’s Drift.

17.—Sir Charles Warren crossed, with his Division, at Trichardt’s Drift.

Lord Dundonald had an action with the Boers near Acton Homes.

18.—Tugela bridged and crossed by a Brigade and battery.

20.—Sir Charles Warren moved towards Spion Kop.

Reconnaissance by Lord Dundonald.

21.—Heavy fighting by Clery’s force; they attacked the Boers and captured ridge after ridge for three miles.

22—Sir Charles Warren’s entire army engaged.

23.—Spion Kop captured by Sir Charles Warren; General Woodgate wounded.

25-27.—Abandonment of Spion Kop. Sir Charles Warren’s force withdrew to south of Tugela.

27.—Brigadier-General Brabant, commanding a Brigade of Colonial forces, joined General Gatacre.

28.—General Kelly-Kenny occupied Thebus.

30.—British force reoccupied Prieska.


3.—Telegraphic communication restored between Mafeking and Gaberones.

4.—General Macdonald occupied Koodoe’s Drift.

5.—General Buller crossed the Tugela at Manger’s Drift.

6.—General Buller captured Vaal Krantz Hill.

7.—Vaal Krantz Hill abandoned, and British force withdrew south of the Tugela.

9.—General Macdonald retired to Modder River.

Lord Roberts arrived at Modder River.

10.—Colonel Hannay’s force moved to Ramdam.

12.—General French with Cavalry Division, proceeding to the Relief of Kimberley, seized Dekiel’s Drift.



[Pg 1]




“The wave that breaks against a forward stroke
Beats not the swimmer back, but thrills him through
With joyous trust to win his way anew
Through stronger seas than first upon him broke
And triumphed. England’s iron-tempered oak
Shrank not when Europe’s might against her grew
Full, and her sun drunk up her foes like dew,
And lion-like from sleep her strength awoke.
As bold in fight as bold in breach of trust
We find our foes and wonder not to find,
Nor grudge them praise whom honour may not bind:
But loathing more intense than speaks disgust
Heaves England’s heart, when scorn is bound to greet
Hunters and hounds whose tongues would lick their feet.”

—Algernon Charles Swinburne.

A week of disaster had terminated woefully. Three British Generals in succession—Sir William Gatacre, Lord Methuen, and Sir Redvers Buller—had advanced against strongly fortified Boer positions and suffered repulse. The hearts of the miserable loyalists, who hung in dire suspense on the result of British action, sank in despair—their dismay and their grief were pitiful. Great Britain echoed their sentiment. Disappointment was universal. General Gatacre had failed through lack of caution and mischance; the other Generals had come to grief owing to the circumstances which forced them willy nilly to hurry to the assistance of beleaguered towns in the face of overwhelming disadvantages, notably the lack of cavalry and the inefficiency of the guns. Lord Methuen had been unable to bring home his early victories owing to the absence of mounted men. Sir Redvers Buller had failed to dislodge the enemy from his strong, naturally fortified positions owing to the weakness of his artillery in comparison to that of the enemy, who had Nordenfeldt and Hotchkiss quick-firing guns in every available position. He had made a glorious attempt—owned to be magnificent; but it was not war, and in his failure[Pg 2] he recognised that it was not the game of derring-do, but the game of “slim” warfare as played by his brother Boer which must claim his attention. Now was verified the prophecy of the Polish apocalypse: “The war of the future will be a war of sieges and entrenched positions. In the war of the future the advantage will always rest with the defensive. In the war of the future, frontal attacks, without immense superiority in numbers, will be impossible.”

Every campaign, they say, has its lessons. This one we now find to be full of them, so full indeed that it has necessarily taken our Generals some time to become acquainted even with their grammar. When the war was forced upon us by the Pretoria oligarchy for the long-cherished purpose of ousting Great Britain from South Africa, many of the authorities were of opinion that a rabble of undisciplined farmers would be incapable of offering any formidable resistance to the superior military system of Great Britain. Not a hint of doubt as to the success of our arms and the effectiveness of our war apparatus was entertained. When Colonials in the summer of ’99 volunteered their services, the Government received the offers with a sniff. Later they accepted them with grateful thanks. It was never imagined that colonists could know anything of the art of war, or that they might teach a lesson or two even to that august institution the Staff College. Those who knew ventured to suggest that in South Africa the same cast-iron principles that existed in European warfare would be valueless, and that the lessons of Ingogo and Majuba in ’81 might be repeated in ’99 in all their dire and dismal reality. But these pessimists were scoffed at. They therefore waited, and hoped against hope. Now and then they feebly wondered by what process infantry, arriving two months late, when the enemy had had time to entrench the whole country at various naturally strong strategic points, would be able to overcome the disadvantages attendant on immobility. But they were silenced by a look. British pluck and endurance might be calculated upon to surmount everything and anything—some said! No one seemed to care to tackle the problem of how men on foot would be enabled to compete creditably, in anything like equal numbers, with a mounted enemy possessing more than ordinary mobility.

A mounted enemy has many advantages in his favour. He can select his own position, he can place all his force en masse into the fighting line, he can so pick his positions that one man on the defensive can make himself the equal of three men of the attacking force; and, besides, he can occupy a length of position which must extend his flanks far beyond those of the attackers on foot. These in consequence are either forced to extend to equal length, at almost certain risk of being unable to reinforce any weak point developed during the attack, and thereby cause the attack to be broken at[Pg 3] points; or they have to “contain” only a portion of the enemy in position, and perhaps leave his wings—or one wing—free to execute an outflanking movement. It is impossible when a line extends for miles, and the enemy’s strength is not discoverable before the heat of the engagement, for infantry to come from a great distance to the assistance of weak points; and by reason of this immobility it is equally impossible for infantry in the heat of action, and when the front is extended for miles, to suddenly change a plan of attack in time to save a situation.

The task set before our Generals was, therefore, almost superhuman: they were expected to make up for want of mobility with superior strategical qualifications; but, as has been said, no committee of Generals could at this juncture have decided on a strategy applicable to the complicated situation. That the Boer was a born strategist, and had able advisers, was amply proved. The amalgam of Boer methods, with Zulu theories and modern German tactics, was sufficient to try the most ingenious intelligence. For instance, the Boers in early days selected positions on the sides and tops of kopjes, and at the commencement of the campaign, at Talana Hill and at Elandslaagte, they were so perched, in accordance with the primitive principles of their race. They ignored the fact that such positions were the worst they could select against artillery fire with percussion fuses. Even for their own rifle practice such positions were also the worst, as, firing down at an angle, their bullets as a rule ran the chance of ploughing the earth without ricocheting, and served only to hit the one man aimed at. They worked, and still work, on the old Zulu principle of putting their whole strength into the fighting line, acting on the Zulu axiom, “Let it thunder—and pass.” A sound principle this, no doubt, but one which our ponderous military machinery would not allow us to adopt. To these early methods, and to his native “slimness” and cunning, the Boer now added some German erudition. The influence of German officers and German tactics began to work changes curious and inexplicable. The Boers built scientific entrenchments, no longer on the kopjes alone but also below them, thus reducing the effect of hostile artillery, save that of howitzers, and permitting their sharpshooters to sweep the plain with a hurricane from their Mausers. In addition to this they built long castellated trenches, perfect underground avenues, to allow of the invisible massing of troops at any given point. They were also provided with ingenious gun-trenches, quite hidden, along which their Nordenfeldt gun, that pumped five shells in rapid succession, could be removed swiftly from one spot to another, and thereby defeat the efforts of the British gunners to locate it.

Thus it will be seen a new complexion was put upon Boer affairs. Novel and trying conditions were imposed on those who already had[Pg 4] to cope with the problem of how to match in mobility a rival who brought to his support six legs, while the British only brought two. Whole armies consisting merely of mounted infantry and artillery had never before come into action, and it began to be understood that a war against bushwhackers, guerillas, and sharpshooters, plus the most expensive guns modernity could provide, was a matter more serious than any with which the nineteenth century had hitherto had to deal. We had to learn that sheer pluck, endurance, and brute force were unavailing, and that strategy of the hard and fast kind—the red-tape strategy of the Staff College—was about as unpractical as a knowledge of the classics to one who goes a-marketing. There is no finality in the art of war, and nations, be they ever so old and wise and important, must go on learning.

One of the newer questions was, how far personal intelligence might be distributed among a body of men? The General as a head, the Staff Officers as nerves that convey volition to the different members, we had accepted, but how far individual acumen was needed to insure success now began to be argued. Certain it was that in this campaign we had opportunities for studying the comparative value of individual discretion versus “fighting to order.” The Boers, every one of them, were working for themselves, absolutely for hearth and home, though perhaps under a general plan which certainly served to harass and annoy and keep the British army in a dilemma; while we laboured on a consolidated system which, if not obsolete, was certainly inappropriate. However, as there was no use in bemoaning our reverses, we began to congratulate ourselves on having discovered the cause of them. It was decided that first there must be more troops sent out to meet the extended nature of our operations, and that these troops must be accompanied by a sufficient number of horses to insure the necessary mobility, without which even the brute force of our numbers would be useless.

Of the successful issue of future proceedings none had a doubt. All knew that the finest strategy in the world must be useless when tools were wanting, and all felt certain that the admirable abilities of our Generals, when once the means of playing their war game came to hand, were bound to rise to the prodigious task still in store.

But for the dire necessity of the three gallant towns—Mafeking, Kimberley, and Ladysmith—a waiting game would have been possible and wise. The Boer stores of food and ammunition would eventually have run out, and the guns gone the way of much-used guns. Trek-oxen, instead of dragging the waggons of their masters, would have had to go to feed the hungry commandoes, and the history of slow exhaustion would have had to be told. But—again there was the great But!—those three valiant towns were holding[Pg 5] out their hands, they were crying for help, they were standing in their hourly peril hopeful and brave because they believed—they were certain—that we should never desert them!

At home the grievous news of the reverse was digested by the public with dumb, almost paralysed resignation. At first it was scarcely possible to believe that the great, the long-anticipated move for the relief of Ladysmith had proved a failure, and that the Boers were still masters of the situation, and moreover the richer by eleven of our much-needed guns. By degrees the terrible truth began to be accepted by us. By degrees the Government awakened to the fact that the fighting of the Dutchmen within the region of Natal meant more than the pitting of one Briton against two Boers, that it meant the dashing of a whole Army Corps against Nature’s strongholds, our own by right of purchase and blood, and captured from us merely by reason of neglect and delay!

To awake, however, was to act. In our misfortune it was pleasant to recall the words of Jomini, when speaking of Frederick the Great and his defeats in Silesia. “A series of fortunate events,” he said, “may dull the greatest minds, deprive them of their natural vigour, and level them with common beings. But adversity is a tonic capable of bringing back energy and elasticity to those who have lost it.” The tonic was sipped. Jomini’s theories were proved! Though Great Britain through a series of fortunate events—a long reign of comparative peace—had become lethargic and money-grubbing, she, at the first shock of adversity, regained all her elasticity, vigour, and natural spirit of chivalry. Promptly the entire nation nerved itself to prove that, as of old, it was equal to any struggle, any sacrifice. The whole country seemed with one consent to leap to arms.

The Militia, nine battalions of Infantry, was now permitted to volunteer for service in any part of the Queen’s dominions where such services might be wanted, while it was arranged that specially selected contingents of Yeomanry and Volunteers would start for the Front as soon as there were found ships sufficient to carry them.

Noble as amazing was the hurried response of the Volunteers to the intimation that their services would be accepted for the war. Hastily they pressed forward in crowds to enrol themselves. Their promptitude was goodly to look upon and to read of, for it showed that, in spite of the theories of Tolstoi and the influence of the spirit of modernity, patriotism is inherent and not a mere exotic or cultivated sentiment in the British race. We now found that though many traditions may be worn to rags, those of the British army had grown, like old tapestry, the more precious for the passage of time.[Pg 6]

Still the military position was pregnant with anxieties. A horse that is left at the post may perhaps win in the end, but his chances of success are remote. An army that lands in driblets three months after time is scarcely calculated to succeed against a rival army which has spent that interval in equipping itself for the fray. We were forced to remember that at the onset our officers were placed in the most dangerous positions, with inadequate support and no prospect of reinforcement, until their energies, mental and physical, had been sapped by undue and prolonged strain. On the north Tuli had but a handful of troops to resist an enormous and powerful enemy; Mafeking was surrounded, isolated, and able only to resist to the death the persistent attacks of shot and shell; Vryburg was allowed to be treacherously given away to the enemy; and Kimberley was left in the lurch as it were, to fight or fall according to the pluck of those who were ready to exhaust their vitality in loyalty to the Queen. On the Natal side things were still worse. The country, every inch of which is familiar to the Boer, had almost invited invasion. The whole strength of Boers and Free Staters was permitted to launch itself against an army which was entirely without reserves, and which could not be reinforced under a month. That brave and unfortunate soldier, Sir George Colley, had a theory that small, well-organised troops were worth as much again as large and desultory ones; but he took no account of peculiar facilities which are almost inherent to armies fighting on their own soil, as it were, and habits of warfare which have, so to speak, become ancestral with the Boer. From old time the Dutchman has employed his mountain fastnesses, his boulders, and his tambookie grass as screens and shelters, till in war the “tricks of the trade” have become a second nature to him, and serve in place of more complicated European methods. The small Natal army was, on Sir George Colley’s principle, allowed to pit itself against a fighting mass, dense and desultory it may be, but a fighting mass of enormous dimensions, which, whatever their failings, had weight, equipment, courage, obstinacy, and intimacy with their surroundings entirely in their favour. That the enemy was first in the field they had to thank the original promoters of war, the Peace party—the humanitarian persons who so long hampered reason by loud outcries against the shedding of blood that their own countrymen in the Transvaal were condemned to all the tortures of suspense, to be aggravated later by all the agonies of famine and disease. Their own countrywomen and their babes were saved from shot and shell to be sent defenceless and homeless to wander the world till the charity of strangers or the relief of death should overtake them, while the loyal natives were left in a state of trepidation and[Pg 7] suspense, without protection, yet forbidden to raise a hand in their own defence.

Reason now had its way. But remedies cannot be applied in a moment, and the public, which is always wise after the event, vented its anguish and its feelings of suspense by indulging in criticism, or in asking questions which, of course, could not be answered till the principal persons concerned were able to take part in the catechism. For instance, some of the riddles buzzed about in club and railway carriage were: Why did Sir Redvers Buller make a frontal attack across an open plain against an enemy admirably entrenched, and posted in a position not only made strong by art but by nature? Why was it that the Government, in spite of the warnings given by Sir Alfred Milner while he was in England in May ’99, neglected to take such precautions as would have prevented the enemy from being entirely in advance of us in the matter of time? Why, also, were the Boers permitted to arm themselves with the most expensive modern weapons, to be used against us, under the very eye of our representative in Pretoria, without our being warned of the inferior quality of our own guns, and of the impossibility of making ourselves a match for the enemy so long as the cheese-paring policy of the authorities at home was countenanced? Why, with an Intelligence Department in working order, was it never discovered that united Free State and Transvaal Dutchmen would vastly outnumber all the troops we were prepared—or, rather, unprepared—to put in the field, the troops we strove to make sufficient till the strain of reverse forced from us the acceptance of help from the Colonies, the Militia, and the Volunteers?

The great question of reinforcements filled all minds. Nothing indeed could be looked for till they should reach the Cape. Fifteen huge transports were due to arrive between the end of December and the beginning of January, bringing on the scene some 15,000 troops of all arms. The Fifth Division, under Sir Charles Warren, consisting of eight battalions of Infantry and its complement of Artillery and Engineers was expected, also the Household Cavalry Composite Regiment, the 14th Hussars, a siege train, a draft of Marines, and various odd branches of the service. Later on more troops would follow, but pending the arrival of the warrior cargoes it was impossible for our Generals to do more than act on the defensive, and consider themselves fortunate if they could prevent the further advance of the enemy to the south.

But the most momentous move of the closing year was the departure of Lord Roberts for the seat of war. Here was this gallant officer, whose life had been devoted to the service of his country, and who was at an age when many other men would have elected to stay by hearth and home, suddenly called on[Pg 8] to act in the most difficult and trying crisis. And, in the very hour that he was asked to rouse himself to meet the call of Queen and country, he was dealt a crushing blow. His gallant son, the only one, and one well worthy to have worn the laurels of his noble father, besides adding to them by his own splendid acts, was carried off, a victim to the severe wound he received at Colenso. Here was a supreme trial, so supreme indeed that none dared touch it. All, even Lord Roberts’s sincerest friends, shrunk from dwelling on the agony of mind that must have been endured by this great hero when at the same moment the voice of duty and the cry of domestic love jarred in conflict. On the one side he was called upon to brace himself to meet a political situation fraught with all manner of indescribable complications, while on the other, human nature with a thousand clinging tendrils drew him towards the numbness of mute woe or the consolation of private tears. But, like the great warrior he is, he got into harness and started off, leaving his misery in the hands of the great British people, who held it as their own. The “send off” they gave him at Waterloo Station was one of the most remarkable outbursts of public feeling on record, and this was not only due to admiration for the conqueror of Kandahar, but to profound sympathy for the man and the father who was thus laying aside his private self and placing all his magnificent ability at the service of the Empire.


It was now found desirable to remove part of the camp about ten and a half miles to the south, to get out of range of the Boer big guns which commanded the position. The wounded were daily being sent off in train-loads to Maritzburg, many of them, in spite of being shot in two or three places, cheerful and anxious to return quickly “to be in at the death,” as they sportingly described it. The funeral of Lord Roberts’s gallant son caused a sense of deep depression to prevail in all ranks, for he was not only regretted by those who held his brilliant qualities in esteem, but in sympathy with the sore affliction which had befallen the veteran “Bobs,” whose name, wherever Tommy goes, is one to conjure with. The ceremony was a most impressive one, and the pall-bearers were all men of young Roberts’s corps. These were Major Prince Christian Victor, Colonels Buchanan-Riddell and Bewicke-Copley, and Major Stuart-Wortley.

The graves of all the unfortunate slain were marked round, covered with flowers, and temporary tablets arranged till suitable memorials should be prepared.

Drawing by John Charlton.

Meanwhile the Naval guns were unceasing in their activity, and made an appalling accompaniment to the afternoon siestas[Pg 9] in which many, owing to the excessive heat, were inclined to indulge. For strategical reasons it was now found necessary to blow up the road-bridge over the Tugela, and thus prevent the Boers from advancing further to the south or spying upon our positions.

Map of the Seat of War. Scale 1 inch=86 miles.
Map of the Seat of War. Scale 1 inch=86 miles.
[Transcribers' note: Image is a link to a larger scale image. For ease of reference, the black line beneath the image would be approximately one inch in length in the original.]

[Pg 10]Extra precautions were taken in regard to the white flag. It began to be believed at last that the Boer would take an unfair advantage of the Briton whenever he should get a chance. Strangely enough, our officers seemed to have forgotten or disregarded the object-lesson of the tragic affair of Bronker’s Spruit. Yet Boer “slimness” was then well enough established. The unfortunate Colonel Anstruther caused to be printed in the Transvaal Government Gazette a bi-lingual proclamation, informing the Boers that, in consequence of the many treacherous uses to which the white flag had been put, he would in future recognise the emblem only under the following conditions: two Boers accompanied by an officer, and all unarmed, must approach the lines bearing the white flag aloft. The British soldiers were also advised to keep well under cover whenever the flag was displayed. This showed that reliance on Boer honour would in no case be attempted. At the present date Boer morality had not improved, and it was even declared that the Free Staters had made their women boil down their national flag, so that in its pallid state it might at a little distance be mistaken for the white flag, and come in handy in case of need.

On the 20th of December a picket, consisting of seven men belonging to the 13th Hussars, was surprised some five miles from camp, in the direction of Weenen, by a party of sixty Boers. These cautiously crept round some kopjes to where the outpost was stationed. A smart tussle ensued. Two men were killed and seven horses were lost. No sooner had information of the fight reached camp than some of Bethune’s and Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry were despatched to the rescue, but the Boers, on perceiving these reinforcements, quickly fled and thus escaped punishment.

At this time the second advance for the relief of Ladysmith was very secretly being organised, but no one knew exactly when Sir Redvers Buller meant to move, or whether he intended to give up the idea of a frontal attack altogether. Our Generals were criticised for making frontal attacks, but Clausewitz declares that the attempt to turn the flank of the enemy can only be justified by a great superiority; this superiority may be either actual superiority of numbers, or it may follow from the way in which the lines of communication are placed. Unfortunately we had no favouring strength; the Boers outnumbered us everywhere, and not only did they exceed us numerically, but their mobility enabled them so quickly to move from front to flank positions that they were, on desire, facing us at any moment. In[Pg 11] fact the Boer army had no flank, and therefore the vast amount of after-the-event wisdom which was gratuitously handed about by “the man in the street” was absolutely wasted.

An unfortunate incident now occurred. Capt. James Rutherford and Mr. Grenfell, S.A.L.H., while visiting the pickets, disappeared. They apparently rode into the midst of the enemy’s scouts, who were everywhere prowling about, and were forced to surrender. The report of the capture was brought to the camp by native runners, who stated that the officers had been removed to Pretoria. However, for two gallant Britons lost there was one gained, for at the very time Mr. Winston Churchill had almost miraculously made himself free of his captors.

The story of his escape reads like a novel; but truth is stranger than fiction. When removed to Pretoria after the disaster to the armoured train at Chieveley, he almost gave up hope of escape; indeed he had every reason so to do, for on the 12th of December he was informed by the Transvaal Government’s Secretary for War that there was little chance of his release. Whereupon, with many doubts and misgivings, he discussed with himself the best means of struggling for freedom. The State Schools Prison was well guarded; it was surrounded by a high wall, and the sentries were vigilant in the extreme. He formed for himself a plan, however, and once when the back of the sentry was momentarily turned he took his courage in both hands as the French say, rushed at the six-foot wall, scaled it, and let himself down into a neighbouring garden before his movement could be detected. The garden was the garden of an inhabited house. There were lights in the windows; more, there were visitors on the verandah, and presently, ramblers among the paths! Moments of horror as the escaped hid in the trees seemed to become years, discovery appeared to be merely a matter of moments. But evidently the Fates decided that so useful a member of creation—warrior, writer, and politician—could not be spared by society or his country, and in a little while Mr. Churchill found himself wandering, undisguised and unrecognised, through the streets of the town. Burghers passed him, passengers brushed his shoulders. Nobody asked his business. It was evident that Fate wanted him. The stars said so, and following their direction he struck out towards the Delagoa Railroad. He knew that he dared ask his way of none; he was aware that he must make the most of the cloak of night; he was intimate enough with Boer customs to be certain that in a few hours his description would be posted throughout the two Republics. The present, and only the present, was his. He walked along the line, evading the watchers on bridges and culverts, and determining to stick to the rails, without which he might find himself lost or wandering back in the teeth of the enemy. Once free of the town,[Pg 12] he bided his time cautiously in the neighbourhood of an adjacent station. There he watched the coming of a train, and just as it steamed past him, with an alacrity and agility born of sheer despair, he made a leap towards a truck, grabbed at a hook on the edge, boarded it, and was soon burrowing deep in a cargo of coal-sacks. There he lay, grimy, exhausted, and almost distraught, but happy. He was free. Every minute the anxiety for freedom had grown within him, till now, fighting his way towards it, it had become an almost savage passion. He had decided he would never go back. No one should capture him. But this was easier to swear than to accomplish. To escape detection it was necessary again to risk his life—to leap off the train as he had leapt on it, while the machinery was in full swing and the driver ignorant of the existence of his distinguished passenger. Before dawn, therefore, he emerged from the coal-heap, and with a flying leap landed flat on the railroad. He gathered himself together, and by sunrise was concealed in a wood, his only companion for some time being a vulture. The sojourn in the cool boskage of the Transvaal was fraught with good luck, and at dusk when the fugitive emerged he was another man. At last he was able to gather his forces together for another trip on a passing train. There was always danger though—danger because it was necessary to hug the line, and where the line was, there also were railway guards, or at least humanity—inimical humanity, who most probably were plotting his ruin. Plod, plod, plod; so passed the hours, scrambling along in the dead of night through sluits and dongas in the effort to avoid the direct neighbourhood of huts, bridges, stations, and yet keep in touch with the winding iron track that led to the longed-for sea. For five days and nights he persevered, tramping after dark and sneaking under cover all day, and dimly conscious that the hue and cry had gone forth, and that every man’s hand in the enemy’s country was now turned against him. On the sixth day he managed again with amazing good fortune to safely board a train, and this time it was one going from Middleburg to Delagoa Bay. Again he burrowed among sacks and carefully hid himself, so carefully, indeed, that owing to his extreme precaution discovery was evaded. The train was searched, the sacks were prodded. Deep down, scarcely daring to breathe, lay the man they were seeking—an inch or two off—just an inch or two off. He drew a long breath and praised God for his escape. After that he passed some sixty hours in all the agonies of suspense. Famine and thirst preyed on him, and active horror lest all his exertions should be in vain, lest, at the very last moment, the whole struggle of hope and wretchedness would end in dire and fatal disaster. But he was preserved. He arrived at Lourenço Marques on the 21st of December, and from there proceeded to Natal. “I am very weak,[Pg 13] but I am free.” Such were the words of his telegram; no wired words ever meant more. “I have lost many pounds in weight, but I am lighter in heart; and I avail myself of this moment, which is a witness to my earnestness, to urge an unflinching and uncompromising prosecution of the war.” In regard to Mr. Winston Churchill’s arrival among his friends in Natal, an eye-witness wrote:—

“The 23rd of December last was a memorable day at Durban, perhaps the most memorable since that on which the Boers’ ultimatum was published. From Lourenço Marques had come the exciting intelligence that young Winston Churchill, a distinguished member of a world-renowned race, had succeeded in evading his jailers at Pretoria, and, after a series of thrilling adventures, had arrived safely at Delagoa Bay. The telegrams had further announced that the hero had immediately shipped on board the Rennie liner Induna and would land at Durban that very afternoon. The fame of Mr. Churchill as a soldier and an author was already established. The history of his gallantry both in India and at Omdurman was already well known to every good Natalian before he first stepped ashore there as one of the war correspondents of the Morning Post. His subsequent courageous conduct at Chieveley at the unfortunate incident of the armoured train and his capture by the Boers, now capped by his marvellous escape from Pretoria, had set Durban agog with excitement, and filled all and sundry with hearty desires to afford him a right royal welcome on his landing again on British soil.

“The brilliant summer sunshine, tempered by a fresh sea-breeze which sent a soft ripple across the deep blue surface of the magnificent harbour; the bold headland of the bluff contrasting vividly against the streets of iron-roofed dwellings in the township; the large numbers of ocean-going steamers and sailing craft, gay with bunting; the eager, expectant crowd of every class of society, from gaily-dressed ladies to wharf labourers, refugees, and Kaffirs in but shirts and trousers, all contributed to the completion of a picturesque panorama never to be forgotten. Long before midday did we assemble in our thousands. When it was whispered about that the Induna would berth alongside the steamer Inchanga, and that Mr. Churchill must cross the decks of the Inchanga before stepping ashore, a rush was made for her, and, in spite of all the efforts of the officers and crew, the crowd swarmed like bees on her. They took possession of every available point of vantage; they invaded the sacred precincts of the captain’s bridge; they braved the perils of the rigging; they huddled together on the ‘fo’cas’le’; they filled every boat; and, heedless of fresh paint, they clung affectionately to the ventilators and the funnel.

“After having been several times reported the Induna rounded the point at half-past two. Amid breathless expectation she steamed slowly across the harbour. Standing beside the captain on the bridge a smallish, clean-shaven man was descried, and the crowd at once recognised him as the hero whom they had assembled to honour. A thousand good British cheers broke the silence, a thousand lusty throats shouted a heartfelt welcome. But this was not all. The sturdy Natalians did not stop at shouting. The moment the Induna was moored Mr. Churchill, smiling, was seized bodily by twenty pairs of brawny arms, was patted and thumped on the back by hundreds of applauding hands, and finally, after being nearly strangled by over-zealous admirers who were waving hats and handkerchiefs and crying ‘Bravo!’ and ‘Well done!’ he was carried shoulder-high across the decks of the Inchanga and deposited in a ricksha, whence a speech was demanded. In a few modest sentences Mr.[Pg 14] Churchill good-humouredly narrated some of the more prominent episodes of his exploit, and a start was made for his hotel, the ricksha-boy being assisted more or less by some fifty amateur ricksha-men and escorted by a majority of the crowd. After picking up the editor of the Natal Mercury on the way, and installing him in state by the side of Mr. Churchill, the hotel was at last reached, and the demand for another speech having been acceded to, Mr. Churchill was permitted at four o’clock to retire from the public gaze. The same night he left Durban for the front.”

The following is a copy of the letter written by Mr. Winston Churchill to Mr. de Souza prior to escaping from prison:—

State Schools Prison, Pretoria.

Dear Mr. de Souza,—I do not consider that your Government was justified in holding me, a press correspondent and a non-combatant, as a prisoner, and I have consequently resolved to escape. The arrangements I have succeeded in making with my friends outside are such as to give me every confidence. But I wish, in leaving you thus hastily and unceremoniously, to once more place on record my appreciation of the kindness which has been shown me and the other prisoners by you, by the commandant, and by Dr. Gunning, and my admiration of the chivalrous and humane character of the Republican forces. My views on the general question of the war remain unchanged, but I shall always retain a feeling of high respect for the several classes of the Burghers I have met, and on reaching the British lines I will set forth a truthful and impartial account of my experiences in Pretoria. In conclusion, I desire to express my obligations to you, and to hope that when this most grievous and unhappy war shall have come to an end, a state of affairs may be created which shall preserve the national pride of the Boers and the security of the British, and put a final stop to the rivalry and enmity of both races. Regretting that circumstances have not permitted me to bid you a personal farewell, believe me, yours very sincerely,

Winston Churchill.

December 11, 1899.


We had arrived at what might be termed a breathing spell. There was no serious movement in the direction of the Modder River, and Lord Methuen was evidently biding his time. General Gatacre felt himself too weak to take up any very active or offensive step, while General French contented himself with such harassing and cleverly annoying operations as kept the enemy, like a man with a mosquito round his nose, from napping. There was great hope of better things, however, for it was known that the Dunottar Castle had left England and was conveying to the Cape—in addition to Lord Roberts—Lord Kitchener and Major-General T. Kelly-Kenny, the Commander of the Sixth Division. Besides these were the following officers of Lord Roberts’s Staff:—Major-General G. T. Pretyman; Colonel Viscount Downe, C.I.E.; Major H. V. Cowan; Captain A. C. M. Waterfield; Major J. F. R. Henderson; Major C. V. Hume; Brevet-Major G. F.[Pg 15] Gorringe, D.S.O.; Colonel Lord Erroll; Commander the Hon. S. J. Fortescue (Naval Adviser to Lord Roberts); Captain Lord Herbert Scott; Captain Lord Settrington.

This showed that when at last we set to work we did so with a will. The forces in South Africa before the war had amounted to 25,000, which number was augmented by 55,000 on the arrival of the First Army Corps. Late in December came the Fifth Division of about 11,000, under Sir Charles Warren, followed by the Sixth Division of 10,000 men. The Seventh and Eighth Divisions of 10,000 men respectively were shortly to increase the forces at the disposal of Lord Roberts, together with some 2000 additional Cavalry, 10,000 Yeomanry, 9000 Volunteers, seven battalions of Militia, drafts for regiments at the front amounting to 10,000, and about 20,000 local forces. The first Colonial contingents consisted of about 2500 men, and these were to be followed by second contingents of like strength. The Naval Brigade was composed of about 1000; so that in all, roughly estimated, we were on the eve of putting 184,000 men into the field.

Christmas day at the Cape was solemnised with much speechifying, both from Dutch pulpits and Dutch partisans, and not a few peacefully disposed persons in this time of general goodwill lugged in Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman by the ears and quoted him to suit their purpose. That amiable worthy had said the war could have been avoided, and that cheap and incontrovertible statement the Bond got hold of and chewed and rolled on the tongue as an accompaniment to its plum-pudding and mince-pies. Of course, the war could have been avoided. Of course, it would have been quite possible to voluntarily retire from the Cape and allow South Africa to become entirely Dutch. In the same way we could give up governing India and hand it over to Russia and confine our expenses and our energies to Great Britain, the water supply, the development of national cookery, and the propagation of cabbages. But peace with dishonour was fortunately not to the taste of the British public, and those who spent their Yuletide in active service were far too devoted to the sacred duty of maintaining the prestige of the Empire to sigh for the domestic hearth and regal sirloin that might have been theirs had the Government extended its accommodating apathy a few months longer.

There were no holly decorations and displays of bunting, no rubbings of hands and vigorous snow-balling, because the South African sun blazed with the glare of beaten brass, and the thermometer stood to the height of some 100 degrees at midday. But there was a vast amount of joke-making and hearty goodwill nevertheless, and many prayers for friends and family and Queen.[Pg 16]

In Natal there were lively doings in honour of the festal season. At a time when even cracker manufacturers wax poetic, the journalistic poets thought it their duty to burst into rhyme. The Natal papers indulged in some jocose doggerel, which would have been comic had it not been deeply tragic. The lines ran thus: “To Ladysmith”—the only lines, by-the-bye, that did run there—

“‘Hold the Fort, for I am coming,’
Says the helio—
Quick as light the answer flashes,
‘Ain’t you coming slow?’”

But Tommy was pleased and thought the stanza a capital joke. He meant to get there directly, and merely quoted the proverb about “slow and shure”—there were so many Irishmen about, fine fellows, who believed in themselves and they were shure about everything. They had nothing to do with doubt, for doubt, after all, is the mother of diffidence!

And some of these rollicking youngsters managed to retain their native good-humour in most distressing circumstances. A good story was told of one gallant private in hospital who had lost his leg but persisted in apostrophising the missing limb whenever it ached. “Be aisy wid ye. Can’t ye be quiet? Ye’ll niver take me into the foight again. Ohovo!”

Other examples of amazing good-temper and pluck on the part of the wounded filled all eye-witnesses with pathetic admiration. One man, a quondam music-hall singer, carried his jocose art into his sick-bed. A Boer prisoner had lost his arms, and the poor fellow helplessly shook his head when offered tobacco. But the music-hall singer saw the shake of the head and tearful eye that accompanied it. In a moment, with gymnastic dexterity, he had placed his arms round the Boer and performed the office of the missing ones, giving the fellow the advantage of a good smoke. Another of our men who had lost his right arm co-operated with a Boer who had lost his left, and between them they rolled cigarettes to the great satisfaction of both. While they were in hospital another sufferer pretended to be in no way depressed by the loss of his arm, and ventured on mild whimsicalities regarding the economy of being able to share a single pair of gloves with any right-handed man who might also have lost a limb!

Commanding the Lines of Communication.
Photo by Elliott & Fry, London.

On the whole, well or ill, Tommy was temporarily in clover. The fat of the land was being sent out by fervent admirers at home. Indeed he was getting somewhat inundated with worsted goods which the fair hands of his countrywomen had been devotedly manufacturing. Jack Tar, despite his magnificent work, was not so highly distinguished, at least so he thought, and occasionally[Pg 17] vented his disgust into private ears. But, as one of them said, they’d had a treat for Christmas—the treat of a wash! It was bathing under difficulties, however, for one half of the men had to keep guard with loaded rifles while the other half wallowed in water that, in harmony with the general scheme of things in camp, was also of kharki hue!

Tommy at the front was externally scarcely the Tommy of our acquaintance. His bright spick and span exterior was gone. Kharki had sobered him and planed down his individuality. His uniform no longer sat without a crease. It was washed and worn and shrunken from hard and honourable usage, and his carriage was no longer the carriage of Tommy on parade. He seemed to have taken a leaf out of Jack’s book, and the slight slouch became him well. It gave him the air of a workman and an individual, and seemed to point to the fact that there was no longer occasion for him to be judged by appearances. We knew the inner man now. He did his duty grandly, and his splendid courage and perseverance had made him independent of the pomp and panoply of war. In the matter of “grit” they were all alike. But in externals they had curious differences, their characteristics varying considerably according to the regiment to which they belonged. Some were dapper still—the newly arrived ones—with hair clipped to an eighth of an inch for head and half an inch for moustache; others had succumbed to circumstances, and had grown beards of odd sizes and shapes and colours (scumbled in all cases with dust), while the youngsters displayed an unhappy medium, styled by an officer “pieces of unexpected wool,” on promiscuous parts of their faces! Still, when all was said, joviality and “grit” put an identical veneer on them all!

The officers too were transmogrified. They were dressed exactly like the men. Tan brown belts, swords, and revolvers were no longer in evidence. When going off to war, or any other duty at all under arms, each officer arrayed himself in his servant’s belt and equipment—stained with clay paste to the prevalent dust or kharki colour—and took with him his servant’s rifle and one hundred rounds of ammunition. There was a difference without a distinction. The officer carried a field-glass, and this when not in use was concealed in a coat-pocket. Every precaution was now adopted to prevent them from inviting an undue share of attention. The mounted officers had carbines—neat, handy weapons, which slipped into a leather carbine bucket in the saddle, on the other side of which went the very necessary wire-cutters. Barbed wire entanglements were so much a part of the Boer programme—“to cheer you up in crossing the drifts,” some one said—that the cutters became an essential part of warlike gear. A strange innovation this; very[Pg 18] small but very full of meaning. The Boers were teaching us a great deal. We were beginning to understand, almost to admire, their curious modes of warfare—their strange ability to “sit tight,” wire themselves in, and yet to fly away! Years ago, when some tactician ventured to say that the war of the future embraced only the question of long-range rifles and wire-entangled trenches, we were inclined to pooh-pooh! Now we were beginning to see wisdom in this stubborn and persistent, and yet skittishly mobile foe! When we looked at our wire nippers and their strong entrenchments we began to formulate the war motto of the future, which resolves itself into five words: “Six legs and a spade!” The sword, the bayonet, the cavalry charge were passing away for ever. Here the dignified charger was ill-matched with the nimble steed of the country, and many officers were only too glad to supplement their English horses with Basuto ponies—to secure four serviceable and sure legs, as the climate and other circumstances contrived to wear out those of their British beasts. Fortunately there was still a plentiful choice in horse-flesh, what with British and Australian and Argentine specimens, but the Basuto ponies were the most knowing and handy for the purposes required. The imported horse, it was discovered, needed a long and probationary period to make him at home on the South African veldt. Like other aristocratical creatures, he was unequal to the hand-to-mouth existence of the African-born animal, who, by habit and instinct, could shift for himself. He was neither knowing nor cautious, having been unaccustomed to ground honeycombed with mole-holes, sluits, and other obstacles, or to the trick of rolling on the veldt and picking up his meals haphazard from the first bush he came across. Hence it became evident that horses in plenty must be forthcoming if we were ever to remedy our deficiencies and make our progress something other than the steam-roller style of progress to which we had been accustomed.

[Pg 19]



Plucky little Mafeking continued to hold its own, and not merely to hold its own, but to make itself dauntlessly aggressive. Continual sorties took place, and indeed formed part of the routine of daily life. Commandant Cronje now sent in a communication disputing the right of the British to use dynamite in any way in the operations for the defence of the town; but Colonel Baden-Powell was inclined for deeds, not arguments, so Cronje was silenced. The town was enlivened by a great concert, in which the National Anthem was sung with fervour and intense significance. This showed without doubt that Mafeking meant to fight so long as breath should last. In regard to provisions and water, the garrison was getting on well. The art of dodging shells, said one officer, was being carried to a state of great perfection, and the fighting was being conducted in strict accordance with military etiquette, Commandant Cronje always giving due notice of bombardment!

For some time after Colonel Walford’s gallant defence of Cannon Kopje on the 31st October, nothing much occurred. The losses from this attack were more than at first supposed. Captain the Hon. H. Marsham, as we know, was killed, and Captain Pechell, who was hit in the abdomen by a piece of shell, succumbed to his injuries. Sergeant Lloyd, who did splendid service with the Red Cross company, was struck while attending to the wounded, and died. Trooper Nicholas, whose arm was shattered, succumbed owing to shock to the system. A trooper who was hit by a bullet in the collar-bone escaped death miraculously. Fortunately, Lieutenants Brady and Dawson, who were also injured, were getting on well.

Among the marvellous escapes recorded, and these were not a few, was one of a negro who was shot through the brain by a bullet. The projectile passed through one temple and lodged in the other, yet the man still survived, and showed a decided intention to recover. There is an old story of a Jamaica negro who fell from a tree without injury, and when asked how he escaped, he explained his good fortune by saying, “Tank God, me fall on me head!” The invulnerability of the nigger cranium in that case, as in this, had its advantages, and it would be interesting if some of our[Pg 20] specialists—say Dr. Horsley—would account for the rough-and-tumble superiority of blacks over whites.

On the 1st of November a lamentable incident occurred. Parslow, the correspondent of the Daily Chronicle, was shot by a member of the garrison. The following is an extract from a letter relating to the sad affair, which was in the possession of the Editor of the Daily Chronicle:—

Mafeking, November 19.—One item, the most unpleasant of the whole beleaguerment, occupied attention during last week—that is, the court-martial of Lieutenant Murchison for the murder of Mr. Parslow, special war correspondent of the London Daily Chronicle. He was a genial, good-humoured young fellow, and asked Murchison, an artilleryman of ability and undoubted courage, to dine with him. After dinner Mr. Parslow strolled with Murchison across the Market Square towards Dixon’s Hotel, the headquarters of the Staff, the ostensible purpose being for both of them to obtain a copy of the orders for the day, usually issued about that time—half-past nine or ten o’clock P.M. Some words ensued apparently during the few minutes occupied in reaching Dixon’s. Parslow left his companion in the passage of the hotel, and was passing out, when it is alleged that Murchison drew his revolver and shot him dead, the bullet entering his head on the occipital protuberance an inch or an inch and a half behind the left ear, and lodging against the base of the skull. The case is completed, and the court closed to consider the verdict.”

The young journalist was exceedingly popular and deeply regretted. He was buried with military honours on the evening of[Pg 21] the 2nd. His coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and carried to the grave by Major Baillie of the Morning Post, Mr. Angus Hamilton of the Times, Mr. Hellawell of the Daily Mail, Mr. Reilly of the Pall Mall Gazette, and the correspondent of the Press Association. The funeral was attended by many members of the Staff, who were desirous of showing their esteem for the promising and gallant writer.

The Siege of Mafeking
Topographical Sketch showing the British and Boer Positions
The Siege of Mafeking
Topographical Sketch showing the British and Boer Positions

From a sketch by a British officer brought by runner to Buluwayo

The enemy now engaged in hostilities under the command of the son of Cronje, who was said to have had, in the interval, a passage d’armes with his father, the General, the younger man having taunted the elder for not having succeeded in reducing Mafeking to submission. Whereupon Cronje fils undertook to do the great deed himself, and in setting about it managed to get killed. The Boers again stormed the place, and were driven back in confusion by the magnificent energy of the British South African Police, leaving strewn on the field of action an enormous number of dead and wounded. Their removal occupied two hours. Captain Goodyear, commanding a squad of Cape “boys,” made a dashing sortie, and received a wound in the leg, but he nevertheless captured the brickfields, and held them against the enemy, thus preventing him from utilising them for sniping operations.

Sunday the 5th of November was, as usual, observed as a day of truce. The enemy made an effort to defy the rules of Sabbath etiquette, and were informed, under a flag of truce, that if they should continue to erect works commanding the brickfields, the guns would open fire on them. This warning had the desired effect. The memory of Guy Fawkes, together with the news of our victories in Natal, was honoured by an exhibition of fireworks—a display which some thought rather de trop considering the nature of the daily operations in the town. On the following day the Boers made themselves unpleasantly obstreperous by saluting the place with quick-firing guns, weapons whose shells burst almost simultaneously with the report, thus depriving those aimed at of the chance of running to cover.

The air of Mafeking is said to be equal to champagne, and perhaps to its stimulating influence the garrison owed its sprightliness and activity. The little township “ran” a journal of its own, and though not so effervescent as The Lyre of Ladysmith, it had its humorous side. The Mafeking Mail, as it was called, was issued daily—shells permitting. Quoting from the Mail of the 1st of November, a facsimile of which was reproduced by the Daily Telegraph, we read that—

“We have borne the much-feared bombardment for a fortnight, and still Mafeking stands. From what we have experienced we do not consider ourselves too optimistic in anticipating a successful ending to the contest. For[Pg 22] the first time in the history of Boer warfare have the Boers been defeated at every turn by a force far inferior in point of numbers. Since the first attack on Saturday, October 14th, they fly directly our guns are heard. Safely out of range they fire into the town, but they do not appear to be pining for another attempt at storming Mafeking. In the ‘general orders’ issued last Sunday the following occurs:—‘The Colonel Commanding having made a careful inspection of the defences of the town and the native stadt, is now of opinion that no force that the Boers are likely to bring against us could possibly effect an entrance at any point.’ Now, this is like the advertisements say a certain cocoa is—grateful and comforting, and we feel that having got so far through the ordeal, we have only to remain steadfast, as the matter of a little time will see decided the first great step towards the settlement of the future of South Africa. There is no doubt that the attention of Great Britain, the Colonies, in fact, the whole world, is now riveted upon this little spot, which is now playing a prominent part in the most important epoch in the history of this wonderful continent. We know there is no need to urge the claims of our country and kindred upon our gallant garrison. Being in such close touch with each other that nothing but the exceptional circumstances thrust upon us could have made possible, we are in a position to judge and recognise the steady determination that British blood and British pluck exhibit when such a crisis as the present arises, and we know that the memory of Bronkhurst Spruit, Majuba, and Potchefstrom will make that determination, supported by the knowledge of our grand successes of the past fortnight, more firm, more strong, and more united than has been before, and this, with the grand soldier who is in command here, will render certain the first stages towards the complete crushing of the enemy.

“There is no doubt that there was landed in South Africa by Sunday last a body of 57,000 men, including probably twelve or fourteen regiments of cavalry, twenty or twenty-two batteries of artillery, and forty regiments of infantry, besides, most likely, a body of mounted infantry. Of this force there will be not less than 15,000 disembarked at Cape Town and despatched on the road here. They may now be settling accounts with the Boers outside Kimberley, in which case Vryburg might be reached by Sunday, allowing for some delay at Fourteen Streams. When our troops reach Vryburg the air of Mafeking will not suit Cronje sprinters, so by this day week we may begin to wish them a pleasant journey back to the Transvaal. It will then be merely an interchange of courtesy if we return the visit.

“When the big gun with which the enemy hoped to pulverise us, and which has sent more shells in the neighbourhood of the hospital and women’s laager than in any other parts of the town, is taken by our troops, we think it only fair to Mafeking that it should be brought here. It will make a good memorial and be an object lesson to succeeding generations, who, reading the history of our bombardment, and seeing the weapon employed against our women and children, will be able to judge of the nineteenth-century Boer’s fitness to dominate such a territory as the Transvaal. Let it be placed, say, in the space opposite the entrance to the railway station, raised on end, with the unexploded shells piled at its base, with a description of Colonel Baden-Powell’s clever defence of the place. We hope the Colonel will bear the town in mind when the disposal of the gun is under discussion.

“Major Lord E. Cecil, C.S.O., last evening issued the following under the heading of ‘General Orders’:”—

[Here was recorded Colonel Baden-Powell’s appreciation of the action of Colonel Walford and his gallant men, which has been previously quoted.]

[Pg 23]

The perusal of the opening paragraphs of the Mafeking Mail serves to enlighten us as to the degrees of hope deferred through which the plucky inhabitants had to pass. The pathos of the expression, “So by this day week we may begin to wish them a pleasant journey back to the Transvaal,” can only be understood by comparing the date to which it referred with that of the relief of the noble garrison—the 17th of May 1900!

On the 7th of November, the force under Major Godley and Captain Vernon made a successful sortie, the excellent management of which was recognised in an order issued by Colonel Baden-Powell:—

“The surprise against the enemy to the westward of the town was smartly and successfully executed at dawn this morning by a force under the direction of Major Godley. Captain Vernon’s squadron of the Protectorate Regiment carried this operation out with conspicuous coolness and steadiness. The gunners, under Major Panzera, fought and worked their guns well under a very trying fire from the enemy. The Bechuanaland Rifles are to be congratulated on the efficient services rendered by them under Captain Cowan in this their first engagement in the field. The enemy appeared to have suffered severely, while our casualties were luckily very light. This is largely due to the fact that Major Godley delivered his blow suddenly and quickly, and withdrew his force again in good time and order. The Colonel Commanding has much pleasure in placing on record a plucky piece of work by Gunners R. Cowan and F. H. Godson. The Hotchkiss gun, of which they had charge, was overturned and its trail-hook broken in course of action. In spite of a very heavy fire from the enemy’s one-pound Maxim and seven-pound Krupp, these men attached the trail to the limber by ropes, and brought the gun safely away.”

At this time the town was surrounded by some 2000 Boers, and a heavy shell-fire was daily exchanged. The damage done, however, was slight, except in the case of the Convent, which seemed to be a favourite mark for the Boer gunners. The trenches of the besiegers had been moved to about 2000 yards of the town, and from here the enemy fired with rifles, but with indifferent success. The Boers, in fact, were getting disheartened. Colonel Baden-Powell was proving himself prepared to enter into a competitive examination on the subject of “slimness” with them, and they were somewhat disturbed at the intellectual strain demanded for rivalry against so smart a pupil. All manner of efforts were made, and there was even a Dutch council of war as to the propriety of making a midnight attack upon the place. But the wily Colonel was ready for them. He took care that lanterns should be placed[Pg 24] in suitable positions to illumine the paths of the would-be assailants, and when they turned on these lanterns the attention of their guns and broke them, more were immediately found to take their place. There was also the British bayonet in reserve, and a hint which they did not care to prove as a certainty—that dynamite was somewhere or other arranged in a ring round the place, so that at a given sign the too pressing attentions of intruders might be disposed of. These some one called “the B. P. Surprise Packets,” which were arranged on the lucky-tub principle, ready for those who might venture on an experimental dive. The exact locality was not disclosed, in order that their whereabouts might prove a never-ending source of wonder and interest to the besiegers.

Outpost and Entrenchment, Southern Fort, Mafeking
Outpost and Entrenchment, Southern Fort, Mafeking

As before said, continual sorties took place, and Colonel Baden-Powell succeeded in capturing mules and horses from the enemy and generally harassing him. Great expectations sustained the gallant little party that Colonel Plumer’s force would shortly make its way from the north and join hands with Colonel Baden-Powell. Early in November the opposing forces stood thus:[Pg 25]

Colonel Baden-Powell, with 500 Cavalry, 200 Cape Mounted Police, and B.S.A. Company’s Mounted Police, 60 Volunteers, six machine-guns, two 7-pounders, and 200 to 300 townsmen used to arms 1500
1000 Transvaal Boers under Commandant Cronje, and 500 Boers at Maritzani 1500

But later, some of the Boers were drawn off for service in the south.



Of the diminutive town of Kuruman and its gallant struggle little can be said. The garrison—consisting of seventy-five British subjects, including the men that came from Bastards—under the command of Captain Baker stood out valiantly, fighting with rare obstinacy, and hoping that British success elsewhere would speedily draw off the intermittent attentions of the Boers. From the 13th to the 20th of November a strong party of Dutchmen kept up incessant pressure, but they were forced to retreat, though both sides suffered loss. On the part of the British one special constable was killed.

The official details of the defence showed that the Mission Station which was formerly the centre of Dr. Moffat’s long work among the natives of that part of Africa was the point of resistance to the Boer attack. When the Dutch commandant notified the magistrate of his intention to occupy the place, the latter replied that he had orders to defend it. Thereupon he collected twenty natives and thirty half-castes, with whose aid he barricaded the Mission Chapel, and there resisted the assault of 500 Boers for six days and nights, after which the Boers abandoned the attack.

To look back on the amazing valour of the tiny garrison, unsuccessful though it was, makes every British heart swell with pride. On the outbreak of hostilities, Mr. Hilliard, the Resident Magistrate, called a meeting of the inhabitants, and eloquently urged them to remain loyal. This, as we know, they did, with the result that the place resisted the Boers and routed them, and, moreover, set a most salutary example of loyalty to the surrounding districts of Cape Colony. The following extracts from five short letters (all dated November 24), written by Mr. and Mrs. Hilliard to relatives, will be of interest, as showing the gallant spirit that sustained these brave people, and the love for Queen and country that was so practically displayed by them. Mr. Hilliard said:—“Just a short letter to say we have been fighting the Boers here from the 13th to the 18th, and have driven them back with heavy loss. I received a letter from their ‘Fighting General,’ Visser, on Sunday the 12th, saying that if I did not surrender the town voluntarily, he would take it by main force. I replied that if he did he would have to[Pg 26] take the consequences of his illegal act, as my Government had not instructed me to evacuate the town. The enemy has drawn off towards Vryburg.” In another letter he said:—“We are going strong; the brave little garrison is so good and cheerful. The army has gone, but may return, so we are prepared.” In yet another he wrote:—“We are all right up to now, and shall stick to our dear old flag till the last, whatever happens. May God defend the right and our dear Queen. Three cheers for all.” Mrs. Hilliard wrote:—“On Monday, November 13, the Boers attacked Kuruman. Our men fought bravely for six days, after which the Boers departed, and we don’t know if they intend returning or not. Charlie is at the Police Camp, and looks well and happy. He is very proud of our men. Our men are still on the alert, and are strengthening their forts, as the Boers will not return without a cannon. They quite expected this place to be handed over to them at once, as Vryburg was.”

This state of affairs continued till the end of the year. On the 1st of January the plucky little garrison was at last forced to surrender. This, they said, they would never have done had they possessed a single cannon. The Boer artillery knocked to pieces the improvised fort before the white flag was hoisted over the ruins. Four men were killed and eighteen wounded in the splendid but hopeless effort to hold the open village against a foe provided with artillery and superior in numbers. The Boers numbered twelve hundred against some seventy-five practically helpless men! So the unequal tug-of-war came to an end—we may say, an honourable end.

In Northern Rhodesia, British subjects were practically isolated. The telegraph to the south was cut, and the railway—some four hundred miles of it—was damaged in various places. To show the state of remoteness in which the unfortunate inhabitants found themselves, it is sufficient to say that a telegram from London to Buluwayo took sixteen days in transit. Letters from Port Elizabeth were received about three weeks after being posted. It may easily be imagined what dearth of news prevailed, and how even such news as it was, was falsified by rumour. But the excellent fellows kept heart, although they were, as one of them said, “absolutely ignored by the British Government, and had not a red coat in the country.” He went on to say, “We have any quantity of men of grit, and about a thousand fellows have volunteered to fight out of a total population of men, women, and children of six thousand at most.”

So little could reach us as to the doings of Colonel Plumer’s splendid little force, that the following letter from Trooper Young, a barrister, who joined at the outbreak of the war, may be[Pg 27] quoted. It supplies some early links in the chain of the brave history:—

Fort Tuli, South Africa, November 9, 1899.

“I’ve had a bit of an exciting time since I last wrote—almost too exciting at one time. Last time I wrote was when we were leaving Tuli for Rhodes Drift. We arrived there all right after much marching and counter-marching, mostly by night. The second night of it, for the small portion we had for sleep I struck a guard; so by the third night I was in a wretched state from want of sleep. I was always dropping off to sleep on my horse and suddenly waking up. Moreover, I began to see all sorts of strange things. Brooks and trees were transformed into houses and gardens, and then I would come-to with a start and pinch myself and try to keep awake—a very unpleasant experience. When we reached Rhodes Drift, our squadron was quartered there alone, and we had a couple of brushes with the enemy to start with.

“I missed the first, in which we had much the best of it. We only had one man hit, and that only slightly, and in return we bowled over a couple of Dutchmen (others may have been wounded), stampeded their horses, over a hundred in number (we surprised their grazing guard), killed or wounded twenty of the horses, and jumped seven. The next fight was warm for a bit. We had only half the squadron—about forty-five men—who were reconnoitring round the enemy’s fort dismounted. This was only three miles from our camp and in British territory. We had four men wounded, and did an equal amount of damage to them, if not more. We got off very cheap, for their fire was very hot, and very close too. The third fight came off on November 2, and that was a scorcher. On the night before it I was on guard. It was a beastly night, raining and blowing hard, so I got very little sleep when it was my turn off. In the day I was in charge of the grazing guard with three other men.

“About one o’clock I got orders to bring in the horses, which I did, and had just got all the horses tied up when the Dutch started firing on us. I’d just got into a nice position behind a good big rock when I was ordered to ride out to warn our outlying pickets. There were three of them, four men in each, about a mile or a mile and a half away. A risky job it was too. Two of us were sent. I asked the other man which he would go to. He chose the one I had wanted, so I had the worst job—two pickets to warn, and had to ride right through the line of fire. As I started, one of our officers shouted, ‘Don’t spare your horse; ride like h—ll;’ and I did too. Directly I got out, ping-ping came two bullets, a bit high, but others soon followed much closer. I got out, though, all right, warned the two pickets, and came in with them. We got a bit of a fusillade on us when we got near the fort, but had no[Pg 28] casualties. The man who rode to the other picket had his horse shot under him; so I scored—not for long, though, for my own horse was shot soon after.

“When I got back, I found we were having a very hot time. Our position was a couple of small kopjes close together. On two sides there was an open space for about 600 or 700 yards. On the other two sides there was a lot of bush and a ridge running round us, which we were not strong enough to occupy. The Boers had in the field between 300 and 400 men, so we thought; we afterwards found that that was not overstating their number. Moreover, they had 250 men and one gun at Brice’s Store, about six miles away on the Tuli road, and strong reinforcements at their camp. They gave us the devil of a time. At first they fired mostly at the horses. They, poor beasts, had no cover, and nearly every one was hit. A few broke loose and bolted. Later, they turned their attention to us. Luckily, their shell-fire was very wild, or we should have suffered heavily. As it was, we had not a man even wounded; but it was a miracle we did not, for at times their rifle-fire was very heavy, and now and then they got a good shell in. I had a narrow shave. A shell burst just near me, and one of the splinters struck a stone and sent a piece of it bang against my leg. It cut right through my putties, three folds of them. I made certain I was wounded, and was much relieved to find there was no damage done.

“When the evening came, we had two alternatives—to stay where we were and wait to be cut up, or try to go through to Tuli. It was finally decided to do the latter, and it was undoubtedly the right thing to do. If we had remained, we should have been surrounded the next day, and every one slaughtered. With ninety men against a thousand we should have had no show; still, it was a very bitter pill having to sneak off at night, leaving everything behind (including the few horses left alive), our kit and waggons, even the ambulance waggon. It was horrible saying good-bye to our horses. My poor little Whiskey was wounded and very unhappy; we were not allowed to shoot the wounded ones, as we had to sneak off as quietly as possible. It was very sad work. Luckily we had no man hit. I don’t know what we should have done if we had. I suppose we should have remained there and taken the inevitable consequences, as we would not have left them. We left at 8 P.M., and arrived at Tuli at 1 P.M. next day, only two halts, one and a half in the night for sleep, and another of half-an-hour for breakfast, which for me and most of us consisted of water. I had nothing to eat except one small cookie from 8 A.M. the morning of the fight to 2 P.M. the next day.

“Altogether, we marched forty miles through awful country, for a long way through brushwood called the ‘wait-a-bit’ thorn, and in[Pg 29] the night, too; it tore our clothes, hands, arms, and faces to bits; then through sand, over kopjes covered with thick brush. Altogether it was equal to sixty miles of English roads, and we went pretty fast when the way allowed. We had one pleasant surprise; one of our officers left us and rode on to Tuli when we were about ten miles off, and reported that we were only a few miles out, pretty dead-beat, as we were. Until Captain Glynne arrived, they believed we were all cut up, and one of the squadrons rode out to us and lent us their horses, for which we were very grateful. They met us about three miles out, and I’m blowed if I know how we could have crawled in without them; we were absolutely dead-beat. I was never so glad of a ride in my life. When we got into camp, we found that three or four of the men of E squadron, who had been left behind at Tuli sick, or had come in riding with dispatches, had prepared food for us, which was also very grateful, for we wanted it. We had left most of our kit behind at Tuli, so we were able to have a change of clothes and a wash, both very much needed, and then I must say I did enjoy myself. It was simply delightful to lie down and loaf about and do nothing but smoke cigarettes. All the bitterness of the defeat and the loss of our horses seemed to disappear, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself that afternoon.

“At Tuli every one believed we were cut up. A party from there, twenty-five in number, when escorting some waggons to us, were attacked by a much superior force at Brice’s Store and badly defeated. They had to take to the bush and abandon the waggons. They brought four men wounded back, while seven were missing, including the parson, who was coming to see us—he was wounded in the leg. According to the men who were there, he was taking a distinctly active part in the fight. A squadron of some of the police, about 120 in all, were sent out to try and relieve us, but near the store were met by some of the boys who had bolted from us, and who reported that we were already wiped out, every man killed; so they returned without trying to force their way through to us. In Tuli they were much relieved to hear of our safe arrival. It was certainly a very narrow squeak for us; it is still a wonder to me how we managed to escape without losing a man. Certainly we had very good cover, and took advantage of it; it was the only thing we could do. We managed to silence their rifle-fire once or twice, but could do nothing against their long-range shell-fire. Since then we have had very little to do, but expect to have some more fighting before long, when we hope to get a bit of our own back. One thing I think I may say without boasting—we all behaved very well. There was not a sign of funk, and every one took it coolly. As a matter of fact, more than half of E squadron had been under fire before, either in Rhodesia or elsewhere.[Pg 30]

To understand the effect of war upon Rhodesia at this time, we must read the following extracts from a letter written by a “Son of the Manse” in business near Buluwayo, dated 11th November 1899:—“We have been cut off from the south for more than five weeks, and are very badly off for news. Such news as we get comes by Beira, and as there is no cable between Delagoa Bay and Beira, this makes things worse. We have heard nothing from Mafeking since its investment by the Boers except a couple of messages sent out by a native runner to the nearest telegraph office still in touch with Buluwayo. A number of men from here are on the southern frontier keeping the Boers in check, so as to prevent them making a raid in this direction. They have had several skirmishes, but the Boers are not in any great force, as they appear to have concentrated their men on the Natal border, where most of the fighting will probably take place. Business is so slow here that numbers can get leave from their offices for the asking, and there were lots of fellows in town doing nothing who were only too glad of the chance of earning 10s. a day, which the Government are paying the Volunteers. The local newspaper here is of little use at present, as it has not funds to get direct news from Natal, and the only reliable information we get is published by the authorities. The Chronicle here came out with a special edition yesterday, describing a serious reverse to the British (two thousand men and forty-six officers captured), but it turned out to be taken from a German paper published in Zanzibar and sent to Beira, and I trust it may prove false. We won’t get any newspapers, I fear, as long as the mails come viâ Beira, owing to the cost of bringing them from Salisbury by coach, but we hope there will be a change for the better soon. When the newspapers come they will be interesting reading.... The stoppage of the railway has had a serious effect in Buluwayo, as it has caused a tremendous rise in the prices of everything, and if most of the merchants had not laid in immense stocks in anticipation of what was coming, things would be very much worse. Some articles are very scarce. Potatoes are about £5 a sack, and of very inferior quality. Sugar is 9d. to 1s. per lb.; and a 200-lb. sack of flour costs 50s. to 60s., cheaper than most things, as there was an enormous stock stored. Everything is likely to go up still higher before supplies can reach the town, and fresh meal will soon be practically unattainable, and every one will have to depend on tinned meat. There are no colonial eggs coming up, so we are getting about 5s. a dozen for ours, and the price will probably rise, as with everything else. Some of the restaurants and hotels have had to close their dining-room, as so many men have gone to the front. The demand for eggs and fuel (wood) is, therefore, somewhat decreased. Several storekeepers talk of getting things from[Pg 31] Salisbury, and if prices rise very much perhaps it would pay. The average rate per waggon to Salisbury lately was nearly 25s. per 100 lbs. weight. The mines are still working fairly, and may be kept on. The Kaffirs round here seem to take little interest in the war, and the most of them have not the remotest idea where Natal is, although the Matabele came from there less than seventy years ago. Of course they all know the Boers, and thoroughly detest them, as they have very good reason to do. We have only had a few showers of rain here so far, and the grass is very poor. We can work our donkeys much at present on that account, as I want to have them in good order, as transport will be very high when communications are again established.”

In Southern Rhodesia the Boers were kept in check by the activities of Colonel Holdsworth. In order to reconnoitre, and, if possible, attack the Boer laager at Sekwani, he started on the 23rd of November with seventy-five mounted men and ten cyclists on a night march over sandy roads in a region where water was extremely scarce. At daybreak they reached the Dutch laager and caught the Boers napping. Lieutenant Llewellyn wished them an energetic “Good morning” by means of a Maxim gun at 1000 to 1200 yards range, with the result that the enemy, about eighty strong, were routed from their position among the kopjes. The Boers retired to other kopjes, and from thence offered resistance, but as storming them would have entailed considerable loss, the British force returned to camp. They, however, burned a large store of ammunition and captured some rifles. Therefore their hundred-mile march, accomplished in twenty-three hours, was not profitless.

MAFEKING, November

Poor Mafeking! The inevitable hung like a ghost over everything—bodiless, formless, but always there at the elbows of the gallant band that so long had held out against the foe. He was now coming closer—closer, continuing to sap and approach by parallels, till before long not only shells but rifle-fire would render streets impassable, shelters useless, and fortified positions dangerous. Colonel Baden-Powell’s brilliant wits were hard pressed to keep the enemy from carrying the town by storm, and all who valued their lives lived underground, burrowing like rabbits, or in bomb-proof shelters, from which occasionally they were routed, not by fire but by water.

Still the word surrender was unspelt. None dared breathe it aloud. A battery of seven field-guns blazing their hot fire and doing their fell work made no effect—the besieged remained firm. Mauser bullets whizzed past their ears; shells long as coal-scuttles and nearly as thick crashed into buildings, now into the hospital, now the[Pg 32] convent, or sometimes into the women’s laager, leaving not seldom a track of mourning and blood; but the Boer could not plume himself on victory. Not so far off his white tents reflected the sunlight, and closer still the grim music of his rifles was eternally to be heard; but inside the little town were men who were developing from mere men of commerce into toughened warriors, and assisting Colonel Baden-Powell and his diminutive force to maintain the majesty of Great Britain, with a chivalry that might have done honour to the knights of old.

Towards the middle of the month the garrison was much cheered by the arrival on the scene of a plucky American journalist, who had ridden from the Cape straight through the Boer lines, and who came with all the buoyancy of the outer world to delight the ears of the British with tales of Lord Methuen’s advance. Other news now and then filtered in, and this the Colonel, either viva voce or by means of his typewriter, promptly shared with the whole interested community.

Facsimile of Writing in Album by Col. Baden-Powell
Facsimile of Writing in Album by Col. Baden-Powell

To make it evident that Mafeking was determined to keep lively and aggressive in spite of intermittent bombardment, several more gallant sorties were made, and on each occasion the little place came off with flying colours. Commander Cronje, disgusted, finally took himself off with some twenty waggons to Riceters (Transvaal), leaving his guns with the remaining commandoes and relegating to them the task of reducing the truculent town to submission.

Ruses, which are as the breath of his nostrils to the Boer in warfare, continued to be tried on Colonel Baden-Powell, who may be said to have almost enjoyed new chances to whet his wits and showed himself the last person to be caught napping. Indeed, some one at the time remarked that if they wanted to take him in they would have to get up very early in the morning and stay awake all night into the bargain! The latest Boer device was to make a show of going away and leaving a big gun apparently in a state of being[Pg 33] dismantled. This of course was what in vulgar phrase might be called a “draw” for the besieged. But the Colonel was not to be drawn; his smart scouts continually found the enemy hidden in force, and thereupon put every one on their guard. Mafeking, in fact, “sat tight” and—winked!

Photo by Bassano, London.

Meanwhile the inhabitants were pushing out advanced works with good effect, and began to feel more and more confident that their pluck and patience would ultimately receive their reward. Their bomb-proof shelters were becoming works of art. They were no longer rabbit-warrens, but well-ventilated apartments, roofed with the best steel rails and sand-bags, and lighted by windows resembling portholes. Great ingenuity was displayed in the wedding of safety with comfort, and the owners soon began to grow interested in the artistic quality of their improvised retreats!

On the 25th of November another gallant sortie was made, and the Chartered Company’s Police, with magnificent pluck and determination, attacked Eloffsfort and kept the Boers from further encroachment.

For some days nothing unusual took place. The Boers continued to annoy with their 10-ton gun and the Boer flag began to float over the fortified places surrounding the town. In fact, there was a somewhat wearisome monotony in the programme of daily life. The laconic report at that time of one of the sufferers was that the sole resource was to “snipe and wait!” Fortunately pressure elsewhere was beginning to draw off some of the hostile legions, and consequently the activity of the assault on the town was diminished. It was quite evident that Colonel Baden-Powell had been found a nasty nut to crack, and that his earthworks, his trenches, his underground shelters, his night attacks, and his hundred-and-one minor dodges, which had been craftily invented to test the amiability of the ingenuous Boer, were scarcely appreciated. Indeed, the worthy Cronje, when wisely taking himself off, was reported to have owned that the Mafeking blend of Baden-Powell-dynamite-mine-and-best-Sheffield was decidedly infernal!

On this subject the correspondent of the Times, who was cooped in Mafeking, said: “The significance of the dynamite mines which surround our position cannot be under-estimated. Had the Boers any trustworthy information as to the whereabouts of the mines, the town would probably have been stormed weeks ago. The general ignorance on their part of the locality of the mines creates corresponding dread. The mines may be taken as a material effort on the part of Rhodesia to assist Imperial prestige and interests. The Postmaster-General of Rhodesia lent Mr. Kiddy, manager of telegraphs, to superintend the laying of mines, telephones, and field-telegraphs. The services so rendered have been invaluable.[Pg 34]

Of the Commandant another of the beleaguered band wrote: “Commanding us we have a man than whom we could have none better. The Colonel is always smiling, and is a host in himself. To see ‘B. P.,’ as he is affectionately termed, whistling down the street, deep in thought, pleasing of countenance, cheerful and confident, is cheering and heartening—far more cheering and heartening than a pint of dry champagne. Had any man in whom the town placed less confidence been in command, disaster might have befallen Mafeking; and if we are able to place the name of Mafeking upon the roll of the Empire’s outposts which have fought for the honour and glory of Britain, it will be chiefly because Baden-Powell has commanded us.”

That our good old friend Punch should, in his old age, cause almost intoxicating delight is a fact worthy of note. A copy brought by Reuter’s cyclist-runner was safely carried into the town, to the intense joy of its inhabitants. It contained the cartoon by Sir John Tenniel in which John Bull is represented as telling the Boer that if he wishes to fight it must be a fight to the finish. The journal was read and re-read even to the advertisements, and gloated over for many days. What has now become of it is a question of interest. There are doubtless many collectors of war trophies who would pay more than his weight in gold for Mr. Punch after he had lived through and shared in the vicissitudes of siege life in Mafeking.

The pluck of Colonel Baden-Powell seemed to be epidemic. Young boys, and even women, clamoured to do their share of the work, and strove to display a perfectly unruffled front in face of shot and shell. In one house some ladies stuck to their abode while the breastworks were being built, and employed the interval in playing and singing the National Anthem, thus stimulating and cheering the workers outside, who joined heartily in the chorus. On the 28th of November grand preparations were made for an evening attack, and these were quietly inspected by Colonel Baden-Powell in the small hours of the morning. But the Boers, whose spies were for ever busy, were forewarned and had evacuated their position. From the advanced trench in the river-bed some successful sniping at the foe on the brickfields was carried on, however, and from here the enemy was eventually routed by the smart action of the besieged.

During the night the Colonel ordered Captain Fitzclarence, with D squadron and a Hotchkiss gun, to relieve Lord C. Bentinck and to support the “snipers” in the river-bed. D squadron took up a position in the river-bed under Captain Fitzclarence and Lieutenant Bridges 1400 yards from “Big Ben.” The Cape Police and a Maxim at the extreme south-east corner, and Captain Marsh with[Pg 35] a detachment of the Cape Police in the native stadt at 2000 yards range, co-operated. It now became impossible for the Boer artillerists to hold the emplacement of their 100-lb. gun. Heavy three-cornered volleying from the British positions swept the parapet of “Big Ben” every time its detachment attempted to turn the gun upon the town. The remarkable accuracy of our fire kept the Boer gunners at bay, and after discharging two shells they withdrew the weapon below its platform. The enemy made some futile efforts to renew the shelling, but at last desisted. But on the morrow the customary salute of big guns was resumed. Meanwhile the Colonel employed himself with various jokes of a very practical nature, which served to keep the wits and energies of the Boers in a perpetual state of polish.

News from Colonel Plumer and his force was scarce, but all were aware that their days and nights were spent in hard work, great discomfort, and in perpetual and gallant efforts to come to the aid of the besieged town. It must be remembered that the Rhodesian Regiment originally had for its object the protection of the northern border of the Transvaal and a portion of the western side. Mafeking made, as it were, the outer gate, and this gate it was necessary to defend in order to preserve the communications with the north and with Buluwayo. No sooner, therefore, was it locked by a state of siege, than the entire responsibility of keeping the Boers at bay in the northern fringe of the Transvaal devolved on Colonel Plumer, who, on arrival at Tuli, set to work to guard the Drifts, and keep an eye on all quarters along the Crocodile where the Boers might try to effect a crossing. At Rhodes Drift, twenty-six miles south of South Tuli, he posted Major Pilsen with 250 mounted infantry, while Captain Maclaren, with fifty men of the Rhodesia Regiment and twenty of the Bechuanaland Border Police, was sent to garrison Macloutsie, some thirty miles north of the Limpopo, where it was said the Boers hoped to put in an appearance. Major Pilsen, as we know, was forced to retire on Tuli, after which the position vacated by him was occupied by Colonel Spreckley (Southern Rhodesia Volunteers), who in his turn was obliged to make a night march back to Tuli, with the loss of all his horses. Soon after this, strong Boer patrols approached daily towards Tuli, and the garrison had an anxious and energetic time. Minor skirmishes took place with certain success, but leaving behind them their melancholy roll of killed and wounded. Soon, however, a British victory south, and Colonel Plumer’s exertions round about, combined to alter the Boer plans, and at length their retirement in the direction of Mafeking was reported. Whereupon this enterprising officer prepared to enter the Transvaal, whither he was driven, not by the enemy, but by drought. On the 1st of December[Pg 36] he started from Tuli with a force of mounted men, and, after hairbreadth escapes, in four or five days reached a place some fifty miles north of Petersburg, the chief town in the north of the South African Republic. He also proceeded down the railway line towards Mafeking, but was continually harassed by the enemy, and continually obliged to retrace his steps owing to lack of water and other insuperable difficulties. Here we must leave him for a time.

The Boers, learning that necessity is the mother of invention, and finding they could not get into Mafeking, were obliged to communicate with the Baden-Powell “braves” in an original manner. They fired into the town a five-pounder shell, which failed to explode. It was examined, opened, and discovered to contain the following jocose epistle:—“Dear Powell,—Excuse an iron messenger. There is no other means of communicating. Please tell Mrs. — Mother and family all well. Don’t drink all the whisky. Leave some for us when we get in.” This was a little piece of innocent diversion compared to other experiences. On the following day a shell from a Boer 100-pounder struck a store, sending its splinters far and wide, and carrying devastation in its wake. Daily some tragic episode was the result of a well-directed shot, some white or black inhabitant was left a mangled, hopeless wreck—a pathetic fortuitous atom blown to the winds by the blast of war. In addition to the intermittent uproar of the heavy guns, heaven’s thunders at times broke out, with copious showers of rain, and one of these, on the 5th, was so violent that it flooded out the trenches, and made all bomb-proof shelters untenable. Trouble and discomfort were as far as possible relieved with great energy by Lord Edward Cecil and others, but the effects of the inundation were not easily removed. Brisk engagements between the sharpshooters on either side now formed part of a morning and evening programme, and the Protectorate Regiment, under Lord Charles Bentinck, did such good service that the enemy grew shy of approach, and concluded that the process of starving out the garrison would be more comfortable than shelling so vigorous and retaliative a community.

On the 10th of December the Dutchman Viljoen, who was a prisoner, was exchanged for Lady Sarah Wilson. The story of this enterprising lady is one of remarkable interest. In the beginning of the siege she left Mafeking and rode to Setlagoli Hotel, where she arrived on the same night. No sooner was she asleep than the rattle and roar of musketry commenced. This was afterwards discovered to be the gallant fight of Lieutenant Nesbitt on the armoured train, which has been described in the opening story of the siege. Poor Nesbitt, it may be remembered, was taken prisoner. Lady Sarah, a day or two after the fight, rode to the scene of the engagement and photographed the wreck. Later on, this intrepid lady moved from[Pg 37] Mosuti to the care of a colonial farmer, and with great difficulty and much expenditure of energy and coin, she managed to induce the natives to provide her with information. All this time she and her friends were subject to the insults of the Boers. At one period she was declared to be the sole survivor of Mafeking, in hiding in the disguise of a woman. At another, she was believed to be the wife of one of the British generals. Others declared that the extraordinary lady was a member of the Royal Family, who was acting as spy on the doings of the Boers in the Colony. After moving to Vryburg, life for her became more exciting still. A young Boer passed her off as his sister, and some loyalists in the town gave her shelter, and helped her to obtain official despatches and news. But her state was far from comfortable, for most of her excursions had to be made under the shadow of night, and her days were spent enclosed in a room at the hotel. When Lady Sarah desired to leave the town, her exit was not so easy. The magistrates had issued orders that no one was to leave, and but for the kindness of her “brother Boer,” she might not have been able to depart. Their journey was commenced at four in the morning, while it was still dark, and before leaving the town they had to submit to a search of their car, lest it should contain any contraband of war.

At last, however, it was discovered that Lady Sarah Wilson’s energy was connected with despatch-running, and her liberty was threatened. One day while riding to Mafeking with her maid she was captured by the Boers. On reaching Snyman’s camp, the general refused to allow her to proceed to her destination or to return to Setlagoli. She was then detained as a prisoner of war, pending negotiations with Colonel Baden-Powell regarding the terms of her release. The Colonel offered to exchange for Lady Sarah a Boer lady prisoner, but the enemy refused to part with their prize till Viljoen, who was incarcerated in Mafeking, was first given up. Colonel Baden-Powell then represented that he, as a natural consequence, and without terms of exchange, had at once transferred women and children prisoners to the care of their people; but the Boer general was not to be prevailed upon by argument. Eventually Viljoen was given up and Lady Sarah returned safe and well to Mafeking. The transaction, though somewhat unpleasant, was on the whole decidedly complimentary to Lady Sarah in particular, and to the British feminine sex in general. It fully proved that an Englishwoman might in future view herself as the equivalent of a Boer officer.

The artillery-fire of the enemy was now beginning to prove more efficient than formerly. In spite of this, however, Colonel Baden-Powell, in the kindness of his heart, issued a warning to the Burghers advising them to make terms and go home. This[Pg 38] very characteristic epistle is here reproduced, as it shows the amazing blend of serpent and dove in the spirit of the man who was at that moment facing the choice of death or surrender:—

“To the Burghers under arms round Mafeking:—

“Burghers,—I address you in this manner because I have only recently learned how you have been intentionally kept in the dark by your officers, the Government, and the newspapers as to what is happening in other parts of South Africa. As the officer commanding Her Majesty’s troops on this border, I think it right to point out clearly the inevitable result of your remaining longer under arms against Great Britain. You are aware that the present war was caused by the invasion of British territory by your forces without justifiable reasons. Your leaders do not tell you that so far your forces have only met the advanced guard of the British forces. The circumstances have changed within the last week. The main body of the British are now daily arriving by thousands from England, Canada, India, and Australia, and are about to advance through the country. In a short time the Republic will be in the hands of the English, and no sacrifice of life on your part can stop it. The question now that you have to put to yourselves before it is too late is:—Is it worth while losing your lives in a vain attempt to stop the invasion or take a town beyond your borders, which, if taken, will be of no use to you?

“I may tell you that Mafeking cannot be taken by sitting down and looking at it, for we have ample supplies for several months. The Staats artillery has done very little damage, and we are now protected both by troops and mines. Your presence here and elsewhere under arms cannot stop the British advancing through your country. Your leaders and newspapers are also trying to make you believe that some foreign combination or Power is likely to intervene in your behalf against England. It is not in keeping with their pretence that your side is going to be victorious, nor in accordance with facts. The Republics having declared war and taken the offensive, cannot claim intervention on their behalf. The German Emperor is at present in England, and fully sympathises with us. The American Government has warned others of its intention to side with England should any Power intervene. France has large interests in the goldfields, identical with those of England. Italy is entirely in accord with us. Russia has no cause to interfere. The war is of one Government against another, and not of a people against another people. The duty assigned to my troops is to sit still here until the proper time arrives, and then to fight and kill until you give in. You, on the other hand, have other interests to think of, your families, farms, and their safety. Your leaders have caused the destruction of farms, and have fired on women and children. Our men are becoming hard to restrain in consequence. They have also caused the invasion of Kaffir territory, looting their cattle, and have thus induced them to rise and invade your country and kill your Burghers. As one white man to another, I warned General Cronje on November 14 that this would occur. Yesterday I heard that more Kaffirs were rising. I have warned General Snyman accordingly. Great bloodshed and destruction of farms threaten you on all sides.

“I wish to offer you a chance of avoiding it. My advice to you is to return to your homes without delay and remain peaceful till the war is over. Those who do this before the 13th will, as far as possible, be protected, as regards yourselves, your families, and property, from confiscation, looting,[Pg 39] and other penalties, to which those remaining under arms will be subjected when the invasion takes place. Secret agents will communicate to me the names of those who do. Those who do not avail themselves of the terms now offered may be sure that their property will be confiscated when the troops arrive. Each man must be prepared to hand over a rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition. The above terms do not apply to officers and members of the Staats artillery, who may surrender as prisoners of war at any time, nor to rebels on British territory.

“It is probable that my force will shortly take the offensive. To those who after this warning defer their submission till too late, I can offer no promise. They will have only themselves to blame for injury to and loss of property they and their families may afterwards suffer.”—(Signed) R. S. S. Baden-Powell, Colonel, Mafeking, December 10.”

If this warning did nothing else, it certainly had the effect of touching General Snyman in a soft spot, for he at once wrote to his Burghers in fiery language, expressing his disapproval that such a communication should have been addressed direct to them. The idea that “sitting and looking at a place is not the way to take it” seems to have gone home to him, for he promptly challenged the besieged to come out and drive him away!

On the same day as his address to the Burghers the Colonel wrote home to a relative in England, and sent the missive folded in a quill, which was in its turn rammed into the pipe of a Kaffir:—

Mafeking, Dec. 12, 1899.

“All going well with me. To-day I have been trying to find any old Carthusians in the place to have a Carthusian dinner together, as it is Founder’s Day; but so far, for a wonder, I believe I am the only one among the odd thousand people here.

“This is our sixtieth day of the siege, and I do believe we’re beginning to get a little tired of it; but I suppose, like other things, it will come to an end some day. I have got such an interesting collection of mementoes of it to bring home. I wonder if Baden[1] is in the country? What fun if he should come up to relieve me!

“I don’t know if this letter will get through the Boer outposts, but if it does, I hope it will find you very well and flourishing.”


At Kimberley on November 4 things were still cheerful, though short commons had begun to be enforced. The Transvaalers advanced on Kenilworth, and Major Peakman with a squadron of the Kimberley Light Horse, emerging suddenly from the bush, gave them a warm reception. Colonel Scott-Turner reinforced Major Peakman, and two guns were sent to support him against the enemy’s guns, which at that juncture ceased firing. The[Pg 40] enemy’s fire with one piece of artillery was on the whole poor, and fortunately little serious damage was done. Later in the afternoon came another encounter with the enemy, an encounter which was kept up till dusk, and in which the enemy sustained considerable loss. Unfortunately Major Ayliff of the Cape Police, a brave and efficient officer, was wounded in the neck. The Boers occupied the Kampersdam mine, some five miles distant, and shelled the Otto Kopje mine, while the manager, Mr. Chapman, like a Spartan, watched the destruction of his property and kept Colonel Kekewich informed as to the damage done. This was luckily small. On November 6 General Cronje sent a message to Colonel Kekewich calling on him to surrender, otherwise the town would be bombarded, and on the following day a force of Free State artillery, supported by a large commando, began further offensive operations. Captain Brown, who rode out a short distance to Alexandersfontein, was captured, and stripped by the Boers because he would reveal nothing regarding the state of the town.

Plan of Kimberley and Environs
Plan of Kimberley and Environs
Photo by Gregory & Co., London.

[Pg 41]

According to rough calculation, the opposing forces at Kimberley early in November stood thus:—

Four companies of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment; battery of Royal Garrison Artillery, consisting of six 7-pounder mountain guns; a large party of Royal Engineers; detachment of the Army Medical Corps 2500
In addition to these were the following irregular troops:—  
One battery Diamond Fields Artillery with six 7-pounder field guns, 3 officers and 90 non-commissioned officers and men; Diamond Fields Horse, 6 officers and 142 non-commissioned officers and men; Kimberley Regiment, 14 officers and 285 non-commissioned officers and men 540
Free Staters, and probably some Transvaal Boers, with four field-guns, 3500; on Orange River, 2000; reinforcements from Mafeking, 1000 6500

The disparity was not enlivening, but, though provisions were beginning to run low, pluck was inexhaustible. And with pluck, as with faith, one may move mountains.

On the 11th of November the bombardment of the town was commenced with great vigour, the Boers firing from three positions. Little serious damage was done, owing to the fact that many of the shells did not burst. In spite of the incessant brawling of artillery, the perpetual appearance of fog, and a stinging pall of smoke in which they lived, the inhabitants of the place kept up an air of cheery unconcern, which naturally they were far from feeling. They also determined to disquiet the enemy by continual threats of attack from unexpected quarters. With the spirit of philosophers they at times made small divertisements for themselves. Once when a cooking-pot was struck the debris were put up to auction, and some fun was got out of the brisk competition for the historic relics. Some of the choicest of these were knocked down—this time not by guns—for the sum of £2 a piece. The price of a complete shell was about £5, and portions of one could be purchased at proportionate rates. Bits and fragments fetched sums varying from half a crown to half a sovereign!

Nothing further happened, save that a cabdriver was captured, interrogated, threatened, and finally set free. Commandant Wessels, who sounded him regarding the dynamite mines round Kimberley, concluded with the message—a typical specimen of Boer braggadocio—“Tell Rhodes I shall take Wesselton mine next Tuesday, and then he must stand whiskies!”

On the 12th Lord Methuen, on whom all had pinned their faith, arrived with his staff at the Orange River. This was a red-letter day. The news of British relief so close at hand was most inspiriting, and[Pg 42] those whose patience was inclined to languish began to take heart. In Kimberley itself the weather was fine and warm, and as yet little ill consequence from the shelling was suffered. A peacock was killed, some buildings damaged, some nervous persons terrified. The military authorities issued a proclamation ordering that all people not engaged with the defensive forces should give up arms and ammunition, a decision that was found necessary to prevent irresponsible persons from infringing the laws of civilised warfare.

On the 17th of November a force composed of detachments of the Diamond Fields Horse, Kimberley Light Horse, and Cape Police, under Colonel Scott Turner, went out with a field-gun and two Maxims to ascertain the strength of the enemy’s position at Lazaretto Ridge. The enemy, who were posted on a rocky mound between Carter’s Farm and the reservoir, opened fire on the advancing men, who, though some vigorous volleys were returned, were obliged to retire. Meanwhile the Beaconsfield Town Guard had a tussle with the foe, and, after much firing on either side, he eventually retired. As usual, he hid behind rocks and stones, and made himself generally inaccessible. On the following day some smart engagements ensued, and so brisk was the volleying from rifles and the booming of field-guns, that the townspeople believed that some decisive battle must be taking place. There were, however, few casualties.

All eyes were now fixed on the doings of the Kimberley relief force that was concentrating at Orange River. A few more weeks, nay, a few more days, and those patient, cheery prisoners would march out free to have their reckoning with the Boers. Lord Methuen, once joined by the Coldstream Guards, Grenadiers, and Naval Brigade, would be able to push on, and then the first big move in the war would be made. So they hoped, and with reason, for an electric searchlight, worked by the Naval Brigade under Colonel Ernest Rhodes, was signalling to Kimberley, whose searchlights were plainly visible to the advancing army.

To the dreary imprisoned inhabitants this mode of communication was vastly exciting. Every day the relief column was approaching nearer and nearer, and the patient though longing besieged began to feel as if they were already almost liberated. They commenced preparing an enthusiastic welcome for the incoming troops, and ironical farewell salutations were now levied at the Boers in acknowledgment of shells and of their general artillery prowess. At that time, coming events—the disasters of Majesfontein and Colenso—had not cast their shadows before! Mr. Rhodes was particularly cheery, and took most whimsically to the information conveyed through Kaffir sources that the enemy was keenly desirous of exhibiting him in a cage at Bloemfontein prior to despatching him to Pretoria! The brutal manners and[Pg 43] customs of the Boers, however, were no subject for joke, as shown by their treatment of four “boys” who were found and captured while searching for stray cattle. After killing a couple of them, the enemy ordered the remaining two, having first flogged them, to bury the bodies of their comrades, and then go back to Kimberley and tell their friends how they had been treated.

The Siege of Kimberley: Typical Splinter-proof Shelter of Sand-bags
and Iron Plates
The Siege of Kimberley: Typical Splinter-proof Shelter of Sand-bags and Iron Plates
Photo, Hancox, Kimberley

Boer tricks continued to be practised with little success. They served instead to sharpen the wits of the beleaguered Kimburlians—if one may be allowed to coin a word which seems to suit them. A few rifle-shots were fired in the direction of Wright’s Farm for the purpose of pretending that the long-looked-for relieving force was approaching, and thus draw out the Diamond Fields Horse; but the manœuvre was a failure. The Boers consoled themselves by blowing up two large culverts near the rifle-butts on the line towards Spyfontein, where the bulk of the Boer forces were then supposed to be. An official estimate at that date (Nov. 25) placed the number of shells fired by the Boers during the bombardment at 1000, while the number of shells fired by the British was 600. Owing to the[Pg 44] fact that the hostile shells had so often fallen in sandy ground, their effect had been neutralised. Experiments were made with “home-made” shells, or rather De Beers-made shells, which exploded to the general satisfaction of their manufacturers. Some of these were said to be labelled “With J. C. Rhodes’s compliments,” but this was doubtless a cheery quip for the entertainment of the lugubrious, as Colonel Kekewich and the “Colossus” were too good men of business to waste their ammunition on pleasantries. These two marvellous people were now working hand in hand, the great business brain of the one lending support to the military skill of the other. Mr. Rhodes placed at the disposal of the Colonel—one should say of his country—the whole resources of De Beers, and worked without cessation for the welfare of the people, spending without stint, intellect, energy, and funds on their behalf. When the mines ceased to work, he still paid full wages to the 2000 white men employed on them, and laid out large vegetable gardens in the midst of Kenilworth for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants with green foods. He organised a mounted force of 600 men, supplying them himself with horses; and later on he instituted a service of native runners and scouts, which served to keep the garrison alert as to the whereabouts of the enemy. Indeed, space does not allow of a faithful recital of the doings of this public benefactor, who, without display, made his influence felt in every quarter of the town.

Kimberley, as said, was now in communication by searchlight with Colonel Rhodes, and was racking its brains how an attempt might be made from the east side to march out and assist the troops coming from Belmont. “So near and yet so far” was the general feeling in regard to these troops, and a burning desire for the handclasp of the gallant rescuers filled all the brave yet anxious hearts that for so long had been cut off from the outer world.

On the 25th of November there was unusual activity. The mounted troops at dawn made a strong reconnaissance in force under Lieut.-Colonel Scott Turner. The guns were under the charge of Colonel Chamier of the Royal Artillery. Hostilities commenced with a hot fire from the Diamond Fields Artillery’s guns under Captain May, in the direction of Carter’s Farm, Colonel Scott Turner with his troops marching towards Lazaretto Ridge, where the enemy was strongly entrenched. This took place at about 4.30 A.M. in the dusk of the early dawn. By good chance the pickets were found to be asleep, and Colonel Scott Turner and his forces crept along the ridge and with marvellous energy rushed the Boer redoubts. On the instant rifles bristled—shots blazed out. But all was to no purpose; the Boers had to surrender. They did this in their usual treacherous fashion, hoisting the white flag while they took stray pot-shots at their conquerors. This charge was one worthy of record, for few[Pg 45] of the men who engaged in it had ever used a bayonet in their lives. So little did they know of the weapon, that they were unable to fix it in the socket, and consequently rushed upon the enemy, rifle in one hand and naked blade in the other!

As ill-luck would have it, there was a lack of ammunition, and the British attack could not be pressed home. Meanwhile the Royal Engineers on Otto Kopje were protecting the flanks, and a strong body of infantry with a mounted force, field-guns and Maxims, were checking the advance of the enemy from Spyfontein. An armoured train, also, under Lieutenant Webster (North Lancashire Regiment), was reconnoitring north and south. The train (which was supported by three half companies of the Beaconsfield Town Guard under Major Fraser) proceeded south of Kimberley, and held the enemy’s reinforcements in check as they advanced from Wimbledon. Subsequently, owing to the brisk firing of the Boer guns, it was decided to return to Kimberley, where Colonel Scott Turner, in consequence of his inability to hold the position he had stormed, was forced also to retire. But during the hot cannonade in which our artillery was engaged with that of the enemy in all directions save Kenilworth, this gallant officer was wounded. First his horse was shot under him, then a bullet pierced the muscle of his shoulder. But he continued to perform his duties regardless of the inconvenience caused by his wound. The Boers, as usual, paid no respect to the ambulance waggon, despite the obvious Red Cross flag which fluttered over it. They fired at it when they chose, and, as some reported, used explosive bullets. Eight prisoners were captured, in addition to two wounded Boers.

The day’s work on the whole was satisfactory, as it ably demonstrated that there was life in the garrison yet. And this glorious activity was subsequently recognised in the following order:—

“The officer commanding desires to thank all ranks who took part in to-day’s engagement for their excellent behaviour. The garrison of Kimberley have this day shown that they can not only defend their positions, but can sally out and drive the enemy from their entrenched positions. He deplores the loss of the brave comrades who have so honourably fallen in the performance of their duty.”

A second sortie of the same kind was attempted on the 28th of November, but with more disastrous results. The troops took the same direction as before—attacked the Boers, beat them back, and captured their laager and three works. But, on attempting to take the fourth work, the enemy fought desperately, and Lieut.-Colonel Scott Turner was killed. When Colonel Scott Turner fell, Lieutenant Clifford, North Lancashire Regiment, who had more than once distinguished himself, assumed command of the Imperial[Pg 46] Mounted Infantry, and, though wounded in the scalp, pluckily remained on duty till all was over.[2]

There was terrible grief in the garrison at the loss of this splendid officer, the principal organiser of the Town Guards and the successful leader of so many skirmishes and sorties throughout the siege. The following special order was issued:—

“The officer commanding has again to congratulate the troops of the garrison who engaged the enemy yesterday on their excellent behaviour and on the capture of the enemy’s laager, with his supplies, ammunition, &c. It was in every respect a most creditable performance. He has also again to deplore the loss of many brave men who have fallen at the call of duty. It was with profound sorrow he learnt that Lieut.-Colonel Scott Turner was killed while gallantly leading his men against the last stronghold of the enemy’s defences. In Lieut.-Colonel Scott Turner the garrison of Kimberley loses a brave and most distinguished comrade, and the officer commanding feels sure the whole population of Kimberley will join with them in mourning the loss of this true British officer, to whose skill and activity in the field is so largely due the complete success of our efforts to keep the enemy at a safe distance from this town.”

Major M. C. Peakman, an excellent and most dauntless officer, succeeded to the command of the Kimberley Light Horse in consequence of Colonel Scott Turner’s death.

Lieutenant Wright of the Kimberley Light Horse was killed, and among the wounded were Lieutenant W. K. Clifford (1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment), Captain Walleck (Diamond Fields Horse), and Lieutenant Watson (Kimberley Light Horse).

On the afternoon of the 29th of November, amid feelings of universal regret, the remains of Colonel Scott Turner and others who fell in Tuesday’s sortie were interred. The ceremony, so common in those days, was yet full of deep pathos. Round the graves stood Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Dr. Smart, the Mayor of Kimberley, Mr. and the Hon. Mrs. Rochfort Maguire, and indeed the whole mournful community of the place. Six volleys were fired over the graves, six blasts blown on the bugle, and then a last prayer being said, they left them “alone in their glory.”


[1] Captain Baden-Powell, of the Scots Guards.

[2] Henry Scott Turner entered the Black Watch at the age of twenty in 1887. After taking part in the operations in Matabeleland in 1893-94, he was, in the latter year, placed on the “Special Extra Regimental Employment List,” and in 1896 served with the Matabeleland Relief Force as adjutant and paymaster. For this service he was mentioned in despatches and received a brevet majority. After serving with the British South African Police, Major Scott Turner was, last July, reappointed as a “Special Service Officer,” and in that capacity had done excellent service in Kimberley under Colonel Kekewich.

[Pg 47]



On the 18th of December, General Gatacre withdrew from Putter’s Kraal, his original advance post, to Sterkstroom. At this time, in the central sphere, Generals French and Gatacre, while guarding the lines of communication, were merely waiting the turn of events. Owing to a series of successful skirmishes, in which a patrol under Captain de Montmorency, V.C., was engaged, the Boers thought discretion the better part of valour, and cleared out of Dordrecht, with the result that on the 24th of December Colonel Dalgety, of the Cape Mounted Rifles, with his force occupied the town. At Bushman’s Hoek were four companies of the Royal Scots, two 12-pounders, three Maxim guns, about 800 Kaffrarian Rifles, and about thirty Engineers. Owing to scarcity of water General Gatacre’s force had to be divided, the rest remaining at Sterkstroom. There water had to be conveyed by rail, whence, with some difficulty, it was hauled to Bushman’s Hoek in water-tanks by mules. The railway in these parts, a species of South African switchback on two narrow rails, rambled up hill and down dale with engaging ingenuity. Though water was dependent on the trains, fresh foods were sometimes obtainable. At neighbouring farms it was possible to purchase butter-milk, grain, and bread, but to “go a marketing” it was necessary to start in full marching order, for there was no knowing when the Boers might block the road, or what nefarious tricks might be taking place. It was quite impossible to be even with the Dutchmen’s ruses. For instance, one who knew their ways said that if a Boer horse went lame or knocked up, twenty chances to one a “loyal” would place a mount at his disposal, give him bed, “tucker,” forage, &c., while he would also watch the horizon for the approach of the military, and should they come the Boer would be a man of peace, without uniform, arms, or anything else to incriminate him. Therefore, as may be imagined, life was never too easy-going. The day began at 3.15 A.M., but night itself, short as it was, was scarcely restful. The troops slept with their straps on, 150 rounds of ammunition apiece by their side, in hourly expectation of attack. Niceties of the toilet were unknown, and gallant fellows with black faces and whiskers whose acquaintance with water was only weekly, were the rule.[Pg 48] Some even presented the appearance of opera-house brigands, having locks so redundant and long, that jocose Tommies suggested writing home to their sweethearts for the loan of hairpins.

In other respects the daily routine was not unpleasant. Bullocks and sheep were killed regularly and found their way into the camp-kettle; bread was still served out, and supplemented with biscuits. For recreation there was football; and to enliven the spirits there were four cheery pipers, who at night-time made the welkin ring, and caused their compatriots to start up and indulge in reels and Highland flings, and almost to forget that they were in the land of the enemy.

On the 29th, a pouring day, Captain de Montmorency started with his scouts and thirty Cape Mounted Rifles in hope of catching the enemy. But the Boers, under cover of the mist, took themselves off in the direction of the Barkly East district.

On the 30th of December a hundred of Flannigan’s Squadron of Brabant’s Horse had a smart brush with an equal number of Dutchmen, who, however, were promptly reinforced. Thereupon the squadron retired, but unfortunately Lieutenant Milford Turner and twenty-seven men were left behind in a donga which none would leave, determining to remain there and protect Lieutenant Warren of Brabant’s Horse, who was wounded. To their assistance went Captain Goldsworthy the next day, accompanied by Captain de Montmorency’s scouts, 110 men, and four guns. These arrived on the scene so early as to surprise the Boers, who, after having been kept at bay by the small force of Colonials, had continued to snipe at them from a distance throughout the night. A sharp fight now ensued, and, after some clever manœuvring on both sides, the enemy retired with the loss of eight killed, while the party in the donga was relieved, and returned in safety to Dordrecht. The rescue was highly exciting, as the Boers were finally sent helter-skelter just as our men, worn out with a night’s anxiety in the nullah, had almost given up hope of release. As it was, they were restored to their friends in camp amid a storm of cheers.

Early on the 3rd of January a force was sent out from the advanced camp at Bushman’s Hoek to meet a hostile horde that occupied Molteno. The Boers had mounted a big gun on a kopje in front of Bushman’s Hoek, and from thence commenced to fire at about eight o’clock. Around the neighbourhood the Boers were seen to be swarming; therefore the force, composed of Kaffrarian Rifles, Mounted Infantry of the Berkshire Regiment, and the Cape Mounted Police, at once engaged them.

Photo by Elliott & Fry, London.

Two hours later General Gatacre and Staff started from headquarters with half a battalion of the Royal Scots and the 78th Battery of Artillery. The Boers from their point of vantage were[Pg 49] firing from the hill on which was placed their big gun, and they continued to fire on the Infantry as they advanced over an undulating plain to right of Cypherghat, whence the population had fled panic-stricken at the outset of the fight. Fortunately the hostile shells burst without doing damage, and the troops continued to advance.

The Artillery made a detour to the right, secured a commanding position on a kopje, and from thence began a ten minutes’ cannonade which had the effect of silencing the Boers. They withdrew their gun and retreated, the bulk of their force now advancing, now retiring, to cover the movement.

At this juncture the Mounted Infantry, which had worked its way round with a view to outflanking the enemy’s position, came on the scene only to learn of the withdrawal. This was carried on without check owing to our lack of cavalry. While General Gatacre’s force were thus engaged, the enemy was making a determined attack on 140 men of the Cape Police and 60 men of the Kaffrarian Rifles at Molteno. They were splendidly repulsed, though the Police had an unpleasant experience. Five shells dropped into their camp, but all miraculously escaped injury. The Boers now retired as mysteriously as they had come, and none knew the exact reason for their arrival. It was suspected that it was a “slim” trick to draw General Gatacre into another trap.

A strong force left Sterkstroom before dawn on the morning of the 8th of January for the dual purpose of reconnoitring in the direction of Stormberg and taking possession of the meal and flour from Molteno Mills. The force comprised the Derbyshire Regiment, the 77th and 79th Field Batteries, 400 mounted men of the Cape Police and Berkshire Regiment, the Kaffrarian Rifles, and the Frontier Rifles. The expedition was eminently successful. The operation of removing the food-stuffs and detaching the vital parts of the machinery of the mills was carried on under the protection of the Derbyshire Regiment and the 77th Battery. That of reconnoitring was undertaken by the force under Colonel Jefferies, R.A., and it was discovered that the Boers, who were supposed to have evacuated Stormberg, were within a two-mile range. A survey of the Boer position was made by the Engineers, and the troops returned to camp well satisfied with the result of their labours.

No larger martial moves could be attempted, for General Gatacre lived in a chronic state of suspended activity for lack of reinforcements. The Dutchmen had now fallen back from Stormberg, leaving only a small garrison there, and established themselves near Burghersdorp. The Boer strength in this district was estimated at about 4500, a force made up for the most part of Free Staters and Cape rebels. On the 18th of January General Gatacre moved some three hundred of all ranks from Bushman’s Hoek[Pg 50] to Loperberg, and the 74th Field Battery, with one company of Mounted Infantry, from Sterkstroom to Bushman’s Hoek. The Boers continued a system of annoyance and petty progress by destroying railway bridges in the neighbourhood of Steynsburg and Kromhoogte, about eleven miles from Sterkstroom, and damaging portions of the line near Stormberg.

Though General Gatacre’s Division was merely the shadow of the division it should have been, and his strength, such as it was, materially thinned by reverse, he had at his elbow one man who was a host in himself. This man was Captain de Montmorency. He kept the Boers who were holding Stormberg in a simmering state of excitement and suspense. He and his active party of scouts were perpetually reconnoitring and skirmishing and emerging from very tight corners, getting back to camp by what in vulgar phrase is called “the skin of their teeth.” One of these narrow escapes was experienced on the 16th January, when Captain de Montmorency and his men went out from Molteno to gain information regarding the whereabouts of the enemy. A smart combat was the result of their efforts, and when they were almost surrounded Major Heylen with sixty Police came to the rescue, and the whole force, after some animated firing, returned safely to Molteno, plus horses, mares, foals, and oxen, which had been captured from the enemy.

At this time a curious correspondence took place between the Boer Commandant, General Olivier, and General Gatacre. It was a species of Dutch tu quoque—the Boer leader thinking to charge the British one with the same tricks as those in which his countrymen had been detected.

General Olivier solemnly declared that a store of ammunition had been found in an abandoned British waggon—a waggon marked with red crosses and purporting to be an ambulance waggon. General Gatacre emphatically denied the “slim” impeachment. He forwarded affidavits sworn by Major Lilly, R.A.M.C., who was the last man with the waggon before it had to be abandoned, who stated that if such ammunition had been found it had been subsequently deposited there. General Gatacre further informed the Commandant that the practice of taking wives and children in or near camp and allowing them to run the risks common to belligerents was contrary to the rules of civilised warfare, and desired to point out the responsibility he incurred in so doing. He further remonstrated that a servant who had been on the field of battle to assist Father Ryan in the succour of the wounded had been detained in the Boer camp after assurances of his release had been made. To these remarks and complaints the General received no reply.[Pg 51]

Fortunately, our wounded who were not captured were doing well. The ladies at Sterkstroom were particularly devoted, and visited and cheered the sick daily, and carried them little luxuries which were mightily appreciated. Though there were not many losses, sick and disabled were constantly being carried into the hospital as the result of reconnoitring and scouting expeditions, which were ceaseless, and had to continue ceaseless, owing to the inability of the force to take powerful action.

Movements of Gatacre and French. Movements of Gatacre and French.

On the 20th of January Lieutenant Nickerson, R.A.M.C., who had accompanied the wounded after the misfortune at Stormberg, arrived in camp. Father Ryan’s servant, on whose account General Gatacre, as already mentioned, addressed Commandant Olivier, also returned. They brought interesting news. More guns had been brought on the scene, and these were served by German gunners. Septuagenarians and striplings were drafted into the commandoes, while at Burghersdorp the Town Guard was composed of lads of about thirteen years of age. This showed that[Pg 52] the stream of reinforcements was beginning to run dry. Many youngsters were said to have been sent from their college at Bloemfontein straight to the front.

Commandant Olivier now took the opportunity to announce that he meant to retain as prisoners all correspondents who might be captured. The correspondents were flattered, and began to calculate whether “Experiences in Pretoria” would make good “copy,” but finally decided for the liberty of the press.

A little innocent diversion was provided by the Boers during the night of the 20th. The British were awakened by furious fire, which was continued for some time. Great consternation prevailed, till it was afterwards discovered that a scare in the Boer lines had taken place, and the sound of some stampeding cattle had been mistaken for the advance of the British! The Boers had at once flown to arms, fired right and left in the midnight darkness, and as a natural consequence shot some of their own cattle!

After this, there was silence, like the ominous lull which comes before a storm. Little puffs and pants of hostility took place around Sterkstroom and Penhoek, while at Colesberg the Boers were on guard, with the fear of some impending ill. Important developments were dreaded. It was known that swarms of troops were moving from the Cape, and that the positions which had hitherto been held by the Federals in consequence of the weakness of British forces in all quarters, would soon be tenable no longer. And the waverers began to shake in their shoes. They began suddenly to adopt a helpful attitude towards the forces. The fact was, Lord Roberts had issued a proclamation encouraging Free Staters and Transvaalers to desert by the promise that they should be well treated. To the Colonial rebels he had diplomatically tendered the advice to surrender before being caught in flagrante delicto.


While all eyes were turned in the direction of the Natal force for the relief of Ladysmith, General French was making things lively for the Boers. It may be remembered that he left Ladysmith immediately before Sir George White’s garrison was hemmed in, and betook himself to the central sphere of war. On the 23rd of November, with a reconnoitring force consisting of a company of the Black Watch, some mounted infantry, police, and the New South Wales Lancers, he went by train towards Arundel, and was fired on by Boers who were sneaking in the hills. Three of the party were wounded, but the rest drove the enemy off. The rails had been lifted just in front of the scene of the fight. From this time activities of the same kind took place daily, the General devoting his energies to reconnoitring east and west of his position,[Pg 53] keeping the enemy from massing at any given point, and forcing them to remain on the qui vive in perpetual expectation of attack.

Scouting at this time was carried on to the extent of a fine art. Never a day was devoid of excitement. “We start out before dawn, and get back—well, when we can!” This was the pithy description of a youngster who enjoyed some thrilling moments. The following sketch of the experiences of a New Zealander show how one and all willingly risked their lives in the service of their country:—

“I was under fire for the first time on my birthday (Dec. 7), when a section of us (four men) were sent out as a mark for any Boers to shoot at. We rode to the foot of a kopje and left one of us in charge of the four horses. Another chap and I climbed to the top. Puff! bang went three shells from their Long Tom and a perfect fusillade of bullets. It is marvellous how we escaped. We were to report as soon as we were fired at, so I volunteered as galloper to go back to our lines to report. I did a quick time over that two miles of veldt, bullets missing me all the time. I reported, and was told to go back and withdraw the men, which I did. Afterwards we took eight men, and under cover kept up a steady fire for five hours. I was horribly tired, as I had been in the saddle eighteen hours the previous day. My mate was fresh—we were planted behind stones in pairs—and while he kept up the firing I slumbered, strange as it may seem. There are thousands of troops in the camp. General French, in command of this particular division, has complimented us on many occasions on our coolness under fire and our horsemanship. He said we could gallop across country where English cavalry could only walk. He told us after a skirmish we had with the enemy that he couldn’t express in words his admiration of us, that we were the best scouts he had ever employed, and that we always brought in something, either prisoners, horses, sheep, cattle, or valuable information—which latter is entirely true. During the slack time our chaps are busy breaking in remounts for the English cavalry. Horses die like flies here, and Cape ponies are substituted.”

Numerous and ingenious tricks were practised on the Boers, many of them doubtless owing their origin to the active and fertile brains of General French and Colonel Baden-Powell, the author of the “Manual on Scouting.” One of these was to take in the enemy’s scouts by tethering ostriches to bushes on the hills. The presence of the birds naturally gave to the place an air of desolation, and satisfied the enemy that the ground was unoccupied. In Colonel Baden-Powell’s opinion fine scouting is a true bit of hero-work, and his description of the “sport” in his own words serves to show of what stuff our Colonial scouts were made. He says: “It is comparatively easy for a man in the heat and ex[Pg 54]citement of battle, where every one is striving to be first, to dash out before the rest and do some gallant deed; but it is another thing for a man to take his life in his hand to carry out some extra dangerous bit of scouting on his own account, where there is no one by to applaud, and it might be just as easy for him to go back; that is a true bit of hero’s work, and yet it is what a scout does continually as ‘all in the day’s work.’ The British scout has, too, to be good beyond all nationalities in every branch of his art, because he is called upon not only to act against civilised enemies in civilised countries like France and Germany, but he has also to take on the crafty Afghan in his mountains, or the fierce Zulu in the open South African towns, the Burmese in his forests, the Soudanese on the Egyptian desert, all requiring different methods of working, but their efficiency depending in every case on the same factor—the pluck and ability of the scout himself. To be successful as a scout you must have plenty of what Americans call ‘jump’ and ‘push,’ ‘jump’ being alertness, wideawakeness, and readiness to seize your opportunity, ‘push’ being a never-say-die feeling. When in doubt as to whether to go on or to go back, think of that and of the Zulu saying, ‘If we go forward we die, if we go backward we die; better go forward and die.’ Scouting is like a game of football. You are selected as a forward player. Play the game; play that your side may win. Don’t think of your own glorification or your own risks—your side are backing you up. Football is a good game, but better than it, better than any other game, is that of man-hunting.” Of this game, our troops, particularly in the disaffected regions of Cape Colony, were beginning to have their fill.

On the 8th of December Colonel Porter, with the 5th Dragoon Guards and Mounted Infantry, arrived at Arundel from Naauwpoort, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance and locating the enemy and discovering his strength. The force detrained some four miles outside the town and advanced across the plain, the Dragoons to left and right, the Mounted Infantry, consisting of New Zealanders and Australians, in the centre slightly in the rear. The Boers in the surrounding kopjes, seeing their danger, took themselves off with great rapidity to another ridge three miles to the north. This position was located before nightfall. At daybreak four companies of Mounted Infantry were posted on a hill two miles north of Arundel, while a troop of Dragoons reconnoitred the town and found it evacuated by the enemy. The advance was then resumed. At 8 A.M. the troops reached Maaiboschlaagte, and spied the enemy on the hills near Rensburg’s Farm. The Boers were busy dragging a huge gun up the hill. Having no artillery, the flanking movement on the left was discontinued, but the Dragoons on the right, who were three miles in advance of the remainder of the force, crossed[Pg 55] the plain and outflanked the enemy. The crackling of muskets followed, and soon after the booming of two guns. The New South Wales Lancers now reinforced the first line, and though for many hours their “baptism of fire” was prolonged, they suffered the only loss of the day—the loss of a horse. The operations were successful, and the strength of the enemy was found to number about 2000. The occupation of this region by our troops was considered of great strategical importance, as it formed a convenient advance base for further operations. The town is situated some twelve miles from Colesberg, and is in a fashion a natural fortress. It consists of rugged hills surrounding flats, and is provided with refreshing water springs.

On the 12th of December a patrol under Lieutenant Collins was fiercely fired upon; a sergeant of the Carabineers was killed and a private was reported missing. This happened as they were turning away from a farm at Jasfontein belonging to Field-Cornet Geldenhuis, with whom they had had an interview. The proprietor received his just deserts, for later on two squadrons of Carabineers with two guns and a company of Mounted Infantry were sent out to shell the farm, which duty was accomplished with zest and thoroughness. General French’s report of the affair is too interesting to be omitted. He said:—

“I wish particularly to bring to notice the excellent conduct and bearing of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, commanded by Major A. W. Robin, on one of these occasions.

“On 18th December I took them out with a battery of Horse Artillery to reconnoitre round the enemy’s left flank, and determined to dislodge him from a farm called Jasfontein lying on his left rear. The guns shelled the farm, and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles then gained possession of it. But the enemy very suddenly brought up strong reinforcements and pressed on us with his Artillery. Our Artillery had been left some way behind to avoid this latter fire, and I had to send back some distance for its support, during which time we were exposed to a heavy musketry fire from the surrounding hills. The conduct of the New Zealanders was admirable in thus maintaining a difficult position till the Artillery caused the enemy to retire.”

Early on the morning of the 13th patrols were again fired upon, this time from Platberg, a kopje on the fringe of Colesberg Commonage. About 4 A.M., in the dusk of early dawn, the Dutchmen, some 1800 strong, were found to be leaving their position and advancing in the direction of Naauwpoort. Thereupon Colonel Porter, with Carabineers, Inniskillings, 10th Hussars, and four guns of the R.H.A., moved eastwards. What Mr. Gilbert describes as “a short sharp shock” followed, and the enemy’s guns, after firing three shots, were silenced. Our cavalry headed the enemy off, and soon after 2 P.M. the bulk of his forces retired to their former position. Vaalkop was held by one squadron of cavalry and two guns for the rest of the day. Some Boers remained at[Pg 56] Talboschlaagte, and some later on occupied Kuilfontein Farm, but were driven out by British shells with loss of forty killed and wounded. Our own losses during two days’ sharp work amounted to one man killed. Captain Moseley (Inniskillings) was slightly wounded, and four men also received injuries.

On the same date Colonel Miles reported from Orange River an unlucky incident. Part of the Mounted Infantry under Captain Bradshaw and the Guides under Lieutenant Macfarlane patrolled in the direction of Kamak and Zoutpansdrift, ten miles east of Orange River, for the purpose of reconnoitring and reporting the strength of the enemy. The Boers were said to be holding the drift, and near there, somewhat suddenly, a strong party of them appeared. The Mounted Infantry attacked, and a brisk engagement followed, with the result that the enemy decamped to Geemansberg. Unfortunately, for this smart piece of work Captain Bradshaw paid with his life; Lieutenant Greyson (Buffs) was wounded, three men were killed, and seven wounded. Captain Bradshaw was an energetic and valuable officer, and his loss was deeply deplored.

To return to General French. Hard days of work in a broiling sun with little to show for it were the lot of those around Naauwpoort at this time. On the morning of the 15th two guns of the Horse Artillery, going eastward across the veldt from Vaalkop, shelled a Boer waggon which had been espied winding along the road. It was presumably from Colesberg, and laden with supplies for the artillery of the enemy. Several shells were at once launched, but they failed to strike it. The artillery then tried a new position, and were “sniped” at by odd sharpshooters from the hills. Finally a “Long Tom” was brought by the Boers to bear on the situation, and then the artillery, pursued by shells, returned to Vaalkop.

Boer aggression continued. On the 16th the enemy took up a position on a hill near Kannaksolam and sniped at the British patrols when they went to water their horses. The Dutchmen were splendidly concealed, so splendidly that it was impossible for the patrols to return the fire. The New Zealanders were also fired upon, and though five scouts lay for hours on the hill watching the Boers’ hiding-place, not one of the foe showed his nose out of cover. At last, in the afternoon, Captain Jackson, with eight Carabineers on patrol, caught sight of the enemy peeping from his lair, and suddenly found himself in the midst of a volley. Captain Jackson was shot in the spine and instantly killed, the other members of the party and the riderless horse fleeing amid a storm of bullets. On the morning of the 18th the remains of the gallant officer were buried at Naauwpoort with military honours. The enemy’s position was shelled at daybreak by ten guns.

Drawing by R. Caton Woodville.

On the same day General French made a successful reconnais[Pg 57]sance with a battery of Horse Artillery and the New Zealand Rifles. The New Zealanders had some exciting experiences. Major Lee and his men went forth to draw the fire of the Boers, and unfortunately, instead of drawing the shell of the enemy they drew the shot, and found themselves all at once in a very warm corner indeed. They were rapidly hemmed in on three sides, and stood a very good chance of being cut off. But pluck carried the day, and though all their accoutrements, saddles, and water-bottles showed visible signs of the hurricane of destruction through which they had ridden, they arrived in camp safe and sound, much to the satisfaction of the General, who issued an order complimenting them on the success of their reconnaissance.

Major Lee, who was in command of the New Zealanders at Arundel, was reported to be a splendid fellow—not the typical dashing officer by any means, but what was described as a regular paterfamilias of somewhat aldermanic proportions. He was hale, hearty, and beaming, and withal a man of coolness and courage. The qualities possessed by this officer were said to be shared by most of his men, who, though of the rough and ready stamp, were true chips of the old British block.

Mr. Gifford Hall was most enthusiastic about Colonials all and sundry, and, knowing their excellence and Great Britain’s needs, delivered himself of words of wisdom which are worthy of repetition:—

“Ex-frontier cavalryman myself, with further experience as cowboy in both the United States and North-west Canada, and also as stockrider in Australia, I have never for a moment doubted that in the raising of an irregular Anglo-Boer force lay the solution of England’s problem, ‘How to successfully cope with the enemy.’ Sans standard of physique, sans much orthodox training, sans everything but virility, inherent horsemanship, inherent wild-land craft, mounted on his own pony—bronco of Canada or brumbie of Australia—the Canadian ranche hand, the Australian stockrider, shearer, station rouseabout, or the ‘cull’ of all lands Anglicised might easily become the quintessence of a useful and operative force against a semi-guerilla enemy. A pair of cord breeches, a couple of shirts, his big hat, and a cartridge-filled belt, Winchester carbine, a pony of the sort that can be run to a white sweat, and staggering, tremble, and then be kicked out to nuzzle for grass or die—that’s what your man wants. The pants and shirts will be better than he has worn for years; the gun he has ‘shot straight’ with ever since he first handled his ‘daddy’s’ muzzle-loader; and the ‘hoss,’ why each is of the other, horse and man, each apart, a thing inept. Orthodoxy against the Boers in military operations doesn’t wash. Aldershot-cum-Sandhurst-cum-Soudan-cum-Further-India and War-Office tactics fall flat. The Boer is here, there, and everywhere, not to be followed by ‘crushing forces’—only to be checked and turned and tracked and harried and hustled by a brother Boer. There is scarce a Canadian ranche hand but owns a pony of bronco breed, scarce an Australian station hand of any decent calibre but owns or can procure a tough and serviceable semi-‘brumbie’ mount. And will these men volunteer? Yes, plenty of them, and those that won’t can’t. Surely Empire saved or gained is worth their worth to[Pg 58] the Motherland they fight for. Let her hire them. Transportation and time? The Boer war is not over yet, and England’s pocket is deep. To-day she fights for her life, for her honour, and win she must. Arm them and saddle them, men of the wild-lands and prairies. Work them van, flank, and rear. This folly of ‘standard’ physique and ‘training’—to the winds with it. The theory of weight and height for effective fighting is exploded. Heart, eye, and seat, and wild-land inherent tact make up for it. Five-feet-six can ride and shoot and fight or die as well as six-feet-two. We wild-landers have proven it over and over again. Even when the war is over, and our regulars and reserves must return, make these men into protective police for a while, officered not by orthodoxy but by knowledge and experience. They will ‘learn the country.’ They will evolve scouts from amongst them who shall make no mistakes. They will give to England what she needs in times like these—to come again or not. Your yeomanry won’t do the trick; nor your oat-fed kharki-clad higher Colonials either. ’Tis your Anglo-Boer, cowboy, stockrider, shearer, rouseabout, cull, given his way and a cause—yes, he and his scrub-fed mongrel mount and ‘gun.’”

These expressions of opinion almost amounted to a prophecy, for very shortly the Canadian ranche hands, the Australian stockriders, the hardy New Zealanders, and the “higher” Colonials—as Mr. Hall styled them—taught us lessons which we were swift enough to follow.

At Christmas the troops fared well, and contributions of a homely and delectable kind were supplied to make the season pleasurable. The inhabitants of Naauwpoort showed their appreciation of Mr. Thomas Atkins in many tangible ways, notably by providing him with appetising refreshments as he arrived by rail. Of course, there was a run on the telegraph office. Christmas greetings went pouring out and came pouring in, while the mail-bags swelled with a plethora of seasonable blandishments. At Arundel Colonel Fisher and the officers of the 10th Hussars endeavoured to forward Christmas greetings to the Colonel of the Regiment, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, but for some unexplained reason the felicitation was not allowed to go beyond the vigilant eye of the censor.

The great attraction of Christmas, and its accompaniment the New Year, was the expectation of a gift from Queen Victoria, which was specially prepared according to the order of the Sovereign herself. It was to take the form of a tin of chocolate, and was to be presented to every soldier on service in South Africa. The box was specially designed, and adorned with the regal monogram. This unique gift, in order to make it the more valuable as a trophy or a family relic, was manufactured only of the exact number required for presentation to each individual serving at the front.

Naauwpoort enlivened itself with sports, and though the weather was almost tropical, the activity served to compensate for the absence of the mirth of Merrie England. At this time the Boers were approaching nearer the British camp. There was a three[Pg 59] days’ truce, it is true, but their positions were only six miles from our troops, and they were warned that a nearer approach would mean prompt action by the guns.

The daily routine went on somewhat monotonously—the grooming, watering, and exercising of horses; drilling, exercising the mules of ambulance and transport waggons; unloading the food supplies, cooking them—occupations which afforded work in plenty, but the real business of warfare was suspended. Some of the officers made an effort to get up hunting parties, and succeeded in bagging a few springbuck, but their expeditions were fraught with even more risk to themselves than to their quarry. For instance, in one case, while two gallant Nimrods were in the act of stalking a splendid springbuck, their chargers made off. They suddenly found themselves almost surrounded by Boers, and an animated chase followed. Luckily the carcass of the springbuck, which was left behind, was too great a prize to be parted with, and the enemy captured it in preference to the huntsmen!

At this time there was great consternation in camp, as two cavalry officers were taken prisoners. It subsequently transpired that the officers, Lieutenant Till (Carabineers) and Lieutenant Hedger (attached to the 10th Hussars), were captured through an unfortunate accident. They mistook the Boers for New Zealanders, and therefore were unprepared to offer resistance. On discovering their error they made a desperate attempt to escape, but were overpowered.

The Colonials afterwards discarded their picturesque hats and took to helmets. Owing to the resemblance of their headgear to that of the Boers, some British pickets had mistaken them for the enemy and fired on them.

On the 29th the enemy fell back on Colesberg, and there with his small force General French proceeded to tackle him. “So near and yet so far” must have been repeated many times by both Generals French and Gatacre when each failed to accomplish some clever moves for want of the necessary reinforcements. In the ordinary course of things, from Naauwpoort to Sterkstroom was an easy three-hours journey by rail, but now, with the barrier of the Boers at Stormberg—the junction between the East London and Port Elizabeth systems—it was necessary to travel, if by rail, via Port Elizabeth, thus making a three-days instead of a three-hours trip. And railway travelling was by no means a safe and enjoyable exercise. True, the lines of communication were protected by some eleven hundred Volunteers, but as martial law had not been proclaimed south of Naauwpoort, and disloyalty was here the rule and not the exception, it was quite on the cards that at any moment culverts would be found blown up and rails twisted.

[Pg 60]



On Christmas Day Lieut.-Colonel Pilcher, formerly of the Northumberland Fusiliers, late of the Bedfordshire Regiment, arrived at Belmont and took command of the troops. The Station Staff now consisted of Colonel Pilcher; Major Bayly, Major MacDougall, and Major Dennison. The garrison was soon strengthened by two companies of the 2nd Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry under Major Ashby. A general state of high polish was begun, and the Canadians, ever active and on the alert, came in for some excellent training, which they were not slow to profit by. Owing to the insecure state of the neighbourhood, it was put in a fair state of defence. Stone sconces were built on the kopjes; earthwork trenches were built at the station and elsewhere; and a series of alarm drills was carried on, in order to enable all concerned to take up their especial posts at a moment’s notice. For instance, at an appointed hour an alarm on the bugles would wake the echoes. The men would rush to arms; every company, previously instructed, would fall in on its own private parade ground, and then set out at the double for its post. Celerity without fluster was the motto of the movement. When all were posted, some in trenches a mile off, others three or four hundred yards away, the Colonel would proceed to make such disposition of his troops as the imagined enemy might impose. For instance, he would picture the attack coming from the north-east and march some of his force in the direction of the assumed attack, covering it with a strong line of skirmishers, while other troops in springless four-wheeled buck waggons were sent to their support. The movement would be only sufficiently developed to give the men an intelligent appreciation of what might be required of them, and certainly nothing could exceed the promptness and alacrity with which the troops threw themselves into their military rehearsals. The Canadians especially distinguished themselves by their zest and acuteness, and in all the bogus engagements—the attack drill—earned the praise of the commander. The following is a copy of a regimental order: “The officer commanding the Royal Canadian Regiment is desired by the officer commanding the troops at this station to express his satisfaction with the intelligent and quiet way in which this morning’s work was carried out by the officers, non-com[Pg 61]missioned officers, and men of the Royal Canadian Regiment.” The Colonel particularly appreciated the manner in which the men avoided “bunching,” the most fatal error that can be made by troops in modern warfare of the kind in hand.

At the end of the year more Australians arrived. These troops had been stationed for a short time at the Orange River, getting their horses into condition after a six weeks’ voyage. From thence they moved on to Belmont. The two companies of Queensland’s Mounted Infantry found their green tents awaiting them, and a hearty welcome. The men, a hardy and stalwart set, tall and comely to look on, were well fitted in their kharki uniform, which showed no signs of relationship to the slouching apparel peculiar to hastily rigged-out troops. Their jackets, cord breeches, felt hats looped up at the side with a tuft of feathers of the emu, gave them a picturesque as well as workmanlike air. But their leggings were dangerously dark, and scarcely as suited to sand or morass—the ground was either one thing or the other—as the familiar puttees. These useful articles had now been assumed by the Canadians instead of their shrunken or loosely flapping duck trousers. The effect was infinitely more dapper, becoming to the figure, and serviceable for hard wear. The Queenslanders and Canadians at once fraternised, the older arrivals making the new comers welcome by inviting them to drinks and breakfast, and generally “showing them around.” The bond of union was cemented by the fact that the officer in command of the Queenslanders, Colonel Ricardo, was an old Royal Canadian Artillery officer.


New Year’s Day was a great occasion for the Colonial troops. They had been burning with impatience to come in touch with the enemy, and till now no opportunity had been afforded for testing their prowess in the field. At midday on the 31st of December a force under Colonel Pilcher started off from Belmont. The force consisted of 200 Queenslanders, commanded by Colonel Ricardo; 100 Canadians, Toronto Company, with two guns; and a horse battery under Major de Rougemont; 30 Mounted Infantry under Lieutenant Ryan (Munster Fusiliers); the New South Wales Ambulance, under Surgeon-Major Dodds; and 200 Cornwall Light Infantry. These left Belmont and proceeded westward. Twenty miles were covered before sunset, and the force encamped at Cook’s Farm. In this region, on a string of kopjes, a Boer laager was reported to be, and this—it was decided—must be removed.

Map Illustrating Colonel Pilcher's Raid.
Map Illustrating Colonel Pilcher’s Raid.
Scale 9 miles = 1 inch.
[Transcribers' note: For ease of reference, the black line beneath the image would be approximately one inch in length in the original.]

Colonel Pilcher’s programme, however, was not divulged. Great[Pg 62] caution was preserved, as the country was swarming with native spies, and all movements of the troops were watched and reported to the enemy. The Colonel therefore very adroitly arranged that no person should have a chance of reporting his movements, and caused a watch to be kept on all the natives, and these during the night were shut in their huts to prevent any from escaping and communicating the intention of the troops. The vigilance was certainly well rewarded. At daybreak the force steadily marched out, creating as little dust as possible, and took up a position at a place some fifteen miles off, called Sunnyside. Here the enemy’s laager was reported to be situated. It was posted on two connected kopjes to north and south, and towards these kopjes the troops advanced. When within a distance of some four miles the troops halted. Major de Rougemont with two guns under Lieutenant Atkinson, Captain Barker with the Toronto Company of Canadians, and Lieutenants Ryan and Smith with the Mounted Infantry were ordered in the direction of the enemy’s laager to the north; while Colonel Pilcher with Colonel Ricardo and the Queenslanders, A Company under Captain Chaucer, and B Company under Captain Pinnock, advanced from the south. Patrols were sent to the east. All was done with great quietness and precision, and the Boer tactics so closely imitated that the enemy[Pg 63] were unconscious of the arrival of the British till the troops were upon them. Major Rougemont’s force made use of all the existing cover, which luckily was sufficient to screen both man and horse, and in a very short time had discovered some excellent ground which gave on to the Boer position. The enemy’s laager was ensconced in a nest of trees, at the base of a range of kopjes commanded by a convenient ridge. This ridge—reported by the Mounted Infantry to be clear of the enemy—with great promptness was practically seized and occupied before the Boers had sufficiently gathered themselves together to contest the position. The guns were advanced at a trot, and unlimbered within 1500 yards of the laager, into which two shells were neatly plumped, with a stupendous detonation that startled the whole surrounding neighbourhood. Up scrambled the Boers, streaming and bounding along the sides of the kopje like stampeded goats, and commencing to fire with all their might. Upon our guns and gunners came a torrent of lead fierce and sustained. Two Maxims under Captain Bell now prepared to give tongue from the right, and then the Toronto Company was ordered to double into action. They leapt to the word. With a gasp of relief they cried, “At last!” and were off. When within 1000 yards of the position their rifles came into play. A hurricane of bullets met the enemy’s fire: met it, continued fiercely—and finally subdued it.

While the guns under Lieutenant Atkinson were booming and banging, the Mounted Infantry, ably led by Lieutenant Ryan, were working their way along the right, and hunting the enemy from a concealed position among the scrub. At midday Colonel Pilcher and the Queenslanders were steadily nearing the position from three separate directions. They approached under cover, cautious as tigers and nimble as cats, finally firing, and returning the fire, but only when they caught glimpses of the enemy. Then they blazed away to good purpose, and continued to approach nearer and ever nearer, till the enemy, in view of the persistent and deadly advance, shrank from his ground, and sulkily retired. The dexterity of the Queenslanders was remarkable; they stalked the enemy as a sportsman would stalk a deer, criticising their own fire and the fire of the foe with workmanlike coolness and interest. The success of these tactics was complete. The laager was captured, and with it forty ill-kempt, surly prisoners. Lieutenant Adie, who was with a patrol of four men, came suddenly on a number of the enemy, and was wounded in two places, but he was saved and carried off by two plucky fellows, Butler and Rose, who came to his rescue. The latter was wounded, and his horse was killed. Another dashing Queenslander, Victor Jones, was shot through the heart, and Macleod, an equally brave comrade, after many lucky escapes, while advancing with Colonel Pilcher’s force, was shot through the spine.[Pg 64] While these heroic and tragic doings were taking place, General Babington with a mounted force had been working hard, his operations having been arranged for the purpose of co-operating with Colonel Pilcher, and distracting the enemy’s attention from the north. These manœuvres had the desired effect, and the day’s work, apart from its pathetic side, was accounted a glorious success. So cleverly had the proceedings been contrived, and so ingeniously were the orders interpreted by one and all, that the Boers were completely nonplussed. There was a hurried stampede, and the Federals bolted, leaving their laager with all its luxuries, its boiling soup, its gin and water bottles, &c., at the mercy of the invaders.

Drawing by H. C. Seppings Wright from Sketch by Fred. Villiers.

A vivid description of the Boer camp was given by Mr. Frederick Hamilton of the Toronto Globe, who accompanied the Canadians.

“Fourteen ancient tents, their blankets, kettles, and camp utensils, tossed about in wild confusion. Three long waggons of the type in which the voortrekkers voyaged the veldt, a team of a dozen magnificent oxen, a big water-cart which we eyed greedily, a Kaffir wattled hut, its floor piled high with odds and ends of clothing and valuables, its doorway marked by a shell-smash; the rocky kopje-side behind, a flat plain dotted with shaggy, bushlike trees in front—such was the Boer laager. Prisoners came from here and there, over a score from the kopje-top, more from this corner and that of the field, and were taken to the hut. Within it and around its door they squatted, a silent downcast crew; what a mess they had made of their affairs! Perhaps they were not so despondent as we thought, for one man as he sat in the guarded group pointed out a rifle which one of the victors was carrying, and claimed it as his own—a piece of cheek which staggered our men. The prisoners claimed only part of our attention; with eager curiosity the camp was ransacked. At last we had our hands upon these Boers: what manner of men were they, and how did they live? Poorly enough, I should say; the camp must have been densely crowded with the motley gathering, and we could see the odd admixture of practical barbarism with occasional contact with civilisation, as when good suits of clothes lay side by side with repulsive-looking strips of biltong. We felt that all this was ours, ours by right of battle, ours by virtue of victory. Perhaps we were wrong, perhaps the confiscated property of rebels should fall to the Crown, but as long as men go to war so long will victors walk through the camp of the vanquished with just that feeling swelling through their veins. Something else lay heavy upon us—thirst. It raged through us. The yellow pool where the veldt cut into the kopje face filled our water-bottles, and we drank and drank. The foul dregs of the Boers’ water-cart were drained with joy. As the sun was setting our own water-cart with more wholesome water drove up, and we drank and drank again. As our fires were lighted, what receptacles could be found were filled and the muddy fluid boiled. Our transport waggons were miles away, and for tea or coffee we were dependent on what we found in the Boer waggons. I remember drinking a cup of hot water and finding it most refreshing. Food was foraged. One section of our men found a sheep’s carcass hanging up under a tree, slaughtered by the rebels before our shell changed the tenor of their day. Some had hardtack or army rations in their haversacks. Here and there they picked up enough to make up a meal, not especially plentiful, and very scrappy, but satisfying. Indeed a most peculiar thing about the whole affair was the great[Pg 65] amount of work we managed to do on a very small amount of food. The shadows of the evening were falling as we finished our meal, sent out the necessary pickets, and prepared for rest.”

Later came the death of poor Macleod the Queenslander, whose wound had been mortal. As the Queenslanders had early moved on to Rooi Pan (a farmhouse across the veldt where rebels were suspected to be in hiding), the Canadians took upon themselves the duty of conducting the sad ceremonies of burial. A grave was dug and a New Testament found. Then the Canadians slowly bore to its last resting-place the remains of the heroic young Colonial who had lost his life in the service of the mother country. Major Bayly, the Staff Officer of the expedition, read a few selections from Corinthians over the body, after which it was consigned to the heart of the veldt. A rude cross bearing his name and corps was placed to mark the spot, and written thereon was also the intimation that it was “Erected by his Queensland and Canadian comrades.” The noble young fellow Victor Jones secured less formal burial, though his loss was as deeply regretted. On the following day two of his comrades from Rooi Pan started off in search of his body, and having found it, buried it without ceremony or rite, but with the keenest feelings of sorrow.

On this day, the 2nd of January, the work of destruction of Boer effects was begun. Soon after dawn a huge bonfire was made under such waggons and ammunition of the foe as could not be utilised, and as the troops marched out they were saluted by the appalling uproar of the exploding cartridges. The procession, as it moved on its way to Rooi Pan, a distance of some four or six miles, presented a somewhat mediæval aspect in spite of symbols of modernity—magazine rifles and machine guns. In front was the wide expanse of grassy veldt; behind, the curling blue smoke from the burning wreckage of the camp. Along the road came the heavy springless waggons piled high with booty, their negro drivers flourishing their long whips and repeating their vociferous bark of “Eigh” to encourage the small, contumacious mules. With them marched the bronzed, picturesque-looking army with its train of captives in the rear, an unkempt, dilapidated crew—a strange contrast to the lively and robust Canadians, who, rejoiced at their yesterday’s feat, were singing as they tramped along. Very curious was it to hear, instead of the familiar British airs our soldiers love, the Niagara camp-song with its Hallelujah chorus, and the popular “The Maple Leaf” proceeding from the brawny throats of these brother soldiers of the Queen. Their joy and their triumph was complete, and with a good night’s rest and the beautiful morning air to refresh them, their spirits were effervescent in the extreme.

At Rooi Pan there was a halt for half-an-hour, during which[Pg 66] Colonel Pilcher took the opportunity to address his force, and convey to them congratulations on the recent fight which had been forwarded by General Wood, commanding at the Orange River. Water-bottles were then filled from the clear pond in the farm of one of the prisoners, and soon, the sun growing momentarily hotter, the party advanced. This time their route lay over dust ankle-deep in places, dust which rose up in clouds and came down into eyes and ears and throats, and settled itself in hot cakes and rings on hair and beards and necks. But presently, after a few miles, the state of things was improved. Government roads stretched a smooth highway in front, and kopjes—the dangerous kopjes that afforded such comfortable hiding-places for the wily foe—grew fewer and farther between. There was now comparative comfort, for there was little fear of encounter with the enemy in the open.

The journey was continued without event. There was no sign of opposition, and about three o’clock in the afternoon, as they neared their destination, a message came in, “Nothing to be seen in Douglas but Union Jacks and red ensigns.” This was a fact, and Colonel Pilcher and his troops very soon occupied the town. Never was there a more enthusiastic demonstration: the loyal inhabitants cheered to the echo; some almost wept at the arrival of their deliverers.

This town is situated below the junction of the Modder and Vaal Rivers, and is of some importance. Here the long-suffering loyalists had remained, ever since the commencement of hostilities, in anxious expectation, awaiting the arrival of the British troops. Naturally the frenzy of their delight knew no bounds, particularly when it was found how completely the rebels had dispersed. Fourteen tents, three waggons, an immense store of rifles and ammunition, saddles, forage, equipment, and many incriminating letters were seized. On some of the envelopes were stamped “On Her Majesty’s Service,” showing that these had been used by the newly appointed Landrost of Douglas in the absence of an official Free State superscription.

The joy of the loyalists was of short duration. In the afternoon Colonel Pilcher broke to them the terrible news. He stated that, for military reasons, his force would be obliged to leave on the morrow. Consternation prevailed. The leading members of the community explained that, if deserted, their lives would not be worth a moment’s purchase. It was impossible to remain where they were and await the return of the enemy, consequently Colonel Pilcher ordered all who wished to leave to be ready by six the next morning, and promised them safe conduct to Belmont. Thereupon a scene of great animation ensued. An immense exodus was actively arranged. Vehicles of all kinds, sizes, and shapes were got ready, while the women and babies—such as overflowed the transport accommodation—were taken charge of by the gallant Canadians. These marched[Pg 67] forth singing, to keep up the spirits of the community, and finally, when the wearisome end of the journey seemed never to be reached, some of the noble fellows, although worn out with a long spell of active work, and suffering from sore feet, carried the babies, and thus relieved the women of the fatigue of the march. The cortège left Douglas at eight o’clock on the morning of the 3rd, and reached Dover Farm at two o’clock. With the refugees were sent forward the captured rebels. These before their departure were paraded, and Colonel Pilcher enjoined those who were Free Staters or Transvaalers to step from the ranks, as they would be treated as prisoners of war. The rebels who had taken up arms against their Queen would suffer different treatment. No one stepped forward, and it was evident that either there were no Boers among the number, or they mistrusted the assurances of Colonel Pilcher, and preferred to meet their fate en bloc. (They were subsequently sent to the Cape for trial.) Colonel Pilcher’s “slim” arrangement for the confusing of the natives prior to making his advance was eminently successful, for the Boers, so a prisoner said, considered themselves deeply aggrieved that they had not received information regarding the proposed movements. On the 5th Colonel Pilcher’s column arrived at Belmont. The night’s march from Cook’s Farm was splendidly managed. News had reached him to the effect that some 600 or 800 Boers intended to effect a junction, and attack the column. At eight o’clock, therefore, the whole force started quietly forth, stealing off in the jetty obscurity like a band of conspirators. A halt was made during the night to allow the troops a short spell of repose: after this they continued their journey without mishap. Two companies of Canadians were employed to hold a pass some six miles off Belmont, in order to prevent the incoming force being cut off by the enemy.

So ended, happily, a most successful raid. The Colonial troops had more than acted up to the expectation of every one; and, though it was somewhat disappointing that Douglas had to be instantly evacuated, the expedition had helped to demonstrate to the loyalists that the British could and would come to their aid, and that faith in the end has its reward.

The following table of their march is interesting as showing the wear and tear to which the troops were subjected:—

Sunday, December 31, Belmont to Thornhill 22
Monday, January 1, Thornhill to Sunnyside (action) 13
Tuesday, January 2, Sunnyside to Rooi Pan, 6 miles;  
Rooi Pan to Douglas, 15 miles 21
Wednesday, January 3, Douglas to Thornhill 24
Thursday night, January 4, Thornhill to Richmond 10
Friday, January 5, Richmond to Belmont 12
Total 102

[Pg 68]

This smart little military exploit was appreciated throughout the globe. Telegrams poured in from all parts of the Queen’s dominions congratulating Colonel Pilcher and the Colonials on the excellent work they had accomplished. The following from G.O.C., Cape Town, read:—

“Congratulate Colonel Pilcher on brilliant exploit, which will have far-reaching effect.”

From Military Secretary, Government House:—

“Please send following message to Colonial troops employed in action at Sunnyside: ‘His Excellency Sir Alfred Milner sends you his heartiest congratulations on your success, and hopes it is only the forerunner of many more. While regretting the loss of some of your brave comrades, he feels sure that your friends in the colonies over the sea will feel proud of the success of their representatives, as he himself does.’”

From Sir Redvers Buller the following was received:—

“General Buller desires that his congratulations be conveyed to the Colonial troops on their action at Sunnyside.”

From the Governor, Queensland, came:—

“Request you will be good enough to convey to Queensland Mounted Infantry hearty congratulations on gallant conduct at Sunnyside and sympathy in loss of life. Second contingent embarks for South Africa next week.”


More useful work, which had a direct bearing on the events of the future, took place during Colonel Pilcher’s three weeks’ stay at Belmont. Soon after the Douglas expedition another excursion was devised. More Canadians were to be employed. The Queenslanders were to send such men as they could mount, their animals being, many of them, still hors de combat from the sea trip, and the guns and infantry were to go as a matter of course. A dive into the enemy’s country was projected—one of the first deliberate incursions upon the Southern Dutch Republic. These incursions were of immense value, and served in reality as pilotage for the gigantic military engine that was shortly to sweep the way from the Cape to Bloemfontein.

At six o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, January 9, the column started. It was composed as follows:—

Royal Horse Artillery—Two guns, 45 men, 51 horses. Queensland Mounted Infantry—Two Maxims, 116 men, 106 horses. Royal Munster Fusiliers Mounted Infantry—15 men, 15 horses. Royal Canadian Regiment—Two Maxims, 293 men, 2 horses. New South Wales Army Medical Corps—Two ambulances, 18 men, 14 horses. Total—487 men, 188 horses.

The officers who were engaged in the flying column were:—

Staff—Lieut.-Col. T. D. Pilcher, P.S.C., in command; Major M. Dobell, R.C.R.I., Staff Officer; Major S. J. A. Denison, R.C.R.I., Quartermaster; Major[Pg 69] Brown, Q.M.I., Transport Officer; Lieut. Lafferty, R.C.R.I., Transport Officer; Lieut. J. H. C. Ogilvy, in charge of R.C.R.I. machine gun section; Capt. Pelham, Q.M.I., in charge of Queensland machine gun section; Lieut. A. C. Caldwell, R.C.R.I., attached; Lieut. C. W. M’Lean, R.C.R.I., attached; Rev. J. M. Almond, chaplain. Royal Horse Artillery—Major de Rougemont and Lieut. Atkinson. Queensland Mounted Infantry—Lieut.-Col. Ricardo, Capt. Chauvel, Capt. Pinnock, Lieut. Bailey, Lieut. Glascow. R.M.F. Mounted Infantry—Capt. Bowen, Lieut. Tyrrell. Royal Canadian Regiment—Lieut.-Col. Pelletier. A Company—Capt. Arnold, Lieut. Hodgins, Lieut. Blanchard. B Company—Lieut. Ross, Lieut. J. C. Mason, Lieut. S. P. Layborn. H Company (half-company)—Lieut. Burstall, Lieut. Willis. New South Wales Army Medical Corps—Capt. Roth, Lieut. Martin; Capt. Dods, Queensland, attached. (Lieut.-Col. Patterson of Queensland also went with the force as a spectator.)

The troops marched out by the road skirting the kopje so gallantly stormed by the Guards, and moved over the veldt some few miles to the south-east, towards the Free State. After passing Riet Pan a wide left wheel was made, and the force struck north-east to eastwards, towards the Free State. Here the dull purple kopjes wound along in chains, dotted here and there with small plains some three or four miles in depth and width. At Blaauwbosch Pan the border was reached—the border between Griqualand West and the Southern Republic. A halt was called. The troops gathered on a circular plain fringed with high kopjes. The road, fenced across with wire, ran through the plain, and close by was a small pan or pool, which glittered like diamonds when shaken by the thunder showers; for the sky, always overcast and threatening, now and then burst into tears. Though these tears had the effect of April showers they were mightily drenching, and the troops, in saturated overcoats like tepid sponges, pursued their march somewhat uncomfortably. In the place above described Col. Pelletier, with two companies of the Canadians, was left with orders to remain till three in the afternoon, in readiness, if occasion demanded, to reinforce Colonel Pilcher. Failing a message, he was to return to camp. The flying column proceeded, travelling north till parallel with Enslin, where Gordons and Australians were encamped, and from whence the Victorian Mounted Infantry were skirmishing. Great caution had to be observed, as it was difficult, particularly with so many Colonials about in their soft felt hats, to discern friend from foe. Scares, as may be imagined, were many. One of these took place when advancing horsemen were seen skimming the distance. These dismounted and knelt. They meant business. The excitement was intense. Signallers instantly fluttered flags, and presently, after some moments of suspense, the troops were reassured. It was a squadron of the 9th Lancers, who had come from Modder River reconnoitring, keeping the Riet between them and the Jacobsdal position. But we are anticipating.[Pg 70]

Types of Arms--Lord Dundonalds Galloping Gun-Carriage with Maxim.
Types of Arms—Lord Dundonald’s Galloping Gun-Carriage with Maxim.
(Photo by Gregory & Co., London.)

On the first day of their march, the force enjoyed unlooked-for hospitality. About five miles east of the border was the house of one Commandant Lubbe, the commandant of Jacobsdal, a luminary of some magnitude in the Free State. He may be described as a “man of substance,” to which his comfortable dwelling and flourishing surroundings testified. Upon this pastoral domain the troops, somewhat famished and fatigued, advanced. Their arrival, for the Boers, was most ill-timed and unexpected. At that very moment dinner for some fifteen persons was being spread, piping hot, on the festive board. Odours of succulent fare pervaded the atmosphere, odours inviting—tantalising! The portly Burghers were in the very act of setting to when they were warned of the approach of British scouts. A stampede followed. Departing coat-tails, and, five minutes later, mounted dots racing away to the shelter of distant kopjes—that was all that our troops on arrival beheld. But they saw something better than Boers. Their eyes lighted on the goodly array of edibles, and, presto! the officers were seated. Joyously they surrounded[Pg 71] the well-equipped table, and demolished with zest and considerable humour the repast which had been prepared for their foes.

A couple of negro domestics were the sole persons left on the homestead. The place was searched; ammunition was found, and dies for casting bullets. These were promptly destroyed. Some live stock and various other useful articles were seized, including three rifles left behind in the flight of the Burghers. Presently there came a report that the enemy were in hiding in the neighbourhood of some kopjes. A rush to action was made. The Maxim gun section went to some kopjes flanking the house, the Canadian guns went to a height on the east, the Queensland ones to a height on the west. Lieutenant Willis took his section of H Company to support the Queensland guns, while Lieutenant Burstall took his section, with intrenching tools, to a ridge midway between farm and kopje, to prepare a position. Clatter and clank went the horse artillery guns to a coign of vantage on the right, whence they could spit at the enemy if they should attempt to mount or surround the big kopje in that direction, while the Queenslanders on the west commenced explorations for the reported foe. Horror! Slouch-hatted horsemen were distinctly visible—they were coming nearer and nearer—though evidences of their own caution were visible. They were not going to be trapped. Our gallant troops were as determined not to be surprised. Thus must the Kilkenny cats have commenced overtures. Both parties were wide awake! Both parties were sidling up! It was but a matter of moments, and they would promptly spring at each other’s throats!

Excitement was at a supreme pitch, when the good glasses of an officer offered a revelation. The hostile hordes—the advancing horsemen—were now plainly discernible. They proved to be not blood-thirsty Boers—not an innocent crowd of ostriches that so often in the distance had been mistaken for cavalry, but only a company of Victorian Mounted Rifles from Enslin, from which place the advanced line was this time but some dozen miles distant. It was a pleasant surprise. The scouts came in contact, exchanged greetings, and the troops each went on their respective way. Colonel Pilcher’s force bivouacked at the farmhouse, and the next morning, the 10th of January, saw them on their return journey to Belmont. It was during this journey, as they wound homewards with their captured prizes of oxen, that more horsemen were seen in the distance—those who, as before said, were discovered to be the 9th Lancers, on business already mentioned. The force reached camp about noon. On the following day the sojourn of Colonel Pilcher in those regions came to an end. He moved on to Modder River to command the Mounted Infantry force at the front. His stay was fraught with much benefit to the troops, as[Pg 72] his energetic measures, smart manœuvres, and surprise drills brought the spirited Colonials to a high state of alertness and proficiency.


General Methuen, as has been noted, was forced at last to fall back on his base at the Modder River, since the Boers held their position in great strength, and it became necessary to rest the men, free them from tension, and save them from unnecessary sufferings due to the scarcity of water. In addition to this, the Engineers were enabled to carry on much necessary work. Railway communication was perfected, and the permanent bridge was repaired, to provide against accident, which in case of a flood might overtake the temporary one.

On the Boer left flank, from the extreme end of Majesfontein south-eastwards to the Riet River, was comparatively open ground. Beyond the broad expanse of bush which stretched for over a thousand yards was a road leading to Jacobsdal, and farther on was flat country which offered no cover, and appeared singularly free from traps or trenches. Looking over this open ground, it seemed possible to turn the Boer flank and cut off the enemy’s communications with Jacobsdal, and possibly threaten his line of retreat to the Free State.

Some one has called the Modder River the Hampton Court of Kimberley, and perhaps it was fortunate that the troops found themselves forced to halt in a locality which is one of the most picturesque in South Africa. The surroundings were comforting after the desolation of Gras Pan—with never a house to hint at humanity, and only the frowning darkness of threatening kopjes to break the monotony of the view—and the primitive prettiness of Honeynest Kloof, which boasts but a farm or two and a few trees to give it life. From this point the country became greener, the eye was relieved from the autumnal drabs and purples of the rocky hills, and began to lean affectionately on the suggestion of moistness implied by the expanse of verdure.

Across the river was the crowded railway station, choked with stores and goods waggons, and the usual medley of camp kit. On one side accoutrements, lances, swords, the steel of their scabbards glinting through the crackled coats of kharki—odds and ends of uniform—telling their tale of action—action—action—in all its phases. And close beside them were other portions of baggage seemingly the same, but—oh! how tragically different! Here were rifles and bayonets, broken, battered, and blood-stained—all that was left of the heroic dead who had acted their last drama at Majesfontein, and whose belongings, in an inert mass, seemed to confess dumbly that they were “off duty” for ever.

Photo by Heath, Plymouth.

[Pg 73]

Christmas Day was an unpleasant memory—a tropical sun overhead, a whirlwind of dust around. It is said that every man must eat a peck of dirt in his life-time, and on this day the troops certainly ate their quantum. Food and drink were ruined, and tempers into the bargain, for the day was made into one long twilight misery by a hurricane of driving dust.

The position of the Boers soon after this period grew somewhat uncomfortable. Night attacks were threatened; indeed, Lord Methuen had the Naval guns laid on to the Boer positions by day, with the order that they were to be fired by night. And the order was obeyed with zest. The Boers were on tenter-hooks. The shells burst, throwing gorgeous haloes into the Majesfontein night. Of course, the compliment was returned. Tier after tier of the Boer positions spitted and spouted and vomited flame, and the night breezes, carrying the fracas on their wings, brought it close, so close indeed, that an attack sounded as though imminent. Still our outposts were silent. Discipline kept them “mum.” Still the Boers continued, and the rattle of their rifles directed at nothing in particular, and everybody in general, wakened the echoes of the hills.

There was nothing further to be done. Reinforcements had to be awaited with annoying, almost humiliating patience. The Boers were stretched from Jacobsdal on the east to a point miles away on the west of the railway; they were intrenched horse-shoe fashion, with Majesfontein for their most imposing stronghold. There was no means of outflanking them, for in order to wheel to the west the force would need to march through an arid and waterless desert. Had the march been ventured upon, the position might not have bettered, as Lord Methuen, even supposing he had succeeded in reaching Kimberley, would still have had before him the bulk of the Boer commandoes, who would have been at liberty to cut off his supplies. The “relief” of Kimberley without supplies would have been the reverse of relief.

All the British could do was to struggle to hold their ground, and make their proximity as uncomfortable as possible for the enemy. Routine went on like clockwork, save that the Modder River clock had no works. It was a child of Necessity! A broken steel rail suspended from a crossbeam was struck by the sentry with the blunt head of an axe. The stupendous clang proclaimed the hours all over the camp. The troops were not allowed too much leisure, and ennui was not permitted to reach them; they dug trenches, constructed breastworks, and generally improved the lines of defence; indeed they worked with a will at anything that came to hand. Some one, seeing them alight at a railway station, remarked: “They’ve left all their frills behind[Pg 74] them.” This was truly the case. Mr. Atkins was now above the desire for display. He was workmanly in the extreme, and made himself a jack of all trades, alternately groom, labourer, cook, porter, mule-driver, laundryman, and hero! To-day he was scouring, rubbing, kharki-painting, and hoisting; to-morrow he was good-humouredly playing the rôle of his own washerwoman by the river-side. One moment he was pulling or coaxing or cudgelling obdurate mules, and apostrophising them in language peculiarly his own; the next he was rushing gallantly to the forefront to spend his heart’s blood in the service of his Queen!

To General Wood must be given the credit of the first entry into the enemy’s country. On the 6th of January, with a force of all arms, he occupied Zoutpansdrift, the place—situated north of the Orange River, in Free State territory—where gallant Captain Bradshaw met his fate. Communications between the banks of the river were maintained by means of a pontoon bridge. This was an excellent piece of work, for by holding the drift it was possible to control the progress of the Free Staters, and avert sudden raids against the railway between Orange Station and De Aar. A great deal of active though scarcely “showy” work was carried on at this time, often under the most unfavourable conditions. For instance, on the 14th of January, one of the most obnoxious and ever to be remembered dust-storms burst over the place. It made life temporarily into a bilious sea, a blinding, suffocating bath of yellow sand. Food was ruined, to say nothing of temper. Clothes were covered, eyes and throats were clogged, and the pores of the skin were caked with showers of ochreous pepper, which made every one in camp miserable for a period of quite seven hours!

Cavalry reconnaissances at this period were frequent. The troops, always in peril of their lives, explored some twenty-five miles into the Orange Free State, and found the country clear of the enemy with the exception of patrols. The Victorian Mounted Rifles under Captain M’Leish did some admirable scouting, and visited several farms, which they found had been vacated in hot haste at their approach. The country was thoroughly searched, the 9th and 12th Lancers under General Babington doing valuable work. It was this party that came in touch with Colonel Pilcher and the Queenslanders near Lubbe’s Farm.

Our warriors became well versed in peculiarities of Boer homesteads. All the Dutch farms had a brotherly likeness, and were usually found at a sufficient distance from each other to carry out the Boer ideal that one man should not breathe or see the smoke from his neighbour’s chimney. They commonly nestled under cover of some small kopje, and seemed as though so planted for purposes[Pg 75] of self-protection. Self-protection is the first law of nature, and the Boer character has a great reverence for first laws. In every farm was found a harmonium—on the Natal side there were pianos—and many Bibles. Some of these were valuable, and were old enough to arouse the covetous interest of the bibliophile. Most probably they were heirlooms, and had belonged to the early trekkers, who could thumb them out, text by text, when their capacity for other reading was nil. These one-storeyed abodes were composed of sun-baked bricks plastered over, and the flat roofs were lined within by ceilings of deal. Simplicity, ignorance, bad taste, and uncleanliness reigned everywhere. Indeed, it was a matter for wonder how close to civilisation, yet how remote from it, the Dutchmen had contrived to dwell. The cattle kraals and homestead were surrounded with rudely-constructed walls of stone that in their ruggedness were not unpicturesque.

Types of Arms-Maxim Automatic Machine-Gun (the Pom-Pom).
Types of Arms—Maxim Automatic Machine-Gun (the “Pom-Pom”).
(By permission of Messrs. Vickers Sons & Maxim, Limited.)

To return to camp. The Boers, determining not to be accused of lack of invention, adopted a new and ingenious dodge. In the distance from the British outposts a Highlander was observed in the act of driving cattle. As the proceeding was contrary to orders, the manœuvres of the man were carefully observed, and he was discovered to be a Boer masquerading in Highland uniform. He was at once fired upon and he fell, but succeeded in rising and making off before he could be captured.[Pg 76]

On the 16th of January Lord Methuen made a demonstration against the left of the Boer entrenchments at Majesfontein, for the purpose of drawing off some of the force investing Colonel Kekewich’s garrison. On the following day, the 17th, a similar demonstration was made, but the enemy was nothing if not “canny,” and refused to be drawn. Then new tactics were tried. On the 23rd there was quite a theatrical bombardment. Night fell. The moon rose, empurpling the frowning kopjes and filling the whole foreground with magnesian radiance. Then the balmy breath of evening was ruffled with the uproar of British shells, whizzing like rockets and bursting in the Boers’ lair. For full half-an-hour a brisk cannonade was maintained, neither party being in view of each other, both being wrapped in the mysterious gloom of the midnight shadows; but the echoes took up the weird tale of warring souls and repeated it into the ear of the winds. Ordinarily, shelling morning and evening was a matter of daily ritual. So many shells into the Boer trenches, so much breakfast. An hour of brisk bombardment, four hours of night’s repose. Such might have been the printed programme.

On the 24th of January a tremendous reception was given to General Hector Macdonald, who arrived in the best of health and spirits, and at once took command of the Highland Brigade. With each of the officers he conversed, and apprised them of a special message entrusted to him by Lord Roberts, an attention which afforded immense satisfaction to all concerned.

The appointment of “Fighting Mac”—as he is popularly called—to the command of the Highland Brigade was full of romantic interest. As a sergeant in the Gordon Highlanders he was one of those who took part in the disastrous fight at Majuba. He was unluckily taken prisoner, but so great was his valour and dash that he even excited the admiration and appreciation of the enemy. This was testified to this remarkable man in a remarkable way. General Joubert, to show his esteem for his fine qualities as a soldier, decided on restoring to him the sword which he had necessarily surrendered. As the sword was not immediately forthcoming, the Boer commander offered a reward for it, so that it should be returned to the gallant fellow who had so nobly striven to defend it. The picture of Colonel Macdonald and his Khedivial Brigade at Omdurman was made ever present to us all through the vivid word-painting of Mr. Steevens in his book “With Kitchener to Khartoum”; and now it is easy to realise that the kilted warrior was at the moment the right man in the right place. The men wanted him. Some were sick and sore and fretted to get a chance to distinguish themselves in the field. Tradition demanded it, and tradition was dear to them; strangely and absurdly dear, some[Pg 77] thought. Here were men exposed to the fierce sun in what the layman calls “petticoats,” suffering agonies in the muscles of their scorched legs, yet enduring anything rather than part with the external attributes of their warrior land. Though the kilt and the sporran had to be extinguished under a hideous apron of kharki, and though the heat and weight of wool pleats surmounted by cotton was overwhelming, they preferred these sufferings to any change in their gear. Suggestions were offered on every side, but it was certain that nothing would overcome the conservative devotion of the Highlander for the warlike insignia of his race. Yet their plight was sometimes pitiable, particularly on occasions when, as a Scot described it, he had to take a barbed wire entanglement at “the double” and emerged “a bleeding mass, with his kilt hard a starboard, his kharki flap half left turn, and his sporran dangling on the wire.” Anyhow the men of the kilt meant to hold on to all their traditions, and to take the taste of Majesfontein out of their mouths. And they were truly glad of “Fighting Mac” to help them.

Camp routine was occasionally varied and upset by locust swarms. These descended persistently for a space of about three hours, making the atmosphere dense, as though thick with snowflakes. It was a snowstorm in mourning. Down came the creatures in myriads, gobbling every blade of grass, every crumb, every edible fragment, and then, swiftly as they had come, disappearing on the wings of the wind. They were useful at times, however, for on one occasion, just as a party of troopers had almost fallen into a trap laid by the enemy, the air became suddenly dark, and presently a veil of locusts descended, entirely cutting off the British from the Boers, and enabling the former to scuttle campwards in the sudden obscurity. Not so convenient or comforting was the dust-storm, with which the troops were becoming well acquainted. The dust-storm or dust-spout is analogous to a waterspout. Columns of dust rise vertically to a height of about 150 feet in the air and promptly descend with alarming velocity, sweeping over the earth at the rate of five or six miles an hour, and making life for the time being into a state of chaos. But everything may be turned to account, and the British, being tired of Boer tricks, utilised even the sand-storm with pleasing results. One of the great difficulties of our gunners in shelling the enemy consisted in the fact that the Boers, at the first sign of fire, rushed to bomb-proof trenches. They employed lookout men to give a signal of warning. On the 29th of January, however, when the Naval gunners saw a storm brewing, they bided their time. No sooner had the whirl descended than they set to work and plumped lyddite with great success into the enemy’s lines.

Coming events now began to cast their shadows before. Acti[Pg 78]vities around the railroad showed that the influence of Lord Kitchener was already at work. The Royal Engineers commenced to build a strong and permanent bridge across the Modder at its confluence with the Riet. This bridge was constructed about fifteen feet above water, to insure it against the flooding of the river during the rainy season in the Free State, and enable the heaviest traffic to be carried to the scene of action. This promised shortly to be situated in the direction of Jacobsdal. Here the Boers kept a species of headquarters; and here, in the open plain dividing them from Kopjesdam, they set fire to the veldt for two miles. The conflagration began in the afternoon of Wednesday, the 31st of January, and continued throughout the night, illuminating earth and sky with weird reflections. The smoke of these fires served to act as a screen for Boer movements, for at this time the hostile armies were reinforced by troops from Barkly and Koodoesberg districts. The burning of the grass might also have been arranged with the object of procuring a black background against which the approach of winding, snake-like columns of kharki could be more distinctly visible.

There was some excitement in camp as to the reported capture of Mr. Jourdaan, the private secretary of Mr. Rhodes, who had endeavoured to pass from the beleaguered town with messages from the “Colossus” relating to the critical affairs of the moment.

On the 31st of January the British occupied Prieska unopposed. The Boers had been in possession of the place in all about five days, and had left, taking with them two prisoners, one of whom they subsequently released. Commandants Olivier and Snyman were busy recruiting, and finding themselves at a loss for combatants, were now forcing Dutchmen all and sundry to serve with the Transvaal colours. “There is no such thing as a loyal Dutchman,” declared Olivier, and promptly commandeered young and old on pain of fine or imprisonment.

[Pg 79]



Prices at Ladysmith had now gone up, but still those whose purses were plethoric could treat themselves to a few luxuries. Jam, for instance, was 3s. 6d. per lb., a possible price but a tantalising; while eggs were sold at about half a guinea a dozen. Whisky fetched from £5 to £7 a bottle, so there was little fear of dipsomania; and small packets of cigarettes were worth 3s. 6d. a piece. On the 23rd of December there was a grand auction. The Mayor at one time had instituted periodical auctions for the sale of the town produce, but finding competition too brisk, and fearing prices would never return to their normal level, the plan had been dropped. However, in face of Christmas there was a great sale, and the soldiers eagerly competed for bargains in the way of chickens and ducks and etceteras of the meal. In default of Covent Garden or Leadenhall, a long table at an angle of the main street was set out with inviting fare tantalizing to all but the most stoical. One Gordon was seen dragging off another in act of making an extravagant bid—“Come awa, mon! we dinna want nae sour grapes.” Poultry was fetching from 8s. to 10s. a bird; while vegetables, in proportion, were more costly still. Vegetable marrows were sold for 2s. 9d. each; and carrots, homely and almost despised carrots, fetched over 3s. a bunch! As a great luxury a turkey, a goose, a sucking-pig now and then appeared on the Ladysmith board; but the ordinary domestic meal was composed of trek beef and “goat” mutton. But even these were becoming beautifully less.

Christmas passed off well. Hope revived. News of Lord Methuen’s earlier victories refreshed the ears of the community, and a series of sports of various kinds helped to impart to the day a suitable air of festivity. Quantities of popular people set to work to make the day merry. Colonel Dartnell, Major Karri Davies, Colonel Rhodes—the delight of all from the Tommies to the babes—arranged a Christmas Tree. It was decorated with gifts and mottoes, “Imperial to the core,” and attended by children of all sizes and degrees, even to a siege baby aged three days! But behind the scene enteric fever and dysentery flourished, and languishing in Intombi camp, two miles out, were pathetic remnants of the hale and hearty regiments who had marched to the front[Pg 80] in October. The other gallant warriors were now nothing more than a mob of badly-dressed scarecrows, lean and wizened, but, as one of them said, “good enough food for powder.” The horses, too, had grown thin and spiritless, their anatomy was grievously obvious, and in their eyes—those erstwhile fiery eyes—there seemed to dwell the melancholy foreboding of a strange hereafter—the hereafter when sausages should be served out to the hungry, and the poor equine devotees would have spent the last of themselves to keep the British flag flying.

The message of the Queen warmed the hearts of the weary garrison. It was pleasant to know that the Sovereign, in thought, lived in the shadows as in the sunlight of Empire. Still, none but those experiencing it could plumb the depths of monotony and wretchedness. It was enough to kill the martial spirit of the most valorous, though none would own that bellicosity was exuding little by little from their wasted finger-ends. Far from it.

Sir George White maintained a series of night attacks or threats of night attacks, which served to keep the Boers uncomfortably on the qui vive, and these, as a necessary return, indulged in exasperating bombardment during the day. On the 26th as many as 176 shells were flung into the town before nine in the morning, independently of the action carried on by the Maxim automatic guns. It was plain the Boers considered that the inactivity of Christmas Day must be atoned for, and therefore the guns were plied with additional ardour. On the 27th, unfortunately, their murderous efforts were more than rewarded. A shell was fired from the Creusot gun on Bulwana, which dropped into the Devons’ mess at Junction Hill. There, were congregated many of the officers, and of these Lieutenant Dalziel and Lieutenant Price-Dent were killed. Many others were wounded. Lieutenant Twist was injured in five places, and Lieutenants Scafe, Kane, Field, Byrne (Inniskilling Fusiliers), Tringham (Royal West Surrey), and Captain Lafone—who had been previously wounded at Elandslaagte—were all more or less mutilated.

Photo by Gregory & Co., London.

On the 28th the Naval Battery took on itself to avenge the loss of the noble fellows who had fallen victims to the Bulwana gun, and directed at it, or rather at its gunners, six well-intentioned shots from the 4.7 inch and 12-pounder, with the result that the voice of the aggressor was temporarily silenced. There was some satisfaction in the feeling that the gunners who had created such awful havoc and regret had met their deserts. Both Lieutenant Dalziel and Lieutenant Price-Dent were particularly promising young officers, having both seen service with Sir William Lockhart on the Indian frontier, the latter having also served in the Chitral Relief Force. A sentiment of gloom mingled with fury[Pg 81] disturbed the fortitude of the gallant party, and the only satisfaction they enjoyed was calculation and speculation as to what form Sir Redvers Buller’s next move would take. “When will Buller come, and how?” such were the questions which were repeated scores of times during the day.

The cessation of the fire from Bulwana was certainly cheering, and from various sources it was discovered that the Boers were becoming nervous in fear of night attacks and the destruction of more of their big guns. Their state of mind was not evidenced entirely by their conduct, for two plugged shells fired into the camp were found to contain a hunk of plum-pudding and the compliments of the season.

Sickness, as we know, was rife, but fortunately there were many doctors of repute in the town, members of the Army Medical Department, and also independent practitioners. There was Dr. Jameson, whose ability was for years testified at Kimberley, and also Dr. Davies of Johannesburg; these assisted materially in giving advice, but unfortunately medicines were now growing scarce, and milk, though some invalids could digest nothing else, was not to be had. It is too pathetic to deal with the losses that must have occurred through the lack of suitable nourishment for those whose cases, not in themselves serious, only required care and sustenance.

The bombardment on the first day of the New Year had tragic results. A shell crashed into the house of Major Vallentine and killed a soldier servant named Clydesdale. Later, another shell burst near the railway station, where a cricket match between the railway officials and bridge guards was taking place, and killed Captain Vallentine Todd. The unlucky player was in the act of bowling, and dropped with the ball still in his hand.


Our midnight surprises had not been without their lesson, and now the Boers conceived the brilliant, the desperate idea of emulating British example, and bringing Ladysmith to her knees by assault in the small hours. Some three days before the event, a Kaffir deserter had warned the besieged that an attack was contemplated; that it had been decided among the Boers that a large force must be moved up from the neighbourhood of Colenso, and that a final assault at arms must be attempted. The warning was pooh-poohed. Kaffir tales were almost as prevalent as flies! It was proverbial that night attacks to the Dutchman were taboo—they were dangerous, they tried the nerves, and cold steel glittered horribly in the moonlight. So Ladysmith slept. But as a matter of fact the Kaffir was right. These arrangements had taken place,[Pg 82] and two storming parties from the Heidelberg and Harrismith commandoes were promised immediate return to their homes if they should succeed in the hazardous enterprise. Accordingly, on the evening of the 5th of January they arranged a plan which on Saturday the 6th they almost carried out. The main object of their attack, they decided, should be on the western side of the perimeter, where a crescent-shaped, flat-topped eminence divided them from the town. At the south point of this crescent was placed Cæsar’s Camp, bounded on the east by the Klip River, and at the west point, a distance of some four miles, was a post known as Wagon Hill. Close to this was a twin plateau called Wagon Hill West. Cæsar’s Camp was guarded by the Manchester Regiment, the 42nd Field Battery, and a Naval 12½-pounder gun. Only half a battalion of 60th Rifles were on Wagon Hill, while two squadrons of Imperial Light Horse were on Wagon Hill West. Against these positions the enemy decided to make their concentrated attack. The darksome steeps were almost perpendicular, and afforded excellent cover for approach. In some respects they resembled Majuba, where a man climbing up was almost invisible till he came face to face with his quarry. Some three hundred warrior-farmers of the Harrismith commando arranged secretly to gather in Fournier’s Spruit, a dry nullah which intersected the base of the position, and there wait till the gloom of the small hours should give them the chance they were expecting. Their plan was to divide in two columns. The one, under the Harrismith Commandant, De Villiers, was to attack the steeps of Wagon Hill West, while the other, in concert, was to crawl to the nek or slope which united that hill with Wagon Hill proper, and thus cut off the former hill from the rest of the camps. In this way, should the plan succeed, they hoped to make the southern peak of the hill, Cæsar’s Camp, untenable. Accordingly, divesting themselves of shoes, they started off, and under cover of darkness, like stealthily slinking panthers, approached, from different points, the British lines. It so happened that a Hotchkiss gun and some Naval guns were being placed in position on the top of Wagon Hill West. Possibly these guns may have tempted the enemy. They would be useful, they thought, to capture and turn on camp or town. All day and all night the Royal Engineers and Bluejackets had been labouring to get the weapons into position, and at this hour the party were taking a “breather” after their long and arduous efforts. With them, to cover their operations, were the King’s Royal Rifles and the Gordon Highlanders, who occupied a post on the front and flank. The fatigue party were resting, as before stated. Suddenly, in the stillness of the night, a curious and unusual sound was heard. The velvety sound of a muffled footfall. A crumbling as of broken earth. Ears pricked up. The sentry at[Pg 83] once cried out, “Who goes there?” “Friend,” was answered, and the next moment the sentry dropped dead!

Curiously enough, while the beforesaid plan of attack was in course of being enacted, Lieutenant Mathias was visiting his posts. In the obscurity he all at once found himself confronted by Boers on every side. With amazing presence of mind he faced about, and seeing that the Dutchmen mistook him for one of themselves, acted as if he also were assaulting the hill. When near enough, however, he made a rush—a desperate rush—to warn the pickets of their danger. But he was too late. Two men were shot dead, whilst Lieutenant Mathias and a third trooper were wounded. There was no help at hand, and before assistance could be summoned, the enemy were already sweeping the hill. But the sound of the first shots had given the alarm.

Instantly all was flurry and confusion. Men that a moment before had been sleepily yawning after their heavy labours were racing hither and thither, groping in the darkness in search of arms. Others however, who were armed, forebore to fire, the felt hats of the foe being mistaken for those of the Imperial Light Horsemen. With a desperate effort Lieutenant Digby Jones gathered together his sappers. Hurried shots were fired, hurried orders given, but nothing could efface the effects of the sudden surprise. The Boers had gained the hill and driven the defenders over the crest! This all in a darkness that might have been felt. Such lanterns as there were had been overturned and extinguished in the hustle of the stampeding Kaffirs, who had been assisting at the arrangement of the gun, and who, at the first approach of the enemy, had fled. Forks and flashes of flame shining from the nek between the twin hills showed that the second column of the Dutch commando also was attaining its object. The gun, which fortunately had not yet been erected on the top of the hill, was instantly got to work under the direction of Lieutenant Parker; rifles were seized, and an effort was made in the obscurity to sweep the hill in the direction where the enemy was supposed to be. But the Boers were completely enveloped in the darkness of the night, and it was impossible to locate them; and the Hotchkiss gun was drawn back within the sandguard which had hurriedly been thrown up, only just in time. The Boers were now almost upon it. All the available men about Wagon Hill had instantly rushed to the rescue, and the Imperial Light Horse, some King’s Royal Rifles, and a few Gordon Highlanders were soon in the thick of the fray. The Highlanders, taking their place round the crest, fired, as hard as rifles would let them, down the slope. Some fierce fighting followed. Before the Boers could get farther up, the Imperial Light Horse with their wonted gallantry engaged them, and sent the invaders helter-skelter[Pg 84] down hill into the mysterious mists of the dawn. But this was but for a moment—it was merely the commencement of affairs.

The whole garrison got under arms, not only the military, but every available man taking up some weapon to assist in withstanding the onslaught. It was felt to be a desperate situation, desperate for both sides, for the enemy knew that something must be done, and that quickly, to prevent the pending arrival of relief by Sir Redvers Buller, while the garrison, in face of reduced rations, disease, dysentery, and decreasing ammunition, was aware that it was a case of now or never. The alarm once given, Colonel Hamilton from the west had sent for reinforcements with amazing rapidity, and up came two and a half companies of Gordon Highlanders from the base of Cæsar’s Camp, while one company under Captain the Hon. R. T. Carnegie started to support the Manchester pickets on Cæsar’s Camp, and a company and a half went to Wagon Hill. It was while the Gordons were marching up and crossing the bridge of the Klip River that they met with their first mishap. Colonel Dick Cunyngham, only just recovered from his wound at Elandslaagte, was struck by a chance bullet and fell mortally wounded. Major Scott then took the command. Presently came the Rifle Brigade and half a battalion of the first 60th to the rescue, while the 21st Field Battery hurried to cover the western approaches to Wagon Hill, and the 53rd Battery took up a position to guard the most southern point of Cæsar’s Camp. But all this movement was not accomplished till much carnage had been wrought. As already mentioned, the Boers had nearly achieved their object and cut off Wagon Hill West from Wagon Hill proper. By dawn they were straggling on the plateau connecting the two hills, merely checked in their further advance on Wagon Hill by the remnant of the Light Horse. Firing at this time was so terrific and at such close range that it was impossible to move from cover and live. Bullets literally buzzed like bees in the serene morning air. On one side were the Boers making for the second hill, on the other were the British struggling to ward them off. Meanwhile, trickling along through the Fournier’s Spruit were arriving more desperate farmers, more picked men of skilled marksmanship and deadly purpose. At this time reinforcements also arrived for the brave little band who were so gallantly resisting the Dutchmen. But even the additional numbers were insufficient, it was impossible to cope with the marvellous marksmanship of the advancing horde. They came ever nearer and nearer, firing thick and fast—and with explosive bullets. The Colonel, two Majors, and four other officers of the Light Horse dropped—the enemy seized the position—and from thence it was impossible to dislodge them! To do this it would have been necessary to rush through some sixty yards of what seemed hell-fire—a perfect ava[Pg 85]lanche of death. Major Mackworth made the dashing effort, but in the very act he was stricken down, and most of the gallant fellows of the 60th Rifles who accompanied him. Another officer, Lieutenant Tod, pluckily attempted the same hazardous exploit. Twelve noble fellows followed him. Six were hit, and the valiant young leader dropped dead before he had moved three yards from cover. Colonel Codrington (11th Hussars), who was commanding a squadron of the Imperial Light Horse, made a rush forward to ascertain if it were possible to get cover for his men, but before he had gone thirty yards, he too shared the fate of the other officers. These experiences were sufficient. It was decided that the best plan would be to wait under cover till dusk, when the bayonet might be made to supersede the rifle.

Photo by Symonds, Portsmouth.

While all this was taking place on Wagon Hill, a terrific drama was being enacted at Cæsar’s Camp; and exciting assaults, defeats, and re-assaults were following each other on Wagon Hill West. Soon after dawn, the 52nd Field Battery, under Major Abdy, commenced to shell the slopes below Cæsar’s Camp, and keep the enemy from ascending in that direction. The operation was one fraught with extreme difficulty, as the shells were forced to travel over the heads of our own men in order to effect a lodgment at the desired spot. But the work of the gunners was admirable, and the shells burst with a precision that wrought awful destruction on the enemy. The whole of the eastern slopes of the hill were covered with dead Dutchmen lying amidst fragments of steel and iron in the blood-clotted grass. The scene around Ladysmith at this time was appalling. Away in the direction of Wagon Hill, fiercely every inch of ground was being contested, and here the Naval guns and artillery were bellowing and roaring and sending their deadly messages all along the ridge of Cæsar’s Camp, driving off the enemy, who came back again and again. There was a hard tussle, particularly for the Gordons and the Rifle Brigade. Their lives hung by a thread. The Boers were inflamed with either hope or desperation, and, contrary to custom, advanced to death and destruction with dogged and, one may say, admirable pluck. Day broke and grew to its zenith, and still the fighting raged; still the guns roared and snorted; still the dust and dirt flew to the skies, coming down again to stop the mouths of gasping, dying men, and blind the eyes of those who, blood-stained and sweltering, were yet selling their lives at the dearest price that could be asked.

Just as the fire was slackening, possibly from sheer fatigue on both sides, the heavily charged thunder-clouds burst over the position, and a terrific downpour of hail and rain scourged the contesting forces and flooded the trenches. The Boers at this time had been driven to a corner like wolves at bay, and could not emerge without[Pg 86] running the gantlet of a tremendous fire from the Ladysmith guns. Wet to the skin, the ground one vast meadow of slush, the combatants still held on with grim tenacity, each side watching lynx-eyed, each being now almost mad with an insatiable and ferocious desire for victory.

The storm continued and grew. Instead, as imagined, of relinquishing the fight, the Boers took courage from the tempest. The tornado from heaven only served to increase the tornado below! It seemed to suit the stormy state of human passions, to stimulate rather than subdue. Under cover of the thunder and the swirl of the elements the Federals made one desperate onward rush, but the furious fire which met them from Volunteers and British Infantry hurled them back and sent them spinning in heaps or rushing with howls down the hill. The 53rd Battery swept the bush country with a storm of shrapnel, and away to cover they went, and with them their reinforcements, who had been hiding in the neighbouring nullahs, waiting for the great, the final hour of triumph.

So much for Cæsar’s Camp. On Wagon Hill before noon the Devons, with their gallant commander, had come to the forefront, Colonel Park again leading them to renewed success. As we know, the Boers were already on the hill, and the Gordons, who had lost their officers, were falling back when Major Milner Wallnutt rallied them. The enemy were soon removed from the emplacement which they held; but they rushed towards the west, and were there as dangerously fixed as ever. About two o’clock the most horrible moment of the fight arrived. The hill that had been the subject of such eager contest was again attacked, this time by a small but desperate body of Dutchmen. De Villiers, their Commandant, made a wild forward rush to secure the position. In an instant Major Wallnutt and a sapper were shot dead, but the rest of the sappers magnificently fronted the invaders with fixed bayonets. Presently the brilliant youth, the hero of the Surprise Hill affair, Lieutenant Digby Jones, R.E., led them forward, shot De Villiers, and dropped! A bullet had sent him home to his last account. The hoary-headed Burghers were stayed in their onward march by the splendid action of the noble boy, who so many times had risked his young life in the service of his country. At this juncture up came a dismounted squadron of the 18th Hussars, and the situation was saved. The plateau was reoccupied.

Plan of Ladysmith and Chronicle of Events. (From Drawing by W. T. Maud.) Plan of Ladysmith and Chronicle of Events. (From Drawing by W. T. Maud.)
[Transcribers' note: Image is a link to a larger scale image.]

But even then all was not over. The great, the supreme effort to recapture Wagon Hill came at four o’clock in the afternoon. The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, the hail clattered and splashed, the guns blazed, vomited, and growled, and the silky whistle of bullets made a flute-like treble to the awful orchestra of sound. In the midst of the uproar the Boers again obstinately[Pg 87] advanced up the heights, firing deliberately as they came. On their heads poured the wrath of the British guns, and among their numbers rained the ceaseless bullets of the Infantry; but they steadily moved up, doggedly determined once more to reach the crest of the hill. They came nearer and ever nearer till, on a sudden, they[Pg 88] flung themselves upon the Devons, who, cheering wildly, rushed into their midst and dispersed them. One short moment—one wild, valiant rush, and then—then the trusty British bayonets dripped with gore, and the Boers—all that were left of them, a racing, disorganised rabble—surged madly down the hill!

The worst was over; the British conquerors rushed after the retreating foe. The Devons, led by their intrepid commander, charged down the slope, and this time, with a wild exultant yell—which echoed like a tocsin among the caves and the boulders and the honeycombed banks of the river—effectually drove the fleeing herd from the scene of carnage.

The lost ground was recovered, but the lost lives.... Yes; they, too, live in the glorious annals of British history.

Captain Lafone, Lieutenants Field and Walker were among the slain; and Lieutenant Masterton was wounded. The splendid charge cost the Devons all the company officers—fifteen killed and forty wounded!

Drawing by W. T. Maud.

It was a dreadful seventeen hours’ work. Not a soul but had his duty, and more than his duty, cut out for him. The jolly Jack Tars stood to their guns from morn till night, blazing away with marvellous accuracy and precision, while the gallant Natal Police, Natal Carabineers, and Mounted Rifles were wedged between the Boers from Mount Bulwana and the rest of their attacking party, and signally defeated all their efforts to effect a junction. The Manchester Regiment, the Border Regiment, a detachment of Mounted Rifles, the Gordon Highlanders, and the Rifle Brigade defended the east of Cæsar’s Camp like heroes, while on the west, as we know, the Imperial Light Horse, more Gordon Highlanders, the Devon Regiment, the King’s Royal Rifles, and a Naval detachment did glorious deeds. The Naval Brigade and the Natal Naval Volunteers occupied a central position, while three batteries of the Field Artillery were perched on a hill, and one remained on the ground below. All these were called upon to act with might and main to avert the pending calamity, to meet the stubborn, mulish persistency of the Boers with its match in British bulldog obstinacy, and show the enemy that with all the odds against them the besieged would never surrender. Valiantly—almost miraculously—they held their own. They who for months had been exposed to privation of all kinds, who had fought engagement after engagement, who had eaten, drunk, and slept with the shadow of death hanging over them, knowing that at any moment the caprice of fate might make them victims to the incoming shells or threatened disease, came out with enfeebled frames, but wills of iron, determined to conquer or to die.

Elsewhere there had also been bloody doings. The enemy had even tried to force their way into the town, and from here they were[Pg 89] chased by the gallantry and daring of the Gloucester, Leicester, and Liverpool Regiments. The Boers were forced to retire, but even in their retirement they showed characteristic “slimness,” as they made their way in line with the neutral camp at Intombi Spruit, and thus defied the British to fire upon them. Nor was this the only example of their ingenious mode of self-defence on that day. Their “slimness” was carried on on every available opportunity. For instance, a party of the enemy, under cover of darkness of the early morning, had got almost within touch of Lieutenant Royston, who at once called on the Border Mounted Rifles to fire. They were in the act of doing so when a voice rang out, “Don’t shoot. We are the Town Guard.” No sooner, however, had the order to “Cease fire” been heard than crack, crack, ping, ping, a volley was at once poured on the Colonials. Several of their number dropped, but the rest, exasperated beyond endurance at the hateful duplicity, charged into the midst of the enemy, leaving scarce one of them to tell the tale.

These tricks and dodges set aside, the Boers fought more pluckily than was their wont, and they, cheered on by their dauntless Commandant, De Villiers, came to such close quarters that Colonel Hamilton had recourse to his revolver. Among the first of the gallant defenders to drop was the glorious, heroic figure of Colonel Dick-Cunyngham.[3] He was seen standing on the road-bridge in the act of leading his men, and was struck by some sharp-shooting Boer. By seven o’clock in the morning numbers of other splendid fellows had fallen, and the air of Ladysmith was rent with the cries and groans of the dying, who thickly strewed the ground. [Pg 90]Lord Ava, orderly officer to Colonel Hamilton, fell mortally injured,[4] and Colonel Edwards’s wound was also severe.

Lieutenant Digby Jones (Royal Engineers) took a most heroic part, alas! with tragic results. With his own hands he shot three of the enemy, and clubbed a fourth, but for his gallant conduct, which doubtless would have been rewarded with a V.C., he paid later on in the day with his life. One gallant young trooper of the Imperial Light Horse had strange experiences. He, with only a sergeant, was among the first to meet the Boers. In the dusk of dawn the sergeant fell, and the trooper was wounded. He recovered his senses sufficiently to try and creep to cover. A shower of rain drenched him, then the sun blazed out mercilessly and scorched him. Worn out, he decided he would stagger to the Devons and get support, but, battered as he was, they failed to recognise him, and arrested him as a spy!

Numerous deeds of amazing valour were performed, so many indeed that they deserve a separate record without the limits of the narrative. But the story of the heroic Bozeley cannot be omitted. During the action there was a sergeant in command of one of the guns sitting rather doubled up on the trail of his gun. A 4.7 shell took off his leg high up on one side, and took the arm out of the socket, and he fell across the trail of the gun, as they thought, an inanimate, speechless mass. But to the astonishment of every man amongst them, a voice came from the mass inciting them on to their duty, and saying: “Here, you men, roll me out of the way, and go on working the gun.”

The list of casualties was a grievously long one:—

Killed:—5th Lancers—Second Lieutenant W. H. T. Hill. 23rd Corps Royal Engineers—Lieutenant R. J. T. Digby Jones, Second Lieutenant G. B. B. Dennis. 1st Devonshire Regiment—Captain W. B. Lafone, Lieutenant H. N. Field, Lieutenant C. E. M. Walker, 1st Somerset Light Infantry (attached). Imperial Light Horse—Lieutenant William F. Adams, Lieutenant John Edward Pakeman. 1st King’s Royal Rifle Corps—Brevet-Major F. Mackworth, 2nd Royal West Surrey Regiment (attached). 2nd King’s Royal Rifle Corps—Major R. S. Dowen, Lieutenant M. M. Tod, 1st Cameronians (attached), Second Lieutenant F. H. Raikes. 2nd Gordon Highlanders—Major C. C. Miller Wallnutt. 2nd Rifle Brigade—Second Lieutenant L. D. Hall. Wounded:—Staff—Captain Earl of Ava dangerously (died January 11). Intelligence Department—Local Captain H. Lees-Smith, slightly. 5th Lancers—Captain E. O. Wathen, slightly. Imperial Light Horse—Lieutenant-Colonel A. H. M. Edwards, 5th Dragoon Guards (attached), slightly, Major W. Karri Davis, slightly, Major D. E. Doveton, dangerously (died February 14), Lieutenant W. R. Codrington, 11th Hussars (attached), dangerously, Lieutenant J. Richardson, 11th Hussars (attached), severely, Lieutenant Douglas[Pg 91] Campbell, dangerously, Lieutenant P. H. Normand, slightly. 1st Devonshire Regiment—Lieutenant J. Masterson, severely. 1st Manchester Regiment—Major A. E. Simpson, slightly, Captain A. W. Marden, slightly, Captain T. Menzies, slightly, Second Lieutenant E. N. Fisher, severely. 1st King’s Royal Rifle Corps—Lieutenant R. McLachlan, severely. 2nd Gordon Highlanders—Lieutenant-Colonel W. Dick-Cunyngham, severely (died January 7), Captain Hon. R. Carnegie, severely, Lieutenant W. Macgregor, severely. 2nd Rifle Brigade—Brevet Major G. Thesiger, severely, Captain S. Mills, dangerously (died February 2), Captain R. Stephens, severely, Captain H. Biddulph, slightly, Second Lieutenant C. E. Harrison, slightly. 5th Lancashire Fusiliers—Lieutenant F. Barker, attached Army Service Corps. Natal Mounted Rifles—Captain A. Wales, slightly, Lieutenant H. W. Richardson, slightly. Volunteer Medical Staff, Lieutenant R. W. Hornebrook, slightly. Royal Army Medical Corps—Major C. G. Woods, slightly.

On the following day—Sunday—in the Anglican Church, a thanksgiving service for victory was held, and all who were able attended the solemn function. At the close of the simple yet impressive service General White and his staff stood at the altar rails while the Te Deum was performed, and this was afterwards followed by the singing in thrilling unison of the National Anthem. Round the Chief were the men who have fought by his side through many days of sore trouble—each hour an eternity in its experiences. The well-known forms of General Sir Archibald Hunter and General Ian Hamilton were in evidence, but some, alas! of that goodly company would never be seen again. In the Town Hall close by, and in the adjacent hotels and dwellings, honest manly souls were breathing their last, and others had already taken their flight to where the great thanksgiving service of creation goes on for ever and ever.

Among these last was a man who was the pride of his sex and an ornament to his profession, Colonel Dick-Cunyngham, V.C. Wounded previously, from his second blow he never rallied, and on this sad Sunday passed away.

In a few words the Daily Telegraph summed up the surprising qualities of the heroic figure that had so lamentably passed from society as from the scene of war: “Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham was the beau-ideal of a Highland officer, and there was not a man or woman in the world who had a bad word to say about him. His heart was as true as steel, and his manner was courtesy itself. In his kilt and bonnet, a moustache that was so light that it was nearly white telling against the bronze of his face, and with a mountaineer’s figure, he was a man who caught every artist’s eye at once, and he has figured, without his knowledge, again and again in pictures and illustrations. At Shirpur he first gave proof of his great gallantry by rallying the men when for a moment they wavered; at Majuba he was the officer who asked permission to charge. Elandslaagte and Ladysmith are the last two names in his long record of heroism.”


[3] Lieutenant-Colonel William Henry Dick-Cunyngham, V.C., of the Gordon Highlanders, entered the army in 1872, and first saw service in the Afghan War of 1878-80, and won his Victoria Cross in that campaign. He was present on transport duty in the advance to Candahar and Khelat-Ghilzie under Sir Donald Stewart; with the Thull Chotiali Force under Major-General Biddulph; under Sir Frederick Roberts in the Koorum Valley Field Force in the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, including the engagement at Ali Kheyl; and he took part in the operations round Cabul in December 1879, including the attack on the Sherpur Pass. He was with the Maidan Expedition in 1880 as acting adjutant of a wing of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, including the engagement at Charasiah on April 25; accompanied Sir Frederick Roberts in the famous march to Candahar, and was present at the reconnaissance of the 31st of August, and at the Battle of Candahar. He was awarded the V.C. “for the conspicuous gallantry and coolness displayed by him on the 13th of December 1879 at the attack on the Sherpur Pass, in Afghanistan, in having exposed himself to the terrible fire of the enemy, and by his example and encouragement rallied the men who, having been beaten back, were at the moment wavering at the top of the hill.” He served in the Boer War of 1881 as Adjutant of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, and was subsequently D.A.A.G. at Bengal. He went out in the autumn of 1899 to Natal in command of the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, and led them into action at the battle of Elandslaagte. He fell early in the charge, wounded by a bullet in the leg. While lying on the ground he called to his men to go on and leave him, and then calmly took out and lit his pipe, waiting for hours before being removed by the ambulance party. At the end of the year Sir George White reported that Colonel Dick-Cunyngham had completely recovered. He returned to active duty only to be again wounded—this time mortally. He was uncle to Sir William Dick-Cunyngham, the present baronet, and fifth son of the eighth baronet. Born in 1851, he married in 1883 Helen, daughter of Mr. Samuel Wauchope, C.B.

[4] Archibald James Leofric Temple Blackwood, born in 1863, was educated at Eton. He was a member of Methuen’s Horse in Sir Charles Warren’s Bechuanaland Expedition. Then he served with the Carabineers, and afterwards obtained a lieutenancy in the 17th Lancers. He accompanied the Natal Force, in an unattached capacity, on the outbreak of hostilities.

[Pg 92]



At last, after a long period of suspense, it was possible for General Buller’s force to make an appreciable advance. The arrangements were set on foot with the utmost secrecy, and on the 9th of January the second forward movement of the troops from Frere and Chieveley may be said to have commenced. General Barton and the Fusilier Brigade were deputed to watch over Colenso, and with them were left some dummy cannon, cunningly contrived by Jack Tar so as not to forewarn the Boers, and allow them to congratulate themselves on the absence of lyddite from their vicinity. This was not the first time that guns in effigy had been arranged to do duty in our dealings with the Boers. During one of the sieges in the year 1881, a “Quaker” cannon was erected in an inviting position on purpose to draw the Boers’ fire, with the result that they expended the best part of a day and a vast amount of valuable ammunition on the imperturbable object!

Photo by Wilson, Aberdeen.

To appreciate the gigantic nature of the advance now made, we may refer to a rough table showing the composition and strength of the forces in Natal at this date under the command of Sir Redvers Buller.


Second Division.—(Lieutenant-General Sir C. F. Clery).—2nd (Hildyard’s) Brigade—2nd East Surrey; 2nd West Yorks; 2nd Devons; 2nd West Surrey. 4th (Lyttelton’s) Brigade—1st Rifle Brigade (included in Sir C. Warren’s Division); 1st Durham Light Infantry; 3rd King’s Royal Rifles; 2nd Scottish Rifles (Cameronians); Squadron 14th Hussars; 7th, 14th, and 66th Field Batteries, less 11 guns of 14th and 66th Batteries lost at Colenso.

Third Division.—5th (Hart’s) Brigade—1st Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers; 1st Connaught Rangers; 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers; 1st Border. 6th (Barton’s) Brigade—2nd Royal Fusiliers; 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers; 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers; 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers; Squadron 14th Hussars; 63rd, 64th, and 73rd Field Batteries.

Fifth Division.—(Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Warren).—10th (Coke’s) Brigade—2nd Dorset; 2nd Middlesex. 11th (Woodgate’s) Brigade—2nd Royal Lancaster; 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers; 1st South Lancashire; 1st York and Lancaster; Squadron 6th Dragoons; 19th, 20th, and 28th Field Batteries. Brigades uncertain—2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers; 2nd Somerset Light Infantry. Corps Troops—61st Field Battery (Howitzers); Natal Battery 9-pounders; Six Naval 12-pounder quick-firers; 4th Mountain Battery; 4.7 Naval guns. Cavalry Brigade—1st Royal Dragoons; 13th Hussars. South[Pg 93] African Colonial Troops—500 Bethune’s Mounted Infantry; Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry; Natal Carabineers; South African Light Horse (seven squadrons); Imperial Light Horse (squadron); Imperial Light Infantry; Natal Police.

This table suggests a very imposing army, but it is necessary to remember that only a part of any force assembled at the base is available for actual attack. The lines of communication to Chieveley alone were some 160 miles in length, and the necessary work of guarding them, securing easy transport and supply, Royal Engineer work, and other business connected with the munition of war, independent of sickness, absorbed a large proportion of the troops. Military experts estimated that the absolute fighting men were far fewer than supposed. The table here shown represents some 30,000 men, but of these about 5000 were engaged in miscellaneous work. Out of twenty-three battalions of infantry it was necessary to use three or even more for the guarding of the lines of communication. Of three regiments of cavalry, only a part was available, while of the other arms, allowance had to be made for the loss that had been sustained, and also for sickness. In this march, now that the army had at last moved from the railway, the baggage column was enormous. It made a procession of some miles in length as it lumbered along primitive roads, through mud sometimes ankle-deep. It had been decided to bring up all tents, sheep, coops, &c., and consequently the various fatigue duties involved in the move were enormous.

When one considers the ordinary transport of a mere regiment, it is possible to form some idea of the amazing cortège that had to follow the movements of the commander. The transport of a regiment in South Africa, roughly speaking, was composed of six ox-waggons, each drawn by sixteen oxen in pairs tandem fashion (managed by Kaffir boys, one driving the wheelers, another spurring the whole caravan by means of an enormous whip and a profuse vocabulary); four ammunition carts, each drawn by six mules; a water-cart, with pair of mules; a “Scotch” cart, and a strong luggage-cart, drawn by four mules, for conveyance of tents, blankets, and food, &c. A little mental multiplication will help us to picture the long serpentine coil that was twisting its way from Colenso to the new westerly point of attack.

The procession was forced to move slowly and cautiously through a rugged, mountainous district, from which no supplies of any sort could be drawn. The ox-waggon of the country had to be relied upon entirely for heavy transport. This mode of conveyance is somewhat characteristic of the progress of the tortoise; two miles an hour was the average rate of advance, and at most the shambling cattle succeeded in covering about twelve to fifteen miles a day. Of[Pg 94] proper roads there were none. The country was a vast swamp after heavy rain, or, in fine weather, a mass of dry ruts and tracks, steep hills, difficult fords, and irritating boulders. Over all this had to be coaxed or goaded the patient oxen, or, still worse, the stubborn, obstinate mules which dragged the lighter carts, and which, like ignorant persons, sometimes jibbed for sheer jibbing’s sake, true to the obstructionist instinct that belongs to the intellectually stolid. When a team of these strong yet strange beasts chooses to jib at a ford or in a pass, it takes some companies of infantry to haul the waggon on to level ground, and then, and only then, will they condescend to resume their labour. It may therefore be imagined that the progress of troops—dependent as they were for food and forage on the tempers of quadrupeds—was at this time slow and not always sure! However, troops and baggage were gradually concentrated at Springfield, while the Boers, who had spies everywhere, among boulders, in dongas, and upon the formidable height of Spion Kop, hurried about their preparations for the renewed and mighty tussle which was now pending.

On the 10th of January Lord Dundonald, at the head of the Cavalry Brigade, started at dawn from Frere Camp. A few miles outside they came on targets erected by the Boers to represent a force advancing in skirmishing order, which showed that the enemy had evidently been indulging in rifle practice. The troops marched some twenty-four miles in a north-westerly direction to Springfield, through the country, which was one vast quagmire beset with the enemy, without mishap of any kind. There were thrilling moments when the enemy were known to be ensconced in neighbouring kopjes or hiding in the bush, but every precaution was taken, the country having been previously searched by scouts, and the whole movement so successfully carried out that the brigade at last was able to occupy a strong position dominating Potgieter’s Drift on the Upper Tugela. Here at once extra defences were made, to ensure against surprise from the enemy, who, finding the rivers in flood, had retired to the north, and to enable Lord Dundonald’s force to hold its ground, and thus render safe the passage of the river.

Lord Dundonald’s Brigade was accompanied by the Fifth Brigade under General Hart, comprising the Dublin Fusiliers, the Connaught Rangers, the Border Regiment, and the Inniskilling Fusiliers. These, on hearing that Springfield was unoccupied by the enemy, now took possession of the place.

The column then advanced to Mount Alice, one of the spurs of Swartz Kop or Black Hill, a rocky eminence which faced the mountain fastnesses of the foe. From this point the panorama was magnificent. In front the Tugela looped and twisted in four big silvery bends, and great kopjes, the scenes of future fights, rose on[Pg 95] the other side. It was possible to see the flat crowned summit of Spion Hill, which was held by the Boers and covered with trenches, and another frowning eminence also held by the enemy. A glimpse, too, might be had of the distant laager of the Boers perched on the Tugela heights; but the Dutchmen being evidently warned of the coming of the British troops, struck camp and silently melted away. Still it was known that there were some of them within almost a stone’s throw, for on the arrival of Lord Dundonald’s force at Potgieter’s Drift it was discovered they had been there the previous day.

The next morning, the 11th, the pontoon from the enemy’s side of the river was very cleverly captured, it may be said in the very teeth of the foe, by Lieutenant Carlyle and six of his men of the South African Horse. They leapt into the stream, which at that place was running strong, swam to the Boer side, untied the pont, and succeeded in getting it across for the use of the troops. The achievement was a brilliant one, because during the whole proceedings the exact position of the Boers was unknown. At any moment a volley might have been poured on the adventurous party from which it would have been almost impossible to escape. No sooner had they removed the fastenings of the pont and were getting it across than shots were fired, one of them grazing Lieutenant Carlyle, who, however, pursued his work to the end.

From the heights we had gained, operations were soon commenced both with heliograph and telescope. Mount Bulwana and part of the outskirts of Ladysmith were clearly visible. Fringed around them were Boer camps, waggons, and cattle; while studded over the ground the enemy was seen, some building forts, others digging trenches, and all working like bees to protect the road from our advance. The Ladysmith chief signaller, Captain Walker, rapidly came into communication with the signallers on Swartz Kop, and Sir George White was informed of the satisfactory progress of the advance so far.

The Naval guns were now comfortably ensconced on the western ridge of the hill, ready to do duty in sweeping away the strong positions which were being rapidly built up by the hostile hordes, who were fast beginning to congregate from the neighbourhood of Colenso.

Meanwhile General Lyttelton’s brigade had streamed in with howitzers, and soon these, under cover of the guns of the Naval Brigade, were across the river, and safely located on the other side. At the same time was commenced the fortifying of Mount Alice. The men were all in great fettle, working like Trojans, and perfectly regardless of fatigue. They crossed the scudding river, steadying themselves by holding each other’s rifles, in a burning sun with the[Pg 96] water up to their waists, and advanced in skirmishing order over the boulder-strewn country, settling themselves at last on some low kopjes to the north of the river and facing the enemy’s defences five miles north of the drift.

While these important events were taking place at Potgieter’s Drift, General Sir Charles Warren with the 5th Division was also moving forward by a circuitous route. By another drift, called Trichardt’s Drift, some five miles farther west, the entire force eventually got across and took up a position beyond the river, with the object of turning the position of the enemy, who were posted on Spion Kop. This journey was not achieved without coming in touch with the Boers. Some of them were hidden in a wooded nook by a farmhouse, and from thence poured rifle-shots on the advance guards. They even brought their cannon to bear on the troops; but the passage d’armes was of short duration, and the enemy, warmed with fervent salutations from the Naval guns on the hills, was soon in full flight across country. Then the engineers, with celerity which looked to the uninitiated like a conjuring trick, in two hours threw a pontoon bridge over the river, and the crossing was successfully accomplished. The great object of Sir Charles Warren was now, as stated, to turn the enemy’s position. This, situated about five miles off to his right front, was undoubtedly a strong one. It ran laterally with the river, with Spion Kop for its centre, and all around the enemy were actively engaged in intrenching themselves. The plan of the combined movement was to make as hasty an attack as possible and prevent the Dutchmen from strengthening their position and reinforcing their right from their centre and left, and perhaps enable the Ladysmith garrison to do its share in threatening the enemy’s rear. For this reason General Barton, with sufficient troops, had been left at Colenso to hold the Boers’ forces and prevent them from massing on the line of Sir Redvers Buller’s march. This latter officer with a small force directed the combined operations from Spearman’s Farm, a little to the south of Mount Alice. The headquarters of himself and his staff were at the picturesque homestead of one Martinius Pretorius, a personage who thought it advisable not to remain to play the host.

Drawn by Enoch Ward from a Full Sketch by René Bull, War Artist with General Buller.

The troops, in spite of their trying march—the mud collected by tremendous rains, the arduous business of getting across the river, the grilling sun overhead, and the enemy possibly threatening from unknown quarters—were bright, healthy, and hopeful. Immense enthusiasm was occasioned in every camp when all were made acquainted with the brief yet stirring words of Sir Redvers Buller: “We are going to the relief of our comrades in Ladysmith; there will be no turning back.” A short emphatic statement this—blunt as the conversation of the man who made it, but instinct with noble[Pg 97] meaning—of superb resolve! It touched every heart, and made each bronzed-face warrior repeat once more to himself the oath to do or die for the honour of his country and for the service of those to be relieved!


Before going further, it is interesting to examine with the map a rough hint made by Mr. Winston Churchill, correspondent of the Morning Post, of the general plan of the advance.

Types of Arms-A Mountain Battery.
Types of Arms—A Mountain Battery.
(Drawn by Ernest Prater.)

“Having placed his army within striking distance of the various passages across the Tugela, Sir Redvers Buller’s next object was to cross and debouch. To this end his plan appears to have been—for information is scarcely yet properly codified—something as follows: Lyttleton’s Brigade, the corps troops forming Coke’s Brigade, the ten Naval guns, the battery of howitzers, one field-battery, and Bethune’s Mounted Infantry to demonstrate in front of the Potgieter position, keeping the Boers holding the horseshoe in expectation of a frontal attack and masking their main position; Sir Charles Warren to march by night from Springfield with the brigades of Hart, Woodgate, and Hildyard, the Royal Dragoons, six batteries of artillery, and the pontoon train to a point about five[Pg 98] miles west of Spearman’s Hill, and opposite Trichardt’s Drift on the Tugela. Here he was to meet the mounted forces from Spearman’s Hill, and with these troops he was next day, the 17th, to throw bridges, force the passage of the river, and operate at leisure and discretion against the right flank of the enemy’s horseshoe before Potgieter’s, resting on Spion Kop, a commanding mountain, ultimately joining hands with the frontal force from Spearman’s Hill at a point on the Acton Homes Ladysmith road. To sum up briefly, seven battalions, twenty-two guns, and three hundred horse under Lyttleton to mask the Potgieter position; twelve battalions, thirty-six guns, and sixteen hundred horse to cross five miles to the westward, and make a turning movement against the enemy’s right. The Boer covering army was to be swept back on Ladysmith by a powerful left arm, the pivoting shoulder of which was at Potgieter’s, the elbow at Trichardt’s Drift, and the enveloping hand—the cavalry under Lord Dundonald—stretching out towards Acton Homes.”

This plan on the surface appeared fairly practicable if the action could be carried on with sufficient rapidity to prevent the enemy from gathering in his crowds, as he had gathered at Colenso. Here was the great—If. The art of war is at best a choice of difficulties, and at this time our Generals had an embarrassment of that choice. It says a great deal for their courage that they handled these difficulties one after another, and let go only when they thought they had been squeezed dry.

The British troops having done with the fatigue of the march, did not allow the grass to grow under their feet. No sooner had they crossed the river than they began to threaten some of the Boer lines of retreat to the Free State. The Naval Brigade also set to work with vigour, and they, together with the howitzers from Mount Alice, pounded the whole vicinity to the right impartially. The range having been ascertained to a nicety, with the assistance of the balloon, whose occupants directed the gunners, some effective shots were launched at the Boer entrenchments, and others which were rapidly in course of construction. From the balloon these were plainly visible, but their tenants, if tenants there were, vouchsafed no reply. Many mounted Boers were seen galloping from Colenso to their laagers in the shelter of the more northerly kopjes, while others were also discovered coming in the direction from Ladysmith, evidently with a view to reinforce the commandoes on Spion Kop. While the Naval Brigade was hammering in the direction of the Boer position, which was somewhat below the level of Mount Alice, General Lyttleton was moving north of the position for the purpose of making a demonstration towards Brakfontein, and Sir Charles Warren’s force[Pg 99] was approaching two high kopjes overlooking a ravine behind Spion Hill. It was now the 18th of January. The cavalry started in advance of the rest of the force. The order of march being, first, the Composite Regiment (one squadron of Imperial Light Horse, sixty Rifles Mounted Infantry, one squadron Natal Carabineers), four squadrons South African Light Horse, Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, and behind these the Royals and 13th Hussars. But the Composite Regiment at midday was found to have moved still farther west, and soon from that region came an ominous crackling. Something deadly was afoot. It appeared that a party of Boers was caught trekking by the Acton Homes Road towards the Free State, and was in act of being cut off. Firing was fast and furious, and presently dead and dying Boers besprinkled the field that a few moments before had been green and gracious to the eye. A message was sent to the main body demanding reinforcements. Promptly Lord Dundonald with the rest of his troops came on the scene. Hostilities grew in animation—the situation was desperate. The Boers made a hard fight of it, clung tenaciously to their position, refusing, though surrounded, to surrender. Their fire rained furiously down on the Rifles as they advanced, so furiously that they were forced to seek the shelter of a desirable donga. The obstinate combat was on the point of renewal when up went a white flag. The old dodge, one to which now our troops had become so accustomed that they scarcely heeded it. Both sides continued to blaze away in uncertainty and mistrust till presently hands flew up, and this sincerest and distinct sign of surrender was accepted. Twenty-four burly Boers were then captured, while, round about, the wounded of the foe were assiduously succoured and tended by the very men who in the race for dear life had stricken them down. Twenty-four captured, ten killed, eight wounded—such was the result of a few hours’ work on the enemy. Of our number, Captain Shore of the Imperial Light Horse was severely wounded, two soldiers of the Mounted Infantry were killed, and one trooper of the Imperial Light Horse was slightly injured.

A word must be said of the South African Light Horse or “Cockyoli Birds,” as they were jocosely styled in deference to the plumes in their headgear. These had become the heroes of the hour owing to the splendid action formerly mentioned of Lieutenant Carlyle and his plucky companions, Sergeant Turner, Corporals Cox and Barkley, and Troopers Howell, Godden, and Collingwood. In addition to this plucky feat they were ceaseless in their activity, as we shall afterwards see.

Before this date the men of the squadron had been much commented on and universally praised. Their dash, their aptness, their marvellous intelligence had earned the admiration of all the regulars[Pg 100] who had been associated with them. They, in their neat kharki, looked as efficient a body of mounted infantry as any one could wish to come across. Among their numbers were Afrikanders of good birth, Canadians, Australians, gentlemen of means, sporting men, old soldiers, and the like. They were hard as nails and bronzed as their saddles, acute as weasels, and big-hearted and adventurous as any of Robin Hood’s world-famed merry men. If they were rough they were ready, sniffing adventure in the air and rushing hot-foot to greet it, or stalking warily like old Shikari, saving no pains so that they eventually brought down their quarry.

The engagement was a grand feather in the cap of the cavalry, and an additional one in that of the “Cockyoli Birds.”

On the morning of Saturday the 20th of January Sir Charles Warren advanced his whole force to the attack. The scheme had been thought out with immense care. There was an excellent general with a superb division of troops, and there was every chance of success. General Woodgate’s and General Hart’s brigades marched forward at 3 A.M. from their bivouac on the low ridges below Spion Kop, with a view to capturing a position called Three Tree Hill, so called because of three mimosa trees whose fragrance filled the air. The proceedings opened with an animated bombardment from all quarters, our guns in the neighbourhood of Potgieter’s and Tritchardt’s Drifts engaging the attention of the Boers. By this time the Dutchmen were powerfully intrenched, and were still hurrying and scurrying to protect the big mountain that stood between the British and the object of their desire—Ladysmith. Woodgate’s Brigade had pushed forward in this direction. Later Hart’s Brigade took up a position on the spur parallel to the left of the Lancashire Brigade, and, under cover of the field-guns, the troops, in the thick of a storm from rifles and artillery, fought their way almost inch by inch up the steeps held by the Boers. They finally succeeded in gaining some portions of the enemy’s line of intrenchments. But this was not achieved without an exhibition of pluck and valiant obstinacy that was heroic.

Photo by Gregory & Co., London.

The Irish Brigade, as usual, were in the thick of the fight, jovial yet determined, and holding their grip of every inch they gained notwithstanding shadows of threatened dissolution, the sights of death and sounds of horror that filled the air. Captain Hensley, a brave and gallant soul, was shot through the head, and several officers were smitten, but still their valorous commander, waving his sword, pressed on, and still his sturdy Irishmen, animated, encouraged, confident, pursued their upward way. They had debts to settle—some old scores to wipe out. They remembered their hideous disappointment of Colenso, their grievous experiences of Dundee, and also they remembered—a far grander remembrance[Pg 101]!—that the honour of the Emerald Isle rested on their shoulders, and that the quality of its loyalty stood proved by the quality of their famous deeds!

All around played the fierce fire of the enemy’s guns, Creusot, Maxim, Nordenfeldt, and others. These were posted in commanding positions on a chain of hills to the west of Spion Hill, and from various points of vantage the Dutchmen were able to keep up a ceaseless clamour, and pour a rapid torrent of death and mutilation upon the advancing troops. These, by reason of the bad ground and the caution required in the manner of approach, could travel but slowly. The enemy, owing to the delay in our advance, had increased their forces most unexpectedly, and seemed, though scarcely to have existed a week ago, to be now ubiquitous! During the afternoon General Lyttleton’s Brigade made a frontal attack on the Dutchmen’s position between Schwartz Kop and Spion Kop, to divert their attention pending the movements of Sir Charles Warren. This movement, it was imagined, had been kept very “dark,” but, in spite of the secrecy and caution, the agile foe had contrived again to concentrate a huge force to oppose his every turn. More artillery seemed continuously to be brought to the scene, and also some of the trophies captured in the ill-fated attack on Colenso. Our Naval guns bombarded the ridge all day, and the howitzers boomed and roared, but the whole place appeared to be bustling with Boers. On the extreme left Lord Dundonald engaged in more energetic demonstration, and the indefatigable South African Light Horse, under Colonel Byng, more than ever distinguished themselves. In the most gallant manner they captured Bastion Hill, a hill between the Dutch right and centre.

This hill in the hands of the Boers was a standing menace, as from thence they could direct a cross-fire at the infantry on the opposite spur of the big mountain. Major Childe, commanding F Squadron, South African Light Horse, decided that he, and not the Federals, must secure so important a vantage-point. Dismounting with his men, and leaving his horses in rear of the heights, he cautiously crept round through a mealie field and various dongas which gave him cover from the storm of shot directed from the curve of the hills. In spite of the pelting lead, he got to the base of the position in safety. Then, with half the squadron, he started laboriously to climb. It was tough work, the sugar-loaf eminence being steep and stony and the sun above blisteringly hot. Thus they sweated and toiled for a whole hour. Finally, the Boers were seen scampering from the top. They had detected the approach of men—bayonets were suspected—they discreetly bolted. Just then Trooper Tobin, who had grandly led the way up the precipitous height, had reached his goal. Here he stood in his delight and[Pg 102] triumph waving his helmet and shouting, and quite regardless of the fact that he made an excellent mark for Boer sharpshooters or their mercenaries. Up, too, rushed Major Childe with a dozen or so of his nimble men, into the midst of a tornado of shot and shell which had suddenly started from the Boer left and centre. Promptly every one went to earth. It was useless at the moment to attempt to return so withering a fire. Then came a shell—bursting and banging—and the gallant Major was caught on the head and killed. Several others were slain, among them Godden, who had been one of the gallant seven who distinguished themselves in the pont exploit. Shattered by the terrible fire of artillery, breathless from past exertions, the troops still hung on. Then our own artillery came to the rescue and kept the Boer gunners occupied. Meanwhile, reinforcements from Hildyard’s Brigade were sent up to the help of the brave fellows who for twelve hours had been without rest or water, and on the following day, to the West Surreys, the cavalry, after a tremendous and fatiguing experience, handed over the charge of the hill which they had so magnificently gained. The losses during this complex series of engagements were many, but the sufferings due to hunger, heat, thirst, and fatigue were even greater than those due to actual wounds.

The Lancashire Fusiliers, Lancashire Regiment, and the Dublin Fusiliers lost most during the day. Their wounded numbered about 350 officers and men. These troops had a peculiarly trying time, as for three whole days previously they had remained on some captured hills, sun-baked and fired on promiscuously, while at night, when the temperature had run down with its customary rapidity, they had found themselves chilled to the bone, with no blankets or overcoats to cover them. They had about two hours’ sleep on an average per night and very little to eat during the day. From 3 A.M. on the 20th the Lancashires had taken up a position screened behind a string of low kopjes, while the artillery on the right battered and pounded at the Boer earthworks in front and half-left and half-right. The troops had remained quiet and painfully inactive in the sweltering sun for many hours, stray bullets whistling round their ears, and, as one of the officers said, “causing great levity among the men.” At 1.30 they had begun to advance. Immediately they showed their heads they were caught by a hailstorm of bullets, and seven men dropped. Rushing dauntlessly on, they made for the shelter of a ring of rocks some 150 yards in advance, remained for some ten minutes or so, then pushed forward another 400 yards, losing less men and taking a lesson in caution from the Boers. Thus, in short energetic rushes, they had managed to get within 900 yards of the enemy. On the top of the hillock a perfect deluge of bullets descended, and though the General had moved some 400 forward, so[Pg 103] quickly were the men hit that only thirty or so could use their rifles.

Afterwards the order was given to make breastworks, and there was a rush into the open to gather stones and rocks and boulders, when more men were stricken down. All the wounded could do was to creep to a rock in the rear, and there await the turn of events. Some lay as they crawled from 3 to 8.30 at night. It was impossible for them to be removed from the hill, as the Boers promptly fired on the stretcher-bearers. The sights and sounds were heart-rending. On one side was seen a man sent to his last account in a breath; on another was one still hobbling along and plying his rifle, with both ankles smashed. Here lay a poor fellow who had a splinter of rock driven clean through his lungs and out at his back; there languished another shot through the eye and brain—hopeless. All of them suffered patiently, but were madly athirst, craving for the hour when the sun should go down and they might get a chance of removal from the awful scene. And yet there were some, wounded too, who bore the long hours with amazing cheeriness. One, shot in the leg, lay on his back, drew forth his home letters, and perused them in the midst of a deadly fusillade. Another, more seriously wounded still, had the audacity to beguile the weary moments by taking a “snap-shot” at General Hart in the act of waving his sword and gesticulating. So much for pluck!

After sundown came the moment so longed for by the wretched beings, some of whom were now literally glued to earth in their own gore. But their miseries were not yet at an end. It took some two hours to go three-quarters of a mile in the darkness over the bad ground; there were creeks, and dongas, and boulders everywhere. No lights were allowed. In the jetty obscurity the Samaritans tripped and stumbled. “I was only dropped twice,” smiled a wounded youth when he was at last safely borne towards the stretcher-bearers. Others at intervals were brought in soaked with blood and rain, the hot stream and the cold mingling uncannily and to their supreme discomfort. Many who were wounded soon after midday only succeeded in reaching the field-hospital about half-past twelve at night. Some, more pathetic still, did not reach it at all! They had patiently waited till past the need of assistance!

Very pathetic were the circumstances attending the fall of Major Childe. It was said that on the previous day he had had forebodings of disaster, so much so that he even begged of his companions, in the event of his death, to put on his grave his chosen quotation, “Is it well with the child? It is well.” This dying wish was faithfully carried out. His burial took place on the day after the engagement, Lord Dundonald reading the solemn words of the funeral[Pg 104] service. Over his roughly-made grave was placed the gallant officer’s name, the date of his death, and the text he had desired to have written on his tomb.

On the following day the fight was waged as fiercely as ever so far as artillery was concerned. Six field-batteries and four howitzers bombarded the enemy’s position with tremendous vigour, and inflicted considerable loss. The Boer rifles were indefatigable, however, and continued their fiendish activity, and the Dutch or German gunners maintained their excellent practice with scarcely a moment’s cessation.

While General Woodgate made a demonstration on the right, General Hart and his brigade continued to advance, and General Hildyard’s troops joined in the attack from the valley past the right of Bastion Hill. Here a cleft appeared to open between the right and centre of the Boer position, and here the infantry, pushing on, practically divided the position in two; but it was found that the second line of defence was a formidable one; that the Boers had secured to themselves a magnificent point of vantage, whence they could sweep the country and command all the approaches with cross-fire, and even with converging fire; but, in spite of this, the troops tenaciously retained the positions they had gained, remaining there throughout the 22nd and 23rd, partially covered, so that in all their loss was inconsiderable.

The following officers were wounded in action near Venter’s Spruit on the 20th of January:—

Staff—Colonel B. Hamilton, Major C. M’Grigor. 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers—Captain R. B. Blunt, Second Lieut. M. G. Crofton, Second Lieut. E. I. M. Barret. 1st Border Regiment—Captain E. D. Vaughan, Second Lieut. Muriel. 1st York and Lancaster Regiment—Second Lieut. A. H. Kearsey. 2nd Dublin Fusiliers—Captain C. A. Hensley (since dead), Major F. English. 2nd Gordon Highlanders—Second Lieut. P. D. Stewart. Non-commissioned officers and men, 279. Royal West Surrey Regiment—Second Lieut. Du Buisson. 16th Lancers (Staff)—Captain Dallas.


On Tuesday the 23rd, the continuous and steady assault of the Boer position seemed to be reaching a promising climax. For four days on the heights above the Venter Spruit the English and Irish Brigades had been doggedly moving up and on, and had carried one position after another in the teeth of many guns, and in the face of discomforts and discouragements multifarious. They had achieved a great deal with comparatively small loss, viewing the masterly manner in which the Boer guns were served. Fortunately the rifle-fire of the foe was not equal in accuracy to their shell-fire, most probably for the reason that the bucolic Dutchman had lost his ancient cunning in wielding the rifle, while in the management[Pg 105] of guns of position he was assisted—nay, relieved, by his German mercenaries. The astonishing dexterity of the Teutonic specialists in planting shells accurately at a range of over 3000 yards was a matter for marvel and admiration. Their success was attributed partly to the fact that the range had previously been marked, and also that spots had been selected over which it was known bodies of troops must eventually pass, and where it was certain every shot must be made to tell. For all that, and considering the cross-fire to which the troops were subjected on the opening days of Sir Charles Warren’s attack, the losses were small. A council of war had been held, and three courses had been sifted: first, a frontal attack by night on the second Boer position, possibly attended by terrible loss; second, retirement beyond the river to seek for a new passage; third, attack by night on the mountain of Spion Kop, thence to enfilade and dominate all the Boer positions.

Drawing by J. Finnemore.

The last course was decided on. Spion Kop was to be attacked by night, the Boer trenches to be scooped out with the point of the bayonet, and the position held till again—by night—guns could be dragged up to assist in commanding the position of the foe. Spion Kop, the extreme left of the Boer position, once fortified, would become a key to the door of Ladysmith. So it was thought.

General Woodgate was informed of what was required of him, and Colonel Thorneycroft discussed the programme of the night attack. By his desire, satisfactory reconnaissances had been made, and there was every reason to believe that the attempt would be crowned with success. Accordingly, soon after midnight, General Woodgate, accompanied by Colonel àCourt, started forth with the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, the Royal Lancaster Regiment, a portion of Thorneycroft’s Horse, and half a company Royal Engineers, supported by two companies of the Connaught Rangers and by the Imperial Light Infantry.

In pitch darkness the troops began their march up the southern slope of the giant mountain called Thaba Emunyama. The steeps were precipitous and rocky, and had to be negotiated with extreme care. Dongas were on this side, boulders on that; these had to be crept through and leapt over with stealthy, cat-like tread lest the enemy on the summit should be forewarned. Now and then the whirr of a bullet showed that the Dutchmen were awake, and were indulging in the pastime of sniping; otherwise the still, purple night spoke of peace. Led by General Woodgate and Colonel Blomfield, the Fusiliers (who, being seasoned fighters, were specially selected for the honour of engaging in “ticklish” work) ascended softly, advancing higher and higher in single file and in cautious silence. When more than half-way up, the approaching multitude was[Pg 106] discovered, and the Boer picket, firing, fled. But the warrior crowd pressed on, Colonel Thorneycroft now leading the way, firing never a shot, and waiting till the trusty bayonet should teach its lesson. At three o’clock the summit was reached. The rain drizzled down, the clouds wrapt the hill, but the ardour of the troops was unabated. With a wild, ringing cheer, which echoed far over the hills, the position was carried. The force then proceeded to fortify itself so far as was possible in the hard and rocky ground that covered the heights.

It must here be noted that, owing to the darkness and the impossibility of judging exact distances, the trenches that were dug were badly situated. Instead of the whole or most part of the triangular tableland of the top, the force occupied merely a cramped position on the extreme point. This point was already marked and commanded by six Boer guns, while on the very hill itself was another hostile weapon. Sneaking around the crust of the kop—on the brim, as it were, while we occupied the crown—were sharpshooters and snipers, who from thence could pelt the northern hump of the slope; but in the dense atmosphere of the early morning these facts were unknown, and the effort, under cover of the darkness, to widen our position and capture the entire triangle was not then made.

Sketch of the Battle of Spion Kop.
Plan of the Battle of Spion Kop.
Sketch and Plan of the Battle of Spion Kop.
Made on the spot by Lieutenant E. B. Knox of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

While the hazy blue pall of the morning yet hung over the hills the trenches near the crest were occupied. The clouds hung low, and not a Dutchman was to be seen. For some time the troops were protected by the enshrouding mist, but so soon as it cleared, the Boers from their posts opened fire. They realised that the position to them was virtually one of life or death. Ping! ping! rang the rifles in chorus; bong! bong! went the guns, with a deep basso that reverberated in the hollows of the hills. It was an awe-striking reveillé. The hostile artillery had the range to a nicety; each shell followed the other with precision, and burst with terrific uproar on the patch of earthworks held by our infantry. Under this fearful fusillade our men, pelted yet undismayed, faithfully held their ground for two mortal hours. But the shell-fire made horrible gaps in the stalwart company; and by-and-by General Woodgate, who, having captured the position, still continued to direct and encourage his men, was wounded, Colonel Blomfield, of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers, took over command, and sent for reinforcements. He also fell. Then, by reason of merit rather than of seniority, Major Thorneycroft, local lieutenant-colonel, was appointed to take the place of the disabled chief. With the rising of the sun, with the development of day, developed the battle. Shrapnel from 15-pounders sprayed hither and thither; lyddite opened out earth-umbrellas far and wide. The roar and the roll of fiends in fury rent the clear, mimosa-scented atmosphere, and made even the[Pg 107] bosom of the placid, silvery river shudder and quake as it wound and twisted and looped round Potgieter’s Drift. For three and a half hours the tornado pursued its deadly course. Death—mutilation—agony—thirst—these were more prominent than the word glory in that long, immemorial period. Officers and men alike[Pg 108] could scarce lift a head lest they should meet the doom that hung over every creature that dared to stand upright in the murderous arena. They crouched, and took cover, and waited. The Boers, seeing their advantage, noting the terrible strain on the men that held the captured trenches, and the dance of death among Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, also bided their time. With great caution and “slimness” they finally commenced to creep up nearer and nearer, firing the while, and hoping, when things became a shade worse, to rush the position. Unfortunately there were no guns to rout the adventurous crew—not one handy Naval 12-pounder to sweep the enemy from the plateau. There they were, and there they meant to remain. Major-General Coke’s brigade had started to get to the scene of action, and before long the Middlesex, Dorset, and Somerset Regiments were moving up the heights to the assistance of the battered regiments above. Major Walters, in charge of the ambulance, was also carrying out his grim, unusually heavy duties, but he, in the midst of his deeds of mercy, was caught by a shot and brought to earth.

By this time the glorious Lancashire Fusiliers, who held the captured trenches, had suffered most severely, not only from wounds, but from the agonies of thirst, for which there was no remedy. Their losses were horrible, and so also were those of Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, and they lay in many cases too far removed for the ambulance-bearers to reach them, and in too exposed a position for help from any around. Indeed, the state of affairs was so lamentable, the Boers forcing their way with such persistency, that the question of holding the hill hung by a thread. Three times before midday had the Dutchmen returned, driven the Britons back, and again been driven back themselves, till the ups and downs of the fight became like a perilous game of see-saw, none daring to prognosticate the conclusion. From noon till the late afternoon the Boers persisted in their desperate efforts to retake the crest of the hill. They evidently regarded the position of so much importance that reinforcements from their right were drawn away to help in the work. But the gallant fellows who were in possession hung doggedly to their prize. “Only a day,” they said; “a day’s more endurance, and to-morrow we shall mount guns. We shall be rulers of the roost.” So they fought on with a will. Fortunately, at this time they had no premonition of impediments to success. The place turned out to be very difficult to hold. Its perimeter was large, and water was exceedingly scarce, and their ammunition, moreover, gave out at a critical period.

All these discoveries were gradually and painfully made as the day wore on, but nevertheless they resisted the assaults of the enemy with herculean vigour—with courage that was Spartan.

For two hours in the afternoon the scene on the summit of the[Pg 109] kop was terrific. A hurricane of shot and shell swept the crest—it became a seething Inferno. Six quick-firing guns, two Hotchkiss guns, and numerous other weapons of more or less deadliness played upon the troops. Maimed and dying were being carried off as fast as possible. General Woodgate, brave as a lion, who had worked like a Trojan till struck down by a piece of shell, refused to leave. Usually a placid man, he was now irrepressible, protesting that he would remain on the field, though his sufferings—since he was shot over the left eye—must have been severe. Reinforcements had now arrived—the Middlesex, Dorsets, and Somersets—the plateau was crowded—overcrowded, some say—and death was taking a full meal. The Boer Maxim-Nordenfeldt, which had done its fell work at Colenso, perambulated from position to position with insatiable greed, preying on the life-blood of our bravest and best, and defying the efforts of our gunners below to locate it. Its work, and the work of the Mausers, lay everywhere—the hill was a shambles. Major Walters, chief of the Natal Volunteer Ambulance, had dropped; his brother, of the 2nd Scottish Rifles, was killed; Captain Murray, of the same regiment, was simply riddled with bullets—he received as many as four, yet persisted in leading on his men till struck down mortally. Colonel Buchanan Riddell, King’s Royal Rifles, another hero, was slain later, while directing a flanking movement. The turmoil of those exciting hours was described by an officer:—

“I crawled along a little way with half my company, and then brought up others in the same manner. The men of the different regiments already on the hill were mixed up, and ours met the same fate. It was impossible, under the circumstances, to keep regimental control. One unit merged into another; one officer gave directions to this or that unit, or to another battalion. I saw some tents on the far side of the hill to our front, and knowing the enemy must be there, opened with volleys at 1800 yards, when we saw a puff of smoke, indicating that one of the Boer guns had just fired. We lay prone, and could only venture a volley now and again, firing independently at times when the shower of bullets seemed to fall away, and the shells did not appear likely to land specially amongst us. Everywhere, however, it was practically the same deadly smash of shells, mangling and killing all about us. The only troops actually close to me then were a party of the Lancashire Fusiliers inside a schanze, F Company of the Middlesex, and a mixed company of other troops on the left front. A good many shells from the big guns burst near us, and a lance-corporal of the Fusiliers was killed. The only point I could see rifle-fire proceeding from was a trench, the third, I believe, occupied by our troops on the right, and looking towards Spearman’s.[Pg 110]

“Presently I heard a great deal of shouting from this trench, in which were about fifty men. They were calling for reinforcements, and shouting, ‘The Boers are coming up.’ Two or three minutes afterwards I saw a party of about forty Boers walking towards the trench. They came up quite coolly; most of them had their rifles slung, and all, so far as I could observe, had their hands up. Our men in the trench—they were Fusiliers—were then standing up also, with their hands up, and shouting, ‘The Boers are giving in, the Boers are giving in.’ I did not know what to think, but ordered a company of my regiment to fix bayonets. We waited to see what would happen. Just then, when the Boers were close to the trench, some one—whether an enemy or one of our men—fired a shot. In an instant there was a general stampede, or rather a mêlée, my men rushing from their position and charging, while the Boers fired at the men in the trench, knocking several back into it, dead. Previous to this a Boer came towards me saying, ‘I won’t hurt you.’ He looked frightened, and threw down his rifle. Immediately afterwards the Boer fired, and there was a frightful muddle. I fired at one Boer, and then another passed. We were fighting hand to hand. I shot the Boer in order to help the man, and he dropped, clinging, however, to his rifle as he fell, and covering me most carefully. He fired, and I fell like a rabbit, the bullet going in just over and grazing the left lung. I lay where I fell until midnight. Subsequent to my being hit, parties of Boers passed twice over me, trying on the same trick, holding up their hands, as if they were asking for quarter. But our men refused to be taken in again, and fired, killing or driving them back.”

In this fight the Dutchmen were unusually obstinate. Over and over again they advanced to within seventy yards of the captured trenches, and from thence were only routed at the point of the bayonet. Their rushes were most valiant and persistent, and nothing but the heroism of officers and men could have withstood the overwhelming nature of the attack made upon them.

But dodges with the white flag and other frauds continued to be practised by the Boers. Colonel Thorneycroft escaped merely by an accident from an endeavour to play a trick upon him. The leader of a commando facing Thorneycroft’s Horse advanced with a white flag. The Colonel approached to the parley, but being suspicious, he told the leader to go back, as he refused to confer with him. Both retired, but before the Colonel could return to his regiment a volley was poured on him by the enemy. Another and more curious trick was practised on some of the privates. They were approached by an officer in kharki and directed to follow him to a better position. This they began to do till, at last, seeing themselves being led into the jaws of the enemy, they halted, and some one demanded to know[Pg 111] who this bogus officer might be. At that moment the party was met by a storm of Boer bullets, and scarcely a man came whole from the adventure. Fortunately, the miscreant—an Austrian—who had played the trick on them was bayoneted ere all our gallant fellows dropped down. Strange, too, was the fate of gallant Colonel Blomfield, whose regiment, one of the smartest of the smart regiments present, had done such splendid work, and had held on to its post to the bitter end. This officer was wounded early in the day, as already recorded, and lay in a trench helpless and fainting for hours and beyond the reach of help. Finally, he was able to crawl out and make his way down the side of the hill—down the wrong side, unluckily for himself—and when next he was heard of he was a prisoner in Pretoria. That his life was saved at all was a marvel. Captain Tidswell, on seeing his Colonel wounded, rushed out with Sergeant Lightfoot and dragged him under a heavy fire into a trench, where he remained till the action was over.

Plan of Engagement at Spion Kop.
Plan of Engagement at Spion Kop.

During the early part of the day the Scottish Rifles and the 3rd Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifles had been sent off to storm the kopjes forming an extension of Spion Kop, and thus occupy the enemy and relieve the pressure of his attack. The river was forded at Kaffir Drift by Colonel Buchanan Riddell’s[Pg 112] troops, and soon after the battalion divided, half being led by the Colonel to the right, and half under Major Bewicke-Copley advancing to the left, of the objective. The enemy was everywhere—at the base of the kopjes and in the trenches up the sides. Still the troops advanced. The Dutchmen were shifted upwards inch by inch from their defences. The best cold Sheffield glittered near the trenches, and—the trenches were vacated! Up and up moved the Boers, on and on went the Rifles—on and up, rushing wildly, gallantly, charging and cheering, and finally gaining the crest!

Meanwhile the Scottish Rifles had advanced on Spion Kop. Nothing could exceed the smartness with which they scaled the steeps. They marched straight to the front firing line, and, in a word, saved the situation. No sooner did the enemy show his nose than the Scottish Rifles held him in check, and over and over again showed him that British tenacity was equal to both Boer stubbornness and slimness combined. The enemy could make no headway against them.

But the gallant action of the King’s Royal Rifles was one of the grand deeds that end in the ineffectual. The battalion in its triumph had pressed the Boers upwards, but on doing so became practically isolated. The Boers were above and between them and our own troops, and as a result of its too forward movement the regiment stood in peril. Seeing their position of jeopardy, orders were sent up to retire. It was disgusting, heart-breaking, but it had to be done. The glorious company, after capturing two positions, slowly, reluctantly, moved down the hill they had ascended in the flush of triumph—moved again to their bivouac, sadder and wiser men. But they were only the first of many sad and sorry men that day. Meanwhile the battle on the great hill raged continuously, and shells, not alone those of the enemy, but those of our own guns which had attempted to assist, made the crowded kop a “veritable hell.”

Drawing by R. Caton Woodville.

Presently, in the late afternoon a still more serious situation presented itself. Water, always scarce, threatened to run short altogether. Ammunition failed. A more appalling quandary in the drama of war can scarcely be imagined. Fortunately, to the relief of the plucky band on the heights, at last came a mule-train with much-desired water and cartridges, and the fight was pursued in more auspicious circumstances. But the Boer guns lost none of their persistency. Shells hurtled over the plateau, and as dusk set in, regiments and battalions and such officers as were left were mixed up in a surging, stumbling mêlée, wounded men firing last shots at the darkness, and hale ones dropping helpless as the blaze from the bursting projectiles showed, for one moment, the scene of agony.[Pg 113]

When night made further activity impossible the position of affairs came under discussion. Was this sorry game worth the vast, the costly candle that was being expended—that yet might have to be expended? One commanding officer said “Yes!” another said “No!” It is stated that the decision rested with Colonel Crofton. He argued in favour of withdrawal. The troops were terribly mauled; the dead lay in crowds, a ghastly testimony of their impetuous courage. It had been found impossible to secure good cover against the enemy’s shrapnel and venomous, unceasing quick-firers. There had scarcely been time for the raking of rifle-pits, the construction of stone defences—the guns of the foe had been too active and unceasing—and besides this, the troops were unaccustomed to the sly art of crouching to cover. While the Colonial crawled like a stalker along dongas and through gulleys to get at his quarry, the hardy Briton always exposed himself as though pluck demanded that he should make a mark of himself. As some one at the time expressed it, “Their courage is incontestable, their methods absurd.” For this reason many of the trenches that our soldiers had so grandly defended became in the end their graves. The number of slain was appalling to see. The flower of the country lay struck down as the grass beneath the scythe of the reaper. It was a harvest of blood. The dead lay literally in stacks, the sole protection of their living comrades. Crowds upon crowds had pressed to the top of the great hill, offering a thick, compact front to the guns of the enemy, an imposing target to the horrible shells that merely breathed death as they passed. Liberally as the brigades exposed themselves, liberally they paid the penalty.

Late in the evening, guns—Naval guns and a battery—toiled towards the scene, rattling along through the night air to get into position for the morrow, and take revenge, though late, on the devastating “pom-poms” of the foe. But the die was cast. The withdrawal had begun. At 7.30 P.M. Colonel Thorneycroft gave the word. Slowly and in confused fashion the shattered braves began to wind downwards, and by nine the summit of the hill was almost deserted.

Pitiable were the circumstances of the retirement. The wounded, with staggering footsteps, crawled or crept down the mountain-side, reeling from loss of blood and exhaustion. Streams of officers and knots of men scrambled along calling for their units and finding them not. Drowsy, stupefied beings stumbled through dongas and broke their ankles against boulders, trying before they dropped to come in touch with their fellow-men. Many wandered aimlessly, twining the hill and passing over it into the hands of the enemy. Battalion was mixed with battalion, company with company. Dazed men searched in vain for the rendezvous. Some cursed, some swore,[Pg 114] some slept or seemed to sleep. One commanding officer sat helplessly on the spur of the hill, staring like a somnambulist, deaf to all consciousness of the outer world; another, lying among the trenches, was given up for dead.

The losses were terrific. The Royal Engineers, in some cases, were riddled with bullets. Major Massey died covered with wounds. Lieutenant Falcon, 17th Company, had arms, legs, knees, and helmet perforated with lead. In fact, no one has been able very clearly to describe in its hideous reality the awful picture of the battle of Spion Kop. A great holocaust some called it, and with truth, for the mountain from morn till night was literally scourged with lead, raked in all directions by Maxim-Nordenfeldts, artillery, and musketry. The tale is only writ in the wounds and on the graves of those who by a miracle took the summit, and by sheer grit held it in the face of overwhelming odds. Over a thousand men gave their lives to gain that which, in twenty hours—hours each one crowded with moments of heroism—had to be abandoned. The evacuation was carried out by order of Colonel Thorneycroft, one of the most valiant of the many valiant men who went up only to come down again. The excellence of his reasons was acknowledged, and his personal valour was beyond dispute. His authority for action was the sole source of debate. A military correspondent of the Daily Telegraph related an incident of the fight which served to show what manner of commander had taken the place made vacant by the wounding of General Woodgate. Some men, about a score, who had lost their officers, threw down their arms to surrender, but Thorneycroft, seeing the act, rushed out to the front and called to the Boers to go on firing, for he commanded on the hill, and he alone would give the word to surrender. The Boers promptly responded. The officer went on to say, “Luckily a fresh regiment arrived at our side and restored the battle, but Thorneycroft undoubtedly saved a dreadful disaster by conduct so gallant that it recalls the old story of Messieurs de la Garde Française, tirez.”

Acts of gallantry were so numerous that V.C.’s were surely earned by the dozen. Lieutenant Mallock’s devotion to duty was remarkable, and all regretted his loss. Captain Stewart, who also lost his life, assisted in maintaining the high traditions of the 20th Regiment.

The King’s Royal Rifles lost three officers killed and five wounded. Their Colonel, the bravest of the brave, was hit while in the act of leading the regiment up the steeps. He rose for one instant to read a message and was shot through the brain. The commanders of three leading companies were all wounded. Colonel Thorneycroft was injured, Captain the Hon.[Pg 115] J. H. Petre, though twice struck, held on to his duty till another bullet laid him low. Captain O’Gowan was hit in two places, and Lieutenant Lockwood in four, as also was Captain Murray of the Scottish Rifles while attempting to lead his men towards the Boer trenches. Death claimed this splendid officer before the end of the day. Captain Walter was killed by a shell.

Curious stories were told of the behaviour of the Boers to the Colonial soldiers, stories which were hardly creditable to the Dutchmen. What their deadly missiles had failed to do the Boers themselves accomplished. They clubbed some unfortunates to death. These were Uitlanders, or suspected of being such. The correspondent of the Daily Telegraph gave the names of two men slaughtered in this way—Corporal Weldon and Private Daddon, ex-Pretoria men! In addition to this brutality, explosive bullets in quantities were used. A drummer and a private of the Fusiliers were both killed by them. It was said that the quantity of losses sustained by Thorneycroft’s, the Imperial Light Horse, and other South African “Irregulars” was due to special spite owing to a suspicion on the part of the Boers that these regiments might have been recruited from Uitlanders. This charge was so generally believed that many of the “Regulars” came to the assistance of the Colonials, transferring to them their badges in order to save them from the consequences of discovery; for it was distinctly stated that cases had occurred where the Boers deliberately shot the wounded whom they knew to be Colonials. So as to be thoroughly impartial, however, we must remember that there are blood-thirsty villains of all nationalities in times of peace as well as in times of war.

Next morning, General Buller, riding to the scene of action, then, and then only, became acquainted with the decisive move, the abandonment of Spion Kop. His astonishment was great—so was that of the Boers. Some said that the foe had already begun trekking, believing, in spite of their stout resistance, that the position was lost. Others argued that any trekking that they might have attempted meant merely a manœuvre consistent with their mobility to entice the British farther on into a trap from whence they could not have escaped. Be this as it may, a man of immense courage gave the order to withdraw, and he had his reasons, which reasons proved satisfactory to the Chief.

Drawing by Frank Craig from a Sketch by a British Officer.

On the 25th the battle dragged on, the artillery barking and rifles snapping at each other, while the transport slowly prepared to retrace its winding way whither it had come, across the Tugela. The most gallant and perhaps the most melancholy feature of the war was at an end. General Warren’s right flanking movement had failed, and the Commander-in-Chief decided that there was no[Pg 116] alternative but to again concentrate in the neighbourhood of Potgieter’s Drift. The movement was conducted, under the personal direction of General Buller, with admirable precision and skill, and though there were weary and disgusted hearts among the bitterly disappointed troops, they bore their trial with dignity. The return was orderly, and no further misfortune happened. The enemy made no attempt to interfere. They, too, though successful in their defence, were hard hit.

The following casualty list represents the cost of the great flanking movement:—

Killed:—Staff—Captain Virtue, Brigade-Major. 3rd King’s Royal Rifles—Lieut.-Colonel Buchanan Riddell, Lieutenant R. Grand, Second Lieutenant French-Brewster. 2nd Cameronians—Captain F. Murray, Captain Walter, Lieutenant Osborne. 17th Company Royal Engineers—Major Massey. 2nd King’s Royal Rifles—Lieutenant Pope Wolferstan. 1st South Lancashire—Captain Birch. 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers—Captain Stewart, Lieutenant J. Mallock, Lieutenant Fraser. Imperial Light Horse—Lieutenant Rudall, Lieutenant Kynock. 2nd Middlesex Regiment—Captain Muriel, Second Lieutenant Lawley, Second Lieutenant Wilson. 2nd Lancaster Regiment—Major Ross, Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Wade. Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry—Captain Hon. W. Petre, Captain Knox-Gore, Lieutenant Grenfell, Lieutenant Newnham, Lieutenant M’Corqudale, Lieutenant Hon. Hill-Trevor. South African Light Horse—Major Childe. 2nd West York—Captain Ryall. Wounded:—Staff—Major-General Sir E. Woodgate[5] (since dead), Captain Castleton, A.D.C. 3rd King’s Royal Rifles—Major Thistlethwayte, Major Kays, Captain Beaumont, Captain Briscoe. 2nd Cameronians—Major S. P. Strong, Major Ellis, Captain Wanless-O’Gowan, Lieutenant H. V. Lockwood, Second Lieutenant O. M. Torkington, Second Lieutenant F. G. W. Draffen. Indian Staff Corps—Major Bayly. Bethune’s Horse—Captain Ford. 17th Company Royal Engineers—Lieutenant Falcon. 1st South Lancashire—Lieutenant Raphael. 1st Border Regiment—Captain Sinclair-M’Lagan, Second Lieutenant Andrews. 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers—Lieut.-Colonel Blomfield (taken prisoner), Major Walter, Lieutenant Griffin, Lieutenant Wilson, Lieutenant Charlton. Royal Engineers—Captain Phillips. Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers—Captain Maclachlan. 2nd West York—Lieutenant Barlow. 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers—Captain Wolley-Dod, Captain White, Captain Ormond, Lieutenant Campbell. 1st York and Lancaster—Lieutenant Halford, Lieutenant Duckworth. 2nd West Surrey—Captain Raitt (since dead), Captain Warden, Lieutenant Smith, Lieutenant[Pg 117] Wedd. 2nd Middlesex Regiment—Major Scott-Moncrieff, Captain Savile, Captain Burton, Second Lieutenant Bentley. 2nd Lancaster Regiment—Captain Sandbach, Lieutenant Dykes, Lieutenant Stephens, Second Lieutenant Nixon. Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry—Captain Bettington, Lieutenant Foster, Lieutenant Baldwin, Lieutenant Howard. Missing:—2nd Lancashire Fusiliers—Captain Elmslie (taken prisoner), Captain Hicks, Captain Freeth. 2nd Middlesex Regiment—Lieutenant Galbraith. 2nd Lancaster Regiment—Major Carleton. Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry—Lieutenant Power-Ellis.


At this time it seemed as though the word “As you were” had been spoken by the military authorities. But it was, alas! no longer possible to believe that the position was as it had been; for it was now a case of melancholy experience plus previous melancholy experience. Nearly six weeks before, the great frontal attack at Colenso had failed—failed partly by reason of the tremendous strategical position taken up by the Boers, with the river Tugela as a natural moat for its protection, and partly on account of the disaster to the guns, which completely upturned the plan of Sir Redvers Buller’s calculations.

Now a great flank movement had been attempted, and had failed as signally as the first frontal effort. It was really discovered that a flanking movement, truly interpreted, was impossible, for there is no flank to a circle, and the Boer lines were found to be equally strong all round from Colenso to Ladysmith.

This horrible discovery naturally made the situation very grave indeed. The effect on the garrison of Ladysmith—the terrible rebound from delighted anticipation to amazed despair—may be partly imagined. None, indeed, save those who had so valiantly endured the terrible changes in the barometer of expectation could entirely gauge the sensitivity of those ill-fed, debilitated thousands, ravaged by disease, privation, and warfare, who hung oscillating day after day between salvation and destruction. They now knew that their saviours, Sir Charles Warren and his force, were withdrawn to the south of the Tugela. This was done because the river forms a species of natural rampart, beyond which the country—a species of South African Switzerland—offered no facilities to an attacking force. It was found that the Boers had carefully fortified every position already well formed by nature for purposes of defence. It was the same as Colenso. The theatre of war was margined by fortifications, regular galleries, rising tier upon tier on originally favourable positions. The opportunity to occupy these favourable positions the Boers owed entirely to us—to the procrastination and pacific tendencies of the British Government. It was now owned that Sir Alfred Milner should have gone to the Conference with a forest of rifles at his back, an army of mounted[Pg 118] Colonials at his elbows, and some big guns “up his sleeve.” As it was, while he talked and the Government spent its money on telegraphic palaver, the Boers, assisted by their German mercenaries, were marking out the choicest positions, not for their own defence, but for the defence of Natal (which they were allowed time to seize) against the “magnanimous” Briton. Yes, the Boers from the beginning had decided to talk the British into delay, and had profited gloriously by their strategy. In our first volume, a letter on “Boer ignorance” candidly showed the Dutchman’s hand—too late, of course, for then the trick was bound to be taken. The Dutchmen conferred with Sir Alfred Milner to suit their own ends and to further their main objects; firstly, to keep the war outside their own territories, and secondly, to confine it to soil that, geographically and by a species of hereditary instinct, they knew to perfection. They, boy and man, loved those kopjes. In those semi-circular windings, those almost inaccessible peaks and cones, those boulders which afforded eternal cover to the sniper, those vast arenas of open veldt where an approaching enemy might be stormed upon by a deluge of leaden hail—they had mentally played hide-and-seek for eighteen years. Now the reality of the game was come. From the early days when Sir Harry Smith found them prospecting the fair land of Natal, they had learnt its intimate geography. We, to whom the fair land belonged, had barely heard of the Tugela or the region around it. To us it was superficially known only at the cost of dire experience. The Boers had been aware that the British advance northwards through the Free State would lie across flat fair country, and knowing this, had decided that during the month taken to land the British army they must take up their positions beyond and around it; and so excellent was their cunning, so amicably pacific the temper of the British nation, that they were enabled to follow their strategic programme in its entirety, and plant themselves in firmly rooted masses to await our arrival!

The problem of how to dislodge them and how to relieve Ladysmith was once more staring Sir Redvers Buller in the face with hard and unbending austerity. According to military experts, who viewed the plan of campaign with dispassionate eyes, the fate of Ladysmith should have been left out of the calculations. The troops should have been massed to a common centre and at the south, and from thence boldly advanced into the Free State. But against that opinion was the picture of the noble ten thousand inside a beleaguered town, a grand British multitude, who had been kept for months hoping against hope, fighting bravely, and praying of the Almighty to hasten the hour of their deliverance. They could not be left. While he had men and guns the General felt he must go on. But how? Certainly not by the newer route. The re[Pg 119]capture of Spion Kop was decided to be impracticable, and the force remained stationary south of the Tugela while the complicated situation was reviewed.

The General, whatever his misfortunes, had lost none of the confidence of his troops. As he himself said of them, “The men were splendid.” They were disgusted at being a second time defeated without being beaten, and disappointed at again being forced back from the road to Ladysmith; but their steadfast faith in their chief was unalterable. Sir Redvers Buller again addressed his warriors, promising them they should be in Ladysmith soon, and the men, Britons to the core, again said in their hearts, “We shall.”

To replace 1600 killed and wounded in the late actions, drafts of 2400 men had now arrived. A mountain battery, A Battery R.H.A., and two fortress guns had strengthened the artillery, while two squadrons of the 14th Hussars had been added to the cavalry, thus bringing the strength of the force to 1000 more than the number which had started for Spion Kop. This was an imposing increase, but its value at the present time was much less than it would have been had Sir Redvers Buller originally taken the field with a proper complement of men and guns. “To do the thing handsomely we want 150,000 men,” a tactician declared at the onset; but nobody heeded him, and in consequence of this heedlessness the complications in Natal had arisen.

“However,” as a military officer expressed it, “there was not a sore head nor a timid heart in Buller’s army. As we lie in our bivouacs at night, the Southern Cross and a thousand constellations watching over our slumbers, we dream of the Angel of Victory, and in our dreams we hear the flapping of her wings.”

The optimism of the army was undiminished. There was no doubt whatever that they would relieve Ladysmith, but the when and the how remained as yet unsolved. The troops had not yet sustained actual defeat at the hands of the Boers, and, while our losses could be replaced, and were being replaced, the recuperative power of the Boers was nil. Indeed it was stated that they had come to the end of their resources, and that they were already forcing Kaffirs to fight for them in the trenches. Later on it was discovered that females even—true to the ancient sporting instinct of the Boer woman—were lending a hand in the management of the rifle.

At last, after some days of deliberation, a third great attempt to reach the imprisoned multitude in Ladysmith was planned out.

A week of waiting and then a new advance was decided on. Seventy guns drew up in line on the hills to prepare the way for another gigantic move. This time Sir Redvers Buller’s plan was to occupy a hill called Vaal Krantz and get forward between Spion Kop and the Doorn Kloof ranges. But after a very short yet[Pg 120] valorous essay, it was discovered that there were veritably cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them. The Boers commanded the hills on either side the road through which the troops must pass. Not only were there guns on both sides, but these Krupps and Creusot cannon far outranged anything that our artillery could bring to bear on them. The Naval guns alone were capable of not only barking but biting, and these three were not enough to meet the formidable array of the Republicans.

Plan of the Battle of Vaal Krantz
Plan of the Battle of Vaal Krantz

On the 5th of February, however, the gallant attempt was made. The cavalry moved forward about 6 A.M.—one brigade under Colonel Burn-Murdoch advanced to the right below Swartz Kop, the Colonials under Lord Dundonald kept nearer to Potgieter’s Drift, Sir Charles Warren with one brigade remained west of Mount Alice in a position commanding the road leading to Potgieter’s Drift. The Naval guns meanwhile came into action, shelling the Boer positions, dongas, and trenches, and every imaginable hiding-place with immense energy, but with little result. The Boers in their trenches were quiet, as usual reserving themselves for an effective outburst later on. Meanwhile the Lancashire Brigade (now under Colonel Wynne) were advancing in skirmishing order to the tune of the mighty orchestra, while above an officer of sappers in the balloon spied out the Boer haunts, and directed accordingly. By nine o’clock pandemonium was unloosed—lyddite bellowed, shrapnel[Pg 121] clattered over the whole fortified face of Brakfontein, while the infantry steadily moved on. Presently from dongas and trenches, at ranges of 1000 yards and less, came the crackling of rifles, to which our troops responded by volleys now and again. Between these volleys they proceeded steadily, regardless of the uproar and the fell work of the eternally active sniper.

Photo by Gregory & Co., London.

While this feint attack was taking place on the left before the now flaming ridges of Brakfontein, a real and vigorous move was being made on the extreme right for the purpose of carrying the crest of Vaal Krantz, which was then thought to be the key to the direct road to Ladysmith, and was not very strongly fortified by the Dutchmen. The Royal Engineers with immense energy set to work laying a pontoon bridge across the treacherous depths in the direction of Skiet’s Drift, an operation which had to be performed with infinite patience and pluck, as the Boers were no sooner aware of their activities than they plied their Mausers with a will. This crossing-place, styled Munger’s Ford, now attracted the attention of the whole Boer artillery, and the “pom-poms” and 40-pounders of the enemy contrived to render the locality anything but an enviable place of rendezvous. Our pieces, from their hiding-place among the trees in the neighbourhood of Swartz Kop, soon bombarded the Boer position with equal activity. By ten o’clock the bridge had been thrown across the river, and General Lyttelton and his troops were preparing for the assault of Vaal Krantz. The artillery now made its finishing demonstration before Brakfontein, there being no necessity—now that the troops had come successfully across the pontoon bridge—for a continuation of the feint attack. For this reason the Lancashire Brigade was now ordered to retire. The gallant fellows, having done what was required of them, marched back in excellent order to their original position.

All this while shells were shrieking, lyddite was bursting, and musketry crackling, till the whole earth seemed riven with an enormous convulsion. The gunners had some terrific experiences, and nobly, in a truly alarming position, they comported themselves. They were on low ground, exposed without shelter to the Boer works, which dominated the plain; yet they pursued their labours with unerring care and intelligence that was truly remarkable. Shell plumped in their midst, under the limbers, over the guns, above their heads, round their feet. They stuck to their duty. Horses dropped and shrieked in their agony, gunners fell shot through the heart and were carried away. Loudly the vociferous chorus of death went on, steadily the gunners took their share of the fearful drama of destruction. To show the vast amount of “grit” that these gunners could boast, an incident of the day must be[Pg 122] recorded. About noon the batteries were ordered to approach nearer to Vaal Krantz and prepare the way for the infantry assault. The guns, ever under a scathing fire, moved off in due order to take up the fresh position on the right facing Vaal Krantz. Finally they came to the last waggon, an ammunition waggon belonging to the 78th Battery R.A., which was horseless. The team had been wiped off by the enemy. Nevertheless the gunners put their shoulders to the wheel, and, with a mighty effort, rolled the machine straight through the fiery hurricane to a place of safety! The conduct of the Jack Tars also stuck another feather in their already well-decorated caps. While the new balloon made its descent it became an object of attention, and was saluted vigorously by the enemy. Nevertheless the sailors stuck to their work, held the basket, took possession of the truculent aërial vessel, and marched off with it under a galling fire.

By-and-by, when Vaal Krantz had been thoroughly searched and swept by the British batteries, and the snipers from the base of Doorn Kloof had been partially reduced to silence by the joint efforts of the artillery and Hildyard’s Brigade, Lyttelton’s gallant band began to move off from the direction of Munger’s Farm on the road to Vaal Krantz. It was now the early afternoon, but from all sides the deadly missiles of the enemy still bellowed and hooted. Still the Durham Light Infantry, with the 3rd King’s Royal Rifles on their right, pushed steadily on—forward from the river and up the precipitous broken face of the hill. Cheering, they went, clambering and leaping, and whether it was the menacing roar, or the suggestion it gave of coming steel that stirred them, certain it was that few of the foe remained to meet the charge.

The Boers saw them—heard them—gauged the meaning of the lusty British cheer—and bolted. Scarcely any elected to fall victim to the bayonet. Those who were there threw up their hands and appealed for mercy. These were promptly made prisoners, and the British, for the time being, reigned supreme on the hill. But their reign had its discomforts. Dutchmen crowded the ground, west, east, and north of them, dosing them liberally with lead from their rifles, while their position was perpetually pounded by the big guns of the enemy. These, vomiting on the eastern slopes of the hill, set fire to the grass and added to the discomforts of the position by surrounding it with appalling fumes, which choked and blinded, and destroyed the view of the Dutchmen’s haunts. Nevertheless, the kopje once gained, the men rushed along the crest and entrenched themselves in a spot that looked as though it had been overtaken by a prairie fire. Our shells had effectually cleared the grass and scrub. The gunners from the surrounding kopjes kept a sharp lookout, firing at the Boers[Pg 123] as they brought up their guns from all directions, while General Lyttelton maintained his ground. Meanwhile efforts were made to get the batteries forward to the hill, but the task was a difficult one, and the position was strengthened and enlarged in order to assist in the accomplishment of the desired object. Until guns could be mounted and made to defy the active aggression of the “pom-poms,” Creusots, and other deadly weapons of the enemy, there could be no hope of getting the troops and their baggage through to Ladysmith. At this time an obstinate effort to gain lost ground was made by the Republicans, but owing to the doughty resistance of the Scottish Rifles and the King’s Royal Rifles, the attempt to dislodge them entirely failed. Towards seven o’clock a drizzling rain and darkness descended. The troops which had gathered together between Swartz Kop, Munger’s Drift, and the newly acquired hill were forced to bivouac where they were for the night, Sir Redvers Buller and his staff remaining on the field with the men.

At dawn on the 6th of February the Boers resumed their activity. Long Tom—the first to awake—with his big black snout snorted sonorously. Bang went a hundred-pound shell across the plain—helter-skelter flew the British Tommies, who were enjoying their morning tea, and crash and splash went their delicious brew. Fortunately no serious harm was done. A few horses were killed. But after this began an artillery duel of vigorous nature. This was chiefly directed against General Lyttelton’s troops on Vaal Krantz. The Boers seemed everywhere, more ubiquitous than usual. From the lower crests of Spion Kop, from the peak of Doorn Kloof, from the mountains commanding the road to Ladysmith, flame vomited, and lead and steel and powder spouted and spluttered.

The fact was that during the night the Boers, in order to proceed with the work of defence, had set fire to more grass in the neighbourhood of the British position, and utilised the illumination for the transfer of their guns from one place to another. Early, therefore, they were enabled to greet the camp with the roar of a Creusot gun and other weapons from all quarters playing upon the position. Shells burst everywhere, some even reaching headquarters. It was said that Buller, the imperturbable, welcomed them. Certainly his Spartan-like disregard of danger was remarkable, and was responsible for the superb nonchalance of those who served under him. Still, with his courage he displayed caution, the caution that only a courageous man would dare to display. He decided later on that his move was impracticable, that more lives should not be spent in futile effort. Of this anon. While the Creusots and Krupps pounded the hill, the Boers strove their uttermost to regain their hold on the lost position. Meanwhile the Naval guns rumbled and rampaged, ammunition waggons blew up, earthquakes filled the clear blue[Pg 124] atmosphere with avalanches of dust, and one of the enemy’s cherished weapons on Spion Kop was knocked clean out of action.

Late in the afternoon, the worn-out troops of Lyttelton’s Brigade were relieved by Hildyard’s men, who came in from a violent night-attack by the enemy. This in their usual gallant style was repelled by the East Surrey and the West Yorks—the veteran West Yorks, who had learned not a little from Beacon Hill onwards.

On Wednesday the firing grew terrific. More guns were brought up, seemingly from the bowels of the earth; they were posted everywhere—another 6-inch Creusot gun, Maxim cannons, two 30-pounders, three “pom-poms,” in addition to the death-dealing weapons of the previous day. Shells hurtled and burst on hill and dale, mountain and valley, smoke, flame, and dust spouted forth, making the atmosphere dense, torrid, and fearsome. Still Hildyard’s dauntless brigade held their ground unflinchingly, while the Naval guns strove bravely, but strove in vain, to tackle the great snorting crew of the opposition. It seemed as though the advance must be accomplished not merely through a zone, but a sheath of fire, for the road to Ladysmith was barred from end to end, a sheer cul-de-sac, with flame and death for its lining.

Our troops during the whole day hung tenaciously to Vaal Krantz, while the Dutchmen obstinately challenged their right to be there. But nothing appreciable was achieved, and evacuation seemed the wiser and more profitable course to pursue. By this time it began to be recognised that the strategic value of Vaal Krantz for turning the Brakfontein position had been over-estimated, and that an advance would necessitate the routing of the Boers from Brakfontein and the taking and holding of Doorn Kloof, if our communications through the valley were to be maintained.

There was no glory in trying to proceed in the teeth—nay, into the jaws—of so overpowering a foe, a foe who was on the eve of outflanking us. It would have been walking into a fiery furnace—into the pocket of hell. Another council of war took place. Retirement was suggested. General Hart, as distinguished for valour as General Lyttelton for brave discretion, proposed the storming of Doorn Kop. He and his were ready for everything: he had Ireland at his back. But Pat was not to be thrown away on an impossible undertaking, and consequently the majority had their way, and the retirement was effected. On Friday the whole glorious persevering band were again across the Tugela, preparing to strike out in a fresh direction.

Photo by Wilson, Aberdeen.

The following is the list of casualties between the 5th and 7th of February:—

Killed:—1st Durham Light Infantry—Major Johnson Smith; Second Lieutenant Shafto.[Pg 125]

Wounded:—1st Durham Light Infantry—Lieut.-Colonel Fitzgerald; Captain Lascelles; Second Lieutenant Lambton; Second Lieutenant Appleby. 1st Rifle Brigade—Captain Thorp; Captain Talbot; Lieutenant Blewitt; Lieutenant Ellis; Lieutenant Sir T. Cunninghame, Bart. 3rd King’s Royal Rifles—Lieutenant Sims. Royal Artillery—Lieut.-Colonel Montgomery, Captain Dawson, 78th Battery R.F.A. 2nd Scottish Rifles—Second Lieutenant Ferrars. 2nd West Yorkshire—Second Lieutenant Bicknell. 2nd East Surrey—Captain White. R.A.M.C., Major Rose.


The fearful and ghastly activity of the 6th of January ceased with dusk. Night descended: she came softly as the footsteps of angels moving lightly among the tranquil dead. The moon, with pale white serenity, looked down on the scene of carnage, so still, so appallingly still; and the dots of twinkling stars seemed like a thousand eyes of heaven, seeing and inquiring how the face of the fair earth could grow so changed within a day. And everywhere there moved leaden hearts and feet weary with the long strain of foregone hours. Hunger, exposure, and long vigils had become a daily routine, but this close and sustained attack, and the terrible havoc it had wrought on the weakening numbers, brought with it new alarms. True, the bayonet, the trusty bayonet, had served its turn, and might serve again, so long as strength would hold out. But there were doubts. The Russian general Suvaroff once said, “The ball is a fool, but the bayonet is a brick.” He took it for granted that the bayonet even must needs have a man, and not the ghost of a man, at the back of it; and the poor heroes in Ladysmith were fast becoming shadows of the hale and muscular fellows who had scaled the steeps of Talana Hill and broken the echoes of Elandslaagte with the yell of victory. Sadly and solemnly they now set themselves to the pathetic work of removing the slain.

On the 7th of January one of the Boer medical officers rode in under a Red Cross flag, requesting the burial of the British dead. A party started to fulfil this sad office, and while they wandered about picking up the melancholy mutilated forms, the Boers assisted in the task, and in some cases helped to dig the graves and carry the slain; conversing the while with such perfect amity, that it was almost impossible to believe they were deadly foes. Deeply pathetic was the reading of the solemn burial service by the commanding officer, for Britons and Boers stood side by side, and one of the latter, moving apart, uttered a short prayer that the war would soon be at an end. This was followed by the singing of a hymn in Dutch, a quaint, simple, earnest solemnity, which was vastly touching to all.

The curious blend of courage and pleasantness, of trickery and barbarity, in the Boer character has been remarked upon before.[Pg 126] It was never more displayed than in the dealings of the Boers around Ladysmith. On one day they would shell an hospital, or rather the Town Hall, knowing it to serve as an hospital; on another they would treat the wounded with almost brotherly consideration. For instance, one man in the 19th Hussars, who was wounded on January 6, and subsequently taken prisoner, gave a refreshing account of Boer manners. Though shot in the arm, he remained at his post till dark, and then in the gloom mistook his way to camp and wandered down the wrong side of the hill. He was captured and detained till morning, while his wound was dressed and cared for. Then he was sent back to camp armed with a tin of jam and a box of chocolate! A somewhat similar experience was related by another man, one of the Gordons, who was wounded and taken prisoner on Waggon Hill early in the morning, and was removed in charge of an old Boer to a place of safety half-way down the slope. From here he subsequently escaped. In the mêlée that followed the Devons’ charge across the plateau in the thick of the hailstorm, the Boers, shouting in Dutch that the rooineks were upon them, stampeded, and consequently the prisoner was left to his own devices. He thereupon rejoined the troops.

British 7-Pounder Field-Gun.
British 7-Pounder Field-Gun.

The Boers in the fight had been animated by unusual confidence. They had seemed assured of victory. Their demeanour was cool and deliberate, some of them doing an hour’s firing while others put in a half-hour’s nap under cover of the rocks. All their preparations were made with a view to spending Sunday in Ladysmith, and their tents were ready to be pitched immediately they had obtained possession of the ridge. They, in fact, firmly believed that they would make a repetition of Majuba, and it was noticed that their tactics were identical with those observed on that tragic occasion. Curiously enough, an exceedingly interesting relic of Majuba came to hand. A rifle bearing the mark “Majuba” and the name of the 58th Regiment was found on an old Boer. It had evidently been captured on the fatal day when Colley fell.[Pg 127]

Much regret was felt for the loss of Lord Ava, one of the cheeriest of soldiers and most handsome and brilliant of men. He had served with the 17th Lancers, and had also cast in his lot with the irregulars in South Africa under Methuen. He was essentially a sporting and a romantic figure in all circles of London society, having resuscitated the fortunes of Ranelagh and engaged himself actively in plans and projects for the brightening of social life. He was moreover a general favourite, and sympathy with Lord Dufferin on the loss of his promising heir was great.

Now that the rivers were flooded the service of native runners was precarious, and less than ever was known of the outside world. But the Boers were seen to be in active movement on the distant hills, and there was a very general belief that the quiet that was enjoyed was due to some advance movement on the part of General Buller that was demanding the attention of the Dutchmen. This belief was confirmed by the sight of two machine-guns which were being galloped off post-haste to a destination unknown.

Since Christmas the prices had gone up. Eggs by the middle of January were worth 19s. a dozen, and jam cost 6s. 6d. a tin. Condensed milk was sold for 10s. a tin, other things, particularly medicines, were becoming priceless. An appalling apathy almost approaching despair had settled on the community. It was going on for three months since they had been shut off from the outside world, during which their losses had exceeded 1500 in slain, wounded, and missing, yet they were no nearer release. Indeed, each began to wonder whether death or Sir Redvers Buller’s force would reach them first. One month after another passed, and with them, precious lives, yet little fuss was made, for death was a common visitor. Much regret was felt at the loss on the 15th of the brilliant author and correspondent of the Daily Mail, Mr. G. W. Steevens. His was a young career, rich in promise. But death is a connoisseur—he chooses the best. Only a few days before, Mr. Mitchell, sub-editor of the Johannesburg Star, and Lieutenant Stabb (Naval Reserve) of the Times of India, had been carried off by enteric fever; while young Ferrand, sometime a correspondent of the Morning Post and a trooper of the Light Horse, fell in action on the 6th.

The Siege of Ladysmith, Jan. 1900. View from Bulwana Hill.
The Siege of Ladysmith, Jan. 1900. View from Bulwana Hill.
From a sketch by George Lynch, War Correspondent.
The hospital train is here shown on its way to Intombi Camp with its daily load of sick and wounded.

But soon a change came. Sounds of unusual guns reached their ears—ears now well attuned to all the surrounding noises. Though news by heliogram came slowly and at long intervals, all were conscious that something was afloat.

They were soon wild with excitement and anticipation. Not only could Sir George White’s garrison hear the distant thunder of the guns of the relieving column, a sound which made heavenly music to their ears, but from the lookout posts on the heights held by them they could occasionally see the bursting of the shells fired[Pg 128] by the Naval guns from the region of Potgieter’s Drift. The attention of the investing force was now distracted; the Dutchmen were concentrating their energies to repel the movement of the British troops on the Upper Tugela, and continued to send reinforcements westward to meet the demand on their resources there. But they strengthened their works on the north of the town, added some more howitzers and fired a few shells by way of introduction.

Photo by Elliott & Fry, London.

[Pg 129]At this time impatience and anxiety arrived at an almost painful pitch. Every soul was panting for the signal that might call upon them to co-operate in the final tug-of-war which should set Ladysmith free. Acutely were the movements of General Buller’s relieving force watched from the highest points in the town. Intense was the interest displayed as every bursting shell threw forth its dense volumes of brown smoke, and showed how the friendly lyddite worked to the rescue. The garrison looked forth breathlessly for the coming of relief, hoping, praying, doubting, fearing, with nothing to vary the ever-recurrent anguish of anticipation.

At this date a journalist made a daring sortie on his own account, and reached Durban in safety. He left with permission at nightfall on the 18th of January, and, guided by a wily Kaffir, made tracks for Chieveley. Having gone about two miles to the east of Cæsar’s Camp and approached unwarily a Boer picket, he was promptly challenged. Then ping! ping! ping! a swift whistling sound of Boer bullets, and silence! The journalist, to use a sporting phrase, was lying “doggo.” Not a shot touched him. Flat on his stomach he remained for fully half an hour with bated breath, then, when murmurs of the disquieted Boers ceased to ruffle the night air, he resumed his way, groping on hands and knees, and wishing fervently that he had taken lessons in deportment earlier—from the quadrupeds. Perilous was the onward journey, clambering and crawling up hill and down dale, and falling over rocks and stones in the pitch darkness. Daylight saw him at the hut of a friendly native not far from Chieveley, and here concealed, he spent twenty-four hours of terrible suspense till it was time again to proceed on his journey. The Boers almost discovered him. They called at the hut for milk, absorbed it, and looked about suspiciously, while the man of the pen was penned in amongst a heap of blankets, a perspiring mass, quaking but safe.

Meanwhile with the rumour of battle in the air, hope revived. It continued to increase as the British positions from the heights around the town became visible—the newly gained positions on Swartz Kop and the eminences near the Tugela at Potgieter’s and Trichardt’s Drifts. Every red flash was like a smile of welcome—every roar of bursting shrapnel seemed a very chorus of jubilation.[Pg 130] To the ears of the besieged the tremendous awe-striking cannonade appeared as the loved assurance of Great Britain, their deliverer, saying, with grand majestic tone, “I am coming.” In the distance the Boers could be seen in frenzied activity inspanning their waggons, and towards the evening they were observed trekking northwards towards Van Reenan’s Pass. Many conjectures were rife, and subsequently on the 25th curiosity grew to fever heat. Surely the British were in possession of Spion Kop! Decidedly they were masters of the situation! Yet in the nek below, by the light of the telescope, Boer camps could be seen on the plains; under cover of the great hill Boer cattle were grazing. What could this mean? Had the Boers gone and left everything to the mercy of their victors? or were they merely in hiding, intending to return at nightfall, and remove their valuables? Certainly the Burghers were to be viewed mounted and decamping in the direction of the pass, and also winding strings of waggons pursuing their slow way in the same direction. Still the riddle remained unsolved. Night fell. The suspense grew more and more fevered; it became almost a delirium. There was little sleep; then, when morning dawned, there was more anxiety and more puzzling, more mental torture. The Boers were as much in evidence as ever!

Disappointment may be borne with a show of spirit when the inner machinery is well oiled, but the inhabitants of Ladysmith had no such source of fortitude. True, they had fared, if not sumptuously, at least practically, on horse-sausages, which were turned out wholesale from a factory for the benefit of the troops, and on fairly nourishing soup which was supplied in the same way; but of civilised food there was none. Eggs had now gone up to 36s. a dozen, and a diminutive and emaciated fowl could be purchased for 18s. These luxuries were for the elect. For the mass a varying dietary of horse and mule was obligatory. Vegetables were sold at a prohibitive price, and a case of whisky was raffled for and fetched £145, so that “Dutch courage” wherewith to meet their misfortune was unpurchasable.

Not till Sunday the 28th the fearful truth was learned, that Warren, after holding Spion Kop, had retired, and left the Boers in undisturbed occupation of their commanding position!

As all the latest events to the south were communicated to the garrison as fast as they were made known to the chief, the news of the capture of Spion Kop and the disappointing retirement therefrom was published in general orders. Blank faces turned from each other, that none should see the reflection of his own despondency. Intense had been the rapture of the anxious inhabitants when they had heard the far-away booming of the British guns, seen the splashing of British lyddite, watched the great spouts[Pg 131] of smoke that spoke of tremendous activity and their possible salvation. Now their dismay was more than proportionate. After all their agony—silence. Silence, so far as they were concerned. Mystery, doubt, and agonising suspense—and now the news, the woeful news, that the second splendid effort to break through the imprisoning Boer girdle had failed!

Still the garrison was resolved to hold on to the last, preferring death by starvation or disease rather than surrender. The malodorous surroundings were borne with patience, the diminution of the supply of medicines, watched with pathetic resignation. Nevertheless an untold weariness crept over the unhappy sufferers, who spent their days huddled underground and dreading to expose themselves in the open lest they should be caught by a shell or “sniped” at by some Boer more enterprising than the rest. How they longed, how they prayed for the great hour! They believed in Buller; they knew he would come, they said to themselves. But when, O when? And echo answered—When?


On the 10th of January Lord Roberts arrived. He was received by General Sir F. Forestier Walker on behalf of Sir Alfred Milner. All the ships in port were dressed, and there was immense excitement at the prospect of better things. Many recalled to mind the occasion of the last coming of the great little man, when, on the eve of a campaign to retrieve Majuba, he found that the British Government, unknown to him, had arranged peace on contemptible terms. At that time it was said he broke his sword in indignation at the betrayal to which he had been subjected, and vowed never again to serve under a British Government. Be this as it may—he had now come at the earnest call of his country, and all felt that his coming meant a turn in the wheel of fortune. After his arrival things began gradually to unfold themselves, and the promise of decisive movement was in the air.

Lord Roberts’s decision to bring the Colonial volunteers to the support of the Imperial forces was acknowledged to be a great move. The Colonist’s services were eminently to be desired, for he had taken the Boer measure. He knew him in all the complex windings of his sinuous, twisting nature. In some respects the Boer had been his lesson-book. From him he had learned the necessity to be a good shot, a smart horseman, and a long stayer. He followed the ins and outs of the Dutchman’s war game, and could practise the art of dodging round kopjes and into dongas, hiding in scrub and disappearing from mortal ken at a moment’s notice, with the zest and agility of a schoolboy playing at hide and seek, and with a certain enjoyment in the diamond-cut-diamond sort of exercise.[Pg 132]

On the 26th of January General Brabant arrived at Queenstown to take over the command of the Colonial Division, and on the same day General Kelly Kenny, commanding the Sixth Division, occupied Thebus, a position on the railway between Middleburg and Stormberg Junction. This station is situated about ninety miles from Colesberg, around which General French so untiringly operated, and forty-five miles from Stormberg, the scene of General Gatacre’s disaster.

On the 1st of February the City of London Volunteers landed. Immediately after their arrival at the Cape they were honoured by a visit from the great man who was about to control the destinies of South Africa. Gracefully he welcomed them, and said how little it had been imagined in days gone by, the days when the Volunteer force had been established, that any of its members would come to take part in a war in South Africa. He expressed his belief that nothing was more calculated to benefit the army than employment together on service of all its component parts, and that these would learn to appreciate each other, and acquire a spirit of comradeship which would have far-reaching results. He reminded them that strangely enough the first Volunteers left home three hundred years ago to fight for the Dutch, and arrived just in time to save Flushing from the Spaniards. On this occasion they would take an equally brilliant part in establishing peace, order, and freedom in South Africa.

Type of Arms—New Naval 12-Pounder Field-Gun.
Type of Arms—New Naval 12-Pounder Field-Gun.
(Photo, Cribb, Southsea.)

The members of the corps were delighted. Colonel Cholmondeley[Pg 133] expressed their thanks, and they all cheered right royally. They were burning to get to the front, and, in spite of the sudden change of temperature from British midwinter to tropical sunshine, their zeal to be up and doing was unabated. They waited at the Cape to be joined by the second detachment and receive their horses, after which they entrained for the western border, where they were so soon to distinguish themselves.

Photo by Hosking, Cape Town.

There was great satisfaction at the announcement that General Brabant would command the Colonial corps. The class of men enlisting in Brabant’s Horse, the Imperial Horse, Bailey’s Horse, and other of the South African mounted corps was a superior one. The volunteers were mostly well-to-do men, sons of farmers and Colonials who were residents in the country, and were intimately acquainted with its geography. Moreover, they were men and not striplings, and were averse from being commanded by young officers who were absolutely without South African experience.

It has been rumoured that the British officers and those of the irregular troops have not always been in accord. The fact is, that one is a master of discipline and the other a master of independence. The Colonial is accustomed to habits of complete self-reliance; he expects to be treated like an individual and not as a machine. Our military system is a machine-made system, and one which, unluckily for us, has been incapable of any of the smart plasticities which warfare with the Boers has demanded. Colonial troops will be led, but they won’t be driven. They are composed of men of first-rate quality, but not men accustomed blindly to obey orders. The Colonist obeys because of the personal influence of a man or men whom he holds intellectually or morally in esteem, but the word discipline for sheer discipline’s sake he is disinclined to understand. Among the ranks of the Colonials are many men of wealth and influence, men of high character and good education. These could not suddenly be treated in the same way as the British regulars, who, being gifted with more dare-devil courage than knowledge of the three R’s, require to be welded together on a system. A tactician once asked the question—What is the difference between an army and a mob? and the general answered—“Discipline.” It is discipline that converts a rowdy British youngster into the glorious British Tommy that he is. With the Colonial we have already the trained and independent man, and the system of give and take is the only system that can avert friction between men who, though brothers in blood, have, and always must have, the special idiosyncrasies attendant on their dissimilar forms of life.

Lord Roberts, recognising all this, with his usual diplomacy and sympathy for those who serve the Queen, decided to form a bodyguard, to accompany him to the front, of Colonials, the troops to be[Pg 134] representative of all the corps—volunteers, irregulars, &c. The guard was to consist of Major Laing, an officer well versed and distinguished in Colonial matters, a lieutenant, two sergeants and corporals, and about forty picked troopers taken from the various irregular corps already at the front. The men of the corps were to continue to wear their own uniform, and merely to be distinguished by a badge. Preference in choosing the members of the guard was given to men of Colonial birth, good shots, riders, and scouts, who were well acquainted with all the peculiarities of Colonial life.

To further show his appreciation of the services of the Colonials, Lord Roberts appointed as extra aide-de-camp on his personal staff Colonel Bryon of the Australian Artillery. He also sent telegrams to the Governors of Victoria and New South Wales congratulating them on the spirit of patriotism in Australia, and expressing his appreciation of the useful and workmanlike troops that had been sent to assist in restoring peace, order, and freedom in South Africa.

Photo by Knight, Aldershot.

At this time the following correspondence between the Presidents of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State and Lord Roberts was published at the Cape. It began with a joint despatch from Presidents Steyn and Kruger dated Bloemfontein, February 3, stating:—

“We learn from many sides that the British troops, contrary to the recognised usages of war, have been guilty of destruction by burning and blowing up with dynamite farmhouses and devastating farms and goods therein, whereby unprotected women and children have often been deprived of food and shelter. This happens not only in places where barbarians are encouraged by British officers, but even in Cape Colony and in this State (Orange Free State), where white brigands come out from the theatre of war with the evident intention of carrying on general devastation without any reason recognised by the custom of war and without in any way furthering the operations. We wish earnestly to protest against such practices.”

Mr. Krugers Autograph Mr. Kruger’s Autograph

In reply Lord Roberts wrote:—

“I beg to acknowledge your Honours’ telegram charging British troops with the destruction of property contrary to the recognised usages of war, and with brigandage and devastation. These charges are made in vague and general terms. No specific case is mentioned. No evidence is given. I have seen such charges made before now in the Press, but in no case which has come under my notice have they been substantiated. Most stringent instructions have been issued to British troops to respect private property so far as it is compatible with the conduct of military operations. All wanton destruction[Pg 135] and injury to peaceful inhabitants are contrary to British practice and traditions, and will, if necessary, be vigorously repressed by me.

“I regret that your Honours should have seen fit to repeat the untrue statement that barbarians have been encouraged by British officers to commit depredations. In the only case in which a raid has been perpetrated by native subjects of the Queen, the act was contrary to the instructions of the British officer nearest the spot, and entirely disconcerted his operations. The women and children taken prisoners by the natives were restored to their home by the agency of the British officer in question.

“I regret to say it is the Republican forces which in some cases have been guilty of carrying on war in a manner not in accordance with civilised usage. I refer especially to the expulsion of loyal subjects of Her Majesty from their homes in the invaded districts because they refused to be commandeered by the invaders. It is barbarous to attempt to force men to take sides against their sovereign country by threats of spoliation and expulsion. Men, women, and children had to leave their homes owing to such compulsion. Many of those who were formerly in comfortable circumstances are now maintained by charity.

“That war should inflict hardships and injury on peaceful inhabitants is inevitable, but it is the desire of Her Majesty’s Government and my intention to conduct this war with as little injury as possible to peaceful inhabitants and private property. I hope your Honours will exercise your authority to ensure that it is conducted in a similar spirit on your side.”

Meanwhile the British Commander was rapidly maturing his plans. Troops were pouring into the Cape and mysteriously departing none knew whither. Great doings were in the air, and secret communications between Lord Roberts and the wily General French—communications which Boer spies endeavoured to intercept—promised that the splendid fastnesses hitherto enjoyed by the enemy would not much longer serve to keep him from the punishment that was his due.


[5] Colonel (local Major-General) E. R. P. Woodgate, who was in command of the 9th Brigade, joined as Ensign in the 4th Foot on April 7, 1865, and became Brevet-Colonel on June 26, 1897. He commanded a Regimental District from September 1897 to April 1898; was on special service in the Ashanti expedition from September 1873 to March 1874, also on special service in South Africa from June 1878 to November 1879; was Brigade Major in the West Indies from February 1880 to February 1885. He was employed with the West African Regiment from April 9, 1898; with the Abyssinian expedition in 1868; and was present at the capture of Magdala, for which he received a medal. He served in the Ashanti war, 1873-74, and was present at the actions of Essaman, Ainsah, Abrakrampa, and Faysoonah, at the battle of Amoaful and capture of Coomassie. For these services he received a medal with clasp. He also served through the Zulu campaign in 1879, at the action of Kambula and battle of Ulundi, and received a medal with clasp and his brevet of Major; and in 1898 in West Africa, in command of forces in expeditions against Sierra Leone insurgents. He was fifty-four years of age.

[Pg 136]



“Forty years had I in my city seen soldiers parading,
Forty years as a pageant, till unawares the lady of this teeming and turbulent city,
Sleepless amid her ships, her houses, her incalculable wealth,
With her million children around her, suddenly,
At dead of night, at news from the south,
Incens’d struck with clinch’d hand the pavement.
A shock electric, the night sustain’d it,
Till with ominous hum our hive at daybreak pour’d out its myriads.”

Walt Whitman.

The eyes of Europe, and indeed of the universe, turned upon the forces at war in Natal with amazement almost akin to awe. There, in the eve of the twentieth century, was presented a tenth wonder of the world! Where, among the states, principalities, and powers, could be found another example of an army being raised veritably from all points of the compass to serve the Mother Country? Whence in the history of heroic ages could be quoted the counterpart of spontaneous, simultaneous, exultant patriotism such as was brought forth by a few reverses to British arms? Here were men, brothers, whom we had never seen, whose names we had never heard, rushing to our side—influential citizens, judges, merchants, landowners in the distant dominions of the Queen—throwing over domestic comfort, ease, commercial advantage, political distinction, for the sheer desire to barter breath for fame, and to win laurels in the cause of the Empire. Our friends—the Powers—gazed and rubbed their eyes and marvelled! Our enemies—the Powers—gazed, rubbed their eyes, and—well! if they did not curse, they certainly trod warily and pondered! We were providing an object-lesson for eternity. The infinitesimal little island, the bird’s-nest of the Little Englanders, was introducing to the nations her stalwart progeny—introducing with the easy pride of motherhood gigantic sons, all young and strong and well-grown, full of the vigour of youth and the finest traits of the parent stock—a martial multitude, clamouring to defend her in her hour of need! Yes, if our enemies—the Powers—did not curse, they walked warily and pondered!

Commanding the First Canadian Contingent.

They did wisely, for by the beginning of March the number of Colonial troops at the front was approximately as follows: Cape Colony, 15,000; Natal, 7000; Canada, 2820; Ceylon, 130; New[Pg 137] South Wales, 1800; Queensland, 810; South Australia, 340; West Australia, 230; Victoria, 500; Tasmania, 180; New Zealand, 730; India, 250; total, 29,790. This tremendous increase in the size of the Transvaal force was a magnificent spectacle for the world at large. While it constituted the greatest military concentration in the history of the Empire, it left the British possessions in India, Malta, Crete, Barbadoes, Bermuda, Ceylon, Hong-Kong, Gibraltar, and elsewhere, if not adequately, at least powerfully defended. For instance, in India alone we had still a superb British army. It was composed of forty-seven battalions of infantry, six regiments of cavalry, sixty-two batteries of artillery, not to mention the enormous Indian Army, of which the cavalry was styled by Lord Curzon “the finest cavalry in the world.” Even then we were not at the end of our tether. Conscription was undreamt of. Our military resources had barely been tested. The display of loyalty to the British flag, love for the Mother Country, and an ardent desire to uphold her rights, had not been confined to Great Britain’s larger colonies. Small contingents for South Africa had been offered by Jamaica and Trinidad and elsewhere, and these, though gratefully acknowledged, had been refused, mostly in cases where the contingents were not large enough to constitute a military unit, and there might have been trouble in the movement of the force.

The growth of Colonial offers of assistance from the time—the 10th of July—when Queensland sent an anticipatory telegram proposing military aid, it is interesting to follow. Two days later, the 12th of July, came a telegram from Lord Brassey at Victoria, saying that “offers have been received from Volunteers for service in South Africa.” Five days passed. Then an offer of 300 men from the Malay States Guides arrived, the High Commissioner intimating, however, that he could not spare them. Three hundred Hausas from Lagos volunteered on the 18th of July. On the 21st of that month New South Wales offered 1860 officers, non-commissioned officers, and men. The offer of Hong-Kong on the 21st of September was followed by New Zealand’s Parliamentary resolution to send a Transvaal Contingent. On the 5th of October Western Australia came forward, and on the 9th Tasmania offered her unit. On the 13th the offers of troops from South Australia and Canada were “gratefully accepted.” Last, but not least, came the offer of assistance from India, and additional help from those whose aid had previously been given and acknowledged as invaluable.

Thus, by degrees, the whole concourse of Great Britain’s best was gathered together, the flowers of her numerous flocks were drawn to a common centre by the tie of blood and the pride of it—drawn to a far quarter of the earth, there to demonstrate the crowning triumph of British colonisation. The long-talked-of consolidation of the[Pg 138] Anglo-Saxon race for the welfare and freedom of humanity was no longer an idealist’s dream; it had become a living and a lasting reality!


Early in the century the spirit of loyalty was developed in Canada. From her first years, when Wolfe made Canada a colony of Great Britain, the colonists began to recognise their debt to the British Crown. The feeling of reverence and love for the Mother Country strengthened and grew with the strength and growth of Canada itself, till the sentiment of Imperialism, always silently existing, suddenly found almost passionate utterance in the month of October 1899.

What came to pass a great man had foreseen. Sir John Macdonald, who gauged aright the sentiment of the Canadians, described almost prophetically the expansion of that sentiment, and pointed out the developments that might be looked for in the future. In one of his pro-Confederation speeches he said:—

“Some are apprehensive that the fact of our forming this Confederation will hasten the time when we shall be severed from the Mother Country. I have no apprehension of that kind. I believe it will have the contrary effect. I believe that as we grow stronger, as we become a people able, from our union, our population, and the development of our resources, to take our position among the nations of the world, she will be less willing to part with us than now. I am strongly of opinion that year by year, as we grow in population and strength, England will more see the advantage of maintaining the alliance between British North America and herself. Does any one imagine that when our population, instead of 3,500,000 will be 7,000,000, as it will be ere many years pass, we would be one whit more willing than now to sever the connection with England? The Colonies are now in a transition state. Gradually a different colonial system is being developed, and it will become year by year less a case of dependence on our part, and of overruling protection on the part of the Mother Country, and more a case of healthy and cordial alliance. Instead of looking upon us as a merely dependent colony, England will have in us a friendly nation, a subordinate but still a powerful people, to stand by her in North America in peace or in war.”

Many other prominent persons, Sir John Thompson, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir Wilfred Laurier, shared the same opinion, and confidently asserted that Great Britain had but to hold out her hand and the hand of Canada would go out to meet it with firm and cordial grasp.

Then came the hour and the opportunity. Canada acted exactly as Canada’s greatest men had expected her to act. She did not jump to action, for the idea of participating in the active affairs of the Empire had scarcely dawned upon her, but, the opening once made, Canada lost no time in availing herself of it. Great things have small beginnings, and the grand movement which has astonished the universe commenced in a simple manner.

While the possibility of war drifted like a small cloud on the horizon, a certain Colonel Hughes, of Lindsay, Ontario, set to work to raise a volunteer regiment for possible service in South Africa. In September 1899 he openly expressed himself. In answer to energetic remonstrance he wrote, that “unless the Government of the Dominion showed itself patriotic enough to do its duty by the Imperial Government, he was justified in his action, the object of which was to assist in upbuilding the British Empire and rendering justice[Pg 139] to one’s fellow-countrymen, even at great sacrifice, and that as little delay as possible should result on the outbreak of hostilities in enrolling a corps.” The idea, to use the popular phrase, “caught on.” All the notabilities of the Dominion put their heads together, with the result that, early as October 3, the Canadian Military Institute in Toronto proposed to offer a Canadian Contingent to the British Imperial Government, in the event of a war breaking out with the Boers. It was also suggested and carried unanimously, that whereas all the expenses of the Canadian Contingent sent to the aid of the British troops in the Crimean War had been borne by the British Government, the expenses of the Contingent it was now proposed to send to South Africa, should be provided by the Dominion of Canada, that the Canadian Government should train, arm, equip, transport, and pay the force raised, and, if necessary, pension those deserving it. The offer of a Canadian Contingent was accordingly made through the Government to the British Government, who accepted it with two reservations—First, that the force raised should consist of 1000 men only; Second, that half the expenses of the Contingent should be met by the Imperial Government. To this the Canadians consented under protest, declaring, however, that should any further assistance be required during the course of the war, they would be ready and glad to send it.

Thousands of volunteers offered their services, but only a limited number could be accepted. It was decided to allow each locality to have the honour of taking part in the patriotic movement, and the formation of companies was authorised as follows:—A Company, Manitoba and the North-West; B, London, Ontario; C, Toronto; D, Ottawa and Kingston; E, Montreal; F, Quebec; G, Fredericton and Prince Edward Island; H, Halifax.

The men were thus gathered from all parts of Canada, the smaller towns sending from three to seven representatives each, and the larger ones supplying some regulars from the city regiments, in addition to volunteers. The enrolling and equipping of these 1000 volunteers, scattered as they had been over 3500 miles of territory, was accomplished in little more than a fortnight—a wonderful feat in view of the pacific times enjoyed by the Colonials.

It was quite inspiriting to note the general activity. All the Dominion displayed its loyalty in deeds as well as words. Men living in idleness and comfort, professional men of standing, family men with innumerable ties, came to the fore and volunteered their services; while employers assisted the splendid movement by offering facilities to those serving them who might care to enlist. Every soul insisted on taking his share in the Imperial doings. Those who could not volunteer united their efforts and showed their loyalty by showering gifts on the battalion. The officers and men of every company were presented at their own headquarters with a sum of money varying according to rank, but in each case of substantial value, as a contribution to their warlike needs. Every officer received from public subscriptions a field-glass, revolver, and $125 in money. Privates were presented with a silver match-box and $25. The Bank of Ottawa contributed $1000 for the purchase of delicacies for the men on their sea-voyage. In addition to this generosity, firms of all kinds sent in their own manufacture, life insurances were effected on special terms for officers and men of the battalion covering compensation for partial disablement, and the telegraph and telephonic companies liberally agreed to transmit private messages for all connected with the Contingent free of charge.

The mobilisation and concentration at Quebec of the composite battalion was no mean undertaking, but it was accomplished by the 27th of October. On the following night a dinner to the officers was given, and later, a smoking concert.[Pg 140]

On the 29th the special service battalion attended divine service, the Catholics at the Cathedral, the Roman Catholics at the Basilica. The sermon given at the Cathedral was a notable one, and served to mark the historical nature of the occasion. Among other things, the Rev. J. G. Scott expressed himself of sentiments that all might do well to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. He said: “What is the Empire of which we are a part? It is not a mere collection of subservient peoples adding to the revenue and importance of a small island to the north-west of Europe. No; it is much more than that. It is a vast federation of peoples of all nations, tongues, languages, and creeds joined together in ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity,’ by common laws and a common love to their real or their adopted mother. England and England’s flag must remain the symbol of our common patriotism. But the British Empire, the Empire of the future, the Empire rising with the sun of a new century, is founded in deeper principles than mere sentimental devotion to the land of our fathers. The principle underlying it is the liberty and brotherhood and welfare of man. We conquer and advance. Wild lands come under our sway. Savage races are subjugated or turn to us for protection. But all with what result? With the result that the waste lands are cultivated, the hidden mines of the earth yield up their treasures, continents are spanned by vast railways and the bed of ocean by electric cables, with the result that the savage is brought under the yoke of civilisation, and religion, education, and commerce raise him almost to the level of a European. But this progress has not been, nor can it be, unaccompanied by difficulties. At the present time our race in its general advance is brought face to face with forces that retard, not merely the growth of the British Empire, but the principles of freedom and humanity which underlie it. The nineteenth century is confronted in South Africa with a remnant of the seventeenth. Our brethren, oppressed by an intolerable tyranny, cry to us for help, and we, a republic under a monarchical form, go to crush a despotism under the form of a republic.”

This last phrase was a masterpiece, one that all who have enjoyed the liberty, fraternity, and equality of our republican empire can fully appreciate. Continuing, the preacher went on to say: “Surely, if we go forth firmly, fearlessly, and mercifully to fight in such a cause, we can feel, like Israel of old, that ‘the Eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, and that He will thrust out the enemy from before us.’ And you, my brethren, who are privileged to go forth under the flag of our Queen and the Empire, are the representatives of a great people, formed of various creeds, and nationalities, and languages, but blended in a common law and a common love for the liberty which makes men—men. The call to arms from the Motherland has sent a thrill to the four corners of the earth. The Empire, which has been knit together by community of race, by commerce, by railways and by cables, is to be drawn now into an absolutely indissoluble bond by the voluntary sacrifice of blood and life on a common battlefield. No ordinary departure of troops to the front is yours. You are the pioneers of a new era in our history. The importance of this day is not to be measured, any more than was the importance of the great battle in the Plains hard by, according to numerical computation. We have taken a step, a step on the threshold of another century, which is destined in time to put an end to the distinction of Colony and Motherland, and will finally give us a voice in the conduct of the Empire. Surely, to those going forth as champions in a noble cause, I cannot do better than to commend to you individually the watchword of Israel’s—nay, of England’s strength, ‘The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ There may come[Pg 141] moments to some of you, in the irksomeness of discipline, in the pause before the battle-charge, in the silence of lonely picket duty, or during sleepless nights on the hospital pallet, when the memory of the parting service in these hallowed walls—walls which, during this century, have seen many heroes arm at the call of duty—will come back to you with the comfort which even the bravest need, and you will feel that in life and death ‘the Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ Then, like the knights of old, consecrate to-day your hearts and swords to God’s service, and you who are communicants draw near to the altar of God and receive the strength which comes from the Body and Blood of Christ. You are not a wild horde let loose in savage warfare, but Christian men armed for a great cause. Keep then your lives pure—pure as the memories of your Canadian home. Be sober, as men who can face danger without artificial courage. Let the talk at mess and in camp be clean, and above all remember to pay regularly the daily homage of prayer to your Heavenly Father. Do not be ashamed to confess Christ before men.”

These heart-stirring words found their echo in every breast—the great body of patriotic volunteers was thrilled through with the ambition to do great deeds in a great way, to go forth and write their names in blood, if need be, alongside of those of their brothers of the Anglo-Saxon race whose records loomed large and indelible upon the scrip of Time.

In the evening the Governor-General entertained the superior officers and staff at dinner, and on the following morning the last parade was held. Major-General Hutton, commanding the Canadian Militia, commenced his inspection at 11.30. At noon the Governor-General, the Premier, Sir Wilfred Laurier, and other members of the Cabinet arrived on the ground. His Excellency addressed the men as follows: “Colonel Otter, officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the Canadian Contingent, I congratulate you on the splendid appearance of your regiment on parade, and Canada may justly be proud of her representative troops. But, Colonel Otter, the force you command represents a great deal more than a serviceable regiment on parade. We are standing here upon historic ground, under the ramparts of the old city of Quebec, surrounded by celebrated battlefields, and in an atmosphere full of the glorious traditions of two great nations—nations who, respecting each other’s warlike qualities on many a hard-fought field, have now joined in common loyalty to their Queen and Empress. Your companies have been gathered from British Columbia to the Atlantic coast, from the settlers in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West, from Ontario and the Maritime Provinces, and from the old French families of Quebec. They represent the manhood of the Dominion from the west to the east, but, above all, they represent the spontaneous offer of the people of Canada, British born and French Canadian, to the Mother Country. The people of Canada have shown no inclination to discuss the quibbles of Colonial responsibility; they have only unmistakably asked that their loyal offers should be made known, and they rejoice in their gracious acceptance. In so doing surely they have opened a new chapter in the history of our Empire; they have freely made their military gift to an Imperial cause, to share the privations, and the dangers, and the glories of an Imperial army. They have insisted on giving vent to the expression of that sentimental Imperial unity which may, perhaps, hereafter prove more binding than any written Imperial constitution. The embarkation of your force, Colonel Otter, to-day will mark a memorable epoch in the history of Canada and the Empire. Of the success of your future we have no doubt; we shall watch your departure with very full hearts, and shall follow your movements with[Pg 142] eager enthusiasm. All Canada will long to see the Maple Leaf well to the front, and to give her Contingent a glorious welcome home again. And now, as the representative of Her Majesty, I wish you God speed and every success.”

Lord Minto then called on the men to give three cheers for the Queen, which they did with all the zest of lusty Anglo-Saxon lungs.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier then addressed the regiment. He reminded them they were going to obey the call of duty, that their cause was the cause of justice, the cause of humanity and of civilisation. Men of our own race were being unjustly oppressed, and the troops were going forth in the interests of the Empire and of liberty. He rejoiced to see the alacrity with which Canadians had responded to the call and rushed to the aid of the great Empire of which all were so proud. He wished them God speed, and expressed his confidence that they would be an honour to themselves and to their native land.

Major-General Hutton impressively assured the troops that their honour was Canada’s honour, that their renown was Canada’s renown; and though strain and hardships might be great, they would remember that in the far-off Dominion thousands of men and women looked to the Royal Canadian Regiment to uphold the honour of their native land. French Canadians and English Canadians must recollect the responsibility that would rest upon their shoulders, and he knew they would acquit themselves well of their duties.

Then followed an address by the Hon. S. Parent, Mayor of Quebec. He read: “The citizens of Quebec offer you the most cordial welcome in this old fortress, so often stormed by war and tempest, whose inhabitants, from their earliest years, have been accustomed to the music of military bands, to the smell of powder and the smoke of battles. We are proud of the honour that has been done our city in its selection as the scene of the mobilisation of this select regiment which the Canadian people send to the assistance of our Mother Country. The presence in our midst of the representative of our Most Gracious Sovereign, His Excellency the Governor-General, and other dignitaries of the State, adds not only lustre and éclat to this day’s ceremony, but gives to our proceedings a deeper and wider meaning. It was no vain appeal that was made to our valour and our loyalty, for along the way from Victoria to Halifax, a thousand picked men, representing the youth, physical strength, the discipline and the courageous daring of our people, freely volunteered to serve under the British flag. The people of various origin and different religious creeds that go to make up the population of this country are represented in your regiment, and now that we are, for the time being, assembled within the walls of the most French city of the New World, let us claim for the French-Canadian element a large share of the warm and spontaneous outburst of sentiments of loyalty to England which marked your triumphal passage from your homes to Quebec. No matter how diverse may be our origin and the languages that we speak, who is there that will dare to affirm that we have not all the qualities necessary for the making of a real nation? Who dare say, upon such an occasion as the present, that we are not all sincerely united and loyal towards the Canadian Dominion, and loyal to England which has given us so complete a measure of liberty? We French-Canadians have loyally accepted the new destinies that Providence provided for us upon the battlefield of 1759. Is it possible that anybody can have forgotten 1775 and 1812? On the summit of this proud rock of Quebec, rendered illustrious by Jacques Cartier and Champlain, behold, but a few steps from this place, the superb monument erected by an English Governor to the memory of Wolfe and of Montcalm! Why may we not make it the emblem and the symbol of our national unity? Let[Pg 143] us leave to each individual amongst us the privilege to retain, as a sweet souvenir worthy of a noble heart, the rose, the thistle, the fleur-de-lys, or the shamrock, and even the pot of earth that the Irish immigrant brings with him from under distant skies, and let us be united for the great and holy cause that we have in hand: the foundation of a great nation and the development of the boundless resources of a rich and immense country. Our best wishes accompany you in the long journey, at the end of which you will, no doubt, find glory as well as suffering, privations, and perhaps even heroic sacrifices. When you will be under the burning sun of Africa, you may be sure that our hearts will follow you everywhere, and that in our long winter evenings you will be the principal object of our fireside talk and solicitude. Be quite sure, too, that this Canada of ours will watch with a maternal care over the loved ones that you leave behind you, and who, in parting with you, are making so great and generous a sacrifice. May the God of battles crown your efforts! May He preserve you in the midst of danger! And may He bring you back safe and sound to the beloved shores of your fatherland!”

Never was more impressive scene, and even the stoutest warriors among the audience were thrilled with the consciousness of the solemnity of the moment, the sacredness of their future duty. Colonel Otter, who was much moved, replied as a soldier—briefly, but to the point. He thanked all around for their goodwill, and expressed his confidence that the Canadian Contingent would do its duty and do honour to the land of its birth.

The list of the principal officers was as follows:—

To command—Lieut.-Colonel W. D. Otter, Canadian Staff, A.D.C. to His Excellency the Governor-General. To be Major and second in command—Lieut.-Colonel L. Buchan, Royal Canadian Regiment. To be Major—Lieut.-Colonel O. C. C. Pelletier, Canadian Staff. To be Adjutant—Major J. C. M’Dougall, Royal Canadian Regiment. To be Quartermaster—Capt. and Brevet-Major S. J. A. Denison, Royal Canadian Regiment. To be Medical Officers—Surgeon-Major C. A. Wilson, 3rd Field Battery, C.A.; Surgeon-Major E. Fiset, 89th Batt. To be attached for Staff duty—Major L. G. Drummond, Scots Guards, Military Secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General. A Company (British Columbia and Manitoba).—To be Captain—Capt. M. G. Blanchard, 5th Regt. C.A. Major H. M. Arnold, 90th Batt.; Capt. A. E. Hodkins, Nelson R. Co.; Lieut. S. P. Layborn, R.C.R.I. B Company (London)—Major Duncan Stuart, 26th Batt.; Capt. J. C. Mason, 10th Batt.; Capt. J. M. Ross, 22nd Batt.; Second Lieut. R. H. M. Temple, 48th Highlanders. C Company (Toronto)—Capt. R. K. Barker, Q.O.R.; Lieut. J. C. Ogilvie, R.C.A.; Lieut. W. R. Marshall, 13th Batt.; Lieut. G. S. Wilkie, 10th Batt. D Company (Ottawa and Kingston)—Major S. M. Rogers, 43rd Batt.; Capt. W. T. Lawless, G.G.F.G.; Lieut. R. G. Stewart, 43rd Batt.; Lieut. A. C. Caldwell, 42nd Batt. E Company (Montreal)—Capt. A. H. Macdonell, R.C.R.I.; Capt. C. K. Fraser, 53rd Batt.; Lieut. A. E. Swift, 8th Batt.; Lieut. A. Laurie, P. of W. R. F Company (Quebec)—Capt. J. E. Pelletier, 65th Batt.; Capt. H. A. Panet, R.C.A.; Lieut. L. Leduc, R.C.R.I.; Lieut. E. A. Pelletier, 55th Batt. G Company (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island)—Major W. A. Weeks, Charlottetown Engineers; Capt. F. C. Jones, 3rd Regt. C.A.; Lieut. J. H. Kaye, R.C.R.I.; Second Lieut. C. W. W. M’Lean, 8th Hussars. H Company (Halifax)—Capt H. B. Stairs, 66th Batt.; Capt. H. E. Burstall, R.C.A.; Lieut. R. B. Willis, 66th Batt.; Second Lieut. J. C. Oland, 63rd Batt. Machine-Gun Section—Lieut. and Capt. A. C. Bell, Scots Guards, A.D.C. to the Major-General commanding the Canadian Militia.[Pg 144]

The following officers were attached to the Royal Canadian Regiment for whatever duty might be allotted to them in connection with the campaign: Lieut.-Colonel F. L. Lessard, Royal Canadian Dragoons; Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Drury, A.D.C., Royal Canadian Artillery; Major R. Cartwright, Royal Canadian Regiment; Capt. W. Forester, Royal Canadian Dragoons. Medical officer—Capt. A. B. Osborne, C.A.M.S. (provisional).

By five o’clock in the afternoon all was over. The great ship Sardinian, with slow dignity, as though conscious of the gallant burden she was bearing to battle, sailed out into the great immensity of sea and sky. Cheers rent the air, tears—the tears not of personal grief, but of sympathetic patriotism—dimmed every eye. Many sorrowed, but many more were overwhelmed with sheer joy and pride to see this goodly throng going forth to do martial deeds, and bring back laurels to crown the land that Wolfe had made glorious. Slowly and with precision the minute guns boomed from the Citadel, loudly, the bands played the well-loved tunes, the “Maple Leaf” and “God Save the Queen.” Swiftly now sped the Sardinian, flaunting her gay decorations, and bearing on the bosom of the water a thousand of Canada’s best, a thousand brave hearts and true.


After the departure of the first Contingent the loyalty of Canada continued to increase. Every incident of the war was carefully watched and discussed, the great deeds that were on foot found lavish appreciation. At numerous meetings which took place in various parts of Canada the spirit of the country was described by such declarations as: “We, too, are loyal Britons, and our patriotism is at its best when our country needs us most.”

On November 7th Canada made the offer to the British Government of a second Contingent for South Africa, and on December 18th Sir Wilfred Laurier received a cablegram from Mr. Joseph Chamberlain accepting the offer. As one of the Canadian Ministry afterwards said, “It did not take much more than five minutes for the Cabinet to decide that the Hon. F. W. Borden, Minister of Militia, should immediately instruct his officers at the Militia Department to go on with the preparations for sending the second Contingent.” The fact was that most of the details had been ready for a month and more. The Minister of Militia had early come to the conclusion that a second Contingent of Canadians should be gathered together in the form of cavalry or mounted infantry and artillery.

The first to be given a chance of enlisting for South Africa were the Mounted Police. Forty-eight hours later steps were taken towards recruiting 200 Prairie Cowboys, men who could ride and shoot as well as any cavalrymen in the world, and who are accustomed to subsisting on the scantiest of rations. Next came the Royal Canadian Dragoons, regulars, who were mounted on well-trained horses, and so well drilled as to make it possible for every man of them to instruct the less trained recruits during the voyage. The Boers having a healthy horror of the lance as a cavalry weapon, it was decided that half at least of Canada’s cavalry should be given this arm.

Drawing by J. H. Bacon, from Photo by J. C. Hemment.

It was considered that the Cowboys, and such “Plainsmen of the West” as Herchmer’s Horse, broncho busters who had never been conquered by man or horse, would be specially valuable in the style of warfare affected by the Boers. With nerves of steel and thews of wire, they could speak without boasting of their capacity for putting in thirty-six hours consecutively in the saddle, and for living “on the smell of an oiled rag.[Pg 145]

Ardent volunteers who had failed to get a place in the first Contingent now rushed forward from every side. The sole disappointment was, that only a limited number could be accepted, and those must all be mounted men or artillery.

The wild enthusiasm aroused by the brave and splendid work of that portion of the first Canadian Contingent which was with Colonel Pilcher in South Africa, and the inspiring accounts given by the correspondent of the Toronto Globe, resulted in more volunteering, and a third Contingent could easily have been raised, even after the rigorous medical examination had rejected numbers.

The people of Canada responded nobly to the call for funds to provide for the families of their volunteers on service in South Africa, the large amounts subscribed by the Banks of Montreal and British North America, followed by donations of 15,000 dollars by the Canadian Pacific Railway and 2000 dollars by Holsen’s Bank, having served to stimulate action in this direction. The City Council of Toronto insured for 1000 dollars the lives of all the 123 men they had sent to form part of the second Contingent.

On January 19, the Dominion Government, in a house which cheered itself hoarse in response to patriotic speeches, decided to offer, if required, 12,000 men to the Imperial Parliament for service in South Africa. Lord Strathcona meantime, at his own expense, raised a mounted battalion for service, which was to be ready to sail on February 10 for South Africa, the War Office having given their consent to the formation of the corps. The matter was placed in the hands of the Hon. Dr. Borden, Canadian Minister of Militia and Defence, who was given a free hand to recommend officers, organise and equip the corps, Lord Strathcona reserving only the right to reject or confirm his decisions.

The following officers left for the front at the end of January: Officers of D Battery—Major W. G. Hurdman, Capt. D. J. V. Eaton; Lieutenants, first section, T. W. Vantuyl; second section, J. M’Crea; third section, E. W. B. Morrison. Officers of E Battery—Major G. H. Ogilvie; Capt. R. Costigan; Lieutenants, first section, W. F. Murray; second section, A. T. Ogilvie; third section, W. G. Good. Officers attached for duty—Captain H. J. Uniacke; Adjutant, Captain H. C. Thatcher; Medical Officer, Surgeon-Major A. Worthington; Veterinary Officer, Veterinary-Major Massie. These were followed by Regimental Staff Commander Lieut.-Colonel Herchmer; Adjutant Lieut. Montague Baker; Transport Officer, Lieut. Eustace; Quartermaster, Captain Allan; Medical Officer, Surg.-Capt. Devine; Veterinary Officer, Lieut. R. Riddell. In command of squadrons, Majors Howe and Sanders; Captains Cuthbert and Macdonnell; Lieutenants Begin, Davidson, Wroughton, Cosby, Chalmers, Taylor, and Inglis.

When the mounted section of the second Canadian Contingent, numbering eighty men, started, some twelve extra men were invited to volunteer. To meet the demand no less than 400 applicants, many of them men of independent means, instantly came forward. Here was a remarkable proof of martial spirit, of devotion to the cause of the Mother Country. Vanity some said it was. Any way, it was a vanity fringing on the sublime.

It is interesting to note, that before the gallant members of the second Contingent left for Halifax they were presented with guidons by Lady Minto, the gifts being inscribed with the motto of the Elliot clan—“Wha daur meddle wi’ me.” This delicate mark of attention was highly appreciated by the men.

Early in February the Mounted Bushmen’s Corps of 300 men and horses started for the Cape. All the Canadians, volunteers it must be remembered,[Pg 146] were picked men from all parts of the Dominion, and with them were scouts from British Columbia, who, for the most part, were recruited from the Mounted Police of the North-West and from Cowboys. Being about the smartest riders and best shots in the world, it was felt that they would distinguish themselves in the war game as played by the Boers.

Among those at the front prominently connected with Canada was Captain Kirkpatrick, Royal Engineers, who was attached to the staff of Sir Redvers Buller. This officer is a graduate of the Royal Military College, Kingston, and on leaving that institution received a commission in the Royal Engineers. When the war broke out, Captain Kirkpatrick was ordered from Malta to South Africa, where he commanded the Fortress Company of the Royal Engineers. Major Denison, a prominent officer in the Royal Canadian Infantry, who had personal charge of the recruiting for the first Canadian Contingent, and was appointed quartermaster to the battalion at Quebec, had the honour in January of being appointed aide-de-camp on the staff of Lord Roberts.

Another of the patriotic band was Colonel Girouard (the French Canadian of Egyptian fame), who assisted Lord Kitchener and the Engineers in marvellous operations along the line of rail. This officer has achieved a glorious reputation, one which has been declared to be a closer bond between French Canada and Great Britain than any words. Another honoured Canadian, who was mortally wounded in the attack near Spearman’s Camp on the 20th of January, was Captain Hensley (Dublin Fusiliers). This gallant officer was born at Charlottetown and educated at King’s College, Windsor, whence he passed into the Royal Military College.

Major-General Hutton, commanding the Canadian Militia, early in the year was selected for special service in South Africa. No better officer could have been chosen. He had ample experience of the subject in hand, as he himself stated in speaking to the Canadian Contingent before their departure: “It was my lot to have seen two campaigns in South Africa, including the campaign against the Boers in 1882. It was also—I was going to say my privilege—it was certainly not my pleasure—to have been at Pretoria at the time the present Convention was made; and I therefore know their leaders, and a little something—I may say almost too much—of South Africa and the Transvaal, and therefore I recognise perhaps more clearly than many of you do the very great difficulties and the dangers which our Contingent and the Imperial troops in South Africa are exposed to.”


Strathcona’s Horse, consisting of 530 men and 560 horses, was commanded by Colonel Steele of the North-West Mounted Police. He is regarded as an ideal officer for a scouting force, and his men were all picked men, the cream of the expert riders and riflemen of the Dominion. Morally and physically they were declared to be the best soldiers that have ever been enrolled in Canada. Their mounts were small shaggy bronchos, but sturdy long stayers. In regard to Lord Strathcona’s timely generosity it is impossible to say enough—the general appreciation of his splendid and patriotic act is expressed in the following resolution, which was adopted by the Executive Committee of the British Empire League in Canada: “That the Executive Committee of the British Empire League in Canada has heard with unqualified satisfaction of the magnificent undertaking of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, a Vice-President of this League, to raise, equip, and support, at his entire expense, a corps[Pg 147] of mounted troops composed of Canadians for service for the Empire in the South African war, and desires to place on record its enthusiastic appreciation of his patriotic munificence, and is certain that his work will yet further convince the rest of the Empire of Canada’s devotion to the cause.” Speaking of this noble promoter of his country’s weal, Lieutenant Cooper, Q.V.R., said: “Generously has the British Empire done by Lord Strathcona, and generously and freely has Lord Strathcona done by the Empire. Under the ægis of the Union Jack in Scotland, Donald Alexander Smith spent the first eighteen years of his life. In 1838 he entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and learned the intricacies of North American trade in Labrador and the North-West. In later years he took a prominent part in the organisation of the Canadian Government in the newly-acquired Rupert’s Land, and was intimately connected with the early official days of Manitoba and the North-West Territories. After representing Montreal for two terms in the Dominion Parliament, he was appointed Canadian High Commissioner in London, England, a position which he still fills to the satisfaction of the Canadian people. In 1897 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal of Glencoe and Montreal.”

The force, equipped after the manner of other mounted troops, and not armed with lances, was paid by Lord Strathcona until it landed in South Africa, when it was taken over by the Imperial Government. As in the case of the Contingents from the various Colonies, the officers of the corps were appointed as follows: S. B. Steele, gent., Canadian North-West Mounted Police, to be Lieut.-Colonel, with the temporary rank of Lieut.-Colonel in the army. To be Majors, with the temporary rank of Major in the army: Lieut. R. C. Laurie, Canadian Militia Reserve of Officers; R. Belcher, Inspector Canadian North-West Mounted Police; A. M. Jarvis, Inspector Canadian North-West Mounted Police; A. E. Synder, Inspector Canadian North-West Mounted Police. D. M. Howards, Canadian North-West Mounted Police, to be Captain, with the temporary rank of Captain in the army. To be Lieutenants, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the army: Major G. W. Camden, Canadian Militia; Captains R. M. Courtney, Canadian Militia; J. J. Macdonald, Canadian Militia; E. F. Mackie, Canadian Militia; Lieutenants T. E. Pooley, Canadian Militia; R. H. B. Magee, Canadian Militia Reserve of Officers; Second Lieutenant P. Fall, Canadian Militia; F. L. Cartwright, Inspector Canadian North-West Mounted Police; A. E. Christie, Inspector Canadian North-West Mounted Police; J. E. Leckie, Graduate Royal Military College, Kingston, Canada; A. W. Strange, gent., late Canadian Militia. Lieutenant M. P. Cotton, Canadian Militia, to be Lieutenant for Machine-Gun Detachment, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the Army. W. Parker, Canadian North-West Mounted Police, to be Quartermaster, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the army. C. B. Keenan, gent., M.D., to be Medical Officer, with the temporary rank of Captain. Dr. M’Millan of Brandon was appointed Veterinary Surgeon for the Strathcona Horse. His assistant was Mr. Millican, of Rapid City, Manitoba.

The regiment was recruited from a territory covering a million square miles, some men having travelled from Yukon and the Peace River district in order to enlist. Many distinguished men were among them. In one troop were to be found Mr. Beresford (formerly a Naval officer), cousin of the Marquis of Waterford; Mr. Warren, son of Colonel Warren, R.H.A.; Mr. Shaw, son of a Baronet; Mr. O’Brien, a kinsman of Lord Inchiquin; Hon. Mr. Cochrane, son of the now notable Lord Dundonald; and Lord Seymour. Colonel Steele[Pg 148] (N.W.M.P.), in command of the corps, is a son of a Captain in the Royal Navy. He was born in Canada, and is noted for his bravery and devotion to duty. Major Belcher, a notable swordsman and lancer, was for some years in the 9th Lancers. The troops received an enthusiastic send off, and multitudes gathered together to do honour to the latest addition of Great Britain’s army. Several beautiful guidons were presented to the corps by the ladies of Ottawa. Each was made of crimson silk, with a broad white stripe through the centre, on which was embroidered in crimson letters, “Strathcona’s Horse.” On the upper crimson bar was Lord Strathcona’s motto, “Perseverance,” done in crimson on a white garter. Above the garter was a Baron’s coronet and tiny brown beaver on a green maple leaf. On the lower crimson bar was the squadron’s designation.


New South Wales fell into line with the other Australasian Colonies, and decided to send a military force for service with the Imperial army in South Africa.

The New South Wales Lancers, who had been in training at Aldershot, were the first to start. They were then about to return home, but were stopped en route, and proceeded to the Cape. Of their number some few refused to serve and went home, but on arrival many offered to return to the front. The rest gave satisfactory reasons for being unable to do so. Subsequently another Contingent was sent, and also the Bushmen Corps, at least 1000 strong. It was composed of men who could ride well, shoot splendidly, and were accustomed to camping out and roughing it in pursuit of their usual vocations. It must be noted that this was not the first time that New South Wales had come to the assistance of the Mother Country. A force went to Egypt in the earlier Soudan wars, when one man was wounded. Some discontent at that time was shown owing to the troops not being allowed to go to the front. On this occasion they were to serve and fare as the Imperial troops, and to be considered as such while in the field.

Each Contingent was composed of—1st, N.S.W. Lancers; First Australian Horse; N.S.W. Artillery; Mounted Rifles; Infantry, who, being good horsemen, were subsequently mounted by the Imperial Government. 2nd Contingent consisted of three Mounted Rifle units of 125 men each, one unit of Australian Horse of 100 men (475), one Battery of Artillery—18 officers, 175 men, 140 horses (629). The total of the New South Wales troops at the front in February amounted to 1331 men.

Though not at first very enthusiastic in expressions of patriotism, New South Wales soon became strong in deeds. Enthusiasm became epidemical. Mr. Lyne, the Premier, threw himself into the movement, and rapidly pushed forward the arrangements, and did all in his power to move in sympathy with the patriotic feelings of the Colony, which were daily growing more ardent. As a practical expression of the intensity of their patriotism, the citizens arranged and subscribed for the despatch of 500 expert roughriders and Bush marksmen, while the New South Wales Government assisted by supplying arms and ammunition.

The volunteers were all part, or had formed part, of the land forces. The only actual regular regiment, as understood by us, was the artillery, a small company of Submarine Mining Engineers, 27; Army Service Corps, 10; and Army Medical Staff, 11. All the rest were partially paid or volunteers. The men[Pg 149] came from the whole country, and were men who were serving in the various corps either as volunteers or partially paid troops. All the infantry corps were volunteers—all cavalry regiments and some of the field and garrison artillery were partially paid troops, and were called regulars, though not on the permanent staff. The officers of the Contingents were—1. Captain C. F. Cox, N.S.W. Lancers, Major Bridges, N.S.W. Artillery, Captain Legge, General Staff N.S.W. Inf.; 2. Major and Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Samuel Parrott, V. D. Corps of Engineers, an officer who served in 1885 with the Australian Contingent in the Soudan. Colonel Sydenham Smith com. Artillery; Major J. H. Plunkett Murray, com. 8th Inf. (Union Regiment); Captain and temporary Major P. T. Owen, General Staff; Staff officer for Engineer services, Captain L. H. Kyngdon, N.S.W. Regt. R.A.; Captain A. P. Popham Luscombe; N.S.W. Regt. R.A.A., Captain Henry P. Ramsay Copeland. Reserve of officers—Captain R. St. Julien Pearce; N.S.W. Art. (Field), Lieutenant R. S. Hay Blake Jenkins; N.S.W. Regt. R.A.A., Lieutenant C. F. Bracen, N.S.W. Art. (garrison). 1st Aus. (Vol.) Horse unit—1st Lieut. R. R. Thompson, Permanent Staff, with rank Captain; 2nd Lieutenant J. F. Moore Wilkinson, 1st Aus. Horse (Vol.), with rank 1st Lieutenant; 1st Lieutenant Keith Kinnaird Mackellar, 5th Inf. (Vol.) Regt.; Lieutenant B. J. Newmarch, N.S.W.A.M.C.; Lieutenant J. A. Dick, N.S.W.A.M.C.; Lieutenant A. H. Horsfall, N.S.W.A.M.C. Additional officers—Dr. A. MacCormick, to be Consulting Surgeon, hon. rank Major; Dr. R. Scot-Skirving, to be Consulting Surgeon, hon. rank Major; Dr. W. R. Cortis, rank Captain; N. R. Howse, rank Lieutenant. Chaplains—Church of England—Rev. H. J. Rose, hon. rank Major; Rev. Patrick Fagan, hon. rank Captain.

The first Contingent reached Cape Town (from London) on November 2, 1899. The second Contingent started on January 17th and 18th in three transports; these, while in dock, had to be watched, as some Boer sympathisers were suspected of wishing to set fire to them. Nevertheless there were most remarkable demonstrations of loyalty on all sides, and the troops went off in high feather, having been previously addressed by Mr. Lyne in the following stirring speech: “I wish to tell you that every man and woman in this country is not so proud of anything as of you. You are not enlisting in the ordinary sense of the term, in that you are volunteering to serve with the British troops in the interests of the Empire. You are certain to meet a foe such as Great Britain has not met for some considerable time, and I feel we shall all be proud of your deeds. It is admitted that you are particularly useful, knowing bush life and being able readily to seize commanding points. Great Britain is finding that her Colonies form a valuable nursery ground, and we, on our part, are prepared to supply Great Britain with a force which is rapidly becoming a powerful adjunct of the British arms. You will be placed where you must show energy and determination, and must manifest pluck and courage, and we believe that you will bring back as a reward a wide recognition that our arms have been of service to the Empire. You will make a name for us such as rarely falls to the lot of a youthful country. You will show the world that the Empire is united, and that we are prepared to defend her and our homes if the necessity arises. We in Australia wish you God-speed, and every heart here beats in accord with every loyal heart in South Africa. I can only add, for those who may fall, that their memories will be revered, and you depart knowing that the loved ones of those yielding their lives will be tended by a generous Government and a generous public. Again I wish you God-speed, and may you return covered with all honour.[Pg 150]

On the 19th of January the Premier received the following cable: “Her Majesty’s Government learn with great satisfaction of the despatch of the Contingent and the patriotic feeling in New South Wales. The Queen commands me to express her thanks for these renewed expressions of loyalty.



The Victorian Contingent started off with the same flourish of trumpets and the same outbursts of popular feeling which had accompanied all the Transvaal Contingents. There was a mixture of song and shout, of sorrow and tears. The weather was unchangeably splendid; the city of Melbourne was thronged with visitors to witness the unusual sight, the crowd being augmented by numerous Tasmanians who journeyed across the straits to get a last glimpse at the brave band of warriors as they started on their voyage. Lord Brassey gave a short address, and in the name of the Queen wished them God-speed.

First Victorian Contingent for South Africa.—Nominal Roll of Officers of the Victorian Contingent for service in South Africa, sent in accordance with the cablegram of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies of 4th October 1899: Major G. A. Eddy, Captain (Medical Staff) W. F. Hopkins, Lieutenant T. M. M’Inerney, Lieutenant H. W. Pendlebury, Lieutenant A. J. N. Tremearne. Mounted Infantry Unit—Captain M’Leish, Lieutenant and Adjutant Salmon, Lieutenant Thorn, Lieutenant Chomley, Lieutenant Staughton, Lieutenant Roberts, Veterinary-Captain Kendall.

The following officers were attached for instruction in accordance with the cablegram of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 27th October 1899: Colonel J. C. Hoad, Lieutenant-Colonel C. E. E. Umphelby, Captain G. J. Johnston, Captain J. H. Bruche. Transport Officer for service with troops for South Africa on board s.s. Medic—Lieutenant-Commander W. J. Colquhoun.

Second Victorian Contingent for South Africa (two companies of mounted infantry).—Nominal Roll of Officers who embarked on s.s. Euryalus on 13th January 1900 for service in South Africa: Colonel T. Price, Captain D. H. Jenkins, Lieutenant T. H. Sergeant, Lieutenant T. F. Umphelby, Lieutenant G. O. Bruce, Lieutenant A. A. Holdsworth, Lieutenant M. T. Kirby, Lieutenant E. O. Anderson, Lieutenant T. A. Umphelby, Lieutenant E. S. Norton, Lieutenant R. S. R. S. Bree, Lieutenant and Adjutant J. L. Lilley, Major (Medical Staff) A. Honman, Chaplain Rev. F. W. Wray, Veterinary-Captain H. S. Rudduck. Officer attached for special service with Army Service Corps: Lieutenant A. J. Christie.

In addition to these Contingents the Colony contributed 250 Bushmen, making in all up to the month of April, 751; officers, 46.

Among the officers of the Victorian Contingent were some whose careers were particularly interesting:—

Lieut.-Colonel Charles Edward Ernest Umphelby was forty-six years of age, and a native of Victoria. He commanded the V.R.A.A. He joined the Militia Garrison Artillery at Warrnambool on the 20th June 1884; in March 1885 was appointed lieutenant in the Permanent Artillery, being promoted to be captain on the 1st January 1888. In August 1891 he was promoted to be major, and in June 1897 to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In addition to commanding the artillery he also commanded the Western District Garrison Artillery. He was sent to England by the Victorian Government in 1889[Pg 151] to undergo courses of instruction, and while there was attached to the staff of Major-General Clarke. He passed through various artillery courses, including the long course at Woolwich and Shoeburyness.

Captain George Jamieson Johnston is a Victorian native, and is thirty-one years of age. He is an officer of the Field Artillery Brigade, which is commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Kelly. Captain Johnston was appointed lieutenant on the 11th January 1889, and was promoted to be captain on the 1st July 1895. He is well known as a straight and regular follower of the Melbourne Hounds.

Captain Julius Henry Bruche was born on the 6th March 1873, and educated at the Scotch College, Melbourne. His first experience of military work was in the ranks, and as an officer in the cadet corps, under Major W. Whitehead. After leaving the Scotch College cadets he was appointed to the senior cadets, and from them was transferred to the 1st Battalion Infantry Brigade as a lieutenant on 15th May 1891. Whilst in the 1st Battalion he passed the examination for captain, “distinguished in all subjects.” He was appointed permanent adjutant of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Infantry Brigade on the 18th July 1898, and was promoted to the position of captain on the 17th February 1899, after passing the examination for regular officers, and going through a course of musketry and Maxim machine-gun, obtaining an officer’s extra certificate, and a certificate as qualified as instructor of the Maxim machine-gun. Captain Bruche is a barrister and solicitor, but gave up his profession to join the permanent staff of the Victorian forces.

It may here be mentioned that Victoria has the distinction of being the birthplace of Dr. Robert Andrew Buntine, who was mentioned for bravery at the battle of Glencoe in Sir George White’s despatches. Dr. Buntine was born on the 13th of November 1869. He matriculated in the Melbourne University with honours, and at once entered upon his medical course, where he acquitted himself with some distinction, for although close upon a hundred students entered their curriculum with him, only five (and he was one of them) passed consecutively all their examinations with honours. In 1890 he graduated with honours, and took his M.B., Ch.M. degrees. He then became one of the resident surgeons of the Melbourne Hospital for a year. After that, and the hard work of the University, he decided upon a year’s travel. Accordingly, he travelled first in South Africa, and then in Great Britain for some months, visiting many interesting historical spots, and finally returning to South Africa, where he bought a practice in partnership with Dr. Currie, of Pietermaritzburg, Natal. Both are surgeons in the army, Dr. Buntine being surgeon to the Volunteers, and Dr. Currie to the Carabineers.


On the 21st of October, the anniversary of Trafalgar, Wellington was very early astir. Great were her preparations to commemorate the departure of her Contingent—the first Contingent to embark from the Colonies. Bunting began to break out before breakfast, and town and shipping were soon fluttering with flags. In the streets groups were congregating at a time when people are usually given up to business, and uniforms everywhere dotted the thoroughfare. Large numbers of volunteers came in from the country, some travelling all night, and there was a turn out of local forces amounting to 1500.

The march through the town began at 1.20 P.M. It was an inspiriting sight, and one that all wished to bear in memory. The road at intervals was so dotted with cameras, that one humourist in the ranks was heard to remark that[Pg 152] this was the “real original March of the Camera Men.” The crowds thickened and enthusiasm increased. Jervois Quay, the broadest avenue in the city, as well the open land abutting on it, was thronged from end to end. All the roofs commanding a view were lined, the steamers at the wharves were packed even to the rigging, and the long breastwork along the quay was crammed to suffocation.

Here the passage for the Contingent was kept by a double row of volunteers. The weather had been frowning and gusty, but no sooner had the Contingent formed up in front of a temporary stand projecting from the breastwork, on which Lord Ranfurly, the Governor, Lady Ranfurly and suite were accommodated, than the sun burst forth resplendent while the wind gently lulled. Speeches were made, followed by pathetic leave-takings of friends and relatives. At the last moment so great was the crush that some of the men were cut off from the rest, and had afterwards to struggle to the steamer as best they could.

As the big vessel slowly steamed off, cries of farewell, shouts, cheers rent the air, and continued unceasingly, till the Waiwera bearing New Zealand “Soldiers of the Queen” to the scene of war, had passed from sight.

The first New Zealand Contingent was commanded by Major Robin, who is a splendid example of the born warrior. Originally a gunner in the B Battery New Zealand Artillery, he rose in the Otago Hussars through all the grades of non-commissioned officers to command of the troop. This regiment from that time was unsurpassed in efficiency by any in the Colony. As an instance of the pluck and energy of the gallant major, a characteristic story is told: When Sir John Richardson died he was accorded a military funeral, and was interred in the Northern Cemetery. On the day of the funeral the Leith was in high flood, and there was a general opinion that the Dundas Street Bridge would not bear the weight of the gun-carriage bearing the honoured remains. Major Robin at once volunteered to drive the gun-carriage across, and accomplished the dangerous task without mishap.

Major Robin took charge of the New Zealand Contingent which attended the Diamond Jubilee, and had the honour of commanding the mixed Colonial escort which accompanied the Queen on her visit to London during the celebrations.

Captain Madocks, who distinguished himself in the fight of the 15th of January at Slingersfontein, is a Wellington man, full of pluck and resource, and as we now know, admirably calculated to become a leader of men.

The second Contingent, under the command of Major Cradock and numbering 242 officers and men and 300 horses, left Wellington on the 20th of January—upwards of 70,000 spectators congregating to witness the departure of the fine fellows, whose appearance was alike martial and workmanly. These two Contingents, equipped and sent over at the cost of the New Zealand Government—the funds being raised among the settlers themselves—were not by any means New Zealand’s entire contribution. Two more Contingents followed, and afterwards a fifth, consisting of 500 rough riders; some of the smartest men that could be gathered together! Indeed the whole force was remarkable for its smartness, and before it had been long in the Transvaal was highly praised by General French for its fine horsemanship and coolness under fire.

An interesting feature belonging to the New Zealanders, and one which must have struck consternation in the heart of the Boers, was the Maori war-cry of the troops. This was composed by Trooper Galloway, one of the[Pg 153] Volunteer Contingent, and taught by him to his comrades. The war cry in the Maori tongue is “Kia, Kaha, Niu Tireni. Whawhai maiea mo te Kuini, to kaianga. Ake! ake! ake!” which interpreted means, “Be strong, New Zealand. Fight bravely for your Queen, for your country. Ever! ever! ever!” The interest of the Maoris in Great Britain was evinced in practical form. They held carnival, danced native dances, and sang native songs, devoting the proceeds to the Patriotic Fund. Their only regret was their inability to be enrolled among the defenders of the country.

Premier of the Cape Parliament, 1898-1900.
Photo by Elliott & Fry, London.


The Queenslanders, under the command of Colonel Ricardo, have, as before said, the honour of being the first of Great Britain’s children to come forward to her assistance. Their deeds are now familiar to us, for they are associated with Colonel Pilcher’s famous raid to Sunnyside and Douglas, and also with the magnificent ride of General French for the relief of Kimberley. But before July 1899 we were scarcely acquainted with our warlike brothers across the ocean.

The prime mover in the patriotic scheme of assisting the Mother Country in her need was the Hon. J. R. Dickson, the Premier. As we know, he lost not a moment. He did not wait for the need of assistance to be recognised. In this respect he followed the splendid example set in 1884 by the late Mr. Dalley, who, while acting Premier for Sir A. Stuart, telegraphed independently the wish of New South Wales to assist in the military undertakings of the Mother Country. The Premier knew the spirit of loyalty and patriotism that pervaded Queensland, and made haste to give it utterance. He was well supported by all sections of the Government and of the people, and speedily his action was imitated all over the world.

Queensland by degrees sent out two Contingents composed of mounted infantry and one machine-gun section of Royal Australian Artillery; and finally, a third Contingent, of which 75 per cent. were bushmen, all first-class riders and splendid shots. They were men of grand physique, many of them wealthy, and many sons of prominent citizens. The infantry were not mounted when despatched, but all being good horsemen, and their services being chiefly required as scouts or to assist cavalry, they had mounts provided for them on arrival by the Imperial authorities. The Queensland Mounted Infantry was organised in 1884 by Colonel Ricardo, who is styled the “father” of mounted infantry in Queensland, and belongs to the Militia Division of the Colonial Defence force. The force is organised on the basis of three years’ service, and ordinarily is recruited from the bushman and farmer class—a sterling and hardy set of fellows, whose plain motto is “For God and the right.” The uniform, a highly becoming one, is of kharki, with claret-coloured facings. The hat is of the usual “brigand” shape, decorated at the side with a smart tuft of emu plumes.

The whole of the expenses of transport, equipment, arms, and food for men and horses during the voyage was defrayed by the Colony; pay on the field was met by the Imperial Exchequer, the Colony only meeting the difference between the Imperial and Colonial rates, the latter being higher.

The first Contingent consisted of 262 men and officers, who sailed in the Cornwall on November 11, 1899, amid a wild display of patriotic enthusiasm.

Officers of the first Contingent—Staff—Major P. R. Ricardo, to rank as Lieut.-Colonel; Sup. Captain R. S. Browne; Lieutenant C. H. A. Pelham;[Pg 154] Machine-Gun Section—Lieutenant C. H. Black, Royal Australian Artillery. A Company Queensland Mounted Infantry—Captain H. G. Chauvel; Lieutenant A. G. Adie (wounded at Sunnyside under Colonel Pilcher); Lieutenant C. A. Cumming; Lieutenant T. W. Glasgow; Lieutenant D. E. Reid. B Company Queensland Mounted Infantry—Captain P. W. G. Pinnock; Lieutenant H. Bailey; Lieutenant R. Dowse; Lieutenant R. Gordon. The second Contingent was composed of 148 men and 8 officers, with 5 additional officers for special service in South Africa. Officers of second Contingent—Lieut.-Colonel Kenneth Hutchison, Headquarters Staff, commanding; Captain W. G. Thompson, Queensland Mounted Infantry; Lieutenant H. J. Imrie Harris, Queensland Mounted Infantry; Lieutenant A. F. Crichton, Queensland Mounted Infantry; Lieutenant James Walker, 3rd Queensland (Kennedy) Regiment; Lieutenant R. M. Stodart, Queensland Mounted Infantry. Supernumeraries—Captain Sir Edward Stewart-Richardson, Bart., 3rd Battalion Black Watch; Lieutenant John H. Fox. Additional officers attached—Surgeon-Captain H. R. Nolan, A.M.C. Queensland Defence; Major D. W. Rankin; Captain F. W. Toll, special service; Captain A. E. Crichton, Camp Quartermaster; Captain W. T. Deacon, Camp Adjutant.

The second Contingent sailed in the Maori King on January 20. The night before they were to start it was discovered that the ship had been set on fire, but the flames were extinguished before much damage was done. There seemed to be no doubt it was the work of an incendiary, and the police kept a close watch over the vessel till she was fairly away. It was regarded as significant that the crew consisted mainly of Dutchmen and Germans.

The third Contingent, which sailed in the Duke of Portland on March 1, was 300 strong, with 350 horses. In addition to the above, about 20 men and 50 horses had been sent to Sydney, and sailed with the New South Wales Contingent on February 26. After accommodating men and horses, it was found that the Duke of Portland had still 500 tons of space available for cargo; this the Queensland Government offered to fill with forage for horses and men, and present to the Imperial Government.


South Australia speedily sent two Contingents to the front, and offered more should further help be required. The first Contingent was commanded by Captain F. H. Howland. This officer was born in Kensington, London, 1863, and served for three years in the Middlesex E.V. Royal Engineers. At the expiration of that time he went to Australia, and in 1885 joined the volunteer company which was being formed at Mount Gambier, in which he was appointed lance-corporal. Since then he has passed through every rank, was appointed captain in 1893, and made adjutant in June 1898. Captain Howland then became senior captain in the second battalion, and—having passed his examination for his majority—on the illness of his commanding officer, commanded the battalion on several occasions.

The officers of the Contingent were as follows: Captain F. H. Howland, D Company, Mount Gambier Infantry, C.O.; Captain G. R. Lascelles, Royal Fusiliers, A.D.C. to Lord Tennyson (attached); Lieutenant J. H. Stapleton, A Company, first battalion infantry; Lieutenant F. M. Blair, B Company, first battalion infantry; Lieutenant J. W. Powell, D Company, Mount Gambier Infantry; Major J. T. Toll, Medical Staff.

In regard to the payment of the troops the arrangement was simple. The men received 5s. a day. That meant that the pay received through the South[Pg 155] Australian Government and the pay from the Imperial Government would together amount to 5s. a day. Whatever amount the Imperial Government gave their soldiers, members of the South Australian Contingent received the same while on active service, and the balance paid to them by the South Australian Government would bring the amount up to 5s. a day. They did not propose to send any money from the Colony while the men were away, in order that, while fighting side by side with the Imperial soldiers, they should not receive more pay than their comrades. Their South Australian pay would be left at home until their return. If the British rate of pay were 1s. 4d., that arrangement would mean that 3s. 8d. per day would be due to them from the Colonial Government. Before starting the men received one month’s pay, amounting to £7, which was considered sufficient to supply their immediate wants, and see them over the voyage. On arrival at Port Elizabeth they began to receive the same pay as the British soldiers.

The officers of the second Contingent were: Captain J. Reade, commanding; J. F. Humphries, senior subaltern; G. H. Lynch, second subaltern; F. M. Rowell, third subaltern; G. J. Restall Walter, junior subaltern; W. J. Press, warrant officer, in charge of the “Colt” automatic machine-gun; William De Passy, warrant officer.

The first Contingent of infantry was afterwards turned into mounted infantry. The second Contingent was composed of cavalry, and one machine-gun section. The Australian Horse was drilled on exactly the same lines as British cavalry, and was, in fact, under the instruction of British cavalrymen. The men were either members of volunteer corps, or volunteered on the outbreak of the war from all parts of the Colony.

When the news of British reverses reached the Colony, the patriotic fervour of which the despatch of the first Contingent was a practical proof, was once more fanned into flame. The desire for Australian representation on the field of battle again translated itself into action, and the intimation that not only would further assistance be welcomed but that it was really wanted met with ready response. No lack of volunteers troubled the authorities, for numerous offers to serve were received from all parts of the colony, from persons of all classes and all ages. Among the youngest of those volunteering was Allan O’Halloran Wright, who was but fourteen years of age, who accompanied the Contingent as trumpeter. He is exceptionally well developed, and considerably taller than many of the rank and file. Among others was Sergeant Hanley, who was in the thick of the fight at Majuba Hill. He served with the 92nd Gordon Highlanders in the Afghan War, and received two decorations, including medal with the Kabul, Kandahar, and Charasia bars, and a star for the historical march from Kabul to Kandahar. He, with others, was mentioned in despatches for his conduct in defending Lord Roberts from an attack of the Ghilzais. He fought in twenty-seven engagements in Afghanistan, and was the youngest man in the regiment. He stood side by side with “Fighting Mac,” who was then a lance-corporal, and promoted to a commission for his distinguished services. After the Afghan War he went to India, and though he had completed seven years service, and need have done no more, he volunteered for service with the 92nd Highlanders in South Africa. After the miserable experiences of Majuba he went to South Australia, where he served for nine years with the permanent force. He acted as warder in the Yatala prison till, hearing of the war, he instantly volunteered.

On the 28th of October the Contingent dined at Government House, and after the meal the men were received in the great hall and thus eloquently[Pg 156] addressed by Lord Tennyson: “Men of the South Australian Contingent of the British army in South Africa—I am proud of being your Commander-in-Chief because of your splendid patriotism, your alacrity in obeying the summons of the old country, your self-sacrifice in leaving your comfortable homes to fight for the United Empire, to maintain the Queen’s position in South Africa, and to rescue the down-trodden Uitlanders from the political and social serfdom imposed on them by the Boers. When I was at home in 1897 I saw some of you in the Jubilee procession, and you were vociferously cheered by the millions of people in the streets. Why did they cheer you? Because they felt that you were our kith and kin, and that you were not only taking part in a triumphal procession in honour of the Queen, but that you were pledging yourselves that, if the needful occasion should arise, you would fight for our Queen and for our Empire. Your action now, and the action of all Australasia and of Canada, will make the nations of the earth hesitate before they strike at our Empire in the future, seeing our Imperial loyalty, our Imperial solidarity, our Imperial unity, our Imperial strength. I believe from my experience as your Governor that there is no man throughout South Australia who would not stand up in time of stress in defence of the Queen, the Empire, and the Union Jack. You are a gallant and stalwart body of men, and we rejoice in your soldierly appearance and your loyal enthusiasm. We feel sure that you will do your duty nobly, and return covered with honour and renown. Remember, my men, that obedience to discipline, and patience in enduring hardship, and promptitude in the performance of your military duties are the first steps towards the making of a victorious army. You are to be joined in South Africa to highly organised battalions of troops, some of the best in the world, commanded by highly trained and scientific officers. Obey these officers and your own implicitly, from the corporal to the Commander-in-Chief, whether on the field or in garrison, or wherever you are; and I need not tell you that, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you will learn a great deal that will be useful to you in the future. May Australia never be visited by war! If this ever happens, the British fleet will protect Australia in the first line of defence, but you must have an efficiently trained army as a second line of defence. Knowing this, the Federal Government of the future will, I am confident, put Australia in a proper state of military preparedness; and that is one of the reasons why I glory in our Federal Commonwealth to be. Remember always, my friends, that you are the guardians of a magnificent heritage, of a country of which you are justly proud, and that the experience which you Australians will gain in South Africa will not only enable you to fight, if necessary, for this country, but will also enable you to teach your comrades-in-arms, who are obliged to stay at home, something of the needful requirements of modern warfare. I know the General who is to lead you, Sir Redvers Buller. He is married to a cousin of my wife’s, and I can tell you that a finer soldier could not be met with. The motto he would wish to be given you would be: ‘Obedience and cheerful courage on service are an army’s strength.’ I am glad to have allowed—though it is personally a loss to myself—my A.D.C., Captain Lascelles, to accompany you, with special leave from the War Office at home. As you are aware, in him you have a thoroughly experienced and capable officer, and, like Captain Howland and your other officers, he is fond of you and devoted to your welfare. If I had to command a British army, I should know that, when you have had a little more military experience, with your pluck, your good marksmanship, and your loyalty, the standard of the Queen could well be intrusted to the keeping of the[Pg 157] Australian Contingent. It is my duty as well as my pleasure to tell you that, on behalf of the British people, Her Majesty’s Government have sent me two telegrams appreciative of the enthusiastic patriotism of yourselves, of the Ministry, and of South Australia. It is also my duty as well as my pleasure to read you the kindly and gracious message from the Queen, which has moved us all very deeply: ‘Her Majesty the Queen desires to thank the people of her Colonies in Australia for the striking manifestation of loyalty and patriotism in their voluntary offer to send troops to co-operate with Her Majesty’s Imperial forces in maintaining her position and the rights of British subjects in South Africa. She wishes the troops God-speed and a safe return.’ The Boers have forced war upon us and have invaded our territory. You are going to fight for the cause of British freedom, for the honour of Great Britain, for the honour of Australia. In the name, then, of our beloved Queen, of Great Britain, and of South Australia, I bid you farewell, and I wish you, after your work is accomplished, a safe and happy home-coming.”

On the 26th of January the second South Australian Contingent started for the Transvaal amid scenes of great enthusiasm. The Governor, Lord Tennyson, again made an inspiriting speech and wished them God-speed.


West Australia sent with the same energy of patriotism two Contingents amounting to 230 officers and men, with offers of more if required. The officers were: Capt. R. Moor, R.A.; Capt. H. S. Pilkington, late 21st Hussars; Major M’Williams, Medical Officer; Lieut. J. Campbell; Lieut. H. F. Darling; Lieut. F. W. M. Parker.


The Tasmanian Government were not behind the other Colonies of Australia in their desire to show their loyalty and patriotism by offering troops for Imperial service. There was, of course, some difference of opinion regarding the policy of going to fight at all, as the following cutting from a local journal will show: “In Tasmania, as elsewhere, there is a certain number, not many, of the crawling tribe, who always find that their country is in the wrong, and are never so happy as when they can hold up some foe as a model of virtue in contrast with the brutal Briton. It is curious to find those who call themselves friends of the working-classes indulging in this vein of oratory, but it is common to all the Colonies, and may be said to account for the little influence that the party has on general affairs. We have had here, of course, the inevitable Catholic priest who has denounced the British, for he always appears when Great Britain has any serious work to do, just as there is the usual meeting of Irish in New York. In Hobart the Catholic priests spoke feeling and appropriate words about the departure of the Contingent, but on the West Coast one Father Murphy went on the rampage in the good old style, and proceeded to denounce the country under the Government of which he lives, and which is liberal enough to allow him to say such things with impunity. I wonder whether these folk ever think about what would happen to them if they talked in the same strain in France, Germany, or even in the United States. It does not matter to Great Britain what these discontented ones say, but they might learn from the liberty they use the value of the freedom which they enjoy. On the whole, the people of Tasmania, while they deeply regret that war should be necessary, are fully alive to the value of a united empire, and are keenly anxious that she may vindicate her position in South Africa, and finally[Pg 158] get rid of the Boer incubus which has weighed upon the country ever since the Gladstone Ministry adopted the policy of scuttle and palaver.”

This quotation shows the drift of popular sentiment, and in the end loyalty everywhere prevailed, and some splendid fellows volunteered to go to the front. These were not “raw material,” but intelligent, handy soldiers, accustomed to the rough and tumble of bush life, and ready to provide for emergencies. Their commander, Captain Cameron, had seen some service, and took part in the famous march to Kandahar.

The first Contingent, sent in the Medic, consisted of eighty men, of which the officers were: Capt. C. St. Clair Cameron, Erandale, commanding (who was afterwards a prisoner in Pretoria); Lieut. W. Brown; Lieut. F. B. Heritage; Lieut. G. E. Reid, 1st Regt., Hobart. Of the privates the following were subsequently taken prisoners to Pretoria: M. H. Swan, V. J. Peers, A. Button. J. H. Whitelaw, also a private, who has distinguished himself by gallantry in the field and by saving a comrade’s life at the imminent risk of his own, will probably receive the V.C.

The second Contingent, which consisted of forty-five men, was under the command of Sergt. J. Stagg, of Deloraine.

Both Contingents were composed almost entirely of gentlemen.

Tasmania also contributed 100 men to the Imperial Australian Corps which was raised at Mr. J. Chamberlain’s suggestion from all the Australasian Colonies. The volunteering of the Tasmanian contingent to join hands with Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and shoulder to shoulder to support the “flag of old renown” in South Africa, gave origin to the following lines written by a Tasmanian poet:—

“War? We would rather peace; but, Mother, if fight we must,
There be none of your sons on whom you can lean with a surer trust;
Bone of your bone are we, and in death would be dust of your dust!”


There was immense excitement over the formation of the Imperial Bushmen or Roughriders’ Corps. It consisted of over 2000 mounted men, selected from those experienced in riding and looking after stock in country in its natural rough state, unbroken by cultivation, fences or roads. In the first instance, New Zealand made an offer to provide 500 such men, after which—as more were required—Australia was asked to raise a further 2000, the Imperial Government bearing the cost of forwarding them to the seat of war, and maintaining and paying them there. Four thousand applications from Victoria and 2000 from Adelaide were received. The citizens of Rockhampton immediately offered to provide and equip twenty-five Bushmen. New South Wales was represented by a Contingent of 500 men, and Queensland decided to join with the other Colonies in organising this smart and serviceable corps, whose value was estimated as equal to twice the number of infantry.

The movement was a most popular one, and gifts of horses were sent in from every direction. The public subscribed liberally, Captain Bridges alone giving £1000 towards the expenses of the Victorian Bushmen.

The officers selected for the New South Wales Bushmen were Lieut.-Colonel Airey in command, Major Onslow, three captains and fourteen subalterns. The movement was so popular and subscriptions so liberal, that it was decided that 100 men should be sent from South Australia instead of the fifty originally proposed. Colonel Williams, of the New South Wales Contingent, was[Pg 159] appointed principal medical officer for all the Australian Contingents serving in South Africa. The departure of the Bushmen on the 17th of January was a magnificent climax to the many magnificent demonstrations of patriotism which had been evidenced throughout the Colonies.


Between the Australasian and Canadian Colonies and the Volunteer Contingent from India there is a certain difference which it is necessary to recognise. In the Colonies, the movement to help the Mother Country in her need, though prompted and encouraged by popular enthusiasm, patriotism, and donations from private and public resources, was suggested, voiced, and supported by the respective Governments, the Premiers of which acted very prominently in the enterprise, whereas in India, the offer of military assistance was a spontaneous impulse springing from individual patriotism and carried out by private enterprise. India, being a Crown Colony, could display her loyalty in no other way. Her position was somewhat similar to the Home Establishment, and her regular British troops were under orders for South Africa in exactly the same way as were the Home forces. Nevertheless, India was not backward in independent demonstrations of loyalty. English officers from various native corps, who, in ordinary circumstances, could serve only in their respective Indian Contingents, now came forward and volunteered for active service in aid of the Imperial cause in South Africa. The “men” volunteered from all directions. Dapper young Calcutta merchants, sporting tea-planters from Assam, gallant indigo-planters, and dashing roughriders from Bombay, Assam, Bengal, Cawnpore, Mysore, and all manner of districts unknown even by name to the Little Englander sent in their appeal, and pressed to be allowed to play their part in the defence of the Empire; and thus the smart regiments known as Lumsden’s Horse, the Railway Contingent, and the Ceylon Mounted Contingent came to be recruited.

Colonel Lumsden, lately Commandant of the Assam Valley Light Horse, generously assisted both financially and personally in raising and equipping the force, and quantities of Calcutta men offered their services, their expenses being guaranteed by the firms employing them. Gifts and subscriptions poured in. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, headed the subscription-list by a handsome contribution, and so generous was the response of all India, that about £30,000 was collected in connection with the Transvaal war, including the equipment of volunteers.

The native princes offered troops and horses, and loyally expressed themselves towards the Queen Empress. The troops were declined, it being understood that the war was between white men alone. Their offers of horses were, however, accepted. Nevertheless, the generosity of the princes was not to be denied, and several among them, the Maharajah of Bikanir, the Maharajah of Durbhanga, and the Nawab of Moorshedabad, subscribed liberally to the expenses of Lumsden’s Horse, offering at the same time their best wishes for the success of the Contingent and the complete triumph of the British arms in South Africa.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, whose State is as large as France, and whose relations with the sovereign have always been most cordial, assisted handsomely, saying at the same time, with true Oriental grace, that his troops, his purse, and his own sword were at the service of the Queen. The Maharajah of Tanjore contributed 5000 rupees, while his son furnished a complete set of[Pg 160] X-ray apparatus. The Nawab of Bhavnagar State presented fifty fully equipped Arab horses to the force, and quantities of other prominent Nawabs displayed corresponding liberality. The Maharanee of Bettiah generously presented to each volunteer from her district a horse, and Khwajah Mahomed Khan forwarded from Mardan (on the Punjab frontier) the sum of 2000 rupees as an expression of loyalty, with his best wishes for the success of Lumsden’s Horse. As an instance of the excitement and martial feeling in regard to the Indian Transvaal Contingent, it may be noted that the instant the scheme was proposed, two-thirds of the Light Horse of Behar volunteered for service, promising to provide everything except means of transport. They formed part of Lumsden’s Horse, who were all men under forty years of age, many of them of independent means, with horses of their own.

The following is the list of officers who were appointed to Colonel Lumsden’s Corps:—

Lieut.-Colonel Dugald McT. Lumsden, Assam Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be Commandant, with the temporary rank of Lieut.-Colonel in the army; Lieut.-Colonel Eden Showers, late Commandant Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be second in command, with the temporary rank of Major in the army; Captain J. H. B. Beresford, Indian Staff Corps, to be Company Commander. To be Captains, with the temporary rank of Captain in the army: Major Henry Chamney, Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers; Captain Francis Clifford, Coorg and Mysore Volunteer Rifles; Second Lieutenant Bernard W. Holmes, East India Railway Volunteer Rifles; Second Lieutenant John B. Rutherford, Behar Light Horse Volunteers. To be Lieutenants, with the temporary rank of Lieutenant in the army: Lieutenant Charles L. Sidey, Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers; Herbert O. Pugh, gent.; George A. Nevill, gent.; Charles E. Crane, gent. Captain Louis H. Noblett, the Royal Irish Rifles, to be a Company Commander; Captain Neville C. Taylor, Indian Staff Corps, to be Adjutant; Surgeon-Captain Samuel A Powell, M.D., Surma Valley Light Horse Volunteers, to be Medical Officer, with the temporary rank of Captain; William Stevenson, gent., to be Veterinary Officer, with the temporary rank of Veterinary Lieutenant.

The Government provided free passages, and the railway authorities gave free passes. With the force went Mrs. C. W. Park and Mrs. M. C. Curry, wives of Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Park and Major M. C. Curry, of the 1st Devonshire Regiment, to assist in the hospitals in Natal. This regiment, it may be remembered, was with Sir George White, and had four officers severely wounded in its first battle, Elandslaagte, and was shut up in Ladysmith for over four months. Lumsden’s Horse sailed from India on February 6, much envied by all who had not the good fortune to be of their number.

After Photo by S. B. Barnard, Cape Town.

Ceylon was not behind India in patriotic enthusiasm, though its powers were more limited. Great demonstrations of loyalty prevailed everywhere in the island, and volunteers were eager to be enrolled. Out of the numbers applying 125 men were picked out and 5 officers. The force was armed with Lee-Metford magazine rifles, 500 rounds of ammunition, and were nearly all mounted on trained horses. Captain Rutherford, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was in command, and Captain Anderson, Royal Artillery, was second in command. Captain Toogood (Warwickshire Regiment) also accompanied the force.

The planters and merchants of Ceylon presented upwards of 30,000 lbs. of tea to be delivered free to the troops in South Africa, to be shipped with the Contingent, and many private individuals were equally generous. The[Pg 161] Legislative Council unanimously agreed that all expenses connected with the equipment, arming, transport, and, when necessary, mounting of the Ceylon Contingent, should be borne by the Colony. This liberal decision was acknowledged by Mr. Chamberlain in the following terms:—

Mr. Chamberlain to Governor the Right Hon. Sir J. West Ridgeway.

“Your telegrams of January 9 and January 10. Her Majesty’s Government congratulate Ceylon on completion of Contingent, which they accept with much pleasure, and highly appreciate patriotic and generous action of Legislative Council.”

The Ceylon Mounted Contingent sailed on February 2 for active service in South Africa, amid the prayers and good wishes of a huge concourse of people.

In addition to the above contingents from India and Ceylon, the Indian Government sent the guns and equipment for three field-batteries of 15-pounders, and also three corps of native transport drivers and muleteers—about 400 in all—under British officers.



It has been said that the whole course of the campaign might have been changed had the Cape Colony forces been utilised sufficiently early. If the Cape Ministry had begun at once by employing the splendid Colonial forces at its disposal, not for purposes of defiance, but of defence, the tale of raid and rebellion, which has been as harassing as the tale of war, would never have been told. But as it is useless to talk of the might have been, or of things done or left undone by the Cape Ministry, we must proceed to consider the services of the Cape Colonial Force, of the ten thousand volunteers, when they were eventually allowed to come into action. Of the splendid troops in Mafeking and Kimberley the Colony must ever be proud, for on them fell the weight of showing what worthy offshoots of the bold and the brave the sun of South Africa has reared. These men, recruited for the most part from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Queenstown, Grahamstown, and Kimberley, consisted largely of past and present Cape Colony Volunteers. They were bone of our bone, and when the hour of stress arrived they proved themselves as such. They were immensely proud to be included in the term British, and right royally they acted up to the higher interpretation of that term. Though they have borne years of insult and suffered in innumerable ways for their fealty and devotion to the Mother Country, they rushed to arms joyfully in the hope that Great Britain would reassert herself, annex the whole of South Africa, and administer it under one Government. They longed to be quit of Dutch intrigue. They pined for a strong rule, one that would be free of the vacillations that had kept them on tenter-hooks for years, and prevented their living in a sense of security enjoyed by other freeborn British subjects. By these loyal fellows the towns of Mafeking and Kimberley were practically defended. In those places there were very few Imperial troops, and little could have been accomplished without the aptness and grit of the Colonials. The reason why they appeared to be neglected is not far to seek. No man is a[Pg 162] prophet in his own country, and to this trite fact may be attributed the want of instant appreciation accorded to the Cape Colonial Volunteers who so spontaneously and with genuine zeal responded to the call of duty. While we made much of the Colonials from over the seas—the “Visiting Colonials” as they are called—we failed to see that at our elbows were the very men who would leap forward at a word and check the onward career of the enemy and put a stop to his annexations while our troops in England were getting into shape. But later we jumped at them. Then the Cape Colonists began to be vastly appreciated, and to receive the highest encomiums from all who had the good fortune to serve with them.

The following is a table of some of the prominent Colonial forces of Cape Colony, 1900:—

CORPS Establishment Effective to Date Remarks OFFICERS
All Ranks Horses Officers N.C.O.’s and Men Horses
Irregulars raised before War              
Rhodesian Regiment   ...   ... ... ...     These numbers have been increased within the last few months by recruiting, Kitchener’s Horse showing an increase of about 50. The figures, therefore, are only approximately correct ...
Protectorate Regiment } 650 ... ...   ... { Col. Baden-Powell, 5th Dragoon Guards
Kimberley Regiment
Diamond Fields Horse   100 ... ... ...   ...
Bechuanaland Rifles   100 ... ... ... ... ...
Irregulars raised since War            
Rimington’s Guides   212 220 ... ... ... {
Lieut.-Col. Hon. J. Byng, 10th Hussars
Capt. Villiers, Royal Horse Guards
1st S.A.L. Horse   599 580 ... ... ...
Roberts’s Horse   599 580 ... ... ...
Kitchener’s Horse   599 580 41 617 586 ...
1st Brabant’s Light Horse   599 580 ... ... ... ...
2nd Brabant’s Light Horse   599 580 ... ... ... ...
Gatacre’s Scouts   50 50 ... ... ... ...
Montmorency’s Cavalry Division Scouts   100 100 ... ... ... ...
6th Cavalry Division Scouts   25 25 ... ... ... ...
Chief in Command’s Body Guard   50 50 ... ... ... ...
Local Defence Corps            
Nesbitt’s Mounted Local Defence Corps   400 400 ... ... ... ...
Bayley’s Mounted Local Defence Corps   500 500 ... ... ... ...
Orpen’s Horse   300 300 ... ... ... ...
Railway Pioneer Regiment   1008 8 34 959 15 ... ...
P.A.O. Cape Artillery   ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Diamond Fields Artillery   ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
Cape Garrison Artillery   ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

Strength of Volunteer Corps on Active Service

Prince Alfred’s Own Cape Artillery—officers, 5; other ranks, 117; total, 122. Diamond Fields Artillery—officers, 4; other ranks, 119; total, 123. Cape Garrison Artillery—officers, 18; other ranks, 431; total, 449. Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles—officers, 31; other ranks, 1027; total, 1058. Cape Town Highlanders—officers, 12; other ranks, 392; total, 404. Prince Alfred’s Volunteer Guard—officers, 21; other ranks, 494; total, 515.[Pg 163] First City Volunteers—officers, 22; other ranks, 556; total, 578. Kaffrarian Rifles (Colonel Cuming)—officers, 31; other ranks, 672; total, 703. Queenstown Rifle Volunteers—officers, 18; other ranks, 299; total, 317. Frontier Mounted Rifles—officers, 10; other ranks, 131; total, 141. Uitenhage Volunteer Rifles—officers, 16; other ranks, 396; total, 412. Komgha Mounted Rifles—officers, 5; other ranks, 41; total, 46. Stellenbosch Mounted Infantry—officers, 1; other ranks, 31; total, 32. Kimberley Regiment—officers, 25; other ranks, 541; total, 566. Bechuanaland Rifles—officers, 5; other ranks, 61; total, 66. A Company Cape Medical Staff Corps—officers, 2; other ranks, 55; total, 57. B Company Cape Medical Staff Corps—officers, 3; other ranks, 71; total, 74. C Company Cape Medical Staff Corps—officers, 0; other ranks, 13; total, 13. Transkei Mounted Rifles—officers, 5; other ranks, 66; total, 71. No. 1 Xalanga Border Mounted Rifle Club—officers, 4; other ranks, 40; total, 44. No. 19 Tembuland Mounted Rifle Club—officers, 2; other ranks, 21; total, 23. No. 23 Nqamakwe Mounted Rifle Club—officers, 1; other ranks, 21; total, 22. No. 25 Engcobo Mounted Rifle Club—officers, 1; other ranks, 28; total, 29. No. 29 Tsomo Mounted Rifle Club—officers, 1; other ranks, 29; total, 30.

South African Scout. Full Equipment.
South African Scout. Full Equipment.

To prove his appreciation of the devotion and military prowess of the Cape colonists Lord Roberts, on his arrival in South Africa, decided on raising a Colonial Division. The official intimation of the formation of this division was contained in the following announcement:—

“The Commander-in-Chief, recognising the value of the services rendered by the Colonial troops, has authorised the formation of a division. Colonel Brabant, M.L.A., C.M.G., has been given the local and temporary rank of a Brigadier-General, and will be in command. Brabant’s Horse, with several other irregular corps and mounted contingents, limited in number, from the infantry volunteer regiments, will form the first portion of this force, and its[Pg 164] first object will be to drive the enemy out of the Colony, and to co-operate with the Imperial troops. It has been decided to raise a further 1500 mounted irregulars, so as to give all Colonials and men with Colonial experience a chance of joining this division. Men who enrol in this Mounted Irregular Corps, and who cannot afford to go on a long campaign, will be allowed to register their names for service in the Colony only, but any portion of such registered men can volunteer to take part in any further advance that may be ordered beyond the Orange River. To raise this latter force recruiting stations will be open in all parts of the Colony, and it is proposed to elect officers from Colonial gentlemen or those with Colonial experience.”

As may be imagined, there was great jubilation among the thousands of martial spirits at the Cape, who for long had been fretting at enforced inactivity.

Some very interesting particulars regarding raising of some of the Colonial Corps were elicited from Mr. W. Hosken, who was chairman of the Uitlander Council and the Chamber of Commerce at Johannesburg. He said: “I was chairman of the committee which obtained permission from the Government to raise Thorneycroft’s and Bethune’s Corps of mounted infantry and the Imperial Light Horse, and all raised in Natal and mainly from refugee Uitlanders from Johannesburg. From the Imperial officers with whom I was brought into contact I received every consideration and the greatest cordiality. But again it should be remembered that we got the permission only after pressure had been brought to bear by public meetings at Durban and Maritzburg, and in other ways. The response was most gratifying. Only when the Boers were threatening to advance on Maritzburg were we allowed to form the Imperial Light Horse. Intimation of the permission was given on the Friday. By the following Wednesday we were able to report that 1300 men had offered for service, and that the medical examination would be at once begun. Thorneycroft’s Corps was the first to take the field, and was actually fighting within six weeks from the date of its enrolment. The testimony from Boer sources as to the value of these regiments has been most gratifying. In one verbal statement by a Boer commandant they were described as ‘evidently skilled sharpshooters.’ Then there are the Natal Volunteers, recruited in very much the same way as your Volunteers at home, clerks and artisans from the towns, with the mounted companies from the country districts. They took the field possibly with some misgivings as to their capacity, just as the Volunteers here might do; but they have proved themselves equal to any military duty that is imposed on them. The soldiers of the regular army recognise them as worthy comrades, and the greatest cordiality exists between the regular and volunteer forces. Later on there was formed also in Natal a body of Colonial scouts—750 strong—recruited from local men who knew the country. Those who wished to serve together were placed in the same squad. Every section of twenty-five men elects its own leader, and every four sections its commander. They have already proved their efficiency in service with Sir Redvers Buller’s army. Then there is the corps of ambulance bearers. When General Buller was making arrangements for the attack on Colenso last month he asked for 1200 white bearers. On the first day the notice was posted in Durban 900 men volunteered. Far more than the required number offered, and a selection was made of those who were considered the most fitted for the duty. These men did excellent work, bringing out the wounded under fire during that disastrous day at Colenso. Three were killed and several wounded, and every one of the corps behaved splendidly.”

In regard to the apparent neglect of the Volunteers at the Cape, he went on[Pg 165] to say: “The delay in recruiting irregulars at the Cape was not in the least due to the unwillingness of the Uitlanders there or of the British residents. It was the result of political considerations which were then thought to be of sufficient weight by well-advised men on the spot. The delay caused a great deal of heart-burning among hundreds who were only too keen to take up arms; and it is only quite recently that permission has been given to form irregular corps and to accept the services of the Cape Volunteers already in existence, who were eager to serve. Directly the permission was given men flocked to the standard, and you have now Rimington’s Guides, the South African Light Horse, and the Cape Volunteers, who have all promptly proceeded to the front. Another most useful body is now being recruited both in Natal and in Cape Colony—I mean the Railway Pioneer Corps. It is being officered by the most eminent of the mining engineers of Johannesburg, and the rank and file are made up of skilled mechanics, who are specially qualified for the particular duties they will have to perform. They will be armed in the ordinary way, drilled as an engineer corps, and will be expected to do the ordinary work of the military engineer.”

The Imperial Light Horse, formed by Majors Sampson and Karri Davies, was largely composed of Australians. Many Johannesburg people joined it, most of them “all-round sportsmen, capital shots, and keen riders.” They joined on the principle of not allowing the Mother Country to fight their battles for them while they had a right arm with which to assert themselves.

The Cape Mounted Police, 1000 strong, who were also sent on active service at the commencement of the war, were invaluable. They were remarkable, not alone for gallantry, but efficiency. When Captain de Montmorency’s Scouts were cut off near Labuschagnes Nek by some 800 Boers, Captain Golsworthy on the last day of the year came to the rescue with a party of the Cape Mounted Police, and put the enemy to flight.

Early in 1900, the Rhodesian Field Force, under the command of Lieut.-General Sir Frederick Carrington, was organised to operate in Northern Rhodesia, and stop any trekking of members of the Free State or Transvaal or rebels of Cape Colony into Rhodesian territory.

The officers were:—Major C. D. Learoyd, Royal Engineers; Major A. V. Jenner, D.S.O., Rifle Brigade; Major C. L. Josling, Royal Army Medical Corps; Major G. A. R. Carew, 7th Hussars; Captain E. Peach, Indian Staff Corps; Captain R. G. Partridge, Army Ordnance Department; Captain W. E. Lawrence, South Wales Borderers; Second Lieutenant C. S. Rome, 11th Hussars; Second Lieutenant C. H. Dillon, Rifle Brigade; Paymaster G. J. C. Whittington, Hon. Colonel; Lieutenant Pemberton; Major P. Dalton, late 3rd V.B. Royal Fusiliers; Major C. D. Guise, 3rd Gloucester Regiment; Brevet-Major P. Moir Byres, 1st Dragoon Guards; Captain C. W. Kennard, 3rd Gordon Highlanders; Second Lieutenant W. H. Longden, 4th East Surrey Regiment; Chaplain Rev. F. P. Moreton, M.A.; Lieutenant R. Laing, surgeon; Lieutenant E. A. Parsons, surgeon; Lieutenant H. Cardin, surgeon; Lieutenant F. F. Bond, surgeon; Lieutenant G. H. Collard, surgeon; Lieutenant F. R. Pullin, surgeon; Lieutenant H. D. Buss, surgeon; Colonel H. C. Wood, late 10th Hussars; Lieut.-Colonel J. Leslie, 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers; Lieutenant-Colonel B. G. Booth, late Scots Guards; Major J. W. Traill, late 4th Cheshire; Captain R. Gray, C.M.G., late 6th Dragoons; Captain E. C. P. Curzon, late 18th Hussars; Captain F. C. P. Curzon, Royal Irish Rifles; Captain H. F. F. Fisher, Army Service Corps; Veterinary-Captain H. T. W.[Pg 166] Mann; Lieutenant J. K. Rashleigh, late Artillery Militia; Lieutenant F. J. Lawrence, late English Militia; Lieutenant C. A. Burgoyne, 3rd Dragoon Guards; Lieutenant A. Wormald, surgeon; Major E. J. Tickell, D.S.O., 14th Hussars; Captain J. Ponsonby, Coldstream Guards; Captain Pereira, Coldstream Guards; Captain H. J. Haddock, Royal Welsh Fusiliers; Captain R. K. Arbuthnot, Royal Irish Regiment; Lieutenant W. D. P. Watson, late Scots Greys; Major G. Wright, R.G.A.; Major A. Paris, R.M.A.; Captain and Hon. Major G. E. Giles, late R.A. In all, forty-four officers.


The following is a list of the names and numbers of the local forces which the colony of Natal has put into the field: Natal Naval Volunteers, 150; Natal Carabineers (Colonel Royston, since dead), 465; Natal Mounted Rifles, 200; Border Mounted Rifles, 270; Umvoti Mounted Rifles (Major Leuchars), 130; Natal Field Artillery, 120; Natal Royal Rifles, 145; Durban Light Infantry, 400; Medical Staff, 7; Veterinary, 3; Staff, 19; Natal Mounted Police (Europeans) at Ladysmith and other portions of the Colony (Colonel Dartnell), 649; Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry (Colonel Thorneycroft, Royal Scots Fusiliers, D.A.A.G.), 500; Bethune’s Mounted Infantry (Lieut.-Colonel Bethune, 16th Lancers, Colonel Addison second in command), 500; Imperial Light Infantry (Colonel Nash), 1000; Imperial Light Horse (Colonel Scott Chisholm, killed 21st November 1899), 500; Colonial Scouts (Colonel Edwards, Captain Sydney Osborne), 500; Ambulance Bearers (1st section), 1000; Ambulance Bearers (2nd section), 600. Total, 7158.

The South African Light Horse is mentioned among the Cape Colonial troops, though it has done notable work in Natal. The second and third regiments of the corps became respectively Roberts’s and Kitchener’s Horse. In the district of Kaffraria half the available men were embodied, men belonging to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles—one of the corps of “regulars” belonging to Cape Colony.

The South African Light Horse was started on the 12th of November. By order of Sir Redvers Buller a recruiting office was opened in Cape Town, whereupon the place was instantly invaded. Patriotic fervour ran high, and every one desired to take a share in showing forth the might of Great Britain. The officers, Major Byng (10th Hussars, with temporary rank of colonel) and Captain Villiers (R.H.G., with temporary rank of major), set themselves manfully to hurry the work of organisation. In no time men were picked—fine riders and fine shots—mounted and equipped. Saddlery, tents, harness, ammunition—all were gathered together with startling celerity. Among the troopers were British-born subjects, Uitlanders, Colonials, Americans, farmers, seamen, &c. The officers hailed from many regiments—the 10th Hussars, Royal Horse Guards, Life Guards, 11th Hussars, 20th Hussars, Gordon Highlanders, Yeomanry, Militia—all manner of men of distinction and wealth and breeding uniting together in a common brotherhood for a common cause.

The following is a list of the officers: Colonel Byng, 10th Hussars, commanding; Major Villiers, Royal Horse Guards, second in command; Captain Fraser, 1st Life Guards, adjutant; Captain French, late L.G., Maxims; Captain Harden, Transport; Captain Murray; Captain Anderson; Captain Hull, paymaster; Vet.-Captain Walker; Vet.-Lieutenant Steele; Chaplain Rev. G. Eales. Squadron Leaders—Captain Balfour, late 11th Hussars; Major (Bimbash) Stewart, Gordon Highlanders; Captain Kirkwood; Captain Gatacre; Captain Renton; Captain Whittaker; Captain Child; Captain Allgood.[Pg 167] Lieutenants Milne, Tucker, Brown, Jobling, De Rougemont, Tarbutt, Davis, Bathurst, Shepherd; Second Lieutenants Warren, Carlton Smith, Hamilton, Cock, Leith, Welstead, Robinson, Oates, Johnson, Vignelles, Vaughan, Carlisle, Marsden, Overbeck, Newman, Penrose, Kuhlman, Horne, Cloete, Walker-Leigh, Hon. de Saumarez, Thorold, Kitson, Vaghan.

Three squadrons under Captain Byng proceeded to the front to Natal, where they immediately distinguished themselves, while the remainder of the regiment went to the western border, and there took a full share of incessant work.

The Natal Mounted Police under Colonel Dartnell, “a genius, planner, and guide,” did wonderful deeds in relation to the defence of Ladysmith and during the trying actions which preceded it. The gallant colonel, who has been described in action as being “as good as a brigade,” placed his own horse at the disposal of General Symons, who was wounded, and saw him safely off the field at Glencoe.

The Natal Carabineers served splendidly both within and without Ladysmith, some of the force, under Lord Dundonald, being the first to relieve the town. Their fighting qualities are well known, and it is unnecessary to do more than quote the words of General Hunter, who said, “I never wish to serve with better men.”

First-rate work has been done by the Frontier Mounted Rifles, a well-trained and excellently-equipped body of men, all in the prime of life, and drawn from the eastern border towns of the Cape Colony. They held a position of continual danger, being encamped nearest the enemy. Being born and bred among the kopjes which afforded the Boers such cosy hiding-places, they were acquainted with every nook and corner, and could find their way about them both in daylight and dark. This force, with the Cape Police, helped to keep General Gatacre informed regarding the seething mass of disloyalty that surrounded him. It was difficult to choose between the honest hostility of the Free Staters and the crafty antagonism of the rebel Dutchmen, who had joined the enemy almost to a man. These were known to be in active collusion with the foe, assisting them by spying, blowing up culverts, wrecking railway lines, and generally assisting in the development of the plots to sweep British rule from the soil of Africa. Loyal British subjects had much to suffer at the hands of these people, who spent their time carrying off and destroying furniture and valuables, smashing windows and doors, and damaging all property other than their own that they could lay hands on, and with these duplicit ruffians the British troops unaided by Colonials could never have been even. Besides the valuable services of the Frontier Mounted Rifles and the Cape Police, General Gatacre had under him four other regiments of Cape Colonials, who were all trying to outrival each other in nobility, pluck, and usefulness. Of many other regiments pages might be written, but space does not permit. In regard to the Imperial Light Horse, one sentence expressed by Sir George White speaks volumes. He said it was composed of the finest fighting material that he had ever had under his command.


Early in the days of war Lord Lonsdale offered to take out to South Africa 200 men of the Westmoreland and Cumberland Yeomanry, of which he is colonel, and to fully equip and clothe them. Lord Harris and his regiment, the East Kent Mounted Rifles, also were among the first to volunteer for the front, and before that the Middlesex Yeomanry (the Duke of Cambridge’s[Pg 168] Hussars) made a hurried application to go to the Transvaal, which impetuosity of loyalty was met by the War Office with courteous refusal. At that time the need for light cavalry in South Africa seemed scarcely to have dawned on the authorities. It was true that October mists and November fogs had enveloped London, and that no one between Downing Street and the Mansion House could see an inch before his nose, and it was equally true that by the time these mists had cleared away there was only one question, namely, “How many men could be sent abroad out of the 10,000 who constituted the Yeomanry Cavalry?”

Then, in December, the following announcement, with regulations to be observed in the organisation of a Contingent of Yeomanry and Volunteers, was published:—

Yeomanry.—1. Her Majesty’s Government have decided to raise for service in South Africa a mounted infantry force, to be named “The Imperial Yeomanry.” 2. The force will be recruited from the Yeomanry, but Volunteers and civilians who may possess the requisite qualifications (as given below) will be specially enrolled in the Yeomanry for this purpose. 3. The force will be organised in companies of 115 rank and file, five officers being allotted to each company, viz., one captain and four subalterns, preference being given to Yeomanry officers. 4. The term of enlistment for officers and men will be for one year, or for not less than the period of the war. 5. The officers and men will bring their own horses, clothing, saddlery, and accoutrements. Arms and ammunition, camp equipment, and regimental transport will be provided by Government. 6. The men will be dressed in Norfolk jackets, of woollen material of neutral colour, breeches and gaiters, lace boots, and felt hats. Strict uniformity of pattern will not be insisted upon. 7. The pay will be at cavalry rates, with a capitation grant for horses, clothing, saddles, and accoutrements. All ranks will receive rations from date of joining. Gratuities and allowances will be those laid down in special army order of May 10, 1899. 8. Applications for enrolment should be addressed to colonels commanding Yeomanry regiments, or to General Officers commanding districts, to whom instructions will be immediately issued.

Qualifications.—(a) Candidates must be from twenty to thirty-five years of age and of good character. (b) Volunteers or civilian candidates must satisfy the colonel of the regiment through which they enlist that they are good riders and marksmen, according to Yeomanry standard. (c) The standard of physique to be that for cavalry of the line.

Volunteers.—Her Majesty’s Government have decided to accept offers of service in South Africa from the Volunteers. A carefully selected company of 110 rank and file, officered by one captain and three subalterns, will be raised (one for each British line battalion serving in, or about to proceed to, South Africa) from the Volunteer battalions of the territorial regiment. These Volunteer companies will, as a general rule, take the place in the line battalion of its company, serving as mounted infantry. The Volunteer battalions from which a company is accepted will form and maintain a waiting company in reserve at home. The selection of men from the Volunteer battalions for service with the line battalion in the field, will devolve on the commanding officers of Volunteer battalions. The terms of enlistment for officers and men will be for one year, or for not less than the period of the war. Full instructions for the information of all concerned will be issued with the least possible delay through General Officers commanding districts.

Drawing by Allan Stewart.

A committee was formed to assist in organising the Yeomanry force, among[Pg 169] which were the following notable persons: Colonel Lord Chesham, Colonel A. G. Lucas, Colonel Viscount Valentia, Colonel the Right Hon. W. H. Long, M. P. Colonel the Earl of Lonsdale consented to assist the committee in the obtaining of horses. The following Acting Staff Officers were nominated to assist Colonel Lord Chesham: Captain the Hon. W. Bagot (late Scots Guards), Captain L. Sandwith (8th Hussars), Adjutant of the 2nd Yeomanry Brigade.

In a short, an almost incredibly short, space of time numerous battalions were in readiness, and a strong contingent from Ireland was raised, composed mainly of hunting men. The Under-Secretary for War wrote to correct the impression which prevailed in some quarters that the raising of funds by private subscriptions for the Volunteers and Imperial Yeomanry going to South Africa was promoted by Government in order to do work which ought to be done with Government money. He pointed out that the Government was bearing the whole cost of those forces, providing them directly with their pay, food, and arms, and, through their regiments, with clothing and equipments. But the Government allowance for these things was calculated on the regular army scale, and the public subscription would be serviceable in the way of making better provision in those directions for the local Volunteers and Yeomanry, of locally overcoming certain difficulties of organisation, and of decentralising a great deal of contracting for horses, saddles, clothing, &c. Why, they argued, should the man who volunteers his service in the field bear also all the cost of making himself efficient, and all the cost entailed by his absence from his trade or profession? Surely those who could not volunteer for the front will be glad to assist him, or his corps in this case, as they have assisted him or his corps in time of peace for forty years? Quantities of men of independent means throughout the country, a great many of whom were acquainted with each other, were ready and anxious to form a corps of the Imperial Yeomanry, messing and fighting together, and enduring the hardships and dangers of the trooper in emulation of the regular service man; and to this body of men the corps specially appealed. Though at first some 5000 men were called for, it was evident that 10,000 could have been recruited if needed. The magnificent example set by thousands of young men in humble stations of life, who left home and good employment courageously to serve their country, acted as a powerful incentive to their more fortunate brethren of means and leisure, and it was astonishing to find how readily all the members of the “upper ten” sacrificed themselves rather than be “out of it.” Eventually the Duke of Cambridge’s Own, the Special Corps, went to Africa, paying their own expenses. In this corps every trooper, equally with every other member of the Imperial Yeomanry, was entitled to a grant of £65 on joining, but all other expenses were defrayed by themselves, and even the pay received during the campaign was devoted to swell the Imperial War Fund for the widows and orphans of soldiers who had fallen in action. The cost of equipment of each recruit amounted to £170. The special purpose of the scheme was to attract men of social standing and education, and enable groups of friends to serve together in the same unit at the front. Among those who were enrolled was Lord Elphinstone; Mr. Geoffrey Malcolm Gathorne-Hardy, grandson of the Earl of Cranbrook; Captain Shaw; the Hon. Aubrey N. Molyneux Herbert (brother of the Earl of Carnarvon); the Hon. A. Hill-Trevor. Lord Lovat engaged himself actively in raising a corps of Highland gillies. In addition to the Government grant, magnificent contributions poured in for the full equipment of the corps. Lord Loch worked energetically in organising the South[Pg 170] African Contingent of the Imperial Yeomanry. These troops were formed only of men who had South African experience, and had seen service there.

The following is a list of the various battalions:—

1st Battalion (Colonel Challoner)—1st and 2nd Co. Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry; 4th Co. Glamorganshire Detachment; 3rd Co. Gloucestershire Yeomanry. 2nd Battalion (Colonel Burke)—32nd Co. Lancashire Hussars; 21st and 22nd Co. Cheshire Yeomanry; 5th Co. Warwickshire Yeomanry. 3rd Battalion (Colonel Younghusband)—9th Co. Yorkshire Hussars; 11th Co. Yorkshire Dragoons; 12th Co. South Notts; 10th Co. Notts (Sherwood Rangers). 4th Battalion (Colonel Blair)—7th Co. Leicestershire Yeomanry; 8th Co. Derbyshire Yeomanry; 6th Co. Staffordshire Yeomanry; 28th Co. Bedfordshire Detachment. 5th Battalion (Colonel Meyrick)—14th and 15th Co. Northumberland; 13th Co. Shropshire; 16th Co. Worcestershire. 6th Battalion (Colonel Burn)—17th Co. Ayrshire Yeomanry; 18th Co. Lanarkshire Yeomanry; 19th Co. Lothian and Berwickshire; 20th Co. Fife Light Horse. 7th Battalion (Colonel Helyar)—27th Co. Royal 1st Devon, Royal North Devon; 48th Co. North Somerset; 25th Co. West Somerset; 26th Co. Dorsetshire. 8th Battalion (Colonel Crawley)—23rd Co. Duke of Lancaster’s Own; 51st and 52nd Co. Mr. Paget’s Corps; 24th Co. Westmoreland and Cumberland. 9th Battalion (Colonel Howard)—29th Co. Denbighshire; 30th Co. Pembrokeshire; 31st and 49th Co. Montgomeryshire. 10th Battalion (Colonel Lord Chesham)—37th and 38th Co. Buckinghamshire; 39th Co. Berkshire; 40th Co. Oxfordshire, 11th Battalion (Colonel Wilson)—42nd Co. Hertfordshire; 43rd and 44th Co. Suffolk; 41st Co. Hampshire Carabineers. 12th Battalion (Colonel Mitford)—34th and 35th Co. Middlesex; 33rd Co. Royal East Kent; 36th Co. West Kent. 13th Battalion—54th and 56th Co. Irish (Belfast) Companies; 45th Co. Irish (Dublin) Company; 47th Co. Lord Donoughmore’s Corps (Duke of Cambridge’s Own). 14th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Brookfield)—55th Co. Northumberland; 53rd Co. Royal East Kent; 50th Co. Hampshire; 62nd Co. Middlesex. 15th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Sandwith)—56th and 57th Co. Bucks; 58th Co. Berks; 59th Co. Oxford. 16th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Ridley)—63rd Co. Wilts; 64th Co. Cheshire; 65th Co. Suffolk; 66th Co. York. 17th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Moore ?)—60th Co. North Irish, Belfast; 61st Co. South Irish, Dublin. 18th Battalion—67th, 70th, and 71st Co. Sharpshooters. 19th Battalion (Lieut.-Colonel Rodney ?)—69th Co. Sussex; 68th Co. Paget’s Corps; 72nd Co. Rough Riders; 73rd Co. Paget’s Corps.

Each battalion consisted of four companies of 116 each.

Colonel Viscount Downe, who was serving on Lord Roberts’s staff in South Africa, was elected to command a brigade of the Imperial Yeomanry, and Lieutenant the Hon. R. F. Molyneux, Royal Horse Guards, was selected as his aide-de-camp.

Lord Dunraven’s Battalion of Sharpshooters embarked for Africa to join the Rhodesian Force on the 6th of April. It was composed of four companies. The 67th, under the command of Captain Crum (late 52nd Regiment), was accompanied by Lieutenants Langford, Jones, Curley, and Dyke. The 75th, commanded by Major Warden (late Middlesex Regiment), was accompanied by Lieutenants Gabbett, Power, Warde, and Bosanquet. The 70th Company, comprising the Scottish Unit under Colonel Hill (late 12th Lancers), was accompanied by Lieutenants Clark, Torrance, Hotchkiss, and Andrews. The remaining company was commanded by Sir Savile Crossley.

The Earl of Dunraven, the founder of the corps, went to South Africa as Supernumerary Captain on the Battalion Staff.[Pg 171]


The announcement that the Government had decided to send to South Africa a force of Volunteers, was received with general delight by our civilian soldiers throughout the country. Here was a chance—a chance never before offered to earn distinction in the field; and here was an opportunity—most seasonable and appropriate, for the expression of public opinion, and for the display, the universal and effervescent patriotism that had found little chance of outlet in the prosaic walks of everyday life. The official intimation came as a surprise, and surprise in a few moments developed into unrestrained joy. The proposal to employ “a strong contingent of carefully selected Volunteers” was no sooner published than the War Office was besieged with applicants all eager to know what chance of being included in the great military movement might be available. A few weeks before the opening of Parliament Colonel Sir Howard Vincent volunteered “marksmen” for service in South Africa, and other colonels of Volunteer regiments followed suit. General Trotter (commanding the Home District) expressed a belief that the employment of Volunteers in the present crisis would demonstrate for all who should care to profit by the lesson the magnificent reserve force of civilian soldiers possessed by our nation, a force utterly ignored by Continental nations. This force was practically a force of picked men, selected marksmen who, unlike the “Regulars,” were all first-rate shots, and fit to cope with the skilled sharpshooters of the Boers. The marksmanship of many of the London corps of Volunteers has for many years been phenomenal, and it was said that in one company of the 13th Middlesex there were no less than sixty-three first-class shots out of eighty. Finally, it was decided that the “C.I.V.’s,” as they were called, should consist of 1400, and both corps sailed towards the end of January. Prior to their departure the Freedom of the City was conferred upon the officers of the regiment at the Guildhall, and later an impressive farewell service was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Their departure through London was somewhat difficult, owing to the dense and enthusiastic multitude that thronged the streets to see the last of them.

12½-Pounder Quick-Firing Field-Gun—City of London Field Battery.
12½-Pounder Quick-Firing Field-Gun—City of London Field Battery.
(By permission of Messrs. Vickers, Sons & Maxim, and the publishers of the Engineer.)

The Lord Mayor, Mr. Newton (now Sir A. J. Newton, Bart.), who was the moving spirit in the organisation of the corps, gave an excellent account of the splendid work that had been accomplished and of the prompt equipment and despatch of the regiment. This report concisely and modestly describes the enormous undertaking, though it does not sufficiently enlarge on the keen personal interest and magnificent services rendered by the prime mover in the great scheme. The Lord Mayor said: “From the moment when the Commander-in-Chief did me the honour of placing in my hands, as Chief Magistrate of the City of London, the organisation of a regiment of thoroughly qualified Volunteers for service in South Africa, I have been profoundly impressed with the responsibility of the trust, and the importance of every promise made on behalf of the Corporation and City of London being fulfilled in its integrity. The original promise was 1000 Metropolitan Volunteers, all recommended by their commanding officers, all between twenty and thirty-five years, all bachelors, and that at least 250 should be mounted. That was on the 20th of December (1899), and now, on the 3rd of February (1900), the City of London, with the approval of the military authorities, has completely equipped and despatched to the seat of war upwards of 1550 selected Volunteers, of whom 500 men and 17 officers are already in Cape Town—all approved by the General Officer commanding the Home District. Of these, 400 are mounted[Pg 172] infantry, having their saddlery with them, and their horses ready at the Cape. Four small Maxim guns, with 200,000 rounds of ammunition, have also been shipped. A highly trained battery of field artillery, mainly provided by the Honourable Artillery Company, through the zealous co-operation of the Earl of Denbigh, composed of 140 men and officers, left the Royal Albert Docks by the steamship Montfort. This section took with it four 12½-pounder quick-firing guns and ample ammunition, together with their full complement of 110 horses, purchased here, as they must be of a stouter type than the Cape horses. The City has also—which was not originally intended—provided the entire camp and tent equipment for the whole force when it leaves Cape Town, and, at the request of the authorities, done a good deal in the direction of land transport, without interfering with the responsibility of the Headquarters Staff in South Africa in respect of maintenance of the corps. The regiment constitutes a part of her Majesty’s regular army. The officers and men are soldiers, and remain so during the campaign. The time has been very brief, but there has been neither hurry nor confusion, and the explanation of the successful results may be fairly summed up as follows: As soon as Lord Wolseley accepted my offer, made on behalf of the Corporation and City, I was in the position of an autocrat in this business, and the power of the purse was promptly placed at my disposal—in the first instance by the Corporation with its grant of £25,000, by the City Livery Companies, the large shipowners, bankers, merchants, the Honourable Artillery Companies, its members, and the citizens generally. The Metropolitan Volunteer commanding officers vied with each other as to who could send the most men, do the most work, and be the most useful. The result is that, with the exception of a few staff officers from the regular army, the officers of the City Imperial Volunteers are gentlemen engaged in civil pursuits, but who have spent years in efficiently performing their duties. The non-commissioned officers are most carefully picked from the vast band of qualified men holding the same or higher rank in their own Volunteer regiments, and every man of the rank and file has been expressly recommended by his commanding officer for the particular duty allotted to him. Several committees have dealt with sea and land transport, equipment, saddlery, and finance, and Volunteer commanding officers have served on all these. A committee of the[Pg 173] Honourable Artillery Company and the battery officers arranged the details of their own equipment without coming to the Mansion House for anything but the inevitable cheque. The selection of Colonel Mackinnon, A.A.G., Home District, as commandant was a very fortunate one for all concerned. Major-General Turner, C.B., R.A., has been constant in his attendance at the Mansion House, and always at hand when technical assistance was required. Major Freemantle and Lieutenant Grantham have been indefatigable, while my son as hon. secretary to, and Mr. A. D. Watson, a member of, the Equipment Committee, have gone to Cape Town as the connecting link for a short time between the regiment and its headquarters—the Mansion House. Colonel C. G. Boxall, C.B., on whose initiative I took up this work, has thoroughly and loyally fulfilled in every sense his promise to me to see this business completed, for which his admittedly great technical knowledge and his indomitable zeal in the Volunteer cause so eminently fit him. Mr. Abe Bailey, D.L. of the City, who from the first placed his services at my disposal, is acting as honorary agent of the regiment at Cape Town. He purchased over four hundred horses, and arranged for their being put in training and ready for the arrival of the first contingent, besides rendering other and invaluable aid. Several City firms have furnished contingents of their expert employees, whose services at the Guildhall in the preparation and distribution of “kits” have been of great assistance. The payment of accounts is now progressing, and at the first opportunity an audited statement of receipts and expenditure will be presented. In conclusion, I would state that the whole force has gone to the front with no burning desire for glory, but with a determination to do its duty, and with an intense loyalty and devotion to their beloved Sovereign.”

Roll of the City of London Imperial Volunteers.

Officers.—Infantry—Colonel, Earl of Albemarle; second in command, Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Pawle; Adjutant, Captain the Hon. J. R. Bailey. A Company—Captain A. Reid; Lieutenant F. R. Jeffrey; Lieutenant E. D. Townroe. B Company—Captain C. W. Berkeley; Lieutenant B. W. Garnett; Lieutenant J. W. Cohen. C Company—Captain C. Matthey; Lieutenant the Hon. S. McDonnell, C.B.; Lieutenant E. Treffry. D Company—Captain F. J. Cousens; Lieutenant J. H. Smith; Lieutenant F. R. Burnside. E Company—Captain R. B. Shipley; Lieutenant W. J. P. Benson; Lieutenant F. B. Marsh. F Company—Captain W. Edis; Lieutenant P. F. Brown; Lieutenant S. H. Hole. G Company—Captain A. A. Howell; Lieutenant C. P. Grindle; Lieutenant P. Croft. H Company—Captain C. A. Mortimer; Lieutenant W. B. I. Alt; Lieutenant B. C. Green. Quartermaster, Captain S. Firth. Medical Officer, Surgeon-Captain E. St. V. Ryan. Staff—Colonel W. H. Mackinnon; Lieutenant E. H. Trotter; Transport Captain J. E. H. Orr; Paymaster Captain Triggs (late A. P. D.); Medical Officer, Surgeon-Captain R. R. Sleman; Veterinary Officer, W. S. Mulvey. Battery—Major G. McMicking; Captain E. C. Budworth; Lieutenant A. C. Lowe; Lieutenant H. Bayley; Lieutenant J. F. Duncan; Surgeon, Captain A. Thorne. Mounted Infantry—Colonel H. C. Cholmondeley; Adjutant Captain E. Bell; Quartermaster J. Ridler. Machine-Gun Section—Lieutenant E. V. Wellby. No. 1 Company—Captain J. W. Reid; Lieutenant G. Berry; Lieutenant W. H. Brailey; Lieutenant B. Moeller; Lieutenant C. H. W. Wilson. No. 2 Company—Captain J. F. Waterlow; Lieutenant A. Bailey; Lieutenant E. G. Concanon; Lieutenant A. H. Henderson; Lieutenant E. A. Manisty.


[6] For much valuable information I am indebted to the editor of the South African Volunteer Gazette.

[Pg 174]



The troops with General French were in very fine fettle. They had no past history; they were not damped by the remembrance of a Majesfontein, a Stormberg, or a Colenso. They had perfect confidence in their chief; they had just enough hard work to keep their wits polished and their minds alert, and in the intervals there was sport of a kind for those who fancied it.

Fighting in and around Colesberg was incessant. The Boers were most stubborn in their determination to get rid of the British, and General French was equally stubborn in his determination to get rid of the Boers! Colesberg was a situation to be desired, and both British and Boer forces fought desperately to hold it. It is situated some thirty-seven miles north of Naauwpoort, which is the junction of a branch line to De Aar. Between Naauwpoort and Colesberg are undulating pastures, and the town itself, which boasts a population of 1900 souls, possesses three—till lately—thriving hotels. In addition to these attractions it has for the Boers another—the attraction of being the birthplace of Oom Paul. Its capture would have mightily impressed the waverers in Cape Colony, consequently General French determined to celebrate the New Year by making another lunge at the enemy.

Early on Monday morning his troops took up a position upon the kopjes surrounding the town. His force, divided into two brigades commanded by Colonel Porter (Carabineers) and Colonel Fisher (10th Hussars), simultaneously attacked the Boer position.

The second brigade started from Rensburg at five on the previous afternoon, passed the night at Maider’s farm, and in the small hours proceeded to their destination, the Boer position on Kul Kop, and seized the kopjes overlooking Colesberg on the west.

The advance was made on the Boer haunts at nine, and was greeted by a tornado from the surprised enemy, whose position extended for six miles round the entire village. Our artillery answered briskly, continuing a two hours’ argument which had the result of effectually silencing the seven or eight Boer guns. (Curiously enough, on inspection, it was discovered that some of the Boer shells had been manufactured at the Royal Laboratory, Woolwich!)

Meanwhile the cavalry and horse-artillery were endeavouring[Pg 175] to work round to the north of the enemy’s position. The foe, ever nimble, was kept “on the trot.” He was driven from hill to hill. Brilliantly the Berkshires, under Major M’Cracken, stormed a kopje to the west of Colesberg, occupying successive positions and pouring a torrent of lead on the enemy, who fled in disorder with loud shouts! Splendidly wheeled the cavalry, under Colonel Fisher, executing at the same time a flank movement and closing in round the Dutchmen, who had but time to flee. The enemy retired towards the west, followed always by the British, but owing to the peculiar disposition of the many kopjes in the vicinity the task of pursuing them was difficult. In their retreat towards Colesberg Junction they were hotly chased by the cavalry, and Colesberg itself was left almost in our hands.

On the 2nd of January an unfortunate accident occurred. A train within the British lines was mysteriously set in motion, and was carried by the impetus given to it in the direction of the Boer lines. It travelled slowly, but sufficiently fast to get out of reach, and as the machine was full of supplies, it was necessary to fire on and destroy it rather than allow the Boers to reap the reward of rebel treachery. The brakes were found to have been taken off the trucks, and a Dutchman was arrested on suspicion of having perpetrated the deed. At first an attempt was made to mend the trucks, the working party being supported by Carabineers and the Mounted Infantry; but these were bombarded by the Boers, and finally the trucks had to be fired to prevent the rations they contained, a quantity of rum, from falling into the hands of the enemy. The New South Wales Lancers under Major Lee, who were sent to the scene to avert looting by the foe, spent five hours under fire, holding the position and returning the fire with great gallantry.

The small force under General French’s command at this time consisted of the Carabineers, 10th Hussars, Inniskilling Dragoons, O and R Batteries of Horse Artillery, the Berkshires and Suffolks, the New South Wales Lancers and New Zealanders. With this limited number he had worked wonders, driving the Dutchmen out from the kopjes immediately around Arundel, and forcing them continually to shift their position, a process which effectually deterred them from gaining ground. The Boer position now lay on long lines of kopjes to east and west of the rails, from Taaibosch Laagte to Rensburg; in the middle of the plain was the dumpling-figured kopje known as Val Kop which the British had been forced to evacuate.

The enemy now prepared a little surprise. At daybreak on the 4th they made a sudden attempt to outflank the British position beyond Coleskop, westward of the town; thus hoping to reopen communications with the northern waggon bridge.[Pg 176]

In General French’s report of the day’s work, he said: “The enemy was found to have established himself in strength at some hills running about east and west at right angles to the left rear of our position. The cavalry on the left should not have allowed him to do this unseen, but in turning him out they rendered signal service. The 10th Hussars, with two guns which I sent to them, threatened to take them in reverse, and they were heavily fired upon by the remaining four guns of O Battery in front. This caused several hundred to abandon the position, and the plain was covered with flying horsemen. The 10th Hussars on one flank, and a squadron of the Inniskillings on the other, dashed after them. The 10th Hussars were checked by some of the Boers taking up a strong position in some rocks to cover the retreat of the others. In a most gallant style Colonel Fisher dismounted his men and led them on foot against this position, which they carried with great boldness and intrepidity.

“In this daring operation, I regret to say, Major Harvey was killed, and Major Alexander severely wounded.

“The 6th Dragoons, led by Captain E. A. Herbert, showed no less dash, pursuing the enemy, mounted, and inflicting some loss with their lances. Some 200 of the enemy had, however, still clung to the hills, and after shelling them for some considerable time, both in front and flank, I decided to clear the position with the Mounted Infantry. Advancing under cover of the fire of the artillery, Captain De Lisle moved his men with great skill to a position where he could move against the enemy’s right flank. Here he dismounted and advanced to attack, choosing the ground with admirable care. At this threat at least 100 more of the Boers took to flight in many small parties, the remainder endeavoured to check the Mounted Infantry advance. When one half the position was made good, a final exodus was made by the enemy, and twenty-one last remaining Boers surrendered. The Mounted Infantry suffered no casualties. This operation was most skilfully and boldly carried out by Captain De Lisle. It has been conclusively ascertained that on this day the enemy lost upwards of ninety killed and wounded, our casualties being six killed and fifteen wounded.”

Photo by Gregory & Co., London.

On the 5th of January, Lieutenant Sir John Milbanke, who went out with a patrol of five men on the plain north of Colesberg, came in touch with the enemy. The Boers galloped up to intercept the small British party, and Sir John Milbanke was slightly wounded in the thigh. This form of skirmish was an almost daily occurrence, for round the place was a species of Boer girdle. The Dutchmen, like flies—swept off at one moment to return the next—now buzzed in the hills within a mile radius from the town, while on the north, in the direction of the Free State, and in the east towards Aliwal[Pg 177] and Burghersdorp, they remained in undisturbed possession of the country. To the north of Colesberg was a hill which practically commanded the road to Orange River, and also other roads leading to the town. That this hill should be in British possession was eminently desirable, and Colonel Watson conceived the idea that it might be easily taken and held by us. With General French’s permission, on Friday, the 5th of January, he arranged an expedition, a midnight one, for the purpose of gaining the coveted position. He started forth at two o’clock on the morning of the 6th with four companies of the Suffolk Regiment. After marching stealthily in the darkness for about a mile, they reached the foot of the hill. This kopje had been often reconnoitred by various officers, and it was not due to any rashness on their part that a lamentable accident occurred. They marched through the dead of night to the top of the hill. In the morning twilight they were attacked by the enemy, who, aware of their design, was awaiting them. So completely had the troops fallen into a trap, that when the rifles blazed out they were at a distance of only thirty paces from the Dutchmen. The Colonel, who had halted to address the men, the Adjutant, and two other officers, were wounded before the Suffolks had found time to fire a single shot. Indeed, so quickly were they pounced on, that Colonel Watson, on giving orders to charge, fell riddled with bullets. Suddenly orders, none knew from whence, were given to “retire.” Some said it was a ruse of the Boers. The rear fled back to the pickets, some thousand yards off, believing the order came from their officers; others—about a hundred and twenty officers and men—remained, refusing to budge. They fought bravely, but were eventually compelled to surrender. All were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. Of eleven officers, but one remained! The Boers were evidently well-informed of the commanding officer’s programme, and their tactics were so clever and combined that they contrived to create something of a panic when the unfortunate Suffolks, who thought themselves only preparing for attack, were definitely attacked. Critics sitting in judgment at home declared that ordinary precautions would have averted the chance of being entrapped, but others, who knew Kaffir ways and the condition of the country, where every keyhole was an ear and every leaf of a tree an eye, were inclined to marvel that so few disasters happened.

One of the officers writing of the affair said: “It is quite certain the Colonel never gave that order, or the officers would have retired too. They remained to a man, except Graham, who was wounded early, and could not hold his rifle. He dragged himself down the hill, and somehow crawled the two miles into camp. The Boers said those that were left charged three times and behaved splendidly. The position was impossible to take, even if a brigade had[Pg 178] attacked, although it had been carefully reconnoitred. The ditch, with the loopholed wall near the top of the hill, could only have been discovered by a balloon. The Colonel’s last words were, ‘Remember Gibraltar, my boys!’”[7]

There was deep regret at the loss of this distinguished officer, and the whole force lamented the first check which this column had sustained. The enemy was shelled at intervals, so as to make his position as uncomfortable as possible, but the Boers still remained in possession of the route leading to the Free State by Achtertang. Soon the Essex Regiment was sent on to replace the 1st Suffolk, who went south to recruit their shattered forces.

Among the wounded officers was Major Graham; Lieutenants Wilkins, Carey, and White were killed. With those taken prisoners were Captains Brett, Thomson, Brown; Second Lieutenants Allen, Wood-Martin, and Butler. Of the men, 26 were killed, 45 wounded, and 72 taken prisoners or missing.

The British occupied Slingersfontein on the 9th of January. From this time Colonel Porter and his splendidly alert troops—the 5th Dragoons, New Zealanders and New South Wales Lancers—were busily occupied in keeping the enemy “on the run,” forcing him to leave one kopje after another, and maintaining harassing tactics which entirely upset the Dutchmen’s calculations. Still the Boers were ubiquitous. They now held a strong position between Colesberg and Slingersfontein, from which with the small force at hand it was impossible to dislodge them. On the 13th, the inconvenience of the situation was rendered more intense by a perfect cyclone of dust which caused the utmost discomfort. Meals were also made impossible by the aggressive attacks of the enemy, who plumped shell after shell in the midst of the camp. Colonel Porter retired his troops to the cover of a neighbouring hill, while three squadrons of the 6th Dragoon Guards and four guns of O Battery, Horse Artillery, advanced across the plain and prepared to tackle the[Pg 179] enemy. This was done with such celerity and decision that almost in five minutes the Boer guns were silenced and the enemy driven to cover. As a result of the prompt activities of our artillery, the Boer tents were removed eastwards.

Position at Colesberg about 20th January.
Position at Colesberg about 20th January.

These sand-storms, characteristic of the Veldt, were a terrible test to patience. At one moment the camp was an orderly array of mushroom tents springing decorously from the earth; in the next it was seemingly an animated mass of anthills trying to maintain life against an ochreous avalanche of dust. Occasionally when the cyclone of grit had ceased, it was followed by a hurricane of hail, accompanied by the gloom of night, the bellow of the blast and growl of the thunder-claps fighting together in the hills. Then would the frightened cattle stampede, and the whole routine of military life become deranged. A rushing mob, a battle of the elements, a vast ditch irrigated with rivulets, bombardment by the big guns of the wind—such would be the programme for a good hour or so! Then, as often as not, the sun would suddenly come out and shine affably, with the placid, self-satisfied beam of dear old ladies when they’ve trumped their partner’s best card of a long suit at whist!

After this, the routine of life would go on much as before, the Dutchmen clinging to their positions, and General French determining to make these as untenable as possible.[Pg 180]

On the 15th the New Zealanders had an excellent opportunity of exhibiting their smartness and dash. The Boers made a stubborn attempt to seize a hill that practically commanded the country to east and west of their main position. This valuable eminence was held by a detachment of New Zealanders and D Company of the Yorkshire Regiment under Captain Orr. Early in the morning desultory firing began, and later the Boers, increasing the warmth of their fire, worked towards the right of the position held by the New Zealanders. At the same time they assailed the Yorkshires, directing their fire at a small wall held by them and forcing them to keep close cover. Gradually the Boers advanced, creeping towards the wall ever nearer and nearer. They then blazed furiously from their position on the slopes, killing the Sergeant-Major and wounding Captain Orr. At this time Captain Madocks, R.A. (attached to the New Zealand Mounted Rifles), and ten New Zealanders appeared on the scene, and, to the dismay of the Boers, the whole party with a dash and a yell leapt over the wall and charged down on their assailants with fixed bayonets. It was a splendid act, and one which, as the officer commanding the Yorkshires had dropped wounded, came just in time to save the situation.

Away rushed the enemy, rolling one over another in their effort to be off, while a sustained storm of bullets inflicted heavy loss on their retreating numbers. From the distance they made a feeble attempt to fire at the gallant fellows who had routed them, but eventually they retired to the small kopjes at the base of the contested hill. There they were saluted by a detachment of two guns of O Battery from the west of the kopje. The enemy’s long-range gun now came into play and forced the British guns to move their position farther to the west. That done, the small kopjes were effectively shelled and the Dutchmen’s fire silenced. The whole engagement was a signal success, and the Yorkshires and New Zealanders were well pleased with their share of the day’s work. Twenty-one Boers were left dead on the field and many more were wounded. (On the morning of this day an unfortunate incident occurred at Colesberg. Lieutenant Thompson, R.H.A., while out scouting, was wounded and taken prisoner. This officer, together with Lieutenants Talbot Ponsonby, Lamont, and Aldridge, was especially mentioned for services performed with the guns.)

General Frenchs
Remarkable Position at Colesberg, as seen from Kul or Coles Kop about 15th January.
General French’s Remarkable Position at Colesberg, as seen from Kul or Cole’s Kop about 15th January.
Sketch by Frederick Villiers, War Artist.

[Pg 181]The events of the last few days had served to show that, however the Colonials might differ in their customs, habits, and ideas, they were assuredly identical in their dogged bravery and their fine spirit of dash—

“They come of The Blood, slower to bless than to ban,
Little used to lie down at the bidding of any man,”—

and Captain Madocks and his hardy New Zealanders had now the well-merited good fortune to have earned the esteem and appreciation of all who had seen their splendid rush to the rescue of the Yorkshires. On the 16th General French visited the New Zealanders’ camp and congratulated them on their gallant conduct during the fight.[Pg 182]

The Boers now brought to bear on the position one of the guns captured by them at Stormberg, and launched some ten shots into the kopjes held by a company of the Welsh Regiment. They got as good as they gave, and before long the enemy was completely silenced. General French’s system was a tit-for-tat form of warfare, which failed to commend itself to the Dutchmen. It served well, however—in default of sufficient troops to make any definite advance—to hold the enemy from proceeding farther south in British territory. News now came in that a large force of Dutchmen had been transferred from Majesfontein for the purpose of reinforcing the Boer commandoes at Colesberg, and thus rendering the paralysis of the British complete.

A very serious disaster befell a patrol consisting partly of New South Wales Lancers and South Australian Horse, who had so nobly volunteered their services to the Mother Country at the beginning of the war. On the morning of the 16th of January a party of nineteen rode out from Colonel Porter’s camp for the purpose of reconnoitring towards Achtertang. It was not yet dawn, but they pursued their investigations, reaching Norval Camp without seeing any signs of the enemy. About 8 A.M. they commenced the return journey naturally with a feeling of greater security than when they started. They unfortunately fell into an ambush. A hot fight ensued, but the Boers were in overwhelming numbers, and the party was hard pressed. Two escaped to camp, and six more, after hiding till it was possible to make good their escape, followed them. The rest were made prisoners, but not without a struggle, as the bodies of four dead Australian and seven dead Boer horses, left on the field, served to testify. Lieutenant Dowling was killed. The enemy now occupied Klein Toren to the north of Slingersfontein.

On the 18th inst. Major-General Clements, D.S.O., arrived with two regiments of the 12th Brigade (the Royal Irish and the Worcestershire), and was placed in command of all the troops at and east of Slinger’s Farm. Two battalions were posted at that place, and occupied a good commanding position, which had been well fortified and intrenched.

General Clements had also, at Slinger’s, one company New Zealand Mounted Rifles; one squadron and four guns. Colonel Porter, 6th Dragoon Guards, with four squadrons, two guns, and one company of infantry, was posted at a farm called Potfontein,[Pg 183] some eight miles east, and a little south, of Slinger’s. The enemy’s force at Colesberg was now hemmed in on the west, south, and east, and their position began to look uncomfortable, particularly as a battery firing lyddite shells was at hand to assist in the British operations. The British now held a series of positions of great extent, shaped after the manner of a mark of interrogation, with Colesberg within the curve of the hook.

The distance to be covered between the camps on the east and west flanks was about sixteen miles. Supplies were conveyed by waggons drawn by mules of South African breed—sleek, and as a rule good-tempered beasts. The South American mules were of a weaklier stamp, their poor condition being the result of importation. The tracks through the veldt, called by courtesy roads, were now in many places a foot deep in dust wherever sand-drifts had been lodged, and these promised in the event of rain to develop into morasses.

On the 25th General French made a reconnaissance in person, and discovered that the enemy was strongly posted at Rietfontein. The reconnaissance occupied two days, during which the troops covered forty miles. In spite of many efforts to cut the Boer’s communications with the Free State the Boers outwitted him, or rather out-dodged him, and retained their hold on Colesberg. Their position consisted of commanding hills down a defile through which a spruit flows towards the Orange River. The windings of this stream are followed by Waggon Road for more than a mile, then, after passing the hills, it flows over undulating country towards the river.

On Saturday, the 27th, a melancholy incident took place. For some weeks Major MacCracken had been holding a hill close up to the Boer position, and on this particular morning, though no fighting was taking place, a shell was plumped upon the hill by the enemy with the result that an officer was wounded. A New Zealander named Booth, orderly to General Clements, was killed while holding the General’s horse. At this time General French had mysteriously disappeared. His destination, though not announced, was Cape Town, where he went on a visit to Lord Roberts, whose plans were rapidly approaching completion. The upshot of that momentous visit we shall discover anon.


At Modder River Lord Methuen, to encourage the performers in a series of inter-regimental boxing matches, offered three splendid challenge cups for competition. These were won by the Scots Guards, the Grenadier Guards, and the Argyll and Sutherland[Pg 184] Highlanders respectively, on the 3rd of February, when the series came to an exciting conclusion.

Meanwhile, when the cat was away the mice could play. The Boers engaged in their usual game of destroying railway tracks between Modder Camp and Langeberg, and as many as thirty-three explosions were heard, which portended considerable damage to line and culverts. However the trains conveying the sick to hospital at the Cape got away in safety, and as many invalids as possible were despatched to the base in order that the advance movement, when it should commence, would not be hampered.

The junction of De Aar at this time was simmering with activity. Stores to the value of a million pounds were being accumulated in preparation for a gigantic move in the direction of Modder River. Though at the moment Lord Roberts’s plans were not generally known, it was certain that a vast number of troops—many more than those then under Lord Methuen’s command—were about to congregate in the neighbourhood of Orange River, and in consequence there was suppressed excitement among the British and corresponding trepidation among the Free Staters. General French, whose splendid activity had been going on in most trying circumstances, now found himself freed to begin operations on a scale more fitted to his talents and more congenial to them. Cavalry was pouring in, and with cavalry and such a commander there was immense cause for hope.

The Suffolks who, after their disaster at Colesberg, went to Port Elizabeth to recruit their forces, now came up to De Aar, and were re-officered prior to being sent to the front. Other regiments were also trickling in, and slowly disposing of themselves in positions previously arranged by Lord Roberts at the Cape. All these dispositions were made with intense secrecy, Lord Kitchener setting himself to work to reorganise the transport department in such a manner as to make all the complicated moves of the coming war game possible.

Drawing by W. Small from a Sketch by G. D. Giles.

Life at Modder River began to grow correspondingly animated. Experiments in the working of the Marconi wireless telegraphy were set on foot, and other active preparations for decisive combat were pushed forward. The Boers were busy too. They were making further trenches in front of the Majesfontein ridge with a view to still further strengthening their position, an exertion which they subsequently found to be somewhat unnecessary. They also swelled their numbers. From the report of deserters it seemed that President Steyn had drawn to his banner many reluctant farmers by means of false representations, he having circulated the report that the British meant to seize and confiscate property for the purpose of enriching their own soldiers after the war. The Canadian Regi[Pg 185]ment, who till then had been guarding the lines of communication, moved to the front. They were in great spirits, and much rejoiced at being allowed to take a more active share in operations.

The Australian Infantry Regiment was now to be mounted. It was a misfortune that the Australians were not mounted from the first, as all were good horsemen, and would have come in handy to assist the British cavalry in the work of reconnaissance, which the mobile nature of Boer movements rendered unusually hard. The companies were composed of about 125 men from Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, West Australia, and Tasmania respectively.

On the 6th of February Lord Roberts left Cape Town for the front. He stopped en route at Belmont. Every eye was turned to him as he alighted at the railway station. It was nine o’clock, and presently a crowd collected to view the two warriors on whom the British Empire pinned its faith. One was the smallest man in the station; the other was the largest. The Field-Marshal, neat as a new pin, with his refined visage, grey moustache and tufted imperial, looked young, even happy, and undisturbed by his responsibilities; the hero of Omdurman, large and broad-shouldered, his forage cap crammed on his head, his keen steel-tinted eyes piercing the heart of things at a glance, appeared stern and preoccupied. They were met by Colonel Otter, and the Field-Marshal at once asked to see the Canadians. Colonel Otter accordingly brought him to the main guard, which consisted of one sergeant, one corporal, and two men. One of these described the inspection by the august chief. “We were standing at the present, and Lord Roberts appeared to be sizing us up pretty well. He inquired how we liked our bandoliers for cartridges, and on Sergeant Ellard informing him that they were too loose, and that the cartridges fell out of them, Lord Roberts said that he would see that this was remedied. Lord Roberts presented Sergeant Ellard with a basket of roses, and on distribution of them I received one.” This flower was treasured and sent home to the trooper’s family in remembrance of the great day which brought him face to face with England’s grandest soldier. On the 9th the Chief arrived at Modder River. At this time General Macdonald and the Highland Brigade were keeping the Boers occupied on the west, and during this manœuvre tremendous activities were set on foot. For instance, while General Macdonald’s Brigade was marching back to camp on the 10th of February, a force consisting of 23,000 infantry, 11,000 mounted men, and 48 guns, with transport of some 700 waggons, drawn by 9000 mules and oxen, was approaching the Free State! A brigade of Mounted Infantry under Colonel Hannay was moving from Orange River to Ramdam, situated about eight miles from Jacobsdal. On the 11th, Boers were discovered inter[Pg 186]cepting the road and holding the hills, but these, with a detached part of Colonel Hannay’s force, were held where they were, while the main body with the baggage pushed on to their destination. On the 12th General French—who was now for the first time since his departure from Ladysmith, in command of a cavalry division—seized the crossing of the Riet River at Dekiel’s Drift, whereupon the 6th and 7th Divisions there encamped themselves.

Before going further, it is necessary to follow the movements of the Highland Brigade, movements which materially assisted the development of the intricate plan of advance.


The Boers were now threatening the line between the Orange and Modder Rivers, and in consequence of various reports regarding their movements Colonel Broadwood proceeded to Sunnyside with the Royal Horse Artillery, Mounted Infantry, and Roberts’s Horse, the newly-raised regiment from whom great things were expected. The enemy retired and crossed the Riet River, taking care to keep well out of the way, for it was known that “Fighting Mac” was on the warpath, and the last thing the rebels desired was to find their own line of communications interrupted.

On the 3rd of February General Macdonald with the Highland Brigade, 9th Lancers, 9th and 62nd Batteries Royal Field Artillery, moved out in a westerly direction with a view to blocking the main drift at Koodoesberg, and thus preventing a force reported to be coming from Griqualand West from joining that coming from the north for the purpose of cutting Lord Methuen’s line of communication. There was also another motive for the movement, and that was to attract the attention and energy of the enemy while Lord Roberts was arranging for a decisive stroke in another quarter. The march was a trying one owing to the tropical temperature, exposure to a scorching sun, and the perpetual inconvenience of dust. The troops however, bore it bravely. They bivouacked at Fraser’s Drift, and on the following (Sunday) morning moved forward to Koodoesberg. The distance—some thirteen miles—was covered, again in sweltering conditions, over a shadeless expanse of rough road, which reflected the glare of the heavens and threw out hot rays as from a baker’s oven. Men dropped continually from sunstroke, and exhaustion, and thirst; but, fortunately, owing to the near proximity of the river, there were few serious cases. The troops arrived at their destination about one o’clock, without having seen any Boers. On reaching the drift the men refreshed themselves by bathing in the river, a luxury in which they revelled. But repose was short. A hurried meal of bully beef and biscuits and they were at work again, providing for[Pg 187] contingencies. Two thousand yards off were a group of kopjes, behind which it was said some 4000 Boers were hiding.

Map illustrating the Movement to Koodoesberg.
Map illustrating the Movement to Koodoesberg.

The General at once set himself to construct breastworks to protect the drift and secure his positions on north and south of the river, while the 9th Lancers and their scouts reconnoitred the surrounding country to ascertain the strength and disposition of the enemy. They came on a small picket of Boers—there was a rapid exchange of shots—but on the nearer approach of our troops the Boers fled. On Monday both sides of the river were taken possession of. A large body of mounted Boers were seen advancing about 2000 yards off, but beyond firing a few shots at the British force no serious conflict took place. On Tuesday there was a smart race between our men and a large force of Boers advancing from their laagers. Both parties made for a big kopje, which was cleverly gained by the British after a breathless scramble. The enemy, worsted, galloped off, pursued by the Lancers.

At nine o’clock on Wednesday, the 7th, the Boers, who had engaged themselves in dragging a heavy gun to the scene of action, began to blaze out upon the Seaforth Highlanders. These, with alacrity, sprang to action. As a private said, “It was not a Majesfontein affair this time, and a holy joy filled our hearts at the prospect[Pg 188] of having a little bit of our own back.” The enemy was established at the north end of Koodoesberg, whence they shelled the works that were being constructed to protect the drift. At the drift were seven companies of Highland Light Infantry. On the left bank were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, half a battalion of Seaforths, two guns, and the 9th Lancers observing both flanks. Holding the south end of Koodoesberg on the right bank of the river were the Black Watch, half a battalion of Seaforths, one company of Highland Light Infantry, and four guns (62nd Field Battery). An animated battle ensued, and the British guns did splendid execution. The troops took cover behind hastily-constructed sangars, and the bullets of the enemy failed to touch them. There were no evidences of the celebrated Boer marksmanship on this occasion. The enemy pounded the hill with shrapnel, and made a ferocious effort to rout the Highlanders from their position. The 62nd Field Battery, after some smart cannonading, which was as effective as it was vigorous, forced the Dutchmen to shift their gun to a position farther north. Eventually the weapon of the Dutchmen was silenced altogether.

Meanwhile, at the request of General Macdonald, General Babington, with his own regiment of cavalry (12th Lancers) and two batteries of Horse Artillery, had been despatched from Modder River. They started at 11.30 A.M. on the 7th, and had they arrived in time might have cut off the retreat of the enemy and entirely hemmed them in.

As it was, they marched along the north side of the Modder, and only arrived at four o’clock, in time, however, to quickly pursue the foe in his retreat northwards, which retreat had been begun with all speed on the first hint of the coming of an additional force. The sufferings endured by some of the cavalry were intense, and one man expired through exposure and thirst. Others were in pitiable plight, but finally recovered.

While the great struggle was taking place it was discovered that the enemy was intrenched at a small drift on the west. Whereupon two companies of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders became engaged in a smart skirmish, and gave the Federals so warm a time that by nightfall, after being shelled in their trenches, they were glad enough to slink off. By morning the enemy had entirely evacuated their position, and not a vestige of them was to be seen. Had the cavalry not been utterly worn out on reaching the scene of action, the Dutchmen would have been caught before they had time to seek refuge in flight.

From a Sketch by Lestor Ralph.

The troops then, under orders from Lord Methuen, retired to Modder River. They started from Koodoesberg on the evening of Thursday, made a moonlight march to Fraser’s Drift, returning[Pg 189] to camp footsore and dilapidated on Friday. But before leaving, the officers and men who fell in the action were buried on the south bank of the river. Among them was Captain Blair, who, after having been previously struck by a bullet, had been mortally wounded by a shell. Lieutenant Tait, a very gallant officer, a notable golfer, and a general favourite, also fell, and Captain Eykyn eventually died of his injuries.

General Macdonald’s reconnaissance at Koodoesberg Drift was entirely satisfactory. The position there was important, as it prevented Boer reinforcements from passing via the chief drift from Douglas to Majesfontein, and the movement served to confound the enemy, and protect the operations of the Belmont garrison in the direction of Douglas, not to speak of its value in keeping Boer activities to the west of Majesfontein at the time when Lord Roberts was developing his plans in regard to the east of that place. The enemy had been kept amused and out of mischief, and been wholesomely trounced into the bargain!

The casualties, which were comparatively few, were as follows:—

Killed:—2nd Royal Highlanders—Captain Eykyn; Lieutenant Tait. 2nd Seaforth Highlanders—Captain Blair.

Wounded:—2nd Seaforth Highlanders—Captain Studdert, A.S.C. 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders—Captain Kirk. 9th Lancers—Second Lieutenant Cavendish; Lieutenant Mackenzie, R.A.M.C.


[7] Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur John Watson was forty-six years of age. He entered the army as a sub-lieutenant of the 12th Foot (now the Berkshires) on August 9, 1873, and received his lieutenancy from the same date. He was instructor of musketry to the regiment from February 12, 1880, to January 24, 1883, received his company on the 14th of April following, and, passing the Staff College in 1884, served with the Bechuanaland Expedition under Sir Charles Warren later in the year, and from February 17 to October 28, 1885, was brigade-major in Bechuanaland, being honourably mentioned in dispatches. He was employed on staff service with the Egyptian army from February 12 to September 7, 1886, obtaining his major’s commission on October 21 following; and in 1888 served in the Hazara Expedition as brigade-major to the first column under Brigadier-General Channer, when he was again mentioned in dispatches, and received the medal with clasp. From July 20, 1889, to February 20, 1896, he was garrison instructor in Bengal, and deputy assistant-adjutant-general for instruction in the Punjaub, taking part in 1895 in the operations in the Chitral, accompanying the relief force under Sir Robert Low, acting as road commandant on the lines of communication. For his services in this campaign he received his second medal with clasp. He was gazetted lieutenant-colonel of the Suffolk Regiment on September 19, 1898.

[Pg 190]



A great deal of consternation and not a little surprise was caused by the publication of the official account (London Gazette, April 16, 1900) of the evacuation of Spion Kop. In order to make intelligible the causes of the terrible fiasco it is necessary to quote for the benefit of those interested not only Lord Roberts’s comments on the subject, but the statements of the officers concerned. Sir Redvers Buller, writing from Spearman’s Hill, January 30, 1900, gave his version of the proceedings:—

“I have the honour to report that General Sir Charles Warren’s Division having arrived at Estcourt, less two battalions 10th Brigade, which were left at the Cape, by the 7th January, it moved to Frere on the 9th.

“The column moved as ordered, but torrents of rain fell on the 9th, which filled all the spruits, and, indeed, rendered many of them impassable for many hours. To forward supply alone took 650 ox waggons, and as in the 16 miles from Frere to Springfield there were three places at which all the waggons had to be double spanned, and some required three spans, some idea may be formed of the difficulties; but these were all successfully overcome by the willing labours of the troops.

“The 4th Brigade reached Springfield on the 12th in support of the mounted troops, who had surprised and seized the important position of Spearman’s Hill, commanding Potgieter’s Drift, on the 11th.

“By the 13th all troops were at Springfield and Spearman’s Hill, and supply was well forward.

“On the 16th a reserve of seventeen days’ supply having been collected, General Sir Charles Warren, in command of the 2nd Division, the 11th Brigade of the 5th Division, the Brigade Division Royal Field Artillery, 5th Division, and certain corps troops, including the Mounted Brigade, moved from Springfield to Trichardt’s Drift, which is about six miles west of Potgieter’s.

“I attach Sir Charles Warren’s report of his operations.

“On the night of the 23rd General Warren attacked Spion Kop, which operation he has made the subject of a special report. On the morning of the 25th, finding that Spion Kop had been abandoned in the night, I decided to withdraw General Warren’s force; the troops had been continuously engaged for a week, in circumstances entailing considerable hardships; there had been very heavy losses on Spion Kop. I consequently assumed the command, commenced the withdrawal of the ox and heavy mule transports on the 25th: this was completed by midday the 26th; by double spanning, the loaded ox waggons got over the drift at the rate of about eight per hour. The mule waggons went over the pontoon bridge, but all the mules had to be taken out and the vehicles passed over by hand. For about seven hours of the night the drift could not be used as it was dangerous in the dark, but the use of the pontoon went on[Pg 191] day and night. In addition to machine guns, six batteries of Royal Field Artillery and four howitzers, the following vehicles were passed: ox waggons, 232; 10-span mule waggons, 98; 6-span, 107; 4 span, 52; total, 489 vehicles. In addition to these the ambulances were working backwards and forwards evacuating the sick and wounded.

“By 2 P.M. the 26th all the ox waggons were over, and by 11.30 P.M. all the mule transports were across and the bridge clear for the troops. By 4 A.M. the 27th all the troops were over, and by 8 A.M. the pontoons were gone and all was clear. The troops had all reached their new camps by 10 A.M. The marches averaged for the mounted troops about seven miles, and for the infantry and artillery an average of five miles.

“Everything worked without a hitch, and the arrangements reflected great credit on the Staff of all degrees; but I must especially mention Major Irwin, R.E., and his men of the Pontoon Troop, who were untiring. When all men were over, the chesses of the pontoon bridge were so worn by the traffic that I do not think they would have lasted another half-hour.”

He concluded by saying:—

“Thus ended an expedition which I think ought to have succeeded. We have suffered very heavy losses, and lost many whom we can ill spare; but, on the other hand, we have inflicted as great or greater losses upon the enemy than they have upon us, and they are, by all accounts, thoroughly disheartened; while our troops are, I am glad and proud to say, in excellent fettle.”

Sir Charles Warren’s report addressed to the Chief of the Staff, ran thus:—

“On the 8th January field orders were published constituting the 10th Brigade of the 5th Division a Corps Brigade, and placing the 4th Brigade in the 5th Division. The 5th Division thus constituted marched from Frere on the 10th instant, arriving at Springfield on the 12th instant.

“On the 15th January I received your secret instructions to command a force to proceed across the Tugela, near Trichardt’s Drift to the west of Spion Kop, recommending me to proceed forward, refusing my right (namely) Spion Kop, and bringing my left forward to gain the open plain north of Spion Kop. This move was to commence as soon as supplies were all in, and the 10th Brigade (except two companies) removed from Springfield Bridge to Spearman’s Hill.

“I was provided with four days’ rations with which I was to cross the Tugela, fight my way round to north of Spion Kop, and join your column opposite Potgieter’s.

“On the 15th January I made the arrangements for getting supplies, and moved the 10th Brigade on the following day, and on the evening of the 16th January I left Springfield with a force under my command, which amounted to an Army Corps (less one Brigade), and by a night march arrived at Trichardt’s Drift, and took possession of the hills on the south side of the Tugela.

“On the 17th January I threw pontoon bridges across the Tugela, passed the infantry across by ponts, and captured the hills immediately commanding the drift on the north side with two brigades commanded by Generals Woodgate and Hart. The Commander-in-Chief was present during part of the day, and gave some verbal directions to General Woodgate.

“The Mounted Brigade passed over principally by the drift, and went over[Pg 192] the country as far as Acton Homes, and on the following day (18th) had a successful action with a small party of Boers, bringing in 31 prisoners.

“During the night of the 17th, and day of the 18th, the whole of the waggons belonging to the force were brought across the Tugela, and the artillery were in position outside of Wright’s Farm.

“On the 19th two brigades advanced, occupying the slopes of the adjoining hills on the right, and the waggons were successfully brought to Venter’s Spruit.

“In the evening, after having examined the possible roads by which we could proceed, I assembled the General Officers and the Staff, and the Officer Commanding Royal Artillery, and Commanding Royal Engineer, and pointed out to them that of the two roads by which we could advance, the eastern one by Acton Homes must be rejected, because time would not allow of it, and with this all concurred. I then pointed out that the only possible way of all getting through by the road north of Fair View would be by taking three or four days’ food in our haversacks, and sending all our waggons back across the Tugela, but before we could do this we must capture the position in front of us.

“On the following day, 20th January, I placed two brigades and six batteries of artillery at the disposal of General Sir C. F. Clery, with instructions to attack the Boer positions by a series of outflanking movements, and by the end of the day, after fighting for twelve hours, we were in possession of the whole part of the hills, but found a strongly-intrenched line on the comparatively flat country beyond us.

“On the 21st the Boers displayed considerable activity on our left, and the Commander-in-Chief desired me to move two batteries from right to left. At a subsequent date, during the day, I found it impossible to proceed without howitzers, and telegraphed for four from Potgieter’s. These arrived early on the morning of the 22nd, and the Commander-in-Chief, arriving about the same time, directed me to place two of these howitzers on the left, two having already been placed on the right flank. I pointed out to the Commander-in-Chief that it would be impossible to get waggons through by the road leading past Fair View, unless we first took Spion Kop, which lies within about 2000 yards of the road. The Commander-in-Chief agreed that Spion Kop would have to be taken. Accordingly that evening orders were drawn up giving the necessary instructions to General Talbot Coke to take Spion Kop that night, but, owing to an absence of sufficient reconnaissance, he requested that the attack might be put off for a day.

“On the 23rd January the Commander-in-Chief came into camp, the attack on Spion Kop was decided upon, and Lieut.-Colonel àCourt, of the Headquarter Staff, was directed by the Commander-in-Chief to accompany General Woodgate, who was detailed to command the attacking column. The account of the capture of Spion Kop is given in another report.

“On the morning of the 25th January the Commander-in-Chief arrived, decided to retire the force, and assumed direct command. The whole of the waggons of the 5th Division were got down to the drift during the day, and were crossed over before 2 P.M. on the 26th January.”

In regard to the Council of War, Sir Charles Warren amplified his previous statement:

“Upon the 19th of January, on arrival at Venter’s Laager, I assembled all the General Officers, Officers Commanding Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers of Divisions, and Staff Officers, together. I pointed out to them that, with the[Pg 193] three and a half (3½) days’ provisions allowed, it was impossible to advance by the left road through Acton Homes. In this they unanimously concurred. I showed them that the only possible road was that going over Fair View through Rosalie, but I expressed my conviction that this could not be done unless we sent the whole of our transport back across the Tugela, and attempted to march through with our rations in our haversacks—without impedimenta.”

Sir Charles then added:—

“The hills were cleared on the following day, and very strong intrenchments found behind them. The Commander-in-Chief was present on the 21st and 22nd January, and I pointed out the difficulties of marching along the road, accompanied by waggons, without first taking Spion Kop.

“Accordingly, on the night of the 22nd, I ordered General Coke to occupy Spion Kop. He, however, desired that the occupation might be deferred for a day in order that he might make a reconnaissance with the Officers Commanding battalions to be sent there.

“On 23rd January the Commander-in-Chief came into camp, and told me that there were two courses open—(1) to attack, (2) to retire. I replied that I should prefer to attack Spion Kop to retiring, and showed the Commander-in-Chief my orders of the previous day.

“The Commander-in-Chief then desired that I should put General Woodgate in command of the expedition, and detailed Lieutenant-Colonel àCourt to accompany him as Staff Officer.

“The same evening General Woodgate proceeded with the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Royal Lancaster Regiment, a portion of Thorneycroft’s Horse, and half-company Royal Engineers, supported by two companies of the Connaught Rangers and by the Imperial Light Infantry, the latter having just arrived by Trichardt’s Drift.

“The attack and capture of Spion Kop was entirely successful. General Woodgate, having secured the summit on the 24th, reported that he had intrenched a position and hoped he was secure, but that the fog was too thick to permit him to see. The position was rushed without casualties other than three men wounded.

“Lieutenant-Colonel àCourt came down in the morning and stated that everything was satisfactory and secure, and telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief to that effect. Scarcely had he started on his return to headquarters when a heliogram arrived from Colonel Crofton (Royal Lancaster). The message was, ‘Reinforce at once, or all lost. General dead.’

“He also sent a similar message to headquarters. I immediately ordered General Coke to proceed to his assistance, and to take command of the troops. He started at once, and was accompanied by the Middlesex and Dorsetshire Regiments.

“I replied to Colonel Crofton, ‘I am sending two battalions, and the Imperial Light Infantry are on their way up. You must hold on to the last. No surrender.’

“This occurred about 10 A.M.

“Shortly afterwards I received a telegram from the Commander-in-Chief, ordering me to appoint Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneycroft to the command of the summit. I accordingly had heliographed, ‘With the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, I place Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneycroft in command of the summit, with the local rank of Brigadier-General.[Pg 194]

“For some hours after this message I could get no information from the summit. It appears that the signallers and their apparatus were destroyed by the heavy fire.

“I repeatedly asked for Colonel Thorneycroft to state his view of the situation. At 1.20 P.M. I heliographed to ascertain whether Colonel Thorneycroft had assumed command, and at the same time asked General Coke to give me his views on the situation on Spion Kop. Still getting no reply, I asked whether General Coke was there, and subsequently received his view of the situation. He stated that, unless the Artillery could silence the enemy’s guns, the men on the summit could not stand another complete day’s shelling, and that the situation was extremely critical.”

Later on in the evening arrangements were made to send two (Naval) 12-pounders, and the Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, to the summit, together with half-company Royal Engineers (and working parties, two reliefs of 600 men each), to strengthen the intrenchments and provide shell cover for the men. The 17th Company, Royal Engineers—it must be noted—proceeded at the same time as General Woodgate’s force, and were employed until daylight upon the intrenchments, then upon road-making and water supply.

Sand-bags were sent up early on the 24th instant, but they were too late. Colonel Sim and his party, while ascending, met Colonel Thorneycroft descending the hill. The position was evacuated. Sir Charles Warren concluded thus:—

“I wish to bring to notice that I heard from all but one expression of the admirable conduct and bravery shown by officers and men suffering under a withering artillery fire on the summit of the slopes, and also of those who, with so much endurance, persisted in carrying up water and food and ammunition to the troops during the day.

“During the day a Staff Officer of the Headquarter Staff was present on the summit, and reported direct to the Commander-in-Chief.

“At sunset I considered that the position could be held next day, provided that guns could be mounted and effective shelter provided. Both of these conditions were about to be fulfilled, as already mentioned.

“In the absence of General Coke, whom I ordered to come to report in person as to the situation, the evacuation took place under orders, given upon his own responsibility, by Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft. This occurred in the face of the vigorous protests of General Coke’s Brigade-Major, the Officer commanding the Middlesex Regiment, and others.

“It is a matter for the Commander-in-Chief to decide whether there should be an investigation into the question of the unauthorised evacuation of Spion Kop.”

General Buller, in forwarding to the Secretary of State for War Sir Charles Warren’s report, made the following observations:—

“Sir C. Warren is hardly correct in saying that he was only allowed three and a half days’ provisions. I had told him that transport for three and a half days would be sufficient burden to him, but that I would keep him filled up as he wanted it. That he was aware of this is shown by the following telegram[Pg 195] which he sent on the day in question. It is the only report I had from Sir C. Warren:—

(Sent 7.54 P.M. Received 8.15 P.M.)

‘Left Flank, 19th January.

‘To the Chief of the Staff—

‘I find there are only two roads by which we could possibly get from Trichardt’s Drift to Potgeiter’s, on the north of the Tugela, one by Acton Homes, the other by Fair View and Rosalie; the first I reject as too long, the second is a very difficult road for a large number of waggons, unless the enemy is thoroughly cleared out. I am, therefore, going to adopt some special arrangements which will involve my stay at Venter’s Laager for two or three days. I will send in for further supplies and report progress. Warren.

“The reply to this was that three days’ supply was being sent.

“I went over to Sir C. Warren on the 23rd. I pointed out to him that I had no further report and no intimation of the special arrangements foreshadowed by this telegram of the 19th, that for four days he had kept his men continuously exposed to shell and rifle fire, perched on the edge of an almost precipitous hill, that the position admitted of no second line, and the supports were massed close behind the firing line in indefensible formations, and that a panic or sudden charge might send the whole lot in disorder down the hill at any moment. I said it was too dangerous a situation to be prolonged, and that he must either attack or I should withdraw his force. I advocated, as I had previously done, an advance from his left. He said that he had the night before ordered General Coke to assault Spion Kop, but the latter had objected to undertaking a night attack on a position the road to which he had not reconnoitred, and added that he intended to assault Spion Kop that night.

“I suggested that as General Coke was still lame from the effects of a lately broken leg, General Woodgate, who had two sound legs, was better adapted for mountain climbing.

“As no heliograph could, on account of the fire, be kept on the east side of Spion Kop, messages for Sir C. Warren were received by our signallers at Spearman and telegraphed to Sir C. Warren; thus I saw them before he did, as I was at the signal station. The telegram Sir C. Warren quotes did not give me confidence in its sender, and at the moment I could see that our men on the top had given way and that efforts were being made to rally them. I telegraphed to Sir C. Warren: ‘Unless you put some really good hard fighting man in command on the top you will lose the hill. I suggest Thorneycroft.’

“The statement that a staff officer reported direct to me during the day is a mistake. Colonel àCourt was sent down by General Woodgate almost as soon as he gained the summit.

“I have not thought it necessary to order any investigation. If at sundown the defence of the summit had been taken regularly in hand, intrenchments laid out, gun emplacements prepared, the dead removed, the wounded collected, and, in fact, the whole place brought under regular military command, and careful arrangements made for the supply of water and food to the scattered fighting line, the hills would have been held, I am sure.

“But no arrangements were made. General Coke appears to have been ordered away just as he would have been useful, and no one succeeded him; those on the top were ignorant of the fact that guns were coming up, and generally there was a want of organisation and system that acted most unfavourably on the defence.

“It is admitted by all that Colonel Thorneycroft acted with the greatest[Pg 196] gallantry throughout the day, and really saved the situation. Preparations for the second day’s defence should have been organised during the day and have been commenced at nightfall.

“As this was not done I think Colonel Thorneycroft exercised a wise discretion.

“Our losses, I regret to say, were very heavy, but the enemy admitted to our doctors that theirs were equally severe, and though we were not successful in retaining the position, the losses inflicted on the enemy and the attack generally have had a marked effect upon them.

“I cannot close these remarks without bearing testimony to the gallant and admirable behaviour of the troops, the endurance shown by the Lancashire Fusiliers, the Middlesex Regiment, and Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry was admirable, while the efforts of the 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles and 3rd Battalion King’s Royal Rifles were equally good, and the Royal Lancasters fought gallantly.”

The Commander-in-Chief, writing to the Secretary of State for War, thus criticised both operations and operators:—

“The plan of operations is not very clearly described in the despatches themselves, but it may be gathered from them and the accompanying documents themselves that the original intention was to cross the Tugela at or near Trichardt’s Drift, and thence by following the road past Fair View and Acton Homes, to gain the open plain north of Spion Kop, the Boer position in front of Potgieter’s Drift being too strong to be taken by direct attack. The whole force, less one brigade, was placed under the orders of Sir Charles Warren, who, the day after he had crossed the Tugela, seems to have consulted his General and principal Staff Officers, and to have come to the conclusion that the flanking movement which Sir Redvers Buller had mentioned in his secret instructions was impracticable on account of the insufficiency of supplies. He accordingly decided to advance by the more direct road leading north-east and branching off from a point east of Three Tree Hill. The selection of this road necessitated the capture and retention of Spion Kop, but whether it would have been equally necessary to occupy Spion Kop, had the line of advance indicated by Sir Redvers Buller been followed, is not stated in the correspondence. As Sir Charles Warren considered it impossible to make the wide flanking movement which was recommended, if not actually prescribed, in his secret instructions, he should at once have acquainted Sir Redvers Buller with the course of action which he proposed to adopt. There is nothing to show whether he did so or not, but it seems only fair to Sir Charles Warren to point out that Sir Redvers Buller appears throughout to have been aware of what was happening. On several occasions he was present during the operations. He repeatedly gave advice to his subordinate Commander, and on the day after the withdrawal from Spion Kop he resumed the chief command.”

The abandonment of Spion Kop was condemned by Lord Roberts in the following terms:—

“As regards the withdrawal of the troops from the Spion Kop position, which, though occupied almost without opposition in the early morning of the 24th January, had to be held throughout the day under an extremely heavy fire, and the retention of which had become essential to the relief of Ladysmith,[Pg 197] I regret that I am unable to concur with Sir Redvers Buller in thinking that Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft exercised a wise discretion in ordering the troops to retire. Even admitting that due preparations may not have been made for strengthening the position during the night, reorganising the defence and bringing up artillery—in regard to which Sir Charles Warren’s report does not altogether bear out Sir Redvers Buller’s contention—admitting also that the senior officers on the summit of the hill might have been more promptly informed of the measures taken by Sir Charles Warren to support and reinforce them, I am of opinion that Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft’s assumption of responsibility and authority was wholly inexcusable. During the night the enemy’s fire, if it did not cease altogether, could not have been formidable, and though lamp signalling was not possible at the time owing to the supply of oil having failed, it would not have taken more than two or three hours at most for Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft to communicate by messenger with Major-General Coke or Sir Charles Warren, and to receive a reply. Major-General Coke appears to have left Spion Kop at 9.30 P.M. for the purpose of consulting with Sir Charles Warren, and up to that hour the idea of a withdrawal had not been entertained. Yet almost immediately after Major-General Coke’s departure Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft issued an order, without reference to superior authority, which upset the whole plan of operations and rendered unavailing the sacrifices which had already been made to carry it into effect.”

In spite of this somewhat severe criticism, however, Lord Roberts went on to say:—

“On the other hand, it is only right to state that Lieut.-Colonel Thorneycroft appears to have behaved in a very gallant manner throughout the day, and it was doubtless due, in a great measure, to his exertions and example that the troops continued to hold the summit of the hill until directed to retire.”

The action of Captain Phillips he warmly praised:—

“The conduct of Captain Phillips, Brigade-Major of the 10th Brigade, on the occasion in question, is deserving of high commendation. He did his best to rectify the mistake which was being made, but it was too late. Signalling communication was not re-established until 2.30 A.M. on the 25th January, and by that time the Naval guns could not have reached the summit of the hill before daybreak. Major-General Coke did not return, and Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneycroft had gone away. Moreover, most of the troops had begun to leave the hill, and the working parties, with the half-company of Royal Engineers, had also withdrawn.”

Briefly the Commander-in-Chief deplored the chaotic state of affairs prior to the retirement. He said:—

“It is to be regretted that Sir Charles Warren did not himself visit Spion Kop during the afternoon or evening, knowing as he did that the state of affairs there was very critical, and that the loss of the position would involve the failure of the operations. He was, consequently, obliged to summon Major-General Coke to his headquarters in the evening, in order that he might ascertain how matters were going on, and the command on Spion Kop thus devolved on Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneycroft; but Major-General Coke was[Pg 198] not aware of this. About midday, under instructions from Sir Redvers Buller, Sir Charles Warren had directed Lieutenant-Colonel Thorneycroft to assume command on the summit of the hill, with the temporary rank of Brigadier-General, but this order was not communicated to Major-General Coke, who, until he left the position at 9.30 P.M., was under the impression that the command had devolved on Colonel Hill, as senior officer, after Colonel Crofton had been wounded. Omissions or mistakes of this nature may be trivial in themselves, yet may exercise an important influence on the course of events; and I think that Sir Redvers Buller is justified in remarking that ‘there was a want of organisation and system which acted most unfavourably on the defence.’”

In conclusion, the principal actors in the drama were censured, while the troops engaged received well-merited praise:—

“The attempt to relieve Ladysmith, described in these despatches, was well devised, and I agree with Sir Redvers Buller in thinking that it ought to have succeeded. That it failed may, in some measure, be due to the difficulties of the ground and the commanding positions held by the enemy—probably also to errors of judgment and want of administrative capacity on the part of Sir Charles Warren. But whatever faults Sir Charles Warren may have committed, the failure must also be ascribed to the disinclination of the officer in supreme command to assert his authority and see that what he thought best was done, and also to the unwarrantable and needless assumption of responsibility by a subordinate officer.

“The gratifying feature in these despatches is the admirable behaviour of the troops throughout the operations.”

[Pg 199]


The following Divisions reached South Africa at the end of 1899 and the beginning of 1900.


Lieutenant-General—Lieut.-General Sir C. Warren, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., R.E.

Aides-de-Camp—Major R. M. B. F. Kelly, R.A.; Lieut. I. V. Paton, Royal Scots Fusiliers.

Assistant Adjutant-General—Colonel A. W. Morris, p.s.c.

Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-Generals—Bt.-Major T. Capper, East Lancashire Regt., p.s.c.; Bt.-Major H. N. Sargent, Army Service Corps.

Assistant Provost-Marshal—Bt.-Major E. C. J. Williams, East Kent Regt.

Principal Medical Officer—Lieut.-Colonel W. B. Allin, M.B., R.A.M.C.

Divisional Signalling Officer—Captain A. A. McHardy, R.A.


Major-General—Colonel (local Maj.-General) J. T. Coke.

Aide-de-Camp—Lieut. W. E. Kemble, R.A.

Brigade-Major—Captain H. G. C. Phillips, Welsh Regt., p.s.c.


Major-General—Colonel (local Maj.-General) E. R. P. Woodgate, K.C.M.G., C.B., p.s.c.

Aide-de-Camp—Captain F. M. Carleton, D.S.O., Royal Lancashire Regt.

Brigade-Major—Captain N. H. Vertue, East Kent Regt.


Lieutenant-General—Major-General (local Lieut.-General) T. Kelly-Kenny, C.B., p.s.c.

Aides-de-Camp—Major H. I. W. Hamilton, D.S.O., Royal West Surrey Regt., p.s.c.; Captain W. H. Booth, East Kent Regt.

Assistant Adjutant-General—Colonel A. E. W. Goldsmid, p.s.c.

Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-Generals—Major C. C. Monro, Royal West Surrey Regt., p.s.c.; Major J. E. Caunter, Lancashire Fusiliers, p.s.c.

Assistant Provost-Marshal—Major M. G. Wilkinson, King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Principal Medical Officer—Lieut.-Colonel W. L. Gubbins, M.B., R.A.M.C.

Divisional Signalling Officer—Lieut. J. T. Burnett-Stuart, Rifle Brigade.


Major-General—Colonel (local Maj.-General) R. A. P. Clements, D.S.O., A.D.C.

Aide-de-Camp—Captain H. de C. Moody, South Wales Borderers.

Brigade-Major—Captain R. S. Oxley, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, p.s.c.


Major-General—Colonel (local Maj.-General) C. E. Knox.

Aide-de-Camp—Captain O. H. E. Marescaux, Shropshire Light Infantry.

Brigade-Major—Captain R. W. Thompson, North Lancashire Regt., p.s.c.[Pg 200]


Lieutenant-General—Major-General (local Lieut.-General) C. Tucker, C.B. Aides-de-Camp—

Assistant Adjutant-General—Colonel H. E. Belfield, p.s.c.

Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-Generals—Brevet-Major H. G. Fitton, D.S.O., Royal Berkshire Regt., p.s.c.; Lieut.-Colonel H. G. Rice, Army Service Corps.

Assistant Provost-Marshal—Brevet-Major F. Wintour, Royal West Kent Regt., p.s.c.

Principal Medical Officer—Lieut.-Colonel J. A. Gormley, M.D., R.A.M.C.

Divisional Signalling Officer—Captain J. R. K. Birch, Cheshire Regt.


Major-General—Major-General Sir H. C. Chermside, G.C.M.G., C.B., R.E.

Aide-de-Camp—Captain E. FitzG. M. Wood, Devonshire Regt.

Brigade-Major—Captain W. M. Marter, 1st Dragoon Guards, p.s.c.


Major-General—Colonel (local Maj.-General) A. G. Wavell, p.s.c.

Brigade-Major—Captain L. R. Carleton, Essex Regt., p.s.c.


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
Edinburgh & London

Transcribers' Notes

Page vi: "Birds-eye" standardised to "Bird's-eye" before "View of the Ground"

Page vi: "Potgeiter's" corrected to "Potgieter's" after "The Crossing of"

Page vii: "Blue-jackets" standardised to "Bluejackets" before "blew up Tugela Road"

Page viii: "Jacobdsal" corrected to "Jacobsdal" after "Free State territory near"

Page viii: "re-occupied" standardised to "reoccupied" after "British force"

Page viii: "Dekeil's" corrected to "Dekiel's" after "Relief of Kimberley, seized"

Page 5: "enroll" standardised to "enrol" after "forward in crowds to"

Page 15: "Divison" corrected to "Division" after "the Sixth"

Page 30: Variant spelling "viâ" not standardised as part of a quotation

Page 31: "bombproof" standardised to "bomb-proof" after "burrowing like rabbits, or in"

Page 55: "Jaysfontein" corrected to "Jasfontein" after "away from a farm at"

Page 56: "Zoutspansdrift" corrected to "Zoutpansdrift" after "in the direction of Kamak and"

Page 56: "Naauwport" corrected to "Naauwpoort" after "lot of those around"

Page 58: "Naauwport" corrected to "Naauwpoort" after "The inhabitants of"

Page 71: "bloodthirsty" standardised to "blood-thirsty" after "They proved to be not"

Page 71: "farm-house" standardised to "farmhouse" after "bivouacked at the"

Page 73: "horse-shoe" as in the original. Not standardised as this is an adjectival usage

Page 77: "look-out" standardised to "lookout" after "They employed"

Page 78: "Koodoosberg" corrected to "Koodoesberg" after "troops from Barkly and"

Page 85: "bloodstained" standardised to "blood-stained" after "the eyes of those who,"

Page 86: "gantlet" as in the original

Page 92: "Divsion" corrected to "Division" after "Second"

Page 96: "POTGEITER'S" corrected to "POTGIETER'S" after "THE CROSSING OF"

Page 99: "Carbineers" corrected to "Carabineers" after "one squadron Natal"

Page 108: "roast" corrected to "roost" after "We shall be rulers of the"

Page 123: "head-quarters" standardised to "headquarters" after "some even reaching"

Page 134: "Blomfontein" corrected to "Bloemfontein" after "Steyn and Kruger dated"

Page 148: "rough-riders" standardised to "roughriders" after "despatch of 500 expert"

Page 174: "Naauwport" corrected to "Naauwpoort" after "thirty-seven miles north of"

Page 179: "sandstorms" standardised to "sand-storms" after "These"

Page 182: "Ochtertang" corrected to "Achtertang" after "reconnoitring towards"

Page 185: "unusally" corrected to "unusually" after "Boer movements rendered"

Page 194: "Sandbags" standardised to "Sand-bags" before "were sent up early"

Page 195: "Potgeiter's" as in the original. Left as part of a quotation.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of South Africa and the Transvaal War, Vol. 3 (of 6), by 
Louis Creswicke


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