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"L'art d'etre tantot audacieux et tantot tres prudent est l'art de reussir." Napoleon.
COLUMN SENT FROM ORANGE RIVER TO RELIEVE KIMBERLEY: IT FAILS TO REACH THE DIAMOND FIELDS ADVANCE OF RELIEF COLUMN NOTIFIED TO KEKEWICH
The enemy continued to shell Kimberley and Beaconsfield intermittently; our mounted troops, however, more than made up for the deficiencies of our artillery by continually harassing not only the Boer gunners but the burghers also who were entrenched at Olifantsfontein, Felstead's Farm, Webster's Farm and other localities round Kimberley.
On 21st November it was noticed that large bodies of the enemy were trekking southward. The investment of the Diamond Fields was now so close that "runners" had the greatest difficulty in passing through the Boer lines, and practically no information was reaching military Headquarters concerning matters outside the defence lines. It was conjectured by Kekewich that the activity observed on the part of the Boers was probably due to the arrival of reinforcements at the Orange River railway bridge, and to the possibility that the superior military authorities were, in consequence, contemplating a forward move of the British troops from that locality. Of the size and composition of the British force at the Orange River railway bridge Kekewich was still completely ignorant.
After a long interval of complete isolation, a "runner" managed to get into Kimberley early on the morning of 23rd November and at 8 a.m. on that day, a message (in cipher) was brought up to the Conning Tower. When decoded, it read: "18th November. No. R 98: General leaves here with small force on 21st November, and will arrive Kimberley on 26th, unless detained at Modder River. Look out for signals by searchlight from us, they will be in cipher." It will be observed that not the slightest clue is given in the above message as to the numbers and composition of the Relief Column, nor as to the route by which it would endeavour to march into Kimberley from the Modder River. The forbidding character of the Spytfontein position—of which the kopjes at Magersfontein formed the most southerly feature—and the fact that the Boers were likely to stand on the position, had been fully reported to military headquarters at Orange River by the Intelligence Officer in Kimberley, the information being repeated at intervals in three messages. It had further been reported that just eastward of the frontier fence (only three miles from the railway at the Magersfontein kopjes), the country was open and afforded a good and easy line of advance into Kimberley. All the information collected in Kimberley as to the Boer laagers along the railway from Spytfontein to Belmont had, as stated earlier, also been communicated to the Intelligence Officer at Orange River. It was, of course, not known that the De Beers' directors had in their letter of 31st October to the High Commissioner given their views as to the strength of the Boer force which a Relief Column would have to deal with; they put the number at about one-half of that indicated in the reports reaching Kekewich. The De Beers' directors stated; "Our information, which is reliable, gives not more than 2,000 to 3,000 Boers between this place and Orange River." Rhodes had learnt that a "runner" had arrived in Kimberley with despatches for Kekewich, and came down to inquire the nature of the information that had reached military Headquarters. Kekewich told Rhodes, in strict confidence, that a Relief Column had started from the Orange River on the 21st for the Diamond Fields, but, being in the dark himself as to the composition of the force and not having been told who was in command, he was unable to satisfy Rhodes' curiosity on these points.
A SUCCESSFUL SORTIE BY THE KIMBERLEY TROOPS
The mounted troops in Kimberley had, as already explained, been constantly making sorties on a small scale since the engagement fought on Dronfield Ridge (24th October). The armoured-train was also harassing the Boers as much as possible, and on 24th November the officer in command, whilst reconnoitring to the south of Kimberley, observed that the enemy was very busy destroying railway culverts; it was conjectured that this activity was probably due to the fact that the Relief Column had arrived at, or was very near to, the Modder River. Kekewich now felt that the time had arrived for him to do something with a view to relieving the pressure on the Relief Column, and, therefore, decided to make a sortie the next day on a scale larger than usual. In view of the information sent south as to the character of the country between the Modder River and Kimberley, Kekewich was of opinion that the Relief Column, in advancing from the Modder River, would probably keep well to the eastward of the railway. In these circumstances, he considered that it would be undesirable for the Kimberley troops to sortie in a south-easterly direction, as this might indicate to the enemy the line of advance of the Relief Column from the Modder River. He consequently arranged for a demonstration to be made in a south-westerly direction against Wimbledon Ridge; at the same time, an attack was to be made at daybreak against the Carter's Ridge position. The whole scheme was explained to the principal officers who were to take part in the sortie at a conference held on the afternoon of the 24th. Chamier (C.R.A.), as the officer next in seniority to Kekewich, was placed in command of the troops making the demonstration, whilst Scott Turner was to lead the troops detailed for the attack on Carter's Ridge. Kekewich took up his position at the "Observatory" in the Reservoir Redoubt about 3 a.m. on the 25th. While it was still dark, the Kimberley troops advanced from our line of defences. Scott Turner handled his command with great skill and dash, and by 8 o'clock had driven the enemy from his position, capturing twenty-four unwounded and nine wounded prisoners, who were brought safely into Kimberley. Our losses were four killed, twenty wounded and three missing.
The townspeople of Kimberley and Beaconsfield were elated at the success of our troops and cheered Kekewich vociferously when he was on his way back to the Kimberley Club. The examination of the prisoners-of-war was begun at once, but it naturally took some time to cross-examine them all; they variously estimated the numbers of burghers round Kimberley and between the town and the Modder River at figures ranging from 3,000 to 15,000. An analysis of the information so obtained made it clear that we had now Transvaalers as well as Free Staters besieging Kimberley, and it appeared that the number of Boers between Kimberley and the Modder River did not exceed 6,000; it was estimated that, in addition, there were other 1,200 burghers on the north and west of the town. One of the prisoners also stated most positively that Cronje had left Mafeking a few days before our attack and was now approaching the Diamond Fields; this bit of information seemed to confirm a rumour that had reached us earlier, to the effect that 8,000 Boers were now concentrated between Kimberley and Spytfontein. All the information obtained from the prisoners-of-war was sent to the Relief Column at the earliest possible moment. It was several days later that we learnt that the Relief Column had also been engaged (at Enslin) on the 25th.
No information concerning the movements of the Relief Column had at this time reached Kekewich since its departure from the Orange River, our last message beings that of 18th November, but every one was now on the tip-toe of expectation; it was possible that the approach of the relieving troops might be signalled at any moment. Rhodes had been much cheered by the success of the Kimberley troops on the 25th, and during the afternoon came to our Headquarters for the purpose of giving Kekewich advice; he now strongly urged that the Kimberley mounted troops should be sent off at once to Jacobsdal, there to meet the Relief Column and guide it into Kimberley. Kekewich pointed out the unsoundness of the proposal, saying that he had no information as to the whereabouts of the Relief Column and was certainly not going to run any risk of having the most valuable part of his reserve cut off, particularly in view of the information gleaned from the prisoners-of-war. Rhodes, as was his wont, brushed aside all Kekewich's objections to his proposal and completely lost his temper, making most abusive and disparaging remarks about the British Army. Kekewich would not give way and Rhodes, finding that Kekewich was more than a match for him, went off to the Sanatorium Hotel, making it abundantly clear that he was no believer in Napoleon's maxim which says: "In war, prudence advises a just estimate of the value of the enemy, and more than he deserves, if you do not know his strength."
On 26th November a Boer medical officer came into Kimberley under a flag of truce, in order to purchase chloroform and drugs. Medical supplies were, fortunately, fairly plentiful in the town, and it was, therefore, possible for Kekewich to meet the request made to him on behalf of the Boer Head Commandant. The Boer doctor was not asked any questions, but, when leaving the town, he volunteered information to the barrier guard and stated that, in the previous day's fighting, the Boers had suffered heavy losses.
RELIEF COLUMN'S SEARCHLIGHT SIGNALS SEEN
On 27th November the enemy began to shell Kimberley at 5.15 a.m. from the Carter's Ridge position, which he had re-occupied, but did little damage. Our armoured-train was busy too on this day; during the afternoon, it made three excursions to the north and kept the commando at the Intermediate Pumping Station fairly on the move, interfering seriously with the siesta of the Boers.
It was reported by several persons during the day that they had heard distant artillery fire to the southeast of Kimberley. In the evening a searchlight beam could be distinctly seen, from all parts of Kimberley, in the direction of the Modder River railway bridge; messages were being signalled, but only parts of them were read by our signallers. Slowly, the word KLOKFONTEIN was several times signalled; it was presumed that it represented the office of origin and a map was consequently inspected; it was ascertained that there was a farm known by this name southward of the Modder River, and it was, therefore, concluded that the Relief Column had arrived on that river. It was now expected that possibly on the morrow the advanced guard of the relieving troops might come into view in the open country to the south-east of Beaconsfield.
At 3.30 on the morning of the 28th the enemy began to bombard Kimberley, but only fired a few projectiles. We were surprised at the sudden cessation of the shelling by the Boer artillery, and the question arose as to whether the movements of the Relief Column had anything to do with the evident nervousness shown by tie enemy. Could it be that the Relief Column had started on the final stage of its march into Kimberley? Kekewich thought that an affirmative answer to this question might prove correct and provided the explanation as to why the "morning hate" had been cut short. He therefore decided to mate a strong demonstration at once in broad daylight, with a view to holding as large a force as possible of the enemy in our immediate vicinity.
A conference was now immediately summoned which the officers who were to play a principal role were ordered to attend. It was arranged that a force of 1,800 men, including the six guns of the Diamond Fields Artillery—that is to say, more than one-third of our small garrison—was to sally out beyond our lines of defence, with Chamier in command. The scheme was that the armoured-train, supported by 300 men of the Town Guard, was to proceed to Alexandersfontein; the main column, consisting of 100 mounted men, six guns, a section R.E., six companies of infantry and six maxims, was to advance towards Wimbledon Ridge, its right being covered by 600 mounted men under Scott Turner. The necessary orders having been given out, the officers attending the conference went off to their commands. Kekewich recalled Scott Turner, as he was leaving the room- The latter was a brave and dashing officer and had been slightly wounded on the 25th but remained on duty. Kekewich had noticed that Scott Turner was anxious to storm Carter's Ridge again, and seemed, further, to be exposing himself more than the circumstances really warranted. For this reason Kekewich thought it necessary to have a friendly chat with Scott Turner and explained to him that an attack a outrance was not to be undertaken against the Boer position. Finally, as a last word, Kekewich said to him: "My dear chap, remember I do not want you to make an assault on Carter's Ridge or to capture it, unless it is unoccupied by the Boers, or so slightly occupied that there is every prospect of an attempt against it succeeding."
THE BOERS PUT UP A STUBBORN FIGHT
Kekewich took up his position on the "Observatory" in the Reservoir Redoubt a little time before the troops were due to pass through our defence lines. At 3 p.m. the troops under Chamier sallied out according to plan. Scott Turner moved off on the right with his mounted men, after the main column had passed beyond our lines at a point south of the Reservoir Redoubt. As soon as the Boer artillerymen espied the Kimberley troops they opened fire from the Carter's Ridge position, apparently making Scott Turner's men their first target; however, the elevation was too great and the Boer projectiles began to fall in the Reservoir Redoubt in the neighbourhood of the "Observatory." Fortunately, no damage was done. Kekewich could, from his position, clearly observe the advance of the main column and the right flank detachment under Scott Turner. Presently, the latter was seen to wheel to the right and to advance towards the Boer guns on Carter's Ridge. It had been arranged at the conference that two guns should support Scott Turner, but for some reason, which was not satisfactorily explained, a delay occurred in sending off these guns to the right of the main column. They eventually came into action against Carter's Farm (Peddiefontein), but were unskilfully handled and their fire was ineffective.
A fierce engagement was soon raging at the southern end of Carter's Farm. Chamier appeared to be exercising full control over the situation at this time, and at 4.10 p.m. a signal message was received from him at the "Observatory" giving briefly an outline of the positions occupied by his force; the message closed with the words: "Colonel Turner advances on Carter's." Other messages were received from Chamier, from time to time, and all appeared to be going well and according to programme. It had been arranged that Kekewich would meet Chamier and Scott Turner at a spot about 800 yards west of the Reservoir Redoubt at 6 p.m., and he went accordingly to the appointed place, but neither Chamier nor Scott Turner attended. The light began to fail while Kekewich was waiting for the two officers named; the crackling of the rifles still continued to be heard at Carter's Ridge. The absence of information from the firing line was puzzling, but there was no reason for supposing that misfortune had overtaken the Kimberley troops. Kekewich therefore sent an instruction to Chamier directing him to hold on to the positions reached by his command, and retired to the Kimberley Club.
The fighting at Carter's Ridge continued far into the evening; at last, between 11 p.m. and midnight, a report was brought to Kekewich containing the sad information that Scott Turner had been killed and that the mounted men who had been under his command were retiring, of their own accord, into Kimberley. As such a move would uncover Chamier's right, orders were sent out at once to the squadron commanders directing them to halt their commands and to apply to Chamier for further orders. At the same time, a staff officer was sent out with orders for Chamier, who was instructed to remain in his position until daylight and then to withdraw to the line of our defences. These orders were communicated to Chamier at 4 a.m. on the 29th; some difficulty was experienced in localizing his headquarters in the dark. The Kimberley troops were not molested in any way during the night, and, eventually, got back to their several camp-grounds safely. This sortie cost the garrison a loss of two officers and twenty other ranks killed, and one officer and twenty-seven other ranks wounded.
It was not until 28th November that the Relief Column reached the Modder River and fought the enemy there; it endeavoured to communicate by searchlight with Kimberley that evening and also on the following night, but did not succeed in getting a message through.
Kekewich felt the loss of Scott Turner keenly, and the relatively heavy casualties suffered by the locally raised troops naturally cast a gloom over the whole town. Rhodes called to see Kekewich on the morning of the 29th; Scott Turner was a personal friend of his, and he was, like every one else, very upset at his death and the losses suffered on the previous day. He was in one of his most difficult moods and criticized everything the military authorities were doing; he appeared to think that war could be carried on with out the loss of any lives. He told Kekewich that the Kimberley troops ought not to be employed to carry out sorties. "Remember," he said, "you are not in command of a lot of 'Tommies,' but of men with family responsibilities, whose lives you have no right to risk." He further alleged that the attack on Carter's Ridge was made with too small a force, and mischievously spread the report that only "seventy citizen soldiers of Kimberley went to take the position" at Carter's Ridge, although he had been in-formed of the number of men under Scott Turner's command on the 28th. Kekewich had no intention, as has already been stated, to bring on a serious engagement on that day, but, although he felt that the casualties were due to a failure on the part of his subordinates to carry out his instructions, he was too loyal to them to inform Rhodes of the true cause of the misfortune which befell our troops or in any way to discuss questions affecting the leadership of his subordinates.
Late on the evening of 29th November a despatch-rider arrived in Kimberley with a message from Lord Methuen for Kekewich. This message contained inquiries as to the position of affairs in Kimberley, and as to the communications which had reached Kimberley from the south. Kekewich replied that the only message received at his Headquarters since nth November was the one dated 18th idem giving probable date of the arrival of the Relief Column in Kimberley. Judging by the language used in Methuen's message, it seemed that the superior authorities in Cape Town were still anxious as to the situation in Kimberley. Accordingly, Kekewich again reported in explicit terms: "Situation here not critical." He then proceeded to give particulars of the Boer forces besieging the Diamond Fields; his message continued: "Enemy north and west of us are Transvaalers and number probably 1,200 men. On our east, Boers have withdrawn to the hills eight to ten miles from here—strength unknown. Boer prisoners captured in engagement of 25th November give number between here and Modder River as anything from 3,000 to 15,000 men; believe actual numbers to be about 6,000 men, partly Transvaalers and partly Free Staters."
Lord Methuen had also asked whether the Kimberley troops could in any way co-operate with a view to assisting the advance of the Relief Column. In reply, Kekewich stated that if he were given information as to Methuen's plans, he could create a diversion with a small force consisting of six guns, 500 mounted men and 200 infantry (Regulars).
The despatch-rider who had brought this message into Kimberley had been present at Belmont during the action fought by the Relief Column. After he had left the military Headquarters, he was interviewed at the Sanatorium Hotel by certain of the important civilians in Kimberley, who were naturally anxious to obtain first-hand knowledge of the doings of the Relief Column; he appears to have been closely cross-examined as to the details of the fighting at Belmont. It was later learnt at Kekewich's Headquarters that the account of the engagement given by this despatch-rider, and his answers to the questions put to him, had given an impression to his audience that the action at Belmont had not been a very successful affair for the British. This was pretty evident from the despondency which prevailed among a certain section of the public in Kimberley; those who were in low spirits made no effort to conceal their feelings. On the other hand, the Boers were under no illusion as to the superior fighting power of the British troops with whom they had been engaged. Unmistakable evidence was given to us in Kimberley that many of the Boers too were very considerably disheartened. At 6 a.m. on 1st December those who were on watch in the Conning Tower with Kekewich observed a long column of Boer transport on the move, some ten or twelve miles north of Kimberley; it was trekking as fast as it could go in an easterly or north-easterly direction. During the afternoon of the same day, a staff officer, who had ridden down to the Premier Mine defences, noticed several small parties of Boers on the move; they appeared to be trekking from the direction of the Modder River railway bridge towards Boshof.
On the evening of 1st December another important message reached Kekewich; in it were given particulars concerning the composition of the Relief Column, and we then learnt that it was to a weak division that Buller had, owing to the pressure put upon him, entrusted the task of relieving Kimberley; the numbers of troops available in Cape Colony did not allow of a larger force being employed.
THE "REMOVAL ORDER"
The non-arrival of the Relief Column in Kimberley and the absence of news as to its progress had towards the end of November begun to cause uneasiness in certain quarters of the besieged town. This uneasiness was reflected in a leading article entitled "Turning the tables," published in the issue of the Diamond. Fields Advertiser for 1st December. However, two days later, a despatch-rider arrived in Kimberley with a message for Kekewich from Methuen, stating that the Relief Column had reached the Modder River. This information was published in the Diamond Fields Advertiser of 4th December, which announced that the "troops under Major-General Lord Methuen have made the passage of the Modder River after a successful engagement with the enemy." The news naturally caused considerable enthusiasm in the town. There was, however, in the despatch an instruction which could not be made public. Kekewich was informed that, owing to the paucity of troops in Cape Colony, the operations for the relief of Kimberley then in progress were not of a character designed to secure the permanent restoration of communications between the Diamond Fields and the coast. In consequence, it was contemplated that the Relief Column would make but a short stay in Kimberley and then return south for the purpose of taking part in a direct advance on Bloemfontein in accordance with the original plan of campaign. The intention, therefore, was to re-provision Kimberley and add some heavy guns and one and a half battalions of infantry to the garrison; further, in order to lessen the number of mouths to be fed and, at the same time, to remove the women and children from a danger spot, it had been decided that all civilians not forming part of the defence force, except those required by the Municipal Authorities in connection with essential services and by the De Beers Company to protect their plant and machinery, were to be removed to the coast. Kekewich was ordered to make arrangements for the exodus contemplated.
The despatch-rider who had brought the despatch last mentioned from Methuen had entered Kimberley by a barrier guarded by a detachment of Volunteers. The N.C.O. in charge at this point, in disregard of his orders, took the despatch-rider to the Sanatorium Hotel. The despatch-rider had been present at the Modder River fight; consequently, Rhodes detained him until he had obtained information as to the details of the engagement fought for the passage of the river on 28th November. Having, at the same time, learnt that the despatch-rider was the bearer of a message in cipher for Kekewich, Rhodes called later at the military Headquarters to learn the latest official news; he was informed that Methuen's message dealt with plans connected with the relief of Kimberley. Further, Kekewich emphasized the importance of the strictest secrecy being maintained on the subject. Rhodes was then told that, only on condition of his promising not to divulge any of the information concerning the relief arrangements, could Kekewich communicate to him the nature of the instructions that had been received. Rhodes gave the promise asked for and the full text of Methuen's message was then read to him; he was very displeased with the proposed arrangements. Late in the evening, it came to Kekewich's knowledge that Rhodes had communicated the information given to him, in the strictest confidence, to some of the De Beers' directors and also to some of the Company's officials; this leakage caused Kekewich much anxiety. Next day, a further message on the same subject was received at military Headquarters; it furnished a few more particulars as to the additional garrison to be provided for Kimberley. After this message had been decoded, Rhodes called at the office to inquire whether there were any further developments; he was told that another message had come in, but, said Kekewich: "I can only communicate the further information if you will give me a solemn assurance that you will keep whatever I may communicate to you strictly to yourself and not repeat it either to De Beers7 directors or to the Company's officials." The storm which had been gathering at the Sanatorium Hotel since the earliest days of the siege now broke. Rhodes completely lost his temper and shouted: "That is exactly what you told me yesterday and I am not going to be told that by you again." Kekewich remained unruffled and quietly explained that he had learnt that Rhodes had communicated to others the information given to him in confidence on the previous day, and he had to consider the matter not alone from the point of view of a breach of the undertaking expressly given by Rhodes, but also from the point of view of the jeopardy in which military arrangements were placed by the possibility of the Boers obtaining full knowledge of the plans which the military authorities were intending to carry out. Rhodes' answer was that he intended to make whatever use he might think necessary of the information already given to him and refused to be bound in any way as to communications made to him by Kekewich; he left the office in high dudgeon, vowing all kinds of vengeance against Buller and Kekewich and his Staff. The rupture between the Commandant of Kimberley and the leading civilian in the town was now complete.
Kekewich, however, took immediate steps with a view to the removal of the civil population being carried out in an orderly manner, and, on 5th December, appointed a small committee, consisting of the Mayor of Kimberley and some Town Councillors, entrusting to it the preparation of a detailed scheme on the lines indicated by him verbally at its first meeting—the proposal involved the removal of 8,000 whites and 12,000 coloured people. Needless to say, as little information as possible was communicated to the members of the committee, and that little they were instructed to treat as a strict secret. In the meantime, Rhodes got to work with the De Beers Board to oppose the removal scheme and bombarded the High Commissioner and Kekewich with letters containing strong protests and even threats. The De Beers Board in one of their letters suggested that their protest was based on information received by Rhodes from the Mayor and Town Council of Kimberley. The fact is, the Mayor was sent for by Rhodes and found that the latter was in possession of more information than the committee—this Kekewich, of course, knew. The point which to Rhodes and De Beers Board appeared at the moment to be of the greatest importance was that coal and dynamite should be sent forward for the Company. On 7th December, a communication was received from the High Commissioner for Rhodes; therein the latter was informed that "as regards coal and dynamite, these must wait guns, troops and supplies for troops and necessary civil population to be got in and military operations connected with relief completed." Kekewich was thereupon notified by the De Beers Company, inter alia, that, in view of the possibility of their demands not being complied with by the military authorities, the Board had "decided to dismiss the whole of their employes, close their mines," and further that they intended "to discharge the natives now in the De Beers' compounds."
Kekewich acknowledged these communications and, at the same time, informed the De Beers Board he did not agree that the directors had put a correct interpretation on the High Commissioner's message to Rhodes, who, by the way, now took up the attitude that the communications passing between himself and the High Commissioner were no concern of the military Commandant, but a matter between himself and His Excellency, and that he had an absolutely free hand to deal with such correspondence as it seemed to him best. Rhodes' conduct at this time was intolerable; had the Commandant of Kimberley been a man with less self-control than that possessed by Kekewich, it is quite possible that very serious action would have been taken against Rhodes and the consequences risked.
THE RELIEF COLUMN FIGHTS AT MAGERSFONTEIN
Not satisfied with the replies received from the High Commissioner to his letters and those of the De Beers Board, Rhodes now got into direct touch with Methuen. On 10th December, he sent his private secretary to the military Headquarters with a letter which he wanted Kekewich to send for him to the Commander of the Relief Column. The communication was in the following terms: "Dear Methuen: If Spytfontein is in your opinion too big a job why not push an advance to Bisset's (Magersfontein), throw up a fort and leave infantry? This would leave you eleven miles from Beaconsfield. The Boers, as you know, never attack a fort. The men here could easily occupy Alexandersfontein and a joint movement could then occupy Scholtz's Water. The result would be that you would then hold the waters on which their Spytfontein position depends and complete connection from Modder River here without having risked the difficulties of the Spytfontein hilly country. In my opinion the Boers will then bolt from Spytfontein, as they must have very little water there and must supply their horses from Scholtz's and Bisset's." The tone and tenour of this letter did not commend itself to Kekewich, who refused to send it to Methuen and informed the bearer of the message accordingly. Rhodes' next step was to send his private secretary back to our Headquarters with a demand calling upon Kekewich to indorse on the letter his refusal to send it on to the addressee; this Kekewich very properly declined to do.
During the course of the day, Rhodes managed to send a letter out of Kimberley, and it reached Methuen in due course, the result being that Kekewich, although ignorant of the step taken by Rhodes, received a rebuke and was informed that the relief measures were a matter which was being dealt with between the military commanders at Modder River and in Kimberley, and Rhodes must not interfere; indeed, the message further stated that when the Relief Column arrived in Kimberley, Rhodes would be one of the first civilians to be sent out of the town.
Early on the morning of 11th December, at the first streak of dawn, a distant continuous rumbling could be distinctly heard by those at the foot of the Conning Tower. Kekewich was at this time already in the crow's nest with the officer on watch. There could be little doubt that the rumbling sounds being wafted to the Diamond Fields were those of the canon liberateur. I therefore hurried up to the top of the Conning Tower and, on reaching a height from which I could look over the roofs of the buildings in the adjacent Compound, could see puffs of smoke in the direction of the Spytfontein Hills as the British shells burst in the air in rapid succession. I quickly joined those already in the crow's nest and watched with them the distant scene; it resembled the view of a far-away coast over which an angry sea was breaking. We scanned, the country to the southward of us closely and many were our conjectures. At 5.55 a.m. a balloon was observed in the direction of Scholtz Nek, which lies some 12 to 14 miles to the southward of the Conning Tower. The airship seemed to be right over the Nek; it moved slightly to the eastward, but did not come perceptibly nearer to us. Between 9 and 10 a.m. smoke could no longer be seen over the Spytfontein Hills and the sound of the cannonading had also died out. Our hopes now rose high and we quite expected that the Relief Column would arrive certainly within sight of our defences at the Premier Mine during the afternoon.
After attending to certain office matters, Kekewich rode down shortly after noon to the New Bultfontein Heap, whence a good view was obtainable over the country south-east of Beaconsfield. The country was now scanned diligently for the first signs of the Relief Column; little did we realize how great a tragedy had been enacted on the north bank of the Modder River that morning. Arrangements for the exodus were still being pushed on and Kekewich had made an appointment to meet the Mayor of Kimberley and his committee, in order to discuss certain details.
In consequence, Kekewich now returned to his Headquarters and then went on to the Town Hall for the meeting; everything passed off agreeably and the exodus scheme seemed to be working out satisfactorily. It still appeared possible that the Relief Column might reach the neighbourhood of Alexandersfontein before nightfall, since shells were again seen to be bursting over the Spytfontein Hills during the afternoon.
Kekewich called to see Rhodes during the afternoon; the latter was in a particularly offensive mood and abused the military in strong terms. Finally, he threatened that, on Kimberley being relieved, he would go home and bring all his influences to bear to ruin Buller and Kekewich and his Staff. Rhodes was particularly boastful of the influence he could exercise through the Press; he stated: "What I have to say on the conduct of the military will be printed in bold letters in a prominent place in the newspapers. I know that you soldiers are not allowed to write to the papers. Even if you did so for the purpose of contradicting what I have to say, your communication would be printed in small type and hidden away in a corner of the paper, so that for 999 persons who would see what I have to say possibly there might be one who would see your contradiction, and he would pay no attention to your statement." This bluster in no way caused Kekewich to shrink from doing his duty according to the dictates of his conscience. If Rhodes thought that he could thus frighten Kekewich, his judgment as to the character of the Commandant was entirely at fault. Rhodes seems to have overlooked the fact that "Simple duty has no place for fear." Kekewich realized that Rhodes could ruin his career in the Army, and probably would try to do so, but he preferred that his prospects should be injuriously affected by his relying on the dictates of his own judgment, and in spite of his having done his duty conscientiously, rather than that his military career should suffer eclipse by reason of a failure on his part to accomplish successfully the task set him owing to his having, from derogatory motives, acted contrary to the accepted principles of war in handling the situation which he was called upon to deal with. However influential Rhodes might be, he was neither a trained soldier nor a military genius; and thus Kekewich refused to act in obedience to his behests.
Rhodes committed a further grave error; he assumed that journalists and publicists were all his particular partisans, and that none of them would be fair-minded enough to try to learn both sides of the story of the Siege of Kimberley before coming to a definite conclusion as to the conduct of Kekewich. Fortunately, "the thirst for truth still remains with us" whether we be soldiers or civilians, and, after the Relief of Kimberley, many journalists and others probed the situation deeply; they searched the official records as well as private diaries and were satisfied that the evidence entirely refuted the charges made against Kekewich.
During the evening of 11th December, a short message was flashed by Methuen to Kekewich. It need scarcely be said everyone in Kimberley was most anxious to learn particulars of the engagement that had been fought that morning and had raised such high hopes. However, the only information given concerning the fight was contained in the three words: "I am checked." Many inquiries were naturally made as to the information that had reached military Headquarters of the Battle of Magersfontein. The public seemed to be under the impression that Kekewich had been furnished with full particulars of the engagement, and when, in reply to questions, he stated that he had not yet received details, there were some who suggested that he was deliberately withholding information from the public.
A very serious step was, in the meantime, taken by the Diamond Fields Advertiser, As soon as the censorship came into force on the Diamond Fields, the editor, in the same way as the newspaper correspondents in Kimberley, had a licence issued to him in the usual form. He was, further, authorized to continue the publication of his newspaper, and, indeed, the military authorities in Kimberley did their best to help in providing news; it was fully recognized that by this means the dreary monotony of the existence of the besieged and the trying conditions of martial law might to some extent be relieved. It was also felt that possibly Dame Rumour might not be able to work much mischief if an attempt were made to keep the public supplied with news of the outside world. In view of the small number of Imperial officers in Kimberley, Kekewich was unable to detail an officer to act as military editor of the newspaper; accordingly, an arrangement was made with the editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser that he would consult the Press Censor before publishing any article dealing with the military situation. This arrangement was honourably carried out until 12th December. But, having fallen out with Kekewich, Rhodes did not now hesitate to make matters as difficult as possible for the military. Consequently, in the issue of the newspaper for 13th December, a leading article appeared, which had not been submitted for censorship; it was entitled, "An Impossible Rumour," and dealt with the military plans, the possibility of the compulsory removal of the civil population to the coast on the arrival of the Relief Column being pointedly hinted at, and many phrases used by Rhodes in his outburst in Kekewich's office two days earlier were reproduced practically verbatim. Kekewich was extremely annoyed at this evasion of the censorship, but, feeling that the editor was acting under the influence of Rhodes, decided that the situation would be met by the Press Censor giving the editor of the paper a "wigging," and this was done.
 War Commission, 1903 [Cd. 1791]. Q.15104
 No. R.98; mentioned earlier
 War Commission, 1903 [Cd. 1791]. Q.15177 et seq
 See Appendix II