1st. To check an undesirable expenditure of ammunition, Colonel Baden-Powell detailed an officer, Mr. Greenfield and six men to accompany the Cape Boys (who invariably opened the ball) up the river bed with orders not to fire unless sure of killing some one, because, though they thoroughly enjoyed themselves yesterday they got through an enormous quantity of powder and shot. These Cape Boys are good men, fair shots, very brave, and have accounted for quite a large number of Boers while out sniping. In consequence of these orders sniping resumed its old condition, and not many volleys were fired. Creaky, in consequence, fired rather more.
2nd. The fire of the Bechuanaland Rifles drove the Boers from their advanced trench to the north-east, which they had occupied, but subsequently abandoned and destroyed, as it was too advanced. But another trench was constructed midway between this trench and our own advanced trench. Four railway men out sniping towards Game Tree fort, came upon the niggers the Boers had posted in advance of that earthwork, and shot one, the rest fled. The Boers swarmed into the trench and their commander was heard to order some men to go and cut the party off. Sharp came the answer, " No, the rooineks are attacking in force." Eventually, after crawling a thousand yards under fire, the party got off safely, having accounted for two Boers.
3rd, Sunday. As our parties were digging late Saturday night and early this morning in the vicinity of the Boer trenches the Boers sent in a flag this morning to ask if we meant to fight on Sunday. We sent back to say no. I rode round the western outpost from the outside and was much struck by the admirable way Major Godley had laid out the trenches; they were practically impregnable. I also went up to Cannon Kopje which, with infinite difficulty, has been much strengthened daily, or, I should say, nightly. We then had sports, tilting at the ring, tent-pegging, &c, two pony races, and a polo match, and all the rank and fashion of Mafeking assembled to partake of Colonel Hore's and the Protectorate Regiment's hospitality, and to "listen to the band." The only thing that has been thoroughly levelled in Mafeking is the Polo ground, which is very fair, and the ponies surprisingly good. Practising polo, and mounted sports, however, have been forbidden during week days, as it draws so much fire. Indeed, Creaky elevated her muzzle once during the afternoon, which caused a certain amount of sensation, as we do not exactly trust our foes, and one shell in the crowd would have secured a good bag. It was probably to show her to the Dutch ladies who drive out to their camp on Sunday. These ladies have ceased watching the effects of the shells on the town since long range volleys began. Church in the evening. Sunday is indeed a welcome fillip all round, particularly for the poor women and children, who are confined to the laager all the week; eleven of the latter have died since the commencement of the siege. There are services for all denominations, every Sunday; but I think the evening ones are the more plentifully attended.
4th. A quiet day; not much shelling or sniping.
5th. Shelling and sniping. A shell burst in Well's store, killing a nigger outside (at least he died afterwards), close to me. The pieces flew all about, and I had not time to analyse where they were falling; they came too quick, but it was a pretty close shave; but then there have been innumerable close shaves and marvellous little damage done to life so far. The shell passed through the roof, just below the look-out man, whom the shot threw into the air. Fortunately it exploded in the next store, otherwise no doubt he would have been blown to pieces. As I write two shells have just exploded, one blowing a Kaffir to pieces and wrecking a chemist shop, the other knocking over a white man, who is just being removed to hospital; how much hurt I do not know. (I hear that he was killed.) About 3 o'clock began the most tremendous rain, which lasted for two hours, the market square became a lake, the streets rivers, whilst our little Molopo developed at short notice into a raging torrent. It swept away all impedimenta, wooden bridges, &c, at once. The squadron in the river bed had to retire and Captain Fitzclarence while endeavouring to cross was nearly drowned. The seven-pounder was nearly washed away; the ammunition was. The trenches and bomb proofs were full to the brim, many of them proving to be in the beds of regular streams. Had the Boers known or been able to seize their opportunity they might have made it very nasty for us with shell fire, but as it was they were in a worse plight than we were, as they had no dry cover for drying their clothes, and could not replace them, and when they emerged from their trenches our Maxims opened on them. The headquarters' staff set to work and had everybody fairly comfortable by 7 o'clock. Natives were at work bailing all night; dry clothes were given to those who had no change, brandy and quinine served out to all the trenches, the men sleeping in adjacent cover. "Wagons fetched up the women from the laager, and blankets were distributed to all who required them. As usual all rose to the occasion, and having proved themselves under fire now repeated the process under this onslaught from water. Perhaps the people who were worst off were the B. S. A. P. at Cannon Kopje. A wet night—their shelters flooded—and literally everything they possessed carried away, except their blankets, arms and the clothes they stood up in, and no shelter at all. However, take it all round, the enemy were much worse off than we, which is always consoling, and consequently being miserable, and having nothing to do, they opened a lively fire on the town generally, lasting about half an hour.
6th. Shelling and sniping as usual. It is their custom now to begin in the evening about 4, keep it up till dark, and then fire Creaky once from about 8.30 to 9 o'clock. Mr. Gerrans, town councillor, was extracting the fuse of an exploded shell—result—he was blown down and severely injured. His foreman, Green, had his foot blown off, and a passer by, Smith, a Johannesburg refugee, returning to his trench, was so injured that he died in an hour. Everybody was much depressed by this; it seemed so sad that more damage should be caused among the whites by an accident than had hitherto been the result of six weeks' shelling by the enemy's heavy gun. However, since artillery has been invented mankind will tamper with loaded shells, in spite of all warnings, orders, or entreaties to the contrary.
7th. Lady Sarah Wilson arrived this morning, having been exchanged for Viljoen who had been sentenced to six months' imprisonment before the war began. He, I fancy, will look fatter and in better condition than his friends outside, and did not appear over keen to join them. This plucky lady was received with loud cheers when she entered the town; she has indeed had a bad time, and everybody was greatly relieved to see her back safely, though perhaps this is not quite the best place that I know of to have a villa residence. As she drove up to her house the firing commenced again—they did not waste much time. Heavy shelling continued after dark. Three men killed, eight wounded.
Apropos of shells, I presume in the course of his life Colonel Baden-Powell has had many curious communications, but certainly none more curious than this one. The other morning a Kaffir picked up an unexploded five-pound shell; when the fuse was unscrewed, instead of a charge' the following missive was found:—
" Mr. Baden-Powell, Pleas excuse me for sending this iron messenger i have no other to send at Present. He is rather exentric but vorgive him if he does not behave well i wish to ask you not to let your men drink all the whisky as'i wish to have a drink when we all come to see you. cindly tell Mrs. Dunkley that her mother and vamily are all quite well.
I remaijn, Yours trewly, a Republican."
I am afraid the ingenious gentleman in question will have to wait a while for his whisky.
8th. Quiet all the morning; but this afternoon shell fire began, killing one man, Protectorate Regiment, and wounding two.
Creaky only fired one round, our snipers keeping her quiet; but sniping all round made things pretty lively.
9th. Pretty quiet; not much shell fire in the morning, but began in the evening, and pretty smart sniping continued all day. I must now endeavour to describe the hospital arrangements, and the noble work clone by the ladies of Mafeking. The hospital arrangements for the defence of the town were made under the supervision of Dr. Haves, Major Anderson, R.A.M.C, and Surgeon Holmden assisting him; Major Anderson being attached to the Protectorate Regiment, which might have been moved at any time. In addition to being under a hot fire the whole of the first fight, he accompanied the ambulance to Cannon Kopje, during the fight there. Bullets whistled round the Red Cross the whole way there and round the stretchers (which he assisted to carry) on their return to the shelter of the railway embankment. There may have been some excuse for firing on the Red Cross during the first fight, on the second occasion there can have been none; probably the Boers considered that we adopted the same practice as themselves and brought up our ammunition in ambulances. Whether this is a valid excuse or not, I will leave my readers to decide. The Red Cross flag, at the commencement of the siege floated over the railway embankment, the first dressing station, the refugee camp dressing station, the women's laager, Messrs. Weil's (whohad placed their house at the disposal of the authorities for the use of the wounded), the convent, which is fitted up as a hospital, and the Victoria Hospital. General Cronje stated, and with some show of reason, that he could only recognize one hospital, and the women's laager. However, prior to this, he had sent many shells through the convent, possibly from its being a two-storied building and naturally a conspicuous mark. Consequently Victoria Hospital, always the main hospital, became the only one used throughout the operations. Dr. Haves was the P. M. O., Miss Hill the matron; and here, on behalf of the garrison of Mafeking, I must endeavour to convey our feelings of deep gratitude and admiration for the work done by this lady, the nurses, and their assistants (the ladies of Mafeking) during the siege. I can testify personally to their devoted care and attention to patients, and Britain may t well he proud of them. One ninety-four pounder went through the hospital, wrecking a ward and killing a little native boy. Shells fell all round it, and bullets were continually hitting it, one, indeed, wounded an already wounded man, but these ladies continued their work undisturbed, assisted to the utmost by the sisters from the adjacent convent, situated some fifty yards a\va}r. These poor ladies having had to abandon their home (which was literally wrecked, and will have to be entirely rebuilt), had to take refuge in a dug-out by the hospital. The hospital arrangements and the attention of Dr. Haves, Major Anderson, and Surgeon Holmden (who was himself sick in the hospital), were beyond all praise. Fortunately the accommodation was adequate, an additional building being erected for Kaffirs. But these for the most part preferred being treated and returning to their own abode. They appear nearly insensible to pain. To give a few instances, one native was shot with a Martini bullet through the lung; he roared with laughter when it was extracted, and will not part with it for anything, and is now all right. A Zulu wounded in the toe, on seeing a man's temperature being taken, when given the thermometer, placed it between his toes, and on being told to put it in his mouth, said he was not hurt in the mouth, but in the foot. Another native was shot through the head with a Mauser and lived; so, indeed, did a railway volunteer, Nelson; the bullet went clean through his head, and he is well and out of hospital. But the natives, though suffering from horrible injuries, seem to regard them lightly. Most of the native wounded are by shells; they are- very careless, but I fancy the numerous casualties are making them more cautious. The unfortunate man killed yesterday was a man named Footman, of the Protectorate Regiment, who was in a room singing a song, " Poor old Joe has gone to rest," to the accompaniment of a banjo, when the shell burst on him, and literally blew him to pieces—two more men were slightly injured, and a chaff-cutter knocked to pieces; but the remainder were providentially untouched.
The worst of sniping is that it consumes such a lot of the ammunition which we may eventually require, though it certainly has a quietening effect upon the enemy's artillery; but I cannot believe the Boers will abandon this place without one more serious attack, when they hear of the advance of our troops, and the remnants of other commandoes join them. They must have one tangible proof of success. So far, beyond doubt, the prolonged defence of Mafeking has resulted in the natives either keeping quiet or rising on our side, whereas had the Boers been successful in these parts, the natives must have perforce sided with them, as their emissaries had strained every nerve to induce them to do, prior to the war. I sincerely trust that the penalties of treason will be rigidly enforced, and that if not death, at least outlawry and confiscation will be inflicted on the Colonial Dutch who have risen, for no man has a right to a vote who has deliberately risen in British territory and fought against Her Majesty. The Transvaal is another matter, though they have raided our territory, burnt farms, and looted cattle and annexed British Bechuanaland—that is a matter for settlement by the Government and not for individuals to suffer. If the Boers are well thrashed, and they have fought well, the two nationalities will soon settle down together. But a Dutchman, or at least the lower classes (which correspond, after all, to poor whites of America with this difference, that they have a lot of black blood in them), cannot understand anything but a good licking. Disarm them rigorously, and give them a just government and they will soon peacefully acquiesce therein. But pack the Hollander-cum-German official back to his own country. South Africa is no place for them. Let them try the South American Republics; with their venal habits, they will be thoroughly at home.
A more heterogeneous garrison has seldom been collected. A mounted corps (the Protectorate Regiment), two detachments of mounted Cape Police, the B. S. A. P., also mounted, the Bechuanaland Rifles, the Railway D. AV., and the Town Guard, all employed in trenches, and the horses only used for orderly work. The Town Guard is composed of every white man or householder, Indian or otherwise, capable of bearing arms, unless enrolled under the Red Cross. They are formed into companies in their own districts, and under their own commanders, Colonel Vyvyan being commander of the whole, and range from boys of sixteen to men of seventy. The younger boys are employed as messengers. The Town Guard have been subjected to severe tests, sleeping and living in trenches, and enduring the hardships of war for two months, without a chance of returning the enemy's fire. A few individuals who are good shots are permitted to go out sniping, but the majority have to keep their fire for short ranges, in case of an assault. They have done their duty well, and been under fire continually. All sorts and conditions of men are there, and a more mixed body it would be impossible to conceive. In any case, they have stood the test well, and surprised myself and indeed everybody by their efficiency. Of the police of both corps, it is impossible to say too much—they are as fine a body of men as you could wish to see, and the work they have done speaks for itself. The B. S. A. P. have had the more opportunities as a body, but wherever the Cape Police have had a chance they have done every bit as well. The Protectorate Regiment I have already described fully, and they also have proved themselves to be the line fighting material I thought them from the first. But when, oh! when, shall we use our horses? The Bechuanaland Rifles, a fine body of men, largely augmented since the commencement of the war, had a mounted detachment under Captain Cowell. The Railway Division under Captain Moore, who has been promoted since the commencement of the War, are also a fine body of men who can turn their hand to' anything, from fighting in a land ironclad to manning their own works. The authorities were warned long prior to the outbreak of hostilities, that more troops were required here. With even two squadrons of cavalry and half a battery we should have been able to keep the Boers at a greater distance from the town, and beaten them occasionally in the open, well away from our lines. Half a battalion of infantry would have done the garrison work as efficiently as the dismounted men of our mounted corps. In fact, we might long ago hare raised the siege by a decisive blow, which we have been, under our present circumstances, unable to deliver. I think I stated this in a letter some six weeks prior to the outbreak of the war. However, I presume we shall soon be out of this now, though we have no news, as for the past fortnight no runners seem able to get through at all.
10th, Sunday. We had mounted sports, polo, and in the evening, church. Heavy rain threatened, but held off. I watched through a telescope a party of Dutch ladies being-shown Creaky, who was put through her antics, being elevated, depressed, levelled in various directions, for their benefit. So, both sides enjoyed themselves after their kind.
General Snyman's harangues and reports of victories (which roughly surmised are-extirpation of the British army—the only two places in South Africa held by the British, being Mafeking and Cape Town—possession of Delagoa Bay, and a fight at sea, where the British were defeated) are now received in silence and cum grano, by his followers, instead of being greeted with cheers, as formerly. Really, I begin to believe there is a limit to the credulity of the Boer, though hitherto I had supposed it boundless. But what can equal their colossal impudence, in invading the suzerain power, annexing Bechuanaland, and proclaiming us rebels. Colonel Baden-Powell has recently organized a troop of old cavalry soldiers, and armed them with lances. They have to-day ridden all round the town, showing themselves in all quarters, to the great astonishment of the Boers, who, I suppose, now expect another little surprise packet, and will be anxious for a few days; as they knew we had no lances with us.
11th, Monday. Colonel Baden-Powell has issued a proclamation calling upon all burghers to return to their farms by the 14th, and that if they do so, and surrendered their rifles and one hundred and fifty rounds of ammunition, they will not be molested, otherwise, they will be treated most rigorously, when we take the offensive; that they are being grossly misled by their leaders; that foreign intervention is hopeless. The Staats Artillery may surrender as prisoners of war at any time; this does not apply to British subjects, traitors or deserters. This might have produced an increase of shell fire, I should fancy, judging from our heavy days' shelling last week. Their General rode forth with his escort, our snipers placed three volleys round him, whereupon he galloped back to the big gun, and all the artillery began merrily, trying to hit our headquarters. They fired a few shells this morning, but the heavy rain seriously damped their ardour. Still, if the General be annoyed, they will probably re-commence their attentions. Later. The orderlies with the various flags of truce, have returned, proclamations were sent to each of their outworks, and all the Dutchmen volunteered that they were quite sick of it, and had had enough, which I can quite believe. The rains are beginning, they complained of the soakings they have already had, and with inadequate cover sickness will soon play havoc with them. The orderlies gave them cigarettes and conversed with them, and in two or three cases they asked them how they came to let the re-inforcements in, referring to the lancer troop. In one case the Dutchman said he had heard them come in, but did not know what it was, in the other cases they said they had not seen the re-inforcements, but they had seen their spoor. Shelling has recommenced. To-night we send up fire balloons, weather permitting, which will probably produce some effect on their side.
The following is a copy of Colonel Baden-Powell's letter to Snyman and the proclamation to the burghers:—
A LETTER TO THE BOERS.
Mafeking, 8th Dec, 1899.
To General J. P. Snyman, near Mafeking. Sir,—I beg to thank you for having handed over Lady Sarah Wilson in exchange for the convict P. Viljoen.
At the same time, I beg to point out that I have only consented to the exchange under protest, as being contrary to the custom of civilised warfare.
In treating this lady as a prisoner of war, as well as in various other acts, you have in the present campaign, altered the usual conditions of war. This is a very serious matter; and I do not know whether it has the sanction of General Joubert or not, but I warn you of the consequences.
The war was at first, and would remain, as far as Her Majesty's troops are concerned, a war between one Government and another; but you are making it one of people against people in which women are considered as belligerents. I warn you that the consequence of this may shortly be very serious to your own people, and you yourself will be to blame for anything that may happen.
Regarding your complaint as to your being attacked by Natives, I beg to refer you to my letter dated 14th November, addressed to your predecessor General Cronje. In this letter I went out of my way, as one white man to another, to warn you that the Natives are becoming extremely incensed at your stealing their cattle, and the wanton burning of their Kraals; they argued that the war lay only between our two Nations, and that the quarrel had nothing to do with themselves, and they had remained neutral in consequence, excepting in the case of the Mafeking Baralongs, who had to defend their homes in consequence of your unjustifiable invasion. Nevertheless you thought fit to carry on cattle thefts and raids against them, and you are now beginning to feel the consequences; and, as I told you, I could not be responsible. And I fear from what I have just heard by wireless telegraph that the Natives are contemplating further operations should your Forces continue to remain within or on the borders of their territories. Before the commencement of the war the High Commissioner issued stringent orders to all Natives that they were to remain quiet and not to take up Arms unless their territory were invaded (in which case, of course, they had a perfect right to defend themselves).
Linchwe—of whom you complain—remained neutral until you brought a force into his principal town and looted his traders' stores, and were making preparations for shelling his stadt on the 26th ultimo. Having obtained accurate information of these intentions of yours, and warned by what had happened to the Natives near Mafeking, he attacked your laager on the 24th in order to save his town from being shelled and consequent loss of life amongst his women and children. In this I consider he was quite justified, and you have no one but yourself to blame in the matter.
While on the subject of Natives please do not suppose that I am ignorant of what you have been doing with regard to seeking the assistance of armed natives, nor of the use of the Natives by you in the destruction of the railway line south of Mafeking. However, having done my duty in briefly giving you warning on these points, I do not propose to further discuss them by letter.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
R. S. S. Baden-Powell.
To the Burghers of the Z. A. R. at present under arms near Mafeking.
From the Officer Commanding Her Majesty's Forces, Mafeking
Burghers,—I address you in this manner because I have only recently learnt how yon are being intentionally kept in the dark by your officers and your Government newspapers as to what is really happening in other parts of South Africa.
As officer commanding Her Majesty's troops on this border I think it right to point out to you clearly the inevitable result of your remaining any longer in arms against Great Britain.
You are all aware that the present war was caused by the invasion of British territory by your forces, and as most of you know, without any justifiable reason.
Your leaders do not tell you that so far your forces have met with what is only the advanced guard of the British force, and that circumstances have changed within the past week; the main body of the British is now daily arriving by thousands from England, Canada, India, and Australia, and is about to advance through your country. In a few weeks the South African Republic will be in the hands of the English; no sacrifice of life on your part can stop it. The question now to put to yourselves before it is, is this: Is it worth while losing your lives in a vain attempt to stop their invasion or to take a town beyond your borders which, if taken, would be of no use to you? (And I may tell you that Mafeking cannot be taken by sitting down and looking at it, for we have ample supplies for several months to come).
The Staat Artillery have done us very little damage, and we are now well protected with forts and mines. Your presence here, or elsewhere, under arms, cannot stop the British advancing into your country.
Your leaders and newspapers are also trying to make you believe that some foreign continental powers are likely to intervene in your behalf against England. This is not in keeping with their pretence that your side is going to be victorious, nor is it in accordance with facts. The S. A. R. having declared war and taken the offensive cannot claim intervention on its behalf. And were it not so, the German Emperor is at present in England, and fully in sympathy with us: the American Government have warned others of their intention to side with England should any other nation interfere; France has large interests in the gold fields identical with those of England; and Italy is entirely in accord with us; and Russia sees no cause to interfere.
The war is a war of one Government against another and not of people against people. The duty assigned to my troops is to sit still here until the proper time arrives and then to fight and to kill until you give in. Yon, on the other hand, have other interests to think of, in your families and farms and their safety.
Your leaders have caused the destruction of farms in this country and have fired on women and children, and our men are becoming hard to restrain in consequence. Your leaders have also caused invasion of Kaffir territory, and looting of their cattle, and have thus induced them to rise, and in their turn to invado your country, and to kill your burghers. As one white man to another, I warned General Cronjc on the 14th November that this would occur, and yesterday I heard that more Kaffirs are rising, and are contemplating similar moves; and I have warned Snyman accordingly. Thus great bloodshed, and destruction of farms threaten you on all sides, and I wish to offer you a chance of avoiding it. To this end my advice to you is to return without delay to your homes and there remain peacefully till the war is over. Those of you who do this before the 14th instant will be as far as possible protected, as regards yourselves, your families, and property, from confiscations, looting, and other penalties to which those who remain under arms may be subjected when the invasion takes place.
Our secret agents will communicate to mo the names of those who do and of those who do not avail themselves, before the 13th instant, of the terms now offered.
To ensure their property being respected, all the men of a family must be present at home when the troops arrive and be prepared to hand over a rifle and 150 rounds of ammunition each.
The above terms do not apply to officers or to members of the Staats Artillery, who may surrender as prisoners of war at any time; nor do they apply to rebels from British territory or others against whom there may be other charges. It is probable that my force will shortly again take the offensive.
To those who, after this warning, defer their submission till too late, I can offer no promise, and they will only have themselves to blame for an injury or loss of property that they or their families may afterwards suffer.
(Signed) R. S. S. Baden-Powell,
Mafeking, 10 Dec, 1899.
The proclamation has either had a good effect or it is a curious coincidence, that, since its issue, the town has been barely shelled at all, sniping has almost ceased, and the Boers have only shelled the trenches in front of the native location, and the location itself, in a perfunctory manner, the result being that though we have shot a few Boers, our casualties have been nil, except some natives in the location, and from the 12th to the 15th nothing worth mentioning has happened. I fancy their news from the south must be bad, and undoubtedly men and cattle have gone away lately. Thanks to their recent vigilance, our native runners have failed to get through, and I imagine the same fate has befallen the runners trying to come in, for we have been absolutely without reliable news for the last three weeks. General Snyman sent in a copy of the Volkstem, relating our enormities and their victories, all underlined. I am bound to say the news was taken with much salt; but still it was news of a sort. The leading articles were mainly whining for foreign intervention, so we could read between the lines.
15th. Later. I was somewhat previous in my remarks, they have just placed a shell within a hundred yards of the hotel.
December 16th. (Dingaan Day.) We were aroused at 2.39 a.m. by the Boers celebrating their independence. They sent a ninety-four pounder through the corner of Dixon's Hotel, which is our headquarters, consequently all rooms and passages are full of sleepers, the orderlies sleeping in the passages and billiard room. However, fortunately they managed to put their shell through the bar, which is the only empty room in the house, and wrecked a portion of it and the stoep, which by day is full of occupants. A splinter stopped the town clock, hence the accuracy with which we timed our unlooked-for alarum. They have tried to hit headquarters for some weeks, shells pitching all round the hotel and wrecking neighbouring buildings, but heretofore we had escaped. Then, having drawn their bow at a venture by night, they have at last succeeded in hitting it. After having inspected the damage I turned in again. But as our seven-pounder at Cannon Kopje returned the fire, it became universal, and I think the Boers intended to attack. Colonel Baden-Powell having anticipated something of the sort, had had the little gun laid on their big one the night before. As it was impossible to sleep, I went down to Ellis's corner to join in the fun. For nearly three weeks we had let them fire away without taking much notice of them. To-day, however, knowing it was their national festival, we were determined to disturb their amusement. Our old seven-pounders had their advanced trenches well in range,' and three of them, about three-quarters of a mile apart, commenced playing havoc with the said trenches, shells bursting beautifully in and over them. "While Creaky, like a big dog annoj^ed by little ones, snapped hurriedly at each of its puny antagonists in turn. It made better practice than I have yet seen, and burst its huge shells within fifteen and twenty yards of the guns. When the smoke from its muzzle was seen, our gun detachments laid down, but the explosion and smoke of the big shells had not died away before "boom," through the smoke, came the derisive return of its tiny antagonist, showing " a miss to the Boers."
The guns took no notice of Creaky after the first shot, but concentrated their attention on the trenches, leaving her to be soothed by musketry volleys. Our shell fire had a most quieting effect on the occupants of the trenches, and we had to stir them up by sniping their individuals, and then when they woke up a bit the Maxims assisted in calming their unruly spirits again. Altogether a most enjoyable morning. It is so dull being shot at without answering, but when one's own guns keep the game going, it is quite another thing. This lasted till about 6.30. Just to prevent their being too much taken up by any amusements they might have contemplated, to celebrate the day, our guns fired a few rounds again at noon, but the big gun only answered with a few rounds, and after a feeble spatter of musketry we knocked off. On the western front, about dusk, our seven-pounder, under Captain Sandford, knocked out their five-pounder, and they dismantled their fort and withdrew to a more retired position.
We have advanced our seven-pounder to Fort Ayr, and hope to repeat the process.
The first of our shells burst right among them whilst they were outside making coffee.
17th, Sunday. We had a handicap polo tournament. Here are the teams and the result from The Mafeking Mail:—
No. I.—Colonel Baden-Powell (Captain),
Captain Gordon Wilson,
Lieutenant Hon. A. Hanbury-Tracey.
No. II.—Captain Lord C. Cavendish-Bentinck (Captain),
No. III.—Lieutenant-Colonel Hore (Captain),
No. IV.—Major Godley (Captain),
Major Goold-Adams, C.B., C.M.G.,
No. V.—Major Baillie (Captain),
Match. Goals scored.
1 Colonel Hore ... 1
Lord C. Bentinck . . 1
2 Colonel Baden-Powell . 0
Major Godley ... 1
3 Lord C. Bentinck . 1
Major Baillie ... 1
4 Colonel Baden-Powell . 0
Colonel Hore ... 1
5 Major Godley ... 0
Major Baillie ... 2
6 Lord C. Bentinck . . 0
Colonel Baden-Powell . 1
7 Major Godley ... 1
Colonel Hore ... 1
8 Major Baillie ... 0
Colonel Baden-Powell . I
9 Lord C. Bentinck . . 1
Major Godley ... 0
10 Major Baillie ... 1
Colonel Hore ... 0
Colonel Baden-Powell's team 2
Captain Lord C. Bentinck's team 3
Lieutenant-Colonel Hore's team 3
Major Baillie's team 4
Major Godley's team 2
Colonel Baden-Powell's team had a Captain who played an excellent game. Major Baillie was decidedly the mainstay of his team, not only by the unerring accuracy with which he hit the ball, but also on account of the verbal assistance delivered unceasingly in stentorian tones to his side.
We are now making great preparations for Christmas, which we are apparently condemned to spend here. Church services as usual.
18th. A quiet day; except on the western front, where their five-pounder keeps pegging away; however, no one takes any notice of it, as our new gun-pit is not yet completed. To-morrow we hope to have another lively morning. The Boers have been drilling, apparently practising an attack formation, somewhat late in the day, however, and not of much use now, as they could not get in if they tried, and they are not likely to make the attempt. As l before said, Colonel Baden-Powell has collected some thirty lances and armed a troop with them, so that, if the enemy depart hurriedly, we may be able to speed them on their way. Went sniping in the evening; they fired the one-pound Maxim and a good deal of musketry fire. Our troops in the advance trenches had quite good shooting all day.
19th. As I anticipated. The Boers' reveille was sounded for them at 4.30 a.m. by our seven-pounders, which made excellent practice on the brickfield trench. Their big gun repeated its performance of Saturday harmlessly. "We shifted them from their trenches and turned Maxims on them, while the Nordenfeldt at long range volleys pestered their big gun. Their one-pound Maxim fire was wild, but they slew an inoffensive jackass. This lasted until about 6, and was very pretty. At about 7 Creaky began to fire at Cannon Kopje, but without effect; she shot straighter in the morning; and at about 9 our seven-pounders began again, but the enemy would not be drawn, and now only occasional dropping shots come idly from both sides. On the western front our seven-pounder silenced the five-pounder at Came Tree fort. On the eastern front the race-course trench much annoyed the gun under Major Panzera, with volleys, till kept under by the convent Maxim and our one-pound Maxim. These two artillery fights cannot much impress the Boers with the extraordinary value of the much belauded ten-tonner, and must destroy her moral effect, for whichever of our guns she fires at immediately returns her fire. However, she has annoyed us quite enough and done sufficient damage to life and property, but if we had only had a gun which could have reached her properly, we should have knocked her out long ago. A duel between our Norden-feldt and Creaky began this afternoon, and has since been of daily occurrence, amidst the laughter and applause of the spectators. No sooner has the big shell struck, than crack, crack, comes from the Nordenfeldt. Indeed, of late the little gun fires when the smoke from Creaky's muzzle appears, and gets off its three shots before the arrival of the shell, which the gunners of the monster do not seem to appreciate at all. It is a regular case of dignity and impudence with the laugh on the side of impudence. In the evening Captain Sandford silenced the Boer gun on the western front.
20th and 21st. Quiet days.
22nd. Quiet, but furious musketry fire at night, bullets flying everywhere.
23rd, Saturday. Fairly quiet.
I broke my head taking a fall at polo, which we now play two or three times a week; it is a new experience going to and from the polo ground under fire.
24th, Sunday. Owing to siege exigencies it was deemed necessary to hold our Christmas on the Sunday, as the Boers' religious festival is held on New Year's Day. All creeds held their ordinary Church services. Lady Sarah Wilson and Mr. B. Weil had organized a Christmas tree and tea for the two hundred and fifty children of Dutch and English parentage who were in the town. Brakes were running to and from the laager, filled with children, shrilly cheering and waving the Union Jack, the most effective one run by poor Captain Vernon, who was killed within forty-eight hours. The children seemed thoroughly to enjoy themselves, and great thanks are due to the organizers of the fete and their assistants, for everyone was pleased to see the children enjoy themselves. For the adults, sports were held, and a cheerful Christmas Day was passed.
Christmas Day. All creeds held their usual Christmas services though under some difficulty, as everyone was on duty, though the Boers kept Christmas as Sunday; yet it was no certainty to commence with. The Rev. Mr. Weekes, the Church of England clergyman, had to play the harmoniiun as well as conduct the service.
26th. The myriads of locusts which had lately devastated our grazing grounds, already insufficient for the large number of cattle in and about the town, had rendered it imperative that some steps should be taken to raise our close investment sufficiently to obtain an extended field for grazing secure from attack or raid. This was sufficient reason for action in itself, but in addition, the approach of our forces to Gaberones in the north, made it advisable to prepare to open up the line and endeavour to join hands with them, and thus by extending our perimeter and line of forts to throw additional work on the investing force, and so prevent reinforcements being sent to the commandoes acting against our troops north and south; nay, we even hoped to draw reinforcement from these commandoes to assist in maintaining the strict investment which the Boers deemed it so necessary to retain around Mafeking. Accordingly, Colonel Baden-Powell decided to attack Game Tree fort, which commands the line to the north. And now, before going further with an account of the fight, let me say that in spite of great secrecy, as to the time or place of attack, the Boers, through treachery, were forewarned and forearmed as to our intentions. The garrison was doubled, and the fort from an open earthwork turned into a block-house with three tiers of fire, while the line was broken in the night between the fort and the town, preventing the efficient co-operation of the armoured train. On Christmas night, at about 11 o'clock, the chief of the staff, Lord Edward Cecil, collected the correspondents and told them of the intended attack, advising them to rendezvous at 3 o'clock, with the headquarters at Dummie fort. The plan of attack was as follows:—C squadron, Protectorate Regiment, were to take up a position during the night near the railway to the west of Game Tree fort, supported by D squadron, under Captain Fitzclarence, and the armoured train with a Hotchkiss and Maxim, under Captain Williams, B. S. A. P. The right flank being protected by the Bechuanaland Rifles, under Captain Cowan. The whole of the right attack under Major Godley. The left attack being composed of three seven-pounder guns, one cavalry Maxim, and one troop, Lord Charles Bentinck's A squadron, Protectorate Regiment, under Major Panzera, with the other two troops in support, the whole left attack being under Colonel Hore. The Dummie fort lay midway between the two attacks. The wait from 3 o'clock seemed interminable, but at 4.28 the first gun fired, and then our seven-pounder shells burst merrily over the fort. The infantry commenced volleys and the Maxim joined in. The armoured train was stopped by the broken line some half mile from where it could have efficiently cooperated, and the squadrons commenced their attack from the railway line, D being escheloned some three hundred yards in the rear of C. From the Dummie fort the attack could be perfectly seen, as it advanced rapidly across our front. The rushes were well made, and the charge in perfect order, the leaders racing in front of their men right up to the fort, where the firing for a while ceased, and then broke out again with renewed vigour.
From where I was, I thought the attacking squadron had secured the position, and, from the slowness and deliberation with which the men retired, that the supporting squadron was falling back to its lines, as, with the smokeless powder, we could not see our men firing, and the sound was drowned in the rattle of Boer musketry. This, alas, was not the case. Captain Vernon, who had been wounded in the advance, led his men most gallantly up to the work, to find it with three tiers of loopholes and an iron roof, the bushes in front concealing this until right on to the fort. Here he and Lieutenant Paton and fifteen men fell, and his sergeant-major mortally wounded. Captain Sandford had been shot twice just short of the wrork, but called on his men to charge. These were the last words he spoke, and only four of the men of his troop were not placed hors de combat. Captain Fitzclarence had also fallen wounded, before reaching the work, but I am glad to say is doing well. With this spirit shown by the officers and responded to by the men, small wonder that we may be proud of the attack, even though unsuccessful in obtaining possession of the work, and that the Boers afterwards seemed more depressed than ourselves. They knew the men they had to deal with. Corporal Cooke got on the roof of the work, and had four bullets through his tunic, but was untouched. Mr. Paton and Sergeant-Major Paget were shot whilst firing with their revolvers through the loop-holes (the Boers still speak of Paton's courage), and so were many men. After the retirement, the stretcher parties went out, and the Boers assisted in succouring our wounded, and behaved on the whole very well, though some young roughs got out of hand and plundered the dead and wounded. Their leaders behaved exceedingly well, and did their best to restrain them. I went up there and a more ghastly collection of wounds could not be imagined, mostly shot at the muzzles of the rifles in the head, and in some cases with large Boer bullets. Death must have been instantaneous. The field cornets told me they had been expecting the attack, and the rapidity with which reinforcements arrived— the presence of General Snyman, and several leaders, and the destruction of the line, together with the increase of the garrison, tend to endorse their statements. Our wounded were all wounded in front, some of the men retiring backwards so as not to be shot in the back. Sergeant Barry, mortally wounded, sent word to his mother that he had three wounds all in front. Our force was under one hundred actually attacking. The Boers when reinforced about four hundred. Our losses killed or since dead: Captain Vernon, Captain Sandford, Lieutenant Paton, twenty-one rank and file; wounded: Captain Fitzclarence, twenty-two rank and file; four prisoners. The men retiring were quite cool and willing to have another go—smoking and laughing in some cases, but in the majority bitter and angry at not having got in. British troops have certainly performed as fine feats of arms, but no more determined attack with inferior numbers against an enemy armed with modern rifles in a strong position has ever been pushed home, or a more deliberate and gallant retirement under heavy fire been made. The enemy were much impressed, and said they had never seen such brave men, and though we failed in taking the fort, the action has resulted in the enemy daily strengthening every work, and upset them greatly, as they hourly anticipate a fresh attack, and gusts of musketry break out from their lines at night, for no apparent reason. Indeed, the rapidity with which their white flags were hoisted on the arrival of our ambulances make me, in my own mind, absolutely certain that they were prepared to contemplate surrender, and in any case they will certainly not be able to spare men from this place to assist their retiring commandoes. Altogether their rash and insolent advance into British territory has placed them here, as elsewhere, in about as unpleasant a position for irregular troops as can well be imagined. In the evening we buried our dead.
The Protectorate Regiment, after a life of four months, and a strength of four hundred, has now suffered one hundred and ten casualties. It has accordingly had to be reorganized from four squadrons into three. On no occasion has it been engaged without distinguishing itself, and I think in its last action, though repulsed, it has, if possible, distinguished itself most.
What I have said about the contemplated surrender of the Boers has since been confirmed by what I heard on my journey south towards Vryburg. Keely, now Resident Magistrate in these parts, had been taken into camp about this time to swear neutrality; and the Boers made no secret of their intention to surrender the fort; but they were kept up to the mark by one determined man, who, lying behind an ammunition box, swore he would blow out the brains of the first man who offered to surrender. It was at this man that Paton was firing through a loophole with a pistol when he was shot. Nobody else on our side seems to have spotted the individual in question, hence the Boers, on our retiring, continued the fight.
27th, 28th, and 29th. Desultory shelling, sniping, and occasional wild firing from the enemy by night. We hear cheering native rumours from the south.
31st, Sunday. Sports, &c, driving competition, horse-show. I won hack competition.