TWO YEARS ON TREK
Being Some Account of the Royal Sussex Regiment in South Africa.
By the Late LT.-COLONEL DU MOULIN.
With a Preface by Col. J. G. Panton, C.M.G. Commanding 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, 1903-1907.
Edited By H. F. Bidder, Captain, 3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment.
Murray and Co., The Middlesex Printing Works, 180, Brompton Road, S.W. 1907.
THIS BOOK WRITTEN FOR THE MOST PART BY THE LATE LT.-COL. DU MOULIN HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND PUBLISHED
BY HIS COMRADES AS THE MOST FITTING MEMORIAL TO A GALLANT SOLDIER.
DULCE · ET · DECORUM · EST · PRO · PATRIA · MORI
Louis Eugène du Moulin was of French descent. By birth he was a New Zealander. He passed through Sandhurst and entered the army in 1879, joining the 107th Regiment--now the Second Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment. With this battalion all his service was spent, until his promotion in 1899 as second in command of the First Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (the old 35th).
He served in the Black Mountain Campaign of 1888, in the Chin-Lushai and Manipur expeditions of 1889-91, and in the Tirah Campaign of 1897-98. Alike among the dark pine woods of the Himalayas, in the dense jungle of Manipur, or on the bleak, stony ridges of the Hazara country the name of du Moulin became a byword in the Regiment, and far beyond the Regiment, for restless energy, never-failing resource and cool daring. He became known all over India as a musketry expert. Many of his ideas were adopted, and are in universal use by those who may never have heard his name.
Perhaps his real genius was for organization. This quality came conspicuously into notice in South Africa during the war. Many men who served in the 21st Brigade under General Bruce Hamilton had reason to bless the forethought and unstinted labour of the man who carried out so thoroughly the idea of the Brigade commander, and supplied the Brigade with those welcome additions to bully beef and biscuit which were obtainable at the Brigade Canteen. Often after a hard day's march and a tough fight have I admired the unselfish spirit in which, disdaining fatigue, he would set to work with his coat off to open stores and arrange the wagons lighted with "dips," which served as a "coffee shop" for famishing Tommy.
A tall, spare man, with keen, dark eyes, a courageous nose and a harsh-toned voice--such was the outward du Moulin. Feared not a little, loved greatly by those under him, afraid of no one, despising precedent and precaution, dependent only on his own iron will and keen intellect, he had a brilliant career before him when he fell gloriously at Abraham's Kraal on January 28th, 1902. He had gone through the campaign from the advance to Pretoria of Lord Roberts' army, down to the pursuit of De Wet and of the broken commandos after De Wet's time, without a wound, and, as far as I can remember, without a day's sickness--and with very few days' rest from marching and fighting.
He always knew what it was he wanted and how to get it, and how to make others help him to this end.
One anecdote I may here relate:--
Worn out with much marching, ragged and hungry, the half battalion under du Moulin halted at Kroonstad to refit. Supplies, and especially clothing and boots, were hard to get. Some tired subaltern returned, repulsed from the Ordnance Store, empty handed.
The matter quickly reached du Moulin's ears, and he disappeared for what seemed a few minutes. Presently out of a cloud of red dust emerged a mule wagon at a hand gallop. Standing up, driving, cracking a long whip and yelling at the Kaffirs to clear the road, came "Mullins," as he was familiarly known to all. His grey regulation shirt was rolled up to the elbow, showing a pair of red muscular arms like copper wire. He shouted as he turned his team into the camp, and we hurried to his wagon, to have bundles of new clothes, white shiny rolls of waterproof sheets, and thick soft blankets rapidly allotted to our men; and to save time (for we were moving next morning) "Mullins" himself hurled out the bundles into our arms.
At another time, when we were at Ventersburg Road Station in one of the brief intervals of rest allowed by Boers who blew up the railway line three times a week (this was in 1900), the siding leading to the dock for entraining horses or cattle was completely blocked by the burnt remains of a train of trucks, rusty and apparently immovable.
The railway staff smiled incredulously when du Moulin offered to remove the entire train of trucks. Without cranes or appliances they declared it was impossible.
Collecting all the spare rails, sleepers and fish-plates that could be found about the station yard, du Moulin started work, and a branch railway some 100 yards long was quickly laid leading into the veldt, with proper points connecting it with the siding. A hundred willing hands hauled at the ropes--the rusty axles, well greased, revolved. In half a day the siding was clear, and the ruined trucks were standing on the veldt, where they probably stand to this day!
Another picture of du Moulin under fire, and I have done.
On the 12th of June, 1900, at Diamond Hill, "B" Company was sent to support the three companies of the Royal Sussex under du Moulin, about midday. These three companies were lying under the scanty shelter of a few rocks at the edge of the flat-topped hill facing the main Boer position, at a distance of about 900 yards. The hail of bullets was incessant, the noise of guns and thousands of rifles deafening. As we arrived breathless, having crossed the 200 yards of flat open ground amid a "rush" of bullets, I sought du Moulin to ask where we were most wanted. He was standing up, a conspicuous figure amidst a "feu d'enfer"--pounding with the butt of a rifle a prostrate man, who would not move from the imagined shelter of a stone about as big as a Dutch cheese, and who could not see to fire from his position.
I got a very curt, lurid rejoinder, and promptly subsided behind a very inadequate rock myself.
Colonel du Moulin was shot through the heart, leading a charge against the Boers who had rushed his camp. Always in front--always the first to face the foe. "Felix opportunitati mortis." May he rest in peace.
J. G. PANTON.
Crete, November, 1906.
It was the design of Col. du Moulin to write an account of the doings of the Royal Sussex Regiment in South Africa, which should both serve to remind those of the Regiment who went through the campaign of the incidents in which they took part, and should also put on record another chapter of that Regimental History, made through many years in many lands, of which all who serve in the Regiment may be so justly proud.
During the months of November and December, 1900, he found, in the comparative quiet of the occupation of Lindley, an opportunity of completing his account up to date. His manuscript is typed (he managed to obtain a machine from somewhere) upon the only paper available--the backs of invoice sheets from a store in the town.
From the evacuation of Lindley in January, 1901, to his death a year later, Col. du Moulin was far too much occupied with his work in the field to do more than make a few notes for his book. And it is from these notes of his, and from the diaries, letters, and personal reminiscences of other Officers, that the later chapters have been compiled.
It has been thought better to leave Col. du Moulin's work practically untouched, although it was never subjected by him to a final revision, and although he had no opportunity of modifying anything he wrote, in the light of subsequent history. As it stands, it gives a vivid picture of events that had only just occurred--drawn with a firm hand, while the impression was fresh upon the author's mind.
In compiling the subsequent chapters, the object has been merely to give a slight sketch of the experiences of the Regiment during the latter half of the war. It has not been attempted (nor would it have been possible) to enter into detail to the same extent as was done by Col. du Moulin, writing upon the spot. If one or two scenes are preserved, it is the utmost that can be hoped.
The Appendices contain the stories of the 13th and 21st M.I., on which several officers and a number of men of the Regiment were serving. The former is kindly contributed by Capt. G. P. Hunt, of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.
H. F. BIDDER.