September 1.—Reveille at 5. The column trekked south-east at 7.15 a.m. Order of march: One company 14th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry, right flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.F.A. rearguard. A beautiful hot, clear day. We marched along the Kroonstad-Lindley road as far as Wonderkop, then turned due south towards Senekal, and halted and camped at 3.45 p.m. at Klampje Dooms. An uneventful march, on the whole. The general idea as follows, four columns working:
Wilson's column, Lindley
Spens' column, 400 men.
Rimington's column left Kroonstad at 5.30 p.m. on August 30. Wilson's column left same place at 4 p.m. on August 31. All these columns are working together; it is really another effort to round up De Wet and other commandos, and, of course, it may prove successful. We heard Rimington's and Elliot's guns all day to-day. I heard to-day that Vandeleur, of the Irish Guards, with forty-two men, were blown up on the railway near Pietersburg by the Boers. Alas! that seventy men of the Black Watch should have been taken prisoners near Brandfort
September 2.—Klampje Dooms. Reveille at 3.45. The column moved at 6.15 south-south-east, on Senekal road as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.F.A. advanced guard; 100 men Gough's Mounted Infantry right flank guard; fifty men Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; fifty men and pom-pom rearguard.
Thirteenth and 14th Mounted Infantry and four guns J Battery flying column on right flank, under Colonel Jenner, to act in co-operation with Wilson's and Rimington's columns, to round up Haasbruck's convoy, known to be north of Zand River.
We started at 5 a.m. and marched due south. No. 1 Company was advanced guard; MacLean was in command of scouts. Marched some twelve miles through a place called Kaffir Kraals to a long ridge commanding a big sweep of country due south at Roodepoort. The 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns were on the right, at Bloemhoek. Here we halted. MacLean sent in a report to the effect that two Boers were driving sheep to southwards. Battalions and guns came up. The 13th Mounted Infantry on the right were having a running skirmish. Both battalions burnt several farms. Large quantities of oxen and sheep, and many other signs, show the recent movements of the enemy. No. 1 Company had orders to hold and picket the ridge previously mentioned. As soon as the battalion reached the ridge, all went forward. Waggons and carts reported. All then deployed, and made a gallop forward under pretty general sniping, 13th also galloping on the right We went as hard as we could for eight miles, and secured oxen, waggons, horses, etc. Proceeded, and came to a stiff ridge covered with rocks and trees, and held by the enemy. Dismounted, and opened fire, as also did two guns J Battery. The Boers were seen to get away. All mounted, and galloped on to the top of the ridge. Again we dismounted, and opened fire on the retreating Boers. Once more we mounted and rode on, capturing more waggons, oxen, etc. Then we sighted a Boer convoy five miles off, trekking south. Unfortunately the 13th had been impeded in their forward movement by some fifty to eighty well-posted Boers, and two companies of the 14th were left with the captures and to cover our rear, which was being threatened. Only Nos. 1 and 3 Companies were left to go on. On we galloped, with two guns J Battery coming on. A devil of a chase! We came in for the enemy's fire from flanking ridges. Then we halted at a ridge 3,000 or 4,000 yards from the convoy, and opened rifle and shell fire on it; shell burst up a waggon. Colonels Jenner and Bridgeford here rode up and joined my position, which was on the right, and nearest the convoy. Unfortunately no supports were up yet, and the convoy was sheltered by ridges on each side covered with Boers; we had too few men to go on. However, we were all full of blood and eager to get in. The word was given to go on. I mounted my men, Cooke's company in the centre, Brass and the remainder of No. 1 Company on extreme left, when suddenly fifty or sixty Boers got up out of a donga 2,500 yards to our left front, and galloped up to another ridge. This settled it! We dismounted, and contented ourselves with shelling the convoy, which had got off. An hour later the 13th got up, went after the disabled waggons and two herds of oxen left by the enemy, and succeeded in their object, well under the enemy's fire. The horses were too done to continue; so all rendezvoused at a farm at Potgieter laager, watered horses, off-saddled, and fed. Then we rounded up our captures and went back to camp, a long weary march of twenty-five miles north-north-east back. I was advanced guard. It seemed an endless march! We reached camp at last at 10 p.m., after having gone sixty miles—seventeen hours in the saddle! Hilton rode down and captured a Boer. Our haul was as follows: 22 waggons, 5 armed prisoners, 3 unarmed prisoners, goo to 1,000 cattle, women and children; huge quantities of mealies, wheat-flour, foodstuffs, etc. Three of our men were taken prisoners and released minus rifle, horse, etc. Five Boers were wounded.
September 3.—Blaauwbank (Kroonstad-Senekal road). Reveille at 6. The column moved off at g a.m. southwest as follows: Gough's Mounted Infantry finding all guards to column, 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry and J Battery moving quietly along with main column to rest their horses. It was a fine, hot day. We had an uneventful march of ten miles. To-day we heard the welcome intelligence that Rimington's column have captured 50 waggons and 17 prisoners of Haasbruck's commando, also that Wilson has captured 7 waggons. Encamped at 2.
September 4.—Tagersrust. Reveille at 5. Moved at 7.15 south-south-west as follows: One company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard: one company Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; two companies 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 2 and 3) right flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.F.A. rearguard.
We marched over the same ground as on September 2. It was a fine but windy day. We had an uneventful march of eight miles. On nearing camp we came upon three Boer waggons, full of supplies, which were burnt.
The natives informed us that a Boer convoy of fifty waggons had gone south-south-east, and that it was about twenty-five miles on. Gough's Mounted Infantry went after these at once; their transport follows them. We camped here at 11. Orders issued for night-march. Main column remains halted.
September 5.—Wiljegund (Ventersburg-Senekal road). Thirteenth and 14th Mounted Infantry and two guns J Battery, under Colonel Jenner, moved off south-south-west at 12.45 a.m., in reconnaissance in conjunction with Wilson's small column. A fine, warm, moonlight night. We marched about twelve miles across the Zand River, and through the Dooraberg to Druipfontein. An uneventful march. Crossed Zand River at daylight, 6 a.m. No enemy; all clear. Most beautiful scenery. Encamped four miles south of Zand River at 10 a.m. Two Boers smartly captured by one of the vedettes, otherwise nothing! In the afternoon I went shooting through the bush on the Zand River with Brass. We had fair sport. It was a brilliant, hot day, and a lovely sunset; a wonderful country, too. To south and south-west were the mountains of Basutoland, the hills near Winburg, and Thaba 'Nchu Mountain. I hear from the prisoners that Elliot's column captured forty waggons and killed four Boers, Haasbruck being severely wounded; also that on the 2nd we killed four Boers at Potgieter laager. Haasbruck's column was pretty well wiped out. De Wet, 300 men, and one gun are reported to be twenty miles south-east of us.
September 6.—Druipfontein, Zand River. Reveille at 6. Moved off north-north-east at 7.15, 13th Mounted Infantry finding guards to convoy, 14th Mounted Infantry working independently on left flank. A hot, windy, threatening day. We brought in some families, but otherwise had a very uneventful march of about twelve miles; only very distant Boers to be seen. Wilson's column is working in co-operation. We halted and camped at 3.
September 7.—Quaggafontein, Mazel Spruit. Reveille at 5. Moved off at 7 east-north-east, to rejoin the main body as follows: 14th Mounted Infantry guarding waggons with two guns R.H.A.; 13th Mounted Infantry working independently on the right. A hot, fine day. We walked across and along the banks of Zand River, and afterwards Kool Spruit, bringing in families. The Boers again kept at a very respectful distance. We rejoined the main column at, or near, Wiljegund, having marched about eighteen miles, at 4 p.m.
I went over to see Nott and Lewis (Gough's Mounted Infantry) to hear their news. They started the same day as we did, at 1 in the afternoon, after the waggons I mentioned. After going seventeen miles north-west we came upon them at 4.30. They had captured thirty waggons and Cape-carts, and many women and children, and had taken four prisoners. Curiously enough, they ran into Rimington's column, and each took the other for Boers. Rimington put seven shells into Nott's company, and there was a good deal of firing on both sides, but luckily no casualties. A vedette, on going out from this camp, was entrapped by six Boers, who fired at and mortally wounded one man; the others got off. Otherwise no news.
Rimington has captured 50 waggons and Cape-carts, oxen, 19 prisoners, and many women and children.
Brass shot two magnificent springbok to-day, and two ostriches were also shot. Colonel Jenner's column only went out on spec; however, the country we went through was well cleared up. Besides we captured some Boers.
Captures made by Major Gough: 18 waggons and oxen, 29 Cape-carts and horses, 4 prisoners, 500 cattle.
Captures made by the column: 48 waggons and oxen, 34 Cape-carts and horses, 9 prisoners, 3 surrenders, 1,600 cattle, 13,000 sheep, 400 horses.
Captures made by Rimington's column: 64 waggons and oxen, 22 Cape-carts and horses, 18 prisoners, 1,100 head of cattle.
Captures made by Colonel Wilson's column: 7 waggons and oxen, 800 cattle, 7 Boers killed.
We make things as happy as possible for the Boer women. To-day we asked them to coffee, cake, and biscuits (Huntley and Palmer, not ration), and twenty-four came!
September 8.—Wiljegund. Reveille at 5. Column marched at 7.15 due north as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry and two guns RF.A. rearguard.
It was a hot, windy day, and we had an uneventful march of about twelve or thirteen miles through the rolling veldt. A most amusing incident on the march is when a hare gets up followed by five or six smart greyhounds, and behind these are some fifty dogs of all sorts—curs, mongrels, puppies, and hounds—some belonging to the men, and some simply following the column. The greyhounds generally kill, whilst all the others run 100 yards or so, and then come back, hugely delighted with themselves. We halted and camped at 4 p.m.
September 9.—Klipfontein. Reveille at 5. The column marched due north at 7.15 as follows: One company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 4) and two guns R.H.A., advanced guard: one company 13th Mounted Infantry, right flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. rearguard. Two guns 74th Battery joined Wilson's column (400 Kitchener's Fighting Scouts) on September 5. I was corps orderly officer, and had therefore the unpleasant job of dismounted men and prisoners of the corps.
A hot, windy day, and an uneventful march of fifteen miles due north through undulating, monotonous veldt. The veldt, however, is beginning to change colour, from the burnt-up yellow grass and black to a brilliant green, and here and there a few flowers are coming up, telling of advancing spring. We encamped on the Valsch River, at Wolvekop, at 4 p.m. To-day we heard the following cheerful news from Ventersburg Road Station: ' On 5th inst. Colonel Scobell's (Scots Greys) column, assisted by Midland Mounted Rifles, who held the pass, captured the whole of Lotter's and Breedts' commandos near Petersburg, Cape Colony.' Nineteen were killed, 104 taken prisoners, none escaped, and all their belongings fell into our hands, including 25,000 rounds small-arms ammunition and 200 horses. The prisoners included Commandants Lotter and Breedts, Field-Cornets Kruger, W. Kroger, and Schieman. Amongst the killed were the two Voskers—notable rebels. The only other organized commando in Cape Colony is Scheepers', which is now hard pressed by Methuen. Only about 800 men altogether are in the field in Cape Colony, which, with the exception of Scheepers' commando, are mostly scattered and hiding. This is most satisfactory, and has come at an opportune moment.
September 10.—Wolvekop. Reveille at 5. The force moved at 7.15 as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) left flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. rearguard.
An uneventful march into Kroonstad; a wet, windy, sformy morning. I rode in early with Lewis (Gough's and late C.I.V. M.I.) to get stores and mails.
We hear that the Dorsets leave us, to be replaced by the Black Watch, also that Gough's leave us, to be replaced by Kitchener's Fighting Scouts under Wilson. Gough's entrained for Pretoria to-day. I am very sorry they are going, as I have lots of friends in them; besides, they are as good a lot of Mounted Infantry as one could wish for. Major Gough, their Commanding. Officer, was a really first-rate soldier, and immensely popular.
Got stores and went back to camp, two miles south of Kroonstad, at 2. We trek again the day after to-morrow.
September 14 to17.—Usual camp duties. Very few Boers have come in on Lord Kitchener's proclamation. I fear that we are in for another year's fighting. We only got a few remounts here, and those were recovered horses from a sick farm. The weather has been cold, wet, and boisterous the whole time, with periodical thunderstorms. On the 16th we gave a dance in Kroonstad to the hospital nurses and a few of the elite of Kroonstad. It was a most sporting affair altogether. It had poured in torrents all day, but luckily it just cleared up at night. The General came, also the J Battery, and representatives from all branches of the service. The militia, also, came in strong force, gorgeously attired in blue jumpers, blue overalls, patent leathers, and gloves—a picturesque contrast to well-worn, weather-beaten khaki, am munition boots, and brown scarred hands. It was great fun, and everybody enjoyed themselves immensely; we all felt like schoolboys out for a treat. At 1.30 we said good-night, and the nurses went off in our two ambulance waggons. This sounds funny, but it was the only transport available. I think I wrote that Brass is away on leave, and that I am pro tern,officer, commanding No. 1 Company.
September 18.—Reveille at 5.30. The column moved at 7.30 as follows: One company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1), left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 4) and two guns R.H.A. rearguard.
For some reason or other the Black Watch have not arrived yet, so we are a small column. Wilson and his 350 Kitchener's Fighting Scouts and two guns 74th Battery moved off at 6.30 a.m. independently, but working in co-operation with us. I was in command of left flank guard. It was a lovely, brilliant day, after the bad weather we have had. We had an uneventful march of six miles south-west in the direction of Hoop-stadt. We halted and camped at 1 p.m. Then came sudden orders to return to Kroonstad and entrain. Destination unknown! Something evidently on.
September 19.—Eight miles south-south-west of Kroonstad. We were roused at 12 (midnight)—for 14th Mounted Infantry only and Majendie's company 13th Mounted Infantry (the latter company came with us to take over our horses)—and marched back to Kroonstad at 2 a.m. I furnished advanced guard. It was a dark night; we reached Kroonstad at first dawn (5 a.m.). Proceeded to station, and handed over our horses to Majendie and the remount depot. Entrained. The officers took all their horses and Cape-carts; the regimental transport was also taken. We were sent by three trains in close succession, their destination unknown. Leaving Kroonstad at 10 a.m., I and my company and Cooke's company (No. 3), also Vassail and No. 4 Company, went by the first train. We travelled north. At Viljoen's Drift we heard, to our astonishment and sorrow, that Louis Botha and 1,500 men, with a Creusot, Armstrong, and pom-pom, had attacked De Jager's Drift, between Dundee and Vryheid, with a view of seizing the former place by a night-march; also that our old friends, Gough's Mounted Infantry, had frustrated this, but at the same time had suffered a severe reverse; in fact, they were wiped out. Three officers (Captains Mildmay, Lambton, and Blewitt) were killed, and 5 officers dangerously wounded (Captain Dick amongst these); 14 men killed, 24 men wounded, 250 taken prisoners; two 15-pound and two Colt guns captured.
We were all awfully sorry to hear about it, as we knew Gough's so well. It is terribly rough luck on them, as they have been right through the war from start to finish, and have done so well. However, I suppose, if one goes on long enough, one is bound to get a knock some time or other. Consequently, although our destination is still unknown, we can almost guess that it is Dundee. We reached Elandsfontein at 6 and had dinner, then proceeded to Heidelberg, and thence to Standerton. Several columns are coming down south.
September 20.—Breakfasted at Standerton. It is cold, wet, cheerless weather. Lunched at Volksrust. We went through Laing's Nek and Majuba, and reached Newcastle at 7, where we had dinner. Left there at 10 and proceeded to Dundee.
September 21.—Reached here during the night. At first dawn we detrained. Breakfasted at the Royal Hotel, and proceeded with detraining. The remainder of 14th Mounted Infantry came in. Camped close to station. A cold, wet, showery day; the rainy season is on. Delightful! Dundee is a very bad place for detraining, and it was very hard work for all concerned; however, everything was safely in by 1 p.m. No fresh news. We await remounts. General Clements is in command here.
September 22.—Dundee. Reveille at 6. I went down to remounts and drew 150 horses for Nos. 1 and 2 Companies. We got ninety of these. Had a busy day branding and shoeing horses; I have another six horses. On the whole they are a good, useful lot, but too big for our work; small horses are the best, about 14 to 15 hands; these big horses want more food than the Government allows them (viz., 10 lb. per horse). At 7 p.m. got orders to move at g. The transport has been cut down, and they have replaced ox-waggons by mule-waggons. The column moved at 9 as follows: 13th Mounted Infantry advanced guard; J Battery, two guns 7th Battery, three companies Cameron Highlanders main body; 14th Mounted Infantry rearguard. Object: Louis Botha and 3,000 men are reported to be attempting invasion of Natal by Help-makaar and on to Ladysmith. Our column under General Spens, in conjunction with Allenby's column (both under General Clements), are sent out to frustrate this. We proceed to pass at Helpmakaar.
A lovely moonlight night. Most magnificent country; the mountains look simply glorious in the moonlight, with the floating, silvery mists surrounding them. The roads are very bad, owing to the recent heavy rains in Natal; consequently the waggons and transport dropped behind.
September 23.—On the march. Marched on till 3.15 a.m. (ten miles) and halted. Three companies of the 13th and two companies of the 14th Mounted Infantry, also two guns J Battery, under Colonel Jenner, went on, whilst the remainder of the force waited for the waggons. I supplied the right flank guard. There was a most beautiful sunrise as we marched another five miles through fine scenery, and halted at Paardefontein. From here we were only fifteen or twenty miles from Ladysmith, and could see Lombard's Kop, Umbulwana, and all the hills now so historical. Far away to south-west one could see the mighty mountains of Basutoland (Drakensberg), the tops covered with snow, a truly wonderful sight. Natal scenery is very grand. We camped here at 10 o'clock. Owing to the bad state of the roads the waggons came straggling in late at night. It was a hot day; my company was on outpost, Boyd in charge.
September 24.—Paardefontein. Reveille at 5. The column moved at 7 towards Rorke's Drift. A lovely morning. My company was rearguard. No enemy 1 It is curious trekking in Natal. We marched through glorious, if broken, country for about thirteen miles, then halted and camped at 5. On account of the difficult roads up and down the mountains and through the defiles, we (the rearguard) did not get in till 8.
September 25.—Rorke's Drift, two miles west. Reveille at 5. The column moved off at 7, and marched to Rorke's Drift, Buffalo River. The river was in flood, owing to recent heavy rains. It was very hard work crossing, as the river is fifty to eighty yards wide here, and the stream was quite four miles an hour. There was great excitement in crossing, and still more excitement getting the transport over.
This is all historical country. On the right of the drift, and south-west of it, is the farm where the 24th made such a splendid defence against the Zulus. The column took all day crossing; everybody took off their clothes and gave a hand. It was a fine hot day, and I think everybody, from the General downwards, enjoyed it. What a wonderful world it is, and how beautiful nature can be! Well, the whole column crossed under great difficulties, and only one mule was drowned.
Allenby's column is on our left, and another column on our right. The Boers, under Louis Botha, are to our front (east) about 1,500 strong. Three days ago the Zulus lined the border against the Boers, but after being well shot at and losing several men they were chased back to their kraals. It is a moonlight night after a brilliantly fine day. It may seem extraordinary that I write day after day ' wonderful scenery, wonderful weather,' etc.; but you have no conception what a magnificent life it is.
September 26.—Rorke's Drift, east (Nqutu, Zululand). Reveille at 4.15; a misty morning. The column marches at 6.15 as follows: One company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns RH.A. rearguard.
A fine, hot day. An uneventful march of about nine miles due north. Beautiful country; veldt covered with green grass. We encamped at De Vant's Drift at 10.15. MacLean and twenty men of my company took some empty waggons into Dundee for supplies. Rather a small escort. Allenby's column is here composed of: Carbineers, Scots Greys, two guns O Battery R.H.A., pom-pom, and two Maxims.
We are now under General Bruce Hamilton, who is at present in Allenby's camp. Major Gough probably joins our column to-morrow.
September 27.—De Vant's Drift, Buffalo River. Reveille at 6. The force remains halted. Another hot day. We had orders to move at 12 (mid-day); only the Cape-carts to go, all other transports having gone into Dundee for supplies, taking three days' rations for horse and man. Well, owing to short supplies and lack of transport we could only take one and a quarter days' rations, with which we shall have to manage.
The force moved off at 12.15 as follows: One brigade under Brigadier-General Spens, one brigade under Colonel Allenby; both under General Bruce Hamilton. The remainder of the force, under Colonel Dunlop, R.A., remained behind to bring on the convoy and waggons. Objective: To relieve Fort Prospect, fifty miles south-south-west, which is being attacked by 3,400 Boers under Louis Botha.
We started off, alternately trotting and walking, and passed and left Rorke's Drift on our right. We marched in column through narrow defiles and bad roads over mountains. At 4.30 p.m. we reached Isandhlwana, where the 49th and 24th were cut up by the Zulus in 1879. Isandhlwana (' the little hand') is a magnificent hill rising 2,000 feet, with a huge, precipitous rocky top. On the south side the great battle was fought, and our column marched through the battlefield and by the graves of past soldiers, then on over mountains, through defiles. It was a suspiciously stormy-looking night. We had information from Zulu runners that the Boers are 4,000 to 5,000 strong, and that an engagement was fought yesterday at Itala.
The column halted at .5 p.m., after having marched, so far, eighteen miles. All the carts were rather late, owing to the bad roads. The column marched off at 9 p.m. through an extremely difficult country, and on till 2 a.m., then halted, having covered thirty-five miles in fourteen hours.
September 28.—Halted for three hours and rested. At dawn moved on again. A cold, misty morning. Confirmation received of big fight at Itala; the Boers under Louis Botha were quite 3,000 to 5,000 strong. Extraordinary! Four Zulu impis attacked the Boers four days ago near here, but were driven back. Since then the Zulus have been very tame; evidently they have a wholesome respect for the Boer and his Mauser. We moved on over beautiful country, and at 10 p.m. we reached Itala, and saw a very dishevelled camp and apparently a quantity of dead horses. The Carbineers and Scots Greys went on. We camped here at 11 p.m., after having marched for twenty-three hours and covered fifty-four miles.
The fight here occurred two days ago, and was a brilliant, and perhaps a heroic, defence. Major Chapman and 5th Divisional Mounted Infantry (300 men), stationed at Fort Prospect, had a post at Itala seven miles away. This post was threatened by a commando of Boers. Major Chapman came to relieve this post, and camped at Itala. At 2 a.m. the Boers attacked from all sides, and one post and fifty men were captured after a determined fight. All next day the Boers attacked and charged repeatedly, but were driven back, and did not give it up till late at night, when they retired. The Boer force under Louis Botba was 1,500 strong. Major Chapman retired to Fort Prospect next morning, having no ammunition left.
September 29. —Itala, Zululand. Reveille at 6. I went over and had a look at Major Chapman's camp. It was a very sad sight. Tents were cut up by our men; a whole company line of horses shot down by expanding bullets; the whole place smelt of blood, and all round were bloodstained bandages and uniforms, besides thousands upon thousands of empty cartridge cases. The Carbineers picked up several of our dead and buried them. About fifteen or twenty Boers (dead) were found in a kraal and buried. Once again I say a splendid and heroic defence! After breakfast, at 9, we had sudden orders to move at once. I hear Louis Botha is moving on Fort Prospect, also that he has captured Melmoth and a convoy of twenty waggons going to that place. We moved off at 10; my company was right flank guard. It was very stiff country, and extremely hard to scout and reconnoitre. You have no idea how beautiful the country is, though, covered with the most lovely green grass, and everywhere there are veldt lilies and blossoms. Every now and again there is a woodlet of black wattle in bloom, with blue gum-trees giving out a delicious aroma, while overhead is the bluest of skies and the glorious South African sun; and to make the country alive there are the numerous waterfalls, spruits and rivers. Zululand is a wonderful country!
Well, we moved east and occupied the mountains overlooking the Imhlatuzi River, Fort Prospect, and Melmoth. There was a general sniping all round, and the J Battery shelled fifty Boers off a hill to our north. The Boers were in position, about 1,000 strong, on an impregnable position north-north-east of us and between us and our oncoming convoy with supplies. The men have had no food for thirty-six hours, but I have been able, as most have, to buy mealies for the horses from neighbouring Zulu kraals. We camped here at n. No. 4 Company (Gloucesters) are on outpost duty opposite the Boer position, together with twenty men of mine under Boyd. There was a terrific thunderstorm to-night, and the lightning was appalling and unpleasantly close. I dined with the Major and turned in at 10. All quiet.
September 30.—Five miles east of Itala. Reveille at 3. Moved off at 5 north-north-west to rejoin our convoy, which is in possible danger of being scuppered. My company were right flank guard to column. Most of the way we had a sniping match with the Boers, who held ridges on our right. Farther to the right we could see parties- of 100 to 150 moving north-north-west, well out of gun-range. We marched about ten miles, when advanced guard of convoy was sighted at 10 am. We halted and camped at Babanango Spruit at 11 a.m., 4,000 yards south-south-west of a high ridge occupied by the enemy, who, although pom-pommed all day, sniped our posts merrily. [On the 7th we heard the news that at the moment we reached Babanango Louis Botha himself was the other side with 2,500 men trekking off! His snipers were a rearguard.]
The convoy came in at 1, with one transport and five days' supplies, which have got to last eight to ten days! The men will be on three-quarter rations, horses on half-rations. Poulteney's column also came in, and camped four miles south-west of us. It is fortunately a splendid grazing country for horses. MacLean and twenty men came in with the convoy and joined me again. A beautiful hot day. It is a comfort to have our tents again!
October 1.—Babanango Spruit. Reveille at 6. The column remains halted to-day. Allenby's column moved out early to Fort Prospect; General Bruce Hamilton goes to Melmoth. At 10 a reconnoitring party, composed of 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry, went out to reconnoitre the ridge due north of camp— eighty men in all, under Captain Ellis. A few Boers were there, but retired hastily on our advance; one Boer was shot, otherwise there is nothing new.
October 2.—Reveille at 6. Horses turned out grazing; the force remains halted here to-day. There are only quarter rations for the horses and three-quarter rations for the men. A fine hot day. Played a match at cricket—right half-company v. left half-company. It was very amusing. It came on cold and misty in the evening.
October 3.—Reveille at 6. Turned out horses grazing. The force moved at 1 p.m. back again to Itala as follows: One company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 2) and two guns rearguard.
We had an uneventful march of nine or ten miles, and halted and camped on a big spur off Itala. Three companies Scottish Rifles joined our column to-day.
October 4.—Itala. Reveille at 3.30. The force moved into Melmoth for supplies. The 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry march north-north-east towards Vryheid with no transport, except Scotch-carts and Cape-carts, for five days' trek; half rations for the men and only one-tenth rations for the horses for five days! It is miserable to ride hungry horses, and to see them starving and dying under one's very nose when one can't do anything. We trekked off at 5.30 over mountainous country. I furnished right flank guard at first. Trekked on to five miles the other side of Babanango. Halted here. Then the 14th Mounted Infantry proceeded due north on reconnaissance after the force had halted for two hours. I furnished advanced guard and supports. No. 4 Company was left flank guard and No. 2 Company right flank guard.
Allenby's column is twenty miles on our right flank, north-east of us; a column—I think Poulteney's—is on our left, twenty-five miles off, at Nqutu. We could see Boers all round us in small numbers; some of my flankers exchanged shots. We went on for five miles, then returned to the main body and camped on high ground. Got in at 6 p.m. We must have done twenty-five miles to-day. I lost two horses, worn out.
October 5.—Mooihoek. Reveille at 4. The force moved out at 6.15 towards Umvolosi River. The two flank guards left at 5.45 in order to hold the high ridges on each side of our advance, which was down to and through a huge valley, bounded on both sides by hills from 1,000 to 1,500 feet high.
There was a marvellous sunrise this morning. We camped on the summit of a ridge. Awakening, we found ourselves lying with a bank of white undulating clouds beneath us, which hid all the low ground and valleys, while everywhere black summits of hills were sticking out; it looked like a huge frozen sea with black rocky islands. At 5.30 the sun rose and turned this sea first to a beautiful delicate pink like a girl's blush, then to a magnificent crimson—a truly glorious sight!
Well, we moved at 6.15 1,500 feet down to the valleys below to a most lovely country covered with farms, palms, cactus, and mimosa. It was a terrible road! However, I am glad to say that after a good deal of personal scouting I was able to procure 1,000 lb. of mealies, which I bought from Kaffir kraals. Each man filled bis horse's nosebag. We trekked on. At 11 my company became advanced guard, and took possession of a succession of ridges at the head of the valley and overlooking the Umvolosi River. The country glorious; the day blazing hot—almost tropical heat. It was a bad road for transport. At 1 I heard that our Scotch-cart was smashed about three miles back. I rushed back with one section to recover our rations and belongings, and found the Scotch-cart hopelessly smashed in a drift. I took back everything on the mules, which I used as pack-animals, and loaded up the men, then burnt the cart. It was hard work to load up the mules; it took three hours. We returned to camp across and north of the Umvolosi River. We are so glad at last to have food for the horses! We marched about ten miles to-day, but owing to very stiff country it was equal to twenty-five miles on ordinary ground. It has certainly been a hard day, and bad luck to lose our Scotch-cart. We reached camp at 6.
October 6.—White Umvolosi River, Klipgat. Reveille at 5. The column moved at 7. My company was left flank. A blazing hot day. The kraals and farms are all cleared, so we were unable to obtain mealies. We marched about eight miles, then halted and camped at Goedgeloof (four miles east of Umvolosi River). We came in touch with General Clements' column ten miles north of us. With him is Colonel Poulteney's column. On our right, at Swartzkop, are Allenby and Bruce Hamilton.
October 7.—Goedgeloof, Umvolosi River. Reveille at 5. The column moved at 7. Again a blazing hot day. My company were advanced guard and scouts. I sent Boyd out scouting. We came in touch with Clements' scouts on our left. Marched north-northeast towards Bevenson. Eight miles north-west of us is Mount Intabenkulu, which is held by 200 of Clements' people. Allenby's column is to our right, Kitchener's column twenty miles north of us. The Boers are in great force under Louis Botha, with waggons and guns on a huge ridge sixteen or twenty miles north-east covered with trees and scrub. We marched to-day about ten or twelve miles, and, curious enough, passed over the same ground where I was last March when on reconnaissance with Colonel Jenner (Alderson's trek), and had a skirmish near Whaleback Hill with 80 or 100 Boers.
I am now buying mealies every day from Zulu kraals for the company horses, so that they get 10 lb. each of mealies a day; not so bad. I pay 20s. for 500 lb. I hope to get the money back from the Government later on. You would laugh to see me haggling over a sack of mealies with the natives and persuading them to part. Life has its humorous side out here even. I was buying mealies the other day, and arranging terms with the women, who do all the selling. All of a sudden there was a great commotion, when the old chap came out in a great rage with a stick and beat all his wives, etc., who bolted to a safe distance and laughed at him. After a great deal of palaver I found out that the row was about an earthenware pot which one of the wives had broken. It was very funny.
I think my horses are better fed than those of any other company. We halted and camped at 2 o'clock on high, commanding ground. It is raining to-night. By the way, I have to find outposts round the whole camp to-night, as it is No. 1 Company's turn. I find one officer and sixty men. Posted them myself.
October 8.—Bevenson. Reveille at 6. A cold, misty, wet morning. Owing to being unable to get orders by helio through the mist, the column remains halted to-day. A very miserable, wet day, and no tents. I spent the day buying mealies from the kraals. No news otherwise.
October 9.—Reveille at 6. Turned the horses out grazing. It rained all night, and is another cold, wet day. The force moved at 10, north-east, towards the Ignomu Forest, where the Boers are (fifteen miles off). We had not gone further than four miles when the whole column was ordered to go back. Dispatches had come in from Bruce Hamilton; the Boers are doubling back south-west. However, two companies went on north-east to destroy a grist mill, and they came in touch with forty or fifty Boers and had a small skirmish. After destroying the mill they were fired on by the Boers pretty closely; my company, as rearguard, covered their retreat. The column then marched to Geluk, three to four miles east-north-east of Mount Intabenkulu; there was sniping on the right all the way. At the nek through Intabenkulu J Battery and pom-pom shelled some Boers pretty successfully. We camped at 5 p.m. just north of a very pretty and picturesque farm surrounded by mimosa and black wattle in bloom. I got another 800 lb. of mealies to-day, there being no issue of forage or rations. The weather improves, but is doubtful. It is a lovely country.
October 10.—Geluk. Reveille at 5. A stormy, threatening morning; it is blowing a hurricane. The column moved at 7.30, back again through Intabenkulu Nek to Bevenson. The dispositions of the columns are changed again. We marched back to Bevenson, where I am glad to say we rejoined our waggons and also received three days' supplies by convoy. Bruce Hamilton and Allenby are on our left front, trekking on. I believe Louis Botha and his force are occupying an enormous ridge north-east of us. The farms here are surrounded by palms, ferns, mimosa, and mulberry bushes. We camped at 3.30 p.m. It came on very hot and close, with heavy black clouds all round. At 10 received orders for a reconnaissance of all mounted troops. Allenby's column with General Bruce Hamilton are two miles north of us across the spruit.
October 11.—Nooitgedacht Mounted troops of both columns moved out. All operations are under Bruce Hamilton. The remainder of the troops remain to escort both convoys. Well, we moved off. As regards our column, I with half-company furnished advanced guard. Proceeded west and overtook Gough's force, who were in action with some 80 to 100 Boers, who held a horseshoe-shaped ridge and impeded his advance. After a good deal of shelling and pom-pomming Gough's Mounted Infantry, under cover of J Battery, reached the top. The Boers retired. Four hours were then spent getting the guns up, which took double teams and fifty men on drag-ropes to get them up the steep ascent of 1,200 to 1,500 feet. Gough's force went on west-north-west, and we halted. It came on to rain, and was very cold. At 2 p.m. we heard that we should not return to the column, but camp out, with no food and no blankets, and it was raining hard. We moved on a few miles and camped at 3 at Uitkomst, alongside a strip of black wattle - trees, on a ridge; Gough, General Spens, and No. 3 Company (Cooke's) .14th Mounted Infantry were camping near Leeuwnek, eight miles west-north-west. Well, everybody was in bad straits. I went to a farm and got a few chickens and potatoes, also plenty of wood. It was still raining hard, with a Scotch mist, and was very cold and cheerless. All caught sheep.
October 12.—Uitkomst. Second anniversary of the outbreak of the war. All bad things come to an end, and at 5 we cooked our breakfast, such as it was, and proceeded off at 7, due north, the horses worn out with cold and exposure. We marched on, up and down mountains; I was rearguard. At 11 we came in touch with 200 or 300 Boers, who retired after quite a stiff fusillade and shelling. It is almost impossible to catch Boers in this country; it is too stiff. We trekked on and on without halting, the whole way being strewn with dead horses. We marched first north, then northeast and east. The camp was sighted at 6 (only Allenby's). We heard Spens was camping the other side of the drift at Welkom Farm. We arrived here, and to everyone's dismay found our column was ten miles off. It was dark, and everybody camped where he could. It was fortunately fine, but a very cold night. All were starving. Allenby, however, sent us one-fifth rations for men and horses—viz., one biscuit and two pounds of oats—a splendid feast! Luckily, most of us and the men had killed sheep and brought in meat There was only green wood to burn; we were worse off than we were last night; however, we made the best of it. Everybody is in the same boat, from General Officer Commanding downwards. We got some sort of a fire together with dried mealy stalks, and spent another hungry, sleepless night. Wonderful! Everybody was very cheery and making the best of a bad job!
October 13.—Welkom Farm. Got up at 4, very, very stiff; turned out our hungry horses to graze for an hour. Got breakfast ready—splendid! It is a fine, warm morning. At 6 we marched off to rejoin our convoy. At 9 we sighted it on the top of a ridge. No poor devil of a shipwrecked sailor ever welcomed a sail with more joy than we welcomed our convoy. We halted here at a spruit, and waited for it. The Boers held a long ridge running north-east to south-west, and sniped us all day, as well as troubling the rearguard of the convoy, which was to the south-east corner of the same ridge. I had a welcome clean up and swim. All put up tents. At 7 we had a gorgeous dinner, and we ate and ate. Afterwards we had a game of bridge, and then we turned in and slept. We are situated twenty miles south-east of Vryheid, with mountains and ridges all round. The country here is too mountainous to catch anybody, and impossible for transport. By the way, Gough's little column had a skirmish near Leeuwnek yesterday with 80 or 100 Boers, and one man of the J Battery was wounded in the foot. Perhaps, with luck, next October ought to see the finish of the war.
October14.—Welkom. Allenby's column, under Bruce Hamilton, went into Vryheid at 4 this morning. Our column remains halted here to-day. The Boers are still round; they snipe our outposts all day. It is pretty exciting just now. This morning eight of the 13th, under a corporal, went out on vedette south-southeast of camp to take up a position on a ridge; thirty Boers waited for them, shot two, and took two prisoners. A company of the 13th Mounted Infantry had to turn out to clear them off. Their Commandant, Anderson, sent us in a message by the returned prisoners that they wound go on for ever. Hurrah! So will wee. I was orderly officer today, and took out a wood party to a farm south of the camp, taking care to have a good covering party out. All was clear, however.
October 15.—Reveille at 6. The column remains halted here to-day. It is a lovely, hot day. Sniping is proceeding all round the camp. This morning a vedette north-west of camp was driven in. A section of Gough's had to go out to reinstate them. No. 1 Company is on outpost to-night—my turn. I took forty men out, and was in charge of south to west portion. A beautiful moonlight night; all clear. Gough's Mounted Infantry go out at midnight in an easterly direction to hold ridges for the column to pass through to-morrow.
October 16.—Reveille at 3.30. The column moved to Vryheid at 5.30 a.m. Our company was rearguard. You will remember that on our left is a succession of ridges. It was a hot, fine day. The column was sniped all the way, and we, as rearguard, had a succession of slight skirmishes the whole way with twenty or thirty Boers, who persistently followed us. Brass worked the rearguard very well; there were no casualties. The column had to cross six to eight drifts, consequently we made very slow progress. The marches were about eleven or twelve miles, and we did not get to camp till 5.30 p.m. Gough's Mounted Infantry had a skirmish on the left flank, and had one man wounded; they, however, killed one Boer outright, wounded another, and destroyed four waggons, two Cape-carts, and collared two tents; this was early this morning. Nott's Company did this. He also got three Mausers and three bandoliers. On arrival in camp, orders were helioed out to us that we were to remain here for the present and entrench ourselves; one regiment Mounted Infantry to go to Goedgebock and entrench themselves.
Nott fired at what he thought was a man in white trousers; it turned out to be a woman in unmentionables; the lady bolted. On going into the tent she had so hastily evacuated a side-saddle was found, a rifle, and a bandolier with 'Maggie Meyer' on it!
October 17.—Rietvlei. The column remains halted to-day. The 13th Mounted Infantry go to Goedgebock for two days to entrench themselves at 7. Usual camp duties.
October 18.—Reveille at 6. One hundred and forty men are ordered to proceed to Newcastle at 8, to draw 280 remounts for 5th Corps; four officers detailed to go; Cooke in charge, Hilton, Stephenson, and myself. We proceeded at 8 a.m. Sykes of the gunners with twenty-four men, and forty men of Gough's Mounted Infantry joined us. Sykes was in command of the whole party. It was a cold, wet, rainy day. We trekked with all cast horses and reached Vryheid at 4 o'clock, camping here after having trekked ten miles. I am mess president, so I bought stores at Vryheid.
October 19.—Vryheid. Reveille at 5. Moved off at 8 towards Dundee. A cold wet day. We passed Scheepers' Nek, close to where Gough's had their reverse. A very stiff bit of country. We got into camp at 6 at Rooikoppjes, Blood River.
October 20.—Rooikoppjes, Blood River. Reveille at 5.30. We moved off at 7.30 to De Jager's Drift; after an uneventful trek of twelve miles reached here at 4.30. At midday halt passed outgoing convoy for Spens. We halted and camped at De Jager's Drift at 4.30.
October 21.—De Jager's Drift, Buffalo River. Reveille at 5. Moved off at 7 to Dundee, and, after an uneventful trek reached here at 12.30, and camped near the railway-station.
October 22.—Dundee. Entrained for Newcastle and arrived here this evening.
14th Mounted Infantry, 5th Corps.
October 24.—The 5th corps is done away with, and Colonel Jenner and Major Vernon will probably get some other billet. All corps are now obsolete. .
I drew seventy horses to-day; am here away from the column, which is expected in three days, drawing horses. The weather is showery.
October 31.—I have been in Newcastle till to-day. We move day after to-morrow, and probably go to Harrismith, Vrede, and Orange River Colony.
The column came in and joined us the day before yesterday. The battalion got 120 remounts, all fairly useful horses. Since I left the column nothing happened except a successful night reconnaissance by Major Pratt, when eight Boers were caught. The weather has been very hot, with one or two stormy days. Gough's Mounted Infantry have rejoined the column.
November 1.—Newcastle. Had orders to move tomorrow; otherwise usual camp duties.
November 2.—Reveille at 4. Trekked off at 6 northwest, towards Botha's Pass. Very glad to be on the veldt again! Order of march: One company 14th Mounted Infantry' (No. 4) advanced guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry, rearguard. Main body: Three companies Black Watch (just joined us); four guns J battery R.H.A.; two guns 74th battery R.F.A.; one pom-pom, F section; one g-pounder quick-firing gun.
We take fourteen days' supplies (seventy-five ox-waggons), which went ahead yesterday with one company of the Black Watch as escort.
A fine hot day. We marched through the Drakensberg to two miles south of Botha's Pass (eleven miles), where we picked up the ox-convoy and camped. It was a very difficult road; one of our Cape-carts, upset, but luckily nothing was broken. Major Bridgeford rejoined us to-night, and Brass comes back to the company.
I heard to-day that Benson's column had a severe knock from Louis Botha. Benson, eleven officers, and 100 men killed and wounded. Not over-pleasant news!
November 3.—Two miles south of Botha's* Pass. Reveille at 5. Breakfast at 6. The column moved at 7 a.m., as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry, advanced guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 4) rearguard.
A windy, showery day. We were left flank guard. The ox-convoy started at 5 a.m. to climb Botha's Pass (600 feet), using double teams of oxen. There was a long halt at the top. We took up a position 1,500 yards to the left-front of column. Here a somewhat singular affair happened. We noticed eleven or twelve mounted men riding about on a ridge two miles west-north-west of us, and naturally took them for Boers. One of the guides (intelligence) rode up to us and told us these men were his Kaffir scouts (our Kaffir scouts are armed, and in the distance look very like Boers). He then rode out towards them. Half an hour afterwards we saw twelve men come galloping in, dismount, and fire towards our left, 1,000 yards from us, on a slight undulation to left-front. Two scouts came right in, but not to us. It looked suspicious, so we brought a section up and laid low. What we thought were Kaffir scouts rode quietly away afterwards, supposedly to have a plug at some Boers unseen by us. Meanwhile we helioed in, asking how many scouts were out. To our astonishment we heard that all our scouts were in, so nine of the twelve were pucker Boers! And we let them go I Mind you, they all looked black, probably unwashed for months. An hour later our friend the guide came in minus his horse, which had been shot, also minus bandoliers, rifle, boots and spurs. It served him jolly well right for misleading us, and for an intelligence chap not to know where his scouts were was very disgusting, as we could certainly have picked off some, having thirty good shots lying low. However, next time Sixty Boers are reported three miles to our left, or west-north-west of us.
Camped close to here, three miles north of Botha's Pass.
Orders to march at 1 a.m. All mounted troops to go. Roused at 11 p.m.
November 4.—Mounted column, as under, marched as follows: No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry in advance, three companies 14th Mounted Infantry, three companies 13th Mounted Infantry, three companies Gough's Mounted Infantry; two guns R.H.A., pom-pom. Objective: To attempt to round up 60 to 100 Boers known to be on our left, and to reconnoitre Drakensberg and Krangkop, south-south-west of us and north-east of Newcastle Fourteenth Mounted Infantry on the left; 13th Mounted Infantry centre; Gough's Mounted Infantry on the right.
A fine night, but misty in the hollows, with a waning moon. We marched as far as the ridges where the Boers were yesterday, all three battalions split up as above, the guns going in the centre (this at 3.45 a.m.). It was very misty; we were unable to see 50 yards; we, however, climbed up some 500 feet and left our horses. No. 1 Company then proceeded forward on foot to a nek where the Boers would probably be driven through by Gough's Mounted Infantry. The whole company was used in picketing the ridge. At 4.15 it got light, but there was still a thick mist. We waited till 7.15, when the mist raised and the sun came through. It was a wonderful contrast, from a cold, wet mist to a glorious view of brilliant green veldt and hills lit up by the sun. There were no Boers in sight.
The horses came up at 8.45, as well as the remainder of the 14th. All mounted and swung round to our left, or due south, the 13th on our right-front and Gough's on their right front. We pushed on as far as Krangkop, where we halted; there were only very distant bodies of Boers visible. A short halt for breakfast, then at 11.30 all returned to the main column camped at Goedgebock, eight miles north-west of Krangkop. We reached camp at 2. There was a heavy thunderstorm, and everybody got a drenching. Welcome dinner at 7.
November 5.—Goedgebock. Reveille at 4. Marched off at 6 north-west as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry advanced guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company Black Watch and pom-pom, two companies 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 1 and 4) rearguard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard.
A showery day and an uneventful march of six miles to Muller's Drift, except for persistent sniping of the rearguard, ourselves and No. 4 Company. We reached camp at n.
November 6.—Muller's Drift. Reveille at 3 a.m. The column marched at 5 a.m. north-west in the direction of Vrede, via Gemsbokberg. Gough's Mounted Infantry find guards to column.
An independent force (Lieutenant-Colonel Jenner) also marched at 5 west-north-west on the left flank, taking mule-waggons and three days' supplies, as well as column of 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry, two guns R.H.A. (J Battery) and pom-pom.
The country we go through is very hilly and broken, particularly on the left. About twenty miles west of us are the Witte Kopjes, remarkable for their extraordinary and grotesque shapes.
We marched on until stopped by about 200 Boers holding a nek, with steep rugged hills on either side, through which we had to pass.
Our order of march was: Three companies 13th Mounted Infantry on the left, under Major Pratt; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 2) in advance; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 3) right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) rearguard.
It was a fine hot day. J Battery shelled the nek and hills. Pratt gained his position first on the left, and was able to enfilade the Boer position, which was very strong. Gradually Nos. 2 and 4 gained the ridges on the right, and the Boers cleared off. Whilst this was going on we were acting as rearguard, followed up by twenty or thirty Boers, and we had rather an interesting series of skirmishes. The column passed through the nek; the country on the other side is very broken. The Boers kept on tenaciously all round, and there was quite a general engagement. Spens' column was also fighting on the right.
At 2 the column camped about five miles beyond, or north-west of the nek. We (rearguard) had quite a tight little action, as the Boers closed round on us and kept close to us. The men did awfully well to-day, and we gave the Boers more than they bargained for. We shot several horses, and certainly cleared two saddles of Boers. Luckily we had no casualties except two horses shot.
Camped at 3. No. 4 Company (Gloucesters) had three men taken prisoners, and the 13th had one man wounded. We marched ten or twelve miles.
November 7.—Goedendeg, one mile west of Commando Spruit. Reveille at 3.30. We marched at 5.30 as follows: 13th Mounted Infantry (with our waggons); two guns J Battery; 14th Mounted Infantry, working on the left under Major Bridgeford, D.S.O.
Spens' and main column are ten miles on our right, at Gemsbokberg (a high kopje), with pom-pom. We started in fine weather. Our waggons went by the road via Hope Royal, Beginsel, Cork, to Wagen Pad, where they halted. We (14th) reconnoitred high ground on the left through Tipperary, Haartebeeste-vlakten to Zuurpoort. The Boers occupied ridges five miles west of us, to our left. No. 4 Company, on the left, came in touch, and had a skirmish, one man of ours being shot through the head (not dangerous).
November 8.—Wagen Pad. Reveille at 6. Marched due west to rejoin main column at 9. Thirteenth Mounted Infantry, under Major Pratt, worked independently on the left flank; 14th Mounted Infantry were with the waggons. Nos. 1 and 2 Companies were rearguard. It was an uneventful march of eight miles, except for the rearguard being chivied by the usual twenty or thirty Boers. Boyd was assistant Provost-Marshal to our little column, and did very well. We got 300 oxen and 1,000 sheep, and killed or wounded four Boers. Kaffirs, of course, we bring in.
Camped near Bothaberg (south-east of it). De Lisle's column is at Vrede. From him we got the corroboration of the rumour that Benson's column was attacked and badly defeated by 1,500 Boers under Louis Botha near Ermelo. Eleven officers killed and wounded, 300 men killed and wounded, two guns captured, Benson killed. Shocking bad news! It may prolong the war almost indefinitely. De Lisle marched 130 miles in four days to support him. Botha marched sixty miles in twenty-four hours after Benson, followed him, attacked him just as he was camping, scuppered the whole rearguard, and then played general havoc all round. There were 100 Boer casualties.
To talk of the war being near the close seems absurd!
To our right, or east, are nine columns—De Lisle, Rimington, Wilson, Briggs, and others.
Although the days are hot and fine, every afternoon between 2 and 6 we get heavy thunderstorms with regular downpours. The veldt is beautifully green and covered with flowers.
November 9.—Paardeplaats, near Bothaberg. Reveille at 4. At 4.30 I took vedettes out and posted them. We only saw distant Boers. Gough's Mounted Infantry and 13th Mounted Infantry left camp at 4.30 a.m., the former on the left and the latter on the right.
The column left at 6 a.m. due west as follows: Two guns 74th Battery and No. 4 Company 14th Mounted Infantry advanced guard; No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; No. 2 Company 14th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; No. 3 Company 14th Mounted Infantry and pom-pom rearguard.
It was a fine day. We proceeded west of Bothaberg. We were wide on the left flank. The advanced guard came in touch with twenty or thirty Boers, who retired after being shelled. Then the column proceeded west-south-west through a nek; the rearguard had orders to remain behind to cover the sheep being brought in. I with thirty men held the ridges on the left of the nek. Remained here; thirty to fifty Boers worried the rearguard, who had one company Black Watch with them. Bailey pom-pommed the Boers well, and I think bowled over some. After waiting half an hour, I noticed some Boers closing round my left; I was on one of those awkward hills with a big flat top and no cover. I sent my horses down to the bottom of the hill, and rode forward to see what our friends were going to do. I had gone about 300- yards, when two Boers got up at 500 yards and deliberately fired bang at me; luckily both shots just missed me, and I retired very promptly on to my men, got them in the best position, and started volleys at a clump of ten Boers at 1,800 yards. The rearguard then went through the nek, and I, having completed my job of holding the nek, got on my horse and cleared off to rejoin Brass, who was five miles on the left flank. I rejoined Brass, and then we all went into camp at Hartebeeste-fontein. The column had done ten miles.
The column got into communication with Rimington at Tafelkop, near Frankfort. Lowe's column on our left, De Lisle's column on our right; other columns are all in touch. No special news; a terrific and colossal thunderstorm to-night, ground swamped.
November 10.—Hartebeestelaager. To-day is the saddest day I have spent out here, one of the saddest in my life
A mounted column under Colonel Jenner went out at 4 a.m., composed of 200 men 13th Mounted Infantry, 200 men 14th Mounted Infantry, and one pom-pom. Objective, in conjunction with Gough's Mounted Infantry on our left and Lowe's column on our right, to round up 400 Boers under De Kok, De Wet, and Steyn, who were stuck at the Wilge River with oxen and waggons. We started off: No. 4 Company advanced guard; No. 1 Company right flank guard; 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; 13th Mounted Infantry rearguard. It was a beautifully fine morning after the rain. We marched through flat, open country due west towards Wilge River. I was in charge of twenty-five men on extreme right. On getting near the river I spotted 300 or 400 oxen two miles on. I galloped over and sent them in. Then I noticed 2,000 or 3,000 more oxen across the river, so I galloped back to Brass and told him. We then came along with the whole company, and stopped at kopjes overlooking the river. Then we helioed our find to Colonel Jenner, four miles back. We received reply to proceed no further. I then went down with a man to find a drift, if possible. Meanwhile some ten to twenty Boers were firing on us and the company, and our men replied. I went down. The oxen (1,100 or 1,200) came down of their own accord to water, so I tried to cross, in order to herd them across. There was a terrific current, and I lost my depth, finding it a tight job to get out, as the stream was going at quite four miles an hour and had carried me down twenty yards before I got to the bank again. However, I got out, and noticing some men at river bank, thought they were going to cross, so got on my pony and galloped over to stop them, the crossing being really impossible. When I got up to them they told me that poor Brass had tried to cross, and had almost reached the other bank; but, finding himself unable to get ashore, returned, and went under in mid-stream. Two men had tried to get him out, although the whole time the Boers were firing on us from' the hills and the other side of the river. I galloped downstream to see if his body was washed ashore, but could see no traces of it anywhere. Then, as explicit orders came by helio to retire, I did so. MacLean, the doctor, and two men rode back with flags of truce to try and recover his body, but the attempt proved futile. The Boers really behaved awfully well. They met the party, threw down their arms, and gave every assistance; it was very chivalrous of them. We all then returned to camp (some eight miles), my company furnishing left flank guard, all very downhearted and sad. Brass, my Captain, was one of the best friends I ever had out here. I really loved him, he was so absolutely unselfish, so generous. One of the most popular men in the column, he was, as a soldier, an ideal company officer, beloved and respected by the men, splendid in the field, and awfully courageous. He was, too, about the keenest sportsman I have ever met. It is a great blow to me. I have lost a real friend, and that means much.
We marched from Hartebeestelaager to four miles south of Bomboes Spruit Drift, Wilge River. Poor Brass met his death 2,000 yards south of Bomboes Spruit. The Boers are on the other side.
We got to-day one Boer killed (by us, shot through the head) and 500 head of cattle The river is un-fordable anywhere, except at the drifts, owing to the recent storms and heavy rains. We hope this time to catch De Wet, Steyn and Co.
Poor Brass died at 10.40 a.m. on November 10, in the Wilge River, one and a half miles south of Bomboes Spruit Drift; he was such a strong swimmer that I fancy he must have died either of failure of the heart's action or exhaustion, as, according to the onlookers, he went under, came up once, then finally sank without a struggle. There are only three of us now— Boyd, MacLean, and myself. Later in the day we went over poor Brass's kit and got everything together, ready to send it all home to his wife in England.
Hill (of J Battery) very kindly offered to get his men to make a cross, which we gratefully accepted.
November 11. — Rooikraals. Reveille at 5. The column moved west towards Wilge River at 7 a.m. as follows: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one company 13th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 4) rearguard.
We marched to Wilge River, Lowe's column on our left, De Lisle's on our right. A long halt at Wilge River gave me the opportunity of taking the whole company over with the Padre to the identical spot where Brass was drowned.
On a stony kop we placed a cross with the inscription:
'Captain E. H. Brass,
2nd East Yorks Regiment, 14th Mounted Infantry.
Drowned on active service in this river,
November 10, 1901.'
A funeral service was then held, the men with arms reversed forming three sides of a square. The Major came over to be present. On a brilliant day, the wonderful green veldt studded with ridges and kopjes, the Wilge River just beneath us, opposite a few sniping Boers, all around us our own troops, amidst the booming of distant guns and crack of rifles, we paid our last respect to one of the bravest soldiers, one of the kindest men we have ever seen! Only a short service, a few impressive words to us all from the Padre, a final 'Present arms!' and we all marched back to our work.
The 14th Mounted Infantry then had orders to cross the Wilge River, together with De Lisle's men, for a reconnaissance.
I must tell you that the river has actually fallen 5 feet since yesterday, and even to-day it is almost unfordable at the drift for waggons—3 feet 6 inches deep, the current three and a half miles an hour. The water is dropping 3 inches an hour. This will give you some sort of an idea how rivers rise and fall here. The width of the stream is go feet. Well, we crossed. I was leading the company, and together with De Lisle on the right, and Nos. 2 and 3 Companies on the left, we made a rush for the ridges on the other side of Wilge River.
The Boers hastily decamped, only offering a slight resistance.
We held the hill for three hours; then all returned to camp, close to the west bank of river; There were no casualties; we took two prisoners. Columns were all round.
Vassall, on rearguard, had a skirmish with thirty to fifty Boers, and killed two.
November 12.—Strypoort, Wilge River. Reveille at 3. Column moved due west as follows: One company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) and pom-pom advanced guard; one section 13th Mounted Infantry right flank guard; one section Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns 74th Battalion rearguard. Gough's Mounted Infantry form a flying column on the right flank, with two guns J Battery, under Major Gough; 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry, with two guns J Battery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Jenner, form a flying column on the left flank. De Lisle on the right; Lowe on the left.
My company formed advanced guard. Now that poor Brass has gone I take command of the company again.
All columns converge upon Paardenhoek. The column marched about eight miles, and halted and camped near Paardenhoek. Both flying columns came in at about 2 p.m., having met with small success, and only bringing a few cattle. The Boers all retreated in a south-west direction, closely pressed by Elliot, Broadwood, Lowe, and Dartnell's columns. Our column has so far only got eight prisoners, three wounded, 1,500 cattle, and 3,000 sheep.
I found twenty men for outpost to-night. A fine, hot day.
November 13.—Paardenhoek. Reveille at 4. Column moved at 6 a.m. as follows, due east towards Standerton, to refill: One company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; one company Gough's' Mounted Infantry left flank guard; two companies 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 2 and 3) right flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 1) and two guns 74th Battery rearguard. I was in charge of rearguard.
An uneventful march back to the Wilge River. The advanced guard had a slight engagement with thirty or fifty Boers on recrossing the Wilge River. We stopped on the west side of the river to allow the waggons to cross, also as an escort to Captain Whitehead, our signalling officer, who was in direct communication with Harrismith (sixty-five miles off). This is remarkable, and more possible in this country than elsewhere We also got into communication with Elliot, via Harrismith. We crossed Wilge River and passed north-west side of Leeuwkop to camp, having marched fourteen or fifteen miles. It was a clear, hot day. The left flank guard had a slight brush with a party of Boers. Encamped at 3.
November 14.—Nooitgedacht. Reveille at 4. Column marched at 6 a.m. as follows: One company Mounted Infantry and pom-pom advanced guard; 13th Mounted Infantry (300 men) and two guns J Battery under Major Pratt, column on left flank; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry right flank guard; half-company Gough's Mounted Infantry, left flank guard; one company Gough's Mounted Infantry and two guns 74th Battery rearguard. The column moved eastwards towards Standerton, and passed south of Tafelkop by Frankfort. My company was sent back to support rearguard (Nott's company, King's Royal Rifles), who were being pressed by sixty or eighty Boers. General fighting all round the column; Boers very active about here. Some of Gough's Mounted Infantry on the right flank were wounded (one since died). Rolling veldt, brilliant day. Column marched fifteen miles, and halted and camped at 3. Major Pratt took several farms on the left flank, and brought in some cattle.
November 15.—Bomje Alleen. Reveille at 4. The column moved at 6 a.m. as follows: One company 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns RH.A. advanced guard; two companies 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 3 and 4) left flank guard; half-company 13th Mounted Infantry rear flank guard; two companies 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 1 and 2) and two guns 74th Battery rearguard.
Major Gough and his Mounted Infantry started at 4.30 a.m. to work independently on the right flank. The column started, and there was a general skirmishing all round. Four men of No. 2 Company were either wounded, killed, or captured whilst doing rearguard scouts. My company was in support of the rearguard; Major Bridgeford commanded. Some fifty to sixty Boers followed us persistently. No. 4 Company had three men captured on our left flank whilst destroying a waggon. Some Boers actually galloped at right flank and advanced guard. The column marched amidst general skirmishing about fourteen miles east-north-east, and halted and camped south-west side of Vaal River at 3.30 a.m. The enemy is getting more daring every day; it is necessary to keep our eyes pretty wide open.
November 16.—Mooibank. The column marched at 6.15 to Standerton, via the south of Joubert's Kop. A strong left flanking column moved under Lieutenant-Colonel Jenner as follows: 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry, pom-pom, two guns J Battery, via Roberts' Drift and Joubert's Kop. The left flank guard to this column had a brush with fifteen to twenty Boers, crossed Roberts' Drift, Vaal River, at 3 p.m., and camped near Joubert's Kop at 5.
November 17.—Joubert's Kop. Reveille at 6. Moved off at 8 to Standerton, and rejoined the main body there at 3. An uneventful march. MacLean went off to Durban to send away poor Brass's kit, otherwise there is no news. We camped east side of the town.
November 18 and 19.—Standerton. Usual camp duties. We get thirty-six more men from the East Yorks, probably to-morrow, also fifty remounts. Had all the columns marched the last fifty miles at night and without their waggons, we should probably—in fact, we should have been sure to—have secured the greater part of the Boers under De Wet and Steyn. As it is, each column got from five to ten Boers apiece, as well as cattle and a few waggons. The trek has been chiefly remarkable for the offensive tactics of the Boers in small detached parties.
November 22.—General Spens' column remains halted here. However, 400 mounted men from the 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry proceed along the Ermelo road to form a defensive screen to a force of infantry and Engineers building blockhouses from Standerton to Ermelo. Two guns 74th Battery and two companies Black Watch accompany this force, the whole being under Major Bridgeford, D.S.O. Besides this, three companies Gough's Mounted Infantry escort a convoy to Bethel.
Our force started at 6 a.m., and proceeded through Leeuwspruit to Nickersvlei, eleven miles on the Ermelo road, where we encamped beside the Leicesters and Engineers, who are building the blockhouses and have completed same up to this point. We reached here at 2 p.m. On our left is Campbell's column, and in front is Rawlinson's column, both forming part of another big drive on Louis Botha, who is at Ermelo with 1,200 men, and has besides 800 more men round about Blaauwkop, Vaal River. Both of these places are old friends of ours. The system of building blockhouses is very sound, and as I understand the whole country is to be done, the war is bound to come to a termination, but it looks as if it would take another year. The blockhouses are bullet-proof, circular, and built at the most only 800 yards apart. Connecting each blockhouse is a thick barbed-wire fence with about twenty-four threads, which makes it impossible for anybody to get through. Each blockhouse contains f welve men and a non-commissioned officer, and at important places, such as roads, drifts, etc., there is a larger party—say fifty men and an officer. They build these blockhouses, under normal conditions, at the rate of three miles per day. Each company furnished fifty men, and I am here with fifty men of my company. Boyd and the remainder I have left at Standerton.
November 23.—Nickersvlei. Remained here whilst the blockhouses are being continued. I furnish vedettes for camp; 13th Mounted Infantry furnish 100 men as a covering force A fine, hot day. I rode round vedettes, otherwise usual camp duties and nothing exciting.
November 24.—Reveille at 5.30. The whole column moved on five miles to Uitkyk, as blockhouses are being built there. Wc reached and camped here at 10.30.
November 26.—Uitkyk. Reveille at 6; stables. Firing to east or front of camp. All mounted troops turned out. My lot were out first, and I went off. I saw twenty or thirty Boers on my right front. I met our Major, who told me to push on carefully up to the end of the ridge (two to three miles); I went on, but was stopped by determined firing on the part of fifty or sixty Boers lining a gentle ridge to our front. I waited for the guns to come up. They arrived. Now or never! We mounted our horses, scattered out, and made a dash for the ridge the Boers were holding, 2,000 yards off. They stuck there and fired at us till we got within 1,000 yards of them. The 74th Battery shelled with good effect. On we went to dead ground, handed our horses over, and ran 100 yards to where the Boers were. We saw thirty to fifty of them galloping off at 800 yards. My turn now! We potted them. The guns then came up, as well as fifty of No. 2 Company, also our Major and Cooke. The Boers got a bad time of it, and got peppered till they were out of range. The 74th Battery dropped one man and one horse; our casualties were nil. Great luck this! The Boers retired towards Blaauwkop, seventeen miles south-east of us.
All returned to camp at 11; usual duties. My men did capital work to-day. Owing to the blockhouses the road is open and safe all the way to Standerton. I am sending in for supplies to-morrow. Expect some fighting with our old friend Louis Botha.
November 28.—We expect an attack every day from Louis Botha, who, with 1,500 men and four guns, is at Ermelo; he also has 800 men in the neighbourhood of Blaauwkop, and 180 men four miles east of us. Consequently the whole of the 14th went out this morning under Cooke as a covering force for the blockhouses. The Boers, however, were rather scarce, having evidently moved off to annoy somebody else. With the exception of my company, whose turn it was to furnish covering party, all battalions turned back to camp. I was on the same ridge where we were the day before yesterday. A blazing hot day; we saw a few Boers knocking about We remained out all day, then went into camp at 5.30. The remainder of Spens' column came out and camped three miles west of us at Nickersvlei. At 10.30 we heard a vigorous gunning about twenty or thirty miles south of us, or from the right. Either Boers attacking a column, or trying to get through the line at Platrand or Paardekop.
November 29.—Uitkyk. Reveille at 6; The column moved at 8 and joined Spens' column, which had marched over. We crossed Blesbok Spruit against a slight resistance from ten or twenty Boers, and halted and camped two miles beyond. Captain Fielding (Coldstream Guards) comes to us; singularly enough, be is first cousin to my old Commanding Officer, Lord Denbigh.
A threatening evening. The 5th Corps is done away with, and Colonel Jenner is officer commanding mounted troops to Spens' column. I am sorry to say we have no remounts, consequently we are rather weak as regards mounted men.
November 30.—Protest, Blesbok Spruit. Reveille at 4.15. Owing to the early morning mists the column did not march till 8, and then as follows: Gough's Mounted Infantry and pom-pom, right flank to Blaauwkop; two companies 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A. advanced guard; 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 1, 2, and 4) left flank guard; one company 14th Mounted Infantry (No. 3) right flank guard; two companies 13th Mounted Infantry rearguard.
Marched towards Blaauwkop, Rawlinson's column on our left rear. Our advanced guard came into touch several times with parties of Boers. We on the left flank came in contact with about 100 or 150 Boers. No. 4 Company, who furnished left flank advanced guard, had one horse killed and one man shot through the leg. No. 1 Company then proceeded to the left of left flank guard. Rawlinson was on our left rear, while quantities of Boers were on our left front. Botha close by. We camped at 12.30. I went over to the farm this afternoon and shot thirty pigeons. It has been a cloudy, dull day.
December 1. —Vleyplaats. Reveille at 4. The column moved at 7, Gough's Mounted Infantry furnishing all guards. Thirteenth and 14th Mounted Infantry and two guns R.H.A., with Colonel Jenner in command, formed a strong covering column on the right flank. We marched off. No. 1 Company was in advance, Boyd scouting, I in support. We worked due east. The orders are that no farms are to be burnt to-day —probably to be kept for future blockhouses. We proceeded about four miles to Amajuba, a long ridge six miles to our left.
On nearing a nek, Boyd went forward, and I closed up in support. Hardly had he reached the top, before he came in for a heavy fire about 700 yards from a rocky ridge to his left. I immediately galloped with one section to this place, 2,000 yards off. My men were well extended. I saw ten or twelve Boers firing at us for all they were worth; I galloped on, dismounted under rocks, left horses, and charged up. Only ten men now! We had hardly got 20 yards before we all saw twenty to thirty Boers rise as one man only 100 yards off, and fire. We all dropped like stones, and only just in time, as a regular volley blazed over our heads. I sent back for more men and lay*tight, only getting up every now and again to get a shot in. Every time we got up bullets whizzed past like steam. Corporal Dean, one of my best men, was hit in the arm, and had two other bullets through his clothes. The men did splendidly, and kept the Boers back with a steady fire. It was pretty hot! After waiting five or ten minutes, Warren came up with a company of the 13th. Then we went on, and found the Boers legging it, and quite forty or fifty in number. We then let them have it, and dropped two. Here we stayed.
Boyd and his men and Fielding all did splendid work, and held their ground, although under a heavy flanking fire from the rocky ridge I was on. Four horses were killed—one had five bullets through him—and Fielding had his horse shot. Boyd's men stood firm, and, although widely extended, held their ground.
The guns now came up. Four miles east or in front of us were three separate commandos trekking off, respectively 50 to 70, 300 to 400, 100 to 150, or about 1,000 in all—the largest number of Boers I have seen for many months.
We halted here for orders from the General, whose advanced guard of Gough's Mounted Infantry was already on Amajuba. We received orders to trek on and cross Kaffir Spruit. All the Boers meanwhile were working round our right, evidently making for Uitspan, and crossing the Vaal River. Rawlinson's column camped last night at Klip Kraal, but did not appear in to-day's operations. We trekked on due north-northeast towards Ermelo, parallel to the main column. The Boers kept a respectful distance, and did not worry us any more. We crossed Kaffir Spruit again, and camped at 3 p.m. at Drinkwater.
December 2. —Drinkwater, Kaffir Spruit. Reveille at 6. The column was to have remained halted, but owing to fresh orders from General Bruce Hamilton, who is with Rawlinson's column, we trekked due east at 8. Gough's Mounted Infantry, with two guns J Battery formed left front and advanced guard; 13th Mounted Infantry were right advanced guard; No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry right flank guard to column; No. 2 Company 14th Mounted Infantry left flank guard; Nos. 3 and 4 Companies 14th Mounted Infantry rearguard to column.
We marched due east-north-east to Drinkwater, seeing only distant bodies of Boers. Gough's, in advance, had a sharp skirmish with 80 or 100 Boers on high ridges in Transvaalia; pursued them afterwards, and chivied them a good deal. Otherwise it was an uneventful march. We halted and camped at 3 o'clock, after having marched twelve miles. A night attack was expected from Louis Botha, and everybody was on the alert. Major Bridgeford dined with us. He is an excellent officer, and a great friend of mine.
December 3. — Drinkwater. Reveille at 3. The column moved at 5 due north towards Ermelo: 14th Mounted Infantry in advance (No. 2 Company advanced guard); Gough's and 13th Mounted Infantry left, right, and rearguards.
No enemy to be seen. Rawlinson's and Simpson's columns were fairly close in on our left and left front respectively. A fine, hot day. An uneventful march of twelve miles. We camped on high ground southeast of Ermelo. Rawlinson camped north-west and Simpson south-west of Ermelo. This was at 10 o'clock. With the exception of the church, Ermelo was absolutely burnt, blown up, and destroyed.
Orders are out for a strong reconnaissance to-night, under Bruce Hamilton. A stormy, wet evening. We started at 6.15 p.m. at dusk as follows: 1,500 mounted men under Colonel Rawlinson, and two guns and Pom Pom, 700 mounted men, two guns J Battery and Pom Pom, under Colonel Jenner, the whole under General Bruce Hamilton. No transport at all, except ambulances and ammunition carts. One day's supplies for horses and two for men. We passed Simpson's camp, and off we jogged. It was very dark. We moved along the Ermelo-Standerton road for five miles to Dejoeden-hoop; the ammunition carts were sent back, as the pace was too fast for them. No. 2 Company 14th Mounted Infantry went back as escort. Major Bridgeford stayed behind, and Fielding commanded the battalion, whilst I was in charge of the company which furnished rearguard to the whole column.
December 4.—On we marched through Utrecht and Vereeniging. The weather had cleared, and we now had a moon. On we jogged at five or six miles an hour on somebody's track. Just as the first light of dawn appeared we split up in three columns and shoved on. We were now in Brakfontein. As it just began to get light we trotted. A cheer, a prolonged yell from the right, a huge sally in front, a general gallop forward of 2,000 mounted men, a bark from Baillie's pom-pom, two volleys from the right, and then a rush of all and we were in a laager. All Gough's Mounted Infantry scoured away to the left, the 14th in the centre, then the 13th, and then all Rawlinson's people miles away to the right. A gorgeous spectacle in the rising sun, and a magnificent handling of troops by Bruce Hamilton.
The 14th got in the first laager and captured 15 waggons, 35 armed burghers, women, children, and unarmed burghers, 500 oxen and sheep, 30 Cape-carts, 3 bags of dynamite, and a telegraph tapper. The 13th got the next laager: 12 waggons; 25 armed Boers, women, and children, 400 oxen, sheep, etc. I remained in the laager and burnt Cape-carts, waggons, food-stuffs, etc., being rearguard.
Rawlinson ran thirty or forty Boers to ground on the veldt, who had got off on ponies without their saddles. Gough's and 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry remained at Brakfontein and guarded the capture. Rawlinson went on. It was a blazing hot day. Everybody had a welcome breakfast, and a bit of sleep. At 11 we saddled up, and all marched south-west to Tweefontein, having many halts, owing to the slow progress of the sheep. We reached camp at 2 and settled down. Rawlinson's force camped close by. Our capture was a good one, and 103 Boers were caught, all pukka-fighting ones; in fact, the whole of Klein's commando, the one which always hung about Standerton, chivied everybody, and probably killed poor little Robins. They were the men, too, who gave me such a hot time the other day. This will be a bit of a blow to Louis Botha. I must tell you that Bruce Hamilton has for his guide Wool-Sampson, a splendid officer—the famous one of the Jameson Raid—who did his imprisonment and who refused the C.B. this war, as he wished to serve the late Queen for no reward. He is very wealthy, and has been all his life an enemy to the Boers. He also was guide, philosopher, and friend to the ill-fated Benson, who did so well. Well, we had a very welcome dinner in the open, and turned in at 8.30. The men all did very well with flour and sheep captures from the burghers.
December 5.—Tweefontein. Reveille at 4. We moved towards the line of blockhouses at 6, taking all our captures with us. Rawlinson went back to Ermelo. Simpson's column was just ahead of us with all the column's empty waggons, taking them to Standerton to refill. No. 3 Company were rearguard, and were sniped by four or five Boers. Otherwise it was an uneventful march. Spens, with remainder of the column, is coming along. We marched eight miles to Morgenzou, where we encamped. Spens and the main column came in at 3. We went out to catch wild horses for the company to replace casualties.
December 6.— Morgenzou. Reveille at 6. The column remains halted to-day. I got up at 4, and went over to catch some more ponies. Got eleven, all told, including last night. All captures were sent in to Standerton. Hilton goes back to rejoin his regiment. We had orders for a night march to-night at 2. All mounted troops with fit horses start off at 2 a.m.
December 7.—Reveille at 12 midnight. The following column moved at 2 a.m. to Blaauwkop: 150 14th Mounted Infantry (Major Bridgeford), 20013th Mounted Infantry (Major Pratt), 250 Gough's Mounted Infantry (Major Gough), two guns J Battery, one pom-pom; also three companies of Black Watch (all under Colonel Dunlop, R.A., taking three days' supplies, Scotch-carts, and Cape-carts).
A dark night, but fine; a lovely dawn at 4. Only distant bodies of Boers to be seen. We reached Blaauwkop at 6. No. 1 Company was right flank guard. The three companies Black Watch will remain on Blaauwkop for a week, until relieved. The whole of Gough's Mounted Infantry crossed the drift of the Vaal west of Blaauwkop, and pushed on after some cattle. Got 300 or 400 head, but in bringing them back got chivied severely by seventy to eighty Boers. Colonel Dunlop had to send out no men of the 13th, and two guns. The 14th remained at Blaauwkop to look after the transport. Gough's Mounted Infantry brought the cattle in all right, and wounded two Boers.
A hot, fine day. All off-saddled and breakfasted. At 3 we went on due south, crossing the Vaal at Outspan, and marched on to a high ridge at Schoelplaats. Our left flank guard had a skirmish with the same Boers, but there were no casualties. We halted and camped here in a very strong position. We have fifty men called International Scouts with our force, who are nothing more nor less than surrendered Boers who have taken up arms again against their own kith and kin. Extraordinary, isn't it? They are very useful, however.
December 8.—Schoelplaats. Reveille at 6. A lovely morning. We moved off at 8 to try and co-operate with Plumer's and Poulteney's columns, which are at Elandsberg (Wakkerstroom district, forty miles southeast of us). We marched to Hartebeestefontein, and got into helio communication with the latter. No news, and unable to co-operate. No Boers visible to-day. We marched back to Blaauwkop, reaching the same at 3 o'clock. At 11 o'clock we went off again for a night march. Needless to tell you both horses and men were very tired. The horses nave had a very thick time during the past ten days, and many have died or been shot. We started off at n, due east, to round up cattle and Boers.
December 9. —Marching. A long, weary trek till dawn; a fine dark night. At 4 we reached Tweefontein, our destination. Fourteenth Mounted Infantry were rearguard, 13th main body, Gough's in advance. All went forward at a trot. A lovely sunrise. Got 1,500 head of oxen, two Boers, and 10,000 sheep. Otherwise nothing. The Boers are conspicuous by their absence.
We halted for two hours at a farm just east of Kaffir Spruit. At eight we all went back to rejoin the main column at Morgenzou, eighteen miles back. It was a blazing hot day; the horses were very, very weary. After a dull, monotonous march we came in at 3 o'clock, and had some welcome tea, during a severe thunderstorm. Everybody is very short of horses.
Colonel Dunlop's haul amounted to 2,000 fine oxen, 10,000 sheep, four Boers, three waggons.
Rawlinson's and Simpson's columns are not very far off. I am glad that Price-Davies (Gough's Adjutant who did so well in Gough's disaster) has received the V.C. He has both D.S.O. and V.C.
December 10.—Morgenzou. Reveille at 6. All remain halted here to-day. The blockhouses are going well, and have been built up to Vaalbank.
I hear that another 100 Boers have been captured by Dawkins' column somewhere about Stinkpool Valley. That is rather good news. The prisoners we took lately state that Louis Botha and all will surrender soon. We have heard that before! Anyhow, I don't think they will hold out for another winter.
Major Bridgeford looked at the horses this morning; out of ninety-eight we have only fifty-six fit.
14th Mounted Infantry, General Spens' Column.
Referring to my last letter, I must tell you that my No. 1 Company did very well that day: Major Bridgeford congratulated the company and myself, and I was awfully glad about it, because I must confess I had a good share in making it what it is.
General Bruce Hamilton's capture was a fine one, and beautifully worked.
December 11. — Morgenzou. The column remains halted here to-day. This morning a force of 500 mounted men went on reconnaissance as follows: 130 14th Mounted Infantry (Captain Brindley), 200 13th Mounted Infantry, 170 Gough's Mounted Infantry, two guns J Battery R.H.A., all under Major Pratt.
Boyd went in charge of thirty-two men of No. 1 Company, then left at 5 a.m.
Last night we got the welcome news that General Bruce Hamilton made a successful night march of fifty-one miles, and captured a laager of 131 Boer prisoners (all armed), waggons and Cape-carts, women and children, 4,000 bead of cattle, and sheep; 7 Boers killed.
His casualties were three officers wounded, also seven men. His force was a mounted one, taken from Rawlinson's, Byng's, and Simpson's columns.
This is the third knock Louis Botha has had during the past ten days. The success was wholly due to the intelligence obtained by Colonel Wool-Sampson. As you will see, intelligence is the thing at this stage of the war, and a good intelligence officer will enhance any General's career. Intelligence has been the weak part of the army out here, and had the authorities at first taken the right people the war would have been over long ago. However, it is of no use writing about the might-have-beens—everybody has had to buy his experience; it is so easy, too, to be wise after the event. I had a quiet day in camp, with the usual duties. Pratt's force, which left this morning, has gone towards Beginderlen Bridge to co-operate with Poulteney and Plumer against some Boers there. Fourteen armed Boers surrendered at Blaauwkop this morning. This is very satisfactory. This afternoon Captain Fielding and I rode over to a farm and shot some wild pigeons for dinner and breakfast.
December 12.—Reveille at 6. The column remains halted to-day. Only forty horses are left in, and thirty of these are unfit. I heard to-day that Pratt's force has so far got 700 head of cattle. A fine, hot day.
December 13.—Reveille at 6. Fielding went down to Durban this morning. MacLean came back. Pratt's force returned as well, with two Boer prisoners and 1,000 head of cattle. Otherwise there is nothing fresh. Fine, hot weather.
December 14.—Reveille at 6. I heard the welcome news that Brace Hamilton has captured another seventy Boers, killed fourteen, and taken two laagers, with cattle, waggons, etc. Very satisfactory. Otherwise no news. A force went out this evening at 11 p.m. under General Spens and Major Gough, as follows: 50 men 14th Mounted Infantry (under Cooke), 50 men 13th Mounted Infantry, 50 men Gough's Mounted Infantry, 170 Yeomanry (from blockhouses), to round up some Boers.
December 15.—Reveille at 6. Yesterday and this morning I got twenty-one remounts, all rather poor. Church parade at 10. At 11 the General's force came back, and brought with them fourteen prisoners and cattle. They went in a south-south-west direction, and crossed Blesbok Spruit. At first dawn the whole force split up and galloped to several farmhouses. Parties of Boers were, however, waiting for them, and several of our men got wounded and several horses shot.
MacLean went with Cooke. We had six horses shot in the battalion and three men wounded. Major Gough had a finger blown off and was severely wounded in the arm, whilst his Adjutant, Price-Davies (a splendid little fellow), and Nunn of the 13th, had got far ahead of their men and galloped a dozen Boers into a farm. Revolvers were plentifully used, and several Boers were killed. One Boer taken prisoner was dressed in khaki.
General Spens was in great form, and galloped down some Boers himself. About fifteen got away. However, fourteen Boers are better than nothing! I wish I had been there; but one can't always be in everything, can one ? These early morning gallops are magnificent, like fox-hunting, but ten thousand times more exciting. I am very sorry about Gough, although it is not serious. He is, I think, one of the most dashing and capable of our Mounted Infantry commanders.
December 16.—Reveille at 6. A fine, hot day. Usual camp duties. All the afternoon I put up a target at 800 to goo yards, and had the company out shooting.
December 17.—Reveille at 6. No news. We possibly trek to-morrow to Amsterdam. Two Boers surrendered yesterday. I sat on a court of inquiry on one of the Gloucesters recently taken prisoner. Major Gough has gone into Standerton, and will probably be invalided home. Nott, of the King's Royal Rifles, takes temporary command.
On the whole, it looks as if the war may be over within the next four months. Burghers are surrendering everywhere, and others still out are showing a tendency to come in. Horse-sickness has begun again, and one has to be very careful when and where horses graze and water. At all events, I don't think the Boers can hold out this coming winter, as the whole country is bare of mealies, and the lines of blockhouses which will be complete by then will kraal them in.
December 18.—I received your welcome letter, dated November 15 and 16, to-day, also newspapers. We are to trek now (11.30, night). Hope to get some more fighting soon.
P.S.—Six hours later, in the early morning of December 19, Lieutenant B. Moeller was mortally wounded in action at Holland, Transvaal, and succumbed to his wounds on December 23, 1901.