Natal Volunteers, after an unparalleled spell of twelve months’ service in the field, returned to hearth and home on 8th October, 1900, and their welcome back by kinsfolk and friends was as hearty and enthusiastic as are the thanks of the community for the splendid service they have given to the Colony and the Empire. The late Lord Beaconsfield once said: “The British army is the garrison of our Empire, but the Volunteer Force is the garrison of our hearths and homes.” Never in the history of the Empire has the truth of this been more exemplified than during the past year, and could the deceased statesman have witnessed the gladness and the pride of the Colony which were evinced in the honouring of our volunteers on duty nobly done, he would have been more inclined than ever to think that patriotism never had a better inspiration than when it established this effective and powerful institution.
The journey down from Dundee to Maritzburg was fraught with numerous gratifying incidents. Ladysmith was alive with people who cheered their hearty thanks for services which the townspeople of that historic spot can value at their fullest. At Estcourt the enthusiasm was tremendous. That village has also the advantage of knowing what Our Boys can do. The Capital was reached at various hours in the early morning. Before 8 o’clock the men of the regiments were drawn up on three sides of a square, Brigadier-General Dartnell in command.
His Excellency said: I did not suppose, when I called you out a year ago and more, that a whole twelvemonth would pass before the time for you to return to your homes. But if you had thought it, it would not have made any difference, I am well assured, and you would have turned out as you did then, practically to a man. For this war, in which you have taken part, was in no sense a war of aggression. You have been discharging the primary duty of the citizen soldier, the defence of hearths and homes against attack, and I am glad to think you have well performed your duty. You have fought shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers of the Queen, and with-volunteers from all parts of Her Majesty’s dominions. You have earned the appreciation of the distinguished officers under whom you have served. You have done your duty. I am here today to welcome you on behalf of the citizens of Maritzburg, and on behalf of the Colony, and to thank you for your services. As the representative of Her Majesty the Queen in this Colony, I wish to express my appreciation of the way in which you have answered to the call of duty. (Cheers.)
The corps left the City between 8.30 and 9.30. At Camperdown some folk gathered bucketfuls of hail, and as the trains moved in greeted the volunteers with showers of ice. A veritable “snowball” match ensued, the victory resting with the ladies, who got many a handful of ice between collar and neck of discomfited troopers. At Pinetown the inhabitants turned out to shower flowers upon the men ; at Pinetown Bridge the convalescents and nurses from the Princess Christian Hospital came out to cheer. Enthusiasm spread from one end of the line to the other; and- Durban, dressed- in her best, was expectant—Waiting for the coming of her sons. The Natal Mounted Rifles and Natal Field Artillery detrained at Umbilo, whose residents regaled them with tea and cake. At 3.45 the men of bronzed faces and much-worn khaki marched on to Congella—Capt. Henwood riding his siege horse, the Town already pouring out to meet them. At Congella Station the Durban Light Infantry detrained amid the growing crowd. The Mayor (Mr. J. Nicol) wore his chain of office, and with him were Mrs. Williamson and Miss Nicol. The party were also met by Mr. David Hunter, C.M.G., the Deputy-Mayor (Mr. J. Ellis Brown), and the Natal Naval Volunteers. A move was at once made through Mr. Brown’s grounds to the lawn, where laden tables stood. Heavily equipped in full marching order, the bulk of the men found a convenient seat on the grassy sward, and they were charmingly ministered to by dainty maids in white, over whom Mrs. Brown exercised a matronly supervision.
At 5 o’clock the Durham Artillery, commanded by a non-com., headed the cavalcade, followed by the Natal Naval Volunteers, the Natal Mounted Rifles, the Natal Field Artillery with guns, and the Durban Light Infantry—all preceded by members of the Town Council. The men brought their pets with them—lambs, goats, and birds. The Navals’ “Jack ” marched as usual at the head of his corps. Meanwhile, West Street, Durban, was packed from kerbstone to roof and ridge, all the windows bowers of beauty, all the street one line of colour and one smile of joy. Along Berea Road came the Natal Naval Volunteers with swinging step, chanting a nautical chorus. Then the stalwart Natal Mounted Rifles, Natal Field Artillery, and Durban Light Infantry. Ladies, on discovering their relations, burst through the crowd and proudly took their arms, and walked along in quickstep. Cheering and flag-waving, with mutual recognition, the meeting of father and babe, of lover and sweetheart, all moved onward to the Town Hall and Gardens where-round some 20,000 people pressed below Her Majesty’s Statue.
The Mayor of Durban said: Allow me to offer you a hearty welcome on your return after twelvemonths of active service—(Hear, hear)— away from homes and occupation, and those you love. Privations and hardships and dangers you have faced cheerfully, faithfully, and well. We have watched your every movement, and your career has been a noble one. England’s greatest generals have praised you, the whole Empire admires you. You have helped to hoist the British flag over all South Africa. You have each played your part. The protection of the lines of communication was as necessary as fighting the enemy for without supplies-General Buller could not have achieved his splendid victories. All who left twelve months ago have not returned, and those who have died will always be tenderly remembered in Natal.
The Commandant said: Volunteers of Natal, On behalf of the regular army I am proud to welcome you back. Every man has done his duty to Natal, and I congratulate you all. We shall miss many faces, but there is no more noble death for any man than to die for his country. The words of Lord Wolseley, in 1881, were that “The flag of England would float in the Transvaal while the sun shone.” And now that flag is up again there it is going to stay. I wish you all to live as long as you like, and to have all that you like as long as you live. (Cheers end laughter)
Lieut.-Col. Evans, Composite Regiment, in replying said: We thank you, because we are permitted to look back again upon what we have gone through, and feel that you are all proud of us. We have done our best to do our duty. There is no man in the volunteers who shirked his work. As long as Durban lasts, your volunteers will last, for the spirit of fighting is in every Englishman’s heart, and, no matter what the stress of weather, your lads will go to the front and bear their part when called on. (Cheers).
In the evening the Natal Mounted Rifles held a regimental dinner in the Masonic Hall.
The Mayor (Mr. J. Nicol) next day gave a luncheon in the Drill Hall, where all available members of the four Coast corps — to the number of 670—sat down, and the scene was of the most inspiring character. His Worship was supported by the Commandant (Colonel Morris), the Officer Commanding the Edinburgh and Durham Royal Garrison Artillery (Colonel Ditmas), the Mayor's Chaplain (Rev. W. Tees), the Deputy-Mayor (Mr. J. Ellis Brown); Mr. B. W. Greenacre. M.L.A.: Lieut.-Col. Evans, Natal Mounted Rifles; Commander Tatum, Natal Naval Volunteers; Major Taylor, Natal Field Artillery ; Captain Nicol, Durban Light Infantry; seven captains and fourteen lieutenants.
The officers and men were waited upon charmingly and gracefully by Miss Nicol, Miss B. Nicol, Mrs. J. D. White, Mrs. J. Williamson, Mrs. J. Nicol, jun., Mrs. Heathcote, Mrs. Bennett, the Misses Bennett, Miss Mon-crieff, Mrs. Henderson, Mrs. Middlebrook, Mrs. Gordon Parkes, Miss McColl, the Misses Wright, the Misses Edwards, Miss Tees, Miss Blackhurst, Miss Welch, Miss Campbell, Miss Hulston, Miss Rutherford, Miss Aileen Rutherford, Miss Gillespie, the Misses Mann, the Misses Adams, Mrs R. Noble, Mrs. Chiaz-zari, Mrs. W. Smith, Mrs. Livingston, Miss D. Platt, Mrs. R. C. Alexander, Mrs. W. Alexander, Miss Alexander, Mrs. McKinlay, Mrs. Hood, Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Wheatley, Mrs. Puntan, Miss Alcock, Mrs. Tatum, Mrs. D. Taylor, Mrs. Nicholson, Mrs. R. Beningfield, Miss Carol Collins, Miss Nell Blaine, Mrs. P'orbes, Mrs. Richardson, Mrs. Anderton, Mrs. and Miss McCubbin, Mrs. R. W. Evans, Misses Evans, Mrs. C. Henwood, Miss Robarts, MissGreenacre, Mrs. J. and the Misses Hitchins, Mrs. H. Sparks, Mrs. H. Garbutt, Mrs. and the Misses Kisch, Miss Lamport, Mrs. W. Poynton, Mrs. Mirrlees, Mrs. E. Brown, Mrs. Stayt, Mrs. Khats, Mrs. R. W. Evans, Miss Watson, Mrs. C. Wilson, Mrs. R. Tatham, the Misses Heys, the Misses Acutt, and Mrs. J. Fletcher.
The Mayor gave from the chair “The Queen you have so nobly served,” which was drunk with enthusiasm.
Mr. B. W. Greenacre, submitting the toast of “The Imperial Forces,” said that never until this war had they realised what was meant by the term “Imperial Forces.” It meant the Navy, the Army, and it meant the Volunteers, who, like those present, had come to our help from all parts of the British Empire—from Canada, Australia, and other distant and outlying portions of the world where the Queen held sway. These men had come to assist us in a time of trouble, and to do their best for the Empire to which they belonged, and which they loved so well. (Cheers.) The nations of the world now realised that they had something more to reckon with. They knew that the vast Colonial empire would rise and gather round the flag of England which stood for honour and Queen and Empire. (Cheers.)
The Commandant replied, amid cheers, for the Imperial Forces—the Navy, the Army, the Volunteers—and the volunteer ladies. He said: Great Britain is always going to rule the waves. Jack is a handy man. Tommy and the Volunteers are also handy men. Jack has done wonderful services on land—a great deal more service than a large number of volunteers or soldiers could do at sea. It takes a man a long time to know Tommy all over. Tommy from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot is a splendid fellow. (Cheers.) When I say Tommy, I mean every man in khaki before me. (Cheers.) All are doing their duty, have done their duty, and intend to do their duty. (Cheers.) There is no doubt that if this great
Empire of ours is to be kept up, every able-bodied man throughout the Empire will have to buckle to and take his rifle. England wants to keep what she has. And I wish you all || thundering good luck. (Musical honours.)
The Mayor toasted “Our Guests, the Volunteers.” He said that never in his experience had Durban turned out as it did on Monday. Durban highly appreciated what her citizen soldiers had done for the Colony and for the Empire. Every man had done his duty—(cheers) —and had done it without a grudge or grumble. They had earned for themselves an enviable name, and Natal was known now by its volunteers better than it had ever been known before. (Hear, hear.) There had been many whom today they mourned. But their names would never be forgotten. That was an occasion which would live long in memory, and he was proud to be able to give them a right hearty welcome home. He was glad to know that every situation which had been left by them was still open, and though it might take them some time to sober down —(laughter)—he was sure they would all do their duty in civil life as they had done in the field. (Applause.)
Lieut.-Col. Evans, in reply, said they had not had such a feed for twelve long months. (Hear, hear.) To his knowledge they had never seen a starched tablecloth, to his sorrow they had never had a serviette, and to their regret they had never seen so many pretty faces in one place. (Cheers.) The boys who had gone with them to the war had come back solid well set-up men—men who knew what discipline was, and honestly paid up their fines. (Laughter.) He had to thank the Colonel for coupling their name with that of the finest men the world ever produced. (Cheers.) They had to learn many things from Tommy, and one thing they had learnt was how to take care of themselves when there was no “grub.” (Laughter.) The Volunteers had to thank those who had stayed behind for the way they had looked after wives and little ones left in their midst. It cheered them to think they were not forgotten, and they wished to tender their heartfelt thanks to those who had extended their sympathy and help. (Applause.)
Commander Tatum said that from the unbounded enthusiasm with which they were received on the previous day and from the tone of the remarks which had been made that day they felt assured that their efforts and services as volunteers had met with the approval of their fellow-citizens. This being so, no words he could add would describe the pleasure they felt in knowing that they had been of assistance to their Queen and country. (Cheers.)
Major Taylor said this was a gathering which would never be repeated among ourselves. (Laughter.) The next time they met under like circumstances, he opined, our friends the Boers would be amongst them— he was convinced that had it not been for the ringleaders the rank and file of the Boers would have been on our side by this time. If there was one thing the war had taught them, it was that the British race had still the same bull-dog tenacity as of old, and what had been written in praise of Tommy Atkins was not half enough to do credit to his many good qualities. However, if they had learnt something from the regulars, the regulars had learnt something from them. The footmen had learnt something from the mounted men in connection with geese and turkeys. (Laughter.) As a volunteer he would like to say that the commissariat in connection with the Imperial forces had been a matter for the greatest admiration throughout the campaign. On the lines of communication they could not have been better served, and, though they had hardships occasionally, wherever it was possible to get supplies to the troops they were got up. (Hear, hear.) If the volunteers had done their duty, they had had the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief, and this was sufficient reward for their exertions. (Applause.)
Captain Nicol remarked that he hoped it would be a long time before they were called out again, but if they were called upon to go to the front they would go with the same spirit in which they went twelve months ago. (Applause.)
Cheers were then given for the Mayor, and for the Ladies, who were toasted by the Deputy-Mayor, and responded for by Surgeon-Lieutenant Hornabrook, and the company sang “God Save the Queen.”
On Saturday, volunteers who returned to the Railway Department were accorded a smoking concert in the Natal Government Railways Institute. Of the 112 men who went out seven had been killed (including Nisbet, of the Border Horse, in the Orange River Colony), seven wounded (including Gould, of the Imperial Light Infantry, and Drummond, of Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry), and four had been prisoners.
Mr. D. Hunter, general manager, said that in this war every man, woman, and child of the Empire had given some kind of service. In Natal he did not suppose there was a single family that had not been represented in some way. All the volunteers who in this campaign fought for Queen and country had been proud to serve under that splendid Englishman, that grand soldier and renowned general, Sir Redvers Buller. When he was told of proceedings at Colenso, where they were all in peril, and when their own boy, Staff-Sergt. Borain, drove the engine across the Tugela to the relief of the Durban Light Infantry, he felt that they had a boy of whom they were proud. All had done their duty nobly, and the memory of the dead was gratefully remembered.
A thanksgiving service was held on Sunday in the Town Hall—a ceremony of unique interest and no little historic significance. The muster of volunteers was 300 rank and file, and of the public there was a crowded-out attendance. The Rev. W. Tees (Mayor’s chaplain), conducted the service, assisted by the Revs. Dr. Ikin (Episcopal), W. Wynne, N. Abraham (Wesleyan), W. H. Mann (Congregational), J. Laing (Presbyterian), and Pastor Rose (Baptist).
The Mayor’s Chaplain spoke as follows:— Brave and honoured volunteers, his Worship the Mayor has invited you, after a whole round year of arduous service for Queen and country, to meet with us in this hall today, in order that you and we may unite our hearts and voices in thankfulness to Almighty God for your victorious return. We are not here to exult over a fallen foe; it is not of the nature of British manliness to glory over a vanquished enemy. But we are here to acknowledge, with gratitude and rejoicing, that overruling Providence which hath gotten us the victory, and restored so many of you to your homes and your loved ones.
We are not unmindful of the dead and the bereaved. Our joy is hallowed by the memories of departed heroes, and by sympathy with their sorrowing families; but with you and your happy relatives we do rejoice. In thought and in prayer we were with you all through your now historic year, and today we ask you to join with us in this our glad thanksgiving. Through many hardships, exposed to heat and to cold, with much fierce fighting and long weary watchings, you have stayed the invader, and aided in bringing about a renovation for which future generations will bless you. Citizen soldiers, when thanked and praised for your services you have said, with the modesty of true heroism, that you had only done your duty. May you always do that! Another Prince calls you to service in another field of battle, and, as you were ready for duty to Queen and Empire, so be also ready, and always ready, for duty in fighting the good fight of faith under the Captain of Salvation. You have endured hardness as good soldiers of Queen Victoria; show that you can also “endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” God grant through His grace that, when you come to the close of life’s battle, you may be able to say, each one of you, “ I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day.”
On Friday, 19th October, during a concert and dance at Bellair, Mr. Palmer presented the following address — containing the photos of Lord Roberts, General Buller, and Lieut.-Col. Evans—signed by William Palmer, M.L.A., Venerable Archdeacon Hammick, Captain A. Airth, James Fletcher, Geo. W. Palmer, Geo. H. Royston, C. R. King, C. Roper, G. P. Thorpe, and Fred. J. Young, hon. secretary:
We, the residents of Bellair and its neighbourhood, offer a most warm and hearty welcome to the members of the Bellair troop of the Natal Mounted Rifles on their return from a long and arduous campaign in northern Natal. We thank Almighty God for His great mercy and his over-ruling goodness towards you, seeing that of your number one only has been killed by the enemy’s fire, and not one has died of wounds or sickness. Your conduct has given an example that may well be followed by all; first, of readiness to obey the call of duty and take the field; second, of gallant conduct in the various actions that preceded the investment of Ladysmith ; and then, of patient cheerful endurance of the anxieties and privations of the long siege. After the relief you returned to the field and took part in ridding Natal of her invaders and guarding the borders, until the forces in the Orange River Colony and Transvaal removed all further need of your services and freed Natal from her invaders. We feel thankful that such an opportunity has been given you, and that you have so nobly embraced it. We hope that the force to which you belong may never be called out to resist invasion again. But, on whatever service it may be summoned, we trust and hope that the same spirit may be found in its members then as has been found in you, and that the force in the future may never sully the fair you have won for it, and which you hand on to your successors to preserve.
All the foregoing is but typical of the reception that awaited and followed the Volunteers in every part of the Colony as they journeyed by road and rail backward to their homes and returned to civil life. Not only did each town, village, and district combine to do them honour, but all sorts and sections of society throughout Natal united in individual endeavour to make the home-coming memorable — an occasion freighted with universal gladness and congratulation. The festivities extended in some parts far into November.
The Natal Mercury published an artistic Volunteer Souvenir as a Well Done and Welcome, comprising twelve portraits of Natal Commanding Officers, grouped round General Buller; and of these many thousands were sold at 3d. each—a second edition being called for the first day. On the arrival of Sir Redvers a Buller Edition was issued, in colours, at 1s.
Elandslaagte Day was celebrated by the Natal Field Artillery at a dinner, where Major Taylor remarked that as commanding officer of the Battery he held the rank of a senior subaltern. At Elandslaagte he suggested to General Downing that they might come to the assistance of a force on the Newcastle Road, and he was told to remain where he was and to do as he was told. With their inferior muzzle-loaders, which could not throw shrapnel effectively more than 2,500 yards, their guns could be used little more than as guns of position on the lines of communication—where the presence of the Volunteers, however, saved the lines from attack. Their guns were better equipped, as far as horses were concerned, than the Imperial Batteries, whose horses were not acclimatised.
The Midland Volunteers (Carbineers, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Border Mounted Rifles, and Natal Royal Rifles) reached Maritzburg on the morning of Tuesday, 9th October, and broke fast at the Railway Station, being thereafter addressed outside by the Governor (Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson), who was accompanied by the Commandant (Colonel R. H. Martin), the Prime Minister (Colonel Sir Albert Hime), the Bishop of Natal (Dr. Baynes), Dean Green, Deputy-Mayor Payn, and the Town Council.
His Excellency said: General Dartnell, officers and men of the Natal Volunteers,—It may seem at first blush somewhat strange, and rather, perhaps, incongruous, that on a joyful occasion like the present I should touch a note of sadness; but I feel I cannot do otherwise than give public expression to those feelings of deep regret which I know you all feel, as well as I do, that your brave Commandant, Colonel Royston, is not with you today to join in this ceremony; and by none will that regret be more felt—more deeply felt—than by General Dartnell, who has so ably commanded the corps of volunteers since the lamented death of your late Commandant. I can well remember little more than a year ago riding up this street with Colonel Royston, when the Carbineers were leaving Maritzburg for the campaign. It was 1st October, 1899, and I well remember how full of zeal he was, how cheery and hopeful, and how he looked forward to the reward which he has earned, and which he has not lived to see, in the excellent performance of the troops in which he took such interest. His name, and the name of the hundreds who
laid down their lives in the cause of the Empire, will be inscribed on the roll of honour, and they all will illustrate for ever the annals of the Volunteers of Natal. It has been a great pleasure to me to notice the high encomiums the Natal Volunteers have received from the distinguished officers under whom they have served, and while I know that praise has been earned by the officers and men by their devotion to duty, and by their zealous performance of it, I feel that you of all men will join with me in attributing no small share of it to the care Colonel Royston bestowed on the organisation, and equipment, and sustentation of the force which has done such loyal and good service during the year. It is your privilege to have borne a part in the decision of the greatest struggle of the Empire during the century. You have contributed to the making of a great page—I almost said volume —of national history. It will be a proud remembrance for you and your children that you took a share in this struggle, that you stood shoulder to shoulder with the troops of the Queen and volunteers from all parts of the world in the finishing—I hope for ever—of a great struggle, and in the consolidation of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. I call on you to give three cheers for her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen.
After the cheers, the Umvoti Mounted Rifles and Border Mounted Rifles entrained for Grey-town and Richmond. The Natal Carbineers, Rifles, and Gunners, accompanied by Town and School Bands, marched to Market Square.
The Mayor (Major Macfarlane, N.C.) said: On behalf of the people of Maritzburg I welcome you back amongst us, after an absence in the field of a year. We rejoice in your homecoming. We have watched with feelings of pride your every movement since the day you went forth from among us to repel the invader —your whole career having been one unbroken record of bravery and good behaviour. You have faced danger unflinchingly; you have borne hardships and sickness, which, thank God, but seldom fall to our lot to bear, without murmur or complaint. We cannot forget these things, and the people of the City are proud of you. We have had twelve months of as strenuous a struggle as living man has witnessed, and none save enemies to the land and the people of South Africa will regret that the last page of the last chapter is now being turned down. And we all mourn with you in the loss of many dear friends and comrades, whose lives have been so gallantly laid down in the defence of this dear land.
Colonel Greene said the behaviour of the regiment had been perfect. The men had a reputation and they upheld it—alike in the field, in camp, and in action.
Mr. Jos. Baynes, M.L.A., speaking at Nel’s Rust to returning Border Mounted Rifles and Richmond Natal Carbineers, said of those who had laid down their lives in our behalf: Their names will be recorded on the scroll of fame, and will live for all time in the annals of our country. We cannot but feel a thrill of pride at the noble part of our own Motherland—the diplomatic skill and ability of her statesmen, the patriotic heroism of her soldiers, the immense self-sacrifice of her people, sending hundreds of thousands of her sons as warriors, and many of her daughters as nursing sisters, spending millions upon millions of her treasure, imposing burdens upon her people—burdens borne without complaint.
At Umzimkulu, East Griqualand, wherefrom a contingent of Cape Colonists had joined the Border Mounted Rifles, the troop was also entertained, Magistrate Whindus in the chair. In response to the toast of Mr. Donald Strachan, Major Rethman thanked their Cape neighbours for their princely hospitality, and spoke in the highest terms of the conduct of his men in the siege of Ladysmith. He had never heard a grumble from them through the whole campaign.
Major Leuchars, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, speaking at a banquet at Greytown the same night, regretted the entire absence all day of the Dutch. If any section of the population should be grateful for any services rendered by the force at the Tugela it should be these people, for had the enemy entered this county, two-thirds at least of the Dutch inhabitants would today be in the unenviable position of their brethren in the Biggarsberg. The demonstration from these Colonists should, if anything, have been more enthusiastic than from British and German Colonists, for in an invasion the Dutch section would not only have lost their stock and homes, but their liberty.
The Germans gave a dinner on iSth November at the Noodsberg Road Hall, where the former commanding officer, Umvoti Mounted Rifles, Major Von Bulow presided, ladies waited, and the Queen and Kaiser were toasted.
Major Leuchars paid tribute to Major Lugg, and acknowledged the loyal assistance of his officers. Night after night, day after day, his men were on duty on the barren hills of the Tugela, but they were always cheerful. He regretted the absence of the Helpmakaar troop. Those 25 men—all Germans—did splendid work, and he never wished better. Under Lieut. Geo. Moe and Sergt.-Major Muller they had done wonders.
Nottingham Road the following evening entertained “The Fighting Third” squadron, Natal Carbineers, the Hon. Mr. C. J. Smythe presiding. In reply for “Her Majesty’s Forces,” Colonel Greene said no soldier in the world could hold a candle to Tommy Atkins, who was the idol of the Empire. The Volunteer had also proved his mettle. Tpr. C. Groom was a magnificent fellow and splendid example.
The Colonial Secretary said the Natal Carbineers dated back to 1855. In 1873 they arrested the Langalibalele rebellion, gaining fresh lustre in the Zulu War, when twenty-one heroes fell at Isandhlwana. In this campaign, Carbineers with Colonel Greene were besieged in Ladysmith, to whose relief Carbineers with Major McKenzie were the first to ride in.
Lieut. Bartholomew said the squadron went into Ladysmith seventy strong, but at one time forty were in hospital, and their muster dropped to fourteen. But the men behaved like Britons —they were all grit to the backbone. He could not say too much in praise of men who had made great sacrifice. The special service men had rendered splendid service; and not one man in the squadron received punishment for misdemeanour, not one brought discredit on the uniform he wore.
Sir Redvers Buller, returning from the far front, reached Newcastle on 15th October, and received an address. As he left, school children paraded with banners, and, at Sir Redvers’ suggestion, sang the National Anthem and cheered the' Queen.
On reaching Maritzburg on Tuesday morning General Buller received an address from the City Mayor and Council, which said:
You are no stranger to those of us who remember the experiences of 1879 and 1881. A generation has grown up since then, and, by the providence of God, you have been spared to implement for us the forecast then made of your capabilities, both as a soldier and as a man. The citizens of Pietermaritzburg greet you today with feelings of gratitude, pride, and pleasure: gratitude for having, with your gallant army, driven the ruthless invader from our borders; pride that an English General has triumphed over every difficulty that nature and modern scientific equipments could have placed in his way; and pleasure that we have you amongst us today, in health and strength, after your arduous labours for the Queen, the Empire, and the Colony we hold so dear. Had you and your army been less resolute, daring, loyal, and skilful, this fair capital of the Colony of Natal might have been entered by the invading enemy, and we, therefore, gratefully recognise in you today the saviour alike of our Colony, our City, our hearths, and our homes.
General Buller, in his reply, said: There is one word I wish could be altered, and that is “ your ”—“ your army.” I wish rather you said ’“our” army. I remember in November last I was riding with the Governor round the beautiful hills that surround this town, and we saw a lonely lady walking among the trees. His Excellency spoke to her, and said to me,
“There is the wife of our Mayor, who is in Ladysmith.” Your Mayor is one of those who came forward to defend Imperial interests and the interests of Natal. As I said in Newcastle, the Natal Field Force could not do all it did but for the help it received from Natal. That I know, that we all know, and we only too gladly and willingly admit it. And I receive this address from those who know the difficulties that had to be met, and who helped in every way, at very great sacrifice, to overcome those difficulties.
The following day the Cadet Corps formed up before the Post Office, and Sir Redvers remarked to them that there was nothing better than for young men to have early experience of military discipline and the use of arms. He foretold that they would play no mean part in the future history of Natal.
In the Market Hall, the Mayor (Major Macfarlane) entertained at luncheon 546 guests, mostly returned volunteers, being supported by a brilliant assembly, including seven Colonels and other Military men and Colonial Ministers and Justices.
Ladies in white, with sashes of red, white, and blue, waited at table, viz.:—Mesdames P. F. Payn, H. B. Collins, W. G. Eccles, A. M. Holloway, Harkness, R. Haworth, E. C. Lawrence, Hannah Ross, Webb, the Misses W. F. Nicholson, L. Muir, A. E. Nicholson, Burton, Ireland, MacDonald, R. MacDonald, Bertha Ford, Margaret Haworth, Mabel G. Andrews, Payn, M. Payn, Fiddes, Anderson, Fanny Anderson, E. Gordon, Murdock, Abel, Collins, M. Collins, O’Brien, B. O’Brien, Wolhuter, Carmichael, Forsyth, Rowe, Natalie Wilson, O’Meara, and Sisters of the Nursing Institute.
General Buller, replying for her Majesty’s Forces, said: I was here with an army twenty years ago. The privilege of all us Britons, and we are very fond of it, is to abuse ourselves. We do not like other people to do it. We do it ourselves. And we see in English papers continual reference to the shortcomings of the army. But I say that any men who compare the English Army as it has shown itself in Natal during the past twelve months with the English Army they knew twenty years ago, will all agree with me in acknowledging the advances both officers and men have made. And when I say that I believe I give the poor old English Army the highest possible credit, and no more than it deserves. I might say much the same of the Natal Volunteers. There were here twenty years ago, as there are now, a large number of very gallant men, but they were not then, as they have been since, thoroughly organised, w ell led, and well conducted troops. It is an immense difference, and I congratulate the Colony on the growth of military spirit and military ardour—in short, it is patriotism, it is nationalism, grown during that period. Whether that immense difference is due to the fact that meanwhile it has become a self-governing Colony I do not know, but I hope it may be, because before Natal and the whole of South Africa there is a potentiality arising that will require a nationality to carry it out. There is nobody who knows anything of the siege of Ladysmith but joins with me in regretting the death of Colonel Royston. There is nobody who knows anything of the operations of the last twelve months who is not aware of the debt the Empire owes to General Dartnell and the many other Volunteer officers. I would especially mention Major McKenzie and Major Leuchars. There are many I could mention, but those three men came specially before me, and I give them as examples.
On the Market Square, amidst enthusiast^ Deputy-Mayor P. F. Payn, chairman of the Buller Testimonial Committee, presented an address, read by Mr. F. W. Trafford, the secretary, which said—When our land was threatened with ruin, you chose to sacrifice your original plan, which promised speedy and assured success, and decided to stem the tide of invasion in Natal, while awaiting the completion of those greater measures of war which you believed to be necessary. Your self-sacrificing action was justified by subsequent events, and Natal was saved from a catastrophe which would have crippled her for many years. The task you undertook appeared at one time almost impossible of accomplishment. You were opposed in a mountainous country by a brave, determined, and mobile enemy. You had to contend against methods and weapons never before seriously applied; yet, by your skilful conduct of the operations, and the splendid heroism of the soldiers under your command, you overcame all difficulties, and carried the campaign in Natal to a brilliant conclusion. Your qualities as a soldier have won for you the admiration of the Empire which lovingly submits to the rule of our gracious Queen, the confidence of the men whom you so often led to victory, and the heartfelt gratitude of the Colonists of Natal. We recognise in you a worthy example of the great soldiers who, from generation to generation, have' formed and perpetuated the unparalleled traditions of the British Empire, men in whom military sagacity of the highest order has been displayed under varied and difficult circumstances, men of whose life the motto has been: “For Queen and Country.”
The Prime Minister said: When I tell you that the sword and piece of plate which you are to receive have been subscribed for by thousands of Colonists from the north, south, east, and west of Natal you will know the esteem in which you are held. Sir Redvers Buller, Natal regards you as her own general—(cheers)—and when you came to Natal in her darkest hour we felt certain that our saviour had arrived, and we watched your progress with the utmost interest. We knew the terrible difficulties. But we felt sure you would surmount those difficulties, and our faith in you has been fully realised. (Cheers.) When you relieved Ladysmith there was a thrill of joy throughout the Colony, and a feeling of pride that our General had accomplished that mighty feat. When you drove the enemy from our border we were proud of you, for we knew you had saved Natal. We hope you will ever have a kindly thought for the people of Natal, the Colony you have saved so well. (Cheers).
General Buller, who was received with a storm of cheers, said: I am grateful to you for the kind thought which prompted this magnificent present, for the kind words in which this gift has been announced, and for the kind sympathy that underlies it. I landed at the Cape on the 31st October last year. I was a General without an army. The army was to follow. I do not believe that any General even with an army ever found so adverse a situation to face as I did on the morning I disembarked at Capetown. Mafeking was beleaguered, Kimberley was beleaguered, the two main avenues across the Free State—the Bethulie Bridge and Norval’s Pont-were in the hands of the enemy, and the first telegram I sent to Ladysmith brought the reply that it would be only a matter of hours before it would be closed in also. There were then in Cape Colony two-and-a-half battalions of infantry, one cavalry regiment, and in Natal, south of Ladysmith, one battalion, and some volunteers who were gathered for the defence of their homes. My army, and a very fine army it was, was not to arrive until the 22nd of December, seven weeks from that time. And the most important part of that army, cavalry and artillery, were, owing to the time it takes to embark mounted corps, to be the last to arrive. What was I to do? Was I to sit still for seven weeks? And what was to happen then? The two main avenues were already in the hands of the enemy, and must be fought for. If I had sat still in Capetown for twelve weeks, what would have happened to the British Empire in South Africa? If no British troops other than those here on 3rd November had been landed in this Colony for twelve weeks, the Boers would have entirely occupied it. And what would have been the effect on public opinion in Europe, and on the position of the Government at Home, and what would have been the misery to the happy, comfortable, pleasant inhabitants of Natal? I have been found fault with by all the so-called military critics of the English Press. I have been pelted with criticism from German, French, and Italian critics. I have been told I allowed the enemy to dictate my strategy. I was told I was incapable of fulfilling the plans I left England with. But I was not told the truth, that the conditions under which these plans were made had been altered when I arrived in South Africa.
My critics have not considered the extent of the South African frontiers, and that there is six thousand miles between England and South Africa. Well, I did what I thought right. The Government left me absolutely free handed. I do not say I was right, I do not say I was wrong—(shouts of “Right”)—but this I do say, I did what I believed at the moment was the right thing to do. (Cheers.) And here I feel I must tell the story about a man who has done more for Natal than I have done, a man who is my senior, and from whom I have learned much of war. At the moment I had to decide to come on to Natal or not, I received a telegram from Sir Evelyn Wood. His military knowledge and soldierly spirit enabled him to see by intuition the difficulties to be faced, and the telegram was, “ If you have any trouble in Natal, allow me to come out and serve under you.” I was never so tempted in my life to take a man at his word, but I wired back to him and said I looked on the journey to Natal as a forlorn hope. I was aware that if I failed at Ladysmith the first shot, I should run the risk of losing the command in South Africa. I think I would have been a coward if I had asked Sir Evelyn Wood, who was senior to me, and a better man to come out here, and take the risk I was in great anxiety about myself. I came here, and failed in my first attempt to relieve Ladysmith, and I lost the command in South Africa, and I think rightly. I had taken on a task, and I was bound to see it through. I am very glad I came to do it, for in doing it I have been able to become closely associated with, I believe, the most gallant army any General ever had the honour of leading.
I cannot describe, but many of you know, all that those men have done, and how they have done it, and to one and all I feel I owe it as a duty to pay a tribute to their patriotism, their valour, their devotion. It has not been ordinary soldiers’ work. It has been a question of day after day facing the unknown, and facing danger, with a cheery heart, a bold face, and extreme skill. A war such as we have had, a war in which individual soldiers have been sent forward day after day, and many have had to fight every day for ten months, means a strain which I believe, in the history of the world, has never been put on soldiers before, and splendidly Britons have done their work. They are all alike. The men have done it, and no men helped more than those from Natal. I received throughout the time I have been connected with Natal the greatest help from many of the older residents. Many have kindly written letters of advice to me, letters descriptive of passes and places, letters of the greatest assistance. I want to thank them all for it, and to say I thoroughly appreciate their kindness, and say I tried to profit by their information. Some said I had no intelligence department. I believe I had a remarkably good one, and I am thankful to the man who began it—the Hon. T. K. Murray, who came forward and started it; and he was followed by Mr. Struben, the Allison, Whipp, and Henderson families, all local men. And when the history of the war comes to be written it will be found that no General received better information than I did, and I got it from the colonists of the districts I passed through. I am grateful to be allowed to speak in my own defence. No matter what English papers or German critics say, the people who live on the spot know best, and the people of Natal agree with me, that if General Hildyard and his men had not been in Estcourt on the 22nd November, the Boers would have taken Marilzburg. It would have been a terrible calamity, and if I had been sitting still in Capetown, though I would not have cared a sixpence for the critics, I would have felt thoroughly ashamed of myself. (Cheers).
Then ensued a scene of great enthusiasm.
General Buller returned to Durban on 20th October (Talana Day); and, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., his ride from Berea Road Station to Town Hall, and from the Club to the Point —where he embarked on the Hawarden Castle —was a triumphal march, a royal progress, throned in the hearts of the people, besieged by batteries of affectionate farewell. Thirty thousand voices roared a welcome through the streets, and all Durban formed his guard of honour. In the Town Hall the Mayor presented an address which said: On your arrival in Natal, in November last, you found us anxious and troubled, because of the unexpected progress of the invasion of the Colony by the large and admirably equipped forces of the Boers, who had already beleaguered Ladysmith, and had also penetrated to within almost striking distance of the capital. Your taking personal command of the Natal Field Force on reaching South Africa showed that you instantly recognised the gravity of the situation, and that you foresaw the danger in which this Colony stood. Words fail to express the relief we felt when it was known that you yourself had decided to come to our aid. Your past career in this country, and the stirring days of Hlobane and Kambula, when Buller's Horse made an imperishable name for itself and its Commander, are still fresh in our memories. In the operations for the relief of Ladysmith, you and our heroic army had a task before you which we Colonists, who know the difficulties and the almost inaccessibility of the surrounding country, can thoroughly appreciate. It was an effort which many military experts declared to be almost an impossibility, but your dogged tenacity, and the bravery of our forces, accomplished the feat of bringing to an end one ot the longest sieges in the annals of military history. The relief of Ladysmith will ever remain in the hearts of Englishmen, and in the hearts of Natal Colonists especially, as we had not only the patriotic feeling of the Empire at heart, but we had locked up in that town some of the best of Natal’s manhood, who were fighting side by side with the soldiers of the Queen to sustain the grand old Flag. Since Ladysmith your advance has been a succession of victories, your strategy has been irresistible, and on every occasion the enemy has retreated before you scattered in all directions.
His Worship assured the hero that his name would go down to posterity as that of the man who had saved Natal.
General Buller said: There is one thing for which I have to give hearty thanks—the management of the Natal Government Railways. We have been dependent entirely upon that railway for our sustenance now for more than a year, and in every way that we could be helped Mr. Hunter and his staff have helped us. (Cheers.) I should also mention Mr. Shores, his skiff and hard work—we were never kept more than a day or two for any broken-down bridge.
It is due to the excellence of work in the Natal Government Railways shops, and the willingness with which they undertook all work that we were able to place so many Naval guns in the field, as nearly all the carriages were made in the workshops. It is due to them that we were able to furnish our hospitals comfortably, for there the hospital fittings were made. The whole force owes a debt of gratitude to the Natal Government Railways. In the Public Works Department the Natal Government helped us in every way. No one could have been kinder than Mr. Barnes. There is also a band of workers—the Durban Women’s Patriotic Association. Their work has been so much under the surface that I do not think many people know what magnificent work has been done for the army by the Durban ladies during the war. I thank them one and all for their immense kindness to all the soldiers who have passed under their ministering care. Of the Volunteers who have helped us, I can only say that they have been throughout bold in battle, admirable in the field, and of the greatest possible assistance to the army. (Cheers.) Whenever there has been work to do there have always been many of the Natal Volunteers forward in doing it. (Cheers.) The army owes a great debt of gratitude to them, and to all Natal Colonists who in different ways have come forward and helped the army. We are coming to the end of what has been a hard fought and heavy war. What is the settlement to be ? I hope it will be one in which South Africa will unite. (Cheers.) By that uniting we have the only way in which I believe the bitterness of war can be readily removed. I remember in 1881 I was coming out of O’Neil’s farm, and I met Mr. Kruger. He said to me, “General, we don’t like this peace.” I said, “ I don’t like it myself, because it has nothing to stand upon. (Cheers.)
You think you have beaten us, but we know we can beat you.” (Cheers.) He said, “Well, General, I have seen that when two dogs fight and are separated they are not very right till they have fought it out.” Well, we have fought it out; we have come out on top. Now, let us remember the dog. We shall be good friends afterwards, because the one that gets out on top never takes advantage of the position. (Hear, hear.) I have seen cavil at the sentences on the rebels as not being severe enough. I do not believe that this expresses the opinion of Natal. (Hear, hear.) I should think that three years’ imprisonment for a man born on the veld was vastly hard enough sentence for anyone. But all I say is that when the war is over, let us remember the dog, and do our best to make South Africa a united and happy country. (Cheers.) In that way, and in that way alone, will you be able to get the free and full and real return for the immense sacrifices you have made during the war. (Cheers.) And now I thank you in the name of the troops I have been commanding for this magnificent reception. They have earned it for me, and it is given them in my person. (Thunders of applause.)
The Secretary of the West Country Association (Mr. A. H. Foaden) read at the Point an address showing:
The members of the Durban West Country Association cannot allow you to return to England without expressing their indebtedness to you for your magnificent work in Natal —work achieved under difficulties so enormous that the success which attended it has been the marvel of the whole world. The perseverance with which you carried out the memorable relief of Ladysmith, and your splendid tactics in first driving the enemy out of the Colony, and afterwards pursuing them to the very extremity of the Transvaal has,, we may safely assert, won you the admiration of every true Colonist. It is just a year since you left the Old Country for South Africa, and the strain on your constitution during the past twelve months must have been most severe. We look forward with every confidence to hear of further honours, enhancing an already brilliant career, being conferred upon you. We congratulate you on the successful termination of duty nobly performed, and wish you a safe return to your home in dear old Devon.
Mr. W. H. Kinsman, chairman, West Country Association, referred to the coincident departure, on the anniversary of the avenging of Majuba, of Mr. Kruger from Delagoa Bay and General Buller from Durban. He hoped he might live long to enjoy the laurels he had so nobly won.
General Buller said: I was born in the West Country, and I am glad of it. There is no place like it. The motto of the most western county is “One and All,” and as all you in Natal have done your best for your Colony during the past year, so I now thank you one and all for your extreme kindness to me today. I never shall forget your kindness.
Then departed the great General, across the Bay and over the Bar, in a hurricane of enthusiasm standing hatless in the rain, with quiet dignity, as he passed out of sight.