A little Thing, puling Great Promises in its Nurses' Arms.
On March 16, 1900, there glimmered (it cannot be said to have flashed) upon the Army and the half-wondering, half-treacherous population of Bloemfontein, the first number of THE FRIEND. It was produced in the office of the former Friend of the Free State--an office that had the appearance of having been arranged out of a dust-heap, and stocked with machinery, type, and furniture that had been originally bought at second-hand and left to itself through fifty years of frequent dust-storms.
Everything in it was either the colour of dirt or the tone of type-dust--everything, including the window-panes and the printers. Of the latter we never knew the number, names, or characters. Of two men whom we got to know one was a gnomish figure who only now and then appeared at large out upon the uncharted floor of the composing-room, and he was elderly and silent--a man grown mechanical, and now making but a feeble fight against the dirt and type-dust which was slowly covering him in what was apparently to be another such upright tomb as held the last of the wife of Lot. He sometimes came into the editorial dust-hole--if we yelled and stamped our loudest and our longest. He came wearily and softly, heard our orders, and vanished in the type-dust as we used to see our army friends at Modder step out of our tents into a dust-devil and disappear on the ocean of veldt and at high noon.
The other printers lived in the little side alleys between the rows of type-cases. They were evidently drawn there by the feeble, straggling light that still shone faintly through the filth upon the window-panes. I judged that they were older than the foreman, and too feeble, too nearly entombed by the dirt, to be able to go out upon the floor. We only got glimpses of them, and never heard one speak.
Out in the back yard, behind Barlow's stationery shop, the sun glared fierce and hot upon a strip of desert ground, a blue gum-tree, and a preternatural boy. He lived out there, refusing to be drawn into the dust-heap until the awful sentence of serving as a printer should, at last, be read out to him. We had a fancy that each of the old men inside had begun like that boy, clinging as long as possible to the region of air and light, that each in his turn had been sucked in at last, and that it was this last boy who went in at lunch time and led the old fellows out of their solitary, silent cells, and gave each a push in the back to start them toward their homes.
How Messrs. Gwynne, Buxton, and Landon managed to get out the first paper, which they forgot to mark with what a great man once said were "the saddest words ever seen in print," that is to say, "Vol. I., No. 1," I never asked them, though I wondered. They did produce it, however, and called it
Playing Cards. THE FRIEND Cue Tips and
All Qualities at Wafers
at Barlow's. 3d 3d ar Barlow's
VOL. IV. No. 1,027.
Its sheet was of the size of two copies of the Spectator laid side by side. Each of its four pages measured twenty inches long by fifteen wide. Far more striking than its title was this sentence, in blackest type: "If you once use Vereeniging coal you will never use any other." All the advertisements, except the very many scattered about for Barlow's stationery business, and for which I hope he was made to pay at the highest rates, were old notices carried on from the days of Boer rule.
Upon the second page two advertisements were brand new. They were proclamations signed "By order, G. T. Pretyman, Major-General, Military Commandant, Bloemfontein." One was in the Taal language, the other was in English, and both announced that a market would be held daily, near the town, for the sale of such local produce as butter, eggs, milk, poultry, and vegetables. The prices to be charged were laid down by this sapient and enterprising general, who declared eggs to be worth two shillings a dozen, milk fivepence a bottle, turkeys five shillings and sixpence and higher, butter two shillings a pound, &c. The English proclamation was headed "Notice." The Dutch copy bore the title "Kennisgeving," and was signed, "Bij order, G. T. Pretyman, Majoor-Generaal, Krijgs-Kommandant van Bloemfontein."
On the third, or editorial page, was another military notice entitled "Army Orders," which I reprint in full, as showing how almost instantly Lord Roberts established his own rule in the conquered capital. General Pretyman's market notice was dated the day we took the town, and we knew that on that day a local police force was established, headquarters and quarters for all the branches of the military rule were at once set up, and here on the 15th there had been found time to arrange and prepare for publication a directory of the new arrangements.
ARMY ORDERS--SOUTH AFRICA
ARMY HEADQUARTERS, GOVERNMENT HOUSE, BLOEMFONTEIN, March 15, 1900.
I. Civil Population to be unmolested.
It being desirable and in the interest of both the British Government and the inhabitants of this country that all residents should be assured that so long as they remain peaceably disposed their civil rights and property will be respected, it is strictly forbidden that any private property should be compulsorily taken possession of by other than the authorised Supply Officers.
All articles required by the troops must be obtained and paid for in the ordinary way, and no trespassing or interference with the inhabitants will be permitted.
These instructions apply to detached bodies of troops as well as to the Force generally, and it is specially the duty of all officers to put a stop to all attempts to infringe them.
By order, J. W. KELLY, A.-G. for C. of Staff.
6. Office of Departments.
The offices of the various Departments are situated as shown below:--
Chief of Staff
GOC Royal Artillery
Chief Engineer - At Givernment House
Director of Transport
Director of Supplies
Provost Marshall - At Government Buildings
P.M.O. - 3, Maitland Street.
The office of the Press Censor is established next door to the entrance to the Telegraph Office. All telegrams except official ones must be censored. Office hours from 7 to 8 a.m., 10 a.m. to 12 noon, 3 to 5 p.m.
7. Supply Department.
As soon as the Supply Park arrives, a Supply Depôt will be established at Mr. Beck's Store, on Baumann's Square.
8. Divisions, Brigades, &c., where quartered.
The following units are quartered as shown below:--
Headquarters--Club, Market Square.
1st Brigade--About 2 miles W. of town.
2nd Brigade--Bloemspruit, about 3 miles east of town.
3rd Brigade--Rustfontein, about 1 mile N. of town.
Mr. James Collins, under State Secretary to the late O.F.S. Government, has been appointed Landdrost of Bloemfontein.
The period for handing in arms and ammunition by burghers and residents of this town and district has been extended to March 26th.
After a notice that Major Hamilton, the Carabineers, would like to receive two £5 notes, a Mauser pistol, a pair of Zeiss glasses and a grey gelding, all lost by various persons in and near the town, we published our editorial announcement that the paper was established by and for Lord Roberts's army:--
The events of the last few days have rendered it expedient that an official organ should be published in Bloemfontein during the period of Military Governorship. With that end in view, and also to provide for public requirements, a small committee formed from the corps of war correspondents with Lord Roberts's Field Force has been entrusted with the control and management of the long-established paper hitherto known as THE FRIEND OF THE FREE STATE.
In future this will be issued under the style and title of THE FRIEND, and will be a daily publication, containing military intelligence and orders for the general information of the troops now quartered here, and other matter.
We are glad to be able to announce the immediate publication of contributions from the pens of such well-known writers as Rudyard Kipling, Julian Ralph, Bennet Burleigh, and other distinguished journalists. We congratulate our readers upon the happy chance which has enabled us to offer the public the voluntary services of such a staff of writers as cannot be paralleled elsewhere in South Africa.
In conclusion we wish to state briefly the simple policy which will be adhered to in these columns.
The maintenance of British Supremacy in South Africa and Equal Rights for all white men without respect of race or creed.
These two principles in our opinion embody the essentials of sound government, the prosperity of this country, and the happiness of the people.
For the Committee of Management,
P. LANDON, E. W. BUXTON, H. A. GWYNNE.
Mr. Buxton explained to me, with unnecessary but commendable delicacy, that only three of our four signatures were appended to this notice because I was better known as a writer than as an editor, and it was deemed best not to give me the double credit of serving in both capacities.
The first editorial in this new and unique journal was entitled, "Sulk or Duty," and was written by Mr. Buxton. It was an appeal to all Afrikanders not to sulk, but to "buckle to the work of making their country become what it shall be, a great and glorious home for countless millions yet unborn." The remainder of the page was given over to a report of the letter of Kruger and Steyn to the Marquis of Salisbury, insisting upon the independence of the two Republics, and Lord Salisbury's reply that his government was "not prepared to assent to the independence of either republic." To us of the army this was great news. It stirred the camp, and was well suited to attract the widest attention to our journalistic enterprise. But Lord Salisbury's answer seemed to us the only answer he could make, whereas the comment upon it by our Colonial editor in THE FRIEND showed a feeling of relief and of delighted surprise which was born of the bitter disappointments the loyal men of Africa had suffered in the past. "Now, at last, we know the foundation upon which we shall build. The unhappy issue of Lord Wolseley's promise at Pretoria in 1879 is still fresh in our minds ... late, indeed, but still, to the letter, that solemn undertaking shall be fulfilled. At last we see the one obstacle vanish that has for these long years stood between South Africa and her prosperity."
Whoever can feel the spirit of that cry of satisfaction needs not to be told how just and necessary was the war we were waging. Few of us in the army could probe the sources of the war to their depths. Comparatively few men in England thoroughly grasped the situation. It is all revealed in this shout by Mr. Buxton in THE FRIEND. The long-protracted feud between the two races, the injustice of Boer rule, the sufferings of the British, the threats of the semi-civilised men in power, the past troubles all ending in broken promises or shameful neglect by the British Government--these are all apparent in that cry of delight. The war had not produced such satisfaction. There had been war before, and nothing but humiliation of the loyal Uitlander had come of it. But a decided, firm declaration that the war could only end in British sovereignty--that was news that thrilled the heart of every Anglo-Saxon colonial in the republics and the adjacent colonies.
Other articles and official notices of the first interest or importance were as follows:--
THE HUMOROUS SIDE OF THE CAMPAIGN.
War is grim and fearsome and horrid as we know, or rather as we are being continually told, but nobody seems to have noticed that there is a humorous side to it, and sometimes the spectre Death wears the cap and bells. Up to the present the campaign has not been without its little amusing incidents. In the camp they have been quite numerous, and even on the battlefield itself they have not been unfrequent. The story of a private at Paardeberg who lay behind one of those ever-to-be-blessed antheaps, and contemplating a shattered tibia, exclaimed, addressing the injured member, "Well, you ain't done me badly after all. You 'elped to carry me 'ere, and now you've got me a life pension and free baccy from the parson," has the merit of being true. One cannot refrain a smile at the soliloquy of another private who wished to exhibit a bullet-riddled helmet to his friends at home. He was firing from behind a big boulder on which he placed his helmet. The inevitable shower of bullets followed, but, as has been so often the case with Boer marksmen, not a single one touched the helmet, but one "fetched" its owner in the shoulder, whereupon he took the helmet from its exposed position, and, looking at his bleeding shoulder, remarked, "that comes of cursed pride and nothing else."
The removal of all badges of rank from officers has been the source of many amusing mistakes. On the march from Poplar Grove here, it is related that a certain general officer was returning to camp after a terribly hard, dusty, dry day. A subaltern of the A.S.C. sat under his canvas awning, and thus addressed this distinguished general, "Now look here, if this happens again I'm d--d if I don't report you. For the last two hours you have been away, and heaven knows what the mules are up to." It is true it was dusk, but that was hardly a sufficient excuse for mistaking General ---- for a conductor. "I say, old cocky," was the remark made once by a captain to a full colonel, "hadn't you better see about getting some grub?" Apologies followed, of course.
Then who can resist laughing at the tale of woe unfolded by one of our most distinguished correspondents who dined one night with the ---- Guards and slept in the tent of his host? The next morning he walked into the mess hut and sat down to breakfast. But imagine the trembling horror which seized hold of him when he looked round at his hosts of the night before and failed to recognise a single one of them. Was it a failure of memory, or was it incipient paralysis of the brain?--it could not, of course, have been the whisky. And so he sat in a bath of hot and cold perspiration, thinking that the blow which had so often attacked and destroyed fine intellects had reached his. But sudden as a straw is whisked past the drowning man by the fast current, so there passed through his brain one ray of hope. He remembered the name of his host, and turning quickly to his neighbour, fearing lest his brain might again fail him and he should forget the name, asked, "Where is ----?" The answer was a relief and yet a horror, "---- is having breakfast in the mess tent of his battalion,"--and, pointing through the door, "there it is over there." It was with slow, sobered steps that our correspondent left the table and made his way to the hut of his host. He had made what, after all, was not an uncommon error, and had mistaken the S---- Guards' hut for that of the C---- Guards.
FACTS AND OTHERWISE.
Mr. Arthur Barlow has resigned his position as Editor of THE FRIEND.
Original contributions and correspondence are invited from all ranks of the Field Force.
As in all probability the territory hitherto known as the O.F.S. will in the near future be designated by a different title, the Committee of Management offer a prize of £5 for the best suggestion for renaming this country.
CANADIANS ON MAJUBA DAY.
On the afternoon of Monday, the 26th February, the 6-in. howitzers bombarded Gen. Cronje's laager at Paardeberg with Lyddite shells. The effect of the salvos viewed from a distance of 3,000 yards was terrific. What the occupants of the laager felt cannot be told, for the reason that no truthful account is obtainable. The explosions in appearance were not unlike the great dynamite explosion in Johannesburg in 1896, only the great cloud of smoke was greenish-yellow instead of grey. An air of expectancy pervaded the British camp, every one knowing that the morrow was Majuba Day, and it was thought that something decisive would be done. Early next morning, about 3 o'clock, the silence of the night was broken by the softened spit-puff sound of the Mauser rifle, and immediately after the firing became a fierce fusillade, the sharp crack of the Lee-Metford joining in. The crackling concert lasted about an hour, rising and falling with sudden acute crises like a passage of Wagner's music. Bullets were falling around the camp at distances up to 3,000 yards, from the Boer laager, and it was evident that the firing was wild.
At first streak of dawn a ride to the advanced trenches of the Canadians on the river bank enabled one to learn the wherefore of the night's disturbance. The ambulance waggons were already proceeding quickly up the south bank of the river. A pontoon ferry was plying from bank to bank bringing across wounded Canadians, nearly all suffering from bullet wounds, but some few had by accident been struck by the bayonet.
The Canadians occupied trenches on the both banks of the river, and were within about 500 yards of the enemy. On their left--that is some distance north of the river--were the Gordons, and further to the south the Shropshires. The orders were that the four companies of Canadians on the north bank should advance under cover of the darkness and try to gain the enemy's trenches, or at least get nearer. They advanced in two lines of two companies each, the front line having bayonets fixed and the second carrying rifles slung with picks and shovels in their hands to dig an advanced trench, should it be thought advisable to go right to the trenches.
When the Canadians left the Gordons were to occupy the left of their trenches, and the Shropshires placed in advance in a position to command the Boers, should they rise in their trenches to fire on the Canadians. They were told to hold their fire until the Mausers first spoke. The Canadians and Gordons were not to fire at all. The operation was one requiring coolness, nerve, and pluck, and the Canadians did it magnificently. They advanced as quietly as possible about 400 yards, and then halted, the order being conveyed by pressure of the hand from one to another. Every one thought that the second line would now dig the trench, but another pressure ordered a further advance. Five paces had been covered when Mauser bullets hissed past, and the men, as ordered, fell flat, just in time to avoid the terrific fire that was immediately poured from the Boer trenches. A minute or two elapsed, and the order came to retire. Not a shot was fired by the Canadians, and they quietly crept back, gaining their trenches with comparatively little loss. Meanwhile the Shropshire men, who had carefully taken the range and direction before dark, opened fire on the Boers, and at the end of an hour put them to silence. A bugle sounded "cease fire," and all was still again. That morning (Majuba Day) Cronje surrendered.
TO THE BURGHERS OF THE ORANGE FREE STATE.
The British troops under my command having entered the Orange Free State, I feel it my duty to make known to all Burghers the cause of our coming, as well as to do all in my power to put an end to the devastation caused by this war, so that should they continue the war the inhabitants of the Orange Free State may not do so ignorantly, but with full knowledge of their responsibility before God for the lives lost in the campaign.
Before the war began the British Government, which had always desired and cultivated peace and friendship with the people of the Orange Free State, gave a solemn assurance to President Steyn that if the Orange Free State remained neutral its territory would not be invaded, and its independence would be at all times fully respected by Her Majesty's Government.
In spite of that declaration the Government of the Orange Free State was guilty of a wanton and unjustifiable invasion of British territory.
The British Government believes that this act of aggression was not committed with the general approval and free will of a people with whom it has lived in complete amity for so many years. It believes that the responsibility rests wholly with the Government of the Orange Free State, acting, not in the interests of the country, but under mischievous influences from without. The British Government, therefore, wishes the people of the Orange Free State to understand that it bears them no ill-will, and, so far as is compatible with the successful conduct of the war and the re-establishment of peace in South Africa, it is anxious to preserve them from the evils brought upon them by the wrongful action of their Government.
I therefore warn all Burghers to desist from any further hostility towards Her Majesty's Government and the troops under my command, and I undertake that any of them who may so desist and who are found staying in their homes and quietly pursuing their ordinary occupations will not be made to suffer in their persons or property on account of their having taken up arms in obedience to the order of their Government. Those, however, who oppose the forces under my command, or furnish the enemy with supplies or information, will be dealt with according to the customs of war.
Requisitions for food, forage, fuel, or shelter, made on the authority of the officers in command of Her Majesty's troops, must be at once complied with; but everything will be paid for on the spot, prices being regulated by the local market rates. If the inhabitants of any district refuse to comply with the demands made upon them the supplies will be taken by force, a full receipt being given.
Should any inhabitant of the country consider that he or any member of his household has been unjustly treated by any officer, soldier, or civilian attached to the British Army he should submit his complaint, either personally or in writing, to my Headquarters or to the Headquarters of the nearest General Officer. Should the complaint on enquiry be substantiated, redress will be given.
Orders have been issued by me prohibiting soldiers from entering private houses or molesting the civil population on any pretext whatever, and every precaution has been taken against injury to property on the part of any person belonging to, or connected with, the Army.
ROBERTS, Field Marshal, Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.