British Leniency and Credulity abused Past Endurance.
For several days THE FRIEND had been publishing this short but imperative announcement:--
From to-day (inclusive) all civilians must be in their homes after 8 p.m., unless provided with a SPECIAL PASS allowing them to be out.
The Police have orders to arrest all persons breaking this rule.
N.B.--This does not refer to civilians who are in the employ of the British Government, who will have a pass to this effect. By order,
B. BURNETT-HITCHCOCK, Lieutenant,
Asst. Provost Marshal to Military Governor. Government Buildings, April 1st, 1900.
This notice was but one of many of the signs we gave forth that we were being fooled by the tricky Boers, and that at last we were compelled to admit it. Far back at De Aar I had seen how constitutionally unsuspicious was the average army officer, how certain he felt that, because he would not himself stoop to deception and treachery, no one else could miss the ennobling contagion of his example; how set he was upon carrying leniency and magnanimity to unheard of lengths, even with an enemy which neither practiced nor appreciated such treatment.
Back in the days at De Aar the Boer spies were thick among us, pretending to have horses or forage for sale, but in reality watching us, and making daily reports to the enemy. Even then I begged my friends among the officers to observe what was going on, and to take steps to keep all Dutch-speaking men out of our slenderly guarded great storage camp of supplies. But the typical officer said then, as he said afterwards for months, "Oh, there's nothing to worry about. These people are our friends." And the occasional wide-awake non-typical officer ground his teeth and whispered, "Lord! Lord! how we are being played with! They know everything about us at every hour, in every move--and we not only know nothing of them, but are being fed up with lies."
Far from merely keeping the Dutch out of our camps, we engaged the people of the country as transport drivers and waggon hands, and even--it used to be said--let them find their way into our corps of scouts and regimental guides. We demanded that they should know the Taal lingo and the country, and the result was that when we marched into a Boer village or hamlet we saw our own people hobnobbing with the residents, and asking, "Where's Piet? How's Billy? How have all of you been getting on?"--hail-fellow-well-met with these alleged "loyalists," who were among the most tricky, shuffling hypocrites I have ever met in any of my travels. On and on we went, never knowing anything of the Boers, and the Boers always thoroughly informed about us.
Everywhere the slimy, slippery ranchers and tavern-keepers and merchants welcomed us with the heartiest speech, and always were we fooled by it. They had been born in the country, half the people or more in all that great region were out "on commando," no man except a pro-Boer or a born Boer could have been where we found these double-faced people, with their Judas-like pretence of friendship. It was self-evident that they must have been siding with our enemies. Had they been for us when our backs were turned, the Boers would have offered them a choice between joining their fighting forces or losing their property and their right to stay in the land. Capetown, Durban, and Port Elizabeth were crowded by the refugees who had taken an open stand for the British side, and been obliged to leave their homes. Nothing of this needed telling; it was indisputable, it was logical, it was common knowledge.
At last we came to fighting battles that were surprises--to meeting Boer forces where we were told there were no Boers. When, at Modder River, Mr. Knox, of Reuter's, and I saw a large force of Boers ahead, and rode back to tell our friends in the army what we had seen, we were informed that what we announced was ridiculous. There were only "three hundred Boers within a dozen miles," and these would be quickly dislodged by our Ninth Lancers. We were to meet the Boers at Spytfontein, miles and miles ahead. Nevertheless, in fifteen minutes we began one of the chief battles of the war, against the largest force that had up to that time opposed our army.
The next day saw us in the village of Modder River, welcomed by the men of the place, whose shops and taverns had been preserved in the very midst of the Boer army by--by what shall we say? It must have been either by the force of comradeship with the Boers or by miraculous and Divine intervention; one or the other, for there is no explanation of the phenomenon outside of these two alternatives. Did a single man from that village manage to cross the drift and warn us that six miles of trenches were ready to be filled by Boers when we should reach there? And why did no single individual among all these "friends" do us that service? Our guides and others rode far forward, and were gone for hours. What did they see or find, and why did they not discover the facts?
We were fooled! fooled!! fooled!!!
Without martial law in force behind us, as it should have been in force from Capetown to Kimberley, at the very beginning of the war, without maps of the country, surrounded by malignant enemies, who were the more dangerous in that they declared themselves friends. Knowing nothing, but betrayed in everything, we stumbled on--into Modder battle, up against Maghersfontein Kopje--fooled and tricked and played with for months on end.
We caught one of two men who fired at us from beneath the white flag at Belmont. The other one our soldiers killed, but the one we caught--what of him? The quicker he was hanged and left hanging on top of a high kopje the sooner would have ended the contempt of the Boers for our methods, and the sooner would have come the end of the war. But I never was able to learn that he was treated otherwise than were the rest of our prisoners.
When we came to a village like Modder River, where the Boers had been entertained and assisted in bridge-destroying and trench-digging, did we reconcentrado the little population? What a lesson to the disloyal, what a strength to our arms that would have been! We did nothing; we left them in their homes; we found them with Boer warrants for pay for forage on their persons; we saw them slipping to and from our camp at night, while by day they loitered around our headquarters and told us how loyal they were. Fooled were we--to the brim, up to our eyes, past all understanding.
Lord Roberts came, and the Boers tried the same old tricks. It is true that he maintained the same mistaken course of leniency--making war as light as possible for the Boers while they heaped its terrors upon us--but this mischievous, war-prolonging policy was so unvarying from Capetown to Bloemfontein that I always suspected it to have been ordered from home--perhaps by whoever it was that "preferred unmounted men" to catch the De Wets of the veldt. I cannot believe that Lord Roberts fought England's enemies in India in that way, or that he is blamable for that policy in South Africa. He was fooled, however, but not as others had been, nor did he evince the same fondness for being victimised as did certain of his subordinates. From the outset he took all ordinary precautions against treachery and double-dealing, and he was the first general to insist that the coloured native (very often a Boer spy) should be kept under supervision and should be at least as orderly, civil, and well behaved as white men were required to be.
It was while we were at Bloemfontein that the Boers presumed too much upon our credulity and trustfulness at last. They did this by the most barefaced and wholesale act of hoaxing ever practised upon a modern army. We sent out our forces, small and large, over the whole southern half of the Free State, distributing Lord Roberts' promise of protection to all who surrendered their arms and signed an agreement to fight us no more. Gaily and trustingly our troops went here and there, and everywhere the people came out to meet them in apparently the same cordial spirit of goodwill. As they handed in their grandfathers' old elephant rifles and whatever other fire-arm curios had been thrown aside in their garrets, they assured us that they were sick of the war, that they had been tricked by Steyn, that they had only fought to prevent the Transvaalers from confiscating their cattle and perhaps to save themselves from being murdered. It was a beautiful spectacle of erring brotherhood repentant--for those who enjoy being played upon and laughed at.
Even while the old junk was being brought to the railway we began to hear that wherever, in isolated cases, a man had honestly given up his Mauser and signed the British papers he was being plundered and persecuted by his neighbours, most of whom were still either fighting or awaiting orders to resume hostilities. My printers told me of friends whom they believed to have been shot for failing to take part in the hoax, and for seriously giving up the contest.
And at Ladybrand the "friendly" and "repentant" Boers, who had been giving tea and entertainment to General Broadwood to hold his force until the enemy could capture it, fired on him from the very houses in which he had been drinking tea, when he got wind of the trap and slipped away--to Sanna's Post.
The air began to fill with rumours of murder and pillage, the veldt again resounded with the hoof-beats of fighting commandos. We had the affairs at Reddersburg, Wepener, Karree Siding, Sanna's Post. We found that we were brushing our coatsleeves against those of active enemies in Bloemfontein--men who were apprising the enemy of our army movements and plans, who were even said to be slipping out at night, armed sometimes with messages and sometimes with Mausers.
Thus the Boer cunning over-reached itself. It was the biggest hoax, the climax of the long course of hoaxing. It was the first time it had been practised upon Lord Roberts, but I also believe it was the last time as well.
This was the meaning of the notices that now began to appear in different forms in THE FRIEND: that the Army was to be fooled no longer by mere lies and Iscariot handshakings. This was the purport of Lieutenant Burnett-Hitchcock's command that we should all carry passes; of Town Clerk Koller's order for all the Free Staters to give an account of their horses with proofs of ownership; of General Kelly's command that all troops "when out in positions" (around the town and elsewhere) "should invariably entrench themselves ... being careful that their flanks are secure"; of Lord Roberts's warning that our "friends" and others were to be held responsible in their persons and property for all wanton destruction of or damage to public or private property, which meant railway-wrecking principally.
The Army at last was tired of being fooled.
The editorial of the day was conceived in the same spirit of resistance to a farther continuance of the experiences of the Army in the past. It was headed "British Leniency," and was, I am almost certain, written by Mr. Gwynne under "inspiration."
What about British leniency and long-suffering? (the writer asked). Let it be remembered we are still an army on active service fighting a vigorous enemy. There are people to whom British magnanimity has always and will always spell weakness. We cordially welcome and will gladly receive our new fellow-subjects. We shall not make our welcome depend upon whether they fought against us or not. Those who stood in the enemy's trenches and fought bravely for what they considered to be their liberty will soon be convinced that their struggle was prompted by men who knew not liberty, and that Great Britain will extend to them a degree of freedom which they never knew before. But--and let us here emphasise the "but"--we will have no half measures. We do not ask the newly-conquered Free Staters to take up arms against their kinsmen now fighting against us, but we do ask and shall maintain, with sternness, if necessary, a strict and rigid neutrality on the part of those who have promised it by oath. Let all take to heart this decision, that while Great Britain will remorselessly punish all and any who interfere with those who claim her protection, so will she as sternly and severely bring heavy punishment on those who misuse her tolerance and leniency.
The great extent of country through which the British army has to operate has made difficult to afford that adequate protection to those who have laid down their arms, convinced that they were risking their lives uselessly. In some cases these men have been molested and ill-treated by the enemy. Full punishment will be meted out to those who have been guilty of such acts. We have shown an example of leniency and tolerance towards rebels, taken with arms in their hand, which we did expect would have been followed by those who direct the affairs of our enemies, and we shall exact of the two Presidents a full and complete reparation for acts of cruelty and inhumanity committed by those under their control.
(Edited by the War Correspondents with Lord Roberts' Force.)
No. 17.] BLOEMFONTEIN, THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 1900 [Price One Penny.
The following Military Officers are hereby appointed Justices of the Peace for the District of Bloemfontein during pleasure:--
Major-General G. T. PRETYMAN, C.B., Military Governor.
Lieutenant-Colonel C. V. F. TOWNSHEND, C.B., D.S.O., Assistant to Military Governor.
Lieutenant-Colonel B. E. B. LORD CASTLETOWN, Special Service Officer.
Major R. M. POORE, Provost Marshal.
Captain W. A. J. O'MEARA, Chief Intelligence Officer.
Captain P. HOLLAND-PRYOR, D.A.A., General.
Given under my hand at Bloemfontein, this Fourth Day of April, 1900.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!
ROBERTS, Field Marshal,
Commanding-in-Chief British Forces in South Africa.
SOLDIERS OF THE QUEEN.
BY FRED EYRE, YORKSHIRE GREEN HOWARDS.
Far in a land so distant,
Out on the battle-field,
Raising the lance or carbine,
Or a sharp-edged sword they wield.
There lie the British Soldiers,
Fighting for home and Queen,
Marching by day, and by night as well,
Hard times are often seen.
Weary they tramp for their Country,
Marching when only half fed;
He'll rest where he can when they're halted,
Without sheet or blanket or bed.
Dreams of sweet home and of childhood
Will pass through his weary brain,
Restless he'll lie till morning,
Then he'll move on the march again.
But what of his wife and baby,
That he's left far behind at home?
Where is their love's protection?
Where is his heart to roam?
Urged on by a stern Commander,
Pushed by a Sergeant there,
Bullied by bits of Lance Corporals,
No wonder the poor soldiers swear.
Now then he's fighting like blazes,
The artillery guns loudly boom,
His rifle comes up to his shoulder,
And another brave Boer meets his doom.
Crack! crack! 'tis the brave soldier's music,
His spirits rise up--he can feel,
It's this music that raises his spirits,
And makes them as fearless as steel.
He is fighting for Queen and for country,
For his dear little baby and wife,
He knows that the foe must be beaten
And for this end he'll risk his dear life.
At last the day's fighting is over,
The wounded and dead lie around,
All now is quiet and peaceful,
From the guns we can hear not a sound.
But his poor wounded comrades lie moaning,
And gasping for life's loving breath,
But the great God of Love calls their spirits,
And they're clasped in the cold arms of death.
All things seem so strange and so dreary,
As sadly he gazes around,
He heaves a deep sigh and a tear dims his eye,
As he lies on the cold sodden ground.
But still we are here, what is left of us,
Noble and brave to be seen,
We've proved ourselves brave British soldiers,
And willing to die for our Queen.
JOKES TO BURN.
To the Editors of THE FRIEND.--SIRS,--Is it true that a certain cavalry general, on finding good grass for his horses for the first time at Koodoesrand, exclaimed, "By Jove, this will supply a long-veldt want"?
That, to remind the burghers of the disgrace of Bloemfontein's fall into British hands, President Kruger has changed the name of the Transvaal capital to "Oomfontein"?
That the landdrost has caused to be written on the gates of Kroonstad, "Nil sine Laboere"?
That the Welshman called Mr. Kruger's son "ap-Paul" and the son's father "appalling"?
That the man who said that President Steyn "showed no signs of stayin'" when we got near Bloemfontein was shot on the spot by his rear-rank man?
That "The Gay Lord Treks" and the "Manoeuvres of Steyn" will be acted in London in the winter?
That, in view of the late change of political opinion of the chief Bloemfontein newspaper, its name is to be changed to "Our Mutual Friend"?
An early answer to some of these important questions will oblige,
H. ATTER. Glen Siding, O.F.S., March 30th.
BY CHAPLAIN T. F. FAULKNER.
A most interesting meeting was held at the Town Hall on Monday evening in connection with the "Army Temperance Association," an organisation which owes its existence to the efforts and personal interest of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts which, as one of the speakers on the platform so rightly said, are always exercised in everything which is to the benefit of the British soldier. As, therefore, there are at present with our troops at Bloemfontein the President and Founder of the Association, two members of the Executive Committee, and many hundreds of members, it was a happy conception to call a meeting of those interested in Temperance work under the auspices of the Association, and one which commended itself to the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, who, in spite of many things which daily press upon him, readily consented to preside and speak at the meeting.
Much is due to the energy of the Rev. Canon Orford for arrangements made, and the kindness of residents in the city, all of which tended greatly to the success of the meeting. Disappointments were inevitable. Sudden movements and the exigencies of the service robbed us of the company of many who would otherwise have been present, and we missed the promised help of the band of "The Buffs."
On the platform were, besides the Commander-in-Chief and his personal staff, the Very Rev. the Dean; the Venerable the Archdeacon; Mr. Meiring, of the Customs, Mr. Falck, of the Post-Office; the Revs. T. F. Faulkner, F. B. N. Norman-Lee, and H. T. Coney, Chaplains to the Forces; Captain A. H. Webb, R.A.; Mr. Goddard, and R. Grindel, Esq., 2nd Coldstream Guards.
Lord Roberts in his address expressed his great pleasure in being able to preside, and sketched clearly and briefly the history of the beginning of the Association in India, its rapid growth in spite of antagonism, its ultimate and acknowledged success, and eventually its introduction into England, where now it can boast of a branch in almost every regiment and depôt in the kingdom. He particularly emphasised its being a temperance and not only a "total abstainer" society, and lastly pointed to the work done by the troops under his command during the past few weeks as an evidence of what can be done by temperate, or in this case almost entire non-abstaining, men, than whom (he said) he had never seen any to march better, endure privations more contentedly, or to be better behaved.
Mr. Lodge followed with an excellent song, admirably sung, which promptly elicited an "encore," which he kindly granted.
Rev. T. F. Faulkner then gave a short address about the principles of the Association and how they might affect and be affected by the exigencies of the march, and expressed the feeling of gratitude and pleasure which all A.T.A. members must share at the interest shown in their undertaking by the clergy and citizens of Bloemfontein.
A treat was then accorded to the audience in two songs sung by Miss Fraser, who most willingly responded to the vigorous appeal of our soldiers. Such singing by a lady we had not heard for a long time, and the men were not slow to detect the high order of Miss Fraser's powers. The Very Rev. the Dean gave a warm welcome as temperance workers in the name of those in Bloemfontein who had the work at heart, and spoke of the encouragement to them which such a meeting afforded.
An amusing song by Capt. Webb, R.A., also loudly encored, formed a pleasing contrast in the programme. Mr. Lodge and Miss Fraser were so good as to sing yet another song each, much to the delight of our members. Two short speeches by Mr. Grindel and Capt. Webb on the subject of the Association's worth and object and the members' duties in connection with it, brought the programme to a close save for the few graceful words spoken by Rev. F. B. N. Norman-Lee, in expressing the thanks of the meeting to Lord Roberts for his presence, and to those who had, by their kind help, conduced towards the success of the meeting and the pleasure of those who had attended it. The Rev. H. T. Coney, who had taken an active part in getting up the meeting, proved himself an excellent accompanist. The National Anthem closed the proceedings.
The same by Another Contributor.
The presence of the Field Marshal, who may be called the father of the Association, attracted many who, perhaps, have not been identified with the movement. All who attended were repaid by getting a sight of the man of the hour in South Africa, and listening to his speech of introduction. In well-chosen words he gave a brief outline of the founding of the Association, its growth from the Total Abstinence Association first founded in India, and the gradual broadening of its scope and purposes. He told of the influence of the A.T.A. in the army, how it was free from prejudice and sectarianism, and he pointed out to the soldiers the advantages of joining. Every member was known to his commanding officer, and for important posts men were often chosen because of this membership.
The soldiers who filled the body of the hall dwelt on every word that fell from the lips of the man they loved. When he spoke of the "Army it was now his great honour to command," the Field Marshal showed his depth of feeling in his voice. He was proud to be the leader of "the best-behaved army in the world"; he spoke of the splendid way in which the troops had marched, of how uncomplainingly they had endured the hardships of the campaign and how well they had fought. In a half-joking manner he spoke of them as having all been members of the A.T.A. Modder River water was all they had to drink, and sometimes little of that. In a graceful way the Field Marshal thanked the people of Bloemfontein for the interest shown by their attendance, and he expressed his gratitude to Miss Fraser and Mr. Lodge for voluntarily helping the success of the meeting with their songs. Constantly the soldiers interrupted the speech with applause, and when Lord Roberts had concluded, it was some time before it died away.
VOICES FROM OVER THE SEA.
BY G. SIMES, OF ROBERTS'S HORSE.
Though thirteen thousand miles of foam
Divide us from the land
That bred our sires, yet we their sons
With you united stand,
And in this year of warring strife
From over all the earth
We haste to help the grand old land
That gave our fathers birth.
From inland plain, from mountain height,
From city and from coast,
From divers ends of all the earth,
From the dear land we boast
Our proud descent; and never where
Our language may be spoken
Shall the strong tie that binds us to
Our mother land be broken.
All round the world we live in lands
Thy enterprise has won,
And when the day with you is past
With us the rising sun
Brings light to carry on the work
Bequeathed to us by Thee;
We make and shape an Empire that
Extends from sea to sea.
The same clear head, the same firm tread
And independent air
That made all other men seem mean
Who with thy sons compare;
The same cool, prudent common-sense
And strong decision that
Conquer with the tools of peace
Or weapons of defence.
Nor Greece, or Rome, or France, or Spain
Had at their highest hour
One-half thy Empire, half thy wealth
Or world-embracing power,
And not to any race that lives
In History's wondrous story
Has ever been vouchsafed on earth
Such universal glory.
And we thy sons as much as those
Who stay at home with thee,
All seedlings planted far away
From the ancestral tree,
Breed true and show in branch and sap
The same old sturdy merit,
And plant our British customs in
The lands that we inherit.
And now from all your distant lands
With haste we come to show
We do not wait for you to ask
Our help against the foe,
But gather round thee pleased to have
Of proving to the world in arms
Our splendid unity.
BY MR. LIONEL JAMES.
Events have followed each other during the last week in such rapid succession that it is impossible to give more than a short epitome of the engagements at Karree Siding and Waterfall Drift. The cavalry reconnaissance to Brandfort showed that there was a considerable concentration of the enemy in that town, and as the Intelligence Department had information that a large force of Boers, re-equipped and remounted, had come down from Kroonstadt, it was deemed necessary to occupy the clump of kopjes in which Karee lies.
The enemy forestalled this move, and on 27th March the hills round Karee were reported held. As both flanks of the Karee position presented ground over which it was possible for cavalry to work, a plan of operations was made by which it was hoped that our occupation would result in the capture of the enemy's advance guard.
With this object a Cavalry division under General French, a brigade of Mounted Infantry and an Infantry division under Lieut.-Gen. Tucker concentrated at Glen on April 28th. On the following morning the Cavalry made a detour round the right of the enemy's position, the mounted Infantry under Lieut.-Col. Le Gallais making a similar movement round the left. The object of this operation was obvious. The mounted Corps were to be prepared to come into action at the rear of the Boer position as soon as General Tucker delivered his Infantry attack.
At 10 a.m., having received heliographic communication from Gen. French, Gen. Tucker put his division in motion--he advanced it across the four miles of plain leading to the foot of the range of kopjes in echelon of battalions, Gen. Chermside's Brigade on the right, General Wavell's on the left. The position which he essayed to attack, in the vicinity of Karee, may be roughly termed three parallel ridges with a stretch of valley between each.
Contrary to all expectation, the first ridge was found unoccupied and the infantry advanced without opposition, until the leading battalion (Lincolns) reached the foot of the second parallel. Here they were fired into by a patrol, which itself fell back at once. Under cover of a few rounds from the guns which came into action on the left of the advance, the second range was occupied. Beneath this lay the plain of Karee, a flat of about 2,000 yards, the station standing in the centre.
At first it was not evident that the third parallel of hills was held. But as the Norfolks, Lincolns, and six companies of the King's Own Scottish Borderers scaled a considerable kopje which commanded the left of the final parallel, shrapnel was burst over them from a field gun which appeared to be in the valley below. The rest of Chermside's brigade, covered by a few of the C.I.V., were pushing across the open. The mounted men and two companies of the K.O.S.B.'s advanced to within 200 yards of the final position before the enemy declared their presence by opening fire. The reception which the advanced line received from the marksmen lining the hill east and from individuals ensconced in the bushes on the slopes of the hills was so sharp that the line was checked and part of it forced to retire. The three field batteries then came into action against a high tableland kop which formed the right of the held position, the advance remaining checked the while.
A battery was detached to aid the right, as the K.O.S.B.'s were suffering from a well-directed and well-ranged shrapnel fire. This battery was not able to come into action, as the teams were unable to bring the guns up the slope of the position chosen. But three of Wavell's battalions were brought across the open and an assault was attempted on the main kopje.
Matters practically remained at a deadlock until four p.m., when the sound of French's guns was heard in the rear of the enemy's position. Three shrapnel burst on the nek connecting the left and centre of the Boer position. The Mauser fire stopped as if by magic, and the enemy vacated. The whole line then advanced and occupied the enemy's position, the latter retreating across the plain in the direction of Brandfort, taking their guns with them, which they unlimbered at intervals to shell the cavalry.
Lady Edward Cecil and Lady Charles Bentinck are here on a visit.
An amusing incident occurred the other day at the Glen. An officer of one of the Guards Battalions, whose name resembles that of the station, was found bathing in the Modder by a flying sentry stationed there to prevent the men from bathing. The sentry knew his duty, and unceremoniously ordered the delinquent to come out of the water, whereupon the gallant captain, in all his nakedness, approached the bank and indignantly asked the man, "Can't you see I am an officer?"