Print

And this suggests a few remarks about the much-discussed Treatment of our Sick.

The editorial in the number of April 6th was written by me, with the assistance of Mr. Kipling, who aided me in phrasing concisely and with force the declaration of British principles in the body of the article. The manuscript was set up and "proved" while he was with us, and then was sent to the Residency in order that the authorities might look up some one capable of translating it into the Taal language. It was the first of our editorials to be printed, like Lord Roberts's proclamation, in both tongues. In English it was entitled, "to the People of the Free State," and this line was paralleled in our columns with this counterpart in Taal:

AAN HET VOLK VAN DEN (? ORANJE) VRIJ-STAAT.

Dr. A. Conan Doyle, who has since written so excellent a book upon "The Great Boer War," had recently arrived in Bloemfontein, and enjoyed his first welcoming dinner with the editors of THE FRIEND at the Free State Hotel. He took a keen interest in our strange newspaper venture, and willingly wrote for us when we asked him to do so. The ringing, sturdily-phrased article, "A First Impression," which appeared in this number of April 6th, was by him.

But he came at the head of the Langman Field Hospital, and was, at first, busy in establishing that most excellent, much-needed institution on the cricket-ground; then busier far in looking after the enteric patients who passed under his care in numbers startling to record. It fell to me to write a notice of his arrival, in which I said--and from my heart--"We welcome him to the British Army. We had hoped to welcome him to the staff of THE FRIEND, but, in view of the humane and philanthropic work which busies him night and day, we cannot betray such selfishness as to express any disappointment over this loss.

"So true a talent as his compels him to write, whether he will or no, and he has promised us a thought or an observation, now and then, out of his golden store. Perhaps at the end of the war he may give to the world a companion book to his undying 'White Company.' If it is called the 'Khaki Company,' and deals with the exploits of Englishmen of to-day, there will be, thank God, no lack of deeds of valour as stirring, courage as calm, and warfare as enthusiastic as he found to electrify the pages of the earlier work."

ab9ad6be4f2bc63ff6cc0f732878b7ca.jpg

[Illustration: A first Impression

It was only Smith-Dorrien's brigade marching into Bloemfontein but if it could have passed just as it was, down Piccadilly and the Strand it would have driven London crazy. I got down from the truck which we were unloading and watched them, the ragged bearded fierce-eyed infantry straggling along under their cloud of dust. Who could conceive who has seen the prim soldier of peace that he could as quickly transform himself into this grim virile barbarian. Bulldog faces, hawk faces, hungry wolf faces--every kind of face except a weak one. Here and there a reeking pipe--here and there a man who smiled--but the most have their swarthy faces leaned a little forward, their eyes steadfast, their features impassive but resolute. Baggage waggons were passing, the mules all shin & ribs, with the escort tramping beside the wheels.

A Page of Dr. Conan Doyle's "Copy."]

All who were in Bloemfontein spoke as highly of the Langman Hospital as I have done, and in the same--even in a more ardent manner--had we all praised the Australian Field Hospital, which we got to know before Lord Roberts took command. Especially did we exalt these institutions in our mind, because of the way in which we contrasted them with the outfits of the R.A. Medical Corps. We could not then see why it was that private individuals and colonies should surpass the richest nation on earth in their equipments for the care of the sick and wounded, or why the richest nation on earth should have to rely on these outside establishments, and beg of the Red Cross agents and of the people of South Africa for the means to complete the equipment of her own field hospitals.

It is not a pleasant subject. It does not force itself into a book upon "the brighter side of war" by reason of any especial harmony with that title. But it suggests a story which England needs to know--which England must wish to know if she means to keep her place among the fighting powers by the only means by which that status can be maintained--which is the stopping of every source of weakness and the reform of every evil in her army. As I said when I was urged to testify before the Commission which inquired into the subject, I did not study the matter when I was with the army. I was conscious of the general belief that the hospital service did not meet the demands of the situation either after the awful losses at Paardeberg, or, later, when enteric claimed between 5,000 and 7,000 victims at Bloemfontein.

Death was thick in the air. Nearly every correspondent and officer counted more friends who were sick than he had known to be wounded or killed in battle. The rains had set in. The veldt was like a marsh. The nights were bitterly cold. The dead in their blankets pursued us in the streets of the town and on every ride we took upon the veldt. My concern for my son took me daily to the Volks Hospital, where the doctor and nurses said that enteric in Bloemfontein took on so mild a form that they should "consider it a lasting disgrace to have a patient die of that disease," and yet every time I went to that hospital I heard from other visitors how many were the deaths in the army hospitals. I heard, too, how bad were the sanitary arrangements, how inefficient were the often untrained "Tommy" nurses, how dreadful were the risks the patients were obliged to take (in some field hospitals) in obeying the commands of nature.

Now that I have returned to England I have had a high official of the Medical Corps say to me, "It was known beforehand that the service must break down in war because it was undermanned; it was never made familiar with its work, it had too few reserves to draw upon; when it was distended by the sudden and extraordinary demands of war it had to grow on paper, but not in fit and proper personnel or materiel."

Here, then, is the basis for what must, sooner or later, be exposed to all the nation. Knowing that things were amiss, and that they could not have been otherwise, the people need not wait two or five years for all the facts, or for the creation of a mis-applied "sensation." Let them doggedly and firmly insist that the loudly promised reform of the army shall be certain to include the establishment of a properly trained, equipped, and proportioned R.A.M.C., and that the lingering prejudice of the regular army officer against this most useful, economic, and essential corps shall vanish before the will of the people as stubble is swept up by a prairie fire.

Mr. Gwynne wrote the obituary notice of Archibald Forbes, Mr. Fred W. Unger wrote a descriptive article called "The Inexpressible Veldt," and we were rejoiced once again to publish a contribution in verse by Mr. A. B. Paterson, of Sydney.

______

THE FRIEND.

(Edited by the War Correspondents with Lord Roberts' Force.)

No. 18. BLOEMFONTEIN, FRIDAY, APRIL 6, 1900 [Price One Penny.

TAKEN FROM THE OFFICE OF "THE FRIEND."

Monday or Tuesday, a pair of Field Glasses, a pair of Wire Cutters, and Leather Pouch. Please return same and claim reward.[16]

[Footnote 16: The victim of this bold theft out of our sanctum was Mr. James Barnes, our occasional contributor and assistant.]

______

NOTICE.

The time by which Civilians have to be in their houses is extended to 9 p.m. on Sundays, to enable them to return from Church.


B. BURNETT HITCHCOCK, Lieutenant,
Asst. Provost-Marshal to Military Governor.
April 6th, 1900.

______

THAT V.C.

BY A. B. PATERSON.

'Twas in the days of front attack,
This glorious truth we'd yet to learn it,
That every "front" has got a "back,"
And French is just the man to turn it.

A wounded soldier on the ground
Was lying flat behind a hummock;
He proved the good old proverb sound,
"An army travels on its stomach!"

He lay as flat as any fish,
His nose had worn a little furrow,
He only had one frantic wish--
That like an ant-bear he could burrow.

The bullets whistled into space,
The pom-pom gun kept up its braying,
The four-point seven supplied the bass;
You'd think the Devil's band was playing.

A valiant comrade crawling near
Observed his most supine behaviour
And crawled towards him, "Eh! what cheer?
Buck up," says he "I've come to save yer!"

"You get up on my shoulders, mate!
And if we live beyond the firing,
I'll get a V.C. sure as fate,
Because our blokes is all retiring.

"It's fifty pound a year," says he,
"I'll stand you lots of beer and whisky."
"No," says the wounded man, "not me,
I won't be saved; it's far too risky!

"I'm fairly safe behind this mound,
I've worn a hole that seems to fit me,
But if you lift me off the ground
It's fifty pound to one they'll hit me!"

So off towards the firing-line
His mate crept slowly to the rear, oh!
Remarking, "What a selfish swine!
He might have let me be a hero!"

______

TO THE PEOPLE OF THE FREE STATE.

BY MESSRS. KIPLING AND RALPH.

The British have come to stay.

Our students of political economy have taught us that the constitution and laws of the old Free State were as nearly perfect as any that could be framed for a democracy.

The basis of the British Government is that of an enlightened and progressive democracy.

It is therefore certain that British rule will not bring any violent or revolutionary changes to the conditions under which you citizens have been living.

What are British principles?

The absolute independence of the individual, so long as he does not interfere with his neighbour's rights.

Prompt and equal justice, before the Lord, to all men.

A natural and rooted antipathy to anything savouring of military despotism, in any shape or form.

Absolute religious toleration and freedom of belief for all peoples.

Prompt and incorruptible justice to all men in every walk of life.

The right of every man to make his home his castle.

In view of these things and of the unalterable fact that the country has passed under a new rule, why should burghers hesitate or delay in making friends with the new situation?

We are your friends. We have never felt unfriendly toward you; for even in war we realised that you were deceived by unwise and selfish leaders.

Let us, then, repeat the new motto of the Free State, printed at the head of the newspaper, "All has come right," for we are certain that as soon as your people realise what is to be the new rule under which you are to live, you will know and acknowledge that the right has prevailed, and that never again shall you stand in fear of a military oligarchy like the Transvaal; or of tyranny or injustice in any form.

______

A FIRST IMPRESSION.[17]

[Footnote 17: Copyrighted. Used here with the author's permission.]

BY A. CONAN DOYLE.

It was only Smith-Dorrien's Brigade marching into Bloemfontein, but if it could have been passed, just as it was, down Piccadilly and the Strand it would have driven London crazy. I got down from the truck which we were unloading and watched them, the ragged, bearded, fierce-eyed infantry, straggling along under their cloud of dust. Who could conceive, who has seen the prim soldier of peace, that he could so quickly transform himself into this grim, virile barbarian? Bulldog faces, hawk faces, hungry wolf faces, every sort of face except a weak one. Here and there a reeking pipe, here and there a man who smiled, but the most have their swarthy faces leaned a little forward, their eyes steadfast, their features impassive but resolute. Baggage waggons were passing, the mules all skin and ribs, with the escort tramping beside the wheels. Here are a clump of Highlanders, their workmanlike aprons in front, their keen faces burned black with months of the veldt.

It is an honoured name that they bear on their shoulder-straps. "Good old Gordons!" I cried as they passed me. The sergeant glanced at the dirty enthusiast in the undershirt. "What cheer, matey!" he cried, and his men squared their shoulders and put a touch of ginger into their stride. Here are a clump of Mounted Infantry, a grizzled fellow like a fierce old eagle at the head of them. Some are maned like lions, some have young, keen faces, but all leave an impression of familiarity upon me. And yet I have not seen irregular British cavalry before. Why should I be so familiar with this loose-limbed, head-erect, swaggering type; of course it is the American cow-boy over again. Strange that a few months of the veldt has produced exactly the same man that springs from the western prairie. But these men are warriors in the midst of war. Their eyes are hard and quick. They have the gaunt, intent look of men who live always under the shadow of danger. What splendid fellows there are among them!

Here is one who hails me; the last time I saw him we put on seventy runs together when they were rather badly needed, and here we are, partners in quite another game. Here is a man of fortune, young, handsome, the world at his feet, he comes out and throws himself into the thick of it. He is a great heavy-game shot, and has brought two other "dangerous men" out with him. Next him is an East London farmer, next him a fighting tea-planter of Ceylon, next him a sporting baronet, next him a journalist, next him a cricketer, whose name is a household word. Those are the men who press into the skirmish-line of England's battle.

And here are other men again, taller and sturdier than infantry of the line, grim, solid men, as straight as poplars. There is a maple-leaf, I think, upon their shoulder straps, and a British brigade is glad enough to have those maples beside them. For these are the Canadians, the men of Paardeberg, and there behind them are their comrades in glory, the Shropshire Light Infantry, slinging along with a touch of the spirit of their grand sporting colonel, the man who at forty-five is still the racquet champion of the British army. You see the dirty private with the rifle under his arm and the skin hanging from his nose. There are two little stars upon his strained shoulders, if you could see them under the dirt. That is the dandy captain who used to grumble about the food on the P. and O. "Nothing fit to eat," he used to cry as he glanced at his menu. I wonder what he would say now? Well he stands for his country, and England also may be a little less coddled and a little more adaptive before these brave, brave sons of hers have hoisted her flag over the "raad zaal" of Pretoria.

______

THE MODERATE DRINKER'S LAMENT.

BY MARK THYME.

(From the Household Brigade Magazine.)

WITH APOLOGIES TO RUDYARD KIPLING.

When you've done your meat and jipper--when you've 'ad your go o' beer--
When your duff 'as filled the corners of your shape--
P'raps you'll kindly spare some sympathy, and drop a silent tear
For a gentleman in khaki at the Cape.
'E's an absent-bodied beggar--as it's needless to relate--
An' 'is most frequented pub'll fail to find him,
For 'e doesn't get a chance to chalk 'is drinks up on a slate
'Cause 'e's left Three-thick and Drug-'ole far behind 'im.

Lime-juice mixed with water the colour of mud
(Fifty thousand 'orse and foot, moderate drinkers we),
Bully beef and rooty, and where shall we find a spud?
Pass your tin, for there's nothing to drink but tea, tea, tea!

Now we falls in of a mornin', an' we knows there's work to do
Simultaneous with the risin' of the sun;
We can see 'em on the kopjes, and their numbers isn't few,
An' it's more than rather likely there's a gun.

When we get within "fixed sights" it's ten to one the blighter's gone,
And an absent-bodied beggar we shall find 'im,
For 'e mounts 'is 'orse an' offs it when 'e finds us comin' on,
An' e' never leaves a drop o' drink be'ind 'im.

Pile arms! Lie down! Now let the Transport come!
(Am I 'ungry and thirsty? Wait till I let you see!)
Bully beef and rooty, and somebody's pinched my rum.
Pass your tin, for there's nothing to drink but tea, tea, tea!

There's a chap called Wilfrid Lawson as is always on the squeak,
An' 'e turns the liquor question inside out;
But a bloke can do a gallon--if the tiddley's fairly weak--
Without actually going on the shout.
But the absent-bodied tippler feels a temporary check
When 'e tastes a kind of something to remind him,
There's a Boer up the river with a stone around 'is neck
'As a filter what old Cronje's left be'ind 'im.

Fill mine! Mine too! (Smells like a bloomin' drain!)
Fill at the nearest water, spite of the M.F.P.
Bully beef and rooty, and something's give me a pain,
Pass your tin, for there's nothing to drink but tea, tea, tea!

Don't you fancy I'm a-grousin'. You can look me in the face
An' judge if I'm a coward or a cur,
When I tells you 'ow I scrambled up each blood-an'-thunder place
Without any 'esitation or demur.
Still, your absent-bodied comrade's got a thirst what's run to waste,
And 'e'll show you in the future, when you find 'im
Back in Wellington or Chelsea, as 'e's not forgot the taste
Of the beer what 'e's at present left be'ind 'im.

Wayo! 'Ere's luck! Drink to your sweet-'eart dear
(Fifty thousand 'orse and foot, moderate drinkers we),
Wait till the war is over, then for the pint o' beer,
Pass your tin, for there's nothing to drink but tea, tea, tea!

Parent Category: Books
Category: Ralph: War's Brighter Side
Hits: 1365