[1] See Official History, vol. ii. p. 614.

In a memorandum to the Secretary of State for War, dated April 16, 1900, Lord Roberts set forth his reasons for the step he had taken in removing Lieut.-General Sir William Gatacre from the command of the 3rd Division.

With reference to the defeat at Stormberg, Lord Roberts explained the view he had taken as follows:

"In my opinion, Lieut.-General Gatacre on this occasion showed a want of care, judgment, and even of ordinary military precautions, which rendered it impossible for me, in justice to those who might be called on to serve under him, to employ him in any position where serious fighting might be looked for. I was, however, most anxious to avoid, if it were possible, the infliction on him of the slur which necessarily attaches itself to a General who is removed from his command while on active service. I, therefore, refused to supersede him at the time when I assumed the chief command in South Africa, believing that I might safely employ him on the lines of communication or in any position not actually in the front.

"On March 28 I telegraphed to Lieut.-General Gatacre as follows:

"'No. C. 696. If you have enough troops at your disposal I should like you to occupy Dewetsdorp. It would make the road to Maseru safe, and prevent the enemy from using the telegraph line to the south. Let me know what you can do to this end.'

"To the question italicised above, Lieut.-General Gatacre gave me no reply. In answer to my telegram he sent a list of movements then in progress in the southern part of the Orange Free State, east of the railway, which included a movement of two companies Royal Irish Rifles towards Dewetsdorp, where they were due to arrive on Sunday (April 1).

"On March 30 he wired that two companies mounted infantry and three companies Royal Irish Rifles were moving on Dewetsdorp.

"On March 31 I wired to Lieut.-General Gatacre that I considered Dewetsdorp too far advanced for security, and on April 1 he informed me that he had sent a despatch rider to Dewetsdorp with orders for the troops there to fall back on Reddersburg.

"The result of these movements was that in falling back these companies were surrounded east of Reddersburg and, being without food or water, were eventually compelled to surrender. For this result I must hold Lieut.-General Gatacre responsible. Dewetsdorp is some forty-five miles by road east of the railway on which the mass of the troops were stationed, and is therefore a position in which a small force is much isolated and might be in great danger if attacked. It appears, however, that Lieut.-General Gatacre ordered two companies mounted infantry and three companies Royal Irish Rifles to Dewetsdorp on his own responsibility, and failed to give me the information I asked for as to what he could do with the troops at his disposal as regards holding the place, which, if supplied, would have enabled me to judge of its adequacy or otherwise, and therefore whether Dewetsdorp should or should not be occupied. The small force he actually sent was entirely incapable of holding its own so far from sufficient force, and being partly composed of infantry was unable to move rapidly when a retirement became necessary. I consider that in thus isolating a small detachment, Lieut.-General Gatacre has shown a grave want of judgment which must necessarily shake the confidence of those under his orders and have a bad effect on the moral of his troops. I am therefore unable to retain him in command of his division and have given orders for his relief and return to England.

"ROBERTS, Field-Marshal"
"BLOEMFONTEIN, "April 16, 1900."