I leave Canada again—I stay with Lord Strathcona—My old home in England—I sail for the Cape—English ignorance about Canada—Johannesburg—The South African Constabulary—Organization—Lord Kitchener—Kruger's house —Major General Baden-Powell's tour—Efficiency—Promotion in the force—Negotiations for peace—Peace signed—The Kaffirs and their arms—Lord Kitchener's farewell—The task of the government—The magisterial system—Its inconveniences—Trouble with the Kaffirs—Rinderpest—An empire trip—A tour of inspection—The Buys Boers Hay—The disarming of the Kaffirs—Improvement in the magisterial system—The census—Game wardens—Lions—Snakes—My wife comes out to South Africa—Mr. Chamberlain's visit—The Kaffirs
Having made the necessary arrangements for leave of absence from the N.W.M.P. I sailed in the Australasian for Liverpool, accompanied by Captain Alexander Boyd, of the ioth Grenadiers of Toronto, who had been appointed to a captaincy in my division of the South African Constabulary, and Messrs. Bartram and Kerr, who were going out to join that force.
When we arrived in London, Boyd and I called on Lord Strathcona, and during our stay in town received the greatest kindness from him. He went with us to obtain passages from the War Office, where it was somewhat difficult to get the officers to understand that, as we were commissioned officers of a force which was paid by the British Government and were going out to the war, we were entitled to our passages by military transports. From the War Office back and forth to the Colonial Office we went, but Lord Strathcona eventually put matters right, and it was arranged that we should sail on the transport Makool, the same ship which had taken Strathcona’s Horse to Kosi Bay.
I spent a week-end at Knebworth House, with Lord and Lady Strathcona, and met there Dr. and the Hon. Mrs. Howard (now Lady Strathcona) and several Canadians of prominence.
I returned to London with Lord Strathcona, and, as the transport was not ready to sail, I left next morning for Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, where I was met by my kind and still active cousin, Dr. Samuel Steel, then in his eighty-first year, and his charming wife and daughter. I enjoyed three days there, and the evening of my arrival there was a great gathering of the family at Dr. Steel’s. We had much pleasant talk about the various changes in the family when my father and his five brothers went into the two great services. Dr. Sam was the son of my uncle William. The birthplace of the family was Coleford, Gloucestershire, where it had come from the north, and the name has been in the course of time spelled Stele, Stiel, Steell, Steel and, lastly, Steele. My father spelled his the latter way, on account of his first commission being written with the final “ e ” by mistake, and never altered it.
During my three days there I saw the tree my father planted in 1831, when he left for Canada to carve out new homes for himself and his family of six, my half-brothers and sisters, all of whom died at good old ages, one of them, not long since, at ninety-three. While at Abergavenny I was shown over the beautiful country, and saw much of the doctor’s son, William, who is colonel commanding one of the battalions of the South Wales Borderers, and Mr. Henry C. Steel, of Blaenavon, where he and his ancestors have been in charge of the coal mines and lands attached to the great steel works there for the past hundred years.
Early in June we sailed for the Cape. There were several officers on board who had been wounded in the early stages of the war and, having recovered, were on their way out to take part in the second phase. Two of them, a captain of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and a captain of the Seaforth Highlanders, had been shot through the brain, but were none the worse for the mishap. I made the acquaintance of many of the passengers, all of whom were much interested in Canada, but had heard little or nothing about it until the Canadian contingents had taken part in the war. I had found this lack of knowledge of Canada and other parts of the Empire very general in the old country amongst all but those who were financially interested; in fact, many seemed to think that Canada was under an alien flag. Indeed, I have been told that, when in 1897 the Canadian contingents were banqueted in London, the Stars and Stripes were entwined with the Union Jack round the room, and when the kind hosts were asked why, the reply was, “ In honour of the Canadian visitors ! " Happily, and in a large measure owing to the patriotic behaviour of the Dominions and colonies overseas, they are better known now in the old land.
We arrived at Las Palmas on July 10, and while we were coaling the sergeant-major of the detachment of the Post Office corps which was on board and my batman were placed at the gangway to prevent the stokers who were on short leave from bringing intoxicants on board when they returned. A short time afterwards my man came up to the saloon deck and complained to me that the stokers had fallen upon him and the sergeant-major on their return to the ship and knocked them down in the coal dust. The batman’s appearance was proof of the truth of his story, and, as I was only a passenger, I sent him to the officer of the day. I was within a few feet of him when he made his report, and saw the ten stokers come up the companionway. As the batman related his story of the assault one of them called him a liar, whereupon he threw himself fiercely upon the crowd and thrashed them soundly, throwing them to the orlop deck, while the captain, a lively Irishman and fond of a fight, looked on with keen enjoyment.
We reached the Cape after an uneventful voyage and immediately proceeded to Johannesburg. The day after our arrival, Boyd and I lunched with Colonel Nicholson, chief staff officer of the S.A.C. We then left for the dynamite factory at Modderfontein, several miles north.
Modderfontein was the temporary headquarters of the S.A.C. and the depots for the reserve and “ B ” division of the force, and at the station I was met by my senior staff officer, Major Cantan, of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, and Lieutenant Hildyard, the staff adjutant of my division, and de Havilland, also on my staff.
The S.A.C. had been called into existence by Earl Roberts’ proclamation, and was organized and trained as a military as
well as a civil corps. Major General Baden-Powell had been directed to draw up a scheme for the organization of the force to police the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, and to be prepared to take over the duties by June, 1901, under the orders of Lord Milner, High Commissioner for South Africa. At that time peace was supposed to be at hand, and 6,000 officers, N.C.O/s and men were thought to be sufficient. The Commander-in-Chief agreed to hand over to the force a proportion of the officers, N.C.O/s and men up to 20 per cent, of each corps, to form it, and to equip it complete with horses, saddlery, arms and transport, in fact everything that it would require to carry on its duties, including medical treatment of sick or wounded at the military hospitals. [The corps was first organized into four divisions. There were to be three divisions in the Transvaal, and one in the Orange River Colony, all divided into troops, consisting of one captain, one lieutenant, and 100 N.C.O.’s and men, but as hostilities showed no signs of ceasing the army was unable to carry out the proposed agreement, and consequently the Inspector General established recruiting offices in England, Cape Colony and Natal, and arranged for a contingent of about 1,300 N.C.O.’s and men, with their own officers, from Canada.]
In December, 1900, it was found necessary to increase the force to 10,000, and early in 1901 a reserve division was organized. From the time that the constabulary came into existence until the end of the war, it was unable to perform any police duties and was employed as a military force under the Commander-in-Chief and constantly engaged in field operations and on the block-house lines. Some block-houses were built where they could guard the concentration camps where the Boer women and children were maintained by the British government to save them from the ever-present danger of starvation on the veldt. While I am on that subject, which has been a burning question, the British government, the army, and all connected with the management of the camps having been abused for the way they were conducted, I can state, from a personal knowledge of facts, that the people were indeed fortunate to be in camp. They were under the supervision of kind and capable officers, doctors and nurses; they had their own schools and school teachers; they were well sheltered in good tents and they were well fed.
The Canadian contingent, which had sailed before I left, was distributed throughout the three divisions of the Orange River Colony and eastern and western Transvaal; none were at present posted to “ B ” division, which was under my command. It had been intended that they should be divided amongst the men of the other troops, but when they were raised the recruiting officer gave them the impression that they would be in one division by themselves, under me, and when the men heard that they were not, they showed such signs of discontent that I recommended to the Inspector General that they be kept in distinct troops, and he very kindly permitted that arrangement. The impression has been circulated that they were all Canadians by birth, but such was not the case ; at least half of many of the troops were originally from the old land, and had joined to have a look-in at the war.
I took over command of Modderfontein and my division the day after I arrived. It consisted of six troops, well commanded by officers of experience. Several were stationed west of Modderfontein, and, having made myself acquainted with my surroundings and pushed on the organization and instruction, I left two days later to inspect my outposts.
With few exceptions every officer in the S.A.C. had served in other fields or had been through the experiences of the previous years of the Boer War. The majority were seconded from the army or colonial corps, and the rank and file were highly intelligent, stalwart and, usually, well educated. The greater number had enlisted in the expectation that the force would be permanent, and many had hoped that commissions would be within their reach.
As the Inspector General was in England, the divisional commandants of the force had to take their orders for work in the field from Lord Kitchener, commanding the forces in South Africa. I reported to him at Pretoria. After a look over the maps he ordered me to keep pushing my troops north and west along the Rustenburg road to clear the country beyond the Magaliesberg range. The interview was pleasant, and I found the Commander-in-Chief, as I expected, keen, business-like and clear in his instructions.
The chain of posts as far as Rustenburg had been placed on the 13th, and, all being in order in Pretoria, I left for the Rustenburg line, where my headquarters were to be. The post had been placed in a good state of defence. An isolated mountain, called Wolhuter’s Kop, was my signal station, in charge of an officer, and was in communication by helio and lamp with all my troops for at least 40 miles, and with several infantry posts also, including the Suffolks, West Riding and Lincolns, who were stationed along the Magaliesberg in touch with Pretoria. That part of the Transvaal was a favourite resort for small active commandoes of the enemy, placed there to make raids upon columns of transport and on the lines of communication, by going south through the neks in the Magaliesberg to cut the Krugersdorp-Klerksdorp line, or turning their attention east to blow up the Pretoria-Pietersburg railway.
After an ineffectual attempt to get a suitable house for the staff in Pretoria, I reported to Lord Kitchener in the usual way, and when I brought the matter to his personal notice I was assigned the residence of the late president of the Transvaal as quarters for my officers, and Mr. Eloff’s house next door as offices. There was good stabling, a carriage house, which contained the state coach, Mrs. Kruger’s phaeton and a covered carriage for private use. Mr. Kruger’s trek waggon stood in the back yard, just as it had been left after his last trek to the low veldt.
The house was a long low building in the Dutch colonial style, and contained a large reception-room, a dining-room, a lady’s boudoir and several bedrooms, one of which had been occupied by Mr. Kruger, and was protected by strong steel shutters inside, which were closed at night and secured by an iron bar. In front of the house the usual stoep extended, and at the entrance from the street Barney Bamato’s marble lions reclined, facing the passage to the stoep. In the large reception-room there were several curios, amongst them the first shell fired at Spion Kop, which had been duly inscribed and presented to the president by some enthusiastic admirer.
When Major General Baden-Powell returned to the country he made a tour of the division, accompanied by Majors Steuart and Kearsley, and inspected every troop. The Inspector General was a great favourite in the corps, a good disciplinarian, kindly and patient. A proof of the latter quality I saw at Naauwpoort, where one of the officers produced a gramophone to amuse the company, and kept the wretched records going from dark until nearly midnight, gazing the while on the party with a smile of intense satisfaction, but not a word from the general, nor any one else, until we nearly dropped asleep from sheer exhaustion !
In the middle of May, when there were signs of peace. When negotiations were opened, several of the Boer delegates were passed through my lines under a flag of truce.
From this time, there being no great necessity for my presence with the main body of the division, I left it under the command of Major Steuart, who had been transferred to me as second in command, and went into Pretoria to prepare for our future employment both as peace officers and as soldiers. The depot was very strong in numbers and augmented a short time after peace was proclaimed by Canadian and Australian troops, and one of Boers who had fought all through the war. When the latter came I had them paraded and gave them words of encouragement, which seemed to please them. The depot was very busy, at first under Captain Trew and later under Captain Hilliam, late of the R.C.M. Rifles, who had been strongly recommended to the Inspector General by Colonel (now Major General) Rimington, for whose column he had served as leader of the scouts. He was one of the best instructors that I have known, and his varied service in the 17th Lancers and the N.W.M.P. had fitted him well for the command of the depot.
When things were as I wished at the depot every troop officer took a course in the duties of paymaster and quartermaster under the officers of the division at the head of those departments, and the men, after passing their recruits’ course, were sent in large parties to work for a few weeks with the Pretoria blue police, so that if need be they could work in the small towns, which were the seats of the resident magistrates, and were to be the headquarters of S.A.C. districts. I had Dutch instructors employed and classes of 50 men were taught the language as we went along, orders being given that they were to be practised in it at stables and other duties, so that if need be they could work amongst the Boer farmers without an interpreter.
To encourage the large number of well educated men in the corps the Inspector General had arranged that there should be promotion from the ranks to commissions in the force. The first men who came in to be examined were not in every case fairly selected, and some who were not N.C.O.’s were sent to the depot on the recommendation of some friend who was exercising that curse, social influence, ten times worse than political influence. I put a stop to this, however, by ordering that no one under the rank of sergeant, and promoted on his merits, would be recommended, and when they came in I gave them a severe test before I permitted them to come up for examination, and those who failed were retained at the depot under instruction until they proved to be efficient in every respect.
While peace was being arranged in Pretoria the Boer generals who represented their country were at the local hotels, and created a very favourable impression, being soldier-like men, with pleasant manners. The most distinguished were Generals Botha, de la Rey and de Wet, all of whom had great influence with their fellow countrymen. They had opposed the war in the first instance, but when it was forced upon them, like true patriots, they fought to the end, and made the best terms possible.
In May the Inspector General gave orders that the four divisional commandants should send to him a daily diary of events and suggestions which they might choose to make for the good of the force. This method worked well, and its good effects were soon evident in the increasing efficiency of the corps, which at that time was the strongest mounted police force in the world, its parade state totalling at least 10,500 men.
The thumb-mark system of identification was brought into the S.A.C. during May, and everything done to make the corps at least as modem as any other. The present head of the Metropolitan Police was in Johannesburg and the head and leader of that system, which had been brought to perfection under him.
On May 24, 1902, a vast concourse of people assembled in Church Square, Pretoria, to hear peace proclaimed, but as it did not come off they left, very much disappointed. The treaty of peace was, however, signed on May 24, and on June 1 the clergy of the city informed their congregations of the good news.
On the 29th I completed in my office a list of the Boers and other burghers of the Transvaal Colony and registered them. The same was done throughout the S.A.C., I believe, and was a great help to us for the remainder of our service in South Africa. This information had been obtained from the archives of the Dutch Republics. The northern or “ B ” Division of the Transvaal was placed under my command. Although it contained the homes of a large number of farmers, it had within its limits more Kaffirs than all the rest of the two colonies. Many hundreds of thousands were scattered about the numerous kraals, and were a decided menace to the whites who had returned to their homes, for they had a large quantity of arms and ammunition. These had to be taken from them at an early date, or we should be faced by serious consequences. As soon as I learned the true state of affairs, I recommended that the natives be disarmed, even if the government had to compensate them for the loss of their rifles and other fire-arms, and the question was seriously taken up.
Before Lord Kitchener left for England he addressed us. He said that he had never seen finer men on parade, nor more gallant ones in the field, under circumstances requiring fortitude and self-denial. Though we had lost many men during the campaign, the force had always been ready when wanted. He also gave much sound advice as to the future conduct of the force towards those who had been recently in arms against us, but were for the future to be our friends and fellow subjects of His Majesty.
Peace having been now assured, the government had a very important and difficult task before them in the repatriation of our new fellow subjects, the restoration of the theatre of war to its normal state and the improvement of the two colonies by the building of roads, the establishment of schools, the improvement of the railways and of every other public service.
The new law department appointed resident magistrates for every magisterial district. The system was peculiar, quite different from any other part of the British Empire, and, with a strong and capable police force, likely to cause friction between the resident magistrates and the district commandants. The resident magistrates, who had been long in the colonies, or were born in them or were lawyers by profession, got on very well with us from the first, but in cases where they were military officers and senior in rank to the S.A.C. commandants there was very often a great deal of misunderstanding. Sometimes there were faults on both sides, but not often on the side of the S.A.C., for the reason that from the first the officers studied the laws, ordinances and regulations, and were in most cases quite fit for the bench themselves. The law department refused for a long time to make our officers, or any other persons, justices of the peace with power to try petty cases, such as breaches of the masters’ and servants’ ordinances, etc., giving as a reason that an officer should not try cases in which his own men give evidence. At the same time, many of the resident magistrates tried to interfere with the S.A.C. officers and do the police work themselves 1
The magistrates personally were very agreeable men, and, as time went on, almost all learned that the S.A.C. were their best friends, and at the same time quite capable of managing the police work and the many other duties assigned to them without interference. But it was many a day with some of them before they came to the conclusion that, after all, as magistrates, they were not in command of the police. We had a few regulations which had applied to the old regime in other colonies when the magistrate would interfere with everything, inspect the men’s quarters, the cells, etc., as if they were in command of a regiment, ask for men to act as mere servants, so that the police were looked down upon, but the S.A.C. soon put an end to such ; in fact we did not permit such a course on the part of the resident magistrates. Our men were highly respectable, the officers from the military services and the colonies, and the Inspector General would not permit them to be treated in a way that would lower their self-respect. The force had not been doing duty amongst the Boers and other persons in the cities and towns for more than six months before they were looked up to as a credit to the races to which they belonged.
We had not been out at our posts very long and we were busy at our multifarious duties when it became evident that, as in the early days of settlement and government under a council in the North West and Yukon Territories of Canada, it was necessary that the constabulary should be represented on the council, and in one of my daily letters to the Inspector General I suggested that the force should have a place at the council board. In reply he offered to recommend me for it, but I pointed out that it was his place, not mine, and that the chief staff officer should be there also ; the suggestion was adopted, to the great advantage of the public service.
A short time after my troops were placed it was reported that the Kaffirs, as I expected, were not at all friendly to the Boers, and showed themselves very impudent in demeanour towards them. They had formed an impression that, as we had fought with the burghers, we were hostile to them. I gave orders to my troop commanders and senior captains at the district headquarters that they were to insist upon the natives treating the Dutch people with respect, as formerly; ex-Commandant Beyers had reported that armed natives were interfering with Boers who were returning to their farms, and he thought that the S.A.C. had no orders. I relieved his mind, however, and issued further instructions to the force that it was their duty to protect all persons in their legitimate occupations, and that, to do so with effect, they must act at once in all cases where there was any danger of a breach of the peace, and were not, on any account, to wait for orders from any central authority. They were to exercise judgment, promptitude and tact.
Shortly after this a number of native constables, mostly Zulus, were engaged, and, as the other Kaffirs were in considerable dread of them owing to their reputation for courage and strength, they were a great assistance to the force in every division. Every detachment, no matter how small, had one or more attached to it, and, as they made good use of them, it was not long before all causes for complaint were removed.
This did not admit of any slackening off, however, for the Kaffirs, particularly those who had been treated too familiarly by the whites attached to the army, were prone to be insolent, and even commit, as they did a short time after repatriation of the Boers, very serious crimes, some of which, apart from murder, were punishable with death.
Rinderpest was reported amongst the transport oxen at Piet Potgieter’s Rust on July 16, and from that date the department of agriculture, the South African Constabulary and magistrates had a very difficult task to keep alive the herds of cattle and make the Boer farmers understand the seriousness of the situation. This was soon followed by tick fever, another disease fatal to stock and very difficult to eradicate. It eventually came to such a pass that the infected areas had to be fenced to keep them apart from the sections where the cattle were still sound, and, as the government gave compensation to owners, it was not an uncommon offence for the farmers to trek into the infected areas so that their cattle would catch the disease in order to have the animal paid for. Passes had to be given to go in certain directions, and, instead of proceeding according to the pass, they would be found going in opposite directions, and when caught would feign ignorance of the purport of their pass.
The tick fever would never have found its way into the country had the advice of our veterinary surgeon been taken. Captain James Irvine Smith reported that the cattle which were being imported from the Portuguese side were diseased, but the other veterinary surgeons, none of whom were in our service, declared that his diagnosis was wrong, with the natural result that the country was soon overwhelmed with diseased stock. Great experts had to be sent for eventually, and reported that Captain Smith was right, and that had his advice been taken the country would have been saved from enormous loss.
When the cattle diseases were known the men of the S.A.C. assisted the farmers in every way by showing them how to prevent the spread of it amongst their cattle. As Professor Theiller, a bacteriologist and pupil of the great Koch, lived in Pretoria, I took advantage of his presence to send a number of my men to learn from him all about the diseases, and the veterinary surgeons took charge of them, and they were divided amongst the districts, but this did not happen until after 1902.
On July 18 reports came to me which were sent on to headquarters to the effect that at least 50 per cent, of the Kaffirs had rifles and other fire-arms, and I again suggested that the natives in my division should be disarmed at once if peace were to be maintained. The same day Captain Pomeroy, for the same reason, took the rifles from several of the Kaffirs. This was brought to the notice of the government by the Inspector General, and early disarming and compensation for their rifles was promised.
I made my first round of the troops in the north on the last week of the same month, accompanied by Captain de Havilland, and inspected all troops on the way to Zoutpansberg. I found the Boer families hospitable and cheerful. As it was reported that diseased cattle were being brought into the Zoutpansberg from Rhodesia in the most reckless manner, I ordered patrols north to the Limpopo to stop them, and a station was placed on the main trail from the north where the road crossed that river. I found also that there were attempts to meddle with the duties of my officers and men, and directed that they must not permit it and must be firm on all points.
On my way I found that we were put to great annoyance by having to bring Kaffir and other prisoners many miles, to the great inconvenience of ourselves and witnesses, and I reported to the Inspector General that it was important that the government should appoint our senior officers justices of the peace, with powers to try cases, as in other parts of the British dominions. After several complaints of our troubles bringing witnesses and petty cases sometimes 60 or 70 miles before the resident magistrates, the Inspector General and I went to the law department. It was no use at that time, the officials were unaccustomed to such methods, but later they were obliged to comply with modem ideas and have some consideration for the farmers.
There was much trouble with regard to cattle imported in a state of disease, and Captain Jarvis complained that the Rhodesian authorities had again given passes to a Boer to bring 42 diseased oxen into the Transvaal. These animals had tick fever and were quarantined immediately. I again wired orders that, pass or no pass, all cattle on the move from Rhodesia were to be turned back from the Limpopo, and officers were not to wait for orders on matters of such vital importance ; they must keep their patrols for the protection of the stock interests on the move. I also reported to the department of agriculture, and asked that we be given full powers to act in all cases such as those, and received orders to act on my own judgment, and I delegated the same to all of my officers that they were to do likewise.
On August 16 arrangements were made to send a party of Boer delegates and their wives to visit the overseas dominions of His Majesty. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and, of course, England were visited, but the season of the year did not suit Canada at all; the harvest was over when they arrived, but they saw much to interest them. Judging from their report they were well satisfied, but I fear they learnt very little except the enormous extent of the Empire. The move was a good one, nevertheless, and the delegates could not but have been impressed with the kindly way in which they were received everywhere.
The Kaffirs had got it into their heads that as the Boers had been defeated the whole of the land in the Transvaal belonged to the natives, and we were constantly getting reports of strained relations between Boers and Kaffirs. Up to date no steps had been taken to disarm the natives, although there was great danger of outrages being committed on the unarmed whites. About this time I had to forward a report of high officials exasperating the Boer farmers by alluding in an offensive way to the late war.
On August 19 I went north to accompany the Inspector General on a tour of inspection of the posts in the Zoutpansberg. With him was Captain Kearsley, his aide-de-camp, and they came on to Pietersburg the same day.
Next morning we trekked east to Haenertsburg, 43 miles from Pietersburg, and the Inspector General went over the troop next morning. In the afternoon we rode back to Pietersburg, a most uncomfortable ride for me, as I had bronchitis, a very sore throat, and my face was swollen to twice its natural size. Moreover, my horse turned a somersault and rolled over me, giving me quite a severe wrench, the effects - of which I felt for several days.
At 5 p.m. the following day we left for Spelonkin, Captain Jarvis’ post at Fort Edward, 72 miles north east on the road to the Limpopo and Rhodesia. It was a fine, cool night, and at 10.30 we had made the 42 miles to Dwaar’s River, where there was a detachment of Jarvis’ No. 14 troop. It was quite dark when we arrived there, but no sooner did we dismount than I saw that the ways of the North West Mounted Police prevailed there to a considerable extent. Our horses were taken to shelter at once, and the men busied themselves making tea and preparing food for us, and the Inspector General, a man after their own hearts, was soon talking game and sport to a gigantic British Columbian, who was a noted shot. When going round with the corporal I found that he was the son of Mr. James Audy, an officer of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and had served a short time in the N. W.M.P.
Fort Edward, which we reached next morning, had been constructed during the war under the direction of a Royal Engineer officer, and was in a good state of defence. The situation was pretty, on rising ground above a large spruit of fresh water, and across the spruit there was a fine farm, owned by a family of Scotch descent, named Cooksley. Mr. Cooksley, when bathing in the spruit some years before, had been seized around the chest by a young python, but had held his own until his wife and a Kaffir boy came to his rescue ; they took hold of the reptile’s tail and unwound it, and the three killed the snake.
Iguanas were plentiful in the neighbourhood, and one of the officers was startled by one jumping on to his chest as he sat drying himself after bathing. As he had never seen one before, he took it to be a young crocodile, and there was a laugh at his expense, in which he very heartily joined, when he had recovered from the sudden start which it gave him.
On the slopes of the Zoutpansberg there was a settlement of mulattoes called the Buys (pronounced Base) Boers, who were named so after a voortrekker, who had led a commando there in the early days. As there were no Europeans they took Kaffir wives, and located themselves in that rather favoured region. Reports had been made in Pietersburg to the effect that these people w’ere on bad terms with the Dutch and natives, but I ascertained that there was no truth in it, and I was told that they were kindly, well-disposed persons.
Lieutenant Welstead’s post, in the north of the Zoutpansberg, was a difficult one ; the Kaffirs were in large numbers and well armed, and the lions were so bold that fires had to be kept going all night to keep them at a distance.
I returned to Pretoria next day, having been travelling when suffering from bronchitis, sore throat and much swollen face, and had been in torture the whole time I was out. There was no help for it in the S.A.C., however ; I had to keep going until I recovered in the ordinary course.
No hay had ever been cut in any part of the Transvaal, and there was no bedding for the horses. Most of the forage had to be brought from overseas. I therefore obtained mowing machines, and we made hay as in western Canada and salted it in the stacks. The horses were soon in better condition, as there was ample for bedding as well, and during the whole time I was in South Africa our horses, although they did very hard, constant work, were admired by everyone who saw them. The grass in that country is not by any means as nutritious as it is on the prairies of w’estem Canada. It becomes brown and useless with the first frost; ours, of course, dries into hay on the ground in August, and is almost as good as when it is fresh and green.
The ordinance respecting the disarming of the Kaffirs came into our hands at the end of August. The first important disarming took place on September 22, and by October 8 19,740 guns and rifles and a considerable quantity of ammunition had been surrendered to my division alone. In this work the Native Commissioner had been escorted and protected by the S.A.C., and the good work went on until every gun and rifle in the possession of the natives had been handed in, destroyed, and paid for, leaving the Kaffir powerless for mischief against black or white.
The policing of the border next the Portuguese possessions was the most difficult. The country was what is called the low veldt, very unhealthy in the summer or rainy season. Horse sickness, fever, ague and other diseases peculiar to a hot climate prevailed, and the heat was very great, the maximum at midnight in several places being about 125 degrees Fahrenheit. White people almost invariably suffered from malaria, and after being there for a few years, if they live that length of time, are often very severely attacked when they return to the high, healthy veldt.
Such being the country which had to be policed along the eastern border, detachments were placed on the high ground. I would not station them in the low country, but occasioned patrols with Kaffir police were made by an officer and N.C.O. in the summer, and in the winter parties went over the ground, and maps were made by officers of the division, with the result that the patrolling was efficiently done and we had very little fever.
By October 15 the S.A.C. had been distributed to suit the circumstances, and inspecting officers found the men very good. There were, indeed, people holding high office in some of the districts who thought we were too soldier-like, but they had evidently failed to observe that every successful police force in the' world has a military style, is drilled, obeys orders, and is invariably commanded by men who are soldiers in everything but the name. One of those who worried about this was a military officer himself, and when asked for a case of neglect of duty on account of the force being military in manner, could produce none. With the majority of resident magistrates the officers and men became favourites, and eventually, in spite of much opposition, the officers, as in the N.W.M.P., were appointed justices of the peace, and proved the value of the system. But before this became law reams of foolscap had been written, forwarding the complaints of the Boer farmers, who had to travel many miles to attend petty court cases as prosecutors or witnesses, and of the officers of the force, who had to send their men 30 or 40 miles mounted, escorting Kaffirs who were on foot, and perhaps only guilty of a trifling offence, which could have been tried nearer home.
When the change came about the country had much to thank Lord Milner for, in the alteration to common-sense methods.
In connection with our work I may say that we seldom had the support of the law department. Even the magistrates disapproved of the way some of its officials looked upon the officers and men, without whom they would have been of little use themselves, but with the other departments we were on the best of terms, and helped them as much as we did the legal branch in every way possible.
When the proper time came we took the census ; every man, woman and child of the white population, except in the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, where we had no jurisdiction, was known to us, and there was not a Kaffir kraal, or chief, nor a burgher before the war who was not on the rolls and his character and opinions known to us. As I said to a friend of mine who was a resident magistrate, and had done duty in one of the districts as a staff officer and objected to our placing the posts ourselves at the outset, “ Though you know the district, in three weeks’ time we will be better acquainted with it than even the Boers and Kaffirs.”
In November, 1902, there were many complaints in some districts of the ravages of baboons, particularly in the Water- berg, and I had to obtain leave to issue an extra supply of ammunition to our men to destroy them, as the Boers had not yet been permitted to have rifles. One resident magistrate and district commandant had issued a few, but when I learned it I was obliged to advise the district commandant not to give any licences for arms until we had orders. The baboons always knew when the good man was away, and took advantage of the occasion to drive the women and children into the house, and would then raid the crops.
Game was very plentiful in the outlying parts of the division, and as it had to be preserved, I suggested to the Inspector General that we take over the duties of game wardens in addition to our other work, as it would fit in with our patrols. The idea was not approved, however, by the government as far as the great game region along the Portuguese border was concerned, although it would have saved expense and prevented friction. It was well done under the other plan, but, as I expected, the officer in charge of that area objected to see our officers and men within it, in spite of the fact that it we did not visit it we should be unable to prevent the importation of fire-arms and fire-water for the Kaffirs. I paid no attention to the objections raised, however, and directed the officers along the border to carry on their duties of patrolling, regardless of opposition. Being firm and tactful, they managed matters in such a way that all concerned worked in harmony.
Under the new rules the whole of the low country became a preserve, managed under very stringent regulations, and throughout the remainder of the division, where game was in many places very plentiful, the game wardens and the S.A.C. divisions carried out the duty so strictly that, where there was little or no travel, wildebeeste, koodoo, hartebeeste, and other varieties of deer and antelope too numerous to mention, being undisturbed, paid little attention to the patrols, and lions seemed to be quite anxious to make our acquaintance, even encroaching upon the settlements of the frontier, and the men very often ran great risks of being devoured.
One of the game wardens under Major Hamilton was the hero of a rather remarkable adventure which I have seen described in another book, but as it occurred within the precincts of the area under the S.A.C., I must be excused for relating it. Wolhuter, a young Boer game guardian, and a comrade were returning to camp one night when a lion and lioness sprang out upon them from a thicket. Wolhuter was riding carelessly and, when his horse shied, was thrown. His companion, losing control of his horse, was carried at a furious pace along the path, pursued by the lioness, while Wolhuter was seized by the lion and (bragged towards the thicket. He was in great pain, and could feel the brute's feet trampling upon him as he was drawn along the ground on his back. In this dreadful predicament, expecting his captor to make a meal of him very soon, he suddenly felt his hunting knife with his left hand. Drawing it from its sheath, he made a chance stroke, and drove it into the lion’s body, behind the shoulder, killing it instantly. Being experienced in the ways of lions, he climbed a tree, and when his friend returned with assistance to ascertain what had become of him, he was found seated on a branch with the lioness watching him from below, her dead mate lying close by, its heart pierced by Wolhuter’s knife. The plucky young Boer was in hospital several weeks after his adventure, where he made a good recovery.
Lions were frequently met along the Selati railway, a line which had been for the time abandoned, but on which the S.A.C. had permission to run their hand cars to reach posts in the low veldt. In the north near the Limpopo they were very bold, some of the men having to take refuge in trees and on the roofs of the sheds of Mr. Zeederburg, the former mail contractor. In another district one of the men, when trying to shoot a lion which had his comrade in its grasp, killed the poor man instead, and an officer who went on a lion hunting trip died from the effects of a mauling he received from one of the brutes.
There were other things as dangerous and more repulsive than the lion. The large rivers were infested by crocodiles, reptiles which the Kaffirs at one time regarded as sacred, and a native who killed one without the permission of his chief was promptly put to death.
Another creature which could be seen in the kloofs and noisome spots was the python, which in South Africa grows to an enormous size. Captain Scarth killed one in the Lyden- berg district which measured 29 feet 6 inches. The natives do not seem to fear those snakes, however, although under certain circumstances they proved themselves to be very dangerous customers and destructive to buck, colts, calves and even larger animals, which they crush and then devour. When Scarth shot his python he heard some Kaffirs calling to him, and when he went to the spot he found a group standing near where one lay coiled like a huge hawser of pretty colours. He was so surprised at the unexpected sight that the creature had time to dart into the bushes. A few minutes later he again heard the natives crying out to attract his attention, and when he Went to them he saw the python with his head waving from side to side, several feet above the bushes, and gave it both barrels. When the skin was removed the lovely colours disappeared, giving place to a dull brown.
There were many venomous snakes in the divisional area, amongst them the maambas, brown and green. The latter is to be found in the trees and is very poisonous. Both kill in a few minutes, and the brown maamba is so quick that the eye cannot follow its stroke. There were also the puff and night adders, the renghals and the peel slang. The latter spits at its enemy, causing temporary blindness and raising blisters.
There are several useful antidotes for the bite of the snakes, one of them is made up of poisons of several. When I was in South Africa this was sold by the native doctors, and is carried by almost all who go on hunting expeditions. Another is in liquid form, and the dose is 21 drops for an adult; if taken at once it will cure, but the patient must on no account fall asleep.
One of the most remarkable of the feathered tribe is the honey bird, which leads to or warns one of the proximity of a lion, a snake, or a bee’s nest. This one is very well known to all who have resided in South Africa.
My wife and family, accompanied by Mrs. R. W. Harwood and Dr. A. C. de L. Harwood, and Mrs. Hilliam, wife of my depot commandant, Captain Hilliam, arrived on November 22, very much fatigued by the long voyage and the stuffy, hot train. They were soon restored, however, and during their stay made many friends in the Transvaal, who did much to make their visit to the country enjoyable.
In January, 1903, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain arrived on a visit to South Africa, and was enthusiastically received throughout the country. While he was in Pretoria my division furnished the escorts, and a reception was held in one of the public parks, where a large number of ladies and gentlemen, including Generals Louis Botha, de la Rey and Cronje were presented.
During the same month some of the newly-appointed officials suggested that the officers of the S.A.C. and native departments should be more familiar with the Kaffir chiefs, but fortunately the suggestion was not adopted. The Kaffir is not like the Red Indian or Maori, who in their primitive state are dignified and courteous and will take no liberties, and it does not answer to treat him the same. Strict justice and firmness is the only course. There was another good reason why there should be no change, the whole of the white population were against it, especially the Boers, who knew them better than anyone, and they did not believe in familiarity. If they were sometimes severe and unjust when they were in power, they had many good rules to guide their intercourse with the native population which it would not be wise to change.
The Kaffir as a labourer in any capacity is trying; under the influence of fear they will work fairly well, but in gangs it would be an unusual thing to see more than five to ten per cent, busy at the same time. As domestics in towns, both men and women are poor servants. On the locations the women do all the manual labour and work hard; the men loaf about and will not work unless circumstances compel them. Both sexes are by nature untruthful, and few are capable of gratitude for any kind act. Admonition by the cat-o’-nine- tails is the only thing understood, and as that is seldom used the Kaffir is difficult to manage. The native, of course, looks up to the white person as “ baas ” or “ missus,” and as no European will perform manual labour in that country unless he cannot help it, the employers, such as mine owners, etc., have to make the best of what they can get. White servants have been brought out from England, but as soon as they see the state of affairs they demand hired help at their work, and are then “ baas ” and “ missus.” This is not because the temperate parts of South Africa are not suitable for white labour, but because it is a black labourers’ country; the white is master, and would be despised by both Europeans and Kaffirs if he lowered himself to the native level.
The best Kaffir boy that I had in the S.A.C. was a driver named Philemon, who was well educated, that is, he could read and write well, and was a preacher in the location on Sundays, and as he was able to give me some information I asked him why the Kaffirs had so little gratitude and were so untruthful. He replied that, “ Nothing appeals to the native but physical pain. It is no use to treat them the same as the whites, they cannot understand it; we are spoiled by being told that we are the equals of the white people; we are not civilized, and should be taught that, until we are so, we are not the equals of the whites.” Of course, as in the case of this boy, there are notable exceptions, particularly among the Zulus, and we got some good native constables from amongst them, and even in the other tribes, but then they had great supervision in the force, and that, with the fact that they occupied a high position amongst their fellows, had a good effect upon them. The Zulus are soldiers by nature and long training, and much superior in every way to the majority of the Kaffirs.