War declared at an end by Roberts - Lady Roberts captured - De Wet cornered - General Clement's camp taken by General de la Rey – De Wet's strategy.
But little was done by General Botha in the Eastern Transvaal; but General Chris. Botha, one of the best generals in the war, gave General French a great deal of trouble in the Ermelo district. French with his 11,000 men could make no headway and had to content himself with burning farms. In the Free State, during this month, General De Wet was having a very warm time. About 50,000 men were trying constantly to surround him, but he was too smart for them. He continued to capture and turn loose many men, and kept the English in a constant tremble. During the same month, the English left General de la Rey severely alone in order to concentrate their whole attention on General De Wet, who was fairly disgracing the English army and driving Roberts and Kitchener crazy.
Lord Roberts had declared the war at an end, and here was General De Wet daily tearing his army to pieces. He hates De Wet yet. During December although the war was at an end, there was some very warm and interesting fighting, Generals De Wet and de la Rey being the principal actors. In fact, there was so much fighting, and the Boers were so successful, that Lord Roberts pulled up stakes, fled for London and left Kitchener to continue his dirty work. I assure him that he could not have left a man more capable for such work than Kitchener, and he must have known his man pretty well. During this month General Louis Botha was inactive. General Ben Viljoen played havoc, however, with the English at Helvetia on top of the fortified mountain just north of Machadadorp. With 150 men General Viljoen made a night march and attack on Helvetia forts, took several of them, over a hundred prisoners and the 4.7 gun marked in big letters, "Lady Roberts." Many of the officers and men were killed or wounded and his night venture was a great success.
He did not lose any men killed or wounded, although on the following day the English in force pursued them. He brought "Lady Roberts" to his laager where she was greeted with shouts of joy, thoroughly inspected and admired by about 600 demoralized Boers. He kept her for a while then blew her up with dynamite. What a savage brutal act this was! It was just like the cowardly Boers! When all the ammunition was exhausted, we blew up our Long Toms, and Lord Kitchener, having found the remains of one of them, collected the pieces and shipped the whole to London to show what the English army was doing in South Africa. We would have given him Lady Roberts' remains too, had he shown any desire to have them, but he didn't and they are wasting away on top of the Totausberg Mountain. The same Irish boys with one other, Dick Hunt, were in the attack on the Helvetia forts. Dick and Mike Halley were both barefooted and were looking for boots, yet they didn't have the heart to fit themselves out with the dead Tommies boots. Shortly afterwards, however, they threw aside modesty and were always well supplied. On the return from Helvetia Mike Halley's horse gave out, so he stopped, unsaddled, and put him out to feed and rest while he himself lay down to take a nap. In a little while Veldtcornet Ceroni came along, found Mike and asked him why he did not go ahead, as the English were following up. Mike told him that his horse was played out and that he had stopped to give him some rest and grass. "Yes," replied the veldtcornet, "he will take plenty of rest now, for there he lies stone dead." Sure enough he was dead, and Mike's bare feet must now beat a long road. The veldtcornet took his saddle and so forth, and brave little Mike smiled and went on his way, and when he reached camp the veldtcornet gave him a present of a good horse.
I have forgotten the name of the captain who was in charge of "Lady Roberts" and who was captured with her, but remember that he was brokenhearted, felt disgraced and was disgusted generally because such a small force had attacked and taken those forts, the guns and so many prisoners. He was a terrible Englishman, and the sight of the Irish boys made him wild. He could not understand why an Irishman would fight against the Queen and her forces. Had he asked any of those Irish boys he would have had their reasons in a very few sharp words.
In the Vryheid district near the Natal border, General Chris. Botha, a most lovable man, was firing away at the English, and putting them into shivers and doing good execution as well, yet Lord Roberts had declared that the war was over. In the Free State General De Wet was again in great trouble, for he was completely surrounded and it was impossible for him to escape, for Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener had said so.
All England was ablaze with joy. The people of London were literally wild, so rejoiced were they, but when next day they learned that the wily De Wet had departed and taken their two guns with him, and several prisoners, a heavy gloom seemed to settle over that city. I will, for a change, go into the details, to a small extent, to show the difference between the British and the Boer officers. De Wet had his laager among some small kopjes where he put up a dozen or so tents. The English could just see the tops of the tents and knew that the dangerous De Wet was in one of them. They completely surrounded those tents and at daylight the following morning they were to make a determined attack and take not only those tents but all their occupants. General De Wet saw the English and determined they might have the tents, but that they would not get the occupants. When night came, he left his tents standing, made a sly march and passed between the English commands. When daylight came he was in their rear, patiently watching for them to attack his abandoned tents. He was not disappointed, for they opened up all their cannon on those poor, unoffending tents, and kept up a merciless fire for hours before they resolved to go and accept General De Wet's surrender. When the cannon ceased to roar, all the English lines advanced and when they were well away General De Wet made a rear attack on the cannon. The English were at once convinced that General De Wet was in front of them and that some strong Boer commando was in the rear of them, and possibly that terrible man, General George Brand, was in command of them. They became utterly demoralized, hustled to escape and did escape, but De Wet captured two of their guns and rode off, satisfied with losing a few old empty tents, With all their thousands the English were always outwitted by General De Wet who generally enjoyed a signal success. In anticipation, the English people would become overjoyed by the glowing reports of the English generals describing the little pen into which they had driven and confined General De Wet and his men and from which it was impossible for him to escape. But when the following day they learned that General De Wet had not only escaped but taken some prisoners with him, they would sneak home, remain quiet and anxiously await more glowing reports from the English generals. Isn't this a sure sign of degeneracy ? Well I think so.
Now I will leave the Free State and stop in Cape Colony for a moment. Of course, all was peaceful there and the people were loyal British subjects, for the London Times said so. But Lord Kitchener felt that a strong British force in those parts might induce the people to be more loyal, and accordingly he kept one there. General Kritzinger with 600 or 600 men showed himself on the Boer side and at once made it very uncomfortable for the English in loyal Cape Colony. The war was over, because Lord Roberts had said so, yet here was hard fighting in Cape Colony as well as in the Free State and the Transvaal.
Now I will go into the Rustenburg district and see to what a mass of pulp the English have crushed General de la Rey and his patriots. The English had a strong force in the town of Rustenburg, and of course they must be fed, and to feed them long convoys heavily guarded were necessary. General de la Rey never denied food to the hungry in his life, but on this occasion, when a long convoy surrounded with numerous Tommies was slowly moving towards Rustenburg to feed the hungry, he could not resist the temptation of making an attack, for his own men might be hungry in a week or so. The result was that the convoy was taken, many Tommies buried on the roadside, and several of them taken prisoners, only to be disarmed and set free again. In the middle of the month General Clements, in conjunction with other generals and then* commands, planned to surround and take hi this old farmer, de la Rey. They planned well and their intentions were good enough, but the old farmer did not exactly like the idea and acted accordingly.
At the base of the Magaliesburg Mountains but a few miles from Hecpoort there are a long line of kopjes excellently situated for defensive work. The place is known by the Boers as Nooitgedacht, " never thought of, " but I am sure that the Boers will never forget, and that General Clements will ever remember it.
General de la Rey realized that it was a very strong position and concluded to take it for his own use. He had an exceedingly strong and capable brother officer with him, in young General Beyers, who commanded the Waterburg commando. I do not believe that there was a better fighting general in the field than this brave and patriotic Beyers, and like those great generals, Celliers and Kemp, he was always ready for daring work. The English had planned to surround and take General de la Rey, but this Commandant-General of Western Transvaal resolved to take in the English. So he told General Beyers to charge them from one side and he would charge them from the other. Of course, General Clements* force was much stronger than the combined forces of General de la Rey and General Beyers, but that made no difference so far as either de la Rey or Beyers was concerned.
About the middle of December, hi the early morning, General Beyers, with his 350 men, charged over a half mile of open ground and came into close fighting quarters with Clements' force. Kopje after kopje was taken, and at times the Boers and English were within two yards of each other, yet the former continued to kill and drive till they completely routed the whole force and killed and captured nearly 800 men. The Boers did not know where Clements' cannon were, or they would have captured them, too. General Beyers' attack was a little previous, because General de la Rey had not had time enough to reach the charging point before Beyers had finished his work. Clements and his whole command, together with his cannon, would have been captured without doubt, had General Beyers delayed his charge for twenty minutes. But it was dark and very difficult for two forces to work in perfect unison. At any rate General de la Rey had the position he wished, and General Clements was in rapid retreat.
All this took place in the middle of December, yet the war was over, for Lord Roberts, the Mighty, the High, the Great Financier and Politician, had so declared nearly four months previously, and Conan Doyle had countersigned his declaration.
Before the end of December and the end of the year 1900, many Free Staters with General George Brand and General Hertzog, both able and determined officers, had crossed into the Colony, and other forces had entered Griqualand West, where some convoys were taken. So there was daily fighting in Cape Colony, the Free State and the Transvaal, and the Boers were successful in all the main engagements, this, too, in the face of the fact that the war was declared at an end both by Lord Roberts and Conan Doyle.