THE ADJUTANT’S NOTE-BOOK Captain and Adjutant Taylor contributes the following notes and suggestions for consideration: There were a certain number of points which struck me very forcibly during the campaign, and I should like to give them for what they are worth. There may be certain conditions to be considered, the importance of which outweighs all others, so that the following notes must be regarded only as an attempt to carry out the duty which every man owes to his profession, by showing things in the light in which he saw them. Higher authorities, busy about big affairs, fail sometimes to notice the important details with which juniors are brought in daily contact. Spare Horses.—The corps started from India with one horse per man and the necessary complement of transport animals. There were a few casualties on the journey, which were replaced at Cape Town, and the corps began work in good condition, but with no spare animals. The supposition apparently is that men fall out just as fast as the horses. This did not prove correct in South Africa, and it is hard to believe that it would be so elsewhere provided the work required was of an active mounted kind. Therefore true economy would seem to dictate the provision of spare horses. Very soon with us a few horses got slight sore backs, but as every mounted man available was required it was found impossible to ease these horses; the inevitable result being that after a few days they were unfit for work. Consequently a similar number of men had to be taken from the fighting strength and their saddles put into the carts. As the work continued, more horses gave out, and more loads were put into the carts. Hence, while the transport animals grew weaker their loads grew heavier. To take figures. The nominal strength of the mounted portion of the corps was 250 men; actually the largest number we ever had in action was 185. The average in the fighting line was under 150; of the remainder, fifty were short on account of sickness and casualties, and fifty on account of horses short. Had we had fifty spare horses, every available man could have been mounted. As a matter of fact, thirty spare horses would probably have sufficed, as, on the principle of ‘a stitch in time,’ the timely ‘easing’ of trivial cases—such as a slight sore back or temporary indisposition—would have saved many a horse’s usefulness or life. The further you go, the more necessary such reliefs become. The exact number of spare horses depends upon the class of work required. To my mind, this is one of the lessons we should learn from the Boers, who generally had two horses per man, and often five. These spare horses can conveniently march with the veterinary hospital and be taken care of by a small ‘native’ staff. Working on this principle, Lumsden’s Horse kept every man mounted during two months’ ceaseless trek, and the horses were practically all fit and well at the end of it. On the other system each man used up seven horses in as many months. To put it in brief. A corps of 250 men and 250 horses, with their baggage, would, at the end of a week’s hard marching and fighting, be less efficient than a corps of 200 men with 250 horses, in that they would have no more mounted men in the field, while their transport would have to carry food and kit for the extra fifty men, in addition to the fifty saddles of the dismounted men, weighing some five stones each, and also probably the fifty dismounted men themselves. The same principles affect the question of the number of baggage animals. Method of Carrying Ammunition.—Our equipment for ammunition to be carried by the man took the shape of a belt with two cross braces. On the former were leather pouches to hold packets of cartridges, and on the latter bandolier attachments to take single cartridges. The disadvantages were many. (1) It necessitated the man carrying a heavy weight constantly on his body or else hiding packets of ammunition in his holsters, whence they were difficult to extract and where he often left them in the hurry of a dismount. (2) The pouches were a great discomfort to the men when lying down to snatch much-needed rest in the many short intervals at their disposal. (3) The whole weight of the ammunition came on to the saddle when the man was mounted, and went some way towards causing sore backs. (4) Marching on foot with this load of ammunition was so irksome that it soon tired the soldier and made him urge and take every possible excuse for remaining mounted. The proposed remedy is to give every man two bandoliers holding fifty rounds each and a bayonet-belt to take fifty rounds. The bandoliers to be habitually buckled round the horse’s neck, like collars. When going into action the man can transfer one or both bandoliers to his own shoulders even without dismounting. Should he have under-estimated the amount of ammunition required, and have left one or both of these bandoliers on his horse, they can be sent for and found with no difficulty, the distribution being also very simple. Taking the weight of this ammunition off the saddle helps to save sore back. The man will walk unencumbered, and consequently will walk more readily, and can do so for longer distances, besides being in a better state for duties when he gets to camp. On a similar principle the rifle should not be carried by the soldier when marching dismounted, as it is better to keep his weight, say eleven stone, off the horse’s back as long as possible, and it will be longer if you put the rifle-weight, seven pounds, on to the horse and not on to the man. Spare Ammunition.—Anything in excess of this 150 rounds per man should be, and was, carried on a led mule or horse, who could keep up with the mounted men. Picketing Gear caused us much trouble, as every kind of ground entailed a different stamp of peg—e.g., a small iron peg did not hold in sandy soil, wooden ones broke in rocky ground, while the bundle of rope and pegs was an extra weight on the horse, and caused the saddle to roll besides making the man less handy at getting on and off his horse. The remedy was to have no heel-ropes or pegs carried on the saddle horse, and to substitute three big iron pegs with fifty yards of ‘line rope’ and a heavy mallet to every fifty men, carried on a pack-animal with the ammunition mules. On arrival in camp these pegs were driven in, the line rope stretched between them, and the horses tied to each side of it by their head-ropes: heel-ropes were not found necessary. This worked perfectly except on detached duties, when perhaps ten men were separated for some ‘post,’ when they had to ‘ring’ their horses—i.e., tie them together by their head-ropes in a circle, heads inwards. They are unable to lie down in comfort, which is of course a weak point, but it does not often happen. Marching.—When the object to be attained was to cover as much ground as possible it was found best to trot long stages, with walking intervals between, when the men were made to dismount and lead. The man should never be on his horse except when going faster than a walk. It was found better to trot a good deal than to walk and lead even, because the time saved by the faster pace gave the men and horses time for an appreciable rest and for food while they were ‘off-saddled,’ which should always be done when the enemy’s movements in any way admit of it. Shoeing.—Each horse, in marching order, is supposed to carry one complete set of shoes. If every man were trained to see constantly that his horse’s shoes were on firm, a shoe ought seldom to be lost. If a farrier is present, and the man has the necessary nails, a doubtful or loose nail can be drawn and replaced, hence we made the rule that the men should not carry spare shoes, but should carry nails, and we had the farriers with us. Occasionally a horse lost a shoe when on detached duty, but only then; and, after all, if the rider is careful, no serious damage should result. In any case, it is not worth while for every horse to carry a complete set of shoes always, on the chance of one horse requiring one shoe occasionally. The Usefulness of Followers may be gathered to a certain extent from the fact that none of the officers had chargers killed by anything but bullets. Every officer had an Indian syce, and when a horse had had a hard time it was found that one day marching with the syce restored him. The follower has nothing to think about except to feed the horse when he can, and it is wonderful what good one hour in a field of green wheat or on a good bit of grass does for a tired and underfed animal; besides, the follower often chances on a bundle or two of oat-straw or some such luxury, and in any case the horse has plenty of time for grazing during the delays of the march. The men latterly employed Kaffir boys to a considerable extent, paying them wages out of their own pockets. These Kaffirs received no rations, living on their masters’ leavings and occasional steaks out of dead horses. Taking all considerations together, it would appear to be a saving to use the soldier as much as possible for fighting purposes only, and to use native followers for all work that does not entail fighting. Cooks and syces, even in small numbers, would to a great extent ease the fighting man of arduous labour which the follower could do just as well. We should have fewer cases of sickness from want of rest and lack of time to cook properly if a few native cooks accompanied each regiment. And a few syces might save the lives of many horses that have to be neglected by the men when, after a long march and perhaps a fight, they are ordered out on picket directly they arrive in camp. The native is cheaper to feed and more docile to manage, not minding things which Tommy hates—such as cutting grass, for instance. His food is simple, and he can eat it very comfortably going along the road, so that when he gets into camp he is quite fit to go to work. I was told by an officer of the Indian Transport train, who was with General Buller’s force in Natal, that he had taken his corps with his native followers right through to Belfast, and landed his animals there without a single casualty, and not only well, but fat. He attributed it solely to the fact that the servants understood their work and would unload without a murmur a dozen times a day, and cut a heap of grass for every animal when they got to camp. Why not employ the cheaper labourer, and save the dearer for work that suits him better and which the follower cannot do? The answer, I am aware, is that an armed transport man can help to defend the convoy. This is of course true to a limited extent. Our transport men never had a chance of firing a shot, and I think few had. All the ox-waggons and mule-waggons were driven by Kaffirs, on the same grounds as advocated, so why not apply the reasoning to other cases? The argument in favour of the armed transport reminds one of the sportsman who goes out armed with a gun, rifle, and pig-spear, ready for all emergencies, but never has the right weapon in his hand when the game springs up. The spare horse-shoes are another case of the same thing, and there are many others. It is impossible to provide for every contingency. Rations.—In a general way the men’s rations were very good, but one or two improvements suggest themselves. First, everyone who has tried it knows that when spirits are not available the body acquires a great craving for sugar, which is no doubt recognised, and hence the jam issue. Chocolate is cheap, by which I mean light to carry, and is enormously appreciated; but more important than anything appear to be the tea, coffee, or cocoa rations, because, in a great measure, on the plentifulness of these depends the amount or otherwise of many diseases, notably enteric. No man will boil water and let it cool simply because he knows it’s a healthy thing to do, but he will boil it to have a good drink of hot tea. If you give him enough, he will have his drink before he goes to bed, another in the morning, and he will also fill his water-bottle with it. Half an ounce per man will accomplish this. I believe the amount allowed per man in South Africa was ⅟16 oz. By the time this had been distributed in the dark, the ration became so small that half-a-dozen men used to toss for the lot, in the hope that one at least would get a good drink. Tea, moreover, is very light. An ox-waggon load is 4,000 lbs., which is 128,000 rations of ½ oz. each; which means that 4,000 men could be given ½ oz. of tea daily for a month, at the cost of one ox-waggon added to the convoy. On our trek from Machadodorp to Pretoria, we carried supplies for about 4,000 men for about a month, and the convoy was many miles long, and I do not think that one ox-waggon added thereto would have given any trouble. Firing off Horseback.—The value of this practice on occasions is another of the lessons we might learn from the Boers. I do not pretend that the shooting is accurate, yet it has a great moral advantage in certain circumstances. Imagine yourself on a big rolling veldt doing rearguard. The slopes are easy, and the ridges about 1,000 yards from crest to crest. You hold one and the enemy the next. In order to keep your horses out of fire they must be 200 yards or so away. All is well till you begin to retire, but on rising you at once become visible to the Boer, who first of all shoots at you, and then follows you up at a gallop to have a shot at you before you can gain the next ridge. You retire in a hurry, run the risk of being shot, and have the demoralising feeling that the enemy is gaining rapidly on you and will ‘get at you’ before you gain the next ridge. But leave near the ridge a few mounted men, place them back so far that while they can see the Boer’s ridge, the enemy can only possibly see their heads and shoulders, and order your dismounted men to retire, crawling at first, then stooping, and finally rising. They do this leisurely, as they can see the mounted sentinels watching and they are reassured. These sentinels have no fear, for they can at any time retire at a gallop, while the enemy, hearing the firing, do not like advancing on an unknown number. During the march from Machadodorp to Pretoria, this practice enabled us to do in perfect comfort a rearguard duty which was considered by all other corps very ‘nasty.’ Suggestions with regard to raising Mounted Volunteer Corps in the future.—Besides the actual experiences of the fighting in South Africa, there were one or two points in connection with the raising of the corps itself, which came to my special notice in the course of my duties as Adjutant and Quartermaster, the knowledge of which would, I think, facilitate matters in the event of anyone raising another Volunteer corps in India for active service. In my opinion the most important point of all is to make certain that secrecy is maintained. Before any steps are taken for enrolling men, the Adjutant and other officers from the Regular Army should be selected and apportioned their work in connection with the raising of the corps. The ‘Regular’ N.C.O.s should be chosen, and the official scheme drawn up. The first duty falls on the ‘office,’ and it should be properly organised in every detail. Three or four rooms, Quartermaster’s store accommodation, a shorthand writer, at least three or four competent clerks, as well as mounted orderlies, are necessary. A camp pitched complete in every detail should be ready to receive the men, especial attention being paid to the provision of a temporary mess for the men as well as ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ canteens, and of a native food-shop for followers. This can all be done ‘confidentially.’ When the arrangements are complete, the intention to raise the corps and the terms may be made public. If the fact of the raising of the corps had not leaked out, Government would of course have made all the above suggested arrangements, and things would have gone smoothly from the outset. As it was, every Government official assisted Colonel Lumsden to his utmost power. As a sample of this I may mention that, at their own request, the one squadron of the 14th Bengal Lancers at Alipur supplied eight mounted orderlies daily for six weeks, rendering invaluable assistance in carrying letters. This same squadron marked out the camp for us, and lent their bunniahs’ (grain-sellers’) shops for the use of the swarm of servants who came in attendance on the Volunteers. Another difficulty which it would be good to avoid, if possible, was that under existing regulations it was found to be impossible to attest the men until the day before embarkation, so that for some weeks they were in camp and being trained without being under military law. Their good feeling alone preserved discipline. Regulars.—A certain number of men who were specialists in various lines, such as saddlers, farriers, signallers, and shoeing-smiths, together with a sprinkling of non-commissioned officers, were lent to the corps from the Regular Army, and they were of the greatest use to us. It is essential that the selection of these be made with great care. There is little doubt that the gentleman Volunteer is not always easy to get on with, so that the Regular should be a man of character and tact. When called upon for men, Commanding Officers send fully qualified men, but have a tendency to ‘give a man a chance’ in novel circumstances. Unless a Regular is a tactful, good fellow, he is unlikely to be of much use with Volunteers. Selection of Horses.—As far as we could learn from our experience in South Africa, the three main points in the selection of a horse are: (1) hardiness, (2) true action, (3) ‘good doing’; while for convenience in mounting and dismounting he should not be over fifteen hands high. Comparative slowness, light legs, and slight unsteadiness do not seem to matter, but he must be hardy, he must be clear of any suspicion whatever of brushing, and he must be the sort likely to ‘live on sticks and stones.’ The work is all very slow, but it is continuous. There were practically no cases of lameness from sprains, or indeed of anything except ‘brushing,’ and after a month’s work, the horse which could go the furthest and fastest was the one that kept the best condition. One of the horses that did the best work in the corps was a little Boer pony of Private Graham’s, which was only about twelve hands high. As transport animals, our little ‘Bhootia’ ponies did most excellently, and were better than mules, in that while they were quite as hardy, they were heavier and more game. Shipping Horses.—At Calcutta the quays are only a few feet above the water-level, and as the horses all have to be put on the upper and main decks, the custom is to ‘sling’ them on board by means of cranes and tackle attached to belly-bands. I saw a whole ship being laden with horses in this way. The operation took one entire day and cost five rupees per horse. One horse at least was dropped and had to be destroyed, a large proportion suffered injuries, and all were terrified. On meeting the officer in charge afterwards, I learnt that hardly any of the horses would feed at all for a day at least. For us the authorities erected a zigzag gangway by the aid of which 200 horses were put on board without accident in one hour and a half. Moreover, the gangway could not have cost 100l. Communication gangways between the decks were also fitted up, thus enabling us to transfer horses from one deck to another, and these proved very valuable in dealing with sick cases during the voyage. Horse Standings.—Once on the ship each horse had a stall in a row, each stall being just big enough for a horse to stand in, and surrounded by a four-foot rail. On the floor-boards were fixed four strong battens, two inches square in cross section, at intervals of eighteen inches. The horse’s fore feet fell naturally on to the first batten and his hind feet on to the last. He was thus forced to stand always in a constrained position. For my own horses I had the battens otherwise distributed, putting one six inches from either end and one in the middle. The fore feet came naturally behind the first batten and the hind feet before the rear one, while the middle one did not interfere with the horse’s position, and was only used by the horse when necessitated by bad weather. It was, I think, a great improvement. This was not my idea, but was what the Australian horse ‘shippers’ recommend and use. Shoes.—The orders in the Service are that all horses go on board shod, which is contrary to the custom of the big Australian shipping firms, who say that shod horses slip up when it is rough. We had no rough weather, and so could not prove this, but owing to the shoe keeping the foot off the constantly damp boards, the feet of our horses were, on arrival, in infinitely better condition than those of the horses brought over by Australian ‘shippers’ to India. Exercising Horses on Board Ship.—This is, I learn, never done, but we gave the idea a trial, and it turned out to be quite practicable. Our ship was a very small one, and we had some difficulty about space for exercise ground. However, we found three places in different parts of the ship where we could get a small circle. Matting was put down, to prevent slipping, and it was found that on each of these ten horses could be led at a time, one behind the other. In this manner we managed to give every horse half an hour a day of walking exercise. While these ten horses were out, the next ten had twice as much room to stand in, which enabled the men to give them half-an-hour’s grooming. It was very noticeable how the legs ‘fined’ with the exercise, and it must have been a great relief to the horse. Our horses landed in very good condition, and, except for being soft, they were fit to go to work at once. It is obviously only possible to exercise horses like this when you have a large number of hands as we had.