THE death of General Symons, or rather the mortal wound he received, and the total disablement of nearly all his staff, left things in a very disorganised condition at the close of the battle.
In consequence the taking of Talana Hill by our Infantry was not followed up by the pursuit and capture of a considerable body of the enemy as it might have been. They left the hill, Lucas Meyer's men, at about 12.30 p.m., and presented a large target to our Artillery, who were coming up by the main road, but, for some reason or other, the guns, on reaching the summit of the hill, did not open fire, Colonel Pickwoad, who commanded them, respecting, apparently in too charitable a manner, a flag of truce which, accompanied by many Boer ambulances, was sent out from the range beyond Talana. This was undoubtedly a ruse on the part of the Boers, and one we were not quite up to at that early period of the campaign. However, it answered its purpose, and the Boers retreated unmolested, slowly in knots of twenties and hundreds, retiring out of our sight towards the drifts on the Buffalo across which they had advanced, no doubt in anticipation of an easy victory, early in the night of the preceding day.
It is needless to explain the reason they were allowed to do so by our Cavalry, after reading the account of what the 18th Hussars and the Mounted Infantry they had with them did during the whole of that day.
The Infantry got back to camp about 3 p.m., and arrangements were at once made for burying their dead, the 60th Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers being the heaviest losers, though the Dublin Fusiliers had suffered pretty severely too. General Symons and nearly all his staff having been either killed or wounded, we were left with General Yule in chief command; Major Murray, of the Intelligence Department; Lieut. Murray, A.D.C. to General Symons; Captain Vallencey, Provost Marshal, and Lieut. Kenrick, Signalling Officer. As none of these officers had had any experience of the mixed troops now left under General Yule's command, it was nearly impossible to pick up the strings and work the machine at the point General Symons had left off at.
October 21st.—Patrols and piquets were sent out nearly as usual during the night of October 20th, additional ones being sent to our rear, Rhodes Colliery and the south side of Dundee town being the positions these latter took up. The night passed off quietly, and in the morning patrols from the 18th Hussars were sent off down the Newcastle road, round the east side of Impati Mountain, and to other places as well, besides parties to the battlefield of yesterday to continue burying the dead. About n a.m. information was sent in from Lieut. Thackwell, who was out with a patrol of the 18th Hussars on the east side of Impati Mountain, that the Boers were bringing five guns up the northern slopes of the hill, and later further information was sent in by Major Marling, who was out with his squadron in the Newcastle direction, that men from General Joubert's commandos were detraining a big gun at Hatting Spruit.
General Yule decided to move the camp from the ridge it was on to another undulating ridge south of the railway, just on the west side of Rhodes' Colliery. We commenced to do this about 2 p.m. in the afternoon, the Infantry and Artillery moving across the railway, together with all the transport. The Cavalry and Mounted Infantry were still out, most of them, under Major Knox's command, having gone along the Newcastle road in support of the squadron which had been sent out earlier in the day. Rain came on with great violence at about 3 p.m. and delayed matters in camp for a while, but camping grounds and lines of entrenchments were, however, marked out as rapidly as possible; still, before either could be completed the Boers had got one of their big guns on the slopes of Impati, near where the Newcastle road crosses the spur of the hill.
It had evidently not been contemplated that the new camping ground would be within range of Impati, but it easily was. The Boers opened fire with two heavy guns about 3.30 p.m., and kept it up till dark, causing a great deal of confusion among our troops, who were compelled to move camp a second time, the one first chosen having proved to be absolutely untenable. To add to our confusion night was coming on apace, the weather was unfavourable, our own guns were unable to reply as they were outranged, and the hastily improvised staff was quite incapable of competing with the sudden emergencies which fate had thrust upon it.
As can be seen from the description of the country around Dundee, previously given, the Biggarsberg range crops up on the southward at no great distance from the town, and the undulating country commences to change to that of a more hilly nature some distance away from the range itself. Towards this broken country General Yule was compelled to look for a more suitable spot to fix his camp in, the long rolling ridges he was now on giving no cover to his troops from the elevated position near Impati Mountain, where the Boers had brought their runs to. About 2,000 yards southeast of Rhodes' Colliery there was a farm belonging to a man called Tom Roone, with a rough kopje on the south-east of it, and many more hills and dongas on the Biggarsberg side of the farm. There was plenty of cover here both from view and fire, and just before sunset choice was made of this spot for the Glencoe Field Force to occupy as soon as it possibly could. The regiments were very much scattered at nightfall, as the new camp they were first to occupy had been only partially laid out, and the guns, with half a battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Dublin Fusiliers, had been disposed in front of the camp to defend it whilst the other troops and baggage were moving across. Whilst this was taking place the Boer gun opened fire, and though at first it did no damage, still it was evident that the position was a bad one, and the decision for moving further to the southward had to be come to, and fresh orders issued for the move. These were arranged, but the communication of them to the different regiments was a more difficult matter, and it was found impossible to move the force to the second camp selected till the morning. The transport, both regimental and A.S.C., a very large mass of baggage for so small a force, was sent to the cover of the kopje near the freshly selected camp with a battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers as escort, to hold hill during the night The remaining regiments were ordered to proceed to the new camp at an hour before daybreak. The guns and their escort of the Dublin Fusiliers, and half-battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers, were to go there from their position in front of the camp first fixed on, the 60th Rifles from where they had formed up in quarter column under protection of some ground dose to Rhodes Colliery, awaiting orders since the commencement of the change of plans, and the whole of the Leicester Regiment from the line of branch railway which ran to Rhodes' Colliery, and which they held during the night.
The Cavalry were not back in camp, or rather at Rhodes' Colliery, till dark on the night of the 21st, when they returned from their reconnaissance in the Hatting Spruit direction, in close touch with the Boer advance guard, now rapidly advancing on Impati Mountain. No orders were issued to them on that night, and they had to select their own spot for a bivouac; in the morning they were directed to patrol the country in the immediate vicinity of the new position our troops had taken up, and also to hold some ridges which lay on the south side of this position, and which it was necessary to occupy for the safety of the new camp.
We all spent a most uncomfortable night; no one knew for certain what was required for the morrow, or whether we had any plan of campaign good enough to frustrate the enveloping tactics the Boers were using against us with such success. We had practically abandoned to the mercy of the enemy some six weeks' supplies, all our tents, kits, a considerable quantity of ammunition and our hospitals, in fact our whole camp, with the exception of what little we could carry on our horses and persons, and what our regimental and supply wagons could bring away. We had retired from one position to another, and still we were in range of those guns which had so assiduously followed us up since half-past three o'clock in the afternoon, and which no doubt would recommence their harassing tactics at daybreak.
The inhabitants of Dundee were getting alarmed, and several came to us during the night for protection, thinking that we were leaving them to their fate, and altogether a feeling of uncertainty, and perhaps a little despondency as to future events, caused most of us to think that we were not altogether in an enviable position. All had had a long day, however, and, in spite of the discomforts of the night, slept soundly enough where they were, the Infantry on the ground they were occupying at nightfall, and the Cavalry alongside their horses, under the kopje by T. Roone's farm.
October 22nd.—Before dawn on the 22nd all regiments commenced to move up towards the farm, and as soon as light availed they were placed along the ridge in position, the 60th Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers, and Leicestershires on the ridge above the farm, and the Dublins in reserve; the 18th Hussars were sent out in the direction of Glencoe Pass, and the Mounted Infantry towards Helpmakaar.
By daylight it was seen that the new position we had taken up was commanded by many points on the south side, especially by the hills adjacent to Indumeni Mountain, and also that the water supply was a poor one. A conference of commanding officers of regiments was, in consequence, called at about 6 a.m., and after a short discussion Colonel Carleton, of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and his brother, Col. Carleton, of the Leicestershire Regiment, were requested by General Yule to draw up a scheme for the day. They were both in favour of an immediate retreat on Ladysmith, and their arguments in support of this were, briefly, that the British forces in Natal were too few to be split up and encounter with success the large forces the South African Republics were pouring into the country, that gun ammunition was running very short, there only being sufficient for one more fight, that Ladysmith could not send us reinforcements, and that Dundee was not tactically capable of with-standing a siege. These were weighty arguments in favour of a retreat, and they carried the day, for truly a retreat seemed the only possible course to pursue. However, just as the orders had been made out for an immediate retirement on Ladysmith, a telegram was received, via Helpmakaar (the direct line had been cut for the last two or three days), to say that the Ladysmith garrison had attacked and defeated a force of the enemy, who had taken up a position close to Elandslaagte Station, and had captured a good many of them and two of their guns. On receipt of this news the orders for our retreat on Ladysmith were not given out, and other dispositions for the day were made.
A part of our force, two batteries of Artillery, the 6oth Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the 18th Hussars, were ordered to proceed at once to the head of Glencoe Pass to cut off any fugitives passing up that way to join the main Boer army. The troops set off at once in compliance with this idea, and on nearing the head of the pass the right of our column came under fire of the enemy's guns on Impati Mountain, to which again we could not reply, as the distance was too great, and the unsuitability of the ground prevented a nearer approach. The Boers, too, on seeing our apparent intention of seizing the head of Glencoe Pass, despatched guns and an escort along the ridge on the west side of the railway to a hill directly commanding the exit from the pass, the one we used to hold with a company during the first period of our stay at Dundee.
The 18th Hussars, together with one battery of Field Artillery and the remainder of the Mounted Infantry, were sent in advance, under the command of Major Knox, to cover the approach of our troops to Glencoe Station. Major Laming's Squadron " C " was in advance, and the account of his movements is given below. The mounted troops were unable to seize the head of the pass, for they were forestalled by the enemy as previously stated, and in consequence they conformed to General Yule's change of plan, and acted as rearguard to the force on its retirement to camp.
Report of the movements of No. 4 Troop, " C" Squadron, 18th Hussars, on 22nd and 23rd October, 1899.
'' From Officer Commanding ' C ' Squadron 18th Hussars to the Officer Commanding 18th Hussars :—
" On October 22nd, 1899, I was ordered to proceed with my squadron to Glencoe Pass, together with a battery of Field Artillery, for the purpose of shelling and pursuing any fugitive Boers who might be escaping that way after the battle of Elandslaagte.
" No. 4 Troop of my squadron, under command of Acting Sergeant-Major, Sergeant Baldry, formed my advance guard. On arriving at the head of the pass the guns and main body changed direction, while the advance guard turned down the pass. Sergeant Baldry states that he proceeded some way down the road before he became aware of the change of direction of the main body. He then attempted to return, but the enemy had appeared in force on the west heights at the head of the pass. Finding he could not return this way, he moved again down the pass and reached Waschbank, at its southern entrance, only to find that the lower ground was also in possession of considerable numbers of the enemy. He again turned back into the pass with the intention of regaining the Dundee camp under cover of dark, but the enemy had by this time got complete possession of the higher outlet, and had advanced some way down the pass itself. He came across them some two miles from the summit, whereupon they put up a white flag, of which he took no notice, but finding both exits of the pass blocked, he wheeled to his right and turned up a valley, which runs into the pass from the westward, at the point he had reached. This valley was, he soon found, also occupied by Boers, and he came under fire both from these fresh Boers and from those who had put up a white flag just before. However, by striking up the hill sides diagonally, he succeeded in crossing the heights and getting clear of the hills just before dark, pushed on and reached Sunday's River, near where the Dundee-Ladysmith road crosses it, that night and bivouacked there. Before daylight on the 23rd he marched to Elandslaagte, where he obtained information that there were parties of the enemy still between him and Ladysmith, and that the railway line had been torn up near Modder Spruit. He proceeded along the line with a view to stopping any train coming that way, and when at the level crossing on the Ladysmith side of Modder Spruit the enemy opened fire on him, and at the same time he observed a train coming from Ladysmith towards him. He rode towards the train and stopped it, and the officer in charge of the train took on board two men whose horses were exhausted and one man whose horse was shot at the level crossing. From this point onwards he marched his troop into Ladysmith without further opposition. Sergeant Baldry's casualties were three men and three horses missing. Private Clegg was severely wounded and taken back to Dundee by the enemy, and eventually sent into Ladysmith during the investment. Corporal Padwick was taken prisoner and sent to Pretoria. Private Morgan was with Corporal Padwick's patrol, but managed to evade the enemy; he made his way to a German Mission Station, where he was provided with civilian clothing. Later he was arrested and sent to Pretoria, but released after a few days, having been treated as a civilian. The wounded horse was afterwards recovered and brought into Ladysmith.
" Sergeant Baldry's troop consisted of thirty-one non-commissioned officers and men.
" (Signed) H. T. LAMING, Major.
" 18th Hussars."
In forwarding Sergeant Baldry's name for mention to the Commander-in-Chief, the Commanding Officer, Major Knox, drew attention to the determination and resource shown by this non-commissioned officer in extricating his troop from a most difficult and perilous position. It is evident the enemy considered they had them securely trapped, and that the hoisting of the white flag was to give them an opportunity to surrender. The timely warning the patrol gave to the approaching train no doubt, too, saved it from derailment and capture.
In view of the signal service rendered by Sergeant Baldry, the Commander-in-Chief conferred the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal on this non-commissioned officer.
Corporal Padwick's account of the experiences of No. 4 Troop " C " Squadron on the 22nd October, 1899.
" On Sunday, the 22nd October, we (that is No. 4 Troop, 4 C ' Squadron), under Sergeant Baldry, moved from our camp at Dundee in the direction of Elandslaagte. I don't think any of us knew where we were going to; the extent of our knowledge was that we were the advance troop of the squadron, and had to reconnoitre towards Glencoe. It was raining heavily as we entered Glencoe Pass, and we halted when we had got about three miles down it. Sergeant Baldry then sent me with two men to keep a look out on the right, with orders to rejoin him as soon as the main body came abreast of my post. I waited about twenty minutes, and saw no signs of connecting files or main body, but I did see what I was sure were parties of Boers on the opposite side of the pass, on the very ground I had seen our left flank scouts on a few minutes before. I was about to send the information to Sergeant Baldry, when the latter came back up the road, and I rejoined him, and we proceeded up the pass to join touch with the main body. On nearing the summit of the pass we heard guns firing, and soon found our road blocked, and that we were cut off from our squadron. The only course left us was to make back again down the pass in the hope of reaching Elandslaagte and joining up with any of our troops there, who might have stayed behind after the fight of the day before.
" All went well till we reached Wessels Nek, where I and two men, who had been sent on with me as advanced scouts, found a Boer fugitive in the police hut, and we took him prisoner, and I kept his pony with the intention of riding it to save my own horse, which had hardly been unsaddled for three days, but it proved to be so dreadfully done up that I could hardly get it out of a slow walk 1 I little thought that the slowness of this same pony would eventually land me in Pretoria for over six months as a prisoner of war. I went on nearly to Elandslaagte, where I could see nothing of our own troops; the red cross flag was flying from some buildings, and what appeared to be a burial party was moving about on the battlefield. I learnt from a Kaffir that our men had withdrawn to Ladysmith the previous day, and then I withdrew to rejoin my troop. I met Corporal Randall on the way, and he told me that Sergeant Baldry had determined to try and get up the pass again, and that I was to bring the prisoner along. As the troop was trotting it was impossible for me and the prisoner on his tired pony to keep up, and I soon got left a long way behind. As we neared the centre of the pass, Sergeant Birkett came back to me and said Sergeant Baldry would wait for me at a spruit there was ahead, and I soon came in sight of the troop halted about 11 miles in front. Almost at the same moment I saw a mass of men and what appeared to be guns on the summit of the pass, and they very quickly opened fire on our troop beneath them. I waited, fully expecting the troop to retire back towards me, but they turned straight to the west, through the opening I had been posted on earlier in the day, and with great difficulty, as I heard later, reached Ladysmith on the following day. This left me and another man, Private Clegg, with the prisoner alone in the pass. There was only one thing to do, namely, to let the prisoner go and retire again. The Boers were already between me and the troop, and in a few minutes would have been in the road behind me if I hadn't galloped pretty sharp. We reached the Elandslaagte Collieries at dusk and found the manager there. The latter gave us food and shelter, and we put our horses up for the night. At daybreak we moved off again, intending, if possible, to get to Ladysmith. All went well till we got just past Modder Spruit, where we almost ran into a Boer patrol. We also saw several other parties of Boers across our front We tried in several places to get through, but the Boers seemed to be in front of us everywhere, so at last we gave it up and decided to wait till dark and try and get through Glencoe Pass somehow, hoping, if we were detected, to be able to gallop through in the darkness. We little thought that by this time the Dundee column had left and was then on its way to Ladysmith, and that by going back to Dundee we were going practically into a Boer laager.
" We got within sight of the pass at dusk, and we were passing a Kaffir kraal when two men came out from it They were dressed in khaki with slouch hats, and had no arms. They struck me at first as being Natal Carbiniers, but on coming up closer to them we found that only one of them could speak English, and that they both had Transvaal crests in their hats. We were just drawing our carbines, but before we could do so two shots came from the kraal, but they missed us, though I can't think why, as the range could not have been more than thirty yards. I saw one of these decoy men later on when I was a prisoner, and I asked him how he accounted for the bad shooting. He said that one of the men who fired first had been wounded at Elandslaagte in the arm, and so was unsteady, and that they were also afraid of hitting their own men who were close to us. However, we got clear away, and they did not attempt to follow us. I should think there were ten or twelve of them in the kraal. After we were out of range we came across an old shed, and as it was now dark and raining heavily we decided to rest ourselves and the horses for an hour or two before making our fourth and last attempt to get through. This was the most miserable night I spent during the whole campaign. We had nothing to eat since the morning, and one of us had to hold the horses and look out whilst the other tried to get a little sleep. At last, about n p.m., we started again for the pass; we made a wide detour of the kraal from which we had been fired upon, and shortly commenced entering the pass. We made the horses walk very slowly, and as the road was muddy we made no noise at all, and except for the moon showing through the clouds occasionally, it was quite dark. We went along very well for about two miles, when we evidently disturbed something a little to our right, and although it might only have been cattle grazing, we decided to halt where we were till the moon came out, so that we could see among the bushes and make sure. Presently there was enough light to see a group of ponies grazing, and here and there a saddle with men lying about, evidently all asleep. We decided to move off very slowly as we had come, in the hope of leaving them undisturbed. This we managed to do, and it was a great relief to get away from them without being discovered. The suspense was, however, dreadful, as we did not know at what moment we might run into another post and perhaps be discovered by them first. Soon afterwards we crossed a spruit in about the middle of the pass, and could not avoid making a certain amount of noise doing so, but we got over it all right and moved on, but had not gone more than forty yards before someone shouted in my ear, in Dutch, * Who goes there.' All suspense was now at an end, and there was only one thing to do, so I shouted to Private Clegg to gallop, and at our first stride they opened fire. I could hardly say which of us was hit first, for at the same moment that I felt as if someone had smacked my ear, Clegg fell across my horse's croup, shot through the chest. I could do nothing but go on, as they kept firing up the road. Clegg's horse followed behind mine, which was lucky, for my horse seemed to be going very lame, and I dismounted a little further on, and found that he had been shot in the near fore, and that I had two scratches, one in the thigh and another in the ear, so I mounted Clegg's horse and pushed on at a gallop, which was now necessary, as any other piquets in the pass would certainly be on the alert. However, nothing happened till I reached the top of the pass, when I was fired on from the right. I heard afterwards this was from a post with a gun in position. After passing this post I saw nothing till I arrived at the colliery near Dundee, and as it was breaking day, but still dark, I thought I would wait till it was lighter, and then have a look round to see where our troops were. As it gradually got lighter I could see mounted men moving about our camp, and on closer inspection I saw they were Boers, and no matter which way I looked it was the same. Above Glencoe Station I could see their laager. They were coming down the Newcastle road. They were all over the town of Dundee; in fact they were everywhere. Although no doubt they could see me, they probably took me for one of their own men in the uncertain light, so I turned round with the intention of hiding in the colliery until I could find some way of getting away from them. When about fifty yards from the colliery a party of Boers came from behind it, and although I attempted to get away, they, with their fresh ponies, soon overtook me, formed a circle right round me, and so I was taken prisoner. I had always thought that falling into the hands of Boers meant very harsh treatment, and I was very much surprised when they offered me, first of all, a bottle of whisky and then food, which they had evidently just looted from the town. I was very thankful for the food, having had nothing since the morning before, and after the fatigue and excitement of that last day and night, I appreciated it all the more. Many of these Boers could speak English, and they informed me that our troops had evacuated Dundee, leaving all their guns behind, and that it was only a matter of hours before Lucas Meyer overtook them and captured the lot. They took my horse and put me on a little white Basuto pony, and took me to their laager above Glencoe Station. There I was brought before the commandant, a very big dark man in a velvet jacket, who, when I arrived, was at breakfast on the end of a very comfortable waggon. He offered me some of the beef he was eating and some coffee, and as I sat at the end of the waggon a crowd very soon collected round me, and I appeared to be an object of great curiosity to them. As they began to get a nuisance asking all manner of silly questions, the commandant sent them away, and had me taken over to the ambulance to get my wounds dressed. There I learned that Clegg was very seriously wounded, and the doctor said he did not think he would get over it, but luckily he eventually did. When I got back to the laager, which, by the way, looked very much like an old-fashioned country horse fair at home, I found out that there were a good many men who had fought at Elandslaagte attached to it. One man showed me his rifle, which was cut through the wood and partly into the barrel. He said a lancer had made a cut at him with his sword, and he had saved his life by holding his rifle with both hands above his head. About mid-day I was driven in a Cape cart to Hatting Spruit Station. We passed several laagers on the way, and at each of them we stopped, and I was exhibited for a few minutes. At one they told me that a lot of our men, pointing to the colours in my helmet, had been captured a few days before, and had been sent to Pretoria. When we arrived at Hatting Spruit we found several commandos round the station, and a lot of the Staats Artillery with their guns, awaiting transport to Ladysmith. They then put me into the pantry of the stationmaster's house with a sentry on the door, and later in the day another prisoner, a corporal of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, was put in with me. He had been left behind when our troops evacuated Dundee. We were left till about nine o'clock the next morning, when a Boer, who I afterwards learnt was General Botha, came in to see us, and with him an old gentleman, rather stout, with a long square beard almost white. He was introduced by General Botha as follows :—This is Commandant General Joubert, and he wishes to ask you a few questions, which, as prisoners of war, you are not obliged to answer. Then, turning to me, he asked, ' Do you know if there is any ammunition buried in Dundee? ' I replied ' I don't know.' Again he asked: ' There are two wires running from a tent in Dundee camp; do you know if they are connected with a mine? ' I replied 'I don't know, but they might be.' I knew quite well the wires he meant; they were telegraph wires running from the Brigade Office. After these questions General Joubert said : 'I am sending you to Pretoria, and as long as you give no trouble you will be treated with respect and no one will interfere with you.' After this interview we were marched out to the platform. We had been standing there a few moments, when a train came into the station, and exactly opposite us was a truck with a very large gun on board, which one of our guards informed us was. ' Long Tom.' On the other trucks there was a searchlight and several other guns. Next to the engine of the train was a closed truck, and into this they put us, and as three-parts of it was full of Long Tom shells, we sat on these whilst they conveyed us back to Glencoe again.
We got out of this train at Glencoe and were put into an old room in the stationmaster's house. During the day a civilian was put in with us; he had been taken as a spy because he was riding through Dundee town on a bicycle. As night came on it got very cold and wet, and we found some old dresses in a cupboard, and with these we covered ourselves up, and had just got to sleep when we were awakened by a dreadful noise. We found out it was the stationmaster's piano, supplemented by captured drums and brass instruments, in the hands of not very competent Boer musicians. The next morning a train was made up for Pretoria, and we were put into this in a closed cattle truck with two Boer sentries. Our first stop was Newcastle, and as soon as the truck was opened we had a crowd of burghers round it. They treated us with civility, and were most anxious that we should have the latest news, and, as it was the same thing always between here and Pretoria, I will relate what the latest news was:—' Ladysmith had been taken that morning. They had cut off the water supply at Kimberley, and expected it to fall at any moment, whilst Mafeking would succumb to the first attack.' One of our guards, an old man, was present at Majuba in 1881, and as we passed it he pointed it out, and tried to give us his version of the fight, but his knowledge of English was so slight that we did not understand him very much. About 6 p.m. we arrived at Volkrust and were now in the Transvaal, a country I did not again quit till the end of the war. As the train went no further that night we were marched to the jail to be housed till morning. Arriving there we were put into a large room, in which there were already two civilian prisoners. One of them, a bank clerk, had been arrested as a spy whilst leaving the Transvaal a few days earlier. His bag had been searched at Volkrust, and a photograph of a man in the uniform of the 17th Lancers had been found in it. It was the photograph of a friend of his, but the Boer official said that it was his (the clerk's) photo, and with this he was arrested on suspicion. The other prisoner was a French Jew; he told me that he had for some time been employed in the Transvaal secret service, but lately he had been employed by the English, and that he had been arrested near the border just before war was declared. He said he had been taken out to be shot two days earlier, but they had brought him back again to the jail. He seemed quite confident that though they had threatened to shoot him they were afraid to do so. I was surprised to read in a Standard and Diggers newspaper, a week or two later, a graphic account of the shooting of this very man. It was the 25th of October when I met him, and the paper was dated October 22nd 1 We were awakened the next morning at 3 a.m. and taken to the station at six o'clock by six men of the
Johannesburg police, who were staying in Volkrust on their way down to Ladysmith. We left Volkrust at 6 a.m. and reached Pretoria at about nine at night, having been exhibited on the way to very inquisitive crowds of Boers at all the roadside stations. Their chief questions were the date of General Buller's arrival and the effects of lyddite shells. The corporal of the Fusiliers gave them a most exaggerated description of the effects of the latter, which seemed to amuse the more enlightened amongst them, but evidently impressed the majority, judging by the way they translated it to their friends who did not understand English. We were escorted solemnly through the town of Pretoria by a dozen mounted police to the jail, and lodged that night in a room the Reform prisoners were in in 1896."
But to return to the narrative of the events of October 22nd:—
We were unable to prevent the enemy reaching the head of the pass, as they had a considerably shorter way to get there, and as it was not General Yule's intention to attack the Boers just then, he decided to discontinue his advance towards Glencoe, and to retire again to the farm and ridge he had occupied in the morning.
One regiment, the Leicesters, and a battery of Artillery had remained behind in camp to protect the transport, and wagons were sent early to our old camp under Impati to remove tents and stores, but they could not approach the neighbourhood of the camp even, as the Boers opened a very hot fire from five guns on the top of Impati Mountain and drove them back.
By the time our force, which had been towards Glencoe Junction, arrived back at Roone's farm, the Infantry with it had had a ten mile walk to no purpose, and the gun horses some heavy work pulling the guns and limbers over spruits the rain had made very boggy. The troops rested during the afternoon, it being about midday when they got back to their last night bivouac.
General Yule was uncertain now what course to pursue, but an interview with Colonel Dartnell, in the garden of the farm, again convinced him that a retreat, and a retreat at once, on Ladysmith was the only feasible course, and about 3 p.m. it was decided to retire via the direction of Help makaar. The Glencoe Pass road was practically in the possession of the Boers, and the old road over the Biggarsberg was reported unfit for waggon traffic. The route vid Beith in the direction of Helpmakaar was a circuitous one, but at present it was open, and should it not remain so all the way to Ladysmith, there was always an alternative line of retreat left through Greytown to Maritzburg.
A transference of our force to Talana Hill had been suggested, but it was not considered a good scheme. At the same time the idea was allowed to get abroad, as it was not desirable to let anyone know our real intention.
October 22nd.—It was determined to start our proper march at 9 p.m., and orders were issued about 4 p.m. for all to be ready to move at the former hour. At about 9.30 p.m. the column moved off in the following order:—60th Rifles, Royal Irish Fusiliers, half 18th Hussars, two batteries of Artillery, Regimental Transport, Supply Column, half 18th Hussars, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, ist Leicestershire Regiment. The column was about four miles long, and the march lay past the east side of Dundee town and along the Helpmakaar road by the collieries to Blesboklaagte, a deep ravine nine miles from Dundee, which was reached by the advanced guard at 4.30 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd. The 18th Hussars and what remained of the Mounted Infantry all under command of Major Knox, with Captain the Hon. H. S. Davey as his adjutant, took up their position as day broke to cover the front, flanks, and rear of the column. Before leaving Roone's farm as many wagons as could be collected by the Army Service Corps were sent, under Major Wickham, to the old camp at dusk, to collect what stores they could carry on them, and then to join in with our column on the march from Dundee. They found the old camp quite deserted and everything standing as we had left it, a few Kaffirs only having entered it since our departure, and taken a little loot therefrom. Our field hospitals we had to abandon, and with them nearly all those who had been wounded at Talana Hill on the 20th, including General Symons, who died very shortly afterwards, and Lieutenants Cape and McLachlan of our own regiment.
The Boers placed a good many shells round and about the Field Hospital during the 22nd and on the morning of the 23rd, till they discovered that we had gone, but apparently they did not hit anybody inside.
One of the inmates writes as follows :—
" Our feelings that morning, 23rd October, when we heard of the departure of the column, may be better imagined than described. ' Left,' hopelessly 'left,' is what we felt, and prisoners of war to all intents and purposes as well. The light of subsequent events of course shows that there was no other alternative, but when it came it was a bitter pill to swallow. The Boers, too, were completely surprised, as they had no idea the column had moved off, and at daybreak commenced shelling us again. This, however, was soon put a stop to by one of the medical officers, Captain Milner, R.A.M.C, riding out to them with a flag of truce and explaining that they were only firing on the hospital, and that the British column was away. At first they were very incredulous, but later on, towards afternoon, they came down from the hills and practically took possession of the camp and hospital, helping themselves to everything they wanted and going through all the hospital tents collecting arms and ammunition. Their bearing towards us was, however, most chivalrous; no boasting, no swaggering, in fact they behaved like gentlemen, sharing their loot from the town with some of the men. At 6 p.m. to-day poor General Symons died, his death casting a profound feeling of sorrow over the camp.
" Tuesday, 24th October, found the camp of the column overrun with Boers, who helped themselves to everything, enlivening proceedings by weird blasts on the musical instruments they found and beatings of drums. No news of our ultimate fate, but in the evening Joubert's A.D.C. and the P.M.O. of Joubert's Commando dined with the medical officers in the hospital camp.
V Wednesday morning, 25th October, saw yet more Boers everywhere, and waggons arrived to carry off their loot. In the afternoon Private Clegg, of ' C ' Squadron, was brought in badly wounded, and told us of the dashing exploit of No. 4 Troop, ' C ' Squadron, under Sergeant-Major Baldry.
" Thursday was an uneventful day, but on Friday, 27th October, we were all moved into houses in Dundee by order of Joubert. This was indeed luxury after our camp, which was by now a perfect quagmire. Here we stayed until Friday, 3rd November. Meantime many rumours reached us, all of which we know now were vastly exaggerated. One of them was that Sir George White had been killed, hit by a bullet in the stomach; these rumours and the uncertainty as to our fate did not tend to keep us very cheerful. Our wounds were, however, given a chance of healing somewhat.
'' On 2nd November those who were slightly wounded, and could travel, were ordered to go to Pretoria, and on the next day the remainder, with the exception of those who were too bad to be carried, were put into a train en route for Ladysmith. We were told to be ready to start at about 6 a.m., but it was 4.30 p.m. before we got off, a truly motley crowd, many only having a suit of blue hospital clothes and some Boer blankets. That evening we got as far as Glencoe Junction, and there they kept us the whole night, five of us in a filthy dirty Dutch carriage, myself the only one able to move, all with wounds that required dressing, and nothing to eat. The next day, after much talking and making of plans, we got off, and arrived at Elandslaagte about midday, after a terrible journey. Here we were kept until the arrival of the baggage, which came down in a second train some hours afterwards. Eventually we proceeded on our way, and finally were deposited on the veldt about three miles beyond Elandslaagte Station, where we awaited the arrival of Boer transport, to take us the remainder of the journey into Ladysmith. Before taking us on, however, we were taken to Pepworth's farm, where the Boers had established a hospital, and it was here that Major Kerin, R.A.M.C., said that he would undertake that none of us should fight again during the campaign. Little did he or any of us realise what this would mean; however, we have all since had the bitter experience of being " Sleeping partners of the chase." On our arrival at the Orange Free State junction outside Ladysmith, we were met by a piquet of the Liverpool Regiment, and an application was sent in for our transport, which eventually deposited us all in the various hospitals in the town, in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm. Our joy at being once more amongst our own people was somewhat marred when we heard that next day we were to be sent to Intombi Camp. However, the pleasure of seeing one's brother officers and hearing all the news made partial amends.
" It was 4.30 p.m. on Sunday, 5th November, when we first saw Intombi, and it was then a small hospital camp, having accommodation for about 200 sick and wounded. What it developed into later on may be imagined when, at one time, there were over 2,300 sick and wounded there, and on 8th March, 1900, 650 poor men had been laid in their last resting place in tie cemetery close to the camp, as many as twenty-three being for burial in one morning. These numbers are not complete, because after that date there were many more buried there, bringing the total up to, I believe, nearly 700."
To return to the Glencoe Field Force. The entire evacuation was carried out very quietly, but of necessity very slowly. The road was carefully explored during the afternoon and the surrounding country too. No mention was made to anyone of our destination, and it was generally believed that Talana Hill was the new position we were going to take up; the Dundee townspeople, with a few exceptions, also clung to this idea, and looked towards Talana next morning with the expectancy of seeing us lining the summit of that hill, but on Monday morning, the 23rd, all trace of our column had vanished, and Boers and townspeople alike looked for the Glencoe Field Force in vain.
October 23rd.—No opposition to our march was encountered, and at daybreak part of the 18th Hussars and two batteries crossed Blesboklaagte and took up a position on the far side to cover the crossing of the whole force. The ravine was passed and the column halted for breakfast, at about 9 a.m., for two hours, about a mile on the far side of the spruit, the Infantry thoroughly tired out with their long night march after the work they had to do on the preceding day.
Only a two hour halt was allowed here, as we were still in sight of Impati Mountain, from which the Boers were signalling to us, mistaking us for some of their own people coming up from the Vryheid district. At 11 a.m. we moved on past the Dutch church at Beith to Vlakfontein, at the top of the Mohawala or Van Tonder's Nek pass, on the Ladysmith road, about two miles beyond the church. Here we halted for rest and food
General Yule had sent on messengers in the morning to Helpmakaar to wire the following message to General White at Ladysmith:—" Propose camping at Beith to-day, and march to Sunday's River, Beith-Ladysmith road, to-morrow, starting at 2 a.m."
This plan was altered in regard to the time of departure, for Lieut. Thackwell, with some colonial guides and a troop, having explored during the afternoon the road down the pass, and General Yule being persuaded to start off at 11 p.m., we were all on the march again at that hour, descended the hill by a fairly good road all through the night, and as day broke we debouched on the lower ground which lies under the Biggarsberg on the Ladysmith side.
October 24th.—Very soon after leaving the range in our rear the country became more open, and the baggage was able to close up and move several wagons abreast, thereby lessening the length of our column.
We had intended to take the road on the west side of Spion Kop, or Job's Kop as it is sometimes called, but our guides reported it out of repair, so we took a more easterly one instead. At 9 a.m. we reached Waschbank River, close to where the Imbusi River joins it, crossed it, and halted on the far side, as the baggage animals and Infantry had had enough for the present. Here the Infantry halted all day, taking up a position on the ridge on the left bank of the river till the afternoon. The 18th Hussars and two batteries of Artillery were sent out at about 11 a.m. in the direction of Elandslaagte, heavy firing having been heard somewhere in the neighbourhood of Modder Spruit Station on the Natal railway. This, as we found out later, was the fight at Reitfontein, undertaken by the Ladysmith garrison to withdraw the attention of the Boers from our retrograde movement. Our reconnaissance was productive of no result, as it was found that the fight was a great deal farther off than we had imagined at first, and the mounted troops, after a tiring day, did not rejoin the others at Waschbank River till night was setting in. One of the advanced patrols of the 18th Hussars, under Lieut. Clarke, had lost touch with the main body during the reconnaissance, as the following account will show:—
Account of the doings of a patrol of " C " Squadron, 18th Hussars, on October 24th, 1899.
" My patrol originally consisted of one corporal, three men, and a guide, who was a Natal Carbinier. Our object was to push on to some high ground about three miles beyond the main body, to try and discover a position for the guns to shell any Boers who might be retiring in front of Sir G. White. We discovered no signs of retreating Boers, though we pushed on some way beyond the high ground, and two messages were sent back to that effect. On our return we fell in with another patrol, whose horses were dead beat, and they asked us to reconnoitre towards Glencoe Pass for them. This I did with Corporal Overton and the guide; the other man's horse being beat, I sent him back. We passed through Wessels Nek, which was deserted and looted, and having discovered no signs of the enemy towards Glencoe commenced to withdraw about 3 p.m. Soon after this a terrific storm burst, the rain being so heavy it was impossible to see more than a few yards. Owing to this we lost our way, the guide knowing nothing of the country, and accounting for his ignorance by saying he had only lived ten years' in the neighbourhood. Eventually, at 10 p.m., we again found ourselves at Wessels Nek. We got some mealies for the horses and one tin of condensed milk, the only eatable thing in the place for ourselves. The station being all wired in, we judged it would be safer to sleep out on the veldt, which we did, keeping watch in turn. Three horsemen passed us during the night, but it was impossible to say who they were. At daybreak we made another effort to find the column, but not being successful, I judged it best to strike for Ladysmith. We struck the line at Sundays River, and proceeding along it, passed the battlefield of Elandslaagte, strewn with dead horses, and reached Elandslaagte Station about nine. Here we found a coolie cook, and although the place had been looted and used as a hospital, he managed to find us some cocoa and tinned fish. All the Kaffirs here were unanimous that the Boers had absolutely left the neighbourhood. We now proceeded along the main Newcastle-Lady-smith road, and saw an ambulance going along just in front of us; galloping up, we found that it was a Boer ambulance going to the scene of the battle of the previous day. The driver gave me the first authentic account of our men who had been lost at Talana, but vouchsafed no other information. Pushing on, we reached a spot on the road where the Modder runs under the railway, about six miles from Elandslaagte, when we saw a low kopje about 400 yards in front, which was covered with men. Looking' at them through the glasses I saw they wore slouch hats, on which the guide at once said, ' Oh! they are Carbiniers out to meet the column.' At this moment two mounted men left the kopje and galloped out towards us. As they approached I saw they were Boers. We reined up and looked at one another. Not quite knowing what to make of them, I asked them if they were looking for dead and wounded from the fight. * No,' they said. ' What do you want then ? ' ' Our commandant has sent us to examine your ambulance to see there are no armed men concealed in it, as we were fired on from your ambulances yesterday.' I now saw we had fallen into a hornets nest, and several more men were beginning to gallop up from the kopje. I took the only chance and said ' All right, you can go and examine our ambulance' (the Boer ambulance, which they mistook for ours, was now about 400 yards in rear), and as they galloped off we dashed down into the spruit, crossed the line under the bridge, and galloped for all we were worth. After going some way I turned round, and saw a great discussion evidently in progress round the ambulance. Fortunately no one seemed to think of pursuing us, as our horses were so beat we had to dismount after about a mile. We met no more Boers after this, and eventually reached the line of outposts thrown out by the 19th Hussars some six miles out of Ladysmith."
From now till we reached Ladysmith rain fell nearly incessantly. All through the night of the 24th storm after storm swept over our bivouac and drenched everyone through and through, but go on we must, and at 4 a.m. on the 25th we had to resume our march.
The country now was bush veld, and the road a poor one through mimosa bush and over rocky ground, a good deal intersected by watercourses. At about 10 a.m. we descended a rather deep ravine the Sunday River flows through, crossed it by a good drift, and halted some two miles on the Ladysmith side to allow the baggage to come across. Some of the 18th Hussars, under Major Marling, v.c, went on about three miles in the direction of Ladysmith, but the country was clear of the enemy, and though full of Kaffir kraals and natives, we could gain no information from the latter about the Boers. Half the *' 18th " and some Mounted Infantry, with two batteries and two Infantry Regiments, remained on the north side of Sunday River, the Cavalry patrolling the banks till the baggage had all crossed, which it had done by about 1 p.m., when all the force outspanned and off-saddled at the place the leading troops had reached in the morning, and piquets were put out to guard the camp for the night.
At 4 p.m., however, ' A ' Squadron of the 5th Lancers arrived at our bivouac, Lieutenants Dugdale and Purdey with it, carrying orders from General White that we were to push on if possible to Ladysmith at once. Information also reached us at the time that the Boers had just occupied the camp we were in the night before.
We had to hurriedly collect the transport animals and inspan before night came on, orders being issued at once for the resumption of the march at 6.15 p.m.. At that hour we started off in order of march for the night, the Infantry leading the column, and a few Kaffir scouts, who knew the road, were sent in front of them again. It soon got dark, and at about 8 p.m. a furious storm of thunder and lightning broke right on us, the road itself, a poor one, was hard to find, as there were many tracks through the bush, and we progressed slowly, halting very often for the column to close up. At Vlakplaats the head of the column came in touch with some Natal irregular troops, who were holding the kopjes there, and who had come out from Ladysmith to support us.
By this time the road had become quite a quagmire, and the transport animals were having a very bad time of it indeed, but they behaved magnificently, and only one wagon had to be abandoned in the mire. From Vlakplaats the precautions which we had employed were somewhat relaxed, as a considerable force had come from Ladysmith to Modder Spruit to assist our retreat, and they had piqueted the road, so units were ordered to push on as best they could through the mud and rain to a farm near Modder Spruit.
The advanced guard halted for half an hour at the farm, and arrived at Modder Spruit at 3.30 a.m. on the morning of the 26th, but it was some hours after this before the trans-port and rearguard reached that spot. The torrents of rain everyone had had to put up with, and the mud they had had to plough their way through, made the different regiments scarcely recognisable in the early hours of the morning. However, the weather cleared on the 26th, and after halting at Modder Spruit to collect stragglers and reform regiments, every corps set off as soon as possible for Ladysmith, distant some five miles. The " 18th " arrived there about midday, and proceeded to their old quarters in the Tin camp, some 2½ miles north-west of the town.
The total distance we had covered in our round-about march from Dundee was some seventy miles. We left Dundee at 9.30 p.m. on the 22nd, marched twenty-two miles to Beith with a two hours' halt, halted from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on 23rd, then marched sixteen miles to Waschbank River, halted from 9 a.m. 24th to 4 a.m. 25th, marched twelve miles to Sunday River on 25th, halted from 10 a.m. on the 25th to .6 p.m. same date, then marched fifteen miles to Modder Spruit by 3 a.m. of the 26th, halted till 10 a.m., and arrived at Ladysmith about twelve noon. Roughly we marched the seventy miles in eighty-eight hours, with halts altogether of about forty-eight hours for the head of the column, but very few of the Infantry got as much rest as this, for the column was a long one, and the time required for the rear to catch up was often reckoned by hours. Again on the 24th, at Waschbank River, the troops were out nearly all day, and very few on the 26th reached Modder Spruit before 6 or 7 a.m. The 18th Hussars were practically in the saddle all the march for very nearly four days, and their horses had little or no rest. Food for ourselves and horses was fairly plentiful, but the difficulty was to find time and opportunity to serve it out.
The whole march back had been well planned, and carried out with a dogged persistency which spoke well for the troubled future looming ahead. The last night was indeed a climax to the ordinary exertions which might be called for from a retreating force. Though unmolested by the enemy, the troops found that nature had contrived to bring enough obstacles in their path to glut the most persevering appetite. That pitch-dark toilsome march through mud and mire, with animals and men mixed up in one unsortable mass, with constant halts and dashes to close up the broken column, vivid flashes of lightning and deafening peals of thunder, and with weariness and hunger thrown in, must often come back as a nightmare to the memory of those who have been through it, and who yet, by the will of God, live to tell the tale.
An officer thus shortly relates his experience of the few days' march:—
At night we were ordered to move to Talana. It turned out, however, that our real destination was Ladysmith, but the matter was kept a profound secret. We none of us knew at the time where we really were going to, and in consequence left all our kits in the old camp, to be very shortly in the hands of the Boers. We marched till 7.30 a.m. on the 23rd, and resumed our march at about 10 a.m. a.m. on the 23rd, and resumed our march at about 10 a.m. without molestation, as the Boers did not believe that we had really left Dundee, but thought we were laying an ambush for them. We finished our march at 4 p.m. and bivouacked on the top of Van Tonder's Pass. At 6 p.m. I was sent down the pass with three men to see if it was occupied. It was pitch-dark and you could see nothing, so consequently we had to depend on our ears. I got down within one and a half miles of the bottom (total length of pass about five miles), when I met one of our guides, who told me that the remainder of the pass was open, so I went back and reported it clear to the General. At 9 p.m. the column marched through the pass and arrived at Waschbank River at 10 a.m. next morning. There we halted till about 1 p.m., when we heard heavy firing in the direction of Elandslaagte, so one battery and the regiment proceeded out to try and cut in, but we saw nothing, as it was too far away. Most of us got back at 4.30 p.m., when a terrific thunderstorm came on, and lasted well into the night; we were all soaked. We moved our camp about half-a-mile further up the river and took what rest we could. The Waschbank River rose about ten feet in an hour, and went down almost as rapidly; it cut off for a time a patrol we had under Cawston on the left bank. On the morning of the 25th we moved off at 4 a.m. and marched to Sundays River, on the far side of which we halted. Here we were met by a squadron of the 5th Lancers, who brought us orders to go on to Ladysmith at once, and as we heard that the Boers were close on our heels, we set off again at 6 p.m. on our march. At about 7 p.m. it came on to pour with rain, and the road became a perfect quagmire, so that the rear of the column was constantly losing touch. We hardly made a mile's progress by 10 p.m., owing to stoppages and overturned waggons; it was bad enough for the guns and ourselves, but goodness knows how the Infantry fared. However, we got into Modder Spruit in some kind of order, reformed there, and reached our old camp at Ladysmith at 12 noon, a place when we were at Dundee we never wished to see again, but now were only too glad to do so. It was a long and tedious march, the last part under very bad conditions, but all through the whole force had behaved splendidly."