At first Colonel Campbell did not advise me to go to the Mounted Infantry, but seeing that I was so keen on it, and had brought three ponies with me, he consented to my going, so on October 5th I rejoined my old Company under Scratchley.
Many changes had taken place in the Company since it started from Maritzburg under Northey. Talana, the siege of Ladysmith, and the subsequent advance under Buller, had made many gaps, which had been filled up by new men. Still, there were many left, such as Colour-Sergt. Rowat, Sergt. Ross," old Shirley," and others who had been right through and never missed a day, and I was indeed glad to rejoin this Company, which I had seen formed at Cape Town over four years before, and * which esprit-de-corps made me think the best thing of its kind in the country.
After their two months and a half continuous trekking, all ranks had had enough for the time being. They returned to Lydenburg pretty sick of it. Everyone wanted to hear that the war was over, but I am afraid I had not much good news to give, for though there were rumours of Lord Roberts and General Buller going home, and though the advance to the east as far as Komati Poort was most successful, yet my own experience was that wherever I had been on the railway there seemed to be some local commando threatening the line, and boasting that it could go on fighting for years.
I was introduced to Lord Dundonald, and had the opportunity of thanking him for helping me to get up to Lydenburg. Unfortunately I did not serve under him for long. On October 6th he, with General Buller and many others, left Lydenburg for home. The departure of General Buller was a memorable scene, and the enthusiasm of his splendid army, when it said good-bye to him, was a proof to me, an outsider, of what those who knew him best, thought of him.
Scratchley had besides me two other subalterns, Lynes and Johnson, both officers of " tried valour." We four messed together in a very humble way, crouching under a tarpaulin, and drinking nothing at meals but ration tea and coffee. The small amount of stores, such as milk, butter, quaker-oats, and jam, which I had been able to bring up with me, were acceptable, but did not go far.
For a day or two after my arrival there was much speculation as to what would happen next. However, all doubt was removed on October 8th, when we heard that half the troops under General W. Kitchener were to remain and garrison Lydenburg, while the other half under General Lyttleton were to march direct to Middleburg, seven marches south-west of Lydenburg, on the Pretoria-Delagoa railway line.
Our Company was to go with General Lyttleton, whose force consisted of K.R.R., Gordons, Leicesters, Inniskilling Fusiliers, 18th Hussars, one Battery R.F.A., one 5-inch gun and one pom-pom. Our route took us through some of the most mountainous country in the Transvaal, and there were plenty of Boers.
On October 9th we left Lydenburg. Our horses had been having hard work on short rations, and there was as yet very little grazing to be had, so that they were in poor condition. We were still, however, able to produce 80 mounted men out of 115. After three marches through a desperate country, a country very different from the O.R.C., we reached Dulstroom on October nth. Had the Boers offered any serious resistance we must have had many casualties, but as it was, they contented themselves with sniping, and there were only one or two hit each day.
The Column left Dulstroom early on the morning of October 12th, our 1st Battalion and two guns doing rear guard under Colonel Campbell, with our Company as its mounted screen. We went out at daybreak two miles beyond the camp, taking up positions in an arc, facing the rear, Lynes to the left, my section in the centre, and Johnstone on the right, with the 4th section in support under Scratchley.
Our extended line soon came under a sniping fire from several directions, while Lynes on my left was also busy. We had to hang on till the baggage was well away, and our infantry Battalion had retired beyond the village of Dulstroom. We were to retire by sections, Lynes' section first.
After a long wait, with occasional shots coming pretty close, the time came for us to retire, which we were in the act of doing, when I saw that Bugler Douglas, who had been sent over to me with a message, had got badly bogged. Telling my section where to go to, I went back with Sergt. Rowat to try and help him out. But it was a bad place, and the horse was exhausted. The stupid Argentine brute refused to make an effort, and sank deeper and deeper. A few Boers at about 500 yards had got our range, and were getting unpleasantly near, so we packed Douglas off on foot, and only stayed long enough ourselves to destroy the horse and saddle before the Boers could get them. Poor Douglas had a long run—he was picked up by Scratchley, who with some difficulty got him to the rear unhit but rather agitated.
When we had retired to the next position, Johnstone's section, well opened out, cantered quietly back, bullets striking the ground all round them.
The Boers, from 50 to 150 strong, kept pushing on as we retired, and from the high hill which overlooks the village of Dulstroom, they began to make things unpleasant for us. However, Colonel Campbell backed us up from the rear with his guns, and thus considerably eased the pressure. After one or two more retirements under a sniping fire, we eventually shook the Boers off, and by 12 noon there were very few to be seen. I have been in a good many rear guard fights since then, but never in one where men were better handled. It was a difficult country, and we were outnumbered, and it was due to Scratchley's good management that we did not lose a lot of men that day.
Our advance guard had bumped up against Ben Viljoen. As the advanced troops came down the steep hill near Witklip (ten miles beyond Dulstroom), and debouched into a kind of amphitheatre, they came under fire from a Boer pom-pom and mausers. The 18th Hussars and Liverpool M.I. had one or two men hit.
The hills had to be cleared of these Boers. This was done by the Gordons and Inniskilling Fusiliers, who, well covered by the Artillery, only lost two killed and six wounded. We, the rear guard, got into camp late that night in the dark, in a drenching thunderstorm. We made no attempt at comfort, and lay down as we were, with an early rise before us, and every likelihood of a fight with Botha and Viljoen.
October 13th, 1900.—To the right of the road we had to follow, and about three miles on, there were three kopjes, which it was probable the enemy would hold to oppose our advance. The two M.I. companies were detailed to seize these kopjes, and everything was made clear to us beforehand.
About 3.30 a.m. it was raining hard. We turned out of our wet blankets, fed somehow, and saddled-up. As day was breaking, about 5 a.m., we launched out, and supporting each other in waves, took each of the three kopjes in succession at a canter. The first two were unoccupied; the third was held by a Boer picquet, which the Liverpool Company completely surprised, taking the picquet and opening a heavy fire, which compelled a larger party of Boers beyond to retire. It was a smart move, smartly carried out, and greatly simplified the march of the column. By 9 a.m. the column had passed, and we pushed on, keeping on the right flank. There was shooting at long distances all this day, but no damage done, the Boers making no real attack.
We passed through several beautiful farms, better farms than any I had seen in the O.R.C. Every one of them had a white flag up, though we had been sniped at from the same farms five minutes before, and we often found the sniper's lair still warm. Crowds of womenfolk used to come out to meet us, protesting that their husbands, brothers, or sons were dead, or had not been seen for months, and denying having seen any Boers that day. In those days we never touched an occupied farm, and used to pay well for poultry, eggs, pigs, or anything we took. Occasionally we were shot at from the farm when we had left it We got into camp about 6 p.m., and Scratchley read an order complimenting the Company on good work in the rear guard fight of the 12th.
On the 14th we got out of the mountainous country, and the 18th Hussars under Colonel Knox, with our Company in support, spreading well out and covering a large front, captured some Boers and some horses, and large quantities of cattle and sheep. We camped about twelve miles from Middelburg, near Elandslaagte, where we had a lovely bathe and swim. Next day, the 15 th, we arrived at Middelburg. We had met with little of the expected opposition, but this I have found generally is the case when the Boers see a large force in good hands. To me, with the interest of seeing a new country, and soldiering with so many old friends, it was a most enjoyable trek.
Arrived at Middelburg, our one idea was to rest, recoup, and re-fit, and for a few days the troops, men and horses, lived in peace, and began to get re-fitted with stores and remounts from Pretoria. On October 17th Scratchley went home, and I took over the command of the Company.
We did not rest long. On both sides of the line there were active commandos, each about 250 strong. This was before the trying times of night attacks by large commandos under Ben Viljoen and Louis Botha, but it was nevertheless a most trying time for the mounted troops. The line was continually threatened. Small patrols were frequently in difficulties. Raids on the cattle or horses grazing beyond the camp were of daily occurrence. We lived in momentary expectation of the order, " Saddle-up." Many a time we did saddle-up, and turned out in shirt sleeves at a gallop, but however quick we might be we were never quick enough. More than once, after a patrol had got into trouble, and returned with the loss of men killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, a column went out to punish the offenders, but invariably with the same result. The column would march out ten to twenty miles, driving before it any Boers seen. It would camp that night at some farm where the commando had been, and after stripping it of all wood, grain, vegetables, poultry, pigs, and furniture, would return next day. Our return was always followed up boldly by the Boers, and many a lesson in rear guard fighting they gave us. .
At daybreak single Boers would be visible on the distant heights round us, watching our movemerits. When it became evident that we were going back to the line Boers sprang out of the earth, and very shortly afterwards each Boer, as seemed to him best, was galloping, stalking, shooting, or working round our rear guard. With ever increasing numbers and ever increasing boldness they would follow the column right up to within the outposts of Middelburg, and we considered ourselves lucky if we got back to Middelburg without having half-a-dozen men hit in this unsatisfactory manner. Thus it was no wonder that we failed to agree with the home papers when they insisted that the war was over. From a German strategist's point of view it may have been over, but to me, from my subaltern's point of view, the end seemed a depressingly long way off. ,
It was on one of these expeditions, on October 30th, that the 18th Hussars, whom the General spoke of as "the best Mounted Infantry in the country " first used the rifle instead of the carbine. They were the first cavalry Regiment to adopt the rifle, and I well remember the confidence they showed in the new weapon, thrusting ahead, dismounting and shooting.
On October 24th our 1st Battalion went up to Pretoria to help to represent the Natal troops in Lord Roberts' farewell Review. A splendid / battalion they were, with veterans from India and Egypt, representatives of Talana, Ladysmith, Spion Kop, Tugela, and many other engagements. It was Freddy Roberts' old Battalion, and they and the Chief remembered this as they marched past him.
Soon after this the sad news of the death of Prince Christian Victor reached us, and the Battalion again went to Pretoria to take part in his funeral. Many a man, as he saluted the Prince for the last time, remembered him in India, and recalled the kindly interest he had always taken in his men. We all felt that we had suffered a loss most sad among our many sad losses in the war.
On November 6th my Company was split up, thirty men under Johnstone going to Pan, twenty-five under Lynes to Whitbank, while I with the remainder, about sixty, moved to Olifants River, twelve miles west of Middelburg. At Olifants River, we, with sixty men, relieved Major Von Donop, R.A., with two companies of M.I., the authorities evidently considering one rifleman equivalent to three other men!
Our duty was to watch about six miles of railway in each direction. There was an important bridge there, and a garrison of four guns 83rd R.F.A., and three Companies K.O.S.B., to defend it. There were many "enterprising Burghers" who kept us well occupied from the first. From my tent, high up, about 300 feet above the railway, I had a grand view of the country all round, and with a powerful telescope on a tripod at the door I could watch the movements of the small parties of Boers which were always to be seen on the skyline about five miles away. They could do nothing without being seen from our camp, but at the same time they were able to watch all our movements.
The chief danger was to our picquets along the line when they went out to their posts at daybreak, but we had the good fortune to have no casualties during our time, and only one train was blown up. This, compared to the luck of other sections along the line in these troubled times, was a good record.
Troubled times they were. Each day the Boers seemed to get bolder, and to collect in larger numbers. Each day guns were heard booming, sometimes at Balmoral, sometimes at Middelburg, sometimes at both places at once; and yet the papers kept saying the war was over.
On November 19th thirty Boers, under Commandant Piet Trichard, attacked seven of my men stationed three-and-a-half miles off in the direction of Middelburg. I had an exciting view of the whole thing. With Major Haig, K.O.S.B., and Major Guthrie-Smith, R.A., I had been watching these thirty Boers for some time from my tent. The range was taken, and found to be 9000 yards. I sent one man to warn the picquet of the presence of these Boers, but did not saddle-up the rest of the Company, as they had already had a long day. For some time we watched the Boers collected under a tree, then they mounted and seemed to be riding off in a direction away from the picquet. Suddenly, however, I saw the whole lot scatter and swoop down towards the picquet I shouted to my men in camp to saddle-up, and watched through my glasses for all I was worth. The picquets' orders were, in case of attack, to retire fighting.
There were two miles between the picquet and the Boers, who covered the distance in no time. I heard heavy firing, saw two of the pig-headed Argentines refusing to be led to their men, saw the Boers, who were getting nearer every second, dismount,—and, leaving their horses, rush up, crouching and shooting. I feared all sorts of mishaps. The last thing I saw before galloping off was Boers, dismounted and extended, shooting at our men, only five of whom I could see falling back. We galloped down, and the guns too galloped down and opened fire very smartly, but the three miles and a half over rocky ground gave them time to get away, so we arrived on the spot only in time to save the railway. The delay of our picquet in getting away had been due to one of our "young hands " and the perverseness of his Argentine horse.
On November 25 th we received a valuable reinforcement, Sergt. Hill and his twenty men having at last succeeded in getting away from the Free State.
If ever there was a 'handy man' it was my servant, Faulkner. Very soon after we got to Olifants River he had fitted me out a comfortable home, and had furnished my tent with table, chairs, and a bed. He started a farm with good laying hens, ducks, geese, and a turkey to be fattened up for Christmas. He got milk, vegetables and fruit from the neighbouring farms; produced a stove, and catered and cooked for me, always remembering that I had lost most of my teeth. Besides all this, he was a bit of a rough-rider, and used to bring in wild colts, which in a few days he had broken and trained to perfect manners.
The climate and seasons of South Africa have always been a puzzle to me. These months, November to January, produced the wildest of winter storms, intense cold, with terrible thunder and lightning, sudden blizzards of wind and hail and deluges of rain, with intervals of most perfect summer weather or tropical heat, when one groaned at the heat and the flies.
Olifants River was a beautiful place, and its farms, orchards, and flowers, its clear streams, and the new green of the veldt were at their best at this season. When I had leisure I used to go down to bathe or fish in the river, or sit on its banks and forget for a time that there was a war going on, watching the kingfishers and sunbirds, the red finches and the long-tailed " sakaboulas," all in full plumage.
In December two expeditions were sent out to the north, to co-operate with columns under Generals Paget and Plumer against Ben Viljoen and Thais Pretorius, who had about 2000 men in the bush country round the Wilge River. The first of these was under Colonel Carleton (1st Leicesters) and the second under Colonel Campbell. On both occasions we found an escort of twenty-five men to the pom-pom under Captain Poole, R.A. We cleared the country, which we found full of well-stocked farms. We captured many waggons, a few Boers and cattle, but did little damage to the commando, which slipped away further north.
About December 20th there was fever in the air, and ten of my men and myself were laid up, but only for a short time. On Christmas Day most of them were able to enjoy the geese which we had been fattening up for the occasion, as also the beer and plum puddings which our battalion had sent us from Middelburg, while I was sufficiently recovered to make a short speech according to custom : " In wishing you all a happy Christmas," I said, " I am glad of an opportunity of saying a few words. It is a long time now since we left India for this country, but I well remember how some of you then, wrote up in the Barrack rooms at Jullunder, 'Roll on Kruger's doom.' I well rememder Christmas day, 1896, on the Warren Hastings—and those of you who are bad sailors well remember too—how the ship ' rolled on' right enough. Kruger's doom was ' rolling on' too, but we thought more about the ship then. Well, men, Kruger's doom has 'rolled on/ and our regiment has had a good share in passing Oom Paul along. One man who has come well out of the war is the British soldier, and conspicuous amongst British soldiers have been the men of the King's Royal Rifles; so that you being picked men from the K.R.R., may hold your heads high—as high as the C.I.V. indeed. What makes a good regiment? It is that good comradeship which exists amongst all ranks. It is the feeling which men have that they are responsible for the safety of men they are fond of, and responsible too for the honour of the regiment to which they are proud to belong. It is the devotion to duty and sense of honour which form part of the faith of every rifleman. Let us hope that, should we find ourselves at any time in a position of difficulty, the devotion to duty may find us prepared, and the sense of honour may see us through the difficulty, whether dead or alive, with increased honour to ourselves and increased honour to the regiment." It was not a bad Christmas,—far better than most of us had had the year before.
People at home, who still thought the war was over, were shortly to have their eyes opened to the fact that we had not even yet reached the stage of guerilla warfare. Louis Botha had collected in the Bethel-Ermelo-Carolina district a commando of 2000. Ben Viljoen to the north of the line had another 2000. De la Rey and Beyers each had strong commandos, able to concentrate in one night. De Wet had 2000 good men, and was making good use of them in the Free State. All these commandos were fully organised, with guns, horses, and supplies, and were under the best Boer leaders. Besides these, there was some small commando to be watched at almost every station along the line, and there were rumours of coming trouble in Cape Colony.
The Boers changed their tactics. They had hardly been known to attack before, but they now commenced a series of most gallant, and in some cases successful, night-attacks. In our district, Belfast, Balmoral, Machadodorp, and Helvetia had all been attacked, and in some cases successfully. Still, we remained on the defensive The great move, which we all felt sure was being hatched at Pretoria, was not yet ready.
To meet this change in the Boer tactics, the garrisons all looked to their defences. They improved their sangars, making them all enclosed works, they dug new trenches and, collecting every available yard of barbed wire, put obstacles round their works. Garrisons, often short-handed, had to double their sentries, and, though Kaffirs and even dogs were called in to relieve the strain, still the work was hard, and it was a life of suspense. Each post along the line had its rumours of intended v attacks, and its fits of " the jumps," which varied with the imagination of its Intelligence Department, or the nerves of its commanding officer.
In our station we had many reports that an attack on our bridge was coming. Our positions were rather extended for our numbers, so we slept with one ear awake. We daily added to the strength of our position, and by January we were ready for all comers, and rather hoped they would come. On January 1st Johnstone, who had been at Pan, a favourite haunt of the Boers, left to join the I. Lt. Horse, and his place was taken by Reade.
About the middle of January Botha collected 4000 men near Ermelo, and was reported to be going to invade Natal. This drew most of the Boers away from our neighbourhood, so that we were able to hold sports. Some of our detachment at Whitbank came over, and with them, the field and horse gunners, and the infantry we got fair entries for the events, which included races, foot and mounted, jumping, potato-race, bare-backed Lloyd Lindsays, and a tug of war between our men and the gunners. The local farmers and their families, and those of the garrison who could get away, made quite a crowd of spectators. The contrast between the big gunners on their large draught horses and our smaller men on their cobs, when they stepped into the arena for the tug of war, amused the lookers-on, who shouted to our men to take care that they did not get pulled outside the picquets as there were Boers about. But the event proved a triumph of mind over matter, for our men, pulling hand-over-hand, and their cobs planting their fore-feet in the ground, soon pulled the R.A., and then R.H.A. (who tried to walk away with the rope) over the line. This most successful day was brought to a close by a distribution of prizes—Mrs. Bourhill, the wife of a leading Burgher farmer, giving them to the successful competitors in most approved style.
In the small hours of the morning of January 23rd a cypher message was received, which proved to be that the Commander-in-Chief was coming down from Pretoria that day to see General Lyttleton at Middelburg, and that we were to take extra precautions along the line. I accordingly sent a sergeant and eight extra men to the west, which direction was less exposed, and started myself at daybreak, with every available man to the east, in the direction of Middelburg, where the ground is difficult and where Boers were frequently seen.
At a place called Uitkyk, five miles from Middelburg, a place with a bad name in those days, fifty men of the 18th Hussars from Middelburg, were stationed. Not expecting to see any Boers, I went out with my lunch, my walking-stick-gun, and my bird-skinning instruments, expecting to spend a quiet day, and add to my collection of birds.
Leaving groups to picquet important points along the line, we joined up with the 18th Hussars early in the morning at a point seven miles from Olifants River and six from Middelburg. At 9.30 a.m. I was talking to a sergeant of the 18th Hussars. We had seen Kitchener's train leave Olifants River, when we heard shots in the direction of Uitkyk. Looking up we saw at Uitkyk Station about three hundred mounted men in closish [sic] formation, galloping as hard as they could. It was impossible to distinguish them at a mile off-It was a most unusual formation for Boers. Subalterns do not like stopping Commanders-in-Chief for nothing, but I knew there were' only fifty of the 18th Hussars, and felt these must be Boers.
All the time the two trains were getting nearer. I had only fourteen men with me; the leading train was quite close, within rifle shot of the Boers. I sent a man galloping back to stop the train, saying I would let them know as soon as I was certain they were Boers, and galloped down myself with a dozen men to a cutting in the line between the Boers and the train. When the Boers saw the train stop, fifty or more came galloping straight for it, and for us hidden in our cutting.
All doubt was now removed, so, telling my men to shoot for all they were worth, I galloped my pony, stumbling and shying at rails and sleepers, six hundred yards down the line to where the first train was. This proved to be an advanced train with a small escort on it, the Chiefs train was behind, and now closing up to it. I told the officer in command that there were fully three hundred Boers close to, and asked him to get both trains back as quickly as possible, saying I would do what I could to delay the Boers. Galloping back to my men, I was relieved to find that the Boers, not knowing our strength, and having had at least one saddle emptied, had for a time retired back to Uitkyk. We pushed on to try and see what was happening to within long range of Uitkyk, where we could see fully two hundred mounted men buzzing about like bees. Leaving Corporal Stokes and one man hidden here in observation, with orders to fall back on us if the Boers advanced, I sent back to report that the Boers had possession of two miles of the line at Uitkyk, and retired myself to take up a positron in the rear.
Later, thinking my new position seven miles from Olifants River was too isolated, and hearing shots fired on my left, where, owing to the ground, I had scouts out, I retired back to a strong position 1000 yards further back. Before retiring I sent two men to call in Corporal Stokes, but they returned almost immediately under fire without having reached him. They said the Boers had crept along the line, and were now between us and Corporal Stokes. I feared it was all up with Stokes and the other man, as not having enough men, I had no option but to retire.
We retired just in time, for some of the Boers had already sneaked round us by a donga, and would very soon have had us in difficulties. When we had got a new and very good position, we lay anxiously waiting and covering Stokes* retirement. Presently we saw three of our men galloping back under fire towards us. Sergeant Ross had, without my knowing it, galloped forward about a mile between two fires and brought both in safely. It was a fine thing to do, and he was recommended for it
The firing on our left had been at one of our men, Private Rose, who was sent by Lord Kitchener with an order for me. Rose had mistaken for me a Boer in khaki on a grey pony, who had made our private signal with his rifle, and had only seen his mistake when within thirty yards of three Boers. They fired and missed him, but he had a narrow escape, and was so full of his own adventures when he reached me, and so out of breath, that it was some time before I could gather what his original message from the Chief had been. The message was that a column was coming out from Middelburg, that I was to watch the Boers and report when the line was clear.
We took up a strong position, five miles from Olifants River, and felt our way occasionally from there, but there were too many Boers for us. About noon we saw a man sneaking forward, and thinking he was a Boer, gave him a volley; he dropped apparently dead as a stone. About 12.30 we pushed on again, and coming up to the place where the man had dropped, found him lying very low but alive and well, a scared trooper of the 18th, a recruit just out from home. He had earlier in the day fallen an easy prey to the Boers, who had relieved him of horse, saddle, rifle and bandolier, and released him. Luckily we had missed him. His first experience of soldiering had been a lively one.
We pushed on, got into touch with the 18th Hussars, and then sent men along the line to see if it had been damaged. About 2 p.m. the Boers seemed to have retired to a farm three miles south of the line. I sent a man to report.
While we were waiting for the trains, we heard from the 18th that 500 Boers had attacked them, and that they had had thirty casualties.
The two trains came on again; the leading one with the escort had passed us, and was puffing and winding up the hill when there was an explosion, and the first train came to a stop. "That's awkward," I thought, "for me, after reporting clear,"—however, it is quite impossible for any but an expert to see a cleverly-hidden mine, and moreover this was not on my section of the line. I sent a sergeant back to the Commander-in-Chiefs train to warn him, but he brought his train (which also had a small escort) right on up to the disabled train.
After putting picquets out round the train we went to have a look at the Chief, whom I had not seen properly before. He got out of his saloon, looked at the damage, and seeming much annoyed at the delay, he gave some order and then went back to the carriage. He never seemed to look in the direction of the Boers, who were visible at Trichard's farm only three miles away. I saw Watson and Congreve here, who were on Kitchener's staff. The explosion had luckily missed the engine and the troop's trucks, and gone off under an empty truck. -
The column came out from Middelburg, and with its guns sent the Boers away. After a delay of twenty minutes it was found that it would take twenty-four hours to repair the damage, so the Chief went straight back to Pretoria.
Next day, January 24th, the same commando, about 400 men (the Heidelburg Commando, Jack Hindon's and Carl Trichard's bands), again attacked the 18th Hussars at Uitkyk, and also drove in one of ray patrols. I saw it from my tent, and while my men were saddling-up, galloped up to the hill where the long-range gun was. The sergeant and most of the gunners were away, so we had to manage with one gunner, one driver, and some men of the Leicester Regiment. The first shot at 7000 yards fell 1000 yards short; however, this and a few more sent the Boers away from the line. We galloped out with about thirty men, but they were too strong for us, and we had to wait till a column again came out from Middelburg. The Boers hung about till the column arrived, but did not blow up the line. We got back to camp late after a long day.
On January 26th we got a telegram from Colonel Campbell congratulating us on our doings on the 23rd, which message gave great pleasure. Another welcome message which came that day was an order to march with all our belongings to Middelburg, where the Company was to concentrate for the coming move.
On the 27th we were joined at Middelburg by the Witbank, and on the 29th by the Pan, detachments. The big move was at last coming. None of us knew what the move was to be, but we were in it With a fine Company of 120 men, and under our own most popular Colonel, we were to form part of one of those many columns with which General French was going to turn the tide of the war.