Kaffirs employed as armed auxiliaries in the war—Official recognition of Kaffir assistance in the defense of Mafeking—Praise given to the Fingo contingent-a photograph of British Kaffir allies—The arming of Khama's and Linchwe's savages—The massacre of Deredepoort.
The tactics of the enemy pending the arrival of reenforcements from England and India were devised with the object of keeping the Boer forces as scattered as possible, so as to prevent concentration on Natal or the north of Cape Colony. In this plan of campaign the English were eminently successful during October and November. The whole western and northern border of the Transvaal had to be watched against threatened attacks from Rhodesia, and fully 1,500 men of the Marico, Rustenburg, and Zoutpansberg commandoes were required for this task. A Chartered Company force from Bulawayo menaced Rhodes Drift, in the extreme north, while at Deredepoort and other points on the northwest border other Rhodesian forces, British and Kaffir, demanded the constant presence of guarding burghers on the frontier. These men were hung up, as it were, away from the scenes of active hostilities in the south and east, thus greatly reducing the strength with which the little State was enabled to defend itself against large armies advancing from Durban and the Cape on landing from England.
By a timely precaution on the part of the Transvaal, the Swazis were prevented from becoming the tools of the English. General Sehalk Burger, with a strong commando and guns, patrolled the frontier after war was declared, assuring Bunu and other chiefs that the Boers were intent on no movement against them, but were strong enough to chastise any force that would attempt to aid the British. English emissaries were specially watched by men of Lieutenant C. Botha's Swazi Police, who had instructions to deal summarily with any of them found instigating native disturbances. The British were thus foiled in their intrigues for creating active native hostility in the east and south, but they succeeded, all the same, in forcing the Republics to keep a large percentage of their small forces watching for possible Kaffir hostility in their rear.
In the west Baden-Powell made open use of the Fingoes, Baralongs, and Cape " Boys," both in his offensive and defensive operations at Mafeking. This charge has been indignantly denied by a portion of the Jingo press, as have so many other charges made by the Boers, only to be duly verified afterwards. There are two pieces of evidence confirming General Cronje's complaint against the arming of black auxiliaries by Baden-Powell which it will be impossible to refute. One is a photograph published in the " Cape Times " on the 8th of August, 1900, which I reproduce, showing these very Kaffirs, armed and equipped, under their British officers; and the other is the actual, official recognition of their service by no less a person than the defender of Mafeking himself.
On the 10th of November, 1899, the following "official despatch " of the 4th of that month was published in the " Mafeking Mail":
" The Colonial contingent under Captain Goodyear has done splendid service to-day in occupying a position at the brickfields. The contingent, tho exposed to a withering fire, maintained its position, and was supported in a capital manner by the Fingo contingent under Mr. David Webster."
Further, in " Lloyd's Weekly News " of April 1, 1900, appears the following:
" On March 14th Reuter got through the subjoined message from Mafeking: 'To cover our advance on Jackal Tree Fort a detachment of Baralong natives were despatched to make a feint attack on Fort Snyman, a work recently erected by the Boers, threatening our most advanced western position. They succeeded in creeping to within thirty yards of the enemy, many of whom were sleeping outside, and when near the fort poured in two or three rapid volleys. Trooper Webb got sufficiently close to the fort to blow out the brains of one of the enemy. The natives then beat a rapid retreat, in accordance with instructions previously given to them, having inflicted some losses upon the enemy. In the brickfields the Cape Boys have been reenforced by a detachment of Protectorate troops, under Captain Fitzclarence.'"
In measuring out honors and lavish praise for bravery and distinguished services in the war, Lord Roberts has seemingly overlooked the deeds of his Fingo, Cape " Boys," and Baralong mercenaries. Nor did the " Mafficking " mobs in England act more generously by offering all their cheers to the English defenders of the besieged town, and forgetting the assistance rendered by the savage allies of their troops to the hero who enlisted Kaffir auxiliaries against the Boers.
Both Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Balfour had declared in Parliament that no native or colored allies would be sought for, or accepted, by the British in the war. The records of the siege of Mafeking show how that promise has been redeemed. But there was nothing new or startling in this violation of an English pledge. The entire history of England's dealings with South Africa is replete with a stereotyped British double-dealing, persistent and incurable, and it was in a spirit of strict consistency with this record that the Colonial Secretary should righteously insist on the outbreak of hostilities, that President Kruger would be held responsible " for acts done contrary to the methods of civilized warfare." The letters of " pig-sticking " Lancers from the bloody field of Elandslaagte, and the official despatch of the " Mafeking Mail " of November 4th —within three weeks of Mr. Chamberlain's virtuous demand—were but the usual facts which invariably build a connecting link of loathsome hypocrisy between British professions and performances in matters relating to the Dark Continent.
There are, however, blacker deeds than the above to be added to the discredit of the enemy of the Boer ere this chapter on England's Kaffir allies is closed. I have yet to relate the story of Linchwe, and how he was instigated to join in a British attack on a small laager comprising Boer women and children at Deredepoort. There is no more repulsive deed to be found in the annals of this war. It happened in this way:
A force of Rhodesian troopers from Bulawayo, under Major Wilson, advanced on Rhodes Drift on the 17th October, expecting little, if any, hostile effort to bar the passage over the Limpopo at this extreme northern end of the Transvaal. The British were disagreeably surprised to find the wooded banks of the river occupied by a body of Boers who were prepared to meet them. These men had only finished a ten days' continuous and rapid march from Pietersburg, under the command of Field Cornets Briel, Du Preez, Alberts, and Kelly. They numbered some 300 burghers. On learning that the English were two miles north of the river, they resolved upon an attack. An engagement which lasted several hours took place on the 21st, on the Rhodesian side of the river; Field Cornets Du Preez and Alberts attacking one side of the English position, and Field Cornets Briel and Kelly the other. The special correspondent of the "Volksstem," who was fighting with Briel's contingent, reported that " the enemy fled into the bush, disorganized, leaving their fort and stores. We captured 17 prisoners, 8 wagons loaded with provisions and ammunition, together with mules and oxen. The enemy's fort (entrenchment?), which was attacked by Du Preez, hoisted a white flag twice. When asked by Du Preez, at a distance of a hundred yards, if they were going to surrender, he was answered by a volley which killed two of our men. We had one Maxim and one Nordenfelt. The enemy, who numbered 500 or 6OO, retired in the Tuli direction."
A despatch from Bulawayo, via Beira, published by Reuter, admitted that the British loss in this encounter was 4 killed and 14 wounded, with several men missing.
This small victory appears to have enraged the Rhodesian officers, who had counted upon an easy entry into the north of the Transvaal for raiding purposes. There was a loss of prestige, too, incurred in the estimation of native chiefs like Khama, Linchwe, and others who would learn of the Boer defeat of the Chartered forces, and it was determined to send two armored trains from Bulawayo, with men and Maxims, to patrol the line along the Transvaal border from Palapye, south to Gaberones. This Rhodesian expedition fared no better than the attempt to surprise the Boers at Rhodes Drift. General Snyman, with a few hundred burghers from the Marico district, crossed the border at Krokodil Pool on the 24th, blew up the bridge, and awaited the arrival of the trains, about whose movements he was accurately informed by Dutch missionaries in Khama's country. The trains were themselves surprised at the unexpected attack by Snyman, and, after exchanging a few shots with the Boer guns, the officers in charge of the Bulawayo force steamed back to the north.
Linchwe, Chief of the Bakathla tribe, who is the head of the natives inhabiting the border territory through which the railway from Mafeking to Bulawayo runs for a considerable distance, was astounded at the refusal of the English to fight Snyman, and at the retreat of the trains. The Bakathla had raided Transvaal cattle under the instigation of the Chartered Company's officials, and the Boers were now showing themselves able to drive back both British and Kaffirs with ease. This fact alarmed Linchwe, and he began to waver in his adhesion to the English side. Commandant Du Plessis, of Rustenburg, with whom Linchwe's father had placed the present chief, when young, for a number of years, was sent by President Kruger to Deredepoort in the hope of counteracting the efforts of the Chartered Company to enlist the Bakathla tribe on the British side. On the arrival of Du Plessis, General Snyman went south to Mafeking, taking most of the Boer commando with him, in the belief that Linchwe would be held neutral through the friendly influence of his former host and acquaintance.
The Chartered Company, however, had distributed rifles and ammunition among both Khama's tribe and the Bakathla. Once in possession of weapons and cartridges, the natives were only too willing to engage in any movement which promised loot and cattle in return for their services, and they ranged themselves on the side of the British.
Khama's men were utilized by the Chartered Company's officers to keep the Boers at Rhodes Drift in check, by assembling in force at Selukwe, a little to the south of that region on the Limpopo, while an attack was planned upon the Boer post at Derede-poort, where Linchwe's savages were to cooperate with the English.
On the 9th of November the following despatch was received and published at Lourenzo Marquez from Beira:
" Tuli (Reuter).—Colonel Plumer to-day received the following from Palapye:
" Khama has sent another regiment to Selukwe Kopje. Its strength is 370, comprising 191 Martini-Henry, and 171 muzzle-loaders. This makes the total strength at the Selukwe Kopje 700. He has also sent 150 men to the Macloutsie, comprising 75 Martini-Henry and 75 muzzle-loaders.' "
The northern Boer force being thus menaced by Khama's men, it was resolved, on learning of General Snyman's retirement with most of his commando south to Mafeking, to attack the Boer post at Deredepoort, a small trading village on the Marico River, opposite Gaberones, and about seventy miles north of Mafeking.
The attack was not resolved upon until the hero of the enterprise, a Rhodesian officer named Llewellyn, had ascertained, through Kaffir scouts, that the little garrison had been still further denuded of its men in patrols to the north and south, leaving only some 60 burghers and about 40 villagers in the place. The assault was planned for a Saturday morning before daybreak, with a Rhodesian force of 200 troopers, with a Maxim gun, and some 500 of Linchwe's savages.
The Bakathla warriors were not led by Linchwe, but by one of his subordinate chiefs. They were ordered to cross the river noiselessly, south of the village, and to await the action of the Maxim by Llewellyn's force of Britishers on the north side; the plan being to drive the Boers from the village by the fire of the Maxim, into the ranks of the crouching savages on the southern side.
It was about three in the morning of November 25 when the little community were startled by the fire of the English gun, and the Boers had barely time to dress when they found the Kaffirs within the village. Commandant Kirsten, in charge of the camp, and Mr. Barnard, a member of the Volksraad, who chanced to be at Deredepoort, took command of the small force, consisting, all told, of 76 men, and so promptly did the Boer fighting instinct respond to the startling situation that, in a very few minutes, every Mauser was dealing out its deadly welcome to the savage assailants on the one hand and their, if possible, more cowardly British commanders and comrades on the other. The attack, however, was so sudden and unexpected that the Kaffirs had entered several houses, and had time to butcher the half-awakened inmates before any resistance could be offered. They killed a lady, an American by birth, in bed, and mortally wounded her husband, who was in the act of rising when the savages burst into the room. A German trader was disembowelled and otherwise tortured, while an English photographer named Early was hacked to death with spears. The brave Barnard rallied his little force, and soon drove the Kaffirs clear of the laager, while another portion of his men were keeping the British troopers at bay on the other side of the village. Barnard, however, was shot dead after the fight had gone on for an hour, but so coolly had the Boers met the double attack with their accurate rifle fire that over fifty of the Kaffirs lay dead around the laager, while the valiant British had retreated on finding that the little post on the river was not so easily surprised and captured as Llewellyn and his brother officers had planned.
The Kaffirs had taken over a score of the villagers prisoner in the first assault on the place. Most of these were women and children, and all of them would have been murdered but for the intervention of a British soldier named Bateson, who had been fighting with the savages, and who exercised much influence over them.
No news of this engagement found its way into a British paper. Doubtless Jingo organs will be found who will doubt the truth of the story now told. In that event the following letter, dated "Mochudie, 29th November, 1899," will settle the matter, both as to the capture of the women and children by the Bakathla, and the fact of these British allies having taken part in the fight of the 25th:
" To the Commandant of the Boer Laager, Krokodil Pool, Mochudie, 29th November, 1899.—I have here 17 women and children, who were captured by the Bakathla on the 25th November. I enclose letter from one of them. I wish to give them over to you safely. They have, since I received them, been supplied with every comfort I could give, and I deeply regret that women should have been mixed up with the attack by our soldiers of the 25th November. The Bakathla had instructions not to cross the border, but got out of hand completely. I have communicated the contents of this letter to the detachments of our mounted men who may be patrolling in your direction, to avoid any complications.—Signed, Noel Llewellyn, Capt. B.S.A. (Police Commandant of advance armored trains)."
It was absolutely untrue to assert that the savages were not instructed to cross the border. This duty was deliberately assigned to them, as a part of the plan of attack which Llewellyn had himself devised.
The British and the Bakatbla retired across the border after their exploit.
As pointed out in the chapter relating to the Boer advance on Dundee, armed Kaffirs were employed by the English from the very first days of the war. British officers have continued to so use these savages in the field, in increasing numbers, and with little or no disguise, on through the whole campaign, in shameless disregard of ministerial declarations that their assistance would not be utilized in the conflict with the Republics.
An official list of the persons murdered by the savage allies of the British was published, and included the following names: Murdered—Stephanus Fouche, Mrs. Pieters, wife of the storekeeper at Deredepoort (an American lady); Anna M. M. Fourie, nee Kroukamp, wife of W. J. Fourie; Z. L. Pretorius, sen.; J. S. Pretorius; G. Rooseboom; Early (an Englishman), photographer; C. W. Potgieter; Paul Potgieter, aged 15.
Wounded—J. L. Kroukamp.
Missing—Johanna Potgieter, nee v. d. Bergh, with five children; Carolina, aged 29; Emma, 8 to 9; Jan, Pieter, and Adriaan; also her granddaughter, Z. L. Pretorius,about 4; also her daughter Johanna,, wife of Davis Smut; Cornelia Potgieter, nee Roos, wife of Dr. D. J. Pretorius, son of Z. L. Pretorius; Adriaan and Christiaan, 10 and 8 years old, the sons of widow J. C. Kroukamp, nee Rensberg; R. A. Fourie, 5 years, son of J. W. Fourie; Gert Coetzee, Antonie Kruger; F. Pieters, storekeeper at Deredepoort.
Some of the murdered villagers were relatives of President Kruger.