"Aye free, aff han' your story tell, When wi' a bosom crony; But still keeping something to yoursel'? Ye scarcely can tell to ony." Burns.

The story of the Defence of Kimberley has been told by many writers; they have all touched upon the friction which arose between Cecil Rhodes and Kekewich during the progress of the siege. As much then as one would wish, in dealing with Kekewich's gallant and remarkable defence of the Diamond Fields, to remain silent on the subject of the many things done by Rhodes which brought him into collision with the military commander of the besieged town and gave rise to the friction alluded to, such an attitude seems to me to be an unwise one to adopt here; it may lead to erroneous inferences being drawn. I propose, therefore, to touch to some extent upon the incidents which drove Kekewich and Rhodes so wide apart. It is with considerable reluctance that I have decided to take this course, and do so mainly because the partisans of Rhodes, immediately on the relief of Kimberley (and at a time when, by the rules of the service, Kekewich was bound to maintain strict silence), gave wide currency to statements which grossly misrepresented Kekewich's conduct towards Rhodes. These partisans alleged, inter alia, that the friction was due solely to Kekewich's tactlessness and the want of consideration shown to Rhodes, who—it was further alleged—had been treated by Kekewich as if he were an "ordinary citizen." In these circumstances, it appears to me that common justice demands that I shall make public facts which have hitherto been known alone to the intimate friends of the dead general and the few who occupied responsible positions on his Staff in Kimberley, and had, therefore, by force of circumstances, first-hand knowledge of what was taking place at military Headquarters.

Vindictiveness had no place in Kekewich's character, and he was willing to forgive Rhodes much; that this was so is evident from the fact that in his Despatch on the Defence of Kimberley[1] he did not so much as give a hint that there had been the slightest friction between himself and Rhodes; indeed, the latter's name is to be found among the "mentions." Later, when summoned to give evidence before the Royal Commission appointed in October 1902, Kekewich, in drawing his "proof," carefully avoided allusion to the various matters in which action taken by Rhodes was, in his own opinion, prejudicial to the military interests in Kimberley. It was, of course, quite natural that the members of the Commission should endeavour to clear up certain matters given in evidence by Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller. Direct questions put to Kekewich on these particular points were answered by him candidly; in this he had no choice. But when he was asked in general terms whether he wished to supplement the evidence of the two witnesses referred to above, he replied: "This opens a very big question; but if the Commission wish to go into that, I can only say I had very serious trouble with Mr. Rhodes during the siege, and it brings up all that, and I do not know whether the Commission wish to touch upon that or not."[2] It will be seen then that when the opportunity did offer to make public the story of his real difficulties during the siege, Kekewich was too chivalrous to take advantage of it; this, however, affords no good reason for allowing the unjust aspersions, to be found in some of the early accounts of the siege, to remain uncontradicted. Indeed, it is due to his memory that the true facts shall be disclosed, before the opportunity for doing so has entirely passed away.

In a sympathetically worded article entitled “Cecil Rhodes' Early Days in South Africa," which appeared in the Contemporary Review of May 1902,[3] its author, Sir Charles Warren, points out that, in respect of certain matters which are specifically mentioned, credit had been given to Rhodes, to which others are entitled. As was the case in connection with his early career in South Africa, so also in relation to the Defence of Kimberley, partisans have endeavoured wrongly to attribute to Rhodes the credit in certain matters when rightly it was due to Kekewich or others. However, no useful purpose would be served by here setting out the several incorrect statements that have appeared in print and dealing with them; the more appropriate method of treating Kekewich's work would, it is thought, be to give a narrative in chronological order, as far as possible, of the important events, and to make comments where necessary, and this course will be adopted.

In connection with the Defence of Kimberley, there is one question which still excites interest. People still ask: How came the grievous friction between Kekewich and Rhodes into existence? A few words on this subject may not be out of place: an appreciation of the attitude taken by Rhodes, as disclosed at his interviews with Kekewich, may perhaps afford some explanation and go some way to bring about a correct understanding of the matter. The first point then to remember is that Rhodes made it absolutely clear to Kekewich that he looked upon the war as a personal contest between Kruger and himself, and he instilled it into Kekewich that he wished, at the end of the siege, to be in a position to claim that the diamond mines had been kept in full operation throughout the siege. Indeed, Rhodes told him in so many words that his particular ambition was that, at the end of the war, he should be able to announce that his own personal interests, as well as . those others which he represented—the total of which, as he repeatedly informed Kekewich, he estimated at ten million sterling—had not suffered damage to the extent of even one penny piece. Kekewich was, of course, perfectly willing, so far as it was compatible with his instructions, to keep the mining industry in full swing during the siege, and, indeed, he fully recognized that it would be in the public interest to cooperate with Rhodes to this end. But other factors came into play, and in military matters Kekewich had to carry out the policy dictated by his superiors, who were in a much better position than he was to decide what was feasible at any particular moment, and what not. The real cause of the difficulties which arose in Kimberley was due to the fact that Rhodes had, immediately prior to his arrival in Kimberley in October 1899, been in close touch with the military authorities at Cape Town. He had thus obtained information as to the British plan of campaign, which, as regards the Western Theatre, contemplated a direct advance from the Orange River, in the neighbourhood of Norval's Pont and Bethulie, on Bloemfontein. Rhodes entirely disapproved of this plan, which, in his opinion, did not give sufficient prominence to the strategical importance" of Kimberley, and, in his interviews with Kekewich, he made no secret of his intention to be a "factor in the military situation," and to secure a radical change in the foregoing plan, so far as the Western Theatre was concerned. As a soldier, Kekewich could not, and would not, aid and abet Rhodes to force the hands of the superior military authorities. This was Kekewich's great offence in Rhodes' eyes: one day, in his anger, he shouted at Kekewich: "You damned soldiers are so loyal to one another that I verily believe if God Almighty even was in a fix you would refuse to get Him out of it should the doing so interfere with your damned military situation."

[1] London Gazette, 8th May 1900

[2] War Commission, 1903 [Cd. 1791]. Q.22028

[3] No. 437.