IN its earliest days the existence of the Natal Mounted Police was so precarious that nobody was absolutely certain that it actually did, or would, continue to exist. The Langalibalele Rebellion had clearly demonstrated the urgent necessity for a semi-military police force, for the loss of life that took place at the Bushman's Pass would probably have been obviated had the Government had a trained, mobile force ready to march into the Puniti Location when the first signs of trouble became visible. It was announced by the Colonial Treasurer, in the Legislative Council of Natal, that the Government had decided to organize a fully equipped and disciplined force in order to check insubordination in its earliest stages. The force could never be a police force in the English sense of the word, as the conditions were, and still are, so utterly dissimilar to those in a fully civilized place. In 1873 there were nearly half a million blacks and fully 30,000 Indians spread over a vast area of mountainous country, some parts of which were almost inaccessible.
It was fortunate for the future history of the force that General (then Major) Dartnell, a fine, hard soldier and an Indian Mutiny veteran, was chosen to control its destinies. He was a fighting man, with real grit, and the determination of a bulldog.
He was leading the comparatively simple life, farming, near the Umvoti River, after a strenuous career in the army, when the call came for him to take charge of the Natal Mounted Police. He had entered as an ensign in the 86th Regiment in 1855, became Lieutenant the following year, Captain in 1859, and Brevet Major in 1865. He was appointed to the 2nd Battalion i6th Regiment in 1859, and exchanged to the 2;th Regiment three years later, retiring by sale of commission ten years afterwards.
While with the 86th Regiment he served with the Central Indian Field Force, under Sir Hugh Rose (afterwards Lord Strathnairn), during the Indian Mutiny in 1857-8, and was present at the storm and capture of Chandaree.
The stern old warrior was always disinclined to speak of his own achievements, but probably the most exciting moment in his life was when as a subaltern and a mere boy he led the only escalade attack on the fortress of Jhansi, and escaped almost miraculously with his life.
At the assault on this fortress he was with the left escalade attack, under Major Stuart, of the 86th Regiment, consisting of the light companies of the 86th and 25th Bombay Native Infantry, and a few sappers carrying four escalading ladders.
Upon arrival under the walls, which were 30 feet high, the Engineers tried to place the ladders in position, but they were continually thrown down again and otherwise damaged by big stones and logs of wood thrown from the walls.
At last one was placed, and up it young Dartnell at once rushed and dropped from the top of the wall into a bastion, alighting in the midst of a crowd of astonished rebels.
These men hacked at him with their tulwars (native swords), whilst he defended himself as best he could with his sword for a few moments, but was soon overpowered and fell to the ground. Lieutenant Fowler, and other officers following closely after him, shot some of his assailants, and the rest bolted. There had been too many of them, and they had been in each other's way, otherwise they would undoubtedly have killed the brave young subaltern.
He received five wounds, four of them sword cuts, one of the latter nearly severing his left hand. The fifth wound was from a bullet from a matchlock, which luckily struck the plate of his sword-belt. The latter deflected it and it only grazed his body.
To-day he bears deep scars showing how savage the attack upon him was. For his gallantry he was recommended by Major Stuart for the treasured V.C. The medal was not awarded, but Dartnell was promoted to an unattached company upon the recommendation of Sir Hugh Rose.
The wounded man was invalided home for six months, and he left Bombay by the overland route for England. At the expiration of five months he applied for an extension of leave, as he heard the regiment was on the march down to Bombay to embark for home. The leave was refused, however, because he had been appointed adjutant, so he returned again to Bombay, overland, and was there only three days when he embarked for England with the headquarters of the regiment, and was four months on the voyage home.
For his services he received the Mutiny medal, a Captaincy, and Brevet Majority. In the Bhotan Expedition, in 1865, he served as A.D.C. to Major-General Sir Henry Tombs, and was present at the capture of Dewanjeri, for which he received the medal with clasp.
This, then, was the record of the man who was appointed to make and drill, out of the best material he could find, an efficient force of semi-military police ; and in the course of years he found himself at the head of as fine a body of men as any one could wish to command. At first he held his new post in conjunction with that of Commandant of Volunteers, receiving 150 a year for the latter work, this salary including his travelling expenses.
Unfortunately the authorities, after deciding to establish the new force, and putting an officer at its head, seemed to think that was all that was necessary. Even a model Commandant cannot carry on a corps of mounted regulars without money and horses, and the authorities paid a painful disregard to such material points.
At first Major Dartnell was allowed to go to King William's Town in Cape Colony and study the methods of the Frontier Police there, so that he could model his own corps on somewhat similar lines. The Frontier Police had then been established many years, and had done good work. He returned in about a month, and drew up his scheme for developing the new force. In the first instance, he had been authorized to raise a corps of 50 Europeans and 150 natives, and the first man enrolled joined on the 12th March 1874.
These were indeed days of strenuous endeavour for the mutiny veteran. For many years he was his own paymaster, quartermaster, and adjutant, the first officers appointed being G. Mansel and F. A. Campbell as Sub-Inspectors, with W. Stean, late of the Cape Mounted Rifles, as sergeant-major. Having established a mounted police force, the Government would not sanction the purchase of horses for the men lest the animals should die of horse-sickness ! Few men other than the iron-willed Major would have fought on and eventually won in such baffling circumstances. He has since stated that the task in front of him was so heartbreaking that on more than one occasion he was on the point of sending in his resignation. 3
When the uniform was at last procured, or rather a section of it, it was hideous, no suitable material for clothing being obtainable then in the colony. It consisted of a dark brown corduroy tunic and breeches, the substance being the same as that which is used for railway porters' clothing in out-of-the-way places in England. The odour of it alone was enough to spread discontent amongst the thin line of recruits. To make matters worse, the uniforms were all readymade, a ship's sailmaker being employed as tailor. His simple method of adjusting the uniform to the men was to pull it in until it was skin-tight. The head-dress, also, was a wonderful construction of leather, with a peak, a white cover falling from the back. This grotesque uniform resulted in the corps being dubbed " The Snuffs " ; but at a later date it was changed to a dark grey woollen cord with white helmet a neat and serviceable uniform.
The Major's official letter-book, giving copies of all the forceful missives which he had to send to the Colonial Secretary during the first year of the corps' existence, had lain buried away and forgotten until a few months ago. These communications alone show the stern fight the Commandant had to keep things going in any sort of fashion. A fortnight after the first man had been enlisted at Pietermaritzburg, at which the " headquarters " were stationed, the Major wrote in somewhat bitter terms to the Colonial Secretary concerning recruits. He had already written recommending that the European portion of the force should be raised from 50 to 1 50 or 200 men, and that an officer should be sent at once to England to enlist men and to order and send out as soon as possible the arms, clothing, and appointments required by the corps, as they could not possibly be obtained in the colony. Notices had appeared offering candidates for the force pay at the rate of 53. 6d. per day a wage which would bring a scornful smile to the face of a kafir who can put a wagon on the road. An ordinary mechanic could then earn more than that without the risk of life involved by being in the corps, and a steady skilled kafir labourer would have expected as much.
In his letter to the Colonial Secretary Major Dartnell added :
" In answer to these notices about twenty men have applied personally and by letter, but several were ineligible, so that up to the present time I have only enlisted twelve men.
" It was, I think, imagined that a sufficient number of recruits could easily be procured in the colony, and of a better stamp than could be enlisted in England, but I doubt if such will be found to be the case. The men who have applied to me, and who have now been enlisted, are :
" (i) Young men of respectable families in England who have only been in the colony a short time, have spent the little money they brought out with them, and are unaccustomed or unable to turn their hands to any laborious occupation, so join the police merely for the sake of a temporary living and not with any desire of remaining in the service.
" (2) Colonial born men who have led an unsettled life for years, such as transport riding, varied by occasional working at some trade, but never sticking to anything long.
" (3) Ex-soldiers and ex-sailors and loafers of divers sorts. All these are addicted to drink more or less, but they are the only men who offer themselves, and I do not think any better class is likely to be procured in the colony, for the rate of pay offered is too low, and the chances of promotion are too uncertain in a small force to induce well-to-do men to join the service, unless an influx of men takes place from the diamond or gold fields I doubt if 50 recruits will be obtained in the colony within the next six months, so I still think it advisable that an officer should proceed to England at once to recruit men there, if the police force is to be increased ; but if the colony cannot afford it, or if the Legislative Council will not vote sufficient funds to support a force of 150 or 200 men, then the sooner the few already enlisted are dismissed and the whole scheme knocked on the head, the better ; for a force of 50 Europeans cannot possibly do the work expected, i.e. ' Patrol the whole colony, etc. ' ; and there is nothing useful in the country having to pay for an inefficient force."
The commanding officer further pointed out that he was quite in the dark also as to what was to be done with the native section of the force in the matter of arming and drilling. He continued :
" I think they should be armed with a rifle of some sort ; for if they be only armed with assegais, and another outbreak takes place like the late Langalibalele affair, or they are employed to hunt men out of broken ground or bush, they will certainly refuse to go in against men armed with guns, and will then have to be armed in a hurry with a weapon about which they know nothing. I do not think there would be the slightest danger in arming and drilling 100 or 150 natives if they be enlisted for three years or more.
" I dare say it will be said that I am losing sight of a police force and wish to establish a defence force for the colony, but I have no such wish (though the two must be combined to a certain extent). All I desire is to see a properly organized and sufficiently numerous body of police formed so that they can carry out their proper duties of patrolling the colony, executing warrants, etc., and also to have sufficient men in hand to nip any outbreak in the bud, or make a stand until the volunteers could be called out.
" It seems to me absurd to enlist men unless I have authority to mount, equip, and render them efficient."
At this period the " barracks " consisted of a few tents at the back of Fort Napier, Pietermaritzburg, and the early recruits were of that peculiar type known in South Africa as " hard cases." The colonial " hard case " must be met to be understood. They were notorious in their way, but were hard workers and, on pay day, hard drinkers. Hardships they were never without, according to their own story. The fashionable drink was " square face " taken in all its neat glory, often with maddening effect. But though the trooper police of those days were occasionally a little wild, they never brought the corps into disrepute. They had at their head a strict disciplinarian who had very distinct ideas on the subject of his men's behaviour, and he enforced his ideas in a very pointed fashion. He had a peculiarly commanding personality, and one which instantly gave men a sense of confidence in him. By some he was spoken of as a martinet, but everybody loved him in a soldierly fashion. Old troopers who served under him long ago, when blood stained the slopes of Africa red, have told the writer, with a touch of grimness in their eyes and voice, that had he given the word they would cheerfully have " followed him to Hades."
There was no nonsense, either, about SergeantMajor Stean, upon whose shoulders fell the unenviable task of training the wild rankers. He made his reputation in the Cape Mounted Rifles, and improved upon it when he discovered the sort of material he had put before him in Natal to turn into soldiers. Always popular your " hard case " has neither respect nor obedience for the namby-pamby drill instructor he is still spoken of as the best man the corps ever had for putting recruits through their paces.
The sergeant-major was universally known as 1 Puffy." He was a soldier from the tip of his pith helmet to the soles of his boots, and he knew to a nicety exactly when to pour forth a stream of invective when the drill grew ragged. A man of tireless energy, he expected his men to keep up to his own pitch, and his methods of training were severe. No recruit ever born had such a thick skin that he did not feel the bitterness of the sting when " Puffy " chose to bestow his choicest expletives on him.
One man who " went through it " under " Puffy " at the riding-school in 1879 has put on record an example of the remarks the sergeant-major used to let drop while drilling his men. They ran like this :
V Prepare to mount. By numbers One two there's a man putting his wrong foot into he's got the right one now. Mount. Keep your heels well down, and your toes turned in. Don't look at me, my man ; do as I tell you, not as I do. Heels well down, Ilberry you look like a ballet girl. Squad ! March. Left hand in a line with your confounded elbow, Jenkins. Look at him ! Look at him ! You're the man who told me you'd hunted with the Oakleighs, are you ? Sit up you look more like a monkey on a piece of crockery than anything I've ever seen. When I give the word to trot, break into a gentle trot. Squad ! Trot. Now, idiots ! Let go those lifebuoys, Ilberry. Look at him hugging that horse round the neck. That's a horse, Ilberry, not a girl. I'll have you off if you ride like that. You're off, are you? Halt. Get up again. That's right. You're a beauty. Get into the ranks. March. Trot. Sit up in your saddle, Ilberry. You're slipping under the horse's belly he might hurt you if you stop there. What a crew ! There's Jenkins again. Nearly off. Sit up straight in your saddle, Simpson. It's ' here's my head and my boots are coming ' with you sit upright, man. I saw you in the Park on Saturday, on foot, with Ada. You'll never be able to take her out for a ride if you don't learn to ride better than that. Lord, there's Ilberry off again and Jenkins as well Halt ! "
Then " Puffy " really would begin to talk.
He was promoted to the rank of adjutant later, but that removed him from the sphere in which he shone, and the later recruits never knew what it was to hear the biting sarcasm that could fall from his lips on parade. He spent the last year or two of his service keeping a letter register, which became a sort of hobby, and finally he retired to Bristol on pension.
When the Commandant received a brief note from the Colonial Secretary stating that the purchase of horses was to be deferred until the sickly season was over, and therefore stables would not be necessary " for the present," he wrote pointing out that the sickly season was practically over, and continued :
" I applied for a stable because I considered Maritzburg a more or less unhealthy place for unstabled horses at all seasons of the year ; and as the men have to buy their own horses out of their pay I think it hardly fair that they should be obliged to run unnecessary risks. But if stables are not to be allowed at all it would be better to let me know at once, and allow me to purchase horses as required, for unless I am soon allowed to get the horses, teach the men to ride, and instruct them in mounted drill, I should never have been told to start recruiting, as it is only paying men for nothing keeping them three or four months over drill when it might be done in a much shorter time."
A more anomalous position than that then occupied by the Commandant could not easily be imagined. It was almost like a comic opera regiment, though the chief saw little humour in it. Not only was he without barracks, uniforms, horses, and stables after the recruits had been signed on, but he even had no firearms. At the end of March he wrote :
" The only arms I have been able to get for the force are six Snider carbines which have been handed over to me by the Volunteer Department. The same department has in store about twenty Terry rifles (which are unserviceable) and a lot of muskets and short Enfield rifles, none of which will do for the police force."
In spite of the miserable conditions that faced the recruits, and the poor rate of pay, considering what was expected of them when they did get to work, fresh arrivals were slowly added to the ranks of Europeans, the total at the end of April reaching the noble proportions of twenty-four ; but the Commandant was still having a battle royal with the Colonial Secretary on the subject of the provision of horses or stables or both. He stuck to his guns valiantly, urging first one suggestion and then another with as little effect as though he had been talking to the four winds of Heaven.
At the end of April he wrote to the Secretary for Native Affairs urging him to secure fifty kafirs for the force, stipulating that they should be young, active fellows, willing to enlist for three years. Their pay was to be fifteen shillings a month, and in addition they were to have their food (mealie meal, and meat once a week), one suit of clothes a year, and one blanket and one greatcoat a year. Six non-commissioned officers were to be appointed from amongst these men, namely, three corporals and three sergeants* who were to be paid at the rate of 175. and 223. a month each respectively. He pointed out that if men speaking English or Dutch could be selected that would be an advantage.
Affairs in Weenen County were still very unsettled, following on the passage-at-arms with Langalibalele, and the Commandant, still leaving no stone unturned to get some sort of equipment for his men, saw that there would be trouble unless the district were patrolled, and he was curtly told that the matter must stand over.
At length a dozen undersized and aged animals arrived at the " barracks," one of them immediately being pronounced as utterly hopeless. These, it must be remembered, were to be the unhappy beasts that had to carry the raw troopers over wild country, and on their decrepit legs the lives of the soldiers would depend in case of emergency. The men were not going out on pleasure, but with the prospect of having to fight a horde of wild, ruthless kafirs, who were past-masters in the act of arranging an ambush. Added to this, the Commandant had the unpleasant knowledge that the men would have to pay for the animals out of their wages, but these were the only horses forthcoming, so he offered to keep them until the danger of horse-sickness was over, after which he would take over such of them as could be used for the police work ; and this course was adopted. Three of the animals died in the interval.
The first useful work done by the force began on the 6th of May 1874 when a detachment of sixteen men left Maritzburg on their sorry steeds to do or die in the Weenen County. They were under SubInspector Mansel, who long afterwards became Commandant of the corps. Excepting their leader and Private Corbett, all these pioneers have since died. The recently discovered official record states that the little band consisted of Corporal Ellis, LanceCorporal Jackson, and Privates Babington, Corbett, Crallan, Johnson, Maddock, Saulez, Smith, Sullivan, Thompson, Year, White, Faddy, Abbott, and Hughes.
The officer in charge was given careful instructions not to over-fatigue either men or horses, for both were green at the work. As the crow flies they had fifty-five miles to cover before they reached Estcourt, and all the roads were hilly and winding. The Commandant was compelled by circumstances to give the following order to the officer in command :
1 You will make the best arrangements you can for provisioning the men and horses on the road, but you must clearly understand and explain to the troopers that the Government will not bear any portion of the expenses incurred on this account."
The men were armed with the antediluvian muzzle-loading weapon known as the Terry rifle, but these, it was understood, were to be exchanged, as soon as they reached Estcourt, for a number of Westley-Richards carbines which had been served out some time previously to a small Basuto force living on the frontier. The superintendent of the Weenen County was advised by the Commandant, in view of the men being still imperfectly drilled, to see that they were not broken up into small parties " when they would be under no supervision and soon lose the few habits of discipline they had already acquired."
On the arrival of the small force the men were placed on patrol, five natives accompanying them. Although the unrest amongst the kafirs continued for some time, there appears to be no record of any actual fighting, although that, perhaps, was fortunate, considering the raw condition of the men and their inadequate equipment. In June they were stationed in a vacated house on the farm Ellestby, and were ordered to patrol along the valley of the Ingesuti up to the heights of the forest between the Ingesuti and Table Mountain towards Cathkin Peak, and to prevent any native from going through the locations without a pass. The Commandant protested that this task was too much for sixteen men and five natives to undertake, but a score or so of Zulus were added to the force, and the police patrolled the district named, the object being to prevent any of Langalibalele's men returning to Natal and settling in the location.
To add to the discomforts of the troopers the weather was terrible. The Drakensberg was perpetually covered with snow, and the men suffered very badly from exposure, as there were no tents then. Those whose duty kept them away from their temporary headquarters had to make the best shelter they could under a tree and a blanket.
" The men who are at present serving in the force," writes Col. W. J. Clarke, who joined in 1878, and was in close association with many of the pioneers for years, " will scarcely realize the discomfort of veldt life which was experienced in the early days. Even when I joined, such luxuries as waterproof sheets, waterproof coats, pack-horses, etc., were unknown. We received no travelling allowances, had no kit-bags or kit-boxes, and everything we possessed in the way of kit had to be carried in saddle-bags on our horses. Mufti was almost unknown, and I believe that in a detachment of seventy-one men, with which I served at Estcourt, we had not one suit of plain clothes among us. Our boxes were left in Pietermaritzburg at our own risk, and most of these were stored at a confectioner's shop in Church Street. So opposed to the wearing of mufti was the sergeantmajor that we made all haste to dispose of such articles of attire as we possessed. For six and a half years I never wore any dress but uniform.
" In 1874 the patrol tent was carried in two portions, which buttoned together along the top, each man carrying half a tent, and a tent pole lashed to his carbine.
" The first pack-horse purchased for the force was known by the name of ' Cracker/ and he spent many years of his life at headquarters, being employed chiefly as a punishment mount for obstinate recruits. Many of us who rather fancied ourselves as horsemen were considerably taken down when the sergeantmajor gave us a dose of ' circle ' at the trot, with the stirrups crossed, on this horribly rough animal. We used to take the beast out of the stable at night and tie him up to a tree in the square in the hope that he would contract horse-sickness, but he only thrived on an outdoor life. A man named Haynes tried to shoot the animal one day at mounted pistol practice, but missed his mark and was unseated owing to the animal shying. Any man who gave his horse a sore back was mounted on ' Cracker/ so it is easy to imagine how we nursed our steeds.
" Perhaps the officers were not aware of all our difficulties and discomforts. As far as I can judge, there is no comparison between the conditions of service then and now."
Towards the end of May the Commandant at last secured barracks in Pietermaritzburg for his growing corps. He was able to rent a house in Church Street at 5, IDS. a month for them, and the strength of the force stood at thirty-eight. The barracks were very primitive. One room was orderly room and pay office, one room was a Volunteer office, one a Quartermaster's store, and one was occupied by the Commandant. This was the home of the police for seventeen years.
It was a rough life for the men when they were at headquarters. Most of them had to sleep in tents in which there were bed-boards without mattresses. For years the men all had to do their own fatigues, and no non-commissioned officer below the rank of sergeant (in those days they had corporals and lancesergeants) was allowed a native servant.
Messing was one huge picnic prepared by very amateur cooks. No native servant was allowed in the kitchen, and the mess-room was like a beargarden, the food being badly prepared. One of the oldest members of the corps, recalling this roughand-ready way of living, writes :
" At one time we had a system of private messing, each man, or group of men, being allowed to make any arrangement about food. The messing was so bad when I reached Estcourt that I went into a private mess with a companion. He catered and I cooked. We clubbed our money on pay day, and he went down to the village to order supplies, while I fixed up a paraffin tin as a cooking stove and laid in a stock of firewood.
" My mess chum was brought back by a picket with a haversack containing two bottles of beer my month's rations and as we could get no credit we spent the rest of the month living on doves and mealie meal, the mealies being purchased as ' extra forage ' and ground by the cook (myself), who also had to shoot the doves.
" I borrowed a confiscated rifle from the magistrate's court, took the powder out of my cartridges, and stalked doves that came to the thorn trees near the fort. Ammunition was so scarce that I never fired at anything on the wing. At a later date private messing was tried at Fort Pine, and proved an utter failure. For seven months I endured it, and can safely say that I never had a satisfactory meal during the whole of that time."
Further trouble occurred at Estcourt, a kafir attempting to stab Mr. Mellersh, the resident magistrate, and a further force of fifteen police had to be sent, to mount guard. There was great difficulty in getting uniforms for them, and they only had an old Terry rifle each besides six revolvers between them. These were all the revolvers the Commandant could procure in the colony. By the end of June there were forty-five troopers in the force, a number of men having been dismissed for misconduct. They were nearly all on patrol in Weenen County, and they were all perpetually hard up owing to the very heavy expenses which they had to incur there, and which they had to defray out of their slender pay. Hay, for instance, could not be got under 5 a ton.
On the 25th July 1874, it being considered that there was no immediate danger of unrest amongst the natives, the bulk of the men at Estcourt were ordered down to headquarters.
There was a kafir chief named Umgwapuni in Alfred County who had obstinately refused for two years to " move on " with his wives and followers when ordered to do so. As soon as the newly raised force arrived from Estcourt it was sent with Mr. John Shepstone, Acting-Secretary for Native Affairs, to deal with the chief. They trekked to the south via Stoney Hill, reaching Murchison, where Umgwapuni was ordered to appear before Mr. Shepstone. He declined absolutely to have anything to do with that gentleman, whereupon the police, keenly anxious for the " fun." to start, were sent to persuade him. Umgwapuni, alarmed by this show of strength, left his kraal hurriedly, and his removal was effected without any further difficulty.
The first recorded instances of cattle-stealing reported to the police occurred during August of that year, near Pietermaritzburg. Two men chased one thief to Umvoti and captured him. The second thief, a Hottentot, was followed to Kokstadt and caught. Both were imprisoned.
Nothing particularly exciting happened for some weeks, and an attempt to form a police camp at Harding then a desolate, out-of-the-world place proved impossible. Huts were erected there, but sufficient food for twenty-five men and horses could not be found, and the detachment was withdrawn to Pietermaritzburg .
There is splendid testimony to the fact that the police did not work in a slipshod way in those days, for those mud huts have stood the storms and heat of all these years, and are as sound to-day as they ever were.
Up to this time there had been a certain amount of friction between the police and the press. Accusations had been made from time to time imputing serious misconduct to the force. A doubtless wellmeaning, but wrongly-informed, missionary did much to foster the ill-feeling. During the march into Alfred County the greatest difficulty was experienced in finding food for the troopers in a country where at that time stores were unknown. When the force got south of Umzinto meat could only be obtained from the natives. A large figure was asked for an ox and the impoverished troopers could not, and very rightly would not, pay the man's price. Without taking the trouble to inquire into the circumstances the missionary rushed into print as soon as he heard of the dispute, accusing the troop of " commandeering supplies."
An official inquiry followed, and the matter came before the Legislative Assembly, when the ActingColonial Secretary stated that the charges were unfounded.
1 This perpetual blackening of the characters of the men," he said, " is not only unjust to them but most injurious to the force in other ways. They become disheartened and reckless, and serious injury to the public service is the result. Good men who would otherwise join are deterred from doing so. They are nothing but a body of colonists enrolled for the protection of their fellow-colonists, and I think it the duty of every one to uphold them in the proper discharge of their task. Do not let wrong be done to what is as precious to the members of this force as to ourselves their good name, their character, and their honour."
This apparently went home to the newspapers. A few days afterwards the Times of Natal contained an article which spoke in glowing terms of the value of the force.
In justice to the missionary it should be explained that after he discovered his errors he apologized in writing for making misstatements, though this did not remove the stigma that stuck to the corps for a long time afterwards. One of his inaccuracies, scattered broadcast, was to the effect that in commandeering food the men shot two goats belonging to natives. They did shoot two goats, but not until after they had paid for them, and were told that they would never catch the animals unless they used their guns.
It was still impossible for the Commandant to obtain necessary equipment, although he bullied the authorities politely daily on behalf of his men. All his heroic efforts were practically ignored, and he grew weary of righting for the very existence of his corps without effect ; so at last he carried out a frequently repeated threat and tendered his resignation. This occasioned alarm, even amongst the newspapers which had done most to vilify the corps. They now said they had always entertained the highest opinion of his fitness for the important position he held, and added that it was just because he was capable and declined to be perpetually humbugged that he had resigned from a position which he could not hold with credit to himself or benefit to the colony. Even those who had spoken ill of the corps were bound at this juncture to admit the wonderful grit and determination of the man who had made the force, though only those who were working with him, such as " Puffy " Stean, ever knew what a fine fight he made against heavy odds .
" Major Dartnell stands out," said the Natal Witness, " as an example worthy of imitation by many of our officials, but we are afraid it will be a long time before we see one of them have the manliness to follow a similar course. We hope the day is not far distant when his services will be secured by a Government better able to appreciate them."
Fortunately for the Government, however, the services of the Commandant were appreciated, and on a promise being made by the authorities that his efforts for the improvement of the force under his control would not be frustrated, he withdrew his resignation.
Here is an instance of the curious relations that existed between the police and public, who had not at this time grown to appreciate the force properly. The news reached Sub-Inspector Campbell that a number of sheep had been stolen from a farmer. He immediately sent two men to the farm to make inquiries and recover the animals if possible, but to their astonishment the man told them it was no good their trying to discover anything about it from him, as he would tell them nothing. With this uncivil reply on his lips the farmer turned his back on the police officers, whose only course left was to retire gracefully and wonder what they were paid for.
Prisoners had a playful habit of escaping from a gaol at Pietermaritzburg occasionally, and two men, one of whom was a soldier, gave the police a stern chase. On breaking away from the gaol one of them, a desperate character, stole a revolver, and the pair lost no time in getting well into the country. It was several days before the police heard which direction they had taken, and then Sub-Inspector Mansel, together with a trooper, rode out on their track. A long way from headquarters they came to the place where the men had left the main road, and here the pursuers were in difficulties for a time. At last they picked up the convicts' spoor on a kafir track. Following this for fifteen miles they came to a lonely part of the country, and there was danger at every step, for it was known that the men were armed. After a long and trying search they came upon the pair in a swamp. One of them held out a revolver, but the police were ready with their weapons, and the convicts were called upon to surrender or be shot. Seeing that the odds were against them the fugitives surrendered sulkily and were taken back to Pietermaritzburg.