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Some Correspondence between the British and Boer Military Officials.

Lyndenburg,

20th August, 1901.

ASSISTANT COMMANDANT-GENERAL B. J. VILJOEN.

SIR,

I have the honour to enclose herewith a copy of a communication received from Lord Kitchener. Begins:—With reference to your letter of the 10th August on the subject of employment of natives, I have the honour to inform you, as I have already informed Commandant-General Botha, that natives are employed by me as scouts and as police in native districts, especially in the low country, where white men, if not by long residence inured to the climate, suffer much from fever.

I would point out to you that in numerous cases armed natives have been employed by the burgher forces, particularly in the commando of General  Beyers, and that armed natives have frequently been found in the commandos fighting against us. I do not wish to bring the native population of the country into this quarrel between British and Boers.

I have invariably told the natives that, although I could not forbid their defending themselves if attacked by burghers, they were on no account to attack. I am convinced that but for the strict orders which I have issued on this subject, the hatred engendered by the wholesale slaughter of unarmed natives by the burghers during this War would have led to a native rising, with deplorable results to the Boer race.

It must also be within your knowledge that most of the rifles in possession of M'pisana's natives were sold to them by men of your own commando when moving from Hector's Spruit to Pietersburg last year.

In answer to your questions regarding the British prisoners now in your hands, the persons named are enlisted soldiers in His Majesty's Army, and have been acting under my orders. They should be treated as prisoners-of-war.—Ends.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

A. CURRAN,

Lieutenant-Colonel

Commanding Lydenburg.

23rd July, 1901.

TO HIS EXCELLENCY LORD KITCHENER,

Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Troops in South Africa, Pretoria.

YOUR EXCELLENCY,

I am compelled to emphatically protest against the methods of your officers. Last April your Excellency's brother, General W. Kitchener, took our ambulance veldt-hospital, near Roos Senekal, and only after much trouble were a number of the vehicles restored to us. On that occasion, General W. Kitchener refused to return to me the slaughter oxen belonging to the field-hospital, saying that we could steal such oxen from the kaffirs. In consequence of those acts, my wounded were rendered without food, and robbed of means of transportation.

Now, again, a column of your troops, which was proceeding on the 9th or 10th inst. from Machadodorp across Witpoort, attacked a Red Cross hospital occupied by sick women and children, notwithstanding the patients were in charge of a certificated nurse, named Mrs. W. Botha. One of  your officers, misled by a former burgher, who is now treacherously fighting against his own people, declared that the Red Cross was not genuine, and burned all the buildings and food found therein, placed the patients on open trucks, and removed them.

The first night of their deportation the sick patients and nurses slept in a camp at Steelpoortdrift, under the trolley waggons and in the bitter cold, and although the women and children were lamenting and weeping the entire night, their complaints were not listened to. I have declarations testifying to the most inhuman, heartless, and cruel maltreatment committed towards helpless women and children on this occasion.

Probably, your Excellency knows nothing about these incidents, and as regards the bona-fides of our ambulances, I wish to point out to you that British officers depend largely on the assertions of kaffirs, and especially on the allegations of traitors, and on the slightest provocation ignore the rights of the Red Cross.

The column referred to also burned, and plundered and destroyed many houses at Steenkampsberg, Witpoort and many other places, without there being one single shot fired in the neighbourhood by our burghers. And all this was allowed to occur in spite of your Excellency's promises at the  meeting of the Commandant-General Botha at Middelburg.

Latterly, it has often occurred that British ambulances have fallen into my hands. At Bethel, three doctors and an ambulance attached to General Plumer's force fell into my hands. Near Vaalkop, Major Morris's ambulance, and near Belfast an ambulance, attached to your brother's forces, were in my power, but I always regarded and treated ambulances flying the Red Cross as neutral and humane institutions, and I even liberated the soldiers employed to attend your wounded.

And not a single one of these doctors or attendants was provided with a certificate, and I have invariably accepted their word that they were legally attached to the Red Cross. But what is the attitude of the British officers towards us?

I trust your Excellency will give me a satisfactory reply to these complaints, and issue orders to remedy them.

I am,

Your Excellency's most obedient servant,

B. J. VILJOEN.

Assistant Commandant-General.

District Lydenburg,

8th September, 1901.

TO HIS EXCELLENCY, LORD KITCHENER, Commanding the British Troops in South Africa, Pretoria.

YOUR EXCELLENCY,

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your Excellency's letter to General Blood, dated Pretoria, 31st of August, from which I understand that your Excellency essays to justify the use of the white flag for the dissemination of proclamations through our lines, in connection with which your Excellency offers arguments which I do not hesitate to say are utterly untenable.

Firstly, it is asserted by your Excellency that the sending of these documents addressed to individuals is justified under the white flag; secondly, that your Excellency considers it your Excellency's duty to render us conversant with the contents of your Excellency's proclamations in order that we shall be informed what our fate shall be after the 15th September next, &c., &c., &c.

With regard to the first argument introduced, I regret that I must dispute your Excellency's contention that this is legal, and I am assured that an impartial court would declare it as illegal. I enclose herewith the copy of a letter from General W. Kitchener, dated 1st September last, in answer to a complaint of my locum tenens, "Fighting"-General Muller, with respect to the taking and removing by the said General W. Kitchener's troops of our ambulance and hospital attendants, from which letter it will appear that General Kitchener considers the sending of a white flag despatch concerning important and serious irregularities as "trivial communications." How am I to understand British officers?

Your Excellency thinks that it is permissible to employ the white flag to send pernicious and misleading proclamations within our lines, whereas General W. Kitchener warns us not to employ the white flag when we are compelled to complain concerning the British Army where the latter removes and robs us of our ambulances, as occurred in connection with the ambulance of Dr. Neethling, which was removed to Middelburg, and after being relieved of food, medical instruments, a number of vehicles, eight mules, and 10 oxen, was sent back.

With regard to the second matter, your Excellency, I should say, appears to display as keen an  interest in our ultimate fate as Messrs. Dillon and Labouchere, and, if I possessed any prophetic faculty, I should probably be better able to appreciate your Excellency's interest in ourselves.

In the letter referred to above, your Excellency mentions a letter sent to his Honour, Commandant-General Botha, in which your Excellency asserts that certain murders committed by us filled the British public with horror, and that these murders provoked Mr. Chamberlain's remark "that the acts of the Boers justified the description of marauding ruffianisms." I cannot believe such acts have been committed by us or ours with the knowledge of our officers, or that any such acts will be committed. It is, of course, impossible for me to discuss this matter further, as I am ignorant of the circumstances.

With reference to your Excellency's contention that the destruction of our enemy's railway lines is unjustifiable, I can only say that such action is not only regarded as legal by all military authorities, but that in a handbook published by Sir Garnet Wolseley circumstantial instructions are given in this connection for interrupting hostile supplies. As your Excellency rightly remarks, we, as soldiers, must take the rough with the smooth, and not complain petulantly when in certain cases a less gentle treatment is dealt out. Military operations, such as the blowing up of railway lines, are as unpleasant to us  as I hope the destruction of our houses, the burning of our food, and the deportation of our families may be to your Excellency.

I have the honour to be,

Your Excellency's obedient servant,

B. J. VILJOEN,

Assistant Commandant-General,

Transvaal Burgher Forces.

District Lydenburg,

21st September, 1901.

TO HIS HONOUR GENERAL SIR BINDON BLOOD,

Middelburg.

YOUR HONOUR,

I am compelled to protest against the methods of one of your columns, which during the past week has been operating round about Roos Senekal, and which has burnt and destroyed the food of a number of families which it did not deport. This is surely a most inhuman action, inasmuch that the families mentioned are now in  a destitute position. The families in question are those of Mr. Hans Grobler of Klip River, and others at Tondeldoos. I should also like to know why Dr. Manning and his ambulance and wounded have been removed from Tondeldoos, notwithstanding former assurances that the Red Cross should be regarded as neutral and left unmolested.

I have the honour to be,

Your Honour's obedient servant,

B. J. VILJOEN.

Assistant Commandant-General.

Head Quarters, Pretoria,

26th October, 1901.

TO GENERAL BEN VILJOEN.

SIR,

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 8th of October, in which you complain of attacks upon your burghers, and the families and the property of your burghers, by kaffirs. You specify two particular incidents in your letter:—

(a) The incident at Wit River on the 22nd September, 1901.

(b) The burning and plundering of homesteads at Ohrigstad.

I have investigated both cases and find that the facts are as follows:—

(a) In the first case a small body of mounted troops in charge of an officer attempted to capture a number of Boer waggons near Wit River on the 22nd September. A fight took place, and during the battle a band of kaffirs, of whose proximity His Majesty's troops had no knowledge, approached from another direction and commenced shooting on the burghers. This being observed, His Majesty's troops were withdrawn in order to avert any appearance of co-operation with the kaffirs, and a report in connection with the incident was immediately sent in.

(b) In the second case Colonel Parke, the commanding officer of His Majesty's troops in the district named, reports that there is no foundation for the report supplied to you. On the 3rd of September all families in Ohrigstad district were removed by him. Harber's burgher commando was present, but took no part in the operation. On this occasion it was reported by a Boer woman that a number of kaffirs had appeared there the day previous and had plundered the village of Ohrigstad, but the kaffirs were acting independently of His Majesty's troops, and no further information  as regards the matter is available except the report as stated above.

In conclusion, I think that it is not improbable that kaffirs have made attacks in the districts named by you, but I can only attribute these attacks to the action of your own burghers, i.e., to the shooting and robbing of kaffirs, and the enmity thereby awakened among the kaffirs by such maltreatment. While at the same time they (the burghers) have supplied the kaffirs, by manner of sale, of weapons and ammunition wherewith the attacks were made concerning which you complain. I emphatically deny that they (the kaffirs) were armed or incited by His Majesty's troops.

I have the honour to be,

Your obedient servant,

KITCHENER,

Commander-in-Chief in South Africa.

District Lydenburg,

6th November, 1901.

TO HIS EXCELLENCY LORD KITCHENER,

Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Forces in South Africa.

YOUR EXCELLENCY,—

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency's letter of the 26th October, containing a denial of certain acts committed by armed kaffirs in the neighbourhood of Wit River and Ohrigstad.

With respect to the first incident, i.e., that at Wit River, I can only say that it appeared to us not only strange, but even improbable that a band of armed kaffirs could attack simultaneously, and in evident harmony with His Majesty's troops, and that neither party should have any cognisance of the other's presence.

If it were the first occasion that His Majesty's troops had acted in conjunction and with the assistance of kaffirs to make raids on the burghers, then His Excellency's explanation would be feasible.

But, alas, our bitter experience in this War is otherwise. I shall, therefore, be causing your Excellency no surprise if I contend that your Excellency's explanation is untenable. As to what occurred at Ohrigstad, I adhere to what I said, and to my letter of the 8th of October, and I regret to observe that Colonel Parke misled your Excellency by giving you an inaccurate account of the true facts.

To assist Colonel Parke's memory I may state that the same night he left Lydenburg on his way to Kruger's Post, the Boer, Harber, with his band of traitors, proceeded through Klipkloof and across Joubertshoogte, accompanied by 100 armed kaffirs, and passed Field-Cornet Zwart's farm at Uitkomst, where the plundering of Boer families and homesteads was commenced. This was done at the explicit instructions and in the presence of the said Harber.

The same afternoon Harber was met by the forces under Colonel Parke, at Rustplaats, whence they conjointly withdrew to Kruger's Post Nek.

The next morning Colonel Parke once more proceeded to Ohrigstad, where our families were again plundered and deported, and the homesteads raided and burned.

Accordingly, only the last paragraph of Colonel Parke's report is correct; and if your Excellency  would take the trouble to question and examine the families now in your hands—as requested in my former letter—your Excellency would easily ascertain the true facts.

Since I construe from your Excellency's letter that Harber and his corps are recognised as attached to His Majesty's forces, His Majesty's officers must be held responsible for the acts of the said Harber and his kaffir hordes.

It is not to be assumed that Harber and his corps, all armed, and attired in khaki, only accompanied His Majesty's Army as spectators or military attachés.

In conclusion, I observe that your Excellency repeats the allegation that kaffirs are promiscuously shot, robbed, and maltreated by our burghers, and that arms have been sold to the kaffirs by our burghers; and that you trace the hostile attitude of the kaffirs towards us to these causes.

As regards the hostile attitude of the kaffir races I can refer your Excellency to a letter from his Honour, General Louis Botha, on the same subject, wherein it is notified, inter alia, that prior to the arrival of British troops in these districts, and in Swaziland, the kaffir races, without exception, maintained a pacific attitude, a fact which speaks for itself.

I must again repeat that the allegation that  burghers sold arms to the kaffirs is, so far as I know, untrue, and that this is merely one of the many baseless accusations which have emanated from traitors and unscrupulous individuals, and are offered by them as "important information" to the British officers.

That kaffirs were provided by His Majesty's officers with arms can be proved by intercepted documents, and I enclose herewith an extract from the diary of Sergeant Buchanan, of Steinacker's Horse, from which your Excellency will perceive that Lieutenant Gray, an officer of His Majesty's Army, did personally supply kaffirs with arms and ammunition.

I have the honour to be,

Your Excellency's obedient servant,

B. J. VILJOEN.

Assistant Commandant-General.

District of Lydenburg,

7th November, 1901.

The Officer Commanding Lydenburg,

DEAR SIR,—

I shall be obliged by your bringing the following to the attention of Lord Kitchener, namely, that on 29th October last the residence of  a certain D. Coetzee, on the Vrischgewaard Farm, in this district, was surrounded during the night of that day, or approximately at that time, by His Majesty's troops, assisted by a number of kaffirs and traitors, and that only the youth Abraham Coetzee, occupied the house, and that this youth, while attempting to escape, was shot through the stomach. Coetzee was, furthermore, left in a shed, and robbed of all his personal goods, and even his clothes.

The following day I found him still alive, but he died shortly after. He declared that in the presence of white British troops he had been robbed, knocked about, and kicked by armed kaffirs. I know beforehand that the officer responsible for this noble and civilised act will attempt to pervert the truth, because I am assured that His Excellency cannot sanction this method of warfare. But this case is personally known to me, and in my opinion, the declaration of a dying man is worthy of credit.

I have the honour to be,

Your very obedient servant,

B. J. VILJOEN.

On the Veldt,

11th November, 1901.

TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE MARQUIS OF SALISBURY,

Prime Minister of His British Majesty's Government.

YOUR EXCELLENCY,

Whereas His Honour the Commandant-General, and other commanding officers, have already more than once, without any result, protested to the Commanding Officer of your Forces in South Africa against the employment of savage aborigines in this War, and notwithstanding that we have repeatedly assured your military authorities here that on our side every effort is being made to keep kaffirs entirely outside this War, this Government is of opinion that it is its duty to earnestly and solemnly protest to your Government, as we hereby do, and at the same time to point out and direct its attention to the horrible and cruel consequences of this manner of warfare.

Former protests sent in to your military authorities  here in this connection have met with the reply that such kaffirs were only employed as unarmed scouts, though we have proof that they actually fight against us, and pursue their destructive methods while in the ranks of your forces, and as isolated commandos directed by British officers.

These kaffirs, being ignorant of the rules of civilised warfare, have not hesitated on various occasions and even in the presence of your troops, to kill prisoners-of-war in a barbarous fashion. This is only one of the evil consequences resulting from the employment of barbarians in war, because it has also occurred that defenceless women and children have been made prisoners by these wild ruffians, and removed to kaffir kraals for detention until they were handed over to the British military authorities.

This Government is prepared, in case the above allegations are denied, to send your Excellency a large number of sworn declarations confirming the facts.

We have the honour to be,

Your Excellency's most obedient servants,

S. W. BURGER

(Acting State President).

F. W. REITZ

(Acting State Secretary).

Army Headquarters, Pretoria, South Africa.

1st December, 1901.

SIR,

I observe from a communication which his Honour Schalk Burger has requested me to forward to Lord Salisbury, and which I have so forwarded, that his Government complains of the treatment of the women and children in the camps which we have established for their reception.

Everything has been done which the conditions of a state of war allowed to provide for the well-being of the women and children; but as you complain of that treatment and must, therefore, be in a position to provide for them, I have the honour to inform you that all women and children at present in our camps who are willing to leave will be sent to your care, and I shall be happy to be informed where you desire that they should be handed over to you.

I have addressed a reply to His Honour Schalk Burger in the above sense.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

KITCHENER,

General Commanding-in-Chief, South Africa.

TO GENERAL C. DE WET.

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