Indeed the Boers had hardly delayed an hour after the expiry of the time given in their ultimatum, when their advance began; and on the 12th October, the very day after White's arrival in Ladysmith, while the first arrangements were being made for considering the defences of the town, the enemy's troops were over the border.

On that date White telegraphs to the War Office :—

Four thousand Boers with 18 guns have invaded Natal from Free State via Tintwa Pass. They are probably encamped to-night ten miles west of Acton Homes. I move out to meet them at 3 a.m. to-morrow with 5th Lancers, three field batteries, one Mountain Battery, Liverpools, Gordons, Manchesters, and one other Battalion which comes from Glencoe by train to-night. Also with 250 Natal Carbineers and a Colonial Battery. No occasion for public alarm. I believe myself stronger than the enemy. Spirit of the troops excellent.

Now the Tintwa Pass was almost due west of Ladysmith, so the Boers showed from the first that they understood the advantage of threatening that place in addition to any movements they might be making from the north. Such action tied White down, and prevented his sending the bulk of his force to join Symons in any offensive action against the northern contingents. White's prompt action, on the other hand, showed the spirit in which he intended to meet the situation, by striking out at any body of the enemy which gave him a chance.

The attempt, however, was of no great advantage. The enemy was not found. Warned no doubt by some of the innumerable spies with which Ladysmith was full, and being all mounted men able to march three times as fast as British infantry, they had easily evaded the blow aimed at them and disappeared into space. At the same time the British scouts brought in reports that parties of the Free State enemy were pushing through other passes to the westward, while to the north and north-west the Transvaal Boers were occupying points within British territory, and were daily growing stronger.

It was a trying week, watching in vain for a chance, while the mobile and elusive enemy closed gradually upon White and Symons, and news of threatening movements on their part came from both sides of the line of communication to the southward. By the 17th of the month White evidently felt extreme inconvenience from the division of his troops. He writes to Lord Camperdown:—

I am realising exactly what I anticipated the situation would be.   The Boers are all round in numbers that must, at least, be four times ours. I get demands for help from all sides. If I gave it I should be beaten in detail My one plan is to hold together a sufficient force to strike with if I get the chance. The Boers have positions of the greatest strength, & are closing in. I look at the map & long to strike out, but feel that, so far, it would be folly to do so. Van Reenan's Pass is nearest to me, but the road is the only approach. They have numerous guns in position to command it, & all other approaches are precipitous. They are some 35 miles off, & I could not hope to withdraw rapidly with wounded. If Symons' force, now at Dundee, was here, I could strike out. ...

And a day later he made an effort to bring Symons back. It should be explained that when agreeing, against his own view, to the Glencoe proposal, White had instructed Symons to find a defensible position, to entrench it, and to make certain that he had an assured water supply inside it. Symons, supremely confident that in the open ground about Glencoe he could use his force to great advantage, had perhaps paid less attention to these instructions than he might have done, and this had come to White's knowledge. On the 18th October, therefore, he telegraphed to Symons:—

I have been in communication with Governor, and he thinks the political importance of your force remaining at Dundee has already greatly decreased.

Maritzburg is now threatened, and I have to reinforce it heavily. If, therefore, you are not absolutely confident of being able to entrench yourself strongly, with an assured water supply within your position, fall back on Ladysmith at once.   Reply as quickly as possible.

This telegram was sent off at half-past one in the morning. Two hours later arrived the answer, which was as follows :—

133 urgent. Clear the line. I cannot fulfil the conditions you impose, namely, to strongly entrench myself here with an assured water supply within my position. I must therefore comply with your order to retire. Please to send trains to remove civilians that still remain in Dundee, our stores, and sick. I must give out that I am moving stores and camp to Glencoe junction in view of attacking .Newcastle at once.

At the same hour—3.30 a.m.—and apparently in reply to this telegram, though this is not certain, White telegraphed again :—

Sent at 3.30 a.m. on 18th October 1899. With regard to water, are you confident you can supply your camp for an indefinite period ? The difficulties and risk of withdrawing civil population and military stores are great, and railway may be cut any day. Do you yourself, after considering these difficulties, think it better to remain at Dundee and prefer it?

Symons replied :—

Glencoe Camp, 18th October. 134. Clear the line. We can and must stay here. I have no doubt whatever that this is the proper course. I have cancelled all orders for moving.

This peremptory telegram settled the question, and White closed the correspondence with the following words:—

Sent at 6 a.m., 18th October. Your 134 to clear line. I fully support you.   Make particulars referred to by me as safe as possible. Difficulties and disadvantages of other course have decided me to support your views.

One of the difficulties referred to by White was that almost all the available rolling-stock on the line would be required for the move, and that it might be lost. That this was not a fanciful fear is shown by the fact that the line was in fact cut by the Boers next day, the 19th.

Thus were decided the movements of the outlying force, and the opening operations of the war. There: was much discussion on the subject at the time, and it seems as well to give the telegrams verbatim, though they have already been given in the Report of the Royal Commission.

On the 19th October White reported that the Free State Boers had advanced some distance from the western passes, and that he had moved his camp to a position covering Ladysmith, in the hope of striking a blow; but he had no success, the enemy again retiring. In the north, railway communication with,'-; Glencoe was interrupted, the enemy having advanced over the Biggarsberg and captured a goods train at Elandslaagte, seventeen miles above Ladysmith.

So ended a weary week of waiting and preparation.' At the end of it matters were not in too satisfactory' a position. Arrangements had been set on foot for entrenching a circle of hills round Ladysmith, and for increasing the dep6t of supplies; but White's force was divided, two-thirds at Ladysmith, one-third at Dundee, with the railway cut between them; and the enemy was not only swamping Northern Natal with large numbers of mounted Burghers, backed, it was said, by some formidable heavy guns, but also threatening Ladysmith from the west. It looked as if the British forces and their veteran commander were about to sustain an onslaught which would try them severely.