WHILE Kruger and Botha were meditating an unconditional surrender, (with St. Helena or Colombo in the perspective), active steps were taken to capture the nimble and dashing De Wet. It was high time that Lord Kitchener, as responsible for the transports, looked after him. A full revelation of his feats was not made till his lordship ran down the line, and then it was discovered that during the fortnight ending June 20th the line of communications from the Vaal to Kroonstad had presented the chief difficulties in the way of Lord Roberts's operations.
On June 3rd De Wet captured a convoy of forty waggons, with stores and ammunition for the Highland Brigade, then at Heilbron. The capture was made half way between Heilbron and Vredefort Road.
At this moment the available troops on the communications were Lord Methuen at Lindley, the Derbyshire Militia at Rhenoster, and 1,000 men, drafts for regiments at the front, under Major Haig, at Vredefort Road. Convoy escorts and other details in small groups were scattered along the line.
On June 4th Major Haig attempted the relief of the convoy, but failed, and returned to the railway.
De Wet then moved south, and on the following day appeared astride the railway and demolished Roodevaal bridge.
June 6th found him forcing his way north, working destruction on his way. He occupied Vredefort Road Station, and compelled Major Haig to retire six miles north to find a defensible position. There was some sharp rifle fire, but Major Haig maintained his position.
On June 7th Lord Methuen arrived at Heilbron, where General Macdonald was very short of supplies, his men having been on quarter rations for six days.
Meantime De 'Wet, whose force had been largely augmented by his successes, had detached Commandant Nil to attack Rhenoster. He effected a surprise, attacking in the moonlight, and the Derbyshire Militia surrendered after having 100 casualties.
As to two of De Wet's skirmishes, Lord Roberts reported as follows:—On 2nd June a convoy of fifty waggons, in charge of Lieutenant Corballin, reserve of officers, was despatched from Rhenoster to Heilbron, escorted by 160 details of the Highland Brigade under Captain Johnstone, Volunteer Company, Seaforth Highlanders, Lieutenant Lang, Argyll and Sutherland, and Lieutenant Murray, Highland Light Infantry.
At one a.m. on 4th June Major Haig, in command of 1,000 details at Vredefort Road, received a message from officer commanding convoy, dated 9.30 p.m., 3rd., that they were surrounded by superior numbers, and required assistance.
Major Haig at once started with 600 details, and sent the message on to Major Haking, commandant at Railhead, some seven miles further north at Kromellanberg Spruit. The latter received the message at six a.m., and an hour later despatched 120 Berkshire Regiment (Mounted Infantry) to join Major Haig.
Both parties returned in the afternoon without having been able to get in touch with the convoy, the Mounted Infantry being driven in by superior numbers. The convoy was surrounded on the morning of the 4th June, and, in reply to a flag of truce from Christian De Wet, surrendered.
In second affair the enemy, on the morning of the 7th June, attacked the post on our line of communication just north of the recently-repaired railway bridge at Rhenoster River, held by the 4th Battalion Derbyshire Regiment and a party of Imperial Yeomanry scouts.
The pickets which had been posted on a range of kopjes just north of the camp were attacked at dawn and driven in, and the enemy occupied the range, which completely commanded the camp.
Our troops lost 35 killed and in wounded, the remainder being taken prisoners.
Captain Anderson, Imperial Yeomanry, escaped, and reported Captain W. Knight, D.A.A.G., and Lieutenant Kreager, Imperial Yeomanry, as prisoners.
On June 8th considerable reinforcements, consisting of the Shropshire Light Infantry, the South Wales Borderers, and a battery, moved rapidly from the Vaal.
On June 9th Lord Methuen moved out from Heilbron to reoccupy the railway. He overtook and broke a Boer detachment covering the Vredefort road, and on the following day he and the force from the Vaal concentrated at Vredefort road, the Boers being still in the vicinity.
On Tune nth the whole command, under Lord Methuen, moved south on both sides of the railway, and scattered the Boer commando at Reitvlei.
Next day they moved still further south, on information that Kroonstad had fallen, but contrary information arriving, moved east on the tail of the retreating Boers.
On June 14th the enemy again appeared at Rhenoster. They made a night attack on two construction trains, where Col. Girouard was personally superintending repairs. The working party resisted stubbornly, and were extricated by the timely arrival of support from a post to the south. The latter were attracted by firing, and arrived with artillery. One shell was sufficient to disperse the attack. The working party lost some forty prisoners. Dead Boers were found twenty yards from the train, the coaches of which were riddled with bullets.
Lord Methuen arrived from the east without having effected the capture of the Boer rearguard. The Boers were by this time retreating to Frankfort, their sole remaining depot of supplies in Orange River Colony.
Methuen, after slowly pursuing, returned to Heilbron on the 19th.
Drastic measures were now taken to avenge the damage done to our communications. All the farms lying within five miles of the scene of injury were burnt, and in the process De Wet himself was the first to suffer. Happily the interruption did not affect the food supplies of the army, Pretoria being found well stocked with provisions.
Railway communication between Bloemfontein and Pretoria was re-established on the 17th inst., and Lord Methuen continued his operations against De Wet.
The following telegrams illustrate other exploits of the Boer General.
From General of Communications, Cape Town, to
Commander-in-Chief. Cape Town, June 20th.—Referring to your telegram of
June 19th to General, Cape Town, telegram arrived from Methuen, June 4th, giving casualties amongst 13th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry found by him on arrival at Lindley, June 1st, which, having been checked as far as possible, were telegraphed to the Secretary of State June 6th. All inquiries have failed to elicit further report on the fate of the rest of the battalion or condition of wounded.' Trooper Hankey, lately belonging to the 13th battalion, who was with Methuen, states that he helped to write Methuen's telegram, and that no further news was available. It is supposed that all not mentioned were prisoners of war. This requires confirmation. Interrupted telegraph communications to the north of Kroonstad is the probable cause of no reply received to inquiries. I am sending to every station where news could be expected. Only further reports were telegraphed to the Secretary of State on June 14th and 18th.
The War Office issued the following telegram from Sir Redvers Buller:—
Standerton, June 24th, 3.25 p. m.—Four hundred and sixty-one prisoners, Irish and Middlesex Yeomanry, taken at Lindley, and 180 men, details of the Highland Brigade, taken with a convoy near Heilbron, passed through Standerton on the 18th. Of these a few severely wounded, including Lord Longford, had been left at Reitz, and the following sick were left here; Highland Light Infantry, Lance-Sergeant W. W. Maloney, Privates D. MacDonald, D. Lindsay, J. Cosgrane; 2nd Black Watch, Private J. Mansfield; 6th Company Yeomanry, Trooper J. Hill (who is seriously ill.) Others doing well. Bulk of prisoners, including Lord Leitrim, Lord Innismore, and Victor Gibson, are stated to have been in good health.
The total number of British prisoners brought through Standerton, who were captured in the Free State by the Boers, was 580. Of these 440 were Imperial Yeomanry and 140 belonged to the Highland Brigade. The Yeomanry comprised four companies — the Belfast, the Dublin, the North of Ireland, and the Duke of Cambridge's Own. The captured Highlanders' detachment consisted of Seaforths, Black Watch, and Highland Light Infantry.
In the capture of the Yeomanry the Boer Commandant De Wet seems to have displayed much of his characteristic slimness. The Yeomanry, unaware that General Colvile had vacated Lindley, and that it had been reoccupied by De Wet, approached the town in very haphazard fashion. De Wet had been well informed of their coming, and his Boers lay low.
The Yeomanry were allowed to come right into Lindley, and their first intimation of the presence of the enemy was a sharp volley. This was followed by a summons to surrender, and retreat being out of the question, and the Boers in overwhelming force, the whole battalion had perforce to lay down their arms.
The disaster to the Highland Brigade detachment took place between Roodeval and Heilbron on June 4th. The Highlanders were escorting a convoy of 61 waggons from Roodeval to Heilbron when they were attacked and surrounded by De Wet's force, which numbered 1,400 men with seven guns. After a hopeless resistance the Highlanders surrendered, and the Boers captured the convoy.
The Yeomanry had meantime been confined at Vrede, and they were detained there until' they were joined by their equally unfortunate comrades of the Highland Brigade, when they were all brought together to Standerton en route for Machadodorp.
While at Standerton the British prisoners stated that they had been well treated by their captors. Commandant De Wet had personally given instructions to the burghers that they must pay for everything taken from the British prisoners. The Boers fancied many articles of the accoutrements of the prisoners. The water-bottles and field glasses especially were in great demand. The prisoners had not the option of withholding these articles, but most of them were paid for. The men were footsore, and the residents of Standerton helped to supply them with food. The officers were quartered in the hotel and the men in the railway goods shed.
It also transpired that the Boers on the Zand River recently captured a train containing two thousand mail bags, conveying an accumulation of three weeks' letters for the troops with Lord Roberts. Two members of the Post Office Corps were killed and two wounded, and the rolling stock was as far as possible destroyed. There were £4,000 worth of stamps captured with the mail bags. These were English, and specially for the use of our troops, so that they will be useless to the Boers.
General Clements successfully engaged a body of Boers on Sunday, June 24th, near Winburg, where he had gone to pick up supplies and some heavy guns, preparatory to acting in combination with columns from Lindley, Heilbron, and Heidelberg. He drove the enemy north of the Zand River with loss.
Owing to rumours of great successes by General De Wet having been industriously circulated in Pretoria, Colonel Maxwell published several official bulletins giving dates and details of all military operations.
Colonel Smith-Davies reported from Vredefort that three Boer ambulances which entered the British lines there by mistake were searched and found to contain a quantity of dynamite and Mauser ammunition, three of our mail bags, and seven armed burgers who had signed the oath of neutrality at Bloemfontein.
Ian Hamilton occupied Heidelberg on June 23rd. The enemy fled on the approach of his column, and were pursued by our mounted troops for six or seven miles.
On the previous day Broadwood's Cavalry had a skirmish with the enemy and completely dispersed them, capturing six prisoners without loss on our side.
Hunter's advance brigade reached Johannesburg and proceeded towards Heidelberg, early on the 22nd, for the joint action against De Wet, who made another dash on the 23rd.
Part of his commando, consisting of about 700 to 8co men, with three guns, attacked the railway between Kroonstad and Honingspruit on June 23rd, at dawn.
The attack was first made on an outpost of Canadian Mounted Rifles two miles south of Honingspruit. The outpost was cut off, and two men were killed, and Lieutenant Triglis and four men were wounded. Three men are missing.
The enemy then attacked a camp occupied by two companies of the Shropshires and fifty Canadians, shelling them freely with shrapnel, but without much effect, as our troops were well entrenched.
Meantime, at Honingspruit Station, a train from Pretoria, going south with four hundred infantry, was also attacked. The released prisoners from Waterval hastily arrived. They were armed with rifles surrendered by the Pretoria Boers, and were without artillery. Colonel Bullock, of the Devon Regiment, was in command.
The attacking force numbered about 300, and had two 15-pounders. Colonel Bullock just managed to telegraph to Kroonstad before the wires were cut. The enemy destroyed the railway on each side of our position. They sent a white flag summoning the troops to surrender, but the demand was at once refused. An attack with rifle fire from the north immediately commenced.
It was then about half past eight. The Boers also opened with shell fire from guns posted to the north and south-east of the position. Then their riflemen riding round to the east, practically encircled our men. After a heavy shell and rifle fire, lasting several hours, the enemy again invited Colonel Bullock to surrender, but he indignantly refused, and an unflinching resistance was continued until half-past three o'clock.
When reinforcements appeared, the Boers bolted precipitately. The new arrivals were despatched by General Knox from Kroonstad and consisted of the 17th battery, R. A. and 300 Yeomanry, under Colonel Brookfield. Unfortunately Major Hobbs, of the West Yorkshire, who had been for eight months a prisoner, was killed. Lieut. Smith Glover, was wounded and three other men were killed and sixteen wounded. Dr. Lenthal Cheatle, consulting Surgeon on Lord Roberts's staff, was in the train, and making bandages of sheets and pillow-cases, and for splints any pieces of wood that he could find, had a hard day's work in bandaging the wounded, and temporising a hospital in a cottage near the little station.
Leaving De Wet for a while, let us now follow the march of General Buller towards Johannesburg.
When Lord Dundonald's advanced guard marched into Standerton, on June 22nd, the Canadians occupied the post of honour. There was no semblance of any opposition and as our men approached the town the last of the burghers and the officials fled.
General Buller, with the remainder of his column, arrived at ten o'clock next morning. The march from Laing's Nek proved entirely uneventful. The nights were bitterly cold, and very trying to the troops; we entered the town in a thick cold mist.
Whilst the headquarter's staff were on the march a violent explosion was heard shortly after leaving Paardekop. When we reached Standerton we found that the middle span of the large viaduct had been blown up. This was said to be the work of Hollanders. They had also set fire to a huge pile of sleepers, worth £17,000, at the railway station, and only the smart arrival of our mounted men prevented the station itself from being destroyed. The enemy had made preparations for burning it.
Lord Dundonald, on his arrival, arrested the whole of the Hollander railway staff, numbering 47 altogether. They at first adopted a high and mighty tone, but their demeanour after a pointed examination by the military chiefs became remarkably subdued.
We took about a score of locomotives at the station. They were all more or less damaged, but our engineers said they could be easily repaired. Our men also seized a large quantity of miscellaneous rolling stock, all of which came in useful for bringing up supplies to the front.
The railway line was practically intact to Standerton. Throughout the whole Natal campaign nothing had stood out more prominently than the smartness of the engineering staff. No difficulty was too great to be overcome. Within one hour of General Buller's entry into the town the broken wires were made good and the telegraph office opened for the receipt of traffic.
The town in the afternoon presented almost its normal appearance. Most of the business premises were open, and shopkeepers were by no means averse to trading with the British.
The road bridge across the Vaal was intact, and no buildings in the town appeared to have been destroyed.
The first men to reach Standerton were three guides. They were followed by Colonel Gough's Composite Regiment, forming part of Lord Dundonald's Cavalry Brigade, and including Strathcona's Horse. The infantry bivouacked six miles out, having marched over twenty miles. The Landdrost and officials made off for Machadodorp. The fighting burghers had for the most part evacuated the town three days ago.
A patrol of Transvaal police which was left behind on the look-out also retired, after commandeering all the farmers' horses in the neighbourhood. The troops were welcomed heartily when they rode into the town.
Two of the railway officials, named Van Daila and Scheffers, were arrested, as it "was alleged that they were implicated in the blowing up of the railway bridge and the destruction of railway property. The prisoners were provided with comfortable quarters in the gaol. Ten cases of dynamite were sent here. Five were used for destroying the bridge, and the remainder, with a very large quantity of ammunition, were taken to Machado-dorp. It was ascertained that at a small station next to Zandspruit the officials received a telegram informing them that dynamite was on .the way, and instructing them to destroy the bridges and culverts.
A few burghers surrendered immediately a proclamation was issued warning all under arms that they would be held responsible in person and property for any act of violence or ill-treatment offered to the persons or property of any burghers who signed the oath of neutrality and surrendered to the British Government.
Before decamping, some Boers looted a store, and the proprietor of an hotel went to Machadodorp to recover, if he could, ^900 for goods commandeered from him.
Field Cornet Badenhorst, • of Wakkerstroom, remained in the neighbourhood of Graskop, about fifteen miles distant from Zandspruit, with 1,000 burghers, his object being to interfere with our lines of communication, but General Buller had taken precautions to frustrate them.
At Standerton, on the 24th of June, a trader who had just come through from Ermelo stated that the people there were anxious to surrender the town, provided they were assured of good treatment. In Ermelo, as elsewhere in the more remote districts, the Boers were gulled by stories of the deportation of men and families. Between such fears and the coercion brought to bear on them by Mr. Kruger's satellites the people hardly knew what to do.
Only a comparative few were still in a militant mood, and of these part had joined Mr. Kruger at Machadodorp, and the rest had formed a commando at Graskop, six miles south of Zandspruit.
A deputation came even from distant Pietersburg, requesting a force to be sent in order to accept the surrender of the town. Apart from the two fighting commandants, and Botha was only acting on the defensive to protect his master, there was a general desire for peace.
All the burghers at Pretoria, wrote a correspondent, regarded the continuance of the war as criminal. So long as President Kruger was willing to stick to his guns and fight to the bitter end they were ready to follow, but at the same time his flight and the many flagrant cases of cheating and self-aggrandisement on the part of himself and his officials had opened their eyes. On more than one occasion burghers could be heard expressing a desire' to shoot the President for his betrayal of their country. .
Mrs. Lucas Meyer and Mrs. Botha were both in the town. They could be seen shopping daily, and passed everywhere unhindered.
Thanks to the energy of Colonel Ward, who has done magnificent work in feeding such a large army, our soldiers were on full rations.
Vryburg, June 23.—Over 200 men of the Kuruman commando surrendered to a small patrol of General Warren's force. The remainder were split up into small parties.
The surrendered arms sent in from Schweizer Reneke, about 100 in number, included carbines, rifles, and shot guns, as well as Mausers.
Cape Town, June 24.—De Villiers's commando, consisting of 200 men, with 280 horses, 18 waggons, 260 rifles, and over 100,000 rounds of ammunition, arrived at Blikfontein and surrendered to Sir Charles Warren. It included sixteen leading rebels, but De Villiers himself, with a small party, had trekked eastward.
Mr. Arnold Foster, the " Times" Cape correspondent, strongly supported a colonization scheme in an able article in that paper of June 25. A Government loan of ten millions for irrigation and farming would be better than large garrisons, and was the best way of making the land a source of wealth and strength. " There is," he said, "no reason why, in time, the soil in a great part of South Africa should not be capable of supporting a prosperous and contented population." A great and wise scheme of colonization he considered most imperative.
Some of the Rhodesian companies offered the Australian bushmen large farms practically free of cost in the event of their settling in Rhodesia.
Mr. Rhodes went to Beira and offered to give the Colonials a retainer of £2$ a year each and £12 for each horse, on condition that they staid in the country, with liability to military service if called upon, and to present themselves, mounted, on certain occasions.
There was a disposition on the part of many Canadians, New Zealanders, and Australians to settle; and Mr. Chamberlain stated to the House of Commons that the subject of Colonization was receiving the careful consideration of a joint Departmental Committee.
The Natal Premier arrived at Durban, on June 23, and gave an interview to the journalists. He said he thought that the court for trying prisoners on charges of treason should be constituted as follows:—
One English Judge, one Judge of Natal, and one barrister commissioner. In his opinion the court should sit as soon as the Judge appointed arrived from England. He was strongly in favour of the common lands in the Weenen district being irrigated and sold at low rates to the soldiers now in South Africa who desired to settle in the country. Every inducement should be given to loyalists to settle in the country.
The Imperial Government would sanction the Natal Railway Company working the through railway right up to Pretoria and Johannesburg. The question of the permanent management of the railway lines, however, rested with Mr. Chamberlain.
All the refugees now remaining here were being maintained by the Mansion House Fund. It was notified, however, that the supplies from this fund would soon cease, and the Town Council were consequently actively exerting themselves to face an acute crisis, as there was no prospect of the remaining refugees being able to return to their homes before August.
Dr. Morris Martin, interviewed at Birmingham, repeated a statement that had been previously published, throwing light on Boer tactics. When in Pretoria he had the choice of being doctor to Cronje's army or being shot. When the first skirmish came off at Mafeking, and he gave the reporter of the Boer organ the correct report of killed and wounded, he was lashed for it. Henceforward he told lies to order. His job was altogether most uncongenial, in contiguity to stinking Boer trenches, and after Cronje's surrender, when the doctor was removed to Pretoria, he craved a week's respite for a sea breeze, and gaining Delagoa Bay it was not long before he was on his way to England.
Then it was reported that Mr. Kruger issued a proclamation on Sunday, June 24, stating that the Russians had declared war on Japan, and that England was bound by treaty to support the latter, and must therefore withdraw her troops from South Africa. The proclamation also stated that Lord Roberts had no supplies, and implored the burghers to keep up their courage. But, despite the many proclamations, the burghers were anxious to return to their homes. The majority, as soon as shell fire began now ran to safe cover and prepared to retreat.
A singular misfortune was reported from Scheepser's Nek on June 21, as to the Boers not yet entirely cleared out of the Natal border. On the previous night Colonel Dalgety, commanding the Colonial Division camped at Hibernia, sent word to General Rundle at Hammonia that he had surrounded over 200 Boers on a kopje called Doornkop, and asked for assistance to enable him to capture the enemy.
General Rundle acted with promptitude. Leaving Hammonia at midnight, and taking with him the Scots Guards, cavalry squadrons, and a battery of artillery, he made forced marches in the dark, and arrived at the Nek before daybreak. There, after all his trouble, bitter disappointment awaited him, for. he found that Colonel Dalgety had raised the siege during the night, and returned to his camp. It appeared that Rundle again went out in the morning, but found the enemy gone. They had taken advantage of Colonel Dalgety's retirement to get away as fast as possible.
There were various speculations regarding the Colonel's action, but it was believed that the main reason for his retirement was that his gun got damaged. He had the enemy fairly cornered, and with such strong reinforcements, the whole of the Boers would assuredly have been caught if he had stood firm.
The enemy made the Senekal road highly dangerous to the unescorted traveller, their pickets turning up unexpectedly in the most unpleasant manner.
At Kimberley, on June 23, Dr. Jameson, the previous night, broke silence for the first time in four years on the subject of the Raid. Addressing the electors, he sketched the position on the Rand before the raid, emphasising the fact that discontent was fomented by the working classes themselves, who, groaning under grievances, were in a state of semi-revolt. His own part, he declared, would have ceased with the establishment of a Provisional Government to carry out a plebiscite of the people. The Provisional Parliament would have included both Dutch and English, and no racial element would have been involved. Dr. Jameson said he had also hoped to assist in the federation of the different South African States. The Rand revolutionists were thoroughly well armed, but they failed owing to weak links in the chain. He denied that the raid had been the cause of fresh racial trouble or of the Boer armaments. Nor did he admit that it had hampered the Imperial Government. Race feeling had always been there, and the Boer armaments had commenced from the time of Sir H. Robinson's ultimatum in 1884.
At Bloemfontein an anti-English German publican at this time sold his property for £15,000, which before the war he offered for £12,000. The Queen's birthday was celebrated here with music and dancing, feasting and bunting.
A member of the Wharfedale Yeomanry, an officer under General Arthur Paget in Lord Methuen's Division, gave an account of a march to the front from the village of Boshof. It shows how quickly Volunteers become smart soldiers.
"The march is being made under most difficult conditions, and it speaks well for the men that they endure it so well. The sand is so bad that for several hours during one march we were unable to see the troop in front of us, and on one occasion I could not see the hoofs of my horse for more than half an hour. We start each morning about 3 a.m., and rest during midday, and march again in the evening. On one occasion we got separated from our transport, and during the whole day both men and officers had nothing to drink, and only three biscuits each, for nearly 20 hours.
" As to sleep, during the last fortnight every officer has slept in his clothes, and for nearly two and a half days we were unable to wash owing to lack of water. However, when we arrived at Hoopstad we had a little luck, as owing to the number of Free Staters in the district a battalion of the South Wales Borderers were left behind as garrison, and I was attached to them with my troop to act as scouts, (the other three troops going on with the column.
" On Monday we received information that there were about 100 Free Staters at Bultfontein, and that we must at once proclaim the district. I received orders to take my troop at once there, and escort Captain Grant, of the Borderers, who was to proclaim the district. There were also a troop of Royal Irish Rifles Mounted Infantry ordered to proceed from Brandfort, about thirty miles from Bultfontein, to support us. They left a day after we started.
"We left early on Tuesday morning, and marched 30 miles, and halted at a friendly farm outside, in order to arrive at Bultfontein in the dark. Instead of arriving with my full troop, I had only ten men and a corporal left, the horses being too unfit to proceed, together with three Royal Engineers to work the telegraph. There were about 150 armed burghers in the town, and we decided to make a rush instead of waiting for daylight.
" We arrived at Bultfontein at 9.45 p.m., nearly all the inhabitants being in bed. We made straight for the telegraph office and surrounded it, and Capt. Grant and myself entered it. We found about 14 men inside, and fortunately caught them unarmed, and promptly held them up. We then took charge of the instruments, leaving the Sappers in charge, and rode off to the Landdrost's house, and arrested him and his clerk.
" Then we took the hospital, and turned it into a barracks for our men, and awaited the morning. Owing to the dark no one knew our numbers, or we should never have reached Bultfontein alive, but the Irish Rifles arrived to our assistance in the morning, and we were able to take complete possession of the town.
" After that we called upon the burghers to lay down their arms, offering them a free pass to their farms if they took the oath of neutrality. During the next day they came pouring in, and at the present time of writing more than two hundred have surrendered out of a burgher roll of about three hundred.
" What makes this interesting is that Bultfontein was the only district left in the Free State which was not proclaimed. Of course, the knowledge that we had more than a thousand troops within thirty miles materially helped us, as we should never have dared to attempt to seize a town with 150 armed burghers if we had not been sure of reinforcements. Still, I think the men showed great pluck in seizing it, and they have been specially mentioned in the despatch to the General. We are still holding Bultfontein, and will do so until it is quiet.
" There was a friendly rivalry between the Irish and ourselves as to who should be the first to arrive, and they were greatly disappointed at finding our flag waving. They marched the 30 miles in under five hours, which is a very good performance when the horses are carrying a full equipment."
Writing from Port Elizabeth, Dr. S. R. Scott said:— " Half the 3rd Yorkshire Regiment is here, North End, and the other half at Cradock and vicinity. Our sphere of work extends up the line about 30 miles, where there is an important railway bridge. A constant guard being needful, a strong detachment is posted there, Barkly Bridge. It is quite in the ' bush.' I had an afternoon's shooting there some weeks ago. Buck, hares, guinea-fowl, wild doves are the game. We came on a spoor of elephants, and found our way back by starlight, the Southern Cross being our chief guide. The bush consists of very thick thorn and cactus, no vegetation higher than 10 or 12 feet. Tracks made by wild animals interlace in all directions: it is impossible to go along any other than ready-made tracks. I am feeling very tempted to come back and settle here; it would be a good thing to do."
Innumerable letters from soldiers at the front found their way into the newspapers, and more or less threw light on the campaign, with its tragic and its pleasant side. Thus one sketches a haul of oranges at Dundee and another of poultry on the road from Boshof.
Corporal Holmes, of Wakefield, writes thus from Port Elizabeth.—" We are having a hot time of it, for we only get two nights a week in bed, and the guards and other duties are very hard, but I am all right, as I am a full corporal of the Garrison Police. They are dying in dozens at Bloemfontein from enteric fever; it is something awful. We had a grand affair the day Mafeking was relieved, and one could hear the cheers of men, women, and children for miles away. The Union Jack was flying, and all the men-of-wars in the harbour were lit up with electricity, and they all fired volleys in honour of Baden-Powell and his men. I think the Boers have had quite enough of it, Lord Roberts is settling them with hissix-inch wire gun. The other week we made a raid upon all the bad characters in the town, and we succeeded in capturing thirty. We scoured all the kopjes, and found men hiding in caves. Several of them tried to escape, but they were unsuccessful, as they were surrounded by our men. We had, however, a rough time with them. On the night of the rejoicings over Mafeking one of the rockets dropped on a big vessel laden with hay, and she took fire. They had just time to get all the troops and horses off before she was a mass of flames. She has been burning three days, and the flames could be seen for miles around."
The terrible lists of casualties which almost daily appeared in the newspapers were more than enough to make any man with a heart wish for an end of hostilities. To take, as an example, the three weeks ending June 23rd, the official returns show that the enemy had placed hors de combat no fewer than 1,700 officers and men. Of these 337 had been reported as missed, and these losses do not include the battalion of Derbyshire Militia captured at Roodeval on June 7th, of the battalion of Imperial Yeomanry captured at Lindley on the 31st of May, (of which no official return was then forthcoming,) and which would bring our missing reported in the period mentioned to a total of 1,300 officers and men.
Since the end of. May, the Boers had killed 35 British officers and 268 men, and wounded 94 officers and over a thousand men. Of these casualties Lord Roberts's battle with Botha east of Pretoria accounts for only about 200 officers and men.
The Yeomanry had borne a creditable share of the recent engagements, as shown by their large proportion of losses, four officers having been killed, 16 wounded, and two reported missing, while 55 Yeomen had been killed, 120 wounded, and 28 were unaccounted for—a total of 225. The Sherwood Rangers Company lost one officer wounded, two men killed, nine wounded, and ten missing, while the South Notts Company lost two officers wounded, one man killed, and one wounded. The Duke of Lancaster's Own, (23rd Company) had in the brief period covered by the returns referred to lost one officer -wounded, 12 men killed, and 16 wounded, while the sister company, the Lancashire Hussars, lost one officer wounded, three men killed, and six wounded.
Disease showed little signs of diminution, for between 900 and 1,000 officers and men had in 22 days been reported dead. Only in a few cases were the deaths attributable to accident.
The struggle for possession of the railways cost the Royal Engineers and the Royal Pioneer Regiment a large number of officers and men, the former since the end of May having lost two officers wounded, and one missing, four men killed, two wounded, and 48 missing or captured, while the Railway Pioneers lost five officers killed, one wounded, and two missing, and ten men killed, 15 wounded, and 48 missing.
A calculation from the official returns gave a net total, exclusive of the officers and men returned to the fighting line, of 35,443 placed out of action during the campaign, and leaves 40 officers and 1,872 men (exclusive of the Derbyshires and the 13th- Battalion I.Y.) to be recovered from the enemy. The Boer and Free State prisoners with us were believed to number over 6,ooo.
The War Office abstract of the casualities to the South African field Force to the 23rd June, showed 257 officers and 2415 men killed; 902 officers and 11,496 men wounded; 72 officers and 620 men died of wounds; 225 officers and 4950 men missing and prisoners; 127 officers and 4260 men died of disease; 844 officers and 17,666 men invalided home. Of the missing officers and men, 177 of the former and 3115 of the latter had been released or had escaped, while 1 officer and 79 men had died in captivity.
Our effective force in South Africa was reckoned to be over 200,000 officers and men, including—apart from Artillery, Royal Engineers, Volunteers, Yeomanry, Colonial corps, and non-combatants—17 Regiments of British cavalry, six battalions of foot guards, and 109 battalions of infantry of the line. This leaves 196 battalions of infantry, and 18 regiments of cavalry available for duty outside South Africa.
Ian Hamilton reported — "Heidelberg is the most English town I have yet seen, and the inhabitants gave us a great reception, the streets being crowded and a fine display of bunting made. Captain Vallentin hoisted the Union Jack, in the Market-square amid the cheers of the populace, the British, Australian, and other Colonial troops. 1 God save the Queen' was sung, the crowd heartily joining. The poor loyalists have had a rough time of it lately."
Hutton's Mounted Infantry had a skirmish with some Boer patrols a few miles south-east of Pretoria. Captain Anley managed the little business very well. Lieut. Crispin and one man of the Northumberland Fusiliers were wounded.
General Pole-Carew's Division moved out from Pretoria and re-occupied the kopjes at Pienaar's Post. It was reported that 2,000 men of Botha's commando were hanging about. A few Boers sniped Col. Henry's Mounted Infantry, but no casualities occurred. This was a daring attempt to draw our fire. Botha's force at Middleburg was stated to be 30,000.
Scrapiana from Pretoria in June was something like this:—
Permission was granted, under certain circumstances, to burghers to take cattle to the bush veldt for the winter.
The surrendered commandants dined freely at the regimental messes, and discussed the battles in which they had been engaged. The war has resulted in the prevalence of a much better feeling between both sides of combatants.
A portion of Lord Roberts's bodyguard of colonials was looking forward to returning home, where their interrupted business demanded their attention.
Colonel Maxwell, the Governor, had issued proclamations ordering civilians to remain in their houses after seven. All horses were requisitioned.
Great feeling existed among the Boers against their chief Government officials, who made every provision for their personal aggrandisement, leaving the smaller fry unpaid.
Many town officials had taken office temporarily. The local railway had been completed to the Irene Bridge.
Lord Roberts gave a dinner to the military attaches (who all expressed their high admiration of the conduct of the British army) before they left for home.
General Ian Hamilton was suffering from a broken collar bone, caused by a fall from his horse. It was set, and he was going on all right.
While the fight near Pinnear's Port was still in progress emissaries endeavoured to obtain Lord Roberts's permission to reach Mr. Kruger and induce him to return to Pretoria. They were the bearers of a piteous appeal from Mrs. Kruger and other friends who had driven thither in an hotel omnibus. General Botha, however, stopped the delegates, saying that their mission was useless since Mr. Kruger had no longer any right to act, the issue now being a purely military matter.
The men released from prison at Waterval were formed into a composite regiment under the officers who had been captured with them, and were now eager for reprisals. When released from confinement by General French, the " U " battery, R.H.A., brought away the Maxim gun that had covered the prison; they dragged it all the way to Pretoria, and now wanted to use it against Botha.
A great quantity of army stores was found in Pretoria, including hundreds of tons of compressed forage, and many tons of biscuits, which of course were utilised by the British army.
One of the many new enterprises arising out of the war, was the proposal to connect the south-west coast of Africa with Rhodesia by rail, and Mr. Rhodes was said to be in communication with the German authorities for that purpose. His influence was great, and his past achievements warranted success in almost any commercial or engineering work. He is called an empire maker, and has had much to do with the building up of South Africa. According to one biographer, he is not a sordid man, though the possessor of millions. He is a generous " boy." His statue, in bronze, is to ornament Bulawayo. His new railway enterprise was to develop the Otovo Copper Mines.
The successes of De Wet put Mr. Kruger into high spirits, and he talked of an attempt to retake Pretoria. When the new batch of prisoners passed his railway habitation, they saluted him, and he raised his hat to them. The men were in no good humour, especially as there was no suitable provision for their lodgment, and the nights were very cold.
To be independent of the telegraph between Pretoria and Johannesburg, heliographic communication was set up and the first message was — "Will Lord Roberts accept the presidency of the Soldiers' Institute at Johannesburg," which showed that the camp was making itself comfortable.
As we surprised a laager near the capital we heard the sounds of several concertinas, and we found they were played by Dutchmen in charge of the transports. It is the national instrument, and nearly every male Boer prides himself upon being a master of it, but the music is often execrable. I have listened to it as a serenade by moonlight, on the stoep of the homestead, in the weird, balmy evening (writes a musician). I have heard the lazy Boer, lying on his waggon mattress, drawl out his old hymn tunes, and when the oxen were outspanned seen him roll off his bed to take his seat on a water keg to entertain the Kaffir servant while he made the coffee. But the boys usually play fortissimo, without an atom of taste, and with vigour enough to burst the cotton convolutions.
After three different accounts, a fourth correspondent told the public that the bridge over the Delagoa Railway, seven miles west of Komati Poort, was destroyed by a party of Strathcona's Horse, who landed at Kosi Bay and marched through Tongaland. It seemed a pity that a stronger force had not gone up the line as far as Machadodorp and taken Mr. Kruger prisoner, although he was not far from being that already in his railway carriage, in which he transacted what " business of State" he could, which was mainly paying bills for those fighting for him.
A Johannesburg tradesman went to him in the hope of persuading the President to cash /g.ooo worth of " blue backs." Mr. Kruger gave him £3,000 in bar gold, which he took out of a safe.
In Qfie case the British authorities seized some bar gold that Mr. Kruger had paid to a merchant, but it was understood that if the account was found correct, the man would get his money.
General Hutton fought a smart engagement with General Snyman's commando. Hutton marched from Pretoria towards Rustenburg, and on the road he met General Baden-Powell on his way to Pretoria. It was ascertained that General Snyman's commando was in the vicinity, and the two forces joined and attacked the Boers. After a slight skirmish the Boers retreated. They could not get away quickly enough, however, and General Hutton captured 150 of them and two guns.
Three hundred of General Carrington's Canadians reached Rustenburg, and General Baden-Powell forwarded a big convoy of waggons, which he had captured, to that General.
An unfortunate incident occurred near Kroonstad in connection with a body of Basuto labourers who had been sent by the Resident Commissioner to work under the Royal Engineers. They were attacked by the Boers, and 20 of their number were killed and wounded, while 200 were taken prisoners. This occurred at the same time as the disaster to the Derbyshires, which was witnessed by the natives.
It was a remarkable thing that the Union Jack hoisted on the court-house at Standerton was the identical flag which was hauled down in 1881 after the retrocession of the Transvaal.
Chief Nowadie, of the Amangweni tribe, who lives •near the sources of the Tugela, close to the border of the Free State, collected ^219 among his tribe for British sick and wounded.
The Boers made an attack upon Colonel Henry's outposts near Eerstefabrieken. Our men were driven in by the Boers, who were content with sniping us for some time, after which they disappeared.
General Methuen fought another successful engagement at Engelbrechts Kop, near Vereeniging. He attacked a body of Boers in a strong position, and drove them off. He was always " routing," but not defeating.
Another case of abuse of the white flag occurred near there. A party of Cork Militia were sent to a farm to collect rifles, when the farmer fired on them. The man had given in his submission, and undertaken not to bear arms again.
A proclamation offering safety to all Boers surrendering arms secured a cessation of sniping between Standerton and Sandspruit. Elderly farmers were now driving in under the white flag, and delivering up arms and ammunition. It was reported that the number of the enemy about the Heidelberg district was rapidly decreasing, the Boers dispersing towards their farms intending to collect arms for surrendering.
A very strict surveillance was maintained over the inhabitants here, though the town was perfectly quiet. The military discipline effected the removal of the deeply impressed belief that Afrikanders had become slaves under the British. This terrorism of British action had evidently been instilled into the inhabitants by the commandants.
On June 26th General Hunter, commanding in place of the disabled Ian Hamilton, was co-operating in the great move in the Orange River Colony and had reached Frankfort. An attack on the line of communications had been beaten off.
A body of the enemy attacked the Roodeval Spruit post on the railway, on June 27th, but were easily beaten off by a detachment of Shropshire Light Infantry, West Australian Infantry, and a fifteen-pounder gun from an armoured train.
Baden-Powell reported that one of his patrols captured an influential Boer named Ray, who had been endeavouring to raise a commando in the Rustenburg district, and that another patrol brought in over 100 rifles, making over 4,000 rifles and 1,000 inferior pieces taken during the last few days.
He also stated that thirty Lichtenburg Boers arrived at Rustenburg, going to their homes from the Delarey commando. They said they would have left before had they seen Lord Roberts' proclamation, which was carefully withheld by the Boers in authority.
There was a record market day in Pretoria, on June 28th, the farmers in the neighbourhood having come in large numbers to sell their produce.