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From George Witton's Scapegoats of the Empire, chapter 13

Pietersburg is an important town 180 miles north of Pretoria and the terminus of the railway. After the occupation of Pretoria in June, 1900, the Boer Government was set up here, and it was not until May, 1901, that the town was occupied and garrisoned by British troops.

A tragic incident, in which two Tasmanian officers were killed, is related to have occurred on the day the troops entered Pietersburg. These two officers were going out to a magazine on the outskirts of the town, and were sniped at and shot dead by a Dutch schoolmaster who lay hidden in the long grass. When the troops ran up to see what was the matter, this gentleman jumped up, and, holding up his hands, shouted, "I surrender! I surrender! I surrender!" The men walked up to him, and without hesitation ran a bayonet through his body, and in the heat and stress of the battlefield this action of the soldiers was applauded.

My duties as an officer of the Carbineers began on 13th July. There was little to be done, and less to be learned, in the ordinary routine of camp duty7, which consisted principally of attending the stables to see that the men fed and groomed their horses.

When I had been about a fortnight at Pietersburg Major Lene-han returned from Pretoria; he had not succeeded in getting guns for his gun section, and ordered me, much against my inclination, to take over the quartermaster's duties from Lieutenant Mortimer. I held this position about a week.

The Bushveldt Carbineers were raised in Capetown and Pretoria early in 1901 for special service in the Northern Transvaal. A Mr. Levy, a storekeeper at Pienaar's River, who had made some money out of the Pienaar's River garrison, offered to devote part of his savings towards the formation of a mounted corps to operate in that district. He contributed £500; Mr. M. Kelly, merchant, of Pietersburg, also gave £100; Dr. Neel, of Matapan, Spelonken, £100; a few others also subscribed. It was orginally proposed to raise 500 men, but not more than 350 constituted the full strength.

The camp and headquarters of the Carbineers formed part of the Pietersburg garrison, which was made up of the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment, 2nd Gordon Highlanders, a section of the Royal Field Artillery, and a detachment of the Royal Garrison Artillery, with a 5-in. gun, which was known throughout the war as a "cow-gun," on account of it being drawn by oxen. Colonel Hall, C.B., was garrison commandant. The other officers of the corps stationed at Pietersburg while I was there were Major Lenehan, Lieutenant and Adjutant Edwards, Lieutenant and Quartermaster Mortimer, Lieutenant Baudinet, all Australians, and all late members of the first Australian contingents. There were also Lieutenant Neel, an English doctor, and Lieutenant Kelly, a Pietersburg merchant.

A detachment of the Carbineers was at Strydspoort, a post about 35 miles south-east of Pietersburg, and was under the command of Lieutenant H. H. Morant. Another detachment was at Fort Edward, Spelonken, 90 miles north from Pietersburg. This detachment was sent there to assist Captain Alfred Taylor, a special service officer, and was under the command of a captain of the Carbineers; with him went Lieutenant Handcock, a veterinary officer.

Major Lenehan was officer commanding the Carbineers, but in reality this was in rank and name only. The major rarely visited the outposts, which were practically under the direct control of the officers in charge; he was a good-natured man, and much attached to his officers.

There has been argument regarding the nationality of Lieutenant Morant, and the ignominy of his fate has in prejudiced quarters been attached to Australia. He was, however, bom in England and reared as an English gentleman, coming to Australia in manhood. There he was engaged in various bush avocations, especially in droving and breaking horses; hence the pen-name of "The Breaker," by which he became known as a popular writer of verses. He went to the war with an Australian contingent; a good fellow, one could not help liking him, yet he was very hot-headed, and usually did things on the impulse of the moment. He exacted strict obedience, and obtained it, where others holding a much higher rank might have failed.

Captain Taylor was a special officer of the Intelligence Department, and worked the wild and isolated part of the Transvaal around Spelonken. He was an Irishman by birth, but had lived a number of years in Africa among the natives; he had been a lieutenant in Plumer's Scouts in the Matabele War, and had command of a corps of Cape boys. He had been selected and sent to the Spelonken by Lord Kitchener, on account of his knowledge of the natives. As far as the natives were concerned, he had a free hand and the power of life and death; he was known and feared by them from the Zambesi to the Spelonken, and was called by them "Bulala," which means to kill, to slay. He had the power to order out a patrol when he required it, and it was generally understood that he was the officer commanding at Spelonken. At the trials of the officers later on he admitted in evidence that he had held this position.


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