The raising of the Rhodesian Regiment and of the Bechuanalaud Protectorate Regiment has already been touched upon under the first-named corps. When in September 1899 Colonel Baden-Powell determined to himself command the garrison of Mafeking, he took with him the Protectorate Regiment, which was then about a month old. According to his report on the siege, the garrison of the town was composed of the regiment under Colonel Hore, total strength 469;
- British South Africa Police (Colonel Walford), 91;
- Cape Police (Inspectors Marsh and Browne), 103;
- Bechuanaland Rifles (Volunteers), 81;
- Town Guard, untrained, 296
- Total, 44 officers, 975 men.
The total white population of the place was about 1000, and the natives usually resident numbered 6000; but before hostilities commenced, about 1000 more came in, and had to be fed. On the other hand, before the siege ended, about 1500 natives had been persuaded to break through with the view of economising food. Some natives were enrolled to assist in protecting their own stadt, as cattle-guards etc and they were largely employed on the construction of defensive works. The town was 1000 yards square, and its best features, from the defenders' point of view, were that it was not commanded by hills, that the trenches had a good field for fire, and the ground outside of these being for a long distance very flat, full advantage could be taken of the low trajectory of the Lee-Metford rifle. "The perimeter of the works at first was approximately seven miles; latterly it extended to a little over ten miles". It is difficult to understand how such a small force could hold such an immense area. The artillery of the garrison was commanded by Major Panzera of the BSA Police, and was worked by men of that force and of the Cape Police. They had four 7-pounder muzzle-loading guns, one 1-pounder Hotchkiss, one 2-inch Nordenfeldt, seven .303 maxims; and there were added during the siege an old ship's gun, found about the place, and a 16-pounder muzzle-loading howitzer, which was made in the railway workshop. The powder, shells, and fuses used by the garrison were also manufactured in that workshop. Opposed to this slender and poorly equipped garrison, the enemy had at first 8000 men, with ten guns, under Cronje. After he had become tired or disheartened, he went south towards Kimberley and Magersfontein, leaving Snyman with about 3500 men and six guns, one of which was a new 94-pounder Creusot. The latter gun fired 1497 rounds between 13th October 1899 and 17th May 1900.
The principal engagements during the siege, as mentioned in the report of 18th May 1900, were as follows:—
Action of 14th October, before the investment was complete, fought about six miles north of town. Patrols having found the enemy advancing along the railway, an armoured train with a Hotchkiss, a maxim, and 15 of the BSA Police, were sent out. It became heavily engaged with Boers who had 2 guns. Captain FitzClarence, with a squadron of the Protectorate Regiment, attacked, the train being on his left. Another troop under Lord C Bentinck, with a 7-pounder, reinforced, and after four hours' fighting the enemy was driven off. The armoured train put one of the Boer guns out of action before it had fired a shot, and drove the other gun from the field. When Captain FitzClarence withdrew the enemy made no attempt to follow him. The Boers lost 53 killed, including 4 field-cornets, and many wounded. The British loss was 3 men killed, 2 officers (Lieutenant Lord C C Bentinck, 9th Lancers, attached, and Lieutenant Brady) and 13 men wounded, all of Protectorate Regiment, and 1 cyclist taken prisoner. Colonel Baden-Powell said: "In this, their first engagement, the Protectorate Regiment showed a spirit and dash worthy of highly trained troops, and were most ably led by Captain FitzClarence and Lord C Bentinck. This smartly fought little engagement had a great and lasting moral effect on the enemy".
Enemy's attack on the stadt, 25th October 1899. The Boers commenced shelling from east and south with seven guns at 6.30 am, and continued till noon. At noon about 3000 advanced to attack, firing heavily from long range inwards. The garrison reserved their fire till the attackers were close, then opened with maxims and rifles. This, and a flanking fire from natives in the stadt, was enough, and the attempted assault spluttered out. The Boer loss was not known, but their ambulances were seen picking up a number of casualties. There was only one of the garrison wounded.
Night attack on Boer trenches, 27th October 1899. The attacking force was Captain FitzClarence's squadron, supported by a party of Cape Police. At 9.30 pm the attackers moved out in silence. "The night was dark but still. The squadron attained its position on the left rear of the enemy's trench without being challenged or fired at. Captain FitzClarence then wheeled up his men, and, with a cheer, charged into the main and subsidiary trenches and cleared both with the bayonet. The enemy's rearward trenches opened a heavy fire, to which the Cape Police replied from a flank in order to draw the fire on to themselves, and so allow Captain FitzClarence's squadron to return unmolested. The whole operations were carried out exactly in accordance with instructions, and were a complete success". Parties of the enemy in the darkness and confusion fired into one another. Their losses were stated at 100 killed and wounded. The British loss was 6 killed, 9 wounded, including Captain FitzClarence and Lieutenant Swinburne, and 2 captured.
Action at Cannon Kopje, 31st October 1899. The enemy commenced the engagement with a heavy concentrated fire on the kopje, one of the enemy's guns taking the work in reverse. No reply could be made by artillery or maxims, which had to be stowed underground for protection. After half an hour's shelling the enemy advanced to the attack. Our people then manned their parapets and got the maxims up. A 7-pounder was "run out under cover of houses, near south corner of town". Under Lieutenant Murchison this gun opened fire on the enemy's flank, and their advance was stopped. The garrison lost Captain the Honourable Douglas Marsham, Captain Charles A K Pechell, and 6 non-commissioned officers and men killed, and 3 wounded. The casualties among the rank and file fell chiefly on Colonel Walford's BSA Police, by whom the work was defended. The defenders were congratulated by Colonel Baden-Powell. The enemy were said to have lost heavily. In a skirmish on the 3rd November Captain Goodyear was wounded.
Surprise attack on enemy's western laager, 7th November 1899. At 2.30 am Major Godley paraded his force. Two 7-pounders, one Hotchkiss, one squadron Protectorate Regiment (dismounted), 60, under Captain Vernon, one troop, 30, Bechuanaland Rifles, Captain Cowan. Captain Vernon's squadron led the attack. At 4.15 am the guns opened on laager at 1800 yards. The surprise was complete, and the enemy bolted in all directions, but were soon strongly reinforced, and Major Godley had to withdraw. This he did successfully under very heavy fire. The Hotchkiss upset and broke limber-hook, but Gunners Cowan and Gordon "very pluckily stood up and repaired damage" under heavy artillery and rifle fire. Major Godley and 4 men were wounded. Again the Boers lost heavily.
Action at Game Tree Hill, 26th December 1899. "Two squadrons Protectorate Regiment, supported by armoured train and Bechuanaland Rifles, were ordered to attack enemy's works from left flank under Major Godley, while three guns and a maxim prepared the way from the right front of the work. On pressing home the attack a heavy fire killed or wounded most of the officers and leading troops. These succeeded in gaming the parapet, but the work was found to have been strongly roofed in and so closed as to be impregnable". The British losses were this time very serious. Captain R J Vernon, Captain H C Sandford, Lieutenant H P Paton, and 21 non-commissioned officers and men were killed, Captain FitzClarence and 22 men wounded, and 3 missing. Colonel Baden-Powell said "If blame for this reverse falls on any one it should fall on myself, as everybody concerned did their part of the work thoroughly well and exactly in accordance with the orders I had issued. Both officers and men worked with splendid courage and spirit".
During February 1900 there was fighting on various occasions, and on the 12th of that month Captain Girdwood was mortally wounded.
Boers' attack, 12th May 1900. The enemy evidently determined to make a final attempt to capture the town before the relief column could come up. At "4 am on the 12th they opened a very heavy long-range musketry fire on the town from the east, north-east, and south-east. ... I therefore wired to the southwest outposts to be on the outlook". The Colonel's judgment was, as usual, correct. "At about 4.30 300 Boers made a rush through the western outposts and got into the stadt; this they then set fire to. I ordered the western defenders to close in so as to prevent any supports coming in after the leading body, and sent the reserve squadron there to assist. They succeeded in driving off an attack of about 500 without difficulty". The upshot was that those who got in got divided into three parties. "The first surrendered, the second was driven out with loss by three squadrons Protectorate Regiment under Major Godley, and the third, in the BSA Police fort, after a vain attempt to break out in the evening, surrendered. We captured this day 108 prisoners, among whom was Commandant Eloff, Kruger's grandson. We also found 10 killed and 19 wounded Boers, and their ambulance picked up 30 men killed and wounded. Our losses were 4 killed, 10 wounded", including Captain Singleton and Lieutenant Bridges. "Our men, although weak with want of food and exercise, worked with splendid pluck and energy for the fourteen hours of fighting, and instances of gallantry in action were very numerous".
During the action between the relief column and the enemy on the 16th, part of the garrison demonstrated in the enemy's rear. On the morning of the 17th, after the head of the relief column was in, Colonel Walford was sent out against the laager on the east. Some Boers were killed, and they were prevented removing a gun, many waggons, camp equipment etc. Thus to the very last the little garrison behaved with that splendid courage, energy, and fighting skill which they had exhibited from their first encounters onwards.
The Empire may hold together many decades without any body of her sons doing for her a finer piece of work than 'the defence of Mafeking'. It has become the custom to smile, if not to sneer, at the Mafeking celebrations. Seldom has the Empire had greater cause for joy, and not a cap too many was thrown in the air or a shout too many or too loud given. When we fail to rise to enthusiasm on such an occasion we shall have become unable to do the deeds that can arouse it.
The Protectorate Regiment saw some fighting in the Transvaal, but anything they did is pale in colour after 'the defence'. They were disbanded before the close of 1900.
The Regiment gained the following Honours and Mentions:—
Captain FitzClarence (Royal Fusiliers), twice wounded, gained the VC for great courage and fearlessness on 14th and 27th October and 26th December 1899. On 27th October Captain FitzClarence was the first man into the trenches, and accounted for four of the enemy with his sword. Sergeant H R Martineau gained the Cross on 26th December 1899. He picked up Corporal Le Camp and took him back 150 yards under very heavy fire. In doing this he was wounded, but continued to assist his comrade, and received two additional wounds. Trooper H E Ramsden, on 26th December 1899, also gained the Cross. He picked up his brother and carried him 700 yards under heavy fire.
COLONEL BADEN-POWELL'S DESPATCH.—Lieutenant Colonel Hore, Staffordshire Regiment; Major Godley, Dublin Fusiliers; Captain Marsh, Royal West Kent; Captain Vernon, KRRC; Captain FitzClarence, Lieutenant C Bentinck, 9th Lancers; Lieutenants Holden, Greenfield, and Feltham.
LORD ROBERTS' DESPATCH. — Lieutenants G Bridges, J A P Feltham, Greenfield, Mossum or Moorsom, Waller; Sergeant J W S Lowe, Corporal Metcalfe; Troopers Bryant, Calderwood, Johnson, Parsons, Stevens; Gunner Mulholland. Sergeant Lowe and Gunner Mulholland actually belonged to the Mafeking Railway Volunteer Corps.
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