March 7.—Turned out at 5. Fed horses. At 9 took out reconnoitring patrol of twenty men to patrol round hills towards Piet Retief. It is still raining. The country seems all clear. I went to a German farm, and had a very good lunch of fresh bread and butter and coffee. So welcome! I got a beautiful American buggy, which will come in useful for me, as mine has broken down; it is brand new, and beautifully light. I got a set of harness as well. Two convoys passed in. All the roads and country are a regular swamp. The rainy season on the eastern side of the big watershed is totally different to the rainy season on the western side. Here we get everlasting rain and mists; on the western side one gets a succession of thunderstorms, with very heavy showers and intermittent sunshine. If you look at the map you will notice that it is the two effects of the near contact of the Pacific Ocean on the eastern side and the further effect of the contact of the Atlantic Ocean on the western side. Returned at 6. Usual camp duties. Rode out to my section (Waters) on outpost. Raining hard. Everything soaked.
March 9.—Turned out at 4. A glorious morning: clear sky, brilliant sunrise, a marvellous change, and very welcome to all. I find no duties to-day, so my men will get a well-deserved rest. I took an opportunity to send in my report for saddlery, arms, and equipment worn out on service for the Board of Inquiry to be held to-morrow. A glorious hot day. Usual camp duties.
Sunday, March 10.—Rained heavily all night. Turned out at 4. A wet, dirty morning. Two of my sections ordered out for convoy patrols. Sent 1 and 2, under Hilton and Waters respectively. The Canadians had a brush with the enemy to-day five miles from camp, and lost two men and six horses. They had to retire. It rained hard all day.
March 11.—Turned out at 4. Usual camp duties. The horses are in a very bad way, owing to having had no forage for four days. Still raining—awful weather! All of us, too, are on half-rations. I rode round the outposts in the afternoon. Attended Board of Inquiry to-day under Captain Dick, 13th Mounted Infantry, to write off saddlery and equipment lost on service.
March 12.—Turned out at 4. Sent horses out grazing. It is still raining, with a thick white mist. My work is not over easy just now to manage the company. I have about forty recruits, who have never been near their regiment, never had a barrack-room training, and don't know what discipline means. To compensate for this, the remaining 100 men are first-rate soldiers. It is hard times for the men, but, I think, harder still for the officers. It is still raining. I rode round the outposts.
March 13.—Turned out at 4.40; most lovely morning. Sent horses out grazing. Still no forage. At 8 went out on a reconnoitring expedition under Colonel Barter (King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry). Force: 20 Canadians, two guns J Battery, 100 Mounted Infantry (14th), 200 Infantry (King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry).
I had not proceeded one and a half miles before a heavy mist sprang up, with a drizzling rain. As one could not see 300 yards, we had orders to return to camp. It cleared up at 10.30. I went out at 11, and trekked six miles west towards the Ilangaapiesberg. I and my section (thirty men) held the extreme left or south flank. All clear. Sent in 300 sheep. Uninteresting day. Got back to camp at 7. No Boers seen.
March 14.—Turned out at 5; a most lovely morning, with bright sunshine. At last there is a welcome change in the weather! Sent horses out grazing; there is still no forage for them, except what they get grazing, and only half-rations for men; plenty of meat, however. Hilton and No. 1 Section of my company went out on outpost to-day. I spent most of the day lassoing and catching horses for the company at a kraal I caught nine, amongst which were a beautiful Basuto mare and foal, which I am keeping myself. It took me an hour to get on her, and she took one minute in getting me off. However, I got on again, and rode her for three hours, which quieted her down a bit.
March 15.—Turned out at 5. Sent horses grazing. No forage yet for horses, and half-rations for men. A showery day, with thunderstorms. I rode my new mare again to-day, otherwise there is nothing to relate, except that horses are dying at the rate of twenty a day in the Brigade from starvation.
March 16.—Turned out at 5. Sent horses grazing. Fine, but showery. Orders to move to-morrow at 9. How we shall get along I don't know, with starved horses and half-starved men. Rained all night. Lovely!
March 17.—Sunday. Reveille at 4. Sent out horses grazing at 5. Started off south-south-east of Paul Pietersdorp at 9. We furnish rearguard and flank guards. This is a beautiful country, but very difficult. Part of the road was down the side of an enormous hill, with the hill on one side and a sheer drop of 150 feet on the other; it was only 10 feet wide, and covered in rocks. Descent about 1 in 15 inches. I don't expect the waggons will reach us to-night. We halted and camped at Vredegunst at 2 p.m. Waited for waggons, but only a few came in. Luckily my cart arrived. There are no rations to-night, but Brass, our mess president (one of the best), managed to give us an excellent meal of mutton and mealies. Rearguard still out, also Hilton. Marched seven miles to-day.
March 18.—Vredegunst. It rained hard again last night, with heavy thunderstorms. Reveille at 4; sent horses grazing at 5. Several waggons were overturned and smashed up, and we lost eight horses yesterday. The waggons are now coming in by dozens. A beautiful clear morning. Remained in camp till 1. Rearguard and remainder of waggons not in yet. Orders to move at noon for mounted troops only; remainder to come on at 1. All the horses are dead-tired and done. Marched seven miles on foot; then halted, and camped just north of Pongola River, at Jagdt's Drift, arriving at 4 p.m. Heavy rain and thunderstorm. Directly we got into camp I and my company had to go on outpost duty three miles east of camp, on high ridge. We had no food, and it was raining hard. I put my post near a Kaffir kraal; got men to make a large bonfire, and killed two calves and a pig. Commandeered 250 lb. mealies for the horses (first food they have had for some time), and a sack of ground Kaffir corn, which made excellent chupatties.
It rained all night, which effectually stopped anybody who had any intentions of so doing from sleeping. I spent the night patrolling. There is a Boer picket six miles east of us. Dartnell's camp is seven miles north of Pongola River.
March 19.—Jagdt's Drift, Pongola River. Stood to arms at 3.30. A. wretchedly wet morning, wretched horses, and wretched men! Relieved at 6 a.m. by a vedette. Returned to camp. No move to-day, as the Engineers are building a pontoon bridge over the Pongola, which is in flood, and quite 40 yards wide, besides having an extremely rapid current. This is a magnificent, broken country.
The kraal I stayed at last night belonged to a Zulu named Umtungla, one of the finest specimens of a man I have ever seen. He stood 6 feet 5 inches to 6 feet 6 inches, perfectly proportioned, with muscles like a Hercules, and a fine face, too. I felt quite small beside him. Had a long ' pow-wow' with him. Still raining. In the afternoon I walked down to the river, and watched the Royal Engineers building the pontoon bridge and making approaches. It was most interesting. The current is extremely rapid—seven and a half to eight miles an hour.
March 20.—Reveille at 5. The column started, moving across the river at 9. All went well, except for two mules and one ox, which strayed overboard and got drowned. A fine day. Halted and camped on high ground one mile north of river.
March 22.—French's, Allenby's, Knox's, and Pul-teney's columns arrived here to-day; the two former are camping south and the two latter north of us. Orders to move to-morrow.
March 23.—Reveille at 4; marched off south at 5, past Allenby's and Knox's columns. Halted and camped at Paul Pietersdorp. Dartnell's column is here; we wait for him to move on. Heavy firing about ten or fifteen miles south heard between 1 and 3 p.m.
March 24.—Reveille at 4; marched off south at 6. Country very rugged, with difficult roads. We had a long march of nine miles, with many long halts to allow the waggons to close up. Dartnell's column is immediately in front of us. We halted and camped at Velgenvonden, twelve miles north of Vryheid. The waggons were late coming in. Waters and No. 2 Section went out on permanent outpost. We halt here for three or four days in order to get supplies, etc. We are all on quarter rations still. It is hungry work. No tobacco either. The farms have been burnt everywhere by other columns.
March 25.—Velgenvonden. Reveille at 5. Warn-ford and seventy men—No. 3 and 4 Companies—proceeded to Vryheid at 4 a.m. with empty waggons to bring out mails and supplies. I sent my servant and cart in to buy stores for the company. In the afternoon I rode out and saw Waters' outpost.
March 26.—Reveille at 5. Stables. Glad to say we are getting forage for the horses now—10 lb. oats per day, which is very good. It will fill them up a bit. French left us these. Yesterday I drew twenty-four remounts for the company from the 10th Hussars—not a bad lot, on the whole. A convoy with ten days' supplies came back from Vryheid late this afternoon, bringing thirty remounts as well, which went to No. 1 Company. We also received six weeks' mails.
March 27.—Reveille at 5. Beautifully fine. The column moved off at 7 due east. I find flank and rear guards. Had a long march of fifteen miles over extremely difficult country, with many halts to allow the waggons to cross drifts. The Canadian Scouts exchanged shots with a few Boer snipers, and J Battery shelled a small commando of between 200 and 300, who were returning north-east. Casualties: One Boer killed, two wounded, two prisoners; ours nil. We camped on a high ridge immediately north of Manwaan River (tributary of the Bevaan and Usutu Rivers). A very stiff drift; the waggons did not get in till between 11 and midnight. A fine moonlight night. Turned in at one.
March 28.—Express Farm. Reveille at 4.30. Mounted troops, under Colonel Jenner, moved off east at 6. Waggon and infantry follow later on. It was a most beautiful morning, with the rising sun playing on the mists and clouds amongst the mountains, but the country is extraordinarily difficult—a shockingly bad road, and a succession of drifts and ridges; in places it was extremely perilous. In pursuit of retreating Boers, waggons, and oxen, we marched ten miles, then halted at 1 p.m. on a high crest overlooking the country. At 3 p.m. I and my company were sent to reconnoitre two valleys due south, to clear all opposition, and to sweep in oxen. We had an exciting ride across country—rivers, ravines, and passes—and went through both valleys. No Boers! However, we got 100 head of oxen. Rejoined main body at 5 on their return to camp. Waggons are up; marvellous that they ever got up here! Four of them rolled down a precipice, oxen and all, and were utterly smashed up. I am glad to say that my own company, waggons and private cart are still intact. It is a hot fine day.
March 29.—Pietersrust. Reveille at 4.30; marched off at 6. Hot, close morning. To-day we are main body. Marched due east. At cross-roads at Bellevue my company and Brass's (No. 1) took the north road over the mountains and covered the left flank. We marched till 1, then halted, according to orders, on the edge of the ridge. Hilton collared a Boer, and exchanged a few shots with some snipers. Louis Botha's farm is about six miles east. Halted till four. A heavy thunderstorm. I moved back to rejoin main body at five. A fine ride by brilliant moonlight through a valley covered with trees, where a river meandered in and out. On both sides were a succession of huge ridges covered with white rock, which fairly gleamed in the moonlight against a dark indigo-blue sky. Wonderful! We reached camp at 8, turned in at 10.
March 30.—Kruysfontein. Reveille at 4.30. Stood by, as we had to wait for the Royal Engineers to make the road good and the many drifts crossable. The country is getting wilder and stiffer every day. I started at 8 up, or, I should say, east, along the valley. We had many halts. We marched only six miles, and camped close to Louis Botha's farm. I supported scouts. No enemy! All my company are out on outpost. A quiet night.
March 31.—Waterval. Reveille at 4. A cold, fine morning. Moved off main road; column covered its left flank, and moved through Botha's farm, a fine place. Emmett's farm is close by. We halted at 8 a.m. on a ridge east of Botha's farm. Heard heavy firing to north-east—Dartnell's column in action against 800 to 1,000 Boers, strongly posted with machine-guns and pom-pom. Orders for all mounted troops to leave waggons and co-operate with Dartnell's column, taking three days' half-rations for man and horse.
The force consists of: 4 guns J Battery, 5 Colt guns, Canadians, 13th Mounted Infantry, 14th Mounted Infantry (under Colonel Jenner).
Moved off at 2.30 p.m. north-east. A tremendously stiff, mountainous country. We marched on till 9 p.m., about ten miles, and halted and camped by Smaldeel Farm. Welcome grub!
April 1.—Smaldeel Farm. Reveille at 4; breakfast at 5; marched off at 5.15. To-day we are support to scouts. Fine, but misty. A mighty country this, and very beautiful. At 8 a.m. we reached a big farm and captured 10 prisoners, 8 waggons, 100 horses, 1,000 oxen, and 2,000 sheep. Halted here. Boers and their waggons believed to be three days' march east and south-east. Moved on and turned north after Dartnell. Between 300 and 400 Boers seen on our left flank trekking back. The whole force turned about to intercept them. I got 200 oxen and 500 sheep on our march back. Halted and camped at 7.30. It is a fine, moonlight night.
April 2.—Reveille at 4; breakfast at 5; started at 5.30 due north. Pratt took in carts, waggons, and all sick horses. Colonel Jenner is in command. We go to round up cattle and waggons. We went four and a half miles through the stiffest country imaginable. Halted on a huge razor-edged ridge, with a 2,000 feet drop on either side. The Canadians, under Ross, and 13th Mounted Infantry went on to raid cattle. There was a desultory sniping all round. The Boers retired, leaving a huge head of oxen. Ultimately captured six waggons, 400 to 500 oxen, and 300 horses. My company and Brass's (No. 1 Company) halted here for the night on outpost, and also to prevent cattle from straying. It rained all night. I spent an exciting night keeping the cattle together, and keeping the Zulus from trekking cattle off. Very tired! Colonel Jenner hugely delighted with his haul. The Canadians are here as well.
April 3.—Hilly country north-north-east of Waterval Stood to arms at 3.30. Moved off as rearguard at 6. It was fairly fine. We moved back due south; it was a long, tedious trek, with many halts. I had great difficulty with two captured ox-waggons with new teams of oxen; could not get them up a long, steep hill. At last I took the responsibility myself, and burnt one waggon, putting the two teams in the other; this proved successful. Arrived at Waterval at 2 p.m., and found the camp had shifted and was on the move towards Vryheid. Trekked on through Botha's farm, and reached camp at 6 p.m., very tired. We lost six horses to-day.
April 4.—Vaalbank. Reveille at 5. A most beautiful morning, with a wonderful sunrise. Pratt and Nye, with forty men, took cattle on to Vryheid. We moved off due south-south-west at 9 along the fine road to Vryheid. We halted and camped at 1, having marched nine miles. A heavy thunderstorm during dinner; all got soaking wet.
April 5.—Nooitgedacht. Reveille at 5. Remained here for the day, with only the usual camp duties. Rode with Brass into Vryheid and bought stores; a most enjoyable ride, and quite a holiday to be off duty. Had lunch in Vryheid. Brass and No. 1 Company got immediate orders to ride off at 8 p.m. to four miles west of Vryheid and intercept a party of Boers known to be there. Nos. 2 and 4 Companies are under orders to proceed with convoy and supplies at 5 a.m. tomorrow for Dartnell. Brass is now Commanding Officer; he is a Captain, and comes from the East Yorks Regiment. I hear this evening that Micky Furlong, of the Middlesex Regiment, was killed whilst scouting near Vryheid. He was with the Middlesex Company Mounted Infantry, belonging to Utrecht district. I am very sorry, as be was a real good fellow and a promising soldier. A very busy evening. Turned in at 11.
April 6.—Moved off north as escort to convoy and supplies for General Dartnell's column. Boone was in command of the 14th Mounted Infantry (Nos. 2 and 4 Companies). It was a most beautiful day; I and my company had charge of the right flank. We halted and camped at Vaalbank at 1 o'clock, having marched eight miles. Here we met Dartnell's column.
April 7.—Vaalbank. We started back for Vryheid to join the main column at 6.30, taking with us empty waggons, Boer prisoners, and women. I was left flank guard. We halted at Nooitgedacht for three hours, and outspanned. A beautiful day. We started at 3 for Vryheid, and reaching here at 6.30, found Alderson's column had gone north. Halted and camped for the night. Vryheid is the usual type of Dutch town out here; beautifully situated in a valley, with high ridges all round. It has about 3,000 inhabitants.
April 8.—Vryheid. Reveille at 4; trekked off at 5.30 south-west to join main column. To-day I furnish right flank and rear guards. Hilton rode on with despatches from General French to Alderson. Marched nine miles and joined main column at 1.30 a.m. Hot weather. We have orders to move to-morrow.
April 9.— Brakfontein. Reveille at 4; column trekked south-south-east at 5.30. Warnford took two companies on extreme right flank (exposed), of which my company was one. I furnished advanced guard and scouts. A hot day, and an uneventful march, but a fine country! The column itself marched nine miles, then halted, and camped at a big conical hill called Spitzkop. We did not get in till five, after we had done a big flanking movement of about twenty-five miles. I got 300 head of oxen to-day.
April 10.—Spitzkop. Reveille at 3.30. Colonel Jenner took out a mounted force on extreme right to round up from 400 to 600 Boers reported to be in the hills, and to bring in cattle My company went with this force. The main column went on east-north-east.
The force under Colonel Jenner was as follows: Two squadrons 8th Hussars; two 15-pound guns G Battery R.H.A.; two Colt guns (Canadians); French's Scouts; 100 14th Mounted Infantry.
We moved off at 5.30, east-south-east, towards a whale-backed hill. There was a lovely sunrise. We trekked on till 8.30, without any special incident occurring. I was then sent across the Umvelosi River, on extreme right, to get round two ridges running parallel and three to five miles off the right flank. It was rather exciting getting across the river, which is 100 yards wide and quite 5 to 6 feet deep in the centre. However, we all partly scrambled and swam across on our horses. We then went on; no enemy! We rejoined main body at 9. It was fine weather, though a gale was blowing. We proceeded. At 10 a.m. French's Scouts came in contact with between thirty and fifty Boers well posted on a ridge on left front, which was covered with a fringe of trees, with a mealy patch behind. There was brisk firing on both sides, and the 8th Hussars were sent up to reinforce. Boone took thirty men and held on our right flank front. The Colt guns started on front left and the G guns sent in a few shells. At 11 all moved on to the ridge and found the Boers scattered and gone. This is our destination. We halted till 2, then we returned to camp at Nooitgedacht. I had charge of left flank, and got back to camp at 6. Covered to-day quite forty miles. Very tired!
April 11.—Nooitgedacht. Reveille at 5. Breakfast at 5.30. Moved off at 6.45 to Vryheid. The country is pretty stiff again for trekking. This is a cold, windy day, the first touch of coming winter. We halted and camped at Vaalkranz Nek in the Helbone Mountains. We marched fourteen miles to-day. The advanced guard of the 8th Hussars came into touch with between twelve and twenty Boers sniping on the Nek, and after exchanging a few shots with them drove them out. Hilton and part of the company are on outpost to-night A cold wind.
April 12.—Vaalkranz Nek. Reveille at 3.30. Moved off at 5, and trekked north towards Vryheid. The column had to cross a vlei and a very stiff drift, then to do a long climb of 1,200 feet. We had many halts, and there was sniping all along the pass. It was a most awkward place to cross; had it been held by 1,000 Boers well posted it would have been pretty well impregnable. We bad a long, tiring march, with many halts and many seizings of ridges to counteract possible attack; ultimately we halted and camped at Vaalkranz at 7, after having marched fifteen miles. King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry still out looking after the waggons coming in. Our camp is close to where we met Dartnell the other day.
April 13.—Vaalkranz. Reveille at 3; moved off at 3.45 for Vryheid by moonlight. King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry had already trekked off under Colonel Barter at 1 a.m. We marched fourteen miles, and reached Vryheid at 9 a.m. A welcome breakfast at 10. We moved off again at 3, halted and camped three miles south of Vryheid on Dundee Road.
April 14.—-Three miles south of Vryheid. Reveille at 4; marched off at 6 en route for Dundee. We reach Dundee the day after to-morrow, and then entrain for Pretoria to get new horses, refit, etc., for another expedition.
Well, this finishes a trek which is the longest consecutive one I have done Although there has not been much fighting, it has been far and away the hardest time the troops have had, owing to unpre-cedentedly heavy rains for this country and a scarcity of food. I believe the whole move in conjunction with the other columns has been distinctly successful. The only matter of regret is that there is so little fighting, as the Boers won't stand. You will see by the map what an enormous distance we have covered, from Pretoria to Dundee in one trek. I am pleased to say that my company is going very strong again, and if I have the good luck to remain in command I hope to make it a first-rate company, especially when we get refitted with new saddlery and horses. We all want a fortnight's rest before we go on again.
Trek under General Bullock, No. 2 Company 14th Mounted Infantry, Field Forces, Fifth Corps, South Africa.
Before going further I should like to tell you a few things about the last trek. The regiment came back with 130 mounted men on fit horses out of 500, the remainder being dismounted. Two-thirds of the men were absolutely in rags, and quite a fourth were bootless. This will explain to you what a severe trek it was. Well, we hope to get a three weeks' rest now, and during that time we shall refit all round.
April 18.—Dundee. Trained for Newcastle at 1.30 p.m., arriving here at 7; just had a scratch dinner, and settled down for the night on the veldt. We have lovely hot days now, but very cold nights.
April 19.—Newcastle. We are back once again to familiar country, and at the foot of the mighty Drakens-berg, encamped one mile west of the town. The Middlesex Regiment are all at Utrecht, thirty miles east of Newcastle. Settled down to camp; usual duties. I went into the town and bought some very necessary clothing, etc.; returned to camp at 1 and had lunch, then paid the company £500.
April 20.—Captain King joined us to-day with all the mounted men and our transport. King gone to No. 1 Company, so I remain in command of No. 2, which is most satisfactory. Gretton, Kayne, and Waters'go down to Durban for a leave.
April 21.—Usual parade.
April 22.—Reveille at 6. J Battery and No. 1 Section of G Battery came into camp to-day. Warnford, Brass, and I went into the town and had a most enjoyable dinner at the station; it was literally the first civilized meal I have had since Pretoria last January. Returned at 9 to camp.
April 23.—Turned out at 5. Had my cart overhauled and repaired to-day ready for another long trek.
April 24.—Turned out at 6. Major Bridgeford (1st Manchesters) arrived to-day, and took over the command of the battalion. He is an old Mounted Infantry officer, and has done well in Natal and Lyden-burg. This morning I sat on a Board for loss of kit, saddlery, etc., on service by 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry. This Board lasted all day, and was very tedious work.
April 25.—Drew equipment and saddlery and 100 horses for the company. This is the best lot of horses I have ever seen—Americans and Hungarians, about 14.2, 15, and 15.2 to 16.1 hands. Considerable changes are in progress. Lieutenant Cooke, of the Rifle Brigade, comes to No. 2 (my company), and takes command Pro tem, till Captain Brindley (an old Mounted Infantry officer) arrives. I go to No. 1 Company (Captain Brass). Lieutenant Vassil and fifty men (Gloucesters) arrived to-day also, and a new company is formed of Gloucesters only.
Whole battalion rearranged as follows: No. 1 Company: East Yorks, 120 men (Captain Brass, Lieutenant Moeller). No. 2 Company, Middlesex, Hilton; Lancashire Fusiliers, Gledhill; 1st and 2nd Manchesters, Cooke (Captain Brindley). No. 3 Company: Essex, Boone; Devons, Maxwell and Kayne; West Yorks, Fryer (Lieutenant Warnford). No. 4 Company: Gloucesters, Lieutenant Nye, Lieutenant Hamilton (Lieutenant Vassil).
April 26.—Turned out at 5. To-day I am orderly officer, with plenty to do. Served out saddlery and equipment to No. i Company. I am sorry to say my servant Greenhead, who has done me so well, went sick to-day, having received a kick in the mouth from his horse. I have drawn five lovely horses, one for my groom and one for my servant Tommy and Kitty are in my Cape-cart. Tommy, you know, is the old veteran who has carried me so well and got shot at Rietfontein. Visited posts twice during the night That wretched horse-sickness is very bad here.
April 27.—Turned out at 5. Our company being the first to be equipped, proceeded by road to Volksrust at 8. No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry (Captain Brass); 13th Mounted Infantry (Major Pratt); J Battery R.H.A. (Major Ducrot). A lovely day. We passed familiar places—Windsor Castle, Umbana, Sikafu. Marched twelve miles and halted and camped at Ingogo. No. 2 Company, under Cooke, joined us here. One of the changes the present Commanding Officer has made is to turn the regimental mess into company messes; this is far more practicable and comfortable for all the officers. Our mess is only a small one. There is Brass, who is one of the best, myself, and King, of the Canadian Dragoons. I look after the mess. The waggons came in rather late, so we did not get dinner till 9. A wet night.
April 28.—Ingogo. Reveille at 5; moved off at 7, and marched through Laing's Nek and O 'Neil's Farm. We passed at the foot of Majuba and Mount Prospect, through a most lovely country. It was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed the march immensely. We passed through Charlestown, and halted and camped north of Volksrust at 4 p.m. Headquarters and three or four companies joined us at 9, coming in by rail. There is now a big garrison here.
April 29.—Volksrust. Reveille at 5. I went into Volksrust to buy stores for the mess. We trekked off at 1. Our column is under Major-General Bullock (vice General Dartnell, who has gone down to Natal). The force was split in two columns as follows:
No. 1 Column: Thirteenth Mounted Infantry, 400 men, Major Pratt; 14th Mounted Infantry, 350 men, Major Bridgeford (Colonel Jenner); J Battery, R.H.A., 120 men, Major Ducrot; 2nd Dorsets, 800 men, Colonel Law; one pom-pom; Royal Engineers. All under General Bullock, and trekked east-north-east of Volksrust. No. 2 Column: Colonel Gough's Mounted Infantry, 600 men; Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, 600 men; Commander-in-Chief's bodyguard, 1,000 men, Colonel Chesney; 74th Battery R.F.A., 120 men; 1 pom-pom. All under Colonel Bimbachi Stuart, and trekked on right flank east of Volksrust. The whole under General Bullock.
No. 1 Company furnished right and left flank and rear guards to column; I took left flank guard. It was a cold, fine day, tbe scenery very beautiful; we had only marched three miles when we halted and camped. Do you know that every evening we see a comet with two enormous tails ? I saw it first on April 26 at Newcastle, in the east, at 5 a.m. King has become staff-officer or A.D.C. to Colonel Jenner, and messes with us.
April 30.—Hout Nek. Reveille at 5; trekked at 7 due north through the Nek. It was a fine, crisp, frosty morning. We marched with main body about eight miles, and halted and camped at 12 noon. We have eighteen days' supplies with us—an enormous convoy. The camp is always formed in laager formation—i.e., waggons all round the camp.
May 1.—Land Spruit Reveille at 5; marched off due north at 7 through Graskop Nek. Two companies of the ' Queen's' form a post on the Nek. The advanced guard got in touch with fifty Boers, who retired hastily after exchanging shots. We marched twelve miles, and halted and camped at Joubert's Farm. Stuart's column was in action on the right flank; had one officer wounded and seven men and twelve horses shot. Drove off the Boers—between 200 and 300—however. I slept on inlying picket.
May 2.—Joubert's Farm. Reveille at i a.m; marched off by moonlight at 3. Reconnaissance in force on left flank: 13th Mounted Infantry (Major Pratt); 14th Mounted Infantry (Major Bridgeford); J Battery R.H.A. (Major Ducrot); one pom-pom. All under Colonel Jenner, General Bullock accompanying the force.
A beautiful moonlight night, but very cold. First we marched west, then north, then north-east, arriving and halting at Amersfoort at 10 am. We only saw between 50 and 100 Boers some way off, who decamped. We joined the main body here at 12 noon. Stuart's force has been in action again with about 500 Boers on the right flank, and have captured eleven Boers and Commandant Schwartz. At 4 o'clock our outposts were sniped pretty freely, and the bodyguard had one man killed. All turned out; the Boers, however, bolted after receiving a pretty warm shelling.
May 3.—Amersfoort. Reveille at 5.30. Moved off at 7.30. Came in contact almost at once with a strong Boer force, who pom-pommed our advanced guard. Fourteenth Mounted Infantry were sent out on left flank, No. 4 Company (Gloucesters) scouting, followed by Nos. 1, 2, and 3 Companies. No. 4 came in touch with about 800 or 1,000 Boers strongly posted on a ridge six miles long running north and south, parallel with main column, and had to retire. The whole of 14th Mounted Infantry then moved north, well out of rifle range, and held a ridge Major Bridgeford sent in for reinforcements. The Boers crept round both flanks; however, we kept them off. Nye, of the Gloucesters, was taken prisoner, but was released and sent back, after being deprived of everything except shirt, breeches, and boots. At 1 p.m. the 14th Mounted Infantry came out with four guns and battery, and at once proceeded to go for the Boer position; in the meantime guns shelled the ridge wall. The Boers decamped, leaving several wounded. Our casualties were only two. All retired at 3.30 p.m., 14th Mounted Infantry covering retirement. We reached camp at 6.30 p.m. on a lovely moonlight night. Johannesburg Mounted Rifles fought a slight action on the right flank.
May 4.—Riet Spruit. Reveille at 3.30. We moved off at 5.30, 14th Infantry leading. I, with half No. 1 Company, was sent out on advanced right flank. I saw several parties of Boers along ridges five miles on my right, and had several little skirmishes with Boer vedettes and snipers. Moved on. Great surprises! The column got shelled and we got pom-pommed from Boer Creusot gun and pom-pom situated in ridge. We galloped for cover to ridge with Kaffir kraal, got horses under cover, and awaited events. Thirteenth Mounted Infantry and Brass, with remainder of the company, moved out. After a good deal of desultory firing the Boers evacuated, taking their guns with them. J Battery and 74th shelled the ridge thoroughly. I had orders to rejoin the battalion, which I did. The column halted; the 14th went forward with two guns (J Battery) and made a dash for the high ridge. It was an exciting ride; the Boers fired a few shots, and then bolted. We reached the ridge which overlooks Vaal River, and had a beautiful view. Thirteenth Mounted Infantry and two guns made a wide detour on extreme right. Then the column crossed the Vaal by Kaffir Drift, instead of over the bridge. We came into camp at 4.30 p.m. Hilton,- of No. 2 Company, had a skirmish; on left flank were Gough's Mounted Infantry. He had two men wounded.
May 5.—Kaffir Drift, Vaal River. Reveille at 4.30; moved off at 6.30, 13th Mounted Infantry leading, 14th Mounted Infantry finding flank guards to convoy. I was right flank guard. There was a thick white mist at starting, and the column halted, but it cleared up at 7.30, and we saw 200 to 300 Boers on a high ridge north-east of us, and on our right front. Reported. Exchanged shots with Boer snipers. The column changed direction several times, moving east, north-east, north, and north-west, and being on the outer flank, we had to keep on the trot the whole time. At 2 p.m. the column halted to allow the waggons to recross Vaal River at Vleiplaats. I joined Brass at 2 p.m., and formed line of outposts, still on right flank; our posts were constantly sniped at from several sides. At 4 p.m. I took out a strong reconnoitring patrol of thirty men, then extended and moved at trot; we saw Boers clearing off. I moved on, and was able from a good position to fire at five or six Boers, who galloped off. Unfortunately I had a man hit—Poole of the East Yorks—through shoulder and breast I left a man with him, taking their rifles and bandoliers, and also sent in for doctor and ambulance. Rejoined Brass at 5, and all returned to camp. There has been skirmishing all round the column, the Boers being everywhere in small parties. Gough's Mounted Infantry and Johannesburg Mounted Rifles are out on extreme left, to get in touch with Colonel Hamilton's column. The Boers are estimated to be about 1,500 strong, and under the redoubtable Louis Botha. The comet was a marvellous sight to-night, having two distinct tails.
May 6. — Vleiplaats. Reveille at 2; breakfast at 3.15; moved off at 4. Special reconnoitring force to get in touch with Colonel Hamilton's column on extreme left at Blaauwkop on Vaal River. Force: 14th Battalion, one company advanced guard (No. 1), half-company left flank guard (No. 2); 13th Battalion, half-company right flank guard, half-company rearguard, half company escort guns; four guns J Battery R.H.A. (all under Colonel Jenner). Remainder of force moved with train column under General Officer Commanding. I furnished scouting line to advanced guard. It was a moonlight morning, followed by a glorious sunrise. All was quiet. We reached Vaalkop and Blaauwkop (two high kopjes and great landmarks for miles round) at 7 a.m. No enemy, except fifty or sixty Boers west of us, manoeuvring about five miles off. No sign of Colonel Hamilton's column. There was a small column fifteen miles west of us, who appeared to be having a skirmish with a small commando of Boers. A cloudy day, and very hard to get in helio touch with anybody. We also saw a big camp twelve or fifteen miles north-north-west towards Standerton. After some difficulty we got into helio communication, and it turned out to be Colonel Colville's column from Standerton. After hanging about for some hours, all returned to camp ten miles east. No. 1 Company rearguard. No enemy; all clear. Our main column were shelled to-day, and had a skirmish all round. We reached camp at 6 p.m.; a brilliant moonlight night, very cold and frosty. We are on outpost tonight.
May 7.—Twiefontein. Stood to arms at 3.30 a.m. The whole company were on outpost east of camp. A quiet night. The column moved north at 5; we were rearguard, and had to hold high ground east of camp till the last waggons were clear. At 5.30 I noticed ten Boers galloping round our rear; I opened fire on them at 1,300 yards, but could not hit one; however, I galloped on to my extreme easterly post, and got them to fire at 1,000 yards. In the meantime Brass heard the firing and brought up two sections. I sent for mine, and altogether we lined the ridge. Waters was sent to occupy a ridge on the right. Our ridge overlooked another ridge parallel and 1,800 yards off. It was most extraordinary; the Boers seemed to come in from all round, and before we knew where we were we came in for a stiff rearguard action. The Boers opened fire on us, and we replied. I am sorry to say Corporal Bates (East Yorks, one of my very best noncommissioned officers) got shot by a Martini bullet through the stomach; he was just by me. Poor chap! it was a terrible wound. I got him out of fire. Well, it is no duty of a rearguard to fight, so we retired alternately by sections from ridge to ridge, all the time keeping up a fighting front. The Boers were most persistent; it was an exciting time. I left Bates with a man and took their horses, rifles, and bandoliers; at the same time I sent in for an ambulance. The whole morning we did nothing else but gallop from ridge to ridge, covering each other's retirement by dismounting and firing. The Boers followed us. Brass sent in for reinforcements and two guns. I had rather an exciting experience. I went over to Waters, who was on my left, to warn him about left rear; my saddle slipped, and I had to get off and put things straight. Well, as luck would have it, my horse would not stand; while I was getting the saddle on, some Boers had crept round and started firing on me from a ridge on my left rear. It was most exciting; bullets lammed about me like steam. At last I got my saddle on, jumped up, and was off like a shot, followed by a running fire. Never had such a hot time before! I then rejoined my half-company and thanked my stars neither I nor my horse was shot. Well, we all made for a farm, where we got cover. Two guns came up, and two companies 14th Mounted Infantry; there were quite 400 or 500 Boers occupying ridges all round rear of column. A general action all round followed; the Boers on nearer ridges decamped; both flank guards joined in, then all retired on column. The column marched twelve miles. Our column had to remain out until the last waggons were in. We got into camp at 5.30. Fighting continued all round column. The Boer gun and pom-pom shelled us, but always managed to get off, although the Mounted Infantry several times went for them. We had eight casualties to-day; the Boers had many, as they sent in for medical aid. Sloane (of J Battery) went into the Boer camp, and it was from him I heard that one Boer was shot early in the morning by our rearguard and had died. Poor Bates was brought in, but died at 7 to-night The Boers here are the pick of the old force, and are under Louis Botha himself.
May 8.—Kaffir Spruit. No move to-day. Stables and breakfast at 7.30. I took the horses watering and grazing. It was a fine, hot day. We buried poor Corporal Bates; the whole company turned out, and Captain Brass read the service. A military funeral is always very impressive. At 4 I took the horses to water; on the way back our friends woke up the camp by shelling it. One shell burst right among my horses; amusing to see them rear and the fellows tumble off in all directions. As I got in everybody had to stand to. The Boer gun was about 8,000 yards north-east of the camp, and out of range of our guns. One shell burst among J Battery and disabled one gun. About twenty shells burst in camp; nobody was hurt, however. Our guns turned out and shelled a farm halfway out. All quiet at 6.30, so turned in. We move at 1 with no waggons, but taking two days' rations for men and horses.
May 9. — Reveille at 12, midnight; moved off at 2 a.m. north-east to go for the Boers, and if possible secure gun. Force: 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry (Colonel Jenner) in support and rear; half-battalion Dorsets in advance; J Battery (four guns); 74th Battery (four guns); Colt guns; one pom-pom; Johannesburg Mounted Rifles; bodyguard, flanks and advanced guard and scouts. All under General Bullock. Many halts, owing to one or two stiff drifts. A bright, waning moon. At first dawn the advanced guard came in touch with Boers, who retired hastily after sending a few shells into us. We proceeded east, and halted near Ermelo, which for the past few weeks has been the Boer seat of government. The Boers have evacuated it, and are sitting on the surrounding hills. The Government has trekked on to Amsterdam. At 2 p.m. the 14th Mounted Infantry went back to escort our waggons along, and had a small rearguard action with fifty Boers. We halted and camped at 4.30 p.m.
May 10.—Riet Spruit, near Ermelo. Reveille at 5.30; a cold, frosty morning. No. 1 Company stood to arms at 5. At 7.30 a.m. all the mounted troops proceeded out for a reconnaissance in force: Gough's Mounted Infantry, bodyguard, 74th Battery (four guns), under Bimbachi Stuart (Western Force); 13th Mounted Infantry, 14th Mounted Infantry, J Battery (four guns), one pom-pom, under Colonel Jenner (Eastern Force). I can only relate regarding our force: 14th Mounted Infantry led, No. 3 Company in advance. There was a general sniping from surrounding ridges, and J Battery were in action several times. At 9 a.m. I was sent Out on extreme right with twenty men to scout a very high and commanding ridge, being covered by J Battery and supported by the Gloucesters (No. 4 Company). The ridge was two miles long, commanding all around it. I got my men well extended, and they made a trot for it. I found the hills clear of the enemy and reported. There was a magnificent view. I saw Ermelo, a pretty little town east of us, and far away north-west I could discern about 200 or 300 Boers trekking off east. I then rejoined the battalion, which had come up. At 3 p.m. the whole force retired to camp, 14th Mounted Infantry leading, half No. 1 Company advance guard (Brass), half No. 1 Company left flank guard (myself), half No. 2 Company support to me, half No. 2 Company right flank, 13th Mounted Infantry main body and rearguard. Proceeded. I occupied a high ridge on the left, and moved along it, our friends the Boers holding ridges parallel to me At 4 p.m. I sighted a Cape-cart and ten Boers galloping away at 1,000 yards to left rear. I fired at them, and was just going in pursuit when about fifty Boers appeared, creeping up the ridge, and bringing a pretty heavy fire on us. It was too hot for me, so I signalled my men to gallop and get the horses under cover under the ridge, which they did admirably. At the same time Cooke came up and supported me. All advanced and brought a pretty effective fire on the Boers, who retired under cover. At this moment a most extra-ordinary thing happened; two Boers got up out of a little donga at 100 yards, mounted, and cleared off. Thirty men fired at them, but as far as I could see they got off—a wonderful escape for them. Two or three hundred Boers were then seen coming up. Immediately afterwards we got an order to retire, as it was getting dusk, to the main column. We retired alternately from ridge to ridge by sections. We had no casualties, which is wonderful, and does not say much for rifle accuracy on the part of the enemy. All returned to same camp at 6.30 p.m.—a long and tiring day, but pretty exciting. It is magnificent weather: very cold, clear, frosty nights, but hot days; water generally frozen solid every morning.
May 11.—Reveille at 6. I remain in camp to-day. Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and bodyguard with their guns proceeded out at 8 a.m., the former to assist Provost-Marshal in clearing out Ermelo and bringing in the women and children, the latter to take up a suitable position on surrounding hills to cover Johannesburg Mounted Rifles. At 11 a.m. the 14th Mounted Infantry were ordered out, as a report came in by helio that some of the Johannesburg Mounted Rifles were in difficulties. We went out with guns, and took up a position on ridge north of camp and overlooking Ermelo, and there remained till 2. Returned, 13th Mounted Infantry having relieved us; we had to stand by all day, however. Johannesburg Mounted Rifles had one officer and one man wounded; bodyguard, too, had a small action with Boers. At 5 o'clock the waggons came back from Ermelo with 300 women. A night attack is expected, and everybody sleeps fully dressed and equipped.
May 12.—All quiet. Reveille at 4; moved off due south at 6: 13th Mounted Infantry right flank, 14th Mounted Infantry left flank, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles cover retirement, bodyguard and gun advanced guard, Gough's Mounted Infantry rearguard, No. 3 Company (Gloucesters) scouting to left flank, No. 1 Company (East Yorks) being rearguard to left flank.
The Gloucesters had a slight skirmish at a farm, took two prisoners (bodyguard to Louis Botha), and wounded two. The column encamped at 3, J Battery and half a company left out on left flank as outpost. Put out three posts. Ten Boers kept us all on the qui vive all the afternoon by riding round our posts and sniping at us. We kept up a desultory fire on them, but were unable to hit one.
May 13.—Drinkwater. Gough's Mounted Infantry, two guns J Battery R.H.A proceeded at 4.30 a.m., and held ridge south-west of camp. The remainder of the camp had reveille at 4, and moved off at 6 south-southwest: 13th Mounted Infantry and pom-pom advanced guard and left flank guard; bodyguard and guns, half-battalion Dorsets, right flank guard; two guns J Battery, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, rearguard; 14th Mounted Infantry in reserve, and main body. There were slight actions all round with small bodies of Boers. The advanced guard shelled the enemy several times; they always retired. The 13th Mounted Infantry and bodyguard got two prisoners each. A cold, windy day. We reached camp at 3.
May 14.—Kaffir Spruit. Reveille at 2 a.m. The force moved at 4 a.m. as follows: Three companies 13th Mounted Infantry right flank; three companies 14th Mounted Infantry main body and on right of guns; two companies Gough's Mounted Infantry advanced guard; four guns J Battery R.H.A., and one pom-pom, under General Bullock, and carrying one day's rations and forage. The rest of the column remains in camp. Unfortunately our company have to stay behind, as we are on outpost to-night. Dug trenches after breakfast. The Boers sniped our posts all round the camp. A fine, hot day. The force returned at 4.30 p.m., having had a long march of twelve miles out and twelve miles in. Saw no Boers, but captured three waggons. We went on outpost and occupied a line west and south-west of camp. A bitterly cold, frosty night. About fifty or sixty Boers are sitting on a ridge five miles west-south-west, well out of our gun range.
May 15.—All quiet, but an awfully cold night—ten degrees frost. Returned to camp at 6. A welcome breakfast! Moved off west-south-west at 8. At 8.30 our advanced guard came in touch with some Boers in a good position occupying a long ridge culminating in a Spitz- kop. Heavy firing ensued on both sides; the Boers ultimately retired at 9.30. Meanwhile No. 2 Company (Brindley) moved out on left flank towards a high ridge five miles long. Their scouts came in touch with Boers. At 9.30 the whole of the 14th, with two guns 74th Battery, went out to reinforce them. The Boers, about 150 in number, were retiring hard, and only offered a distant target for the guns, which had galloped up. Proceeded on left flank of column. At 10.30 we came quite close to Blaauwkop and Vaalkop, where we were the other day, and had another skirmish. The column then changed direction due north. I went out with Hilton to scout left flank and hold all strong positions. We saw several Boers about 5,000 yards off and ex changed shots with a few snipers. Nos. 1 and 2 Companies held left flank until the column got into camp. The advanced guard had another action to-day. There are big veldt fires all round. Returned to camp at 6 p.m.
May 16.—Twiefontein, on road to Standerton. Column remains in camp, while No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry, No. 2 Company 13th Mounted Infantry, and two guns J Battery, under Major Pratt, go towards Standerton to meet outcoming convoy at 6 a.m. A fine, cold morning. I take advanced scouts. Met advanced guard of convoy at 8. Their force consists of: 1,500 Australian Imperial Bushmen, 600 Sharpshooters Imperial Yeomanry, one Elswick 12-pounder for us, one battery H.A. (Major Rimington). Column moved off at 1 p.m. east again, Rimington's column being on our left. The combined movements of various columns is as follows: Major-General Kitchener's column, Poulteney, Allenby, Knox, from north-northeast to north-west; Rimington, General Bullock, from west. All are working towards Ermelo, Carolina, and Piet Retief, under General Bindon Blood. The bodyguard returned to Standerton with empty waggons and prisoners; had an uneventful march of eight miles east and camped at 5.30 p.m.
May 17.—Brakfontein. Reveille at 4; moved off at 6 a.m. as follows: Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and two guns J Battery advanced guard; Gough's Mounted Infantry and pom-pom right flank; Nos. 1 and 4 Companies 14th Mounted Infantry left flank; Nos. 2 and 3 Companies 13th Mounted Infantry and two guns J Battery rearguard. I was scouting on the left flank, and saw Boers in the distance. Rimington's column was in rear of ours. An uneventful march. We halted and camped on old familiar ground south of Ermelo. Apparently all the Boers have cleared from here.
May 18.—Riet Spruit, near Ermelo. Reveille at 5; moved off at 7. J Battery R.H.A., Gough's Mounted Infantry, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, under Colonel Bimbachi Stuart, moved off at 6 am. to take up position between Lake Chrissie and Vaal River; 5th Corps Mounted Infantry (13th and 14th), 74th Battery R.F.A., one pom-pom, moved off at 7 and occupied position round Vlakfontein, under General Bullock; Dorset Regiment, Elswick gun, two sections Gough's Mounted Infantry, R.E. and transport, under Lieutenant-Colonel Law, move at 8 a.m., and occupy Tafel Kop north - north - east of Ermelo. General move from Tafel Kop across Vaal River to south point of Lake Chrissie. Two days' rations carried. Our column moved off in rear of Stuart. It was a cold day and a rather- uneventful march, except that an advanced guard (No. 3 Company) spotted and burnt a waggon containing fifteen Martini rifles, two Mausers, and 8,000 rounds of assorted ammunition. Went eight miles north-north-east and halted and camped at 2 p.m. All turned out to extinguish a veldt fire.
May 19.—Vlakfontein. This is very near a place called Tolderia, where we camped during Alderson's trek. Reveille at 6; breakfast at 7. A lovely warm day after a cold night. The 13th Mounted Infantry sent out patrols all round, and No. 4 Company sent out an escort to bring in a Boer family. No. 2 Company went out on patrol in the afternoon.
May 20.—Reveille at 6; moved off at 8 back to Ermelo to take up a position overlooking Ermelo between Bushman's and Tafel Kop as before. Colonel Stuart moves to Mooifontein. General Bindon Blood is at Carolina. The Boers are east and south-east, towards Piet Retief. We marched as follows: No. 1 Company 14th Mounted Infantry right flank and advanced guard (I on right flank). We had an uneventful march. It was a beautiful sunny day. We reached Tafel Kop at 2. Visited one farm on the way and got plenty of mealies for the horses. The column has been on half-rations, both man and beast, since the 15th. I went on outpost with fifty men and covered west section of camp. It was a bitterly cold night. All was quiet
May 21.—Tafel Kop. The force remains halted today, except the 14th Mounted Infantry and two guns 74th Battery, and one pom-pom, who are out under General Officer Commanding on reconnaissance. We moved off at 9 due east, as follows: No. 2 Company both flanks and advanced guard. Advanced guard under Hilton came into touch with from fifteen to twenty Boers on a high kopje; we shelled and pom-pommed them; they decamped hastily. No. 1 Company (mine) galloped on left flank right out after them, and had a running skirmish from ridge to ridge. They were too fast for us, however. About four miles further east I saw some Boers—200 or 300. At 12.30 all returned to camp, having ascertained the Boer whereabouts. Arrived in camp at 4, having done about sixteen miles. The Boers all retired to mountains south-east.
May 22.—The force remains halted to-day, awaiting convoy with supplies from Carolina. The 13th Mounted Infantry go out with empty waggons and two guns 72nd Battery to collect supplies from surrounding farms.
Reveille at 6; breakfast at 7. Usual duties. We sent out sixty men to get mealies for the horses. A most lovely day, which I spent quietly in camp.
May 23.—Reveille at 3 a.m. The following force moved off at 5 a.m. due west, to hold a strong kopje five miles west, overlooking Ermelo; the camp remains standing: 13th Mounted Infantry furnish advanced guard; three companies 14th Mounted Infantry furnish right flank guard; four guns J Battery, two sections Goff's Mounted Infantry, one pom-pom. All under General Bullock.
The object seems to stop and round up Boers driven down from the north, and to hold the position secure for incoming convoy. A very cold, frosty morning, but afterwards beautifully warm. We marched six miles and occupied strong kopjes west of Ermelo. We laid low, but the 13th Mounted Infantry caught one Boer, who walked straight into them. They might have caught about twenty more, if they had not taken fright and got off. We returned at 3 to camp, No. 1 Company furnishing rearguard; No. 2 Company remained in camp. Colonel Stuart's column is at Mooifontein; Colonel Rimington's column is about ten miles north-north-east; we heard his guns.
May 24.—We remain in camp to-day. Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and Gough's Mounted Infantry go out at 8 on reconnaissance west of Ermelo. Stuart's column returned last night. Reveille at 6. A cold, misty morning. Sudden orders came to move at 9 on reconnaissance under the General. Force: 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry and six guns 74th Battery. Proceeded west on the Standerton road to meet convoy with supplies. Went as far as Spitzkop, where we sighted it Waited here till convoy's advanced guard reached the foot of Spitzkop. At 3 p.m. we returned to camp. All quiet.
Special billet for our company. Forty or fifty Boers were seen to visit a farm five miles south-south-east of camp, and about half remained. We are to leave camp at 8 p.m., surround the farm, and catch anybody there. We took out sixty picked men from the company, and started at 8. We took our bearings by the Southern Cross, and kept in the valleys, reaching big mealy fields one mile south of farm at 9.30, where we converged. I took the left with twenty-five men, Brass took the centre with fifteen men, and Waters took the right with twenty men. I forgot to say we were dismounted. Half a waning moon was all the light we had. Brass arranged I was to meet him at the farm at 10.30. We crept on cautiously—most exciting, not a sound! I arrived first at 10.15, and posted my men with fixed bayonets right round the left half of farm and stables. Waters arrived at 10.20, and we joined hands. I then took two good men and crept up to the house, where I lay down, meeting Brass at 10.27. There was not a hitch anywhere. Brass and I, with four men, burst open the door and walked in, armed to the teeth. Nothing, except two cats! An awful disappointment! However, we put posts out and laid down, as we were all hidden, to be ready for any visitors during the night or in the morning. It was a bitterly cold night, with neither fires nor smoking, of course. . May 25.—Farm, five miles south-south-east of Tafel Kop. The night passed quietly. We stood to at 4 and waited. No Boers came up. At 61 took out a reconnoitring patrol two miles south-south-east All clear; the ridges eight miles south-east held by Boers. Cleared farm of all livestock in the way of chickens, and returned to camp at 9. A lovely morning. The force remains halted; we move, however, to-night. After dinner the following force moved out and rendezvoused at Tafel Kop at 10 p.m.: Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, advanced guard; Gough's Mounted Infantry flank and main body; 74th Battery and 14th Mounted Infantry rearguard.
We marched off at 11 p.m.; no noise, no smoking. It was a clear, cold, moonlight night. We marched south-south-east, through the farm where we were last night then right round Boer position of yesterday, then east to a high ridge known as Welgelegen. After having done sixteen miles, we reached here at 2 a.m. A bitterly cold, frosty night. All halted, and slept as well as we could expect in the cold for what seemed a few minutes.
May 26.—Welgelegen. All turned out at 4.30 a.m. Gough's Mounted Infantry, Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, and 74th Battery moved off at 5, at first daybreak, for a reconnaissance in force under the General. The 14th Mounted Infantry remain here, and hold the ridge which commands the country all round. My post overlooks country south and south-east. Watched Johannesburg Mounted Rifles and Gough's Mounted Infantry. They executed a most beautiful movement, driving about 150 Boers off a big sloping ridge helter skelter. They were covered by the 7th Battery, which sent home some very effective shells. At 1.30, after reconnoitring some ten miles of country, they returned, and we received orders to form a rearguard to them. It was a most lovely, hot day. After an uneventful march of about eight miles we reached camp at 5 p.m. The column moved at 8 this morning, and marched straight to our present camp—Camden's, Vaal River. Colonel Gray's column, then Rimington's column, are on our right flank. Very, very tired! Althougb we gained no conspicuous success, owing to the Boer battery in all directions, it has been good in this way, that it gave them a good fright and worried them enormously.
May 27.—Vaal River. Reveille at 6; breakfast at 7. Moved off at 9 due east as follows: 13th Mounted Infantry, two guns 74th R.F.A., advanced guard; Johannesburg Mounted Rifles furnish right flank guard; Gough's Mounted Infantry left flank guard; No. 4 Company 14th Mounted Infantry and three guns 74th R.F.A. rearguard.
Cold, rainy day. Uneventful march of six miles. Halted and camped at 3.
May 28.—Steenkhool. Reveille at 3. Cold, frosty. Moved off at 5 east-south-east, as follows: Gough's Mounted Infantry, who furnish advanced guard; 13th and 14th Mounted Infantry furnish flank and rearguard; J Battery, pom-pom. All under General Officer Commanding for reconnaissance in force south-east.
The 74th Battery, with one squadron Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, start at 6 and take up position overlooking Bankop (high ridge) east-south-east of camp. Remainder of column goes at 9 under Lieutenant-Colonel Law. It was a most enjoyable march. A lovely sunrise showed the beautiful scenery to fullest advantage. We got within view of our old friends, Spitzkop, Ilangaapiesberg, and Verzamelsberg to south. No Boers to be seen, although we expected some fighting. We marched on and halted at 9. Then we returned towards column, and we (No. 1 Company) took up our position on a huge ridge, which culminated towards south by a sheer drop of 1,000 feet. Here we had a magnificent view of fifty miles south, south-east, and south-west.
Orders to rejoin at 12. Marched back and joined main column at 1. We reached camp at 2. I and Waters went on outpost to-night. The Boers sniped my post, but did not come very close; they kept us awake though. A lovely moonlight night; very cold.
May 29.—Waaihoek. After a fairly lively night we were relieved at 7, and returned to camp at 7.30. The force moved at 9 a.m. as follows: Two Companies Gough's Mounted Infantry, 13th Mounted Infantry, two companies Johannesburg Mounted Rifles, two guns J Battery, two guns 74th R.F.A., one pom-pom; reconnaissance on left, or east, under General Officer Commanding. We (14th Mounted Infantry) do rearguard to whole column. We waited some two hours for the last of the column to go. I myself occupied a ridge north-east of camp with thirty men, and had three posts out. The first post was severely sniped, and I went up to reinforce. About ten to twenty Boers were sniping all round. We fired .back. I had orders then to rejoin Brass and proceed as rearguard, so retired at gallop. Our friends followed us, and kept up a running skirmish from ridge to ridge. We marched then due south to right of Spitzkop, and halted and camped at 5, after having done about eleven miles. There is very bad water here.
May 30.—Bushman's Vlei. Reveille at 6, on a bitterly cold, windy morning. Marched off at 9 as follows: Two companies Gough's Mounted Infantry, 14th Mounted Infantry, four guns J Battery, two guns 74th Battery, under General Officer Commanding. Flying column on left flank. The remainder of the force is to go with the column under Lieutenant-Colonel Law. The 14th were advanced guard to flying column, No. 2 Company scouting.
We marched south-east, then south. Our guns shelled some distant Boers, who followed us, and the Elswick 12-pounder put some useful shells into a farm at 11,000 yards, about forty or fifty Boers clearing out. We proceeded and marched south-west towards Blaauwkop without any further incident worth mentioning. It was a warm day; there were big veldt fires.
We crossed Umkusi River, and halted and camped at 3. We have now to camp on the burnt veldt, as the General had his kit and tent burnt two days ago. It is very dirty and disagreeable.
May 31.—Bushmanplaats. The column remained halted to-day. Reveille at 6. Breakfast and stables. The horses we got from Newcastle are lasting very well; we (No. 1 Company) have only lost 25 out of 127—the best horses we have had in Mounted Infantry so far. My own are going strong. I went out with Brass foraging, and took eight men. Brass shot a koran, and we also got a Scotch cart full of mealies, besides plenty of poultry. A lovely hot day.
In the afternoon, after stables, we had a football match—left half-company v. right half-company. Left half (mine) won by five goals to three.