Extract from The Morning Leader of March 27, 1900:
DIARY OF THE WAR MR. RHODES AGAIN ON THE RAMPAGE BY CHARLES WILLIAMS
Following up his awful self-revelation in the Yellow Press, Mr. Cecil Rhodes has now communicated to the Daily Telegraph, as another "faithful" organ, the verifications of the fact that throughout the siege of Kimberley he ought to have been in what is known to soldier and sailor men as chokey. In the beginning he was mad that the Orange Free State had assumed such an "unsatisfactory attitude" that it would not allow him to get through to Rhodesia. So here we have fact No. 1, that he did not intend, as the journals in his keeping asserted, to share the privations of the siege, but that he meant to go on where Dr. Jameson was at the time, to Rhodesia. Fact No. 2 comes out that he expected the whole strength of Her Majesty's forces to be incontinently directed to the relief of him, the mighty Cecil Rhodes, and the others who had chosen to remain to look after the private property of the De Beers Company. The Boers probably hastened their investment knowing that he was there, and if they had got him nobody would have been surprised had they hawked the freak about their towns at a penny a peep.
Extract from the Diamond Fields Advertiser, Wednesday, December 13, 1899:
AN IMPOSSIBLE RUMOUR
The fact, to which all can testify, that an unmistakable wave of depression is passing over Kimberley at the very-moment when, with relief slowly but surely drawing nearer, brightness and optimism should reign supreme, constitutes so strange a social and metaphysical phenomenon that, as honest chroniclers of the times in which we live, it is impossible for us to pass it over in silence. No doubt the unexampled and wholly unaccountable dearth of reliable news, which is so peculiarly exasperating to many of us, is well calculated to produce a "crisis of nerves" in a modern and up-to-date community, but this is not the fons et origo of the uneasy feeling to which we refer. We may state quite frankly that the real cause is to be found in the extraordinary and, of course, purely conjectural interpretation placed by the public upon the Mayor's announcement regarding the grant of free passes to persons desirous of leaving Kimberley as soon as railway communication is established. It is darkly hinted that this innocent announcement is merely a sort of official feeler, and that it will be followed in due course by a military ukase banishing from their homes for an indefinite period all women and children, as well as every male inhabitant not actually bearing arms in defence of the place. There can be no possible object in concealing the existence of a rumour which has been widely diffused and anxiously discussed for days past, the more so as, in the absence of the slightest official hint or "communique" upon the subject, we scarcely hesitate to dismiss it as a mischievous and preposterous canard invented, possibly, by the enemy. For our part, we do not regard the Mayor's announcement with even the faintest tinge of suspicion. According to our view of the matter, it is natural that the authorities should wish to offer inducements for people to voluntarily leave Kimberley so as to reduce the number of mouths to feed in the possible contingency of communication being temporarily interrupted at any future time; and we are inclined, in some measure, to regard the offer of free passes as a very acceptable and practical acknowledgment of the sacrifices which the people of Kimberley—poor as well as rich—have made in so cheerful and uncomplaining fashion during this unexpectedly protracted siege. All who are able will doubtless avail themselves of the privilege, and the exodus to the seaside, which always begins at this time of the year, will be unusually large. But such a measure as rumour basely suggests would be a very different matter. To speak plainly, it would mean not merely banishment for an indefinite period, but bankruptcy for many a struggling shopkeeper and professional man—abject penury and ruin for thousands of humble wage earners and their families who, away from Kimberley, would be quite unable to discover a means of livelihood. The terrible journey to the coast in densely overcrowded trains and over congested lines of railway—and most of us appreciate what that would mean for delicate women and children, with recollections of Glencoe and the more recent harrowing stories of the hegira from the Transvaal fresh in our memories—would perhaps be the least among the hardships to be faced. The coast towns where our unhappy refugees would presumably be dumped down and left to shift for themselves; are overcrowded already, and hundreds, if not thousands, find it hard to procure shelter and food to eat. The distress among these people is notoriously great, far greater than the exertions of philanthropy can hope to cope with, and no sensible person can desire to see that misery added to or intensified by an enforced exodus from Kimberley. In deliberately asserting our opinion that this hideous and disturbing rumour must be and is wholly and absurdly untrue, we take, however, higher ground. Kimberley, the most important inland town of the Colony and as a great industrial centre where thirty millions of British capital are invested, occupies a position of wholly exceptional importance, and its claim for adequate protection in time of war cannot be disregarded without grievous loss of prestige in the eyes of the world. Admitting that the question of keeping open the communications is a difficult one, we would point out that there are always difficulties of this kind to be accepted and faced in planning out a modern campaign, and they have always been quite successfully surmounted without resorting to any such an anomalous expedient as rumour talks about—viz., that a friendly and victorious army should proceed upon its arrival as a "relieving" column to paralyse and impoverish the entire community and metamorphose a busy industrial city, which has escaped, largely through its own exertions, unscathed from the worst that an enemy could do after a protracted siege, into the semblance of one of the dead cities of the Zuyder Zee. Such an unprecedented proceeding, following upon successful military operations, would cause doubt to be cast upon our victories and, as we have said, be ruinous to British prestige in the eyes of the whole world: and therefore, guided rather by pure reason and common sense than by any knowledge of what is passing in the official mind in Capetown, we have no hesitation in reiterating our entire disbelief in a rumour which we regard as mischievous and preposterous in an equal degree.
Extract from the Diamond Fields Advertiser, Saturday, February 10, 1900:
WHY KIMBERLEY CANNOT WAIT After the disturbing developments of the last three days, we think it must have been brought home to Lord Roberts and to the whole world that, in the interests of humanity, the relief of this beleaguered city can no longer be delayed. In putting the case of the inhabitants plainly, we cannot be accused of want of patience. The siege has now lasted nearly four months, and during that long and trying period not a single indication of restlessness or disquiet has, so far as we are aware, appeared in these columns; while facts have been consistently understated with the object of allaying public uneasiness, even at the risk—which has proved far more serious than we ever foresaw—of conveying a misleading impression of the situation to the outer world. How utterly the public and the authorities have failed to grasp the claim which Kimberley, by the heroic exertions of her citizens, has established upon the British Empire is only too apparent upon reading the callous comments of some of the English papers and the utter indifference with which our fate appears to be regarded by the military hierarchy. Yet what are the facts? We have stood a siege which is rapidly approaching the duration of the siege of Paris; we have practically defended ourselves with citizen soldiers, for thankful as we are to the Imperial garrison, their numbers have condemned them to play a secondary ro1e; we have raised a large body of mounted troops, who have on two occasions attacked the enemy's strongholds with the most magnificent gallantry, and through the genius of Mr. Labram—whose tragic death yesterday has sent a thrill of sorrow through the whole community—we have been able not merely to supply ammunition for the pop-guns sent to Kimberley, but also to produce in our own workshops the only weapon capable of minimizing the terrible havoc and destruction caused by the enemy's six-inch gun, throwing a projectile weighing 100 lb. broadcast over the town at a range of three miles. And if the bravery and resourcefulness of the men of Kimberley are not appreciated at their true worth, still less has justice been done to the sufferings borne so patiently and uncomplainingly by the whole civil population, including women and children. There can be no harm in saying that for nearly six weeks past many have been mainly living on horseflesh, nor need we disguise the ravages of typhoid and other diseases among the Kimberley population, to which, no doubt, the unpublished statistics of the Medical Officer of Health bear eloquent testimony. These facts have been made widely known through the Boer Press agencies—the only agencies through which, the British public gets any real idea of what is taking place in this beleaguered city.
We need not dilate further on the circumstances of our position, or attempt to draw pictures which would very fairly vie with some of those relating to the siege of Paris. It is enough that, in asking for prompt relief, we are not asking for anything that we do not deserve, and that it is not in the power of the British Army to give. Although the difficulties of getting news have been almost insuperable, we are fully aware there are at the present moment one hundred and twenty thousand British troops in South Africa, and of these, between thirty and thirty-five thousand landed between January 10 and February 10. Arrayed against this vast Army—the largest by far that England has ever got together since the Napoleonic wars—are the burghers of two small Republics, who, in the opinion of men who ought to know, like Mr. Rhodes and Mr. J. B. Robinson, cannot muster more than thirty thousand burghers between them, with perhaps ten thousand recruits in the shape of Colonial rebels and hired European mercenaries. In Natal we have nine thousand men shut up in Ladysmith, and nearly thirty thousand more marching to relieve them; and as the Boer Army cannot exceed sixteen thousand men between Ladysmith and the Tugela, we may fairly assume that an army of nearly forty thousand British soldiers, under men like White and Buller, and with every modern military equipment, will be fully able to cope with the immediate task which lies before them in Natal. What, therefore, becomes of the balance of the hundred and ten thousand troops now in South Africa? It appears to be supposed in some quarters that all available reinforcements are being employed in the Cape Colony, and that this population of 40,000 loyal British subjects must suffer in silence the terrors of a bombardment in order that the whole resources o£ the British Army may be brought to bear upon the task of removing a Dutch Landdrost and re-installing an English one in his place in the notoriously disloyal district of Colesberg. Even supposing that the fall of Colesberg is intended as the prelude of other important developments—and, of course, on this point we know nothing —the potentialities of delay and disappointment are so great that in all probability we should benefit as little by the fall of Colesberg as we should by the fall of Paris or St. Petersburg. It is, therefore, right and necessary that we should place upon record our strong conviction that any military plans, however ingenious or elaborate, based upon the supposition that Kimberley can wait, are simply bound to fail. The case might be different if the War Office had given us proper guns for the defence of Kimberley. But that, of course, is another story. And why in the name of common sense should Kimberley wait? Look at the matter as we may, the Dutch have decided that the war shall be fought to an issue at Ladysmith in the east and Kimberley in the west, and, having brought our troops into the field late, we have no alternative but to accept the situation. According to the Federal plan, the surrender of Ladysmith is to be the triumph of the Transvaal, and the Free State is to rejoice over the fall of Kimberley. Military men may make maps at the War Office, and may chatter in Capetown; they may continue to evolve the most wonderful schemes and plans to take the place of those which one by one have had to be abandoned, but they cannot, save at the risk of jeopardizing the whole campaign, evade the task of relieving Kimberley. Spytfontein is said to be an impregnable position, but what of that? There is a way into Kimberley over perfectly flat country, where presumably a large force of British troops could more than hold their own against an inferior number of Boers drawn from their kopjes to attack them.
We quite agree as to the necessity of relieving Ladysmith; but if troops are being wasted at Colesberg while Kimberley is exposed to the horrors of a bombardment, we can only say what we have long ago suspected, that, owing to a triple Press censorship, only the most erroneous impressions of the state of Kimberley have reached the outer world. We have held our tongues for long, believing that relief was merely a question of days, or at most a week. We have now reached a situation when either a newspaper must speak out or it has no raison d'etre, and should cease to exist. They shout to us "Have patience." Will they remember that we have fought alone and unaided for four long months? Will they remember that we are situated practically in the centre of a desert 600 miles from the coast, and have been compelled from the beginning to depend on our own resources, and that our lives are now daily and hourly exposed to danger? Is it unreasonable, when our women and children are being slaughtered and our buildings fired, to expect something better than that a large British Army should remain inactive in the presence of eight or ten thousand peasant soldiers? Our case has been compared with Mafeking; it has been argued that because Mafeking has been left to its fate, Kimberley should not clamour for relief. The cases are not parallel, since the women and children, with a few exceptions—Lady Sarah Wilson among the number—have been removed from Mafeking, and, instead of a mixed population such as we have here, the inhabitants mainly consist of a compact garrison, who have fought indeed with more than the ordinary bravery of Englishmen, but who went there from sheer love of adventure with that special object. Surely the time has come to put in plain English the plain truths of the situation. We have been influenced in the past by various considerations, notably a desire to avoid compromising what is called the military situation. We have now come to the conclusion that respect for the military situation merely means deceiving our own people. The Press correspondents cabling to the London papers are actually not permitted to mention that Kimberley has been bombarded by a six-inch gun! This is, indeed, the last straw, and, if only for the sake of future record, we take this opportunity of placing the naked truth before our readers.