LORD ROBERTS landed at Cape Town on January 10, 1900, and the dark cloud which had overshadowed South Africa since that disastrous week of Stormberg, Magersfontein and Colenso, seemed to sweep aside at his mere coming. A few days later, and the news that he had asked for two more 4.7's flew, like wild-fire, round every ward-room and lower deck of the little squadron anchored in Simon's Bay, and officers and men, fretting and fuming at their forced inactivity, eagerly sought to be included in the two guns' crews. Week after week they had landed, and loaded down with all the paraphernalia of modern warfare, toiled up Red Hill in the scorching heat, cursing and sweating, to practise the attack on the steep slopes of Simonsberg and get into training for the day when they should be wanted.

Now only six officers and fifty-nine men were wanted—and these were chosen from the' Doris’ and the trim little 'Barrosa,' the fierce desire to avenge previous reverses, adding zest to the grim content of those selected, and keenness to the disappointment of those who saw yet another chance of landing slip by.

These two guns were quickly mounted on travelling carriages, built in the dockyard, and with their crews, stores and ammunition formed the last complete naval unit landed under Lord Roberts.

They were known as Grant's Guns,[ Commander W. L. Grant of the ' Doris' was in command, and was joined at Port Elisabeth by the detachment from H.M.S {text missing}] and the following account refers more particularly to them, but at Jacobsdal they joined the Naval Brigade which had fought under Lord Methuen and from that place to Bloemfontein their fortunes were merged in those of the whole Brigade under Captain Bearcroft of the 'Philomel.'

We landed at Port Elizabeth on January 31, entrained our guns, stores and ammunition, left the same night for the north, and eventually ran into Modder River Camp just before dawn on March 8. As the train came to a standstill among the silent tents, day broke, and our naval guns, a mile away on the crest of a slope, opened their customary fire on the Boer watering parties at Magersfontein, the dull boom of the bursting shells coming back to us.

We stayed here for five days, encamped on the banks of the Riet River, and, at the end of this period, were taken fifteen miles down the line to Enslin, where we disembarked our guns, and again pitched our nine tents.

Whilst at Modder River, violent sand-storms swept through the camp every afternoon, and at first, when the red dust and sand came whirling through the tents, and the fierce gusts shook them, the bluejackets, ' standing by ' for squalls, wanted to' ease' or even ' let fly' weather sheets, and it was not till, on one or two occasions, the tents nearly collapsed, that they reluctantly, in future, hauled' taut' the wind'&rd tent ropes on the approach of a storm.

'We ain't sailors no longer, Bill; we're only soldiers,' was the explanation offered for this unseamanlike proceeding.

Whilst at Enslin we received our transport, consisting of thirteen wagons, two small carts for carrying water barrels, and 284 oxen. With these came a motley, laughter-loving crowd of forty-two native drivers, and to look after all four colonial conductors.

Fifteen wagons had been promised, and had actually been sent, but orders were received to return two. One had stuck badly in a drift miles away, another had broken down already. These two were 'returned' and everybody was satisfied and content.

On Monday afternoon, February 12, ammunition, three days' provision, and the little kit each man was allowed to take, being stowed on the wagons, we hauled down the white ensign hoisted on a telegraph pole between the guns, formed into ' line ahead,' and leaving the tents and most of the personal gear behind crossed the railway, and bivouacked for the night at the foot of Enslin kopje.

This was our first night without cover, and we were to invade the Free State next morning, so small wonder that the novelty of the experience, the roughness of the ground we lay on, and the excitement as to what the next few weeks had in store for us, hindered sleep.

Up and ready by 4 next morning, we waited whilst the Highland Brigade swung by. After them came the 82nd Battery, followed by a 5-inch howitzer battery with their short stumpy guns, rumbling past with a clatter of wheels and stamping of hoofs; we looking curiously at them, and they still more curiously at us, for this was our first meeting, and we were destined to march together a good many weary miles.

Now came the turn of the Naval guns, and they quickly brought up the rear. First went' Little Bobs,' the ' Doris' gun, with horse shoes nailed on her carriage for luck, and the muzzle of her long chase pointing over the backs of the two ' wheeler' oxen. After her came ‘Sloper' with a crew of ' Barrosa's,' giving place to ' Little Bobs,' for she was a flagship gun, with a flagship crew, so must go first. Close behind were two ammunition wagons and a water-cart ; then came the officers' conspicuous hooded ambulance and headquarter wagon, whilst the remaining ten ammunition wagons and the second water-cart formed the rest of this patriarchal procession.

An hour later, we entered the Orange Free State, and our spirits rose exceedingly, especially when, that long stretch of twisted and broken down wire fencing which marked the boundary having been crossed, word was passed that now we were getting eighteen-pence a day extra, for being in an enemy's country.

During this march there were several delays owing to the snapping of the gun trek-chains. Oxen are accustomed to work in a span of sixteen—eight pairs, and the chains are made sufficiently strong for this strain. The guns, however, had two spans to each, and the result was that the oxen, unused to this arrangement, started badly by jerking instead of steadily hauling. This jerking tried the chains very severely, and ' Sloper,' whose carriage was heavier than ' Little Bobs',' had frequently to be left astern with a broken chain. Each time it was mended with strong wire carried for the purpose, but meanwhile the wheels, broad though they were, would sink into the soft, loose soil, and try oxen and chains to the utmost to restart them. It would only be by dint of much lashing and yelling of native drivers that the oxen could be persuaded to pull ' all together’ the guns' crews would haul on the drag ropes, and if the trek chain held, along would trundle the big wheels. They always seemed to say on these occasions as they started out of a hole, and rolled briskly on,' There you see, just give a steady pull—all together—and we'll come out of anything.'

At 9.30 A.M. we debouched into the sandy plain surrounding Bam Dam and halted, whilst Kelly-Kenny's 6th Division marched eastwards under a seemingly endless dust cloud, twenty-four hours ahead of us, twenty-four hours behind General Tucker and his division. With the 6th Division had gone a section of the Naval Brigade from Modder River, consisting of two 12-pounders; these did most excellent work during the pursuit of Cronje. As yet unused to the extreme heat we felt it very severely that day, crouching under the wagons to obtain shade, and when the sun sank, bathing in the cool liquid mud of the dam.

That night three horses arrived, one for the commander, another for the doctor, and the third for the commander's A.D.C. This last, a big, white, bony animal, with a prominent tumour on his belly, was an old 9th Lancer horse, with a highly extraordinary and eccentric action, and very difficult to control. The midshipman himself, fat and not too active, had no idea of riding, yet plucky youngster that he was, with hands up and knees away from saddle, always carried orders across a most treacherous undermined veldt or along a rock-strewn road, at a hand gallop. The plump, rosy-faced boy, bumping along on this queer looking beast, became well known to most people in the army during the next few weeks. Poor boy, he was too young and wanted the physique to stand the work and climate, and died of enteric at Bloemfontein.

During the day another Brigade had arrived, and at daybreak next morning the now completed 9th Division pushed on again.

Waterval Drift on the Riet River was reached by noon, after a march of fifteen miles in six hours and a half, and very weary was every one, for the heat of those last three hours was excessive. Every ambulance was crowded with men overcome by it, and many of the bluejackets only just managed to crawl into camp, and the oxen, too, were much exhausted by the terrible heat, plodding wearily along with protruding tongues, heaving flanks, and deep, pitiful sobs.

All that afternoon a huge convoy had been slowly wending its way into the plain bordering the Drift. This was the main supply column for the whole army, and every wagon was captured twenty-four hours later by a few Boers who managed to stampede the oxen.

Till 5 P.M. we halted, and then refreshed by a bathe in the river, were ordered to cross the Drift, and as the banks were high and steep and the road down to the river-bed very bad, half a battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment was told off to take the guns over.

Arrived at the top of the bank, the oxen were unshackled and taken across the river. Drags, ropes, and check-ropes were then hooked to the axles of the great iron wheels, and a company being told off to each, and hauling and checking alternately, the guns were, one by one, safely lowered down into the riverbed.

It was most amusing to hear naval words of command being ' sung out' to soldiers. At one moment, when great care was necessary, the Gunner sang out, ' Handsomely, men, handsomely!' whereupon, instead of checking, they hauled all the heavier. ‘ Handsomely, I tell you !' shouted the Gunner, getting red in the face, and harder than ever they hauled.

'Avast! heaving’ he shrieked, and then, suddenly understanding, sang out,' Stop, you idiots, stop !' at which they did, with broad grins on their perspiring faces.

Among all this shouting was the quiet' Starboard, men, starboard’ or 'Port a bit’ ' Steady’ from the petty officer of the gun to the men on the limber-pole.

Once safely in the river-bed, all manned the drag-ropes and ran the guns, one after the other, up the opposite bank as if they were things of no weight; and were not they pleased with themselves, these Canadians, and long will they remember bringing ‘ Little Bobs' and ' Sloper' through a difficulty.

Our wagons took two hours to get across, and it was half-past nine before the last had reached the new bivouac.

Orders came to start at 1 A.M., SO after a hurried supper we rolled ourselves in our blankets and took what sleep was possible.

Off again at one, we were soon marching silently along, under a brilliant full moon, the soft yielding ground smothering the noise of hoofs and rumbling of wheels.

The night air was cold and bracing, the moonlight glorious, only fading when the sun rose, and there was very little dust, so that the thirteen miles marched that night were performed under the best possible conditions, and every one was most thankful to be spared the heat of the sun.

We were marching for Wegdrai Drift on the Modder River, and bivouacked there at half-past six in the morning—a red bare plain of great extent.

Twenty-seven miles had been accomplished in eleven marching hours during the preceding twenty-five hours; not a bad result when it is remembered that the first fifteen to Waterval Drift were across open veldt, the only track being that which the guns made for themselves. Add to the twenty-seven miles three hours' hard work, getting across Waterval Drift, and it will be allowed that we had done a good day's work.

We bathed in the Modder later on that morning, among a number of Highlanders carefully washing themselves and their clothes—most entertaining they were. ' An' what wu'd the bairns think of me noo ?' said a huge, bearded reserve man, as he knelt on a rock, naked but for his helmet, whilst he washed his flannel shirt and smoked a pipe. His face and neck were burnt black, his jet black beard stood straight out, six inches long, all round his face; he had a red belt round his waist, where sand had got under his kilt and irritated the skin, and his thighs and knees were the colour of his face. What would his bairns have thought of him ?

Five miles from this place was Jacobsdal, a little white-faced village, nestling in a cluster of dark green trees, and during the afternoon a Brigade and a battery went on to capture it, the mounted sections of the C.I.V.'s going with them and gaining their first experience of an enemy's fire. We watched the interesting little operation from a safe distance and gained our first sight of the enemy. They were quickly driven out of the town, took refuge behind some farm buildings till the artillery fire made it too hot for them, and then bolted for their lives, lying down on their horses’ necks and disappearing over a ridge with our shrapnel bursting over them.

Sheep were plentiful and dinner in the officers' mess that night was a splendid meal. Our table a stretcher, our light two candles, and to eat, lambs' chops, liver and kidneys, and new potatoes. The presence of the potatoes was easily explained: our faithful stokers had been for a walk.

Friday, February 16.—At half-past eight we inspanned and marched into Jacobsdal, escorted by the same half-battalion of Canadians. These men, who had cheerfully waded through the river, and hauled our guns across two days ago, now helped us on our way with songs. Four hundred lusty voices roared out the chorus of ' They all love Jack,' then a pause as they washed the dust out of their throats and gathered breath for ' We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors,' and many more, till they were too husky and dry, and their water-bottles would stand no more squeezing.

Frenchmen there too, a whole company of them. Proud of being Frenchmen, proud of being Britishers, and prouder still of escorting and marching alongside British naval guns. And weren't our men pleased, grinning with pleasure, and only regretting that there were no convenient ' pubs' where they could stand them a ' wet.'

There was practically no food in Jacobsdal, but some of us found a box of bicarbonate of soda, and another of tartaric acid, and bought the lot. These made splendid ' fizzy' drinks ; ‘ an improvement even on seidlitz powders,' said connoisseurs, as they begged for a second.