I AM only a Private Tommy Atkins, of the K.O.Y.L.I., and after doing the advance from the Cape to Pretoria, via Kimberley, I find myself marching to Lindley to help to capture the last Boer Commandant left in the field, with any fight in him—Master De Wet, of French extraction. They say, directly he is killed or taken, Botha, the Boss of the Boers, will bluff and bluster no more, but cave in like a lamb.
I don't think my wife and kid will know me when I return, for I have lost stones, and turned a hairy red-man. Carrying 41 lbs. of accoutrements for 20 miles a day, I have worn out two of those heavy hob-nailed boots that were served out to us by Major Norwood the indefatigable, and I want another pair, please, with a stone of 'bacca.
Well, you want to know about the battles. I have been in half-a-dozen with " hair-breadth 'scapes," and am yet unscathed. The fact is the Boers can't hit me, I've grown so thin and shadowy. When they shoot I do a half-turn, and am then invisible to them, do you see.
I have only been in the Boer's clutches once; it was last week between Senekal and Winburg, and it came about in this way. As orderly to Captain Creyke (being a good writer) I was taking a message to another officer one evening, who was in camp a mile off, when up jumps a grisly Boer sentry from behind a boulder, presenting his Mauser, and shouts, " Surrender 1" They know a bit of English. Then another gipsy joins him quick, and I was fairly kidnapped. They were escorting me to their lines when there dashed up a mounted colonial, who fired at them, one fell dead and the other fled so I continued my errand in safety.
All the fighting Boers seem to be in this quarter, for I hear of skirmishing daily. And two days after we encountered them early in the morning, at Rietspruit, a small hamlet.
General Clements, when returning from Winburg to Senekal with a cpnvoy, heard from a native that the enemy was lurking at a farm-house on the hill side.
Next morning the whistle of the captain and the order "Stand to your horses" was heard at daybreak; and I was astir to see the sport. The Boers were early-risers too, on that occasion, and we had only time for a biscuit and a cup of coffee.
It was a wildish country. On the eastern hill the red rays of old Sol threw a lonely old windmill into bold relief. Here abouts are sheep walks, with small beehive Kaffir mud huts, and the sheep thrive on the schaap bosch as well as the strong grass.
A pungent smell made me sneeze pretty often as the veldt had been lately fired close by.
But now for the sport, which I was in a good and safe position to see, close by the well-guarded convoy.
De Wet's men were first seen on the west coming at a gallop from a white-washed farm-house where they had been secreted for the night. They were of the familiar drab nondescript Yeomen order, with slouch felt hat, bandolier and Mauser—more like a gang of wild bandits than a regiment of patriotic guardsmen fighting for dear liberty. And De Wet was careering at their head, in no way distinguishable as to his work-a-day attire.
I had the chance of seeing the Commandant under the protection of a truce flag last month near Kroonstad. He is a tall, stout, heavily-built man, with a brown beard, and dresses in a grey tweed suit, with an overcoat. I noticed that he wore a gold chain to his watch.
Presently there arose over the hill to the east a small crouching creeping line of sandy clothed men on foot; they were scouts, and then some men on horseback, with a cannon or two. Now there is a sharp report, a puff of smoke, and the two lines draw nearer, taking advantage of what cover the ground affords by bush and mounds, as shot and shell are exchanged.
The khaki line was soon broken by the varying chances of the fight, out of all semblance of order, as they stumbled over the bare, brown, sun-scorched, boulder, flecked ridges, dotted here and there with the stunted bush and short grass, hazy now with the dew, and all alive with projectiles. We caught the keen rattle of the rifle firing, punctuated by the sputter of the machine guns, and occasionally broken into full periods by the heavy reverberating roar of the death-dealing artillery, now and then laying low a victim, who sprawled on the veldt in agony unobserved, while his maddened comrades rushed on with a yell.
I must say, the game of slaughter is devoid of anything picturesque—the butchering is done, you see, in working uniform and in matter-of-fact business style. No drum or banner, " Living pictures" and the gramophone might reproduce the battles with a grim and gruesome fidelity, and a shocking effect, but the entertainment would be an unmitigated, dreary, and sickening spectacle, don't you think?
When lying near Trommel I could hear cannonading to the south-west of Senekal—this was on June 26.—and it seems Colonel Grenfell, with his troops of Colonials, had driven off the Boers there, and now attacked their flank with a Hotchkiss. The contest was so hot that Col. Grenfell's battalion of Brabant's Horse was sent from Senekal to co-operate with General Clements, and getting into contact with the Boers, soon became heavily engaged.
Then Brabant attacked the Boer left, with seven guns and 600 men. What a din there was.
The enemy, who had two guns, two pom-poms, and two Maxims, fought hard for two hours, at the end of which time the Colonials threatened their flank and they retired on the Lindley road.
A commando from Plattkop attempted to come to the assistance of the others, but General Brabant shelled them, compelling them to beat a hasty retreat.
This success cleared the Winburg road at least for a time. Our casualties were three killed and twenty-three wounded, but the Boers suffered heavily. Through a glass I saw them pick up the dead and wounded, which were carried to their waggons in the rear.
We haven't time for buck hunting when we see one, but I had a strange experience last week. There came a swarm of locusts—rather late in the season,—and they seemed to cover everything. While we were trying to drive them from the tents a lot of darkies arrived with carts, and filled bags with them — a job in which the boys were glad to help them. I found afterwards that the natives kill and cure them by steam in pots, then dry them in the sun and store them away as delicacies for the table. Well, there is, as they say, no accounting for tastes.
The military situation about Winburg was at this time one of frequent kaleidoscopic changes. For the last three or four weeks the Eighth and Colonial Divisions had been scattered across the country from Senekal to Ficksburg, and thence back to Ladybrand, endeavouring to check any southward movement of the enemy. Although the Boers became exceedingly daring and troublesome, Rundle's long thin khaki line was usually enough, but it was 90 miies long, and breaking to the north the Boers soon found their way round to the south between Winburg and Senekal. They thus were in a position to attack all convoys coming from or going to the base at Winburg, and further to menace General Rundle's position.
This unpleasant state of things was soon checked, for while the Colonial Division held Senekal, other portions of the Eighth Division retained all strong positions at Schiepr's Nek, Hammonia, Ficksburg, and Ladybrand, and Rundle himself was now well to the south of Senekal, "thus practically completing a chain all the way from Winburg to the Basutoland border.
This was a tremendous frontage for a division to hold, but it was necessary, owing to the exceptional circumstances. On the other hand, the enemy held mountain-ranges immediately in front of Senekal and Ficksburg, their line extending back through an extremely hilly country to Bethlehem. In addition they had a flying column moving to the south-west of Senekal, and between there and Winburg.
We were preparing for the last big fight of the war in this quarter by massing our troops and guns.
The desperate forces of the enemy were ever lying in wait to attack isolated bodies of our troops or convoys on the march. One of the enemy's favourite methods was to send small parties southward in order to intimidate the Boer farmers who had laid down their arms and taken the oath of neutrality. They actually in some cases kidnapped them in the night time.
The enemy's flying column had been especially troublesome during the past few days in attacking and burning convoys belonging to the force under General Clements, and it was high time this game was stopped.
Commandant Crowther remonstrated with General Rundle for shelling some farm-houses near Senekal on the 22nd and 23rd of June, stating that two women had been under fire, though fortunately they escaped unhurt. General Rundle in his reply reminded the Commandant that he had previously warned the enemy of the consequences of firing from farm-houses and enclosures in the vicinity, since they would be liable to destruction as an inevitable result. General Rundle further held Boer commandants responsible for any injury sustained by women in houses which the enemy use as positions from which to fire on Her Majesty's troops, as well as for injuries to women who remain in laagers or other positions of the enemy.
Commandant Crowther also sent some private letters, which he desired to have forwarded, along with a copy of Mr. Steyn's counter-proclamation to the last one issued by Lord Roberts. General Rundle stated that he was unable to forward any private letters, and he therefore returned them, together with the proclamation, which latter, he remarked, did not concern him.
Lord Roberts, on the 29th June, telegraphed several small skirmishes. General Paget reported from Lindley that he was engaged on June 26th with a body of the enemy, who were strongly reinforced during the day. A convoy of stores for the Lindley garrison was also attacked on the same day. After a heavy rearguard action the convoy reached Lindley in safety. Our casualties were—killed, 10 men; wounded, 4 officers and about 50 men.
On June 25th, near Ficksburg, Boyes's Brigade was in action with a body of the enemy. Our casualties were—killed, 2 officers; wounded, 4 men; missing, 1 man.
Lord Methuen found that the Boer laager near Vachkop and Spitzkop had been hastily removed in the direction of Lindley. He followed the enemy for 12 miles, and captured 8000 sheep and 500 head of cattle which they had seized in the neighbourhood. Our casualties: 4 men wounded.
Hunter continued his march towards the Vaal River unopposed. A few farmers met with en route surrendered.
Springs, the terminus of the railway from Johannesburg, in an easterly direction, was attacked early on June 28th. The Canadian Regiment, which garrisons that place, beat the enemy off. No casualties reported.
Corporal Marks, who with Trooper Brian succeeded in escaping from the battalion of 500 Yeomanry captured by Christian De Wet at Lindley, on May 31 gave an account of the affair.
They left Kroonstad under hurried and imperative orders to reinforce General Colvile at Lindley without delay. They marched at full speed, arriving at Lindley on Sunday, May 27, at noon.
As they entered the town a number of horsemen were seen galloping out at the other end in the direction of Heilbron. Our men found that General Colvile had left at daylight, .after some severe fighting, for that place.
The Yeomanry had not been in the town an hour before heavy rifle firing began on all sides. Lindley lies in a kind of saucer, commanded by hills. The convoy was left a mile in the rear when the firing commenced, and the force took the best cover possible in the town, which was very little.
The line of the enemy's fire gradually extended, until our men were completely surrounded. It was evident that the Boer force had only withdrawn until they had ascertained the strength of the battalion.
Firing went on until five o'clock, by which time Colonel Spragge ordered a retreat. The two quick-firing guns covered the retirement to the convoy, and the movement was effected without much loss, although the Boers were firing from the surrounding hills at a range of 800 yards.
Colonel Spragge then took up a position near the convoy, and held two kopjes. The firing ceased at dusk, but on the following morning was resumed, and continued without cessation the whole day. A number of horses were killed.
The fighting on the Tuesday and Wednesday was a repetition of that on Monday, without much loss on either side. On Wednesday night Colonel Spragge decided to send Scout Smith, in company with a kaffir guide, in search of General Rundle, with an urgent appeal for help. Marks and Brian were instructed to leave at the same time with a similar message for General Colvile.
The scouts left unarmed, and after a terrible night Marks and Brian got through the enemy's lines, and by dint of rapid marching reached General Colvile's camp at 7 o'clock on Thursday morning. The message was delivered to the General, and realising the urgency of the case Marks made for Kroonstad as hard as horses could gallop. When eight miles to the north-east of the town he learned that Lord Methuen was in the neighbourhood, and entered his camp at half-past four in the afternoon of Thursday.
Lord Methuen started without a moment's delay, and reached Lindley without opposition the same night, but he was too late. He learned on arrival that the battalion had been taken prisoners that afternoon at two o'clock.
The Boers, who during the first three days had been fighting without guns, on Thursday morning brought up two field pieces, and opened a terrible shell fire on the little force, which, being confined in a small area, was simply decimated.
Such terrible mischief did the enemy's fire cause that it was mere madness to hold out against it, and Col. Spragge decided to surrender.
He lost that day 40 killed and 71 wounded. Among the former was Capt. Keith. Capt. Lord Longford was dangerously wounded in the neck. Some of the more severely wounded were found in Lindley Hospital, but the Boers had taken a good many away with them in company of the rest of the battalion. Some men had been left lying on the field of action. We also lost no horses.
Lord Methuen learned that the attacking force was led by Christian De Wet, who had under his command nearly 6,000 men.
Scout Smith, who went in search of General Rundle, was captured by the Boers and shot as a spy.
Leaving a garrison of 1,500 men at Lindley, Lord Methuen pushed on to Heilbron, encountering severe opposition the whole way. There he was joined by General Colvile. In the meanwhile De Wet worked round northwards from the neighbourhood of Heilbron, and captured a convoy with 150 of the Black Watch, on their way to the latter town as both Lindley and Heilbron were in a state of semi-starvation.
Lord Methuen immediately moved forward with 4,000 men, leaving General Colvile at Heilbron, to help to get a big convoy through himself. On the way he met Lord Kitchener with a small force, and on the following morning the combined columns under Lord Kitchener and Methuen came up with De Wet ten miles further to the south.
Fighting began at ten and lasted all day till four o'clock. The Boer commander occupied a strong position, but at that hour executed a masterly retreat under cover of his field guns towards the south, leaving his camp and a number of killed and wounded behind him.
The whole batch of yeomanry prisoners were marched northward, and on arriving outside Standerton formed up in line in order to make a triumphal entry. One of the Black Watch marched at their head playing " Soldiers of the Queen" on a concertina, and the small crowd of British residents waiting to receive them cheered heartily, despite the lowering looks of the Dutch townspeople. Next day the prisoners were marched off to Bethel, enroute for Ermelo.
Captain Corbillis, of the Royal Irish, who was made a prisoner in the attack on the convoy sent by Lord Methuen to Heilbron with an escort of only 200 men, managed to escape. He said the loss of the convoy was due to a misunderstanding. Finding that the Boers were closing in on him, Capt. Corbillis sent two orderlies to the nearest camp with a request for help. Major Haig at once started with 600 details, but an orderly who sent forward to search for the convoy returned with the report that all was clear.
Believing that the convoy had got through, and was in no need of assistance, Major Haig marched back to camp. On the way he was overtaken by a second messenger, who declared that unless help was forthcoming immediately the convoy would have to surrender. But by this time it was too late. The escort submitted, it is said, without having fired a shot, and 90 waggons fell into the hands of the enemy, with 200 prisoners.
At both Roodeval and Rhenoster there was unmistakable evidence of the recent encounter. The veldt for hundreds of yards was strewn with burnt paper, the contents of our mail bags, and a couple of holes large enough to bury a house in mark the spot where the Boers exploded our shells and other ammunition.
An escaped prisoner says that the enemy waded knee deep in letters at Roodeval, which was then the railhead. — There were accumulated at that place large stores of ammunition and winter clothing, and three weeks' mails from Europe and the South.
The guard, joined by 60 of the Railway Pioneers, made ramparts of mail bags, clothing, and biscuit tins, and fought most pluckily. But the Boers, after disposing of the Derbyshire Militia, with whom they were simultaneously engaged across the river, were enabled to bring into action four pieces of artillery. The defenders of Roodeval, though without guns, held out for six hours, losing twelve men killed, but were at last compelled to surrender. The Boers then helped themselves to the stores, mails, and clothing, and burnt all they could not take away.
It being reported that a commando 600 strong of Boers from the Orange River Colony had appeared at Delange's Drift, on the Klip river, between Standerton and Vrede, a force was sent to reconnoitre.
Portions of no less than fourteen locomotives were found hidden away by the Hollander railway officials at Standerton. Many of the engines captured were soon in working order.
A few of the chief railway officials were detained as prisoners of war on charges of having wilfully damaged the railway line, especially the viaduct here and rolling stock, for which they were to be tried.
The residents tell of being heavy losers through the Boer military authorities, who commandeered their goods and horses during the war and never paid for them. One firm alone lost nearly £4000.
The first number of the "Vrede Chronicle" had been published—the beginning of a new Press both in that and the other state. It was printed in English of course. The editor claimed that Vrede should be the new capital of the Orange River Colony.
Steyn, at Bethlehem, had a consultation with General de Wet, who had 7000 men falling back on Vrede.
The Free State Government books were still under the verandah of a store there, packed in cases, and there were thirty waggon loads of ammunition near the town, while a commando of about 3000 strong was at Tafelberg.
It was decided to clear out the gaol at Standerton, and to send a large number of the Hollanders captured in the neighbourhood to the coast, whence they were deported to Holland, so that their own Government might deal with them for not observing the neutrality proclaimed by the Netherlands. A few, who were alleged to have been implicated in the destruction of property, were detained in Cape Colony as prisoners of war.
A largely attended and influential deputation, including the Archbishop of Capetown and some leading residents of the Rand, waited upon Sir Alfred Milner to urge the retention of the Transvaal liquor prohibition laws. The High Commissioner, in reply, expressed his heartiest sympathy with the object of the deputation, and said he had repeatedly mentioned the matter in despatches. He hoped the Government would retain the legislation prohibiting the sale of liquor to natives, and he believed that, under honest administration, the law would prove effective.
Lord Kitchener's prompt action saved a couple of construction trains which had been sent to repair the bridge at Leeuw Spruit. One of them was stopped and a truck overturned owing to the rails having been removed by the Boers. Lieut. Holmes and six men held the enemy at bay while the section train was warned. A party of 50 Volunteer Engineers were on it, and most of the rifles were in the first train. Some of the men dashed back for three-quarters of a mile to reinforce Lieut. Holmes, while the others fetched rifles wherewith to defend the second train.
Capt. Lloyd drew up his force on both sides of the railway, and after compelling 400 Kaffirs to lie down and remain quiet, opened a steady fire.
The position, however, had become one of extreme danger, when all of a sudden shells were seen to fall in the midst of the enemy. It seems that a member of a small working party near at hand had managed to escape, and carry the news of the attack to Lord Kitchener, who was encamped with 35 men at Kopjes Station.
Lord Kitchener at once rode to the camp of the Shropshire Regiment, and brought a gun into action, personally directing its fire. The fall of darkness compelled the Boers to retreat, and the valuable railway material was saved.
One of the engines had thirty-eight bullet marks and the other forty, but no serious damage was done.
Under Lord Kitchener's supervision prompt measures were taken to strengthen the lines of communication. The defence of these was entrusted to General Smith-Dorrien, who acted with great energy.
The train following the one attacked at Honing Spruit, in which was the Duke of Westminster carrying Lord Roberts's despatches, and Mr. Winston Churchill, was shelled back to Roodeval, but not hit.
A private letter received from Pretoria gave the details of a dastardly attempt on the part of a Boer to blow up the artillery barracks and magazine there. The man had actually succeeded in lighting the fuse when he was observed by an artilleryman, who rushed forward in time to kick away the fuse, but was killed in doing so. Two unarmed men managed to seize and overpower the miscreant, who was subsequently wounded in an attempt that was made to lynch him, and taken to the hospital. Had the attempt succeeded, the 18th, 62nd, 75th Field Batteries, and the Hampshires, together with the culprit himself, would inevitably have been destroyed.
Raw gold was sent to Lorenzo Marques from the Transvaal in the last week in June, and quantities of clothing were smuggled through for the Boers defending their " Cabinet." Yet we had men-of-war lying in Delagoa Bay. It was reported that 60 miles of railway had been destroyed, cutting the communication between Machadodorp and Pretoria. Col. Gourko, the Russian military attache remained with Mr. Kruger.
At the end of June the ubiquitous Steyn was at Harrismith, imposing heavy fines upon the burghers who refused to take up arms again.
Among the proclamations in the Government “ Gazettes," frequently issued at Pretoria, was one forbidding fresh gold mining, but allowing the completion of work in hand. This was a disappointment to the gold miners at the Cape and at Johannesburg. All raw gold was to be deposited in the government bank. The transport of specie and unwrought gold was also forbidden, as well as the transport of coal, except for household use. There was also a new and more stringent order as to the telegraph and railways. The principal residents in a district were held responsible for damage, in addition to which a penalty of not less than half-a-crown per morgen was to be levied on each farm in the district, and receipts for goods requisitioned would be cancelled. Lieut.-Col. Girouard, in charge of the railway traffic, was authorised at any time to compel any leading residents to accompany trains in order to safeguard them.
With the opening of July the " sport," as the professional manslayer sometimes grimly calls the war, seemed nearly at an end. The big game—the elephants, lions, tigers, &c.—of former sportsmen in these regions, have been driven into Central Africa, and in course of time may be preserved from extinction only by great care; and when human beings cease to be game for shot and shell the earth will be a happier hunting ground and a pleasanter place to live in. Alexander the Great wept inconsolably when he could find no more nations to conquer, so, it was said, there were some soldiers in South Africa who saw the signs of peace approaching with a sigh that their occupation would soon be gone.
For now the army on the move was more a Patroling Police than anything else.
Slowly and daily the movement at enveloping the Free Staters under General De Wet made progress. Gen. Sir Francis Clery pushed Sir Redvers Buller's front nine miles further along the railway towards Heidelberg, and on June 30th, occupied Vlaklaagte, with General Cooper's Light Infantry Brigade and details of cavalry and artillery.
The railway was in good order up to Vlaklaagte, near which a skirmish occurred between a small party of Boers and our advance guard, when the Boers were quickly driven back.
On a farm near by were found the four Misses Eloff, granddaughters of the President.
The Boers surrendering related extraordinary tales which were spread by their leaders to counteract the British successes of the last few months, with the result that they were in complete ignorance of the real course of events.
Wessels farm was occupied by General Clery, with the 4th Brigade and details of artillery and cavalry. The country hereabouts is flat, and consequently nothing was seen of the Boers, but a number of them were in the Witfoortje hills, a few miles in front, and they fired on our advanced patrols.
General Clements, whose column began a movement simultaneously with three other columns, operating from the northward and westward, came into contact with the Boers ten miles north of Senekal, on June 28th. The enemy showed in large numbers, and General Clements was hotly engaged. After a time he succeeded in compelling the Boers to retire. The enemy, however, were still hovering around him, and further fighting was imminent.
The Boers attacked the British position at Hammonia but were repulsed.
On the Lindley road one of Rundle's patrols was fired on from a farmhouse. The Boers were afterwards driven out of the house, which was burnt. One of our opponents was captured.
The Boers formed a large camp in the fork of the Elands River, where large numbers of waggons and cattle were collected. Many Boer women and children were in the camp. Their patrols were in daily contact with our outposts.
On June 30th, General Colvile left Pretoria on his way home, it was supposed in consequence of one or two untoward events that have been recorded.
Sir H. E. Colvile went out at the commencement of the war as commander of the Guards' Brigade, and in that capacity was engaged in the earlier operations under Lord Methuen. After the arrival of Lord Roberts he was given command of the Ninth Division, including the Highlanders and Smith-Dorrien's Brigade. During the march to Pretoria this division was broken up, Smith-Dorrien's battalions going forward under General Ian Hamilton, and the Highland Brigade remaining behind. Sir H. E. Colvile stayed with the Highlanders at Lindley, and accompanied them from there to Heilbron at the end of May.
A snap shot of Mr. Kruger at this time would be interesting historically, though no magnanimous Briton would rejoice simply, in his humiliation.
A business man of Standerton, provided with a Boer safe conduct, paid his Honour a visit at his railway headquarters at Machadodorp, and on his return on June 2gth narrated his experience. He found President Kruger, Secretary Reitz, and General Lucas Meyer in a railway carriage there. Only a handful of burghers, the faithful few, remained with him. They all wore a dejected air, and each expressed a desire for peace.
President Kruger made a pathetic central picture. He was evidently much worried, and bore unmistakable traces of the misery he had suffered.
The previous reports of unlimited supplies at Machadodorp were stated to be incorrect. There were practically no stores there.
All these facts were furnished to General Buller.
When a man is down there are plenty ready and brave enough to kick him; and before he left Pretoria some old women, wives of Dutch burghers, tried to horsewhip the fallen Dictator, who was rescued by his Hollander bodyguard. So said a special correspondent of the Natal daily " Witness."
A Pretoria correspondent of the " New Rotterdam Courant," in touch with Dutch sentiment towards the Boer Government, wrote that he must record with regret the evil influence of President Kruger, and those associated with him, upon the sense of honesty among the high employes of the Transvaal State. " In a time of collapse and crisis," says this correspondent, " such as the Transvaal is now passing, through, there are always persons who will seek to enrich themselves in any fraudulent manner. But it is rare that these persons should be found in the entourage and families of the responsible rulers of the despoiled country. Yet this is the disgusting spectacle which is now presented in the closing scene of the life of the Boer Republic."
If this charge is true, it is a sad commentary on those " high principles" for which the Republican Government went to war.
At the end of June came the first issue of a paper called the " Pretoria Friend," and conducted by a committee headed by Lord Stanley and Captain the Hon. J. Ward, which was said to have an excellent educational effect.
At Pretoria a great number of Colonials, Australians, and Canadians volunteered for civil employment as police and on railways and were accepted. The new Pretoria High Court had a salutary effect, and the capital gradually regained a sense of security and repose. Hilliard was appointed chief magistrate, Captain Mclnnery (Victoria Rifles,) Her Majesty's Advocate; and Blyth, Sheriff.
Prices of food stuffs were regulated according to proclamation. The native pass system was thoroughly carried out. Mr. Loveday was appointed burgomaster in place of Mr. Potgieter. The original town council temporarily resumed its duties. The publishing of false and malicious reports was severely punished. Colonel Maxwell from time to time published an official resume of war news. As to the banks allowed to do business, Emrys Evans was financial adviser. Twenty pounds was the weekly limit allowed to be drawn by one person, payments in and out to be made in specie. Colonel Maxse as Commissioner of Police had a perfect patrol of the town. The Provost-Marshal's staff was considerably increased in order to cope with the increased work.
A Colonial Fund, started at Durban for the purpose of presenting General Buller with a testimonial in recognition of his services in ridding Natal of the enemy, was a huge success. Committees were formed at Durban, Pietermaritzburg, and in other towns, with the mayors at the head of each committee, and the shilling subscriptions poured in from all quarters.
All the British residents who left the Transvaal at the commencement of the war and were domiciled at Durban, registered their addresses in order to facilitate return to their homes.
The romantic epic of a war is in the arena at the front, but the stern, matter-of-fact prose is in the rear, as painted by Mr. R. Kipling and Mr. Burdett-Coutts. Take the following scene as representative of many episodes of the kind from the fierce outset to the desultory climax:
Slowly and noiselessly along the sandy road a ghostly column of white-hooded ambulance waggons moves out of the dark pine trees. " Halt!" cries a voice, and the whole line stops. Four orderlies, sitting erect on the front seats, jump down and disperse. The squad by the roadside cluster round the back and peer into the dark cavern beneath the hood. Two bodies lie side by side on stretchers, lengthway along the floor of the waggon. Two orderlies take the projecting handles and slide one of the stretchers half out on its little flat wheels. A corporal holds his lantern up to read the tally tied to the end of the stretcher, and a sergeant stands by, blue paper in hand.
"What's this?" asks the latter.
" Gloucesters, 1007, injured head," says one orderly.
"Gordons, 1001, fractured thigh," says the other.
" Gloucesters pass on," replies the sergeant, and then —falling into Zolaesque—" Thigh, tent 37."
Four orderlies, one to each handle, lower the stretcher gently from the waggon and place it on the ground a little way from the road. Two return to the waggons, and two remain stooping between the handles at either •end.
" Lift—steady I" and like a machine the stretcher rises from the ground, slow and level, and moves off to a neighbouring tent. The stretcher is aligned with the empty bed, with the length of one shaft resting on the edge. Very tenderly the two orderlies and a nurse half lift and half slide the body on to the bed. I notice the nurse does as much as the two orderlies, standing on the other side and making a cradle of her arms into which the body is gently moved.
The Boer wounded, too, were as well tended as our men, as the following shows:—
Here is one who fought on the other side—a wounded Boer prisoner. Being shot in the lower part of the leg only he is carried by two orderlies, who make a chair of their gripped hands while the patient puts an arm affectionately round the neck of each. He is carried into a tent, and while his blood-stained clothes are being changed for a comfortable hospital suit the usual process of taking stock of his worldly possessions goes on. First comes his watch—a handsome gold one.
"That goes under yer piller," says the orderly; "see, I put it there. Anything else—any money?"
The Boer, satisfied as to his watch, hesitates about the cash.
" Any money?" repeats the orderly, blue paper and pencil in hand. "You'll have it all back—Boer and Briton, we treat 'em all alike here."
"A shilling," replies the Boer after a pause, and fumbles in his pockets. The shilling is duly entered in its appointed square on the blue sheet. He hands it over reluctantly, and his eyes follow it from the orderly to the staff-sergeant.
"No, nothing else," replies the prisoner, somewhat doubtfully.
" Sure? Remember, Boer and Briton, we treat 'em," &c. Then slowly and with difficulty the prisoner produces something from every pocket, a nameless collection—pipes, tobacco pouches, a silver match-box, a Bible, a gold snuff-box, little pots of beef essence, and a dozen other knick-knacks, and, lastly, from the bottom of each deep recess half a dozen cartridges. They cover the little table at his bedside, and the orderly goes on methodically with his inventory.
"Have you got that shilling down?" asks the Boer anxiously. Only then something that has been familiar in his English from the first takes a definite note. It seems to carry us far away, north of the Tweed, and things are getting confused. After all our Boer turns out to be a Scotchman, long resident in the Transvaal, and commandeered to fight.
The picture of the Bloemfontein camp when the writer of the above was there, with a slight change in details, is a sketch of other camps on the line of march.
The town is surrounded on all sides by huge military camps at distances varying from one to ten miles. A proper system of sanitation, always difficult where water is scarce, is much obstructed by the Kaffir encampments which accompany every brigade, and are almost beyond control from a sanitary point of view. The eye is not the only sense that leads a visitor approaching a camp to make a wide detour round these kraals—black clusters of flat wigwams formed of waggons outspanned and buck-sails stretched over them. Soldiers who die are buried in the cemeteries. But there are other soldiers of the Queen by thousands in every camp—four-footed ones these, as loyal, strong, and patient as their masters— many of whom die every day, and must be buried with little trouble and less transport. Horses, mules, oxen— their graveyards are never far from where they fall, and the graves are not dug deep.
The reader before this probably has reflected, how many-sided is war, and how differently viewed by those connected with it.
Here is an artist, who follows the army to paint the portraits of its heroes, and who finds nothing but pleasant gossip on the way. Not he to moralise—his line is likeness-taking, professionally, which is an art requiring concentration of attention to catch the moods and character of the '* subject." It gives us some side lights of camp life—moments of leisure when over pipe and glass, soldiers laugh and joke, between the battles.
One of these enterprising artistes is Mr. Mortimer Menpes, whose forte is military portraiture. On returning from the front he was interviewed by a representative of the Daily News who knew how to make " copy " out of him. The artiste received " sittings," at the seat of war, by Lord Roberts, Mr. Cecil Rhodes, Sir Alfred Milner, Mr. Cronje, and other celebrities, and these gentlemen are to live on immortal canvas.
At the front they all call it a' " one-man show." "Bobs" is the one man. Nevertheless he gave Mr. Menpes several sittings. "I. must apologise for my intrusion when the whole world is looking at you, my Lord," said the painter, when he was marched into the Commander-in-Chiefs room at Bloemfontein—-Mr. Steyn's old apartment, and was confronted with the little man—"all steel, lithe, every nerve palpitating with life—at his agel" "Not at all," replied "Bobs;" "it's a privilege you're conferring." What a kindly gentleman he must be, this man of war! kindly, courteous, considerate! Whilst the painter was at work they chatted about various things. The talk got back to Paardeberg, and Mr. Menpes happened to say that he had painted Cronje. " And Mrs. Cronje?" asked Lord Roberts simply. " No, no," answered the painter, smiling; " Mrs. Cronje did not lend herself to decorative treatment." " Ah 1" returned Roberts, " I don't think the prettiest woman in the world would after three days in those trenches 1"
The comedy of war is well illustrated by this little aside. In the middle of the sitting Lord Kitchener came in with a scout, hot, covered with dust and dirt, and almost panting for breath. Kitchener took Roberts aside, and whilst they were talking in low, hurried tones, the scout stood at attention by the side of a marble Venus on a pedestal. Despite the awful presence of the two great men, the lady fascinated him, and even whilst Roberts was hearing his very important news, do what he would, the corner of the eye nearest Venus would turn that way. However, Lord Roberts was too engrossed to notice it, or goodness knows what the consequence would have been.
When the artist begged Mr. Rhodes to sit to him (Long Tom had only just given in—the diamond city had only just been relieved) he said: " Oh! I don't mind, but full face—full face. No profiles! I am a plain, blunt man, and I like to look people full in the face. That man Fildes "—such is fame! Fancy pronouncing the distinguished Academician's name as a dissyllable " began a portrait of me in profile—wanted to show one side of my face. Dastardly, I call it. I say that no honest man ever sat for a side face."
Mr. Menpes was a little frightened by this outburst, but he soon got on fairly easy terms with the great speculator, who asked his opinion of his face from a painter's point of view. Mr. Menpes had already made up his mind what the "note" was, and said at once, "I am surprised by its boyishness." " Ah! that's it," returned Mr. Rhodes. " Boyishness—dreamer. Yes, yes, that's what I am—a dreamer—imaginative, romantic." Then some thought crossed his brain, he touched the bell, and, like a streak of lightning, a secretary appeared. " So-and-so, when will those ten thousand trees be delivered?" " Iiysix weeks' time, Mr. Rhodes." " They must be here in two weeks. Put two thousand more men on the job at once." So did Monte Cristo talk to his people. There you have Mr. Rhodes full face—the dreamer and the shrewd man of action in one.
Mr. Menpes is full of stories he heard about Rhodes worship. The bitterest pro-Boer cannot but have a sneaking regard for a man who is the subject of this pretty little tale. " Oh, Mr. Rhodes," sighed a poor fellow down with enteric, " oh, what would I give for a drop of milk" (then worth five pounds a drop 1) "Umph," replied Mr. Rhodes, in his grim, gruff way. " Umph I" and he went away umphing. The next day he came again, and after a few words slouched out, and nervously left a tiny medicine bottle on the corner of the table. " Oh, I do love Mr. Rhodes," said the sick man. " See what he's brought me—it's milk." And so it was— value unknown.
When Mr. Menpes was busy at Kimberley he used to go and get shaved at a barber's adjacent to the club. This barber told him an amusing story, which illustrates the moral effect of Long Tom admirably. Said the barber, busy with his razor: " Well, it's like this—when the small guns were firing into the town, and the bullets came this way, my customers used all to fly under the counter there, and left me standing with the razor. But when Tom began business—well, I used to go with my customers, too. Tom was a regular terror."
Mr. Menpes was also successful in securing sittings from Generals French and Macdonald, though both of them were very shy of the palette. French was extremely nervous under the ordeal, and at one or two points he even ran away and hid himself behind a newspaper. "The shyest sitter I ever had," exclaimed the painter, " but charming." Sir Hector was easier, and talked very freely. You cannot call him a pro-Boer, but they have no keener admirer of their fighing qualities. What struck Mr. Menpes about this self-made general was his dislike of luxury.
When all the officers were enjoying the comparative luxury of Bloemfontein he stuck to his tent outside. He preferred to rough it on the ground. He gave Mr. Menpes a good illustration of the enormous difficulties of the Intelligence Department during the war. " I'll tell you what it is," said he, in his soldierly way, " I trust nobody in Bloemfontein—not men—certainly not women. The children are the only safe draws. What I do is to stuff my pockets full of sweets, go out for a walk, and talk to the children. They tell you where their papas have gone."
Then he went on to compare fighting in South Africa with fighting in the Soudan, In the Soudan it was child's play—easy country—no enemy. Here's a fearful country and a brilliant enemy.
"Now, how far do you think that kopje is off?"— pointing to a hillock which appeared quite close, but which was really some miles off. Mr. Menpes was aware of the deceptive nature of the country, and said so. " Well," continued Sir Hector, " you would think it was an easy thing for me to take my brigade there, wouldn't you? And it looks flat country between us, doesn't it. Yet ten thousand Boers could conceal themselves in that wavy plain."
When he was painting Mr. Rhodes, they discussed art and gardening. Mr. Menpes had visited his gardens at Cape Town, and the first question Mr. Rhodes asked him was how they looked. Mr. Menpes congratulated him on the artistic way in which he had grouped his flowers in great clusters, and amused him by contrasting this big way of gardening with the back garden of poor London Suburbia.
It is not surprising to hear that a man who " thinks in continents " should complain that his wild beasts in his compound at the Cape are skimped for room to roam in. "They want acres," he cried—"acres and a marble platform to walk on. You can't see 'em now."
Then he went on to describe the Siege Avenue which is being put in hand to commemorate the siege of Kimberley. It is to be a mile long; there will be room for fours-in-hand to drive through it; it will be mainly an avenue of vines, which will form an arched vault of grateful shade; on either side will be rows of pepper trees, orange trees, and eucalyptus, the last on the outside to protect its tenderer comrades. In the centre will rise a beautiful monument of marble columns, each resting on a sphinx.
The only question which perturbed Mr. Rhodes was whether the clustered columns should be roofed or open to the winds of heaven. Time would settle it. But it will be a big thing, be sure, when Mr. Rhodes has done with it. Mr. Rhodes had thought of lions supporting the columns, but the complimentary artist thought the sphinx a truer emblem of the man of diamonds, the " boy " who thinks much and speaks little.
The hemming in of De Wet was watched by experts with interest. The British lines, extending 240 miles from the northern to the southern horn of a crescent, were, at the beginning of July, converging on Bethlehem as the centre, and the Drakensberg in the rear of the Boers seemed the only way of escape, but even then they might find their road barred by a Natal force. At the northern point there was Clery, towards Vrede, Hunter was at Frankfort, Macdonald at Heilbron, Methuen to the south-west of that place, Paget at Lindley, and Rundle and Brabant holding a chain of posts from Winburg to Ficksburg on the south; a total of nearly 50,000 men to catch about 5,000.
General Botha was apparently making a move towards relieving his comrades in arms, as well as plotting against Pretoria.
Hunter, crossing the Vaal, reached Frankfort on the ist, without opposition, and Macdonald joined him the next day. This place is 50 miles north of Lindley and . 41 miles west of Vrede. Clery reached Graylingstad on the 2nd, with some attention from the ambushed snipers. That is on the Netherlands railway, 20 miles north of Standerton.
We now, for the first time, heard complaints from the Boers of want of food, at several places—Pretoria, Johannesburg, Greylingstad, Heilbron, and elsewhere— and the British undertook to feed the families of men fighting against us! Naturally the presence of a great army ran up the price of food, and the dairy farmers made a big profit. At Pretoria, for instance, though there was a large market, prices ruled high. Butter sold at 6s. and 7s. per pound, and eggs at about 4d. each.
Colonel Ward, who had charge of the markets, convened a committee of ministers of religion at the capital to relieve the distress, which had an effect on those seeking to create an anti-British feeling.
Where Boers were found without oats for seed purposes Lord Roberts ordered that they should be supplied with seed from our stores. Nevertheless some of the Boer women still cherished bitter feelings towards the British, and openly flaunted the Transvaal colours before the troops. A number confined their wrath to the British officers, to whom they made most insulting remarks in Dutch.
Patient consideration was shown them, and every effort made on all sides to bring the Dutch to a more conciliatory frame of mind. Many of the Boers still entertained the belief that they would regain their independence as Mr. Kruger said.
Lord Roberts issued a proclamation enjoining every male over sixteen years of age residing in the town, unless he was a British subject, to obtain a permit to remain. This proclamation was due to the well-founded suspicion that several of the townspeople were communicating with the enemy. It was a measure for ensuring protection as well as ejecting undesirable persons from the town. Certain aliens who had become burghers in the Transvaal since the commencement of hostilities, and also a large number of suspects, were escorted across the border.
Armoured trains now daily patrolled the lines in different directions from the town, and the country round Pretoria was particularly well adapted for such work. The enemy, however, kept well out of sight, though hovering in the neighbouring hills.
The Transvaal Constabulary, instituted for the purpose of patrolling Pretoria in the first place, was extended to the country districts after the pacification of the Transvaal had been accomplished.
The first arrangement was wholly provisional, the men serving for three months from the date of enrolment. The pay was as follows: for a captain 30s. per day, a subaltern 25s., a sergeant 15s., a corporal 12s. 6d., and a private 10s. The three last also had rations. Twenty officers and six hundred men were drawn from the following corps of Yeomanry:—The South Notts, West and North Somerset, Dorsets, Devons, and Sussex; Canadian Mounted Infantry, Cape Mounted Rifles, New South Wales Mounted Rifles, Tasmanian and Queensland Mounted Infantry, New Zealand Mounted Rifles, Natal Police, the Argentine Contingent of the South African Light Horse, and the New South Wales Lancers.
To return to the Orange River Colony, which was, in the district we have described, an exciting scene of daily military movements. The landscape was dotted with Kharki warriors, mounted and on foot, in all directions.
Lord Methuen's force reached Paardekraal from Heilbron on July ist, completing nearly 500 miles of marching and counter-marching, while the Northamptons left Kroonstad for Honingspruit to refit with sorely needed winter clothing.
Steenkamp's commando, 1,000 strong, was near Me-thuen, and Captain Masters, of the Array Service Corps, and Major Bagley, of the Australians, were captured while foraging five miles from the column.
As the railway from Heilbron to Wolvehoek had been restored, a large quantity of stores was being sent to the former place where they were much needed.
A few influential Boers now surrended at Heilbron, and others were captured.
Some staff officers and a cornet, Christian De Wet, were captured near Paardekraaf, and Andries De Wessels, a member of the Free State Raad and a leader in the Afrikander Bond, was arrested on his farm, where a large quantity of sheep and oxen were secured.
A patrol of the South African Light Horse, acting on information supplied by a guide to our Intelligence Department, captured at a farm house ten miles from Standerton two men under arms, who had just returned from Vredestand, and had no intention of surrendering. One was Michael Christian Eloff Muller, mining commissioner of Johannesburg, and the other Johannes Mackenzie Muller, who married a daughter of Jan Meyer, of Johannesburg.
Driscoll's Scouts attached to General Rundle's Division, returned on June 30th, to the camp at Doornfontein, having patrolled for a distance of sixty miles in the district of Winburg. They located a force of 500 to 600 Boers with at least two guns upon Doornberg, which commanded the main road to Winburg and Senekal, and threatened the railway. A much-needed convoy arrived the next day, escorted by Scots Guards and Derbyshire Yeomanry from Winburg. 1
The whereabouts of Mr. Kruger now became a matter of uncertainty owing to conflicting reports, and these we may mention as samples of the difficulties which a truth-loving chronicler had to encounter in his search for facts.
A Jewish storekeeper who had been given Transvaal Government notes for £500 for goods commandeered by the Boers visited Machadodorp the first week in June, and on his return home stated that Mr. Kruger had gone to Nelspruit, the transport station for Lydenburg.
Another account was that he had removed to an hotel at Watervalonder, a short distance further from Pretoria, and a third statement was that he was removing to the small mining town of Pilgrim's Rest, 84 miles from Machadodorp.
It was further asserted that at the end of June, Mr. Kruger removed two stations, or about five miles eastward, on the plea that this place was not so cold, but some said it was because he thought it was safer from a surprise. It was also nearer to the Elands laager.
The State Saloon carriages were stated to be heated and comfortable. There were separate apartments for the old man's companions. He worked unremittingly, remarking that he was prepared to die at his post. Sitting crinkled up in his chair, he wrote his despatches or dictated them to his clerk. His pale, leaden, furrowed face was a contrast to the bronzed countenance of the burly Lucas Meyer, whose deep voice also sounded as of another race when Mr. Kruger's rasping, barking tones were heard, as though he had worn out his voice in public talking. He had been a man of strict rules, but now his Sabbaths were given to State-craft, and his devotions often broken through. Mr. Reitz, the Secretary, was more buoyant and cheerful, and yet shared his master's concerns. Dr. Heyman was in constant attendance, as well as Mr. Piet Grobler, Under Secretary.
Kruger's vitality and force of character were seen in his stratagems, subterfuges, schemes for keeping up the fight. The reports sent to hearten the commanders were often false and misleading, but who was the liar it might be difficult to say.
The " Chicago Record " published a despatch giving an interview with President Kruger. "England," said Mr. Kruger, "is occupying less than one-third of the Transvaal. She can never beat us in the mountains. The British supplies are being cut off. Her soldiers in Pretoria are suffering from want of food. Our forces are now advancing again upon Pretoria. We have 1,500 British prisoners at Nooitgedacht, and 1,100 more are coming. Our people are cheerful and hopeful, and all are regaining confidence. Despite the reports to the contrary my health continues good."
Mr. Kruger, in reply to another interviewer, gave the following message as from himself to the British people:— " The President and people of the South African Republic most earnestly desire peace, but only upon these two conditions, viz., the complete independence of the republic, and an amnesty for those Colonial Boers who have fought with us. If these conditions be not granted we will fight to the bitter end."
Shareholders in South African stock of all kinds were having bad times, and it needed optimistic prophesies, such as that of Mr. J. B. Robinson, of London, (an authority on the subject,) as to the Transvaal becoming
the richest country in the world," to induce speculators to retain their scrip, even if they had a chance to sell (at a big drop in price.) But the British Government did what it could to maintain the credit of the Orange River Colony, by meeting the half-year's interest due on the State loan, on the 1st of July, without prejudice as to future liability.
A considerable number of mining engineers and several mining magnates, who had returned to Johannesburg in twos and threes, were ordered back to Bloemfontein, their return being deemed premature. And for the same reason no force could be spared for the war that had broken out in China. Until Mr. Kruger surrendered, there was no security on either side of the Vaal.
As our circumvention of the enemy narrowed, so skirmishing increased, and almost every man in our force had a chance of popping at the Boer—an opportunity many Volunteers fresh in the field had been longing for. General Paget did not reach Pleisirfontein without opposition, but he soon dispersed the snipers, driving them across Leeuwkop to Broncrifontein, where he bivouacked for the night, and the next day (July 4th) he reached Blaauwkopje, fifteen miles north-west 01 Bethlehem, where the " Orange State Executive" was located, though it was reported Steyn, the famous " sprinter," had sought a safer retreat in the mountains to the east.
We were now in the garden of the colony, and could judge of its agricultural qualities. Some of the farms were quite attractive though without the gardens and accommodation common in English farming. A number of limited companies in London set about offering farms to Volunteers who wished to settle in the colony on easy terms of payment, provided applicants had some capital and were in earnest in their intention to cultivate the land or rear stock.
The Boers on the 4th made a desperate attempt to regain Ficksburg, by a midnight rush. Our sentries gave an alarm, and there was a fierce combat for an hour, at the end of which the burghers were convinced that they had no chance and made off.
Brabant's Colonial Division found Doornberg Kopje, near Winburg, evacuated on the 5th, but our garrison at Scheepersnek was engaged with Boer outposts; our line was advanced to Vlakspruit on the same day, and by this means covered the railway there.
As the enemy had for some days been threatening our line of railway by trying to get round our right flank, at another point, Lord Roberts despatched Hutton on the 5th July with his mounted infantry to reinforce Mahon, and with orders to drive the Boers to the east of Bronkerspruit. These orders were effectually carried out during the 6th and 7th by Mahon, who was attacked by some 3,000 men with six guns and two Vickers-Maxims. A squadron of the Imperial Light Horse pressed a very superior force of the enemy in a gallant attempt to carry off a wounded comrade, to which was attributable the heavy losses it suffered. We sustained six killed and some 24 wounded.
Hutton was attacked on July 8th in the position he was holding by a large number of Boers. He beat them off without much difficulty, the 5-inch guns with bim being useful. Our only casualty was Lieutenant Young, 1st Battalion Canadian Mounted Rifles, slight wound of scalp. The enemy left several of their wounded on the ground, and sent a flag of truce, with the request that they might be received into our field hospital.
Hanbury Tracy, in command at Rustenburg, received a party of Boers under Limmer on July 7th, who coolly invited him to surrender the town and garrison. Tracy replied that he held Rustenburg for her Majesty's Government, and intended to continue occupying it. The enemy then opened fire with artillery, and tried to take the heights which command the town. In this they did not succeed owing to the good arrangements made by Tracy and his officers, and were eventually driven off with the assistance of Colonel Holdsworth, 7th Hussars, who made a rapid march of 48 miles from the neighbourhood of Zeerust with Bushmen, under Colonel Airey, on hearing that Rustenburg was likely to be threatened. The enemy suffered heavy loss, and five prisoners were captured. Our casualties were Bushmen, two killed; Captain M'Haltie and three men wounded.
The officer commanding at Heilbron reported on the 9th that Mr. Blignant, Orange State Secretary, Mr. Didkson, State Attorney, Mr. Van Tander, member of Council, and Mr. Kupper Vergen had come into Heilbron on the previous day and surrendered. They stated that an influential deputation of officials was to visit Mr. Steyn to urge him to surrender. Mr. Steyn, with Commandant De Wet, had retreated to Fouriesburg with 3,000 men.
Some 800 prisoners—chiefly Yeomanry and Derbyshire Militia, the result of recent raids—whom the Boers found it inconvenient to feed, were put over the Natal border from Reitz and made their way, footsore and exhausted, by Acton Holmes, to Ladysmith. They complained of rough times through shortness of food, and were glad to get back to our lines, with a chance of being in at the final battle. Their officers were detained in custody.
A convoy arrived at Vlakfontein through Greylingstad on the 5th. It had nearly reached a defile in the hills when the Boers opened fire upon it with two 14-pounders. The nearest shell fell 20 yards from the convoy. Thorney-croft's Horse thereupon occupied the hills to the right defile, and kept the Boers back on a long ridge extending over the extreme left. The infantry meanwhile deployed into the plain, while the field artillery and a section of a howitzer battery got into position under
The Boers worked their guns rapidly, but the howitzers replied and drove the enemy back over the ridge. The convoy then passed through safely and our force began to retire. On the Boers seeing our artillery limber up they came forward, and openly brought one gun on to a ridge on our left. Half a dozen shells fell around the retiring howitzers, and a pom-pom was worked in the direction of our infantry, but the shots fell short.
The 63rd Field Battery eventually went out and the first shell forced the enemy's gun from the ridge, after which the Boer fire was silenced at every point.
On the 5th a skirmish also took place 18 miles northeast of Standerton. A party of 34 recruits of Strathcona's Horse, under Lieutenant Anderson, acting as advance guard to a party of mounted infantry, were attacked in front and flank by the Boers, whose strength was estimated at 200.
A heavy musketry fire was poured into the Canadians, who stood their ground and replied, driving the enemy back from the kopje they had occupied.
The Landdrost of Heidelberg surrendered the same night.
A telegraph construction party captured a Boer who who was seen entering a house. He admitted that he came down the hill every day to the house for food. Another Boer, who was found by Strathcona's Horse, pointed out a house in which he stated that arms and ammunition were stored. As soon as the patrol approached the house it attracted a fire from the immediate neighbourhood, which, however, was insignificant.
The rifling of the Boer guns was becoming worn, and the Boer prisoners admitted that their ammunition was scarce.
The arrival of Sir Redvers Buller at Pretoria on July 7th was a sign that the country was clear on the main line, but on the Netherland line the enemy's outposts continued active and fourteen of our mounted infantry were missing on the 5th. Lieutenant Colonel Pilcher had an encounter with the Boer3 at Rockenhont's Kloop on the Middleburg road, with a few casualties.
Perhaps it should be.mentioned, as another instance of the folly of the Boer advisers, that on the 7th of July there arrived in London by the " Tantallon Castle" five heavily-bearded, bronzed men as delegates from the " People's Congress," held at Graaff Reinet, in Cape Colony on May 30th. They were but the mouthpiece of a few hundred erratic Afrikanders. The delegates were the Rev. Professor De Vos, Messrs. R. P. Botha (a relation of the Boer general), P. J. Du Plessis, and R. J. De Wet, with whom was the Rev. A. Moores, of the Dutch Reform Church. On board the vessel they held prayer meetings for the success of the Boer cause, and refused to uncover when the National Anthem was played by the band. They soon discovered how little sympathy their cause had in England, and how well public opinion was informed on Boer politics. It was too late in the day to preach peace on Boer terms; it was little better than lunacy to expect the independence of the States when they had fought to the bitter end, and had no guarantee of any better rule.
Great efforts were meanwhile being made by the extreme Afrikanders to effect a boycott of British trade, and to this end Afrikander trading companies had been established in several centres with a total capital of ^200,000. A conference had been held at Cradock to discuss the details of the policy to be pursued. This attempted combination of business, politics, and patriotism was regarded by the Progressives as a futile display of misdirected energy.
Mr. C. H. Thomas, of Belfort, in the Transvaal, who was staying in London at this time, informed " Lorna," of the British Weekly that in the summer of 1898, he interviewed Mr. Kruger, Mr. Reitz, Mr. Schalk Burgher, and Gen. Piet Cronje, with the view of inducing them to come to terms with England as the only way of maintaining the independence of the States. Mr. Reitz said:
" Well, but I cannot do what I like, Paul Kruger is King"—a significant expression, seeing the President always posed as the servant of the Boers. Mr. Thomas supported the statement of Dr. Jameson and others that the Boers had been arming since 1881, and he had lived among them for forty years. We may pity ' poor old Kruger,' in the overthrow of his life-long and most cherished ambition—the establishment of a great South African Republic. He acted up to his "lights," as a Dogger and a self-taught Boer. The pity is, he would not take counsel of men more learned, experienced, and trustworthy in higher European politics.
These Afrikander delegates were types of the Hollander element backing up the Boers in resisting British demands, and it was found necessary to weed out of office in Pretoria and elsewhere those Hollanders whose bitter anti-English prejudice made them secret traitors.
Only the week before the arrival of these apostles of conciliation, Mr. Kruger had, through Mr. Reitz, told the Daily Telegraph correspondent that he would fight while he had 500 burghers left in the field.
It was not till the beginning of July that the British consul at Lorenzo Marques was able to publish a list of the 659 Gloucesters and 276 Fusiliers who had for months been imprisoned at Noitgedacht station, near to Machadodorp, where Mr. Kruger, it was definitely settled, occupied a small hotel at Lowlands.
Burghers of the Transvaal had recently secured tacit, if not express, permission from the Portuguese authorities to their removal, with large herds and stock, to Gasaland. That some such general movement was contemplated by the Boer Government was shown by the fact that the construction of a road from Trichardt's Drift to Gasaland had been in progress for six months. It was reported that large droves of cattle had been sent across the border, while a considerable number of burghers had taken advantage of this haven of refuge to escape from commandeering officials.
The Portuguese apparently welcomed the movement as promising a body of settlers for a district which was practically unproductive, and legally they were no doubt justified in thus befriending Great Britian's enemies. At the same time, their action was hardly consistent with the cordial professions made by the Portuguese towards ^ England, for, knowing that their stocks were safe in neutral territory, many Boers were encouraged to continue fighting with far greater spirit than if their herds were liable to seizure by the invading force.
Bronkhurst Spruit is 47 miles east of Pretoria, on the railway leading to Lorenzo Marques—and Mr. Kruger.
The fight telegraphed on Monday, July 9th, was at Oliphantsfontein, south-east of Irene, and the Boers had hovered about that part ever since our occupation of Pretoria. Their intention was to preserve his Highness's isolation and security. According to the Cape Argus, the correspondent of a London morning paper, seeking an interview with him, had something more than a curt rebuff. Mr. Kruger, who has a temper, spoke his mind as to the man's " impudence," and shook his fist-defying no doubt the British Press and nation at the same time.
Fouriesburg, whither the Orange Colony commandants were said to have fled, is 30 miles south of Bethlehem, about 25 miles north-east of Ficksburg, and 16 miles from the Basuto border. As this place is only 60 miles from Ladysmith there was the prospect of a warm reception should they cross the mountains, and more especially since the arrival there of the half-starved, ragged 800 discharged prisoners, many of whom had been robbed by their captors.
In order to avoid falling into the hands of the British they had been kept marching with the Boer army, till one day they were paraded down to Oliver's Hock Pass, and there turned adrift, without food and most of them penniless. Some of the men could scarcely crawl from weakness, and succour was sent out to them from Ladysmith.
Many persons might naturally wonder why Lord Roberts did not prefer to conquer Botha and Kruger before he finally engaged with De Wet and Steyn.
From the official despatches of Lord Roberts, it appeared that the Commander-in-Chief had. decided that it was necessary to crumple up the forces with Commandant Christian De Wet and -Mr. Steyn in the east of the Orange River Colony before proceeding with the final task of crushing the Boer forces in arms in the Transvaal. It was well to complete the annexation of the one before taking over the other. The despatch of General Hunter's strong and useful column from Johannesburg to Heidelberg was a striking indication of this design, and as other strong columns were operating on all sides of the irreconcileable ex-Free Staters left in the field against us, there was good reason to hope that the work would be accomplished with that thoroughness which invariably characterised the work of the veteran Field-Marshal.
Sir Redvers Buller, who had paid a short visit to Pretoria, as the guest of Lord Roberts, returned to Standerton, to look after the northern barrier which hemmed in the forces under De Wet and Steyn. The British forces round Pretoria and in the Western Transvaal were mostly "marking time," and guarding the all-important lines of communications from adventurous Boer commandoes, until the operations in the Orange River Colony had been completed.
That this desirable end was not far distant, appeared probable from the despatches received on the 10th July from Pretoria, which described the capture of Bethlehem by columns under Generals Paget and Clements. Bethlehem was something more than one of Mr. Steyn's many transient capitals. It had long been the headquarters of Commandant Christian De Wet; it is also a position of some natural strength, surrounded by difficult kopjes: and it had long been understood that it was here Mr. Steyn and his backers would make a determined stand. Bethlehem was held by De Wet's forces when the combined British columns appeared before it on the 6th of July.
General Clement's forces were the first to reach the town, and then General Paget's. The former sent in a flag of truce demanding its surrender. This was refused by Christian De Wet, when Paget, making a turning movement, succeeded in getting hold of the most important part of the enemy's position covering the town. This was carried before dark by the Munster Fusiliers and Yorkshire Light Infantry after a stiff fight.
The following morning the attack was continued, and by noon the town was in our possession, and the enemy in full retreat with heavy losses.
Our casualties were four officers wounded, and thirty-two men of the Munster Fusiliers with one man missing. Seven men of the Yorkshire Light. Infantry were wounded. One man of the 58th Company Imperial Yeomanry was killed, and two wounded.
Paget reported that, but for the accurate practice by the 38th Battery Royal Field Artillery, and the C.I.V. Battery, under Major McMicking, the casualties would have been many more.
The country was found broken and difficult, and, in consequence, our cavalry were unable to make any very wide turning movement. Clements attacked one position while-Paget charged another in dashing style.
The one assailed by Clements was gallantly captured by the Royal Irish Regiment, who took a gun of the 97th Battery which was lost at Stormberg. The list of casualties was small considering the strength of the positions assaulted.
The general stains quo on the line from Senekal to Winburg was little changed at this time. General Rundle continued master of the situation, and the enemy found themselves baulked at whichever point they endeavoured to break through southwards. Driscoll's scouts returned to Senekal from a three or four days' tour through the country behind, having found no trace of any armed Boers. This fact was particularly gratifying to General Rundle after the able and careful dispositions he had made.
Isolated parties of the enemy had been evincing some activity, but the main bodies had then retired to Bethlehem. Mr. Steyn was credited with striving to encourage the burghers with all manner of fictions. The latest product of his invention was that the British were dying at the rate of 1,600 a day from bubonic plague, and that the hopes of the Afrikander nation were never brighter than at the present moment. Unfortunately, the burghers were unable to dispute these statements, and so perforce they believed them. Mr. Steyn-took care that the Boers got no news whatever from the outside world, and he also took the most stringent precautions to prevent the burghers escaping from their laagers.
General Rundle conducted a reconnaissance on July 9, and found that the enemy had evacuated all their positions around Senekal, including Biddulphsberg and Tafel-berg. The Cape Mounted Rifles and Driscoll's Scouts occupied Biddulphsberg.
A number of the enemy had gone towards Ficksburg, and the remainder to Retief s Nek, near Bethlehem.
Turning to the west of Pretoria, Baden-Powell reached Rustenburg oa the evening of the 8th, without opposition. He found all quiet, and public confidence entirely satisfactory, thanks to the prompt and bold grasp of the situation taken by Major Hanbury Tracy. The district west of this was somewhat unsettled, owing to the presence of the small force which attacked Rustenburg being still in that neighbourhood, but measures were taken to meet this.
A patrol of fifty men which went to Zwartruggens to disarm sixty burghers returned to Zeerust with thirty rifles and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
A German who deserted from Mafeking and joined the Boers was captured and sent to Mafeking for trial.
Commandant Snyman's eldest son was arrested, and 170 cattle taken from him.
Two Krugersdorp officials were convicted of damaging the wires, and had their farms burned and all their property confiscated.
An officer in the Manchester Company of the Imperial Yeomanry writing from Lichtenburg, Transvaal, on the 5th of June, described the ordinary work of settling the country thus:
" After a fortnight in Maitland Camp they sent us up here, first to Belmont, then to Kimberley, Vryburg, and at last to the railhead at Doorn Bult. Since then we have been marching every day, acting as body guard to General Hunter and the supply column. We have also searched all the houses. We have been dead out of luck in the fighting line, as the Boers have simply cut and run as we advanced. Our column has got them in between Mafeking and the railway, so they won't wait now that the former place is relieved, and are coming in to hand over their rifles and horses (the English Government are giving them £10 for the latter. Isn't it rot?) at the rate of 200 a day in this town. We had a bit of a ride after some native raiders three days back, who said that Baden-Powell had sent them to retake cattle taken from them by the Boers, but they had started their old game of killing both men and women. As soon as we caught them they laid down their arms. The Lothian Yeomanry had all the fun, as the people they chased held out, so they potted six blacks and took the rest prisoners. The way these black brutes mauled the dead Boers was quite unpleasant to see—the bodies were simply riddled with bullets."
With swarms of unemployed people at Capetown and Durban matters became painfully strained by destitution and high prices. At the latter town in July, £10 was paid for ioolbs. of flour, eggs were 6d. each, and butter 6s. a lb. There was some impatience to re-start the Johannesburg mines.
The continuance of the war was also entailing great hardships on the fighting farmers, who were unable to send their cattle into the bush veldt, and General Botha was reported to be finding great difficulty in keeping his men together for that reason. Lord Roberts, as far as he could, facilitated the movement of cattle to the winter pastures.