BUT to return to Steyn. He fled with L. Botha and some 2000 Boers to Leysdorp, 75 miles north of Lydenburg, in order, it was said, to join Commandant Vorster at Pietersburg. Delarey was opposing Gen. Clements near Commando Nek, Erasmus was watching his opportunity north east of Waterval, and Grobler, who suffered a defeat at Pienaars Rivers station, had the northern terminus of the Pietersburg railway at his base, while a special column went after De Wet in the hills of Heilbron.
The eruption of raiders in both colonies at the beginning of October was like a renewal of the war, and pointed to a concerted action to harass the British and destroy property. Engagements on a small scale became common, and we lost officers and men frequently, though always victors.
Lindley had to be reconquered, Machadodorp cleared with a loss to us of eleven killed and 30 wounded, Jagersfontein (a diamond village in Orange Colony) had to be rescued from the enemy, (who were aided by Boer residents, and even Johannesburg and Kimberley were threatened by the ubiquitous snipers, as well as Barberton and other places. Thus, while several army officers and some volunteer battalions were sent home, (including the C.I. Vs.) there was good reason for the despatch from England in the third week of October ot 2,000 soldiers to fill up gaps in various regiments of regulars.
Lord Roberts, at Pretoria, was also trying the peaceful intervention of influential burghers to induce Botha and De Wet to surrender, but the latter's military orders were paramount. His lordship was anxious to return to London by the end of the year, to take up his new duties as Commander-in-Chief (in succession to Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley,) to which post he was promoted in September, and in which capacity he was expected to initiate the great army and war office reforms shown to be urgently necessary in the course of the present campaign.
Mr. Wyndham, defending the war office in one particular, contended that when longer fuses were introduced into the shells our artillery equalled the Boers', bursting shrapnel at 5,400 yards, but Captain Lambton, the saviour of Ladysmith with the naval brigade, stated that, compared with the Long Toms and other guns of the enemy, our cannons were ridiculous toys. It was, he said, a deep sense of the galling humiliation we had suffered at the hands of Dutch farmers that led him to contest Newcastle.
We were now in the springtime of Africa, and General Buller's march northward was a fresh experience. The country is the bush veldt, and vegetation was often so luxurious that we had to cut a road in the jungle. From the bleak uplands to the mild climate of these wide pasture lands is a great climatic change. The scenery was beautiful, but the mists and heat of summer here have to be shunned by Europeans.
It was thought Buller's destination was Pietersburg. From Pietersburg it is a little over a hundred miles to the borders of Rhodesia, the division being the Limpopo or Crocodile River running 200 miles from east to west of the country, and as far again through Portuguese territory to the Indian Ocean.
Buller's march was one of conquest in a part of the Transvaal where the British flag had not before been hoisted, and it seemed important that the natives and Dutch farmers hereabouts should witness a march past of our arms inasmuch as a railway from Pietersburg to Bulawayo (about'250 miles,) will ere long open up Rhodesia from Pretoria, and so prepare the way for the great projected line to stretch towards Lakes Nyassa and Tanganyika, and thence on to Cairo—running almost from the source to the mouth of the Nile.
From Pilgrim's Rest Buller proceeded to Krugerspost on Oct. ist, when shells of 9,000 yards range killed two and wounded several of our men, in return for which we made a great haul of their live stock and supplies.
Then came a surprise and change of tactics. Sir Redvers, for no assigned cause, gave up the chase, and on returning to Lydenburg took leave of his forces (which he left in the hands of General Lyttelton), proceeding direct to Pretoria and thence to the capital of Natal and the Cape, on his way home, receiving well-merited honours en route as well as the thanks of his chief. After a few days the headquarters of the Fourth Division of the 8th Brigade returned to Middleburg, leaving Botha to be dealt with otherwise.
Although the derailing of trains was still the occasional occupation of roaming guerillas, the Military Governor of Johannesburg intimated his readiness to receive English and other refugees from the Cape at the rate of 3,000 weekly from Oct. 10th, but Sir A. Milner only sanctioned the return of 1,000 a week from Oct. 15th. The state of the country however caused a postponement of the date by the military, and thus it came about that many of those for whom we went to war were reduced to the greatest poverty at the Cape.
It was reported that the Government rights in the Rand gold mines (as to ground not concessioned), amounted to 40 million sterling. The restarting of the mines was naturally expected to give new life to the Transvaal.
Inspector-General Baden-Powell had offers of service in his Mounted Constabulary, very promptly, to the extent of 12,000—many from the Imperial Yeomanry,— and the terms of service were 7/- for third-class, and 9/-for first-class troopers, per day, with rations, horse, equipment, and lodging. From north to south the disturbances to be quelled extended 400 miles, and this meant long and tedious marches. Police barracks were erected at Pretoria.
Our frequent hauls of waggons, live stock, and stores were partly due to the weakness of the Boers to defend their laagers and their preference of flight to fight. It was thus with Delarey at Rustenburg when General Broadwood gave him challenge. The prisoners captured and surrendered since the last transportation now amounted to 16,000; Boers were constantly submitting as they knew they would not have to leave the country. They were kept in large camps.
Now and again our troops were reminded that they were in a tropical country by severe thunderstorms. Near Barberton a sergeant and gunner were killed by lightning, also six mules and two horses in an ammunition column. The blaze was blinding, and 'the noise deafening; while the water came down for a short while, not in drops, but in streams. In Sabie Valley, where Captain Steinaecker, late of the Swaziland Scouts, was operating, a trooper and native scout when in the bush were killed by lions, and a lion hunt ensued. The valley is between Lydenburg and the Portuguese border — a wild, unexplored region.
At the end of a year's warfare the close observant of it has a far more correct view of the Boer stratagems. Important documents fell into our hands which led to the Transvaal Concessions Commission in reference to the proceedings of the Netherlands Railway Company, which had acted, through its managing director, Mr. Krebchmar, as an almoner of the Transvaal Government in corruption and in the destruction of bridges; Mr. Reginald Statham, Mr. Hargrove, and Mr. Mendlsohn were well paid for their pro-Boer zeal as journalists. Mr. Krebchmar, writing in December, thought Mr. Kruger should be content with annexing Northern Natal and other small parts, whereas that old diplomatist declared to the British Government that such an idea as annexing the British Colonies had never entered the heads of the Boer Executive.
With the sailing of Kruger came a reign of terror. Predatory bands made village life unsafe. We can only mention a few instances.
Having got into Jagersfontein the Boers shot down ten unarmed natives with explosive bullets and released the prisoners in gaol. We held two forts in the town and a kopje outside. The Boer losses included their commandant Visser.
Methuen's two columns had to fight their way to Zeerust, Delarey haunting his flank for days, and Lemmer was surprised and driven off. Since leaving Rustenburg Methuen's loss was six killed and ten wounded. It took four hours to dislodge the enemy to the north of Zeerust on the 20th, and as we entered the town the Boers shelled our column incessantly. On the 25th, there was another engagement in which the Boers suffered most.
A party of 100 Boers was driven away from the railway near Honingspruit, and a determined attack on Faure-smith was repulsed on Oct. 19th, with several losses to the Seaforths. There was a running fight near Fredrik-stad on the 17th, 18th, and 21st, in which we lost several men.
De Wet was a veritable demon of vengeance. He sent word to the burghers of Reitz to clear out the women and children as he meant to smash the place with artillery. In the north-east of the Orange River Colony burning and looting houses and stores were common. Lindley was wantonly wrecked, and Harrismith in a state of siege.
Several English pro-Boer journals gave a mass of anonymous correspondence with the intent to show that . the British army was laying waste the land to drive the Boers out of it with a view of handing over their farms to English or other colonial settlers.
Methuen stated in his report to Lord Roberts, that " he captured over 200 waggons and denuded the country" (on his way to Zeerust), and the word "denuded" was interpreted to mean that he had destroyed all the houses he met with after looting them. Every General acted under strict orders; confiscation and destruction were meted out as penalties for offences. Thus General Hunter burnt the village of Bothaville, 40 miles N.W. from Kroonstad, as a punishment for sniping at the British. The Boers used pom-poms and Maxims and several Lancers were killed and wounded in the march from Kroonstad. If any wanton wreck and ruin were done it would have come to the knowledge of the Field-Marshal and have brought speedy censure upon the perpetrator. His lordship's whole policy was conciliation so far as it was possible. The tour of vengeance upon which the enemy now entered had no such justification, so far as we can see from the evidence. Of course there was quite enough to account for the spirit of revenge without this. The ringleaders in hostilities had, by their own act, forfeited all claims to clemency. They alone were responsible for all the scourge and loss to Boer homesteads at this time. Submission would have brought peace at any time, and the struggles of the irresponsible desperate commandoes had no other excuse than that of savage reprisals.
The recrudescence of hostilities engaged nearly all our generals. French was sternly opposed all the way from Carolina to Bethel, which he reached on Oct. 20th, with the loss of an officer and six men killed and three officers and 24 men wounded. The Boers attacked Settle on his march from Bloemkop to Hoopstad, and an officer and 15 men were wounded. A few days after, (on Oct. 24) the Cape Police had a severe fight near the latter place with two Boer commandoes.
The column left Wegdraai with a convoy from Hoopstad under orders to patrol south of the Vaal, a portion of Denison's Scouts and two galloping Maxims accompanying it.
The Boers attacked the patrol, but were immediately repulsed, losing several men. When the convoy was near Hoopstad a further attack was made from dense bush.
The enemy, who had been largely reinforced, and outnumbered the police by ten to one, gradually encircled the force, doing much damage.
They directed their fire chiefly on the Maxims, which, despite a most gallant defence, had to be abandoned. Our horses stampeded, but the officers and men showed splendid pluck, bringing in comrades who had lost their mounts.
Shortly before dark the police were reinforced by Yeomanry, and the Boers were effectually kept in check. The attacking force, which was under Generals Du Toit, Viljoen, Potgieter, and De Villiers, showed great determination, advancing pluckily in the face of a heavy Maxim Arc.
Our casualties for the day were:—Cape Police: Four killed, eight wounded, fifteen taken prisoners. Cape Mounted Rifles: Three killed. Yeomanry: Three wounded.
The Boers stripped the corpses and stole the prisoners' clothing. They refused to allow the Colonial troops to bury their dead, but granted permission to the Imperial troops. The fight lasted two hours, and in the end the enemy were completely beaten off. The column reached Hoopstad at ten o'clock at night, the entire convoy, with the exception of the Maxims, being brought away.
Crossing the Limpopo the daring Boers attacked an outpost of Carrington's at Tuli, in Southern Rhodesia, and at the other end of the country the Jacobsdal garrison of Cape Town Highlanders, (near Kimberley,) suffered severely, 14 being killed and 16 wounded in an attack which was abetted by some of the inhabitants, in consequence of which their houses were burnt down. In three of them were found large stores of ammunition. Train wrecking was attempted at Waschbank in Northern Natal by a dash under cover of the night by a party of Swaziland police and Natal rebels under a Russian officer, who blew up the line and committed various depredations at the station.
A train with a small part of the Rifle Brigade went out from Greylingstad to reconnoitre the railway towards Heidelberg. The enemy, unsuspected, came down under Hans Botha, blew up a culvert and tore up 200 yards of the line, so that the train could neither go forward nor retreat; and then the Boers poured a heavy rifle fire into it, thus, after a short fight, our men had to surrender.
Barton had a sharp encounter with a force under De Wet at Frederickstad, on Oct. 25th. The enemy left 30 dead and 30 wounded on the ground, and three Boers who fired after holding up their hands were shot by court-martial. We lost one officer killed and 6 wounded, besides 25 men wounded. Our force was not sufficient to crush the redoubtable raider, who made off for a speedy rally. We had only half a company of Royal Welsh Fusiliers and three companies of Royal Scots Fusiliers, supported by a few guns and mounted troops; still it was a smart and plucky contest on both sides, at close quarters, our men using the bayonet.
Two days after Charles Knox, assisted by De Lisle, with some mounted troops, fell on the retreating foe when trying to recross the Vaal, where the drift was blocked. De Wet pushed on towards Lindeque on the north bank. He had reached Rensburg Drift, between Venter -skroon and Parys, when Knox came up. We fired into them and they bolted to the south-east, but were headed by Le Gallais's troops. It was a stiff fight; the Boers were severely punished, leaving behind them two guns and three waggons, and another containing ammunition was blown up by a shell from U battery. The enemy got away at nightfall in a heavy storm. De Wet was said to be in low water. Our casualties were nil.
General Kitchener went to the aid of the Lydenburg garrison, which had been menaced by L. Botha, and by a night dash, on a friendly hint, we captured a laarger near Krugerspost, several Boers being put hors de combat and four taken prisoners, while we got off Scot free.
Notwithstanding the new uprising, the ceremony of proclaiming the annexation of the Transvaal to her Majesty's dominions passed off most successfully at Pretoria, on Oct. 24th.
As the Royal Standard was hoisted in the main square the Grenadier Guards presented arms, and the massed bands played " God Save the Queen," and a salute of twenty-one guns was fired by the 18th Battery.
The Military Governor then read the proclamation. The bands again played the National Anthem and the troops gave three cheers for her Majesty.
The Victoria Cross was presented to several officers and men, and 6,200 troops marched past, all looking in the best of health and most workmanlike.
Sir Godfrey Lagden and some of the Basuto chiefs were on the ground. These latter were evidently much impressed, and begged that their expressions of loyalty might be communicated to the Queen.
Mr. Chamberlain announced that until the colonies were in a fit state for a representative government, they would be ruled on the Crown Colony System and on the model of that which exists in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Ceylon—types of government, however, which would require adjusting to the different conditions existing in the Transvaal and Orange River Colonies.
The Commander-in-Chief and the High Commissioner have arranged for such a scheme to be submitted to the British Parliament as soon as peace was secured.
In the Cape Colony martial law had been relaxed, but the outburst of violence caused the authorities to resume recruiting for defensive purposes.
The Boer generals were pressing peasants into their service by lying statements and threats; in consequence of which all Boers over fourteen years of age living within a radius of ten miles from Bloemfontein were brought into that town to prevent-them rejoining the commandoes: similar steps were taken in other places.
There are many points that the chronicler of these current events cannot clear up conclusively. Questions will occur to the reader such as these—who was now directing the Boer tactics, and whence came their provisions and ammunition?
As to the first, if one could credit Dr. Leyds with such power, he was the directing generalissimo, from the Chancellerie de la Republique Sud-Africaine, No. 8, Rue de Livorno, Brussels—the Legation opened in 1898, by a Volksraad vote of £17,000 a year. No doubt the black-eyed, handsome, sphinx-like Batavian ex-schoolmaster, had sent both soldiers, artillery, ammunition and food during the war, and was still the inscrutable plotter, aided by his secretarial adept, Mr. Van Boeschoten. He acknowledged to some Boer refugees that he had plenty of money, but then it was not for them, however needy; it was for diplomacy. Kruger's clique was still in constant communication .with Leyds.
A certain Russian lady had often acted as a Boer spy, and Mr. Kruger, when cut off from communication with his officers in the land of conflict, tried to send by her a message to De Wet; it was hidden in a lady's blouse when handed to the chief steward of the Gironde steamer, and the lady, sailing from Lorenzo Marques to Durban, was to proceed by train to the Orange River Colony and find the commander; but the British Consul intercepting the parcel, forwarded it to Lord Roberts.
The Boers had rough vaults in forest and veldt in different parts of the country, where they had stored artillery, material, and tinned food, and it was from these it was said, the scattered commandoes were kept supplied. Mrs. De Wet told an interviewer that her husband had provisions and powder and shot for three years!
Our officers showed great activity in the last week of October. Padget had a haul of 25,000 head of cattle, and General Kitchener surprised Schalk Burger's laager at Rooikranz; on the other hand the Boers seized Reddersburg, (looting the stores) and captured a Cape Town mail train, which they looted and fired, but it was rescued by an armoured train. Boer families in the neighbourhood of such depredations were sent to Boer lines.
November opened with a slaughter of the Boers at Bothaville, where we captured seven guns, and the manufacture of sedition at the Cape.
Before leaving Pretoria, with the principal members of his staff for home, Lord Roberts authorised the filling up of the mounted infantry and an addition of 1,000 men to the Colonial Division under General Brabant; also the garrisoning of district towns with a view to the clearing of areas of the enemy instead of long treks such as that of Gen. French, from Machadodorp to Springs, which entailed the loss of 1,500 transport oxen.
Lord Kitchener was entrusted with clearing up the debris of the war, and a more capable man for the irksome duty could not be found.
Lord Roberts thought the struggle was practically at an end, and the Guerilla Campaign that ensued lasted for a year and a half! There was a revival of hostilities, and recalcitrant Burghers were induced to break their oaths, and rejoin the malcontents, ever shifting their hiding-place, unable to give battle, yet determined not to yield till extremities made the life of brigandage unendurable. The sufferings of the sulky snipers in their scraggy commandos, sometimes sleeping without the shelter of van or tent, exposed to inclement weather, were terrible, and showed their indomitable love of independence, their hardihood, and courage. To onlookers it seemed madness, but in such dire straits the ordinary rules of judgment do not apply.