Commanding officers discountenanced the drinking of ardent spirits in the war, and the only way a huge case of whiskey could be got aboard one vessel was by labelling it " Books for our Boys. From the Y. M. C. A. Wanted on Voyage." The colonials assert that they drank in every word of " them books."
Some of General Buller's men, getting short of tobacco, tried another weed—dried tea leaves, which made them nervous.
A Connaught Ranger, after the Colenso fight, wounded and parched with thirst, crawled down to the Tugela for a drink, when, as he lowered his bottle into the water, he saw a dead comrade at the bottom of the river with his eyes glaring at him. He had jumped into the river to swim across and been caught in the lacework of barbed wire set in the river bed by the slim antagonist.
The ant hills are often a feature of the veldt, and in the gloaming have been taken for men crouching, and also challenged by the soldiers.
The nigger drivers of transport waggons received £s a month, with clothes, rations, and accommodation, while an English driver received in the army service corps is. 2d. a day with rations. Colonials received 5s.- a day for ambulance work or fighting, ordinary British infantry is.
The British war balloons used so often were made at Aldershot, of gold-beater skins. A balloon, holding 10,000 cubit feet of gas, only weighs 170 lbs. _ The hydrogenic gas is carried compressed in steel tubes, and it takes two or three waggons to convey a charge for one large balloon. Each balloon will take up two men and the required apparatus. Of course the balloons are captive.
There was a postmistress at Ladygrey who refused to surrender to the Boers, and another at Van Wyl’s Vlei who said to them—" Shoot me dead and then you" can take" th,e keys;" they were hidden in her breast. She was left alone for her courage.
Mr. A. T. Webster, a blacksmith and waggon maker at Kimberley, who being a member of the local Highland Volunteer Corps, fought in the trenches during the siege, writes thus— " I will give a brief outline of what occurred on Jan. 25th. A 12-pounder shell entered through the roof of my house and exploded in the dining-room. Our boy, Andrew, who is five and a half years old, had half his face cut away, and his right leg and arm broken. He died three hours afterwards. Douglas —who will be three on May 2nd—had his arm and leg broke, the former so badly that it was just hanging by a bit of skin, but the doctor managed to save it, and the boy is already able to use it. The leg is still giving a bit of trouble, and he will very likely have to undergo another operation. Our eldest girl Jessie, had a small piece of shell through her arm, but it was nothing worth speaking about. My wife met with a very serious disaster and had to have her leg' amputated about three inches above the knee. She is at home again and manages to get about fairly well on crutches. We had a baby born on Jan. 4th, but it died on the 7th, and you may imagine what a state she was in when the accident happened."
The following figures and information derived from official sources will serve to show the magnitude of the task with which our transport and commissariat departments had to cope. We give the totals of men, horses, guns, and waggons sent from England since the despatch of the first detachment of the Army Corps on October 20th.
Month. No. of Ships. Officers and Men. Horses. Guns. Waggons and Carts.
October...... 32................ 28,679................ 3,680..... 76........ 360
November ... 38................ 29,178 ................5,559..... 100....... 522
December ... 23 ................19,453................. 3,275..... 61........ 335
January ......34................. 27,759................. 6,023.... 117........ 448
February .....39................. 33,604................. 5,596.... 28.......... 117
March ........35................. 28,428.................. 4,397.... 23......... 137
April ......... 19................. 11,492.................. 4,340.....2 ..........32
May .......... 11.................. 7,200................... 2,623....2........... 0
June (first week.) 3.............. 2,348................... 840......0........... 0
Total ..........234* ...............188,141 ................36,333.. 409......... 1,951
* Many of the transports made several journeys.
This table shows that in the 227 days since October 30th (including Sundays) up to June, 234 transports had left England for South Africa—roughly speaking, one per day—each carrying on an average about 800 troops and 150 horses, besides guns and vehicles. In addition to this great army, troops had been sent from Australia, Canada, India, and small contingents from other colonies, and reliefs from Malta, Crete, Egypt, etc.,—in all, a total of about 20,000, making the grand total of fighting men then landed in South Africa well over 200,000
Here is a story told by Mr. Charles Williams:—After the battle of the Modder, a soldier, carrying his rifle in his left hand at the sling, and holding up his jaw with his right, walked into a field hospital. As soon as a surgeon was at liberty he said,—
" Well, my man, and what can I do for you?' " Och, dochter, I jist want ye to take out o' my jaw a bullet that's knocked out two of my teeth." "Well, sit down. Is that the only place you feel any painr" " Troth, that's all and that's plenty." " But are you sure you've no pain anywhere else?" "Sorra bit, only I'm confused like."
" Well, no wonder—that bullet in your jaw got there through the top of your head." And the patient recovered.
Private Roberts, Worcester Regiment, who arrived at Southampton on the 8th of April, told an extraordinary story of Boer brutality.
In one of the engagements at Colenso he received no fewer than seven bullet wounds, one each in the head, shoulder, and the leg, and four in the abdomen.
He was left on the field of battle and subsequently picked up by a party of the enemy, who intended to take him prisoner. When, however, they discovered he could not walk they threw him to the ground.
The poor fellow sustained four broken ribs by the fall. The Boers then proceeded to rifle his pockets, helpless as he was and suffering the utmost agony. They broke one of his fingers in wrenching a ring from it, and partially stripped him in the pursuit of their heartless search.
After his rescue Roberts's life was for a time despaired of. He has made a fairly good recovery, though the sight of his right eye has been destroyed.
When General Macdonald was wounded he sent a trumpeter, fifteen years old, to tell Colonel Hughes-Hallett to take command. The brave lad crawled along the fighting line, found Colonel Hughes-Hallett wounded, and then delivered the message to Colonel Wilson.
No fewer than 140 steamships were devoted to the transport of troops, provisions, and stores, representing 650,000,000 tons.
After Elandslaagte, Dr. Hornabrook, riding along, came across a party of 25 Boers who had lost their way. The doctor told them that the British had won the battle and that they must consider themselves his prisoners. He ordered two of his servants to take the weapons of the party, and others to march before them, and in this way they were led to the British camp.
A trooper of the 5th Dragoon Guards was offered money to spare the life of a Boer, so he took him prisoner instead.
Another old Boer who was wounded said to a British soldier who put his bayonet to the man's breast, "Kill me, I've killed five of your rooinecks," but the Britisher spared him.
A Christmas box for President Kruger was — a shipload (Karam) of war material — 40,000,000 rounds of small-arm ammunition, 7,000 rounds of shrapnel and common shell, 4,000 rounds of lyddite shell, and 800 boxes of fuses, besides miscellaneous "dainties."
Lord Roberts's army has been the largest ever sent out of England, some 200,000. At Waterloo there were only 15,000 British infantry, while in the Crimea, there were not more than 30,000. Lord Wolseley, in Egypt, had 30,000 soldiers. In the Walcheren expedition in 1809 there were 41,000 men.
The horses of the Scots Greys at Maitland Camp were dyed gray (Khaki).
The Marconi wireless telegraphy was used at De Aar with success.
The Marquis of Winchester, who fell at Magersfontein, was 40. He was England's Premier Marquis, and the hereditary bearer of the " Cap of Maintenance" before the Sovereign at coronation.
In the confusion of the brilliant sortie from Ladysmith on Dec. 8th, a sergeant seized General Hunter by the throat, crying, " Who the devil might you be?' And he was startled to find out the fact.
"The Transvaal mint has been coining 300,000 sovereigns a month out of the gold of the Outlanders," said a journalist in January, 1900.
* The Queen's New Year present to the Tommies at the front was 40,000 boxes of Chocolate from one firm and a like quantity from another.
Narrow 'scapes are told by the hundred. One man had a pipe in his waistcoat pocket, and a bullet went right through the bowl. Sergeant Pendered, of the Coldstream Guards, was struck on his boot, rifle, middle finger of his left hand, and the' buckle of his haversack on his chest, yet only sustained a bruise.
Lord Ava, son and heir of the Marquis of Dufferin, being unattached, was accepted as a galloper by Col. Ian Hamilton, at Elandslaagte, but. having no horse he had to gallop on foot and sometimes was too winded to deliver his message till he rested, charging with the Gordons.
Mr. John Fraser, son of Rev. Colin Fraser (Dr. Moffat's colleague) the late chairman of the Orange Free State Volksraad, was enlisted (commandeered) by his fellow-burghers though he had publicly opposed the alliance with the Transvaal. There were many of his way of thinking whose shots would not count for much.
A Natal Volunteer was paralysed with fear, and lay down helpless, till struck by a bullet on the mouth, he rushed to the charge like mad, crying, " Where are the devils? Let me get at them."
There were 5,000 Outlanders in our ranks, all mounted.
Before Ladysmith straw Lancers and bogus batteries were put up for the aim of the Boers, as a pastime.
Two regiments were each led by a dog and another (Welsh) by a goat.
By means of wires on the ground, the Boers, at night, were apprized, in some instances, of the approach of the British both by the ringing of a bell and the striking of a light.
Mr. H. Steyn, the ex-president's brother, was arrested for not answering to a sentry's challenge and was sent to the Cape on parole. On the. way he expressed himself freely to his fellow-travellers, condemning the Boer sieges and destruction of railways and bridges as mistakes. He said the intention was to invade the Cape, but the British were too quick for his countrymen. He mentioned that at the Magersfontein or Modder River battle, he counted 43 Boers lying dead, heaped together, from the butts of Highlanders' rifles.
At Pepworth's Farm, near Modderspruit, after the relief of Ladysmith, 50 coffins were found in an outhouse, left by the Boers, whose custom was to send the bodies of fallen comrades in coffins to the railway station nearest their farms for interment there. They made good fuel for our camp fires.
Dutch ox-waggons, which were used for transports, are painted gaily, and cost £40. They are drawn by a span of 16 oxen, worth £20 a head, and the simple harness is worth £25. A very long whip is used by the driver. The Cape vehicle is longer and heavier than the Natal one. These conveyances have to be licensed.
While the battle of Jacobsdal was in progress a Boer hid himself behind a sack in a hollowed out tree trunk and sniped from it as it floated down the river.
A sapper of the Royal Engineers wrote to say that their daily diet in Ladysmith "was horses' flesh and mules' liver, while starch made into a jelly and mixed with essence of lemon they regarded as luxuries."
"Jumping up in alarm," penned a private of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, describing how he slept under a wagon cloth after Paardeberg, " I saw half a dozen mules pulling at my covering, thinking, no doubt, that I was a sack of oats, or some such thing." Another man had a snake round his foot for a bedmate.
" Many a time," said a private of the 2nd Fusiliers from Ladysmith, "have I seen fellows of ours only too eager to sell a pony with saddle, bridle, and everything complete for a stick of tobacco. The highest price that was paid for a pony was £i, but the animal was a very good one."
Writing of the relief of Ladysmith, a private said: " The first day after our entry into the town we had served out to us a quart of beer. Ah! ye gods, what nectar 1 Fellows in the other regiment offered 5s. and even 10s. for a quart; but no, none of our fellows would sell their beer for as many pounds."
Mr. R. Benyon, speaking at Liverpool on "Tommy Afloat," said the Admiralty had for the war in South Africa chartered 316 steamers, aggregating nearly 1,500,000 tons, which had carried 190,000 men, over 70,000 horses and mules, and stores.
Relics of the war make quite a show at the Royal United Service Institution in Whitehall, London. Col H. C. Cholmondeley, commanding the C.I.V. Mounted Infantry, sent the Boer Bible found in Cronje's own quarters at the Paardeberg trenches on the day of the surrender. Captain A. St. L. Glyn, Grenadier Guards has contributed a Boer haversack he picked up in the trenches at Magersfontein. Its contents are a Bible, a book of Psalms, another religious work, a mat, pens, pencil, a packet of pins, and a candle.
Mr. Rudyard Kipling's "Absent-minded Beggar" song, utilized by the Daily Mail, in five months brought in £97,000 for the relief of those left behind by Tommy Atkins, as well as for the succour of the soldiers at the front.
In a letter received from Armourer Sergeant Lyons, 3rd Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers, written at Warrenton, to a friend at Leeds, the following interesting passage occurs:— I think the backbone of the war is now broken. There is no mistake about their women assisting in the fighting. I found about six pairs of stays at the Modder. A man of the Dublins, who was fighting here, found a woman who was dying, having been shot below the heart. He tendered her as well as be could, giving her water. She told him that her husband had been Killed, and being a good shot she had also used a rifle. She said he could not be an Englishman or he would not have been so kind (you see the impression they have of us.) He told her that he was, or, at least, an Irishman, which amounted to the same thing, but she could not believe it. Before she died she gave him her husband's watch and £15.
In an action before Ladysmith, a Boer shell lifted a British tent sky-high, and out of it fell a coat. Supposing it was a man the ambulance proceeded to the spot and found the owner of the garment picking, it up unscathed. Another shell lifted a barrel (in which was a pig) towards the clouds, and when Barney returned to mother earth the tip of his nose was gone, and he was so frightened that to stop his squeaking he was stuck.
A British soldier who was shot and killed, kept a tight finger on the trigger of his rifle, and when a Boer tried to sneak it the dead finger still pressed the trigger, and the weapon went off, killing the thief.
A shilling in a soldier's pocket passed with a bullet through the fleshy part of his thigh. Another man received two bullets in one hole in his flesh. Another bullet went into the mouth of a Boer loaded cannon and exploded it, with a smash up.
Lady Roberts went to see the grave of her son at Colenso. It was marked by four small sticks. The route of the army will be dotted with grave stones, which will be historic in future centuries.
The last word of many a soldier, as he rolled over shot to die in the arms of a comrade was " Mother!"
One Salvation Army Tommy, as he advanced to the attack, was seen to stop to pick up his New Testament, and another as he lay his head on an ant hill to die, refused a glass of water, which he said might do for another; he had drank of the water of life.
At Magersfontein a dead British officer was found stripped naked on the battle-field, and at Spion Kop one of the surgeons stated that some of the officers' fingers had been cut off to secure the rings. It" is said that the thieves were Hollanders and not "true Boers."
Some of the looters in Zululand began restoring property after ' conspicuous chastisement, and at Stormberg Junction, Boer girls joined in the National Anthem 1
Some of the war doctors were paid £300 a year, but some of the "nobs" £100a week. The highest scale of payment in the Army Medical Corps is £1,752 per annum; 514 nurses at the front, received from £30 a year to Two Guineas a week, according to rank and service.
A Pontefract telegraphist at Bloemfontein, writing to his parents, gave instances of Boer lies in the messages sent, and he stated that a man was fined £10 for publicly saying he didn't believe one of these messages.
At the battle just before Cronje's surrender, Mr. Kruger was looking on and rallying waverers when a shell burst within 60 yards of him. He was in a waggonette drawn by eight horses. He said to his jehu, " Drive for Bloemfontein," and the horses flew as if pursued by furies. At Bloemfontein he ordered a special express for Kroonstad and was glad to be in a safe place.
Major Karri Davis (a West Australian dealer in Karri timber, settled in Johannesburg) was the first Britisher to enter both Mafeking and Johannesburg when they were taken.
When Commandant De Villiers was wounded at Senekal, General Rundle sent him a bottle of champagne, and during the siege of Ladysmith the late General Joubert asked Sir George White for a bottle of brandy, which he readily gave.
Many of the Dutch names of places will probably be changed for English ones. They are either descriptive of the locality or named after some distinguished person. Fontein (fountain) occurs so often that one might think it was a land of waters, which it is not. Driefontein means three fountains: Aar, ear; deel, deal; mager, meagre; Van Ryn, Rhineland; valsch, false; Vryburgh, free town; wapen, weapon; zweer, sore; zweren, to swear; volks, folks; &c.
The Mystery of Magersfontein.
Boer versions of the battles give a view on the other side which cannot be altogether ignored in awarding praise and blame for the conduct of the war. Take the three days' disastrous fight at Magersfontein. Mr. Douglas Story, who had a Boer telescope, says—
" The battle-ground is sadly at variance with the first conjectural explanations of the fight. These placed the credit of the Boer victory upon his trenches and his elaborate defensive works. He was supposed to have stowed away thousands of men in marvellously constructed entrenchments, and to have won the battle as an engineer rather than as a soldier."
He proceeds to give a Boer account which disposes of the idea that there was anything more than a rough line of trenches and the wires were those of an ostrich farm. The statement was that of the Free State adjutant to General Cronje on the days of the battle, who, in addition to acting as aide-de-camp, had to furnish President Steyn with accounts of the fighting. This anonymous informant (who graduated at Cambridge) says:—
"Neither the general nor any one of us had the least information to lead us to expect this attack. The general alone seems to have been awake. As for the rest of us, we were too startled out of our sleep to shoot, and we fired very much in doubt as to the identity of our targets. Some of the men fell within twenty yards of our trench, and nearly all lay within three hundred yards. Next morning, when we could venture out of our shelter a little, I counted eighty bodies on a space no larger than an ordinary dining-room. Since that fight, 1 tell you, I have hated the mere sight of khaki. It was horrible. The main body was manoeuvring at the time we learned of their presence, and we simply riddled them. Oh, they were brave, those poor Highlanders 1 One officer I heard cry out: ' Hurrah, boys, we're among them !' Next morning I picked his body up with seven bullets through it. I tell you, a man can get terribly tired of killing!
"One awful mistake was made by the British. They were made to shoot with fixed bayonets. Just think of soldiers shooting at men in widely-extended order, aiming now at an exposed limb, an elbow, or a portion of a face with a weapon rendered utterly inaccurate by a useless and cumbersome attachment! I have made every possible inquiry into the strength of our forces at Magersfontein, and my information is that we had 2,500 men on the field, of whom 1,500 were in position. We had 243 dead and disabled men, our heaviest loss being caused by the gun fire directed against us while moving to take up position on our left to oppose the forenoon attack.
" It was now that Major Albrecht with his three cannon had an opportunity to reply to the British half-dozen of batteries. One gun he served in person, and there he had erected two strong schanzes, and had dug a shelter pit out from the rightmost schanze. First he would fire from the schanze to the left, and at once his men would haul the gun behind the other screen. There they sponged and attended to it while the British shells burst with marvellous accuracy all round the schanze from which it had just retreated. Then he would fire from the second screen and haul back to the first. If the British directed their fire against both positions simultaneously, he retired with his iron-throated friend to the shelter hole he had dug. There he fondled his pet, cherished her, and revived her until it was once more safe to venture out to his mantlets again."