Marched to Platrand, bivouacced the night; beastly wind blowing and horribly dusty. Prinsloo surrender not so good as first thought but details not come yet.
Marched to Paardekop and bivouacced. Generals Lyttleton and Hildyard here and lunched; former told story he had met a burgher named Coetzen the other day who said Keuper had sent someone down to make a speech to burghers to tell them from him (and they could cut his head off if not true) that the English wanted to take them prisoners and send them to India as soldiers.
Rode with General to Meersicht Camp where Gen. Brocklehurst is with cavalry brigade (18,19 Hussars and 5 Lancers), also Gen. Howard; hear Prinsloo surrender consisted of 3800 men and 4 guns; Olivier got away with about 1500 and 10 guns.
Started first thing in morning to Meersicht and sat on Kopje some little time looking at infantry advancing; Howard's brigade on the right and Kitchener's on the left, mostly composed of regiments in siege at Ladysmith. Dundonald's cavalry on left, Brocklehurst1s on right, a long front. No opposition for some time but we got information Boers putting up some guns on a hill some 7 miles to our front. About 2.30 we were going along when suddenly some shells began to fall amongst us and we saw some shrapnel bursts and pom pom ditto in front.
Our guns came into action and enemy soon retired theirs and we went on and occupied the hill and then by nightfall arrived at Amersfort. A beastly cold wind blowing all day and the dust and black from burnt grass awful. Our baggage didn't get in till 10.30, a wretched cold wait for it. Got some hot soup and dinner about 11.30: 19 wounded.
Remain at Amersfort, misty morning, a few Boers sniping. Manage a bath.
Breakfast at daylight (6 am.), about 20deg. of frost, hands so cold could not use knife and fork till warmed up a bit. Went with Col. Stopsford to superintend baggage coming over lift drift, the amount something awful and what with the yelling, whipping and breakdowns, truly maddening; our lot over soon after 2 pm; it makes one realise the enormous amount of baggage we are encumbered with as 2 other drifts were going as well. Marched to Wedspruit about 7 miles. Rearguard not in till 6 pm. No opposition and find that a tampion belonging to 66th Battery (4 guns taken at Colenso) and a Scott sight were picked up on the 7th by our men on spot where Boers had their guns, so probably they were using one of our 15 pdrs.
Marched at 9 to the Vaal and bivouacc to the north of bridge. No opposition, just a few shots fired.
Marched about 8 miles to the North, some fighting on the right front. A dreadful gale blowing, simply blinding with dust and burnt grass. Two or three grass fires which burnt at rate of quite 6 miles an hour. One of the most unpleasant days from wind I ever experienced.
Marched to Ermelo where 3rd Mounted Brigade got into last night; rather a nice little town for S.Africa; plenty of trees planted and houses mostly built of brick instead of tin. We got a little house for our meals and manage a hot bath, much needed after yesterday's blackening.
Marched to a place called Klipfontein, about 15 miles; irregular cavalry (Byng's) had a brush with a few Boers on the right flank and wounded 4 of them, they having 1 wounded. About 3 or 4 miles out of Ermelo came across a coal mine, the coal being got straight out of the side of a hill from under a strata of rock; the cavern made by the got coal ran back about 60 yards, the rock being supported by pillars of coal left; it looked very good.
Marched about 8 miles North; got communication, by helio with French's cavalry, no opposition except when a few Strathcona were entering Garolina where they were fired on from inside the town but the Boers soon cleared.
Marched to Vaal water, slight skirmishing on right front. Find Gordon's cavalry (Robert's army) about 7 miles off; hear we are likely to remain for about a week as apparently the force that is to act in co-operation with us is not ready, not very cheering.
Gen. Brocklehurst dined. Cartwright told us that one of the 19th Hdrs. was approaching house flying white flag when at about 150 yards he was received by a volley and wounded in two places, one an expanding bullet; they then took his water bottle and no aid was given him even by the women in the house; the Boers went before the patrol came up. I am glad to say they burnt the house there and then and it's a great pity they don't do more of it and our stupid leniency is costing the country lives and prolonging the war. Much warmer today though a little frost in the night.
Convoy goes to Wonderfontein to fill us up with supplies. Jackson's Inniskillings came in from post about 5 miles off where they are.
Rode with Crichton to see cavalry from other side which has moved up close to us about 5 miles off, Carbineers, Greys and. Inniskillings. Saw Fielden, Harrison and several of Greys and Lecky and Stanton T. R.H.A., U battery also there.
Gen. French arrived with his staff while I was there and had talk to them; rather interesting hearing their news, seem to have done very badly in the way of food, Kitchener apparently not allowed any private stores up; Hunter-Weston with French now: all seemed to be as much sick of the war as ourselves, if not more so, though they have had nothing like the knocks, I suppose it is their feeding has been bad. I should say many of their horses have been lost through not having been given time to water, and the loss has been something enormous.
Went to cavalry camp (Good Hope Farm), lunched with T. R.H.A. commanded by Lecky; young Stanton was taken prisoner at Sanna's Post and told me the story of it from their point of view, rather interesting. Went after lunch, had talk to Greys and on to see Ewert Holland of Inniskillings. Cavalry regiments only about 260 strong. Find they stopped over field force canteen at Pretoria. Very annoying and impolite I think as it's a great thing for keeping our men in fettle.
Fellow called Healy in the Imp. Yeomanry came to see me, says he knows Kate; he escaped from Nooitgedacht quite recently.
Marched to Van Wyksvlei, a very bad spruit close to which made the baggage a great difficulty, taking no less that 4 hours to get over. Our right flank was attacked and Boers seem to have got into strong position against them. The cavalry was engaged all day and the Gordon Highlanders had to go up to help some out, there were about 30 casualties including 2 officers wounded and about 6 or 7 men killed. Bivouacced at Farmhouse flying white flag with owner fighting against us, we pay for butter and vegetables got!, thus we make war and although I fancy everyone knows by now that the only way of ruling a Boer is by fear.
We go on in a ridiculous lenient way much to the damage of our men in my opinion; the idea is I believe that they have to be our subjects afterwards and leniency pays in the long run; so it does with the ordinary man of some sort of honour, but not the Boer.
Stayed at Van Wyksvlei. A force consisting of 2 reg., 4 squadrons S.A.L.H. 1 battery and 2 howitzers went out to drive enemy away from our right flank which they were harassing.
Marched to Geluk and on arrival met with stubborn opposition on our front and right flank; off the ridge on which we marched country very broken and Kopje - like, affording enemy excellent cover and very difficult to get at. A fight lasted all the afternoon and we had a good deal of loss, at present ascertained about 100: 2 guns were sent to our right and were under heavy shell and pom pom fire, losing 1 man killed and 2 wounded. The Liverpools, who had advanced rather far to our front, lost a good deal on retiring back for the night when the battery which was supporting them had to cease firing owing to dark. Col Rainsford-Hannay who came over here on leave to see his son, went into action with him with the two guns to right and I expect they will both remember it. French's cavalry line our left to the railway, Gordon's and Dickson's brigades. A most horrible windy and dusty day and our bivouacc a filthy one on red loose sand.
Stayed at Geluk.
I think yesterday was one of the most miserably uncomfortable days I've ever spent in the way of wind and dust, one literally could not keep one's eyes open, and of course everything got covered with red dust; but today is quite lovely. Boers sent some shells into camp.
Started to march N.E. to Vraal Kraal, was in charge of our baggage. We went almost due North for about 4 miles, then had to turn East; here we got very strongly opposed and were unable to move; the ridge we were on ran North and South and directly our troops began to show their noses they got very heavily fired on from the Boer trenches which were not more than about 2000 yards down the slope (quite open); it was also quite impossible to see because of the mirages, the artillery came into action but were quite nonplussed by the above; there was a tremendous amount of rifle fire and I thought from where I was with the baggage that lot of damage must be done against us as the Boers opened with many guns including a Long Tom; we had to bivouacc where we were and the troops in front line did the same, entrenching themselves. Was very glad to hear when it was all over that our casualties were only about 10 killed and 24 wounded. At night the brutal Boers shot an apothecary dead who was searching for the wounded with a red lamp.
I learn from the P.M.O that the other day when Liverpools got into a bit of a mess that the Boers went on shooting at the wounded on the ground and many had 6 holes in them, also that explosive bullets were largely used and they took every particle of clothing, short of nakedness, off them; in one case actually dragged the boots and trousers off a man who had a shattered leg.
Glad to see some farms burnt today for being improperly used for sniping.
Started out first thing in the morning. All troops including artillery (with exception of 2 regiments, 1 battery and 2 x 12 pdrs (entrenched) and some S.A.L.H. which held our right) were moved left-handed to the North of ridge to the N.E of which the enemy held a very strong position on a Kopje which appeared to be the key of the position. Along the ridge running from North to South were A Battery, 21st, 53rd, 61st howitzers, 2 12 pdrs, 2 x 5inch, 2 x 4.7's. The R.Brigade went North and then wheeled round to the right to attack the Kopje with the Inniskillings on their right to work round.
Gen Brocklehust cavalry with the M.I. went still further to our left and on turning East and getting near the Kopje were received with a very hot fire and were driven back. Not a Boer was to be seen but evidently they were there in some force so a heavy artillery fire was opened on it and the Rifle Brigade soon after were seen, in extended order, stopped by a heavy musketry fire. (Battle of Bergendal) The enemy there began to shell us on the ridge pretty heavily with 2 pom poms and a high velocity gun; none of which could be located for some time. Lees and self had a very narrow squeak of being hit by a high velocity shell. It passed between us who were about a yard apart, I was about 5 yards behind Lees on his right and heard the whizz and at the same time saw the shell pitch just a yard in front of his right foot, however a miss is as good as a mile. The front company of the Inniskillings just then were turned back by a very sharp and well-directed pom pom fire but they soon rallied and managed to get on a little. All this time a pretty heavy fire of artillery was kept up but then the enemy's rifle fire continued pretty hot, and the pom poms of the enemy kept going, one from somewhere in the direction of the Kopje and another in the valley to our right. Then there seemed to be a lull in the firing and the Rifle Brigade and Inniskillings kept both closing round slowly, then a heavy fire again was opened on them from the direction of the Kopje though we thought it had been made untenable, and to make matters more certain one or two Boers were seen moving on it, so a simply tremendous artillery fire was opened on it and after about half an hour we saw Boers running down and evidently they were beginning to get uncomfortable. I saw one man suddenly appear on a horse and gallop away for his very life. Then the pom pom (which had been on the Kopje all the time) was seen being dragged down but the fire was so hot on them they had to abandon it. There was a square wall Kraal at the back of the Kopje into which many ran but one or two shells being put there they all made a bolt for it, some on horses and most on foot, who I think had their horses behind some trees which they made for; a heavy shrapnel fire was opened on them when they left and I should say few got away unwounded of those who stood the place. By this time the Rifle Brigade and Inniskillings had got fairly close and as soon as the Boers began to bolt they fairly ran after them and it looked as if the shells from our guns on the far right might not see them and they would be in danger of getting shelled from them, so I galloped back as hard as I could to tell them. This was the best and most plucky stand I've ever seen the Boers make; we found that they were (the particular men on the Kopje) the Zarps or Johannesburg Police, a fine body of men. The Inniskillings got to the pom pom first but the General awarded it to the R.A. and I think quite rightly. The top of the Kopje was a gruesome sight, 12 men killed all by Lyddite in one place and all together, and another man had nothing left of him except legs and one arm, I believe, but I didn't care to look at it. 19 prisoners were taken ( 8 wounded) including the Commandant. The Lieut, was killed. The Sergt. Major was found wounded next morning who said he wouldn't have been caught only he gave up his horse to 2 wounded men as he thought he could walk but found he couldn't. There were many traces of wounded Boers found which seemed to show many wounded had got away. Of course this turned the whole position and the Boers who had been entrenched all along the line all left, to number of 3000 so we heard next day.
Lord Roberts with some of his staff (Cowan, Rawlinson, Westminster) rode over afterwards. We had 1 officer killed and I fear 2 mortally wounded in the Rifle Brigade, and altogether about 100 killed and wounded. We bivouacced about 300 yards below the Kopje. Brocklehurst's cavalry tried to get on to Dalinanother but couldn't as dark came on and they were opposed. The artillery practise was first rate; I believe a salvo of howitzers with a salvo of shrapnel on their striking caused great effect, but I must confess I don't understand how more weren't killed under that terrible fire except that they had natural rock Shaintzes about 2 to 3 ft. high round each man or set of men which was supplemented by big stones placed by themselves and of course shrapnel was of little avail against that.
Marched early towards Dalinanother Station though a bad bit of country if the Boers had held on; then along road to Machadodorp and when we got to the last hill overlooking the town we saw on the opposite hill about 4| miles off a large convoy of Boers; Dundonald pushed his cavalry forward but soon got stopped by a heavy velocity gun which unfortunately wounded Birdwood, his Brigade major; the R.H.A battery came into action and shelled the station but I fancy they had all left by then. The country here is admirably laid for rearguard action. When the enemy cleared from the ridge it was occupied by Dundonald and they found the enemy again holding a very stong position on the next ridge about 7000 yards off with part of their convoy not yet up to it. Was shelled as soon as the 5 in. guns could be got up. These guns can trot on the flat having 12 horses in 4 abreast. The Boers shelled them pretty heavily and they bivouacced for night there. I saw by the way no less than 7 horses lying dead in the howitzers battery lines the morning before last, and hear altogether 17 had died and 50 were off their feed, probably from eating "tulip". Got 2 cases of milk, some cocoa and 6 bottles of Vermouth out of a store at Machadodorp. Railway appears to be intact up there.
Marched to Helvetia enemy having cleared, a tremendous long pull up out of valley which one descends to after the ridge on which cavalry were, and rises quite 1500 feet. We got in helio connection with French yesterday to our left front and heard Pole Carew's division had joined him. When we got to Helvetia found French and his cavalry there and Pole Carew's division arriving. Some of enemy to our front being driven off. Hear from French's people the Boers turned out of a very strong and well prepared position at Elandsfontein without firing a shot after our fight of the other day. French went on towards Watervalsonder and we and Pole Carew's division bivouaac at Helvetia.
Was with baggage and we marched northwards for about 6 miles when we were told to stop; General went forward with Dundonald's cavalry to Wettenveeden overlooking Noositgedavecht, found country absolutely impossible for movement, great enormous hills with vertical declivities. They saw what looked like our prisoners walking along line to Watervalsonder and heard from native reports Kruger and following gone to Retzsen Rest N.E. of Lydenburg.
Awful nuisance and d......d discouraging. Came back about a mile and bivouac at Vluckfontein, enemy sniping on our left.
Gerard damaged cartilidge of knee just before dinner yesterday and leaves for Pretoria, carried in a to Machodadorp. There was a tremendous flash of lightning during dinner last night, made us jump. Killed a Mr Lauderson, a guide, who joined us only 2 days ago, 60 yards from our tent. Stayed at same place, apparently they are not certain where Kruger and Boers have gone or what is going to be done now. We had our first rain for some time the night we stopped at Machodadorp. Very grieved to hear when we met French the other day that Harrison (Greys) had been mortally wounded on their march, shot through the neck and spine. The Boers have taken away the cog-wheel engines which run between Watervalcoven and Onder.