Tuesday, August 11, 2020 Login  
Wargaming Section
New Additions
Historical Section
The Refights
The break up of the Army Corps

Operations on western field. Less dramatic, more successful. 1
·        Mafeking. Cronje and Baden Powell. 2
·        Baden-Powell's preparations. 2
·        Oct.12. Boers cross frontier. Capture of  armoured train. 2
·        Oct.19. Operations round Mafeking. 3
·        Fighting along western frontier north of Mafeking during October. 4
·        Operations on Limpopo in October. 4
·        Disloyal Vryburg. Suicide of Major Scott. Vryburg occupied. Oct.18. 4
·        Line occupied along whole western border. Boer attitude in occupied territory. Their proclamations. 5
·        Operations round Kimberley up to Nov. 4. 6
·        The southern border. Steyn and Basutos. Steyn decides to cross Orange River. 7
·        Oct.31 .Sir R. Buller lands at Cape Town. 8
·        Difficulty of Buller's situation. 8
·        Nov. 1-3. Free Staters cross Orange River. Buller evacuates Naauwpoort and Stormberg. 9
·        Defenceless state of Natal  obliges Buller  to divert part of Army Corps. 9
·        But diversion intended to be temporary. Inadequacy of Army Corps no yet recognised. 10
·        Hildyard's and Barton's brigades diverted. Methuen to relieve Kimberley. 10
·        Further breaking up of Army Corps. Buller himself goes off to Natal. Nov.22. 11
·        Discussion of Buller's policy. 11
·        Staff work at Cape Town. The things which succeeded. 12
·        The need of  mounted men, especially colonials. Failure of military to recognise their value. 13
·        Events at Orange River. Belmont reconnaissance. Nov. 9-10. 13
·        Slow advance of Free Staters into Cape Colony. Olivier enters Aliwal, Nov.13. 14
·        Nov.14. Boers enter Colesberg. Nov.19. British reoccupy Naauwpoort. 15
·        Nov.15. Boers enter Burghersdorp. 15
·        Olivier at Jamestown, Lady Grey, Barkly. Boers occupy Stormberg, Nov.26. 15
·        British positions in Eastern Cape Colony. Gatacre at Queenstown. 16
·        Spread of rebellion. Mr. Sauer at Dordrecht. 16
·        Events in  Griqualand and Bechuanaland during November. Cronje leaves Mafeking to meet Methuen. 17 

Operations on western field. Less dramatic, more successful.

THE operations on the western field of war, during the opening weeks of the war, possess little of the dramatic interest of the campaign in Natal. They are marked by no thrilling victories and by no disastrous defeats, by none of the glamour of the struggle on Elandslaagte Hill, or the bitterness of Mournful Monday.  In their stead we see, along the eight hundred miles of western border, a confused series of skirmishings, patrollings with armoured trains, wreckings of bridges and culverts, out of which, after a while, emerge the two clear facts of the sieges of Mafeking and Kimberley; and, along the Orange River, a complete inactivity for nearly a month, followed by an unopposed triumphant entry of the Free Staters into the border districts of Cape Colony, amid enthusiastic demonstrations of welcome from a population enjoying all the privileges of British citizenship. Nevertheless, these operations were of no small importance in determining the course of future events, and the mere fact that they resulted in as complete success as could well be hoped for, in view of the great numerical inferiority of the British forces, ought to lend additional interest to the consideration of the original strategical dispositions and of the character of the forces employed. As regards the latter it is worth noting that, while the policy of "bluff" along the railway from Stormberg to Orange River Bridge was carried out by Imperial troops, the actual brunt of the fighting along the frontier from Kimberley to Tuli fell almost entirely on locally organized forces, commanded by comparatively junior Imperial officers. The details of the strategy adopted have been discussed in an earlier chapter, but it is worth pointing out again that it was a strategy based, not on general military principles, but simply and solely on a true insight into the political situation and into the character of the enemy. When one compares its results with that of the strategy in Natal, which, while allowing itself to be prejudicially influenced by political considerations, showed little signs of being inspired by any knowledge of the Boers, one cannot help wondering whether, if the whole direction of the defensive operations in South Africa, preceding the arrival of the army corps, had been left under the control and guidance of the High Commissioner, aided by a few junior colonels of the stamp of Baden-Powell, the result would not have been more successful.

Mafeking. Cronje and Baden Powell.

The first objective of the Boer forces on the western border was Mafeking. Within a few hours' ride of the little township lay nearly eight thousand Boers, with ten guns, under Cronje. No Boer general was more popular among his countrymen than swarthy Piet Cronje.  The Young Afrikanders were never tired of contrasting his fearlessness, his truculent and stubborn energy, and his dour patriotism, with the timidity, the hesitation, and the pro-Uitlander tendencies of the Commandant-General. Twice already - at Potchefstroom in 1881, and at Doornkop in 1896 - Cronje had seen the hated "rooinek" hoist the white flag in token of submission to his forces, and neither he nor his burghers doubted but that a few days would see a third submission added to the list. They had still to try conclusions with a certain lieutenant-colonel of dragoons, whose name had not yet become a household word wherever the English tongue is spoken, but who had already traveled and fought in many countries, and knew South Africa from Zululand to the Zambesi. The force Baden-Powell had with him was a mere handful - irregular mounted infantry, just learning to hold on to their saddles, Cape, Rhodesian, and Protectorate police, and a scratch selection of volunteers and town guard, with half-a-dozen antiquated little muzzleloaders for artillery-but animated with a spirit of confidence in themselves, and in the courage and resourcefulness of their leader, that was to prove of more worth than numbers or training, or batteries of field artillery, and to frustrate Cronje's hopes and the whole Boer plan of campaign in the west.

Baden-Powell's preparations.

The history of the siege of Mafeking forms an episode by itself. For the present it is only necessary to touch on as much of it as bears on the general military situation. In the short time available after the concentration of his force at Mafeking, Baden-Powell had set to work to construct a series of intrenchments, which, though only partially completed when the siege began, proved sufficient to check the first Boer advance. These incipient field-works were supplemented ty an elaborate system of mines, mostly imaginary, which served to frighten off the Boers from any attempt to rush the village, while the real defences were being worked at under fire. Armoured trains had been secretly constructed in the railway works, and one of these, the Mosquito under Lieutenant Nesbitt, with twenty men of the Protectorate Regiment and a Maxim, was sent down to Vryburg to fetch a couple of 5-inch Howitzers that Baden-Powell hoped to get sent up from Cape Town. As a matter of fact, all that Cape Town had to offer were two antiquated muzzle-loading 7-pounders, that had been fished up out of the recesses of the ordnance stores. The Howitzers owed their imaginary existence to some error in the sending or deciphering of a code telegram. That same night, after telegraphic communication with Kekewich at Kimberley, Baden-Powell sent down a train to fetch the detachment of seventy Cape Police stationed at Kraaipan, thirty-three miles down the line. All women and children who were desirous of leaving Mafeking had already been sent down in the course of the day.

Oct.12. Boers cross frontier. Capture of  armoured train.

These precautions were taken none too soon.  Cronje was not minded to waste time like Joubert  A large part of the commandos had already been moved forward, and were lining the border opposite Mafeking along a front of thirty miles or more. The ultimatum expired at five o'clock on the 11th. Soon after midnight the burghers rode forward and crossed the border. While the main body advanced slowly from Rooigrond directly towards Mafeking, strong contingents of the Rustenburg and Marico burghers rode rapidly forward, tearing up the railway line nine miles north of Mafeking, and seizing and thoroughly sacking the old Protectorate camp at Ramathlabama. Another strong force of Lichtenburgers under De la Roy crossed the border twenty-five miles south of Mafeking, and made a rapid dash on Kraaipan in order to catch the police. In this they were disappointed, but they had not long to wait for their first success. Meanwhile they spent the day in damaging the railway for some distance to north and south of the station. Late in the evening the Mosquito, coming back from Vryburg with the two guns and a quantity of ammunition, ran over the gap in the track and ploughed its way to a standstill across the open veld. The Boers surrounded it, and a desultory fight was kept up all night. But Do la Rey had in the meantime sent up for his artillery under Van der Merwe, and when it arrived in the morning the fate of the handful of men in the train was sealed. After the first few shells Nesbitt, who, with eight or nine of his men, was wounded, raised a white flag and surrendered.

Oct.1941. Operations round Mafeking.

On the 13th, De la Rey's men moved northwards, destroying the line as they rode along, while other detachments from the Rooigrond force began wrecking the line south of Mafeking to within four miles of the town. On the same day two truck-loads of dynamite which were discovered lying in Mafeking Station, were for safety sent out of the town by Baden-Powell. They were fired upon at a siding six or seven miles north of the town, whereupon the engine-driver, Perry, coolly uncoupled his engine and steamed back. A few minutes later the trucks blew up with a terrific explosion, scattering the debris over their intending captors. This incident only helped to intensify the fears Baden-Powell had roused by skillfully disseminated reports as to the extent to which the country round Mafeking was honeycombed with mines. But Baden-Powell was not inclined to put all his trust in Boer credulity, and determined to teach the Boers a real respect for the fighting power of his little force. Early on the 14th he sent out an armoured train under Captain Williams, and a squadron of the Protectorate Regiment under Captain FitzClarence (afterwards reinforced by an additional troop and a 7-pounder, under Lord Charles Bentinck) to attack the Boers who were breaking up the line a few miles north of the town. A stiff fight followed, lasting for about four hours, but although the Boers brought up a 7-pounder and a "pom-pom," and largely outnumbered the British, they had decidedly the worst of the engagement.[1] This sudden, vicious "kick" on Baden-Powell's part came as a considerable surprise to the Boers, who were quite unprepared for such a reception, and had a lasting moral effect.  One result of it was that the remaining 6-inch siege gun at Pretoria was immediately telegraphed for.  But the odds against Baden-Powell wore too great to allow him to attempt to check the advance of the main Boer force. On the morning of the 16th the Rustenburg and Marico burghers began shelling the town from the north-east and pushed on to within 25OO yards of the defences without drawing a reply from the garrison. By nightfall the Boers had pitched their laagers close to Mafeking on every side and the siege began.  An invitation to surrender, which had already been sent in that day, was formally repeated by Cronje the next morning and politely rejected.  During the next week Mafeking was busy intrenching itself and burrowing into the ground for shelter, while the Boers, who showed no spirit for attack, contented themselves with occasional skirmishes, and pushed up their trenches somewhat closer.  On the 23rd the "Long Tom" from Pretoria arrived, and for the next two days the town was steadily shelled by the whole of the Boer guns.  But the preparations made had been thoroughly effectual, and the great 94-pounder shells which had just been proving so terrifying in Dundee could do nothing to the securely sheltered little garrison. A half-hearted attack on the native "stad" which accompanied the bombardment of the 25th was easily checked. On the night of the 27th, Mafeking replied by a vigorous sortie against the advanced Boer trenches, which were cleared at the point of the bayonet.  On the 31st the Boers made an attempt to capture Cannon Kopje, a hillock 2000 yards south of the town and the key of the whole defence, but were driven back with loss. Altogether, as a result of nearly three weeks of war, the main body of the Boers found itself sitting down to a regular investment of a village which they had calculated would not delay their movements for more than a few days.

Fighting along western frontier north of Mafeking during October.

North of Mafeking the Boer forces had meanwhile been kept well occupied.  On October 15th, Commandant P. P.  Swart, with the "bushveld" contingent of the Marico burghers, seized Lobatsi. Reinforced by a detachment Rustenburgers under Piet Kruger, the Boers, 300 to 400 strong, moved north towards Crocodile Pools, about sixty-five miles north of Mafeking, to meet the armoured train which patrolled the line from Buluwayo. They had not long to wait.  On the 18th, the Powerful under Captain Llewellyn, with a total crew of forty-seven men and carrying a 7-pounder and a Maxim, came up to the Pools and repulsed them, inflicting some thirty casualties.  On receipt of the news of this engagement Cronje at once decided to detach a further strong commando with guns under Snyman to meet this formidable attack from the north.  But before Snyman arrived, the Powerful found time to engage Piet Kruger again near the Pools with equally successful results.  On the 23rd, the train fell back before Snyman to Gaberones and subsequently to Mochudi, the "stad" of the powerful native chief Linchwe, and to Magalapye.  On the 26th, Snyman occupied Gaberones.  A few days later, having gradually realised the insignificance of the force opposed to him, he returned to Mafeking. After his departure, the Boers, on the 31st, wrecked a culvert north of Mochudi, and for a few days held the place till driven out by reinforcements under Colonel Holdsworth, aided by Linchwe's Kaffirs.  Piet Kruger, who had made his headquarters at Deerdeport east of Gaberones, occupied his men with occasional skirmishes against the armoured train, and with the looting of Linchwe's Cattle.

Operations on Limpopo in October.

On October 11th, the only force at Tuli consisted of  29 police with one 12 1/2 -pounder and one 7-pounder. But the Rhodesia Regiment was on its way, and by the 16th, Colonel Plumer had four squadrons stationed on the Limpopo in the vicinity of Rhodes' Drift, and another in reserve at Tuli. For the next few days there were constant skirmishes between patrols and watering parties, in which the British, in spite of their numerical inferiority, held their own, and even patrolled some distance into the Transvaal. A more serious skirmish took place on the 21st, in which Captain Blackburn, commanding P squadron, was mortally wounded.  This and other signs that the Boer force was being strengthened, induced Colonel Plumer to withdraw his men to Tuli the next day, sending one squadron right back to Macloutsie on the railway in case the Boers at Baines' Drift and Selika's should attempt to invade Rhodesia through Khama's country. As it happened the Boers fell back almost simultaneously. Field-cornet Briel had been so thoroughly alarmed by the activity of the Rhodesian troopers that he had sent urgent requests for reinforcement to Pretoria, in order to prevent an imminent invasion of the Transvaal from the north. A commando 250 strong, organised in Johannesburg by Sarel Eloff, President Kruger's grandson, accompanied by several guns under Freiherr von Dalwig,[2] was hurriedly sent up from Pretoria, and pending its arrival Briel remained inactive. Discovering this, Plumer moved two squadrons down to the Limpopo again on the 27th. The usual skirmishing followed, but it was not till November 2nd that the Boers, whose guns had now come up, ventured to attack in force.  They crossed the river and captured a small convoy of wagons at Bryce's Store, near Rhodes' Drift, taking a dozen prisoners.  A simultaneous attack by Commandant Pu Preez and Field-cornet Kelly on the squadron at the Drift was less successful. Colonel Spreckley held his own against very heavy odds all day, and withdrew through the bush to Tuli after nightfall. For the rest of the month Plumer's men remained concentrated at Tuli, keeping in touch with the Boers by constant patrols.

Disloyal Vryburg. Suicide of Major Scott. Vryburg occupied. Oct.18.

South of Mafeking, the next place of any importance along the border was Vryburg.  A small detachment of Cape Police under Assistant-Commissioner Scott was stationed here, and, combined with the local volunteer corps, might, perhaps, have attempted to make some sort of defence. But the population of the little town was Dutch, and in close touch with the commandos over the border, while the disloyal element was strengthened by the presence of a large number of farmers who had come in from the surrounding country to celebrate "Nachtmaal," or Holy Communion. The resident magistrate was weak and incapable, and could think of nothing better than to send imploring telegrams to Kimberley, asking that Vryburg should not be defended. On the afternoon of the 14th, De Beer's Bloemhof Commando destroyed the railway and telegraph at two points between Vryburg and Taungs, thus cutting off Vryburg from communication with the outer world. On the morning of the 15th, a number of the more influential citizens called a public meeting to demand the surrender of the town, and approached members of the Police and volunteers individually, urging them to refuse to fight if called upon. In spite of this attitude on the part of the inhabitants, and of the opposition of the magistrate, Major Scott paraded the men and, after addressing them, asked for volunteers for the defence of the town.  Six men responded  Seeing that resistance was useless, Major Scott retired with his handful of police upon Geluk, and there, in the bitterness of his disillusionment at the disloyalty of men who had sworn to fight for the Queen, took his own life that same evening. His men made their way to Barkly West. It was not till the 18th that Vryburg was formally occupied by a force of some 1300 men under De la Rey, who had moved south from Mafeking. Amid the loud applause of the registered voters of a free British town, the Transvaal general now declared in theatrical words, reading almost like an echo of Lord Wolseley's famous declaration at Pretoria in 1879, that the Republican flag was flying over all the land north of the Orange River, and would continue to fly there for ever.

Line occupied along whole western border. Boer attitude in occupied territory. Their proclamations.

Meanwhile, on the 15th, the Bloemhof and Christiana burghers moving south, occupied Taungs and Fourteen Streams, from which the small detachments of Cape Police made their way back to Barkly West. At Fourteen Streams the important railway bridge over the Vaal was partially destroyed. Here the Transvaalers were joined on the 17th by a small contingent of the Boshof Free Staters, whose main body, under Pu Plessis, had destroyed the line between Windsorton and Riverton Station on the night of the 14th, and occupied Riverton Station on the morning of the 15th, chasing for some miles a small body of police whom Kekewich had sent out to bring in the dozen policemen at the Station. South of Kimberley, the Free Staters crossed the border on the evening of the 14th and broke up the railway and cut the telegraph wires near Spytfontein and Modder River. Kekewich had received instructions to send a detachment of infantry to guard the bridge, but had prudently put off taking a step which could only have resulted in the loss of part of his already insufficient force. After several unsuccessful attempts the railway bridge at Modder River was partially destroyed by the Boers some days afterwards. On the 19th, Van der Merwe, with 300 Fauresmith Burghers, occupied Belmont Station. Thus, at the end of a week of war, the whole of the railway from Orange River to Mafeking was in the hands of the Boers, with the exception of a few miles on either side of Kimberley itself. Everywhere the invaders met with the acquiescence, and even the active help, of the inhabitants. The subject of the rebellion in Cape Colony and of the action of the Republics in annexing British territory is one that is, perhaps, better treated separately. It is enough to say, for the present, that the proclamation issued by President Steyn on October 14, and amplified by proclamations from Wessels and other Transvaal and Free States commandants, while it did not formally declare the annexation of the occupied territories, was in practice treated as having done so, and wavering disloyalists were impelled to take up arms by being told that to do so was their obligation as Transvaal or Free State burghers. Towards those who were unwilling to take up arms far the cause of a United Dutch South Africa, or who might even be tempted by their loyalty to help the British troops, the Republican commandants were prepared to show no mistaken leniency. Though their own forces consisted of irregulars wearing no uniform[3] and subject to very little discipline, and though they were themselves inciting the civilian inhabitants of British territories to take up arms in order to attack and hamper the regular forces of their own lawful sovereign, they had no mind to concede any such privileges to the other side. There can be no doubt that the attitude they took up had a useful effect in safeguarding their communications in British territory from the operations of enterprising loyalists. To quote the wording of the most important paragraph which appears in all these proclamations, whether issued in Cape Colony or Natal : -


"All persons who do not constitute a portion of the British Army, and who (a) serve the enemy as spies; (b) cause the burghers and men of the South African Republic and Orange Free State to lose their way when acting as guides; (c) kill, murder, or rob persons belonging to one of the Republics, or

forming part of their following and train; (d) destroy bridges or damage telegraph lines, heliographic apparatus, or railways, or in any way cause damage to parts or portions of the same, whereby the Republics may be hindered or their people or property damaged, or even they who in any way endeavour to repair or make good the damage done by the Republican forces to property or apparatus, or who set fire to the ammunition, war supplies, quarters or camps of the Republican forces, or in any way damage them; (e) take up arms against the forces of one of the said Republics shall, at the discretion of a Council of War, be punished with death or imprisonment not exceeding fifteen years."

Operations round Kimberley up to Nov. 4.

In Kimberley itself Colonel Kekewich was not inactive, considering the smallness of the force at his disposal for offensive operations. His first anxiety was to call in all the outlying detachments of the Cape Police, for though much too weak separately to hold any of their posts they would when added together make an appreciable addition to the mounted forces under his command.  In spite of the entreaties of the Resident Magistrate of Barkly West who hoped to defend his township, this concentration was effected by the 23rd when the Vryburg Police safely reached Kimberley.[4] The only exception was a body of thirty-five policemen under Inspector Bates who remained at the mission station of Kuruman, seventy-five miles south-west of Vryburg. A quantity of rifles and ammunition was also brought in from Barkly West on the 20th.  On the 15th Kekewich declared a state of siege and, foreseeing the possibility of such a siege being prolonged, took over all the supplies in private stores. That same morning an armoured train was sent south to Spytfontein and after a short engagement fell back when the Boers began to bring their artillery into play. During the next few days reconnaissances were made with the trains and with mounted troops, but the Boers, who were waiting to concentrate their forces, showed no hurry to move on the town. On the 20th, Kekewich, being informed of the proclamations issued by De la Rey and other leaders of the invading forces, issued a counter proclamation declaring any proclamation of annexation to be null and void and warning rebels of the consequences of their acts. On the morning of the 24th, Major Scott Turner, with 300 mounted troops, went out on a reconnaissance to Macfarlane Siding about thirteen miles north of Kimberley.  Finding the Boers (Boshof Commando) in force, he signalled back to Kekewich stationed on his conning tower improvised from the headgear of a mine. Kekewich at once sent out the North Lancashires, two guns, and another 100 mounted men.  A most successful action followed in which the Boers were driven off the ridges east of Dronfield and Macfarlane's with some loss, including that of Field-Cornet Botha, whose body was left on the field.  So effective was this vigorous little stroke that the Boshof Boers fell back altogether from the line north of Kimberley, and that side of the town remained open till the arrival of De la Rey's force on the 29th. Meanwhile small skirmishes and reconnaissances went on south and east of the town. On the 27th, President Steyn, dissatisfied, perhaps, with the dilatory tactics of his burghers, arrived in Jacobsdal and addressed them in a vigorous harangue. But it was not till the first days of November that the Boers really closed in on Kimberley.  On November 1st, be Ia key's men reoccupied Dronfield and blew up the large dynamite stores belonging to the De Beer's Company.  On the 3rd, skirmishing was going on all round Kimberley. On the 4th, Chief Commandant Wessels sent in a formal demand for the surrender of the town.  This was refused, and from this date the siege of Kimberley may be said to begin.

The southern border. Steyn and Basutos. Steyn decides to cross Orange River.

Along the Southern border of the Orange Free State the first three weeks of war were passed in almost complete inactivity. For the little British garrisons dumped down at some desolate railway junction on the waste veld of the northern Karroo it was a time of weary and uninteresting labour and 6£ profound discomfort.  A third of the men were on picket duty nightly, and practically the whole of the garrisons were busy on fatigue work during the day. Incessant dust-storms sweeping without warning through the camps, and blotting out sunshine, tents, sentries, everything, in a brown tingling wave of all-permeating grit, intensified the squalor and discomfort.  Lasting sometimes for hours these dust-storms would have given a good opportunity for an enterprising enemy to rush the camps-if there had been any enemy nean  But as yet the Free Staters showed no signs of beginning the invasion.  A large part of the commandos which were soon to come down to the Orange River were still on the Basuto border anxious as to the attitude of their formidable neighbours.  On October 18th, President Steyn issued a proclamation to the chiefs and nation of the Basutos declaring that the Free State had no quarrel with them, and would do no harm to them if they kept quiet and took no part in assisting the English. Privately, however, a good deal of intriguing went on across the border in the hope of securing the active help of some of the chiefs, or at least of provoking internal disturbances in Basutoland and making Sir G. Lagden's position impossible. On the 25th a large Pitso or assembly of chiefs from all parts of Basutoland was addressed at the Putiatsana kiver by Sir G. Lagden who explained the situation to them and urged them to remember that this was a white man's war, in which the Basutos were to take no part, except to defend their borders if attacked. Towards the end of the month several of the Free State contingents along the Basuto border moved down to the Orange River. Here the policy of bluff was working well, owing to a variety of circumstances, not least of which was Steyn's reluctance to invade Cape Colony south of the river in defiance of his pledges-a difficulty he had hoped to see overcome by a spontaneous rising on the part of the colonists. But the attitude of the colonists was one of some hesitation. Many of the younger and more hot-headed men had already crossed the river to join the commandos. The High Commissioner's proclamation of the 12th, bearing Mr. Schreiner's signature, and warning all British subjects against any disloyal action and reminding them of the penalties to which they were liable, no doubt had its effect on responsible men and owners of property. The Galling out of the greater part of the colonial volunteer corps on the 16th for service at the sea bases and along the lines of communication, as well as the exaggerated accounts of British successes in Natal furnished to the press by uncritical correspondents, helped to give weight to these warnings. Nevertheless the border districts were in a state of suppressed ferment. The trial of Mr. Rothman, a prominent Dutch resident of Colesberg, for seditious language, gave the inhabitants of that town an opportunity for displaying their disloyal sentiments. In spite of the presence of a small guard of Cape Police at each of the bridges over the Orange River, the leaders of the rebel faction were in daily communication with the Free State Commandants, informing them of the absence of any British forces nearer than the railway junctions and urging them to invade the Colony and give just that physical and moral support which the forces of rebellion still lacked. When Steyn returned to Bloemfontein he found Grobler and the other commandants busily petitioning to be allowed to cross the river and help their "oppressed Afrikander brethren."  The commandos on the border were growing stronger daily.  The Transvaal contingent under General Hendrik Schoeman reached Donkerpoort near Norval's Pont on the 31st. A battery of artillery from Pretoria followed a day or two after. To crown all came the news of Joubert's great victory over white on the 30th and the confident expectation that a few days more would see the surrender of the main body of the British troops in South Africa.  To hesitate at such a time would be to stand in the way of the manifest destiny of the Afrikander nation. And so abandoning his scruples and forgetful of the pledges in return for which he had during the past months enjoyed the moral, and even in a sense the material support of the Cape Ministry, President Steyn gave the word for his commandos to cross the Orange River.[5]

Oct.31 .Sir R. Buller lands at Cape Town.

On the morning of October 31, the Dunottar Castle, with Sir Redvers Buller on board, moored alongside the quay in Table Bay. The streets of Cape Town were gay with flags, and as the Commander-In-Chief drove up to Government House he was greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by the dense crowds that had been waiting for many hours to see him pass. The loyal population, oppressed by rumours, as yet vague, of unsuccess in Natal and of invasion and rebellion in Cape Colony, the crowds of Uitlander refugees anxiously reckoning if their small savings would enab]e them to hold out till the war was over, alike felt a load of care lifted from their hearts as they watched the general's calm, impassive face. No troops had come with him, but the sight of that quiet, stolid Englishman personified to them the whole might of the British Empire and of that great Army Corps, the embodiment of irresistible force and of the perfection of modern military science, which was to crush the misguided ambitions of a plotting faction and lay for ever the spirit of unrest that for so long had vexed the peace and hampered the progress of South Africa. They were soon to learn that neither the Army Corps nor the distinguished general whom they now welcomed was equal to the greatness of a task which was yet to call for the whole visible and latent military power of the Empire.

Difficulty of Buller's situation.

It was in truth an anxious situation that Sir Redvers  Buller found awaiting him. Between his triumphant departure from England and his landing at Cape Town everything had changed. The news of victories signalled by passing steamers had raised hopes which only cast into stronger relief the unpleasant reality that now confronted him.  In Natal, Sir G. white, on whom he had relied to play the Boers for at least another month, had, as it seemed, recklessly staked all on a decisive battle on the very day his superior was expected to arrive, and had lost. The full measure of his defeat was not yet known to Sir Redvers Buller, but it was evident that the Ladysmith force was seriously weakened and would require to be strongly reinforced if it was to hold its own and protect Natal from further invasion. In Cape Colony, Mafeking and Kimberley were cut off, while the Free Staters were threatening to cross the Orange River at half a dozen points. How serious the result of that invasion might be was realised by Sir Redvers Buller when he saw at Government House a map of the districts which were ready to rise in rebellion the moment an opportunity offered itself. He is said to have remarked that he was expected to conquer, not the two Republics, but the whole of South Africa.

Nov. 1-3. Free Staters cross Orange River. Buller evacuates Naauwpoort and Stormberg.

During the next few days the situation in Cape Colony rapidly changed for the worse. On November 1st the Free Staters seized the important railway bridge over the Orange River at Norval's Pont, making prisoners of the six policemen who guarded it.  On the same day, Swanepoel and Du Plooy, with the Smithfield and Bethulie commandos, some 900 men with two guns, crossed the Bethulie bridges.[6] The safety of the garrisons at Naauwpoort and Stormberg at once became a question for earnest consideration. They could not be reinforced, for the only battalion which had arrived during the last few days, the 1st Border Regiment, had been brought down to East London again and sent on to Natal. If the Free Staters marched on them suddenly while the Colony rose in their rear they might be cut off, and there would be two more reliefs to carry out besides those of Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mafeking.  Recollecting, perhaps, how the urgent necessity of relieving the besieged garrisons in the Transvaal had been Colley's undoing in 1881, General Buller not unnaturally looked forward with reluctance to such a prospect.  So, on November 3, he suddenly[7] decided to withdraw from both Naauwpoort and Stormberg for the present, and telegraphed to the garrisons to fall back without delay on De Aar and Queenstown respectively. It was an unfortunate decision, especially as regards Stormberg. The policy of bluff which had hitherto worked so successfully was abandoned at the very moment when it might be of greatest service, and when another week would see the arrival of the first troops from England.  One cannot help feeling that the better course would have been to have instructed the officers commanding the garrisons to wait and keep demonstrating till the last moment but not to let themselves be invested.[8] Even if they had been invested, they were on the main line of Sir k. Buller's intended advance, and their relief need not have interfered seriously with his' plan of operations. It has been said that Sir A. Milner's extreme pessimism with regard to the possibility of rebellion had a discouraging influence on General Buller. No doubt the High Commissioner was inclined to a pessimistic view, and rightly so. But he also knew exactly how far he could go with these people, whose sentiments and character he understood so well, and was strongly opposed to a withdrawal which he knew could only encourage the disaffected.  Still Sir Redvers Buller' 5 responsibility was a heavy one, and the prospect of the surrender of one of the garrisons or of disaster to a little infantry force trying to retreat through a disaffected country in the hands of a mobile enemy, was not a pleasant one. Here, as throughout the war, the helplessness of foot soldiers in a country like South Africa lay at the bottom of much of the apparent irresolution and timidity of British strategy.

Defenceless state of Natal  obliges Buller  to divert part of Army Corps.

Natal presented a still more serious problem.  On November 3, Sir R. Buller learnt that the little garrison at Colenso had fallen back on Estcourt. It was now becoming clear that Ladysmith was not simply cut off but about to be closely invested, and that Sir G. white would require not merely to be reinforced but to be relieved-a very different operation. More than that, the whole of Natal was now at the mercy of the invaders.  If only Sir G. White had sent out his splendid cavalry they might, with the help of local levies, have delayed the enemy till the main army was ready to invade the Free State. As it was, troops for the defence of Natal had to be sought elsewhere; in other words, the Army Corps had to be broken up. For the moment even that 'step was impossible. All that could be done was to send round Captain Scott and the Terrible to Durban to organise the land defences of that harbour-so that even if all Natal were overrun the British Army might at least have a sea base from which to start the task of reconquest. The whole plan of campaign had been based on the fixed assumption that Sir G. White could hold his own in Natal for two or three months at least. Meanwhile the Army Corps, each division landing at its own port, should gradually concentrate up country, and when every arrangement had been made perfect, cross the Orange River and begin its march on Pretoria in the early days of December. All this imposing framework of theory was fast crumbling away before the unpleasant advance of the Boers into British territory. There was no question now of orderly preparation to be completed with business4ike punctuality in the early days of December, but of improvising at once a line of defence somehow, anyhow, with whatever material came first to hand. Cavalry and mounted infantry and then artillery were wanted most, but for the next fortnight hardly anything but infantry was available, for the great Army Corps scheme had taken no account of pressing necessities, and its constituent parts had been sent of{ not in the order of their greatest utility on arrival-though, indeed, neither Sir R. Buller nor the War Office had yet realised the helplessness of infantry in South Africa-but in order of convenience of embarkation.

But diversion intended to be temporary. Inadequacy of Army Corps no yet recognised.

At the same time, neither Sir Redvers Buller, nor anyone else, imagined then that the Army Corps was being broken up for good and all. The diverting of its parts to Natal and elsewhere might indeed delay the advance on Bloemfontein, but the intention still remained the same; as soon as the temporary difficulties were got over, these parts would be brought back to their proper point of concentration, and the triumphal march would begin. The delay would afford time for the mobilisation and arrival of an additional division in case it was found inconvenient to bring back the troops that were now being sent to Natal. The announcement that a Fifth Division was to mobilize was in fact made on November 11, as soon as the War Office found that Buller was forced to send a division to Natal   Speaking with the wisdom of subsequent experience, one may say that the right course for Sir R. Buller to pursue would have been to have telegraphed at once for another Army Corps. But it must be remembered in the first place that to take such a step before a single battalion of the First Army Corps had landed or come in contact with the enemy would have required marvellous boldness on the part of a British general who knew the War Office so well as did Sir R. Bullen Nor had Sir R. Buller at Cape Town much better opportunity for judging the lessons of the Natal battlefields, a thousand miles away, than the authorities at home. And at home, though the Times, indeed, suggested the mobilizing of two extra divisions as early as November 6, the magnitude of the task that lay before the Commander-In-Chief in South Africa was as yet very far from being understood. It is easy to say now that 15,000 British troops, trained and organised as British troops were in 1899, were an adequate force with which to meet 20,000 Boers, even before the latter had acquired the skill and the spirit they showed later, and to allow that Sir G. White did as well as might be expected from the average officer who, under the British Army system, rose to high command. But to Sir R. Buller then it must have seemed that the chief cause of failure was the incapacity of the general in command in Natal, and it was not so unnatural as it now appears to hope that if one of his lieutenants could "dig out" White from his earth in Ladysmith and arrange a new scheme of defence on the Tugela or elsewhere, the original plan might yet succeed.

Hildyard's and Barton's brigades diverted. Methuen to relieve Kimberley.

The actual emergency measures which Sir P. Buller decided on during the next ten days were as follows. The first troops expected were the Second Infantry Brigade, under Hildyard.  This formed part of the First Division under Lord Methuen, and was to have landed at Cane Town. It was now sent on to Natal as fast as its transports arrived (November 9-15~ It was followed a few days later by one of Gatacre's Brigades, the Sixth, under Barton, and by the artillery of the First Division.  This force, added to the small force at Estcourt and the local volunteers which were being raised in Natal, was to protect the Colony from invasion by the overflow of the Boers from Ladysmith, and was then to advance and join hands with White. Meanwhile, on the Western Border, Lord Methuen was to advance rapidly on Kimberley with a division composed of one of his own brigades, the Guards, the line of communication battalions and such other troops as were already at De Aar and Orange River, scattering the comparatively weak Boer forces between him and Kekewich.  After relieving Kimberley, Methuen could keep the Boers on that side employed till things were ready for the march to Bloemfontein, when he might cooperate either from Kimberley or along the north bank of the Orange River while Methuen relieved Kimberley, Clery, with the Second Division, Gatacre with his remaining brigade and such miscellaneous troops as he found to hand, and French, with the greater part of the cavalry division, were to repel any advance along the whole front from Orange River Station to Aliwal North and prepare for the moment when, the Natal difficulty being settled, the original plan of campaign would be resumed.

Further breaking up of Army Corps. Buller himself goes off to Natal. Nov.22.

But the breaking up of the Army Corps was not destined to stop at this point. By November 15, the Boers, whose  numbers were greatly exaggerated by the officers commanding in Natal, were threatening an envelopment of Estcourt, and on that day signalised their nearness and activity by the capture of an armoured train. In view of the anxiety of his own lieutenants and of the Natal Government, Buller saw no alternative but to divert still more troops to Natal. General Clery, commanding the Second Division, was now sent off to take over the command, and arrived at Durban on the 19th. He was to be followed by one of his brigades (Lyttelton's), which was due to disembark at Port Elizabeth for Naauwpoort in the next few days. Something like 14,000 men were now collecting in Natal south of the Tugela. But the situation only seemed to grow worse.  On the 22nd, Hildyard at Estcourt was completely cut off by a Boer force reported to be some 7000 strong, while another force was bombarding Barton at Mooi River twenty miles away, and a third creating alarms at Nottingham Road, still nearer Maritzburg.  There appeared to be no attempt at cooperation between the British forces, which were strung out like beads on a chain, no direction, only a general terror and paralysis. The situation proved too much for Sir Redvers Buller's patience. He decided that same day to go and see for himself.  He would put a new spirit into the troops, relieve Ladysmith, reorganise the defence of Natal on a proper footing, and then return-a fortnight or three weeks would suffice for the task.  In accordance with his wont, he neither took counsel nor informed others of his intention. Taking only his military secretary, Colonel Stopford, and a few aides-de-camp, and leaving the rest of his staff to look after themselves and continue their preparations for the advance on Bloemfontein, he suddenly vanished from Cape Town, to reappear at Durban three days later. His going involved a still further diversion of troops to Natal: the Somerset Light Infantry (one of the line of communication battalions), the Corps Cavalry (13th Hussars) and a regiment from French's Second Cavalry Brigade (1st Dragoons), the artillery of the Second Division, and lastly, the remaining brigade (Hart's) of the Third Division, except the Royal Irish Rifles who had already got up to Queenstown with Gatacre, and were all that remained to that unfortunate general of the fine force he had been selected to command. Thus, by the date at which the Army Corps had once been intended to cross the Orange River in the perfection of its numbers and organisation, practically half of it[9] had been sucked up in the vortex of the Natal complication, and the disjecta membra, divisional generals without divisions, solitary brigades of infantry or cavalry, stray batteries and battalions, were scattered about the frontiers of Cape Colony to carry on as best they might till the occasion might come for bringing all into their place again.

Discussion of Buller's policy.

Sir Redvers Buller has been severely criticised for allowing the situation in Natal and at Kimberley to wreck the whole plan of campaign. But it is difficult to see what other course he could have pursued. At the time when the first transports were sent on to Durban, there was really no question of relieving Natal by an immediate advance on Bloemfontein. In the first place the army would not have been ready to cross the Orange River for nearly a month. Before that the Boers might have captured Maritzburg, and over-run the whole of Natal, and Ladysmith might have fallen. From a military point of view alone, such a result would have been a terrible disaster.  From the political standpoint it was unthinkable. Not only British prestige, but the Imperial obligation which bade Sir Alfred Milner assure Natal that the colony would be defended by the whole might of the Empire, completely put out of the question the abandonment-necessarily prolonged-of a loyal and prosperous colony to a host of marauding invaders. And even if the Army Corps had been ready to march on Bloemfontein at once, it is by no means certain that the Boers would have relaxed their grip on Natal. They knew well enough that Ladysmith and Maritzburg were worth more to them than Bl6emfontein. The effect at a later date of Lord Roberts' march to Paardeberg upon the Boer resistance at the Tugela has usually been over-estimated, while Pretoria itself was in British hands some days before the Boers were finally driven out of Natal. whether Sir Redvers Buller would not have been better advised to have remained at Cape Town himself to exercise a general direction, is another matter.  Natal was for the time being the most important part of the war, and what seemed to be lacking there was not so much troops as that vigorous personal direction which no telegrams from Cape Town could supply. It was a strong and justifiable impulse that sent Sir R. Buller to Natal to set things right. But his departure left no one in direct command in Cape Colony. Once in Natal, and conducting operations in the field, Sir R. Buller almost inevitably lost that general perspective so essential to one who was commanding-in-chief over an area half as large as Europe. The fact is that each area of war really required a supreme commander, capable of acting on his own initiative. In Natal this part had originally been allotted to Sir G. White.  But by submitting to investment white had resigned it, and left Buller the task of finding a substitute. Sir Evelyn Wood at home fully realized the position when he telegraphed to Buller just before the latter decided to start for Durban, offering to serve under him in Natal, an offer which Buller declined. A somewhat different criticism is that Sir B. Buller should from the first have transferred nearly the whole of the Army Corps to Natal leaving Sir F. Forestier-Walker, with Sir A. Milner's help, to continue organising such defence as he could manage with a few battalions and locally raised volunteers, pending the arrival of the Fifth Division from home. This might have meant sacrificing Kimberley, but it might also have brought about a decisive victory in Natal over the main Boer Army, and if things really went well, an advance on Pretoria through Lang's Nek before the end of the year. It would have been a bold policy, but it certainly would have been sounder than the suggested policy of neglecting Natal and pushing on to Bloemfontein, and might have been crowned by a great success. As regards the wisdom of detailing Lord Methuen to relieve Kimberley, the step was at the time a very natural one, and there is no ground for assuming that Sir B. Buller allowed himself to be unduly influenced by political pressure.[10] The troops left in Cape Colony were together inadequate in numbers and equipment to the task of advancing on Bloemfontein, whereas it was not considered beyond Methuen's power to traverse the seventy miles of open country to Kimberley, with a railway on his line of march, no great natural obstacles to cross, and a weak force of the enemy in front. For it must not be forgotten that when the relief of Kimberley was decided on Cronje was still at Mafeking, which place he had only left a few hours when Methuen started on his march.

Staff work at Cape Town. The things which succeeded.

During the three weeks spent at Cape Town, Sir Redvers Buller and his staff were busy with the task of organisation. Much of the work was doomed to be wasted owing to the complete shipwreck of the plans it was meant to further; much of it was inadequate to the subsequent magnitude of the wan But it was good work, nevertheless. The redistribution of the Army Corps, the sending of troops to the front in Natal, and the despatch of Methuen's column, were in themselves considerable tasks. The troops were disembarked and entrained for the front with admirable despatch. The supply, transport, and railway departments proved themselves fully adequate to the task they were called upon to undertake, and at a later date managed to cope with remarkable success with the enormously increased burden thrust upon them. Failure in these departments would have been far more serious, and entailed far worse consequences than the military failures which, unwelcome as they were, were after all checks rather than irreparable disasters. The history of the South African war, as of all wars, is largely a history of blunders. The blunders committed by us were grave enough, and their consequence is seen in the dragging out into a third year of a war which might not have lasted three months if skilfully handled. But there were far graver blunders which were not committed. It is difficult to imagine what the state of affairs might have been if the war had been managed on the same lines as the Crimean War, as the French expedition to Madagascar, or even the American expedition to Cuba. In fact for every purpose, save one, the Army Corps had been perfectly organised. It was in every respect capable of achieving a successful march to Pretoria - if only it had been a match for the Boers in the field. The arrival of the Army Corps itself, the great fleet of splendid transports gathering together in Table Bay, the swift mysterious passage of the troops straight from the harbour to some unknown destination beyond De Aar, were striking and impressive facts. They created among the loyal colonists a profound sense of confidence in the power of the great military engine which was to crush Boer arrogance, and did much during these critical months to keep the disloyal element in passive loyalty.

The need of  mounted men, especially colonials. Failure of military to recognise their value.

At the front, indeed, things looked less well. The imposing infantry battalions which were to form the great mass of the "steam-roller" were but small, helpless bodies when dumped down in twos and threes on the vast spaces of the open veld. For the immediate purpose, in Cape Colony as in Natal a few thousand mounted men with a reasonable allowance of artillery would have been worth far more than the

thirty-three infantry battalions of the Army Corps: Of such mounted men it might have been possible, then as afterwards, to raise large numbers in South Africa itself. But the principle enunciated by General Gordon at the time of the first Transvaal war as applying to South African warfare: "regulars should only act as a reserve, the real fighting should be done by special irregular corps, commanded by special men who would be untrammelled by regulations," was not recognised by the military authorities at home or in South Africa.  It is true that Sir G. White had, as early as October 16, authorised the formation in Natal of two more mounted corps - Thorneycroft's and Bethune's mounted infantry - on the model of the Imperial Light Horse. Within a few days of his arrival, Sir R. Buller had given his sanction to the raising in Cape Colony of Colonel Brabant's Horse (1st Brabant's), and the South African Light Horse, the former composed chiefly of Eastern Province farmers, and the latter of Uitlanders recruited at the seaports, and in Natal, of tile Imperial Light Infantry composed chiefly of Uitlanders. After his arrival in Natal he also authorised the formation of a very useful corps of Colonial Scouts. All these forces were destined to do excellent work. But the old spirit of self-sufficiency, and the lack of the courage to take whole measures were still too deeply ingrained.  Instead of enlisting every available man, and doing everything to urge and stimulate co-operation from the colonials, the military authorities would only consent at first to sanction these corps almost as a favour, and would insist on their numbers being strictly limited.[11] Nor was there any notion of letting these men fight by themselves and according to their own methods.  They were to be mounted infantry bound fast to infantry forces or nothing at all. In the face of this attitude it is not surprising that the large loyalist population of South Africa did so much less at this period than it might have done, or than it subsequently did do, or that it tended to acquiesce in the military view that this war was the regular army's war. If there is one thing that the South African War should have taught the British Army, it is not to despise the value of local knowledge and experience, or of unprofessional assistance.

Events at Orange River. Belmont reconnaissance. Nov. 9-10.

Events at the front in Cape Colony, during the greater part of November, present no very dramatic features. On November 4, General Wood, R.E., arrived at De Aar, and took over the command of the section De Aar to Orange River.  Defences were still further strengthened, and reconnaissances were made with the few mounted men available. A somewhat more ambitious reconnaissance from Orange River, undertaken by Colonel Gough, of the 9th Lancers, on November 9, was unfortunate in its results, though it served to show some of the dangers and difficulties of reconnaissance under modern conditions. Colonel Gough took out two squadrons of his regiment, about a company and a half of mounted infantry of the Northumberland Fusiliers and North Lancashires, and a battery of Field Artillery.  On the morning of the 10th they found the Boers, some 350 strong under Commandant Van der Merwe, posted on some kopjes to the east of those over and round which the battle of the 23rd was subsequently fought. While the guns and the dismounted cavalry held the enemy with long range fire in front, the mounted infantry were sent to work round the Boer flank in order to discover the position of their laager.  While doing so they suddenly came under close range rifle-fire from a small party which the Boers had sent out to protect their flank. In a moment the Northumberlands had lost all their officers, Lieut.-Colonel Keith-Falconer being killed, and Lieutenants Bevan and Hall wounded.  Lieutenant Wood of the North Lancashires was mortally wounded. These were practically the only casualties, only two men being slightly wounded. The serious consequences of having all the officers picked off at the beginning of an engagement were made very manifest by this skirmish, which led directly to that general abandoning of all unnecessarily distinctive marks of rank, including the useless sword of the infantry officer; which has been one of the features of the war. Colonel Gough then withdrew his little force to Orange River. On the 12th, Lord Methuen arrived and took over the command, and for the next week preparations for the advance on Kimberley were busily made, as one battalion after another came up to complete the force.

Slow advance of Free Staters into Cape Colony. Olivier enters Aliwal, Nov.13.

Further east, meanwhile, the invasion of Cape Colony was proceeding in a leisurely fashion. That the Free Staters made no attempt to take advantage of the great opportunities offered them by the evacuation of Naauwpoort and Stormberg was due, not so much to lack of information, as to the hesitation and indolence of their commandants. On the 5th and 6th of November, Grobler's and Schoeman's forces advanced slowly from Norval's Pont, and wrecked the railway bridges at Van Zyl and Achtertang within twelve miles of Colesberg Junction. At the same moment the British, afraid of a sudden rush by the Boers on Naauwpoort, were engaged in blowing up a culvert south of Arundel. On the 6th, the British in an armoured train similarly blew up a bridge ten miles south of Burghersdorp as a precaution against a quick advance of the Bethulie burghers, who, however; contented themselves during these days in skirmishing round the countryside, within twenty or thirty miles of the bridge, in the direction of Venterstad and Knapdaar. At Aliwal North a party of Boers crossed by the Sand Drift a dozen miles below the village on the 5th, broke up the railway, and made prisoners of a few policemen. The twenty Cape Police who had hitherto been guarding the bridge over the Orange River now retired to Jamestown. But no immediate invasion followed. The disloyal majority of the inhabitants were continually sending invitations and promises of help across to Commandant Olivier, and on the 6th a formal meeting took place between Olivier and the leading disloyalists, including Mr. Smuts, the mayor of the town, on the middle of the bridge. But it was not till the morning of the 13th that Olivier, with 450 men and one gun, rode into Aliwal. Before crossing, the Boers sent a messenger over to fetch Mr. Hugo, the magistrate, and ordered him to stand on the middle of the bridge with his assistant and chief constable, while the commando crossed, as a precaution in case the bridge might be mined. Their anxiety was natural enough, for the destruction of Aliwal bridge, which was not likely to be required for the main advance upon Bloemfontein, was an obvious measure for the British to adopt. But as in Natal the British had not yet learned to take war seriously. The Bc3rs then rode into the village, the Free State banner triumphantly borne in front, amid shouts of welcome from the inhabitants and from neighbouring farmers who had flocked into the town by prearrangement to witness the great occasion. The daughters of a former member of the Cape Parliament led the singing of the Volkslied. Olivier, a magnificent long-bearded specimen of Boer manhood, was almost smothered in the flowers which the ladies of the district had brought to pin on his breast.

Nov.14. Boers enter Colesberg. Nov.19. British reoccupy Naauwpoort.

On the 14th, Grobler and Schoeman, with some 700 men, entered Colesberg amid scenes of similar enthusiasm. A committee of prominent disloyalists was at once formed to help the Boer forces in the administration and the raising of recruits, and foremost among them was Mr. Ignatius van der Walt one of the most respected senior members of the Cape Legislature. After the entry into Colesberg the Boers showed themselves as sluggish as before.  Naauwpoort Junction was only 35 miles away, but, though they advanced as far as Arundel, they were only just thinking of moving on to Naauwpoort when that important point was reoccupied on the 19th by General Wauchope, who had succeeded General Wood in command at De Aar, with the half battalion of Berkshires that had been there before the evacuation, half the 2nd battalion of the Black Watch, 70 New South Wales Lancers, and two 9-pounder muzzle-loaders. Leaving these at Naauwpoort, and some mounted infantry to guard the bridge over the Seacow River at Hanover Road, Wauchope returned to De Aar. On the 20th, General French arrived to take over the command at Naauwpoort. As soon as the first instalments of his mounted troops began to arrive, French took the initiative, sending out his patrols in every direction, from Hanover Road to Arundel and from Arundel to Rosmead Junction - the beginning of those skilful operations which for nearly three months were to cover the all-important railway communication between Cape Town and the front, to confine the spread of rebellion and drain away an ever increasing number of Boers from other parts to the defence of Colesberg.

Nov.15. Boers enter Burghersdorp.

On the 15th, the advanced body of the Bethulie burghers, under Commandant Du Plooy, entered Burghersdorp. "Rebel" Burghersdorp, the very centre and headquarters of "upright Afrikanderdom," received the invaders with no less enthusiasm than Aliwal or Colesberg. For weeks and months past the clergymen of the Dutch Reformed Church had been preaching rebellion from its pulpits.[12]  Few things could better typify the influence of the Dutch clergy in fostering disloyalty than the following laconic message sent from Burghersdorp after the occupation: "The theological seminary is closed, most of the students having joined the enemy." At Burghersdorp, as at Colesberg and Aliwal, the commandeering of the Dutch farmers to fight as flee State burghers was begun at once, and everywhere the younger men flocked freely to the commandos.  The loyalists could remain on their farms if they gave an oath of neutrality, or else had to leave the district at short notice with their families. Large numbers of them reached Queenstown in a destitute condition about the same time as Gatacre's troops began to arrive from the south.  The hospitable and charitable reception they met with from the townsfolk did something if not much, to compensate for months of exile from their homes and for the loss of their property or their occupation.

Olivier at Jamestown, Lady Grey, Barkly. Boers occupy Stormberg, Nov.26.

A day or two later Olivier came down from Aliwal to Burghersdorp, and on the morning of the 18th rode into Jamestown with fifty men, hoisted the Republican colours, appointed Free State magistrates, and rode back in a hurry to Aliwal to catch up part of his commando which was going on a tour of annexation towards Barkly East. The Boers had first marched for Herschel, the centre of a large native district. But the magistrate, Captain Hook, sent a messenger to inform them that he could not be responsible for the attitude of the Fingos unless they left his district undisturbed. It is typical of the peculiar character of the war that the Boers acquiesced in the suggestion and rode on to Lady Grey, which they occupied on the 18th.  For once they met with some signs of loyal opposition-and from a woman. Mrs. Sarah Glueck, the postmistress, spiritedly refused to hand over the post office, hauled up the Union Jack which the Boers had pulled down, and posted up the Governor's proclamation against treason.  On the 22nd, Olivier, with a few Free Staters and a large posse of Lady Grey rebels, rode into Barkly East, where the local rebels had already gathered together and seized some 350 rifles and a quantity of ammunition in charge of the magistrate. To quote the wording of the Boer official despatches, he "annexed this splendid tract of country. The Afrikanders are much delighted and the joining of our commando is universal." Other parties meanwhile rode over the whole district west of Burghersdorp and southwards to the Zuurberg as far as Steynsburg. Altogether the burghers seem to have been much more eager to annex "splendid country," with an eye to the future acquisition of loyalists' farms, and to create administrative posts in the newly annexed districts, than to take advantage of their military opportunities. It was not till November 26 that they actually occupied Stormberg Junction.

British positions in Eastern Cape Colony. Gatacre at Queenstown.

In all their movements in north-eastern Cape Colony up to this point the Boers had met with no interference. With the exception of the Kaffrarian Rifles, a body of volunteers from East London, stationed at Sterkstroom (with a mounted infantry outpost at Bushman's Hoek, where an important pass crosses the Stormberg mountains), a few Cape Police at Dordrecht, and an armoured train handled with skill and daring by Lieut. Gosset of the Berkshires, there were no troops north of Queenstown. The evacuation of Stormberg had raised the strength of the force at Queenstown to about 1500 of all ranks including sundry details of Cape Mounted Rifles, Cape Police and Volunteers. In addition to the two naval guns there were two obsolete 9-pounder muzzle loading field guns drawn by mules driven by a Kaffir from the limber. A further reinforcement of artillery was soon after added and included the battery of 7-pounder screw guns of the Cape Mounted Rifles, and the Maxim battery of the same excellent regiment. Except the naval guns, none of those at the disposal of the garrison were capable of meeting the modern weapons of the Boers upon anything approaching equal terms. On November 16, the Naval Brigade was sent down to the coast to be reorganised and despatched a few days later to join Methuen at Orange River. Its withdrawal at this particular moment-even though it left its two guns behind-was unfortunate.  On that same day Gatacre with the Irish Rifles was landing at East London, from where he reached Queenstown on the 18th. Had the Naval Brigade been retained only a week longer the reoccupation of Storm-berg might have been safely effected. Apart from all considerations of subsequent disaster, the moral effect at this moment would have been very great. The large section of prosperous Dutch farmers in the invaded districts who still hesitated about committing themselves to rebellion might have been confirmed in their practical loyalty. On the 21st, General Gatacre went up by train as far as Bushman's Hoek and as a result of his observations, the Irish Rifles, the Berkshire Mounted Infantry, and some Cape Police proceeded next day to Putter's Kraal four miles south of Sterkstroom. One is tempted to regret that he did not follow the example given at Naauwpoort and run the risk of reoccupying Stormberg at once. As it was lie did not venture beyond Bushman's Hoek, which he reinforced on the 27th by four companies of the Irish Rifles, moving his own headquarters up to Putter's Kraal on the same day. His force had, meanwhile, been strengthened by the arrival on November 23 of two companies of Colonel Alderson's battalion' of Mounted Infantry, and on November 27 of the 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers. Brabant's Horse, though enlistment had barely been in progress a fortnight, was already becoming a useful force. Two hundred of these under Captain Montmorency, V.C., with an equal number of Cape Police were now sent up to Pen Hoek, another important pass some twelve miles east of Bushman's Hoek, to cover the British right.

Spread of rebellion. Mr. Sauer at Dordrecht.

Outside the narrow area actually held by the British troops the rebellion in the north-east of Cape Colony spread rapidly over all the countryside north of the Stormberg. The proclamation of Martial Law over a considerable part of the Colony issued by Mr. Schreiner on November 15 was, as far as most of the districts were concerned, shutting the stable door after the horse had been stolen. Its immediate proclamation at the outbreak of war followed by a general disarmament might have averted much subsequent trouble. Mn Schreiner's unwillingness to proclaim Martial Law in time was, no doubt, due to his belief that the Free Staters would not invade Cape Colony, and to the fear that the Dutch colonists, in whose recollection Martial Law had always included the calling out of all the burghers, would suspect that they were to be compelled to fight against their own kin and thus be driven into the very rebellion which he hoped might be staved off by conciliation and sound advice till the British arms had asserted their superiority in the field. His error was one of judgement, in which he was not alone, rather than of disloyalty in intention. Still it was very galling to the military to find preparations for rebellion going on without having the power to interfere. Thus at Sterkstroom, during the first weeks of the war, the local Boers used daily to practice rifle shooting on the range, under the very noses of the garrison. A curious commentary on Mr. Schreiner's illusions as to the effectiveness of the policy of sound advice is furnished by the incidents connected with Mr. Sauer's visit to the north-eastern districts. After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain leave from Olivier to give advice to the burghers of Barkly East, Mr. Sauer addressed a large meeting at Dordrecht on November 27 urging the inhabitants to remain loyal as the British were certain to win in the end. At the end of the meeting a deputation was chosen to visit Olivier and ask him not to enter the Dordrecht district.  The deputation went, but instead of carrying out the public resolution of the meeting, they fulfilled its secret desire by making arrangements for Olivier's reception at Dordrecht, which took place on December 2.

Events in  Griqualand and Bechuanaland during November. Cronje leaves Mafeking to meet Methuen.

North of the line of the Orange River the Boors showed the same inactivity during the first half of November as elsewhere. Desultory skirmishing went on round Kimberley but there was little attempt to press the town really close. On the 11th Commandant Jordaan and Judge Hertzog with a small force went on an annexation and recruiting tour through Barkly West, Campbell, Griquatown, Douglas and other places in Griqualand West. About the same time Field-Cornet Visser with 200 or 300 Transvaalers rode from Vryburg to Kuruman.  But when the Boers arrived on the 13th they met with so stubborn a resistance from the handful of police and loyal "Bastards," i.e., half-bloods, in the village that after a week they withdrew to Phokwane. But except for Kimberley, Kuruman and Mafeking, the whole of British Bechuanaland and Griqualand West was, in fact as in name, annexed to the two Republics.  Such loyalist elements as existed were in some cases allowed to remain on condition of keeping quiet, but a great number were driven out and forced to trek south, undergoing many hardships and much worrying from Boer officials, before they reached Lord Methuen's lines on the Modder River. North of Mafeking the only events of any importance during these weeks was an attack made on the 8th by the Boers under Commandant F.A. Grobler on some 700 of Khama's Bechnanas, near Selika Kop, whose complete failure effectively safeguarded that part of the frontier from further attempts at invasion. By the middle of the month, the Boers became anxious about the concentration of troops at Orange River for the relief of Kimberley and began to see that their operations in the north had been a mistake. Accordingly, on the 19th, the greater part of the force on the Limpopo went back from Rhodes' Drift to Pietersburg to be there reinforced by additional levies and entrained for Cape Colony. Part of these, under Eloff and von Dalwig, were however moved to Deerdepoort in consequence of a night attack made upon the Boer laager on the 25th by Captain Llewellyn and his Rhodesians.  Several Boers, including Mr. Jan Barnard of the First Volksraad, were killed and a number wounded and taken prisoners. Unfortunately, on this occasion Linchwe's Kaffirs, who were lining their border while the British force operated inside Transvaal territory, crossed the border, contrary to strict orders, and took part in the attack. This and the circumstance that two women were accidentally shot in the dark were the only germs of fact underlying various horrible stories of Kaffir atrocities perpetrated at British instigation, which were freely spread abroad for the benefit of Boer sympathisers in South Africa and Europe. It was on the 19th, too, that General Cronje with some 4000 men of the Krugersdorp, Klerksdorp, and Potchefstroom commandos and the Scandinavian corps, and with the greater part of his artillery, trekked away from Mafeking, leaving Snyman with the Marico burghers and a few guns, including the Long Tom, to continue the investment. It is very characteristic of Boer methods at that stage of the war that no attempt was made to rush the town before withdrawing so large a force. Cronje and his men entrained at Klerksdorp on the 21st and were at once sent round through Johannesburg and Bloemfontein to meet Methuen's advance.

[1] The British casualties were 2 killed and 16 wounded. As regards the Boer losses, Baden.Powell seems to have been informed that he killed 53 and wounded a proportionate number. The diary of an English doctor who was present acquiesces in the Beer official reckoning of 2 killed and 6 wounded, while a correspondent of the Standard and Diggers' News puts the total at 60 casualties.

[2] A German officer in the Boer service who played a part of some occupied importance in the Boer military councils before the outbreak of war.

[3] It is to be regretted that the British Government did not at the outset declare that it would refuse to treat the ununiformed commandos of the Boors as belligerents on British soil, The right of a population to take up arms to repel invasion of its own territory is one that the British representatives strongly urged at The Hague Conference. But the invasion and occupation of another country by bands of armed men in ordinary clothes, indistinguishable from the civilian population of the country, for whom they would frequently pass themselves off for purposes of espionage, was a very different matter. A declaration that all armed men made prisoners on British territory, and not wearing some permanent and easily recognisable uniform or badge marking them as belonging to the Republican forces, would be treated as bandits and be liable to be shot without ceremony, would have had an excellent effect and might have delayed or possibly even have altogether prevented an invasion, while it would have been in perfect harmony with The Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War (articles 1 and 2). That no steps at all were taken, and that in consequence British generals had to fight at a most serious disadvantage, is simply another instance of the casual and haphazard fashion in which the war was taken in hand by those in supreme authority. The British Government was not, strictly speaking, bound to observe the rules of The Hague Convention towards the Boers. But if it had announced its intention of both observing and enforcing those rules strictly, It would not only have gained European sympathy but would have derived substantial advantages, and might even have averted or kept within limits the long guerilla campaign, with all its regrettable concomitants, which followed the break up of the Boer armies. In war severity, if based on clearly defined rules, is often far more humane in the end than mere easy-going contempt of one's enemy masquerading as clemency.

[4] A further little party of eighteen men, led by Inspector Berange, only arrived in Kimberiey on November 2, having marched over 250 miles from Upington near the borders of the German territory. Berange, who acted on his own initiative, deserves some credit for recognising the necessity of a concentration of all available forces.

[5] It must be remembered that crossing the Orange River was in Afrikander, if not in English eyes, a far more significant act than the invasion of Bechuanaland or Griqualand. The latter act only implied an attempt to reverse the extensions of territory made by Great Britain at the expense of the Republics during the last generation. The former emphasised the deliberate intention to drive the British power from every part of the South African continent.

[6] The Orange River was in flood at this moment, and the blowing up of all the bridges would have averted the invasion for several days at least. But it may be urged on behalf of General Forestier-Walker end Sir R. Buller that these bridges were intended to play so important a part in the advance of the Army Corps, that it was worth while running the risk of letting the Boers use them in the meanwhile.

[7] So hurried in fact was the decision that it was taken without waiting to consult Major F. C. Heath, R.E., who had just returned from an inspection of the fortifications at Stormberg, but could not be found at the moment. It is said that he was having his hair cut at the time, and when he returned from the barber's found to his surprise that the question had been settled, and the orders sent.

[8] It might, however, have been advisable to withdraw the greater part of the vast quantities of stores being accumulated at these points for the advance of the Army Corps. These could not very well have been removed in face of the enemy.

[9] Sixteen battalions of Infantry oat of thirty-three, eight batteries of Field Artillery out of fifteen (or nineteen, if the Horse Artillery batteries are included), and two out of seven cavalry regiments (or two and a half out of nine, if the Mounted Infantry are included).

[10] It is true that the civilian inhabitants, including Mr. Rhodes, were already somewhat clamorous for relief, but the information Sir R. Buller received from Kekewich made it clear that the situation was in no sense critical.

[11] No doubt the difference between the current South African rate of pay for troops (5s.), and the ordinary pay of the regular troops, was also partly responsible for this attitude.

[12] It is worth noting, however, that some of the most prominent members of the extreme Afrikander Party, such as Professor Lion Cachet, were not altogether satisfied with what was happening, especially in regard to commandeering, and in deference to their wishes, Du Plooy, with his commando, moved out of Burghersdorp the next day, and remained camped outside of the village.

  Copyright (c) 2020 www.saboerwar.com Terms Of Use  Privacy Statement