At last the signal for the charge was sounded. The bugle blared out and was echoed and re-echoed. Then came flash of bayonet and sound of cheering throats, the rush of Devons, Manchesters, Gordons, and dismounted Imperials—a wild, shouting mass making straight for the enemy's position.
To account for the presence of the Devons in the grand melee it is necessary to go back somewhat, as the great assault was not accomplished in a moment.
Our men were advancing in short rushes of about fifty yards, the Boers all the while lying under cover and shooting till the troops were within some twenty or thirty yards of them. Then the Dutchmen, as suited their convenience, either bolted or surrendered.
When the end ridge was gained and the guns captured, the enemy's laager was close in sight. A white flag was shown from the centre of the camps. At this Colonel Hamilton gave an order. The "Cease fire" was sounded. There was a lull in the action, some of our men commencing to walk slowly down-hill towards the camp. Suddenly, without warning, the crackle of musketry was heard, and a deadly fire poured from a small sugar-loaf shaped kopje to east of the camp. For one short moment our men, staggered by the dastardly action and the fierce suddenness of the attack, fell back, and during this moment a party of some forty Boers had stoutly charged uphill and effected a lodgment near the crest.
But this ruse was a failure and their triumph short-lived. The 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, who, as we know, had been holding the enemy in front during the commencement of the infantry attack, and had since then pushed steadily forward, had now reached to 350 yards from the enemy. Here they lay down to recover breath before charging with fixed bayonets. Five companies assaulted the hill to the left and five to the right; and a detachment of these, arriving at the critical moment when the Boers were making their last stand, helped to bring about the triumphant finale.
Like the lightning that shot through the sky above, the Boers, at the sound of the united cheers, had fled! Some scampered away to their laager on the Nek, and from thence to other kopjes. Others filed in troops anywhere, regardless of consequences. While they were in full retreat, and the mists of darkness, like a gathering pall, hung over the scene, the 5th Lancers and the 5th Dragoon Guards charged the flying enemy—charged not once nor twice only, but thrice, dashing through the scattered ranks with deadly purpose, though at terrible risk of life and limb. Never were Boers so amazed. The despised worms—the miserable Rooineks—had at last turned, and, as one of them afterwards described it, they had "come on horses galloping, and with long sticks with spikes at the end of them, picked us up like bundles of hay!"
The cost of victory, however, was heavy. Roughly estimated, we lost 4 officers and 37 men killed; 31 officers and 175 men wounded. Ten men were missing. The Boers lost over 300 Burghers killed and wounded, besides several hundred horses. Their hospital with wounded prisoners was placed under the care of the British hospital, they having only one doctor, who, with his primitive staff, was quite unable to cope with the arduous work of attending the multitude of sufferers.
Numbers of the enemy of all nationalities—Germans, Hollanders, Irish, and others—were made prisoners, and among them were General de Koch and Piet Joubert, nephew of General Joubert. General Viljoen was killed. The mongrel force, estimated at about 1200 strong, was commanded by Colonel Schiel, to whom it doubtless owed its excellent tactical disposition. This officer was wounded and taken prisoner. The Times gave somewhat interesting character sketches of prominent Boers who were killed or wounded on this occasion:—
"General Koch was Minute-Keeper to the Executive, and was President Kruger's most influential supporter. His son, Judge Koch, was appointed to a seat on the Bench, but was not popular, and was regarded as a puppet. The fighting Koch is not to be confounded with the General Koch, who belongs to Vryheid, and is a sterling warrior.
"Advocate Coster was State Attorney at the time of the Reform trials, but resigned owing to President Kruger having insulted him at a meeting of the Executive. He was an accomplished man, a member of the Inner Temple, and was very popular with the Dutch Bar.
"General Ben Viljoen was responsible for most of the fire-eating articles which appeared in the Rand Post."
"Colonel Schiel was court-martialled in past days for shooting four natives whom he accused of insubordination."
The courage of the Boers during this battle was immense. About two thousand were engaged, and these, though certainly aided by the strength of their position, fought valiantly, facing doggedly the heavy consummately well-directed fire of the British artillery, and returning it with undiminished coolness.
An interesting incident is mentioned in connection with the battle. When the fire of the British guns became overwhelming, eight plucky Boers dashed forward from cover, and, standing together, steadily opened fire on the men of the Imperial Light Horse, with the evident purpose of drawing their fire, while their comrades should change position. Out of this gallant little band, only one man was left to tell the tale!
The following is the casualty roll of officers killed at the battle of Elandslaagte:—
Imperial Light Horse.—Colonel Scott Chisholme, commander, killed; Major Wools Sampson, bullet wound, thigh, severely; Captain John Orr, bullet wound, neck, severely; Lieutenant William Curry, bullet wound, foot, severely; Lieutenant Arthur Shore, bullet wound, chest, severely; Lieutenant and Adjutant R. W. Barnes, wounded severely; Lieutenant Lachlan Forbes, wounded severely; Captain Mullins, wounded; Lieutenant Campbell, wounded; Lieutenant Normand, wounded. 21st Battery Field Artillery.—Captain H. M. Campbell, bullet wound, chest, severe; Lieutenant W. G. H. Manley, shell wound, head, severe. Staff.—Captain Ronald G. Brooke, 7th Hussars, bullet wounds, thigh and head, severe. 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment.—Second Lieutenant H. R. Gunning, severely, bullet wound in chest; Second Lieutenant S. T. Hayley, severely, bullet wounds in hand and leg; Second Lieutenant G. F. Green, severely, bullet wound in forearm; Captain William B. Lafone, slightly, bullet wound. 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment.—Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Curran, bullet wound, shoulder; Captain Charles Melvill, bullet wound, arm, severe; Captain William Newbigging, bullet wound, left shoulder, severe; Captain Donald Paton, bullet wound, thigh, severe; Lieutenant Cyril Danks, bullet wound, scalp, slight. 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders.—Killed: Major H. W. D. Denne, Lieutenant C. G. Monro, Second Lieutenant J. G. D. Murray, Lieutenant L. B. Bradbury. Wounded: Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham, bullet wound, arm, severe; Major Harry Wright, bullet wound, right foot, severe; Captain J. Haldane, bullet wound, leg, severe; Captain Arthur Buchanan, bullet wound, right side, severe; Lieutenant M. Meiklejohn, fractured humerus, severe; Lieutenant C. W. Findlay, bullet wound, arm and thigh, severe; Lieutenant J. B. Gillat (attached from Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders); Second Lieutenant I. A. Campbell, bullet wound, head and chest, dangerous; Lieutenant A. R. Hennessy (3rd Batt.), bullet wound, head and chest, severe.
The following tribute to the memory of Colonel Scott Chisholme is taken from Mr. John Stuart's correspondence to the Morning Post:—
"No death has been more severely felt than the Colonel's. He was a good man and a good soldier, brave to the point of recklessness, a wonderfully-inspiriting leader, and, as I judged from about a month's knowledge of him, single-minded, fervent in all his work, passionately in earnest. His regiment almost worshipped him. On the day of the fight their keenness was increased because he was keen, and they ignored the hardships they had gone through because he shared them and took them lightly, and did his best to improve matters.
"During the fight he only took cover once or twice, going from troop to troop, praising and encouraging the men in words that were always well chosen, for no man could phrase his blame or praise more aptly. At the last ridge he stopped to tie up the leg of a wounded trooper, and was shot himself in the leg. Two of his men went to his assistance, but he waved them off, telling them to go on with their fighting and to leave him alone. Then he was shot in one of the lungs, and the men went to his help, but while they were trying to get him to cover, a bullet lodged in his head and killed him. The last words he was heard to say were, 'My fellows are doing well.' His fellows will always remember that.
"I may be allowed to recall one or two interesting recollections of the Colonel. One is the speech he delivered when the Maritzburg Club dined him and his officers. Both he and General Symons spoke. Neither man was an orator, and yet each was more convincing than many orators, speaking simple, soldierly, purposeful words, words whose simplicity drove them home. Almost a week before the battle I saw the Colonel arranging his camp. He had taken off his tunic and helmet, and did twice as much direction as any other officer, and he worked as hard as any of the men. It was then, when I saw his vigour in full activity, that I realised his wonderful capacity for work—a capacity of which I had often heard, but which I had not been able to comprehend before.
"The last time I saw him was at the outspan before the battle began. He came to a group of us and gave one or two orders in such pleasant words that one knew that to obey him must in itself be a real delight. Then he sat down and gossiped with us, first about his luck in the morning, when a shell that hit the ground between his horse's feet had failed to burst, and afterwards about luck in general. He advised the officers to tell their men to sleep while they could, and then he said, 'Now I'll go and get half-an-hour's sleep myself.' But at that moment an aide-de-camp came saying that General French wanted to see him. When the Colonel returned, it was to order his regiment to saddle up and prepare to mount. In half-an-hour he was leading the attack on the first kopje.
"I like to think that before death smote him he knew that the battle was won, and that his fellows had done well, as he expected that they would, as he had helped them to do by example and generous encouragement."
A private of the Gordon Highlanders, in a letter dated Ladysmith, November 2, gave a vivid account of the charge of the Gordons at Elandslaagte, and described how Lieutenant-Colonel Dick-Cunyngham was wounded when leading his men, and that officer's chagrin at his being rendered impotent. He said: "We charged three times with the bayonet, and my gun was covered with whiskers and blood, though I don't remember striking anybody, but I was nearly mad with excitement, shells bursting and bullets whizzing round like hail. I was close behind the commanding officer when he was wounded. He was shot and had to sit down, but he cheered on his men. 'Forward, Gordons,' he cried, 'the world is looking at you. Brave lads, give it to the beggars, exterminate the vermin—charge.' He then started crying because he could no longer lead his battalion, and he would not retire from the field until the day was won. He is a fine man to lead a battalion—as brave as a lion. The Gordons were the last line, and we raced through the Manchesters and the Devons and the Light Horse Volunteers, all charging together."
Here we have a proof how much the morale of soldiers may be influenced by their immediate chief.
The Natal Advertiser in its account of the final scene said:—
"By a quarter past six the Devonshire Regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, and the Manchester Regiment, with the Imperial Light Horse, were in a position to storm the Boer camp from the enemy's front and left flank, and the signal for the bayonet charge was sounded. Then was witnessed one of the most splendid pieces of storming imaginable, the Devons taking the lead, closely followed by the Gordons, the Manchesters, and the Light Horse, in the face of a tremendous, killing fire, the rattle and roar of which betokened frightful carnage.... A bugler boy of the 5th Lancers shot three Boers with his revolver. He was afterwards carried round the camp amid cheers."
So many acts of gallantry were performed that they cannot all be related. It is impossible, however, to allow the wondrous pluck of Sergeant Kenneth M'Leod to go unrecorded. During the charge this gallant Scot was twice struck, once in the arm and once in the side. He however continued to pipe and advance with the Gordons to their final rush. Presently came more bullets, smashing his drones, his chanter, and his windbag, whereupon the splendid fellow had to give in.
Perhaps the most heart-rending period was that following the last gleam of daylight, when the Medical Staff went forth to do their melancholy duty. All were armed with lanterns, which, shining like pale glow-worms, made the dense gloom around more impenetrable still. Yet, groping and shivering through the black horror of the night, they patiently pursued their ghastly task with zeal that was truly magnificent. Dead, dying, wounded, were dotted all over the veldt. There, bearded old Boers, boys, Britons in their prime, were indiscriminately counted, collected, tended, the Field Hospital men and Indian stretcher-bearers working incessantly and ungrudgingly till dawn. Gruesome and heart-rending were the sights and scenes around the camp-fires when such wounded as could crawl dragged themselves towards their comrades. Pitiable the faces of the survivors as news came in of gallant hearts that had ceased to beat. A pathetic incident was witnessed in the grey gloom of the small hours. One of the bearers chanced on an ancient hoary-headed Boer, who was lying behind a rock supporting himself on his elbows. The bearer approached warily, as many of the enemy were known to have turned on those who went to their succour. This man, however, was too weak from loss of blood to attempt to raise his rifle. Between his dying gasps he begged a favour—would some one find his son, a boy of thirteen, who had been fighting by his side when he fell. The request was obeyed. The little lad, stone-dead, was discovered. He was placed in the failing arms of his father. The unhappy old fellow clasped the clay-cold form, and hugged it despairingly to himself, and then, merciful Providence pitied him in his misery—his stricken spirit went out to join his son.
An officer who was wounded, and who spent the night in the terrible scene, thus described his own awful experiences: "I lay where I fell for about three-quarters of an hour, when a doctor came and put a field-dressing on my wound, gave me some brandy, put my helmet under my head as a pillow, covered me with a Boer blanket which he had taken from a dead man, and then went to look after some other poor beggar. I shall never forget the horrors of that night as long as I live. In addition to the agony which my wound gave me, I had two sharp stones running into my back; I was soaked to the skin and bitterly cold, but had an awful thirst; the torrents of rain never stopped. On one side of me was a Gordon Highlander in raving delirium, and on the other a Boer who had his leg shattered by a shell, and who gave vent to the most heart-rending cries and groans. War is a funny game, and no one can realise what its grim horrors are till they see it in all its barbarous reality. I lay out in the rain the whole of the night, and at daybreak was put into a doolie by a doctor, and some natives carried me down to the station. The ground was awfully rough, and they dropped me twice; I fainted both times. I was sent down to Ladysmith in the hospital train; from the station I was conveyed to the chapel (officers' hospital) in a bullock-cart, the jolting of which made me faint again. I was the last officer taken in. I was then put to bed, and my wound was dressed just seventeen hours after I was hit. They then gave me some beef-tea, which was the first food I had had for twenty-seven hours."
The amazing spirit of chivalry that animated all classes, general officers, medical officers, chaplains, and even stretcher-bearers, in this campaign has been the subject of much comment. It was thought that modernity had rendered effete some of the sons of Great Britain, and the war, if it should have done no other good, has served to prove that times may have changed, but not the tough and dauntless character of the men who have made the Empire what it is.
The following, from a Congregational minister of Durban, who had volunteered to go to the front as honorary chaplain to the Natal Mounted Rifles, in which corps many of his congregation enrolled, is of immense interest. It gives us an insight into the inner core of valour—the valour of those who, unarmed, share the dangers without the intoxications of the fight. It runs:—
"The Lancers, who were mistaken by the Boers in the growing darkness for a body of their own men, fell upon them and turned a rout into a wild flight. Commander Schiel was very furious at losing the battle, and said he would like to kill every man, woman, and child in Natal. In this he was the exception to the rule, for the captives whom we liberated said the Boers had treated them with great kindness. After the battle Dr. Bonnybrook and I spent the night on the field of battle, and also followed the retreating Boers for a distance of six or seven miles, searching for and tending the wounded and dying. In the early hours of the morning we came to a Boer field-hospital, and shouting out, 'Doctor and Predicant,' we entered and rested, and slept there awhile. By daybreak we were out again. About six miles from camp Dr. Bonnybrook rode up to twenty-five mounted and armed Boers, and told them they were his prisoners. Ordering two to take the weapons of their comrades, he marched them into camp prisoners. For an unarmed man to accomplish alone, this was an exceedingly brave thing to do. After the battle one of the captured held up his gun and said, 'Look through this. I have not fired a shot. I am a Britisher. They forced me to come.'"
Among other heroes of Elandslaagte was Lieutenant Meiklejohn of the Gordon Highlanders. This young officer, one of the "Dargai boys," helped the charge in an endeavour to embarrass the Boer flank. Supported by a party of Gordons, so runs the narrative, Meiklejohn waved his sword and cried out to his party hastily gathered round him. But the Boer ranks were alert, and poured in a deadly fire on the gallant band. Lieutenant Meiklejohn received three bullets through his upper right arm, one through the right forearm, a finger blown away, a bullet through the left thigh, two bullets through the helmet, a "snick" in the neck, while his sword and scabbard were literally shot to pieces. He has by now lost his right arm, but, happily, being left-handed, it is hoped he may remain in the profession he is so well calculated to adorn.
A private soldier in the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders recounted an extraordinary personal experience. He said:—
"We, the Devons, Imperial Light Horse, and others, had a fight at Elandslaagte with the Boers, and I never enjoyed myself so much before. You first have to get christened to fire, and then you think nothing of the shells bursting about you, and the bullets which go whistling past like bees. We went forward by fifty-yard rushes, and at every rush you could hear a groan, and down would go one of our comrades, either killed or wounded, poor chap. When we were miles from the enemy they opened fire on us with shell, and as we were going along in mass, one of the shells burst on the left of the company, and one of our men of my section—Bobby Hall—got shot dead with a piece of the shell going straight through his head. That was what made more than one wish to turn and run. But what would Britain do if her soldiers ran from the enemy? At last we got to where we could get a shot at the Boers with our rifles, and you may bet we gave them more than one, as perhaps the papers have told you. I got through the rifle-fire down to the bayonet charge on the hillside, when I felt a sting in the left arm, and looking down, found I was shot in the wrist. In changing my position I got shot in the centre of the forehead. The bullet did not go straight through. It glanced off my nose-bone, and came out above my right temple.... On looking round, I was just in time to see the blood squirt from the first wound. I shifted my position in quick time, for I did not want another from the same rifle. I lay still after doing this for a while, when the thought came to me to get my wrist bandaged and try to shoot again. On changing my position I got a bullet right in the 'napper.' I was out of action then, for all was dark. I heard the officer I was going to get the bandages from say, 'Poor chap! he's gone.' But no, I am still kicking."
THE RETREAT FROM DUNDEE
Owing to the Boers having posted their 15-centimetre gun on the Impati for the purpose of shelling the camp and town, the troops and inhabitants removed to a position some three miles south of Dundee village. The movement was fraught with many discomforts. Rain fell in torrents, making the roads a mass of slush and enveloping everything in a thick mist, while provisions, which had been hastily gathered together, were scarce. On the following day, Sunday, an attempt was made to return to camp, but the Boer firing continued so active that the project had to be abandoned. Thereupon, on Sunday night the whole column, having first loaded four days' supplies from their old camp and set there lighted candles sufficient to cause such an illumination as would suggest to the Boers an idea of occupation, quietly stole away. No one exactly knew their destination. At nine of the clock the Army Service Corps waggons moved to the camp, were loaded, and by midnight commenced rumbling along in the damp obscurity. The advance column, after passing through Dundee, where it was joined by transport and rearguard, proceeded along the Helpmakaar road on the way to Ladysmith.
On Monday afternoon the first halt was called, but the rest was of short duration, for at ten the column was again plodding along through the miry roads in hourly dread lest the whole scheme should be spoilt, and the Boers suddenly arrest the course of the two-mile-long column.
And they had indeed good reason for alarm. They were forced to plod through a narrow pass in the Biggarsberg range of mountains, so narrow indeed that a hundred Boers might have effectually barred their way. Here, through this perilous black cylinder of the hills, they marched at dead of night. It took them between the hours of half-past eleven till three, stumbling and squelching in the mire, and knowing that should the enemy appear, should they but shoot one of the oxen of the leading waggon of the convoy, and thus block the cramped defile, all chance of getting safely through to Ladysmith would be at an end. This was by no means a happy reflection to fill men's minds in the dripping, almost palpable, darkness of the night, and the resolute spirit of the gallant fellows who unmurmuringly stowed away all personal wretchedness and stuck manfully to their grim duty is for ever to be marvelled at and admired. Fortunately the Dutchmen, "slim" as they were, had not counted on the possibility of this march being executed at all, still less of its being executed in pitch darkness. They were caught napping, and the party, who had left kit, provisions (except for the four days), and everything behind them, who were now drenched to the skin in the only clothes they possessed, at last reached Sunday River in safety.
Here they eagerly awaited an escort of the 5th Lancers, which had been detached by Sir George White from Ladysmith to meet them. These, to the great joy of the worn-out travellers, appeared on Wednesday afternoon. On that evening the column again started off for a last long wearisome tramp, the men, who had not been out of their clothes for a week, being now ready to drop from sleeplessness and exhaustion. But valiantly they held on. Not a word, not a grumble. All had confidence in General Yule and his officers, who shared with the men every hardship and every fatigue; each realised his individual duty to make the very best of a very bad job, and pluckily kept heart till the last moment. Torrents of rain fell, making the night into one vast immensity of slough and pool, but the stumbling, straining left, right, left, right, of the retreating men continued ceaselessly through the weary hours. On Thursday morning, the 26th, to their intense relief, they found themselves at last in the long-looked-for camp at Ladysmith.
The excitement of arrival was almost too much for the exhausted, fainting troops, but the cheers that went up from a thousand throats brought light to their sleep-starved eyes and warmth to their chilled frames. There was rest at last—rest and safety, food and warm covering, though of a more practical than artistic kind. The Devons—who had just come grandly through the fight at Elandslaagte and looted the Boer camp of innumerable saleable odds and ends—out of their newly-gained wealth "stood treat." In the joy of their hearts each of the men subscribed sixpence, and the gallant Dublin Fusiliers, the heroes of Glencoe, who, all unwashed and unshorn, now looked like chimney-sweeps rather than the warriors they were, were invited to a fine "square meal." It is difficult to imagine the condition of those battered braves after their week of hardship, fighting, and privation, and sticklers for etiquette would have been shocked at the manners and customs enforced by warlike conditions. One who dined with the Dundee column gave the following graphic description of the luxurious repast:—
"To begin with, there was no sort of furniture either in the messroom or the anteroom. If you wanted to sit down, you did so on the floor. We each got hold of a large tin mug, and dipped it into a large tin saucepan of soup and drank it, spoons not existing. A large lump of salt was passed round, and every one broke off a piece with his fingers. Next you clawed hold of a piece of bread and a chunk of tongue, and gnawed first one and then the other—knives and forks there were none. This finished the dinner. Add to this two or three tallow-candles stuck on a cocoa tin, and the fact that none of the officers had shaved, or had had their clothes off for a week, and had walked some forty-five miles through rivers and mud, and you will have some idea of how the officers' mess of one of the smartest of Her Majesty's foot regiments do for themselves in time of war. Not a murmur or complaint was to be heard."
Their state must certainly have been pitiable, for it will be remembered that on the retirement from Dundee rations for four days only were loaded, and provisions for two months, besides all officers' and men's kit and hospital equipment, were left behind.
And, sad to say, so also were the wounded. It was necessary for their future well-being to desert them. The men who had so gloriously led to victory now found themselves stranded and in a strange position—the vanquishers at the mercy of the vanquished! Most melancholy of all must have been the plight of those unhappy sufferers when they first learnt that their comrades were marching farther and farther away, and that they, in all their helplessness, must be left lonely—unloved, and perhaps untended—in charge of the enemy. One dares not think of the agonies of those sad souls—the nation's invalids—bereft of kindly words and kindred smiles; one cannot linger without a sense of emasculating weakness on the sad side-picture of battle that, in its dumb wretchedness, seems so much more paralysing than the active horror of facing shot and shell in company with glorious comrades in arms. Let us hope there was some one to whisper to them, to persuade them that all was for the best; that the safety of their sick selves and their sound mates depended on this retreat, this wondrous retreat which, when the tale of the war in its entirety shall be told, will shine like a dazzling light among records whose brilliancy in the history of British achievements cannot be excelled. Perhaps, too, they had faith to inspire them with the certainty that all that they had suffered in that dark hour for their country and for the weal of their fellows, would be remembered to their glory in the good times to come.
While the retreat was going forward Glencoe's gallant hero was breathing his last. After hopelessly lingering for three days, General Sir W. Penn Symons passed away. He expired in the hands of the enemy at Dundee hospital on Monday the 23rd of October. The next day he was quietly buried with profound signs of mourning.
SIR W. PENN SYMONS—GLENCOE
By the death of Major-General Sir William Penn Symons, the British army lost a brilliant and distinguished soldier, and a man of great valour and courage. He came of a Cornish family, the founder of which was a Norman knight who came over with William the Conqueror. The eldest son of the late William Symons, Recorder of Saltash, he was born in 1843, and in 1863 joined the South Wales Borderers—the old 24th Regiment. He became lieutenant in 1866, captain in 1878, major in 1881, lieutenant-colonel in 1886, and colonel in 1887.
His first experience of active service was in 1877, when the Borderers took the field against the Galekas. In the Zulu War of 1879 he served with distinction, but was not present at the battle of Isandlwana, being away from his regiment on special duty. In 1885 he served as Deputy-Assistant-Adjutant and Quarter-Master-General, organising and commanding the Mounted Infantry in the Burmese Expedition. Being honourably mentioned in dispatches for his services with the Chin Field Force, he received a brevet-colonelcy. In 1889-90 he was given a brigade in the Chin-Lusha Expedition, was again mentioned in despatches, made a C.B., and received the thanks of the Government of India. He commanded a brigade of the Waziristan Field Force in 1894-95 with like distinction, but he will best be remembered in connection with the campaign on the North-West Frontier of India in 1897-98, after which he was made a K.C.B. In 1898 he gave up his appointment in India and took command of the British troops in Natal.
He was one of the best shots in the army, his military hobby in fact being musketry, though he was also a great authority on the subject of mounted infantry. He was a keen sportsman, an excellent linguist. He was highly respected by all who knew him. As an evidence of how he was regarded by his brother officers, one may quote from the telegram which was sent from Sir G. White to the War Office on the morrow of the battle of Glencoe. The communication said: "The important success is due to his great courage, fine generalship, and gallant example, and the confidence he gave to the troops under him."
Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill's remarks about him, in a letter to the Morning Post, show how fully he was appreciated for his social as well as for his military qualities.
"So Sir Penn Symons is killed! Well, no one would have laid down his life more gladly in such a cause. Twenty years ago the merest chance saved him from the massacre at Isandhlwana, and Death promoted him in an afternoon from subaltern to senior captain. Thenceforward his rise was rapid. He commanded the First Division of the Tirah Expeditionary Force among the mountains with prudent skill. His brigades had no misfortunes; his rearguards came safely into camp. In the spring of 1898, when the army lay around Fort Jumrood, looking forward to a fresh campaign, I used often to meet him. Every one talked of Symons, of his energy, of his jokes, of his enthusiasm. It was Symons who had built a racecourse on the stony plain; who had organised the Jumrood Spring Meeting; who won the principal event himself, to the delight of the private soldiers, with whom he was intensely popular; who, moreover, was to be first and foremost if the war with the tribes broke out again; and who was entrusted with much of the negotiations with their jirgas. Dinner with Symons in the mud tower of Jumrood Fort was an experience. The memory of many tales of sport and war remains. At the end the General would drink the old Peninsular toasts: 'Our Men,' 'Our Women,' 'Our Religions,' 'Our Swords,' 'Ourselves,' 'Sweethearts and Wives,' and 'Absent Friends'—one for every night in the week. The night I dined it was 'Our Men.' May the State in her necessities find others like him!"
THE BATTLE OF REITFONTEIN
On the morning of the 23rd, thirty men of the 18th Hussars rode into camp at Ladysmith, after having had some exciting adventures. The facts were these. On the arrival at Glencoe camp of the news of the Boer defeat at Elandslaagte, General Yule had detached a force to cut off the flying Boers. Unfortunately, the Hussars who were sent out for this purpose were themselves cut off, but at last, with the enemy at their heels, succeeded in fighting their way down a dangerous pass, and eventually effecting their escape. This, too, without the loss of a man!
To return to the great retreat. While General Yule was falling back to effect a junction with General White, the latter officer conceived a brilliant plan to ensure the safety of the returning force. He was aware that Yule's column was marching via the Helpmakaar road, Beith, and the Waschbank and Sunday River Valleys, and therefore, to cover the movement, he sent out a strong force to the west of the road. The force consisted of the 21st, 42nd, and 53rd Field Batteries, 1st Devons, 1st Liverpools, 1st Gloucesters, 2nd King's Royal Rifles (just arrived from Maritzburg), 19th Hussars, 5th Lancers, Natal Carabiniers, Border Mounted Rifles, and Imperial Light Horse.
The enemy was already strongly posted on the kopjes a mile and a half west of the railway and two miles south-east of Modder Spruit station, in all, some seven miles from Ladysmith. It was necessary, therefore, to keep him well occupied, and divert his attention from the Dundee column. On both sides firing soon commenced, but our guns were promptly silenced. Then the British took up a position three-quarters of a mile west of the railway, and for some twenty minutes kept up a heavy artillery fire supplemented by sharp volleys from the infantry. Before long the kopjes were cleared and the object of the British attack accomplished. The main body of the Boers retired in the direction of Besters, a point to the south of Ladysmith, where, in the circumstances, it was more advisable for them to be. In this battle a great deal of sharpshooting, especially at officers, took place on the part of the foe, who also resorted to their old tactics of discharging their guns and running away, again discharging them and again running—a trick they had been mightily fond of in their dealings with the Zulus, and which was calculated to tire out the fleetest antagonists. Colonel Wilford of the 1st Gloucester Regiment was mortally wounded. Sir George White had a narrow escape, as the Boers turned their artillery on the Staff, and their first shell came screaming within fifteen yards of the General. Captain Douglas, 42nd Battery, had also a marvellous escape, his horse having been wounded and his haversack ripped open by a splinter. In this smart engagement, as Sir George White in his official statement declared, "Our side confined its efforts to occupying the enemy and hitting him hard enough to prevent his taking action against General Yule's column." The manoeuvre, as we know, was eminently successful, but was not executed without cost to those who assisted in it. The following was the official list of the officers killed and wounded:—
1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.—Killed: Lieutenant-Colonel and Colonel Edmund Percival Wilford. 42nd Battery Field Artillery.—Wounded: Lieutenant S. W. Douglas, shell-graze of abdomen, slight. 53rd Battery Field Artillery.—Major Anthony J. Abdy, shell-graze of right knee, slight; Lieutenant Arthur Montague Perreau, bullet wound, right leg, severe; Lieutenant George Herbert Stobart (from 34th Battery), bullet wound, finger, slight. 19th Hussars.—2nd Lieutenant A. Holford, bullet wound, slight. 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.—Lieutenant Carlos Joseph Hickie, slightly.
The Boers, triumphant, entered Dundee about the same time as General Yule and his worn-out troops were being enthusiastically greeted in Ladysmith. They attacked the Dundee Town Guard, putting it to flight, and turned many civilians out of their houses. Later, they mounted two big guns at Intintanyone, some 4500 yards from the Ladysmith camp, and their energies pointed to further activities.
Here it may be as well to review the geographical position of this now famous place. Ladysmith, as a position for purposes of defence, is very badly situated. It lies in the cup of the hills, and stony eminences command it almost in a circle. Towards the north is Pepworth's Ridge, a flat-headed hill fringed at the base with mimosa bushes. North-east is Lombard's Kop, which is flanked by a family of smaller kopjes. South of this hill and east of Ladysmith is a table-headed hill called Umbulwana. South of this eminence runs the railway through the smaller stations of Nelthorpe and Pieters towards Colenso. To the west of Pepworth's Ridge is Surprise Hill, and other irregular hills which rise from four to five hundred feet on all sides. The place is watered by the Klip River, which enters the valley between the hills on the west, twists gracefully in front of the town, and turns away among the eastern hills before making its way to the south. The position, commanded as it was on every hand, was not an enviable one, but the glorious fellows who had fought in two brilliant engagements were in no wise disconcerted.
Yet all were on the alert, for the Boers had now closed in round the town, and an engagement was hourly expected. A little desultory fighting took place, but when the British troops advanced, those of the Orange Free State at once retired towards the border. The town, however, was somewhat harassed for want of water, owing to the Boers having cut off the main pipes. The inconvenience was merely temporary, as the Klip River, which runs through the main position, was fairly pure, and there were wells which could be made serviceable. A captive balloon was inflated by the Royal Engineers, and was used for the purpose of making observations, much to the annoyance of the Dutchmen, who had securely perched themselves at points of vantage on the surrounding hills. They were at this time on the north and east, having laagered south-east of Modder Spruit and Vlaak Plaats, some seven miles from Ladysmith, and were preparing to arrange a closely-linked chain of earthworks that should effectually surround the garrison. An exchange of shots now and then, however, was all that took place for a while between the contending parties, though both sides were evidently gathering themselves together for some definite move. The situation was thus described by a captive in Ladysmith:—
"Saturday and Sunday have passed without any demonstration being made by the enemy. The camp has again assumed its condition of readiness and watchfulness. On Saturday afternoon it was rumoured that General Joubert, with the commando encamped at Sunday River, was experiencing difficulty in transporting the 40-pounders across the spruit, which was swollen after the heavy rains. Small parties of Boers are constantly on the alert, and are harassing the British outposts.
"Scarcely a day passes without the outlying pickets being fired upon. The latest reports say that the enemy are gathered in considerable force on Dewdrop Farm.
"Great excitement has been caused in the Artillery camp by the capture of a supposed spy, who was caught in the act of tampering with the guns. The man had eluded the vigilance of the sentry, and had opened the breech of one of the 15-pounders when he was noticed. He was promptly arrested. When asked what he was doing, he said he was a lieutenant in the 18th Battery. Questioned further, he contradicted himself, and said that it was quite by accident that he opened the breech. He admitted that he belonged to Johannesburg. He was marched off in custody of the guard. The sequel of the story has not been made public.
"No camp followers are allowed, and all here have been ordered to leave. The enemy are now undoubtedly closing round Ladysmith. A large commando is reported to be on the Helpmakaar road, and a large camp has been formed between the Harrismith Railway Bridge and Potgieter's Farm. The camp on Dewdrop Farm extends for four miles. The enemy have an exceptional number of waggons. The Boer patrols are very venturesome; they have approached within three and a half miles of the town, and one party actually removed carcasses ready dressed for consumption from within the slaughtering lines."
The prospect was far from cheering, particularly as Sir George White was well aware that his field-guns were ineffective against the powerful guns of position which the enemy were handling with unpleasant dexterity. At this critical period the united forces of Ladysmith and Glencoe only amounted to some 10,000 men, more than half of whom were infantry. The General, however, put the best face he could on the matter, telegraphed home for big guns—and waited!
General Joubert now expressed his opinions on the causes of the war. His ideas, published in the German journals, were of interest as showing the sentiments of the opposite camp:—
"It was evident to our Government after the Jameson raid, that Great Britain would be forced in time by various sordid elements into a war of extermination with the Boers. It was equally clear that this danger could only be averted by armaments on a most extensive scale. We were conscious that the impending war of annihilation would incur the sharpest condemnation on the part of the other European Powers, but history had taught us that not one of these Powers would be roused to intervene in our favour. In these circumstances we had to rely on our own strength.
"By indefatigable zeal and heavy sacrifices to augment our forces, and yet to secrete them from the observation of the British—these were the objects of our noblest exertion. Well, we succeeded, and hoodwinked the British. Spies were permitted to obtain glimpses of our obsolete artillery, but until the war was on the point of breaking out they had no suspicion of the formidable extent of our stores of modern material.
"We counted on the unreliability of the British announcements concerning their own preparedness, and attended as little to their cries of 'To Pretoria!' as did the Germans in 1870 to the Parisian boasters who shouted 'A Berlin!' Without completely denuding her colonies of troops, Great Britain cannot possibly despatch more than about 85,000 men to South Africa. Of this imposing force, only half will be available for the chief battles. It may be possible for Great Britain to effect the landing in various places of these troops by the middle of December. I estimate, however, that the losses in prisoners, killed, sick, and wounded will amount in the meantime to some 10,000. There will thus remain 75,000 men.
"Even should we fail to prevent the junction of the British troops under Sir Redvers Buller and be compelled to retreat, the British army would become from natural causes so debilitated that it would represent a force for operative purposes not exceeding 35,000. The remainder would have to be employed in protecting lines of communication extending some 700 miles.
"Our lines of depots, on the contrary, are in home territory. They are constructed at regular distances in three directions, and barely 500 men are necessary to cover them. Excellently-organised communications have been established between them, and if any one of them be seriously threatened, the stores—if rescue be impossible—will be destroyed.
"Moreover, defensive warfare—to which we need not think, however, of resorting for a long time to come—is fraught with far greater advantages to us than offensive operations. With a change of terrain there will be a change of tactics. In Natal and the south we have to deal with unfamiliar conditions. On the high plains of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State we shall be at home, and the British will meet opposition from us and from Nature at every step of the way, and at all times be prepared for action on two or three fronts. In this way will be developed a guerilla warfare of a most inconceivably bloody character, such as the British will be unable to endure for more than a few months."
General Joubert then protested that the Boers were fighting merely for the freedom of their own "narrower" Fatherland, and not with a view to the destruction of British preponderancy in South Africa. He acknowledged the bravery of the British soldiers, but imagined that hardships and deprivations would so demoralise them that they would be unable to hold out against an enemy superior in numbers.
"In these circumstances," he continued, "do not accuse me of boasting when I frankly say that victory will be ours. Every one of us is filled with the same conviction and unshakeable faith in God, that He will remain as true to us in this as in former wars, and that He will not allow the blood shed and to be shed in this struggle, that will probably last yet a year, to extinguish us and our children."
THE BATTLE OF LOMBARD'S KOP
Towards the end of October Sir George White decided that something must be done to protect his line of communication with the south. The Boers were spreading out in crescent form and drawing gradually nearer to the town. On the north were troops commanded by General Joubert. On the west was a Free State commando, and on the east was General Lucas Meyer, who owed us a grudge after the events of Talana Hill. Reinforced by troops from General Erasmus, he now desired to press towards the railway with a view to seizing it at some point south of the town. It was necessary at all costs to put a stop to this scheme. Colonel Ian Hamilton with an Infantry Brigade was therefore despatched on the 27th to Lombard's Kop, a hill some five miles east of Ladysmith. There he bivouacked for the night, with a view to clearing the enemy out at the point of the bayonet on the morrow. He never brought his plan into execution, however, for Sir George White, having been informed of the size of Meyer's force, ordered him to fall back on the town. On Sunday the 29th it was discovered that the Boers were intrenched in lines that extended over twenty miles, while "Long Tom," their six-inch gun, was perched on Pepworth Hill, its big ominous muzzle being situated some 7500 yards to the north of Ladysmith. In addition to this formidable weapon, field-guns with a range of some 8000 yards were posted about in well-concealed positions. For the protection of our line of communication it was necessary that the enemy, though three times as strong as the British force, should be dispersed, and that night, at half-past ten o'clock, Colonel Hamilton again set out with three battalions, the Devons, the Gordons, the Manchesters, and a Brigade Division of Artillery. The night was dark but clear, and the troops marched along the Newcastle Road to Limit Hill, a strong kopje some three miles north of Ladysmith, and half-way between that town and Pepworth Hill. There they bivouacked for the night. While this party was moving as described, a small force under Colonel Carleton, composed of four and a half companies of the Gloucestershire Regiment and six companies of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and No. 10 Mountain Battery, was moving towards Nicholson's Nek with a view of seizing it. But of Colonel Carleton's column anon.
On Colonel Ian Hamilton's right flank, towards Lombard's Kop, was Colonel Grimwood, with the 1st and 2nd King's Royal Rifles, the Liverpools, Leicesters, and Dublin Fusiliers, three Field-Batteries, and the Natal Volunteer Artillery. On the extreme right, when day broke, was General French with a Cavalry Brigade and some volunteers. The idea was, that while Colonel Grimwood was shelling the Boer position to the north of Lombard's Kop, General French should prevent any attempt to turn his right; the enemy's artillery silenced, Colonel Grimwood was to drive him along the ridge running to Pepworth, and, under cover of the British guns, press the Boers towards their centre. Meanwhile our centre, under Colonel Hamilton, was to attack a hill where the enemy was in force, rout him and join in the general scheme, while Colonel Carleton protected the centre from a flank movement. Unfortunately "the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang aft agley," and General White's admirable scheme failed, as we shall learn. An artillery duel began operations, and this continued for two long hours, while the warm spring morning developed, and the Boers, who had been warned of our plans and had changed their position during the night, were laughing in their sleeves at the capital surprise they had prepared. They had drawn off their men from the point that was to have been the objective of our centre, and extending and reinforcing their left, were calmly waiting our attack. The artillery duel continued till seven o'clock, our batteries with great difficulty searching out the enemy's position. Colonel Grimwood, with two battalions of the King's Royal Rifles, held the kopjes and ridges in front of Farquhar's Farm, while mounted infantry and troopers of the 18th Hussars, supported by the Liverpools and Leicesters, were posted on the hills on the right. Behind them came the artillery, who directed their fire at the hill above the farm, where the enemy was supposed to be intrenched.
The Boers, who in great hordes had streamed from the hills like a mountain torrent and concealed themselves in the surrounding ridges, now made all Colonel Grimwood's plans impossible. He seemed, indeed, in danger of being annihilated by sheer force of superior numbers, when troops from the centre were pushed forward to his support. A smart engagement ensued, the Boers making energetic efforts to penetrate the line between the Infantry and Artillery, while the 53rd Battery changed front to meet the attack and the 5th Lancers struggled to form up on the left of the rifle regiments. But the enemy's automatic quick-firing gun vomited forth its death-dealing steel with such persistence that the cavalry was forced to retire at a gallop. The gunners again came to the rescue, and six field-batteries, spread over in a semicircular front of three-quarters of a mile, sent their shrapnel over the heads of the infantry to crash on the ridges occupied by the Boers.
At this critical moment, when the turmoil of warfare was at its hottest, and when our gallant troops were struggling unsuccessfully to hold their own against an overwhelming number of the enemy, a message came from Sir George White to retire. Some sort of a panic had taken place in the town, owing partly to the fact that the Boers were threatening it from another quarter, partly to the persistent shelling of "Long Tom," which, as some one described, was like a voluble virago, determined to have the last word! All efforts to silence the horrible weapon had failed, and for some three or four hours it had sent its eighty-four-pound shells shrieking into the town. There was no resource but to fall back, which was done to the appalling detonations of the Boer guns all going at once, while "Long Tom," like some prominent solo-singer, dominated the whole clamouring orchestra. To silence him and to cover the retreat, a Lieutenant of the Powerful, in charge of a gun drawn by a team of oxen, went out on the road between Limit Hill and Ladysmith. Before the gun could be got in position, however, "Long Tom" had spotted it—barked at it—overturned it, and killed several of the oxen. But his triumph was short-lived. Another rival performer had come on the scene, namely, the twelve-and-a-half-pounder of the Naval Brigade. It came, saw, and conquered, knocking out "Long Tom" at the fourth shot!
The whole action of the Naval Brigade reads like a fairy story. Ladysmith on the point of exhaustion, with all its troops engaged and no big guns wherewith to meet the terrific assaults of the six-inch cannon on Pepworth Hill, was almost in despair. At the eleventh hour up came the Naval Brigade under Captain the Hon. Hedworth Lambton of H.M.S. Powerful with 280 Bluejackets, two 4.7 guns, and four twelve-and-a-half-pounders. Then the affair was done. It was just one, two, three, and away—for the fourth splendidly-directed shot saved the situation.
In this engagement great feats of daring were accomplished, feats which have now become so general that we have almost ceased to gasp in wonder at the heroism of the "mere man" of the nineteenth century. When the regiments were forced to retire from the death-laden region of Lombard's Kop, Major Abdy of the 53rd Battery R.A., dashing across the plain under a storm of shells from a quick-firing gun, brought his battery between the enemy and the straggling mass of retreating soldiers. Horse and man rolled over, but the fire of the 53rd never slackened till the imminence of danger was past. The correspondent of the Standard, who was present, said: "When the moment came for the battery to fall back, the limber of one of the guns had been smashed and five horses in one team had been killed. Captain Thwaites sent back for another team and waggon limber, and brought back the disabled gun under a concentrated fire from the enemy, who were not more than four hundred yards distant. Lieutenant Higgins, of the same battery, also distinguished himself for gallantry. One of the guns was overturned in a donga. In the face of a close and heavy fire the Lieutenant succeeded in righting the gun and bringing it into a place of safety."
The following is a list of killed and wounded among the officers who were engaged on Lombard's Kop:—
13th Field Battery, R.A.—Major John Dawkins, wounded, slightly. 42nd Field Battery.—Lieutenant James Taylor M'Dougall, killed. 69th Field Battery.—Lieutenant Harold Belcher, bullet wound, forearm, severely. 1st Battalion King's Royal Rifles.—Major W. T. Myers (7th Battalion), Lieutenant H. S. Marsden, and Lieutenant T. L. Forster, killed; Lieutenant H. C. Johnson, bullet wound in shoulder, severely. 2nd Battalion King's Royal Rifles.—Major H. Buchanan Riddell, bullet wound, abdomen, severe. 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.—Captain Willcock, bullet wound, shoulder and wrist; Captain Bertram Fyffe, bullet wound, forearm and chest, severe; Captain Frederick Staynes, bullet wound, forearm, severe. Royal Army Medical Corps.—Major Edward G. Gray, killed. Natal Mounted Rifles.—Lieutenant W. Chapman, killed.
THE DISASTER OF NICHOLSON'S NEK
The circumstances which attended the movements of Colonel Carleton's column are even now somewhat fraught with mystery. He carried out the night march unmolested until within two miles of Nicholson's Nek. Then some boulders, loosened evidently for the purpose, rolled down the hill, and a sudden crackling roll of musketry stampeded the infantry ammunition mules. The alarm became infectious, with the result that the battery mules also broke loose from their leaders, practically carrying with them the whole of the gun equipment. The greater part of the regimental small-arm ammunition reserve was similarly lost. In consequence of this misfortune, Colonel Carleton's small force, after a plucky fight and heavy loss, had to capitulate. The real truth about the affair may never be known, but for the lamentable result Sir George White in an official dispatch, with heroic courage—greater perhaps than any required by warriors in the field—took upon himself the entire blame. The General knew well that the failure of his programme in the engagement of Lombard's Kop had inevitably brought about the disaster to the isolated force.
The list of officers taken prisoners by Boers was as follows:—
Staff.—Major W. Adye. 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers.—Lieutenant-Colonel F. R. C. Carleton; Majors F. H. Munn and C. S. Kincaid; Captains Burrows, Rice, wounded, and Silver, severely wounded; Lieutenants A. E. S. Heard, C. E. Southey, W. G. B. Phibbs, A. H. C. MacGregor, H. B. Holmes, A. L. J. M. Kelly, W. D. Dooner, wounded; Second Lieutenants R. J. Kentish, C. E. Kinahan, R. W. R. Jeudwine; Chaplain Father Matthews. 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment.—Majors S. Humphrey, H. Capel Cure, and W. R. P. Wallace; Captains S. Duncan and R. Conner, both slightly wounded; Lieutenants A. Bryant, F. C. Nisbet, J. O'D. Ingram, R. M. M. Davy, C. S. Knox, W. A. M. Temple, A. H. Radice, F. A. Breul, W. L. B. Hill, P. H. Short; Second Lieutenants H. H. Smith, W. S. Mackenzie, R. L. Beasley, Lieutenant and Quartermaster R. J. Gray. Royal Artillery Mountain Battery.—Major G. E. Bryant; Lieutenants Wheeler, G. R. H. Nugent, W. H. Moore, Webb (attached): Newspaper Correspondent, J. Hyde.
Some details of their misfortune were given by the prisoners in Pretoria, and they serve to throw more light on the subject.
Colonel Carleton, as we know, was sent towards Nicholson's Nek to hold it and prevent the Free Staters from coming to the assistance of the other Boers. Having lost his reserve ammunition and the water of all the battery through the stampede of the mules, he set to work to construct a defensive position. But stones were scarce and the defences were slender, and by the light of dawn his position was revealed. At this time a long-range fire was opened from three hills to south and west, dropping from 1500 yards into the position, and taking it both in flank and in rear. From his observations Colonel Carleton discovered that General White's scheme had failed—that it was being abandoned. In consequence of this failure the whole Boer force was enabled to swarm from all directions towards the isolated column. Firing fierce and incessant, exhausted the already worn-out Irish Fusiliers, while the advanced companies of the Gloucesters were severely mauled by the Martini bullets of the enemy. The hill was now completely surrounded, the ammunition expended; still Colonel Carleton had no idea of giving in. The bayonet was left, and by the bayonet he meant to stand or fall. Suddenly a wounded officer ordered the white flag to be raised. It was then hoisted, but uncertainty prevailed as to the authority for the exhibition of the flag, and some of our men still continued to fire. However, the mischief was done, and the surrender was merely a matter of moments.
The most vivid account of the disaster, from an outsider's point of view, was given by the Times special correspondent at Ladysmith. He wrote:—
"This column, consisting of six companies of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, four and a half companies of the Gloucestershire Regiment, and No. 10 Mountain Battery, left camp on Sunday night at 10.30, with the object of occupying a position from which it would be able to operate upon the right of the Boer position on Pepworth Hill. The column was guided by Major Adye, of the Field Intelligence, and a staff of the headquarters guides. Their destination was Nicholson's Nek, a position which, when reconnoitred from this side, appeared to possess the necessary tactical advantages for a detached force. Nicholson's Nek lies about four miles up Bell's Spruit, a donga due north of Ladysmith. The men blundered along in the darkness, the Irish Fusiliers leading, the battery in the centre, the rear being brought up by the Gloucestershire Regiment. There seems no doubt upon one point, and that is, the enemy were aware of this part of the movement from the beginning. Probably they were aware of the whole of the plans for Monday, for in Ladysmith it was impossible to say who was a Boer agent and who not. However that may be, it is certain that the enemy were on the flanks of the column all night, one of the survivors positively stating that he constantly heard the snapping of breeches, and once the peculiar noise which a rifle makes at night when it is dropped.
"Two hours before daybreak, while the column was in enclosed country, either a shot was fired or a boulder rolled into the battery in column of route. The mules stampeded, and easily broke away from their half-asleep drivers. They came back upon the Gloucestershire Regiment, the advance party of whom fired into the mass, believing in the darkness that it was an attack. This added to the chaos; the ranks were broken by the frenzied animals, and they dashed through the ranks of the rearguard, carrying the first and second reserve ammunition animals with them. It became a hopeless panic; the animals, wild with the shouting and the turmoil, tore down the nullah into the darkness, and the last that was heard of them was the sound of ammunition-boxes and panniers as they were splintered against the boulders. The hubbub of those few minutes was sufficient to have alarmed the enemy. By a strenuous effort the officers succeeded in getting the men again under control, and when daylight came they seized the first position which presented itself, and which was about two miles short of the original goal. They were forced to take advantage of the first kopje, as Boer scouts were all round them, and the day was ushered in with desultory firing. It was a sorry position which they had chosen, and the men were in a sorrier plight. All their reserve ammunition was gone, and though they had saved pieces of the screw-guns, they were not able with these pieces to patch up a single mounting.
"The position itself was a flat kopje commanded on the south by a self-contained ridge. To the east was another kopje, which commanded the top of the position at about 500 yards. On the west were two similar spurs, also commanding the position at short ranges. The summit of the kopje was a plateau, all the sides being gradual slopes except the eastern, which was almost sheer, this latter being the side from which access had been gained. From below it appeared a defensible position, but when once the top was reached it was evident that it was commanded from all sides. The men busied themselves attempting to build breastworks. The Gloucestershire companies, with their Maxim gun, were given the northern face to hold, two companies being detached on to a self-contained ridge of the position which lay on the south side. The Irish Fusiliers had the precipitous flank to defend.
"From earliest daybreak Boer scouts were reconnoitring, and about eight o'clock mounted Boers could be seen galloping in small groups to the cover at the reverse of the hill on the west. Later two strong parties of mounted men took position on the far side of the two hills commanding the kopje from the west. About nine o'clock these two parties had crowned the hills and opened a heavy fire at short ranges right down upon the plateau. Our men made a plucky attempt to return this fire, but it was impossible; they were under a cross-fire from two directions, flank and rear. The two companies of Gloucesters holding the self-contained ridge were driven from their shelter, and as they crossed the open on the lower plateau were terribly mauled, the men falling in groups. The Boers on the west had not yet declared themselves, but about 200 marksmen climbed to the position which the two companies of the Gloucesters had just vacated. These men absolutely raked the plateau, and it was then that the men were ordered to take cover on the steep reverse of the kopje. As soon as the enemy realised this move, the men on the western hill teemed on to the summit and opened upon our men as they lay on the slope. They were absolutely hemmed in, and what had commenced as a skirmish seemed about to become a butchery. The grim order was passed round—'Faugh-a-Ballaghs, fix your bayonets and die like men!' There was the clatter of steel, the moment of suspense, and then the 'Cease fire' sounded. Again and again it sounded, but the Irish Fusiliers were loth to accept the call, and continued firing for many minutes. Then it was unconditional surrender and the men laid down their arms."
An officer of the Gloucestershire Regiment described the affair thus:—
"HOSPITAL, WYNBERG, 9/11/1899.
"We were ordered out with six companies of Royal Irish Fusiliers and No. 10 Mountain Battery, Royal Artillery, to make a night march through the Boer lines and hold a hill behind their right flank till the rest of the troops took us off, which they expected to do about 11 A.M. As it turned out, they were not able to do this, but they did keep the Boer guns employed, luckily for us. We started off at 8.30 P.M., and got to the foot of our hill about 2 A.M. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were in front, then the battery and S.A.A. mules, and last ourselves. The Royal Irish Fusiliers had got part way up the hill—a very steep one—when three mounted Boers galloped down amid clouds of dust, rolling stones, &c. They started off the battery and S.A.A. mules, the Boers firing as they passed. The mules cut right through the regiment, and all was chaos for a time.
"It was pitch dark, and the noise of the mules and the loads and the stores falling about was enough to put any one off. Several men were hurt, some got in next day, some are missing.—Part of Stayner's, Fyffe's, and my company were cut off from the rest altogether, and when we got them in some sort of order, we had quite lost the rest of the column. The orders were to push on, no matter what happened, and every one left to look out for himself. After some time trying to find the path, we came across a straggler, who told us which way the regiment had gone, and eventually we found them on the top of a hill. We were ordered, as soon as we got on the hill, to put up sangars, which we worked at by the light of a very small moon till daylight. Then the Boers began on us all round, not very many, till about half-past eight. From then till 2.30 the fire was hot, and hottest at 2.30, when our ammunition being almost down and the fire devilish from all sides, we had to give in.
"I got a grazing shot on my left hand and a bullet in my right forearm early (about 8.30 A.M., and two more grazers—right thigh and left elbow)—later, finally, a bullet from behind through the right shoulder about a quarter of an hour before the end. I don't know who gave the order to 'Cease fire.' The firing could not have gone on five minutes more on our side for want of ammunition, and the Boer fire was tremendous from all round. It was like 'magazine independent' at the end of field-firing. The astonishing thing is so few were hit. If we had had our guns and ammunition, I think we could have held on until night and then got off, but there were 1200 of them, they said, to our 800, not counting gunners, and you could not till the very end see a dozen of them. The way they take cover is simply wonderful. All the prisoners were marched off at once and sent by rail to Pretoria. It was a terribly hot day, and no shade or water except what the Boers gave us. They were very good about water, giving us all they had, and fetching more from the bottom of the hill, one and a half mile away."
An officer of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, writing from Staatsmodel Schule, Pretoria, said:—
"We were all taken prisoners, together with the Gloucester Regiment and a Battery of Mounted Artillery, which accounts for us being in Pretoria so soon. As we were going up the hill in the dark, a small party of Boers dashed through our ammunition mules, causing them to stampede. By this move we lost all our mules, 200 in all, and with them all our ammunition and artillery.... You don't know what it means shooting a Boer; he is behind a rock, and all you can ever see is his rifle sticking out. For the last hour of the fight I had a rifle and ammunition which I took from a dead man, and blazed away for all I was worth. Then we fixed bayonets and prepared for a rush, when the 'Cease fire' sounded. Our senior Captain has told me that my name has been mentioned to our Colonel, who was commanding the force, as having caused a lot of men to rally. We were all then taken prisoners, except two officers killed and eight wounded, and marched to the Boer laager, and sent off that night to a station twenty miles distant in waggons. While we were in their laager they treated us extremely well, and gave us food and tobacco. All you read about the Boers in England is absolutely untrue. They are most kind to the wounded and prisoners, looking after them as well as their own wounded, and anything they've got they will give you if you ask them, even if they deprive themselves. We came up to Pretoria in first-class sleeping-carriages, and the way they treated us was most considerate, feeding us and giving us coffee every time we stopped. The day we arrived we took up quarters on the racecourse, but we have been moved into a fine brick building with baths, electric light, &c. They provide us with everything, from clothes down to tooth-brushes. They also feed us, and we are constantly getting presents of vegetables and cigars from private people. In fact, we can have everything we like except our liberty; for some reason or other they won't at present give us parole, and we are surrounded by sentries. There are close upon fifty officers in this building, and they have got any amount of wounded ones in different places. They say they won't exchange the officers at any price."
As this letter had evidently to pass through the hands of the prison censor, we may take the eulogies of the Boers for what they were worth! However, it is but just to own that there are Boers and Boers. For instance, it is a fact that Captain Gerard Rice, who was wounded in the ankle and unable to move, offered a Boer half-a-sovereign to carry him off the field. The man refused the money, but performed the action with great kindness.
Father L. Matthews, chaplain of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who was captured at Nicholson's Nek on October 31 and subsequently released, gave the following version of the disaster:—
"We were sent out to occupy the position with the object of preventing the two Boer forces from joining. We started at 8.30 on Sunday night, marched ten miles, and got to the hill at 1 A.M. The first mishap was that the mountain battery stampeded and scattered the whole lot of mules. We formed up again and gained the top of the hill. The guns were gone, but not all the ammunition. I do not know what stampeded the mules. They knocked me down. It was pitch dark.
"We had one hour's sleep. Firing began just after daylight. It was slack for some time, but the Boers crept round. Then the firing became furious. Our men made a breastwork of stones.
"After 12 o'clock there was a general cry of 'Cease fire' in that direction. Our fellows would not stop firing. Major Adye came up and confirmed the order to cease fire. Then the bugle sounded 'Cease fire.' In our sangar there was a rumour that the white flag was raised by a young officer who thought his batch of ten men were the sole survivors.
"We were 900 alive, having started perhaps 1000. I think that many of the battery men escaped. Our men and officers were furious at surrendering. The Boers did not seem to be in great numbers on the spot, but I heard that the main body had galloped off.
"The men had to give up their arms. The officers were sent to Commandant Steenekamp. The officers then ordered the men to fall in. The officers were taken away from the men and sent to General Joubert. On the same day the officers went in mule-waggons and slept at some store en route, and next day took the train at Waschbank for Pretoria. The officers are very well treated, and so, I have heard, are the men. There has been no unpleasantness in Pretoria. The officers are in the Model School, and are allowed to walk as they please in the grounds.
"I think that the surrender was a great blunder, and was caused by a misunderstanding. Major Adye was much put out. The white flag was not hoisted by the Irish Fusiliers."
Father Matthews puts the case mildly. Some of the officers of the Irish Fusiliers were so exasperated at the exhibition of the white flag, that they set to work and smashed their swords rather than give them up.
The final figures of the losses sustained at Nicholson's Nek were as follows: The total of missing of the Gloucesters and Royal Irish Fusiliers was 843. Thirty-two of the Gloucesters, 10 of the Fusiliers, and 10 of the Mountain Battery were found dead on the field, while 150 wounded were brought into camp at Ladysmith. Between 70 and 100 of the men escaped and got back to camp.
THE SIEGE OF LADYSMITH
It was now found necessary to issue a proclamation giving all strangers the option of leaving the town at twenty-four hours' notice. In spite of this notice, however, many civilians remained. Meanwhile, shells continued to drop uproariously, if harmlessly, into the town, while the balloon corps worked steadily in their task of locating the hostile guns. The enemy objected to that original form of spy, and aimed at him many a shot, but, fortunately, without effect. The Naval Brigade, always animated, active, and efficient, completed the mounting of the long-range guns which were to add to the safety of the place and the discomfiture of its besiegers. On the whole, the position was becoming somewhat serious, particularly for those whose nerves were unaccustomed to the uproar of diurnal thunderstorms. Lord Wolseley has somewhere said that "the effect of artillery fire is more moral than actual; it kills but very few, but its appalling noise, the way it tears down trees, knocks houses into small pieces, and mutilates the human frame when it does hit, strikes terror into all but the stoutest hearts." It may be imagined that the early days of this experience must have been somewhat embarrassing, though later on, so attuned became the nerves, even of women, that they engaged in shopping in the midst of bombardment, quite unmoved.
On 2nd November at 2.30 P.M. the telegraphic communication with Ladysmith was interrupted, but it was undecided whether the Boers had got sufficiently far south to promote the interruption or whether the wires had been cut by Dutch sympathisers or small scouting parties of the enemy. The Boers applied for an armistice with a view to burying their dead, their real object most probably being, as in many previous cases of a similar nature, to obtain time for refitting their heavy guns. This request was refused, but they were permitted to bury their slain under a flag of truce. Meanwhile, General Joubert's force received large reinforcements of Free State burghers under the command of Lucas Meyer, and additional commandoes from the Middleburgh and Leydenburg districts under Schalkburger were expected.
After this the siege of Ladysmith began in real earnest. "Long Tom," though temporarily incapacitated, soon resumed his volubility, and was assisted by another of his calibre nicknamed "Slim Piet." Curiously enough, the first house hit during the siege was a commodious bungalow-shaped residence with large verandah belonging to Mr. Carter, the author of the now well-known "Narrative of the Boer War." The owner fortunately had left before the bombardment, and the premises were then occupied by nurses.
Lieut. Frederick Egerton, of the Powerful, who was wounded by a shell in the left knee and right foot, was promoted to the rank of Commander in Her Majesty's fleet for special services with the forces in South Africa. But his promotion came too late. He expired after some hours of suffering.
The Boers by now had established batteries on Grobler's Kloof, a commanding eminence from whence they could attack both Ladysmith on the north and Colenso on the south. Women and children vacated the place, and the trains coming in and out had to run the gantlet of the Boer fire, both Nordenfeldt quick-firing guns and Mauser rifles being brought to bear on the refugees. The Boers, however, continued to salute the town without much effect, while the naval gunners replied with telling emphasis. They succeeded in dismounting the Boers' 40-pounder which had been so comfortably posted on Pepworth's Hill.
The carriages and platforms on which the naval guns were mounted at Ladysmith, and which proved so important a feature in promoting the defence of the place, were specially designed by Captain Percy Scott of the cruiser Terrible. In regard to this officer's resourcefulness the Times expressed an opinion that is worthy of remembrance:—
"Captain Percy Scott, of the Terrible, came to the rescue, adding one more to the numerous instances in which this country has owed to individual resource and initiative its escape from the disasters invited by the incompetence of the War Office. There is no need to inquire just now into the balance of political and military considerations which determined the policy of making a stand at Ladysmith. It is enough that that policy was definitely adopted in ample time to allow of providing Ladysmith with the long-range guns which its position renders peculiarly necessary, dominated as it is by hills on three sides. Why were such guns not provided? Why was it left to fortunate accident to furnish the garrison at the very last moment with the means of defence? The conclusions of German military science, as will have been noted by all who read the interesting account of German manoeuvres which we published yesterday, are all in favour of saving the lives of the infantry by a very free use of artillery at long ranges. The country around Ladysmith seems to be one that calls loudly for even a more lavish artillery equipment than might normally suffice. Yet, in spite of science and of common-sense, the Ladysmith garrison, occupying a predetermined position open to artillery fire from all sides, was left absolutely destitute of long-range guns, and none too well provided with field-artillery. But that Captain Scott proved himself able, just in time, to improvise out of the rough materials at hand an effective gun-carriage, there would have been nothing to prevent the Boers from using their big guns at half the distance they have actually had to keep."
At this time British troops were withdrawn from Colenso and moved farther south, and Boer armies continued to close round Ladysmith. Isimbulwana Hill, lying east of Ladysmith, was taken possession of, and a force advancing from Dewdrop, on the west of the town, moved south towards Colenso, and there on high ground posted its guns. Yet, in spite of this, the town showed itself to be "all alive and kicking." Though cut off from the telegraph, it sent out pigeon-posts; though engirdled by Boers, it made sorties of the most animated description, and literally laughed at the hint of surrender. On the 2nd, Colonel Brocklehurst made an attack on the enemy's laagers with a force of cavalry, mounted infantry, and mounted volunteers, surprising the Dutchmen and driving them back with comparatively small loss, and on the following day fighting lasted for some hours between the British cavalry, supported by field-artillery, Imperial Light Horse, and Natal Mounted Volunteers, and the Republicans. Many shells were pitched into the town, and an artillery duel rampaged with such relentless vigour that the general sensation to those who remained enclosed in the town was as though a thunderstorm with earthquake was passing over the place. Nothing worse happened, and the enemy for a while were driven back to their camp and some thirty or more prisoners were taken. Major Charles Kincaid, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, with nine wounded prisoners, was exchanged by the Boers for eight of their countrymen in similar plight. Others of them were not fit to travel. The enemy continued active, replacing disabled guns with new ones and dragging fresh powerful weapons to bear on the situation. On the 4th of November they announced their annexation of Upper Tugela, and a counter-proclamation of the nature already quoted was issued by the Governor.
A large commando of the enemy commenced the bombardment of Colenso, and the troops forming the garrison of that place fell back on Estcourt, where was stationed a force of considerable strength. By "considerable strength" it must be understood that the force was sufficiently strong for purposes of defence, though not for purposes of offence. As a matter of fact, the force in Natal was not, and has not since been, sufficiently strong for attack of a foe in such powerfully intrenched positions. From beginning to end our military commanders on that side of the theatre of war were sorely handicapped by the tardy recognition by the Home Government of the gravity of the situation. But here it is now desirable that something should be said of the early history of the towns of Mafeking and Kimberley, which, like Ladysmith, were by this time almost completely isolated, rails and telegraph wires having been cut around both places respectively.
 Colonel Sherston, D.S.O., of the Rifle Brigade, in which he held the rank of Major, was a son of the late Captain Sherston, of Evercreech House, Somerset, and a nephew of Lord Roberts. He entered the army on February 12, 1876, and on the Afghan War breaking out two years later was appointed aide-de-camp to his uncle, then Sir Frederick Roberts. He was present in the engagement at Charasiah on October 6, 1879, and the subsequent pursuit of the enemy, his services being mentioned in despatches. A similar distinction fell to his lot in connection with the operations around Cabul in 1879, including the investment of Sherpore. He accompanied Lord Roberts in the famous march to Candahar, and was present at the battle at that place, when he was again mentioned in despatches. His services during the operations were rewarded with the medal with three clasps and the bronze decoration. In 1881 he took part in the Mahsood Wuzeeree Expedition, and on August 20, 1884, he received his company. He served with the Burmese Expedition in 1886-87 as D.A.A. and Q.G. on the Headquarters Staff, and was again mentioned in despatches and received the Distinguished Service Order and the medal with clasp. On October 15, 1898, A.A.G. in Bengal.
 Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Henry Gunning, of the 1st King's Royal Rifles, was the eldest son of Sir George William Gunning, fifth Baronet, of Little Horton House, Northampton, the Chairman of the Conservative Party in Mid-Northamptonshire, by his marriage with Isabella Mary Frances Charlotte, daughter of the late Colonel William Chester-Master, of the Abbey, Cirencester, and was born on July 17, 1852. Educated at Eton, he entered the army as a sub-lieutenant on March 26, 1873, and was gazetted to the 60th Foot (now the King's Royal Rifle Corps) as a lieutenant on September 9, 1874. He served in the Zulu War of 1879 with the third battalion of his regiment, and was present at the action of Gingindhlovu and the relief of Ekowe, afterwards serving as adjutant of the battalion throughout the operations of "Clarke's Column," for which he wore the medal with clasp. He was gazetted captain in August 1883, was an adjutant of the Auxiliary Forces (the 5th Militia Battalion of the King's Royal Rifles) from March 1886 to March 1891, having obtained the rank of major on June 25, 1890. In 1891-92 he took part in the war in Burma, being engaged in the operations in the Chin Hills in command of the Baungshe column, for which he wore a second medal with clasp. His commission as lieutenant-colonel bore date April 16, 1898. Colonel Gunning, who was in the Commission of the Peace for the county of Northants, married in 1880 Fanny Julia, daughter of the late Mr. Clinton George Dawkins, formerly Her Majesty's Consul-General at Venice.
 Colonel John James Scott Chisholme, who was killed at Elandslaagte, belonged to the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers, and who was detached on special service in South Africa, came of an old Scottish family, the Chisholmes of Stirches, Roxburghshire, his family seat being situate at the latter place. He was the only son of the late Mr. John Scott Chisholme (who assumed the name of Scott in 1852 under the will of his uncle, Mr. James Scott of Whitehaugh), by his marriage with Margaret, eldest daughter and co-heir of the late Mr. Robert Walker of Mumrells, Stirlingshire, and was born in 1851. He entered the army in January 1872, his first services being with the 9th Lancers, and reached the rank of captain in March 1878. From that year till 1880 he served with the 9th Lancers in the Afghan War, was present at the capture of Ali Musjid, took part in the affair of Siah Sung, where he was severely wounded, and in the operations around Cabul in December 1879, when he was again wounded, and obtained mention in despatches, being rewarded with the brevet of major (May 2, 1881), and the medal with two clasps. He reached the substantive rank of major in December 1884, and from that year till 1889 was a major of the 9th Lancers, when he was transferred to the 5th Lancers. He was Military Secretary to Lord Connemara when Governor of Madras from 1888 to 1891. He reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel in August 1894, and that of colonel on August 12, 1898.
 Commander Egerton was a nephew of the Duke of Devonshire and of the first Earl of Ellesmere. He was the son of the late Admiral the Hon. Francis Egerton, M.P. for East Derbyshire, 1868-86. Commander Egerton, who was in his thirty-first year, entered the navy seventeen years ago. He became a lieutenant in 1891, and in 1897 he was appointed gunnery officer in the cruiser Powerful, having specially qualified in gunnery. He possessed honorary certificates from the Royal Naval College, but he had had no previous experience of war service.
THE SIEGE OF MAFEKING
President Kruger's Ultimatum having been accepted in its full significance, General Cronje crossed the border and the telegraph wires to Mafeking were cut. Mafeking is a smart little town on the Bechuanaland Railway. It stands about eight miles from the Transvaal border, about 200 miles north of Kimberley, and some 875 miles from Cape Town. It is the headquarters of the Bechuanaland Border Police, a crack corps, whose every member is thoroughly wide-awake and well versed in the niceties of the guerilla style of warfare favoured of the Boers. In the town is the "Surrey Hotel" and others; English, Dutch, and Wesleyan churches; a cricket-ground and a racecourse. Its supplies, in time of peace, are drawn from Dutch farms situated in the Marico Valley, while its pure water is drawn from the springs at Rooi Grond in the Transvaal territory.
Mafeking itself is less than a mile square. The railroad, running north and south, takes a westerly bend as it crosses the Molopo River some 300 yards south of the town. In this westerly direction is a native Stadt, a constellation of mushroom huts wherein the blacks congregate. To east, north, and west the surrounding country is flat; elsewhere it rises and affords a certain amount of cover. Towards the south-east is Sir Charles Warren's old fort, named Cannon Kopje, which was viewed as the key of the position and promptly rendered impregnable. In the north-west corner of the town was the railway station, now useless; on the north-east, the convent; on the south-east, Ellis House; and south-west, the Pound, near which were the quarters of the British South African Police. The population of the town consisted of some 2000 whites, while in the Stadt, owing to the presence of native refugees, there were about 7000 blacks.
On the outbreak of hostilities, Colonel Baden-Powell, who had been sent out on special service to South Africa to report on the defences of Rhodesia, applied himself at once to face a situation which made demands on all his extensive capabilities. In the very early days of the investment he got guns into position and made dashing sorties, determining to show the besiegers that they would not have what in popular phrase is known as "a walk over." So great was the versatility of this officer, that, while these energetic measures for the protection of those around him were going forward, he yet managed to correct and send home proofs of a "Manual on Scouting," a work at the moment most interesting and precious to the military man, while to the layman it makes as good reading as the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes." In Mafeking was also Major Lord Edward Cecil (Grenadier Guards), D.S.O., the fourth son of the Prime Minister—whose activity and energy were remarkable, even in a community where those qualities were ubiquitous—and Captain Gordon Wilson (Royal Horse Guards), with his wife, Lady Sarah Wilson, a lady of much enterprise, to whose energies the garrison owed not a little. Among others there were Colonel Hore (South Staffordshire Regiment), Major Godley (Royal Dublin Fusiliers), Captain Marsh (Royal West Kent Regiment), Captain Vernon (King's Royal Rifles), Captain FitzClarence (Royal Fusiliers), Lord Charles Cavendish-Bentinck (9th Lancers), the Hon. H. Hanbury-Tracy (Royal Horse Guards), Lieut. Singleton (Highland Light Infantry), Captain the Hon. D. Marsham (4th Bedfordshire Regiment), Captain Pechell (3rd King's Royal Rifles), and Major Anderson (R.A.M.C.). There were in addition several Colonial officers who proved themselves the soul of activity—notably Captain Goodyear, Captain Nesbitt, V.C., Lieuts. Paton and Murchison, and several others. Colonel Vyvyen and Major Panzera also worked like Trojans to secure the safety of the town. Major Baillie of the Morning Post made himself useful in every capacity. Later on he forwarded a description of the garrison which gave a good idea of the splendid plan of organisation adopted. He said:—
"The town was garrisoned by the Cape Police under Captains Brown and Marsh. These and the Railway Volunteers were under Colonel Vivian, while Cannon Kopje was entrusted to Colonel Walford and the B.S.A.P. Colonel Baden-Powell retained one squadron of the Protectorate Regiment as reserve under his own immediate control. These arrangements were subsequently much augmented. After the convent had been practically demolished by shell-fire, and the railway line all round the town pulled up or mined during the close investment by the Boers, the small work was erected at the convent corner, garrisoned by the Cape Police and a Maxim under Lieutenant Murray, who was also put in charge of the armoured train, which had been withdrawn to the railway station out of harm's way.
"The Railway Volunteers garrisoned the cemetery, and had an advance trench about 800 yards to the front and immediately to the right of the line. To the westward came Fort Cardigan, and then again Fort Miller; to the south-west was Major Godley's Fort, at the north of the native stadt, with Fort Ayr, and an advance fort crowning the down to the northern end of the stadt, and though rather detached, having command of the view for a great distance. To the south of the northern portion of the stadt the Cape Police were intrenched with a Maxim, and 500 yards to the west front of Captain Marsh's post lay Limestone Fort, commanding the valley, on the other side of which lay the Boer laager and intrenchments. At the south-western corner, and on the edge of the stadt Captain Marsh's fort was situated. The whole of the edge of the stadt was furnished with loopholes and trenches, and was garrisoned by the native inhabitants. Near the railway were situated two armoured trucks with a Nordenfeldt, and Cannon Kopje with two Maxims and a 7-pounder lay to the south-east. And now to the immediate defences of the town. At the south-western corner is the Pound, garrisoned by Cape Police under Captain Marsh, then eastwards is Early's Fort, Dixon's Redan, Ball's Fort, Ellis's corner, with Maxim and Cape Police, under Captain Brown. On the eastern front are Ellitson's Kraal, Musson's Fort, De Kock's Fort with Maxim, Recreation Ground Fort. To the left of the convent lies the Hospital Fort. All these, unless otherwise mentioned, are defended by the Town Guard."
Operations began on the 12th with an episode that cannot afford to be forgotten. It was discovered that two trucks of dynamite were in the station yard, and it was at once decided, for the safety of the population, that they must be removed. An engine was, therefore, despatched in charge of a plucky driver (Perry) for the purpose of conveying the trucks into the open, where they might explode without danger to the town. While he was engaged in the work of deporting the destructive material, the enemy suddenly appeared and commenced to fire. Perry, with the utmost coolness, a coolness which in the circumstances was nothing less than heroism, uncoupled his engine, and leaving the trucks to their fate, steamed back to the town. Before he could reach his destination, however, the shock of an awful detonation greeted his ears. The Boers had again fired on the trucks, believing them to be full of passengers, and, as a natural consequence, the dynamite had exploded!
The garrison, numbering from 800 to 1000, now began to furbish itself up, to arm and practise with the rifle. The old forts round the place were put into repair, and the armoured train, with a Maxim gun and a Nordenfeldt, was made ready for coming excursions. Nothing was neglected. It was well known that the Boers looked upon the town as their personal property, and when it came to fighting, meant to make it so—if they could! The two available regiments, the Protectorate Regiment and the Mounted Police, spent most of their time manoeuvring, with a view to awakening the intelligent interests of the ranks and instructing the men on the nature of the ground in the vicinity. Colonel Baden-Powell lost no opportunity of preparing for the gallant Cronje, and, in order to show that he did not mean to be caught napping, some nights were passed by the garrison in their day kit.
On the 12th October an armoured train that was escorting two light guns of old pattern from the Cape to Mafeking was seized by the Boers, who had torn up the rails at Kraalpan. They pounded the machine with artillery, and captured it with guns and men in charge—all, save the engine-driver, being made prisoners. Lieutenant Nesbitt was wounded and the driver lost five fingers. The latter escaped through hiding himself in the sand and thus avoiding observation. In Mafeking itself the Sisters of the Roman Catholic Convent busied themselves. These noble women refused to leave the place, electing to remain face to face with danger in order to nurse the sick. Many of the houses were converted into hospitals, all the streets were barred with waggons, and even the inhabitants of the town were supplied with rifles and taught the use of them. The telegraph wires were now cut at Maribogo, some forty miles south of Mafeking. The bridge that crossed the Molopo River above Mafeking was next blown up by the Boers with tremendous uproar. Still the inhabitants were not dismayed. They had implicit confidence in their commander and worked incessantly. As a defensive position, Kimberley, whose history will be told later, had the advantage of Mafeking. The refuse heaps from the mines at the former place served as natural fortifications. But Mafeking was in one way fairly secure: its troops, though few, were efficient, and owing to its not being the abode of Mr. Rhodes, it was no longer looked upon by the Boers as the most attractive prize of the war. Besides this, Colonel Baden-Powell's plans of defence were very complete.
The town was divided into sections, each one of which had its separate arrangements for defence. The perimeter was about six miles in circumference. Huge earthworks were thrown up. Shelters were built, with panellings and roofings of corrugated iron. Colonel Baden-Powell had decided to hold the town, and declared that if he should hold it at all, his grip should be a firm one. For himself, he constructed a bomb-proof bureau, where his literary work could safely be pursued, if need be, to the accompaniment of a score of guns, and round him were telephonic communications with each of his outposts. He had also a private signaller placed with telescope on the watch to inform him of outside doings and forewarn the garrison in case of assault. Wire communications were arranged so that each discharge of a shell might be reported by an alarum, in order that inhabitants of the threatened quarter might have time to burrow in places of safety. During the daytime the bell of the signaller was actively employed, but at night the Boers seldom bombarded the place, and its inhabitants were free to emerge from their hiding-places and breathe the fresh air.
Fortunately in the matter of food much foresight had been exercised. With everything against him, Colonel Baden-Powell had succeeded in making provision for, if necessary, a prolonged state of siege.