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In the Ranks of the C.I.V. by Erskine Childers

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evening, and we talked till late. I am on ordinary "camp diet," which
means tea, biscuit, and bully-beef or stew. They give us tea at four,
and nothing after, so one gets pretty hungry. Some men are on milk

_August 27._--_Monday._--My foot gets on very slowly. Veldt-sores, as
they are called, are very common out here, as though you may be
perfectly well, as I am, the absence of fresh food makes any scratch
fester. Most entertaining talks with the other chaps in the tent. The
Captain has been several times, and brought papers.

_August 28._--This is a very free-and-easy field hospital; no irksome
regulations, and restrictions, and inspections. A doctor comes round
in the morning and looks at each of us. The dressings are done once in
twenty-four hours by an orderly. He is a very good chap, but you have
to keep a watchful eye on him, and see that he doesn't put the same
piece of lint on twice; yet you must be very tactful in suggestions,
for an orderly is independent, and has the whip-hand. An officer walks
round again in the evening, pretty late, and says he supposes each of
us feels better. This very much amused me at first, but, after all, it
roughly hit off the truth. We are nearly all slight cases. Meals come
three times a day, and otherwise we are left to ourselves. The food
might, I think, be better and more plentiful. I have had the privilege
of hearing Tommy's opinions on R.A.M.C. orderlies, and also those of
an R.A.M.C. orderly on Tommy, or perhaps rather on his own status and
grievances in general. Inside the tent Tommy was free and unequivocal
about the whole tribe of orderlies, the criticism culminating in a
ghoulish story from my right-hand neighbour, told in broadest
Yorkshire, about one in Malta, "who stole the ---- boots off the ----
corpse in the ---- dead-'ouse." Outside the tent a communicative
orderly poured into my ear the tale of Paardeberg, and its unspeakable
horrors, the overwork and exhaustion of a short-handed medical corps,
the disease and death in the corps itself, etc. I conclude that in
such times of stress the orderly has a very bad time, but that with a
column having few casualties and little enteric, like this, he is
uncommonly well off. His class has done some splendid work, which
Tommy sometimes forgets, but it must be remembered that it had to be
suddenly and hurriedly recruited with untrained men from many outside
sources, some of them not too suitable. My impression is that they
want more supervision by the officers. The latter, in this hospital,
are, when we see them, very kind, and certainly show the utmost
indulgence in keeping off duty men who are not feeling fit for work.



_August 29._--Suddenly told we were all to go to Pretoria by train,
railway being just open, it seems. I am disgusted with the slowness of
my foot, and at being separated from the Battery. It goes to-morrow
back to Pynaar's River, and then joins a flying column of some sort.

_August 30._--I write lying luxuriously on a real spring-mattress bed,
between real sheets, having just had my fill of real bread and real
butter, besides every comfort, in a large marquee tent, with a wooden
floor, belonging to the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital, Pretoria. I landed
in this haven at four o'clock this morning, after a nightmare of a
journey from Warm Baths. We left there about 2.30 P.M. yesterday,
after long delays, and then a sudden rush. Williams came over to say
good-bye, and the Captain, Lieutenant Bailey and Dr. Thorne; also
other fellows with letters, and four of our empty cartridges as
presents for officers of the Irish Hospital in Pretoria. We were put
into a truck already full of miscellaneous baggage, and wedged
ourselves into crannies. It was rather a lively scene, as the General
was going down by the same train, and also Baden-Powell on his way
home to England. The latter first had a farewell muster of his men,
and we heard their cheers. Then he came up to the officers' carriage
with the General. I had not seen him before, and was chiefly struck by
his walk, which had a sort of boyish devil-may-care swing in it, while
in dress he looked like an ordinary trooper, a homely-looking service
jersey showing below his tunic. As the train steamed out we passed his
troops, drawn up in three sides of a square facing inwards, in their
shirt-sleeves. They sent up cheer after cheer, waving their hats to
Baden-Powell standing on the gangway. Then the train glided past camps
and piles of stores, till the last little outpost with its wood fire
was past, and on into the lonely bush. It was dark soon, and I lay on
my back among sacks, rifles, kit-bags, etc., looking at the stars, and
wondering how long this new move would keep me from the front. We
stopped many times, and at Hamman's Kraal took aboard some companies
of infantry. At intervals down the line we passed little posts of a
few men, sentries moving up and down, and a figure or two poring over
a pot on a fire. About midnight, after a rather uneasy slumber, I woke
in Pretoria. Raining. With the patient, sheep-like passivity that the
private soldier learns, we dragged ourselves and our kit from place to
place according to successive orders. A friendly corporal carried my
kit-sack, and being very slow on my feet, we finally got lost, and
found ourselves sitting forlornly on our belongings in the middle of
an empty, silent square outside the station (just where we bivouacked
a fortnight ago). However, the corporal made a reconnaissance, while I
smoked philosophical cigarettes. He found the rest in a house near by,
and soon we were sitting on the floor of a room, in a dense crowd,
drinking hot milk, and in our right minds; sick or wounded men of many
regiments talking, sleeping, smoking, sighing, and all waiting
passively. A benevolent little Scotch officer, with a shrewd,
inscrutable face, and smoking endless cigarettes, moved quietly about,
counting us reflectively, as though we were a valuable flock of sheep.
We sat here till about 2.30 A.M., when several waggons drove up, into
which we crowded, among a jumble of kit and things. We drove about
three miles, and were turned out at last on a road-side, where
lanterns and some red-shawled phantoms were glimmering about. We sat
in rows for some time, while officers took our names, and sorted us
into medical and surgical classes. Then a friendly orderly shouldered
my kit and led me into this tent. Here I stripped off everything,
packed all my kit in a bundle, washed, put on a clean suit of pyjamas,
and at about 4 A.M. was lying in this delicious bed, dead-beat, but
blissfully comfortable. Oddly, I couldn't sleep, but lay in a dreamy
trance, smoking cigarettes, with a beatific red-caped vision hovering
about in the half light. Dawn and the morning stir came, with fat soft
slices of fresh bread and butter and tea. I have been reading and
writing all day with every comfort. The utter relaxation of mind and
limb is a strange sensation, after roughing it on the veldt and being
tied eternally to two horses.

There are twelve beds in this tent, and many regiments are represented
among the patients; there is an Imperial Light Horse man, who has been
in most of the big fights, a mercurial Argyll and Sutherland
Highlander, with a witty and voluble tongue; men of the Wilts, Berks,
and Yorks regiments, and in the next bed a trooper of the 18th
Hussars, who was captured at Talana Hill in the first fight of the
war, had spent seven months at Waterval in the barbed-wire cage which
we saw, and two since at the front. It was under his bed that the
escape-tunnel was started. He gave me an enthusiastic account of the
one "crowded hour of glorious life" his squadron had had before they
were captured. They got fairly home with the steel among a party of
Boers in the hills at the back of Dundee, and had a grand time; but
soon after found themselves surrounded, and after a desperate fight
against heavy odds the survivors had to surrender.

_September 2._--Getting very hot. Foot slow. The reaction has run its
course, and I am getting bored.

_September 4._--_Monday._--In the evening got a cable from "London,"
apparently meant for Henry (my brother), saying "How are you?" and
addressed to "Hospital, Pretoria." Is he really here, sick or wounded?
Or is it a mistake for me, my name having been seen in a newspaper and
mistaken for his? I have heard nothing from him lately, but gather
that his corps, Strathcona's Horse, is having a good deal to do in the
pursuit of Botha, Belfast way.

_September 5._--Got the mounted orderly to try and find out about
Henry from the other hospitals (there are many here), but, after
saying he would, he has never turned up and can't be found. There are
moments when one is exasperated by one's helplessness as a private
soldier, dependent on the good-nature of an orderly for a thing like

_September 6._--_Wednesday._--A man came in yesterday who had been a
prisoner of De Wet for seven weeks, having been released at Warm Baths
the day I left. He said De Wet had left that force a week before,
taking three hundred men, and had gone south for his latest raid. He
thought that De Wet himself was a man of fair ability, but that the
soul of all his daring enterprises was a foreigner named Theron. This
man has a picked body of thirty skilled scouts, riding on picked
horses, armed only with revolvers, and ranging seven or eight miles
from the main body. De Wet always rode a white horse, and wore a
covert coat. By his side rode ex-President Steyn, unarmed. The
prisoners were fed as well as the Boers themselves, but that was
badly, for they were nearly always short of food, and generally had
only Kaffir corn, with occasional meat. One day a prisoner asked a
field-cornet when they were going to get something to eat. "I don't
care if you're a brass band," he said, "but give us some food." "Well,
I'm very sorry," was the apologetic reply, "we've been trying for a
week to get one of your convoys; it will be all right when we get it."
De Wet himself was very pleasant to them, and took good care they got
their proper rations. They rode always on waggons, and he spoke
feelingly of the horrible monotony of the jolt, jolt, jolt, from
morning to night. They nearly always had a British force close on
their heels, and no sooner had they outspanned for a rest than it
would be "Inspan--trek." "Up you get, Khakis; the British are coming!"
Then pom-pom-pom, whew-w-w-w, as shells came singing over the
rear-guard. At these interesting moments they used to put the
prisoners in the extreme rear, so that the British if they saw them,
could not fire. He accounted for the superior speed of the Boers by
their skill in managing their convoy; every Boer is a born driver (in
fact, most of their black drivers had deserted), and they take waggons
over ground we should shudder at, leaving the roads if need be, and
surmounting impossible ascents. Again they confine their transport to
the limits of strict necessity, and are not cumbered with all the
waggon-loads of officers' kit which our generals choose to allow.
Their rapidity in inspanning is marvellous; all the cattle may be
scattered about grazing, but in five minutes from the word "Trek!"
they are inspanned and ready. Their horses, he said, were wretched,
and many rode donkeys; how they managed to get about so well he never
could understand, but supposed the secret of their success was this
body of well-mounted, reliable scouts, who saved all unnecessary
travelling to the main body. A very large proportion of the Boer force
were foreigners--French, Germans, Dutch, Russians, Norwegians.

The soul of this tent is Jock, an Argyll and Sutherland Highlander. He
was wounded at Modder River, and is now nominally suffering from the
old wound, but there is nothing really the matter with him; and as
soon as the Sister's back is turned, he turns catherine wheels up the
ward on his hands. His great topic is the glory and valour of the
Highland Brigade, discoursing on which he becomes in his enthusiasm
unintelligibly Scotch. It is the great amusement of the rest of us to
get rises out of him on the subject, and furious arguments rage on the
merits of various regiments. He is as simple as a child, and really
seems to believe that the Highland Brigade has won the war
single-handed. He is no hand at argument, and gets crushing
controversial defeats from the others, especially some Berks men, but
he always takes refuge at last "in the thun rred line," as his last
entrenchment. "Had ye ever a thun rred line?" he asks, and they quail.
The matter came to a crisis yesterday, when one of them produced a
handbook on British regiments and their histories. The number of
"honours" owned by each regiment had been a hotly contested point, and
they now sat down and counted them. The Royal Berks had so
many--Minden, Waterloo, Salamanca, Vittoria, Sevastopol, etc. In
breathless silence those accredited to the Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders were counted. There were fewer, and Jock was stunned at
first. "Ah, but ye ha' not counted the thun rred line," he shouted.
"Ga'rn, what battle's that?" they scoffed. "The battle of the thun
rred line," he persisted. Balaclava was on his list, but he didn't
even know it was there that his gallant regiment formed the thin red
line. Yet he had his revenge, for, by a laborious calculation, lasting
several hours, it was found that the united honours of the Scotch
regiments were greater than the united English or Irish.

_September 6._--_Thursday._--I am allowed to go to a chair outside the
tent, a long, luxurious canvas lounge. In the valley below and to the
right lies Pretoria, half buried in trees, and looking very pretty.
Behind it rises a range of hills, with a couple of forts on the
sky-line. Across the valley lies quite a town of tents, mostly
hospitals. We all of us live in pyjamas; some wear also a long coat of
bright blue. Sisters flit about, dressed in light blue, with white
aprons and veils, and brilliant scarlet capes, so that there is no
lack of vivid colour. A road runs in front of the tent; an occasional
orderly gallops past, or a carriage passes with officers.

_September 7._--To my delight this afternoon, I heard a voice at my
tent door, saying, "Is Childers here?" It turned out to be Bagenal,
one of the released Irish Yeomanry, and a friend of Henry's, who had
come from him to look for me. Henry is wounded in the foot, but now
"right as rain." He is in the Convalescent Camp, which is plainly
visible from here, about a mile off. It seems that by another lucky
coincidence he received letters meant for me, and so knew I was in
Pretoria. The whole affair abounds in coincidences, for had I answered
the cable home I should have said "foot slight," or something like it,
and he would have said the same. It would have done for either. We are
lucky to have found one another, for the Secretary's inquiries led to

I have been reading in the _Bloemfontein Post_ a report of the
Hospital Commission. I have no experience of General Hospitals, but
some of the evidence brings out a point which is heightened by
contrast with a hospital like this, and that is the importance of
close supervision of orderlies, on whom most of the comfort of a
patient depends. To take one instance only; if a man here is ordered
port wine, it is given him personally by the Sister. To give orderlies
control of wine and spirits is tempting them most unfairly. On the
whole, I should say this hospital was pretty well perfect. The Sisters
are kindness itself. The orderlies are well-trained, obliging, and
strictly supervised. The Civil Surgeon, Dr. Williams, is both skilful
and warm-hearted. There is plenty of everything, and absolute
cleanliness and order.

_The Strange Story of the Occupation and Surrender of Klerksdorp, as
told by a Trooper of the Kimberley Light Horse, taken Prisoner about
July 10, by De Wet, released at Warm Baths on August 28, and now in
this ward._

Early in June, twenty-one men and four officers of the Kimberley Light
Horse rode out thirty miles from Potchefstroom, and summoned the town
of Klerksdorp to surrender. It is a town of fair size, predominantly
Dutch, of course, but with a minority of English residents. The
audacious demand of the Liliputian force was acceded to. They rode in,
and the British flag was hoisted. With charming effrontery it was
represented that the twenty-one were only the forerunners of an
overwhelming force, and that resistance was useless. The Dutch were
cowed or acquiescent, and a splendid reception was given to the army
of occupation; cheering, flag-waving, and refreshments galore. Their
commanding officer mounts the Town Hall steps, and addresses the
townspeople, congratulating them on their loyalty, announcing the
speedy end of the war, hinting at the hosts of British soon to be
expected, and praising the Mayor, a brother of General Cronje, for his
wise foresight in submitting; in return for which he said he would try
to obtain the release of the General from Lord Roberts. The troop is
then escorted by a frantic populace to their camping ground; willing
hands off-saddle the horses, while others ply the tired heroes with
refreshments. The town is in transports of joy. Days pass. The news
spreads, and burghers come in from all sides to deliver up their arms
to the Captain. He soon has no fewer than twelve hundred rifles, of
which he makes a glorious bonfire, thus disarming at one stroke a
number of Boers fifty times greater than his own force. There is no
sign of the overwhelming forces of the British, but their early
arrival is daily predicted, and the delay explained away. Meanwhile,
the twenty-one live in clover, eating and drinking the best of
everything, and overwhelmed with offers of marriage from adoring
maidens. Luxury threatens to sap their manhood. Guards and patrols are
unsteady in their gait; vigilance slackens. A grand concert is given
one night, during which the whole army of occupation is inside one
room. Two guards are outside, but these are Dutch police. At this
moment a handful of determined enemies could have ended the
occupation, and re-hoisted the Boer flag. Weeks pass, still the
British do not come, but the twenty-one hold sway, no doubt by virtue
of the moral superiority of the dominant race.

But at last their whole edifice of empire tumbles into ruin with the
same dramatic suddenness with which it rose. The ubiquitous De Wet
marches up and surrounds the town with an overwhelming force; the
inevitable surrender is made, and the Boer flag flies again over
Klerksdorp after six glorious weeks of British rule by a score or so
of audacious troopers.

_September 8._--Henry turned up in a carriage and pair, and we spent
all the afternoon together. It is a strange place to meet in after
seventeen months, he coming from British Columbia, I from London. A
fancy strikes me that it is symbolic of the way in which the whole
empire has rallied together for a common end on African soil. He is
still very lame, though called convalescent, and we are trying to work
his transfer over here. The day-sister has very kindly written a
letter to the commanding officer at his camp about it. We compared
notes, and found we had enough money to luxuriously watch his carriage
standing outside at five shillings an hour. It cost a pound, but it
was worth it. We had so much to talk about, that we didn't know where
to begin. A band was playing all the afternoon, and a tea-party going
on somewhere, to which Miss Roberts came. She came round the tents
also and talked to the men. It turns out that Henry and I both came
down from the front on the same day from widely different places, for
he was wounded at Belfast, under Buller.

_September 9._--Jock gave us a complete concert last night, songs,
interspersed with the maddest, most whimsical patter, step-dances,
ventriloquism, recitations. He kept us in roars for a long time.
Blended with the simplicity of a baby, he has the wisdom of the
serpent, and has the knack of getting hold of odd delicacies, with
which he regales the ward. He is perfectly well, by the way, but
when the doctor comes round he assumes a convincing air of
semi-convalescence, and refers darkly to his old wound. The doctor is
not in the least taken in, but is indulgent, and not too curious. As
soon as his back is turned, Jock is executing a reel in the middle of
the ward.

The I.L.H. man is very interesting. Like most of his corps, which was
recruited from the Rand, he has a position on a mine there, and must
be well over forty. He had been through the Zulu war too. His squadron
was with Buller all through the terrible struggle from Colenso to
Ladysmith, which they were the first to enter. They were shipped off
to the Cape and sent up to relieve Mafeking with Mahon. He has been in
scores of fights without a scratch, but now has veldt sores. He says
Colenso was by far the worst battle, and the last fortnight before the
relief of Ladysmith was a terrible strain. But he spoke very highly of
the way Buller fed his men. The harder work they did, the better they
fared. (The converse is usually the case.) I have heard the same thing
from other fellows; there seem to have been very good commissariat
arrangements on that side of the country. From first to last all men
who served under Buller seemed to have liked and trusted him.
Curiously enough, he says that Ladysmith was in far worse case than
Mafeking when relieved. The latter could have held out months longer,
he thinks, and they all looked well. In Ladysmith you could have blown
any of them over with a puff of air, and the defence was nearly broken

Judging from this casual intercourse, he represents a type very common
among colonial volunteers, but not encouraged by our own military
system--I mean that of the independent, intelligent, resourceful unit.
If there are many like him in his corps, it accounts amply for the
splendid work they have done. He told me that not one of them had been
taken prisoner, which, looking at the history of the war, and at the
kind of work such a corps has to do, speaks volumes for the standard
of ability in all ranks. But what I don't like, and can't altogether
understand, is the intense and implacable bitterness against the
Boers, which all South Africans such as him show. Nothing is too bad
for the Boers. "Boiling oil" is far too good. Deportation to Ceylon is
pitiful leniency. Any suggestion that the civilized customs of war
should be kept up with such an enemy, is scouted. Making all
allowances for the natural resentment of those who have known what it
is to be an Uitlander, allowing too for "white flag" episodes and so
on, I yet fail to understand this excess of animosity, which goes out
of its way even to deny any ability to Boer statesmen and soldiers,
regardless of the slur such a denial casts on British arms and
statesmanship. After all, we have lost ten thousand or more prisoners
to the Boers, and, for my part, the fact that I have never heard a
complaint of bad treatment (unnecessarily bad, I mean) from an
ex-prisoner, tells more strongly than anything with me in forming a
friendly impression of the enemy we are fighting. Many a hot argument
have we had about Boer and Briton; and I'm afraid he thinks me but a
knock-kneed imperialist.

_September 10._--_Monday._--To my great delight, Henry turned up as an
inmate here, the commanding officer at the convalescent camp having
most kindly managed his transference, with some difficulty. The state
of his foot didn't enter into the question at all, but official
"etiquette" was in danger of being outraged. The commanding officer
was a very good chap, though, and Henry seems to have escaped somehow
in the tumult, unpursued. He had to walk over here.

A wounded man from Warm Baths came in to-day, and said they had had
two days' fighting there; camp heavily shelled by Grobelaar.

_September 13._--_Thursday._--Foot nearly well, but am not allowed to
walk, and very jealous of Henry, who has been given a crutch, and
makes rapid kangaroo-like progress with it. There are a good many in
his case, and we think of getting up a cripples' race, which Henry
would certainly win.

Letters from Williams and Ramsey at the front. It seems Warm Baths is
evacuated, and the Brigade has returned to Waterval. Why? However,
it's nearer here, and will give me a chance of rejoining earlier.

A splendid parcel arrived from home. A Jaeger coat, chocolate, ginger,
plums, cigarettes. Old Daddy opposite revels in the ginger; he is the
father of the ward, being forty-seven, a pathetic, time-worn,
veldt-worn old reservist, utterly done up by the fatigues of the
campaign. He has had a bad operation, and suffers a lot, but he is
always "first-rate, couldn't be more comfortable," when the Sisters or
doctors ask him; "as long as I never cross that there veldt no more,"
he adds.

A locust-storm passed over the hospital to-day--a cloud of fluttering
insects, with dull red bodies and khaki wings.

_September 15._--_Saturday._--My foot is well, at any rate for
moderate use, and I am to go out on Monday. What I should like, would
be to rejoin at once, but unfortunately one has first to go through
the intermediate stages of the Convalescent camp, and the Rest camp,
where "details" collect, to be forwarded to their regiments. I don't
look forward to being a detail at all. Henry's foot is much better,
and he is to go out on Monday too. He is still rather lame, though. It
has been most delightful having him here.

The evenings are deliciously cool, and you can sit outside in pyjamas
till 8.30, when you are turned in. We sat out for long last night,
talking over plans. A staff officer has twice been in here, and seemed
much amused by us two brothers having fore-gathered. I asked him about
Paget's brigade, and he seemed to think they were still at or near

_September 16._--_Sunday._--We went to church in the evening; a tent
pleasantly filled up, a Sister at the harmonium, hymns, a few prayers,
the Psalms, and a short sermon; a strange parti-coloured congregation
we were, in pyjamas, slippers and blue coats, some on crutches;
Sisters in their bright uniforms. Chairs were scarce, and Henry and I
sat on the floor. It was dark before the end, and in the dim light of
two candles at the harmonium we looked a motley throng.

Both bound for the Convalescent camp tomorrow.

_September 17._--_Monday._--What we actually did to-day, seeing the
commandant, regaining our kit, drawing new kit, might have been done
in half an hour; but we took from nine till three doing it, most of
which time we were standing waiting. However, about three we found
ourselves in a covered cart with five others and our kits, bound for
the Convalescent camp. We had said good-bye to the Sisters and our
mates. Old Daddy, I am glad to say, had "worked it," as they say, and
was radiant, having been marked up for home. No more of "that there
veldt" for him. Jock had already been sent out and given a post as
hospital orderly, and was now spreading the fame of the Highland
Brigade in new fields. We both felt, on the whole, that we had been
looked after very well in a very good hospital.

The mules jolted us across the valley, and landed us at a big block of
tents, and we took places in one; mother earth again. Tea, the
milkless variety again, at 4.30, and then we went to Henry's old tent
in the General Hospital, which adjoins this camp, and talked to a
friend of his there, a man in the Rifle Brigade, with a bad splintered
knee. He was shot about the same time as Henry in a fine charge made
by his battalion, which I remember reading about.

Both much depressed to-night; the atmosphere of this camp is like a
convict settlement. The food and arrangements are all right, but
nobody knows any one else; all are casual details from every possible
regiment and volunteer corps in the Empire. Nearly all are "fed up;"
nearly all want to get home. A vein of bitter pessimism runs through
all conversations; there is a general air of languor and depression.
Fatigues are the only occupation. I should go melancholy mad here, if
I stayed; but I shall apply to return to the Battery. Even then there
is another stage--the Rest camp--to be gone through. We sat up late
this night outside the lines, talking of this strange coincidence of
our meeting, and trying to plan future ones. He feels the same about
this place, but is still too lame to rejoin his corps.

_September 18._--We washed in a stream some distance off, and then had
breakfast. Then general parade. There must be some two or three
hundred of us, and a wretched, slipshod lot we looked. A voice said,
"Those who want to rejoin their regiments, two paces to the front." A
few accepted the invitation. I gave in my name, and was told to parade
again at two, with kit packed. The next moment we were being split up
into fatigue parties. Fatigues are always a nuisance, but I don't mind
them under my own folk, with a definite necessary job to be done. A
fatigue under strange masters and with strange mates is very irksome,
especially when, as in this case, there is little really to be done,
but they don't want to leave you idle. This was a typical case. I and
a dozen others slouched off under a corporal, who showed us to a
sergeant, who gave us to a sergeant-major, who pointed to a line of
tents (Langman's Hospital), and bade us clean up the lines. To the
ordinary eye there was nothing to clean up, but to the trained eye
there were some minute fragments of paper and cigarette ends. Now the
great thing in a fatigue of this kind is: (1) To make it last. No good
hurrying, as fresh futilities will be devised for you. (2) To appear
to be doing something at all costs. (3) To escape unobtrusively at the
first opportunity. There are some past-masters in the theory and
practice of fatigues who will disregard No. 1, and carry on No. 2 till
the golden moment when, with inspired audacity, they achieve No. 3,
and vanish from the scene. This requires genius. The less confident
ploddingly fulfil Nos. 1 and 2, and don't attempt No. 3. Well, we
loitered up and down, and collected a few handfuls, and when we had
eked out the job to the uttermost, stood together in a listless knot
and waited. "What shall we do?" we asked the corporal. "Do any ----
thing," he despairingly cried, "but do some ---- thing!" By this time
the sergeant-major too was at his wits' end as he looked round his
spotless lines. But you can't easily baffle a sergeant-major. There
was a pump, with a big tub by it, to catch the waste, I suppose. The
artistic possibilities of these simple objects flashed across him. In
his mind's eye he saw this prosaic tub sublimed into a romantic pool,
and girdled by a rockery, in whose mossy crannies errant trickles of
water might lose themselves, and perhaps fertilize exotic flora yet
unborn. At this moment I espied a wheelbarrow in the distance, and
went for it with that purposeful briskness, which may sometimes be
used in fatigues of this sort to disguise your real intentions. For it
is of the greatest importance in a fatigue to have an implement; it is
the outward symbol of labour; if observation falls on you, you can
wipe your brow and lean on it; you can even use it for a few minutes
if necessary. Without some stage property of this sort only a
consummate actor can seem to be busy. Well, I got to the barrow just
in time. There were two; a Grenadier Guardsman got the other, and amid
envious looks we wheeled them off towards a heap of rubble in the
offing, "conveniently low." Then, with a simultaneous sigh of relief,
we mechanically produced our pipes and tobacco, found comfortable
seats against the pile of rubble, and had a good chat, lazily watching
the genesis of the naiad's grotto in the distance. When we had had a
good smoke, and fought our battles over again, we got up and saw signs
that the fatigue was guttering out; so we put a few stones in each of
the barrows, and, well content, journeyed back to the scene of
operations, and laid our stones round the base of the tub, more
because we knew nowhere else to lay them than for any other reason,
for the sergeant-major had apparently forgotten his grandiose designs
in other schemes, and had disappeared. The fatigue party was thinning.
The corporal said what may be freely translated as "disappear
quietly," and we made off to our camp, where I found Henry, who had
doctor's leave to be excused fatigues, being lame.



_September 18, continued._--At two we paraded again with our kits, and
about a dozen of us marched off to the Rest camp, which is the next
stage. Everything was very hurried, but Henry had just time to tell me
that he was ordered to Bloemfontein, when I had to start. We said
good-bye, and I don't suppose will meet again till London. The Rest
camp was about four miles off, on the other side of Pretoria. Arrived
very hot and dusty. Waited some time, and then was told that I must go
to the Artillery Barracks, another two miles in quite a different
direction. I might just as well have gone there direct. However, I was
lucky enough to get a lift for my kit and myself most of the way, and
landed about 5.30 at a collection of big, red-brick buildings outside
the town, was handed from person to person for some time, and finally
found a resting-place on the floor of a huge bare room in a sort of a
tin outbuilding, where some 150 R.A. men of all batteries were sitting
or lying on their kit round the walls and down the centre; like lost
souls, I pictured them, sitting round one of Dante's purgatorial
retreats. I felt exactly like going to school again for the first
time, though, of course, I soon found them all very friendly. I
learned that there was no food to be got till to-morrow, but I foraged
about till I found a sort of canteen-tent, where they sold buns, and,
having some tea of my own, got water boiled over a friendly fire, and
now feel happier; but I fervently hope I shall get back to the Battery
soon. When I heard last from Williams, they had returned to Waterval
after some hard forced marching.

_September 19._--Loafed away last evening somehow. A wan electric
light half lit the room after dark; the souls "twittered" like Homer's
in dejected knots. "Fatigues all day, and a pass into town once a
week," seem to be the prospect. Reveille to-day at six. At parade,
after breakfast, I was told off to act as an office orderly to Captain
Davies, the Inspector of Ordnance, an all-day job, but otherwise with
possibilities in it, I judged. Found the office, swept it out, and
dusted and tidied things. Parlour-maid's work is nearly new to me (I
have only cleaned windows before, in barracks at St. John's Wood), and
I found myself trying to remember what I used to see Mary doing in the
flat. I fancy my predecessor must have been a "slattern," for
everything was thick with dust. I wish the Captain would leave his
matches behind; there is not a match to be got in Pretoria now for the
ordinary mortal. I'm afraid there are no perquisites in this
situation. Also I wish he would get a waste-paper basket. I have made
a humane resolve never to be without one myself, at home. Captain rode
up about 9.30; I tied up his pony, and then sat on a stone step
outside, feeling rather like a corner-boy trying to pick up a job.
Found a friendly collar-maker in a room near. He also is a "detail,"
or "excess number," but a philosopher withal. He told me that from his
observation I had a "soft job."--Nothing happened, so I have adjourned
to some tarpaulins in the back yard. A shout of "Ord'ly" from the
office interrupted me, and I was sent with a blue letter to the Chief
Ordnance Officer in a camp about a mile away. Again to the same place
in the afternoon, and one or two other little errands, but between
whiles I had plenty of time to write. The Captain rode off about five,
and I somehow got attached to the collar-maker, who was extremely
friendly, and we spent the evening together. Looked in at a S.C.A.
tent, and found a service going on. The Chaplain of the Bushmen was

_September 20._--I got a pass and walked to Pretoria in the evening;
saw the place by daylight, and was rather disillusioned. The good
buildings and the best shops are in a very small compass, and are
nothing much at the best, though the Palace of Justice and the
Government buildings are tolerably dignified. All this part seems
quite new. There is very little to be bought. Indeed, the wonder is
that there is anything, for no trade supplies have come in since the
war began. By way of testing prices, I took a cup of tea and some cake
in a pleasant little shop; half a crown; worth it though, for the tea
had fresh milk in it. Groceries seem unobtainable, but I made a
valuable haul at a chemist's, in the shape of tea-tablets, which I
think are the most useful things one can have out here. Matches can't
be bought at all, but if you buy other things, and then are very
polite, they will throw in a box for love; at least, a tobacconist did
so for me. They used to be a shilling a box, but the authorities
limited the price to a penny, a futile proceeding.

The charm of Pretoria lies in its outlying roads, with its cool little
villas peeping out of green. The place is very quiet, and every one is
in khaki.

_September 12._--Can't get sent to the Battery yet. Our tin room grows
fuller. At night it is much too crowded, and is horribly stuffy; for
the nights are very hot. But I am quite at home now, and enjoy the
society, mixed though it is. I have literary arguments with a
field-battery bombardier. We both rather pity one another, for he
can't appreciate Thackeray and I can't understand Marie Corelli, whose
works, with their deep spiritual meaning, he speaks of reverently. He
hopes to educate me up to "Ardath," and I have offered him the
reversion of "Esmond," which I bought yesterday.

Went down to town in the evening and visited the Irish Hospital, which
has commandeered the Palace of Justice, and turned it to better uses
than Kruger's venial judges ever put it to. The patients dwell "in
marble halls," spacious, lofty rooms. Had a pleasant chat with Dr.
Stokes. (The I.H. were shipmates of ours on the _Montfort_.) Also, to
my great delight, found two men of our Battery there; it was a great
treat to see familiar faces again. They said the Battery or part of it
was at Waterval. I don't see why I shouldn't rejoin at once if they
will only let me. I joined them in an excellent tea. They spoke most
highly of the hospital. I had no pass to get back with, and didn't
know the countersign, but I bluffed through all right.

_September 22._--No prospect of getting away, though I apply daily to
rejoin. Sent down to Pretoria with a letter in the middle of the day,
so took the opportunity of visiting the Soldiers' Home, where you can
get mild drinks, read the papers, and write. Visited the Battery chaps
again in the evening. I have grown quite reckless about the lack of a
pass; "Orderly to Captain Davies," said in a very off-hand tone I
found an excellent form of reply to sentries. I have an "Esmond," and
am enjoying it for about the fiftieth time. It serves to pass away the
late evenings. A great amusement in the barrack-room after dark is
gambling. The amounts won and lost rather astonish me. Happily it is
done in silence, with grim intensity. But I have only an inch of
candle, and can't buy any more. Next me on the floor is a gunner of
the 14th Battery, which lost its guns at Colenso. He has just given me
a graphic account of that disastrous day, and how they fought the guns
till ammunition failed and then sat (what was left of them) in a donga
close behind, with no teams with which to get more ammunition or
retire the guns. I have also had the story of Sanna's Post from a U
Battery man who was captured there. He described how they were
marching through a drift one morning, with no thought of Boers in
their heads, when they suddenly attacked at close range, and were
helpless. I may mention a thing that strikes me about all such stories
(and one hears a good many out here) from soldiers who have been
"given away" by bad leadership. There is criticism, jesting and
satirical generally, but very little bitterness. Bravery is always
admired, but it is so universal as to be taken for granted. The
popularity of officers depends far more on the interest they show in
the daily welfare of the men, in personal good-fellowship, in
consideration for them in times of privation and exhaustion, when a
physical strain which tells heavily on the man may tell lightly on the
officers. It is a big subject and a delicate one, but rightly or
wrongly, I have got the impression that more might be done in the army
to lower the rigid caste-barrier which separates the ranks. No doubt
it is inevitable and harmless at home, but in the bloody, toilsome
business of war it is apt to have bad results. Of course is only part
of the larger question of our general military system, deep-rooted as
that is in our whole national life, and now placed, with all its
defects and advantages, in vivid contrast with an almost exactly
opposite system.

_September 23._--_Sunday._--Ammunition fatigue for most of us, while I
attended as office-boy as usual, and was walking about with letters
most of the day. There are farriers and wheelers also at work in this
yard, so that one can always light one's pipe or make a cup of tea at
the forge fire. Just outside are ranged a row of antiquated Boer guns
of obsolete types; I expect they are the lot they used to show to our
diplomatic representative when he asked vexatious questions about the
"increasing armaments." I believe the Boers also left quantities of
good stores here when Pretoria was abandoned. These are fine new
barracks scarcely finished. They enclose a big quadrangle. Three or
four batteries, horse and field, are quartered in them now. Tried to
get to Pretoria after hours, but was stopped by a conscientious
sentry, who wanted my pass. I wished to get to the station, with a
vague idea of finding when there would be a train to Waterval, and
then running away.

_September 24._--Worried the Sergeant-Major again, and was told that I
might get away to-morrow. Meanwhile, I am getting deeper in the toils.

I was sitting on my tarpaulins writing, and feeling rather grateful
for the "softness" of my job, when a shout of "Ord'ly!" sent me into
the office. The Captain, who is a good-natured, pleasant chap, asked
me if I could do clerk's work. I said I was a clerk at home, and
thought I could. He said he thought I must find it irksome and lonely
to be sitting outside, and I might just as well pass the time between
errands in writing up ledgers inside. I was soon being initiated into
Ordnance accounts, which are things of the most diabolical complexity.
Ordnance comprises practically everything; from a gun-carriage to a
nail; from a tent, a waggon, a binocular, a blanket, a saddle, to an
ounce of grease and all the thousand constituents which go to make up
everything. These are tabulated in a book which is a nightmare of
subsections, and makes you dizzy to peruse. But no human brain can
tabulate Ordnance exhaustively, so half the book is blank columns, in
which you for ever multiply new subsections, new atoms of Ordnance
which nobody has thought of before. The task has a certain morbid
fascination about it, which I believe would become a disease if you
pursued it long enough, and leave you an analyticomaniac, or some
such horror. Myriad bits of ordnance are continually pouring in and
pouring out, and the object is to track them, and balance them, and
pursue every elusive atom from start to finish. It may be expendible,
like paint, or non-expendible, like an anvil. You feel despairingly
that a pound of paint, born at Kimberley, and now at Mafeking, is
disappearing somewhere and somehow; but you have to endow it with a
fictitious immortality. An anvil you feel safer about, but then you
have to use it somewhere, and account for its surplus, if there is
any. Any one with a turn for metaphysics would be at home in Ordnance;
Aristotle would have revelled in it.

It has just struck me that 1s. 5d. a day for a charwoman, a messenger
and an accountant, to say nothing of a metaphysician, all rolled into
one, is low pay. In London you would have to give such a being at
least a pound a week.

_September 25._--Ledgers, vouchers, errands, most of the day. Melting
hot, with a hot wind. Good news from the Sergeant-major that he is
putting in an application for a railway pass for me to Waterval,
without waiting for the other formalities.

_September 26._--_Wednesday._--Hopes dashed to the ground. Commandant
won't sign the application till some other officer does something or
other, which there seems little chance of his doing.



Ordered home--Back to the Battery--Good-bye to the horses--The charm
of the veldt--Recent work of the Battery--Paget's farewell speech--
Hard-won curios--The last bivouac--Roberts's farewell--The southward
train--De Wet?--Mirages--A glimpse of Piquetberg road--The _Aurania_--
Embarkation scenes--The last of Africa--A pleasant night.

September 27 was a red-letter day. News came that all the C.I.V. were
going home on the following Monday. I was overwhelmed with
congratulations in the barrack-room. I exercised the Captain's
Argentine in the afternoon, and visited the station, where I learnt
that the Battery had been wired for, and had arrived, but was camped
somewhere outside.

On the next day I got another charwoman-clerk appointed, said good-bye
to my R.A. friends and the Captain, who congratulated me too, and was
free to find the Battery and rejoin. After some difficulty, I found
them camped about four miles out, close to the C.I.V. Infantry. It was
delightful to walk into the lines, and to see the old familiar scenes,
and horses, and faces. Every one looked more weather-beaten and
sunburnt, and the horses very shaggy and hard-worked, but strong and
fit. My mare had lost flesh, but was still in fine condition. The
Argentine was lashing out at the others in the same old way. Tiny, the
terrier, looked very weary and travel-stained after much forced
marching, which she had loyally undergone to the last. Jacko had not
turned a hair.

Williams turned up with "Pussy" in a lather, having been hunting for
me all round Pretoria. We ate bully-beef and biscuit together in the
old style. I took my pair down to water for the last time, "for auld
lang syne," and noticed that the mare's spine was not the comfortable
seat it used to be.

Then the last "boot and saddle" went, and they were driven away with
the guns and waggons to the station, and thence to the remount depot,
to be drafted later into new batteries. Ninety-four horses were handed
over, out of a hundred and fourteen originally brought from England, a
most creditable record.

The camp looked very strange without the horses, and it was odder
still to have no watering or grooming to do. In the evening, the
change from barrack-room to veldt was most delightful. We made a fire
and cooked tea in the old way, and talked and smoked under the soft
night sky and crescent moon. Then what a comfortable bed afterwards!
Pure air to breathe, and plenty of room. I felt I had hardly realized
before how pleasant the veldt life had been.

The Battery had done a great deal of hard work since I left; forced
marches by night and day between Warmbad, Pynaar's River, Waterval,
Hebron, Crocodile River, and Eland's River; generally with Paget, once
under Colonel Plumer, and once under Hickman. They had shared in
capturing several Boer laagers, and quantities of cattle. When they
left the brigade, a commando under Erasmus was negotiating for a
surrender, which was made a day or two later, as we afterwards heard.
Altogether, they had done very good work, though not a round was
fired. I only wish I could have been with them.

One thing I deeply regret missing, and that was Paget's farewell
speech to us, when all agree that he spoke with real and deep feeling.
One of our gunners took it down in shorthand, and here it is:--

"Major McMicking, Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men of the
C.I.V. Battery,--

"Lord Roberts has decided to send you home, and I have come to say
good-bye and to express my regret at having to part with you. We have
been together now for some months, and have had rough times, but in
its many engagements the C.I.V. Battery has always done its work well.
Before my promotion I commanded a battalion, and I know what a
heart-breaking it is to lead gallant fellows up to a strong position
unsupported by artillery; and I made up my mind that, if ever I had a
separate command, I would never advance infantry without an artillery
support. I was fortunate enough to have your Battery with me, and it
is very gratifying to know that everything we attempted has been
successful. Owing to the excellent practice made by your guns, you
have the satisfaction of knowing that you have been the cause of great
saving of lives to the Infantry, and at times the Cavalry. I am sorry
to lose you, and I shall miss you very much. There is more hard work
to be done; and you cannot realize what it is to me to lose a body of
men whom I knew I could always rely upon. There are many episodes,
some of which will remain a lasting memory to me. One in particular I
might refer to, when, two days after leaving Lindley, two companies of
Munster Fusiliers came unexpectedly under heavy rifle-fire at short
range; your guns coming smartly into action, dispersed the enemy with
a few well-directed shrapnel. It was one of the smartest pieces of
work I have ever seen. On another occasion, outside Bethlehem (I
forget the name of the place),[A] when in a rear-guard action with De
Wet, you advanced under a heavy cross-fire of shrapnel, when you
rendered splendid service, and saved Roberts' Horse by silencing two
guns and smashing a third. On that day not a single life was lost on
our side. On still another occasion, outside Bethlehem, under heavy
shell-fire from five guns in a strong position, the steadiness with
which your guns were served would have done credit to the finest
troops in the Empire. There are other incidents that I might mention,
but these three occur to me specially at the moment. You are returning
home, to receive a hearty welcome, which you undoubtedly deserve, and
I hope you will sometimes think of me, as I certainly shall of you;
and now you can tell your friends what I think of you. I wish you a
safe and pleasant voyage. Good-bye."

[Footnote A: Bultfontein.]

We shall also tell them what we thought of him. There was not a man of
us but liked, admired, and trusted him--as I know did his whole
brigade. And that he trusted us, is an honour we shall not forget.

It was good to be going home again; but I think every one felt half
sorry that we were not to share in finishing the work before his
brigade. The whole C.I.V. regiment was being sent home together; but
the Infantry, of course, had done the bulk of their work when we began
ours. It was curious that this was the first occasion on which the
three arms of the C.I.V., Infantry, Mounted Infantry, and Artillery,
had been united under one command.

We spent the next two days in preparations for departure, in sorting
of harness, sifting and packing of kit, and great burnings of
discarded rubbish.

On the first of October, Williams and I walked into Pretoria to do
some business, and try and pick up some curios. We had an exhausting
conflict with a crusty old Jew, with whom we bargained for scjamboks
and knobkerries. It was with great difficulty we got him to treat with
us at all, or even show us his wares. He had been humbugged so often
by khakis that he would not believe we were serious customers, and
treated our advances with violence and disdain. We had to be
conciliatory, as we wanted his wares, though we felt inclined to loot
his shop, and leave him for dead. After some most extraordinary
bargaining and after tempting him with solid, visible gold, we each
secured a scjambok and a knobkerry at exorbitant prices, and left him
even then grumbling and growling.

Scjamboks are whips made of rhinoceros' hide. They take a beautiful
polish, and a good one is indestructible. A knobkerry is a stick with
a heavy round knob for a head, overlaid, head and stem, with copper
and steel wire, in ingenious spirals and patterns. The Kaffirs make

I also wired to my brother to meet our train at Elandsfontein. He had
written me, saying he had been sent there from the Convalescent Camp,
having the luck to find as his commandant Major Paul Burn-Murdoch, of
the Royal Engineers, who was a mutual friend of ours.

I was on picket duty that night--my last on the veldt. The camp looked
very strange with only the four lines of men sleeping by their kits,
and a few officers' horses and a little knot of ten mules for the last
buck-waggon. It was an utterly still moonlight night, only broken by
the distant chirruping of frogs and the occasional tinkle of a mule's

At seven the next morning we met the C.I.V. Infantry and Mounted
Infantry, and were all reviewed by Lord Roberts, who rode out with his
Staff to say good-bye to us. He made us a speech we were proud to
hear, referring particularly to the fine marching of the Infantry, and
adding that he hoped we would carry home to the heart of the country a
high opinion of the regular British soldier, alongside whom we had
fought. That we certainly shall do. He prophesied a warm reception at
home, and said he hoped when it was going on we would remember one
man, our Honorary Colonel, who would have liked to be there to march
at our head into the city of London; "good-bye and God speed." Then we
cheered him and marched away.

At half-past twelve we were at the station, where the guns had already
been entrained by a fatigue party. Ours was the first of three trains,
and was to carry the Battery, and two companies of Infantry. Williams
and I secured a small lair underneath a limber in an open truck, and
bundled in our kit. The platform was crowded with officers and
Tommies, and many and envious were the farewells we had. Kilsby, of T
Battery, whom I had made friends with at the barracks, was there to
see me off. At 4.30, amidst great cheering, we steamed out and began
the thousand mile run to Capetown, slowly climbing the long wooded
pass, under an angry, lowering sky. At the top a stormy sun was
setting in a glowing furnace of rose-red. We hastily rigged some
tarpaulins over our limber, and escaped a wetting from a heavy shower.
We had managed to distribute and compress our kit so as to leave room
to lie down in, and after dark we lit a lantern and played picquet.
About eight we came to Elandsfontein, and there on the platform were
my brother and Major Burn-Murdoch. The latter hurried us off to the
restaurant--forbidden ground to us men as a rule, sat us down among
the officers, and gave us a rattling good dinner, while our comrades
munched their biscuits outside. De Wet, we heard, was ahead, having
crossed the line with 1000 men, two nights ago, further south. We
agreed that it would be a happy irony if he held up our train, the
first to carry troops homeward--the herald of peace, in fact; and just
the sort of enterprise that would tickle his fancy. Suddenly the train
jerked off, and I jumped into my lair and left them. It was a warm
night, and we sat under the stars on the seats of the limber, enjoying
the motion and the cool air. About ten we pulled up at a station, and
just after we had stopped, four rifle-shots rapped out in quick
succession not far ahead. De Wet, we at once conjectured. In the
darkness on our left we heard an impatient corporal turning out his
sleepy guard, and a stir and clatter of arms. One of our companies of
infantry was also turned out, and a party formed to patrol the line,
outposts having reported some Boers tampering with the rails. The rest
of the train was sound asleep, but we, being awake, got leave to go
with the patrol. Williams borrowed a rifle from somewhere, but I could
not find a weapon. They made us connecting files between the advance
party and main body, and we tramped up the line and over the veldt for
about an hour, but nothing happened, and we came back and turned in.

De Wet let us alone, and for five days we travelled peaceably through
the well-known places, sometimes in the pure, clear air of true
African weather, but further south through storms of cold rain, when
Scotch mists shrouded everything, and we lay in the bottom of our
truck, on carefully constructed islands of kit and blankets, among
pools of water, passing the time with books and cards. Signs of war
had not disappeared, and at every station down to Bloemfontein were
the same vigilant camps (often with parties posted in trenches), more
charred remains of trains, and ever-present rumours of raiding

One novel sight I saw in the interminable monotony of desert veldt.
For a whole afternoon there were mirages all along the horizon, a
chain of enchanted lakes on either side, on which you could imagine
piers, and boats, and wooded islands.

At Beaufort West we dropped our "boys," the Kaffir mule-drivers; they
left us in a great hubbub of laughing and shouting, with visions
before them, I expect, of a golden age, based on their accumulated
wealth of high pay. We passed Piquetberg Road about midnight of
October 6th. Plumbley, the store-keeper, was there, and the belle of
the village was holding a moonlight levee at the end of the train.
There was a temporary clear from the rain here, but it soon thickened
down again. When we steamed away I climbed out on the buffers (the
only way of getting a view), and had a last look at the valley, which
our wheels had scored in so many directions. Tulbagh Pass, Bushman's
Rock, and the hills behind it were looking ghostly through a humid,
luminous mist; but my posture was not conducive to sentimentality, as
any one who tries it will agree; so I climbed back to my island, and
read myself to sleep by a candle, while we clattered and jolted on
into the night.

When I woke at dawn on October 7th we were standing in a siding at the
Capetown docks, the rain coming down in torrents, and Table Mountain
blotted out in clouds. Collecting our kit from sopping crannies and
corners, we packed it and paraded at six, and marched off to the quay,
where the _Aurania_, our homeward transport, lay. Here we gave in
revolvers, carbines, blankets, etc., were split up into messes, and,
after much waiting, filed off into the fore part of the ship,
descended a noisome-smelling funnel by an iron staircase, and found
ourselves on the troop-deck, very similar to that of the _Montfort_,
only likely to be much more crowded; the same low ceiling, with
cross-rafters for kit and hooks for hammocks, and close-packed tables
on either side.

More C.I.V. had arrived, and the quays were swarming with soldiers and
civilians. Williams had decided to stay and see something of Capetown,
and was now to get his discharge. There were a few others doing so
also. He was discharged in form, and drove away to the Mount Nelson
Hotel, returning later disguised as a civilian, in a long mackintosh
(over his uniform), a scarf, and a villainous-looking cap; looking, as
he said, like a seedy Johannesburg refugee. But he was free! The
Manager of his hotel, which, I believe, is the smartest in South
Africa, had looked askance at his luggage, which consisted of an
oat-sack, bulging with things, and a disreputable-looking bundle.

At about three there was a great shouting and heaving of the crowd,
and the High Commissioner came on the scene, and walked down the quay
through a guard of honour which we and the Infantry had contributed to
form, industriously kinematographed on his progress by a fat Jew.
Several staff-officers were with Milner, and a grey-bearded gentleman,
whom we guessed to be Sir Gordon Sprigg. Milner, I heard, made a
speech somewhere. Then a band was playing, and we were allowed half an
hour off the ship. Williams and I had our last talk on the quay, in a
surging crowd of khaki and civilian grey, mingled with the bright hats
and dresses of ladies. Then bells began to ring, the siren to bellow
mournfully, and the band to play valedictory tunes ("Say _au revoir_
and not goodbye," I thought rather an ominous pleasantry). We two said
good-bye, and I squeezed myself up the gangway. Every inch of standing
room aboard was already packed, but I got a commanding position by
clambering high up, with some others, on to a derrick-boom. The pilot
appeared on the bridge, shore-ropes were cast off, "Auld Lang Syne"
was played, then "God save the Queen." Every hat on board and ashore
was waving, and every voice cheering, and so we backed off, and
steamed out of the basin.

Sober facts had now to be considered. There were signs of a heavy
swell outside, and something about "the lift of the great Cape
combers" came into my head. We all jostled down to tea, and made the
best of our time. There was no mistake about the swell, and a terrific
rolling soon began, which first caused unnatural merriment, and then
havoc. I escaped from the inferno below, and found a pandemonium on
deck. The limited space allotted to the troops was crammed, and at
every roll figures were propelled to and fro like high-velocity
projectiles. Shell-fire was nothing to it for danger. I got hold of
something and smoked, while darkness came on with rain, and the
horrors intensified. I bolted down the pit to get some blankets. One
glance around was enough, and having seized the blankets, up I came
again. Where to make a bed? Every yard, sheltered and unsheltered,
seemed to be carpeted with human figures. Amidships, on either side of
the ship, there was a covered gallery, running beneath the saloon deck
(a palatial empty space, with a few officers strolling about it). In
the gallery on the weather side there was not an inch of lying room,
though at every roll the water lapped softly up to and round the
prostrate, indifferent bodies. On the lee side, which was dry, they
seemed to be lying two deep. At last, on the open space of the main
deck aft, I found one narrow strip of wet, but empty space, laid my
blankets down, earnestly wishing it was the dusty veldt, and was soon
asleep. It was raining, but, like the rest, misery made me
indifferent. _Montfort_ experience ought to have reminded me that the
decks are always washed by the night watch. I was reminded of this
about 2 A.M. by an unsympathetic seaman, who was pointing the nozzle
of a hose threateningly at me. The awakened crowd was drifting away,
goodness knows where, trailing their wet blankets. I happened to be
near the ladder leading to the sacred precincts of the saloon deck.
Its clean, empty, sheltered spaces were irresistibly tempting, and I
lawlessly mounted the ladder with my bed, lay down, and went to sleep



Impressions of the voyage--Sentry-go--Troopship--Limitations--
Retrospect--St. Vincent--Forecasts--The Start--The Needles--
Southampton Water--Landing--Paddington--A dream.

I am not going to describe the voyage in detail. Africa, with all it
meant, was behind us, England was before, and the intervening time,
monotonous though it was, passed quickly with that absorbing thought.
My chief impression is that of living in an eternal jostle; forming
interminable _queues_ outside canteens, washing-places, and stuffy
hammock-rooms in narrow alleys, and of leisure hours spent on deck
among a human carpet of khaki, playing euchre, or reading the
advertisement columns of ancient halfpenny papers. There was physical
exercise, and a parade every day, but the chief duty was that of
sentry-go, which recurred to each of us every five days, and lasted
for twenty-four hours. The ship teemed with sentries. To look out for
fire was our principal function, and a very important one it was, but
I have also vivid recollections of lonely vigils over water-tight
doors in stifling little alley-ways, of directing streams of traffic
up troop-deck ladders, and of drowsy sinecures, in the midnight hours,
over deserted water-taps and empty wash-houses. These latter, which
contained fourteen basins between fourteen hundred men, are a good
illustration of the struggle for life in those days. That a sentry
should guard them at night was not unreasonable on the face of it,
since I calculated that if every man was to appear washed at the ten
o'clock parade, the first would have had to begin washing about six
o'clock the night before, allowing ten minutes for a toilet, but
unfortunately for this theory, the basins were always locked up at
night. Another grim pleasantry was an order that all should appear
shaved at the morning parade. Luckily this cynical regulation was
leniently interpreted, for the spectacle of fourteen hundred razors
flashing together in those narrow limits of time and space was a
prospect no humane person could view with anything but horror.

There was plenty of time to reflect over our experiences in the last
nine months. Summing mine up, I found, and thinking over it at home
find still, little but good in the retrospect. Physically and
mentally, I, like many others, have found this short excursion into
strict military life of enormous value. To those who have been lucky
enough to escape sickness, the combination of open air and hard work
will act as a lasting tonic against the less healthy conditions of
town-life. It is something, bred up as we have been in a complex
civilization, to have reduced living to its simplest terms and to have
realized how little one really wants. It is much to have learnt the
discipline, self-restraint, endurance and patience which soldiering
demands. (For a driver, it is a liberal education in itself to have
lived with and for two horses day and night for eight months!) Perhaps
the best of all is to have given up newspaper reading for a time and
have stepped one's self into the region of open-air facts where
history is made and the empire is moulded; to have met and mixed with
on that ground, where all classes are fused, not only men of our blood
from every quarter of the globe, but men of our own regular army who
had fought that desperate struggle in the early stages of the war
before we were thought of; to have lived their life, heard their
grievances, sympathized with their needs, and admired their splendid

As to the Battery, it is not for a driver in the ranks to generalize
on its work. But this one can say, that after a long and trying
probation on the line of communications we did at length do a good
deal of work and earn the confidence of our Brigadier. We have been
fortunate enough to lose no lives through wounds and only one from
sickness, a fact which speaks highly for our handling in the field by
our officers, and for their general management of the Battery.
Incidentally, we can fairly claim to have proved, or helped to prove,
that Volunteer Artillery can be of use in war; though how much skill
and labour is involved in its sudden mobilization only the few able
men who organized ours in January last can know.

To return to the _Aurania_.

On the 19th of October we were anchored at St. Vincent, with the
fruit-laden bum-boats swarming alongside, and the donkey-engines
chattering, derricks clacking, and coal-dust pervading everything.

Here we read laconic telegrams from London, speaking of a great
reception before us on Saturday the 27th, and thenceforward the talk
was all of runs, and qualities of coal, and technical mysteries of the
toiling engines, which were straining to bring us home by Friday
night. Every steward, stoker, and cabin boy had his circle of
disciples, who quoted and betted on his predictions as though they
were the utterings of an oracle; but the pessimists gradually
prevailed, for we met bad weather and heavy head-seas on entering the
bay. It was not till sunrise on Friday itself that we sighted land, a
white spur of cliff, with a faint suggestion of that long unseen
colour, green, behind it, seen across some miles of wind-whipped
foaming blue. The optimists said it was the Needles, the pessimists
the Start; the latter were right, and we guessed we should have to
wait till Monday before landing; but that did not lessen the delight
of watching the familiar shores slide by till the Needles were
reached, and then of feasting our eyes, long accustomed to the parched
plains of Africa, on fields and hedges, and familiar signs of homely,
peaceful life.

It was four o'clock when we dropped anchor in Southampton Water, and
were shouting a thousand questions at the occupants of a tug which lay
alongside, and learnt with wonder, emotion, and a strange sense of
unworthiness, of the magnificent welcome that London had prepared for

The interminable day of waiting; the landing on the quay, with its
cheering crowds; that wonderful journey to London, with its growing
tumult of feelings, as station after station, with their ribboned and
shouting throngs, flashed by; the meeting at Paddington with our
comrades of the Honourable Artillery Company, bringing us their guns
and horses; the mounting of a glossy, smartly-equipped steed, which
made me laughingly recall my shaggy old pair, with their dusty,
travel-worn harness; all this I see clearly enough. The rest seems a
dream; a dream of miles of upturned faces, of dancing colours, of
roaring voices, of a sudden dim hush in the great Cathedral, of more
miles of faces under gaslight, of a voice in a packed hall saying,
"London is proud of her--," of disconnected confidences with
policemen, work-people, street-arabs, and finally of the entry once
more through the old grey gateway of the Armoury House. I expect the
feelings of all of us were much the same; some honest pride in having
helped to earn such a welcome; a sort of stunned bewilderment at its
touching and passionate intensity; a deep wave of affection for our
countrymen; and a thought in the background all the time of a dusty
khaki figure still plodding the distant veldt--our friend and comrade,
Atkins, who has done more and bloodier work than we, and who is not at
the end of it yet.


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