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The Great Boer War by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 11 out of 11

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Villiersdorp, in the extreme north-east of the Orange River Colony.
This corps, consisting mainly of miners from Johannesburg, had done
invaluable service during the war. On this occasion a working party
of them was suddenly attacked, and most of them taken prisoners.
Major Fisher, who commanded the pioneers, was killed, and three
other officers with several men were wounded. Colonel Rimington's
column appeared upon the scene, however, and drove off the Boers,
who left their leader, Buys, a wounded prisoner in our hands.

The second action was a sharp attack delivered by Muller's Boers
upon Colonel Park's column on the night of December 19th, at
Elandspruit. The fight was sharp while it lasted, but it ended in
the repulse of the assailants. The British casualties were six
killed and twenty-four wounded. The Boers, who left eight dead
behind them, suffered probably to about the same extent.

Already the most striking and pleasing feature in the Transvaal was
the tranquillity of its central provinces, and the way in which the
population was settling down to its old avocations. Pretoria had
resumed its normal quiet life, while its larger and more energetic
neighbour was rapidly recovering from its two years of paralysis.
Every week more stamps were dropped in the mines, and from month to
month a steady increase in the output showed that the great staple
industry of the place would soon be as vigorous as ever. Most
pleasing of all was the restoration of safety upon the railway
lines, which, save for some precautions at night, had resumed their
normal traffic. When the observer took his eyes from the dark
clouds which shadowed every horizon, he could not but rejoice at
the ever-widening central stretch of peaceful blue which told that
the storm was nearing its end.

Having now dealt with the campaign in the Transvaal down to the end
of 1901, it only remains to bring the chronicle of the events in
the Orange River Colony down to the same date. Reference has
already been made to two small British reverses which occurred in
September, the loss of two guns to the south of the Waterworks near
Bloemfontein, and the surprise of the camp of Lord Lovat's Scouts.
There were some indications at this time that a movement had been
planned through the passes of the Drakensberg by a small Free State
force which should aid Louis Botha's invasion of Natal. The main
movement was checked, however, and the demonstration in aid of it
came to nothing.

The blockhouse system had been developed to a very complete extent
in the Orange River Colony, and the small bands of Boers found it
increasingly difficult to escape from the British columns who were
for ever at their heels. The southern portion of the country had
been cut off from the northern by a line which extended through
Bloemfontein on the east to the Basuto frontier, and on the west to
Jacobsdal. To the south of this line the Boer resistance had
practically ceased, although several columns moved continually
through it, and gleaned up the broken fragments of the commandos.
The north-west had also settled down to a large extent, and during
the last three months of 1901 no action of importance occurred in
that region. Even in the turbulent north-east, which had always
been the centre of resistance, there was little opposition to the
British columns, which continued every week to send in their tale
of prisoners. Of the column commanders, Williams, Damant, Du
Moulin, Lowry Cole, and Wilson were the most successful. In their
operations they were much aided by the South African Constabulary.
One young officer of this force, Major Pack-Beresford, especially
distinguished himself by his gallantry and ability. His premature
death from enteric was a grave loss to the British army. Save for
one skirmish of Colonel Wilson's early in October, and another of
Byng's on November 14th, there can hardly be said to have been any
actual fighting until the events late in December which I am about
to describe.

In the meanwhile the peaceful organisation of the country was being
pushed forward as rapidly as in the Transvaal, although here the
problems presented were of a different order, and the population an
exclusively Dutch one. The schools already showed a higher
attendance than in the days before the war, while a continual
stream of burghers presented themselves to take the oath of
allegiance, and even to join the ranks against their own
irreconcilable countrymen, whom they looked upon with justice as
the real authors of their troubles.

Towards the end of November there were signs that the word had gone
forth for a fresh concentration of the fighting Boers in their old
haunts in the Heilbron district, and early in December it was known
that the indefatigable De Wet was again in the field. He had
remained quiet so long that there had been persistent rumours of
his injury and even of his death, but he was soon to show that he
was as alive as ever. President Steyn was ill of a most serious
complaint, caused possibly by the mental and physical sufferings
which he had undergone; but with an indomitable resolution which
makes one forget and forgive the fatuous policy which brought him
and his State to such a pass, he still appeared in his Cape cart at
the laager of the faithful remnant of his commandos. To those who
remembered how widespread was our conviction of the
half-heartedness of the Free Staters at the outbreak of the war, it
was indeed a revelation to see them after two years still making a
stand against the forces which had crushed them.

It had been long evident that the present British tactics of
scouring the country and capturing the isolated burghers must in
time bring the war to a conclusion. From the Boer point of view the
only hope, or at least the only glory, lay in reassembling once
more in larger bodies and trying conclusions with some of the
British columns. It was with this purpose that De Wet early in
December assembled Wessels, Manie Botha, and others of his
lieutenants, together with a force of about two thousand men, in
the Heilbron district. Small as this force was, it was admirably
mobile, and every man in it was a veteran, toughened and seasoned
by two years of constant fighting. De Wet's first operations were
directed against an isolated column of Colonel Wilson's, which was
surrounded within twenty miles of Heilbron. Rimington, in response
to a heliographic call for assistance, hurried with admirable
promptitude to the scene of action, and joined hands with Wilson.
De Wet's men were as numerous, however, as the two columns
combined, and they harassed the return march into Heilbron. A
determined attack was made on the convoy and on the rearguard, but
it was beaten off. That night Rimington's camp was fired into by a
large body of Boers, but he had cleverly moved his men away from
the fires, so that no harm was done. The losses in these operations
were small, but with troops which had not been trained in this
method of fighting the situation would have been a serious one. For
a fortnight or more after this the burghers contented themselves by
skirmishing with British columns and avoiding a drive which
Elliot's forces made against them. On December 18th they took the
offensive, however, and within a week fought three actions, two of
which ended in their favour.

News had come to British headquarters that Kaffir's Kop, to the
north-west of Bethlehem, was a centre of Boer activity. Three
columns were therefore turned in that direction, Elliot's,
Barker's, and Dartnell's. Some desultory skirmishing ensued, which
was only remarkable for the death of Haasbroek, a well-known Boer
leader. As the columns separated again, unable to find an
objective, De Wet suddenly showed one of them that their failure
was not due to his absence. Dartnell had retraced his steps nearly
as far as Eland's River Bridge, when the Boer leader sprang out of
his lair in the Langberg and threw himself upon him. The burghers
attempted to ride in, as they had successfully done at
Brakenlaagte, but they were opposed by the steady old troopers of
the two regiments of Imperial Horse, and by a General who was
familiar with every Boer ruse. The horsemen never got nearer than
150 yards to the British line, and were beaten back by the steady
fire which met them. Finding that he made no headway, and learning
that Campbell's column was coming up from Bethlehem, De Wet
withdrew his men after four hours' fighting. Fifteen were hit upon
the British side, and the Boer loss seems to have been certainly as
great or greater.

De Wet's general aim in his operations seems to have been to check
the British blockhouse building. With his main force in the
Langberg he could threaten the line which was now being erected
between Bethlehem and Harrismith, a line against which his main
commando was destined, only two months later, to beat itself in
vain. Sixty miles to the north a second line was being run across
country from Frankfort to Standerton, and had reached a place
called Tafelkop. A covering party of East Lancashires and Yeomanry
watched over the workers, but De Wet had left a portion of his
force in that neighbourhood, and they harassed the blockhouse
builders to such an extent that General Hamilton, who was in
command, found it necessary to send in to Frankfort for support.
The British columns there had just returned exhausted from a drive,
but three bodies under Damant, Rimington, and Wilson were at once
despatched to clear away the enemy.

The weather was so atrocious that the veld resembled an inland sea,
with the kopjes as islands rising out of it. By this stage of the
war the troops were hardened to all weathers, and they pushed
swiftly on to the scene of action. As they approached the spot
where the Boers had been reported, the line had been extended over
many miles, with the result that it had become very attenuated and
dangerously weak in the centre. At this point Colonel Damant and
his small staff were alone with the two guns and the maxim, save
for a handful of Imperial Yeomanry (91st), who acted as escort to
the guns. Across the face of this small force there rode a body of
men in khaki uniforms, keeping British formation, and actually
firing bogus volleys from time to time in the direction of some
distant Boers. Damant and his staff seem to have taken it for
granted that these were Rimington's men, and the clever ruse
succeeded to perfection. Nearer and nearer came the strangers, and
suddenly throwing off all disguise, they made a dash for the guns.
Four rounds of case failed to stop them, and in a few minutes they
were over the kopje on which the guns stood and had ridden among
the gunners, supported in their attack by a flank fire from a
number of dismounted riflemen.

The instant that the danger was realised Damant, his staff, and the
forty Yeomen who formed the escort dashed for the crest in the hope
of anticipating the Boers. So rapid was the charge of the others
that they had overwhelmed the gunners before the supports could
reach the hill, and the latter found themselves under the deadly
fire of the Boer rifles from above. Damant was hit in four places,
all of his staff were wounded, and hardly a man of the small body
of Yeomanry was left standing. Nothing could exceed their
gallantry. Gaussen their captain fell at their head. On the ridge
the men about the guns were nearly all killed or wounded. Of the
gun detachment only two men remained, both of them hit, and
Jeffcoat their dying captain bequeathed them fifty pounds each in a
will drawn upon the spot. In half an hour the centre of the British
line had been absolutely annihilated. Modern warfare is on the
whole much less bloody than of old, but when one party has gained
the tactical mastery it is a choice between speedy surrender and
total destruction.

The wide-spread British wings had begun to understand that there
was something amiss, and to ride in towards the centre. An officer
on the far right peering through his glasses saw those tell-tale
puffs at the very muzzles of the British guns, which showed that
they were firing case at close quarters. He turned his squadron
inwards and soon gathered up Scott's squadron of Damant's Horse,
and both rode for the kopje. Rimington's men were appearing on the
other side, and the Boers rode off. They were unable to remove the
guns which they had taken, because all the horses had perished. 'I
actually thought,' says one officer who saw them ride away, 'that I
had made a mistake and been fighting our own men. They were dressed
in our uniforms and some of them wore the tiger-skin, the badge of
Damant's Horse, round their hats.' The same officer gives an
account of the scene on the gun-kopje. 'The result when we got to
the guns was this, gunners all killed except two (both wounded),
pom-pom officers and men all killed, maxim all killed, 91st (the
gun escort) one officer and one man not hit, all the rest killed or
wounded; staff, every officer hit.' That is what it means to those
who are caught in the vortex of the cyclone. The total loss was
about seventy-five.

In this action the Boers, who were under the command of Wessels,
delivered their attack with a cleverness and dash which deserved
success. Their stratagem, however, depending as it did upon the use
of British uniforms and methods, was illegitimate by all the laws
of war, and one can but marvel at the long-suffering patience of
officers and men who endured such things without any attempt at
retaliation. There is too much reason to believe also, that
considerable brutality was shown by those Boers who carried the
kopje, and the very high proportion of killed to wounded among the
British who lay there corroborates the statement of the survivors
that several were shot at close quarters after all resistance had

This rough encounter of Tafelkop was followed only four days later
by a very much more serious one at Tweefontein, which proved that
even after two years of experience we had not yet sufficiently
understood the courage and the cunning of our antagonist. The
blockhouse line was being gradually extended from Harrismith to
Bethlehem, so as to hold down this turbulent portion of the
country. The Harrismith section had been pushed as far as
Tweefontein, which is nine miles west of Elands River Bridge, and
here a small force was stationed to cover the workers. This column
consisted of four squadrons of the 4th Imperial Yeomanry, one gun
of the 79th battery, and one pom-pom, the whole under the temporary
command of Major Williams of the South Staffords, Colonel Firmin
being absent.

Knowing that De Wet and his men were in the neighbourhood, the camp
of the Yeomen had been pitched in a position which seemed to secure
it against attack. A solitary kopje presented a long slope to the
north, while the southern end was precipitous. The outposts were
pushed well out upon the plain, and a line of sentries was placed
along the crest. The only precaution which seems to have been
neglected was to have other outposts at the base of the southern
declivity. It appears to have been taken for granted, however, that
no attack was to be apprehended from that side, and that in any
case it would be impossible to evade the vigilance of the sentries
upon the top.

Of all the daring and skilful attacks delivered by the Boers during
the war there is certainly none more remarkable than this one. At
two o'clock in the morning of a moonlight night De Wet's forlorn
hope assembled at the base of the hill and clambered up to the
summit. The fact that it was Christmas Eve may conceivably have had
something to do with the want of vigilance upon the part of the
sentries. In a season of good will and conviviality the rigour of
military discipline may insensibly relax. Little did the sleeping
Yeomen in the tents, or the drowsy outposts upon the crest, think
of the terrible Christmas visitors who were creeping on to them, or
of the grim morning gift which Santa Claus was bearing.

The Boers, stealing up in their stockinged feet, poured under the
crest until they were numerous enough to make a rush. It is almost
inconceivable how they could have got so far without their presence
being suspected by the sentries--but so it was. At last, feeling
strong enough to advance, they sprang over the crest and fired into
the pickets, and past them into the sleeping camp. The top of the
hill being once gained, there was nothing to prevent their comrades
from swarming up, and in a very few minutes nearly a thousand Boers
were in a position to command the camp. The British were not only
completely outnumbered, but were hurried from their sleep into the
fight without any clear idea as to the danger or how to meet it,
while the hissing sleet of bullets struck many of them down as they
rushed out of their tents. Considering how terrible the ordeal was
to which they were exposed, these untried Yeomen seem to have
behaved very well. 'Some brave gentlemen ran away at the first
shot, but I am thankful to say they were not many,' says one of
their number. The most veteran troops would have been tried very
high had they been placed in such a position. 'The noise and the
clamour,' says one spectator, 'were awful. The yells of the Dutch,
the screams and shrieks of dying men and horses, the cries of
natives, howls of dogs, the firing, the galloping of horses, the
whistling of bullets, and the whirr volleys make in the air, made
up such a compound of awful and diabolical sounds as I never heard
before nor hope to hear again. In the confusion some of the men
killed each other and some killed themselves. Two Boers who put on
helmets were killed by their own people. The men were given no time
to rally or to collect their thoughts, for the gallant Boers barged
right into them, shooting them down, and occasionally being shot
down, at a range of a few yards. Harwich and Watney, who had charge
of the maxim, died nobly with all the men of their gun section
round them. Reed, the sergeant-major, rushed at the enemy with his
clubbed rifle, but was riddled with bullets. Major Williams, the
commander, was shot through the stomach as he rallied his men. The
gunners had time to fire two rounds before they were overpowered
and shot down to a man. For half an hour the resistance was
maintained, but at the end of that time the Boers had the whole
camp in their possession, and were already hastening to get their
prisoners away before the morning should bring a rescue.

The casualties are in themselves enough to show how creditable was
the resistance of the Yeomanry. Out of a force of under four
hundred men they had six officers and fifty-one men killed, eight
officers and eighty men wounded. There have been very few
surrenders during the war in which there has been such evidence as
this of a determined stand. Nor was it a bloodless victory upon the
part of the Boers, for there was evidence that their losses, though
less than those of the British, were still severe.

The prisoners, over two hundred in number, were hurried away by the
Boers, who seemed under the immediate eye of De Wet to have behaved
with exemplary humanity to the wounded. The captives were taken by
forced marches to the Basuto border, where they were turned adrift,
half clad and without food. By devious ways and after many
adventures, they all made their way back again to the British
lines. It was well for De Wet that he had shown such promptness in
getting away, for within three hours of the end of the action the
two regiments of Imperial Horse appeared upon the scene, having
travelled seventeen miles in the time. Already, however, the
rearguard of the Boers was disappearing into the fastness of the
Langberg, where all pursuit was vain.

Such was the short but vigorous campaign of De Wet in the last part
of December of the year 1901. It had been a brilliant one, but none
the less his bolt was shot, and Tweefontein was the last encounter
in which British troops should feel his heavy hand. His operations,
bold as they had been, had not delayed by a day the building of
that iron cage which was gradually enclosing him. Already it was
nearly completed, and in a few more weeks he was destined to find
himself and his commando struggling against bars.



At the opening of the year 1902 it was evident to every observer
that the Boer resistance, spirited as it was, must be nearing its
close. By a long succession of captures their forces were much
reduced in numbers. They were isolated from the world, and had no
means save precarious smuggling of renewing their supplies of
ammunition. It was known also that their mobility, which had been
their great strength, was decreasing, and that in spite of their
admirable horsemastership their supply of remounts was becoming
exhausted. An increasing number of the burghers were volunteering
for service against their own people, and it was found that all
fears as to this delicate experiment were misplaced, and that in
the whole army there were no keener and more loyal soldiers.

The chief factor, however, in bringing the Boers to their knees was
the elaborate and wonderful blockhouse system, which had been
strung across the whole of the enemy's country. The original
blockhouses had been far apart, and were a hindrance and an
annoyance rather than an absolute barrier to the burghers. The new
models, however, were only six hundred yards apart, and were
connected by such impenetrable strands of wire that a Boer pithily
described it by saying that if one's hat blew over the line
anywhere between Ermelo and Standerton one had to walk round Ermelo
to fetch it. Use was made of such barriers by the Spaniards in
Cuba, but an application of them on such a scale over such an
enormous tract of country is one of the curiosities of warfare, and
will remain one of several novelties which will make the South
African campaign for ever interesting to students of military

The spines of this great system were always the railway lines,
which were guarded on either side, and down which, as down a road,
went flocks, herds, pedestrians, and everything which wished to
travel in safety. From these long central cords the lines branched
out to right and left, cutting up the great country into manageable
districts. A category of them would but weary the reader, but
suffice it that by the beginning of the year the south-east of the
Transvaal and the north-east of the Orange River Colony, the haunts
of Botha and De Wet, had been so intersected that it was obvious
that the situation must soon be impossible for both of them. Only
on the west of the Transvaal was there a clear run for De la Rey
and Kemp. Hence it was expected, as actually occurred, that in this
quarter the most stirring events of the close of the campaign would

General Bruce Hamilton in the Eastern Transvaal had continued the
energetic tactics which had given such good results in the past.
With the new year his number of prisoners fell, but he had taken so
many, and had hustled the remainder to such an extent, that the
fight seemed to have gone out of the Boers in this district. On
January 1st be presented the first-fruits of the year in the shape
of twenty-two of Grobler's burghers. On the 3rd he captured
forty-nine, while Wing, co-operating with him, took twenty more.
Among these was General Erasmus, who had helped, or failed to help,
General Lucas Meyer at Talana Hill. On the 10th Colonel Wing's
column, which was part of Hamilton's force, struck out again and
took forty-two prisoners, including the two Wolmarans. Only two
days later Hamilton returned to the same spot, and was rewarded
with thirty-two more captures. On the 18th he took twenty-seven, on
the 24th twelve, and on the 26th no fewer than ninety. So severe
were these blows, and so difficult was it for the Boers to know how
to get away from an antagonist who was ready to ride thirty miles
in a night in order to fall upon their laager, that the enemy
became much scattered and too demoralised for offensive operations.
Finding that they had grown too shy in this much shot over
district, Hamilton moved farther south, and early in March took a
cast round the Vryheid district, where he made some captures,
notably General Cherry Emmett, a descendant of the famous Irish
rebel, and brother-in-law of Louis Botha. For all these repeated
successes it was to the Intelligence Department, so admirably
controlled by Colonel Wools-Sampson, that thanks are mainly due.

Whilst Bruce Hamilton was operating so successfully in the Ermelo
district, several British columns under Plumer, Spens, and Colville
were stationed some fifty miles south to prevent the fugitives from
getting away into the mountainous country which lies to the north
of Wakkerstroom. On January 3rd a small force of Plumer's New
Zealanders had a brisk skirmish with a party of Boers, whose cattle
they captured, though at some loss to themselves. These Boers were
strongly reinforced, however, and when on the following day Major
Vallentin pursued them with fifty men he found himself at
Onverwacht in the presence of several hundred of the enemy, led by
Oppermann and Christian Botha. Vallentin was killed and almost all
of his small force were hit before British reinforcements, under
Colonel Pulteney, drove the Boers off. Nineteen killed and
twenty-three wounded were our losses in this most sanguinary little
skirmish. Nine dead Boers, with Oppermann himself, were left upon
the field of battle. His loss was a serious one to the enemy, as he
was one of their most experienced Generals.

From that time until the end these columns, together with
Mackenzie's column to the north of Ermelo, continued to break up
all combinations, and to send in their share of prisoners to swell
Lord Kitchener's weekly list. A final drive, organised on April
11th against the Standerton line, resulted in 134 prisoners.

In spite of the very large army in South Africa, so many men were
absorbed by the huge lines of communications and the blockhouse
system that the number available for active operations was never
more than forty or fifty thousand men. With another fifty thousand
there is no doubt that at least six months would have been taken
from the duration of the war. On account of this shorthandedness
Lord Kitchener had to leave certain districts alone, while he
directed his attention to those which were more essential. Thus to
the north of the Delagoa Railway line there was only one town,
Lydenburg, which was occupied by the British. They had, however, an
energetic commander in Park of the Devons. This leader, striking
out from his stronghold among the mountains, and aided by Urmston
from Belfast, kept the commando of Ben Viljoen and the peripatetic
Government of Schalk Burger continually upon the move. As already
narrated, Park fought a sharp night action upon December 19th,
after which, in combination with Urmston, he occupied Dulstroom,
only missing the government by a few hours. In January Park and
Urmston were again upon the war-path, though the incessant winds,
fogs, and rains of that most inclement portion of the Transvaal
seriously hampered their operations. Several skirmishes with the
commandos of Muller and Trichardt gave no very decisive result, but
a piece of luck befell the British on January 25th in the capture
of General Viljoen by an ambuscade cleverly arranged by Major Orr
in the neighbourhood of Lydenburg. Though a great firebrand before
the war, Viljoen had fought bravely and honourably throughout the
contest, and he had won the respect and esteem of his enemy.

Colonel Park had had no great success in his last two expeditions,
but on February 20th he made an admirable march, and fell upon a
Boer laager which lay in placid security in the heart of the hills.
One hundred and sixty-four prisoners, including many Boer officers,
were the fruits of this success, in which the National Scouts, or
'tame Boers,' as they were familiarly called, played a prominent
part. This commando was that of Middelburg, which was acting as
escort to the government, who again escaped dissolution. Early in
March Park was again out on trek, upon one occasion covering
seventy miles in a single day. Nothing further of importance came
from this portion of the seat of war until March 23rd, when the
news reached England that Schalk Burger, Reitz, Lucas Meyer, and
others of the Transvaal Government had come into Middelburg, and
that they were anxious to proceed to Pretoria to treat. On the
Eastern horizon had appeared the first golden gleam of the dawning

Having indicated the course of events in the Eastern Transvaal,
north and south of the railway line, I will now treat one or two
incidents which occurred in the more central and northern portions
of the country. I will then give some account of De Wet's doings in
the Orange River Colony, and finally describe that brilliant effort
of De la Rey's in the west which shed a last glory upon the Boer

In the latter days of December, Colenbrander and Dawkins operating
together had put in a great deal of useful work in the northern
district, and from Nylstrom to Pietersburg the burghers were
continually harried by the activity of these leaders. Late in the
month Dawkins was sent down into the Orange River Colony in order
to reinforce the troops who were opposed to De Wet. Colenbrander
alone, with his hardy colonial forces, swept through the
Magaliesburg, and had the double satisfaction of capturing a number
of the enemy and of heading off and sending back a war party of
Linchwe's Kaffirs who, incensed by a cattle raid of Kemp's, were
moving down in a direction which would have brought them
dangerously near to the Dutch women and children. This instance and
several similar ones in the campaign show how vile are the lies
which have been told of the use, save under certain well-defined
conditions, of armed natives by the British during the war. It
would have been a perfectly easy thing at any time for the
Government to have raised all the fighting native races of South
Africa, but it is not probable that we, who held back our admirable
and highly disciplined Sikhs and Ghoorkas, would break our
self-imposed restrictions in order to enrol the inferior but more
savage races of Africa. Yet no charge has been more often repeated
and has caused more piteous protests among the soft-hearted and
soft-headed editors of Continental journals.

The absence of Colenbrander in the Rustenburg country gave Beyers a
chance of which he was not slow to avail himself. On January 24th,
in the early morning, he delivered an attack upon Pietersburg
itself, but he was easily driven off by the small garrison. It is
probable, however, that the attack was a mere feint in order to
enable a number of the inmates of the refugee camp to escape. About
a hundred and fifty made off, and rejoined the commandos. There
were three thousand Boers in all in this camp, which was shortly
afterwards moved down to Natal in order to avoid the recurrence of
such an incident.

Colenbrander, having returned to Pietersburg once more, determined
to return Beyers's visit, and upon April 8th he moved out with a
small force to surprise the Boer laager. The Inniskilling Fusiliers
seized the ground which commanded the enemy's position. The latter
retreated, but were followed up, and altogether about one hundred
and fifty were killed, wounded, and taken. On May 3rd a fresh
operation against Beyers was undertaken, and resulted in about the
same loss to the Boers. On the other hand, the Boers had a small
success against Kitchener's Scouts, killing eighteen and taking
thirty prisoners.

There is one incident, however, in connection with the war in this
region which one would desire to pass over in silence if such a
course were permissible. Some eighty miles to the east of
Pietersburg is a wild part of the country called the Spelonken. In
this region an irregular corps, named the Bushveld Carbineers, had
been operating. It was raised in South Africa, but contained both
Colonials and British in its ranks. Its wild duties, its mixed
composition, and its isolated situation must have all militated
against discipline and restraint, and it appears to have
degenerated into a band not unlike those Southern 'bush-whackers'
in the American war to whom the Federals showed little mercy. They
had given short shrift to the Boer prisoners who had fallen into
their hands, the excuse offered for their barbarous conduct being
that an officer who had served in the corps had himself been
murdered by the Boers. Such a reason, even if it were true, could
of course offer no justification for indiscriminate revenge. The
crimes were committed in July and August 1901, but it was not until
January 1902 that five of the officers were put upon their trial
and were found to be guilty as principals or accessories of twelve
murders. The corps was disbanded, and three of the accused
officers, Handcock, Wilton, and Morant, were sentenced to death,
while another, Picton, was cashiered. Handcock and Morant were
actually executed. This stern measure shows more clearly than
volumes of argument could do how high was the standard of
discipline in the British Army, and how heavy was the punishment,
and how vain all excuses, where it had been infringed. In the face
of this actual outrage and its prompt punishment how absurd becomes
that crusade against imaginary outrages preached by an ignorant
press abroad, and by renegade Englishmen at home.

To the south of Johannesburg, half-way between that town and the
frontier, there is a range of hills called the Zuikerboschrand,
which extends across from one railway system to the other. A number
of Boers were known to have sought refuge in this country, so upon
February 12th a small British force left Klip River Post in order
to clear them out. There were 320 men in all, composing the 28th
Mounted Infantry, drawn from the Lancashire Fusiliers, Warwicks,
and Derbys, most of whom had just arrived from Malta, which one
would certainly imagine to be the last place where mounted infantry
could be effectively trained. Major Dowell was in command. An
advance was made into the hilly country, but it was found that the
enemy was in much greater force than had been imagined. The
familiar Boer tactics were used with the customary success. The
British line was held by a sharp fire in front, while strong
flanking parties galloped round each of the wings. It was with
great difficulty that any of the British extricated themselves from
their perilous position, and the safety of a portion of the force
was only secured by the devotion of a handful of officers and men,
who gave their lives in order to gain time for their comrades to
get away. Twelve killed and fifty wounded were our losses in this
unfortunate skirmish, and about one hundred prisoners supplied the
victors with a useful addition to their rifles and ammunition. A
stronger British force came up next day, and the enemy were driven
out of the hills.

A week later, upon February 18th, there occurred another skirmish
at Klippan, near Springs, between a squadron of the Scots Greys and
a party of Boers who had broken into this central reserve which
Lord Kitchener had long kept clear of the enemy. In this action the
cavalry were treated as roughly as the mounted infantry had been
the week before, losing three officers killed, eight men killed or
wounded, and forty-six taken. They had formed a flanking party to
General Gilbert Hamilton's column, but were attacked and
overwhelmed so rapidly that the blow had fallen before their
comrades could come to their assistance.

One of the consequences of the successful drives about to be
described in the Orange River Colony was that a number of the Free
Staters came north of the Vaal in order to get away from the
extreme pressure upon the south. At the end of March a considerable
number had reinforced the local commandos in that district to the
east of Springs, no very great distance from Johannesburg, which
had always been a storm centre. A cavalry force was stationed at
this spot which consisted at that time of the 2nd Queen's Bays, the
7th Hussars, and some National Scouts, all under Colonel Lawley of
the Hussars. After a series of minor engagements east of Springs,
Lawley had possessed himself of Boschman's Kop, eighteen miles from
that town, close to the district which was the chief scene of Boer
activity. From this base he despatched upon the morning of April
1st three squadrons of the Bays under Colonel Fanshawe, for the
purpose of surprising a small force of the enemy which was reported
at one of the farms. Fanshawe's strength was about three hundred

The British cavalry found themselves, however, in the position of
the hunter who, when he is out for a snipe, puts up a tiger. All
went well with the expedition as far as Holspruit, the farm which
they had started to search. Commandant Pretorius, to whom it
belonged, was taken by the energy of Major Vaughan, who pursued and
overtook his Cape cart. It was found, however, that Alberts's
commando was camped at the farm, and that the Bays were in the
presence of a very superior force of the enemy. The night was dark,
and when firing began it was almost muzzle to muzzle, with the
greatest possible difficulty in telling friend from foe. The three
squadrons fell back upon some rising ground, keeping admirable
order under most difficult circumstances. In spite of the darkness
the attack was pressed fiercely home, and with their favourite
tactics the burghers rapidly outflanked the position taken up by
the cavalry. The British moved by alternate squadrons on to a
higher rocky kopje on the east, which could be vaguely
distinguished looming in the darkness against the skyline. B
squadron, the last to retire, was actually charged and ridden
through by the brave assailants, firing from their saddles as they
broke through the ranks. The British had hardly time to reach the
kopje and to dismount and line its edge when the Boers, yelling
loudly, charged with their horses up the steep flanks. Twice they
were beaten back, but the third time they seized one corner of the
hill and opened a hot fire upon the rear of the line of men who
were defending the other side. Dawn was now breaking, and the
situation most serious, for the Boers were in very superior numbers
and were pushing their pursuit with the utmost vigour and
determination. A small party of officers and men whose horses had
been shot covered the retreat of their comrades, and continued to
fire until all of them, two officers and twenty-three men, were
killed or wounded, the whole of their desperate defence being
conducted within from thirty to fifty yards of the enemy. The
remainder of the regiment was now retired to successive ridges,
each of which was rapidly outflanked by the Boers, whose whole
method of conducting their attack was extraordinarily skilful.
Nothing but the excellent discipline of the overmatched troopers
prevented the retreat from becoming a rout. Fortunately, before the
pressure became intolerable the 7th Hussars with some artillery
came to the rescue, and turned the tide. The Hussars galloped in
with such dash that some of them actually got among the Boers with
their swords, but the enemy rapidly fell back and disappeared.

In this very sharp and sanguinary cavalry skirmish the Bays lost
eighty killed and wounded out of a total force of 270. To stand
such losses under such circumstances, and to preserve absolute
discipline and order, is a fine test of soldierly virtue. The
adjutant, the squadron leaders, and six out of ten officers were
killed or wounded. The Boers lost equally heavily. Two Prinsloos,
one of them a commandant, and three field-cornets were among the
slain, with seventy other casualties. The force under General
Alberts was a considerable one, not fewer than six hundred rifles,
so that the action at Holspruit is one which adds another name of
honour to the battle-roll of the Bays. It is pleasing to add that
in this and the other actions which were fought at the end of the
war our wounded met with kindness and consideration from the enemy.

We may now descend to the Orange River Colony and trace the course
of those operations which were destined to break the power of De
Wet's commando. On these we may concentrate our attention, for the
marchings and gleanings and snipings of the numerous small columns
in the other portions of the colony, although they involved much
arduous and useful work, do not claim a particular account.

After the heavy blow which he dealt Firmin's Yeomanry, De Wet
retired, as has been told, into the Langberg, whence he afterwards
retreated towards Reitz. There he was energetically pushed by
Elliot's columns, which had attained such mobility that 150 miles
were performed in three days within a single week. Our rough
schoolmasters had taught us our lesson, and the soldiering which
accomplished the marches of Bruce Hamilton, Elliot, Rimington, and
the other leaders of the end of the war was very far removed from
that which is associated with ox-wagons and harmoniums.

Moving rapidly, and covering himself by a succession of rearguard
skirmishes, De Wet danced like a will-o'the-wisp in front of and
round the British columns. De Lisle, Fanshawe, Byng, Rimington,
Dawkins, and Rawlinson were all snatching at him and finding him
just beyond their finger-tips. The master-mind at Pretoria had,
however, thought out a scheme which was worthy of De Wet himself in
its ingenuity. A glance at the map will show that the little branch
from Heilbron to Wolvehoek forms an acute angle with the main line.
Both these railways were strongly blockhoused and barbed-wired, so
that any force which was driven into the angle, and held in it by a
force behind it, would be in a perilous position. To attempt to
round De Wet's mobile burghers into this obvious pen would have
been to show one's hand too clearly. In vain is the net laid in
sight of the bird. The drive was therefore made away from this
point, with the confident expectation that the guerilla chief would
break back through the columns, and that they might then pivot
round upon him and hustle him so rapidly into the desired position
that he would not realise his danger until it was too late. Byng's
column was left behind the driving line to be ready for the
expected backward break. All came off exactly as expected. De Wet
doubled back through the columns, and one of his commandos stumbled
upon Byng's men, who were waiting on the Vlei River to the west of
Reitz. The Boers seem to have taken it for granted that, having
passed the British driving line, they were out of danger, and for
once it was they who were surprised. The South African Light Horse,
the New Zealanders, and the Queensland Bushmen all rode in upon
them. A fifteen-pounder, the one taken at Tweefontein, and two
pom-poms were captured, with thirty prisoners and a considerable
quantity of stores.

This successful skirmish was a small matter, however, compared to
the importance of being in close touch with De Wet and having a
definite objective for the drive. The columns behind expanded
suddenly into a spray of mounted men forming a continuous line for
over sixty miles. On February 5th the line was advancing, and on
the 6th it was known that De Wet was actually within the angle, the
mouth of which was spanned by the British line. Hope ran high in
Pretoria. The space into which the burgher chief had been driven
was bounded by sixty-six miles of blockhouse and wire on one side
and thirty on the other, while the third side of the triangle was
crossed by fifty-five miles of British horsemen, flanked by a
blockhouse line between Kroonstad and Lindley. The tension along
the lines of defence was extreme. Infantry guarded every yard of
them, and armoured trains patrolled them, while at night
searchlights at regular intervals shed their vivid rays over the
black expanse of the veld and illuminated the mounted figures who
flitted from time to time across their narrow belts of light.

On the 6th De Wet realised his position, and with characteristic
audacity and promptness he took means to clear the formidable toils
which had been woven round him. The greater part of his command
scattered, with orders to make their way as best they might out of
the danger. Working in their own country, where every crease and
fold of the ground was familiar to them, it is not surprising that
most of them managed to make their way through gaps in the
attenuated line of horsemen behind them. A few were killed, and a
considerable number taken, 270 being the respectable total of the
prisoners. Three or four slipped through, however, for every one
who stuck in the meshes. De Wet himself was reported to have made
his escape by driving cattle against the wire fences which enclosed
him. It seems, however, to have been nothing more romantic than a
wire-cutter which cleared his path, though cattle no doubt made
their way through the gap which he left. With a loss of only three
of his immediate followers be Wet won his way out of the most
dangerous position which even his adventurous career had ever
known. Lord Kitchener had descended to Wolvehoek to be present at
the climax of the operations, but it was not fated that he was to
receive the submission of the most energetic of his opponents, and
he returned to Pretoria to weave a fresh mesh around him.

This was not hard to do, as the Boer General had simply escaped
from one pen into another, though a larger one. After a short rest
to restore the columns, the whole pack were full cry upon his heels
once more. An acute angle is formed by the Wilge River on one side
and the line of blockhouses between Harrismith and Van Reenen upon
the other. This was strongly manned by troops and five columns;
those of Rawlinson, Nixon, Byng, Rimington, and Keir herded the
broken commandos into the trap. From February 20th the troops swept
in an enormous skirmish line across the country, ascending hills,
exploring kloofs, searching river banks, and always keeping the
enemy in front of them. At last, when the pressure was severely
felt, there came the usual breakback, which took the form of a most
determined night attack upon the British line. This was delivered
shortly after midnight on February 23rd. It struck the British
cordon at the point of juncture between Byng's column and that of
Rimington. So huge were the distances which had to be covered, and
so attenuated was the force which covered them, that the historical
thin red line was a massive formation compared to its khaki
equivalent. The chain was frail and the links were not all
carefully joined, but each particular link was good metal, and the
Boer impact came upon one of the best. This was the 7th New Zealand
Contingent, who proved themselves to be worthy comrades to their
six gallant predecessors. Their patrols were broken by the rush of
wild, yelling, firing horsemen, but the troopers made a most
gallant resistance. Having pierced the line the Boers, who were led
in their fiery rush by Manie Botha, turned to their flank, and,
charging down the line of weak patrols, overwhelmed one after
another and threatened to roll up the whole line. They had cleared
a gap of half a mile, and it seemed as if the whole Boer force
would certainly escape through so long a gap in the defences. The
desperate defence of the New Zealanders gave time, however, for the
further patrols, which consisted of Cox's New South Wales Mounted
Infantry, to fall back almost at right angles so as to present a
fresh face to the attack. The pivot of the resistance was a maxim
gun, most gallantly handled by Captain Begbie and his men. The
fight at this point was almost muzzle to muzzle, fifty or sixty New
Zealanders and Australians with the British gunners holding off a
force of several hundred of the best fighting men of the Boer
forces. In this desperate duel many dropped on both sides. Begbie
died beside his gun, which fired eighty rounds before it jammed. It
was run back by its crew in order to save it from capture. But
reinforcements were coming up, and the Boer attack was beaten back.
A number of them had escaped, however, through the opening which
they had cleared, and it was conjectured that the wonderful De Wet
was among them. How fierce was the storm which had broken on the
New Zealanders may be shown by their roll of twenty killed and
forty wounded, while thirty dead Boers were picked up in front of
their picket line. Of eight New Zealand officers seven are reported
to have been hit, an even higher proportion than that which the
same gallant race endured at the battle of Rhenoster Kop more than
a year before.

It was feared at first that the greater part of the Boers might
have escaped upon this night of the 23rd, when Manie Botha's
storming party burst through the ranks of the New Zealanders. It
was soon discovered that this was not so, and the columns as they
closed in had evidence from the numerous horsemen who scampered
aimlessly over the hills in front of them that the main body of the
enemy was still in the toils. The advance was in tempestuous
weather and over rugged country, but the men were filled with
eagerness, and no precaution was neglected to keep the line intact.

This time their efforts were crowned with considerable success. A
second attempt was made by the corraled burghers to break out on
the night of February 26th, but it was easily repulsed by Nixon.
The task of the troopers as the cordon drew south was more and more
difficult, and there were places traversed upon the Natal border
where an alpen stock would have been a more useful adjunct than a
horse. At six o'clock on the morning of the 27th came the end. Two
Boers appeared in front of the advancing line of the Imperial Light
Horse and held up a flag. They proved to be Truter and De Jager,
ready to make terms for their commando. The only terms offered were
absolute surrender within the hour. The Boers had been swept into a
very confined space, which was closely hemmed in by troops, so that
any resistance must have ended in a tragedy. Fortunately there was
no reason for desperate councils in their case, since they did not
fight as Lotter had done, with the shadow of judgment hanging over
him. The burghers piled arms, and all was over.

The total number captured in this important drive was 780 men,
including several leaders, one of whom was De Wet's own son. It was
found that De Wet himself had been among those who had got away
through the picket lines on the night of the 23rd. Most of the
commando were Transvaalers, and it was typical of the wide sweep of
the net that many of them were the men who had been engaged against
the 28th Mounted Infantry in the district south of Johannesburg
upon the 12th of the same month. The loss of 2000 horses and 50,000
cartridges meant as much as that of the men to the Boer army. It
was evident that a few more such blows would clear the Orange River
Colony altogether.

The wearied troopers were allowed little rest, for in a couple of
days after their rendezvous at Harrismith they were sweeping back
again to pick up all that they had missed. This drive, which was
over the same ground, but sweeping backwards towards the Heilbron
to Wolvehoek line, ended in the total capture of 147 of the enemy,
who were picked out of holes, retrieved from amid the reeds of the
river, called down out of trees, or otherwise collected. So
thorough were the operations that it is recorded that the angle
which formed the apex of the drive was one drove of game upon the
last day, all the many types of antelope, which form one of the
characteristics and charms of the country, having been herded into

More important even than the results of the drive was the discovery
of one of De Wet's arsenals in a cave in the Vrede district.
Half-way down a precipitous krantz, with its mouth covered by
creepers, no writer of romance could have imagined a more fitting
headquarters for a guerilla chief. The find was made by Ross's
Canadian Scouts, who celebrated Dominion Day by this most useful
achievement. Forty wagon-loads of ammunition and supplies were
taken out of the cave. De Wet was known to have left the north-east
district, and to have got across the railway, travelling towards
the Vaal as if it were his intention to join De la Rey in the
Transvaal. The Boer resistance had suddenly become exceedingly
energetic in that part, and several important actions had been
fought, to which we will presently turn.

Before doing so it would be as well to bring the chronicle of
events in the Orange River Colony down to the conclusion of peace.
There were still a great number of wandering Boers in the northern
districts and in the frontier mountains, who were assiduously, but
not always successfully, hunted down by the British troops. Much
arduous and useful work was done by several small columns, the
Colonial Horse and the Artillery Mounted Rifles especially
distinguishing themselves. The latter corps, formed from the
gunners whose field-pieces were no longer needed, proved themselves
to be a most useful body of men; and the British gunner, when he
took to carrying his gun, vindicated the reputation which he had
won when his gun had carried him.

From the 1st to the 4th of May a successful drive was conducted by
many columns in the often harried but never deserted Lindley to
Kroonstad district. The result was propitious, as no fewer than 321
prisoners were brought in. Of these, 150 under Mentz were captured
in one body as they attempted to break through the encircling

Amid many small drives and many skirmishes, one stands out for its
severity. It is remarkable as being the last action of any
importance in the campaign. This was the fight at Moolman's Spruit,
near Ficksburg, upon April 20th, 1902. A force of about one hundred
Yeomanry and forty Mounted Infantry (South Staffords) was
despatched by night to attack an isolated farm in which a small
body of Boers was supposed to be sleeping. Colonel Perceval was in
command. The farm was reached after a difficult march, but the
enemy were found to have been forewarned, and to be in much greater
strength than was anticipated. A furious fire was opened on the
advancing troops, who were clearly visible in the light of a full
moon. Sir Thomas Fowler was killed and several men of the Yeomanry
were hit. The British charged up to the very walls, but were unable
to effect an entrance, as the place was barricaded and loopholed.
Captain Blackwood, of the Staffords, was killed in the attack.
Finding that the place was impregnable, and that the enemy
outnumbered him, Colonel Perceval gave the order to retire, a
movement which was only successfully carried out because the
greater part of the Boer horses had been shot. By morning the small
British force had extricated itself, from its perilous position
with a total loss of six killed, nineteen wounded, and six missing.
The whole affair was undoubtedly a cleverly planned Boer ambush,
and the small force was most fortunate in escaping destruction.

One other isolated incident may be mentioned here, though it
occurred far away in the Vryheid district of the Transvaal. This
was the unfortunate encounter between Zulus and Boers by which the
latter lost over fifty of their numbers under deplorable
circumstances. This portion of the Transvaal has only recently been
annexed, and is inhabited by warlike Zulus, who are very different
from the debased Kaffirs of the rest of the country. These men had
a blood-feud against the Boers, which was embittered by the fact
that they had lost heavily through Boer depredations. Knowing that
a party of fifty-nine men were sleeping in a farmhouse, the Zulus
crept on to it and slaughtered every man of the inmates. Such an
incident is much to be regretted, and yet, looking back upon the
long course of the war, and remembering the turbulent tribes who
surrounded the combatants--Swazis, Basutos, and Zulus--we may well
congratulate ourselves that we have been able to restrain those
black warriors, and to escape the brutalities and the bitter
memories of a barbarian invasion.



IT will be remembered that at the close of 1901 Lord Methuen and
Colonel Kekewich had both come across to the eastern side of their
district and made their base at the railway line in the Klerksdorp
section. Their position was strengthened by the fact that a
blockhouse cordon now ran from Klerksdorp to Ventersdorp, and from
Ventersdorp to Potchefstroom, so that this triangle could be
effectively controlled. There remained, however, a huge tract of
difficult country which was practically in the occupation of the
enemy. Several thousand stalwarts were known to be riding with De
la Rey and his energetic lieutenant Kemp. The strenuous operations
of the British in the Eastern Transvaal and in the Orange River
Colony had caused this district to be comparatively neglected, and
so everything was in favour of an aggressive movement of the Boers.
There was a long lull after the unsuccessful attack upon Kekewich's
camp at Moedwill, but close observers of the war distrusted this
ominous calm and expected a storm to follow.

The new year found the British connecting Ventersdorp with Tafelkop
by a blockhouse line. The latter place had been a centre of Boer
activity. Colonel Hickie's column covered this operation. Meanwhile
Methuen had struck across through Wolmaranstad as far as Vryburg.
In these operations, which resulted in constant small captures, he
was assisted by a column under Major Paris working from Kimberley.
From Vryburg Lord Methuen made his way in the middle of January to
Lichtenburg, meeting with a small rebuff in the neighbourhood of
that town, for a detachment of Yeomanry was overwhelmed by General
Celliers, who killed eight, wounded fifteen, and captured forty.
From Lichtenburg Lord Methuen continued his enormous trek, and
arrived on February 1st at Klerksdorp once more. Little rest was
given to his hard-worked troops, and they were sent off again
within the week under the command of Von Donop, with the result
that on February 8th, near Wolmaranstad, they captured Potgieter's
laager with forty Boer prisoners. Von Donop remained at
Wolmaranstad until late in February; On the 23rd he despatched an
empty convoy back to Klerksdorp, the fate of which will be
afterwards narrated.

Kekewich and Hickie had combined their forces at the beginning of
February. On February 4th an attempt was made by them to surprise
General De la Rey. The mounted troops who were despatched under
Major Leader failed in this enterprise, but they found and
overwhelmed the laager of Sarel Alberts, capturing 132 prisoners.
By stampeding the horses the Boer retreat was cut off, and the
attack was so furiously driven home, especially by the admirable
Scottish Horse, that few of the enemy got away. Alberts himself
with all his officers were among the prisoners. From this time
until the end of February this column was not seriously engaged.

It has been stated above that on February 23rd Von Donop sent in an
empty convoy from Wolmaranstad to Klerksdorp, a distance of about
fifty miles. Nothing had been heard for some time of De la Rey, but
he had called together his men and was waiting to bring off some
coup. The convoy gave him the very opportunity for which he sought.

The escort of the convoy consisted of the 5th Imperial Yeomanry,
sixty of Paget's Horse, three companies of the ubiquitous
Northumberland Fusiliers, two guns of the 4th R.F.A., and a
pom-pom, amounting in all to 630 men. Colonel Anderson was in
command. On the morning of Tuesday, February 25th, the convoy was
within ten miles of its destination, and the sentries on the kopjes
round the town could see the gleam of the long line of white-tilted
wagons. Their hazardous voyage was nearly over, and yet they were
destined to most complete and fatal wreck within sight of port. So
confident were they that the detachment of Paget's Horse was
permitted to ride on the night before into the town. It was as
well, for such a handful would have shared and could not have
averted the disaster.

The night had been dark and wet, and the Boers under cover of it
had crept between the sleeping convoy and the town. Some bushes
which afford excellent cover lie within a few hundred yards of the
road, and here the main ambush was laid. In the first grey of the
morning the long line of the convoy, 130 wagons in all, came
trailing past--guns and Yeomanry in front, Fusiliers upon the
flanks and rear. Suddenly the black bank of scrub was outlined in
flame, and a furious rifle fire was opened upon the head of the
column. The troops behaved admirably under most difficult
circumstances. A counter-attack by the Fusiliers and some of the
Yeomanry, under cover of shrapnel from the guns, drove the enemy
out of the scrub and silenced his fire at this point. It was
evident, however, that he was present in force, for firing soon
broke out along the whole left flank, and the rearguard found
itself as warmly attacked as the van. Again, however, the
assailants were driven off. It was now broad daylight, and the
wagons, which had got into great confusion in the first turmoil of
battle, had been remarshalled and arranged. It was Colonel
Anderson's hope that he might be able to send them on into safety
while he with the escort covered their retreat. His plan was
certainly the best one, and if it did not succeed it was due to
nothing which he could avert, but to the nature of the ground and
the gallantry of the enemy.

The physical obstacle consisted in a very deep and difficult
spruit, the Jagd Spruit, which forms an ugly passage in times of
peace, but which when crowded and choked with stampeding mules and
splintering wagons, under their terrified conductors, soon became
impassable. Here the head of the column was clubbed and the whole
line came to a stand. Meanwhile the enemy, adopting their new
tactics, came galloping in on the left flank and on the rear. The
first attack was repelled by the steady fire of the Fusiliers, but
on the second occasion the horsemen got up to the wagons, and
galloping down them were able to overwhelm in detail the little
knots of soldiers who were scattered along the flank. The British,
who were outnumbered by at least three to one, made a stout
resistance, and it was not until seven o'clock that the last shot
was fired. The result was a complete success to the burghers, but
one which leaves no shadow of discredit on any officer or man among
those who were engaged. Eleven officers and 176 men fell out of
about 550 actually engaged. The two guns were taken. The convoy was
no use to the Boers, so the teams were shot and the wagons burned
before they withdrew. The prisoners too, they were unable to
retain, and their sole permanent trophies consisted of the two
guns, the rifles, and the ammunition. Their own losses amounted to
about fifty killed and wounded.

A small force sallied out from Klerksdorp in the hope of helping
Anderson, but on reaching the Jagd Drift it was found that the
fighting was over and that the field was in possession of the
Boers. De la Rey was seen in person among the burghers, and it is
pleasant to add that he made himself conspicuous by his humanity to
the wounded. His force drew off in the course of the morning, and
was soon out of reach of immediate pursuit, though this was
attempted by Kekewich, Von Donop, and Grenfell. It was important to
regain the guns if possible, as they were always a menace to the
blockhouse system, and for this purpose Grenfell with sixteen
hundred horsemen was despatched to a point south of Lichtenburg,
which was conjectured to be upon the Boer line of retreat. At the
same time Lord Methuen was ordered up from Vryburg in order to
cooperate in this movement, and to join his forces to those of
Grenfell. It was obvious that with an energetic and resolute
adversary like De la Rey there was great danger of these two forces
being taken in detail, but it was hoped that each was strong enough
to hold its own until the other could come to its aid. The result
was to show that the danger was real and the hope fallacious.

It was on March 2nd that Methuen left Vryburg. The column was not
his old one, consisting of veterans of the trek, but was the
Kimberley column under Major Paris, a body of men who had seen much
less service and were in every way less reliable. It included a
curious mixture of units, the most solid of which were four guns
(two of the 4th, and two of the 38th R.F.A.), 200 Northumberland
Fusiliers, and 100 Loyal North Lancashires. The mounted men
included 5th Imperial Yeomanry (184), Cape Police (233), Cullinan's
Horse (64), 86th Imperial Yeomanry (110), Diamond Fields Horse
(92), Dennison' s Scouts (58), Ashburner's Horse (126), and British
South African Police (24). Such a collection of samples would be
more in place, one would imagine, in a London procession than in an
operation which called for discipline and cohesion. In warfare the
half is often greater than the whole, and the presence of a
proportion of halfhearted and inexperienced men may be a positive
danger to their more capable companions.

Upon March 6th Methuen, marching east towards Lichtenburg, came in
touch near Leeuwspruit with Van Zyl's commando, and learned in the
small skirmish which ensued that some of his Yeomanry were
unreliable and ill-instructed. Having driven the enemy off by his
artillery fire, Methuen moved to Tweebosch, where he laagered until
next morning. At 3 A.M. of the 7th the ox-convoy was sent on, under
escort of half of his little force. The other half followed at 4.
20, so as to give the slow-moving oxen a chance of keeping ahead.
It was evident, however, immediately after the column had got
started that the enemy were all round in great numbers, and that an
attack in force was to be expected. Lord Methuen gave orders
therefore that the ox-wagons should be halted and that the
mule-transport should close upon them so as to form one solid
block, instead of a straggling line. At the same time he reinforced
his rearguard with mounted men and with two guns, for it was in
that quarter that the enemy appeared to be most numerous and
aggressive. An attack was also developing upon the right flank,
which was held off by the infantry and by the second section of the

It has been said that Methuen's horsemen were for the most part
inexperienced irregulars. Such men become in time excellent
soldiers, as all this campaign bears witness, but it is too much to
expose them to a severe ordeal in the open field when they are
still raw and untrained. As it happened, this particular ordeal was
exceedingly severe, but nothing can excuse the absolute failure of
the troops concerned to rise to the occasion. Had Methuen's
rearguard consisted of Imperial Light Horse, or Scottish Horse, it
is safe to say that the battle of Tweebosch would have had a very
different ending.

What happened was that a large body of Boers formed up in five
lines and charged straight home at the rear screen and rearguard,
firing from their saddles as they had done at Brakenlaagte. The
sight of those wide-flung lines of determined men galloping over
the plain seems to have been too much for the nerves of the
unseasoned troopers. A panic spread through their ranks, and in an
instant they had turned their horses' heads and were thundering to
their rear, leaving the two guns uncovered and streaming in wild
confusion past the left flank of the jeering infantry who were
lying round the wagons. The limit of their flight seems to have
been the wind of their horses, and most of them never drew rein
until they had placed many miles between themselves and the
comrades whom they had deserted. 'It was pitiable,' says an
eye-witness, 'to see the grand old General begging them to stop,
but they would not; a large body of them arrived in Kraaipan
without firing a shot,' It was a South African 'Battle of the

By this defection of the greater portion of the force the handful
of brave men who remained were left in a hopeless position. The two
guns of the 38th battery were overwhelmed and ridden over by the
Boer horsemen, every man being killed or wounded, including
Lieutenant Nesham, who acted up to the highest traditions of his

The battle, however, was not yet over. The infantry were few in
number, but they were experienced troops, and they maintained the
struggle for some hours in the face of overwhelming numbers. Two
hundred of the Northumberland Fusiliers lay round the wagons and
held the Boers off from their prey. With them were the two
remaining guns, which were a mark for a thousand Boer riflemen. It
was while encouraging by his presence and example the much-tried
gunners of this section that the gallant Methuen was wounded by a
bullet which broke the bone of his thigh. Lieutenant Venning and
all the detachment fell with their General round the guns.

An attempt had been made to rally some of the flying troopers at a
neighbouring kraal, and a small body of Cape Police and Yeomanry
under the command of Major Paris held out there for some hours. A
hundred of the Lancashire Infantry aided them in their stout
defence. But the guns taken by the Boers from Von Donop's convoy
had free play now that the British guns were out of action, and
they were brought to bear with crushing effect upon both the kraal
and the wagons. Further resistance meant a useless slaughter, and
orders were given for a surrender. Convoy, ammunition, guns,
horses--nothing was saved except the honour of the infantry and the
gunners. The losses, 68 killed and 121 wounded, fell chiefly upon
these two branches of the service. There were 205 unwounded

This, the last Boer victory in the war, reflected equal credit upon
their valour and humanity, qualities which had not always gone hand
in hand in our experience of them. Courtesy and attention were
extended to the British wounded, and Lord Methuen was sent under
charge of his chief medical officer, Colonel Townsend (the doctor
as severely wounded as the patient), into Klerksdorp. In De la Rey
we have always found an opponent who was as chivalrous as he was
formidable. The remainder of the force reached the Kimberley to
Mafeking railway line in the direction of Kraaipan, the spot where
the first bloodshed of the war had occurred some twenty-nine months

On Lord Methuen himself no blame can rest for this unsuccessful
action. If the workman's tool snaps in his hand he cannot be held
responsible for the failure of his task. The troops who misbehaved
were none of his training. 'If you hear anyone slang him,' says one
of his men, 'you are to tell them that he is the finest General and
the truest gentleman that ever fought in this war.' Such was the
tone of his own troopers, and such also that of the spokesmen of
the nation when they commented upon the disaster in the Houses of
Parliament. It was a fine example of British justice and sense of
fair play, even in that bitter moment, that to hear his eulogy one
would have thought that the occasion had been one when thanks were
being returned for a victory. It is a generous public with fine
instincts, and Paul Methuen, wounded and broken, still remained in
their eyes the heroic soldier and the chivalrous man of honour.

The De Wet country had been pretty well cleared by the series of
drives which have already been described, and Louis Botha's force
in the Eastern Transvaal had been much diminished by the tactics of
Bruce Hamilton and Wools-Sampson. Lord Kitchener was able,
therefore, to concentrate his troops and his attention upon that
wide-spread western area in which General De la Rey had dealt two
such shrewd blows within a few weeks of each other. Troops were
rapidly concentrated at Klerksdorp. Kekewich, Walter Kitchener,
Rawlinson, and Rochfort, with a number of small columns, were ready
in the third week of March to endeavour to avenge Lord Methuen.

The problem with which Lord Kitchener was confronted was a very
difficult one, and he has never shown more originality and audacity
than in the fashion in which he handled it. De la Rey's force was
scattered over a long tract of country, capable of rapidly
concentrating for a blow, but otherwise as intangible and elusive
as a phantom army. Were Lord Kitchener simply to launch ten
thousand horsemen at him, the result would be a weary ride over
illimitable plains without sight of a Boer, unless it were a
distant scout upon the extreme horizon. De la Rey and his men would
have slipped away to his northern hiding-places beyond the Marico
River. There was no solid obstacle here, as in the Orange River
Colony, against which the flying enemy could be rounded up. One
line of blockhouses there was, it is true--the one called the
Schoonspruit cordon, which flanked the De la Rey country. It
flanked it, however, upon the same side as that on which the troops
were assembled. If the troops were only on the other side, and De
la Rey was between them and the blockhouse line, then, indeed,
something might be done. But to place the troops there, and then
bring them instantly back again, was to put such a strain upon men
and horses as had never yet been done upon a large scale in the
course of the war. Yet Lord Kitchener knew the mettle of the men
whom he commanded, and he was aware that there were no exertions of
which the human frame is capable which he might not confidently

The precise location of the Boer laagers does not appear to have
been known, but it was certain that a considerable number of them
were scattered about thirty miles or so to the west of Klerksdorp
and the Schoonspruit line. The plan was to march a British force
right through them, then spread out into a wide line and come
straight back, driving the burghers on to the cordon of
blockhouses, which had been strengthened by the arrival of three
regiments of Highlanders. But to get to the other side of the Boers
it was necessary to march the columns through by night. It was a
hazardous operation, but the secret was well kept, and the movement
was so well carried out that the enemy had no time to check it. On
the night of Sunday, March 23rd, the British horsemen passed
stealthily in column through the De la Rey country, and then,
spreading out into a line, which from the left wing at Lichtenburg
to the right wing at Commando Drift measured a good eighty miles,
they proceeded to sweep back upon their traces. In order to reach
their positions the columns had, of course, started at different
points of the British blockhouse line, and some had a good deal
farther to go than others, while the southern extension of the line
was formed by Rochfort's troops, who had moved up from the Vaal.
Above him from south to north came Walter Kitchener, Rawlinson, and
Kekewich in the order named.

On the morning of Monday, March 24th, a line of eighty miles of
horsemen, without guns or transport, was sweeping back towards the
blockhouses, while the country between was filled with scattered
parties of Boers who were seeking for gaps by which to escape. It
was soon learned from the first prisoners that De la Rey was not
within the cordon. His laager had been some distance farther west.
But the sight of fugitive horsemen rising and dipping over the
rolling veld assured the British that they had something within
their net. The catch was, however, by no means as complete as might
have been desired. Three hundred men in khaki slipped through
between the two columns in the early morning. Another large party
escaped to the southwards. Some of the Boers adopted extraordinary
devices in order to escape from the ever-narrowing cordon. 'Three,
in charge of some cattle, buried themselves, and left a small hole
to breathe through with a tube. Some men began to probe with
bayonets in the new-turned earth and got immediate and vociferous
subterranean yells. Another man tried the same game and a horse
stepped on him. He writhed and reared the horse, and practically
the horse found the prisoner for us.' But the operations achieved
one result, which must have lifted a load of anxiety from Lord
Kitchener's mind. Three fifteen-pounders, two pom-poms, and a large
amount of ammunition were taken. To Kekewich and the Scottish Horse
fell the honour of the capture, Colonel Wools-Sampson and Captain
Rice heading the charge and pursuit. By this means the constant
menace to the blockhouses was lessened, if not entirely removed.
One hundred and seventy-five Boers were disposed of, nearly all as
prisoners, and a considerable quantity of transport was captured.
In this operation the troops had averaged from seventy to eighty
miles in twenty-six hours without change of horses. To such a point
had the slow-moving ponderous British Army attained after two
years' training of that stern drill-master, necessity.

The operations had attained some success, but nothing commensurate
with the daring of the plan or the exertions of the soldiers.
Without an instant's delay, however, Lord Kitchener struck a second
blow at his enemy. Before the end of March Kekewich, Rawlinson, and
Walter Kitchener were all upon the trek once more. Their operations
were pushed farther to the west than in the last drive, since it
was known that on that occasion De la Rey and his main commando had
been outside the cordon.

It was to one of Walter Kitchener's lieutenants that the honour
fell to come in direct contact with the main force of the burghers.
This General had moved out to a point about forty miles west of
Klerksdorp. Forming his laager there, he despatched Cookson on
March 30th with seventeen hundred men to work further westward in
the direction of the Harts River. Under Cookson's immediate command
were the 2nd Canadian Mounted Infantry, Damant's Horse, and four
guns of the 7th R.F.A. His lieutenant, Keir, commanded the 28th
Mounted Infantry, the Artillery Mounted Rifles, and 2nd Kitchener's
Fighting Scouts. The force was well mounted, and carried the
minimum of baggage.

It was not long before this mobile force found itself within touch
of the enemy. The broad weal made by the passing of a convoy set
them off at full cry, and they were soon encouraged by the distant
cloud of dust which shrouded the Boer wagons. The advance guard of
the column galloped at the top of their speed for eight miles, and
closed in upon the convoy, but found themselves faced by an escort
of five hundred Boers, who fought a clever rearguard action, and
covered their charge with great skill. At the same time Cookson
closed in upon his mounted infantry, while on the other side De la
Rey's main force fell back in order to reinforce the escort.
British and Boers were both riding furiously to help their own
comrades. The two forces were fairly face to face.

Perceiving that he was in front of the whole Boer army, and knowing
that he might expect reinforcements, Cookson decided to act upon
the defensive. A position was rapidly taken up along the
Brakspruit, and preparations made to resist the impending attack.
The line of defence was roughly the line of the spruit, but for
some reason, probably to establish a cross fire, one advanced
position was occupied upon either flank. On the left flank was a
farmhouse, which was held by two hundred men of the Artillery
Rifles. On the extreme right was another outpost of twenty-four
Canadians and forty-five Mounted Infantry. They occupied no
defensible position, and their situation was evidently a most
dangerous one, only to be justified by some strong military reason
which is not explained by any account of the action.

The Boer guns had opened fire, and considerable bodies of the enemy
appeared upon the flanks and in front. Their first efforts were
devoted towards getting possession of the farmhouse, which would
give them a point d'appui from which they could turn the whole
line. Some five hundred of them charged on horseback, but were met
by a very steady fire from the Artillery Rifles, while the guns
raked them with shrapnel. They reached a point within five hundred
yards of the building, but the fire was too hot, and they wheeled
round in rapid retreat. Dismounting in a mealie-patch they
skirmished up towards the farmhouse once more, but they were again
checked by the fire of the defenders and by a pompom which Colonel
Keir had brought up. No progress whatever was made by the attack in
this quarter.

In the meantime the fate which might have been foretold had
befallen the isolated detachment of Canadians and 28th Mounted
Infantry upon the extreme right. Bruce Carruthers, the Canadian
officer in command, behaved with the utmost gallantry, and was
splendidly seconded by his men. Overwhelmed by vastly superior
numbers, amid a perfect hail of bullets they fought like heroes to
the end. 'There have been few finer instances of heroism in the
course of the campaign,' says the reticent Kitchener in his
official despatch. Of the Canadians eighteen were hit out of
twenty-one, and the Mounted Infantry hard by lost thirty out of
forty-five before they surrendered.

This advantage gained upon the right flank was of no assistance to
the Boers in breaking the British line. The fact that it was so
makes it the more difficult to understand why this outpost was so
exposed. The burghers had practically surrounded Cookson's force,
and De la Rey and Kemp urged on the attack; but their artillery
fire was dominated by the British guns, and no weak point could be
found in the defence. At 1 o'clock the attack had been begun, and
at 5.30 it was finally abandoned, and De la Rey was in full
retreat. That he was in no sense routed is shown by the fact that
Cookson did not attempt to follow him up or to capture his guns;
but at least he had failed in his purpose, and had lost more
heavily than in any engagement which he had yet fought. The moral
effect of his previous victories had also been weakened, and his
burghers had learned, if they had illusions upon the subject, that
the men who fled at Tweebosch were not typical troopers of the
British Army. Altogether, it was a well-fought and useful action,
though it cost the British force some two hundred casualties, of
which thirty-five were fatal. Cookson's force stood to arms all
night until the arrival of Walter Kitchener's men in the morning.

General Ian Hamilton, who had acted for some time as Chief of the
Staff to Lord Kitchener, had arrived on April 8th at Klerksdorp to
take supreme command of the whole operations against De la Rey.
Early in April the three main British columns had made a rapid cast
round without success. To the very end the better intelligence and
the higher mobility seem to have remained upon the side of the
Boers, who could always force a fight when they wished and escape
when they wished. Occasionally, however, they forced one at the
wrong time, as in the instance which I am about to describe.

Hamilton had planned a drive to cover the southern portion of De la
Rey's country, and for this purpose, with Hartebeestefontein for
his centre, he was manoeuvring his columns so as to swing them into
line and then sweep back towards Klerksdorp. Kekewich, Rawlinson,
and Walter Kitchener were all manoeuvring for this purpose. The
Boers, however, game to the last, although they were aware that
their leaders had gone in to treat, and that peace was probably due
within a few days, determined to have one last gallant fall with a
British column. The forces of Kekewich were the farthest to the
westward, and also, as the burghers thought, the most isolated, and
it was upon them, accordingly, that the attack was made. In the
morning of April 11th, at a place called Rooiwal, the enemy, who
had moved up from Wolmaranstad, nineteen hundred strong, under Kemp
and Vermaas, fell with the utmost impetuosity upon the British
column. There was no preliminary skirmishing, and a single gallant
charge by 1500 Boers both opened and ended the engagement. 'I was
just saying to the staff officer that there were no Boers within
twenty miles,' says one who was present, 'when we heard a roar of
musketry and saw a lot of men galloping down on us.' The British
were surprised but not shaken by this unexpected apparition. 'I
never saw a more splendid attack. They kept a distinct line,' says
the eye-witness. Another spectator says, 'They came on in one long
line four deep and knee to knee.' It was an old-fashioned cavalry
charge, and the fact that it got as far as it did shows that we
have over rated the stopping power of modern rifles. They came for
a good five hundred yards under direct fire, and were only turned
within a hundred of the British line. The Yeomanry, the Scottish
Horse, and the Constabulary poured a steady fire upon the advancing
wave of horsemen, and the guns opened with case at two hundred
yards. The Boers were stopped, staggered, and turned. Their fire,
or rather the covering fire of those who had not joined in the
charge, had caused some fifty casualties, but their own losses were
very much more severe. The fierce Potgieter fell just in front of
the British guns. 'Thank goodness he is dead!' cried one of his
wounded burghers, 'for he sjamboked me into the firing line this
morning.' Fifty dead and a great number of wounded were left upon
the field of battle. Rawlinson's column came up on Kekewich's left,
and the Boer flight became a rout, for they were chased for twenty
miles, and their two guns were captured. It was a brisk and
decisive little engagement, and it closed the Western campaign,
leaving the last trick, as well as the game, to the credit of the
British. From this time until the end there was a gleaning of
prisoners but little fighting in De la Rey's country, the most
noteworthy event being a surprise visit to Schweizer-Renecke by
Rochfort, by which some sixty prisoners were taken, and afterwards
the drive of Ian Hamilton's forces against the Mafeking railway
line by which no fewer than 364 prisoners were secured. In this
difficult and well-managed operation the gaps between the British
columns were concealed by the lighting of long veld-fires and the
discharge of rifles by scattered scouts. The newly arrived
Australian Commonwealth Regiments gave a brilliant start to the
military history of their united country by the energy of their
marching and the thoroughness of their entrenching.

Upon May 29th, only two days before the final declaration of peace,
a raid was made by a few Boers upon the native cattle reserves near
Fredericstad. A handful of horsemen pursued them, and were ambushed
by a considerable body of the enemy in some hilly country ten miles
from the British lines. Most of the pursuers got away in safety,
but young Sutherland, second lieutenant of the Seaforths, and only
a few months from Eton, found himself separated from his horse and
in a hopeless position. Scorning to surrender, the lad actually
fought his way upon foot for over a mile before he was shot down by
the horsemen who circled round him. Well might the Boer commander
declare that in the whole course of the war he had seen no finer
example of British courage. It is indeed sad that at this last
instant a young life should be thrown away, but Sutherland died in
a noble fashion for a noble cause, and many inglorious years would
be a poor substitute for the example and tradition which such a
death will leave behind.



It only remains in one short chapter to narrate the progress of the
peace negotiations, the ultimate settlement, and the final
consequences of this long-drawn war. However disheartening the
successive incidents may have been in which the Boers were able to
inflict heavy losses upon us and to renew their supplies of arms
and ammunition, it was none the less certain that their numbers
were waning and that the inevitable end was steadily approaching.
With mathematical precision the scientific soldier in Pretoria,
with his web of barbed wire radiating out over the whole country,
was week by week wearing them steadily down. And yet after the
recent victory of De la Rey and various braggadocio pronouncements
from the refugees at The Hague, it was somewhat of a surprise to
the British public when it was announced upon March 22nd that the
acting Government of the Transvaal, consisting of Messrs. Schalk
Burger, Lucas Meyer, Reitz, Jacoby, Krogh, and Van Velden had come
into Middelburg and requested to be forwarded by train to Pretoria
for the purpose of discussing terms of peace with Lord Kitchener. A
thrill of hope ran through the Empire at the news, but so doubtful
did the issue seem that none of the preparations were relaxed which
would ensure a vigorous campaign in the immediate future. In the
South African as in the Peninsular and in the Crimean wars, it may
truly be said that Great Britain was never so ready to fight as at
the dawning of peace. At least two years of failure and experience
are needed to turn a civilian and commercial nation into a military

In spite of the optimistic pronouncements of Mr. Fischer and the
absurd forecasts of Dr. Leyds the power of the Boers was really
broken, and they had come in with the genuine intention of
surrender. In a race with such individuality it was not enough that
the government should form its conclusion. It was necessary for
them to persuade their burghers that the game was really up, and
that they had no choice but to throw down their well-worn rifles
and their ill-filled bandoliers. For this purpose a long series of
negotiations had to be entered into which put a strain upon the
complacency of the authorities in South Africa and upon the
patience of the attentive public at home. Their ultimate success
shows that this complacency and this patience were eminently the
right attitude to adopt.

On March 23rd the Transvaal representatives were despatched to
Kroonstad for the purpose of opening up the matter with Steyn and
De Wet. Messengers were sent to communicate with these two leaders,
but had they been British columns instead of fellow-countrymen they
could not have found greater difficulty in running them to earth.
At last, however, at the end of the month the message was conveyed,
and resulted in the appearance of De Wet, De la Rey, and Steyn at
the British outposts at Klerksdorp. The other delegates had come
north again from Kroonstad, and all were united in the same small
town, which, by a whimsical fate, had suddenly become the centre
both for the making of peace and for the prosecution of the war,
with the eyes of the whole world fixed upon its insignificant
litter of houses. On April 11th, after repeated conferences, both
parties moved on to Pretoria, and the most sceptical observers
began to confess that there was something in the negotiations after
all. After conferring with Lord Kitchener the Boer leaders upon
April 18th left Pretoria again and rode out to the commandos to
explain the situation to them. The result of this mission was that
two delegates were chosen from each body in the field, who
assembled at Vereeniging upon May 15th for the purpose of settling
the question by vote. Never was a high matter of state decided in
so democratic a fashion.

Up to that period the Boer leaders had made a succession of
tentative suggestions, each of which had been put aside by the
British Government. Their first had been that they should merely
concede those points which had been at issue at the beginning of
the war. This was set aside. The second was that they should be
allowed to consult their friends in Europe. This also was refused.
The next was that an armistice should be granted, but again Lord
Kitchener was obdurate. A definite period was suggested within
which the burghers should make their final choice between surrender
and a war which must finally exterminate them as a people. It was
tacitly understood, if not definitely promised, that the conditions
which the British Government would be prepared to grant would not
differ much in essentials from those which had been refused by the
Boers a twelvemonth before, after the Middelburg interview.

On May 15th the Boer conference opened at Vereeniging. Sixty-four
delegates from the commandos met with the military and political
chiefs of the late republics, the whole amounting to 150 persons. A
more singular gathering has not met in our time. There was Botha,
the young lawyer, who had found himself by a strange turn of fate
commanding a victorious army in a great war. De Wet was there, with
his grim mouth and sun-browned face; De la Rey, also, with the
grizzled beard and the strong aquiline features. There, too, were
the politicians, the grey-bearded, genial Reitz, a little graver
than when he looked upon 'the whole matter as an immense joke,' and
the unfortunate Steyn, stumbling and groping, a broken and ruined
man. The burly Lucas Meyer, smart young Smuts fresh from the siege
of Ookiep, Beyers from the north, Kemp the dashing cavalry leader,
Muller the hero of many fights--all these with many others of their
sun-blackened, gaunt, hard-featured comrades were grouped within
the great tent of Vereeniging. The discussions were heated and
prolonged. But the logic of facts was inexorable, and the cold
still voice of common-sense had more power than all the ravings of
enthusiasts. The vote showed that the great majority of the
delegates were in favour of surrender upon the terms offered by the
British Government. On May 31st this resolution was notified to
Lord Kitchener, and at half-past ten of the same night the
delegates arrived at Pretoria and set their names to the treaty of
peace. After two years seven and a half months of hostilities the
Dutch republics had acquiesced in their own destruction, and the
whole of South Africa, from Cape Town to the Zambesi, had been
added to the British Empire. The great struggle had cost us twenty
thousand lives and a hundred thousand stricken men, with two
hundred millions of money; but, apart from a peaceful South Africa,
it had won for us a national resuscitation of spirit and a closer
union with our great Colonies which could in no other way have been
attained. We had hoped that we were a solid empire when we engaged
in the struggle, hut we knew that we were when we emerged from it.
In that change lies an ample recompense for all the blood and
treasure spent.

The following were in brief the terms of surrender:--

1. That the burghers lay down their arms and acknowledge themselves
subjects of Edward VII.
2. That all prisoners taking the oath of allegiance be returned.
3. That their liberty and property be inviolate.
4. That an amnesty be granted--save in special cases.
5. That the Dutch language be allowed in schools and law-courts.
6. That rifles be allowed if registered.
7. That self-government be granted as soon as possible.
8. That no franchise be granted for natives until after
9. That no special land tax be levied.
10. That the people be helped to reoccupy the farms.
11. That 3,000,000 pounds be given to help the farmers.
12. That the rebels be disfranchised and their leaders tried, on
condition that no death penalty be inflicted.

These terms were practically the same as those which had been
refused by Botha in March 1901. Thirteen months of useless warfare
had left the situation as it was.

It had been a war of surprises, but the surprises have unhappily
been hitherto invariably unpleasant ones. Now at last the balance
swung the other way, for in all the long paradoxical history of
South African strife there is nothing more wonderful than the way
in which these two sturdy and unemotional races clasped hands the
instant that the fight was done. The fact is in itself a final
answer to the ill-natured critics of the Continent. Men do not so
easily grasp a hand which is reddened with the blood of women and
children. From all parts as the commandos came in there was welcome
news of the fraternisation between them and the soldiers; while the
Boer leaders, as loyal to their new ties as they had been to their
old ones, exerted themselves to promote good feeling among their
people. A few weeks seemed to do more to lessen racial bitterness
than some of us had hoped for in as many years. One can but pray
that it will last.

The surrenders amounted in all to twenty thousand men, and showed
that in all parts of the seat of war the enemy had more men in the
field than we had imagined, a fact which may take the sting out of
several of our later mishaps. About twelve thousand surrendered in
the Transvaal, six thousand in the Orange River Colony, and about
two thousand in the Cape Colony, showing that the movement in the
rebel districts had always been more vexatious than formidable. A
computation of the prisoners of war, the surrenders, the
mercenaries, and the casualties, shows that the total forces to
which we were opposed were certainly not fewer than seventy-five
thousand well-armed mounted men, while they may have considerably
exceeded that number. No wonder that the Boer leaders showed great
confidence at the outset of the war.

That the heavy losses caused us by the war were borne without a
murmur is surely evidence enough how deep was the conviction of the
nation that the war was not only just but essential--that the
possession of South Africa and the unity of the Empire were at
stake. Could it be shown, or were it even remotely possible, that
ministers had incurred so immense a responsibility and entailed
such tremendous sacrifices upon their people without adequate
cause, is it not certain that, the task once done, an explosion of
rage from the deceived and the bereaved would have driven them for
ever from public life? Among high and low, in England, in Scotland,
in Ireland, in the great Colonies, how many high hopes had been
crushed, how often the soldier son had gone forth and never
returned, or come back maimed and stricken in the pride of his
youth. Everywhere was the voice of pity and sorrow, but nowhere
that of reproach. The deepest instincts of the nation told it that
it must fight and win, or for ever abdicate its position in the
world. Through dark days which brought out the virtues of our race
as nothing has done in our generation, we struggled grimly on until
the light had fully broken once again. And of all gifts that God
has given to Britain there is none to compare with those days of
sorrow, for it was in them that the nation was assured of its
unity, and learned for all time that blood is stronger to bind than
salt water is to part. The only difference in the point of view of
the Briton from Britain and the Briton from the ends of the earth,
was that the latter with the energy of youth was more whole-souled
in the Imperial cause. Who has seen that Army and can forget
it--its spirit, its picturesqueness--above all, what it stands for
in the future history of the world? Cowboys from the vast plains of
the North-West, gentlemen who ride hard with the Quorn or the
Belvoir, gillies from the Sutherland deer-forests, bushmen from the
back blocks of Australia, exquisites of the Raleigh Club or the
Bachelor's, hard men from Ontario, dandy sportsmen from India and
Ceylon, the horsemen of New Zealand, the wiry South African
irregulars--these are the Reserves whose existence was chronicled
in no Blue-book, and whose appearance came as a shock to the pedant
soldiers of the Continent who had sneered so long at our little
Army, since long years of peace have caused them to forget its
exploits. On the plains of South Africa, in common danger and in
common privation, the blood brotherhood of the Empire was sealed.

So much for the Empire. But what of South Africa? There in the end
we must reap as we sow. If we are worthy of the trust, it will be
left to us. If we are unworthy of it, it will be taken away.
Kruger's downfall should teach us that it is not rifles but Justice
which is the title-deed of a nation. The British flag under our
best administrators will mean clean government, honest laws,
liberty and equality to all men. So long as it continues to do so,
we shall hold South Africa. When, out of fear or out or greed, we
fall from that ideal, we may know that we are stricken with that
disease which has killed every great empire before us.

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