Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: On Commando
Author: Van Warmelo, Dietlof, 1872-1966
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "On Commando" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



ON COMMANDO

by

DIETLOF VAN WARMELO

With a Portrait

Methuen & Co.
36 Essex Street W.C.
London
Colonial Library

1902



[Illustration: DIETLOF VAN WARMELO]



PREFACE


This book was written in 1901, while its author was a prisoner at
Ahmednagar. It was written in Dutch, and has been put into English by a
young lady from what was the Orange Free State.

The author is a friend and relation of mine, son of a clergyman in the
Transvaal, and of old Afrikander stock on both sides. His book is the
more valuable because of the absence of all literary pretensions, and it
may be taken as truly representative of the Afrikander spirit, which has
been so much misconceived in England.

FREDERIK VAN EEDEN

WALDEN, N. HOLLAND,
_July_, 1902



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

FOREWORD

      I. AT THE BOUNDARY--ENTRANCE INTO NATAL--DUNDEE--LADYSMITH

     II. SIEGE OF LADYSMITH--BATTLE OF THE ROOIRANDJES--BLOWING
         UP OF THE CANNON

    III. THE EIGHT-DAY BATTLE OF THE TUGELA--TALK OF
         INTERVENTION--RELIEF OF LADYSMITH

     IV. DEWETSDRIFT--RETURN TO, AND FLIGHT FROM, PRETORIA

      V. TREK FROM MIDDELBURG TO RUSTENBURG--BATTLE OF SELIKATSNEK

     VI. GUERILLA LIFE ON THE MAGALIES MOUNTAINS--NARROW ESCAPE
         OF PRESIDENT STEYN AND GENERAL DE WET

    VII. WITH PRESIDENT STEYN TO PRESIDENT KRUGER

   VIII. WITH PRESIDENT STEYN IN THE BOSCHVELD--LOST

     IX. PRACTICAL HINTS--ADVENTURE ON THE SABIE--NORTH OF LYDENBURG

      X. FROM ROOSSENEKAL TO PIETERSBURG--WITH GENERAL BEYERS
         TO THE MAGALIES MOUNTAINS

     XI. BATTLE OF NOOITGEDACHT

    XII. PAARDEKRAAL DAY--BATTLE IN THE MOAT--ATTACK ON KAALFONTEIN
         STATION

   XIII. COMMANDO SUFFERINGS

    XIV. BATTLE OF BOESMANSKOP--FLIGHT OF WOMEN

     XV. BATTLE OF CHRISSIESMEER--REUNION WITH GENERAL BEYERS

    XVI. CAMPED NEAR TAFELKOP

CONCLUSION: BATTLE OF STOMPIES--IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY



MY LIFE ON COMMANDO

FOREWORD


Could I have known that the war would last so long, I might from the
beginning have taken notes. They would have brought back memories in a
way pleasant to me now, and perhaps also to those who have asked me to
write down my adventures.

Often it occurred to me to keep a diary, but I was obliged to give up
the idea because my clothes were sometimes so thoroughly drenched that
the letters in my pocket were not readable. Later on, when clothes were
scarce and pockets past mending, I often made the unpleasant discovery
that caused the fool, on his journey from the land of Kokanje, to cry to
the King: 'We have ridden at such a breakneck pace, see, everything has
slipped through this little hole!' Now I am obliged to write down my
adventures without any notes, so dates, numbers, and names of places
will occasionally be missing. It stands to reason that I--being an exile
in a strange country, in the fort of ... in ..., cut off from the world
outside and without any official reports--should simply limit myself to
my own personal experience. And, lastly, I must apologize to my readers
for so often speaking of myself and my friends; but that is inevitable
in this tale.

I shall pass rapidly over the first part of my life on commando. If my
memory plays me false--which is not very probable, as I still have a
lively recollection of the events--I shall be grateful for correction.

_July_, 1901.



I

AT THE BOUNDARY--ENTRANCE INTO NATAL--DUNDEE--LADYSMITH


When that part of the Pretoria town commando to which my brother Frits
and I belonged left for the Natal boundary on September 30, 1899, we
were all very enthusiastic, as could be seen from the nice new suits,
the new shining guns, and the sleek horses. Many ladies had come to the
station to see us off, and we were proud of having the opportunity to
fight for our country. Our departure seemed then to us a great occasion,
we were inexperienced in war. We had not yet learnt that one could pass
unscathed through many a fierce battle. We knew nothing of 'retreating'
and we knew all about the enemy with whom we were to come in contact. We
imagined that several sharp engagements would take place--that these
would be decisive battles in which many of our men would be killed, and
therefore the parting with relatives and friends was sad indeed.

Our Field-Cornet, Melt Marais, had told us that we had nothing to see to
except provisions for a day or two, as Government would supply us with
all necessaries at Zandspruit, where the commandos were to concentrate;
so many of us took neither pots, pans, nor mugs.

What a disillusion it was to find on our arrival at Zandspruit that
there were no tents, and as yet no provisions of any kind! So we were
initiated by having to pass the first nights of our commando life on the
open veld with insufficient food. And in the daytime our work was cut
out for us, as every other minute our horses disappeared--lost among the
thousands of horses that all looked exactly alike in the eyes of an
inexperienced townsman. Then it meant a running and seeking, an
examining of marks and tokens, until the stupid among us were obliged to
tie ribbons to our horses as a means of recognising them. And one, the
story goes, even tied a nosebag, with a bundle of forage, to his mount
so that it should not run away.

At length the provisions began to arrive, but the pots and pans were
still scarce and we could not even drink a cup of coffee till a tin of
jam or meat had been emptied.

We were just beginning to feel comfortable, when the time stated in the
ultimatum expired, and we had to cross the boundary of Natal. General
Erasmus was at the head of our commando. We spent the night near
Volksrust in a cold hail storm and rain. Those first days we are not
likely to forget. They were wet, cold days, and we were still
unaccustomed to preparing our own food and looking after ourselves.
Fortunately, we had the opportunity, a few days later, of supplying
ourselves with all necessaries at Newcastle.

Before we crossed the boundary General Erasmus had addressed us and told
us the news of our first victory--the taking of an armoured train at
Kraaipan; at that time we still made a fuss about such a trifle. Also,
in those days, we still looked up with respect to our leaders.

Ds. Postma, who accompanied us everywhere, led us in prayer. Not one of
the burghers seems to have known where the enemy were. We advanced
slowly and carefully, as we expected _to meet with the enemy at any
moment_; but we saw no signs of them until we came to Dundee. After a
rest of a few days we undertook the momentous expedition to the
mountains of Dundee, to the north of the town.

Towards evening we got the order to 'prepare for three days.' For three
days! And we had not even provisions enough for one. But we understood
that there could not yet be a proper commissariat, and we fought for our
country willingly, convinced of the justice of our cause; so we
'prepared' cheerfully.

Before the commando started, a terrible thunderstorm came on that slowly
passed over and was followed by a gentle rain. We rode hard in the dark,
through dongas, past farms and houses, zigzagging in a half-circle, to
the mountains of Dundee. No sound was to be heard except the dull thud
of the hoofs of the galloping horses. Now and again we whispered to each
other how delightfully we were going to surprise the enemy. When the
horses came to a sudden pause, and an inexperienced rider, owing to a
presentiment of evil, involuntarily uttered his wish to 'halt,' we
turned upon him angrily and called him 'traitor.' We did not then know
that we were far beyond earshot of the enemy. It stopped raining, and
towards morning we reached the mountains; and after we had with great
difficulty got our horses on to the mountains, we had to await the dawn
in the cold, drenched to the skin. A mackintosh is of small service in
such a rain. When the day dawned we led our horses higher up. A thick
fog had come on. General Lucas Meyer was to begin the attack on the
west, and we were to surprise the enemy from the heights.

When the roar of cannon announced the battle, we were full of
enthusiasm, but General Erasmus forbade anyone to move on before the fog
lifted. It was quite possible that the fog might be only on the
mountain-tops, because of their great height, and that we would have
clear weather as soon as we began to descend, therefore several of our
men begged General Erasmus to be allowed to go on ahead as scouts. But
he was very much against it, and said that the enemy might cut off our
retreat, and 'if the enemy surround us it is all up with us,' said he.
As soon as the roar of the cannon ceased, we withdrew some distance into
the mountains to let our horses graze. But we had only just off-saddled,
when from all sides came the cry of 'Saddle! saddle!' and from our left,
in the valley, came the sound of firing. A detachment of 250 khakies,
probably knowing nothing of our whereabouts, and intending to pass round
the mountains and attack Lucas Meyer in the rear, was compelled to
surrender in a few moments, after first having sought cover in a kraal
near a house.

We remained three days on the Dundee mountains, and during all that time
there was a steady drizzle, with intervals of hail and wind. Once when
it cleared up for a few hours we got the order to attack the town, but
it began to rain again, and that night we had to keep our positions in
the intense cold, without any covering. Fortunately, the enemy abandoned
their camp that night, and when we looked down upon the town next
morning the khakies had vanished. We had only the preceding day placed
our cannon in a position to command the camp.

When we returned to our saddles, the horses had strayed so far that it
took us almost all day to get them back. My uncle, Paul Maré, formerly
Volksraad member for Zoutpansberg, treated us to kaboe-mealies (roasted
maize), the first we had on commando, and we ate with great relish.

Meanwhile the commando had left. We followed, and entered Dundee, where
we helped ourselves hungrily to the good things from the shops placed at
the disposal of the commandos.

In an unorganized army looting is a necessary evil. There are always
some of the lower classes who are the ringleaders, and when the
commandos reach a house or farm that has already been looted, they join
in the looting 'because the burghers are on commando, and they must be
well supplied with all necessaries, so as to be able to fight well.' So
we reasoned, and we joined in the looting. I can affirm, to the honour
of our burghers, that it was not our intention to plunder, and in the
beginning much was done to prevent it. The lower class Uitlander, who
joined us for the sake of booty, and not for love and sympathy towards
us, was largely responsible for the bad name we got among right-minded
people who did not know the facts of the case. It was the same as
regards theft. If anyone missed his horse, he had but to look for it
among the 'Irish corps,' or some other Uitlander corps, and unless he
knew his beast well he would fail to recognise it, as both mane and tail
would have been cut short by the thief. I do not wish to pretend that
_we_ were always free from blame. It has happened that the Uitlander got
a very poor horse in exchange for his thoroughbred because a Boer had
tied the token of recognition to his own horse and made off with the
better one. The truth is that very few men are proof against the
demoralizing influence of war, and I will not deny that this war has
shown up our many faults; but in my tale I shall be able to take up the
cudgels for my people in cases where the rest of the world turned from
us because they were disappointed in their expectations of us.

After our departure from Dundee the looting went on freely. Then we
began to witness the devastation that is the irremediable consequence of
war. Here and there a house had been completely plundered. At Glencoe
Junction I entered the stationmaster's house, a well-furnished house
with beautiful pictures, books, and mirrors. Some massive silver mugs
and other articles of value were lying about. The family had only just
dined, for the cloth was still laid. I ate of the food on the table,
wrote a letter home with pen and ink, and left the house. Later on, when
I returned, it had been thoroughly looted and some of the mirrors
smashed. There were many of the riff-raff, Kaffirs and coolies in the
neighbourhood, and in all probability they had done the mischief.

When our commando left Dundee to move in the direction of Ladysmith,
part of the Pretoria town commando was sent to reinforce Lucas Meyer,
who was to follow the troops fleeing from Dundee with his commando. My
brother and I went with it. A terrible thunderstorm came on just then,
and during the whole march to Ladysmith it rained heavily. Every moment
we expected to come up with the troops, but they had too great a start,
and we did not overtake them at all. We were too late again. An English
General has said that 'the Boers are brave, and make good plans, but are
always twenty-four hours late.' That can be explained in this way. We
were accustomed to fighting against Kaffirs, who hid in woods and
mountains, and against whom we had to advance with the utmost
precaution, so as to lose as few lives as possible. So we were too
cautious in the beginning of the war. We would not make a great
sacrifice to win a battle.

On October 30 we were present, under Lucas Meyer, at the battle near
Ladysmith, but we did not come into action, as we belonged to a part of
the commando that had to hold a position to prevent attack in the rear.
The enemy did not attack our position at all, except with a few bombs,
because they suffered a great defeat near Modderspruit, and had to
retreat hurriedly. From our positions we could see how every time the
bombs burst among them the fleeing troops seemed to get 'mazed' for a
moment, and then went forward again.

At that time we were often in want of food. One must have suffered
hunger to know what it means. In a few linen bags I had some biscuits
that had first been reduced to crumbs through the riding, and then to a
kind of pap by the rain and perspiration of the horse. Often when I
felt the pangs of famine I added some sugar to this mess and ate it with
relish.

Some days later we left Lucas Meyer and returned to our commando, which
had meanwhile gone to the north of Ladysmith. During our absence
Zeederberg had taken the place of Melt Marais as Veld-Cornet.



II

SIEGE OF LADYSMITH--BATTLE OF THE ROOIRANDJES--BLOWING UP OF THE CANNON


When we surrounded the town and the siege began, all talk of the bananas
that we were to eat in the south of Natal came to an end.

Ladysmith ought never to have been besieged. On October 30 we should
have made use of our advantage. If we had at once followed the enemy
when they fled in disorder, we should in all probability easily have
taken those positions that would have involved the immediate surrender
of Ladysmith. Many lives would have been sacrificed, but not so many as
were sacrificed during the whole siege. And we might have used those men
who were necessary to maintain the siege elsewhere as an attacking
force. Instead of following up our advantage, we deliberately prepared
for a siege. The enemy meanwhile made use of the opportunity to entrench
themselves well. Most of our burghers were against our attempting to
take the town by assault when once it was thoroughly entrenched.

The Pretoria town commando and that from Krokodil River in the Pretoria
district occupied the position nearest to Ladysmith. This was a hill to
the north of the town, flat at the top, and surrounded by a stone wall.
In all probability the enclosed depression of about 500 paces in circuit
had been used as a cattle-kraal. Against that kopje (hill) we gradually
put up our tents. From our camp we looked on to a large flat mountain
that we called Little Amajuba, because on October 30 the first large
capture of prisoners had been made there. In front of our kopje, near
the foot, ran a donga, and at a distance of about 1,000 paces, parallel
to us, lay another oblong kopje occupied by the enemy. This kopje we
called Rooirandjes.

On November 8 we received the order from our General to attack the
Rooirandjes the following day. We were about 250 strong, and very
willing, as that position had not yet been entrenched. On a mountain to
our right a cannon had been placed that was to begin firing on the
enemy's position towards dawn. Distinct orders were given that our
Veld-Cornet was to be at the foot of Rooirandjes with his men before
daybreak. But something went wrong again, and it was already quite light
when we reached the donga. We found ourselves at a distance of about 700
paces from the Rooirandjes, and we had to cross an open space if we
still wished to storm the position. The enemy's watch already began
shooting at us.

The corporals let their men advance in groups of four from the donga to
the kopje, using the ant-hills as cover when they lay down. Our turn
came last, but meanwhile the enemy had received reinforcements, and the
nearest ant-hills were nearly all occupied, so that only three men could
go at a time. Such a shower of bullets fell that it was a miracle that
we came out of it alive. Fortunately I found a free ant-hill. My brother
had to share one with a comrade.

At last the cannon from the mountain fired a few shots, but stopped
again almost immediately--why, I do not yet know. So we were obliged to
lie in our positions. It was terribly hot, and not a cloud in the sky.
We suffered horribly from thirst, and scarcely dared move to get at our
water-bags. One of our comrades lay groaning behind me. He was shot
through both legs. The bullets kept flying over our heads to the kopje
behind us, where some of our burghers lay firing at the enemy. Every now
and again a bullet exploded in our neighbourhood with the noise of a
pistol-shot. I fancy only Dum-Dums make that peculiar noise. We had
already seen many such bullets taken from the enemy by our burghers in
the Battle of Modderspruit. Another burgher, Mulder, ran past me with a
smile on his lips, threw himself behind an ant-hill, immediately rose
again with the intention of joining some of our burghers in the front
ranks, who sat calmly smoking behind some rocks under a tree, but had
not gone two paces when he was shot in the thigh. There he had to lie
groaning until our brave Reineke, who was killed later on at Spion Kop,
saw a chance of carrying him away.

Some of us fell asleep from fatigue. One of our men on waking heard the
hiss of a bullet over his head at regular intervals, and thought that a
khaki had got closer up to him, and was firing at him from the side.
When he lifted his head he found that he had rolled away from all cover.
One, two, three, back he was again behind his ant-hill, and the
scoundrel stopped firing at him. It was lucky for us that the enemy were
such bad shots, or not many of us would have lived to tell the tale.

When our cannon at last, towards evening, condescended to bombard the
enemy, the firing almost wholly ceased, and we made use of that
favourable opportunity to get back to the donga. We had lain nine hours
behind those ant-hills, and, strange to say, there were only two wounded
on our side. We decided not to run the same risk again. In this way we
lost our confidence in men like the brothers Erasmus, General and
Commandant, who, in the first place, were incapable of organizing a good
plan of attack, and, secondly, never took part in a battle.

The months spent near Ladysmith were to most of us the most tedious of
the whole war. We had so little to do, and the heat between the glowing
rocks of the kopjes was awful. The little work we had was anything but
pleasant; it consisted chiefly in keeping guard either by day or by
night. In the beginning a very bad watch was kept. Later on we had to
climb the kopje at least every alternate evening to pass the long nights
in our positions, while not far behind us stood our empty tents.

When we got back in the morning with our bundles on our backs, dead
tired, we simply 'flopped' on to a stone, and sat waiting for our cup of
coffee, either gazing at the lovely landscape or at the dirty camp,
according to the mood we were in, or exchanging loud jokes with our
neighbours. Constantly being on guard and constantly being in danger
wears one out. We much prefer active service on patrol or in a skirmish
to lying in our positions. It is not in the nature of the Boer to lie
inactive far from his home. He soon wants to go 'huis-toe' (home), and
very soon the 'leave-plague' broke out in our camp. That plague was one
of the causes why the enemy succeeded in breaking through our lines.

Through unfairness on the part of the officers, some burghers often got
leave, others never, and the consequence, of course, was a constant
quarrelling. Many burghers got leave and never returned--either with or
without the knowledge of the officers. No wonder we never had a proper
fighting force in the field.

The difficulties we had to contend with through want of organization
prevented the Generals from putting their plans into execution.

Fortunately, many burghers were very willing, and if there was to be a
fight they always went voluntarily. It was noticeable that those under a
capable General fought well, while those under a bad or incapable
General were very weak indeed. Sometimes wonders were done at the
initiative of some of the burghers. We had a few games in the camp to
pass the time, but we were kept busy in a different way also. Sometimes,
when we were all just comfortably lazy, the order would be given to
'mount.' That meant a hurried search for our horses and snatching up our
guns and bandoliers. But after a while we had had enough of those false
alarms, and they failed to make any impression on us. The call of 'The
English are coming! saddle, saddle!' became proverbial.

When we did not keep such constant guard, we sat or lay listening of an
evening to a most discordant noise caused by the singing of psalms and
hymns at the same time at different farms. We sometimes joined in. As a
people we are not very musical.

The day-watch we liked best. Then we often got a chance of firing a shot
at a careless khaki on the Rooirandjes. To some of our young men there
was something very exciting in the idea that they were in constant
danger. Every now and again a bomb, too, would come flying over the
camp, and the whole commando would make for the rocks amid shouts of
laughter.

At that time we still felt rather down when there was a fight in
prospect. When, some time after our attack on the Rooirandjes, we went
to the west of Ladysmith to attack Platrand, we did not feel at all
comfortable, although we went voluntarily. It was a lovely ride in the
dark at a flying gallop, but when we found on our arrival at Platrand
that the promised number of men was not there, we rode away again quite
satisfied that we had not to attempt the attack. For had we not made up
our minds not to risk a repetition of the attack on Rooirandjes?

The blowing-up of the cannon at Ladysmith is one of the episodes of the
war that we look back upon with a feeling of shame. A few days after a
Long Tom had been blown up on Umbulwana Kop, east of Ladysmith, I warned
our Field-Cornet that the enemy were busy spying in our neighbourhood at
night. While on guard, we could distinctly hear the flapping of the
saddles and the neighing of the horses in front of us. I foretold a
repetition of what had happened on Umbulwana Kop. The Field-Cornet
promised that the guard would be doubled that night. Towards morning
those of us who were not on guard were waked out of our sleep by a loud
cry of 'Hurrah!' from the throats of a few hundred Englishmen who were
blowing up two cannon on a mountain to our right, close to us. We sprang
towards our positions, stumbling and falling over stones, not knowing
what was going on, and expecting the khakies at any moment. It was the
first time that we had heard a fight at night, and it gave us a creepy
feeling. We saw the flames of the guns and from the exploding bullets,
and heard the rattling of the shots and the shouting, but we could not
join in the fight, as we--eight of us--were not allowed to leave our
positions. Now and again a bullet fell in our neighbourhood, and the
Free State Artillery, who were on the mountains to the right, fired some
bombs at the enemy, nearly hitting us in the dark.

When it got lighter we went to look at the dead and wounded, perhaps
from a feeling of bravado, perhaps to accustom ourselves to the sight.
The enemy had paid dearly for their brave deed. They know the number of
their dead and wounded better than we do, for they had opportunity
enough to carry them away. On our side only four were killed and a few
wounded. Niemeyer, Van Zyl and Villiers were among the killed. Pott was
severely wounded. Niemeyer had several bayonet wounds.

After that we were, of course, doubly careful. We have never been able
to discover who failed in their duty on guard. Cooper and Tossel were
suspected and accused. They were sent to Pretoria under arrest, but the
investigation never led to any result. We have every reason to believe
that our burghers were guilty of treachery more than once near
Ladysmith. Government ought from the start to have taken strict measures
against traitors and spies.

Some days after the blowing up of the cannon I sprained my left knee,
which I had already hurt before the war began. General Erasmus gave me
leave to go home for an unlimited time. On my way home I passed my
brother Willem without being aware of it. He had come from Holland,
where he was studying, to take part in the war.

What a meeting with relatives and friends! How much there was to tell!
Even then we had not experienced very much, and how much more will our
burghers have to tell their dear ones on returning from their exile in
strange countries! There will, alas! be much sorrow, too; for many of
our friends and relatives have been killed in this war, and many more
will have yet to give their lives for their country!



III

THE EIGHT-DAY BATTLE OF THE TUGELA--TALK OF INTERVENTION--RELIEF OF
LADYSMITH


Before my knee was quite cured I returned to Ladysmith. The first thing
that caught my eye on my return to the camp was the balloon above
Ladysmith. It looked just like a large crocodile-eye as it followed all
my movements. When I went to look for my horse or to fetch water or
wood, there it stood, high up in the sky, and I felt as if it kept its
eye specially fixed on me, and as if I might expect a bomb at any
moment.

We had never in all our lives seen so many flies as at Ladysmith. We had
to hurry over our meals as they made eating almost an impossibility to
us. Fortunately, I was only a short time there, as towards the end of
January, 1900, part of our commando, including my brother and myself,
was sent to the Tugela as reinforcement. We had a distance of four and a
half hours to ride, and we had to ride hard, as the enemy were
determined to force their way through. We arrived the same day, just two
days after the enemy had tried to force their way through to the right
of Spion Kop and had been defeated. On nearing the high Tugela mountains
we heard more and more distinctly the constant rattling of bullets,
interrupted by the roar of the cannon and the bom-bom-bom of our saucy
bomb-Maxim, that made our hearts expand and those of the enemy shrink.
As we raced on to the foot of the mountains, the bullets that the enemy
were sending over the mountains to find the Boers raised the dust around
us.

The following morning we went to lie in a trench that had been dug by
our men on a rise to the right of Spion Kop. The previous day eight
burghers had been wounded there. Red Danie Opperman was Field-Cornet.
Not far from us, to our left, stood a few of our cannon, and facing us,
to our left, on the long mountain slope, we could see fourteen guns of
the enemy's. In front of us was a large wood, and close to that the
English camp. We could see the enemy moving in great close square
masses. It was a terribly hot day; we had to lie in the trenches, as all
day long the enemy fired at us from the smaller positions facing us, at
a distance of 15,000 paces; and constantly the bombs burst over our
heads. At regular intervals a lyddite bomb--that gave us a shock through
our whole body--came from the wood towards the cannon on our left. Once
only part of our entrenchment, where, fortunately, no one happened to
be, was blown to bits.

Whenever there was a moment's pause, we lifted our heads above the
trenches to have a look at the lovely landscape and at the positions of
our enemy. That day not one of us was wounded. Only the artillery
suffered. If our few cannon ventured to make themselves heard, eight or
more bombs followed in quick succession to silence them. Next to me lay
a man whose servant, a restless, impatient Bushman, most amicably
addressed him as Johnny. The Bushman went to and fro continually to a
'chum' of his who lay hidden behind a rock close to us. Once, on one of
his visits to his 'chum,' a bullet struck the ground close to his
heels; he stood still, looked slowly and defiantly from his heels to
the enemy, and said in a most emphatic tone, 'You confounded
Englishman!' and calmly proceeded on his way to his chum.

To the right of this position was an open space, almost level with the
immediate surroundings, but ending in a steep decline some 900 paces
further on. There we went towards evening with a reinforcement of the
Pretoria town commando that had followed us. The Field-Cornet made us
stand in rows, and told off forty men to dig a trench that night. The
rest of the men would relieve us the following night. My brother and I
were in the first shift. Towards morning, while we were still digging at
the trenches, fire was opened across the whole line of battle. We
imagined that we were being attacked, and jammed ourselves in the narrow
trench. But as the attack did not come off, and the bullets flew high
over our heads, we went on digging until daybreak. Then we noticed that
the enemy were lying in a trench about 800 paces ahead of us. We fired a
few shots at them, but saved our ammunition for an eventual storming.

The whole of that day and the two succeeding days there was a constant
salvo over our heads. The bullets flew over our heads like finches, and
did us no harm, but we had to be on our guard against the sharpshooters,
who occasionally fired close to us. That day (January 24), the heroic
Battle of Spion Kop took place, where our burghers, after having been
surprised in the night by the enemy and driven off the kop, obliged
them, after a stubborn fight, to abandon it again. The Pretoria men, who
were to have relieved us in the trench, took a great part in that
battle. Reineke, Yeppe, Malherbe, De Villiers, and Olivier were killed.
Ihrige was severely wounded.

All day long we lay listening to the fighting, for we could not sleep.
We had to stay in the trench three days and four nights before we were
relieved. Water and food were brought to us, or fetched by our men at
night, as we did not venture to leave the trench by day. We were safe
enough, for the bombs had not much effect on the sand-walls of our
trench, and there was always time to stoop to avoid them. The following
morning news was brought to us that the enemy had abandoned the whole
line of battle and were retreating in the direction of Chieveley.

The battle of the Tugela had lasted eight days.

I had again hurt my knee, and had to leave Ladysmith for Pretoria, from
whence I went to Warmbad at Waterberg to stay for a few weeks with Mrs.
Klein-Frikkie Grobler, who received me most kindly. My brother Frits got
leave for the first time then, too, and Willem remained at Ladysmith.
During my absence the English broke through at Pieter's Heights, where
Willem was made prisoner and Lüttig, Malherbe and Stuart de Villiers
were killed. Meanwhile Frits had gone, with some other Pretoria men, to
the Orange Free State, where the enemy had surrounded General Cronje.

Since the beginning of the siege our burghers always thought the town
would fall soon. 'The khakies cannot hold out any longer! They have no
provisions, and their ammunition must be coming to an end! Buller can
never cross the Tugela, our positions are too good! What does it matter
if _I_ do go on leave? The khakies cannot get through!' That was the
opinion of most of the burghers. And if anyone ventured to point out
that the enemy _might_ force their way through because we did not all do
our duty, he was either not believed or looked upon as a traitor.
Meanwhile enthusiasm was dying out. The burghers lay in their lagers or
went home, trusting to the few willing ones, who ultimately proved not
strong enough to withstand the overwhelming force that Buller brought to
bear upon one point of our positions when he was obliged to force his
way through at no matter what cost.

No leave should have been given during the war, and here I may as well
mention--although this tale does not pretend to be a history of the
war--that it has been carried on with far too great laxity, owing to the
ignorance of our Generals and the demoralizing influence of
self-interest and nepotism. We should have sent our forces far into the
Cape Colony to get help from our brothers in a war that had been forced
upon us by England. The Colonial Afrikanders never had the opportunity
of standing by us, because we did not supply them with the necessary
ammunition or stretch out our hands towards them. Unless they had help
from our invading forces, they dared not risk a rising, because of the
confiscation of their property in case of failure.

We have had to suffer--to suffer cruelly for our sins. Our enemy forced
his way through the dyke that surrounded us, and like a stormy sea he
ruined our homes, devastated our fields, and caused us endless
suffering. Besides this, the talk of intervention had an enervating
effecton the commandos. In our commando, which was largely composed of
ignorant men, the strangest stories went round. One was that the
Russians had landed somewhere in South Africa with 100 cannon. There was
always talk of a great European War having broken out; and the
consequence was that the Boers counted on intervention or help from the
Powers, instead of depending on their own strength and perseverance. The
most sensible among us recognised the improbability of intervention. It
was not to the interest of any foreign Power to intervene in South
Africa where it had no firm footing, particularly as Chamberlain had, by
most cunning artifices, forced us to be the aggressors.

War was inevitable. Sooner or later it had to come. After the Jameson
Raid, which was really the beginning of the war, the Transvaal
Government recognised the dangerous position in which it stood, as an
isolated Republic, and was therefore obliged to arm itself with the most
modern of military equipments. Before the Jameson Raid race hatred was
dying out rapidly. The consequence of the raid was that the gap between
Boer and Englishman widened, the sympathy of the Uitlanders for us grew
deeper, and the Afrikander Bond grew stronger. England's prestige in
South Africa was threatened, and with it her rank as first Power in the
world. She had to maintain her supremacy in South Africa; while for us
it had become a question of all or nothing. England has evidently
succeeded in keeping up such friendly relations with the other Powers
that no intervention seems possible.

The relief of Ladysmith took place on February 28--a Majuba Day--a day
that had been marked as a red-letter day in our calendars. For nineteen
years the enemy have longed to wipe out the remembrance of that day, and
they have done so brilliantly and malignantly. Since that time we have
been humiliated and belittled. Our fall was great. For the first time
there was a general panic. The two Republics, being forced to venture on
war against a powerful kingdom, felt themselves staggering under the
heavy blow.



IV

DEWETSDRIFT--RETURN TO, AND FLIGHT FROM, PRETORIA


After the relief of Kimberley and Ladysmith we imagined that the
decisive battles would soon follow. Although my knee was not yet cured,
I went to Glencoe, whither our commandos had retreated. I was not five
days there when I had to leave, being unfit for active service. Again I
went to Warmbad for some weeks with Mr. Burgemeester Potgieter and his
family, and on my return to Pretoria remained in my office until the
beginning of May.

Meanwhile Frits had returned from the Free State, and my knee was cured.
We each bought ourselves a sturdy pony, and left, with some other
burghers, by train for Klerksdorp, from where we went on to Dewetsdrift,
on the Vaal River. General Viljoen was guarding the drift there with
some hundreds of burghers. We rode from there some four or five hours
into the Free State to spy the movements of the enemy.

From Dewetsdrift we went, under Commandant Boshoff, to Schoemansdrift,
Venterskroon, and Lindequidrift. Our division formed part of the escort
for the guns. Our route lay through beautiful scenery. The Vaal twists
and bends between two high mountains that curve on either side like the
roads the khaki makes with his double row of waggons over the hills of
the Hoogeveld. In every opening of the mountains lies a farm, a mean
little house, but among well-cultivated fields. In nearly every farm the
family was grieving for one of its members who had been taken prisoner
along with Cronje, and of whose fate they were in ignorance. The people
received us very kindly. Everywhere we got milk and biscuits, and we
found afterwards that those people were the kindest who had suffered the
most from the war.

As the enemy were already on their way to Johannesburg, we had to
retreat as rapidly as possible, first to Bank Station, near
Potchefstroom, and then by train to Langlaagte. To the north-west of
Johannesburg we had a skirmish with the enemy, who attacked us as we
were feeding our horses. It appeared that our guard was not on duty. I
have never seen horses saddled so quickly. Most of the burghers rode off
and left us behind with the guns. One ammunition waggon stuck in the
mud, and was left behind, but was brought in safety to Pretoria by Frans
Lottering, a comrade of mine, who rode back for it with some gunners
when we had fled. Lottering was given a sword by General de la Rey for
his brave conduct. Through negligence on the part of our officers we
lost on that occasion one gun, several waggons, and some of our men.

Almost all night long we retreated with our guns to Pretoria. We had not
lost courage. We all spoke of the thorough way in which our Government
would have fortified Pretoria, and of the great battle that would take
place there. We had all made up our minds to a stubborn resistance at
our capital. What a bitter disappointment it was to find that our
Government had decided not to defend the town! The causes that led to
such a decision will be brought to light by historians. The consequences
were that many of the burghers were discouraged, and rode 'huis-toe,'
and nothing came of the great battle that was to have been fought.

Frits and I decided to give our horses a few days' rest in their stables
before going to meet the enemy.

On June 4, at about twelve o'clock, while we were at luncheon, a lyddite
bomb fell close to the fort, raising a cloud of dust. My mother went
outside, and came back quickly to tell us that it was not a shot _from_
the fort, but from the enemy. The bombs followed in quick succession.
They flew over Schanskop fort, and fell close to our house at Sunnyside.
As the ground was rocky they exploded well. My mother and sister fled
with our neighbours to the town, and my brother and I saddled our horses
and rode off to Quaggaspoort.

From over the mountains, to the south of the town, the bombs came flying
as a gentle warning from the khakies that it would be better to
surrender in order to avoid a great calamity.

It was sad to see how few horses there were at the foot of the mountain.
Here a group of four, there of ten--a sign that the number of burghers
in the positions was very small indeed. When the enemy appeared at
Quaggaspoort, we noticed that the burghers from the direction of
Krokodil River were retreating, and a moment later they were all in full
flight. One of my comrades, a brother of Lottering, was wounded in the
arm by a shell as he fled, and had to remain behind in Pretoria. That
night my brother and I spent in our own home, but we left the town the
following morning in the direction of Silverton, just before the enemy
entered.

It would be well to try and understand the condition of our country and
the temper of our burghers.

As the capital was in the hands of the enemy, it was easy enough to
convince our simple-minded men that our country was irretrievably lost
to us. Therefore a period of discouragement and demoralization followed.
Many burghers, also, who had all along fought bravely now remained
behind in the towns or on their farms, not daring to leave their wives
and daughters at the mercy of the soldiers. We may not judge those men,
neither need we consider it to our credit that we, either from a sense
of duty or from a spirit of adventure, acted differently. There were
many also who argued that the Government was corrupt, and that the war
should have been prevented, or that the Boers did not want to fight. So
they also became unfaithful to the cause, and to those along with whom
they began the war. And the name of 'hands-upper' was earned by those
burghers who of their own free will surrendered to the enemy. The chaff
was divided from the grain; cowards and traitors remained behind, and
the willing ones went to the veld, even though it were in a retreating
direction. We were still very hopeful. There were still the good
positions in the Lydenberg district, and we had heard that De Wet had
cut the line of communication behind the enemy. We also still had an
intact line to Delagoa Bay.

My brother and I met our old comrade Frans Loitering, and the three of
us went in search of General Grobler of Waterberg, who lay with his
commando to the east of Pretoria at Franspoort, near Donkerhoek. There
we joined his commando. Our camp was put up near a Kaffir location, and
as the Kaffirs were clean, we often bought boiled sweet potatoes and
crushed maize from them.

Nothing particular happened at Franspoort. To the right and left of us
some desperate fighting went on for several days, and at Donkerhoek a
fierce battle took place, but we were not attacked.

When the news came that the enemy had broken through our lines at
Donkerhoek, and that we had to retreat, my brother and I left Grobler's
commando. Thinking that the commandos would fall back upon the positions
of Belfast, we went to Middelburg to an uncle of ours, the missionary
Jan Maré, in order to give our horses a rest. We had lost sight of our
comrade Frans. On our way we bought bread at the farms, or had it given
us, cut a piece off an ox that had been slaughtered for the commando,
and slept either in a manger or, as was more often the case, in the open
air of the cold Hoogeveld. We arrived at Middelburg completely
exhausted, and are not likely to forget our uncle's great hospitality.

We accidentally met our former Commandant, Boshoff, who told us that he
was on his way with ten men to join General de la Rey, who had gone in
the direction of Rustenburg to cut the enemy's line of communication
between Mafeking and Pretoria, and we very willingly joined him, after a
delightful rest of ten days.

The commando of Commandant Boshoff consisted of nine burghers with an
ambulance waggon--that was used for the commissariat and for our
bedding--a French doctor, two Kaffirs and two tents. It seemed as if we
were going for a picnic. But it was necessary that we should be well
provided with all sorts of things, as our journey would be through the
Boschland, where fever and horse-sickness play havoc with man and horse
in summer. In winter it is endurable for a few months only, so the
country is very scarcely populated and almost uncultivated, and in
winter the Boers trek there with their cattle from the bare, chill
Hoogeveld. I had always longed to see that part of the Transvaal.



V

TREK FROM MIDDELBURG TO RUSTENBURG--BATTLE OF SELIKATSNEK


Some hours north of Middelburg one suddenly leaves the high plateau of
the Boschveld for a difficult road that curves steadily downwards
between two high mountains until it reaches a wide, thickly-wooded
valley. In the kloof (mountain-pass) a swiftly-flowing river cuts the
road that goes along its banks, in several places, before it loses
itself in the Olifants River. There the song of many birds, not to be
found on the Hoogeveld, can be heard, and there it was delightfully
warm, in comparison with the chilly air of the Hoogeveld. Of an evening
we made large fires, as there was plenty of dry wood. We sat round the
fire, chatting or listening to the comic songs which one of our comrades
sang. It was a happy time--away from khaki, far beyond reach of the
roar of cannon--a time of rest in preparation for the evil days that
awaited us.

Everywhere we saw flocks of sheep and herds of cattle grazing among the
bushes--always a sign that we should find a waggon or two with tents
close to them, under the nearest trees. Sometimes, near a drift or a
good place to uitspan, quite a small lager had been formed of the trek
Boers, or, rather, of their wives, for the husbands and sons of many had
gone to the war. The Boers who fled with their cattle in that way we
called 'Bush-lancers.' We came up with De la Rey's lager near the Elands
River, and later on made the acquaintance of Captain Kirsten's scouts,
to whom we offered our services. In those days it was very pleasant to
belong to the reconnoitring corps. When we went to reconnoitre our
horses got plenty of forage on the farms, and as we were few in number
and always ahead of the lager, there were always eggs, bread, and milk
to be had. We had enough to do, also, as we had to keep a sharp
look-out, and we were in constant danger, but not at all afraid of the
patrols of khakies, which, being small in number and without their
guns, were pretty harmless. We advanced almost parallel to the Magalies
Mountains, that stretch from Pretoria to Rustenburg, until we came to
the neighbourhood of Selikatsnek. Unless one was well acquainted with
the highways and byways of that part of the country, one was in constant
danger of losing the way; it is a long stretch of bush, consisting of
the well-known thorn-bushes of the Hoogeveld, for a distance of about
ten miles deep. The principal passes of the Magalies Mountains were
occupied by the enemy--Wonderboompoort, Hornsnek, Selikatsnek,
Commandonek, Olifantsnek. General de la Rey had made up his mind to take
Selikatsnek, and on July 11 he succeeded, by his strong will and
military talent.

While we were reconnoitring with Captain Kirsten's party we got the news
that De la Rey had attacked Selikatsnek--about an hour's ride from where
we were--and that the battle was still going on. We all rode to the
scene of action, but my brother and I, with a few other men, remained
behind to wait for Captain Kirsten, who was absent at the time. As soon
as he arrived we rode off, and arrived at Selikatsnek at about nine
o'clock. Our burghers had already taken two of the enemy's guns.

Selikatsnek (or Moselikatsnek) is a narrow opening in the Magalies
Mountains, with high shoulders on either side, that slope gradually to a
white kopje in the centre. If an attacking party once occupies the
shoulders, it can easily keep the enemy on the kopje or on the two
slopes. When we arrived our burghers already occupied the principal
positions--both shoulders and the smaller positions to the front of the
kopje. The enemy had been obliged to draw in their clipped wings, and to
concentrate on and in the neighbourhood of the white kopje.

But as the shoulders of the pass were very steep on the other side, our
men could not surround the enemy or attack them in the rear; and as
there was not sufficient cover for them to go down the slope without
great loss, in order to drive the enemy by force from their positions,
the burghers remained 'rock-fast' in their positions, and made no
progress at all. Thus, the enemy would either get reinforcements from
Pretoria or escape when it got dark. Both our flanks kept up a constant
fire on the slopes, and on the white kopje, but the shoulders were too
high for a proper aim, and the khakies lay fast behind the boulders and
in the clefts of the rocks.

Captain Kirsten, with about ten men, was ordered by General Coetzee to
hold a position to the right of the white kopje, and prevent the enemy
from taking it. This position consisted of a small rise, from which we
could fire at the kopje with a sight of 550 paces. To the right of this
rise, at a distance of 80 paces, was a small kloof overgrown with
bushes, and on the other side of the kloof ran a reef of rocks in the
direction of the white kopje. Here some of the burghers had before our
arrival forced eleven khakies to surrender, but they had not succeeded
in occupying the position, as some khakies had remained in the kloof,
and had shouted to them that they would not surrender. We were therefore
warned against that kloof. But while the others were shooting at the
enemy on the white kopje, one of our men went by himself to see if there
really were any khakies left there. He kept under cover wherever he
could--behind the rocks and behind the walls of an old kraal--and came
close up to the kloof without being fired at. On the other side, at a
distance of fifty paces, he heard a wounded man groaning and begging for
water; but, as he was alone, he did not venture to cross the kloof. He
returned to his comrades, but they would pay no attention to his request
to cross, as they thought the enemy were only waiting until more men
came under fire before they began firing.

We continued shooting at the white kopje, from which the enemy were
firing at us. The Captain had a good telescope, through which he could
distinctly see the faces of the enemy on the kopje. If a khaki showed
himself from behind a rock, the Captain pointed him out to one of our
marksmen, Alec Boshoff, who studied the position through the telescope,
and took such good aim that the Captain declared he could see the blood
on the wounded man's face.

The burgher who had gone to the kloof tried to persuade the rest to
cross with him to the other side, as he was sure the enemy were not
inclined to make any resistance there. At length, after twelve, he went
with two others to the opposite side, but first told a few of the best
marksmen to keep an eye on the reef. They crossed the kloof very
cautiously. It was dangerous work, as a shot might come at any moment
from behind one of the numerous shrubs or boulders. But they did not
advance in an unbroken line. Every time they sought cover behind a rock,
from which they watched to see whether the enemy would make their
appearance. They did not all three advance at the same time, either, but
first one and then the other. Whenever they had advanced a few steps,
they stopped to ask the wounded man, who lay groaning there, whether he
was alone. When they reached him they put some grass under his head, and
gave him some brandy from a flask that they always carried with them.
The poor man lay in a pool of blood on a rock under some shrubs. He had
been shot through the leg. His name was Lieutenant Pilkington.

The wounded man took hold of the hands of one of the burghers and begged
him to stay with him. He, however, considered it his duty to advance,
but first assured the poor man that the burghers who were following
could also speak English, and would look after him. Most of our men
followed the three. The rocks and boulders on the reef that we were
climbing afforded us splendid cover from the enemy on the white kopje.

To our left we found some more wounded. My brother took charge of one
with a ghastly wound in his head. We made some prisoners there, who were
too cowardly to defend themselves. A few of our comrades took them down.
We could notice by the guns and rugs that were lying about that the
enemy had fled in a panic, or else we should never have ventured to do
what we did later on.

We could fire at the enemy from a much shorter distance now, but were
not yet in their rear. It was necessary that we should occupy the next
position--a reef running parallel to the reef we were climbing, at a
distance of eighty paces. But it was impossible to take that position,
as our guns were firing bomb after bomb from the valley at our back,
somewhat to the left of us, so that the stones flew up in the air. We
also ran the risk of being taken for khakies, as our men knew nothing of
our venture. The Captain sent down a message to tell them to stop
shelling that position, as we wished to take it. Meanwhile, we kept on
firing at the white kopje, and the khakies kept on firing at us.

I went back to the wounded officer, who was being looked after by the
Captain. While we were standing talking, he died from loss of blood. Oh
the cruel brutality of war! The poor man was not dead five minutes when
we sat smoking his cigarettes.

We moved slightly more to the left towards the boulders. Khaki was on
the one side, we on the other. Some of our men had a most original and
amusing way of getting at the khakies. 'Come out, you rabbits, come out
of your holes, else we'll shoot down the lot of you!' Then the poor
things answered: 'We're afraid to come out. You'll kill us!' They really
thought we would shoot them down if they surrendered. The officers had
lost all control over the soldiers. Later on, at Nooit Gedacht, where
_we_ had cover as well as the enemy, it was proved that as soon as the
officers lose control over the men they remain lying behind the rocks
without firing a shot, as they are too frightened to expose themselves.
Most of them still had their bandoliers full of cartridges--there, too,
when they surrendered.

Before the war the English used to say they would fight us in our own
way, from behind rocks; but they forgot that as soon as an officer,
having to seek cover himself, fails to keep his eye on his men, they are
too cowardly to lift their heads from behind the rocks, as they are not
fighting for their independence. On a field like Selikatsnek we are by
far the better men.

To get the khakies from behind the rocks, one of our men ran as hard as
he could to a rock in their neighbourhood, and aimed at them. Then some
of them threw down their guns and put up their hands. Others surrendered
more calmly. So he sometimes made five or six of them surrender without
their having fired a single shot at him. A shower of bullets always came
from the white kopje, but, as his movements were quick and unexpected,
they could not take proper aim at him. One of the khakies said as he
surrendered: 'It is better to surrender than to be a dead man.' Another:
'Just fancy, in the hands of the Boers! I wonder what poor mother 'll
say!'

Meanwhile the gunners had received the Captain's report, and ceased
bombarding the reef that we wanted to storm. As it was getting late and
there was no other means, one of our men ran forward as hard as he
could, making use of every small covering, while the rest kept firing at
the white kopje to prevent the enemy from taking a proper aim at him.
There were not many khakies behind that reef, neither did they fire at
him. The rest of us followed at intervals, while those who arrived at
the reef again fired at the white kopje to cover the others.

The few khakies who surrendered at the reef we first disarmed, and then
we allowed them to seek cover behind the rocks from the bullets of their
friends. From that position we could see the enemy from the rear. In the
narrow road, at a distance of about 150 paces from us, stood an
ammunition waggon with splendid horses harnessed in it; there was no
room for them to turn to draw away the waggon. A few khakies showed
themselves next to the waggon, but were immediately shot down. A little
further on an ambulance waggon, also inspanned, stood against the kopje;
one could distinctly see how the empty litter was carried up and
brought down again with some of the wounded. Once a man walked next to
the litter as it was carried down; I pointed him out to my brother, as I
suspected his motive. I was right. Just by the ambulance waggon he
disappeared in a donga leading to the valley. My brother, who was a
little higher up the reef than I was, could not hit him, as he appeared
again only for a moment. He was most likely a despatch-rider who went to
warn the guard at Commandonek to retreat.

Further on there were some horses to be seen, and a little further still
the small tents of which the camps consisted. We kept up a constant
fire, but the enemy seemed to have sufficient cover on the kopje--and
they were very obstinate. For some time the firing from the shoulders of
the pass ceased, and in the dark shadow between the high mountains we
for a moment had the feeling that we had been deserted by our men--only
for a moment, for we knew it could not be! The game was in our hands.

The sun sank lower, and we felt if the enemy were not soon compelled, to
surrender they would escape in the dark. There was still one position
which must be taken--the last reef, to which most of the enemy had
retired from the position we now occupied. One of our men, therefore,
let the other six fire a salvo at the kopje, and ran as hard as he could
to a rock at a distance of twenty-five paces ahead, about halfway to the
last reef. But now both the enemy and our own burghers, under Commandant
Coetzee, fired at him so persistently that he was thankful to reach the
rock. He lay there as still as possible, with his gaze fixed on the
reef--as he lay without cover on that side. It was a most critical
moment.

Fortunately he heard, almost at once, one of his comrades, Van Zulch,
call out 'Oh, the white flag! Hullo, the white flag!' and he saw them
climbing down. He lay still a moment longer to convince himself of the
fact, and then calmly went to the last reef, where many khakies
surrendered--and he descended with them. Now the rest of the burghers
came running along from all directions to disarm the enemy in the
dusk--and to take what booty there was to be had. In their eagerness to
get as much booty as possible, they allowed an officer, Major Scobel,
to escape.

As I arrived rather late on the battlefield, I cannot give any account
of the order in which De la Rey placed his men, neither do I know the
number of the enemy's dead and wounded, nor how many lives our victory
cost us. I have never seen any official report concerning this battle.
Field-Cornet Van Zulch, who with Commandant Boshoff, took the officers
to Machadodorp, and who is at present a fellow-prisoner, tells me that
three officers--Colonel Roberts, Lieutenants Davis and Lyall--and 210
soldiers of the Lincolnshire Regiment were taken prisoners, and that
four companies of the Scots Greys had early that morning escaped with
two guns. Our loss, both dead and wounded, was not more than thirteen or
fourteen men. The enemy had made a stubborn resistance, judging from the
number of dead and wounded that were lying on the field. Of the seven of
us who forced the enemy to surrender by attacking them in the rear, not
one was injured, although we were the attacking party. They say that the
khaki prisoners whom we left on the reef remained there all night, and
came down the following morning with little white flags made of the
bandages that a soldier always carries with him, tied to twigs.



VI

GUERILLA LIFE ON THE MAGALIES MOUNTAINS--NARROW ESCAPE OF PRESIDENT
STEYN AND GENERAL DE WET.

Commandant Boshoff had been ordered to take the prisoners to
Machadodorp. He left my brother and me with Captain Kirsten, who had to
reconnoitre in the direction of Rustenburg along the Magalies Mountains.
We first of all passed through Commandonek, and found that deserted by
the enemy. We had no adventures on our way to Rustenburg.

The Rustenburgers, who had nearly all laid down their arms and taken the
oath of neutrality, took courage when they saw De la Rey's big commando,
and joined us one and all.

Then we recognised a great fault in the character of our people. Without
the slightest compunction, they first fail in loyalty to their own
country, and then break the oath of neutrality, although the enemy had
in no single respect violated their part of the contract. Some of them
we, in a way, forced to join us, as we took the guns and horses of the
unwilling ones or of those who acted at all in a suspicious way. We also
called them traitors. But most of the burghers joined us of their own
free will. Many had not taken the oath of neutrality, as they had been
beyond the reach of the enemy; others had, after Lord Roberts'
threatening proclamations, ridden over to the enemy to give up their
arms, but had given up their old rifles and kept the Mausers for
'eventualities,' to use the now historical word of Sir Alfred Milner.

A few of the oath-breakers tried to excuse themselves by the Jesuit plea
that either they did not mean what they swore or else they had purposely
changed the form of the oath. In judging those who broke the oath of
neutrality later on, we must remember that the enemy did not keep to
their part of the contract, and so our men were justified in considering
it as null and void, and, according to William Stead, their forcing us
to take the oath of neutrality was against the Geneva Convention. But it
is too difficult a question for me to discuss.

When the enemy, a few days later, drove us from Olifantsnek, General de
la Rey sent Captain Kirsten with twenty men to the neighbouring kopjes
to prevent the enemy from going on a plundering expedition. Then I for
the first time saw a farm-house burnt down by the enemy. From a high
kopje, by the aid of a telescope, we could distinctly see the movements
of the khakies. The bitter feeling that was roused in us in our
helplessness is not to be described.

General Baden-Powell was in Rustenburg, and Magatonek was also in
possession of the enemy.

It was a most interesting and adventurous time that we spent near the
Magalies Mountains. By day we went reconnoitring along the hills near
the mountains in the direction of Olifantsnek, and towards evening we
withdrew into the thick woods of the kloofs, where it was delightfully
warm both for ourselves and for our horses. When a small number of the
enemy came in our direction, we fired at them unexpectedly from the
hills, and so protected the farm-houses on the mountain-sides.
Occasionally the khakies ventured a little nearer, but always had to
retreat in disorder.

I once nearly fell into the hands of the enemy. As we were reconnoitring
on one of the kopjes, I suggested to a friend that we should go to the
farm in front of us, where none of us had been since Olifantsnek was in
possession of the enemy. We had to ford a donga closed in by barbed
wire. When we got to the farm, we were told that the enemy had not been
there, with the exception of a khaki who had lost his way. He had taken
six eggs from a nest in a kraal and swallowed them greedily, and had
then passed on to the garden without speaking a word to the harmless,
inquisitive women of the farm.

For safety's sake I put the boys on guard and had the horses tied. The
view was so enclosed on all sides that the enemy could appear most
unexpectedly from Olifantsnek. We had been there only a short time, when
we were told that the enemy were coming in large numbers from the
direction of Rustenburg. We mounted at once and rode back, but could
not get back to our comrades on the hills because of the barbed wire in
the donga. We had gone only about 250 paces along the drift, when the
enemy came riding along. Fortunately, they were intent on plunder and
did not see us, as they kept their eyes fixed in the direction of the
house. If we had been a few seconds later we should have fallen into
their hands. The few burghers on the kopjes began to fire at them, and
when I got to the top of one of the kopjes I saw the enemy--about 100 in
number--fleeing in great disorder. This expedition cost them several
dead and wounded, besides their plunder--meal, fowls, and other
things--that they dropped in their flight.

When I went back to the farm later on, I was told that one of the girls
had clapped her hands with delight when the enemy fled past them. That
must have been the reason why she and her family were so cruelly
insulted and plundered by the khakies afterwards. We met with great
kindness during our stay in the Magalies Mountains. We always got
something to eat, and towards evening we bought some loaves of bread to
take back with us to our hiding-place. In those days we could always
get forage for our horses, and they were in very good condition.

Meanwhile General de la Rey had gone with a commando to the west of
Rustenburg, and had left two Commandants in the Zwartkoppen, to the
north-east of Rustenburg.

When we got the tidings that the enemy had taken possession of
Selikatsnek, we went as rapidly as we could to the Zwartkoppen. We had
many adventures on our way. My brother and I rode on ahead, thinking
that the others would follow, but they went a round-about way, and so
did not catch us up. When we left the wide tract of wood that stretches
along the Magalies Mountains, we noticed that the enemy from Rustenburg
had come to meet the column from Selikatsnek. Fortunately, our horses
were good, and we escaped the danger by riding back into the wood to a
farm that I knew of. While we were giving our horses a rest there, a
despatch-rider came along looking for a reconnoitring corps. We rode
with him in the track of our comrades, who had taken a great circuit
round Rustenburg. We arrived safely at Zwartkoppen, and immediately
joined Commandant Boshoff, who had just returned from Machadodorp.

The Commandants now followed General de la Rey. We came up with his
commando to the west of Rustenburg, where he had surrounded a party of
the enemy. Commandant Boshoff, however, was immediately sent to
Olifantsnek, as the enemy had left Rustenburg and the pass was clear.
Our men were most changeable in their moods. The slightest favourable
tidings raised their spirits, but any unfavourable news made their
courage sink into their shoes. There was much talk about the retreating
movement of the enemy. Some spoke of intervention; others said the
English soldiers had refused to fight any longer, or that the whole of
the colony was in rebellion. This talk went the round even among the
officers, probably because they did not understand the enemy's
movements.

Now we know the meaning of it all. It was De Wet who was being followed.
We were not two days at Olifantsnek, when, to our great surprise, De Wet
arrived with a commando of 2,800 men, followed by 40,000 English. He
had been by treason separated along with Steyn from the chief commando,
and had been chased by the enemy a month already.

It was a great lager that advanced through Olifantsnek--the largest
commando that we had seen yet, with numerous carts, waggons, beasts of
burden, and other belongings. And it was then I made the acquaintance of
President Steyn and De Wet. Our Commandant with his men accompanied
President Steyn to Machadodorp to President Kruger. We put up our tents
for the time being next to those of President Steyn, so that we had time
and opportunity enough to learn to know him. When the enemy a few days
later broke through at Magatonek, to the west of Rustenburg, General De
Wet sent for me one evening and ordered me to take a report to
Rustenburg, and gave me some instructions for the Commandants there.

I had to take a message for President Steyn also, that the ambulance of
the Orange Free State was to follow the lager in the direction of the
Krokodil River.

Late at night I arrived at Rustenburg, only to find that the lagers had
already taken flight. The enemy were expected at any moment. But the
ambulance was there still, and all night long I led it in the direction
the General had told me the lagers would take.

Late the following morning I arrived at De Wet's lager, which had moved
a few hours further on to Sterkstroom. The commando left there that
afternoon, and went along the Magalies Mountains to Commandonek. That
day and that night we had a first experience of the long tiresome
marches that enabled De Wet to mislead the enemy.

That night President Steyn made a most favourable impression on us with
his talk. He did not try to encourage us with hopes of intervention, but
merely pointed out that the war might last a long time still, and that
we would have to enter the Colony.

At Commandonek we rested a few hours while De Wet himself went to
reconnoitre. He sent a message to the English officer in charge of the
pass that he must surrender. The officer replied that he did not quite
understand _who_ must surrender--he or De Wet. I think this was merely a
dodge on De Wet's part to find out by the signature of the reply who
was in charge of the army at the pass, and so to make a guess at the
numbers of the enemy.

He decided not to attack the pass, and before daybreak next day we were
on the move again. Some time afterwards at Warmbad I heard that an
English General had related this dodge of De Wet's, but he thought De
Wet had threatened him with a very small force, as his commando must
still have been at Olifantsnek. It is an example of the way we misled
the enemy by our mobility.



VII

WITH PRESIDENT STEYN TO PRESIDENT KRUGER


Near Krokodil River, on Carlyle's Farm, President Steyn and his
attendants separated from De Wet's commando, and went in the direction
of Zoutpan to Machadodorp. We were about seventy-five men in all. The
little commando consisted of carts, a few trolleys, and horsemen on
strong, well-conditioned horses. The Free Staters nearly all had one or
two spare horses. Our own commando still always consisted of twelve or
thirteen men, and the small ambulance waggon which we used for
provisions. The French doctor had remained behind with De la Rey. We
moved very fast. At Zoutpan--a sunken kopje like the mouth of a crater,
with a pan at the bottom, from which the salt is got--I met some old
acquaintances, who pretended to have come there for salt. During our
talk my suspicions were roused by their curiosity, and by their
knowledge of President Steyn's arrival. I also doubted their tale that
their trolley stood behind a kopje, and not at Zoutpan, and I warned the
Commandant against them. He became very anxious, and made us move on as
rapidly as possible, for once we had crossed the Pienaars River all
danger from khaki would be past. It was a good thing that the Commandant
made us travel so fast, for we had only just outspanned at Pienaars
River the following morning when the khakies' bomb-Maxim began firing at
the outposts of General Grobler's Waterberg commando, which was
stationed there. We had only just time to inspan and ride off to the
Boschveld, towards the Olifants River, where we would be safe, while
General Grobler disappeared in the direction of Warmbad.

At Pienaars River I made the acquaintance of General Celliers, who was
loudly proclaiming the way in which he would squash khaki if only the
burghers would fight. He is the exception to the rule that all braggarts
are cowards. Most of the braggarts have gradually disappeared from the
scene, but the deeds of this hero were always in accordance with his
words.

We heard afterwards that a detachment of the enemy had followed us, but
we had had too great a start, and had besides taken a short-cut of which
they knew nothing. It would not have been easy for the khakies to
overtake a well-mounted commando like President Steyn's.

We were also told that the enemy knew of the arrival of President Steyn,
which strengthened my belief that the two suspicious characters at
Zoutpan were the informers. Whenever we, as the attacking party, made
prisoners, they always declared that they had known all about our plan
of attack--probably to discourage us with the thought that through the
treachery of our own people the enemy always knew all about our
movements.

For a long way we followed the same road that we had taken with
Commandant Boshoff to Rustenburg. We arrived safely at Waterval-Boven
(President Kruger having already retreated from Machadodorp), where we
stayed a few days and heard the famous Battle of Dalmanutha (August
27)--the most awful roar of cannon that I have ever heard.

From Waterval-Boven we went to Nelspruit, to which President Kruger had
moved in his railway-home. We gave our horses a week's rest and passed
the time fishing and hunting. We were content there, as we got plenty to
eat, and our horses, too, were well fed--an important matter to us just
then. Circumstances were forcing us to attach much value to all sorts of
trifles that we would formerly not even have noticed.

If once one has suffered the pangs of hunger, one learns to value the
comfort and luxury of home; and if one has wandered about for weeks
without seeing woman or child, one learns to appreciate their gentleness
and charm and to understand Schiller's Züchtige Hausfrau in 'Das Lied
von der Glocke.' How often in our wanderings we longed for good
literature during our long, tiring, monotonous rides! And how terrible
was the thought of the moral hurt we were suffering--voluntarily in a
way, yet forced to it by a sense of honour and duty. For in this lay the
grievousness of the war, that a powerful nation--influenced by a few
unscrupulous leaders--was trying to annihilate a small nation that
demanded the right of existence, and was therefore forced to defend that
right. It was a happy time for us when we had the opportunity of turning
our thoughts towards literature and other things than commando work.

The privations that we had already endured were small indeed in
comparison to those which awaited us. It was well with the Uitlander
optimist who remained in our country while the Republics could give him
the comforts he demanded as his right, but who, as soon as things went
wrong, and he saw nothing but misery in the future, left for his own
country--there to sit in judgment on our peasant-nation. How I long for
the gift of being able to express myself, to give a true account of the
self-denial of our burghers and of the misery that we endured! How my
heart bleeds when I think of the great sorrow that has come upon my poor
people!

When the enemy approached the Delagoa railway-line, President Steyn left
with his escort for Hectorspruit. I had to follow with a trolley for
which there was no room on the train. Because of the disorder that
reigned everywhere I had to wait nearly three days before I could start.
I was pretty nearly famished on my arrival at Hectorspruit, and ate
greedily of the remains of the porridge left by some burghers, among
whom were two sons of State Secretary Reitz. President Steyn's lager had
in the meanwhile become 250 men strong, under Commandant Lategan, and
was then at Krokodil River.

At Nelspruit I met a couple of old friends, Malherbe and Celliers, with
whom I left for the lager. They were both Transvaalers who had been
studying in Holland, but had returned before finishing their studies on
account of the war. The commando was well supplied with weapons and
ammunition, as the Delagoa Bay line brought plenty to our store. What
became of the rest I do not know, as President Steyn was in a hurry and
our commando left first for the North.

The ford at Krokodil River was about fifty paces wide--made for the
occasion and difficult to cross. The trolleys and waggons that had to
cross to the lager on the opposite side gave us much trouble, as they
sank deep into the sand. We harnessed a double span of oxen to the
waggons, undressed ourselves, and had to swim alongside the animals to
get them through. Occasionally something dropped from one of the waggons
and had to be fished up in a hurry to save it from the strong current.
There was much shouting and laughter, and if any crocodile had been in
the neighborhood he would have suppressed his hunger until the storm was
over.

On the banks of the river there was a constant shooting at fish and game,
and even at crocodiles, who showed themselves occasionally. There was
game in abundance. It seemed as if all the game of the Transvaal, that
is becoming so scarce, had fled to this part.

We were on our way to Pietersburg through the Boschveld of South-East
Lydenburg, which might be called a desert in winter. It was a journey
difficult even for a trek Boer, and more than difficult for a large
commando. A man called Bester was our guide. Some two years before he
had made the same journey on a hunting expedition, and now he was able
to follow the ruts which the wheels of his waggon had made then, and
which would be in all probability deepened by the summer rains. Our
means of transport were chiefly carts and trolleys, on which we also put
our bedding to lighten the burden of our riding horses.



VIII

WITH PRESIDENT STEYN IN THE BOSCHVELD--LOST


On September 12 we left the Krokodil River early in the morning, after
first watering our cattle and filling our water-bags. Our guide did not
expect to come across any water before the Sabie--a river several days'
journey further on. There were several springs on the way, but as that
part of the country was so little known, because of its unhealthiness,
no one could tell when the last rains had fallen.

The shrubs and bushes had grown high above the ruts made by the waggon
two years ago, and were a great hindrance to us. The road we followed
twisted and wound rather more than was agreeable, but it was certainly
easy to follow for the lagers that came after us. The horsemen rode next
to the lagers to shoot bucks. We had no 'slaughter-cattle' with us, so
had to live on the game that we shot.

In the neighbourhood of the river we still came across birds and
insects, but the further we went the more monotonous and _dead_ Nature
became. I could never have pictured such a lifeless wood to myself. No
sound of insects was to be heard, no chirp or song of bird; and not even
the trail of a serpent was to be seen.

There was a melancholy stillness. Traces of game were in abundance. It
seemed as if only those animals lived there which, accustomed to the
monotonous silence, withdrew noiselessly from the gaze of the
interloper, or, in their ignorant curiosity, stood still until a
hunter's bullet warned them or put an end to their lives. To them we
must have been strange disturbers of the peace. Shots fell in all
directions; sometimes a whole salvo was discharged when we came upon a
herd of bucks. There were many thornless trees growing in their stately
height far above the usual scrub of the Boschveld. Our horses often
grazed on the sweet buffalo grass that always grows under trees. Looked
at from a rise, the Boschveld appeared to be nothing but trees--trees
as far as the eye could see. One shuddered at the thought of what would
become of anyone who lost his way there, since for miles and miles there
was no water to be seen and no trail to go by. It made one hurry back to
the safety of the lager, trusting to the capability of the guide.

To our great joy, the first spring contained water. It was a large pool
surrounded by rocks, where the game was accustomed to drink. We arrived
there towards afternoon, rested a few hours, and continued our journey
with fresh courage. As the waggons moved too slowly for our liking, we
rode on ahead; but the consequence was that, when it got dark and we
off-saddled, we had no bedding, for nearly all the waggons were obliged
to outspan when darkness set in, as there was no road.

We knee-haltered our horses in case there were lions about, and
collected a large quantity of wood to keep the fire going all night.
That night our talk, of course, ran upon lion-hunting and shooting
expeditions. Then we crept as close to the fire as possible, and were
soon in a troubled, or untroubled, sleep, dreaming of lions and other
wild animals. But I felt the cold very much, and could not sleep without
my rug, and kept turning from side to side to get as much warmth from
the fire as possible. If only I had made two fires! In a battle I have
been between two fires, and did not find it at all agreeable, but in
this case it would have been different.

I lay awake, waiting for the third fire, the red dawn, but not in a
poetical mood. There is a time for everything; that I learnt during the
war. Rain is lovely, and cold gives energy, but one must be warm to
appreciate it. As I lay thus, four mules, tethered together, came closer
and closer up to our fire, grazing all the while. I lay still, listening
to the peculiar noise made by the biting off of each mouthful of grass.
I seemed to expect a joke, and suddenly one of the mules fell on his
back. In a moment all our heroes were up and ready to defend themselves
against lions or khakies, according to their different dreams. I
laughed, and laughed again, so that the hyenas could hear me a mile off,
and the startled lion-hunters began to laugh also, so that we woke up
the whole camp. This little episode made my blood circulate, so that I
very soon also was in the land of dreams.

As the burghers chased all the game on ahead of the lager, the President
and Commandant Boshoff agreed to go in advance, so as to have a chance
of seeing the numerous kinds of wild buck and larger game. I went with
them. Greatly to my distress I forgot to ask our guide what direction we
would take that day with regard to the sun. An experienced hunter would
not have forgotten it, as he knows from experience that in the
excitement of the chase we often leave the beaten track. I had to pay
dearly for my forgetfulness. I rode some distance to the left of the
President, but took care to keep him in sight. But the Boer is
wonderfully disobedient to any authority, and not long after two men
made their appearance to my left, and I saw that if I did not look out
they would be ahead of me in no time, and chase all the game away from
me. As the donga next to which we rode seemed to be a favourite resort
for game, I took the same direction as they did, more to the left. The
dongas ran into each other with numerous bends and curves, and were
sometimes overgrown with high grass, then again quite bare. I paid no
attention to the direction we took.

After a while one of the men wounded a buck, and they both rode into the
donga after it. I rode on, to cross the donga a little further on, so as
not to have to follow in the track of the other two, and saw a red buck
on the other side, which I wounded so badly that it seemed unnecessary
to fire again, and I rode leisurely towards it. But when I had crossed
the donga the buck had disappeared, and I began to seek for the traces
of blood, but I soon had to give up the search, not to lose sight of the
other two men. They, however, seemed to be a great distance off, as I
did not overtake them, and I did not succeed in tracing them in the
direction that the wounded buck had led them, as the track in the grass
was invisible to my inexperienced eye.

I rode back to the donga, and deliberated on the course to take. In all
directions I heard shots, right and left, but I stood irresolute. I had
no watch with me to find the four quarters of the wind, but the sun had
only just risen, and I made a guess with an imaginary compass. It was
lucky for me that I made such a good guess, and had paid great attention
to the direction we had taken with regard to the sun. I was certain that
I should come upon the traces of the lager if only I kept within the
sides of a right angle, unless the lager had at the start taken a sharp
turn to the right or left.

But it was possible that in our excitement we might have crossed the
waggon track which the lager was to follow; then the lager would be far
to the right. Standing thus like the ass between two bundles of hay, I
was not in the mood to think lightly of my case, but had to act at once,
so I chose the safest and more probable of the two sides of my right
angle--namely, the left, as I would then in any case not be moving
towards Portuguese territory, and could always turn to the Krokodil
River.

I felt pretty certain now, as it was more probable that we had not
crossed the old waggon tract, and every moment I expected to hear the
switching of the long whips. But when I had gone some distance I was
obliged to return to the donga, and retrace my way to the place where we
had slept. A clever Boer would have succeeded in finding the way back,
but I soon lost my way altogether. I lost the traces of the horse's
hoofs, and the dongas looked to me so different that in one place where
a donga branched off I did not know which to follow. An intense feeling
of desolation took possession of me. Lost in a wilderness without food
or water! I thought of the twelve or thirteen men who got lost in this
wood on a hunting expedition, and of whom only one was saved. A great
fear came upon me. Gradually I became calmer, and tried to form some
plan of action. I resolved to keep to the left, where I had already seen
a solitary mountain. Perhaps water was to be found there.

My gun was loaded with Dum-Dum bullets, specially prepared for bucks. I
had filed through the steel to the lead, so that the bullet would expand
at once when it came into contact with bone. I found a buck tame in its
very wildness, but I missed it, for the aim of my gun, a fine sporting
Mauser, had been bent by the branches of the trees. It was a good thing
that I did not come across a lion, or, rather, that a lion did not come
across me.

I had to ride under trees, through shrubs and grass, and had to keep a
sharp look-out, as the king of beasts sometimes takes the lords of
creation unawares. And I had to look out for an opportunity to shoot a
buck--the only food within my reach. The nearer I came to the mountain,
the surer I was that I had lost my way completely, and the more I became
reconciled to my fate. I planned how I should build a large fire in the
night for myself and my horse, and how I should defend myself against a
lion with a burning piece of wood.

Suddenly my horse went faster and pushed to the left. Greatly to my
astonishment, I saw that the attraction was a little stream of water
that he had scented in a donga. I off-saddled, and let my horse graze in
the luxuriant grass.

Now I was strengthened in my belief that I had taken the wrong
direction, for we were all under the impression that we should not soon
reach water. I prepared some more Dum-Dum bullets with a small file that
I carried in my pocket, and did not let my horse graze long, but
hastened to the mountain to find a better shelter for the night. To my
great joy, I came upon the wide road about a thousand paces further on.
I followed the road along the mountain for half an hour, when I came
upon the lager, camped near a stream--probably the same stream at which
I and my horse had quenched our thirst.

As we sat round our fires that night we heard shots fired in the
distance from the direction that we had come. Some men were sent out
immediately, and returned after a while with a man quite exhausted from
hunger and thirst, and paralyzed with fear; he had been unable to
overtake the lager.



IX

PRACTICAL HINTS--ADVENTURE ON THE SABIE--NORTH OF LYDENBURG


Experience teaches us. The knowledge that we have gained in this war we
must pass on to the coming generation. It may be of use in a war of the
future, or on some other occasion. Therefore Oom Dietlof will take this
opportunity to give his nephews in South Africa some practical hints
that may be of use to a burgher in his travels or in a war. If anyone
loses his way in the same way that I have just described, he must
remember the following way of finding the four quarters of the wind:

The small hand of a watch describes a circle in twelve hours, while the
apparent movement of the sun round the earth is in twenty-four hours.
The movement of the small hand is therefore twice as fast as that of
the sun. If one points the small hand of a horizontal-lying watch to the
sun at twelve o'clock, then the hands and the figure XII. lie in the
meridian as well as the sun.

In the northern half-circle the sun and the hands move in the same
direction. In one hour's time the small hand goes a distance of 360°/12
= 30°, and the sun goes a distance of 360°/24 = 15°. If at one o'clock
one points the small hand of a horizontal-lying watch to the sun, the
line that divides the acute angle between the figures I. and XII. lies
in the meridian. So one can always find the meridian.

In the southern half-circle the sun and hands move in opposite
directions, therefore one must point the figure XII. to the sun, and
then divide the acute angle between the figure XII. and the small hand
to find the meridian.

In this way one can at any time find out the direction one has taken.
But everyone has not always a good watch, and the sun sometimes hides
behind the clouds. Then it is better to have a good compass--but better
still not to lose one's way.

Besides such simple articles as a pocket-knife, a water-bag, etc.,
which are indispensable to a traveller in our country, everyone ought to
carry with him a good plaster, a nosebag, and some snake poison; maize
(mealies) for his horse, the cheapest and most strengthening food that
we know of, can always be carried in the nosebag. Snake poison prepared
by a good Kaffir doctor is the only cure for snake-bites or the bite of
any poisonous insect. The Kaffirs prepare it from some (to us) unknown
shrub, and from the poison of the most venomous snake, which they make
into a powder. This powder is used as an antidote by swallowing a small
dose--enough to cover the point of a pocket-knife--and also by applying
some to the bite, after first having cut an opening into the bitten part
with a pocket-knife. Some people protect themselves against the poison
of a snake-bite by regularly swallowing some of the poison and
vaccinating themselves with it. One can even protect one's self in this
way against the bite of the poisonous file-snake of the Boschveld--a
snake the shape of a three-cornered file, sometimes from 3 to 4 feet
long. It is a fact that the person whose body is proof against the
poison of a snake-bite is never bitten, as he is feared by snakes.
Formerly I doubted it, but I have myself seen people who have made
themselves proof against a bite in this way, and I have also heard it
from people in whom I have the utmost faith.

Alcohol is also a good antidote, provided one takes it immediately and
in such quantities that it goes to the head. I would recommend everyone
always to take a small quantity of brandy with him on commando, if
experience had not taught me that some take even a mosquito-bite as an
excuse to 'take a drop,' and I am against that on principle.

Often while loading my horse the thought struck me whether the poor
brute ever had a wish to protest, 'Surely this is becoming too bad!' and
that reminds me that one must be very careful not to overload. The
knapsack must not be filled with kaboe mealies (roasted maize) for one's
self, while the nosebag of the poor horse remains empty.

More than one prisoner of war has bitterly regretted that he did not
take his horse's power of endurance into greater consideration. Now I
must take up the thread of my tale.

The following morning the lager would start at three o'clock, and, as
my horse was in good condition, the owner of the horse that had been
left behind asked me to fetch it before the lager left. He explained to
me where I would find it tied to a tree about half an hour's ride from
the lager, so I started with a friend at about two o'clock at night. On
the way we came across a mule that had wandered away while grazing,
ignorant of all the danger he was exposing himself to in the uninhabited
Boschveld. The creature gave us much trouble by refusing to be caught
and constantly dodging behind a tree, so we lost a great deal of time.
On our way back, close to the lager, we heard the whine of the wild-dog,
the well-known feared wolf. We thought it very interesting to come
across a wild animal of which we had no fear just then. But when we
reached the camping-ground of the lager, where only the trolley stood to
which the wandering mule belonged, we found to our surprise that both
white men and Kaffirs had given up the search for the mule for fear of
the wild-dog. They had all congregated round large fires. The wild-dog,
however, is harmless by himself; like the khakies, his strength lies in
numbers. We had to leave the sick horse to join the bucks of the
Boschveld on its recovery, until the horse-sickness came. After a long,
tiring, but very interesting ride we arrived at the Sabie, where the
rest of the lager was already encamped. The Sabie is about the size of
the Krokodil River, and its scenery of woods and valleys formed a sharp
contrast to the deadly monotony of the Boschveld that lay behind us. We
had crossed the bare desert and were now in a part of the country
inhabited by Kaffirs. The following day the lager was removed half an
hour further on, and there we remained a few days.

At night four of us were persuaded to go eel-catching in a
crocodile-pool that we had discovered a little further on. We made a
large fire to entice the eels, and, as we were none of us great lovers
of angling, we made a splendid bonfire, as there was plenty of dry wood
to be had.

There was something particularly attractive in these large fires on
those quiet, dark nights of the wilderness. The glow threw a sombre
light on the water that gave one a creepy feeling, as if a crocodile
were on the watch for us in the water, and lions at our back between
the large trees. What must they have thought of us?

The bank of the river seemed to be about 6 feet high, and not very
steep. We made the fire closer and closer to what seemed the bank. I saw
someone lift up a huge branch, walk to the bank with it, and plant his
left foot firmly on the ground. The reeds gave way beneath him. What
seemed a firm bank, by the glow of the fire, proved to be a mass of
reeds and grass, and the poor man fell down a height of 6 feet, his fall
being hastened by the heavy branch he held. For a moment we stood
irresolute. To jump after him into a crocodile-pool! But he called for
help, and we had to act immediately. Fortunately, one acts almost
instinctively in such cases. One of the others slid down the bank--the
thought striking him: 'If only there are not two crocodiles!' Landing on
a horizontal branch, he stretched out his hand to the drowning man,
someone else took hold of his left hand, and so they were both saved. If
a crocodile had been in the neighbourhood, he would probably have stood
on the defensive. Such a queer, two-legged animal who led the attack in
such a strange but decided way must have roused his respect.

This piece of fun put an end to our eel-fishing. We had caught only one
eel--and a man.

The following morning there was parade for President Steyn. His speech
to us was touching and to the point, and showed that he believed in a
good ending to the war, if the burghers were capable of enduring such
hardships as at present. Then he also told us in what a hurry he was to
reach his burghers, as he was afraid that the enemy were doing all in
their power to make them turn against him. We all liked President Steyn
very much.

On our journey through the Selatie Goldfields, past the Marietje River
to Pilgrim's Rest, we crossed the steepest mountain that I have ever
seen. A double span of oxen was harnessed to each waggon. The oxen were
lent us for the occasion by the Boers living on the plateau in front of
us. After every few steps upwards we had to put stones under the wheels
to prevent the waggons from slipping back. It took our little lager
nearly all day to reach the plateau. Then we had a most magnificent
view of the Boschveld that lay behind us. In the distance the Lobombo
Mountains were visible on the boundary of the Portuguese and Transvaal
territory. The first rains had fallen on the plateau, so the green grass
was a refreshing change for our eyes. The horses would be able to graze
well, and the good feeding would soon make them lose their old coats,
and then they would be sleek and glossy again.

From the high plateau we descended, over a 'lumpy' veld, with an oasis
here and there in a hole or valley, or on the top of a hill, to
Pilgrim's Rest. Some miles before we reached this little town we passed
beside the water-works that supply a strong stream of water for the
machinery of the gold-mines. We simply stormed the shops, that were
still well supplied with provisions, and bought all sorts of luxuries
and necessaries for our journey. From Pilgrim's Rest we once more
crossed a steep mountain, along a road that for length and height has
not its equal. In the neighbourhood of Ohrigstad, a little town that we
left to our right, I asked a Boer woman whether the fever did not make
one's life impossible there, and I got a very naïf reply: 'No; this
year the fever was not so bad. We all got ill, but not one of us died.'

The rest of our journey to the north of Lydenburg, over Spekstroom
River, along Watervalop, over Steenkampsberg to Roossenekal, was very
tedious. The uninhabited Boschveld was very interesting, and we had
sufficient provisions then, but the poor, uncivilized Boer inhabitants
of the Lydenburg district were unable to supply us with necessaries, the
want of which we were beginning to feel. We could not buy a loaf of
bread anywhere. And it is anything but pleasant in a time of war to come
across such lax and unenergetic people as they proved to be. The men
were nearly always at home, and appeared to be discouraged and unwilling
to fight. We had all lost our sweet tooth. That one could tell by such
expressions as: 'Even if you give me sugar:--' But occasionally we got a
more desirable substitute, when a beehive was discovered in a cleft of a
rock. Some of our men are particularly clever at discovering a hive. I
have often seen a man stand gazing up at the sky, walk on a short
distance, and again stand gazing, and after awhile appear with a bucket
of honey. By watching the flight of the bees they find out in what
direction the hive is. A practised eye can see the rising and settling
of the bees above the hive from a great distance.



X

FROM ROOSSENEKAL TO PIETERSBURG--WITH GENERAL BEYERS TO THE MAGALIES
MOUNTAINS


We went in a very different direction from that of General Ben Viljoen's
commando, which took the road to Pietersburg through Leydsdorp.
President Steyn celebrated the anniversary of his birthday at
Roossenekal, and addressed us in the same spirit as on the former
occasion at the Sabie.

Roossenekal is famous for its caves, or grottos, in which the Mapochers
hid themselves so well during the Mapoch War. We made use of the
opportunity to visit the grottos, of whose formation I should like to
know more. What appeared on the outside to be an ordinary hill proved a
most wonderful natural building containing many rooms. The old kraal
walls and the peach-trees and 'Turkish figs', (prickly-pears), overgrown
by wild trees, and an occasional earthen vessel, were the remains of the
Kaffir city. Of course we cut our names into the rocks by way of
becoming immortal. We could not help speaking with great admiration of
the wild Kaffir tribe who from such a hiding-place fought for months for
a life of independence. We had no time to visit the grottos further
away.

Although our horses were well fed during this time of rest, they
profited little, on account of the constant cold rains that fell. We
fortunately still had some tents, that we used only in case of rain. Our
Commandant was still always in doubt whether to proceed to Pietersburg,
for we were quite ignorant of the enemy's movements during the last few
weeks. Later on, when he got the information that the enemy were
stationed at Pinaars River bridge, and that we could not with safety
pass Warmbad and Pinaars River, we had to turn off at Kobaltmyn to the
right to cross Olifants River lower down. We had already passed
Kobaltmyn in the beginning of July on our journey after General de la
Rey. The latter part of our journey, along Olifants River, through
Zebedelsland to Pietersburg, was exhausting for man and horse. Some of
us often had nothing but a little rice and a small piece of meat for
several days in succession. There was scarcely any grass for our horses,
and yet we had to ride hard night and day.

After a tiring journey of fully a month, President Steyn's commando
arrived at Pietersburg on October 11. Although we had always intended to
follow President Steyn to De Wet, my brother and I, with Malherbe, now
accepted an invitation from my uncle, Ignace Maré, to stay awhile on his
farm at Marabastad. President Steyn left with his commando for
Nylstroom. Our horses were worn out, and could not follow the commando.
Most of the men had a spare horse that was still in good condition, and
although my brother and I had only one horse apiece, we often had to do
the hardest work.

My aunt and uncle did their best to make our stay a pleasant one, and
our horses were well fed. Soon General Ben Viljoen's commando arrived at
Marabastad, and stayed there a few weeks, so that we also experienced
the discomfort arising from a lager camped on one's farm. The Boer is
deprived by it of all necessaries, and all sorts and conditions of men
constantly visit his house. Some of them, the riff-raff of the commando,
are very unwelcome guests, for they do much mischief intentionally, and
thereby give the commando a very bad name. The poles to which the wire
is attached for camping at a farm were yet left undamaged. The burghers
were still accustomed to get plenty of dry wood in the Boschveld, and
were not yet so demoralized as to work damage without scruple.

We stayed at my uncle's far longer than we at first intended. My saddle
had chafed the horse's back so severely that I could not ride it for
several months. My brother got an attack of malaria, and just as he was
recovering had a relapse, so that President Steyn was so far in advance
of us that there was no question of overtaking him.

The commando had already left Marabastad when we started for
Tweefontein, near Warmbad, on our now strong, sleek horses. There we
joined Commandant Kemp, of the Krugersdorp commando, under Wyk III., who
had parted from Ben Viljoen at Marabastad because the latter had on a
Sunday afternoon during service fired off several cannon-shots for the
edification of a few fast women.

Malherbe, my brother, and I formed a sort of comradeship under Corporal
Botman--or, to put it simply, we were 'chums.' At Warmbad we heard many
interesting things about the khakies, who had stayed there nineteen days
on their hunt after De Wet. We could not understand why they destroyed
the bathing-houses, unless it were to deprive our wounded of the chance
of recovery.

The condition of the people in Zoutpansberg and in Waterberg, where the
enemy had been, was not very cheerful. Everyone complained that there
was no sugar to be had, that the meal was getting low, and that soon
there would be no clothes. Pietersburg was exhausted by the commandos,
and the courage of the inhabitants was nearly at an ebb. They would not
yet make the sacrifice that would part them from their families. The
enemy had not yet driven them to despair by the destruction of their
fields and goods.

Every sensible person knew that the Republics would lose in the
long-run in a guerilla war unless something unforeseen happened. At the
time that we fled from Pretoria my mother said she would have hope as
long as her 'gorillas' remained in the veld. Even if we clung to a
straw, the possibility always remained that things might take a
favourable turn as long as a fair number of burghers remained in the
veld.

The burghers from the different districts now in Waterberg were earnest
and full of courage. Noticeable changes for the better had been made.
Beyers, a man in whom the men had the utmost faith, was made
Assistant-Commandant-General, and was to lead a commando of 1,500
horsemen from Waterberg, Zoutpansberg, Krugersdorp, etc., to the
Hoogeveld. The discipline was much stricter. Cooper and Fanie Grobler,
who had been accused of high treason, promised to keep a sharper
look-out for spies and traitors. And we still always hoped for an
eventual rebellion in Cape Colony. That hope was our life-buoy on which
we kept our eyes fixed. We felt that there our safety lay, and the
enthusiasm of the commando was heightened by the desire to celebrate
Paardekraal Day in Krugersdorp on December 15. As a sailor longs for the
sea, so we longed for a meeting with the khakies when we left for the
Magalies Mountains in the beginning of December. Our commando was light
and mobile, with provisions for a short time only. Such heavy cannon as
the Long Toms were of no use to us now. Hence-forward we were to live on
the produce of the surrounding country, as there was no basis from which
we were to operate. Besides this, the khakies very kindly made over some
of their provisions, arms, and ammunition to us in a skirmish or battle,
so that afterwards we had more Lee-Metfords than Mausers in our
possession.

At Krokodil River I had the privilege of seeing how a honey-bird takes a
human being to a bees' nest. As we were lying under a tree, a honey-bird
settled close to us. Corporal Botman followed it as it flew chirping
from tree to tree, and called to it that he was following, until the
bird stopped at the hive. The grateful finder always rewards the bird
with a piece of honeycomb that he puts aside for it. But I have never
been able to discover whether the bird or the insects eat the honey. I
know that the 'bug-birds,' that are always seen on or near cattle, do
not feed on the bugs with which the cattle are covered, but on the
locusts that fly about the herd. Last week, when our guards took us for
a walk outside the fort, I noticed that a kind of sparrow in India has
the same trick of catching the locusts that are driven on ahead by the
cattle.

I shall not try to give a description of the works of the machinery that
moved mechanically to the Magalies Mountains, for I should have to guess
at the particulars in this historical little tale. Mechanical I call the
journey, for there were days and nights in which we were numbed, body
and soul, exhausted by hunger and thirst and want of sleep.

When we were at Bethany, a convoy of the enemy was seen moving in the
direction of Commandonek. When it noticed our guard, it dragged its
curved body with great zeal through the pass. I think the khakies also
must have been bored to death on those long, fruitless journeys. We left
Bethany towards evening, and reached the Magalies Mountains the
following morning after a tiring journey in the night past Sterkstroom,
through the Kromriverskloof to the foot of Onuapadnek, or
Boschfonteinnek. (I learnt the names from the inhabitants.) In the kloof
we passed the burnt remains of the convoy that was taken by Commandant
Boshoff--who joined De la Rey after having taken Steyn to his
destination--and his brave little troop of burghers. They were obliged
to abandon the convoy, however, on the arrival of reinforcements for the
enemy. A sickening stench came from the corpses that they had left
unburied in their flight.

We rested a few hours at the top of the steep nek. On descending on the
other side we came, to our mutual surprise, upon De la Key's lager at
the foot of the mountain on Barnard's farm.



XI

BATTLE OF NOOITGEDACHT


We were busy all evening baking vet-koek (a kind of scone fried in
lard), as we had received the order to be ready to leave the following
morning at one o'clock, and to take provisions sufficient for two
days. Although our officers were beginning to see the advisability of
keeping their plans secret, we were able to guess that we were going
to attack General Clements' camp, an hour's ride further east at
Nooitgedacht--particularly as the chances of success, in case of an
eventual attack, were being discussed by some of the officers. The
general opinion was that Clements' force was 5,000 strong.

We left quite three-quarters of an hour later than the fixed time in the
early morning of December 13, 1900, and recrossed the steep, narrow
neck, took a way to our right in the Kromriverskloof, making a sharp
turn to Elandskrans, where a strong outpost had been placed by the enemy
on the Magalies Mountains.

That was the crust through which we had to bite to get at the dainties
of the booty. It cannot be denied that victory and booty, in our
impoverished circumstances, were very close together in our thoughts.
The enemy's camp lay at the foot of the long, high cliff that forms a
precipice on that side of the mountain, while the slope of the mountain
on our side was not steep, and there were a great many footholds and
boulders. The artillery had been left in the neck of the pass to protect
the lagers. Beyers, with some Zoutpansbergers, turned away from us to
the right to reach Elandskrans along the mountain ridge. It appeared,
therefore, that Beyers and Kemp were going to make the attack from the
north, with 1,000 men, and that Kemp had the centre and the left wing.
We were again too late. The sun had risen when we began the attack.
Corporal Botman was ordered by Kemp to surround the extreme right of
the enemy's right wing, with thirty men.

We had to storm the left to enclose the enemy in the half-circle. We
were exposed to a rain of bullets, and had to storm through ravines and
reefs, sometimes racing our horses, then leading them, and making use of
every cover. General Beyers, with his splendid sharp-shooters, was
already in hot action with the right wing, and Commandant Kemp in the
centre had forced his way close to the enemy. We tied our horses
together behind a reef, left them in charge of a few men, and advanced,
spreading ourselves in groups of three, four and five. A moment of
extreme anxiety followed.

Not to expose ourselves unnecessarily, we had to peep from behind the
rocks, shoot the course clear, and run to the next cover. Malherbe and I
stayed as close as possible to our cool, collected, brave corporal, and
we had to gasp for breath sometimes if trying to keep up to him. The
others forced their way upwards more to the left, and so formed the
furthest left point of the half-moon.

While the three of us were pushing our way from position to position
into the neighbourhood of the few khakies who already dared not raise
their heads from behind the rocks, I noticed, some 500 paces to our
front, a number of khakies moving in our direction. I warned Malherbe to
keep up his courage, as the enemy were getting reinforcements. A moment
later, while our corporal had again moved onwards, I noticed several
khakies on a stone ridge some 150 paces in front of us. It appeared that
they were driven on by part of the centre and right wing, for just then
two men made their appearance, whom I at once recognised as Boers from
the colour of their clothes and the quick way in which they aimed at me.
I stooped quick as a hare, and immediately rose again. The enemy now
surrendered, I believe to the number of two or three hundred of the
Northumberland Fusiliers, called the 'Fighting Fifth' on account of
their courage and bravery. We also took on the mountain a heliograph
that the enemy had broken.

The khakies acknowledged that we had taken the position with the
greatest possible speed. We were in the majority. But it must not be
forgotten that we were the attacking party and had to expose ourselves,
and also that, although the battle on the mountain extended over a long
line, our right wing had still to reckon with the reinforcements that
were sent up through a narrow kloof from the camp. It was a repetition
of Selikatsnek. The khakies had the good positions, and we had good
cover behind the rocks on the mountain slope. In such a case he is no
match for us.

We went on a few hundred paces over pretty level ground, and then looked
down upon the camp at the foot of the mountain, which consisted of
several hundreds of tents and many waggons. Some of these waggons were
inspanned, some were already retreating, but most of them were not yet
inspanned. The camp lay on the grounds and by the fields of a deserted
farm.

Afterwards I heard that Commandant Badenhorst, of Pretoria (who had
attacked the enemy before our arrival, at the foot of the mountain, and
so suffered the greatest loss), was already retreating, but, hearing the
fighting on the mountain, had renewed his attack.

The enemy could not stand the fire that we opened upon them, and had to
retreat from the camp in the direction of Commandonek. The inevitable
consequence was that the troops on the west, opposite De la Rey, had to
retreat hurriedly so as not to be cut off by the wedge that was forcing
its way along the mountains into the camp. They were far beyond reach of
our bullets. Where De la Rey's cannon were, and why they did not make
themselves heard, I do not know. Neither do I know why General Smuts did
not cut off the retreat of the enemy to the south-east. They had placed
a few cannon to our left in the valley, and bombarded us fiercely on the
mountain without much result. The balls of a small Maxim flew past us
with a hissing sound and hindered us in our aim.

The waggons that were inspanned fled in the direction of Commandonek,
and halted in the valley at a respectful distance from us. Although the
camp appeared to be almost deserted, a continual firing was heard below
us. I could not make out from where it came until I suddenly discovered
several small troops of horsemen who galloped at intervals from behind a
wall in the shade of some trees. They were in all probability left
there as cover for the waggons. The few shots we fired at them missed
their aim. We saw De la Rey's burghers capture a large herd of cattle.

While Malherbe and I were peering from behind our hurriedly erected
entrenchment, and occasionally firing a few shots, I discovered four or
five brave khakies busy dragging along an ammunition waggon, or a gun;
from such a distance we could not distinguish which. We fired at them
with a sight of 800 paces, but did not hit them, as the horizontal
distance to the camp was not more than 400 paces, and we should have
used a sight of 600 paces, but the height of the mountain was very
misleading. Immediately afterwards a span of mules came in the direction
of the supposed gun, so Malherbe and I retreated as fast as we could, to
find a better cover more to the left. It is strange how in a battle one
always has an idea that all the threatened danger is aimed specially at
one's self.

We had to be on the look-out not to fire at our own people, some of whom
were already in the camp. My brother, Malherbe, and I went to the narrow
kloof that I have already mentioned, after a fruitless search for our
horses, which had meanwhile been taken to the entrance of the kloof, and
I heard from my brother that our brave General had been wounded in the
leg by a shell. During the search for our horses we had noticed a long
dust-cloud at the end of Kromriverskloof, near Buffelspoort, moving from
Rustenburg in the direction of Commandonek--in all probability
reinforcements for the enemy, arriving too late.

The Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers, who were most undisciplined, had
descended through the kloof in quest of booty. But the Krugersdorpers,
formerly notorious for their rough behaviour, were now the most orderly,
and did not descend before all the men were collected. The kloof was
strewn with bodies of khakies, who were sent up as reinforcement and
pitilessly shot down by the burghers. The little stream of water was red
with blood, so that we could not even quench our thirst. Some of the
khakies had fallen from the high cliffs, where they had to lie
unburied--like the soldiers on Amajuba in 1881.

We led our horses to the opening of the kloof, and then galloped into
camp under the thundering noise of the shells that the enemy were
firing at us from the distance. There was no control possible among the
burghers. Each one loaded his horse with whatever he could lay his hands
on, and there was no thought of following up the retreating enemy. They
did not leave us undisturbed in our glory, but aimed lyddite at us,
which had the desired effect, that we in our disorder did not storm the
front positions, but retreated in the direction of our camp, a quarter
of a mile in among the trees. There Veld-Kornet Klaassen ordered his men
to off-saddle and give the horses a rest. Meanwhile the camp was burnt,
flames arose in all directions, and thousands of cartridges exploded.

After we had watered our horses in a neighbouring spruit we lay down to
rest. But ere long General De la Rey came galloping into our midst with
a lash in his hand, calling to us whether we were not ashamed to lie
there doing nothing, instead of following up our advantage now that we
had the chance, when otherwise the enemy would ill-treat our women and
children and burn down our homes. One of our corporals rather
impertinently informed De la Rey that he served under another General,
and would obey no orders but his. De la Rey thereupon rode up to him and
gave him a heavy cut with his lash. I went up to the General, and told
him that we were quite willing to fight, and had only off-saddled for a
rest by order of our Field-Cornet. In his rage he lifted his lash, but,
recognising me, lowered it again. If I had aimed at getting a cut from
him, I might have called out like the Dutch farmers, who got a box on
the ear from Peter the Great for pressing too closely upon him while he
was building ships at Zaandam: 'I have had one too! I have had one too!'
We then rode with the General to the burnt camp. The enemy had not found
the game worth the candle, and had saved their shell for a more
favourable occasion.

One can imagine De la Rey's indignation when he saw that waggons,
provisions, and ammunition were nearly all burnt. He pointed out to us
how ammunition and guns were required on every side. General Beyers,
whom we met there, excused himself by explaining that he had ordered
only those things to be burnt that we did not require. We then rode to
the other positions on the opposite side of the camp, but the enemy were
in full flight, followed by an occasional burgher.

I do not consider myself able to criticise the manner in which our
officers organized this battle. But it was easy to see that a great
mistake had been made. We had much to be thankful for, but the result
might have been more advantageous to us. The whole camp with all its
cannon should have been taken with a smaller loss than eighty men killed
and wounded.

I do not know the number of the enemy's killed and wounded. If our first
attack had been made unanimously and unexpectedly, we could easily have
crushed the enemy. The prisoners, as usual, pretended that they knew all
about our plans, but why, then, were their reinforcements too late, or,
rather, why did they never arrive? When General De la Rey organizes an
attack, and his instructions are well carried out, the burghers have so
much confidence in him, and like him so well, in spite of, or perhaps
because of his violent temper, that they never have any doubt as to his
ultimate success.

The prisoners were released. In my presence they were always well
treated, and I have seen many khaki prisoners who have never on any
occasion been ill-treated.



XII

PAARDEKRAAL DAY--BATTLE IN THE MOAT--ATTACK ON KAALFONTEIN STATION

From Onuapadnek our lagers went to the farm Rietfontein, near
Witwatersrandjes, where we celebrated Paardekraal Day on December
16--under sad circumstances, alas!

Ds. Kriel, who constantly accompanied us in the most self-denying
manner, in all our battles and on all our long journeys, led us in
prayer that day. Halfway up the kopje, which we climbed in most solemn
earnest, he offered up a prayer to God, and then impressed upon us the
importance of the occasion. On the top of the kopje he held a short
service. It reminded me of that which my own father held for the
assembled burghers at Paardekraal in 1880. How true and faithful he was
in his position as preacher to the fighting men, and how well he served
his adopted country!

After General De la Rey, Smuts, Kemp, and Mr. Naudé had all addressed
us, Ds. Kriel read out a document in which was expressed, in a few
words, the purpose each one of us should attach to his contribution of a
stone towards the monument to be erected there. He exhorted the burghers
not to add a stone to the pile unless they fully understood and were in
earnest about its meaning. So the old covenant was renewed in a
different place under different circumstances and in a different manner
from the Paardekraal Day of former years, and when the burghers
descended from the kopje they were strengthened by the renewing of an
ancient pledge in their resolution to fight to the last for their
country and their people.

The place where the monument was erected was called Ebenhaëzer.

Between the Magalies Mountains and the Witwatersranden stretches a long
valley called the Moat. In the centre runs a gray ridge or rand,
parallel to the mountains, and rising into kopjes to the east, near
Hekpoort. Thither our commando moved a few days later to meet the
enemy, who were approaching from Commandonek, most probably with
revengeful intentions. The Moat was well provided with corn, and asked
for our protection. We stayed over a day on the gray ridge. When the
enemy advanced towards us on the day following, General De la Rey had
taken up his position near Nooitgedacht, and so formed the left wing.
Commandant Kemp, with his men, was at the south on the foot of the
ridge, and Veld-Kornet van Tender, with a small troop of
Zoutpansbergers, was on the first kopje, while General Beyers, with the
Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers held the right wing to the west of
Hekpoort, in Witwatersrand. The whole of that forenoon the enemy were
ready to attack us, and we waited calmly. Towards afternoon their left
wing moved towards the first kopje, beyond the reach of the
Zoutpansbergers, who were on the Witwatersranden near Hekpoort. They
began firing at the position of Veld-Kornet Van Tonder, and when he fell
mortally wounded his Zoutpansbergers were obliged to retire from the
kopje.

Our Veld-Kornet, Kruger, a fine, brave fellow, then led twenty-five of
our men towards Hekpoort, to try and stop the enemy in their forward
movement. As Malherbe, my brother, and I were among the twenty-five, I
cannot tell what happened to De la Rey on the other side of the gray
ridge. We pressed too far forward, and soon had to retreat some
distance. Our Veld-Kornet stayed behind with a few of us, on a small
rise, while our horses were taken some 300 paces further back, and the
rest of our little troop rode in the direction of Hekpoort. The enemy
already occupied the first kopje, and were firing at us from a distance.
We quickly made an entrenchment of stones and lay waiting. But our
people were retreating from the other kopjes, and we had to get to our
horses as quickly as possible. A few cowardly burghers on the ridge took
us for khakies and fired at us. Then I experienced the difference
between the aim of Boer and khaki. The latter's bullets always flew far
above our heads, but the former's fell terribly close to us.

As yet we had retired in good order, but soon we fled in a panic. The
enemy had come from Krugersdorp in very large numbers, and already
occupied the high Witwatersranden behind us.

Whoever has an incapable horse had better hide in a ditch or behind a
wall along with the poor, frightened women. More than once I have seen
poor frightened women holding their crying children by the hand, and
seeking a hiding-place near their houses during a battle. It is indeed a
tragic sight!--we men, with our weapons in our hands, not able to defend
them at such a time. And then a great feeling of shame came upon us.
These same women had only the day before called down God's blessing upon
us, and now they cried to us to hurry, or we would be surrounded.

We rode at a flying gallop for fully half an hour--along the Magalies
Mountains, between the Witwatersranden and the many smaller banks, while
to the left the enemy were descending and firing at us. The Waterbergers
and Zoutpansbergers, who learnt later than we did that the enemy were
surrounding us, would all have been taken prisoners had they not forced
their way bravely through thick and thin. As far as we can tell, our
loss was, fortunately, only one killed.

At the Manharen, a peculiar kind of kopje, we halted, but had to
retreat further towards evening.

Beyers' commando moved in the direction of Gatsrand, but had to turn to
Zwartruggens, near Rustenburg, when it reached the farm Modderfontein,
where we celebrated Christmas. The enemy was constantly at our heels,
and made things hot for us; we often had to hurry most inconveniently
not to be surrounded or cut off. We got a few days' rest on the farm
Vlakhoek. We were camped near a small stream, and went from there to the
different farms in search of the first fruit of the season.

On New Year's Eve General Beyers' commando moved on the wide hard
Krugersdorp road. The bullock waggon lager had been left behind, as it
prevented us from moving as quickly as was sometimes necessary. The
burghers still longed to attack Krugersdorp, and on New Year's Eve, as
we moved fast in the direction of the town, our hearts were cheered by
the thought of Jameson's failure, when five years ago he passed along
the same road in his notorious Raid. We all hoped to add an immortal
page to the annals of our history on the following New Year's Day. But
we were sadly disappointed in our expectations. The Jameson Raid was not
avenged, and we celebrated New Year's Day calmly and peacefully at
Cyferbult, on Pretorius' farm, with milie-pap (maize meal porridge) and
beef and--green fruit!

Whenever we came to a farm we ate as much green fruit as possible by way
of a change in our diet. On other occasions it would have been very bad
for us, but now it seemed to have a very wholesome effect. As we moved
on past Zwartkop over the Krokodil River in the direction of the
railway, we realized that there was no chance of attacking Krugersdorp
for the present, for General Beyers had apparently changed his plans. We
were quite sure that it had originally been his intention, and some of
our officers talked of the attack on the town as if it were an open
secret.

Our capable Veld-Kornet, Kruger, had remained behind at Zwartkop to get
the burghers of Wyk III. Krugersdorp from out of their hiding-places, as
the Generals wanted to concentrate all the small bands for some great
undertaking. We joined Wyk I. Krugersdorp under Veld-Kornet Klaassen.

Near Hekpoort, as we were camped at Dwarsvlei, we attacked a convoy of
the enemy in the valley, and very nearly captured it before it was
reinforced. I was not present, so cannot give any account of the battle.
After a sharp trek of more than one night, we crossed the rails between
Kaalfontein and Zuurfontein Stations, just before sunrise one morning
towards the middle of January. We captured a few guards who seemed to
know nothing of our movements. Why General Beyers did not surprise one
or both stations that morning early is still a mystery to us, as our
movements were remarkably quick. It could not have been because he
thought us too tired, for some twenty minutes further on, while we were
resting on a farm, he ordered part of our lager to turn to the left and
attack Kaalfontein Station.

Our corporal was unwilling to work us and our horses to death, so he
first got breakfast ready. But when our cannon began to roar and
Corporal Botman, who still limped from a wound, rode off without a word
in his own peculiar way, our conscience began to trouble us, and several
of our men followed him. My brother, whose horse's back was chafed,
remained in the lager with the rest of the burghers.

When we reached our guns, we immediately saw that the station could be
taken only at the cost of many lives--more than the success would be
worth. Our guns had not the desired effect, and we should have had to
charge across an open space without any cover. The enemy had no guns.
They say our left wing very nearly succeeded in taking a small fort near
the station, but I cannot give any particulars, for our Veld-Kornet rode
with a small troop of burghers to the right of the station, and took
another small fort which the enemy had abandoned because it was too far
away from the station. What might have been expected happened. Towards
afternoon an armoured train came from Pretoria, and reinforcements
arrived from Johannesburg and scattered our left wing over the valley. I
happened to be with a few others on the outmost point of the right wing
of attack--or, rather, since the scene was changed, of the left wing of
flight. And as we were retreating at our ease an old man galloped
towards us and pointed out that we were retreating in the wrong
direction, as the enemy had captured our whole lager. He had never in
his life seen so many khakies. They seemed to be on all sides of us. The
only outlet for us was in the direction of Heidelberg. I asked him,
'Uncle, are you sure that our lager is in the hands of the khakies?' to
which he answered, 'Nephew, I saw with my own eyes how they rode up to
the waggons and made all our people "hands up!"' and he continued to
give us a minute description of the occurrence.

If we had been greenhorns, we would have blindly followed the startled
old man right through the stream of retreating burghers and exploding
15-pounders. But, fortunately, the war had taught us, and we moved on
_with_ the stream, but a little more to the left, and, I cannot deny it,
with a feeling of great anxiety as to what was to become of us if the
old man had indeed told the truth.

Fortunately, it appeared that fright had made the old man believe his
own imagination, and the lager was quite safe. My brother told me that
the slight attack made upon them by the enemy was easily beaten off.

The opinion of the majority was that we should have left Kaalfontein
Station alone. We were thoroughly exhausted by our rapid journeys,
particularly by the journey of the preceding night, and besides that the
burghers were unwilling to make an attack of which they did not see the
advantage. We had several killed and wounded.

The consequence was that we had to trek that night in a way that none of
us will ever forget, to get beyond the reach of the enemy. One cannot
imagine how terrible it is to sit for hours on horseback, dead tired and
overcome by sleep. We did not even guide our horses; they simply jogged
along mechanically, too tired even to object to ill-treatment. Our hands
rested on the bows of the saddles, and as we sat leaning forwards,
apparently lost in thought, but in reality suffering tortures from the
effort to keep awake, we forced ourselves to look up and about us, but
our eyes half closed in the effort, and everything about us took a
strange shape, and the sky became chaos; with a nod we half awoke, only
to dream again a second later that we were falling from our horses.

Not a word was spoken, for everyone was dozing. Whenever we had to wait
for our guns or waggons, we simply flung ourselves on the grass with
one arm through our bridles, and soon we were unconscious of the pulling
and tugging of the horse, and if the order to mount woke us up, the
tugging had ceased, and our horses were calmly grazing some distance
from us. Then we lifted our bodies, loaded with cartridges and guns,
into the saddle at the risk of toppling over on the other side, like a
lizzard sliding down a bank, and rode on in silence, drowsily and
top-heavy.



XIII

COMMANDO SUFFERINGS


The horsemen rode generally two by two, partly in front of the waggons
as advance-guard, and behind as rear-guard, each corporal with his men
in his place by his Veld-Kornet. The Krugersdorpers were no longer
allowed to leave their places before they had permission from their
corporal. Even those burghers who were most disorderly in the beginning
now saw the necessity of discipline, and were obedient to the commands
of their officers.

It was a mixed crew of old and young. But the majority were still in the
prime of life, and proof against the privations of guerilla life. The
old men among us were all men whose powerful constitutions were yet
unbroken. It was praiseworthy of them that in their old age they were
willing to suffer the difficulties and dangers of a wandering life for
their country's sake, for although their constitutions were strong, they
were susceptible to cold and damp, the effects of which they could not
shake off. There were also many brave little boys, who were thus early
initiated into the privations of commando life; but they shared all
bravely, in a careless spirit of adventure.

Here and there were some Uitlanders who had remained faithful to us. All
the others had gradually disappeared, either because they were taken
prisoners, or killed through their somewhat foolhardy courage, or
because they had left the country in disappointment. The townspeople
were by no means superior to the farmers. There were traitors and
'hands-uppers' among them as well. We have been bitterly disappointed in
people of all classes, but particularly in the so-called 'gentlemen.'

Our condition and appearance were indeed striking. During the heat of
the day, when the dust lay thickly about us, we sat in our ragged
clothes, with shaggy, uncombed beards, on our poor, hardly-treated
ponies, meekly staring in front of us, seemingly indifferent to the
moral hurt that we were suffering and the physical pain that we felt in
all our limbs after a long, tiring ride. At the start of one of our
journeys an animated conversation sometimes helped to pass the time, but
it soon flagged, leaving us staring in front of us in the usual
dispirited, dull way. Our talk became daily more prosaic and
superficial. We had not the energy to express our deepest sentiments,
and things which were formerly pleasant were strange to us now. We had
no spur to enliven our thoughts in our monotonous life. To the careless
there was nothing startling in this moral numbness, but the more
sensitive among us grieved over it, and were humiliated by the
shallowness that had come into our lives.

The small necessaries of our material existence had become essential to
our happiness. If we lost a knife, or if a pot or kettle broke, or a mug
was stolen from us, we were depressed for days, as if a heavy blow had
fallen upon us. It was not easy to fight against that bitter feeling of
depression. Our only safety lay in the fact that we were conscious of
the demoralizing effect of these small disappointments of commando life,
for to know one's self is always the first step towards conversion.

Some qualities of our highest nature were systematically suppressed. We
prided ourselves on our fierce hatred of the enemy, and considered it a
mark of patriotism, and we rejoiced when he fell beneath our bullets or
when the plague broke out. We even wished that a great European war
might begin, if only we might keep our country, and as a consequence of
our righteous patriotism an inclination to cruelty became one of the
predominant traits in the character of the burghers.

The commando life tended to make many of us melancholy. Wherever we came
the thought was forced upon us that our beloved country was deeply
injured, morally and materially. We ourselves saw everywhere homes and
fields destroyed, women and children taken away by force, and cattle
stolen; and rumours told of the most terrible outrages committed upon
helpless women and children. If it were not that one becomes hardened to
all outward impressions, our commando life would have been pitiful
indeed. So we became hardened to almost all these things, but the
thought of the ill-treatment of those dear to us, on whose happiness our
own happiness depends, was constantly with us, and to that we did not
become hardened.

It is impossible to enter into the sufferings of the married men. Much
was suffered in silence. Some men got messages from their wives
imprisoned in refugee camps, bidding them surrender for the sake of
their wives, since fighting was of no avail and the country was already
lost. Who shall blame the man who rides away with an anxious heart to
his wife and children, no matter what the consequences may be to
himself? Another woman, with a different disposition and a different
heart, sends word secretly to her husband that life in the prison camp
is endurable, and that he must fight to the end. Then he stays, and
proves himself worthy of the courage of his wife.

Some men gave the impression that they were indifferent to the suffering
of wife and child. These were the scum of our people, who in time of
peace were not of much importance, but were necessary for our fight. But
the majority, by far the greater majority, were men who, even in the
most troubled times, were faithful to the comrades with whom they began
this struggle, the struggle for our independence.

Whenever we came to a 'uitspanplek' (a place where there is water to be
found for the horses), some of us had to seek hurriedly for wood to make
the fire, others to fetch water, and others to help in various ways. It
was a regular struggle for existence. Those who came first got the least
disagreeable work. Wood was scarce on the Hoogeveld where we happened to
be, and the water was muddied by the first water-carriers. When the sun
was very warm we made a shelter with our guns and our blankets. Our
meals were simple. They consisted of meat and 'mealie-pap' morning,
noon, and night, often for weeks without salt. We made coffee of burnt
grain ground in a coffee-mill. During the war we learnt to drink all
sorts of coffee--of wheat, oats, barley, sweet potatoes, maize, and even
of peaches. We became so accustomed to a simple mode of life that our
wants were few indeed. Even sugar we no longer missed. And we remained
healthy and strong.

We lay in small groups round the fires, leaning against our saddles. Our
moods were brighter after our tired bodies had had the needful
refreshment and rest. The groups were often picturesque, some of us
lying at our ease with soiled books in hands, others grouped round the
fire, every now and again adding wood to the flames, and others, again,
picking mites out of the biltong with a pocket-knife.

A shower had not much effect upon us. We were accustomed to letting our
clothes dry on our bodies. Nature is very kind to people who are day and
night in the open air. If the sun did not shine soon after a shower, we
made a very deplorable appearance in our dripping clothes. But we never
grumbled. We were generally cheerful, unless we were exhausted from
fatigue.

We suffered most on those long nights when, for some reason or other, we
could not sleep, for many of the burghers were troubled with fears for
their dear ones. Often, after a long ride, we were too tired to prepare
a meal, but simply flung ourselves against our saddles and slept before
we had time to let our thoughts wander. But if the enemy were not at our
heels, we often passed the long nights in sleeplessness, gazing up at
the stars with the most bitter feelings in our hearts. No wonder that
many a burgher grew gray. We were often kept awake by the tethered
horses stumbling among the groups. Sometimes a man would jump up and
strike at them till all the others awoke, too, and then there was great
hilarity in the quiet of the night.

Sometimes a constant rain cast a shadow over the sunny Hoogeveld and
made our lives sombre and almost unbearable. Then our tattered garments
could not dry on our bodies, and everything about us was wet and dirty.
Even in dry weather fuel was almost unattainable, for the treeless
Hoogeveld had been almost exhausted by the many large commandos which
had visited the 'uitspan' places. In wet weather it was almost an
impossibility to make a fire.

Whoever had an ailment passed unpleasant nights then; each night meant a
nail in his coffin. Even the constant rain the burghers bore cheerfully,
and many a joke was passed along during an interval in the downpour. But
in the morning, as we dragged our weary limbs out of our mud-baths,
shivering from cold, we did not venture to put the conventional
question, 'Did you sleep well?' to each other.

The spirit among the burghers was very different from what it had been.
No swearing was heard, and quarrelling was exceptional. Thefts, too,
were seldom committed. We called ourselves 'sifted'; traitors and
thieves had gone over to the stronger party. I do not believe that any
European army would have kept its moral tone so high under such
demoralizing circumstances as did that small army of Boers with the help
of their religion. Whereas in time of peace there was much difference in
churches, especially in the Transvaal (although no difference in
belief), now, during the war, the unity of belief in one Bible had
become the means of raising the moral tone of the burghers.

During the last few months a plague had come amongst us that we had
heard much about, and now caused us much trouble--a plague of lice. It
is not an edifying subject, but anyone can understand how the itching
caused many a sleepless night. We were not to blame. When we no longer
were able to change our clothes, we could not guard against the vermin
that had become a plague among the huge wandering armies of the enemy.
Although we boiled our clothes, to our horror the nits appeared again.



XIV

BATTLE OF BOESMANSKOP--FLIGHT OF WOMEN


Fortunately, the enemy gave us a week's rest on the farm of Landdrost
Schotte. During that time Veld-Kornet Meyer, with his small troop of
Germans, blew up the electric factory at Brakpan.

Then we stayed a few days on Mr. Brown's farm, where a great many little
commandos congregated that were camped on the banks of the river. Our
horses became quite sleek again from the abundance of mealies they got
there. On that farm we first used for fuel the poles that fenced in the
farm. I distinctly remember how, after we had received the order from
Commandant Kemp, we waited until after dark before pulling up the poles,
and how grieved we were at the necessity for doing it. Since that time
we have got over such scruples. Even if there were wood to be had on an
outspan place, there was always a race to procure the best poles. Of
course, when there was abundance of wood, the pulling up of poles was
strictly prohibited.

At that time I made the acquaintance of a nephew of mine, Paul Maré, a
boy of fourteen, with a noble countenance, who, like so many others of
the same age, rode about with gun and bandolier, and was full of
courage. When the enemy approached his mother's house he prepared for
flight, but she took it for a joke. When she noticed that he was in
earnest, she forbade him to go, as his father had been killed already,
and he would in all probability be killed too. He merely answered,
'Because they have shot my father, I mean to shoot them now,' and rode
away.

We did not like remaining long in one place doing nothing. We always
became impatient, and wished to know when we could move on. But the
Commandant always answered that he could not tell. And the more sensible
of us thought, 'It depends on khaki.' This was really the case now. On
the evening of January 28 we got the order to be in readiness. While
General Beyers, with 400 or 500 men, passed to the rear of the enemy to
destroy the Boksburg mines, our commando of horsemen moved rapidly in
the direction of Boesmanskop in the Heidelberg district, to cut off the
enemy who were pushing on to our part of the Hoogeveld. We arrived at
Boesmanskop the following morning.

The parts of the country that we now passed through had not yet been
destroyed by the enemy, but everywhere else the houses and farms were
burnt and ruined in the most barbarous way. We were very anxious,
therefore, to cut off the enemy's advance. They were camped to the
north-west of Boesmanskop. A strong Boer guard occupied this kopje--the,
only one in the neighbourhood; for the rest, the surroundings were the
ordinary Hoogeveld with its mounds. We pushed up in a long line over a
'bult' that ran north-west of Boesmanskop. Our guns--only a few, as most
had been sent away to be repaired--stood on top of this mound without
any cover. Lieutenant Odendaal, a very brave gunner, did not like
kopjes, but always placed his cannon on a mound, as the enemy's guns
always fired too short or too long on account of the misleading
distances. They did so in this instance, and the bombs flew far beyond
us. Corporal Botman ordered me to stay with the horses at the foot of
the 'bult,' while the burghers crept on to the top a few hundred paces
further, expecting eventually to charge the enemy. Suddenly I heard,
twice over, a noise like that of a train in the distance. My brother
told me afterwards how he had seen a detachment of the enemy storming
Boesmanskop, and how the burghers waited until they were close by, and
then beat them back completely with a twice-repeated salvo.

For some time the guns of the enemy ceased firing, because, as I heard
later on, Lieutenant Odendaal had shot down the gunners. When they made
themselves heard again, they were more accurate in their aim; I most
narrowly escaped the bombs. Four or five thundered around me in quick
succession, as I fell and stooped and grasped the bridles of the rearing
horses. Some of the horses pulled the bridles out of my hands and raced
down the valley.

But the left wing of the enemy was surrounding us, and, like a swarm of
birds that rise on the wing, the burghers fled back in among the
tethered and the straying horses, and retreated as fast as they could.
The enemy now bombarded Boesmanskop, so that the retreating burghers in
the valley had a bad time of it with the bombs flying over their heads.

Many waggons of Boer families, fleeing for their lives, were pushing
along the sides of the long mounds, and the enemy's bombs burst in their
midst more than once--perhaps accidentally, perhaps because they knew
that 'the Boer nation must be swept off the face of the earth.'

The women seemed to be in a panic. From all sides families came in carts
and waggons--long rows of vehicles filled with poor, terror-stricken
women and children; large herds of cattle were driven along by the
Kaffir servants, but many of them fell into the enemy's hands. The
burghers did their best to make a stand in order to give the waggons a
good start, but retreated in good order when they saw no chance of
checking the enemy's forward movement. Fortunately, a heavy shower fell
in the afternoon and hindered the enemy in their advance, else many a
waggon would have fallen into their hands.

It was no longer necessary for the burghers to resist for the sake of
the waggons. The enemy had camped and left us, with the exception of the
guard, to plod our way shamefacedly through the mud. Our ponies, with
their quick, peculiar gait, soon caught up the heavily-laden waggons,
and we supplied ourselves with mealies, flour, fowls, etc., that had
been thrown overboard or left behind on a broken-down waggon. Such is
the fortune of war, and the things were better in our hands than in
those of the khakies.

When we rode up alongside the waggons, many a meeting took place between
relatives and friends who had been parted for months. The women and
girls drove the horses, and many of them walked with the Kaffirs in the
mud next to the oxen. They did the work of the men in time of peace.
Many of them had been delicately nurtured, in spite of the simplicity of
their lives, and were not accustomed to the hard work. They were all
Transvaal women, and wives and daughters of the burghers who had to look
on helplessly at their sad flight. And, oh! the dear little heads of
the children that peeped at us from out of the waggons! It was a cruel
sight, and it moved us strangely.

Although most of the women were drenched, they were all cheerful, and
seemed proud of taking an active part in the great struggle. And if a
young man asked a girl whether he should ride next to her to help her,
the answer was: 'No, thank you, we can manage; the men must fight now.'
There were many old men and boys who preferred the society of the women
to the danger of the bombs. Some of the women were not kind, and
reproached us for being the cause of all this misery, as our appearance
in the Hoogeveld had brought the enemy in its train.

The waggons were heavily laden with furniture and grain, some even with
stoves, and they sank deep into the mud, as the roads were one mass of
mud after the numerous waggons and thousands of cattle that had already
passed along them. Long rows of vehicles were continually approaching
from all sides, all going in the same direction, and when we came to
Waterval River a sad but grand sight met our eyes. The river was full.
Hundreds of waggons had been outspanned on the banks on either side.
The women and children were doing their best to light the fires with the
wet wood, and to cook some food. It was just before sunset, but there
was no sun to cheer them on their way.

Against the sides of the mounds (bulten) the cattle were moving in black
dense masses, making an almost deafening noise with their bleating and
lowing. As we rode through the full river, we saw in mid-stream a cart
that had stuck fast. A woman was standing in the water pushing at the
back, while a girl held the reins. A few of our men jumped down from
their horses and soon succeeded in getting the cart to the other side.
But we could not stay to help the poor women and children. We rode on,
inquiring everywhere after the trolleys and the commissariat. These were
higher up on the other side of the river, so we had to cross once more,
this time in the dark, at the risk of our lives.

Two little girls were drowned that evening, and the wheel of a waggon
had passed over a girl's body. It had been better if the women had
stayed at home and depended on the mercy of the enemy. They should not
have undertaken this terrible journey. A woman cannot flee from place to
place like a man, and life in a 'refugee'(?) camp would have been
better; she should bear her sorrow bravely at home. And this was only
the beginning of the misery. If they had remained at home, they might
have saved their homes, but now the enemy was sure to destroy and burn
the deserted farms.

During the day, when the flight was still a novelty, the women and girls
were cheerful enough, but who can describe their heartache and misery
during their enforced journey on the rainy nights? I do not know how all
those waggons and cattle got through the swollen river that night.
Twenty paces from where I lay a waggon was being inspanned; I heard the
voices of men and women. An old man was talking. He threatened to
off-load all the women on the first available place, as he had never in
his life had so much trouble. A small boy and a Kaffir had their turn
also; the boy was on horseback and led, or rather dragged, another horse
that refused to move. He had to collect the cattle, which seemed to me
almost an impossible task in the dark, among the many horses of the
burghers. When he had found Kindermeid, Witlies had disappeared, and
when Witlies was found, then Vaalpens was missing again. Kindermeid, a
gray ox, was the most troublesome. Repeatedly it passed by me, followed
by the boy dragging the unwilling horse. Then the boy exclaimed in sad,
shrill tones, 'See how the mare jibs!' When his father angrily asked,
'Have you found Kindermeid now?' he answered, 'Yes, father, but now
Vaalpens is missing; the mare jibs so, I can't get the cattle together!'
When he had found them all and the rumbling of their waggon was dying
away in the distance, I still heard him complain of the unwilling mare,
in his sad, shrill little voice. It was a small episode in my life that
I shall not easily forget. This was the last I saw of the flight of the
women, for we had to stay behind to fight as we were retreating. Later
on I heard many sad tales about it, which I cannot repeat in this little
book of mine.

The poor women and children were indeed to be pitied, but we had no
sympathy with the men who fled in the winter with their cattle to the
Boschveld, and now sought our protection, though they had never fought
themselves. The flight with the cattle was necessary, as the enemy would
otherwise have exterminated them, but many of the men took advantage of
the necessity, and sometimes three or four strong, sturdy men went with
one waggon, where one man would have been ample.



XV.

BATTLE OF CHRISSIESMEER--REUNION WITH GENERAL BEYERS


I will not describe our retreat, as nothing of importance occurred. We
were constantly on the alert to move before the cunning French entrapped
us within the circle that he was trying to draw around us.

At Trichardsfontein Malherbe and I had to go in search of our horses,
which had strayed, so we were separated from our commando for some days.
When we found our horses we went to Ermelo, and stayed there until the
enemy were so close upon us that General Louis Botha, who happened to be
at Ermelo, and knew of our arrival, sent to say that we must leave the
town. We then joined his force and rode to Spion Kop.

'In the land of the blind the one-eyed is king!' Even so it was with
Spion Kop of the Hoogeveld Ermelo. During the three years of my
University life in that distant little country that stands by us now so
well in our need, I often climbed a hill about the size of Spion Kop.
That hill is famed for its height throughout the whole country, and
bears the formidable name of 'the Amersfoort Mountain.'

While the officers were holding a council of war, Malherbe and I rode
off to our commando. At Klipstapel we were allowed a few days' breathing
time, and there we prepared for the night attack on Smith-Dorrien's
camp, to the north of us. But our guide lost his way in the dark, and we
had to return. It was decided, nevertheless, to attempt the attack the
following night at Chrissiesmeer, where the camp was then. We had
everything in our favour. We were a strong force of many commandos, and
the enemy's force was not much larger.

That evening we were placed in quite a different order from the usual
one. The men of each corporal's division rode next to each other. The
Commandant or Veld-Kornet at the head, followed by the corporal with his
ten or fifteen men riding abreast, was followed by the next corporal
riding abreast with his men, etc. On looking back from the top of the
hill in the moonlight, one saw a broad dark mass of fierce, determined
men. Nearly every burgher had one or two extra horses, mostly mares with
foals, that we had commandeered and trained during our retreat on the
Hoogeveld. At that time every horse, trained or untrained, was put to
use. It was a pity that the mares with their foals were not left behind,
as they made a terrible noise with their whinnying. We walked our
horses; we were not allowed to utter a word or to light our pipes--that
was reasonable; but the neighing of the horses was not exactly in
accordance with our silence. Every now and again, when the whinnying of
the mares was at its worst, some burgher or other would give vent to an
exclamation of impatience. Every now and again someone or other would
light his pipe, taking care that neither the Veld-Kornet nor the enemy
should see it. A dead silence reigned everywhere, broken only by the
mares and their foals. These beasts caused us great uneasiness, but so
did the order we received that we had to shoot sharp at the beginning
of the attack, but then slowly, until it became light, so as to save
some of our ammunition in case of need. We had to attack in the dark
then. But what if the enemy, prepared for our arrival, were to pepper at
us unexpectedly from a different direction, or to point their Maxims at
us?

The greatest mistake of all was that we took our horses right up to the
hill on the other side of which the khakies were. The horses were tired
and had ceased neighing, but we should have left them some miles behind
and walked on to make the attack as soon as it was light. An uncle of
mine told me that he saw some men on horseback riding over the bull,
whom he took to be our spies, but they were of course the enemy's guard.

When we had tethered our horses at the foot of the bult, we climbed up
slowly, but before we could fall into position the enemy opened a sharp
fire at us. We charged shouting 'Hurrah!' in wild enthusiasm, and fired
as fast as we could straight ahead. The sparks flew up some twenty paces
in front of us, and even after the fight we could not tell whether they
came from our own guns or from those of the enemy. At intervals we
heard the tick-tick-tick of a small Maxim, but owing to the dark we were
not mown down. Some of the burghers threw themselves down behind us, and
involuntarily one thought of the proverb, 'to hide in another's blood.'
Whenever the firing slackened a few of our brave men charged, shouting
out encouraging words, and again raised our enthusiasm. Both burghers on
my right and on my left were wounded. The latter had a most demoralizing
influence on the rest of the men, as he lay groaning and moaning in a
heart-rending way. He was only slightly wounded, and eventually escaped
on horseback. Our brave Commandant Botman went forward ten paces beyond
the rest in his enthusiasm, and served as a target for the enemy. He was
severely wounded, but walked back without a moan and fell down close
behind me. I did not even know that he was wounded. I turned round to
see if the burghers behind me would not take the initiative in the
inevitable flight, as I was ashamed to take it upon myself. I did not
take it at all amiss, therefore, when I saw several men looking round to
see if the way were clear, and darting like an arrow back to their
horses, for all round us our men were being shot down, and we did not
know where the enemy's camp was, nor could we tell the effect of our
shooting in the dark. A slight fog had arisen, through which the moon
occasionally succeeded in dimly appearing. The day had dawned; we
reached our horses in the greatest disorder, and heightened the
confusion by shouting inquiries to each other after friends and
relatives. Some did not wait to find their horses, but fled on foot;
others jumped on strange horses. Some even escaped on khaki horses that
had strayed from the camp.

As my brother and I galloped off, a man fell wounded close behind us,
and the bullet struck the ground between us. The burghers rallied at a
farm in the neighbourhood of the enemy's camp. Some of our men fled on,
but most of them retreated with the guns to the commissariat trolleys,
many without saddle, mackintosh or blanket, more hopelessly impoverished
than ever, but not discouraged, for although the attack had been
repulsed we were not defeated.

In this lay our strength, that we were not disheartened by our defeats,
but were able constantly to rally and to renew the attack. We kept on
exhausting the enemy by slight skirmishes that are not worth relating,
but their effect on the whole weakened him and strengthened us.

On our side that day there were forty wounded, but only a few killed. It
grieved us all that Commandant Botman had remained behind on the
battle-field. He was universally liked for his bravery and for his
simple Christianity. To our great joy, we heard later on that he had
recovered, and had somehow succeeded in reaching Krugersdorp.
Fortunately, the fog prevented the enemy from doing us much harm, and
towards afternoon our cannon put a stop to their advance.

The attack on Smith-Dorrien's camp was worthy of a better result. In
this, as well as in the Hekpoort and Boesmanskop battles, where also we
had no position, the burghers showed great courage and goodwill. In my
opinion, the officers should have given up the plan of attack after we
had missed our way the night before and been obliged to return. The
Kaffirs and traitors must have warned the enemy of our intention to
attack, so that they could be in readiness for us.

The enemy were now all round us. We heard the firing of cannon on all
sides, but that same night we undertook a cunning backward movement, and
when the enemy closed their cordon an hour later the bird had flown. We
were careful to avoid a repetition of Cronje's experience.

The burghers were very anxious about our lager. We had left it on
Brown's farm on the Wilgeriver, when our commando advanced towards
Boesmanskop. How the lager escaped I do not know, for we heard that the
enemy were advancing from all sides--Standerton, Middelburg, etc. But we
reached it in safety the very night that we slipped through the enemy's
cordon.

We were now safely on our way back to Rustenburg, and had to leave
General French with his 30,000 or 40,000 men to drive along helpless
women and children, and all the cattle he could lay hands on.
Commandant-General Louis Botha had strictly forbidden the women to leave
their farms after the Battle of Boesmanskop, so that the enormous woman
lager received no new additions.

Many of the farms were burned down, but some families had been left
unmolested, because they said the enemy were ill at ease, owing to a
rumour that General Beyers was going to attack them in the rear. The
partly-burned granaries bore evidence to the great hurry the enemy were
in. On some farms the very rooms that contained grain were set on fire.

Our constant retreat had a most demoralizing influence. This was felt
even in our conversation and our expressions. We called this retreating
'kamping,'[A] and it became one of our most common expressions in our
daily life. For 'Let us go!' we said 'Let us kamp!' or for 'This evening
we start!' we said 'This evening we go on the kamp!' A typical
expression was 'kamping' for our independence, when we could no longer
withstand the enemy. If anyone boasted of his loyalty to his country and
people, he merely said that he had 'kamped' along with the burghers
wherever they had 'kamped.' We used in our conversation many military
terms; for instance, 'to change one's position' was 'to go and lie with
your saddle on another place.' 'I shall mauser you' meant 'I shall
strike you.'

At Grootpan General Beyers again joined us, after having done the enemy
some harm at Boksburg. He addressed us and explained his reason for
countermanding the attack on Krugersdorp. He had told the secret to a
few of his officers, who made it public property, so that the enemy had
heard of it and were prepared for the attack.

Moreover, a great fault of the burghers had come to light at
Nooitgedacht--namely, that they shirked their duty in their eagerness
for plunder. He was afraid that if they took the town their plundering
spirit would get the better of them and so give the enemy a chance of
catching them or putting them to flight. Lastly he said that he was
going to act in opposition to the orders received from the
Commandant-General, and would send the Zoutpansbergers and Waterbergers
home that evening, as it was impossible for them in their condition to
undertake any military operations. He himself also was going home, but
would return after a few weeks, as a large commando, led if possible by
himself, was to invade Cape Colony.

Kemp was made fighting General; the Rev. Mr. Kriel left with General
Beyers; Klaassen took the place of Kemp, and Liebenberg was appointed
Field-Cornet of our commando.

The return to their homes of the Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers roused
a feeling of dissatisfaction in us. Owing to the horse-sickness in those
regions, and the home-sickness of the men themselves, we concluded that
we were not likely to see them again. We also thought it would have been
better to have invaded the Colony long ago, instead of aimlessly
wandering about the Hoogeveld as we had been doing. In all probability
our Generals put off the invasion as long as possible because many of
the men--nearly all the Waterbergers and Zoutpansbergers--were against
it. Such were the difficulties against which our Generals had to fight.

In private, both Kemp and Beyers acknowledged to me that a march into
the Colony was strictly necessary. I do not mean to criticise, but only
to give an idea of the spirit reigning among the burghers at that time.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote A: 'Trappers.']



XVI

CAMPED NEAR TAFELKOP


General Beyers' force was again split into small commandos, which it was
the intention of our officers to join into one large force, and so make
their way through the ranks of the enemy. But this plan was not a
success, for the enemy were too strong for us.

The Krugersdorp and Pretoriadorp commandos one night crossed the railway
within sight of the khaki camp-lights at Irene Station--quite close to
our capital, in full view of khaki's warning, 'No admittance!' We passed
Zwartkop, crossed Dwarsvlei, and had to turn back to the right through
Hartleyskloof, as we came across a camp of the enemy. We then entered
the Moot district, dreaded for its terrible horse-sickness, and in the
beginning of March we arrived at Tafelkop, to the north-east of
Lichtenburg, near Mabaalstad.

Once, as I lay resting against my saddle, I heard an old Boer telling of
the courage and hopefulness among the burghers from whom he came. They
talked of nothing but peace. It was their belief that a European
Sovereign on marriage may make a request which must be granted. He may
even ask a million pounds or somebody's head, and cannot be refused. So,
they said, Queen Wilhelmina had risen to make her speech at her wedding,
and had requested absolute independence for the Republics. The Kings and
Princes were against it, but could not break the old custom, and
therefore peace would soon reign over our country. But such talk of
'peace' was an exception, not the rule. After the terrible experience of
the last months, we had become resigned to our fate, and did not try to
anticipate the future. We knew that we must fight with courage and
energy, and the rest we left in God's hands. We had ceased to be curious
about the plans of our Generals, which were never made known to us.
Exhausted in body and spirit, we took no account of time. It was all
one to us whether it were morning, noon or night; whether we had to
march one, two, or three hours longer; whether we had to march at all,
or to remain where we were. But we were not demoralized, not unnerved.
An overworked horse allows himself to be caught and ill-treated afresh.
The enemy, had only to fire at us to rouse our slumbering energy, for we
suffered voluntarily, and were a support to each other, because of our
firm conviction that we were giving our lives for the sake of our
independence.

It rained when we arrived at Tafelkop, and when we had been there a week
it still rained. The only clothes we possessed were beginning to rot on
our bodies. Some of the burghers had a change of clothes on the
trolleys; others made themselves trousers of their many-coloured
blankets, in which they cut a remarkable figure. Others, again, were in
tatters, and had to disappear on the few occasions that any lady visited
us. Most of the men had no mackintoshes, but always looked forward to
the sunshine that was sure to follow a heavy shower. But if the rain
continued, we made huts of grass, or clubbed together in the few
remaining tents, or if there happened to be an unburned farmhouse, we
made for that.

When the rain continued at Tafelkop, and our limbs became stiffened with
the cold, some of us went to an outhouse belonging to a neighbouring
farm to seek shelter. During the day we sat there in our wet clothes
staring dismally out into the rain. At night we tried to warm our naked
bodies by covering ourselves with the dirty wool that happened to be
lying there. All the outhouses in the neighbourhood were crowded with
armed burghers in tatters. On the eighth day, when the welcome sun made
its appearance once more, our clothes were still dripping.

Lately we had had fruit as a substitute for sugar; but the fruit season
was over now, and we had to go back to meat and mealie-porridge, or
mealie-porridge and meat.

In the Moot our horses died in such numbers--particularly the 'unsalted'
mares--that many of our men had to walk. On March 10 my faithful brown
pony Steenbok died of horse-sickness. For over a year he had carried me
through thick and thin, and I could not bear to see his suffering. A few
weeks later we got another lot of horses; I will not mention how, as
the information might fall into the hands of the enemy. The people who
still lived on their farms often told us that the few remaining fowls
instinctively recognised khaki as an enemy, and made for the hedges and
shrubs whenever they caught sight of him. So here, also, Nature looked
after the survival of the species. The cows taken by the enemy also made
their way back to their calves that khaki stupidly left behind, and so
the little children could again have milk. Even the bees were not left
undisturbed; but the bee is an enemy of any nasty-smelling thing, and
therefore the dirty, perspiring khakies got many a sting, and the honey
usually remained in the hives.

The enemy probably thought that we were helpless in our poverty. But a
Boer is not easily made helpless. We patched our own shoes and carried
the lasts about with us. Horseshoes and nails we made from the tires of
wheels and telegraph-wires. Instead of matches we used two stones. When
the enemy have burned and destroyed all our corn-mills, we will still
have coffee-mills, and when those are gone we will do as the Kaffirs do,
and grind our corn between two stones--and crushed and roasted maize is
very good to eat.

The old Voortrekkers wore trousers made of untanned hide. We can do the
same if khaki does not supply us with sufficient clothes. Our wives and
children and our exiled men we cannot get out of khaki's hands, and that
is the greatest difficulty in our way.

One of the greatest advantages we have over the enemy is that we are
among friends, and can move about in small troops without having to
depend on a base of operations, whereas they do well not to divide
themselves in too small groups, or to venture too far from their
base--even in large numbers.

The services in our camp were held by the Rev. Mr. Naudé--a man who kept
the courage and the moral sense of the burghers up to the mark with his
meek Christian spirit. He also formed the debating club that was such a
welcome recreation to us. We often thought that the enemy would be
surprised if they could know of the debates we had--for instance, 'Must
the "hands-uppers" be allowed to vote after the war is over?' 'Must the
Kaffirs or natives have more rights?' 'Is intervention advisable under
the circumstances? etc. The men in the neighbourhood of Tafelkop were
mostly 'hands-uppers,' so we confiscated their property, and their grain
and cattle we took for the use of the lager, but we always left
sufficient for the use of the women and children. The future of a farm
on which a lager had camped for some time was dark indeed, for even the
grain in the fields was destroyed by the demon of war. If the owner of
the farm were not a 'hands-upper,' our officers usually succeeded in
preventing the destruction. Sometimes the pulling up of the fencing was
inevitable, as we were so short of fuel. The Boer women were sometimes
forced to accept the protection of the enemy, after their farms and
property had been destroyed by friend and enemy alike.

The negotiation of February 7, between Kitchener and Louis Botha, was
read out to us at Tafelkop. The burghers were unanimous in condemnation
of Kitchener's conditions, and were fully satisfied with Botha's short,
vigorous answer. Had we indeed fought so long and so fiercely only to
become an English colony, and not to be allowed to carry arms unless we
had a license? And for the Kaffirs to be eventually allowed to vote?
The men who were attached to their families and farms, but preferred
losing all to becoming 'hands-uppers,' were unanimous in declaring
Kitchener's conditions unacceptable, and all were ready to fight to the
bitter end. We often spoke of the terrible suffering of our women and
children in the refugee camps, and sometimes doubted whether it were not
better for their sakes to give in. We did not know whether patriotism
were worth the shedding of so much innocent blood. It cost us more than
we can tell to remain firm and brave in our undertaking.

At that time we also heard of De Wet's retreat from Cape Colony, but not
officially. It was broken to us gently, and at first as if he had been
successful, so that we all thought peace was to follow soon.

How we rejoiced!

But a few days later De Wet's official report was read out to us, and
then our courage sank indeed. What was the good of our fighting if the
Colony would not help us?

The disappointment was not great enough to make us lay down our arms,
but we knew it would be many a long day before peace was in the land.
How long should we still be chased from place to place? When would there
be rest for our exhausted bodies? And how we longed for our dear ones,
if only we should find them alive!



CONCLUSION

BATTLE OF STOMPIES--IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY


We stayed fully three weeks at Tafelkop. I was appointed commissary of
the Krugersdorp commando, and rode round to all the farms to procure the
needful for our commando. As General De la Rey had been camping close by
at Rietfontein for some time, there was not much left to commandeer,
unless we deprived the women whose husbands were in the veld of the
necessaries of life.

Our lager was moved from Tafelkop to Rietpan, from whence a few hundred
of our horsemen started with some guns and a few trolleys for Groot
Kafferkraal, in Hartbeestfontein district. General De la Rey had come
over to organize the expedition in person, and accompanied General Kemp.
I went with a man called Jooste to the neighbourhood of Lichtenberg and
Klein Kafferkraal to commandeer cattle. There I heard many tales of the
enemy's behaviour as they passed through a week before.

For some reason or other the houses there had not been burnt, perhaps
owing to the verbal negotiation between Botha and Kitchener. I know of
only one house that was burned down there. That was the finest house in
the neighbourhood and belonged to Willem Basson. Mrs. Basson herself
told me how it happened. Her husband had fled with the cattle when the
enemy came along. The soldiers asked her for money. They said such a
fine house must contain a great deal of money, and when she refused they
became most impertinent. The finding of a packet of dynamite in the
coach-house afforded a fine excuse. The dynamite was used by Basson for
the making of wells. On finding the packet they shouted 'Hurrah!' and
rushed off with it to the camp close to the house. They came back after
a while and stormed the house, smashing the windows with stones. Truly a
heroic storming of a fortress held by women! They destroyed everything
in the house, and the women and children were obliged to flee to Mrs.
Scheffers at Klein Kafferkraal, where I met them.

We know of many cases of cruelty and violence, cases that have roused us
to a passion of hatred.

I do not believe that the cases of violence, which are not spoken of
because of the horror, are tolerated by the military authorities, who
are probably ignorant of them. One can understand that the worst were
committed by isolated patrols who could give free vent to their evil
passions. We cannot always hold the chief officers responsible for acts
committed by individual soldiers, neither are our officers responsible
for the unlawful acts of individuals on our side. But if the English,
with their national pride and obstinacy, deny these acts of violence, we
can give them sufficient proof of more cases than one.

I was not present when the Krugersdorpers attacked Babington's force
near Lensdenplaats, in the neighbourhood of Groot Kafferkraal. But the
following morning, when they were retreating, I joined them with some
cattle, and was present at the Battle of Stompies. The night before the
battle I heard De la Rey's order given to Kemp to march his men at four
o'clock the following morning in the direction of the enemy. He was told
to retreat fighting, in case the enemy attacked, so as to give our
reinforcements an opportunity of attacking in the rear. Kemp ordered the
lager, or, rather, the few waggons, to retire to Bodenstein's farm the
following morning.

While we were busy inspanning we heard the enemy's bomb-Maxim, and
before the waggons had forded the dangerous drift of the donga near
Bodenstein's farm the bullets flew over our heads from the bult behind
us. The women fled into the house and the burghers retreated as fast as
they could. The enemy had surrounded us in the night, and each burgher
had to do his utmost to escape from out of the half-circle. The few who
stayed behind to defend the guns were soon obliged to fly after the
rest, and to abandon one gun still on the other side of the drift. The
others might have been saved if the women's lager had not impeded their
flight by obstructing the way.

We retreated to Vetpan. Those of the burghers who retreated more to the
right in the direction of Stompies were the best off, as the right wing
of the enemy had to be on its guard not to enter the wood there. The
enemy fired at us from horseback to enhance our panic, which was clever
of them, as it was impossible for us to turn in any direction. My horse
was overworked, and had changed its pace into a heavy gallop, a sure
sign that it would not last much longer. When I looked round, I saw a
few khakies riding on ahead, making our burghers 'hands-up.'
Fortunately, someone released a spare horse; I mounted it without a
saddle and made good my escape, but was incapable of riding for several
days after.

Our men made no attempt to check the enemy's progress. They all fled,
each one bent on saving himself. A Boer, if once he flies, is not easily
turned aside. But it must be remembered that our horses were terribly
overworked. They had to live on nothing but grass, and very little of
that. We all also recognised the impossibility of checking the enemy, as
we ran the risk of shooting our own men and women; so our only chance
lay in flight.

The horses of the enemy were soon 'done up,' and they had to satisfy
themselves with our guns--two large ones that we had taken from them at
Colenso, a damaged bomb-Maxim and several smaller ones. They took 136
prisoners, among whom were Lieutenant Odendaal, 32 artillerists, 13
burghers, and for the rest women and children and some big, full-grown
cowardly men who were in the habit of fleeing with the women and
children. The greater part of the women's lager fell into their hands.
The few waggons of Generals Smuts and Kemp that they captured were of no
importance. Jooste and Malherbe were also taken prisoners.

I rode with General De la Rey to Tafelkop, where our lager was
stationed. In a week's time I was back again at Stompies. I had been
there scarcely an hour, when the tidings came that the enemy were camped
on Willem Basson's farm. The following morning before daybreak I was on
my way to Rietfontein. There, too, I had been only about an hour, when
another column came down upon me from the direction of Ventersdorp. I
fled to Tivee Buffelgeschiet with two boiled mealies and a piece of
meat in my hands. Before I reached that farm, half an hour's ride, my
horse was done up. I crept behind an ant-hill and prepared to defend
myself against four scouts who seemed to be coming straight towards me.
Suddenly, however, they turned off in the direction of their main-guard,
because, as I afterwards heard, they were threatened by eight of our
scouts.

But the khakies were nearing me, and I was obliged to lead my horse into
a mealie-veld and to lie down full length in the rain. They did not
appear, however, and I concluded that they had camped at Rietfontein, so
I walked my horse to the farm of Mrs. Jansen, one of the few hospitable
women in that sparsely inhabited country. She hastily informed me that
the khakies had been there.

The eight burghers soon returned, among them a young man who was nursing
a wounded man on the farm. In the night we went into the veld with a
small brother of his, who rode a mule, and returned in the morning to
watch the enemy's movements from the roof of the house. My horse was so
ill with horse-sickness that it shook under me. The enemy suddenly
appeared on the long bult (hill) along which I had come the day before.
I carried my saddle into the house and fled into the veld. From behind
an ant-hill I watched the enemy shooting my poor sick horse. They passed
by me several times, but at last I was discovered, and had to give up my
beloved Mauser without a chance of defending myself. My two companions
escaped. This happened on April 3, 1901.

Fortunately, I fell into the hands of decent khakies who did not insist
on examining my old veld-shoes that I was using as a money-box, so I was
able to keep my precious four pounds. They took from me only a few
trifles by way of curiosities, and said I was sure to be robbed of them
sooner or later by the soldiers in the camp. I was told that I could
congratulate myself that I was made prisoner, as many columns were
coming down upon us from all directions, so that we would be obliged to
surrender that very day. I answered that the war had given sufficient
proof that their expectations were not always realized.

When the officers of the guard were told that I was taken under arms, a
curt order was given to 'Let him walk.' When I protested and pointed
out that I was a prisoner of war and not a criminal, I was treated with
consideration as an ordinary soldier. I was taken by Babington's force.

The following day the waggon lager arrived at Tafelkop, and the cavalry
that had been sent on to capture our lager joined the camp _minus_ any
prisoners. When the enemy's lager arrived at Potchefstroom a week later,
it brought along seventeen or eighteen 'hands-uppers,' one ambulance
doctor, several families, and one prisoner of war. Six of the
'hands-uppers' told me that the whole month we were camped at Tafelkop
they had hidden from us in their bedrooms so as not to be obliged to
break their oath of neutrality.

I came across an old acquaintance of mine in the lager--Phister, who had
served under Commandant Boshoff. I knew that he had been wounded in the
leg at the Battle of Stompies and taken by our men to Rietpan. On the
trek from Ventersdorp to Potchefstroom I discovered him lying on his
back in the blazing sun on an open trolley, near to Potchefstroom; he
shouted to me that he had had nothing to eat during the whole of the
eighteen hours' trek.

In Potchefstroom our trolley, with the twelve 'hands-uppers,' the
ambulance doctor, and myself, was sent in the direction of the prison.
People came towards us from all directions. Some women called out to us:
'Why were you so stupid as to let yourselves be caught?' Others
inquired, weeping, after husbands and sons.

When we got to the prison I alone was detained, and had the disagreeable
experience of being locked up. The ambulance doctor was dismissed, as he
was 'Not guilty'; and the 'hands-uppers' were taken to the refugee camp.

The treatment that the prisoners of war receive varies, and depends very
much on the prisoners themselves and on the men into whose hands they
fall. I was allowed to see my mother and sister, who obtained a pass to
come from Pretoria to see me. But I have seen the guards roughly send
away weeping women who were begging to be allowed a few words only with
their dear ones.

At Elandsfontein Station the Transvaal colours worn by some of the
prisoners of war were taken away by force. On the long journey to
Ladysmith we were packed like herrings in open trucks, with insufficient
covering for the cold nights.

The Ladysmith camp contained chiefly burghers who had been 'tamed' by
the enemy, and were ready to take the oath of allegiance. They were well
treated.

On April 3 I was taken prisoner, and on May 6 I was on board the
_Manila_, together with 490 other prisoners of war, on our way to India.

The burghers, accustomed to a free, independent life, suffered horribly
from want of space and insufficient and bad food. They could not get
over the idea of having to appear twice daily for the roll-call,
although there was no escape possible. But their sense of humour did not
suffer.

Our burghers acknowledge that travelling is an education in itself, but
they one and all prefer travelling as free men--first or second
class--and they even prefer the high walls and limited space of the
fortress to being a prisoner-of-war passenger on board the steamer.

The long, galvanized-iron bungalows in which we live here have zinc
roofs to guard against the heat of the tropical sun, but at any rate the
wind can blow through the openings on either side. The burghers are kept
alive and in pretty good health by an extremely temperate manner of
life. Once a week they are taken by a strong guard for a walk an hour
beyond the fort. They never get out on parole. As far as we are
concerned, they might even take cannon along with them to guard us, if
only they would take us out oftener.

Here, too, the moral tone of the burghers is kept up by religious
services, and by the great devotion of the Rev. Mr. Viljoen, clergyman
of Reitz, in the Orange Free State, who is a fellow-prisoner of ours.
The gaiety is kept up by sports and by the companionship of many
children. The sorrow is enhanced by the presence of many gray-headed old
men and by sad and heart-breaking tidings. 'Guard, is there any news
this morning?'

We are grieving with the grief of the exile, but we are waiting
patiently, and hoping still that a dove will bring us a branch with our
colours--Orange, green, red, white and blue: peace and independence.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "On Commando" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home