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Title: Ten Months in the Field with the Boers
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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[Illustration: Cover]


                           Ten Months in the
                          Field with the Boers

                          An Ex-Lieutenant of
                      General de Villebois-Mareuil

                        With a Map and Portrait

                           William Heinemann

                         _All rights reserved_

                      GENERAL DE VILLEBOIS-MAREUIL

_To you, General, who, from the Paradise of the Valiant, can read in my
heart the sentiments of respect and affection that guide me, I dedicate
these lines in token of the profound admiration of your former

TRANSVAAL, 1899-1900.


’No room, sir!’

This was the phrase that greeted my friend De C---- and myself at the
door of every carriage we tried.

The fast train for Marseilles leaving Paris at 8.25 was, indeed, full to
overflowing that night of December 23; by eight o’clock not a place was

Finally, after treading on a good many toes, and exchanging a good many
elbowings, we installed ourselves more or less comfortably--a good deal
less, to be accurate--one in the front of the train, the other close to
the luggage-van.

A last clasp of the hand to the comrades who have come to the station
with us, and we are off.

The lights of Paris begin to die out in the distance; conversation
languishes; the monotonous rumble of the train lulls the travellers into
drowsiness; heads nod and droop in the dim light of the lamp.

’La Roche!  Wait here five minutes!’

We jump out.  C---- and I meet again.

’Well, how are you getting on?’

’Not very well.  And you?’

’Very badly!’

And, much depressed, we return to our respective carriages.

At last the patience under discomfort habitual to men of our unsettled
lives asserts itself, and we sleep soundly till we reach Arles, when we
find two seats together.

At Marseilles we were kindly received by a pleasant cousin of mine, and
by a delightful lady, also of my kindred.

The 24th we spent with some comrades, officers of the neighbouring
garrison, and on the 25th we and our baggage were safely on board the
_Natal_, of the Messageries Maritimes.

I make special mention of our baggage, which, in preparation for the
campaign we are about to undertake, consists of two little canteens.
The two together weigh exactly 38 kilos, making about 19 kilos each.
They hold all our belongings, including our two revolvers and two
hundred cartridges.  We are not overloaded with baggage.

The _Natal_ is one of the ’fine steamers’ of former days, fairly large.

We first take possession of our cabin, which opens into the
dining-saloon.  Then we go up on the bridge, where we are introduced to
Colonel Gourko, who is also on his way to the Transvaal, as Russian
military attaché.  We had met him the evening before at the station, for
he arrived by the same train as ourselves. But his fluent French, and
his rosette of the Legion of Honour, which he always wears by courtesy
in France, had made us take him for some important functionary on his
way to Madagascar!...

We ask his pardon.  But the minutes pass. Hand-shakings, good wishes,
bursts of emotion, the time-honoured formula of departure have been gone
through; the gangways are taken up, the ropes cast off; we steam out of
port. The handkerchiefs that flutter on the quay and on the pier
gradually diminish, the houses seem to flatten, Notre Dame de la Garde
dwindles, becomes smaller and smaller, till at last it is a mere speck
on the horizon.  Then it disappears altogether; we are on the open sea.

I shall not thrill with ecstasy, nor pour out a tribute of emotion to
the ’blue immensity,’ for, though I have many parts--as you, my readers,
will readily believe, especially such of you as do not know me--I am no
poet.  The dinner-bell finds De C---- and me prosaically wrangling over
150 points at piquet.

The dining-saloon is large, but there are few diners.  We take a general

The captain, who is supposed to preside over the meals, is not well, and
does not appear.  In fact, we scarcely see him at table during the

Colonel Gourko, Captain Ram, and Lieutenant Thomson, the Dutch military
attachés, Captain D---- of the Marines, with his charming young wife and
their son Guy--who is soon one of our firmest friends--an engineer, a
naval doctor, a young lady on her way to set up as a milliner at
Tananariva, an English journalist, and Henry de Charette, a volunteer
for the Transvaal, where his health will prevent him from playing a very
active part, make up the sum total of diners, or very nearly so.

We further discovered on board Messieurs de Breda, a former cavalry
officer, Pimpin, Michel, a distinguished artillery officer, and a few
others destined to be our pleasant comrades in the future.

As at least fifteen of us are bound for Lourenço Marques, and as we have
reason to fear a visit from some English cruiser not unaccustomed to
such travellers, we have all adopted the most extraordinary callings.
One of us is a commercial traveller in the wine or drug trade; another
is a dealer in apparatus of various kinds. I also met a bird-seller, a
manufacturer of blinds, and an agent for bitumens!

C---- and I are modest!  We are in quest of purchasers for ’Calaya,’ a
febrifuge of extraordinary virtues, a specific for fever, dysentery,
headache, toothache, etc.

The weather is superb; but our boat is slow, and we rarely make 300
miles in the twenty-four hours.

We reach Port Said on December 31.  For New Year’s Day we get up an
entertainment with a lottery on board, and, thanks to Madame D----, it
proves a great success.

The profits, amounting to nearly a thousand francs, were handed over to
the Widows and Orphans’ Fund of the Messageries Maritimes.

The prizes offered by the passengers were of the most curious
description, and as we were bound for sunny climes, there were more than
twenty umbrellas among them.  Chance, with perhaps a little extraneous
help, made a good many of these fall to the share of Colonel Gourko, who
took the little joke in excellent part.

Breda undertakes the refreshment buffet, with the help of a charming
young girl, and presides with great dignity.

After leaving Port Said the company is increased by the members of a
Russian ambulance going to the Transvaal.  They keep very much to
themselves, and every evening they meet together on the lower deck to
sing their vesper prayer.  The sacred chant, in itself very imposing,
takes on a solemn grandeur in the picturesque setting of the Red Sea.

At Aden we go on shore, and make an execrable lunch, washed down,
however, by some excellent Chianti and Barolo; then we go to see the
famous cisterns, in which there is hardly ever any water now.

We also pick up a new passenger, Captain B----, of the Royal Field
Artillery, who also is for Durban on warfare bound.  Our approaching
hostility does not prevent us from being the best of friends throughout
the passage.  He wears the medal of the Soudan, too, which gives him a
further title to our sympathies.  He describes his very interesting
campaigns in India and Egypt.  He was present at Omdurman--’the great
battle,’ as he calls it.

Ever since we started we have been hearing terrific accounts of
Guardafui.  Few vessels, it appears, escape disaster at this point!  But
the sea is like oil, to the great mortification, no doubt, of all our
ancient mariners.

Now we are bound straight for Madagascar. For eight days we shall be
between sky and water.  Let us turn them to account for a rapid
retrospect of the causes which have led to the war in which we are about
to take part.

It will not, I think, be necessary to dwell on the origin of the

[#] Boer means peasant; Burgher denotes a citizen.

Colonists sent out in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company, they landed
at the Cape of Good Hope, discovered two centuries before (1486), and
settled there, employing themselves in agriculture and cattle-breeding.

At the time of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, 300 French
Huguenots joined them, bringing up the number of the colonists to about
1,000.  The fusion of the two races was rapid, and the French tongue
disappeared among them. Many of the French names even were
corrupted--Cronje was originally Crosnier--but many, on the other hand,
have persisted in their Gallic form--Villiers, Marais, Joubert, Du
Toit--and their bearers are very proud of their French descent.  But
England, anxious to acquire the colony when it began to prosper, sent
out a number of emigrants, reinforcing them steadily, till they became
an important factor in the community.

From 1815, when Cape Colony was recognised as a British possession by
the Treaty of Vienna, English policy has been hostile to the Boers, who,
for their part, received the English settlers in no friendly spirit.

About 1835 the Boers, under the pressure of the vexations to which they
were subjected, began their exodus to the north--the Great Trek, as they
still call it--and founded the Orange Free State, recognised in 1869 by
Europe, and the Transvaal.

They were not left long in the enjoyment of the territory they had
wrested from the Kaffirs. Diamondiferous deposits were discovered in the
Orange Free State in 1871; the English promptly confiscated the find on
the pretext that it belonged to a native chief under their protection.

In 1877, the Zulus having risen against the Boers, England intervened
for the alleged pacification of the country, sent her troops to
Pretoria, and annexed the Transvaal.

But in 1880 the Boers revolted, and under Joubert inflicted a crushing
defeat on the English at Majuba Hill, on the frontier of Natal, February
27, 1881.

The treaty of August 3, 1881, recognised the independence of the
Transvaal under the suzerainty of the Queen.  Another treaty, signed in
London, February 27, 1884, recognised the absolute independence of the

On January 2, 1896, the famous Jameson Raid, still fresh in men’s
memories, was checked at Krugersdorp.

Wishing to satisfy the claims of the Uitlanders, the President reduced
the term necessary for the acquisition of electoral rights from fourteen
to nine years.  Finally, in 1899, England, constituting herself the
champion of the foreigners, instructed Sir Alfred Milner, Governor of
the Cape, to demand a further reduction of the term to five years.

This measure meant the rapid intrusion of the alien into the
administration, and the gradual swamping of the Boers.  It would have
been the ruin of Boer autonomy.  The President refused. ’Her Majesty’s
subjects,’ he said, ’demanded my trousers; I gave them, and my coat
likewise.  They now want my life; I cannot grant them that.’

All these demands were but so many pretexts intended to mask the true
designs of England from the European Powers.  But they are manifest to
the least discerning.  On the one hand, there are gold-mines in the
Transvaal, and speculators demand them.  On the other, Cecil Rhodes has
declared that ’Africa must be English from the Cape to Cairo.’  War had
therefore long been foreseen, and the Transvaal quietly prepared for the

Under cover of an expedition into Swaziland, which was nothing but a
march of some few hundred Burghers who had never fired a shot except at
game, considerable armaments had been made from 1895 onwards.

Krupp supplied them with field-guns of 12 and 15 pound.
Maxim-Nordenfeldts were bought.  These quick-firing guns throw
percussion-shells to a distance of about 5,000 metres; their calibre is
35 millimetres.  The English have a great respect for these little
pieces, which they have christened ’pom-poms,’ in imitation of the noise
made by their rapid fire.  The same firm supplied small calibre Maxim
guns for Lee-Metford cartridges.  The cartridges are fixed to strips of
canvas (belts), which unroll automatically, presenting a fresh cartridge
to the striker the instant its predecessor has been fired.

Lastly, the Creusot factories received orders for guns of the latest
pattern: four 155 centimetres long, with a range of about 10,000 metres,
which the Boers call ’Long Toms,’ and two batteries of 75 millimetre

These cannon (model 95) were furnished with all the latest improvements.
They fire very rapidly, and the brakes, situated on either side of the
piece, absorb the recoil, the carriage being the fulcrum, and the
trunnions the points of contact with the piece.  They have a range of
about 7,000 metres.  They are loaded by means of cartridges, the whole
charge enclosed in a single metal case.  When efficiently served, they
will fire from fifteen to twenty shots a minute.

We have advanced indeed since the year 1881, and the cannon made in the
Transvaal itself, with cartwheel axle-trees riveted and braised

[#] This is preserved in the museum at Pretoria, side by side with a
mitrailleuse labelled ’Meudon,’ given to the President by the Emperor

A large stock of Mauser, Martini-Henry and Steyr rifles (1887 pattern),
with plentiful ammunition, was also bought by the Boer Government.

The weapon most in favour is the Mauser rifle of 1891, calibre 7.5
millimetres.  It is sighted up to 2,000 metres.  It has a magazine
containing five cartridges.  The movable straight-levered breech-block
has a safety-bolt.

The cavalry carbine, also much appreciated, is a reduced model of the
rifle.  The mechanism is the same, and it also has a magazine holding
five cartridges, but the movable breech-block has a bent lever.  This
carbine is sighted up to 1,400 metres.

These two weapons are of great precision, but I have heard it objected
since my return that the wooden grip which covers part of the barrel
causes an unequal heating and cooling of the metal between the covered
and uncovered parts, giving rise to occasional explosions or
distortions.  Personally, I saw no instance of this.

The Martini-Henry rifles, carbines, and muskets are sometimes preferred
by the older Boers.  They are of an obsolete pattern, and have an
insignificant range of only 800 metres for carbines and muskets.  They
are 11 millimetres in calibre, and their leaden bullets have no casing
of harder metal.  To some persons they have the advantage of disabling a
man more rapidly and effectually at a short range than bullets of
smaller calibre.

Events now follow closely one on another. On September 26, 1899, the
Volksraad issued the following proclamation from Bloemfontein:

’The Volksraad, considering paragraph 2 of the President’s speech, and
the official documents and correspondence submitted therewith, having
regard to the fact that the strained state of affairs throughout the
whole of South Africa, which has arisen owing to the differences between
the Imperial Government and the Transvaal, threatens to lead to
hostilities, the calamitous consequences of which to the white
inhabitants would be immeasurable, being connected with the Transvaal by
the closest ties of blood and confederacy, and standing in the most
friendly relationship with the Imperial Government; fearing that, should
war break out, a hatred between European races would be born which would
arrest or retard peaceful developments in all States and colonies of
South Africa, and produce distrust in the future; feeling that the
solemn duty rests upon it of doing everything possible to avoid the
shedding of blood; considering that the Transvaal Government during the
negotiations with the Imperial Government, which extended over several
months, made every endeavour to arrive at a peaceful solution of the
differences raised by the aliens in the Transvaal, and taken up by the
Imperial Government as its own cause, which endeavours have
unfortunately had only this result, that British troops were
concentrated on the border of the Transvaal, and are still being
strengthened--resolves to instruct the Government still to use every
means to maintain and insure peace, and in a peaceful manner to
contribute towards a solution of existing differences, provided it be
done without violating the honour and independence of the Free State and
the Transvaal; and wishes unmistakably to make known its opinion that
there exists no cause for war, and that a war against the Transvaal, if
now undertaken by the Imperial Government, will morally be a war against
the whole white population of South Africa, and in its consequences
criminal, for, come what may, the Free State will honestly and
faithfully fulfil its obligations towards the Transvaal, by virtue of
the political alliance existing between the two Republics.’

On the 29th Mr. Chamberlain, more aggressive than ever, laid down
certain impossible conditions:

1. The franchise to every Uitlander after five years of residence,
unencumbered by any formalities that might restrict the privilege.

2. An absolute separation of the executive and judicial power in the

3. Abolition of the dynamite monopoly.

4. Dismantlement of the fortress of Johannesburg.

5. A special municipal government for Johannesburg.

6. Official recognition of the English language, and an equal use of it
and the Dutch tongue.

During the first days of October the situation became more and more
serious.  Certain attempts at conciliation were still made.  On October
5, President Steyn demanded that the massing of troops on the frontier
should cease.  But on the 6th Sir Alfred Milner replied that he could
not accede to his request.  Mr. Steyn accordingly wrote to the Governor
of Cape Colony ’that the success of further negotiations was very
doubtful, as the Transvaal would refuse any conditions whatever laid
down by Her Majesty’s Government if British troops continued to arrive
while negotiations were in progress.’

Finally, on October 10 the Boer ultimatum was handed to Mr.
Conyngham-Green.  The Transvaal Executive had demanded an answer within
twenty-four hours, but the delegates of the Orange Free State got the
term extended to forty-eight hours.

War was declared on October 11.  The Boer commandos grouped themselves
in two principal centres, the Orange Free State and Natal.  In the Free
State, Du Toit and Kolby invested Kimberley on October 14.  Cronje
advanced against Methuen in the south-east, Schoeman against Colesberg,
and Olivier to meet Gatacre south of Aliwal North.

In Natal, Botha, Schalk Burgher, Lucas Meyer and Prinsloo, under the
Commander-in-Chief Joubert, marched upon Ladysmith.

On October 20 a desperate engagement took place at Glencoe.  General
Symons, himself mortally wounded, lost sixty killed, 300 wounded, and
300 prisoners.  The Boers had seventy men killed.

On October 21, at Elandslaagte, the German Legion and the Scandinavians,
surprised by the enemy, were slaughtered by the English Lancers after a
heroic resistance.

On the 23rd, at Dundee, Generals Yule and White were obliged to fall
back on Ladysmith.

Finally, on October 30, under the very walls of the town, at Lombard’s
Kop, General White, beaten again, lost 300 dead and wounded, 1,200
prisoners and ten guns.

On November 2 Ladysmith was invested.

To judge by the behaviour of the Boers at this juncture, it would have
seemed that the siege of the three towns, Mafeking, Kimberley and
Ladysmith, was the end and object of the whole campaign.

They had at this stage of the war one of the most magnificent
opportunities imaginable.  Full of confidence, flushed with success,
well equipped, and more numerous than they would ever be again, they
might have reckoned on the co-operation of the Cape Boers, who,
believing in the possible success of their brethren, were preparing to
throw in their lot with them.

Against them they had some 40,000 English, half of them only just
disembarked, unacclimatized, untried in warfare, the other half
discouraged by recent events and scattered over a vast area.

Order and effort prolonged for one week only would have overwhelmed and
annihilated the English army.  Cape Colony and Natal would have thrown
off the yoke, associating themselves with the Transvaal and the Orange
Free State, and the United States of South Africa would have been a
power to reckon with. But no!  Nothing was attempted.  Joubert seemed to
be hypnotized before Ladysmith, Du Toit before Kimberley.

And, quietly and undisturbedly, England gradually disembarked the
200,000 men Lord Kitchener thought necessary for the work in hand.
Nevertheless, for two months more the incapacity of the English generals
all along the line thrust the flower of the Queen’s battalions under the
deadly fire of the Mausers, without a chance of fighting for their
lives, so to speak.

On November 10, at Belmont, Lord Methuen was repulsed with heavy loss.
A month later, at Stormberg, General Gatacre ventured an advance without
scouts, without a map, blindly following a guide whose course he did not
even verify by a compass.

The advance took place in the utmost disorder, though it had been
arranged forty-eight hours, previously.  The ambulance lost touch with
the detachment, and went its own way. The 2nd Battalion of the
Northumberland Fusiliers lost its ammunition-waggon.  The column
advanced in close order to within 100 yards of the Boer entrenchments
without any warning, and was decimated.  Gatacre lost 100 men killed and
700 prisoners.

On December 11, at Magersfontein, Lord Methuen had a second disaster to
deplore. Half an hour after midnight, after twenty-four hours of
artillery preparations and bombardment of the Boer entrenchments, five
Highland regiments advanced in line of quarter-column. The night was
dark, and rain was falling in torrents.  At half-past three in the
morning the English halted, not very sure of their route. In an instant
a deadly fire poured out from the rocks.  They were less than 200 yards
from the trenches occupied by Cronje’s men.

The Black Watch was decimated.  General Wauchope fell, crying: ’My poor
fellows! ’twas not I who brought you here!’  The Marquis of Winchester
was also killed.

The whole body was demoralized, and it was not possible to make the
fugitives lie down till they had reached a distance of several hundreds
of yards.  ’It was,’ says an eye-witness, ’one of the saddest sights
that could wring the heart of an English soldier of our times.’

In this turmoil of confusion and indecision, Lord Methuen only gave the
order to retire towards four o’clock in the afternoon.  More than a
thousand dead strewed the battle-field, and no help was given to the
wounded till the following day.

In the last letter he wrote to England, Wauchope said: ’This is my last
letter, for I have been ordered to attempt an impossible task.  I have
protested, but I must obey or give up my sword....  The men of the
Modder River army will probably never follow Lord Methuen in another

Finally, on December 15, the Battle of Colenso was fought.  I borrow an
account of it from Sir Redvers Buller’s telegram despatched from
Chieveley Camp in the evening:

’I regret to report serious reverse.  I moved in full strength from camp
near Chieveley this morning at 4 a.m.  There are two fordable places in
the Tugela, and it was my intention to force a passage through at one of
them. They are about two miles apart, and my intention was to force one
or the other with one brigade, supported by a central brigade.

’General Hart was to attack the left drift, General Hildyard the right
road, and General Lyttleton in the centre to support either.

’Early in the day I saw that General Hart would not be able to force a
passage, and directed him to withdraw.  He had, however, attacked with
great gallantry, and his leading battalion, the Connaught Rangers, I
fear suffered a great deal.  Colonel Brooke was severely wounded.

’I then ordered General Hildyard to advance, which he did, and his
leading regiment, the East Surrey, occupied Colenso Station and the
houses near the bridge.

’At that moment I heard that the whole of the artillery I had sent to
that attack--namely, the 14th and 66th Field Batteries and six naval
12-pounder quick-firing guns, the whole under Colonel Long, R.A.--were
out of action, as it appears that Colonel Long, in his desire to be
within effective range, advanced close to the river.  It proved to be
full of the enemy, who suddenly opened a galling fire at close range,
killing all their horses, and the gunners were compelled to stand to
their guns.’

Desperate efforts were made to bring back the guns, but only two were
saved by the exertions of Captain Schofield and two or three of the

It was here that Lieutenant Roberts, of the 66th Battery of Artillery,
son of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts, met a glorious death.

’Some of the waggon-teams got shelter for troops in a donga, and
desperate efforts were made to bring out the field-guns, but the fire
was too severe, and only two were saved by Captain Schofield and some
drivers, whose names I will furnish.

’Another most gallant attempt with three teams was made by an officer
whose name I will obtain.  Of the 18 horses, 13 were killed, and as
several of the drivers were wounded, I would not allow another attempt.

’As it seemed they would be a shell mark, sacrificing loss of life to a
gallant attempt to force passage unsupported by artillery, I directed
the troops to withdraw, which they did in good order.

’Throughout the day a considerable force of the enemy was pressing on my
right flank, but was kept back by the mounted men under Lord Dundonald
and part of General Barton’s brigade.

’The day was intensely hot and most trying to the troops, whose conduct
was excellent.

’We have abandoned ten guns, and lost by shell-fire one.

’The losses in General Hart’s brigade are, I fear, heavy, though the
proportion of severely wounded is, I hope, not large.

’The 14th and 66th Field Batteries also suffered severe losses.

’We have retired to our camp at Chieveley.

’The Boer losses are said to be over 700 men.’[#]

[#] This statement does not appear in the _Times_ report of General
Buller’s telegram.--TRANSLATOR.

No, General, we did not lose 700 men that day.

General Botha’s report gave 8 dead and 20 wounded, while more than 2,000
English lay on the battle-field.

Round about the batteries especially the carnage had been terrible.  The
Boers, ambushed on a little kopje on the further side of the Tugela, 300
metres from the cannon, kept up an unerring fire for an hour.

December 15, be it noted, has long been a day of rejoicing in the
Transvaal.  It is the anniversary of the Battle of Bloedriver, when
Pretorius, to avenge the massacre of Pieter Retief and over 500 Boers,
defied the bands of the Zulu chief Dingaun.  This was on December 15,
1838, and on that eventful day Pretorius and his 400 men left 3,000
Zulus on the field, with a loss of only three wounded themselves.

After Colenso the victors had another splendid opportunity.  They might
have pushed forward with the armies of Natal and the Free State. The
English troops had, it is true, been reinforced, but the arms of the
Republics were still victorious in every direction.

In the beginning, on the whole, the elements of success were
overwhelmingly with the Boers. These were superiority of numbers, of
marksmanship, a profound knowledge of the country, of which no accurate
maps exist, and the great distances between their opponents and such
reinforcements as the latter could depend on. It might have been said
that the fortune of war, taking into account the right and justice of
their cause, had been pleased to place all the elements of victory in
their hands.  But neither the advice offered by the most authoritative
voices and based on the great teachings of military history, nor the
entreaties dictated by the most generous devotion to the cause of the
Boers, could rouse the superiors in command from the apathy that seemed
to have overtaken them.

Christmas passed in rejoicings on both sides. The belligerents exchanged
Christmas and New Year good wishes by the medium of shells specially
prepared, containing sweets, chocolates, etc.  New Year’s Day found them
all much in the same positions.  The bombardment of the three towns,
Mafeking, Kimberley, and Ladysmith, continued.

However, on January 6 Joubert made up his mind to attack--if, indeed,
that strange encounter, aimless and incoherent, can be called an attack.
Was it an assault by the besiegers or a sortie of the besieged?  Perhaps
both. It took place at Platrand.  Four or five hundred of Prinsloo’s men
were seriously engaged; the others (there were 6,000 round the town)
took up positions early in the morning, quitted them towards ten o’clock
to come back and breakfast in camp, returned to them later, and remained
for the rest of the day 1,800 yards from the town, which was no longer
defended, without firing a shot, without a thought of throwing
themselves against it or of going to the help of their comrades, hotly
engaged close by.  In the evening they went back quietly to camp, while
the commandos of Zand River, Harrismith, Heilbron, and Kroonstad had
fifty-four killed and ninety-five wounded.  The English lost 138 killed
and over 200 wounded.  A little dash, decision, and cohesion, and the
town might have been taken.  Such was Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil’s

But even in the full flush of success we shall never find among the
Boers that eagerness, that scorn of death, that enthusiasm which sweep
troops forward and make great victories.

The same day, at Colesberg, an _accident_ (this word is a happy
invention of General French’s to denote a reverse) cost the English 150
lives, among them that of Colonel Watson.

The sieges followed their--I will not say normal--course, for the
ill-defended towns ought long ago to have been taken by the Boers.  Such
was the general situation, more or less, when we landed.


Time passed, the screw laboured round, and on January 12 we arrived at
Diego Suarez.

’Passengers for Lourenço Marques change steamers!’

For the _Natal_ is bound for Mauritius, along the east coast of
Madagascar.  We shall therefore spend the night on shore.

Wandering about the town, we meet Colonel Gourko, whom we invite to
dinner, as we are in a French colony.  I can’t pride myself much on this
meal, in the name of French culinary art.

The next day I lighted on a quartermaster of the Marine Artillery, whom
I had known in the Soudan when he was only a gunner.  He went off to
find the other Soudanese campaigners of the settlement, and in a quarter
of an hour I was surrounded by half a dozen old comrades. They were all
in high spirits, for it had been a day of promotions, and several of
them were toasting their new stripes.

I spend a full hour with them, recalling the old days spent in the
colony that all who have once known regret.

The hour of parting draws near; several subalterns return to their
duties, while my old friend and a newly-promoted officer come to see me

The _Gironde_, also of the Messageries Maritimes, plies from Diego
Suarez to Durban and _vice versâ_.  Several artillery and marine
officers, having heard of my presence, have come to wish me godspeed on
board.  I am much touched at this token of sympathy from unknown
friends, for, setting my humble personality aside, it is a homage to the
noble cause I am on my way to uphold.

But the bell rings, the anchor is weighed, and we are off.  If the
_Natal_ was an old ’fine steamer,’ the _Gironde_ is a _very_ old one.
She was formerly one of the swift and elegant Indian liners, but now,
obsolete and worn-out, is reserved for this little auxiliary service
till such time as some sudden squall shall send her to the bottom.

Nevertheless, we arrived safely at Mozambique, where some few days
before a terrible cyclone had destroyed part of the native village. Huts
were overthrown and lying in fragments, trees torn up by the roots,
telegraph-wires broken; an air of mournful desolation hung over the

Meanwhile, the buxom negresses of the quarter went about their daily
work, apparently unmoved at the ruin of their dwellings.

We pay a visit to the fort, a very curious sight, with its mediæval
battlements bristling with cannon two hundred years old, and its
soldiers armed with flintlock muskets.  All these excellent Portuguese
warriors seem to be impressed by a sense of their lofty mission. They
even demurred a little before admitting us into their ’citadel.’

We take up the Archbishop of Mozambique, I believe; he is brought on
board by a military launch, with all the honours due to his rank, and
saluted by the guns of the fort.

We leave Mozambique the same evening.

Every day there were superb sunsets, glories of deep purple, blue,
blazing red, green, yellow and pink, vivid pieces of impressionism that
beggar description.

Thus, still avoiding shipwreck, we come to Beira, where we land our
prelate, who is received by a numerous staff of officers; troops line
the quays, and salutes are fired!

Portugal has certainly a remarkable colonial army.  Among the others
there is a huge captain, bursting out of his tunic.  Each of his long
commands, incomprehensible to me, seems to produce consternation in his
troop, followed by a series of perfectly diverse manoeuvres.

We turn away that we may avoid laughing aloud, for the moment is a
serious one...  Two or three trombones attack the Portuguese national
air.  A good many of the worthy soldiers have shouldered arms, and the
majority have presented them....  His lordship passes.  He gets into a
little ’lorry’ pushed by natives, and goes off quickly, while the troops
disperse.  They are worthy of those I have several times seen at Lisbon.

I think if I were the Portuguese I would prefer none at all to such as
these....  And, then, the suppression of the military budget would
perhaps enable them to pay their dividends. In the afternoon we embark a
band of Englishmen coming from Rhodesia to enlist as volunteers at
Durban and Cape Town.  They invade the saloon with their friends, and
sing ’God save the Queen.’  Some of the Frenchmen present retort with
the Marseillaise; the situation becomes strained, fists are clenched,
and finally a certain number of blows are exchanged. We have on board a
grandson of President Kruger’s, whose home is in Holland.  After having
been arrested once, conducted to Durban and sent back to Europe, he is
making a second attempt to enter his country.  Thanks to a strict
incognito, only laid aside for two of us, he succeeds in his design.

At night we arrive off Lourenço Marques, where, without let or
hindrance, we disembark on January 21.

We order a bottle of Moët in the saloon to drink the health of Captain
B----, whom we are leaving, and against whom we are going to fight

’Your good health,’ he says, ’and I trust we shan’t meet later on!’

We part with a hearty shake of the hand. At the Custom-house we easily
get our artistically-concealed revolvers through, but the Customs
officers fall upon the uniforms, arms and harness belonging to Colonel
Gourko. They decline to pass anything, in spite of all explanations.
The Colonel is obliged to go and fetch the Russian Consul and the
Governor.  We take up our quarters at the Hotel Continental, which, we
are told, is the best.  Five of us are packed into one small room on
improvised beds, where we are devoured by mosquitoes ... and this costs
fourteen shillings a day!

Colonel Gourko, having recovered his baggage, joins us there, and, in
his turn, invites us to dinner.  He does things in a princely fashion,
and the bill must have been one that Paillard himself would have
hesitated to present.

All sorts of obstacles are invented to prevent our departure.  Firstly,
of course, our passports have to be _visé_, but before this can be done
we have to get stamps, which are only to be had at the opposite end of
the town; we have, further, to produce a certificate of good conduct
(having only arrived the night before!).  Then more stamps, then a note
from the French Consul, then more stamps; and the office where you get
the signature or the paper is never the same as the one that sells the

At last all formalities have been carried out. Our pockets are bulging
with some dozen papers covered with innumerable signatures and a shower
of stamps.  Cost: over 50 francs--10,850 reïs!

We go to the station at seven o’clock the following morning.  There are
a great many police officers on duty.  By the Governor’s orders no one
is to be allowed to start for the Transvaal with the exception of the
Russian ambulance.  We all exclaim shrilly, and hurry off to the Consul.

Upon our formal declaration that this order will injure us in our
business, he proceeds to the Governor and remonstrates, with the result
that we are authorized to start next morning, there being only one train
a day.

We spend the day wandering about the town, which is of little interest.
The great square planted with trees is pleasant, however.

We see the funeral procession of an officer of the English man-of-war
stationed here.  The coffin, covered with the Union Jack, is placed on a
little gun-carriage drawn by sailors; others line the way.  Officers in
full uniform follow, and a company of red-coats bring up the rear.

This is our last encounter with the ’soldiers of the Queen’ before we
open fire upon them. They are already numerous in South Africa, and
every day brings reinforcements.

At the beginning of hostilities there were about 25,000 men distributed
over Natal and Cape Colony.  From November 9 to January 1 seventy-eight
transports have brought 70,000 men, completing the fifth division;
15,000 volunteers have been raised on the spot, making in all 110,000

The sixth and seventh divisions, a contribution from the colonies, will
bring them up to 22,000; 3,000 yeomanry and 7,000 militiamen will
complete the total of 152,000 promised for the month of February.  The
seventh division started from January 4 to January 11, bringing nearly
10,000 men and eighteen cannon.

Engagements at the rate of 3,600 francs (£124) are being made on every
side--1,600 (£64) on enlistment, 2,000 francs (£80) at the end of the
war.  Enlistments in our Foreign Legion are affected and fall off

The City of London, by means of a public subscription of £100,000,
raises a corps of volunteers.  This desperate system of enlistment is
severely criticised, even in England.

’What a humiliation,’ says Mr. Frederick Greenwood in the _Westminster
Gazette_ of January 2, ’to have to cry Help! help! at every crossway to
pick up a man or a horse.’

Seventeen new battalions are to be raised after January 15.  The choice
of men rests with the colonel or the lieutenant-colonel commanding the
regimental district.  They are required to be aged from twenty to
thirty-five, to have gone through a course of instruction in 1898 or
1899, and to hold a certificate of proficiency in shooting.  But, as a
fact, many of these certificates are given by favour, and a third of the
volunteers are from eighteen to twenty years old.  The effort made by
the country has been considerable.

On January 19 the eighth division was mobilized.  It comprised the
sixteenth and seventeenth brigades under the command of Major-Generals
B. Campbell and J. E. Boyes; Batteries 89, 90, and 91, and the 5th
company of Engineers, making a strength of 10,540 men, 1,548 horses,
eighteen cannon, and eight machine guns.

The eighth division is under the command of General H. M. L. Rundle,
aged forty-four, who has already served in the Zulu campaign, at the
siege of Potchefstroom in the Transvaal in 1881, and in the Egyptian and
Soudanese campaigns from 1884 to 1898.


To return to our journey.  On the morning of the 24th, at 10 o’clock, we
took the train and departed, happy to leave Lourenço Marques. The last
station on the frontier is Ressano-Garcia; again our papers are
examined.  If we paid highly for them, they at least do good service.

The train rolls on again, and in a few minutes we are on the soil of the
Transvaal. All along the line, at every little bridge, bands of armed
Boers are posted.  Komatipoort Station is also occupied by troops.
Everyone gets out.  There is a minute inspection of all papers, even of
private letters, and we are conscientiously searched.  Having satisfied
our challengers, we are allowed to go on.  The trains travel very slowly
in this very broken, varied country.  We ascend almost uninterruptedly,
and the line seems to run either along the sides of rocky mountains or
the edges of bottomless abysses.  Many of the spots we pass are
extraordinarily picturesque.  In the evening we arrive at
Watervaalonder, and the train stops; for in this country neither trains
nor men are in a hurry.

A Frenchman, named Mathis, keeps a hotel, at which we sleep.  He
receives us with much affability, and talks enthusiastically of the game
in the neighbourhood.  He is a Nimrod.

The next day we start again, and in the evening we are at Pretoria.  My
friend Gallopaud is at the station, and takes us to the Transvaal Hotel,
where the guests of the Government are quartered.

On the 26th, thanks to the good graces of M. Grunberg, we are presented
to M. de Souza, Mr. Reitz’s secretary, for whom we have letters of

We take the oath of fealty as burghers, and receive our weapons, Mauser
carbines, the stock of which is getting low, cartridges and belts.
Horses and saddles are already giving out.  We are impatient to be off,
but shops and offices are all closed on Saturday at one o’clock and
throughout Sunday.

We take advantage of the holiday to inspect the town.  Pretoria, as
everyone knows, is the capital of the Transvaal.  It is the seat of the
Government, which is composed of two Chambers, the First Volksraad and
the Second Volksraad.  Each is composed of twenty-nine members, elected
by direct suffrage.  The President of the Republic and the
Commander-in-Chief are elected by the members of the First Chamber, the
former for five, the latter for ten years.  They are eligible for
re-election for any length of time.

The President, Paul Kruger, familiarly known as ’Oom Paul,’ was
Commander-in-Chief for a long time before he became President.  The
present Generalissimo, Joubert, was his rival in the Presidential

The Transvaal revenue is drawn for the most part from heavy royalties on
the mines, and a crushing tax on explosives; in 1897 an income of
112,005,450 francs (£4,480,218) was received, against an expenditure of
109,851,400 francs (£4,394,056).

The general aspect of Pretoria is depressing; only two or three streets
show any animation. The circumstances of the moment are not certainly
such as to enliven the town, but I have been told that even in times of
peace it is never very cheerful.

Stretching over a wide area, it is intersected by little tramways, the
cars drawn by two consumptive horses.  In the centre is Government
House, a huge building of freestone, massive and ungraceful, though not
without certain pretensions to the ’grand style,’ I believe.  On each
side a sentry of the Presidential guard paces up and down.  Under the
colonnade of the main entrance, which faces a large open space, a few
steps lead up to a vast hall, with a monumental staircase at the end.
On each side of the hall two wide corridors run round the building, and
give access to all the different offices.  We find the whole place,
hall, corridors and offices, crowded with busy people, some soliciting,
others solicited, all hurrying hither and thither. With the exception of
some few buildings of several storeys grouped round the palace and in
the main street--the post-office, the clubs, the banks, the hotels and
the large shops--all the houses are little one-storey cottages
surrounded by gardens.

                     *      *      *      *      *

On Monday morning we are able to have horses, which we go and catch
ourselves in the great courtyard which serves as a dépôt.  We have also
some old English saddles, and after buying some rugs and some
indispensable provisions, we are ready to start at about five in the

Our departure is fixed for eleven o’clock, by the special train which is
to take _Long Tom_ to Kimberley, where we are to join Colonel Villebois.
This _Long Tom_, a 155 millimetres Creusot gun, is a personage, a
celebrity.  It weighs 2,500 kilogrammes; its carriage weighs the same.
Its fame is derived from its history.

One night last November, at Lombard’s Kop, in front of Ladysmith, where
the gun was mounted, sixty English, taking advantage of the slumbers of
the Boer sentinels, stormed the hill, seized the cannon, and finding it
impossible to displace it, damaged the two ends with dynamite.  After
this the burghers, coming up in force, retook the gun, brought it to
Pretoria, and repaired it in a remarkable manner. It was, however,
shortened by about 25 centimetres.

After these adventures it has become a sort of prodigal son, a legendary
weapon beloved of those great children we call the Boers.  It is,
therefore, no small honour to be called upon to escort _Long Tom_.  We
share this honour with a gunner named Erasmus, a strange being, who,
after being severely wounded at the taking of ’his cannon,’ had sworn
only to return and fight in its company.

On this Monday night, accordingly, at eleven o’clock, in a downpour of
rain, we and our horses take our places in the train, which, profiting
no doubt by its being a ’special,’ starts an hour after time.  It
consists of three or four first-class coaches with lateral corridors.
These coaches, which are comfortable enough, and very high in the
ceiling, have in each compartment two seats of three places each,
covered with leather, and in the centre a folding-table about 50
centimetres wide.  At night a second seat, which is raised in the
day-time, or serves as a luggage-net, makes a sleeping-berth, so that
four travellers in each compartment can rest comfortably, a convenience
highly desirable in a country where journeys often last forty-eight
hours, and even six or seven days, as from Cape Town to Buluwayo and
Fort Salisbury.

Travellers install themselves as they please, without any sort of
constraint.  Luggage is not registered, and the carriages are invaded--I
use the term advisedly--with weapons, saddles, bridles, bandoliers,
provisions, dogs, if one has any, rugs, trunks and bundles.  No
officials, no staff, no warning cries, no notices forbidding travellers
to get out while the train is in motion.  A station-master, and hardly
anything more.

A bell rung three times at short intervals announces the departure of
the train.  You get in, or you don’t get in; you stand on the footboard,
climb on to the roof of the carriage, leave the door open or shut it,
get into a truck or cattle-van--it’s your own look out.  You are free,
and no one would dream of interfering with you in the matter.

In the carriages passengers sleep, drink, eat, sing, shoot and gamble,
and every morning a negro comes and cleans up.

There is a little of everything among the debris--old papers, empty
preserve-tins, fruit-parings, tobacco-ash, cartridge-cases, empty, and
sometimes broken, bottles.  An inspector on the P. L. M. would go mad at
the sight.

While the cleaning goes on, we go and ask for a little hot water from
the engine, and make our morning coffee.  On trucks that we go and fetch
ourselves we load up heavy carts of provisions, ammunition, and cannon.
Finally, we heap up pell-mell in open cattle-vans, mules and horses in
some, oxen in another.  And casualties are no more numerous than in
Europe, where we arrange them like sardines in a box--’thirty-two men,
eight horses.’  The beasts of these regions, like the men, have
apparently learnt to take care of themselves from their earliest

During the journey of Tuesday a springbock, a kind of antelope, startled
by the engine, is so imprudent as to run along by the train at a
distance of about 300 metres.  From the tender to the last van a brisk
fire suddenly opens.  The engine-driver slows down, then, as the
creature falls, stops altogether.  A man gets down, fetches the quarry,
and comes quietly back. The train goes on again, the springbock is cut
up, and at the next station the engine-driver gets a haunch as an
acknowledgment of his good-nature.  This is indeed travelling made

But there are always folks who like to cut down the cakes and ale!  In
April, 1900, a penalty of £5 sterling was decreed for persons who fire a
gun or a revolver in a railway-station or a village.

In every station--and they are legion--the whole feminine population has
gathered, and sings the Boer hymn as soon as the train appears.  And at
every station the following ceremony takes place: A deputation comes to
Erasmus, and begs him to show _Long Tom_. Erasmus mounts on the truck
where the cannon is installed, and opens the breech.  Each woman passes
in front of it, putting either her head or her arm in, with cries of
admiration.  Then Erasmus closes the breech, gets down, and the
Transvaal hymn, sung in chorus, alternates with that of the Orange Free
State until the departure of the train.

On Tuesday evening at six o’clock we arrive at Brandfort.  It is too
late to unload the gun, and we spend the night in the village, where we
are very well received.

Early on Wednesday we begin our task, with the help of the whole
village, and to the accompaniment of the national hymn.  The young girls
all have sharp, forced voices, but from a distance the effect of these
voices in chorus is not unpleasant.  As to the male choirs, which are
heard on every possible occasion, they are really charming and very
impressive.  Their music is very slow, and almost exclusively devotional
in its rhythm.

Towards three o’clock on Thursday the convoy is ready.  Thirty bullocks
have been harnessed to _Long Tom_.  The rest of the convoy consists of
some twenty waggons of provisions and ammunition.  As we set off, two or
three photographers make their appearance.

The column, escorted by some sixty Boers, moves off towards Kimberley,
in the midst of enthusiastic demonstrations.  The waggons are heavy
four-wheeled carts, with powerful brakes; the back part is covered with
a sort of rounded tent stretched over hoops.  This tent is the home of
the travelling Boer.  In it he keeps his mattress, his blankets, his
utensils, his arms, while the front part is reserved for the heavy
stores--millet, flour, biscuits, etc.

The driver walks beside his team, armed with a long whip, which he
wields in both hands.  The thick cane handle is often about 10 feet, and
the lash, of strips of undressed hide, from 15 to 20 feet long.  The
management of this whip is no easy matter, and it is curious to see a
good driver, at the moment when an effort is required, giving each of
his twenty or thirty bullocks the necessary stroke in an instant.

The Burgher himself is mounted, shabby and ragged, dressed in a faded
coat, a shapeless hat, and long trousers without straps.

For some time on the march we had a neighbour whose ulster, formerly, no
doubt, of some normal hue, had turned, under the rains of years (I had
almost said of centuries), a pinkish colour, with green reflections,
like a sunset at sea.  And the happy owner of this prism seemed quite
unconscious that, amidst much that was extraordinary, he was perhaps the
most extraordinary sight of all.

One warrior was mounted on a wretched old English saddle, to which were
slung pell-mell a mackintosh, a many-coloured rug, a coffee-pot, a
water-bottle, and a bag containing a medley of coffee, sugar, tobacco,
biscuit and _biltong_ (dried meat).  Two bandoliers, and sometimes his
rifle, were slung across his body, the latter horizontally on his
stomach, when he was not carrying it upright in his hand, like a taper.
His braces hung down his back.  He had a single spur, for the Burgher
rarely uses two, thinking a second an unnecessary luxury. Indeed, he
relies much more on his _shambock_ (a thong of hippopotamus hide) than
on his single spur for the control of his horse.

Thus equipped, he shambles along on his jade, which trots, canters and
gallops at intervals, silent, his legs well forward, his feet stuck out,
catching at his over-long stirrups.  His military organization is on a
par with his equipment.

The ’commando’ is the only military division known among the Boers.  A
commando is a levy of the men of a district, under the leadership of a
field-cornet or a commandant.  These grades, which are ratified by the
Government, are independent of any hierarchy, and merely imply a
difference in the number of electors.

I say electors advisedly, for the field-cornets are chosen by their men,
and, in their turn, take part in the nomination of the generals. This
arrangement works well enough when electors and elected are of one mind.
But when the leader wants to carry out some plan which his electors
disapprove, he runs the risk of being cashiered and replaced by one of
the majority.

I do not know what are the results of this system in politics; but,
applied to an army, it is disastrous, for very often the leader, brave
enough himself, dares not engage his men, lest he become unpopular; and
this, I think, has been the main cause of the total absence of offensive
action on the part of the Boers. Perhaps, indeed, it will prove one of
the main causes of their final overthrow.

The commandant, or field-cornet, chooses among his men a ’corporal,’ who
acts as his auxiliary.  These ’commandos,’ the effective numbers of
which are essentially variable, are called after the chief town of the
district from which they are drawn: Heidelberg Commando, Carolina
Commando.  And not only do they vary considerably, according to the
population of a district, but the field-cornet himself never knows how
many men he has at his disposal, for the Burghers have no notion of
remaining continuously at the front; when one of the number wants to go
back to his farm nothing can stop him.  He goes, though he will come
back later for another spell of service.  Desertions of this kind often
took place _en masse_ the day after a reverse.

The Johannesburg Politie and the Artillery are the only troops in the
Transvaal which can be described as more or less disciplined.  The
Politie are the police-force of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

In times of peace the men wear a uniform consisting of a black tunic,
cut after the English pattern, and black trousers.  On their heads they
wear a little hard black cap, with a button at the end, and for full
dress a white peaked cap with a badge bearing the arms of the Transvaal.
On the collars of their tunics are three brass letters: Z. A. R. (Zuid
Africa Republic).  But during the campaign their uniform has
disappeared, and they are not to be distinguished from the ordinary
Burghers. A certain discipline obtains among them, and they receive
regular pay, which is reduced in time of war, as their families are then
in receipt of indemnities in kind.

These men are the only ones who can be relied on to hold a position they
have been told to keep.  The other Burghers will only fight if they
choose, and if they can do so without much risk.

The fighting strength of the Johannesburg Politie is about 800 men, with
four lieutenants, under Commandant van Dam, an energetic and intelligent

The guns, of which I have already given a brief description--four _Long
Toms_, a dozen 75 millimetres Creusot guns, some thirty Krupp
field-pieces and old Armstrongs--are served by a body of artillery whose
barracks are at Pretoria.  I do not say nineteen or twenty batteries,
for there are no groups or detachments.  Each gun is used separately,
according to the needs of the generals or the fancy of the artillerymen.

The corps consists of thirty officers and about 400 men.  They wear a
black tunic and breeches, and a sort of shako much like that of the
Swiss army.  In the field this shako is replaced by a large felt hat
looped up on one side, and the rest of the costume undergoes any
modification that suggests itself to the wearer.

They were at first under the command of Commandant Erasmus, who was
superseded after the affair of Lombard’s Kop, below Ladysmith.[#]

[#] Commandant Erasmus must not be confused with the Adjutant Erasmus
who was with our party.  The same names are very frequent throughout the
Republics, the natives of which are mainly sprung from the few families
who originally settled there.  Thus there are some twenty Bothas, thirty
Jouberts, etc.

The artillery of the Free State, composed of old Armstrong guns and a
few Krupp guns lent by the Transvaal, is served by a corps who look like
the artillerymen of a comic opera. They wear a drab tunic and breeches
with a great deal of orange braid, and are inferior even to their
colleagues of the Transvaal.

All told, then, the army consists of some 40,000 to 50,000 Burghers,
without cohesion and without discipline, field-cornets who do not obey
their generals, and who cannot command the obedience of their men.  Over
them are titular generals and vecht-generals (generals appointed for the
term of the campaign only), for the most part ignorant of the very
elements of the art of war, and at variance one with another.

How often during this campaign are we led to ponder over the phrase we
have been mechanically reciting for ten years past: ’Seeing that
discipline is the strength of armies!’

                     *      *      *      *      *

We have a six days’ march before us.  The bullocks are accustomed to
travel by short stages of two hours, followed by an hour’s rest. At
night, however, we advance by stages of four or five hours.

The soil over which we pass is bare and sandy, of a uniform
grayish-yellow tint, and produces nothing but short, coarse grass, which
serves as fodder for the oxen and horses.

At every halt the cattle are let loose, and when the rest is over the
Kaffir ’boys’ go off in pursuit of them, often to a considerable
distance. Water is scarce, and generally bad.

Very often on the way we are received with delightful hospitality at the
farms we pass. These houses are clean, and often even those which stand
quite alone in the bush have a parlour adorned with photographs,
religious prints, and Scripture texts in large characters. The furniture
is simple, but there is very often a harmonium, for the singing of hymns
is a frequent exercise in a Boer household.

Nevertheless, a respect for musical instruments is not carried to
extremes.  At Dundee, for instance, a Burgher had made a shelter for
himself with a piano taken from an English villa.

The head of the family, often an old man with a white beard, is an
absolute and much respected master in his home.  He presides at meals,
waited on by the women, who do not eat till the men have finished.  The
menu invariably consists of eggs and mutton cooked together in a
frying-pan, bread or biscuit, and fruit.  The drink is coffee with milk.

The Boer women are not well favoured.  As a rule, they are thick-set and
weather-beaten. They wear large pink or white sun-bonnets, very becoming
to the young girls.

The traveller is a guest, received as if he were an old acquaintance;
and whatever the hour of his appearance, he is at once offered coffee
with milk, and, when they are in season, peaches.

At the time of our journey a good many men were at the front; but there
are often some dozen children with the women, making large households.
They all live pell-mell in two or three rooms.

In time of peace the Burgher is a keen sportsman; this is, indeed, the
reason of his wonderful skill as a marksman, for he always shoots with
ball-cartridge; shot is never used.  In time of war he is a hunter
still.  He fights as he hunts, the game alone is changed; but as the
quarry has means of defence more efficacious and violent than those of
the ostrich or the springbock, he is often less persevering in pursuit
of it.

When the Burgher halts to hunt or to fight, he dismounts, shelters his
horse behind some rock, and leaves it loose, taking care to pass the
bridle over its neck.  All the horses are trained to stand perfectly
still when they see the reins hanging in front of them thus, and, no
matter how heavy the fire, they will not stir.

The Boers have a way of their own of reckoning distances.  When, for
instance, they tell you that it is seven hours from a certain place to
another, don’t imagine that you will be in time for dinner if you set
off at noon; the seven hours in question are a conventional term. They
are hours at the gallop, and it is supposed that a swift horse, going at
his utmost speed, could cover the distance in seven hours.

The immense concessions given by the Government are not cultivated, for
the Boer has a rooted dislike to work; his black servants grow the
necessary mealies, and keep his numerous flocks.  As his wants are very
primitive, this suffices him.  To procure sugar, coffee, and other
necessaries, he goes to town and sells two or three oxen.

The rifle and cartridges furnished by the State in time of war become
the Burgher’s property.

                     *      *      *      *      *

On the march in war-time this system of halting the oxen because they
are hot, and the men because they want to drink coffee at every farm, is
neither very rapid nor very practical.  We do not arrive at Boshof till
the fifth day.  This is the spot fated to be the grave of our venerated

Boshof, in contrast to its surroundings, is a gay little oasis,
traversed by a cool stream.  It boasts green trees and pretty villas.
Two ambulances are installed here, but they shelter only two or three
wounded as yet.

At the end of the village is a pool, which delights us vastly.  We spend
the afternoon in it, after lunching with the field-cornet.

The town is _en fête_, as at Brandfort, to receive us, or rather--away
with illusion!--to receive _Long Tom_.

We start again in the night, and reach Riverton Road.  We are now on
English territory, in Cape Colony.

Towards noon, M. Léon comes to meet the cannon, the arrival of which has
been anxiously expected for the last two days.

We are only an hour from the camp, which we reach at a gallop.  There,
at Waterworks--the reservoir that supplies Kimberley--we find Colonel de

Need I describe that frank and energetic face, with its searching blue
eyes, and its benevolent smile, sometimes a little ironical, always
subtle; the clear voice; the concise manner of speech, brief without
being brusque?  Even at that stage a look of sadness had stamped itself
upon his face; he saw that the men for whom he was to lay down his life
would not follow the counsels dictated by his profound knowledge and
unquenchable devotion.

                     *      *      *      *      *

We had been expected for two days, and twice the Colonel had had good
luncheons prepared.  Then, giving us up, he had ordered nothing, and we
took his kitchen by surprise.

We find with him Baron de Sternberg, that charming Viennese, whose
inexhaustible good spirits are famous throughout London and Paris.  In
the evening he works in his tent at a history of the war, and composes
the most delicious verses in German.  The Colonel also works hard.

_Long Tom_ arrives some time after us.

Our laager at Waterworks is a large square, measuring some 200 metres on
every side, planted with trees, and containing the machinery for
distributing the water.  It looks like an oasis in the midst of the vast
yellow plain.  In the distance are a few kopjes.  We are about 700
metres from Kimberley.  The camp is commanded by General du Toit.

Kampferdam, where the cannon has been taken, is 3 kilometres to the
south, and 5,500 metres from Kimberley.  It is a kind of whitish peak,
about 50 metres high, formed of the refuse from the diamond mine below.

The night of Tuesday to Wednesday is spent in the construction of the
wooden platform on which _Long Tom_ and his carriage are to be mounted.

The English searchlights fix their great round eyes upon us from time to
time, but there is nothing to show that the enemy has noticed anything
abnormal in our proceedings.

All night long the work goes on with feverish activity, for Léon, who is
superintending the operations, wants to fire his first shell at
daybreak.  But it is no easy task to hoist up that mass of 5,000 kilos,
especially with inexperienced, undisciplined, and obstinate men, and the
cannon is not ready till ten o’clock.

One of our party, Michel, an old artilleryman, the holder of some twenty
gunnery prizes, gives the workers the benefit of his experience, and as
he cannot find any sights, Erasmus artlessly proposes to make one of

At last the first shot is fired!  I am certain that at this moment not a
single Boer is left in the trenches.  Everyone has rushed out to see the
effect produced.  It is of two kinds. Firstly, our shell, badly
calculated, bursts far off in the plain; then, no sooner has it been
fired, than an English shell from the Autoskopje battery, 3,500 metres
to our right, falls and explodes among the machinery of the Kampferdam
mine.  This exchange of compliments goes on till near twelve o’clock.
This is the sacred hour of lunch.  The fire ceases.

As coffee is a liquid which has to be imbibed slowly, firing does not
begin again till nearly four o’clock.  It is very hot, for it is the
height of summer.

During this interval, the Colonel has been several times to General du
Toit, to ask for fifty volunteers.

The Colonel’s plan is to batter the town with a storm of shells (we have
450) for two hours, from four to six, and thus demoralize it; then, with
fifty men, whom the French contingent would lead, to seize the
Autoskopje battery, which is but poorly defended, at nightfall, and
thence to gradually creep up to the town through a little wood, which
would mask the advance.  The plan was very simple, requiring but few
men, and had every chance of success, because of the surprise it would
have been to the English, who had never been attacked hitherto.

’Wait a bit,’ said Du Toit; ’I will lay your plan before the council of
war to-morrow.’

In vain the Colonel tells him that the success of the plan depends on
its immediate execution. He can get no answer.  The evening is wasted.

General du Toit is a big, bronzed man, with a black pointed beard and a
straight and penetrating gaze.  Though very brave personally, he has
never dared to engage his men.

The latter are very well pleased with their role of besiegers.  They
will appreciate it less when the _Long Cecil_ comes upon the scene.
Hitherto, the long _far niente_, comparatively free from peril--the
town, under the command of Colonel Kekewich, was defended by such a
small garrison that _sorties_ were impossible--has only been broken by
the singing of hymns, the brewing of coffee and cocoa, and the
occasional pursuit of a springbock.

Every evening a guard, composed, I fancy, of anyone who chose to go,
went off, provided with a comfortable stock of bedding, to do duty round
the camp.

Others, the valiant spirits, remained at the three batteries where were
installed _Long Tom_, the three Armstrongs, and the Maxim.

_Long Tom’s_ battery was by far the most popular, for several reasons.
In the first place, its processes were much more interesting than those
of the small guns; then, its defenders were much more sheltered, owing
to the proximity of the mining works; and finally, a good many former
miners were always on the look-out for a stray diamond or two.

Among the besiegers of Kimberley, indeed, we met with a good many
adventurers who took no other part in the campaign.

Men of all nationalities, many of them familiar with the town, having
worked in the mines here, they came in the hope of finding some diamond
overlooked in the sudden cessation of mining operations....  Then, too,
they knew that Cecil Rhodes was in the town, having had no time to fly
or to carry off his treasure.

Then, again, there are bankers and jewellers in Kimberley, and if the
Boers had taken the town....

It appears that Cecil Rhodes was quite aware of this danger, and I have
heard that he attempted to manufacture a balloon which was to have
carried ’Cecil and his fortunes’ to a safer city.

In any case, his gratitude to his defenders was very lively.  And, in
addition to other liberalities, he presented a commemorative medal to
them all.


Failing an assault, we resume the bombardment. The firing is slow and
inaccurate.  The English reply in much the same fashion, when suddenly
their new cannon appears on the scene, not altogether to our surprise,
for some intercepted letters had warned us of its manufacture.  It was
the famous _Long Cecil_.

The _Long Cecil_ was a gun of about 12 centimetres, made in Kimberley
itself during the siege with a piece of steel taken from the machinery
of the De Beers mine.

The piece was drilled and rifled with the means at the disposal of the

The closing of the breech, a somewhat fantastic arrangement, was based
on the Canet system.  In default of a trial field, the range was arrived
at from observations of actual firing against us.

_Long Cecil_ accordingly began to speak, and to speak very much to the
point.  Several times we were covered with earth, and I am certain that
out of twenty shells, the extreme error was not more than 200 metres.
One fortunately fell diagonally on _Long Tom’s_ very platform,
rebounded, and burst a little way off. Seven men were killed.

The next day, Thursday, passed in almost precisely the same fashion.
Towards five o’clock the interchange of amenities between _Long Tom_ and
_Long Cecil_ began, and lasted till 8.30; at 8.30, breakfast.  After
breakfast, the guns went to work again till 11.  At 11, lunch, rest.
From 4 to 6, another cannonade.  At 6, dinner.

This respect for meal-times is charming, and greatly facilitates life in
the field.

It is a pity the attention of the Powers is not called to this subject
by an international convention!  Many affections of the stomach would be
hereby avoided.

Encouraged by the example of their big brothers, the little 12 and
15-pounder Krupps and Armstrongs join in the concert.

The English have five, and we have four.  It is delightful, and one
can’t complain of a single second of boredom.

On Friday, the Colonel’s request is still unanswered.

’Wait a little while!’

Sternberg has had enough of it.  Recognising the impossibility of
persuading Du Toit to take decisive action, he starts off to Jacobsdal,
where the English make him a prisoner.  He was a great loss, for he had
an extraordinary repertory of adventures, which he told in a very
amusing manner, and, besides, he was a capital cook.

The ’boys’ in these regions, greatly inferior to those of the Soudan in
this respect, claim to be cooks as soon as they know how to light a
fire.  Accordingly, we prepare our meals ourselves.  Tinned meat, a bit
of roast mutton, or a stew, are the usual dishes.

The Colonel eats very little, and only takes grilled meat; he drinks tea
or milk, and never touches wine or spirits.  He does not smoke. He is a
striking contrast to the rest of us, who eat like ogres, drink like
sponges, and smoke like engines!

Our contingent, consisting of Breda, Léon, Michel, Coste, my friend De
C---- and I, remain with Villebois.

Michel has calculated the ranges, and we fire all Friday night.  The
points aimed at are: the searchlights, Cecil Rhodes’ house, the Grand
Hotel, the last high chimney on the left, and that on the right.

Erasmus was unable to suppress a gentle amusement at the sight of our
preparations for night-firing.  But when he grasped the idea that we
were in earnest, and that his _Long Tom_ was being loaded, the
benevolent smile with which one would watch a spoilt child engaged in
some innocent folly changed to a look of real anxiety.  He thought poor
Michel had gone mad.  He finally got used to the novel proceeding.

Firing ceased on both sides about 12.30 a.m. Early on Saturday morning
it began again. One of our shells fell on the De Beers magazine,
transformed into an ammunition factory, and caused an explosion and a

The English, despairing of silencing our _Long Tom_ with their _Long
Cecil_, replied to every shot at the town by a shell into our laager.
The accuracy of their fire with this gun at a range of about 7,000
metres was remarkable.  We were indeed a capital target: a green
rectangle of 200 metres in the midst of a yellow, arid plain.

The shell arrived in thirty-four seconds, but did no great damage, for a
watchman gave the alarm, ’Skit!’ each time when he saw the smoke, and we
retreated into shelter.

The telegraphists of the staff, who were working in a little house, were
placed in communication with the watchman by means of a bell, and,
warned half a minute before the arrival, they had time to take refuge in
a neighbouring trench.

We learnt later that a similar system had been adopted in Kimberley as a
protection against _Long Tom_, and hence the small number of killed
during the siege.  One of the first victims of _Long Tom_, however, was
the engineer of the _Long Cecil_, who had just finished his work.  A
shell burst on his house and killed him in his bedroom.  Another cause
of the slight mortality on both sides was the bad quality of the fuses
for the projectiles, which often burst imperfectly, or not at all. Thus,
one of the English shells fell in the machinery of the waterworks, only
a few inches from our reserve of a hundred shells, and happily failed to
explode.  Another went through a cast-iron pipe, over a centimetre
thick, and buried itself in the earth without exploding; its fuse was
completely flattened on the projectile by contact with the pipe.

Nevertheless, a good many, too many indeed, _did_ burst with
satisfactory results--to those who fired them.

A good many of the Boers accordingly took the precaution of digging a
sort of tomb several feet deep, in which they piled mattresses and
blankets.  They spent all night and part of the day lying in this

On Saturday morning, on arriving at the battery, we were surprised by a
whistling sound. The English, harassed by the fire of _Long Tom_, had
dug trenches during the night to a distance of about 1,200 yards, and
had manned them with riflemen.  Their fire was not yet very galling,
because of the distance between us.

Colonel de Villebois, seeing clearly what would happen, renewed his
request for a party of men.  He now only asked for twenty-five to make
an assault that very night, for he pointed out that the _shanjes_
(trenches) would be pushed forward during the night, and that our
battery would become untenable.  But he was repulsed by the eternal
’Wait a little while!’

Long convoys of Kaffirs that the English could no longer feed came out
of the town every day, preceded by huge white flags.  Some were allowed
to pass after a parley, others were sent back again.

The Colonel feared that an attempt would be made against _Long Tom_ by
night, as a sequel to the offensive movement on the part of the garrison
indicated by the making of the trenches.

Everyone goes to spend the night at the battery, and we take the
opportunity of firing at the town.  It proves to be merely a pastime.
The English reply, but do not attack us.

On Sunday, February 11, we rest all along the line.  The Burghers sing
hymns in chorus, and do not cease till late in the evening.  A sort of
patriarchal simplicity obtains among them.  Yesterday the Colonel was
shaving.  A Boer entered without saying a word, sat down on his little
camp-bed, and remained there motionless.  The Colonel, used to their
ways, took no notice, but waited for the visitor to explain his visit.
As this was prolonged considerably, the Colonel continued his toilet by
a tub taken _puris naturalibus_.  The Boer remained, staring silently at
him.  At last, his toilet ended, the Colonel explained to the visitor
that he must go, as he wanted to close his tent.  The Boer departed
without a word. About ten minutes afterwards he came back with a friend,
who explained that he wanted the Colonel’s razor.  He would bring it
back _afterwards_.  It was very hard to make him understand that the
Colonel wished to reserve the implement for his private use.

On this Sunday, the day of rest, we accordingly went off to bathe at a
spring four kilometres from our laager.  We enjoy this peaceful pastime
in the company of a young clergyman who was at one time in the camp.
When _Long Cecil_ began to bombard us, he judged its war-like thunders
to be incompatible with his sacred function, and set up his tent beyond
its range.

On Monday morning the firing began again early.  Léon and the Colonel
went off to the battery.  Our horses had been turned out to graze by
mistake, so we did not start till an hour after them.  On arriving, we
found the balls whistling more smartly than on Saturday. We could
plainly distinguish the buzz of the dum-dum bullets amidst the whir of
the ordinary charge.

During the two nights, the English had pushed forward their trenches to
a distance of from 700 to 800 yards from us.  We went up on the
platform, where the Colonel, his glass in his eye, was talking
imperturbably to General du Toit.  At the same moment we saw Léon, who
was standing behind them, spin round and fall across the gun-carriage.
The poor fellow had been shot right through the forehead just above the

The Colonel at once raised him in his arms, others started off in haste
for an ambulance; but the bullets were now falling round us like hail.
Two horses were wounded in an instant, and a Burgher fell, a bullet
clean through his body.

Poor Léon was still conscious.  He bid us all good-bye calmly, taking a
particularly affectionate leave of the Colonel, to whom he was greatly
attached.  The Colonel took a little water to wash the blood from his
face, and placed the empty pannikin on the parapet of sacks filled with
earth behind which we were sheltered.  So heavy was the English fire
that the pannikin instantly fell to the ground pierced by a bullet.

At last a cart appeared with an attendant and a stretcher.  The wounded,
who numbered about a dozen by this time, received first aid; then Léon
was carried off on a stretcher.

What a journey was that march of three kilometres, the first part of
which was performed under a rain of bullets!  The head of the wounded
man was swathed in cloths, which we kept wetting continually, holding an
umbrella over his head, for the heat was intense--it was eleven o’clock
in the morning.  Blood poured from his mouth and nose.  Poor fellow! we
made up our minds that it was all over with him.

We reached Waterworks in two hours.  But the little house that had been
turned into a hospital was no longer safe since the bombardment of our
camp had begun.  A telegram had therefore been sent to Riverton Road,
where there was an ambulance-station with a good doctor.  Towards one
o’clock an ambulance-carriage arrived and carried off our comrade.

On Tuesday, the 13th, we missed the salute _Long Tom_ had been in the
habit of giving the enemy at daybreak.  What had happened? We sent off
for news.  General du Toit replied that Erasmus declared the gun was
broken, and could not be fired.  He himself had not been to inquire into
the damage, and seemed to be no more concerned than if he had been told
it was raining at Chicago.  We set off to Kampferdam in great distress,
expecting to find the gun a wreck.

As we approached, however, we saw that it was still in place, apparently
wondering at its own silence.  We examined it carefully all over, but
could find nothing to account for the catastrophe, and, in despair, we
sent for Erasmus.

Standing back a couple of paces, he showed us that one of the beams of
the platform, which had received the full force of the recoil, had sunk
some few centimetres.  It was a matter of no importance, and did not
interfere with the firing in any way.  But Erasmus, I suppose, did not
feel inclined to work the gun that day. He had told Du Toit that it was
broken, and the General had at once accepted the statement. After a
severe reprimand to the recalcitrant gunner, the firing recommenced as

Our provisions began to run out in camp, in spite of a stock of potatoes
we had discovered at the waterworks.  It was accordingly arranged that
we should start off with two others of the party to get fresh stores,
and a cart and mules, at Pretoria.

The Colonel, believing that the lack of offensive action among the Boers
would prolong the siege indefinitely, determined to set out himself on
the 15th for Colesberg, where we were to rejoin him in a few days.  We
started on the 14th, bound for Brandfort and Pretoria.

On setting out, my mare, an excellent mount, but very fiery, brought me
suddenly to the ground, to the great amusement of the Colonel. The same
accident having happened to Breda a day or two before, it began to be
looked upon as a special privilege of the ex-cavalry officers!

At nightfall we arrived at Riverton Road, where Léon was lying.  During
the evening the Colonel himself came over to inquire for him.  He had
had a good day, and the operation that was judged necessary had been
fixed for eleven o’clock that night, to avoid the heat of daylight.  We
waited about the door of the baggage-shed, which had been converted into
an ambulance.

The operation, which proved perfectly successful, lasted an hour and a
half.  The doctor, a Scotchman called Dunlop, assured us that our poor
friend was out of danger.

At daybreak on the 15th we started, the Colonel for the camp, we for
Brandfort.  It was terribly hot, and we were in a hurry, for a rumour of
Lord Roberts’ arrival had got about. It seemed likely that there would
be some more lively work on hand very soon, and we were anxious to get
through the drudgery of revictualling as quickly as possible.

In the evening we reached Boshof, where a good many wounded had been
brought since our last visit.  We rode all day on the 16th, slept in the
bush, and started again at daybreak on the 17th.  Towards noon we took a
rest of an hour and a half, and consumed a tin of corned beef.

It was nearly two when we mounted again under a sky of fire, not to draw
rein till we reached Brandfort at ten o’clock on Sunday morning, save
for a compulsory halt of two hours from three to five in the morning,
when the darkness made it impossible for us to continue our journey in
the trackless sand and tangled bush.

We had been in the saddle twenty-six hours out of thirty to accomplish
our journey of 120 miles, and had taken three and a half days, riding
over sixty kilometres a day, in average heat of from 38° to 40°
(centigrade), without fodder and almost without water, in a wild,
unknown country.

Our horses were dead-beat, and we entered the village on foot, dragging
the poor brutes by their bridles.  What was our stupefaction to hear
that the siege of Kimberley had been raised without any engagement the
very day after our departure!

The surprise, it seems, had been complete. There was a cry of ’The
English!’ and then a panic, which barely left time to carry off the guns
and waggons.  Part of the ammunition was left behind, some provisions,
_Long Tom’s_ break and its platform.  The Colonel had escaped with
Breda.  But in the confusion one of our comrades, Coste, was lost, and
eventually joined Cronje.

A story which amused us all at the time may be told here.  A volunteer,
no longer in his first youth--well over fifty, in fact--had come to join
the Colonel just at the time of the English attack.  A very eccentric
character, and slightly bemused by drink, he found himself in the thick
of the stampede, without any clear idea of what it was all about.

Suddenly the Burghers, who had never seen him in the camp before, struck
by his odd behaviour, demanded his passports.  Not understanding a word
of Dutch, he had some difficulty in making out what they wanted.

At last he produced the necessary paper. The pandours of the moment
scrutinized them carefully, then, shaking their heads in the fashion
which among all races implies negation, they said:

’No good!  _Obsal!_’ (mount).

Two men ranged themselves on either side of the unlucky wight, a
complete novice in horsemanship, and galloped off with him to a farm
several miles off.

’Dismount!  Your passports!’

About fifteen persons, men, women and children, were grouped round a
table.  The passport, handed round once more, is discussed by the
assembly, each person present giving an opinion.  The general verdict is
unfavourable, for heads are again shaken.

’No good!  _Obsal!_’

The poor volunteer, aching from his furious gallop, begins to think
things rather beyond a joke; but, anxious to conciliate, he remounts,
and gallops off again under escort.  On arriving at another farm another
inspection, also unfavourable, takes place.

’No good!  _Obsal!_’

This time the worm turns.  Pale, exhausted and racked with pain, he
opposes the force of inertia to the rigour of his tormentors, who,
convinced that he is a spy, set him against a wall and load their
rifles.  This argument is so convincing that he remounts, and finally
makes them understand that he will be able to find someone to answer for
him at Brandfort.

Two days later he arrived there, fasting, exhausted, and still guarded
by his escort. Fortunately he was recognised and released.  He never
returned to the front.

                     *      *      *      *      *

We leave for Pretoria by the first train, and arrive on the evening of
the 20th.  We at once set to work on our re-victualling mission.

Two days later, I got a telegram from Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil.
Having heard of the arrival of a good many French volunteers at
Pretoria, he agrees to take the command of them, and orders me to get
them together.  A letter to M. Reitz, sent off at the same time,
explains the project.

Among the new arrivals are ex-petty officers, ex-sailors, ex-legionaries
... a motley crew. Their equipment will take several days, and it is
arranged that they are to join us at Colesberg, for which we start by
that evening’s train.

During this short sojourn at Pretoria I was presented by Colonel Gourko
to Captain D----, the French military attaché, one of the most charming
men I have ever met.

We noticed numerous placards on the town walls, giving notice of
thanksgiving services for February 26 and 27.  It is the anniversary of
Majuba Hill, which is celebrated every year with great pomp.  This year,
in spite of the national pre-occupation in current events, the
traditional custom is to be kept up.  The usual review of the troops by
the President and the Commander-in-Chief cannot, of course, take place;
but the shops and offices will be closed for forty-eight hours, and the
whole population will flock to the churches.

Shortly after our departure, at a station the name of which I
forget--perhaps intentionally, for I feel a qualm of remorse at the
recollection of it--a little fox-terrier playing about the train jumped
into our carriage.  We were just starting....  It would have been cruel
to throw the poor little beast on to the platform at the risk of maiming
it or causing it to be run over....  In short, we kept her, and
christened her Nelly.  She was very pretty, pure white, with a black
patch on her head and another on her back.  I felt remorseful--until the
next station; then I overcame my scruples.  I am so fond of dogs.

At Brandfort, a counter-order awaits us, directing us to go to
Bloemfontein, where the Colonel awaits us, in consequence of Lord
Roberts’ latest operations.  We land our cart, our mules, and our
provisions.  But our worn-out horses have to be replaced.  The Colonel,
impatient to be gone, will not wait for us, and starts for Petrusburg,
where we are to join him as quickly as possible.

On the 28th, the news of Cronje’s capitulation reaches us.  We know
nothing of the details, but the moral effect is terrible.

We had got together hastily at Pretoria a cart, harness, mules, and
three black boys. Individually, each of these acquisitions is highly
satisfactory.  The cart is a superb omnibus, freshly painted gray; the
harness is almost new, the mules very handsome--a little black one in
particular.  The boys were chosen to suit all tastes: one tall, one
short, and one of medium height.  But it proves very difficult to
establish any sort of cohesion between these various elements.

At the first attempt the harness breaks, the mules bite and kick.  It
needs the cunning of an Apache even to approach the little black one.
The boys are stupid, and speak neither Dutch nor English, nothing but
Kaffir.  The omnibus alone remains stationary, but it creaks and groans
in a pitiable fashion when touched.

A second experiment is no more successful than the first.  The third
gives a better result: the vehicle moves, and even goes very near to
losing a wheel.

This remarkable result is achieved, firstly, because all the rotten
leathers of the harness are in pieces, after a double series of joltings
and strainings; only the solid ones are left. Secondly, the pretty
little black mule has run away, after breaking some dozen halters, so
that we are saved the trouble of harnessing her. Lastly, we have
stationed the three boys at a safe distance, begging them on no account
to help us, and Michel, who as an old artilleryman is an adept in
harness, does wonders.  Finally we get off, escorting our omnibus, which
groans aloud at every step.

We look like ’The Attack on the Stage Coach’ in Buffalo Bill!


On the morning of the 7th, the road to Petrusburg was blocked, and the
guns were roaring in front of us.  Marais, Botha’s adjutant, joined us.
At the first sound of the guns we left the waggons, and galloped off in
the direction he pointed out.  The battle of Poplar Grove was about to
be fought under our eyes, though we were unable to take a very active
part in it.

The engagement went on mainly oh our right; we were on the left of the
Boer lines.  In front of us was a kopje occupied by a hundred rifles.

About 11 o’clock the English cavalry charged at the guns, about two
miles away.  The firing slackened.  Then about 2 o’clock the English
began to shell us furiously with shrapnel, also the kopje forming the
Boer centre.  An outflanking movement completed the demoralisation of
the Boers, and at 3.30 the retreat became general.

President Kruger came by this morning to announce that he had made the
following peace proposals:

’_March_ 5, 1900.

’The blood and tears of the thousands who have suffered by this war, and
the prospect of all the moral and economic ruin with which South Africa
is now threatened, make it necessary for both belligerents to ask
themselves dispassionately, and as in the sight of the Triune God, for
what they are fighting, and whether the aim of each justifies all this
appalling misery and devastation.

’With this object, and in view of the assertions of various British
statesmen to the effect that this war was begun, and is being carried
on, with the set purpose of undermining Her Majesty’s authority in South
Africa, and of setting up an administration over all South Africa,
independent of Her Majesty’s Government, we consider it our duty
solemnly to declare that this war was undertaken solely as a defensive
measure to safeguard the threatened independence of the South African
Republic, and is only continued in order to secure and safeguard the
incontestable independence of both Republics as sovereign international
States, and to obtain the assurance that those of Her Majesty’s subjects
who have taken part with us in this war shall suffer no harm whatsoever
in person or property.

’On these two conditions, but on these alone, are we now, as in the
past, desirous of seeing peace re-established in South Africa, and of
putting an end to the evils now reigning over South Africa; while, if
Her Majesty’s Government is determined to destroy the independence of
the Republics, there is nothing left to us and to our people but to
persevere to the end in the course already begun, in spite of the
overwhelming pre-eminence of the British Empire, confident that that God
who lighted the inextinguishable fire of the love of freedom in the
hearts of ourselves and of our fathers will not forsake us, but will
accomplish His work in us and in our descendants.

’We hesitated to make this declaration earlier to your Excellency, as we
feared that, as long as the advantage was always on our side, and as
long as our forces held defensive positions far in Her Majesty’s
colonies, such a declaration might hurt the feelings of honour of the
British people; but now that the prestige of the British Empire may be
considered to be assured by the capture of one of our forces by Her
Majesty’s troops, and that we are thereby forced to evacuate other
positions which our forces had occupied, that difficulty is over, and we
can no longer hesitate clearly to inform your Government and people in
the sight of the whole civilized world why we are fighting, and on what
conditions we are ready to restore peace.’

Lord Salisbury replied as follows:

’_March_ 11, 1900.

’I have the honour to acknowledge your Honours’ telegram, dated the 5th
of March, from Bloemfontein, of which the purport is principally to
demand that Her Majesty’s Government shall recognise the "incontestable
independence" of the South African Republic and Orange Free State "as
sovereign international States," and to offer on those terms to bring
the war to a conclusion.

’In the beginning of October peace existed between Her Majesty and the
two Republics under the Conventions which were then in existence.  A
discussion had been proceeding for some months between Her Majesty’s
Government and the South African Republic, of which the object was to
obtain redress for certain very serious grievances under which British
residents in the South African Republic were suffering. In the course of
these negotiations the South African Republic had, to the knowledge of
Her Majesty’s Government, made considerable armaments, and the latter
had, consequently, taken steps to provide corresponding reinforcements
to the British garrisons of Cape Town and Natal.  No infringement of the
rights guaranteed by the Conventions had, up to that point, taken place
on the British side.  Suddenly, at two days’ notice, the South African
Republic, after issuing an insulting ultimatum, declared war upon Her
Majesty; and the Orange Free State, with whom there had not even been
any discussion, took a similar step.  Her Majesty’s dominions were
immediately invaded by the two Republics, siege was laid to three towns
within the British frontier, a large portion of the two colonies was
overrun, with great destruction to property and life, and the Republics
claimed to treat the inhabitants of extensive portions of Her Majesty’s
dominions as if those dominions had been annexed to one or other of
them.  In anticipation of these operations, the South African Republic
had been accumulating for many years past military stores on an enormous
scale, which, by their character, could only have been intended for use
against Great Britain.

’Your Honours make some observations of a negative character upon the
object with which these preparations were made.  I do not think it
necessary to discuss the questions you have raised.  But the result of
these preparations, carried on with great secrecy, has been that the
British Empire has been compelled to confront an invasion which has
entailed upon the Empire a costly war and the loss of thousands of
precious lives.  This great calamity has been the penalty which Great
Britain has suffered for having in recent years acquiesced in the
existence of the two Republics.

’In view of the use to which the two Republics have put the position
which was given to them, and the calamities which their unprovoked
attack has inflicted upon Her Majesty’s dominions, Her Majesty’s
Government can only answer your Honours’ telegram by saying that they
are not prepared to assent to the independence either of the South
African Republic or of the Orange Free State.’

It was to be war, then, to the bitter end.

                     *      *      *      *      *

At the beginning of the retreat, a field-cornet came to ask my advice,
as often happened. He disregarded it, as always happened.  I wanted them
to destroy the reservoirs, burn the forage, and poison the wells all
along the line of retreat.[#]  He would never consent.

[#] The writer apparently made this monstrous suggestion quite

Later on, when I was a prisoner, an English officer of rank, who had
taken part in the march across the Orange Free State, told me he had
suffered terribly from thirst, and he assured me that if the measures I
had advised had been taken, Roberts’ 40,000 men, for the most part
mounted, would never have achieved their task.

But at the moment time failed me to prove to the brave field-cornet, by
the teaching of history in general, and of the wars in Spain in
particular, what excellent results might be obtained by such a method of
defence.  Minutes were becoming precious, and we made off as fast as we
could, while in the distance we saw half our convoy blazing, fired by
bursting shells.

Towards half-past nine we lay down on the veldt, without pitching any
tents, and keeping a sharp look-out.  By eleven the last of the Boer
stragglers had passed.  Colonel Gourko and Lieutenant Thomson had been
made prisoners.

On the 8th we were astir at daybreak.  Our three boys went off to find
our beasts, which had strayed far in search of pasture, on account of
the scanty herbage, in spite of their hobbles. They were all recovered,
however, with the exception of one mule, which remained deaf to every
summons, a most inconsiderate proceeding on his part, seeing that the
English were at our heels.

Time being precious, we started off as well as we could with our reduced
convoy.  Suddenly one of our boys, big John, stood tiptoe on his long
feet, gave a sweeping glance around, and went quietly on his way.  Half
an hour later, he began again to increase in height and to study the
horizon....  We could see absolutely nothing.  As my acquaintance with
John was slight, I imagined that he probably suffered from some nervous
affection.  But this time he sniffed the air loudly, and, without a
word, darted off obliquely from our track.

An hour passed, and he did not return. Grave doubts of his fidelity
began to afflict us. At last, two hours later, we noticed a speck on the
horizon, then two.  It was John with the missing mule.  John is an
angel--a black angel!

All the farms we passed on the road had hoisted the white flag.  At noon
we reached the point where the road to Bloemfontein bifurcates.  A few
Burghers were gathered there. We pitched our tents.

During the evening the French military attaché, Captain D----, passed,
and told us that Colonel de Villebois was only about an hour distant
from us.

On March 9 we set out to join him.  We found him with about fifty men,
coming from Pretoria.  These men were divided into two companies, the
first under Breda, the second under me.  Directly we arrived it was
agreed to start at ten o’clock.  We stopped long enough to add our cart
to the Colonel’s convoy, which we were to pick up near the farm of
Abraham’s Kraal.  The ’French Corps’ was formed!

About four o’clock we arrived on the height of Abraham’s Kraal.  The
farm so-called lies along the Modder River, which flows from east to
west.  Its steep, bush-entangled banks are bathed with yellow, turbid
water, whence its name--Modder (Mud) River.  A line of kopjes, starting
from the edge of the river, stretches several miles south of it.  In
front of them, to the west, lies a barren yellow plain. Far off on the
horizon lie the kopjes of Poplar Grove, where we were forty-eight hours

The Colonel, who has gone off on a scouting expedition with his troop,
is not to be found. We wait for him vainly all the evening with General
Delarey’s staff, in company with Baron von Wrangel, an ex-lieutenant of
the German Guards.  In this expedition a young volunteer named Franck, a
quartermaster of the Chasseurs d’Afrique, whose term had just expired,
distinguished himself by his coolness and his boldness under fire.  He
was a brave fellow, as he was to prove later on.

Night came on fast, our chief was still absent, and we went off to sleep
at a little deserted farm, with the officers of the Johannesburg
Politie. We lay down beside them and slept like men who have been in the
saddle for twelve hours.

On March 10, at 5 a.m., we started for General Delarey’s bivouac.  It
might have been 6.30, when Vecht-General Sellier passed us at a gallop,
crying: ’_Obsal!_  The English!’

Our positions, chosen the night before, were as follows: Our right, with
the Modder River beyond, consisted of about 400 men of the Johannesburg
Politie, with a Krupp gun, an Armstrong, and two Maxims.  Then a space
in the plain, where a commando of 200 men, with three cannon and a Maxim
gun, constituting our centre, had taken up a position early in the
morning.  Finally, to the south, on our left, 300 men on a round kopje,
fairly high.

At Poplar Grove two days before we had numbered several thousands; but
the Boers, discouraged by the check they had undergone, had returned to
their farms, refusing to fight. This was a proceeding very
characteristic of these men, slow physically and morally, profoundly
obstinate, astute rather than intelligent, distrustful, sometimes
magnanimous.  Easily depressed and as easily elated, without any
apparent cause, they are a curious jumble of virtues and failings, often
of the most contradictory kinds.  The sort of panics frequent among them
are due, I think, rather to their total lack of organization than to
their temperament; for, not to speak of individual instances of valour,
by no means rare among them, the Johannesburg Politie, with their very
primitive discipline, have shown what might have been done by the Boers
with some slight instruction and some slight discipline.[#]

[#] Ten years ago the Duc de Broglie, in his ’Marie-Thérèse
Impératrice,’ wrote as follows of the campaign of 1744 against Frederick
the Great:

’Prince Charles had not even all his force at his disposal....  All that
had been left him were the Hungarian levies, who had indeed been the
main strength of the Austrian army; but these irregular troops, passing
from ardour to discouragement with that mobility proper to men with whom
enthusiasm does duty for experience and discipline, now thought of
nothing but of a speedy return to their homesteads, and entered
reluctantly upon every enterprise that retarded this return.  Whole
companies deserted the flag and took the road for Hungary.’

These words, written of the Hungarians of the seventeenth century, are
literally applicable to the Boers of to-day, and it is curious to
note--though I do not for a moment compare Lord Roberts to Frederick the
Great--that the Hungarians often inflicted a check on the King of
Prussia, just as the Boers have occasionally stopped the English

They alone had remained, with a handful of foreigners and some stray men
from various commandos.

The Heilbron Commando, consisting of over 200 men, was represented by
the corporal and three men.  All the rest, the commandant at their head,
had gone home; hence their reduced fighting strength.  At last all the
remnant of the force was in its place, behind little rocky entrenchments
hastily thrown up.

In the distance a long column of ’khakis’ defiles, marching from north
to south, presenting its left flank to us from a distance of seven or
eight miles, and preceded by a body of mounted scouts.

We go to inspect the mounting of our guns, which are arriving on our
left and in the centre of our line.  Then we return to the kopje where
we were before with the Johannesburg Politie.  Captain D----, the French
military attaché, is there following all the movements.

About eight o’clock an English detachment essays a movement against us,
and we open fire with our Krupp gun.  English regiments defile against
the horizon till eleven o’clock.  Some Maxims and a battery of
field-guns have been mounted against us.

Between the English and Boer lines a herd of springbock are running
about in terror under the shells.  The poor beasts finally make off to
more tranquil regions and disappear.

The Maxims fire short, but after a few seconds the field-guns find the
range, and fire with a certain precision.  Two shrapnel-shells fired one
after the other burst over our heads.  My right-hand neighbour gets a
bullet just below his right eye, and falls against me; I am covered with
his blood.  He died soon after.

As I bathe his face, I see Captain D---- hobbling back.  I go to him.
He has been struck on the hip by a ball, which, having fortunately spent
most of its force, has not penetrated the flesh.  The wound was not
dangerous, but it swelled a good deal at once, and caused a numbness in
the leg.  I hastily applied the necessary dressing, which the Captain
had with him, and then went to fetch his horse.

After his departure, we return to the kopje. The Mounted Rifles advance
in force.  We wait till they are about 500 metres off, and then open a
heavy fire upon them, supported by the two Maxims.  They retreat
rapidly, leaving some dozen of their number on the field.  We make four
prisoners.  They are sailors who have been mounted, lads of barely
twenty.  There is a lull after this attempt.

About four o’clock the artillery fire begins again with redoubled fury,
heralding a violent charge by the infantry, who have been concentrated
under the shelter of the field-guns.  A simultaneous charge is made on
our left wing. All along the line and on both flanks we sustain a heavy
fusillade from the enemy.  Although protected to some extent by our
rocks, our losses are pretty heavy.

The English come up to be killed with admirable courage.  Three times
they return to the charge in the open, losing a great many men.  At
nightfall they are close upon us.

I go in search of Colonel Villebois, who means to rest his men in a
little wood behind a kopje on the banks of the Modder.  We have eaten
nothing since the night before.

At eight o’clock comes an order for a general retreat.  We learn that an
outflanking movement is to be attempted against us.  In the evening
General Delarey telegraphed as follows:

’The English are advancing upon our positions in two different
directions.  They have begun to bombard General Sellier, and are keeping
up a sharp rifle-fire.  We have been heavily engaged from nine o’clock
this morning till sunset.  The federated troops fought like heroes.
Three times they repulsed a strong force of the English, who brought up
fresh troops against us every time.  Each attack was repulsed, and at
sunset the English troops were only about forty metres from us.  Their
losses were very heavy.  Our own have not yet been ascertained.  A
report on this point will follow.’

We found afterwards that Roberts’ entire army was present, some 40,000
men, and that he had engaged over 12,000.  Our losses were 380 men out
of about 950.

At 8.30 we set out hastily for Bloemfontein, carrying off our prisoners
and wounded on trolleys drawn by mules.  About eleven o’clock we pass
some English outposts, which are pointed out to us on our right at a
distance of only a few hundred metres.

At three in the morning we arrive at the store where we had bivouacked
two nights before.  We leave our horses to graze in a field of maize,
and take a short rest.  About five we are greeted by distant volleys.


But my horse is dead lame in the right hind-leg. I try to bind it up
with the remains of an old waistcoat.  Impossible.  He cannot drag
himself along.  I am forced to ’find’ another which is grazing near by.

I seem to be forming predatory habits.  Here I am now with a dog I
’found,’ which follows me faithfully, on a horse I also ’found’!  But it
is in the cause of liberty.

Besides, these habits are so much in vogue among the Boers.  I could
tell a tale of one of my comrades, to whose detriment some half-dozen
horses had been ’found’ by the Burghers (the process is called by them
_obtail_).  And, to conclude, my find was no great acquisition.

We finally arrive at Bloemfontein about three o’clock in the afternoon.
Here we meet numbers of English men and women, smartly dressed in summer
costumes, smiling and cheerful, starting out in carriages to meet the
victors. They are not aggressive, however; our sullen bearing perhaps
warns them that a misplaced exuberance might have unpleasant

We find our convoy at the entrance of the town, and we pass through to
our camp on the east.

Poor capital!  What terror, what disorder shows itself on every side!
The shops have been hurriedly shut; men, carriages, riders pass each
other in every direction, and the two main streets are encumbered with
an interminable string of bullock-waggons.  In the market-place and in
the market itself an improvised ambulance has been set up, and the
wounded are being tended.  On every threshold stand women and children,
whose anxious eyes seem to ask: ’Where are they?’


We start again on the 12th, at three in the morning.  Not a Burgher
remains with us. They have all gone off in the directions of Wynburg and

On the 13th we are on the bridge of the Modder River.  We establish
ourselves in a deserted farm, and execute some stray ducks, which would
no doubt have died of hunger but for our timely appearance--a most
painful end, I believe.

Scouts are sent out.  In about an hour the English are suddenly sighted.
We rush to the road, and in ten minutes a barricade is thrown across it.
I am in the centre with the others.  But the English hang back, and
finally go off.

Towards noon we start in the direction of Brandfort, where our convoy,
which was to travel day and night, is expected to be by this time.  It
is about 4.30 when we come in sight of the village.

There is a cloud of dust on our left, then two despatch-riders on
bicycles fly past us.  The Lancers!

We set off at a gallop to get to the houses before them.  It is a
steeplechase between us.  After an hour’s ride we arrive at the same
time as the head of the enemy’s advanced guard, which falls back at a
gallop.  We try to pursue them, but our broken-down horses can carry us
no further.

We rush into the village, while our men hastily harness our carts.  The
Colonel sends us to take up a position to cover their retreat, for there
are two squadrons of Lancers in the little wood 500 metres from the
village.  The Landdrost, fearing reprisals, comes to beg me not to fire.
I give him these alternatives--to hold his tongue or to be shot.  He
prefers the former, and I see him no more.

Meanwhile, C---- and Michel get down a cannon from a truck at the
railway-station. The terrified artillerymen refuse to work it. But the
English, not knowing what our numbers are (we are barely twenty-five),
dare not attack us, and we get away in the night.

Our rallying-point is Kroonstad, the new capital of the Free State.

On the 15th we are at Wynburg.  We leave it again on the morning of the
16th by the last train, setting fire to the railway-station and
destroying the reservoirs.  Comfortably installed in a train we made up
ourselves, at Smaldeel we are invaded by a whole commando....  Six men
to every carriage, with their six saddles, six bridles, six rifles, six
cloaks, a dozen blankets, and some twenty packages....  Ouf!

These good Burghers, who smoke as long as they can, are without the most
elementary ideas of ordinary civility of behaviour.  Their familiarity
of manner is extraordinary; happily, they show no resentment if one
retorts in like fashion.  One of them, to steady himself during his
slumbers, thrusts his foot--and such a foot!--into the pocket of C----’s
coat. C----, put quite at his ease by this proceeding, does not hesitate
to increase the comfort of his own position by a reciprocal thrusting of
his foot into the waistcoat of his sympathetic _vis-à-vis_.  They form a
touchingly fraternal group, and in this position they sleep for ten
hours.  At every sudden stoppage, the rounded paunch of the good Burgher
acts as a buffer, deadening the violence of the jolt for my friend.

My _vis-à-vis_--I had almost said my opponent--much more formal, is
content to plant a bag on my knees, and a box on my feet....  How
beautiful is the simplicity of rustic manners!

At last, on March 17, we reach Kroonstad and establish our camp there.
We take advantage of this sojourn to pursue the education of our ’boys.’

In consequence of our having ’chummed’ with other comrades, our suite
has taken on alarming proportions; we look like a company of

The biggest and oldest of our boys is called John.  He seems to have an
inordinate affection for straws, with which he delights to adorn the
calves of his legs.

The second is also called John; he is one of the best.  We have
christened him ’Cook,’ in allusion to his functions.  An old stove,
found in a house that had been burnt, gives him quite an important air
when he prepares our meals.

The third is called Charlie.  He is very intelligent, an excellent
mule-driver, but a thorough rascal.

The fourth, who is chocolate-coloured, is good at guarding the mules at
the pasture. He is called ’Beguini,’ which means little.

The fifth is not of much use for anything, but he is very fond of his
master, a sympathetic survivor of ’Fort Chabrol.’

The sixth belongs to no one.  But noting that his compatriots seem happy
enough with us, he has established himself in our kitchen, and serves us
more or less like the others.

The Walsh River, a very remarkable stream, for there is water in it,[#]
flows past Kroonstad, and we occupy our leisure moments with the bucolic
occupation of fishing.

[#] Most of the rivers are dried up in summer-time.

All the members of the Government have assembled at Kroonstad; the two
Presidents, the generals, the military attachés, and Colonel de
Villebois-Mareuil are present at their deliberations.

There seems to be a tendency to energetic measures.  A martial law
decreeing the death-penalty against deserters is passed and proclaimed.
Unfortunately, it was never enforced. The confidence of the Burghers has
been somewhat shaken.  The Executive begins to understand that he who
foretold the consequences of their blunders so unerringly may perhaps be
able to remedy them.

On the 20th, accordingly, Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil is appointed
Vecht-General, and all the Europeans are placed under his command. But
scarcely had this just and intelligent resolution been passed, when
jealousy, pride, and fear of seeing a stranger succeed where they
themselves had failed took possession of the Burghers, and the orders to
concentrate were never carried out.

It is much to be regretted that sentiments so injurious to the national
cause should have deprived the Government of the inestimable services
that might have been rendered by a corps of 1,500 or 2,000 resolute
Europeans, all formerly soldiers, under the command of a man of the
science, the valour, and the worth of General de Villebois-Mareuil.

Nevertheless, about 200 men of all nationalities, drawn by the
confidence such a leader alone could inspire, came of their own free
will to place themselves under his orders.  With these he organized the
’European Legion.’  It included the two divisions of the French corps, a
Dutch corps, and a German corps.

Everything General de Villebois asked for was promised, but nothing was
carried out. His plan consisted primarily of raids like those which
marked the War of Secession.

On the 20th he addressed this stirring proclamation to us and to those
who were scattered further afield:

’_To the Legionaries who have known me as their comrade:_

’Officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers!  I know you have not
forgotten me, and that we understand each other, hence this appeal to

’We see around us a worthy people, who are threatened with the loss of
their rights, their property, and their liberty, for the satisfaction of
a handful of capitalists.

’The blood which flows in the veins of this people is partly French
blood.  France, therefore, owes them some manifestation of sympathy.

’You are men whose martial temperaments, to say nothing of the great
obligations of nationality, have brought together under the banner of
this people.  May success and victory attend their flag!  I know you as
the ideal type of a corps made for attack, and ignorant of retreat.’

Influenced mainly by the unfriendly attitude of certain generals to whom
his promotion had given umbrage, Villebois determined to strike a great
blow in all haste.

Without waiting to complete the organization of the Legion, he formed us
into a corps of 100 men, which he made up by the addition of twenty-five
Afrikanders, under Field-Cornet Coleman; and as soon as the cartload of
dynamite he had been awaiting arrived, he set out on the 24th, at eight
o’clock in the evening.

His parting orders to me were to hold myself in readiness, with the rest
of the men (about 100) and the new arrivals, for Saturday next, March
31, and to collect horses and provisions. On the 31st, he would come
back and explain the second part of the operation he was then beginning.

Absolute secrecy was preserved as to the object of his expedition.  To
Breda’s question as to the direction he proposed to take, he replied:
’To the right.’

Our poor General was very nervous.  On March 23, the eve of his
departure, he telegraphed to a wounded friend who was returning to
France: ’You, at least, know your fate, whereas I am uncertain what lies
before me!’  A dark presentiment, perhaps.  In any case, what melancholy
underlies that short phrase!  I do not say _discouragement_, for there
are some stout hearts who know not the feeling, and Villebois was of

Two days after, one of my men returned in the evening; his horse had
broken down on the road.  They had made a very rapid march, taking only
four hours’ rest at night and four in the day, in two fractions.
Nevertheless, after thirty-six hours of marching at this rate, this man,
unmounted, and separated from the rest of the column, had found a horse
in a kraal, and had been able to return to Kroonstad in two hours.

Where then had the guide led them?  If I could have communicated with
the General, I would have warned him, but this was out of the question.
On the 31st, there was no news; on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of April, still
none.  On the 4th, after a notice from Colonel Maximoff, our detachment
moved to Brandfort.

We are at a loss to account for the delay in the return of our comrades.
But in a campaign delays are so common, the unexpected happens so
constantly, that our anxiety is not very great.

The special train that takes us to Smaldeel consists of fifty-three
coaches, the number found necessary for the men, waggons, and horses of
our contingent.  We found that the railway had been cut beyond Smaldeel,
and we were obliged to go on to Brandfort by the road.

Brandfort had been occupied by the Lancers for several days, but they
had fallen back.  The village is now the centre of Generals Delarey,
Kolby and Smith.

We arrive on April 7 at 8.30.  In the afternoon a telegram is posted up
announcing that General Christian de Wet, who is operating to the east
of Bloemfontein, has arrived near Sanna’s Post, cutting off the
water-supply of the Bloemfontein garrison, and carrying off 375 men, 7
cannon, 1,000 mules and 400 waggons.  Three days later, on April 4, at
Dewetsdorp, he took 459 more prisoners and 12 waggons.

This was the beginning of that series of _razzie_ and surprises he has
been carrying on incessantly ever since, astonishing the most audacious
by his audacity, and by the rapidity and suddenness of his movements
defeating the most scientific and elaborate devices for his capture.
Broadwood, Rundle, Hunter, even Kitchener have been forced to give up
the chase, and to wait till Fortune, unfaithful for a day, shall deliver
the valiant Burgher into their hands.

We met the Landdrost of Brandfort again, now more patriotic than ever;
but he seemed slightly embarrassed when he saw us.

On April 7, the day of our arrival, we made a reconnaissance towards the
south with four men.  As we left the Boer lines we met a man, who,
hearing us talking French, came to bid us ’Bon jour!’  We entered into
conversation, and he seemed to take a great interest in European news.
At last he told us he was a Belgian, and suddenly asked:

’You had a war with the Germans one time, didn’t you?’

The war of 1870 was news to him.  He had been on the Veldt since 1867.

’Do you know if our Leopold is still on the throne?’

After assuring him of the health and even vigour of his Sovereign, we
continued our reconnaissance, not without moralizing a little over a man
who had so completely broken with Europe and the old civilization.

The English positions were visible from Brandfort, on Tabel Kop and
Tabel Berg, the other side of the plain that stretches south-east of the
little town.  Towards five o’clock we received a few volleys, hastily
fired, which did no damage.  But our object was attained: we had
discovered that the enemy’s positions extended a good way to the south.

The 8th was a Sunday.  In the evening I received this telegram from
President Steyn:

’The Landdrost of Hoopstad sends me the following: "Field-Cornet Daniels
reports that the troops under Methuen’s command at Boshof have marched
upon Hoopstad, and I have received from Methuen himself the letter I
communicate below.  The native who brought the letter tells us that an
engagement took place with General de Villebois in the neighbourhood of
Boshof, that ten men were killed on our side, and fifteen on that of the
enemy, among them a superior officer, but that all our force was finally
made prisoner.  Field-Cornet Daniels supposes that the enemy will march
upon Christiana and Hoopstad, and thence upon Kroonstad."

"’_April_ 8, 1900.



’"I have the honour of sending you a copy of Lord Roberts’ proclamation
to the Free State, laying down the conditions under which you are
invited to surrender.

’"Two days ago the Foreign Legion was taken prisoner by me, and their
General, Villebois, was killed.

’"The English army is advancing on every side, and I beg you to consider
the very liberal conditions now offered you, which would not be renewed
at a later date.

’"I have the honour to be, sir,

’"Your obedient servant,

’"Lieutenant-General commanding the 10th Division."’

This telegram was a thunderbolt for us. The anxiety we had felt at the
General’s delay had not been such as to have caused us to dream of such
a catastrophe.  Yet we could not doubt the news.

’Two days ago the Foreign Legion was taken prisoner by me, and their
General, Villebois, was killed,’ said the telegram.

That evening two reconnoitring parties were sent out; the first, from
the Tabel Kop direction, came in next morning with a wounded man.  The
second, under Wrangel, started for the neighbourhood of Hoopstad, and
could not return for several days.

On the 9th we made an inventory of the property belonging to the
General, to Breda, and to the rest of our poor comrades, all of which
was packed for transmission to Pretoria. The same day I received the
following telegram from Colonel Gourko:

’Thomson unites with me in the expression of our profound grief at the
cruel loss you have sustained in the person of Colonel de
Villebois-Mareuil, a valiant soldier and distinguished leader.’

This homage from the Russian and Dutch attachés to the memory of our
great compatriot touched us deeply.

On the 10th one of Ganetzki’s men was killed in a reconnaissance.  Comte
Ganetzki had his day of Parisian celebrity in connection with La belle

On the 11th I had a telegram from Wrangel:

’I reached here (Hoopstad) at 5.30 this evening, with five men.  The
English are at Knappiesfontein, an hour and a half’s march from Boshof.
There are no Burghers at Hoopstad. I shall start for Boshof to-morrow,
and send you a report later on.  I await your orders.’

I at once communicate this news to General P. Botha.  He believes that
the environs of Hoopstad are occupied by the Burghers, and that the
English will march upon Smaldeel to cut off communication (April 12).
Events proved him to have been entirely mistaken; but I might have
talked to him for hours without altering his convictions an iota.

Cannon had been thundering all the evening in the distance, but we had
not been able to determine in what direction they were. On April 13,
Commandant Delarey, brother of the General, was appointed honorary
commander of the European Legion--’honorary’ because he could not act
save in concert with the heads of the different corps--Rittmeister
Illich for the Austro-Hungarians, Captain Lorentz for the Germans,
myself for the French.

An official telegram announces that General de Villebois was buried at
Boshof with military honours.  Lord Methuen was present, and the
prisoners of the Legion were represented. There was even a funeral
oration, to which Breda replied.

In the engagement of April 5 there had been 11 killed, the General being
one, and 51 wounded, out of 68.  The rest had been made prisoners.

_Easter Day_, 1900.--A second telegram from Wrangel, dated from
Hoopstad, reports as follows:

’1. Braschel (a former officer of the German artillery) informs us that
10,000 men and 700 cavalry are marching from Boshof on Bultfontein. He
counted thirty-six gun-carriages, cannon, and waggons.

’2. There are about 700 Burghers at Landslaagte.’

On the 16th, we take horse at noon with every man available to join
Kolby.  This excellent General, one of the best men that ever lived, is
not remarkable for the originality of his combinations.  He witnessed
our arrival with delight, smiling--he is always smiling--received us
very cordially, and asked us what we had come for!  He had had no
instructions about us; however, it was all the same to him whether we
slept there or elsewhere, so we remained. We came in for a perfect
deluge of rain all night, and at four the next morning we started to
take up a position with Delarey’s, Botha’s, and Kolby’s commandos.

We number from 1,000 to 1,200 Burghers, with two Creusot guns, a Krupp
and a Nordenfeldt.

At 4.30 in the evening, orders are given to retire to the different
camps.  We arrive at 10 o’clock.

On the 18th, it rains again in torrents.  In the evening, about 9
o’clock, Wrangel’s reconnoitring party comes in.  I will transcribe the
account given me by one of his men, Meslier, that it may lose nothing of
its interest by a paraphrase.

’Starting on Monday, the 9th, in the evening, we marched secretly and
rapidly towards Hoopstad, following first the Vedula and then the Wet
River across the veldt.  We crossed rivers without any fords, passing
through a country without roads or paths, and through the dense bush
that grows on the banks of the water-courses.  Out of ten picked horses
two died, and three men fell out on the road exhausted. One of them went
into hospital at Smaldeel.

’On Wednesday, the 11th, we reached Hoopstad at five o’clock in the
evening, and slept at the President Hotel, which is kept by a German.

’At six o’clock next morning (April 12) I started with Braschel and
Brostolicky in the direction of Boshof.  The English, after having
advanced upon Bultfontein, as reported in our telegram of the 15th,
returned for the most part towards Boshof.  We slept that night at
Landslaagte, where the Johannesburg Politie are encamped.  They number
about 200, and expect a reinforcement of 300 men.

’We left again on the morning of the 13th, separating at a given point,
Braschel and his companion going towards the camp of Commandant Cronje
(brother of the General taken prisoner at Paardeberg), and I towards

’Towards noon I passed Driefontein, which was supposed to be occupied by
the English. The inhabitants of the farm told me that when Colonel de
Villebois arrived an English corps had been in the neighbourhood for
several days, apparently waiting.  The people at the farm heard the
noise of the battle, which lasted about four hours, and helped to
collect the dead and wounded afterwards.  Among our men they noticed one
who had a handkerchief bound round his head and a very large nose.
Another had a very long beard.

’Towards one o’clock I arrived at Muyfontein, where there was a little
outpost of thirty Lancers under an officer.  I sheered off to the east,
and arrived near Boshof about half-past four.

’Boshof was full of troops.  From the neighbouring kopjes one could
distinctly see the "khakis" moving about in the village.  Skirting
Boshof, I arrived at Kopjefontein on the south-west.  There I was a good
deal disturbed by strange hissing noises coming from about 800 metres
away, and the pursuit of a party of twenty Lancers, who followed me for
about half an hour.

’I returned to Rothsplaats Farm, where I spent the night.  I had
fastened my horse to a cart, and had laid down myself under a tree.
About ten o’clock eight marauders approached from the path.  Not seeing
me, some of the party installed themselves in the farm, while the rest
chased a young pig, which, flying in terror before them, came quite
close to the corner where I was lying in ambush.  Fortunately he changed
his mind, and made off in another direction.  Finally, to my great
satisfaction, they caught him, and the whole party returned to the farm.
They stayed about two hours, and then departed.

’At four in the morning I continued my journey, and at eight o’clock I
arrived at Landslaagte, where I joined the Johannesburg Politie.

’Between Landslaagte and Driefontein I met Cronje with about 2,000 men,
a Krupp and a Nordenfeldt gun.  His intention was to attack
Kopjefontein.  I reported what I had seen, and went on towards Hoopstad;
but my worn-out horse fell when we were still some four hours distant
from the town.  I was obliged to sleep at a farm, and was unable to
reach Hoopstad till the afternoon of Sunday, the 15th.  All our seven
horses had broken down.  We asked for others, which the Landdrost
refused.  Wrangel accordingly telegraphed to President Steyn, who
replied by an order to give us everything we required.

’We took some excellent horses and a few necessary garments, for a three
days’ journey through the thorns and bush that border the Wet River had
reduced us to absolute rags.

’These negotiations and a brief rest occupied Monday and Tuesday.  We
started on Wednesday at one o’clock, and knowing the road to be safe, we
passed through Bultfontein, accomplishing our return journey in a day
and a half.

’At Hoopstad we were told that when the Villebois contingent had passed
through, all had remarked the gaiety of the General, who had kept the
piano going all the evening, and the depression of Breda.’

These last words gave a fresh poignancy to our regrets.  Just as the
General had been the ideal of the brilliant and revered leader, so had
Breda been the ideal of the devoted friend, the good comrade, the man of
sound judgment and charming amenities.

                     *      *      *      *      *

From this report we gathered certain facts hard to explain.  We group
them here together with others which reached us from a different source.

1. Wrangel and his men, who left Brandfort on the evening of the 9th,
arrived at Driefontein at noon on the 13th--in four nights and three and
a half days.  The General, under the conduct of his Afrikander guide,
took twelve nights and eleven days (from the evening of March 24 to the
morning of April 5) to cover an equivalent distance.  Now, the length
and irregularity of this march were utterly irreconcilable with the
object the General had in view, with the dates he had himself fixed, and
with the length and severity of the distances he was in the habit of
exacting from his men.

2. Numerous desertions took place among the Dutch and the Afrikanders,
men who spoke the same language.

3. Finally, and this is a very serious coincidence, a whole English
brigade, which retired as soon as it had made the _coup_ determined on,
was lying in wait for the contingent, the itinerary of which had been
kept so strictly secret that only the guide could have known it exactly.

This fact was confirmed by the following statement made to me by an
English officer present at the engagement.  The General, finding himself
surrounded at daybreak, after having marched all night, took up a
position on a kopje near the farm of Driefontein. Artillery fire began
almost immediately, opened by Battery No. 4 of the Royal Field

Throughout the four hours of the engagement the General was seen walking
up and down, encouraging first one and then another, and pointing out
the spots at which his followers were to fire.  His death was followed
by the surrender of the decimated band.

The General wore the costume he always put on for expeditions and for
the field--a brown hat, fastened up on one side with a badge bearing the
arms of the Transvaal; an old black tunic, the large metal buttons of
which had been replaced by large black ones; brown corduroy trousers,
and shooting-boots, laced in front and buckled at the sides; his
revolver in a cross-belt, and at his waist a yellow leather case,
containing a chronometer, a barometer and a compass.  He always wore
brown kid gloves, and carried a bamboo cane.  I will not yet express the
melancholy thought which, with me, has become a firm conviction; but
when I learned the fate of my revered chief, ’the La Fayette of South
Africa,’ as one of the most distinguished Generals of the French army
called him, how could I but remember the disappointments he had suffered
during the last six months, the petty jealousies by which he had been
pursued, and the ill-will which had hampered all his bold and
intelligent initiative?

Pondering these things, I recalled the day when, before Kimberley, the
General had received from France a little gold medal, which he showed me
with proud emotion.  It bore this inscription: ’To a great Frenchman,
from the companions of his daughter.’

Yes, a great Frenchman!  For in him flourished all high thoughts of duty
and abnegation, all the noble virtues that make up a great leader and a
great patriot.  He was a man and a soldier.

In this connection it will be of interest to record what my friend and
comrade Breda told me, on his return from Saint Helena, of the
engagement of April 5.  He cannot believe that there was treachery, yet
he cannot explain certain strange coincidences.

’We started, as you know,’ he said, ’on the evening of March 24.  Our
guide began by losing his way the first night and the first day. (This
confirmed the story told by my man, who came back in two hours, after
marching out for thirty-six.)

’At last we arrived at Hoopstad, where an important group of the Dutch
contingent refused to advance.

’The General, determined to advance with the French alone, ordered the
names of the Dutch who remained faithful to be taken down. A sudden
revulsion of feeling made the majority of them give in their names, and
the detachment set off in the direction of Boshof.

’At the farm of Driefontein a messenger came in search of the General.
A most important communication from a distinguished personage awaited
him at Hoopstad.  A serious scheme was on foot for the formation of a
large legion.

’This project appealed strongly to the General, who left me at
Driefontein with the detachment, returning himself to Hoopstad to confer
with the envoy.  He returned in three days, and the march towards the
south was resumed.

’The General supposed that there might be about 200 or 300 men at
Boshof, and, on being assured of this, a Boer commando of about 200 men
joined us.  But on the 4th, information was received that Boshof was
much more strongly occupied, and that it might hold from 800 to 1,000
men.  The General, believing this story to be an invention of the
Burghers to excuse their defection--of which they immediately gave
notice--disregarded it, and continued his march.

’We arrived near a farm where, it appears, the English officers at
Boshof were in the habit of coming to picnic on Sundays.  The General
made for a point a little way from this, and halted beside a small
kopje.  We unsaddled the horses and sent them to graze, and the tired
men lay down to sleep.

’I remained talking with General de Villebois, when we suddenly caught
sight of a few horsemen.

’"The English!"

’I went off to wake the men quietly, for we hoped to surprise this
little reconnoitring party.  There were so few of them that we did not
fetch in our horses.

’They came nearer.  All of a sudden, behind them in the distance a long
column of "khakis" came in sight.  It was no longer a question of
surprising a patrol.  We had to defend ourselves.

’The General at once recognised the gravity of the situation.  He
arranged his men on two little kopjes, the Dutch on one, the French on
the other, remaining himself with the latter. Each man had his place
assigned him, his rock to defend.

’And the battle began--a furious, hopeless encounter.  For three hours
we replied as well as we could to the tremendous fusillade that soon
made gaps among us.

’Almost at the outset the Dutch hoisted the white flag and surrendered.
Two or three of them who chanced to be with the French contingent came
and asked General de Villebois to surrender.  He pointed to the kopje
where their compatriots had already laid down their arms.

’"Here we do not surrender," he said.

’By degrees, however, the first shelters were abandoned, and the men
fell back on some rocks beyond.  The General noticed this.

’"Return to the first positions!" he ordered.

’Bullets were falling like hail.  There was a moment’s hesitation.

’"Shall I go myself?" cried the Chief, advancing.

’But a brave fellow springs forward.  It is Franck, who had already
distinguished himself at Abraham’s Kraal.  Waving his rifle with a grand
gesture, he cried: "Vive la France!"

’He fell instantly, struck by two bullets. But the impulse had been
given; the positions were resumed.

’On all sides, however, the "khakis" were closing in upon us.  They
fixed their bayonets and charged.  Suddenly the General fell back
without a word.  He was dead.’

                     *      *      *      *      *

Whatever the strength and vitality of a man may be, the inert body will
fall when the soul takes flight.  Villebois was the soul of the legion.
Accordingly, when he was killed, the survivors surrendered, after four
hours of heroic resistance.

Out of twenty-seven Frenchmen, the General, Le Gilles and Robiquet were
killed, Bardin, Bernard, Franck and the others were wounded.

The English officers told us that they had been informed several days
before of the arrival of 100 Frenchmen at Hoopstad, thus confirming the
story of the Driefontein farmers.

The Comte de Villebois, one of the youngest colonels in the French army,
had been severely wounded as a sub-lieutenant in the army of the Loire
in 1870.  His conduct had been such as to merit the Cross of the Legion
of Honour at the age of twenty.

I will transcribe here, as a touching homage to his memory, the order of
the day which Colonel de Nadaillac addressed to his regiment, informing
them of the glorious death of their former chief:

’Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil, who had the honour of commanding the
130th Regiment, has died a soldier’s death in the Transvaal, shot
through the breast by the fragment of a shell.

’Retiring at an early age, at his own request, he took his sword and the
resources of his fine intelligence to the aid of the little Boer nation.

’His chivalrous soul could not resist the appeal of those generous
sentiments which have so long been a tradition in our fair France.  He
wished to defend the weak against the strong.

’Let us respectfully salute this victim of the noblest French virtues,
this valiant soldier who has fallen on the field of honour.

’The former Colonel of the 130th will be held in loving remembrance by
us, and we offer the just tribute of our patriotic regrets to his

’May God have mercy on the brave man who left child, friends, and
fortune, to defend the oppressed.

’The death of Colonel de Villebois-Mareuil will be recorded in the
regimental annals of the 130th.’


On the 18th we heard that De Wet, after his successes at Taba N’chu and
Sanna’s Post, was at Wepener, where he had surrounded 2,000 men of
Brabant’s Horse.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Without orders, and without precise tidings of any kind, we remain five
days longer at Brandfort.

General Delarey seems uncertain what to do. While he is casting about
for a plan of action, we may take a glance at our enemies, and study
them a little.

In this campaign the English army has collected together elements the
most diverse. About one half of it consists of regular troops, the other
half of volunteers, colonial troops, and contingents from every country.
Their behaviour under fire varies greatly, according to their origin.

Tommy Atkins the regular, cold, calm, advances under a hail of
projectiles, marching steadily in time, as if on the parade-ground.
Scornful of danger, his head held high, he seems to say: ’Make way!  I
am an Englishman!’

The colonial, on the other hand, the cowboy, the volunteer from the
Cape, from Rhodesia, and from Australia, a hunter by profession, fights
in the same fashion as the Boers.  He has their qualities and their
defects: great precision as a marksman, but a lack of cohesion and of
discipline.  Crouching behind a rock, taking advantage of every scrap of
cover, like his adversary, he hunts rather than fights.

But a good many militiamen, volunteers from various towns, and yeomen
are even less brilliant, and exchange perils, privations, and fatigue
for a sojourn in a Boer prison with great readiness. Some of the regular
regiments, too, brought up to their fighting strength by hasty
recruiting at the last moment, are not exempt from the shame of
unnecessary capitulations.

But such proceedings are not characteristic of Tommy.  The Englishman
knows very little of the art of war, but he is brave, very brave.

The officers, with some few exceptions, are ignorant of everything an
officer should know. The operations (?) of Sir Charles Warren, Lord
Methuen, and Sir Redvers Buller seem to be a sort of competition of

General Buller appears to have some inkling of it himself; on December
28 he writes as follows from the camp of Frere:

’I suppose our officers will in time learn the value of scouting; but in
spite of all one can say, up to this our men seem to blunder into the
midst of the enemy, and suffer accordingly.’

These words from the pen of the General who, on January 24, was to
’authorize’ the Spion Kop fiasco are delicious!

The profession of arms in England is an occupation not at all absorbing,
but very fashionable, very ’sporting.’

War itself is a sport, which has its special costume, its accidents
proper to the soldier, but which is not supposed to engross the man. The
fact that a great many officers brought with them, in addition to their
khaki uniforms and braided tunics, tennis, football, and polo costumes,
dress-coats and smoking-jackets, is significant of this state of mind.

The programme they had mentally drawn up was something of this sort:
From 7 to 8 a.m., football, breakfast; from 9 to 10, lawn tennis; from
10 to 11, a battle; then a rest, a tub, massage, lunch!

The English officer is a gentleman, always perfectly well bred, often
very well educated, and extremely affable; but he is a gentleman, and
not an officer.

War entered upon by men of this type demands neither serious preliminary
study nor effective progress in an army; and as regards military art and
science, the English are still at the stage of the pitched battle.

It is but just to add that they have also preserved the cool, tenacious
courage and the indomitable energy of their race, qualities which none
can deny them.  I saw some superb charges by English troops in Africa,
but they always reminded me of Marechal Pelissier’s remark after the
heroic charge at Balaclava: ’C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la

I am no Anglophile, as my campaign of over eight months on the Boer side
sufficiently proves, but it is the duty of a loyal soldier to recognise
the qualities and the courage of his adversaries.

After this short digression, let us resume our survey of the English

During the first months, up to March, their artillery ammunition seems
to have been very defective, often exploding imperfectly, or not at all.
The fire took a long time to regulate, and was nearly always
independent, rarely in salvoes.  Nevertheless, I several times saw guns
served in a remarkably efficient manner.

The horses are superb, and were constantly renewed; throughout the
campaign they had from five to six quarterns of oats a day.

Their artillery equipment consists of a variety of very ordinary
patterns.  They have not yet any field-guns with breaks.  The mounted
artillery (Royal Horse Artillery) is a picked body of men.  Its officers
must have served four years in the Field Artillery, and must also be
possessed of a certain private income.

Their guns, Armstrongs of 76.2 millimetres, are called 12-pounders (from
the weight of the projectile).  The Field Artillery uses 89 millimetre
guns with 22-pound shells.  The breech-blocks are screwed in.  The
mountain-guns (1882 pattern) are loaded at the muzzle.

The batteries consist of six pieces, with the exception of the volunteer
batteries, which have only four.

Their shell-guns, of which even during their operations on the open
plain they had a certain number of batteries (notably No. 61 Battery at
Spion Kop, and No. 65 Battery at Paardeburg), are howitzers of the
latest pattern; they are loaded at the breech, and are specially
constructed for fire at a high angle of elevation.

Their naval guns and siege guns, dragged about by teams of from twenty
to thirty oxen, were able to follow the troops in a satisfactory manner.

The lyddite shells did not prove very effective.  They explode with a
loud and violent report.  The green smoke has a stupefying effect;
objects such as stones or fragments of shell that come in contact with
the explosive take on a sulphur-green tint.

The English used over 300 guns; and if we add to these thirty-five large
naval guns, mounted upon siege-gun carriages, and those of the volunteer
batteries, we get a total of about 400.

The cavalry has played but a secondary part; but the charges of General
French’s division at Poplar Grove were vigorously executed, and cost the
lives of two officers and some fifty men. The relief of Kimberley by
this same division was rather a raid of great rapidity than a cavalry
action properly so-called.

The Boer method of warfare explains the powerlessness of the cavalry to
take any prominent part in the operations; reconnaissances were carried
out by Kaffir spies and Afrikander irregulars.  Cavalry pursuit would, I
think, have been perfectly useless, for the Boers would have immediately
taken up defensive positions in kopjes inaccessible to horses, and the
precision of their fire would soon have proved extremely harassing to
the horsemen.

The infantry, to give it greater mobility, was relieved of every kind of
impedimenta.  The uniform is extremely practical as a whole.

The foot-soldier wears a khaki tunic with pockets, made in the summer of
canvas, in the winter of cloth; trousers to match, the lower part bound
up in strips of khaki flannel, on the same pattern as those of our
Chasseurs Alpins. His helmet is absolutely unsuitable; heavy and ugly,
it does not even protect him from the sun.

A big dark-gray cloak, a blanket, and a waterproof tent canvas, which
theoretically are supposed to be carried on the back in two little
rolls, are as a fact transported on trolleys drawn by mules marching on
the left of each company.

The man carries only his canteen and his bandolier.  The latter seemed
to me too large and heavy to be practical, but the canteen, the lid of
which makes a saucepan, seems convenient.  It is the same for officers
and privates. Each battalion is followed by a little Maxim gun, firing
Lee-Metford cartridges.

The Mounted Infantry is, theoretically, an arm of the first importance.
In practice it has its partisans and its detractors.  I leave the task
of authoritative pronouncement to critics more expert than myself, and
shall only say that Colonel Martyr’s and General Hutton’s Mounted Rifles
rendered very considerable service to Lord Roberts.  The Mounted Rifle
has an ordinary cavalry saddle, with a black cloak rolled up on the
holsters before him.  His uniform is the same as that of the infantry: a
tunic, trousers, and flannel bandages.  He wears the felt hat of the
country.  He carries two bandoliers and is armed with the Lee-Metford
rifle and with a short bayonet like that of our artillery-men. The
butt-end of his gun rests in a bucket hanging on the right of his
saddle, and the stock is supported by a leather thong round the right
arm like a lance.

The Mounted Rifle fights on foot, sheltering his horse behind a piece of
rising ground.  His horse to him is merely a rapid means of transport.

Belts and straps, swords, sheaths and hilts, guns and waggons, are all
painted khaki colour.

After enumerating all the weapons used by the belligerents, it would be
an unpardonable omission to say nothing of the famous dum-dum bullets.

Have they been much used?  Yes, certainly, and on both sides.

The story that the Boers only used those they had captured from the
English is quite inadmissible, for the Mauser rifles, which were used
exclusively in the Transvaal, were largely provided with them.

I will try to describe the patterns chiefly used:

1. Section in the nickel casing, leaving the extremity of the leaden
bullet exposed; the lead, getting very hot, emerges partly from the
casing, flattens at the slightest resistance, and expands.

2. Four longitudinal sections in the nickel casing allow the bullet to
flatten at the moment of contact, and to exude lead through the

These two first patterns, the ones most in use, are made for Lee-Metford
and Mauser rifles.

The English also use hollow-nosed bullets, the extremity of which is cut
or rubbed off.

The Boers, for their part, have manufactured solid projectiles, which
show the lead through a straight section, and have the four longitudinal

A few expansive Lee-Metford cartridges, hollow, and filled with
fulminate, certainly existed, but I do not believe that they were ever
in general use.

I need not insist upon the terrible injuries inflicted by all these
projectiles.  I have seen the whole of the back of a man’s hand carried
away by a bullet entering the palm, where it had only made a hole of the
normal dimension.

During this war, in an arid country without any towns, Tommy has
suffered terribly. Accustomed to the comfort of English barracks and to
abundant meals, he was ill-prepared to spend his nights on the hard
ground in cold and rain, with stones that bruised his ribs for his only
bed, and half a biscuit for his dinner.

Now that we have inspected the English army, let us see what it has
accomplished since our arrival.

First of all in Natal.  In January, Ladysmith was still invested.  The
garrison of nearly 10,000 men and the inhabitants were decimated more by
disease than by the occasional shells the Boers threw into the town
every day as a matter of duty.  Provisions had become scarce. An
officer’s ration was two biscuits and 240 grammes of horseflesh a day.

A dozen eggs cost £2 8s.; a dozen tomatoes, 18s.; a tin of preserved
meat, £3; a tin of condensed milk, 10s.; a pot of jam, £1 11s.; a
quarter of a pound of English tobacco, £3; a case containing a dozen
bottles of whisky, £140, nearly £12 a bottle.

Nevertheless, a newspaper published by the besieged, the _Lyre_, is
still facetious.  It publishes the following notes:

’_Telegram from London_.--A shell thrown by _Long Tom_ fell in the War
Office.  General Brackenbury received it with resignation.... A good
many reputations have been damaged. The 2nd Army Corps has been
discovered in the War Office portfolios.’

Meanwhile, Buller was still trying to cross the Tugela and relieve
Ladysmith.  Without any definite plan, perplexed and irresolute, he runs
up and down the bank of the river like a cat afraid of the water.

At last he ’permits’ Warren to attack Spion Kop.  It is strange indeed
to find Warren’s 15,000 men (the 5th Division) and Buller’s 25,000
setting out without a map, without information, and without a guide.

On January 16 Lieutenant Flood luckily discovered a ford, by which two
battalions crossed the river; but then the Engineers were obliged to
await the arrival of Lieutenant Mazzari’s sailors to make a ferry.

At Trichardt’s Drift two pontoon bridges were built, and the whole of
Warren’s division crossed.

On the 19th this General essays an out-flanking movement in the
direction of Acton Homes; but this manoeuvre at the base of escarpments
occupied by the enemy is found to be too dangerous; the division falls
back upon Trichardt’s Drift with its convoys and the 420 bullock-waggons
intended for the Ladysmith garrison.

A frontal attack, facing east, is decided upon for January 20.  The
infantry is engaged 800 yards from the Boer trenches.  It is three
o’clock; an assault is about to be made on the position.  But a
counter-order arrives, the reason for which has never yet been

On the 21st, 22nd and 23rd the English try to gain a few hundred yards.
Clery and Warren confess themselves powerless, and turn the attack
towards the south-east.

On the night of the 23rd General Woodgate receives orders to seize Spion
Kop.  General Woodgate, commanding the 9th Brigade, took part in the
Abyssinian campaigns of 1868, the Ashanti campaign of 1873, and the Zulu
campaign of 1879.  Later he was in command of the English forces in West
Africa, during the rising of 1898.

He took with him eight companies of the 2nd Battalion Lancashire
Fusiliers, six companies of the 2nd Battalion Royal Lancashire Regiment,
two companies of the 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, 194 men of
Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, and a half-company Royal Engineers.  To
these were added two battalions from General Lyttelton’s Brigade.

At 3.30 in the morning, after mounting the hill in silence, Lieutenant
Audrey, in command of the advance-guard, took two of the Boer trenches
with the bayonet.  They were held by Boers of the Vryheid commando, who
were few in number, and had been completely surprised.

But the Heidelberg and Carolina commandos, under Schalk Burger, came to
the rescue.  Urged forward by a German commando and by Ricciardi’s
Italians, they crossed an open space under a hail of bullets and lyddite
shells, and established themselves on one of the three spurs formed by
the kopje at this point.

The struggle was very fierce.  Between nine and eleven the English
charged three times with the bayonet and were repulsed.  Under the
deadly fire of the Mausers and the Maxim-Nordenfeldts they were obliged
to fall back gradually, before any serviceable reinforcements had
reached them.

Woodgate, mortally wounded, was replaced by Colonel Thorneycroft; the
latter received neither orders nor instructions, though it would have
been easy to have established optical telegraph communication, as the
heliograph was working between Mount Alice and Bester Farm (Redvers
Buller and White).[#]

[#] A heliograph _was_ working on the height, but ’the signallers and
their apparatus were destroyed by the heavy fire’ (_vide_ Sir Charles
Warren’s report).--TRANSLATOR.

His position had become most critical; a council of war was hastily
called, on the decision of which the height was evacuated under cover of

On January 25 Sir Redvers Buller, who had hastened to Warren’s camp, was
informed of this catastrophe, which upset all his combinations.  A
general retreat was determined on, and the troops recrossed the Tugela.

After this bloody check, General Buller’s report of the movement is

’The fact that we were able to withdraw our ox-waggons and mule
transports over a river 85 yards broad and with a rapid current, without
any interference from the enemy, is, I think, a proof that they have
learnt to respect the fighting powers of our soldiers.’

The ’lesson’ he had given the Boers had cost him 307 killed, thirty-one
of whom were officers; 175 wounded, of whom forty-nine were officers;
and 347 prisoners and missing, among them seven officers.

The Boers had 168 men killed.  And, as Ricciardi has pointed out, but
for the incomprehensible opposition of General Joubert, this retreat
across the Tugela would have been, not a proof that the enemy had learnt
to respect the fighting powers of the English, but a terrific rout.  For
General Louis Botha, surrounded by a dozen guns, was watching the
English passing over their pontoons from the heights he had defended the
night before.  They were well within range, and the gunners were at
their posts.  It wanted but an order, the pontoons would have been
destroyed, and Warren’s division, hemmed in by the river, would have
been massacred to a man.  Why was this order not given?

In March, even before the death of the Generalissimo, a terrible word
had been whispered--treason!  At any rate, his inaction was highly
culpable, for if the struggle seems hopeless now, there was a time when
he might have turned it into victory, and made it another Majuba Hill

We know that Joubert’s ignorance was almost incredible, that he could
not even use a map, and that he stubbornly refused to learn.  His
attitude at the time of Warren’s retreat and in certain other
circumstances no doubt gave colour to the rumours of poisoning which
followed the General’s sudden death in March.  It is conceivable that
some Burgher, carried away by patriotic zeal, did not hesitate to commit
a crime that the supreme command might pass into more faithful or bolder

Later on, when I was a prisoner in the English camp, I said one day in
jest to a young sub-lieutenant:

’You lost one of your best generals in March.’

’Who do you mean?’


Seeing his air of surprise and annoyance, a superior officer who was
present said, with a smile:

’You are right!’

On February 1 the positions of the belligerents had undergone no very
notable modification since the beginning of the war.  We will
recapitulate them for the last time, for English reinforcements were
arriving from every side. Lord Roberts had assumed the supreme command,
the besieged towns were shortly to be delivered, and the war was to
enter upon an active phase.

In the north, in Rhodesia, General Carrington was at Marondellas, and
Colonel Plumer at Safili Camp, near Buluwayo.

At Mafeking, Colonel Baden-Powell is made a Lieutenant-General.  ’The
Wolf who never sleeps,’ as his men call him, is still besieged by

Colonel Kekewich at Kimberley is surrounded by the troops of Du Toit,
Kolby, Delarey, and Ferreira.

General Cronje, to the south of Kimberley, is well informed as to Lord
Roberts’ preparations, but he pays no heed to them, and meets all
Villebois’ far-seeing counsels with the stock phrase: ’I was a general
when you were still a child.’

Schoeman is near Colesberg, facing General French.

Olivier, to the north of Burghersdorp, confronts Gatacre.

Botha and Schalk Burgher, on the north bank of the Tugela, hold in check
Buller and Warren on the south bank, near Colenso.

Finally, Joubert, Prinsloo, and Lucas Meyer are round Ladysmith, where
General White is still imprisoned.

On February 5 Buller, after deploying his troops as if for a frontal
attack in the direction of Potgieter, at last crossed the Tugela at the
foot of Dorn Kop.  If perseverance deserves a reward, he has certainly
earned one.

But the period of sieges draws to a close. The war is entering on
another phase.  Lord Roberts has completed his concentration, his orders
are given, the invasion begins.


On February 10 the Field Marshal concentrated three divisions on the
Modder River: Kelly-Kenny (6th), Tucker (7th), and Colvile (9th). Then
he secretly assembled the cavalry, grouped into three brigades (those of
Broadwood, Porter, and Gordon), under General French.  The latter,
supported by seven mounted batteries and six field batteries, started in
the night of the 11th-12th, reached Rooidam, continued by way of
Potgieter’s Farm, brushed aside General Ferreira, and entered Kimberley
on Thursday, February 15, at half-past five in the evening.

The surprise was complete, as we know!

Meanwhile, Lord Roberts had not been idle. On the 15th, Maxwell’s
Brigade occupied Jacobsdal, and Lord Kitchener was pressing Cronje, who
was retiring upon Paardeburg.

French, his raid accomplished, joined Kitchener by way of Koodoesrand,
and on the 17th the whole of Roberts’ force surrounded the Boer General.

After a ten days’ defence, more heroic than reasonable--for he might
have broken through with De Wet’s help--Cronje, crushed by the terrible
fire of 90 cannon,[#] bore out Colonel de Villebois’ prediction, being
forced to surrender unconditionally on February 27, at 7.30 a.m.

[#] Lord Roberts had 6 field batteries, 1 howitzer battery, 7 horse
batteries, and 5 naval guns--90 pieces in all, to be exact.

Lord Roberts telegraphed as follows to the War Office:

’PAARDEBURG, 7.45 a.m.

’General Cronje is now a prisoner in my camp.  The strength of his force
will be communicated later.  I hope Her Majesty’s Government will
consider this event satisfactory, occurring as it does on the
anniversary of Majuba.’

It was afterwards announced by the War Office that the General had
surrendered two Krupp guns, one belonging to the Orange Free State, and
two Maxims, one of these also belonging to the Orange Free State, 4,000
men, of whom 1,150 were Free Staters, and 47 officers, 18 of them Free
Staters.  Among the officers was the artillery commandant Albrecht,
formerly an Austrian officer.

In Natal, on the 28th, Lord Dundonald entered Ladysmith, the siege of
which had been raised at six in the evening, preceding a convoy of
provisions which arrived on the morning of March 2.

Lord Roberts did not linger long on the banks of the Modder River.
After giving his troops a short rest while he went with Kitchener to
visit Kimberley, where he was the guest of Cecil Rhodes, he continued
his march upon Bloemfontein. On the 7th he was at Poplar Grove, on the
10th at Abraham’s Kraal--he called the battle fought here
Driefontein--and on the 13th he entered the capital of the Orange Free

’_March_ 13, 8 p.m.

’By God’s help, and thanks to the bravery of Her Majesty’s soldiers, the
troops under my command have taken possession of Bloemfontein. The
British flag is now flying over the President’s house, which was last
night abandoned by Mr. Steyn, the late President of the Orange Free

’Mr. Fraser, a member of the former executive, the mayor, the secretary
of the late Government, the Landdrost and other functionaries, came to
meet me two miles out of the town, and handed me the keys of the
Government offices.

’The enemy has retired from the neighbourhood, and all seems calm.  The
inhabitants of Bloemfontein gave our troops a hearty reception.


Lord Roberts’s first operation was accomplished; he established a solid
base at Bloemfontein, accumulating a great quantity of provisions there,
a very wise measure to take before throwing his troops into a hostile
country, impoverished by five months of warfare, the resources of which
had already been heavily laid under contribution by the Boers.  At the
same time his troops radiated round the former capital to drive off the
little commandos that were still hovering about in the neighbourhood.

The 9th Division, under General Colvile, was broken up to keep
communications open, and its chief returned to England.

Such was the situation when, on Monday, April 23, we received orders to
saddle at seven in the morning.  We started at 8.30, with two days’

The direction is the same as before, towards the south.  But after the
counter-order of last Monday, we feel no great confidence as to the
object of this new manoeuvre.  We have christened these starts ’the
Monday morning exercises.’

This time, it seems, that while De Wet is busy at Wepener with Brabant’s
Horse, which he is still surrounding, a strong column is to attempt to
cut him off from the north, by establishing a line between Bloemfontein
and the frontier of Basutoland.  We are to oppose this movement and
enable De Wet to pass.

We arrive in the plain watered by the Onspruit about five in the
evening.  We bivouac there with Lorentz’s Germans, with whom we are
still grouped.  The nights begin to be cold.  During the evening 1,000
men and two 75 millimetre Creusot guns arrive.

In Botha’s camp, close by, there are still from 300 to 400 men, a Krupp
gun, an Armstrong, and a Nordenfeldt.

On the morning of the 24th a reinforcement of from 200 to 300 men
arrives.  Our total strength is from 1,500 to 1,800 men.

We remain in bivouac, but on the 25th our provisions are exhausted, and
they re-victual us by driving a flock of sheep across the plain. Each
group of five or six men takes one.  Part of the flesh is grilled over a
fire of cow-dung--the only fuel available in the Veldt--and the rest,
cut into quarters, is slung on the saddles for next day.

For the last two days the luminous balloon of the English has been
visible all the evening till midnight.

In the afternoon we get orders to start for the Waterworks, to the east
of Bloemfontein, which the English have recaptured from General Lemmer.
We are to take provisions for several days; but the English, it seems,
are close behind us.  They have come down into the plain, and the road
from here to Brandfort is very insecure.

At three o’clock in the afternoon Wrangel, two former officers in the
German army, Couves, De Loth, and I, set out to fetch a trolley loaded
with necessaries for the two corps.

We arrive at Brandfort towards midnight. Captain D----, whom we meet
here, gives us the news from France.  The Théâtre Français was burnt
down on March 9, and Mdlle. Henriot was one of the victims of the
catastrophe.  We also hear of the explosion at Johannesburg.  A telegram
says that the fort blew up on the 24th. But we learn later that it was
Begbie’s factory and not the fort that exploded.  Another telegram,
relating to the fight at Boshof, says that Prince Bagration is not dead,
but wounded only.  A lieutenant of marines named Gilles was killed.
This is all we have in the way of details, for the official list of the
losses of April 5 has not yet appeared.

As regards the explosion, the following information may be of interest.

The citadel of Johannesburg was not constructed with a view to defending
the town, but, on the contrary, with the idea of bombarding it. This
curious arrangement calls for some explanation.

On January 1, 1896, Dr. Jameson, coming from the east, was checked at
Krugersdorp with his contingent, which prevented the execution of his
_coup de main_.  But at the news of his arrival a number of Uitlanders,
for the most part English, had armed.  Forming themselves into
commandos, and reinforced by a battery of Maxims smuggled in among
machines for use in the mines, they bivouacked on the heights of
Yeoville, commanding Johannesburg, to await and join the men of the
Chartered Company.

After this escapade the Transvaal Government, in order to work upon the
loyal sentiments of its good city of Johannesburg, presented it with a
fort, which, situated in a prominent position in the town, would have
been capable in a very few minutes of correcting any ill-timed
manifestations of sympathy to which its inhabitants might be inclined to
give way in the future.

The Begbie factory was used for the manufacture of projectiles.  With
comparatively primitive methods and absolutely inexperienced workmen,
the making and charging of shells of all the patterns in use in our own
artillery had been carried on here.  Every evening from 700 to 800 were
despatched in every direction.

For a long time past, directly after war was declared, the English who
had been expelled had publicly predicted an explosion at this factory.
On February 2 a telegram from Durban announced that this explosion had
taken place.  The manager, Mr. Grünberg, had even vainly called the
attention of the police to a house close to the powder magazine.

To be brief, a terrible explosion took place on the 24th, killing some
hundred persons, and destroying a quarter of the town.

This was in the main what the inquiry that took place afterwards brought
to light:

A little mine containing black powder had been dug in the suspected
house, close to the dynamite reserve of the powder magazine. The authors
of the explosion had afterwards connected the mine with the electric
light of their rooms; then they had departed quietly to a place of
safety, having still half a day to spare.  In the evening, at five
o’clock, when the electric light works turned on the current to
distribute light in the town, the explosion was produced automatically.
The guilty persons were never discovered.

                     *      *      *      *      *

We spent our evening discussing all this news, and then went to bed in
our encampment. On the morning of the 26th we loaded a trolley, to which
we had harnessed eight strong mules, with cartridges, biscuit, and a few
other necessary provisions.  We started at two o’clock in the afternoon,
and arrived late in the evening at a farm where an ambulance was

We bivouacked several hundreds of metres off, as we were urgently
recommended to do by the doctor, who was accompanied by his wife. He
took advantage of the Geneva Convention to protect his domestic peace,
no doubt with an eye to Wrangel, who is a very pretty fellow!

I do not know if the legislator foresaw such a case as this!

Our dinner was furnished by the roosters of the farmyard, which three of
our number had initiated in the laws of hospitality.  Certain
protestations are raised by the victims, during which I call and scold
my poor Nelly, who is lying perfectly innocent at my feet.  But the
ambulance men will think it was she who was pursuing the poultry....
One should always try to save appearances.

We take a very light sleep, and towards three o’clock a Kaffir comes to
tell us that he has just met a numerous band of English.  We harness up
rapidly, and make off still more rapidly at a hand-gallop, while in the
dawning light we make out the scouts of the enemy on the neighbouring

All day we marched across the plain without a guide, and at six in the
evening we reached Botha’s camp.  Our comrades, who had gone off on a
little reconnaissance, which proved to be fruitless, came in at about

A rumour that we had been taken prisoners together with the trolley had
preceded us; it had been brought in by the Irish Americans, and
confirmed by a heliographic message from the commissary at Brandfort.

On the 28th all the Europeans were told to hold themselves in readiness
to start as an advanced guard.  I meet with a very cordial reception
from the officers of the staff, for I find among them the Adjutant,[#]
Marais, who was with us at Poplar Grove.  The order to start was given
at two in the afternoon.

[#] The title of Adjutant to a Boer General often corresponds to that of
head of the staff, and not to the subordinate rank implied by the grade
in France.

We have just heard that Von Loosberg, an ex-lieutenant of the German
army, whom we knew at Abraham’s Kraal, and who had since taken service
in the artillery, had received seven Maxim bullets at Dewetsdorp, two in
the head and five in the body.  He recovered!

At five o’clock we reach a little stream. Here we are to encamp for
three days.  From 1,200 to 1,500 are gathered here with Botha, Delarey
and Kolby.  The tents are set up a little apart.  We are very

At about 8.30 we had finished dinner, and were about to seek a
well-earned repose; several of the party were already rolled up in their
blankets.  Suddenly there was a noise of the tramp of horses and strange
murmurs.  We went in search of information.  All the camp was astir, and
the Boers were making off quietly.

’The English!  Be off!’

We struck our tents hastily, saddled our horses, and harnessed the
mules, without getting any more precise information, and then we joined
in the general retreat.  The questions we ask call forth answers
precisely like those given by young recruits at their first manoeuvres.

’The enemy!’


’Over there!’

A sweeping gesture embraces the whole horizon; the indication is all the
more vague in that it is ten o’clock, and that the night is very dark.

’Are there many of them?’

’I don’t know.’

’Which way are they going?’

’I don’t know.’

I almost think that if one asked rather sharply, ’Did you see them?’ the
man would answer, ’No.’

Nevertheless, the convoy takes an easterly direction, and the men are so
disposed as to cover the retreat.  We are on a rocky kopje swept by an
icy wind.  Thinking we were to bivouac again further on, we had packed
up our cloaks and rugs on the trolley.  Our benumbed fingers can no
longer grasp our rifles; we shiver, swear, and sneeze in chorus. It was
a horrible experience!

After a night that seemed interminable, dawn and sunlight put an end to
our torture.  During the morning certain information is brought in. The
camp has been broken up, 1,500 men have been mobilized, and have spent
the night on the _qui vive_.  A patrol of thirteen Lancers passed close

The 29th is a Sunday.  The Boers sing hymns.  We pitch our tents again
about two hours’ distance from our camp of the night before.

On the 30th, at eight o’clock, orders are given to transport our laager
to the foot of the high kopjes we see four or five miles off in the
direction of Taba N’chu.

Towards 9.30 the Maxim suddenly opens fire, without our having seen or
heard anything to account for it.  We gallop off to the kopjes straight
in front of us, making for one of the highest, which is called Taba
N’berg.  But a field-cornet comes after us at a gallop, and sends us
more to the left to join General Kolby. It is all the same to us, as we
know nothing of what is on hand.  We take up a position on a little
rocky peak.

The kopjes form a large semicircle, slightly oval, the curve of which
lies to the north-east and the opening to the south-east.  A group of
trees in the midst of the arid yellow basin is Taba N’chu.  To the west
of our position twenty miles off is Bloemfontein.  All the bottom of the
vast hollow is full of men in khaki.

It is ten o’clock.  We have one cannon on our left, and on our right,
between us and the big kopje, another cannon and a Maxim gun. Later in
the day two or three Grobler guns appeared on the scene.  One English
battery took up a position about 4,000 metres from us, then another,
distributing common shell and shrapnel all along our line.  A brisk
fusillade was also brought to bear upon us at a long range (about 2,500

Judging the distance to be too great for effective rifle-fire, we did
not respond to this, but did our best with our guns.  At eleven o’clock,
however, our Maxim was silenced.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Volunteers and the Royal Irish charged our right
wing four times, and finally succeeded in establishing themselves on the
flank of the incline, which was relatively slight on their side.

Von Braschel was killed, and Brostolowsky, both former officers in the
German army; also Baudin, a former sergeant of marines, who had served
his fifteen years, and had come to the Transvaal while waiting for the
liquidation of his retiring pension.

About 4.30 we were ourselves vigorously charged by the infantry, but a
brisk fire, unerringly delivered, dispersed those who did not fall.

The fighting ceased with the day.  In the evening, owing to the
unexpected nature of the engagement, we had neither provisions nor
coverings.  A box of sardines between ten of us was our dinner, and the
intense cold debarred us from the sleep that would have consoled us for
our missing meal.

We remained in position, and at daybreak on May 1 the battle began

With the Germans, we were sent to occupy the big kopje against which the
English attack had been most violent the night before.  Its dominant
position made it of great strategic value; but the Boers who had held it
were guilty of the disastrous negligence, only too habitual with them,
of retiring from it in order to sleep comfortably, instead of
strengthening their position upon it.

The English, on the other hand, had spent the night digging trenches,
and were firmly established on the ground they had gained in the two
days.  From the very beginning, therefore, our position was less

The ascent of Taba N’berg by a rocky, steep, and almost precipitous
incline took about thirty-five minutes.  So rugged was the hillside that
it was impossible to use litters to bring down the wounded.  We were
forced to drag them down by the feet, or to make them slide down
sitting. Our shelters were therefore often stained with long trails of

Our horses were left at the bottom of the hill, without anyone on guard
as usual.  On reaching the top, we were greeted by steady infantry fire
and by a few shrapnel shells, which we received without responding till
ten o’clock. Then, leaning a little upon our right, we began to fire.
We numbered about a hundred--fifty foreigners, and as many Boers; for
the majority of those who had been with us the night before--perhaps 500
Europeans, and a rather smaller number of Burghers--had returned to the
laager, and had not come back.

It is true that the day had been a hard one for them, and that they had
had to bear the brunt of the battle under a heavy artillery fire.

Up to this moment nothing serious had been attempted.  But about eleven
o’clock the whole of the Royal Canadian contingent arrived in open
formation.  They were greeted on their passage by our two 75 millimetre
guns, which had taken up a position on our left at the foot of the

I heard afterwards that the guns, though they had been remarkably well
laid, had not been very effective, the shells with fuses having fallen
without exploding.  In consequence of this, only two or three men, who
had been struck full by the shells as if they had been bullets, had been
killed.  Several others were knocked over by the shock, but picked
themselves up unharmed.  I got this information later from a superior
officer of an English regiment who had been present in the engagement.

About one o’clock, without any order and without any reason, the Boers,
who were occupying another little kopje on our left, forsook their
position.  The English artillerymen at once rushed forward, and now
began to fire upon us at a distance of 3,500 metres.  Then, all at once,
there was a cry of, ’To the horses!’  At our feet, behind us in the
plain, a regiment of Lancers, who had come round the big kopje where we
were stranded as on an island, sweep forward in loose order, to seize
our horses which are sheltered below.

There is a rush to protect them.  A few Boers, coming from I know not
whence, took ambush in a little spruit, and drove off the Lancers by a
withering fire; but while this feint was being carried out, the English
made another rush forward, more serious than the first.  A fierce
fusillade was kept up on both sides.

We are now only hanging on to the kopje by the left corner.

Suddenly, not having been able to seize our horses, the enemy open a
terrible artillery fire upon them obliquely.  The Boers retreat before
it, and the position becomes untenable; we have only just time to reach
our horses.  As we come down the kopje, one of my comrades, who is a
great declaimer of verse, recites ’Rolla’; but his memory fails him at a
certain verse, and he asks me to help him out.  I reply that I don’t
know ’Rolla,’ but my answer is cut short by a shell which, passing
between us, bursts and carries off the head of a Burgher clean from the
nape of the neck.

And through the crash of shells and the whistle of bullets I hear a few
metres off the voice of my friend De C---- speaking to someone I cannot

’It was at Tabarin, you know.’

At last we reach the horses; Buhors arrives, bringing the water-bottles
he has filled at a little spring a hundred metres off under a hail of
projectiles.  An ambulance is on the spot, riddled with bullets, and the
doctor, admirably calm, tends the wounded, while the natives hastily
harness the mules.  We see two or three more men fall; a horse drops
disembowelled by a shell; then we are in the saddle.

Four or five men, who were firing at us from a distance of about 200
metres on top of the kopje we had just abandoned, and the battery which
was working away unceasingly 3,000 yards off, had got us in an angle of
fire.  The ground was ploughed up by a hail of projectiles, and the
shower of bullets raised thousands of little clouds.

A hard gallop of 2,000 metres under these convergent fires carried us
pretty well out of danger.

A German, with a long fair beard, whom I knew well, galloped past me.
He had no coat, no hat, no arms; his horse had neither saddle nor
bridle; he was guiding it by a halter.  Pale, with staring eyes, his
face contracted, he dashed past me.  There was a large blood-stain on
his shirt.  He had been shot right through the body!

It was half-past two o’clock.

These two days cost us twenty killed, among them six Europeans, and
about fifty wounded, of whom twenty were Europeans.

Scarcely had we got beyond range, when we met Botha, who posted us on a
little slope. There were about sixty of us.  Then Botha went off.  When
he had disappeared, a Burgher went slowly up to his horse, mounted it,
and left the field.  Another followed him, just as slowly, then a third.
Soon there were only about fifteen Europeans left.

We could see nothing on the horizon, neither convoy nor retreating
troops.  We in our turn departed, saluted by a few shells.

Here and there a few wounded, and one or two men who had lost their
horses, were going away.  No one knew what had become of the army.


At last we meet General Olivier’s troops, marching to the north-west.
They appear to know nothing of the battle.  Scarcely have we gone 100
metres with them before we are stopped by a battery, which opens fire
upon us. The English form a semicircle round us.  The situation is
serious.  We make off across the Veldt, towards the east, till far on in
the night. We sleep on the ground, keeping a sharp look-out.

On the next day, Tuesday, at dawn, we set out again, describing a wide
circle, first to the east, then to the north, and finally to the west.
It proved lucky for us that we had done so, for we were behind the
English columns marching on Brandfort and Winburg.

Finally, always making our way across the Veldt, we arrived at Brandfort
on the 4th about eight o’clock in the morning.

Oh, how thankful we were to be in our camp and in our tents again!  What
a tub we had! what a breakfast! and what a sleep we look forward to when
night comes!

While waiting for the preparation of a serious meal, we set to work to
grill a few chops.  They have scarcely been on the embers more than two
minutes, when we hear Pom! pom! pom!

There is no time for breakfast.  To horse! We swallow our raw cutlets,
and gallop off.

Four men stay behind to strike the camp, and we take up a position to
the south-east of Brandfort, on the kopjes that command the plain.

In the distance, about eight kilometres off, we see the English convoys
already making for Brandfort.  They are pretty confident.

To the right, a battery, of which we can distinguish the escort,
silences the cannon nearest us by killing the gunners.  Then a second
battery advances at a trot on the left in the plain, and crosses the
fire of the first.

The Boers watch this manoeuvre with great interest, discussing it and
giving their opinions on it.  Then, as the battery halts and takes up a
position, slowly but surely, they all make for their horses.

Scarcely are the first shells fired before they are in their saddles,
decamping at full speed.

Our two 75-millimetre guns come up, and throw a few shells from a
distance, with no result.

It is always the same.  They watch the enemy’s operations without
interfering, and when they want to act, it is too late.

It is two o’clock.  Our waggons went off long ago, but the road is
encumbered with a long string of vehicles.

The roads to Smaldeel and Winburg are cut off.  There is an
indescribable throng on the Veldt; each person is going in his own
direction.  The confusion is complete.

C---- and I go off to try and find our baggage, for since the 1st we
have had no news of the trolley, which is with Michel and a few
comrades.  The rest of the carts may very well have been captured, like
so many others, either near Winburg or near Smaldeel.

My friend, always full of foresight, had taken the precaution of putting
a pot of peach jam in his pocket when we started in the morning. On this
we dined without a scrap of biscuit.

Late in the evening we arrived at a farm, from whence we were shown the
English outposts on a kopje opposite.  During the night the owners of
the farm went off in a cart. Kaffirs kept watch to warn us should any
attempt be made on our refuge.  We slipped away at daybreak, and arrived
at Smaldeel towards noon on the 5th.

The retreat continued.  Each day was marked by a skirmish, though no
serious engagement took place except at Zand River on the 9th. There the
fighting was pretty hot.  The Boers of our right wing were driven back,
while the Germans, who were in front, held the bed of the river, which
makes an angle at this point.  The English column advanced, greatly
outnumbering the Germans, who were very nearly taken.  They ordered the
Boers to stand firm to allow them to disengage themselves, but the
panic-stricken Burghers would not stop.  Then, without receiving any
orders, the Germans, moved by a feeling of deep and legitimate anger,
once more summoned the fugitives to fight, and on their refusal, poured
a volley into them at a distance of about 200 metres.  Several fell; the
rest, cowed by this prompt action, returned to their positions, held the
English column in check for a few moments, and gave the Germans time to
disengage themselves.

On the 12th French had arrived first at Kroonstad by one of his usual
outflanking movements.  The surprise had been complete. Fortunately our
carts had left the day before.

Since the 8th Heilbron had become the seat of government of the Free

The Irish Brigade,[#] nearly all of whom were drunk after the sacking of
the stores, had been made prisoners for the most part.

[#] A certain number of Irish, commanded by Colonel Blake, had taken
service with the Boers under the name of the Irish Brigade.

The railway-station, which served as a commissariat store, had been
burnt to the ground with all the provisions, which there had been no
time to save.

Everyone was worn out.  Lorentz had been shot in two places at Zand
River; Wrangel too was wounded.  Everywhere where resistance had been
necessary the Boers had not stood against a dozen shells.

The retreat continued to Vereeniging; we arrived there on the 14th.  The
most contradictory rumours were freely circulated.  On the 12th,
Mafeking was said to have been taken by the Boers; on the 13th the news
was confirmed; on the 14th it was denied.

The town, it appeared, had very nearly been taken by a hundred
foreigners; but getting no support from the Boers, they had failed in
their attempt, and seventy-two of them had been killed.

On the morning of the 17th we were said to have captured eighteen guns
at Mafeking.  The following telegram, signed by General Snyman, had even
been published:

’This morning I had the good fortune to take prisoner Baden-Powell and
his 900 men.’

In the evening it was reported that we had suffered a check, and had
lost ten guns.

The last report was, unhappily, the only true one.

Baden-Powell, whom Lord Roberts had asked in April to hold on till May
18, had been relieved on the 17th, after a siege of 118 days.

The last few days, it seems, had been very hard ones, for on April 22
the ration had been reduced to 120 grammes of meat and 240 grammes of
bread a day.

The little garrison had been greatly tried, losing more than half of its
numbers during this siege, the longest in modern times after those of
Khartoum (341 days) and Sebastopol (327 days), though a trifling affair
as compared with the ten years of Troy, or the twenty-nine years of
Azoth recorded by Herodotus.

We found our waggons awaiting us at Vereeniging on the 15th; we were
thoroughly disgusted, as may be supposed.  We had been retreating and
retreating continuously, without a struggle, without an effort, offering
no resistance.

However, we found that a _Long Tom_ had been brought up, mounted on a
truck.  It was protected by a steel shield and a rampart of sandbags.  A
second truck, also casemated with logs and sandbags, served as a
magazine for powder and shell.  But the kind of armoured train thus
formed remained idle in the railway-station.

I inquired whether we were to attempt an attack and push forward.  The
answer was that we could not venture to cross the Vaal with the gun,
because it was feared that the Free State Boers, who were displeased at
the war, might blow up the railway bridge while the ’armoured train’ was
in the Orange territory, and thus deliver it into the hands of the
English.  Such was the spirit of confidence that reigned!

In spite of all this, we wished to try once more to organize an
effective foreign legion. De Malzan, a former officer in the German
army, was appointed Adjutant of the Uitlanders’ Corps under Blignault,
by the Government of Pretoria; his commission was signed by Reitz and
Souza.  He went, his jaw still bandaged for a wound received at
Platrand, to confer with General Botha.  He was very badly received.

’I do not recognise anyone’s right to make appointments.  Blignault is
not a General, and you are nothing at all.  The Europeans can all go
back to their own countries.  I don’t want them.  My Burghers are quite
enough for me’--a remark he might have spared the European legion,
which, out of about 280, had in the last two months lost fifteen killed,
nineteen prisoners and eighty-seven wounded on the battlefields of
Boshof, Taba N’chu, Brandfort and Zand River.

Anxious to clear up the question definitively, I left my camp on the
other side of the Vaal, and made for Pretoria on the evening of the 18th
in a coal-truck.

On the 19th I found Lorentz there.  He had been made a Colonel.  We held
a council of war--Lorentz, still lame from his two wounds; Wrangel, with
his arm in a sling; Rittmeister Illich, the Austro-Hungarian, and
myself.  It was decided that we should lay before the President a scheme
of organization, from which I will quote a passage, as it shows the
state of mind in which we all were:

’We earnestly hope that on the lines we have laid down, and with the
active support of the Government--which no one has yet obtained--a good
result may be achieved.

’This plan, taking into account the rapidity with which events are
following one upon another, depends for its success on the swiftness
with which it is carried out.  But we much fear that a fresh rebuff from
the Government, after so many others, would irrevocably discourage its

                     *      *      *      *      *

We obtained an interview with De Korte, who had influence.  He approved
the plan, but feared to see it fail, like so many others.  Our
representations became more and more pressing.

On the 24th I went to Johannesburg to see Dr. Krause, who is also
influential.  He was very amiable, but irresolute, and did not know what
to say.

                     *      *      *      *      *

The English continued to advance.  A despatch-rider came to tell me that
my convoy had arrived.  It joined me, indeed, at Johannesburg on the
26th, without any ’boys,’ all of them having deserted; the waggons
battered and broken by fording the rivers, the beasts dead or exhausted
by a journey without rest or food, the men worn out by continual
vigilance, and by their double duties as ’boys’ and combatants,
disgusted at the retreat and the disorder.

Many of them laid down their arms, and found work at the
cartridge-factory and in the mines at from twenty-five to thirty
shillings a day.  One, more desperate than the rest, left his arms with
us, and went off to the English lines to surrender.  Only a very few
remained, waiting for the President’s decision as a last resource.

The Landdrost allots a piece of waste ground to the twenty mules,
twenty-one oxen, thirty-two horses and two ’boys,’ which constitute the
debris of our convoy.  The men find lodging where they can.

On Sunday, the 27th, one of my men arrived from Pretoria with a letter
from Lorentz, dated Saturday morning.  The scheme had been signed and
approved.  Afterwards he handed me a proclamation by Lorentz, dated the
evening of the same day.  At two o’clock everything was retracted and
refused.  Furious and despairing, Colonel Lorentz adjured all the
foreigners to lay down their arms:

’As the honourable Government of the Z.A.R. cannot accede to our modest
but just demands, we, the foreigners of various nationalities, being
without means of livelihood, are no longer in a position to sacrifice
our lives for the maintenance of the Federated Republics.

’I, the under-signed, hitherto commandant of the international corps,
hereby invite all persons who voluntarily joined me to lay down their
arms on Tuesday, May 29, 1900, at ten o’clock in the morning, at the Old
Union Club at Pretoria, or at any other place where they may happen to

’(Signed) C. LORENTZ.

I hesitated to show the proclamation to my companions, they were already
so depressed.

On the morning of Monday, the 28th, a policeman, furnished with an order
from the Landdrost, requisitioned our beasts at the grazing-ground
without even giving us notice. I believe he sold them.  I had almost
certain proof of this later on.  We never found them again.

In the night three of our waggons out of the five were pillaged in spite
of the man on guard.  Such behaviour to Europeans who were being cut up
into mincemeat for them! ... It was too much!  The cup was full.  I
handed Lorentz’s proclamation to the men.  It did not raise a regret;
they were all sick of the business.

Those in authority had refused them a few shillings, scarcely the pay of
a Kaffir, of which they were sorely in need, for they were utterly
destitute, and had not the means to escape from the English and return
to their countries.

And now the authorities were taking advantage of our exhaustion to steal
our horses--under a pretext of legality--to give, or, rather, to sell
them to Boers who were going back quietly to their farms.  For if a few
thousand still stood their ground, the majority had lost heart, and had
returned to their homes, only leaving them when their wives, more
patriotic than themselves, drove them back to the front.

It was generally the old men, those who had taken part in the ’Great
Treks,’ who set the example of resistance.  These men have inherited the
virtues of their ignorant and rustic ancestors.  If they can read at
all, the Bible is their only book; and even if they cannot read it, they
know its grand pages, and try to live up to its precepts.

Many Burghers of the younger generation, on the other hand, have
inhabited towns; they have become greedy of gain, very English in their
habits and customs, and have lost the principal virtues of their race,
substituting for them the faults, often much aggravated, of those who
have given them the shady civilization of South African cities.

In the army of Natal, round about Amajuba, there were seven guns and
about 200 men.  Of these just _six were Burghers_, the rest were
Afrikanders and foreigners.  And while former officers and
non-commissioned officers of the European artillery were begging for
cannon, two of these seven guns were idle for want of men to serve them.

They prefer to leave them thus rather than to give them over to
foreigners.  I was told this by a Burgher, an artilleryman of twenty,
who was going to his post.  I travelled with him from Pretoria to
Elandsfontein on the morning of May 24.  He himself did not conceal his
indignation at this method of proceeding.

At Pretoria the Government had given up all pretence of action.  A
general panic seemed to reign.  Rumour reported that influential persons
were mainly occupied in dividing the public money among themselves.

It is a fact that none of the tradespeople, whether they were
hotel-keepers who had lodged and fed troops on presentation of
requisition warrants, or dealers in clothes and provisions, had been
paid.  They all now declined to lodge persons or provide goods for the

A woman, Mrs. S. D., who had had a contract for saddles, was obliged,
after many fruitless appeals, to enter the Government offices horsewhip
in hand, like Louis XIV. when he intimidated his Parliament.

Thanks to this vigorous proceeding, she received a credit-note, on which
a certain number of bars of gold were given her, for the national
bank-notes had fallen to about two-thirds of their nominal value.  But
this was an exceptional case, and most of the trades-people were less

What became of the gold that for eight months was taken out of seven
mines working for the State?  No one knows!

It is true that, from the highest functionary to the humblest Burgher,
all were intent on the most shameless pillage.  I saw army contractors,
on whom no sort of check existed, charged with the provision of every
kind of necessary, food, clothing, horses, oxen, etc., and making fine
fortunes in no time; while the honest and worthy Boer received from the
State horses and harness which he afterwards sold to it again with the
utmost coolness.

I know, too, that very large sums were devoted to a press propaganda in
favour of the South African Republics.  And how many skilful middlemen,
by means of round sums judiciously distributed, secured orders for the
most expensive and useless commodities!

In all countries and in all ages it is notorious that out of ten army
contractors nine are thieves and one is a rogue, especially in war-time.
Their depredations date back to the institution of armies, and the Boer
contractors had only to follow on a path already clearly marked out for
them by their European confrères.  But few of these have displayed such
a degree of proficiency in their calling.

I might quote the case of a famous Parisian firm of balloonists, to
which nearly 10,000 francs were paid in ready money for waterproof silk,
cord, and various utensils for the construction of a balloon.  An
aeronaut was also engaged at a salary of 2,000 francs a month, all
expenses paid, and when he arrived at Machadodorp, where the President
was at the time, he was greeted with:

’A balloon?  What for?’

After awaiting a solution for three weeks, the aeronaut returned to
France, noting on his return journey a number of stray packages on the
quay at Lourenço Marques.  They contained the silk and the rest of the

It was by a scientific application of these Boer principles that Mrs. S.
D. came by the very pretty sum we have seen her collecting with her

She had engaged to deliver 500 saddles a week at £10 each; but a good
many of the Burghers to whom the saddles were distributed sold them back
to the worthy lady’s agents for £4 or £5, and she then sold them again
to the State, after changing the more conspicuous of them a little.  So
that these wretched saddles were always reappearing on the scene, as in
a review at the Châtelet; but each of their migrations brought in a
solid sum to Mrs. D----.

It is not difficult to see why there was no money for the combatants.


After forty-eight hours of fighting from Elandsfontein to Florida, on
May 29 and 30, we were cut off from the road to Pretoria by General
French and his cavalry.

Without horses it was impossible for us to follow the retreat, and we
found ourselves shut up in Johannesburg.  We succeeded in enrolling
ourselves among the police of the mines, which gave us a temporary
shelter, and perhaps saved us a sojourn at St. Helena; for we were
determined not to take the oath of neutrality, but to begin fighting
again as soon as possible.

On May 31 the English entered Johannesburg. The English flag was hoisted
with great pomp at noon in the great square, in the presence of Lord
Roberts.  Dr. Krause had been empowered to surrender the town.

Johannesburg is a very English town.  Its behaviour at the time of
Jameson’s raid sufficiently proved this, and many of the more
irreconcilable Burghers who had been brought into hospital there wounded
ran away before they were cured rather than remain in the hostile town.

The Union Jack was accordingly greeted with loud shouts of ’Hip! hip!
hip! hurrah!’

Nevertheless, we often met Burghers in the crowd who, like ourselves,
were only biding their time to return to the front.  I saw one old man
weeping silently.  I am not sentimental, but I have rarely felt a more
poignant emotion than this mute and dignified despair excited in me. I
hurried away.  I think I should have wept myself.

The entry of the troops began at about 10.30, and lasted four hours.
About 12,000 men marched through the town, and in the environs, as far
off as Elandsfontein, some 50,000 passed, it was said.

But what a procession it was!  There was no order; the men barely
marched in ranks.  No uniforms, officers and soldiers huddled together,
dirty, and many of them in rags.  They had eaten nothing since the day
before, when the ration had been two biscuits.

On they came, or rather dragged themselves, with drooping heads, one
with his rifle on his shoulder, another with his slung across his back,
one with the butt-end uppermost, some without bayonets, others with
bayonets fixed.  Some officers had our Mauser rifles, others
Lee-Enfields, others sporting rifles.  Nearly all, both officers and
soldiers, walked with the help of sticks.

From Bloemfontein to Johannesburg they had covered 250 miles, fighting
every day, and sometimes marching 45 kilometres without a halt across

A few days earlier, at Kroonstad, their convoys had not come up.  Lord
Roberts, anxious to continue his forward movement by forced marches,
asked the commissariat-officer:

’Can you serve the ration?’

’No, sir.’

’Half ration, then?’

’No, sir.’

’Quarter ration?’

’Yes, perhaps.’

On receiving this problematic reply, the Marshal explained the situation
to his men. They immediately replied with acclamations: ’For Lord
Roberts we would march without any ration at all!’

The Black Watch, out of a thousand men, their strength on landing,
mustered about sixty behind their pipers.  The others lie in the
trenches of Magersfontein and at the foot of Dorn Kop.

Save for a few battalions that have arrived recently, the regiments are
skeleton corps.

As we watched these haggard, exhausted troops dragging themselves along,
involuntarily we called to mind him who once marched our fathers through
all the capitals of Europe.  In spite of fatigue, privation, and hard
fighting, it was in a very different guise that the Grand Army entered
Vienna and Berlin behind the Emperor and his glittering staff.

The artillery was in better form.  Some fifteen batteries were drawn by
magnificent horses, and I saw men on cobs that looked well worth from
two to three hundred louis.

There were also some siege-guns, and some 15 centimetre naval guns--one
from the _Monarch_--drawn by thirty-two oxen.  It was behind this
powerful artillery, devastating the whole region with it on principle,
whether occupied or not, that the English army had advanced from

If we had had a body of cavalry, I believe that rapid and energetic
action would have resulted in a considerable loss of _matériel_ to the
English army; for, relying on the absolute lack of offensive measures on
our side, they often left their batteries defenceless.

Next came a strong train--telegraph apparatus, balloonists, engineering
implements for digging wells, pumps, etc.

The troops merely passed through the town, leaving in it a garrison
under the command of Colonel Mackenzie (Seaforth Highlanders), who was
appointed Governor of Johannesburg.

The next day a proclamation by Frederick Sleigh, Baron Roberts of
Kandahar and Waterford, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., V.C.,
Field-Marshal, commanding Her Majesty’s Forces in South Africa:

’Assures the non-combatant population of his protection.

’All Burghers who have committed no act of violence contrary to the laws
of civilization against any of Her Majesty’s subjects are authorized to
return to their homes, after giving up their arms and pledging
themselves to take no further part in hostilities.  Passports will be
given them.

’Her Majesty’s Government will respect the private property of the
inhabitants of the South African Republic, as far as is compatible with
the exigencies of war.

’All individual attempts upon property will be severely punished.

                          ’GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!

’Given under my hand and seal at Johannesburg, May 31, 1900.’

At the same time, regulations fixing the prices of provisions for the
troops were issued: 30s. for a sack of 168 lb. of oats;
champagne-tisane, 160s. a case; tobacco, from 3s. to 7s. a pound, etc.

Let us take advantage of our ephemeral functions as policemen to explore
the town a little.  Johannesburg was not the first mining centre in the
Transvaal.  The first workers established themselves at Barberton in
1886. A few years later the Brothers Strubens, whilom prospectors,
discovered an auriferous vein in the Witwatersrand near the farm of
Landlaagte.  Johannesburg then consisted of a few scattered huts.  It
now numbers over 100,000 inhabitants (I mean, of course, before the

It is a town given over to business.  The centre is occupied by the
post-office, a huge building, in front of which is a vast marketplace.
Here in normal times trains of carts bring in all the necessaries of
life--fruit, vegetables, mealies, etc.  The principal streets,
Commissioner Street, Market Street, Pritchard Street and President
Street, are wide, clean, and bordered by handsome shops.  The whole town
is lighted by electricity.

The blocks of houses, three and four stories high, are called
’buildings’; often several of them belong to the same owner or to the
same society, and bear their names: Ægis Building, Commissioner Street;
S.A. Mutual Building; Standard Building; Heritier Building.

The houses are not numbered, but this does not inconvenience the
postmen, for they do not exist.  Each inhabitant pays a small sum for
his own box at the post-office, and goes to fetch his correspondence
when he likes.

Johannesburg has a very well organized fire-brigade, with engines,
ladders and fire-escapes of the latest pattern.  The captain, who is, I
believe, an Englishman, served for a time in Paris, London, and New
York, and wears the honorary medal of our Paris brigade.  The men wear
the same uniform as English firemen.

The hosiers, tailors, French milliners, dressmakers, saddlers, and
music-sellers of the town are on a par with the best European
specialists. Life is very expensive, and all luxuries command tremendous
prices.  Cabs, dirty and ill-harnessed, drawn by two miserable horses
and very badly driven, cost 7s. an hour.  Little light cabriolets drawn
by negroes are therefore generally used for locomotion.  These are much
cheaper and fairly rapid, for the negroes--Kaffirs or Zulus--are in
excellent training, and can go extraordinary distances at the double.

The currency was for a long time English, but in 1892 the Transvaal
struck her first coins (pounds and shillings) with the effigy of
President Kruger.

The Free State has no coinage of her own, and uses English or
Transvaalian money.

Bronze money, of which the President only allowed a few specimens to be
struck, is not current; the monetary unit is the ’ticket,’ a small
silver coin worth 3d.[#]

[#] Some English officers, it seems, saw for the first time at
Elandsfontein a Kruger’s penny, and bought it for £2. The current price
of a Kruger’s penny is from two to three shillings.

The Johannesburg journals, the _Standard and Diggers’ News_ and the
_Wolkstrem_, the official organ, therefore cost 3d.

At Johannesburg much more than at Pretoria, because the town is more
English, the houses in the centre of the town are mainly offices, for
all the inhabitants who are comfortably off live in the suburbs, either
on the height beyond the fort, or at the end of Main Street, in the
great park of Belgravia.

Most of these suburban dwellings are very expensive, and are comfortably
and luxuriously arranged.  A garden more or less large is considered an
absolute necessity.

The majority of the population speculate and gamble, and it is not rare
in times of peace to recognise in some barman or miner a gentleman who
had dazzled the town by the magnificence of his carriages and horses a
few months back. No surprise is felt by anyone, for the next ’boom’ will
perhaps make him a wealthy man of fashion once more.

I could quote the case of a young man I knew well who was twice a
millionaire, and who, after having been ruined for the second time, was
gradually building up a third fortune. He is very little more than

Johannesburg, however, is merely a city of passage.  Men stay here just
long enough to make money, and directly this is done, they return to
their own countries.  The end and aim of everything here is to make
money, and to make it quickly.

Based on this principle, and composed of a number of adventurers, the
cosmopolitan society one finds here hardly offers a guarantee of
irreproachable morality.

Antecedents are of little account, indeed.  A merchant who has been
convicted of fraud in France, here enjoys the consideration due to the
£500,000 he has gained with the money he stole in his fraudulent

I have even heard that some years ago the extradition of a rogue was the
signal for disorderly scenes and an expostulatory address, because he
had not been convicted of theft since his arrival at Johannesburg.  He
had made a considerable sum of money there, and was accompanied to the
station by a number of friends.

                     *      *      *      *      *

No sketch of Johannesburg would be complete without a few words about
the gold-mines.

I am no authority on the subject, but I will describe what was told me
and what I saw; and as the engineer who was good enough to give me some
information knew me to be ignorant, my precis will be a little ’Manual
on Mining’ for the use of novices.

In the first place, there is an essential difference between the manner
in which gold is found in Witwatersrand and in other districts, such as
Klondyke, Senegal, or the Soudan.  In the latter, the gold is in grains,
either embedded between the frozen stones, or rolling in the beds of
rivers.  The auriferous mud is taken up and washed, and the gold is
retained.  Nothing could be simpler.

In the Rand, however, the working of the mines is purely scientific.
The mineral is found in blocks of quartz and silicious clay containing
pyrites of auriferous copper and gold.

After calculating the direction of the reef, one must dig down to a
greater or less depth to find it.  Dynamite is then used to detach the
gold-bearing quartz, which is brought to the surface.  It has the
appearance of very hard white stone, slightly veined with blue.  It is
carried off to the batteries in Decauville trucks, and there a
crushing-mill, which looks like a gigantic coffee-mill, and
sledge-hammers combined into groups of five, reduce it to a very fine
powder. A current of air spreads this powder over copper-plates covered
with mercury.

A large proportion of the gold, about 60 per cent., amalgamates with the
mercury, and once a fortnight the amalgam is scraped off.  After fusion
the mercury in the amalgam volatilizes, leaving a deposit of almost pure

The residuum of the first process is afterwards poured into huge vats of
from 10 to 12 metres in diameter, in which cyanide of potassium has been
placed.  A solution of cyanide of gold is thus obtained, and this is put
into cases lined with strips of zinc, on which the gold is precipitated.
The 40 per cent. lost in the first process is thus recovered.

The gold thus collected is melted down into ingots, the transport and
verification of which are the objects of interminable regulations.

So much for the scientific part.  The rest is simpler.

The heavy labour is mainly done by Kaffirs or Zulus under the
supervision of white miners who earn about twenty-five pounds a month,
and live in the boarding-house connected with the mine.

The natives live in a compound where no alcohol is allowed.  Their
rations are given them, and they live on very little.  Their ambition is
to earn enough money to return to their native place, buy two wives, and
do no more work; the wives work for them thenceforth. It takes them
about two years to realize this dream.  When the time is up, it is
impossible to keep them in the mines.

The first year of working (1888) yielded about £1,000,000.  In 1895
about £8,000,000 was extracted.  Finally, from January 1 to August 31,
1899, the harvest was nearly £13,000,000.  The net profits of
exploitation are considerably diminished by the enormous expenses
resulting from the dearness of European labour, and the heavy taxes
imposed by the Transvaal Government on mining rights and on the
importation of explosives.

At the time of my sojourn all the works were closed.  In the town, as
every hospital and ambulance was full to overflowing, the hotels were
requisitioned for the sick.  In front of the Victoria Hotel there were
often strings of ten and twelve waggons bringing in the wounded.

Often at dusk a dray would pass, into which long, heavy cases of deal
were furtively slipped.... The _avowed_ losses were terrible enough.
What were they in reality?

About the middle of December the War Office confessed to 7,350 men.  At
the beginning of February this number was doubled, and Buller’s three
attempts on the Tugela cost 1,046 killed, 3,785 wounded, and over 1,500

In March the numbers had swelled to 14,000. It was the unhealthy season,
and sickness--enteric fever especially--made wider gaps in the English
ranks than bullets.  On May 10 over 18,000 men were missing, 5,000 of
whom were dead.

On the Boer side the statistics are much more difficult to check,
especially when one is confronted with such discrepancies as these:
Rumours and reports stated the Boer losses at the Battle of Colenso, on
December 15, to have been 8 killed and 14 wounded.  But I find a report
drawn up by the Red Cross Society in which the numbers are given as 77
killed and 210 wounded.

What is one to believe?  In all ages belligerents have tried to conceal
their losses, and this kind of juggling is, of course, much easier among
incoherent groups like the commandos than in regular battalions.

                     *      *      *      *      *

One day--it was June 10, I think--all the police of the mines were
requisitioned to transport the wounded from the station to the
hospitals.  There were a great many, and they had been forbidden to say
whence they came; the police were also forbidden to speak to them on any
pretext whatever.  Had something very serious happened?  We never knew
exactly what it was.

Pretoria had been occupied on June 5.  The news that reached us came at
long intervals, after manipulation by the censor, and was often of the
most fantastic order.

The police regulations were most stringent. Everyone was ordered to be
indoors, at first by seven o’clock, later by 8.30.  The streets and
squares were guarded by troops.  Jewellers’ and wine-merchants’ shops
and bars were closed by order.  No one was allowed to draw money without
a permit from the military authorities, and a limit--of £20 a week, I
think--was enforced as to the amount, unless a special permission had
been granted.

Finally, residents in the town were required to get a pass and to take
an oath of allegiance. Those who, like ourselves, had resolved not to do
this, were obliged to hide like outlaws, to avoid being marched off to
the fort, and thence to Ceylon.  We give a reproduction of this police
regulation[#] which was posted on the walls of the town.

[#] See pp. 216, 217.

A few days back a German had gone into Government Place at noon and
hauled down the English flag.  The sentry looked on aghast at first, and
then began to question him.

’It has no business here,’ replied the German, going on with his work.
He was arrested at last, and condemned to nine months’ hard labour.

The life of inaction had become unbearable to me.  At the end of June,
still on the lookout for a means of returning to the front, I at last
’found’ the papers of an English police-officer.  And now for liberty!

           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

                                 V. R.
                             POLICE NOTICE,

1.  All Civilians are required to remain in their houses between the
hours of 7 p.m. and 6.30 a.m. unless provided with a pass signed by the
Military Commissioner of Police.

2.  No Natives are allowed in the town except such as are permanently
employed within its limits.

3.  All Liquor Stores, Bars, and Kaffir Eating Houses are closed until
further orders.  No liquor will be sold except on the written order of
an Officer of Her Majesty’s Forces. 4.  All Jewellers’ Shops are closed.

5.  No Civilian is allowed to ride or drive, or ride a bicycle within
the town unless provided with a pass signed by the Military Commissioner
of Police.

6.  Any person disobeying these regulations is liable to arrest, and
will be dealt with under Martial Law.

By Order,
_Military Commissioner of Police._

                         POLITIE KENNISGEVING.

1.  Alle Inwoners worden hierbij bevolen om in hun huizen te blyven van
7 uur ’s avonds tot 6.30 uur ’s morgens indien niet voorzien van een
Paspoort, geteekend door de Militaire Commissaris van Politie.

2.  Geen Kleurlingen mogen in de Stad zyn indien zy geen vast werk
hebben daarin.

3.  Alle Bottel Stores, Bars en Kleurling Kosthuizen moeten gesloten
worden tot nadere kennisgeving.  Geen Drank mag verkocht worden indien
niet voorzien van een Permit van den Officier van Harer Majesteit’s

4.  Alle Jewelier Winkels moeten gesloten worden.

5.  Geen Inwoner mag ryden te Paard, Rytuig of Bicycle in de Stad,
zonder voorzien te zyn van een permit, geteekend door de Militaire
Commissaris van Politie.

6.  Eenig persoon die deze Regulaties niet opvolgt, zal gestraft worden
onder de Krygswet.

By Order,
_Militaire Commissaris van Politie._

           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *


With a brief but resolute gesture, I took off my hat in farewell to the
City of Gold.  With a few necessaries rolled up in a cloak, I succeeded
in passing through the English lines at Boksburg, after journeying for
three days, sometimes in friendly carts, sometimes on foot, to escape

Near the level crossing of the railway at Boksburg a party of Lancers
was encamped. Putting on the tranquil and indifferent air of a man whose
conscience is at ease, I passed through them without molestation.
Further along the road there were two small outposts, which I was able
to avoid by passing over a dried-up pond.

When night came on, I slept at Benoni. Commandant Derksen, of the
Boksburg commando, was in the neighbourhood.  I hoped to fall in with
him in the north-east.  The nights began to be terribly cold.

At 4 a.m. on July 4 I was once more on my way.  I walked till nine in
the evening.  My feet were sore and bleeding.

I arrived at last at a farm, where I was coldly received at first; for
they took me for a spy. But when I showed the papers that constituted me
a Burgher, I was petted as if I had been a son of the house.  They gave
me eggs, milk and biscuit, and offered me shelter for the night. As I
had no rug, and the cold was terrible, I accepted the offer with joy.

My hostess had three sons with Derksen, and a fourth with De Wet.  The
fourth was Baby, as she called him, showing me the photograph of this
little Benjamin, who may have been about forty, and had a beard down to
his waist.

They were worthy folks, Boers of the old school, hospitable and
patriotic.  They made me up a bed in a kind of old travelling carriage
in the coach-house, and after half an hour of fierce conflict with a
swarm of mice, I fell asleep.

Twice I was roused by further attacks from the rodents, and a third time
by a man with a long beard, who said:


I was a little surprised at first, but finally I grasped the situation.
A patrol commanded by one of the Bothas (a cousin of the Generalissimo),
had come to the farm at three in the morning. My hostess explained my
case, and they had sent to ask me if I would join them.

I agreed eagerly, and rapid preparations were at once made for my
equipment.  They found me a lean hack, gave me a rug by way of saddle,
and two pieces of cord for stirrups, and armed me with a Lee-Metford
rifle, taken from the English a little while before!  Don Quixote!

We consumed the usual coffee and biscuit, and started, taking a zigzag
route northwards towards Irene.  Derksen was rather more to the east.

Towards nine in the evening we lay down to rest on the Veldt.  I think I
never suffered as I did from the cold that night.  It was freezing hard,
and I had nothing to cover me but the rug, which, soaked through with
the horse’s sweat, was as stiff as a board in ten minutes. It was
impossible to sleep for a moment, and the pain became so intolerable
that I was obliged to walk about to warm myself a little; and then the
wounds on my feet, which were quite raw, made me suffer cruelly.

A few days later an officer of the first brigade of Mounted Infantry was
found frozen to death on bivouac, in spite of his blankets.

We started at daybreak on the 6th, making for a Kaffir kraal.  At about
7.30 we heard three cannon-shots fired, but could not tell exactly from
what direction.  Then there was silence again.

Towards eight o’clock a group of about fifteen horsemen in felt hats and
long dark overcoats came towards us, then, suddenly wheeling, went off
at a gallop.  We were fourteen, all told.

When it reached the top of the kopje, the party disappeared, and when,
in our turn, we rose above the crest, we were received with a fusillade.
There were about forty men, some 400 metres from us.  We turned back
hastily, to put our horses in shelter on the other side, and then

A Burgher was wounded in the head.  We had the cover of the rocks to
protect us, and, in spite of our inferior numbers, the two sides were
about equal.  Then another Burgher and my neighbour were wounded almost
simultaneously, the latter in the thigh, probably by a ricochet. His
wound was serious.  I took his Mauser and his cartridges from him.

I am not very sure how long this little game had been going on, perhaps
ten minutes. Suddenly we heard shots behind us.  One of our horses fell;
Botha got a bullet right through him. We were surrounded by about 300
men of the Imperial Light Horse.  There was nothing to be done.  A
Burgher named Marais held up a white handkerchief.  There were only ten
of us left.  I was handed over to some English officers, who received me
with the greatest possible courtesy.  As the action had now extended all
along the line, I was taken to the rear.

In the evening I was confided to the Connaught Rangers, who had been
kept in reserve. Hearing of my nationality and my former rank in the
French army, they said: ’We are allies now!  We are making common cause
in China!’  I made many inquiries about the events in the Far East, of
which we knew nothing, having held no communication with Europe since

Hoping to be able to take part in the Chinese Expedition by joining the
Foreign Legion, I made up my mind to give my parole to General H----,
who was in command of the column.

Meanwhile I heard the most interesting details from the English officers
of the campaign in which we had lately been fighting against each other.
There were among them survivors of Colenso and Spion Kop, and men of the
Ladysmith garrison.

The Connaught Rangers were commanded by Colonel Brooke, who was
seriously wounded at Colenso, near the railway bridge.  He was acting as
General in command of the Irish Brigade. He invited me to dine with him,
and at night, though most of the officers were sleeping in the open air,
he offered me half of the little shanty which formed his bedroom, and
himself fetched a bundle of straw for my bed.  Then I had innumerable
offers of rugs, cloaks, and capes, till at last I believe I was better
wrapped up than anyone in the camp.

During the evening a telegram came telling Colonel Brooke that he had
been promoted and was a general.  I willingly joined in the toasts that
were drunk in his honour, for it is a fine and noble feature of a
military career that one feels no bitterness to an adversary.  When the
battle is over, foes can shake hands heartily, though they are ready to
slash each other to pieces again a few hours later.

On July 7 we rose at six.  A captain brought me some hot water in an
indiarubber basin, sponges, and soap.  Then breakfast was served. We had
porridge, red herrings, butter, jam, biscuits, coffee and tea.

But the Irish Brigade had received orders to saddle up, and I was handed
over to the staff of the first brigade of Mounted Infantry.  I was very
politely received by General Hutton’s staff-officer, a lieutenant.  The
superior officer who took me to him, Major M. D----, of the 2nd Royal
Irish Fusiliers, asked him if he spoke French.  I was delighted to hear
him answer in the affirmative.  I went to lunch with him in his tent.
Conversation languished.  For a long time he did not open his lips, if I
may so express it, for he was eating the grilled mutton his orderly had
given us with evident appetite. Suddenly he addressed me:

’Navet du pon.’

I bowed amiably, thinking we were to have a dish of turnips of some
kind.  ’Du pon’ puzzled me a little; but perhaps there were ’Navets
Dupont’ just as there are ’Bouchées Lucullus’ and ’Purée Soubise.’  I
was astonished at my host’s culinary knowledge.  At last, later on, when
I had heard the phrase a great many times without ever seeing any
turnips, I found out that he wished to say, ’N’avez-vous du pain.’  This
was the highest flight of which he was capable in French.

Nevertheless, my sojourn with Colonel Hutton’s staff was extremely
interesting.  I heard that we had killed the day before Captain Currie
and Lieutenant Kirk of the Imperial Light Horse, and I was present at an
engagement that lasted three days.  On the third day, indeed, shells
burst so near me that I ran a fair chance of being killed by my friends.

I will give a brief journal of events hour by hour, so to speak.

On the 7th fighting began early towards the east.  We could hear it,
though we could see nothing.  From noon to three o’clock the cannonade
was very lively towards Olifantsfontein.  This was the engagement at
Witklip, I believe.  The English lost some fifty men, among them ten

On the morning of July 8 twenty mounted men went out with picks and
spades to bury the dead.  They were preceded by a large white flag.  At
10.30 cannon-shots were heard east-south-east, then suddenly, at 11.5,
three detachments of the Mounted Rifles went off.

Officers and despatch-riders were galloping up and down everywhere.  I
think the English had been completely surprised by a return of the

There was rapid harnessing and saddling. All round the bivouac horsemen
were bringing in oxen, mules, and horses from grazing.

The Mounted Rifles galloped off to take up a position on the crest a
mile away about which there had been fighting the day before.

At 11.15 another large detachment of Mounted Rifles passed, returning
the salute of the sentry on duty at headquarters.

In all they may have been from three to four squadrons.  It was
difficult to form any idea of actual numbers, for they were not marching
in strict order, and taking into account the reduction in the strength
of certain corps, a column of two or three hundred men may well have
represented a whole regiment.

A captain of the Irish Brigade told me that his company consisted of
seventy-eight men, completed by yeomanry, and he called his adjutant to
verify the figures he had given me.

At 11.20 a battery of the Royal Field Artillery went off in the same
direction at a trot.  A fraction of about fifty returned at a walk.

About 100 metres from my point of observation--an old waggon--the Irish
Brigade and the Borderers stood at ease.  At 11.30 a battalion was moved
forward.  Five minutes later a second battery, a great naval
10-centimetre gun, drawn by twenty oxen, joined the fighting line with
the rest of the Irish.

Everything had been done very rapidly. One could see that the men had
been trained to sudden alarms by six months of warfare. Thirty-five
minutes before the men were busy in camp, and the beasts were grazing.
Now more than half the men were engaged, and all were ready awaiting
orders to advance.

The skirmishers came back at a gallop, and a man arrived to hasten the
advance of the naval gun, the oxen of which were almost trotting

At 11.55 two other naval guns, also drawn by twenty oxen each, went
forward to join the others.  A large ambulance-waggon followed.

In the camp a dog was howling dismally. The cannonade slackened a

At noon an ammunition-waggon, drawn by ten mules, went off to supply the
line of combatants.

It is lamentable that the Burghers, clinging obstinately to their
defensive tactics, know nothing of rear or flank movements.

There are no sentries either right or left. All the troops have gone off
in the direction of the cannon--that is to say, towards the east--and in
that immense camp, containing some hundreds of waggons, there are only a
platoon of Mounted Rifles and a half-battalion of infantry.  A handful
of men could carry the camp and sack it.

In addition to the material result, what a moral effect would be
produced on the troops engaged a mile and a half off, if they knew that
an enemy, however feeble, was in possession of the road of retreat, and
engaged in plundering the stores and ammunition!

It is true that the Boers did not know the state of the camp, but if
they had they would have done nothing.  This circumstance, confirming
many other instances, would have convinced me more firmly than ever, if
that were possible, that the great secret of warfare is to _dare_!
This, I think, was the sole science of Murat, Lassalle and many another
famous _sabreur_.  And the Emperor himself, was not he, too, a type of
audacity in the conception of his most brilliant campaigns, in the
conduct of his most glorious victories?

About 12.30 the firing ceased.  It recommenced again about 3 and 4.30.
At three o’clock another great ammunition waggon was despatched.  No
losses were announced that evening.

The staff was at work till one o’clock in the morning, and a long
telegram in cipher was sent off to Pretoria.  In the evening rather late
I heard the movements of troops, which recommenced the next morning at

July 9.--From 7 a.m. to 7.30 a battery and several detachments of the
Mounted Rifles, ten or fifteen, moved off to the east-south-east,
strongly flanked on the right (south) by other Mounted Rifles and by a

In the early morning there were two centimetres of ice on the artillery
buckets, and towards noon we were glad to be in our shirtsleeves.  This
great variation, more than 37 degrees in twenty hours, is very trying.
We were now in mid-winter, and the sun set at five o’clock. At eight the
firing, which was very brisk, seemed nearer than the day before.  The
Boer shells, carrying too far, burst between the camp and the line of
the English artillery, which we could see perfectly.  The infantry was
posted towards the east-south-east.

The staff-officer told me that the English were engaged with General
Botha’s 5,000 men. I offered no opinion, but I was sure he was wrong,
and information I received later justified this belief.  I was rather
inclined to think that it was the worthy Derksen, who had collected some
500 or 600 men, and who, by rapid and unexpected movements, was trying
to make the enemy believe in the presence of a very considerable force.
My staff-officer further told me that General Hutton was in command of
6,000 men, three batteries, and four naval guns.  This, to judge by what
I saw, may very probably have been correct.  At any rate, a formidable
convoy was on the spot.  The guns were still booming.

An old sergeant with four stripes was introduced to me.  He was the
senior member of Battery 66, which had been kept in reserve. He had been
serving under Lieutenant Roberts, who was killed at Colenso.

During the day four ambulance-waggons were sent out to the lines.  It
was at first intended that I should be taken to Pretoria, but as the
route of the convoy had been changed, I was conveyed to Springs.  I was
one of fifteen prisoners, not counting the wounded.

At 4.30 the firing was much closer, but we had to start; the convoy was
ready.  It consisted of fifty bullock-waggons, eight or ten of them
filled with wounded men.  We, the prisoners, were at the head of the
convoy, strongly guarded by infantry and mounted men. A few mounted
irregulars preceded us as scouts. These men, recruited chiefly among the
Afrikanders, sometimes even among the Boers, know the country very well.

Our guide was a native of Boksburg, and knew all the men with Derksen,
the leader of the Boksburg commando.  I made no attempt to conceal the
disgust I felt for this renegade. But nothing distracted him from his
duties, for he had a holy horror of falling into the hands of the Boers.

During the night fires in the bush reddened the horizon on every side.
They came to ask us several times if these were signals.  I really had
no idea, but I was inclined to think not.

On account of the meagre fuel afforded by the short dry grass of the
veldt, the fires we saw in these regions had none of the grandeur of the
bush-fires in the Soudan, where the high grass is from 6 to 10 feet
high.  In those whirlwinds of fire the flames seem to lick the sky, and
the tallest trees are twisted and calcined like straws.  Numerous as the
fires were, they did not warm the atmosphere, and the cold was terrible.

At last we arrived, supperless, at Springs, at 1.30 in the morning, so
frozen that we were obliged to look and see if our feet and hands were
still in place.  We slept huddled in the guard-room at the

Early on the morning of the 10th, Major Pelletier, of the Royal Canadian
Regiment, came to fetch me to breakfast at mess.  But Captain Ogilvie,
the commandant of the station, would not let me leave his jurisdiction
till I had been to his quarters to make my toilet.

After this process I went off with the Major. He was a charming fellow,
a French Canadian, as his name indicates, and a native of a little
village in Normandy.  I spent the day with him.  He told me the most
interesting things about Canadian life, spoke enthusiastically of the
fine sport there, and invited me to come and pay him a visit later on.
At the same time he confided to me that both he and his men were
suffering terribly from the heat.  I then, being almost frozen, make up
my mind never to accept his kind invitation.

I met a young doctor, too, whose name I forget, also a French Canadian.
All the French Canadians, who form the majority of the contingent, speak
excellent French, interlarded with old-fashioned expressions and marked
by a strong Norman accent.  Many of them do not know a word of English.

At six o’clock I start for Johannesburg, in the carriage reserved for
officers.  My pockets are full of French Canadian papers, which, though
some two months old, are full of news fresh to me.

On my arrival, I presented myself to Major Davies, the commandant of the
military police. He speaks French very correctly, was very agreeable,
and gave me leave to go about the town on parole.  I had only to leave
my address with him, and to report myself at his office every morning at
eleven o’clock.

On the 13th a plot was discovered to seize the town.  About 500 arrests
took place during the evening.  As I had taken the oath of neutrality, I
was not among the conspirators, and while hostilities last I can say no
more on this subject.

On the 14th I received a permit to return to France, and I started by
the two o’clock train that very day.

All along the line the railway-stations had been converted into
entrenched camps.  We continually passed trains loaded with horses,
guns, and men--some twenty in all, perhaps.  We arrived at Kroonstad at
eleven in the morning on the 15th.  Nothing remained of the sheds and
the goods-station which we had burnt on May 12, with all the stores.

Involuntarily I took out my pocket-book, and read the names of the men
who then composed the French corps.  We were not forty altogether.
Three had been killed, five had disappeared, the others were dispersed.

I tried to go out of the station to revisit all those places in the town
where we spent a fortnight, gay, full of hope, almost complete in
numbers.  But the station was surrounded by sentries, and no one was
allowed to pass.

From a distance the prospect was dismal enough.  The streets were
deserted, and, as if to emphasize the fact that everywhere there is
suffering, the Red Cross flag floated sadly over the town.  In the
foreground, close to us, on the line, and in the sidings, were deserted
railway-carriages, half burnt, overturned, and broken.

All round the town were field hospitals and vast camps.  There were
about 11,000 men in all, I was told.  A feverish activity reigned at the
station, a continuous bustle and movement. Convoys of provisions and
arms followed each other in rapid succession.  We counted sixteen during
the day on the 16th.

Horses and mules were entrained in some, others brought back the
worn-out horses. Many of these poor beasts had died on the road; most of
them could hardly stand.  They were dragged along a few steps, and a
non-commissioned officer put a bullet through their heads inside the
station.  Thirty or forty thus executed lay heaped one on another in a
pool of blood, which ran in a little stream towards the line.

On the platform stood cases of ammunition and arms.  Several placed
together contained Lee-Enfield cavalry carbines, and were marked ’Very

On the 16th we were still at Kroonstad, and a trainful of prisoners
passed going to East London.  It became one of the daily exercises of
the garrison to walk to the station and see the travellers.

Two questions were to be heard perpetually:

’Do you think it is nearly over?’ ’Have you any Kruger pennies?’

And Tommy is quite happy when they tell him that, as to being nearly
over, it’s not quite that; but that as to going on much longer, it won’t
go on much longer--at least, it depends on what you mean by much longer;
or when someone gives him one or two Kruger pennies.

At last we left Kroonstad at ten o’clock in the evening, passing through
Brandfort, that village to which, feted and acclaimed, we had come with
_Long Tom_ in January.  All along the route the railway had been
destroyed, and we travelled on rails laid on unballasted sleepers by the
Royal Engineers.

Trenches had been dug to enable the train to pass over the shallow,
dried-up streams without any very artistic labour, and sometimes the
little half-destroyed bridges had been repaired with logs and made to do
duty again.

It seemed wonderful that it could all hold. But it appeared--I heard
this at the camp at Springs--that one of the chief engineers of the
railway service was a civilian, a French Canadian, who had already
distinguished himself in America by the construction of very daring

He must have been extraordinary indeed to have astonished the Americans!

It is certain that the English successfully re-established railway
communication with very restricted means in a very rapid manner--not
that this prevents it from being constantly re-cut, however.

On July 17, at 8.30 in the morning, we were at Bloemfontein.  Poor old
capital of the Orange Free State!  It is now the chief town of the
Orange River Colony.  Here again there was an immense camp, a large
proportion of the Kelly-Kenny division.

We only stayed half an hour, and, after changing trains at
Springfontein, we passed Norval’s Pont at 6.35 in the evening.  We were
in Cape Colony!  Here we were no longer on an improvised railway, and we
got on faster.  On the 18th, about 7.30 a.m., we were in the environs of
Cape Town.

In accordance with English custom, many of the merchants have offices in
the town, and live in little houses which give a gay and smiling aspect
to the suburbs.  We therefore took up a number of passengers who looked
like men of business.  In a few minutes we were in the town.  We left
the train at 8.30.

My permission to return to France was confirmed by the General
commanding the garrison. I was almost a free man!

                     *      *      *      *      *

Vague rumours reached us from the front, always carefully doctored by
the censor.  Prinsloo was taken prisoner with several thousand men; but
on the line to Lourenço Marques Botha was still defending himself
vigorously.  After the taking of Pretoria the Government, incarnating
itself, so to speak, in the person of President Kruger, installed itself
in a special train.  There Oom Paul slept, received, ate, and lived.
There the official printing-press was also set up, and the money that
was circulated was minted there. As in the hurried departure from
Pretoria it had not been possible to carry off a complete set of
weights, the sovereigns issued were simple gold discs, quite plain,
without image or inscription.

It was on this line, too, that the last great battles were fought, at
Middelburg, Belfast, and Machadodorp, after which, renouncing all
attempts at defence, the Boers began that guerilla campaign which De Wet
had already successfully essayed.

In a few days our steamer sailed.  It was not without a pang that we
quitted the land we had hoped to see free, for which we had fought for
seven months, and which had proved the grave of a venerated leader and
of beloved friends.


An inexperienced writer, more expert with arms than with the pen, I do
not know if I have described all these events in a manner sufficiently
clear and coherent to convey a distinct impression.  I shall therefore
try to sum up on a few broad lines the ideas I have been able to form
after the experiences I have recorded.

First of all, two great questions seem to present themselves: Why, in
spite of all their qualities, have the Boers been beaten?  Why are the
English, with over 250,000 men, held in check by a handful of peasants?

These two questions are closely connected, for, though this seems a
paradox, the chief cause of the defeat of the Boers is also the cause of
their long resistance.  I will explain.

I think we must attribute the defeat of the federated troops mainly to
their absolute lack of military organization, for in spite of the legend
of the volunteers of 1792, no undisciplined force, however brave, will
ever prove a match for a regular army.

Resistance may be more or less prolonged, phases more or less heroic,
but the issue is foredoomed.

This lack of organization, of discipline--that is the great
thing--explains the absence of cohesion, of combined action, of rational

I have already sufficiently pointed out the evils of suffrage as applied
to the election of commanders.  In addition to this, what enthusiasm or
confidence can these feel, when they know that half the men of their
commando will leave them on the road if they feel so inclined? And even
if they do not actually do so, the leader’s confidence is put to a rude

Yet these same Boers who have fought like lions on occasion, and on
occasion have fled without firing a shot, are capable of education in
the art of war.

The Johannesburg Politie is a striking proof of this.  With the
elementary discipline that obtains among them, this corps held their own
for a whole day against Lord Roberts’s 40,000 men on two occasions, at
Abraham’s Kraal on March 10, and near Machadodorp on August 27, almost
unsupported.  And each time at the price of a third of their number!

                     *      *      *      *      *

To this chief and primordial cause we must add another, not altogether
inexcusable, but very harmful under the circumstances.  I mean the dread
and hatred of the foreigner.

Not inexcusable, I say, for, for nearly a century, the foreigner has
been to the Boer the invader, the robber, and the enemy!

The Boers therefore, as a whole, could never believe that for love of a
noble cause, or a passion for adventure, men of every nation should have
come to espouse their cause against the United Kingdom quite

In the unfortunate state of mind that prevailed among them, the eulogies
of a well-intentioned but maladroit press had the most disastrous

What sort of respect, indeed, could these primitive people feel for
Europeans when Lombroso and Kuyser had written in all good faith: ’As 63
per cent. of Boer blood is Dutch, 12 per cent. French, 12 per cent.
Scotch, and 3 per cent. German, this mixture of the best nations of
Europe ought to constitute a centre of liberty and civilization, a race
superior to any in Europe!’

Why, when one belongs to ’a race superior to any in Europe,’ should one
follow the advice of officers of the European armies, and, consequently,
of the inferior races?

And, indeed, when we consider the remarkable campaign now being carried
on by De Wet and Botha, we may well ask whether Europeans could obtain
better results.  Under present conditions, I think, it would be hard to
do better.

But if General de Villebois’ advice had been taken from the first, it is
very probable that the guerilla war would never have been inaugurated.
The campaign would have been over long ago; for whereas the Boers were
content to hold the English in check, the Europeans wanted to beat them.

Not satisfied with successful engagements that gave no solid advantage,
they wanted to push forward, with the enthusiasm that surprises a
demoralized enemy, creates a panic, and results in total rout.

Haunted by the names that gleam in the folds of our banners--Jemmapes,
Valmy, Marengo and Austerlitz--we dreamed of great victories.  And if
the Boers had wished it, this dream might have been realized!

We now come to the reason why the English, with over 250,000 men, are
held in check by a handful of peasants.

I have said that this question is closely bound up with the cause of the
Boer defeat--the absence of discipline.  For how is it possible to
surround, to conquer, and to crush adversaries who will never be drawn
into a battle, and who make off directly a blow is struck at them?

Are they closely pressed by the enemy? Each man goes off as he chooses
in a different direction, and the commando of 500 men which attacked a
little convoy yesterday has melted away before the column of 2,000 sent
in pursuit of it.

Far away in the bush, to the east, a horseman disappears on the horizon,
another on the west--and that is all.

If one of these men should have been too closely engaged in the English
lines, the first farm he comes to offers him an asylum.  His rifle is
thrust under a plank in the flooring, his horse turned out to graze, the
white flag floats over the house, and Her Majesty has no more
inoffensive subject than my Burgher--for the next twenty-four hours.

If need be, when the English authority is too near, an old gun--I once
saw a flintlock--will be handed to him in sign of submission, and the
oath of neutrality taken.

This explains the enormous number of arms that have been given up, while
the Burghers have retained their good Mausers and Martini-Henrys, and
still use them.

But as soon as the English, pleased at a fresh submission, have gone
off, the rifle--the good one this time--is brought out, the horse
stealthily mounted, and the Burgher is abroad once more.

The dispersions are merely momentary, and very often a rallying-point
among the hills has been fixed on in advance.  Eight days later the
commando, concentrating again, appears on the scene with some unexpected
stroke.  This kind of thing may go on for a long time.

’Egaillez-vous, les gas!’ was the cry of the Vendéen chiefs; and it is
this manoeuvre, and the rally which follows it, that regular troops
cannot execute.

This kind of warfare is obviously very painful and fatiguing for the
invader.  But it is a purely defensive method, and cannot have any
decisive success, unless the invading army should give up the struggle.

For which side does Fortune reserve her final favours?  It is certain
that the English are weary, very weary, and that they have been so for
some time.

Ten months ago, at the beginning of January, a soldier of the 2nd West
Yorkshire Regiment wrote with mournful resignation:

’We shall all be thankful when this war is over, and this horrible
butchery at an end!’

Another, less disciplined and more easily discouraged, a yeoman, wrote
after Colenso:

’If I come through alive, the army will have seen the last of me!  I
have had enough of it, and I bitterly regret having rejoined my

I do not say that these sentiments are general, but they indicate the
weariness of the combatants.  And this lassitude seemed to me to be
creeping over all, from the general to the private, among those I met
between Springs and Cape Town.

The army itself will not be consulted, of course, but I wish to note
this state of mind, which seems to me serious.

On the other hand, British prestige is too deeply engaged for the
English to retreat without losing caste.

What will happen?  It would be foolhardy to prophesy.  ’If in doubt,
refrain,’ says the sage.  I will take his advice, offering for the
consideration of those who have followed me so far this melancholy
sentence from the Westminster Gazette of last March:

’Each Boer will have cost us £2,000 to subdue, and no one can yet say
what each will cost us to govern.’

October, 1900.


[Illustration: Map of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State (small

[Illustration: Map of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State (large

           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

                       The Transvaal from Within

                          BY J. P. FITZPATRICK

   Demy 8vo., cloth, 10s. net.  Popular Edition, cloth, 2s. 6d. net.
                    People’s Edition, paper, 6d. net

Mr. Chamberlain, replying to a Westmoreland correspondent, who
complained of the want of a printed defence of the Government’s policy
in the Transvaal, wrote, ’I refer you to Mr. FitzPatrick’s book.’

Lord Rosebery at Bath: ’A book which seems to me to bear on every page
and in every sentence the mark of truth, which gives you wholesale and
in detail an extraordinary, and I think I may say an appalling, record
of the way in which the Government of the Transvaal was carried on and
the subjection to which it reduced our fellow-countrymen there.’

The Times: ’Mr. FitzPatrick’s book supplies a want which has been widely
felt.  For the first time, the information which everyone has been
asking for, and which nobody has been able to obtain, with regard to the
common facts of contemporary Transvaal history, is collected in a volume
convenient for reference and easy to read.  Nothing that has been
written upon the Transvaal brings the conditions of life there so
clearly before English readers.  Mr. FitzPatrick lays his arguments
boldly and simply before his readers, but it is in the facts of the
book--facts never before brought together in so convenient a form--that
the most powerful of all arguments will be found.  Few readers will lay
down the volume without feeling that they know more than they have ever
known before of the real issues on trial in South Africa.’

                          Why Kruger Made War

                       Or, Behind the Boer Scenes

                           BY JOHN A. BUTTERY


             1 vol., crown 8vo., 3s. 6d.  Second Impression

The Times.--’Amid the never-ceasing flood of South African literature,
Mr. Buttery’s is a book which deserves to be read.  He writes with
inside knowledge of the Transvaal, its recent history, and its public
men.  His chapters are pointed, easy to read, and full of interesting
local matter.  His description of the position of the Cape Dutch and of
the Bond is worth reading.  The book contains within small compass more
useful and interesting information than is sometimes to be found in far
more pretentious volumes.’

Literature.--’It has the incisiveness that one expects from the work of
the man on the spot, and it illuminates the British case with anecdotes
and circumstantial details.

The Daily Telegraph.--’The author throws a good deal of light on the
proceedings of the Hollander clique. The book contains much that is of
interest at the present time.

                     The Rise and Fall of Krugerism


    Demy 8vo., cloth extra, 10s. net.  Popular Edition, 2s. 6d. net

The Daily Chronicle.--’The authors throw new light on much that we knew
before, and they write with the experience of old inhabitants.’

The Daily Express.--’A most timely book, and one well deserving the
serious consideration of all public men.’

The Scotsman.--’Those in search of enlightenment respecting the rise and
fall of Krugerism in South Africa will find this volume a mine of
information on the subject.’

The Manchester Courier.--’The most striking feature of the work is its
almost encyclopedic completeness, for there is hardly one of the many
phases of political interest connected with South Africa which is not
threshed out in these pages.  There is a tone of healthy Imperialism
about this book which is refreshing and attractive.  It will be welcomed
as a logical and painstaking presentation of the South African

The Newcastle Daily Chronicle.--’We leave the book convinced that a
perusal of it will open the eyes of the British people all over the
world to the evils and dangers of Krugerism in such a way as perhaps no
other one book could do.’

The Yorkshire Post.--’A valuable as well as an interesting work.’

                      The South African Conspiracy

                     Or, The Aims of Afrikanderdom

                        BY FRED. W. BELL, F.S.S.

                    Demy 8vo., cloth extra, 5s. net

The Times.--’The matter is one of great importance, and the volume
serves a useful purpose in bringing the known facts and the arguments to
be deduced from them within the reach of all.’

The Morning Post.--’If there are left in this country any reasonable
persons who yet believe in the righteousness of Krugerism and the
whole-hearted loyalty of the Afrikander Bond to the Mother Country, we
commend to their kind attention "The South African Conspiracy," which
forms a valuable companion to "The Transvaal from Within" and "The Rise
and Fall of Krugerism."  It is well that the voice of yet another who
has lived long in South Africa, who has travelled far and wide in Cape
Colony and the Transvaal, and who is familiar with the temper and
aspirations of every section of the population, should have added its
testimony to the mass of evidence which serves to show us how, but for
the employment of military force, the British Empire would have soon
been in a fair way of classing South Africa with the United States, and
other portions of the earth, that were once a part of that Empire, and
now are not.’

The Scotsman.--’Mr. Bell’s book will be found eminently worthy of
perusal and consideration.  It clears up many points and facts that have
been purposely obscured.’

The Daily Express.--’A valuable contribution to South African history.’

The Yorkshire Post.--’We hope that Mr. Bell’s book will be widely read;
it should be of real service in the face of the coming settlement.’

The Daily Mail.--’The true inwardness of the origin, growth, and
achievements of the Afrikander Bond have never been so succinctly and
tersely set forth as in this book, which is excellent in its moderation,
reserve, and judicious impartiality.’


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