Under The Union Jack, No. 5, Vol. 1, December 9th 1899

a.D 9, theISM.] WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 30 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. LORD METHUEN S VICTORIES. THE gallant officer to whom fell the work of relieving Kimberley has taught us almost to “look for a victory every morning.” The rapid succession of actions¦ w h ic h began at Talana Hill put us a little in that expectant frame of mind, but we soon learned, like Walpole in the old war, that such anticipations were foolish, and that the battles were fought to cover a retirement. Nothing detracts from our delight in Lord Methuen’s victories, except the heavy losses that have attended them. How many gallant officers and men have lost their lives in those tremendous actions! Heroic bravery, patriotic fervour, and whole-hearted devotion have hurled forward our masses upon those well-defended positions, and have swept the enemy out of our path. The Boers have proved an enemy worthy of our steel. Not only are they hard-fighting men, but they are provided with the latest engines of war, and led by men who evidently know the trade of battle. Their positions have been chosen with masterly skill, and have imposed upon us the work of delivering our assaults in the most unfavourable conditions, where only downright frontal attacks could avail, and we were neither strong enough nor well enough provided with cavalry to be in a position to outmanoeuvre Commandant Cronje. Lord Methuen’s force left the Orange River on November 22nd. On the next day the Boers were defeated in the sanguinary battle of Belmont. On the 25th we were victorious in the stubbornly -contested action of Graspan, or, as it is officially called, of Enslin. On the 28th was fought the tremendous engagement on the Modder River, which Lord Methuen himself well described as one of the hardest and most trying fights in the annals of the British Army. On how few occasions has a single force displayed the qualities necessary, in such circumstances, to win three such victories within a single week! When the story of our wars is finally told, this in South Africa will hold a high place, indeed. Let us, then, note here the gallant corps which have achieved the marvel of the fighting march from the Orange River. First we have the famous Brigade of Guards under Major-General Sir H. E.Col vile, the victors in many afield, who have covered themselves with new renown. Next, worthily linked with them, the 9th Brigade, newly formed out of the troops on the lines of communi­cations, under General Pole-Carew, and comprising the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers, the 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry, awing of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire Regi­ment, and the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment. Of regular cavalry in these battles we know only of one regiment— the 9th Lancers— a force all too small to be useful in cutting off the enemy or converting his defeat into a rout. The Brigade Division of Field Artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hall, did splendid service in all the battles, and notably at the Modder River. Lastly, there is the Naval Brigade, a gallant- devoted force, which sacrificed itself in the great attack at Graspan, when it suffered so very heavily. Enough, perhaps, was said of the victory of Kaffir’s Kop, or Belmont, last week, though pages might be filled with the record of its incidents. Its great feature was the magnificent onslaught of the infantry, who advanced with eager shouts in face of a terrific fire, the Scots Guards to the skirling of their pipes, all dashing onward from point to point, and at last sweeping out the enemy from the rifle-pits he had prepared. Asked what he thought of the bayonet charge, a wounded Boer answered, astonished, “Almighty 1 do you suppose I waited for that ?”There was another featureless pleasant but now familiar, the treachery of the Boers, the dastardly misuse of the white flag, such personal malevolence as caused a maimed man to wound mortally Lieutenant Blundell of the 3rd Grenadiers, who was tending him. The battle of Graspan, or Enslin, on November 25th, was a brilliant victory also, and will be memorable always for the losses suffered in it by the glorious Naval Brigade, when Commander Ethelston was killed— that brilliant organising officer— with a midshipman and two officers of the Royal Marines, making 105 Naval casualties in all. In this splendid attack the Yorkshires, Lancashires, Northumberlands, and Northamptons were associated, and though the clever tactics of the Boers led the assailants to believe they had been crushed by our artillery fire, that those tremendous bursts of fire were of no avail, and the enemy was swept from kopje to kopje in magnificent style at the bayonet’s point. Similar in many respects was the great and important victory of the Modder River. Cronje had selected a fine defensive position, whereto outflank him was impossible, and his forces were entrenched and concealed. The action began at half-past five in the morning of November 28th, and after artillery preparation and an advance of cavalry and mounted infantry, the infantry attack on the widely extended position began an hour later. The Boers were 8,000 strong, with powerful guns, and the tremendous character of the engagement maybe judged by the fact that the fighting lasted ten hours, and that our gallant fellows were without food or water in the glaring heat of the African summer day. General Pole-Carew got a covering force across the Modder, gallantly assisted by 300 sappers, and the Artillery greatly distinguished itself. Unhappily, in the list of killed were three well-known officers— Lieutenant-Colonel H.P. North- cott, C.B., who was on Lord Methuen’s staff, and Lieutenant- Colonel H.R. Stopford and Captain Sydney Earle, of the Coldstream Guards also a young officer, Second Lieutenant Long of the Yorkshire Light Infantry. Lord Methuen himself was among the wounded, though fortunately his wound was slight. That accomplished soldier, Major Count Gleichen, a cousin of the Queen, was severely wounded, and seventeen other officers were wounded more less.or Well might Lord Methuen describe this victory as one of the hardest and most trying of our fights. Before the battle took place he congratulated the troops on what had already been done, and said the work encountered was the severest that had fallen to the British Army for many along day. He condemned the treacherous practices of the Boers, while recognising their courage and ability. With what brilliant courage the war is being conducted on every side we see by the triumphant defence of Kuruman. When the Boer commandant notified the magistrate of that place that it was his intention to occupy it, the magistrate declared his purpose of defending it, and forthwith collected twenty natives and thirty half-castes, with whose aid he barricaded the mission chapel, and there resisted the attack of 500 Boers for six days and nights, who thereupon withdrew with a loss of thirty killed and wounded. Kimberley and M a f eking .While Lord Methuen has been making such heroic efforts to dislodge the Boers from before Kimberley, the Diamond City itself has preserved its cheery confidence. Colonel Kekewich reported unimportant skirmishes after November 18th, with the wounding of two officers and three men health good and water plentiful, and Anthony Cronje marching south with 3,000 men to try conclusions with Lord ORDER THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER “NAVY AND ARMY ILLUSTRATED,” NEXT WEEK.
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