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

100 UNDER THE UNION JACK. [Dec. 9,1899. Methuen. The Boers themselves from Pretoria admitted that the garrison had made a vigorous sortie on November 25th. They came out, about 300 strong, with guns, at dawn, and attacked the Bloemhof commando, which seems to have been severely handled, for nine burghers were killed and seventeen wounded, and Commandant Dutoit hastened up from a distance of nine miles to render help. This incident shows how the advance from the Orange River had operated in drawing off the pressure from Kimberley, and leaving the enemy’s positions vulnerable to attack. A later telegram showed that the garrison had been active also on the northern side, where the Boers were destroying culverts on the railway. There have been many misgivings as to the fate of Mafeking. Reports showed that the besiegers were pushing up to the small garrison by trench and sap, while inside the place the health of the defenders was said to be impaired, and their confidence, it was feared, could scarcely fail to be diminished in proportion. But Colonel Baden-Powell is inside Mafeking, and a breezy telegram which he was able to despatch on November 20th dissipated apprehension. The lines were being extended, health was good, and the casualties were nil. The nuns, whose convent had been hit eight times, set a magnificent example to the town by their heroic conduct, as the Times correspondent records. Com­mandant Snyman is now in command of the Boers, and has a 94-pounder gun on the south-east of the town, but the shelling has been weak and almost ineffective. Food is distributed at cost price to those who have money, and gratis to those who have not. “The happiest moment in the siege is when we seethe bearing of the staff, completely indifferent to the situation, every preparation made, every precaution taken.” The Cape F ron tier :Lo y a land Dis loyal .General Gatacre was notable to make, or did not think it wise to make, a vigorous offensive on the Cape Frontier. He was doing excellent service in “containing” a large force of Boers there, who might have been more usefully employed in other quarters, perhaps, and he had to take account of the disloyal Dutch. The Boers, aided by their colonial allies, have overrun the northern part of the Colony. At Barkly East the farmers seized the magazine, containing 300 Martinis and 4,000 rounds of ammunition, and they occupied Stormberg on November 26th, and have since wrecked the railway bridge at Steynsburg, between that place and East London. It is not probable that they hoped to make any permanent, or at any rate immediate, success in the Colony, but they were resolved to impede our advance, and have wrought havoc with the railway, which time will be required to repair. By mendacious libels they have induced many otherwise peaceable farmers to join them, and they must be punished for circulating lying reports as to “British outrages.” While these active and disloyal movements were on,going General Gatacre and General French, commanding the cavalry, who advanced from De Aar to Naauwpoort, were lying low, and the situation was reported unchanged. The public mind was consoled by the thought that they were preparing a master­stroke to deal a demoralising blow. When we think of disloyal Cape Dutch, and of the motley crew of retired Germans, rabid Frenchmen, hungry Muscovites, and wild Irishmen disowned by their compatriots, whom the Boers have drawn to their standard, it is pleasant to. know that the New South Wales Lancers are with the forces on the Cape border, and to read of the magnificent enthusiasm that was raised at CapeTown by the arrival of the New Zealanders. “Welcome, brother loyalists!” was a motto freely displayed. There was the greatest manifesta­tion of imperial enthusiasm that had been aroused in CapeTown since the beginning of the war, and it marked a large revival of confidence, at which we cannot wonder. Sir Red rev Bulls erin Natal .We shall, no doubt, be able to say a good deal about the events in Natal next week, and before these lines appear it will be surprising if important things have not happened. The Boer advance collapsed very suddenly. It partook of the nature both of a reconnaissance in force and of a raiding expedition it speedily convinced General Joubert that nothing was so important as to execute a “strategic move­ment to the rear,” which he appears to have done in person in a coach and six, while it enabled his followers, in the patriarchal fashion, to march with flocks and herds. General Hildyard, who had inflicted a salutary lesson upon the Ermelo commando, when he made his reconnaissance from Estcourt to Willow Grange on November 23rd, moved outwith his force to Frere on the way to Colenso about the 26th, while General Barton, who had been in command at the Mooi River camp, advanced to Estcourt. The Boers were rapidly retreating, as was believed by Weenen, upon Colenso, and Hildyard hoped to intercept them. In this he evidently failed, though there is no certainty that they will not be cutoff elsewhere. Last week we laid great stress upon the dangers that attended the Boer advance in Natal, and the precipitate retirement justified our remarks. But, unfor­tunately, our troops there are inadequately provided with cavalry, and our mobility is unequal to that of the Boers, so that there is some reason to fear they may escape us after all. Frontal attacks, like that imposed upon Lord Methuen in forcing the passage of the Modder River (where our casualties were 73 killed and 365 wounded) are not to be courted, but they cannot always be avoided when cavalry are few. It was foreseen that everything in the campaign in Natal would depend upon the passage of the Tugela River, which General Hildyard found to be in flood. There were two bridges at Colenso, but that on the railway was believed to have been already destroyed, and it was anticipated that some difficulty would be found in the passage. Large pontoons and bridge-building materials were sent to the front, and Sir Redvers Buller, who is directing the operations, has under him very capable leaders in Generals Clery, Hildyard, and Barton. But Sir Redvers, after divulging to us General Hildyard's hope of cutting off the Boers near Colenso, became very reticent, and we at home began to suspect that large strategic developments were in progress, though we could not quite divest ourselves of the fear— gratifying as the movement would have been from a certain point of view— that General Joubert might hastily retire, breaking every railway and road bridge and culvert behind him, and abandoning his siege of Ladysmith, where neither “Long Tom ”nor “Suzerainty,” nor any other gun had been able to do much damage. At the same time, the greater body of evidence tended to show that the Boers would not retire without a hard struggle. They staked everything upon the capture of Lady­ smith, and it would be demoralising to abandon their attempt. Moreover, though Sir Redvers Buller might delude them by threatening to cross the Tugela at several various points, they were instill great, and probably superior, force. Such are the ideas raised by the uncertainty prevailing at the moment of writing. Great delay attended the advance from Frere, due, perhaps, to the condition of the railway, which has been seriously damaged and calls for extensive repair, but possibly to the time needed for the development of strategic movements. Ladysmith has stood the siege excellently, and the garrison has maintained an excellent spirit. Material damage has been done by the enemy’s guns, and a few people have been killed in the streets but altogether it must be said that the Boers have expended prodigious efforts to no real purpose whatever. The photo graphs used are owned b y Messrs. A lderslade, Cribb, C m n wing, Ellis, W .Gregory and Co, London, Horne, Jenks, K n ig ht, Mow lam,P ittu ck ,Russell, Ryan ,Temp le, and Thomson. ORDER THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER “THE NAVY AND ARMY ILLUSTRATED,” NEXT WEEK.
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