Under The Union Jack, No. 6, Vol. 1, December 16th 1899

Dec. 16,1899.] THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA. 123 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. A RUDE AWAKENING FOR THE BOERS. A S this account of events in South Africa goes to press we are witnessing the pleasing spectacle of the .rude awakening which their own stolid ignorance and our far-reaching combinations prepared for the Boers. Extraordinary stories are told of the absolutely blind confidence with which the dull rank and fde of the enemy have expected to march on CapeTown. With fatuous generosity it is related that they have released prisoners in the north of Cape Colony, on the promise that these would have hot coffee ready for them when they got there. It is very hard for us to understand such a state of mind. But that ignorance has its value. It causes the Boers to offer battle where greater wisdom would advise them to runaway. The leaders, no doubt, see further than the men, and are very astute in rapid movements to the rear, but it may not always be possible to move a stolid mass very full of fight. The sudden collapse of the movement of invasion in Natal came as a surprise, and was a strong indication of how forcibly had been borne in upon the Boer mind, the manner in which the tables had been turned. They had before been full of attack now they were compelled to defend. Itmust beconfessed that they have shown conspicuous military ability, both in the rapidity with which they could advance to assume positions, the excellent character of the positions so assumed—that at the Modder River— was particularly fine—and the celerity with which sometimes they could withdraw. The Relief of Kimberley .What has been inconspicuous the advance of Lord Methuen has been the dynamic force exerted, the tremendous vitality of the movement, and its direct and uncompromising character. With greater force it is possible that it would have assumed another form, and would have been invested with larger tactical features, but, as things were, its nature was imposed. In Kimberley itself there were some signs, and perhaps more than we knew, that relief was becoming imperative. The large civilian population, the paucity of regular forces, and the determined character of the Boer menace, all made Colonel Kekewich’s duty one of con­siderable difficulty. In the early days of the siege, Mr. Cecil Rhodes gave breezy assurance that he was “as safe as in Piccadilly,” and at the end of it we maybe assured that he laughed heartily at the alleged desire of the Boers to exhibit him in a cage. The Diamond Fields Horse and Artillery and the Kimberley Light Horse have done splendid service, but there has been very hard fighting. On November 28th there was a severe engagement, of which we knew little until many days later. In it we lost that gallant officer, Brevet- Major Scott-Turner, of the Black Watch, who has been the soul of much of the fighting. With him fell two men of the 1st Loyal North Lancashire, two of the Cape Police, three of the Diamond Fields Horse, Lieutenant Wright and twelve men of the Kimberley Light Horse, while many were wounded. It was as gratifying to us as it was to the people of Kimberley when, after the battle of the Modder, communication was opened with the flashing search-light between Lord Methuen’s camp at the river and the beleaguered town. TheM odder Battle .General Cronje, who had been at the siege of Mafeking, had marched south to meet Lord Methuen. The natives say that Colonel Baden-Powell frightened him, for “he found not men but devils” at Mafeking. Something hasalready been said in these pages of the battle at the Modder on November 28th, the same day on which the fight at Kimberley occurred, but as the character of the action has since become known, a further account must be added. The more the position taken tip by the Boers is examined the more wonderful does our action appear. The trenches were very skilfully constructed, and occupied something of a semi-circular position, enfilading our line of movement to the assault. The Boers were perfectly concealed, and their fire swept the level plains across which our brave fellows had to advance. The enemy’s main position was on the north bank of the Modder, but he had a strong force also on the south, and the houses and all points of vantage were occupied in fact, everything combined to make an exceedingly strong defensive situation. The whole force advanced at daybreak, and the Loyal North Lancashires—one wing of the battalion of which the other is in Kimberley— drew the enemy’s fire. The 18th and 75th Batteries then galloped up to shell the position, and the Boers were driven out of a house on the right, which had been discharging a hail of bullets at us but though our artillery practice was good, it made little real impression, and the 1 8th Battery suffered heavily. The infantry now deployed for the attack, the Guards on the right and the 9th Brigade on the left, and were met by a fusillade which swept the whole ground with a tremendous rain of lead. At this time the fire of rifies and machine guns was terrific, but our men went forward without flinching, while the guns of the Naval Brigade, weil posted, made excellent practice. At a quarter to eight in the morning the Guards went forward with a rush, supported by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, but the enemy’s discharge was deadly and uninterrupted. The two batteries then galloped up to within 1,200yds. to cover the operation, but the furious rifle and shellfire continued, The infantry, however, had by this time, though losing many, reached shelter within 700yds. of the Boer trenches. A gallant attempt to cross the river on the right, by swimming, had failed, but General Pole-Carew now led forward the 9th Brigade to work towards the river on the left, while the 62nd Battery, which had marched all the way from Belmont—a distance of thirty-three miles—went straight into action. Altogether we had eighteen field guns and four guns of the Naval Brigade, and these continued their deadly work. At dusk General Pole-Carew got the Yoikshire Light Infantry and the Lancashires across the river, and the terrible cannonade and rattle of musketry was unabated. Our brave fellows had been for ten hours without food or water, and still the enemy had not been dislodged. Night therefore fell upon an undecided battle, but, as afterwards proved, the morale of the enemy was terribly shaken, and he had lost so heavily that he took advantage of the darkness to withdraw in order to seek other means of opposing us. W e lost nearly 500 killed and wounded in that tremendous battle. The ambulances were busy all the night, and when the dawn broke it was to find the enemy had fled. Their loss had been heavy also, and they had numbered 11,000 men. It was the last action of a week in which three hard-fought battles had been won. The Lad ysm ith Campaign. Ladysmith, like Kimberley, bore the siege with alight heart, and the Boers, after their assault of November 9th, in which Sir Redvers Buller believes they lost 800 men, were discouraged. But as the relief force advanced they grew more determined, and brought up new and more powerful guns. At the beginning of December the situation accordingly became more serious for the place. The enemy were showing more system in their fire. They concentrated ORDER THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER “NAVY AND ARMY ILLUSTRATED.” THIS WEEK.
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