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

124 UNDER THE UNION JACK. [Dec. 16, 1S99m it upon given points, with the result that considerable damage was done to property. The Boers were reported to have in position three Creusot 6in. guns, four 4‘7in. howit­zers, two batteries of high-velocity, long-range field guns, and several mountain and automatic guns. The prospect was therefore not too pleasant. Rations were reduced all round. Search-light communications, however, had been received from the relieving column below. But the situation, for obvious reasons, was becoming more difficult everyday. That general anxiety which is natural at such a period and which was absent in the opening phases of the siege began also to appear. There were signs also of a certain painful suspense at home. The “imminent battle ”on the Tugela did not take place with the dramatic suddenness that was expected. The rapid succession of actions in Natal in October, and the three battles fought within a week between the Orange River and the Modder, had led the public to expect a rapid succession of victories which must in fact be exceptional and the circum­stance that Lord Methuen’s communications were menaced by Prinsloo on December 8th was an illustration of the difficulties that attend an advance through a country overrun by a mobile force. In a certain sense the operations of Generals Buller and Clery in Natal seemed easier. The enemy had been compelled to retire to the line of the Tugela, and the communications of the camp at Frere were evidently secure. At the same time, having regard to the stupendous nature of the operations of moving and supplying 25,000 men in the field, rapidity was impossible. It was necessary to repair the railway and to make it available to Colenso. Rather galling to Englishmen is the thought that the Boers have in some respects been far more astute than ourselves. They have used every endeavour, and displayed considerable hardihood, in the successful effort to destroy the railways at all possible points, while we, on retiring from Newcastle to Dundee and Ladysmith, left the line we abandoned intact and open for the enemy to bring up or withdraw ashe pleased his troops, supplies, and guns. One questions whether the “Long Tom s”and“ Suzerainties,” or other big guns which have been bombarding Ladysmith, would have reached the front at all if we had completely wrecked the railway line from Newcastle southward. But Sir Redvers Buller’s movements were regulated also by other considerations. It was evidently not his interest to make a frontal attack, and the great body of troops under his command made it possible for him to contemplate larger tactical movements, with the purpose of enveloping the foe. To strike a direct blow at Colenso would be to hurl his forces at a strong position, from which the extreme mobility of the Boers might enable them to escape, and that they should escape, even with the loss of their siege guns, was not at all desirable. On this ground it became desirable to effect such a disposition of troops as would, if possible, bring the Boers between the hammer and the anvil, and the move­ment of strong bodies of war, where railways do not exist and a river has to be crossed, making it necessary to haul heavy pontooning apparatus along the roads, could scarcely be other than slow. The Boers were kept on the alert at Colenso, where they wr ere found in a strong position commanding the direct approach. Lord Dundonald with the cavalry made a reconnaissance on December 3rd, and two days later Sir Redvers Buller and his staff left Pieter Maritzburg for Frere. At the same lime the Boers evidently anticipated turning movements, for they were reported in some force on the Tugela both above and below Colenso. While these were the conditions ruling the progress of the force for the relief of Ladysmith, the troops at Frere camp, which is about ten miles from Colenso, were full of fight, and eager to advance. They watched the progress of the engineers on the railway with impatient interest, and loud was the satisfaction when the trestle bridge at Frere was completed and trains began to overrun it, and again when the wrecked carriages of the armoured train were removed from the line at Chieveley, and the permanent way was made good to that point. Encouraging news from Ladysmith itself was pub­lished in London on December 10th, which adds new honours to those already won by the excellent forces of Natal. Under General Hunter 500 of the Volunteers, with 100 of the Imperial Light Horse, made an attack at about 1 a.m. on December 9th on a kopje at Lombard’s Kop, and destroyed with dynamite a Gin. and a 4‘7in. gun, besides capturing a Maxim. The Boers apparently think we are not playing the game fairly. A night attack by men who “crawl” up the hill is not to their mind, but they console them­selves with the fact, which is scarcely to be denied, that the Maxim was a “small ”one, like the historic baby, and they will court-martial a couple of officers for the business. All honour, say we, to the gallant men who crawled up that hill, and to Captain Fowke and Lieutenant R.E.,Turner, who destroyed those “Long Toms.” As this number goes to press the situation is that Sir Redvers Buller’s advance is daily imminent, and that a bearer company 2,000 strong is being formed to assist the regular ambulance corps. The battle to be fought will certainly be far more important than anything that has yet happened since operations began, for a thorough defeat of the Boers will seriously demoralise them, and in any case an operation in which we have nearly 40,000 men in the held, horse, foot, and artillery, must abe “big business.” On the Cape F ron tier .The operations of the gallant Gatacre and of brave General French with his cavalry have been rather obscure up to the moment of going to press. Owing to the large force sent to relieve Kimberley and Ladysmith, these energetic officers have been greatly handicapped for want of troops, and they were constrained to inactivity in a region seriously dis­affected, in which, though there was no great body of the enemy, there seemed to be scattered parties everywhere. General Gatacre’s column had its headquarters at Putter’s Kraal, on the line of advance from East London, while in his neighbourhood on December 7th were 800 Boers at Dordrecht, 700 marching with six guns to that place from Jamestown, 1,500 at Stormberg, a large force at Waterfall, and about 400 at Molteno. The brighter feature of this situation is that the more these forces advance the more they sub­ject themselves to be attacked in flank and rear by General French, who has advanced from Nauwpoort and occupied Arundel. Later News about Lord Met hue .Then commando of 1,000 Boers which attacked Lord Methuen’s communications near Graspan and cut the railway were driven off on December 9th, but the position thereat the moment of writing is obscure. On one hand it is stated that the Boers are developing a flanking movement to get in rear of the column in force, an operation which may place them between the hammer and the anvil, while on the other advices from Pretoria state that fighting has already begun at Spytfontein, between the Modder River and Kimberley. Avery satisfactory feature of the situation is that men and guns are rapidly arriving. The photographs used are owned by Messrs. P. Charleton and Son, Gregory (London), Kapp and Co., C. Knight, Lafayette, Lekegian, Mackenzie, Miell and Ridley, Mowlam, Nicholls, Russell, Schwake, Symonds (Portsmouth), Tricker, G. W. "Wilson (Aberdeen). THE CHRISTMAS NUMBER “NAVY AND ARMY ILLUSTRATED,” ONE SHILLING.
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