Under the Union Jack, No. 10, Vol. 1, January 13th 1900

Jan. 13,1900.1 UNDER THE UNION JACK. 219 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. BRIGHTER DAYS IN VIEW. Not with stan ding that triple reverse which darkened somewhat have called the Black Week, the situation improves day by day as we write, and is brightened by the sturdy confidence of the people and by some brilliant achievements of our soldiers. Reinforcements are con­tinually arriving, Volunteers and Yeomanry are thronging to enlist, Indian troops are offered, and Militia battalions are out.going In the Boer camp, on the other hand, and generally in the two Republics, things tend to grow worse. Mr. Winston Churchill —the good fortune of whose famous ancestor accom­panied him on his intrepid escape from Pretoria— tells us there are some people in the Transvaal who believe we shall sue for peace, and be willing to cede Natal, Kimberley, and other parts of our colonies, to agree to an amnesty, guarantee the indepen­dence of the Republics, and pay an indemnity of ^20,000,000. Probably Oom Paul looks a little further than these enthusiasts, and it is not unlikely that he has lost by this sometime of his confidence in the scheme of Afrikander Imperialism. There can be no doubt that considerable scarcity exists in the Transvaal, and that money is getting tight, while every indication tends to show that a considerable victory 011 our side would detach the Free Staters. It is credibly asserted that even Matt Steyn, President Steyn’s brother, with 800 more, has refused to share any longer the rash policy that threw the Free State into the war. At home it is not pleasant to read what our foreign friends have to say about us, and to be asked by the Debats, for example, whether, after the “adventure of Colenso,” our officers can be considered to have the smallest notion of their work in the field ?Every report, however, that comes to hand shows the exceeding gallantry with which our soldiers, both officers and men, have attacked positions of the greatest strength with rousing cheers and intrepid courage. It did not occur to Cronje as possible that, during the battle of the Modder River, our troops would cross the stream, amid the rush of water, clinging to a single iron bar forming part of adam. under avery hot fire. Colonel Barton accomplished this feat, leading with 400 men, and it would be hard to find a parallel for the stubborn courage with which these gallant fellows passed one by one through 300yds. of water clinging to that rail. Such deeds do credit to the manhood of the Empire, and they have had their counterpart in the gallantry of the Naval Brigade at Graspan, and in not a few of our other actions. While such things are possible our fortune cannot fail. The Queen’s message to the troops at Christmas was a happy recognition of their services, and even war’s alarms did not prevent Tommy Atkins from enjoying himself thoroughly. At the Modder River the whole of the troops were paraded, and gave three ringing cheers for the Queen. On New Year’s Day and some days following the camp was en fete, and there was a great gymkhana, for which there were 1,380 entries. In Natal, while the Boers were bombarding Ladysmith on Christmas Day, the Queen’s message was received with enthusiasm, and, among othe celebrations, a children’s entertainment was organised with a great Christmas-tree. Lady smith .The arm-chair critics and apologists have been con­demning and defending our generals with very great ardour, but that is not the task which falls to us in this place. A great deal needs yet to be explained as to the condition of affairs at Ladysmith. Although the pinch of the siege has begun to be felt there, there is no apprehension of supplies being exhausted. Colonels Ward and Stoneman have husbanded the resources of the place too well for that, and very great credit is due to them and to the staff of the Army Service Corps. It was their forethought alone that made the defence of Ladysmith possible, and, as one corre­spondent says, it is doubtful whether, in the annals of war, the food supply of a beleaguered garrison has ever sufficed to maintain an army of 9,000 fighting men and 3,000 civilians, practically on full rations, for a month after the siege began. During the later period of the siege the gun practice of the Boers has very greatly improved, and the losses have been much greater. New guns have been mounted on the heights, and three days before Christmas six men of the Gloucester Regiment were killed and wounded by a single shell. The only thing to be wondered at, in such an unfavourable situation, is that such episodes have not been more frequent. When the story of the siege comes to be written we shall perhaps learn why the cavalry have been so little employed, when it would appear that a certain amount of enterprise would have discovered weak points in the Boer lines, and have prevented or retarded some of their operations. It was stated that the Naval guns saved the situation on the occasion of the general sortie of October 30th. W e now know that the gallantry and devotion of the “handyman ”did far more than that. The seamen stood to their guns, drawing and returning the enemy’s fire with little or nothing in the way of parapets to protect them, in order that all other hands might be occupied in preparing for the defence with the spade. It is very doubtful if the fortifications thrown up by Sir George White would have been ready for the general attack on November 9th but for the courage and resource of the Naval gunners, whose good luck happily attended them, for they suffered little, though the ground about them was ploughed up by shells. Only their fortitude enabled the work upon the defensive lines togo forward. On December 26th the desultory bombardment quickened into avery heavy shelling of the place, and one shell struck the mess-tent of the Devonshire Regiment, killing Lieutenant Dalzel, and wounding seven other officers. The Relief Column .No doubt before long these pages will record active md, we may hope, successful operations on the part of Sir- '.^edvers Buller, who has now with him at least 26,000 men, ind if we include those in Ladysmith itself the Boers must be outnumbered. It is not a little curious to find that one of the correspondents, writing some days before the action of December 15th, remarked that, if Colenso was to betaken, it must almost certainly be done by crossing the river higher up, and outflanking the Boer position at Maritzer’s, Potgieter’s, and Trichard’s Drifts, and the same corre­spondent rightly regarded the opening of flash communi­cations with Sir George White as of extreme importance, inasmuch as this would enable him to co-operate with Sir Redvers Buller’s attack. The enemy appear to be on the alert, and ready to guard against any fresh movement. Though alarmed by uncertainty as to the Tugela, whose name sig’iifies “fear,” it being a stream that rises with great rapidity, they have boldly placed guns at Springfield, on the south of the river, and on our left flank. They have also guns on Hlangwane Hill, in a situation of some danger, for on December 29th the river came down in a torrent, and washed away the bridge which they had built to connect the hill with their camps on the north side. As yet, however, there is nothing to record of Sir Redvers Buller’s operations, except that he shells the Boer lines at Colenso occasionally to keep them on the alert and impede their operations, and has the colonial mounted men scouting about the country. THE BACK NUMBERS OF “UNDER THE UNION JACK” CAN BE HAD OF GEORGE NEWNES, LTD.
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