Under the Union Jack, No. 12, Vol. 1, January 27th 1900

W .27.1900.] UNDER THE UNION JACK. 267 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. SIR REDVERS BULLER’S theseS\ pages togo press very momentous things are happening in Natal, the result of which should be -known before they appear. Sir Red vers B u lle r is aking a movement of great importance, and of very extended aracter, for the relief of Lad ysm ith ,and our troops have Dssed the T u gela, while the beleaguered garrison has joyed a measure of repose earned by its gallant defence of the sition at Caesar’s Camp on January 6th. Sir R edvers B u ller very properly shrouded his movements th obscurity, and at the moment of writing information is ill wanting as to the exact nature of the operations in lien he is engaged. The time has been an anxious one fore Empire, and Lord Roberts at CapeTown decided to yait the important developments on the Tug e la .We all had nfidence that the Boers would be defeated there, and that adysmith would be relieved. But, even if it should not be,the Empire we knew would gird itself together with the rong resolution to “seethe thing through.” Unfortunately, ving to the defective character of the Intelligence Depart- ent map, the features of the country are not well known, at it is clear that a great flank movement has been made on ie west, and that our troops have crossed by two of the •ifts. Sir R edvers B u lle r’s first telegram informed us that 1 the morning of January nth he occupied the south bank t’'eT u gcla Pat otgieter’s Drift, where he seized the pont, e river being in flood at the time, and the enemy entrenched )out four and a-half miles to the north. There was no enticn of the Boers, who were said to have brought up guns a strong position at Springfield, south of P o tgieter’s Drift, id who, it maybe surmised, thinking discretion the itter part of valour, retired as our troops advanced, owever, there seems to have been no fighting there, and jrhaps the movement to be described was only one part of ie general’s plan. It has often been outpointed that a rong advance on the west side would cutoff the Boers from leir line of retirement by Van R een en’s Pass, and would -obably, by interrupting their supplies, place them in a Dsition of, great danger. The first movement was made by the cavalry under ord Dundonald on January io th ,and, by a rapid march leon next morning, his force seized Springfield Bridge across le Little Tugela, and then hurried forward to occupy wartkop, commanding P ontgieter’s Drift across the larger ver. The troops had marched tw enty-four miles, and the lovemfent was a perfect success, which took the Boers by jrprise, for some of them were bathing in the river at the time, 'he greatest precautions had been taken during this splendid dvance, and Lord D undonald hastily made ready for defence then hill casein he should be attacked. H e was followed y General L yttelto ’sn Brigade, which, with a howitzer attery, occupied the position, and meanwhile Lieutenant Carlyle and five men of the South African Light Horse had wum the river, and handed across the ferry-pont, which was Dund on the other bank. The passage had thus been ecured, but the river was high and the roads were in a bad ondition, so that sometime was occupied in making reparations for a further advance. A halt of four days as necessary to enable troops and supplies to come up, nd for Sir Charles Warren to develop a further movement. The advance Pat otgieter’s Drift began on January 16th, irhen parties were thrown across the Tug e la ,and, at daybreak the•n next morning, GeneralLy tte lto ’sn Brigade, consisting> f the 2nd Cam eronians, the 3rd Kin g’s Royal Rifles, the 1st Durham Light Infantry, and the xst Rifle Brigade —which .ad acted in support during the battle of December 15th —ADVANCE. crossed the river, some of the men succeeding in fording at the drift, while the cable pontoon was largely used for the transport of men, guns, and material. The brigade then advanced to seize aline of hills, and the naval guns and howitzers opened fire from Mount Alice on the Boer positions, which are about five miles north of the drift, but there was no reply. The enemy is, however, strongly posted. While this important movement was in progress, a strong force remaining at Colenso, and General Ilild yard having advanced to Springfield, Sir Charles Warren forced the passage of the Tug e la Tat richard t’s Drift, which is six miles west of P o tgieter’s. The country between is rough and mountainous, and the advance was difficult, but was completely successful. The enemy was in position at Rhinocerefontein Farm ,about a mile north of the river, and a hot fire was exchanged, but the adversary position’s became untenable, and he fled. While the firing was in progress many parties of our .troops pulled across the Tug e lain the pont, and the Engineers then threw a pontoon bridge over, by which the whole of Sir Charles Warren’s Brigade passed tlia river, and occupied a strong position on the other side, the operation, which began on January 17th ,being completed on the next day. Lord Roberts telegraphed that Sir Charles Warren hoped to turn the enem y’s strong position. Daring the time that these important operations were being prepared for, our cavalry were feeling the Boer centre. The Censor allowed the publication of a statement to the effect that scouts were sent out in all directions, and were astonished at the absence of the enemy. According to this statement, even the trenches at G rob ler’s K loof, their strongest position, which appears to have been visited by the 13th Hussars, were found to be vacated, while there was no sign of a commando on the Colenso Heights. It, there­fore, appeared as if the Boers, anticipating enveloping move­ments, were withdrawing from their outlying positions. Gallant Lad ysm hit .We may now turn to the defeat of the Boers by Sir George White at Caesar’s Camp on January 6th. The full effect of the battle of that day w a snot soon completely disclosed, but the air was full of rum ours that the Boers wrere discouraged, and they did not delay to make some fresh disposition of their forces. The most picturesque description of the gallant fight came from Boer sources. The engagement took the form ,we are told, of a terrific individual contest for the possession of the ridge, the men on both sides fighting like demons, and the horror and bewilderment of the scene presenting a picture without parallel in the experience of those Boers who took part in the encounter. “At noon a heavy thunder-storm broke over the position, interrupting the battle for two hours. It seemed as though the heavenly batteries were using their best endeavour to create an even more terrific noise than the cannon and rifle of the contending armies.” Thus w e see how that struggle impressed the enemy, and we may surmise that many of those burghers who went home for the Christmas holidays wished they had not returned. On the whole, our own casualties were fewer than might have been expected from the hard-fought character of the action. But the officers once again suffered very heavily, and the many deaths among trained leaders is a serious matter. The losses suffered by the Boers are beginning to be admitted, though w e have not yet heard that they exceeded the absurdly low number of 150. Commandant P rin slo o’s official report throws a little light upon the matter. The Sand River commando appears to The back numbers of “UNDER TIIE UNION JACK ”can be had of George Newnes, Ltd.
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