Under the Union Jack, No. 16, Vol. 1, February 24th 1900

FA. 24,1900.] UNDER THE UNION JACK. 303 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. SIR REDVERS BULLER’S OPERATIONS. THE most important intelligence these pages will contain to-day is the fact that Lord Roberts has assumed the command on the Western Frontier of the Orange Free State, and that very important operations may he expected in that quarter. Meanwhile, public attention has been concentrated upon Sir Redvers B uller’s third attempt to relieve Ladysmith by his attack upon Vaal Krantz. The movement failed in its object, but it would abe great mistake to consider it as altogether a failure. It is highly important to keep occupied the main army of the Boers in Natal. They have an immense advantage therein the character of the country, which is superb for their defensive purposes, but still, as a Frenchman might say, the position has the defects of its qualities. While they are engaged in investing Lady ­smith and in contesting the advance of Sir Redvers Buller, they cannot be resisting, with all the force they would like, the movements Lord Roberts is directing on the other side. The line of advance selected by General Buller was between the great commanding positions of Spion Kop on the left and Doorn Kloof on the right, and, by a well-conceived and ably-executed movement, he threw his forces across the river on Monday, February 5th. The topographical condi­tions were evidently not well known, and certainly “somebody ought to be hung ”for the want of proper maps of Natal. Before our forces lay an amphitheatre extending from one hill to the other, with Brakfontein on the left front and Vaal Krantz on the right. The progress would have been through something alike defile enfiladed by the enemy’s fire, and, if the troops had pushed through the narrow valley, the Boers would have been left intact behind, and the communications with the river would have been cut. The main attack was developed against tha Vaal Krantz ridge, but it was admirably prepared for by a feint attack, conducted byway of Potgieter’s Drift by the 9th Brigade, under Major-General W ynne, who was supported by five batteries and by the heavy guns mounted by the Naval officers on Zw art’s Kop—a very excellent piece of work. The brigade began to move from the kopjes in front of Potgieter’s at six o’clock in the morning, and advanced slowly as if to attack the highest part of Brakfontein, while the guns were heavily shelling the Boer trenches. The movement lasted until about noon, when the Boers began to open fire with heavier guns of long range from Spion Kop. Our batteries were heavily engaged, and began to retire towards the right, while the infantry were withdrawn. One of the most interesting incidents was the successful retirement of the 78th Battery under a heavy storm of shrapnel. One gun-carriage was much damaged, and an Artillery captain, wounded in the leg, directed the operations by which the gun was safely got away. During this time the greater movement had been taking place more to the right byway of Harding or Monger’s Drift, where the Engineers threw a pontoon bridge across the river under rifle and Maxim fire within the space of fifty minutes. General Lyttelton’s Brigade crossed at two o’clock, the Durham Light Infantry leading, followed by the Rifle Brigade. Aiter creeping along under the high bank of the river the troops deployed and were received by a heavy fire from the kopjes and dongas in front. The first hill was carried in gallant style by the Durhams at the point of the bayonet, and the Rifle Brigade rushed forward to capture the second. Supports were hurried up, and the troops entrenched themselves in the position they had occupied. During the night the enemy were very busy, and were able to bring up their heavy guns, so that the next morning opened with a tremendous fire, which was continued all day- The position became avery trying one to hold, and at onetime our men wavered, but the King’s Royal Rifles advanced with a ringing cheer, and the enemy, who were making a desperate attempt to recapture the position, were driven back with considerable loss. A second pontoon had been con­structed, and reinforcements were being hurried up, but there was some danger of the bridges being destroyed by the heavy gun-fire which was directed against them. It was recognised,, however, on Tuesday night that a successful advance was impossible. It was necessary, says Sir Redvers Buller, after seizing Vaal Krantz, to entrench it as the pivot of further operations, but, after trying for two days, this was found impracticable, and, as the place could not beheld securely, a retirement was decided upon. No progress wr as made on Wednesday, the 7th, while we were losing men from the enemy’s gun-fire, and the retirement began at nine o’clock on that night, and by the morning of Friday, February 9th, the whole force had moved south of the river, outside the range of the Boer guns. The movement had been splendidly conducted, and the loss was fortunately light. The operation has been described as involving a change of tactics, and Sir Redvers Buller will not be idle. Lord Dundonald, on February 12th, was engaged with the Boers near Chieveley. The direct relief of Ladysm ith cannot be accomplished without great sacrifice, for it is declared that the Boers have over 100 guns between that place and the Tugela Resistance cannot be indefinitely prolonged, but Ladysm ith seems to be well provided with food even yet, and the spirits of the garrison are quite untamed. The levity of the Lady­ smith Lyre seems to have astonished the Boers, who have reproduced some of its jokes at their expense. E lo ff is killed by the Prince of W ales’s birthday salute on the next day, it is stated that Joubert has been killed by the sam eon the third day, Joubert sends into borrow a tall hat from Sir George White for ElofF’s funeral and on the fourth day, E loff appears to beg the loan of a tall hat for Joubert’s funeral. The buoyant spirits with which the men of Ladysmith are inspired has been a great encouragement to those who have dreaded the effect of the long investment upon them. The power developed by the Boers on the eastern side has certainly been extraordinary, but few things have been so remarkable as their inactivity Zululand, where, under Commandant Joachim Ferreira, they captured the magistracy at Nqutu, after it had been defended by Major Hignett, with eight Europeans and thirty police, against 500 of theru. Ferreira was operating in association with a movement from Helpmakaar towards the Buffalo River. Afterwards the Boers took the Inkandhla magistracy, which had been abandoned by Mr. Knight, who escaped to Eshowe after blowing up the magazine. Probably before these pages appear there may have been startling operations in this region, for we have amounted column there concerning which little is known. General M acD onald on theM odder River .The arrival of Lord Roberts at Lord Methuen’s camp seems to abe partial revelation of his strategy, and, inasmuch as General French with a considerable body of cavalry has- proceeded to the same place, it is likely that the operations south of the Orange River maybe less important than was sometimes anticipated, unless the new activity of the Boers there should lead to greater consequences. W e must confine ourselves mostly to-day to giving an account of the operations- conducted by General Hector MacDonald at Koodoosberg,. “UNDER THE UNION JACK’’—PHOTOS. OF ALL THE GENERALS AT THE FRONT.
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