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

364 UNDER THE UNION JACK. [Feb. 24,1£00. -which is a someplace miles west of the camp, where there is adrift across the river. M acDonald’s orders appear to have been to hold the drift and to construct a fort there, but, as his operation presents itself to us, wit r as not more than avery admirably conducted reconnaissance in force. The Highland Brigade, with the 9th Lancers and two batteries of artillery, left the Modde'r and marched to Fraser’s Drift on February 3rd, and on the next day, after a trying march, arrived at Koodoosberg, where entrenchments were formed on both sides of the river. On Monday, February 5th, there was some cavalry skirmishing, but no serious fighting occurred but the Boers came up in force on the next day, when there was an encounter. Unfortunately, though we held the highest portion of the kopje, the steepness of the southern slope was such as to make it impossible for General MacDonald to mount guns on the summit. At nine o’clock on the morning of February 7th the enemy opened fire from their guns on the north end of Koodoosberg, and shelled the breastworks which were being constructed to protect the drift. After a heavy shrapnel fire they made a determined effort to drive the Highlanders from the south end of Koodoosberg, but reinforcements of Highland Light Infantry and Seaforths were sent up to assist their comrades and tire Black Watch, and the position was successfully maintained. Meanwhile, General Babington had been despatched from Modder River with a considerable force of cavalry and two batteries of Horse Artillery, and, by approaching by the north bank of the river, he threatened the enemy’s position. The approach of the cavalry completed the discomfiture of the Boers, who at night abandoned their position and retreated, and on the next day the cavalry thoroughly searched the north and west of Koodoosberg without discovering a single man. It appeared, however, to be difficult or impossible to hold the range of hills without avery large force, and therefore Lord Methuen, upon orders from headquarters, ordered the troops to withdraw, and the whole force returned to the camp on February 9th. Some obscurity attends the exact purpose and value of this movement. It was admirably conducted, and the utmost coolness and order prevailed throughout. On February 10th Lord Roberts visited the camp of the Highlanders and warmly congratulated them. He referred to his association with the Highland regiments in India, where they had helped to make him. He' had never campaigned without Highlanders, and he would never like to do so. Once the Seaforths had made along march with him— that from Cabul to Candahar— now they would have a shorter one, but it would not abe “walkover,” though Lord Roberts did not doubt that it would abe successful one. Except for this movement the position at the Modder River seems, as we write, to be unchanged. Latterly there has been a little more determination in the attack of the Boers upon Kimberley, and their shells have constantly been falling in the streets of the town. A native runner has informed Colonel Kekewich that the Boers have comedown from Mafeking to Kimberley and have brought with them a 6-in. gun and some quick-firers. The 6-in. gun was very soon inaction, though apparently without effecting much damage. It appears to bethought that the Magers- fontein ridges are not so fully occupied by men, and it is surmised that many of the Boers have been withdrawn, either for a more determined attack upon Kimberley, or, more probably, to take part in the operations south of the Orange River. Intelligence from Mafeking is very scanty, but the garrison is quite secure, and has been able to push back the trenches of the assailants, while Colonel Plum eris still advancing, though slowly, to the relief. The Southern F ron tier. There does not seem to be much doubt that the Boers have been considerably reinforced at Colesberg, where they have developed a decidedly aggressive spirit, and are by no means likely to be soon cutoff from the Orange River. Possibly Lord Roberts has not wished to make a forward movement in that quarter, and General French had selected admirable positions forming a half circle on the south of Colesberg from east to west. After the general went to the Modder River he was succeeded by Major-General Clements, who commands the 12th Brigade in General Kelly-Kenny’s Division. It will be remembered that the officer last named advanced to Thebus, thus taking up a position between Generals French and Gatacre, and he seems to have extended his left to Rensburg, the base of our operations on that flank. The fighting took largely the form of a game of long bowls with the guns, but occasionally there were skirmishes, and the activity of the Boers was rather astonishing. We vigorously bombarded their position opposite Slingersfontein with lyddite on February 8th, and they sent a number of Vickers-M axim shells into Cole’s Kop, making excellent practice at a range of 5,000yds. On February 9th the Australians and Tasm anians went out reconnoitring, and had a lively experience. The adversary opened fire upon them from a series of kopjes, and began to work round with the purpose of cutting them off. The Colonials, who were dismounted in a sheltered position they had taken, rushed down and secured their horses under a hail of bullets to uptake anew position, from which a further retirement was necessary. The enemy were in much greater force than had been suspected, and the incident might have ended seriously. General Delarey is in command of the Boers, and his attempts to outflank us has led to a retrograde movement. On February 12th a big gun pk.ced at Bastard’s Nek rendered our position untenable, and a retirement began. There had been fighting for two days, and we fell back on Rensburg, greatly out­numbered. It is scarcely to be hoped that General Clements will be able to do more than hold his own at Rensburg, but our centre, under General Kelly-Ivenny, and perhaps the right wing, under General Gatacre, maybe in a position to advance and thus influence the situation. Fortunately on all the frontiers the operations of our troops are now being ably co-ordinated. Troops in the Field .These pages have constantly borne witness to the energy that has been displayed in the despatch of troops— if, some­times, rather tardily— and to the splendid enthusiasm which has stirred the country and the Empire. W e have now avery great force in South Africa, and it maybe estimated that Lord Roberts, not counting the troops in Natal, lias about 130,000 men at his disposal. Others are being despatched, and we certainly have never had, in any of our wars, so many guns inaction as will presently be massed against the Boers. There is, of course, a great drain of strength owing to losses in the field, to sickness, and to the increasing length of the lines of communication. The South African colonists have done splendid service, and if that gallant and popular officer, General Brabant, had been allowed earlier to form such a corps as has been organised under his command, the course of events would have been very indifferent Cape Colony. The Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian contingents are admirable. The City Imperial Volunteers have had a great reception at the Cape they number fifty officers and 1,559 men. The Imperial Yeomanry are arriving, and the several special corps are being organised and despatched. W e are now looking for the real turn of the tide. SOME of the photographs used here are owned by Messrs. Barton, Son and Co., Chancellor, Cribb, Hughes and Mullins, and Russell. By special arrangement with the proprietors of the A/'/^we are also able to reproduce in this number live of their photographs. “UNDER THE UNION JACK” HAS BEEN REPRINTED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
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