Under the Union Jack, No. 17, Vol. 1, March 3rd 1900

March 3, WOO .]UNDER THE UNION JACK. 387~ BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. THE ROUT OF GENERAL CRONJE. '-p HES E pages have recorded nothing so wholly satis­factory as the magnificent success attained by the troops under Lord Roberts, crowned by the relief of Kimberley, after long and arduous marching, and by the serious blow inflicted upon the Boer general by General Kelly-Kenny. The strategic conception which brought about the sudden collapse on the part of our adversaries was worthy of a great general. The Boers believed— as many did at home— that the main advance would be across the Orange River byway of N orval’s Pont, and they massed men in that direction. General Gatacre was at Stormberg on tne right, while General Ft ench was making at the time a determined attack upon Colesberg, and General Kelly- Kenny was understood to have taken up a central position, as everybody supposed, in preparation for the great advance. Now, as if by a magician’s wand, we discover the whole course of operations changed. General French has made a splendid turning movement from the Modder River and has broken up the Boer combinations about Kimberley, and General Kelly-Kenny is harassing the rear of the Boers in full flight from Magersfontein, while the Guards’ Brigade has occupied that position which menaced sous long. The news of Lord Roberts’s success was received with unbounded enthusiasm throughout the Empire, and on every hand we hear expressions of admiration for the magnificent qualities displayed by the troops. The cavalry under General French marched about 75 miles, seized four drifts on the two rivers, and fought several engagements, in torrid weather, with dust and windstorms, and all the disagreeable accompaniments of long marching with heavy transport trains. The infantry have covered themselves with honour in the very arduous work, while too much cannot be said for the skill and energy of the generals who have conducted these operations with very small loss of life, and yet have completely shattered the plans upon which the Boers counted so con­fidently. It would be foolish to forecast the future, or to ignore the fact that we have yet many difficulties to sur­mount, and that we may suffer some reverses. But, at the same time, whatever may happen, it has been a triumph to turn the tables, and to assume this vigorous and effective initiative. The secrecy and celerity with which the movements were conducted was admirable. Colonel Hannay, with a brigade of mounted infantry, left the Orange River, and, after severe fighting with the Boers on February nth ,forced his throughway with his convoy to Ratndam, where he arrived on the 12th. This place, which lies about halfway between Graspan Station and the Riet River, had been selected for the concentration. General French, with the Cavalry Division and Horse Artillery, left the Modder River on the nth ,and Honeynest Kloof, the next station further south, on the 12th, marching thence to Ram dam .He proceeded without losing an hour, and on the 12th seized the crossing of the Riet at Dekiel’s Drift, and established himself on the other side after a skirmish. At 11.30 a.m. on the 13th he left the R iet in order to capture the passages of the Modder, distant about twenty-five miles. At 5.30 p.m. the same night he forced the passage of that river at Klip Drift, capturing three of the enemy’s laagers on the other side, while Colonel Gordon— 15th Hussars— with a brigade of cavalry, after a feint, seized Rondeval Drift, four miles to the west, as well as a second drift intervening, and took two more laagers. Meanwhile, the infantry were following with convoys to support the operation and to prepare, if possible, to cutoff Cronje, which might wr ell have happened if the passage of waggons across Dekiel’s Drift had not proved extremely difficult. The operation of pushing forward a strong column of troops by a circuitous route through a country without bridges and across rivers is fraught with difficulty, and we had the misfortune to lose one large convoy which was cutoff by the Boers, though probably it cannot be of much service to them. The Sixth Division— General K elly-K enny— which had left the Modder on the 12th and Graspan on the 13th, marched the same day toW atervaal Drift on the Riet, about five miles north-west of Dekiel’s Drift, and left again early 011 the morning of the 15th, while the Seventh Division —General Tucker— had crossed at Dekiel’s Drift, being accompanied by Lord Kitchener. Both divisions were obliged to keep near to the river on account of the water, and General Kelly-Kenny pushed onto the Modder drifts, General Tucker occupying Jacobsdal. Jacobsdal was seized on the 14th after some infighting, which the City Imperial Volunteers came under fire for the first time, and acquitted themselves with great gallantry. On the next day Lord Roberts, at the head of the troops, entered the place and established his headquarters there. Meanwhile, General French was pushing forward with cavalry, horse artillery, and mounted infantry towards Kimberley. H e fought two slight engagements, completely dispersed the enemy from the southern side, captured a laager and depot of supplies with much ammunition, and, being met by Colonel Kekewich, reached Kimberley on the evening of the 16th. The fatigued troopers entered the beleaguered town amid scenes of the wildest enthusiasm,, and the occasion will belong remembered in the history of South Africa. It was with great gratification that the country heard that General French (who in the Army List was only a colonel) had been promoted to the substantive rank of major- general, while Lieutenant-Colonel Kekewich, the gallant defender of Kimberley, became a colonel. At what time Cronje left Magersfontein does not seem to be exactly known as we write, and it yetis uncertain whether he has been able to get all his heavy guns away. The probability is that he anticipated the necessity of retiring, though not with the speed which our rapid movements imposed upon him, and that he had taken steps to remove- some of his guns. But for the difficulty encountered at DekiePs Drift with the transport he would probably have- been hemmed in, for Lord Methuen was moving up forces on the western Aside. sit was, Cronje went east with along train accompanied by 1,000 waggons, but his progress was necessarily slow, and General K elly-K enny attacked his rearguard on the 16th at Klip Drift and Drieput, where the fighting lasted many hours, General K nox’s Brigade particularly distinguishing itself under the direction of Lord Kitchener, and seventy-eight waggons of stores, two waggons full of Mauser rifles, and a large quantity of explosives, all belonging to Cronje’s laager, were captured. The Boer general, owing to the fatigue of his oxen, was obliged to outspan and form a laager, which was vigorously shelled by our guns. It seems -likely that Cronje had passed between the forces of French and the advancing infantry, just escaping being caught in a trap. As it was, he was taken at a great disadvantage, and as these pages togo press Lord Roberts’s force is pressing the pursuit, apparently with great success, and there is every reason to believe that a large quantity of loot has fallen to our hands, awhile great body of the enemy is flying towards Bloemfontein. It appears, how­ever, that the Boers have broken up their force into two “UNDER THE UNION JACK PHOTOS. OF ALL THE GENERALS AT THE FRONT.
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