Under the Union Jack, No. 19, Vol. 2, March 17th 1900

March 17,1900.] UNDER THE UNION JACK. BATTLING FOR EMPIRE LADYSMITH RELIEVED. THESE pages chronicled last week the fall of Cronje, and forecast the relief of Lady smith ,which it is now their very gratifying business to record. The hard­ships of the long-tried garrison are at an end, and Sir George White and the brave men who have shared with him in the defence have achieved their object, and are relieved from further anxiety as to the end. A great debt of gratitude is due to them, lor they have proved to the world what are the qualities o f British soldiers and their colonial comrades, and have succeeded in upsetting all the plans of the Boers. The success of Sir R edvers B u ller and the gallant officers and men who have fought so hardin the relief operations was in some measure a consequence of the great strategic move of Lord Roberts, and it is now evident that the relief was effected justin time, for Lad ysm ith was almost exhausted, ammunition had run low, famine was imminent, and the garrison had lost recuperative power. It is now possible from scattered accounts to record the steps by which Lad ysm ith was finally succoured. The successive failures at Colenso in December, at Spion K op in Jan u ary, and Vat a a l ranK tz on February 5th-7th, have been fully related in earlier pages, and it was the victory of February 18th, givin gus possession of the Monte Cristo ridge, that brought the relief of Lad ysm ith within the realm of possibility. The entrenchments Hon lan gw an e were com­manded and turned, and when H langw ane had been occupied Colenso was no longer tenable by the Boers. General B u ller threw abridge across the T u gela near that place, and made preparations to advance along the railway, apparently in the belief that the enemy were in full retreat. B u tit soon proved that a formidable position was in front which the Boers were resolute to defend, and our troops plunged into a confused tangle of kopjes leading up to their entrenchments Pat ieter’s, the army being wedged in between the river arid high hills. The troops fought gallantly, and on February 22nd established themselves upon the low kopjes rising immediately from the river. Under the shelter of these, on the 23rd, General B u ller tried to work his way along the angle of the river, to escape from the narrow ground, and turn the enem y’s position Pat ieter’s on its le rt. In ti. ^afternoon, therefore, the Inniskilling Fusiliers, with a company each of the D ublins and the Connaughts, attacked Railway Hill, and, after gaining the first line, were met in the gathering gloom by a murderous fire, in which they were positively mown down, and many officers fell. The troops then withdrew from the crest, and having built schansjes, bivouacked for the night, leaving their wounded on the hill. Before dawn the Boers had crept round the flanks, and at daylight they opened a deadly fire, which involved a retro­grade movement on our part, and the Inniskillings came back with only four officers, and the rank and file almost cut to pieces, while the C onnaughts had five officers wounded, and the D ublins lost Lieutenant-Colonel S itw ell, and Captain M aitland o f the Gordon Highlanders, attached. This attack of Hart’s Brigade had thus been heavily repulsed, and the plan was recognised to be impracticable. Therefore Sir Red vers B u ller reconsidered his course, and without a moment’s hesitation prepared to attack the left flank of the Boers. H e withdrew the whole of his forces across the T u gela on the 25th, and on the next day threw anew bridge over the river more to the east, at a place discovered by Colonel Sandbach of the Royal Engineers. The Boer left rested upon three hills, and the troops, having crossed, prepared to attack on February 27th. The action that followed was hardly contested, was one of the most brilliant of the whole war, and was admirably managed. The men did not forget that it was the anniversary of M ajuba, and as the fight began news o f C ron je’s defeat passed along the ranks. The whole front was about three rniles, and Colonel Kitchen er’s Brigade was in the centre, with N orcott’s 011 the left and Barton ’son the Aright. heavy artillery fire from Monte C risto opened the way, and a general advance began. Barton met with little opposition, and was soon occupying the hill he was to captwre. Kitchen er’s advance in the centre was magnificent, for after passing the railway he had to cross 500yds. of open ground, where- his forces were subjected to a heavy fire, but his men. rushed forward impetuously, carried a kopje in front of them,, driving the Boers to full retreat, and capturing two lines of trenches The advance up the northern end of Railway. Hill then began,, while N orcott’s Brigade climbed the southern side, and in the splendid attack the enemy were defeated and scattered in all directions, two miles of strong positions thus falling into our hands. The Boers had evidently had quite enough of it. This was their last resistance. In any case they seem to have been fighting what was really a rear-guard action, for they had been moving men, guns, and stores for some days, having recognised that sooner or later the siege o f L adysm ith would probably be raised. Their movement was executed with great celerity, and they probably got away with comparatively little loss. Only two guns were left behind, though large quantities of ammunition and stores fell into our hands. Within avery few hours they had practically disappeared from the neighbourhood, and effective pursuit was almost impossible, though, as we shall see, a gallant attempt was made. Sir George White and His Troops. It was on the -afternoon of the 28th of February that Major G ough reported to Lord Dundonald that the ridges near Lad ysm ith were unoccupied. Lord D undonald there­upon determined to ride through the gap with one squadron of the Imperial Light Horse, one squadron of the Natal Carbineers, and a force of Natal Police. They galloped swiftly over the rough ground, through dongas and scrub, as the night fell, until the British guns could be seen flashing from Wagon Hill. Suddenly there was a challenge :“Who goes there ?”and the shouted reply,“ L adysm ith relieving army .”Then came a crowd of tattered men about the troopers, cheering feebly, and the newcomers could see, even in the gloom ,how pale and thin they were. It was an impressive scene when the troopers met Sir George White, General Hunter, Colonel lan Hamilton, and other heroes of the defence in the centre of the town. The new shad spread like wildfire, and everybody poured out to meet the horsemen, even the sick and wounded crawling from their tents to join -in the cheering. The scene will livelong in the memory of those who were present on that historic occasion, and' Sir George White’s words to the people were singularly appro­priate :“People of Lady smith, I thank you one and all for the heroic and patient manner in which you have assisted me during the siege of Lady smith .From the bottom of my heart I thank you. It hurt me terribly when I was compelled to cut down rations, but thank God we have kept our flag flying.” Then all those present joined in singing “God save the Queen ”—avery memorable event, indeed. On the next m r.ingo General B u lle r with his staff entered the town, and Sir George White and his staff went out to greet him. Very soon supplies began to pour into the place, “UNDER THE UNION JACK’’—PHOTOS. OF ALL THE GENERALS AT THE FRONT.
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