Under the Union Jack, No. 20, Vol. 2, March 24th 1900

March 24,1900.] UNDER THE UNION JACK. BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. THE TRIUMPH OF U RELY and swiftly does effect follow cause in the development of operations like those conducted by Lord Roberts. The resistance of the Free Staters has collapsed, and their capital is in our hands. The su r­ render of General Cronje was the signal for the insetting o f dem oralisation, and for a widening of the breach between the FreeS taters and the men of the Tran sva al. Neither President Kruger nor President Steyn could stay the flight of their men from the entrenchments at Poplar Grove, though it might be unwise to conclude as we write that no further fighting will take place in the neighbourhood of Bloemfontein. The Boers and their English friends would be glad, at this critical juncture in their affairs, to make peace on their own terms, but the answer of the Government was decisive as to independence, and will leave no shadow of doubt upon the. mind of anyone as to our purpose. W e entered upon this war at the invitation of President K rug e rand his ally. They invaded our territories, stirred up revolt among our colonists, caused us to despatch large bodies of troops to South Africa, have inflicted upon us serious losses, not seldom by means of treachery, have devastated parts of Natal and Northern Cape Colony, and have had the insufferable presumption to “ann ex” some of our territory. It has, moreover, to be remembered that these effects of President K rug e r’s operations have not been limited by any steps taken on his part, and that the destructive wave of the B o e rs’ advance would have spread still further if we had not taken measures to turn it back. T o make peace, therefore, upon the terms that might have been admitted when President K rug e r’s ultimatum expired on October nth would bean outrage to common-sense, for war never leaves a country as it found it. Happily, the Government has known the mind of the country on this point, and is quite alive to the fact that w e must “seethe thing through.” Our narrative of events shall now be resumed. Lord R oberts’s cam pat Osfontein was chosen at some little •distance from the insanitary place which had been left by the defeated Boers, and the correspondents have reported that our troops are in rude and excellent health. They certainly have undergone hardships, and put forth exertions which would not have been possible for men less fit. It was just after these pages had gone to press last week that intelligence of the victory of Poplar Grove was received. The movement from the camp began in the afternoon o f March 6th, when General French with the cavalry and Horse Artillery crossed the river, and bivouacked in front of O sfontein. Upon his force the bulk of the fighting fell, for, in the case of the infantry, the battle consisted largely of manoeuvring. The Boer left rested upon a series of kopjes known as the Seven Sisters, on the south, and the line extended in crescent form to theM odder, on the north side of which it outstretched to a further series of kopjes, the whole front covering fifteen miles or more. The enemy had constructed elaborate trenches with prepared positions, and they evidently expected Lord Roberts to make frontal attacks like those they were accustomed into the advance from the Orange River toM agersfontein, and counted upon their mobility to enable them to reinforce the particular parts of the line we should attack. Their position was weak, however, in that its flanks were unprotected, and Lord Roberts made excellent prepara­tions to seize the opportunity. The Ninth Division was on the north bank of the river', the Seventh next, and the Sixth on the right ready to take advantage of the cavalry movement. They went out to their positions at dead of night, and at three o ’clock in the morning of the 7th General French marched four LORD ROBERTS. miles south, and at the streak of dawn advanced towards the Boer position. The enemy opened fire ineffectually with shrapnel from the Seven Sisters, and the cavalry then turning southward swept over the veldt to Kalkfontein. It was then in a position to swing round to the north, and thus to get in the rear of the Boer line. The march had been along and very arduous one, and the horses were much used up. General Kelly -Kenny had meanwhile made a demonstra­tion, and the 65th Howitzer Battery had opened fire from the centre of its position. This drew the enemy, and left Colonel Porter, commanding General French ’s 1st Brigade, free to continue his circling movement. The Graham stow n Volun­teers and the Norfolk Company of Mounted Infantry, sup­ported by W Battery of the Horse Artillery, did good work 011 the extreme right flank, where the Boers made a stubborn defence of a kopje. G Battery was also inaction, and the gth Lancers attempted to charge, but were unable to get into a satisfactory position. B y this time the Boers, realising that their position was hopeless, began to fly helter-skelter. It was an inglorious demand oralising retreat, but was con­ducted with great celerity, and they got away all their guns save one, which the Highlanders and the Canadians captured, abut great deal o f their camp equipment was left behind. Kruger and Steyn were both present during the fight, and did their utmost to rally their troops, but the rout was com­plete, and the men declared that they could not stand against British artillery and such a formidable force of cavalry. The Boers fled from the south bank of theM odder first, and the Tran svaalerso then north then followed suit. The commandos were partly dispersed, abut large body of the enemy were brought to a halt near Abraham Kraal’s by a strong body of Bloemfontein police. The calculations of the enemy had been entirely upset, for it was discovered that they had a range of entrenchments five miles in the rear, to which they intended to retire casein of defeat, but they w’ere driven hastily far beyond. The App roach to Bloemfontein .After these exertions the troops needed rest, but on March 9th General French had pushed ten miles ahead of the camp, which had been established on the enem y’s position Pat o p!ar Grove, and reported his front clear of Boers. The next day the army left Poplar Grove and marched forward in three columns in the direction of Bloemfontein. A tent o’clock that morning Colonel Broad wood’s cavalry brigade in advance of the centre unexpectedly found the Boers in position at Driefontein, eight miles south of Abraham Drift,’s apparently in some strength. A n exceedingly smart action followed our troops behaving admirably, and the Boers were unable to prevent us reaching our destination. Not all the troops, however, were inaction. The 2nd Brigade found that the Boers had extended their lines to the south, and were very strong in that direction. The Sixth Division arrived at 1.30, after along march across the veldt, and was fighting for hours against the enem y’s centre. The 13th Brigade, led by the Buffs, and the 18th Brig a deb they Welsh Regiment, proceeded to clear the kopjes under avery hot fire, and theW elshm en, just before dusk, stormed Alexander kopje inmost gallant style with the bayonet, whereupon the Boers fled precipitately. The Artillery made good practice, but according to one correspondent their guns were outranged. The New South Wales Mounted Infantry behaved excel­lently, and there were many instances of gallantry during the day The Boers once more fled, and Lord Roberts that night established his cam pat D riefontein. “UNDER THE UNION JACK ’’—PHOTOS. OF ALL THE GENERALS AT THE FRONT.
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