Under the Union Jack, No. 24, Vol. 2, April 21st 1900

April 21,1000.] UNDER THE UNION JACK 555 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. BOER ACTIVITY. A Sour last number was going to press news was received of the mishap which had befallen our Horse Artillery ¦i.A. at Sannah’s Post, where the Boers made a determined and successful effort to wreck the Bloemfontein waterworks, and at the same time prepared an ambuscade for Colonel Broadwood’s column, which they knew would be compelled to retire from the position it had occupied further east. Now there comes intelligence of “another unfortunate occurrence” —the capture of five companies of infantry near Reddersburg, south of Bloemfontein. Everything goes to show that large numbers of the Free Staters are not subdued, and there can belittle doubt that the Transvaalers will fight to the end. They know very well that it is a struggle for existence, and that their corrupt government has forfeited its right to exist. The loyal colonists, indeed, are practically unanimous in favour of annexation, and the statement of the Natal ministers, which Sir \V. F . Hely-Hutchinson has transmitted to Mr. Chamberlain, illustrates the temper of the people. They desired expressly to state to Her M ajesty’s Government that they heartily and entirely concurred in the policy which had been announced, to the effect that there could be no assent to the independence either of the South African Republic or of the Orange State, and that foreign intervention could not be tolerated. Even if the Home Government were in any mood to give way, it is quite clear that the colonies would not permit such a step. Lord Roberts can make no decisive move unless his communications are absolutely secure, and, as we write, that is certainly not the case. An army depends entirely upon its ability to maintain communications with its base. The present campaign, moreover, has been extremely destructive of horseflesh, and there is urgent need for an abundant supply of fresh horses. Without these, we can have no mobility, and mobility and safe communications are what we primarily require. The Boers are well aware of these facts, and they have taken every possible step, and will continue to do so,to impede our movements. The Mishap atS annah’s Post. The action into which we were drawn near Karee Siding, on the north side of Bloemfontein, on March 29th, was apparently intended by the Boers to attract our cavalry in that direction and to cover their operations on the east of the place. Owing to the exhaustion of our horses it had been found impossible to cutoff Commandant Olivier, who was retreating from the Orange River with 6,000 men, and General French had been withdrawn from Thaba Nchu, which lay almost in the course of his movement. At that place, Colonel Broadwood was left with the 10th Hussars, the Household Cavalry, the U and Q Batteries of Horse Artillery, and a body of Mounted Infantry under Colonel Pilcher. It became known to Colonel Broadwood on March 30th that Comman­dant De Wet was approaching from the north and Commandant Olivier from the direction of Ladybrand on the east, and he therefore determined to retire to the waterworks. He reached that place at 4 a.m. 011 March 31st, but at dawn the enemy began to shell his bivouac, and he therefore despatched his two horse batteries with the convoy in the direction of Bloemfontein, intending to cover the retirement with the remainder of his force. At no great distance from the waterworks the road drops into the hollow of Koorn Spruit, and in anticipation of such a movement the Boers had there prepared an ambush. It is exasperating to read how well their plans succeeded. The enemy were so sure of their prey that they expected to make a capture without firing a shot, and held their fire with great skill until the convoy and U Battery had descended' into a spot entirely commanded by their position. They attempted to enforce a surrender, and when resistance was offered, a terrible fusillade was opened, and a scene of great confusion followed. Mules stampeded and waggons over­turned, many of the drivers and artillery horses were shot down at short range, and U Battery was practically over­powered and captured with its officers and men, though Major Taylor and the sergeant-major escaped. Two guns of Q Battery were also involved, and the convoy was in a perfectly helpless condition. There were many acts of con­spicuous gallantry on that unfortunate day, and the remaining guns ®f Q Battery, which got out of the drift, remained in.action under a crossfire for several hours, the officers serving the guns as the men fell. Several most gallant attempts were made to getaway the two guns left behind, but on each occasion the horses were shot. The Boers managed to retire with the seven guns and a good deal of the convoy, and a large body of them took up a position at the waterworks covering the movement, while General Colvile, who had marched out from Bloemfontein, took up a position at Bushman’s Kop. Our men had shown magnificent pluck in the worst circumstances, and the responsibility for the mishap does not rest with them, though somebody certainly had blundered. The scene of the attack presented a sad spectacle, stores and splintered waggons being strewed in every direction, mingled with the carcases of transport animals and the bodies of the dead. The groups of harnessed horses showed where the Q Battery had endeavoured to save the guns, and the trampled grass indicated where the horsemen had galloped through under a pointblank fire. The losses were severe, including, as missing, dead, or wounded, almost the whole of the officers and men of U Battery, while Major Booth of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Lieutenant Crowle of Roberts’s Horse, and Lieutenant Irvine of the Army Medical Service were killed, many other officers being wounded, some of them very seriously. The Sequel. The mishap at Sannah’s Post and the exasperating occurrence near Reddersburg will not be wholly dis­advantageous if they expose the unwisdom of a policy of great leniency and of abundant intrust the fair promises of our late enemies. Those who have loyally surrendered are having a bad time of it, for the Boers have completely overrun the district where we were assumed to have asserted our authority. It 110 doubt was a chief object with them to invigorate the weak-kneed Free Staters by showing them that we had by no means secured command of the districts. There is singular boldness in the operations of the Boers. They have the advantage of being quite at home in the country, and their leaders are prepared to accept the responsibility of undertaking widespread operations with comparatively small forces. Their enterprise has certainly surprised us, for we had been taught to think that they had retired towards Kroonstad, and that no serious opposition would be offered far south of that place. Instead, to the number of about 20,000, they are,as we write, hovering on the east and south of Bloemfontein, where they threaten the communications of Lord Roberts. In great force, with several guns, near Reddersburg on the south, they surrounded three companies of Royal Irish Rifles and two companies of Mounted Infantry, which, after holding out from before noon on April 3rd till 9 a.m. on the 4th, were compelled to surrender, about 600 in number, before help could reach them. “UNDER THE UNION JACK ”HAS BEEN REPRINTED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
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