Under the Union Jack, No. 25, Vol. 2, April 28th 1900

580 UNDER THEV UNION JACK. [April 28,1900. pages togo press we cannot record the actual collapse of the movement towards the Orange River in the south-eastern corner of the Free State, though that seems imminent, and it will be surprising if they escape north without some disaster. The Western F ron tier and M a fe king .Very obscure, and no doubt designedly so, are reports of the operations on the Western Frontier, and the fate of Mafeking still hangs in the balance. That sorely tried place was buoyed up at the end of March by the delusive hope that relief was imminent, but disappointment came, and the in­telligence of April 5th is that the pinch of hunger is experienced, and that some discouragement is felt among the garrison. At the same time, there is no likelihood of surrender, and the Boers are somewhat anxious as to the position there, because they are not much better acquainted with events that are forthcoming than is Colonel Baden-Powell. It is now stated that the garrison is resolute and watchful, and that it is quite capable of holding out until June. We hope that its endurance will not be so long taxed. Colonel Plumer’s advance was stayed by the superior forces of the Boers, but he is quite ready to co-operate with any other column that comes into the field, whether it be from Lord Methuen’s side or from Rhodesia, where General Carrington should by this time have arrived. His force is to detrain at Marandellas, on the Mashonaland railway, from which point it may perhaps proceed south-west to Victoria, in the direction of the Transvaal frontier. Stores have been erected in anticipation both at Marandellas and Victoria. There is nothing to report concerning the situation on the Vaal River at Warrenton and Fourteen Streams, where an artillery duel has been kept up, apparently with little effect upon either side, and it does not appear that any advance in force from that quarter is imminent. Lord Methuen’s own movements are shrouded in obscurity. His troops are reported to be in avery efficient condition, and his horses in an excellent state. A great number of his troops belong to the Imperial Yeomanry, and a correspondent who marched with the force from Boshof remarked that they were most careful to save their horses by dismounting upon every opportunity, and frequently led them when marching at a walk. The men were very good, and exceedingly well led, and were greatly encouraged by their successful action on April 5th, when they surrounded a body of the enemy under Colonel de Villebois- Mareuil, who was killed, and captured about fifty of them. The Yeomanry appear indeed to set an example to the Regulars, who, according to all accounts, were a little wasteful of their horseflesh in the march from Paardeberg to Bloem­fontein, and were twice unable to complete our victories. After the fight at Boshof, Lord Methuen marched to Zwartkopjesfontein, ten miles to the east, and halted in an excellent country. His headquarters were thereon April nth ,on which day a flying column under Brigadier-General Douglas marched ten miles to the east, and drove the enemy out of certain ridges, which were occupied. The march made a circuit of about forty miles, and a large quantity of ammunition was discovered and destroyed without any serious fighting. The exact purpose of Lord Methuen is not known, but the Boers anpear to expect him to march in the direction of Bultfontein 01 Hoopstad. The latter place is on the Vet River, a tributary of the Vaal, and General Delarey with his commandos was stated on April 14th to be awaiting Lord Methuen’s forces between Hoopstad and the Vaal. They are, therefore, prepared to dispute any attempt to turn their position at Fourteen Streams by a wide march 011 the eastern side. It scarcely seems likely, however, that Lord Methuen with a force that cannot be very numerous will attempt such an important operation at such a great distance from his base. The rebellion in the Kenhardt district seems to be collapsing, but there are still, within a radius of twenty miles from Kimberley, many things that must preoccupy the attention of Lord Methuen. But, indeed, the situation is not easily understood, and it is high tribute to the genius of Lord Roberts that his plans cannot be penetrated. For his general advance from Bloem­fontein he has made ample preparation, but whether it will take the form of a direct movement by the railway, or of a flanking advance by the west in union inactivity on the part of Lord Methuen, or again by the east to uncover the passes of the Drakensberg and enable the forces in Natal to take a direct part in the operations, cannot be determined. Lord Roberts possesses the full confidence of the nation. His great combinations, triumphing over tactical failures, have demonstrated once more his military capacity, and his despatches show him to abe strongman doing a great work and ready to continue it to the end. Event sin Nat al. After the relief of Ladysmith the military affairs in Natal were uneventful until the Boers took some of Sir Redvers Buller’s forces by surprise on the morning of April 10th. A camp had been established near Elandslaagte, where the collieries had been opened. The Boers took advantage of our inaction and posted some guns to the south of the Biggarsberg, commanding the camp of General Clery at Sunday’s River. They had the exact range, and opened fire on the Durham Light Infantry, who were drilling in front of the camp, and one shell passed through the mess tent of the West Yorkshire Regiment while the officers were at breakfast. Fire was then directed upon the Naval camp. Kaffirs had reported on the previous evening that something of the kind was intended, but native reports have been so much discredited that no special precautions were taken. Within half-an-hour, however, all our guns were inaction, and the enemy’s fire was checked. We had suffered no serious loss, and little harm was done, though about midday it seemed as if the enemy were attempting to envelop General Clery’s forces and cut them off from Ladysmith. They crossed the river on the west and made for Junono’s Kop, where they came into collision with the South African Light Horse and Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry. They were shelled by our 5m. guns, and Sir Charles Warren advanced against them. The enemy’s line extended full fifteen miles from this point to a kopje commanding the Sunday’s RiVer bridge on our right. Whatever might have been their purpose, it was defeated, and on April 14th every­thing was quiet and the Boers had ceased their activity. According to the latest reports, during the attack on April 10th more than 150 shells were thrown, in less than an hour, among our troops drilling in camp but, if that was the case, the result was not at all proportionate to the outlay. The attack of the Boers had really been feeble, and is reported to have been merely a demonstration. As to General Buller’s troops nothing is absolutely known. A considerable force has been withdrawn from Natal and has made its appearance in the Orange State, and the future is obscure, though the Natal Field Force undoubtedly holds a large place in Lord Roberts’s plans. The publication of the despatches relating to the attack on Spion Kop, and the evacuation of the hill, on January 23rd and 24th, came as a surprise to the public on the morning of April 18th. We were contemplating an involved but promising situation in the Orange State, when our attention was recalled to the events which had so grievously depressed us nearly three months before. Lord Roberts had some censure both for Sir Redvers Buller and Sir Charles Warren, as well as for that gallant officer Colonel Thorneycroft, for his unauthorised order to abandon the captured position but everything testifies to the loyal service of these brave officers, and Lord Roberts is loud in his praise of the splendid qualities of all our troops, and his commendations are well deserved indeed. THE BACK NUMBERS OF “UNDER THE UNION JACK” CAN BE HAD OF GEORGE NEWNES, LTD.
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