Under the Union Jack, No. 29, Vol. 2, May 26th 1900

May 26,1900.-] UNDER THE UNION JACK. 675 BATTLING FOR EMPIRE. THE ORANGE THE occupation of Kroonstad by Lord Roberts, though less dramatic than his seizure of Bloemfontein, was even more gratifying, because it marked what observers recognised as the utter demoralisation of the Orange Staters, and it is extremely unlikely that the forces which Mr. Steyn is endeavouring to concentrate at Lind ley or Heilbron, both of them about fifty miles from Kroonstad, one on the east and the other on the north-east, can have any effect of importance upon our progress. Therefore the entry into Kroonstad was a triumph in areal and solid sense. These pages have already recorded the occupation of Smaldeel1 and Winburg and the advance to the Zand River. They must now recount the operations by which that river was crossed and the advance to Kroonstad made possible. The column which General HamiltonIan had commanded in a splendid march from Thaba Nchu, lighting nine days out of thirteen, brought him into direct communication with Lord Roberts, and his forces took part in the great move­ment. When, on May 6th, he reached Winburg, he sent in Captain Balfour with a flag of truce to demand surrender, and that officer was about to receive the submission of the Landdrost, when Philip Botha marched within 500 Hollanders and Germans and threatened to arrest or shoot him. Avery angry scene followed, and Botha, recognising the danger to himself, respected the white flag, and fled as fast ashe could. From Winburg Hamilton pushed 011 to the Zand River, and ultimately to Ventersburg and Kroonstad. When Lord Roberts reached Smaldeel the impression was forced upon his officers that the Free State burghers were more than ever weary of the war. Considerable numbers of the farmers surrendered after the passage of the Vet, and it proved that no determined resistance was to be offered before the occupation of the second capital of Mr. Steyn. Lord Roberts halted at Smaldeel on May 7th and 8th, and 011 the next day Pole-Carew and Tucker, with HamiltonIan and the heavy Naval and Royal Artillery guns, accompanied by four brigades of cavalry, advanced to Welgelegen, the next station south of the Zand River, which General Hutton had com­pletely reconnoitred. On that evening the Cheshires crossed the river and entrenched themselves, preparing to cover the passage of the rest of the troops 011 the next day. The forces were moving very early on the 10th, and effected the passage at two or three points. General French, with Porter’s and Dickson’s brigades of cavalry and Hutton’s mounted infantry, crossed at Vermulen’s Kraal, and then worked round in a north­easterly direction to Maatschappy, driving the enemy before him. The main body, consisting of Pole-Carew’s division, with Gordon’s cavalry, and J Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, and Henry’s and Ross’s mounted infantry, crossed nearer the railway bridge, Lord Roberts accompanying them. The whole line of the enemy extended twenty miles, but was overlapped by his army, and the threat upon the flanks rarely fails to demoralise the Boers. Their right flank gave way, but Generals Tucker and HamiltonIan had a tougher task on the left, where the enemy fought with determination and had six guns. The East Lancashires and the Sussex men got well forward, and when they rushed to attack the Boers fled from two commanding ridges. The advanced line was thus brought within 500yds. of the enemy’s main entrench­ment, and when the Lancashire and Sussex lads rushed forward with fixed bayonets they fairly bolted, and the cavalry and mounted men were close upon their heels. The success had been accomplished by a series of short rushes, until the point was reached from which the final bayonet charge could be made. VANQUISHED. The advance had been very difficult owing to the flooded drifts, and the baggage came up slowly, but at daybreak on the nth progress was resumed, and the main body encamped that night near Geneva Siding, only two stations short of Kroonstad, and about six miles from Boschrand where the Boers were then in an entrenched position. Gordon’s brigade was in touch with them, Tucker’s Division was a little to the south-east, and Ian Hamilton-still further east, while Pole-Carew was with Lord Roberts. French with the cavalry was some distance north of Geneva Siding, and all was ready for an advance at daybreak. The Capture of K roonstad. The operations on May 12th were completely successful. During the night the enemy evacuated the first line of their entrenchments at Boschrand, and French had already seized the drift over the Valsch River, upon which Kroonstad lies, justin time to prevent the passage being opposed. By 9 a.m. Lord Roberts’s main body had occupied the abandoned position, and at 1.30 p.m. Kroonstad was entered. The infantry had marched seventeen miles through a country which might easily have been defended, but the rapidity of the movement had completely taken the heart out of the Boers. The Landdrost of Kroonstad sent a deputy to Lord Roberts offering surrender, but the Commander-in-Cnief insisted that he should outcome and surrender in person. When all was arranged, Lord Roberts marched within his body-guard of Colonials, and there was avery striking spectacle as the few British inhabitants ingathered the market square to see their national flag hoisted. After the staff and the foreign officers, came the North Somerset Company of the Imperial Yeomanry, followed by Pole-Carew’s Division, con­sisting of the Guards and the 18th Brigade, the Naval Brigade, the 83rd, 84th, and 85th Field Batteries, two 5-in. siege guns and the 12th Company Royal Engineers. Lord Roberts took his withstand his staff in the market square, and the whole of the infantry and artillery filed past. The Union Jack was hoisted over the CourtHouse amid the vociferous cheering of the Englishmen, while the Dutch, who had but lately sur­rendered, were evidently vastly impressed with what they saw. About 250 Orange State burghers remained to surrender, and others began to in.come Englishmen at Kroonstad said that the rapid advance of Lord Roberts had completely paralysed the operations of the Boers, and General Ian Hamilton’s movement had made it quite impossible for their forces which had been threatening Thaba Nchu to join Botha at Winburg, while the quarrel between the Orange Staters and the Trans- vaalers grew so acute that concerted action was impossible. The burghers, indeed, simply flocked back from their entrench­ments at Boschrand and took shelter where they could, and one correspondent asserted that Mr. Steyn with his own hand whipped them out of the ambulance train. Neither remon­strances by Botha nor appeals by Steyn had any effect upon them, and the Transvaalers, declaring they would fight nc more on Orange State soil, outset to trek northward tc the Vaal, followed by General French and the cavalry, while the Orange Staters declared they were abandoned, and as many of themas could went home. On the night before Lord Roberts entered Kroonstad Steyn issued a proclamation making Heilbron his capital, and escaped with some of his forces to the north-east. Major Hunter-Weston, R.E., had succeeded in cutting the railway north of Kroonstad, but it was too late to prevent the Boers from withdrawing their rolling stock, for their last train had just gone through. It was a most gallant action, nevertheless. French’s cavalry, after riding forty miles “UNDERSTATE THE UNION JACK” HAS BEEN REPRINTED OVER AND OVER AGAIN.
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