Under the Union Jack, No. 31, Vol. 2, June 9th 1900

June 9,1900.'] UNDER THE UNION JACK. 723: BATTLING FOR EMPIR THE BEGINNING OF THE END. n r PRESIDENT K RUG R,atE the beginning of the war, promised to “stagger humanity,” and it was presumed that he meant to do so by driving us into the sea. Instead of that, we find Lord Roberts at his capital with the great body of his forces, and no doubt accomplishing many things which cannot be recorded here to-day, but which will fill many stirring pages. It is the misfortune of the illus­trated journal that it can rarely be quite abreast of the times, but it endeavours to present facts forcibly, and soon makes up the inevitable leeway. In the rapid march of the momentous events we are witnessing, even such a brilliant episode as the relief of Mafeking seems lost for a time in the glamour of present happenings. Lord Roberts has accomplished marvels, and the gallant veteran will ever stand very high among the ranks of our military commanders. He has disposed his forces with consummate skill, and the advance of his columns has com­pletely nonplussed the Boers. It is said that Mr. Kruger and Mr. Steyn have been very much putout at what they regard as his unfairness in not playing the game according to their rules. They like to get their men into comfortable entrench­ments, or behind carefully concealed schansjes, upon which we are to make frontal attacks. Instead of that we go round the corner. Napoleon, however, is on Lord Roberts’s side. He knew and said that the very spirit of war lies in making these turning movements, and the great captain’s maxims have been verified on the Vaaj. We left Lord Roberts at Honing’s Spruit on the south bank of the Rhenoster River, and we have now to follow him in his victorious and successful advance, and to describe how, almost without firing a shot, and thanks to his good strategy, the Boers were compelled to evacuate magnificent positions. They always fight, in the conditions imposed upon them, with one eye fixed 011 their line of retreat, and as soon as it was known that Generals French and Hamilton were on the alert and moving rapidly on both sides they got away as speedily as they could. In these operations General Ian Hamilton’s column played a notable part. After leaving Kroonstad he had marched across the country upon Lindley, and had occupied the hills overlooking the town on May 16th. The troops entered the town on the next today find that Mr. Steyn and his officials had just departed with ^"100,000, and General Piet de Wet was in command of the Boers, who were inconsiderable force. General Hamilton accordingly marched east with orders that General Smith-Dorrien should adv.mce north-east. Lindley was evacuated at daybreak on May 20th, and the Boers pressed upon Hamilton’s rear ashe was marching towards the Rhenoster, but they were unable to effect their purpose against his main body by the appearance of Smith-Dorrien on their flank just at the right moment. On May 21st Hamilton approached Heilbron, while Colonel Broadwood pushed ahead and found the enemy retreating in desperate haste with a convoy beyond the town. Dashing forward under a heavy fire, Broadwood engaged the rear of the enemy’s column, shelled them out of their position, and captured fifteen waggons containing ammunition and supplies, while Heilbron was occupied by a well-conceived converging march. Lord Roberts in his central advance found that the Boers had made every preparation to contest his passage of the Rhenoster, but when he reached the river on the morning of May 23rd it was discovered that the strong and carefully entrenched positions had been abandoned. The occupation of Heilbron was probably the strong factor, combined with the fact that the cavalry had passed the river some miles lower down, in causing the Boers to retire so hastily. They had already destroyed the bridge, several culverts, and some miles of the railway, but their position for twenty miles had, in fact, been made practically untenable. The almost complete destruction of the railway in the neighbourhood of the Rhenoster did not stay Lord Roberts’s advance. He made a masterful strategic redistribution of his front, and succeeded in pushing an advanced force across the Vaal near Parys on the Queen’s birthday, at a point about twenty miles west of the railway. General Hamilton rejoined the main force at Vredefort,and crossed the front to Boschbank, at which place he was established on May 26th, while the Boers with 4,000 men were expecting him to appear at Englebrech Drift. The force which first entered the Transvaal was General Broadwood’s brigade, which passed over at Wonderfontein Drift, and held it for General Ian Hamilton’s division which crossed on the next day, the enemy retreating towards the Klip River Berg covering Johannesburg. General French also crossed the river on May 25th, somewhat further west at Lindique’s Drift, and Colonel Henry with the mounted brigade pushed forward, crossed at Viljoen’s Drift, and nearly succeeded in saving the Vaal Bridge, of which only one span was destroyed. Lord Roberts himself remained with the column advancing along the railway, and was on the north bank on the morning of May 27th, despatching the gratifying intelligence from Vereeniging. The advanced troops had only just been in time to save the coalmines 011 both sides of the river from being destroyed, but the Boers had retired entirely from the Vaal and had taken up positions before Johannesburg. On May 28th Lord Roberts made a further advance to Klip River, about twenty miles beyond Vereeniging, and within eighteen miles of Johannesburg. Several excellent prepared positions had been abandoned by the enemy, and they were pressed so hard that they had only just time to get their five guns into the train at Klip River Station as some of the West Australian Mounted Infantry dashed in. Meanwhile, French and HamiltonIan were engaged with the enemy some ten miles to the left. The passage of the Vaal was a triumph, for under other circumstances, and with the river in flood, it might have been a formidable military obstacle. Beyond the river the country is bare, with a few ranges of hills crowned by table mountains, the Klip River Berg being the strongest, but offering no positions of advantage to the enemy. There is, therefore, no great physical difficulty in the approach to Johannesburg, but the Witwatersrand Ridge commands the town, and interposes between it and Pretoria, running due east and west. To occupy the Witwatersrand Ridge effectually, men to the number of 40,000 would probably be required, and the range can be turned to reach Pretoria. The low ridges and shallow valleys may make necessary a slower advance to Pretoria than was required in the march on the Vaal, but the advance is certain. On May 29th Lord Roberts with his main army arrived at Germiston, ten miles east of Johannesburg, and, as we write, our troops are about to enter the town and knock at the gate of the capital. The Boers at Pretoria .In the extreme confusion that prevails in the Boer ranks as we write, the position is not easy to describe. The spirit of the Free Staters had already been broken, and that of the Transvaalers is completely demoralised. Panic and confusion are everywhere, and though the oligarchs have been attempting to allay public excitement, the wonderful pictures they have drawn of John Bull as a monster of ferocity and greed are bear- ingf fruit. It has been said that the seat of government would O O ‘NAVY AND ARMY” IS FIRST AND FOREMOST AMONGST SIMILAR PUBLICATIONS.
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