Black and White Budget, No. 16, Vol. II, January 27th 1900

Jan .27,1900 BLACK AND WHITE BUDGET 3 BEFORE THE STORM T IIOUGH many movements have probably taken place in South Africa since the last issue of Black and White Budget, so strict is the censorship at present, that very little news has come through. The wisdom of this course on the part of the military authorities is unquestionable. Secrecy is essential to successful manoeuvring, and even misleading information maybe valuable. W e have 110 doubt that when an engagement does take place we shall have our anxiety immediately relieved, for then secrecy is not only no longer necessary, but is likely to do more harm than good. The most important information that has come from the front for sometime concerns the important turning movement which General Buller is undertaking in order to relieve Lady­ smith. The first idea that a double turning movement was intended, with Sir Charles Warren on the east and Sir Redvers Buller on the west, was scouted by the more experienced military experts on the ground that the Boer front was too wide to warrant such an undertaking. News received on Thursday, January 18th, has proved that they were right. It appears from this that a crossing of the Tugela has been effected at two points— both to the west of the Boer position. Details are few, but this is apparently how it was done. On Wednesday, January 10th, Lord Dundonald and the Cavalry Brigade marched towards the Upper Tugela and occupied the Swartz K op which dominates Potgieter’s Drift, lie was subsequently followed by infantry, and finally by General Lyttelton’s Brigade, which had with it some Howitzers. With these in position on Swartz Kop the crossing was safe, although the river was deep and rapid, and early in the morning of January 17th the first of the relieving column crossed the river and occupied a strong position on the north side. Meanwhile, where was Sir Charles Warren? Absent-minded military experts imagined him wandering among the thickets which cover the banks of the Tugela near Weenen. As a matter of fact, ’.nstead of going East, he was advancing even further West than Potgieter’s Drift, and successfully crossed the river with his whole division at Trichardt, 0 1 *Wagon Drift, six miles higher up the river. Both crossings were very slightly opposed. What will happen now ?The Boers are said to occupy a strong position five miles to the north of the river. A big battle will probably be fought before these lines appear. W e shall not now have the river between us and the enemy, and, please Heaven, the battle of Colenso will be avenged. From Colesberg, where General French’s enveloping tactics are gradually wearing down the Boers, comes the news of an attack success­fully repulsed by the New Zealand_.- sand the 1st Yorkshire. It is a wise plan to compel the enemy to attack in this way, and should do much to dishearten the Boers. Unfortunately, the effect has been slightly counterbalanced by the capture of a patrol of New South Wales Lancers, who were driven into an ambush by the Boers. Three of the patrol escaped, two were killed, and fourteen were taken prisoners. To the east of General French, General Gatacre’s Division still lies, unable to move for want of reinforcements. It is, however, in a strong position, and the turning movement, which, it is said, the Boers meditate, is not likely to be suc­cessful. Ladysmith is likely to be relieved shortly, but what of Kimberley and Mafeking? Mafeking is said to be able to holdout for another couple of months. Let us hope this is so. Colonel Baden-Powell seems to have a genius for keep­ing up the spirits of a garrison. The rumours about Kimberley are more disquieting. Neither Lord Methuen nor his Division can move at present, and supplies are said to be failing. The fall of Kimberley would mean nothing, except on the Slock Exchange, if Ladysm ith were relieved but if it has to come, we trust that success in Natal will come first. A lasts week, we are still anxiously expecting great events. There is an even more ominous lull in South African affairs. When the storm comes may we be able to weather, and may our brave soldiers soon find a harmless haven in the enemy’s trenches.
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