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Title: Reports from the Boer War (1900-1902)
Author: Edgar Wallace
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1200121h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  Jan 2012
Most recent update: Jul 2020

This eBook was produced by Roy Glashan.

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Reports from the Boer War (1900-1902)


Edgar Wallace


Compiled and Annotated by Roy Glashan

First published by Roy Glashan's Library, 2012
Version Date: 2020-07-12

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2020

The articles in this collection were originally published in the Daily Mail. The texts given here are reproduced from newspapers published in New Zealand. The scanned versions can be viewed at the "PapersPast" website, which is maintained by the National Library of New Zealand.

In 1901 Hutchinson & Co., London, published 41 of Edgar Wallace's reports from South Africa under the title Unofficial Dispatches Of The Anglo-Boer War. The present collection contains 65 reports, including some which were published after the war.

— Roy Glashan, 12 July 2020.


  1. With Carrington Through Rhodesia
  2. The Eland's River Garrison
  3. The Rebel And The Psalmist
  4. The Birth Of A Corps
  5. The Better Path
  6. The Coming Of De Wet
  7. Capetown To-Day—The City Of Refuge
  8. Out On The Veldt—The Death Of Queen Victoria
  9. Kitchener-The General
  10. Why We Lost De Wet—Three Good Reasons
  11. A Nice War
  12. Profit And Loss—The Invasion Account
  13. Tragedy—A South African Sketch
  14. That Victorian!—A South African Sketch
  15. Mrs. Reservist
  16. A Bird's Eye View Of The War
  17. "Kitchener's The Bloke"
  18. A Veldt Aldershot—A Picture Of Bloemfontein
  19. That Tired Feeling!
  20. A Sunday Morning City
  21. In Death's Eye
  22. America's Bid For The Rand
  23. Sops To Sentiment—Settlement Problems
  24. The Vlakfontein Horror
  25. The Censorship
  26. A Letter From Brother Boer
  27. The Baser Kind Of Boer
  28. How The Public Is Deprived Of News
  29. Why The War Drags
  30. The Forgotten One Hundred Thousand
  31. A Little Pessimism
  32. The King And His Army
  33. Lord Kitchener's Proclamation
  34. The Treachery Of Boer Women
  35. The Great War Muddle
  36. An Alarm At Cradock
  37. Moral Of Gough's Defeat
  38. Never Under Fire
  39. The Glorious Story Of Itala
  40. At A Trial For Treason
  41. What Does The End Mean?
  42. Pro Patria—The Empire Builder
  43. Fighting In The Mist
  44. War—From A Saloon Window
  45. In Search Of A Fight
  46. Justice—How A Traitor Died
  47. The Rocks Ahead—Lord Milner's Difficult Task
  48. Johannesburg Of Today—Return Of First- Class Refugees
  49. Christmas Day On The Veldt—Dinner In The Blockhouses
  50. The Art Of Conspiracy
  51. The Concentration Camps—A Justification
  52. In Blockhouse Street
  53. A Little Operation—The Skill Of Hospital 13
  54. Storyettes Of War—The Humourous Side Of The Campaign
  55. The Night Of The Drive—In A Blockhouse
  56. Peace Factors—The Justification For A General Surrender
  57. The Backbone Of The Army
  58. Home Again—The End Of A Period
  59. Back From The War—The Return Of Smithy
  60. Mr Chamberlain's Visit
  61. Ishmael
  62. Lord Milner—The Autocrat Of South Africa
  63. Africa To-Day—The Beaten Boer
  64. The Slums Of Johannesburg
  65. Soldiers Of Mercy—A Battlefield Pen Picture


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 14, 1900


Twelve people in a railway carriage, bound northward—a carriage constructed exactly like a London tram-car, only not half as comfortable, with a narrow seat running down either side, and a still narrower luggage rack above. A sleepy negro boy in limbo and fez squatting on the platform at the end of the carriage, and as the train turns a curve a glimpse of a dozen plumed khaki figures in an open truck ahead.

This is on the road to Marandellas, Sir Frederick Carrington's first camp, and is somewhere between Bamboo Creek and Mandegos.

The passengers are: three Portuguese officials, who swap lies with many gesticulations and much noise—stories generally of how they got the better of Somebody Else, illustrated by killing imitations of Somebody Else's voice, manner, despair, or indignation, delivered with raucous gusto; two nondescript individuals who "know every inch of the country" and are walking gazetteers of Rhodesia, but are otherwise perfectly harmless; three fever-stricken railway men stretched out on rugs spread on the floor of the carriage—uncomplaining, haggard Englishmen on their way to the Umtali Hospital with their annual dose of malaria; a Buluwayo stockbroker returning from England; a German lady tricked up in faded finery who speaks English, French, and Portuguese with suspicious fluency; and myself.


Does the lady object to smoking? The lady does not, and on the strength of that tries to open a conversation. Hadn't she met me at Beira? No; then perhaps it was in Paris—then perhaps in London? I emphatically deny ever having met her either in London or in Paris, or, in Timbuktoo—or in Port Said either; which last crushed her and caused her to relapse into silence for at least ten minutes. The nondescripts open a tin of lunch tongue, and the elder and more decayed finds a bottle of brandy—these are their provisions for the three days' journey to Salisbury. They had also some aged crabs, which they stored beneath the seat and forgot all about. The passengers detected these during the night and thought it was the swamp.

"You remember the Massi-Kassi raid, don't you, sir?"

This, after the third application of the three-starred reviver, and is addressed to the stockbroker.

"You talk about raids," went on nondescript senior, glaring at the unoffending and unconscious Portuguese trio, " why, when the blooming Portygese raided our blessed territory what did we do?"

Nobody volunteered to answer this.

"I know,"—triumphantly—"because I was with Colonel Heyman—and it was only in '90. Why; if we had our rights the whole of the Portygese territory would be Rhodesia—though Heaven knows it is only fit for dagoes and niggers."


One looks out on the country rolling past. Great stretches of grassy land, with here and there a clump of trees and the gleam of a distant river winding through the mangoes. Very beautiful for the eye to see, but the grass hides a swamp reeking with malaria, and every night brings the fever-laden miasma. Now the train winds through a tangled mass of jungle and undergrowth—a veritable botanical garden run wild. Here rises from the interlacing bush bamboo, and creeper, the gaunt, white, lifeless branches of a thorn tree; here, growing amidst the bananas and wild tomatoes, is a clump of lordly palms: It is Nature in abandon. A covey of partridges rises with a whirr from beneath the very wheels of the locomotive, and a zebra crashes through the jungle and appears for an instant on the crest of a rise, and is gone.

"There was forty of us," went on the speaker, pausing a moment to protest against the nondescript minor's appetite, "or it might have been forty-one. Jim Harvey was there. You remember Jim Harvey, the butcher of Salisbury, don't you, 'Arry? Turned miner and blowed hisself up with a dynamite cartridge down at the Geelong—or it might have been at Shangani—anyhow, he's dead. Well, there was forty of us, and up come the Portygese army, and that about 900 strong, with six machine guns, while we only had a seven-pounder."

This was interesting, for my friend the stockbroker had given me a confirmation of these facts in an undertone.

"We was on a hill, somewhere north of Massi-Kassi—old Massi-Kassi, I mean, not the place they call Macequece now—go easy with that meat, Jim, we shan't get anymore this side of Umtali—and when the colonel saw the army coming he hid the seven-pounder in a tent, and made all of us except seventeen lie down in the bush."


One of the sick men on the floor groaned, and clasped his head between his long white hands.

Nondescript junior leant over and felt the dry, burning skin with a touch begotten of experience.

"Hi, boy "—this to the squatting attendant on the platform—"Manzi."*

[Manzi (Zulu)—water. ]

Then he fumbled in his pockets till he discovered the remedy, which, being put up in 5-grain tabloids, is easy to carry.

"Quinine is a useful thing," went on the elder man, "if you don't take too much. I take whisky myself. Well, up come the Portygese Governor, and he kow-tows to the Colonel. 'Hullo!' he says—he had left his army at the foot of the hill. 'Hullo,' he says. 'Do you know where you are?' —and all the time he was looking round to see how many guns we had.

"'Rather fancy I do,' says the Colonel, winkin' at me. 'I haven't taken the sun yet, but I'm under the impression that I'm somewhere off the stormy isle of Massi-Kassi.'"


"'You'll find it pretty, stormy if you don't clear,' says the Gov'nor, having reckoned up our strength on his fingers and seven of his brass buttons. 'Don't you know you're in Portygese territory,' he says.

"'Can't say that I do,' says the Colonel.

"'Well, consult your map,' says the Gov'nor.

"'Don't put no faith in maps says the Colonel; 'fact is, I'm in the map-making line myself. Many's the little bit if Africa I've helped to make red,' he says.

"'Well,' says the Gov'nor, thinking of his six machine guns at the foot of the hill and cursing hisself for not having brought a war correspondent along with him to describe his glorious victory in the morning. 'Well,' he says, 'the top of this hill will be red enough if you ain't gone by sun-up.'

"'I'll think about it.' says the Colonel.

"'You'd better,' says the Gov'nor. 'Good afternoon.'

"'Won't you have a drink before you go,' says the chief. So they had a whisky-and-soda, and as they drunk each other's health each says to hisself, 'To-morrow morning I'll cook your goose, my boy.' What station's this?"


It isn't a station, but a fuel halt. The fuel used on the Mashonaland Railway is wood. At every few miles along the line the train passes great stacks of logs placed ready for on-loading and now and again a little saw-mill buzzing away merrily in the forest. Timber is very plentiful in the Portuguese territory, and this alone makes the railway workable. One strange feature of the line is that nowhere—as far as I could see—are wood and water loaded together.

We start off again with that jerk, inseparably associated with African railways. It is getting towards evening, and the aspect of the country has already undergoing a change. The smooth, wide grassy plain has given place to more uneven ground from which rise high tree-covered so many exaggerated ant-hills.

Through the valleys and creeping along the lowland a miasma sluggishly laves the base of the hills and covers the swamp ground till the kopjes* are Alps above the clouds, and one can almost picture the slumbering village ten thousand feet below.

[Kopje (Afrikaans, literally "little head")—a small hill rising up from the African veldt. ]

Nondescript the elder is not poetical; he eyes the mist and shivers, and resorts once more to the cognac.

"I got caught in a mist like that one night, and had to sleep in it. It was round in the Zoutpans district in the Transvaal, and was in 1881, long before the Transvaal was worth fighting about, and I was in the Kimberley Hospital for five months. Well, about the Portygese raid. That night there was happiness and revelry in the dagoes' camp while we sat dark and silent with a double allowance of whisky, just like the old Saxons and Normans at the battle of Hastings.

"Next morning before daybreak we had the 7-pounder in position and all the men with ammunition to hand waiting for the Gov'nor's army to eat us up.


"Up came the army—skinny little men with yellow faces that hadn't been shaved for a month—on they came, having first tried their machine guns to see if they would go off. I expect the Gov'nor made a speech—'On top of the hill, my children, there are seventeen desperate raiders. In spite of our overwhelming odds we will attack them.'

"So up they came, firing wildly and charging the front of the kopje just as though they were under an English general. Well, somehow, they stopped when they was halfway up, and after waiting a little while to see if we really meant it, or if it was all by way of a joke, they went back again; leaving all their nice new machine-guns at the bottom of the hill—we've got one in Buluwayo to this day. After that we had a little peace, although the war was carried on down Beira way, where the Portygese man- o'-war fired three shots at an English ship, but gave up after the third shot because the shock of the gun going off broke the captain's looking-glass. Then the Magicienne came round from Simonstown and wanted to know what all the trouble was about, and the Portygese skipper looked up the Magicienne in the Navy List, and finding she was a second- class cruiser with six guns realised the horrors of war, and said he only fired for a lark. Then a commission sat on the boundary line and gave out that Massi-Kassi was Portuguese territory, and they're welcome to it, for of all the fever-stricken cribs I've ever been in the Macequece district takes the bun."

I have taken down my fellow-traveller's narrative almost as he gave it. There are, I find on inquiry, many inaccuracies in it, but the main facts are as he gave them.

Living among the people who helped to make history in these parts, one learns to appreciate the labours of the many Judsons for the English.


The train is now rushing through the lowlands, and the white, sticky, clinging mists swirl and sway on either side. A pale moon stares wanly down; the plumed Queenslanders in the truck ahead are singing appropriately enough—for we are passing through the fly-belt—The Place Where The Old Horse Died and the German lady, under the encouraging influence of Portuguese admiration, has recovered her volubility. The train jars into a siding which may be found marked on any respectable map of the world as "Mandeges."


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), September 27, 1900


To say that they were extremely annoyed would be describing their feelings too mildly.

They were very savage, they forgot themselves slightly, and swore with force and originality. They cursed Rhodesia, they cursed Fate, they cursed their various Governments, but mostly they cursed their Governments—for they are a very political people these Australians, weaned on manifestoes and reared on Parliamentary debates. They cursed their Governments, knowing by heart their weaknesses, and ever ready to attribute the non- success of any undertaking—be it political, social or warlike-to the dilatory action of certain members of the divers Cabinets.

"The Government ought never to have sent us up here at all "—a Queenslander spoke with great earnestness—"if they wanted us to see any fighting. Got to Beira in April—now it's June, and—"


Pretoria was occupied. This was the news which had spread the wave of pessimism! over the little way-side camp on the Buluwayo Road—a camp on the fringe of the long, white road which wound south and dipped north.

The Sabakwe River trickled through the land, a stone's throw from the white tilted waggons, drawn tail-board to pole to form a rough laager,* and the heavy-eyed oxen stood knee-deep in its sluggish waters.

[* laager (Afrikaans)—a military encampment. ]

North—or rather north-east—several nights away, was Marandellas. South of that, and far, was Beira, and it was two months ago since they had left. Two months, and Mafeking had been relieved, Johannesburg entered, Pretoria occupied. Therefore the Bushmen, who dreamt not of Eland's River, and to whom Zeerust was a name in a gazetteer, grew despondent.

"Do you think there is a chance of fighting, sir?"

I could not answer the Victorian who asked, nor did I have the heart to reprove the Tasmanian who swore


"Well," remarked the Queenslander, "all I can say is, that if we don't see any fighting it will be a shame." He qualified shame. "We didn't come out here to be piffled through this country." There was an adjective before country. "If I wanted to admire scenery I'd have stayed in Queensland. If I wanted gold I'd have gone to Rockhampton. As for land! Well, if any of you fellers want land I'll sell you a run of 6000 acres of the best land in the world!"

They are peculiar, the men who are holding Eland's River; they are not soldiers as we in London know soldiers; they don't like shouldering arms by numbers, and they vote squad drill "dam silly." They are poor marching men, for they have been used to riding; they ride firmly, but not gracefully. The horses they prefer are great, rough up-standing brutes that buck themselves into inverted V's when they are mounted, and stand on their hind legs to express their joy. The Bushman will rid a horse for a hundred miles without thinking it anything extraordinary, and bring it in in good condition, but he cannot go for a couple of miles without galloping the poor brute to death. He is very careful how he feeds his mount, and would sooner go without food himself than his dumb friend should be hungry, but it takes a troop sergeant-major and three corporals to make a bushman groom his horse.


They are very patient, these men; their training makes them so. They have learnt to sit by water holes and watch sheep, dividing their time between week-old papers and day-old lambs. Politics interest them; war— ordinary, every-day war that does not call for their active interference— interests them; but the price of wool interests them more than all these things. Russian famines distress them, Indian plagues alarm them, but the blue staring sky and the rain that comes not make lines around their eyes, and puts grey into their beards.

They have got their own method of going out to fight, and that method is as distinct from that of the regular Tommy, as Tommy's is foreign, to the C.I.V.*

[* C.I.V.—City of London Imperial Volunteer. ]


Tommy goes forth to battle in a workmanlike manner. He seldom writes farewell letters, but grabs a hunk of biscuit, gives his water-bottle a shake to see how much he has got, buckles on his pouches and bayonet, and, with the instinct bred on a dozen barrack squares, smooths the creases out of his stained khaki jacket. Then he picks up his rifle and eyes it critically, jerks back the bolt and squints up the barrel—Tommy, the workman, is careful of his tools—pushes back the bolt, mechanically snaps the trigger, fixes his helmet firmly on his head, and steps out to join his company.

The C.I.V., when I knew him first, was somewhat self- conscious. His rifle was clean, his bandolier was ready to put on, his coat was nicely rolled, his puttees were evenly fixed; long before the fall-in bugle sounded he was ready for parade—for he was very keen. When the bugle sounded he picked up his rifle, not carelessly, as did his brother of the line, but reverently and with care. He adjusted his broad-brimmed hat, he patted his bayonet to see if it was there, and went out to face the pock-marked trenches with the proud consciousness that, at the worst, he would make a picturesque casualty.


The Bushman knows his rifle as the City man knows his walking- stick. He feels neither contempt nor awe for it. It is a commercial asset, a domestic property. Perhaps he keeps his wife in dresses by shooting kangaroos; perhaps he keeps himself in whisky by tracking wallabies. His equipment is scanty. He has a bandolier, perhaps a pouch, possibly a mess-tin, certainly a "billy." When the parade-call goes, he falls in with his fellows and numbers off from the right somewhat sheepishly. On parade he is a unit and has to do as he's told, and he isn't quite used to submitting his will to those of others in authority.

"Fours right!"

He wheels round awkwardly. If he makes a slip he causes his horse to buck to cover his confusion.


He is off, and he feels easier. Then comes the splitting up of his squadron into little independent patrols, and he breathes freely, for with a couple of kindred spirits on a scouting trip he is a man once more with a soul of his own. He sees most things and acts quickly. Before the "ping" of the sniper's bullet has died away he is off his horse and under cover. Then, if the sniper is an intelligent man, he won't move about much, for when a Bushman has located his quarry he can lie quite still for an hour at a stretch, his cheek touching the stock, his finger resting lightly on the trigger.

These are the men who are holding Eland's River—men who live on "damper"* and tea—and whose progress through Rhodesia was marked by many dead horses and much profanity.

[* Damper—A traditional Australian soda bread prepared by swagmen, drovers, stockmen and other travelers. ]

They wanted to fight badly. They prayed that they might get into a tight place. Their prayer is answered.

If you knew the Eland's River garrison, you would not pity them—you would rejoice with them.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), February 23, 1901


I have been to church—to a church in a little dorp* on the Port Elizabeth-Graaff Reinet line, a white-washed, square-cut kirk and ugly. A village where a handful of khaki-clad militiamen play at guarding a bridge, and the stories of Transvaal atrocities are believed as the Gospel.

Dorp (Afrikaans)—a village, a small town. ]

What I heard there can be heard in any Dutch Reformed church in South Africa—in Graaff Reinet, in Uitenhage, in Somerset East, even, it is whispered, in effect in Capetown.

The dream of a United Afrikander nation is dying hard.

The Dutch colonists are only now grasping the significance of their shadowy ideal and the vague, shapeless vision of a separate national life has, in the moment of the realisation of its hopelessness, assumed a certain tangibility. Nothing is more patent to the most casual observer than the fact that it is only during the past two months that the leaders of the "New National" movement in the Cape Colony have seen the impossibility of the fulfilment of their dream.

At the beginning of the war a general rising throughout the colony would have put altogether a different complexion upon matters, but the malcontents were confident of the success of the Republican forces and, at the worst, of European intervention, and so they played that waiting game which so happily fits the backveldt indolent.


Now it is that, with all the impotent rage of strong men caught napping, platform, pulpit, and Press thunder forth denunciation of the conqueror. Now it is that every method that human ingenuity can devise, every effort that leaders and interested organisers can put forth, every malignant lie calculated to fire the blood of the unlearned and intensify the already existing hatred, is being employed to the undoing of the English.

Curious to see for myself what manner of thing a political sermon is, I attended an evening service not far from here.

The church, grim and bleak, was half filled. There was no great display of colour, no attempt at anything startling in shape of dress. Black was the hue and home-made severity the cut. The worshippers sat bolt upright in their uncomfortable pews, and the boot-squeak of the comer and the occasional sniff or apologetic cough were the only sounds that broke the silence. There were elderly men in irreproachable broad-cloth with sombre banded hats. There were young men greatly daring in fanciful suits, lacking originally in cravats. Stout Boer women in brocaded silk, and plump Dutch girls with expressionless eyes. They came in, keeping step to the monotonous clang of the church bell, in twos, singly, in parties, and in families, recognising with a glance such of their friends as were already seated.

The bell stopped, and a little harmonium droningly asserted itself. And then, accompanied by one of the deacons, the predikant himself entered and ascended the pulpit. The organ wailed itself into sleep, and the predikant* adjusted his glasses.

Predikant (Afrikaans)—a preacher. ]


There were spirit and life in the hymns, many of which were sung without as much as a glance at the book, for the congregation had beguiled many a long evening on lonely farms and isolated homesteads, singing them over, not so much from any great religious zeal or piety as from that desire to kill time which moves the convict to master the contents of his Prayer Book.

Then there were lessons and prayers, chapters from the Old Testament of people in bondage and their delivery, prayers that this Trouble which is in the Land may pass, that the heart of the Oppressor might be softened, that the Vengeance of the Lord might descend and smite the Destroyer, that Israel be delivered from the hands of its enemies, that the Philistines might be swept into the sea—yea, even as the wind sweeps the locust.

The predikant prayed with fervour, with hands clasping and unclasping, in agony of spirit. In his prayers he did not refer by name to the Boer Republic; he simply asked for Divine intervention for the Lord's Chosen. He did not speak of England; he said Philistines and Amalekites. He did not refer directly to Sir Alfred Milner nor Mr. Chamberlain, but with all the passion he could command he called for vengeance on the false counsellors who had initiated the persecution of the people of the land. He prayed, and the congregation punctuated his prayers with deep sighs and amens, and I, a Philistine in the House of the Chosen, sat and wondered why this fervour, this undoubted earnestness, had hot been directed towards Paul Kruger in the days when a word from the Dutch churches in South Africa would have prevented the war.


Then came the sermon. No particular verse of the Scripture was taken—the text was a Psalm in the whole. There was no "secondly" and very little "lastly." Verse by verse the Palmist's song was spoken to illustrate the depravity of the British. Each injustice to Israel had a parallel to-day. Each passionate appeal of David had application to the case of Chamberlain's victims in the North. It was the fourteenth psalm he took as a subject. The fool had said in his heart that the cause of the burgher was a lost cause; that the Lord was not behind His people; that the accursed tyranny of the oppressor should prevail.

And what of these oppressors? These people who tried to hide themselves from ! the rifles of the burghers by arraying their bodies in mud-colored cloth? The congregation murmured with a sympathetic appreciation of this sarcasm. What of these men? Truly, the Psalmist said, they were corrupt, they had done abominable things, there was not one who had done good; no, not one. What of the wasted lands in the north? What of the dishonored homes and the blackened walls of the once prosperous farmhouse? What of—?—again that awful story—that Horror, made doubly authentic by reason of the place of delivery.

He told the story, the bald, crude tale, carrying to a white Englishman its own refutation in every syllable, and the congregation held its breath.

He told the story, so that a man seated in the next pew to myself half rose from his seat and, like a man who tries to shout in a dream and finds that he can but whisper, muttered: "There is time yet, there is time yet."

So that a young girl rose from her seat, tittering and whimpering, and was led out.


And the sermon went on. The Lord had looked down upon the Oppressor, and had visited him with affliction, with disaster upon disaster. Colenso, Stormberg, Magersfontein had come like a thunderbolt upon the world. It was the Divine warning to turn from the path of oppression, to open the eyes of a blind nation. And how had the warning been taken? Had the nation heeded the voice? No. It had prosecuted its unrighteous designs, its unholy object. It had gone from worse to worst; it had become filthy.

Had they no knowledge, these iniquitous people, who had brought war and desolation to the country, whose path had been marked by much blood and burning? These people, who are dead to all dictates of conscience, to all honor and pity? Did they not realise that at the eleventh hour the Lord would save His people? Or that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! Did his brethren understand what that passage meant?

The predikant paused and leant forward over the pulpit, and there was a silence. Did they understand that the people of the captivity looked to their own kindred for deliverance from their bondage?

Another pause, and the congregation shifted uneasily in their seats. Thus abruptly the sermon ended, and the people dispersed, some walking, some riding, some driving. Group by group they scattered, parting with limp shakes of great horny hands—the elder men in gloomy silence, the younger men with mutterings of threats and hints of startling things to be.

I passed down towards the little village that staggers from the church at one end and to the naked veldt at the other, passed by the little camp, answering the sentry's challenge. There was a rattle of wheels behind me. It was the predikant driving back with one of his flock. I stood on one side to allow them to pass. As the trap neared the little roadside camp a bayonet glittered in the moonlight, and the horses were pulled up sharp.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

Back came the answer, prompt, and clear, and glib—



Reproduced from The Wanganui Chronicle (New Zealand), March 27, 1901

MATJESFONTEIN, January 16, 1901

You may be pardoned for the natural curiosity which prompts you when you read, that Somebody's "Horse," newly raised, has been doing good work, to inquire from the most likely informant the history of the raising of that corps, how it was raised, why, and how it got the name that it bears. Roberts, Strathcona, Driscoll, Warren, Bethune, Paget, Thorneycroft, Cameron, Marshal, Orpen, Rimington, Brabant, Loch, Lovat, and last, not least in war, Kitchener, have given their names to horses or scouts, while corps like the South African Light Horse and the Imperial Light Horse have managed very well without the backing of an illustrious patronymic. They came into being, these corps, and you at home know nothing of the labour and travail that attended the birth. You did not know of swearing adjutants, sweating remount officers, despairing C.O.s, of recruits without discipline, who had ideas to be knocked out of them, of hastily acquired equipment, of gloomy forebodings that the war would be over before they were ready to take the field.


They came to you first in the list of casualties, which, being official, took precedence of the Press report that came later, and while you were reading the Special's account of the mad desperate rush, or the grim, bitter resistance, of the new- made soldiers, they themselves were wiping the marks of battle from their brand-new equipment, and thanking Heaven that the British army had a corps like theirs to fall back upon in the hour of danger.

In most cases these forces bear the names of the men to whom they owe their inception—men who have given, in addition to their names, service, fortune, and, in the case of poor Montmorency, that charming gentleman who fell with his Guides, life.

The story of Kitchener's Fighting Scouts is necessarily a short one. Indeed, the prologue is scarcely written, but the interest of that portion of the story deserves attention.

A few months ago the world of sport—that world that is not satisfied with shooting over preserves, but looks towards Somaliland and Rhodesia for the pleasures of life—was grieved to learn of the sudden death of Mrs. Colenbrander, a splendid sportswoman who had taken up her gun I against the Matabele impis, and had fought side by side with her husband in the dark days of '96.

She it was who, with Mr. Colenbrander, had accompanied Mr. Rhodes in his daring indaba in the Matoppos, and her fame throughout Rhodesia was no less than that of Johannes Colenbrander—that mighty hunter whose name is a passport from the Swaziland border to the Zambesi. Her tragic death came like a thunderbolt upon Johannes, and finding life under the old conditions unbearable, he resolved to sell out his every possession in Rhodesia and find distraction in the Transvaal. He was not long in Johannesburg before Lord Kitchener, who knew him by repute, sent for him, and in the half-hour's conversation between them the corps that bears the name of the Commander-in- Chief was born.

Indaba (Zulu)—A council or meeting of indigenous peoples of southern Africa to discuss an important matter. ]


"What are you doing, and where are you going?" was Kitchener's peremptory demand.

"I am looking out for a new home, and I am going to England to attend a board meeting," was the reply.

"Better join me," advised the strong man. "They tell me you know every inch of the Swaziland border?"

"I know Zululand and Swaziland like a book."

Kitchener thought for a while.

"Will you take command of a force to patrol the Swaziland border?" he asked.

"I will raise a force on one condition," responded Mr. Colenbrander— "if you give , me leave to recruit."

Now at that time every irregular regiment in the field had opened recruiting offices in all the large towns of the Colony and Natal. There was not a hoarding in Capetown, Port Elizabeth. East London, Grahamstown, Durban, or Maritzburg that did not bear a dozen invitations to the youth of the colony to step up lively and join the Imperial Light Horse, or the South African Light Horse, or B.P.'s Police, or Marshall's, Nesbitt's, Brabant's, or other regiments of Light Horse.

The Pioneer Regiments, the local volunteers, in fact, every corps on service, were soliciting recruits, and every dorp or town throughout South Africa had its recruiting office. Consequently Colenbrander's offer to raise an entirely new force was a somewhat daring one.

"Where will you recruit?" said the General.

"Everywhere—Capetown, Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Bulawayo."

Kitchener pointed out that recruiting in Bulawayo had been going on for some considerable time—in fact, he thought that the Rhodesian supply of recruits was exhausted.

"After you have finished recruiting, said Colenbrander calmly, "I will undertake to raise 300 men from Rhodesia alone."

"Very well," said Lord Kitchener promptly, "put your ideas on paper and bring them along to-morrow morning at 11."

As Colenbrander turned to go, he bethought him to ask what name the corps should bear.

"What do you think?" asked the chief.

"Well, sir," was the instant, reply, "if you don't mind, I think 'Kitchener's Scouts' would not be a bad name.

At this Lord Kitchener demurred.

"Can't you find another name?" he asked.

"I couldn't find a better," was the quick response.


Kitchener smiled. "All, right," he said, "if you would like it, be it so—but you are to be something more than scouts. I want you to fight."

"Then 'Kitchener's Fighting Scouts' let it be," said the newly-appointed commanding officer, and "Kitchener's Fighting Scouts" it was.

The next day a rough plan for forming the corps was drawn up, and the last of Colenbrander's conditions for raising the corps was quaint. "No Imperial officer other than Lord Kitchener shall have control over the regiment." Lord Kitchener laughed, and agreed, and Colenbrander walked away with the embryo of a regiment in his pocket-book.

Then Johannes Colenbrander sat still, and looked around for his officers. His second in command was easily found. Major Wilson was on Lord Kitchener's staff and he had a South African record that many generals might envy. Wilson had the eye and mind for organisation. Colenbrander had the love and trust of his fellows throughout South Africa. Both were brave, strong men. Between them they chose their officers.

They were men who had "shot for the pot" from their youth up—men who had wandered away from time to time from the beaten tracks, and made paths through the unknown wilderness of the north.

Pioneers who had carved their names in the primeval forests, and had set their monograms down in cleared townships. They were men who were wont to disappear at intervals from the Bulawayo Club and turn up a few months later with a new stock of reminiscences, and the fag end of an attack of fever.

The officer commanding one squadron was down at Massi-Kassi in the days of the Portuguese raid, and his subaltern calls Barotseland "home."

Wilson was on the Shangani in '93—and they have all been through the '96 rebellion.

And so with the men. Forty per cent of them wear the orange- and blue-barred ribbon '96. They, too, know the bad backland, and carry tabloids of quinine in their pockets. They are here in Matjesfontein, with their two spare horses and their Cape carts, with their native scouts and pom-poms. If they by any good luck get the order to chase De Wet they will get him, for they have the pick of the horses, and reject twice as many as they accept from the remount officer.

They will not take anything that has a suspicion of "crock" in his composition, and in consequence they will be the finest mounted force that has ever chased a Boer commando.

In the meantime Webber, who is the remount officer, is turning grey.


Reproduced from The Wanganui Chronicle, April 20, 1901


Prince Albert road, Cape Colony, February 3, 1901

It was at the trial of an alleged rebel yesterday at Matjesfontein. He was a storekeeper charged with contravening Proclamation 1a of 1899, and he had elected to give evidence on his own behalf.

He was being subjected to a stiff cross-examination of one of the ablest of staff officers, Captain G.F. Marker, of the Coldstream Guards, and in answering a question pressed by the prosecutor, the prisoner put the case for the British Government in a nutshell.

The prisoner had a store in Sutherland, and when the peripatetic commando halted the while at the sun-bathed dorp, its commandant had found him a very useful substitute for a supply officer, and his store not a bad imitation of a supply base. The evidence showed that the prisoner was not an unwilling agent in the matter; that he offered no resistance, handing over stores, food, forage, and clothing at the commandant's pleasure


He was being commandeered, he was being "looted"--and would the hateful enemy mind signing for all they took, so that the British Government should know all was fair and above board?

"Do you mean to say," asked the prosecuting officer, in amazement, "that you obtained a Boer commandant's signature in order to obtain payment from the British Government?"

"Yes," was the ingenuous answer of this representative of a simple pastoral people.

A proclamation has just been issued laying down rules and restrictions regarding payment of compensation for damages sustained by the Cape colonists; and if the above candid confession does not justify the most stringent reservations, nothing does.

From time to time the Government of this colony issue certain statements pertaining to the military situation, and it is seldom, if ever, that these documents do not finish up with the smug and comfortable assurance that "the invader is gaining little assistance from the colony."

There is nothing more deceiving than this statement, as I have already pointed out by cable.

It is worded so as to make the people of England believe that, so far from receiving support or assistance from the Cape Dutch, the invaders are being discouraged in every way from their nefarious purpose.

That fewer Dutchmen are taking up arms and joining the invader than was anticipated is, undoubtedly, a fact. Also, so long as there was a possibility that the arrival of a Boer commando would mean a considerable carrying over to the profit and loss account in the books of the Boer storekeeper, that there was some resentment shown on the part of these worthies is also a fact. But then there arose the glorious vision of compensation. They learned--Heavens knows how --that the officers in charge of the commando were willing and anxious to sign for all the stock they took; indeed, for a few sovereigns they would give a receipt for £500 more than value received. And then came peace.


Let the Boers come; if they looted the farm or the homestead or the store they would give receipts. With the generosity of men contracting debts for others to pay, they would give the looted one credit for twice the amount of goods they had taken. There was no need to join the enemy, no need to take up arms and suffer the discomforts of a campaign.

Also they were happy to supply the Boers with information. Whether the nearest town was occupied by the British; how many troops there were; whether any English soldiers had passed by that morning; strength of patrols, locality of outposts--any little thing like that; any scrap of information they possessed or could acquire they were happy to give, and it was a thousand chances to one against their being detected. So the motto of the Dutch in this country has been--the new year resolution, in fact- -"It pays to be loyal and be looted, it hurts to be rebel and be shot."

The leniency with which we have dealt with our rebellious subjects in this war is a subject so frequently approached that one grows sick of the reiteration. I think it is now quite apparent to every man and woman that the adoption of severe methods of dealing with traitors in the beginning of the war would have saved much blood and sweat; but it is as well not to lose sight of the fact that there is still opportunity for enforcing a more vigorous regime in this matter.

The machinery now in use for dealing with the gentry who act as intelligence officers to the Boer forces is so complex that any ordinary liar--and the backveldt population are well above the average--may, in the time intervening between his arrest and his trial, hope to clear himself and even sue the Government for unlawful imprisonment.


A civilian commits an offence which probably jeopardises the safety of a column. The offence is such that no military court would hesitate in sentencing him to death. Perhaps he has ridden twenty miles to give information to the invader to the effect that we are laying in wait for him at a convenient spruit.* The officer commanding the column learns from smart loyalist of the betrayal and arrests the traitor. Perhaps in being arrested the man shows fight and strikes a soldier. He is taken to the base, and instead of being tried by court-martial he undergoes a preliminary examination conducted by a magistrate, and probably a month after the committal of the offence he is committed for trial--on a charge of assaulting the captor!

Spruit (Afrikaans)--a watercourse. ]

The treatment allotted to the individual traitor should be swift and severe, and that to the passive enemy within our walls such as will render him harmless till he recovers his senses.

It would require, however, a nice discrimination to punish a rebellious people, were it not for the fact that they have differentiated themselves from the loyalists of the colony, and have associated with a common object, and that, the ousting of Britain, her interests, her language, and her influence from South Africa.

The days have passed since we regarded the Afrikander Bond as a purely political association existing for the amelioration of the South African farmer's lot. We now know it is a power; a great, strong, subtle power, intensifying racial hatred, and aiming for a United South Africa under a Republican flag.

However fine this ideal may have been--and traitorous ideals may be fine--it was nonetheless traitorous, whether it was to be realised by constitutional methods or by a recourse to arms, and the far-reaching efforts of the Bond's teaching has beyond doubt swollen the ranks of the Republican forces in the earlier stages of the war, and encouraged our enemy to a still more stubborn! resistance.

Because of this, and because every Bondsman in this country sympathises with and, when the opportunity offers, helps the enemy, without malice I say that no claim for compensation on the part of a Bondsman should be entertained.

The Afrikander Bond has been more than a political association.

Good people at home who think of it at the worst as a ferocious sort of Radical club would do better if they thought of it rather as a dangerous type of the Clanna-Gael, with a hundred thousand armed members.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), May 6, 1901


PHILIPSTOWN, February 13, 1901

There is not a hundred miles from De Aar an Intelligence officer.

You may never have met his like at home, because in Pall Mall Intelligence officers are only ordinary people who go to office from ten till four, eat dinners, and see plays, just as you or I would, and, wearing no particular uniform other than the uniform of the regiment to which they belong, they pass unnoticed in the red-tabbed crowd on the "military side" of the War Office. My Intelligence officer, however, is a civilian, and wears khaki and a mustard-coloured cap.

He has a large staff and spends his time opening private letters that pass through De Aar, so that should one Boer general write to another Boer general, giving him information regarding his plans, strength or disposition—such being the method usually adopted by Boer commandants to convey their intentions to one another—that Intelligence officer immediately knows, and, acting on the information thus acquired, puts a stop to the indiscreet correspondent's little game.


Or it may be that the letters are opened with the idea of ascertaining what Piet Faure of Paarl thinks of Christian De Wet of Dewetsdorp. At any rate, the staff, is employed in opening letters from morning to night, and the re-sealing and fastening down with neat red labels "Opened under martial law."

Consequently, when I wrote at midnight last Monday night that all was quiet on the Orange River, I had no reason to doubt that so methodical and painstaking a department could possibly be mistaken in thinking the district was quiet. But even as I wrote—and while yet the Intelligence Office, moved by a stern sense of duty, was probably poring over the clumsy sentences of an amorous Dutchman, trying to read, in the crude, ill-turned sentences, some traitorous sentiment—the Boer scouts were seated on the kopjes outside Philipstown waiting for daylight that they might enter the town.

They knew—for their un-uniformed Intelligence department confined their attentions to the enemy's movements only—that Philipstown was held by the smallest of Yeomanry patrols, and they counted the task of taking the town an easy one.

De Wet was across the border, and he had made up his mind to accomplish that mission he had set for Commandant Hertzog.


Philipstown was the first town on the list, and occupying Philipstown as generally counted by the enemy as only something a trifle more fatiguing than going to a picnic.

Philipstown is disloyal beyond salvation, and its inhabitants usually keep a holiday suit of clothes handy to don when the Boers ride through.

If disloyalty were a pestilence and sedition a plague, no honest man could come within ten miles of Philipstown and live.

Therefore, the invaders were perfectly justified in thinking that Philipstown was in their own country, and the invasion proper started south of there.

With the dawn of the 12th—yesterday—the advance party of a commando numbering 400 men moved towards the town, and the Yeomanry patrol took up a position in the gaol and prepared to defend themselves.

The functions of a cavalry patrol do not seem to be clearly understood. It is its duty to act as the eyes of the army, to report suspicious movements of the enemy, and generally to keep out of sight and see as much as it can.

Under the circumstances the patrol would probably have done more good had it retired from Philipstown and reported the Boer movements to the main body or. to the brigade to which it belonged.

However, the officer commanding the patrol entered the gaol, and putting it in a state of defence made a most gallant fight, and succeeded in keeping a portion of the town clear of the enemy.


A few miles from Philipstown and on the De Aar road was a strong patrol of the Victorian Imperial Regiment, about sixty men under Captain Tivey, who had been sent from De Aar the previous day by Colonel Henniker, with instructions to patrol within striking distance, of Philipstown, and to him the officer commanding the goal sent a message asking for assistance.

At the same time as Captain Tivey got the message, the Boers resolved to occupy a very strong position south of the town, and commanding the De Aar and Houtkraal roads. Unfortunately for Commandant Van der Merwe, the Victorians resolved on achieving the same object, and immediately on both sides of the ridge, unseen by the other, were two bodies of men galloping for their very lives towards the natural fortress that overlooks the town.

The Australians got there first—as the enemy discovered later. It was not what one would call a great battle—the enemy lost a few and we lost none—but it was a brilliant little fight, and it proved the Australian commander to be as resourceful as he and his men were courageous. All day long the fight continued, and in the evening, on the arrival of Major Granville Smith with the rest of the Victorians under Major Clark, the Boers fled, leaving the Dopper* and the Dutch Reformed ministers to bury their dead.

{*Dopper (Afrikaans)—a member of the most conservative Afrikander Church, which practises a strict Calvinism. ]

Such was the battle of Philipstown—nothing very great as battles go, but sufficient to hold De Wet's main body for at least six hours and turn him back on the pursuing columns. It was his first check south, and it was fitting that the men from the colonies, who at this time are coming forward so readily at the call of the Mother Country, and the Yeomen of England should have been the men who gave De Wet his first check.


Reproduced from The Evening Post (New Zealand), March 2, 1901

After you have left the ship and have strolled round the town you will return again and ask the purser to let you remain as a boarder for the few days the mail boat is in dock.

You will do this in preference to camping out on the beach or contenting yourself with the shakiest of shakedowns in the dirtiest of third-rate Capetown hotels.

There will be a room empty in a day or so perhaps, but at present they are full up. The guinea-a-day hostelry and the five- pounds-a-month lodging house have one story to tell—"full up." Every week the boats from England bring fresh boarders, and every week aimless young men in Baden-Powell hats trudge the red- hot pavements of the capital in search of accommodation.

Capetown in these days is necessarily a khaki town.

It is rather depressing, this dirty yellow uniform, particularly when you have worn it yourself, marched in it, fought in it, and slept in it for the greater part of a year. The novelty of the tint wore off months before these gay youths who sport it to-day in cab, café, and bar thought of doffing their broadcloth for the mustard-hued tunic.


Also it is difficult for one who has a nodding acquaintance with dress regulations to reconcile himself to the artistic get- up of the Capetown warrior, for the Capetown warrior is a being beautiful. He is an imitative exquisite, and, like the genius he 'is, he has improved greatly upon the hard and fast rules that War Office fogies have laid down regarding the manner in which officers of Her Majesty's Army shall array themselves when in Her Majesty's highways.

In the field the British officer troubles very little concerning his personal appearance, carrying his fastidiousness only to the point of desiring clean shirts at frequent intervals; but in Adderley-street the British officer is a thing of beauty and a joy for the whole morning. The khaki tunic which several distinct regulations direct shall be fastened is carefully turned down at the throat to show the snowiest of hunting-cravats, or even an immaculate collar and tie! His boots of white buckskin are newly pipeclayed; and the helmet which filled the bills at Meerut and Atbara is now discarded for the soft felt "smasher," which has the advantage of supplying, better than any other article of attire, the local colour necessary for the South African campaigner.

One sees many regiments represented in Capetown. Bushmen jostle men of the Guards, New Zealanders fraternise with Imperial Yeomen. In the smoking-room of the City Club, painfully youthful subalterns of Militia expound ponderous theories on war and its conduct to good-natured captains of irregular horse, men who wear weird whiskers and are unashamed.


These khaki men have all been somewhere north. They have all marched or ridden, and shot hopelessly at bushes which had, it was alleged, hidden Boers. They have all instinctively ducked as the wailing little messengers of death sang over their heads. Now the war is over—to them. They still wear their uniforms, and in a vague sort of way identify themselves with the front, which has now become a place for which the 9 o'clock train leaves nightly.

After all, the war is over. It is now a brigandage, our enemy is a moonlighter, his colonial sympathiser a boycotter. We are sending our generals home and are increasing our police force—which exactly explains the situation.

The Boer army has to all intents and purposes ceased to exist. It has dissolved into murdering particles. Flying columns have dwindled down to marauding bands. Night attacks have sunk to the level of cowardly assassinations, and the cry of South Africa is no longer a wail for flank attacks, but rather that with which the denizens of Suburbia have made us long familiar: "Give us more police."

At the corner of Adderley-street, by the Standard Bank, a man sits at a table—a table littered with dusty pamphlets and covered with nice clean newspapers. A placard pinned to the edge of the table calls upon the passer-by to sign a petition to the Queen. It is the new reform movement. It is the new grievance of the new Uitlander.* Kruger has passed, and with him his corrupt regime. The franchise bogie has vanished into thin air. Now it is the capitalist, the demon capitalist, who is going to crush the Uitlander—the hateful capitalist whom Lord Roberts, has placed in positions of trust in the gold reef city.

[* Uitlander (Afrikaans)—foreigner (lit. "outlander"); the name given to expatriate migrant workers during the initial exploitation of the Witwatersrand gold fields in the Transvaal. ]


I rather think it is not a real danger, but the refugee is getting short of money, and anything that appears in the slightest degree to be suggestive of further privations produces a kind of panic—the panic of desperate men hard up.

Soon the refugee will begin returning to the Rand, and the questions which are now of life and death will resolve themselves into those mild phases of social and economic legislation, the discussion of which enlivens the proceedings of town councils.

At present the reformers' troubles are very high politics.

There is in Capetown a class of refugee which probably will never trouble the relief committee, and takes only the most languid interest in the possibilities of a speedy opening of the Rand: a class which is only moved to gleeful excitement by intelligence of a setback—however temporary—to British arms.

Good souls, these deported Hollander families and their Capetown friends. The ladies are so charming, so frankly disloyal, and yet so ready to bow to the inevitable, that the officers of the garrison who turn up in time for afternoon tea vote them "no end of good sorts, don't you know!"

If I were asked what is the most dangerous centre of sedition in South Africa, I should without hesitation award the questionable honour to Capetown. There are the same old rebellious circles—stronger numerically than they were of yore— babbling the same traitorous sentiments with increased bitterness. There is the some coterie of traitorous women binding themselves into a thousand and one highfalutin' leagues—little rocks of discontent that serve to indicate the hidden reefs of hate and treason.


Yet in spite of their unmistakable detestation of everything that is British, and their alleged love for their country—which in all cases means Pretorian social circles—there is nothing of the Joan of Arc about these bellicose dames. Perhaps a Charlotte Corday might be found who, strengthened in her purpose by the knowledge of kid-glove military retribution, would be willing to risk a month's imprisonment in the Mount Nelson Hotel, or some equally dreadful punishment devised by staff college graduates, by slaying a general or two, or even a correspondent.

Meanwhile the loyal refugees—the foolish ones—increase in number daily. Almost day by day as the ships arrive, but mostly on the big mail days, they come flocking in from England, till one feels inclined to stop the stream of men that straggle from the docks to the town and ask them if they can read— if they do not understand that the Rand is still closed, and the Refugees Relief Funds are running low; to ask them if they do not realise that unless they have funds to last them for at least six months they might as well return to England again by the next steamer.

And so week by week the town is hidden by the new-come swarm. It is full, it is more than full, but a titanic hand seems to shake it into compactness, and then there is room for the last newcomers. Room, though they overflow and some slip over the edge into the vague "up country." Overcrowded, but still room for all. Tightly packed and trickling into Suburbia, but still room—and then—well then a little blue and red flag crawls lazily up to the flagstaff on Signal Hill, another liner has been sighted, and the shaking up begins all over again.


Reproduced from The West Coast Times (New Zealand), April 26, 1901


Mr Edgar Wallace describes in the Daily Mail the anxious, watching on the veldt for the news of the Queen. We quote the following:—


An Australian patrol has come in from Damslaagte, and the men have trotted their horses up to the door of the office.

"Say—what's the news? It isn't really true, is it?"

They are grimy, unshaven, and white with dust of the trek. They are tired men, who have ridden forty miles since "sun up", but they have forgotten their fatigue, forgotten their hardships of the past week, forgotten even to report that they bad been sniped at, oblivious to all things save that somewhere six thousand miles north, in a place they did not know, somebody whom they had never seen was passing into the shadow.

The night passes; a troublesome night, and silent save for the sough of the wind and the tick of the tape. A night in the centre of an unpeopled world, among restless shades and whimpering, whispering voices. Now and again a form appears from nowhere in particular, and an anxious voice demands the latest news, and then disappears unsatisfied. If the word "empire" bonds the hearts of people of the seven seas together, surely this sorrow which is pressing on us to-night is knitting the very souls of men into one. In our loneliness we experience the companionship of kindred suffering, and to-night we are one with Brisbane as we are with Ottawa

And she has played so great a part in this war—if you at home will only realise it. Hers was the word that numbed the sting of the rebuff. Hers was the message that put hope and life and a new courage into the battered brigades that struggled back from the scene of the disaster. Her thanks and solicitudes were the crowning triumphs of the hard-won field.

"It's the Queen's gift to me," said a hard-faced private of the line when I approached him at the Modder River with a view to purchasing his chocolate box; "it's the Queen's gift to me, and money wouldn't buy it."

She has ever been a sacred subject among the rank and file cf the Army. They are very broad-minded, the men who served and loved her; Papist or Buddhist or Jew are one with our Protestant selves. This is the rule of the barrack room. Talk lightly of creeds, of faiths, or of strange gods; but there is one who must not be brought within the range of controversy. They require no regulations to guide them in this matter. They are governed in their thoughts toward her person by a love which cannot be commanded.

"Tick—tick—tick." Message after message comes up.

The clerk drops the festoon of tape and listens to the instrument. He is reading by ear, and as the chattering sounder speaks he raises a tremulous hand to his lips to hide a tell-tale shiver.

"Her Majesty died last night."

Outside the wind had dropped, the veldt was silent and peaceful, and the eastern sky was gold and crimson. So I left the clerk with his bowed head on his arm and went and told his men.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), May 14, 1901


As you know him at home, a general is an elderly person in a tightly-buttoned frock coat and a befeathered cocked hat who walks with solemn stride along the stiffened ranks of a regiment in review order and discusses the civil side of the War Office with the regimental C.O. in language of a peculiar asperity. He is, moreover, a person of whom the most irreverent cavalry subaltern stands in awe, and his coming—of which a month's notice is given—causes junior line officers to devote themselves to mastering the intricacies of the sword practice with great earnestness. When he is not in uniform he opens bazaars, attends war games, presents prizes to charity schools, and writes letters to the Times.

Abroad and in war time he is another person, and where no house is available ne lives in a tent over which floats a red flag.


In these days he is a power—and, strangely enough, is less a supreme unapproachable than a comrade. He has his bath in the morning and fights steadily from sun-up to sun-down, when he knocks off to write his despatches. If he is consistently successful you at home call him familiarly by his surname, and cigarette makers use his photograph for advertising purposes. If he is unsuccessful, and disastrously so, he goes home on sick leave—for he is usually very sick.

Lord Kitchener is not like other generals; and indeed, it is well that no stereotyped officer is at the helm in South Africa, and I say this without in any way desiring to reflect upon the wisdom, capacity, or administrative abilities of any other general officer—for the situation calls rather for the specialist than the general practitioner.

A great strategist would be wasted in Africa. There is no need for delicate adjustment of forces or elaborately prepared counter-moves. The overthrow of the remnant of the Boer army requires little strategy. It is a matter for brute force and physical endurance.

Lord Kitchener realises this, and has realised it for many months. He knows that if the war is to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, that end will only be arrived at by plodding dogged perseverance, and by playing the Boers at their own game, and damaging them in the most effective manner.


You cannot defeat the Boer by calling him names. He runs away and glories in it. You cannot get near enough to call him a coward, nor would that epitaph sting him to the fighting point. It is a part of Brother Boer's tactics to run, and he makes us run after him; it is a part of the tiring-out process, and the dominating maxim of the outlying commando is:—

"Ye who fight and run away,
Live to fight with De la Rey."

Kitchener knows this, and where another general might have been covering sheets of foolscap with general ideas for surrounding and capturing the flying burghers, Kitchener is calmly and steadily removing to well-guarded centres the means of flight.

Firstly, the burghers must have food— so we are bringing the food in. Then they must have horses, so the country from the Orange to the Crocodile is being denuded of horses.

The horses must have forage, and the forage of the country is stored or burnt.

Imagine if you can Kitchener's task. Think of the enormous tract of country over which our operations are extended, and you will realise to some extent that in Pretoria is the only possible general for the work in hand—a work that demands better generalship than would be required of the commander of an army corps in a European war.


In South Africa Kitchener is the head, middle, and feet of the army. He runs everything and knows everything. He has divisions, brigades, and columns moving in all directions over an area not less than 300,000 square miles, and he knows the whereabouts of every one. He has some columns that are 250 miles from any railway line, and as far from telegraphic communication. His grasp of detail is perfect. He knows how many Cape carts Henniker's column has, and he is aware that there are three sick Yeomen in hospital at Buluwayo.


His attitude towards his subordinates is peculiar, for he values man only as a more or less perfect machine, and the more perfect he is the better he treats him. Kitchener has no use for fops of any sort, but he is not so prejudiced by appearance as to order a man home because he wears an eyeglass, as some people would have you believe. Indeed, some of his best officers have an affection for the monocle.

If his manner were translated into words, it would run something like this:- -

"I am your superior officer; you have taken service under me, and the world will judge you according to your progress. I have great power entrusted: to me by the King through his Parliament, and whoever you are or whatever position you fill in the social world I can make or mar you. I want you to do your duty, and your duty is to do as you are told. If you do as I bid, you shall have all the credit for the success in obtaining which I used you as an instrument. If my plans miscarry I will take the blame—unless it miscarries through your inefficiency. I don't care who your tailor is or how many clubs you may be a member of providing you can lead your men into action with a maximum of dash to a minimum of risk. I don't want heroes who will lead their companies up to the cannon's mouth and reduce the strength of their regiments accordingly, but steady men who will take cover and shoot away obstruction from the shelter of a nice convenient boulder."

Nor does Kitchener spare himself, as the recent chase of De Wet testifies. If he is not at Pretoria sitting at the end of a telegraph wire he is somewhere down the line seeing things for himself, and De Wet had not been long in the Colony before Kitchener was at De Aar, talking to the commandant of Hopetown about the horses that had not been removed from the Hopetown district. On such occasions "K of K" has a fine flow of language.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), May 16, 1901

COLESBERG TOWN, March 4, 1901

De Wet being now safely across the river, and the odds against his returning being about 1000 to l, Colesberg is full of troops. White, Bruce-Hamilton, Plumer, Pilcher and others I cannot remember have been in and out for the last few days, and Henniker, Crabbe, Thorneycroft, and Monro are camped about the base of Suffolk Hill waiting for orders. De Wet has passed, he has swum the river in flood, losing about twenty men in the act, and he is moving to Fauresmith for all he is worth.

There can be no doubt that our operations have been most successful, and I am not trying to explain away the fact that we have lost the guerrilla chief when I say that we have accomplished all Lord Kitchener set us to do—namely, to drive De Wet back again to the Orange River Colony, to prevent him at all hazards penetrating south. On two occasions we might have caught him—or cornered his commando, for I doubt now whether De Wet himself will ever be taken—and on both occasion we failed for the same reason, viz., the total absence of any organised system of communication between the various columns.


De Wet's last few days in Cape Colony were the most fateful days he has ever spent, for it was touch-and.go with him whether he would be completely surrounded. Henniker, after leaving Petrusville with Crabbe, followed up De Wet to the Zand Drift, Thorneycroft being on Henniker's left. Hickman, moving up from Philipstown, came in touch with the enemy, but only with his rearguard, unfortunately. Haig and Williams were further south, and the question now was, Where was Byng?

Byng, as far as the columns knew, should be exactly in front, and this would have completed the cordon, Haig and Williams making a break south an impossibility. Byng had left Colesberg and, unknown to us, had struck De Wet's foreguard at a farm called Goodehoepe. He then sent a message to De Aar informing General Lyttelton, who commanded, and who seventy miles away was directing operations, and received either from that officer or from Pretoria direct an order to retire south to prevent De Wet moving in that direction. De Wet then moved over the ground which had been vacated, and reaching Lilliefontein crossed the river.

This in brief is what happened, and the question is, what would have prevented it and made De Wet's capture possible? I am informed that for two or three days Hickman, desirous of conveying and receiving information, had tried in vain to attract the attention of the officer commanding at Colesburg by heliograph. Coleskop, famous by reason of the guns French mounted thereon, is a landmark, and from, certain aspects can been seen for forty or fifty miles. Who, then, can blame Colonel Hickman for imagining that on this eminence, which is in a garrison town, there should be a staff of signallers?


There can be no doubt at all that had a signaller been stationed on Coleskop De Wet would have been caught. From such an eminence—using Coleskop as the exchanging medium—columns would have been able to communicate one with the other, instead of being forced to resort to the laborious, dangerous, and time-wasting method of sending messages through by despatch riders. To locate De Wet is simple enough, to place a cordon round him—that is, to put a force of men east, west, south and north of him—is not so very difficult. To instruct these men or columns to leave camp at a certain date and move in a given direction is the easiest thing in the world, but once let these columns get thirty miles from their starting points without means of rapid communication one with the other, and you have set a dozen blindfolded mutes from the four sides of a square to catch a wide-awake man in the centre.


The telegraph line is unreliable, if, indeed, not impossible, in a district through which a hostile force is marching, and it is to the little circular mirror on the tripod that we must look for help.

There is no reason why a complete heliograph service should not be inaugurated throughout South Africa at least from De Aar northward. Each heliograph post could be held by reason of its position on the mountain by a company of infantry, and Lord Kitchener would be independent of the wire.

There are hundreds of mountains suitable for the purpose. I have already mentioned Coleskop, from which by two stages one is able to communicate with Thaba N'chu, in the east of Orange River Colony. The failure to capture De Wet may be traced to three sources.

The first, and most important, is the absolute failure of communication between columns and headquarters.

The second, the impossibility of a general conducting operations from a distance varying from thirty to seventy miles under such conditions.

The third, the temptation among column commanders to make the campaign against De Wet a competition rather than, a cooperated movement.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), May 24, 1901


MIDDELBURG (Cape Colony), March 13, 1901

In the years that are to be, you, my friends, may pat one another on the back and remark:

"Whatever may be said of the Anglo-Boer war of 1899-1902, it must be confessed that never was war waged where so much humanity was displayed on both sides as in that war; we never needlessly look life; we were very careful about hurting the feelings of our enemy; if we killed him we erected a monument over his grave; if we took him a prisoner we were careful to feed him on the very best—even though our own troops were on quarter rations; and when we temporarily exiled him we sent him off to the loveliest spot in the world in a ship warranted not to roll!"

Perhaps, too, in those days the doctrines of humanity will have become such a factor in our daily lives that we shall regard him as a perfect judge whose sentences are the lightest, and we shall reserve our Chief justiceship for the judge who weeps and forgives tie repentant burglar and converts the Hooligan through the medium of afternoon teas and jam tarts. If you are anxious to be in a position to say the words that I have put into your mouth, you may very easily. You have only to prosecute, the war to an amiable finish, and at the back end of 1902 or 1903, or, perhaps, 1904, you will be in that happy state of mind. If Botha surrenders—and I doubt whether he will, except in the manner Cronje surrendered—the war will be ended. Not virtually ended, not as good as ended, nor nearly ended, but just ended.


Botha is the recognised Commander-in-Chief, and with him is Schalk Burger, the recognised president of the late Republic, and the surrender of these two men will signify that as Governments the Transvaal and Orange Free-State have laid down their arms and are prepared to sue for peace.

Consequently, the war, which was declared by the sometime South African Republic, and to which the Orange Free State was a party so long as the Transvaal Government was engaged in hostilities with Great Britain, will be ended, and the De Wets and De la Reys and Hertzogs and Brands and Kruitzingers will be in very truth banditti—train-wreckers, looters, marauders, whom any honest man may very rightly shoot on sight. If Botha does surrender and this thing comes about, humanity of the faint- at-blood type may demand that the wealth of England shall be squandered for yet another year, or even two, sooner than we should depart from our policy of fatuous Niceness, a policy which has swelled our casualty lists considerably.

There is niceness and niceness, and the act of mercy need not be confounded with the act of folly. Two weeks ago—the day before De Wet crossed the Orange River on his return home—Captain Dallimore, of the Victorian Imperial Regiment, while scouting with a patrol of fifteen men, got on the track of a party of Beers twice as strong numerically as his own small party. With that skill which only the Australians seem to possess he followed the enemy without letting his own party expose themselves, and night found him with his little band posted along a ridge overlooking the Boer camp, which was in the angle of the Sea Cow and Orange Rivers.


All night long in the drizzling rain the Victorians waited, and at last dawn broke and showed, the sleeping forms of the enemy slumbering quite oblivious of the presence of our men. Had he been so willed, Captain Dallimore might have shot every sleeper as he lay, but he did a thing for which every man with the instincts of an Englishman will praise him—he ordered a volley to be fired over their heads, so that they might wake and have a fight for their lives. That was mercy—and, good sportsmen, it was The Game.

Take another case. At one of the big fights in the earlier days of the war an officer commanding a battery of artillery was ordered to shell the spur of a range of hills which constituted the enemy's right. From the base of the hill stretched out, for a dozen miles, a plain as level as Green Park. Suddenly a white flag was hoisted on the enemy's left, and firing ceased all along the Boer lines. Then, when the flag had been hoisted for a few minutes, the Boer main body, taking advantage of the cessation of the firing, was seen streaming away across the plain to their right, making good their retreat. The artillery officer's duty was very obvious: it was to open fire upon the fugitives, who were splendidly within range. This, however, he would not do, remarking to his amazed juniors that he could not shell a retreating foe.

This was not mercy, it was folly—nay, it was criminal, for every burgher who escaped death or capture through his neglect was an instrument, willing and eager to bring about the destruction of that officer's comrades.


Some time ago, operating in the north-west of the Transvaal, was a nice general. He was a good tactician, a clever leader of men, and a charming old gentleman.

He was very nice indeed, and his sympathies were wide, and he believed most of the things that neutral Boer farmers told him, from the depredations of the soldiery to the innocence of the farm in the matter of secreted rifles and ammunition. As he moved through the country he granted to the farmers, left and right, passed to remain on their farms, being assured by their vows that the proximity of roving commandoes would have no weakening effect on their allegiance—stalwarts that they were.

A day's march behind the nice general, and moving in the fame direction, was another British column, commanded by a great, gruff, hairy-chested colonial, who swore at his officers and nursed his horses. He was not a nice man: he had been a police officer in Bechuanaland before the war, and in dealing with the enemy he started off with one unshakeable principle, which was— "All Dutchmen are liars."

Had he been an Imperial officer he might have been overawed by the general's signature, which appeared on every pass, but his sense of reverence for British administration having died young—he was with Evelyn Wood in 1881— he collected all the passes, arrested, all the farmers, and, overtaking the nice general after a few days, handed them over without any other explanation than that they were a source of danger to the country.


The general was furious, for, like many other folk, he was only polite to people outside of his family, and immediately ordered back the prisoners to their farms, apologising for the inconvenience they had suffered in the days of their captivity.

So they returned to their, farms, with the airs of martyrs, and the next time the nice general passed through that district he finished his report to headquarters in this wise:—"I regret to report the following casualties—":and the farmers who had dug up their rifles had gone, for the convenient commando has passed through.

It Botha's surrender is at hand, then the end of the war is also at hand, and whosoever fights after the war is ended does so at the risk of being treated as the Germans treated the franc- tireurs. The surrender of Botha would bring, about quite a different condition of things to what now exists. To recognise every moving band of fifty marauders as a Boer army, and to treat them accordingly, would be folly of the maddest kind. To take every third man of the party and stick him up against a wall would not—well, it would not be "nice"! Neither is it "nice" to hang murderers, flog garroters, imprison thieves, or birch the youthful Hooligan.

Somehow I think niceness is just as much out of place in warfare.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), May 28, 1901


NAAUWPOORT, March 17, 1901

De Wet has gone, Brand has gone, Hertzog has gone, and only Kruitzinger, with his mischievous lieutenants, is left to trouble the minds of us who at the first regarded the advent of the invading commandoes with apprehension—and Kruitzinger is going.

It is now over three months since De Wet instructed Kruitzinger and Brand to co-operate with him in entering the colony, and it would be well if we who chafe over the escape of the Boer leader would stop a while and consider carefully the advantages our friend the enemy has acquired by his exertions in our midst.

Also to count our own losses and balance—good commercial people that we are—the profit and loss of the invasion.


To do this thoroughly, do not lose sight of the primal object of the Boer movement. A correspondent at Pretoria tells us that it was to obtain munitions of war which were, so to speak, "left till called for" at St Helen's Bay; but if this were so, it does not speak too highly for our system of naval patrolling that a ship should remain in a pretty well frequented harbourage for the three months intervening between the first and second attempts of the Boer leader, and until the statement is officially confirmed I, for one, shall doubt its authenticity.

To my mind, there can be no doubt as to the object of the raid, which was, as I have already said—and that three months ago—to tap the rebel districts of the Cape Colony and raise sufficient fighting men to fill up the gaps in the Boer ranks, and to enable De Wet to continue the struggle—which in these days is mainly a struggle to keep comfortably ahead of pursuing columns. Knowing this to be the main object of the raid, and all others being of secondary importance, the intelligent Briton will see at a glance how dismal a failure in every sense the Cape invasion has been. Neither men nor munitions have resulted, and such of the invaders as are now on the way to Ceylon have returned, or are returning, to the Orange River Colony in a far worse plight than when they arrived.

To better realise tie failure, analyse the work of the various commandoes—looking at their work from an English point of view, and imagining that De Wet, Hertzog, and Kruitzinger were English generals set to do certain work, and being severely critical accordingly.


First in importance comes Hertzog, for he accomplished more and penetrated further west than any other of the Boer leaders, and he it was who came within a hundred miles of the capital, so that Capetown rose in indignation and put a little short of 10,000 men in the field, and girt itself about with emplacements and forts and barbed wire entanglements.

Marching west, Hertzog and Brand, occupied in turn all the towns of note in the North-Western Province. Philipstown, Britstown, Carnarvon, Williston, Sutherland and Calvinia "fell" to the investors. The procedure in every case was the same. A patrol clattering through the tree-shaded street; a crowd of doppers in their best clothes gathered near the public offices, curious and admiring; the singing of the Volkslied; a looted store; cheers for the invader—but no recruits.

After comes the dusty advance guard of the British column, and the holiday-makers disperse to their several homes, sullen and silent, and the guns of the pursuing column rattle through a silent and deserted street.

Hertzog may, perhaps, count the splendid remounts he picked up on his way to Calvinia as equivalent in some degree to success; but the horses he got on his way in he wore to death on his way out. It was not for horses alone that Hertzog moved through the worst rebel districts of Cape Colony, and the thirty recruits he obtained could not have fulfilled his most gloomy anticipations. Nor can the paucity of recruits be regarded in any way as indicative of the loyalty of the Dutch in these districts, so much as a result of the proclamation and vigorous application of martial law, and Lord Kitchener's excellent precautionary warnings.


The material most suitable for your active rebel (activity in this case having reference to the joining with the King's enemies in the open field rather than to trans-Channel Saturday-to-Monday trips for the purpose of consulting with Krugerite emissaries, and the taking up of a rifle rather than the faking-up of a letter) is not the wealthy landowner who has some sort of an education—and has much to lose. It is the bywoner, the ignorant, unlettered, dog-foolish bywoner,* who makes the best or worst rebel, and so long as he knows or thinks that he is not being watched, and so long as be is not warned of the consequence of his rebellious acts, he is ready and willing to take the invader's rifle and use his stolen hores for the destruction of the rooinek.†

[* Bywoner (Afrikaans)—A poor tenant farmer who labours for the owner and does some farming of his own.
Rooinek (Afrikaans, derogatory; literally "red-neck")—An Englishman. ]

Consequently, the proclamation of martial law and the warning he received were to him a personal message from Lord Kitchener to this effect: "I have got my eye on you. Piet Marais, or Jan Faure, or Petrus van Heerden!" and he remained loyal accordingly.

Hertzog is back in the Orange River Colony, having achieved nothing. He has lost in killed and wounded half as many again as we, and man for man he is a considerable loser. Kruitzinger is making for the Orange River Colony with as unfortunate a record. And what of De Wet? His record is worse than unfortunate; it is disastrous.


De Wet was the hope of the family: he was to have retrieved the shattered fortunes of Boerdom, and Paarl looked towards De Wet and to his coming for a new era. De Wet was to come, join forces with the other wandering commandoes, and marching through Cape Colony was to sit at the gates of Cape Town and dictate terms of the British. This is no flight of imagination: this was the belief of the Western Province Dutch, as I have personally ascertained.

Somehow these good souls fancied De Wet would manage the whole business off his own bat. In a vague sort of way they knew that he would require some outside help, but each man looked to his neighbour for such active patriotism. De Wet would come: he had been baulked once by the rains—which was an indubitable sign from the heavens that the time was not then ripe for the venture, but he would come, and lo! the news flashed along the wire to Paarl, to Stellenbosch, Malmsbury, Worcester, Robertson, Swellendam, Ceres and Capetown, De Wet had crossed the Orange and had entered the colony—so they waited with patience.

But De Wet's reception was not a pleasant one. Paarl would have been kinder. Worcester would have been less severe, but the deputation which, headed by Plumer, met him on his arrival, was hardly less severe than the committee which Henniker sent to give him a send-off. De Wet came to the colony with a convoy, which he left behind. He brought three guns, which he did not take back, and three hundred of his men have exchanged the laager for the prison camp. He lost two score killed, while we did not lose a single man. Altogether, the invasion has been a frost, a fizzle, a—let me use a Tommy phrase—a wash-out!


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), June 1, 1901


Evening at De Aar. An awed hush has fallen upon a place of great unquiet, for there is stern, grim work afoot, and the breathlessness of impending tragedy has brought a sombrous peacefulness.

There is no clanking crash of shunting trucks, no whistle of engine, no clatter of detraining troops. De Aar stands, still and is silent in the face of the quick of the one minute; who shall be the dead of the next? The hills about are mellowing in the golden haze of eventide, and night will come very quickly.

But the men who are falling in quietly before De Aar's many tents are not preparing for night picket, and as they march silently off to the east of the camp you can see they number too many for the ordinary routine duties. Silently they march, no badinage from file to file, no lightly-given jest, but each man marching with grave face and that set look that comes to the soldier when man's work is required of him. As silently they form into hollow square and wait. They form three aides only, and on the fourth are three chairs placed at intervals, and before each chair is an ominous slit in the earth.

Where the even, sullen, kopjes are most gloomy, and the gaunt rands* with boulder-bristling backs are most foreboding, is Taaibosch. De Aar, and even the hills that mark De Aar, are out of view, and Taaibosch stands solitary, a dejected, eerie little siding amidst great vastness. North of Taaibosch siding, towards De Aar, the line threads along for a hundred yards between gaping ballast holes. It is a weird, wild country, although the driver of the goods train that left Taaibosch siding a month ago could see little more than a dozen yards before his engine.

rand (Afrikaans)—a rock-strewn area of land. ]


It was night; the rainy, gusty night when the driving wheels slip on the greasy metals and the snorting engine emits steamy roars protestingly.

If it was uncomfortable for the driver and his mate, it was worse for the few soldiers crouching under tarpaulin, or sheltering themselves as well as they could beneath the Cape carts and waggons on the open trucks behind. Worse for them; for the fine, searching rain insinuated itself through crack and crevice, rent and tear. But the streaming road led to De Aar, and beyond De Aar was Cape Town, and beyond was England, for they were invalided soldiers homeward bound.

On a farm near the ballast holes were six men unconsciously enjoying all the privileges incidental and peculiar to registered voters of his Majesty's Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. They were Dutch, and naturally they were—well, they sympathised with the erstwhile republics. Commandoes had passed through the district, but they had not joined, perhaps because they ware afraid of disfranchisement, possibly because they could not afford to pay the £10 they would be fined for shooting soldiers. Now, they were resolved upon a great deed, something heroic—and safe.

They would wreck a train.

So they chose a goods train, which, would be more or less unattended, and was considerably less dangerous to tackle than a troop- or armoured train—the passengers of which have an unpleasant habit of searching the darkness around by means of low-aimed volleys.

The driver of the goods train knew nothing of their intentions, nor his mate, nor the crouching soldiers beneath the waggons.

And so there was murder.

An overturned engine, with a dying fireman lying between tender and boiler; a wrecked train with brave men pinned helplessly and dying like beetles on a pin. A roaring, scalding, tumbled wreck, with dropping shots from the gallant wreckers. A slaughtering of defenceless natives, an emptying of dead men's purses, and a great stealing of money. This happened a month—ago, and Taalbosch as beyond the hills crimsoning southward.


The murderers are coming up from the gaol on an ambulance, and the firing parties marshal before the chairs.

Death will come sudden, but it will be painless. For them no entanglement in shot-bored wreckage. No lingering on, hoping against hope for timely succour. No impotent struggling for life in the awful darkness.

They have had a trial, where they stood white and anxious, or sullen and lowering, between two Guardsmen who fixed bayonets. They had seen their comrade who had turned King's evidence slip in and out the door—a little, pasty-faced man with a fringe of whisker—a man who kept has eyes averted from the faces of the men he had destroyed, and mouthed hideous grimaces in his nervousness. They had waited for the decision of the Court, and it had come: death for three, penal servitude for two, freedom for the informer.

They had made a mistake, and they were to suffer. They had thought it was a part of the game of war.

War was to them as the suspension of order. Murder was war, theft was war, train-wrecking was war. War gave them license to slay and burn and steal. They saw, with many hundreds of their fellows in the Cape Colony, an opportunity for doing something with impunity for which, in peace time, the penalty would be death.

"Murder, high treason, robbery!"

In clear tones the commandant reads out the crimes for which they are to suffer.

I do not like to think of the Yeoman pinned down with a bolt through his side and dying slowly and consciously and alone, and it is not Christian-like to let it rise in one's mind as the three men, alighting from the ambulance, are blindfolded and led to the chairs.

The sun drops behind the hill, and one last ray gleams along the barrels of the levelled trifles and bathes the murderers in a flood of golden light.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), June 3, 1901

KALKFONTEIN, North of Steynsburg, March 22, 1901

The S.M.O.—which in plain English means Senior Medical Officer—drew aside the curtains of the tent and interrupted my shaving operations.

We are late risers this morning, for we are waiting for instructions from somebody, and only that a persistent individual had been amusing himself by intermittently banging a piece of galvanised iron on a neighbouring kopje to the banishment of all sleep, I should have yet been dozing.

The S.M.O. is a genial Coldstreamer who, having served his term in India, is privileged to swear in Hindustani, and he spoke.

"Come along, Roz-Roz, if you want to see a little fight." Roz-Roz is an abbreviation of Roz-Roz dak, which is the nearest equivalent for Daily Mail that the bat* will provide. Outside the camp kettles are steaming and breakfast is ready—but Atkins is gathered in little groups, eyeing a distant ridge curiously—and the centre of each little group is a pile of arms.

[* Bat (Hindi)—language, speech. ]

"Clik-clok, clik-clok, clik-clok!" No doubt about that, is there, C.I.V.?

You know the old "clik-clok," and the whine of the bullet overhead. You heard it that time Diamond Hill was the subject of your weekly letter home.

You heard it just before something gave you a smack in the side, and your knees went weak and the darkness came.

And you heard the R.A.M.C. orderly using violent language concerning it, as you woke to consciousness and a stretcher.

So it wasn't somebody banging galvanised iron after all, and I hurried forth in time to see that Victorian come.


That Victorian came, unshaven and unkempt, his horse's flanks aheave, and his short story was about a man who belonged to a patrol which sighted the Boers.

And the Boers were very many in number, but as they were only six times the strength of the patrol, of course the patrol felt it couldn't creditably retire, and so it was sitting tight at the foot of a kopje, waiting for Colonel Henniker to sally out, when it had no doubt that everything would end more or less unhappily for the Boers.

It was one of the true little stories that the nursing Scouts tell the restless column to beep it quiet. And so we moved out: Henniker, burly and alert, Powell, the gunner, cheerful and unconcerned, the Victorian gleeful and profane, and all the time from the ridge ahead the spasmodic clap of the Mauser sounded, "Clik-clok, clik-clok!"

We are forming a lane, which is a variation of the cordon.

When you put half-a-dozen columns round De Wet at a distance of a score of miles one from the other, except at one point where the gap is forty miles in width, you call it a cordon, and the big gap you refer to as the line of least resistance.

When you take a long stretch of country and line two sides of at with columns, you call it a lane, and if the enemy doesn't advance straight up the centre of that lane, and give everybody a chance of falling on him and devouring him, it is because he has no conception of his duty as a sportsman.

We are on the left side of the lane; Codrington is at Venterstadt, Crabbie is at Vlakfontein, and Henniker is further south and in line.


The burghers we have struck are not trying to break through— not a bit. They, are simply coming up behind us, almost on the same road; we are in their way, and they are trying to push us off—hence the disturbance.


A fusillade; the Yeomanry and Victorians that moved from camp in solid chunks are stretching themselves into long skinny skirmishing lines, and are galloping for protecting ridges, swerving and wheeling slightly leftward, for the Boers' position lies diagonally commanding the road. Powell's guns have halted, and the foremost Victorians are firing steadily from behind the walls of a heaven-sent Kraal.

The gunners have not stopped to admire the scenery, and a tiny, white woolly ball catching on to the shoulder of the kopje which shelters the enemy proclaims the proximity of percussion shrapnel.

We know it is a rear-guard action; that the main body of the Boers is miles away; we know that, probably by the time our guns get into action the ridge does not shelter more than twenty Boers.

If the mountain was not there, if the country leading up to the mountain was not a succession of ridges each commanding the other, if there were no other kopjes for the Boers to retire on—in fact, if it were not South Africa we were fighting in, but Salisbury Plain, we should send out a corporal's picket and arrest "the enemy." As it is, we shell them till the sniping ceases—and that Victorian comes and tells us that the commando had broken clear. That Victorian always comes.


From the flanks, or the front, or from the rear he arrives, and he has always got a story worth telling, and doubly worth hearing. As the column chases along at the breakneck speed of three-and-a-half miles an hour, he drops down from the top of a kopje and bumps into the advance guard.

And he tells the officer commanding that force many things; there are Boers on the farm three miles ahead!, or a Boer convoy is five miles to the left front.

Sometimes he is flicked across the firm line of the horizon and slides down to the main body with news, and suspicions and opinions.

You can call him "The Scout," but he is a sort of nurse that has the infant column in his charge, and he feels his responsibility.

For days he will ride—a mote on the sky-line, and then he will come tearing down to the trailing troops, and jerking up his horse will gaze approvingly on us as we pass him. He will ride miles and miles away from the road and never lose himself once, that Victorian, and he sees lots and lots that the column never sees or dreams of.

Out he goes to the dark unknown, with a lighted pipe between his teeth and his sooty billy clattering at his saddle, and when he comes back he will know more about the farms within a ten-mile radius, their values, their possibilities as forage providers, and the loyalty of their owners than the smartest Intelligence Officer that ever wore a khaki yachting cap, and he will certainly have a better idea of the topography of the country than the Government surveyor who prepares the maps we march by. Sometimes he stays out all night—the gay dog!—and turns up in the morning after a night's debauch on rain-sodden biscuit and doubtful bully beef. Sometimes he doesn't turn up at all, and then Crooke-Lawless sends an ambulance out for him—and under the driver's seat is a spade.


Reproduced from The Evening Post (New Zealand), June 29, 1901


BETHULIE, April 12, 1901

And what of Mrs. Reservist Atkins all this time? In the first act—or was it the prologue—she figured prominently enough, but to-day she is the "voice without," sans glitter, sans limelight, and uninteresting. Mrs. Atkins "on the strength" is another person. She is separated from her husband truly, but so is her sister in the officers' quarters. Her husband is possibly in great danger, from shot and disease, but so are the husband's sweethearts, brothers, or sons of a million.

It is Mrs. Reservist Atkins who is suffering to-day, and her case seems well-nigh desperate. The wife of the soldier married on the strength of the regiment is parted from him, but she is in comfortable Government quarters, or is drawing allowances for such. She is bereft of his presence, but she draws one-half of his pay, and bread and meat and fuel and lighting.


Because of these advantages she possesses I would not for a moment attempt to belittle the unselfish devotion and self- sacrifice of the soldier's wife, nor would I suggest that the shilling a day she receives together with the tree quarters and rations, places her in a position of affluence, but I do wish to differentiate between the two wives.

I must confess that I gave little thought to the subject until very recently. The deep-rooted satisfaction engendered by the action of this journal at the beginning of the war and other private enterprises on the soldiers' behalf had not disappeared. If one's thoughts reverted at all to the "little things left behind" it was with a feeling of thankfulness that they were not being left to the cold-blooded mercy of the Commissioners of the Patriotic Fund, but were cared for by warm-hearted business men who would not hesitate to give a sovereign to a starving woman without demanding her birth certificate, her marriage lines, and particulars of her baby's teething.

The other day I jokingly asked my soldier servant whether he had not saved a small fortune during the war.

"Yes," he answered grimly, "so small that I could put it in my eye and see through it! Fortune! Why, for the last six months I've had all my work cut out to prevent my wife starving and my kids from going into the workhouse."


For some time I could not believe but that Atkins was speaking figuratively. However, I soon discovered that what he had told me was not only too true, but that his case was one of thousands similar.

He had been employed in a very good situation, and at the time he was called up to join his corps was in receipt of 36s a week. His employers, with the generosity which consistently marked their behaviour towards their men at the beginning of the war, guaranteed to keep his billet open for him during the time he was away on active service, which they estimated would be six months, and promised to give his wife half-pay during that period. Six months passed, and the end of the war was not in sight, and the employers cheerfully extended the period for another three months, and at the end of that time a still further term.

At the end of that time; however, the situation was filled, and the firm was reluctantly compelled to stop the half-pay. At this stage of the proceedings the situation became alarming for the Reservist's wife.

The meagre savings of her husband were soon absorbed, and the 8s a week he was able to send her did little more than pay I the rent of the two rooms she occupied. So she applied for relief to the commissioners of a fund which I will call the Society for Providing Aged Colonels with Charitable Employment. After she had made several applications, and had instructed many decrepit senior officers with particulars regarding her past, her views on Transubstantiation and her Religious Convictions, and had listened to divers lectures on the Improvidence of Early Marriages, she was gravely informed that the society had considered her case favourably and was prepared to endow her with the munificent sum of 2s per week, paid weekly—and sign here!


She fell ill, however, and was unable to appear in person to draw the "allowance," which was accordingly reduced to 1s.

"And she wrote out to me," said Atkins, wrathfully, "asking me what she should do with the shilling, an' I wrote "back and told her to tell 'em to——"

Well, Atkins's message to his wife was one which I am sure no wife, however obedient, would repeat to such charitable gentlemen.

After hearing this I never lost an opportunity of learning from the men of the Reserve who had wives how matters stood at home.

From all I have heard the same story. Some—a very few—were still drawing half-pay; some swore by the "Absentminded Beggar" Fund; but were all agreed that no one private enterprise could hope to cope with the ever-increasing sum of distress among Reservists' wives. If I am to believe the stories I have heard from the men themselves—and I do believe them—stories told in despairing notes with gestures of hopelessness, of poverty and starvation in homes which before the war were models of comfort and plenty; if my opinion is to be influenced by the husky apology of the soldier for the tear which will come—then I should say to you stalwarts of Empire, who would give your last cents for the maintenance of its dominion, to you ultrasensitive pro-Boers who wax hysteric over a charge of dynamite deftly inserted into the corner of a rebel's farm—here is a recipient for your wealth, here is a subject for your pity.


Now what are you going to do about it? I have said before that no one enterprise can hope to relieve the distress. It is clearly a matter which the Government should take in hand, not for now, but for always. In his reorganisation of the Army, Mr. Brodick will do well to take into account, and make provision for the wife that the British soldier, released from the restrictions of military life takes unto himself.

A sum weekly should be guaranteed to the wife of a Reservist who is called away from his position of breadwinner, and it would be ridiculous to pretend that the Government could not afford the extra outlay. A Government that can pay the irregular troops at the Cape 5s a day could surely afford to guarantee two or three shillings extra per diem to the wives of men who risk their lives for a half-penny an hour! I am sure that such a provision will have to be made if we ever contemplate mobilising the Army Reserve on any future occasion.

A man who runs away and leaves his wife chargeable to the parish is a scoundrel. A soldier who is drawn from his civilian avocation to fight his country's battles and leaves his wife destitute is willy-nilly a patriot, and the Reservist of the future may question whether the price of patriotism is not too high. In the meantime, the Government has a million to spare. No? Wasn't there some talk of devoting a million towards making Happy Homes for Weary Burghers?


Reproduced from The Bush Advocate (New Zealand), July 9, 1901


JOHANNESBURG, May 11, 1901

The situation is more encouraging, although the aspect of affairs throughout the two colonies cannot truthfully be termed completely satisfactory.

North of Pretoria communication with Pietersburg remains uninterrupted, but a considerable number of the enemy are scattered throughout the Zoutspanberg bush veldt. Of the columns sent to clear the Eastern Transvaal only one or two met with resistance, which was very slight, the Boers making off or doubling round.

In the Western Transvaal the country between Pretoria and Mafeking is still regarded as dangerous for convoys unless they are strongly guarded. Lord Methuen's splendid doggedness, however, is bearing fruit, and a number of surrenders in that district show that the Boers are being worn down by his persistence. Da la Rey's burghers hang round Johannesburg while he himself is in the neighbourhood of Wolmaranstadt.

In Orange River Colony the Boer forces have been divided into small parties, each having a section of the railway line to harass. Their mode is to sleep twenty miles away from their sections, and ride at night, either to make an attack on a small bridge guard or attempt to blow up the line. De Wet lately superintended a commando thus engaged, which recently captured a small railside garrison.

The new blockhouses which are being built all over both colonies will enable much smaller garrisons than already exist for the purpose of guarding bridges, culverts, and roads to hold any amount of Boers in check.

There is a probability that Hertzog and Brand, who appear to be in the south of Orange River Colony, will attempt again to enter Cape Colony shortly, and there is a possibility that De Wet, who is relieved to be moving towards the Orange, will accompany them, but in a subordinate position.

The activity of the officers in charge of the sections of the railway between Bloemfontein and Viljoen's Drift renders the work of railside raiders almost impossible, so that the train-wrecking will soon be a thing of the past. It is significant, however, that while a year ago trains ran regularly from Capetown to Bloemfontein they are now detained during the night at Nauuwpoort and Springfontein.

Regarding the insistent rumors about the condition of the troops in the field, it cannot be too emphatically repeated that the men are physically fit and perfectly willing to do anything. By the withdrawal from South Africa of time-expired yeomen, militiamen, and volunteers, and the replacement of these with new drafts, much cause for discontent and dissatisfaction has been removed, since those men who were detained over the specified time grumbled. The only discontent now is among the Reservists, many of whose wives are in distressed circumstances, and whose civil situations are now filled up. An assurance from the Government that provision would be made to assist these women and a promise of aid to obtain employment, would restore the men's equanimity.

There appears to be a suspicion at Home that the dragging on of the war is caused by the staleness of the troops, but I would point out the fact that for the most part new yeomen and fresh colonial drafts are being utilised for active movements, while infantry are used forming garrisons.

The Government should make every attempt to induce the Australians, yeomen and Canadians who served previously to return to service. These men are thoroughly recuperated, and their renewed interest and practical knowledge of the country and its conditions would be invaluable.

The best indication of the feeling here is the local recruiting returns, which show an unfailing supply in response to the military demand. The army cannot be stale while it is receiving such a splendid leaven from the colonies.

Generally speaking, the aspect of affairs is encouraging. I am informed that Lord Kitchener is satisfied with the progress of his operations. Those, people at Home who expect a dramatic finish to the war by some decisive action will be disappointed.

The end can only come by the constant wearing down of the Boer forces. The winter, which promises to be severe, is a great factor. The steady return of the refugees to the Rand will necessarily discourage the Boers, and illustrate the futility of resistance. Colonials agree that while England should maintain an unshakable attitude on the essential points of the settlement, sentimental concession might advantageously be made, for instance, regarding the bitter objection of the Boers Io being placed on the legislative level of the Kaffirs.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), July 12, 1901


SPRINGFONTEIN (Orange River Colony), May 4, 1901

Such a night as can only be experienced in South Africa—the stars great, liquid, white points of fire in the blue-black dome, and just enough moon to show where sky ends and veldt begins.

Since this be the enemy's country, where treason is unknown and only oath-breaking is heinous, we may not proceed other than in the light of day, lest the cunning mind of the small commando devise destruction in the form of a gun-barrel choked with nitroglycerine, with wires and caps and artful clockwork arrangements designed to operate with suddenness, bringing disorder, wrack, death, mutilation, and great beastliness to poor devils travelling first-class on Press tickets.

Therefore the train is drawn up by Springfontein platform, and dinner having been served at 5.30 instead of 7.30 owing to the refreshment-room keeper having in engagement at the latter hour, I have nothing, to do but to sit and listen to Atkins discussing questions of the day—for Atkins is gathered outside the shuttered window of my saloon, and he holds views.


The agenda of the Platform Debating Society was prolific in subjects, and contained, among others: Should soldiers receive 5s. a day in war time? Shall we ever catch De Wet? Are the Yeomanry good soldiers? Does a single eyeglass assist the eyesight? Will the Militia ever go home? When will the war end? and, Is Kitchener a great general? Some of the subjects dovetailed into others, thus:—

Voice from Without: 'E's the man to finish the war. No 'arf larks about 'im. Can't stand no eyeglasses, 'e can't; no 'umbug an' no old buck. Buller goes up to 'im an' says, "I'm general 'ere," 'e says.

Another Voice (superiorly): Where was this?

First Voice (vaguely): Up in Natal somewhere.

Superior Voice: Kitchener wasn't never in Natal.

First Voice (sternly): Never mind where he was. Buller comes up to 'im an' says, "Look 'ere, I'm general 'ere," 'e says, "and I'll thank you to get orf the battlefield whilst I'm a- conductin' my operations." "Oh!" says Kitchener, "p'raps you don't know that I'm a Lord, while you're only a Sir," 'e says.

Superior Voice: That don't make no difference.

First Voice: Wot don't?

Superior Voice (scathingly): Sirs an' Lords ain't no rank, fat 'ead, else you'd 'ave the Dook o' Westminster Commander-in-Chief.

Third Voice (huskily): My opinion you're torkin' out of the back of your 'ead.

Smithy (bitterly): P'raps you're tellin' this yarn, an' p'raps I ain't; any'ow, whether it makes no difference about bein' a Lord or Sir or not, that's wot Kitchener told Buller—'t any rate. Kitchener's the bloke to end this war.


Several voices, hitherto silent, rise to acclaim this sentiment.

Smithy (waxing enthusiastic at his support): Why e's got more sense in 'is little finger than—than—(lamely) twenty Botha's, and he'd no more think twice about shootin' you or me than I would about killin' a fly.

The Greek chorus asserts itself.

Youthful Voice (well modulated): Why doesn't he catch De Wet, then?

Three Voices (mockingly and scornfully): Why doesn't 'e catch De Wet?

Smithy (finely sarcastic): Why don't 'e catch De Wet? Look 'ere, you're a Yeoman, ain't you?

Modulated Voice (nervously): Yes.

Smithy (indignantly): And just come out, take my oath. Thought you was. Why don't 'e catch De Wet, my lad? Why, because 'e can't trust the Yeomanry with anyone else.

Roars of laughter and a mild voice asking for a fuller explanation.

Smithy: Well, 'ow does a soldier learn to be a soldier—by experience, ain't that it? And no Yeoman ain't a real Yeoman till 'e's been captured twice—ain't that so? An' where will you find a commandant as'll treat a Yeoman so nice an' kind an' gentle as De Wet? Why don't 'e catch De Wet? Why, De Wet's a bloomin' field trainin' an' Aldershot manoeuvres to a Yeoman!


After a pause, during which the mild young Yeoman presumably retires, somebody asks why Kitchener objects to the monocle, but relied on conveying the sense of his question by referring to it as "a pane of glass."

Smithy: Cos 'e's a soldier an' likes to see everything reg'lar an' well balanced. If 'e 'ad 'is way, sergeants would 'ave stripes on each arm an' soldiers 'ave medals on both breasts. Wot's a single eyeglass but unreg'lar? One side of the face is all glass, an' the other side's all—all face. If they'd wear spectacles it'd be all right but the young officers won't wear spectacles for fear of being mistaken for colonels and drafted to the Army Pay Corps.

Husky Voice (suspiciously): Wot are you gettin' at—wot's the Army Pay Corps got to do with it?

Smithy (pleasantly): Oh, it's only a bit of a joke of mine—sarcasm.

Here follow several earnest appeals to Smithy not to dislocate his jaw using long words.

By easy stages the debate became theological, with many and weird premises, with divers curious and unprintable deductions.

Dear old Atkins!

Here were a dozen men who had probably seen more battles in one year than most generals see in a lifetime, and yet their talk was not of war, or bloodshed, or great daring, but just the subjects, the self-same subjects, they would argue out in times of peace over common beer at the bar of the "Green Man."

It seemed more than incongruous at times to hear—here in the loneliness of the rolling veldt, with the black peaks of the distant hills, sooty bulks against the velvet-black sky-line, with death lurking in the darkness about, and over all the solemn hush of even—it seems strange, not to say unnatural, when Tommies, who, in keeping with the scene, should by rights be speaking in awed whispers of golden deeds and glorious sacrifices, are arguing in strident cockney on the legitimacy of the birth of Moses.

"Found 'im in the bulrushes—yuss, that's wot she said."


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), July 20, 1901


What is there about Bloemfontein that suggests Aldershot so vividly?

There is something—a something that grows on you as you walk through the streets of the town or saunter about the suburbs. Perhaps it is only the military element to be found to- day here; or perhaps it is the architecture, the solid utilitiarianism of the public buildings, the many blood-red blocks—ah! that is it! It is the redness of Bloemfontein that suggests Aldershot.

The private houses, the flamboyant public offices, the ruddy- faced bureau—that is Aldershot. "Imagine Aldershot—the Aldershot that starts north of the cavalry barracks and runs to the Farnborough Road. Imagine it unkempt and untidy, with a sprinkling of the old huts still standing, and you have, Bloemfontein. Rather a far-fetched resemblance, you will tell me; but I am dealing only in impressions, and that is how Bloemfontein impresses me.


Leave the architecture alone, and the resemblance is more impressive. A military policeman stands at every corner, there is a ceaseless procession of orderlies and staff officers moving through the streets, and an intermittent tramp, tramp of armed parties coming and going across the Market Square.

Guards returning from Naval Hill Redoubt; guards going out to the Boer refugee camp; reliefs tramping off to No.9 general hospital; pickets returning from the outlying lines—but a little stretch of the imagination, and they are musketry parties with Ash Ranges behind them.

There is a lazy feeling in the air; let us idle. Let us dawdle along the shop fronts and see what commercial Bloemfontein tempts us with. A grocer's: Preserved rations, tinned meat, chocolate food, portable kitcheners (you can carry them in your pocket). Here is a tailors; Khaki serge in all shades and qualities, collar tabs a specialty, badges of rank, field service caps, staff caps, and military gloves. H'in. Here is a shoemaker's: Field boots and Stohwasser puttee leggings. A watchmaker and jeweller's: Zeiss glasses and compasses in one window, and C.I.V. scarf-pins in the other. A stationer's: Army forms and passes in accordance with King's Regulations. A photographer's show case: Military groups and cabinets of staff officers. Bloemfontein is military.


We are in the heart of the enemy's country, really and truly the enemy's country. Not the country of the enemy's friend, but in the heart of his very own country, in the very town where war was made, and on the deep-fronted desk from which Steyn launched his thunders en R.A.M.C. man has set up a patent filter as a sign of our presence. And yet it is very unreal; it does not seem like Bloemfontein, and it does seem like Aldershot. A kopje overlooks the town, and the zig-zag streak of red gouged in the face of it is a road leading up to a 4.7 gun—but the guns on Dober Pier are as interesting. Over there beyond the outlying belt of camps with which we are girt about, the veldt is still red where the retreating burghers tramped off the green as they rushed for Driefontein—but Caesar made the Old Kent Road. It seems so long ago, this time of Bloemfontein's martial importance, so long, indeed, that you would not feel surprised to turn up the story of the occupation in a musty tome and read that—"My Lord Robertf fent in a meffenger to demand the furrender of the town."

That is just the feeling you get in Bloemfontein— a sense of unfitness of things; you know you are in the midst of it all, and yet you feel out of it; you are like a blind man at a ballet. The good folk of Bloemfontein seem to know nothing about the war; all the news they get comes from England, and appears in the Post four days late, for the Post—our old acquaintance The Friend under another title—is cursed with a censorship. So they have got used to feeling at peace. When they hear that the Boers have wrecked a hospital train, they say, "Dear me! How very dreadful!" and intelligence of a little bloodshed causes them to peer over their spectacles and exclaim, "What are we coming to? Where's the police?" But perhaps this, too, is an impression.


On the hill, under the shadow of the great overtowering fort, are the green- and orange-striped sentry boxes of the South African Constabulary—B.-P.'s Own. I am told that, so confident is Pretoria that the war is going to end soon, that this force is held in hourly readiness to go out and scour the country—since a proclamation of peace, attendant upon the surrender of Botha, will be regarded, and rightly so, as placing all roving bands—gallant hospital-train-wrecking, food- poisoning souls!—as without the pale.

South of here the country is quiet; that is to say, it is as quiet as the midland districts of Cape Colony. There are small scattered parties of Boers about, hanging round Thaba N'chu, keeping in touch with the railway line, but generally out of all touch with our troops. We have meagre garrisons strung out between this place and Norval's Pont, and one or two roving columns hustling round such bodies of Boers, concentrated of sufficient strength to justify the movement of a large force of our troops. Though weak, the railside garrisons are each little fortresses. Every piece of rising ground is capped by earthworks, every kopje of any commanding eminence adjacent to the line is manned and gunned, and by the bridges, grim, granite-faced block houses, loop-holed and cunning of interior, are rising daily.


In spite of the comparative calm which now prevails it will not be many days, I take it, before the south of the Orange River Colony will be again agitated, for the advent of Kruitzinger with his lieutenants will of course bring about a recrudescence of that activity which De Wet in his palmiest days inspired. Kruitzinger's retirement from the Cape Colony will set free a number of columns, Scobell's, Grenfell's, Haigh's, Henniker's, Crewe's and De Lisle's, and these would have a better chance of dealing with the marauder here, in this country denuded alike of horses and food, than in the well-stocked, traitor-infested districts south of the Orange River. This is all by the way, and is told with the object of justifying myself should, by the time this letter is in print, the Orange River Colony be in such a state of uproar as to render my remarks on its pacific condition, ridiculous in the sight of man and me a fool before my kind.

There is one place about Bloemfontein which suggests war, and must always be remembered as something strangely and terribly new, and that because it is linked with disaster. For the memory of disasters always lives; so that Majuba must stand before Boomplaats, Magersfontein be remembered when Modder River will be forgotten, and Pieter's Hill and its gallant dead be for ever overshadowed by Spion Kop and its ghastly blunders.

East of Bloemfontein and north the rolling plain humps itself into an irregular hill—on the other side of that is Sannah's Post. It was at the base of the hill that British commanders threshed out a question of military etiquette; it was on the other side that we lost our guns. Without the glamour of romance that Sannah's Post sheds; military Bloemfontein is commonplace, cheap, and tawdry.

Why, in the drapers' shops you can buy Baden-Powell hats and khaki neckties!


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), July 27, 1901


KLERKSDORP, May 11, 1901

It would be ridiculous on my part if I asked you whether you were tired of the war, if you were sick to death of its crawling progress, if you were bored to extinction with its monotony. Of course you are.

You may not have been fighting yourself. Your acquaintance with the dangers and hardships and pathos of campaigning may be strictly biographic, so that your cognisance of bloodshed was confined to a 4.7 gun in action— sandwiched between the Texas Fire Brigade and a falling smoke-stack. Whether you viewed the progress of events in South Africa from a stall at the Palace, or from the back of an ungroomed Cape pony, it comes to about the same thing—you are weary of it.

Your whole soul cries aloud in its satisfaction: "For heaven's sake give us famine or a great fire in the city, or a fall in Yankee Rails, or an outsider's Derby—anything but war!"


You seem a very inconsistent people, for you have only to weaken a little, only show by public meeting and demonstration that you are tired, really tired of the war, and the strongest Ministry that ever answered questions would be obliged to put an end to your weariness and bring the war to a finish. You have only got to give unmistakable evidence of your determination to get peace at almost any price, and you may purchase for yourselves a halcyon calm which will last three or four months, if, indeed, not for a whole year.

Yet I know, and the Army knows, that you would not purchase peace in this way; that when you are asked to vote another ten millions, or twenty millions, or forty millions, you will put your hands in your pockets and pay. That is because you have lost your temper, but have not lost your spirit. You have lost interest in the minor incidents of the struggle, but have not lost any of the vigour which inspires you in your determination to see the thing through to the bitter end.

In fact and in fine, your attitude aptly illustrates the difference between Tiredness and Staleness, so long as you realise the difference between these qualities. The stories of Tommy Atkins's "tiredness," which seem to have been enjoying quite a vogue at Home just now, need not alarm you.

Tommy is tired, but he is not stale. He is "fed up" with the war, with the constant marching and counter-marching, the occasional short rations and the frequent rains, the blank monotony of life on the veldt. He chafes at the dragging on of the war, and views with dismay its prolongation. He is more patient than you, however, and when they dump him down by the side of the railway line and tell him to keep his eye on an adjacent bridge he settles himself down to the prospect of six months' duty by the ugly girdered span in the midst of a featureless plain with more fortitude than most men will display who have to wait five minutes for an unpunctual train.


He clears a space by the side of the line and traces out the name of his company and regiment in little white stones, for the information of the daily mail train, the passengers of which chuck him out week-old newspapers. In a month he knows all the girders of the bridge as if they were old friends. You see no difference in any part of the plain. He is acquainted with every stone visible. He has counted every rivet the bridge has, and knows there are three more on one side than on the other. He wonders why this is so, and he and his tent-fellows argue the question out nightly.

Sometimes, while he is counting for the thousandth time the mortar lines in the stone pier, and while he is multiplying these by the number of sleepers and dividing the result by the number of rails on his beat, a girder rings musically, and he looks round to see how much paint the sniper's bullet takes off. This is the sort of life he lives. For weeks together his is a colourless, dreary, dull existence; there are interesting intervals, when the Boer tries to murder him at two thousand yards; there are gay nights, when he lies out in the open for the sniper in a patiently murderous mood; but these days do not come very often.

Supposing instead of doing bridge guard he is with a column chasing De la Ray, or hustling Botha, or pursuing De Wet. In the first place, as a rule he doesn't know why he is ordered to parade at daybreak with three days' rations. He is not told why he is marched out. He has no idea of the distance he is to be marched the first day or how long he will remain at his first camping place. He speculates more or less idly on the object of the march, But so many times previously has he been taken out in the self-same manner that he does not care whether he is to round in cattle, burn a farm, capture a laager, or occupy a town.

His company or squadron officer is a good sort, and will tell him as much as is good for him to know, but the chances are that the officer will know less than the man of the general's intentions, and, being blessed with a higher order of intelligence than his humble comrade, his speculations will be even wilder and more original than Tommy's.


Perhaps after the column starts, a rumour runs from horseman to horseman that the trek is to be ten miles, and Tommy accordingly forms plans for washing shirts and sewing on buttons. Ten miles are covered, and more, and no sign or indication of the commander's intention to halt. Tommy gets restless. A few miles more and he is irritable, and is inwardly damning the war into little heaps. He is now in the mood when an unsophisticated journalist of pro-Boer proclivities could find in his conversation ample material for an article on "Is Our Army Mutinous?" A few more miles and the news goes round that the day's trek is to be twenty-five miles, and Tommy abandons all hope of washing his shirt and remarks with conviction that its a warmth of pity that the corpuscled general hasn't got a qualified mind of his own.

Twenty-five miles are covered, and a dogged, tired, bad- tempered Tommy does not even raise his eyebrows when he is informed that thirty-five miles is to be the sum of his days exertion Suddenly the long skirmishing, line which has been screening the column's advance buckles and squirms, and disappears to cover. Then comes the melancholy thump, thump, thump of a pom pom—and Tommy is a new man. He may have heard the sound a thousand times before, he may have been an old soldier in the Ladysmith days, but as the enemy's one-pound shells cough through the air he is another man.

Tired he is—tired as a man can be of the unbroken monotony of things, but not stale. Not stale, do you hear? See the hands that fidget excitedly with the lock of the rifle that rests on his thigh; they are the same hands that a few minutes before swung listlessly by his sides. See the lowered brow and the eager eyes, and the compressed lips. It is the same face that frowned, the same eyes that dozed, the same lips that hinted darkly of chucking the Army and joining a "bally" circus.

Tired, but not stale. Fitter now than ever, and as willing. He can march further than he could in the first days of the war. Was he stale then? He is just as willing to risk death and mutilation to-day as he was when he took Pieter's Hill or lay out all those fiery, thirsty hours when Modder River lay between us and our bivouac. Was he stale then?


Whether his officer is as keen now as then is another matter; but there is no lack of zeal among the men of the lower ranks. It is quits the thing nowadays to collect all the odium which we feel the Army merits and stick it on to the officer. If an attack goes wrong we blame the officer. We call him an Uneducated Fool, an Empty-headed Fashion- plate; and if we write stories about the war we delicately refer to him as Captain Glasseye.

If by chance he is a Staff College man, educated in warfare, we say: "Pooh! What's the good of a Military Pundit? Give me an uneducated colonial who doesn't know a re-entrant from a bastion."

I do not wish, with all due respect to you, to be pricked in number with the fashionable, since it is the fashion to lay all blame on the officer; but I will say that the curse of the campaign is the one or two men who are to be found in most regiments who want to get home in time for the shooting, or hunting, or racing. One such man, by constantly harping on the subject, will make a whole regiment discontented.

Perhaps he manages to get home, and then, to justify his presence in England, he says that he is not the only one who wanted to get home—"The whole bally Army's stale, sir—stale as ditch-water, sir; everybody's sick of it, everybody's anxious to get home, I assure you. Otherwise I should not be here."


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 6, 1901

A mine to the left, then a few miles run over a rolling, grassy down, and a mine to the right. This and the occasional espial of a smoke stack on the horizon are the hints the traveller receives of approaching Johannesburg.

Then the permanent way broadens, and the one line of rails becomes two, the two become four, and the mines become thicker, and galvanised-iron houses and shanties slouch about the landscape. Then the four lines widen into a labyrinth of points and sidings, and fussy puffing little engines, local to the spot, snort approvingly to the dust-covered main-line brother, who, greatly daring, has penetrated safely from the outer wilderness.


By rights this should be Johannesburg, for everything suggests the bustle and the untidy hurry of a miners' town. The delver's presence is manifest. On either side and all about, the evidence of his craft blocks out the circling horizon, and stands in the great white tailing heaps, and the trolley lines that feed them; in the overpowering ugliness of hauling gear, in the bleak, unbeautiful batteries. This is Elandsfontein, the Transvaal De Aar. You change here for Pretoria or Johannesburg or Ladysmith. From Elandsfontein the line curves westward to Johannesburg.

The names of the little wayside stations seem familiar. The first one you have heard before, but where on earth was it? Has it a connection with a battle, or a disaster, or a speech, or a policy? The second puts your mind at rest—it is a familiar name, and you have seen it in the "latest closing prices." "Simmer and Jack " station it is, and like its fellows on the line is a broad-platformed, red-roofed, tidy little model station, and an Atkins in khaki wags a white flag, and manipulates the foreign-looking signals. It was almost dark when

I set out from Elandsfontein. Chimneys and battery-houses, and the weblike entanglement of hauling gear stood silhouetted black - against the strip of orange sky; here and there, like great earth-stars, or as though the crust of the earth had been punctured and all the glory of high-day was struggling through the pinholes, white arc lights spangled the distant Rand. Some of the chimneys belched black smoke that trailed across the sky, but they were few.


Suddenly, and without, the long-drawn screech with which the mail train usually heralds its coming, we drew alongside a platform.

"Johannesburg Park!" Surely this cannot be Johannesburg? This is not the greatest terminus in South Africa? This is a place of tall, overshadowing trees, of red country roads, of placid ruralness, or ordered quiet. It is the pretty station of Somewhere-on-Sea—there are clamouring fly-men at the station gate to heighten the illusion.

It is Johannesburg right enough, and as you drive through its darkening streets you get a glimpse of its size and a hint of its probabilities. In the white, strong light of morning the town, lies bare to your criticism: sordidness and grandeur, lofty fineness and sickening meanness are its characteristics. Many turreted emporia rub shoulders with clumsily-built tin stores, gaping at every angle, unpainted and neglected. The dignity of the newly-erected pile, splendid in plate-glass and polished stone and electric light, is balanced by the tumble-down craziness of the fit-up one-storied eating house it jostles out of sight. Pritchard Street, Commissioner Street, and Market Street hold a succession of architectural parvenus, striving frantically to atone for the down-at-heels condition of poor relations. It is a city cf shocking contrasts: of princely villas and squalid slums; of air, which is to London air as a diamond is to a hunk cf coal; of dust-storms that are a revelation to the Modder River campaigner.


In these times Johannesburg is a deserted city. Not the deserted city that the "occasional correspondent" led me to expect—the dead city, grass growing in the streets and the footfall of the solitary pedestrian reverberating strangely through untrodden ways. Not that exactly, but the air of semi- desolation that is peculiar to the City of London on Sunday morning. Just a few people to be met with here and there; just a cab trundling slowly through the uneven streets, and another cab trundling more slowly in the distance. A few shops open, with a meagre display of stock; much evidence of limited supply to meet an uncertain demand.

The population of the Rand is yet a military one. Even the civilians play at soldiers. Mine managers, miners, compound managers, and engineers have become Mine Guards, and Rand Rifles, and Mounted Rifles. "Misters" are majors, "Bills" are privates. This is the price they pay—this military service—for the privilege of coming into Johannesburg by the Early Door. Not quite the early door either, but rather the Stage Door; since they have been admitted to assist the Management, while the thousands and tens of thousands who desire admittance in the ordinary way are waiting, by turns good-humouredly and by turns petulantly, at the thrice-barriered entrance at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, and Durban. Who are back on the Rand? A sprinkling of mine managers, a few businessmen, few clerks connected with the banks and insurance offices, a few heads of Departments— that is all.


For my part I think the Government is losing opportunities in delaying the return of the refugees to Johannesburg, for nothing is calculated to discourage the Boers so much as the knowledge that the land is again settling down to work... To them it would be an outward and visible sign of our confidence in the certainty of the issue. So long as Johannesburg is untenanted they know that it is because we do not consider our position is sufficiently assured in the Transvaal to allow of the return of a large commercial population.

We may drop one or two stamps, set one or two batteries at work, but we do it with the air of the small boy who knocks at the door of a reputed haunted house. We start a mine going, then look around with a scared face, ready to apologise or acclaim our own boldness—according to the results of our intrepidity. This is the time for resolute action. The resumption; of work on the Rand will be fifty times more significant to the Boer than its occupation. Look at the case from Brer Boer's point of view, and you will see which is the more discouraging, the mere military occupation of a depopulated town, or the rehabilitation of its industries.

There can be no question of a prolonged siege of Johannesburg, no fear of a starving, beleaguered town with a hundred thousand hungry civilian mouths to be fed with military rations. With the present proportion cf Britons and Boers in the field, with the loss of the enemy's heavy guns, a siege would be impossible, and fed as it is from three seaports by three separate lines of railways, the possibilities of a failure of food-stuffs are almost as remote.


Supposing' we do not let the bulk of the Johannesburger—many of them are subsisting on the charity of the coast-port colonials—return to the Rand until the war is really ended and the country has quietened down, how long do you think they will have to wait? Will you think I am an alarmist if I say two years? Perhaps that is an extreme view, but at any rate I should say it will be well into 1903 before the country is quite settled. In the meantime you have this enormous population either diverted from its proper avocation, or, as I say, living on the mercy of charitable folks.

And do not forget, good friends, that these people are engaged in the industry which is to contribute towards the costs of the war—not the gold industry only, but the hundred and one subsidiary industries—and the British taxpayer has the right to demand that any machinery that can be put in motion to lighten his burden, should so be.

Let the mines re-open, let the Johannesburgers return, and every stamp that falls will do something more than discourage the Boers: it will help to knock off that extra tuppence!


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), August 6, 1901

VILJOEN'S DRIFT, May 25, 1901


Of Atkins "doing nothing" I have told you: the patient, rain- sodden, wind-chilled, cheerful Atkins, tramping desperately in the grey rain, sleeping peacefully through the black downpour. And I have sketched Atkins tired: the, listless, bored soldier marching impatiently to an unknown destination, or counting flies on a jam-pot by his lonely railside post.

There is no end of variety in Tommy.

Come with me, you people who have a hint of a suspicion that Atkins is subject to funks. Have you ever faced Death? Not on a sickbed, when your mind is clouded and dazed, and you have lost the Grip of Things; not in the stupor of your crisis, when all power of realisation of your danger had slipped from you—but Death that comes to you in the broad light of day; Death that comes at lunch-time, and it is a toss-up whether it will be afternoon tea for yon or a funeral. Face Death that way, stand on the very brink and look down—down—down; sway and reel on the brink of Eternity and recover your footing on the edge of Life with a gasp—that is what I mean by facing Death. Do this not once in your life, but daily, and yon will taste the real flavor of it.


It is early morning, and bitterly cold. Only the stars—frozen spangles of light—in the heavens; only a white rime of frost on the ground, and between frost and stars an empty silence, save that, from the engine of the mail train that has been held up all night at the little veldt siding comes the hiss and roar peculiar to its kind. A feather of steam shakes impatiently at its safety valve, for the wakeful engine and the sleepy passenger coaches behind are ready as soon as light shall come to resume the interrupted journey to Pretoria.

But much may have happened in the night. Brother Boer may have crept down in the darkness and shifted a rail, or worse, left a packet of some unpleasant mess artfully hidden between rail and ballast with the object of reducing the rolling stock of the Imperial Military Railways. So we are going down the line on the ganger's trolley to nose out these modest destroyers that hide coyly behind sleepers and retire unobtrusively to the shelter of fishplates.

Before Heaven and a critical public, I declare I am no hero, although the men who were with me were. They knew the risk they ran—I did not. Perhaps if I had known the risks I was about to take I should not have gone; certain it is I will never go again.

Three full privates, one corporal of Engineers, one war correspondent of the Daily Mail— that was the trolley's passenger list; and, as the night thought of her sins and paled eastward, two of the Tommies gave the machine a shove, and we were off on our ten miles' voyage of discovery. The "road" was downhill and easy going for a mile, and the enemy's country did not begin until we reached the foot of the slope. There we passed the advanced post of the siding guard— a solitary Tommy hidden somewhere in the semi-darkness, who challenged and was silent.


Then he march commenced. On the outer edges of the trolley the corporal and a man stretched themselves full-length along a wooden platform, their beads just over-reaching the fore end of the trolley, their faces about 20 inches above the rail. The other two men trundled the car along, now running alongside pushing heavily, now sitting on the back of the platform propelling the little track forward with an occasional kick at the ground. I was seated amidships, facing forward, and the cold air came to my mouth and nose for all the world like a dry ice spray—if such a thing could be. There was now just enough light for the two watchers to see pretty clearly twenty yards ahead, and the uncanniness of the experience was passing. Atkins who pushed on the right had a fine taste for gruesome anecdote, more particularly in the matter of exploded mines, and his conversation was not cheerful. His repertory included the stories of the Injudicious Corporal, the Inquisitive Loyalist, the Unfortunate Goat, and the Circumspect Boer.

The story of the Inquisitive Loyalist was about a Boer who lived on a farm. And when the English came along this 'ere Boer discovered that he had never been in favor of the war from the very first, so was allowed to live on his farm provided he gave up his arms. So this 'ere somethinged Boer handed in the Tower musket with which he had been plugging Tommies at 2,000 yards and upwards, and flint- lock, which was, so to speak, his second barrel, and was allowed to live peacefully in sight of the camp.

And as every day passed, his love for the British increased, so that the amiable camp commandant allowed him to visit the camp and sell the brutal soldiery milk and vegetables. But the amiable commandant was not the fool his eyeglass and his drawl led you to believe, and he had a notion that the new convert to Imperialism was in the habit—and a disgusting habit it is—of communicating with outside pals. And once a culvert was mysteriously blown up, and nobody saw the Boers who did it. So the commandant took that "— —" (I won't attempt to tone down the adjectives) Boer into his confidence. The culvert south of the siding had been blown up, he said, but had been repaired; he was now having it carefully guarded. He did not intend having the other culvert, which was north of the siding, watched, as he did not think the Boers would experiment on that, and, besides, he couldn't spare the men. And the Boer was touched by the confidence the guileless Philistine reposed in him, and wept.

That night the commandant sent for the farmer and held him in conversation for two hours on agricultural prospects, what time two engineers laid down a devilish contrivance near the northern culvert.

And this is the way it was made. They dug a hole and placed therein a camp kettle. Within that camp kettle was fifteen pounds of dynamite. Inserted in that camp kettle was the muzzle of a loaded Martini carbine, and attached to the trigger of that carbine were wires that the foot of the most careful walker would not fail to catch. Well, that night—


The story stops suddenly, two pairs of hands grip the right- hand brake, and the trolley jars to a standstill.


We are off in a second, and the corporal is gingerly scraping away the earth piled round a thing that looks like a bottle with the neck protruding. It is placed by the side of the rail, the bottle raised to the rail's level, and had the truck gone another dozen feet it would have smashed the neck.

"This," said the corporal, speaking with great niceness, and picking his words as though some discordant phrase would be sufficient to agitate the contents, "is a new fake. I'm not goin' to take this along with me. Here, What's-your-name, take this bottle out about three hundred yards, and stick it on a rock, where we can see it."

What's-his-name tucked the bottle under his arm with as much unconcern as if it were a bottle of beer, and strolled to the required distance. I fancy it was half that distance, for the bottle was quite distinct in the broadening light. When What's- his-name had got back the four men took up their rifles from the trolley floor, and, taking steady aim, opened fire. The third shot took effect. The little black object, just visible, became instantly a broad white fan of angry flaming light. Only for a second, and then smoke was where flame had been, and the earth shook with the roar of the explosion.

"One," said the corporal laconically, and the journey was resumed. Back to the charge came the anecdotal Tommy.

Well, this blank blank Boer was found in a dozen different places the next morning, he having profited by the commandant's confidence to walk round the unguarded culvert in the early morning with a dynamite cartridge and a wicked smile. Tommy lapsed into fiction at this point to sketch the Boer's glee as he walked to his work of destruction.


Now we are at the top of the "bank," and there is a clear run down to the next siding. Day is here now, and as we rattle down the steep grade we disturb the thousand tiny creatures of the sun that are waking to activity.

"Steady with that. Put the. brake on, you silly fool!"

This from the corporal, for we are moving at a great rate, and the watchers stretched at full length put their hands up to turn the wind from their eyes.

The brake falls on the wheel, but we have gained too great a momentum, and the pace is not perceptibly slackened. The corporal looks eagerly forward; the growing light has increased his range of vision, but the speed of the trolley has lessened its usefulness. Suddenly—

"Brake! Brake For God's sake!"

He has seen something on the line—something snuggling close to the rail—an ominous, shapeless something that has no right to be there. In a moment you see there is not time to jump for it; you can hardly rise to your feet in the time. Then a swift hand snatches up a rifle, the rifle is poised for a moment before the whirring wheels of the trolley, then dropped crosswise on to the metals. There is a jump, a bone-racking thud, thud, thud as the wheels kick up against the sleepers; the next minute there is an overturned trolley with wheels still running, and five human beings sprawling unhurt upon the veldt; but the five little sticks of dynamite with the upturned percussion cap are untouched.

Only a broken rifle a few feet from them shows where the trolley left the line.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 12, 1901

JOHANNESBURG, May 28, 1901

Trade follows the flag.

This phrase—accepted as an axiom by some, and as a mischievous solecism by a dour few—has hitherto suggested to us one type of campaign And the peculiarity of that type of campaign is that it has been a sort of three-months-to-the-day affair, and its incidents have had a peculiar sameness. First an interior, miles, away from the coast. Then an irreligious potentate who warmly declined to be converted, or to exchange the simple devil he knew for the subtle devil he did not know, preferring wooden-faced Mumbo-Jumbo to the unclean serpent. Then follow in rapid succession the inevitable consequences—a murdered missionary, an Exchange cable, and a hastily organised punitive expedition. Long marches and much fever, and a funeral of two by the wayside. A little bush-fighting, an early morning rush at a bristling stockade, a scramble over, a practical demonstration of the utility of the short lunge, a little burying, a little hanging, up with the bunting and "God Save the King!"— with, a Bombay Lancer hauling at the lanyards, and a Sudanese policeman holding the Marine C.O.'s horse. That is the advent of the flag.


After come a Parsee, a Jew and a Scotch storekeeper, and trade sits on the conqueror's grave and rooks the guileless conquered, for bad whisky and a new code of ethics are trade's outward and visible signs.

Sometimes trade gets ahead the flag; the Union Jack goes to the front in a box of Birmingham gewgaws, but in that case it does not go alone, and the allied forces are well represented, and the supremacy of any one nationality is in ratio to the gaudiness of its export. When the official flag comes along, which it will do with the usual escort of "red" marines and the portable Hotchkiss, there will arise certain complications, for in the Hinterland the rights of kingship are less divine than those of the Belgian trader.

This is by the way; and is suggested by a walk I have taken, round Johannesburg's stores. I have been trying to discover to what extent English trade will benefit by our new acquisition, and, if the truth be told, the prospect is by no means an encouraging one. That the mines will be ours—or rather that the country in which the goldfields are situated will be under British rule—may be taken for granted. That these large corporations will for many years contribute a fair share towards defraying the cost of the war is also within reason, but beyond the direct income from this source it is difficult to see in what manner England is to benefit commercially, if the existing business modes obtain in the future, and if the schemes that are now on foot in America and elsewhere go through.


For, be it known, commercial America is making a big bid for the Rand, and commercial America is being aided and abetted in its plans by a pathetic, worn-out, vitiated commercial England. Nor is this trade-grabbing the most serious aspect of America's attempt to secure by hustle and dollar that which we have earned with bullet and fever.

"America," said a well-known Johannesburg stockbroker to me the other evening, "is going to have a considerable say in the development of the Rand. As it is, very few people are aware of the enormous interests the States have in Johannesburg. Yes, I know it has been denied, and that very few of the leading Wall Street speculators have large holdings of Kaffir scrip, but there are many very wealthy houses in America that never, or, at any rate, seldom ever gamble, who are steadily buying up shares whenever the opportunity offers. Of course, it isn't their game to come in with a rush and send up the prices, but the buying goes on nonetheless."

As it is, most of the machinery used on the Rand hails from the other side, and the reason for this is not far to seek.

If you consult a list of the mines on the Rand, and, for that matter, throughout South Africa, you will find that in almost every instance the chief engineer is an American, and as Americans of all classes, be they chief engineers or trolley-men, have an unshakeable belief in the supremacy of home manufacturers over all foreign trash, it would be unreasonable to expect them to favour any other than those from the land of Old Glory.

This favouritism has already been so marked as to attract attention, and with the added, incentive of sympathetic directors, and the concordant votes of shareholders, the American engineer will have it pretty well all his own way, to the detriment of the unfortunate English manufacturer.


"Another thing," said my stockbroking friend, "that is alarming is the prospect of consolidation. I had a 1etter from a man in New York only last week, telling me that there is a movement on foot to capture all the poorer mines and the deeps and pool them—yes, a trust (a trust is the Yankee's idea of commercial perfection). It wouldn't be a very big thing in the way of trusts, but it would open up tremendous possibilities. The amalgamation of the diamond mines of Kimberley had as much an appearance of impossibility as a big gold combine here."

Desirous of discovering whether America's pushfulness was being directed solely towards the mining industry I strolled round the town, visiting several of the big business houses. The first firm was that of the Peter Robinson class, and the manager was emphatic.

"Where do we get our goods from? America, France, Germany and England, but France and Germany run her very close. America isn't able to compete with English manufacturers in that line, but in a year or two I've no doubt she will. As to hardware, that mostly all comes from America. Why? Well, it is cheaper in the first place— both the initial cost and the shipment. Then, again, the stuff is good, the orders are promptly complied with and accurately carried out."


Another manager fold the same story:

"American shippers are prompt, courteous and obliging. They are ending up boots now that compare very favourably with the best Leicester or Vienna ever exported."

And again:

"English houses are so unobliging, they make certain things in a certain way, whether the requirements of the customer are suited or not. A traveller representing a well-known English firm called with some samples. There was a dressing-bag that took my fancy, but in place of the brass fittings I wanted. nickel. Do you think he would take my order? Not a bit. He was very sorry, but that was the class of goods his firm supplied. I could take it or leave it. After he had left along came an American drummer representing a firm that supplied many things, but certainly not dressing-bags. I told him of my difficulty with the Englishman; and do you know that that Yank took my order for dressing-bags with nickel fittings, although his firm bad never made such a thing before; and, what is more, I got 'em."

The hardware merchants of the Rand were unanimous. America was the only possible market for tools and furniture. "I indented," said one, "for thirty ploughs from England and a like number from America. I verily believe that the American ploughs were worn out before the English articles arrived." Also, we were unanimous upon one point: the English article was the best.

What is to blame for our commercial failure in South Africa? Old, conservative, dogmatic methods, and an inability to appreciate the present day necessities of the buyer. Not the buyer, at any rate, for he is justified in going to the cheapest and most expeditious, marketer. It is too much to expect that the Rand merchant will wait six months for a plough when he can get a plow in two.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 15, 1901

PRETORIA, May 31, 1901

"...Mr Van Nieuenhoys, the Netherlands Consul, left here last Saturday, for the purpose of interviewing General Botha, that general having expresssd a desire to cable to President Kruger with reference to a general surrender. Last night there was a persistent rumour in town that Botha had asked for a three days' armistice, which had been granted. The feeling here is distinctly optimistic."

But the censor shook his head when I showed him the message.

"Nothing about peace proposals can go through," he said, and so I have wired you the last sentence of my message in the hope that you may read into the somewhat bald and reiterated statement of Pretoria's cheerfulness the fact that, for the hundredth time since the war started, the End and Peace are in sight. This possibly suggests once more the terms of settlement, about which so much has been written—we had cut and dried proposals ready for the battle of Glencoe!—that one feels the impossibility of presenting the issues in any fresh light.


First and foremost, the opinions of loyal South Africa must be respected, for the loyal South African is the man who is to live here, making his home among the people who are now in the field fighting against us. No policy and no terms, however pleasing to the millions who are living six thousand miles from the land which will see and feel the policy in operation, and will be influenced in its future every-day life by the direction of the settlement, can be possible unless they gain the approval of the people who will be mostly affected. And, the person who will be mostly affected—next to the Boer himself—will be the loyal South African, who in thousands of instances has fought for his political liberty with the best of the soldiers, and who in all cases must make his home and raise his family side by side with the people whose exact national status for all time must be definitely settled before the war is really over.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to discover is, What are loyal South Africa's demands? For there ore two classes of loyalists in the country, and each is distinct from the other. There is the practical and the sentimental; one who, with an eye to the future, calls for a modus vivendi, and the other who cries Revanche! and demands retaliatory measures, having in his mind the injustice of the Krugerian regime, and being for the time oblivious of the copy-book maxim which points out the futility of attempting to obtain any shade of whiteness by a combination of two or more uncompromising blacks.


These people, who, smarting under their past wrongs, will naturally take the most extreme views, will be, beyond doubt, be the more difficult to please when, the actual settlement comes. Profiting by past experience of Great Britain's pusillanimity in colonial administration; remembering—and they cannot well forget—how often they have been left to work out their own salvation by Governments who regarded the colonies as inferior Irelands, they will read into every piece of statesmanship which concedes in the slightest degree to the Boer prejudice an unexplainable attempt on the part of his Majesty's Government to conciliate the Dutch at the expense of the British.

The practical section, however, dominates, and will be able to discriminate between weakness and far-seeing concession—always providing you do not call it "magnanimity," which is a word that stinks in the nostrils of every South African.

"I decline to discuss the question of independence," said Lord Kitchener, and the fact that independence cannot be discussed in the terms of settlement is very patent to the most ignorant bywoner. They do not expect independence: Botha even told one of the captured commandants that the hope of the two States recovering their old position was outside the range of possibility—and this in spite of his periodical appeals to the burghers to fight to the death in defence of their beloved independence. They know, Botha and Boer, that England cannot withdraw from the position she has taken up in South Africa, and still remain a nation, so that their parrot-like cry for independence is becoming almost as meaningless as the heroics of the schoolboy orator who ends his peroration with that magnificent Americanism, "As for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Recognising the futility of resistance, why then prolong what is beyond doubt for them a painful campaign?

The life of the Boer on commando is more than hard. Ill-fed, ill-clad, with scarcely any transport and very little clothing—so little indeed that some of the commandoes are forced to save the skins of the sheep they kill to protect them from the ravages of winter—bootless most of them, living a life compared with which the lot of the humble herd-boy is luxurious, surely there is something more vital than this equivocal independence—this hopeless intangibility?


As it is with the loyalists, so it is with the Boers. There is a large and predominating section of sentimentalists. The questions whether their language shall be stamped out and whether they shall be placed on the same electoral footing as the raw Kaffir are very high politics to a majority of the men in the field.

Only the other day one of the commandants addressed the men of his commando: "If we surrender to the British, what will become of onze taal?* It will be swept from the land, and you will be obliged to talk to your mother in English; if we surrender we shall have to say to our Kaffirs: 'Als u belieft, Jan!' (Please, John) and 'Danke, Jan' (Thanks, John), and we shall ask our boys if we may vote!"

[* onze taal (Afrikaans)—our language. ]

This native equality rankles in the Boer mind. For years the native has been his good servant, and he had sufficient knowledge of the working of the aboriginal mind to know how bad a master the native will become if he is allowed to take any prominent place the politics of the country. The native question is one which will require the careful consideration of those entrusted with the construction of the final settlement, for not only the immediate pacification of the country will be involved in the rigid niceness of the adjustment of the clauses dealing therewith, but the future tranquillity of the whole of South Africa, from the Mediterranean southwards, may be bound up in the future status of the Transvaal native, for the tranquillity of the native will depend on the attitude of the Dutch, and the attitude of the Dutch will depend on the position of the native politically.


Whatever opinions one may have on the question of the languages, one point seems to be of paramount importance, and most people I have spoken with are agreed, whether they have been British or Dutch, that English must be the official language in the Transvaal, although there seems to be no very convincing reason why Dutch should not be spoken in the Legislative Assemblies of the two conquered provinces. It seems to me that we recognised the right of two communities of almost equal size, but differing in nationality, each to use its native tongue, when we suggested, shortly before the war, that English should he allowed to be used in debates in the Raadzaal,* and that the Transvaal Government refused to sanction this is no reason why we should deny to the Boer what we deemed due to the Briton.

[* Raadzaal(Afrikaans)—The Transvaal Parliament building.

The taal will die a natural death. Possessing no traditions and no literature, its grammar conforming strictly to the taste of the user, it needs just leaving alone. To attempt to suppress it would be to endow it with new life. Let it be used as in the Cape Colony, only don't encourage it as they do there, for the taal is a compulsory subject for all matriculation, examinations, and the spectacle of English students being set the task of translating High Dutch into the taal is not edifying. The taal is hideous and slovenly. It is so coarse and vulgar that the British and Foreign Bible Society have not printed a single Bible in the "language." It is a sort of Billingsgate Dutch, with all the Billingsgate left in—and the Boer wants to retain it, to read his Volkstem* in it, to hear his sermons in it. Let him. His grandson will be an educated man, and will speak English out of very decency. Don't be afraid that Holland Dutch will become the language of the land—the Boer prefers English.

[* De Volkstem (Afrikaans)—"The Voice Of The People", a Transvaal newspaper. ]

These are two points which will loom largely in the settlement. A concession in either case would be as beneficial to the English as to the enemy—don't forget that we are not as yet in a position to dictate terms—and are such that we can afford to give. They are sops thrown to sentiment: we can be cheaply gracious.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), August 22, 1901

A British army censor deleted the account of this Boer atrocity from a report which Edgar Wallace cabled to the Daily Mail in June 1901. The uncensored version of the report eventually reached the newspaper by post. The Poverty Bay Herald printed Wallace's account with the following introductory material:


The allegations against the Boers of murdering the British wounded at Vlakfontein in the fight of May 29 formed the subject of a special statement in the House of Commons by Mr Brodrick, the War Minister, on July 11.

In view of the War Office's denial of the statement in the telegrams from South Africa that a British officer and a non- commissioned officer were shot in cold blood because they refused to show the Boers how to work the guns which they had temporarily captured, and having regard also to the numerous letters which the newspapers had published from time to time from soldiers who actually took part in the fight, great public interest has been manifested in the subject.

There has, indeed, been, great anxiety to arrive at the truth of this matter. And from, the statement which Mr Brodrick made, there appears to be no manner of doubt that the Boers were guilty of the atrocities ascribed to them in soldiers' letters from the front. For it now turns out, after inquiry, that Lord Kitchener telegraphed his denial on insufficient information—that, so far, seven men have come forward and testified that the Boers murdered British wounded. The Commander- in-Chief has forwarded the statements of these eye-witnesses on by mail, and further evidence on oath is to be taken. Here is the text of Edgar Wallace's report:


In the country round Wolmaranstadt and Hartebeestefontein, and between Klerkdorp and the Bechuanaland border, the whole district swarms with Boers, and it is here that Methuen goes when he feels inclined to have a fight, which is, so swear the Bushmen, who worship him—(did you know that?)—about seven days a week.

General Dixon's column is one of the many that zig-zag about the country establishing posts, building and garrisoning blockhouses, burning and punishing, protecting and relieving as occasion demands or justice dictates.

The country is of that deceptive kind where long grassy undulations hide dongas* and waterways. On the day of the fight, Dixon's force had been out farm-burning in the morning, and was returning to camp at about 1.30 in the afternoon. To guard as far as possible from surprise, the force was split up into two wings, moving simultaneously in the same direction, but a considerable distance apart. When the columns reached a point which was presumably as far from the camp as each wing was from the other, the two parties converged on to the point represented by the camp, so that the lines of direction may be roughly followed by placing a V sideways, the force moving down the upper road consisting of two squadrons Imperial Yeomanry, two guns, 200 Derbys, and a few Scottish Horse. The pom-pom had also been with this party, but was withdrawn before the fight, and was with the main body, which was moving up the lower road.

[* Donga (Afrikaans from Zulu)—a ditch formed by the erosion of soil. The word means "bank, side of a gully" in Zulu. Wikipedia. ]

As the column advanced leisurely along the top road, the scouts skirting the grass fire, some shadowy forms were seen to be moving about. Through the smoke they were indistinguishable, but they were challenged, and replied satisfactorily enough, "All right; we are Scottish Horse," and as they seemed to be dressed in khaki, and wore the regulation cocks' feathers in their hats, very little notice was taken until a heavy gust of wind rent for a moment the veil of smoke—and there was the Boer army! With a yell the whole Boer force dashed forward, galloping through the low, hanging smoke, the hoofs of a thousand horses tramping down the fire. Firing from their saddles, the Boers came on with a rush, and as the little English force fell back in confusion the gunner officer, seeing that the fate of his guns was settled, pistolled the horses.


The confusion was only for a moment, for, rallied by fine officers, the raw Yeomen, who two months ago had never fired a rifle, took cover and held the Boers in play, while the good old Derbys, grown wise in warfare, prepared to make an attempt to re- take the guns. In the meantime the jubilant Boers had reached the spot where the guns stood, the dying horses lying in the traces and the victims of the first volley lying around, and demanded of an officer who had not time to get away an immediate lesson in gunnery. He refused to turn the guns on to his own comrades—that goes without saying—and was shot for his refusal. A sergeant-major of the battery met with the same fate.

What happened then may be described in the words of my informant.

"A couple of Boers armed with Martinis walked round the forms of the dead and dying men who were stretched in every conceivable attitude on the ground. Some they turned over to see if they were dead. If they weren't, one or the other of the two Boers shot them, just slipping a cartridge into the breach of the Martini and shooting them as you'd shoot an ox. I saw four men killed in this way. The Boers went up to Lieutenant —— of the —— and turned him over. Then, thinking that he was dead, they took off his spurs. One officer was lying wounded, and a sergeant who was slightly wounded went across to him with some water; a third Boer shot them both dead deliberately. One youngster—I think he was a Yeoman—pleaded for his life. I heard him say, '0 Christ—don't!' and then the bang of the rifle." That is what happened.

Then came the other wing with their howitzer, and the Boers managed to work the newly-captured guns, and got in half a dozen shots.

By this time the Derbys were ready. Bayonets rattled on to barrels, and with that jog-jog step that knows but one pace and stops only at one objective, they came on with a rush. They say that raw Yeomen and seasoned Tommies mingled together in the final rush, but whoever else was there, the Derby Tommy was in it, and the Boers, who for the moment had been the victors, inflicting on us something which looked suspiciously like a disaster, turned and fled, leaving their bayoneted dead to be buried.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 23, 1901


PRETORIA, Wednesday, June 12, 1901

In speaking last week of the Vlakfontein fight, I did so believing that the description I had sent by cable had gone through without mutilation.

The restrictions imposed on Press correspondents at the beginning of the war were, under Lord Roberts's regime, considerably relaxed, and I suppose I had fallen into a sense of false security when I despatched to you on form A.K. of the Telegraafdienst, Z.A. Republiek*, the story of the Boer atrocities at Vlakfontein.

[* Telegraafdienst, Z.A. Republiek (Afrikaans)—Telegraph Service of the South African Republic. ]

At any rate, I must confess to having received a rude shock on Saturday, when, on paying a flying visit to Pretoria, I discovered that that portion referring to the shooting of the wounded Yeomen by Kemp's burghers had been struck out of my message.

I do not rail against the censors, since most of those men who have been appointed to the more important centres are educated, courteous gentlemen, who do not mutilate news out of very wantonness, but rather act either in conformity with an inscrutable law, evidently based on the spasmodic whimsies of some exalted military genius, whose claim to distinction is apparently a total ignorance of public feeling and a lack of acquaintance with the first principles of Logical Deduction, or else are the dictation of Downing Street wire-pullers, who have a political object in suppressing facts.

There are, of course—or rather have been—censors who were neither educated, courteous nor gentlemanly; censors of a day, so to speak, who have played the fool with the English public as their caprices or their malice dictated.


Armed with a little brief authority, and accepting Lord Wolseley's hasty definition! of the war correspondent—("The curse of modern armies")—as an axiom; and Lord Kitchener's alleged aversion to the Press as a sound backing, they have bullied and threatened, and hacked and slashed, just as their spite or stupidity inspired them.

There is a Colonel of an Irish Line Regiment, an immaculate, eye-glassed individual, who spent one half of his time in writing to Lord Kitchener to tell him the precautions he had taken to ensure the safety of the camp, and the other half bullying inoffensive railway passengers. This officer threatened to put me in the guard-room for submitting a wire which was absolutely true, but which he, as Intelligence officer, should have known before me.

A couple of months ago, when I was with Henniker on the trail of the wily De Wet, there was a censor attached to General Lyttelton's staff who carefully eliminated from a wire which described the taking of De Wet's guns every reference to the Yeomen, the Australians, and the irregular corps, and inserted in their stead a statement which, not to put too fine a point on it, was an absolute falsehood. What his object was in doing this, Heaven only knows. But to me, taking an ordinary matter-of-fact view of the case, it seemed very much like an exhibition of jealousy, and an attempt to boycott corps which, in the piping times of peace, do not figure in the Army List.


In dealing with censors and their methods in this letter I do not wish to take into account those freaks of a day, those irresponsible mutilators with whom impaired digestion takes the place of literary ability, for they very often are men placed in their positions on the fool-of-the-family principle.

"What shall we do with Captain Friendatcourt?" asks the staff officer of his brigadier.

"Friendatcourt?" queries the General, "Who the devil's he?"

"The man who came from Park Lane with a Letter of Introduction," is the response.

"Oh!" says the chief, "make him Provost-Marshal."

"Not enough backbone, sir," answers the staff officer.

"Put him in charge of the transport," is the order.

The staff officer sniggers. "And be starved?" he inquires.

"Well," ponders the brigadier, "he can't signal, he can't" write, he doesn't know even enough to be Intelligence Officer—make him Press Censor!" And so he gets his billet.

Now I do not intend dealing with this class of censor, since his ways are governed by no earthly laws, but rather with the men who fill these posts at places like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, and Kimberley. They are the people who must be discussed, for from their ruling there is little or no appeal, since they represent Lord Kitchener, and hold the sealed patterns of his policy.


I am now dealing with Kitchener the Administrator, and the policy of Kitchener the Administrator is the reflected policy of his Majesty's Government. Read between the lines of a censored message and you see Downing Street. A blue line drawn across a dozen words—and a question in the House avoided. A sentence erased—and a responsibility shirked. It seems to me that the censorship which was originally constituted for purely military purposes is being used for political ends, and that some restrictions are placed on messages for this and for no other reason. These, I might say, are not laid down in any written or printed regulation to which the war correspondent has access, and one only discover them by the mark of the censor's pencil. The cabled message suffers, and the reason for the restrictions imposed can only be adduced to one cause.

The English Government is weakening on the issues in South Africa. You have but to see the items of news in the censor's index expurgatorius to realise it. Members of the Cabinet may make after-dinner speeches. They may put their hands to the plough and never turn back three tames a week. They may address their constituents wad reconstruct the Army with equal self- assurance—but the policy which we understood to be purged of abortive conciliation, which we understood would carry through this war until we were in a position to dictate terms to the enemy, has been replaced by a fearful desire to bring the war to a finish without giving offence to the Boer and his friends.


Why must not the correspondent say by telegraph that we have burnt a farm from which a patrol was sniped? Why must he not tell you that British columns are making the Eastern Transvaal uninhabitable? Are you so falsely sensitive that you give your sanction to a war of which you cannot countenance the terrible incidents; or is it that the strongest Government of Other Times lives in the fear of an Irish opposition?

Why must you not be told that our wounded soldiers were brutally murdered? Is it because you would rather think of them as having fallen in action—a wish to spare your feelings? Or is it that your knowledge of the Boer character would block the way of pet conciliation schemes that are ready to plaster up the ragged ends of am unfinished war?

Why are the comings and goings of conciliating consuls, the private meetings of Boer commandants and mutual friends kept secret?

Because the Government knows you are sick to death of these wordy engagements that end nowhere, that you want to fight to a finish. You have opined that the soldiers on the field are stale; you are mistaken; it is the Government that has grown stale, that fearful, timorous, speech-making Government, so dear to the applauding, unsuspecting electorate; so cheap, to the wily Boer, who is waiting for his peace at almost any price.

No right-thinking man will blame Lord Kitchener for carrying out the instructions of the Government, for Lord Kitchener the High Commissioner has not got the free hand that Lord Kitchener the Commander-in-Chief had.


The man who was strong enough to desecrate the tomb of the Mahdi and strike a deadly blow at superstition and heathendom, to the horror and puny wrath of tea-meetingdom, is strong enough to shoot off traitors and devastate a country without fear of criticism or out-of-office hysteria. Strong enough is "K.," but weak, terribly weak is the knee-shaky Cabinet whose very philosophy—so much in evidence at the outbreak of the war—is deserting them. There is nothing to be gained by keeping dark such things as I have enumerated. There is everything to gain by a policy of frankness.

Are we afraid to say that we are making war in a warlike way? Is it worthy of our national traditions that we should burn and destroy the enemy's property which has been used against our arms, and ravage the land that supports him, and be afraid to tell the world that we are doing it? The war was a just war: an inevitable war. We were not ashamed to wage it: why fear to let even a flabby Opposition know the method of waging?

And about the shooting of the wounded and the many stories of Boer atrocities which may not he sent by cable. Why this solicitude? Instances have occurred times without number, but times without number the greatest objection has been made to the recording of these. Conciliating and whitewashing seem to be so much the order of the day now that one hesitates at speaking adversely of Brother Boer, lest an indignant Crown should institute an action for criminal libel!


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), August 23, 1901

Note.—Lest this letter fall into the hands of a civilian censor with no sense of humour, I do hereby solemnly say that the following is a purely fictitious epistle, addressed to an imaginary commandant by a non-existent Boer, and is written with the object of calling the attention of the B.P. to the humanity of British methods of making war.—E.W.
The Laager, Vlaakhoer, Z.A.R., June 14, 1901.

My dear Commandant Marais,-

This comes hoping to find you quite well, as by the Divine blessing I and my brave comrades are, but living always in fear of the cursed and barbarous English, who have Deluged the land in Blood, and have, as one of their greatest and most statesmanlike writers said, let Hell loose by slaying their Brother Boers, though personally I do not call an Englishman my brother, but a Great Thief and a Bloody Monster.

You will be pleased to hear that we killed sixty of the enemy last week, which brings up the average of the enemy's slain and wounded, but would not have done had not Piet van Heerden shot a few who were undecided whether to live or die—so grievously were they wounded.

I had a letter from Louis Botha last week by way of Ermelo, telling me that we must fight while there is one man left to hold a rifle, and a single white flag remains in our lines, and if we get too hard-pressed and see no way of escaping from the hands of the Philistines, he will arrange for a week's armistice to discuss peace terms, which my son (who is with me and well) says is a much better way of gaining time than asking for 24 hours to bury your dead—and my son was at Stellenbosch training for the ministry, and is the slimmest kerl* that ever shot a doctor.

[* slimmest kerl (Afrikaans)— naughtiest boy, most wicked chap. ]


We are ready and willing to die for our beloved country, but the burghers' hearts are crying out, "How long, How long, 0 Lord? How long shall the barbarian sit at the gates of the Chosen? How long shall the reign of they that sit in darkness carry fire and sword through all the Land of Israel?"

I forgot to tell you in my last letter that we managed to blow up an ambulance train near Geneva. There were more than eighty sick soldiers in it, and you could hear them shout a mile away, so Andries, my brother, told me. I might tell you that Andries is the life of the laager; he is such a comical rascal, he goes out dressed in khaki, and rides up to the enemy's patrol, and if the patrol is only one man, Andries shoots him quite close and brings his boots back into camp. He has got such a collection that I tell him he must start a winkel*—so many boots has he got.

[* winkel (Afrikaans)—a shop, a store. ]

You must not be bang* for him, dear brother Marais, because when the English, catch a Boer dressed in khaki they do not shoot him, but ask him why he is dressed so, and when he says that all his other clothes are worn out by continual trekking, and that if he did not wear looted khaki he would have to be in rags, the English officer says, "Poor devil!" and reports to his general that the Boers are in a very bad way, and that they might all surrender it any minute.

[* bang (Afrikaans)—afraid. ]


I have warned Andries not to get caught by the Australians and the other colonials if he is dressed in khaki, because several khaki burghers were captured by the Bushmen, and I have not seen their names in the list of prisoner—and that was six months ago.

You will be pleased to hear that we have our services regularly twice every Sabbath, accept when we are on the trek. Sometimes I read to the burghers, and sometimes Andries, and sometimes old Oom van Streuben. We have Psalms and an address.

Last Sunday Andries gave a beautiful address on "The Earth is the Lord's, and the fullness of the earth is the Lord's also." And he told us how it was ordained by the Almighty that man should live by that which was extracted from the Land; that the People of the Land were the chosen people of Israel. Not those who dwelt in the cities, but those who dwelt on the farms, were the chosen. The English, he said, lived in cities; we lived in farms—the English, by robbing and cheating and leading immoral lives; we, by the fruits of the soil and the bounties of the soil which the Lord gave unto mankind. It was a good sermon, but I do not think the burghers cared so much for it as they might. They are, as you know, mostly cattle farmers and bywoners, and have never grown mealies or corn in their lives.

Talking of the treasures of the earth, I could not find the dynamite which you said in your last letter was buried in this district. I found a Maxim at Witpoort, also some ammunition; but the Maxim was so eaten up with rust and the cartridges so perished that I left the gun for a British column that was allowing me—you may have read the account of its capture in the Cape papers.

We are all very well clad, and so far we have not run short of ammunition, but we have no tobacco.


In spite of this we are all very happy. I have nothing now to trouble about. My wife is in the women's laager, near Kroonstad, also, my two children, and they are all living so well and getting so fat that I shall not know them—so says my wife in a letter to me which be sent out by Erasmus Cloete, who, you know, is now in the employ of the English as a landdrost,* or justice, or something, he having become British, at I forget how much, a month.

[* landdrost (Afrikaans)—an official with local jurisdiction. ]

My son's wife is in Pretoria, where the English Government allows her coals, and coffee, and meat, and meal, and she says she is very friendly with the English soldiers, and they like her very ouch, as she gives a few of them nice new bread to eat, which they like much better than their biscuits.

I hear that the outlanders are not to be allowed back to Johannesburg yet, for fear we attack the town, and that even if the English did not fear this, the outlanders could not come up, because all the rolling stock that is not required to carry up soldiers is wanted for carrying the prisoners of war, who are being returned to the country.

Have you heard of the latest English madness? Surely they are all fools! Not only are they bringing back all the prisoners they took away—from Ceylon, from India, and from St. Helena—but they are going to give as many as want—what to you think? A horse and a rifle and ammunition! And why, do you think? They are to be sent out to hunt up burghers' cattle and bring in the burghers' stock! Well, I don't mind. I can do with a few recruits, and if they bring their own rifles and ammunition, so much the better, say I.

But, perhaps, you know as much about all this as I do—still there can be no harm in giving you these tips. Byers is at Zand River Poort. He is well laagered, and they do say that the whole British Army could not move him from his position.


As for me, I am holding a kopje from which I could defy two armies, but I am trekking to-night, for I hear that Methuen is moving in this direction—and, brother Marais, take this tip, never wait for Methuen. My! but he was did about Spytkoppies (?Magersfontein), and he has been wild ever since. Also be cautious of the Yeomen; they are not such fools as I thought after reading that Pink English paper you sent me—they cannot ride much, but they can shoot—also they do not run. If you meet any of —— Horse, shoot at them a little, and then go and take their horses and rifles, but do not hurt them, for later they will be given new horses and new rifles—and I want new rifles. Also do not try to rush a blockhouse that is held by English foot-soldiers. Gert Marais—he is no relation of yours, but you will remember him, the tall Veld Cornet with the light- hair and the red eyes—well, Gert Marais tried to do this by Heidelberg. He took fifty men with him, as there were only ten holding the post, and they started firing their rifles at sun-up, and then galloped down towards the fort. I am sorry for Gert; he was a nice man, but inclined to be quarrelsome. Will you tell his brother, who is with you? Gert and ten others and a cross over each—the English are good about these things.

I am sending this letter by my son Willem. He leaves at dusk and travels by night. Zolang,* brother, keep a good courage, remembering that as the hosts of the Amorites were smitten before Gibeon, so shall the Lord deliver his people from the oppressor.

Your friend, PIET HOFFMAN, Commandant.

P.S.—I do not quite understand how the nitroglycerine you sent me is to be used. Will yon send one of the Irish Brigade, or some other German, to show me? P.H.

[* zolang (Afrikaans)—meanwhile.]


Reproduced from The Wanganui Chronicle (New Zealand), August 27, 1901

STANDERTON, June 8, 1901

One of the idiosyncrasies of English temperament is the desire to find fault with work well done because it has not been done better.

However satisfied we are with the results of a battle, our satisfaction is invariably tempered by the length of our casualty list, while on the other hand, if we by any chance effect movement with little or no loss to ourselves, the doubt will probably occur in the minds of nine out of ten intelligent critics, "Would not this movement of General Blank's have been even more prolific in results had he moved with less caution?" After all, it is only a superficial criticism; the thing that men who open their morning papers in the train snap across the carriage to one another.

In their innermost hearts they know we are doing our best out here—that we don't throw away our lives to get our names into the paper, or crawl on our hands and knees across the veldt to avoid casualties. I say all this, because I do not know how you will accept the Vlakfontein-Naauwpoort fight, accounts of which I have cabled you.


I was near Pietersburg, about 200 miles away from the scene of the fight, when it occurred, and by the greatest luck in the world I heard of it within a couple of hours. As fast as a joggling, rattling, South-Eastern-like goods train could carry me I was on my way back to Krugersdorp a few hours afterwards. Until I got to Krugersdorp I was not certain whether we were to call this last affair of ours a disaster or a great victory, and a victory in spite of our heavy casualty list. Not only did we drive off an enemy outnumbering us by three to one, but by the splendid dash of our infantry we have established the irrefutable fact that, in spite of 20 months' hard fighting and tedious trekking, and the lugubrious views of the Times correspondent notwithstanding, the old hands are just as fit and just as keen as ever.

And it was a moral victory also. Abandoning the old methods of dropping the butt-end of a rifle on the wounded soldier's face, when there was none to see the villainy, the Boer has done his bloody work in the light of day, within sight of a dozen eye- witnesses, and the stories we have hardly dared to hint, lest you thought we had grown hysterical, we can now tell without fear of ridicule. The Boers murder wounded men.

Yes, the gentle, bucolic Boer, who was forced to take up the rifle, purchased for him a dozen years before by a paternal Government, to guard the independence of his country, may be placed in the same category as the Matabele, the Mashona, the Dervish, the Afridi, and with every other savage race with whom Britain has waged war. And the soldier who is stricken down on the field is no more certain that his life will be spared by his brother Boer than he was that brother Fussy would pass him by.


You will say that the Boers have not consistently killed off our wounded. Indeed, there are instances where they have treated our men very well. That is so; under Commandant De la Rey's eye these atrocities would never have been committed, and the wounded soldier within view of that, or any other Boer commandant of his order of intelligence, would have been as safe as any Christian who sought sanctuary at the feet of Li Hung Chang.

The murdering of the wounded has been a common feature of the war, but except in one or two cases we have had none other than circumstantial evidence. On the day of the sortie from Kimberley half a dozen men swore that the wounded who fell with Scott- Turner had been deliberately murdered, and similar instances have come to light during the campaign. What does this prove? It proves the truth of a statement that has been made before, and proves it better than the amount of abstract reasoning would do—the Boer is half a savage. I make this statement dispassionately, without feeling any greater resentment towards the Boer than I should were I describing the cat as half a tiger. He is a savage not from wickedness, nor from any criminal effort, only just because, like Dr Watt's dog, it is his nature to.

Three stages marked the advance of primitive man from absolute savagery to civilisation, the "finding," the "raising," and the "making" stages. At present the Boer is but in the "finding." As primitive man learned first to find and kill animals for his consumption, and then with the first glimmerings of intellect reasoned that it would not be at all a bad idea, if he herded or stored some of the findings, and so became a cattle farmer; so did the voortrekker turn from pot-hunting to herding, and there he has stuck.

[* voortrekker (Afrikaans)—a pioneer, literally "one who treks ahead." ]


The average Boer is a cattle farmer pure and simple, very few have learned to produce from the land for the market, and consequently the aboriginal is further advanced economically than he, for the native raises a considerable crop, having reached the second stage, and his success in the third being merely a matter for education and time to assure. I am speaking now of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony Boers, since one industry in the Cape Colony thrives languidly, as the wine farmers of the Western Province will tell you. The Boer does not "raise" for the market; indeed, he even depends on the native crops for his own meagre requirements, and by this fact alone he must take second place to the native in the standard of economic utility, since the Kaffir can, apart from other sources, sustain an independent existence, that is, he can live by his own winnings from the soil.

The Krugerian regime is all to blame for this, not only for the ignorance and unintelligence of the Boers in the two Republics, but for the conservatism which made the burgher of the Cape Colony reject any attempt to educate him. The Transvaal gave the lead; it made the pace of progress. The dogmatism of its orthodox educational methods was the faith of the Free State, and the unassailable creed of the Afrikander. As fast as the South African Republic moved along the road that leads to enlightenment, and a wider and more comprehensive view of life and men, so fast did the Free State and the Cape Colony move. Only, unfortunately, the Transvaal did not move at all, and the rest of Dutch Africa remained correspondingly stagnant. No attempt was made by the Krugerian Government—no honest attempt—to bring light to the enlightened. No effort was made to educate the burghers to a knowledge of their possibilities. They did not realise the potentialities with which an accident of fortune had endowed them.

The discovery of gold at Johannesburg might have been for them the gift of the gods had a wise and honest Administration been theirs. The finding of gold, and the consequent influx of capital and people into the country might have brought about a social revolution, making the farmer a real factor in the development of South Africa. Indeed, the gold discovery was the very challenge of Fate.


But the existence of the Krugerian regime rested solely on the ignorance of the farmer, and the Boer, instead of being encouraged to produce, was offered every inducement to stagnate. A price was put on his indolence. He was told times without number that, so long as his vote was given in the right direction, the State would see that he did not want. He was taught to look upon the Uitlander as the goose whose golden eggs were to save him from worrying about the future. President Kruger's system of teaching soon resulted in a very fine crop of State-aided "poor burghers." What was farcically termed the agricultural community of the Transvaal was in reality a voting community. A man was not valued because he enriched the land, or because he improved the breed of cattle, or because he seriously attempted towards the amelioration of the farming classes, but because he was a voting unit; he could be depended on to return to Parliament some one who would legislate to the Uitlanders' discomfort—and incidentally to the Boer's advantage. Kruger crippled the farmer—or rather, with all the innate cunning that characterised his rule, he assisted the farmer to cripple himself.

So much has been written on the system by which the Pretorian oligarchy was upheld that I have only touched on this aspect, and that to adduce a reason for the many otherwise inexplicable exhibitions of savagery which have from time to time "staggered humanity." Education is not necessarily an elementary knowledge of the arts; it is the cognisance and appreciation of humanity—its laws, its emotions, its boundless possibilities. And Kruger has stifled the Boers' education in its birth, and the Javah of his well-thumbed Testament shall judge him by his opportunities.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), August 28, 1901

PRETORIA, June 19, 1901

They do not want war correspondents in South Africa; I don't know whether "they" ever wanted them.

War correspondents have their uses, of course. They explain things satisfactorily. They retouch the spotty negatives of disasters, and make quite pretty pictures of them. They remark at decent intervals that General So-and-so is a fine upstanding gallant Englishman, worthy of the trust, confidence, and other rewards of the British nation. Sometimes they break away from beaten paths and say nasty things about Those in Authority, and then they receive unofficial hints that if they will persist in their Unholy and Abominable ways of life, the next time there as a fat, comfortable, six weeks' war (illustrated) they won't be given a free ticket, and will probably be forced by circumstances to accept a position as war expert on a Radical morning newspaper.

The war correspondent is the pest of the Army. He is not the only pest, however; there are several others mentioned in the Soldier's Pocket-Book, only they are not called pests, but Acceptable Precepts. They would have remained Acceptable Precepts to the end of time had it not been for this war; which has proved, if it has proved anything, that you cannot wage war successfully by a close adherence to rules contained in printed, books.


When the war ended last August the army was freed from the pestilence to a great extent. The contaminating influences went home first-class, some to produce books, some to give lectures, some to wander in Arcady and pipe the song of Pan, and some—the more expensive—to enter Parliament and advocate economy.

With the second edition of the war in November and December came the return of two of the great correspondents; also about that time I returned.

No others came back, however, and the correspondence of the war was left in the hands of four London. journalists (for one, and the best of us all, Howell Gwynne, of Reuter's Agency, had not left his post) and by hundreds of local correspondents scattered throughout South Africa—and these latter have rendered much excellent service to the London reader. But the local correspondent is a man who is making his home in the country. His existence in the Transvaal must necessarily depend on the terms he keeps with the military. He does not criticise military operations adversely; he studiously keeps as far as possible out of the range of polemics. He is practically under the thumb of the censor.

I could quote many instances to demonstrate the fact that the Government has it all its own way as far as the local correspondents are concerned, that it is only from the London special, who is prepared to say what he thinks without the fear that his outspokenness will result in his ruin, that you can expect to receive an honest criticism. The British Government knows his, and it also knows that a newspaper can afford to keep an expensive correspondent in the field just so long as that correspondent as able to send by cable long and important cables from the theatre of war.


You cannot afford to keep correspondent in the field, costing hundreds of pounds a month, if you get no other return for your money than a meagre weekly message, from which every item of interest has been carefully excised—and hence a new regulation regarding the censoring of messages.

"In future the length of correspondents' wires will be in proportion to the importance of the news contained therein."

This, in effect, is the gist of the new instructions. Just think that means. The correspondent may attach himself to a column operating against Botha, or De Wet, or Buyers. He may be away from the wire-end for a fortnight or a month; all will depend on what actions the agile enemy takes. At the end of that time the column returns to the railway to refit, and the correspondent may then cable. All the time he has been away he has not sent a single message lest it should fall into the hands of the Boers and prematurely reveal the General's plans. What is he allowed to send now, after the fortnight's absence? Everything now must depend on the success of the movement. If it has been more than ordinarily successful, he may let himself go to the extent of half a column; if the trek has been middlingly productive, he must confine himself to half a dozen lines; if it has been a fiasco, he had better wire about something else—the weather, the state of the country, or the optimism of the Headquarter Staff.


The Government seems to think that this is the time for a more vigorous censorship, for at this period the situation is becoming less military than political.

On the contrary, I am of the opinion, and it is an opinion which will be shared by thousands, that at this stage the censorship should be entirely removed, as far as Press correspondence goes. As far as the military position is concerned, there is absolutely nothing to justify the maintenance of the censorship. A wire of mine to the effect that Colonel Colenbrander had arrived at Pietersburg with sixty prisoners was censored because it dealt with the movement of troops! Could anything be more absurd and childish?


When the war broke out, and for some time afterwards, it was very necessary to conceal our movements. It was necessary once, I believe, to put a sentry over a rose that a famous princess admired. The rose faded and died, but the sentry remained. The flowers were dug up and tomatoes planted in the place, but the sentry remained for years after; and years after, when the tomatoes had become cabbages, he still delivered over to his relief the order, "Not to allow any person to pluck the rose of the princess." And so the old restrictions, so necessary at the beginning of the war, when Kruger had Delagoa Bay for his purposes, and the cable worked, and envoys passed freely between Lorenco Marquez, are still held as indispensable, at a time when the Boers have no interest in the telegraph line other than as something to cut.

The censorship has had its innings; it has served its purpose. It can go. To use it now, when the only service it can render is a political one, is creating a bad precedent. It savours somewhat of Russia; nay, it is Krugerian. Personally, there is nothing that I wish to say that I don't say—by letter. But I want to say it by wire.


It is right that England should know at the time what is happening and what is felt. There is much that Lord Kitchener does not think important enough to cable to Downing Street that I think is of sufficiently interesting to send to Carmelite House.* It is not fair that because Lord Kitchener is a poor correspondent his unofficial rivals are to be prevented from competing with him.

As for me, I do not wish to compete with the Headquarter Staff. Casualty lists are hardly in my line, but I think the time is close at hand when I shall want to wire something that Lord Kitchener will not wish to send or the Government to receive.

[* Carmelite House—at that time the home office of the Daily Mail." ]


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), September 5, 1901


PRETORIA, June 20, 1901

It was in answer to a wire of mine, which I had despatched to a Press censor in the Orange River Colony, that I received this laconic, but to me, significant, phrase, "Cannot accept responsibility."

One of my messages to the Daily Mail had been stopped in transit, and I had urged by telegraph that it should be allowed to proceed.

"Cannot accept responsibility," said the censor, and the message was presumably relegated to the waste-paper basket. It was not, I might say, a world-shaking message, nor one calculated to stir to its depths established society. Not even a peace- negotiation-movement-of-troops-end-in-sight message. But I wanted to get it "through," though my perseverance was due rather more to the fear of being forestalled by other Press correspondents in the delivery of my news than to the great value of the intelligence I wanted to put on the wire.

I make this explanation lest I convey the impression that this also is a criticism of the censorship. The censor's message, however, is one which will bear speculating on, for therein lies the secret of our non-success; for what is true of this particular censor is true of 99 per cent of the officers employed in South Africa. When I say non-success, I do so advisedly, since one cannot shut one's eyes to the fact that the extent of the country and the mobility of the Boer forces are not alone responsible for the prolongation of the war. Indeed, it would be unpatriotic in the extreme to encourage a national colour- blindness which recognises only the crimson and gold of triumph and ignores the blackness of humiliation and disaster.


When the question has arisen, Why does the war drag? there has always been a plentiful supply of apologists ready at hand to explain away any onus that might attach to the Headquarter Staff; to the generals, to the officers, to those responsible for the newly-constructed Civil Administration. Why is not the war ended? and a dozen special correspondents hasten to explain. It is because the lies of the Boer leaders keep the burghers in the field, said the Times Carolina correspondent a few weeks back.

It is the incapacity of the officers; brainless dandies with not two ideas in their shallow pates beyond Bridge and Polo. This was the opinion—and probably is still of a gentleman who should speak with authority, since he has been kicked out of more messes than most men.

It has been our inability to grasp the essentials of South African campaigning, light transport, and light horsemen. But Cape Carts and Mounted Infantry have been adopted, and we are no nearer the end now than we were when Botha and Buller discussed peace terms, and cow guns* were de rigueur.

[* cow gun—the popular name of a 5-inch artillery piece used during the Boer war. ]

To my mind, however, you have to look no further than the censor's message, and in the fear of responsibility which is peculiar to the British officer you will find the true cause for the slowness of progression.

There was a column operating in the north of the Orange River Colony. It had been trekking all day, and towards evening was approaching the farm which the commanding officer had chosen for his bivouac. Just before the farm was reached, the advanced scouts retired on to the main body with the information that about seven miles further on was a Boer laager—evidently one of considerable size.

The commanding officer's Intelligence gave him no exact information as to the composition and strength of the commando, and he hesitated whether to attack and bring on an engagement, or whether to leave the Boers severely alone, and wait for instructions from the General conducting operations in the district. He decided to do the latter. It subsequently proved that, had he posted his men and made an attack on the following morning, he must have at least captured the enemy's convoy, which was a considerable one, if, indeed, he had not crippled! the enemy. He would not take the risk of a casualty list; he would not accept the responsibility. He was not afraid for his life or the lives of the men under him, but he was greatly fearful for his reputation.

The hastily-dug trench and the funeral service in the waning light, these had no terrors for him; but to draw up a thousand- word report, eight hundred of which referred to casualties, this was a horror not to be faced. In fact, the grave was less terrible than the Remount Camp at Stellenbosch.


So long as the responsibility lies elsewhere, the British officer is willing and able to do most things. Physically he is the bravest of the brave. In moral courage he is not encouraged to be strong.

So long as a man will not risk that which he values most he is not playing the hero. Realise this: to the average officer Life comes but third in the list of Precious Things. That intangible and elastic quality, Honour, makes a good first, and if not comprehended in that term, Reputation comes second.

And a very satisfactory state of affairs too, you say complacently. Quite so, only remember that it is the unwillingness of the officer to risk his reputation or the fear of strangling it at its birth that is responsible for the dragging on of the war. It is responsible for all the evils that we call by other names—The Niceness of War, The Magnanimity, The False Humanity.

The Boer cares less for his reputation than he does for his native's soul, and as for his Honour, why there is no word in the taal that adequately conveys the sense of the word. He husbands life, and lets his reputation take care of itself. If he does that which we would call disgraceful, he is not kicked out of his club, because he has not got a club. He won't be cut in the Row, because he has no Row, and his friends have not yet acquired the gentle art of cutting. If he is riding along in the vicinity of a railway line with a few pounds of dynamite in his holsters, he does not "have the honour to request" the permission of the hoofdcommandant to blow up the next troop-train that passes. He just blows it up, and casually mentions the fact the next time he meets his chief.

[* hoofdcommandant (Afrikaans)—commander-in-chief. ]

The seeming inability to take the initiative has been one of the depressing characteristics of the war. The stagnation which has caused commercial England to become such a happy hunting- ground for the hustling Yankee is very apparent in the Army. The Boers have taught us many ingenious tricks of war. Inspectors of fortifications would not have dared to suggest, before the war that barbed wire would play so prominent a part in our defences as it has. They would not have dared, for their reputation's sake, to advise that we should make good the ground as fast as we won it, by erecting a chain of blockhouses from one end of the country to the other. Inspectors of Cavalry would have hesitated before proposing the reforms that the light-riding Boer rendered compulsory. We wait to be shown, to have practical demonstrations before we improve our methods—only the demonstrator happens to be the enemy, and while we are learning he is gaining time.


The war has not produced any very great generals. We have had passable commanders who have managed to steer clear of blunders, but the touch of greatness that distinguished Wellington, and Napoleon, and Moltke is wanting. In two men only does the Napoleonic fearlessness of consequences seem evident, and these two men are French and Plumer.

French's performance before Colesberg was the finest piece of generalship of the war. The splendid audacity with which be manoeuvred his men—he held a line of thirty miles with a few thousand troops. His magnificent dash: his foresight: his originality and departure from iron-bound regulation methods.

And Plumer, too, has these qualities. I have seen him rush off into the wilderness after a flying enemy with only two days' supplies on his transport. He never hesitated, although every day's march he put between himself and the supply base meant a two day's wait for food. Calm, imperturbable, gentle always, he never hesitates.

When he was following De Wet, the town guard of Hopetown mistook his column for the enemy and opened a vigorous fire on his advance guard. To wait until the zealous citizens could be communicated with by flag of truce meant delay. Ninety-nine commanders out of a hundred would hive risked the delay, and would have cited the town guard's action as an excuse. Plumer did not fear to take a little responsibility.

"A little pom-pom, please," he said in that gentle voice of his. Yes, Plumer turned his pom pom upon the overzealous defenders of Hopetown. Nobody was killed: somebody was badly frightened—and there was no delay.

We periodically hold up the Colonial officer as a pattern of all that an officer should be. The reasons we adduce for his superiority over his regular comrade are various and amusing. It is his knowledge of the country, his acquaintance with the conditions of life in the bush, his ignorance of military regime, his training as a hunter.

The real secret is this: the Colonial officer accepts responsibility. He scores off his own bat. How many times could not commanding officers have brought off coups during this war if they had had the moral courage to act without written instructions? What would have happened had Pilcher summarily dealt with the Sunnyside rebels—the first rebels of the war instead of referring them to Capetown? Supposing he had accepted the responsibility of dealing with them, and had tried them by court-martial and shot a few, do you think that there would have been any threats of rebellion a year later?


Reproduced from The Evening Post (New Zealand), September 7, 1901


Let us make holiday.

I am tired of the eternal trek, the everlasting veldt, where rotting carcasses of sheep and oxen putrefy the air. I am sick of the same hotels of corrugated iron and frowsy smoking-room; the same broad, untidy streets, with the identical ugly church that I left in the monotonously same town sixty miles away. Same talk—war, Boers, and settlement. Same dress—khaki, relieved now by the black armlet in memory of the 22nd January. The self-same dinner, with the self-same sweet—rice pudding. It all palls, it mostly sickens. Let us make holiday. Where shall we go?


It really all depends on how your fancy runs. Some there are whose idea of holidays is very much that of the bus-driver who spent his day off on the box of a friend's vehicle. Perhaps your | taste runs to industrial exhibitions. What shall it be? Boots, Leicester? You will find Leicester somewhere down Delagoa Bay line. It is guarding the rail in the vicinity of Middelberg, and lives in little tin blockhouses. It was in Ladysmith during the siege, and as it had no false pride about taking cover when the enemy was unusually active and usually accurate, it has not lost so many men as its brave but misguided fellows of the line, and in consequence it is not a Celebrated Regiment. And by Celebrated Regiment I mean one that has figured in a music-hall chorus.

Perhaps you would prefer to go farther north. Let us go to Carlisle. Carlisle is somewhere down by Klerksdorp, and Carlisle has just had rather a bad time, for was it not at Vlaakfontein?

Possibly you have a penchant for the Highlands, and the Highlands are at Kroonstadt, and were at Modder River and Magersfontein—and at Balaklava, where the descriptive writer likened it to a thin red line.

Or Yorkshire? You will find Huddersfield at Warm Baths, and it has not left its hospitality at home, for behind the barbed wire apron and the six-foot trench you will be asked to stay to lunch, and a very good lunch the West Ridings will give you.

As for me, I went to Kent, for it is my country. I wanted white chalk roads, and orchards, and strong-scented hopfields, and gardens and the upstanding stretch of the rugged Rag. I wanted Kent, so I went there; for Kent lies at the fag end of the Heilbron line, on the outskirts of the inevitable town from which I was fleeing. Kent was there—Maidenstone, Tonbridge, Bartford, Chatham, Rochester, Gravesend, Paddock Wood, Woolwich—and Greenwich.


You don't hear much about Kent at Home, or, as a matter of fact, about Yorkshire, or Carlisle, or Argyll, or Sutherland. In these days we are an Imperial people, and we think in Red. You hear of Canada, and of Australia, and of New Zealand, and of India; also you hear of China, but not of Kent.

Ottawa, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Auckland, Christchurch, are more often on your tongues than is Maidstone, or Canterbury, or Sevenoaks. Your new brooms are made of splendid material, but the old articles that swept Russia from Sebastopol, and France from Waterloo, they are wearing well. The men who had the science of war ground into them at the Regimental Depots have done well—never let that slip from your memory, for if you do you will be unjust—criminally unjust, and you are not unjust as a rule, only somewhat careless and forgetful.

So I have been to Kent—West Kent, Royal West Kent—. Nay, I will give them their full and honourable title. I have been to have a look at the Second Battalion of the 50th Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. They were very pleased to see me—the men—because we talked about Greenwich, and the twenty-four-hour clock on Observatory Hill, and of Blackheath in relation to bank holidays, and Shooter's Hill Cemetery, and Woolwich Arsenal and the prospects of works thereat after the war. And of Deptford Broadway, and Mill- lane, and Church-street. Also of Bromley and blackberrying, and of public- houses in the New-cross-road and their relative excellencies. And we discussed the war, and Mr. Chamberlain and ex-President Kruger, who excites the admiration of the Deptford section by reason of his close adherence to his millions. And of Ancient History we spake. Prinsloo's surrender, and grass fires, and wounded men perishing in the flames—and all in Cockney accents. The West Kents see the world across the well-filled bowl of a favourite pipe, and are philosophical. They talked football, and they reminded me that they had had the Army Cup once, and nearly had it twice—nor did I need reminding, since every good soldier knows that the men who wear the White Horse of Kent are good sportsmen par excellence.

Why have I brought you here, good reader of the Daily Mail? Why have I brought you to Kent via Heilbron when you might have got there via Cannon-street—in a day or two?


It is to remind you that there are other soldiers in the field than the irregulars so well advertised because of the uniqueness of their entry into our rough Island Story. Patient, hardworking, hard-fighting men, capable now as they were a year ago of doing anything and at any time. The West Kents are not the only regiment serving in South Africa, the presence of which the outside public would never suspect. It is one of the many regiments which have passed through the campaign—or a portion of the campaign— without a display of fireworks or the possession of a pet correspondent; so, let me for the day be that pet correspondent, and drag them from the seclusion into which they have retired through foolishly doing their duty.

This may read as though I have a regiment or regiments in my eye which have adopted such a method—figuratively speaking, of course—but this is not so, though nobody who has campaigned in South Africa can be blind to the fact that not a little of the notoriety of men and brigades has been owing to the presence of a correspondent who has been so comfortably quartered and so well treated that he has not had the slightest inclination to leave, and has in consequence dealt so frequently with the doings of some particular General or some brigade that his repetitions have told, and the General or brigade has become as famous as Beecham's Pills or Cuticura Soap. Then again, some regiments are of themselves picturesque, and if I had to describe an action in which the Black Watch and the Somerset Light Infantry figured, I know which figure the special artist would choose to illustrate an incident.

This doesn't matter very much so long as you do not forget the existence of the regiments whose names do not recur. As a matter of fact, I don't believe that they care the proverbial tuppence whether you talk about them or not, only—well, they are human. Think of them not as on parade with a Colonel on a prancing horse and the band playing a march, but as little groups of silent, thoughtful, smoking men, dotted about all over the country, living in blockhouses—men from Kent and men from Surrey, men from Hants and men from Durham. A hundred thousand unadvertised soldiers, whose claim to renown is that there are none better in the whole wide world.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), September 24, 1901

PRETORIA, July 11, 1901

Hopeful on Monday, distinctly Encouraging on Tuesday, Doubtful on Wednesday, Gloomy on Thursday, Alarming on Friday, Hopeless on Saturday, the South African situation viewed from Pretoria is as variable in quality as an April day.

Hope, Encouragement, Doubt, Gloom, and Alarm, in rapid succession; and over, and through all, an uneasiness that tempers our optimism and justifies the forebodings of the chronic pessimist.

It is now eight months since Lord Kitchener assumed charge of operations in the three colonies. During a similar period, and immediately preceding this, Lord Roberts captured Cronje, occupied in turn Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, and Pretoria, captured Prinsloo and his thousands, relieved Kimberley, Ladysmith, and Mafeking, and defeated Louis Botha at Belfast. Were I to draw any comparison between the work accomplished by Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, I should hold myself up a splendid target for your ridicule; and, indeed, there can be no comparison, for the task Lord Roberts set himself to do was by far a lighter one than that which he banded over to his Chief of Staff.

Lord Kitchener has had a hard, heartbreaking work to perform, without having had any particular brilliant battles to record—modest man that he is, he has even denied one!— and whatever one may think of his execution, there can be no question at all as to the difficulties of the undertaking. I have merely called your attention to the time lengths to impress upon you the term of Kitchener's stewardship, a fact one may remember with advantage in considering the tale of results. Prisoners we have taken; Boers we have killed; we have driven De Wet out of Cape Colony with a "great loss of prestige"—which we trust De Wet in his saner moments realises—and by this last action the danger of a general rising of the Dutch throughout the Cape Colony was averted, if, indeed, not altogether crushed.

But a fact that should be borne in mind—and it is a fact—is that the feeling among the Boer commandoes is not less bitter, and the general desire for surrender no greater than it was on the day Lord Roberts handed over his command. I will go so far as to state that we are not so near a general handing in of arms and a peaceful settlement as we were thirteen months ago, and I am confident that there never will be a general surrender, but that the war, if we then dignify it by that title, will continue as long as there are fifty burghers to carry arms.

One thing seems certain, that no big movement against Botha may be expected for at least three months—that is, if ever another movement on a large scale is intended against the Boer chief. I gather this from the fact that it has been found absolutely necessary to reinforce General French in the Cape Colony with the Cavalry brigade and other troops amounting to 15,000 men, and by the movement northward of the columns that have lately been engaged in the neighborhood of Ermelo. This latter presumably foreshadows a combined movement against Beyers, who, with Brand, is holding a position near Zand River Poort, and who recently directed the attack on the train on the Petersburg line.

There are certain truths that we do not care to hear, certain precious beliefs that we object to seeing ruthlessly shattered. But this I tell you, that as an actual observer, and one prejudiced rather to optimism than the reverse, I see no prospect of a general surrender, and no promise of a state of affairs sufficiently assuring to permit the withdrawal of a single brigade from South Africa.

Nor am I alone in making this, for in a special order dated Army Headquarters, July 3, and addressed to the General and Officers commanding Columns in the Field, Lord Kitchener confesses that as yet the Boers do not seem to have been brought to a sense of the hopelessness of the struggle, and urges on officers the necessity for renewed vigorous operations.

As far as purely military operations are concerned, Lord Kitchener's principles seem sound enough. Unfortunately, the Boer has the unhappy knack of nullifying rules laid down to meet special tactics by adopting others. At the beginning of the war we discovered that the enemy fought from the tops of convenient kopjes. Elandslaagte, Glencoe, Belmont, and Graspan were fought so, but by the time we had adjusted our methods of fighting to meet this system, the Boers had learnt that a trench at the base is worth two on the summit, and Magersfontein was the result.

Similarly, as I pointed out in a letter dealing with Kitchener, the General, there came a time when we grasped the momentous fact that a Boer, like any other human creature, could not live without eating, that his horse needed forage, as he needed flour. Consequently, borne on the top of these facts, came the amazing discovery that the Boer could not ride if he had no horse, that if he could not ride he would be forced to walk, and if he had to walk we could catch him. Thus we reasoned profoundly; and, acting on that reasoning, we made a systematic attempt to denude the country of food, forage, and horseflesh. This, as I pointed out at the time, was a very admirable action on out part; and if theory played as great a part in the war of war-time as it does in the war of peace-time, then, theoretically, by now the Boer should be either a walking skeleton or a streak of starvation riding a bag of bones.

But he isn't. He is a healthy-looking animal, somewhat dirty, who gallops over the veldt on the nag he lifted from the cavalry lines. He wears a warm khaki coat that he looted from the last train that was captured; he has a watch and chain which came from the same source, and when he gazes at the enamelled dial it is not so much to count the minutes he can longer hold out without dying of exhaustion. His greatest admirer must admit that the Boer is not so much a soldier nowadays as a brigand. He does not want to fight, he wants to loot, for the Boer ambition to-day comprehends less a vision of dying for independence than keeping alive and comfortable until the end of the war. Not very heroic certainly, but if the conduct of these men is to be sneered at, the expenditure of the millions weekly that this line of action makes necessary is not.

I presume that both the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal have been cleared both of foodstuffs and horseflesh, and as far as we are concerned— that is, as far as our part of the contract goes—we have done well, only the Boer does not fulfil his part—he won't starve. It was felt, and I must confess to being one of the sanguine, that what with the erection of blockhouses along the railway and the making bare of the country, the plight of the Boer would become well-nigh hopeless. The long, winding ox-waggon convoy, with its corporal's guard, had ceased to be the Boer Whiteley.*

[* Whiteley—an allusion to London's first department store. ]

There was no more chance of a Boer commando pouncing down on sufficient food to keep an army for a month, and enough warm clothing to last it for a year. A well-watched railway line, with strong blockhouses at every thousand yards, was to restore and maintain an unhindered communication between the coast ports and headquarters, and the day of the rushed convoy was to be a thing of the past. And yet what do we find?

Within the past two weeks a train has been wrecked and looted under the very nose of a blockhouse on the Johannesburg- Klerksdorp line, its escort killed or wounded, and those who were neither killed nor wounded were stripped and sent naked into the nearest village. Within a few days the Boers have descended on Roodepoort, a small station a few miles from Johannesburg, and have driven off cattle; while northward on the Petersburg- Pretoria line a train has been wrecked and looted, and that in a country in which it has been officially stated "guerrilla warfare has been effectually stamped out."

Nor, seemingly, does the Boer depend entirely upon the wrecked train for his foodstuffs. There is always the "captured" cattle. I venture to say that if the numbers of captured stock, both oxen and sheep, were totalled and compared with State returns, it would be discovered that since the outbreak of war we have captured three times us much stock as ever was in the three colonies. The reason is not far to seek. We cannot spare the rolling stock to carry our captures into headquarters, nor can a general or officer commanding a column afford to send a large escort with captured stock. The consequence is that thousands of oxen and sheep are driven by road into the nearest garrison, with half-a-dozen men to guard them. It is not to be wondered at that much of our loot never reaches its destination, and even while official wires are being published in London that General Such-a- one has made a splendid haul of 10,000 sheep, half the captures are back again in the Boer lines.

I have not referred in this letter to the derailment of a passenger train in the Orange River Colony, or the capture of another train on the Middelburg line, or the disaster to a patrol near Vereeniging whereby De Wet inflicted a loss of fifteen killed and wounded and captured a gun, or the disaster the other week to the Victorians when the enemy cut up our men and captured two pom-poms, or the surprising fact that the Boers have now got guns from somewhere. These are all unpleasant truths, and all seem to point to the continuance of the war for another year.

There is, however, one bright spot in the general gloom, one pleasant prospect that perhaps compensates for the surrounding dreariness. The Boer refugees, who are waxing fat in the camps along the line, have declared themselves perfectly satisfied with the treatment they are receiving.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), October 7, 1901


The other day I met a young staff officer with such a stretch of rainbow-coloured ribbons across his left breast that when he gets his South African medal and his colonial star, and the C.M.G., to which, as a staff officer he is almost entitled, he will have to start afresh on another tier.

He had ribbons representing five decorations, but alas! for the hero worshipper, who would place him on a pedestal on the strength of his medals, they represented but one fight, which is known as the Battle of Omdurman. There was the blue and white Jubilee ribbon, the crimson and blue Distinguished Service Order, the green and red-fringed Medjidie,* and the two ribbons for the Imperial and, Khedival decorations. Five ribbons, or say four for one fight. How many fights will the regimental officer, the average hard-working, foot slogging, saddle-raw regimental officer, see and engage in for his one ribbon?

[* Medjidie—The Order of Medjidie; instituted in 1851, the Order was awarded in five classes, with the First Class being the highest. The Order was issued in considerable numbers by Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid I as a reward for distinguished service to members of the British Army and the Royal Navy and the French Army who came to the aid of the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War against Russia. Wikipedia.]

We have had a list of honours, and another has been promised, and it will be interesting to note how the rank and file of the officers—if the bull is permissible— will fare in the distribution, and what share they will take of the enamelled crosses and the many-pointed stars.

Were this France engaged in subduing the Boer army, and had she through the dogged persistence and magnificent courage of her line officers succeeded so satisfactorily, there can be little doubt that every officer in the Army would become ex officio a knight of the Legion of Honour, for France would argue rather wisely that the bestowal of a decoration is easier, more gratifying, and cheaper than a brevet which gives a few years' seniority and in six months loses its significance. Not that there has been any overwhelming number of brevets given to the lower regimental ranks, but it does seem as though that sound business institution, the War Office, takes a most commercial view of things, and considers that a step in rank, which means an extra few shillings a day, was the most desirable of rewards.


The regimental officer hitherto has not expected much. Reward or kudos were not for him. His commanding officer, who has had two brevets, a C.B., and the thanks of Parliament for teaching a West African corps which end of a rifle the bang comes from, tells him that duty well done brings its own reward, and the subaltern, remembering the colonel's levies, who bolted the first and last time they were in action, wonders if it does.

And so the regimental officer goes into action, and all the time the bullets are chipping up the face of the earth around him he is teaching has men to take cover and telling them what they never knew before, that they are there to kill and not to be killed. If the isn't killed, he attacks a kopje the next day, and every Boer marksman within a thousand yards will do his level best to give that officer's junior his promotion. When he gets back to camp that night, tired and hungry and bewildered that he is still alive, he will pass a young gentleman with red tabs on the collar of his khaki coat. He will be squatting on the ground writing out the general's despatch. In six months' time, when the honours are out, the lean, wiry, yellow regimental officer, who by this time will be sitting on top of a kopje at Forsakenfontein with his company, some gunners, and a 4.7, will be forgotten, but the young gentleman with the red tabs will get his D.S.O.*

[* D.S.O.—Distinguished Service Order. ]

"My able and brilliant Staff Officer, who carried out his duties to my entire satisfaction," will be rewarded, but "an officer whose name I have been, unable to ascertain" will be sitting tight on his kopje, wishing his wife was on nodding terms with an Adjutant-General.

I am contrasting these two cases with the desire of pointing a moral rather than with any wish to suggest that the Staff Officer does not earn his decoration. Marker, of the Coldstreamers, was one of the smartest Staff Officers I have met, and by that I mean that he was a brilliant theorist. But has smartness did not stop at theory, for he was the officer who with three or four men charged De Wet's guns when they were pointed directly at him and the gunners were fumbling at the breech. And there are, of course, many Staff Officers who, during the present campaign, have done excellent work as regimental officers— though whether their services would have gained recognition had they remained in that capacity is problematical.


In the Army it is understood that there is no chance for an officer who is contented to identify himself with the ruck of the regiment, who makes up his mind that he will stick to his battalion and take his promotion as it falls due. If he has patience he will retire with the rank of colonel, while the man who passed out with him at Sandhurst, and who was seconded as a lieutenant to the Gippy Army, will be deciding between accepting a seat in the Cabinet and taking command of the forces in Ireland.

Soldiering is not a profession that pays. Actual soldiering I mean—parade, route march, and Ash Range soldiering, that calls you from your bed at dawn and sends you round outlying posts after midnight. It doesn't pay you to shine, it doesn't pay you to excel, and it is certainly not profitable to attempt to initiate reform or novelty into a regiment which has a colonel, a second-in-command, two senior majors, and an adjutant. And in consequence the regimental officer who has any snap or influence or ambition takes the first opportunity of handing over his company or squadron to a duller, patronless, or unambitious man, and wires to his tailor for a Staff cap and an aiguillette, and thus armed wins rank and distinction, stringing after his name in succession A.D.C., D.A.A.G., and C.S.O.

Now I think you will agree with me that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs. Qualifying for the command of real human men, with hearts over their stomachs, requires something more than, the ability to do the amiable at a General's dinner party, or a book knowledge of procedure. You cannot become a leader of men by being a reader of books, any more than the contents of a dozen works on anatomy will qualify for a surgeon the student who has never used a knife. But, on the other hand, you will not induce men to to stay in regiments by passing them over and ignoring their claims to recognition.

What claims can a man have to distinction who has never fought? you ask; and I would answer that a dozen years' or twenty years' devotion to a regiment should certainly qualify as much for the King's honour as a six-weeks' campaign and a twenty minutes' battle.


But it is not those that have plodded without fighting that I wish to particularise, but rather those who have plodded, fought, and will fall back to the old regulation pace after the war is over, without recognition, without thanks, and with nought to mark their heroic sacrifices but the same medal and the same ribbon that the Militiamen on the Channel Islands will wear. Surely the case of the company leader and the junior officer is one that calls for substantial recognition. A brevet thrown here and there to be scrambled for does not meet the need, and the award of the Distinguished Service Order will not be made general—four to a regiment, I believe, is to be the proportion.

Only one decoration is fitting for the officer who, at the risk of life, leads his men forward under a heavy fire, and that is the Victoria Cross; but as the V.C. has deteriorated into something of a Royal Humane Medal, and is seldom awarded except for saving life—queerest of all paradoxes!—the occasion seems to call for a new decoration.

It may be urged that a decoration which was generally bestowed would not be a distinction, and that the instances of heroism and the number of officers entitled to the decoration are so many that such awards would lose their value. But valour is not market produce. It does not fluctuate in value in ratio to the output. If five hundred men earned the Victoria Cross, five hundred men would get it; it would not make the distinction less splendid, hut rather glorify the nation that bestowed it, raising the average of national gallantry. There will never be a better opportunity for the institution of a new military order than the present; and no military order would be as popular as one created by, and in some way associated with the same of his Majesty King Edward VII.

The King's popularity in the Army is a very real thing, and the reason is not far to seek, since his Majesty possesses all those qualities so dear to the heart of the officer. Apart from has high office, which commands the loyalty and respect of his subjects, King Edward is the good comrade and the good sportsman, which combination represents the soldiers' idea of the premier qualities of mankind. The creation of an Edwardian Order would be more than popular. Not only because it would serve to meet the cases that do not come within the scope of the V.C. and D.S.0., but because it would owe its institution to the grace, and be identified with the name, of one whom the Army is honoured to call King and Comrade.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), October 21, 1901


MIDDELBURG, August 10, 1901

Now, therefore, I, Kitchener of Khartoum, etc., under instructions from his Majesty's Government, proclaim and make known as follows:

—All commandants, field-cornets, and leaders of armed bands, being burghers of the late Republics, still engaged in resisting his Majesty's forces, whether in the Orange River Colony or Transvaal, or in any other portion of his Majesty's South African dominions, and all members of the Governments of the late Orange Free State and the late South African Republic, shall, unless they surrender before Sept. 15 next, be permanently banished from South Africa. The cost of maintenance of families of all burghers in the field who shall not have surrendered by Sept. 15 shall be recoverable from such burghers, and shall be a charge upon their property, movable and, immovable, in the two colonies.

* * * * *

Yes, there can be no doubt at all about it, the new proclamation has been very favorably received. South Africa has welcomed this exhibition of firmness on the part of the Imperial Government, and the welcome has been all the more warm because the people out here were beginning to despair of witnessing anything approaching strength introduced into the policy of the Home Government.

Personally, I am not particularly elated, because I do not believe that it will bring about the surrender of one single commandant of importance; but if this new proclamation has excited any feeling at all within me, it is a feeling of intense curiosity, for I am curious to see what proclamation ex-President Steyn will issue as a counterblast.

When we have finished issuing proclamations—proclamations that warn, proclamations that entreat, proclamations that cajole, proclamations that threaten—and when we have thoroughly realised the futility of issuing the "whereas and therefore," and have been convinced of the disadvantages of legal phraseology as compared with military activity, perhaps we shall take down, from our walls that charming motto, "The pen is mightier than the sword," and endeavor to bring about the conclusion of the war by giving our enemy a severe beating.

I do not think that it will be a very difficult matter to sketch out the gist of Steyn's proclamation. It will dwell mostly on the "barbarity" of Lord Kitchener's proclamation: will contain divers well-meaning passages relative to his belief in the power of right over might; will be sprinkled with platitudinous matter; and will wind up with an invocation to Divine Justice.

It seems strange enough to you living in England, but after all it is no stranger than the grotesque uses that Cromwell's Ironsides made of the Name, and although the Boer leaders do not call themselves Fear-the-Lord Botha or Walk-in-the-light Steyn— and 1 do not wish to be flippant—yet I personally have no doubt that these men are as genuine and sincere in their belief in the special protection of Providence as are the best of Calvinists. This is the proclamation Steyn or Botha will issue, and September 16 will come and go, and Botha, De la Rey, De Wet, Beyers, Kruitzinger, Hertzog, Steyn, Uys, Kemp, and the other leaders will yet be in the field.


Now, what is the object of the proclamation? I suppose, to be brutally frank, it is to terrorise the Boer commandants into immediate submission You may take exception to that definition, you good, loyal Britons, who want to wage war nicely. You may protest vigorously that your motive, or the motive of the Government, is of the very kindest. Dear, loyal Briton! Do you not know that kindness only comes into a warlike policy as pitiful weakness thinly disguised?

I must confess I have a profound contempt for people who sanction the killing of men and then hold up their hands in horror if we depart from killing him and only burn his farm, or cease from slaying him for the moment in order to frighten him. One of these days, dear friend, you will be dead, and if you have sense enough to realise it you will be perfectly convinced as you lie a-dying that you would very much rather that somebody burnt your house or threatened to kick you out of the country than that you should shuffle off this mortal coil. So I say, without blushing for my country—and I will here add (in parentheses) that throughout the whole of this campaign I have never witnessed one act of my countrymen of which I have been ashamed—that we are trying to terrorise the Boer commandants into immediate submission, and if there was any likelihood of our bringing about the desired results, I should say that it was a very good move on the part of the Imperial Government.

But I think there is very little chance of this. The fact is the proclamation is not strong enough; indeed, it shows a decided weakening on the original policy of the Home Government, since I take it that those commandants and leaders of armed bands who surrender before September 15 will be allowed to remain in South Africa in terms of this proclamation—which was certainly not the intention of the Government a year ago. But, waiving all this, the wording of the new proclamation may, and will be, construed into a threat, and the question is, "Is this threat strong enough to pull up the Boer chiefs and make them realise the hopelessness of the struggle, and—incidentally—the great inconvenience a prolongation of the struggle will entail upon themselves?" And I say No.


The threat amounts to very little. As far as the greater men are concerned—the leaders with their well-feathered nests, the young commandants who have no desire to remain in a conquered country, and who have a call upon the treasury, of which Dr Leyds is custodian—to men like Steyn and De Wet this proclamation means nothing. To be effective the penalties will have to be greater; and I can only suppose that the Government has yet another proclamation to come into force some time after September. 15, which will arrange for the confiscation of property of such commandants, field-cornets, and leaders of armed; bands as do not surrender by a certain date.

I have a sneaking regard for Brother Boer, which may surprise those elegant journalists who flung mud at me for saying that "Boers murder wounded men." I have no desire to "vilify a brave foe," but if speaking the truth is vilification then I may let it go at that. I have a sneaking regard for his astuteness, just as I admire the ferocity of the Fuzzy or the guile of the Matabele or the austerity of the Afridi. I am aware that in criticising this proclamation I may be doing a very unpopular thing, but if what I say does not quite please you, will you believe me when I say that I am trying to speak what I believe to be the truth?—just the solid, unofficial truth.


Reproduced from The Southland Times (New Zealand), October 16, 1901

There have been many occasions since the war started (says Edgar Wallace in the Daily Mail, writing from Johannesburg) when I have wished most earnestly that the friends of emancipated womanhood had had their way, and that the exact status of woman had been made equal to that of man.

I have often wished her all the rights and privileges of her opposite fellow. The right to wear his clothes, and adopt his freedoms, to earn money, smoke cut cavendish, and wear a ring on her little finger. Also to share man trials and hardships and responsibilities. To lead men into action, to be always eligible for the Victoria Cross, to be honoured for her gallantry—and shot for her treachery.

Especially shot for her treachery.

I wonder how many graves Boer women have filled this past year or so? How many brave fellows have given up their lives through a woman's treachery?

Women have played a great part in this war, not so much the part of heroine as spy. Not so much in the way of fighting in the trenches as luring the unsuspecting to destruction. The symbol of her patriotism is not the eagle of war, it is rather the decoy duck.

There were, I believe, women fighting in the trenches against Buller. Two of their dead were found after the fight at Pieters Hill, but the Boer has sufficient regard for his women folk to keep them well out of danger, and the ambition of the Boer Amazon has found very little scope in the fighting line. Nor, I honestly believe, has there been any organised attempt to utilise woman's service for Boer ends, no secret service spies drawing large sums of money from the Boer Treasury in payment for information secured. Such women exist only in certain fertile imaginations.

The women I speak of are the wives and sisters of the poorer Boers, people who believe that the secret service fund is an English myth and are actuated in their treachery only by their hatred for the British, and the knowledge born of experience that however badly a woman behaves we shall treat her with the same courtesy and gentleness that we should employ towards her were she our dearest friend instead of our unreasoning foe.

It has been one of the problems of the war, this question of women enemies and what to do with them, and we have solved the problem in the easiest and most gentlemanly way. We have decided that we do not make war upon women and children, and if through ill-nature women and children make weir on us, we loftily refuse to take them seriously in fact, and after we have buried the Tommies who foolishly accepted the woman's invitation to step in and have a cap of coffee, and are shot from the window by gentlemen friends of the hostess, we return the hospitable invitation of the lady of the house, give her tea, and tell her that we are awfully sorry, don't you know, but we are confoundedly afraid she will have to be brought into camp.

So we take the murderess into a camp where she will be well fed and kindly treated, and we don't burn her farm for fear Mr Lloyd George or Mr Redmond shall ask questions in the House.

If I were to write down every story I have heard of Boer women's treachery I should fill these columns, but here is a peculiar instance.

Two mounted troopers were out on a patrol when they came to a Boer farmhouse. They dismounted some distance from the house, which apparently was deserted except by a woman, who, standing in the stoep, beckoned the men to advance. This they did and walked to within a few paces of the building, when the woman suddenly disappeared from view through an open doorway,and the next moment a volley was fired from the house.

Now I have cited this as peculiar, and the peculiarity is this. Show this paragraph to your returned Yeomanry friend, or your volunteer brother, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he will say, "Yes, that is perfectly true; it happened to me— or to a friend of mine." And this he will say, not because the story I have told is the very incident of which he is thinking, but because this sort of thing has happened so often in South Africa that there is no military unit now serving at the front that has not had some such experience.

Very few people know that De Wet has not once, but often, owed his wonderful escapes to the aid of women sympathisers When he was last in the Cape Colony and we had driven him off northward to the Orange River, the women on some of the farms in the Hopetown district had arranged a signal whereby De Wet's hidden scouts should be made aware of the proximity of our scouts. A patrol of Victorians who rode up to a farmhouse was somewhat astonished to see the good lady, who bad been taking a siesta on the stoep, suddenly rise from her chair, and making for the door, for apparently no other reason than to make a noise, violently slam it twice. As she did so a horseman broke from the bushes a few hundred yards beyond, and galloped for all be was worth. De Wet, who was in the angle formed by the Brak and Orange Rivers, waiting for one of the two streams to fall, moved that night eastward, and Plumer, who was marching to intercept him, only managed to get on to the tail of the enemy's column.

The arrival of a woman at a refugee camp does not mean that her opportunities for evil-doing are ended. In the Orange River Colony recently a plot was discovered, in which the prime movers were women, for the rushing of the camp at night, and instances are innumerable of the Boer women of the refugee camps having systematically transmitted important military intelligence to the commandoes outside.

It is unfortunately true, too, that the Boer women, and for the matter of that, gentler sympathisers with the Boer cause, have not confined their efforts to aiding the enemy practically. The foulest of all the slanders which have been utilised to inflame the passions of the Cape Dutch, and to excite the horror and pity of the civilised world, have emanated from feminine sources. Stories of murders, outrage, and suffering have originated in the minds of women enjoying British protection and have been glibly repeated by others who have received at our hands all kindness and chivalrous attention.

In Capetown, the hub on which the whole organism of sedition turns is a woman. In her salon are to be found England's bitterest enemies—and here it is that propagandas are born, new embarrassments for England are planned, and subscription- lists for sedition-mongerers caught tripping, initiated. Here gather the men who pull the strings, the Krugerian agents, the subsidisers of the pro-Boer press. Here are the semi-millionaires who inspire articles against capitalism; the ministers of religion who weave devilish mendacities about our soldiers; the hybrid crowd of journalists who, in varying degrees of vituperative violence, shriek periodically for moderation. And the woman gives them tea and inspiration.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), October 22, 1901


It is always refreshing to turn from the dark evidences of weakness and folly that lie around in South Africa, so that even the careless unofficial observer may not pass them unnoticed, to the cheery and joyous, not to say sanguine, optimism of Downing Street.

Downing Street can see the end. It can work out on paper exactly how long Boer army will hold out. I presume it does little sums. "If 2000 burghers surrender in thirty days, how long will it take 10,000 burghers to surrender?" and I should say the result is eminently satisfactory and encouraging.

There are not wanting people in this colony who share in the optimism of the Home Government, and these assert that by the time General Lyttelton arrives in South Africa the war will be practically ended, and Lord Kitchener will be justified in handing over his command to General Lyttelton and returning home.

Speaking of General Lyttelton reminds me of the fact that in one of my recent letters I did that general an injustice. I said, I think, that he, as general commanding the forces engaged in cornering De Wet, was solely responsible for the failure to capture the Boer leader. I have since learnt that these operations were conducted from Pretoria (600 miles away!) by wire, and that General Lyttelton was a mere figure-head without a vestige of authority over the movements of the troops engaged. So that for the failure to corner De Wet in February General Lord Kitchener must accept full responsibility.


There is a view of the present situation in South Africa, however, which is not a bright and a hopeful one, and is a view which we cannot afford to ignore. This is the view of South Africa's loyal but censored Press. The position of South Africa's newspapers to-day is a peculiar one. Everything that red-tape and the tyranny of the local commandant and the folly of incompetent censors could do has been done, and the newspapers published in Martial Law areas are little better than Government Gazettes—opinionless advertisement sheets sprinkled with a meagre supply of Reuter's cables.

If these papers wish to express an opinion they have to fight for the privilege, and very often when it is conceded they print their articles with the knowledge that if their outspoken criticisms do not draw down upon their devoted heads the wrath of the Headquarter Staff it will be remembered against them in the future by the disloyalists of the districts in which the newspapers flourish. Think of a Wesleyan paper, holding strong Methodistic views, published in a Roman Catholic community, being censored by an intolerant Mahommedan, and you have the situation.

The Tarka Herald is a paper published in a martial law district, and although I do not know the censor, I at least have some idea of the district in which it circulates. This paper, referring to the present military situation in South Africa, and particularly in the Cape Colony, says:—

"The question for the military authorities now to consider and to solve without delay if this: Are the means now employed likely to bring about the desired end?... We have been led to these remarks by the arrival in our midst of a long and heavy column, consisting of waggons, carts, and horses innumerable carrying large supplies of food for man and beast. 'Set a thief to catch a thief' is a trite saying, and until we adopt the methods of the enemy as far as their mobility is concerned we shall never succeed in hunting these roving commandoes down and carrying them away as prisoners of war.

"These weary months are a heavy expense to the country, and ultimately to the taxpayer, who will feel the cost in a very practical and unwelcome manner. John Bull is very long-suffering, but he will one day begin to resent these continued appeals to his patriotism and his pocket. It is invidious for a layman to pass an opinion on military methods. We cannot forbear to say that a change of plan will have to be adopted sooner or later."


I make no apology for extracting yet again from the Tarka Herald:—

"We think the time has now arrived for the authorities to carefully consider the question as to whether, with the forces now at their command, they are in a position to successfully cope with the difficulties of the situation. We think not. A glance at the map shows that a considerable portion of the colony, comprising principally the divisions of Graaff Reinet, Cradock, Middelburg, Tarka, Somerset East, Albert and Queenstown, are more or less overrun with marauding bands of ex-burghers and colonial rebels. Further, that though the towns have, as a general rule, escaped attack, again and again forays more or less successful have been made on the farms of loyalists and wayside stores... Time is precious, and every week as it goes by prolonging the present state of insecurity adds very much to the sum total of loss, direct and indirect, sustained by the community. We think the time has certainly arrived when the military authorities should consider very earnestly whether all that can be done to end the war as speedily as possible is being done."

The writer seems to recognise that the end of the war can only be brought about by our success in dealing with the invaders, and, even allowing for the fact that this is the view of a man possibly directly affected by the marauding band', there is much in his opinion which commands acceptance.

The East London Despatch is not published in a martial law area, and the writer of the paragraph I have subjoined cannot be accused of having taken a local view of the situation, since East London is almost as far removed from the scene of the fighting as is Cape Town or Port Elizabeth:

"We have reached an end that is not an end, and the intelligence received from time to time from the seat of war, except where it is relieved by the bravery of our troops, is a most disheartening record. Englishmen are becoming bitter in tie contemplation of the slow movements of our forces, and the shallow criticism of home-staying citizens and street-corner generals bears the evidence of an exhausted patience and an increasing asperity. We admit that it is difficult to keep the temper continually in what is advertised to be the condition of a common stick-phast, 'good and sweet always.' It is especially difficult in the light of current events. The policy pursued by the Boers is most irritating, and, to us, exasperatingly successful. We hear of invincible combines being formed to crush them, of extensive cordons that afford no loophole of escape, of contracting circles that must imprison and finally destroy, but the enemy elude them all without much strain or loss, and appear elsewhere to inflict a severe blow upon some unsuspecting contingent separated from the main guard."


Grahamstown is in a Martial Law area, and the Journal, which is the oldest and soberest of all South African newspapers, shows very little hesitancy in its criticism.

"We have no need to descant upon the inefficient way in which operations have been conducted; but it is certain that grave dissatisfaction has been caused to colonists whether on service or at home, by the slow progress of the campaign. Great exception is taken to the lumbered condition of the columns, which are for ever prevented from overtaking the enemy by being encumbered with ox-waggons, mule-waggons, and other bulky transport, whose slow movements can be traced even by the dust, they raise twenty, thirty, or fifty miles off by the amused Boer scouts. The angry colonist who finds his homestead ravaged time after time by the commandoes, whose industries are totally at a stand, and who goes in danger of his life, is apt to designate this mode of warfare as a picnic rather than a campaign."

Similarly, the Daily Mail's namesake published in the same town says:—

"It bodes badly for the future control of the Dutch that hitherto we have entirely failed to inspire them with salutary fear. They deem us soft-headed, as well as softhearted. They believe that our leaders are not shrewd enough to discover the shortest road to the goal of complete victory and peace; or that those leaders have not the moral courage to take the shortest road. We have not a very high estimate of the morality of Bismarckian politics; nor of Bonaparte's method of dealing with his enemies. But certainly the moral scrupulousness and humaneness of the British leaders in the present war are very costly in money, men and even in reputation with the Boers.

"Every week's continuance of the war enhances the Boer estimate of his own prowess, and renders more difficult the pacification and durable settlement of the country."

The plaint from the Port Elizabeth Telegraph will find an echo in many an editorial sanctum:—

"But we do complain of being left so absolutely in the dark relative to all that is transpiring, and to being fed like children on false assurances. We sometimes wonder whether the commandants of districts are themselves aware of what is happening in the areas over which they are placed. Only a week or two ago a well-known commandant of one of the most important Cape areas declared emphatically at a public meeting that, as a result of a recent fight, his district was absolutely clear of Boers. Almost at the moment he was making this assurance a raiding band was wrecking a train in the very heart of his district, and subsequent information has proved that the district is not, and has not been for many months, clear of hostile Boers. Are we not, in face of this, justified in protesting against the public being fed upon information that is not reliable? The Press censor may increase his vigilance, but be cannot prevent the general public forming their own opinions on the conduct of the campaign."

There are many other extracts I should like to give had I but the space at my command. I do not identify myself with all that has been said regarding the conduct of the war, but I do think that you at Home should know exactly how the Cape Colony feels about the present situation, which has inspired so much optimism in High Places.


Reproduced from The Evening Post (New Zealand), October 26, 1901

The Dutch Reformed Church at Cradock (says Edgar Wallace in the Daily Mail) is pretty, there is no gainsaying that. A friend of mine has unkindly likened it to a Greek temple surmounted by a fool's cap, but the tastes of my critical friend are severely orthodox in the matter of architecture. It is a pretty building of dressed stone, and its white spire freshens the eye of the traveller approaching Cradock, and "the tourist doesn't live there all along."

I seldom remain long enough in a South African town to fall into line with the oldest inhabitants in my views on the natural beauty of its surroundings, and I must confess that, as a rule, the Dutch Reformed church is the very first thing that palls. It is usually a great barn-like building as comfortless as it can well be, and as ugly a structure as the hand of man can make it—for the ornate enters not into Afrikander architecture of any sort. Your Boer leads a drab, grey, dull sort of a life, an existence as colourless as his summer-parched, winter-withered veldt. If he troubles to paint his house at all, he splashes it white—a dead, dull, depressing, eye-aching white—very much suggestive of an East-end backyard on washing day. Remembering this you would be greatly surprised to see Cradock's church, for, ill-tempered criticism notwithstanding, it is pretty.


But we are learning to utilise the beautiful, and the top of Cradock's church is sand-bagged, and the steeple of Cradock's church is an observation post, and when the "hooter" goes flags wag from its summit and yellow-clad men in puttees take their stations on the roof. I did not know very much about this for some time after I had been in Cradock. The sand-bags I noticed, and wondered at vaguely, but I did not realise the significance, of them all until I went shopping the other day.

To be exact, I went, to buy socks, for, 0 Matrons of England, such are the emoluments of a war correspondent that he can afford to dispense with socks that need darning. So I went a-shopping, and even while I was meditating on the relative merits of bright scarlet merino and a sober blue woollen article, there was a long moan in the distance which might have been the asthmatic whistle of a railway engine, but certainly sounded like nothing that was exciting or thrilling or anything suggestive of the romance of war.

"I think I'll take a dozen pair of these," I said, indicating the blue. For answer, the young man behind the counter looked remarkably fierce and commenced taking off his coat. I was startled, not to say alarmed, and hastened to appease his wrath. "I'm awfully sorry if I've hurt your feelings," I assured him hurriedly. "Of course, if you've any tender associations in which red socks——"


He looked at me for a moment, and then, groping for a moment in a dark corner, he produced a gun. It wasn't a gun in the military sense of the word, but really a Lee-Enfield rifle. Then he discovered a bandolier, then a haversack. I recovered my equanimity, and when he had got himself into a khaki jacket I understood. He was a Town Guardsman. I walked to the door of the shop.

A little further along was a hardware store, and a youth with a gun slung over his shoulder was rapidly taking down tin buckets which had been hanging outside, while another youth, in khaki, bandolier, and a golf cap, was putting up, or pulling down the shutters. I strolled across the great square and met the young man from the chemist's and the gentleman from the bank. They were on their way to the trenches. Further still I went, passing the stationer's assistant, who with his rifle between his knees was making a rapid search through his pockets endeavouring to find his pince-nez, which he feared he had left in his other clothes. And as his shocking language had not ceased by the time I had turned the corner that leads to the station, I have reasons to believe that his fears were well-founded.


A jaunty child struggling manfully with a rifle informed me that Kruitzinger was "outside," and the "hooter" had sounded to call out the Town Guard, and the Town Guard was manning the trenches, and the Town Guard was going to hurt Kruitzinger most severely if Kruitzinger would only come near enough, and would I be good enough to straighten the strap of the haversack, which had got twisted somehow, and thank you very much, old chap, and I'll do as much for you one of these days. Then the Midland News gentleman came flying along on his freewheel, and he was in khaki with a big red cross on his arm, and later came his stretcher-bearers, also in khaki. They looked for all the world like real dhooli wallahs,* but I recognised Ram Sammy and Lal Sammy and several other Sammies who on various occasions had imposed on me questionable bananas and fibrous oranges. But they carried their stretchers neatly, and lowered them as well-drilled stretcher-bearers would do, and their waterbottles and surgical haversacks were business-like.

[* dhooli wallahs (Hindi)—Indian litter-carriers. ]


Then the compositor who had set up a little poem of mine so that I mistook it for an acrostic came along resplendent in khaki, he also bound for the trenches, where he was as prepared to mangle the Boer as he had cheerfully mangled my manuscript. Backwards and forwards they moved across the square. Parties of two, of three, of four, single individuals, father and son, employer and employee. There was no hurry, but there was much quickness. There seemed to be little uniformity of dress, but there was a wonderful precision and alertness about this turnout of the shop assistants. Men walked down the street in khaki suits and straw hats, but there was nothing ludicrous in their appearance, but rather something fine and inspiring. Where the trenches where I do not know; they were located somewhere on the fringe of the township. But I did not trouble to go along and see, for I expected no attack, having grown callous of alarms that have been resultless. But the cheery shop assistant went along to the trenches, and he went with a wild hope that Kruitzinger had at least determined to try conclusions with the Cradock Town Guard.

And so the roof of Cradock's pretty church was garrisoned, and a man in khaki wagged a flag from its steeple, and sober businessmen shut up their shops and ran a "pull-through" through their rifles, and the man who at 9 o'clock was serving out butter, was at 10 o'clock serving out ammunition, and the "boots" became a bugler, and the young man from the soft goods department developed into a very martinet of a sergeant, and ordered about and swore at young men from the hardware department as to the manner born. And young gentlemen who shouted "Sign!" were , now shouting "'Shun!" For the shop assistant was a power in the land, as Kruitzinger evidently knew—for he did not come.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), November 8, 1901

Major Gough, who met with a reverse at the hands of General Botha near Utrecht on September 17, is regarded as a brilliant officer of great dash and courage.

It must be remembered that it is only by taking great risks that the military commanders here can possibly hope to bring the war to a conclusion.

It is absolutely impossible to effect a reconnaissance in the country, when pursuing a flying enemy, where the appearance of the advanced scouts has the effect of scaring the commando against which the movement of the main body is directed. Want of dash and over-caution have frequently been disastrous in their after- effects.

The moral effect of the Boer success is unlikely to be great, in view of the fact proved by the capture of correspondence from various commandants that extravagant stories of Boer victories are manufactured weekly, beside, which this genuine success is insignificant.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), November 20, 1901


KENHARDT (Cape Colony), September 6, 1901

He will scarcely confess to you !he has never been under fire, that soldier friend of yours.

If he has been within a hundred miles of a battle, he will cheerfully lie to you when describing that battle. That is, if he has never been under fire at all. If he has been out on patrol and has been sniped at, he will not make any claims to have been present at a big battle. He will be content to exaggerate the importance of his "engagement," but he will not claim to have been at Colenso or Modder River or Nooitgedacht. But if he has not been sniped at, and has never heard "clik-clok," then if he imperils his immortal soul he will have to claim a battle to avoid the stigma, of "never under fire."

And you do not blame him, do you? How would you like to have come six thousand miles on the troop deck of a transport, one thousand miles in a cattle truck, and have done duty by railside and dorp for a year or so, and then, through force of circumstances, be compelled, were you making a truthful confession, to admit that you had never once seen anything but a tame Boer, and had never once been shot at? And yet such is the case with hundreds of the troops engaged in South Africa.

Owing to a succession of bad luck, or the positions they have occupied, or the duties in which they have been engaged, they have never once been within rifle or cannon shot of the enemy, and will be forced to make, what is to them the humiliating confession, that they have never once been under fire, and the medals they are getting or have got are—to modify Atkins's expressive term— "barefaced " medals.


As a matter of fact, there is nothing that is really humiliating in such a confession. There has been much duty to be done, well out of range, and hard, wearing, tedious duty, too. Mr Kipling has rendered an inestimable service to some of these men, by giving just a glimpse of the monotony and tedium of that "details guarding the line" are called upon to endure. There is a heroism which is not of the splash-dash kind, which is none the less admirable. A patient waiting for nothing amid great dreariness: that is to be appreciated and to be ranked equal with the courage that guns are captured with. A performance of duty; monotonous routine work, unrelieved by exciting incident. A life made up of days following one another with such a grey sameness one to the other that yesterday is only distinguished from this day week by the state of the weather. Bridge guard on the Karoo, with never a Boer to pot at the blockhouse and never a stray commando to raise wild hopes, with only the knowledge that it is a duty which must be done by somebody, and must be done just as well as if the bridge was on the Barberton line—this is a performance which calls forth, or should call forth, our loudest expressions of admiration for men of whom it is no disparagement to say that they are "never under fire."

Do you know Kenhardt? The C.I.V. infantry do. It is hundreds of miles north of De Aar, and hundreds of miles west of the railway line. Kenhardt is a nowhere sort of place, and before the days of the second invasion was untroubled except by occasional visits of small rebel commandoes that were wont to halt on the other side of the Orange River and shout defiance at Kenhardt's small garrison. For months Kenhardt's garrison never saw a Boer except in the Illustrated Mail. For months—long, dragging months of thirty-one days—Kenhardt's garrison were never under fire. What was war to them? What was Mafeking night to the keepers of the Eddystone Lighthouse? It was a something a hundred—a thousand miles removed. And yet, here they sat, by the Orange River, pawns in the big game; faithful watchers of Empire; right worthy to rank with the stormers of kopjes and the chargers of positions.


There are twenty or so stationary hospitals in South Africa, the staffs of which have seen little more of war than its bullet- shattered victims—though this is the real and most terrible side of warfare. Not for them the forced march and the assault at dawn. Not for them "the clang and the clamour and dust of death." The enemy they have fought has been the universal foe, the destroyer of armies— enteric.

Patiently and bravely the men of the R.A.M.C. have done their work, and little enough thanks have they got out of it at. No corps has been more vilified, no set of officers have been more systematically cold-shouldered by the Powers That Were. No corps has had harder work and less reward. And these men, forming the staffs of the general hospitals, have not, except in rare exceptional cases, where the personnel has been recruited from brigade bearer companies and field hospitals, been anywhere near the fighting line. "Never under fire" applies to a very large number of the Royal Army Medical Corps, as it does to other corps in the army.

The Army Service Corps is a combatant unit. Unlike the R.A.M.C., its duty carries it into the firing-line, and when it does get a chance to put in a shot it never passes such an opportunity by. But the strength of the Army Service Corps is so inadequately small, that the demands of an army of a quarter of a million have sorely tested its resources. The dapper little driver in blue and white has been replaced by the Kaffir boy with a long whip. A.S.C. Companies have been split up into infinitesimal portions. There have not been enough men to go round the various columns, and the A.S.C. man, if he did not get his chance of seeing fighting in the early stages of the war, stands a very poor chance of seeing it now. I am not thinking so much of the Transport branch as the Supply when I speak of the A.S.C. who are never under fire—the clerks at base camps, the issuers, the bakers, and the other good tradesmen of the Army.


Another unit is the Ordnance Corps. This is a corps which in ordinary circumstances sees little fighting unless it happens to get shut up in a beleaguered town, or is sniped on its passage from town to town.

The men of the Army Pay Corps, the Treasury Department of the Army, have little opportunity of seeing fighting.

How heartily sick of office work and dreary routine these technical corps are may be guessed from the enormous number of applications there were from the ranks of the corps I have named for transfer to the regular line. Men who occupied good positions and were in receipt of good salaries were anxious to exchange their non-commissioned rank in departmental corps to that of private in marching regiments.

The exigencies of the service, however, forbade such transfers, and the men have remained at their old plodding tasks, totalling figures, taking stock of biscuits, and counting broom- handles. I think you must agree that, in spite of the apparent meanness of their duties, as compared with the finer and more applauded work of their comrades of the line, there is something in their labours that dignifies their efforts. There is always something fine in the faithful observance of ordinary everyday duties; in the case of the soldier who works with his hammer or his pen when he would much rather be working with his rifle and bayonet it is in its degree heroic.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), December 7, 1901


PRETORIA, October 3, 1901

In the district of N'Kandhla, in the northern portion of Zululand, is Itala Mountain. Northward runs the Umyanyeni River, dividing Vryheid from the British territory. Westward and to the north are the famous Ingogo heights; still further west Isandhlwana; westward again the Blood River, with Rorke's Drift and its ancient history.

Itala is one of the line of fortified posts established during the past few weeks to hold in check the commando which, under Louis Botha, had been threatening Natal.

After his success on the Blood River, where he captured Colonel Gough's force, Botha moved eastward. To force the drifts and march on Dundee had been his plan, but Natal, which at the beginning of his march had been almost empty of troops, was, long before he reached striking distance, garrisoned from end to end. Columns which had been safe and snug in the south-east corner of the Orange River Colony; columns that had been prowling round Cape Colony looking for rebel farmers; columns that had been resting in unheard-of dorps on the edge of Nowhere—they were all in Natal when Botha knocked at the gate. Sweaty and grimy engine-drivers, contemptuous of hidden mine or twisted rail, had driven through the night from east, from west, from south, from north, and long, nasty-smelling troop trains threw off their mules and men, their waggons, their ambulances, and their stores—the Scratch Army had arrived.


So Botha moved towards the rising sun, for there are other ways of entering Natal besides well-guarded front doors. Zululand, for instance. Raids into Zululand had been easy enough to accomplish. Unknown commandants had from time to time moved about leisurely and without restraint. What had been done before might be done again, and Botha moved eastward.

So also did British columns, and they arrived some days ahead of Botha. And they spread themselves out along the border line and waited for Botha.

It is advisable to stop and examine with some curiosity the composition of the force that held the position at Itala. Not with enthusiasm nor with reverence, but just with speculative curiosity. To enthuse on matters military is bad form; reverence for traditions which common people vulgarly term "splendid" is also bad form—this from a military point of view, where the desire for proficiency on the part of a young soldier in his profession is the worst of all varieties of bad form. So regard Chapman's force curiously, as you Would regard a pointer or a hunter.


Right of the line of this little army were two guns of the Royal Field Artillery. Gunners and Drivers, you understand, of average courage and intelligence. Ordinary Woolwich-bred, sturdy, spur-clinking, beef-fed, soldiers. Let not Mr Alfred Austin or any misguided maker of verse imagine they were heroes. There are no heroes nowadays except in the classical dictionary. Heroes are bad form. There is a song about them somewhere, and if you have not grown blasé with much daily intercourse with brave men, you may sing it now with some feeling. It runs "Bravo" something or other. I have only heard it sung once, and then by an intoxicated and weedy youth in the New Cut.

Then there were men of the Middlesex Regiment. They call the Middlesex Regiment "Die Hards" or some nonsense of that sort. They are recruited in the Mile End Road, and are chiefly peculiar by reason of the fact that they have not sufficient intelligence to raise a white flag when they are in a tight corner; preferring—such are their brutal instincts—to go on fighting till something turns up.

The Dorsets were there represented. They boast, brassily and in Latin, that they were in India before any other regiment knew the difference between "rutee" and "pawnee."*

[* rutee, pawnee (Hindi)—bread, water. ]

The Lancashire Fusiliers, who gave themselves airs the day after Minden—you won't find it on the South African map—and all because at that battle "they behaved with great gallantry, repulsing every charge of the enemy," they were there; most of them, I venture to affirm, absolutely ignorant of the situation of Minden and of the fact that their regiment was over there. And there were men of the South Lancashire Regiment also; two-and-twenty honours have the South Lancashire, stretching from Louisberg to New Zealand.


Major Chapman's little force had a good backing of tradition; and, with a hundred battles behind them, and good, stout breastworks in front, his men awaited the arrival of Louis Botha on the evening of Sept. 26. Three hundred men against twelve hundred. It was a most encouraging proportion. Britons fight their best under such conditions. It is only when they are on equal terms with the enemy, or slightly superior in numbers, that Somebody regrets to state that "the ammunition ran out, and without my orders a white flag was raised."

The enemy came by way of Babanango and Wonder Kraal, and soon after midnight of Sept. 25 a little outpost garrisoned by sixty men under Lieutenant Kane, South Lancashire Regiment, and Lieutenant Lefroy, Dublin Fusiliers, was attacked. This post had been established on Itala Mountain, and a desperate fight ensued for its possession. Numbers told, and Lieutenant Kane fell mortally wounded, shouting "No surrender!"

"Never give in!" he cried, and he heard them shout,
And grappled with death as a man who knows no doubt.

What was the fate of the men of this little outpost we do not know. Killed, wounded, or captured, they did their duty. Hardly had the outposts fallen than the guns of the 69th Field Battery and the Maxim were put out of action, and the attack had to be met with rifle fire and the bayonet.


Let us say this of the Boers, that they fought with all disregard to danger. That they charged again and again, exposing themselves to our fire, reckless of consequence, determined only to take the little post that stood between them and their object. For nineteen hours they fought with heroic madness. They abandoned their usual tactics. They flung themselves again and again upon the tiny dwindling British lines, and again and again were flung back, battered and broken and maimed. So their tale of dead rose, even as the supply of British ammunition failed. There could be no hope of help from the other posts. Every post for itself. To withdraw troops from one position to assist a post at another would mean the abandonment of the post from which the troops were drawn, and a gap left for the Boer commandant to slip through.

Indeed, even as Itala was engaged, so also was Fort Prospect, ten miles along the Melmoth Road, and held by Captain Rowley and twenty men. The Ermelo commando of four hundred men under Grebelaar attacked the post at daybreak, rushing to within a few dozen yards of the defences, and continued the attack all day. So Itala was left to work out its own salvation, and this it did, fighting desperately for nineteen hours, waterless and short of ammunition, and without artillery. In the evening Botha retired towards the river, leaving his dead for our men to bury.

The cable has told you the number of the Boer casualties. They run into hundreds. It has also told you that Major Chapman has been recommended for the Victoria Cross, and that Lord Kitchener has expressed his opinion that every man of the force should by rights have one. In the early days of the war—before the war bored you—you would call the men of Chapman's force heroes. Even now, perhaps, you have sufficient enthusiasm left to express yourself in accord with Lord Kitchener.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), December 27, 1901


JOHANNESBURG, Sept. 12, 1901

Courthouses bear a striking resemblance one to the other all the world over. There is a dinginess and a stuffiness and an air of aggressive respectability. And furniture polished smooth with much usage, and the smell of ink and the rustling of papers, and the subdued babble of whispered talk from the public's standing- place. It might be Bow Street or Marlborough Street, or Lambeth, with its draped canopy, the raised dais, the cumbersome dock, and the crescent-shaped table where counsel sit.

Only the Bench was constituted differently, and three officers in khaki clasped a Bible and swore that they would well and truly try the prisoner before the Court according to the evidence, and that they would duly administer justice according to the Army Act then in force, without partiality, favour or affection, and they did further swear that they would not divulge the sentence of the Court until it was duly confirmed, and that they would on no account at any time whatsoever, disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member of the Court unless thereunto required in due course of law, so help them God.


And the prisoner before the Court, haggard and wretched- looking, stood between the file of stolid soldiers—little, firm-knit men with fixed bayonets—and looked neither to left nor right, but only groundwards, and later, when he was allowed to sit in the well of the Court, he crossed his legs and looked at his knee, and so he sat throughout the trial.

A hard-faced man, an intolerant, purposeful schemer—and a fool. A man who devised methods of passing treasonable correspondence through and past a dozen censors—yet was so ill-witted as to keep copies of incriminating letters in his house. Cunning enough in his way—the pamphlets he had printed under his personal supervision, bore the imprint, "Printed on the field-press of the Z.A.R." Yet his printer—a Hollander youth who became a burgher for fifty shillings, as he told the Court—gave him away in the very innocence of his heart. Broeksma brought him the little book. It was addressed to "all true Afrikanders," and was dedicated to Louis Botha, and to Christian De Wet, and to all commandants, veldt-cornets and fighting burghers—a sufficiently comprehensive dedication.

They read this little book aloud in open Court. It was rather a tedious task, but it was managed very well by relays of officers, and, as Francis Davies read it, it read very well indeed. The writer started with an apology for the fact that he had taken the oath of neutrality, and endeavoured to explain away his peculiar position. He quoted extensively from a book by "an English officer"—apparently "English officers" and such of their opinions as coincide with pro-Boer writers are no inconsiderable factors in the arguments of our enemies; and this book was all about the American War of Independence—which was, I believe, a regrettable occurrence that happened long before the Fourth of July Hotel Cecil dinners were inaugurated.


It told—this pamphlet—of parallel instances of the American war with those of the Boer war. Of ill-clad, half- starved American burghers fighting for their country. It told of one Arnold, who went over to the English ranks, and it likened him to Piet de Wet, and the surrendered Boers who are striving in the interests of peace. It contained references to nameless atrocities committed by British droops on Boer women and children, of murders and outrages perpetrated by our men. It suggested punishment for burghers who surrender and work for peace, including the novel suggestion that they should be buried alive.

Altogether, it was a poisonous little book. Not, be it known, that it was any worse stuff than one sees printed in English and Irish papers of a certain class. Many of the sentiments contained in the pamphlet that was read in court, while the prisoner studied his knee and flushed and paled alternately, were very much like the matter I have read in European papers, but they have said their say with impunity; they have been—let me use a notable phrase—"intriguing beyond reach of the guns." But here in Johannesburg there is a law that sends to their deaths such men as try to encompass the destruction of our soldiers by skillfully-worded encouragement held out to the enemy. The words treachery and treason have a meaning here. It is no newspaper term, and the educated men who for their own ends and purposes, not only cause suffering to our own troops, but misery to the poor ignorant fools whom they induced to rebel against the authority of the Crown—for these men there is a law, swift and sure and awful.

There were letters, too, that Broeksma wrote. Letters to President Kruger, "at present on leave in Europe," to Mrs Steyn at Bloemfontein, a letter which would have been innocent enough, containing as it did a request that the lady and the President should stand sponsor to a newly-arrived "burgheress," had the writer not seized the opportunity of launching forth upon a flood of verbal unpleasantnesses regarding Great Britain and her methods. Then letters conveying stories of reverses and news of the commandoes, and pathetic requests to "Dr L." for money to carry on the work. And letters conveying messages from the relatives of the fighting commandants to their friends in the field. Then more letters with acknowledgment of cuttings from the Daily News and requests that other "respectable" papers should be sent to the writer wrapped up "Jingo papers."


But how did the foe within get news from the foe without? How is it that these letters were able to pass our censors? There are rights which are respected by all civilised nations, and these are the sacred rights of Foreign Ambassadors and Consuls. We do not molest or touch the correspondence of any foreign Consul. The contents of the consulate mailbags are held by us as sacred, and above suspicion. And by some means or other, this correspondence between the intriguers at Home and the Boers in the field has been carried on by means and through the medium of the Consul for the United States of America in Johannesburg, and the Consul for the United States of America at the Hague. In whatever way these gentlemen have been deceived, and to what extent they have bee a utilised as tools, it is not for me to judge.

Further, I know that for some time past the Foreign Office have been aware of the fact that some such thing was going on. It was known that such correspondence was passing under cover of the all-powerful sub-address "Care of the American Consul, Johannesburg." It was Broeksma's indiscretion that he should leave copies of his letters about in his house. Dr. Williamson, at the Hague, with whom the prisoner corresponded, Mr Kruger, at Hilversum, and others in London, will regret the publicity given to what was intended as private correspondence.

As to Broeksma, by the time this appears in print he will have paid the penalty for his treachery—and his indiscretion.

(Broeksma has since been shot.—Ed. "Star")


Reproduced from The Hawera & Normanby Star (New Zealand), December 28, 1901

Edgar Wallace, writing in the Daily Mail, says:—

What does the phrase "the end of the war" mean to you?

It means one or more of three things. It signifies in your mind, either (1) The date on which the legalised killing of men will cease in South Africa; (2) The date on which some one who is near and dear to you will be released from military service in South Africa; or (3) The date on which it ceases to be necessary to devote the funds of the nation to the up-keep of an army in the field other than the garrisons usually employed under ordinary peace conditions.

And this is my estimate of the periods intervening between the present date and the three "ends" of the war:— (l) Nine months the "fighting end." (2) Fourteen months the "military end." (3) Two years the "financial end."

In making this estimate I know that I err on the side of optimism. Send us out men by all means, and horses for Heaven's sake, and spend as much money as you like, only be patient as you have always been. Don't expect any quick result. If we out here know that you are prepared to wait grimly for a year or two, we—we generals and brigadiers and column commanders—we shall not get flurried or worried, or lose our heads. Be patient—that is the best way you can help.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), January 9, 1902


JOHANNESBURG, September 27, 1901

The veldt is young and green from the new rains. The sun has just topped the horizon, and the world is a golden world; a glorious, glittering, laughing world full of sparkle and colour and warm lights. My horse is fresh and the veldt is easy going. My pipe is an old pipe, and the tobacco has just arrived from England, and it is the only tobacco in the world worth smoking.

It is a beautiful world I am living in; the keen morning air tingles the tips of my ears and fills any nostrils with exhilarating coldness. It is a morning to think on the blessings of life, and the particular blessing that I think of this morning, as I touch my hat to the blockhouse guard and canter into the eye of the sun, is Empire. It is such a good thing on a morning like this to be a Briton. It is the sort of thought that does not strike one very often. The bond that binds you to the millions of the red maps is not always apparent. Home: there are obvious bonds to that; kin; a penny stamp on a dirty envelope, and it's hands across the sea!


"Dear Brother John" is a John Smith, auctioneer and appraiser. An excellent gentleman or a mean thief, according to the manner he has treated you in the past. It is not to an Englishman you are writing; that fact is too apparent to appreciate. You are writing to John Smith, the brother, and if you were questioned as to his nationality, you would answer, with a lift of your eyebrows, "Why, British, of course," wondering in your mind; why such an absurd question should ever be asked, yet never before having given the matter a moment's thought. That everybody connected or associate with you is British, and that to be British is something to be proud of, you accept as a matter of course, without for one moment reflecting on what Britain's greatness is built.

You accept the statement that Britain is great in about the same manner that you accept the theory that the world is round, without any more misgivings that our power could slip from us than you have that this old globe would become of its own will cubiform. Some hundreds of years ago, somebody or other smashed up a Spanish fleet and gave England power over the sea. It was in the English Channel or at Flores, in the Azores, or somewhere, Oliver Cromwell beat the Dutch; or it may have been Queen Anne beat the French. Then there was Trafalgar and Lord Nelson. This you won't forget, because there are so many public-houses named after that great man. And there was Waterloo. You do not know much about Vimiera, or Talavera, or Buçaco, or Fuentes d'Onor, or Ciudad Rodrigo—(a meerkat slips out of a hole and glides across my path at this point of thought and sets my horse a-bucking and a-swerving; the sun is getting higher; veldt and kopje and distant ridge take new shapes in the strong, young light, and the blockhouses are behind and out of sight)—and you have never heard much about Vittoria, or Salamanca, or Orthes, or Ava, because these names are difficult to remember. Well, we won these battles, or lost them creditably, and England became great and, of course, being great, cannot be less.

Our might is the might of the history book, and we do not trouble to read Blue Books and Consular reports to correct our opinions or realise that what we have gained by the sword we may lose to the Mauser; that the power which Drake's red-hot culverins built for us, the apathy of Blank, Dash, and Co., or the rates of the Half Moon Steamship Company may piffle away.


So this morning being fair and inspiring, and the land being good to look upon, and my tobacco being particularly fragrant, and the motion of my horse remarkably easy, I think pleasantly on Empire. Of the Drakes and the Marlboroughs, of the Effinghams and Raleighs, and Benbows and Nelsons, and the Empire-makers working blindly to ends they were fated never to behold. And of matters making for Empire to-day. Of a great people ignorant of its latent strength and fretful of its palpable weaknesses. Of hosts that come from the four corners of the earth; of great steamers bearing commerce under the red ensign; of millions on millions flung with a lavish hand; of illimitable treasures; of a thousand cities, some sweltering beneath a tropical sky, some lazing by Southern seas, some ice-bound by frozen rivers, some harried by typhoon, some buried by snowstorms. It is pleasant, this dream of Empire. It is comforting, this dream of Empire. It is comforting, this thought of great men and cities rising to Britain's need to throw treasure and province and people into the common fund. It is...

Hallo, what, is this?

The horse will be glad of a rest, so I dismount and loosen his girths, and knee-halter him securely, to see what attracted my attention. It is a little cairn. There are not many loose boulders in the vicinity, and very few stones, and the material for the cairn must have been brought with some pains from a distance by those who made it. Dull, red stones they-are, and have been long enough in their present position to allow a little green creeping weed to throw one slender tendril up one side of the mound and half-way down the other. And there are some wild flowers, too, growing among the stones. Green slips tipped with tiny white flowers. Shoots of maize already a foot high, and swaying to every vagary of the soft winds.

Somebody's grave.

And two pieces of biscuit box have been nailed together to form a cross, on which the maker has evidently started to carve the name, but, being pressed for time or the rude tool failing, finished off the inscription with black lead pencil.


"Pte. J.L——" Rain and dust have obliterated the hastily-written pencilled letters; but on the lower part of the upright, and protected from the elements by a larger stone, evidently placed to give stability to the symbol, is written in pencil, "for king And countery."

So Pte. J.L ——, whoever he was, has died for King and Country. Did he know it, I wonder, and did the writer of the epitaph realise at all the significance of the inscription? Perhaps he didn't. It may have been a line from some music-hall ballad—such a one as may be heard at any hall being addressed to the sentimental artisan. A trite little phrase, but perfectly descriptive of the passing of him beneath the hastily gathered stones. Hackneyed, heroic and threadbare pathos, tawdry from long dwelling amid tinsel and grease paint, smelling of the very orange-peel at the pit-door, but raised to its proper dignity by fitting application.

So, here you are, and this is the end of all things, Private J.L——, whosoever you were, yokel or cockney sharp, ne'er-do-well or gentleman. This is not the end you pictured—if, indeed, your mind ever ran on the Great Finality.

Poor tool, broken in the fashioning of Empire, and laid aside for ever. Do the great ones of earth, who shall go down to posterity as Empire-makers, who shall shine in the pages of history because of this work you have done—do these know your work, divine your worth, and place you at your true valuation? I wonder, as I replace the stone and force upright the drooping cross, how many lines of history you deserve, you poor unit, who died for King and Country. How many hearts lie buried here, broken and crushed and mangled for King and Country? I know how you died, uncomplaining, undoubting the wisdom of God, half wondering, perhaps, why no presentiment of death had come to you, and strangely curious through all. I have seen your like, and the death they died.

I could not wish you a resting-place more fitting. Nature is silent hereabouts. God's Sanctuary, where world noises are hushed and the circling hills are giants linked hand in hand to keep back the crush and the fret and the hurry of life. Sleep well, brother. There are those who will not forget who are the real Empire-makers. I almost envy you this victorious quiet, this splendid rest. No mausoleum of polished granite, no sculptured stone, no graven praise, no tablet in the dim chancel. For you, no churchyard by familiar lanes. Day breaks and night falls, and no hoof-fall breaks the silence. The west glows and sleeps; the east quickens and pales. Hesperus becomes Lucifer, and only the wheeling hawk looks down upon the little red mound beneath which lies this Private J.L——, this maker of Empire.

(Despite the assurance given in Parliament as to the freedom of letters from the censorship, the above letter, which has been delayed about a month in transmission, was "opened under martial law," and the envelope bears the Press censor's triangular stamp.)


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), January 21, 1902

The blockhouses, which previously served purely for railway protection, are now rapidly encircling vast tracts of country and limiting the sphere of the operations of the commandoes thus encircled. The advantage of this is in estimable, for the blockhouses act as a sort of outer cordon through which there is little possibility of the enemy breaking. Thus they prevent communication between the commandoes and the arrival of reinforcements from outside. The best example of this is found in the line of blockhouses which runs from Norvals Pont to Naauwpoort, De Aar, and Orange River, and along the river from Norvals Pont. Thus it is evident that the commandoes now in Cape Colony can hardly return or be reinforced from the north.

The size and remarkably different conditions of the country in which operations are being conducted were manifested yesterday week, when one column engaged the enemy near the shore of the Atlantic and another was fighting 1,000 miles east on the borders of Kaffirland, while 1,200 miles north Colonel Colebrander was pursuing the enemy in the thick bush country.

The extraordinary conditions under which the troops fight wore exemplified by Colonel Plumer's recent operations in the Slangapiesberg and the Pongola bush, where both British and Boers were hidden from one another by the thick mists peculiar to that part of the country, in consequence of which the men often approached within a dozen yards of the enemy, many of whom were killed at point blank range.

Colonel Somerset's column was encamped high above the clouds. The Boer snipers from the valley below were invisible, but their shots piercing the cloud fell harmless owing to the great elevation. In the midst of this country of large canyons a town was discovered in which were women and children, and also shops, wherein bootmakers, tailors, and wagonmakers were regularly employed.

On every hand the columns are doing good, steady, plodding work. I would again protest against the injustice of exaggerating minor Boer successes and against the seeming inability of the critics to set off against these our weekly total of captured, none of whom were taken without fighting. The weekly summary but inadequately conveys an idea of the progress made.

From January to the end of last October the following were the Boer losses: Captured and surrendered, 15,000; killed 1,837; guns captured 29; rifles captured 10,000.

That certain columns should be more useful than others is only natural, and it is perfectly true that some columns are considerably hampered by excess of impedimenta. Upon this subject, however, Lord Kitchener has issued strict orders as to the limitation of transport. It is only fair to point out that it is hardly to be expected that men who have been two years in the field should willingly endure the same privations and restrictions which were unavoidable at the beginning of the war.



Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), January 24, 1902

This is Cape Town, and Cape Town at night. To be exact, at ten minutes To nine at night. The grey bulk of Table Mountain is veiled in mist and a drizzling rain drenches the long wooden platform, on either Side of which stand the up-country trains, which in ten and twenty minutes will be roaring northward.

From the street without the electric tram gong booms down the wind, and a hundred paces northward the black waters of Table Bay sough and gurgle along the foreshore. Blurred, flickering, dancing, twinkling lights on the far waters—liner, tramp, transport, collier, cattle boat, and ketch. One long white arm of light stabbing a way through the drizzle and swinging languidly north and south and east and west: up and down, high poised, and searching vainly for the distant Koeberg Hills; depressed and cutting through the dark, dead waters, a lane of living light. This is his Majesty's Ship Something or Other using her searchlight. Only a second or two, however, for appreciation of the picturesque.


"Pas op, baas!"*

[* Pas op, baas! (Afrikaans)—Watch your back, sir! ]

You jump round in time to avoid a heavily-laden trolley, overtopping with mail bags, and trundled forward by two sweating Kaffirs in the uniform of Cape Town's G.P.O. The mail vans are open, and are already half filled with bulging bags. The moist platform is crowded with passengers and their friends; porters hurry to and fro, trucks laden with baggage collide and entangle and generally mix up with trolleys piled with mails. A great sack, marked "From London for the British Army, in South Africa " slips on to the feet of a matron struggling with a bundle of rugs, a bandbox, and a baby, and altogether it is very much like Euston or King's Cross, with a suggestion of the departure of a midnight "hopping excursion," only the saloons with their little, well-lighted compartments and their dim narrow alley ways are different, and the few natives in the third-class are strange.

"By your leave, please!"

Uttered in that tone, the "please" sounds almost like a swear word. Rumble, rumble, rumble, clank, clank, clank—this the trolley or truck. Thud, thud, thud—umph! This the throbbing dynamo in the end carriage, which sets the train a quiver.

"As for me," says the correspondent deprecatingly—the disappointed correspondent who has come a thousand miles to witness a great movement in the Malmesbury district, which has proved something of a Great Fizzle—"As for me, one district's as good as another. I am disappointed; I don't mind confessing that. Pretoria to Malmesbury is a trifle over a thousand miles, and I did expect a little excitement. What happened? A thundering lot of horse thieves came down from Van Ryn's Dorp to sneak horses, got a few hundred, occupied a dorp or two, rushed an outpost or two, stole a rifle or two, and retired. Troops were immediately on the spot, did you say? Of course they were! See my telegraphic report when it comes out. 'Troops were at once hurried to the scene of action, and the enemy retired, etc.' Oh, yes, I wired all that. Many strange incidents in connection with the invasion? Of course. Why, a colonel commanding one of the columns operating against the enemy took out with him two guns. What do you think he did? When he was about a day's march out he sent the guns back to headquarters again. Why? Oh, he said he was afraid he would lose 'em. Fact! No, I didn't wire that, and for heaven's sake don't tell anybody; they'll think I'm unpatriotic. Censors? Don't talk about 'em. Why, the other day—"


Encourage a young father to talk about the smart sayings of his first-born, or a suburban lady to descant on the enormities of the latest domestic, but never draw the correspondent on the subject of the Censorship.

"And tell Jack we shall be up on the Rand in a month."

A burly gentleman and his burly wife are seeing off another burly gentleman and his singularly buxom better half. Both burly gentlemen wear massive watch guards and diamond rings, and both smoke offensively large cigars.

"If you see 'Arry up there," commented the large gentleman who had spoken before, "tell 'im I'm waiting till the 'umming bird sings—he'll know what I mean."

The other large gentleman and his spouse are evidently also in the secret, as also is the speaker's wife, and the roar of laughter that follows is worthy of all the wit in all the world, rolled up though it be for the time into an esoteric reference to a singing 'umming bird.

"My carriage, porter!"

He really says "portah," does the officer who, followed by a few ladies, dodges his way down the choked platform, but that sort of thing has been done to death, don't you think?- A superfluous "haw" has somehow come to be regarded as a sign of incompetence, and a monocle in the eye of an officer the cause of disaster; so I decline to report phonetically, lest my object in reporting at all be obscured.

It isn't the porter at all who responds to the officer's appeal, but the suave, frock-coated conductor, looking for all the world like a hall porter suddenly transported from Piccadilly Club to the Cape Town railway station.

There is a seat already occupied in the compartment, and the officer gentleman does not approve.

"Eh—my compartment, I believe?" Good Englishman! faithful to his national traditions, he wishes to travel his thousand miles by his lonesome self. He objects to the presence of another human being in the same saloon; indeed, he would be much happier if there was no other man in the whole train. If the truth be told the other passenger is just as wrathful at the intrusion and objects just as strenuously. I know he does, for he happens to be me.


I glare at him and suggest that, if he has reserved the compartment, I shall be most happy to find another seat. He glares at me, and remarks to his wife, who has come to the carriage window, that the type of persons who travel first-class in this —— country is extraordinary, and I pray for the arrival of a friend to whom I can address as audible am aside and as uncomplimentary. Bitter rage fills my heart, and a profound contempt for officers of his Majesty's second line of defence. Smarting under the injustice of his remarks, I almost become pro-Boer. However, I don't, for previous experience has taught me that before we are a dozen miles on our way we shall be the best of pals, and by lunch time we shall be sharing lunch baskets.

"Well, good-bye. Hope, you'll have a pleasant trip, and all that sort of thing. Sorry you haven't a nicer travelling companion."

This from his wife. "Can't help that. Have to do the best I can, I suppose. Hope you'll enjoy yourself at the Jordans"—the name was not Jordan, of course. "They're frightfully slow, and all that, and the old man is quite impossible, but—"

"Take your seats, please!"

This from the guard, followed by a request for permits from a gentleman in a cutaway coat and a red armlet. Quite as formal is the officer's leave-taking. He might be going to Scotland or leaving a country house-party. Confound the man, why doesn't he show some trace of emotion? There is all the material for "high tragedy" here, all the elements for a coloured supplement for a Christmas number, something thickly laid with tears and tense faces, and drawn cheeks and droops and faints. Something of the good-bye-soldier's-farewell order; but he kept one anxious eye on the stowing away of a case of champagne, and she twiddled with her long gold chain and looked bored.

But there is comedy enough, and at the last minute.

Enter belated Atkins, with a kit-bag slung over one shoulder, a carbine gripped in one hand, and his helmet put on wrong side in front. Atkins has been dining, and Atkins wants much of the platform to himself. There is a ticket-inspector, who wants to see Atkins's ticket, and as for Atkins himself, all he wants is to find his train.

Ticket Inspector: "Your ticket, please.

Atkins: "Whoffer?"

T.I.: "I want to see it."

Atkins (jocularly): "Go hon! Where's my train?"

T.I.: "Where are you going?"

(Atkins (severely): "Never you mind where I'm goin'. Where's my train?"

T.I.: "Let me see your ticket."

Atkins (sternly polite): "Big ear?"

TI.: "Hey?"

(Atkins (grimly pleasant): "Thick lip?"

T.I.: "What do you mean?"

Atkins (dropping carbine and kit bag with a crash on the platform, and throwing his helmet on to the roof of the saloon): "D'you wanter big ear or thick lip? 'Cos if so, can accommodate."

T.I.: "None of your nonsense, me man.

Atkins: "Never min' 'bout nonsense. Will you be so kind's ter put up your 'ands for about two minutes?"

At this point enter the military police, who knowing Atkins for a brother, gather together his traps, throw them into a third-class compartment, and bundle their owner after them.

"Stand away, please!"

The flash of a green lamp and the long shrill of a whistle, an answering hoot from the darkness ahead, and the train moves.

"Good-bye. Remember me to ——. Don't forget to tell 'Arry about the 'umming bird."

"I arst yer, man to man, do you want a big ear?" This from Atkins, his body half-way out of the carriage window, and addressing a station inspector, who is absolutely innocent of offence against him.

"Good-bye; do write. Good-bye, old chap, mind the Boers don't catch you!"

Boers! Why, of course, we are off to the front, travelling first-class through the enemy's country, and seeing war from a saloon window.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), January 28, 1902

Dressing bag on the rack: camera on the rack: field-glasses on the rack. Sleeping-bag and rugs and pillow on the lower bunk: portmanteau on the upper bunk: wearing-apparel lightly rolled and stowed on the upper bunk: boots under the seat: pyjamas and slippers on the person: cigarettes and matches and the latest file of the Daily Mail on the folding-table in the centre of the compartment, and all before the train reaches Durban Road.

My stable-companion is the officer who, finding I was to share his compartment, had cast reflections upon my respectability. We are half an hour out from Cape Town, and already we are dear friends, and have discovered that we have acquaintances whom we mutually detest. I knew his regiment before the war, and we talk of officers and men whom I had known. Some are dead, some are promoted, some are Stellenbosched,* some command columns—three years ago they were not trusted alone with companies—some have gone Home, and the rest are scattered along eighty miles of railroad, guarding the line in little pagoda blockhouses.

[* Stellenbosched—sent to Stellenbosch, a camp and remount depôt at the Cape, where, during the Boer War, incompetent officers were sent to await passage back to the England. ]

How is Major This—hadn't I heard? Gone Home, got "jumpy," funked a frontal attack, so he left. A disgraceful thing, you think, good reader? Not a bit. The very bravest men in the world get "jumpy." There's nothing wonderful in it. It's a sort of military stage fright, and is as inexplicable as it is without remedy. And Captain That, is he with the battalion still? Oh? Old That—he's a D.A.A.G. of one or the Cape districts; before that he was Press censor - somewhere or other, and before that an A.D.C. to the Governor of Zululand. No, he hasn't seen much fighting, but he's got his D.S.O., and is daily expecting a C.M.G.

[* D.A.A.G.—Deputy Assistant Adjutant General (British Army); A.D.C.—Aide de Camp; D.S.O.—Distinguished Service Order; C.M.G.—Companion of The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael & St. George. ]


Then it is my turn to be questioned. Where's Blank of the Tempus, and Brazen of the Telephone—is he as obnoxious as ever; and Howell of the Agencies—Howell, for whom everybody has got a kindly thought—and Marlborough of the Last Post, and Charlie of the Daily Million—Charlie is another personality kindly remembered.

And so on to Wellington, where a gentleman comes round to inspect the permits, and a very nice lady serves very indifferent coffee.

The night is pitch dark, but the rain has ceased. One by one out go the electric lights in the compartments, and the passengers of the "4 Down" settle to sleep.

With many a roar and rattle and swish the train flies down the gradients of the Hex Valley. Thundering through cutting, skimming along narrow bank, whistling with hoarse rage at every red warning, with many a grunt and cough, and clank of slipping driving-wheel it climbs again. Great, dimly-outlined masses of rock and tree slip from the darkness, focus the harsh roar of the train for a second, and are gone.

Flying through corn-fields, the damp green of the young corn, which comes straggling down to the rail edge, lit for the moment by a blaze of light from the engine as the stoker throws open the furnace-door for the moment to feed his iron-bellied baby. Twisting and turning through the dark gorges of Tulbagh, the car lights reflected in the waters of the mad little stream that races fifty feet below. Sweeping cleanly round the bases of the grey buttresses of the Hex River Range, and then clinging like death to lip and ledge as the slow-going, snorting, grinding mass laboriously wins a way up to 4,000 ft to the very crest of the mountain.

All this is in the dark, with little lights showing faintly in the black valley below, and the pale flush of coming day whitening the topmost peaks above. Snort, snort, snort, puff, puff, puff, foot by foot, and yard by yard, and so slowly that one might alight from the front carriage, go to sleep, and wake up in time to board the guard's van. Strain and tug, and grind, and steadily the twenty-eight feet gradient becomes thirty, and then fifty, and then sixty, and so till with one triumphant squeal from its brass lips, the hauling engine feels level ground, and halts like some animate thing to pant and sweat and tremble.


Then, as the fan of light broadens eastward, and the molten rim of the sun serves the whole visible world as it has been serving the higher peaks for the last quarter of an hour, a million diamonds flash on herb and bush and tree, and a dozen rays of light force the wooden guard that bars the window. Ten million dust motes in every streak of light, a hand groping sleepily along the table for a watch, which hours since has been shaken to the floor, a jarring of brakes, a long whistle, and Touws River—and coffee.

Coffee tastes well in the early morning, and the first cigarette tastes —no. it doesn't taste, it is a sensation, the like of which no smoker of opium or eater of bhang has ever experienced. My officer friend agrees with me, and remembers an occasion in Mhow when—also I recollect a time in Marandalas when—and so on for half an hour, and the train, moves not. Why? A native porter outside who is appealed to doesn't know, but thinks that the train is "going soon now." Questioned, the stationmaster supplies startling news laconically. "Wire cut; Boers fourteen miles down the line." And this is a trifle over a hundred miles from Cape Town, at a time when, according to no less than four Cabinet Ministers and at least one special correspondent, the fabric of Boer resistance is tottering to its fall.

You get a glimpse of the station commandant; as he passes. A young, purposeful Kaffrarian Rifleman. He is here, there and everywhere, moving quickly, yet without hurry. Two lines on his forehead. One for the Boer commando that is approaching his post, another for the handful of raw troops he has got to hold the station.

Touws River stands, on the top step Of the Hinterland. Fittingly enough, the garden of Cape Colony lies at the foot Of the steps, and to push the metaphor still further, the commandant is anxious to confine the disturbance to the house, and to prevent a scandal in the Street of Nations by the brawlers carrying their quarrel to the front garden.

There is a quick search along the train for reinforcements, and the first man discovered is the pugnacious Atkins, who is looking particularly cheap in the fresh tight of morning. The search along the carriages is prolific. Two lancers, a dragoon, three militiamen, an Imperial Light Horseman, one of the cyclist corps, a Royal Engineer, a Cape Policeman, and a Guardsman are quickly organised under an Artillery sergeant, an armoured truck is improvised, and the little force, which in better days and newer clothing, might well have stood as a group representative of the British Army, climbs on board, and the armoured train moves slowly towards the spot where the wire has been cut.


It is gone half an hour when from the high hill at the back of the station a blue flag waves frantically, and is as furiously answered by a signaller near the little camp. A pause, full of speculation, and then from the engine-shed: "Hoot—toot—toot—toot—too-o-o-o-t."

That is the inevitable hooter for the inevitable Town Guard.

"A large body of Boers are approaching the station."

That is the news the flag has wagged, and the inevitable Town Guardsman commences to arrive quickly. Touws River has a fairly large railway population, say a hundred at the outside, and the turn out of the Town Guard at Touws River was very much like a turn out at any other place.

First a telegraph messenger boy, with a rifle as long as himself, and a bandolier reaching down to his thighs. Then a very dirty engine-cleaner, grinning whitely through the grime. Then a foreman of sorts in dingy slouch hat and corduroy trousers, who turned out later to be the sergeant-major. Then a very fat porter in a golf cup and a bandolier that seemed imbedded in his adipose tissues. Many youths smiling sheepishly, one elderly gentleman, looking remarkably fierce, and in khaki, with a slouch hat tilted rakishly over one eye, and the usual ruck of indifferent people, all rifled and bandoliered, some with bayonets, and every one looking singularly fit and cheerful. In parties of six and eight they marched off to their appointed stations.

An hour passes—no Boers. Another— still no Boers. Two more—and yet not a Boer, or the sign of a- Boer, and then the armoured train returns. The Boers have cleared, the line is untouched.

"Right behind."

Off once more, seven hours late, till we reach a place where the wires droop to the ground, and the poles are bent and broken.

The Boer has come and gone, and as we steal along we pass a little group of men who, with bared heads, are lowering something into a narrow slit of the earth.


Reproduced from The Taranaki Herald (New Zealand), January 31, 1902


JOHANNESBURG, November 22, 1901

"A small engagement is reported from Rietfontein, where a patrol of the Transvaal Carbineers came in touch with twenty of the enemy. Shots were exchanged, and the Boers retired, leaving three wounded in our hands. The enemy lost two killed. Our losses, one trooper wounded."

That is an unimportant enough paragraph, don't you think? It is copied-with certain alterations from a wire I despatched to the Daily Mail. And yet, you may not believe it, but it is nevertheless a fact, that the minor engagement was once a big battle. It was a British disaster: it was a Boer defeat. It was the capture of two of our guns, and the killing of two Boer commandants. Also it was an evenly-matched fight, with casualties running to three figures on both sides. It was all these things, at various times and in various localities. In Maritzburg it was a reverse, and a bad reverse; in Pretoria it was a victory, and a great victory. Johannesburg had heard of it, and Krugersdorp knew the number of guns taken and the battery which, had lost them.


I went to find out all about this great fight, and after reducing the evidence by comparative examination, I sent a wire something like that above, and I fancy it is about correct.

The fight occurred on a Monday, and the first news was from a blockhouse in view of the mountain near which the fighting took place. The corporal in charge of the blockhouse telephoned "Heavy firing in the direction of Rooiberg." Now there are two Rooibergs, as indeed there are twenty (I am using a fictitious locality for obvious reasons), and the commandant of the nearest garrison jumped to the conclusion that it was a Rooiberg near which Botha was known to be, and whither columns were hastening. Immediately he wired that Botha was engaged. The mistake, however, was soon discovered and rectified, and that incident, as far as those chiefly interested were concerned, was closed. But what time the little roadside garrison had been astir with the news that Botha was heavily engaged, the Johannesburg train had passed through the station. Only a few minutes, it stopped, but Atkins on the platform had imparted his exclusive information to such of the passengers as were interested, and the train moved on,bearing in addition to passengers and baggage quite a carriage-load of stories of "the great fight." To Johannesburg came the rumour, and it trickled into the railway carriage in which I was making my way to Pretoria.

"A big thing: a very big thing, I've heard," said my travelling companion, an officer in an irregular regiment; "we've lost—I don't know how many—and two guns—I'm told. They lost just as many as we did, if wot more. Commandants Marais and Du Plessis captured—so I understand."

You see, he had got hold of the "evenly-matched" story. The "complete reverse" yarn I heard from an irate subaltern, of Militia, who told me his father was an M.P. and would see about it. He was a very young subaltern, and his clothes were quite new.

"Where did you hear of it?"

That question generally elicited one reply. "Oh, a fellow told me. don't you know. He heard it from a passenger on one of these trains who saw the fight."


All this looked sound enough, and although the nearest intelligence officer knew nothing about the engagement, I prepared to get nearer to the scene of operation. Officially Johannesburg knew nothing, as did Pretoria and Vereeniging; but none the less there seemed every possibility of its truth, and it was worth looking into.

It was somewhat of a shock to discover that the news had come by the Cape train and not, as I had imagined, by the Natal mail, which crosses the country in which Botha usually operates. Botha seldom goes south of the Natal line, but anyhow there was nothing to prevent him doing the unusual thing if he felt inclined. A few minutes after the thought occurred to me, an officer hurrying past stopped to tell me that Botha had crossed the Natal line and was engaged south; So the story grew more feasible, and I resolved on moving south towards Vereeniging. I passed the garrison post whence the story had emanated, I passed the blockhouse that had reported the firing, and, all unknowing of the irony of it. I passed the handful of men who had been engaged; and so I reached Vereeniging. Vereeniging knew the truth of the matter, for this station possesses a real intelligence officer. I was told the true story of the "great battle" and how the mistake had arisen, and got back to Elandsfontein station in time to hear a veritable Bill Adams of an Atkins telling an admiring circle the story of the Battle of Rooiberg. He had been one of the patrol and had brought the slightly wounded men into Elandsfontein by means of a convenient train that had happened to be coming the right way. Now the way Atkins told his story was not as I told it in the telegram which heads this column. Nor was it told as the widely exaggerated stories that first reached me were told. This is the story as it fell from Atkins's lips and taken down by me:—

"'Ere was them," said Atkins, indicating "them" with the butt of his rifle on the station platform, "and there was us"—"us" being by a weighing machine—"The Captin, 'e says, 'I think we've got 'em now, me lads. All I want now is a man to volunteer to go round the back of that kopje and see if they've got anyone awaitin' be'ind to give us 'ell as soon as we move on 'em. I want,' 'e sez, 'a trustworthy, reliable man,' 'e sez, 'one that knows 'is dooty, and is an ole soldier,' 'e sez, 'none of your three months' service boys,' 'e sez. An' Sergeant Jones—that's my sergeant—'e sez, 'Send Baker,' 'e sez, ''e's a good soldier,' 'e sez—that's my name," added Atkins modestly.


"I dessay," said a sarcastic listener. "And did you go?"

"I did," replied Atkins, "and—"

"I s'pose your face frightened 'em" suggested the interrupter.

"Shut up". Go on, cocky." This from the audience,

"Well, I crawls and I creeps, a-'idin' be'ind bushes and rocks, till I gits beside the kopje, an' when I looks round there was their nibs a-sittin', waitin' for the captin to come on. Nigh on seven 'undred, I should say. As soon as I sees 'em I nips back to the captin, an' I sez, 'There's about eight 'undred burjers a- waitin' for you there, sir.' An' 'e sez, ''Ow many?' 'Eight 'undred,' I sez. 'Did you count 'em,' 'e sez. 'Yes.' sez I as bold as brass. 'Well,' he sez, 'it strikes me, Baker, you've got second sight,' 'e sez, 'an' if there's eight 'undred Boers round there I'll eat my boots,' 'e sez. Any'ow, we got the squadron divided into three sections, an' one went to the left, the other to the right, and the other a'ead. Well, bimeby we give a yell an' charged on the kopje, an' sure enough they started firin' from the top, only it wasn't what you'd call an 'eavy fire, but just a 'klik-klok, klik-klok,' just about as fast as I can say it. Well, bimeby up went a white flag, and me an' Jimmy Sparks went up with our rifles at the ready—you bet your life on that—and there was three wounded Boers an' two dead 'uns, an' the rest of the commando was gone. Then the Captin comes up, an' he starts questionin' the wounded ones—that one," said Atkins, pointing to one of the prisoners seated with his arm in a sling on a bundle of blankets "—and then 'e asks 'im what they called the kopje—the name of it, I mean—an' the Boer, 'e sez, 'Baboon's Kop,' 'e sez. 'Are there any baboons about "ere?' sez the Captin. 'Lots,' sez this 'ere Boer, 'Look over there,' and may I be —— if there wasn't a young thousand of 'em, chatterin' an' jorrin' along a ridge nearby. So the Captin 'e laughs an' 'e sez, 'Oh, Baker,' 'e sez, 'where's them eight 'undred Boers?' 'e sez. 'Didn't you notice they 'ad tails on,' 'e sez."


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), February 4, 1902

JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 20, 1901

Familiar as we are with death that comes sudden and horrid, callous as we have grown to the inevitable casualty, to the shrunken mess, the vacant seat, to the comrade who has passed and whose requiem is a "poor old boy" and a half-ashamed sigh, there is always something extraordinary in the prearranged casualty, the death that is as an engagement made three weeks ahead.

Men inured to scenes of carnage, hardened in warfare and seasoned to death—I have seen them shudder at a little calm and bloodless sentencing. It is not the value of the life to be spilt, for in this, the Land of Little White Crosses, where graves are more frequent than milestones, what is the value of a life, be it prince's or private's? It is not pity, for what pity can there be for a man who trafficks in treason, and is a chapman selling men cheaply? It is perhaps the brokery of it all: the fair trading of life for life; the bargaining of plea against accusation; the final adjustment by the keen-witted arbitrator, and the businesslike arrangements for a settling day. It is the knowledge of the settling day, that there will be no carrying of accounts, but a final settling for once and for all. No whirl and clamour and delirium of battle. No joy of give and take, with all the chances of immunity and little reck of death—only the cold, helpless, trapped doing to death, with a grave dug beforehand and the hour of the funeral arranged in advance.

I have told you before of a military execution; from time to time I have tried to paint war in its true colours—which are black and red and grey. Black for the sorrow and the gloom and the suffering; red, blood-red for the quick, clean death; and grey for the monotony and dreariness of it all.


You ought to know what war is, for it is a good thing to avoid; yon should see that side which the war artist is blind to and the decent photographer wisely passes by. You can do this in cold print, since the writer may skip sickening details which the camera places on record—and it is the detail that counts. If there is a cheerful aspect to warfare, it is but one spoke in the whole wheel, and all the rest are horrors. War! what does it signify to you? I will tell you what it signifies to me.

I once met a dear old friend of mine—he was not old as years go—and he asked me to breakfast with him. We were trekking at the time, and he had joined the column during the night, having brought in a convoy. We talked of old times and old friends, and he talked about his wife and apologised for a baby—he was ridiculously young. The column moved off and we rode together for a distance, and he told me a funny story about a brigade-major, which I jotted down as I rode for future reference. He did not finish the story, for he was called away to take his troop on ahead to reconnoitre the country.

The Boers were holding a position a few miles ahead, the usual sort of thing; a ridge, a farmhouse, and a donga,* and it took two hours' fighting, and hard fighting, to turn them out. After the fight was over I went round with the ambulances to collect the wounded. The first man I saw was H——, my poor friend, a bullet through his heart, a smile on his lips, and eyes that stared blankly at the hot blue sky. And the word "war" always recalls that picture, and- the" story of the brigade-major that was never finished.

[* Donga (Afrikaans from Zulu)—a ditch formed by the erosion of soil. The word means "bank, side of a gully" in Zulu. Wikipedia. ]

And so now I tell you of another death, that you may see war as it is, not as you would wish to see it.


Nearly three weeks ago, on November 4, to be exact, two men were arraigned before a military court at Johannesburg. For some time past the burgher camps had been utilised by a certain class of burgher as convalescent homes for enervated burghers. Pleasant rest camps, where captured Boers might recover from the fatigues incidental to campaigning, and where, having thoroughly recuperated, they might seize favourable opportunities for slipping back again to the commandoes. True, they were obliged to take the oath of neutrality if they wished to remain in these camps. If they did not so chose, they were deported.

It was in consequence of this practice that:—

"David Garnus Wernich and Hendnck Meyer, residing within the British lines in the burgher camp at Johannesburg, in the Transvaal, were charged with:

Firstly, High Treason, in that they, both or one or other of them, and at various dates between the months of July and October 1901, (both months inclusive), did, at the said burgher camp, incite and persuade by word of mouth certain surrendered burghers residing at the said burner camp—that is to say, among others, William Cornelius Mynhardt, Johannes Jurgens Klopper, Hendrick Cornelius Nel, and Frederick Emil Metz, to leave the burgher camp and join the King's enemies;

Secondly, breaking the Oath of Neutrality, in that they both or one or other of them, on the dates and at the place mentioned in the first charge, having previously taken the oath of neutrality did incite and persuade by word of mouth, certain burghers, namely, the said burghers mentioned in the first charge, to leave the said burgher camp and join the King's enemies;

Thirdly, inciting to break the Oath of Neutrality, in that they, both or one or other of them, and on the dates and in the places mentioned in the foregoing charges, did incite and persuade, by word of mouth, certain burghers, namely, the said burghers , namely, the said burghers mentioned in the first charge, to leave the said burgher camp and join the King's enemies."

Stripped of all the legal phraseology, they were charged with holding a pro-Boer meeting. The court found Wernich guilty on all counts, Meyer on charges one and three, and the court having closed, the prisoners were led back to the cells. That was three weeks ago, and neither man knew what his sentence was to be.


Yesterday morning Wernich knew. A raw morning and no sign yet of the dawn. A terrific storm had passed over Johannesburg the previous night, and the thunder still rumbled on the hills around, and the lightning flared fitfully on the horizon. Here and there a coated policeman, his rifle slung at his shoulder, paced the dead streets, casting an eve upwards for a stray star glittering through a momentary cloud break The streets silent, save for the grumbling thunder roll, every house lifeless, every window dark, and on the outskirts of the town the unquiet signal lamps, blinking and winking from kopje to kopje. Then a clatter of hoofs from the direction of the fort, and a horseman gallops through the town to the charge-office, Johannesburg's central police station. He has a message to deliver, a sealed envelope for the chief gaoler Then he wheels his horse, for he has another errand. This time it is a doctor to be roused. Then the horseman rides back to the fort, and the iron-shod klip- klap grows fainter and dies away. Once more silence the streets of Johannesburg.

Inside the charge-office the gaoler has broken the seal, and has proceeded to Wernich's cell. A muffled figure with rifle and fixed bayonet steps on one side to allow the gaoler to pass into the cell, and a man is wakened from his sleep to hear the sentence of the court.

"To be shot at sunrise."

The condemned man does not understand; he is still half asleep. It may be only a bad dream. Then he realises and bursts into tears.

To be shot at six, and already it is past three! He dresses, and the guard outside assemble to march him to the fort, the place of execution. Dressed at last. Out into the deserted street swings the little party.

Tramp, tramp, shuffle, shuffle; the prisoner is taking his last walk.

Think of it This walk through the city of the dead, with never a familiar face or the glint of pity from human eyes. Only the unpeopled streets and the silent houses and the pale herald of dawn in the eastern sky. What a morning for thoughts! Little white boats on a sunny sea; fat kine browsing on a golden ridge. Love and hope and the goodness of living. Then the fort and shut doors behind, and the hours slip round faster than ever they slipped before, and the minister's voice offering spiritual consolation is a meaningless drone.

"Life everlasting——"

This is the life the poor wretch wants; and then he is led outside and blindfolded, and two gaolers lead him by the arm to a chair. He cannot see what is happening; he only knows that he will be killed very quickly and very soon. If his eyes were unbandaged he would see that even as he is placed against the chair, and while yet the warders are at his elbows, ten men facing him have raised their rifles to the present. Then, unassisted, he sits, and the warders spring clear.

His body does not touch the seat before the rifles crash.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), February 6, 1902

JOHANNESBURG, Saturday, November 23, 1901

The war has gone on so long now that we have almost forgotten the events that led up to the ultimatum, and quite forgotten the exact conditions that existed in Johannesburg in the days of the crisis.

The relations of master to man, or capital to labour, and the real feeling of the Uitlander population were generally crowded out or over-clouded by the more pretentious or serious issues on which depended the position Great Britain should take in the future in South Africa. British supremacy in South Africa was the paramount issue, and the minor questions relating to the regulations of the many conflicting interests which go to the making of internal politics in the Transvaal, or more properly speaking, in Johannesburg itself, were never factors in the establishment of British rule, and as such never attained the publio attention that such matters as the wording of the preamble of the 1881 Convention succeeded in attaining.


That there were questions quite as important to the man in the street of Johannesburg as the franchise, or, indeed, as the suzerainty; that there were parties in Johannesburg as dissimilar in their views as are Tories and Nationalists cannot be doubted; and the fact that Lord Milner will have these questions to deal with on the general return to the Rand is absolutely certain.

Lord Milner has now reached the zenith of his popularity, for now it is that the people of South Africa, animated by a genuine patriotism, take a broad Imperial view of his work. They view his work from a distance, and they can admire his splendid powers, because he is now, and, indeed, has been since he first arrived in this country, grappling with the great national danger which they but imperfectly understood, yet understood sufficiently to appreciate. There will come a time when some immediate action will be called for by the exigencies of the case, and when he will have to deal with questions which, outside the sphere of high politics, present more complex aspects than has done this great South African question of Briton versus Boer.

Questions demanding legislation which must necessarily affect adversely the many interests of the industrial community, and as necessarily creating dissatisfaction amongst men who to-day regard Lord Milner as an embodiment of every virtue. The wise counsellor of to-day will, with a section of the population, be the foolish, if indeed not criminal, counsellor of to-morrow. The honest, fair-minded arbitrator of to-day will be suspected to- morrow of bias and prejudice—the bias being in favour of the suspicious party's opponent. No concession to capital but will be accompanied by a loss of confidence on the part of labour; no attempt at the amelioration of the lot of the democracy which is not in some way offensive to the plutocrat.


The rocks before Lord Milner are many. It may be urged that in every British possession under the sun the same conditions obtain; that there is no Colonial Governor who did not have to contend against similar difficulties. In the case of the Transvaal, however, it is quite different. There can be no comparison made between South Africa and any other colony or collection of colonies. Examine first causes, and appreciate the difficulties of Lord Milner's position in the first days of his rule.

The feeling that prevailed at the time of the Jameson Raid among the Uitlander community was scarcely modified at the end of 1899, and Lord Milner knew that the ambition of a great majority of Uitlanders was less centred in the Transvaal becoming merged into the British Empire than that it should become an English- speaking republic. Such a republic could not but exercise a most pernicious effect, and could scarcely help dominating affairs in the Cape Colony to the detriment of purely British interests. It is by no means uncertain that had the Uitlanders been left to work out their own salvation, on the death of President Kruger, something approaching a revolution, in which many of the Dutch would have taken sides with the Uitlanders, would have been witnessed, and the balance of power been shifted from the heads of the retrogressive party into those of progressives, many of whom, as the "flag" incident of the Raid days testifies, were by no means anxious to see the Union Jack raised in the Transvaal. Here was a condition to start with which has no parallel in the world. Then came the war and the exodus of the Uitlanders. The war dragged on, and two years and a quarter find that 80 per cent of these people are still away from their homes, and the majority of them dependent upon charity for their existence.


It will probably be nearer three years, before all these people can return, and what does that mean? It means that some forty to fifty thousand people who, three years ago, were in comparatively comfortable circumstances, will return beggared. Three years of idleness will have demoralised them; they will return full of bitter grievances—many unreasonable, if you like—against those who have been the cause of their enforced holiday. They will be subject for some years to a heavy taxation, and for some time will be ruled by a Crown Government, which form is always the most exasperating and most resented.

Added to this, these people who have been rusting for three years—eating their hearts out in the coast towns and growing old at the rate of one year in four months—will be called upon to compete with the eager new- comer, who, with mountains of energy and not a little capital, has come out from England or America to make his fortune. Other colonies, it is true, have been under Crown Government for a considerable number of years; but it must not be forgotten that no war preceded in their cases, nor was there all the material to hand, not to say machinery, for elective representation.

I shall never be surprised to learn that echoes of dissatisfaction are reaching England regarding Lord Milner's administration, and that from quarters whose loyalty is above suspicion. Our great pro-Consul has done so much for the Uitlander that the possibility of the Uitlander turning on him does not seem worth thinking on; but in spite of the seeming ingratitude of the action, there are many excuses which may be found for the disaffected ones. That some dissatisfaction already exists is certain, and that this will increase with the increase of Johannesburg's population is more than likely.


In the first place, the refugee will return with the knowledge that while he and his wife have been left to starve the Government has been pampering the families of our enemy, who is still fighting against us. That is a good basis for everlasting grievances. Public men will return to find that the Government which Lord Milner controls has forced upon it municipal reforms costing over a million of money, which has to be paid by people who have had no voice in the appointment of the men who voted the money. Property-holders will find laws and proclamations so ambiguously worded—as, for instance, the now famous "beneficial occupation" clause—that can result in nothing but endless litigation. It will be well to be prepared for some strong expressions of public feeling which, while of only local significance, may be easily construed by Lord Milner's enemies as expressions of mistrust in his greater policy. The question of Briton and Boer vying peacefully together in the same country is less likely to cause the High Commissioner trouble than the question of Briton and Briton residing amicably in the same street.

It is during the next two years that Lord Milner will require all the patience and strength that he has at his command, and all the confidence and affection his countrymen can give him.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), February 7, 1902

JOHANNESBURG, November 28, 1901

Three decently-crowded streets and half a hundred deserted ones—that is Johannesburg to-day.

Commissioner Street, Pritchard Street, Market Square, and the streets adjacent are alive enough between nine in the morning and five in the afternoon; rickshaw-boys with a rattle and jingle trot about in the white sunlight or seek shady and unfrequented streets for a quiet "loaf." Dilapidated cabs, many having the appearance of having been on commando, rattle through the uneven streets. The tramway lines are almost hidden by the accumulation of dust and the overspread of macadam.

Johannesburg is only half awake. It is a dozing town, having bad dreams—a town that, if it speaks at all, speaks in its sleep. A military town with mounted: orderlies and cyclists innumerable, and budding Rand riflemen, irreproachably dressed in Panama hats and carrying Lee-Enfield rifles.


In the middle of the day Johannesburg is deceptive. You see business people hurrying backward and forward, You see a throng round the counters of the banks. You lunch at the club in a crowd. You take your place in a long queue at the censor's window, and you think Johannesburg is pretty full. After dinner stroll out in the town and look for the crowd. The streets are empty, the windows are black, and dead, here and there a policeman, here and there a solitary pedestrian, on the rank in Market Square the gleam of a dozen cab lamps—Johannesburg is a place of great emptiness.

The man in the street has not yet returned. The people who go to make a crowd are still waiting their permits at the coast or are yet in England. The men you see hurrying about in the broiling sun at midday are the heads of departments, who in ordinary times could not leave their offices, but the clerks and the messengers are still at the coast. The men who have yet to return—and they will soon—are they who have no money to bank, no telegrams to send, who lunch cheaper than at the Rand Club.

Take a stroll through the suburbs; visit Doornfontein, Fordsburg, Braamfontein. If Johannesburg is a city half asleep, these suburbs are dead. Here and there a house is inhabited, but most of them are shuttered, blinded, and barricaded in the manner in which they were left by their tenants. Weeds dominate the gardens, dust covers the windows and lies inches thick in the corners of verandahs. The roads are worn and uneven, the sidewalks are painful to walk upon, and at all hours, day or night, a deathly stillness reigns.


Go to the poorer parts of Johannesburg, homes of the poor whites. Sordid and wretched at the best of times, they are dilapidation itself to-day. Rough planks torn from old packing- cases nailed with crude workmanship across grimy windows—Heaven alone knows what the poverty-stricken owners feared to lose from their hovels. Battered lengths and half- lengths of galvanised iron serving the same purpose, and across each improvised shutter, be it wood or iron, the tattered remnants of some alluring placard demanding in uproarious red or threatening black, and in letters six inches long, recruits for every irregular corps in the field, from Kitchener's Fighting Scouts to the Rand Rifles. Sometimes it is an advertisement of an entertainment, but these are few and far between. There is a flaring poster on the hoarding opposite my hotel which tells that for sweet charity's sake Dr Gerald Grace, own nephew to "W.G.,"* will give an entertainment to-night at the Masonic Hall. The seats are five shillings and the booking is enormous. It is the five-shilling people who are back on the Rand. There is another concert next week at ten shillings a seat, and the booking is brisk. One of these days the people who do not rise above a shilling will come back, and then Johannesburg will be repopulated.

[* "W.G."—the famous English cricket- player William Gilbert Grace (1848-1915).]

I went for a walk this morning around the slums. Through long streets of ugly one-storied shanties, with a storekeeper at one corner and a Peruvian at the other. Through lanes of filthy, crazy dwellings, leaning against each other for support, boasting of one window and one door, all religiously boarded up where not occupied, and all giving the idea that a small boy with a tack- hammer could knock them to pieces. Past hideous erections on the "model" plan, empty most of them—dirty blinds behind grimy windows, and silence in the stifling little courtyard. The caretaker, an Italian, offered me a room at £6 a month, and was visibly depressed when I declined his offer.


From the deserted slums I sought the quarter where I was informed dwelt in time of peace the artisan. There were tiny cottages, weather-worn and soiled-looking, with a slip of tangled garden in front, and just a bit of verandah. Some there were with white curtains and men and women moving about in front, but mostly they were poor, soulless things looking miserable and forlorn. Evidently the Maker of Things is still absent, and so, too, is the small shopkeeper who supplies his needs, for the corner shops were mere hoardings for the local Willing.

From the home of the toiler to Johannesburg's Belgravia—broad avenues, tree-shaded, and glimpses of red- brick houses through the trees. Houses that stand back from the road in aggressive modesty. Establishments rising storey upon storey, with wings flung left and right—houses with carriage- drives and servants' entrances. Houses of red and white stone, polished windows and snowy curtains and glittering brasses. The little roadways that lead through ornate iron gates to the noble portals, these are clean and well-swept, for the owner has returned. By night the soft glow of electric lamps and the glitter of silver and glass—the owner is giving a dinner-party, perchance to celebrate his return to the Rand, lucky man that he is! It is a pleasure to walk round this suburb, to see these mansions so beautiful and chaste and refreshing. To think on these evidences of wealth and luxury, to note the trim gardens and the well-stocked conservatories, the tennis-courts and the croquet lawns, and it is with a feeling of pleasure that you remember that the owner is not being kept from his beautiful home by the unpleasant but necessary restrictions of the Civil Permit Office. We are not doing business in Johannesburg these days, there is no business to do, and yet there are quite a number of people here, and two hundred families are returning weekly.


Go to the tea-rooms at five o'clock. The place is crowded, and you will scarcely get a seat. A rustling of skirts, a babel of talk, flushed waitresses hurrying to and fro, a string-band hidden somewhere in the fernery playing "Florodora." Many officers, a few ladies, and a sprinkling of civilians.

Leave the tea house, walk down Pritchard Street, cross the Market Square, and through the chains to the Stock Exchange. Not a soul here. The offices are boarded up, the saloons closed, and the asphalted roadway knobbly and uneven. Business, real business, the business that Johannesburg knows and lives on— this is dead. But the refugees will return soon, and the streets will fill and the town will hum, and between the chains will only be less in its animation than Throgmorton Street. The great wheel of useful life that sways now feebly to and fro will turn again, albeit for a time creakily.

It is nearly time the Cape train was in: let us go down and meet it. Here it is— punctual to the minute. Here are some passengers whose faces you will know if you are an old Johannesburger. Mr A——, the head of the great firm of A—— B—- and Co., Mr F——, the financier, Mr G—— , the great stockbroker. Familiar faces all of them. Yes, the return to the Rand has started; the refugees are returning— the first-class carriages are all full. They are acquisitions to the community, these first-class folk, but Johannesburg will doze, will sleep, will languish, until the third-class carriages discharge their load.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), February 10, 1902


A Merry Christmas to you, my good friend, whoever you be. On behalf of the Army—let me arrogate to myself the position of spokesman for the Army—on behalf of the Army I wish you the best and the happiest of Yuletides. I cannot send you a Christmas card, so I send you this.

It is turkey and round of beef and plum-pudding and mince-pie for you to-day. It is festoons of paper chains and laurel and holly and mistletoe and music and laughter. Waits at your doors—"God rest ye, merry gentlemen." Perhaps skating, possibly snow; certainly fog.

There are Christmas Days and Christmas Days. There is Christmas in the country, with the hard field a-glitter with hoarfrost and the little church smothered in frosty ivy, and the little "nippers" in thick boots clattering up the aisle. There is Christmas in town, with the unhappy West being bored to death and the joyous East with little Christmas-trees in parlour windows, the smell of cooking travelling up the passage and into the street, and the impatient knot of children with jugs and men with thirsts waiting at the corner pub for one o'clock. And there is Christmas on the veldt.


Turn up the gas, snuggle closer to the fire, and imagine us, the Army. Imagine first a great plain; imagine dozens of great stone heaps sparsely covered with bush. On the horizon a long, blue, jagged strip of cloud. It is not cloud at all, as a matter of fact, but it looks like cloud; in reality it is a range of mountains. The plain would be green if it could, only the red old earth wears through, and shows itself in patches, and mottles the green untidily. Pick up a stone, there are plenty lying about. You drop it again quickly, and stare at the angry red scorch on your hand. Yes, it is very hot, and you have been transported so quickly from smoky, dingy old London that you blink and wink and shade your eyes from the strong white sunlight. It is light that fills all space and searches every fissure. A light that turns the sky brazen and chases the blue from the very horizon. It is a light which blisters the paint of the blockhouse on the top of the hill, and makes the men who lie on the-shady side of the little iron building pant again.

To-day has been, an uneventful day for them, judging by our idea of what goes to make art interesting day: to them it has been a red-letter day. It is Christmas, and my friend Smithy, who looks the hottest of the sprawling six, will tell you he has quite enjoyed himself. What sort of a day have they had, these men? This morning—this very morning that you read your Daily Mail, and long before you dreamt of getting up, if, indeed, it was not before you went to bed —a form creeps through the little door of the blockhouse and gently shakes one of the sleepers within.


"Nearly dawn, corporal," he says. The sleeper awakes and rubs his eyes and yawns and stretches his arms, and throwing off the one thin blanket that covers him, he rises to his feet and wakes the others; one by one they rise, slip on their coats, buckle their belts, sling their bandoliers, and creep through the hole in the wall to join their comrade outside. The stars still twinkle overhead, and the plain below is very quiet. Eastward the dawn is coming, and the tiny garrison stand rifle in hand, waiting for the Boer that comes with the dawn. Not in this blockhouse alone air tired eyes watching the dawn. A thousand yards away is another blockhouse, and another half a dozen watchers. Farther along another, east and west, north and south, the men of 2,000 blockhouses await the day, looking eastward suspiciously. Then the east changes from dead white to primrose, and from primrose to blush rose, and then golden, and then up sprang the first dazzling rays of light like the sticks of a fan. Then comes the sun, the pitiless, grilling, triumphant sun, brushing away the shadows and filling the empty veldt with life. The garrison piles its arms arid proceeds with its ablutions.

Suddenly from the edge of the horizon northward comes diversion. An irregular star-light splash of light quivers for a moment and is gone. Then it comes again and goes as quickly. Than it quivers and dances and twinkles jerkily. The corporal produces his note-book and jots down the message as one of the men reads it off.

"W-i-s-h a-l-l r-e-g-i-in-e-n-t M-e-r-r-y C-h-r-i-s-t-in-a- s."

It is from the headquarters of the regiment holding the blockhouse line hereabouts. The helio dances merrily, and another of its kind, living on the top of a flat-topped mountain ten miles south, makes haste to return the compliment. Greetings flash from hill to hill. They are short and condensed, for there are messages other than complimentary to follow.

"One of my men sniped last night while patrolling line, died during night; buried this morning "—thus flickers the southern helio.

"I wonder who that is," says one of the men of our blockhouse. "I know two chaps in No. 81 "—blockhouses are numbered.


A helio in the west has sprung to life.

"A merry Christmas, and keep your eyes open. Small party Boers slipped past here last night; making your way."

This news does not interfere with the breakfasts of the garrison. Coffee, biscuits and jam, and a tin of tongue. The coffee isn't bad, the biscuits are more than tough, the jam is distinctly good, but who in the name of the unnameable opened this 'ere potted tongue last might? Ten reproachful eyes look on Smithy, and Smithy prepares to take an oath of exceptionable force that he never set eyes on no blooming potted tongue, but he was ignorant of its presence in the blockhouse. Five people remember that Smithy was complaining last night of a great hunger; five people distinctly recollect that Smithy had suggested that the tongue should be opened for supper; five scornful voices give Smithy the lie direct with five varieties of adjectives. Smithy is indignant, injured, frank, and penitent by turns. Confesses to feeling hungry in the night, pleads Christmas time as an excuse and a justification, says he'll make up the loss at the earliest opportunity, and throws himself on the mercy of the court. It is Christmas Day, so there are no wranglings.

In the little box that serves as a pantry is a Christmas pudding, which the good people of England have sent out; there is a prime cut of beef, which the Cold Storage Manager has arranged for; there are vegetables, and a pint of beer a man—it came last might on a gangers' trolley; and there are letters and papers to be read—they came last might, too.

Phew! but it's hot. The blockhouse smells of warm paint and warm food and old clothes. There is a fire in the tiny kitchen dug-out, white smoke rises straightly, no breath of air moves on the veldt, and the light of the fire is made nothing by the light of the sun that beats down from the white-hot sky.


"There's someone riding over the ridge, corporal."

This from the sentry who has sighted the stranger. The corporal applies his glasses.

"Three of 'em," he says, "in khaki; might be our chaps and might be Boers. Keep under cover you fellers; shove a round in your rifle, sentry—can't be too careful."

The horsemen drew nearer. They have feathers in their broad- brimmed hats, that the corporal can see.

"Scallywags," he murmurs, "or Boers."

Do you observe how suspicious Atkins has grown—do you note Atkins's definition of an irregular corps? Nearer they draw, their rifles in the buckets at their side. They are talking and laughing; you can hear that plainly. The one of them waves his hand, and a long "Coo-e-e-e!" wails across the plain.

"Bushmen," says the corporal, closing his binoculars. "All right, sentry, give 'em a shout. Atkins does not "cooee," but he has got a good pair of lungs, and "What ho!" roared lustily carries a considerable distance. They ride to the hill on which the blockhouse is perched, and stumbling up the boulder-strewn slope, their horses picking a way, now slipping, now jumping, now walking, till the little party reach the barbed-wire entanglements and dismount.

"A merry Christmas to you, corporal."

"Same to you, cocky. You've just came in time for dinner."

An hour or so later they sit down to dinner. A blanket is spread on the concrete floor, the meat is carved, the potatoes are served, the pudding is cut, the beer is divided, and Smithy the irrepressible proposes a toast—"The King, God bless him!" I wonder how many blockhouses to-day will ring with that anthem?

There is only another toast, and the Australian proposes it—"The folks at home"; in other words, my friends, at this very moment, or, say, at one o'clock to-day, thousands of tin cups will be raised—to you.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), February 27, 1902


JOHANNESBURG, November 29, 1901

The history of the plain prosy historian is never as interesting or acceptable as the history of the novelist. Harrison. Ainsworth could give points to Macaulay, and the Guy Faux* of novel and, ballad is a considerable advance on the Guy Faux that the historian has pictured.

[* Guy Faux—usually spelt "Guy Fawkes." Wallace presumably chose the historical spelling for its implications of falsehood and treachery. ]

I cite Guy Faux because he is one of the best known characters of English history, the most famous of conspirators. We have made little headway in the conspiracy business since the days of that gentleman. We never conspire nowadays without writing to somebody and telling him all about it. In South Africa this is particularly noticeable. The chivalry of Mr Faux that prompted him to give warning to one of those gentlemen who would otherwise have been a victim led to hid undoing; and the few painful scrawls that saved his friends brought the chivalrous one to the stake. Conspiracy has never flourished since people learnt to write.


Last Tuesday week, while hurrying to my quarters in the driving rain I heard two shots fired in rapid succession. Then came a woman's scream and the sound of men running.

A friendly policeman at the corner of the street supplied me with the explanation. A conspiracy has been discovered, and the police were engaged in making arrests. I have heard no more about the conspiracy, so I presume it is being dealt with quietly. I do not know exactly how many conspiracies this makes which have been unearthed in Pretoria or in Johannesburg. About seven, I think. As far as I know, the Criminal Investigation Department have discovered none. The conspirators have discovered themselves. However subtle the conspirator, however close-mouthed he is, whatever secret signs and antics he indulges in when he meets a brother conspirator, give that man a clean sheet of paper and a "J" nib, and he will start discovering his plot to the world at the rate of five folios a day. Who dares to question the wisdom of free education? What warped mind sees in the Board school a forcing house for criminals? Education is rapidly making some crimes impossible; the crime of conspiracy is one. Pothooks and hangers have rendered more service to the Criminal Investigation Department than the best detective who has ever strolled through Whitechapel in plain clothes and policemen's boots.

This new conspiracy of ours was discovered in Botha's laager that time he departed hurriedly, leaving his hat and his revolver behind him. That there was a conspiracy in Johannesburg there can be no doubt. Well under the noses of the Criminal Investigation Department a plot had been hatched, and a great scheme had been perfected, and nobody was any the wiser. It was a pretty little plot, and comprehended not only the delivery of Johannesburg into the hands of the Boers, but a wholesale shooting of Rand Rifle officers and the execution of certain public officials who were in some degree obnoxious to the promoters. So clever was the whole, thing, and so pleased were they with their ingenuity, that they there and then sat down and wrote and told Botha all about it.


They were charmingly frank; they told the Boer general what they intended to do, and they proposed to do it, and give hint full particulars regarding the names of the conspirators and a list of the condemned officials. Botha, presumably got the letter, and we can only guess at the satisfaction he got out of its perusal. Some time afterwards a small British force swooped down on the farm in which Botha had been staying, and the Commandant-General left hurriedly, leaving behind him, as I have said, and as you must know, for they have passed into history with Mr Steyn's trousers, his hat and his revolver. Also his private papers. And among them one of the ingenuous epistles indited by the conspirators. It was not a very important letter, however, except in so far as it betrayed its writer. The police of Johannesburg were communicated with and the writer of the letter was arrested, and his house searched. What was found? What, but letters from other conspirators—I feel almost inclined to put conspirators in inverted commas— and not only these, but the lists referred to and the names of all those implicated in the plot. So there was a general arrest, and those people who cannot plot without a dictionary, or scheme without a stylographic pen are lodged at the Charge Office.

It is all very silly, but it is all very dangerous. The humour of the thing does not detract from the serious character of the crime. I was never so much amused as I was by the delicate humour of a lunatic who was once under my charge; but one night when I went to visit him he chased me up the ward with a poker, all the time shouting the funniest of japes—and I never appreciated his humour after that. Broeksma wrote letters, dangerous letters, letters that brought him to his death. He knew how dangerous they were, and left them unsigned, or else adopted a fictitious name. He took every precaution to keep the thing quiet; he quite expected to be raided by the police, and yet he kept copies of all his correspondence in an unlocked drawer! Show me a conspirator, and I will show you a fool. The fool element has entered into all these conspiracies. The plot to blow up Lord Roberts. The plot to kidnap the Commander-in-Chief. In the latter case Cordura apparently discussed the matter as freely as you and I would discuss the theatre we proposed spending Boxing Night at.


The conspirators have eliminated the romance from their plots. There is nothing of the secret stab, the midnight outrage, the death that comes from nowhere. They have touched nothing deeper than the ridiculous. They are clowns juggling with death.

One of the most interesting stories I have heard is the story of how Broeksma was detected. Broeksma was known to have been bitterly anti-English, but he was not suspected of treachery. Some time before Broeksma's arrest, the Kaffir "boy" of one of the men implicated, a well-known doctor of Johannesburg, applied to the pass officer for a permit to visit outside the lines, saving that his master wanted him to go on an errand. The pass officer, knowing the doctor, gave the boy the necessary permit, and then later, wondering whether the doctor really did want the boy to go, or whether the boy had merely lied to get the pass, he resolved to call on the doctor and ascertain for himself. He called, and found the doctor at home. No, he bad not told the boy to get the pass; in fact, he knew nothing about it. The pass officer asked to see the boy and was taken into the kitchen. Questioned, the boy first denied that it was he who called, and then denied that he had said the permit was for his master's errand. Cautioned, he became first impertinent and then violent, and was promptly knocked down by the pass officer after he had attempted to throw a pot of boiling rice at the officer's head. Assistance was procured and the boy was arrested. At the police court, the doctor tried to get the boy acquitted, but he was sent to prison for a month. The boy must have been some sort of agent of Broeksma's, on whose service he was probably bound when he procured the pass. This the doctor knew— he has since been deported—and it was this that made him so anxious to obtain the boy's release. You must not sell a Kaffir or desert him in distress if he knows anything to your discredit; and while in gaol the boy informed on Broeksma, with the result that Broeksma's house was raided and his seditious pamphlets and correspondence found.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), March 8, 1902


The Ladies' Commission, appointed at the instance of Miss Hobhouse, has gone Home via Zanzibar and Suez, and from sources other than the Commission itself I learn (writes Mr Edgar Wallace, the Pretoria correspondent of the Daily Mail) that it is very well satisfied with the condition of the camps generally, and that such recommendations as it has been pleased to make will be acted on immediately and before the publication of its report. The Commission has been careful to inquire into the specific charges laid against the British troops by Miss Hobhouse, and was quite prepared to endorse any of Miss Hobhouse's recommendations if the necessity of the case demanded.


The following are the recommendations which the Commission shows most inclination to endorse:—

1. That such inhabitants of concentration camps should be allowed to leave as

(a) Have friends and relatives in the Cape Colony, providing such are not military suspects or have been convicted of high treason or any breach of Martial Law regulations.

(b) Have means to support themselves at any seaport bases.

(c) Are separated from their children; in this case opportunity will be given them to rejoin their families and live away from the concentration camps, subject to conditions (a) and (b).

2. Equality of treatment, whether the men of the family are fighting, imprisoned, dead, or surrendered, as recommended by Miss Hobhouse, has generally been meted out to the people of the camps. The Commission has found, however, that the greatest distinction is made by the Boer women themselves, the families of the men still fighting or captured in the field having a profound contempt for the "handsuppers," or the men who have voluntarily surrendered, which dislike is extended to the men's families, and indeed is often the cause of internal dissension.

3. The appointment of a resident or visiting minister having access to the camp at all times has the approval of the Commission. As far as possible such appointments were made at the time of the formation of the camps, and very soon after they got into working order every effort was made to fill up vacancies.

4. The suggestion of Miss Hobhouse which has received most support from the members of the Commission is No.7 of her recommendations forwarded to the War Office at the suggestion of the Secretary of State for War. This was to the effect that "considering the congested state of the line, and the great lack of fuel, any new camp formed would be in a healthy spot in Cape Colony, nearer supplies and charitable aid." Few new "camps" have been formed since the arrival of the Commission in the country, but the Commission has endorsed Miss Hobhouse's recommendations up to this point, that camps should be reduced as far as possible, and that the removal of the refugees to places nearer the coast, and within easier reach of the supply base, should be carried into effect. It was ever a self-evident fact that every principle of economy and expediency demanded the removal of these concentration camps to places nearer the sea, and just now the military are moving the people of the camps down the line at the rate of several hundreds a day.


Briefly, the following will be the finding Of the Commission:—

The camps were rendered necessary by the peculiar conditions under which warfare was being waged, and were formed for

(a) The protection of the families of surrendered burghers from the retaliatory measures threatened by Louis Botha.

(b) The protection of women and children from wandering natives.

(c) The distribution of food and creature comforts to people who, by the denuding of the country of food, live stock, and grain, rendered necessary by the exigencies of warfare, would otherwise have been left to starve.


The Commission found that generally the sanitary condition of the camps was good, and the mode of life in the camps, from an hygienic point of view, distinctly in advance or the normal conditions of life on the farm. With the object of verifying statements that had been made to this effect by authorities on the subject, the Commission paid visits to farms, and, as far as possible, typical residences of backveldt farmers, occasionally remaining overnight. The Commission further enquired into the working of the camps at the date of which Miss Hobhouse wrote, and is of opinion that, while undoubtedly the inmates of the camps suffered inconveniences engendered by the unpreparedness of the military to accommodate the large number of women and children brought into the camps, the circumstances were considerably exaggerated, and authentic cases of suffering were few.


Sentimentally, this was the most important question the Commission had to deal with, and the greatest difficulty it had to contend with was the total absence of any reliable statistics dealing with mortality returns previous to the outbreak of war. It is a well-known fact that the ignorant Boer had the greatest objection to rendering any information to the Government regarding his private affairs. In consequence the old mortality returns were very unreliable, and, compared with those prepared with conscientious accuracy by the medical officers in charge of the camps, they appear to be remarkably light.

The Commission is inclined to believe that while the infant mortality is undeniably heavy, and while it appears probable that it has been slightly increased by an altered mode of living and the strange conditions of camp life, yet a heavy infant mortality is a feature of the Boer life.

I have merely sketched the outlines of the finding of the Ladies' Commission, and have not attempted to go into such details as the water supply of camps, the scarcity of fuel, the unsuitability of diet, etc. It will be found that the Commission— which need never have been appointed—has reported favourably upon the conduct of the camps generally, and that its recommendations are neither drastic nor revolutionary.


Reproduced from The Southland Times (New Zealand), March 12, 1902

Distance is without significance to the railway traveller in South Africa; time does not count. You reckon progress by meals eaten and meals due. You do this from the very start. Thus two hours' travelling means 44 miles accomplished, which equals supper; 160 miles brings early morning coffee, 196 miles and breakfast, 280 miles and lunch, 340 miles is afternoon tea, 420 is dinner, 500 is De Aar and midnight coffee. We are 12 hours late, however, and last night's coffee is to-day's lunch.

Once more it is "right away," and De Aar, sweltering and a- quiver in the heated air, lies behind, as turning sharp to the left the train passes the first house in Blockhouse street. As a corner house it should by every right bear the sign "The Blockhouse Arms," or the "Bandolier Inn." But it does not. It is a private house pure and simple. A very respectable house, too. Evidently, a sort of bachelors' bungalow, for four or five nice quiet-looking young men are standing at the front gate. One of them has a gun in his hand -probably a sportsman of sorts. The little house painted a sober buff stands in its own neat grounds. There are no flowers, and the fence which encircles the plot is of barbed wire, and would be, I should say, a considerable danger to the strange wayfarer, for it seems almost impossible to approach the house without failing over or entangling oneself with not only the four-foot fence but a confused tangle of wire which has been carelessly left by the builders, and which almost entirely encircles the house.

The squat, hexagonal bungalow is evidently a well-ventilated building, for all round it and at the height of a man's eye there are little oblong slits, in all about 16. This is the first of the houses, and at first you think it is standing in a very lonely position, entirely apart from all structural fellows. Even as the thought strikes you, you observe yet another building of a similar colour a little further down the line.

In a minute or so the train brings you to it, and you see that it is exactly like that which you have passed. Barbed fence, buff building, loop-holes, and water tank exactly the same. Also, there are the same six young men—or six remarkably like those you have left behind at the last house. Also, one of them has a gun. You wave a passing salute and chuck out a few papers which the quiet young men scramble for, and throw your eye ahead to see if there are any more of these desirable residence in sight. Yes, there is another, perched this time on a little kopje, the base of which the line skirts. A thousand yards and you are abreast of it. Same house, same fence, same grave young men waving their hands solemnly, same quickening to life as a handful of papers sprawls earthward.

Then you realise that you are in a street—a street of houses, each a thousand yards distant from its neighbour, and each monotonously alike one to the other, each with the same number of inmates. I do not notice till I have passed the third house that there is generally one grave young man attending industriously to something boiling on a fire. He is a greasy, grimy individual, and lifts off a lid gingerly and peers anxiously into the steaming contents. This is the cook of the house, and his kitchen is a hole in the ground. Nor did I notice till I had passed some distance down the street that between each house and the next ran a fence of barbed wire ten strands deep. Nor did I notice that at regular intervals along this fence were placed ingenious contrivances, which looked from the saloon window remarkably like spring guns. These were connected with divers trip wires, and were evidently fixed with the idea of giving intruders who strayed across the railway line a very bad time.

Some of the little houses had names, Not, be it known, such fanciful and meaningless things as "Fairlawn," or "The Elms," or "Linda Vista," but such suggestive titles as "Terror of the Night," and "Lonely Lodge," and "Bulldog Bungalow." And they are not black-lettered on modest brass plate are these names, but picked out on the blood-red veldt with stones as big as your fist. For 70 miles we pass along this street, from De Aar to Naauwport.

Beyond that, northward to Pretoria, another street runs for seven hundred miles, eastward to Port Elizabeth for 270 miles, north-eastwards to Queenstown for 300 miles, from Stormberg Junction to Springfontein, 100 miles, and each with its blockhouse every thousand yards and its barbed wire fence between. From De Aar northward to Kimberley rune another street, from Elandsfontein to Klerksdorp runs another, from Pretoria to Komatipoort another, from Elandsfontein to Ladysmith yet another.

This street we pass down now owes its origin to De Wet's Cape Invasion. It is the base of a square, the left side of which runs from De Aar to Orange River Station, the top side consisting of a chain of blockhouses running from Orange River Station to Norvalspont—it really runs on to the Basutoland border—the right side from Naauwpoort to Norvalspont. To return to our street. Here is the typical string that keeps in check the wandering commando; here is the thin electric thread on which are strung the dull squat beads, each od itself deadly to the unsuspecting hand touching it. Blockhouse and fence, fence and blockhouse.

Blockhouses sitting tightly on rocky spurs, blockhouses squinting over rocky ramparts. Some crouching in hollow dongas in a web of wire, like monstrous spiders waiting patiently for burgher flies. Some open and unashamed in the full glare of the pitiless sun by day or silhouetted against the stars by night. Some cunningly placed on kopje sides, so that you cannot tell from a distance which is kopje and which is blockhouse. Some hanging over the edge of the everlastingly dry river, some within handshake distance of the lean red bridges that span it.

And before each the man with the gun. The man who brings his rifle to the shoulder as the train spins past, and smiles like an angel when you throw him a paper.

To-night a commando may attempt to rush the little post. To- night rockets may rush skywards from a dozen blockhouses as a commando changes its direction, and the man with the gun and his friends who are catching flies inside may be fighting for their very lives. Perhaps not to-night—to-morrow—or the next night—or never! That is the horror of it all, the constant watching for the enemy who will not come. Everlastingly on the alert for events that will not happen. Waiting, waiting, waiting, with a white-hot bowl of a sky overhead and a sizzling, shimmering, dancing, blistering desert around.

Blockhouse street is a street to remember in your prayers, a deadly, soul-destroying, damnably dull street of galvanised iron prisons, in each of which are six prisoners waiting for execution.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), April 3, 1902



The doctor pulled up his horse, and with his whip indicated the lean black smokestack that towered above its grimy fellows, lifting its thin body high over entanglement of head-gear, great untidy heaps of slag, and the hundred-and-one staggering, sprawling, round-roofed buildings that go to justify a quotation in the daily share list.

"That is the tallest chimney in the country," he said proudly, "and the hospital's just the other side." There may or there may not be occasion for inordinate pride in being even remotely associated with the highest chimney stack in South Africa. That his hospital is pitched on a goldfield, and that his tent-pegs find other people's claim pegs reside side by side, and that untold wealth is beneath and about him, must naturally be a source of vague gratification to your Royal Army Medical Colonel.

It is, perhaps, somewhat of a drawback to be in command of a hospital numbered thirteen, but superstition does not flourish in the dissecting-room, and ere the budding medico has learned to distinguish between scalpel and scapula, he spills salt with impunity, and passes under ladders without a second thought. They are proud of their hospital, the staff of No. 13. They have some opinion of themselves and the little town they have won from the veldt. They have a drainage scheme that works; they have an electric light installation with a dynamo driven by their own steam engine. All kinds of queer appliances for abolishing the danger of infection. They have an operating theatre, which is a picture; an orderliness and a cleanliness which are very wonderful. An X-ray tent which is very dark, and a huge bull that wanders round the outskirts of the hospital, who is reported to be very mad. Perhaps it is unfair to credit No. 13 with, the bull; he rightly belongs to the mining company on whose ground the hospital is pitched. I am going to the operating theatre.


Come with me. Atkins, wounded in Benson's fight, is to be operated, on. Atkins, whom I had met earlier in the day, is not a little proud of the importance of the impending event.

Indeed, in thinking over the events the recording of which go to the making of this article, I am almost inclined to call it "A Matter of Pride." Atkins is a typical Atkins, not of the Kipling type, but truer still, the Pett-Ridge article—not that Mr. Pett-Ridge writes soldier stories—and his anxiety seems mainly to secure bits of the things that the surgeons will extract from his arm in the course of their operations.

The operating theatre is a well-lighted room: windows all round and overhead, great glass irrigators on portable stands, glass tables with white porcelain bowls and trays and dishes. Silver-bright sterilisers, a cupboard, its half dozen shelves covered with instruments, all neatly arranged and laid out to hand. Knives by the dozen; queer little saws that look like knives, strange things like corkscrews, thin strips of steel weirdly suggestive of button-hooks, dainty little centre-bits, silver-mounted— altogether a pretty devilish sort of a kit for the nerveless workmen who use it.

It will be a neat operation, this of Atkins. My friend Beachnut—that is not his name—is to be the operator, and the colonel holds a watching brief on behalf of Atkins. Also there are a few other younger officers who will assist on behalf of Atkins. All things being ready, the narrow, padded table that stands in the centre of the room is prepared for the reception. A glance round to see if all is right, and then comes the measured tramp of men carrying something heavy.

The door opens, and Mr Atkins, reclining uneasily on a stretcher, appears. Up the steps of the operating theatre—carefully—stretcher level and no jolting, please. No occasion for anxiety, for the men who handle the handles of the machine—handles worn smooth from much use—have done this thing a hundred times before, and there is no novelty in it all. Nothing calculated to produce tremulous awkwardness. Lift the stretcher on to the table—the padded, waterproof covered table. Now, hands beneath the body,, palms uppermost, all together—lift. A swift hand withdraws the stretcher, and Atkins is on the table, a little nervous, a little amused, and very uncertain of what is going- to happen next. The bearers will withdraw. This they do, their stretcher now rolled and strapped, in accordance with I don't know how many printed regulations, and the door is closed.


The operator smiles encouragingly at Atkins.

"How do you feel?" he asks.

"I don't know, sir; pretty shaky. Will it hurt?"

The surgeon eyes the damaged arm, which, bandaged and splinted and pinned out of any resemblance to a human limb, lies across the mans breast. He touches it gently, and lightly passes his hand over the bandages.

"Not a bit; you won't feel anything. You will have a little chloroform, and it will be all over in a minute."

There is no sign of hurry anywhere. The other surgeons look on almost apathetically. No show of theirs, thinks Atkins, brightening; they've only came to look on. Too many operators, the least sign of anxiety on their part, any business-like preparation—all these are bad for the man on the table, Blessed with an imagination imperfectly matured, and measuring the unknown against the standard of a very limited experience, too much activity in the operation room is apt to remind him of, let us say, a butcher's shop. And so everybody is more or less apathetic, only one of the onlookers takes from a table a little bottle half full of some crystal liquid, and toys with a nose- shaped arrangement of gauze.

"Let me see," he says reflectively, "you were in Rimington's fight, were you not?"

"Benson's, sir," corrects the patient; keeping an apprehensive eye on the bottle.

"Ah, yes, of course, Benson's. You were one of the gunners that stood to the guns,"—the patient nods—"you did very well, naturally; the R.A. have done splendidly—this won't hurt you—I think I know some of your officers, and very good chaps they are. Just breathe naturally and draw as much of this stuff into your lungs as you can."

The sickening smell of "this stuff" fills the room as the little bottle drips, drips, drips on to the inhaler held just over the man's nose and mouth.

"You must have had a bad time—you need not answer me, only just breathe—a very bad time; but that's all over now, and we shall have you as right as a trivet—take a deep breath, don't be afraid—we shall have you as right as a trivet in a minute or two."

Atkins breathes long and deep; now his breathing ceases for a second or so, but the hand of the surgeon presses heavily on the breast, and the respiration is resumed. Drip, drip, drip, and Atkins's eyes are half closed, and Atkins begins in a half- mumbling, half-sleepy tone to complain to his girl of her remissness in writing. She had promised to write every week, and he hadn't heard for a month. Pretty fine girl she was. "Well, anyhow," he grumbles on, in the tone of a man talking in his sleep, with now and then a loud and angry word dying down to an unintelligible mumble—well, anyhow, let bygones be... mumble, mumble, mumble... Woolwich or Charlton... mumble, mumble...


Where are the apathetic young surgeons who had been taking a bored sort of half-interest in the proceedings? Their coats are off; their sleeves are rolled back, and the operator himself, my brown-eyed major, stands before the instrument cupboard selecting quaint-shaped things of steel and silver. No apathy now. These men are alert and quick, and cunning of hand. Here they are, what they really are—delicate manipulators of the strings of life. Something glitters at the man's arm. Snip! The blue gauze bandages fall apart. A pair of forceps. The dressing is dropped into a bucket, and the man's arm lies bare. There is nothing to sicken, nothing to offend. A bruised arm, somewhat inflamed, and a little red hole where the bullet went. On the inner side of the arm the wound is larger.

"Where's the photograph, Hime?"

The photograph is placed on the side table, and four heads bend over it. It looks a very unsatisfactory sort of photograph if the truth must be told. It looks lake the badily-printed picture of an amateur's first landscape. It looks like a time- exposure photograph of a moving object. Hold it one way and it is a landscape with a misty kopje in the background. Hold it another and it is a falling chimney. Look into it, and it is the X-ray print of a badly shattered arm, with little specks of bone in places where any anatomical student will tell you no bone ought to be. Knives and forceps and sponges. Pretty little knives that have surely strayed from my lady's manicure case. Bright little forceps that would not be out of place on the "Marquis of ——'s dressing table.


You need not watch the operation unless you care to, but it is much less terrible to watch than to think about. Not enough light. One of the surgeons leaves the table and touches a string at the wall. A green blind that covers the skylight springs noiselessly up, and you see everything. It is good to watch these hands, probing, fingering, pressing. To see the busy little forceps slipping in and out of the red wreckage, and each time triumphantly and unfailingly reappearing with something that is much better outside. How quickly it is all done! Before you can get your thoughts consecutively marshalled the arm has been fixed. Wires and needles and ugly little bull-dog forceps clinging tightly. Then—"Sponge, orderly!" Then white wool, and pink wool, and blue bandages, and a quick cleaning up of what the lady novelist calls "tell-tale stains," and then, consciousness for Private Atkins.

Consciousness that comes gently, heralded by much bad language addressed to somebody at the Crystal Palace, who refuses to let him. get into a first-class railway carriage. Open your eyes, Private Atkins, it is all over. The apathetic gentlemen have put on their coats again, and are even more apathetic than ever. The white-haired colonel with the smiling red face is talking to you, Atkins. How rude of you to go on mumbling threats against this fantastic enemy of yours—a phantom enemy conjured up by the crystal fluid in the little bottle. Then Atkins recovers, and is surprised that it's all over, and the colonel wipes his hands and says, "Come along and look over the hospital," for the colonel is very proud of the hospital, as well he might be. As for me, I do not see that he need go outside his operating-room to find subject matter for pride, if the possession of the best qualities of hand and eye and heart be such.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), April 17, 1902

BLOEMFONTEIN, January 12, 1902

There are thousands of incidents of war which are not of sufficient importance to cable, which do not fit in exactly in one's weekly letters, which do hot make in the slightest degree for history, but which, nevertheless, have an interest peculiarly their own, which renders their exclusion from printed record a sheer waste of good material.

There is nothing particularly lurid in these stories which I wish to tell you here, and, indeed, this letter is less a collection of short stories than a lazy recalling of incidents of war that at the time struck me as being out of the ordinary.

For instance, I remember what seemed to me to be a remarkable exhibition of those powers with which the lamented Sherlock Holmes made us familiar which was exhibited by the staff officer of one of the columns to which I had the good fortune to be attached.


We were hot after De Wet in the Gape Colony, and there seemed to be some doubt as to whether we were on the track of the main body, or whether the wily Boer had detached a small party to lead us off his track. Every farmhouse we passed told us the same story—no Boers had passed as far as the owner knew.

It was a straight-forward answer given in every case; and the fact that the farmer's forage was in every case untouched gave some sort of credence to the story. At last we came to a farm; and the staff officer rode up to the stoep and made the usual inquiry. No; no Boers had passed nor stopped at the farm. The staff officer picked up something from the ground and examined it for a moment.

"Have you any peaches?" he asked at length. Yes, the farmer had some peaches, and quickly produced some, very glad to be of service to the officer and happy to supply his needs.

"Do you have a good crop of peaches every year?" was the next question.

"Not such a good crop." was the reply, the farmer by no means sorry to get off the embarrassing question of the passage of Boers and on to the less dangerous topic of horticulture.

"Do you eat many yourself?" was the next question. No, they were all prepared for market.


The officer thought a while, then, said to the astonished farmer: "Last night a large body of Boers came to your house and asked for food. You had none, but you entertained them as well as you could with the best you had to offer."

The farmer for a time protested innocence but eventually admitted that something of the sort had occurred. Asked afterwards how he had arrived at the truth of the story, the staff officer pointed to some over-ripe peaches which had been half bitten through and thrown away, and to a perfect litter of peachstones in front of the farmer's stoep.

"I could see," he said, "that somebody had been having a royal feast of peaches; an as the man said that neither he nor his family ate the fruit, it was evident somebody else had, and a good many somebodies too. Look at these rotten peaches; nobody would bite these except in the dark, so it is evident that the visitors called after sundown. A man who derives a certain amount of his income from the sale of peaches does not usually offer any amount to even his friends, and the inference is that the peaches were given in place of some more substantial food demanded by the visitors."

Equally successful, though the task was certainly far easier, was the attempt of an irreverent and junior subaltern who, lighting upon an old camping ground, saw in a dozen empty champagne bottles and a few dozen pâté de foi gras pots traces of a certain crack cavalry regiment, and in an abandoned chest-protector indication of a general staff.


Naturally enough, Lord Kitchener is the centre of more than one very good story. Asked by one of his staff whether he did not regard the mobile columns under his command as the backbone of his army, he replied laconically, "Yes, they are what one might call spinal columns."

Few people are aware of the extent to which Lord Kitchener "hustles" his own columns. No sooner does a column return from trek and report its arrival in town than a wire something like the following arrives from the chief. "When will you be ready to go out again?" The following morning along comes another wire, "Why are you waiting?" followed a few hours afterwards by "Why have you not left?"

Then it is that the column commander, preferring the deadly sniper to the relentless man in Pretoria, hastens to get himself out of range of the telegraph wire.

A short time ago a well-known cavalry regiment arrived at Cape Town and hastened to disembark. The disembarkation was carried out successfully, and the regiment was quartered by nightfall at Green Point Camp. Early the next morning came a "clear the line " message from "K." "I hope you are exercising your horses and men. I shall want you almost immediately." To this the commanding officer replied,. "Propose exercising horses and men all day long."

There was an interval of two hours, then "K.'s" second message came to hand: "What do you propose doing at night?"


Another personality that figures perhaps in more stories than any other soldier is General T——, whose vocabulary, extensive and peculiar, is the subject of many stories.

In the general advance towards Pretoria one of the most polished of our generals, I seeing a solitary horseman riding about under a heavy fire, sent an orderly to tell "that fool" to get under cover if he did not wish to be shot. The orderly returned with the information that he had delivered his message, and that the horseman had said many weird, things, among which was the intelligence that he was General T—— .

The polite general was pained that he had made the mistake, and asked the Orderly whether General T—— was much offended. "Much offended; sir!" said Atkins gleefully; "why, he told me to go to ——, that is to say, sir, he said you were—well] to tell you the truth, sir, I couldn't 'ave said it better meself!"

General T—— is a stickler for discipline, and during his term of command in one of the big Free State towns, he gave strict orders that officers arriving at the station should report themselves either personally to him, or to his staff officer, or to his A.D.C.

His staff officer at the time was a gentleman by no means favoured of nature in the matter of good looks, added to which he was a man of morose and taciturn disposition. The A.D.C. was a gilded youth with a drawl and a vacant stare.


There arrived in the town commanded by the general an officer of one of the Bushman Corps, rough of language and fearless of gold lace.

It happened he was taking a morning liquor at the club when the general entered and was passing through the room in which the Colonial stood, when he noticed that the Australian's face was unfamiliar.

"Hi, you, sir," he roared, "who the devil are you?"

The Colonial rose and saluted. "Captain J——, sir," he replied, "3rd Victorians."

"When did you arrive?" demanded the general.

"Yesterday, sir," was the reply.

"Why have you not reported yourself to me, sir?" demanded T——, adding a rider condemnatory to his listener's visual organs.

The Colonial was riled. "I went to your office; you were not in, but I saw two officers."

"Who were they?"

"I don't know their names," said the Colonial.

"Describe them, then," said General T——."

"Well, said the Colonial desperately, for he had no gift of language, "one was an ugly looking devil with a beastly temper—"

Good," interrupted T——, "that's my staff officer."

"And the other," continued the Australian, "was a silly ass of a chap with an eyeglass."

"Right you are, my boy," said the satisfied general, "the idiot's my A.D.C. Sorry to have troubled you."


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), April 26, 1902

It was Smithy—Smithy who had been up to Wolverhoek with the escort for a few tame burghers—who brought back the news, and the blockhouse rejoiced thereat.

Smithy with his own eyes had seen it. First a puffing, clanking, rushing pilot engine slipping over the rise from Viljoen's Drift. A pilot engine hurrying desperately, and slowing only that the grimy driver might clutch from the extended hand of the stationmaster his travelling orders. Then the pilot engine had rumbled on, and in its wake came another smoky speck, also very much in a hurry. Not a pilot engine this, but a little train with guard's van, two saloons, some armoured trucks, and some very important Highlanders scanning the horizon for hostile Boers.


And in one of the saloons, with pince-nez on nose and a wicked-looking cigar bitten between square jaws, a man whom Smithy did not recognise, partly because his photographic presentments are remarkably unlike, and partly because the view was fleeting. A man sitting before a table littered with papers, heavy-eyed, grey, forbidding, aged almost. A face difficult to describe, except that it was a strong face, an inscrutable face. Smithy never saw him smile or Smithy would have been charmed, for "K." has a pleasing smile, a smile that has almost made me regret six chapters of a monumental work of mine. Smithy did not recognise him, but the obliging postmaster told him, and Smithy brought the news back to blockhouse on the other side of Heilbron, and the blockhouse rejoiced, for the men, the common men, who do not analyse policies nor criticise methods, but only just love a man for the sake of his manhood—to these people Lord Kitchener's presence is very helpful.

So tonight—really last night—Smithy's five pals we very happy in the belief that something was going to happen. Vague hints have come from Heilbron—whispers of great movements somewhere eastward of the rolling hills, of driving columns, of 10,000 mounted beaters searching the cover, promises of De Wet's capture and the destruction of his commando, have all helped to stimulate an atmosphere already overcharged with excitement; and now the great Lord K. himself has arrived to superintend.


No sleep for any of the blockhouse people to-night. The Boers must on no account be allowed to pass through the blockhouse lines, otherwise what is the use of Rawlinson with his twenty- five hundred men, and Rimington (tiger-skin, pugareed hat and red scarf knotted carelessly around neck, one can almost see the sun- scorched, wild-seamed face staring westward through the darkness), and Elliott and Byng? They form a sixty-mile line, and move so that the left flank of the one column touches the right flank of the other; a slowly moving press slipping down the sides of the blockhouse lines. Nothing can pass the driving columns by day. Nothing can break through the entrenched pickets by night. On the blockhouse lines must come the strain, and the blockhouses learn this tonight, first from a few clearly expressed, uncompromising words from the man in the saloon carriage was up the line, and them from Johnny Boer himself.

No sign of the enemy so far. The sun sinks, and the shadow of the little tin fort lies half way to Frankfort. No sign of Boers. It might be a sunset on the peaceful uplands of another land, so golden and still is the land. The east is a steely blue, and a deeper blue, and a filmy grey, and a bluish black; and then, save for a high floating strip of orange in the west and a star or so twinkling weakly through.the nimbus, the world is dark. The corporal consults his watch by the aid of a lantern. Half-past eight.

You are well into the first act by then, are you not? There are cabs dropping people at Prince's and picking up people at the Carlton, and there are late-comers treading on people's toes in Drury Lane. Very vexatious indeed. Smithy remembers a night he was chucked out of the "Brit" over a trifling trouble arising from such a matter. A six-foot navvy admonished for his carelessness had made improper references to the size of Smithy's feet. They are not very much in the humour for anecdote, these highly-strung friends of Smithy, and in the crude, homely vernacular that obtains in the barrack-room, they intimate as much. Not that Smithy minds very much; he is not offended, and would continue, but the corporal says two words, and my garrulous friend is silent.


Hours pass, and the night is black. If anything, the earth is blacker, and the difference between the two blacknesses is the difference between a soot-bag and a velvet pall. Hours pass; sixty seconds make one minute; sixty minutes one hour; there are three thousand six hundred seconds in an hour, and a second is quite a long time when you are waiting for something to happen. Twelve ö'clock now. Suppers, last trains and trim broughams at stage-doors. Perhaps—

What is that?

From the west a long, thin, ribbon of white unrolls swiftly. Not a ribbon, either, but an unopened fan of rigid light. Now it moves backward and forward. Now it sinks and sweeps, along somewhere out of sight, the silhouetted hillocks, their crests in a halo of light, alone giving indication of the beam's direction. An armoured train somewhere between Wolverhook and Kroonstad. Its searchlight is playing on the great net into which De Wet is being driven. Then—


Can you imagine a hum staccato? Or a short, chesty grunt? That is what it sounded like. Armoured train again, and this time working its quick-firing gun. See, the searching light is now steadfast. Domp! There goes the gun again, domp! and again, and yet and yet again, then silence and the light goes. Darkness once more on the veldt, but not for long. Quite close at hand from the Heilbron fort leaps one straight purple flash, and then a bang that shakes the earth.

Now, blockhouse, it is your turn! There is nothing to fire at, but fire into the net. Crackle, crackle, crackle up and down the line. Flash, flash, flash at intervals of a thousand yards. Tonight is a Brocks benefit, a fireworks display of unprecedented grandeur, only the Boers have not come, apparently. Pray Heaven, says Smithy, in so many words that they have not gone in another direction. There are some near at hand, for two miles away a rocket sails slowly skyward and bursts. The Boers are at hand. Perhaps a commando, possibly a hundred, more likely fifty. Who knows, it may be De Wet himself with the proverbial handful of men. The musketry fire crackles incessantly, and the naval gun bangs intermittently, but the blockhouses on either side of the fellow who sent up his warning rocket are looking carefully into the night. Smithy's corporal gives few commands, but they are much to the point. Suddenly—

"There they are!"

A black, bulky mass is sweeping over the plain between the forts. On they come, forty or fifty of them, heedless of the rifle fire, heedless of the rocket that hisses aloft, forgetful of everything except that outside the line lies freedom. Oh the mad, mad clatter of hoofs and the unswerving, blind dash on the the wire entanglements! Crash! The tinkle and rattle of iron against iron. The fence is down, and so is many a man and horse, for the blockhouses fire steadily, and the stink of cordite fills the little chambers, and the wail of bullets fills the air! Bang! -And the big gun is dropping shells in the direction of the desperate fugitives. They are over the fence and away; they are galloping madly to cover again. They at least have got through the iron girdle, leaving a few behind by the broken fence where the squealing horses lie. Just a few; we shall pick them up and bury them with the respect and homage which gallant men deserve of gallant men.


Reproduced from The Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand), May 5, 1902

Daily Mail, April 3, 1902

We print to-day an important despatch from Mr Edgar Wallace dealing with the situation created by the Boer peace overtures. Our war correspondent carefully abstains from exaggerated optimism, but, despite the natural note of caution in his remarks, it is clear that there is, as the Daily Mail has consistently pointed out for some days past, ground for hope that, with careful handling of the Boer susceptibilities, a satisfactory outcome of the negotiations may be arrived at. We also print the chief points on which the negotiations will probably turn.

KROONSTAD (0.R.C.), Monday, March 31, 1902

The Boer peace delegates are still here, and the situation is unchanged. In the meantime our columns are working with undiminished energy, and the Boer negotiations have not resulted in the least relaxation in any quarter of the vigor with which the war is being prosecuted.

In continuation of my telegram from Johannesburg yesterday, I may state that while it is by no means certain that the peace negotiations are likely to terminate satisfactorily, yet there are certain points which need urging in respect of a possible settlement.

Many of the conditions of surrender of earlier days are now overshadowed by larger and more important considerations. It is possible that the question of the amnesty of all rebels may prove not so important as such questions, for instance, as the establishment of responsible government after the war, and a general surrender of the Boer troops now in the field may possibly be retarded by fear on the part of the burghers, who are naturally most suspicious, that Great Britain does not intend to grant to them equal eights with British-born subjects. The burghers fear that Great Britain intends to make the Boers a sort of subject race. This fear, I think, will be a great factor in influencing the action of the commandoes in the field, and I should say that, should anything come from the present negotiations, a definite assurance from England, specifically stating the Boers' status after the war, will assist in clearing away a great obstacle.

Added to this, it must be remembered that our terms are now, as ever, "unconditional surrender," and should the Boer chiefs favour this view, they have still to justify themselves before the commandoes. The promise of an early restoration of responsible government would be sufficient justification. Those unaware of the Boer character will probably take such a promise, which is merely one we certainly intend to fulfil, to be superfluous, but, however unnecessary the assurance may be considered at home, it is undoubtedly important here.


We believe the following are among the chief points on, which any peace negotiations will turn:—

1. The approximate time which must elapse before the restoration of responsible government is possible.

2. The status of the Boers after the war.

3. The banishment proclamation.

4. The question of amnesty.

To these may be now added the following most important one:—

Advances by the British Government for rebuilding and restocking Boer farms.


Reproduced from The Southland Times (New Zealand), May 27, 1902

Who has heard about the sergeant since the war started? Who has remembered the "backbone of the Army" we once heard so much about? The sergeant is not an officer as you know officers; he is not a Tommy Atkins in the strict sense of the word. He forms the bourgeoise of the army; he is the medium between the brain and the hand, and possessed of both himself. Officially he is not the directing force; officially he does not work himself, but oversees the working of others. As a matter of fact, he more often directs than does his officer, and works just as hard, and a sight more conscientiously than the private. In barracks and at home he is the autocrat of the barrack-square; he is a well- brushed, clean-shaved, pipe-clayed individual who turns up on parade at seven in the morning as well groomed as though he were dressed for an evening party. The recruits who have been turned out of their beds with reluctance, and are half asleep and unshaven—there is seldom an inspection on the early morning parade—eye him with wonder and suspicion, and speculate on the hour the sergeant rises, for smartness on the early morning parade is to them an uncanny thing.

He is a person who inspects the barrack room before the arrival of the orderly officer. He is a person who inspects the company on parade before the arrival of the company officer: who checks the kits of the men before the arrival of the commanding officer; who stands for ever between the officer and the man. To the officer he is a superior private; to the men he is an inferior officer; to both he preserves an equability of temper and an evenness of treatment.

This is the ideal sergeant, and in no rank or department of life does the subject keep closer to the ideal than in the case of the non-commissioned officer of the British Army. Of course there are fools of sergeants, just as there are fools of commissioned officers, and idiots of privates, and—Heaven forgive us— blithering war correspondents. The exception is, however, to find a really incompetent N.C.O.; nor is this to be wondered at, since, moving between the Scylla of the mess-room and Charybdis of the barrack-room, he must needs steer a careful and efficient course if he wishes to float to that pension which is his best summer isle. To some extent the sergeant has sunk his identity since he has arrived in South Africa. In the first place he wears no chevron on his arm, except in some cases when the chevron is khaki and unnoticeable. Carefully bound round the shoulder strap is that chevron, and you would pass nine out every ten sergeants you met with no other thought than, "That's a fine- looking, well-seasoned old soldier."

What has the non-commissioned officer done since he has been in South Africa? Nothing, if one may judge by the reference to his work that one can find in the daily press. And yet what has he not done? Officers' work, leading, commanding, encouraging. Tommies' work, working, fighting, enduring. There has been no piece of work, however fine, however noble, however heroic, that has not been performed as well by Sergeant Somebody-or-other as it was by Captain Somebody-else. There has been no hardship splendidly borne and lightly dismissed by Tommy that has not been as silently endured and as quickly forgotten by the sergeant. Quick to fill his fallen officer's place, as quick to step back into the ranks to fill the gap rendered by the fallen Tommy; watchful, alert; now encouraging, now bantering, now judiciously swearing, he never fails to bring his men up to the scratch; the men unconscious of the influence he holds over them; his officers generally insensible to what they owe him for the discipline of their men.

In South Africa, to all appearances, there is no greater nonentity than the sergeant. In the first place, one seldom meets him; in the second, one does not recognise him when met. Then, again he is thrown still further into the background by the legion of officers engaged in the war. Every second man one meets, whether it be in Johannesburg or in Capetown, or in Pretoria, has stars or crown upon his shoulder cord, so that one insensibly gets to think about the sergeant as an ordinary Tommy, of the same class, and of the same military value. As a matter of fact, this is quite an erroneous view to take. So far as the actual military value of the men is concerned we could very well dispense with the services of six officers of the type one meets in the big cities for every one sergeant. One good sergeant, from a strict utilitarian aspect is worth forty newly-joined subalterns.

A distinguished Australian officer told me a few months ago that his ideal regiment was a corps of Australians, officered by good sergeants of British infantry. "The men to officer Australians," he said, "must be men who know their work, know how to command other men, be perfectly capable of maintaining discipline without irritating the men by adopting tin-goddish airs."

At no period of the campaign has the sergeant played a more important part than at the present stage. For now it is that the blockhouse system is reaching a point of perfection, and the sergeant finds himself in as responsible a position as he has ever filled. The blockhouses are garrisoned as far as possible by as many Guards, Line and Militia battalions as can be spared from the actual striking or aggressive army, and with one battalion strung out over thirty miles of railway, it is obviously impossible for an officer to be left in charge of every post. It devolves, therefore, upon the sergeants to take command of these posts, and "stripey," as they call him in the marines, takes up his new position of commander-in-chief of No. 777 Blockhouse as a matter of course, and without any feeling that he is doing anything out of the ordinary. His responsibilities are heavy, his duties the dreariest imaginable. If anything goes wrong, if a Boer commando cuts the barbed wire fence that connects his blockhouse with the next, and succeeds in crossing the line he holds, he will be tried by court-martial, and in all probability be reduced. Not being an officer, he cannot buttonhole his colonel and explain things away, and if he is tried—as he certainly will be—the members of the court will be neither his mess-mates nor men of his caste. He will grind, endure, and suffer; perhaps he will contract enteric fever and die; perhaps he will be shot to death by an enraged commando that has failed to force his line, and turns its attention and its Mausers on the littla yellow pepper-box of a blockhouse.

Perhaps he will come through the campaign all right, and in a year or two will be back on the depot square with white cotton gloves and a pacing-stick, teaching recruits to look like men. He will be still plain Sergeant Somebody, unless his seniors are dead or discharged, and he will be neither D.S.O. nor C.M.G., nor a brevet-colour-sergeant, or hold any of the glorious positions that his officer will hold, or wear any of the beautiful decorations that his officer will wear. He expects nothing from the war—promotion, honour, or decoration. The song of the poet shall not praise him—for what inspiration has poet ever found in the bourgeoise? He does not expect the leader- writer to remember him, or the general to pick him out for distinction when despatches come to be written. And yet our sergeant is so often the saviour of the situation; so often the snatcher of victory; so often the man who did the thing. A century has passed, bringing many changes, upsetting many hoary traditions, exploding many fat, comfortable theories. It has left one tradition untouched—the sergeant is still the backbone of the British army.


Reproduced from The Thames Star (New Zealand), September 20, 1902

Even as unrelenting fate, so does Smithy dog my footsteps. I leave him at Heilbron guarding stores; and two days later his strident voice hails me somewhere between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp with a demand for "'pipers." I was not surprised, therefore, on boarding the good ship Dunottar Castle to discover the pensive Smithy—no longer a common soldier, but officer's servant with right to wear mufti—holding-forth to a confrère on the blessings of home life as compared with life on the veldt, Kitchener as a strategist, and De Wet as a fighter.

"'Ome! Think of it, cocky," said, Smithy, ecstatically, "no more trek, no more biscuit an' beef, no more De Wettin', but breakfast in bed, and a pub at every corner!"


There were 380 Smithies on board, not all as eloquent, as my friend, but every man as happy. I watched them troop inboard from the vantage place of the upper deck. Tanned, hardened, wiry little men, released from work, released from school—that hard, hard school where the art of taking cover and sleeping comfortably in the rain is taught in the kindergarten stage. And they were going back to England. "Think of it!" To England, where you people live and work and play without ever thinking you are doing wonderful things in a wonderful country. It was their reward that they might be allowed to do and be what you are doing, and what you have been unconscious of—your blessed privileges.

There was a man on the quarterdeck in khaki, with heavy gold lacing on the peak of his cap. A nice, comfortable, handsome gentleman, a little inclined to stoutness. The Tommies on board did not know him because they had never served under him. Smithy knew him, and communicated the news to the troop deck, and four days out Smithy, acting as a sort of deputation, from "forrard," waited on me with the question, "Is Charley Knox goin' to get a big reception at Southampton?"

I opined not, and Smithy was bitter. "'Cos 'e ain't made a song about what 'e's done like ——" said Smithy. The general officer he mentioned I would not for the world name.


"Can't you put something in the paper about 'im?" asked Smithy, almost tearfully, for the men who served under Knox are very jealous for their general. I promised. Will you kindly insert this?

General Sir Chas. Knox, K.C.B., is the best of our younger generals. He has won his way to the honors that have been bestowed upon him by courage, endurance, and high military qualities...

He doesn't care twopence for the buttering of newspaper correspondents, and as the truth would sound like fulsome flattery, I will refrain, my dear Smithy, from pursuing the subject. Suffice that he captured more guns than any other general, and never got his portrait into a biograph series. There were other men of the Knox stamp on board, and their occupations were various. Capper, for instance. You know Capper, who flogged the rebels back from the edge of Capetown. Capper spent his time in taking the sun with a sextant and working out impossible longitudes. Once, off Sierra Leone, he made the alarming discovery that we were thirty miles inland!


Then there was Ewart—Colonel in the Army and kindly gentleman wherever to be. Ewart in canvas slippers, doing nothing in particular; reading a little, talking a little, is not the Ewart I saw in December 1899, bringing back the battered ranks of the Highland Brigade from Magersfontein, the man who that early morning groped blindly forward in the dark, lit only by the threads of fire that darted from the Boers' front trenches and the fitful summer lightnings behind the looming kopjes. Not the Ewart that stumbled in the trenches seeking his dying chief what time Wauchope fell among his Highlanders. A strange change this from that horrible field, bleak, sodden, carpeted with writhing men, stinking with cordite, and humming with bullets, to this graceful ship slipping so easily over the sunny seas.

Here is a man in pince-nez gravely bending over a chess-board. He was with Methuen at Tweebosch, and could tell you things about irregular cavalry. His opponent was a prisoner of De Wet, and lived on mealie pap for two months. He, at any rate, is not an enthusiastic pro-Boer.

Burly and bluff, a typical country gentleman, Spens revives the glory of Hampshire, cricket with am oakum ball on a 20ft. pitch. Private soldier and general officer, company officer and junior subaltern, their work is done, and how well done!


It is home! A chilly enough morning, with low-lying land on the port bow, and a yellow light glaring intermittently from a slip of land to starboard. A hundred snowy seagulls sailing placidly in the wake of the ship—a feathery escort for the homeward-bound warriors who flock to the side and to the fo'c'sle head for a glimpse of green. The engines slow and stop—a dead stillness and then a shiver from bow to stern as they are reversed. A little boat dances over the grey waters, a little boat with a yellow light, and a rope ladder drops over our side. A silence, and then again the beat of the propeller—the pilot is aboard. And so past the Needles, white and solemn in the early light. The channel narrows, and half speed becomes quarter speed. Houses on both banks and tiny yachts lying at anchor till a bend brings in view a dozen l steam yachts lying bow to stern, and in the centre a black two-funnelled vessel of peculiar shape. A man-o'-war, squat and aloof. A black, flat mass of metal brooding on the waters. In her shadow another ship. A large yacht—black, too, with three masts. Three masts that fly three flags. We move abreast, and swing round to port. Down comes our ensign slowly—we are dipping a salute to the black yacht. Through your glasses you see the flag she flies. It is the Royal Standard, and Atkins gazes with reverence. Smithy touches my elbow. "This is something like home," he whispers, huskily. "Good old England! I—I wonder how the King is?"


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), September 20, 1902

I told Smithy I would call upon him as soon as I had got (settled in London, so on Sunday I went down Bow way.

It was unfortunate that I should arrive at five minutes after one. Montague (this is Smithy's Christian name) had just this very minute gone out, said Smithy's mother, apologetically. A friend had called to see him, and he had just stepped round the corner. Oh, no—the fact that his departure had synchronised with the hour of the opening of the "Bear and Man" had absolutely nothing to do with it. Would I wait?


I would, and the door of the front parlour having been unlocked, the blind drawn up, and an antimacassar removed, I was left to admire a cheap engraving of the Crucifixion, flanked on either side by portraits of Smithy's ancestors— somewhat faded about the clothing, but remarkably distinct about the hands and beards; while Smithy's little brother was despatched to find my friend. Smithy's small brother received his whispered instructions in the passage, and Smithy's young brother, in the innocence of his heart, repeated his instructions with audible hoarseness.

"Yes, mother—no, mother—all right, mother: a gentleman waitin' for 'im, an' e' must come at once, an' 'e can go back an' 'ave 'is drink afterwards, an' don't tell the gentleman 'e's bin in a pub, an' not to bring any of 'is low friends back with 'im—an' say 'e's bin out visitin' 'is friends."

And so Smithy's brother went on his errand speeded by the shrill assurances of Mrs Smithy that if he didn't hurry up she'd knock his blooming little head off. After this dreadful threat Mrs Smithy came to entertain me. Having apologised for (1) Smithy's absence; (2) her untidiness; (3) the disorder of the "front room"; (4) the state of the weather; (5) the poverty of the neighbourhood; (6) the people next door; (7) her widowhood—"Mr Smithy dead an' gorn these twelve years, when Monty was so 'igh"—my hostess proceeded to Smithy's homecoming.


"Yes, sir, very glad to see him. What with enteric and blockhouses an' one thing an' another, I never expected to see him again. Well, he's finished' now, thank the Lord, and now he's got to start and find some work to do. You can't get your living by bein' an 'ero, can you, sir? Before Monty went away he had a very good job. He was earnin' his thirty-five a week—regular. That job's lorst. His master was very good, I must say. He allowed me half his pay for twelve months, but even a master-man's got to live, ain't he? The War Office? Bah! Stuff and nonsense, I call the War Office. No, sir, Monty's got to find some employment to work at. You can't, as I say, live on your—your—"

"Military reputation?" I suggested.

"That's it. I remember a young feller by the name of 'Erbert 'Evans that belonged to the people over the road—the house with the brass plate—very respectable people, too. He come home in the early part of the war, invalided from Ladysmith. You should have seen the fuss they made of that young man. They tell me that up in the City he was carried round the streets by real gentlemen with high hats on. When he came outside his door in the morning, dressed in the khaki that he brought home with him, people used to take him into the 'Bear' and treat him to anything he wanted. Beer, beer, beer all the morning—he might have been a member of Parliament the way they treated him. Well, by an' by people got tired of treating 'him, and he used to leave off wearing of khaki, and wearing a big South African hat with his civilian clothes. Then he took to cadging pennies, and people started wondering when he was going to get some work to do."


"Then somebody said they didn't "believe he was ever in Ladysmith at all, and he used to have a fight every night, till the landlord of the 'Bear' got him run in for creating a disturbance. He got let off with a caution, and he left the neighbourhood. He got into trouble in Hoxton, and got six months. It upset his poor old mother dreadful—she is highly respectable. You can see the brass plate on the door as you go past."

"You don't want Smithy to be heroised?" I asked.

"Well, sir, I'd like him to be an 'ero for a week; after that I'd like him to work for his living."

Enter Smithy. Very sorry he was out, Smithy was. Hoped he hadn't kept me long, Smithy did. Couldn't understand what made him forget I was coming, could Smithy. And what sort of a time had he had? Strangely enough, his opinions coincided with those of his mother.

"Time of my life," he said, with a considerable sigh, "but too much 'sherbet'; it was all right the first day or two—but it—what's the word?—yes, palls. I used to think that old Bobs was a bit too particular about booze, but, Lord! it makes you tired! 'Ave a drink—'Ave one with me'—'What's yours?' from morning to night."

I think Smithy was genuine, but I was surprised, I admit.

"Time of my life, all the same. See me walkin' down the street, an' 'ear the girl next door say 'Come quick, mother, 'ere's young Smithy wot's back from the war!'—fancy I don't 'ear 'em, but I do. All the kids stop playin' as I go along; one says to the other, 'That's the bloke that's bin out to South Africa a-fightin' the Boers,' an' another says, 'What! 'im? Why, 'e don't look as if 'e could fight cock sparrers!' I tell you, the kids know a thing or two down our street," added Smithy, with pride. "My girl was very glad to see me, too. I met 'er up in 'Igh Street; she was lookin' in a shop winder, and I goes up to 'er, gives 'er a dig. 'Ullo, you,' I says. 'Keep your 'ands to yourself,' she says, not knowin' me. 'Don't you know me?' I says, just like that; 'don't you know me?' 'Why, it ain't Monty, is it?' she says, quite put about to see me. 'It is,' I says; 'ain't you sorry to see me?' 'Not 'arf,? she says. So we went for a walk."


What did Smithy intend doing now? "I am going after a carman's job next Tuesday," said' he. "You see, it's all very well for old 'K.,' and French, and that lot; they're bein' asked out to parties, an' quite right too, but drink soon knocks me over, an' I've got to get work to go to."

"Somehow," added Smithy reflectively, as I rose to go, "somehow I don't feel as if I ought to go boozing about. I s'pose I'm gettin' childish, but I can't help thinkin' of the boys who went out with me and who haven't come back. Don't smile, sir, I'm genuine. I went to a music hall on Wednesday night, and a fat girl in tights sang about 'The 'eroes who died for their country,' or some rot like that, an' I got up an' walked out—"

A little boy, shy and grubby of face, sidled into the room, a rusty crape band on his arm. "What do you want, sonny?" asked Smithy, kindly. "Mother wants to see you, Uncle Monty," said the boy.

"All right, tell 'er I'm coming"; then, as the boy left the room Smithy explained, "You don't remember 'Nobby' Clark, of A Company, do you, sir? 'E was a Reservist, and lived in this street. That nipper's 'is son. Poor old 'Nobby.' Let me see, what fight- was 'e killed in?"


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), December 31, 1902

JOHANNESBURG, October 27, 1902.


Last night we had a storm.

Over the city, like a big blue pall, hung the clouds, and forked lightning flickered along the tops of the buildings, fused wires, and startled horses. Once or twice Johannesburg was plunged into darkness. This morning the air is fresh and keen, a champagne of an air, a very elixir vitae.

The sun shines, the raindrops glisten on the trees, and Johannesburg goes forth to work in a white waistcoat and summer suiting. From Parktown, which is aristocratic, from Doornfontein, which is superior, they come.

Behind smart-stepping cobs, in rubber-tyred victorias, in whirling, throbbing motor-cars, and skimming along on free-wheel bicycles. Not the Johannesburg we knew a year ago, nor six months ago, nor even three months ago; but a wide-awake Johannesburg in yellow kid gloves, startled perhaps into reminiscences by the trim London policeman who has taken the place of the Zarp;* but beyond that forgetful of war, of long treks, of the clik-clok of the Mausers, of the snappy reply of the Lee- Enfields, of bully beef, biscuit and untidy weariness.

[* Zarp (Afrikaans)—a member of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek Politie (South African Republic Police). ]


This is Johannesburg of to-day. It is not even Johannesburg of last week, for we change here as a budding flower, every hour and imperceptibly. I almost forget what a barriered door or a window covered with galvanised iron looks like. Grass grew in between chains a little time ago. I know it; but I know it just as I knew last night that I travelled from Southampton to Madeira in two hours and took a cab from thence to Cape Town.

War and incidents of war are such dreams. Thus not a shop is closed in Johannesburg; and if you want to make progress, you walk in the roadway, and when you go to lunch you take a shilling motorcab to your palatial residence, and read the second edition of the evening paper on your way. All of which means that we are going ahead.

This morning I went through the sunlit space which we associate with high finance, and there was no grass between the chains. There were a hundred knots of men talking mines, prices, and prospects; there were exponents of deep levels, there were enthusiasts dealing in Coronation Syndicates, there were experts in real estate, and a crowd of men gathered round notices posted up by the obliging editor of the Rand Daily Mail—which is me—informing nervous Johannesburg that Mr Chamberlain was coming out to put to rights their little grievances, to make smooth the path of progress, and, in fact, to do all those wonderful things which Cabinet Ministers have the power to do.


Mr Chamberlain's visit, if one may gauge by the portents of to-day, will nor only be successful; it will be a distinct score for the British Government. Nothing could clear the air better than an announcement of this intention. Our faith in Lord Milner is in no way abated; our faith in his desire to further the interests of this country is as strong and firm as ever it was. To cast reflection on his ability or to question the hold he has upon the public is to invite immediate unpopularity. But we get ideas in this country, we people who are not overburdened with confidence in Downing Street, that Lord Milner's ideas may not be the ideas of the Home Cabinet, that what as politic in Johannesburg and the Transvaal for the High Commissioner to recommend may not be the policy for the Ministers in Downing Street to accept and act upon.

It is quite impossible, I am convinced, for any man who was in this country so lately as six months ago to have any conception as to what are the feelings of the country to-day. If I may be allowed to intrude my own personal experience, I may say I was astounded, when I returned after a short absence, to discover what new conditions prevailed, what new situations had been created. When I left there had been no hint at a labour trouble, and no suggestion that there was likely to be any. The political association had not got beyond its dinner-party stage; the effects of taxation had already been discounted after the publication of Sir David Barbour's report; in fact, we did not trouble to look forward into the future further than to merely speculate upon the difficulties likely to arise under the repatriation scheme.


I returned to find Boers forgotten and to find political agitation rampant, to find labour movements in course of engineering, and to find that over all and through all ran the fear of excessive taxation, a fear which was momentarily paralysing industry, and was in every way helping to strengthen the hands of Lord Milner's would-be advisers.

I say would-be advisers, and by that I mean the gentlemen whose confidence in Lord Milner was and is so weak that they consider that their direction or correction is essential to the well-being and prosperity of this country.

Mr Chamberlain's presence must have one result—it must give refutation to the stories, widely spread, that dissension exists between Lord Milner and the Colonial Secretary; it must convince the people of the Transvaal of the bona fides of the British Government to grapple with the situations which exists there, and that whatever the taxation is and whatever line Mr Chamberlain pursues with regard to this country, he does with a clear and sane view from knowledge acquired on the spot as to our best requirements.

I think I voice the opinion of Johannesburg when I say that no colony ever started anew life under fairer conditions than will the Transvaal after Mr Chamberlain's visit. And Johannesburg's welcome to Mr Chamberlain will be one which is inspired by the liveliest sense of gratitude, and a gratitude which is not altogether that sense of favours to come which the enemies of this country are pretty sure to suggest.

South Africa has a very warm place in its heart for the Colonial Secretary. To us Joseph Chamberlain is a person who saved South Africa, a man with the courage of his convictions, and, what Johannesburg, properly enough respects above all things, a business man. There is a royal welcome waiting for this Minister of the King.


Reproduced from The Ashburton Guardian (New Zealand), August 15, 1903

CAROLINA, June 6, 1903

The driver told me laconically enough that this was a good place to outspan, and so I slipped from the cart in which for two hours I had been jostled over the ribbon of road that binds Carolina to civilisation —represented by the bleakest of wayside stations on the Delagoa line. It was not an ideal outspan. The rolling countryside was a black waste from my feet to a smoky horizon. The farm was three roofless walls and a chaotic heap of masonry, and what had at one time been a flourishing fruit garden was now a bedraggled row of quince trees.

Five women and a litter of children stood stolidly regarding me as I walked to the farm door. Five women in rusty black of varying ages. Seventy to fifteen—and all wives. The Dutch speak no English hereabouts, unless it be "All right," or "Yes, yes." They understand the meaning of "coffee," too, and after I had exchanged a limp handshake with them all—solemnly and with no glint of good humor to mar the sacred ceremony, they motioned me to the armchair in the pokey little room and, sitting around me on biscuit-boxes and upturned tins, regarded me blankly and without comment.

There was a curious similiarity in their experiences. They all regarded the British soldier as a very fine fellow; they had all been inmates of concentration camps; they had all been treated remarkably well; but—and eyes grew bright with tears—they had each lost a child. A few hundred paces from ihe forsaken camps, under the red earth, with only a glass bottle stuck on a little mound, and inside the name off the child written in sprawling characters on a half-sheet of common note- paper, there lay the Boer women's tribute to, the war god. But they did not hate the British; rather they spoke of us with kindness. The coffee was excellent, and so was the home-baked cake, as I politely remarked. The old lady sniffed and grumbled a little at the compliment. Before the war she could have given me better; in fact, before the war, when the homestead in which she had lived for close on forty years was intact, when well-ordered rows of fruit trees blossomed where now was desolation; when her herds dappled the green of the rolling hills, she oould have——

But, and this is the remarkable thing, she spoke no ill word against the British. Her husband had died in India a few months ago, her son had been killed, her farm destroyed, her cattle stolen, her furniture burnt for firewood, and yet there was no word spoken which might be offensive to me. And yet in that withered old breast the fires of hate and passion burnt. In the kindling eye and the trembling hand you could see it. Against whom, if not against me, who without doubt had wrought the mischief?...

There was a jabber of voices outside the door—men's voices—and the thud of hoofs. Two impatient horses fretting under a light rein stampled round and round, their riders talking the while. The men had returned from visiting a neighboring farm, and were exchanging excited sentences with the old vrouw.

"Where?" she asked, speaking in Dutch, and shading her eyes from the white glare of the noonday sun.

One of the men pointed, and I followed the direction of the man's outstretched finger. A solitary horseman came tripping over the rise, and, catching sight of the group at the door of the outhouse, checked his mount to a walk, and came slowly toward us. The old lady spoke quickly and fiercely to the men about her, and, clapping spurs to their horses, they galloped toward the stranger. Curiosity made me follow them. For a time both parties reined up within twenty yards of each other, and the conversation was conducted in a series of shouts. Then they drew nearer each other, and the interview proceeded in more normal tones. "What do you want?"

The stranger was a fine-built Boer of about fifty. A brown beard streaked with grey covered his breast, and a big pipe hung from his lips. Evidently a well-to-do-man, if the gold watch- guard that hung from pocket to pocket was any indication.

"I have run short of meal," he answered, pleasantly enough.


"I don't want to go to Carolina till tomorrow, so I thought——"


"Well, have you any to spare?" The question was asked carelessly, but the stranger eyed our man closely, and took a firmer grip of his sjambok. Our man advanced a little closer to the new-comer. Dutchmen, as a rule, are phlegmatic, but our farmer's face was distorted with passion, and as he spoke his face grew more and more livid.

"Meal for you! Ne, Jan! If you were lying out there on the veldt dying of starvation I would not give you the smell of a dishclout. If you were lying out on the veldt and a grass fire licking round you, and you not able to move, I would die before I lifted a hand to help you! You dog—you murderer, you—"

He was half choked with his anger, and the man against whom the invective was directed sat with bowed head, his pipe in his hand, and never answered a word. Only when the second man started with a flow of invective he looked up drearily and put up his huge hand as though to stem the torrent of abuse.

"Is it to be always like this, and you my own sister's sons?" he asked, as the second man exhausted himself.

"Ja!" was the quick answer from both men. "Always, always!"

The stranger slowly turned his horse's head in the direction from which he had come. I do not think I remember ever having seen quite so dejected a picture as the man and beast presented—he with his shoulders humped and his head bent, it with its shambling walk and uncouth appearance. I was amazed at what I had heard, and walked back in silence to the farm behind the two brothers, for such I judged them to be.. Up till now they had scarcely noticed me, but the old lady introduced me to their notice. One of the men nodded his head.

"You are a Britisher?" he said in English. "We fight—you fight, two, three years—finish. You thought you right, we thought we right; we fight, we beaten— soh!" And the "soh" was very expressive. "But," and the speaker shook his fist at the retreating figure of his uncle, "he's Dutch Boer, who should he fight?" I ventured to think the gentleman in question would have been profitably employed in taking pot-shots at the British. "Soh," said my companion grimly, "but he fight Boers—curse him for a Nation'l Scout!"


Reproduced from The Southland Times (New Zealand), September 19, 1903

In a few weeks Lord Milner starts on his holiday trip to Europe. The people do not know upon what date, and strangely enough the people do not seem to care.

Lord Milner's position is one which does not seem to bear analytical, contemplation. It has become a habit almost of the loyalist of other days to shrink from any attempt at analysis of Lord Milner's policy. The men who a few years ago shouted themselves hoarse in their praises of the great pro-consul: the men whose support it was that strengthened the High Commissioner's hand in the troublous times when it needed support most—these men, representing the great political and financial forces of South Africa, show a natural hesitation in bringing forward either argument or influence against the retention of his Excellency any longer in the sphere in which he has worked so much good for the Empire.


That Lord Milner has accomplished much, that he has shown himself in the best sense a keen opportunist, that he has displayed to a remarkable degree the power to assimilate immediately the conditions which to former Ministers were merely vague and shadowy, and to grasp at once popular feeling—particularly when that feeling was one of aggression towards an ancient enemy—there can be no question. He has shared in his time a popularity which Rhodes at the height of his fame did not surpass, and has enjoyed an undivided confidence both with the British and the Colonial people, which no plenipotentiary, and certainly no Cabinet Minister has yet evoked. I And now? Now Lord Milner is regarded by a section of the Colonists—and a section largely composed of your Rule-Britannia-Uitlander-Colonists of prewar days—in very much the same manner as Mr Chamberlain is regarded by the ultra-Tory set at St. Stephen's. They were with him—up to a certain point. Up to that point their interests coincided. They had one cause and a common shibboleth—if anything they shouted loudest. But that point has been reached and passed. Lord Milner's gallant company of encouraging loyalists recovering from their delirium recognised—as they might have done before—that their officers, the men who had shouted loudest with them, who had led the cheering, and who had told them through recognised media what they thought and how, thinking as they did, they should act—these men were men of money.


So a large section repudiated their officers and stepped aside, confident that the Governor would follow suit. Lord Milner probably finds the same difficulty confronting him as his supporters of other days find. You cannot repudiate the capitalists of today who were the reformers of yesterday any more than you can brand as "autocratic" the qualities you were once pleased to applaud as "unswerving firmness." The malcontents note the change of condition and fail to appreciate the absence of change in men and qualities—and of their failure is born a grievance which premises to make Lord Milner a most unpopular Governor and incidentally a casus belli in the threatened revolt of the democracy against the power of the omnipotent capitalist. The fact that a great man's previous good works must go for nothing; that the wearing labours which rescued South Africa for the Empire should be lost sight of in a bitter controversy which has its origin in the question of Asiatic immigration; that popularity gained by firmness in advocating "pro" should be extinguished by an equally firm advocacy of "con," all this is very pitiable—and very natural. Public opinion is a "fickle beastie" and such is Lord Milner's position that I can see no way by which he can regain the confidence of erstwhile supporters without forfeiting the trust reposed in him by an influential minority—and unfortunately in the country it is the moneyed minority that counts. If in the years to come, when I am a dithering old man, I am asked by my great- grandchildren who was the most honourable public man I have ever met I shall, I am sure, answer without hesitation, "Lord Milner, some time High Commissioner of South Africa."


I do not think I have ever met a man whose absolute integrity, whose fine logical mind and noble principles have appealed to me as do Lord Milner's. He is a strong man rather than a safe man, for in his strength lies the weakness that renders him less safe than sure. He is an autocrat. His best lovers must allow that. He is amenable to argument, but not in essentials. He is an architect of Empire, who will, on advice, alter the front elevation of his edifice, but whom the very gods would not persuade to deviate from the ground plan he has decided upon. Personally a man of charming manners, suggesting the aristocratic public servant or the dilettante litterateur rather than the statesman, the High Commissioner, while accessible to anybody who has reasonable excuse for interviewing him, is at the same time unapproachable to those with whom his convictions clash. And now he goes home on his holiday and Johannesburg, unstirred but respectful, stands hat in hand watching with curious eyes the man they all but worshipped a few years ago. Do they wish him to return? I half think not.

There is no open rupture between the Governor and the people; crowds still cheer him in the street, for I think they love the man even as they are suspicious of the master. They do not want to fight him; they would rather fight another man carrying out his policy.

If he does not return Johannesburg will sigh regretfully but thankfully, as the man sighs who has seen his loved ones over the sea before the first shot is fired. If he returns—but that, as somebody else would say, is another story.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), October 22, 1903

JOHANNESBURG, August 1, 1903

It is considered rather bad form to talk about a war that raged a few years ago. It used to be THE war—indeed, it used to be war, the very embodiment and symbol of abstract carnage. Sometimes, nowadays, a young—a refreshingly young—ex-Yeoman turns up from England; full of enthusiasm for the days that were; primed with recollection of pitched battles, and an uncanny accuracy of detail; a young god of war, descended from English skies to disturb our calm craft that float upon the Lethe—and to remind us of days when shares stood high on the market. We look at him. curiously, uncomfortably.


We try to change the conversation to weather, or the cost of living. We grow pallid at his reckless approach of a forbidden subject, or prickly warm at his unconscious solecisms. We do not care to dwell upon our mistakes—as who does? We would rather not think about our irretrievable blunders, and you have only to go to Johannesburg to realise how much of a blunder the people of that town think the war was, and now very glad they would he if it had never occurred. This is—as I have pointed out before—not so much because the good folks of the Gold Reef City have become unpatriotic, not because they have discovered a latent love for Krugerism, previously unsuspected, but by reason of the fact that the years of famine are succeeding the years of war, and the good citizens have healthy appetites.

War is therefore a painful subject; in addition to which it is a very stale subject; and, worse still, it is to seventy men out of a hundred the veriest "shop." Long ago the average Johannesburger discovered that it was impossible to brag about his connection with the Imperial Light Horse and to tell the thrilling story of Elandslaagte, without discovering in has audience an unappreciative section consisting of a squadron leader, a troop sergeant-major, and a couple of corporals of the same distinguished regiment, and this, naturally, was to say the least embarrassing. And so the heroes get weeded out, and the newcomer wounded in six engagements and recommended for the V.C. found very soon that he was a very commonplace person indeed. So the great B**r w*r subject is one which we deal with in mental asterisks, so to speak, and we are consequently grateful to our friend the Boer that he is content to respect our reserve and co- operate with us in this taboo.


For the Boers talk less of war to-day than they have ever talked in the course of their national life. At the time of their surrender they realised that they were in a bad way. They did no£ think they were badly beaten, and if their attitude towards us was one of frank surrender, there was, if not expressed, at least implied, a suggestion of magnanimity toward an overpowering enemy that they had the power and half the inclination to further harass. They surrendered because they were tired of the war—ninety-nine out of every hundred burghers would tell you that. It was the spontaneous excuse of the incoming commandoes— simply given without qualification and without amendment. "We are tired of the war—so we surrender." It was a reply given in no tone of boastfulness: with no suggestion of anything but a natural and logical reply to the question, "Why did you give in?"

It was the hundredth man, the man who spoke good French or German, and whose first act on arrival at the British camp war to ask for a bath. He it was who shrugged his shoulders and answered with a laugh: "Because we were hopelessly beaten!" The terms of peace were signed, and the Boer was turned loose on the country—and he talked. Not loudly or traitorously or harmfully. He had surrendered, or rather his leaders had for him: for his part he would just as soon have gone on fighting: something might have happened. Who knows? A European war in which Great Britain was embroiled might have been the Boer's opportunity. He was now a faithful subject of King Edward, and he would be sorry to see Russia or Germany fighting his own country; but if he had not surrender——


All of which pointed to one fact; and a very interesting fact it was. The Boer, sharing a characteristic which is beautiful in the Briton, but is a trifle alarming when in the Boer, did not know when he was beaten. And the Boer out of the country—he of St Helena, of India, of Ceylon—he came back. He was very anxious to explain to the Boer in the country exactly how it was he had been taken prisoner in the early days, and quite willing to adopt the theory, already sub-consciously propounded, that the war had ended because the fighting burghers were tired of the constant trekking and the unsettled life of the commando.

The British were as tired—everybody knew that. So there had been a formal surrender of the Boers, a mutual agreement that hostilities should cease and amicable arrangements whereby the dignity of neither should suffer. It was quite reasonable, this view. You remember how we fell over one another in our desire to weep on the necks of our late foes, how the splendid good- fellowship of the British was made manifest. Our dearest friend is not dearer than the foe we have just thrashed. That is a national trait, but the Boer is no student, no thinker. According to his lights there could be but one explanation for our effusiveness. We were glad to get out of the mess at any price, for, like him, we were tired of war, weary of our constant reverses and the too frequent humiliations, for which our periodic victories were a most inadequate compensation. After a while he began to find things out, did the Boer. Every day that passed robbed him of his complacency.


The days of war were not very far behind him when he began to realise a great truth, and it has so sobered him that he does not seem like the Boer we knew of other days, but rather a civil, quiet-spoken improvement on the old pattern—improved out of recognition. For the truth that has come so slowly is the fact that he is a badly-beaten man. The men whom he had expected to meet, the brother, the father, the friend—what of them? He had believed that they were with other commandoes, or at the worst, in the hands of the hospitable British. When war was over, he waited for them to appear, with all the pleasure of anticipation. The missing ones came not, but in their place came, or sent, the folks who had seen them die or had helped to bury them. This was the first sobering draught that came to the Boer. The Boer losses were much heavier than he had been led to believe.

In Great Britain there are, unfortunately, many homes desolated by war; there are vacancies which even time, that fell destroyer of ideal who turns the beautiful to commonplace, can never fill. But think of a nation no single member of which but has lost a relative.

I think I am right in saving that no one Boer family in South Africa came unscathed through the war, and not one-third of the losses were ever realised until the war ended. The little village cliques were broken and scattered, the little makeshifts for society were devastated, the dorp oracles whose illogical periods had filled the sunlit spaces where the drowsy oxen, dozed, whose rude fingers had spun the wheel war-ward—what of these? Dead, or, worse still, traitors. Leaders still remained, but they were leaders whose life energies had been devoted to promoting hostility to Britain, and whose faculties other than the destructive had become atrophied by long disuse. Relationship, comradeship, society, all had been changed. The national ideals could no longer exist; they must be reconstructed. The homes they had lived in, the towns they were born in, wrecked and levelled, gave them no tangible hold on the past, afforded them no loose end to which they might splice the new life to the old and resume. It meant a fresh start all over again; new grooves, new aspirations. The war had done more than kill, it had made chaos. They were beaten, hopelessly, irreparably. The Boers realised this very slowly, for it is not in the nature of things that they should think quickly, and realising it they have become a gentler, a better, and a more friendly people.


Reproduced from The Southland Times (New Zealand), November 7, 1903

Take my arm and come with me. Swiftly through the streets of Johannesburg, past the shops ablaze with light, past the loitering crowd that saunters idly, past the thronged theatres where bursts the melody and spasmodic cadences of applause reach the ear through opening doors.

Keep out of the light—the cold, white steadfast lights that line the mile-long streets; let us creep away, into the side-ways where are the tumble-down tin shanty of Ramsammy and the dirt-begrimed windows of Petriwski—Isaac, the son of Joseph—behind which this very man is threading a needle by the light of a flickering candle. You will see him still at work when you return, this same Petriwski; well into the night he will work, plying his needle and dreaming alone of—who knows what? Then he will draw a filthy blanket over his greasy form and sleep till the morning sun awakens him, and then again the needle and the day-long dream and the candle's successor. But our business is not with him; only we must pass the road in which he dwells before we get to the east. He sits in his filth and his toil, and the memory of Poland is a boundary post between East and West, between Orient and Occident.


Beyond, the houses grow bewilderingly various. Shops, leisurely started with some dim idea of being beautiful, have finished by becoming patchily tin. The builder has never finished. Unsentimental necessity grasped him by the throat, thrusting him aside to make room for a hundred aliens.

They did not object to unfinished work. The window-sashes were never painted, and some of the panes were never put in, and to- day, behind red-painted sashes and glassless windows the proscribed of Poland live happily enough. We are out of the range of the white merciless arc light—that disciple of Truth that emphasises our wrinkles and traces the patches on our threadbare coats. Here the light is more mellow, more pleasing. It is a yellow light and none too bright, and here the houses are tin. They are bright enough. There is music here. Vice, gilded thinly, has its votaries, its high priest, and its temples— little tin-temples scented with Florida water.

The tin town continues beyond this, but the lower end is silent. So silent that you might think you had by accident happened upon a colony living up to the standard set by the moral Mr Franklin. Early to bed they apparently are. No sound breaks the silence of the quiet night, no light gleams in any window, no smoke rises from the crazy courtyards. Early to rise you know they are, for daybreak sees this little colony alive, with bamboo rod and laden basket, chattering, running, loading, and trading. For this is the Chinese quarter.

Knock softly on one of the iron gates. There is no answer. Here is a door, "The Hoki Laundry." Knock here, and if anybody comes invent some laundry urgently required by a fictitious client. But nobody will come.


But I have not brought you here for the pleasure of knocking at an unresponsive door. I knew all along that it would not be opened to you. But in a few minutes the gates of Chinatown will be opened to us, and Chinatown, obsequious and smiling, will greet us with injured surprise and lamblike innocence. For the police are very close at hand; all the while we have been walking this way they have been shadowing us on either hand. You may not have seen them, but they have been close enough. And now— watch. They appear like magic from side-streets and unsuspected alleys. In ones, in twos, in threes. And they are coming towards us. Did I tell you we have one of the chiefs of police with us?

There is no noise, no melodramatic whistle. A whispered word of command, and two men have scaled the iron gateway and have dropped into darkness on the other side. A second more, and the gate grates open on rusty hinges, and we are inside. It is rather disappointing at first. There is nothing suggestive of the Flowery Land—no pagodas or tea- houses or joss-houses, only three sides of a garbage-strewn square, ranged around which are the sordid tea-shanties of John. But it strikes you immediately that nobody is asleep. In fact, everybody is wide awake. A dozen Chinamen of all sizes and ages are sitting around a red-hot brazier, on which some mess is stewing, and all the little houses that have not lights have smouldering wicks—which is significant.

Somebody flashes an electric torch over the deserted hovel. The hastily-extinguished candle still glows, and its smell fills all space. There is a closed door in one corner of the apartment. The sergeant puts his shoulder to it, and the sergeant being a man of many pounds, it gives. There is a passage, and there are some steps leading downward, and there is another door outlined in light. This yields to a push.


We—that is, you, the police, and I—do not apologise, even though we have obviously broken up what promised to be a successful evening. The curiously-coloured board supported on a trestle table, and the weird, pawn-like pieces scattered at our unceremonious intrusion, are implements employed in the game of fantan. It is an institution that Ho Ki, the Chow, carries away from his fatherland, it is the outward and visible demonstration of his patriotism. John Ho Ki, Wun Hi, Ho Ku, and Chow Ke, in no wise perturbed, sit around the wall of the dug-out in which this classical game is played. There are four vacant places at the board, and there is a trap door near the roof to which a ladder ascends. The banker has departed. Gambling is a crime, even in Johannesburg, and the players fall in, outside, from whence they will march to the police-station with great docility.

There is another door leading from the gambling-den. It is locked, evidently from the other side, but the sergeant's shoulder is better than a skeleton key. Crash! The room is bare except for a frame bed and a table. On this is a candle spluttering in its socket. On the bed lies a man who does not move, his eyes are half-closed, his hand grasps a pipe, and the sickening stench of opium fills the room.

"Wake up, Johnny, where's your pass, eh?"

Leave them to arouse him, and follow the police captain to the joss-house. The priest opens the door of a tin shanty, in no wise differing from the dozen about, except that the interior resembles for all the world a large-sized tea-chest turned inside out. Here, gold on black, certain moral precepts of Confucius crawl up the walls like so many auriferous spiders. On the altar is a small image of a black-bearded god. Before the altar, joss- sticks, wooden swords, spears, and tinselled baubles. Not so very inspiring, and certainly nothing to justify the unpleasant scowl of the priestly custodian.

Now back again to the opium room. There is a group of policemen round the bed of the dreamer.

"Can't you rouse him?" I asked.

Then I looked and saw how unnecessary was my question. The Chinese have a pretty little cemetery of their own near Braamfontein.


Reproduced from The Star (New Zealand), July 25, 1905

Sometimes elaborate military organisations fail. Army forms are filled, requisitions prepared, orders signed in accordance with regulations, but there is a hitch. A thousand miles away the rope of routine may have jammed between a colonel's officialism and a subaltern's enthusiasm, and the tug you give at this end brings no response from the other.

When organisation fails in the Army you depend on the men.

After it is all over you say, "The men were splendid," then go to work to fashion yet another unbreakable system, which will cockle up at the critical moment as sure as Eve ate apples.

Because the men were splendid, to-day (May 25) the King is going to the top of Gun Hill to unveil a grey granite obelisk to the memory of a few hundred soldiers of the Royal Army Medical Corps who gave their lives for their country.

I call them the Corps of Unconventional Heroes, because, as everybody knows who has read his story-book or studied his Christmas presentation plate, the only way for a soldier to die in a war is on the field of battle with a rifle in his hand, and a vision of his mother in the top left-hand corner.

About twenty of the corps died this way—without the rifle—in order that convention should not be hopelessly outraged, but the remainder died unpleasantly and uncleanly of diseases contracted while nursing their comrades.


The Boer war is ancient history. People have gone out of mourning now, and many have married again. We talk familiarly enough of the sacred dead; we have reached the point where the talk of that dreadful war only conjures up a picture of an increased income tax as its most horrible consequence. Therefore I do not hope to arouse any enthusiasm for these men— good men they were, poor fellows—who died at their posts, not with the swiftness of they who...

Had their battle cries
To cheer and charm them to their death...

but slowly, painfully, heroically.

From sunrise to sundown they met the constant procession of sickness and suffering that came to them.

They were the pioneers of mercy, they went to places where the Sisters could not go; they, set their tents down on furrowed battlefields and went out with lanterns to glean the harvest of war.

All night long I have seen them, grim will-o'-the-wisps, bobbing over the uneven face of the veldt, eclipsed in gullies, rising faintly by boulder-strewn kopje. They went out erratically, they came back steadily, painfully, slowly, walking step by step and keeping time, and that which they swung between them was a something that in the morning had been a laughing, lusty man.


They came reeling out of tents in the early hours of the dawn with blood-caked arms and stiff fingers, with aching eyes.

With only a guttering candle stuck in the lantern to help them they picked little knives from their velvet-lined cases, as the surgeons asked for them.

There were fires burning nearer the tents, where a nodding cook made coffee. The stragglers came up to the fire, smelling of chloroform, gulped their coffee, and went back to their work.

They have traditions in the corps of officers and men who dashed into the firing line to bring out the wounded. Traditions that embrace the work of an officer who held on to the femoral artery with his finger and thumb throughout one long, long night and saved his man. But the greatest tradition of all is that the men of the Royal Army Medical Corps worked patiently, uncomplaining, in the fever-stricken camp at Bloemfontein, working a minimum of eighteen and nineteen hours out of every twenty-four, living with the men they nursed, dying with the men they nursed, and sleeping the last sleep in the dreary graveyard that lies outside the town.

Their heroism, their devotion, their divine unselfishness cannot be exaggerated.

Trite it is to call him blessed who, in the hot passion of battle or on the impulse occasioned by some sudden danger, lays down his life for another; but what shall we say of men who saw the death ahead and did not shirk, who had the danger calculated with a mathematical nicety and did not fear?

Englishmen, who are proverbially undemonstrative, and who seek from their vocabulary of sport their superlatives of eulogy, will say truly and fittingly that they "played the game."


  1. The City Of Refuge
  2. The Fabric Of Hate
  3. The Rebel And The Psalmist
  4. The Rain That Stopped
  5. De Wet's Plan
  6. Price Of Peace
  7. To Arms!
  8. Amateur De Wets
  9. The Birth Of A Corps
  10. The Shadow Over The Land
  11. The Better Path
  12. The Coming Of De Wet
  13. Plumer's Flight
  14. Homeward Bound
  15. The LastFight
  16. Why We Lost De Wet
  17. Profit And Loss
  18. A Nice War
  19. Tragedy
  20. That Victorian!
  21. Doing Nothing
  22. "Previously Unreported"
  23. Atkins
  24. A Veldt Aldershot
  25. That Tired Feeling
  26. A Sunday Morning
  27. America's Bid For The Rand
  28. Sops To Sentiment
  29. In Death's Eye
  30. A Day In Kent
  31. "Cannot Accept Responsibility"
  32. Tips That Pass In The Night
  33. Trumps Without Honours
  34. The Intervening Black
  35. Heroes Of The Cotton Waste
  36. Reconstructing—An Estimate
  37. Forces Despised
  38. Rebellion Made Easy
  39. Related Justice
  40. The Coming Struggle
  41. What Shall Be The Verdict?


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