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communication between Naauwpoort and Port Elizabeth. On November 29 General Gatacre concentrated a force at Molteno, and commandeered five trains with 1000 bags of wheat and flour which were in danger of being taken by the enemy.
General French, on the left, was in occupation of Arundel, where he was closely watched by the Boers, and had been reinforced on the 8th December by the 6th Dragoon Guards and New South Wales Lancers. On the same date General Gatacre, at Putter's Kraal, heard that a force of about 2000 Boers were in position at Mooi Kop in the mountains near Stormberg, twelve miles north of Molteno. So, on the afternoon of the 9th inst., he started by rail with 2nd Irish Rifles, 2nd Northumberland Fusiliers, two batteries field artillery, and about 800 mounted infantry, to attempt a night-attack on the Boer position, which commanded the railway towards Arundel, as well as the direct line from East London into the centre of the Free State. The force detrained at Molteno, where the men had some food, and started at 7 P.M. for the twelve miles' night-march. It was a memorable one. The moon shone brightly till halfpast eleven, and then went down. On and on went the men, tramping over a rocksurface road, kicking against stones, pulled up by large boulders which had fallen across the road, or striking off across the veldt, where the footing was better and the ceaseless tramping was silenced. Thus for seven hours the force slipped
and tumbled along till a natural basin was reached, at the end of which Mooi Kop, believed to be the Boer position, stood out in strong relief against the morning sky. Daylight was just breaking, and it was comparatively light. The column was under the guidance of a policeman who professed to know the way. Somehow in the darkness he must have missed it, for it was four o'clock in the morning when they came up to their destination, having made a detour of some miles. The men, tired and footsore, moved on wearily, only anxious for the halt to sound that they might get some rest, when, all of a sudden, the Boers appeared lining the top of a precipice that overhung the road, and opened a furious fire on the column marching in fours on the plain beneath it was `in vain that the Northumberland Fusiliers tried to scale the rocks they were too steep, and many were wounded. The Irish Rifles seized a koppje near and held on, supported by the mounted infantry and Cape Police, the guns assisting. But their position turned out to be in the centre of a tremendously hot rifle - fire poured in from three different directions, in flank and rear, and they were forced to retire.
Meanwhile our artillery had come into action, and drew the fire of the enemy's guns. A protracted artillery duel ensued against the Boers, who had retreated into a redoubt they had constructed at the corner of the koppje. The position of our infantry being untenable and the Boers in overwhelming
rifle-fire. Seeing that the situation was hopeless, General Gatacre collected and withdrew his force from ridge to ridge for about nine miles under the fire of the Boer guns, which were remarkably well served.
own guns was overturned in a
Unfortunately one of
three hours with an enemy estimated to number 6000, in a practically impregnable position, and one which it was hopeless for a small attacking party to carry.
The question asked is, "Why was so small an attacking party detailed to attempt the assault of a practically impregnable position?" General Gatacre says, "The idea of attack on Stormberg seemed to promise certain success. But the two conditions essential to the success of a night - attack are to know thoroughly where you are going and the road that leads to that point; and to keep the enemy in absolute ignorance of your intention and movements. These two essentials General Gatacre had learned at the Staff College. Had he any personal knowledge of the road to be traversed? The best local information is very often misleading: there are turnings to be avoided; features of the landscape look quite different by day to the same when seen by night. Such matters local knowledge does not take into account. And was he quite sure that the Boers did not know that he was coming? Why, the country was a nest of spies; every other man was on the Boer side. How could 2500 soldiers, with their guns and waggons, get into a train at a country station, get out again at another, and march away, occupying some
miles in length of a country road for a good many hours, while every one was looking the other way? There is no
answer. General Gatacre attempted the impossible on an empty stomach, with the aid of a policeman.
On the 12th December General Buller decided to advance towards Ladysmith in order to effect its relief. On the morning of that day General Barton's Brigade, with some naval guns, pushed forward within four miles of Colenso, a movement which caused some activity in the Boer laager, but no firing.
At 4 A.M. on the 15th General Buller moved out of Chieveley in full strength, with the intention of forcing a passage of the Tugela by one of the two existing fords. These are about two miles apart, the intention being to force one or the other with one brigade, supported by a central brigade. It will be noticed these two drifts cross the river where bends occurthat on the east where the near bank is salient towards the enemy, that on the west where our bank faces the reentering bend which he sees in front of him. Thus the passage of the first would be disadvantageous, that on the west in our favour.
General Hart was told off to attack the western ford, and General Hildyard that on the east, General Lyttelton in the centre to support either. General Hart appears to have met with a stubborn resistance, and he was foiled, not being able to force a passage. The Irishmen, with the 1st Connaught Rangers in front,
struggled across the river, a few being drowned in the passage, and gained the enemy's bank. But the position was untenable, and they had to retire. It seems probable from this that our artillery was unable to keep down that of the enemy, which would concentrate itself on either or both of the points of passage. General Hildyard then attempted to force the eastern drift, the 2nd East Surrey regiment occupying the railway-station and the houses in Colenso near the bridge; and he was preparing to advance
the ford, when, by some terrible accident or mistake, the whole of the artillery which had been sent back to assist his attack was put out of action. The disaster seems to have been caused through Colonel Long, in command, desiring to be within effective range, and so advancing close to the river that was full of Boers, who surprised the guns by a galling fire at close range, killing all the horses. Brave efforts were made by officers and men to drag away the guns; several were wounded, and General Buller would not allow another attempt. They were a veritable shell - mark, and the troops were ordered to withdraw. The Boers in considerable force made several attempts against the right flank of the general movement, but were checked by the mounted troops and part of General Barton's brigade. The day was intensely hot and most trying to the troops, whose conduct was excellent. Ten guns were abandoned and one
lost by shell-fire. The losses in General Hart's brigade were very heavy, falling largely on the 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers and 1st Connaught Rangers, Colonel Brooke being dangerously wounded: the 2nd Devonshire regiment and the Artillery also suffered severely. The total loss in killed, wounded, and missing was over 1100
The news of this fresh disaster dealt a severe and sudden shock, and for a moment we were as men stricken with an unexpected blow. It was but for the instant. Then with one accord we stood up to face it. The Cabinet Ministers held a meeting in the afternoon of the day when the intelligence was received, and on the next it was announced that, as the campaign in Natal was likely to require the presence and undivided attention of Sir Redvers Buller, it had been decided to send Lord Roberts to the Cape as Commander-in-Chief in South Africa, with Lord Kitchener as his Chief of the Staff. Acting on the advice of the military authorities, the Government also approved the employment of volunteers and yeomanry.
It is no figure of speech to say that as soon as the Government let out their long-pent-up energy the nation as one man sprang to arms. Before nightfall the offers of service had largely exceeded the requirements. The competition to go to the front was embarrassing. The feeling among the Volunteers was one of pure and un
alloyed delight, and commanding officers were besieged by a rush of applicants to be among the selected few.
From distant parts of the empire came the demand, "Stand firm; carry the thing through!" Canada offered at once 1000 well-equipped men; Sydney was prepared to send a battery of 15-pounders with the complement of men; the Canadian Militia Department was flooded with offers to serve. Even the Continental papers recognised "the calm manner in which the British nation confronts all the strokes of destiny, and the dignity with which they abstain from branding their generals as traitors," and perceived in the appointment of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener "the proof that the South African campaign will be carried out to the bitter end." The decision to send Lord Roberts as Commander - inChief to the Cape was not in any way meant as a reflection on General Buller's action on the Tugela the Government and the nation had still the firmest confidence in him; but, considering the critical position in Natal, thought it unwise that he should be absent from Cape Town, several days' journey by sea, when his presence was so urgently needed on the spot. The enormous increase in the force in South Africa required that the command should be held by an officer of supreme rank.
Some men still hold down their heads and cry out that
we are beaten. So we are in small matters, and the croakers ask, "Why?" Tell them this. The Boers have invented a new system of warfare, and we have been trying to beat them with our old system. The Zulus did the same, and beat us at Isandhlwana; but we beat them out and out at Ulundi. They started with quite a new system, and we met it with our old one and they beat us. They were the best fighters in open order in the world: we sent out the 24th Regiment in skirmishing order and they killed every man; but they could not shoot, and could not attack troops in close order, so we formed square and they gave in.
The Boer can move ten miles to our two; he is a very good shot with his rifle, and lives and fights in a country where Nature has built a fortress at every mile. He has an excellent pony, and carries no impedimenta. His tactics are to garrison a fortress with a few hundred men and induce us to attack; he shoots a couple of hundred of us, we shoot twenty, and he slips away on his pony, to repeat the operation at the next fortress. We bury our dead, take a couple of old waggons that he has left behind, and call it a victory. The tactics of the Peninsula are not the tactics for South Africa. We want artillery to shake him out of his fortress, and mounted infantry and cavalry to catch him when he is running to the next. We can leave the infantry behind to look after camps and communications; no Boer will touch