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held out bravely, for weary hours had behaved magnificently, and means might have been more promptly adopted for helping them: instead of that came an order to the Rifles, who were in an exposed position, addressed to the 'O. C., who had been killed, for them to retire. Major Thorneycroft read it, and took it to apply to the whole force on the Spion Kop range. Retirement, which may have been a retreat, followed. There were those, I learn, who refused to take the order. As General Buller was setting out to ride over to Warren's force, he for the first time heard of the disaster."
He reached Sir C. Warren's camp at 5 A.M. that morning, and decided that a second attack on Spion Kop would be useless, and that the Boers' right was too strong to be forced: so he ordered the whole of Sir C.Warren's division to withdraw south of the Tugela, a movement which was carried out at once, and at 8 A.M. on the 27th it was
across the Tugela without the loss of a single man or waggon -General Lyttelton's brigade remaining on the north bank opposite Potgeiter's drift.
General Buller in his despatch says
"The fact that the force could withdraw from actual touch-in cases the lines were less than 1000 yards apart--with the enemy in the perfect manner it did, is sufficient evidence of the morale of the troops; and that we were permitted to withdraw our cumbrous ox and mule transport across a river 85 yards broad, with 20-feet banks and a very swift stream, unmolested, is, I think, proof that the enemy has been taught to respect our soldiers' fighting powers."
More than all, it shows up the defect in Boer tactics which shuns the attack, as well as the paralysed state of the burghers; also the mag
VOL. CLXVII.-NO. MXIII.
nificent discipline, unaffected by the losses which they had just suffered, which enabled our men, as a defeated army, to retreat unmolested, and the military genius of a commander who can take such a momentous decision without hesitation. No better proof of the soundness of the principle in tactics that lays down the importance of the attack can be offered. Had the Boers the stomach to attack the column which was retiring across their front, a river before it, the retreat must Two have become a disaster. pontoon bridges for miles of waggons which dragged slowly over the veldt under command of Boer positions to cross river 85 yards wide, the approaches steep banks 20 feet above the rapid stream! Fortunately for us, Boer tactics do Had not include this power. invaded Natal attacked Ladythose 40,000 Boers when they smith with a will, they would have ridden unopposed Maritzburg, from whence to dictate those terms of peace which we heard of.
The attack is the kernel of the military nut, because the active is more prominent than the passive in human nature. Men just now are accustomed to speak of armies, those collections of soldiers where thousands are quoted as mere trifles, as mere blocks that a general can move across the table with a toothpick. But an army consists of men, mere specks, each one brimful, as you are, of thoughts, of hopes and fears; one speck may be braver than the rest, and the bravery of 2 F
that speck will infect those nearer specks till we have one army braver than the other. These armies take the field; the specks on one side will be behind a ditch, a wall, defending; those on the other side advance to attack; there will be a fierce struggle, and the attacking specks will be driven back. As they go, one speck turns about "Are they coming?" ask its comrade specks "No! they're afraid; let's have another try." The attack is renewed and is beaten off again, but the defeated specks do not go so far back this time; still the defenders don't budge "It's better behind the wall than in the open, let us stay where we are well off." Then the specks outside, who do not find the open quite so bad, seeing them hesitate try back; once more flung out, not very far this time; and the other specks cry out, "They're coming on again, oh law! Those specks will never stop, here's off" and they dissolve themselves, and the attack walks in. If you meet a bully in the street and let him pound you, he is a big fellow and you will go down; hit him back and he will diminish rapidly-human nature tells you why.
The gallant struggle to relieve the men in Ladysmith had failed, an effort consecrated by the blood of their comrades, and the brave men flashed back, "Disappointed, but not disheartened"! Our casualties before Spion Kop were killed, 205, including 30 officers; wounded or missing, 761, of which 39 were officers. Το
these numbers must be added 584 of all ranks in actions north of the Tugela.
So the campaign dragged on through January, towards the end of the month finding itself, at every point, in a cul-de-sac. Sound strategy had been sacrificed to indifferent tactics-indifferent because due to underrating the intelligence of the Boers, and to the absence of materials adapted to meet their tactics. True, they have the koppje, and have fortified and held it on principles not taught at Chatham; but with reconnaissance and scouting, commonsense being added, our generals should have solved the koppje: if they cannot do so, let us confess ourselves beaten, and retire into the consciousness of our own moral superiority.
With regard to the materials supplied, the man in the street knew that the Boers were mounted, and should be met by mounted men; yet we sent out battalion after battalion of infantry-the excuse, that there were no ships fitted for the conveyance of horses, when 5000 Colonists in South Africa were longing to distinguish themselves on horseback, another 5000 in Australia and the other colonies, every man of them ready to stand by his horse and greet the arrival of that Napoleonic Army Corps. The complaint about the materials supplied is emphasised by Lord Methuen in his despatch after the battle of Belmont :
in large numbers galloping into the "The last height cleared, the enemy plain, the enemy's laager trekking across me, 3000 yards off; my mounted
Still, to act on unreliable information and imperfect knowledge of the enemy's position, which he refers to, can only be charged against himself and his staff, who neglected the most ordinary precautions: as General Buller says in his comments, "I suppose our officers will learn the value of scouting in time; but in spite of all one can say, up to this our men seem to blunder into the middle of the enemy and suffer accordingly." But surely he committed the same mistake on the Tugela, when he seemed to be ignorant that Boers were occupying trenches and the river's bank on the south. The tactical methods by which an almost unfordable river, when both banks are held by the enemy throughout its length, can be forced in face of a strongly intrenched position are not readily found in any text-book. We are casting about for a scapegoat on whom to lay the cause of our defeats, and we find it in the power of rapid movement which the Boers possess, and which enables them to anticipate all our movements. It always will do so if we adhere to obsolete and antiquated drill. If provided a battalion of loons the Boer mounted
tics would become obsolete; probably they would alter them. Our generals must move with the age and try to get a bit "forrader." The lessons of the Peninsula must be rewritten with a quick-firing pen. More mobility is the cry now, which the crowd interprets to mean more mounted infantry; but the crowd is wrong. Mobility is a relative term; the regiment that marches three miles an hour is sufficiently mobile to walk round another that can only walk two and a half miles. At the battle of Gravelotte, when the Prussian infantry failed to force through to the French left, they marched off for seven miles to St Privat and got in on the right, and the day was won. To start off a regiment at ten miles an hour to anticipate another which only covers three in the same time, would mean that the first would have to wait for the second to come up: half an hour is as good as a score in such "cutting - out" tactics. The man who gets to his train an hour before it starts, arrives at his destination no sooner than another who caught it by five minutes.
The cry for mounted infantry was not heard till 1881, when the newspapers told the crowd that the Boers were the best mounted infantry in the world, which they are not. We did not hear it when the Americans discovered the value of mounting, not mounted, infantry in the War of Secession, neither when the general who fought the Battle of Dorking prophesied that a force of 30,000
mounted infantry would be a deciding factor in wars to come. It is only now that it has broken out again, because the Boers, who are mounted, as every one is in South Africa, have scored some successes over our troops. It is a system that has won, a system evolved out of the conditions of the country in which the Boers live, -the intelligent use of the spade and the marvellous power of lifting heavy guns up precipitous slopes are later developments, probably gained from foreign instructors, peopled by mounted sportsmen, and a sportsman everywhere makes a good soldier.
Our mounted infantry, organised at Aldershot as an adjunct to cavalry, are a most useful force, and would be increased in numbers if to do so did not deplete our regiments of their most handy men, while it would expose a larger body to the risk of considering themselves a mounted arm. The value of infantry is, that it is equally good in attack or in defence; of cavalry, in the united action of man and horse, but with no power for defence to mount infantry or to dismount cavalry is an anomaly suitable only on occasions. The fascination which a horse exercises over a man who is in constant intimacy with him is such, that when they are separated the man feels that virtue has gone out of him: clap a pair of spurs on a man's heels, and his feet will become too large for his infantry boots. Take away from a Boer the veldt for his pony to feed on,
koppjes to give him shelter, and boulders from behind which to shoot, and any army of the regulation constituents will beat him, white flags and all.
There is a matter in which the Boer beats us hollow: he has practised it all his life; his dinner has often depended on it; and just now his fighting successes are the result of it. He knows the ground he rides over and the value of it. A man with an eye for ground will, in war, be a genius, for the ground is always with a soldier. Hunting men make good soldiers; they learn the value of the ground they gallop over. A thoughtful soldier cannot go over ground without taking note of its capabilities for the action of troops. There was a field with a slope, a farmhouse, and a hedge which the railway passes, so admirably suited for defence that I always looked out when the train ran by, the trench following the crest, the slope flanked from the farm, the hedge to divide the attack.
Discussions about the guns have been endless, but are best left to gunners to decide. I am sure when we meet the Boer artillery, where boulders do not intrude, our batteries will walk round them. Guns are not metal only: the men who work them must be reckoned with, and they are a match for any Boer assisted by the "foreign element." Men talk in easy terms of 40-pounders, 60pounders, even 100-pounders, which the Boers appear to carry in their portmanteaus to outrange our own till the Navy
lent us theirs: soldiers' fault.
this is not the It is a shameful blot on our politicians that a State within our own should have armed itself with such without remonstrance, or that they did not provide gun for gun out there. Parliament has prosed about "old age pensions," or "railway servants' compensation," when the Boers were building up a military nation strong enough to shake the fabric of our empire. Artillery is a delicate subject to talk about. Still, with all this we might have provided some handy, quick-firing guns, suitable to the mountainous country which prevails both in Natal and Cape Colony. It was the Maxim - Nordenfeldts that made Spion Kop untenable.
A document has just come to light which purports to have been issued at Pretoria some time before the war began for the private information of the members of the Volksraad, which throws some light on the Boer armament: with such cannon, range, shells, and rapid firing at their disposal, it is small wonder that the British cannons are everywhere outranged, out-shelled, and put out of action. As "Ubique writes to the Times'
"The Boers are credited with the possession of two 120-ton guns. This is truly prodigious. Another type has an arrangement of springs and brakes to lessen recoil, which gives greater velocity to the projectile and increases the range.' This is new and very interesting from the scientific point of view. The gun carries a trifle under five miles with a charge of less than 2 lb. of powder.' Then
there is a Schneider - Canet 14 pounder which 'fires 200 rounds per minute'-another singularly attractive weapon. Lastly, we learn that five batteries of eight Maxims, or 40 guns, each firing 350 shells per minute,' or 14,000 shells per minute in all, are being used against Mafeking.' This, again, is most instructive, such a bombardment being apparently unprecedented."
If this lying trash is good enough for the intelligence of the simple burghers, what must the simple burghers of Cape Colony and Natal expect to have served out to them when Kruger is king.
So much has been heard of Delagoa Bay, and of the use which the Boers find possible in its position on their border, that an outsider might think Portugal was a State that, if not unfriendly to England, found that sitting on the fence to watch how matters are to turn out was politic, and that England must be a terribly small Power with a hand-tomouth Ministry not to put its foot down and say, "One way or another; are you for or against us?" Procrastination. is ineradicable in Portuguese methods: a nice answer will come in time-so we are told, while arms, ammunition, supplies, and the scum of Europe go through, most amiably, to invigorate the Boers. A company of marines at first would have been a fair exchange for Mr Pott, and it is not at all certain that a European convulsion would have followed.
It is unfortunate that in the engagements we have fought