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circumstances did not admit of our striking promptly as soon as the blow was decided on, or that we have never followed up the first by a second blow.
The Boers knew, when General Buller arrived at Frere on the 25th November, that he came to conduct the attack which was to lead to the relief of Ladysmith; but it was not till the 15th of December that the blow was delivered, giving them three weeks in which to embellish their trenches.
General Methuen turned the Boers out of Modder village on 28th November; but a fortnight passed before he attacked them at Magersfontein. Here the river was the obstacle; but the materials of the village were available for rafting or for a rough bridge; some men were already across when the Boers drove off: almost any risk is legitimate when the enemy is in retreat and you want to catch him up. The next or the following day Magersfontein should have fallen, like Belmont or Enslin; barbed wire and trenches deep enough to hide a horse were still to come. After our repulse there, most of the 9th Brigade, a battalion of battalion of the Guards, all the guns and cavalry, were fairly fresh; a second attack next morning, leaving the worked-out men to mind the camp, might have got in. Our men were exhausted, but the Boers were more so, and a few hours' shelling would have told; our heavy guns must have had some fight left in them, ammunition might have been brought up with an effort; a little more
and the campaign was won—it was a big prize!
General Buller disclosed his intentions on the 11th January, but it was not till the 23rd that Spion Kop was taken, giving the enemy so long to strengthen his flank. It was known that, the Boers being mounted, a turning movement was almost impossible: given less than a week, and a flank becomes their front. Would it have been possible, knowing this, to push out a flying column, carrying absolute necessaries only, to anticipate this mobility? In the absence of maps it might have been possible for a man with an eye for country to get across the river with his horse, half-adozen rifles hidden away on the south bank to cover his retreat, and to have gained an idea of the ground.
It is not intended to suggest what ought to have been done. The remarks are interrogative. Would any such action have been possible under the circumstances? To sit in an arm-chair and to say how things ought to have been done is to paint a picture with your eyes shut.
No doubt General Buller felt that a further attempt must be made, inadequate as was his force. The ways-in had all been sealed-by Colenso, by Acton Homes; while that by Weenen was a long way round, lending itself to Boer mobility. The only road by Krantz Kloof still open was closed by tactical considerations: it might just be possible to surprise it, and trust to finding a secure position overlooking the open country
south of Ladysmith, where he would not be exposed to a converging fire from heavy guns at a distance. But it was the way out again that required thinking of. He would be in a defile, commanding heights on either side in undisputed occupation by the Boers, who would be apt to squeeze in together in his rear, and so form a barrier between himself and his base, which must be the pontoons across the Tugela: thus a second Ladysmith would be created.
Before you enter a defile, the sides must be cleared of the enemy: this done, you can safely fight your way across the eight or ten miles in front to Waggon Hill. But here the containing heights were a long way off-Doorn Kloof on the east, Spion Kop on the west, two or three miles respectively; a valley of death between; broken, hilly ground; koppje and every donga to hide a Boer party, with "Long Toms" and automatic "Pom-poms" on the precipice above. cannot be asked to do so much. The Boers they had to face are not what they were: hastily collected, without cohesion, the slightest fancy for discipline, and in face of artillery fire for the first time: four months of victorious fighting it is painful to say so -have converted a horde of stray units into a force of well-seasoned soldiers, confident in themselves, accustomed to stand up to artillery fire, to repulse the stoutest infantry attacks, and to look with something like derision at the British cavalry,
The road by Krantz Kloof was finally decided on: the general scheme to make a feint by Trichard's drift, on the west, to draw off the Boers from the true crossing at Potgeiter's drift, five miles to the east. Accordingly, some heavy guns were quietly moved to Zwart Kop and secreted there in order to command the main point of crossing; these were followed in the early morning of the 5th February by Wynne's brigade with five batteries Field Artillery marching on Trichard's drift, which they crossed, and advanced a short distance towards Brakfontein, a manœuvre which drew a large number of Boers from farther east. After an hour and a half's vigorous demonstration and sharp skirmishing, General Wynne, having accomplished his object, withdrew over the river in good order with slight loss. That the trick succeeded is learnt from Pretoria. The real attacking force bivouacked the previous night under Alice Kop on the right bank, and early on the 5th inst., under cover of the guns on Zwart Kop, the Engineers with conspicuous gallantry promptly threw pontoon-bridge across the river below Potgeiter's drift, when General Lyttelton's brigade, fol
lowed by General Hildyard's, crossed under a heavy fire and advanced to a line of koppjes which formed part of the Boer position farther north these were prepared by an overwhelming fire from 72 guns, and at 4 P.M. the koppje called Vaal Kranz was taken in a most brilliant fashion by the 1st Durham. The Boers were completely surprised, and fled precipitately, leaving many dead and several prisoners in our hands. On the 6th the Boers made a most determined attempt to retake Vaal Kranz, but were repulsed by the 1st Rifle Brigade and 2nd Scottish Rifles, who had pushed on for the next koppje. The troops were now in occupation of a long ridge, on which they bivouacked. The whole time the Boer guns on Spion Kop and Doorn Kloof were firing without intermission. The shells burst all around, but did little damage. One of ours struck an ammunition-waggon, which exploded and silenced the heavy Creuzot gun beside it. A second and third pontoon-bridge were constructed by the engineers, who worked steadily under fire. On the 6th inst. no further advance was made, the men intrenching themselves against the heavy guns which the enemy had mounted on the previous night in the gullies of Doorn Kloof and Spion Kop. Little damage was done, for Lyttelton's brigade held about half a mile of ridge all day under their fire with slight loss. At 4 P.M., after a vigorous shell-fire, the Boers made another attack on the position, advancing across a bare koppje
between it and Brakfontein. They gained the advance trench, but were repulsed in about half an hour.
But the level space which we occupied was cramped: there was no room for the guns, and little shelter against the crossfire which was continuous; a 100-pounder had been hauled into position on Doorn Kloof, which all attempts failed to silence; so General Buller was compelled reluctantly to abandon it. As he explained to Lord Roberts, "It was necessary after seizing Vaal Kranz to intrench it as the pivot of further operations; but I found, after trying for two days, that, owing to the nature of the ground this was not practicable: it was also exposed to fire from heavy guns, which fired from positions by which our artillery was dominated." The retirement commenced at 9 P.M. on the 7th inst., the pontoons being taken up after General Hildyard's brigade had crossed the river. In the morning the whole force retired beyond the range of the Boer guns, which continued shelling them.
In effect, though the attempt failed to relieve Ladysmith, it had slackened the investment and given the garrison a short breathing-time, it had kept the investing force moving, besides inflicting considerable losses on it, and, perhaps most important of all, it had riveted the Boer main army to a strategically unimportant locality, preventing it from detaching any considerable help to the western frontier, where it might expect help would soon be urgently required.
There is no doubt that the absence of maps of the country north of the Tugela had much to do with the selection of an advance by Spion Kop and by Krantz Kloof and their subsequent abandonment.
writers of detective stories, who first imagine a crime and then work back to the clue of the "crooked sixpence." There are a hundred positions, or more, in northern Natal inviting defence or conversely attack. We should certainly make maps beforehand of the point we expected to assail,
Complaints have been made already that the troops have not been supplied with maps, but for all strategical purposes no doubt the Boers, having that published by Stanford, at all along intended to make a scale of 14 miles to 1 inch, is for Maritzburg by way of ample. It is when manoeuvres Ladysmith, had mapped out happen in special localities that whatever country they foresaw a large-scale map is wanted,— might come into the fighting. a position, a hill like Spion Kop Had we known at the outbreak to be captured, the ground near of the war that Mr Rhodes a ford, buildings, or a village; would go to Kimberley and for these cases a mile of ground that Mr Kruger would go after may usefully be represented by him, we should have mapped out 4 inches on the map, or even by Magersfontein and the surround6. Maps on these scales show ing karoo on a gigantic scale. the contours of the ground, small streams, or at least the water-courses that hold them, the steepness of mountain-sides, the presence of precipitous cliffs, the shape and extent of buildings, and all features important in the attack or defence of that particular locality. But such maps to be useful must be reliable- that is, accurate - - and this can only be obtained by a careful survey. The Ordnance maps, at 1 inch to the mile, of the United Kingdom, are too small for tactical purposes, and have been constructed at a cost out of reach of most colonies, while the time and skilled labour expended would be equally great. Critics say it was not necessary to survey the whole country. Why not have mapped out on a large scale the neighbourhood of Ladysmith?" This is the argument born of wisdom-after
Lord Roberts, on landing, found the strategy of the campaign altogether neglected, and at once set to work to remedy matters: transport was organised with marvellous energy by his able and hard-working Chief of the Staff, Lord Kitchener;
mounted brigade of local Irregulars, under General Brabant, was formed; troops were landed, provided with transport, and despatched to unknown destinations, and the telegraph kept strictly under his own control, with the result that on the 6th February he left for Modder river, to find himself there in command of a cavalry division, four infantry divisions, and a large artillery force-probably, in all, 50,000
For the first time since the the-event, much affected by the commencement of the war a
British general found himself in command of a field army so constituted as to be able to take the offensive under conditions which the nature of the country and the mobility of the Boers demand. General French, whose tactical resources against a mounted enemy, thoroughly used to the features of the ground and the habits of the country had pointed him out as specially fitted for the post, was in command of the mounted corps, consisting of three brigades of regular cavalry, three or four batteries Horse Artillery, together with mounted infantry and Colonial forces, numbering probably in all 6000 men. This mounted corps was in camp near Honey Nest Kloof; two infantry divisions remained at Modder river camp, fronting Magersfontein, and the remaining two divisions were echeloned along the railway south of that camp.
No doubt Commandant Cronje, in command of the Boer forces round Kimberley, was aware of the concentration at Modder river; and as the success of the turning movement depended upon effecting a surprise, a false movement on the 3rd inst. was made on Koodoosberg, a drift across the Modder about eighteen miles west, by General Macdonald, with the Highland Brigade, the 9th Lancers, and a battery of artillery. After two days they arrived at the drift and intrenched themselves. Next day a large body of Boers approached they mounted a gun on the north end of the ridge and shelled our position, making a determined effort to drive
the Highlanders out without success: large reinforcements continued to arrive from Magersfontein while they were intrenching themselves, but on the arrival of a cavalry force from Modder river the whole dispersed with some loss. The object of the move being accomplished, General Macdonald returned to Modder river.
The turning movement which Lord Roberts had planned now began to develop. On the morning of the 11th February General French, with the Cavalry Division, left camp near Enslin for Ramdam, about twelve miles east, within the Free State border, and concentrated for the night, followed on the next morning by the 6th Division, under General Kelly Kenny. The cavalry pushed on to De Kiel's drift, on the Riet river, which was seized after slight resistance, the troops camping on the north bank. Here the 7th Division and baggage came up, and a long delay took place: the transport parked on the south bank, while the waggons were passed over with great difficulty owing to the steepness of the north bank, and it was not till 4 A.M. on the 13th that the greater part was across. This delay was unfortunate, as it might give Commandant Cronje sufficient time to get away most of his guns, which otherwise must have fallen into our hands.
The 6th Division crossed the Riet river by Waterfal drift on the 14th, and continued on to the Modder at Klip drift. the same morning the cavalry division pushed on to Wegdraas,