Page images
PDF
EPUB

а

as

shots, and fired them at intervals One more ingenious than the rest through the night, with the desired fixed his in the shape of the letter effect, for next morning no fresh V, each side parallel to the hill that trace was to be seen. Thus one of commanded it, and from the secure the most formidable features of the position of the apex enjoyed his siege ended. We heard afterwards tub and laughed at bullets. These that the work was constructed for a traverses got well riddled to show couple of guns provided by the Free how many lives they saved, the State, which, however, never came. bullets playing strange freaks with

Very frequently we saw the the owner's clothes inside. They rebels with waggon cutting would go through half-a-dozen ardown the telegraph-poles, a long ticles, making as many holes in way of; but as soon we went each as there were folds. One I after them, they left, and got away remember went through an Ulster before we could get up. These poles coat, some towels, a dress-suit

, some stood up to within 1200 yards underclothing, and a blanket-lodgnorth of the town, counting from ing in the last, which was too much our most advanced post; across the for it. river they disappeared inuch nearer,

There was

an opening in the as we could not get about there so wall dividing the fort just large easily. The mention of traverses enough to creep through by stoopreminds me of another incident. ing, and one day the fellows oppoOutside the fort I left the tents site must have discovered it, for all standing through the siege to show at once four bullets came through the Boers that we cared so little for it in as many minutes. Inside was their fire. The men

were not in our sleeping-shed and dining-room, them, but this the Boers were not a place about ten expected to know, although at first usually full; fortunately no I had great trouble to keep the men was hit, but we at once put up a from using them; and it was not traverse and saved ourselves from till two had been severely wounded fresh visitors. All the shots were when sitting under canvas that the fired at the forts; the town was order was obeyed.

saved from them by these, which With the officers it was different, kept the Boers at a respectful distheir tents were a little further off, tance. This was what I wanted, partly protected by the fort; and as there were women there and they were used to dress in of a morn- little children; and, putting sening. But even for that short time timent aside, a wounded woman in them we were not safe; the ene- would have tried us sadly. my knew when we went into them, One bullet is recorded to have and fired at them all the time, so hit the town, and became historical that in a short while there was from its eccentric course.

It came not one but what showed several one night. The parson, who was bullet-holes. I had a narrow escape strolling round, heard it but did myself ; a bullet cutting through the not tumble down, for two reasons : tent at my back, striking the carpet it did not hit him; and if he had on which my feet rested, and flying fallen, men, thinking him wounded, up to lodge underneath the table might have rushed out to pick on which my glass stood—I was him up, thus exposing more to fresh shaving at the time.

bullets. It then went into a man's To lessen this danger, most of trousers-pocket

, ran round outside us made traverses of boxes inside. him out at the other; hit a volun

feet square,

one

teer on the boot, not vitally; struck ing to descend he got a warning the roof of the Court-house, nearly bullet, and ran back faster than killing a sergeant on the door-step, he came. Thinking it a pity the and then went on another four stuff they came down for should hundred yards, where it hopped be wasted (it grew in neutral ground about on the roof of the hotel, and of no use to either side), I told the finally disappeared. But that was men to let the Boers know they an exception to most of our bul- might come down and pick it. On lets, which were not all so comical. this a man of voice, elected by his

On the 8th January the fire from comrades, put his handkerchief on Stander's Kop got troublesome, and his ramrod, walked out half-way, a man having been shot from there, and shouted in a voice strongly we threw up in the night our first provincial, which no Boer could rifle-pit against that position,-a possibly have understood, “Come pit which grew bit by bit until it down, Johnnie, and pick yer scoff; became our most formidable out- we won't shoot ye!” which dework, garrisoned night and day with livered, he returned quite pleased fifteen men, well provided with food with the success of his mission. and ammunition. It could only The result was that the Dutch, possibly be relieved during the dark, thinking it at least an offer of suron account of the fire it was always render, sent off for their general, exposed to. Soon after its construc- who came in post-haste, under a tion a second pit was made, flank- bigger flag than ours, to receive ing it on the left, and held as was the conditions; and very much disthe first; and to these two works gusted he was to find how little out on the open veldt was, I think, there was in the invitation. to be attributed our ability to hold A few days later we set up a the place as we did. This fact was heliograph, made out of some lookwell recognised by the men in them, ing-glasses purchased in the town, and very proud of them they were and directed the flash on Paade Kop, They made a Union-jack, and hoist- a hill thirty miles on the road to ed it under a volley of cheers and Newcastle, hoping that it would bullets. On these dropping near, catch the eye of the expected column they would run out and pretend to under Sir George Colley ; the men pick them up, shouting“ Play up!” being instructed to flash out as İndeed I had to check their fond soon as it was returned, “ Standerness for the game — it was too ton all well—shall I come out to dangerous. Often the right work meet you ?” Very hopeful were was knee-deep in water, drainage we in these early days, little dreambeing hopeless; yet the men lived ing that it would be just two on and never grumbled. Towards months before we heard a word in the end of the siege a bit of the reply, and then only a vague sag. parapet fell in owing to the inces- gestion of disasters from the officer sant rain, and from it (it was no who relieved us with supplies, after bigger than a tea-tray) they picked the first armistice. The Dutch, out 300 bullets. So much for the cunning people, used to light fires fire it had stood.

in a circle when they saw the flash, During the armistice the Boers and often obscured it; but we beat wanted to come down the hill op- them in the end, and their fires posite to a garden, the same we went out, while our flash never had occupied on our first sortie ; ceased. but at the first sign of a man try- The days now began to pass 80 like one another that the entries However, as we know, the attack in my diary could be summed up in came to nothing, and the spy resuch remarks as—“ Eighteen wag- ported all as it should be, no work gons passing to east. Movement on being visible; so we lay down Free State road. Party of fifty men again to sleep in our boots, which advanced on koppie, but retired on was comfortable enough after a hard finding us prepared. Brisk firing day's work, though it sounds a little all day, two men wounded." the reverse to those used to feather

On January 17th, I find the beds and sheets. This sleeping in first mention of reduced rations- our clothes and boots became quite biscuit twice a-week, and one pound second nature: some of us had of wood per man; not anything been at it since we landed for the serious, but warning us of what Zulu war. Hardly one had slept might come.

between sheets in South Africa ; On the same day a group of horse- and it was amusing to watch the men rode up to the top of Stander's various ways we had of turning in Kop,-one in front evidently a on our stretchers. One would arperson of authority, and for some range his blankets like a bag, and hours appeared engaged in devis- gradually wriggle into it, till only ing an attack. This, as it happened, his nose appeared outside; another, came to nothing; but we heard after- Spartan-like in his disregard of wards that the man in front was comfort, lay with his jack-boots, Jonbert, and that the attack then de- inside which were his feet, sticking vised included the placing of a gun out at one end, while his head, in in position somewhere on the hill. a red night-cap, appeared at the The attack was to be made by nearly other. When it rained, our roof 3000 men, a force being sent from was none too clever at keeping it Heidelberg to strengthen the one out; the drops had an irritating already investing us; but matters way of getting through every hole just then looked so threatening that and cranny, dividing into spray, the men were ordered to go on to and sprinkling us as if from the the “Nek" instead, and we were rose of a watering-pot. On these let off. We were quite ready for occasions waterproof sheets were in them, and perhaps the Dutch would requisition, and when pulled over have got as warm a reception as the sleepers below, gave them a they cared for.

striking resemblance to as many I find my diary says, jotted down corpses laid out for burial. at the minute :

We held the koppie just above

the town with a mixed force of our "Made arrangements for a counter

own men and volunteers. attack against theirs; thirty men from quite the key of the position, and town to hold koppie S.-W. 58th reinforced to forty-five men, holding rifle

could be reinforced very shortly in pit in force, with groups of sentries case of an attack. To lose it was in smaller pits,-rest in support. My- to lose the town. self with fifty men ready to move One afternoon a good deal of against the Kop for a front attack, both firing was heard about this critical flanks being well assured. Mounted little hill: stray shots first, then infantry saddled up in readiness to go volleys from the koppie, answered out. Mounted spy at midnight rode to the Kop to ascertain if any work by more distant ones from the was in course of construction at the Dutch, till the firing became genplace chosen by the rebels, in which eral. I could see our men in the case I shall attack and destroy it.” shelters holding it, and blazing

It was

away, so we put out a picket in parade next day he was dismissed readiness to help them; but by the the corps, his arms taken from sound of the answering reports it him, and a speech delivered not was · plain the attack was not very altogether flattering to his courage pronounced. Judge of my disgust as an Englishman. On the same when I saw them running back by occasion two others of the corps twos and threes, making for the received my thanks for their betown! The Boers must have made haviour during the scare— thanks a feint with a small body to con- they never ceased to deserve till ceal the real attack by the main the end of the siege. About the force, which must be showing all of soldiers who misbehaved at the a sudden from another point. It same time, and their fate, I need looked like it, and every moment not speak. I expected to see the bill crowned The tendency of the civilians, with Boers; and the town, alive the women especially, to run out with silly people, women and chil- of their houses and look on when dren, whites and blacks, seemed to any firing was heard, just as if think so too, and gaped in anticipa- securing the best seats in a theatre, tion of so novel a raree-show-all was a more serious matter, and at the mercy of the bullets. But called for stringent measures. It the officer in charge of the town would be terrible to have a woman saw his men retreating, and at hit before the men; and every inch once got out a reinforcement, tak- of hospital space was wanted. So the ing it up the hill at the “double,” Landdrost was put in charge of the and reaching it before the Dutch, women and natives, with instrucwho, suspecting a trap as usual, were tions to see them all under cover by no means too anxious to be there at the first sign of an attack; and till quite certain we had left it. They the arrangement worked admirably, occupied the koppie 1000 yards in though not without remonstrance front, and made fair shooting from from the fair creatures who were the cover of the stones; but after a thus deprived of their woman's little steady practice on our side, right-the exercise of curiosity. they thought better of it and stole The Boers used to jump up on away. We counted 150 of them rocks behind which they fired, and in one koppie, and no doubt had shout, and wave, making insulting they found our hill not held they gestures to the men, which put us would have rushed in and given us about a bit, as we had to prevent some trouble, as it must have been our people from answering back : retaken-- and retaking koppies is they thought they were bound to do nasty work.

so as soldiers. We did not know it The mixture of soldiers and then, but the tidings of each defeat volunteers did not work well, as this of the column was passed on to us affair showed; and from that time with these signs of delight and each did their duty separately, the intimidation. One man was parmen holding their positions and ticularly good at this game, his the volunteers others; and both speech being so full of barrackbehaved excellently. With whom slang that we had little doubt but the scare started was not easy to that he was a deserter from our determine. Certainly a volunteer side. Many such were known to had made himself conspicuous in be fighting against us. That dehis haste to reach the town, and serters are not all of such a class, was made an example of. At a the following incident will show :

A man deserted from the troops Dickens, I scored a victory through at Standerton some time before, and having saved myself from suffering got clear away, setting up in busi- a defeat. ness in a town in the Free State, The morning of this doubtful where he was doing very well, till, victory I was lying asleep on my hearing that war was imminent be- stretcher (we ali turned out about tween his countrymen and the Boers, three o'clock until full daylight, he left his business, came back to when those who had been pottering Standerton, and gave himself up. about through the night took a nap: He was put in prison until the case I was indulging in this), when I was was reported, when I released him, awoke by a somewhat truculent spepending an application to the Gen- cimen of my mounted volunteers, eral for a free pardon. This I had evidently with a load of importance the pleasure of handing to him soon on his mind to deliver. after the siege, the poor fellow's

He was

a grizzly man, strung lips trembling so with pleasure and round with

round with cartridges, clutching anxiety that he had not the power his carbine, and much out of breath. to thank me.

The tip of his snub nose was red; “There's something up, they are and he

and he had the reputation of so quiet;" or " There's a great deal a murder, more or less, on his of movement round us, something shoulders. A short time previous must be brewing," were common he had brought me a horse to sell ; sentences with all of us; but on Jan. I was mounting the troop. It was uary 28th I find entered, “Stander's an old favourite, bad carried him Kop occupied by parties all along in the Sekukuni war, and was cheap watching us; evidently some plan at twenty-five pounds. In the end is being hatched by the rebels." I offered him twenty, when he And then extra precautions

shook his head and went away in usual.

disgust, to return with the horse, Next morning came confirmation and accept my offer, provided that · that we were not far wrong. Curi- he might keep him as his own ously enough, on that day I had mount. To this I again objected, reconnoitred one of their laagers when I got the animal at my own which was up the river. We could terms. I learnt subsequently the count eight waggons in it; the horse had been intrusted to him by ground about was favourable, and one of the townspeople to sell for I resolved to attack it in the early twenty pounds, anything above that morning. But the activity just sum which he could get being his mentioned induced me to put it off own. Hence the Sekukuni story for a day. And it was a piece of and its additions. luck that I did, for that morning This was the man who now came my scouts brought in word that this in upon me and began his tale. laager was on the move-forty-nine He had been out on vedette at waggons, with 200 men,-so well daybreak, and had seen a native in do the laagers conceal their posi- the distance coming towards him, tions, and the force holding them. “when," he added with a heroic air, I should have gone with eighty men “I made for him at once, sir, and to attack a position I expected was captured him, and brought him in. held by sixty at the outside, and He says he wants to see you, and no should have met my match, per- one else.". haps a bit more. So, on the prin- A black youth with a pleasant ciple enunciated by a character 'in face, shivering with cold and wet,

as

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »