« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
THE WAR OPERATIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA.—III.
BY A MILITARY CONTRIBUTOR.
THE pause which occurred immediate objective would be after the action at Colenso Bloemfontein. It is not neces. gives an opportunity to review sary here to discuss the reasons the causes which led to it. for the selection, or to inThe initial mistake was in not quire into alternative strategic having a force in Natal strong schemes. In the event of Lord enough to stand up against the Roberts moving on BloemfonBoers when they crossed the tein, how will he be situate ? border. The reason why that If it is assumed that he has mistake was made must be sufficient troops on arrival, he asked of politicians : it is not must also be assured that he a question which enters here. has sufficient transport. His In consequence of this initial army, before everything, must mistake, when General Buller possess mobility,-it must not landed at Cape Town he found be tied to a railway. a force of nearly 10,000 men
The Boer tactics will oppose locked up in an out-of-the-way his march in well-selected posicorner of the area in which he tions which, if he has not the
to conduct operations. power to avoid them, will have Thus he was from the start to be pushed aside at an excesforced to lay aside strategic sive cost. To avoid them he measures in favour of tactics, must depend upon_transport,
case of the cart before the probably mules. These have horse. Strategy is the art of been already collected in large moving a force in such a direc- numbers in the Colony; but he tion as will compel the move- will want carts, harness, and ments of a hostile force in drivers. The Army Service
manner favourable to the Corps has done good work in design of the former: tactics this direction ; but its numbers come in when the strategic are limited, and some time must scheme is interfered with, or elapse before such requisites are when the objective is reached. provided. Let us assume that Strategy is studied on the sufficient transport has been map: to carry it out on the organised. ground requires troops and Then as to his line of adtransport,-troops to enable it
The enormous length to carry itself unchecked to the of these lines is the difficulty objective; transport to carry of the campaign. Railroads in the troops to that point, and to rear of the column
be supply them on the road. counted upon to largely supMost critics at home and plement mule-transport.
The abroad have pronounced that most tempting are those that in the present campaign the cross South Cape Colony from
Port Elizabeth and East Lon- fore, depend upon supply and don — roughly 300 miles in transport. In the present length — to the Orange Free campaign the first is assured State, which they touch at as long as we hold command points about 100 miles south of the sea; it is to the latter of Bloemfontein. A second line that every energy must be from Cape Town runs to De directed. Transport may be Aar Junction, 600 miles in railways, mule- or ox-waggons. length, from whence it con- We already know by experience tinues for about 120 miles to that railways cannot be relied the points on the Free State upon except when they are in border already gained by the rear of the army in the field. two first: it would thus be If we advance by rail we shall auxiliary to them. But, tempt- always be anticipated by the ing as 300 miles appear against Boers at the railhead; we shall 700, there are disadvantages in have to adopt their tactics and the choice. Both East London fight them in a chosen position, and Algoa Bay are open road- as the Natal column and that steads, exposed to the prevail- under Lord Methuen have done. ing wind at this time of the If we hold the railhead in force, year from the south-east. The we must leave behind sufficient landing at them, always difficult, troops to protect the line in rear. is impossible in bad weather; Mule transport is suited for both lines struggle through a light flying columns by which country probably hostile, and the objective in front is aimed both cross
a mountain - range at, or for turning movements. where a stubborn resistance Ox-waggons move at infantry may be expected.
pace, and would accompany the It is not meant here to dis- column intended to hold stratcuss the advantages or the egic points or to fling its weight reverse of either: they are into a decisive battle. Mulealluded to merely to show the waggons march in sections of little reliance that can be placed ten or twelve, each under a on railways, and how much commissioned officer of would rest on other means of the Army Service Corps; they transport.
would seldom move the The tactical problems which same road, to avoid occupying will occur as strategy develops too much road-space; for conwill be better examined as they venience of feeding, forage display themselves.
might be carried on the wagTo follow on the probable gons.
Those drawn by oxen strategic course of the cam- must depend on the grass by the paign, it is enough to explain wayside, which would soon be that when strategy has gained eaten up if all moved in rear a convenient point for its pur- of one another.
A waggon pose, a secondary base will be requires ten mules or twenty established from which to start at the very least, and
carries 2 or 4 tons respectively This fresh start will, as be- at the outside. The mules
travel about five miles, the There are railways; you can oxen two and a half miles an look them up in the Drill Book, hour in a day of ten hours,— which tells
many men roughly, fifty and twenty-five with valises their backs miles a - day. Mules require you can stow in a third-class better feeding, and while feeding carriage, how to entrain them, can be tethered near the wag- to lock the carriage-doors at gons; oxen feed anywhere, but the stations: there are pages stray long distances after food in books of red binding telling and water, and so always re- you how to do it-yes, except
— quire mounted guards : they in Africa ! return at night, each span to It's going to be a big affair : its own waggon ; experienced we know how to do it; send an drivers are plentiful in the Army Corps, that's the thing country. The waggons form -yes, except in Africa. We an excellent laager if attacked, shall want cavalry; our Husand men can sleep underneath sars and Lancers are the finest them if tents are not carried. mounted men in the world :
Mules are stubborn, often the very thing—yes, except in difficult to manage, and given Africa. But, says the Admirto stampede; oxen won't stam- alty, there are no ships to be pede, and do their work me- got fit for the transport chanically if under native driv- cavalry or artillery; we have ers. An ox-waggon carrying taken all that can be hired, 4 tons occupies fifty yards road and the others will only carry space; a mule-waggon carrying infantry. Africa is a horse2 tons occupies twenty-five producing country, where thouyards, so the length of a column sands of hardy little horses can is the same.
Both require two be bought at about £13 a-head; men to drive.
Nothing will they know the country, can force an ox to vary his natural thrive on the forage there, and pace, and his habits must not can be ridden away as soon as be interfered with. If you are
the men to ride them jump in a hurry and it is near the ashore. Sending horses to Africa time to outspan, you must is sending coals to Newcastle. do as he wishes : he must be They are not up to the standhumoured or he will give in, ard, no! The time will come so he is not fitted for move- when we shall enlist cavalry ment in the neighbourhood of for cavalry work all over the an enemy; but he stands alone world, and not for parade ; as the transport animal of officers and men who can ride South Africa.
anything and over anything, South Africa has been called as they can now, mounted for the grave of reputations, and use and not for display, and why? because men have not not handicapped, the first by studied the customs of the the regulation £500 8 - year country. The Horse Guards beyond their pay, the men by started off its generals with well-shaped legs to show off
light heart. Transport ? their well-cut trousers.
Hardly had the Army Corps and labour which have moved landed when the ponderous guns of position are nearly creature was broken up: gen- incredible; and
the courage erals saw divisions shouting for with which they have held their their brigades, gunners calling ground is worthy of brave men. to the blue - jackets for guns, In a broad sense their tactics and units nowhere at all. It have been to utilise their superiwas all very wrong, for units ority in numbers by strictly are excellent things-except in containing large forces, and Africa. Then the troops were their knowledge of the ground entrained, only to detrain in by occupying defensive positions front of the Boers, who had got across our line of advance, comthere before them and locked pelling a frontal attack, their them up for a month or two, own retreat being assured. till South Africa sent her ox- They have traded on our want waggons to get them out. of mobility, and by skilful use
Those fine English horses left of their own have enabled their England in mid-winter and had tactics to win. to fight at the Cape in mid- This superior agility, and summer; no wonder they could inexperience of the country, not catch the Boers, and had has led the latter to disreto be replaced by colonial lads gard ordinary rules; but this on ponies not up to the stand- is no excuse for the disgraceard—yes, except for Africa. ful mistakes which have been
So the War Office have spent made. For these they can some millions and
many soldiers' hardly be blamed: there are lives to learn what common- details which are relegated to sense would have told it for the staff, and the burden of nothing that the dwellers in a blame must rest with them. country must know something Insufficient scouting is at the about it, and can produce root,—no doubt extremely diffiarticles better fitted for use in cult, owing to our weakness in it than those which “come from cavalry in a land where every Sheffield.”
Boer is a mounted scout, trained In view of the tactics which from boyhood to learn scouting our generals have employed, we a serious business, using have to admit they have been smokeless powder, riding a out - maneuvred by the Boers pony at home on karoo, veldt, everywhere except at Elands- or koppje. The Boers, again, laagte. But defensive tactics have recognised the revolution must fail unless leavened by the modern firearms have caused offensive,-a maxim which as- in warfare, while we have been sures us that success, which now wedded to obsolete methods ; appears to tremble in the bal- they have held positions in ance, will not be with the Boers. such a way that our artillery With this exception their tactics has been unable to prepare have been admirable: they have the way for the assault; in shown themselves indomitable their trenches they have conwith spade and rifle; the skill structed the most perfect head
cover, and the advanced trench is innate in every one in our of considerable depth, placed Islands. Most of have some distance in front, has dined at a regimental mess, proved a novel and disastrous where, at the table, we have obstacle. It is doubtful whether been welcomed by the officers our boasted lyddite shells have hospitably and cordially ; where caused the losses which the band has played their best claim, or that we have ever in honour of the guest their destroyed a gun of position by officers have produced; where the fire of our own, so admir- the have gathered in ably are they protected.
groups outside to listen to their A terrible indictment against band, and we feel we are in our sagacity lies in the number a home circle-every one here of men captured-at Nichol- is bound together by home ties. son's Nek more than 800. An The regiment sails for South officer present stated that when Africa and hurries up to where the ammunition and guns were the fighting is; by the side of lost it was decided to remain : the colonel rides an officer to if they retired it would inter- “assist” him, and the ranks fere with Sir George White's say to one another, “Who's general scheme. But a school- he?
But a school- he? I don't know him. Well; boy will recognise that without I shall stick to old Blazes, guns and ammunition soldiers though he did give me ninetycease to be such, and their pres- six hours last week.” What ence anywhere is a hindrance.
are our soldiers out there fightThere has been a tendency of ing for? For British supremlate
years to exalt the staff at acy? for the overthrow of a the expense of the regimental corrupt Government? Not at officer. Cases are noticed where all; the politicians will settle a staff officer has been sent to that. Every soldier is fighting “ assist ” a commanding officer for his home: the Englishman at the head of his regiment. for the farm by the sunny Seasoned commanding officers Devonshire lanes, the Highdisregard this “assistance," but lander for that cottage where the younger officers which the the heather spreads a carpet present system produces are apt for the north wind, and the to look upon it as “by order.” Connaught lad for the cabin There was a staff officer present by the wayside in far - off
at the Nicholson's Nek disaster Galway. The presence of a
. to “advise" Colonel Carleton, stranger in that company is commanding his own and the like a pebble in a puddle, and Gloucester regiment, which makes a ripple. made up the column,-a step At Stormberg we lost 600 calculated to interfere with men because they took a wrong the regimental system to turning: was no staff officer which
army its told off to indicate the right and roll of glory of the past. efface the wrong road? Boer It has grown spontaneously tactics, immediately before an out of that love of home which attack, lend themselves to in