The Bechuanaland Protectorate and The Boer War, 1899-1902

Memoirs by J. Ellenberger
J. Ellenberger
When it became clear that war between the Boer Republics and Great Britain was inevitable, the Chiefs of the Bechuanaland Protectorate were warned, on instructions from Sir Alfred Milner (later Lord Milner), that if hostilities did break out the conflict would be one between white races only, one in which they must take no part, but that should the enemy invade their Re- serves, it would be their duty, as loyal subjects of Queen Victoria, to assist in repelling the attack.

Sir Alfred Milner was, at the time, Her Majesty's High Commissioner for South Africa, and the Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Pro- tectorate was Colonel Hamilton Goold-Adams, later Sir Hamilton Goold- Adams, Governor of Queensland.

The Territory was for administrative purposes divided into two districts, each with an Assistant Commissioner responsible to the Resident Commis- sioner. Their boundaries had been fixed by Proclamation and they were known as the Northern District and Southern District respectively. The Assistant Commissioner for the Northern District was Mr. John Anchitel Ashburnham, who had previously held the Office of Secretary to the Administration of the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland (annexed to the Cape Colony on November 15th, 1895). The Assistant Commissioner for the Southern District was Mr. William Henry Surmon, who had previously served in Basutoland and had a sound knowledge of native affairs. I was, at the time, serving under him as Assistant Resident Magistrate. We were stationed at Gaberone's and Ashburn- ham at Palapye, and the headquarters of the Administration were in Mafeking. The European police force of the Territory was No. 1 Division of the British South Africa Police, under the command of Colonel J. A. H. Walford who was stationed at Mafeking. The Native Police of the Territory was commanded by Captain John Thorne Griffith, stationed at Gaberone's, who was respons- ible to Colonel Walford. There were police outposts at all principal centres.

On October 9th, 1899, the Boers sent their ultimatum. On October 12th they cut the railway line south of Mafeking - at Kraaipan - and proceeded to invest Mafeking: the Territory was therefore cut off from the south.

Colonel Goold-Adams had elected to remain in Mafeking with his staff, lest it be said that he had "shown the white feather", but he had given (as he put it) last minute instructions to Mr. Surmon to carry on the administration of the Territory on his behalf should communications between Mafeking and the north be interrupted. It was too late now to obtain the High Commissioner's approval of this arrangement and, although Ashburnham took exception to it, the administration proceeded smoothly.

Colonel Walford was also besieged in Mafeking, with part of the Euro- pean police: they manned the Fort at Cannon Kopje and it was here that Cap- tain the Hon. Henry D. Marsham was killed in action when the Boers made a determined but unsuccessful attack on the fort on October 31st, 1899.

Almost at the same time as Mafeking was invested, a Boer force appeared near the junction of the Taung and Notwane rivers and proceeded to build a stone wall, or fort, on the top of the hill Sepitsi (whence the boundary between the Protectorate and Transvaal runs to Derdepoort on the Marico river) and some of the burghers, crossing into the Protectorate, cut the railway line near the hill Mohahabe (opposite Sepitsi). We were still at Gaberone's at this time and the Native Police (men recruited in Basutoland) declared that if only we would allow them to storm the Boer fort, not with their Martini-Henry rifles but with knobkerries, they would make short work of its occupants; this of course could not be allowed.

Boer patrols then began to feel their way towards Gaberone's and, more than once, we saw the tracks of their horses at the Molapo-wa-basadi rivulet, about four and a half miles from Gaberone's, but did not come across them.

Meanwhile an armoured train with Southern Rhodesia Volunteers under the command of Captain H. Llewellyn, of the British South Africa Police at Bulawayo, was daily patrolling the line as far south as the Metsimaswaana Bridge (nine miles from Gaberone's Camp) and our scouts were also active. Two of them, Chere and another whose name escapes me, both belonging to our Native Police, were sent out on patrol one morning - it must have been on October 22nd. They made for the hill Khale and, climbing a short distance, turned to scan the country below them and caught sight of a number of horse- men travelling in the direction of Gaberone's. Whether they were friends or foes they could not tell - it might be the Chief from Ramoutsa and some of his head- men going to see the Assistant Commissioner. They decided to ride after them and make sure. The bush was thick and they could not see far ahead, and thus it was that they suddenly came upon their quarry - a party of Boers resting in such scanty shade as the Protectorate bush can afford. Much outnumbered, our two men sought safety in flight, with the Boers in hot pursuit. Only one returned to camp that evening: Trooper Chere was "missing". A riderless horse turned up at the Police well the following day - it was the horse Chere had been riding and the blood on its saddle and flanks told a sad story which was subsequently con- firmed by natives who said that after killing him the Boers had robbed him of his boots and placed his body across the railway line. This little "Queen's pawn" was our first casualty. With him disappeared the field glasses which the Assis- tant Commissioner had lent him the day he set out to meet his death.

The Gaberone's of 1899 looked very different from the Gaberone's of today*. The camp was surrounded on more than one side by very thick bush, much of which has since been cleared. Its only water supply was from a Police well on the fringe of dense bush on the river-flat and it had to be carted in a tank on wheels, drawn by oxen. The fort had been sand-bagged afresh and we all mustered in it at night. No one was allowed to leave it in the morning until the scouts reported "all clear". The horses were then led out of the deep trench which surrounded the fort and we went back to our respective duties. One day, however, at about 10 a.m., the alarm was sounded and we rushed back to the fort: a late arrival was Samuel Mokgosi, Cape-cart driver, dressed in his Sunday suit! He caused some merriment when he explained that if he had on that day to appear before the Almighty he must at least be well dressed. Nothing happened, however; the big cloud of dust seen in the direction of Matsetse's lands, near the Transvaal border, having been caused not by a Commando but by waggons from the lands.

It was obvious that, had we been attacked at Gaberone's our position would have been utterly hopeless after a couple of days without water. Further down the line the Boers on Sepitsi started shelling the armoured train as soon as they caught sight of it. We were therefore not surprised when the Police were ordered by their Headquarters in Bulawayo to retire northwards. The Assistant Commissioner and I had no option but to do likewise. I just had time to thrust the Civil and Criminal Record Books of the District into the little Milner safe, which is still doing duty at Gaberone's and which then contained the sum of four shillings and sixpence; it was placed on a train waiting at Gaberone's Station and reached Bulawayo in due course. The Station Master's safe, which was heavier, remained where it was and when the Boers subsequently blew it open all they found in it was a piece of paper with the words: "Sold again!"

If I remember correctly, it was on October 24th that we evacuated Gaberone's. It was about 2 p.m. when we rode out of the Camp, making for the village of Morwa, on the Metsimotlhaba river and in the Bakgatla Reserve. Two men had been left behind with instructions to set fire to the Police stores half an hour after our departure and then to catch up with us, which they did in due course. We saw the smoke going up in the air. The Boers also saw it and entered the camp very shortly afterwards as we subsequently learnt from our friends the Natives. I am not clear now as to whether it was at Morwa's or at Mochudi Station that we boarded, a train which took us to Mahalapye, where we occupied the hillock on which is the Police Camp - well within the Bamangwato Reserve.

I should state here that the Assistant Commissioner for the Southern District had kept in touch, as much as possible, with the Chiefs, and that the Bamalete at Ramoutsa and the Batlokwa at Gaberone's very often gave us valuable information. Linchwe, Chief of the Bakgatla, was silent; his Reserve had not yet been invaded and with a large number of his people in the Rusten- burg District of the Transvaal he had much to think about, but we had no doubt concerning his loyalty to the British throne.

Our stay at Mahalapye was of short duration, for we soon occupied Mochudi railway station. What happened was that the armoured train, which had been patrolling southwards from Mahalapye daily, came upon three natives riding northwards, one of whom signalled to us to stop; he was a powerfully built man, whom the Assistant Commissioner and I at once recognised as being Linchwe's brother, Segale, Commander-in-Chief of the Bakgatla regiments. He told us that the Chief had information that the Boers were going to loot Mo- chudi railway station on that day and that, if we were quick, we might catch them in the act. We took him on board, at his request, and sped southwards. Coal was scarce and we used wood for the engine; its smoke was not as dark as smoke from coal and the wind was in our favour. There was one armoured truck in front with a Maxim gun pointing straight ahead, and one armoured truck at the back with a seven-pounder ready for action, the engine and a caboose in the centre. A speaking tube connected the O.C. (Captain Llewellyn, in the front truck) with the engine driver, and the whole train was camouflaged with green bushes securely fastened to it. As we emerged from the thick bush near the Kalakane rivulet we saw a party of Boers and smoke at the culvert spanning that rivulet - they had set fire to it. Permanent-Way Inspector McEntee, who was standing next to the Maxim Gun, lost all respect for these Burghers and shouted: "There they are, the Bastards!" Quick as lightning, that fine fellow Llewellyn was at the Maxim and a burst of fire from it sent the Boers running to their horses; within a few seconds they had disappeared into the bush. Segale, who had jumped off at first sight of the Boers and had opened fire on his own account, called out to me: "Come with me, quick, I think I bowled one of them over!" I jumped out, gun in hand, and we both ran to the spot he indicated, but we picked up only Mauser cartridges there. The indications on the ground were that the Boer's horse had taken to the left of a tree and its rider to the right of it - he had picked himself up and disappeared into the bush. Returning to the culvert we helped to put the fire out, partly with water from the engine and partly with sand. Almost under the culvert we found dynamite and fuse, and a little further on I collected a sjambok and a wooden water-bottle of the type then issued to the Native Police; on it was written "Commandant Rickert" and it had evidently been rescued from the Police stores set alight when we evacuated Gaberone's. The big baulks of the culvert were still strong enough to bear the weight of the armoured train and we hastened to Mochudi Station. All was still in order there and we waited in vain - our own men indulging in a little bit of looting in the meantime. The party surprised at the culvert was evidently that which was to have looted the station and adjoining general dealer's store after securing itself from attack from the north.

It was shortly after this event that we occupied Mochudi station. Here railway coaches were placed at our disposal for sleeping and other purposes. Our strength was growing - Southern Rhodesia Volunteers and British South Africa Police, able-bodied civilians of the Protectorate joining the Volunteers - and it was here that in November, 1899, an attack on the Boer laager at Derdepoort was planned. Segale was all out for it and gave Colonel Holdsworth all infor- mation as to the position of the laager. The final arrangement made was that our men would cross the Marico river and attack the laager, which was in a neck between two hillocks overlooking the river, and that the Bakgatla regiments should be in readiness on the Protectorate side of the Marico to repel any pur- suit by the Boers should we be driven back into the Protectorate. The attempted raid on Mochudi station, the damage to the culvert at Kalakane and the seizure by Commandant Rickert of a sheep owned by a Mokgatla, coupled with our re- turn from the north, had decided Linchwe to assist in terms of the above arrangement. He pointed out, however, that his men were short of ammunition and he asked for some; it was issued to them at Morwa's village and I think it was on November 24th that our little column - 120 strong if I remember correctly - rode out of Mochudi station, Colonel Holdsworth in command, brave Llewellyn next :o him and I following immediately behind them, having been detailed as English-Sechuana interpreter. The Assistant Commissioner, a fearless man, re- mained at Mochudi station for administrative reasons. Chief Linchwe kept to his village at Mochudi, attending to the general affairs of the tribe and to the final arrangements for the regiments which had to go forward under Segale.

Our column halted somewhere between Mochudi and Siquane (opposite Derdepoort) at a place where there was water for men and beasts. A tin of road- rations was divided between four of us - a couple of mouthfuls to each - and this was to be my last meal before we got back to the railway line, for the "sea- biscuits" issued to us were so hard that when I pulled them out of my wallet at a later stage my teeth could make no impression on them! And it was at this halt, just before the order to mount was given, that the Assistant Commissioner's ruling on the Bakgatla regiments remaining on the Protectorate side of the Border was set aside by Colonel Holdsworth. He feared that our men's heavy ammunition boots would betray us when climbing up to the laager and he de- cided that the bare-footed natives should do the climbing, Segale guiding us to a place from which we could see the laager and open fire on it - the Maxim gun would give the signal for the combined attack. Segale grinned; here was a chance at last to hit back at those who, years ago, had thrashed his father Kgamanyane, Chief of the Bakgatla; and he perhaps had visions of wealth to come. He disappeared to give orders accordingly to the leaders of the regiments concerned. We mounted and rode throughout the night, at that slow military pace killing to men and beasts of burden alike Our native allies were on foot, but regiment after regiment passed us before dawn came. And then . . . the Maxim fired!

What actually happened is duly recorded in a foolscap book which I had at Mochudi railway station*. Suffice it to say here that we did not take the laager, did not even cross the Marico river into the Transvaal, did not suffer a single casualty, and were back at Mochudi station on the same day.

Three or four days passed without word from Linchwe and when he did come to Mochudi station it was to tell Colonel Holdsworth that the Bakgatla had lost seven or eight men killed in action at the Derdepoort laager; that the wounded numbered 25; that it seemed to him that he (Holdsworth) had only gone there to see how natives could fight, whereas, according to native custom, if two Chiefs agreed to attack together either they conquered together or fell to- gether; that the Boers had set fire to his villages along the Marico-Siquane, Maalolwane and Mathubudukwane; that if he had not sought an interview with him sooner it was because he had had to evacuate the inhabitants of those villages and to withdraw all Bakgatla cattle from the neighbourhood of the Marico river and where could he now water these cattle ? The railway bore-hole at Artesia was indicated to him, but there were so many cattle to be watered that the pumper feared there would eventually not be enough water left for rail- way purposes, and Linchwe made other arrangements.

There was no holding back the Bakgatla now, it was a case of "blood for blood". The Boers at the Derdepoort laager, panic-stricken, vanished therefrom. The Bakgatla raided the western Transvaal almost to Pretoria and became rich in cattle. Even after the relief of Mafeking, Boers who had surrendered and been given Certificates of Occupation, permitting them to remain on their farms, complained of the seizure of their cattle by the Bakgatla. At the instance of the Military authorities Linchwe was warned that twice the number of cattle taken from such Boers would in due course be claimed from him, but this had no effect. After we had re-opened the office at Gaberone's (subsequent to the relief of Mafeking) a couple of Boers brought an action in our Court for the recovery of some of their cattle which they said they had seen in the Bakgatla Reserve. Judgment was given against the first claimant on the ground that he was at the time on Commando and the cattle were held by the Bakgatla in trust for the Government. The second claimant, who had been in a similar position, thereupon dropped his claim. No other Boer claimant came forward after that and the Bakgatla were left in possession of what they had captured. I may add here that compensation was given to them in respect of the huts which the Boers had burnt at Siquane and the other two villages on the Marico.

The Bakgatla certainly kept open our lines of communication with Rho- desia and we took advantage of this to feel our way southwards. The armoured train (one of its armoured trucks was labelled "Hard Cases" and the other "Oom Paul's Pills") now patrolled to within a few miles of Gaberone's station and on one such occasion we sighted a party of mounted men riding along the rails, coming towards us; they were several hundred yards away. Llewellyn, telescope in hand, declared them to be Boers and immediately aimed the Maxim at them but Mr. Surmon entreated him not to fire until we were absolutely certain: "Better let a few Boers go than kill friendly natives" said he. Through the speaking-tube Llewellyn ordered "full speed ahead!" We had only gone a short distance when the mounted men suddenly swerved into the thick bush. We raced up to the spot; the hoof-prints of the horses which had been there were those of shod animals - a Boer patrol evidently! Llewellyn fired the Maxim in the di- rection they had taken, and a shell from the 7-pounder followed. We subsequently learnt from natives that these Boers were on patrol from Gaberone's and had returned at full speed - one with a damaged nose!

Shortly after this incident the natives reported that the Boers had evacu- ated Gaberone's; the doings of the Bakgatla had evidently reached their ears and panic must have set in here too. The armoured train reached Gaberone's station without incident and a party was sent to the camp, to reconnoitre. The enemy had indeed gone! Emmanuel Isaacs' store - the first one to open there when the camp was established in August, 1890 - was found well stocked with grain and to make sure that the Boers would not come back for it order was given to set fire to the building.

A second armoured train was, by this time, running with ours. It was the Construction Train and on it was Mr. A. H. Wallis, a railway engineer, affec-tionately known among us as "Long Tom", owing to the length of the cigars which he was ever ready to offer to his friends. He and his men kept the railway line in order for us, repairing all damage done by the Boers, and they had done a good deal of damage as we found on our way south later on. Among his men was a carpenter of the name of O'Shea who, in his spare time, very neatly repaired for me a Mauser carbine which Segale had brought back from one of his raids. Its stock had been shattered by a bullet and O'Shea fitted in the stock of an old muzzle loader; so good was his work that I used that carbine for the rest of the time I was in the Field, Segale supplying me with ammunition for it, and I had it for many years thereafter.

I may state here that neither the Assistant Commissioner nor I had any military rank. The Resident Commissioner feared that if we came under the thumb of the Military we might be ordered on and on after the relief of Mafe- king, whereas he intended that as soon as possible after that event we should re- open the offices at Gaberone's.

We eventually re-occupied Gaberone's. We could go no further for some time because the Boers had blown up the Metsimaswaana bridge and they were still on Sepitsi hill, barring the way. An attempt was made to surprise them there one night but the Metsimaswaana was in flood. Another attempt was made shortly afterwards; we suffered a few casualties when very close to their fort and had to retire. By this time we had a 12-pounder gun and, from the foot of the hills overlooking the Metsimaswaana bridge, Lieut. Montmorency opened fire on their fort. They appear to have had a gunner, a German named Schwarts; he returned the fire with what was believed to be one of the 12.5's taken from Dr. Jameson on January 1st, 1896. His first shell nearly "did" for Montmorency, who was somewhat shaken but stuck to his gun with a vengeance. In the long run he apparently put the Boer gun out of action; it was silent for three or four days. Meanwhile Wallis and his men were repairing the damage to the Met- simaswaana bridge.

Then, from the direction of Tuli, where he had been operating, came an officer who was adored by all who served under him, Lieut.-Col. H. O. Plumer, later Field-Marshal Lord Plumer, who took command.

At this juncture the Assistant Commissioner went to Kanye, to see Bathoen, Chief of the Bangwaketse; I accompanied him. I am not clear now as to what actually took place at the meeting, but I believe that the object of the visit was not only to reassure the Chief that all would come right in the end but also to arrange with him for the passing of Colonel Plumer's column through his Reserve in the event of our not being able to proceed along the railway. As we were riding back to Gaberone's a horseman suddenly turned off the road, about 60 yards in front of us, and disappeared in the thick bush. On our left we had the Thobega range of hills, quite close, and he was evidently making for the hills to avoid us. We pressed on. It was not a bullet that reached us a but well known voice, that of Lieut. Fielding, later Major Fielding, Staff Officer, Bechuanaland Protectorate Police. He was out on patrol with two or three of the Native Police; they had heard us before we could see them and, not knowing whether we were friends or foes, had promptly turned off to higher ground and thicker bush, whence they had made us out.

Then, one day, a report reached us to the effect that the Boers had evacuated Sepitsi. A reconnoitring party confirmed this. There is slate round about there and on a rough piece of it were the words: "Owing to sickness and to your friends the natives we are compelled to abandon this place to you."

We reached Ramoutsa Siding in due course, but had to obtain labourers from the Chief of the Bamalete to clear the railway line, which was terribly over- grown. I remember kaffir corn several feet high growing between the rails! The Chief sent an army of workmen and we soon reached Ootsi. Mr. R. Transfeldt had had a saw-mill there before the outbreak of hostilities and the huge stacks of dry wood he had left there had been set on fire by the Boers shortly before we arrived on the scene; they were completely burnt out but the heat they still generated was so great that several days elapsed before linesmen could repair the telegraph wires cut by the Boers.

Reinforcements were now arriving fast from the north. Plumer's Column was already fairly long when we rode with it towards Lobatsi. The armoured trains could not reach the station on that day, however, as the Boers had, a few miles north of it, dug a deep hole in the track and pushed a truck into it. I re- member sleeping there that night on the hard ground by the track, and that a rat made a hole in the broad rim of the only hat which I then possessed - a Scout's hat, which in those days was known as a Baden-Powell hat. Wallis and his men were not long repairing the damage done there by the Boers.; they worked all night, and we soon occupied Lobatsi.

We had cyclists as well now, under Sergeant Duly, and they patrolled southwards along the railway, to report on the condition of the line and any movements of the enemy. It was not long before some of these scouts reported having been fired upon and that a Boer force was moving northwards towards Lobatsi. Colonel Plumer had, however, taken precautions: a strong detachment was posted on a ridge south of the Lobatsi Dam, on the right-hand side of the railway as one goes south, and Llewellyn had a 7-pounder on a hillock com- manding the road from Sefhatlhane (Zeerust) and Dinokana to Lobatsi, which crosses the boundary between the Transvaal and the Protectorate at Gonku (Skaapkuil). I kept him company there for two nights but nothing happened.

The attack came from the south, launched by the Boer force which the cyclists had sighted and which had been moving up along the foot of the hills on the left of the railway as one faces south. It was about 4 p.m. when they opened fire. Three or four of our officers were just then having tea together on the ridge. With one exception, they immediately sprang to their respective posts, the ex- ception calling out to them: "I'm coming! Just swallowing my tea!" The poor fellow never swallowed it, for, as he was raising the cup to his lips, a pom-pom shell broke his neck! He was Lieut. Tyler. His grave is in front of the District Commissioner's office at Lobatsi. Colonel Plumer read the burial service over him next morning.

The attacking Boers made no headway, however, and finally retired. Colonel Plumer must have realised that with the small force at his disposal -I think we were about 500 strong - it would be impossible to reach Mafeking by following the railway line. The stores which had already reached Lobatsi by train were therefore railed back northwards and I believe that it was on the day on which Lieut. Tyler was laid to rest that, at 11 p.m., the Column rode out of Lobatsi, making for the Bangwaketse Reserve. We had with us Lieuts. Fielding and W. B. Surmon of the Protectorate Native Police; the bulk of this branch of the Police had been left at Gaberone's with its Commanding Officer, Captain J. T. Griffith.

Lieut. Surmon was a son of the Assistant Commissioner and had had the misfortune to lose his right eye when five years of age, but he saw more with his remaining eye than I ever did with my two, and, up to 400 yards at any rate, he was a dead shot, whether his target be at a standstill or leaping across the veld or flying up above, and the Service had nicknamed him "The one-eyed gunner." As a scout he was a valuable asset to us. The great scout of the Column, how- ever, that is "he whose time seemed to be spent in obtaining information," was a man named Smitherman.

Our first objective after leaving Lobatsi was Kanye, the capital of the Bangwaketse tribe whose Chief was, at that time Bathoen, the son of Gaseitsiwe I, one of the three chiefs of the Protectorate who had gone to England in 1895 to beg of Her Majesty the Queen not to hand them over to the administration of the Chartered Company. He was very friendly and, throughout, did everything in his power to help.

In those days, motor cars and their speedometers were unknown. We reckoned distances at the rate of six miles an hour on horseback and were never far out, and I could not help feeling sorry for Lieut. Surmon when, on our way to Kanye, an officer whom I took to be a "Military" pitched into him because he could not tell him, to a yard, how far the next watering hole was.

Anyway, we reached Kanye in good time and without any incident in so far as the enemy was concerned. But we had been preceded there by a man from the beleagured town of Mafeking, Mr. James Young, the first man I had met at Gaberone's when, as a youth under 20 years of age, I had arrived there as Clerk to the Assistant Commissioner, on December 2nd, 1890. Young was in the Bechuanaland Border Police at the time and he it was who pointed out to me the double bell tent in which I was to live for the next nine months, which had been pitched near that of the Assistant Commissioner. He had taken his dis- charge from the Police and was in Mafeking when its siege began. Approached by the Resident Commissioner (Goold-Adams) he had volunteered to try and get through the Boer lines, with a view to starting a postal service between Kanye and Mafeking by means of native runners, and had succeeded.

Immediately we reached Kanye Bathoen placed at Colonel Plumer's dis- posal the tribal dam which the present Residency overlooks, and it was under- stood that he would receive 5 pounds a day for the water which the Column and its animals would draw from it.

We were there two days only and then, by arrangement with Bathoen, the Column moved on to Sefhikile Pan, within the Bangwaketse Reserve, about half-way between Kanye and Mafeking. Kanye, however, remained the base for our supplies from Southern Rhodesia.

There was a fine sheet of water at Sefhikile and Colonel Plumer decided to remain there until such time as circumstances permitted an advance to Mafeking with some chance of relieving the town. The camp was established on one of the mounds overlooking the Pan, one end of which was reserved for drinking and cooking purposes, all stock being watered at the other end, but the water re- served for our use was sometimes so dirty that on one occasion the Assistant Commissioner, who was just drying his head with a towel, said to me: "I wonder if I am any the cleaner after washing in this!" I could not help laughing, for stuck in his beard was . . . half a leech! There were a few reptiles also about Sefhikile, no fewer than three puff-adders being killed on the site of the camp when it was cleared of scrub-bush. There were often duck, and sometimes geese, on the fine sheet of water at our feet and those of us who had shot-guns occa- sionally managed to provide a sumptuous dinner. And thus it was that Major Jarvis - a dear old gentleman - once invited our Medical Officer to share his good luck; instead of the goose so much looked forward to by the two, however, the usual roast-beef appeared on the Major's trestle-table - the goose had mysteriously vanished. Poor Jarvis seemed somewhat crestfallen. "Nothing to worry about, my dear chap!" said the M.O. "Come and share my stew or what- ever there is to-morrow evening!" And the following day, when Jarvis turned up for dinner, it was neither stew nor roast beef that was placed on the table b u t . . . a goose! Neither asked any questions but both must have had suspcions and when the M.O. tackled his batman "cook supervisor" about it the following morning his faithful Mclntyre replied: "Well, Sir, I did see a chance of pinching it for you, and I did!" The M.O. was an Irishman too and he rose in due course to be Lieut.-Col. Edward Charles Frederick Garraway, Resident Commissioner of the Bechuanaland Protectorate and, later on, was knighted when Resident Commissioner of Basutoland. When we were with the Column he always seemed to have the best of everything, thanks to Mclntyre, who had even "provided" railway cushions for the Doctor to sleep on and railway blankets to keep him warm!

To-day my thanks still go to the kind people of Rhodesia, who kept the Column well supplied with foodstuffs. Our rations were ample and excellent and we were often able to vary our diet by purchasing dry beans, pumpkins, etc., from native hawkers. The "One-eyed gunner" and I frequently went out patroll- ing together, sometimes as far as Mogobe-wa-kgomo (Ox-Pan) but we never saw any sign of the enemy. Sometimes a stembuck would jump out of the grass and tear away; he would be off his saddle in the twinkling of an eye and his unerring bullet would add someting to our larder. I remember one occasion when he narrowly averted serious injury to his legs; his horse had suddenly foundered into a well camouflaged lemena (game-pit). The pit, however, was meant for small game and we were able to extricate his mount, which had remained suspended high enough to avoid the sharp-pointed stake planted at the bottom of the hole.

We were strongly entrenched at Sefhikile - our trenches there were still plainly visible in March 1949 - and the enemy had shown no inclination to come to the attack. It was Colonel Plumer who took the initiative at the end of March, 1900, with a view to ascertaining the approximate strength of the Boers besieging Mafeking. I believe he was about six miles from the town when the Boers fell upon him and drove him back to Ramathlabama; I am under the impression that he had left some heavy guns here, which halted the Boers. He had suffered some casualties; he himself had had a bullet through his right arm, a flesh wound only, fortunately. Major Rolt, the Adjutant, was wounded in the thigh and had to be sent back - he had a bullet hole in the brim of his hat also, very close to his head; young Davies, from Rhodesia, riding side by side with his brother heard him calling out: "I've got one!" and saw him sliding off the saddle; Howard Moffat, later Premier of Southern Rhodesia, saved his life by holding on to the stirrup-leather of a comrade; and so on.

It was at this time that I was privileged enough to be attached to Colonel Plumer to help him with the correspondence which included putting into code his messages to Colonel Baden-Powell and decoding messages from him, and it is always with immense pleasure and great admiration for Colonel Plumer that my mind dwells at times on this short chapter of my life; he was kindness personi- fied, and so humane. Only once did I hear him give a direct order. What he wanted done was always in the shape of a request and I have seen many of these requests given effect to with the zest and promptitude given to royal commands. As I have stated somewhere else in this narrative, all under him simply adored him and would gladly have laid down their lives to save his.

He attended to all matters under a large green bucksail slung over the more or less horizontal branch of a big tree and anchored to the ground. He did not mind my being in shirt sleeves, but one morning, as winter was approaching and a bitterly cold wind was blowing through our "office", he said he was sure I must be cold, and asked whether I had not a jacket to put on. I replied that I had only one jacket with me and that I was reserving it for the relief of Mafeking. I still see him springing up from his hard wooden chair; I still hear him calling out to me as he ran to his tent: "Wait! I have two tunics!" He handed me his spare one and insisted on my wearing it. I did, but felt somewhat ill at ease under the Great Man's crowns and stars. My equanimity was, however, restored very quickly when I drew, in my mind, a picture of a "secretary bird" adorned with peacock's feathers!

An attempt to communicate with Mafeking by heliograph from the hill Kgoro, alias Korwe, had proved a failure, but our leader's messages, all in code, reached Colonel Baden-Powell in two ways, sometimes rolled up in a Lee- Enfield cartridge case entrusted to a native runner who would quickly cover it up with sand if intercepted by the enemy and, at other times, by air, securely fastened to the leg of a pigeon. We had no rubber bands for this purpose, but a thin piece of gummed paper proved adequate. The pigeons reached us, two at a time, in a basket carried by runners from, or returning from, Mafeking and were my special charge. The first pair which I released one morning, having spotted the horse- lines and the abundance of grain they could pick up there, refused to return to starving Mafeking. The M.O. suggested that I might retrieve the message by giving the birds grain soaked in spirits and, using some of my rum ration, I tried that dodge; it made the two birds very drowsy but they were never intoxicated to the point that I could catch them! They went off, however, with the pair which I released three or four days later and we subsequently heard that they had reached their destination. Duplicates of all messages were invariably sent on, either by air or the next runners to go.

One of Colonel Plumer's chief concerns, while the Column was at Sef- hikile, was to provide beef for the besieged, and a number of cattle were purchased for that purpose and sent into Mafeking. This proved insufficient and when Colonel Baden-Powell advised that the garrison was reduced to eating horse and mule flesh, an attempt was made to rush a larger number of cattle into Mafeking (some forty or fifty animals if I remember correctly) but the natives in charge of this lot seem to have wavered and to have lost time in trying to enlist assistance from their kin in Mafeking. The result was that the Boers heard of the attempt that was to be made and, when it was actually made, they shot every one of the cattle and some of the besieged saw the Boers carting the carcasses to their laagers. The loss was a big one, not only from the point of view of the besieged but also financially when one remembers that, barely four years before, rinder- pest had swept through the Protectorate, killing approximately 95 per cent of its cattle, and that the price for an ox had gone up considerably. 30 pounds for a big ox is "nothing" to-day but in those days it was a lot of money. The usual price before rinderpest was from 3 to 4 pounds for a native cow and 5 pounds for a big ox.

Reinforcements had been steadily arriving while we were at Sefhikile - in small batches it is true, but by the end of April, 1900, our strength must have been about 700 of all ranks. We were crippled by malaria, however - some 200 cases a day I think the M.O. once told me - and it was horse-sickness season too. The hands of the Veterinary Officer attached to the Column had so many veld-sores on them that it was jokingly said that he could not look at them without getting another one! But the morale remained amazingly good - the time for a move for- ward was surely approaching, an exultant feeling of expectancy pervaded every heart.

Meanwhile Duly's cyclists, notwithstanding many a puncture from the variety of thorns to be found in the Territory, were doing excellent work as des- patch-riders to and from Ootsi where Colonel Spreckley was now in command of the armoured train. I myself set out one day on horse-back for that railway siding, reaching it at dusk. What my special mission was I forget, but what I have not yet forgotten is that good old Spreckley gave me an excellent dinner at the end of which he pushed towards me a tin of grape jam which had been opened for him that morning; that I helped myself and that, at the second or third mouthful, I felt a sudden sharp sting on my tongue; it was so swollen for the next few days that I could hardly speak! On inspection the jam was found to contain a few bees which had become entangled in it. None was more sorry at this than dear old Spreckley. I remember also that no one enjoyed a slice of water-melon more than he did: two words... a mouthful. . . two more words . . . another mouthful, and so on until he had finished the one slice and helped himself to another, telling us stories all the time, for he had a good sense of humour.

We could communicate with, and receive news from, the outer world through Beira, and I have always had at the back of my mind that our great leader suggested through that channel that a column from the south should work in conjunction with his. However that may be, it seemed a very long time before he heard definitely that this other column had started. But when and where the two columns were to join forces was not clear. Meanwhile he knew that the de- fenders of Mafeking had no hope of being able to hold out beyond the middle of May. As that time-limit approached a message was received from Colonel Baden-Powell to the effect that although many of his men and what remained of his transport animals were in a state of exhaustion, yet he thought he might fight his way out if our column could assist in the operation and in the evacuation of women, children, and the sick.

Colonel Plumer was giving this matter his most earnest consideration when, on May 13th, runners arrived with an urgent message from Colonel Baden-Powell - his defences had been penetrated, Eloff had captured the fort on the Imperial Reserve and was still holding it! Our Great Man immediately took steps for a move forward; within a few minutes the camp was like a swarm of bees hard at work and, in an incredibly short time, everything was ready.

Just then another batch of runners tumbled into camp, bringing a further message from Colonel Baden-Powell - Eloff had surrendered and the position was restored! The mind of our beloved leader was made up, however, and at sun- set he led his column out of Sefhikile. Further reinforcements had just reached us; I believe there were some Canadians in that lot, at any rate there were some Queenslanders, and our strength must have been somewhere between 800 and 900. The Assistant Commissioner and I accompanied the column, he to advise on any administrative matter which might crop up, I with our precious little code book in one pocket and to act as interpreter if necessary and both in close con- tact with the leader. Our first objective was Phitsane, on the Molopo River and some thirty-three miles west of Mafeking.

I can remember one halt only being made that night, and that, reversing my saddle and using it as a pillow, I slept soundly until the word was passed round to saddle up again. I remember also that during the next stage I was not feeling too happy about the Assistant Commissioner, the forerunners of malaria were on him.

Nearing the valley of the Molopo, still riding in the dark, a thundering commotion in the upper branches of a big tree startled the leading horses, which were just passing under it, but we all kept our seats and in a very quiet voice Colonel Plumer said: "What was that?" "Guinea-fowl, Sir," I replied. We had disturbed a flock roosting there and they, with one accord, had sought safety in flight. Even now, I lick my lips at the thought of a young guinea-fowl roasted on the red embers of a wood-fire. But it was not our luck to have one that day. Some time before dawn on May 14th a halt was called, followed by orders to dismount and "stand by your horses." Then an officer rapidly passed along with the further order: "No smoking! No light of any sort!" We must have stood there for a full quarter of an hour before a further order was given, by virtue of which some stuffed their pipes, others scrambled for the nearest twigs, and soon there were fires in every direction, for dawn had gone, the Molopo was in front of us, and the eight horsemen advancing towards it from the south, dimly seen at first, had been identified as the advanced guard of the Southern Relief Column under the command of Colonel Mahon. Of these eight I will mention one only, because of the high position which he subsequently filled in South Africa; he was Prince Alexander of Teck, at a later date Major-General the Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone.

The two columns having joined forces, May 14th and 15th were spent rest- ing on the banks of the Molopo near Phitsane, messages to and from Colonel Baden-Powell being exchanged at night by means of runners. One batch brought a small basket containing two pigeons, and towards sunset on May 15th Colonel Plumer handed me a message to put into code and to affix to one of the pigeons, with instructions to release both birds at 6 a.m. on the 16th. The message read:

"May 16th. Southern and Northern Columns combined advance towards Mafeking at 6 a.m. to-day."

1 had no more gummed paper with which to fix the message to the bird's leg, but Colonel Nicholson, who for several weeks had been our Leader's closest friend, happened to have on his person a 4d. Rhodesian stamp which he passed on to me, and it was from strips of this stamp that I secured the message to the pigeon's leg.

At 6 a.m. on May 16th, just as the columns started moving, I released the birds. Whether they were dazzled by the sun which was just peeping out, or whether they were taking their bearings, I cannot say; they circled higher and higher and were still circling when I put my foot in the stirrup. I heard later that they had not reached Mafeking until midday but am inclined to think that in the general excitement which prevailed there on that day their early arrival had not been noticed.

A halt was called at about noon. We had not met with any opposition so far and there was as yet no sign of the enemy. As usual, one of our faithful native troopers, Pitso Kehumile, orderly to the Assistant Commissioner, at once came to see to my mount. I instructed him to take our horses to water in the Molopo and quickly to have something to eat; he was back in good time. I hurried through my lunch (rooster-kookies and cold meat from my wallets) and was chatting with three friends about to have theirs - one of them was killed that afternoon - when we heard shots in the distance. Colonel Plumer was seated about forty yards away conversing with a friend. I at once went to him: "Rifle fire ahead, Sir!" - "In which direction exactly?" - "Over there, Sir!", and I pointed east by north. "How far?" - "Some distance, Sir, we can only dimly hear the shots!" - With the first of these questions he was on his feet, with my last reply he gave the order: "SADDLE UP! PASS THE WORD ROUND!"

The day for which he had so long waited and toiled had at last come. The battle for Mafeking had begun, and the quiet smile on his face not only inspired confidence but, to me, spelt Victory!

I "passed the word round," others took it up as well, and, when I again looked at our Leader, he was standing erect on an ant-hill, field-glasses in his hands, scanning the land ahead and its bush. Within a few minutes he was lead- ing us into battle.

The history of the relief of Mafeking has been written before to-day, and by abler pens than mine. Suffice it here to say that, after fighting our way for- ward throughout the afternoon of May 16th, on the northern side of the Molopo, and until dusk, every one of us imbued with the spirit of our Leader, we pushed forward under cover of darkness, without let or hindrance, and reached Mafe- king at dawn on May 17th. A few hours later, the last of the Boers' strongholds about the town had been captured and the enemy was well on the run to the Transvaal-Mafeking had been relieved!

Very shortly after this event, I was instructed to return to Gaberone's and there re-open our office. It was at Ootsi on my way up, that I said goodbye to the idol of the Northern Relief Column and to Colonel Nicholson; I never saw either of them again.

At Gaberone's I found the floor of the court-room littered with papers, I stood knee-deep in them. The Boers had evidently looked through all our corres- pondence and records, and scattered the lot pell-mell on the floor. I did the only thing possible in the circumstances; had them carted to a safe distance, made a bonfire of them, and started afresh. For the next twenty months I was called upon to carry on the administration of the Southern District of the Territory, Mr. W. H. Surmon relieving the Resident Commissioner at Mafeking and then going on sick leave. His constitution had been so undermined that, in the end, he was allowed to retire from the Service, my appointment as Assistant Commissioner being confirmed in 1902. He was one of the very few in the Service at that time who thoroughly understood the character of the natives and how to deal with them. His motto was: "Treat them fairly and justly and you will never have trouble with them." To him I owe much.

During the whole time of our advance to Mafeking, and even after the relief of that town, Linchwe had kept our lines of communications with the north open and the other chiefs of the Territory were, at that time and to the end of the war, content to watch our progress and eager to render any assistance required of them. They collected hut-tax from their people as usual and paid it in. Except perhaps in the Bakgatla Reserve, the people themselves moved about freely tend- ing their cattle, lands and crops, as if there was no war. Segale, the old Chief Gaborone Matlapeng, and the Chief at Ramoutsa, but Segale especially, kept me well informed regarding any movement of Boer Forces in the Marico and Rustenburg districts of the Transvaal; this information I invariably telegraphed to the Resident Commissioner and he passed it on to the Military.

There is, or there was, in the Resident Commissioner's office at Mafeking, a file of papers with the heading: "Bakwena: royalty on poles." It refers to assistance given by that tribe in supplying poles required by the Military for barbed-wire fences, etc., as our troops advanced in enemy territory, and how the royalty paid in connection therewith was disposed of. I mention this to show that the Bakwena, who were somewhat in the background, also did their bit when called upon. In case that file be now non existent, I may say that Sebele, Chief of the Bakwena at that time, always claimed "The land is mine, the people are mine, the trees from which the poles are obtained are mine, the royalty is mine!" He jibbed at what, to him, was an entirely new notion, that he held the land and its trees "in trust for his people," but he had to be satisfied with a por- tion only of the royalty, the balance being banked for the tribe, and it was out of this balance that the cost of survey of their eastern boundary with the Gaberone's Block of farms, and the cost of the material to fence it were ultimately de- frayed.

I believe that, when I left Colonel Plumer at Ootsi, he was busily arrang- ing not only for the despatch of foodstuffs to Mafeking (Wallis and his men were actively engaged in repairing the last of the damage done to the railway line by the Boers) but also for the protection of the line. For months the armoured train continued to patrol. Our Police at Lobatsi were strengthened by a detachment of Imperial Forces (from which regiment they were drawn . . . I forget, but Messrs. R. Transfeldt and Glover may still be able to say. The late Mr. Paul, of Lobatsi, was one of that detachment). Others, from the Imperial Forces, were stationed at the Metsimaswaana bridge. There must have been others again at Pitsani and further south but I cannot now say with any certainty. I have no recollection of any encroachment on Protectorate soil by the burghers of the South African Republic subsequent to the relief of Mafeking.

Dates, such as that on which the attempt on the Sepitsi position was made, that on which the Boers attacked outside Lobatsi and the column moved into the Bangwaketse Reserve can probably be ascertained from the graves at Gaberone's and from that of Lieutenant Tyler at Lobatsi, also from the foolscap book in which I made entries from the time we evacuated Gaberone's to the time vhen I left the advanced armoured train to join Plumer's column. At Sef- hikile we left three or four graves. If I am not mistaken, there was also in our offices at Mafeking a file on "War Graves", which might be of assistance in fixing dates which, in writing this manuscript, have escaped me.

Apart from the Bakgatla, those of the Protectorate people who suffered losses as a result of the war were the Bangwaketse; they claimed compensation for cattle which had died from lungsickness (pleuro-pneumonia), a disease which they said had been introduced into their Reserve by the column's transport animals. Only those received compensation, however, who could show that they had made some effort to save their animals by means of inoculation; the great majority had been content with skinning and eating their cattle as they died. One man who was compensated for losses of another kind was old Motsatsing, a pro- gressive native who had enclosed his premises with a wire fence. Some of the column had rooted out the poles supporting it, to use as firewood, and some of the chickens he possessed he had seen tied up to saddles when the column left for Sefhikile! I can remember no other claim by natives for losses attributed to the war. Some benefited to a certain extent by exchanging a big ox for two young animals when cattle were from time to time introduced into the Territory by dealers, who subsequently passed the big oxen to the Military - at a good profit, no doubt!

As a result of the war Linchwe submitted a claim to land in the Transvaal; every furthest place at which one of his men had fallen was looked upon by him as a beacon. Mr. R. C.Williams, subsequently Sir Ralph Williams, who was then Resident Commissioner of the Protectorate, told him that he could not possibly entertain such a claim - Linchwe's boundary would have been in the neigh- bourhood of Pretoria - but that he would submit his request to be recognised as chief over the Bakgatla in the Rustenburg District of the Transvaal. Sir Godfrey Lagden, who was then Commissioner for Native Affairs in the Transvaal Colony, replied, however, that he could not recognise as a chief in the Transvaal a chief residing beyond its borders, but that he would have no objection to Linchwe nominating someone as his representative there. He nominated his half-brother, Ramono, who took up residence in the neighbourhood of Moruleng (Saul's Poort) when Sir Godfrey signified his approval.

Stripping this manuscript of all extraneous matters, the following facts remain:

1; that when the Boer War broke out, and at any time during its duration, the Protectorate was not in a position to raise a white force for service outside its boundaries;

2: that help came in the first instance from Southern Rhodesia and Chief Linchwe and, later, from overseas; such of the Europeans in the Territory as could enlist joined the armoured trains and Plumer's column;

3: that the local forces, i.e. the Police, were not increased but, after the relief of Mafeking, were supplemented by small Imperial garrisons at vital points on the railway line, from Gaberone's southwards;

4: that the only provision made locally against attacks by Boers was the warning given to the chiefs, shortly before hostilities broke out, that the conflict would be between white races only but that, should their Reserves be invaded, it would be their duty, as loyal subjects of the Queen, to assist to the best of their ability in repelling the invaders. The only fort in existence on our side of the Protectorate-Transvaal boundary had been renovated; it was at Gaberone's which had to be evacuated within a fort- night of the outbreak of war. I cannot recollect any defensive works else- where;

5: that attacks were made by the Boers, a) on two of our Native Police, in the neighbourhood of Khale Hill, Tpr. Chere being killed; b) on the armoured train in the vicinity of Metsimaswaana bridge, the train with- drawing without casualties; c) from Sepitsi Fort on our position near Metsimaswaana bridge, the Boers' big gun being eventually silenced and the Boers abandoning their fort "on account of sickness and of our friends the natives"; d) on our position just south of the Lobatsi railway dam, when Lieut. Tyler was killed, the Boers retiring at sunset; and e) on the north bank of the Molopo River, the Southern and Northern Relief Columns combined pushing the Boers back and relieving Mafeking;

6: that the only two clashes of arms which can be termed "battles" on Pro- tectorate soil are, a) that outside the Lobatsi Gorge, south of the dam, and b) that on the Molopo River;

7: that, the Resident Commissioner being besieged in Mafeking, the ad- ministration of the territory was carried on satisfactorily by the two Assistant Commissioners, the Resident Commissioner being kept "au courant" as opportunity offered;

8: that the only force which had a base in the Protectorate for a time was Plumer's column on its way to the relief of Mafeking;

9: that during the siege of Mafeking the trains from Rhodesia continued to operate as far south as the armoured trains could keep the line clear and in order, fire-wood being used occasionally for the engines; these trains were in the first instance "Military" trains but occasionally gave a lift to well-known civilians;

10: that the attitude of the Protectorate natives was one of unswerving loyalty to the British Throne and of willingness to assist whenever required to do so. The Bakgatla of course became most active after the Derdepoort affair;

11: that there was no serious interruption in normal administration in the Protectorate.

This manuscript should end here, but, being in the autumn of my life, I crave my reader's indulgence for seizing this opportunity to add a little, bearing in mind that an opportunity once missed seldom recurs. It is to the encounter on the Molopo, the fight for Mafeking, that my thoughts are reverting, for, on that memorable date, May 16th, I found myself acting as galloper to Colonel Plumer. My first duty as such was at the outset of the battle. On our right, nearest the Molopo, was the Canadian Battery under Major Heudan; on our left were several units of our column, our left wing in contact with the Southern Relief Column, and I believe we had some cavalry on the southern bank of the Molopo as well. About 150 yards ahead of our Leader and slightly to his right was a deserted native hut close to which were some Queenslanders lying flat in the grass, watching the valley below them and the rise beyond. Colonel Plumer at once saw the danger run by the men nearest the hut: "The first shell that comes will be aimed at that hut," he said to me, "Somebody should tell them!" - "I'll go. Sir," I replied. I passed the warning on to them and came back. Within a couple of minutes a shell proved the correctness of his forecast. I saw two small fragments of it roll past the two Queenslanders nearest the hut and they both ran to pick them up. "I've got mine!" shouted the one; "I've got mine too!" replied the other as they ran to their posts, seemingly holding hot chestnuts, and they laughed like two school-boys!

The Colonel rode slowly along the line of fire, watching developments. From time to time he pulled up and on one such occasion his charger suddenly pointed its ears backwards, at the same time clamping its tail to its hind-quarters and stamping on the ground. The Colonel turned round to me with a smile and said: "What is he doing that for ?" - "It looks as if a bullet had grazed him, Sir," I replied, but I could see no blood on his mount and came to the conclusion that the bullet had passed mighty close to it and it did not like the whiz of it!

We moved on, the Colonel ahead of course, followed by two others and myself. We, the three followers, had tried to keep apart as much as possible so as not to betray to the enemy the importance of the one ahead, but, somehow or other, we had come more or less together again and were riding abreast when a good handful of sand hit me on the right cheek and at the same time I felt my mount collapsing under me. I jumped clear and saw that neither the Colonel nor his charger was hurt but that the two men on my right were also dismounted. A shell, the bursting of which I had not heard, possibly on account of the impact of sand on my cheek, had ripped open the horse first on the right, torn off the right front leg of the middle horse except for a piece of hide by which it was hanging, and mine was lying on the ground, still holding its head up and apparently hit in the lungs. I quickly ascertained that my two comrades were unhurt and, flinging to the winds (as I always had done) that regulation under which no Government animal is to be destroyed until a Board has been held on it and the recommenda- tion of the Board been approved, I instantly put an end to my dear mount. Then I turned to the grey mare which was trying to get away on three legs, dragging her mutilated limb, and put an end to her heart-rending groans. 1 shot both with O'Shea's carbine and ammunition from Segale, of which I had an ample supply. The third horse was, by that time, finished. My two comrades, like myself, had not a scratch, but a fragment of the shell had gone through the pommel of the saddle of one of them whilst another fragment had gone through the bulging front of his jersey - a miraculous escape for the three of us. The Colonel, at the sound of the explosion, had turned round and, seeing that none of us was hurt, had gone on quietly. I was just wondering what I should do with my saddle and wallets - whether to leave them in a thicket or hang them in a tree on the off- chance of my picking them up later - when the faithful Pitso Kehumile rode up to me. I commandeered his horse, telling him to try and ger my saddle to one of the waggons at the back, and caught up with Colonel Plumer. I never saw the saddle again - somebody pinched it! But Pitso had had the good sense to hold on to my wallets (they contained inter alia my razor).

Some time after this hairbreadth escape I noticed that we were again three behind the Colonel and I steered my mount away from the other two - scatter as much as possible! Then I heard the Colonel's voice: "Come on, somebody!" 1 pressed on to him, "At your command, Sir!" - "My compliments to Major Heudan, Canadian Battery, and please tell him that I wish him to move on to the next rise ahead of him." - "Very good, Sir!", and off I went. I was going at a good pace, more or less crouching on my horse's neck, when a sudden cloud of dust arose in front of us, causing my mount to face about, only to see three more clouds of dust, one on each side of us and one at what had been the back of us. The pattern was that of the Southern Cross, with the horse and its rider in the centre. The enemy had spotted me and turned their Pom-Pom on me. Another lucky escape! In less time than it takes to write this I had turned the horse's head round again and spurred it on towards my goal. All I could see of the Canadian Battery, which was being shelled, was one wheel of a gun-carriage with a man standing by it. "Where is Major Heudan ?" 1 asked him, and, cool as a cucumber, he replied: "There he stands!" 1 delivered the message and was already some thirty yards away when he called me back and asked me to tell Colonel Plumer that he was running short of ammunition.

On my way back with that message, I met with one more "adventure"; in a large depression between two rises I saw Llewellyn, and his Mountain Battery on mules. I edged towards him to ascertain how he was faring, and slowed down when I put the question to him. We were then some seventy yards apart. "Await- ing orders!" he replied with that cheerful laugh of his, and 1 was just about to put my horse to a gallop again when he yelled: "Look out!" and then I heard the shwe-shwe-shwe-shwe of a shell coming along. "Jump off!" he shouted at the top of his voice. I reined in and slid off the saddle and, instinctively, both of us bent down . . . down . . . down until we sat low on our heels as the shell approached . . . it was only a matter of a split second now . . . it screeched past between us and exploded a short distance beyond us. To this day I still see Llewellyn as I saw him at that moment, jumping to his feet and hopping round, convulsed with the laughter of a school-boy on leave and calling out to me: "That was close . . . but as good as a mile away!" I laughed too, mounted again, found Colonel Plumer and delivered Major Heudan's message.

May 16th, 1900, ended without further narrow shaves for me, but the night which followed it and during which we pushed on to Mafeking, at a slow but sure pace, was so bitterly cold that for a long distance I walked alongside my mount, trying to warm myself, for I could no longer stand the cold which com- municated itself to me from the frozen stirrup-irons through the totally worn- out soles of my top-boots.

In a sense, I was glad to be sent back to Gaberone's for this placed me in a position to get a change of clothes from a tin trunk which, when we pushed southwards, Ramono had undertaken to look after for me, at Mochudi, and also to discard my rat-eaten Baden-Powell hat for another one. There was oppor- tunity also of ascertaining whether the Boers had discovered an old all-metal family bedstead which I had buried where our boy used to chop wood next to our quarters, and whether they had found some bottles of beer which I had hurriedly buried at another spot when we evacuated Gaberone's. The bedstead and bottles were still there, but, if the Boers had been "sold again" when they had blown up the Station Master's safe, my turn had now come - the bottles were empty! White ants had eaten the corks and the contents had escaped.

I have other recollections of the Boer War, but I think I have said more than enough. One thing, however, stands out very clearly in my mind above everything else, and it is that I had with me a small "Day by Day" book and that, just before the Columns moved forward from Phitsane on May 16th, I turned its leaves to "May 16" and that the text for that day was: "Fear not, for I, thy God, am with thee."

These reminiscences were compiled in 1949 and were made available to Mr. A. Sillery who drew upon them for certain factual statements, in his book The Bechuanaland Protectorate (O.U.P., 1952). This article was from Rhodesiana Volume 11.

Bechuanaland Map
Boer War
This article was originally published in Volume 11, December 1964
The Bechuanaland Protectorate
by John Sillery, (OUP 1952)


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames

by Stephen Luscombe