"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess
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Map illustrating the activities of the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen in South Africa, 1901-1902.
[From: Chamberlain, M., The Australians in the South African War 1899-1902, Canberra, 1999.]
In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray, produced a marvellous Boer War reference detailing all the contingents sent from Australia to South Africa, giving a brief history of the formation and finally, listing all the soldiers who saw service in South Africa with that unit. The book was called, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. It is now the standard reference and starting place for any person interested in pursuing information about Australian involvement in the Boer War.
Murray, P. L., Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, pp. 561 - 562.
Fourth (Second Imperial Bushmen) Contingent.
Consisted of two Companies (or Squadrons), enrolled upon a system similar to that which obtained in constituting the previous Contingent. Rates of pay, equipment, etc., as before. The establishment comprised a small Battalion staff, consisting, in the first instance, of:
1 Lieutenant-Colonel (Commanding),
1 Lieutenant (Medical Staff),
1 Regimental Sergeant-Major,
1 Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, and
1 Transport Sergeant.
To these were added an adjutant, appointed from the Company officers, and an Orderly Room Sergeant, also drawn from “A” Company.
Each Company establishment included:
2 buglers, and
109 rank and file.
Departure and Return.
The 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen left on 27th March, 1901, comprising -12 officers, 241 others, with 289 horses. Six were killed or died ; 10 officers and 6 others were struck off in South Africa; 2 officers were appointed from the ranks ; 1 N.C.O. obtained an Imperial commission. The remainder returned to Tasmania.
Lieutenant J. M'Cormick, to Adjutant, 27th March, 1901.
Lieutenant H. Hallam, to Transport Officer, 6th June, 1901.
Lieutenant M. H. Swan, to Paymaster, 1st August, 1901.
2nd Lieutenant F. R. Chalmers, to 1st Lieutenant, 1st August, 1901.
Colour-Sergeant A, J. P. Suche, to 2nd Lieutenant, 27th April, 1901.
Corporal G. L. McIntyre, to Provisional Lieutenant, 19th February, 1902.
Sergeant G. Shaw, promoted Lieutenant from 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen.
Trooper L. H. Laughton, promoted Lieutenant from 1st Tasmanian Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen.
Lance-Corporal Brownell received an Imperial commission.
For promotions other than Commissions, aide Nominal Roll.
The Contingent embarked at Hobart on the transport Chicago, on 27th March, 1901, and landed at Port Elisabeth on 24th April.
Their service was in Cape Colony, under General French; and may be summarized as follows:-
8th, 9th, and 10th May-Ganna Hoek, driving Scheeper's Commando out of Craddock District; joined General Scobell's Column, operating still about Craddock ; joined Colonel Gorring's "Flying Column."
1st June - Fight at Aliman's Fontein.
8th June - Fight at Rietfontein, Malan's Commando.
3rd July - Fight near Zuurberg.
29th July - Fighting near Schilder Krans.
1st August - Chased enemy into Munro's Column.
13th August - Fight at Roodepoort, captured Commandant Erasmus, Cachet, and others of Kruitsinger's Commando.
14th August - Fight with Kruitainger at Lamenkronst.
16th August - Chased Kruitzinger across Orange River.
16th September - Surprised Commando at Wildeschutt's Berg, capturing some prisoners; operations against Smut's Commando in Drakensberg district.
21st October - Fight with Van Reenan's Commando.
23rd November - Captured Commandant Beaters and ten others.
February, 1902 - Operations with 17th Lancers in Bamboo Mountain.
On the 18th February, 1902 - Captured and shot Commandant Judge Hugo at Grootfontein.
10th March - Captured Commandant Rhudolph at Klein Taffelberg.
Soon after landing the Corps was engaged with Scheepers at Ganna Hoek Cape Colony, where Trooper Warburton was killed. Trooper Brownell distinguished himself in this affair and afterwards received a commission in the Imperial Army. On the 19th May, the Tasmanians joined Scobell's Column, which was one of the most successful. On the let June, they passed to Colonel Gorring, whose force was formed into a Flying Column, without wheeled transport.
On 13th February, 1902, Colonel Doran took over the Column, and the Contingent served under him until 4th May. On 18th February, they suffered several casualties, and the strain on men and horses was very great; but the Column did excellent work, and was frequently complimented by General French and Lord Kitchener. The various leaders commended the Contingent for fearlessness, good horsemastership, and cheerful endurance of the greatest hardships. On 18th August, 1901, Sergeant-Major Young, of the Cape Police, with Quartermaster Sergeant Lynes, Sergeant Coombes, and eight other Tasmanians, charged a kopje where the enemy were strongly entrenched, and captured Commandant Erasmus and others. Young obtained the Victoria Cross.
The Contingent were several times successful in capturing influential Boer leaders. For twelve months they were incessantly employed; long marches often being undertaken by night, followed by actions with the Commandoes of Kruitzinger, Scheepers, Myberg, and others.
On the 22nd May, 1902, the Contingent embarked on the transport Manila at Durban, and arrived in Tasmania on 25th June, having called at Albany, Adelaide, and Melbourne en route. Disbanded on 30th June.
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Nominal Roll Topic: BW - Tas - 2TIB
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
In 1911, Lieutenant-Colonel P. L. Murray, produced a marvellous Boer War reference detailing all the contingents sent from Australia to South Africa, giving a brief history of the formation and finally, listing all the soldiers who saw service in South Africa with that unit. The book was called, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa. It is now the standard reference and starting place for any person interested in pursuing information about Australian involvement in the Boer War.
Murray, P. L., Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, pp. 563 - 567.
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900, Sydney Mail Account Topic: BatzB - Coetzees Drift
South African (Second Boer) War
The Battle of Coetzee Drift, South Africa, 5 May 1900
Sydney Mail Account
Sydney Mail, 12 May 1900, p. 1095.
After the engagement at Coetzee's Drift, the Australian newspapers relied upon telegrams from their correspondents to build a picture. The report in the Sydney Mail, 12 May 1900, p. 1095 was skewed towards the Australian involvement and as such omitted key information which is detailed subsequent to the report.
Sydney Mail, 12 May 1900, p. 1095.
Lord Roberts, in a cable to the War Office, states that the Canadian. New South Wales, and New Zealand Rifles, and the Queensland Mounted infantry vied with each other in their determination to close with the enemy on Friday during the fighting on the banks of the Vet River. The troops captured a Maxim gun and 25 Boers. The British casualties amounted to 15 wounded , one killed, and three missing.
Other accounts state that the Queensland mounted force was the first to cross fire Vet hirer, out. flanking the Boers, seizing a commanding kopje, and expelling the enemy. At nightfall the British troops bivouacked on the captured positions. The Boers had during the daylight.
The Canadian role in the engagement at Coetzee's Drift.
The Canadians took the lead role in the action at Coetzee's Drift with one officer being awarded the DSO, (the Distinguished Service Order), the second highest award for bravery in the British Empire for his bravery in the face of the enemy.
Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner
Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner, (25 July 1871 – 19 June 1961), was a man destined to greatness through his bravery. He was the eldest son of Richard Turner, MLC from Montreal. He was educated at Quebec, Canada, and entered part time military service with the Canadian volunteer unit called the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders rising to the rank of Captain. At the outbreak of the the Boer War he received a commission as Lieutenant with the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles and allotted to the 1st Battalion, "B" Squadron as Officer Commanding the 3rd Troop. For his bravery at at Coetzee's Drift he was awarded the DSO for repeatedly swimming across the Vet River, to draw the fire of the Boers who were dug in on the north bank. This act was one in a string of brave actions which culminated in being awarded the Victoria Cross at Komati River, 7 November 1900. During the Great War, as a Brigadier General, Turner commanded the 3rd Brigade of 1st Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force, on the Western Front and rose to becoming a Lieutenant General and given a knighthood.
Lieutenant Harold Lothrop Borden
Assisting Lieutenant Richard Ernest William Turner was Lieutenant Harold Lothrop Borden, (23 May 1876 - 16 July 1900), from Canning, Nova Scotia and the only son of Canada's Minister of Militia, Frederick William Borden. His military career began in 1893, when he entered the King's Canadian Hussars. In 1897, as a member of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Contingent he received the Jubilee Medal. By 1899 he had risen to Major in commond of this corps. At the outbreak of the the Boer War Borden received a commission as Lieutenant with the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles and allotted to the 1st Battalion, "B" Squadron as Officer Commanding the 4th Troop. He was brought to Lord Roberts' attention for swimming with Turner across the Vet River.
The death of Lieutenant Harold Lothrop Borden at Witpoort on 16 July 1900 occurred when Lieutenant John Edgar Burch and he, when rendering assistance to the Royal Irish Fusiliers and some New Zealanders to withstand a Boer assault on Witpoort ridge, they led a counter-attack. It was successful, but Boer marksmen standing at less than 200 metres, shot them as they stood up to lead the assault. Lord Roberts reported to the War Office that Borden and Burch "were killed while gallantly leading their men in a counter attack upon the enemy's flank at a critical juncture of his assault upon our position."
Boer War, 1899 - 1902, Australian Forces, 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Roll of Honour Topic: BW - Tas - 2TIB
Boer War, 1899 - 1902
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
Roll of Honour
Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra
The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men known to have served at one time with the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen and gave their lives in service of Australia, whether as part of the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen or another unit during the Boer War.
Roll of Honour
Francis Gilbert COWELL, Died of Disease, 25 November 1901.
Leonard Percy HUTTLEY, Died of Disease, 14 February 1901.
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Bufton Account, Part 1 Topic: BW - Tas - 2TIB
2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
Bufton Account, Part 1
Lieutenant-Colonel E. T. Watchorn, commanding second Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen' s contingent.
The following account is extracted from the book written by John Bufton called, Tasmanians in the Transvaal War, which was printed and published in Launceston in 1905.
John Bufton, Tasmanians in the Transvaal War, Launceston, 1905, pp. 331 – 386.
Chapter XII, Second Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen.
SYNOPSIS. - AN INTERVAL - LIEUT. - COLONEL WATCHORN - LIST OF MEN - DEPARTURE OF THE "CHICAGO" - TROOPER BROOKS WITH GORRINGE - ORR'S LETTERS - NOTES BY TROOPER HUNT - NOTES BY TROOPER EMERY-NOTES BY TROOPER IBBOTTCOLONE WLATCHORN'S LETTER-LETTER FROM TROOPER BLACKBURN-TROOPER G. SHEARING'S LETTER - PARDON THE PUNCTUATION - "OLD KRUGER AND HIS ROYAL FAMILY." - THE DEPARTURE OF THE "CHICAGO."
THE Second Imperial Bushmen were commanded by Lieut. - Colonel E. T. Watchorn. The colonel promised some notes of his career so as to enable me to complete my plan of giving biographic and other details of each O.C. All my endeavours, however, were unavailing to get this promise fulfilled. Under date of November 27, 1903, Lieut. - Colonel Watchorn wrote:-"I will, without fail, let you have them next week. Trusting you will wait until then." Hobart, Sunday. - Owing to the paucity of labour, the transport “Chicago" will not leave for South Africa to-morrow afternoon, as arranged. The "Chicago" will take 22 tons of oats, 22 tons of bran, 45 tons of hay, 1700 bags chaff, and 4 tons of carrots, for the use of the horses on board, 380 in all. She will also take 100 tons of jam and 1600 tons of oats, shipped by Messrs. Webster and Son.
The following is the nominal roll of the Tasmanian troops proceeding to South Africa with the transport:- No. 1 Company. - Lieutenant-Colonel, E. T. Watchorn; Surgeon- Lieutenant, Charles Mattei; Sergeant-Major, W.O., William Bruce; Q.M. - Sergeant, E. W. Robinson; Trans. - Sergeant, A. Coombe; Captain, C. Henderson; Lieutenants, C. Henderson, G. F. Richardson, J. M`Cormick, C. O. Blythe, J. H. Bisdee, V.C.; Sergeant-Farrier, C. Winifred; Sergeants, J. Drew, F. V. Brewster, W. Branagan, R. Dixon; Corporals, W. Sandison, Roy Johnson, R. A. Blacklow, W. J. Facy, G. L. M'Intyre, D. M. Lyne; Lance-Corporals, C. A. Holmwood, R. B. Wilson, J. Orr, S. Laughton; Shoeing Smiths, H. L. Green, H. N. Coleman, P. D. Billing, V. Thomas; Saddler, George Glover; Buglers, F. Goucher, F. W. Thompson; Privates, G. A. Anderson, R. G. Abery, H. P. Abery, G. C. Adams, G. R. Brooks, W. Burton, Alf. Brown, W. G. Barker, H. Blackburn, W. J. S. Byrne, G. N. F. Brewer, A. Baker, G. H. Blyth, L. T. Cox, W. R. Cassidy, N. H. Coleman, E. T. Coates, W. C. Carlin, R. G. Cooley, H. Cox, W. H. M. Dobson, J. W. Edwards, C. E. Fitzallen, F. W. Foreman, W. P. Fegan, A. E. Ferguson, F. W. Ford, T. T. Ferguson, N. L. Frost, C. French,, H. W. Greer, H. W. Gee, C. G. D. Groom, R. Guthrie, E. F. Hewitt, R. E. M. Hull, G. A. Harris, A. R. Hewitt, T. C. H. Howard, G. W. Hill, R. W. Harrison, G. F. Harrison, T. F. Jardine, J. M. Joyce, J. H. Johnson,- Tas. Jeffrey, J. E. Kirk, A. W. F. Luttrell, A. R. Little, T. Lyall, W. H. Lyne, M. M'Donald, E. R. Murrell, R. G. Morrisby, T. Mundy, A. J. Monson, J. H. Maroney, W. H. M'Intyre, D. J. Murray, T. H. Marsden, C. L. Maddox, J. A. Manser, H. Nation, C. A. Nicholson, A. H. Neal, T. H. C. Oldham, F. Peacock, J. H. Patterson, A. J. Parker, R. A. Paul, A. C. Pegg, T. M. Patrick, J. T. Riley, T. Robertson, E. F. Ramskill, H. Ross, F. E. Simmonds, George Shearing, George E. Saunderson, J. R. Street, R. E. Street, A. E. Shegog, C. J. Smith, R. H. R. Thompson, A.S. Tucker, E. H. Tilley, Robert Templeton, W. G. Tucker, A. H. Vincent, P. A. Williams, S. D. Whiting, F. H. Williams, F. Watson, P. Wade, J.E. Warburton, H. C. Whiley, L. H. Witherington, R. C. Wilson, T. A. Youl.
No. 2 Company. - Captain, T. A. Spencer; Lieutenants, H. Hallam, M. H. Swan; Second Lieutenants, F. R. Chalmers, R. D. Brent; Colour- Sergeant, A. J. P. Suche; Farrier-Sergeants, M. M'Lean, W. J. Manning, P. F. Wise, C. C. Meredith, C. W. Beresford; Corporals, H. D. Chepmell, J. L. R. Page, O. H. Sherrin, E. Morgan, S. Birchall, A. E. Hunt; Lance-Corporals, James Murphy, WA Edwards, AA Evans, RG Chilcot; Shoeing Smiths, W Blackwell; Saddler, E Coombe; Buglers, J. A. King, R. Ballantyne; Privates, R. P. Bell, L. J. Corrigan, A. J. Beven, E. Barron, G. Breward, W. Barnard, E. A. M. Curtain, Charles Cawthorn, W. J. Cleary, F. G. Cowell, T. Dowd, D. Donnelly, P. A. Emery, A. L. Frost, A. J. Grant, J. L. Hughes, E. A. Hunter, L. P. Huttley, E. Higgs, A. A. Hunt, G. G. Hilyard, W. Hewitt, R. J. Hart, J. Hill, E. E. Haines, D. Iles, F. N. Ibbotson, S. M. Ibbott, H. P. Jones, J. W. Johnson, H. M. Johnson, J. J. Joyce, A. Jones, J. C. Joyce, T. Kearns, T. H. Leslie, N. E. Loane, A. G. Lyall, H. Lawler, William Mason, J. Maxfield, G. M'Kercher, William T. Moyle, George Morley, S. Mathews, A. Murray, M. M'Grath, J. L. Munro, J. Massey, J. L. T. Moore, G. Marshall, J. North, W. H. North, A. Nolan, S. H. L. Norman, A. Nicholson, J. O'Shea, J. T. Olding, F. N. Page, J. Pedder, D. H. Page, C. H. Page, J. T. Reardon, E. C. Reid, M. C. Richardson, P. Reading, J. Reid, W. C. S. Scott, K. H. Stewart, W. H. Salter, W. A. Smith, W. E. Seritchley, J. R. Smith, R. W. Seadon, R. T. Sutton, A. H. Scott, W. Somerville, D. H. Sergeant, A. Suitor, W. A. C. Taylor, P. R. Thompson, William Thompson, A. E. Turner, P. C. E. Waddle, F. H. Webb, George White, R. Watson, J. W. Wilson, F. W. Wright, E. H. White, J. J. Weeding, W. A. Waller, H. G. Wilkinson, J. W. Whittle, J. W. Wilkins, W. G._ White.
Men invalided First Tasmanian Imperial Contingent rejoining their corps. - Privates J.' Cooper, W. W. Davis, R. R. Guest, G. E. Taylor, S. Willoughby. Lieutenant A. J. Reynolds, First Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment:
DEPARTURE OF THE TASMANIAN CONTINGENTS.
Hobart, Wednesday. - The departure of the troopship "Chicago" to-day was shorn very much of animation by reason not alone of the troopers who had preceded her, but by the fact that she had been delayed over three weeks through quarantine regulations, coaling necessities, loading, and the like. However, there was a spicy interest observable. The camp at Newtown was broken up before 8 a.m., and an hour later the Tasmanian contingent, headed by the Garrison Band, marched down Elizabeth-street, up Liverpool-street, and to the transport, by way of Murray-street. Some hundreds of people had congregated on the line of route, and before the troops had lined and been given general leave to dismiss to their various quarters, they were besieged by female and male friends. In some instances affectionate farewells were given, but, taken all round, there was a gay scene of hilarity in the fact. This was intensified by the troopers scaling every coign of vantage, and good-humouredly waving their adieux. The transport moved off from the wharf shortly before i o'clock, and was accompanied down the river by steam tenders and a host of sailing and rowing boats. After the men returned from general leave they were formed into a hollow square, when Mr. B. S. Bid (Treasurer), on behalf of the Ministry, addressed the officers and men conveying the best wishes of the people of Tasmania for their success and safe return. He referred to the good work the previous contingents had done, and hoped that the present Tasmanian Contingent would render an equally good account of themselves. At the request of the officers of the First Battalion Tasmanian Infantry Regiment, he presented Lieutenant- Colonel Watchorn with a handsome pair of field glasses, a suitable inscription accompanying the same. Lieutenant-Colonel Watchorn suitably replied, and in doing so made special reference to the exceptional conduct of the men under his command, and their willingness to carry out their duties. During the forenoon Lieutenant-Colonel Watchorn received - telegram from Lieutenant-Colonel Legge (commandant of the Tasmanian Defence Force), now attending the Defence Conference in Sydney, bearing testimony to the conduct of the contingent, to which Lieutenant-Colonel Watchorn replied:-"Your valedictory telegram received; many thanks; read out on parade, and much appreciated."
THE TRANSPORT "CHICAGO." A LETTER FROM LIEUTENANT-COLONEL WATCHORN.
Hobart, Wednesday. The Premier (Mr. N. E. Lewis, M.H.A.) has received the following letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Watchorn, dated from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, April 23:-"We arrived here on the 10th, having experienced strong head winds for the past five days, consequently we ran short of coal. The captain put in here for 100 tons. Our men arrived safely and well and in the best of spirits, with the exception of 279, Private Hart, who has had typhoid; also one of the ship's crew.
Private Blyth (258) fell and broke his leg on board while taking part in an obstacle race. All sick were landed to-day and taken to the military hospital here. The men disembark to-morrow to entrain in the afternoon.
We are told that our percentage of loss was small, losing only five horses -three from colic, and two from old age (both being over 20). I found that the feeding required very strict supervision and constant attention.
I had to stop the allowance of oats altogether. Sergeants Wingfield and Devitt deserve special mention for their untiring energy and attention to the horses in the absence of a vet. The conduct of all on board the "Chicago" has been good, and I have every reason to believe we shall give a good account of ourselves."
A HOT ENGAGEMENT. THE DEATH OF PRIVATE WARBURTON.
Mr. F. C. Brooks, of the Royal Oak Hotel, has received a couple of letters from his son, Private G. R. Brooks, of the Second Tasmanian Imperial Contingent. From the first letter, written from Craddock camp, on April 28, the following extracts are made:- "Since I last wrote, we landed at Port Elizabeth, and as soon as_ we landed they issued to us rifles, bayonets, and another bandolier. They gave us a dinner in the afternoon, and then we got aboard the train. They told us that in five hours' time we would be amongst the Boers, and we had to keep our rifles loaded, but nothing occurred. We were all day and a night and part of the next day in the train, and Craddock, where we left the train, is 184 miles inland. It is a very pretty little Dutch town, situated in a gully. We have been camped here four days, and are to be attached to Colonel Hay's flying column. The Boers are reported to be within ten miles, and we have patrols out among the hills every night.
There was a skirmish here two days before we came. Eight of Brabant's Horse were captured while out on patrol. We are having a good time; guard is the worst part about it, as we don't get much sleep. We have all been supplied with English cavalry saddles, and they are much better than our own. We have no tents; just a blanket or a sheet for shelter, and one to roll up in, and a waterproof sheet. I am writing this letter on my rifle bucket. Staircase (his horse) is doing all right after his trip.
Captain Spencer is in the hospital, and a good many of us are bad with colds. Mine left me before I landed. The country about here is just like Mount Lyons-little kopjes out on the flat. There are no trees at all--only little bunches of scrub. The men are all eager to have a scrap with the enemy. We can hear them fighting about ten miles out. The pom-poms can be heard going through the day. We are getting on all right as far as `tucker' is concerned. All sorts of reports come into camp, but we can't put much faith in any of them. We are about eight hours behind Launceston time. Word has just come into camp that we are wanted five miles out, to reinforce a column, so I suppose we will have a jig with them to-morrow." The next letter is dated Mortimer camp, May 9, and states:-"Ever since I wrote last I have been in the saddle. We are attached to Scobie's flying column, and they keep us on the move. I don't know what it is to sleep at night, but just get a couple of hours through the day. They are using us as scouts, and we are about a day in advance of the column.
This morning, while on outpost duty, my mate shot at a Boer who was trying to creep into our lines, but missed him, as it was too dark. This morning, about 6 o'clock, about eighteen of us and twenty C.I.V.'s went out mounted on patrol. We had got about six miles when we came across two horses, belonging to the Boers, so we followed up their tracks. It led up a valley, the hills on both sides being very rocky. We had six scouts about 400 yards ahead of the rest. This was my first experience under fire, and it was a funny feeling. Anyhow, the Boers let our scouts go on right by them, until the main body got well up the gully, and then the first thing I knew was the snap of a Mauser. It sounded just like a stockwhip. Then they let go -a volley into the midst of us. I saw my mate knocked clean out of the saddle, and three more in front of me.
I was completely stunned for a second or two, until a bullet struck Staircase in the butt of the tail. All the rest were off their horses, and trying to get cover. As soon as Staircase was hit, he gave a bound, and nearly unseated me. I was about to get off him, when another bullet struck him on the knee, and he went down with me. I managed to get clear of him, and crawled on my hands and knees to a bit of a gutter, where the rest were. The bullets were whistling all round me. This all occurred in a few seconds. We were completely trapped. They were firing from both sides and ahead of us. It was a proper cross-fire, and I can tell you it was hot. There were 200 of the enemy, and we could not see one of them. The lieutenant gave the order to retreat, every man for himself. How we got out of it I don't know. We left four stretched out, and five horses killed. All I was thinking of was where I was going to get hit. We could hear the snap of the rifles, and then the hissing sound of the bullets, and the ping of them when they struck the ground about us, and sent the dust up. One whizzed by my head, and I could swear it burnt me as it went by; but anyhow, I got out of the gully, and snapped the horse of one of the chaps that had been shot, and on to his back and into camp for help. We took the ambulance out with us, but when we got half-way we met them coming back in twos and threes. We had three of our fellows wounded, and one of the C.I.V. One of our chaps, Dug. Brownell, was taken prisoner, and two C.I.V.'s. The C.I.V. that was wounded was hit in the arm, and one of our own fellows, Burton, had the top of his head blown off. They reckon he will not get over it. One of the other two wounded was my mate. The bullet ploughed his forehead, and laid him out for an hour or two. The other was wounded in the cheek. The bullet cut his chin strap in two, and it was a narrow escape for him. Cyril Maddox was with us, and got out all right." The letter was continued on the following day, as follows:-"Since I left off writing we have been out to where we were ambushed. Every man in camp had to go. The Boers had not shifted. We rode up to within a mile of the pass, and dismounted, and one half climbed the hills on both sides, the rest went up the gully. We took them completely by surprise, and engaged them for about eight hours. We don't know how many we killed, but we came across one shot in the head, and one or two wounded.
We never lost a man. We drove them from their position into Brabant's Horse, who killed seven of the enemy, and 26 horses, so we did very well for our first engagement. The Boers stripped Dug. Brownell of everything he had on him, and he came into camp in that state. Young Smith has been in the hospital with dysentery, but is all right now. I am sorry to say we have lost our first man. Poor Warburton, from Westbury, has died from his wounds, a wire having just come from the hospital. He was a nice chap. I have got the first cartridge I fired, and will bring it home with me."
WITH A FLYING COLUMN. A TASMANIAN'S EXPERIENCES.
Corporal J. Orr, with Gorringe's Flying Column Scouts, writes to his brother at Underwood:- Glenconner Station, Cape Colony, October 7.
Gorringe's flying column has had a jolly rough time lately. The wily Boer has kept us more than fully occupied. General Smutz, the Boer commandant, is as cunning as they make them, and although an enemy I must acknowledge his ability as a leader. We have been following him for a month, and the column never got into touch with him until last week. Then he ambushed us in some very rough country, and for about half an hour caused a regular panic amongst a lot of our men. The country was bushy, which compelled the troops to keep on the road, so when the order to retire was given the squadrons retreated on to the pack mules, which were following up behind. Their progress being thus blocked, all order was lost, and one could see nothing but a confused mass of horses, pack mules, and men, both black and white, the poor niggers being pushed aside by their lords and masters as if they had no lives to lose. The Boers were concealed in the thick bush close by, so the scouts and a few of the 17th Lancers who were in front took up a position among some rocks and covered the retreat of the main body. Lieutenant Macdonald, the officer in charge of the scouts, received three wounds. Sergeant Donner, also of the scouts, and an officer and a private of the Lancers were also wounded.
To make up for this slight reverse, a Boer picket of five was captured, and the unlucky devils were shown no mercy, being sent to the happy hunting ground straight away.
This last week we have been very short of supplies, and have lived on a biscuit and fresh air until we arrived at Glenconner. It is on occasions such as these that thoughts of home and apple pie thrust themselves upon a fellow's mind, but he pushes them aside, and, like the philosopher, turns to the corner of his biscuit and muses on the frailty of the human race, or else the stomach. But here we are alive and well at Glenconner, with heaps of tucker and the prospects of an early reveille in the morning and more of Smutz.
On the 17th September, at Modderfontein, Smutz and his commando of 400 Boers attacked the 17th Lancers' camp, and were successful in carrying off all their rations, horses, guns, rifles, and ammunition. What they did not want they burnt or destroyed. There were only 110 men in the Lancers' camp when it was attacked, and they fought like demons, well maintaining the reputation of their motto, which is "Death or Glory." Poor devils, they would not surrender, and lost 35 killed and 5o wounded.
This is an enormous percentage of casualties for the number of men engaged; in fact, it was one of the most disastrous affairs of the campaign.
Our column was camped only nine miles off, and the scouts were out on patrol. We heard the firing, and climbed a kopje to reconnoitre. On reaching the top the Boers were just in the act of rushing the camp. Being too far off to render assistance, we galloped to a ridge overlooking the camp, and fired heavily into the Boers at 1700 yards. Our fire had the effect of throwing them into confusion, but they soon recovered when they found out we only numbered 13. We dared not come closer, and in spite of all we could do we had the mortification of seeing them trek away with their valuable prize. The Boers did not get off scot free, for they left behind 12 killed and wounded.
After the fight the camp presented a terrible spectacle, the ground being covered with the killed and wounded. To make matters worse, they were stripped of their clothes, and the sufferings of the wounded were very severe. The dead were buried next day in two trenches, each of which held 16 men. The officers, three in number, were taken to Tarkenstadt, and buried in the cemetery there. This is by far the worst affair I have taken part in. We captured six prisoners last week, two of whom were Germans, and woeful-looking specimens of humanity. We took another, dressed in one of the dead Lancers' clothes.* He received no mercy, being shot 15 minutes after capture.
Everybody now is asking when will this weary, tiresome war end, and why has it taken a nation like Britain so long to subjugate the Transvaal and Orange Free State Republics. The principal reasons are the enormous obstacles that have had to be surmounted by our troops. The country affords splendid facilities for the carrying on of guerrilla warfare, which the Boers adopted soon after the commencement of the campaign. Their object has been for a long time not to fight, but to prolong the war in the hope that some other Power would intervene, and to cost England as much as possible. This object they carry out by refusing to stand and fight, unless when covered, or when far superior to the force opposing them.
The marvellous mobility of the Boer commandoes is another reason why the war is still unfinished. Unhampered by guns or transport, they can trek through any part of the country, and, when closely pursued, retreat to places which are inaccessible to the majority of the columns, which are compelled to travel by the road. It is in positions such as these that the Boers made a stand, protected by the nature of the country from shell and rifle fire.
The life of the Boers must be a miserable one, for they carry no supplies with them, and consequently have to rely on what rations they can commandeer from the farms. This is necessarily small, for a farmer is only allowed to keep a fortnight's provisions, the quantity being regulated by the number of his family. The Boers in the colony chiefly live on mutton, the supply of which is unlimited, as there are innumerable flocks of sheep. But in the Transvaal and Orange Free State even this supply is cut off, for all cattle and sheep have been removed from the farms.
So you see the Boers lead a hand-to-mouth existence, their only good time being when they capture a convoy or take possession of a town.
The sympathetic attitude of the Dutch farmers also greatly assists the Boers in keeping away from our troops. The farmers know where we are, and inform the enemy of our movements, consequently we have to act warily to prevent being caught in a trap. Of course it is treason for a farmer to give intelligence to the Boers, and if found out it means St. Helena or Ceylon; but blood is thicker than water, and they risk it and, well, what could you expect? These few facts will give you an idea of the tremendous difficulties that our troops have to work against, and I trust you will not consider it to the discredit of the British soldier that the war is still unsettled.
How much longer the war will drag on I cannot say, but set it down at a few more months at the most. There has been none of the glorious fighting that you read of in former wars, when men stood up and either gave or took their gruel. It is fighting against an invisible foe, concealed among rocks or bushes, and who retires as soon as you locate him and make things warm. We are always working under disadvantages, and seldom know of the enemy's presence until the ping-pong of the rifles breaks upon our ears, and a hail of bullets comes whizzing around our heads.
From Trooper A. A. Hunt's notes, which record mostly the same movements as Lieutenant Bisdee and others, I make the following extract:- Joining the waggons, we went back into Dordrecht, and spent Xmas, which was much enjoyed. We got presents from Capetown, such as plum pudding, chocolates, tobacco, cigarettes, pipes, etc. After Xmas, we trekked out again to Barkley, patrolling this part of the country for some time. Went back into Dordrecht, and from there to Stormberg, where we entrained for a place called "Three Sisters." Joining Colonel Doran's column, and getting out the second day, we came upon them camped under a kopje, where they had been waiting for us. Crossing a at piece of country to the kopje, and coming up within 200 yards of them, they poured in a heavy rifle fire, wounding six of our men. Driving them off, they retired to another kopje, where they made a good stand.
In looking back to our rear, we noticed a commando of 200 Boers, under Commandant Wessels, who were coming up to reinforce Commandant Malan. Seeing us, they turned in a different direction, coming out again in our front; and, firing a few shots, they retired west, having killed four and wounded ten, and taking two prisoners, one a commandant named Judge Hugo, who was shot through the head. ["Having killed, etc.," evidently means that the Bushmen had done this.] We learned afterwards that Commandant Malan was also wounded through the leg.
Trekking back to our waggons, and having had dinner, we went out in search of the enemy again, but, having had enough, they soon got away. A day afterwards Commandant Hugo succumbed to his wounds, and was buried near a Dutch farm.
Trooper P A. Emery.
(Sailed in the "Chicago," 263 strong, Colonel Watchorn in Command.)
DIARY OF FIRST MONTH.
April 20. - After a pleasant trip across the Indian Ocean, we dropped anchor in Algoa Bay on Saturday, the 10th of April, 1901. The bay was crowded with ships, steamers, and sailing transports, bringing troops and provisions for the seat of war, and presented a very busy appearance.
April 21. - Sunday. Church parade at ii a.m. "Mohawk" transport arrived at 12.30 with a draft of the Warwick Militia on board. Sailed again for East London at 2 p.m. As they passed us they cheered, and we returned the compliment.
April 22. - Raining all day; still on board.
April 23. - Colonel addressed the parade at night, telling us we would land next day, but would not be allowed about the town, as we were going on by train to the front in the afternoon. Everyone pleased to get ashore, and anxious to have a look at the Boers.
April 24. - Landed at 11.30, Port Elizabeth; fell in on the wharf, and marched to Ordnance stores, and got served out with rifles and side-arms.
Were entertained by the ladies of Port Elizabeth, who gave us an up-to-date spread in the Town Hall.
April 25. - Arrived at Cradock, noon, and detrained; went into camp, eastern side of town. Boers reported about 18 miles out.
April 26. - Got new saddlery issued, the saddlery we brought out having been condemned on landing. Small detachment of Cape Mounted Rifles, about 150, left camp to locate Boers.
April 27. - Kit bags issued.
April 28. - On guard. Camp routine: Reveille at 5.30, feed horses at 6, breakfast 8, water horses 9, clean up 9.30, feed horses 12,,.dinner 1, parade 2.30, water 4, feed 5, tea 6, feed 9, lights out 10 p.m.
April 29. - Full dress parade. Thirty horses arrived from Port Elizabeth.
April 30. - Still in camp.
May 1. - Struck camp, and moved out about four miles; halted, and went into camp at Orange Grove farm. Boers were expected to attempt to cross line here, and we were placed 'to block them. Reported that an engagement took place between Midland Mounted Rifles (M.M.R.) and Boers; defeated. Thirty men told off for outpost; posted along the road, as it was reported the Boers coming that way, but saw nothing of them.
Our orders were to fire at anyone on sight.
May 2. - On outpost duty; 24 hours of it.
May 3. - Several columns seen moving in the distance. We are posted on a high kopje. Can see for a long way. Outpost relieved at 5 p.m.. Raided a Boer farm at 9.30, seven of us being told off for the purpose; information has been received that the rebels were in the habit of visiting it. Had our journey for nothing, as we found everything correct, no one being there but the farmer and his family. Returned to camp at 10.45, and turned in, but was roused out again at 11.30. Had to saddle up and form escort for waggons, with supplies for the M.M.R. Had an all-night job of it.
May 4. - Met a party of the M.M.R., who took over the convoy at 11 a.m., so we had twelve hours in the saddle. Halted one hour to have something to eat. Moved on again, and reached our own camp at 5.30 p.m., tired and hungry. Railway line blown up about 10 miles from us. A small patrol of C.M.R. got into trouble, and lost corporal killed and five men wounded.
May 5. - Struck camp at 7 a.m., and marched down the line to where it was blown up. Camped; found line repaired; no sign of Boers. Owner of farm where we camped was an Australian; name of station, Limebanks.
Had a very dusty ride of it. Farmer treated us like a gentleman.
May 6. - Forty of No. 2 went out on patrol, and visited four Boer farms, looking for rebels, but without success. Country very rough and hard on the horses. Six of the C.C.C. (Cape Cyclist Corps) joined us to act as despatch riders. No. 1 Company patrol captured a Boer, but let him go again, after taking his papers from him. About 6o Boers were seen on a kopje this morning, about three miles from here, and 18o passed through two days ago. Colonel Scobell's main body passed through Craddock to-day, to try and head them off. As it is expected they will come back this way, we have dug trenches round the camp, and posted, extra guards, so we are prepared to give them a good reception.
May 7. - All hands stood to arms at 11.30 last night, and slept in the trenches to 7 this morning. It was reported the Boers had cut the telegraph between here and Craddock. Found out that they had crossed the line about two miles from here, and camped for about two hours in a gully just below our outpost. They were three hundred strong, and we expected an attack.
May 8. - Out again last night, all hands being roused out at 10.30 p.m.; got orders to saddle up in full marching order. Marched off at 12.15, and kept going till daybreak. Our troop (No. 3 B squad) were halted and served out with 200 rounds extra ammunition, and marched to the top of a kopje commanding a view of the road to the railway line.
The Boers are being driven this way. Colonel Scobell came in touch with them three times yesterday.
May 9. - Camped at Drennan all night. About 9 a.m. an order came for a strong patrol to go out and visit the kopjes around us. After being out two hours, we were recalled; went back to camp, fell in, full marching order, and started for Mortimer; got about half-way, when a despatch came from No. 2 Troop, A squad, to come on with all possible speed, as Lieutenant Blyth was hemmed in, and Lieutenant Richardson wanted all the assistance he could get. So we went full gallop for about five miles, when we sighted some horses and men about a mile away on our right, which proved to be No. 2 Troop, A squad, under Lieutenant Richardson; so we joined them. Just as we did, a report came in that Lieutenant Blyth, No. 1 Troop, A squad, was clear, and had retired on Mortimer; and as it was getting dark we did the same. When we reached camp No. 1 was already there. In the morning the account I got of the affair from one of No. 1 Troop was as follows:-No. 1 and some of the Scottish Sharpshooters were ordered to search some of the kopjes in the rear of Mortimer. About three miles out they entered a long valley between two kopjes. There was a belt of scrub and a dry watercourse (donga ). The scouts, four in number, being in advance of the patrol, entered the scrub and crossed the donga without seeing the Boers, who were lying in the donga. When the patrol got within 200 yards of the scrub the enemy opened fire, wounding three horses and one man. The patrol retired, but the scouts were not so fortunate. Two got clear away, the other two Tasmanians being cut off. They dismounted and returned the fire of the Boers at 50 yards' distance. Warburton received a wound in the head, and Brownell a bullet through the sleeve of his coat. They fired all the ammunition. Brownell shot both the horses to prevent the Boers from getting them, and then surrendered. Brownell was stripped of his clothing, and then set free. At 7.3o he took the ambulance out, and brought Warburton in to Craddock Hospital, where he died on Saturday, the 11ith.
May 10. - Orders to saddle up as soon as we were roused at 5.30. We were marched out three miles, and then got orders to dismount and advance to attack the position where No. 1 got fired on yesterday. The order was -A squad on the right, 77th Scottish Sharpshooters centre, B left; a few of us were sent as left Bankers to go round a big kopje and see if anyone was there. Before we reached the top, we. could hear firing on the other side, so we hurried up a bit and got on top. We could hear the bullets "pinging" past, but could see no Boers, as they were under cover in the scrub, where they stuck for a couple of hours, and then retired; so we got a shot at them, but don't think we did much damage.
Returned to camp at 12.
May 11. - Out after them again; left camp at 8 a.m. I ode out three miles, and then had a big climb over a kopje to try and get them in the rear. We did some hard climbing till 3 p.m.; took up a position, but they had left. Could hear the sound of artillery in the distance.
They ran up against M.M.R., and got cut up a bit. They turned back, and crossed the line at Lirneback, and made for the hills again.
May 12. - Expected a spell to-day, but got orders to fall in, full marching order. Saddled up, and started at 10.45 a.m. Went in the direction of Craddock. Blowing a full gale, and the dust something frightful, right in our faces. Pitched camp at 7 p.m. on a Englishman's farm, five miles from Cradock.
May 13. - Had a spell, and rested our horses. Colonel Scobell visited camp, and was very pleased with the appearance of the men and horses.
May 14. - Saddled up, and moved off at 9 a.m. passed through Cradock.
All the people turned out to have a look at us. Camped three miles north of Cradock at 2.30.
May 15. - A day's spell, awaiting orders.
May 16. - Moved off at 11 a.m., back through Cradock, and followed on in rear of Scobell's column. Halted at 5.30.
May 17. - Joined Colonel Scobell’s column this morning, consisting of one section Royal Horse Artillery (R.H.A.), two 12-pounders, and one pom-pom; half-section Royal Field Artillery, with howitzer; three squads of Cape Police, with two Maxims; one squad C.M.R., section Royal Engineers; two troops Diamond Fields Horse; some of the First and Second Brabant's Horse, and fighting scouts, Kaffirs, in all amounting to about woo men. The convoy was one and a half miles long. Marched 35 miles, and camped for the night at 11.30 p.m.
In a letter accompanying Trooper Emery promised further notes, but they never came to hand.
Extracts from Trooper S. M. Ibbott's Notes.
The 14lb. guns which were with the columns usually used shrapnel shell. These did very little damage, as they were of not much use for the kind of warfare that was carried on in Cape Colony, although good for columns operating in the Transvaal and O.R.C., where the enemy were mostly met with in force, and so inclined to be aggressive. The presence of guns with the columns did a great deal towards causing many of the Boers, especially when in small bands, or commandoes as were met with in the colony, to evade the British as much as possible.
Howitzer guns, firing lyddite, were with most of the columns, but these were of little use, except in a fight of some importance. The report of pom-poms is unsettling to troops, and does not do so much damage as one would suppose. Maxims were not up to their supposed standard of usefulness in the latter part of the war. The Lee-Metford service rifle is a good weapon, but an improvement could be made with the magazine, which is not strong, and takes some time to fill, in this respect being inferior to the Mauser. The climate of South Africa is a good one, the air being clear, dry, and healthy. The troops as well as inhabitants are subject very little to colds, coughs, etc., etc. A deal is heard of the prevalence of enteric in South Africa, but if this campaign had been carried on in almost any other country fever and sickness would have been present in a far greater degree. [Why?] In comparison with the number of troops operating there has been less serious sickness than has been known in any other Anglo-foreign war. [?] The hospitals were managed well. Good treatment was given patients by nurses and doctors, but the orderlies of the Royal Army Medical Corps were very often guilty of neglect and carelessness towards the patients. In some of the temporary up-country hospitals this was especially the case. They, however, would do, whatever was wanted of them for bribes.
For the first three weeks after arrival in the country we were not attached to any column. It was during this time we had our first encounter with the Boers, a little below a station called Mortimer, on the Port Elizabeth line. It was at this time that Trooper Warburton was mortally wounded. We were then attached to Colonel Scobell’s column, which consisted of ourselves and Brabant's force, with artillery, made ' up of two 14lb. field guns, one howitzer, one pom-pom, and one mounted Maxim. When first attached to this column we were kept moving about, round about Craddock district. We then moved north and north-east to Cyphergat. Here the column was broken up, Scobell taking command of another. While with him we had to be on the move every morning between 6 and 7, and go till midday, when we halted for an hour, or two, or only half an hour, then off again, and kept going till camping time, any time between 5 and 8. When a night march was contemplated, a halt would be called a couple of hours before sundown, after which we would be set going again, and travel till ii, perhaps 2, or later. These night marches were made for the purpose of stealing a march on the enemy, but were very trying to both horses and men, coming after the hard and long day's work.
On June 3 we joined Colonel Gorringe's flying column, and with them we travelled to Lady Brand, Barclay East, and towards the Basutoland border. (His column was composed of ourselves, A squadron, 17th Lancers, and sometimes B and C squad, Cape Police, Nesbitt's Horse, and Cape Colonial Defence Force, with two 14-pounders, one pom -pom, and one Maxim on packhorse.) Here some of the Boers, whom some of the columns hoped they had cornered got back past them. We then turned back across the colony, and got to Burghersdorp, where we left our waggons and got pack mules. After this we were kept moving about between O.R. and Steynsburg and south of that place. It was here that Kruitzinger (the chief commandant in the colony) was surprised and driven across the O.R. On returning in the following December and trying to break through the line of blockhouses near Hanover-road, he was wounded and captured. Later on, near Tarkastadt, the disaster happened to C Squad., 17th Lancers. The column was moving with a broad front- Tasmanians on the left, B. Squad. left centre, A. Squad. right centre, C. Squad. on the right, a distance of a few miles separating each. At midday C. Squad. halted in an opening with kopjes on each side. Beneath the kopje on one side was a donga. Smuts' commando was not far off, and, getting to know of the Lancers' position, he doubled back and surprised them. The main body of Boers got on to the kopje on the opposite side of the donga, while others, getting into the donga, followed it up, till they were close to the squad., and then opened fire, with the result that most of the British got away as best they could, leaving behind them their Cape carts and baggage, 36 men being mortally wounded and killed Some escaped to A. Squad., but when they (A. Squad.) arrived the affair was over.
Smuts was gone after setting fire to the Cape-carts, etc. After operating for some time in this part of the country, Smuts was closely pursued in the direction of Port Elizabeth, which place he reported he was going to take possession of. In the latter stage of this pursuit he was pressed so closely the last two or three days that his commando could Sometimes be caught sight of. This was near Bellevue. Here it was expected that he would be caught, as he was forced to go through one of two passes leading to Bellevue. A body of troops were expected by train to guard this pass to Bellevue. The town guard and district vol., which were guarding it, left it to go to the other, and while it was thus unprotected he whipped through, thus escaping and breaking up his commando. During this march we experienced the hardest time we had had while out there, mostly moving off at 3 a.m., and going till dark at night.
On October 9th Colonel Gorringe's column was broken up, the different corps for about a fortnight being stationary, or acting independently.
We then were taken charge of by Colonel Lukin for about three weeks, and again broken, ourselves, Lancers, Nesbitt's Horse, and Artillery entraining and joining Scobell's column at Stormberg, November 14th. Scobell's column was made up of Cape Mounted Rifles, 9th Lancers, Yeomanry, and for a while Kaffrarian Rifles, two 14lb. guns, one pom-pom, one howitzer, and Maxims. With this column we operated in the country between Stormberg, Barclay East, and Rhodes until Christmas time, when Scobell returned to England; for a while we were attached to Colonel Munro's column, consisting of B. Squadron, 17th Lancers, Bethune's Mounted Infantry, New England (Zealand?) Rifles, some Yeomanry, and Artillery. About the beginning of February we entrained for a station near Richmond-road, on Capetown line, and were attached to Colonel Doran's column of Yeomanry and Artillery, when at last some close engagements were taken part in. When first in the country with Colonel Scobell's column we were in pursuit of Scheeper's commando; with Gorringe after Kruitzinger and Smuts; the second time with Scobell after Fouchee and Wessells; with Munro after ditto; with Doran after Malan, Lotagan, and Theron's commandos.
You are welcome to make any use you please of these notes, and I hope they will be of service to you in your work, which I trust will meet with the success it deserves. As you will see, the notes are only a rough outline, and you must put it all into proper language. - From Trooper Stephen Mears Ibbott.
[The language is eminently satisfactory.]
LETTER FROM COLONEL WATCHORN.
Lieutenant -Colonel E. T. Watchorn, in command of the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen ' s Contingent, wrote under date Deelfontein, March 6:-"I wish to draw your attention to an error which appeared in your columns on Monday, January 20, in which it mentions two sergeants of the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Contingent having distinguished themselves at the capture of Commandant Erasmus and two other Commandants.
This should have been Quartermaster -Sergeant D. M. Lyne (No. 193) and Transport -Sergeant Coombe (259). The facts were that Colonel Gorringe called for volunteers to storm a kopje on which the enemy were known to be. Sergeant -Major Young, of the Cape Police, selected seven men, four of whom were Tasmanians. They instantly charged the kopje, and found by the fire that there were a large number of Boers there. Without hesitating they galloped right into their midst, and succeeded, as before said, in capturing three Commandants, and shooting and capturing other Boers. The Boers, thinking there were a large number of khakis coming, became disorganised, and fled. Sergeant -Major Young, on being interviewed, stated that if he had twenty Tasmanians he would go anywhere.
I am pleased to have had these two sergeants mentioned in despatches.
Am sorry I was unable to have had the other two mentioned, who were, equally as brave. Numerous instances of the bravery of our men could be given, but will furnish matter for a future occasion. This is merely to correct the error which occurred in the name of Sergeant Coombe. One instance I should like to mention, showing what the Boers think of Australians. When Commandant Scheepers was interviewed previous to his execution, and asked what troops were feared most in the field, his reply was, " Give me 6oo Bushmen and I would go anywhere."
LETTER' FROM TROOPER BLACKBURN.
Zeehan, November 10, 1902.
Dear Sir,-In reference to yours of the 14th October, I would have answered sooner only it never reached me until the 3rd November, so T will give you an account of our travels as well as I can remember.
We landed at Port Elizabeth on April 24th, 1901, and proceeded by train to Cradock, and as Cape Colony was then in a state of rebellion we were kept there. We were in camp there for a few days, and then trekked down the line for about five miles to a place called Orange grove, to guard a pass, where we stopped for a few days, and then went to Mortimer to protect the line there, as Boers had wrecked a train the previous night.
Next morning (the 11th May) a troop of the 2nd T.I.B. went on patrol, under Lieutenant Blyth, and they rode into an ambush, where we lost one lad and two slightly wounded and one captured. Trooper Warburton, who was well ahead with Lance-Corporal Brownell, was fired on at close range. They fought until there was only death staring them in the face, so they shot their horses, and then Warburton received a bullet through his head and Brownell was forced to surrender. He was stripped and let go.
Next day we went out to meet them, and found them about three miles out of Dassedue, where we engaged them until well in the afternoon, and then they were forced to retire, their losses being slight and ours nil. A few days after this we joined Colonel Scobell's column, when we trekked up and down the line for a few days, and part of the column-the C.M.R. - had a small skirmish, resulting in the wounding of a Commandant and capturing him, also three or four others, and capturing thirty odd horses. We then had a few night marches of not much consequence, and then trekked to Cyphergat, where we had our first experience of snow, finding in the morning when we awoke the ground white, dotted here and there with a head poking out from under the blanket.
That day we were transferred to Colonel Gorringe's Flying Column.
That was early in June, and we then trekked towards Jamestown, and near there we had a rearguard action with the Boers, their losses being slight and ours nil. From there we trekked on towards the Basutoland border, and then on the 8th June we tried to surprise Commandant Myburg at his house, but found him missing. During the day the Boers attacked our observation post, and by the time we arrived with the guns we were only able to fire a few shots. Next day we again engaged him near Lady Grey at Dreifontein, with the Lady Grey town guard and some of the 9th Lancers on our right. We had a first-class engagement, shifting the Boers about 4 o'clock. The country was very rough and hilly, so we could not make much headway. We had several horses shot that day, but no men wounded, and the Boer losses were several. We chased them up for a few days and then went into Burghersdorp for a refit, and not before time, as some of the lads had to put blankets around themselves, whilst going through the town, for decency sake. We had a week's spell there, but I think it did us more harm than good, for the second day there it started raining, and notwithstanding that we managed to borrow a few tents from the garrison we were completely flooded out, there being from six inches to a foot of water all over the flat where we were camped by 6 o'clock in the morning, and it was 2 o'clock before we were shifted to higher ground. And before we had time to dry and air our blankets we had a mounted parade. What with an empty stomach (for our rations were all washed away) and wet clothes it was miserable. During the next few days there were ten to fifteen men going to hospital with fever daily, so it was a blessing when we got to Dornhook. We split up, B squad of Tassies and the C.P. going around by Shank's siding, a few miles above Steynsburg, and the rest of the column round by Theybus. A few miles below Steynsburg the Boers ambushed several and captured two, but we came along with the guns just in time to save the rest. It was then about dark, so we could not do much. Next day a squad of Tasmanians went into Steynsburg and were joined by C squad of the 17th Lancers (Death or Glory Boys). And no mistake they were fine fellows in fact, were like brothers. [A neat compliment to yourselves!] We were then kept on a flying patrol, under Major Sandyman, of the 17th, for a couple of months, and barring the bringing in of a few rebels and ridding the country of all the horses about the farms, we did little. But B squad with the column had more fun, for in September they had a very fair engagement, resulting in the killing of Commandant Erasmus and the capture and wounding of three more Commandants, also capturing Kritzinger, private secretary, and killing, wounding, and capturing about thirty men. During that time we were patrolling the flank of the column.
About the 6th September we again joined the column near Venterstad, and proceeded towards Dordrecht, after Commandant Smuts, who had just crossed the Orange River near Aliwal North. We then chased him around Jamestown and Dordrecht for a few days, down near Tarkastad, and.owing to the heavy rains and flooded rivers it made things very awkward for both, notwithstanding our column only had one blanket and waterproof on mules, and our rations on mules, it was difficult to proceed. But one evening we were blocked at the river-Smuts one side and we the other. We crossed to our waist to surprise the outposts, and after a smart gallop we succeeded in getting two of them; but that day's work proved fatal to us, for we drove them on to C squad of the 17th Lancers, and as Smuts was on to them in khaki they thought it. was us, and out of 109 of the 17th there were only twenty not hit. Close on 40 were killed, including all the officers but two, Major Sandyman being severely wounded, but afterwards recovering. The Boers captured about 100 horses and nearly as many mules, which gave them a good footing again. Although the Boers won the day they lost very heavily. During the next couple of weeks we regained most of the horses and captured several men, and they were fast going down the line towards Port Elizabeth, so when we left Adelaide (near King Williamstown) we started a series of night marches, having reveille at three, and sometimes marching all night. That lasted until the 1st October, when we drove them over the line at Cheldon T Sheldon] siding. We then altered reveille to 1 a.m., and came in touch with Smuts. A few days after meeting-him, in the Zuurberg ranges, near Sunday River, about noon, we engaged him till after dark, capturing a couple and killing and wounding a few. Next morning we were up again at 1 o'clock and caught up to him at noon again, but dispersed them after a few shots. It was there that Smuts was reported to have been slightly wounded in the cheek with a shrapnel bullet. A couple of days after we drove them on to Somerset District Mounted Rifles, and notwithstanding they held the heights they surrendered as soon as Smuts got within 2000 yards, so the Boers got a fresh supply of horses. (These Somerset D.M.R. were a local band of Dutch descent; they were court-martialled, but let off.) Next day we shot three on observation post, but were caught in ambush near Sunday River Valley, at Break-Neck Pass. No mistake it was a rough shop. They lined the pass, and when we were fairly in it they let go. They shot Colonel Gorringe's horse from under him and wounded an officer and two men. Their losses were one killed and seven wounded.
We dispersed them after an hour's stiff fighting. The fighting chiefly fell, on the 17th Lancers, as they were advance that day.
Smuts then split up his commando, some going across the line near Victoria West Road, on the Cape line, and others keeping to the Zuurberg ranges. We then went to Glenconnor siding for supplies and remounts.
Colonel Gorringe then left for Egypt and Lieut. - Col. Lucas took command for a few weeks. Towards the end of October we again got in touch with the Boers near New Bethesda, making a night march on them, and after a few hours' fighting we got several horses, killed three men, and captured fifteen. It was there that Corporal J. Orr, of the Second T.I.B., with two others, captured three Boers on observation post. We followed them up closely for a few days, sometimes seeing them, but not getting close enough to fire. We had much difficulty then in finding them, as they split up, we having to follow the “spoor." We then went into Biejes Poort, on the Cape line, where we broke up. The Lancers and we went to Colonel Scobell’s column, in the north -east district. That was early in November.
We trekked from Stormberg towards Jamestown, and each regiment there was working independently. We came in touch with the Boers near Roeneck, at Kray River, resulting in the death of Corporal J. Orr, T.I.B., and a 17th Lancer, and a G.F.C. and one T.I.B. captured. They were in the scouts at the time, and rode right into them. Two days after the G.F.C. killed two and captured four, including a Field Cornet. At Roeneck we had a difficult task before us, as the country there was rough and treacherous. Up to the middle of December not much occurred, only as we were chasing Fouchey (Fouchee) towards the Basuto border we captured five of his commando, and as they were getting escorted by six of the Barkly East troops to Barkly they were re-captured and one of the Barkly East troops got shot. All through that district it was very rough, steep mountains, the Eastern Drakensberg. We lost two of our scouts belonging to the G.F.C., and we continued the chase until we got them hemmed into the Basuto border, but by mistake we got into the Borderland Police, and the Boers stepped back. It was some time before we found we were fighting our own men, which resulted disastrously for the Grenadiers, and one of ours, a Lovett scout, was slightly wounded. The country was so rough that each regiment had to work independently of the other. We then went to Dordrecht for Christmas, where we spent a jolly one, with no money or clothes (it was not the War Department’ s fault), but our troop officers shelled out handsomely from their own pockets. We had a plumduff for dinner. We then trekked around the district, chiefly patrol work, bringing in an occasional rebel and a few horses, until the end of January, when we were sent to join Colonel Benjamin Doran's column to try and break up Commandant Smuts's commando, who we re getting very troublesome around Beaufort West way, and the second day out we came in touch with him about 7 a.m. Almost the first volley two of our men fell-Stewart, wounded in the leg, and North, in the head and body-and also an I.Y. officer, and as the skirmishing went on Sergeant Adams, of the T.I.B., got grazed on the thigh, also a 5th Lancer in the ear, and one captured. We were engaged for about five hours, and beat them off in the end. Judge Hugo and another Commandant were killed and another Boer mortally wounded. We then chased them on towards Carnarvon, not coming in touch with them again. A few days later we got in touch with Malan's forces outside of Richmond, at a place called Tafelberg, and had a very good running fight, which lasted all day. We met them about 6.3o a.m., and Malan and staff had a very narrow escape of being capture, he only gaining the kopjes about thirty yards ahead of us, after a five miles gallop. Then they put a volley at us, putting five bullets into one horse; but we soon got them on the go again, and kept on till well in the afternoon, resulting in Corporal Johnson, of the T.I.B., being slightly wounded, and the Boers lost Commandant Rudolph and four others killed and several badly wounded. We chased them up for a couple of days, and then captured their only Cape cart. During April Malan had several very narrow escapes from being captured, but then peace negotiations were started, so we did very little more, and early in May we started to mobilise, and the majority were very glad to go home. During the time out in Africa we saw all the fighting area of Cape Colony from the western province, which was a karoo desert, to the north-eastern district, which was a first-class grass and farming district, but only crossed the river once. That was when Kritzinger was driven across. It was at that time that Sergeant Coombs and Q.M.S. Lyne got the D.C.M., and Private Arthur Bingley took the most prominent part in the single-hand capture of Commandant Erasmus, but by some oversight another got the V.C., and Bingley was forgotten.
Our casualties were small:-Killed in action-Private Warburton and Corporal Orr. Died of disease-Q.M.S. Lyne, Private Fagan [ ? Phegan], Hutley, and Cowell. Wounded severely-Privates North and Stewart; slightly, Sergeant Adams, Corporal Johnson, Privates Burton and Saunderson.
Another, also Privates Blyth and Scott, accidentally whilst marking at target practice; and three captured. That is not a bad record out of 250 officers and men. And, in conclusion, a word for the Boers. Although not once have they attacked us, I can honestly say on one or two occasions, especially at Tafelberg, the Boers showed the greatest courage and bravery.
When one of their own was wounded they would return under a hail of bullets, strap him on his horse, and take him to a place of safety. That I saw on a few occasions, and they would never abandon a wounded comrade unless he was too bad to take away.
P.S. - Sorry I cannot give you correct dates and more full details, but as I am from home at present, cannot get my diary, but this is a correct account as far as it goes. - Yours truly, Pvt. H. S. Blackburn, 130, 2nd T.I.B.
There is no doubt about its being a correct account, as it is corroborated in every detail from other sources. It is, moreover, a very readable and vivid summary of the doings of the Second "Imperial Bushes."
LETTER FROM TROOPER G. SHEARING.
Two or three letters from Trooper Shearing have been kindly sent in.
They are mostly written on small leaves of a pocket-book. The unaffected simplicity of the narrative constitutes their interest. I shall therefore give one letter-all I have space for-with spelling and punctuation as written. I am sure it will be read with interest in that form.
Sunday, June 16, 1901, Burghersdorp Town.
Dear Mother and Father just a few lines hoping to find you all in good health as this leaves me at present we have had a rough time of it since I rote to you last we have had 3 engagements the last one we killed 22 of the enemy only one of our boys was wounded slightly we were fighting for 2 hours and then found we were shelled by our own men with the big guns the shells bursted all around us it was a misstake they took us for the boers luckly none of us was hit one bursted about 10 yards from Lieut. bisdee he is fetching a piece of it home with him we had two terrible nights in the snow without blankets. We nearly frost to death we are having week spell at present in the above Town nearly all our Tassy horses are dead, but we have got others in their place we are up on the borders of Cape Colony and the orange free states the second fight we had 2 of our men got astray we have not heard of them since that is 3 weeks ago the last fight we had was on General Myberg farm the boer leader he had 300 men with him after we drove them out we looted the place, taking everything we could lay our hands we lived on luxury for a few days the last week we have been destroying all we can get hold of it is the only way to deal with them.
I heard 2 or 3 of our chaps have returned home. I don't know if it is true they were very bad I know. I don't know where joe johnson is I have not seen this last month he lost his horse and stayed behind in a town it is very likely he will join us here before we leave. I hope he does. I have not got any letters from you yet we saw the Tasmanian mail with the chicago in it the day we were leaving we never see a paper except we come to a town, and that is not very often I wish you would try and send me a paper now and again did you get my 2 letters and the feathers I sent to you it is hard to get letters here I am getting fat over here in spite of how we have to rough it I have gained nearly a stone some of them are 2 stone heavier there is a big trial on in this town there is 20 riables getting tried I think 3 of them will stand a good chance of getting a bullet into them the others will get about 12 years hard labour a few of us went to hear the trial yesterday it is a terrible place for wood you have to burn all sorts of robous to cook your bit of tucker cow doung or anything you can pick up they stock all the manure in a heap and then cut it out in square cakes that is worth 20i a ton for fire fuel.
I will give you a bit of our last battle we knew the boers were not far away but we did not know exactly were they were we were all riding along the road together about 500 of us all merry as could be until we got into a pass a nasty place it was there was only just room for the waggons to go in the road all at once we were fired on in front there was no such a thing as retiring we could not get back for the waggons we had to run straight into the bullets they were flying around us like hail storm one hit my horse on the hoof, another hit her on the tail, going in one side and out the other.
One had the rifle knocked out of his hand with a bullet it is a mirickle that there was not 20 or more of us shot they kept blazing away at us until the big guns got to work at them that shifted them for a little while then we took our horses under cover and rouched the copji they were in then they had to run across a clear plain and how did we give it to them we knocked them in all directions then they got on another hill and they made it a bit lively for us we had to cross the same plain after them and under the same circumstances but they did not succeed in dropping any of us but they went quite close enough for me at any rate it was pitch dark when we got back to camp when we got camped I mean they gave us an extry dose of rum that night we are atached to Colonel Gorringe's flying column now are having more fighting than the rest I suppose we will stay with him now least I hope so as he is a good man I think I have told you all the news this time except that we are all hanging into rags and lousey as bandicots but that is nothing in this country we are having fine weather and getting plenty to eat and having plenty of fighting, so what more do we want but we can't get any beer that is strictly forbidden. You can't get a drink without an order from an officer and only one drink at that well I have told you all this time so good by and God bless you all. I remain your loving son, G. Shearing.
Trooper G. Shearing, 2nd Tasmanian Imp. Cont., c/o Colonel Watchorn, South Africa.
Give my love to all as you can rite as often.
From part of a letter enclosed I make the following extract:-"We had great fun at General Myberg's farm he is a boer general we looted everything he had a big engune that he used to grind his flour with we smashed it to pieces we got a fine lot of dryed fruit of all descriptions and jam and butter eggs some got a bit of money bedding and clothes any quantity of them the officers got some fine pictures we could have got some but we had no where to carry them one picture was of old Kruger and his royl family I bet it cost fifty pounds."
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