Topic: BW - Tas - 1TIB
1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen
Bufton Account, Part 2
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. 303 – 330.
Chapter XI Letters Diaries and Press Reports.
SYNOPSIS. BROWNELL'S 15 DAYS' DIARY - Q.-M.-S. WILLIAMS ON FIGHTING - TROOPER EDDY ON GENERAL PAGET - TROOPER GLEESON - EMPLOYMENT IN SOUTH AFRICA - CAPTAIN SALE'S LETTERS - CORPORAL REYNOLDS'S LETTERS - TROOPER WHITMORE ON "SOLDIERING" – A NASTY ACCIDENT - (GUEST) BOER CHARACTERISTICS - TROOPER WADLEY'S LETTER - TROOPER JOHNSTONE'S NOTES – RETURN OF THE "TIBS" – MEASLES - CASUALTIES: SALE AND WALTER.
Eric Lindsay Douglas BROWNELL
NOTES from Trooper Douglas Brownell's Diary for 15 days in July, 1900.-July 15-Left Pretoria at 6 a.m. with Colonel Hickman's Horse under General Mahon, reached Nitrel's Pass at 9.9 a.m., and got through unopposed. Found body of Gardiner, one of our comrades, who was shot previous night.
Queenslanders determined to avenge his death. On seeing our column safely over the ridge, the Boers made off in a northerly direction, making their retreat safe by setting the veldt on fire. There was a strong wind blowing at the time, and the flames spread so rapidly through the long grass that we had some difficulty in saving part of our transport; as it was, one ambulance waggon had to be outspanned and left to the mercy of the flames. In lending a hand with the waggons, I was soon left behind by our column, and when going off at a full gallop to regain my former position, the horse trod in a rabbit burrow, fell heavily, and rolled on top of me. However, I was on again in an instant, but got a severe shaking. At noon our course turned due east, and we reached Waterval at 6 p.m., where we camped for the night. Only five weeks previous to this nearly 4000 of our men were held in captivity here by the enemy. Ere this you have read many descriptions of the place from the various war correspondents. The enclosure contains several acres, hemmed in by innumerable electric wires, which made it utterly impossible for any to escape. There were also extensive galvanised iron buildings in the enclosure, used for sleeping accommodation. A neat little store and hotel stood near. This was looted, in spite of screams from the Boer women. Just before dark General Ian Hamilton joined us, bringing with him the Seaforth, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, also four batteries of artillery, besides Maxims and Gatlings. It was a fine sight seeing them go by in full marching order, bagpipes playing, etc.
July 16.-Reveille at 5 a.m. and off at 6. In the advance guard we march north, and at 12 noon came suddenly on the enemy's rear guard. Bang, bang, ping, whiz their volleys; they are all at us, but owing to the thick scrub we cannot locate the enemy, and in the confusion the order comes, Retire!" We do so, but not until Sergeant Maxwell and a trooper, both Queenslanders, are shot dead, besides, two being wounded. We then wait for the infantry to come up, who very soon start a flank movement, and the enemy make off as fast as their horses will carry them.
"Prepare to mount." "Mount." "Walk, march," are the three monotone orders, which come in quick succession, and we are once more on the move. Reach Haman’s Kraal, where we camp for the night. The enemy had been in laager here for some weeks, and their fires are still smouldering. Some had evidently intended making themselves snug for the night, as we found a number of straw beds, one of which I was fortunate enough to secure.
July 17. - Reduced to three quarter rations. Move off at 7 a.m. For several miles we retrace our steps in a southerly direction, then heading for Middelburg. Reach Silverdal at nightfall, after travelling 19 miles. I covered the distance on foot, carrying full kit, my horse having a sore back. Nothing worthy of note taking place during day. Scouts report a strong Boer commando moving parallel with us on left flank.
July 18. - Reveille at 5 a.m.; off at 6.30. Very warm during the day great scarcity of water. Still leading my horse. Come to the conclusion that walking is a "mug's game." At 1 p.m. enemy start sniping from kopje on left flank, but distance is too great for their fire to have any effect on us. We hear to-day that Botha is on left flank with strong force, and may have general engagement any hour. Arrived at waggon drift at 4 p.m., after a tramp of 17 miles. Reduced from three-quarters to half rations. This evening the names of those willing to go to England are taken; go per cent. of the Queenslanders sign, myself included.
July 19. - Move off at 7 a.m. Still walking. Pass through some very scrubby country. Reach Orange Grove a little after noon, where we camp the night. A very pretty little place, surrounded by high kopjes.
July 20. - Reveille at 5 a.m.; off at 6.30. As my horse is very unfit for use, he is moved to the rear, there to receive a charge of lead. I am placed in charge of Staff Officer’s waggon. We had not moved out of camp five minutes when the loud report of a big gun rang out from a hill overlooking our camp, and before we could get our heads round we heard the peculiar sound of a shell as it sped on its deadly errand. All eyes were turned upward; then a deafening sound, and with it a cloud of smoke and dust arose some 400 yards beyond us. That is only a "sighter," I said to my mate, and sure enough three successive shots came right in the midst of us. A nigger who was walking within ten paces of me had half his head blown off. It was a sickening sight. To explain matters, I should mention here that the infantry and most of the heavy artillery had moved out of camp half an hour previous to this, and as the picket on the hills came in without being relieved, the enemy took their advantage by running up half a battery of artillery and two pom-poms on a kopje overlooking our camp. It was a splendid position, the range being 4700 yards. For the next half-hour the enemy worked their guns with considerable effect on our transport. The waggon in the rear of mine had one mule fairly cut in two and three others mangled, whilst another, still farther in the rear, carrying stores, had to be abandoned, and set on fire. However, the enemy were not going to have it all their own way for long. Fortunately the fine Elswick Battery, consisting of six 3-inch naval guns, were to bring up our rear, and as yet had not moved out of camp. Amidst curses and oaths, the drivers switched horses on to the guns, and in a few minutes were off at a gallop to take up a position under shelter of a kopje in the rear. Whilst doing so the enemy brought up a pom-pom, and for a time made things very unpleasant for them. In the meantime our transport was getting a good shelling, and, unfortunately, my two Kaffirs ran the staff waggon hard and fast against a tree. The other transport soon pushed ahead, and left me to my fate. Then came what I most dreaded. The Boers singled me out, and shell after shell came over and around me in rapid succession, one grazing the top of the waggon and passing my head within an arm's length. Besides, many others were falling within a radius of 20 yards from where I stood. My two drivers were terrified, and wanted to clear off, but after threatening them with a bullet they decided to stay, and grin and bear their uncomfortable position. During this fusillade, which lasted half an hour, I had outspanned the whole. team, and hitched some on to rear of waggon, and in this way managed to get clear. About five minutes before we got away our two 4.7, which were about the first to leave the camp, had headed back, and when veering within 150 yards of us put about a dozen of shrapnel into the Boer Artillery, which soon made them retire. At the same time the Elswick Battery, which was the first to get into action, had been doing some splendid work, the second shot throwing a Boer gun out of action. The noise of artillery for a time was terrific. This was varied at times by some tearing rifle fire and pom-poms. The latter have a most demoralising effect on friend and foe alike. As soon as our transport got out of range of the enemy's guns they did not wait to try conclusions with our superior artillery, but rushed their guns six miles further on, and again started banging at us, but it soon turned to an artillery duel. Our siege gun and two 4.7 guns took up a position on the open plain. The Boer guns were situated on a kopje six thousand yards on the left flank. For a couple of hours, there was some very heavy firing on both sides. All this time I was about a quarter of a mile from our guns, and could see the whole thing to advantage. The enemy's shells were very accurately placed, and had they been the same stamp as ours our loss would have been considerable. As it was we had 29 casualties. I certainly owe my life to the poor quality of the Boer ammunition. It was a splendid sight watching our lyddite and shrapnel bursting on a kopje. The enemy lost heavily here, and after seeing their chance was a hopeless one retired. We then moved four miles further on, and made our camp in the timber. I omitted to mention that during the day two Boer waggons, which were sent out to gather in the spoil from our abandoned transport, fell into our hands, being captured by us.
July 21. - Reveille at 5 a.m.; move off at 6.30; on half rations. During the day we have an uninterrupted march of 14 miles through open country. Fourteen Boers taken prisoners. Camp for the night at Dwan's Drift.
July 22. - Camp the whole day, clean rifles, etc. Sergeant commandeers a horse for me from the Imperial Light Horse lines. All the morning Boers have been sniping at our pickets. At 12.30 one of our field batteries went out, and made an attempt to get one of the enemy's Long Toms, which was stuck in a drift six miles from here; but the attempt proved fruitless. However, on returning, they shelled a Boer house to pieces, where Boer snipers had taken refuge.
July 23. - Reveille at 5 a.m., moved off at 6.30; rear guard shelled when leaving camp. Royal Horse Artillery soon dispersed enemy. At 2 p.m. we reached Bronkhurstspruit, a name venerated by the Boers. Close beside where we are camping are the graves of over 300 Britishers of the 94th, who fell with Colonel Anstruther in 1880. When bringing in supplies for Pretoria, just before entering the village, we came upon the house of Field-Cornet Erasmus, now General; in less than 20 minutes the place was a perfect wreck. Some of the troops were even hacking a grand piano to pieces for their camp fires. Some of the I.S.H. found a quantity of jewellery and other curios. The Delagoa Bay Railway runs through here. About a quarter of a mile from the station we found a fine iron span railway bridge blown to pieces, the Boers doing this to prevent our forward movement. A convoy arrived this evening, which means full rations to-morrow.
July 24. - Left Bronkhurstspruit at 7.30. In rear-guard, very warm during the day. After an uneventful march of 17 miles we reach a small village, where we start to camp for the night. When half-way through our tea orders came to pack up at once, and march six miles further on to Balmoral. However, we had no sooner moved off when the rain came down in torrents, and the night became as dark as pitch. Before covering the first mile there came on one of the heaviest thunderstorms I had seen; sheet and forked lightning came in rapid succession, lighting up the kopjes and showing our column for miles. Very soon our road became a river bed, and one by one the waggons were blocked. At 11 p.m. it was quite evident that our transports could not get through, so a large number of troops were sent back on guard. My position was in the middle of a drift, where I stood knee-deep until the small hours of the morning; it was a time I shall not soon forget. Our big 6in. gun, drawn by 20 oxen, became hard and fast in the mud, and for a couple of hours a whole company of men were straining every muscle to get it free. Fortunately, I was not the last to stay in this unenviable position, as I had a despatch to carry into camp. It was with the greatest difficulty I found my way in. Every mile or so I kept coming on to the sentries. "Halt !" "Who goes there ?" "Friend," I would shout in reply. "Advance, friend, and give the countersign." I would then make my way to a thin, light streak, which I always found to be the bayonets; find sentries standing at the charge. "Poland," I would give as the countersign. "Pass on, friend." On reaching the camp I found the troops in a pitiable plight; very few had ventured to sleep in their wet blankets, most of them preferring to stand round the fires in pouring rain. However, I turned in, in spite of everything, and next morning could scarcely move for stiffness. All through the night a large number of our chaps had been trying in vain to bring in the transport. Our losses from exposure and overwork were very heavy. One officer and three Highlanders found dead next morning; besides these, many more had to be carried away to the hospital, 250 mules, 140 bullocks, and nearly zoo horses also died. Just before reaching Balmoral the Boers had cleared out in a couple of trains towards Lydenburg.
July 25. - The storm which had worked such havoc during the night has abated, and once more the sun is out. We camp half the day, and spend time in drying blankets, clothes, etc., whilst the Royal Engineers are still digging waggons out of the drifts, making roads passable, and getting dead mules, horses, and oxen off the track. At 1 p.m. the order comes, “Strike camp and right about turn." We then retrace our steps, only covering six miles in the afternoon, the first three miles being literally strewn with the dead transport animals lost during the night. Two more men died to-day from the effects of the exposure. We hear in orders to-night that, disastrous as our forced march was, it had the effect of driving the enemy on to French, who cut them up severely, capturing a number of their guns. Quite a treat to have a dry blanket to jump into.
July 26. - Reveille at 5 a.m., off at 6; by a short cut, make Bronkhurstspruit in 14 miles. We find a garrison in the town, also a party of Royal Engineers repairing railway bridge and mending culverts, which had been blown up for miles. Camped here for the night.
July 27. - Off again at 7.30, in direction of Pretoria; about dinner-time the Boers stubbornly resisted our forward movement. Firing was kept up for a considerable time; but after flanking them they made off under cover of some kopjes. After travelling 13 miles reached Diamond Hill, where we camp for the night. General Prinsloo's homestead is situated here. This we looted and burned to the ground. I had the duty of falling a large gum tree across the dwelling-house. Passed through some fine country during the day.
July 28. - Reveille at 6.30, moved off at 8 a.m. in advance guard; on the go all day, passing through some very hilly and well-watered country, our track in parts being extremely rough and difficult. Very little opposition from enemy. Camp in a gully surrounded by hills.
July 29. - Away at 7.30. Still passing through hilly country; no enemy in sight during the day. Passed the spot of some recent engagement, and nearly stifled by the odour of dead horses. Reached Silverdalvery late in the night, where we make our camp.
July 30. - March off to Pretoria, reaching there at 3 p.m.; camp three miles outside town. No chance of writing a letter. A few additional notes, which may be of interest. If you want to picture me on the veldt you must not imagine that I have the spick-and-span rig as when I left Tasmania. Just before coming in from the front the last time we looked more like tramps than soldiers. My attire consisted of the following:-
An old khaki helmet, pair of light tweed pants smothered in gore, with half a leg torn off, exposing a sun-burnt leg (no putties), white bandolier In day time rarely wear a coat, but sling bandolier over a brown singlet.
The General said as long as a man carried a rifle and 140 rounds of ammunition that was all he wished for. You would be very much amused to see a party of us coming in about dusk. Say, one company, 100 men, all whistling, and each carrying a log of wood across his saddle, and, perhaps, a few fowls dangling from his stirrup-irons. On an extra, good day, goats, pigs, geese, turkeys, etc., on nearly every saddle. We have no cooks; each man lights his own fire and cooks for himself.
These notes were written in the Field Hospital, Johannesburg, where Trooper Brownell is lying with both knees crushed, the result of his horse falling with, and on, him; otherwise he is in excellent health and spirits.
SOME STIFF FIGHTING.
The following letter, tinder date December 5, has been received from Quarter-Master-Sergeant R. J. Williams, of the Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen Contingent, serving in South Africa:-"As I have to chance posting any letters I send it is impossible for me to put the name of the town in, and as we are continually on the go marching and fighting, I get very few opportunities of sending you any news as to our movements. The war as a war has been over some time, but there are several commandoes of Boers, who are moving about the country, and they take a lot of catching. However, slowly but surely we are wiping them out, and may expect to leave the country in another couple of months. The rainy season has set in earnest, and you can imagine travelling and fighting without shelter, and often enough wet through all day and night. This exposure, combined with the effects of sickness, wounds, and death, has reduced our squadron sadly, and instead of the fine body of 120 men who left Tasmania we can barely muster 68, and we have every prospect of further diminishing our numbers as the rainy season has set in, and enteric and malarial fever are very prevalent, and troops sicker every day, wet and exposure doing their work. I have just received word that two bags of mails were destroyed by Boers, and I have every reason to believe that a long report of mine to you was in one of the bags, so I must just go over the ground again. We have been marching round and round, burning and destroying, and dispersing commandoes of Boers, and at present we are halted at Este Fabreiken, 10 miles east of Pretoria on the Delagoa Bay line. You will, no doubt, remember my describing the fight we had with the Boers at Warmbad on September 1. Well, it gives me great pleasure to be able to tell you and Tasmania that Trooper John Bisdee, of the Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, has gained that coveted honour the V.C., and in the opinion of us, his comrades, he deserved it fully, and we are proud men this day to think that out of the Imperial Bushmen comes the first V.C. to Tasmania, and I would like to thank Captain Brooke, of the Army Service Corps, publicly for his strenuous efforts to get Trooper Bisdee's valour recognised in the proper quarter, and it is due in a great measure to the captain's persistent efforts that due recognition followed. To enumerate all the little towns we have visited would take too long, and would be uninteresting, as they all resemble one another, and with the exception of our forced march from Jericho to Rustenburg to cut off De la Rey from joining De Wet we have not had any real hard fighting for the past six weeks. On October 23 we marched from Matapau to Jericho, and our advance under General Plumer captured
a small party of Boers, with some waggons and stock, and from them we learnt that there were several parties of Boers in the vicinity, with two or three guns. About 3 p.m. we came into action with their rearguard at about 500 yards, and a brisk rifle fire took place. We finally drove them out of position, and hotly pursued, but we were recalled, as the General did not deem it prudent to leave his convoy unprotected. It had been raining very heavily the night before, so the waggons on the march made no dust, and were completely hidden in the bush, which enabled us to surprise our wily enemy, and succeeded in capturing five of them asleep on the banks of the creek. In conversation with the prisoners we discovered the fact that most of the Boers were kept in ignorance of the British annexation of the country, and when they were told that the British had occupied Pretoria early in June, would not believe it, their Generals having told them that Germany was coming to help them, and that Ladysmith, Mafeking, and Kimberley had all fallen into their hands, and we were being defeated all along the line. It is hard to credit such colossal ignorance, but when you see the class of men one can easily understand it: a more ignorant race of men and women it would be impossible to come across (for whites). We went into camp at a place called Jericho, and General Plumer took out his division on the right flank, taking all guns but two of the Canadian Battery, which he left for the protection of the camp. Early next morning at daylight we had ample proof that our enemy had guns, as they started shelling the camp at daylight, and, to add insult to injury, they were firing 12lb. British shells at us. Their shooting, taken on the whole, was bad, as we only had two casualties, whilst after a brisk cannonade our two guns silenced theirs, and General Plumer came galloping back with his battery and all our crowd (Australians), with the result that the enemy beat a hasty retreat. However, we followed them up, and succeeded in capturing their two guns and go men.
William Lawrence EDDY
IN THE FIGHT AT RHENOSTER KOP.
Trooper W. L. Eddy, of the Tasmanian draft of the Imperial Bushmen, writes to his parents at Lefroy from Rhenoster Kop tinder date December 2 as follows:-
"I will give you a little about the fight we had the other day. It was a terrible go in, lasting 14 hours. Our casualties numbered 116. The following is the address read to us by the General:-
'The Major-General wishes to record his high appreciation of the gallant conduct of the troops under his command during the recent engagement. The enemy were in a strong natural defensive position, which they were forced to evacuate by the intrepid advance of our men under an exceptionally heavy fire. He considers it unwise to select any special regiment for particular mention. He also wishes to express his sympathy with the First West Riding Regiment in the loss of their commanding officer, also with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles for the very heavy loss they have suffered both in officers and men. He also wishes to point out to his troops that the moral effect of this engagement on the Boers must be very great. He thanks all ranks for the way they have behaved, and wishes to express admiration for their bravery and devotion to duty. Major-General Paget."
"In publishing the above to the mounted troops in his force Brigadier-General Plumer wishes to say how proud he was to have in his command troops who behaved in action as the two brigades did on November 29 at Rhenoster Kop. Brigadier-General Plumer."
LETTER FROM TROOPER GLEESON.
Mrs. N. Gleeson, of Chudleigh junction, has received the following letter from her son, Trooper D. Gleeson, of the Tasmanian Imperial Contingent, about whose condition various rumours were some time ago privately circulated, but which his friends will be pleased to see were without foundation. The letter is dated Observation Hill, Pretoria, January i8, and runs as follows :-
"Just a few lines to say I am still alive and well. We have been camped here for the last few days, having a spell, which we wanted, as we have done some long marching lately, and the days are very hot now, though the nights are always cool, and some of them have been wet lately, which makes things very disagreeable.
"Last time we left here we made a forced march to hold a pass north of Rustenburg. We were up at 2.30 for several mornings, and marched all day. Our waggons with the tents and bedding could not keep up with us, so we only had what we could carry on our horses. We got to the pass all right, and then it commenced to rain, and during the few days we were there it was raining more or less all the time, so we had not a pleasant time of it. We expected the Boers would come through while we were there, but we were disappointed, as they did not put in an appearance. We could have given them a lively time if they had come, as we had plenty of cover in the rocks.
"After leaving there we came back to Pretoria again. We called at a Kaffir village on the way, and took a German missionary parson and several of his relations prisoners for giving the Boers information. We camped at Commando Nek for a day, and then went to hold a pass at another place. The road ran up a big valley and from the hill on our left the Boers kept sniping at us all day, but they could not do us much harm. We got plenty of grapes and peaches from the gardens at the farms as we went along, and they were a great treat. We arrived at the pass at 4 o clock in the afternoon, and all the guns were run in position. We had to build breastworks of stone, and we had to lie behind them all night, and as it rained heavily we had rather a bad night of it. Our waggons tried to come up to us with rations next day, but the Boers attacked them, and they had to retire again. We had only one day's `tucker' with us, so next night, as soon as it was dark, we left and made back to where the waggons were. We expected to be attacked, but we were not, and at 3 next morning we got to the waggons. We were all very tired, as we had very little sleep for two nights, so we lay down and slept well for three or four hours. After that we went in pursuit of some Boers towards Johannesburg. We captured some waggons, but as we ran out of `tucker' we came in here. I hear we are to leave again in the morning. I don't think we are likely to get home for another six months."
Arthur Arnold SALE
The following extracts from letters by the late Captain Sale, of Launceston, have been placed at my disposal. They will be read with deep interest, especially as the gallant Captain is now among the immortals.
[Lieutenant Sale was at this time in charge of No. 3 troop of the
"Wynberg, July 21, 1900. To Mr. T. J. Sale, St. Leonards.-We left Bethlehem on Sunday with a convoy to this place. On Friday following we went with a party about 10 miles out to mind a telegraph line, and struck a party of Boers on a range of hills, and shot a lot at one another, but at long range; they had no guns. The wire was mended, and we would have got away all right only a party of Yeomanry somehow got in too close without supports, with the result that eleven of them were missing when they came back. Next morning a party went out and found three dead. The rest, I suppose, were wounded and taken off by the Boers. The next day I went out with my troop to get some horses. We saw a few Boers, and had a few shots at them, and from them, while bringing in the horses, but no one was hurt on our side, nor, I think on theirs either. I think they are `artists' in their style of firing. We only brought in a few horses that were any good. The second day out from Bethlehem to here we came across a large body, supposed to be 1500, with four guns. For some time there was only rifle fire in front; then our gains started shelling where the main body of Boers were supposed to be. Soon their guns started putting shells back, and their fire was very accurate. They had one gun, which evidently outranged ours, and our fellows could not even locate it. Their shells, however, very seldom burst, which was a good job for us. We were put as escort for the guns, and had to lie down near them doing nothing. Since then we have not done anything very exciting. We are going to start back again on Monday. I think they are trying to surround De Wet, but he is very slippery. Nearly all our horses are more or less knocked up; not from overwork so much as from only getting a few oats to eat, and the grass being only like dry chips, they will eat very little of it."
"Wynburg, August 9, 1900. - We have just arrived here again from Slobber's Nek. We arrived there too late to take any part in the fighting; we heard the guns shelling the place the day before we got there. The Boers did not make much of a stand. I believe De Wet managed to get away with about 1500, but the rest surrendered, I think, with six guns and between 4000 and 5000 men. We came here to escort about 2000 prisoners. They did not give us any bother, and I think they are sick of the war. They sing hymns every night. Some of them are very fat old fellows. I was in their lines having a yarn with them the other day. A few of them can speak English, and from what I can gather they think they have a fair show of winning. Their losses have not, I think, been very great. One old fellow told me he belonged to the Archberg Commando, and they had been pretty well right through the war, and numbered about 500 strong, out of which they had only about 25 killed and 25 wounded. I enclose one of their proclamations, which I got from him. I believe it to be the last Mr. Steyn issued, and may be interesting to keep.
"Warm Baths, August 27, 1900. - We arrived at Pretoria on the 17th, and had a march past Lord Roberts's quarters, where he inspected us. They say he inspects all troops that come through. We have left the South and West Australians, and are on our own for some time now. It is much better. We only stopped near Pretoria about four hours. I got into the town, and had a warm bath, which I wanted badly. There are some fine buildings in the centre of the town. All the Dutch towns have a sort of square within, with the principal buildings around it. We thought we were going to have a spell of a few days, but we were sent out in the afternoon, and went about four miles and camped. The next day we went out with a small column, got in touch with the Boers, had a bit of shooting, and went into camp again. Next day we started out with a larger force, and occupied a pass on the railway to Pietersburg, about nine miles out. We had got there about an hour with the mounted men and a porn-1 a.m., when the Boers showed up. They shot five or six of the Yeomanry patrol, who ought to have come in before, and we put the pom-pom on them, so they retired behind the hill at a gallop. We had a rifle fire going on for the rest of the day. The Boers had a big gun, but it did us no damage. We were reinforced by the infantry, and there was no sign of the Boers next morning. We moved on next day to try to overtake them, and exchanged a few shots. The next day we went on after them, but they got on the railway above us, and, I believe, went up the railway. They have an engine running. The Boers cut about the country in a remarkable manner. I think they generally move at night without any convoy, and have a strong rearguard of mounted men behind. The next day we got in touch with De Wet (the other lot was under Grobler), and drove him up past this place. We arrived here first about four days ago. We had one of our men (Cooper) wounded coming in. We ha, e not heard since how he is getting on. We were on the left flank, and he was shot before he had time to dismount. This place has a number of hot-water baths in it and one big hotel. The water comes from a hot spring. It is evidently a new place. The next day after we arrived we went with a mounted force, including Baden-Powell's, to try to get round the Boers to the north. We seldom mount more than 50 men all told now, so many have got no horses or have been left behind at different places. We had a man wounded the first afternoon out. He was hit in the leg; his name is Butcher. Baden-Powell took possession of a township called Nylstroom on the 26th. We acted as his escort and then his guard to the town. I got a beautiful Mauser carbine, which I am going to use instead of a rifle. We came back here again yesterday. I believe the position was not thought a very safe one. This country has far more timber than the Free State, and we have no trouble to get firewood."
The following extract appeared in the "North-West Advocate." It was received by Mr. A. C. Curtis, of Ulverstone, from Lieutenant Sale, who wrote under date November 23, 1900, from North Pretoria:-
"We have been camped here for the last three days. It is about ten miles from Pretoria, close alongside the big Transvaal whisky manufactory. You can't get any of the produce there now, but we don't want it, as we got a good stock when we came through Pretoria. We have been going to leave here every morning at 5 o'clock, but it has always rained for three or four hours, and it has been put off. Some of the First Bushmen have been agitating to be let go home; so we were all paraded yesterday before General Paget, who gave us to understand that there was no chance of any more troops being sent back for some months to come, and I expect there will be a good deal more fighting in a small way yet. I don't know yet which way we are going when we start, but expect it will be some time before we get back."
"Since writing, so far, I have been carrying this in my pocket. We are now at Roynestor's Kop [Rhenoster ?]. We struck some Boers on the second day out. I was acting as galloper for Hickman and Plumer, and saw everything that was going on; but it knocked my horse out, the ground being very stony. There was a lot of firing, but not many casualties, as we did not come to close quarters.
"The next day we only went about three miles. The artillery got some shells beautifully on to some Boers - about 200 - who were, I think, lying in wait for an advance (which happened to be us); but it did not come off as they wanted, for we found out that they were down there and they got the shells in getting away. It was a fine bit of sport seeing them go. Of course, they were all mounted, and it was a long range; but I think some of them got knocked over. The next day (November 28) we went about eight miles, when there was a bit of shelling between the Boer guns and ours. I suppose they wanted to find out what sort of guns we had got. We heard they meant to make a big stand next day, and it turned out to be correct. The ball opened when we had gone about three miles. At 8 o'clock the New Zealanders were in advance, and had 20 men knocked down in about half an hour. We occupied a long front - about six miles - which made the firing line very thin, as there were only about 1300 of us for duty. The Boers occupied a very commanding position (which I wish I could draw for you, but can't). They were all along a rocky ridge, which was just below the grassy plain on which we were, and they were out of sight. They were about 500 yards from our skyline, and were so situated that our big guns could not be sighted on to them at all. We had to lie flat down all day till it was dark. The firing was very heavy on both sides. We had 95 casualties, and I think the Boers had more. They cleared out during the night. Our own little lot, which consisted of Lewis, myself, and 30 men (the others are all left behind at different places) only had one man slightly hit, and he did not have to go to hospital.
"I am afraid this letter is very Boerfied, but there is nothing else to write about. I think it was young Adams who was doing a `skite' about me. He really gave me credit for what he did himself. He is a plucky little fellow, and one of the best we have got."
Soon after this Major Lewis took fever, and the command devolved upon Lieutenant Sale, who was now promoted Captain. Major Lewis writes in "On the Veldt":-
"When I left the squadron at Rhenoster Lieutenant Sale took up the command.... Sale was a reliable and popular officer. His qualities were soldierly in the highest degree. His constitution was apparently unwearable. In short, he was thoroughly well qualified for the position he now assumed. He received promotion to the rank of Captain for good work rendered.”
Here follow some extracts from his letters while in command:-
"Observation Hill, near Pretoria, January16, 1901. – Since Christmas we have been over a good lot of country. We have been going in lately for rather quicker movements, taking a day's food on the horses, and two, days' more on the Cape carts for the squadron. It means that only one blanket each can be taken, so if it rains we have rather a wet time of it. The men are kept pretty well on the go, and this constant trekking soon reduces our numbers, and we pick up fresh men from the detail camps. A lot of men have been getting enteric. I was in some of the hospitals in Pretoria yesterday, and saw some of our men, also Captain Lewis."
"Hopetoun, Cape Colony, 24th February. - Came by train on the 3rd from Balmoral to Naaupoort, and left there on the 9th on trek to block De Wet, who has crossed into this colony. We had been going very hard since we started, and I think he has got the biggest shaking up he ever had. We got all his convoy, his two guns, and a lot of ammunition. The last day before reaching here we went about 40 miles. He, of course, has a great advantage over us. All the farmers seem to be Dutch, and he commandeers their horses, and so has pretty fresh remounts. We passed some hundreds of horses they had ridden to a standstill. On the last day we left camp at 5 a.m. Our lot was out on the left flank, and the country was very rough and rocky. We were covering the ground between the Orange River and the convoy. About 3 o'clock we had a bit of sniping, but the Boers would not stand, and we went on till 8.30. I only brought six men of our lot into camp; all the rest of the horses being knocked up. Of course we had no transport or food, so just lay down with our horses alongside till morning.
"The Victorian Bushmen had a great piece of luck, being on the right. They had level ground and easy going. They got a bit ahead, and just before camping came on to a Boer laager with their guns outspanned, and the Boers cleared off and left them. We got about 80 prisoners during the day. They seemed almost as much knocked up as we were, and I have never seen them show so little fight. We go out again tomorrow. I ought to say I have not missed a day so far. I applied to the General for a fortnight's spell for the men. They have, I believe, been more constantly on the move than any other troops that have been here, and I think they need it, and will get it when this trek is over."
"Brandford, 12th March, 1901.- I wrote last from Hopetoun. We came from railway station near that town (Orange River station) through De Aar, on the branch line to Naauwport, and up to Springfontein. We started from there towards Philopolis. In the first six days out we went 156 miles. We came through the town of Fauresmith, which was almost deserted, and had some rather nice houses in it. We camped near it for a couple of hours at midday. Our horses and mules were pretty well done up. On last day's trek into here we were rearguard, and counted 30 dead horses and 50 mules that had died. We were to leave here this morning, but it rained hard through the night, and we have not gone yet. About 10 o'clock we got orders to come into town, and the men are now camped in the school-house. It is very crowded, but it is better than sleeping on the veldt.... I have about 50 men now, and have managed to get them all horses and two to spare."
Hubert Ross REYNOLDS
The following letter from Corporal H. R. Reynolds, of Deloraine, appeared in the "Examiner" of August 20, 1900:-
"The Tassies under Captain Lewis, Lieuts. Wylly and Sale, had the honour of leading the guns into action. We received our baptism of fire with no disgrace. Corporal Stocker was slightly wounded in the hand. After holding our position for some time No. 3 troop, under Lieut. Sale, was ordered further to the right, to drive back with the help of some Yeomanry a party of Boers on a kopje, who were pouring a cross fire into our gunners. We advanced with rushes, firing each time, until we were within 400 yards of them, when we fixed bayonets and waited, under cover of a small kopje, to gain breath for our final rush across a piece of clear veldt to the foot of a stronghold. Our boys showed great spirit in advancing on the kopje, and they charged into the stone enclosure in fine style, but while we were getting ready the Boers had made off. Three of the Tassies, including the writer and some of the Yeomanry, were the first on top of the rise, and great was the disappointment when they had to unfix bayonets. The Boers retired on all sides, leaving two dead, one dying, two badly wounded, and one or two slightly hurt. Our boys took two or three prisoners. On continuing our march we fell in with them again, and several shells came our way, which made us duck our heads and then laugh at one another, the sensation being very peculiar. Our guns then got to work on them, and then retired under cover of our rifles. Then our warmest moments came, and we had to retire under a cross fire from close range without any protection whatever. Things got quite lively, and horses went down on all sides, seven being shot, and others falling on the rough ground. Jim Shaw, from Deloraine way, distinguished himself by returning under the worst of the fire and taking up Trooper Littlejohn, whose horse was shot dead. Lieut. Wylly was unfortunate in having his horse trip and fall. He had to run for shelter for a couple of hundred yards under a severe fire. Trooper Bisdee, Captain Lewis, Sergeant-Major Shegog, and Sergeant Stephens, under cover of our fire, caught his horse and returned to meet him. As soon as we found that Lieut. Wylly was not with us Troopers Bisdee and Firth started back for him, and the latter was wounded as soon as he showed himself above the bank. Ile was shot through the shoulder, and the bullet went through his chest, just grazing his lung, but he is now doing well. The Tommies did splendid work all day. We reached Lindley at 9.30 p.m. that day with the convoy, much to the surprise of the garrison. They were on short rations, and did not expect us. The next day we went out after three trucks, but did not see much of the Boers. A few fired on our scouts from a farmhouse, but did no damage. Then our guns got to work on the farm, and 20 Tassies were sent to take it, but the birds had flown. We hunted the house, but did not have time to get away with any stock or remounts, as a party of Boers were seen advancing towards us. We got back to Lindley all safe with about 2000 sheep and a lot of cattle. On Saturday we went with the convoy on its way back to Kroonstad, about 16 miles, arriving about 5 p.m. At 11 p.m. we saddled up and returned to Lindley, arriving at 5 a.m. on Sunday. General Paget, from Lindley, and General Clements, attacked the Boers and drove them back from this place. All the Australian Imperial Horse were out except us, and as our horses had done an extra amount of scouting we did not go. On Monday a general advance was made from Lindley towards Bethlehem, General Clements advancing in the same direction, away on our right. Heavy fighting took place all day, driving the Boers slowly before us. On Tuesday they made a stand, and gave our boys plenty of work. A captain and lieutenant of the Artillery were killed, and two gunners wounded. Two guns were lost for some moments, but the C.I.R. Artillery got the range, and did very good work in preventing the Boers using the gun. The Australians, Remington Scouts, and Imperial Yeomanry gallantly recaptured them."
John William WHITMORE
Writing from Pretoria (says the "Examiner" of October 10, 1901), Trooper John Whitmore, of Derby, a member of the Bushmen's Contingent, reports himself well. He got over a mild attack of enteric, and since then has seen some heavy fighting, and undergone some severe hardships. "On leaving the hospital," he writes, "I was nine days on patrol duty, sleeping on the ground at night with only one blanket, and the regulation overcoat-not much covering to keep out the terrible night frosts we have here. Not a spark of fire was allowed to be lighted.
This and an empty stomach, or nearly so, for the allowance of two biscuits a day can hardly be called a ‘blow out,' is no fun. During this time I experienced the unpleasant sensation of being fired at, and two shots came that close that I had to feel round myself to see if I was hit or not.... We have just rolled ourselves into our blankets when the order is roared out, ‘Stand to your horses!' Then ‘Saddle,' and away we have to go, and likely enough march until 9 the next night, and little to eat to keep the strength up. Lucky we are, too, if we get water. For weeks at a time I have not had enough to wash my face. We look sometimes so ragged and dirty our mothers would not own us."
Following this bright letter, in the same column of the "Examiner," are these two items of interest:-
Robert William GUEST
A NASTY ACCIDENT.
"Trooper R. Guest, of Evandale, reports having met with an accident while the Bushmen were on their way to relieve Baden Powell at Rustenburg. Guest, with some others, was galloping to cut off four Boers, when his horse fell in a rocky creek, and came down on top of him. The horse had to be shot, and Guest was carried to the ambulance, and subsequently taken to No. 2 hospital, at Pretoria, whence he wrote on August 26. He speaks in high terms of the treatment in hospital. Guest, describing a tight corner he was in with another Tasmanian and 18 New Zealanders, says that out of five who were lying together he was the only one to escape unwounded, and he had a narrow squeak, getting a slight cut under the eye with a bullet, just deep enough to fetch blood."
Louis Francis John LETTE
Trooper Louis Lette, of the Tasmanian Bushmen's Contingent, thus describes the Boers who were captured by General Hunter on the Basutoland border, and of whom he was one of the guards :-"We were five days travelling with them. They are a queer lot. I saw a good bit of them, and was in their camp nearly every night. They start singing towards evening, and sing nearly all night. We are mounted now on their horses and saddles. They are splendid hacks. Most of them will amble eight miles an hour, and are used to the climate."
William Isaac WADLEY
The following letter from W. Wadley, who did noble work at the death of Sale and Walter, and afterwards died of enteric fever, is of considerable interest from its quaint simplicity. I have printed it as written. To correct the spelling and grammar would take away its charm:-
"Lindley, Friday, 29th March, 1900. - My dear Mother and Father, I am not very well at present. I have a very bad cold, but still I hope you are all well at home. I have herd nothing about Tassy since I left, but there is no place like it. Mother, I don't think it is any use writing back to me, because I might never get them. None of us as received any letters from Tassy yet, but we might get them all in a heap before long. Father, I enjoyed myself were the battles has been. We land at Port-Elizabeth, and was in the train for 3 days and 4 nights, and the nights were very cold without any bedding, and in a cattle truck at that, about 40 of us. I was one of the first to go with the horses. We stoped about 4 times to feed all the way through, we fed at Cradock twice feed Springfontein, and Blomfontein, and then we went through to Kronstad were we got off all about the line was nothing but graves and dead horses were the battle as been fort the British has got a wooden cross to there graves. Mother We left Kronstad on Sunday the 24th for the front that was to get a convoy into Lindley which we did after a good fight. We marched all Sunday till about 12 o'clock at night without anything to eat or drink.
I was one of the scouts that day and I came across about i5o dead horses in one heap and they was a little ripe to. We did not go far the next day Monday we started about 4 o'clock in the morning and marched till about r in the afternoon and prepared ourselves for battle because one of the scouts got fired at a few miles in front of us. We got up about 3 in the morning and Tuesday and before the frost was off the grass they was firing at us we cut in all directions because we was all in a heap the bullets going very close pass me but they did not hit me. I was alongside of a man when he got his horse shot in the shoulder and another one of our horses got shot through the jaws but the big guns was soon fixed and very soon sent them ticking they was all around us, but we very soon drove them away, there was about 20 boars in a stone yard pouring the bullets into about 30 of us and we was doing the same at them but they had the best shooting because we was on the flat and them on a hill all the cover we had was crawing from one ant hill to another we sneaked up to about 400 yards of them and they was still firing at us and then we got orders to fix bayonets and when they saw them they was soon on there horses and away I saved the buts of the first bulet I fired at them. The big guns nocked a few over we was fighting pretty well all day on a drink of water and a hard biscuts, there is about 3000 of us all together. We camped again about 8 o'clock that night and up again about 4 Oc The Tassy's was the rearguard of the Convoy on Wednesday and after we was on the march for about 4 or 5 hours the boars come up on the left side of us and in to us but we very soon scouted for shelter for our horses and then doubled back and in to them we sent them back again after a few shots. And after we got on our horses again and got going nicely again there was a good big force come up at the back of us and my word they sent the bulets at us very thick and quick, they was coming that close to me I was bobing my head we was in a good place for them we had to gallop for about half a mile for shelter and they was flying after us all the way they only shot 4 horses and wounded one man they carnt shut a little bit. The Sergeant I was batman for had his horse shot dead and the captain's horse was wounded and died the next night which made the fifth. I was not the last into cover I kided myself (? pretended) I was racing, so I let my horse out to his prettyest, we dismounted and doubled back at them but we did not fire many shots before we had to fly to our horses again and get a better possion at them so it was another gallop up a hill and they made good of us while they could see us firing all the time they was cuting the dust up all around us but hit nothing going up the hill. We got in a fine place at them and we got at them pretty strong and they was still letting go at us but when the big gun went off they were soon shut up. They are very good with the big guns they can drop the shells were they like the (y) make a big dust after they burst. We got in to Lindley that night about to Oc. We had to go back the next day and gather some stock we had another bit of a fight but the big gun wound them up there was a lot of cattle brought in and sheep we got orders to kill a sheep or two for our selves and I was not long before I had a piece on the pan. We have not been out at all to-day and the days - rest has been very well excepted because my cold was winding me - up I got some stuff for it to-day and it is getting better. Tell Hardman that I have no more paper to write to him but you can tell him that it is splendid glazing land the grass in places is over my knees. It would be terribly lonely over here on a farm. Father I hope you are getting on all right with your work. give my love to Biddy and tell her the latest or let her read this letter and Ada the same. I think we are off again to-morrow, remember me to all about. I feel satisfied now I have had a scap and it is the same as the other men used to say that it hant all beer and skittles but a drop of beer would be well excepted. Excuse bad writing and mistakes as I am not in very good form. So I will finish in wishing you are all well. I remain your Son W. Wadley."
Clarence Albert James JOHNSTONE
Trooper C. A. Johnstone's Notes.
Pretoria told of a city in distress when one sees the wrecked buildings and the troops everywhere one looks. Pretoria has some very nice buildings in it, but the town itself has a very rusty appearance, like all the other Dutch towns. Here we marched past Lord Roberts. The great General, accompanied by his wife and daughter and his staff, came down to the gate of his grounds, and at the word "Walk, march" we all marched past, and on about a mile. We saw the rest of General Paget's Brigade, all making active preparations to move out. The General said we had to move off with him straightaway, which we accordingly did, out to Wonderboompoort that night, and I remember well it was a bitter, cold night, and as hard a frost as ever I saw in Tasmania. This was our first night in the Transvaal. It was a little different to the open veldt, which we became accustomed to in the Orange River Colony. It is a much broken country, with ranges of hills and valleys. Next morning we had reveille, 4 a.m., and we Tassies had to take advance guard out to Waterval. After going five miles we came on to the enemy. They had taken up a position - on the top of a kopje. I suppose there were about two hundred of them. They retired when they saw us advancing. We went up to the hill. They and could see them on another hill about three thousand yards off. Our captain sent a rider back to General Paget to report Boers ahead, and he sent the guns up to cover our retreat. While we advanced to them they opened fire on us when we got about one thousand yards off them, and we dismounted and gave our horses over to the horse-holders. Then we advanced on foot for a little way, and took what cover we could, and fired at them, when they opened fire with a Long Tom on us, and then our guns started on them, and soon drove them off. Then we advanced again, only to get into it hotter still. The bullets were whistling round my head, and I fully expected to be hit every second, but we kept returning the fire as fast as we could, when our guns again opened on them. Then there was an artillery duel for about two hours, when the Boers cleared, and we got on to Waterval and camped. Our casualties were four wounded, they being Yeomanry. I thanked my lucky stars that night. Here we received our first mail of letters since landing in South Africa. They were sent out after us with the convoy which followed after us from Pretoria, and we were all very pleased to hear from home, as we had been in South Africa then four months.
August 21. - Reveille 2 a.m.; so we had very little rest that night. We marched in the darkness from Waterval nine miles, then halted and waited for daylight. As soon as it became light we could see Boers ahead, and we Tassies were put in advance, and after going two miles further towards a Kaffir kraal the Boers opened fire on us, and we had no cover, with the exception of a few rocks here and there, behind which we took cover as well as we could, and opened fire on them. Then the pom-pom galloped up and opened fire, and the Boers brought their guns into action, and fired at us, and then we were fairly at it for eight hours. After we had driven the Boers off General Baden-Powell, with his Brigade, joined our column.
Then he took the advance with his men. They were mostly Australians, who had won favour with that General at Elands River battle after the relief of Mafeking. We trekked on till dusk that evening; then camped. We were now soon strong with the two columns.
August 22. - On again. We were advance this day, and the country was flat, with very few hills. This starts what is called the Bushveldt. It is all thorny bushes, something like a gooseberry bush, only the thorns are much longer and thicker. We had a terrible job to get our horses through this place, as they did not like the thorns at all, and when we got through the thickest our horses' legs were all over blood. We now arrive at Pienaars River, on the Pietersburg line. The railway bridge over the river was blown to pieces by the Boers, thus stopping the supply train from crossing until the bridge was reconstructed. Here we halted for half an hour, then on again six miles, and camped. We had only two hard biscuits each served out that night, and that had to do us until the next night. I ate one that night, and kept the other till next morning; then ate it, and had to go till night before I could get any more, and when I did get some the next night it was only half a one, as they only had one biscuit between two men, and could get no more until the supply train caught us up.
August 25. - On again 25 miles march to Warm Baths. Here we had another scrap with the Boers, and captured a part of their train just leaving Warm Baths and some prisoners. Here Cooper was badly wounded in the thigh. Here we found on the captured train four tons of flour, and we all took some, and that night we had a good fill. I made some jepaties with flour and water. They were not the best, but they went down all right, and I had a good sleep that night. We stayed here two days, then went on to Nylestroom with General B.-P. On our way to this place Lew Butcher was wounded. We were away two days, then returned to Warm Baths on the 28th August. That night we had to dig trenches, as we were expecting an attack, but it never came off until September 4, which I will tell you later on.
September 1. - Out on patrol, 20 of us Tasmanians, under Lieutenant Wylly, and 20 of the Army Service Corps under Captain Brookes. We went through one of the passes into the Warm Baths ranges, and after going through the pass we went about two miles. There were four Tasmanians sent in advance, and the guide, Eddie Cooper. I was one of the other 15 just behind the four in advance, and the other 20 men in our rear, about 500 yards. We came to a donga, and I then saw a small piece of wood smoking just on the bank of the donga. I said to Sergeant Shaw, "The Boers are close here. Look at that piece of wood there a smoking." I said, "Those four ahead couldn't have seen it." Just then the crack of a rifle, and 50 more perhaps, when Sergeant Shaw said, "Dismount, men, and take cover." Just then Captain Brookes's horse came galloping back, and Lieut. Wylly said, "Get out of this, men; they are heavily entrenched on both sides of us." Just then Captain Brookes came running as well as he could. He was badly wounded through the right shoulder. We mounted our horses with the speed of lightning and galloped out. Here Bisdee jumped off his horse, and Captain Brookes got on by Bisdee's help; then Bisdee jumped up behind him, and galloped out of the rifle range with the rest of us. The bullets were cutting up the dust just like a hailstorm. In getting out Trooper Willoughby was wounded in the left thigh, and fell from his horse. Lieut. Wylly jumped off and picked him up, and put him on in front of him, and Lieut. Wylly himself was slightly wounded in the left arm, also Sergeant Shaw was slightly wounded, and Corporal Brown was wounded through the right ankle, and his brother, Jeff Brown, was wounded and taken prisoner by the Boers. After we had galloped out of rifle range we pulled up to help the wounded, and after tying something on their wounds as best we could we made off as fast as we could to get out of the pass before the Boers could cut us off, and just as we passed through the pass the Boers mounted the hill and fired at us, but we had got well out of rifle range then, and we made all haste to camp. I often think of that day (September 1, 1900). It was a narrow squeak with all of us. The bullets seemed to crack like whips; they were nearly all explosives they were using that day. Back to camp, the news soon spread all round, and we had many enquiring as to our day's adventure. This was where the two V.C.'s were earned by Lieut. Wylly and J. H. Bisdee, both members of the First Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen.
September 2. - We had a rest, and' September 3 we Tassies were sent out reconnoitring, and, not seeing anything startling. We returned to camp at 2 p.m., and at 3 p.m, the Boers opened on our camp with their guns, and gave us a lively time for about two hours. We had to stand to arms all night. Next morning at daybreak the Boers put their shells again into our camp, and this state lasted all day. They put between 8o and go shells into the camp, with very little damage, only killing two men. That night the enemy retreated, and next day we stayed in camp till 6 p.m.; then trekked all night back towards Pretoria, and reached Pienaar's River at 6 a.m. next morning. Halted here to feed horses and mules; then on again at 8 p.m., trekked all night to a place called Kaffir's Kraal, which place we reached at daybreak next morning. Stayed there for one hour's rest, then on again to Waterval, and pitched camp to have a rest, which we all needed badly enough. We stayed here for five days, then left Waterval en route for Heilbron. Reached Heilbron that day, and next day on again to Crocodile River, and went out burning farmhouses down, and had a little fighting with the enemy; then returned to Waterval on September 19. Stayed there two days, and we were all refitted out with whatever we wanted in the line of saddlery. Then on again to Waggon Drift and Silverton, at which place we met General Paget's Brigade. Here we captured 40 prisoners with waggons, cattle, and sheep after a little fighting. We stayed here one night, and next morning we Tassies were sent out on patrol. The Boers opened fire on us, killing one horse-Trooper Mace's. The same day we followed them up to Sybrandt's Kraal. This is where Erasmus's home stead is, one of the Boer Generals. Here we found 20 waggons loaded with Boer women, whom the Boers left behind them in their flight. We halted here a little while. Here Erasmus came in under the white flag to see the General as to terms of surrender, and General Paget gave him five days' armistice to ascertain if President Kruger had left the country, and during the five days we had to stand fast; that is to say, we were not to move out of certain bounds during that time. We had a programme of sports of different kinds, and passed the time away in that manner. After the five days we had heard nothing of Erasmus, so had orders to move on the 6th by moonlight to Sibera's Craal [Sybrandt's Kraal ?]. After trekking eight miles came on to Boers' outpost, and drove them off, and went on to Craal. Halted till daylight; then on, and overtook the Boers just as they got into the Warm Bath ranges. This part of the country was too rough to follow them in. We then returned due south to Reitsfontein. Here we encountered the enemy again, and had two more of our men wounded -Troopers Smith and Flemming. We followed them up, fighting them every day for four days. We then ran out of provisions, and had to return towards Pretoria, and camped eight miles outside Pretoria, and while here we heard that the first Tasmanian Contingent, under Major Cameron, were camped in Pretoria. I got permission off Captain Lewis, with several others, to go in to see them. They looked a lot of wrecks. They were then about to leave for home. After getting supplies on our convoy we trekked about the North-Western Transvaal, for six or seven weeks, having skirmishes with the enemy nearly every other day up to the 29th November, 1900, when we had a general engagement with the Boers at Rheinoster Kop. We mustered about 4500 men, and the Boers' strength was supposed to be 7000. The advance was made at 5 a.m., and at 6 a.m. the Boers opened fire on us. We held a firing line of seven miles, and we were in the open veldt with no cover at all, only the long veldt grass, while the Boers were heavily entrenched and behind rocks. This fight lasted 17 hours without ceasing, and we failed to move their positions, and about 11 o'clock at night their firing stopped, although we lined for about seven miles along the Boers' left during the night. British casualties amounted to 280 killed and wounded. Next morning at daybreak we were sent out skirmishing around till 2 p.m.; then returned to the main body and camped for the night. Next day we were out again, and had a little fighting, and returned to camp. It now became the Tassies' turn to have a little rest; so we stayed in camp for three days. On December 5 we Tassies were sent out on patrol in the morning, and we found the Boers were trying for an attack, so we returned to camp and, reported to General Plumer.
December 6. - All hands digging trenches ready for an attack by enemy.
December 7. – We had to stand to arms from 4a.m. till 8p.m., and in trenches all that night. Next day the same thing, but no attack was made.
December 9. - Moved off at 4 a.m. 12 miles further east towards Oliphant's River. Here we had a little fighting for six hours; then the Boers retreated, and at 5 p.m. we Tassies were sent out on outpost all night.
December 10. - We were out on patrol, and had a little fighting; then back to camp at 4 p.m. Had orders to move at 12 o'clock, moon rise. The Boers were supposed to shell our camp at daybreak, so we moved back to Rietsfontein and camped there. Here we stayed for a few days to stop the Boers from crossing back towards Pretoria.
December 16. - I was sent out with 50 Queenslanders to capture Boers' outpost. When the Boers found we were coming on to them they, mounted their horses and galloped away, I being one of four men on the extreme right, which the Boers had to pass. We dismounted as they galloped by us at a distance of about 800 yards, and fired at them, killing one horse and wounding one of the Boers; then we mounted our horses, and took after the other four. We captured three of them, but the fourth man had a very fast horse, and we could not catch him, so had to return with the other three and the wounded Boer to camp, and handed them over to General Paget. We stayed at Reitsfontein for four days, when I took that most dreaded enteric fever.
December 21, 1900. - I was taken into field hospital at Reitsfontein. Had eight days there; then I was sent in ox waggon to Bronkerspruit station, a distance of 80 miles. I was then put into the train with 70 more sick men, and sent to Pretoria, where we were admitted into No. 2 General. Hospital. I was put into the enteric wards, and did not know any more for six days. When I came to my senses again, I began to realise my position. They were burying the dead at the rate of 20 men daily, all dying with enteric fever, and I made up my mind to kick against it as well as I could, and I am glad to say that I pulled through all right. After being in hospital 14 weeks, the doctors let me go out of hospital into the Australian detail camp at Dasport, just outside Pretoria. Here I found out where my contingent were; they were then at Pietersburg; and I, with some more Australians, was sent up to join them, and when we arrived at Pietersburg there were no horses to mount us on, so we could not join our men there. It was at this place where Lieutenant Walters and Captain Sale were killed. We were then sent back by train to Pretoria, where we stayed doing garrison duty till May 28th, 1901, when we left Pretoria by train to Standerton, arrived at Standerton, May 29th, and went into camp next day. We were fitted out with horses and saddles, and on June 1, 1901, we left Standerton with General Plumer's column to trek back to Pietretief. Arrived at Pietretief on June 9. We were fighting all the way along. Left General Plumer's column here, and we Australians of the First Imperial Bushmen were now under orders for home. So we had to trek with empty convoy to Utrecht, and after travelling for nine hours came to Piet River. This is the place where the Zulus cut the British up during the Zulu War. We camped here for the night; then on again next morning, through the Drakensburg Mountains, and arrived at Utrecht on June 18. This place is a small village, with about three hundred inhabitants. On this trek we had fighting every day, more or less. We stayed at Utrecht two days.
June 21. - On again to New Castle, crossing the Buffalo River. This river is the border between the Transvaal and Natal. Arrived at New Castle June 22. Here we handed over our horses and equipment.
June23. - We left New Castle by train for East London; passed Ingogo, just under Majuba Hill, and through the tunnel under Laing's Nek, where there was some heavy fighting in the early part of the war. Arrived at Stormberg, where General Gatacre had his reverse, and lost so heavily. Here we mobilised on the 29th June, and left again for East London July 4th. Arrived at East London July 5th, and boarded the transport "Britannic," and steamed out for Australia, July 6th, 1901. We had a very rough trip all the way to Albany, and after stopping there two days continued on to Tasmania. We arrived home in the early part of -August, 1901. For myself, I shall never regret my experiences on the veldt.
RECEPTION AT MELBOURNE. TASMANIANS DUE AT LAUNCESTON THIS MORNING.
Melbourne, Tuesday.-The troops were landed from the "Britannic" this morning in bright, pleasant weather, and carried by train to Spencer street. They marched from there via Collins and Swanston streets to the Victoria Barracks, where they Were entertained at lunch and warmly welcomed. The Tasmanian section sailed during the afternoon by the "Coogee" for Launceston.
THE RECEPTION ARRANGEMENTS.
Hobart, Tuesday-Captain Collins, the Victorian Secretary of Defence, has wired to the Premier that the Tasmanian troops left by the "Coogee" to-day. When they reach Launceston arrangements similar to those made when the last troops arrived will be followed. The troops will leave Launceston on Thursday morning shortly after 9 o'clock for Hobart.
WELCOMING THE TROOPS TO LAUNCESTON. TO-DAY'S ARRANGEMENTS.
The Tasmanian soldiers who arrived in Melbourne by the S.S. "Britannic," in company with a large body of troops belonging to the various states returning from the South African campaign, are expected to come across from the seat of the Federal Government in the "Coogee" this morning, landing at about noon.
The Tasmanian officers on the "Britannic" were Captain Lewis, Lieutenants Page, Reynolds, and Williams. The list of the non-commissioned officers and men comprised:
Sergeant Majors Cracknell and Shegog, Sergeants Townley, Stephens, Summers, Gerrand, H. T. Davis, Brewer, Farrier Sergeant Hutton, Corporals Barwise, Ward, Brownell, Rye, Farrier Bellette.
Troopers Blackaby, A. M. Brown, Berenck, Bridley, Burbury, Cliff, Crawford, Costello, Cooper, Crosby, Dudfield, Eddy, Ferguson, Firth, Geeves, Gardiner, Garrott, Guest, Green, Gleeson, Hayes, Heyne, Humphreys, Hodgkinson, C. A. J. Johnstone, A. A. Johnstone, Jackson, Keogh, Kenworthy, King, Litchfield, Littlejohn, M'Leod, M'Guire, O'May, Shields, Skinner, Storey, Walker, Williams, Whitmore, Willoughby, Whelan, Westbrook.
Lance-Corporal Harrison and Trooper Hood (Tasmanian Bushmen), and Trooper Hart (of the last Imperial Contingent) were also on board. The Mayor (Alderman F. K. Fairthorne) late yesterday afternoon received a telegram from the Chief Secretary (Mr. G. T. Collins), advising him of the expected arrival and sojourn of the troops in Launceston until to-morrow, when, if necessary, a special train would be provided for their transportation to Hobart. The shortness of the notice, however, and a number of prior engagements, precluded the Mayor from making the arrangements which he would have liked for the reception of the troops, and he wired to this effect to the Minister. At the same time, he promised to give Captain Lewis and his company as hearty a welcome as possible under the circumstances. It is understood that the Mayor and aldermen will board the "Coogee" on her arrival, and, on behalf of the citizens, welcome the soldiers back to Tasmania. Afterwards, if it can be conveniently arranged, the troops will be invited to meet the Mayor and aldermen at the Town Hall. In the afternoon the soldiers will be entertained at the concert for the Barnardo Homes.
John Hutton BISDEE
RETURNING SOLDIERS. WELCOMED AT HOBART.
Hobart, Thursday. - A special train, with the returned members of the Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen Contingent, arrived from Launceston this afternoon. The troops were warmly welcomed at the station by the Administrator (Sir John Dodds), Ministers, and friends. Greetings over, the men fell in, and, headed by the Garrison Band, marched through the principal streets to the Town Hall, being cheered en route by thousands of spectators, who occupied every possible position from which a good view could be obtained. Going down Macquarie-street, Captain Lewis was seized by some of his old comrades, who hoisted him shoulder high, and conveyed him in that position to the Town Hall, which was crowded beyond its standing capacity.
The Acting Mayor (Alderman Smith) presided, and in a few well chosen words welcomed Captain Lewis and his men back to Tasmania, at the same time eulogising the good work performed by them.
The Premier (Mr. NE Lewis) who was received with cheers, said that, on behalf on the Government and the people of Tasmania, he desired to offer to Captain Lewis and his gallant band a most hearty welcome home to Tasmania. She sent them away some 14 months ago, wishing them God-speed, and now they were glad to have them back again. They had secured high honours, obtaining two Victoria Crosses, and several D.S.O's. Lieutenant Wvlly had been decorated at the hands of the King, and Lieutenant Bisdee had returned to South Africa to try and add vet another clasp to his honours. (Cheers.) On occasions like that, however, their sympathies should naturally go out to the fathers and mothers of those who had gone down while discharging their duty. That Contingent alone had lost six, but those who had now returned had raised the prestige of Tasmania. (Prolonged cheers.)
Mr. G. T. Collins said, as one who had been closely allied with the Defence Force for many years, he desired to endorse what had been said by previous speakers. The contingent had more work to do than any other that had left Tasmania. (Cheers.) Captain Lewis and his men had followed the good example that had been set them by Major Cameron - (loud cheers) - with the result that there was not a black mark against any man sent away. (Cheers.) He joined with the Premier in sympathising with the fathers and mothers of those who would not return. The men had returned covered with glory, and he hoped they might be long spared to enjoy good health and prosperity.
Colonel Legge (Commandant), also, on behalf of the Defence Force, welcomed Captain Lewis and his men back to Tasmania. The members of the Contingent would always be remembered because of the good work done by them. He trusted the men would be able to get back to their usual avocations, and suffer no evil effects from their experiences in South Africa.
Mrs. Benson sang "Home, Sweet Home," with organ accompaniments by Mr. Haywood.
Captain Lewis, on rising to respond, was received with deafening cheers, and when order was restored he said the song just rendered he heard sung on the veldt under most trying circumstances, causing tears to flow copiously from many a manly eye. The welcome accorded to himself and men he highly appreciated. It was worth going to South Africa in order to receive such welcome on their return home, although one did not always think so. He thanked the men under him for the readiness with which their services were rendered on all occasions. He also thanked those responsible for the selection of such a capable body of men.
The proceedings concluded by the singing of the National Anthem, after which the majority of the men attended a thanksgiving service at St. David's Cathedral, and during the evening were entertained at a social at the Town Hall. - (August 1, 1901.)
Guy George Egerton WYLLY
SEVERAL OF THE SOLDIERS SUFFERING FROM MEASLES.
Hobart, Friday.-Captain Lewis, who only returned to-day from South Africa with the Tasmanian Imperial Contingent, has developed measles, and is now confined to bed. Charles Jackson, of Hamilton, another member, is similarly attacked, and suffering from a chill, has been removed to the hospital. It is feared other members will be likewise stricken.
AUSTRALIAN CASUALTIES. TWO TASMANIANS KILLED.
London, Friday morning. - Lieutenant F. G. Hum, of the West Australian Bushmen, and J. C. Rose, of the New Zealand Rough Riders, have been discharged from hospital, and resumed duty.
Corporal W. C. Lawlie, of the New Zealand Mounted Infantry, has been severely wounded, and Private William Fraser, of the Tasmanian Bushmen, has been killed at Pietersburg.
Lieutenant A. Sale, who was severely wounded at Pietersburg, has succumbed to his injuries.
OFFICIAL INTIMATION OF THE SAD NEWS.
Hobart, Friday. - The Administrator (Sir John Dodds) has received the following cable from the Governor of Cape Town :-"April 11, Lieutenant C. H. Walter killed near Pietersburg on April 8; Lieutenant Arnold Sale, died from wounds received near Pietersburg, April 9."
The Chief Secretary (Mr. G. T. Collins, M.L.C.) sent a telegram to a friend of the late Lieutenant Walter, asking him to break the news to Mr. Walter of his son's death, and also to Mr. Sale, intimating the sad news, and expressing the sympathy of Ministers at the unfortunate occurrence.
Both lieutenants went to South Africa with the Tasmanian section of the Imperial Australian Bushmen, which left Hobart under the command of Captain R. C. Lewis, on April 26, 1900.
Lieutenant Arnold Arthur Sale, who was 3o years of age, was a son of Mr. J. Townsend Sale, of St. Leonards, who was for many years manager of the Union Bank of Australia at Launceston. He was a fine, manly young fellow, and greatly esteemed by a large circle of friends. The deceased received the fatal wounds in an engagement at Pietersburg, when Colonel Plumer made a rapid advance on the town.
Lieutenant Walter's parents reside at Caulfield, near Melbourne. He was 24 years of age, and well and favourably known in shipping circles; and when he enlisted as a trooper in the contingent he was engaged as purser on the S.S. "Wareatea," trading between Launceston and Strahan. Being a good horseman, a fine shot, and having a natural aptitude for military duties, he quickly passed through the ranks, and was appointed to a lieutenancy shortly before the departure of the contingent.
The cable message also states that Private William Fraser, of the Tasmanian Bushmen, was also killed, but no such name appears in the lists of the contingents.
A GUN FOR TASMANIA.
Hobart, Wednesday.-Captain Lewis, D.S.O., prior to leaving South Africa wrote to the Chief of Staff, Pretoria, for a Maximgun to be given to Tasmania, the capture of which was due to the following Tasmanians:-
Lieutenant Stocker (then acting-sergeant), Corporal Kenny Ward, Troopers Burbury, O'May, Firth, Skinner, Crawford, Hamilton, King, and A. Hayes.
The following answer has been received by Captain Lewis:-"The General commanding-in-chief regrets he is unable to comply with this request at present, as the gun is serviceable, and is consequently required for use. A note will, however, be made of this application, and, if possible, this particular gun will be presented to Tasmania at the conclusion of hostilities. By order (signed), John Heaslam, D.A.A.G., for the Colonel on the staff."
POM-POM FOR TASMANIA.
The Hon. the Premier has received a despatch from the Agent General, notifying him that a pom-pom gun has been awarded Tasmania as a trophy of the South African war, and in commemoration of the part played by Tasmanians in the capture of a gun at Olifant's River in April, 1901. The Agent-General has also informed the Premier that 15 guns and 2500 rifles and carbines are available for distribution among the colonies that sent contingents to the South African war, but at the time of his writing no decision had been arrived at as to the allotment of the same. The Agent-General will undertake the transmission of the pompom. - 4/3/04.
Citation: 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen, Bufton Account, Part 2