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CHAPTER XXXV HE GUERILLA OPERATIONS IN CAPE COLONY
In the account which has been given in a preceding chapter of the invasion of Cape Colony by the Boer forces, it was shown that the Western bands were almost entirely expelled, or at least that they withdrew, at the time when De Wet was driven across the Orange River. This was at the beginning of March 1901. It was also mentioned that though the Boers evacuated the barren and unprofitable desert of the Karoo, the Eastern bands which had come with Kritzinger did not follow the same course, but continued to infest the mountainous districts of the Central Colony, whence they struck again and again at the railway ljiies, the small towns, British patrols, or any other quarry which was within their reach and strength. From the surrounding country they gathered a fair number of recruits, and they were able through the sympathy and help of the Dutch farmers to keep themselves well mounted and supplied. In small wandering bands they spread themselves over a vast extent of country, and there were few isolated farmhouses from the Orange River to the Oudtshoorn Mountains, and from the Cape Town railroad in the west to the Fish River in the east, which were not visited by their active and enterprising scouts. The object of the whole movement was, no doubt, to stimulate a general revolt in the Colony; and it must be acknowledged that if the powder did not all explode it was not for want of the match being thoroughly applied.
It might at first sight seem the simplest of military operations to hunt down these scattered and insignificant bands; but as a matter of fact nothing could be more difficult. Operating in a country which was both vast and difficult, with excellent horses, the best of information and supplies ready for them everywhere, it was impossible for the slow-moving British columns with their guns and their wagons to overtake them. Formidable even in flight, the Boers were always ready to turn upon any force which exposed itself too rashly to retaliation, and so amid the mountain passes the British chiefs had to use an amount of caution which was incompatible with extreme speed. Only when a commando was exactly localised so that two or three converging British forces could be brought to bear upon it, was there a reasonable chance of forcing a fight. Still, with all these heavy odds against them, the various little columns continued month after month to play hide-and-seek with the commandos, and the game was by no means always on the one side. The varied fortunes of this scrambling campaign can only be briefly indicated in these pages.
It has already been shown that Kritzinger's original force broke into many bands, which were recruited partly from the Cape rebels and partly from fresh bodies which passed over from the Orange River Colony. The more severe the pressure in the north, the greater reason was there for a trek to this land of plenty. The total number of Boers who were wandering over the eastern and midland districts may have been about two thousand, who were divided into bands which varied from .fifty to three hundred. The chief leaders of separate commandos were Kritzinger, Scheepers, Malan, Myburgh, Fouche, Lotter, Smuts, Van Reenen, Lategan, Maritz, and Conroy, the two latter operating on the western side of the country. To hunt down these numerous and active bodies the British were compelled to put many similar detachments into the field, known as the columns of Gorringe, Crabbe, Henniker, Scobell, Doran, Kavanagh, Alexander, and others. These two sets of miniature armies performed an intricate devil's dance over the Colony, the main lines of which are indicated by the red lines upon the map. The Zuurberg mountains to the north of Steynsburg, the Sneeuwberg range to the south of Middelburg, the Oudtshoorn Mountains in the south, the Cradock district, the Murraysburg district, and the Graaf-Reinet district-these were the chief centres of Boer activity.
In April Kritzinger made his way north to the Orange River Colony, for the purpose of consulting with De Wet, but he returned with a following of 200 men about the end of May. Continual brushes occurred during this month between the various columns, and much hard marching was done upon either side, but there was nothing which could be claimed as a positive success.
Early in May two passengers sailed for Europe, the journey of each being in its way historical. The first was the weary and overworked Pro-Consul who had the foresight to distinguish the danger and the courage to meet it. Milner's worn face and prematurely grizzled hair told of the crushing weight which had rested upon him during three eventful years. A gentle scholar, he might have seemed more fitted for a life of academic calm than for the stormy part which the discernment of Mr. Chamberlain had assigned to him. The fine flower of an English university, low-voiced and urbane, it was difficult to imagine what impression he would produce upon those rugged types of which South. Africa is so peculiarly prolific. But behind the reserve of a gentleman there lay within him a lofty sense of duty, a singular clearness of vision, and a moral courage which would brace him to follow whither his reason pointed. His visit to England for three months' rest was the occasion for a striking manifestation of loyalty and regard from his fellow-countrymen. He returned in August as Lord Milner to the scene of his labours, with the construction of a united and loyal commonwealth of South Africa as the task of his life.
The second traveller who sailed within a few days of the Governor was Mrs. Botha, the wife of the Boer General, who visited Europe for private as well as political reasons. She bore to Kruger an exact account of the state of the country and of the desperate condition of the burghers. Her mission had no immediate or visible effect, and the weary war, exhausting for the British but fatal for the Boers, went steadily on.
To continue the survey of the operations in the Cape, the first point scored was by the invaders, for Malan's commando succeeded upon May 13th in overwhelming a strong patrol of the Midland Mounted Rifles, the local colonial corps, to the south of Maraisburg. Six killed, eleven wounded, and forty~one prisoners were the fruits of his little victory, which furnished him also with a fresh supply of rifles and ammunition. On May 21st Crabbe's column was in touch with Lotter and with Lategan, but no very positive result came from the skirmish.
The end of May showed considerable Boer activity in the Cape Colony, that date corresponding with the return of Kritzinger from the north. Haig had for the moment driven Scheepers back from the extreme southerly point which he had reached, and he was now in the Graaf-Reinet district; but on the other side of the colony Conroy had appeared near Kenhart, and upon May 23rd he fought a sharp skirmish with a party of Border Scouts. The main Boer force under Kritzinger was in the midlands, however, and had concentrated to such an extent in the Cradock district that it was clear that some larger enterprise was on foot. This soon took shape, for on June 2nd, after a long and rapid march, the Boer leader threw himself upon Jamestown, overwhelmed the sixty townsmen who formed the guard, and looted the town, from which he drew some welcome supplies and 100 horses. British columns were full cry upon his heels, however, and the Boers after a few hours left the gutted town and vanished into the hills once more. On June 6th the British had a little luck at last, for on that date Scobell and Lukin in the Barkly East district surprised a laager and took twenty prisoners, 166 horses, and much of the Jamestown loot. On the same day Windham treated Van Reenen in a similar rough fashion near Steynsburg, and took twenty-two prisoners.
On June 8th the supreme command of the operations in Cape Colony was undertaken by General French, who from this time forward manoeuvred his numerous columns upon a connected plan with the main idea of pushing the enemy northwards. It was some time, however, before his disposition bore fruit, for the commandos were still better mounted and lighter than their pursuers. On Tune 13th the youthful and dashing Scheepers, who commanded his own little force at an age when he would have been a junior lieutenant of the British army, raided Murraysburg and captured a patrol. On Tune 17th Monro with Lovat's Scouts and Bethune's Mounted Infantry had some slight success near Tarkastad, but three days later the ill-fated Midland Mounted Rifles were surprised in the early morning by Kritzinger at Waterkloof, which is thirty miles west of Cradock, and were badly mauled by him. They lost ten killed, eleven wounded, and sixty-six prisoners in this unfort unate affair. Again the myth that colonial alertness is greater than that of regular troops seems to have been exposed.
At the end of Tune, Fouche, one of the most enterprising of the guerilla chiefs, made a dash from Barkly East into the native reserves of the Transkei in order to obtain horses and supplies. It was a desperate measure, as it was vain to suppose that the warlike Kaffirs would permit their property to be looted without resistance, and if once the assegais were reddened no man could say how far the mischief might go. With great loyalty the British Government, even in the darkest days, had held back those martial races - Zulus, Swazis, and Basutos - who all had old grudges against the Amaboon. Fouche's raid was stopped, however, before it led to serious trouble. A handful of Griqualand Mounted Rifles held it in front, while Dalgety and his colonial veterans moving very swiftly drove him back northwards.
Though baulked, Fouche was still formidable, and on July 14th he made a strong attack in the neighbourhood of Jamestown upon a column of Connaught Rangers who were escorting a convoy. Major Moore offered a determined resistance, and eventually after some hours of fighting drove the enemy away and captured their laager. Seven killed and seventeen wounded were the British losses in this spirited engagement.
On July 10th General French, surveying from a lofty mountain peak the vast expanse of the field of operations, with his heliograph calling up responsive twinkles over one hundred miles of country, gave the order for the convergence of four columns upon the valley in which he knew Scheepers to be lurking. We have it from one of his own letters that his commando at the time consisted of 240 men, of whom forty were Free Staters and the rest colonial rebels. Crewe, Windham, Doran, and Scobell each answered to the call, but the young leader was a man of resource, and a long kloof up the precipitous side of the hill gave him a road to safety. Yet the operations showed a new mobility in the British columns, which shed their guns and their baggage in order to travel faster. The main commando escaped, but twenty-five laggards were taken. The action took place among the hills thirty miles to the west of Graaf-Reinet.
On July 21st Crabbe and Kritzinger had a skirmish in the mountains near Cradock, in which the Boers were strong enough to hold their own; but on the same date near Murraysburg, Lukin, the gallant colonial gunner, with ninety men rode into 150 of Lategan's band and captured ten of them, with a hundred horses. On July 27th a small party of twenty-one Imperial Yeomanry was captured, after a gallant resistance, by a large force of Boers at the Doorn River on the other side of the Colony. The Kaffir scouts of the British were shot dead in cold blood by their captors after the action. There seems to be no possible excuse for the repeated murders of coloured men by the Boers, as they had themselves from the beginning of the war used their Kaffirs for every purpose short of actually fighting. The war had lost much of the good humour which marked its outset. A fiercer feeling had been engendered on both sides by the long strain, but the execution of rebels by the British, though much to be deplored, is still recognised as one of the rights of a belligerent. When one remembers the condonation upon the part of the British of the use of their own uniforms by the Boers, of the wholesale breaking of paroles, of the continual use of expansive bullets, of the abuse of the pass system and of the red cross, it is impossible to blame them for showing some severity in the stamping out of armed rebellion within their own Colony. If stern measures were eventually adopted it was only after extreme leniency had been tried and failed. The loss of five years' franchise as a penalty for firing upon their own flag is surely the most gentle correction which an Empire ever laid upon a rebellious people.
At the beginning of August the connected systematic work of French's columns began to tell. In a huge semicircle the British were pushing north, driving the guerillas in front of them. Scheepers in his usual wayward fashion had broken away to the south, but the others had been unable to penetrate the cordon and were herded over the Stormberg-Naauwport line. The main body of the Boers was hustled swiftly along from August 7th to August 10th, from Graaf-Reinet to Thebus, and thrust over the railway line at that point with some loss of men and a great shedding of horses. It was hoped that the blockhouses on the railroad would have held the enemy, but they slipped across by night and got into the Steynsburg district, where Gorringe's colonials took up the running. On August 18th he followed the commandos from Steynsburg to Venterstad, killing twenty of them and taking several prisoners. On the 15th, Kritzinger with the main body of the invaders passed the Orange River near Bethulie, and made his way to the Wepener district of the Orange River Colony. Scheepers, Lotter, Lategan, and a few small wandering bands were the only Boers left in the Colony, and to these the British columns now turned their attention, with the result that Lategan, towards the end of the month, was also driven over the river. For the time, at least, the situation seemed to have very much improved, but there was a drift of Boers over the north-western frontier, and the long-continued warfare at their own doors was undoubtedly having a dangerous effect upon the Dutch farmers. Small successes from time to time, such as the taking of sixty of French's Scouts by Theron's commando on August 10th, served to keep them from despair. Of the guerilla bands which remained, the most important was that of Scheepers, which now numbered 300 men, well mounted and supplied. He had broken back through the cordon, and made for his old haunts in the south-west. Theron, with a smaller band, was also in the Uniondale and Willowmore district, approaching close to the sea in the Mossel Bay direction, but being headed off by Kavanagh. Scheepers turned in the direction of Cape Town, but swerved aside at Montagu, and moved northwards towards Touws River.
So far the British had succeeded in driving and injuring, but never in destroying, the Boer bands. It was a new departure therefore when, upon September 4th, the commando of Lotter was entirely destroyed by the column of Scobell. This column consisted of some of the Cape Mounted Rifles and of the indefatigable 9th Lancers. It marked the enemy down in a valley to the west of Cradock and attacked them in the morning, after having secured all the approaches, The result was a complete success. The Boers threw themselves into a building and held out valiantly, but their position was impossible, aud after enduring considerable punishment they were forced to hoist the white flag. Eleven had been killed, forty-six wounded, and fifty-six surrendered - figures which are in themselves a proof of the tenacity of their defence. Lotter was among the prisoners, 260 horses were taken, and a good supply of ammunition, with some dynamite. A few days later, on September 10th, a similar blow, less final in its character, was dealt by Colonel Crabbe to the commando of Van der Merve, which was an offshoot of that of Scheepers. The action was fought near Laingsburg, which is on the main line, just north of Matjesfontein, and it ended in the scattering of the Boer band, the death of their boy leader (he was only eighteen years of age), and the capture of thirty-seven prisoners. Seventy of the Beers escaped by a hidden road. To Colonials and Yeomanry belongs the honour of the action, which cost the British force seven casualties. Colonel Crabbe pushed on after the success, and on September 14th he was in touch with Scheepers's commando near Ladismith (not to he confused with the historical town of Natal), and endured and inflicted some losses. On the 17th a patrol of Grenadier Guards was captured in the north of the Colony, Rebow, the young lieutenant in charge of them, meeting with a soldier's death.
On the same day a more serious engagement occurred near Tarkastad, a place ~hich lies to the east of Cradock, a notorious centre of disaffection in the midland &~stnct. Smuts's commando, some hundreds strong, was marked down in this part, and several forces converged upon it. One of the outlets, Elands River Poort, was guarded by a single squadron of the 17th Lancers. Upon this the Boers made a sudden and very fierce attack, their approach being facilitated partly by the mist and partly by the use of khaki, a trick which seems never to have grown too stale for successful use. The result was that they were able to ride up to the British camp before any preparations had been made for resistance, and to shoot down a number of the Lancers before they could reach their horses. So terrible was the fire that the single squadron lost thirty-four killed and thirty-six wounded. But the regiment may console itself for the disaster by the fact that the sorely stricken detachment remained true to the spirited motto of the corps, and that no prisoners appear to have been lost.
After this one sharp engagement there ensued several weeks during which the absence of historical events, or the presence of the military censor, caused a singular lull in the account of the operations. With so many small commandos and so many pursuing columns it is extraordinary that there should not have been a constant succession of actions. That there was not must indicate a sluggishness upon the part of the pursuers, and this sluggishness can only be explained by the condition of their horses. Every train of thought brings the critic back always to the great horse question, and encourages the conclusion that there, at all seasons of the war and in all scenes of it, is to be found the most damning indictment against British foresight, common-sense, and power of organisation. That the third year of the war should dawn without the British forces having yet got the legs of the Boers, after having penetrated every portion of their country and having the horses of the world on which to draw, is the most amazingly inexplicable point in the whole of this strange campaign. From the telegram 'Infantry preferred' addressed to a nation of rough-riders, down to the failure to secure the excellent horses on the spot, while importing them unfit for use from the ends of the earth, there has been nothing but one long series of blunders in this, the most vital question of all. Even up to the end, in the Colony the obvious lesson had not yet been learnt that it is better to give 1,000 men two horses each, and EO let them reach the enemy, than give 2,000 men one horse each, with which they can never attain their object. The chase during two years of the man with two horses by the man with one horse, has been a sight painful to ourselves and ludicrous to others.
In connection with this account of operations within the Colony, there is one episode which occurred in the extreme north-west which will not fit in with this connected narrative, but which will justify the distraction of the reader's intelligence, for few finer deeds of arms are recorded in the war. This was the heroic defence of a convoy by the 14th Company of Irish Imperial Yeomanry. The convoy was taking food to Griquatown, on the Kimberley side of the seat of war. The town had been long invested by Conroy, and the inhabitants were in such straits that it was highly necessary to relieve them. To this end a convoy, two miles long, was despatched under Major Humby of the Irish Yeomanry. The escort consisted of seventy-five Northumberland Fusiliers, twenty-four local troops, and 100 of the 74th Irish Yeomanry. Fifteen miles from Griquatown, at a place called Rooikopjes, the convoy was attacked by the enemy several hundred in number. Two companies of the Irishmen seized the ridge, however, which commanded the wagons, and held it until they were almost exterminated. The position was covered with bush, and the two parties came to the closest of quarters, the Yeomen refusing to take a backward step, though it was clear that they were vastly outnumbered. Encouraged by the example of Madan and Ford, their gallant young leaders, they deliberately sacrificed their lives in order to give time for the guns to come up and for the convoy to pass. Oliffe, Bonynge, and Maclean, who had been children together, were shot side by side on the ridge, and afterwards buried in one grave. Of forty-three men in action, fourteen were killed and twenty severely wounded. Their sacrifice was not in vain, however. The Boers were beaten back, and the convoy, as well as Griquatown, was saved. Some thirty or forty Boers were killed or wounded in the skirmish, and Conroy, their leader, declared that it was the stiffest fight of his life.
In the autumn and winter of 1901 General French had steadily pursued the system of clearing certain districts, one at a time, and endeavouring by his blockhouses and by the arrangement of his forces to hold in strict quarantine those sections of the country which were still infested by the commandos. In this manner he succeeded by the November of this year in confining the active forces of the enemy to the extreme northeast and to the south-west of the peninsula. It is doubtful if the whole Boer force, three-quarters of whom were colonial rebels, amounted to more than fifteen hundred men. When we learn that at this period of the war they were indifferently armed, and that many of them were mounted upon donkeys, it is impossible, after making every allowance for the passive assistance of the farmers, and the difficulties of the country, to believe that the pursuit was always pushed with the spirit and vigour which was needful.
In the north-east, Myburgh, Wessels, and the truculent Fouche were allowed almost a free hand for some months, while the roving bands were rounded up in the' midlands and driven along until they were west of the main railroad. Here, in the Calvinia district, several commandos united in October 1901 under Maritz, Louw, Smit, and Theron. Their united bands rode down into the rich grain-growing country round Piquetberg and Malmesbury, pushing south until it seemed as if their academic supporters at Paarl were actually to have a sight of the rebellion which they had fanned to a flame. At one period their patrols were within forty miles of Cape Town. The movement was checked, however, by a small force of Lancers and district troops, and towards the end of October, Maritz, who was chief in this quarter, turned northwards, and on the 29th captured a small British convoy which crossed his line of march. Early in November he doubled back and attacked Piquetberg, but was beaten off with some loss. From that time a steady pressure from the south and east drove these bands farther and farther into the great barren lands of the west, until, in the following April, they had got as far as Namaqualand, many hundred miles away.
Upon October 9th, the second anniversary of the Ultimatum, the hands of the military were strengthened by the proclamation of Cape Town and all the seaport towns as being in a state of martial law. By this means a possible source of supplies and recruits for the enemy was effectually blocked. That it had not been done two years before is a proof of how far local political considerations can be allowed to over-ride the essentials of Imperial policy. Meanwhile treason courts were sitting, and sentences, increasing rapidly from the most trivial to the most tragic, were teaching the rebel that his danger did not end upon the field of battle. The execution of Lotter and his lieutenants was a sign that the patience of a long-suffering Empire had at last reached an end.
The young Boer leader, Scheepers, had long been a thorn in the side of the British. He had infested the southern districts for some months, and he had distinguished himself both by the activity of his movements and by the ruthless vigour of some of his actions. Early in October a serious illness and consequent confinement to his bed brought him at last within the range of British mobility. On his recovery he was tried for repeated breaches of the laws of war, including the murder of several natives. He was condemned to death, and was executed in December. Much sympathy was excited by his gallantry and his youth -he was only twenty-three. On the other hand, our word was pledged to protect the natives, and if he whose hand had been so heavy upon them escaped, all confidence would have been lost in our promises and our justice. That British vengeance was not indiscriminate was shown soon afterwards in the case of a more irnportant commander, Kritzinger, who was the chief leader of the Boers within Cape Colony. Kritzinger was wounded and captured while endeavouring to cross the line near Hanover Road upon December 15th. He was put upon his trial, and his fate turned upon how far he was responsible for the misdeeds of some of his subordinates. It was clearly shown that he had endeavoured to hold them within the bounds of civilised warfare, and with congratulations and handshakings he was acquitted by the military court.
In the last two months of the year 1901, a new system was introduced into the Cape Colony campaign by placing the Colonial and district troops immediately under the command of Colonial officers and of the Colonial Government. It had long been felt that some devolution was necessary, and the change was justified by the result. Without any dramatic incident, an inexorable process of attrition, caused by continual pursuit and hardship, wore out the commandos. Large bands had become small ones, and small ones had vanished. Only by the union of several bodies could any enterprise higher than the looting of a farmhouse be successfully attempted.
Such a union occurred, however, in the early days of February 1902, when Smuts, Malan, and several other Boer leaders showed great activity in the country round Calvinia. Their commandos seem to have included a proportion of veteran Republicans from the north, who were more formidable fighting material than the raw Colonial rebels. It happened that several dangerously weak British columns were operating within reach at that time, and it was only owing to the really admirable conduct of the troops that a serious disaster was averted. Two separate actions, each of them severe, were fought on the same date, and in each case the Boers were able to bring very superior numbers into the field.
The first of these was the fight in which Colonel Doran's column extricated itself with severe loss from a most perilous plight. The whole force under Doran consisted of 350 men with two guns, and this handful was divided by an expedition which he, with 150 men, undertook in order to search a distant farm. The remaining two hundred men, under Captain Saunders, were left upon February 5th with the guns and the convoy at a place called Middlepost, which lies about fifty miles south-west of Calvinia. These men were of the 11th, 23rd, and 24th Imperial Yeomanry, with a troop of Cape Police. The Boer Intelligence was excellent, as might be expected in a country which is dotted with farms. The weakened force at Middlepost was instantly attacked by Smuts's commando. Saunders evacuated the camp and abandoned the convoy, which was the only thing he could do, but he concentrated all his efforts upon preserving his guns. The night was illuminated by the blazing wagons, and made hideous by the whoops of the drunken rebels who caroused among the captured stores. With the first light of dawn the small British force was fiercely assailed on all sides, but held its own in a manner which would have done credit to any troops. The much criticised Yeomen fought like veterans. A considerable position had to be covered, and only a handful of men were available at the most important points. One ridge, from which the guns would be enfiladed, was committed to the charge of Lieutenants Tabor and Chichester with eleven men of the 11th Imperial Yeomanry, their instructions being 'to hold it to the death.' The order was obeyed with the utmost heroism. After a desperate defence the ridge was only taken by the Boers when both officers had been killed and nine out of eleven men were on the ground. In spite of the loss of this position the fight was still sustained until shortly after midday, when Doran with the patrol returned. The position was still most dangerous, the losses had been severe, and the Boers were increasing in strength. An immediate retreat was ordered, and the small column, af~er ten days of hardship and anxiety, reached the railway line in safety. The wounded were left to the care of Smuts, who behaved with chivalry and humanity.
At about the same date a convoy proceeding from Beaufort West to Fraserburg was attacked by Malan's commando. The escort, which consisted of sixty Colonial Mounted Rifles and 100 of the West Yorkshire militia, was overwhelmed after a good defence, in which Major Crofton, their commander, was killed. The wagons were destroyed, but the Boers were driven off by the arrival of Crabbe's column, followed by those of Capper and Lund. The total losses of the British in these two actions amounted to twenty-three killed and sixty-five wounded.
The re-establishment of settled law and order was becoming more marked every week in those southwestern districts, which had long been most disturbed. Colonel Crewe in this region, and Colonel Lukin upon the other side of the line, acting entirely with Colonial troops, were pushing back the rebels, and holding, by a well-devised system of district defence, all that they had gained. By the end of February there were none of the enemy south of the Beaufort West and Clanwilliam line. These results were not obtained without much hard marching and a little hard fighting. Small columns under Crabbe, Capper, Wyndham, Nickall, and Lund, were continually on the move, with little to show for it save an ever-widening area of settled country in their rear. In a skirmish on February 20th ludge Hugo, a well-known Boer leader, was killed, and Vanheerden, a notorious rebel, was captured. At the end of this month Fouche's tranquil occupation of the north-east was at last disturbed, and he was driven out of it into the midlands, where he took refuge with the remains of his commando in the Camdeboo Mountains. Malan's men had already sought shelter in the same natural fortresB. Malan was wounded and taken in a skirmish near Somerset East a few days before the general Boer surrender. Fouche gave himself up at Cradock on June 2nd.
The last incident of this scattered, scrambling, unsatisfactory campaign in the Cape peninsula was the raid made by Smuts, the Transvaal leader, into the Port Nolloth district of Namaqualand, best known for its copper mines. A small railroad has been constructed from the coast at this point, the terminus being the township of Ookiep. The length of the line is about seventy miles. It is difficult to imagine what the Boers expected to gain in this remote corner of the seat of war, unless they had conceived the idea that they might actually obtain possession of Port Nolloth itself, and so restore the communications with their sympathisers and allies. At the end of March the Boer horsemen appeared suddenly out of the desert, drove in the British outposts, and summoned Ookiep to surrender. Colonel Shelton, who commanded the small garrison, sent an uncompromising reply, but he was unable to protect the railway in his rear, which was wrecked, together with some of the blockhouses which had been erected to guard it. The loyal population of the surrounding country had flocked into Ookiep, and the Commandant found himself burdened with the care of six thousand people. The enemy had succeeded in taking the small post of Springbok, and Concordia, the mining centre, was surrendered into their hands without resistance, giving them welcome suplies of arms, ammunition, and dynamite. The latter was used by the Boers in the shape of hand-bombs, and proved to be a very efficient weapon when employed against blockhouses. Several of the British defences were wrecked by them, with considerable loss to the garrison; but in the course of a month's siege, in spite of several attacks, the Boers were never able to carry the frail works which guarded the town. Once more, at the end of the war as at the beginning of it, there was shown the impotence of the Dutch riflemen against a British defence. A relief column, under Colonel Cooper, was quickly organised at Port Nolloth, and advanced along the railway line, forcing Smuts to raise the siege in the first week of May. Immediately afterwards came the news of the negotiations for peace, and the Boer general presented himself at Port Nolloth, whence he was conveyed by ship to Cape Town, and so north again to take part in the deliberations of his fellow-countrymen. Throughout the war he had played a manly and honourable part. It may be hoped that with youth and remarkable experience, both of diplomacy and of war, he may now find a long and briliant career awaiting him in a wider arena than that for which he strove.
Turn to the next chapter: CHAPTER XXXVI THE SPRING CAMPAIGN (SEPT.-DEC. 1901)