1899 - 1902



Anglo Boer War
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To return to Mafeking. On the day that Colonel Mahon and Colonel Plumer joined hands near Jan Massibi's thatched village, news leaked in that the  long-talked-of relief was verily at hand. They had heard this kind of thing before, and their despair lest the Boers should attack the town to obtain the release of Eloff was scarcely allayed. However, on the 16th, dust was  espied in the distance, and there was a rush to the roofs of the houses to ascertain whether that dust was hostile or friendly. It was afterwards discovered that it was the sign of the retiring enemy, and eventually towards  dusk it was announced that the Relief Column was really in sight. The longing eyes of Mafeking looked out, and for the first time saw their persecutors in full retreat, saw them begin to run, and then, later, scudding for their  lives, while their gratified cars, so tuned to the sound of the vicious artillery of the foe, now heard the cheery notes of the Canadian artillery, the pom-poms, and other pieces, clearing the barricades that for so long had  shut out the free air of day. In the late afternoon Major Karri Davies, who after the routing of the Federals had never drawn rein till he reached Mafeking, accompanied by some eight 6£ the Imperial Light Horse, the Light Horse  that had been first in Ladysmith, marched into the town. Surprise was intense! Then surprise thawed into warmth, and then warmth grew to fever-heat. Capture eventually reached boiling-point, and the nine men, gaunt, worn,  haggard with fatigue, were deafened with cheers1 and had not strength enough to do the handshaking.

Meanwhile, as we know, Colonel Mahon had outspanned. He did this only to inspan again, and proceed by moonlight to the town.  He had followed the rule of South African strategy,-said he was going to do one thing and did the other, - thus outwitting the Boers, who having retired wearily, were gathering themselves up to lunge at him, and intercept his  entry so soon as the dawn should break. But by four in the morning of the 17th, while the chill dramatic moonbeams were yet bathing the scene with strange mystery, Colonel Mahon and his merry men - they were merrier than merry  at the prospect of their welcome-led by Major Baden-Powell, the brother of the hero of the defence, approached the town. The news of the arrival spread like wildfire. Immediately all was bustle, and bliss, and gratulation. Men,  women, and children beamed. Some wept; some danced. The natives indulged in wild sounds, and showed rows of dazzling teeth. Exuberance took amazing forms; stranger wrung the hand of stranger, friends grasped and re-grasped: if  they had been foreigners they would have embraced! The large hearts of the heroes within and the large hearts of the heroes from without were throbbing in unison, bursting with satisfaction in the accomplishment of great work  in the cause of their country and of their fellow-men. The ragged, battered, grimy, magnificent throng was almost at a loss to express itself Words lagged, and even those forthcoming were blurred by a foggy haze in the throat,  while a strange mistiness crept over eyes that for seven months had been bright with the fire of determination. But withal, there was no emasculating abandonment to rapture of the hour There was no unbuckling of armour. At nine  the serious work of war began again. The united forces went out on a reconnaissance in the direction of MacMullin's farm, where the chief Dutch laager was fixed, and then all the artillery, even to the grandfatherly "Lord  Nelson," performed in concert in honour of the great occasion. Cascades of shrapnel and little white balls of smoke danced and played over the laager, and bombs burst with violent detonations, and then, like magic, wreaths  of dust began to rise and increase, and cloud the distance. It was the Dutchmen scampering for dear life across the veldt, their waggons and guns-all save one-rumbling into space.

This one was 'abandoned in the hurried  flight, the Boers having taken the precaution to destroy the breech, but it was nevertheless captured as a precious souvenir of times more pleasant in reminiscence than in being. The forts were visited in turn, and at  Game-Tree-that dreadful thorn in the side of the garrison-the Union Jack went up to a chorus of cheers. Finally, the place was devoured by fire, to the satisfaction of those who had so long regarded it with apprehension and  hate. At MacMullin's farm were found the Boer wounded, deserted of their kind, who had scuttled with such alacrity that even their still smoking breakfasts had been foregone. Lieutenant Currie and his smart Cape Boys, and Major  Baillie (4th Hussars), came on one or two stragglers in the Boer laager, who wisely surrendered. Snyman's official correspondence was discovered, and from this much valuable information was gleaned. From one bundle of papers  the garrison learned the pleasing intelligence that Kroonstadt had fallen; from another, that Kruger was not best pleased with the old Commandant-indeed, the President without palaver had inquired by telegram whether his  failure of the previous Saturday had been due to drink! The rescue of Captain Maclaren (13th Hussars) from the clutches of the enemy caused great satisfaction, and he was borne off in triumph to the hospital, where he  was comfortably located. He was suffering still from the wounds sustained during the fight on the 31st, one of which had been inflicted after he was helpless by a Dutchman, who deliberately fired on him at a distance of twenty  yards, and subsequently robbed him of watch and money!

By noon the reconnaissance was at an end,-the place was found to be clear of the horrible girdle that for seven months had encompassed it, and then the Market Square  became a scene of unrestrained enthusiasm. The Town Guard got itself into position ready to do honour to the warriors who had come through fire and blood to release their fellow-countrymen, while every nook and corner of the  broken hamlet was filled with excited, cheering folks-Folks whose vocal cords seemed 'scarcely to have suffered from scant fare and unceasing vigils, and who yelled as though by sheer force of lung power they meant to swell  their song of jubilation to the four corners of the earth!

Perhaps the march past of the united relief columns was the most unique and imposing ceremony ever performed within the confines of such a "chicken-run."  Here, in this tiny compass, the whole empire veritably met together-South Africans, Australians, Canadians, English, Scots, and Irishmen, Indians, Cape Boys, all following one another, unit after unit, like some quaint scenic  procession of the nations. There were the bronzed colonels-Baden - Powell, and Mahon, and Plumer, now household names throughout the world-accompanied by their staffs, the elite of the embattled array. There were the glorious  12-pounders-M Battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, whose every limber looked dear to the eyes that long had been strained in eagerness' for their coming-and their guardians, the helmeted band of staunch and sturdy gunners, who  carried the voice of Empire far and wide-there were the plumed and mettlesome Colonials, very fighting-cocks at the sniff of war-there was the lion rampant in the form of the Union Brigade (the picked portions of it from the  Royal Fusiliers, Royal Scots, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and Royal Irish Fusiliers), a right regal company, the very sight of which in common times would have caused, the heart of Britons to throb, and which now sent the cup of  patriotic rapture brimming over. Cheers or tears? Shouts or sobs? It was a "toss "~p which would supersede the other, and amid the stupendous fracas even the dauntless hero of this unparalleled, soul-stirring  outburst turned aside that none should view the emotion that threatened to overwhelm him.

The painter, when he depicted Agamemnon in the hour of sublime sacrifice, drew a veil over the features of the chief. He judged the  supreme moment of human exultation too sanctified for common gaze. Even so must we draw the veil of silence over this supreme moment in the life of the saviour of Mafeking. . . the soundless epic is the more sonorous.

The  parade over, addresses were presented and the usual formalities gone through. The gratitude of the town for the relief-the appreciation of the magnificent work done by Colonel Baden Powell, and the stupendous energy of the  succouring forces, were all dilated on and thanks returned. A hailstorm of cheers then broke out-cheers for Queen and country, for Baden-Powell, Mahon, Plumer, Colonel Rhodes, Major Karri Davies; in fact, every one cheered  every one else, for all were too deserving, too heroic, to overlook the deserts and heroism of those who had imperilled their lives over and over again to maintain the prestige of their native land. So passed the day, and at  night chums and comrades gathered together and jested and laughed, and told yarns of skirmish and sortie and surprise, till they sank to sleep in their greatcoats and blankets, fairly worn out with their eleven days and nights  of boot and saddle.

On the 19th, the garrison assembled for a last, a solemn function. A great thanksgiving and memorial service was held at the cemetery, and all bade a last farewell to those who had shared with them the  tribulations of the siege without reaping the harvest of honour their hands had sown.

At the close of the impressive ceremony three volleys were fired over the noble dead who had given their lives to attain the great end, and  then an effort was made to sing the National Anthem, but the notes were quavering with the emotion which these hitherto fearless men now feared might unman them.

Finally Colonel Baden Powell - a little abruptly to cover the  touching nature of his farewell-addressed the, garrison :-"We have been a happy family during the siege. The time has now come for breaking up. When we were first invested I said to you,' Sit tight and shoot straight.' The  garrison has sat tight and shot straight, with the present glorious result. Many nice things have been said about me at home, but it is an easy thing to be the figurehead of a ship. The garrison has been the rigging and sails  or the good ship Mafeking, and has brought her safely through her stormy cruise."

He then thanked the ladies, beginning with the matron of the hospital, whose pluck and devotion could not be sufficiently extolled.  Turning to the Protectorate Regiment, he said

"To you I need say nothing. Your roll of dead and wounded tells its own tale."

Shaking hands with Colonel Hore he thanked him for the assistance he had given him, and  to the artillery, under Major Panzera and Lieutenant Daniel, he said

"You were armed with obsolete weapons, but you made up for these by your cool shooting and the way you stuck to your guns."

The colonel afterwards turned to the British South Africa Police

"I need not repeat to you men the story of the little red fort on the hill, which Cronje could not take."

And to the Cape Police, under Captain Marsh, he addressed himself as follows

"You have not been given an opportunity of doing anything dramatic, but throughout the siege you have held one of the nastiest places in the  town, where the enemy were expected at any moment, and where you were always under fire."

The colonel next made some graceful remarks to the Town Guard. He compared them to a walnut in a shell; saving that people thought  that they had but to break the shell to get at the kernel. But the enemy had learnt better. They had got through the husk and found they could get no hold on the kernel. In conclusion, he 'announced that any civilians who  wished to return to their ordinary occupations immediately might do so. Those who had none to return to, whose billets had been lost or businesses ruined, would be permitted in the meantime to draw trench allowances and to  remain on duty in the inner defences.

Major Gooli Adams was then cordially thanked for all the excellent work he had done as Town Commandant, after which the Railway Division (under Captain Moore) and Lieutenant Layton (who  had received a commission for his splendid services) were addressed

"I cannot thank you enough for what you have done. You have transformed yourselves from railway-men to soldiers. Your work is not yet done, because it  will be your business to reopen communication and get in supplies."

To the Bechuanaland Rifles Colonel Baden-Powell exclaimed

"Men, you have turned out trumps. With volunteers one knows that they have been ably  drilled, but there is no telling how they will fight. I have been able to use you exactly as Regular troops, and I have been specially pleased with your straight shooting. The other day, when the enemy occupied the Protectorate  Fort, they admitted that they were forced to surrender by your straight shooting, under which they did not dare to show a hand above the parapet."

The chief delighted the juvenile Cadet Corps by giving them their need of  praise for their conduct as soldiers, concluding with, "I hope you will continue in the profession, and will do as well in after life."

He then turned to the outsiders, the Northern Relief Force under Colonel  Plumer, which had borne the brunt of the seven months' fighting, and expressed his regret that they had been too weak to relieve the town "off their own bat." But he eulogised the splendid work done in bad country and  climate. The Southern Force under Colonel Mahon were congratulated on having made a march which would live in history. Their chief was complimented on the magnificent body of men he commanded, while the Imperial Light Horse,  associated as it was with memories of Ladysmith, Colonel Baden-Powell declared he was especially pleased to see, as these would be able, in consequence of their own experience, to sympathise with the people in Mafeking.

So  the amazing defence of Mafeking was over! For seven months the gallant little town had withstood every ingenious device of the Boers, and in the end it had come off victorious. The first shot was fired on the r6th of October,  and from that day the rumble of bombardment had been the accompaniment of almost every hour between the rising and setting of the sun. And now all was serene and still, and only the battered walls of the once neat little hamlet  told the terrible, the glorious tale of British doggedness and British pluck.


For some time the ears of London had been pricked up in anxious expectation. Lord Roberts  had promised to relieve Mafeking by the 18th of May, and the Field - Marshal was known to be punctuality personified. All the town remained in a state of suppressed excitement, little flags were selling like wildfire, and big  flags were being got into readiness for the great, the longed-for word. Early in the morning of the 17th the papers were anxiously perused, and man asked man if any news had leaked out. The 18th arrived. Nothing was known. The  War Office maintained its adamantine calm. The day grew middle-aged, almost old-then, as the shutters were about to go up (twenty minutes past nine was the. exact hour), one telegram of Reuter's fired the fuse, and London,  followed presently by the whole British Empire, was ablaze with excitement. The flame, like most flames, broke out almost unnoticed. Some one on a cycle-some one in a cab, heard the glorious three words, and sped breathless to  carry the contagion of his rapture far and wide. Street after street began to smoulder, to glow; and, presto! the town was one vast conflagration! Such a furnace of patriotism had never been seen within the confines of the  staid metropolis. By ten o'clock the populace of one consent had run wild into the streets-the houses were too cramped to hold them-they ran wild, roaring and yelling and shouting and singing, passing into the heart of the  Capital in dense armies-passing? nay !-for soon none could pass, but had merely to be propelled good-humouredly by the compact mass that surged apparently to no destination whatever. Whence came the clamouring hosts it was  impossible to say-they seemed to rise from the earth, so rapidly, so mysteriously, did their numbers increase. Liberty, equality, fraternity, was the motto of this memorable night. All ages, and ranks, and sexes were linked  together in the bonds of sympathetic patriotism-countess or coster, duke or drayman, it was all one-an identical beam of triumph imparted a relationship to every British face. Minutes had scarcely grown into hours before the  Union Jack fluttered from every window, from every cart and 'bus, from every hand, and the roar of human joy was as the roar of the ocean in a tempest. In the theatres, as at the railway stations, the crowds heard and wondered  only for a moment, for the electrical news 'got into their midst, and they on the instant took up the cry and the cheer, and repeated them with all their might. Indeed, theatrical performances were suspended while the joyous  audiences sang and re-sang "Rule, Britannia" and "God Save the Queen," and then, unsatisfied, tore into the open to let off steam as it were, and view a sight which never before has been witnessed, and  probably never again will be visible in the precincts of London Town. The mansion House, where the display of the message had caused a huge concourse to assemble, was next besieged, and the old walls literally shook with the  mighty roar of the multitude. The "National Anthem" swelled out thunderously with volume that was almost awe-striking as the combined voice of a Handel Festival, and shouts for the Lord Mayor grew and grew, and became  deafening as that honoured citizen and splendid patriot showed himself.

He then delivered the following speech : " I wish the music of your cheers could reach Mafeking. For seven long weary months a handful of men has  been besieged by a horde. We never doubted what the end would be. British pluck and valour when used in a right cause must triumph. The heart of every one of you vibrates with intense loyalty and enthusiasm, I know, and the  conscience of every one of you assures you that we have fought in a righteous and just cause." The crowd, incapable of silence for very long, broke into "Rule, Britannia, and when this outburst of emotion was  expended, the Lord Mayor continued: "We have fought for our most glorious traditions of equality and freedom, not for ourselves alone, but for the men of all those nations who have settled in South Africa and who were  under the protection of the British flag" Three cheers for Colonel Baden-Powell were then called for, and three for Lord Roberts, and these having been heartily given, he said: "The people of Bloemfontein and Mafeking  are now singing. 'God Save the Queen'; you can do it for yourselves." This they proceeded to do not once but twenty times through the livelong hours of the night. Meanwhile the following practical telegram was despatched  by the Lord Mayor

"To BADEN-POWELL, Mafeking, via Cape Town.

"Citizens London relieved and rejoiced by good news just received. Your gallant defence wilt long live in British annals. Cable me what  money wanted for needs of garrison and inhabitants after long privations. "ALFRED NEWTON, Lord Mayor."

At the same time a huge portrait of Colonel Baden-Powell was displayed in front of the Mansion House, and  the strains of "God Save the Queen" and "Rule, Britannia" were now intermingled with the lively tune of "For he's a jolly good fellow." These combined choruses were echoed and re-echoed, and  carried along like a gigantic stream of sound into the suburbs of London, into sleeping

Kensington and remote Clapham, sq that men and women turned in their beds-sat up, terrified at first, then realising the situation, gave  up thought of rest, and listened with swelling hearts to the triumphant din. And so, on and on-through the night till morning broke!

Then, the whole face of London seemed transmogrified. National emblems, red, white, blue,  yellow, green, stars and stripes-draping the houses and festooning the roads, gave the town the aspect of one huge bazaar. Balconies were decorated, awnings thrown out, and in some cases, to give a touch of realism, bathing  towels1 were hung from the verandahs. People passing by, and ignorant of the double meaning. of the curious drapery, shrugged their shoulders, scoffed-then, awakened by a flash of illumination, looked again and broke into  renewed cheers. Before the dwelling of the mother of the defender of Mafeking a vast crowd collected, wielding flags and laurels, arid displaying in their 'midst the bust of the hero with a British lion crouching at his feet.  Cheers rent the air, and increased in volume when the proud parent of this splendid Briton appeared on the balcony and acknowledged the demonstration. The glad tumult in front of this point of attraction continued throughout  the day, people coming from far and wide here to vent their ecstasy of enthusiasm-some in shouts, many in tears.

By nightfall, the whole Empire was pouring forth its excitement in congratulatory telegrams, for, four minutes  after the receipt of the intelligence in London the news had passed over the Atlantic cables and was in the New York office of the Associated Press, whence it was forwarded to the farthest limit of the North American Continent.  Canada, New South Wales, Sydney, and all the other colonies whose bravest and best had contributed to the great doings in the Transvaal, were now aglow with bunting and illuminations. Church bells pealed, processions passed  shouting and rejoicing, ships were dressed from truck to taffrail, and prayers and anthems of praise were got ready to be offered up on the following day at all churches.

Thus, for a brief space, was seen a vast concourse of  millions of souls of differing opinions, customs, and creeds, diffused even to the remotest corners of the British-speaking world, yet closely united by a bond of fraternal sympathy in consequence of the triumph of British  manhood in the most unique ordeal that the loyalty of any nation has been called upon to endure.

The hero of Mafeking at Charterhouse was nicknamed "Bathing Towel."