Late in September a force consisting of two battalions of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and two field-
"The Boers crossed the frontier both on the north and west on October 12, and next
day the Transvaal flag was hoisted at Charles-
Everything at this juncture depended on the rapidity with which our army ar home
could be mobilised and sent to the Cape, and though we took to ourselves some credit
for the energy displayed by all concerned, we were really scarcely up to date in
the matter of activity. For instance, in 1859 it took only thirty-
To return to Dundee. It was maintained both by the Government and the people of Natal
that the valuable coal supply should be protected, and an attempt was therefore
made to guard it. The misfortune was that from the first Lieutenant-
General Symons, on the arrival of Sir George White in Natal, took command of the forces in Dundee, and began active preparations for the reception of the Dutchmen.
The latter, immediately after the declaration of war, took possession of Newcastle, and our patrols soon came in touch with the enemy. In spite of their animated and aggressive movements, however, Sir W. Penn Symons was disinclined to believe that the enemy meant a serious attack upon Dundee, and though fully' prepared for hostilities, he was somewhat amazed when really informed of the rapid advance of the united Republicans. But he lost no time. He made inquiries, and satisfied himself that he was in a position of some danger and that he must promptly leap to action. The chief difficulty of the situation lay in the number of passes through which the Boers with their easily mobilised forces could manage to pour in bodies of men, and the limited number of British troops at General Symons's disposal. From the movements of the Boers it was obvious that the plan of attack had long been cleverly and carefully arranged. The Free State Boers on the I2th of October seized Albertina Station, near the Natal frontier, and took possession of the key, the stationmaster having to make his way on a trolley to Ladysmith. There, as yet, all was externally peaceful, as though no enemy were near, but a suppressed anxiety to be "up and at 'em" prevailed among the troops. Their ardour was in nowise damped by the incessant rain that fell, and converted the surrounding country into a wide morass, nor by the snow that followed, which gave the Drakenberg Mountains an additionally impregnable aspect and rendered them at once picturesque and forbidding.
A steady increase of the commandoes in the neighbourhood of Doornberg continued, and an attack within a few days seemed imminent. Thereupon a large number of troops left Ladysmith for Acton Homes, where a Boer commando of four miles long was reported to be laagered. But the Boers retreated, and the troops remained some ten miles from Ladysmith, the Dublin Fusiliers alone moving back to Glencoe, whence they had come by train by order of General Symons.
At Glencoe we had, as before stated, some 4000 men, but report said that General Viljeon had an enormous force, nearly double ours in number, which was lying at the foot of Botha's Pass, one and a half miles on the Natal side of the Border. Besides this, General Kock had a commando at Newcastle. The invasion 6f Natal by the Boers in three columns was formally announced by an official statement from the Governor
"PIETERMARITZBURG, October i6.
"Natal was invaded from the Transvaal early on the morning of the 12th inst., an
advance being made by the enemy in three columns. On the right a mixed column of
Transvaal and Free State Burghers with Hollander Volunteers marched tbrough Botha's
Pass. In the centre the main column, under-
"A large force of Free State Boers, estimated at from 1,000 to 13,000, is watching the passes of the Drakensberg from Olivier's Hoek to Collins's Pass. They have pushed a few patrols down the berg, but hitherto the main force has not debouched from the actual passes, which are being intrenched."
As will be seen, the advance of the foe seemed to be converging on Sir George White's
position from all directions, and threatening Glencoe from the north, east, and possibly
west. Still the troops remained cheerful and looked forward to a brush with the enemy.
On the 18th hostilities were begun by the' Free State commando moving about ten
miles down the Tintwa Pass. They opened fire with their artillery on some small cavalry
patrols, but their shooting was distinctly inferior, and no one was injured. They
retreated on the advance of the 5th Lancers. Several more commandoes were known
to have advanced to join a force stationed at Doornberg, some twelve miles from Dundee,
and the enemy's scouts having also been seen some seven miles off Glencoe, an engagement
was expected at any moment. An interesting account of this interval of suspense was
given by an officer writing on the 16th October from Dundee, interesting and pathetic,
too, when, in reading it, we remember that the gallant fellow to whom the writer
alluded is alive no longer. He said :-
"I then went on to Dannhauser, which consists of a railway station, two farms, a
store, a couple of coolie stores, a mine, and a few huts. We approached with magazines
charged and expected to see a Boer every minute, but found that they were not expected
to come down as far as that till next day. I then made my way slowly back by the
main road, and reached camp about 5 P. M., when I found that the other patrol (six
men and an officer is the strength of each) had proceeded to De Jager's Drift and
had not returned. A telephonic communication from the police-
"There seems to have been something going on at Kimberley. I wish they would buck
up here and do something. I am on picket to-
"One of the armoured trains came up here yesterday-
"I think this will be a very interesting war, as the railway will play such an important
part in the tactics. Thus the other day we sent the Dublin Fusiliers down to Ladysmith
to repel an expected attack at half-
"We are under an awfully nice General-
On the 18th of October the Carabineers were in touch with the enemy in the neighbourhood
of Bester's Farm a great part of the day, and Lieutenant Galway, son of the Chief-
Major Rethman, in command of 300 Natal Mounted Rifles, also actively engaged the enemy near Acton Homes, but was also compelled to retire for fear of being cut off Being quite conversant with Boer tactics, he refused to be drawn by the pretence of retreat made by the Dutchmen, knowing that concealed forces of the enemy in great numbers were waiting to entrap him. Major Rethman, believing in the old saw that brevity is the soul of wit, reported his loss as '' one hat."
The Dutchmen now advanced. An armoured train, sent by Sir George White to bring in wounded from Bester's Farm, returned discomfited, as the rails over the bridge four miles off Ladysmith had been tampered with. It was found that a farm, which had been deserted earlier in the day, was now in the occupation of the Boers, but these, though established on the south side of the line, made no effort to attack the train and allowed it to return unmolested. Rumours of fighting were in the air, and skirmishes between advance parties of British troops and Boers were the order of the day. A report reached the Glencoe camp that the Boers had been seen some seven miles off whereupon Major Laming with a squadron of the 18th Hussars rode out to reconnoitre. Lieutenant Cape, the advanced officer's patrol, discovered a strong advance party of the enemy, who delivered a heavy fire, but fortunately without result. This most probably was due to the swift and clever manoeuvring of the Hussars.
The Carabineers and Border Mounted Rifles, who were in action nearly the whole of
the 18th of October, returned to camp at three in the morning of the 19th. They were
quite worn out and famished, having been for twenty-
At midday on the 19th a mixed train running from Ladysmith to Dundee was captured by the enemy about a mile off Elandslaagte Station, which stands about fifteen miles from Ladysmith, and is the first station from thence on the line. A war correspondent was taken prisoner, four Carabineers were wounded, and some horses and cattle seized. Telegraphic communication in the north was cut off and four trucks of stores in the Elandslaagte Station were captured.
|The Growth of the Transvaal|
|The Web Thickens|
|The Zulu War|
|Isandlwana, an hour by hour account|
|Affairs at Home|
|The First Anglo Boer War|
|Between the Wars|
|The Fate of SGT Elliot|
|The Siege of Pretoria|
|The Reform Movement|
|The Critical Moment|
|The Fate of the Raiders|