In the Ranks of the C.I.V.
Erskine Childers

Part 2 out of 3

and Munster Fusiliers on either hand of us. Our section is in action
now. We have just taken our waggon to the firing line and brought back
the team. The corporal's horse stepped in a hole just as we were
reaching the guns and turned a complete somersault. He is all right,
but his was our second mishap, as the near wheeler fell earlier in the
day, and the driver was dragged some yards before we could stop. The
ground is very dangerous, full of holes, some of them deep and
half-covered with grass. Another driver is up, but the former is only
a bit shaken, I think. Our section has silenced a Boer gun in three
shots, at 4200 yards, a good bit of work, and a credit to Lieutenant
Bailey as a judge of range. The right section also cleared the kopje
they fired at, but had a narrow escape afterwards, coming suddenly,
when on the move, under the fire of Boer guns, of whose presence they
were ignorant, the shells falling thick but not bursting. Bivouacked
at four on the veldt. The Boers had retired from the line they held. A
long ride to water after unharnessing; nothing much to eat. Williams
and I have taken to ending the day by boiling tea (from tablets) over
the embers of the cook's fire, or on one of our own if we have any
fuel, which is very seldom. How the cooks get their wood is a mystery
to me. The Kaffir drivers always have it, too, though there are no
visible trees. We always seem to sit up late, short though our nights
are. A chilly little group gathers sleepily round the embers, watching
mess-tins full of nondescript concoctions balanced cunningly in the
hot corners, and gossiping of small camp affairs or large strategical
movements of which we know nothing. The brigade camp-fires twinkle
faintly through the gloom. A line of veldt-fire is sure to be glowing
in the distance, looking like the lights of a sea-side town as seen
from the sea. The only sound is of mules shuffling and jingling round
the waggons.

The "cook-house" is still the source of rumours, which are wonderfully
varied. There is much vague talk now of General Clements and a brigade
being connected somehow with our operations. But we know as little of
the game we are playing as pawns on the chessboard. Our tea is strong,
milkless, and sugarless, but I always go to sleep the instant I lie
down, even if I am restless with the cold later.

_July 3._--Reveille at 4.30. Our section, under Lieutenant Bailey,
started at once for a steep kopje looming dimly about three miles
away. The right section, with the Major and Captain, left us and went
to another one. We had a tough job getting our guns and waggons up.

_(8 A.M.)_--Just opening fire now. A Boer gun is searching the valley
on our left, but they can't see the limbers and waggons.

_(8.30.)_--The Boers seem to have some special dislike to our waggon.
They have just placed two shells, one fifty yards in front of it, and
the other fifty yards behind; one of them burst on impact, the other
didn't. The progress of a shell sounds far off like the hum of a
mosquito, rising as it nears to a hoarse screech, and then "plump." We
mind them very little now. There is great competition for the
fragments, as "curios." It is cold, grey, and sunless today. Last
night there was heavy rain, and our blankets are wet still. It seems
the Boers are firing a Krupp at 7000 yards; our guns are only sighted
up to 5000 yards, but we have managed to reach them by sinking the
trail in the ground, and other devices.

_(12.30 P.M.)_--A long halt here, with nothing doing. The Boer gun has
ceased to fire, and we call it "silenced," possibly with truth, but
the causes of silence are never quite certain. As far as I can make
out, it was on the extreme left of their position, while our main
attack is threatening their centre. It is raining hard, but we have
made a roaring fire of what is the chief fuel in this country, dry
cow-dung, and have made cocoa in our mess-tins, from a tin sent me a
month ago; also soup, out of the scrapings of Maconochie tins.

----. What seemed likely to be a dull day turned out very exciting.
About two a staff officer came up with orders, and we marched down
from our kopje and attacked another one[A] (which I made out to be
their centre), taking up several positions in quick succession. The
Boers had a gun on the kopje, which we dislodged, and the infantry
took the position. (About 2.30 it began to rain again and poured all
the afternoon in cold, slashing torrents.) We finally went up the
kopje ourselves, over a shocking bit of rocky ground near the top,
fired on the retreating Boers from there, and then came down on the
other side. Soon afterwards came an old story. It was about five, and
had cleared up. A staff officer had said that there were no Boers
anywhere near now, and that we were to march on and bivouac. We and
the Munsters and some Yeomanry were marching down a valley, whose
flanks were supposed to have been scouted, the infantry in column of
companies, that is, in close formation, and all in apparent security.
Suddenly a storm of rifle-fire broke out from a ridge on our right
front and showed us we were ambushed. The Munsters were nearest to the
ridge, about 600 yards, I should say. We were a bit further off. I
heard a sort of hoarse murmur go up from the close mass of infantry,
and saw it boil, so to speak, and spread out. Our section checked for
a moment, in a sort of bewilderment (my waggon was close behind our
gun at the time), but the next, and almost without orders, guns were
unlimbered and whisked round, a waggon unhooked, teams trotting away,
and shrapnel bursting over the top of the ridge in quick succession.
All this time the air was full of a sound like the moaning of wind
from the bullets flying across the valley, but strange to say, not a
man of us was hit. Some of them were explosive bullets. The whole
thing was soon over. Our guns peppered their quickest, and it was a
treat to see the shrapnel bursting clean and true along the ridge. The
infantry extended and lay down; some Yeomanry made a flank move, and
that episode was over. It might have been serious, though. If they had
held their fire undiscovered for ten minutes longer we might have been
badly cut up, for we were steadily nearing the spur which they
occupied. It is right to say, though, that our Lieutenant, having
doubts about the safety of the place, had shortly before sent forward
ground-scouts, of whom Williams was one, who would possibly have been
able to warn us in time. Needless to say, it was not our duty to scout
for the column.

[Footnote A: The name of this kopje was Barking Kop, I believe, and we
have since always applied it generally to the fighting on this day.]

It was nearly dark now, a burning farm ahead making a hot glow in the
sky, and we moved off to join the rest of the column with its unwieldy
baggage-train and convoy, and all camped together, after the usual
tedious ride to water horses at a muddy pool. They had had a very hard
day and had done well, but were very tired. On days like this they
often get no water till evening. A feed is ordered when a free
interval seems likely, but the chances are that it is snatched off,
and their bits thrust in again, half-way through. When we got in and
rejoined our right section, all were full of a serious mishap to the
38th Field Battery, with which they had been acting on the left flank.
Both were in action in adjoining fields, when a party of Boers crept
up unseen and got within fifty yards of the 38th guns, shooting down
men and horses. The 38th behaved splendidly, but all their officers
were killed or wounded, a number of gunners, and many horses. Two guns
were for a time in the hands of the Boers, who, I believe, removed the
tangent sights. It appears that the M.I. escort of the Battery, owing,
I suppose, to some misunderstanding, retreated. The situation was
saved by Captain Budworth, of our Battery, who collected and brought
up some mounted infantry, whether Yeomanry or Bushmen I am not clear
about. They beat the Boers off, and our teams helped to take the guns
out of action. We came off all right, with only one gunner slightly

I was desperately hungry, and only coffee was issued, but later a
sheep's carcase turned up from somewhere, and I secured a leg, and
Williams some chops, which we promptly laid as they were on one of the
niggers' wood fires and ate in our fingers ravenously. The leg I also
cooked and kept for to-day (I am writing on the morning of the 4th),
and it is hanging on my saddle. I was rather sleepless last night,
owing to cramp from a drenched blanket, and got up about midnight and
walked over to the remains of one of our niggers' fires. Crouching
over the embers I found a bearded figure, which hoarsely denounced me
for coming to its fire. I explained that it was _our_ fire, but that
he was welcome, and settled down to thaw. It turned out to be a
sergeant of the 38th Battery. I asked something, and he began a long
rambling soliloquy about things in general, in a thick voice, with his
beard almost in the fire, scarcely aware of my presence. I can't
reproduce it faithfully, because of the language, but it dealt with
the war, which he thought would end next February, and the difference
between Boer and British methods, and how our cavalry go along, heels
down, toes in, arms close to side, eyes front, all according to
regulation, keeping distance regardless of ground, while the Boer
cares nothing as long as he gets there and does his work. He finished
with the gloomy prophecy that if we didn't join Clements to-morrow we
should never "get out of this." Not knowing who or where Clements was,
I asked him about the affair of that day, and produced a growling
storm of expletives; then he muttered something about the Victoria
Cross and driving a team out of action, asked the way to his lines, to
which I carefully directed him, and drifted off in the opposite

By the way, this General Clements seems to be a myth, and the talk now
is of Rundle and Ian Hamilton, who are supposed to be getting round De
Wet from other quarters, while we drive him up this way into their
arms. It is said we are going to Bethlehem. I forgot an important
event of the evening in the arrival of a bag of mails, parcels only,
brought by a convoy from Kroonstadt, which has just come in. To my
delight I got one with a shirt and socks (which I at once put on over
the others), cigarettes (a long exhausted luxury), Liebig, precious
for evening soup, and chocolate, almost too good to eat for fear of
getting discontented. We are on half rations of biscuit, which means
three, and a tin of Maconochie each, a supply about enough to whet
your appetite for one meal in a life like this, but it has to last the
day of about seventeen hours. The ration is issued the night before,
to eat as we please, and, of course, there is coffee soon after
reveille, and tea in the evening. There is a cupful of porridge also
with the coffee, paid for by deduction from our pay, so that one
starts in good fettle. I don't know why the whole column shouldn't get
fresh meat every day, for the country is teeming with cattle, which
are collected and driven along with the column in huge herds. Many of
the farmhouses are smoking ruins, the enemy, after annexation, being
rebels according to law, and not belligerents; but it seems to me that
such a policy is to use a legal fiction for an oppressive end, for it
is quite clear that this part of the Orange River Colony has never
been conquered.[A]

[Footnote A: I leave this as I wrote it, but drivers are not
politicians, and doubtless there were special circumstances, such as
treachery, concealed arms or sniping, to justify what at the best must
be a doubtful policy; for a burnt farm means a desperate farmer.]

_July 4._--_Wednesday._--Up at five after a bitterly cold night, but
there was a long delay before starting. We are rear-guard to-day. Just
before leaving an infantry man shot himself while cleaning his rifle.
There was a little buzz and stir, and then all was quiet again. He was
buried in half an hour.

A dull day's marching. After about ten miles we halted to water horses
and rest. While watering, the Boers sent over a futile shell from a
big gun. On return we unhooked and grazed the horses. Things looked
peaceful, and there was a warm sun, so I ventured to unstrap my
kit-roll and spread my blankets out to dry. They were still wet from
the rain of two nights ago. I had scarcely spread them out when "Hook
in" was shouted, and back they had to go, half-folded, in a perilously
loose bundle. (You can never count on five minutes, but it's worth
trying.) At about 4.30 we and the 38th Battery trotted ahead about a
mile and a half, and began shelling a ridge; but I think it was soon
abandoned, for shortly after we limbered up and camped with the rest
of the brigade, which had followed us. I am "stableman" to-day for
three days. On the march this involves drawing sacks of forage from
the Quartermaster Sergeant in the early morning and late evening, and
serving out the oats to the drivers of the sub-division. It is not so
irksome a duty as in a standing camp, but has its trying moments; for
instance, when drivers are busied with bed-making or cocoa-cooking in
the evening, and are deaf to your shouts of "D drivers, roll up for
your feeds!" a camp-cry which has not half the effect of "Roll up for
your coffee!" or, more electrical still, "Roll up for your rum!"

_July 5._--We were up at 4.30, but as usual had to stand by our horses
for over an hour, freezing our feet in the frosty grass before
starting. Harnessing up with numbed fingers in the dark was a trying
job. My harness sheets were stiff as boards with frozen dew, and I had
to stamp them into shape for packing. I had a warm night, though. My
bed is made thus: I place the two saddles on end, at the right
distance for the length of my body, and facing inwards, that is, with
the seats outwards; I leave the horse-blankets strapped on underneath
them, as there is not much time to re-fold and re-strap them in the
morning, and my head (pillowed on two feed-bags filled overnight for
the early morning feed) goes in the hollow of one saddle, between the
folds of the blanket, and my feet in the hollow of the other. The rest
of each set of harness is heaped behind each saddle, and when the
harness-sheets are spread over each set there is enough for the ends
to lap over and make a roof for the head, and also for the feet. Then
I wrap myself in my two blankets, and if an oatsack is obtainable,
first get my feet into that. My waterproof sheet serves as
counterpane. It is not wanted as a mattress, as no dew falls till the
morning, and the ground is dry at bed-time. After rain, of course, it
has to go beneath one. The great point is to keep your blankets as dry
as you can, for, once wet with dew or rain, they remain wet, since we
both start and arrive in the dark, and thus cannot count on drying
them. It is a good plan before turning in to see that the horses in
the lines near you are securely tied up, as it is vexatious to be
walked on in the night by a heavy artillery horse; also to have all
your kit and belongings exactly where you can lay hands on them in the
dark. At reveille, which, by the way, takes the shape of a rude shake
from the picket of the night (there is no trumpet used in
campaigning), you shiver out of your nest, the Sergeant-Major's
whistle blows, and you at once feed your horses. Then you pack your
off-saddle, rolling the ground-sheet, blankets, and harness-sheet,
with the muzzles, surcingle-pads, hay-nets, etc., and strapping the
roll on the saddle. Then you harness as fast as you can (generally
helped by a gunner), make up two fresh feeds and tie them up in
nose-bags on the saddle, and put on your belt, haversack,
water-bottle, and other accoutrements. In the middle of this there
will be a cry of "D coffee up!" and you drop everything and run with
the crowd for your life to get that precious fluid, and the porridge,
if there is any. You bolt them in thirty seconds, and run back to
strap your mess-tin on your saddle, put the last touches to your
harness, and hook in the team. Of course we sleep in our cloaks, and
wear them till about eight, when the sun gets strength. Then we seize
a chance to roll them at a halt, and strap them in front of the riding

To return to to-day. It has been very inconclusive and unsatisfactory.
We have marched about twelve miles, I think, with some long halts, in
one of which we unhooked and rode to a pool some distance off to water
horses. I have been fearfully sleepy all day. Two guns of the 38th
Battery have joined us, and we march as a six-gun battery under Major
McMicking. They have no officers fit for duty, and our Captain looks
after them. In the evening some shrapnel began bursting on a ridge
ahead, and we went up and fired a bit; but I suppose the Boers
decamped, for we soon after halted for the night. It is said that the
mythical Clements is now one march behind us, our scouts having met
to-day, and that Bethlehem is three miles ahead, strongly held by De
Wet. Other mythical generals are in the air. I am getting used to the
state of blank ignorance in which we live. Perfect sunset in a clear
sky. One of the charms of Africa is the long settled periods of pure
unclouded sky, in which the sun rises and sets with no flaming
splashes of vivid colours, but by gentle, imperceptible gradations of
pure light, waning or waxing. And as for rain, when it is once over it
is thoroughly over (at this season, at any rate). This night the
darkness was soon lit up by a flaming farm. All desperately hungry,
when it was announced that an extra ration of raw meat was to be
served out. If I can't cook it, shall I eat it raw? To-morrow's ration
is a pound of fresh cooked meat, instead of the eternal Maconochie. It
was drawn to-night, and looked so good that I ate half of it at once,
thus yielding to an oft-recurring temptation. Orders for reveille at
seven. Great joy.

_July 6._--Reveille was marked by a Boer shell coming over the camp,
followed by others in quick succession, real good bursting shrapnel, a
rare thing for the Boers to possess, but they came from a long range
and burst too high. Nobody took the least notice, and we went on
harnessing and breakfasting as usual. It is strange how soon one gets
a contempt for shells. In about half an hour the firing stopped. We
hooked in, but unhooked again, and rode to water. There is some delay;
waiting for Clements, perhaps. I write this sitting by my horses in a
hot sun, with the water frozen to a solid lump in the bottle at my
back, through the felt cover, and after being under a harness sheet
all the night. Had a jolly talk with some Paddies of the Munster
Fusiliers, about Ireland, etc. They were miserable, "fed up," but
merry; that strange combination one sees so much of out here. They
talked about the revels they would have when they got home, the beef,
bacon, and stout, but chiefly stout. We have already learnt to respect
and admire the infantry of our brigade, and I think the confidence is
mutual. (Starting.)

_(4.30)._--We have had a hard day's marching a long distance out on
the right flank. There is a biggish battle proceeding.

I think Clements's brigade has joined ours, for our front is some
miles in length, with the wavy lines of khaki figures advancing slowly
and steadily, covered by artillery fire. The 38th are with us. We have
been in action several times in successive positions, but the chief
attack seems to be on a steep conical kopje in the centre, behind and
below which lies Bethlehem, I believe. It is just dark, but heavy
rifle-firing is still going on in front. One of our gunners has been
shot in the knee. We camped near our last firing position, but waited
a long time for our transport and its precious freight of cooks and
"dickseys" (camp-kettles). Williams and I ruthlessly chopped down
parts of a very good fence, and made a fire with the wood and a lot of
dry mealy stalks, which burn furiously. Then we and Ramsey cooked our
meat in our mess-tin lids, and made cocoa with water which Ramsey
fetched from some distance. It was a thick brown fluid, and froze
while we were waiting to put it on, but it tasted excellent.

_July 7._--Reveille at 3.45. We marched out about a mile and waited
for the dawn.

_7 A.M._--At first dawn firing began, and we went into action at once,
as did the whole line of infantry. A tremendous fusillade of shells
and bullets is now being poured upon the position in front, and
chiefly on the central conical kopje. My waggon is halted, waiting to
go up. The sun is just getting strength, warming our numbed feet, and
spiriting away the white frost-mantle that the land always wears at

_(3 P.M.)._--Guns, Maxims, and rifles hailed lead into the Boer
trenches for a long time, and then the infantry seized them, and the
Boers retired. The practice of the 38th and our guns seemed to me to
be very good. We have also a five-inch lyddite gun (Clements brought
it), which sent up huge clouds of brown dust where the shell struck.
We have now advanced over very heavy ground to the late Boer position,
halted, and ridden some way to water down a precipitous slope, into a
long, rocky hollow. From this point the country seems to change
entirely to steep, rocky hills and hollows, rising and increasing to
the whole Drakensberg range, which is blue and craggy on the sky-line.
They say the Boers have evacuated Bethlehem with a baggage train three
miles long. I don't know why we are not following them up. Perhaps the
mounted infantry are. Our horses are done up. It was cruel work
spurring and lashing them over heavy ploughed land to-day.

_July 8._--Rest at last. It is Sunday morning, and we are all lying or
sitting about, bathed in warm sunshine, waiting for orders, but it
seems we shan't move to-day. My blankets are all spread out, getting a
much-wanted drying, but what I chiefly want is a wash. I have had
three imperfect ones since leaving Bloemfontein and one shave, and my
boots off for about ten minutes now and then.

_(3 P.M.)._--Nothing on to-day. I have had a wash in a thimbleful of
water, and shaved, and feel another man. They gave us an hour of
stables, but the horses certainly needed it, as they never get groomed
now, and are a shaggy, scraggy-looking lot. I'm glad to say mine are
quite free from galls and sore backs. As one never sees their backs by
daylight, it is interesting to get a good look at them at last. They
are very liable to sore backs (partly owing to the weight of the
military saddle), if there is any carelessness in folding the blanket
beneath the saddle. It has been a real hot day, and yet there was
thick ice on the pool we watered at this morning.

As to yesterday, it appears that De Wet and his army effected a safe
retreat, but our General was pleased with the day's work, and
congratulated us and the 38th. We put one Boer gun at least completely
out of action, and it was captured by the infantry. The infantry lost
but few that day, but rather heavily the day before, especially the
Munsters. Paget is already very popular with us. We trust his
generalship and we like the man, for he seems to be one of us, a
frank, simple soldier, who thinks of every man in his brigade as a
comrade. I understand now what an enormous difference this makes to
men in the ranks. A chance word of praise dropped in our hearing, a
joking remark during a hot fight (repeated affectionately over every
camp-fire at night), any little touch of nature that obliterates rank,
and makes man and general "chums" for the moment; such trifles have an
effect on one's spirits which I could never have believed possible, if
I had not felt their charm. I wonder if officers know it, but it takes
nothing for them to endear themselves to men.

It seems to be beyond doubt that our guns are a success, but their
special ammunition is a source of great difficulty. We have stacks of
it at Bloemfontein, but cannot carry much about with us, and of course
the ammunition column with its fifteen-pounder shells is of no use to
us. We have been short after every action, and have to depend on
precarious waggonfuls, coming by convoy from somewhere on the railway.
They say General Hunter and a division is concentrating here too, and
a large force is visible in the valley, marching up. They are flooding
us with fresh meat to-day, by way of a change. It is said that Paget
has ordered a certain number of sheep and cattle to be slaughtered
daily for the brigade.

_(Later)._--I had scarcely written the above lines when the order came
to harness up at once. We did so, and were soon off; the sections
separated, ours making for a steep hill about three miles away, on
which we were ordered to take post. It was an awkward climb in the
gathering darkness, with drag-ropes on the upper wheels, when moving
along a very steep slope. A final rush of frantic collar work, and we
were on a flat plateau, where we unlimbered the guns, so as to command
the valley, and camped near them. I was on picket duty this night, and
quite enjoyed it, though I had one three-hour spell at a go. It was
warmer than usual, with a bonnie moon in a clear sky, a dozen
veldt-fires reddening in the distance, mysterious mists wreathing
about the valley beneath, and the glowing embers of a good wood-fire
on which to cook myself some Maggi soup.



_July 9._--A delicious, warm day. Reveille at six. I am afraid it
looks as if we were to be kept on this lonely hill-top for some time.
It's true we deserve a rest, for we have been on the move for some
time; but I would much prefer to march on and see the last of De Wet.
After campaigning, the routine of a standing camp seems dull and
irksome. We have just shifted our camp a few hundred yards, bringing
it to the very brow of the hill, which drops straight down into the
valley. In fact, it is below the brow, and the horses are on a most
awkward slant. The Munsters are camped just above us. Below, and about
two miles away, lies Bethlehem, with hills behind it, and the mountain
range mistily seen behind all. Unlike Lindley, this is the first time
Bethlehem has been occupied by the British. Williams has just come in
from a foraging expedition he was sent on. He got mealy flour for the
battery, and a chicken for ourselves, and had had cigarettes and
marmalade with the Lifeguards, who, with the whole of Hunter's
division, are camped near here. He also got some Kaffir bread from a
kraal, a damp, heavy composition, which, however, is very good when
fried in fat in thin slices. We ate our tea sitting on rocks
overlooking the valley, and at dark a marvellous spectacle began for
our entertainment, a sight which Crystal-Palace-goers would give
half-a-crown for a front place to see. As I have said, all day long
there are casual veldt-fires springing up in this country. Just now
two or three began down in the valley, tracing fine golden lines in
spirals and circles. The grass is short, so that there is no great
blaze, but the effect is that of some great unseen hand writing
cabalistic sentences (perhaps the "Mene, Mene" of De Wet!), with a pen
dipped in fire. This night there was scarcely a breath of wind to
determine the track of the fires, or quicken their speed, and they
wound and intersected at their own caprice, describing fantastic arcs
and curves from which one could imagine pictures and letters. The
valley gradually became full of a dull, soft glow, and overhung with
red, murky smoke, through which the moon shone down with the strangest
mingling of diverse lights. Very suddenly a faint breeze began to blow
in from the valley directly towards our camp. At once the aimless
traceries of fine flame seemed to concentrate into a long resolute
line, and a wave of fire, roaring as it approached, gained the foot of
the hill, and began to climb it towards us. Watchful eyes had been on
the lookout. "Drivers, stand to your horses," was shouted. "Out with
your blankets, men," to our gunners and the infantry behind, and in an
instant the chosen sons of Cork were bounding out of their lines and
down the hill, and belabouring the fire with blankets and
ground-sheets and sacks. They seemed to think it a fine joke, and
raised a paean of triumph when it was got under. "Wan more victory," I
heard one say.

_July 10._--Slack day, most of it spent in grazing the horses. For
this duty each man takes four horses, so that only half of us need go;
but on the other hand, if you stay, you may come in for a "fatigue,"
which it requires some insight to predict. Beyond that, our whole
energies were concentrated on cooking our meals, raw meat only being
served out. Williams and I borrowed a camp-kettle from the Munsters,
and cooked our mutton with a pumpkin which we had commandeered. The
weather is a good deal warmer. We are camped near the scene of a hard
stand made by the Boers, dotted with trenches and little heaps of
cartridge-cases, and also unused cartridges. I found one complete
packet sewn up in canvas roughly and numbered. In most cases they are
Lee-Metfords, and not Mausers. The Boers have, of course, captured
quantities of our rifles and ammunition in convoy "mishaps" of various
dates. Spent the evening in trying cooking experiments with mealy
flour and some Neave's Food, which one of us had. One longs for a
change of diet from biscuit and plain meat, which, without vegetables,
never seem to satisfy. Even salt has been lacking till to-day, and
porridge has ceased. It was announced that a convoy was to leave for
Kroonstadt the same night, taking wounded and mails, and I hurriedly
wrote two notes. I am afraid we are here for some time. I wish I could
hear from Henry.

_July 11._--Reveille at 6.30. Stables, grazing, exercise, and more
stables, till 1.30, and grazing again in the afternoon. Sat up late at
night over embers of cook's fire, talking to a Munster sergeant about
the last two days' fighting and other experiences of his. They had
thirty-two casualties on the second day, including four officers
wounded. All sorts of rumours to-day: that we stop a month on this
hill; that we go to Capetown on Friday; that we march to Harrismith
and Durban in a few days, etc., etc.

_July 12._--At breakfast, mealy porridge was served out with the
coffee. It is eatable, but not pleasant without sugar.

Williams and I got leave to spend the morning out, and walked to
Bethlehem over the veldt. A rather nice little town, but all the
stores shut, and looking like a dead place. It was full of troops.
Some stores had sentries over them, for there had been a great deal of
looting. We hammered at a store door, and at last a man came out and
said he had nothing to sell. However, he gave us leave to look round,
which we did with an exhaustive scrutiny which amused him. At first
there seemed to be nothing but linseed meal and mouth-organs, but by
ferreting round, climbing to shelves, and opening countless drawers,
we discovered some mealy flour, and reproached him for his
insincerity. He protested that it was all he had to live on, but at
last consented to sell us some, and some mixed spices, the only other
eatable he had, besides a knife and fork, braces and sponges. Then we
tried another store. A crusty, suspicious old fellow let us grudgingly
in, locked the door, and made the same protests. We were just going
when I descried some bottles on a distant shelf. He sourly brought
them down. They were Mellin's Food for Infants, and we bought six at
half a crown each; also some mixed herbs, and essence of vanilla. Then
we made a house-to-house visitation, but only got some milk from an
Englishwoman, who was so full of stories of Boer rapacity that she
forgot our wants, and stood, cup in hand, complaining about eight
ponies they had taken, while we were deaf and thirsty. The whole town
had an English appearance. They all abused De Wet. No fresh supplies
had come in for nine months, and the whole place was stripped. On the
whole, we thought we had done pretty well, as we had half a sack of
things, and another one full of fuel laboriously collected on the way

Rumours in the town were rife. All agreed we could do nothing till a
supply-convoy comes in, now expected from Kroonstadt. We are
fifty-four miles, across mountains, from Harrismith on the east, and
seventy or eighty from Kroonstadt on the west. All supplies from the
latter must come by ox-waggons over dozens of bad drifts, with raiding
Boers about, and it is easy to see how an army might be starved before
it knew it. We are very short now, I believe. It seems De Wet is ten
miles off in the mountains, being watched by Broadwood's cavalry, and
as soon as we can move I expect we shall go for him. Grazing in the
afternoon. Williams and I played picquet, lying by our horses. This is
always rather a precarious amusement, as the horses have a way of
starting off suddenly to seek "pastures new," and you look up and find
them gone, and have to climb rocks and view them out. We tie them all
four close together, but there is generally one predominant partner
who personally conducts the rest. In the evening we baked cakes of our
mealy flour, adding Mellin's Food, mixed herbs, vanilla, and fat, and
fried it in a fatty dish. It was very good, and was followed by meat
fried in mealy crumbs, and later on, some mealy porridge and Mellin
mixed. We tried Mellin alone first, but it seemed thin. We read the
directions carefully, and used the proportions laid down for infants
_over_ three months. I dare say it would have been all right had we
been four months old, but being rather more mature, it seemed
unsubstantial. Its main advantage is its sweetness. In this hungry
life, one misses sugar more than anything.

_July 13._--Reveille 6.30, and grooming, while the infantry chaps sat
up in their beds and watched us sarcastically. At nine,
harness-cleaning for drivers, and grazing for gunners, but I have got
a gunner who dislikes bare-back riding to do my harness while I graze.
I am writing on the veldt; warm sunny day, pale blue sky--very
pale.--Back to finish harness-cleaning. We always "grouse" at this
occupation, as I believe all drivers do on active service. We don't
polish steel, but there is a wonderful lot of hard work in rubbing
dubbin into all the leather. It is absolutely necessary to keep it
supple, especially such parts as the collar, girths, stirrup-leathers,
reins, etc. Grazing again all the afternoon. The horses have been on
half rations of oats since we came here, so I suppose it is necessary.
I was sitting writing by my horses, when a cart rattled by. Some one
shouted, "Anything to sell?" It stopped, and there was a rush. In it
was a farmer and a rascally old Yeomanry sergeant who had been buying
bread for his men, and now sold us a loaf and a half for six
shillings. There was no doubt about paying, and I got a third of one
loaf, which we ate luxuriously in the evening. It was of mealy flour,
and tasted velvety and delicious after eternal biscuit. We also
organized a large bake of mealy cakes, which were a distressing
failure, as the pan got red-hot. I am afraid food and eating have
become very prominent in my diary. My only excuse is that they really
are not disproportionately so, seeing their absorbing importance in
the life of a soldier on active service, especially when he is far
from a base and rations are short.

Some Boer tobacco was kindly sent to us by the Major, and was very
welcome, for 'baccy has been very scarce, and you see fellows picking
the wet dottels out of the bottoms of their pipes and drying them in
the sun for future use. Matches also are very precious; there are none
to be got, and they are counted and cared for like sovereigns. The
striking of a match is a public event, of which the striker gives
previous notice in a loud voice. Pipes are filled, and every second in
the life of the match is utilized.

_July 14._--We came back to camp after the last spell to find that the
gunners had shifted the lines to the bottom of the hill, on a dismal
patch of burnt veldt. We dragged and carried our harness and kit down
the rocks, and settled down again, after the usual fatigues connected
with change of camp. Everybody very irritable, for this looked like a
long stay, but after tea the word went round that we were off next
day, to our great delight. We are sick of this place.

_July 15._--We harnessed up at 6.30, and at 9.30 climbed to the top of
the hill again, a hard pull for the horses. Then marched off with an
escort of Highlanders, and halted on what it seems is the Senekal
road, near to the site of our last camp after the battle. Here we
joined our own right section and a large convoy with sick and wounded,
besides the transport for our own brigade, which had mustered there
too. They say we are going with the convoy to Senekal, which is quite
unexpected, and a doubtful prospect. It seems to be taking us away
from De Wet, and promises only hard marching and a dull time. We
marched about ten miles entirely over burnt veldt, a most dismal
country. There was a high cold wind, which drove black dust over us
till we were all like Christy Minstrels. Camped at five.

_July 16._--Reveille at six. There was a deficiency in the meat
ration, and at the last moment a sheep's carcase for each sub-division
was thrown down to be divided. Ours was hacked to bits pretty soon,
but raw meat on the march is a great nuisance, as there is no
convenient place to pack it, and very likely much difficulty in
cooking it.

_1.15._--Marched from eight till one over very hilly country, mostly
burnt. It seems there are Boers about; their laager was seen last
night, and I believe our scouts are now in touch with them. The pet of
the left section, a black and white terrier named Tiny, has been
having a fine hunt after a hare, to the amusement of the whole
brigade. She is a game little beast, and follows us everywhere. Jacko,
of the right section, rides on a gun-limber. We passed a farm just now
which was being looted. Three horsemen have just passed with a chair
each, also picture-frames (all for fuel, of course), and one man
carrying a huge feather mattress, also fowls and flour. Artillery
don't get much chance at this sort of game.

_(2 P.M.)._--Firing began on the right, and we were trotted up a long
steep hill into action, bullets dropping round, but no one hit. In
front are two remarkable kopjes, squat, steep, and flat-topped. We are
shelling one of them.[A]

[Footnote A: We were (as we heard long after) in action against De
Wet's rear-guard. He had escaped from the cordon just before it was
drawn tight, with a small and mobile force, and was now in retreat
towards Lindley. Broadwood's cavalry pursued him, but in vain.]

_(4.30 P.M.)._--This is the warmest work we have had yet. Our waggon
is with the guns, unhooked, and we and the team are with the limbers
in rear. There is no shelter, for the ground is level. Boer guns on a
kopje have got our range, and at one time seemed much interested in
our team, for four shells fell in a circle round us, from thirty to
forty yards off. It was very unpleasant to sit waiting for the

_(4.35 P.M.)._--We have shifted the teams a bit, and got out of the
music. To go back: we have been in action all the afternoon, shelling
a kopje where the Boers have several guns. It is a wooded one, and
they are very difficult to locate. They have a great advantage, as we
are on the open level ground below, and they have been fairly raining
shells round us. Fortunately most of them burst only on impact, and
are harmless, owing to the soft ground, outside a very small radius;
they seem to be chiefly segment shell, but I saw a good many shrapnel,
bursting high and erratically. The aim was excellent, and well-timed
shrapnel would have been very damaging. Still, we have been very lucky
even so, only one man wounded, and no guns, waggons or horses touched.
Once, when trotting out of action, a shell burst just beside our
team--an excellent running shot for the sportsman who fired it! It
made a deafening noise, but only resulted in chipping a scratch on my
mare's nose with a splinter. She thought she was killed, and made a
great fuss, kicking over the traces, etc.; so that we had to halt to
put things straight.

In this case, again, the veldt was alight everywhere, but it was only
short grass, and we could trot safely through the thin lambent line of
flame. I'm afraid we shall be short of ammunition soon. We started
yesterday with only one hundred rounds per gun.

Can it be that De Wet has got round here, and that we are up against
his main position? What is happening elsewhere I don't know. There are
a lot of cavalry, Yeomanry, infantry, etc., about somewhere, but here
we seem alone with a small infantry escort, and no sound but the
opposing guns. It shows how little a single Tommy sees or knows of a

At dark we marched away about a mile, and bivouacked. Williams and I
minced our meat in one of the battery mincing machines, and made a
grand dish of it over the cook's fire. There was a red glare over half
the sky to-night, as though a Babylon were burning. It was only a

_July 17._--_Tuesday._--Reveille at six. Our horses are grazing,
harnessed. We are waiting for the Staff to say if this is a good
position. It appears that De Wet retreated in the night, and went
towards Lindley, which will complete the circle of the hunt. Our
sections are separated again. The right, under Lieutenant Lowe, has
gone on with the convoy to Senekal, and we and the 38th Battery (who
have now fresh officers), and most of the brigade, have taken up a
position just under one of the remarkable kopjes I spoke of, and are
told we shall stay here four days. I suppose we are part of some
endeavour to surround De Wet, but the whole operations seem to get
more obscure. He has played this game for months in this part of the
Free State, and is no nearer capture. Thinking over it, one's mental
state during a fight is a strange paradox. I suppose it arises from
the nature of my work, but, speaking for myself at least, I feel no
animosity to any one. Infantry, no doubt, get the lust of battle, but
I don't for my part experience anything like it, though gunners tell
me they do, which is natural. One feels one is taking part in a game
of skill at a dignified distance, and any feeling of hostility is very
impersonal and detached, even when concrete signs of an enemy's
ill-will are paying us noisy visits. The fact is--and I fancy this
applies to all sorts and conditions of private soldiers--in our life
in the field, fighting plays a relatively small part. I doubt if
people at home realize how much in the background are its dangers and
difficulties. The really absorbing things are questions of material
welfare--sordid, physical, unromantic details, which touch you at
every turn. Shall we camp in time to dry my blankets? Biscuit ration
raised from three to three and a half! How can I fill my water-bottle?
Rum to-night! Is there time for a snooze at this halt? Dare I take my
boots off to-night? Is it going to rain? There are always the thousand
little details connected with the care of horses and harness, and all
along the ever-present problem of the next meal, and how to make it
meet the demands of your hunger. I don't mean that one is always
_worrying_ about such things. They generally have a most humorous
side, and are a source of great amusement; on the other hand, they
sometimes seem overwhelmingly important. Chiefly one realizes the
enormous importance of food to a soldier. Shortage of sleep,
over-marching, severe fighting, sink into insignificance beside an
empty stomach. Any infantry soldier will tell you this; and it is on
them, who form the bulk of a field force, that the strain really
tells. Mounted men are better able to fend for themselves. (I should
say, that an artillery _driver_ has in the field the least tiring work
of all, physically; at home, probably the heaviest.) It is the
foot-soldier who is the measure of all things out here. In the field
he is always at the extreme strain, and any defect of organization
tells acutely and directly on him. Knowing what it is to be hungry and
tired myself, I can't sufficiently admire these Cork and Yorkshire
comrades of ours, in their cheerful, steady marching.

By the way, the General was giving orders close to me this morning. He
said to our Major, "Your guns are the best--longest range; go up
there." So the Lord Mayor is justified; but the special ammunition is
a great difficulty. This, however, is only a matter of organization.
As to the guns themselves, we have always understood that the pattern
was refused by the War Office some years ago; it would be interesting
to know on what grounds. They are very simple, and have some features
which are obvious improvements on the 15-pr.

There was a serious alarm of fire just now. There is a high wind, and
the grass is unusually long. A fire started due to windward, and came
rushing and roaring towards us. We drivers took the horses out of
reach, and the gunners and infantry attacked it with sacks, etc. But
nothing could stop it, though by great efforts they confined its
width, so that it only reached one of our waggons and the watercart,
which I don't think are damaged. No sooner well past than fellows
began cooking on the hot embers.--Stayed here all day, and unharnessed
and picketed in the evening.

_July 18._--Reveille at six, and harnessed up; but did nothing all the
morning but graze the horses, and at twelve unharness and groom them.
I believe we have to take it in turn with the 38th to be in readiness
for instant departure. Firing is heard at intervals. We are, I
believe, about twenty miles from Senekal, eighteen from Bethlehem, and
thirty from Lindley. We call the place Bultfontein, from a big farm
near, where the General has his head-quarters. Water is bad here; a
thick, muddy pool, used also by cattle and horses.

There has been some to-do about the sugar, and we now draw it
separately ourselves, two ounces, and find it goes further. There is
enough for the morning mealy porridge, which is very nasty without it.

_July 19._--Reveille at six. Harnessed up. Cleaning lines, and grazing
all the morning. Grazing is now practically a standing order in all
spare time. I believe it is necessary for the horses; but it acts as
an irksome restraint on the men. When not on the move, we have the
three stable-hours as in a standing camp, and often "grouse" over them
a good deal; but the horses are certainly in wonderfully good
condition with the care taken of them. The weather is warmer. Frost at
night, but no dew; and a hot sun all the windless, cloudless day.

Visited a pile of loot taken by some 38th men, and got a lump of
home-made Boer soap, in exchange for some English tobacco. It has a
fatty smell, but makes a beautiful white lather. They had all sorts of
household things, and a wag was wearing a very _piquante_ piece of
female head-gear. In the afternoon I got leave away, and washed in the
muddy pool aforesaid. It seems odd that it can clean one; but it does.
On the way back found a nigger killing a sheep, and bought some fat,
which is indispensable in our cooking; if there is any over, we boil
it and use it as butter. We cooked excellent mealy cakes in it in the
evening. "We don't know where we are" to-day; we had mutton, rice, and
cheese for dinner!

_July 20._--Harnessed up as usual at dawn, and "stood by" all the
morning. The rumour now is that De Wet never went to Lindley at all,
but only a small commando, and that he is at Ficksburg, fifty miles
away on the Basuto border. What an eel of a man!

Clements's brigade arrived to-day from somewhere, and is just visible,
camped a few miles away. The biscuit ration was raised from three to
four and a half to-day. Five is the full number. Rations are good now.
Cooked mutton is served out at night, and also a portion of raw
mutton. Drawing rations is an amusing scene. It is always done in the
dark, and the corporal stands at the pot doling out chunks. It is a
thrilling moment when you investigate by touch the nature of the
greasy, sodden lump put into your hand; it may be all bone, with
frills of gristle on it, or it may be good meat. Complaints are
useless; a ruthless hand sweeps you away, and the _queue_ closes up.
Later on, a sheep's carcass (very thin) is thrown down and hewed up
with a bill-hook. There is great competition for the legs and
shoulders, which are good and tender. If you come off with only ribs,
you take them sadly to the public mincing machine, and imagine they
were legs when you eat the result. A rather absurd little modicum of
jam is also served out, but it serves to sweeten a biscuit. There is
rum once a week (in theory). Duff at midday the last few days. It is
difficult to say anything general about rations, because they vary
from day to day, often with startling suddenness, according to the
conditions of the campaign. I was on picket this night, a duty which
is far less irksome when in the field than when in a standing camp.
Vigilance is of course not relaxed, but many petty rules and
regulations are. There is no guard-tent, of course, in which you must
stay when not on watch; as long as it is known where you can be found
at a moment's notice, you are free in the off hours. You can be
dressed as you like as long as you carry your revolver.

By the way, I have lost my C.I.V. slouch hat long ago. It came of
wearing a very unnecessary helmet, merely because it was served out.
That involved carrying the hat in my kit, and it is wonderful how one
loses things on the march, in the hurried nocturnal packings and
unpackings, when every strap and article of kit must be to your hand
in the dark, or you will be late with your horses and cause trouble.
My great comfort is a Tam-o'-Shanter, which I wear whenever we are not
in marching order.

As for the revolver, I got into trouble with the Sergeant-Major this
night for parading for picket without it. It was not worth while to
explain that I had no ammunition for it; to take your "choking-off,"
and say nothing, is always the simplest plan. I once had one cartridge
given me, but lost this precious possession. I suppose there was some
hitch in the arrangements, for our revolvers are only cumbrous

There are three pickets and a corporal in charge; each of the three
takes two hours on and four off, which works out at about four hours
on watch for each, but less if reveille is early. Personally I don't
mind the duty much, even after a long day's march. On a fine still
night two hours pass quickly in the lines, especially if one or two
picket ropes break, and the horses get tied up in knots. If there is a
lack of incident, you can meditate. Your head is strangely clear, and
for a brief interval your horizon widens. In the sordid day it is
often narrowed to a cow's.

_July 21._--The same old game; harnessed up and remained ready. There
was a sudden alarm about three, and we jumped into our kit, hooked in,
and moved off, only to return in a few minutes. The General possibly
gave the order to see if we were ready. He reviewed us before we went
back, and seemed pleased. I heard him admiring the horses, and saying
there was plenty of work in them. "You've been very lucky after that
shell-fire the other day," he said.

A much-needed convoy turned up from Bethlehem to-day with ammunition
for us. We took our waggon down in the morning and filled it. A box of
matches per man was also served out. In the evening came the joyful
news that we were to start tomorrow, two days' fighting expected.
Williams and I made a roaring fire of an ammunition box in honour of
the occasion, and a grand supper of mealy-cakes and tea, and smoked
and talked till late. Summing up our experiences, we agreed that we
enjoyed the life thoroughly, but much preferred marching to sitting
still. Both thoroughly fit and well, as nearly all have been since
campaigning began. In numbers, I hear, we are twenty-two short of our
full complement.

One thing that makes a great difference is that campaigning has become
routine. One doesn't worry over little things, as one did in early
days, when one dreamt of nose-bags, bridoons, muzzles, etc., and the
awful prospect of losing something important or unimportant, and when
one harnessed-up in a fever of anxiety, dreading that the order "hook
in" would find one still fumbling for a strap in the dark, in oblivion
of the hot coffee which would be missed cruelly later. In a score of
little ways one learns to simplify things, save time, and increase
comfort. Not that one ever gets rid of a strong sense of
responsibility. Entire charge, day and night, of two horses and two
sets of harness, is no light thing.

_July 22._--_Sunday._--Reveille at six. Boot and saddle at 7.30;
started at 8.30--a lovely day. Marched out about three miles with the
brigade, and are now halted. An officer has just explained to the
non-coms, what is going to happen. The Boer forces are in the
mountains east of us, whence there are only three outlets, that is,
passes (or neks, as the Dutch call them), one at each corner of a
rough triangle. British columns are watching all these, Hunter, Paget,
Clements, and Bruce Hamilton. Ours is called Slabbert's Nek, and
to-day's move is a reconnaissance in force towards it, without
likelihood of fighting. The delay here has been to allow every column
to get into position, so that when an attack is made there may be no
escape from the trap. The trap, of course, is a very big one, one
corner, I believe, being at the Basuto border. Something like a whole
army corps is engaged. It is most novel and unusual to know anything
about what one is doing. It makes a marvellous difference to one's
interest in everything, and I have often wondered why we are not told
more. But I suppose the fact is that very few people know.

We halted while the mounted troops made a long reconnaissance, and
then came back to camp. It clouded up in the evening, and about eight
began to rain, and suddenly, with no warning, to blow a hurricane. I
rushed to my harness, covered up my kit in it, seized my blankets and
bolted for a transport-waggon, dived under it, tripping over the
bodies of the Collar-maker sergeant and his allies, breathlessly
apologized, and disposed myself as best I could. But the rain drove
in, and there seemed always to be mules on my feet; so, when fairly
wet through, I crept out and joined a circle at a great fire which
similar unfortunates had built, where we cooked two camp-kettles full
of mysteriously commandeered tea and porridge, and made very merry
till reveille at 4.30 in the morning.



_July 23._--Harnessed up at 4.30, and marched out in a raw, cold fog,
all wet, but very cheerful. While halting at the _rendezvous_ to await
our escort, there were great stories of the night, especially of a
tempestuous scene under a big waggon-sheet crowded with irreconcilable
interests. We marched straight towards the mountains, ten or twelve
miles, I suppose, till we were pretty close up, and then Clements's
two great lyddite five-inch guns came into position and fired at long
range. They are called "Weary Willie" and "Tired Tim," and each is
dragged by twenty-two splendid oxen. We soon moved on a mile or two
farther, crossed one of the worst spruits I remember, climbed a very
steep hill, and came into action just on its brow, firing at a distant
ridge. All this time the infantry had been advancing on either flank
in extended order.

_(3.30 P.M.)_--We and the 38th and the cow-guns, as they are called,
have been raining shell on the Boer positions and on their guns. The
situation, as I see it, is this: we are exactly opposite the mouth of
the nek, stretching back into the mountains like a great grass road,
bordered with battlements of precipitous rock, which at this end--the
gate we are knocking at--swell out on either side into a great natural
bastion of bare rock. On these are the Boer trenches, tier above tier,
while their guns are posted on the lower ground between. It looks an
impregnable position. The Royal Irish, I hear, are attacking the right
hand bastion; the Munsters, I think, the left, and there is a
continuous rattle of rifle-fire from both.

Our teams, waggons, and limbers, have been shell-dodging under the
brow of the hill. They have fallen all around us, but never on us.
One, which I saw fall, killed five horses straight off, and wounded
the Yeomanry chap who was holding them. We have shifted position two
or three times; it is windy, and very cold. A new and unpleasant
experience in the shape of a pom-pom has come upon the scene. Far off
you hear pom-pom-pom-pom-pom, five times, and directly afterwards,
like an echo, pom-pom-pom-pom-pom in your neighbourhood, five little
shells bursting over an area of about eighty yards, for all the world
like a gigantic schoolboy's cracker. The new captain of the unlucky
38th has been hit in two places by one.

At the close the day was undecided; the infantry had taken some
trenches, but were still face to face with others, and fire was
hottest at sunset. But I believe the pom-pom was smashed up, and a big
gun silenced, if not smashed. We bivouacked where we were, but
desultory rifle-fire went on long after dark.

_July 24._--Reveille at five. Directly after breakfast we took our
waggon back to the convoy to fill up with shells from the reserve. All
the artillery, including ours, took position again, and began
hammering away, but not for long, as the Boers had been evacuating the
whole position in the night, and the last of their trenches was now
occupied. I believe the Royal Irish have lost heavily, the Munsters
only a few. We got away, and marched through the nek, up and down
steep grassy slopes, and through the site of the Boer laager. I was
struck by its remarkable cleanliness; I thought that was not a Boer
virtue. We halted close to the emplacement where one of the Boer guns
had been yesterday. There was a rush to see some horrible human
_debris_ found in it. I was contented with the word-pictures of
enthusiastic gunners, and didn't go myself. From the brow, a glorious
view opened out. The nek, flanked by its frowning crags, opened out
into an immense amphitheatre of rich undulating pasture-land, with a
white farm here and there, half hidden in trees. Beyond rose tier on
tier of hills, ending on the skyline in snow-clad mountain peaks. You
could just conjecture that a "happy valley" ran right and left. After
the scorched monotony of the veldt it was a wonderful contrast. We
camped just where the nek ends, near an empty farm, which produced a
fine supply of turkeys, geese, and chickens. The Captain, who has
charge of our commissariat, never misses a chance of supplementing our
rations. Williams was sent to forage, and for personal loot got some
coffee and a file of Boer newspapers, or rather war-bulletins,
published in Bethlehem, and roughly lithographed, chiefly lies, I
expect.[A] The Boers have retired south, deeper into the trap. Poultry
was issued, and the gunners and drivers of our waggon drew by lot the
most amazing turkey I have ever seen. It had been found installed in a
special little enclosure of its own, and I fear was being fattened for
some domestic gala-day which never dawned. It was prodigiously plump.

[Footnote A: Here is an extract, since translated, from one of these
precious "newspapers," which ought to be one day edited in full. It is
a telegram from General Snyman at the Boer laager at Mafeking, dated
March 2, 1900, when the famous siege had been going on for five months
and a half. After some trivial padding about camp details, it
concludes: "The bombardment _by the British_ (sic) is diminishing
considerably. Our burghers are still full of courage. _Their sole
desire is to meet the enemy!_" This is only a mild specimen of the
sort of intelligence that was allowed to penetrate to a remote farm
like this at Slabbert's Nek, whose owner was now fighting us,
probably, to judge from these documents, in utter ignorance of the
hopelessness of his cause.]

_July 25._--_Wednesday._--Reveille at six. Started at 8.30, at the
outset crossing a very awkward drift. It was a sort of full dress
crossing, so to speak, when all the officers collect and watch the
passage. We dived down a little chasm, charged through a river, and
galloped up the side of a wall. One waggon stuck, and we had to lend
it our leaders. There was a strong, cold wind, and we kept on our
cloaks all day; a bright sun, though, in which I thought the brigade
made a very pretty spectacle in its advance, with long streamers of
mounted troops and extended infantry on either flank. About one, our
section was ordered to march back some miles and meet the rearguard.
On the way we passed Hunter and his staff, and his whole brigade,
followed by miles of waggons, which we halted to allow to pass, and
then followed. They might have discovered they wanted the rearguard
strengthening a little sooner, for the road was very bad, and our
horses had a hard job. The united brigades camped at sunset. Rumours
rife, and one, that De Wet has cut the line near Kroonstadt, seems
really true. Very cold.

_July 26._--Reveille at 6.30. We waited for orders all the morning,
with the horses hooked in ready. While sitting by my team I had my
hair cut by a Munster, and an excruciating shave. Rumour is that the
Boers have been given till two to surrender. Rumour that they have
surrendered. Stated as a fact. Rumour reduced to story that the town
of Fouriesberg (five miles on) has surrendered. Anyway, some British
prisoners have escaped and come in. Grazing in harness for the rest of
the day.

_July 27._--Reveille at 5.15. Hooked in and waited for the whole
convoy to file by, as we are to be rearguard. It took several hours,
and must be five or six miles long. It was a heavy, misty day, and
some rain fell. Started at last and marched up the valley, which
narrowed considerably here, under the shadow of beetling cliffs, for
about eight miles, with incessant momentary halts, as always happens
in the rear of a column. Suddenly the valley opened out to another
noble circle bounded by mountains on all sides, some wearing a
sprinkling of snow still. Here we came to the pretty little town of
Fouriesberg, and joined the general camp, which stretched as far as
you could see, thousands of beasts grazing between the various lines,
and interminable rows of outspanned waggons. At night camp fires
twinkled far into the distance, and signals kept flashing from high
peaks all round. An officer has been telling us the situation, which
is that the trap is closed, the Boers being surrounded on all sides;
that they are expected to surrender; that it will be a Paardeberg on a
bigger scale--the biggest haul of prisoners in the war.

Some commandeered ham was served out, and we fried ours over the
cook's fire with great success. I may say that the service mess-tin is
our one cooking utensil, and the work it stands is amazing; it is a
flat round tin with a handle and a lid. It is used indiscriminately
for boiling, frying, and baking, besides its normal purpose of holding

_July 28._--Reveille at six. After waiting in uncertainty for some
time we were left, with the Staffords from Hunter's column, to guard
the town, while the other troops moved off. We camped just outside the
town, and there was a rush for loot directly, of course only from
unoccupied houses, whose rebel owners are fighting. Unhappily others
had been there before us, and the place was skinned. But we got a
Kaffir cooking-pot, and a lot of fuel, by chopping up a manger in a
stable. My only domestic loot was a baby's hat, which I eventually
abandoned, and a table and looking-glass which served for fuel. But we
found a nice Scotch family in a house, and bought a cabbage from them.
There was a dear old lady and two daughters. Williams dropped two
leaves of the cabbage, and got a playful rebuke from her. She said he
must not waste them, as they were good and tender. By the way, we
bought this cabbage with our last three-penny bit. We had sovereigns,
but they are useless in this country, for there is no change. These
people told us that they had been ten months prisoners (at large) of
the Boers. Their men had gone to Basutoland, like many more. They had
been well treated, and suffered little loss, till the advent of the
conquering British, when forty or fifty hens were taken by Highlanders
at night.

A lovely warm afternoon, and for a wonder freedom till four, the first
spell of it for weeks. Went to a puddle some way off, near a Kaffir
kraal, and washed. Some women came with calabashes for water, and I
tried to buy the bead bangles and waist-lace off a baby child, but
failed. Then I invaded the kraal for meal and chickens, but failed
again. I never thought, when I visited Earl's Court a year ago, that I
should look on the African original so soon. Round mud hovels, with a
tall plaited-straw portico in front. Most of the men look like
worthless loafers; the women finely-built, capable creatures.

Heavy firing has been going on all day, mostly with lyddite, on our
side, by the sound. You can see the shells bursting on the top of a
big kopje.

This is a funny little place: pleasant cottages dotted round in
desultory fashion, as though the town had been brought up in waggons
and just tipped out anyhow. Half the houses are empty and gutted; we
are all going to sleep in houses to-night. There has been a row about
looting a chemist's shop; our fellows thought he was away with the
Boers, but he turned up in the middle. There were some curious bits of

We are much disappointed at being left out of the fighting to-day, but
it's only natural. We are only half a battery, and have no reserve
ammunition, actual or prospective, for some time.

I have struck my last match. I have now to rely on cordite, which,
however, only acts as a spill. You get a rifle cartridge (there are
plenty to be got, the infantry seem to drop them about by hundreds),
wrench out the bullet and wad, and find the cordite in long slender
threads like vermicelli. You dip this in another man's lighted pipe,
when it flares up, and you can light your own.

In the evening Williams and I made a fire, and cooked our cabbage in
our Kaffir pot, a round iron one on three legs, putting in meat and
some (looted) vinegar. How good it was! It was the first fresh green
food we had eaten since leaving England, and it is what one misses
most. Two escaped prisoners of the Canadian Mounted Infantry came to
our fire, and we had a most interesting chat with them till very late.
They spoke highly of the way they had been treated. In food they
always fared just as the Boers did, and were under no needlessly
irksome restrictions. They said that in this sort of warfare the Boers
could always give us points. They laugh at our feeble scouting a mile
or two ahead, while their own men are ranging round in twos and
threes, often fifteen miles from their commando, and at night
venturing right up to our camps. In speed of movement, too, they can
beat us; in spite of their heavy bullock transport they can travel at
least a third quicker than we. Their discipline was good enough for
its purpose. A man would obey a direct order whatever it was. They
only wanted a stiffening of our own class of military discipline to
make them invulnerable. They sang hymns every night in groups round
their fires, "but are hypocrites." (On this point, however, my
informants differed a little.) They said the leader of this force was
Prinsloo, and that we had not been fighting De Wet at all. It seems
there are two De Wets, Piet and Christian. There was a rumour
yesterday that Piet had been captured near Kroonstadt, though
Christian seems to be the important one. But the whole thing is
distracting, like constructing history out of myths and legends.

_July 29._--_Sunday._--Church parade at eleven. It is reported, and is
probably true, that the whole Boer force has surrendered. If so we
have missed little or nothing. About twenty prisoners came in in the
morning, quaint, rough people, shambling along on diminutive ponies.
In the afternoon Williams went foraging for the officers, and I
visited our Scotch friends, the donors of the cabbage, who were very
kind, and asked me in. The married son had just come in from
Basutoland, where he had been hiding, a great red, strapping giant,
with his wife and babies by him. He had originally been given a
passport to allow him to remain neutral, but later they had tried to
make him fight, so he ran away, and had been with a missionary over
the border, whose house he repaired. It was pleasant to see this
joyful home-coming.

Rations to-day, one biscuit and a pound of flour. How to cook it? Some
went to houses, some made dough-nuts (with deadly properties, I
believe). No fat and no baking-powder. Fortunately, Williams brought
back from his expedition, besides fowls, etc., for the officers, some
bread and, king of luxuries, a big pot of marmalade, which he bought
from a pretty little Boer girl, the temporary mistress of a fine farm.
Her father, she proudly explained, was away fighting us, "as was his
duty." Williams was quite sentimental over this episode. The Canadians
came round to our fire again, and we had another long talk. They said
there were very few Transvaalers in this army. The Free Staters hate
them. The remains we found in the gun-emplacement at Slabbert's Nek
were those of Lieutenant Muller, a German artillerist. The Boers
always had plenty of our harness, stores, ammunition, etc.

_July 30._--After stables Williams and I went foraging in the town and
secured scones, a fowl (for a shilling), another cabbage, and best of
all, some change, a commodity for which one has to scheme and plot. We
managed it by first getting into a store and buying towels, spoons,
note-books, etc., up to ten shillings, and then cajoling and bluffing
a ten-shilling bit out of the unwilling store-keeper. This was changed
by the lady who sold us the fowl, an Englishwoman. On our return there
was harness-cleaning, interrupted by a sudden order to move, but only
to shift camp about a mile. This is always annoying, because at halts
you always collect things such as fuel and meal and pots, which are
impossible to carry with you. Of course this is no matter, if regular
marching and fighting are on hand, but just for shifting camp it is a
nuisance. However, much may be done by determination. I induced the
Collar-maker to take our flour on his waggon; marmalade, meal, etc.,
were hastily decanted into small tins, and stuffed into wallets, and
just before starting Williams furtively tossed the fuel-sack into a
buck-waggon, and hitched up the Kaffir pot somewhere underneath. I
strung a jug on my saddle, which, what with feed-bags (contents by no
means confined to oats), and muzzles, with meat and things in them, is
rather Christmas-tree-like. We marched through the town, and to the
base of a kopje about a mile away, where preparations for a big camp
had been made. It is confirmed that the Boers have surrendered _en
masse_, and they are to be brought here.

After we had unharnessed, I got leave to go back to town and send a
joint telegram home from a dozen of us. The battery has a telegraphic
address at home from which wires are forwarded to our relations. The
charge for soldiers is only 2s. a word, so a dozen of us can say
"quite well" to our relations for about 2s. 8d. The official at the
office said the wire was now open, but that he had no change. However,
he produced 5s. when I gave him L2. It was a little short, but the
change was valuable. He said that to pass the censor it must be signed
by an officer, so I had to look for one. After some dusty tramping, I
found a captain of the Staffords, saluted, and made my request. We
were, I suppose, about equal in social station, but I suddenly--I
don't know why--felt what a gulf the service put between us. He was
sleek and clean, and talking about the hour of his dinner to another
one, just as if he were at a club. I was dirty, unshaven, out
at knees, and was carrying half a sack of fuel--a mission like
this has to serve subsidiary purposes--and felt like an abject
rag-and-bone-picking ruffian. He took the paper, signed it, and went
on about his confounded dinner. However, I expect mine rivalled his
for once in a way, for when I got back one of the "boys" (nigger
drivers) had cooked our chicken and cabbage, and we ate it, followed
by scones and marmalade, and, to wind up with, black coffee, made from
some rye coffee given us by one of our Canadian prisoner friends. I
had met one of them near the telegraph office, and visited his
quarters. Rye makes remarkably good strong coffee, with a pleasant
burnt taste in it. The camp had filled up a bit, the Manchesters,
Staffords and 2nd Field Battery, of Rundle's division, having come in.
We also played with flour and fat over our fire, and made some
chupatties. The Captain had sent a foraging party out to secure fat at
any price. Quite a warm night. A deep furrow passed near my harness,
and I had a most comfortable bed in it.

_July 31._--The first batch of 250 prisoners have come in, and are
herded near. They are of all ages from sixty to fifteen, dressed in
all varieties of rough plain clothes, with some ominous exceptions in
the shape of a khaki tunic, a service overcoat, etc. Some seemed
depressed, some jocular, the boys quite careless. All were lusty and
well fed. Close by were their ponies, tiny little rats of things,
dead-tired and very thin. Their saddles were mostly very old, with
canvas or leather saddle-bags, containing cups, etc. I saw also one or
two horses with our regimental brands on them. Some had
bright-coloured rugs on them, and all the men had the same, which lent
vivid colour to the otherwise sombre throng.

We watered and grazed near an outlying picket, and saw many prisoners
coming in in twos and threes, and giving up their rifles. What will
they do with them? They are nominally rebels since the 15th of June;
but I doubt if a tenth of them ever heard of Roberts's proclamation.
Communications are few in this big, wild country; and their leaders
systematically deceive them. Besides, to call the country conquered
when Bloemfontein was taken, is absurd. The real fighting had not
begun then, and whole districts such as this were unaffected. It seems
to me that morally, if not legally, these people are fair-and-square
civilized belligerents, who have fought honestly for their homes, and
treated our prisoners humanely. Deportation over-sea and confiscation
of farms seem hard measures, and I hope more lenience will be shown.

In the evening Doctor Moon, of the Hampshire Yeomanry, a great friend
of Williams, turned up, and had supper with us. We had no fatted calf
to kill; but fortunately could show a tolerable _menu_, including beef
and marmalade.

I was on picket this night. About midnight a lot of Boer prisoners,
and a long train of their ox-waggons, began coming in. It was very
dark, and they blundered along, knocking down telegraph posts, and
invading regimental lines, amidst a frightful din from the black
drivers, and a profane antiphony between two officers, of the camp and
the convoy respectively.

In my second watch, in the small hours, a Tommy with a water-cart
strayed into our lines, asking for the Boer prisoners, for whom he had
been sent to get water. He swore copiously at the nature of his job in
particular, and at war in general. I showed him the way, and consoled
him with tobacco.

_August 1._--Grazing and harness-cleaning all day. More prisoners came
in, and also our old friends the Munsters, and General Paget. Rumours
galore. We are going to Cape Town with the prisoners; to Harrismith;
to Winberg; to the Transvaal on another campaign, etc. Definite orders
came to move the next morning. In the evening an unusual flood of odds
and ends of rations was poured on us; flour, a little biscuit, a
little fat for cooking, diminutive hot potatoes, a taste of goose,
commandeered the same day by the mounted gunners, a little butter from
the same source, besides the usual sugar, cooked meat, and tea.
Drawing from this _cornucopia_ was a hard evening's work. We also got
hold of some dried fruit-chips, and as a desperate experiment tried to
make a fruit pudding, wrapping the fruit in a jacket of dough and
baking it in fat in our pot. The result, seen in the dark, was a
formless black mass, very doughy and fatty; but with oases of
palatable matter.



_August 2._--Reveille at six. Harnessed up, and started out to join
the brigade and its long column of prisoners, mounted on their ponies,
and each leading another with a pack on it. We only went about seven
miles (back towards the Nek), and camped at midday. I had been
suffering from toothache for some days, and was goaded into asking the
doctor to remove the offender. He borrowed a forceps from the R.A.M.C.
and had it out in a minute. The most simple and satisfactory visit to
the dentist I have ever had. No gloomy fingering of the illustrated
papers, while you wait your turn with the other doomed wretches, no
horrible accessories of padded chair and ominous professional plant;
just the open sunny veldt, and a waggon pole to sit on! In the evening
I got some 38th fellows to cook us some chupatties of our flour. They
treated me to fried liver over their fire, and we had a jolly talk. It
is said that we are to take the prisoners to Winberg, and then go to
the Transvaal. Cold night; hard frost.

_August 3._--Reveille at six. Sunrise this day was peculiarly
beautiful; a milky-blue haze lay in festoons along the hills, and
through this the sun shot a delicate flush on the rocks and grassy
slopes, till the farther side of the valley looked unreal as a dream.

Started at nine; marched as far as the inward end of the Nek, and
camped. I got a splendid wash, almost a bath, in a large pond, in the
company of many Boer prisoners, who, I am bound to say, seemed as
anxious for cleanliness as we were. I talked to two most charming
young men, who discussed the war with me with perfect freedom and
urbanity. They dated their _debacle_ from Roberts's arrival, and the
use of flanking movements with large numbers of mounted men. They made
very light of lyddite, and laughed at the legend that the fumes are
dangerous. In action they leave all their horses in the rear,
unwatched, or with a man or two. (Our mounted infantry leave a man to
every four horses.) I asked if a small boy, who was sitting near,
fought. They said, "Yes: a very small stone suffices to shelter him."
They talked very good English.

The right section have turned up and, I hear, are camped about two
miles away. They have been a fortnight away doing convoy work, to
Senekal, Winberg, and back. They brought us no mails, to our great
disappointment. We have had no letters now since June 15th. Strange
rumours come in about 40,000 troops going to China. A very cold night;
I should say 15 degrees of frost.

_August 4._--Did a rapid five hours' march through the Nek, and back
to Bultfontein, as part of the advance-guard. On the way we picked up
the right section, and exchanged our experiences. They had had no
fighting, but a very good time. They had distractingly luscious stones
of duff, rum, and jam at Winberg, and all looked very fat and well. We
camped, unharnessed, and watered at the same old muddy pool, muddier
than ever. I visited an interesting trio of guns which were near us,
in charge of Brabant's Horse; one was German, one French, one British.
The German was a Boer gun captured the other day, a 9-pr. Krupp, whose
bark we have often heard. It has a very long range, 8000 yards, but
otherwise seemed clumsy compared with ours, with a cumbersome breech
action and elevating gear. The French one was a Hotchkiss, made by the
French company, belonging to Brabant's Horse--a smart little weapon,
but not so handy, I should say, as ours. The British one was a 15-pr.
field gun, of the 77th Field Battery, lost at Stormberg and recaptured
the other day. It had evidently had hard and incessant use, and was
much worn. Brabant's Horse were our escort to-day, a fine, seasoned
body of rough, wild-looking fellows, wearing a very noticeable red
puggaree round their slouch hats. They are fine scouts, and
accomplished marauders, for which the Boers hate them. Jam for tea,
and milk in the tea--long unknown luxuries, which the right section
brought with them. In the evening I went to a sing-song the 38th gave
round their camp fire. It was very pleasant, and they were most
hospitable to us.

_August 5._--Reveille at five. Harnessed up; but some hitch ahead
occurred, and we unhooked, watered, and grazed. Finally started about
8.30, and made a rapid march as advance guard, of about fourteen
miles, with only momentary halts. Country very hilly; steep, squat,
flat-topped kopjes and several bad drifts. We camped about 1.30 near
five small houses in a row, with the novel accessory of some big
trees--probably a town in large letters on the map. It appears the
convoy has halted some way back for the four midday hours dear to the
oxen. The rest of the column came in at dusk. A warm night. Every
night in camp you may hear deep-throated choruses swelling up from the
prisoners' laager. The first time I heard it I was puzzled to know
what they were singing; the tune was strangely familiar, but I could
not fix it. It was not till the third night that I recognized the tune
of "O God, our help," but chanted so slowly as to be difficult to
catch, with long, luxurious rests on the high notes, and mighty,
booming crescendos. Coming from hundreds of voices, the effect was
sometimes very fine. At other times smaller groups sang independently,
and the result was a hideous noise. I wonder if the words correspond
to our tune. If so, every night these prisoners, who have staked and
lost all in a hopeless struggle, sing, "O God, our help in ages past."
This is faith indeed.

_August 6._--_Bank Holiday._--At 6.45 we started as advance-guard
again, and marched for five and a half hours, with only a halt or two
of a few minutes, to Senekal. The country gradually became flatter,
the kopjes fewer and lower, till at last it was a great stretch of
arid, dusty plain. It seemed quite strange to be driving on level
ground, after endless hills and precipitous drifts. We and Brabant's
Horse were advance guard, and clattered down in a pall of blinding
white dust into a substantial little tin-roofed town, many stores
open, and people walking about in peace (the ladies all in black).
Full of soldiers, of course, but still it was our first hint for
months of peace and civilization, and seemed home-like. One of the
first things I saw was a jar of Osborne biscuits in a window, and it
gave me a strange thrill! The convoy and prisoners follow this
evening. The column is miles long, as besides our own transport, there
are all the Boer waggons, long red ones, each with some prisoners on
it and a soldier. Also scores of Cape carts, with a fat farmer in
each. There was a wild rush for provisions in the town by our
orderlies and Brabant's. They got bread, and I bought some eggs and
jam on commission. After camping and unharnessing, I had a good wash
in the river, an orange-coloured puddle. I wonder how it is that by
some fatality there is always a dead quadruped, mule, horse, or
bullock, near our washing places. We don't mind them on the march;
they are dotted along every road in South Africa now, I should think;
but when making a refreshing toilette they jar painfully. Kipling
somewhere describes a subtle and complex odour, which, he says, is the
smell of the great Indian Empire. That of the great African Empire in
this year of grace is the direct and simple one which I have
indicated. In the evening we had a grand supper of fried eggs, jam,
chupatties, and cocoa. This meal immediately followed tea. We made our
fire in the best place for one, an ant-hill, about two feet high. The
plan is to hack two holes, one in the top, another on the windward
side, and to connect the two passages. There is then a fine draught,
and you can cook both on the top and at the side. Inside, the
substance of the hill itself gets red-hot and keeps a sustained heat.

_Recipe for jam chupatties._--Take some suet and melt rapidly in a
mess-tin, over a quick fire (because you are hungry and can't wait);
meanwhile make a tough dry dough of flour and water and salt; cut into
rounds to fit the mess-tin, spread with jam, double over and place in
the boiling fat; turn them frequently. Cook for about ten minutes. A
residual product of this dish is a sort of hard-bake toffee, formed by
the leakage of jam from the chupatties.

Brabant's Horse left in the night.

_August 7._--A bitterly cold, windy day. Marched for several hours
over a yellow, undulating plain and camped, near nothing, about 12.30.
After dinner I walked over to a Kaffir kraal and bought fuel, and two
infants' copper bangles. I was done over the bangles, so I made it up
over the fuel (hard round cakes of prepared cow's dung), filling a
sack brim-full, in spite of the loud expostulations of the black lady.
They were a most amusing crowd, and the children quite pretty. I also
tasted Kaffir beer for the first, and last, time. Kaffir bangles
abound in the Battery. In fact, you will scarcely see a soldier
anywhere without them. The fashion is to wear them on the wrist as
bracelets. They are of copper and brass, and often of beautiful
workmanship. The difficulty about collecting curios is that there is
nowhere to carry them, though some fellows have a genius for finding
room for several heavy bits of shell, etc. Empty pom-pom shells, which
are small and portable, are much sought after; and our own brass
cartridge, if one could take an old one along, would make a beautiful
lamp-stand at home. Rum to-night.

_August 8._--Reveille at six. Off at 7.30. Another march over the same
bare, undulating plain. About eleven we passed a spruit where there
was a camp of infantry and the 9th Field Battery, who told us they
came out when we did, but had only fired four rounds since! Near here
there was a pathetic incident. A number of Boer women met us on the
road, all wearing big white linen hoods; they stood in sad groups, or
walked up and down, scanning the faces of the prisoners (we were with
the main body today) for husbands, brothers, sweethearts. Many must
have looked in vain. The Boers have systematically concealed losses
even from the relatives themselves; and one of the saddest things in
this war must be the long torture of uncertainty suffered by the
womenfolk at home.

We camped at twelve near a big dam, and unharnessed, but only for a
rest, resuming the march at about three, and halting for the night
about ten miles farther on. A profligate issue of rations--five
biscuits, four ounces of sugar (instead of two or three), duff and rum
again. A lovely, frosty night, the moon full, delicate mists wreathing
the veldt, hundreds of twinkling camp-fires, and the sound of psalms
from the prisoners' laager.

_August 9._--In to-day's march the character of the country changed,
with long, low, flat-topped kopjes on either side of us, and the road
in a sharp-cut hollow between them, covered with loose round stones--a
parched and desolate scene. After about ten miles we descended through
a long ravine into Winberg, with its red-brick, tin-roofed houses
baking in the sun. We skirted the town, passing through long lines of
soldiers come to see the prisoners arrive, and out about a mile on to
a dusty, dreary plain, where we camped. We were all thrilling with
hopes of letters. (Winberg is at the end of a branch of railway, and
we are now in touch with the world again.) Soon bags of letters
arrived, but not nearly all we expected. I only got those of one mail,
but they numbered thirteen, besides three numbers of the _Weekly
Times_, and a delightful parcel from home. I sat by my harness in the
sun, and read letters luxuriously. It was strange to get news again,
and strike suddenly into this extraordinary Chinese _imbroglio_. It
appears the war is still going on in the Transvaal, and the rumour is
that we shall be sent there straight. Among other news it seems that
the H.A.C. are sending the Battery a draft of twenty men from home, to
bring us up to strength. I heard from my brother at Standerton, dated
July 21. He was with Buller; had not done much fighting yet; was fit
and well. There was a disturbance just at dusk, caused by a big drove
of Boer ponies, which were being driven into town, getting out of hand
and running amok in the lines of the 38th. Wrote a letter home by
moonlight. Very cold, after a hot day. I should think the temperature
often varies fifty degrees in the twenty-four hours. Some clothing
served out; I got breeches and boots. I wish I could get into the
town. There are several things I badly want, though, as usual, the
home parcel supplied some.

_August 10._--We were rather surprised to hear we might move that day,
and must hold ourselves in readiness. We all much wanted to buy
things, but there was no help for it. Had a field-day at button-sewing
and letter-writing. At eleven there was harness-cleaning, and I was
sadly regarding a small remnant of dubbin and my dusty girths and
leathers, when the order came for "boot and saddle," and that little
job was off. In the end we did not start till three, and marched with
the whole brigade nine miles, with one five-minute halt, through easy
country, with an unusual number of clumps of trees, and camped just at
dusk, near a pool, unharnessed and watered. There was a curious and
beautiful sight just before, the sun sinking red into the veldt
straight ahead, and the moon rising golden out of it straight behind
us. It seems we are bound to Smalldeel, a station on the main line,
now eleven miles off. We left all the prisoners at Winberg. Some chaps
bought schamboks, saddle-bags, and spurs from them, but being
stableman, I hadn't time. I write this by moonlight, crouching close
to a fine wood fire, 10 P.M. Well, I shall turn in now.

_August 11._--Reveille at 5.45. We started at eight, and marched the
remaining eleven miles in a blinding dust-storm, blown by a gale of
cutting wind right in our faces. My eyes were sometimes so bunged up
that I couldn't see at all, and thanked my stars I was not driving
leads. The worst march we have had yet. About 11.30 we came to the
railway, and groped through a dreary little tin village round a
station, built on dust, and surrounded by bare, dusty veldt. This was
Smalldeel. There was a general rush to the stores after dinner, as we
hear we are to entrain for Pretoria to-morrow. To-day we
revolutionized our harness by giving up our off-saddles, our kit to be
carried on a waggon. Some time before centre and lead horses had been
relieved of breeching and breast-strap, which of course are only
needed for wheelers. In the ordinary way all artillery horses are so
harnessed that they can be used as wheelers at any moment. The off
horse is now very light therefore, having only collar, traces, and
crupper, with an improvised strap across the back to support the
traces. Of course there are always "spare wheelers," ready-harnessed,
following each subdivision in case of casualties. As far back as
Bethlehem we discarded big bits also and side-reins, which are quite
useless, and waste time in taking in and out when you want to water
rapidly, or graze for a few moments. The harness is much simplified
now, and takes half the time to put on. The mystery is why it is ever
considered necessary to have so much on active service, or even at
home, unless to keep drivers from getting too much leisure. Several
houses in this place have been wrecked, and many fellows slept under
the shells. In one of them a man was selling hot coffee in the
evening, at 6d. a cup. It was a striking scene, which I shall always
remember--a large building, floorless and gutted inside, and full of
heaps of rubble, very dimly lit by a couple of lanterns, in the light
of which cloaked and helmeted figures moved. I thought of sleeping in
a house, for it was the coldest night I remember; but habit prevailed,
and I turned in as usual by my harness. The horses have got a
head-rope-eating epidemic, and seemed to be loose all night.

_August 12._--_Sunday._--Reveille at six. Harnessed up, and waited for
orders to entrain for Pretoria. The 38th Battery have gone already,
and the Wilts Yeomanry. A draft of twenty new men from England came in
by train. They looked strangely pale and clean and tidy beside our
patched and soiled and sunburnt selves. Marched down to station, and
were entraining guns, waggons, horses, etc., till about four. The
usual exciting scenes with mules, but it all seems routine now. Our
subdivision of thirty men were packed like herrings into an open
truck, also occupied by a gun and limber.

_August 13._--I write sitting wedged among my comrades on the floor of
the truck, warm sun bathing us after an Arctic night, and up to my
knees in kit, letters, newspapers, parcels, boxes of cigarettes,
chocolate, etc., for all our over-due mails have been caught up in a
lump somewhere, and the result of months of affection and thoughtful
care in distant England are heaped on us all at once. I have about
thirty letters. It is an orgie, and I feel drunk with pleasure. All
the time the train rolls through the wilderness, with its myriad
ant-hills, its ribbon of empty biscuit tins and dead horses, its
broken bridges, its tiny outpost camps, like frail islands in the
ocean, its lonely stations of three tin houses, and nothing else
beyond, no trees, fields, houses, cattle, signs of human life. We
stopped all last night at Zand River. All trains stop at night now,
for the ubiquitous De Wet is a terror on the line. To-day we passed
the charred and twisted remains of another train he had burnt; graves,
in a row, close to it. Williams and I slept on the ground outside the
truck, after feeding and watering horses and having tea. It was an
uneasy slumber, on dust and rubble, interrupted once by the train
quietly steaming away from beside us. But it came back. We were off
again at 4.30 A.M., a merry crowd heaped together under blankets on
the floor of the truck. We ground slowly on all day, and halted for
the night at Viljoen's Drift, the frontier station.

_August 14._--Sleepy heads rose from a sea of blankets, and blinked
out to see the crossing of the Vaal river, and a thin, sleepy cheer
hailed this event; then we relapsed and waited for the sun. When it
came, and we thawed and looked about, we saw an entire change of
country; hills on both sides, trees here and there, and many farms.
Soon the upper works of a mine showed, and then more, and all at once
we were in a great industrial district. At Elandsfontein, the junction
for Johannesburg, we had a long halt, and a good breakfast, getting
free coffee from a huge boiling vat.

_(9 P.M.)_--We reached Pretoria just at dusk, the last five miles or
so being a very pretty run through a beautiful pass, with woods and
real _green_ fields in the valley, a refreshing contrast to the
outside veldt. We detrained by electric light, and bivouacked in an
open place just outside the station. I write this in the station bar,
where some of us have been having a cup of tea. Paget's Brigade are
all here, and I hear Roberts is to review us to-morrow. A Dublin
Fusilier, who had been a prisoner since the armoured-train affair at
Estcourt until Roberts reached Pretoria, told us we "had a good name
here," for Bethlehem, etc. He vaguely talked of Botha and Delarey
"dodging round" near here. We have heard nothing of the outside world
for a long time, and as far as I can make out, the Transvaal has still
to be conquered, just as the Free State has had to be, long after the
capture of both capitals.

_August 15._--I had gone to sleep in splendid isolation under the
verandah of an empty house, but awoke among some Munsters, who greeted
dawn with ribald songs. Harnessed up after breakfast, and marched off
through the town, past the head-quarters, where Roberts reviewed us
and the 38th. He was standing with a large Staff at the foot of the
steps. The order "eyes right" gave us a good view of him, and very
small, fit, and alert he looked.

"'E's little, but 'e's wise,
'E's a terror for 'is size."

I liked what we saw of the town, broad boulevards edged with trees,
and houses set back deep in gardens; the men all in khaki uniforms, or
niggers, but a good many English ladies and nurses. We marched to a
camp on the top of a hill outside the town, and joined the rest of the
brigade. A lovely view of the town from here, in a hollow of
encircling hills, half-buried in trees, looking something like
Florence in the distance. I can hardly believe we are really here when
I think of the hopeless depression of June and May at Bloemfontein.
Much to our disgust, we weren't allowed to go down to the town in the
afternoon. However, we visited a reservoir instead, where a pipe took
away the overflow, and here we got a real cold bath in limpid water,
on a shingly bottom, a delicious experience. After evening stables
Williams and I got leave to go down to town. We passed through broad
tree-bordered streets, the central ones having fine shops and
buildings, but all looking dark and dead, and came to the Central
Square, where we made for the Grand Hotel, and soon found ourselves
dining like gentlemen at tables with table-cloths and glasses and
forks, and clean plates for every course. The complexity of civilized
paraphernalia after the simplicity of a pocket-knife and mess-tin, was
quite bewildering. The room was full of men in khaki. Heavens! how
hungry that dinner made me! We ordered a bottle of claret, the
cheapest being seven shillings. The waiter when he brought it up
paused mysteriously, and then, in a discreet whisper to Williams, said
he supposed we were sergeant-majors, as none under that rank could be
served with wine. Gunner Williams smilingly reassured him, and Driver
Childers did his best to look like a sergeant-major, with, I fear,
indifferent success. Anyway the waiter was easily satisfied, and left
us the claret, which, as there were three officers at the table, was
creditable to him. We walked home about 8.30, the streets all silent
as death, till we were challenged by a sentry near the outskirts of
the town, and asked for the countersign, which we didn't know. There
were muttered objections, into which a bottle of whisky mysteriously
entered, and we bluffed it out. I have never found ignorance of a
countersign a serious obstacle.

_August 16._--Grazing most of the morning, during which I have managed
to get some letters written, but I have great arrears to make up.
Several orders countermanding one another have been coming in, to the
general effect that we are probably to start somewhere to-day. The
usual crop of diverse rumours as to our future. One says we go to
Middelberg, another Lydenberg, another Petersberg. There seem to be
several forces of Boers still about, and De Wet, who ought to become
historic as a guerilla warrior, is still at large, nobody knows where.
I only trust our ammunition-supply will be better managed this time.
Anyway, we are all fit and well, and ready for anything, and the
horses in first-class order. I forgot to say that I had to part with
one of my pair, the riding-horse, a few days before we reached
Smalldeel. He was taken for a wheeler in our team. I now ride the mare
and lead my new horse, which is my old friend the Argentine, whose
acquaintance I first made at Capetown. Hard work has knocked most of
the vice out of her, though she still is a terror to the other horses
in the lines. She looks ridiculously small in artillery harness, but
works her hardest, and is very fit, though she declines to oats unless
I mix them with mealies, which I can't always do.



[Footnote A: In this new campaign Paget's Brigade was, in conjunction
with the forces of Baden-Powell, Plumer, and Hickman, to scour the
district whose backbone is the railway line running due north from
Pretoria to Petersberg. He was to occupy strategic points, isolate and
round up stray commandos, and generally to engage the attention of the
enemy here, while the grand advance under Roberts and Buller was
taking place eastward.]

_August 16, continued._--We started at 4 P.M., and had a most tedious
march for about four miles only, with incessant checks, owing to the
badness of the ground, so that we arrived long after dark at the
camping-ground in indifferent humour. We had followed a narrow valley
in a northerly direction. Most of the transport waggons, including our
own, stuck in a drift some way back, so that we had no tea, and the
drivers no blankets to sleep in (gunners carry their kit on the
gun-carriages and limbers and ammunition-waggons). However, I got up
at midnight and found the kit-waggon had arrived, and got mine; also
some tea from a friendly cook of the 38th, so I did well.

_August 17._--Reveille at 4.15. Started at five, and to our surprise
marched back about a mile and a half. Picked up the rest of our buck
waggons on the way, and halted for a hurried breakfast at dawn. Then
marched through what I hear is called Wonderboom Port, a narrow nek
between two hills, leading due north, to judge by the sun. We forded a
girth-deep river on the way. The nek led out on to a long, broad
valley, about six miles in width, bordered on the Pretoria side with a
line of steep kopjes, and on the north by low brown hills. Long yellow
grass, low scrub, and thorny trees, about the size of hawthorns; no
road, and the ground very heavy.

_(2 P.M.)_--We are halted to feed. There is some firing on the left
front. Had a good sleep for an hour. Later on we went into action, but
never fired, and in the evening marched away behind a hill and camped.
The Wilts and Montgomery Yeomanry are with us, and at the common
watering-place, a villainous little pool, with a steep, slippery
descent to it, I recognized Alexander Lafone, of the latter corps. I
walked to their lines after tea, found him sergeant of the guard, and
we talked over a fire. We had last seen one another as actors in some
amateur theatricals in a country town at home. They had been in action
for the first time that day, and had reported 500 Boers close by. A
warm night. Quite a change of season has set in.

_August 18._--A big gun was booming not far off, during breakfast. A
hot, cloudless day. Started about 8.30, and marched till twelve,
crossing the valley diagonally, till we reached some kopjes on the
other side. A pom-pom of ours is now popping away just ahead, and
there is a good deal of rifle-fire.

_(3.15.)_--The old music has begun, a shell coming screeching overhead
and bursting behind us. We and the convoy were at once moved to a
position close under a kopje between us and the enemy. Shells are
coming over pretty fast, but I don't see how they can reach us here. A
most curious one has just come sailing very slowly overhead, and
growling and hiccoughing in the strangest way. I believe it was a
ricochet, having first hit the top of the kopje. When it fell there
was a rush of gunners to pick up the fragments. I secured one, and it
turned out to be part of a huge forty-pounder siege-gun shell. Such a
gun would far out-range ours, and I believe the scouts have not
located it yet, which explains our inactivity.

_(3.30.)_--Our right section has gone into action, and is firing now.
Some wounded Yeomen just brought in. One of them, I'm sorry to say, is
Lafone, with a glancing wound under the eye, sight uninjured. We
camped at five, and unharnessed. It seems the Yeomanry lost ten men
prisoners, but the Boers released them after taking their rifles.

_August 19._--_Sunday._--Reveille at four. Some days are very
irritating to the soldier, and this was a typical one. We harnessed up
and stood about waiting for orders for five hours. At last we moved
off, only to return again immediately; again moved off, and after a
few minutes halted; finally got more or less started, and marched five
or six miles, with incessant short halts, at each of which the order
is to unbuckle wither-straps and let horses graze. This sounds simple,
but is a horrible nuisance, as the team soon gets all over the place,
feet over traces, collars over ears, and so on, if not continually
watched and pulled about. When it is very hot and you are tired, it is
very trying to the temper. At one halt you think you will lunch. You
get out a Maconochie, open it, and take a spoonful, when you find the
centres tying themselves up in a knot with the leaders. Up you get,
straighten them out, and sit down again. After two more spoonfuls, you
find the wheelers playing cat's-cradle with the centres' traces.
Perhaps the wheel-driver is asleep, and you get up and put them right.
Then the grazing operations of the leaders bring them round in a
circle to the wheelers. Up you get, and finally, as the fifth spoonful
is comforting a very empty stomach, you hear, "Stand to your horses!"
"Mount!" You hurriedly stuff the tin into a muzzle hanging from the
saddle, where you have leisure to observe its fragrant juices
trickling out, stick the spoon under a wallet-strap, buckle up
wither-straps, and mount. At the next halt you begin again, and the
same thing happens. It is a positive relief to hear the shriek of a
shell, and have something definite to do or interest you. About two
the 38th fired a few shots at some Boers on the sky-line, and then we
came to Waterval, where we camped and watered. The Petersberg railway
runs up here, and this was a station on it, with a few houses besides.
Its only interest is the cage in which several thousand English
prisoners were kept, till released by Roberts' arrival. I visited it
on the way to a delicious bathe in the river after tea. It is a large
enclosure, full of the remains of mud huts, and fitted with close rows
of tall iron posts for the electric light, which must have turned
night into day. It is surrounded by an elaborate barbed-wire
entanglement. In one place was a tunnel made by some prisoners to
escape by. It began at a hole inside a hut, and ran underground for
quite forty yards, to a point about five yards outside the enclosure.
Some of our chaps passed through it. In a large tin shed near the
enclosure was a fine electric-lighting plant for lighting this strange
prison on the open veldt.

This morning the Captain came back, to our great delight. He had been
away since Winberg, getting stores for us at Bloemfontein. He brought
a waggon full of clothing and tobacco, which was distributed after we
had come in. There were thick corduroy uniforms for winter use. If
they had reached us in the cold weather they would have been more
useful. It is hot weather now; but a light drill tunic was also served
out, and a sign of the times was stewed dry fruit for tea. The ration
now is five biscuits (the full ration) and a Maconochie, or bully
beef. Only extreme hunger can make me stomach Maconochies now. They
are quite sound and good, but one gets to taste nothing but the
chemical preservative, whatever it is. We have had no fresh meat for a
long time back, but one manages with an occasional change of bully
beef or a commandeered chicken.

The camp is a big one, for infantry reinforcements have come in, and
two cow-guns.

_August 20._--There was no hour appointed for reveille overnight, but
we were wakened by the pickets at 2.30 A.M. At once harnessed up, and
marched off without breakfast. Went north still, as yesterday,
following the railway. Dawn came slow, silent, and majestic into the
cloudless sky, where a thin sickle of waning moon hung. It was a
typical African dawn, and I watched every phase of it to-day with
care. Its chief feature is its gentle unobtrusiveness. About an hour
before sunrise, the east grows faintly luminous; then just one arc of
it gradually and imperceptibly turns to faint yellow, and then
delicate green; but just before the sun tops the veldt there is a
curious moment, when all colour fades out except the steel blue of a
twilight sky, and the whole firmament is equally lighted, so that it
would be hard to say where the sun was going to rise. The next moment,
a sharp rim of dazzling gold cuts the veldt, and in an instant it is
broad day. The same applies to sunset. There are no "fine sunsets"
here, worthy of Ruskinian rhapsodies; they are just exquisitely subtle
transitions from day to night. But, of course, directly the sun is
below the horizon, night follows quickly, as in all countries in these
latitudes. There is very little twilight.

_(9.30 A.M.)_--The country we cross is studded thickly with small
trees. About 6.30 the enemy's rifle-fire began on our front. Our side
at first answered with pom-poms, Maxims, and rifle-fire, but our guns
have just come into action. The enemy's position appears to be a low
ridge ahead covered with bush.--I fancy they were only a skirmishing
rear-guard, for after a bit of shrapnel-practice we moved on, and had
a long, tiring day of slow marching and halting, with scattered firing
going on in front and on the flanks. The country must demand great
caution, for the bush is thick now, and whole commandos might be
concealed anywhere. The Wilts Regiment (some companies of which are
brigaded with us) lost several men and an officer. We camped on an
open space just at dark. Watering was a long, tiresome business, from
buckets, at a deep, rocky pool. There were snipers about, and a shot
now and then during the evening.

_August 21._--We harnessed up at four; but waited till seven to move
off. This is always tiresome, as drivers have to stay by their horses
all the time; but of course it is necessary that in such a camp, with
the enemy in the bush near, all the force should be ready to move at
an early hour. The nights are warm now, but there is a very chilly
time in the small hours. We marched through the same undulating,
wooded country, crossing a brute of a drift over a river, where we
hooked in an extra pair of horses to our team. In the summer this must
be a lovely region, when the trees and grass are green; very like the
New Forest, I should think. We had a long halt in the middle of the
day, and then marched on till five, when we camped. We waited till
eight for tea, as the buck-waggons had stuck somewhere; but I made
some cocoa on a fire of mealy-stalks. I forgot to say that
Baden-Powell has joined the column with a mounted force and the
Elswick Battery, and is now pushing on ahead. I hear that Paget's
object is to prevent De Wet from joining Botha, and that Baden-Powell
has seized some drift ahead over which he must pass. Fancy De Wet up
here! An alternative to Maconochie was issued to-day, in the shape of
an excellent brand of pressed beef.

_August 22._--Reveille at 3 A.M. for the right section, who moved off
at once, and at 3.45 for my section. We started at 5.30, and marched
pretty quickly all the morning to Pynaar's River, which consists of a
station on the railway, and a few gutted houses. A fine iron bridge
over the river had been blown up, and was lying with its back broken
in the water. We camped here about one, and thought we were in for a
decent rest, after several very short nights. I ate something, and was
soon fast asleep by my saddle; but at three "harness up" was ordered,
and off we went, but only for a few hundred yards, when the column
halted, and after wasting two hours in the same place, moved back to
camp again. One would like to know the Staff secrets now and then in
_contretemps_ like this; but no doubt one cause is the thick bush,
which makes the enemy's movements difficult to follow. Rum to-night.
We went to bed without any orders for reveille, which came with
vexatious suddenness at 10.45 P.M. I had had about two hours' sleep.
Up we got, harnessed up, hooked in, and groped in the worst of tempers
to where the column was collecting, wondering what was up now. We soon
started--no moon and very dark--on a road composed of fine, deep dust,
which raised a kind of fog all round, through which I could barely see
the lead-driver's back. The order was no talking, no smoking, no
lights, and we moved silently along under the stars, wrapped in
darkness and dust. Happily the road was level, but night marching is
always rather trying work for a driver. One's nerves are continually
on edge with the constant little checks that occur. The pair in front
of you seem to swim as you strain your eyes to watch the traces, and
keep the team in even draught; but, do what you can, there is a good
deal of jerking into the collar, and narrow shades of getting legs
over traces. Once I saw the General's white horse come glimmering by
and melt into the darkness. About 3.30 A.M. lights and fires appeared
ahead, and we came on the camp of some other force of ours, all ready
to start; soldiers' figures seen silhouetted against the dancing light
of camp fires, and teams of oxen in the gloom beyond. A little farther
on the column stopped, and we were told we should be there two hours.
We fed the horses, and then lit fires of mealy-stalks, and cooked
cocoa, and drowsed. At six our transport-waggons came up, and we got
our regular breakfast. Then we rode to water, and now (August 23) I am
sitting in the dust by the team, writing this. There was a stir and
general move just now. I got up and looked where all eyes were
looking, and saw a solitary Boer horseman issuing from the bush,
holding a white flag. An orderly galloped up to him, and the two went
into a hut where the General is. The rumour is that a thousand Boers
want to surrender.--Rumour reduces number to one Boer.

In the end we stopped here all day, and what in the world our forced
march was for, is one of the inexplicable things that so often
confront the tired unit, and which he doesn't attempt to solve.

The camp was the most unpleasant I ever remember, on a deep layer of
fine dust, of a dark, dirty colour. A high wind rose, and eyes, ears,
mouth, food, and kit, were soon full of it. Roasting hot too. There
was a long ride to water, and then I got some sleep behind my upturned
saddle, waking with my eyes glued up. To watering again and evening
stables. The wind went down about six and things were better. None of
us drivers had blankets, though, for the kit-waggon had for some
reason been left at Pynaar's River. However, I shared a bed with
another chap, and was all right.

_August 24._--I am now cursing my luck in an ambulance waggon. For
several days I have had a nasty place coming on the sole of my foot, a
veldt-sore, as it is called. To-day the doctor said I must go off
duty, and I was told to ride on one of our transport-waggons. This
sounds simple; but I knew better, and made up my mind for some few
migrations, before I found a resting place. With the help of Williams
I first put myself and my kit on one of our waggons. Then the Major
came up, and was very sympathetic, but said he was sending back one
waggon to Pynaar's River, and I had better go on that, and not follow
the Battery. So I migrated there and waited for the next move. It came
in a general order from the Staff that nothing was to go back. I was
to seek an asylum in an R.A.M.C. ambulance waggon. So we trudged over
to an officer, who looked at my foot and said it was all very well,
but he had no rations for me. However, rations were sent for, and I
got into a covered waggon, with seats to hold about eight men, sat
down with six others, Munsters and Wilts men, and am now waiting for
the next move. It is 11 A.M. and we have not inspanned yet, though the
battery and most of the brigade have started. I hear the whole column
is to go to Warm Baths, sixteen miles farther on.

We didn't start till 1.30, and halted about five. They are very
pleasant chaps in the waggon, and we had great yarns about our
experiences. They were in a thorough "grousing" mood. To "grouse" is
soldiers' slang for to "complain." They were down on their scanty
rations, their hot brown water, miscalled coffee, their incessant
marching, the futility of chasing De Wet, everything. Most soldiers
out here are like that. To the men-calculators and battle-thinkers it
doesn't matter very much, for Tommy is tough, patient, and plucky. He
may "grouse," but he is dependable. It came out accidentally that they
had been on half-rations of biscuit for the last two days, and that
day had had no meat issued to them, and only a biscuit and a half. By
a most lucky hap, Williams and I had the night before bought a leg of
fresh pig from a Yeomanry chap, and had it cooked by a nigger. In the
morning, when we separated, I had hastily hacked off a chunk for him,
and kept the rest, and we now had a merry meal over the national
animal of the Munsters. It was pleasant to hear the rich Cork brogue
in the air. It seems impossible to believe that these are the men whom
Irish patriots incite to mutiny. They are loyal, keen, and simple
soldiers, as proud of the flag as any Britisher. At five we
outspanned, with orders to trek again at the uncomfortable hour of
1 A.M. The Orderly-corporal left me and a Sergeant Smith of the Munsters
to sleep on the floor of the waggon, and the rest slept in a tent.
They gave us tea, and later beef-tea. The sergeant and I sat up till
late, yarning. He is a married reservist with two children, and is
more than sick of the war. They gave us three blankets between us, and
we lay on the cushions placed on the floor, and used the rugs to cover
us both. After some months of mother earth this unusual bed gave me a
nightmare, and I woke the sergeant to tell him that the mules were
trampling on us, which much amused him. These worthy but tactless
animals were tethered to the waggon, and pulling and straining on it
all the time, which I suppose accounted for my delusion.

_August 25._--_Saturday._--At 1 A.M. the rest tumbled in on us, and we
started off for the most abominable jolt over the country. For a
wonder it was a very cold night, and of course we were all sitting up,
so there was no more sleep to be got. At sunrise we arrived at Warm
Baths, which turns out to be really a health-resort with hot springs.
The chief feature in this peculiar place is a long row of tin houses,
containing baths, I hear; also an hotel and a railway station, then
the bush-covered veldt, abrupt and limitless. Baden-Powell and his
troops are here, and I believe the Boers are behind some low hills
which lie north of us, and run east and west. Our cart halted by a
stream of water, which I washed in, and found quite warm. Coffee and
biscuits were served out. A lovely day, hot, but still, so no dust.
The column stops here a day or so, I hear. We have been transferred to
a marquee tent, where fifteen of us lie pretty close. The Battery is
quite near, and Williams has been round bringing my blankets, for it
appears the drivers' kits have come on from Pynaar's River. Several
fellows came round to see me, and Williams brought some duff, and
Ramsey some light literature; Williams also brought a _Times_, in
which I read about the massacre in China. I'm afraid the polyglot
avengers will quarrel among themselves. Restless night. I believe I
shall never sleep well under a roof again. A roof in London will be a
bit smutty, though.

_August 26._--Breakfast at seven. Told we were going to shift. Packed
up and shifted camp about a mile to some trees; the other site was
horribly smelly. Installed again in a tent. I have a hardened old
shell-back of a Tommy (Yorkshire Light Infantry) on my right, and a
very nice sergeant of the Wilts Regiment on my left. Some of the
former's yarns are very entertaining, but too richly encrusted with
words not in the dictionary to reproduce. How Kipling does it I can't
think. The sergeant is a fine type of the best sort of reservist. He
astonished me by telling me he had been a deserter, long ago, when a
lad, after two years in the Rifle Brigade, where he was sickened by
tyranny of some sort. He confessed, after re-enlistment, and was
pardoned. He had been fourteen years in his present corps, and had got
on well. Opposite is a young scamp of Roberts's Horse. Looks eighteen,
but calls it twenty-two: his career being that he was put in the Navy,
ran away, was apprenticed to the merchant service, ran away (so
forfeiting the premium his parents had paid), shipped to the Cape, and
joined Roberts's Horse. I asked him what he would do next. "Go home,"
he said, "and do nothing." If I were his father I'd kick him out. He's
a nice boy, though. There are several Munsters, jolly chaps, and a
Tasmanian of the Bush contingent, tall, hollow-eyed, sallow-faced
fellow, with dysentery--a gentleman, and an interesting one. Williams
has been here a good deal. He made some tea for the two of us in the


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