Skip to main content

Full text of "The Fifes in South Africa: Being a History of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry ..."

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 


^, dj^^c^ So-vXt 












rrcc K, 






Colonel Sir John Qllmour, Bart. 


niE FlFliS 

T T 


;:K1Ni' \ U\W'C:-:\ '. 

. n .■ '■■' 


. J. 

an:; K0RF.\R \fA^'^!^\HV iN TJTf 


•\ 1 >\ : 




U ' (> I. \\ 

CUJ^VRilM::: A. Vi.<l\V<.)\^ .\ SvV, 

1 'V 

.* *• 



^. .«.*.^.,:^ 


>s^ ... 

' *! 




. t 




.*. * 





,'\ i*f«rl. 







SOUTH AFRICAN WAR, 1900- 1901 


9i76 I.Y. 






Z)eMcate^ to tbe Aemors 







And of his Faithful Friend Trooper E. A. M*GRADY, 


9176 LY. 

*^ Not once or twice in our fair island'Story^ 
The path of duty was the way to gloryJ** 


WHEN I consented to write an Introduction to the 
History of the 20th Company, I did so with the 
feeling that little would be required to introduce or ex- 
plain the following pages. 

Briefly, then, this book sets before its readers a history 
of the work and wanderings of the first active service 
contingent of the Imperial Yeomanry. 

The outbreak of the Boer war, and the subsequent 
development in the military situation in South Africa, 
necessitated the despatch of a large force of mounted 
troops in the early part of the year 1900, and all over 
the country the Yeomanry force fprmed the nucleus of 
this general movement The organisation, equipment, 
and drilling of the various companies were materially 
assisted by having existing headquarters and permanent 
staffs who could deal with the many intricate questions 
which arose. The country at large, and the officers and 
men who went out to South Africa, owe to them a debt 
of gratitude which is difficult to estimate or fittingly to 

In the district occupied by the Fife and Forfar Light 
Horse — at that time the last existing body of Mounted 
Volunteers, and which has now become Yeomanry — the 
response to the call for men to serve their country was 

viii. Introduction 

most satisfactory. Probably no company went out more 
serviceably equipped, owing very largely to the kindness 
and foresight of many friends in Fife and Forfar and 
the surrounding districts. Such an interest was mani- 
fested in the welfare of the Company, and so closely 
were its various movements followed, that it appeared as 
if a history in a modest form might meet with accep- 
tance, and herein is an apology for intrusion if such is 

Looking back on the events of 1900 and 1901, I 
venture to think that the history of the Empire will be 
far from complete without a history of the movement 
which resulted in the formation of the Yeomanry. The 
spirit which prompted it was the same spirit which was 
the making of all those enterprises in the days of Drake 
and Nelson — ^a love of the mother country, a feeling of 
intense patriotism, a joy of fighting. Fostered and kept 
alive as it was through many years of peace by a small 
and patriotic body of civilian soldiers, it broke out with 
no uncertain flame at a time of necessity. 

Modern warfare, with modem arms of precision, had 
greatly altered the conditions of opposing forces. Add 
to this a country of immense size, and endowed with 
strong natural defences, held by an enemy with the 
hardihood of all pioneers, with a language which was 
understood only by a small proportion of our forces, and 
assisted by a native population who, from long acquain- 
tance with the Boer, feared him and served him until 
they saw him beaten, small wonder is it that the South 
African war dragged on, or that the penalty we paid 

Introduction ix. 

was a heavy one. Individualism in officers and men 
was required, adaptability to circumstances was abso- 
lutely essential, and the more rapidly this was achieved 
the sooner the end would come. In military organisa- 
tions, as in all others, the duties of one arm differs widely 
from the other, and where in one branch of the service 
absolute precision is essential, in another it is the want 
of it which assures success. 

The impressions which I carried away from this cam- 
paign are many and varied ; but, if I may be allowed 
to say so, nothing was more prominent than the deter- 
mination — the dogged, determination — of all the troops, 
whether regular or auxiliary. Cheerful under the most 
trying circumstances, humane to their enemies, and chiv- 
alrous to the women and children, the British soldier 
could still fight and march and starve and die if need 
be. Happy is the fatherland which, like ours, has sons 
to rally round it from all quarters of the globe — Cana- 
dians, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Afrikanders, 
Colonists from every quarter — ^good men and true, who, 
by their actions, impressed on the world the fact that 
our Empire was one in fact and not in name alone. 

In conclusion, let us not forget the memory of our 
comrades who shared with us those days of patriotism, 
and who in the fulfilment of their vows gave their lives 
for their country and their Sovereign. In this and in 
our wanderings there is a tie which binds us over never 
to forget the honour of our Company and our land. 

To many reading these pages memories will arise of 
deeds and words unrecorded which will none the less 

X. Introduction 

live with us, and if the history serves but to remind us 
of them, it will have done much. I, at least, am glad 
to have assisted the Author even in a small way in the 
production of this volume. And having shared with the 
Company their fortunes and misfortunes, I would fain 
take this opportunity to express my appreciation of 
their services, and to wish them God-speed. 


Major, Fife and For&r Imperial Yeomanry. 






















Six Weeks in Cupar - - - - ^ 

Cupar to Cape Town - - - - 15 

Three Weeks in the Colony - - - 22 


Relief of Mafeking - - - - 33 

Occupation of Potchefstroom - - 41 

To Pretoria 48 

The Fun Begins 55 

A Trek in the Bushveldt - - - 66 

With Clements 73 

Death of Captain Hodge - - - 83 

Nooitgedacht (Never-to-be-Forgotten) - 90 

A Little Band and Lowly - - - loi 

middlefontein and modderfontein - i07 

With Gallant Benson - - - - 114 

The Losberg 122 

Farewell to the Transvaal - - - 131 

Bloemfontein, and Rambles in the Free 

State 139 

Homeward Bound 151 

The Brighter Side of War - j- - 164 

Appendices, containing List of Names, Itiner- 
ary of Company, &c. - - - - 169 



Colonel Sir John Gilmour, Bart - - Frontispiece 

The Company at Cupar 15 

Camp at Stellenbosch 27 

Picquet at Potchefstroom 40 

Captain Hodge 83 

Sketch of Position where Captain Hodge was Killed 85 

The Company at Krugersdorp 93 

A Tent at Krugersdorp - loi 

Sketch of Position at Middlefontein - - - 108 

Sketch of Blanket Bivouac as used in the Field - 128 

"The Submerged 20th" 130 

Photos of Lieutenants 151 

Map showing Scene of Operations of 20th Company 


Taken from Blue Book. 

SO early in the war as the second week of October, 
1899, Colonel Lucas had an interview with the 
Inspector- General of Auxiliary Forces, and proposed 
that a composite regiment of Yeomanry should be 
mobilised at once for active service, but the answer 
was that there was no intention of utilising the services 
of the Yeomanry in South Africa. 

Again, in November, this idea of a composite regiment 
drawn from the different corps of Volunteer Yeomanry 
in England was urged upon the War Office, and it was 
proposed that men should provide their own horses and 

The reply received on 28th November, 1899, was 
"that there was no intention of employing the Yeo- 
manry at present in South Africa." 

As a matter of fact, Lord Lonsdale had already, early 
in November, got together a fully-equipped force of 500 
men. and was arranging for mounting them and obtain- 
ing the necessary saddlery and transport to enable them 
to take the field. He then saw Sir Evelyn Wood, and 
asked him if the service of such a force would be ac- 
cepted, but was assured that there was no possibility of 
this being done. 

On December 8th Lord Lonsdale and Lord Chesham 

called together on the Under-Secretary for War and Sir 

2 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

Evelyn Wood. It was then arranged to raise a force of 
3000 men, and to make arrangements at once to obtain 
the necessary mounts. This force was almost immedi- 
ately raised to 8000 men, and finally 10,500 men were 
called for, and the following public advertisement was 
the first intimation which the country had of the fact 
that at last the authorities realised the urgent need for 
mounted troops in South Africa. 

First announcement in public press re the raising of 
the Imperial Yeomanry, December, 1899: — 

1. Her Majesty's Government have decided to raise 
for service in South Africa a Mounted Infantry force, to 
be named " The Imperial Yeomanry." 

2. The force will be recruited from the Yeomanry, but 
Volunteers and civilians who may possess the requisite 
qualifications (as given below) will be specially enrolled 
in the Yeomanry for this purpose. 

3. The force will be organised in companies of 115 
rank and file, five officers being allotted to each company 
— viz., one captain and four subalterns, preference being 
given to Yeomanry officers. 

4. The terms of enlistment for officers and men will 
be for one year, or for not less than the period of the 

5. The officers and men will bring their own horses, 
clothing, saddlery, and accoutrements. Arms and am- 
munition, camp equipment, and regimental transport 
will be provided by Government. 

6. The men will be dressed in Norfolk jackets of 
woollen material of neutral colour, breeches and gaiters, 
lace boots, and felt hats. Strict uniformity of pattern 
will not be insisted on. 

7. The pay will be at cavalry rates, with a capitation 
grant for horses, clothing, saddles, and accoutrements. 
All ranks will receive rations from date of joining. 

Notes on their Origin 3 

Gratuities and allowances will be those laid down in 
Special Army Order of loth May, 1899. 

8. Applications for enrolment should be addressed 
to Colonels commanding Yeomanry regiments, or to 
General Officers commanding districts, to whom instruc- 
tions will be immediately issued. 

Had I a dozen sons, each in my love alike, 

I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country 

Than one voluptuously surfeit out of action. 




THESE were stirring times in the County Town. 
Cupar had not been so busy for many a day: 
the shops and streets had never been so crowded and 
so bustling as they were in the beginning of the year 
1900. The Fife folk were determined to show them- 
selves worthy citizens in this hour of crisis in the 
country's history. Patriotism beamed on every face 
and found a place in every heart. 

Groups of young men in the railway station, the 
rattle of spurs on the pavements, the noisy clamour of 
the various hotel parlours throughout the town, all told 
the same tale. The capital of the Kingdom of Fife had 
not forgotten that it had a duty to perform to the 
Empire in the day of its necessity. From all corners of 
the County, and from the remotest shires of the High- 
lands, every train brought its quota of stalwart youths, 
eager to shoulder a rifle in the service of their Queen. 

An advertisement in the newspapers had announced 
that a corps was to be formed for service in South 
Africa, and immediately every young man who could 
ride and shoot (or who thought he could) was on his 
way to Cupar to offer his service. The pen was thrown 
down, the student's books were laid aside, the farm was 
left to take care of itself, and every one was speculating 
on his chance of success at the ranges or in the riding 
school. In many cases anxious parents, alarmed at 
the war fever that had broken out, tried to exert their 

6 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

authority to keep their sons at home. There is an 
old saying, however, " He that will to Cupar maun to 
Cupar," and it was never more true than in this case. 

Having passed the doctor's examination, surmounted 
the hurdle, and made a sufficient score at the shooting 
range at Priestfield, 120 men, between twenty and thirty- 
five years of age, were enrolled for service against the 
Boer. Hundreds of others who failed to pass in one or 
other of the tests were rejected, and turned away from 
the butts or the riding school with a heavy heart be- 
cause they were to be left behind by their more success- 
ful comrades. 

The popular and energetic Colonel of the Fife Light 
Horse, Sir John Gilmour, Bart, of Lundin and Montrave, 
was the man of the hour. Making Cupar his head- 
quarters, he spared neither time nor trouble in his 
efforts on behalf of the new corps. Here, there, and 
everywhere he was the guiding spirit of the movement, 
superintending every detail. Whether it was arranging 
with tailors or bootmakers for equipment, wiring to head- 
quarters, testing men in the riding school, or choosing 
horses and saddlery. Sir John was always taking an 
active share in the work of the moment 

All these matters having been satisfactorily arranged, 
the work of training the company began in earnest. The 
horses were quartered in the stables of the Royal, Ton- 
tine, Station, and Albert Hotels, and the men were 
billeted in these houses and in sundry other taverns and 
hostels in the town. 

At seven o'clock in these dark winter mornings the 
sleeping town was roused by the bugles sounding reveille, 
and soon hurrying troopers were sallying forth from 
every doorway to groom their horses and clean the 
stables before the breakfast hour. It was no unusual 
sight at daybreak to see some professional man or ex- 


• • • - 

Six Weeks in Cupar J 

volunteer officer trundling a barrow to the dunghill, 
with sleeves rolled up and a look as if he was to the 
manner bom. The corps included all sorts and con- 
ditions of men — farmers, doctors, lawyers, cab-drivers, 
and blacksmiths were all members of the happy family. 
The bond which brought them together knew no respect 
of persons, and if veneration was given to any one it 
was to the men who sported the Egyptian or Matabele 
ribbon in token of campaigns and hardships already 
undergone. Three officers and thirty-five members and 
ex-members of the Fife and Forfar Light Horse volun- 
teered. The majority of the latter were granted non- 
commissioned rank on the strength of their superior 
knowledge of military matters, and without doubt their 
skill did much to ensure the smartness and efficiency of 
the company. 

In the forenoon of these busy days of training the 
riding school was the scene of action. It was a scene of 
infinite embarrassment and discomfort to some whose 
horsemanship was not up to army standard. The 
sergeant-major, with his large whip, was apt to be re- 
garded with somewhat mixed feelings by those who did 
not know what was good for them. Certainly he had 
no small job in hand when he started, and it was greatly 
to his credit that the company had never any reason to 
be ashamed of its horsemanship in the field. The train- 
ing in the riding school took the form of ordinary cavalry 
school drill, mounting and dismounting without stirrups 
off side and near side, trotting round on stripped saddles 
rifle in hand, and other tests of the same sort, which 
ensured that every man could ride. 

In the afternoon, foot drill and bayonet exercises on 
the Fluthers — an open space at one end of the town 
— was substituted for mounted work. In the evening, 
after the work of the day was over, skating and curling 

8 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

were indulged in, and in various other ways the embryo 
warriors enjoyed themselves before the last post sounded 
to warn them to their quarters. The hospitality and 
kindness of the townspeople was unbounded, and fare- 
well banquets, farewell smoking concerts, and other 
tokens of goodwill were lavished upon the company. 
On other nights each hotel held its little party of merry- 
makers, and songs and choruses echoed down the streets. 
There is ample precedent for soldiers on the eve of war 
spending the night in revelry, and certainly the Fife 
yeomen enjoyed themselves without stint during those 
last few weeks in Cupar. 

Each Sunday for several weeks eloquent farewell ser- 
mons were preached, and the lusty singing of " Onward, 
Christian Soldiers," was indulged in by the company. 
Still, there was no word of marching orders, and general 
impatience was manifested by officers and men at the 
delay. Want of transport was the reason alleged, and 
there was nothing for it but to await patiently the order 
to embark. It was not known from what port the com- 
pany would sail, but Southampton was regarded as the 
likely place of embarkation. 

During February the weather was exceedingly cold, 
and an iron frost bound the earth and made work out 
of doors almost impossible. When drill in the open 
country was engaged in, the squadron performed cavalry 
movements in close formation, and for various reasons, 
such as want of space, no work of the nature of scouting 
or extended movements was practised. 

Captain Hodge, who took command of the company, 
had served as an officer in the 12th Lancers, and soon 
made a very favourable impression on his men by his 
keenness for work and his open, kindly manner in his 
dealings with them. He had such a seat in the saddle 
as a man only acquires in the hunting field, and in this 


Six Weeks in Cupar 9 

respect he was well supported by his b'eutenants, who all 
knew how to handle a horse. With the instinct of the 
"clanny Scot," the men would undoubtedly have been 
pleased and proud to have had a Fife man at their head ; 
but when it became apparent that no local leader was 
to be forthcoming, it was generally felt that no better 
man than their gallant captain could have been found to 
take command. There was a very general feeling that 
if the success of the company depended on the energy 
and ability of the officers and non-coms., its success was 

It was a picturesque sight to see the yeomen in big 
slouch hats and long cavalry overcoats riding through 
the snow-covered streets on these bright winter morn- 
ings^ Probably some hundreds of years had elapsed 
since the Bonnygate of Cupar had worn such a martial 
aspect. The clatter of hoofs and the jingling of spurs 
must have awakened recollections of days long gone 
in the impassive minds of the old buildings that flanked 
the way to the new riding school. 

At last the glad news arrived that the Fife company 
would sail from Liverpool in a few tiays. Everything 
was in readiness, and after a few final parades, and a 
few last nights of joyous carousal, the great night of the 
company's departure arrived. What a nigtit it was ! 
When will it be forgotten by those who witnessed it ? 

The company mustered at eight o'clock in the 
yard of the Royal Hotel, and, after a hurried roll call, 
marched through the town, headed by a brass band 
and a party of torch -bearers, to the railway station. 
The route was lined by K Company 6th V.B. Royal 
Highlanders, and the streets were crowded with an 
enthusiastic mass of sightseers, who cheered lustily as 
the procession marched off. The rain beat down in 
torrents ; but it beat down in vain : it could not cool 

lo Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

the ardour of the patriotic men and women of Fife. 
Every window along the liqe of route was gaily illumi- 
nated, and fireworks were discharged from the house- 
tops. Many of the men of the company were carried 
shoulder high by their friends, and at the gates of the 
station a fierce struggle between the police and the 
populace almost prevented the departing company 
from gaining the inside of the yard. It was a memor- 
able night, and as the train steamed away to Liverpool 
every heart beat high, and a feeling of great satisfac- 
tion was expressed at the idea that at last the enter- 
prise to which all were looking forward was begun. 

It is perhaps well that men cannot see into the 
future, for there were many there that night whose 
gaiety would have been turned to gloom if they could 
have seen the return of a little band of twenty some 
eighteen months later, the representatives of the strong 
squadron that set out with such a flourish of trumpets 
to beat the Boer. 

(Extract from "Dundee Advertiser" of 28th 

February, 1900.) 




Last night the Fife and Forfar unit of the Imperial 
Yeomanry got what may be termed a Royal send-ofT 
from the county town of Fifeshire on the eve of their 
departure for South Africa. The streets were densely 
crowded, they were brilliantly illuminated, and the 
march of the Yeomanry from the Royal Hotel to the 
Railway Station was a memorable military procession. 
During the day the town was en fite^ and the deplorable 
weather failed to damp the enthusiasm that prevailed. 
St Catherine Street presented a magnificent appearance. 
It was crossed by streamers and flaglets at different 
points, and from the County Buildings and many other 
edifices floated fine displays of flags, while many of 
them were brilliantly illuminated. The British Linen 
Company's Bank premises, which have been the head- 
quarters of the staff, were embellished with flags and 
banners. A large illuminated crown occupied the 
centre, having a large V on the one side and an R on 
the other. The Bonnygate, although off the main 
route, was also decorated at different parts. In the 
Crossgate, shopkeepers and householders vied with each 
other in their demonstrations of loyalty and patriotism. 

12 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

and in their desire to wish the Yeomanry God-speed. 
Shop windows were lit up, and almost without excep- 
tion flags and bannerettes were displayed at every 
window. At the entrance gate to the Railway Station 
there was a floral arch grandly illuminated, and in 
addition there was a large horse shoe, "Good Luck," 
and I.Y. shone in a blaze of light. The muster of the 
departing troops took place in the courtyard of the 
Royal Hotel at 7.45 p.m. The town's brass band, 
surrounded by torch-bearers, Provost Watson, Quarter- 
master Osborne, the Magistrates, the Council, and lead- 
ing citizens were present. 

Provost Watson said that the time had now come 
when the Fife and Forfar unit of the Imperial Yeomanry 
were to leave home and country and proceed to the seat 
of war in South Africa. The glorious news received on 
that Majuba Day of the surrender of Cronje and his 
army would fire them with intensified enthusiasm. 
(Cheers.) While they had much to look forward to, 
their thoughts must often dwell on their associations 
at home — the most important .being the invaluable 
services rendered to them by Colonel Sir John Gilmour, 
Bart, who had done so much on their behalf, and whose 
name would stand out in distinguished prominence in 
the historical record of that movement. (Cheers.) How- 
ever bright and happy they were that night, parting, 
which always suggested some feelings of regret, on that 
occasion seemed to be overshadowed by sentiments of 
genuine pride and congratulation. (Cheers.) The in- 
habitants of Cupar were exceedingly proud of the Fife 
and Forfar Yeomanry, and would cherish in happy 
thoughts the memorable occasion of their visit. The 
voice of the nation swelled with praise at their splendid 
devotion to Queen and country. (Cheers.) In whatever 
position they might be placed, led by their brave and 

Extract from ^^ Dundee Advertiser*^ 13 

accomplished officers they would prove to the world 
that they, representing the flower of their youth, were 
equal to any duty that they might be called upon to 
perform, never forgetting that 

Honour and fame from no condition rise ; 
Act well your part, there all the honour lies. 

(Cheers.) In the name of the Magistrates, Town Coun- 
cil, and inhabitants of Cupar, and with the best and 
warmest feelings of their hearts, he bade them a kind 
farewell, and hoped they would have a safe and plea- 
sant voyage. He expressed the sincere and devout 
wish that the protecting care of Heaven would guard 
and guide them in the performance of their noble and 
patriotic duties. (Cheers.) 

Three hearty cheers were given on the call of the 
Provost for the troopers. 

Colonel Sir John Gilmour thanked the Provost for 
the kind words he had spoken, and ventured to 3ay, 
on behalf of the Fife and Forfar Contingent of the 
Imperial Yeomanry that now left the county town, 
that these words would be remembered in another land, 
and enable them to carry out what all of them wished, 
liberty and freedom to all those who would be under 
the Empire's flag before long. (Cheers.) The words 
would go forth to the counties north of the Forth and 
of Fife, and, in speaking in the name of the contingent, 
he had to express their deep feelings for the great kind- 
ness which they had received during the weeks they 
had passed amongst the inhabitants of Cupar. (Cheers.) 
He had to thank the members of the Town Council 
and the inhabitants of the county town for all they had 
done to make their sojourn as pleasant as possible. 
They were now leaving, as it were, their own door mat, 
and he was sure the citizens wished them every comfort, 

14 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

not only on their journey to South Africa, but in all the 
duties they hoped and trusted them to perform there. 
(Cheers.) They fully realised that night that they were 
leaving home, and that they were to take part in a great 
work ; but they would always have at home hearts beat- 
ing for them, kindly thoughts, and proud sentiments. 
They had heard with great pleasure that day of the sur- 
render of Cronje, and no doubt that General had heard 
that the Fife and Forfar Contingent were at last to start 
to the front. (Laughter and cheers.) Again, in name of 
the Fife and Forfar Contingent, he thanked the people 
of Cupar and those in the counties north of the Forth 
for the great kindness they had shown to the contingent 

The officers going to the front are Captain Hodge, 
Lieutenant John Gilmour, Lieutenant James Simpson, 
Lieutenant Burton-Stewart, and Lieutenant R. W. Purvis. 
Sir John Gilmour accompanied them to Liverpool, where 
they will embark to-day for South Africa. 

The band having played "God Save the Queen," the 
Yeomanry, preceded by the band, surrounded by torch- 
bearers, marched through St Catherine Street, the Cross- 
gate, and the Station Road to the railway station, where 
there was a large concourse of people. The Volunteers 
lined the courtyard as a guard of honour. The enthu- 
siasm and crowding at the station were something ex- 
traordinary. A large contingent of the county police, 
under Captain James F. Bremner, the Chief Constable, 
had difficulty in restraining the people from bursting 
through the iron gates. The train with the contingent 
steamed away from the platform at 8.40 p.m., amid 
cheers, again and again renewed, and the firing of fog 

^ * it 





IN the cold grey dawn of a wintry morning the train, 
which had been ratth'rig along all night, drew up 
beside an enormous empty warehouse on the quay of 
one of the Liverpool docks. In front of the yeomen, 
as they alighted on the quay and gathered their be- 
longings together, was the mighty hulk of a White Star 
liner, the Cymric^ which was waiting for its complement 
of "khaki ordered south." No sooner had one train 
drawn up and been . shunted to a siding, than another 
arrived and discharged its human cargo. Thick and fast 
they came, until at last it became evident that in the 
silence of the frosty night train-loads of eager yeomen 
had been speeding to Liverpool from many county towns 
in England. In a few hours 1200 men were gathered 
in the shed, all in khaki, but each squadron bearing 
some distinctive hat -badge or other token by which 
their men were easily identified. The East and West 
Kents, the First and Second Wilts, two Middlesex 
companies, a Welsh company, and many others were 
amongst the travelling companions that were to accom- 
pany the Fifes across the sea. 

Soon they were all paraded and marched on board — 
after receiving, however, mugs of coffee and hot pies — 
and each man began to make his first acquaintance 
with life on board a troopship. This way of travelling 
has never been recommended by those who have tried 
it, and consequently every one had been warned that 

1 6 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

probably it would prove the most unpleasant part of 
the whole business. All were accordingly prepared for 
a few weeks of discomfort, and although life on board 
the Cymric was not all beer and skittles, it was not so 
very unpleasant ; indeed, in the light of some after ex- 
periences, it might have been very much worse. 

The whole complement of khaki having been taken 
on board, along with some 600 horses that were stowed 
away between decks, the yeomen were addressed by the 
Right Hon. Walter Long, Minister for Agriculture, whose 
brother was on board as an officer; and the Lord Mayor 
of Liverpool, wearing the chain of his office, also said a 
few words of farewell to " the flower of England's man- 
hood," as he called them. Unfortunately, this did not 
include the men of Fife ; but as they hailed from a king- 
dom which is second to none, not even to England, they 
overlooked the omission and gave a parting cheer. The 
gigantic vessel swung slowly out of dock, and dropped 
anchor in the river Mersey, where she lay all night, 
apparently awaiting final orders from the War Office 
Next morning, in a driving storm of sleet and snow, the 
anchor was weighed, and the throbbing of the powerful 
engines awakened the mighty monster into life. The 
Cymric was soon speeding before the cold east wind 
out into the Irish Channel, away from Merrie England 
to a land where its human cargo, hardy and hopeful as 
it was at starting, was to meet with many vicissitudes 
and many trials ere it returned to its native land. Some 
alas, there were amongst them who were doomed never 
to return. But what of that? As the vessel sped to- 
wards the equator, there was little time for lugubrious 
reflection, even if it had been in the mind of any ; and, 
as a matter of fact, every soul on board, when he was 
not quarrelling with his messmates, was building castles 
in the air and imagining the adventures that were in 

Cupar to Cape Town 17 

store for him on the veldt — adventures from which he 
was always to emerge triumphant, generally at the ex- 
pense of his enemy the Boer. King Richard and his 
gallant Crusaders were never more enthusiastic over 
their enterprise to the Holy Land than were the Im- 
perial Yeomanry on their way to South Africa. 

By the kind offices of Mr John Rankin, of Liverpool, 
at the instigation of Sir John Gilmour, the news of the 
relief of Ladysmith was sent by helio from Holyhead to 
the Cymric as she passed, and evoked a hearty cheer 
from those on bojard. 

From cold winds and leaden skies the vessel sped 
onwards into the sunnier, warmer regions of the south : 
after four days at sea greatcoats were dispensed with, 
and when the Grand Canaries were reached it was a 
pleasure to lie on deck and bask in the sun. At Las 
Palmas, which was reached at sunrise one morning, the 
vessel swung into the bay and dropped anchor for a few 
hours, while the men bought fruit from the natives who 
had come out in their little bumboats in hundreds when- 
ever the rising sun disclosed our arrival. And it was a 
rising sun that morning in Las Palmas. Like a great 
orange on the mighty waste of waters it rolled up above 
the cloudless sky-line — up, up — every moment brighter, 
every mom'fent warmer, until at last the blue waves 
seemed on fire with the brilliance of its glory. No 
sloping, slanting path did it take, but climbed straight 
to the masthead and beat upon the decks of the floating 
city as she rode at anchor in the peaceful waters of the 
bay. Before midday the fleet of small boats were cast 
off, and the Cymric was once more speeding to the 
Cape. A sad tragedy occurred at this stage to mar the 
pleasure of the voyage, and to depress the men of the 
20th Company. Private Wedderbum Ogilvy, one of 

the best men in the squadron, took suddenly ill, and 

1 8 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

died in a few hours. This sad news was conveyed to 
the members of the company whenever the boat left 
Las Palmas, and the burial at sea — a sad and impres- 
sive function — took place an hour or two later. 

Dr Cotterill (now in the R. A. M. C), a trooper in 
the East Kent Company, and a splendid player on 
the bagpipes, headed the funeral procession, playing a 
lament as the body of the deceased was borne to the 
poop-deck, where the company was paraded to hear 
the burial service read. All the other companies were 
drawn up in their places on the different decks, and 
while the vessel was stopped for a few minutes, Trooper 
Wedderburn Ogilvy was consigjned to the care of the 
boundless deep, far from home and kindred, but mourned 
by all on board who knew him. This was the first 
break in the ranks, but not by any means the last, for 
the gap was to grow wider in the land to which the 
company was bound. 

For the next fortnight life on board the troopship 
was uneventful, and time was spent in performing the 
routine duties that became more irksome as the tropical 
heat increased. At five g.m. — as the company farrier 
expressed it — the bugles of the various companies 
united in a grand reveille, which was blown down the 
hatches with sufficient energy to wake the heaviest 
sleeper. Some there were, however, who were either 
deaf or stupefied by the heavy atmosphere of the troop 
deck, and as they delayed to " show a leg " or descend 
from their hammocks, it became the unpleasant (?) duty 
of their comrades to cut them down and let them fall 
to the deck with a crash. To hear their language when 
thus rudely awakened was to grasp at once the full 
meaning of the phrase, "to swear like a trooper." It 
was absolutely necessary to deal summarily with the 
sluggards, however, because breakfast had to be taken 

Cupar to Cape Town 19 

in an hour's time on the tables above which the ham- 
mocks were slung. Each row of hammocks had a table 
underneath, which seated the dozen men who swung 
above it at night, and to see the 100 tables or messes 
at feeding time was a spectacle never to be forgotten. 
What a noise there was on the troop deck on these 
occasions : what a clattering of dishes, what a babel of 
tongues, what a hurrying to and fro of orderlies as they 
sped to the galleys for the supplies for their different 
messes. The attempts to wash the greasy dishes after 
dinner in pails of salt water will never be forgotten by 
those to whom this delightful duty fell. After meals, 
horses had to be attended to (warm work in equa- 
torial regions), decks had to be swabbed by barefooted 
yeomen new to the job, various other duties had to be 
performed, and all day long the bugles clamoured for 
pioneers, fatigue men, and others to hoist stores from 
the hold, to supply the canteen with beer, and otherwise 
to make themselves generally useful. Every forenoon 
the whole vessel had to be trim and tidy for inspection 
by the captain of the ship, and troops paraded and 
stood to attention until this officer, accompanied by the 
officer commanding the troops and staff, finished his 
tour through the various decks. 

As regards amusements, these were not awanting. 
Thomas Atkins dearly loves a gamble, and the men of 
the I. Y. were no exception to this rule ; so a daily 
sweepstake on the registered run of the ship for twenty- 
four hours was entered into, and proved a cause of no 
little excitement and expectation to the men who drew 
likely numbers. The beer canteen, where beer at six- 
pence a bottle was in great demand, was only open at 
certain hours, and long lines of men waiting their turn 
to purchase accounted for a sale of about 3000 bottles 
a day. So great was the demand in the tropics that 

20 Fife and Forfar I, Y. in South Africa 

the supply collapsed a few days before the vessel 
reached her destination, and the look of gloom which 
every man wore on hearing this tragic announcement 
showed that a heavy blow had fallen on the whole 
ship's company. In the evening a circle round some 
lamp on deck squatted in the cool night air and sang 
such stirring choruses as "The Young British Soldier," 
and other Kipling ballads. 

During the last few days of the voyage a great tug- 
of-war contest was engaged in between teams repre- 
senting the different counties on board, and the Fifes 
had the honour of reaching the final tie, having without 
difficulty pulled all the Sassenachs round the ship. In 
the final tie with the men of Kent the Fifes had to 
give way; but it is a significant fact that on getting 
ashore the winners of the contest had another pull 
against the Kingdom and were easily defeated. 

At last the voyage was drawing to an end, and no 
one was sorry at the prospect of getting on land again 
to stretch his legs. Hope ran high as daylight revealed 
the massive form of Table Mountain in the distance; kits 
were made ready, and every man prepared for speedy 
disembarking. As the Cymric sped along the coast by 
Sea Point and Green Point, the seaside suburbs of Cape 
Town, the decks and booms and rigging were crowded 
with troopers, all in their go-ashores, booted and spurred, 
and ready for the fray. It was an inspiring moment. 
After all their training, all their waiting, and a voyage 
of six thousand miles, the moment had arrived to which 
all had been looking forward, when they were to set foot 
on a foreign shore to fight for their Queen and country. 

. And what a sight was Table Bay in the bright sun- 
shine of early morning ! What an object lesson on the 
greatness of Empire ! If ever a Scotsman was made to 
realise the truth of " Rule Britannia " it was this mom- 

Cupar to Cape Town 21 

ing, when the mighty Cymric swung to her anchorage 
in front of Cape Town, surrounded on all sides by the 
most imposing array of transports and liners, crowded 
fore and aft with eager troops waiting to disembark. As 
the White Star boat passed one after another of these 
fine vessels — some of her sister ships among the number 
— the bay echoed with the lusty cheering of soldiers 
welcoming their comrades-in-arms. Scarcely an hour 
passed when another vessel swung into the bay and 
dropped anchor in the serried ranks of the fleet Drawn 
up like a regiment of lancers opposite the quays of Cape 
Town, their forest of masts forming a wall against the 
rising sun, they must have filled the hearts of the British 
in Cape Town with a feeling of calm assurance. 

The evidences of war were everywhere present On 
one side a vessel, heavily guarded, was full of Boer 
prisoners ; while on the other, a hospital ship, the Maine^ 
was embarking sick and wounded for home. For two 
long days — interminable they seemed to those on board 
— the Cymric lay waiting her turn to get alongside .the 
quay; but at last, after several others had discharged, 
the anchor was weighed, and soon the vessel lay along- 
side the wharf 

'chapter III. 


THE first duty of the Fife yeomen when they set 
foot in South Africa was to lay siege to a tea 
and fruit stall on the quay, part of the propaganda of 
the Tommies' Welcome Association, instituted by the 
public-spirited matrons of Cape Town to provide re- 
freshments for the troops as they landed. Never was 
kindness more appreciated than this, and never were 
men more eager to show their gratitude than the Eng- 
lish and Scottish yeomen who debarked from the great 
White Star liner. 

At the same wharf several other vessels were un- 
shipping cargoes of khaki, the living freight that had 
gathered from all corners of the world to uphold the 
pillars of the Empire. Lumsden's Horse, from Calcutta, 
were stepping ashore with their horses at one end, while 
the Scottish contingent was busy at the other. The 
work of unloading the stores of saddlery, of placing 
waggons on their wheels, and hoisting the various bulky 
cases which are a necessary accompaniment of a squad- 
ron of horse, was begun forthwith. The men worked 
willingly, and no gang of wharfingers ever handled a 
cargo more expeditiously. In twelve hours the huge 
hulk of the vessel was towering above the quay in all 
the majesty of floating emptiness. The poor horses, 
•after standing on their legs for weeks in a tropical 
atmosphere, were a sorry spectacle as they staggered 
down the gangways. Some of them displayed a strange 

Three Weeks in Cape Colony 23 

reluctance to leave the scene of their imprisonment, and 
had to be hustled ashore in a somewhat unceremonious 
fashion. Meantime the mysteries of Cape Town were 
unexplored, and when work was over for the evening, 
and it was announced that the night would be spent on 
board, many and varied schemes for evading the sen- 
tries at the dock gates were suggested and discussed. 
The men of Fife were hardly reconciled to the idea yet 
that they had sold their liberty, and that as Thomas 
Atkins they were no longer to stroll and wander at 
their own sweet will. Some, by hiding themselves in 
empty hansoms and in other ways, managed to escape, 
and spent the night in town. 

Next morning, in a sand-storm of the sort for which 
Cape Town is famous, the company started on its way 
to Maitland camp, distant some three miles from the city, 
along a dusty track called Sir Lowry Road. The camp 
reached, and the baggage having been brought along by 
steam transport (otherwise traction engine), life in camp 
was entered upon, in the case of many for the first 
time. To begin with, the tents (which, of course, were 
limited in number) were somewhat crowded, from four- 
teen to sixteen men being stowed away in each, so that 
there was a congestion of feet around the tent-pole at 
night. Maitland camp was situated not far from Groote 
Shuur (the Great Barn), where at that time Cecil Rhodes 
had his home. The ground was sandy, and when the 
wind blew, as it did almost daily, the shifting sand got 
into the tents and amongst the food and clothing, mak- 
ing things rather unpleasant for the newcomers until 
accustomed to this sort of life. Fortunately, there was 
at some distance from the camp a large swimming bath 
and club -room, which was a daily resort, where th^ 
luxury of a bathe could be indulged in. The nights at 
this period of the year were cold, but during the after- 

24 Fif€ and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

noons the heat, although by no means immoderate, 
struck down several of those who had so recently left 
the cold and frosty northern land. A week end of 
drenching rain and cold wind, accompanied by the duty 
of night guards to watch the horses, brought home to 
many for the first time the fact that a soldier's life is 
not a life of ease. Sad specimens some of the men 
looked already, with the green dye running down from 
the lining of their helmets on their cheeks, and their 
puttees and boots oozing with water at every step. 
Sentry-go under these weather conditions was regarded 
with no feeling of delight; but it was hardly realised 
that this was a mere foretaste of pleasures in store. 
When the sun shone, however, it was delightfully warm, 
and in a few days every man had the back of his neck 
blistered, and had earned the name of rooinek, by which 
our countrymen are known to the Boers. Busy pre- 
parations of saddlery and equipment for a move to the 
front, which was expected daily, occupied the time, and 
when work was over the fruit stalls and canteens in the 
vicinity of the camp were busily engaged. One of the 
great compensations of life in this thirsty climate was 
the beautiful fruit, melons and grapes of the most 
luscious varieties were to be had in exchange for a 
ticky or threepenny bit. From Maitland, after a week's 
stay, the company was suddenly ordered to proceed 
to Stellenbosch, a remount dep6t some thirty miles in- 
land, where horses were to be provided. Those already 
mounted marched by road to Durban Road Bridge, 
joining the first picquet detailed for duty from the 
company to protect the railway bridge, and reached 
Stellenbosch next day. Having stacked the bulky kit 
bags which had been brought out from home in the 
loft of a large farm steading, the bulk of the company, 
who were as yet unmounted, set off on foot to the 

Three Weeks in Cape Colony 25 

railway station, carrying blankets, overcoats, rifles, and 
ammunition, and finding it a very unpleasant journey in 
the heat of the afternoon. Arrived at the railway, to find 
that a train would not be ready for their transport till 
next day, a bivouac amongst the bush was the only way 
to spend the night ; and accordingly, in a sort of sandy 
hollow amongst the mimosas, a camp fire of generous 
dimensions was lit, and a sing-song engaged in with 
great gusto. A surprising amount of singing talent in 
the company was disclosed, and the choruses were ren- 
dered with wonderful spirit. It was a picturesque scene 
on that beautiful starry night to see, in the glow of the 
great fire, the reflection of these hundred men, all squat- 
ting on the sandy slopes that were formed like a natural 
amphitheatre, for the very purpose, apparently, of an 
al fresco smoking concert. The only songs that were 
not encouraged, needless to say, were soldiers* songs of 
the death and glory variety. These are far more popular 
items in a British music hall than they are with the men 
in the field. Next day the necessary train was forth- 
coming, and Stellenbosch was reached — by no means 
an ideal spot for a camp, as it had been occupied by 
troops for months before, and the place was particularly 
unsavoury. This was soon made evident by the fact 
that dysentery seized more than half the members of 
the company, and Lieutenant Simpson, one of the most 
popular of oflicers, was despatched to an hospital in 
the town, three miles distant, and did not rejoin his 
commando for several weeks. At Stellenbosch the 
whole Scottish battalion camped together — the Fife, 
Ayr, Lanark, and Lothians companies. A number of 
strangle little friends, who were altogether new to the 
men and very unwelcome, made their appearance at this 
stage ; and it became a matter of daily importance to 
retire to the outskirts of the camp and hold a general 

26 Fife and Forfar /. Y. in South Africa 

inspection of clothing. The camp at Stellenbosch was 
situated on a sloping hillside, overlooking a valley sur- 
rounded by heath-clad hills. The event of importance 
during the stay of the company here was the issue of 
horses — Argentines and Walers, and other varieties of 
untamed, half-bred cobs. The saddlery with which the 
men were supplied having been made for horses, would 
not fit these wiry little ponies without a good deal 
of adjustment ; but at last the squadron paraded, and 
the order "prepare to mount" was given. At the first 
attempt to put a foot in the stirrup the ranks were 
plunged in confusion. The men were as yet ignorant 
of the fact that an Argentine will not stand still to be 
mounted unless seized by the cheek-strap of the bridle. 
Men and mounts, however, soon became reconciled to 
each other's ways, with the exception of one cream- 
coloured brute that refused to be bridled until it had 
been hobbled and cast upon the ground. Some of these 
extraordinary animals were magnificent boxers, stand- 
ing on their hind legs and letting out in very scientific 
fashion with their fore feet. Many of them were inno- 
cent of iron shoes, and indeed had come straight from 
their native " estancias " to act the part of war-horse at 
a moment's notice. Trooper Francis prpved an invalu- 
able horse-breaker and roughrider at this stage in the 
company's history. 

Field days and training were now indulged in, and 
for the first time the rat-tat-tat of a pom-pom was made 
acquaintance with. It was fired at nothing more dan- 
gerous than a barren hillside ; but it was wonderful to 
see how quickly a big rock or a sandy hole could be 
located by these dangerous little bursting shells, that 
threw up clouds of dust and smoke where they fell. 

The daily routine at Stellenbosch was the same as 
that in any other base camp, the chief variety being 

«-<-»» ' 


Three Weeks in Cape Colony 27 

given to the day's proceedings by the ride across the 
valley to water the horses. This was a ride of a couple 
of miles, and as it was performed bareback and leading 
two little Argentines by their head-ropes, it was very 
excellent practice in horsemanship. The following, taken 
from a diary of one of the troopers, will show how the 
men of the Scottish battalion spent their day : — 

5.30 am. Reveille. 

Water horses. 

Grooming and cleaning up. 

Breakfast (tea and dry bread). 

Boot and saddle. 

Battalion mounted parade. 

Water horses again. 



Foot parade and target practice. 

Rifle inspection. 

Stables, water and feed. 

6.30 p.m. Night guard mounted. 

These duties were varied by fatigues to bring forage 
and food from the railway, and other camp duties. A 
little excitement was occasioned now and then when a 
stray ostrich got into camp and wandered amongst the 
horses. The nights at this time were damp and misty, 
and the tents in the morning were very wet Night guard, 
which only came round once a week, became less popu- 
lar than ever, as the men had to sleep in the open when 
off duty. 













12 noon. 













LEAVING Stellenbosch, the Scottish battalion made 
a two days' march through the Dutch district of 
the Paarl to the old-fashioned town of Wellington, where 
they camped on a fresh, clean bit of ground near the 
railway station. On this memorable march each trooper 
presented a very formidable appearance, quite sufficient 
to intimidate the most rebellious Dutchman. Loaded 
up in front with spare boots, overcoat, and forage nets, 
and supported behind by a rear-pack containing blan- 
kets, picketing pegs, and ground ropes, each man looked 
like an old dragoon of the time of Cromwell. In fact, the 
Argentine pony on which he was mounted was scarcely 
visible beneath the load which it carried, and it was won- 
derful how they managed to do their twenty miles a day. 
The weather on this march was damp and dull, and the 
air was therefore free from dust, a great consideration, 
as dust is one of the worst enemies of the soldier when 
a big column of troops is on the march. 

In Wellington a week was spent awaiting orders to 
proceed to the front. Day and night trains were passing 
up the single railway line from Cape Town with troops 
of various kinds from every part of the Empire, with 
horses, mules, guns, and saddlery, and provisions of all 
sorts for the army in the field. As Lovat's Scouts 
passed up the line they received a hearty cheer from 
their brother Scots who were less fortunate in being left 
behind. Occasionally, to the unconcealed satisfaction 

To Kimberley » 29 

of the Dutch, a Red Cross train with sick and wounded 
came down the line. 

From Wellington the battalion proceeded to Wor- 
cester, another charming Dutch town at the base of the 
mighty mountain range which marks the beginning of 
the great karoo. Worcester is a regular old sleepy 
hollow — broad streets, shaded with fragrant eucalyptus 
trees, are bordered by widely - scattered houses and 
shops, each with a stoep or verandah opening on to 
the footpath. Streams of crystal water run down the 
channels at the sides of the streets, and impart a sense 
of coolness even in the heat of a mid-winter day. It 
was almost mid -winter when the Fife men were in 
Worcester, and yet the heat of the day time exceeded 
the warmth of a July day at home. Between the town 
and the neighbouring mountain there was ample train- 
ing ground for exercising the troops, and it was here 
that the Fife squadron practised the bayonet charge on 
horseback, which was afterwards so useful in the field 
when a litter of young pigs had to be sacrificed to re- 
plenish the larder. After a week in Worcester the glad 
announcement that at last the battalion was to proceed 
to the front was received with cheers. The entraining 
was a business which required a good deal of manage- 
ment, the boxing of the horses and mules being an affair 
of no little difficulty. Many of them had to travel in 
temporary trucks made from converted coal waggons 
by the addition of a few spars. Each of the four 
squadrons of the battalion required a whole train to 

It was rumoured that the destination was Spring- 
fontein, in the Free State ; but, as a matter of fact, the 
battalion was bound for Kimberley. Passing up country 
on the train, the men had a capital view of the battle- 
fields of Belmont, Graspan, and Magersfontein, where 

30 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

very shortly before such obstinate opposition had been 
offered by the Boers to Lord Methuen's advance to 
Kimberley. Few traces of the bloody conflict that had 
been waged on these battlefields were to be seen. Long 
lines of empty trenches here and there marked the posi- 
tion of Boer marksmen near the foot of some kopje. It 
was not the sort of broken, hilly country, however, which 
would be considered suitable for opposing the advance 
of an army. Open level plains for miles on all sides, 
with a very occasional kopje, characterised the country 
in which the Boers, to Lord Methuen's astonishment, 
offered a very stubborn resistance to the British advance. 
The difficulty of getting near an entrenched enemy on 
an open plain was well known to the Boer leaders 
evidently, and their success proved to our troops the 
helplessness of artillery even to dislodge them from 
such a position. The rifle was the weapon of the day, 
and the Boer, with his quick -loading Mauser and the 
range staked off, was very difficult to tackle. After 
three nights and two days of uneventful travelling, in- 
terrupted every few hours to feed and water horses, the 
squadron reached Kimberley, the famous diamond city, 
at twelve o'clock at night 

Even at that hour, however, the loyal women of the 
neighbourhood turned out and supplied the men with 
tea, which was gladly welcomed after a long and tedious 
journey. As it was too late to remove the horses, the 
train was shunted to a siding, and at daybreak next 
morning the company proceeded to camp in the out- 
skirts of the town. 

Kimberley ! What a disappointing town it was : one 
or two stone buildings scattered here and there that 
would have been approved by a British bondholder, 
but beyond that mere congeries of tin sheds and corru- 
gated iron villas. Just a few weeks before the siege of 

To Kimberley 31 

the town had been raised by General French's cavalry, 
and the fortifications, along with sundry evidences of 
the Boer botpbardment, remained to tell the tale. Even 
at this time the enemy was not far distant, as the sound 
of heavy artillery had been distinctly audible on the pre- 
vious day. Sir Archibald Hunter's division of infantry, 
which the Scottish yeomen were to join, was lying at 
Fourteen Streams, about thirty miles north. 

Already some of the Argentine remounts obtained at 
Stellenbosch had died of old age and general debility, 
and several new remounts were allotted to the squadron 
here. Several members of the company having obtained 
leave, visited the town and explored the shops and 
places of refreshment. A famous dining-room, where a 
hearty meal of four or five courses was to be had for the 
modest sum of one shilling, proved a great attraction in 
a land*which, so far, had not been a land of plenty. The 
largest building, an imposing hotel called the "Queen's," 
which the stranger might mistake for the town-house or 
some great public building, was owned by a Forfarshire 
man, who was also the colonel of a local Volunteer corps 
that had done meritorious service during the siege. 

Needless to say, a very martial spirit prevailed in 
Kimberley at this time, and the citizens had not re- 
quired to be reminded of their duty when the need for 
home defence arose. From the oldest to the youngest, 
all did their share. The first sight which greeted the 
Fife yeomen when they alighted from the train in the 
morning was a little nipper, not more than twelve years 
of age, in a blue and scarlet uniform, armed with a car- 
bine, who was doing sentry-go over some ammunition 
at the railway dep6t He assured the enquiring Scots- 
men, with a strong colonial twang, that he belonged to 
the Kimberley Juvenile Town Guard, and that although 
they had not gone out to meet the enemy, they were 

32 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

ready to do so if they were wanted. He looked as if he 
meant what he said too ; and the Scotsmen could not 
but be impressed with the serious and manly air of the 
young colonial. They are much older for their age 
than the boys of the old country; and as they are 
trained in a rough school, they begin very early to 
assume a look of responsibility and to take their share 
in the work of the Empire. In this respect they re- 
semble the young Boers, who did a great deal of picquet 
duty and night work for their fathers during the course 
of the war. 

Time was pressing, however, and as Sir Archibald 
Hunter's column was under orders to push forward to 
the relief of Mafeking, the Scottish Yeomanry, after a 
very short stay, went on to join his force. He had sent 
on a flying column, consisting of the Imperial Light 
Horse and other mounted troops, and was raady to 
move on in support of them with his infantry division 
of 10,000 men. The only mounted troops to perform 
the cavalry work of this great force were the Scottish 
Yeomanry and a few Kimberley Mounted Rifles, and it 
was therefore with a certain feeling of the importance of 
the work in hand that the Fifes went out to meet the 



THE heading of this chapter is not intended to con- 
vey the impression that the Fife Light Horse 
alone effected the celebrated relief of this beleaguered 
town in the wilderness ; but there can be no doubt that 
the moral effect of their presence in the district had an 
important influence on the retreat of the enemy. Leav- 
ing Kimberley by coal truck for Fourteen Streams, a 
point on the Vaal river at which the last battle had 
taken place with the retreating Boers, the company tra- 
velled al fresco sitting on the baggage in the waggons; 
while the horses, upsaddled and ready, were standing 
ready to detrain and be mounted if occasion arose. The 
company was actually at the front now, and might at 
any moment find itself face to face with the enemy. 
Looking over the silent, sunburnt veldt, that stretched 
like a boundless sea on all sides, it seemed difficult to 
realise that this had recently been the scene of conflict 
between two opposing armies. As the train had borne 
the men of Fife past the battlefields of Belmont, and 
Graspan, and Magersfontein, things looked so peaceful 
and quiet that it was difficult to believe they had wit- 
nessed the horrors of war a few weeks before. 

Arrived at Fourteen Streams, where Sir Archibald 
Hunter's division was encamped, the squadron camped 
alongside of battalions of the line from Natal, bronzed 
and hardened heroes from Ladysmith, who were to be 

their companions-in-arms for the next few weeks. After 

34 Pif^ <^*^d Forfar I. F. in South Africa 

spending a quiet Sunday without incident, and taking 
part in an open-air church parade on the veldt, the 
whole division prepared to move off early next morning 
to meet the enemy. The enemy, however, was not 
anxious to come to close quarters with this great force, 
now numbering some 10,000 men, and carefully retreated 
before it. Starting at two in the morning in the star- 
light, and marching as advance guard screen for twelve 
* hours, the Fifes soon began to have a pretty fair idea of 
what a soldier's work is like. 

What a magnificent spectacle the march of this 
mighty column presented to the eye of the novice. 
First the thinly scattered horsemen, stretched in long 
lines as far as the eye could travel ; behind them lines 
of infantry in skirmishing order, plodding along with 
an appearance of irresistible determination; then the 
thundering artillery, with its jingling chains and cheery 
drivers ; after them the miles of baggage waggons, 
drawn by mules and bullocks, making an apparently 
interminable tail to the fighting force as it stretched 
away in a cloud of red dust to the horizon. 

No enemy was found as the force advanced, and at 
last the column came to a halt at a spot where camp 
was pitched for the night. Tents had been left behind, 
but each squadron or company pegged down beside its 
own transport waggons and slept on the veldt. Nor 
was this any hardship so long as the dry, cold, winter 
weather lasted, for every weary trooper slept like a log, 
and would willingly have lain longer, as a rule, if he had 
been allowed. Early hours are a feature of the soldier's 
life in the field, however, and reveille at two or three 
o'clock in the morning was the usual order. What a 
magnificent sight a camp is out in the open on a fine, 
clear night. Hundreds of camp fires, each surrounded 
by a group of bronzed soldiers, cooking and chatting, 

The Relief of Maf eking 35 

shouts and choruses and laughter on all sides, make it 
a most exhilarating spectacle. 

It should be mentioned that the Scottish yeomen 
were the only mounted troops, with the exception of 
a few Kimberley Rifles, attached to Sir Archibald 
Hunter's division, so that each day found them on 
advance or rear guard, or on one of the flanks, looking 
out for an elusive enemy that chose to remain invisible. 
The capture of the town of Christiana was the first ^ 
achievement of the Fife squadron in the field. Two 
days out from Fourteen Streams, Captain Hodge was 
ordered to surround this town and search the place. It 
had been vacated by the Boers the night before, and in 
the neighbourhood traces of the recent camping ground 
of the enemy were plainly visible. The Fifes surrounded 
the place at a gallop in the most approved method, and 
" the citadel fell " without a shot being fired. The white 
flag was everywhere to be ^een, and the Landrost or 
Provost of the town handed over the keys. 

The half-hour spent in looting the deserted hotel, 
which belonged to a fighting Burgher, was amongst the 
bright, outstanding incidents of the campaign. The 
recollection of the sack of the cellars and cigar stores 
was a source of pleasure to the squadron in many a less 
happy moment 

The fact that Lord Roberts* main army was no 
further than Kroonstad at this time, and that the cap- 
ture of Christiana was the first act of the war to be 
performed on the soil of the Transvaal, entitles the Fife 
yeomen to distinction. Day after day the column now 
pushed on through the treeless, waterless desert of 
Bechuanaland on its way to beleaguered Mafeking. 
Marching early and camping late, exposed to the 
broiling sun all day and to the frost at night, it is idle 
to deny that these were days of hardship. To make 

36 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

matters worse, the commissariat was so limited by 
reason of lack of transport that half rations only were 
allowed. Two hard biscuits a day, and a tin of salt 
beef or bully between two, was little enough to live 
upon, especially as the open-air life and bodily exercise 
made every man as hungry as a hawk. There was no 
murmur of complaint, however, because every man knew 
that it was unavoidable. 

A drink of thin coffee at three in the morning, with- 
out sugar or milk, and half of a hard biscuit,, is the fare 
on which a soldier starts off to do a hard day's work. 
Every second man has his pound tin of bully strapped 
to the saddle, and shares this with his companion at 
any convenient halt in the middle of the day. 

The tantalising slowness of a great column of troops 
was the first thing that impressed the mind of the new 
troopers, who, in their fond imaginings, had pictured 
themselves galloping about in true colonial style, and 
having a skirmish or a pitched battle three times a day. 
Instead of that, a uniform speed of two to three miles an 
hour, a sort of glorified funeral march, without a single 
shot at an enemy, was the sad reality of the business. 

On the Queen's Birthday (25th May) the town of 
Vryburg was reached, and the Yeomanry camped in the 
large square or plaats, which is an invariable feature of 
every town planned by the early Dutch settlers. The 
inhabitants — those of them who were not on commando 
— were delighted at the arrival of the column. For six 
months, while Kimberley was besieged, they had been 
cut off from communication with the outer world, the 
stores had all been looted by the Boers, and they were 
left even without oil or candles, so that they had to go 
to bed at six or seven in the evening. Food was at 
famine prices, and the only contents of the stores 
seemed to be enamel paint and baby linen — neither of 

The Relief of Maf eking 37 

which were of any service to a hungry army. The chief 
aim of life at this time amongst the soldiers who were 
exploring the town was to get enough to eat — every 
other idea had to take second place. 

The washing of shirts in a small stream near the town 
occupied the spare time of many of the men during the 
few days' halt in Vryburg. To some of them the art 
of washing was almost unknown, and a great deal of 
humour was derived from the performance. The first 
step in the -process was to find a rock or large flat stone 
to support the garment while soap was applied. The 
washing over, it was necessary to sit for ten minutes 
while the sun dried the garment, and it could then be 
worn again. 

While the force lay at Vryburg, Mafeking was re- 
lieved by a flying column of mounted men, who had 
pushed on in front under the command of Colonel 
Mahon. The Scottish Yeomanry joined this body at 
Lichtenburg a few days later, and had the pleasure and 
advantage of working alongside of the Imperial Light 
Horse, a famous corps, which had gone through the 
siege of Ladysmith, and did splendid work afterwards 
in the field. 

At Lichtenburg the force lay for two or three days, 
resting the horses and awaiting the arrival of artillery 
and waggons from Mafeking. A lovely old town is 
Lichtenburg, quiet and sleepy out there in the wilder- 
ness remote from railways, and until within the last few 
years almost an outpost of civilisation, where the old 
lion-hunting Dutchman smoked his pipe in peace. At 
a corner of the inevitable square was Delarey's house, 
the home of the daring and resolute farmer and ex- 
transport rider, who gave our troops many a bad half 
hour in the later stages of the war. Food was scarce 
in Lichtenburg, but an occasional loaf of bread from 

38 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

the oven of some vrouw in the town found its way to 
the camp and was speedily vanquished. 

At this time all the talk was of the proclamation of 
peace and the capture of Pretoria, and a mighty burst 
of cheering in the infantry lines one night at sundown 
was supposed to herald the announcement of this good 
news. On enquiry, it was found to mean nothing more 
than the issue of a ration of rum, which is invariably 
greeted by the troops with loud acclamation. 

The pleasant, sleepy life of Lichtenburg, however, 
was soon exchanged for the trek once more, and the 
Scotsmen, accompanied by the I. L. H. and the Field 
Artillery, found themselves at the little town of Ven- 
tersdorp after a couple of days' forced marching, a good 
deal of which was done in the dark of the frosty winter 

The fact that Sir Archibald Hunter and his staff 
pushed on adventurously and reached the town, which 
was in possession of armed Boers, was not generally 
known at the time ; but it was only by a bit of bluff 
and presence of mind that they escaped capture by the 
enemy on this occasion. 

Pretoria had been entered by the British, and this 
news was made known to the Fifes on arrival here. 
No one was sorry, of course, and all looked forward to 
the end of a war which at that time seemed to be all 
marching and no fighting. During the couple of days 
spent at Ventersdorp hundreds of Burghers came in and 
surrendered, and obtained passes to return to their farms 
after handing over their rifles and bandoliers. 

The work of the campaign was not yet over, and, 
after two days, the company was again -off with the 
flying column, to reach the town of Potchefstroom 
by daybreak next morning. Leaving Ventersdorp at 
three on a Sunday afternoon, they pressed on till 

The Relief of Maf eking 39 

about eleven o'clock, and then halted for a couple of 
hours to rest the horses. How intensely cold it was 
that night out on the veldt Few of the men, accus- 
tomed as they were to a rigorous northern climate, had 
ever experienced anything so terrible. A thick, icy fog 
hung over the face of the earth, making the darkness 
deeper and the going more than ever dangerous. At 
one a.m. the horses were saddled, and the men, who had 
been walking about on the frozen grass to keep them- 
selves warm, mounted once more and groped their way 
along. It seemed an interminable march — on, on, in the 
darkness, unable to see the man alongside, teeth chat- 
tering, feet and fingers numb with the cold — every man 
having the impression that that night was the longest he 
had ever spent. The thermometer must have registered 
twenty degrees of frost, and everyone was longing for 
the first rays of the rising sun. 

At last, through the darkness and the mist, the sound 
of crowing cocks struck gladly on the tingling ears of 
the troopers. Potchefstroom at last ! was the thought 
that filled every heart with joy. After a great deal of 
halting and hanging about, while the day was gradually 
dawning, it became apparent that something was wrong. 
The guides had apparently lost their way, and it tran- 
spired that the village in front was Frederikstad, distant 
some ten or twelve miles from the destination of the 
column ; and so, turning off at a tangent, the weary 
march was resumed. At eleven o'clock that forenoon 
Potchefstroom was reached, an escaping railway train 
was captured, and the town was occupied by the British 
amid the rejoicings of the natives and a few British 
residents, whose lives for some time back had been far 
from enviable. That was the first great night march 
of the Fife Light Horse, and every man hoped that it 
'might be the last. Little did they dream that more than 

40 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

a year later they would be doing two or three every 
week, and enjoying them as much as it is possible to 
enjoy adventures of this somnambulistic description. 


• t 





ONE of the first proceedings on arrival in Potchef- 
stroom was the hoisting of the Union Jack, 
said to be the same ensign that was hauled down in 
1 88 1, when the Boers under Kronje besieged and de- 
feated the little British garrison in a somewhat Dutch 
fashion, after the arrangement come to between the two 
Governments at that time. The old ramparts and forti- 
fications were still to the fore, and, whether from recol- 
lection of former times or for other reasons, an elaborate 
scheme of defence, which entailed a good deal of pick 
and shovel work on the exhausted troops, was imme- 
diately embarked upon. Day by day crowds of Boers 
in waggons and Cape carts trooped into the town to 
take the oath and deliver up their rifles, which, having 
been stacked and burned in the market-place, were 
afterwards repaired and used again hy the enemy, if we 
are to believe the extraordinary story of De Wet in 
his " Three Years' War." Picquet duty at the different 
roads leading into the town, and occasional patrols to 
neighbouring farms, formed the bulk of the duty of the 
squadron at this time. Leaving the camp on horse- 
back, and riding through the long, straggling town (the 
late capital of the South African Republic) to some 
bridge or outlying position on the outskirts, a twenty- 
four hours' picnic was spent in a delightful freedom 
from restraint. Every waggon or cart that came in or 
left the town had to be stopped and searched, and many 

42 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

interesting conversations with the surrounding farmers 
took place. At this time the nights were intensely cold, 
and at daybreak each morning the ground was encrusted 
with hoar frost and the streams and ponds were covered 
with ice. No member of the squadron will ever forget 
the splendid picquets at the Venterskroon Road or the 
Meal Mill — glorified picnics they were, with plenty of 
firewood (not always obtainable elsewhere), and " plenty 
skofif " to eat, as the Kaffirs would say. 

The patrols from Potchefstroom were not always so 
delightful, and one in particular was long remembered 
by the uncomplimentary name of "starvation patrol." 
This was, indeed, one of the unhappiest experiences of 
the Fifes at this stage in the campaign. Leaving the 
town about three one morning, without overcoats and 
thinly clad, the squadron rode out to the south in the 
direction of the Vaal river to make a reconnaissance at 
a drift which De Wet was supposed to be using. It was 
anticipated that the whole business would be over by 
mid-day, and that at the most it would be merely a 
twelve hours' affair. In the afternoon a message was 
received by helio to remain out all night and guard a 
certain drift. This was delightful ; but as the men had 
had nothing to eat all day, and as no supplies had been 
brought, and there were none in the neighbourhood, it 
looked as if a hungry night lay ahead of them. To relate 
how some of them saw with eager eyes a flight of pigeons 
settling on a deserted cottage beside the drift-r— to say 
that each man wondered whether his hungry neighbour 
had observed them also— would be to give some idea 
of the animal side of the trooper's nature. No sooner 
had the shades of night fallen than that cottage was 
surrounded by those who had marked the possibility of 
a meal. Seized in the rafters, killed, skinned (for there 
was no time to pluck them), and roasted in the embers 

Occupation of Potchefstroom 43 

of the fire, they were devoured half raw by the men with 
the voracity of starving animals. Let those who sit at 
home and live in the lap of luxury hold up their hands 
in horror at the picture : only those who have worked 
hard for twenty-four hours in the open-air without food 
can appreciate the irresistible craving to satisfy hunger, 
which becomes the leading and controlling passion of 
the moment. Those who were not lucky enough to 
commandeer even a pigeon — the men who were posted 
on sentry-go for example — had a forty-eight hours' fast 
on that occasion, which would have made them exceed- 
ingly dangerous in any poultry-yard. Another incident 
which made this night a memorable one in the annals 
of the Fifes was the fact that no blankets had been 
carried, as the affair was supposed to be merely a short 
patrol. What a cold, wretched night that was : how 
they crouched together for warmth in the moonlight, 
unable to sleep for the chattering of their teeth and the 
numbness of their feet. As they stamped about at day- 
break trying to raise the circulation, each man had had 
an object lesson as an amateur soldier that will entitle 
Thomas Atkins to his respect and admiration as long 
as he lives. For these and similar hardships are borne 
without a murmur by our soldiers in the field, and no 
one ever hears a word about them. 

The more the yeomen saw of campaigning, and the 
more they saw of the silent, passive, cheerful heroism of 
the British soldier, the more they admired him. Need- 
less to say, they did their utmost to prove themselves 
worthy to be comrades-in-arms of these splendid fellows. 

If the return to camp after this starvation patrol was 
not exactly in the nature of a return from the jaws of 
death, it was a glad release from a very painful pre- 
dicament When the men were let loose again upon 
their accumulated two days' rations, these were severely 

44 Pif^ ^^^ Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

Many ponies were delivered up by the surrendering 
Burghers at this time, and remounts were plentiful for 
the moment A pretty little pony, a dappled grey with 
a good deal of Arab blood in his veins, afterwards 
known to the squadron as "Chummy," was introduced 
to the ranks amongst these. It had carried a burly 
Boer through the hottest six months of the campaign, 
and was destined to carry one of the Fife troopers for 
a couple of years more. Most of the men by this time 
had gone through one or two remounts — a fact which 
was at once attributed at home to carelessness and want 
of knowledge of how to take care of a horse. This was 
not altogether the case. No doubt there were one or 
two who were not accustomed to grooming and saddling 
their own horses till they joined the I. Y., but the greater 
number of the first contingent of Yeomanry were prac- 
tical men — farmers and others — who knew how best to 
preserve their mount and to make the most of it. The 
cause of many a sore back and many a girth-gall was 
to be found in the saddlery sent out, which was of the 
size and pattern suited to the home cavalry horse, and 
not the thin, wiry little ponies of the veldt, or the short, 
cobby little Argentines. The long, slow marches, also, 
"and the consequent weariness of the riders making them 
sit loosely in the saddle, produced sore backs very 
quickly. There is no doubt that the rifle bucket (a 
leather attachment hung to the British saddles to hold 
the rifle) had a very bad effect in producing sores. The 
weight on one side of the saddle is bad of itself, but the 
tendency to hold the muzzle in the hand and lean on it 
is irresistible. The Boer system of slinging the rifle on 
the back was the better one, and indeed it was imitated 
later in the equipment of our Mounted Infantry. 

Sickness began to claim a number of men, and the 
squadron began to feel the result of the hardships of a 

Occupation of Potchefstroom 45 

campaign, as was evidenced by the gradual shrinkage 
in the number fit for parade. Sergeant Lumsden, who 
had been acting sergeant-major since Sergeant- Major 
Simpson's collapse, now in his turn was invalided to 
hospital. Several others, attacked by the cold at nights, 
and suffering from dysentery and other ailments, were 
laid aside through illness. Dysentery, that scourge of 
the soldier's life, had indeed never been absent from the 
ranks since the company sailed from Liverpool. The 
total strength of the company at this time — after three 
months in the field — had fallen below one hundred. At 
Cape Town, at Kimberley, at Pokwani, at Lichtenburg, 
derelict troopers, broken down by disease or injured by 
accidents, had been left behind. 

Before the squadron left Potchefstroom, the first ex- 
perience — one which they were to get sadly accustomed 
to by-and-bye — of a wet night in the open warned the 
men that the dry winter season would not last for ever, 
and that there was perhaps something worse in the way 
of weather than frost and cold. To waken up for the 
first time in life to feel the rain-drops pattering on the 
face, and to hear the noise on the covering overcoat, 
is an unpleasant surprise indeed. Combined, as it was 
on this occasion, with an untimely reveille and an ex- 
pected attack, it was part of a disagreeable night's work ; 
but the town was unmolested during its occupation, the 
Boers finding it easier to wait till the troops had cleared 
out, when they immediately returned and took posses- 
sion. The tales that were afterwards told, when the 
Fifes returned a year later, of the treatment accorded to 
the local blacksmith because he had repaired the British 
pom-pom, and the beating out of the brains of the local 
brewer who supplied beer to the rooineks, left an un- 
pleasant impression of Mr Christian De Wet and the 
ways of his commando. 

46 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

At Potchefstroom, camped as they were beside the 
I. L. H. — hardy colonial warriors, who knew a good deal 
about campaigning and how to do it comfortably — the 
Fife men soon learned a few wrinkles that were of great 
service to them afterwards. The Imperial Light Horse, 
instead of having bulky tents, which had to be left be- 
hind, carried light, portable booby huts or bivouacs of 
canvas, each man bringing one-half of the structure with 
him if transport was scarce. In this way they were pre- 
pared for any weather, and by the help of the fur 
carosses which they each possessed, managed to keep 
warm on the coldest night. It is a strange thing that, 
although the British soldiers in the Crimea were tentless, 
while the French alongside them were snugly ensconced 
in their canvas huts, the British army to-day is still en- 
cumbered with heavy tents, which have to be left behind 
whenever any real work is to be done. The weight of a 
few bell-tents, wet with the dew of morning, can only be 
properly appreciated by carrying a few of them out of a 
waggon which has sunk beneath their weight into the 
mud. In after months, when thq Fife tents had all been 
captured and burned by the Boers, the use of blanket 
bivouacs soon came to be appreciated ; and, when ac- 
customed to them, there was no desire to go back to 
crowded tent life again. 

After a stay of a fortnight, orders were received that 
Sir Archibald Hunter's force was to proceed to Pretoria 
by way of Johannesburg. Although delighted at the 
prospect of reaching the goal of their ambitions, it was 
not without regret that the company said good-bye to 
the old capital on the banks of the Mooi river. The 
Mooi (or beautiful) river, where it splashed down by the 
old meal mill by the bridge leading into the town, was 
quite the most home-like bit of South African scenery 
the Scotsmen had come across, and they, cherished 

Occupation of Potchefstroom 47 

pleasant recollections of the picquets out there at 
night when the roaring camp-fire was the centre of a 
happy band. Kind friends at home had warned the 
departing troopers that they were not going out to a 
picnic ; but, after all, the two weeks spent in Potchef- 
stroom was probably the finest picnic in the lives of 
those who were there The men of the Fifes will never • 
forget* the rambling old town, with its solitary baker's 
shop, where a cup of tea could be had for sixpence ; its 
brewery, where they never seemed to brew any beer; 
its little ramshackle hotels, with a piano in the back 
parlour, and all the other little touches of civilisation 
that made the time pass so pleasantly. When the com- 
pany left it, one hundred strong, it scarcely imagined 
that it was destined to return almost a year later sadly 
reduced by disease and death. Yet in March of the 
following year, after many strange vicissitudes, the Fife 
men found themselves enjoying a square meal in Vrouw 
Van ZyPs eating-house, and revisiting the scenes of their 
former wanderings. Where the picquets had lain out 
by the Venterskroon bridge, iron block -houses were 
then erected, and garrisoned by Coldstream Guards and 
other regular troops. Like every other town which had 
been " pacified " by the temporary visit of British troops, 
Potchefstroom had known the alternate occupation of 
Briton and Boer, and had some strange ups-and-downs 
before its first friends, the Fife yeomen, returned to pay 
it a second visit. 



LEAVING Potchefstroom finally pacified and dis- 
armed as they fondly imagined, the troops set 
ofT, well mounted and in good spirits, towards the north. 
The magic word " Pretoria " was on every lip, and every 
heart beat high. For some unexplained reason, from 
the very day that the squadron had left Cupar, the 
fondest hope of every mother's son was that he might 
ride in triumph into Oom Paul's capital and witness the 
hoisting of the Union Jack over the seat of the govern- 
ment of the South African Republic. 

Great, then, was the delight in every mind when it was 
rumoured that at last the goal of every man's ambition 
was the destination of the column. See Rome and die 
is an old maxim ; but in truth there were many who 
would have died happy, or who thought they would, if 
once they had ridden through the streets of the capital 
of the Transvaal. It had been a keen disappointment 
that the company had not had the good luck to be 
with the main body in the general advance through the 
Free State, and when the news of the triumphal entry 
of Lord Roberts* army into Pretoria reached them in 
the wilderness, every man felt that he had a personal 
grievance to urge against his fate. 

Better late than never, it is true, and it looked as if 
the Fifes would not be so very late after all in arriving 
at the centre of the military universe for the time being. 
Trekking along the western side of the Gatsrand (or 

To Pretoria 49 

holey ridge, from the number of meercat holes in the 
ground), the column made three marches towards the 
north and east before arriving at Johannesburg. Near 
Krugersdorp the column was split up — the other com- 
panies of the Scottish battalion went off with another 
command, and the Fifes were divorced from their brither 
Scots for the next ten months. The number of mines 
on all sides showed that the Rand proper had been 
reached^ and soon the waterworks of a great city warned 
them that the column was approaching the golden gates 
of the premier town in South Africa. Everyone was on 
the qui vive; Kimberley had been disappointing, and 
no town worth calling a town had been encountered 
since. It was natural, therefore, that some interest 
should be expressed in Johannesburg, a place of which 
so much had been heard at the commencement of the 
war, and indeed for several years. It was hoped that 
the column would halt on the outskirts, and that an 
opportunity would be allowed to inspect the city. It 
seemed impossible that the stores could be empty in 
such a large place, and everyone had hopes that he 
would be able to replenish his slender stock of food- 
stuffs from the shops and warehouses. 

When the town was approached it became apparent 
that no halt was to be made ; and at last the column 
entered the streets and wended its way to the other 
side of the town. Certainly it was a finer city than 
Kimberley — the streets were broad and well planned, 
and the buildings had an appearance of solidity and 
comfort that was conspicuous by its absence in any 
other South African town they had been in. The 
plate-glass magnificence of some of the large stores 
had quite a home-like European look. Alas! to our 
chagrin, they were all more or less empty. The usual 

plethora of enamel paint and uneatable haberdashery 

50 Fife and Forfar I. Y, in South Africa 

was there, but little or nothing of the more useful nature 
of matches, candles, or sugar. After a brief halt in a 
small open square, the column again moved on, and 
finally, having left Johannesburg behind, camped on a 
slope beside the Simmer and Jack gold mines. The 
camp was a long way from water, and it was late 
in the evening until the tea was boiled, and the men 
were " down to it," as soldiers term it A very expres- 
sive and reasonable term this "down to it," for it is 
manifestly absurd to talk of going to bed when there 
is no bed. The soldier, when he is rolled in his blanket 
and big overcoat, with his head upon his saddle, is 
simply "down to it," and is delighted so to be. His 
only nightmare is a sudden reveille in the middle of 
the night, a weary stand to arms in the moonlight, or 
a sudden night march or patrol. Defend him from 
dangers such as these, and he is as happy — aye, and 
happier — than many a luxurious sleeper in a well- 
appointed bedroom. 

Next day the march was continued, and the column 
camped midway between the two towns — the capital of 
commerce and the seat of government When, on the 
2nd of July, the march was resumed once more, it was 
generally known that this was the last lap to Pretoria, 
where everybody understood that, after a grand review 
of some sort, the Yeomanry would go down country and 
embark for home. Extraordinary rumours of all sorts 
are a regular feature of the soldier's life on active ser- 
vice. This is explained to some extent by the fact that 
there are no newspapers, and therefore no authentic 
information. The result is that anyone who is gifted 
with a brilliant imagination can set afloat a plausible 
story, which soon gains general credence, and often is 
so magnified and altered as it passes from one regiment 
to another that the author has difficulty in recognising 
it when it finds its. way back again. 

To Pretoria 51 

The want of newspapers and the want of mails from 
home at this time was almost a greater hardship than 
the scarcity of food and water. For a couple of months 
the men had been cut off from the outer world, and for 
a much longer period from any news from home. One 
of the curious results of being in a country where no 
daily paper was published, was that nobody knew the 
day of the week. Many a debate arose as to whether 
it was Sunday or Wednesday, and the matter had to be 
left to some man with a diary for decision. 

The Fifes were on the left flank of the column on 
the last day's march to Pretoria, and as the convoy was 
winding its way down the centre of a narrow valley, 
they were over the hilltops and out of sight of the 
waggons and main body. On every side were evidences 
of the recent general advance of Lord Roberts' army. 
The air was heavy with the stench of putrid carcases, 
and the vultures, flapping lazily overhead or hopping 
amongst the ant-hills, had a leisurely, satisfied look, as 
if they were enjoying a time of prosperity and plenty. 

As the day advanced, and it became evident that 
Pretoria could not be far off, all eyes were strained in 
the direction which the column was taking to catch the 
first glimpse of the place which so many had travelled 
seven thousand miles to see. There can be no doubt 
that the entry to the capital of the Transvaal was re- 
garded as the climax of an enterprise which had drawn 
men from their peaceful homes and daily occupation, 
and for which they had left friends and family to under- 
take a long and adventurous journey over land and sea. 
Pretoria was the loadstone which had fired their curiosity 
and aroused their passions ; that had impelled them 
to engage for a time in the almost forgotten art of wkr. 
Now it was within a few miles — a few hours at the most 
and they must reach it— and a feeling of exultation and 

$2 Fife and Forfar I. F. in South Africa 

indefinable happiness pervaded every mind. The very 
horses seemed to feel the magnetic influence of the 
moment, and to step out with unusual briskness. 

The scenery was becoming every moment more 
Scottish in its character, the long valley through which 
the column had been wending became a rugged high- 
land glen, and at every sharp turn in the road the 
waggons and water-carts were in danger of falling over 
the edges into the mountain stream which rushed 
amongst the rocks some fifty feet below. Winding 
down this rugged gorge, it soon became apparent that 
screens and scouts could no longer be of service, and 
gradually the whole column, flankers and all, found 
themselves riding on the narrow track alongside the 
buck waggons. 

Suddenly, on rounding a corner of jagged rocks, Pre- 
toria, lying right below in a hollow at the foot of the hill- 
side, burst upon the gaze. From the distance, seen as it 
was in a sort of bird's-eye view, the details of the scene 
were criticised and commented on. The Government 
buildings were immediately located towering in the 
centre above the heads of the surrounding houses. The 
Union Jack floated proudly over all with a quiet dignity 
that seemed to infer that it was quite at home again 
after an absence of twenty years. Soon the column 
was meandering through suburban streets, flanked on 
each side by prim and comfortable-looking villas situ- 
ated in beautiful gardens, and many of them occupied 
by officials and officers of the new regime. The camp 
at Arcadia, one of the suburban slopes, was reached 
without passing through the centre of the town, so that 
no particulars of the shops and stores had yet been 
gathered. Every man, of course, was bent upon a 
voyage of discovery as soon as leave could be obtained, 
and the chief aims of life at the moment were to buy 

To Pretoria 53 

matches and sugar, and to see Oom Paul's house. In 
the first they were doomed to be disappointed, for 
matches and sugar were not to be had for gold ; but 
Oom Paul's house was there, and the first man who 
returned and reported having seen it was regarded as 
having achieved the main object of life. 

Just at this time of year (July) the weather was ex- 
ceedingly cold, and life in the open was not an ideal 
existence. Cloudy skies and cold winds, that reminded 
the troopers of March winds at home, were the order of 
the day. Sickness became more prevalent, and one or 
two more men were carried off to hospital. The camp 
was well supplied with water, and rations were plentiful, 
with the important exception of sugar, which, as already 
mentioned, was not obtainable. It was extraordinary to 
note the craving for anything sweet which developed in 
full-grown men after a few weeks of a sugarless life. 
Later in the campaign bronzed and bearded soldiers 
might be seen at the Field Force canteens buying quan- 
tities of Turkish delight at the price of a shilling for a 
small box. 

The one great compensation in the campaigner's life 
was tobacco. Boer tobacco, in large cotton bags, was 
easily obtained as a rule, and pipes wetfe lit first thing 
in the morning, and only laid aside last thing at night. 
The open air rendered tobacco smoking perfectly in- 
nocuous, and as the company was now supplied with 
tents, each evening found the men trying their utmost 
to get up a home-like atmosphere of reek. This was 
not easy, as the smoke seemed to evaporate through the 
canvas and disappear as fast as it was emitted. 

Every day there was talk of peace proposals and 
terms of settlement One forenoon a gay cavalcade 
rode past the lines, and it was announced that General 
Botha, with an escort of lancers, had come into Pretoria 

54 Pif^ c^f^d Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

to discuss matters with our Commander-in-Chief, Lord 
Roberts. What came of that conference is matter of 
common knowledge. Soon it became evident that the 
capture of Pretoria and the proclamation of annexation 
would not be accepted as final by the Boers. Ugly- 
rumours floated around the camp of stores of provisions 
and extensive fortifications in the Lydenburg hill dis- 
trict; but it was hoped that, as organised resistance must 
be at an end, the Yeomanry and irregulars would be 
allowed to depart in peace, while the regular arniy was 
left to finish matters up. These surmises showed a lack 
of appreciation of the real position. Two years later 
raw irregulars were raised to assist to bring the war to 
a close. The original Yeomanry, who volunteered at a 
time of crisis, and who left their occupations and their 
homes for one shilling a day, were beginning to think 
that, when police duty began and the period of organ- 
ised war seemed at an end, they would have the option 
of going home to attend to their business. This proved 
to be a fallacy. 

Marching orders were received after a stay of three 
days in the capital, and as the Fife men turned their 
backs upon Pretoria late one afternoon and trekked 
away from the railway, it became apparent that the 
Lydenburg hills story might not be without foundation. 
Marching orders, as is usual in active service, had come 
very suddenly, and those who were in the town on pass 
had some difficulty in being ready for parade. The sun 
was low in the sky when the outskirts of Pretoria were 
left behind, and, trekking till midnight, the company 
camped with General Button's brigade, which it had 
been ordered to join, at a spot called Reitfontein, some 
thirty miles south-east of Pretoria. 



GENERAL BUTTON was in command of a 
brigade chiefly composed of mounted irregulars 
—New Zealand Rough Riders (or Roost Robbers, as 
they were more often called), Australian Bushmen, and 
other equally serviceable corps — so that the Fifes on 
arrival found themselves in good company. Their old 
friends the Imperial Light Horse were also there, and, as 
usual, were bearing the brunt and sustaining casualties 
at the hands of the enemy. General Hutton's brigade 
numbered 5520 men, including 1520 mounted troops and 
26 guns. On 6th July, when the company joined, the 
enemy was reported on the Standerton road. Driven 
out of Pretoria, they were apparently determined to con- 
tinue the struggle and to resist the advance of the British 
along the railway line to Delagoa Bay. It became a 
question, therefore, of driving them from position to 
position, and gradually forcing them towards the Portu- 
guese border, where it was hoped they would have to 

Unfortunately, the first position they occupied was a 
very good one, and proved a hard nut to crack. They 
were supposed to number 4000 men, with 15 guns, at 
this time, and were in command of Louis Botha, whose 
headquarters or hooftlaager was at Bronkhorstspruit 
This spruit, which was several miles south of the rail- 
way station of that name, was the scene of a disaster to 
a body of our troops under Colonel Anstruther (a Fife 

56 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

man) twenty years before. The Boer forces held an 
almost impregnable line of good positions round this 
centre on a front of fifteen miles, and every attempt to 
break through or to drive them out seemed to be un- 
availing. On the first day after their arrival with General 
Hutton, the Fifes, who were out reconnoitring, came 
suddenly under a brisk fire from the enemy, when the 
first shots were exchanged and a rapid retirement effected 
with the loss of one horse. This loss of a horse and 
saddle was the first casualty sustained by the company 
in the field, and the plight of the trooper, whose heavy 
overcoat had to be left behind, was calculated on these 
cold nights to bring home to him the hazards of war. 
Covered with old sacks, he presented a cold and shivering 
spectacle at sunrise next morning. 

'A detachment of the company was told off at this 
time to escort a convoy of waggons to the town of 
Springs and bring back supplies to the column. It was 
a bullock convoy, and, as a consequence, moved at night 
and rested by day. Starting 'at eight o'clock one even- 
ing, it had hardly gone a mile before midnight, thanks 
to the darkness and confusion, and Springs was not 
reached until the sun was high next morning. The 
night was bitterly cold, and the movement of the lum- 
bering ox waggons was so tediously slow that it made 
the march seem doubly long. When the troopers plod- 
ding along on the flanks began to find their feet and 
hands numb with the frost they dismounted and marched 
on foot There was a body of active service Volunteers 
marching on foot with the waggons — London men of 
some Middlesex regiment — who seemed to be even 
more sorry for themselves that night than the Yeomanry. 
Even when walking briskly it was impossible to keep 
warm, and walking with a heavy overcoat and cartridges 
and rifle is by no means an amusing fprm of exercise. 

714^ Fun Begins 57 

Springs was ultimately reached, and it was generally 
agreed that a few hours* sleep would be a good thing 
while the waggons were being loaded. The return 
journey was begun the same afternoon, and the troopers 
set off happy in the possession of a quantity of tinned 
meat and other stores that would command any price 
when the column was reached once more. Later in the 
campaign the acquisition of supplies from the A.S.C. was 
the accomplishment of every self-respecting soldier, espe- 
cially when riding in support of the rear-guard. This job 
entailed the work of dealing with broken-down waggons ; 
and on one memorable night march, when a waggon 
had tilted into a donga that ran alongside the road, a 
great haul was made by the company by the aid of the 
" moonbeam's misty light." To this day some of them 
must reproach themselves for the pillaging of the M. I.'s 
jam supply ; but of course anything is fair in time of 
war, and the M. I., good men though they were, had no 
soul above making away with the supplies of their 
friends of the I.Y. when they had the chance. To the 
uninitiated, it should be explained that during the war 
large numbers of infantry soldiers were mounted on 
ponies, and became Mounted Infantry or M.I. They 
were as fine men as were to be met in the field, and 
although their knowledge of horsemanship left a good 
deal to be desired, they made up for this by their other 
many good qualities. 

On 7th July the Boers had concentrated their atten- 
tion on the force under Mahon, who suffered heavily, 
losing two officers and six men killed and eleven 
wounded of the I.L. H. — the total list of casualties for 
the day being two officers and six men killed, one officer 
and twenty-eight men wounded. 

The following day Botha attacked with an increased 
force, estimated at about 6000 ; and when it is remem- 

58 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

bered that their ah'gnment round Hutton's position 
covered a circumference of twenty-three miles, it may 
be to some extent realised what a task he had. A 
strong flanking movement on the right towards Springs, 
led by Commandant Dirksee, was checked by the New 
Zealanders, the 20th Company, and G Battery R. H. A. 

For the next few days Hutton held his own, and on 
the loth of July General French, with Colonel Porter's 
brigade of cavalry (about 1000 strong), joined, and 
French took over command. 

On the nth a successful engagement took place, the 
cavalry on the right, Hutton's main force in the centre, 
with Mahon, Alderson, and Pilcher on the left The 
ridges had just been cleared when, at two o'clock, orders 
came for Mahon and Pilcher to return to Pretoria with 
their respective commands. Grobelaar and Delarey 
were threatening all along the Magaliesberg range, had 
taken the post at Mazilikats Nek, composed of Lincolns 
and Greys, and had attacked the troops at Watervaal. 

On isth July the company was ordered back to Pre- 
toria, and, leaving their colonial friends with unfeigned 
regret, they bade farewell to General Hutton and his 
brigade ; not, however, before the Greneral had congra- 
tulated Captain Hodge on the way his company had 
done their duty. 

It was while the company was attached to the 
Colonial Brigade that a well-known corporal of the 
Fifes, who possessed in rich measure the brogue^ of his 
native land, asked a sergeant-major of a regular regiment 
to which he and some others were attached the famous 
question — " Dae ye no blaw a trumpet in the mornin' ?" 
So long as any member of the 20th Company lives he 
will remember the account of the sergeant-major of the 
line and his expression when he was asked this simple 
question. Another account of how the worthy corporal 

The Fun Begins 59 

surprised some English Tommies, who were relieving 
his guard, by the stentorian command — "Auld gaird, 
shoother airms!" is not so well authenticated. 

Humorous incidents and sayings were so scarce at 
this stage that anything in the nature of a joke was 
repeated on all sides and made as much of as possible. 
An amusing story in conifection with the colonials has 
the merit of absolute truth. One of the Australians, 
determined to have a mount, had the audacity during the 
night to commandeer one of General Hutton's chargers, 
and when his servants commenced to search for it, and 
officers commanding regiments ordered its return, the 
Australian, who had docked its mane and tail, and 
otherwise altered its appearance, removed it to the New 
Zealanders' lines and tied it up there. It is said that 
the General, when it was recovered, ordered the New 
Zealanders to parade, and informed them that he could 
not blame them, as their fathers had been horse-stealers 
before them, and it was well known that what was bred 
in the bone would come out in the flesh. 

A member of the company attached at this time to 
the New Zealand Rough Riders had the misfortune to 
fall into the hands of the enemy, and the following de- 
scription of how he fared may be of interest : — 

" Having walked into an ambushed picquet of the 
Johannesburg Police, who were concealed amongst the 
rocks on top of a kopje, we were taken to the hooft- 
laager or headquarters camp to be dealt with by the 
Commandant-General, Louis Botha. Crossing the river 
at Bronkhorstspruit, we came upon a small group of 
Boers squatting on the grass beside a tent close to the 
spruit. In the background was a goedkoop winkel or 
cheap store, shaded by a few trees. In the centre of the 
group of Boers was a dark, bronzed man of somewhat 
better appearance than the rest, to whom our escort 

6o Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

raised their hats. We afterwards found that this was 
Louis Botha, their commander-in-chief He was dressed 
with more neatness than the average Boer we had seen, 
and wore a clean linen collar. A Norfolk jacket and 
Tyrolean hat formed part of his costume, and he was 
smoking and reading a book at the moment we ap- 

"After a few remarks, and a little joke about a 
Scotch yeoman without a kilt, we were marched off to 
a waggon and driven over to the railway station of Bal- 
moral, whence we were taken by train to the prison cage 
at Nooitgedacht, near Barberton. 

" This prison was a mere open-air enclosure of four or 
five acres of ploughed land, in a deep valley, surrounded 
by hills sooo feet in height. It lay between the Delagoa 
Bay railway on one side and the Crocodile river on the 
other. At the time of our capture there were 1800 
British prisoners there — a ragged, half-starved, merry 
crowd of Tommies of every branch of the service. Their 
miserable plight, herde;! night and day in an insanitary 
enclosure, did not make them less cheerful. The fact is, 
it takes a lot to depress Thomas Atkins, and the worse 
his plight the better his spirits as a rule. When rain 
poured and sleep was impossible in the open, they 
marched up and down singing gay choruses and enjoy- 
ing themselves immensely. The scarcity of firewood was 
the worst feature of life in the Boer prison. The scanty 
rations issued consisted of mealie meal or maize meal 
and rice, and as these required to be boiled, firewood 
was a necessity. Once a week a number of logs were 
thrown into the enclosure, and a terrible scramble for 
possession of them invariably followed. The prison was 
surrounded by two fences of barbed wire, an outer and 
an inner fence, about ten feet high, and between them a 
mesh of crossed wires made escape impossible. This 

The Fun Begins 6i 

stockade was lit at night with electric lights, worked by 
a donkey engine, which was used during the day to 
grind mealies. Sentries were posted at intervals round 
the outside of the enclosure with Mauser rifles, which 
they were continually letting off* by accident, to the 
great danger of everyone near them. The commandant 
in charge of the prison, a Boer called Grobelar, had an 
unpleasant way of ordering the sentries to charge their 
magazines and present their rifles at the mob when the 
prisoners in their scramble for firewood were inclined to 
press on the inner fence. On one or two occasions (as 
when an Irish fusilier hurled a brick at the commandant) 
a volley was fired over the prisoners' heads, and this had 
a wonderfully sobering effect on the crowd. The rule 
was that no man was allowed to come within a yard of 
the fence, and several men were fired upon with blank 
cartridge to impress this rule upon the memory. One 
prisoner (a colonial) suffered a good deal from the wound 
made by the wad of a blank cartridge which lodged in 
his leg. Another was almost blinded, and had his pipe 
broken by this playful trick. The principal occupation 
of the 1800 prisoners during the day was the washing 
and cleaning of their shirts, for they were much afflicted 
by the presence of many energetic little friends, who 
often made sleep at night impossible. Even a daily 
washing was no remedy for this state of affairs, and 
sunset invariably witnessed a renewed outbreak of hos- 
tilities and a great deal of bad language. At night the 
Burghers' laager adjacent to the prison sent forth the 
sounds of the Boers' psalm-singing aad evening devo- 
tions, and the sentries round the wires sat beside small 
lion-scaring watch-fires and indulged in the singing of 
doleful dirges of a religious nature. To lie awake in a 
ploughed field at night shivering with cold, exceedingly 
hungry, and tormented almost beyond endurance by 

62 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

the incessant irritation of vermin, while a sentry with a 
loaded rifle raises his voice in devotion and praise, is an 
experience calculated to make a man a scoffer at religion 
for the remainder of his life. Never, let us hope, will 
* Man's inhumanity to man ' be shown by our country- 
men as it was by the Boers to their prisoners in the cage 
at Nooitgedacht. Captives and prisoners of war do not 
expect luxury or even comfort, but surely they are en- 
titled to look for that amount of consideration that is 
commonly given to a dog or other dumb animal by its 
master. The condition of a regularly fed, well cared for 
animal in a menagerie was an enviable one compared 
to that of the British prisoners of war. They could not 
fail to contrast their plight with the fate of the Boers in 
the refugee camps which they saw after their release. 
Housed in spacious marquees, living in an unaccustomed 
atmosphere of enforced cleanliness and sanitary decency, 
the occupants of the concentration camps belied by their 
own looks of cheerfulness the extraordinary stories of a 
section of the British public. 

"The food supplied to the British prisoners was 
barely enough to keep them alive. A saucerful of 
half- boiled mealie porridge in the morning and a 
saucerful of boiled rice at night was the allowance, 
which only made the prisoners feel more hungry. The 
cooking was done in the New Zealand mess in an old 
kerosene tin taken from a midden, and for which one of 
the sentries who fetched it received a shilling. Plates 
and spoons were unknown, but substitutes were found in 
old sardine tins, and one of the few occupations of the 
prisoner's life was the making of wooden spoons. It 
was delightful to get anything to do in these days, fpr 
there was nothing to read and nothing to talk about 
except the prospect of release. 

"At daybreak one morning about the end of August 

The Fun Begins 63 

a low, dull thud was heard like the sound of distant 
thunder. Many of the prisoners sat up and listened. 
Ten minutes later a faint boom again sounded in the 
distant hills. Many argued that it must be a gun ; 
others declared that they heard nothing. By this time, 
however, dozens of men were standing almost holding 
their breath in their eagerness to catch the sound. 
Again it sounded, faint and distant, but undoubtedly a 
gun, and from end to end of the enclosure went up 
from 1800 British throats a rousing British cheer. In a 
few hours the sound of several guns could be distinctly 
heard, and at intervals the hillsides rang with the cheers 
of the delighted Tommies. The Boers began to wear a 
troubled look. Like the prisoner of Chillon — 

' A k&d of change came in our &te, 
Our keepers grew compassionate.' 

" For three days, from sunrise to sunset, the ground 
shook and the air vibrated with the glad roar of the 
relieving artillery, and every heart beat high in anticipa- 
tion of freedom. Naval guns, field guns, and pom-poms 
kept up a mighty chorus, and with a wicked satisfaction 
the prisoners noted the rumbling Red Cross trains full 
of dead and wounded Boers that passed the prison .two 
or three times a day. Oom Paul passed down the line, 
and addressed the Burghers at the little wayside station 
as he fled. A common chorus of the prisoners in the 
evening was an original rendering of * Old Cock Robin,' 
with the refrain — 

' And the Boers in their laager were a-sighing one and all 
When they heard of the flight of old Oom Paul ' ; 

and certainly his hurried disappearance from the scene 
was rather a blow to them. 

" The trains on the railway were now all running in 
one direction, away from the British, and the dead and 
wounded were coming down in coal trucks. They will 

64 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

not stand, was the firm conviction of the prisoners, as 
they heard and saw the evidences of the punishment 
they were receiving. 

" A perfect Bamum's show was now hurrying down 
the valley past thfe prison — waggons with women and 
children, furniture and bedding, and all their household 
goods. Kaffirs driving pigs and poultry, sheep and 
goats, and every kind of live stock. A small boy riding 
a donkey trotted past the fence with the cheerful re- 
mark, * Khaki no catch me,' which delighted the prisoners 
enormously. They were lined up at the fence enjoying 
the procession as if it had been organised for their 

" Soon the whole of BothsCs army was flying helter- 
skelter. They had stood obstinately for three days in 
the face of 30,000 troops and 50 pieces of artillery, but 
at last they could * stick it ' no longer. 

" The first, of course, to fly (they were always the first 
in retreat, the Boers confided in us) was the dastardly 
Irish brigade, distinguished by the green ribbons round 
their hats. When the Irish Fusiliers and Irish Yeo- 
manry saw them approaching they were received with 
howls of execration, and it looked as if the prisoners 
were to break out and beat them with their fists. Never 
did men look more like whipped curs than Colonel 
Lynch's Irishmen as they led the retreat The Burghers 
assured the prisoners that these men had always been 
first when it was a case of looting a store or getting 
away from the enemy. 

The Burghers were now coming down in thousands, 
the valley was filled with smoke — for they burned every- 
thing they could not get away — and the gates of the 
prison were thrown open. Viljoen, standing in a Cape 
cart, implored the prisoners to return peaceably to their 
own army, and with a wild cheer at the regaining of 

The Fun Begins 65 

their freedom, the prisoners advanced in ' column of 
lumps' towards General French's camp. This was still 
some ten miles distant, and soon the weak and emaci- 
ated prisoners began to fall out by the wayside. Many 
were unable to continue the march, and had to be 
brought in on ambulances. A few days later, the pri- 
soners were paraded in their rags before Lord Roberts, 
who was accompanied by Lord Kitchener, his chief of 
staff, and Generals Buller, French, Ian Hamilton, and 
Pole-Carew. Thereafter the prisoners were entrained 
for Pretoria, where they were provided with good food, 
and equipped with clean clothing and blankets and 
drafted back to their own regiments. They had had a 
taste of brother Boer's hospitality, and had received an 
instructive lesson in his ways of behaving when he had 
the upper hand," 



ARRIVED at Pretoria late in the evening after a 
hurried march, which resulted in one good horse, 
at least, dying in the streets of the town, the company 
joined the command of Colonel Mahon again, and was 
A attached to the 7th battalion, consisting of Devon, Dorset, 

ym if ^^ Somerset, and Sussex Yeomanrjr^ It was with this batta- 

X f^icU^^ lion of south country farmers that the Fifes were to see 
/v^ ** ^ ^ the greater part of their service. To the Sussex squadron 

they were destined to be even more closely allied than 
to the others, as both were, after a few months, so' re- 
duced in strength that they formed one composite com- 
pany in the field. No better companions could have 
been wished. In the life of a campaigner there is much 
opportunity for a man to know his fellow -men: they 
eat together, and work together, and sleep together. 
Society, which at home is divided into families and 
villages, is divided in the field into messes and com- 
mandos, and each member of a force is brought into 
continual contact and closest intimacy with all the 
others. A great deal depends, therefore, on the kind of 
men who compose a squadron or a reginient. It may 
safely be said that, if the Fifes had searched through the 
200,000 men who composed the South African field force, 
they could not have chosen better travelling companions 
than the 7th battalion. Not only were they the sort of 
men to make life in camp cheerful, and to render a long 
trek less monotonous, but when the sterner work of war 

A Trek in the Bushveldt 6y 

was taken in hand, and the Mausers began, they proved 
themselves worthy companions, and men to be relied on 
in moments of emergency. After nine or ten months of 
service together in almost daily contact with the enemy, 
the Fifes parted with their southern friends with the 
greatest regret, and without ever having had the shadow 
of a quarrel with them. 

Colonel Mahon's force was now augmented by the ^ ^ ya C^^' 
arrival of two new squadrons of Yeomanry, the Rough ' 
Riders from London, who had come straight up country 
by train to Pretoria, and then took the field for the first 
time. These new chums, called by familiar abbreviation 
"the Roughs," did not at first belie their name. They 
had the misfortune to go through their initiation into 
the art of war a few months later than their already 
seasoned comrades. Naturally they commenced at the 
beginning, and appeared in the heavy dragoon style 
with a superfluity of hay -nets, shoe -cases, and other 
useless pieces of impedimenta. The result was that, 
when they set off* at a trot, such trifles as tins of bully 
beef and other extras that were loosely strapped to their 
saddles shook off" on all sides, to the delight of the men 
who followed in their wake and reaped the harvest. 

On a Monday morning in the middle of July the 
force moved out in the direction of Middelburg, on a 
memorable trek to Balmoral, a town on the Delagoa 
Bay railway. They formed part of a division under 
Hamilton which drove the Boers back from the right 
flank of their positions east of Pretoria. The 7th 
battalion on this march did a great deal of scouting and 
drawing fire when the troops approached the kopjes, 
which were exceedingly plentiful in these parts. 

One story at the expense of the Rough Riders 
afforded much amusement to the Fife squadron. The 
enemy had opposed the advance, and a brisk shell fire 

68 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

was being kept up between the two sides, when orders 
were given that a certain position must be taken at once. 
It may here be stated that the Fifes had galloped another 
position some hours before, and were occupying it with 
a view to keeping off the enemy. An officer of the 
Rough Riders now galloped up, and, waving his hand 
in the direction of the kopje where the Fifes were posted, 
announced in a loud voice — " The General says that 
kopje must be taken. The Rough Riders will take 
it." Putting spurs to his horse, he galloped with the 
whole squadron towards the crest, and suddenly came 
upon one of the Fife number three's, or men in charge 
of horses, who was having a shave by way of passing 
the time. Their disgust when they found that their 
gallant charge was all in vain was added to by the 
good-natured chaff of their Fife friends, who asked them 
if they had come to relieve them, and whether they 
had brought their rations, &c. History does not relate 
whether they found another kopje and performed another 

After a week's marching and fighting, the force, 
which had halted at Bronkhorstspruit for a day, pushed 
on to Balmoral, which had been hastily evacuated by 
the Boers on their approach. The account of the 
column's entry into Balmoral was a sad one. In the 
afternoon rain began to descend in torrents, a cold 
wind arose, and in an atmosphere like that of a Scotch 
November day the Fifes plodded along through the 
mud and waded their horses through rushing streams. 
Night fell and darkness came on while they were still 
miles from their destination. 

Meantime the long column of supply waggons which 
they were escorting found it increasingly difficult to make 
progress on the heavy roads of puddled clay, which each 
waggon made more impassable for the following one. 

A Trek in the Bushveldt 69 

The thunder roared, and it was only by the vivid flashes 
of lightning that it was possible to see the struggling 
teams of mules and bullocks as they ploughed their way 
through the stormy night. 

It was almost midnight before the Fifes, wet and 
exhausted, reached the camping ground of the column, 
and what a scene of confusion it was when they got 
there. The wind howled, and almost drowned the noise 
of cracking whips and yelling Kaffirs. Men rode about 
shouting to find out where their own contingent lay. 
Many did not reach their own lines till morning, but 
anchored to the first waggon they could see. Several 
soldiers and Kaffirs died of exposure to the weather 
before daybreak, but the tremendous loss of transport 
animals was not realised until the force returned by the 
road it had come. This it did after a day's rest, having 
been recalled to Pretoria to meet some new move of the 
enemy. On returning it was found that the whole road 
on both sides of the way was strewn with the carcases 
of mules and bullocks, and that at least two hundred 
animals had perished in the endeavour to reach Bal- 
moral. Needless to say, when the South African sun 
beat down as it did upon the return journey, the air, 
to use the expressive phrase of Thomas Atkins, " fairly 

The company, glad to forget this unpleasant expe- 
rience, reached the capital again on the last day of 
July, and were reviewed with the rest of the force by 
the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, in the Market 
Square. Camping in the outskirts of the town, the after- 
noon was spent in the issue of remounts to those whose 
horses were no more, and thereafter orders were issued 
that reveille would be at four next morning. " Reveille 
at four ; march at five," was invariably the telegraphic 
form of orders for the morrow at this time. 

70 Fife an(f Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

Colonel Mahon now left Pretoria, and advanced in 
a westerly direction towards Commando Nek. Within 
eight miles of Pretoria some Boers in a fruit farm 
opened fire on the screen, but were soon dislodged. 
That night the force camped beside an orange grove, 
and men with sacks and nose-bags were busy gathering 
quantities of ripe fruit and taking them back to camp. 
Those who do not know the thirsty climate of the veldt 
will be astonished at the confession of one man, who ad- 
mitted that he ate thirty tangerines before he off-saddled. 
Next night the force joined Ian Hamilton's great column, 
with its square miles of troops and camp fires. During 
the following two days the Fife company was beauti- 
fully ambushed by a party of Boers, whose laager lay 
behind a kopje. The Fifes, advancing with scouts out 
in approved fashion, reached the deserted laager and 
pushed on across a stream, when the enemy suddenly 
poured in a volley and scattered them. Three horses 
hit and one man's hat shot was the not very serious 
casualty list In a short time the Boers were driven off, 
and a large number of waggons, cattle, &c., captured. 

The force was now on the heels of De Wet, who was 
encumbered with an enormous waggon laager, which, as 
he has since admitted, came very near costing him and 
his entire force their freedom. Seeing that he was 
closely pursued, and that it was merely a matter of time 
till his laager fell into the hands of the British, the wily 
Boer leader made a rush through Oliphant's Nek, and 
was hurrying into the Bushveldt, where he hoped to take 
advantage of the nature of the country to elude his foes. 

This Bushveldt is a vast waterless country, perfectly 
flat for the most part, and everywhere overgrown with 
stunted old trees of ^ the prickly mimosa variety. The 
movement of a column in this country is exceedingly 
diflicult, as it is impossible to follow a straight course. 

A Trek in the Bushveldt 71 

The waggons and horses had to dodge about and seek 
a way where it could be found. To collide with a 
mimosa tree on horseback is an experience that will be 
long remembered by the unfortunate person who does 
so. They are not unlike the elder tree in appearance, 
but are literally bristling with long, sharp spikes like 
darning needles, which will tear the clothes and scratch 
the eyes out of the person who is foolhardy enough to 
embrace them. As a horse only allows for its own 
height, and has not the sense to know that its rider 
requires a little extra headway, the result of falling 
asleep in the saddle in the Bushveldt was extremely 

De Wet, having reached this part of the country, con- 
trived to hide his laager in some isolated and unlikely 
spot, and made off south with a small bodyguard to the 
Magaliesbergs, which he crossed at a place called Blok 
Kloof, afterwards well known to the yeomen. 

Meantime the Fifes and their friends, who had been 
living on the produce of the country as they came along 
— rations having given out — arrived at a place called 
Warmbaths, where hot minerah springs afforded the 
men the unaccustomed luxury of a hot bath. A long 
row of one hundred bathrooms, each containing a bath 
well supplied with hot and cold water, was eagerly be- 
sieged by the troopers, who found their British instinct 
of cleanliness reasserting itself after a few months of en- 
forced disregard of practices that are said to be akin to 

Lumsden's Horse, a corps of tea-planters from India, 
were also with Mahon's corps, and as some of the yeomen 
had brothers and cousins amongst them, visits to each 
other in camp were frequent. After twenty-eight days 
of a wild chase after De Wet, the force returned to 
Pretoria, and the slippery Boer leader crossed into the 

72 Fife and Forfar L F. in South Africa 

Free State, and metaphorically put his fingers to his 
nose at the Fife Light Horse. A terrible loss of horse- 
flesh on both sides was the result of this excursion into 
the Bushveldt, and the Fifes were almost altogether dis- 
mounted. Several of them had been without horses for 
some time, and had occasion to curse De Wet and his 
Burghers as they trudged along on foot at the rate of 
thirty miles a day. If anything was likely to make a 
man careful of horse-flesh this was. One member of the 
company. Trooper Renny, who had taken ill at Warm- 
baths, and was sent down to Krugersdorp by bullock 
waggon on the railway, had died there before the com- 
pany returned to Pretoria. He had been more or less 
unwell from the day he had set foot in the country, but 
as he was a big strong fellow, no one imagined that he 
would collapse so quickly when enteric seized him, and 
the news of his end was received with sorrow by his 
companions. By this time men were dropping out 
almost every week, and the squadron was formed into 
two troops from the remains of the original force. 
Heavy rains at night and no tents on the trek accounted 
for many cases of fever and rheumatism. 



THE beginning of September found the Fifes in 
Pretoria again, and wondering what the next 
move of the wonderful war game was to be. Remounts 
were issued on a Sunday, and next day the composite 
battalion was off to join Clements' column, which was 
operating in the Rustenburg district of the Transvaal. 
A halt for the first night was called at Rietfontein, a 
large dep6t for stores at that time, about twenty miles 
west of Pretoria, close to the Magaliesbergs, and within 
range of Nitral's Nek and Commando Nek, the scene of 
one or two exciting incidents in the war. Trekking up 
the Hekpoort valley, which lies along the south side of 
the Magaliesbergs, between them and the Witwaters- 
rand, the yeomen joined Clements* force, and found 
them suffering from the polite attention of the merry 
band of snipers who were in the habit of keeping the 
outposts busy at this stage. Next morning reveille was 
at four o'clock, and the force marched 6p the valley — the 
mounted men clearing the low ground, and the infantry 
on the kopjes and hills on either side ; but the snipers 
were not to be deterred by tactics of this sort, and kept 
up a continual and irritating opposition to the advance 
from every coign of vantage. 

The approach of the yeomen in extended order to a 
bare, grassy kopje near Hekpoort met with a warm re- 
ception, and one of the Fifes (Trooper Mundell) was 
wounded in the shoulder. The Rough Riders had two 
or three casualties on this occasion. 

74 Pif^ ^^ Forfar L K in South Africa 

This is one of the great lessons of modern war — the 
utter impossibility of any living creature approaching a 
few well-placed rifles without cover. .Even if the rifles 
are lying on the open veldt it is impossible to get near 
them, and equally impossible to locate them. At Bel- 
mont and Graspan this was proved, and it has been 
proved hundreds of times since. Six men on a hillside 
may baffle six hundred men for hours, unless they can 
be surrounded. A rifle firing smokeless powder from 
behind a rock, and killing men at 1500 yards, is the 
difficult problem of war. Shells do it no harm, no 
amount of fire will locate it, and until it is laid by the 
heels it continues to kill. This feeling of being hit in 
the chest by an unseen foe, who is merely represented 
by an acre of rocky hillside, is the one that takes all the 
old ideas of courage and chivalry from the present-day 
battlefield. War is becoming more and more a game of 
skill, and less and less an affair of personal strength and 
courage, although these qualities still tell in favour of the 
side that possesses them. The invention of a noiseless 
rifle will be the last straw that will make the soldier's lot 
an altogether unenviable one. 

The column camped early on this occasion, and the 
yeomen had just finished their midday dinner, when 
bang went a Boer gun on a distant kopje, and with a 
long wail and a wobble a shell fell into the camp. Soon 
they were dropping gaily on all sides, and the British 
cow-gun and field battery took up the challenge, and 
were giving a good account of themselves. The Boers 
shifted, and for a time all was peaceful. Suddenly from 
another point on the horizon the boom of a Krupp gun 
broke upon the silence of the hot afternoon. This time 
they had got the range very accurately, and began to 
throw in shell after shell in rapid succession from a 
position about 6000 yards off* the camp. The shrapnel 

With Clements 7$ 

burst several times right over the Fifes' horses, another 
burst amongst a group of men to whom Corporal Cargill 
was issuing com, but no damage was done, although a 
piece of the shell actually buried itself in the sack of 
oats with which he was working. 

So far as the Fife men could see, shell fire never did 
any damage on either side, and merely served as an 
agreeable interlude to liven the soldier's life. " It isn't 
that they do much harm," said the General, "it's their 
beastly moral effect ;" and this might have been wit- 
nessed that afternoon as the Fifes ran to gather up the 
broken fragments to preserve them as trophies. 

On the loth of September a stiff encounter with De- 
larey took place at Boschfontein, and the Fifes and 
Sussex had their full share of all that was going. Pom- 
poms, field guns, and Maxims were all at it hammer and 
tongs, and the yeomen who were in front had a very 
trying day in the heat of the sun and under a heavy fire. 
The Worcester Regiment had a dozen casualties in this 
little encounter, but the loss of the I. Y. was confined to 

On the following day the column halted, and next 
day a start was no sooner made than the Boers barred 
the way from a ridge of kopjes that ran across the 
valley. A regular bombardment ensued, and the fight 
lasted all day ; but the Boers stuck to their position till 
nightfall, when they retired. 

The Fifes had no sooner reached camp next day than 
they were ordered out to clear some Boers from a river 
bed in the vicinity. Two troops went out, and were 
divided into three parties — one to lie in wait, while the 
other two commenced at different points to beat up the 
bed of the river till they met The move proved en- 
tirely successful, and several Boers and their horses were 

76 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

Almost a week later, after a few days' halt at Hek- 
poort, a little village on the Crocodile river, a Sunday 
reconnaissance was undertaken by the mounted men, 
when the Fifes and Sussex got into a hot corner — the 
Rough Riders having retired from a position on their 
right and allowed the enemy to close in on them. 
Lieutenant Stanley, of the Sussex, a brave officer, and 
a well-known cricketer, was shot through the head, and 
was buried next day. His grave was dug in the garden 
of a Scotchman's house, by the side of a stream, where 
the willows and blossoming peach trees cast their plea- 
sant shade. Sewn up in his brown military blankets, 
he was borne to his last resting-place by the men of his 
squadron, several of whom had been at Eton and Oxford 
with him in former years. 

At this time General Clements' column was co-oper- 
ating with a force under Colonel Ridley. Enteric, that 
scourge of armies in the field, had been claiming many 
victims, and a waggon train containing thirty sufferers 
was despatched t6 Pretoria. 

In the beginning of October the force returned to 
Commando Nek, and mails from home, the first for 
many months, were eagerly seized upon, and news- 
papers and letters — luxuries almost forgotten — were 
read and re-read with the keenest enjoyment Horses 
were beginning to give out again under the strain of the 
continual marching and counter- marching over rocky 
hills and rough ground. The news of the departure of 
the C.I.V.'s (the London Volunteer force), and the im- 
minence of the rainy season, tended to make the men 
somewhat discontented with their lot 

A grand drive over the Magaliesbergs — in which the 
bulk of the hard work fell to the infantry, while the 
mounted men had short marches and many farms to 
search — dispelled the temporary grumbling or grousing 

WM Clements 77 

which always asserted itself when the column camped 
for any length of time in one place. Keep the soldier 
moving, and give him plenty of fighting and hard work, 
and he is the most cheerful and contented man on earth ; 
but lay him up at a base dep6t for a week, and he be- 
comes a miserable and discontented wretch. 

On the conclusion of this drive, which resulted in the 
capture of a number of Boers, the column camped at 
Nooitgedacht, on the south side of the range, a spot 
which was to witness a sad tragedy some three months 
later. Here the Rough Riders left the command and 
returned to Pretoria, and the Yeomanry were joined by 
many of their original comrades, who had been doing 
police duty in the capital. 

Rations were now becoming more plentiful, and 
besides an increased allowance of biscuits, tinned jam 
and bacon were added to the soldier's fare, so that he 
began to put on flesh again. Clements was a very 
popular general with the men of his own column, and 
this was in no small measure due to the fact that he fed 
them well. Thomas Atkins is essentially a practical 
man, and has no appreciation for the higher qualities of 
his leaders unless they give him plenty to eat A large 
capture of Boers was a very satisfactory announcement 
to the troops, but it was not received with more enthu- 
siasm than the intimation of a tot of rum all round or a 
special issue of jam. Only those who have lived upon 
the plaster-of-Paris variety of army biscuits for a few 
weeks can understand how glad the soldier is of any- 
thing with a flavour. 

If the writer was asked what was the saddest sight 
he had seen during the South African War, he would 
say that nothing had brought home to him the reality 
of war so much as the sight of a- little toddling child 
at a farm near Hekpoort trying to nibble the comer 

78 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

off an army biscuit. To see children who have been 
deprived for months of such necessaries of their life as 
sugar and jam, and who are reduced to sucking a hard 
dog biscuit, is to realise that war is a cruel and wielded 
method of settling international disputes. It was com- 
forting, to some extent, to reflect that it was our 
obstinate enemies who were alone responsible for the 
prolongation of the conflict. 

The yeomen were now detached from the rest of the 
force to hold a mountain pass in the Magaliesbergs 
called Blok Kloof, the narrow defile or bridle path that 
De Wet and his bodyguard crossed when they escaped 
south into the Free State. His account of the passage 
of this mountain gorge is to be found in " Three Years* 
War." As all the other possible neks in this range were 
securely guarded, it was resolved that no further body 
of the Boers should use this route, so the yeomen were 
stationed at the foot of the kloof, and had to send up 
strong picquets morning and night to do sentry-go on 
top of the hill. 

It was a lovely camp at Blok Kloof, a perfectly ideal 
spot for a picnic, and it would have been a picnic had it 
not been for the picquet duties, which came round every 
second day and night The annual rains were now in 
full swing, swamping the camp every twenty-four hours, 
and this rather spoiled the pleasure of life in the open. 

At the foot of the precipitous rocky mountain side 
was a more gradual slope of grassy ground, beautifully 
shaded by a belt of mimosa trees that fringed the foot 
of the hills. Although only at the beginning of the real 
ascent, this grassy camping-ground was several hundred 
feet above the valley, and quitfe concealed by the 
scattered bush. The tents, of course, could not be 
pitched in army fashion in regular lines, but were 
scattered among the trees in the most refreshing dis- 

With dements 79 

order. The waggons were drawn up on an open bit of 
green sward, and the whole camp had the air of a gipsy 
encampment rather than that of a military force. Dur- 
ing the day those who had been on picquet the previous 
night had nothing to do but lie about land sun them- 
selves, and smoke their pipes over the newspapers of 
three months before, that had only been read three times 
over. To learn to appreciate a newspaper properly it 
is necessary to be cut off from all reliable news of the 
world for several months, and then to be suddenly pre- 
sented with a paper not older than last year's issue. 
The smallest patent medicine advertisement is not over- 
looked under these circumstances, and the greatest 
interest is manifested in all that takes place in the 
native kailyard of the reader. The only serious occu- 
pation in these pleasant days at Blok Kloof was the 
drying of blankets in the sun. It was a proceeding in 
which there was not a great deal of satisfaction, for the 
blankets were as certain to be wet again very shortly. 
The reason for this was that the rainy season had now 
fairly set in. Every afternoon about four o'clock a great 
fleecy cloud began to gather in the west. Gradually it 
grew bigger and bigger until it resembled great moun- 
tains of cotton- wool, and in another hour the whole face 
of the heavens was overcast, an ominous silence hanging 
over the earth. The very animals seemed to know that 
something was about to happen, and even the birds were 
silent in the branches. Suddenly a wild blast of icy 
cold wind swept through the camp and rattled in anger 
against the flapping tents. It was as if the windows of 
a warm room had suddenly been thrown open on a 
winter's night. Then close on the heels of this icy 
breath came a mighty rush of storm -wind, tearing up 
tent pegs, scattering camp fires, and hurling sand and 
stones along in its wild career. All hands manned the 

8o Fife and Forfar I. K in South Africa 

tent poles, and for a minute it was a struggle between 
them and the fury of the gale. In another moment this 
outrider or advance guard had passed on, and the main 
body of the storm prepared to deliver the attack. Every- 
thing by this time was hidden in the inky blackness, 
and it was difficult to distinguish the trembling horses 
as they stood with their hind-quarters to the advancing 
storm preparing for the onslaught. Suddenly a lurid 
glare of lightning flashed across the heavens, and in 
another moment a crash that made the very hillside 
tremble broke upon the ear. Flash after flash in rapid 
succession played round the horizon, crash after crash 
of thunder echoed down the hillsides, and in blinding 
sheets the torrential rain poured down with an irresistible 
violence that mocked the tents and trenches of the 
wretched soldiers. Never was a homeless dog more 
miserable than Thomas Atkins in one of these dreadful 
thunderstorms. Never was shelter more desired or more 
impossible of attainment. Soon the camp was running 
like a river, the horses had pulled their pegs and were 
stampeding in front of the blast, and men were wandering 
about with their blankets carefully rolled in a waterproof 
sheet, wondering how long the storm would continue. 
As a rule, the sky cleared about midnight, and the moon 
and stars looked down through the clear frosty air upon 
an indescribable scene of muddy devastation. On a 
sloping hillside things were not so bad, for the rain ran 
off as fast as it fell ; but in a camp on the flat it was 
often impossible to find a dry spot anywhere to anchor 
down for the night. Every afternoon, after a day of 
great heat, these thunderstorms swept over the country, 
and made life in the open or under canvas anything 
but a pleasure. After a few months in the field, how- 
ever, men became inured to these continual drenchings, 
and managed to swim along wonderfully. 

With Clements 8i 

Had it not been for the continual climbing of the 
steep heights with blankets on back, and the wet, cold 
sentry-go up beside the chattering baboons, life at 
Blok Kloof would have been thoroughly enjoyable. 
The baboons not only gave the midnight sentry a good 
deal of anxiety by rattling the rocks and stones down 
the hillside, but they infested the immediate neighbour- 
hood of the camp, and were to be seen amongst the 
trees and rocks in the quiet sultry afternoons when it 
was a pleasure to lie and bask upon the grass. Bees 
were numerous, too, in this camp, although seldom met 
with on the veldt Their nests seemed to be in the 
trunks of the old trees that grew at the foot of the hills, 
and during the day tents were 'buzzing with the noise of 
their wings as they wandered in and out beneath the 
curtain. At Blok Kloof, in spite of the weather con- 
ditions, the health of the company was fairly good, but 
one old campaigner, who had been through the Mata- 
bele war, had to go to hospital, much against his will. 

Suddenly the order came one afternoon to rejoin 
Clements' column, and just as the daily thunderstorm 
was gathering the waggons were packed and the little 
force set off towards Damhoek, near which they were 
camped. How it poured that night Overcoats were 
sodden and heavy, boots were full of moisture, the whole 
valley was inches deep in water, and in the gathering 
darkness the little force of Yeomanry pushed on, won- 
dering how long it would last Several drifts had to be 
crossed, and as the rivers were swollen by the rain on 
the hills the crossing of the waggons was attended with 
some difficulty. In the end one of the waggons (a 
Somerset one, badly loaded and rickety) broke down 
or lost a wheel, and had to be left in the stream all 
night about a couple of miles from camp. 

Out all night beside a drift, doing sentry-go over a 

82 Fife and Forfar I, Y, in South Africa 

broken-down waggon, some of the Fife men had time 
to reflect upon the wickedness of their Somerset friends, 
who were unable to pack a waggon properly, and placed 
all the weight upon the front wheels. This sort of job 
was one of the penalties of rearguard work, but there 
certainly was some compensation to be derived from a 
midnight attack upon the Somerset rations. Early next 
morning the waggon was repaired, and the men who 
had been left to guard it were ordered to camp as the 
column was about to march. 

During the night a strange accident happened to one 
of the Fife tents, which had been pitched in the dark, 
and as the ropes were tight and the rain heavy it was 
not to be wondered at. As the inmates were lying 
asleep inside on the swampy ground the cap of the tent 
burst with a report like a big gun, and the tent slipped 
down the pole on top of them ; but they did not allow 
this to interfere with their night's rest, and crawled out 
at daybreak next morning from beneath the wet canvas. 

Soon the sun rose, the waggons were loaded up, the 
men stood to their horses, and the column began to get 
under weigh. At the last moment it was decided that 
the Somersets were to be left behind on account of their 
wretched transport, and for the future the 7th battalion 
consisted of the Devons, Dorsets, Sussex, and Fifes. 

• ( 


From a Photo br w. WD. Stdabt 

Captain Chapell Hodge 




HE column now set off in the direction of Krugers- 
dorp, and the first obstacle that retarded its 
progress was a deep drift, with steep, muddy banks, 
where the transport animals had very little footing. The 
South* African rivers, as a rule, flow through a deep 
cutting in the soft clay soil of the valleys, and their 
banks are very often twenty or thirty feet high, and 
^ almost perpendicular. When a road or track crosses 

' them, a steep descent to the river bed is generally fol- 

lowed by an equally steep climb on the opposite side. 
After one or two waggons have crossed, the water is 
worked up on the opposite bank by the feet of the 
bullocks and the waggon wheels, and soon the road is 
converted into mud and slime. As the other waggons 
^ come along the mules or bullocks lose their footing, slip 

on their knees, and the great rumbling waggon comes to 
an anchor in the bed of the stream. Drag ropes, pulled 
by a line of men, and sometimes the team of another 
waggon, have to be called on to assist when this happens. 
The noise the Kaffirs make on these occasions is inde- 
scribable and fearsome. Standing in two lines on each 
side of the drift, and some of them in mid- stream up to 
the waist in water, they endeavour to get the waggons 
across by dint of mere voice power. Waving whips and 
sjamboks over their heads, they bring them down on the 
backs of the struggling team or on each other, and give 
forth wild war-whoops calculated to terrify the most 

84 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

hardened bullock in the span. Ike — ike — iva-a-a ! they 
shout, and down comes the mighty whip, like the cast 
of a salmon rod, on the backs of the team ; every muscle 
and nerve is strained, and, unless the chain breaks, the 
mighty waggon lurches out of the river bed and creaks 
up the banks to the veldt above. At some drifts every 
waggon has to be double -spanned as it comes along, 
and considerable delay to the progress of the column 
is the result. Occasionally a waggon breaks down in 
mid-stream, or sinks in the muddy bottom, and has to 
be unloaded, and all the sacks of oats and other contents 
carried up the opposite banks before it can be moved. 

On the occasion in question two or three hours saw 
every wheel across the river, and the trek was resumed. 
The Fifes were on the left flank, and were very busy 
driving off cattle and sheep, for they were now being 
cleared by the columns in order to impress the Boers 
with the folly of further resistance. From every farm 
and glen another herd of live stock was added to the 
lot, and as many as 20,000 head of cattle and 100,000 
head of sheep were driven in on this excursion. 

Camp was pitched that afternoon at a place called 
Hartley's Nek, in the Witwatersrand hills. It was a 
splendid spot for a camp, and at a large mill close by a 
store full of Boer tobacco was largely patronised by 
those whose supply of smokeables was running short. 
There was a good flowing river here too, where the un- 
accustomed luxury of a bathe was indulged in before 

An early start was made next morning, and as the 
Fifes were advance guard, they had to be off first to 
screen the movement of the column. It was known that 
the Boers were in the neighbourhood, and the pack 
horse with extra ammunition was ordered to follow up 
the company in case of need. 

Death of Captain Hodge 


About ten or eleven in the forenoon the screen of 
scouts approached some broken, rocky ground on the 
right front, when the enemy suddenly opened fire. The 
scouts galloped back under a regular fusilade of bullets, 
and got out of range without any casualty. Captain 
Hodge was riding at the head of the support, which 
consisted of the half of the Fife squadron that was not 
on the screen, and when the Boers opened fire from 
the position B on the accompanying sketch, he received 
orders to gallop round in a wide semicircle and get 
behind the enemy's position. 




• ,..^^tC»l^^^' 

^-.v- ^v.v>* 






% t 


I f f • • fl t 
I I I I • • « 

The two troops, riding at ten paces interval, as was 
usual in supporting a screen, went off at a gallop, and 
in a few minutes, as it seemed, rode down the grassy 
slope at the back of the rocky kopje. A Boer was seen 
galloping away as they approached. Another kopje in 

86 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

rear of the first position was on the left, and, as they 
were about to ride in between the two positions, Captain 
Hodge halted and ordered scouts out ahead before going 
further. No sooner had his hand gone up to signal a 
halt then every rock and bush on both sides and in front 
seemed to open fire on the little band of halted horse- 
men. The ground simply boiled with bullets, falling 
like raindrops on the surface of a pond. The order, 
"Files about — gallop!" was hardly needed, for every 
man knew at once that a moment's delay in such a 
storm might be his last 

As the bullets whisked past on both sides of their 
heads the horses shot off like arrows in a neck and neck 
race up the slope. Even they, poor animals, seemed to 
know that something was wrong, and that it was a time 
to show their mettle. Hardly had they started when 
the captain's charger, with empty saddle, galloped past, 
and showed the others a clean pair of heels. When the 
bullets began to fall astern and the fire slackened. 
Lieutenant Purvis and some others immediately went 
back to find Captain Hodge, anci came upon him griev- 
ously wounded where he had fallen at the first volley. 
He was immediately carried to the shelter of a Kaffir 
kraal close by, his wounds were attended to by the 
doctors, and an ambulance was sent for. The bullet 
had entered the small of the back, and, emerging at 
the shoulder, had penetrated under the jaw and passed 
through the cheek. It was hoped, however, that the 
Captain would recover, and he appeared to be fighting 
bravely against his sufferings. 

That night the camp was pitched at a place called 
Cyferfontein, and it was reported that two or three had 
been killed by snipers that day. A woman had been 
taken prisoner with a rifle in her hand on one of the 
kopjes on the flank. Naturally she was an object of 

Death of Captain Hodge 87 

some interest as she came into camp, and everyone was 
anxious to set eyes on this modem amazon. She was 
of enormous size, must have weighed close on twenty 
stone, terribly ugly, and absolutely shapeless. She wore 
the usual black dress without any waist, and a black 
kappy or sun-bonnet such as is worn by all the Dutch 
women in South Africa. Her feet were covered with 
veldt schoon, a sort of heavy clogs, and she was inno- 
cent of stocking^. From the appearance of this good 
vrouw, it was evident that her time might have been 
better spent in having a wash than in shooting at the 
rooineks. The Boers, even where they live near a run- 
ning stream, seem to have a strange distrust of cold 
water, and in this respect resemble our lowest class at 
home. By calling a perfectly harmless little stream 
Crocodile river, they excuse themselves for giving it a 
wide berth. 

Next day the column marched off early, and did a 
good deal of farm-clearing and forage-burning. This by 
way of a lesson to snipers. Needless to say, the Fife 
men did not adopt any half measures, and the satisfac- 
tion with which they set fire to forage and waggons and 
other belongings of their fugitive enemies was increased 
as they thought of the bullets that were continually 
coming from behind rocks and trees and whizzing past 
their ears. They had come out to fight, not to be shot 
at by an enemy they could not see, and the result was 
that they let off their feelings in the way of bonfires and 
cattle-lifting with the greatest pleasure. 

Camped at Vlakfontein that night, it was reported 
that Captain Hodge was not so well, and the company 
turned in for the night with heavy hearts. 

Next morning, at half- past four, the stable guards 
announced reveille, and- as the troopers emerged from 
their tents to feed their horses they were informed that 

88 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

their captain was no more. It was indeed a dismal 
morning: the sky was murky, the rain poured down, 
and the great black clouds were hurrying over the face 
of the heavens. A feeling of depression seemed to settle 
on every man as he went about his duties : for months 
past the company had been a sort of happy family, and 
now it felt as if the head of the family was gone ; but 
there was no time to be lost, for already the column was 
on the move. The Fifes were rearguard this morning, 
and had an hour's grace, in which the funeral of their 
leader must be conducted. A wooden cross was hastily 
improvised, and in a drenching rain and cold wind the 
little procession started from the Red Cross tent to the 
spot beneath the great acacia trees where the grave had 
been prepared. Sewn up in his brown military blanket, 
and borne on. a stretcher, the form of Captain Hodge 
was lowered by the surcingles of his sorrowing troopers 
into a soldier's grave. 

Firing three rounds into the air, the grave was care- 
fully marked off with stones, the cross placed at its head, 
and the rear screen mounted and trekked on, knowing 
well that in a few hours the hand that laid their captain 
low would be gloating over the evidence of its handi- 

Down came the rain in torrents, the cold wind howled, 
and the whole face of the earth was like the surface of a 
muddy pond. Soon it became evident that the waggons 
could not struggle along much further through the mud 
and wet After a trek of ten miles, in which it was with 
the greatest difficulty that the horses could be made to 
face the storm, the column came to an anchor at Leeuw- 
fontein (Lion's Spring), where even a lion would have 
refused to sleep on such a night. There was not a dry 
spot anywhere, and tents were erected in the mud, and 
an effort at cheerfulness was difficult indeed. By night- 

Death of Captain Hodge 89 

fall the storm redoubled its fury, tents swayed and 
groaned, blankets were soaked and clothes sodden, 
bullocks roared piteously around the laager, and every- 
one longed for daybreak. 

At last daylight came, but brought no intermission 
in the storm. The camp was a dreary spectacle in the 
cold grey light of early morning. Scarcely a horse was 
left in the lines. The soft ground, trodden into a quag- 
mire by restless hoofs, had failed to hold the picketing 
pegs, and the wretched horses had stampeded in all 
directions. Round the camp carcases of dead bullocks 
and horses showed that the storm had told its tale. It 
looked as if the column would be storm-stayed in this 
filthy swamp. Fortunately, by ten or eleven in the 
forenoon, the sky cleared a little, orders were given to 
inspan, and a move was made to better ground. A 
trek of four miles brought the force to a dry slope, where 
tents were pitched and blankets dried, and a waggon 
was despatched for wood to make a fire. Fires or hot 
coffee had not been possible for twenty-four hours, and 
a warm drink and a baking sun soon revived the de- 
jected soldiers. When the waggon returned laden with 
oranges from a neighbouring grove, the heat was so 
great that a little ripe fruit was very refreshing. It is 
a curious country South Africa — a country of extremes. 
Yesterday it had been as cold as a Christmas day in 
the old country, this day it was warmer than a Scottish 



LEAVING Leeuwfontein after a three days' halt, 
during which forage patrols and other duties fell 
to the lot of the Yeomanry, General Clements set off on 
an excursion in the direction of Zeerust, and a great deal 
of burning and clearing was undertaken in the direction 
of Elands river. Long treks and hard work began to 
tell upon the horses, and scarcely a day passed but some 
member of the company had to say good-bye to his 
tottering old Bucephalus. To lead a horse aside from 
the column and blow its brains out behind a bush was 
a job that many had to undertake when their horse had 
knelt down to say its prayers three or four times in half 
an hour. After collecting tremendous herds of live stock 
(acres of cattle and square milbs of sheep was the only 
way to measure them), the column made for Krugers- 
dorp, and was sniped into the very outpost lines of the 
town by the indignant Boer, who had heard the lowing 
of his flocks and herds with sullen anger when he rea- 
lised that they were surrounded by an armed screen of 
rooineks. In case anyone should be ignorant of the 
origin of the word " rooinek," it should be explained that 
when a Britisher arrives in South Africa the sun imme- 
diately attacks the back of his neck and makes it a 
fiery red, hence the name of red-necks, which the Boers 
substituted for the old name of rooibatjes or red-coats, 
by which they called the British soldier at the time of 

Nooitgedacht 91 

A week in the middle of November was spent in 
Krugersdorp, an ugly little mining town of modem 
growth, with little of the attractiveness of the old Dutch 
villages. In " The Dive," an underground restaurant, a 
sort of local " Trocadero," the luxury of a square meal 
proved a great attraction. There was little to be seen 
in the town, and beyond a few clothes-lines for guy- 
ropes and a few pipes, there was nothing to be had in 
the way of stores. The horses were rested, however, 
and grazing guards were out every afternoon while they 
roamed at will across the veldt A pond of water close 
to the camp was reserved for drinking purposes, but by 
taking an empty biscuit box and filling it with water a 
bath of a sort was possible. Many of the troopers paid 
a visit to the local cemetery, where Trooper Renny had 
been buried three months before. 

Suddenly, at two o'clock one morning, an unexpected 
reveille was announced, and in the inky darkness of a 
wet night tents were hastily struck, horses up-saddled, 
and preparations made to march. The enemy were re- 
ported to be in force near at hand, and General Clements 
was ordered out to greet them at daybreak. The Fifes 
were on the left flank, and as soon as the first streak of 
dawn rendered them visible to the snipers, they began 
to send bullets whisking past the flankers' heads. It was 
useless to stop and fire back, as they could not be 
located, so there ,was nothing for the men to do but 
march on stolidly and use bad language. It was a very 
one-sided game this of riding about the country to be 
shot at by a hidden enemy. Soon the firing in front of 
the column developed into a regular attempt to oppose 
the march, and after a heavy Mauser fire for some time, 
the pom-pom began to bark and the field guns threw a 
few shells against the kopjes. The enemy fell back, and 
a position was reached where the water supply and the 

92 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

lie of the land made a suitable camping-ground. As 
the force was reaching this spot several shots were fired 
from the vicinity of a farm-house, which was at once 
demolished by the guns, and when it was surrounded by 
mounted men several women-snipers were captured with 
rifles in their possession. 

Next day the Boers sounded reveille by a brisk shell 
fire from their Krupp guns, directed evidently at the 
heights round the camp, where the artillery was posted. 
Their shots were pitched a trifle high, and passing over 
the tops of the kopjes, fell close to the lines of the tents 
and horses. There was no time for any thought of 
breakfast, but saddling up in haste the yeomen were 
mounted and away to support the guns. Within five 
minutes of the bursting of the first shell the men were 
holding their horses on the slopes, where the artillery 
were getting to work, and awaiting further orders. 
Meantime "Weary Willie," the big cow -gun, had 
wakened up, and the hillsides trembled as the gunners 
pumped lyddite into the enemy's position. "Let 'em 
'ave some sugar in their coffee. Bill," one cheerful 
gunner was saying to another as he staggered along 
with another shell. 

The Yeomanry were standing on a wide, grassy pla- 
teau alongside the guns, where the Boers on the opposite 
heights must have seen them. Suddenly, without a 
moment's warning, the sound of a pom-pom rang out 
from a nek between two hills, and in another moment 
the scream of approaching shells began to make the 
horses cock their ears. Rat-tat-tat-tat went the pom- 
pom, the shells howled and whistled like the wind in 
the rigging of a ship, and before the Fifes had time to 
realise it, the shells were bursting in a long line about 
fifty yards off! Another belt followed, and immediately 
landed at their very feet. The order was at once given 

»-' » 

■S ■J 

: >• 
2 I 

Nooitgedacht 93 

to lead the horses under cover, a matter of 500 yards, 
and as they walked oflF trying to look unconcerned, the 
earth was literally ploughed up and thrown about by 
these infernal missiles. No man cared to mount and 
trot off, but the slow journey on foot was a most un- 
pleasant one. When at last the squadron got under 
cover, some of the men were covered with dirt thrown 
up by the shells, and everybody marvelled at their 
escape. Men who could hardly be accused of cowardice 
were a sort of pale green in colour, and no one professed 
to have enjoyed the entertainment. 

Fighting was continued till midday, and then a 
mounted patrol was sent out, which did not return till 
sundown. It was a long and hungry day, but there 
never was a merrier band than the Fifes that night 
when the tea-dixies were brought from the fire, and the 
rations having been vanquished, pipes were lit and talk 
of hairbreadth escapes and strange experiences went 
round the tents. 

Next morning, at two o'clock, the force stood to 
arms, and in the forenoon, the Boers having apparently 
cleared, moved on to Rietfontein (another of the many 
Rietfonteins), and so, after a few more days of sniping 
and fighting and farm -burning, back to Krugersdorp 
once more. 

The camp this time was pitched near the town on 
the ground of the very diamond mine where the Jame- 
son raiders surrendered. New clothes and hats were 
issued to the ragged warriors, and the squadron was so 
pleased with the unwonted respectability of its appear- 
ance that a local photographer was commissioned to 
take a group of the company on the last few plates 
which he possessed. 

In a few days the order came to trek once more, and 
the column set off to its old familiar haunts in the Hek- 

94 Pif^ ^^ Forfar I. Y, in South Africa 

poort valley to tackle Delarey. On the ist of December 
Krugersdorp was left behind, and on the 9th the column 
camped at Nooitgedacht to await reinforcements, as it 
was reported that Delarey was in command of a large 
number of men. Clements' column at this time num- 
bered only 1200. 

For several days the column lay at the foot of the 
Magaliesbergs in helio communication with Commando 
Nek, which in its turn was in communication with Pre- 
toria. The intelligence department promised a day- 
break attack each morning, and although the force 
stood to arms before daybreak every morning, no 
attack was made. The niggers were beginning to be 
discredited, and it was generally supposed that Delarey 
was not anxious for a fight. The Boer laager was 
situated about ten miles off amongst the hills, and, 
according to report, they were making no warlike pre- 
parations. Little did the British know that Delarey had 
sent an urgent message to Beyers, whose commando 
was north in the Bushveldt, to come and help him to 
overpower General Clements* little force. This was the 
explanation of their apparent inactivity, and already 
2000 mounted men were trekking from Pietersburg to 
co-operate with Delarey's commando of 1 500 in a grand 

The British camp lay on a grassy slope between the 
valley and the steep Magaliesbergs that rose a thousand 
feet high behind the camp. The rocky slopes were sur- 
mounted by a long cliff of rocks, somewhat resembling 
Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh. On the top of this cliff 
the Northumberland Fusiliers, nearly 400 strong, were 
posted to protect the camp from surprise. On the other 
side the hills sloped very gradually to the Rustenburg 

At earliest dawn on the morning of the 13th De- 

Nooitgedacht 95 

cember the camp of the slumbering rooineks was 
awakened by the rattle of Mausers on the hillsides. 
The camp resounded with cries of "Stand to your 
horses," " Saddle up," " Inspan," and a dozen other calls 
of alarm. Every trooper's ear knew well the sound of a 
Mauser, however, and no warning was necessary to rouse 
him. Every man knew by instinct that the promised 
attack had come at last. In three minutes horses were 
saddled and men were standing to arms. The firing 
ceased, and an eerie silence supervened. As some were 
beginning to think that they had been aroused by a 
mere outpost disturbance, and that no serious attack 
was meditated, the solemn silence was broken abruptly 
by a rattle of musketry, and the hilltops rang from one 
end to the other with the noise of battle. The storm 
had burst, and soon the dropping bullets falling over the 
steep cliffs at the back of the camp announced that the 
enemy's firing line was not far off. The order was given 
to lead the horses up to the foot of the hills, where they 
would be out of danger. At the same time the waggons 
were got down the slope into the valley below. The 
yeomen were ordered to climb the hill by a kloof or 
gulley where a small stream trickled down from the top, 
and an effort was made to send up ammunition to the 
Northumberlands above. As soon as the mules carry- 
ing the ammunition reached the top of the kloof and 
crossed the skyline, they w.ere caught by the enemy's 
fire. Lieutenant Gilmour and ten men of the Fifes, who 
had volunteered to climb the hill, were recalled, and 
orders were given to get the horses away, through the 
camp into the valley. Captain Purvis, who had been 
in command of the company since Captain Hodge's 
death, had, meantime led the rest of the Fife men up 
the hill by another route, and the Devon and Dorset 
companies were also ordered to make for the heights. 

96 " Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

As the camp was being rapidly cleared of horses and 
waggons, the rattle of rifles on the top of the hill never 
ceased for a moment. Soon it became evident that the 
British fire was slackening, and that the Mausers had 
the upper hand. A heavy fire was poured down from 
the cliffs into the camp beneath, and there was then no 
doubt that the Boers had overpowered the Northumber- 
lands and were in possession of the summit 

The camp was now swept by a regular hailstorm of 
bullets, and the attack had been developed on the other 
side of the valley — indeed, the Boers seemed to have 
drawn a circle round the little force. The field guns were 
ordered to shell the ridge of the hills with shrapnel, but 
they might as well have tried to stem the tide of victory 
with a fire-hose. A Boer dressed in khaki had been 
standing at the top of the kloof waving his arm and 
urging the yeomanry to hurry up or they would be too 
late. Scrambling up the hillside over bush and boulders, 
the willing men of Fife and Devon were being merci- 
lessly shot down by a cross fire from the cliffs above. 
A staff officer reached the skyline and fell heavily to 
the ground riddled with bullets. Lieutenant Campbell 
urged his men on, and as he clambered up breathless 
and excited was shot through the head. At the same 
moment Captain Purvis fell to the ground wounded in 
three places, and when the lyddite shells from the big 
gun began to pound the hillside in a vain attempt to 
hold back the enemy, it looked as if every man must be 

The Boers were now behind rocks within twenty yards 
of the yeomen in the kloof, who had no cover beyond 
what the long grass afforded them. Crawling on hands 
and knees, and shooting as they advanced, the men 
showed no sign of breaking, and, indeed, retreat would 
have been certain death. Walker fell back across the 

Nooitgedacht 97 

bcxly of a firing comrade, Wilson's throat was lacerated 
by a bullet, Matthew and Mudge died without a word, 
and Grant had his arm shattered and lay groaning 
behind a rock. It was a terrible moment, and one that 
the survivors will never forget When it became evident 
that further resistance was useless, Bonthrone rose and 
held up his hands in token of surrender. He was at 
once shot in the spine. In another moment the light 
of heaven was suddenly obscured by the bursting of a 
lyddite shell, and when the clouds of green smoke 
cleared off the sergeant-major was seen to be lying in 
the bed of the stream, where he had been hurled by the 
force of the explosion. Blinded and deaf, he lay for 
several hours in a pool of water, and felt the effects of 
the shock for weeks afterwards. 

By this time the Boers were swarming past our men, 
the few survivors having thrown down their rifles in 
despair, and were pressing on to the camp. Of the 
fifty yeomen in the kloof thirty were killed or wounded 
and the rest were taken prisoners. 

In the valley below things were little better. Colonel 

Legge, commanding the mounted troops, had been shot 

revolver in hand at the very outset. General Clements 

was giving hurried orders to his brigade-major, when the 

latter was struck down by an expanding bullet, which 

killed him instantly. Soon the whole of the staff, with 

the exception of Captain Carr, had been put out of 

action, and the General was left to direct the fight 

almost single-handed. Great difficulty was experienced 

in removing the cow-gun. As fast as the oxen were 

inspanned they were shot down, and at one' time it 

looked as if the gun would have to be abandoned. The 

Greneral insisted on its removal, however, and after 

serious loss of life and a marvellous display of cool 

courage on the part of the artillerymen, the lumbering 

98 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

" Weary Willie " was drawn out of range by a half-dozen 
of the fine team of black bullocks that belonged to it 
A waggon of ammunition had to be left behind^ in spite 
of the brave endeavours of Sergeant Pullar and six men 
of the Fifes to remove it 

The waggons and other transport were now lying in 
a small grassy hollow in the centre of the valley, out of 
rifle range, but perfectly visible to the enemy. They 
were huddled together in inextricable confusion — roar- 
ing ox-teams, mule waggons, ambulances, watet carts, 
and led horses — a regular chaos of noise and disorder. 
The Boers bpened fire from the end of the valley with 
a Krupp gun, and shrapnel began to burst overhead. 
The Kafllirs went mad with terror, the wounded animals 
roared and bellowed, horses plunged and reared, and 
it looked as if the last scene of the drama was to be 
enacted here. Another moment and the shrieking of 
pom-pom shells as they swept down the hollow added 
to the horror and confusion. Filling the air with their 
tumult, they tore through the canvas covers of the wag- 
gons and plunged amongst the terrified animals, causing 
awful destruction. The climax had been reached, and 
without a moment's warning the convoy set off in a 
mad rush down the valley. Cracking their whips and 
yelling like madmen, the natives lashed their teams 
into the open valley, and by so doing only offered a 
better target for the enemy's guns. Eight or ten abreast, 
the waggons raced neck and neck until they crashed one 
after another into a deep, marshy donga that lay across 
their path. It was a moment of indescribable confusion. 
Waggons were overturned, loose teams were charging 
in all directions, and for a time it looked as if the fight 
was to end in a general rout Fortunately the stam- 
pede was arrested by men galloping after the waggon 
boys with revolvers, and threatening to shoot them if 


Nooitgedacht 99 

they did not return. The Boer pom-pom was put out of 
action by a shell, and this also helped to restore the 
balance of the fight. Meantime all the guns had been 
safely withdrawn from the camp, thanks to the heroism 
of the gunners, who, in one case, pulled a field gun down 
the hill by hand when the Boers had approached to 
within fifty yards of it. Hour after hour the battle 
raged furiously, and men fell so fast that the ambulance 
parties could not cope with their work. The Boers, 
encouraged by their success, pressed on all sides, and 
the circle of fire grew ever narrower. 

At four o'clock in the afternoon an organised retreat 
was commenced, and flank screens of the infantry were 
thrown out on each side of the valley. The mounted 
men acted as rearguard, and several casualties were sus- 
tained in effecting the retreat' As the column moved 
off down the valley the Boers followed up and attacked 
it from every available position. By six o'clock the sun, 
which had beaten down fiercely all day, sank behind the 
hills, and when darkness set in the fire of the Mausers 
ceased. The stars came out, and in the silence of the 
retreat the men had a first opportunity of thinking over 
the exciting events of the day. None of the party 
that had climbed the hill had apparently escaped, but it 
was only at roll-call next morning that the true state of 
affairs could be known. At midnight the big gun stuck 
fast in the river bed, and it required two hours of the 
hardest work with drag-ropes and implements to bring 
it along. At sunrise next morning the column halted 
at Commando Nek, beneath the shelter of position guns 
and batteries manned by a British garrison. 

The Fifes were now a little band of twenty-five, the 
sole representatives of the fifty men who had stood to 
arms the day before. Busy Red Cross parties were 
sorting out the wounded from the dead, while the sound 



lOO Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

of pick and shovel in the distance beat sullenly upon the 
early morning air. It was a solemn roll-call, and it is 
not likely that those who were present to answer their 
names will ever forget that day, or the bravery of their 
less fortunate comrades who had been called on to give 
up their lives for their Queen and fatherland. 

Where so many displayed the highest courage, there 
were one or two acts of conspicuous bravery performed 
that day that will live in history, and one of these is the 
story of how Sergeant Farmer, of the Cameron High- 
landers M.I., won the Victoria Cross. A picquet was 
being hotly engaged by the enemy, when a detachment 
of Camerons, numbering fifteen, under Lieutenant Sandi- 
lands, and including Farmer, marched out to their relief. 
Arriving on the spot, they found most of the picquet killed 
or wounded, and the remainder fighting against despe- 
rate odds. The enemy, who were hidden behind trees, 
waited until the relief party advanced to within twenty 
yards, and then opened a deadly and murderous fire, 
killing two and wounding five men, including Lieutenant 
Sandilands. Seeing his officer wounded and bleeding 
on the ground, and knowing too well that if he were 
allowed to remain where he was he must surely die, the 
gallant sergeant went to his assistance, and succeeded in 
carrying him to a place of safety amid a perfect hail of 
bullets. Having seen his officer carefully looked after, 
with what appeared to be certain death staring him in 
the face, Farmer returned to his sorely -pressed com- 
rades. They fought on, but at length were compelled 
to surrender, and so in one day Farmer had gained the 
V. C. and was taken prisoner by the enemy. 




GENERAL FRENCH was now despatched to clear 
the Boers from the position won at Nooitgedacht, 
but the Yeomanry, being so reduced in numbers, and so 
handicapped for want of transport and stores, were sent 
in to Rietfontein to be re-fitted. 

The wounded men of the company who were lying in 
the open on the field of the battle relate how the Boers 
were busy fortifying and entrenching the position they 
had taken, and how this work was superintended by 
French and German officers in their service. When the 
British forces returned they got a warm reception, and 
fell back for a time with considerable loss. The Boers, 
however, had lost heavily on the 13th, and had been 
busy bringing their dead and wounded down from the 
hills on the backs of their ponies. Some idea of the 
intensity of the fire in the camp on the day of the fight 
may be gathered from the fact that the pet monkey — 
that had been with the Fifes for several months, and was 
chained to a tree in their camp — was wounded in three 
places. When it was found the Red Cross party ban- 
daged its wounds, but it escaped and made off to its 
native hills. 

With the renewed attack by General French we have 
no concern, for the small remnant of the 20th Company 
was now at Rietfontein awaiting the issue of blankets, 
overcoats, forks and spoons, and other necessaries. On 
the 1 6th Trooper E. A. M*Grady, who had been lying 

102 Fife and* Forfar I, Y. in South Africa 

ill in Clements' camp before the attack, succumbed 
to enteric fever. No member of the company was a 
greater favourite or more deservedly popular with his 
companions. Every man felt that he had lost a good 
friend, and that a brave and reliable member of the 
company had gone. His funeral took place in the after- 
noon, and Lieutenant Gilmoiv, the sole remaining officer 
of the company, read the burial service. He was laid in 
a soldier's grave at the foot of the kopje which lies in the 
centre of the valley, about twenty miles west of Pretoria. 

The company was now without tents, and as it was 
midsummer the sun was intensely hot during the day, 
while heavy rains were still of nightly occurrence. 
Blankets were issued to the men, and this enabled them 
to erect bivouacs or booby huts to protect them from 
the weather. Christmas was spent at Rietfontein in 
this way, and, thanks to the kindly forethought of 
Lieutenant ' Gilmour and Sergeant Pullar, some sem- 
blance of conviviality was possible. A concert, attended 
by all the troops in camp, was held that evening round 
a camp fire, to which each member of the audience had 
to contribute a precious log of wood. On the 29th of 
December the Fifes moved off with a column under 
General Cunningham, and proceeded by night march 
through Commando Nek into the Rustenburg district, 
north of the Magaliesbergs. The force camped next 
morning on the slope of a solitary hill in the centre of 
the valley, by name Wolhuter's Kop. Here the com- 
pany's lines were pitched beside a battalion of Argyle 
and Sutherland Highlanders, and as many of these were 
Fife and Forfar men, the New Year was brought in in 
good company. 

The Boers, under Delarey, were not far distant, and 
a very ugly position some ten miles up the valley was 
said to be strongly held by them. This position, called 

A Little Band and Lowly 103 

Buffelspoort, was to be attacked by General Cunningham 
in a day or two, and reinforcements were hourly arriving, 
until his column must have numbered 3000 men. It was 
not very reassuring to see the mounted infantry being 
taught to ride in a riding school in the centre of the 
valley, where they were trotting round morning, noon, 
and night. This was field-training with a vengeance, 
and no doubt Delarey's men, with their telescopes, were 
criticising the various styles of horsemanship. These 
mounted infantry were being formed and equipped on 
the spot from the foot battalions in the field. 

At midnight on the 3rd of January the column com- 
menced to march against the Boer position, but not 
before lai^e fires had been lit throughout the camp 
to provide coffee for the troops, and incidently to warn 
the Boers of their approach. At daybreak, after six 
hours' slow marching, the Boer position loomed imme- 
diately in front The column, which had been bucketing 
along a narrow track through the thick bush, now de- 
bouched on the open veldt and advanced against the 
kopjes in battle array. 

Line after line of mounted men were extended for 
almost five miles against the front of the position. The 
Fifes were in the second line from the front, and every 
man listened impatiently for the first report of a rifle to 
announce that the fight had begun. On these occasions 
the anticipation was worse than the reality; and to creep 
up on horseback beneath the beetling crags that might 
at any moment ring out with the report of the enemy's 
rifles required more heroism than was needed to gallop 
a position in the heat of a fight In the present instance 
the suspense was long and agonising, and it was only 
when the position had been thoroughly overrun that it 
was ascertained that the birds had flown. Buffelspoort 
was taken without any opposition, to the disappointment 

I04 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

of those who had been looking for what was called a 
" scrap." 

The column remained here until a very heavy convoy 
of provisions had been taken through to Rustenbuig. 
To enable this to be accomplished in safety, the mounted 
troops were ordered out with the guns every morning at 
one o'clock. After occupying the hilltops on either side 
of the valley from sunrise until late in the afternoon, 
they seldom were back in camp till nightfall. After a 
week of this, the Fifes were ordered to occupy Breedt 
Nek, a rocky defile in the Magaliesbergs. The approach 
to this position was steep and rocky, and in some places 
the company's waggon had to be lifted bodily before it 
could be taken on. When the position was finally 
reached, the company settled down, along with 200 men 
of the Border Regiment, to hold the nek against all 
comers. Picquets by night and observation posts by 
day, together with a great deal of manual labour with 
pick and shovel, formed the programme of the garrison. 
After a week's work, the position was as well fortified as 
Edinburgh Castle ; but before any attack was delivered 
to test it, the troops were ordered down to rejoin Cun- 
ningham's brigade. The morning that the little garrison 
was ordered down from its eyrie in the mountains a 
storm of wind and rain of extraordinary fury was raging 
on the hills. Soaked by the rain, and shivering in a 
cutting wind, the sentries on the heights above the nek 
were not sorry when they were recalled. In the camp 
it had been found impossible to light a fire, and, without 
their morning coffee, the troops commenced to get the 
waggons down the hillside. 

The column was reached at sunset, and the company 
camped on the village green of a beautiful little hamlet, 
which might have been situated in the south of England 
from its appearance. There was no rest meantime. 

A Little Band and Lowly 105 

however, and half the company was sent out on picquet 
to a point at some distance from the camp. No time 
was allowed for such a trifle as tea, and off* they marched 
on foot to their allotted post, which was on the other 
side of a considerable stream. Having waded across 
this, and settled down for a cold, damp night without 
the solace of a pipe, an incident occurred which would 
have been humorous if it had not been pathetic. A 
man coming out from camp with a dixie of tea for the 
picquet, was shouting in the dark to find its where- 
abouts. Having been guided to the spot on the other 
side of the stream, he essayed to wade across, but losing 
his footing midway, he collapsed into ,the river, and the 
dark waters closed over the head of the tea kettle and 
washed it down the stream. Little incidents like these, 
laughable as -they appear after a lapse of time, are 
amongst the tragedies of war, and only those who 
spend twenty-four hours in a cold, inhospitable climate 
without a warm drink can realise the disappointment 
which an accident of this sort causes. 

Next morning the sun shone bright, the morning 
coffee, or "gunfire" as Thomas Atkins calls it, was 
ready betimes, and the force moved off* in the best of 
spirits towards Oliphant's Nek. At this point, where a 
good road crossed the Magaliesbergs, a halt was called 
for a couple of days. Oliphant's Nek, though no longer 
the haunt of elephants, was well grown with bush, and 
made a splendid site for a camp. Firewood was plenti- 
ful, and every couple of troopers could have their own 
camp-fire at the end of their bivouac. As the force lay 
here an unpleasant little tragedy occurred which brought 
home to every man the disagreeable nature of the game 
he was playing. Two troopers of Roberts' Horse, a 
colonial corps, with which the Fife men were very 
friendly, strolled out of camp to search for a stray horse , 

io6 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

amongst the bush. Half-an-hour later one of them came 
back for a dooley or ambulance to bring in the body of 
his comrade, who had been shot in cold blood by a Boer 
concealed amongst the trees. He himself had been 
slightly wounded, but his companion had been shot 
through the heart This was war, no doubt, but it was 
a sort of war that the Yeomanry had scarcely bai^ained 

Next day the force marched through the pass to try 
conclusions with Delarey, who was in command of a 
lai^e force In the hill country to the south. Ever since 
Nooitgedacht the men had been ordered to stand to 
arms an hour be^re daybreak, and as a great deal of 
night work had fallen to the lot of the mounted men 
for some time, they had almost forgotten what a good 
night's sleep was like. This was also due in great 
measure to the fact that the squadron was so reduced 
in numbers. 



AT daybreak on the 23rd of January, 1901, the Fife 
Yeomanry, along with the English companies to 
which they were attached, under the command of General 
Cunningham, marched against the enemy. They were 
acting as support to the guns, their numbers being so 
small at this time that they were unable to provide a 
screen of scouts for the column or undertake any job 
that required a large body of men. 

Having left Oliphant's Nek behind in charge of a 
garrison of Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, the 
column headed south, and wended its way down a long 
valley, flanked on either side with a ridge of grassy 
kopjes. After marching for a few hours without oppo- 
sition, the enemy disclosed themselves on some high hills 
in front by opening fire on the advance guard. 

Whether by design or otherwise, the Boers now showed 
themselves on horseback on the high grassy slopes in 
hasty retreat, and offered a splendid target for the guns. 
At once the field batteries were unlimbered and opened 
fire upon the hilltops on both sides of the way. As 
the shrapnel burst over the heights the Boers were to 
be seen galloping in hot haste over the skyline, and 
apparently vacating their positions. It was most un- 
usual for brother Boer to show himself so openly, and 
as there was no reason why he should not have had his 
horses under cover before the force reached this spot, 
his movements were somewhat difficult to explain. 

lo8 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

When it was seen that the enemy were clearing off 
at the gallop, the Fife men were sent to take a bare, 
stony kopje which lay in the centre of a hollow amongst 
the hills in front. The Boer tactics were soon made 
evident. The Fifes galloped the kopje, and when they 
reached the top were greeted with a withering volley 
from the hills beyond. Having taken cover, the guns 
were brought up and opened fire, and at the same 
time the tail of the convoy and rearguard advanced on 
to the kopje and allowed the gate through which the 
position had been reached to fall into the hands of the 
enemy. They lost not a moment in announcing by a 
regular rattle of musketry from all sides that the 
rooineks had been trapped ^^in. 





^ ---z^'g^ ,- 


Middlefontein and Modderfontein 109 

The British force, unable to advance, was equally 
unable to retire, and had practically telescoped on to a 
bare hillside, which was within rifle range of the hills 
on all sides. The Boers were strongly posted all round, 
and commenced a vigorous attack, that made the pro- 
spect very bad indeed for the unfortunate British soldier. 

By good luck, the position was in direct helio com- 
munication with 01iphant*s Nek, and if it could be 
held, help would assuredly be sent to the beleaguered 
party. All day long a heavy fire was kept up on both 
sides, but every effort to drive the Boers back proved 
unavailing. Twelve field guns — that the Boers after- 
wards admitted they had not reckoned with — made 
their positions far from comfortable. A busy pom-pom 
searched every kloof and gully, and Maxim guns blazed 
away ammunition at likely spots on the hillsides ; but 
the rattle of Mausers never slackened. 

At sunset the firing lines were drawn in, and, amid a 
regular salvo of artillery fire, the force prepared to spend 
an uncomfortable night. No boots or spurs were re- 
moved, and the horses stood upsaddled and ready for 
the fray. All night long the infantry were putting up 
sangars or stone shelters for the inevitable renewal of 
the fight, and the Boers were similarly improving their 
positions under cover of darkness. 

Before the sun set the flickering helio had flashed a 
sad message to the surrounded troops, a message that 
informed them that the Queen for whom they were 
fighting would reign on earth no more. The men lay 
down beside their horses and enjoyed a few hours* rest 
and sleep, rising before daybreak and preparing for a 
renewal of the struggle. As soon as dawn lightened up 
the sky the waking Mausers commenced to spit lead 
into the camp on all sides. First one or two, then a few 
dozen, and finally the rattle of hundreds and thousands 

no Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

of rifled barrels broke the stillness of the morning. All 
the time a desultory rain of bullets fell into the camp, 
and horses and bullocks here and there fell to the I 

ground after stopping a flying piece of lead. The Fife 
men were acting as escort to General Cunningham ; but 
as he was unable to stir from the hillside on which he 
was standing, their duty consisted of lying about in 
readiness for orders. A dozen pieces of field artillery 
were playing on the kopjes, and were stationed close 
be$ide each other where the Fife men lay. Suddenly a 
Krupp gun opened fire on the position, and a momen- 
tary excitement was developed as the shells came over 
towards the hill ; but the shooting was inaccurate, and 
no damage was done. The gunners were now bending 
all their eflbrts to silence the artillery opposition, and 
after a few more shots were fired the Krupp was knocked 
out of action. Four guns played for hours upon a kopje 
on one side of the camp, but seemed to have no effect 
in silencing the fire. Although it looked as if a rat 
could scarcely live under such a cannonade, every '"^ 
bursting shell was followed by a volley of Mausers that 
seemed to mock the efforts of the gunners. One of the Fife 
men, finding that the bullets were whizzing overhead in a 
certain direction, put up a few stones to shelter his head, 
and sat down again. No sooner had he done so than a , 

bullet struck the stone which he had just placed in posi- 
tion and ricocheted through his horse's ribs. There was , 
barely time to remove the horse from the immediate 
proximity of the others when it fell to the ground. As 
the day wore on, it became evident that the Boer bullets 
were causing havoc in the firing line, and the doolies 
were running briskly back and forward with wounded 
and with dead. One ambulance, whose mission could 
not be mistaken, was returning from an outlying posi- 
tion with a wounded man, and was literally riddled with 

Middlefontein and Modderfontein 1 1 1 

Boer bullets. Stretcher-bearers, with stiff, blanket-covered 
burdens, were also to be seen retiring from the firing line 
at intervals. At nightfall another tremendous bombard- 
ment from the guns hurled defiance at the enemy, and 
another pause in the fighting was necessitated by the 
gathering darkness. The Fife squadron (barely the size 
of a troop) was now ordered to picquet an outlying 
position, which had been captured during the day, and 
which, it was expected, the Boers might try to recover 
overnight or at daybreak. 

An uneasy night was spent in guarding this rocky, 
bush -covered outpost At intervals of five or ten 
minutes all night the other picquets, provided by the 
infantry, were firing at imaginary enemies in the dark. 
A loose pig or a stray mule in the surrounding bush 
called forth a volley, and, amid a succession of alarms 
like this, sleep was impossible. The result was that the 
whole picquet had practically to stand to arms all night. 
At daybreak excitement rose to fever heat, and every 
rifle was loaded and ready to begin. 

Daybreak came and the sky began to lighten, until 
first one dark object and then another showed itself clearly 
to be a bush or stone. Now or never, was the feeling of 
every man as he peered over his sangar and awaited the 
first shot The position had been splendidly fortified 
during the night with no small labour, and the 20th 
Company was prepared to sell it dearly. The moments 
fled, the daylight increased, until it became evident that 
something was wrong. Not a shot was heard around 
the camp. Evidently they had had enough. To keep 
their spirits up the gunners began to work the guns, 
and the enemy, by a feeble reply, announced that he 
was tired of the game. The truth was that another 
British column was threatening the Boers. on the other 
side, and had camped within a day's march of their 

112 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

In the afternoon, after a little more scrapping, the 
column commenced to retire, and the Fifes were told off 
to act as rearguard. This was no sinecure, for the Boers, 
who were really in full retreat at the same time, had 
left a rearguard to keep their enemy busy while they 
withdrew. For some time the two forces, lying on op- 
posite ridges of rock, pelted lead at each other as hard 
as they could. The British position was one which had 
to be reached over a higher skyline, and retreat was im- 
possible as long as daylight lasted. Two guns had been 
left to support the rearguard, and it became an awkward 
problem how to get them away. The teams could not 
approach the position without crossing the skyline : the 
enemy's fire was accurate and heavy, and to bring horses 
on the scene would have been madness. The Fifes, in 
galloping over the skyline, had had a taste of what 
might be the reception accorded to a gun team. 

The difficulty was solved by raising the recoil brake 
and shooting the guns backwards over the ridge under 
cover. The teams were then inspanned, and the guns 
galloped off after the retreating column. The infantry 
were all gone, and of the whole force only a handful of 
Yeomanry were left in a position from which, owing to 
the lie of the ground, retreat was impossible without 
great loss of horse-flesh. It was within an hour of sun- 
set, however, and the only hope of the little rearguard 
was to keep up a show of defence until sundown, and 
then get away. The Boers seemed to redouble their 
efforts to capture the force, and gradually closed on the 
flank. Fortunately darkness at last enabled the men to 
mount and make off over the rocky ridge behind and 
down the steep hillside of the deserted camp. The 
whisking bullets hastened them on their way, and put- 
ting spurs to their horses, they made off at a gallop 
through the gathering darkness of the night After a 

Middlefontein and Modderfontein 1 1 3 

ride of five' or six miles, the camp of the column, in an 
open bit of country, was safely reached. It was with 
a feeling of relief that Middlefontein, with its odours of 
putrid horse-flesh and its carcases of bullocks, was left 



HAVING escaped from a position which threatened 
to become a second Nooitgedacht, the company 
settled down for the night at a place called Koffyfontein, 
where the lines were amongst the long dry grass that 
surrounded a peach grove and a few deserted houses. 
Peach groves and orange groves were now laden with 
ripe fruit, and scarcely a day passed but the troopers 
had a nose-bag filled with the spoil of a farm garden. 
As a rule, the garden of a Boer farm consists of a peach 
and orange grove, surrounded by a hedge of quince and 
fig bushes. Many other fruits flourish in these gardens : 
pears and pomegranates, and very often vines, are to be 
found growing wild amongst the peach trees. The figs 
were perhaps more appreciated than any other fruit, and 
resembled large ripe gooseberries rather than the dried 
article known in this country. Peaches are cut into 
slices before they ripen, and are dried in the sun on 
wicker screens. A pocketful of these dried peaches often 
formed an agreeable solace on a long march. 

General Cunningham's column now made for Vlak- 
fontein, where General Babington's column, having been 
sent to relieve the beleaguered force at Middlefontein, 
was lying. The 19th company of the Scottish Yeo- 
manry were with Babington, and at evening, when the 
two forces camped side by side, there were many cordial 
visits between the two long -separated bodies of Scotch- 
men, who were thus unexpectedly brought together. 

With Gallant Benson 115 

Next day the Fife men took the opportunity of 
goiijg to see Captain Hodge's grave, and found that it 
had been visited by his old regiment, the 12th Lancers, 
who had erected a new and more substantial cross to 
mark the spot. In the afternoon the column, having 
borrowed a little ammunition for the guns, set off to- 
wards Krugersdorp, and said good-bye for a time to the 
rest of the Scottish yeomen, who went on to hustle 
Delarey. The night before tljey reached Krugersdorp 
the camp was pitched at a place called Steinkopjes, and 
several of the Fifes and Sussex were on picquet on a 
hill behind the laager. In the early morning the snipers 
gathered round and hustled the rooineks out of the 
position most unceremoniously. The ground over which 
they marched was exceedingly broken and rocky, and 
the rearguard was handled with the greatest skill in 
very difficult circumstances. 

Krugersdorp was reached late in the afternoon after 
a very fatiguing march, on which dozens of the infantry 
collapsed. As the day wore on, the Fifes, supporting 
the rearguard, had dismounted one by one, and were 
marching by the footsore Tommies, who had mounted 
in their place. Men and horses were just about dead 
beat when camp was reached, and all looked forward to 
a rest after the trying'experiences of the last week. 

This was not to be, for no sooner had the lines been 
laid out than the mounted men were ordered not to off- 
saddle, but to hold themselves ready to march at any 
moment to the relief of a force that had been held up 
by the Boers at a place called Modderfontein, about 
twenty miles away. 

This was bad news indeed, and none who heard the 
weary troopers that afternoon would wonder at the ex- 
pression " to swear like a trooper." Their language was 
painfully free, for it is the soldier's prerogative to grumble 

1 1 6 Fife and Forfar I. Y, in South Africa 

at everything, and, on occasions like this, to condemn the 
whole British Empire. When every man had tried to 
persuade himself that his horse was unfit for another 
march (and indeed most of them were), it appeared that, 
as no horse was better than another, they must all go. 
Helio messages of a more or less contradictory order 
were coming into camp, and orders were issued and 
countermanded every five minutes. Messages asking 
for help had been received from Modderfontein, where 
the Oxford Yeomanry and some other troops had taken 
a convoy of supplies to an outlying post. Soon after- 
wards information arrived saying that no help was now 
required, as the enemy had been driven off. Ultimately 
it transpired that the Boers had captured the post and 
convoy, and were sending messages purporting to be 
from our troops. 

At last the order was given that no move would be 
made that night, and with the greatest feelings of relief, 
the men of the Fife and South of England Yeomanry 
turned in for a night's sleep, only two having been got 
the previous week. At two in the morning, or some 
such untimely hour, the hoarse voice of the regimental 
sergeant-major could be heard shouting down the lines, 
"Saddle up, there — saddle up!" and amid a renewal of 
the storm of bad language, the force turned out and 
stood to arms. Not till eleven o'clock in the forenoon, 
however, were orders to march actually received, and at 
last the yeomen found themselves at the head of a large 
force bound for the recapture of Modderfontein. Pas- 
sing the great gold mine at Randfontein, whose powerful 
search-light had been visible from the heights at Breedt 
Nek, thirty miles away, the column camped for the night 
at Wonderfontein. Next day's march brought them 
within striking distance of the enemy, who occupied a 
particularly strong position right in front. 

With Gallant Benson 117 

" The enem/s position will be attacked at daybreak," 
were the cheerful orders that were issued to the troops 
as they "got down to it" for a night's rest In their 
little blanket bivouacs that night, ere they fell asleep, 
one or two of the troopers arranged with their mates 
that each should have the home address of the other, 
and write to tell his people if one of them should be 
so foolish as to stop a flying bullet. The little band 
had seen so much of the grim reality of war lately 
that they were justified in anticipating what might be 
in store for them. As a matter of fact, the brunt of 
the attack next morning did not fall upon the mounted 
men at all. Advancing against the bare, grassy kopjes 
where the enemy were posted, the mounted men were 
not long in drawing fire. The position, which was not 
more than a hundred feet high, looked perfectly harm- 
less, but was in reality one of those places that the Boer 
riflemen could render entirely impregnable. A sort of 
grassy bank, four miles long, and flanked by gentle 
slopes at each end, it was surrounded on all sides by a 
perfectly open plain, which gave no vestige of shelter to 
an advancing enemy. The Yeomanry were detached to 
work round the left flank of the position with a pom- 
pom, and were waiting for a favourable opportunity 
while the main attack was delivered in the centre of the 
position some two miles away. 

While the attack was in progress the Boers opened 
fire with a pom-pom on the waggons and transport 
animals, but they were got out of range before much 
damage was done. The day was one of excessive heat, 
and for the yeomen there was little excitement — a little 
desultory firing, a trip to a point within range of the Boer 
rifles to water horses, and lying about in the sweltering 
sun, formed their day's programme. Camp was being 
marked out at sundown when orders were suddenly re- 

Ii8 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

ceived to retire to the original camping ground that had 
been left that morning. At six o'clock the weary return 
journey began, and lasted till almost midnight ; but it 
was so far satisfactory to know that the camp was in 
open country, and so not liable to a counter-attack next 
morning. The reports of the day's work pointed to a 
heavy loss amongst the infantry, one company espe- 
cially having been decimated in the attempt to take the 

Next day reinforcements arrived, and on the following 
day the attack was renewed, but again without success, 
and at last it became apparent that the position was not 
to be taken without great loss of life. The attempt to 
storm it was finally abandoned, and the force rested for 
a couple of days at a place called Roodepoort, beside a 
large peach grove where fruit was plentiful. It was now 
arranged that the troops should work round the Gats- 
rand and enter the Modderfontein position from the 
rear. Marching past a station called Banks, on the 
Johannesburg and Potchefstroom railway, an attempt 
was made to get through a nek in the hills above Wel- 
verdiend ; but as it was found to be strongly occupied 
by the enemy, another road was taken a few miles 
further on. 

The 7th battalion, including the Fifes, now left Cun- 
ningham's column, and were attached to a mounted force 
or flying column under Colonel Benson, accompanied by 
a few field guns, a howitzer, and a pom-pom. The squad- 
ron was by this time reduced to twelve men on parade; 
but, according to the "survival of the fittest" theory, they 
were each worth a dozen untried men. While the Fife 
contingent was so small, the Devons and Dorsets had 
been joined by a lai^e draft of details, and the battalion 
was stronger than it had been for some time. As a result 
of this, it had been promoted again to do the scouting 

With Gallant Benson 119 

and rearguard work for the column, and the men were 
beginning to regain the self-esteem they had lost when 
they d^enerated into mere escort-to-the-guns and per- 
formers of odd jobs of that kind. 

In a broken country such as that on the south of the 
Gatsrand there was much excitement in scouting and 
outpost work, especially as the merry snipers were 
particularly lively at this time. 

The country in which Colonel Benson's force was 
now operating had apparently been neglected by the 
troops hitherto, and in consequence large numbers of 
women and children had to be removed from the various 
farm houses in the district It was not very agreeable 
work this farm clearing, but if anything tended more 
than another to make its performance less unpleasant, 
it was the thankfulness of the Boer families for the 
many kindnesses shown to them by the soldiers. The 
fatherly care of Tommy Atkins in handling the little 
children of his enemies was wonderful to witness. The 
work of farm clearing was fraught with considerable 
danger, as the Boers invariably retired to the surround- 
ing kopjes, and sniped the soldiers as they left the scene 
of their labours. What made this treatment specially 
exasperating was that the officers would never allow the 
men to leave a farm house until the waggons with the 
women and children were safely away. When they had 
gone to a safe distance, the men were then allowed to 
gallop for it under a heavy fire from the goodman and 
his sons on the hillsides. In the opinion of the men, 
this way of doing things was carrying chivalry too far, 
especially in dealing with an enemy who showed how 
little they appreciated it 

One of the amusing incidents of this trek was the 
surrounding of a picquet of Fife men, under Corporal 
Cargill, by the Boers, and their subsequent rescue by a 

I20 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

pom-pom and two hundred men. It was an incident 
that amused the remainder of the company, perhaps 
more than the men involved, but they escaped without 
any casualty after a bad half-hour. 

Of all the leaders that the Fifes had served under 
during the campaign Colonel Benson was considered 
the best He could play the Boer game as well as the 
Boers themselves. Once he got on their track he never 
allowed them to rest, but kept them moving, captured 
their waggons and stock, shifted them from one position 
to another, and followed them into the most difficult 
bits of country without a casualty. The work was hard, 
but the men did not complain, for they realised that they 
were led by a man who was no mere book soldier, but a 
terror to the enemy. Never a day passed without a 
capture. The scent was never lost, and every morning 
at daybreak the men found themselves on the heels of 
their elusive foes. 

After a fortnight's work of this sort, the column made 
tracks for Potchefstroom, where a concentration camp 
awaited the arrival of the women and children. This 
was one of the first concentration camps the Fifes had 
seen, and they were almost envious of the inmates when 
they saw the long rows of beautiful Indian marquees, 
spotlessly clean and well furnished, in which they were 
accommodated. A look of order and neatness pervaded 
the place, and every family had their Kaffir servants to 
cook and clean for them when required. Surely a 
nation at war was never more magnanimous thought 
the troopers as they watched the children playing and 
the vrouws sewing at the tent doors in the cool of the 

Potchefstroom was exactly as it had been on the pre- 
vious visit, except that the sites of the outpost picnics 
were occupied by iron blockhouses, fortified and gar- 
risoned by regular troops. 

Wit A Gallant Benson 121 

No sooner had the women been disembarked and the 
stores replenished than the column set off again in the 
direction of Frederikstad and Ventersdorp, to keep the 
active Delarey in check. They had not been more than 
twenty-four hours in Potchefstroom, but in that time 
several remounts had been allotted to the company, 
and a draft of twenty details rejoined and made up the 
company's strength again to about forty all told. Cor- 
poral Cargill, who up till this time had been one of the 
never-say-dies, had to lay up with enteric, and was in- 
valided home after a serious illness. He was a great 
loss to the company, for he had always proved himself 
a man who could be relied on in any emergency. One 
of the men who rejoined the company at Potchefstroom 
was Wacher, whose death falls to be recorded a couple 
of days later. 



LEAVING Potchefstroom by the bridge across the 
Mooi river, Colonel Benson now struck west to a 
place called Witpoort, and then doubled back towards 
Frederikstad, on the railway line. 

A letter from one of the Fife men, which appeared in 
the home papers, describes how the Boers were hustled 
occasionally by Benson's column, and also records the 
death of two well-known and popular members of the 

" Yesterday (28th February) was the anniversary of 
our setting sail from home, and we celebrated it by a 
grand battue or Boer chase, which was perhaps more 
exciting than any day's work we have had out here since 
we got to the front 

" The day began in the usual way : reveille at 3.30, 
march at 5 ; and in the darkness of the early morning 
we saddled our horses and loaded our kits upon the 
waggon. Riding out of camp before dawn, we were 
ready to form the advance screen of the column when- 
ever daylight came. The veldt was flat and open, and 
not at all the sort of ground to suit the Boers. The 
long waving grass is turning khaki in colour again, and 
our men are difficult to distinguish as they advance. 

" We trotted on at a good pace for some miles, and 
the sun was already high in the heavens when we ap- 
proached the kopjes so dear to the heart of our enemy. 
We began to keep our eyes skinned and to move with 

The Losberg 123 

caution, but were still advancing rapidly, and had left 
the column some considerable distance behind, when we 
came upon a large mealie patch, beyond which was a 
kopje surmounted by trees and Kaffir kraals. As we 
emerged on the other side of the mealie field the screen 
halted from the centre, and an orderly galloping along 
told each pair of horsemen to stop and keep a sharp 
look-out till the column came up a bit. We had no 
sooner halted than half-a-dozen men were seen riding 
away round the side of the kopje in front of us, and 
from the spot they had left the smoke of a fire was 
rising. A Boer picquet, we thought, and were adjusting 
the sights of our rifles to have a shot at two thousand 
yards, when suddenly, right beside us somewhere, the 
click-clack, click-clack of Mausers rang out. 

" Mounting at once, we galloped through the crashing 
mealie stems in the direction of the firing. Sergt. John 
Anderson came galloping towards us, and announced 
that the Boers were amongst the mealies, between us and 
the two outer flank pairs of scouts. They had opened 
fire on them at fifty yards, but what damage had been 
done was not known. At that moment the Boers were 
seen making off* down the slope in front towards the foot 
of the opposite hill, and on Captain Gilmour coming up 
we all set off" at their heels, firing at their retreating 
figures from the backs of our horses. 

"The Devons, who were supporting the advance 
screen, now came up and joined us, and as the Boers 
had taken up a position on our left front and opened 
fire, we set off" at a wild gallop to the top of the kopje 
in front. When we were half-way there the rattle of 
Mausers and the whistle of their bullets were drowned 
by the sudden angry bark of a pom-pom. The shells 
whistled overhead with an ugly howl, and every horse 
went off" like an arrow. As we were wondering whether 

124 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

we were charging a pom-pom and a posse of Boers con- 
cealed amongst the kraals, we saw with great relief the 
shells of our own pom-pom bursting right on the Boer 
position. In another minute we had reached the top 
and were amongst the kraals. 

" We had no sooner dismounted than we were told to 
mount again and gallop forward. Down we went into 
another hollow, right through the Boer laager, which 
they had evidently left in a hurry a very short time 
before. We saw the tracks of their waggons and were 
hot on the scent, the Devons and Fifes all mixed up and 
going neck-and-neck. At every ridge we came to we 
could see the Boers, two or three hundred strong, swarm- 
ing over the next skyline, and scarcely waiting to fire a 
shot Pausing, we fired a few rounds at them as they dis- 
appeared, and galloped on again after Captain Gilmour, 
who was mounted on his charger Bull's-eye, and going 
well. We scarcely required his shout to urge us on, for 
the Devons were pressing us hard for the lead, and we 
had to show them what the men of Fife could do. On 
through the waving grass we went, over rocks and holes 
and every obstacle, never turning round to see whether 
the column was coming on. As we shot past a kraal, 
the Kaffir boys leaned against the wall and smiled to 
see the rooineks having it all their own way with the 
Boer baas. They seemed to think the whole business 
was for their amusement, and showed their delight ac- 
cordingly. Mile after mile we galloped, but could get 
no nearer our retreating foe, who evidently thought we 
were in great force, although, as a matter of fact, we 
were not fifty strong, and they might easily have turned 
the tables on us if they had stood. For ten miles, at 
least, we chased them, and when at last we halted I was 
bathed in perspiration, my horse's heart was going like 
a steam hammer, and my rifle barrel was almost red 

The Losberg 125 

hot. We overtook several of their wounded horses, but 
did not find the track of their retreat marked with their 
dead and wounded. Several of them, when their horses 
were shot, got away two on a horse. When our horses 
could go no further we closed in and prepared to retire, 
and as we saw a forest of spears on the horizon, and a 
squadron of lancers on their panting steeds came along 
to outflank the enemy and cut them up, we raised a 
derisive cheer and advised them to come home. It was 
unlikely that they would ever see the enemy that we 
had barely been able to keep in rifle range. 

" On our way back it was admitted that it had been 
much better sport than a day with the hounds in Fife, 
and the Devons declared it was as good as a stag hunt 
on Dartmoor. Our only regret was that we had not 
been able to show the Boers our bayonet charge on 
horseback that we had learned down country at Wor- 
cester. When we reached camp in the evening, after a 
long march back, we heard with sorrow that Wacher 
had been killed and Prentice severely wounded at the 
very outset of the day's work. It appears they ran 
right into the Boers in' the mealie patch, and were 
shot down at fifty yards. The couple on the extreme 
flank — Honeyman and Findlay — ^had an exciting ride 
for their lives, for they were actually beyond the Boers 
when they opened fire. Findlay had four holes in his 
hat when he got back, but was quite uninjured. We 
buried Wacher to-day in a soaking rainstorm beside the 
Mooi river." 

These wild chases were of almost daily occurrence 
with Colonel Benson's force, and the Boers began to see 
that he was a man to be feared. The day after Wacher's 
funeral the force halted, and the Fifes supplied a picquet 
on a bare kopje on the other side of the Mooi river. 
After a long day in the heat of the sun, they proceeded 

126 Fife and Forfar L V. in South Africa 

to return to camp at sundown, but were quite unable to 
find the drift by which to cross the river. As it was 
almost dark, it was absolutely necessary to cross, and 
although the river looked deep and muddy, with over- 
hanging banks, there was nothing for it but to, plunge 
across. The bold Trooper Francis, recollecting the hints 
on scouting of the Cupar lecture room, spurred his horse, 
much against its will, into the water. Sempill, Sturrock, 
and Clacher, the remaining men of the picquet, followed 
on, and, after a little wild plunging, got safely to the 
other side. The take-ofT was a regular header into the 
water, and every man was drenched ; but in a few 
minutes they were back in camp and none the worse. 

The column now made for the Gatsrand once more, 
and, crossing the hills, started to chase the Boers round 
the well-known Losberg. This hill stands out in con- 
spicuous loneliness on the plain between the Gatsrand 
and the Vaal river, and as it is about ten or fifteen miles 
round the base, it afforded an excellent place for the 
Boers to play at hide-and-seek. A commando of Boers, 
with a laager of women and children, was reported to be 
in the neighbourliood at this time, and the result was 
that reveille was ordered at midnight, and, marching at 
one every morning, the column found itself trying to 
get to close quarters with an enemy that always seemed 
to have a day's start It was a most exasperating job, 
and after two or three night marches in succession, 
the Fifes found themselves doing the whole round of 
the Losberg in twenty-four hours, and also covering 
another ten or twelve miles of country in the direction 
of Potchefstroom. Starting at one in the morning, the 
force moved round the plain at the base of the hill in 
the moonlight, at daybreak preparations for an attack 
were made on an invisible enemy, then the march round 
was resumed till the other side of the mountain was 

The Losberg 127 

reached ; and then the whole plan of the campaign 
altered in the mysterious way that was not uncommon 
in the field. 

Although the men were not aware of it, a helio mes- 
sage had been received announcing that Delarey was 
besieging Lichtenburg, and that the column must repair 
immediately to Potchefstroom, in case a relief force 
was required. Saying good-bye to any interview with 
Johnny Boer, the force set off. The route lay across a 
vast, low-lying plain, intersected at intervals by muddy 
spruits. The following account of this excursion is taken 
from one of the trooper's letters, and conveys a fairly 
accurate idea of the appreciation of these outings at the 
time of their occurrence : — 

" We turned in about seven last night to have a few 
hours' sleep, and at midnight commenced to march by 
moonlight against the enemy — to steal with cat-like tread 
upon our prey. We trekked till daylight, we trekked 
till noon, as the sun began to slope towards the west we 
still trekked on without a halt, our horses staggering 
like drunken men, and we ourselves sound asleep at 
times in the saddle. Occasionally a horse would kneel 
down to pray, and the rudely -awakened rider would 
spoil the beauty of the scene by indulging in an out- 
burst of bad language. We were a sore and sorry band, 
and as the sun declined clouds overspread the sky and 
a drenching rain and fog added to the general cheerful- 
ness. With overcoats heavy with rain, and weighed 
down with the extra ammunition — intended as a present 
for a good Boer — no camp in sight, we walked along, 
dragging our half-dead horses behind us, through the 
mud. Just as we were beginning to ask ourselves, 
" How long, O Lord, how long ?" we reached the con- 
voy, and as night was falling, pitched our blanket 
bivouacs on the swampy veldt." 

128 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

These blanket bivouacs were now the happy home 
of the majority of men in the field. They were much 
more portable and much easier to erect than the heavy 
bell-tents used in our army, and were thus more con- 
venient when wagons were left behind. A mounted 
man could carry the blanket under his saddle, and use 
his rifle as a support for the erection. The plan of 
erecting these bivouacs or booby-huts was as follows : — 
Two men subscribed one blanket and a rifle apiece, the 
blankets were fixed by loops to the muzzles of the rifles, 
which were then p^ged to the ground by means of 
a bridle and reins or a piece of string, the comers of 
the blankets being also pegged out to their full extent 
The result was that, with the addition of two saddles 
and a few old sacks at the head, a very comfortable 
and perfectly weather-proof house was obtained. 


The Loshtrg 129 

On the day follouang this circular tour of the Losberg, 
Potchefstroom was reached, and the company settled 
down for five of the wettest days and nights in its ex- 
perience. Hitherto the rain had been an affair of one 
day or night at the most, followed by scorching sun- 
shine. On this occasion the weather so completely lost 
control of itself that it rained day and night without 
intermission for the best part of a week. When it rains 
in South Africa it does rain. Soon the camp was like 
a swamp, and men with tents and bivouacs were on 
the look-out for rising ground, which was hard to find. 
The daily farce of taking the poor horses down to the 
Mooi river, where they stood and shed tears into the 
water for a few minutes, was the only duty that could 
be performed during this storm. It was impossible for 
the men to have tea or coffee, because everything in the 
shape of fuel was too wet to burn. There was nothing 
for it but to lie in wet blankets on the mud and pray for 
the sun to come out Things were so wet during these 
few days of rain that the men's hands were blistered like 
the hands of a washerwoman who has been all day at the 
tub. Rheumatism was prevalent, and even the horses 
could hardly bend a leg after a night's exposure to the 
rain. At last, however, the sun came out, and the earth 
began to smoke and the blankets to dry in the magic 
way that things do dry in South Africa when the sun 
shines. Even the stolid, imperturbable shoeing-smith, 
who had declared while it rained that at anyrate "this 
was better than working," had to admit that the return 
of the sun was matter for rejoicing. 

The company again said good-bye to Potchefstroom, 
and set out to look for drowned Boers on the veldt 


130 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

(Fnm tie erigmal iktlck by Carpi. Rett of lie Siuiex I. Y.) 

Sussex Yeoman — "It don't look like clearing up I" 
Fifa Yeoman — "A' weel, it's as bad for the Boon. I hope they 
a' dee o' pneumonia 1 " 



THE last trek in the Transvaal was now embarked 
upon, although of course no suspicion that it was 
the latst was entertained at its outset. So many trips had 
been inaugurated in the belief that each was positively 
the last appearance that the men had lost all interest in 
the question of their emancipation. They were resolved 
to stick it out, as they expressed it, and to see the war 
brought to a close if need be. 

The column now made for the town of Parys, on the 
Vaal river, and entered a very difficult bit of country, 
such as the soldier had no reason to regard with pleasure. 
It was the very place to find brother Boer in his worst 
form — as a sniper amongst the rocks. And brother Boer 
was not Ibng in learning that the rooineks were in an 
awkward comer of the country. Whether the fiery cross 
had gone out or not, the fact was evident that the enemy 
were gathering round to give trouble. From early morn 
till dewy eve they buzzed around the column, taking 
pot-shots at the scouts from every kloof and gully. A 
forage patrol to a farm, which lay at the end of a long 
narrow valley, proved a lively outing for the yeomen 
who were engaged in it Proceeding down the valley, 
the high, wooded hills on both sides were surmounted 
by groups of men on foot, whose horses had been left 
half-way up the hill when it became too steep. The 
farm was safely reached, the bams emptied, and the 
waggons of forage, accompanied by the inevitable pom- 

132 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

pom, started back to camp. The rearguard rode up the 
valley, and as it passed the foot of the hills the picquets 
on top began to descend to their horses with a view to 
retiring. This was the treacherous Boer's opportunity, 
and when he saw a handful of men on horseback sliding 
down the face of a precipitous hill with considerable 
difficulty, he at once proclaimed himself. 

Suddenly the valley re-echoed with the sound of 
rifles, and the bullets began to patter on the rocks and 
bushes of the hillside round the retiring picquets. It 
was an uncomfortable moment, and the Boers knew 
they had their enemy on toast. To stop was fatal ; it 
was impossible to hurry ; there was nothing for it but 
to crawl leisurely down the rocky slope under an exas- 
perating fire. One man had his reins cut with a bullet, 
another had his hat shot off; but all reached the level 
safely, and made off at a gallop up the valley. Some 
Kaffir kraals were in front, surrounded by a fence of 
brushwood, which barred the passage of the galloping 
horsemen. Over this hurdle the little ponies, in spite of 
the kits on their backs, managed to jump, and were 
soon under cover. Fire was opened on the kloof from 
which the enemy were shooting, and their fire at once 

•Immediately after this little episode a terrific hail- 
storm set in, and it was impossible to urge the horses in 
the face of the stinging shower of ice. The hailstones 
were of extraordinary size, and rattled down with such 
violence that hands were cut and scratched by them. 
Some, with a view to easing their ponies, had left camp 
without an overcoat, and suffered for their thoughtful- 
ness. The camp that afternoon, when it was reached, 
presented an indescribable scene of watery desolation. 
The bivouac was in a hollow amongst the hills, and the 
melting ice coming down the gullies made a river of 

Farewell to the Transvaal 133 

considerable depth and breadth, which swept through 
the camp and buried kits in the mud, destroying all 
hopes of a comfortable night's rest To add to the 
discomfort of that night, the snipers kept up a sort of 
moonlight sonata with the greatest persistence, and gave 
the outposts little peace. 

About this time the company lost another of its men, 
who was wounded in a very unexpected fashion by a 
ricochet or stray shot Trooper Macdonald (of Banff) 
was sitting with some others on a sloping hillside, while 
the guns were blazing away at a Boer position about 
two thousand yards off. The Fifes were acting as sup- 
port to the guns, and were squatting on the back of the 
hill holding their horses, and of course under cover of 
the hill, which rose between them and the enemy. 
Suddenly, as Macdonald was filling his pipe, feeling as 
safe as he would have done in the streets of Edinburgh, 
a spent bullet, dropping over the hilltop, and no doubt 
aimed at the guns, caught him in the small of the back 
and passed through his body into the ground. The 
bullet, which made no noise in its approach, hit its mark 
with a thud which suggested a kick from a horse, and 
for a few minutes the other men sitting round thought 
that this was what had occurred. It may seem strange 
that a small pointed bullet, no thicker than a lead pencil, 
should mak^ any noise when it enters the human body ; 
but, as a matter of fact, the noise in this case was like 
the sound of a heavy bale of cloth falling on a wooden 
floor. In this way another good man was removed to 
hospital, and the small company became even smaller 
than before. Fortunately the wound was not serious, 
and in a month or so Macdonald had quite recovered. 

A reconnaissance along the banks of the Vaal in the 
neighbourhood of Parys afforded another day's amuse- 
ment at this time. The Boers were in some force on 

134 Pif^ ^^ Forfar I. V. in South Africa 

the Free State side of the river, and as they knew that 
the troops could not get across to them, were bold as 
lions. Taking up a position on a grassy kopje on the 
southern bank, they made it quite impossible for the 
troops to reach the spot where a ferry-boat was moored 
at the river side. The result was that the ferry-boat had 
to be destroyed by shell fire from a considerable distance. 
The Fifes, in galloping to a position with Lieutenant 
Pullar, came under an unpleasant cross fire — or enfilad- 
ing fire, to use the military term — ^but reached the rocky 
eminence they were making for without casualty. The 
return journey was also accelerated by an unpleasant 
quantity of lead from the other side of the river. 
• The extrication of the column from the difficult hill 
country in which it had been operating was performed 
as only Colonel Benson knew how to perform it With 
magnificent foresight, the heights commanding the exit 
from the hills had been occupied overnight by the in- 
fantry, and the Boers, who had informed the natives 
that not one of the force would get out alive, were 
driven before the mounted men and guns like dust 
before the wind. The usefulness of the howitzer was 
very apparent on this occasion. For the benefit of those 
who are not conversant with military matters, it may be 
explained that this is a gun so constructed that it throws 
shells at a considerable angle into the air. It is there- 
fore very useful in attacking hill positions or throwing 
shells up the face of a brae. In the present instance it 
was by means of a howitzer and a few lyddite shells 
that the Boers were driven from ridge to ridge and from 
height to height until the column emerged with some 
feeling of relief on to the open plain. Each man in his 
own mind decided that there never was a better tactician 
than Colonel Benson. They had been in some nasty 
places with him, and he had always emerged triumphant, 
and that without serious loss. 

Farewell to the Transvaal 135 

The column again worked back to the well-known 
region between the Losberg and the Gatsrand, and had 
one or two very exciting chases after the Boers in com- 
paratively open country. In one of these wild swoops 
the column, after a few hours' march, came on the heels 
of the Boers at daybreak, and immediately set off with 
a pom-pom and a couple of field guns to close with 
them if possible. It was a lovely morning, and a fine 
open stretch of veldt lay in front; with slight rises or 
skylines at intervals of two or three miles, and small 
muddy streams flowing between. In such a country 
there w^ no reason why the field guns should not have 
a gallop, and so the whole force set off neck and neck 
like a pack of hounds on the scent Coming to a muddy 
spruit, the guns struggled through bravely and set off 
to the crest in front at a good steady trot When the 
yeomen reached the skyline under fire, great was their 
delight to find one or two bullock waggons unable to 
go further, and left behind by the Boers. These waggons 
were well loaded with women and children, who raised 
a dreadful clamour when the pom-pom came up. and, 
hastily unlimbering, opened fire on the fleeing Boers, 
who were about a mile away, and galloping at the 
hardest An old man and a youth of about eighteen 
years of age, who had been left to drive the waggons, 
had coats on that were worn into holes across the back 
by the bandoliers of ammunition they had been wearing 
for the past two years. In spite of this, however, they 
protested that they had never fired a shot A search of 
the waggon disclosed a Martini-Henry rifle, which was 
hot with firing, having apparently been used until our 
men were within a hundred yards of the waggon. 
Quantities of Mauser ammunition were also discovered. 
Several men were told off to escort the waggons back 
to camp, while the chase was continued/ and others 

136 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

were captured further on. After a chase of five or 
six miles the fugitive Boers at last reached a position 
where they could stand. They did so, and opened a hot 
fire upon the advancing yeomen. Captain Gilmour got 
into a very warm comer, and as he lay firing at the 
enemy's position two men of the Sussex on each side of 
him were wounded. One of them, Trooper Blake, died 
next day, and was buried at Modderfontein. 

In escorting the captured waggons back to camp the 
writer witnessed the only act bordering on barbarism, 
perpetrated by a British soldier, that came under his 
notice during the war. On one of the waggons was 
seated a boy of twelve or thirteen years of age, a hand- 
some little fellow, who seemed to haye a certain manly 
feeling of unhappiness that he should be left behind 
with the women while his big brothers went off on 
horseback to fight He was the possessor of a fine 
slouch hat, with a white and chocolate coloured ribbon 
round it. One of the lancers who were with Benson's 
column, riding up to the waggon, caught sight of the 
boy's hat, and immediately leaned over and snatched 
it from his head, throwing his own tattered headgear 
on the waggon. The little Boer looked for a minute 
as if the tears were not far from his eyes, for he was 
evidently proud of his hat, but when he caught sight 
of the lancer's disreputable article, a sudden look of 
indignation and disgust overspread his features, and 
he turned away determined to wear no hat at all 
rather than such a sorry specimen. The lancer — a 
great, rough character — had no sooner placed the boy's 
.hat upon his head than a chorus of rage and disapproval 
was raised by the other troopers, who at once shouted, 
" Give the kiddie back his hat," and threatened to make 
unpleasantness if this was not done at once. There was 
no doubt that they meant to enforce their threats if it 

Farewell to the Transvaal 137 

was not immediately returned, and so, with a shame- 
faced scowl, the hat was returned to the little Boer. 
There were limits beyond which even Thomas Atkins, 
with his rough and ready ways, was not allowed to 
pass. The chivalrous nature of the British soldier 
never shows more strongly than when he is in charge 
of a prisoner of war. There are, of course, individuals 
like this lancer, but they are very few and far between. 

While the column now halted at Modderfontein, in 
the very position which had been so successfully de- 
fended by the Boers some weeks before, the Fifes were 
informed that they were to proceed to Banks station and 
, train for the south. Every man was delighted, and it 
was generally supposed that the company was bound for 
home at last. Farewells to the sorrowing Sussex and 
the other companies of the regiment having been made, 
the company inspanned their waggon, mounted their 
horses, and started for the railway line. Arrived at 
Banks station, a sad disappointment awaited them, for 
a message had been received that they were to return 
forthwith to rejoin the column at Modderfontein. There 
was nothing for it but to return, and although the 
temper of the yeomen was sorely tried, they at once 
set off to rejoin the comrades to whom they had bidden 
an affectionate farewell. As they rode into camp in the 
twilight, the sarcastic singing of "Will ye no come back 
again ?" greeted their ears on all sides. 

Colonel Benson again set off in the direction of the 
Vaal, and after a few more exciting scraps with the 
enemy, and the capture of a number of poor Boers of 
the lowest class, who were found in caves along the river . 
bank, the column reached the town of Vereeniging, since 
made famous by the Peace Conference. Vereeniging is 
situated on the railway at the point where it crosses the 
Vaal, and is in the heart of a prosperous coalfield, which 

138 Fife and Forfar I. V. m South Africa 

to the men of Fife, or to some of them at anyrate, was 
suggestive of home, sweet home. Here the Fife men 
said good-bye to their friends and some faithful steeds 
and entrained for Bloemfontein — receiving on their de- 
parture the thanks of their brigadier, Colonel Benson, 
for the manner in which they had worked with his 
column, of which they were not a little proud. 



BLOEMFONTEIN, at the time of the arrival of 
the Fife yeomen — the beginning of April, 1900 
— was wonderfully gay and busy. Unlike Pretoria and 
the other towns of the Transvaal, its shops were full of 
goods, and the streets could boast of an occasional 
civilian. Khaki was not so all-pervading as it had been 
further north, and the conditions of life were altogether 
more normal and more civilised. 

The few soldiers who were about the town at this 
time were of a kind quite new to the warriors from the 
veldt They were spick and span in brand new hats 
and uniforms, and looked, from their ostrich tips to their 
nickel spurs, as if they had just come out of a glass 
case. To quote Thomas Atkins once again, they had 
evidently been opening some new boxes — of toy soldiers. 
These men, who had evidently not lately smelt powder, 
were attached to various headquarters staffs, rest camps, 
and remount depdts. 

Passing through the market square of the town, the 
Fifes climbed a steep hill, and were ultimately ordered 
to pitch camp on a muddy flat opposite the cemetery. 
This teaming graveyard was one of the sights of Bloem- 
fontein, and as they lay right opposite it, the Fife men 
had ample opportunity of pondering over the story that 
it told. Row upon row of white wooden crosses, many 
marked by a mere number, acres of undulating mounds, 
and a continual stream of solemn funeral processions, bore 

I40 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

evidence of the fact that for many Bloemfontein marked 
the final chapter in the South African war. This was 
not so much due to the unhealthiness of the place itself 
as to the fact that it was a great hospital centre for a 
large field army, at which invalids and wounded men 
were continually arriving. It was not a cheerful phase 
of war, however, and the men were, anxious to be out on 
the open veldt again. The difference between a clean 
camp every evening amongst the long waving grass and 
the squalid, muddy bivouac at Bloemfontein made it 
difficult to understand how anyone could prefer the 
latter. At Bloemfontein, as at Pretoria, there were 
literally square miles of hospital camps, where the Red 
Cross flag fluttered over the lines of great marquees that 
contained so much of misery and suffering. A visit to 
the cemetery one evening disclosed the fact that twenty 
graves were dug to be ready for the harvest of the 
morrow. The very air seemed to be permeated with 
enteric, and the wandering trooper was glad to quit the 
spot without delay. 

On the other side of the camp where the yeomen lay 
was a large rest camp for infantry soldiers, and here, to 
their delight and surprise, the Fifes met the active 
service section of the Black Watch from Dundee, in 
charge of Lieutenants Valentine and Tosh. The meet- 
ing of old friends, or even of men who hail from the 
same place, is one of the greatest pleasures that can 
befal a wanderer in a foreign land. This meeting be- 
tween the yeomen and the highlanders from Fife and 
Forfar was particularly cordial, and the mounted men 
felt proud indeed to claim acquaintance with the kilted 
soldiers whose name was such a terror to their enemies. 
The bergskotten or mountain Scots were held in proper 
veneration by the Boers, who had reason to know them 
pretty well. The highlanders now at Bloemfontein were 

i*-^' -.>.^— .a^ih^ ,JM— M^ — ^ 

Rambles in the Free State 141 

homeward bound, but there was no such luck in store for 
the Yeomanry. 

Without any warning, a trainload of new levies, fresh 
from home, was marched up from the station, and the 
Fife men were informed that these new natives of the 
Kingdom were to be their future comrades-in-arms. 
This announcement was accompanied by the informa- 
tion that the men of the first contingent would not be 
allowed to go home until the new men were efficient in 
the field. This was joy indeed I The new men, with 
the very best intentions in the world, could not possibly 
hope to be able to tackle the Boer at his own game with 
success in less than three months. In fact, the old men, 
after twelve months in the field, were learning every 
day, and gaining further insight into the art of guerilla 
warfare. Moreover, the second contingent of Yeomanry 
were yeomen in nanle only, and many of them knew 
nothing — did not even pretend to know anything^— of 
horsemanship. Many of them could not bit and saddle 
a horse without assistance, and some of them confessed 
candidly that they had received no training in cavalry 
work at all while they were at Aldershot prior to sailing 
for the front. Of course there were some among them 
who had nothing to learn in regard to riding and care of 
the horse ; but, without exception, they had everything 
to learn of brother Boer and his methods on the veldt. 

Having obtained mounts for the newcomers, and in- 
structed them in the intricacies of military saddlery and 
accoutrements, an inspection of the squadron was held 
by Greneral Knox, and marching orders were thereafter 
issued. Late one afternoon the company, now 150 
strong (with drafts for the other companies, bringing 
the force up to nearly 300), moved out of Bloemfontein 
in the direction of Thaban'chu (called Tabanchew), and 
camped at a spot midway between the capital and the 

142 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in Samih Africa 

notorious Sanaa's Post Here another contingent of 
Black Watch volunteers was encountered, and many did 
friends were soon shaking hands and indulging in the 
polite art of question-asking. The Fife waggon had 
broken down soon after leaving Bloemfontein, and a 
dreadful thunderstorm, with a deluge of tropical rain, 
made the yeomen glad to accept the hospitable offer 
of the highlanders to share their tents till the waggon 

Major Miller and Captain Smith were the officers 
with this party, which was making for Bloemfontein on 
its way home. Two half-drowned yeomen of their 
acquaintance, who sought the hospitable shelter of their 
canvas roof, will ever be grateful for their kindness on 
that occasion. 

At midnight a cheer announced the arrival of the 
waggon, and late as it was, the old men lost no time in 
erecting their tent, and slept in comfort till daybreak. 

Next night a halt was made at Sanna's Post, and on 
the following day Thaban'chu was reached, and the 
company camped beyond the village under the shadow 
of the mighty hill — the black mountain, as it is named. 
Another day's march brought the company to Colonel 
Pilcher's column, which it had been ordered to join, with 
whom were the 17th and i8th companies of Scottish 
Yeomanry, under Colonel Campbell. 

A party of men was left behind here for a night to 
bring on mails next day, and was visited by another 
tremendous storm of rain and thunder, which filled a 
dry donga between the town and the camp with a 
rushing torrent, preventing Sergeant Waldie and others 
of the party from getting to camp until a horse arrived 
to carry them across. 

No sooner had the new force joined Colonel Pilcher 
than the Boers again began to give trouble. Almost the 

Rambles in the Free State 143 

first night the column camped the enemy took up a 
position on an eminence within range of the lines, from 
which it was considered necessary to remove them. For 
this purpose two troops of the Fife squadron were 
ordered out, one to outflank the position and the other 
to attack in front. Unfortunately the troop advancing 
on the front did not wait until the flank had been turned, 
but rushed against the enemy's rifles. A wire fence near 
the foot of the kopje obstructed the approach, and the 
new men, in their innocence, all made a rush at the same 
moment for the one opening that was visible. No sooner 
were they gathered in a heap than a merry rattle of 
Mausers announced to those in camp that the enemy 
was not to retire without giving trouble. Meantime the 
raw troopers wheeled about, and, crowding together, gal- 
loped out of range, some without their hats, and others 
minus a rifle. In a few minutes riderless horses came 
galloping into their places in the lines, and the old 
members, who had seen empty saddles before, were 
preparing to lament the early death of the promising 
recruits. As they were endeavouring to identify the 
saddlery, a mounted orderly galloped into camp with a 
message, and announced that he had seen the riderless 
horses, but that ^e thought the riders were not killed, 
" but just fell aif wi' fricht." By way of confirmation, 
several of them returned to camp on foot, and put their 
comrades out of suspense. 

No blame to the men themselves that they were 
hurried into the field before they had received any 
training. If there was any blame it was to be attributed 
to the men at home who could ride and shoot, but re- 
fused to place their services at their country's disposal. 
The men who came were willing to do their best, but 
their treatment was unfair in the extreme, and if any 
had been killed on this occasion it would not have been 

144 ^if^ ^^ Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

their own fault Where were the men who had declared, 
when the first contingent was raised, that, if a further call 
was made, they would volunteer at once? They were 
sitting comfortably at home, sneering at the Yeomanry, 
and saying, when they heard of their inexperience, ^ I 
told you so." 

The new men steadily improved after this, for there 
is nothing that makes a soldier so quickly as a little lead 
in the air. At first they spent their time in camp quar- 
relling and fighting, they scorned the idea of obedience 
or discipline, and treated the suggestion that they would 
be sniped if they did not look alive with supreme con- 
tempt After a few days of rearguard work, they could 
mount with the first and gallop with the best, but ad- 
mitted, after a few narrow escapes, that they did not 
know everything; and when they had been under fire 
tc^ether a few times they forgot to quarrel and curse 
each other when they were in camp. A little Mauser 
fire changed them from larrikins into soldiers in a few 

The column now reached a place called Belmont, 
which was famous in the Fife annals of the campaign 
as the place where the interesting love-letters of Laura 
Lindequ6 were discovered. Her father was a prosperous 
Free State farmer, judging by the appearance of the 
farm, and her lover was a scion of a well-known Boer 
family, who had held the highest ofEce in the State. 
He was employed in a bureau in Bloemfontein, and 
some idea of his powers as a writer of amatory epistles 
may be gathered from the fact that the floor of the 
paternal coach-house was strewn a foot deep with these 
precious effusions. Laura's life seemed to have been 
brightened for two or three years with an almost daily 
letter of ten or twelve pages of official foolscap. The 
discovery of this mine of wealth in the way of amusing 

Rambles in the Free State 145 

literature was a regular godsend to men who had re- 
ceived no mails for some time, and with whom reading 
matter was exceedingly scarce. For many nights tents 
and bivouacs rang with happy laughter as the corre- 
spondence was read aloud. The announcement that the 
sideboard had been bought brought matters to an inte- 
resting point, but unfortunately the next letter declared 
that the ardent lover awaited but the blast of the bugle 
to hurl himself against the wicked rooineks. Hence- 
forth, he said, I will write not in the accursed English 
tongue, but in the dear old Hollandsche spraak of my 
voorvaders. The letters thereafter had to be translated, 
and it was gathered that the blast of the bugle had 
called our hero to the front, where he was acting on the 
commissariat of the Boer forces, and hurling himself 
upon his enemies by doling out coffee and sugar to the 
Burghers. His accounts of several battles in Natal 
brought his voluminous correspondence to an abrupt 
conclusion. Some of the letters were exceedingly funny, 
as love letters generally are, and when, after nine or ten 
closely-written pages of the utmost drivel, he urged his 
darling, if she felt low-spirited, to read his letter all over 
again from the beginning, the roars of the troopers pro- 
claimed that their sense of humour was not impaired 
by the life of soldiering. If the column halted at mid- 
day a group of M.I. might be seen squatting on the 
veldt and chuckling over some bit of paper, one of the 
many letters of our friend, for there were enough to go 
round the whole column and keep them in good spirits. 
It may be thought that the correspondence of our 
enemies should have been sacred ; but, as a matter of 
fact, there was no harm in the troopers reading the 
private affairs of people they never knew, and were 
never likely to know. One of the chief pleasures of 

rummaging in empty farm houses was to find the old 

146 Fife and Forfar /. K in South Africa 

letters of the inmates, and, as a rule, these seemed to be 
mostly of the love-letter variety. 

The column now made several night marches, and 
had a good deal of fighting round a large mountain 
called the Korannaberg, the top of which was a plateau 
ten miles long and seven miles broad. This hill, like 
many others in the Free State, was a tafel kop or table 
mountain, surrounded by a precipitous ledge of rock of 
great height, and as this ledge ran right round the hill, 
there was only one possible way of reaching the summit 

At the comer of this Korannaberg Colonel Pilcher's 
column received a check one day by a party of snipers, 
who were posted on the rocky face of the hill. It was 
impossible to pass, because the column had to march 
between the base of the hill and the Zand river, and 
these snipers were in a position to pick off men and 
horses as they came along. The result was that the 
column had to halt and shell the face of the hill. Still 
the snipers were neither dislodged nor silenced. After 
a great deal of ammunition had been wasted, a party of 
men were despatched to drive along the face of the hill 
and clear it. Not until these men were close upon them, 
and some of them had been ruthlessly shot down as 
they scrambled amongst the rocks, did these villainous 
snipers throw their hands up and at once become the 
honoured guests of the British soldier. When they were 
brought in it was found that an old farmer and his six 
sons were responsible for the mischief 

A night march now brought the force to Senekal, a 
deserted village, occupied by one Jew and his family, 
who had entertained De Wet a short time before, and 
supplied him with a new hat and co^t, for which the 
great guerilla leader omitted to pay him. While camped 
here, a night attack on a farm, some twelve miles away, 
to capture De Wet, who was sleeping there with a small 

Rambles in the Free State 147 

bodyguard, ended in a fiasco. The wheels of the pom- 
pom and all the harnesb chains having been bound with 
puttees to ensure their noiselessness, a mounted force 
set out in the black darkness to reach the spot Un- 
fortunately, when within a few miles of the place, they 
ran into a picquet of natives, who, firing their rifles, rode 
off to apprise the laager. There was nothing for the 
expedition to do but return to camp, which they did in 
the early hours of the morning. 

Another night march, undertaken a few days later, 
was more successful, and the Boer laager was put to 
flight and several men captured or killed. One of the 
new Fife contingent, who had been captured by the 
enemy a few days before, effected his escape from them 
by concealing himself when the attack began, and in a 
few minutes he was left alone in the laager. His de- 
scription of the rude awakening of the enemy by a volley 
close to their lines, and their hasty flight on bareback 
horses, was borne out by the quantity of saddlery and 
other belongings which they left behind. 

The town of Reitz was now visited, and a day was 
spent by the Yeomanry in a systematic destruction of 
all forage and supplies in the place. This was the town 
that was afterwards the scene of President Steyn's wild 
flight in a somewhat picturesque costume a few months 
later. On the day on which it was visited by the Fifes 
a cold rain storm of considerable severity was raging, 
and the place looked gloomy enough with the great 
bonfires flaring against the dull, wintry-looking sky. 

The first few days of May were again spent at 
Senekal, where several of the old men left for home. 
The company as. a company was not yet allowed to 
leave, however, but were informed that at the end of the 
next trek they would be permitted to quit the field. The 
column now crossed the railway line and made for the 

148 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

ground to the south of the Vaal river, which the old 
members of the company had ^een when with Colonel 
Benson they had trekked and fought on the northern 
banks of the river. After passing Bothaville, where the 
graves of Colonel Le Gallais and his brave men are to 
be seen side by side with those of their enemies who 
were killed in the fierce fight there, the column camped 
at a spot called Commando Drifl, on the Vaal river. 
While lying here the Boers, who were in force on the 
opposite side, opened a sudden night attack on the 
camp under cover of darkness. The flash of their rifles 
amongst the bush on the river bank revealed their posi- 
tion, however, and the guns opened fire on them with 
case shot and put them to flight One of the results of 
this little escapade was that all the camp fires had to be 
hastily exting^uished, so that the dinner, which was being 
cooked, was spoiled. Brother Boer came in for a good 
deal of abuse that night, and condemnation of his bad 
form was loud, especially from a well-known lazy man 
of the company, who had not even bothered to turn out 
of his tent, and who had been wounded as he lay in the 
dark smoking. 

Some members of the company on this occasion were 
absent on a two days' patrol, which finished up with an 
experience that almost spoiled the pleasure of an other- 
wise pleasant picnic. The patrol, consisting of the yeo- 
men and their friends the 6th and 7th M. I., had arrived 
at Bothaville, where they were to be rejoined by Colonel 
Pilcher's main body. Having arrived early in the day, 
and seeing the dust of the main body on the horizon 
several miles away, they settled down to have an after- 
noon nap, and turned the horses out to graze. One or 
two Cape carts and Scotch carts that accompanied them 
were outspanned beside the farm house, and the party 
must have presented all the appearance of a Boer uitspan. 

Rambles in the Free State 149 

As the tea kettles were beginning to boil, and the troopers 
were dozing under the shadow of the Cape carts, a sudden 
unearthly bark from a pom-pom made every man bound 
to his feet Two weary shells came whistling on the 
breeze, and landed within twenty yards of the little 
party. Again a whole dozen shells were sent to find 
the range, and came dashing in amongst the carts and 
saddles. Teapots were overturned, dust was thrown 
about, and as the shells exploded gaily in their midst 
the troopers set off in pursuit of their wandering steeds. 
The horses, of course, began to make off as fast as their 
knee-halters would allow, and as the men chased them 
in great excitement they presented a clear target for 
the enemy. Another belt of shells came howling over- 
head and slaughtered a couple of horses, and as there 
was not even a rabbit hole to give cover it looked as if 
the little force was to be annihilated within sight almost 
of its advancing main body. Fortunately, one of the 
signallers, suspecting that something was wrong (for the 
enemy were known to have no guns), flashed a helio 
on the spot on the horizon where the pom-pom was 

firing. Soon an answer was received, " Who the h 

are you ?" and the matter was cleared up. It was not 
De Wet who had dug up a gun, but the well-known 
Thomeycroft, who was making for the same rendezvous 
as Colonel Pilcher, and who had mistaken the patrol for 
a party of Boers. After this, the column trekked by the 
Lonely Kopje, or Kopje Allein, to a station on the railway 
called Virginia Siding, where a pleasant trek — that had 
been one of the most successful in the way of pigs and 
poultry that the company had ever enjoyed — was brought 
to an end. The last two treks of the company had 
indeed been the most enjoyable of the campaign, food 
(or skoff, as the KaflSrs called it,) had been plentiful, 
and the work had been varied and interesting. Night 

150 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

marches and other troubles were compensated for by 
the capture of such charming young ladies as Miss Van 
Wyk, whose lovely face, enshrined in a large sun-bonnet, 
and shaded by a green silk parasol, make a lasting im- 
pression on the hearts of her Fife captors. If they had 
only had the pleasure of meeting the no doubt equally 
charming Miss Laura Lindequ6, and cutting out her 
ardent Boer lover, their happiness and triumph would 
have been complete. 


Uentonwit Burton 5tawart 



THE time had surely come when the little remnant 
of the squadron, that had seen so many vicissi- 
tudes and done so much hard work, was to be allowed 
to depart in peace. At Virginia Siding, a railway station 
on the main line through the Free State, their wander- 
ings were actually to be brought to an end. The last 
armed camp they were to sleep in was pitched upon the 
dusty veldt, on the site of former camps of the great 
army of Lord Roberts, and probably of many forces 
since. The air was redolent of dead horse, the ground 
was strewn with skeletons and bones — it was altogether 
not the place that would have been chosen for a picnic. 
All this mattered little, however, to the survivors, who 
were informed by Captain Gilmour that they would pro- 
ceed down country next day, and might sail for home 
within a week's time. Latterly they had grown so 
accustomed to a nomad life and the excitements of the 
field that they had come to enjoy it, and chafed at the 
idea of being two days in one place. They were so 
inured to hunger and night marching, and the other ac- 
companiments of campaigning, that they thought nothing 
of them. Although it may seem to place a very low 
estimate on human character, the misery and dissatis- 
faction of the new drafts, when confronted with the 
unaccustomed hardships of life in the field, made life 
appear all the more enjoyable. What was a totally in- 
sufficient ration of food for a new chum was more than 

152 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

ample for them ; when he was half-dead for want of 
sleep, they were quite lively; when he g^roaned at the 
dirt and discomfort of the life of a tramp, the old men 
revelled in their long-time uncleanliness. When all was 
said and done, they were not sorry at the prospect of a 
return to the Land of Cakes, where water and soap and 
other luxuries of life were plentiful. 

Having disposed of their various belongings in the 
way of saddlery and other equipment for the field to 
those who were in want of them, they chartered a few 
waggon boys to carry their kits to the station, and set 
off in great spirits for Bloemfontein. Before leaving, 
Captain Gilmour wished them farewell, and announced 
his intention of remaining with the company till an 
officer could be found to take his place. While appreci- 
ating the motives that prompted him to take this step — 
motives that were highly creditable to his sense of duty 
— they r^retted that they should not have him with 
them on their return to Cupar. It almost seemed like 
deserting their captain to leave in this way; but, after 
all, business had to be returned to, and sentiment had to 
stand aside. Lieutenant Pullar — than whom no officer 
in the battalion was more popular — took charge of the 
party on the journey home. 

Arrived at Bloemfontein in open trucks, after dark, 
the men settled down to spend the night as they were. 
About midnight the waggons were shunted off to join 
some train going north again, and in the darkness of the 
night there was only time to seize kits and jump over- 
board. The rest of the night having been spent on the 
platform, the company boarded a comfortable corridor 
train next morning and started for Cape Town. 

The journey in the train from Bloemfontein was a 
most enjoyable affair after fifteen months on the veldt 
No more picquets, no more night attacks, no more 


Homeward Bound 153 

trouble of any kind, nothing to do for three days and 
nights but eat and sleep and smoke the hours away. 
It was delightful to think that at last the company was 
homeward bound, although the pleasure was somewhat 
marred by the fact that trainloads of raw troops from 
home were still hurrying up country to finish the job 
that should have been finished before a man returned 
The only satisfaction when this thought occurred was to 
reflect that, after all, the war was no longer war, but a 
gigantic game of hide and seek, for which one had never 

The whole railway line from Bloemfontein to Cape 
Town seemed to be an unending chain of garrisons, 
picquets, and blockhouses, connected by a system of 
incessant patrols. Right through Cape Colony this was 
maintained, and on the wild solitude of the karoo, and 
in the mountain passes separating it from the seaboard, 
weary parties of sentries were glad to have a newspaper 
thrown to them from a passing train to keep them in 
touch with the world. Many of these posts were garri- 
soned by militia regiments, and they certainly deserved 
the greatest praise for the patience they displayed in the 
performance of irksome routine duties. Life on the 
veldt was bad enough, but it was a treat compared to 
the monotony of the lines of communication. 

As the train passed the Orange river and entered 
Cape Colony it was joined by a large number of Cape 
rebels, who were being deported to undergo terms of 
imprisonment. Great, powerful farmers, with bushy 
beards and the keen eyes of hunters, they afforded 
an excellent idea of the men the British were fighting 
against. They were in charge of a body of Cape Colony 
volunteers from Dordrecht, called the Dordrecht Volun- 
teer Guard, many of whom were travelling to Cape Town 
for the first time in their lives. 

154 Pif^ ^^ Forfar I. K in South Africa 

The train now began to descend through what is 
known as Bain's Kloof, and even the Scotchmen had to 
admit that Scotland had nothing in the way of scenety 
or mountain railways to surpass this. Winding along 
the side of one steep, rocky hill, the railway could be 
seen on the other side of the gorge hundreds of feet 
below. The gradient was so steep that even the floor 
of the railway carriage was on a decided slope, and every 
minute the train seemed to be coming down a few hun- 
dred feet nearer the level of the plain. 

In a few more hours Worcester was reached, and as 
the Yeomanry camp for mobilisation for home was 
situated here, the company detrained and made for the 
camp, where tents were soon allotted to them. 

A week was spent in Worcester, and a busy week it 
was, for every man had many purchases to make in pre- 
paration for the voyage home. The men were all at , 
home in the old town, and revisited many of the places 
they had discovered in the time of their stay on the way 
up country. The Jewish barber, who had made a comer 
in sjamboks, was visited daily in the endeavour to beat 
down prices ; and others were busy buying clothes and 
other odds and ends to enable them to appear clean and 
smart when they reached Southampton. 

The weather, which was now at its best up-country, 
was particularly villainous in Cape Colony. There the 
wet season comes on in winter, and as it was now mid- 
winter at Worcester, the rain came down for days on end. 
The wind blew with hurricane force, and it was almost 
impossible to keep a tent erect on account of the con- 
tinual storm. The high hills were covered with snow, 
and the air was damp and chilly. It was not with 
regret, therefore, that the company at last was ordered 
to entrain for Cape Town on a Sunday afternoon after a 
week's stay in Worcester. 

Homeward Bound 155 

One sad parting with an old friend occurred the night 
before, when Trooper Haines returned up-country to 
take up an appointment in Johannesburg. He was the 
only member who elected to remain in South Africa at 
this time, and at midnight, in a storm of wind and rain, 
he said good-bye to the comrades who had shared so 
many adventures with him, and joined a north -going 
train. He was followed by the best wishes of every 
member of the little band, all of whom had found in 
him a true friend and a most lovable companion on the 
veldt. It was indeed a matter for regret that his cheerful 
presence would not enliven the homeward voyage, and 
that he would not be there to celebrate with the others 
the return to Fife, and to pledge with them the days of 
auld lang syne. 

After a night journey in an open truck — fitting end 
to a strange sojourn — the company reached Cape Town, 
and embarked at once on board the Hawarden Castle, 
There was no chance of seeing the town, as the port was 
at this time stricken with plague, and carefully quaran- 
tined. The complement of 80O yeomen was soon aboard, 
and the vessel set off from the quay and commenced the 
homeward journey. ' 

The day of departure had actually arrived, and the 
yeomen were once more on the wide ocean — homeward 
bound. How joyfully this day had been talked of and 
looked forward to ; how eagerly it had been anticipated ; 
and now how sadly and soberly it was being taken when 
it came. How could their pleasure be otherwise than a 
sad one when they thought of the friends with whom 
they had hoped to share it lying beneath the silent veldt* 
What strange vicissitudes, what cruel cuts of fortune the 
company had experienced in fifteen months. How happy 
they had all been together when they sailed into Table 
Bay, and now only a score of all the hundred and twenty 

156 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 

men who were on board the Cymric were speeding away 
from a land that had not dealt over kindly with them. 
Even the purpose for which they came out had not been 
properly achieved, and there was a certain sense of com- 
pleteness lacking that spoiled the return home. They had 
done their best, however, and no man can do more. 

As the bold outline of Table Mountain faded in the 
distance, as the snow-topped hills of Cape Colony were 
lost to sight in the gathering darkness of the night, each 
man was glad to get below and sling himself in his ham- 
mock, to be lulled to sleep by the unaccustomed motion 
of the sea. There was none of that irrepressible uproar 
on the troop-deck that marked the outward journey. A 
year's campaigning had taken the steam off, and rendered 
the noisy, brawling mess as quiet and staid as a party of 
church elders. There was no quarrelling and " chewing 
the rag," as Thomas Atkins calls it, for every man knew 
his neighbour well and how far he could rely on his good 
nature. It was strange to note who were the last sur- 
vivors of the company on this homeward voyage. Where 
were all the big men — the tug-of-war veterans — where 
were they ? Invalided home, many of them six months 

If the campaign had proved anything at all, it had 
proved conclusively how foolish it is to choose soldiers 
by bulk and to value men by avoirdupois measure. The 
men who stood out and faced the music were all thin, 
wiry men of moderate size and strength, while many a 
man of might and muscle had buckled up under the 
hardships and fatigues of life in the field. Although the 
soldier's life in time of war has many glorious compensa- 
tions, and is certainly the lordliest life of all in many 
respects, it cannot be denied that it is a life of continual 
fatigue and vexation. This it always has been, and 
must ever be, because a soldier to be of any use must 

Homeward Bound 157 

carry a rifle and a tremendous load of ammunition. It 
has been abundantly demonstrated that it is absolutely 
necessary for a man marching in an enemy's country to 
be ready to meet his enemy at any moment, and in order 
that he may give as good as he gets when they do meet, 
he must have 200 rounds of ammunition on his person. 
It is impossible to trust to pack horses and carts for their 
supply, and the result is that every soldier on active 
service must be more or less a beast of burden. He 
must also cross all sorts of country, climb hills, and 
surmount every obstacle that is to be encountered in a 
bee-line march. The work of the mounted men in South 
Africa was in almost every case far harder than that of 
the infantry, who merely marched from one point to 
another by the nearest route, while the mounted men 
had to climb hills and visit outlying farms as part of 
every day's work. 

A typical day's work of the Yeomanry was to leave 
camp before sunrise to relieve an infantry outpost and 
let it rejoin the main body, then to move off on a flank 
of the column, and, dismounting, to climb a high hill 
and hold it till the column was safely past Returning 
to their horses (often under a heavy fire), they had to 
gallop along to the head of the column again and climb 
another steep hill in the same way. This mountaineering 
in the South African sun, with a rifle and two bandoliers 
full of ammunition, was no light work. Meantime the 
infantry were plodding along beside the waggons or 
squatting on the veldt while the convoy crossed a drift. 
The mounted men had certain compensations, however, 
in the shape of feathered booty that accompanied them 
into camp at sunset. The men who could not elude the 
provost marshal and annex a good fat turkey or a leg of 
pork for dinner was accounted a poor specimen by his 
messmates. When camp was pitched the foot-sloggers, 

158 Fife and Forfar L K. in South Africa 

as they were nicknamed, were busy round their camp 
fires before the " ikonas/' or mounted men, had picketed 
their weary steeds. Then, if pigs and poultry were not 
forthcoming, sheep had to be killed and dressed, water 
brought, ration fatigues at the supply waggons had to 
be attended to, and a dozen other jobs performed before 
settling down for the night Amusement or recreation 
there is none on active service. By eight o'clock every 
man is asleep who is not on duty, and, as a rule, reveille 
may be expected any time after two in the morning. 

Night duties are of two sorts, outpost duty and horse- 
picquet in camp. In one case the man has to "hump his 
swag," or shoulder his blankets, and ride or walk, as the 
case may be, to a hilltop in the vicinity of the camp ; in 
the other case he has to take his turn of strolling up and 
down the horse lines with a heavy hammer in his hand 
to see that no horse pulls its p^ or gets loose during the 
night These duties come at least twice a week, and 
sometimes — if the majority of the squadron are lying in 
some rest camp a hundred miles away — it may come 
every second night Outpost duty is, of course, the least 
desirable, for besides having to go without tea, very 
often there is little chance of getting breakfast in the 
morning. Moreover, there is no hope of a smoke, con- 
versation is tabooed, and the greatest tension on the 
nerves may, in certain positions, be inevitable, as when 
the picquet is in a nek amongst the haunts of baboons, 
who grunt and scurry about all night Stable-guard or 
horse-picquet on a fine night is not a bad occupation at 
all, especially if wood is plentiful and a fire can be kept 
up. In this case the sentry can sit on an empty biscuit- 
box and doze over the fire till some stray horse falls over 
a sleeping comrade, who roars with virtuous indignation 
at the assault 

Take it all round, however, a soldier's life is free from 

Homeward Bound 159 

care, and a campaign, after it is all over, seems to have 
been a glorious holiday ; but while it lasts the strain is 
intense, and the duties of the hardest To be on picquet 
one night, to be ordered on a night march the next, to 
fight all the following day in the heat, and to return to 
camp in a rainstorm to find that fires cannot be lit on 
account of the wet — that is a life which may seem very 
delightful to look back upon, but while it lasts it makes 
a man wish that he was dead. 

The survivors of the 20th Company will never regret 
their experience in the field, and in spite of their cordial 
"never again" so often repeated, will probably be amongst 
the first to volunteer another time if required ; but after 
a good taste of a soldier's life they will never look upon 
Thomas Atkins, especially if his breast is hUng with 
medals, without a feeling of admiration — aye, and venera- 
tion almost — as they think of his cheerfulness in moments 
of difficulty and danger. ^ 

The South African war has shown many that there 
is more reason than might appear for the patriotism of 
the music halls that finds expression in such words as 
"You're a credit to your country." The British soldier is 
not overrated. He is the most patient, most kindly, most 
cheerful and unselfish individual on the face of the earth. 
The worse things look, the more cheerful he becomes ; 
the less he has to eat, the more willing he is to share it ; 
the more he is sniped at, the more humane is he to his 
enemies when captured. He has a big heart, in which 
he finds a place even for the low caste nigger, who is not 
worthy to lick his boots. In short, he is terribly British, 
and every inch a man. 

(From " Dundee Advertiser," 26th June, 1901.) 


This morning the Hawarden Castle^ conveying tiearly 
800 yeomen and volunteers, including a party of the 
Fife and Forfar contingent of the Imperial Yeomanry, 
arrived at Southampton, and the men received a hearty 
welcome. A fine fresh breeze was blowing across the 
Solent when the first glimpse was caught of the 
Hawarden Castle. Many people were down early at 
the entrance to the harbour awaiting her arrival. As 
she approached the lockway, towed by a powerful tug, a 
rousing cheer went up from those on shore, answered by 
the men on board. They swarmed up the rigging, into 
the lifeboats, and everywhere that they could reach. 
Anxious fathers and mothers searched for well-known 
features, and when friends recognised friends many affec- 
tionate greetings passed from the shore to the vessel 
I scanned the faces on the quarterdeck and the fore- 
castle, hoping to recognise some of the local men. At 
last my search was rewarded by my finding Corporal 
Honeyman, of Coupar Angus, who called down that his 
comrades were all well in health. Many of the men dis- 
embarked at once, and were entrained for their respective 
destinations. During the course of the forenoon several 
specials left for different parts of England. 

The Fife and Forfar men number twenty in all, and 
every man in the best of health. Their names are : — 

Arrival at Southampton i6i 

Lieutenant H. S. Pullar, Perth. 

Sergeant-Major Simpson, Cullen. 

Quartermaster-Sergeant Brown, Dundee. 

Sergeant Bowman, Buckhaven. 

Sergeant Waldie, Cupar- Fife. 

Sergeant G. B. Scott, St Andrews. 

Sergeant Bucher, Leith. 

Sergeant Gordon, Brechin. 

Sergeant Campbell, Annan. 

Corporal Sturrock, Newport. 

Corporal Shiell, Brechin. 

Corporal Robb, Arbroath. 

Corporal Honeyman, Coupar Angus. 

Lance-Corporal Gordon. 

Trooper Bell. 

Trooper Rintoul, Blebo. 

Trooper Matheson. 

Trooper Scott 

Trooper Henrie, Comhill-on-Tweed. 

Trooper Truscott, St Ewe, Cornwall. 

In reply to greetings from an "Advertiser" reporter, 

Lieutenant Pullar, who was met by his father, said that 

they had had a fine voyage on the Hawarden Castle. 

"She can roll a bit," he added. With 800 yeomen on 

board the Castle Liner was not naturally a paradise upon 

the sea, and what I saw of her this morning made it clear 

that life on a transport is no great treat. Coming through 

the dreaded bay the other day the vessel rolled heavily, 

and not a few of the men were completely upset, although 

they had already had considerable experience of the sea. 

With soldier-like reticence, the yeomen preserve silence 

regarding their exploits. Readers of the "Advertiser" 

are now pretty familiar with the principal events in their 

South African record, and it may suffice here to say that 

1 62 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

for some short time before leaving for home no great 
event occurred in which the yeomen took part The 
Fifes were with Colonel Pilcher during the last part of 
their service. With him they had one or two exciting 
engagements in the north-west of the Orange Free State. 
They held a drift on the Vaal riVer there, and one night 
at dark their camp was attacked, while some of the men 
were out on patrol, by about 600 Boers. A stiff engage- 
ment ensued. Pilcher turned his big guns upon the 
enemy, and the vivid flashes of their guns firing in reply 
served to make a striking illumination in the dark of the 
evening. The Boers were driven back at the time, but 
they remained in the vicinity, and afterwards gave 
further trouble when they were reinforced by a few hun- 
dred brother Boers from the Orange River Colony. I 
may mention that the new yeomen straight out from 
Aldershot took part in this engagement, and were 
already, according to the old men, showing considerable 

Speaking of the vast number of soldiers still on duty 
in South Africa, one of the Fife men pointed out that 
they were mainly to be accounted for as on the line of 

" What struck me most," he said, " on our way south 
was the fact that along more than 1000 miles of railway 
line, down to within 100 miles or so of Cape Town, there 
were soldiers all the way. Lord Kitchener lays great 
faith in picquets and block-houses. The latter you can 
see at points every mile of the way along." 

To the northerner this has been an oppressively warm 
day here, but to the yeoman straight back from life under 
the blazing South African sun it is only a medium heat 
As I have indicated, the Hawarden Castle^ a small vessel 
compared to some of the Union-Castle liners, was not 
an over-pleasant transport with 800 men aboard. Every 

Arrival at Southampton 163 

inch of space was apparently utilised, and thus the men 
were glad to get on shore to-day to stretch their legs. 
No less delighted with their liberty were a few horses 
brought home by officers. Sentries were placed at the 
exits from No. 25 berth, alongside of which the Hawar- 
den Castle lay, and it was no easy matter for some of the 
men to escape for a walk in the town. Most of the 
English companies left here early, but the Scots re- 
mained until evening. At 5.30 their special train, bearing 
Ayr and Edinburgh men as well, left the docks, and will 
proceed by Cheltenham and the Midland route. It is 
better not to prophesy at what hour the special will 
reach the north, but most of the men ought to be home 
by to-morrow evening at latest. 




NO narrative of the 20th Company's doings in South 
Africa would be complete without an acknow- 
ledgment of the many kindnesses received by them from 
the friends they left behind. To the public - spirited 
ladies of Fife and Forfar especially they must ever be 
grateful^ and it is well that their gratitude should be re- 
corded. During the whole campaign — fighting in a 
country where stores were scarce and clothing difficult 
to obtain — the men were supplied with shirts and socks 
and other comforts by the goodness of these friends at 
home, and felt that they were not foi^otten. From the 
sterner sex presents of pipes and tobacco were equally 
acceptable, and helped to solace the dark evening hours 
upon the veldt 

After a year and a half of service, it is very doubtful 
if the troopers were so imbued with a sense of the horrors 
of war as those who stayed at home and read the papers. 
When it is all over, it is only the brighter side of life 
in the field that is remembered, and indeed, throughout 
the campaign, this was far more in evidence than the 
darker side of hatred and destruction, which is so often 
exaggerated by those who only hear one side of the 
business. As a matter of fact, the soldier is one of the 
most good natured, peace-loving individuals on earth. 
Nothing was more noticeable in the field than the 
kindness of the soldiers, not only to each other, but 
also to their enemies, and especially to the women and 

The Brighter Side of War 165 

children. In all fairness, it must also be said of the 
Boers that they treated those who fell into their hands 
with marvellous magfnanimity. Exception^ there were, 
of course, on both sides, for in a large army it is im- 
possible to hope that there are not any bad characters ; 
but it is doubtful if it would have been possible to find 
in any community on the face of the earth of 200,000 
people so few bad characters as in the field force in South 
Africa. The men there were living under ideal condi- 
tions of course. They were strictly temperate by neces- 
sity, they were fed on the minimum of good, wholesome 
food, and every day saw them engaged in hard open-air 
work of some sort. The result was that they were 
splendidly behaved, and that a very high moral tone 
was evident throughout the ranks. Many tales could be 
told to prove their cheerfulness and unselfishness ; and 
every man who was not a regular soldier, and who per- 
haps had a few doubts as to their character, was loud in 
their praise after a few months in the field. When their 
behaviour in the field is contrasted with the behaviour of 
some of our civilian population at home, it is enough to 
make one wish that a state of war and a consequent 
enforcing of discipline was more general. Those who 
deplore war and everything connected with war as a 
great moral evil, should take the first opportunity they 
have of seeing an army in the field, and they will admit 
that even war has its redeeming features. 

The men who cry out against militarism, and who 
draw gloomy pictures of a nation of bloodthirsty soldiers, 
or " paid butchers," as they term them, know little of the 
real soldier's naturd Not only does modern war in no 
way appeal to the brute side of a man's nature, but it 
teaches those who engage in it many of the nobler 
attributes of human character. 

This is what Sir Howard Vincent says of our soldiers: 

1 66 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

" I have been in an open railway truck through the long 
hours of the night, in the drenching rain, with men who 
stripped themselves to warm a more sensitive comrade 
succumbing to the cold. Their conversation and bearing 
were fit for any drawing-room. Hour after hour my 
admiration of the soldiers of the Queen has increased. '* 
This is only the experience and impression of everyone 
who knows Thomas Atkins as he i^ 

Even his weaknesses are more like virtues at times. 
The writer well remembers a cold dark night when he 
was doing sentry-go on the horse lines, and, as part of 
his duty, was keeping an eye on the waggons where the 
forage and rations were stored. In the middle of the 
night he detected a shadowy figure prowling round a 
waggon, and advancing to see whether it was a nigger 
at the "skoff," discovered a Tommy with a nose -bag 
stealing com for his hungry horse. At a time when all 
others were soundly sleeping, this soldier, who would 
have scorned to steal for himself, crept out from his 
warm blankets and was endeavouring to secure a break- 
fast for his faithful Argentine. Love for animals is one 
feature of our soldiers' nature that is always in evidence, 
and it seems impossible that the men who are so fond of 
dumb creatures can have that thirst for the blood of their 
fellow men with which they are credited. It is their duty 
to shoot and kill, but not their pleasure; and it is certain 
that if every man was a soldier there would be less likeli- 
hood of war. It is those who do not fight who cause the 
trouble, and unfortunately the soldier has often to be 
called in to restore order when the advocates of gentle- 
ness and peace have brought about a state of war and 

If war is a bad thing, there can be no doubt in the 
mind of any thinking man that it is a necessary thing, 
and will be a necessity 

The Brighter Side of War 167 

" So long as the heart has passions. 
So long as earth has woes." 

The day when the war-drum will beat no. longer and 
when the earth will be governed in peace by the common- 
sense of most is still a long way off, and the wickedness 
of those who invite their country's ruin by a cry of peace 
at any price is only exceeded by their ignorance of 
human nature. The words spoken by a War Minister 
in the House of Commons a hundred years ago are still 
applicable, and should be laid to heart — 

"A state of war is, in itself, a state of evil. We wish 
not for it ; we would fain avoid it ; we would be at peace 
could we be so with honour and security to ourselves. 
But, whether at war or in the most profound peace, let us 
never neglect to encourage a military aptitude and spirit 
in the people. History teaches us that, in all nations 
and times, the extinction of this spirit has been rapidly 
followed by the loss of every other national virtue." 

If it should ever again come to pass that volunteers 
are called to take the field along with the regular army, 
it is to be hoped that no able-bodied young man in 
Fife or Forfar will delay to offer his services. He has 
here the testimony of those who have tried it to prove to 
him that the soldier's life is the lordliest life of all, and 
that he need never hesitate to take up arms for his 
country by reason that he is not of a bloodthirsty dis- 
position. A year in the army will be found to improve 
a man's opinion of his fellow men, and to show him 
much hitherto unsuspected good in human nature. It 
might safely be prescribed as a tonic to those who are 
so prone to find wickedness and bad motives in the 
aspirations of their own countrymen. Although many 
of them discouraged their country's soldiers by encour- 
aging their enemies, and proved themselves unworthy 
of the proud privilege of British citizenship, it is to be 

i68 Fife and Forfar L K in South Africa 

hoped that they will now follow the advice of Scotland's 
national bard, who writes — 

" For ^Id the merchant plough the main, 
The fiumer ploughs the manor ; 
But glory is the sodger's prize, 
The sodger's wealth is honour.' 

" The brave poor sodger ne'er despise, 
Nor count him as a stranger. 
Remember he's his country's stay 
In day and hour of danger." 


(From "Dundee Advertiser" of 29TH June, 1901.) 


Much enthusiasm was evinced in Cupar yesterday over the 
reception accorded to the members of the original 20th Com- 
pany of Imperial Yeomanry (Fife and Forfar), who have 
returned from South Africa, The weather was glorious, the 
heat being tempered by a refreshing breeze. The citizens 
responded in a gratifying way to the request of the Provost 
and Magistrates that they should decorate their places of 
business and residences in honour of the occasion. The re- 
turned yeomen, according to arrangements, mustered at the 
Riding School, and marched by way of Bonnygate, Crossgate, 
Station Road, round to Victoria Bridge, and up St Catherine 
Street to the Corn Exchange, in which the banquet took place. 
The route is fully a mile in length, and the greater part of it 
was profusely decorated. Particular attention had been de- 
voted to the decoration of the Town Hall, which was gay with 
innumerable flags, banners, and lines of streamers, the Royal 
standard floating from one of the windows. On the front next 
Crossgate there was a shield with a lion rampant, the Union 
Jack, and the crown, with a large " Welcome " above it On 
the side next St Catherine Street was a capital portrait of 
Captain Jack Gilmour, and the motto, "A safe return to 
Captain Gilmour and the I. Y. men in South Africa.'* The Corn 
Exchange was gay. The interior of the hall was elaborately 
decorated. On the end wall there was a Union Jack and 
lion rampant, surmounted by the arms of Fife, with the words 
"Welcome to the Gallant Fife and Forfar. God Save the 
King." On the east wall there was " Success to the New Yeo- 

170 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

manry. May they worthily follow the Old Light Horse." On 
the west wall, '' Crod-speed to Captain Gilmour and the Second 
Contingent L Y." And on the front wall, " Honour the Brave/' 
"Orange River Colony," " Transvaal,'* "Cape Colony," "Dulce 
et decorum est pro patria mori,'' and underneath a portrait of 
the late Captain Hodge. Other portraits on the walls were 
those of Captain Jack Gilmour, Colonel Sir John Gilmour, 
Hon. Colonel J. Anstruther Thomson, and a cabinet containing^ 
photos of the members of the original company. The hall 
was seated for 450 guests, to serve which a staff of 40 waiters 
had been engaged. 


The procession was timed to leave the Riding School at 
1. 15 p.m., and long before that hour the streets along the 
route were crowded with spectators, while every window was 
filled with onlookers. Business was practically suspended in 
the town and surrounding districts, and large numbers of 
visitors put in an appearance. About 12.15 nearly 100 men 
from the Yeomanry camp at Annsmuir, Ladybank, arrived and 
proceeded to the Bonnygate, where they took up a position to 
guard the line of route. The local company of volunteers also 
paraded and marched to Bonnygate, while a strong detach- 
ment of the Fife Militia marched into the town, headed by 
their pipers, and took up a position in the neighbourhood of 
the Station Road. A large staff of constables also assisted in 
keeping the road clear. Promptly at a quarter past one o'clock 
the veterans stepped out from the Riding School. The band 
struck up, and with a swinging step the yeomen set out on their 
march to the Com Exchange. Along the route flags floated 
and ladies waved their handkerchiefs and sunshades. The 
band played " When the boys come marching home," and the 
swarthy yeomen looked glad as they swung along in the sun- 
shine amid crowds of familiar faces. The one sad note in the 
scene was the black band on the arms of the officers. At one 
point an old woman created a sensation by going up to the 
line of procession and waving a nondescript flag, curiously like 

Banquet at Cupar lyi 

a Boer banner. The yeomen cheered the old woman, and the 
crowd joined noisily in. As the men marched down Bonny- 
gate between the lines of their Yeomanry comrades the band 
played " See the Conquering Hero Comes," and as the khaki- 
clad company swung round at the Cross the great crowd broke 
into hearty cheers, renewed again and again. At a quarter to 
two o'clock the men marched into the banqueting hall, receiv- 
ing an ovation only equalled by that given them when they 
left Cupar for South Africa. 


The chair was occupied by Lord Elgin, Lord-Lieutenant of 
Fifeshire, and he was accompanied on the platform as follows : 
— On the right — Captain Purvis, Lord Bruce, Mr R. Cathcart, 
Colonel Anstruther Thomson, Colonel Johnston, East Wemyss; 
Mr John Purvis, Kinaldy. On the left — Colonel Sir John 
Gilmour, Hon. George Waldegrave Leslie, Provost Watson, 
Colonel Erskine, yr. of Cambo; Major Carnegie of Lour, 
Commander Maitland-Dougall, Colonel Purvis, Mr Wedder- 
burn, Birkhill ; Sheriff Armour. Amongst others on the plat- 
form were — Mr Baxter of Teasses; Mr Nairn, Rankeilour; 
Mr Rigg, Tarvit; Mr Torry, Wemysshall; Mr R. D. PuUar, 
Perth; Mr Norman; Major Scott Davidson; Major Osborne; 
Captain Mitchell; Mr Bowman, Muiredge; Captain Kavanagh 
and Lieutenant Simpson, Fife Artillery; Hon. Sheriff-Substitute 
Gray; Dr Douglas; Mr W. Thomson, banker; Provost Grant, 
Arbroath; Mr William Low, Blebo. The croupiers were — 
Provost Ritchie Welch, St Andrews; Provost Hutchison, 
Kirkcaldy ; Hon. Sheriff-Substitute Honeyman, Chief-Constable 
Bremner, Dr Nasmyth, and Bailie Arnot. Grace was said by 
the Rev. Mr Burt, Largo, chaplain to the Fife and Forfar 
Imperial Yeomanry. During luncheon a capital programme 
of music was rendered by the band of the regiment After the 
luncheon a short but important toast list was proceeded with. 
Before this was entered upon, Mr John L. Anderson, Town 
Clerk of Cupar, who was in the uniform of the old Light 
Horse, intimated the following apologies for absence: — Sir 


172 Fife and Forfar L F. in South Africa 

Ralph Anstruther, Bart; Mr H. T. Anstrather, Nf.P.; Sir 
Thomas Erskine of Cambo, Bart; Sir A. A. Campbell of 
Gibliston, Bart; Sir John Leng» M.P.; Mr M. B. Nairn of 
Rankdlour; Mr C. M. M. Crichton Johnston of Lathrisk; Mr 
James Farmer of Brownhills; Mr J. H. Baxter of Gilston; Mr 
R. Davidson of Clayton; Mr R. W. Rankine of Cunnoquhie; 
R. E. Walker of Transylaw, Dunfermline; Captain Hender- 
son, St Andrews; Major-Greneral Morgan of Aboyne, Aber- 
deenshire; Mr H. H. Brown, Procurator-Fiscal of Fife; Mr 
Lewis Grant, ironfounder, Kirkcaldy; Lord Provost Hunter, 
Dundee ; Major-General Briggs of Strathairly ; Mr A. G. Pater- 
son, Dysart ; Mr C. Anderson of Fettykil ; Captain Harkness, 
Portsea (late Fife Militia); and Sheriff Kincaid Mackenzie. 
The Chairman gave the loyal toasts. 

Provost Watson, Cupar, in proposing the Imperial Forces, 
said there seemed less reason now separately to define the 
reserve forces from the army, as they shared the same duties 
and the same dangers. In the past volunteers were paraded 
and drilled in their respective districts, but there was always 
the impression that the serious work of the soldier might not 
be called for or be so cheerfully performed ; but the lesson of 
the South African war had dispelled that fallacy for ever, and 
had proved that their reserve forces could be looked to as the 
backbone of the nation. Whether as infantry or cavalry, there 
had been no work they could not do and no duty they could 
not or would not undertake. Their services had proved a 
source of strength of which the country was exceedingly proud. 

The toast was coupled with the names of Commander 
Maitland-Dougall, Colonel Purvis, and Colonel Johnston. 

Commander Maitland-Dougall said they were met that day 
to welcome home a corps that so gallantly and so patriotically 
left their employment and went to fight voluntarily when their 
country called upon them. The scenes he saw in 1900 when 
serving as a naval transport officer at Liverpool and Glasgow 
marked the spirit in which these volunteers left their' homes. 
The way that discomforts were borne, and the unselfish spirit 



Banquet at Cupar 173 

shown by the volunteer soldiers, would never be effaced from 
his memory. 

Colonel Purvis, in replying for the land forces, spoke of 
the growing popularity of the volunteer movement, and of the 
valuable services rendered by the auxiliary forces, and remarked 
that he was sure that the men whom they were honouring that 
day well deserved the honour. (Cheers.) 

Colonel Johnston replied for the reserve forces. He stated 
that he had been intimately connected with these forces from 
the first inception of the movement. He remembered the 
enthusiasm which marked its birth ; then came the period of 
indifference; but to-day he thought the reserve forces were 
being regarded with truer perspective. Some were surprised 
at the noble response made by the volunteers to the call for 
men, but he was not, because these men had taken an oath 
of allegiance to their sovereign, and he knew that as Britishers 
they would do their duty when called upon. (Cheers.) 

Colonel Anstruther Thomson, who was received with loud 
cheering, said that he enlisted as the first recruit in the Fife 
Light Horse forty-one years ago, and he little thought then 
that they would ever be on foreign service. He saw them 
embark in the Cymric, and if he had been twenty-eight years 
of age instead of eighty-two he would have gone with them. 
(Loud cheers.) He was very proud that he in some degree 
lent a hand in forming a regiment which had done such gallant 
service to its King and its country. (Cheers.) As to the new 
regiment which had been formed, he would simply refer them 
to the motto which was written on the wall — "May they 
worthily follow the old Light Horse." 

Lord Elgin then proposed the toast of the afternoon — "The 
20th Company (Fife and Forfar) Imperial Yeomanry." They 
had, he said, assembled to meet those men who had repre- 
sented them at the front, and to congratulate them on the 
performance of their duty and on their safe return home, and 
to give them a very hearty welcome. It would be in their 
recollection that it was towards the end of 1 899, when the call 
came for mounted men, that the gallant Fife and Forfar Light 

174 f'if^ ^^ Forfar /. K in South Africa 

Horse claimed, and established their claim, to send a contin- 
gent They would remember the enthusiasm with which that 
contingent was raised, and they would not easily forget the 
indefatigable organising skill and devotion which secured their 
adequate equipment in all the stages for their despatch, and 
which was administered by the colonel. Sir John Gilmour. 
(Cheers.) The fact was that Sir John Gilmour had been so 
much the heart and soul of the business that it was difficult to 
realise the fact that he was not one of those who had come 
back fix>m the war. (Laughter and cheers.) They knew Sir 
John had been there in spirit, and they knew that he had been 
represented there by two gallant sons— (cheers) — one of whom 
they trusted was now recovering from his severe injuries, and 
the other, if he had delayed coming for a little time, had done 
so because he did not like to leave a job half done, and thereby 
had proved himself a true chip of the old block. His Lordship 
then made a brief reference to Nooitgedacht, and remarked 
that the 20th Company had served under nearly every general, 
and had earned the good* opinion of all. (Cheers.) That in 
itself was not a bad record. (Hear, hear.) They might 
arrive, however, at some further idea of the nature of the 
service in which they had been engaged by another calcula- 
tion of not quite so agreeable a nature. The contingent left 
Cupar on 27 th February, 1900, with a strength of 6 officers 
and 121 men, and he was told that, speaking in round num- 
bers, it was not too much to say that one-half had been found 
in the sad lists which included the killed, the wounded, and 
the invalided. He was thankful to say that they numbered 
among their guests 77 that afternoon, and he must congratu- 
late them on the appearance which they presented. (Cheers.) 
He thought they might congratulate themselves that a good 
many of those included in the lists had now recovered their 
health and strength. But he was sure it would be consonant 
with their feelings in that their hour of rejoicing and triumph 
that he should not omit a word of remembrance to their less 
fortunate comrades and sympathy with their relations.^ Some 
of those who went out had fallen as a soldier wished to fall — 

Banquet at Cupar 175 

with his face to the foe — such as the gallant officer who led 
them out — Captain Hodge — and the promising young officer, 
Lieutenant Campbell, whose service with the contingent was 
all too short But they must remember also that those who 
succumbed to the dire influence of disease or of hardship 
deserved equal recognition at their hands. These things re- 
minded them that with all its glories and triumphs and 
successes war was an evil thing — an evil which he thought no 
responsible man would bring upon his country without having 
exhausted every possible alternative. It was a great privilege 
to be able to couple the toast with one who bore an honoured 
Fife name — Captain Purvis. He was sure many of his friends 
felt great sympathy with Mr Purvis of Kinaldy when the news 
came that his son had been wounded, but they would ask him 
to accept their most heartfelt congratulations that day on the 
excellent appearance which the health of Captain Purvis seemed 
now to present (Cheers.) 

Captain Purvis was received with enthusiastic cheering. 
He said — In rising to return thanks to you on behalf of my 
comrades and myself for the right royal welcome and enter- 
tainment we have received to-day at your hands, I felt that 
a more than Titanic burden has been put upon my shoulders, 
and that with the best intentions in the world, it would be 
quite impossible for me adequately to convey to you how very 
grateful we all are for it, and how heartily we appreciate the 
kind expressions you yourself have just given utterance to. 
There is a saying that the realisation of anything much looked 
forward to is seldom equal to the expectation. Well, that may 
be, but, as with many rules, it has its exceptions. Often and 
often — and when I speak for myself I know I am speaking for 
all of us— often and often while trekking across the veldt, we 
have looked forward to the day of our return to our county 
town as a very pleasant day. It appeared to us to be so far 
distant that it was hard to realise that it would ever come. It 
has come, however, and has exceeded all our rosiest anticipa- 
tions. 1 should like to call to mind that this is not the first 
hospitable entertainment we have received in this hall, and I 

176 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

know that the one of now eighteen months ago was as heartily 
appreciated as your hospitality to<lay. You were taking such 
a great deal for granted The old saying that one volunteer 
is worth ten pressed men has become so very old that I daresay 
there was doubt as to how it would work out in modem warfare. 
From the kind things we have just heard you say, however, 
and from the fact of your entertaining us in this magnificent 
manner again to^ay, I hope that we may consider that your 
verdict is that we have done our duty as well as you expected 
of us. I must ask you to accept these few words on behalf 
of myself and my comrades of the 20th Company Imperial 
Yeomanry as testifying to the very great satisfaction they have 
afforded us. (Cheers.) 

Mr Robert Cathcart of Pitcairlie, Convener of the County, 
proposed '^ Captain Gilmour and the 20th Company Imperial 
Yeomanry now in South Africa.'' Captain Gilmour went out 
with the original company, and he had remained, with that 
spirit of a soldier, because he thought he could be of use to his 
country. (Cheers.) They regretted his absence ; at the same 
time, they could not but admire his conduct, and all he could 
say was this, and he thought he was speaking for the county, 
that when Captain Gilmour did come he would get a right 
royal welcome. (Cheers.) 

The toast was enthusiastically pledged, the company sing- 
ing " Scots wha ha'e " and '* For he's a jolly good fellow." 

Colonel Sir John Gilmour, with whose name the toast was 
coupled, on rising to reply, was received with loud cheering. 
He said he thoroughly appreciated the opportunity given to 
him to reply for those who were so far away, but he felt that 
words were well-nigh unnecessary, because the enthusiasm with 
which the toast had been received was high praise to his son 
and those whom he hoped he now led. (Cheers.) That day 
he was certain would ever remain in the hearts of those who 
had been in the county town as one of the brightest and the 
best that they had experienced. In the annals of the county 
it would ever be a day that would be looked back upon with 
pleasure and with pride. They had met, county and town, to 


Banquet at Cupar 177 

do their best to welcome back to their midst those who in the 
time of the Empire's need went to the Empire's help, and they 
had welcomed them with every symptom of hearty and most 
sincere and heartfelt rejoicing. He was only too glad to feel 
and think that while they had done so, those who were absent 
had not been out of their thoughts. (Cheers.) He was sure 
that those within the hall who would appreciate the toast most 
would be the men who were receiving this great welcome. 
These men knew better than any of the rest what those who 
went to fill their places had to do. The new contingent were 
fulfilling the same duties that their guests went through and 
were maintaining the same good reputation, doing the same 
work, and meeting with -the same dangers; and therefore he 
felt there would be no heartier responders to the toast than 
those whom it was a pride and a pleasure to welcome in their 
midst (Cheers.) As one who had something to do with the 
raising of both contingents, it was only right that he should 
point out the different conditions in which they went to South 
Africa. Early in 1900 the first contingent spent well-nigh 
three months within that hospitable county town, and under- 
went training during that time before leaving; but the mem- 
bers of the second contingent were shipped almost immediately 
to the front It was, however, a source of satisfaction and 
pleasure to tell them that his son, who commanded the second 
draft, was well satisfied with those sent out (Cheers.) His 
son told them they were as keen as mustard, and he was satis- 
fied that they would maintain the character and reputation 
that had been established by those who were home. He would 
take the swiftest means of conveying to his son what had taken 
place that day, and ask him to say how enthusiastically his 
name and those of the men serving under him had been re- 
ceived in the centre of his native county. (Cheers.) All at 
Montrave longed indeed to have him home once more, but 
they felt that in the circumstances he was doing his duty, and 
that was everything that parents or relations could wish. 
(Cheers.) He again thanked them for the enthusiastic way 
in which they had honoured the toast, and on Sir John conclud- 


178 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

ing the company again rose and sang *' For he's a jolly good 
fellow," a cheer being given for Lieutenant Harry Gilmour. 

Sheriff Armour, in the absence of Sheriff Kincaid Mackenzie, 
proposed " The Chairman," whom they all recognised as one 
of Fife's most distinguished sons. (Loud applause.) 

Lord Elgin replied, and the proceedings, which were most 
enthusiastic throughout, then terminated. 

Mr Philip SuUey recited a poem, composed by himself, en- 
titled " Welcome home, 20th Company L Y.*' 

(From ** Dundee Advertiser" of 27TH July, 1901.) 


The officers and men of the various regiments of Yeomanry, 
to the number of about 3000, were massed on the Horse 
Guaids Parade yesterday morning to receive their medals for 
the South African war campaign at the hands of the King. 
Unfortunately, a heavy downpour of rain was experienced 
soon after the men paraded. Among those present was a 
representative contingent of Fife and Forfar men — ^41 in all. 
The majority of these travelled south by the 9.40 train from 
Edinburgh on Thursday night, arriving at London about seven 
o'clock yesterday morning. They proceeded at once to their 
rendezvous, Albany Barracks, Regent's Park, the headquarters 
of one of the regiments of Household Cavalry, and there they 
were joined by others of the detachment, who had previously 
come to town. Soon after breakfast the men fell in, and the 

Presentation of War Medals by the King 179 

full roll of those present was as follows: — Captain Purvis, 
Lieutenant Simpson, Lieutenant Pullar, Surgeon - Captain 
Dewar, Lieutenant Burton Stewart, Veterinary - Lieutenant 
Young, Sergeant- Major Simpson, Quartermaster S. Brown, 
Farrier-Sergeant Spreull, Sergeants Lumsden, Nicholson, and 
Thorns, Corporals Bonthrone, Bowman, Campbell, Cargill, 
Hunter, Shiell, and Shields ; Privates Ainslie, Almond, Ander- 
son, Baird, Clacher, Findlay, Haig, Milliken, M 'Grady, 
Mitchell, Playfair, Scott, Sinclair, Stephen, Stratton, Stewart, 
Sturrock, Westland, Pople, Rintoul; Shoeing-Smith Craigon, 
Trumpeter M'Dougall. All the officers and men were in 
khaki. Shortly after nine o'clock they mounted two large 
covered brakes and drove off through the deluge by way of 
Oxford Street to St James's Park. As the hour of the cere- 
mony drew near the scene had the elements of a striking 
spectacular display, but much of the effect was lost owing to 
the gloomy weather that prevailed. A considerable crowd of 
spectators, soaked, but still interested, fringed the parade 
ground and the Mall, and there were onlookers at all the 
windows of the Government buildings around. Near the 
centre of the parade, and in line with the Whitehall entrance, 
a handsome canopy had been erected over a large platform 
laid with red cloth, and here assembled one by one a distin- 
guished company of army notabilities in full uniform, including 
Mr Brodrick, the Secretary for War; Lord Roberts, Com- 
mander-in-Chief; Sir Evelyn Wood, Sir Mansfield Clarke, and 
others. The yeomen were drawn up in companies facing the 
royal dais — an imposing array of khaki, touched here and 
there with the uniforms of officers who have rejoined their own 
regiments, and by civilians who no longer own their war paint, 
and had to appear in the humdrum garb of everyday life. The 
ground was held by a strong body of the Foot Guards wearing 
their capes, and a number of the Guards' regimental bands 
were posted at several points. Time hung rather heavily until 
the arrival of the King and Queen, prompt, as usual, to the 
appointed hour.* Half-past eleven had just struck when the red 
cloaks and gleaming helmets of the mounted escort appeared 

i8o Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

in the Mall, and ringing cheers (the first signs of enthusiasm) 
announced the approach of the Royal pair in an open carriage. 
As their Majesties alighted they were received foy the Com- 
mander-in-Chief and Mr Brodrick. The royal standard was 
run up, and the bands played the National Anthem, while the 
guard of honour and every oflBcer saluted, and the troopers and 
foot soldiers stood at attention. The Ring was in military 
uniform; the Queen, of course, in deep mourning. With them 
came Princess Victoria, Prince Edward of York, Prince William 
of Saxe- Weimar, and a number of the officers of the Household. 
The group thus completed was brilliant and distinguished. As 
if he feared another deluge, the Ring lost not a moment in 
beginning the ceremony of the day. At once the yeomen, 
in a single unbroken line, began to defile past the Ring and 
Queen, the bands meantime striking up selections of military 
music The medals were arranged in trays beside the platform 
in charge of men of the Grenadier Guards, each accompanied 
by an officer. One was handed to His Majesty, who in turn 
presented it, while the Queen sat by an interested and sympa- 
thetic spectator of the proceedings. It was a simple, and in 
some respects almost a touching, ceremony. The Yeomanry 
went by in a seemingly endless procession — hundreds of lithe, 
strapping, sunburnt fellows, all of whom had had their share 
of the hardships of the campaign, and many their share in its 
triumphs and disasters. Several, still on the sick list, were 
wheeled along in bath chairs, and one or two hobbled up on 
crutches. For these and others specially brought under his 
notice the Ring seemed to have a few kindly words to say. 
Quite a number of the men were in civilian attire. Some were 
wearing silk hat and frock coat, others a straw hat or cloth 
cap. The ceremony lasted about two hours, but by good 
fortune the rain held off, and the proceedings were carried 
through without a hitch. At the conclusion the Ring and 
Queen were loudly cheered on their return to Marlborough 


Appendix III. 





































• mm 











1— < 
























^ .. 


^ o 

o ^ 


t CO A 

.2 "b -s 

^ ^ »3r 
0) >S o 










go s 
§« § 

o c.S 
t* .o o 




C C 

a p 

O4 o 

B ^ 








a s5 s-flS 
i I SI'S 

a a o > 

•2 J J- g J 

<d -M »rt G ** 
■M G^ 4) C 

8)11 8 .§ 





O r- G 

■s s =• s 

o e 4> o 

ra C? c« 00 

G rs G M 
O CO .s 



9* > 




















— 0) 





^CO J3^ 

a s G i-J 






G G 
c« el 

G G 

G 3 






1 84 Fifi and Forfar /. V. in South Africa 



41 .S 


«i o S 3 -a 

&%\ r. S 

-s-?a "g 











-A ^ 

S. I s. 

Appendix IIL 
























B o 
2 w 


O ctf 
CO ^ 


o ® 
^ t: 

a; ci 


u bo 
0) c 
















a3 qj C ♦* 

CO c . ^ 



IS 4) 

c Si 

^ ii b 

S S 
g rt g 

^ ^ ^ 

Jc o •- -• 


to ;:- 

O 7» *55 -^ 
4> CO r3 

4J G-= 5 


-a § 

<3 o 



C4 4^ 

CL c« % S 

.S S-g rt 




3 O .3 



4> c4 









acher, Leuchars. 

arke, Anstruther. 

aigon, Perth. 

. Cunningham, Glas 








. Dawson, D 
Dewar, Arb 

Dugdale, Ci 
der, Cupar, 
tiwick, St Mi 
Findlay, Du 
eming, Pittei 
Forbes, Libe 








fe <i fi^' &^' 


!-:.< HAi-^ei ►-^ 



^4 In In Im ^4 


»N ^4 In In In ^4 



4; V 4; 4; 4; 
O4 O4 O4 O4 O4 

D4 O4 D* 0« 0« 0« 







In .^4 »-• .^4 ^ 

J^ Kl 

>4 ^4 .In .In .Wi ^4 









t^ o^oo 


fO t^ w to 



r^ "^00 to 


Tf 10 lOOO M M 



M M M M M 

M M 

e« M M M M M 



0\ 0^ Qs OS On 


O^ Q^ On On On On 

Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 

8 I 11 I 

|> "Z^ 

%& I 

p so- " 

5 g ID 3 

S a & C 

2*5 ■= 

is t 

i 5 


- sslllpliisii 



I ^11 

CO j^-<:t=i 

3 ^' > = 

■a 3 

S.S. S. S.S. s. S.S.S.S. s. s. 
II I II I nil % I 

Appendix III. 

























o ® 
^ t: 

c a* 

S s 

0) c 



••^ •a .;:i 






a i a5'S 

4^ 0^ i>« c4 

-id c4 
d > 

• •\ CO 



53 *^ ♦* 

^ c c 









o c 


s B 

4S 04 

< o 

. 00 
•J - 

^ G 


is *:. 


s >^ ^ 


5 0.5 



_ t 

CO bofc 

rt s «» 

4> ^ - 

.S S-g* 

8 b wi »~5 















^ H' 



5: u 

^ cd 

jc s^ 


c 5 


5-c 2 

±3 ti -JS 
to a> <=^ 

^ c c 

4) O D 

4< boCJ 
^ 2rJ 

4) . 











1 ^ 







fe <i cJ 0^ ^ 2 H !-:»< 




M »^ l-i l-« l-i 

4) O 4) 4) 4^ 
O4 O4 D* Q4 Q4 

22 22 2 

^4 ^4 ^4 

4> 4> 4) 4) 4> 4> 
D4 D4 D4 M4 O4 0« 

u- 2 g S 2 9 





O t^ O OnOO tovo 

r* ^00 to O 10 O 

M M M et M MM 

On On On On On On G^ 

to O t^ w o m 
^ lO »ooo « «« 

e« M M M M «« 

^N ^N ^\ ^\ Q\ On 

1 86 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 






























s 8- 

s s 



ffi S rt Jj 





3 '5 



iS « 


C c« 





c B 










a c 
a3 o 

^ «« 

b o« 

> *i 

o ^ « 

tj .^ "^ •- 

^^ C "p JO 

CO 8 c ^ ♦* 

*^ M ^ 'ST* S 












S£ o 









!0 O 

C 73 w_ 

<U M - 

a; > S 

CO •. O 

_ ^ C/3 

Ctf KJ S 






g § 
^ 3 3 

^ •^ H-J 

'O S o 

S g a 

> £ 2 





.*> bo 

g 2 


o S 

i^ a 

2 ce 




• *•« 






jc o 

-2 o 

C c4 




bo d 

o bi) 







^- S^*^ CO 

S'5 bOc 

Oi a* 

2 ^ 

*-• ^ H 

a> 4) (U 

O4 Ci« Cu 

Vh W« li 

0) a; 
ci* a. 

h^ Wt %* %~* 

4) O) 4> <U 
O P O O 

^^ h<b^^b^ 


00 to 

M M 

Ov On 

M tooo 

M M M 

On O^ ON 


N M 


in M vo 00 

M d M M 
















4) 0) 


ffiK gS 




^ t^ M 1^ 

4) 4; 4) 4> 



1^ v« »M M 


Th N OnOO 
M rovo M 

« W M M 

On On On ON 

Appendix III. 





















































5b j5 


E G 
O rt 

E o ^ 

0) cd (U 

rt'S E 





c :s 
















-o E 
s o 

*J ^ 

-3 "2^ ^ 

TJ ^ p-S F 






'2 • 
G 0) 

3 E 


to rQ 

o 4-* 










S § 

CQ gj 

•S S 

•a *" 

^3 O , 









• • 

. ** 




C. Jeffrey, Aberdeen. 
P. Law, Ceres. 
J. Lennox, Lochee. 
T. Low, Arbroath. 
Mathieson, Anstruther. 
P. Matheson, Edinburg 

S. Matthew, Edinburgh 
Martin, Edinburgh. 
C. Milliken, Dundee, 
illiam Miller, Edinburgh 
S. Minto, Crieff. 

B. Mudge, Devonshire 
W. Mundell, Lairg, Su 
G. Macdonald, Keith. 

. W. H. M'Grady, Arbri 
A. M*Grady, Arbroath. 

Q d CJ Q psi »^* 



CO • 


4) <i> <u 4> 4) 

Im >M M f^ kl 

0) <U <U <P 4> 

O4 D4 D4 o« O4 




0) 0) 

Cli CI4 Q4 Ou CI4 cu 





9 9 





»N C C v^ M ui 

Urn >^ ^ >■* %^ 

i-« t-i 


i-i u 







Tf Tf OS ''^ ►^ M 

10 M ^VO 00 

t- to 


^ t^ 

t^ to M 00 00 « 



m t^ 

M M d M M C< 

M M M »-i e« 

M M 


M Hi 

0\ 0^ On On On O^ 

On On On On On 




1 88 Fife and Forfar L Y. in South Africa 









rp, 1 6th 

h second contingent 
Farmer; returned 

h second contingent 







. a 
i •§ 
s ^ 




« o 

o e 2 




4) ^ 

*5 J 

C ^^ 4-* • 



2 1 




O ^ '^ .— 


^ s 

O S G 

o S s 



S E 







>;-o'B'S c 



73 73 

> > 

l-H HH 






h4 »50 

















S E § 










•3 "8 "8 










2 ^^ « o 

• • 












• • 





ki ki 



!•« >•* 

hi ^ 
















^4 ^4 l-l 


»-l ^4 



-»^ fc4 

In I-i 










w « ^ 

eovo O 




o o 





to "^ 



« eo 



W M W 


M e« 




« M 








Appendix III, 




























s 2 

•a 3 
S o 








>* c? O o 

_9 tec/3 >Ti 



•33 ^ S^O CO 


•T? to *» 

C« ••\'T3 

7^ CO Q . 
O '^ CO 

> S3 

kJ^-^ to 
« 2 o 

g S ^fc< 

^ O CJ ^ 

^ <u c: 
'"" *" .^ ^ 

g si o o 


^ SL.s s 


o o a; 

O 0) _ 

S 5:2 «*i 

oj ii4 ^ c4 






;j3 O 


"-• o 







. G 

W 'rt 







• « 

73 -O 



• ^4 

• p^ 










•a C 4) 
oj bA*^ 

>-c 2 

'fa &lte 

»r S s 

B.ti <u <« 
a ^ *3 4) 

C c «tf • •? o 

O faQ 



0) c •^ 

C--5J c 








CO ctf 



■4^ (P 





CO ^ . S *? 

^ CO 


> ^4 

C c« 


• O 





o o 


t— >•—»•— »i—»H 












^4 Wi In In ^ i-i l-i 

<P 4> 4) (U 1^ 1> <u 

O4 O4 cii cu O4 04 O4 



Wl »N l-l l-l >^ Wl Ii4 


•^ ^4 




t^ fo 

to « 



Ov OS 







M OS OS ON e« 10 eo 

€4 M M M M M fl 

Os OS OS OS On On On 

1 90 Fife and Forfar L Y, in South Africa 







































c -a 

OT3 ■ 



73 CO 














3.E;r ^ 



.^ C O 

03 'So E 







.s -o **^ 

s °' 







i3 1^ "^ *-• 

E E ^ E 

O <U 3 « 

-c E^ E 


:3 *? 


^5 .».* ^i .«"* 

> 'C 



X iJ ^ .. 
♦:* -is bo g 

E*C r3 -^ 
OO o 3 

^ .-^ Lh a> 










E -G 

g bo 
^ c O 

•S H E 

o *i 2i <i> 
c S o 








d, Markinc 







ds, Edinbu 

n, Wilts. 

C. Stratton, 
. Stewart, Co 
P. Sturrock, 
A. Sutherlan 
Tod, Kirkca: 

Truscott, Cc 



. Veitch, Edi 
G. Wacher, 


. T. Wilson, ] 

. M. Westlan 

Yeomans, S 

M. Thomsoi 
D. Mitchell, 

< ffi ^^i^O 






^ Im Vh »H t^ M 


^ 1^ 


^ u u» 

I-. 1-1 

4J (U 4J <L> ^ <U 




V 9^ V 

a> <u 

0« Q* Pu D4 Cli Ci« 


P4 CU O4 

O4 0* 


S 9 5 

S 2 



P P 

c C S C S t-. 

wi ^ 


u, J^ u, 

J'^ -** 








M r*vo 00 N 


'^ N 


OS CO 10 



r* to t^ ro ^ ^ 




10 r^oo 


M M M C4 M M 




M M M 


On On Os On On On 






Appendix IV. 


From the Diary of LUutenatU Pullar. 

The letter F opposite a date signlfiet the days on which the Gompany was engaged 

with the enemy. 


Date. Place. Miles, &c. 


April Wellington, Paarl, and Worcester - ^ 

May 15 Warrenton ( ^5 

16 Christiana ) 

17 Bloemhovel ) 

18 Phokwani > ^5 

19-20 Phokwani > 

21 Taungs - - - - - -) 

22 Madrid ( 

23-26 Vryburg )^° 

27 Trafalgar - > 

28-29 Hartebeestpan >• 47 

30 Geysdorp ) 

31 Barberspan 

June 1-2 Barberspan 

3 Beijesvallei [ ^ 

4 KalksprUit 

5-6-7 Lichtenburg 12 

8 Potfontein ) 

9 Ventersdorp ) ^^ 

10 Night March ) 

11 Potchefstroom ) ^^ 

11-24 Potchefetroom (patrols) - - - 

25 Frederikstadt 

26 Welverdiend l ^ 

27 Bank Station 

192 Fife and Forfar I. Y. in South Africa 


June a8 

July I 




6-1 1 

























Gemsbokfontein - - - 
Klip Drift - . - . 
Johannesburg (Germiston) - 
Kaalfontein ... 
Pretoria - - - - 
Pretoria - - - - 
Rietvlei (General Hutton) - 
Rietfontein (Bronkhorstspruit) 
Rietfontein- - . - 
Pretorious Farm ... 
Pretoria ... * 
Dourdepoort (General Mahon) 
Eight miles to Aapres River 
Kameldrift (Pienaarspoort) - 
Kameldrift (Pienaarspoort) - 
Doomkraal ... 
Doomkraal ... 
Doomkraal ... 
Bronkhorstspruit Station 
Balmoral .... 













Balmoral ) 

Bronkhorstspruit J '^ 

Diamond Hill 

Erstefabriken - - - . 



Home's Nek .... 
Elands Nek .... 
Crossed Crocodile River 
Brakspruit ..... 
Dorzaak Laager .... 


Brakfontein .... 
Commando Nek (Rekewich joined) 
Commando Nek (Grootplaats) 
Ten miles S.-W. to - - - 
Hartley's Farm and Nek 
Jameson's Kop . . - - 
Jameson's Kop .... 
Vlakfontein .... 
Vlakfontein (De Wet)- 
Oliphant's Nek and Rustenburg - 





25 F 


August 1 8 






29-Sep. 2 

Sept 3 



























Itinerary of Company 


E. night march to Crocodile River 

Roode Kopjes - - - - 

Zoutpans Drift - - - - 


Zoutpan (Salt Works) - 

North twelve miles - - - 

Warmbaths - - - - 

Warmbaths . - - - 

South to Pienaars River Station - 
Rosenbloom and Waterval - 



Rietfontein (General Clements) - 

Skeerpoort- - - - - 
Witwaterberg (f Bulfontein) 
Yeomanry Hill (Hekpoort) - 

Hekpoort - - - - - 

Boschfontein - - - - 

Zandfontein - - - - 

Hekpoort (patrols) - - - 

Thorndale - - - - - 

Waggonpadspruit - - - 

Near Oliphant's Nek - - - 
Buffelshoek (Selous River) - 

Bufifelshoek (patrol) - - - 

Oliphanfs Nek - - - - 

Sterkstroom - . - - 

Bethanie (patrol) - - - 

Backfontein - - - - 
Commando Nek (bridge) - 

Commando Nek - - - 
Rhenosterspruit (south) 

Kalkhoeval - - - - 

Rietfontein (river) - . - 

Pompeon Kraal - - - - 


Boschfontein - - - - 

Beyond Hekpoort - - - 
De Wet's Pass (Blok Kloof) 

Hekpoort - - - - - 

Hartley's Nek to store (Boon's) - 

Cyferfontein - - - - 

Vlakfontein - - - - 


MUm, &c. 
25 F 










40 F 




194 Ptf^ ^^ Forfar L Y. in South Africa 

Nov. a 










27-DeC. 2 

Dec. 3 










Jany. 1-2 







Leeuwfontein - - - - - 
Leeuwfontrin (patrob) ... 
Leeuwfontein - - - - - 
Doomkom (Klipspruit) ... 
Magato Nek and Leeuwfontein - 
Elands River . - - - - 


Hartebeestfontein . . - - 



Krugersdorp (patrols) - - - - 
Sterkfontein - - - - - 
Sterkfontein - - - - - 


Convoy ------ 

Rietfontein (84) 


Krugersdorp - - - - - 
Dwasvlei ------ 


Pompeon Kraal - - - - - 

Damhoek ------ 

Nooitgedacht - - - - - 

Convoy to Rietfontein - - - - 

Convoy returned - - - - 


Nooitgedacht (fatal 13th) & night march 
Commando Nek - - - - 


Kalkhoeval (patrol) - - - - 
Rietfontein - . - - - 
Night march - - - - - 
Wolhuters Kop 


Wolhuters Kop 
Breedt Nek 
Krobm River 
Dorzaak - 
Oliphant's Nek 







>56 F 




>i5 F 





8 F3 

Itinerary of Company 



Jany. 28 

February i 





























Rietfontein N. - 

Steinkopje - - - - 

Krugersdorp - - - 

Wonderfontein - - - 
Wonderfontein (Gemsbokfontein) 
Gatsrand (night march) 

Wonderfontein - - - 
Roodepoort (Gatsrand) 

Gemsbokfontein - - - 

Oberholzer (passed Banks) - 

Oberholzer- - - - 

Welverdiend - - . 

Rleinfontein - - - 

Deelkraal - - - - 

Buffelsdoom - - - 

Kraalfontein - - - 

Doomfontein - - - 

Buffelsdoorn - - - 
Nooitgedacht (Losberg) 

Rooipoort - - - - 
Rooipoort (Hartebeestfontein) 

Potchefetroom - - - 

Potchefetroom - - - 
Mooi River Bridge 

Witpoort - - - - 
Rietpoort (Mooi River) 
Rietvlei (Mooi River) - 

Reitvlei - - - - 
Frederikstadt Drift (Mooi River) 
Frederikstadt Station - 
Kaalplatz (Jew's store) 
Nooitgedacht (Losberg) 

Jew's store - - - - 

Potchefetroom - - - 

Potchefstroom - - - 
Potchefstroom (south bridge) 

Hartebeestpoort - - - 

Wonderboom - - - 

Rietpoort (opposite Parys) - 

Rietpoort - - - - 
Raatskraal- ... 

Modderfontein - - - 

MUm, &c. 

43 F 


14 P 










>"28 F 




196 Fife and Forfar I, Y. in South Africa 



MIlM, ftc 

March 35 

Bank Station . - - . 



Modderfontein - - - . 



Kaalfontein - . . . 



Kaalfontein (Zoekoefontein) 

: :t5«' 
■ -) 


Zurfontein - - - - ■ 


Vereeniging - - - . 

Total miles in Transvaal, 2005 ; engagements, 65. 

Date. Place. MUes, &a 

April 5 Bloemfontein ^ 

6 Springfield >• 22 

7 Sanna's Post (Waterworks) - - - ) 

8 Thaban'chu 18 

9-12 Brand's Drift ) 

13-14 Allandale j^^F 

15 Korannaberg \ f 

16 Korannaberg (Bestersflats) - - " v ^o ^ 

17 Onderkluitze's Kraal - - - - r" 3 p 

18 Belmont (Monastery Mine) - - ) f 

19 Belmont (Diamond Mine) - - - \ 

20 Trommel (Leeuwkop) - - - " C 60 ^ 

21 Trommel t^ 

22 Bakenfontein (Winburg) - - - ) 

23 Kaffir Kop \ 

24 Night march - - - - - >• 42 

25 Senekal ) f 

26 Dinkerfontein 30 f 

27 Mispa (Blawkop) - - - - \ f 

28 Reitz Farm ^ "^^ f 

29 Reitz ) 

30 Mailer's Rust ) ^ f 

May I Dinkerfontein Ica^ 

2-5 Senekal )^ 

6 Liliefontein \ f 

7 Liliefontein - - - - "Ce^ 

8 Spytfontein f ^^ f 

9 Ventersburg Road Station - - - } 

Itinerary of Company 197 


Dftte. Place. MUea, &c 

May 10- 1 1 Ventersburg Road Station - - - 

12 Geneva Siding - - - - - 

13 Geneva Siding 

14 Roode Bloem L « ^ 

15 Balkfontein f ^ f 

16 Commando Drift (Vaal) - - - 

17 Wilgelegen 

18 Doomkraal 

19 Rietgat 

20 Roodepoort 

21 Kopje Allein 

22 Virginia Siding 24 

Total miles in Orange River Colony, 568 ; engagements, 20 
„ Transvaal, - 2005 ; „ 65 

Total trek (excluding patrols), 2573; engagements, 85