My Reminiscences of the Anglo Boer War

Everything no depended upon the fleetingness and staying power of my sturdy little Boer, pony, Blesman. He remained my faithful friend long after he had got me out of this scrape; he was shot, poor little chap, the day when they made me a prisoner. Poor Blesman, to you I owe my life. Blesman was plainly in league against all that was British; from the first he displayed Anglophobia of a most acute character. He has served me in good stead, and now lies buried, faithful little heart, in a Lyndenburg ditch.

In my retreat Sunday River had to be crossed. It was deep, but deep or not, we had to get through it. We were going at such a pace that we nearly tumbled down the banks. The precipice must have been very steep; all I remember is finding myself in the water with Blesman by my side. The poor chap had got stuck with his four legs in the drift sand. I managed to liberate him, and a lot of scrambling and struggling and wading through the four foot stream, I got to the other side. On the opposite bank the British were still firing.

At dawn, when the first rays of the sun lit up Biggersbergen in all their grotesque beauty, I realized for the first time where I was, and found that was considerable more than 12 miles from Elandslaagte, the fateful scene of yesterday. Tired out, half-starved and as disconsolate, I sat myself on an anthill. For 24 hours I had been foodless, and was now quite exhausted. I fell in to a reverie; all the past day’s adventures passed graphically before my eyes as in kaleidoscope; all the horrors and carnage of the battle, the misery of my maimed comrades, who only yesterday had answered the battle-cry full of vigor and youth, the pathos of the dead who, cut down in the prime of their life and buoyant health, lay yonder on the veldt, far away from wives and daughters and friends for ever more.

While in a brown study on this anthill, 30 men on horseback suddenly dashed up towards me from the direction Elandsgaate. I threw myself flat on my face, seeking the anthill as cover, prepared to sell my life dearly should they prove to be Englishmen. As soon as they observed me they halted, and sent one of their number up to me. Evidently, they knew not whether I was friend or foe, for they reconnoitered my prostrate from behind the anthill with great circumspection and caution; but I speedily recognized comrades-in-arms.

I had gathered round me in charge of a field-cornet, and proceeded by train in Newcastle to collect the scattered remnants of my burghers, and to obtain mules and wagons for my convoy, for, as I have previously stated, it was Newcastle we had left all our commissariat wagons and drought cattle under a strong escort. On arrival I summoned the burghers together, and addressing them in a few words, pointed out that we should, so soon as possible, resume the march, in order to reach the fighting line without delay, and there retrieve the pride and honor of our commando.

“Our beloved country,” I said, “as well as our dead, wounded and missing comrades, require us not to lose courage at this first reverse, but to continue the righteous struggle even against the overwhelming odds.”and so on, in this strain.

Ben Viljoen, 1906

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