My Reminiscences of the Anglo Boer War

On arrival at Glencoe Station I recieved a telegram from General Joubert informing me that he had defeated the enemy at Nicholson’s Neck near Ladysmith that day (October 30,1899) taking 1,300 prisoners, who would arrive at Glencoe the following morning. He desired me to conduct them to Pretoria under a strong escort. To conduct prisoners-of-war, taken by other burghers!

However, orders had to be obeyed, so I sent one of my officers with 40 men to take the prisoners to Pretoria, and reported to the Commandment-General by telegram that his order have been executed, also asking for instructions as to where I was to proceed with my commando. The reply I received was as follows:—

“Pitch your camp near Dundee, and maintain law and order in Province, also aid the Justice of the Peace in forwarding captured goods, ammunition, provisions, etc., to Pretoria, and see that you are not attacked a second time.”

On the 1st of November, 1899, we reached the main army near Ladysmith, and I went at once to tell General Joubert in person that my men wanted to fight, and not to play policemen in the rear of the army. Having given the order to dismount I proceeded to Joubert’s tent, walked in with as much boldness as I could muster, and saluted the General, who was fortunately alone. I at once opened my case, telling him how unfair it was to keep us in the rear, and that the burghers were loudly protesting against such treatment. This plea was generally used throughout the campaign when an officer required something to be granted him. At first the old General was very wrathful. He said I disobeyed his orders and that he had a mind to have me shot for breach of discipline. However, after much storming in his fine bass voice, he grew calmer, and in stentorian tones ordered me for the time being to join General Schalk Burger, who was operating near Lombard’s Kop in the siege of Ladysmith.

That same evening I arrived there with my commando and reported myself to General Burger. We pitched our tents on the same spot where a few days before General white and French had been defeated, and there awaited developments.

At this place the British, during the battle of Nicholson’s Nek, had hidden a large quantity of rifle and ammunition in a hole in the ground, covered it up with grass, which gave it the appearance of a heap of rubbish. One of the burghers who feared this would be injurious to the health of our men, set the grass on fire, and this son penetrated to the ammunition. A tremendous explosion occurred, and it seemed as if there were a real battle in progress. From all sides burghers dashed up on horseback to learn where the fighting was taking place. General Joubert sent an adjutant to enquirer whether the Johannesburgers were now killing each other for a change, and why I could not keep my men under better control. I asked this gentlemen to be kind enough to see for himself what was taking place, and to tell the Commandment-General that I could manage well enough to keep my men in order, but could not be aware of the exact spot where the enemy had chosen to hide their ammunition.

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