Tuesday, 5 April 2011

BRITISH TO THE BONE ,TO THE HEART part 17 south africa

 FLATS DEPICTING THE BOER WAR.above reka produced at the time of the war


It was now found necessary to issue a proclamation giving all strangers the option of leaving the town at twenty-four hours' notice. In spite of this notice, however, many civilians remained. Meanwhile, shells continued to drop uproariously, if harmlessly, into the town, while the balloon corps worked steadily in their task of locating the hostile guns. The enemy objected to that original form of spy, and aimed at him many a shot, but, fortunately, without effect. The Naval Brigade, always animated, active, and efficient, completed the mounting of the long-range guns which were to add to the safety of the place and the discomfiture of its besiegers. On the whole, the position was becoming somewhat serious, particularly for those whose nerves were unaccustomed to the uproar of diurnal thunderstorms. Lord Wolseley has somewhere said that "the effect of artillery fire is more moral than actual; it kills but very few, but its appalling noise, the way it tears down trees, knocks houses into small pieces, and mutilates the human frame when it does hit, strikes terror into all but the stoutest hearts." It may be imagined that the early days of this experience must have been somewhat embarrassing, though later on, so attuned became the nerves, even of women, that they engaged in shopping in the midst of bombardment, quite unmoved.

On 2nd November at 2.30 p.m. the telegraphic communication with Ladysmith was interrupted, but it was undecided whether the Boers had got sufficiently far south to promote the interruption or whether the wires had been cut by Dutch sympathisers or small scouting parties of the enemy. The Boers applied for an armistice with a view to burying their dead, their real object most probably being, as in many previous cases of a similar nature, to obtain time for refitting their heavy guns. foundry
This request was refused, but they were permitted to bury their slain under a flag of truce. Meanwhile, General Joubert's force received large reinforcements of Free State burghers under the command of Lucas Meyer, and additional commandoes from the Middleburgh and Leydenburg districts under Schalkburger were expected.

Types of Arms—12-Pounder Naval Gun on Improvised

After this the siege of Ladysmith began in real earnest. "Long Tom," though temporarily incapacitated, soon resumed his volubility, and was assisted by another of his calibre nicknamed "Slim Piet." Curiously enough, the first house hit during the siege was a commodious bungalow-shaped residence with large verandah belonging to Mr. Carter, the author of the now well-known "Narrative of the Boer War." The owner fortunately had left before the bombardment, and the premises were then occupied by nurses.

Types of Arms—above 12-Pounder Naval Gun on Improvised Carriage Types Types of Arms—4.7-Inch Naval Gun on Improvised
Mountingof Arms—4.7-Inch Naval Gun on Improvised Mounting
Lieut. Frederick Egerton, of the Powerful, who was wounded by a shell in the left knee and right foot, was promoted to the rank of Commander in Her Majesty's fleet for special services with the forces in South Africa. But his promotion came too late. He expired after some hours of suffering.

The Boers by now had established batteries on Grobler's Kloof, ]a commanding eminence from whence they could attack both Ladysmith on the north and Colenso on the south. colenso
Women and children vacated the place, and the trains coming in and out had to run the gantlet of the Boer fire, both Nordenfeldt quick-firing guns and Mauser rifles being brought to bear on the refugees. The Boers, however, continued to salute the town without much effect, while the naval gunners replied with telling emphasis. They succeeded in dismounting the Boers' 40-pounder which had been so comfortably posted on Pepworth's Hill.

The carriages and platforms on which the naval guns were mounted at Ladysmith, and which proved so important a feature in promoting the defence of the place, were specially designed by Captain Percy Scott of the cruiser Terrible. In regard to this officer's resourcefulness the Times expressed an opinion that is worthy of remembrance:—

"Captain Percy Scott, of the Terrible, came to the rescue, adding one more to the numerous instances in which this country has owed to individual resource and initiative its escape from the disasters invited by the incompetence of the War Office. There is no need to inquire just now into the balance of political and military considerations which determined the policy of making a stand at Ladysmith. It is enough that that policy was definitely adopted in ample time to allow of providing Ladysmith with the long-range guns which its position renders peculiarly necessary, dominated as it is by hills on three sides. BELOW PAGETS HORSE HATWhy were such guns not provided? Why was it left to fortunate accident to furnish the garrison at the very last moment with the means of defence? The conclusions of German military science, as will have been noted by all who read the interesting account of German manœuvres which we published yesterday, are all in favour of saving the lives of the infantry by a very free use of artillery at long ranges. The country around Ladysmith seems to be one that calls loudly for even a more lavish artillery equipment than might normally suffice. Yet, in spite of science and of common-sense, the Ladysmith garrison, occupying a predetermined position open to artillery fire from all sides, was left absolutely destitute of long-range guns, and none too well provided with field-artillery. But that Captain Scott proved himself able, just in time, to improvise out of the rough materials at hand an effective gun-carriage, there would have been nothing to prevent the Boers from using their big guns at half the distance they have actually had to keep."

At this time British troops were withdrawn from Colenso and[Pg 54] moved farther south, and Boer armies continued to close round Ladysmith. Isimbulwana Hill, lying east of Ladysmith, was taken possession of, and a force advancing from Dewdrop, on the west of the town, moved south towards Colenso, and there on high ground posted its guns. Yet, in spite of this, the town showed itself to be "all alive and kicking." Though cut off from the telegraph, it sent out pigeon-posts; though engirdled by Boers, it made sorties of the most animated description, and literally laughed at the hint of surrender. On the 2nd, Colonel Brocklehurst made an attack on the enemy's laagers with a force of cavalry, mounted infantry, and mounted volunteers, surprising the Dutchmen and driving them back with comparatively small loss, and on the following day fighting lasted for some hours between the British cavalry, supported by field-artillery, Imperial Light Horse, and Natal Mounted Volunteers, and the Republicans. Many shells were pitched into the town, and an artillery duel rampaged with such relentless vigour that the general sensation to those who remained enclosed in the town was as though a thunderstorm with earthquake was passing over the place. Nothing worse happened, and the enemy for a while were driven back to their camp and some thirty or more prisoners were taken. Major Charles Kincaid, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, with nine wounded prisoners, was exchanged by the Boers for eight of their countrymen in similar plight. Others of them were not fit to travel. The enemy continued active, replacing disabled guns with new ones and dragging fresh powerful weapons to bear on the situation. On the 4th of November they announced their annexation of Upper Tugela, and a counter-proclamation of the nature already quoted was issued by the Governor.

LADYSMITH, NATAL. Photo by Wilson, Aberdeen.A large commando of the enemy commenced the bombardment of Colenso, and the troops forming the garrison of that place fell back on Estcourt, where was stationed a force of considerable strength. By "considerable strength" it must be understood that the force was sufficiently strong for purposes of defence, though not for purposes of offence. As a matter of fact, the force in Natal was not, and has not since been, sufficiently strong for attack of a foe in such powerfully intrenched positions. From beginning to end our military commanders on that side of the theatre of war were sorely handicapped by the tardy recognition by the Home Government of the gravity of the situation. But here it is now desirable that something should be said of the early history of the towns of Mafeking and Kimberley, which, like Ladysmith, were by this time almost completely isolated, rails and telegraph wires having been cut around both places respectively.

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