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Chapter XIII The Army

IN the week after the battle of Diamond Hill there were few places in the world where so many varieties of English, so many outlandish men of the Empire, met together and jostled one another as in the streets of Pretoria.

After the short armistice immediately subsequent to the evacuation of the capital by the Boer army and its occupation by that of Lord Roberts, the troops had gone out to surround Louis Botha. It had seemed, at one time in the two days' fighting, that Louis Botha had almost surrounded the troops, but finally, at the expense of many good lives, he had been compelled to retire a little further toward the bush-veldt, northwards. And then the great bulk of the army in the Transvaal sat down in its positions to await the remounts hurrying from the south as fast as the single line of narrow-gauge railway, the exploding culverts, and the ubiquitous De Wet would permit. North, south, east and west, Divisions and Brigades bivouacked in the surrounding veldt. The


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kopjes about the town were hurriedly fortified and guarded by the invaders against sudden attack. The surrendering of arms, and the merry granting of permits to return to farms, went on as briskly as it had done in the first days after the surrender of Bloemfontein.

Nothing of very much importance was doing anywhere. Baden-Powell from Mafeking, and Methuen from Fourteen Streams, were riding through the Western Transvaal. Paul Kruger administered his vague Government from the migratory saloon carriage on the Laurenco Marques line, and hurled Scriptural exhortation at his dubious burghers. It was a time of stagnation in the north. Below the Vaal the Free Staters were alarmingly active, but here, in our part of the ‘Theatre of War,’ nothing more serious went on than the occasional sniping of pickets, and the intermittent cutting-off of small British patrols by the hovering Boer commandos.

And so driblets and details of men ‘on leave’ from the great chain of outposts about the town were continually coming in to see Pretoria and buy provisions, and the peaceful Dutch capital seemed to have taken on the cosmopolitan air that of right belonged to Johannesburg, thirty miles down the line.

It was a kind of reunion of the army. The many elements that had been drafted off into Brigades and Divisions and composite regiments of sorts—each constituted after its kind—had, as it were, sent delegates


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to meet informally in Church Street. Groups of men representative of the four quarters of the globe strolled about the quiet streets, filling their haversacks with costly purchases of groceries; raiding the ‘Post Kantoor’ for stamps of the (almost ‘late’) South African Republic; visiting the State Museum; peeping into the empty church in the centre of the Market Square; seeking Paul Kruger's house to gape at the Vrouw Kruger; aimlessly wandering all about the town, from the barracks of the Staats Artillerie to the late prison of the English officers in the bird-cage—just as though the place were a resort of excursion trains, and they curious tourists, come for a day to stare about the ‘sights’.

Upon the pavements, and in the shops, or gazing curiously into the booksellers' windows where the priceless last issues of the Volkstem and the Standard and Diggers' News were for a little while displayed, were all manner of strange beings, most utterly dissimilar in every aspect, save the outward one of dingy, tattered, march- and battle-stained khaki. There were English Tommies from the counties—sturdy fellows, slow of speech and ponderous of thought; Cockney Tommies from the East of London—slack of manners and gamin-like in bearing; Scotch Tommies who were broad and sturdy, and altogether veritable towers of massive strength; Irish Tommies, whose brogue preceded them round corners; straw-hatted ‘handy-men’ of the ‘Four-point-Sevens,’


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who seemed to look with contempt upon the benighted ‘soldiers’ with whom Fate, for a time, had cast in their lot. There were dainty men of the City Imperial Volunteers; wealthy men of the Yeomanry; men who knew Collins Street; men who had a nodding acquaintance with Sydney, but a close friendship with the Western Plains; Tasmanians, New Zealanders, Queenslanders, Manitobans, men of the North-West, some of Ceylon, Indians, Burmans—all the queer mixture that the Empire had been pouring ceaselessly into South Africa since the war began.

There were little impromptu tea-rooms and hastily improvised coffee-shops, where you might sit at table with them all, where the rich brogue of Limerick mingled with the drawl of Canada and the twang of the Australians—expensive places in which late members of the Boer Army Service Corps and Commissariat departments rapidly grew rich by selling boiled eggs for sixpence, and beef-steaks for half-crowns. In them you might hear the jargons of the trades of nearly all the known universe. Station overseers exchanged views as to grazing with farmers from the Eastern Province. Miners of Kalgoorlie discussed the cyanide process with engineers of the Rand. Policemen of the Klondyke lied against those of Little Bourke Street. Scotsmen fra' Edinboro' ‘cracked’ wi' those of Otago. Troopers of Cape regiments argued in open Dutch with the proprietors.


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It was as it had been at Bloemfontein in March, and at Kroonstad in May.

Never again, until the Great War comes, will so many different types of the Empire's soldiery gather together and behold one another. Never again, until then, will there be such an opportunity of comparing the men of the Old with the men of the New World.

Pretoria, in those days, was as a kaleidoscope. All the shifting colours of the race to which we belong blended, and parted, and massed in strange groups, as the bits of glass blend, and mass, and fall apart within the toy. It was a chance to see the world as one had never before seen it, and as one will have a great deal of good luck if one ever sees it again. And, always forcing itself upon one's mind, as one strolled about the streets, was the consciousness of Empire, the vague realisation that we, the English, and the Canadians, and the Australians, were a race that overran the globe, and that its inheritance was ours. Bumptiousness, if you will—but in the midst of that coming together of the Four Corners it was a smugly satisfactory thought that one could not well keep from one's mind. And there was another one, too—less agreeable, but scarcely less forcible—Heavens! Does it take all of us to crumple up two little Dutch Republics lost in the middle of a great continent? This last idea seemed to come as a kind of unpleasant but healthy mental tonic.

To many of us who had never seen him in the mass


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before, the Englishman was something new. Our ship had come to the South Arm at Capetown Docks, and lain beside a boat-load of Yeomanry. As we drew into the wharf, and lined the taffrail to get a closer view of the land which was to give some of us our graves, there came strolling about the pier strange people in khaki hats and clothing. They were sturdier, fresher complexioned, plumper men than ours—neater in their dress, and less self-assured in bearing. Glancing along the ship's side, one saw a few hundred ‘hard’ faces peering curiously at all they looked upon, chaffing a sturdy Zulu who deftly manipulated a steel hawser, calling to one another to notice new and striking things, and generally indicating by their manner and bearing that they had assumed ownership over all South Africa, from the Cape Peninsula to the Zambesi, and were just about to take formal possession by stepping ashore. The hardness of the average Australian face had never before come to one so vividly as it did that morning in the docks, when one saw, for the first time, so many ruddy, smooth-faced, flaxen Englishmen beside our lantern-jawed, long-limbed, bark-featured Cornstalks, Crow-eaters and Sand-gropers.

And this is a point amazingly noticeable all through the army of South Africa—that though dress be the same to every button and grease-spot, though arms and equipment may in no wise differ, you will never have the least difficulty in distinguishing a Colonial


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from an Englishman of England. By ‘Colonial’ one refers not necessarily to the ‘native born,’ but as much to the men who have lived with them for years, and learned their ways and habits in their new land. We had many amongst us who probably had once been as pink and white of countenance as were the Yeomanry.

This is the difference—the Colonial has lived a free life, has had to shift for himself, has been, with more elbow-room, rather more of his own master than has the average Englishman of the same class. In short, the Colonial has had to ‘battle’ for himself in all respects more than has the Englishman of his kind. And he shows it in his carriage, in his manner, in his very aggressive bearing, and his hardly veiled excellent opinion of himself. He is one of the ‘old hands’. The latter is a Jackaroo.

Not that he remains a Jackaroo always. There is no one in the world better gifted by nature to become an ‘overseer,’ but here, at the starting-point, in the first experience of open air, he is almost without exception what is known in Australia as a ‘New Chum’. And it is so of all the ‘Tommies,’ of all the Yeomanry Corps, of all the Volunteers and Militia of England, when good scouting, intelligent dependence upon self, and resource are imperatively required necessities.

One does not say this in any spirit of ill-feeling. Than the Yeomanry one would not wish to meet better fellows, or more agreeable company, and as


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fighting men—good old English fighting, not the Africander pattern—they are no whit behind (it is even doubtful whether they are not a little ahead of) their brethren of Greater Britain. But in this, and this again—the exercise of what we term ‘bushmanship’—until they have learned by bitterly bought experience, they are for ever wanting. Show them their enemy, and they will fight him and ‘lick’ him—but don't trust them to go and find him themselves, or he will inevitably discover them first, and possibly ‘lick’ them by sheer wilyness.

As to ‘Tommy’ himself—who shall speak? He is a class apart, a different species of mankind to any other upon earth. For the sort of man he is, if you wish to learn, you must read Kipling. He knows him, and he has described him as no one else may hope to do.

We had never encountered him before, but we had read our Kipling and were anxiously upon the look-out for what he had taught us to expect. And we found him exactly as described. There were all the strange expressions and twists of speech of Soldiers Three, and many more beside, which no one might render into print. You may trace his origin in his language, and generally it must be low enough. But what seems to one most singular about him is that, out of such material as the recruiting sergeant starts upon, the system makes him into so good a production as it does. It may be stupidity, it may be carelessness,


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but he is as cheerfully willing to die as any man who lives. It is not his fault that he has no individuality. It is the fault, and at the same time the perfection, of his education—an education which for two hundred years has sternly schooled him not to think, not to suppose that he is even capable of thinking. He is foul-mouthed, he is dull, he is brave, he is patient—he is exactly as one of his own officers is recently reported to have described him—bovine. That word seems to sum him up better than all the pages one might write.

But there is another thing—he has a good heart, he is kind, he is generous, and his public opinion is usually healthy and correct. The following may illustrate his kindliness of heart. Whether it be typical of the whole one is not quite certain, but is almost inclined to believe so.

A few nights after the surrender of Bloemfontein a group of Australian cavalrymen, who were attached as a squadron to a famous dragoon regiment, stood talking about a little fire in the lines at Wessels' Farm. With them were some few of the regiment of which they had the honour to form a temporary part. Some one inquired of another whether he meant to apply for a ‘pass’ to go into town. “No,” he replied, “what's the use? I'd like to have a look round, but I've got no money!” Nothing more was said at the time, but later, as the group broke up to seek its blankets, one of the ‘Greys’—an utter


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stranger—touched the penniless one upon the shoulder, and whispered to him: “Hey, chom, a can len' ye ten shillin', gin ye wush tae gang t' the toon!”

Could anything have been much kinder? To his credit, the Australian refused the proffered loan.

Of our own immediate kindred there were divers sorts. The men of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia were all much of a class. One has written of them all practically under the heading of ‘Tommy Cornstalk’. They are all mainly sprung from the parent stock of the Hawkesbury and the Hunter, or a common English ancestry, and have the same traditions and characteristics in the main as one another.

The Tasmanians differed, perhaps, a little from the men of the mainland—as Tasmania herself differs from the larger and more modern island continent. One heard of them always as having done good work. They had a commanding officer who seems to have been perpetually ‘looking for fight,’ and who kept on looking for it after having been wounded at least twice, if not more often. Tasmania, smallest of all the Australian States, has the distinction of having carried off, so far, all the V.C.'s granted to Australians.

Some Queensland Bushmen who visited our camp near Pretoria had a quaint story of the Victorians, which one would like to believe, but which is scarcely probable. It was to the effect that this particular lot


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of Banana-landers had gone round to Beira to join Carrington's Rhodesian Column. When they arrived there a steam-launch had come off to the troop-ship, carrying a fat official clothed in white duck. He stepped on deck with all politeness, and inquired beamingly what particular portion of the Empire these so fine soldiers might grace with their presence when at home.

“We're Queensland Bushmen,” they told him.

“Ah—yes—Queenslan',” he said meditatively. “Vell, good morning. I cannot permit you to make to disembark 'ere. You are as ze Veectorians—of Australia, is it not so? I regret ver mooch, but ze Veectorians, zey lan'—zey do what you call sketch—paint ze town red. Not ze bloodshed, I mean. But zey seize ze hotel, drink up all ze beers, an' ze vines, an' ze viskeys. My police expostulate—but zese wild Booshmen, zey seize zem by force, an' place zem in ze preeson, an' make to release all ze preesonaires. No, it is not possible to have more of ze Booshmen of Australia in Beira. Zey are fine fellow, zese Booshmen—but too wil', too wil'. I regret. I sorrow. I wish you a so pleasant voyage back to Capetown.”

The Queenslanders, indeed, returned to Capetown from Beira, and joined in the chase of De Wet, but the reason given as to the Victorians was probably the subsequent production of some fertile brain.

The New Zealanders differed very materially from the ‘Cornstalk’ troops, however. New Zealand has


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her own traditions of a fierce and bloody war, which, even though it be of the last generation, is still fresh enough in the memories of the people of to-day to give added soldierly qualities to her sons. They themselves come of a good stock. The climate of the islands is a healthy one. There is something solid and abiding about her people—some stability and sturdiness that, in the smallest degree, is wanting to our possibly more mercurial temperament and constitution.

We of the Australians may all claim proudly that, even apart from our troops having possibly distinguished themselves upon occasion, there has never yet been anything of the wholesale-surrender kind to bring down our average. But the writer does not think than any Australian who has served in Africa will quarrel with him for stating what he honestly believes himself to be true—namely, that of all the troops engaged in this arduous war, none were quite so good as the ‘Maorilanders’. Never once, in all the annals of it, did they fail to do the right thing at the right time. Always they were ready when wanted, always to be relied upon in ‘tight corners,’ always sure and constant in everything they did.

Not that the others ever wanted either. That was an opinion of Generals and lesser lights in the English army. There was a cossack-post of the writer's own corps, doing duty one day in early April east of Bloemfontein, which was suddenly attacked by a


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number of Johannesburg Police, who sought to isolate the four men from their main post. They briskly responded to the Boer fire, but, whilst so engaged, their ‘linked’ horses broke loose, and wandered, all unwitting of danger, to feed upon the scanty grass in front of the little kopje upon which the post was stationed. One of the men thereupon walked down the hill and led the horses round to the back, neither they nor him receiving a scratch though under a fairly hot, if long range, fire. Presently reinforcements came and drove the Zarps away. The English officer in charge of the main post had seen through glasses the risk the men of the cossack-post ran of losing their horses and being themselves cut off, and had come, hot-foot, to their assistance. He was much surprised to find that the horses had been saved. “Ah!” he remarked to the corporal, “you Australians always do well!”

And, though one says it as shouldn't, that was fairly true—but the New Zealanders did, in the humble opinion of the writer at any rate, just a little better.

Of the South African irregular regiments there was one corps to which all others must yield pride of place—that splendid and gallant body of Rand volunteers, the Imperial Light Horse. No corps in all the war has seen quite so much, or done such distinguished service, as this one. They began at Elandslaagte. Some went through the Siege of Ladysmith, and some


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who had been shut out helped to relieve the beleaguered town with Buller. Then they came round from Durban, and went up to assist Mahon in his notable march to release Mafeking. They came across the Western Transvaal and lost heavily in the fighting about Pretoria in July. Then they went on again towards Delagoa, and, for all the writer knows, may still be riding on the trail of Botha or De Wet. At the end they will have a record second to that of no regiment which has participated either in the Natal or the Western Campaign—and they should never be disbanded. Give the present members of the regiment their discharges, if they wish, but, for the honour of its deeds, keep the I.L.H. upon the shoulder-straps of a body of men in the garrison of South Africa—which, if it comport itself as excellently as did the originally constituted corps, will rival, for efficiency and usefulness, that fine body, the Cape Mounted Rifles itself.

The ‘Horse’ regiments seemed to be without limit. There were Roberts' Horse, Kitchener's Horse, Marshall's Horse, Brabant's Horse, Nesbit's Horse, Lumsden's Horse, Strathcona's Horse, Paget's Horse, Australian Horse—and many others too numerous to mention. The generality of them were South African corps, formed at the commencement of the war, and supplied with drafts of men from depôts in Capetown and Durban, as it progressed.

For some reason or other the Africander regiments


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were not popular with the troops from over sea—neither Tommies, Australians, nor Canadians seeming to care overmuch about them. That they did splendid service no one can deny. Rimington's Guides, Roberts' Horse, Kitchener's Horse, were always at the front. But there was something that seemed to tell against them in the estimation of their colonial cousins. It may have been that, instinctively, no one quite trusted the Cape Colony. We had come through their people after landing—for the front—and had seen the railway line guarded and patrolled, even into the suburbs of Capetown itself. We had met black looks and ill-concealed dislike at every station on the way to Modder River where the populace were allowed access to the platforms. And so, possibly, there was some feeling regarding these regiments—recruited in what was really an enemy's country, and many of their members having Dutch names—that had given rise to what was, one believes, an wholly unmerited distrust and dislike. Not in any other corps would you hear manifested a so bitter and general dislike of the Boers of both Republics as in these; and there were no troops whom the Boers themselves loathed so venomously as those of the sadly distracted colony. The siege of Wepener, the disaster at Sanna's Post, and half a dozen other hot and unhappy actions, had proved conclusively their loyalty and devotion, and shown beyond any shadow of doubt how well and bravely they could fight and


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bear themselves. And yet, the Boers hated them with a hatred of disappointment, and the Tommies distrusted them with a pig-headed and unreasoning distrust. Whatever their merits or demerits may have been, the fact remains, however, that they took their fair share of all the burdens of the campaign.

Of all the interesting groups of men who helped to form this strange medley of an army there were none who, for picturesque interest and fascinating detail of exploit, could approach within helio-range of the Canadians. And in this connection the writer has recently been doubting very much whether, in a book that purports to be written by a Cornstalk about Cornstalks, he has not already at various times devoted too much space to the doings of these remarkable men—whether the beguiling shadow of the maple-leaf has not rested too long and frequently upon pages that ought, more properly, to have been chronicles of gum-tree and she-oak men. But, through all the length and breadth of the land, campfire, and hospital, and railway station echoed their weird deeds—they made a name and recollection for themselves within South Africa which will not be forgotten until the race-feud dies out and men cease to speak of nineteen-hundred. Wherever you went, whomsoever you might hold converse with, you heard mention of them. “Have you heard the latest about those hard-cheeked Canadians?” became almost a stock question when conversation flagged, or a new


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topic were needed. And there was always something fresh or new to tell and hear of them. One seemed to fall, almost unconsciously, under the curious charm of their quaint collective personality. And every one liked them. Undoubtedly they were the most interesting and picturesque figures of the war. Their dashing actions, cool ferocity, quiet ‘slimness,’ and guileless ‘verneukery’ of the Boers themselves—and their pure hard cheek—rendered them famous and fascinating wherever they went.

One has told so often of their prowess and their quaintly serious modes of expression, that there is little left here to explain—but this story of one of them, who out-Canadianed the Canadians, may be worth recording, even though, possibly, it has been told in print before. It is of a man whose renown travelled through all Africa, who, though he was but a corporal of Mounted Infantry, attained a degree of local fame such as some Brigadier might even have envied. It was related to the writer by a Highland officer in Wynberg Hospital, who, having allowed a bullet to pass clean through his head somewhere in that neighbourhood, had been a patient in the hospital at Vredefort, and had himself heard it from both Boer and English sources.

“Well, it seems that this Corporal Clarkson, of the Canadian Mounted Infantry, you know, was rather a noted character in Hutton's Brigade. They used to give him all the hard jobs to do—ridin' out reconnoitrin'


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by himself, you know, and so forth—and he generally managed to do whatever he was instructed to, and a good deal beside. Sort of ‘handy man’ at scoutin', you know.

“Well—when French's crowd were just thinking about crossing the Vaal, they camped a few miles outside a little place called Vredefort—typical ‘dorp,’ an' all that—you know the kind of thing. Expected a big fight somewhere about, but it didn't come off. So, just to make sure, French thought he'd send some one out to reconnoitre Vredefort. Accordingly, the M.I. were told to find a patrol to do the job.

“Whoever it was had the sending out of the expedition I don't know, but I really think that the man who picked Clarkson to lead must himself have been a born leader of men, you know—sort of chappy who recognises the qualifications of his men, you know, when he wants anything done.

“So, this fellow Clarkson was paraded with five of his ‘darned out-fit,’ as those chappies call themselves, you know—and instructed to go and find out whether Vredefort was occupied or not. So out he went.

“When they got to within about a mile of the town, they came quite suddenly over a ridge on to a Boer outpost, or picket, or something—consistin' of eight or ten lusty Dutchmen. Clarkson arrived so very abruptly in their midst, that they hardly knew what was the right thing to do—to shoot or run. Quite flabbergasted 'em, you know. The gallant corporal


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took in the situation at a glance—let on he was the General himself, you know, and demanded their arms. I think they must have been a lot of awful Johnnies, you know—kind of town guard of Vredefort or something, because they just did as he told 'em. He took their ponies, remounted his men fresh, sent the Boers away on foot, and, leaving two men to guard the loot, continued his advance on Vredefort.

“Well, when he rode into Vredefort, he found the Dutch people fairly scared, you know. They knew French was pretty close, and had been filling one another up with lies about what would happen if he entered the place. There were white flags up on every chimney-pot and gate-post.

“Clarkson simply rode straight up to the office of the Landrost—sort of civil magistrate Johnnie, you know. By this time he was Commander-in-Chief, vice Lord Roberts, resigned; if you give a Canadian an ell he'll take as far as his rifle can carry.

“Our friend simply demanded the surrender of the town—nothing less! Well, the Boer Johnny was so very overcome, you know, and so very much afraid of losing his billet, that he thought perhaps he'd better do as requested, seeing also that Clarkson must undoubtedly be a General of very great standing. So, actin' under orders from Field-Marshal Lord Clarkson, he summoned all the available burghers who had arms to deposit 'em immediately in the Market Square, an' come an' listen to what the great officer


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of General French had to say. Course, you know, they think French has seniority of God Almighty. Altogether Clarkson collected between forty and fifty Mausers and Martinis, stacked 'em in a waggon, an' sent 'em into Hutton's camp with a note and one of his remaining three men—having previously invited himself to lunch with the Landrost at the hotel. I heard about the note; it was something like this, you know:—

“ ‘Dear General,—Please receive accompanying armament of one commando. I am pleased to state that I have this day captured the city of Vredefort (fancy Vredefort a “city”) and taken a large number of prisoners, whom I propose, subject to your approval, to release upon parole. You will be glad to hear that I am at the present moment enjoying an excellent luncheon with the Mayor of this city. We're havin' champagne! After lunch, as to-morrow will be the birthday of Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, I propose to formally annex the city to the British Dominions. Hopin' this will find you well, and in good spirits, as it leaves me at present,—I am, dear sir, yours faithfully Duncan Clarkson, Corporal, Canadian M.I.’

“Well, after lunch, he had 'em all called up into the Market Square again. Some English lady had had a flag hidden away all the time, and she produced it for the occasion. So Clarkson commanded the Free State Flag to be hauled down, and ran the Union Jack up in its place.




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“Then he made 'em a great speech. Pointed out all the benefits that would accrue to Vredefort under British rule, you know, an' all that—and finally worked 'em up into quite a pitch of enthusiasm, you know, so that they gave three cheers and sang ‘God save the Queen,’ etcetera.

“But the best of it, you know, was a snap-shot which that English lady took with a kodak, an' which I saw afterwards. There were all the old Boer Johnnies, you know, cheerin' away like anything, an' throwin' up their hats into the air—our brave boy, seated on his pony in the middle of the crowd of 'em; smilin' like a Cheshire cat, and—with one hand on the butt of his revolver!

“Well, now, I call that ‘moral suasion,’ don't you?”

And now we will leave the Canadian, and the Africander, and the Yeomanry, and the Tommies, and all the great gathering of the Empire's outmost outposts in all their diversified glory, and consider briefly another matter that is of some moment to us who helped to earn it—the reputation of the army.

In Pretoria, one morning, the writer had an opportunity of conversing with an Irish-American who had served under the redoubtable Blake, ‘Colonel’ of the Boer-Irish Brigade, and, being disgusted with that worthy person, and ‘full-up of fighting, annyway,’ had surrendered his Mauser and was for compulsory deportation shortly. Had been, he said, a burgher of the Transvaal. Had been, also, at Ladysmith, Colenso,


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and on the Tugela, and was, on the whole, rather a decent fellow—very different to the stray prisoners of Blake's disreputable command whom one had hitherto encountered. It was not “Go to hell!” with him to every question asked.

He had fought with the Boers because he had believed, and still believed, in the justice of their cause. And then he told the horrible story which one fancies that delightful gentleman, Mr. Michael Davitt, was the first to ‘father’ in print. It was the old Boer anecdote about the patrol of brutal lancers in Natal, who, being in the debatable lands foraging, had incontinently misused a farmhouseful of Dutch women and girls to such a dreadful extent that some of them had lost their reason, and one had died. And he believed it.

Well, there have been stories printed in our own papers as to frightful Boer atrocities—wretched crimes such as you would not book to black fellows—which have received only too ready credence in the public mind of England and the Empire. And if you get files of last year's Standard and Diggers' News, you will find that just the same kind of stories were served out, hot and smoking, to the people of the late Republics. You may believe them or not, as you please. No one can actually dispute them now, even if one wished to take the trouble. It is one of the most miserable features of war—the malevolent lying that takes place upon both sides—not so much among the


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actual combatants as between the skulkers behind each respective army. Personally, one believes no worse thing of the Boers than of our own people. There are blackguards in every army, but in most you will find, if you look below the surface, that public opinion is astonishingly healthy.

But this much one may say, and say with no fear of contradiction by those who are competent to judge—that the British Army, as a whole, was precisely what Lord Roberts described it as being—“an army of gentlemen”.

If you do not judge a man by the fit of his clothes, or whether he eat appallingly with his knife, or make weird noises as he absorbs soup, you will look to the broad principles of his larger actions when you wish to classify him as either ‘gentleman’ or ‘blackguard’. And, regarding the whole mass of the soldiery of the Empire, both regular and volunteer, who fought in South Africa—one may say unhesitatingly that they certainly did not behave as ‘blackguards’. We may have used bad language, we may have done a little looting, or used ‘moral suasion’ when we starved, but never once did the writer, in all the marching between Paardeberg and Nitral's Nek, see, or hear of, one case of a woman, black or white, being maltreated or mishandled in any way. And it was not for lack of opportunity. It was not, perhaps, because there were not men amongst us who would stick at nothing in the satisfaction of their more


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brutal inclinations. But it was because of this—that an Englishman is an Englishman, a Canadian a Canadian, an Australian an Australian, a White Man a White Man all the world over, and that, wherever the leader of any army sets his face sternly against brutality or inhumanity, then there will be little or none of either.

And so, again, writing as one of the humblest ‘rankers’ in it, one may agree with the Great Little Man who led it, that the South African Field Force was an army of gentlemen.

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