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RECOLLECTIONS OF LOUIS BOTHA, Issue 15699, 13 January 1915
RECOLLECTIONS OF LOUIS BOTHA
[By Charlms Umkf.rs.]
“ Linesman’s” recollections of Louis Botha., Uv Ifio ‘ Fvcruxcg St so.- r at tho. 7th inst., are of more than passing interest. A worthy tribute is thore paid to a iino man and a skilful eoldier ou the Boer sido during the South African War. "Linesman’' says i " It is strange, and a, little awful, to think that but a few years back we would have cheered to see'this man stretched dead at our feet.” That is true ; hut today his loss would be a- disaster. Guiding Ihe de^ti-.iie.-i yif Hmith Africa with a inaftfr-iiiind, an an upright British subject now, deeply loyal to his .King, and impelled to right and just action by a strong sense of honor, ho is the right man in die right place, and the, Fmpire knows his value.
Instancing General Botha's many mili lui'v achievements, " Liuosnnui " saw:
"We see him at Kakenlaagtc [Braltcnl:»au,t«'j leading 2,000 furious horsemen iut-ws the open to dash in hideous min Ibe column of Benson, a hero like unto himself,” While reading this, it may interest many of your leaders to knurr how the British fared under that memorable onslaught. My son Gref ton, then a Jad of 17. who joined the 2nd Scottish, Horse in S-iuih Africa, fought in that battle, under Colonel Benson, was severely wounded, and tiller four months’ treatment in Johannesburg .Hespila!, was invalided homo to Dunedin, lie kept a diary all through the war, and the following is an extract from it dealing- with the battle of JSrakenl.'liigte : October 50, 1901. Brakenlaagun Column moved off at daybreak. Marched ail morning through storm ami rain. The Doers followed, and we were continually galloping in all directions as a fresh party of Doors would appear. As v i- wore nearing the camping ground at Biakcnlaagte, some of the waggons got stuck in a. spruit, the drift being heavy » ith mud. This occasioned a two hours' delay, and the cuerny had time to gather together. The artillery had plenty of work to do all tho morning. The camping ground was jug-t reached v.'iii'ii tho two rearguard guns nnlimborod and started tiring a mile rrvin the ( amp. I tin- .v|!iadron immediately galloped out ah. .ut a mih' t<> tho front of the gnus and beiil a ridge there. The Boer tiro here was ■ wit hot, and the men began to fall. The order noon came to retire, and wo rode back to the gnus and held flic position there. The light now was in deadly earnest. I was beside the left-hand gun, and it seemed no time before ail the poor icllows were down in a heap by the trail and irclweeii the wheels. The Dutchmen, many of whom were in khaki, came charging up, and dismounted 40 yards from the guns, and poured in ft ten idle- tiro from a donga. The Boors were on both sides of us as well, and the bullets came thicker than hail, a large number of which were explosives. The men were rolling over everywhere like rabbits. For several hours tho struggle continued, but by 4 o'clock hardly one of onr men remained who as not disabled. I was hit first in ihc left side, and then in ♦■lie right i high. But the odds were too much, and at last the enemy simply swarmed over ns, rubbing the dead and dying of their clothes, etc. I was deprived of my bandoliers, rifle, boots, spurs, and hat, but few were as fortunate, s. cue of the wounded being brutally lircd upon. Onr gallant leader. Colonel 11-nson. was mortally wounded. Colonel i' ni ness. Jl. F.A.. was killed. The Scottish llor.se lost their fine commander, Major Murray. The adjutant. Captain 1.-iinDay. Captain liigiis, arid many other oTicers wore killed or wounded". The Boers numbered close on 2,000. Botha., Cirobtder, Oppermau, Pviuslco, Trcckard, and I’retoriou-s, with tlioir conunaink-rs. were combined. Our casu--1 f ics were 260 killed and wounded, TX) of which were Scottish Horn?., hut the Dutchmen imiat have lost as many, if not more. At uigiitfal!. when the mubnia.nces came out, the enemy took advantage of the Red Cross cover and removed the guns, fur who was there to jin-vent them? The Ruffs ami 25th Mounted Infantry also lost heavily, anil fought to the last. Such courage and determination on the Boers’ part- have never before, been witnessed. However. Botha's designs were frustrated. He attempted to capture the convoy, and ho failed. I was picked up about 1 a.in. (October 31). taken into camp in waggon. had wounds dressed, and was taken into held hospital. Colonel Benson .succumbed to his wounds, and 1 oionel Wools-Sampson took command. Tbs' camp mean while had been strongly entrenched. I >:ir column had repcatedlv surprised and worried the. Doers all through the Northern Transvaal, Col. Benson hi gallant and beloved leader) made forced night, marches, and at dawn sprang; galling surprises on the unsuspecting Beers, liiti ing I hem verv hard. These successes enraged the Dutchmen, and they determined, hv combined comma ndeea, to crush the column in one big swoop. In a letter afterward* nveiverl my sen
The Hn'iin forces had concent rated 10 smash up our column, Orobelcr, Botha, Viljnon, Tivvkaid. ami other leaders, mi‘ 'n their commanders, being presi ni. They outnumbered ns. over end over again. (inur ii ll; in a I cvi’iii ■
Hr-c. Von could nm imagine, what. a terrible tiro it was. In a few minuteevery man at. t-he gums was down, and
I v-'a.s hit in Itto (dares simultaneously. The. Ihi l chiiion tiicd to rush our post ion several times, hut were driven off. 'I hey, however, came round Hits Hanks,
and poured, in a terrific cross-fire. By 4 o'eio >k l ho Boers had swept right on to ns hardly any of our men being able to offer any resistance. AH of us who wore round llm guns had fixed bayonets, but alien the Boers came up to u,<: there; were imnc of ns left nnwounded' to use them. “Johnny Poor " took my LeeMet ford .and (wo bandoliers, lint I bad a'roady used 100 rounds. The-.- failed to take thm convoy, and that was everythin'.'. M- rcpnri-cd that- they lost ir-ariy 400 killed and wounded, ami that our cans weie r-acaptnml (-Vioil.lv nflar by (Irneiai Hi m o-llamillon's column, Tim battle, was one of the most determined and saiigui nary of the campaign, and I doubt, if ever otir soldiers were subjected tn such a deadly and disastrous five. Many explosive bullets were used, and, rear wounded, wore shamefully treated. ATo were brought io Springs in bullock waggons, 50 horses being required to convey all the wounded. Coniine: into the line, 1 pit-ifd the poor fellows who were wounded internally. a« ihev were carried, over the rough veldt in itm .'(iringlcsß bullock waggons, kneli is the brief account of a Dunedin lad who. as ho puts it him.se.lf, “ did his little hit |„ r hi- country “ during that stubborn struggle with t!ie Boers. Ho has (ho Quean's medal and five clasps for Ids “little nit.’’ and I have his shot-torn tunic and a bullet, out of his body as interesting souvenirs of the campaign. 'Now a word as to recruiting for t.ho present struggle. The. complaints against our so-called unpatriotic young fellows, and the white feather taunts, seem to have cooled off. As complaints, it is a good thing they are dropped. Inspiring and encouraging words have a far better influence on the hoy?.. They don't like being nagged at, for that is up against the British spirit. Besides, many at those young fellows in the city who “hang fire” have verv good reasons for doing so. They cannot help thmsolvos. much as they ns sir® to be. off. There is one thing about it that is comforting to many of ibe boys who arc kept back : their chunm who have gone to the war know, through mutual cuiiudenci’s. what the real difficulties arc, and feel that blame is out of the quc-dion. It’s “ Good-bye. old man; we know you can’t help it. Better luck soon. You'll be with us yd !" And a real British hand-grip seals that conviction. AH this i- home iu upon nm by conversations that I have hn>l with my two younger sons, wh.o arc away to do their “ little bit” with the, boys that arc, "never down-hearted.” They both know why sonic of their chums are unable to go at present, but will follow soon. The# know towi is there, aud
reproaches or sneers have never been given a moment's thought. That, I think, is the spirit common to all those fine young fellows of ours who have answered their country's call. God be with them ! January 12.
RECOLLECTIONS OF LOUIS BOTHA, Issue 15699, 13 January 1915
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