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A Handbook of the Boer War

On the eve of the war he was sent by Baden Powell to Tuli


The

relief of Mafeking, however, did not vitally affect the general situation. The capture of the town during Lord Robert's advance would no doubt have caused annoyance and trouble, but if necessary it could have been retaken without much difficulty. Nor would its fall have greatly benefited the enemy, who probably would have been tempted by the success to hold an unsound position and detain in it commandos urgently required elsewhere.

Kimberley, Mafeking, and Wepener, more than the operations at large, demonstrated the anomalous character of the war. Hitherto, invaders had been accustomed to besiege the invaded, in South Africa the invaded besieged the invaders. Such a reversal of the order of things military had rarely before occurred. The sieges of the Peninsular War are not an exception, for Wellington was from a military, though not from a political point of view, as much an invader as the lieutenants of Napoleon.

Baden-Powell is a suppressed personality whose merit was not fully recognized. With scarcely an exception, no individual leader was more self-reliant, or handled imperfect tools with greater skill. For seven months he kept the flag flying over the lonely Baralong kraal in the veld. His unconventional even theatrical methods were not to the taste of his serious superiors, who underestimated his success. His only reward was the Companionship of the Bath, which was also bestowed upon the militia colonels,

most of whom, from no fault or no want of zeal on their part, but from lack of opportunity, never met the enemy except in some casual paltry skirmish.

The junction of the two columns advancing to the relief of Mafeking--Plumer's from the north and Mahon's from the south--was effected at the right moment, for it is doubtful whether either of them acting alone would have been able to deal with Delarey.

Plumer with the Rhodesian Regiment had been trekking here and there and skirmishing with the enemy for seven months. On the eve of the war he was sent by Baden-Powell to Tuli, a village in Rhodesia not far from the right bank of the Limpopo, which is the northern boundary of the Transvaal. His instructions were "to defend the border, to attract the enemy away towards the north, and then in due time to co-operate with the British force," which it was expected would soon be invading the Transvaal from the south, and also to overawe the doubtful native tribes between Tuli and Mafeking, a distance of 500 miles; and he had under his immediate command at Tuli one irregular regiment 500 strong.

He remained for some weeks seeing to the drifts, which were now in his possession and now in that of the enemy. A Boer raid into Rhodesia on November 2 forced the outlying detachments back upon Tuli, which was seriously threatened by some commandos under F.A. Grobler of Marico. The Government of Pretoria, however, growing anxious at the presence of British troops elsewhere, vetoed a promising enterprise and recalled him. The raid of November 2 was answered a few weeks later by Plumer, who, finding the drifts unoccupied, reconnoitred thirty miles towards the south. Nearly six months elapsed before another British soldier set foot in the Transvaal. A subsequent reconnaissance again found no trace of the enemy on the left bank of the Limpopo, and showed that it was unnecessary for him to remain on the river. He had the advantage of being cut off from communication with superior officers ignorant of local conditions, and was able to act freely upon his own responsibility.


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