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A Handbook of the Boer War

Kimberley and Mafeking were threatened on the west


"An

Army of 100,000 men is the utmost that Great Britain will be able to place in the field in South Africa, for the Indian and Colonial drafts must be provided for, and the Militia and other Auxiliary Forces, which are not of much account, are tethered to the country; but it will be sufficient for the purpose. Although the military system of Great Britain is hopelessly behind the times, she has always done wonders with her boomerangs, bows and arrows, and flint instruments. That Army will be fairly well furnished with modern weapons and equipment, and the excellent personality of the soldier will compensate to a great extent for incapacity in the Staff and superior officers. With this Army she will have to meet a brave but undisciplined opponent whose numbers cannot be estimated. Even if the Free Staters are included it is improbable that more than 100,000 men can be put into the field. These have had no military training, their leaders will be unprofessional officers who will be unable to make good use of the munitions of War which the two Republics have been strangely allowed to import through British ports and to accumulate in large quantities. If the burghers of the Orange Free State throw in their lot with the Transvaalers, which is improbable as they have no quarrel with Great Britain, the numbers opposed to her will certainly be augmented, but the task before her will be greatly simplified. Instead of having to send one portion of her Army by way of Natal to effect a junction
in the Transvaal, with the other portion working northwards through Kimberley and Mafeking, a campaign which would involve two long and vulnerable lines of communication, she will be able to strike at once through the heart of the Free State and will advance without much difficulty to Johannesburg and Pretoria. The hardest part of her task will be the passage of the Vaal, where a great battle will be fought, and the capture of Pretoria, which is reported to be well fortified. With Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and the railways in the possession of Great Britain, the opposition will collapse in a very few weeks, for no nation has ever been able to carry on a struggle when its chief towns and means of communication are in the enemy's possession."

This hypothetical appreciation probably represents the general opinion current both at home and abroad during the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the War; but it proved to be mistaken from the first. The Free Staters joined the Transvaalers and the allied forces assumed the offensive over a wide area without delay. Kimberley and Mafeking were threatened on the west, and on the east the Boers poured into Natal, upon which they had for sixty years looked with the aggrieved and greedy eyes of a dog from whom a bone, to which he believes he is entitled, has been recovered.

To Natal, in 1824, had come a handful of British pioneers. From Chaka, the King of the Zulus, they obtained a grant of land upon the coast, and after eleven years they endeavoured without success to induce the British Government to recognize the settlement, which in course of time became the City of Durban, as a Colony to which, in honour of the Princess heiress presumptive to the Throne of Great Britain, they proposed to give the name Victoria; and they were thus the first to associate her with the Empire, which, in spite of reluctant politicians who did their best to restrict it, was destined to expand marvellously during her reign.

The Natal settlement was frowned on by the Imperial Government, who even confiscated a little ship which the pioneers had toilfully fitted out and which was bringing envoys from the King of the Zulus to the King of England, on the plea that it was unregistered and that it came from a foreign port. In 1828 Chaka, who was not unfavourably disposed towards the Durban pioneers, was murdered by his brother Dingaan, who succeeded him as King of the Zulus. It is said that his last words to Dingaan were, "You think that you will rule the land when I am gone, but I see the white men coming, and they will be your masters."


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