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Scottish Yeomanry in South Africa 1900 - 1901
Chapter VIII


DETRAINING at Bloemfontein station on the last day of August, we rode out to a "rest-camp." What pleasant hopes we built round the name "rest-camp"! We were to have a holiday at last after all our labours and fatigues, our early reveilles, our continual marching. The more sanguine, quoting our poet, said—

"Yeomanry comforts we would get,"—But-
"Alas and alack!
We got none o' that,
For De Wets not captured yet!"

We got orders to march the same afternoon to the relief of Ladybrand, where a small garrison under Major White was holding out against great odds, and were away by 4p.m. It was cruel! Our little column consisted only of our two companies of Yeomanry, and a company of Imperial Bushmen, the whole under the command of Captain Vereker. We marched by way of Dewetsdorp, and reached Wepener on 4th September. There we halted, for on that day Bruce Hamilton had relieved Ladybrand. We remained at Wepener two days, having a picket on the bridge over the Caledon River, rendered famous by the stand made by Major Dalgetty and his gallant Colonials. Returning by Dewetsdorp, we picked up a battery of howitzers under Major Rundle, and escorted it to Thaba N'chu, where we rejoined General Hunter on ioth September. Major Rundle had his own way of trekking. He used to romp ahead with his guns and escort, leaving the convoy protected by about forty of us to follow on as it could. Our good fortune, however, extended to the Major while he was with us, and his convoy was never molested.

The Boers were now reported in the Korannaberg and Doornberg districts, and Hunter, with three columns under Rundle, Bruce Hamilton, and Macdonald, commenced to close in on them. We marched out from Thaba N'chu with Bruce Hamilton, but on the 12th, the Boers turned up in our rear. On the 13th, Macdonald had rather a successful encounter with them, as also had Rundle on the 18th, after which several of the commandoes appear to have broken up for a time.

In a few days another concerted movement was commenced on Lindley, where Boers were reported. This time the columns were under Bruce Hamilton, Macdonald, and Campbell, and we became attached to a newly-formed brigade of about a thousand men, under Colonel Le Gallais, composed of the 6th, 7th, and 8th Mounted Infantry, and four guns of U Battery. Lindley was reached on the 26th, but the Boers had gone off elsewhere.

With Le Gallais's flying column we now marched to Frankfort, thence to Heilbron again, and to Vredefort Road. There we turned south and followed the railway, line to Kroonstad, which we reached on 14th October.

During this four weeks' trek we were in the most complete ignorance either of the intention or the result of our marches and counter-marches, or of the frequent engagements we were having with small Boer commandoes, especially when around Frankfort.

Our numbers were very much reduced at this time by sickness, casualties, and from lack of horses. We were only ninety or a hundred strong, instead of two hundred and forty, so it was Le Gallais's wish to attach our two companies to one of his Mounted Infantry Corps, but, to our delight, Vereker stuck out against it, and we remained a separate unit. It cost us a lot of hard work however, for we were given the work of a battalion. While the Mounted Infantrymen had eight or ten sucessive nights in bed, we were on guard every second night, and even in one or two instances some of us were on guard two nights in succession.

We had no tents during this trek, but the weather was exceptionally fine. The days were clear and fresh, and the nights were now only pleasantly cool. We got into the habit of putting up snug little shelters with blankets or waterproof sheets, but it was no hardship to sleep outside, unless for the dew, which was often as wetting as fine rain.


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