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