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The nature of the country makes the task of the cavalry difficult; and if their patrols see and report correctly, the position of things will have altered when the reports reach the commander, because the adversary has meanwhile ridden away, and will appear again at some distant point. Against this a few squadrons are of no avail ; numerous regiments are required, such as cover the country for a great distance with their patrols, keep touch with the enemy, threaten him in the rear-which, in a word, cope with him. But for this the necessary number of regiments is wanting, and this shortcoming is one of the reasons why the cart sticks so deeply in the mud. The 10,000 English peasant boys who, according to the statements in the papers, will be imported as troopers from England into South Africa, will much increase the percentage of the sick, prisoners, and other losses ; at best, they might be employed as troops on lines of communication, and to screen the march of columns.
« With 150,000 men we may succeed within a year.” • We shall see! (Vedremo.) For the present we shall first try to understand where the reinforcements arriving up to the end of February could be placed.
'In the east? This would show the intention to relieve Ladysmith, and to march towards Pretoria through a mountainous, rugged country, which is strongly intersected by obstructions and poor in roads. The Boers would have the ground suitable to them, where with hundreds they can stop thousands. Even if, after heavy losses, superior numbers had slowly pushed them back, the English would some day find themselves before the works of Pretoria, which are not to be taken by assault, and they would be surrounded on all sides by the Boers, who, in their own country, are capable of doing double work.
Perhaps the annexation of Delagoa Bay might be planned, but it would have no effect on the result of the former operation, for the protection of the one line of posts from Durban would have absorbed so large a part of the army of operation that not a single man could be spared for a second line of posts. Even without this second line, the position of the English army before Pretoria would be serious enough.
Suppose they set out with 100,000 men from Ladysmith, they would count before Pretoria scarcely more than 70,000 combatants, of whom 20,000 to 30,000 men would be stationed before the fortress, so that for other offensive operations only 40,000 to 50,000 men would be left, and to these the Boers would oppose the same number under much more favourable circumstances.
The despatch of the reinforcements to the east is, therefore, little probable, unless the relief of Ladysmith be considered a matter of honour and it be intended to advance into the Orange Free State instead of into the Transvaal. This operation would, however, finally have to be concluded before Pretoria, and it would not offer much better chances than the other.
“Will the reinforcements move up from the south? From the three ports-East London, Prince Alfred, Port Elizabeth—three railways lead to Burghersdorp-Middelburg, thence two railways cross the Orange River to Spring, and thence one railway goes by Bloemfontein to Pretoria. The country does not offer anything like the difficulties of the eastern campaign. The Orange River will have to be crossed after serious fighting. On the other side is broken and much intersected hilly ground. Three main roads lead to Bloemfontein, which in the south are at least 31 to 37 miles (50 to 60 kilomètres) distant from one another.
If, therefore, all the reinforcements were placed in the south, if from the east three-fourths of the troops now there were brought up, then on each of the above roads 40,000 men could advance. The Boers might check these on the march, without, however, stopping them, so that by the middle of the year the occupation of the Orange State might be effected.
Then, of course, the offensive against Pretoria would have co follow, with all the difficulties above described and with the understanding that 150,000 men was too small a number from the very beginning.
. Even in the Orange State the advance would not be a mere route march, and the English corps will require all the resources which modern warfare makes indispensable. We reckon amongst others : four battalions of pioneers, two railway battalions, four pontoon-bridge trains, four telegraph detachments, four balloon detachments, four bakery detachments. Add to these an immense number of ambulances, ammunition columns, provision columns, the waggon train (? Fuhrpark), siege train, and a great reserve of engines, waggons, and railway materials. If we think of the fact that all these impedimenta and these special services must be brought from England, that few or no depôts at all exist for them, that there is a want of men of military training and of officers and of experienced officials in the servicewe can form a partial idea how these various bodies will look when Kaffirs take the place of commissariat soldiers, when undisciplined and untrained militiamen are in charge of this rabble, who, when in presence of any Boer patrol, would cut the traces and run away.
To place the reinforcements in the west and to force the railway De Aar-Kimberley-Buluwayo as a line of operation is out of the question on account of the bad conditions of the road and because the railway passes by the two hostile capitals at distances of 154 and 275 miles (140 and 250 kilomètres) respectively; moreover, the English have probably had up to the present time such an unsatisfactory experience of the result of dividing their forces that we cannot suppose they would send their reinforcements to the east and the south at the same time.
"Whatever resolution the English headquarters may have taken concerning the operations after the arrival of the reinforcements, these operations could hardly be undertaken before the end of February if it be the fact that the 7th Division did not leave England before January 11. Until then the initiative will remain with the Boers, and everything points to their making good use of their chances.
'In the east the English main army is still near the Tugela river. For weeks they have not been disturbed there by the Boers. Taking into account the cautious leadership of the Boers up to the present time, we may assume that all their forces not otherwise employed have been concentrated. Further, since the arrival of Boer detachments to the south of the Tugela has been recently reported to London we may also treat it as a fact that this concentration has been already completed. Within eight days we ought to know the effect of these movements, because General Buller must now either fight his way back to Durban or cut his way through by an attack.
'Such enforced fights are always attended by bad results. They will be all the more disastrous to an army which has only had up to the present ill success, one which, owing to the tropical heat, will not have gained in energy.
'If in these operations General Buller suffers a decisive reverse, the cart will stick deeper in the mud than ever. For what reason have we to believe that after such defeat the turbulence among the Cape Boers will not break out into fierce flames and that England will not then have to subdue the Cape Colony as well as the Free State ? and for all that certainly a year is not sufficient.
In the south, at Dordrecht and Colesberg, in the west, at Kimberley, matters are more favourable for the English divisions. Here they are, it is true, surrounded by smaller Boer detachments, whose tactics lead us to the conclusion that they are only meant to threaten and to occupy the enemy and to avoid any decisive action ; but no serious danger for the moment exists in those quarters for the English.
* But let us even suppose that a destiny favourable to England should protect all her various detachments in Africa, and that the reinforcements should join them, the success of her arms would not yet be guaranteed at all. From 60,000 well-mounted Boers and 60 well-served and horsed pieces of ordnance ten martial bodies can be formed, which, like swarms of wasps, will fall upon the enemy's front, flank, and rear, and, owing to their knowledge of the ground, disappear without leaving a trace when the state of things becomes critical. Such action produces every day losses in men and material for the opponent, small in themselves, but such as in the course of weeks and months considerably thin the “cadres.” These are the more appreciable because the necessity for being on the alert reduces the vigour of both man and animal. Should a lengthened cessation in the supply of provisions—which is not improbable-occur during this period the position might become more serious than ever before. If the Cape Boers wait for this moment, and then make up their minds to armed action, the progress of the English towards Pretoria would terminate as once did that of the French against Moscow.
"General Kitchener is said to have called the waging of war a thankless enterprise, and in his case he is ominously right ! England intended to make an expedition against the Transvaal like that of the Soudan or of Afghanistan, and now she is committed to a serious campaign for which she has neither sufficient troops nor material; and so the --l may draw the cart out of the mud.'*
So far the indictment. Why is it that appearances so deceived a competent critic? Why is it that the cart did not stick fast in the mud finally and for ever? Why is it that if Lord Kitchener anticipated that the war would be over in
* Translation from the ‘Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger,' Beiblatt, Sunday, January 14, 1900.
a year he only erred in giving it too long a period, and that at the amplest allowance five months sufficed from that date to bring about the fall of both Bloemfontein and Pretoria, the very incidents which the writer himself fixes as the unattainable end of the war? There are certain obvious factors in the case that have been so often enlarged upon that they scarcely require to be repeated were it not that it were deeply ungrateful not to acknowledge them.
The masterly skill with which Lord Roberts applied the strength that was at his disposal enforces again the truth of Napoleon's saying, that in war men are nothing, a man is
everything.' The next element on which no foreigner could have counted was the enthusiasm of the whole Empire and the supply which that enthusiasm furnished, both from the colonies and from home, of men as well accustomed as the Boers themselves to the conditions of a wild country life, and of those more educated men in the ranks which it was natural that a Prussian officer should regard as the exclusive possession of a compulsory and universal service. The cavalry regiments which he assumed that we did not possess in fact appeared in the field in far larger numbers than he had anticipated as possible. They were supplemented by immense bodies of the best kind of mounted infantry, supplied by our home and colonial yeomanry.
The whole course of the war has tended to show that mounted infantry alone were no match for the combined power of cavalry, horse artillery, and mounted infantry each working together in their proper sphere, the mounted infantry transported as rapidly as the Boers, in order, like the Boers, to fight on foot, the cavalry moving more rapidly than the mounted infantry or Boers, and supreme whenever they could catch the Boers, as they often did, mounted like themselves, or could draw them off by outlanking attacks, especially threatening their horses ; the horse artillery able to manouvre as rapidly as the cavalry themselves, and to afford assistance to either mounted infantry or cavalry.
It is rather remarkable that even at that date—when many of our less informed and more hysterical papers at home were agitated by a conviction that our artillery, because it had been undoubtedly outranged by some of the Boer guns, had therefore proved its inferiority in point of armament to themno word on that subject finds its place in this elaborate indictment. General Schmeling no doubt understood what those reckless critics did not, that a gun may well have a superior range to another and yet be an inferior weapon.