Writing in November 1900, after hearing an expression of opinion from many officers from various parts of the seat of war, I stated in 'The Great Boer War': 'The Boers have been the victims of a great deal of cheap slander in the press. The men who have seen most of the Boers in the field are the most generous in estimating their character. That the white flag was hoisted by the Boers as a cold-blooded device for luring our men into the open, is an absolute calumny. To discredit their valour is to discredit our victory.' My own opinion would have been worthless, but this was, as I say, the result of considerable inquiry. General Porter said: 'On a few occasions the white flag was abused, but in what large community would you not find a few miscreants?' General Lyttelton said: 'The Boers are brave men, and I do not think that the atrocities which have been reported are the acts of the regular Dutch burghers, but of the riff-raff who get into all armies.'
It is a painful fact, but the words could not possibly be written to-day. Had the war only ended when it should have ended, the combatants might have separated each with a chivalrous feeling of respect for a knightly antagonist. But the Boers having appealed to the God of battles and heard the judgment, appealed once more against it. Hence came the long, bitter, and fruitless struggle which has cost so many lives, so much suffering, and a lowering of the whole character of the war.
It is true that during the first year there were many things to exasperate the troops. The Boers were a nation of hunters and they used many a ruse which seemed to the straightforward soldier to be cowardly and unfair. Individuals undoubtedly played the white-flag trick, and individuals were guilty of holding up their hands in order to lure the soldiers from their cover. There are many instances of this—indeed, in one case Lord Roberts was himself a witness of it. Appended is his official protest:
'Another instance having occurred of a gross abuse of the white flag and of the signal of holding up the hands in token of surrender, it is my duty to inform your Honour that if such abuse occurs again I shall most reluctantly be compelled to order my troops to disregard the white flag entirely.
'The instance occurred on the kopje east of Driefontein Farm yesterday evening, and was witnessed by several of my own staff officers, as well as by myself, and resulted in the wounding of several of my officers and men.
'A large quantity of explosive bullets of three different kinds was found in Cronje's laager, and after every engagement with your Honour's troops.
'Such breaches of the recognised usages of war and of the Geneva Convention are a disgrace to any civilised power.'
But British officers were not unreasonable. They understood that they were fighting against a force in which the individual was a law unto himself. It was not fair to impute to deliberate treachery upon the part of the leaders every slim trick of an unscrupulous burgher. Again, it was understood that a coward may hoist an unauthorised white flag and his braver companions may refuse to recognise it, as our own people might on more than one occasion have done with advantage. For these reasons there was very little bitterness against the enemy, and most officers would, I believe, have subscribed the opinion which I have expressed.
From the first the position of the Boers was entirely irregular as regards the recognised rules of warfare. The first article of the Conventions of The Hague insists that an army in order to claim belligerent rights must first wear some emblem which is visible at a distance. It is true that the second article is to the effect that a population which has no time to organise themselves and who are defending themselves may be excused from this rule; but the Boers were the invaders at the outset of the war, and in view of their long and elaborate preparations it is absurd to say that they could not have furnished burghers on commando with some distinctive badge. When they made a change it was for the worse, for they finally dressed themselves in the khaki uniforms of our own soldiers, and by this means effected several surprises. It is typical of the good humour of the British that very many of these khaki-clad burghers have passed through our hands, and that no penalty has ever been inflicted upon them for their dangerous breach of the rules of war. In this, as in the case of the train hostages, we have gone too far in the direction of clemency. Had the first six khaki-clad burghers been shot, the lives of many of our soldiers would have been saved.
The question of uniform was condoned, however, just as the white-flag incidents were condoned. We made allowance for the peculiarities of the warfare, and for the difficulties of our enemies. We tried to think that they were playing the game as fairly as they could. Already their methods were certainly rough. Here, for example, is a sworn narrative of a soldier taken in the fighting before Ladysmith:
'Evidence of No. 6418 Private F. Ayling, 3rd Batt. King's Royal Rifles.
'Near Colenso, February 25, 1900.
'I was taken prisoner about 5 A.M. on 23rd instant by the Boers, being too far in front of my company to retire. I was allowed to go about 10 A.M. on the 25th, and rejoined my regiment.
'During this time I was kept in the Boer trenches without food or drink. There were quite twenty of our wounded lying close to the trenches, and asking for water all the time, which was always refused. If any of the wounded moved they were shot at. Most of them died for want of assistance, as they were lying there two days and two nights. The Boers (who seemed to be all English) said, "Let them die, and give them no water."'
Such instances may, however, be balanced against others where kind-hearted burghers have shown commiseration and generosity to our wounded and prisoners.
As the war dragged on, however, it took a more savage character upon the part of our enemy, and it says much for the discipline of the British troops that they have held their hands and refused to punish a whole nation for the cruelty and treachery of a few. The first absolute murder in the war was that of Lieutenant Neumeyer, which occurred at the end of November 1900. The facts, which have since been officially confirmed, were thus reported at the time from Aliwal:
'Lieutenant Neumeyer, commanding the Orange River Police at Smithfield, was driving here, unarmed, in a cart yesterday, when he was "held up" by two Boers. He was taken prisoner, handcuffed, and treacherously shot in the back with a revolver and again through the head.
'The murderers stripped off the leggings which Lieutenant Neumeyer was wearing, searched his clothes for money, and afterwards dragged the body to a sluit, where, later in the day it was discovered by the Cape Police and brought here. Two natives were eye-witnesses of the murder. Lieutenant Neumeyer had served with distinction in the Rhodesian campaign.'
At this latter period of the war began that systematic murdering of the Kaffirs by the Boers which has been the most savage and terrible feature in the whole business. On both sides Kaffirs have been used as teamsters, servants, and scouts, but on neither side as soldiers. The British could with the greatest ease have swamped the whole Boer resistance at the beginning of the war by letting loose the Basutos, the Zulus, and the Swazis, all of whom have blood-feuds with the Boers. It is very certain that the Boers would have had no such compunctions, for when in 1857 the Transvaalers had a quarrel with the Free State we have Paul Botha's evidence for the fact that they intrigued with a Kaffir chief to attack their kinsmen from the rear. Botha says:
'I have particular knowledge of this matter, because I took part in the commando which our Government sent to meet the Transvaal forces. The dispute was eventually amicably settled, but, incredible as it may seem, the Transvaal had actually sent five persons, headed by the notorious Karel Geere, to Moshesh, the Basuto chief, to prevail upon him to attack us, their kinsmen, in the rear! I was one of the patrol that captured Geere and his companions, some of whom I got to know subsequently, and who revealed to me the whole dastardly plot.'
This will give some idea as to what we might have had to expect had native sympathy gone the other way. In the letter already quoted, written by Snyman to his brother, he asserts that Kruger told him that he relied upon the assistance of the Swazis and Zulus. As it was, however, beyond allowing natives to defend their own lives and property when attacked, as in the case of the Baralongs at Mafeking, and the Kaffirs in the Transkei, we have only employed Kaffirs in the pages of the continental cartoons.
As teamsters, servants, guides, and scouts the Kaffirs were, however, essential to us, and realising this the Boers, when the war began to go against them, tried to terrorise them into deserting us by killing them without mercy whenever they could in any way connect them with the British. How many hundreds were done to death in this fashion it is impossible to compute. After a British defeat no mercy was shown to the drivers of the wagons and the native servants. Boer commandos covered their tracks by putting to death every Kaffir who might give information. Sometimes they killed even the children. Thus Lord Kitchener, in his report, narrates a case where a British column hard upon the track of a Boer commando found four little Kaffir boys with their brains dashed out in the kraal which the Boers had just evacuated.
A case which particularly touched the feelings of the British people was that of Esau, the coloured blacksmith, who was a man of intelligence and education, living as a loyal British subject in the British town of Calvinia. There was no possible case of 'spying' here, since the man had not left his own town. The appended documents will show why the nation will not have done its duty until justice has been done upon the murderers. A touching letter has been published from Esau to the governor of the district in which he says that, come what may, he would be loyal to the flag under which he was born. The next news of him was of his brutal murder:
'Abraham Esau, a loyal coloured blacksmith, was mercilessly flogged for refusing to give information as to where arms were buried. Inflammation of the kidneys set in; nevertheless he was again beaten through the village with sjamboks until he was unable to walk, and was then shot dead.'—Calvinia, February 8. ('Times,' February 16, 1901, p. 7 ).
'The district surgeon at Calvinia, writing to the Colonial secretary, has fully confirmed the flogging and shooting of Esau by a Boer named Strydom, who stated that he acted in accordance with orders. No trial was held, and no reason is alleged for the deed.'—Cape Town, February 19. ('Times,' February 20, 1901, p. 5 ).
'The authority for the statement of the flogging by the Boers of a coloured man named Esau at Calvinia was a Reuter's telegram, confirmed subsequently by the report made to Cape Town by the district surgeon of Calvinia.'—From Mr. Brodrick's reply to Mr. Labouchere in House of Commons, February 21. ('Times,' February 22, 1901).
'I had a telegram from Sir A. Milner in confirmation of the reports from various quarters that have reached me. The High Commissioner states that the name of the district surgeon who reported the mal-treatment of the coloured man is Foote. Sir A. Milner adds: "There is absolutely no doubt about the murder of Esau."'—From Mr. Brodrick's reply to Mr. Dillon in House of Commons, February 22. ('Times,' February 23, 1901).
The original rule of the British Service was that the black scouts should be unarmed, so as to avoid all accusations of arming natives. When it was found that they were systematically shot they were given rifles, as it was inhuman to expose them to death without any means of defence. I believe that some armed Kaffirs who watch the railway line have also been employed in later phases of the war, the weapons to be used in self-defence. Considering how pressed the British were at one time, and considering that by a word they could have thrown a large and highly disciplined Indian army into the scales, I think that their refusal to do so is one of the most remarkable examples of moderation in history. The French had no hesitation in using Turcos against the Germans, nor did the Americans refrain from using Negro regiments against the Spaniards. We made it a white man's war, however, and I think that we did wisely and well.
So far did the Boers carry their murderous tactics against the natives, that British prisoners with dark complexions were in imminent danger. Thus at a skirmish at Doorn River on July 27, 1901, the seven Kaffir scouts taken with the British were shot in cold blood, and an Englishman named Finch was shot with them in the alleged belief that he had Kaffir blood. Here is the evidence of the latter murder:
No. 28284 Trooper Charles Catton, 22nd Imperial Yeomanry, being duly sworn, states:
'At Doorn River on 27th July, 1901, I was one of the patrol captured by the Boers, and after we had surrendered I saw a man lying on the ground, wounded, between two natives. I saw a Boer go up to him and shoot him through the chest. I noticed the man, Trooper Finch, was alive. I do not know the name of the Boer who shot him, but I could recognise him again.'
No. 33966 Trooper F. W. Madams, having been duly sworn, states:
'I was one of the patrol captured by the Boers on 27th July, 1901, near Doorn River. After we had surrendered I went to look for my hat, and after finding it I was passing the wounded man, Trooper Finch, when I saw a Boer, whose name I do not know, shoot Trooper Finch through the chest with a revolver. I could identify the man who shot him.'
This scandal of the murder of the Kaffirs, a scandal against which no protest seems to have been raised by the pro-Boer press in England or the Continent, has reached terrible proportions. I append some of the evidence from recent official reports from the front:
Case at Magaliesberg.—About October or November 1900, the bodies of nine natives were found lying together on the top of the Magaliesberg. Of these five were intelligence natives, the remainder being boys employed by the Boers, but suspected of giving information. The witnesses in this case are now difficult to find, as they are all natives; but it appears that the natives were tried by an informal court, of which B. A. Klopper, ex-President of the Volksraad, was president, and condemned to death. Hendrik Schoeman, son of the late general, and Piet Joubert are reported to have acted as escort.
Case of five natives murdered near Wilge River.—On capturing a train near Wilge River, Transvaal, on March 11, 1901, the Boers took five unarmed natives on one side and shot them, throwing their bodies into a ditch. Corporal Sutton, of the Hampshire Regiment, saw, after the surrender, a Boer put five shots into a native who was lying down. Other soldiers on the train vouch to seeing one man deliberately shoot five boys in cold blood.
Case of eight Kaffir boys.—On or about July 17, 1901, eight Kaffir boys, between the ages of twelve and fourteen, went out from Uitkijk, near Edenburg, to get oranges. None were armed. Boers opened fire, shot one, captured six; one escaped, and is now with Major Damant. Corporal Willett, Damant's Horse, afterwards saw boys' bodies near farm, but so disfigured that they could not be recognised. Some Kaffirs were then sent out from Edenburg and recognised them. One boy is supposed to have been spared by Boers, body not found. Lieutenant Kentish, Royal Irish Fusiliers, saw bodies, and substantially confirms murder, and states Boers were under Field-Cornet Dutoit.
Case of Klass, Langspruit, Standerton.—Klass's wife states that on August 3, 1901, Cornelius Laas, of Langspruit, and another Boer came to the kraal and told Klass to go with them. On his demurring they accused him of giving information to the British, and C. Laas shot him through the back of the head as he ran away. Another native, the wife of a native clergyman at Standerton, saw the dead body.
Case of Two Natives near Hopetown.—On August 22, 1901, Private C. P. Fivaz, of the Cape Mounted Police, along with two natives, was captured near Venter Hoek, Hopetown district, by a force under Commandant Van Reenan. He had off-saddled at the time, and the natives were sleeping in a stable. He heard Van Reenan give his men an order to shoot the natives, which order was promptly carried out in his presence as regards one man, and he was told that the other had also been shot. The resident on the farm, A. G. Liebenberg, who warned Fivaz at 5 A.M. of the approach of the enemy, buried both the bodies where he found them—viz., one about forty yards from the house and the other about five hundred yards away. His statement is corroborated by his son, who saw one of the boys killed.
Case of John Makran.—John Makran and Alfius Bampa (the witness) are unarmed natives living near Warmbaths, north of Pretoria. On the evening of September 17, 1901, Andries Van der Walt and a party of Boers surrounded Makran's house. Van der Walt told the boy to come out, and when he did so two men seized him. While two men held Makran's hands up Van der Walt stood five yards behind him and shot him through the head with a Mauser rifle. When the boy fell he shot him again through the heart, and then with a knife cut a deep gash across his forehead. Both these boys formerly worked for Van der Walt.
Case at Zandspruit.—On the night of October 1, 1901, about 11.30 P.M., a party of Boers surrounded a native house at Dassie Klip, near Zandspruit, and killed four natives in or about the house. The party consisted of twenty-four, under the following leaders: Dirk Badenhorst, of Dassie Klip; Cornelius Erasmus, of Streepfontein; and C. Van der Merwe, of Rooi Draai. The witnesses in this case are all natives residing at Dassie Klip, who knew the assailants well. In one case a native called Karle was endeavouring to escape over a wall, but was wounded in the thigh. On seeing he was not dead, Stoffel Visagie, of Skuilhoek, drew a revolver and shot him through the head. The charge against these natives appears to have been that they harboured British scouts.
Case of Jim Zulu.—On or about October 18, 1901, V. C. Thys Pretorius (presumably of Pretoria), with seventy men, visited Waterval North, on the Pretoria-Pietersburg line, and practically murdered two natives, wounding three others, one of whom afterwards died. The witnesses state that on the morning of October 18, 1901, Pretorius came to a colliery near Waterval North and called for Jim Zulu, and on his appearance shot him through the face. Three days later this native died of his wounds. At the same time he and another man, named Dorsehasmus, also shot three other natives.
Here is a further list, showing how systematic has been this brutality. I reproduce it in its official curtness:
Report of Resident Magistrate, Barkly West, January 28, 1900.—Native despatch rider shot and mutilated.
November or December 1900.—Near Virginia two natives were shot, being accused of showing the British the road to Ventersburg.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Taungs, December 4, 1900.—Three natives murdered at Border Siding.
December 18, 1900.—Native, Philip, shot at Vlakplaats, eight miles south-west of Pretoria, by J. Johnson and J. Dilmar, of J. Joubert's commando.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Taungs, December 24, 1900.—Native shot by Boers at Pudimoe. Three natives killed at Christiana.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Herschel, January 6, 1901.—Two natives shot as spies.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Calvinia, January 29, 1901.—Esau case and ill-treatment of other natives.
February 28, 1901.—Zulu boy shot dead at Zevenfontein, between Pretoria and Johannesburg, charged with giving information to the British, by men of Field-Cornet Jan Joubert's commando.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Cradock, March 21, 1901.—Murder of native witness, Salmon Booi.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Taungs, May 8, 1901.—Natives shot by Boers at Manthe.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Gordonia, May 23, 1901.—Native shot dead.
May 25, 1901.—District Harrismith. A native accused of laziness and insolence was shot by men in M. Prinsloo's commando.
May 28, 1901.—At Sannah's Post three natives were captured and shot.
June 5, 1901.—Three natives with Colonel Plumer's column captured and shot near Paardeberg.
July 27, 1901.—Seven natives captured with a patrol of Imperial Yeomanry near Doorn River Hut were shot on the spot.
Report of Intelligence, East Cape Colony, July 29, 1901.—Shooting of natives by Commandant Myburgh.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Aliwal North, July 30, 1901.—Shooting of natives at refugee camp.
August 23, 1901.—Native captured with a private of the Black Watch near Clocolan and shot in his presence.
September 1, 1901.—Four natives with Colonel Dawkins's column captured in Fauresmith district and shot by order of Judge Hertzog.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Aliwal North, September 4, 1901.—Brutal treatment of natives by Boers under Bester, J.P., of Aliwal North.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Riversdale, September 4, 1901.—Two coloured despatch riders severely flogged.
Report of Intelligence, South Cape Colony, September 18, 1901.—Natives murdered by Theron's orders.
Report of Chief Commissioner, Richmond, September 23, 1901.—Two unarmed natives shot by Commandant Malan.
Report of Resident Magistrate, Prieska, September 26, 1901.—Murder of two unarmed natives.
Report of Colonel Hickman, Ladismith, October 1, 1901.—Shooting of two natives by Scheepers.
Date uncertain.—A native in Petrusburg Gaol was shot in his cell by two Boers on the approach of the British troops.
So much for the Kaffir murders. It is to be earnestly hoped that no opportunism or desire to conciliate our enemies at the expense of justice will prevent a most thorough examination into every one of these black deeds, and a most stern punishment for the criminals.
I return, however, to the question of the conduct of the Boers to their white opponents. So long as they were fighting as an army under the eyes of the honourable men who led them, their conduct was on the whole good, but guerilla warfare brought with it the demoralisation which it always does bring, and there was a rapid falling away from the ordinary humanity between civilised opponents. I do not mean by this to assert that the Boer guerillas behaved as did the Spanish guerillas in 1810, or the Mexican in 1866. Such an assertion would be absurd. The Boers gave quarter and they received it. But several isolated instances, and several general cases have shown the demoralisation of their ranks. Of the former I might quote the circumstances of the death of Lieutenant Miers.
The official intimation was as follows:
'Pretoria: September 27.
'Lieutenant Miers, Somerset Light Infantry, employed with South African Constabulary, went out from his post at Riversdraai, 25th September, to meet three Boers approaching under white flag, who, after short conversation, were seen to shoot Lieutenant Miers dead and immediately gallop away. Inquiry being made and evidence recorded.'
A more detailed account was sent by the non-commissioned officer who was present. He described how the Boers approached the fort waving a white flag, how a corporal went out to them, and was told that they wished to speak with an officer, how Captain Miers rode out alone, and then:
'As soon as the officer had gone but a short distance on the far side of the spruit, the Boer with the white flag advanced to meet him; the officer also continued to advance till he came up with the blackguard. At the end of three or four minutes we saw the two walking back to the two Boers (who were standing a good two miles off from this fort of ours). When they reached the two Boers we saw the captain dismount, the group being barely visible owing to a rise in the ground. At the end of five or ten minutes we were just able to distinguish the sound of a shot, immediately after which we saw the officer's grey mare bolting westwards across the veldt riderless, with one of the Boers galloping for all he was worth after it.'
Of the general demoralisation here is the evidence of a witness in that very action at Graspan on June 6, which has been made so much of by the slanderers of our Army:
No. 4703 Lance-Corporal James Hanshaw, 2nd Batt. Bedfordshire Regiment, being duly sworn, states: 'At Graspan on June 6, 1901, I was present when we were attacked by the Boers, having previously captured a convoy from them. On going towards the wagons I found the Boers already there; finding we were outnumbered and resistance hopeless, we threw down our arms and held our hands up. Private Blunt, who was with me, shouted. "Don't shoot me, I have thrown down my rifle." The Boers then shot Private Blunt dead. He was holding his hands above his head at the time. Lieutenant Mair then shouted, "Have mercy, you cowards." The Boers then deliberately shot Lieutenant Mair dead as he was standing with his hands above his head. They then shot at Privates Pearse and Harvey, who were both standing with their hands up, the same bullet hitting Private Pearse in the nose, and killing Private Harvey. Two Boers then rushed from the wagons and threatened to shoot me, kicked me, and told me to lie down.'
No. 3253 Private E. Sewell, 2nd Batt. Bedfordshire Regiment, being duly sworn, states: 'I was at the fight at Graspan on June 6, 1901. About noon on that date the Boers attacked the convoy. I retired to Lieutenant Mair's party, when, finding we were outnumbered and surrounded, we put our hands up. The Boers took our arms from us and retired round some kraals; shortly afterwards they came back, and two men shouted, "Hands up." We said we were already prisoners, and that our arms had been collected. Private Blunt held up his hands, and at the same time said, "Don't shoot me, I am already hands up." The Boers then said, "Take that," and shot him through the stomach. Lieutenant Mair then stepped out from the wagons, and said, "Have mercy, you cowards." The Boer then shot him dead from his horse. The Boer was sitting on his horse almost touching Lieutenant Mair at the time. The Boer then shot at Lance-Corporal Harvey and Private Pearse, who were standing together with their hands up above their heads, the shot wounding Private Pearse and killing Lance-Corporal Harvey.'
Here is the evidence of the murder of the wounded at Vlakfontein on May 29, 1901:
Private D. Chambers, H Company, 1st Batt. Derbyshire Regiment, being duly sworn, states: 'Whilst lying on the ground wounded I saw a Boer shoot two of our wounded who were lying on the ground near me. This Boer also fired at me, but missed me.'
Privates W. Bacon and Charles Girling, 1st Batt. Derbyshire Regiment, being duly sworn, state: 'Whilst lying wounded on the ground with two other wounded men four Boers came up to us, dismounted, and fired a volley at us. We were all hit again, and Private Goodwin, of our regiment, was killed. The Boers then took our arms away, and after swearing at us rode away.'
Corporal Sargent, 1st Batt. Derbyshire Regiment, being duly sworn, states: 'While lying wounded behind a rock I saw a Boer shoot a Yeomanry officer who was walking away, wounded in the hand.'
Acting-Sergeant Chambers, 69th Company Imperial Yeomanry, being duly sworn, states: 'I saw a Boer, a short man with a dark beard, going round carrying his rifle under his arm, as one would carry a sporting rifle, and shoot three of our wounded.'
Private A. C. Bell, 69th Company Imperial Yeomanry, being duly sworn, states: 'I heard a Boer call to one of our men to put up his hands, and when he did so the Boer shot him from about fifteen yards off; I was about twenty yards off.'
Private T. George, 69th Company Imperial Yeomanry, being duly sworn, states: 'I was walking back to camp wounded, when I saw a Boer about seventeen years of age shoot at a wounded Derby man who was calling for water; the Boer then came up to me and took my bandolier away.'
Gunner W. H. Blackburn, 28th Battery Royal Field Artillery, being duly sworn, states: 'I saw a Boer take a rifle and bandolier from a wounded Derby man, and then shoot him; the Boer then came to me and asked me for my rifle; I showed it him where it was lying on the ground.'
Things of this sort are progressive. Here is what occurred at Brakenlaagte when the rear of Benson's column was destroyed.
Major N. E. Young, D.S.O., Royal Field Artillery, sends the report to the Commander-in-Chief of Boer cruelty to the officers and men wounded in the action with Colonel Benson's column at Brakenlaagte. It is dated Pretoria, November 7, and Lord Kitchener's covering letter is dated November 9.
Major Young, who made the inquiries into the charges of cruelty in accordance with Lord Kitchener's instructions, says:
'Out of a total of 147 wounded non-commissioned officers and men seen by me fifty-four had not been in the hands of the Boers. Of the remaining ninety-three men, eighteen informed me they had nothing to complain of.
'Seventy-five non-commissioned officers and men made complaint of ill-treatment of a more or less serious nature; nearly all of these had been robbed of whatever money they possessed, also of their watches and private papers.
'Many had been deprived of other articles of clothing, hats, jackets, and socks, in some cases being left with an old shirt and a pair of drawers only.
'There is a consensus of opinion that the wounded lying round the guns were fired on by Boers, who had already disarmed them, for a long period, after all firing in their neighbourhood from our side had ceased.
'Even the late Colonel Benson was not respected, though he was protected for some time by a man in authority; eventually his spurs, gaiters, and private papers were removed.'
Major Young, in concluding his report, says:—
'I was impressed with the idea that the statements made to me were true and not wilfully exaggerated, so simply were they made. There seems no doubt that though the Boer commandants have the will they have no longer the power to repress outrage and murder on the part of their subordinates.'
Lieutenant G. Acland Troyte, King's Royal Rifle Corps, 25th Mounted Infantry, states: 'I was wounded on October 25 in a rearguard action with Colonel Benson's force, near Kaffirstadt. The Boers came up and stripped me of everything except my drawers, shirt, and socks, they gave me an old pair of trousers, and later a coat.'
Lieutenant Reginald Seymour, 1st Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps, 25th Mounted Infantry:—'On October 30 my company was sent back to the support of Colonel Benson's rearguard. I was wounded early in the day. The Boers came up. They took my greatcoat, gaiters, spurs, and helmet; they took the money and watches from the other wounded, but left them their clothes except the coat of one man. They then left us without assistance. Two Boers afterwards returned and took away a greatcoat belonging to one of our men which had been left over me. One of the party who stripped us was addressed by the remainder as Commandant.'
Captain C. W. Collins, Cheshire Regiment:—'I was signalling officer to Colonel Benson on October 30. I was wounded, and lying near the guns about a hundred yards in rear of them. A field-cornet came up and went away without molesting me. At about 5.30 P.M., or a little later, the ambulances came and picked me up; my ambulance went on some distance farther, and Colonel Benson and some men were put in it. There seemed to be a lot of delay, which annoyed the Colonel, and he asked to be allowed to get away. The delay, however, continued till a Boer came and took away Colonel Benson's documents from his pocket, notwithstanding his protest that they were all private papers, and that they had been seen by a commandant earlier in the day, who said they were not required.'
Private E. Rigby, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps, states the Boers took all his clothes except his shirt. This man is not quite able to speak yet.
Trooper Hood, 2nd Scottish Horse: 'While I was lying wounded on the ground the Boers came up and stripped me of my hat and coat, boots, 15s., and a metal watch. I saw them fire at another wounded man as he was coming to me for a drink.'
Trooper Alexander Main, 2nd Scottish Horse: 'While lying on the ground, the Boers came close up and stood about fifteen to twenty yards away from where we were lying wounded round the guns. All were wounded at this time, and no one was firing. I saw the Boers there fire at the wounded. Captain Lloyd, a staff officer, was lying beside me wounded in the leg at this time; he received one or two more shots in the body, and shortly afterwards he died. I myself received three more wounds.'
Trooper Jamieson, Scottish Horse: 'The Boers took off his boots and they hurt his shattered arm in a terrible manner while getting off his bandolier. His arm has been removed.'
Private Parrish, 1st Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps: 'Our ridge was not firing any more, but whenever a wounded man showed himself, they fired at him, in this way several were killed; one man who was waving a bit of blue stuff with the idea of getting an ambulance, received about twenty shots.'
Private Prickett, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps: 'On October 30 I was lying wounded. I saw the Boers come up, and an old Boer with black beard and whiskers, and wearing leggings, whom I should be able to recognise again, shot my friend, Private F. Foster, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps, by putting the muzzle of his rifle to his side. Private Foster had been firing under cover of an ant-heap till the Boers took the position; he then threw away his rifle to put his hands up, but was shot all the same.'
Private N. H. Grierson, Scottish Horse: 'I was wounded and lying by the side of Colonel Benson. When the Boers came up they wanted to begin to loot; Colonel Benson stopped them, telling them he had received a letter from Commandant Grobelaar saying the wounded would be respected. Colonel Benson asked if he could see Grobelaar; they said they would fetch him, and brought up someone who was in authority, but I do not think it was Grobelaar. Colonel Benson told him the wounded were not to be touched, and he said he would do his best; he himself protected Colonel Benson for about an hour, but he was still there when a Boer took off Colonel Benson's spurs and gaiters.'
Sergeant Ketley, 7th Hussars: 'I was wounded in the head and hip just before the Boers rushed the guns. I was covered with blood. A Boer came up, took away my carbine and revolver and asked me to put up my hands. I could not do this, being too weak with the loss of blood. He loaded my own carbine and aimed from his breast while kneeling, and pointed at my breast. He fired and hit me in the right arm just below the shoulder.'
Private Bell, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps, 25th Mounted Infantry: 'When the Boers came up they took my boots off very roughly, hurting my wounded leg very much. I saw them taking watches and money off the other men.'
Private C. Connor, Royal Dublin Fusiliers: 'I was lying beside the guns among a lot of our wounded, who were not firing. Every time one of our wounded attempted to move the Boers fired at them; several men (about ten or eleven) were killed in this way.'
Lieutenant Bircham, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps: 'Was in the same ambulance wagon as Lieutenant Martin, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (since deceased), and the latter told him that when he (Lieutenant Martin) was lying on the ground wounded the Boers took off his spurs and gaiters. In taking off his spurs they wrenched his leg, the bone of which was shattered, completely round, so as to be able to get at the spurs more easily, though Lieutenant Martin told them where he was hit.'
Corporal P. Gower, 4th Batt. King's Royal Rifle Corps, 25th Mounted Infantry: 'I was wounded and unconscious. When I came to, the Boers were stripping the men round me. A man, Private Foster, who was not five yards from me, put up his hands in token of surrender, but was shot at about five-yards range by a tall man with a black beard. He was killed.'
Corporal Atkins, 84th Battery Royal Field Artillery: 'The Boers came up to me and said, "Can you work this gun?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Get up and show me." I said, "How can I? I have one hand taken away, and I am wounded in both legs"—this last was not true. He then said, "Give us your boots"—he took them and my mackintosh. He took what money was in my belt. One of our men, Bombardier Collins, got up to try and put up a white flag, as we were being fired at both from the camp and by the Boers; as soon as he got up they began shooting at him. I saw a Kaffir fire three shots from about thirty yards off.'
Bombardier Collins, 84th Battery Royal Field Artillery: 'When lying wounded near the guns after the Boers had been up to them I tried to raise a white flag as our own people were dropping their bullets close to us. When I did this they fired at me.'
So long as an excuse could be found for a brave enemy we found it. But the day is rapidly approaching when we must turn to the world with our evidence and say, 'Are these the deeds of soldiers or of brigands? If they act as brigands, then, why must we for ever treat them as soldiers?' I have read letters from soldiers who saw their own comrades ill-treated at Brakenlaagte. I trust that they will hold their hands, but it is almost more than can be asked of human nature.