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[fly W. A. CLEAVE.]
The Selgo of Ladysmlth.—Disaster at Nicholson's Nok.—Bailor's arrival at tho Capo.—" Avongo Majuba."—Dramatic arrival of the Naval Brlgado.—Mobilisation at Home.—Reservists Rally.—Story of a Deserter.—"A hot time in tho old town."—Fate of tho " Fighting fifth."—Hampshire Cricketers at the Front. ~ Lieut.-Col. Crabbo wounded.—Arrival of Refugees at Southampton.—" Tommy Atkins, Esq."—A Sad Christmas Day.
Event* we** moving rapidly in South Africa. Ou October 30th the Boors hnd complotely invested Ladypmith, and were exultantly anticipating tho surr&ndcr of the Iweieggd force. Tho unfortunate disaster at Nicholson's Nek, when tho column, enlisting of the Royal Fusiliers, th© Gloucester Regiment, and No. 10 Mounted Battery, was forced to surrender, had heightened their hopes. In Litis action it may he briefly recalled that Sir George White deemed it prudent to make a northern reconnoitring movement, but owing to tho stampeding of the mules with tho gun equipment, the troops found thomselvcs in an untenable position, with decimation as tho only alternative to capitulation. Tho surrender of over 1,000 men caused a painful sensation in England, and it became more and more evident that the patriotism and fortitude of the nation were to fated in real earnest. Confidence was somewhat restored by the arrival of Sir Red vers Buller at Cape Town, where he was greeted with tremendous en-thus) nam Shouts of " Avenge Majuba" and "Good Old Buller" greeted him as ho rode through tho streets. The timely appearance on tho scoho of the Naval -Brigade at Ladyemith also helped to rekindle hope in tho ability of Ladysmith to resist the menacing assaults oh the town and hold the enemy at bay. Hopelessly outmatched in artillery at the outset, the arrival of H.M.S. Powerful's 50-pounder guns had dome much to restore the balanc*. Tho splendid practice made by the tars in silencing the dreaded Boer " Long Tom," which had wrought such terrible cxeoulion for some days, roused groat jubilation. The boys in blue had dramatically saved the situation.
/ Tho work of mobilisation was rapidly proceeding at home. From all parts of Hampshire Reservists were rallying to their old regiments. Many members of the Southampton police force rejoined the colours. A characteristic illustration of the oagernes6 almost invariably displayed to go to the front *ae furnished by the appear-
He had run away from his regiment—the Dublin Fusiliers—two and a half years previously, and obtained . remunerative civilian employment. Bat the war fever developed within him to such an extent that he surrendered as a deserter at the Bargate. As a matter of form he was * placed in tho dock, but on hearing of his desire to join his former comrades the presiding magistrate (tho lata Major Le Feuvre) not only overlooked his original sin, but declared he was a credit to his country.
With the withdrawal of a portion of the crews of tho Cape Squadron, it became necessary to send out Naval auxiliaries, for the gx eater part drawn from Portsmouth. It was arranged that they should sail from Southampton on Saturday, November 4th, in the Union liner Briton. The Kildonan Castle, which had been taken over by the Admiralty am a new vessel, was scheduled to sail the same day. In addition to the Naval contingent the Briton was to .take out the Welsh Regiment, which had stationed for a considerable time at
Aldenbot. and the Somerset Light Infantry whilst the 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusi Hers—the famous " Fighting Fifth "—had been allotted to the Castle liner. Many of the outgoing troops had arrived in Southampton be fore the day of mailing, and were permitted (0 spend the night ashore. They, not unnatur-allv, Hocked to the places of entertainment, for assuredly there would be dull, desultory days
ahead. The circle of tho Palace Music-hall $*as that night closely packed with soldiers whoso presence worked up the audience to a supreme pitch of patriotic fervour, which reached its climax when one of tho artistes—Gus Hindell by name—sang an adaptation of the American ditty "There'll be a hot time in the old tow'n to-night." It was quite a .stroke of stage genius. Only a few days had elapeed siuco the Naval Brigade had dramatically reinforced th,. Ladysmith garrison, and their heroic exploits had fired the public imagination to white heat. The chorus of the song ran—
" And when they saw tho Pompey boys were coming,
Then Oom Paul wo* nowhere in the running.
With their four-point seven they made a splendid fight,
And there was a hot time in the Boer camp that night."
Other incidents about this time were the departure of Sir William MacCortuac, Bart., the great surgeon, for the seat of hostilities, there to render, with many other distinguished mem bore of his profession, heroic service in the alleviation of tho torments of war.
This was truly a time of great public tension. The Boers, despite several nasty nbuOs, were daily growing more menacing. Lady-tmitli, KimborLy, and Mafeking wore all "closely—yes, perilously—invested. News of the landing of Buller and the Is* Army Corps had readied the various Commando* operating in diffetvjH part* of the theatre of war, anil they were eager to drive the advantage they possessed home to the hilt before the reinforcements arrived. Outside Mafeking Cronje's frowning hordo was pushing closer and closer
iger .appealed to the audience tin the house rose "en masse" rus again and again. It wtu
And when tho si to join-in the refi and sang the cho an electric and ever memorable occasion. Miss Weston, "the sailors' friend," from Portsmouth, was amongst those who saw the tars off on the Saturday.
Southainptonians-were by this# time growing quite familiar with the embarkation scenes at the Docks, but their ardour showed no signs of diminishing, and there was a great crowd to see the Briton and Kildonan Castle sail. The Welshmen had with them th%ir regimental goat, which came in for much photographic attention, and the reputation of tho Northumberland Fusi liers drew round tliem an admiring multitude. They looked as though they were spoiling for a right—short, wiry, bullet headed youths, who indulged in playful badinage over the vessel's bulwarks decidedly disrespectful to the late Boor President. A few weeks later the fam ous " Fighting Fifth" had their ambition gratified, and—eucn is the irony of things-were overwhelmed m disaster. At the battle of Storniberg, apart from wounded and d^ad, about three hundred of tjwm were taken pri-
• Following closely in the wake of Major Poor*, twu other Hampshire cricketers—Colonel Spens and Lieut. K. M. Sprot (now captain of ibe Hants County eleven)—left with their regiment, tlie Shropshire Light Infantry, for the front. .Happily all three safely returned.
to the town, only to I* checked again and again J by brilliant sorties at dead of night, in which cold steel forced greater respect for the grit and daring of the sorely prvamed but valiant garrison It was a case of now or never with tlie Boer*. " Long Toms" were hurling pro-diguous projectiles at tlie heart of beleaguered . Ladysmith, and the shrapnel of- the British Artillery was daily screaming defiance. Though ' h«In the coiTWe of Lord Methuen's advance Lieut. Colonel Crabbe—<1 name honourably as-.10c i a ted with the Royal South Hants and Southampton Hospital—was wounded . at . lielmont, ' and tlie roll of casualties was swelling hourly. But the War Office, slow at first to move, was now putting forth superhuman efforts. The disposition to under rate tho fo© luul disappeared. Letters were reaching home from the , front revealing the mammoth preparations the Boers had _-for y.ars Wen making for tho inevitable struggle—when it came. Parties of refugees landed at Houthamp ton from every incoming Cape boot, many of them of Dutch extraction, including numerous Boers who sympathised with Britain's cause, and who, rather than light against our troops, had realised their estates and Bod. Krug«r had declared his intention of commandeering every available man. His simple, child like innocence, so long assumed and cherished by a sec-
tion of th* British public, was by this time an -exploded fallacy. Tho mask had been torn a*idc. Those " peaceful farmsra" were doughty warriors, worthy of any focman'a steel, and whilst the 1st Army Corps was trudg-ing tirelessly on, like Eugene Suo's Wandering .lew—"-.without rest or intermission, without re-compjnse"—but still Imbued with hope, tlie 2nd Army Corps was rapidly being mobilised, and tho Militia was beiug called up. The comparative stillue** -which had- fslleh upon South, ampton Docks, giving Colonel Staopole and his capable and willing staff a well-needed rest, was soon to be broken. Nightly engines of war * began to acoumulaty in the spacious sheds at the Docks, mysterious implements which had been rapidly improvised to cope with the peculiar conditions with which our troops would have to contend—oteam sapfters, pontoon bridges, mechanical ploughs, trains of wagons, and so on. Immense consignments of stores < and munitions constantly arrived for shipment, the character of which will, be best understood by tlie shipments on the lured freight steamer Uulawayol—
12 steam sappert^
36 wagons.
4,OOO.QOO rounds of Lee-Metford ammunition.
1,410 boxes of shells.
406 cases of tubes and fuses,
in addition to huge quantities of stores of all descriptions—canned meats, biscuits, jams, and fodder for tho horses.
On November 15th the Sicilian, the Gothland the Antilliau sailed from Southampton. The former took out the 78th • Bat Wry Royal Field ArtilWv, the litter the 37th Battery, wbo had, whilst serving with Kitchener in the Soudan, smashed with their shells the Madbi's tomb at Omdurman. They jequired heavier and more modern weapons for the task they were about to tackle than wore needed to annihilate the fanatical Dervish hordes and took out with them six five-iuoh howitsfes—grim-looking guns which even the Hours learned to dread. All three boats took out largo numbers of remount*, which were urgently demanded by tho wastage j of horses under forced marches.
A weejc later the Simla nailed with the 2nd 1 Dorset*, the- Gaul with the 2nd Itoyal War. , wicks, and the Doune Castle with the 1st Vorksiurcs. A drummer of thi Dorset* had j the temerity to gee married two hours before ; l,e left Donliester. fncludwl in the Dorset* ranks was a time expired soldier whose services j had for some reason ur othuf been refused, but , who clamoured so persistently to join his old I regiment that at last he was permitted to do ; so.
' It had already become plain that the optimistic fort casts indulged in by certain arm-chair, j critics at home that the British troops would 1 celebrate Chrwtmas in Kruger's capital would j not be realised. Our troops, were still fsr, far | away from the Pretoria*) fortress, scattered far and wido chi tlio rolling veldt, under the ! shadows of mountains, beside many rivers, on I V>»e opposite banks of which was lurking, with rifle eve* ready and powder over <&ry, time un-1 s*m but all seeing foe. The shock of Magers-i fontein and tlie successive reverses and fearful carnage of Coleniso and Spion Kop hsd >*t to come. Still, the good folk of Old England da-toqniued Uiat those who were " doing their country's'Work at the front" alioukl not be forgotten, and the Simla took out two tons of parcels addressed to "XtiomM Atkins, Esq." ' j These mostly contained tobacco and cigars, but | there was a fair proportion of plum puddings. ' Many of those they were lovingly addressed j to were dead on Christmas Day! .
(To be continued.)
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