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On the Heels of De Wet   By: (1871-1955)

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ON THE HEELS OF DE WET

by

THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICER

William Blackwood and Sons Edinburgh and London MCMII

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 'BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.'

FOREWORD.

This short history is an amplification of a diary kept by the author during the late war, which amplification, through the courtesy of the editor, was published as a series of papers in 'Blackwood's Magazine.' The author is well aware of the shortcomings of his work, which he presents to the public in all humility, after asking pardon from such of the performers on his stage as may see through the slight veil of anonymity in which it has been attempted to enshroud them. If any should think the few criticisms which have crept into the text unjust, will they bear in mind that the regimental officer has suffered, in silence, much for the sins of others. It is the author's conviction that cases were rare when the ship did not sail true enough: in the beginning she may have badly wanted cleaning below the water line, but she never failed to answer her helm. It was more often the man at the helm than the sailing quality of the vessel that was at fault, and the marvel is that she was of sufficiently tough construction to be able to stand the stress incurred by indifferent seamanship.

CONTENTS.

PAGE I. THE BIRTH OF THE BRIGADE 1

II. THE MEET! 15

III. BEE LINE TO BRITSTOWN 45

IV. THE FIRST CHECK 75

V. A NEW CAST 103

VI. A POOR SCENT 133

VII. "POTTERING" 155

VIII. STILL POTTERING 184

IX. TO A NEW COVERT! 214

X. JOG TROT 246

XI. FULL CRY 292

L'ENVOI 344

ON THE HEELS OF DE WET.

I.

THE BIRTH OF THE BRIGADE.

"De Aar," and the Africander guard flung himself out of his brake van.

De Aar! After forty eight hours of semi starvation in a brake van, the name of the junction, in spite of the ill natured tones which gave voice to it, sounded sweeter than the chimes of bells. It meant relief from confinement in a few square feet of board; relief from a semi putrid atmosphere oil, unwashed men, and stale tobacco smoke; relief from the delicate attentions of a surly Africander guard, who resented the overcrowding of his van; relief from the pangs of hunger; relief from the indescribable punishments of thirst.

Yet at its best De Aar is a miserable place. Not made only thrown at the hillside, and allowed by negligence and indifference to slip into the nearest hollow. Too far from the truncated kopjes to reap any benefit from them. Close enough to feel the radiation of a sledge hammer sun from their bevelled summits close enough to be the channel, in summer, of every scorching blast diverted by them; in winter, every icy draught. Pestilential place, goal of whirlwinds and dust devils, ankle deep in desert drift prototype of Berber in a sandstorm as comfortless by night as day. But as in nature, so in the handiwork of men, even in the most repulsive shapes it is possible to find some saving feature. De Aar has one one only. Its saving feature is where a slatternly Jew boy plays host behind the bar of a fly ridden buffet. Here at prices which, except that it is a campaign, would be prohibitive, you can purchase food and drink.

But at night it is not an easy place to find. The station is full of trains, and, arriving by a supply train, you are discharged at some remote siding. A dozen wheeled barricades open trucks, groaning bogies piled with war material separate you from the platform. You dare not climb over the couplings between the waggons, for engines are attached, and the trains jolt backwards and forwards apparently without aim or warning... Continue reading book >>




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