A few days later Kekewich went to Rustenburg, out of which he again sallied forth on October 13 into the Zwartruggens in search of Delarey. Methuen had already left Mafeking on the same errand. On October 24 Delarey fell in with one of Methuen’s columns on its way to Zeerust. The column, which was impeded by wagons slowly progressing along a bad road in a defile, was pounced upon unexpectedly and hewn in twain; but if, as usual, the scouting was poor the defence was excellent. After a struggle which lasted two hours Delarey was driven off, the severed portions of the column were re-united, and not one of the seven guns was lost.
* * * * *
By the end of 1901 all the precedents of European warfare had been discredited. Tactics and strategy, as practised by the experts, had done their best, and were now in bankruptcy. The war had drifted into its final mechanical phase: the coercion of brute force by brute force of higher potential. It was now mainly a question of putting as many men as possible on horseback to ride down the enemy. Field guns not being needed, the Royal Artillery was formed into a corps of Mounted Rifles.
Ian Hamilton, who had gone home with Lord Roberts, returned to South Africa a year later as Chief of the Staff to Lord Kitchener.
[Footnote 55: These posts, however, were small entrenched forts at considerable distances apart for the protection of the road to Basutoland, rather than blockhouses.]
[Footnote 56: See p. 326.]
[Footnote 57: Lyttelton went to the Cape Colony in February, 1901, to direct the operations against De Wet, and was subsequently sent into the Orange River Colony. After a few months’ leave he returned to South Africa in September and took over Hildyard’s command in Natal.]
[Footnote 58: He was next heard of at the abortive peace conference held at Middelburg, where he met Lord Kitchener at the end of February.]
[Footnote 59: Bruce Hamilton succeeded Lyttelton in the Orange River Colony when the latter went home on leave.]
[Footnote 60: The “protected area” was a district round Pretoria and Johannesburg which was enclosed by a ring of blockhouses and Constabulary posts in August, 1901.]
The Mechanical Phase
The year 1901 was drawing to its close, and the three chief Boer leaders were still at large. Delarey was lurking in the difficult kloofs of the Western Transvaal; Botha was on watch in the high veld of the Eastern Transvaal, just outside the “protected area”; and De Wet was awaiting his opportunity in the N.E. of the Orange River Colony.