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A Handbook of the Boer War eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 357 pages of information about A Handbook of the Boer War.

In February, however, the tide of fortune turned.  Delarey came down from the north, apparently to watch his chance of intervening on behalf of De Wet in the Orange River Colony, and heard from Liebenberg that a convoy was on its way from Wolmaranstad to Klerksdorp.  On February 25 the convoy, which was escorted by 700 men and two guns, was near Yzer Spruit within a day’s march of its destination, when it was ambushed in the dawn and captured by Delarey, Kemp, and Liebenberg, who thus easily obtained what they were most in need of, namely transport animals, guns, and ammunition to the amount of half a million rounds.[62] The capture was effected within hearing not only of Klerksdorp, but also of a small column on the march from Klerksdorp to Hartebeestfontein.  Kekewich, who was near Klerksdorp, then left for Wolmaranstad and sent a column under Grenfell in pursuit of Delarey; but the column failed to find Delarey.

Methuen at Vryburg promptly set himself to work, with such tools as he could lay his hands on, to avenge the disaster.  He put together a column of which about one-third was regular infantry with four field guns, and the remainder samples of almost every irregular corps that had been raised during the previous twelve months; and he set out at the head of it to intercept Delarey, who was reported to be making for the Marico River.  He ordered Kekewich to co-operate with him from Klerksdorp.

Grenfell’s column was accordingly ordered to meet Methuen at Roirantjesfontein seventeen miles south of Lichtenburg.  He arrived there on March 7; Methuen, who was delayed by the difficulty of finding water, having reached Tweebosch on the previous day.

It was now incumbent on Delarey, who was marching up from the south with 1,100 burghers, to attack either Methuen or Grenfell before they could join hands.  He chose the former’s heterogeneous host as the easier prey, and fell first upon his rearguard soon after he left Tweebosch at dawn on March 7, and then upon his right flank.  The mounted troops, which were promptly disposed as a screen, failed ignominiously, the greater part of them leaving the field in disorder.  The regular infantry stood fast with the guns, but were soon overwhelmed.  Grenfell was unable to intervene, but he strengthened Lichtenburg in case Delarey should come that way.  Delarey, however, went to the south to meet De Wet and Steyn, whom he cheered with the news of the capture of four British field guns and of 600 prisoners of war, among whom was Methuen, severely wounded.  Steyn remained with Delarey; De Wet returned to the Orange River Colony.

Yzer Spruit and Tweebosch introduced the Drive into the Western Transvaal.  Troops from all quarters reinforced Kekewich at Klerksdorp, and soon a force 14,000 strong was assembled there and elsewhere.  The difficulty of the task before it was enhanced by the absence of a network of blockhouse lines, which had only been laid out along the Schoon Spruit and thence to Lichtenburg and Mafeking, and also along the Vaal.

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