The two Hamiltons rang down the curtain of the War Tragedy. While Bruce Hamilton was driving for the last time through the Orange River Colony, Ian Hamilton with Kekewich, W. Kitchener, and Rawlinson, assisted by a column from the Vaal under Rochfort, began a westward drive in the Transvaal, with 17,000 men. Kemp followed the usual practice of Boer commandants when hard pressed by the enemy, and scattered his commandos; thus when Ian Hamilton’s 17,000 crossed the border and reached the Western Railway on May 11, they found less than 400 Boers, among whom Kemp was not, impaled upon the barrier of blockhouses and armoured trains.
IV. CAPE COLONY
During the early part of the summer of 1901-2 the Cape Colony was, comparatively speaking, quiet, though dormantly rebellious. Little positive progress was made, either by French or by the inflammatory elements opposed to him, of which the leader was J.C. Smuts. These were for the most part acting in a spacious and inaccessible area, which included the districts of Kenhart, Carnarvon, Sutherland, Fraserburg, and Calvinia. A blockhouse line, which when completed would stretch from Victoria West to Lambert’s Bay, was in course of construction through these districts.
In December Kritzinger headed a raid from the Orange River Colony; but although he was soon captured near Hanover, the greater portion of his followers escaped to the south and infested the districts of Cradock and Somerset East. Stephenson was put in immediate charge of the operations against Smuts, who had established himself on the Zak River between Kenhart and Calvinia, and who in January moved eastward. It was a false move, because it brought him into the Fraserburg district, and made him more accessible to the columns opposed to him. It was made apparently with the intention of breaking across the railway in the vicinity of Beaufort West.
The operations against Smuts, the flank bases of which, Beaufort West and Lambert’s Bay, were over 300 miles apart, attained only negative success. A large convoy drawn by donkeys fell into the hands of the rebels between Beaufort West and Fraserburg, and a smaller convoy in the Sutherland district.
French now took in hand the Drive, the last weapon left in the British Armoury, which his colleagues in the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony had been wielding for some months. It was brandished northwards from Beaufort West on February 17; but it only dispersed without destroying the rebels, most of whom had retired to the north and N.W. Not a few scraped round the right flank of the drive, crossed the railway, and plunged into the Graaff Reinet and Aberdeen districts, where they were joined by a band under Fouché, which had been lurking and conniving far away to the N.E. between Dortrecht and Aliwal North.
Smuts withdrew to the N.W. and laid siege to Ookiep, which was relieved on May 3 by an expedition sent from Capetown through Port Nolloth; Smuts having in the meantime retired in order to attend the Peace Conference. He had done his best to carry out the instructions given to him by the Boer Council of War held in June, 1901, to foment a general insurrection in the Cape Colony, but he had failed.