The Natal Wedge disappeared in the smoke of the battle of Lombard’s Kop and was never again heard of as an instrument in the Natal campaign. The Boers filled the gaps in the investing line without difficulty, and on November 2 the Siege of Ladysmith began. The last man to leave the town was French, who went forth to win honour on distant fields.
[Footnote 16: In 1902 the Vryheid and Utrecht districts of the Transvaal were annexed to Natal and the wedge disappeared.]
[Footnote 17: They were indeed authorized as early as October 18 to throw it aside but by that time they were committed to its use.]
[Footnote 18: “Long Tom,” which was afterwards sent to Ladysmith and subsequently to bombard Rhodes in Kimberley.]
[Illustration: Sketch map of Northern Natal.]
Deus Ex Machina No. I
The arrival of Sir Redvers Buller at Cape Town on October 31, 1899, the morrow of the battle of Lombard’s Kop, encouraged the despondent at home and in Cape Colony. Twenty years previously he had distinguished himself in the command of a Boer contingent which served with the British Army during the Zulu campaign; and it was doubtless from the experience then gained that he formed the opinion that the war which he was now called upon to direct, could be brought to a successful conclusion only “by the actual conquest of every man in the field: a task doubly difficult owing to the extreme mobility of the enemy.”
In his first telegram to Lord Lansdowne he described the situation as one of “extreme gravity.”
White, with five-sixths of the British Troops in South Africa, was shut up in Ladysmith; a month at least must elapse before the Expeditionary Force, which the British Government had on September 22 decided to send out, would be able to take the field; Mafeking was besieged; the diamond men of Kimberley, like a passionate child interned in a dark room, were screaming for release; Sir Alfred Milner was pleading that the defence of the Cape Peninsula, an area of a few thousand square miles as far removed from the front as Marseilles is from Berlin, must be first attended to; President Steyn had overcome his scruples and was sending Free State commandos across the Orange River into the Cape Colony at Bethulie and Norval’s Pont; the disaffected colonials were restive; and the fall of Ladysmith, which seemed probable, would lay Natal open from the Tugela to the Indian Ocean.
It was a dismal outlook; but Buller, after a few days’ review of the situation, was able to report that in his opinion the opposition would probably collapse when Kimberley and Ladysmith were relieved. His optimism at Capetown was destined soon to be superseded by pessimism on the Tugela. He compared himself to a man who, having a busy day before him, has overslept himself. The original plan of campaign, a march