Not until April, 1902, did the Epilogue of the Tragedy of Errors appear. The despatches, with the memorandum “not necessarily for publication,” were published in full, as well as the “Secret Orders” given to Warren at Springfield, which were its Prologue.
[Footnote 26: A detachment numbering about 600 only was sent.]
[Footnote 27: In the Fog of War some of the British soldiers thought that the Boers were coming up to surrender themselves, and acted in this belief for a brief period.]
More Tugela Troubles
By a process of elimination Buller hoped in time to find the road to Ladysmith. He had tried in succession, but without success, Colenso, Potgieter’s Drift, and Trickhardt’s Drift. He now informed White that he intended to make another attempt, but Lord Roberts advised him to postpone it until his own advance should draw off the Free Staters and weaken the barrier on the line of the Tugela.
The situation in the besieged town was growing worse every day, but a proposal made by White as well as by the War Office that the garrison should endeavour to break out, was not sanctioned by Lord Roberts. White also was opposed to Buller’s making another attempt to cross the Tugela, as he considered that the force would be more usefully employed in preventing the enemy from concentrating on Ladysmith.
[Sidenote: Map, p. 98.]
Buller’s new plan was an advance by way of Vaalkrantz. Here the river winds in two salient loops towards the north, with a re-entrant loop between them, and there is a slight break in the heights on the left bank. The Brakfontein ridge slopes down towards Vaalkrantz Hill, between which and Green Hill there is a dip through which a road passes on to the open ground towards Ladysmith, eleven miles distant.
Buller proposed to occupy the ridge of Vaalkrantz with artillery, and after a feint attack on the Boer position on Brakfontein, to push through under cover of the guns. It was believed that the enemy’s extreme left lay on Vaalkrantz, which was commanded by Mount Alice and Zwart Kop. Lord Roberts when informed of the project was not hopeful of its success, but did not veto it, although he thought that Buller would be better advised to abstain from offensive tactics.
The feint attack on Brakfontein was to be made by seven Field Batteries and a Brigade of Infantry, and was to be continued long enough to convince the enemy that it was “meant”. It was then to be withdrawn and the real attack set in motion. The advance of the feint would be covered by heavy guns posted on Mount Alice, and concealed batteries on Zwart Kop would open on Vaalkrantz in support of the real attack.