We have all read realistic descriptions of troops on the march in South Africa, the writer using all his cunning to depict the war-worn dirty condition of his heroes, seeming to glean satisfaction from their grease-stained khaki. It must be admitted that the South African War is responsible for a somewhat changed condition of thought as regards cleanliness and its relation to smartness. No such abstraction disturbed the Devons; a Devon man was always clean. Individuals of some corps could be readily identified by their battered helmets or split boots; not so the Devons. No helmet badge was necessary for their identification, and the veriest tyro could not fail to recognize at any time the crisply washed Indian helmet cover.
It may be open to question whether it is for good or for evil that we should broaden our views of what goes to make a smart and useful fighting man, but the regimental system of the Devons was for no innovation of a careless go-as-you-please style. I thus lay stress on the individuality of the Devons in South Africa, because it was this individuality of theirs, born of their regimental system, which enabled them to claim so full a share in the success of that long-drawn-out campaign.
No one can quite appreciatively follow the story of the work of the Devons, unless he realizes the intense feeling of comradeship that animates these West-country men. To work with Devonshire men is to realize in the flesh the intensity of the local county loyalty so graphically depicted by Charles Kingsley in his Westward Ho! and other novels.
In conclusion, let me add, a more determined crew I never wish to see, and a better regiment to back his orders a General can never hope to have.
[Illustration: [Signature — Walter Kitchener]]
Dalhousie, May, 1906.
BY THE AUTHOR
The story as told is an everyday account and a record of the work of the men of the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment during the South African War.
It exemplifies the devotion to duty, the stubbornness in adversity, and the great fighting qualities of the West-country man, which qualities existed in the time of Drake, and which still exist.
A repeating of their history of the past, a record of the present, and an example for the generation to come.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE SIEGE OF LADYSMITH
On returning from the North-West Frontier of India at the close of the Tirah Expedition, 1897-8, the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment, which had served with distinction under the command of Colonel J.H. Yule in the campaign against the Afridi clans, was ordered to proceed from Peshawar to Jullunder, at which place it was quartered in 1898 and in the summer months of 1899, during which time certain companies and detachments were furnished for duty at Dalhousie, Kasauli, and Ghora Dakka (Murree Hills), and located during the hot weather at these places.