Ch 2: The Opening of Hostilities

Addressing the members of the Volksraad on October 2nd, President Kruger said that everything pointed to war. "The Boers need fear nothing: thousands would come to attack them; but the Lord was on their side, and they would prevail. Thousands of bullets were fired by Jameson’s men, but the burghers were untouched, while a hundred on the other side were killed by Boer bullets directed by God." Other members spoke, many with evident sincerity, believing their cause righteous and their country menaced.
   The commandoes were rapidly mobilised, drilling and exercising as one vast army. Prepared for all eventualities, on the call to arms the Boers had but to saddle their horses, don rifle, bandolier, and blanket, and ride to the district muster. Each burgher carried a supply of "biltong" and was ready for the field, though in many cases the devoted women followed the commandoes in wagons filled with such simple luxuries as they possessed. Each commando moved off with the prayers and blessings of the wives who sent their husbands and lovers forth to return victors or die on the field.
   By train and road, a strong force of Boers gathered at Volksrust and Wakkerstroom, ready to act in their old theatre of war at Laing’s Nek. Other forces prepared to invade Natal by, the drifts on the Buffalo River. The north western commandoes moved toward the Rhodesian frontier, and also occupied Komati Poort, commanding the Delagoa Bay railroad, in anticipation of cession of Portuguese territory to Great Britain. Snyman and De la Rey laagered with Cronje at Bloemfontein, ready to operate against Mafeking and Kimberley. The Free-Staters moved strong commandoes to the main Drakensberg passes leading into Natal, and mixed forces marched to the borders toward Kimberley. A careful estimate of the Boer army at the outbreak of hostilities gives the strength of the combined republics at 70,000 men.
   In Johannesburg business was at a standstill, and sixty-eight out of eighty mines were closed down. The sweepings of the city, the roughnecks and the thieves of the mining camps were expelled by the last trains. Three hundred French, German, and Swiss were enrolled as police, doing very efficient work in this respect. The revelations made by these foreigners as to the condition of the Transvaal native prisoners make one shudder. Other foreigners joined the mercenaries, soldiers of fortune officering contingents of their respective countries. The ZAR Police under Van Dam and Schutte went to fight of their own volition. The guns of the Hospital Hill fort were sent to the front, but a garrison was retained there under Van Dalwig. Under the guise of commandeering food-stuffs, the homes of the Uitlanders were broken open and plundered.
   In Pretoria the officials were all at the front, the public offices being filled by friendly foreigners. Secretary of State Reitz directed active operations under the President’s watchful eye. He professed that the war must be conducted in accordance with the Bible, which had guided all their actions. "God helps those who help themselves," he said a week before the mail train was stopped at Vereeniging, the government confiscating $4,000,000. Later the Executive commandeered the Robinson and Bonanza mines, and despite the protest of Mr. Colommer, French vice-consul, on behalf of French shareholders, the output of the richest mines of the Republic was speedily turned into gold currency in the Transvaal mint, creating the unprecedented condition of a country able to keep its treasury filled by a direct supply of bullion.
   The foreign consuls met at the Italian Charge d’Affaires where Mr. Macrum, the American representative, complained bitterly of his countrymens’ position in the Transvaal during the crisis, with many leaving the country. The representative of the American firm of J. S. Curtis & Co, in giving notice of his withdrawal from the Republic, wrote, "My flag is not respected, my passport not recognised, and, in short, my position is unbearable." I have heard others express themselves in a similar manner.
   Under early shadows of the war the regular forces in Cape Colony numbered 3,000 men, with a garrison of 5,000 in Natal. The former command consisted of two companies of Garrison Artillery, one company of Engineers, three and one-half battalions of infantry, with detachments, Army Service, Medical Staff, and Ordnance Store Corps. In Natal, General Penn-Symons commanded one brigade division of Field Artillery, one mountain battery, three companies of Garrison Artillery, four companies of Royal Engineers, two cavalry regiments and six battalions of infantry, with equivalent sections of Army Service, Medical Staff, and Ordnance Corps.
   The presence of armed parties of Boers along the frontier and the constant threat of raids led to the reinforcement of the Natal forces from the Cape; but for weeks, when the republics were shouting war, the main approaches to the colonies and the menaced border towns, were guarded only by a few policemen, a fact which certainly negates England’s determination on war at any price. When the ultimatum was launched, Penn-Symons had a single infantry brigade with cavalry and artillery at the advance post, Glencoe Camp, Dundee. These slender forces were absolutely inadequate to prevent invasion, and any attempt to save Newcastle or hold Laing’s Nek must have resulted in disaster from attack in the rear.
   At the eleventh hour General White landed at Cape Town with reinforcements and assumed supreme command in Natal, General Penn-Symons becoming his direct subordinate. Already the Boers were preparing to pour in from the north, and it was impossible to mobilise a force sufficient to occupy Laing’s Nek and other passes. White questioned the advisability of even attempting to hold Dundee, but the authorities had underrated their foe, and the governor, Sir William Hely-Hutchinson, pointed out the serious political consequences of abandoning the entire north of Natal. The coal fields in the district were of great importance, and military considerations were overruled by political possibilities.
   Penn-Symon’s command comprised three field batteries of the Royal Artillery, the 18th Hussars, and the brigaded 1st King’s Royal Rifles, the 1st Leicestershire, 1st Royal Irish, and Dublin Fusiliers. Some of the reinforcements that had been despatched from England, India, Cairo, Malta, Crete, and Gibraltar reached White before investment, and garrisoned Ladysmith as a base, with three field and one mountain battery of Royal Artillery, the 5th Dragoon Guards, 5th Lancers, 19th Hussars, the 2nd Gordon Highlanders, 1st Devonshire, 1st Gloucester, 1st Manchester and 1st Liverpool Regiments, a colonial corps of the Natal Carabineers, the Light-horse raised from the Uitlanders, and the local artillery volunteers.
   Along the southern frontier isolated guards of policemen held the bridges and border towns against the republican forces. On the west Kimberley was garrisoned only by four companies of the North Lancashire Infantry and local volunteers. A few scattered police patrols guarded the frontier to Mafeking, where Colonel Baden-Powell had organised the local forces under special service officers, among whom were Lord Salisbury’s son, Lord Cecil, and Lord Bentinck. On the northern border the Rhodesian police and volunteers under Colonel Plumer patrolled the vast extent of frontier, where they had also to control the natives. The recently conquered Matabili wished to take up arms against their old Boer foe, hut at a great indaba (conference), Gambo, Mazwe, Mpini, and the other leaders pledged neutrality to the British Commissioner, and finally prevented their followers from reprisals for Boer incursions.
   At no point could direct opposition be made to Boer invasion, and the enemy was able to cross the frontiers at leisure at any point desired. When the time limit of the ultimatum expired, though many commands were out of telegraphic communications with Pretoria, the Boers swept over the frontiers. They showed no disposition to await verification of the rejection of their demands, and apparently realised that their document would precipitate war. The prompt co-operation of the Free State forces in the campaign was also significant in the light of President Steyn’s declarations.
   War was officially declared on October 11th 1899 with a Boer offensive into the British held Natal and Cape Colony areas. The first shots were fired on the western border when the Boers attacked and captured the British garrison and railway siding at Kraaipan. I landed in Cape Town on the 12th and, having left New York with only a verbal commission, and no other brief to follow, set off immediately to join General White at Ladysmith. On the same day Colonel Baden-Powell despatched a train-load of non-combatants to Kimberley, escorted by the armoured train Mosquito under Captain Nesbit, VC. Picking up two trucks containing field-pieces and ammunition for the defence of Mafeking, the captain started on his northward journey. At Maribogo the station-master notified him that the line was occupied by the Boers, but since the guns were needed, the plucky officer, with sixteen volunteers, determined to run the gantlet under cover of darkness. About midway the train was derailed, and though the handful of volunteers maintained a gallant defence of the overturned cars through the entire night against stupendous odds, while Flowerday, the engineer, hurried back for assistance, the fire of a Boer battery at daybreak ended resistance and the survivors surrendered.
   Communication with the south was now cut off, and the Zeerust, Rustenburg, and Lichtenburg commandoes under the brave but merciless Cronje completely invested Mafeking, which was given one week to surrender, when the investing forces were to move down to take Kimberley. An African chief once told me that if England had many sons like Baden-Powell she must be great, since he was a god, wise, and of powerful fetish. Certainly some white men might think the colonel more than human, but his prowess and his qualities are an oft-told tale. Despite the inadequate means at his disposal, his indomitable character devised means both for defence and defiance, and Cronje soon left Mafeking to De la Rey, and moved south to Kimberley, to win the more possible honours of capturing Mr. Rhodes alive or dead.
   A force of Boers moved against Vryburg, the capital of Bechuanaland, where Major Scott and a handful of police were prepared to resist to the last. The townsfolk, however, begged him to avert attack by evacuating. After a futile appeal by the magistrate, Mr. Tillard, for loyal subjects to assist the mayor, when only seven men responded amid the jeers and taunts for Dutch rebels, the police were reluctantly ordered to withdraw. As the Boers under Visser were annexing Vryburg and looting the homes of defenceless loyalists in a surrendered town, Major Scott shot himself through the head, unable to face the disgrace of enforced capitulation.
   The British colonists along the Bechuanaland border hurriedly drove their stock westward, but their farms were looted and many destroyed, while thousands of cattle were captured. Mixed Free State and Transvaal commandoes under Prinsloo moved against Kimberley, cutting off communication with the south by blowing up the bridge over Modder Spruit and destroying the railroad. The garrison under Colonel Kekewich speedily converted the debris heaps from the mines into formidable defences, wells were dug, and the city was prepared to resist stoutly, when Commandant Engelbracht first opened with his guns at the Wesselton mine, and cut off the water supply.
   Loboers occupied the Belmont district, expelling all loyalists, and reminding the Afrikanders that "the shirt was nearer the skin than the coat," a curious argument for men who knew not the former. In the south the Colesburg district was occupied by the Rouxville commando under Rothman and annexed to the Free State. The six police at the Aliwal north bridge were captured, and, fearing it was mined, the magistrate, Mr. Hugo, and his assistant, Van Keenen, were placed on the crossing while the burghers under Olivier passed over. Olivier with becoming modesty changed the name of the town to Oliviersfontein, and the Free State was officially extended to Stormbergen with the presidential assurance, "This is the birth of the great Afrikander nation."
   In Basutoland, Sir Godfrey Lagden held the warlike tribes in check. In response to the call of the Basuto chief, Lerothodi, all chiefs but Joel came together at Putiatsana and pledged their loyalty to the "Queen our Mother," and begged that they might help to fight her battles. Hundreds of Basutos, including Lerothpdi’s son, who in common with thousands of other protectorate natives were ordered from the Republic and robbed of all their earnings by the Boers, then arrived at Maseru and called on their brothers for revenge. Only the strenuous efforts of the Commissioner sustained Basuto neutrality and prevented fearful reprisals on Boer women on the isolated farms as a return for wilful and persistent ill-treatment, past and present. The destruction of the native ferry at Caledon Pont and several cattle raids only added to a resentment that might have cost the Boers dearly but for Lagden’s efforts. Schalk Burger and the Vryheid burghers also invited native retaliation in Zululand by looting cattle and sacking Ingwavuma and Ntuqu, In Swaziland the missionaries were ordered out, and the missions and farms of Britishers systematically looted.
   For the main army of the republics under Joubert a careful plan of campaign had been formulated: the Free State commandoes were ordered to advance by the Drakensberg passes to menace Ladysmith and keep General White employed. Joubert’s army was then to move south in three divisions. His right, under Koch and Viljoen, would occupy a point on the roads and railway between Ladysmith and Dundee, thus cutting off communication and isolating Penn-Symons. The centre division under Erasmus and the left under Meyer would overwhelm and annihilate the Dundee garrison, or drive it out toward Ladysmith, where its retreat would be cut off by Koch. Having attained their object in keeping White occupied, the Free Staters would then move out to join a combination of the three divisions to overwhelm Ladysmith and sweep down to Durban and the sea.
   Early on October 12th a mixed column of Transvaal and Free State burghers moved through Botha’s Pass on the right, into Natal. The left division advanced from Wakkerstroom via Moll’s Nek and Woldrift. The main column under Joubert crossed Laing’s Nek toward Ingogo. Unwilling to precipitate hostilities, the Colonial Government had made no preparations to stay the advance. The tunnel under Laing’s Nek could have been destroyed, the culverts blown up, and the railroad then rendered useless to the Boers. As it was captured intact, they had its unimpeded use to bring up their supplies. It is incredible that even at the last moment something was not done to destroy the line.
   Newcastle was occupied on the night of the 14th, most of the inhabitants, including the Dominican nuns from their mission, being forced to leave the town. A storekeeper unfortunately named Chamberlain was very roughly handled, and his house and store demolished. It is significant to note the action of several Dutch loyalists here. Some openly defied and ridiculed the Boers. Old Jan Uys and Matt Vos replied to the address made to the colonists to take the oath of allegiance and join the Boers. They pointed out that under Kruger the people of Natal, both British and Dutch, could become Uitlanders, or fight to remain the freest of men under the Queen. Uys challenged the commandant to single combat, in place of a general conflict but was arrested as a traitor and, with the other British sympathisers, sent to Pretoria. The loyal Dutch then fled, their homes being looted.
   The Boer is rampant and the dangers for a lone foreigner travelling in-country are now so immediate that I am forced into a change of plan and join a small party of Dutch farmers making their way to Dundee. At the same time, though, forces under Botha and Emmett have also moved toward Dundee and torn up the railroad there. True to their tryst, the Free Staters created a diversion from the Drakensburg passes, drawing out a portion of White’s force toward Tintwa Pass and keeping Ladysmith on a continual alert while Joubert’s army moved in from the north.
   Dundee was in a state of panic over news that Joubert’s Boers are just a day away and that Penn-Symons has prevaricated for so long that he is now unable to mount any effective defences for the town. Lester Ralph, the excellent illustrator, was preparing to leave the town as I arrived. The timing of our meeting was fortuitous because he had been asked to carry my letter of commission for me from Black and White Review and it was with some excitement that I learned I am to join General Gatacre at Stormberg on 30th October.
   Ralph was also able to share with me news of the action on a number of fronts: Mafeking is surrounded by a force of 8000 Boers and the city is being shelled after Baden-Powell ignored Kronje’s ultimatum to surrender; scouts have reported that a Boer force of 1000 under General Koch has surrounded Elandslaagte and taken control of the road from Dundee to Ladysmith; and from Cape Town he has heard that General Redvers-Buller is expected to land with 10000 men on October 29th.
   On a more immediate note, Joubert’s forces are now positioned in strength to the north and south of Dundee; attack must be imminent but Penn-Symons continues to wait. He was first apprised of the Boer advance by the cutting of the telegraph wires on the south on the 19th, followed by the arrival of the mail train with the announcement that the Boers had occupied Elandslaagte as the express dashed through, and direct communications with Ladysmith were cut. The news of his rapid isolation was confirmed at sunset, when cyclist scouts raced in and announced the strength and position of the enemy forces. Extra outposts were thrown out, but the camp slept soundly, no attack being anticipated for a clear day at least. But at 2.30 am. a picket of mounted infantry stationed on the road at Smith’s Nek received a volley in response to their challenge, and reported a column of the enemy closing on the town from that direction. The alarm sounded, and the Dublin Fusiliers moved out to support the picket but found no attempt made to force the road.
   Reveille was sounding at sunrise when, Boom! went a gun on the hills beyond Dundee, and the Boers were seen in force on the heights commanding the town. Lucas Meyer, filibuster, elder, and politician, prompted by a desire for undivided honour and the kudos of first victory, had pressed across the Buffalo River with the left division of Joubert’s army to capture Dundee before the main division should arrive. In a brash show of arrogance he told his burghers that the Lord had delivered the English Philistines into their hands. They must smite them hip and thigh. With the Utrech, Ermelo, and Vryheid commandoes he took up a strong position under cover of the darkness. With stupendous labour his men dragged three guns to the crest of Talana Hill, a precipitous spur of the Impati Mountain, running due north and south, and completely commanding the camp and township. The burghers, entrenched on the rocky ridge and on a neighbouring nek and kopje, expected after a preliminary bombardment to carry Dundee and Glencoe camp on both flanks.
   In the light of modern warfare such a position, held by 4,000 skilled riflemen, was impregnable to Penn-Symon’s single brigade. As the Boer artillery opened on the camp and town, the British infantry turned out with alacrity, and the "Boots and Saddles!" of the field artillery and cavalry was rapidly supplemented by the rattle of the guns as they trotted smartly into position. In a few minutes the 13th and 69th Batteries opened from ridges to the east of the town. The 67th remained in reserve with the Leicester regiment, hut came into action in the plain below, and despite the elevation, joined effectively in raking the enemy’s position.
   On the east of Dundee the ground slopes down a thousand yards to a donga, or river bed. Beyond this the open valley, laid out in a farm, rises gradually to a belt of woods from which Talana rears itself, first in rough but moderate ascent for a thousand yards to a terrace and boundary wall, then steeply up, rugged, rocky, and precipitous as Majuba’s face, to the crest held by the Boers.
   During the artillery duel Penn-Symons sheltered his infantry, the Rifles and Fusilier regiments, in the donga. For two hours the Boers shelled ineffectually, sometimes replying to the British gunners, then dropping projectiles into the town, chiefly near the Swedish mission, temporarily the hospital. Their shells were faulty, however, and did not explode. Rumour had it that the fuses were set by two British sympathisers, serving from the one caisson on the crest, and that the history of the friendly Egyptian gunners forced to serve the Khalifa’s artillery against Kitchener, was repeated; but I am inclined to think shell made in Pretoria was nearer the truth. But at half-past seven De Jaeger’s gunners had emptied their one ammunition wagon and ceased firing, though some argued that they were pounded into silence by the British. The field batteries then ceased as if by mutual consent, and Meyer, with Trichaardt, Grobler, Marias, and other leaders, secure in their stronghold, sat quietly to breakfast, their men making coffee behind the boulders, awaiting further shell for their guns. The process of annihilation was to be applied at leisure.
   The morning was drizzly and gray, but that subdued light was more effective than brilliant sun at distances under a league. The Boers suddenly espied six dark, spider-like creatures moving down toward the donga below them; a similar group was moving forward in another direction; then the spiders dissolved themselves into two parts, the front half retiring and the tail end turning round. One, then another, belched flame and smoke; the reports and the projectiles raced over madly. Those rooinek gunners were at it again this time at closer range, and their shrapnel began to search out the rocks. Then, too, a long line of figures rose from the river bed, and breaking up into sections, advanced rapidly over the broken ground toward the hill.
   The burghers began to shoot, at first casually, for they never dreamed of direct assault from the despised British soldier. But though a few of the moving dots lay motionless on the plain below, the lines still surged forward and reached the wood at the base of the hill. "Less than two thousand infantry storm a hill held by twice their number of skilled and sheltered riflemen!" "No, the hated rooineks would never emulate Majuba." The burghers volleyed down into the trees for awhile, but then held their fire save when men moved over the valley below, succouring the wounded or carrying despatches. A Boer prisoner told me afterwards that the burghers were so astounded at the assault that followed, that for a time some held their fire in sheer amazement.
   General Penn-Symons was directing the operations in person. After giving orders for the assault to be pressed, he rode into the open to become a target for a hundred rifles, and fell, mortally wounded, as his bugles merrily rang out the advance. Like the hero of Quebec, he lay on the field until the cheers of victory reached his ears, and was then taken to the rear to die. His chief of staff, second staff officer, and two aides fell with their leader.
   Upwards now from the woods surged the lines of infantry, deploying rapidly, creeping forward from rock to rock in extended order. Continuous lines of fire ran along the crest overhead, the Mauser volleys sounding like the ripping of a Titanic carpet, the nickel-coated bullets whistling down the hillside like a gale in the rigging, accentuated as by gibcats’ mews when the jackets had spread through injury or intentional incision. At times the tiny pellets, ricocheting from the rocks, would cast their hardened coating with a vicious snap that raised the cry of explosive bullets, while at closer range old-fashioned burghers expended big-game ammunition and substantiated the charge.
   The pentacapsular clips of the Mauser permit a great rapidity of fire, but toiling painfully upward the British "Tommies" held grimly to their task, now firing at the hidden foe above, now crouching, now forward with a rush, squirming over or between the boulders, halting for volley or individual fire, then on again to the goal. Mid the crash of the Lee Metfords, the roar of the guns from the valley, the spluttering of the Maxims on the flank, and the firing enemy above, arose the cries of wounded, some cheering on their comrades, others groaning or cursing, while the pitiful advance was strewn with silent forms. At times the leading lines appeared to melt before the withering fire from the hilltop; barbed-wire fences barred the way and claimed their victims; but again and again, when the movement seemed checked, officers sprang in the lead with rallying cries, supporting companies filled the gaps, and the lines went steadily on.
   The Dublins, seeking cover in a river bed, were found by the unerring oblique fire of the enemy on the nek, and forced out, though only to continue upward in more extended order. Not until ten o’clock had the panting infantry reached the sheltering boundary wall running along the hillside: here they lay to recover their breath. A few of the Rifles clambered over the obstruction, but were immediately swept away, and for two hours the force hung on tenaciously, firing occasionally over the wall and exposed to an enfilade fire from the kopje. Then by some error in range British shrapnel were dropped among the Rifles, killing Lieutenant Hambro and three men and wounding several others. Sergeant Harrington, after vainly signalling "Cease fire!" went through a perfect hell of bullets to notify the gunners of their mistake.
   Dawkins and King then limbered up to cover the final rush, and brought their batteries across the valley to the flank of the woods; the Boers, taking advantage of the lull, turned to remove their guns to safety. For a moment the firing died away as if by mutual consent; with a cheer the British troops were up and scaling the wall. A shattering magazine-fire swept from above, but leaving Colonel Sherstone and thirty-two other officers and men dead and scores of wounded behind them, they swarmed over and up the precipitous five hundred feet with a resolution that could not be stayed. As they drew within point-blank distance the Boers, cleverly ensconced behind cunningly arranged rocks, blazed away madly, and the British, lines wavered for a moment The Dublins, who were in the most favoured position, had forged ahead, but crouched irresolute in the hail of bullets that assailed them from the ridge.
   It was the critical moment when victory and repulse were balanced. "Follow me, Rifles! Sustain our reputation!" shouted Colonel Gunning as he sprang up and led on the slow cruel charge against the almost perpendicular cliff. The gallant colonel fell riddled with bullets, but the Rifles swarmed over his body, fixing bayonets as they climbed. Captain Pechell stood erect to cheer them on, and fell shot through and through. The company officers also suffered severely, and thirteen in the Rifles alone were down ere the summit was reached. The Fusiliers, too, were sweeping upward, though three-fourths of their officers had fallen. For a breathing-spell the line halted below the immediate crest; then with loud cheers the troops surged over against the enemy.
   The Boers had held their ground grimly, shooting from their rocky shelters until they saw the glint of steel coming toward them; then with shouts of terror they dropped their rifles, dashed down the rear of the hill to their horses, and away. Majuba was reversed!
   The rout was complete, the Transvaal flag and Meyer’s standard flapped disconsolately over the bodies of Melt Marais, Sassenberg, the Hollander Bergermaan, and forty dead, a gruesome tribute to the dearly bought victory. Behind the position lay the Boer laager and seventy-one abandoned wounded. The burghers quickly hoisted white flags over their wagons in the valley, and the British bugles immediately sounded "Cease fire!" Under cover of this the Boers galloped madly away, escaping the volleys which might have been poured from the captured hilltop. A field battery had galloped round the flank and also menaced the line of retreat when the "Cease fire!" rang out. With tacit if Long Valley obedience the eager gunners fell back from their pieces rather than risk violation of an armistice, and while the officers rode rapidly over to obtain permission to re-open fire the Boers galloped "across the guns" and disappeared among the hills.
   Just before the supreme moment at Talana, Boer commandoes were reported moving down the Dannhauser Road against the other side of Dundee, where they expected to carry the town under cover of the battle; The Leicesters and the 67th Battery marched out and turned them, and they fell back in confusion as Meyer’s force retreated. The 18th Hussars and mounted infantry were covering the flanks. Colonel Moller led one squadron with the mounted Fusiliers to the northwest: Major Knox, namesake of the regiment’s first colonel, with his squadron and the Rifles, moving out to menace the other flank. Major Marling took a third squadron beyond Talana’s connecting nek, and by acting as a screen misled and checked a column from Newcastle sent to reinforce by Erasmus. Moller and Knox both succeeded in working round Meyer’s flank, and harassed his retreat for some distance. But they were in turn cut off by the reinforcing column as it followed Meyer, and became heavily engaged on three sides. Knox by a long detour managed to disengage his squadron, but the remainder of the Hussars and the mounted infantry with Colonel Moller, Major Greville, and seven other officers were surrounded by a force ten times their superior, when attempting to save a disabled Maxim, and after a stout resistance they were forced to surrender.
   The British rightly claimed an important rout of the Boer at Talana but it could only be considered, at best, a tactical victory, and at a high cost of 45 killed, almost 200 wounded and 220 men of the 18th Cavalry captured.

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