ENGLAND'S WAR AGAINST THE SOUTH AFRICAN REPUBLICS PART II
Moving into the Second Phase of the CampaignThe lifting of the siege of Ladysmith and the occupation of Bloemfontein marked the ending of the first phase of the campaign, which lasted exactly five months, during which the Allies blockaded three towns, - in one of which, moreover, the garrison was mu...
|Published in:||Scientia militaria : South African journal of military studies Vol. 12; no. 1|
|Main Author:||Romeiko-Gurko, Colonel|
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Moving into the Second Phase of the CampaignThe lifting of the siege of Ladysmith and the occupation of Bloemfontein marked the ending of the first phase of the campaign, which lasted exactly five months, during which the Allies blockaded three towns, - in one of which, moreover, the garrison was much more numerous than the besiegers - in the hope of forcing them to surrender. At the same time they tried to hold up the advancing English columns which were moving to their rescue. Besides, holding up the advance, the Allies counted on gaining time, during which the blockaded towns would be forced to surrender, rather than on preventing the enemy from invading the republics. Doing so, and in spite of the English superiority of numbers, they wished while moving as little as possible, and not shifting their camps to keep pace with the movements of English columns, to bar all probable ways of approach to them. As an unavoidable result of this they were obliged to hold positions far away from each other and not very well defended. They did not use reserves but applied the cordon system. But the final failures proved to the Allies the utter uselessness of this system. During the Krygsraad session of March 17th in Kroonstad, while the allied troops serving in the Orange Free State were home on leave this opinion was expressed by President Steyn and it was supported by all the most outstanding military commanders. Simultaneously a new system of resisting the invading enemy was proposed. This consisted in an increase of activity carried out by small mobile detachments, mainly in the flanks and the rear of the enemy. But in order to put the new system to the test of practice it was essential that its expedience should be recognised not only by the commanders but by the rank and file as well. These were as a rule very much inclined to open discussions and criticism of the orders issued by their superiors. The recent failures would only provide new material to strengthen this tendency. The other condition which would make people be prepared to experiment with a new, more vigorous course of action - is confidence in one's leaders. At that point of the campaign such confidence was already bestowed upon the Generals, Botha, De la Rey and partially, De Wet, who not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate his military talents fully. The first among them, having been appointed by general Joubert as the Commander in Chief of all the forces gathered on the line Dundee-Glencoe, had, after the retreat from Ladysmith, tried on two occasions to persuade the commanders under him, to undertake an offensive movement against General Buller's troops. But having met with an unsympathetic attitude among them, had been forced to give up his intentions of an active conduct of the war on the Natal theatre.