Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
tribe of savage warriors, the Zulus.
It was the game, especially the elephants with their valuable ivory, which first attracted the white men. The Boer hunters came wandering overland into it, while the British adventurers came by sea. The game soon began to get scarce owing to all these hunters coming with their rifles, and as the game disappeared disputes arose between the different hunting parties as to which part of the country belonged to which people.
A detachment of soldiers was sent from the Cape, overland, to keep order, but as they got near to the present site of Durban, where there was then only a camp, some Boers told them to go back as this was their country. When the troops continued to come on, the Boers attacked them in the swamps at Congella, and had all the best of the fight, capturing their three guns and killing and wounding half of the men. The force managed; however, to join hands with the other British in their camp and were then closely besieged by the Boers.
A Brave Despatch Rider
Their difficulty was to let the British General know of their plight, till one brave fellow volunteered to slip past the Boers and to ride the 600 miles to the nearest British troops.
So one fine night Dick King quietly got away, swimming the narrow creek that joins the harbour with the sea. He took two horses with him, and started off through a rough and difficult country, all alone, to get help.
He had to pass through places inhabited by Kaffirs who were not always friendly-at one kraal, indeed, they nearly shot him because they thought he was a Boer. He got food and rest at several mission stations, and at length after a hard ride of nine days he reached Grahamstown and gave his report to the General.
About the same time the women who were in the British camp got on board a ship which was in the harbour, and, with one man to steer, they managed to sail her out to sea.
The women remained down below, and the braces, halyards, and sheets were passed down through the skylights for them to pull as directed by the captain on deck. In this way they were safe from the fire of the Boers as they passed out through the narrow entrance, and they sailed their ship gaily away to Port Elizabeth.
The Siege of Durban
In the meantime, the little garrison besieged at Durban were in dire straits, for they had very little food. But they killed their horses, just as we afterwards had to do in Mafeking, and dried the meat in the sun and so made biltong of it, which would keep for a long time. Their ration had to be cut down till they were only getting six ounces of meat and four ounces of broken biscuit; but they struggled gamely on, they were not going to say die till they were dead. They suffered a good deal from bombardment by the guns which had been their own, and the Boers’ rifle fire was constant and very well aimed; and as most of them used the big-bore, muzzle-loading rifles called “roers” which were for elephant killing, the wounds that they inflicted were very severe indeed.
At last it seemed as if the garrison must surrender. For over a month no help came, and no news of it, but, like the frog in the cream-bowl, they still struggled on; and not content with sitting still to be bombarded, they made a night attack on the it enemy with the bayonet, and rushed his trenches; causing him considerable loss.
Then one night a distant rocket was seen to burst in the sky, which gave them a mighty hope. Nor were they disappointed, for next day there sailed in two British warships with strong reinforcements. The Boers, who were outnumbered; had to retire to Pietermaritzburg, and the gallant little garrison was relieved.