Page:EB1922 - Volume 31.djvu/264

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the gradual ascent to the plateau begins, a barren waterless tract 40 to 100 m. broad in the first case and 200 in the second formed a serious obstacle to the advance of the South African forces. Water is extremely scarce throughout the country, and is almost entirely below the surface. The water-holes were well known and at long intervals, and an advance was thus restricted to several well-defined lines. The country is very sandy and often rough, and presented formidable difficulties for every kind of transport. The climate is in the main very dry and healthful for man and beast, though the semi-tropical conditions of the N. cause the usual malaria and other diseases in the wet season. Cattle at the time of the campaign were plentiful, 'but all other supplies, including fodder of any kind, were scanty. The theatre of operations, badly watered, difficult to move in, devoid of adequate supplies, and protected against an advance from the Union side or the coast by a desolate belt of desert, was a powerful aid to a protracted defence by a commander falling back upon his magazines. A railway of 3 ft. 6 in. gauge ran from Luderitzbucht to Keetmanshoop in the S., and thence N. to Windhuk, and from there westward to Karibib, with an extension to the southern portion of the Protectorate at Kalkfontein branching from the Luderitzbucht- Keetmanshoop section at Seeheim: a total length of broadgauge line of 800 miles. From Swakopmund, the northern port, a 2 ft. gauge railway ran to Karibib, and thence northward to Tsumeb and Grootfontein, with a total length of 420 miles. Much damage was done by the enemy to these lines and their bridges and culverts, and the Union engineers repaired 1,040 m. of railway and laid 340 m. of new line during the campaign.

The enemy regular forces consisted of approximately 140 officers and 2,000 other ranks (artillery and mounted riflemen), while about 7,000 European males of military age, of whom many had military training, were also available. An efficient camel corps proved of value, and several hundred South African rebels were also at the enemy's disposal. His one aeroplane was active until its collapse, and, with the arrival of some Union aeroplanes towards the end of the campaign, the South African troops had such advantage as was to be derived from command of the air. Of military equipment and matériel the German commander had abundance, and he enjoyed a substantial numerical advantage in respect of artillery.

The Union expeditionary base was formed at Cape Town, and from that place the Royal Navy conveyed, escorted and disembarked the whole of the forces and their supplies, which proceeded from South Africa to Luderitzbucht, Walvis (Walfish) Bay and Swakopmund without the loss of a vessel or a life. Naval armoured cars also served during the operations.

Gen. Louis Botha, who, on the outbreak of the rebellion, had assumed supreme command of the forces of the Union decided personally to direct the operations in the N., and on Dec. 25 1914 the advance units of his force reached Walvis Bay under the command of Col. P. C. B. Skinner, who, on Jan. 13 1915, occupied and retained the port and town of Swakopmund. Gen. Botha reached Swakopmund, having visited the central force at Luderitzbucht, on Feb. n. On this date the position was as follows: The northern force—of which the greater proportion of the combatant troops was mounted, though a strong infantry force was included—occupied Walvis Bay and Swakopmund; the enemy, here controlled mainly by their chief command, holding an outpost line immediately outside the latter place. The central force, considerably augmented since its arrival in Sept. of the previous year, and now under the command of Brig.-Gen. Sir Duncan McKenzie, was at Luderitzbucht on the coast, with its most advanced detachments at Tshaukaib, 40 m. inland, in touch with the enemy under Maj. von Bauzus on the railway line to Keetmanshoop. On the southern border, based on Upington, and organized in four, and later five, columns was the southern force, commanded by Brig.-Gen. J. Van Deventer. To this force, which was mounted, was opposed the enemy under Maj. Ritter. The eastern force, considerably smaller than the rest—it consisted of four mounted regiments with two 12-pounder guns—which was to advance on enemy territory westwards from Kurumaii along the Kuruman and Molopo rivers, was in process of mobilization under Col. C. A. L. Berrange. Enemy detachments were on their eastern border at Rietfontein and Hasuur. To the Union forces heavy and field artillery were allotted as the supply available and the nature of the various tasks suggested.

To clear his immediate front and gain power of reconnaissance was Gen. Botha's first concern, and on Feb. 23 an advance in force from Swakopmund cleared the country beyond for a distance of 20 m., and Rössing on the railway and Husab on the Swakop river were permanently secured. The formation of forward supply depots was now undertaken, and, after much labour and with considerable difficulty, a longer advance was carried out terminating in successful engagements on March 18 at Riet and Pforte, in the Swakop valley, where the enemy were heavily defeated and retired with a loss of 37 killed and wounded, and 2 field guns and 9 officers and 275 other ranks captured. The Swakop river was thus secured for a distance of 60 m., and a garrison was placed at Riet. Railhead was pushed to Arandis, 30 m. from Swakopmund. The bulk of the forces were withdrawn, in view of the supply difficulty, to Swakopmund, and preparations for a similar advance were again undertaken.

The Swakop river route, recently visited by an unexpected and most welcome flood, had been selected for the main advance on Karibib and Windhuk. After a visit by the commander-in-chief to Gen. McKenzie, a second advance under Gen. Botha was made from Swakopmund and Riet on April 26, with the result that Karibib, the junction of the northern railway, was occupied on May 5 as the outcome of an advance from the Swakop river aided by a wide turning movement to the right by mounted troops, detached under Gen. Myburgh, by way of Otyimbingwe and Wilhelmstal. A determined enemy attack on the railhead at Trekkoppies on April 26 was beaten off by the garrison under Col. Skinner. The enemy opposite Gen. Botha, having withdrawn to the N. to avoid envelopment, Windhuk was occupied without opposition on May 12. The majority of the enemy European women and children were left to the care of the victors at Karibib and Windhuk.

In the meantime the central force had occupied the strong position of Aus on March 30 without fighting. The enemy, evidently apprehensive of the trend of events in the N., had retired. After some preparation Gen. McKenzie pushed strong mounted reconnaissances in the direction of Bethany (Beth- anien), towards the Keetmanshoop- Windhuk railway, and, as a result of fine marching and vigorous action, engaged the only strong body of the enemy remaining in the S. at Gibeon station on April 26, the day of the second advance by Gen. Botha from Swakopmund. The enemy was roughly handled and escaped with loss and difficulty. The withdrawal of this southern enemy detachment had been prompted by the activity of the southern and eastern forces of the Union troops.

The eastern force, having set out from Kuruman on March 6, engaged the enemy successfully at Rietfontein and Hasuur, and on April 20 joined hands at Kabus with a portion of the southern force. The advance of this eastern force had only been possible as a consequence of well-planned water arrangements.

The columns of the southern force, in their advance from the southern border, defeated the enemy at Nabas on March 8, at Platbeen on March 27, and again at Kabus on April 20, when touch with the eastern force was established. These final operations in the S. were carried out under Gen. Smuts.

With the fall of the capital the whole of the country S. of it fell into the hands of the Union forces, and the enemy retired to the N. retaining no town of importance and controlling less than 200 m. of narrow-gauge railway. A conference as to terms between Gen. Botha and Gov. Seitz at Giftkuppe on May 21 proved abortive, and the final stage of the campaign against the enemy, now wholly concentrated in the N., was begun.

A large reduction of forces, reorganization, and settlement of the occupied territory were completed by June 17, and on the 18th Gen. Botha started on his final advance from Karibib. An infantry brigade, accompanied by two mounted brigades,