THE SIEGE OF MAFEKING

 

 

 

A DIARY KEPT BY

TROOPER

WILLIAM ROBERTSON FULLER

PROTECTORATE REGIMENT, FRONTIER FORCE, MAFEKING

 

 

DESCRIBING THE WAR AT MAFEKING

FORWORD

William Robertson Fuller was born on the 28th May 1980 at the Fuller family farm in the Parish of Clapton, Thomas River, near the town of Cathcart, Cape Colony, South Africa.

After the death of his father John on 2nd June 1886, his mother, Eliza Fanny, nee Machlachlan, disposed of the farm and settled in East London, South Africa, at number 2 Seaview Terrace, an imposing residence, which she renamed Langholm House, after the area Langholm in Dunfries, Scotland where she was born.

It was the intention that Williamís second name Robertson be hyphenated with Fuller, because the family had a close relationship with the Robertsonís, involved in the wine industry. However, he disliked the idea and never implemented it. He was also related to Robert (Bob) Bertram, an uncle, who owned a winery in the Constantia area of Cape Town. This large winery is today a major wine producer. He was also related to Dr Barnard Fuller of Cape Town University and somehow or other to Lady Ann Barnard, wife of the Governor of the Cape Colony.

He married Maude Evelyn Mitchell, nee Fleischer, whose first husband George Mitchell had died in the 1918 flu epidemic. They had one son, John Desmond, born 10 February 1921.

William Robertson Fuller was a great loyalist and fought wherever he could for Queen, King and Empire. His family still has his black mourning armband that he wore upon the death of his beloved Queen Victoria. He fought in the second Anglo Boer War 1899-1902, including being besieged at Mafeking. He was an outstanding horseman and served in the Protectorate Regiment, Frontier Force, from 16th August 1899, at the age of 19 years, until discharge on 20th October 1900; most of this time being at Mafeking. Thereafter he served in the Imperial Light Horse Regiment.

During the defence of Mafeking he served as a Trooper under Captain Fitzclarence VC. He claimed to have been with Captain "Fitz" when he won his Victoria Cross.

On 2nd October 1902 he joined the South African Constabulary as a Constable until 30th June 1906.

He served as a Corporal in the Natal Carbineers with the Natal Militia Force during the Natal Rebellion and was discharged on 11th September 1906 after 69 days service

He later also served in the 1914-1918 Great War as a Sergeant in the 9th South African Horse Regiment. He saw service in German East Africa, where he contracted malaria and his hair turned white overnight.

His war medals consist of Queen Victoriaís Queenís South African Medal with three Clasps, Transvaal, Defence of Mafeking and Orange Free State. King Edward VII Medal for Natal. George V South African War Medal 1914-1918 and The Great War for Civilisation medal 1914-1919.

An adventurer, after the war he became a mining contractor and employed a number of Chinese labourers at the Simmer and Jack gold mine in Germiston. He also later tried unsuccessfully to drill for oil.

In late 1906 he moved back to East London, South Africa, where he became a bookkeeper and entered commerce. There, he also served as the Treasurer of the local Branch of the South African Legion.

William Robertson Fuller died from a heart attack at East London on ?????

His son, John Desmond lives in Port Elizabeth and is now 79 years old. He has provided the memorabillia as handed down by his father to enable this record of his fatherís time at Mafeking to be shared and hopefully to add to the remarkable history of the Siege at Mafeking, through the perspective of a young Trooper.

In his diary, there are times of humour, of sadness, of hunger and descriptions of the leadership and stubborn resistance of General Baden Powel. There is the treatment of the Natives and mistreatment of them and there is the elation for the eventual relief of the town.

John William Fuller (Grandson)

October 1998

 

 

THE SIEGE AT MAFEKING

1899

October 13th

Boers crossed the border and blew up two trucks of dynamite about five miles out, which were taken out of Mafeking Station for safety.

October 14th

Boers attacked off the North East Side of town about 7 am and after about 3Ĺ hours hard fighting we retired. Boer force estimated about 800 strong while ours was only about 60. Our loss 4 killed and 16 wounded. Boer loss not known.

October 15th

Everything quiet. Boers donít intend to break the Sabbath. Everybody busy digging trenches.

October 16th

Cronje sent in a message saying we must surrender by 9 am otherwise he would shell town. BP sent back saying he wouldnít surrender and to shell as soon as he likes. About 10.30 am shelling commences. No damage done, only seven pounders in action.

October 17th

Boers sent in again, asking us to surrender to save further bloodshed. Reply, "Ikona".

Bloodshed only one dog and two fowls killed.

October 23rd

A devil of an explosion heard outside trenches of which we found out to be Boer 95 pounder, which they have placed off South West of town about three miles out. Everybody in dugouts. Short was hit with a piece of first shot and broke his leg.

October 27th

D Squadron, 65 strong under Captain Fitz made an attack on Boer trench East of town. Managed to get at them with bayonets. Our loss 6 killed 9 wounded. Enemyís not known, but we heard afterwards it was 80.

October 28th

Boers sent in trolley of dynamite towards town, but fortunately for us it exploded about 1 mile out of town. I presume the trolley went too slow for the fuse.

October 29th

Sargent W H Bolton of A Squadron deserted, supposed to have gone over to the Boers. A reward is out to the amount of £50 to the man that discovers him dead or alive. Have since heard that he wandered to the Dutch while drunk.

October 31st

Boers attacked Cannon Kopje and were repulsed with a loss of about 100. Our loss, 8 killed: two officers, two SMo, 4 men and 7 wounded.

November 7thBoers attacked PU defences and were repulsed. Our casualties, 4 wounded. Enemyís not known.

December 21st

About 200 men paraded at 10 pm at the Budgs. All served out with India Rubber shoes. Rumour is to attack Big Ben on South East Heights. After going through a few manoeuvres, were marched back to trenches. Enemy supposed to have got wind of it.

December 26th

C and D Squadron under Major Godley attacked Boer Fort (Game Tree) North of town. Our strength 114 men. We were repulsed losing 3 officers, 23 men and 22 wounded. A few have died of wounds since. Captain Fitz was wounded.

1900

January 26th

A Big Ben fired into Womenís Laager. No casualties. BP sent message saying if they started shelling women again he would place all suspected Dutch spies in an enclosure in the Laager. Therefore, they would be killing their own friends.

February 2nd

Boers shell Cannon Kopje again. Our loss 1 killed and 2 wounded.

Bread rations cut down to half and this is the saddest news up to date.

February 10th

Bread rations still the same.

February 11th

Man named Dall killed by 95 pounder. The shell hit him full on the stomach and took half his body away.

February 12th

Notices posted in town that Seige is likely to last until end of May.

February 15th

Big Ben moved quarters. Gone from East to West Side of town. Fired 12 shots; two at L Fort Store, two at Laager, two at Magazine, four in Native Staadt, two at Stables. No damage done, fortunately.

February 17th

Whilst about 20 of us drawing rations, a Big Ben landed about 25 yards from us. No damage. Range about 3Ĺ miles.

February 22nd

Man named Miller of B Squadron was blown to pieces by 95 pound shell whilst opening it. His pal just escaped having taken one back which he had previously opened.

Big Ben shifted back to old position East of town.

February 25th

We are making our own powder and casting shells. Both a great success.

Census of cattle taken: 20 horses, 35 mules, 470 oxen, 61 calves, 500 goats and sheep.

Two men from Town Guard deserted to Boer lines. Names Rudolf Reck and John Evert. They were both suspected spies and were only let out of prison yesterday.

February 26th

Cast gun to fire 16 pounds shell. Fired one shot when it was seen alterations must be made.

We are now eating horse flesh. Have had doubts about meat for some days. Always thought it wasnít beef. Not bad, but tough. General complaint, not enough of it. We eat anything in these times.

February 27th

About 800 Natives left here for Kanye about 60 miles North. They are leaving town on account of scarcity of food. Boers fired on them killing a few, also a good number have returned.

Elkington of CPD2 struck with 5 pounds shell in face. Face is disfigured. Will live but will be blind for life.

Soup kitchens opened to feed Natives. Dogs not licensed are to be destroyed. Looks suspicious.

March 2nd

About 400 men women and children (Natives) went out with white flag on the Northern Road. Boers went out and met them and asked them where they were going. They said they were going to Kanye as they were starving. Boers refused to let them pass and ordered them back and when they got about three hundred yards from the fort they opened fire on them, killing many, among them several women and children. BP sent out white flag saying if they didnít allow the Natives to pass through to Kanye to their homes and also withdraw Natives from their trenches, he would set Linchwe, Bathwane and Sabele, (numbering in all about 100 000 men) on them, these Natives having been kept in check by us.

Our gun, now altered, appears to be a success. Can travel at a pretty good range.

March 5th

Boers shell our Cape boys out of advance trench in brick fields and during night make another trench to one of our supporting trenches. D squad, CP&B Rifles retake trench. Enemy now within 40 yards distance of our advance trench. We are now throwing hand grenades into their trench. Boers doing also to us.

March 6th

Most of our men are now buying starch and eating it. A la Mazina! Not bad at all.

March 10th

Trooper Sydney Webb D2 Police shot through the head whilst on sentry in the brick fields. A chap that was very well liked by everybody.

March 13th

Had some Donkey meat for dinner today and found it to be beautiful and tender. Better than horse meat.

March 21st

Trooper Tottie Hay of A squadron deserted over to the Boer lines. He was doing 7 days field imprisonment at the time. There is a reward of £50 out for the man who finds him dead or alive.

March 24th

Boers evacuated the brick fields today. Cause unknown.

March 27th

Boers took a fit into their heads and shelled very heavily today, sending into town about 200 shells.

March 31st

A body of Plumerís Scouts engaged the Boers out at Oaklands. Our loss pretty heavy. Boers unknown.

Everybody thought the Relief was at hand. Our mounted men have parades every day, getting ready for no one knows.

April 4th

Had sowen for breakfast. It is fermented oats, sour like Kaffir beer. Not so bad. Find it fills up for an hour or so, but my belief is it turns to water.

April 11th

Shelling pretty heavy today. No damage to speak of. Only a few horses and donkeys killed.

Bread reduced to 6 ounces and a quart of sowen dished out to us in place of the 2 ounces of bead cut off. Am damn sick of it!

April 14th

An attempt was made to bring in 100 hundred fat cattle last night. They were driven by 30 boys, but failed in the attempt. 23 Boys killed and all cattle captured by the Boers.

Just as usual, Live and Learn.

Troopers Maloy and Hassel were killed today by 12Ĺ pound high velocity gun.

April 29th

Had horse meat polonies for rations today. Find it eatible, but damn tough. One man named Day fried his in Day and Martinís Dubbin. He said it wasnít bad. I fried mine in cocoa-nut oil. Not bad at all.

Eloff sent into BP today and asked him if he would play him a game of cricket. BP sent back saying we were 200 not out already and they have tried every bowler but donít seem to get us out.

May 6th

Dutch made a charge on our horses today. They managed to get away with 23 and 9 mules and also shot one of the horse guards, a chap named Francis, BSAP. This is the third brother been killed.

May 7th

6 Prime fat slaughter oxen arrived last night from Colonel Plumer.

May 12th

The Boers under Eloff, to the number of 700, rushed up the bed of the river past our outposts. Got into the Staadt, set fire to part of it. From there they rushed the BSA Fort, capturing 4 officers and 13 men. (Colonel Hore and Captain Singleton among the captured)

We were turned out to reinforce a small fort down at the river, but were too late to do any good, so we retired and while retiring were under a perfect hail of bullets, but got down to the town without any casualties.

From there we went down and raided the BSA Fort. The CP Town Guard relieved us and from thence we went down to the Staadt and captured it and wounded three.

I escorted prisoners into town.

The same evening the lot in the BSA Fort surrendered to us, but a lot rushed through our lines. We have 126 prisoners and have picked up 50 Boers dead and the Lord only knows how many the Kaffirs have killed and buried away. Our loss, 3 killed.

The Jailor was also killed today by a shell.

May 16th

5.30 pm. Artillery firing heard today North West of town. It is believed to be our Relief at hand, about 6 miles away.

8.00 pm. An officer and 8 men just arrived from outside. Relief Column arrived at last, after 7 months and 5 days weary waiting. They engaged Boers at 2 pm and inflicted defeat on them.

May 17th

The Relief Column arrived in town about 2 oíclock, numbering 1200 from the South and 900 from the North.

Great excitement prevails all our garrison and town.

9 am. RHA with Pom Poms moved towards East Side of town and started shelling the trenches. They stayed about half an hour and gracefully retired to the Laager, and then we started shelling the Laager, of which the Boers promptly evacuated and we captured.

We captured a lot of rifles and ammunition in trenches and the Laager had an awful lot of provisions, including meal flour, coffee. sugar, tea, pipes, tobacco, cigarettes, sporting guns, saddles, bridles, boots, biscuits, butter, potatoes, oatmeal, onions, horse shoes, biltong, eggs, whiskey, beer, dop, clothing, donkeys and wagons and also a lot of their sick they left behind in their hospital, including some of our wounded which were captured at the time of Colonel Plumerís defeat, including Captain Maclarene.

We also captured their 5 pounder in one trench.

May 18th

We marched to Wessels Springs Laager about 10 miles off (a Laager) to see if we could get any loot, but we got there and found it had already been looted by other Squadrons.

We generally are last at anything of that sort, but first to take the field.

May 19th

Colonel Plumerís Column left today for Ramathlabama.

General Mahrís column is still here and will wait for further orders.

Sm A Hunter with a column of 4000 men is supposed to be on his way up here.

May 23rd

Still on short rations. Donít know why as there are a lot of wagons with provisions about to come into town. I suppose we will get them in time.

May 24th

First train arrived from North with a few provisions and also a few of our men, which had been up the line all the time, being cut off in October last.

I get a bit of rootie off one chap. Donít I relish it!

May 28th

Spent my birthday in gaol, guarding Eloff and a few other Dutch officers.

June 6th

Left Mafeking for Malmane. Arrived Malmane on 7th.

Here endeth my diary and may I never be in a besieged town again.

I remain,

Yours truly,

W R FULLER



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