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[Illustration: HIS LAST LETTER.]


FROM ALDERSHOT TO PRETORIA

A Story of Christian Work among our Troops in South Africa

BY W.E. SELLERS


WITH AN INTRODUCTION

BY R.W. ALLEN


WITH FIFTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS


Second Impression


LONDON THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY
56 PATERNOSTER ROW AND 65 ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD




Contents


PAGE
CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION: THE EMPIRE AND ITS DEFENDERS 7

CHAPTER II
ALDERSHOT 19

CHAPTER III
OLD ENGLAND ON THE SEA 37

CHAPTER IV
TO THE FRONT 53

CHAPTER V
WITH LORD METHUEN 61

CHAPTER VI
MAGERSFONTEIN 77

CHAPTER VII
THOMAS ATKINS ON THE VELDT 96

CHAPTER VIII
WITH LORD ROBERTS 105

CHAPTER IX
KIMBERLEY 132

CHAPTER X
WITH GATACRE'S COLUMN 129

CHAPTER XI
BLOEMFONTEIN 145

CHAPTER XII
ON TO PRETORIA 161

CHAPTER XIII
HERE AND THERE IN CAPE COLONY 170

CHAPTER XIV
WITH SIR REDVERS BULLER 177

CHAPTER XV
LADYSMITH 193

CHAPTER XVI
'IN JESU'S KEEPING' 222




List of Illustrations


HIS LAST LETTER _Frontispiece_

SOLDIERS' HOMES AT ALDERSHOT _to face p. 17_

OFF TO SOUTH AFRICA _to face p. 34_

PARADE SERVICE ON THE TUGELA _to face p. 53_

REV. E.P. LOWRY _to face p. 84_

REV. JAMES ROBERTSON _to face p. 90_

BRINGING BACK THE WOUNDED _to face p. 118_

MORNING SERVICE ON THE VELDT _to face p. 133_

SOLDIERS' HOME ON THE FIELD _to face p. 138_

ARUNDEL _to face p. 173_

AMBULANCE WORK ON THE FIELD _to face p. 193_

REV. A.V.C. HORDERN _to face p. 195_

ONE OF THE LADYSMITH HOSPITALS _to face p. 199_

REV. THOMAS MURRAY _to face p. 203_

AMBULANCE WAGGONS ON THEIR WAY TO THE FIELD _to face p. 210_




Preface


It would have been a grave omission had no attempt been made at the
earliest possible time to place on record some account of the Christian
steadfastness and heroism of the many godly men belonging to every arm
of the service engaged in the war in South Africa, and of the strenuous
work which they did for their comrades, resulting in many being won for
God, comforted when stricken on the battle-field or in hospital, and
even in death enabled to find the life that is eternal.

It would have been equally an omission had not some account been given
of the heroic devotion of the chaplains and the lay agents who have
accompanied the troops in the campaign, sharing their hardships and
ministering to them under all the trying conditions of their service.

When, therefore, I was approached by the secretaries of the Religious
Tract Society, through Rev. R.W. Allen, with a view to preparing some
such record, we both, Mr. Allen and myself, felt that the request must,
if possible, be complied with. And we felt this the more, seeing that
the whole British Force in South Africa has been placed under deep
obligation to them, and to the great Society they represent, for the
large and varied gifts of literature they have sent to our troops during
the progress of the campaign.

It was originally intended that the book should have been written
conjointly by Mr. Allen and myself; but pressure of other work has made
this impossible. I am, however, indebted to Mr. Allen for the
introductory chapter, and for the large stores of information in the way
of correspondence from the Front which he has placed at my disposal.

I am also indebted to the Rev. Dr. Theodore Marshall for information as
to the work of the Presbyterian chaplains. The Rev. E. Weaver, the
Wesleyan chaplain at Aldershot, has also rendered important help.

The book has necessarily been written somewhat hurriedly, and by no
means exhausts the history with which it deals. If, however, it has the
result of deepening the sympathy of all true lovers of their country for
our soldiers and sailors, and in increasing the interest they take in
the good work done on their behalf, and if at the same time it brings
cheer and encouragement to the men in the Army and Royal Navy who are
trying to live manly, Christian lives, the author of the book and the
great Society on whose behalf it has been written will be amply
rewarded.

W.E. SELLERS.
_August_, 1900.




FROM ALDERSHOT TO PRETORIA




Chapter I

INTRODUCTION: THE EMPIRE AND ITS DEFENDERS


The war in South Africa has been fruitful of A many results which will
leave their mark upon the national life and character, and in which we
may wholly rejoice. Amongst them none are more admirable than the
awakening to the duty we owe to our soldiers and sailors, and the
large-hearted generosity with which the whole empire is endeavouring to
discharge it.

It is necessary to go back to the days of the Crimean War and the Indian
Mutiny to find any similar awakening. It was then that the British
people began to learn the lesson of gratitude to the men they had so
long neglected, whom they had herded in dark and miserable barracks, and
regarded as more or less the outcasts of society.

The glorious courage, the patient, unmurmuring heroism, the tenacity
not allowing defeat, which were displayed during the long and dreary
months of the siege of Sebastopol, and the ultimate triumph of our arms,
aroused the nation from its indifference, and kindled for its defenders
a warm and tender sympathy.

Following swiftly on the Crimean War came the splendid deeds of the
Indian Mutiny, when handfuls of brave men saved the empire by standing
at bay like 'the last eleven at Maiwand,' or, hurrying hither and
thither, scattered the forces which were arrayed against them. The
sympathy which the Crimean War had produced was intensified by these
events, and the duty of caring for those who thus dared to endure and to
die was still more borne in upon the heart of the nation.


=Changed Estimate of our Soldiers and Sailors.=

It came to be discovered that though the British soldier and
man-of-war's man were rough, and in some instances godless to the extent
of being obscene, vicious, and debauched, they were, to use the phrase
which Sir Alfred Milner has made historic, possessed of a 'great reserve
of goodness'; that they were capable not only of good, but of God. As it
were by fire the latent nobility of our nature was discovered, and the
fine gold, and the image and superscription of God were revealed, in
many instances to the men themselves, and in great measure to the nation
at large.

There were many circumstances which aided in this awakening, both in the
War and in the Mutiny. Among them may be reckoned the terrible hurricane
which wrecked the transports in the harbour at Balaclava, when so many
of the stores intended for the troops were destroyed; and the awful
winter which followed, with its numberless deaths in action, and by
hunger, cold, and disease. The horrors of Cawnpore, and the glorious
tragedy of Lucknow, also compelled attention to the men who were
involved in them, and to their comrades who survived.


=Their Deplorable Condition in the Past.=

Previous to these times nothing could well have been more deplorable
than the condition of the soldier or the sailor. It was on all hands
taken for granted that he was bad, and, wonderful to say, he was
provided for accordingly. His treatment was a disgrace. The
barrack-room, with its corners curtained off as married quarters, the
lash, the hideous and degrading medical inspection - samples of the
general treatment - all tended to destroy what remained of manly
self-respect and virtue. Whilst the neighbourhood of the barracks and
the naval ports, teeming with public-houses and brothels, still further
aided the degradation. The creed of the nation, or rather, the opinion
that was tacitly accepted, would be best expressed in the familiar
saying that 'the bigger the blackguard, the better the soldier.'


=Their Devotion to Duty.=

Nevertheless, amidst all these evil conditions, not only did courage and
loyalty to duty survive, but even, in many instances, a chivalrous
tenderness and devotion. There were to be found many earnest Christian
men, and the work of God went on, comrade winning comrade to Christ, so
that it was rare indeed to find a regiment or a man-of-war which had not
in it a living Church.

What, for instance, can well be more interesting or significant than the
record which tells of the men on the Victory, Lord Nelson's flag-ship at
Trafalgar, who had no need to be sworn at to be made to do their duty,
who amidst much persecution sang their hymns and prayed, and lived their
cleanly, holy lives; who attracted Lord Nelson's attention, and so won
his respect that he gave them a mess to themselves, and ordered that
they should not be interfered with in their devotions? Or than the
record of the godly sergeants of the 3rd Grenadiers at Waterloo, who
went into action praying that it might be given to them to aid in the
final overthrow of the tyrant who threatened the liberties of the world?

But returning to the Crimean War and the Mutiny, there were not wanting
even then men and women in foremost places to voice the awakening which
these created, and to give it right and wise direction.


=The Queen's Care of her Men.=

The care of the Queen for her soldiers and sailors in those early days,
which she has continued with wonderful tact and tenderness throughout
her long and glorious reign, was of untold advantage. Her sympathy
showed the nation where its heart should go and where its hand should
help.

The send-off from the courtyard of Buckingham Palace; the review of the
battle-worn heroes in the Palace itself, when she decorated them with
their well-earned honours; her constant visits to the hospitals, were
incidents which the nation could not forget. In them, as in so many
other ways, she awakened her people from their apathy, and by her
example led them to a higher and more Christian patriotism.


=The Netley and Herbert Hospitals.=

There was also the noble man whose monument adorns the Quadrangle of the
War Office, who was War Minister at the time. But perhaps foremost of
all, save the Queen herself, was the 'Lady of the Lamp,' who,
surrendering the comfort of a refined and beautiful home, went out to
the hospitals at Scutari to minister to the wounded and the
fever-stricken, and found in doing so a higher comfort, a comfort which
is of the soul itself. These two - Florence Nightingale and Sydney
Herbert - the one in guiding the Administration, the other inspiring the
nation, did imperishable good.

The Herbert and the Netley Hospitals were the first embodiment of the
nation's sympathy expressed in terms of official administration - palaces
of healing, which have been rest-houses for multitudes of sick and
wounded men pending their return to duty, their discharge on pension, or
their passing to an early grave.

The Royal Patriotic Fund was the expression of the nation's desire to
succour the widows and orphans of the breadwinners who had fallen in the
war.


=The Awakened National Conscience.=

But these efforts, noble though they were, by no means met the full
necessity. For solicitude on behalf of our soldiers and our sailors
being once aroused, their daily life on board ship and in barracks soon
compelled attention. Its homelessness and monotony, its utter lack of
quiet and rest, its necessary isolation from all the comforts and
amenities of social life, the consequent eagerness with which the
men - wearied well-nigh to death, yet full of lusty vigorous life - went
anywhere for change, society, and excitement - all these things broke
like a revelation on the awakened conscience of the nation. The terrible
fact, to which reference has already been made, that hitherto almost the
only sections of the civil community which had catered for them was the
publican, the harlot, and the crimp, that they had indeed been left to
the tender mercies of the wicked, still further deepened the impression.

At the same time it came to be gradually realized that the splendid
manhood of the army and the navy was a vast mission force, which, if it
could only be enlisted on the side of purity, temperance, and religion,
might be of untold value to the empire and the home population.

It was plainly seen that if left, as it had hitherto been, to the
homelessness of the barracks and the main-deck, and to the canteen and
the public-house, it would certainly take the side of sin; and whilst
defending the empire by its valour, would imperil it by its ill-living.

All these convictions were confirmed by the record of the noble lives of
heroes, who were Christians as well as heroes, with which the history of
the Crimean War and the Mutiny is enriched. If a few could thus be
saved, it was asked, why not many? if some, why not all? For men of all
ranks, of varied temperaments and gifts, were among the saved, some
whose natural goodness made them easily susceptible of good, others
'lost' in very deed, sunk in the depths of a crude and brutal
selfishness.


=Woman's Work in this Field.=

As might be expected, the first to take to heart these special aspects
of the case, and to embody the great awakening in the deeds of a
practical beneficence, were women. Miss Robinson and Miss Weston, Mrs.
and Miss Daniel, Miss Wesley, and Miss Sandes will ever live among those
who set themselves to fight the public-house and the brothel by opening
at least one door, which, entering as to his own home, the soldier and
the sailor would meet with purity instead of sin, and where the hand
stretched out to welcome him would be not the harlot's but the Christ's.


=The Influence of Methodism.=

It was given to the Wesleyan Methodist Church to take the foremost place
in this new departure. Nor could it well be otherwise when the history
of that Church is borne in mind.

The soldiers and man-of-war's men of John Wesley's time came in large
numbers under the spell of his wonderful ministry. Converted or not,
they recognised in him a man; and his dauntless courage, his invincible
good humour, and his practical sympathy, won for him from many of them a
singular devotion, and from not a few a brave and noble comradeship.
Some came to be among his most successful preachers, and in the army,
and out of it, nobly aided him in his victorious but arduous conflict
with the evils of the time. From Flanders to the Peninsula and Waterloo,
and from Waterloo to the Crimea and the Mutiny, the bright succession
continued. Hence, when the nation awoke to its duty to its defenders,
Methodism abundantly partook of the impulse, and threw itself heartily
into every enterprise which it inspired.

It was the first Church, as a Church, to commit itself to the policy of
Soldiers' and Sailors' Homes. It passed a resolution at its annual
Conference to the effect that these institutions were essential to any
successful work for the good of the Army and Royal Navy; and it has
continued, as the years have gone on, to increase the number of its
Homes, until at the present time it has thirty under its direction,
established in various parts of the empire, which it has provided at the
cost of many thousands of pounds, and which are its gift for the common
good. They are all held on such trusts as secure them for the free and
unreserved use of all the soldiers and sailors of the Queen, without
respect of religious denomination.


=The Work of the Anglican and other Churches.=

But Methodism is not alone, as a Church, in this patriotic and Christian
enterprise. The Established Church has entered upon it with an
ever-increasing earnestness, having come, mainly through the advocacy of
the Chaplain-General, Rev. Dr. Edgehill, to grasp the situation, and to
realize that for the men themselves and for the empire it is of
paramount importance that this provision should be made.

The reflex result of the efforts to establish Soldiers' and Sailors'
Homes has also been most beneficent. Speaking at the anniversary of one
of these Homes, not many years ago, Lord Methuen said that they had led
the way to the improvement which is now being effected in barracks,
where the old squalor has given place to comfort, and the temperance
refreshment room, the recreation room, and the library more than hold
their own against the canteen, and the cheerful and sufficient married
quarters have replaced the scandal of the curtained corner or the
miserable one-roomed hut.

Nor must the prayer-room now attached to every barracks in India be
forgotten, nor the Army Temperance Association, of which the Rev. Gelson
Gregson was the pioneer, and the illustrious Field-Marshal, Lord
Roberts, the founder. This association has now, thanks to the sympathy
of H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge when Commander-in-Chief, and to the
hearty and constant support of Lord Wolseley, his illustrious successor,
been established throughout the whole British army.

It will thus be seen that the great awakening of now nearly fifty years
ago has borne good fruit, and that in proportion as the nation has risen
to a higher moral level, and consequently to a juster appreciation of
its duties, the soldier and the sailor have continued to share in its
results.


=Christian Work at Aldershot.=

The camp at Aldershot embodies in itself all these changes; and is,
indeed, an epitome of the results of this awakening. Anything more
desolate than its aspect when it was first established it would be
impossible to imagine. Long 'lines' of huts, planted in a wilderness of
gorse, heather, and sand, dimly lit, and miserably appointed; 'women
that were sinners' prowling about the outskirts, and gradually taking
possession of much of the hastily-constructed town, with the usual
accompaniment of low public-houses and music-halls - such, to a great
extent, was Aldershot at the beginning.

[Illustration: 1. CHURCH OF ENGLAND SOLDIERS' HOME, ALDERSHOT.]

[Illustration: 2. GROSVENOR ROAD SOLDIERS' HOME, ALDERSHOT.]

Here then was a sphere for the work of the new awakening. And one by one
all the agencies mentioned above took up their duty, and entered upon
the enterprise. Mrs. and Miss Daniel founded the Soldiers' Institute.
The Wesleyans, guided by the Revs. Dr. Rule, Charles Prest, I. Webster,
and C.H. Kelly, built their first Home at the West End, where, like
another 'West End,' so much of vice had congregated. Subsequently it was
transferred to the site in Grosvenor Road, and another Home put up at
the North Camp, on a site secured by Sir Hope Grant. Then came the
Church of England, with its splendid premises in Aldershot and its
church rooms in the North and South Camps.

Meanwhile the camp itself has been reconstructed, so that at last the
empire can look without shame upon it; and the brave spirits who first
caught the awakening, or saw that it should not die, - many of whom have
joined the majority, but some of whom are still enriching their country
by their lives, - can rejoice in the work they have been permitted to
accomplish.

And the result? 'Ah, sir,' exclaimed a sergeant, as he entered one of
the Aldershot Homes, 'you are at last giving us a chance. Hitherto you
have provided for us as though we were all bad, and all wanted and meant
to be; and bad we became. But now, sir, you are giving us a chance, and
you will see what will be the result.'

And truly we do; for the life of the nation is enriched, not enfeebled,
by the men who return to it from the Army and the Royal Navy. And all
ranks of society are becoming convinced that religion is the prime
factor in the service efficiency and in the national well-being. Thus
God is, after all, seen to be the greatest need, and the one true
enrichment of human life and character - the vital force by which alone
the commonwealth can live.

The wonderful records which will be found in the succeeding chapters of
this book, telling as they do of Christian life and service in the South
African War, will still further show the fruits of this great
awakening.




Chapter II

ALDERSHOT


A raw, cold morning in the late autumn! A weird-looking train, slowly
drawing into the station out of the mist, with carriages altogether
different in appearance from those we were accustomed to see! A
battalion of brawny Scotchmen, travel-stained and sleepy. And then a
somewhat lazy descent to the platform.

'Twenty-four hours in this train, sir, and never a bite or a sup. What
do you think of that?'

But as the speaker could not quite keep the perpendicular, and found it
absolutely impossible to stand to attention, it was evident that he had
had more than one 'sup,' whether he had had a 'bite' or not. All along
the line, sad to say, 'treating' had been plentiful, and this was the
result.


=Mobilising at Aldershot.=

Multiply this scene a hundred times. Imagine the apparent confusion on
every hand. Listen to the tramp, tramp of the men as they march from
station to camp and from camp to station, and you will have some idea of
the hurry and bustle in this camp on veldt during the period when the
word 'mobilisation' was on everybody's lips.

Barrack rooms everywhere overcrowded, men sleeping by the side of the
bed-cots as well as upon them; every available space utilised; even the
H Block Soldiers' Home turned outside into a tent, that the rooms it
occupied might be used as temporary barrack rooms again.

Discipline was necessarily somewhat relaxed! Drunkenness all too rife!
The air was full of fare-wells, and the parting word in too many cases
could only be spoken over the intoxicating cup. It was a
rough-and-tumble time. Aldershot was full of men who in recent years had
been unaccustomed to the discipline and exactitude of Her Majesty's
Army, and the wonder is that things were not worse than they were.

Let us look into one of the barrack rooms. The men are just getting
dinner, and are hardly prepared to receive company, and especially the
company of ladies. They are sitting about anyhow, their tunics for the
most part thrown aside, or at any rate flying open; but when they see
ladies at the door, most of them rise at once.

'Yes, it is hard work, miss, parting with them,' says one K.O.S.B.
reservist. 'I've left the missus at home and three babies, one of them
only a week old. I thought she'd have cried her eyes out when I came
away. I can't bear to think of it now.' And the big fellow brushed the
tears away. 'It's not that I mind being called up, or going to the war.
I don't mind that; but, you know, miss, it's different with us than
with them young lads, and I can't help thinking of her.'

'Rough? yes, it is a bit rough,' says another as we pass along. 'I wish
you could see the little cottage where I live when I'm at home, all kept
as bright as a new pin. It's well _she_ can't see me now, I'm thinking.
She'd hardly know her husband. But there, it's rougher where we're
going, I reckon, so it's no use worrying about this.' And, forgetting
the presence of ladies, he started whistling a merry tune.

It _was_ just 'a bit rough' in those days. But how could it be helped?
Aldershot Camp had nearly doubled its normal population, and some thirty
thousand troops were crowded in. And this population was continually
changing. As soon as one batch of troops was despatched, another took
its place, with consequences that, perhaps, were not always all that
could be desired, but which were nevertheless unavoidable.


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