Page images

“We got some breakfast before we started. I remember the incident well because my Maltese interpreter, who looked after me, was boiling some coffee in a tin pannikin over a little fire made of bits of stick. A bullet came into the fire and knocked the coffee to Ballyhooly, sending it all over him. He bellowed like a bull, and said: “Why these people fire at me, sir, I never do these people any harm * * ‘We formed up, marched to Abu Klea, when we were attacked by about 8000 people on our left flank. I caught sight of Burnaby on his horse outside the square, within about forty yards of where I was standing at the machine-gun before the charge. Everyone at the gun was killed except myself. The next I saw of poor Fred Burnaby he was lying on his back, cut to pieces, at about the place where I had last seen him alive.” Archibald Forbes sent me in fuller detail a vivid word picture of an episode which, in the hurried march and the catastrophe looming over Khartoum, received at the time but scant record: ‘Burnaby's position immediately before his sally from the square at Abu Klea was on the left face of the square near the rear corner. The men at his back were the detachment of Royal Dragoons (my own old regiment) belonging to the Heavy Camel Corps. As the skirmishers came running in, the last couple of them were hard pressed by the pursuing Arabs, and two of them were killed. Burnaby rode out a little way to the assistance of the in-running skirmishers, his only arm being his sword—he had left his double-barrelled gun with his servant inside the square. His own horse had been shot that morning, and he was riding a screw borrowed from the 19th Hussar detachment. He rode straight at a mounted Sheikh chasing a skirmisher with levelled spear. At sight of him, the Arab changed direction and made for Burnaby. “Just as they were closing a young soldier named Laporte sent a bullet through the Arab, who fell with a crash. A foot spear's man promptly darted on Burnaby, pointing at his throat the broad, sharp blade of his eight-foot long spear. Burnaby parried, and wounded the Moslem. The duel between them continued for above a minute, Burnaby cutting, pointing, and parrying, the supple Arab lunging vicious thrusts at the big British officer fast in the saddle. A second Arab, darting by in pursuit of a skirmisher, with a sudden turn ran his spear into Burnaby's right shoulder from behind. A soldier darted out and bayoneted this man. Burnaby glanced over his shoulder for a second at the transaction, and in that second his first antagonist dashed his spear full into Burnaby's throat. He fell from the saddle, the blood spurting from the jugular; as he sank the Arab stabbed him a second time, and he lay prone. “A rush of Arabs were upon him. He had strength enough to struggle to his feet, and with the blood pouring from his gashed throat, he whirled his sword around him till he fell dead. Young Laporte sprang to his aid, and got so near that his sleeve was wet with Burnaby's blood. But he could give no efficient assistance, and was lucky in being able to return to the square. “During the Nile Campaign, Sir William Gordon-Cumming wrote constantly to the Prince of Wales, describing the progress of the campaign. Some of those letters I have seen. In the letter describing Abu Klea, Cumming tells of Burnaby's death, and how he ran out in hope to bring his wounded comrade in. Three of the Arabs who had been hacking at Burnaby came at Cumming. “One of these,” wrote Cumming, “I bowled over with a bullet through the stomach from my revolver. Before starting on the desert march I had my sword ground as sharp as a razor. When the second man neared me, I cut his head clean off with one blow. Number three dodged, and as I was following him, he was shot dead by a bullet fired from the square.” “When Burnaby arrived at Korti, Wolseley appointed him first to the Intelligence Department, and later to a position on his own staff. After Stewart had gone forward to Takdul, Wolseley bethought himself of possible contingencies, and sent up Burnaby with about one hundred camels to join Stewart, and with Wolseley’s order in his pocket to take command in case of casualty to Stewart. Meanwhile he was not to be on Stewart's staff, but as the expression is in the German army and in our diplomatic service, en disponibilité, and he devoted himself to the Intelligence Service. On the night before Abu Klea Stewart gave him command of a section of the square, which constituted him in effect Brigadier-General for the time. He was thus acting Brigadier-General when he was killed.” He sleeps now, as he always yearned to rest, in a soldier's grave, dug by chance on the Dark Continent whose innermost recesses he hoped some day to explore. The date of his death is January 17, 1885. His grave is nameless. Its place in the lonely desert no man knoweth.

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

ALL Englishmen are proud of the British Navy. Few, however, are really acquainted with its history, still fewer have any clear knowledge of the daily life on board a man-o’-war. Most persons have heard the story of Nelson putting his telescope to his blind eye when he did not wish to see the signal of an irresolute commanderin-chief, and everyone knows all about the signal he made just before the guns opened fire at Trafalgar. Some erudite persons have read about the exploits of Drake, of Raleigh, of other great Elizabethan mariners, and of deeds of self-sacrificing heroism like those of Sir Richard Grenville and his comrades of the Revenge. Others remember Lord Howe and the “glorious first of June,’ and those who are students of eighteenth-century history have in their minds a clear picture of the fierce Homeric battle in Quiberon Bay when, regardless of a November gale hissing towards the shore and the wild, high-running waves of the Bay of Biscay, Hawke attacked and defeated the French fleet among the rocks and shoals at the mouth of the Vilaine. That victory of Lord Hawke furnishes much food for reflection. It illustrates how very little on the whole tactics vary from age to age. The orders Hawke gave to his pilot on November 20, 1759, forcibly call to mind similar instructions given by King Edward III. to the master of his ship 409 years before. On Saturday, August 29, 1350, Edward III. was with his fleet off Winchelsea. The wind was blowing fresh from the north-east. Suddenly the look-out man sighted a Spanish vessel, and soon after a Spanish squadron bore down upon the English fleet. Froissart gives the account of the action that followed, a description of which he had from an eye-witness. The Spanish ships were larger than the English and bien frétés. Edward ordered his steersman to place his comparatively small vessel against the large Spanish ship with the Spanish commander on board, “for that he would joust with him.” The steersman, not daring to disobey, did as he was ordered. The Spaniards after a severe action were completely defeated, having given, in the language of Froissart, ‘le roi d'Angleterre et ses gens moult à faire.’ This was the memorable battle called “Les Espagnols sur Mer.” It was the first naval action with the Spaniards and the second decisive victory won by an English fleet in the Channel. It is sometimes imagined that the great change which has taken place in the range and power of naval artillery has made it impossible for ships now to come close together. I cannot see the force of this argument. The artillery used by Hawke in Quiberon Bay was a far greater change from the bows and arrows of the time of King Edward III. than the guns now in use are from those of the days of Hawke and Nelson. Conditions of the atmosphere must always interfere with the range of artillery, and during a battle at night the modern battleships may come as close to each other as vessels have ever done in the history of naval warfare. It would be well in view of the interest taken in the Navy for all Englishmen to ponder on the principles which always did and always will govern strategy and tactics. It is also important, though much more difficult, owing to want of opportunity, to realise the life of the sailor and how the day is spent on a man-o'war. I had an exceptionally good opportunity of studying that life when taking a cruise with the Channel Fleet as the guest of Lord Charles Beresford, the Commander-in-Chief. As a personal friend of that distinguished officer I refrain from making any comment on the recent ungenerous attacks upon him. I will merely remark that they wanted finish. Those insinuations have had the effect of increasing the number of his friends, and however much it may have served the ends of paltry official jealousy to create a skeleton force like the Home Fleet for the purpose of diminishing the sphere of influence of a commander so gifted and popular as Lord Charles Beresford, such conduct has the sure and certain tendency to recall to the mind of the country whose interests are betrayed the splendid services of that distinguished Irishman. I joined the Channel Fleet at Berehaven on March 14, and soon had a striking illustration of the discipline and spirit of the fleet. General leave had been given to the Irish sailors. Before quitting their respective ships the Commander-in-Chief made a signal appealing to them to be back on the 17th, although it was St. Patrick's Day. Between three and four hundred Irish sailors then left the fleet and went all over the country, some of them going as far as Dublin, and even Belfast and oDondonderry. On the evening of the 17th it was reported to the Commander-in-Chief that there was not a single leave-breaker amongst them. This punctual return is a striking illustration of what Irishmen are worth when under proper discipline and sympathetic leadership. An amusing but perhaps less creditable side of the Irish character came under my notice about the same time, and is typical perhaps of more than one so-called Irish grievance. Before leaving Berehaven, guns and marines were one day landed from the Fleet. While on shore to see the exercise I met a man who had a farm running down to the water's edge. He had sold a so-called field or two to the Government and had obtained a very handsome price. The land, which was chiefly heather, bog and stone, had been reclaimed by the Government and turned into a recreation ground for the sailors of the fleets. The former proprietor and owner of the adjacent farm was appointed caretaker with a very adequate salary. He gave himself the airs, however, of an ill-used individual, and half considered himself an evicted tenant, and one of the “wounded soldiers' of the agrarian war who ought to be handed back the barren land which he had sold at an almost exorbitant price. On March 18 at four o’clock in the afternoon the fleet put out to sea. The frowning coast of Western Ireland in wild weather has often been described. That afternoon it looked particularly desolate and melancholy. Dursey Island appeared specially dreary and forbidding. I looked at it with peculiar interest on account of its connexion with a friend of mine, an agent, who had a very sinister experience there a couple of years ago. He had gone in very rough weather to fulfil his duties on the island. The boat which landed him went away. As he would not acknowledge the extravagant claims made by the islanders they assumed a very menacing attitude, and refused to provide a boat for his return. My friend made a signal to a passing ship, which at once launched a boat in answer. But as it approached the shore volleys of stones were hurled at it from the cliff. The crew that manned it were evidently not remarkable for courage, for they feared to approach the land, and returned to their ship. The position of my friend was critical. It was winter time, night was coming on, and a high, cold wind was blowing over the island. As the dusk was fading into darkness a steamer appeared, and in answer to shouting and signals, lowered a boat. This time as the boat approached the shore my friend and his companion jumped into the sea. They were

« PreviousContinue »