Day to day life during the Siege of Mafikeng
The Siege: Day to Day was compiled from facts and diaries kept during the siege. The factual part of the page appears first- great care was taken to make sure that these are the facts. Underneath that you will find different headings. It is used to differentiate between the diaries where information was found. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee the facts in this case, because it is only a shortened version of a real diary entry for that day. It is well known that people got carried away in their writing about the Siege of Mafeking and everyone experience things differently. So please keep that in mind while you read the diary entries and compare it with the facts:
The Person with the blue circle is Sister Stanislaus.
In the veldt: Wagons leave for Lichtenburg. On their way their pastime is hunting. That night a 16year old boy joins them- he ran away from home to join the commandos.
In the veldt: Rustenburg and Marico Commandos join forces at Kaalplaats. With the instructions to isolate Mafeking on the Northern side.
Thursday 5 October 1899
In the veldt: Stafleu has to play doctor because some of the Burgers became ill due to the meat that they ate half raw and because if the water that seemed to be contaminated.
Monday 9 October 1899
In the veldt: Stafleu leaves for Zeerust to fetch new medicine supplies. He uses the chance to have bath, to dress clean and to have a good meal. The members of the Zeerust red Cross shows them their new hospital. The new hospital was well equipped and the community very proud.
In the convent: The Boers succeed in cutting the railway line and telegraph wires between Mafeking and Kimberley as well as those to the North.
In the veldt: Night of 12/13 October General De la Rey and a section of the Potchefstroom commando captured an armored train called the Mosquito at the Kraaipan station. Two cannons, ammunition, rifles and other supplies were taken, as well as prisoners of witch one of them were lt. Nesbitt.
In the convent: Baden Powell asks two Sisters of Mercy (nuns) to go and encourage the women of the Laager Father Ogle, the Chaplain, assembled the remaining sisters in the Chapel, where they exhorted them to conformity of God’s will in the trying times before them, and to confess their sins and their readiness to obey military officers.
In an attempt to overpower the Boers an engine pushed two railway carriages with 22.5 tons of dynamite 15km North into the area of the Boers thinking that some Boers will be killed when they went to investigated. The only damage done was that the railway line was permanently damaged and thus the task of the Boers made easier. (see animation)
In the convent/Mafeking: At about 6am the alarm sounded. The Boers had crossed the border during the night and were within 4miles of the Town. Everyone got ready for the expected attack. As the day wore on the tension relaxed and by nightfall it was clear that there would be no fighting on this day.
An squadron of the Protectorate Regiment under Lord Charles Cavendish-Bentick were nearly caught investigating how far the Commando’s are from the railway line. Captain FitzClarence was sent with an armoured train and a squadron soldiers on horses went with him. In a skirmish with Snyman at Vyfmylbank 4 men were killed and 16 wounded of the Protectorate Regiment and two Boers were killed and 6 wounded.
In the convent: The Boers started firing at 5a.m. British troops went out to meet them and the Battle lasted until 9 a.m. The British were outnumbered twenty to one, yet the victory was theirs. Two men were killed and eight wounded (on the British side). The ambulance , flying the Red Cross flag was fired upon by the Boers. In the evening Cronje sent a message to the Colonel asking for the surrender of the town within forty eight hours or it would be shelled. The Colonel’s reply was “We are Britishers.” An apology was also sent for firing on the ambulance. The excuse that it was not recognized was considered a flimsy one.
In the convent/Mafeking: ( Feast of St. Teresa- Mother’s patroness) Preparations are being made for tomorrows threatened shelling. Trencheshave been dug to which the men have orders to retire until the Boers have exhausted their ammunition. The Colonel asked Cronje to neither shell the Hospital, Convent, nor the Woman’s Laager. The Convent and the Hospital lie in an East West line North of the Town The Sisters from the Laager was recalled to the convent, now an auxiliary hospital. The boarders dining room downstairs was arranged as an operating room. a cylinder of chloroform were fixed up and an resident doctor appointed.
In the convent/Mafeking: Major Goold Adams came early to the convent, pointing out the rooms were the Sisters would be safe. It was the two small parlors pointing South. The whole household “with some anxious delicate lady visitors packed into them”. The shelling started at 9:30a.m. and it looked as if the Convent were the target, for shells were falling in the garden. Soon two crashed into the operating room changing it into a mass of splinters and dust. Fortunately the chloroform cylinder was untouched and the fact that everyone remained calm was remarkable. Lieutenant Brady a friend of the Sister’s went to see them to see if they were safe and was relieved to find them safe and strangely unafraid. They had a feeling if security , that all were in God’s keeping. The shelling ended at 2pm. the armored train was stationed close to the convent and when the Sisters came out of the convent they were cheered by the soldiers again and again. During the Bombardment the soldiers asked if they could fire at the Dutch, but Baden Powell replied that there should be no firing. Fifty to sixty shell hit Town that day, the only damage was to the convent. At 3pm, when the officers were about to have lunch, Cronje sent a message asking the town to surrender. The Colonel asked the messenger to have lunch with them and then asked for a reason why they shelled the Convent. The messenger replied that they don’t have field glasses and for that reason couldn’t see the Red Cross Flag. This excuse could not be accepted because of the convent’s size and it’s location. That evening the Colonel came to congratulate the sisters on their happy escape and since their sleeping apartments were unsafe they moved their mattresses to the parlors were they found safety by day. It was a sleepless night because an attack of the Boers were feared. There was not an attack that night.
In the veldt: The Boers surrounds Mafikeng and H. Everitt is send with the white flag consisting of handkerchief tied together is send to town with the request that they must surrender and if not for the women and children to leave the town. In the mean time the Boers took charge of one of the main fountains that supplied the town with water. Baden-Powell kept Everitt in town to threaten the Boers not to cut of the water supplies.
In the convent/Mafeking: No water reached the town from the reservoir. The supply has been cut by the Dutch. Fortunately three of the pumps in town are supplied from other sources.
In the convent/Mafeking: All quiet the whole day. Soldiers preparing fortifications. Soldiers lay a pipe to the convent- now there is water without leaving the convent grounds. Correspondents took pictures of the damages to the convent.
In the convent/Mafeking: A dispatch from Cronje reached the Colonel today stating that a large gun is coming from Pretoria and shelling to recommence on Monday. The colonel set natives to dig trenches in several parts of the town. The Colonel said: ” Let the Boers destroy the houses; it is easy to rebuild them, but we must save the lives of the people.”
In the convent: A day of quiet and rest. The Sisters heard Mass and had Holy Communion. Heavy rains all day.
In the convent: The threatened shelling was expected today. The trench of the Sisters wan not ready and they were taken to the Woman’s Laager 1 mile from town by two Cape-Carts. At 3p.m. they returned to the convent, the Boers were unable to get their gun into position because of the previous rain. In the evening a few small shells were fired.
The times: We had been incredulous at the threat of the Boers to send to Pretoria for more siege guns. Today was for this reason a day of anxiety for us, because we didn’t know what the result the enemy’s fire would produce. The anxiety was without taking into account Baden-Powell’s intentions. Early in the morning Mafeking set fire on the Boers artillery from two guns who were positioned near the reservoir. It was know a bombardment by Mafeking at the Boers not vice versa. This continued for several hours until the Boers started to shell Canon Kopje. No damages were done to either side. In the afternoon the Boers set up replacements for the ‘new’ siege guns. They were at least three and a half miles away from town.
In the veldt: The Boers did not take the firing from Mafikeng very seriously at first because the cannons seems to miss its targets all the time. They hid behind the sandbanks teasing each other and Making jokes. As soon as they noticed that someone was scared they threw him with and object as soon as they heard the grenades explode. To give him the idea that his was hit by a shrapnel.
The Boers shell the town for the first time with Old Creaky
In the convent: At 6a.m. they went to their completed trench. About half an hour afterwards the first shell from the big gun went off. The shelling was continued throughout the whole day. A German gunner came from Pretoria to level the town in an hour. It would’ve happened if the town were European. Here the houses are made of soft brick so the shell makes a hole in the wall, but the house remains standing. 6p.m. they went to the convent for dinner, but while at table another shell dropped nearby. Everyone rushed off to the trench, only having time to grab a blanket. They spent the night in the trench, safe but sleepless.
The Times: An hour after noon the alarm rang out from the Market Place, the red flag flew from Headquarters and everyone was warned to take immediate cover. Within a few minutes the Boers started to shell the town with Old Creaky. No lives were lost, but a part of the Mafeking Hotel was damaged. The whole town was ordered to take cover in the trenches for the night. An attack was expected.
In the veldt: The Boers received a new cannon from fort Daspoortrand and positioned it at Jackal Tree South of the Town. Snijman made James A McMullen’s farm Lanric to the East of Mafikeng his headquarters.
In the convent: From early morning until 6 p.m., rifle shots and shells kept up their flight trough the air. 172 Shells fell, 35 from the big gun. The convent was struck again. the evening servants brought the Sisters mattresses and all slept until 5a.m.
The Times: Today is the third day of the threatened bombardment. Commandant Cronje is attempting to reduce Mafeking to ashes. Firing began very early. A gun detachment opened with a few shells from Mafeking to the East of the town. The Boers shelled the Town heavily and even tried a general attack on the town. It was estimated at nightfall that the enemy must have thrown more that 200 shells into Mafeking. It is said that if Mafeking was more than a collection of houses with mud walls and tin roofs, it would have been shaken to the fundaments with concussion.
In the Veldt: They tried to storm Mafikeng. The afternoon on 16:00 the shelling started on Mafikeng. We used a bomb Maxim as well as a 15 cm Cruesot cannon and later a Krupp cannon’s. Under the safety of the shelling the Boers moved in close to the town with the idea to end the siege. Baden-Powell sends a message that if they do not stop shooting he will shoot them with dynamite bombs. Only one man was lightly injured and a lot of cattle taken.
In the veldt: Spies retuned to the Boer laager to report that they saw dynamite mines berried in the vicinity of Aslaagte. That caused panic under the Boers.
In the convent: After rising at 5:30 pm the Nuns were allowed to return to the convent for one hour. From 7 a.m. they were safely underground with bullets firing above them. The Sister are grateful to God that He is protecting their brave defenders in the bombardment. By 10a.m. the British were making an attack. So secretly that not even the army Doctor was aware of the plans. When someone shouted “charge” the British rushed into the midst of the enemy. The Boers, having no knowledge of a bayonet charge, allowed themselves to be helplessly massacred. Six British soldiers were killed and six wounded. It is said that the object of the attack was to prevent the Dutch from pushing their lines closer to the town.
The Times: Protectorate Regiment attacks the Boers in the night
In the veldt: Stafleu reports that the British under Capt. FitzClarence and the Cape police under lieutenant Murray attacked veldkornet Louw and his men at the horse racetracks. The British only used bayonet’s, a tactic not known to the Boers. 6 English were killed, nine wounded and 2 captured.
In the convent: When the nuns returned to the convent they found it full of bullets. Two soldiers with telescopes are constantly stationed in the boarders dormitory.
In the veldt. the day was spent digging trenches and removing dynamite mines.
In the veldt “It is understood that you have armed Bastards, Fingos and Barolongs against us- in this you have committed an enormous act of wickedness…reconsider the matter, even if it cost you the loss of Mafeking……. disarm your blacks and thereby act the part of a white man in a white man’s war”-a message from General Cronje to Colonel Baden-Powell
In the convent: “The Dutch are strict observers of the Sabbath” is the first comment of this day. All the nuns look forward to Sunday because then there is peace and quiet and there can be Mass and Holy Communion. At 7:30 p.m. everyone returned to the trenches. The Colonel, as a ruse, caused the red light to be raised. The Dutch seeing it thought it was an signal for attack from the British. They turned the Maxim on the town and shooting continued almost without interruption all night.
In the convent: At 5:15 a.m. the first shell was fired and the big gun was kept at work until 2.pm. It was impossible to venture above ground. At 5p.m a messenger was sent by the Dutch camp. He was blindfolded at our outposts and taken to Dixon’s Hotel, our headquarters. His message was that the British should surrender or otherwise the town will be blown up.
The Times: In the early hours the Boers made an attack on a fort manned by a detachment of the Frontier Police.
In the convent: Shelling began at 5:30 a.m. and continued at short intervals for a couple of hours. Then Canon Kopje. was attacked. Six soldiers died. The Hospital Matron asked some of the Sisters to assist with the nursing, Mr. Lloyd a friend of the nuns was also seriously wounded.
From the veldt. Cronje starts shooting Canon Kopje
In the convent: Shot and shell poured into the Town from morning to night. Mr. Lloyd died at one o’clock
In the convent: Mr. Parislow, the correspondent for the Graphic and Daily Chronicle was murdered the previous night by a private enemy.
In the convent: Captain Goodyear succeeded in driving the enemy from the brickfields, to which advanced position they moved the previous night. Four shells were fired at the convent.
In the convent: Two women were brought to the hospital from the Woman’s Laager. One was shot in her tent while dressing the other was struck by a piece of exploding shell. The Native stadt was also shelled, one poor native lost his hand. Reverent Mother Theresa and Mother Magdalene was shot at when they went to the convent at noon. The Dutch also filled a train truck with explosives which exploded about a mile away from town.
In the convent: Thanks to the enemy’s respect for the Sabbath it is peaceful. In the afternoon the Volunteer Band played to relieve the tension and cheer up the listeners. The English custom of setting off rockets on Guy Fawke’s day was observed in the evening.
In the convent: Shells fell on the town the whole day. Two struck the Convent smashing the piano and all the furniture in the parlor. It was considered the safest place during the first day of the siege.
The times: Lieutenant Murchison accidentally shot Mr. Parislow correspondent of the London Chronicle.
In the convent: At 9. a.m. a large shell struck the Hospital. Luckily none of the patients was hurt. A shell fragment struck a native boy sitting in the veldt outside the Hospital- he died hours later. The Colonel sent a message to the Dutch ordering them to stop aiming at the Hospital and convent- their reply was that there was firing from the convent at them.
From the Veldt. Snijman sent 100 Marico burgers to Steal cattle. They return with 203 cattle, 1570 sheep and goats and 2 horses. they also captured an Englishmen Fritz Taulton , his carts, 2 horses, 15 donkeys, 6 guns and 3 revolvers.
In the convent: The Colonel came to see the wrecked convent. Thanking the Nuns for their support.
Saturday 25 November
Colonel Holdsworth and the Bakgatlas attacked a Boer laager and a settlement near Derdepoort.
In the convent: More heavy rains. The Sisters had to rush to the Hospital for shelter, the trenches was underwater. They lost all their worldly possessions that day and Sister M Joseph almost drowned.
In the convent: The emptying of the trenches started. Everyone worked with buckets and Reverent Mother kept a watchful eye that none of the Sister’s possessions (or the Community Purse) got into the wrong hands. The Cape Police moved into the convent and left their ammunition all over the convent to dry
In the convent: The sisters return to their trench.
In the convent: It was calm night until shortly after 11p.m. when a storm broke. The Sisters went in the heavy rains towards the Convent for Midnight Mass. A few shots were fired in the morning- the rest of the day was calm. Miss Hill, matron of the Hospital gave ingredients for a plum pudding and Lady Sarah Wilson sent a bottle of port wine
From the veldt: It is reported that Christmas passed by without any skirmishes.
Sunday 21 January
The rev Wilcox from Vryburg visits the Boers . Baden Powell sends a message that it is barbaric to shoot on a white flag. Stafleu also reports at length on the matter of killing the black people at sight as some tended to do . He mentioned that Paul Kruger and many Boers were against it.
Archibald Hunter’s force commanded by Colonel B.T. Mahon set out on their 250mile journey from the vicinity of Kimberley to Mafeking.
On the night the Boers made their last attempt on the town.
Mahon joins hands with Plumer
Mafeking was relieved