Summary of the military detail of the siege.
Major battles during the siege of Mafikeng.
Apart from the daily skirmishes of which can be read in the day to day reports from the diaries there were a few major battles.
1.What a waste of dynamite. On the morning of the 13th October Baden Powell used a locomotive to push out 22,5 tons of dynamite 15km to the north with the idea to ignite the dynamite and to cause major casualties when the Boers came to investigate. The only happening was a big hole in the ground. The next day there was the battle at Vyfmylbank near the previous incident with the dynamite. 4 men from the Protectorate were killed and 16 wounded. Two Boers killed and 6 wounded. See animation
2.On the 26 th of December the British garrison, supported by an armoured train attacked the unsuspecting Boers 3km to the north of town. Gametree was the stronghold of the Boers. The only gain for BP was more grazing for the cattle and expanding the British territory. The British underestimated the Boers and the casualties were great. Later the armoured train returned flying a white flag to collect the dead and wounded. They were layer buried in a mass grave under the last post. Angus Hamilton from the times reported 24 dead including 3 officers. Other reported 25 dead.
3. Eloff tried to relief the town on the night of 13 May. This battle proved to have the greatest casualties on Boer side – 10 dead, 19 wounded and 94 captured. On British side 4 dead and 10 wounded. Eloff tried to enter Mafikeng from the native stadt that was Baden Powell’s blind spot. . His plan was to set alight some huts as a sign for Snyman to come with re-enforcements. Snyman did not react quick enough and were cut off by the Barolong. The fire also alarmed Baden Powell Eloff moved up to Fort Barracks, Leaving behind a 2 small group of burghers in the Barolong stadt. There he captured col Hore and his men. From there Eloff phoned BP. Baden Powell reacted swiftly and Eloff surrendered. See Animation
4. Relief of Mafeking
For some months a part of Plumer’s force had been pushing down the Western Railway far to the North of Mafeking. Then Plumer brought most of his men, about 1500, down the line. Through March this expeditions carried on until Plumer reached within 6 miles of the Town, but Snijman pushed them back as far as 15miles (see the animation of this movement).
Towards the end of the siege the shortage of supplies was Baden-Powell’s worst problem. Plumer was able to receive 1000 natives. This relieved the demand for food somewhat. Plumer also tried to drive a herd of cattle into town,but it failed. At the end of April Baden-Powell got as message through to Roberts saying that the food will last until 22 May 1900. Relief was thus a priority.
May 1900– Buller is getting ready to invade Pretoria and hoping that the Boers would surrender if they lost Pretoria. The British public is awaiting the news of the invasion of Pretoria, but they wanted to know the outcome of the relief of Mafeking with more anxiety.
On the 4 May 1900 Archibald Hunter’s force (it consisted mainly of South African volunteers) commanded by Colonel B.T. Mahon set out on their 250mile journey from the vicinity of Kimberley to Mafeking. A week later they were at Vryburg, 100 miles South of Mafeking. At this time one of Baden Powell’s men reached them to discuss a possible link up between Plumer and Mahon. Baden Powell also wanted to know what the strength is of Mahon’s force. He replied “Our numbers are the Naval and Military Club multiplied by ten (94 Picadilly times 10); our guns, the number of sons in the Ward family; our supplies, the O.C. 9th lancers (little)”
On the night of 11 May, and the early hours of 12 May the Boers made their last attempt on the town. A party of Boers pierced pierced through the outer of the defenses by approaching along the banks of the Molopo. They set fire to huts in the Native Stadt and captured a fort commanded by Colonel Hore. Sarel Eloff and 100 Boers captured the fort, and they locked Hore and others up, waiting for more support from Eloff. A Frenchman who were with Eloff climbed on the roof with a bottle of Burgundy and shouted a toast, “Fashoda is revenged”, before he was shot down. Eloff hung on all day, but surrendered to his own prisoners that evening. Baden-Powell arrived to invite them to dinner, and thegarrison saluted the Boers as they were marched off under guard.
On the 14 May 1900 Mahon’s column first encountered a commando.At the Molopo, 20 miles from Mafeking, Mahon joined hands with Plumer who had just recieved a reinforcement of Royal Canadian Artillery. With 2000 men from the siege lines De la Rey took up position astride the Molopo at a place called Israel’s Farm. It was eight miles upstream from Mafeking. A five hour fight resulted on 16 May.(see the animation) Part of the Boer line gave way and the rest fled. Plumer sent a message by carrier-pigeon to the garrison that the two columns were on their way. In the afternoon shells exploding in the distance could be seen from Mafeking. A dark mass of horsemen appeared with a heliographtwinkling in their midst-“From Colonel Mahon’s force-How are you getting on?” Baden-Powell simply replied: “Welcome”
Ten men rode in at 7pm and in the early hours of 17 May Mahon and Plumer entered without any opposition. TheBoers had disappeared- the 7 month long siege was over.
As the word came to England everyone was excited and ran to the streets. God save the queen was sung over and over and the number of drunks multiplied. The occasion added the verb “maffick” to the English language. The O.E.D. defines the word as “exult riotously”.