campaign for the Illustrated London News — The
Bechuanaland expedition — Its origin — I see Mr. Ingram
and offer to go out for the News — He agrees —
First impressions as an accredited representative of a
paper — Interview with Colonel the Hon. Paul Methuen — The
1st Mounted Rifles, "Methuen's Horse" — The recruiting
office — A bit of a set back — Sir Charles Warren and
newspaper correspondents — Suggestion that I join
"Methuen's," in dual capacity as artist and soldier — Mr.
Ingram agrees — I pass medical examination — Sign on as
trooper — Serious reflections — Enthusiasm prevails —
Getting ready to leave England for a year — The departure
of the Pembroke Castle for South Africa — Composition of
the regiment and pay of troopers
I HAVE always been a firm believer in the
truth of the old French adage Tout vient à
point à qui sait attendre, and in remarkably
few instances have I found my confidence in it shaken.
My perseverance in going down so often to the Illustrated
London News office on the off-chance of a travelling
commission coming my way was at last to be rewarded, and
at the end of the following year I left London for South
Africa on my first expedition for the paper as War-Artist
Correspondent with the Bechuanaland Field Force, and
trooper in the 1st Mounted Rifles, otherwise known as
"Methuen's Horse." The combination of War Correspondent
and trooper was so uncommon, and the whole of the
circumstances leading up to it so unusual, that I feel it
may be perhaps of interest to give a short account of how
it came about. Trouble had been brewing for some months in
South Africa, a considerable body of Boer freebooters had
entered the Bechuanaland Protectorate, forcibly annexed a
large tract of territory, murdered the British
representative, and actually proclaimed two new Boer
states which they had named Stellaland and Goshen. Such a
flagrant defiance of the Convention could not be
tolerated, so it was decided to drive them out by force —
hence the Bechuanaland Expedition, which was under the
command of Sir Charles Warren.
Now was my opportunity. Melton Prior was in the Sudan, not
expected back for a long while, and there was no one else
at hand, so down I went to the office and offered to go
out with the expedition if they would commission me. Mr.
Ingram liked the idea, and told me to go and find out all
about it and let him know what arrangements could be made.
I remember I left the office in such a state of elation
that I felt as if walking on air.
One must have represented a Paper to realize the feeling
of importance one's first big travelling commission
conveys. As a matter of fact, I don't think one ever loses
this impression. It is, I suppose, in a measure a sense of
gratification at the confidence one feels is reposed in
I walked along the Strand pondering what was the next step
to take. Mr. Ingram had made no suggestions, assuming,
presumably, that a man offering his services as War
Correspondent did not require his editor to tell him what
to do. I realized at once that one was entirely dependent
upon one's own initiative when acting as the
representative of a newspaper. I was cogitating whether
the proper course was to present myself at the War Office
and make enquiries, when an idea suddenly flashed in my
It had been announced that in addition to the troops to be
used, there was to be a strong force of mounted infantry,
and an irregular cavalry regiment was to be raised in
England for service in South Africa. A call had been made
for volunteers who were good riders and good shots. The
regiment was to be under the command of Colonel The Hon.
Paul Methuen. I recollected that there had been a notice
in the Daily Telegraph that morning, in which it
gave particulars where to apply for all information. So to
buy the paper and then to make my way to 50 Leicester
Square, where was the Recruiting Office, did not take
I remember that it was with a certain amount of perhaps
pardonable self-confidence I made my way upstairs through
the crowd of men waiting to present themselves, and sent
in my name to Captain Harell, who was the recruiting
It was the first time I had authority to state that I
represented the Illustrated London News, and I
then at once realized what an "open sesame" this meant,
for I was ushered in immediately, and on explaining my
business, the Captain said he would take me in to Colonel
Methuen, who alone could deal with the matter. I was taken
in to an inner room, where the Hon. Paul Methuen received
me with much cordiality, but on explaining the object of
my call, he informed me without hesitation that he much
regretted he could do nothing for me.
It appeared that Sir Charles Warren had given it
distinctly to be understood before he left England that he
would have no "travelling gentlemen," as he humorously
termed War Correspondents, with him on this expedition.
In vain did I urge that an artist could scarcely come
under this category, the colonel shrugged his shoulders
and replied: "Those are my instructions, and I must carry
I was naturally very disappointed, and I must have shown
it; however, there was nothing for it but to give up the
idea of going, and I was leaving the room, when Colonel
Methuen stopped me, and asked somewhat abruptly, as though
an idea had occurred to him: "Are you in the volunteers?"
I told him I was a corporal in the "Artists' " Corps. "Are
you a good rider?" "Yes," I replied, wondering what on
earth he was driving at. "A good shot with the rifle?"
"Fairly," I answered, still more perplexed. "Well, then,"
he continued, "the best thing you can do is to join my
regiment and come out with me as a trooper, and I will use
my influence so that you will be able to go about, see,
and sketch everything, and at the same time you will no
doubt find your military experiences extremely
interesting. Besides which," he added, with a laugh, and
as an extra inducement, "you will get a medal when it is
all over — if you are not killed."
The suggestion was a tempting one to me, but it was so
unexpected that I naturally hesitated; moreover, it quite
altered my program, so I replied that I thought I had
better go and see Mr. Ingram and ask what he thought of it
first. "Well, you'll have to decide quickly, because we're
nearly full up," he told me. I said I would be back during
the afternoon, and hurried off.
I felt I must have a few minutes to myself quietly to
think it over, so went into the Square, lit my pipe, and
had a walk round and turned it over carefully in my mind.
Whilst thus cogitating, I recollected how one of my old
schoolfellows, Walter Sullivan, had enlisted in South
Africa under somewhat similar circumstances, and had gone
through a recent campaign, and how this had fired my
imagination at the time.
Now was my opportunity, and before I had smoked my pipe
out, I had come to the conclusion to try and take
advantage of it. Moreover, my time was up at the studio
and I had absolutely not a tie in the world. No one could
have been freer than I was just then, so I decided,
therefore, to join if Mr. Ingram approved of it.
Without further hesitation I jumped into a cab and was
fortunate in catching him still at the office. Although
somewhat surprised, he thought Colonel Methuen's
suggestion a capital one, and in a few moments it was all
settled that I should go, and I received my credentials
signed by him. Within an hour I was back again in
Leicester Square, passed by the doctor, entered as a
trooper in "D Troop" of "Methuen's Horse" for one year
certain, and informed that I was in the first detachment
that was leaving in the Pembroke Castle ten days
later. Nothing could have been quicker. I had scarcely had
breathing time, yet all this had happened since I left
home in the morning.
As I made my way back to St John's Wood it gradually
dawned on me the seriousness of the step I had taken. What
would my people say to it? Probably they would call me an
arrant fool, but that did not trouble me, for I was a free
agent. I felt there was no going back, anyhow. The die was
cast, and I was no longer my own master, but a soldier,
and at the call of my commanding officer.
It was indeed a strange transformation, and I must admit
that for a short time I felt a pang of regret at my
impetuosity. The thought, I remember, flashed through my
mind that I was giving up painting, and that all the
pleasant times of my studio life and so forth were at an
end for many months — perhaps for ever — for I might get
bowled over and never come back. My heart beat wildly for
a moment at the thought. But I was young and enthusiastic,
the love of adventure, so characteristic a trait of my
temperament, asserted itself, and I soon recovered my
equanimity, for there was no time to lose, only ten days
to make all my preparations for leaving England, giving up
my studio, storing my furniture, etc., getting my kit
together, and the hundred and one things that my long
absence would necessitate.
The next week was spent in feverish preparation, and I was
at length glad when the time approached for my departure.
The excitement of it all was so wearying.
At last the eventful day arrived, and on a typically
gloomy November day I left for South Africa with the first
detachment of the "1st Mounted Rifles."
It may be of interest to add that of the unique regiment
raised by Colonel Methuen for the Expedition, two hundred
were gentlemen volunteers who had served in the Militia,
and who had competed for, and failed to obtain,
commissions in the regular Army. Another three hundred
were selected from the Volunteer Force, and from gentlemen
who had unsuccessfully competed for admission to the
Military College, Sandhurst, and about one hundred men of
the Army Reserve. The pay for troopers was 4s. per day,
with 1s. deferred pay — the horses and accoutrements being
found by the Government.
My experiences whilst serving as a trooper in
Bechuanaland, interesting as they were, can scarcely be
considered as coming within the scope of a narrative of
"One's Bohemian Days in London," so the year I was away
must therefore form a hiatus in my life of that time.
Suffice it to add that I was fortunate in going through
the campaign without any serious mishap, and returned to
England the following year all the better physically for
my strenuous life out on the veldt.
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