The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, Fourth Dream

Friday, May 9th, 2014

BF enters his fourth dream of The Defence of Duffer’s Drift with a few more lessons learned:

Again did I find myself facing the same problem, this time with ten lessons to guide me. I started off by sending our patrols as described in my last dream, but their orders were slightly different. All human beings were to be brought into our post, and any animals which could be of use to the enemy were to be shot, as we had no place for them.

For my defensive post I chose the position already described in my last dream, which seemed very suitable, for the reasons already given. We consequently dug a trench similar in plan to that already described, but, as I feared the possibility of guns being used against us, it was of a very different section. In plan it faced north generally, and was slightly broken forward to the front, each half being quite straight. In section it was about three feet six inches deep, With a parapet about twelve inches high in front of it; we made the trench as narrow as possible at the top compatible with free movement. Each man hollowed out the under part of the trench to suit himself, and made his own portion of the parapet to suit his height. The parapet was about two feet six inches thick at the top and quite steep inside, being built up of pieces of broken ant-hill, which were nearly as hard as stone.

The patrols returned shortly with their bag of a few men, women and children. The women indulged in much useless abuse, and refused to obey orders, taking the matter less philosophically than their mankind. Here was evidently an opportunity of making use of the short training I had once had as an A.D.C. I tried it. I treated the ladies with tons of “tact” in my suavest manner, and repeated the only Dutch words of comfort I knew “Wacht een beetje” — “Al zal rech kom” — but to no purpose. They had not been brought up to appreciate tact in fact, they were not taking any. I turned regretfully round to the colour-sergeant, winked solemnly and officially, and seeing an answering but respectful quiver in his left eyelid, said “Colour-sergeant.”


“Which do you think is the best way of setting alight to a farm?”

“Well, sir, some prefer the large bedstead and straw, but I think the ‘armonium and a little kerosene in one corner is as neat as anything.”

There was no need for more. The ladies quite understood this sort of tact; the trouble was over. The Dutchmen and Kaffirs were at once started digging shelters for themselves and the women and children. The latter were placed together, and were put into a small ravine not far from the trench, as it was necessary to place them in a really deep trench, firstly to keep them safe, and secondly to prevent their waving or signaling to the enemy. The existence of this ravine, therefore, saved much digging, as it only required some hollowing out at the bottom and a little excavation to suit admirably.

Duffer's Drift Map 5

All dug with a will, and by night the shelters for the women and children, men prisoners, and the firing trench, were nearly done. All arrangements for the guards and sentries were the same as those described in the last dream, and after seeing everything was all correct and the ladies provided with tents to crawl under (they had their own blankets), I went to sleep with a feeling of well-earned security.

At daybreak next morning, as there were no signs of any enemy, we continued to improve our trench, altering the depth and alignment where necessary, each man suiting the size of the trench to his own legs. In the end the trench looked quite neat — “almost as nice as mother makes it” — with the fresh red earth contrasting with the yellow of the veld. As one of my reservists remarked, it only wanted an edging of oyster shells or gingerbeer bottles to be like his little broccoli patch at home. Upon these important details and breakfast a good two hours had been spent, when a force was reported to the north in the same position as described in the previous dream. It advanced in the same manner, except, of course, the advanced men were met by no one at the farm. When I saw this, I could not help patting myself on the back and smiling at the Dutch ladies in the pit, who only scowled at me in return, and (whisper) spat!

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