The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, Second Dream

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Having learned his lessons, BF falls back asleep and starts his second dream about The Defence of Duffer’s Drift:

I suddenly found myself dumped down at Duffer’s Drift with the same orders as already detailed, and an equal detachment composed of entirely different men. As before, and on every subsequent occasion, I had ample stores, ammunition, and tools. My position was precisely similar to my former one, with this important exception, running through my brain were four lessons.

As soon as I received my orders, therefore, I began to make out my plan of operations without wasting any time over the landscape, the setting sun, or the departing column, which, having off-loaded all our stores, soon vanished. I was determined to carry out all the lessons I had learnt as well as I knew how.

To prevent any strangers, friendly or otherwise, from coming into my position and spying out the elaborate defences I was going to make, I sent out at once two examining posts of one NCO and three men each, one to the top of Waschout Hill, and the other some 1000 meters out on the veld to the north of the drift. Their orders were to watch the surrounding country, and give the alarm in the event of the approach of any body of men whatever (Boers were, of course, improbable, but still just possible), and also to stop any individuals, friendly or not, from coming anywhere near camp and to shoot at once on non-compliance with the order to halt. If the newcomers had any provisions to sell, these were to be sent in with a list by one of the guard, who would return with the money, but the strangers were not to be allowed nearer the camp on any account.

Duffer's Drift Map 3

Having thus arranged a safeguard against spies, I proceeded to choose a camping ground. I chose the site already described in my former dream, and for the same reasons, which still appealed to me. So long as I was entrenched, it appeared the best place around. We started making our trenches as soon as I had marked off a nice squarish little enclosure which would about contain our small camp. Though, of course, the north was the front, I thought, having a camp, it would be best to have an all-round defence as a sort of obstacle. The majority of the men were told off to dig, which they did not relish, a few being detailed to pitch camp and prepare tea. As the length of trench was rather great for the available number of diggers, and the soil was hard, we were only able by dark, by which time the men were quite done up by their hard day, to make quite a low parapet and shallow trench. Still we were “entrenched,” which I was the great thing, and the trench was all round our camp, so we were well prepared, even should we be attacked during the night or early next morning, which, was quite unlikely.

During this time one or two strangers had approached the guard of the north from a farm under Incidentamba. As they had eggs and butter, etc., to sell, these were brought in as arranged for. The man sent in with the stuff reported that the elder of the Dutchmen was a most pleasant man, and had sent me a present of a pat of butter and some eggs, with his compliments, and would I allow him to come in and speak to me? However, not being such a fool as to allow him in my defences, I went out instead, in case he had any information. His only information was that there were no Boers anywhere near. He was an old man, but though he had a museum of passes, I was not to be chloroformed by them into confidence. As he seemed friendly, and possibly loyal, I walked part of the way back to his farm with him, in order to look around. At dark the two examining posts came in, and two guards were mounted close by the object I was to watch, namely, the drift, at the same places as in my previous dream. This time, however, there was no half-hourly shouting, nor were there any fires, and the sentries had orders not to challenge but to shoot any person they might see outside camp at once.

They were placed standing down the river bank, just high enough to see over the top, and were thus not unnecessarily exposed. Teas had been eaten, and all fires put out at dusk, and after dark all turned in, but in the trenches instead of in tents. After going round sentries to see everything snug for the night, I lay down myself with a sense of having done my duty, and neglected no possible precaution for our safety.

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