The Defence of Duffer’s Drift, Third Dream

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

BF enters his third dream about The Defence of Duffer’s Drift with seven lessons learned:

I was at Duffer’s Drift on a similar sunny afternoon and under precisely similar conditions, except that I now had seven lessons running through my mind.

I at once sent out two patrols, each of one NCO and three men, one to the north and one to the south. They were to visit all neighbouring farms and kraals and bring in all able-bodied Dutch men and boys and male Kaffirs — by persuasion if possible, but by force if necessary. This would prevent the news of our arrival being carried round to any adjacent commandos, and would also assist to solve the labour question. A small guard was mounted on the top of Waschout Hill as a look-out.

I decided that as the drift could not get up and run away, it was not necessary to take up my post or position quite close to it. especially as such a position would be under close rifle fire from the river bank, to which the approaches were quite concealed, and which gave excellent cover. The very worst place for such a position seemed to be anywhere within the horseshoe bend of the river, as this would allow an enemy practically to surround it. My choice therefore fell on a spot to which the ground gently rose from the river bank, some 700 to 800 meters south of the drift. Here I arranged to dig a trench roughly facing the front (north), which thus would have about 800 meters clear ground on its front. We started to make a trench about 50 meters long for my 50 men, according to the usual rule.

Some little time after beginning, the patrols came in, having collected three Dutchmen and two boys, and about thirteen Kaffirs. The former, the leader of whom seemed a man of education and some importance, were at first inclined to protest when they were given tools to dig trenches for themselves, showed bundles of “passes,” and talked very big about complaining to the general, and even as to a question in the “’House” about our brutality. This momentarily staggered me, as I could not help wondering what might happen to poor BF if the member for Upper Tooting should raise the point; but Westminster was far away, and I hardened my heart. Finally they had the humour to see the force of the argument, that it was, after all, necessary for their own health, should the post be attacked, as they would otherwise be out in the open veld.

The Kaffirs served as a welcome relief to my men as they got tired. They also dug a separate hole for themselves on one side of and behind our trench, in a small ravine.

By evening we had quite a decent trench dug — the parapet was two feet six inches thick at the top, and was quite bulletproof, as I tested it. Our trench was not all in one straight line, but in two portions, broken back at a slight angle, so as to get a more divergent fire (rather cunning of me), though each half was of course as straight as I could get it.

Duffer's Drift Map 4

It was astonishing what difficulty I had to get the men to dig in a nice straight line. I was particular as to this point, because I once heard a certain captain severely “told off” at manoeuvres by a very senior officer for having his trenches “out of dressing.” No one could tell whether some “brass hat” might not come round and inspect us next day, so it was as well to be prepared for anything.

At dusk the guard on Waschout Hill, for whom a trench had also been dug, was relieved and increased to six men, and after teas and giving out the orders for the next day, we all “turned in” in our trenches. The tents were not pitched, as we were not going to occupy them, and it was no good merely showing up our position. A guard was mounted over our prisoners, or rather “guests,” and furnished one sentry to watch over them.

Before failing asleep I ran over my seven lessons, and it seemed to me I had left nothing undone which could possibly help towards success. We were entrenched, had a good bulletproof defence, all our rations and ammunition close at hand in the trenches, and water-bottles filled. It was with a contented feeling of having done everything right and of being quite “the little white-haired boy,” that gradually dozed off.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Apparently, he never heard of enfilade.

  2. I think that may be part of the lesson for this dream. His trench’s elevation and orientation render it painfully open it to long range fires from the far bank to his left.

  3. Steve Johnson says:

    In reading Storm of Steel, both sides in WWI were fanatic about never having a straight trench.

    An enemy at the end of a straight trench can rake it with fire while being protected from return fire.

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