Imágenes de página

people, while the deep throb of the drums mingled with the rhythmic singing of the men and the shrill chants of the wemen. The ceremonial parade for the announcement of the conquest of Cameroons and the presentation to Njoys of payment in cash for the supplies provided by him to the British troops; the amazing scene which followed when Njoya, who at first refused to believe that the row of specieboxes containing silver coin were really to be handed over, turned to his people, ordered his drummer to beat for silence, and said: "People of Bamun, the English have kept their premise, and are going to pay for all the food that they have received, and for the carriers who have worked for them. Such a thing has never been known before in war time. I give I give orders that in every marketplace for one month the drums shall beat, and proclamation be made that the English are good people and better than all other white men." Finally, the day when the British flag was hauled down in Fumban and the Political Officer handed over his charge to the French, the French, by whom this portion of the country was henceforth to be administered. The entire population, headed by Njoya, fellowed the departing British officer for miles upon his way. No artificial demonstration this. The end of the first day's march still found them in thousands along the road, and stern command was needed to


send them back to their homes. Njoya himself bade farewell on the bank of the river which forms the boundary of his country. And long after the last canoe-load of carriers had reached the farther bank he remained by the water's edge watching the tail of the column as it wound its way up from the river-side and gradually disappeared along the road leading back towards Nigeria,

The destiny of the people of Bamun now lies in other hands than ours. They were not consulted any more than were millions of other Africans as to their wishes or their aspirations. That they may thrive and prosper, and that their evolution may be on their own lines, guided by a sympathetic and enlightened administration, is the wish of those few Britishers who know them. But if the League of Nations and its so-called Mandates in Africa are to be taken seriously and regarded as something more than a hypocritical excuse for parcelling out huge areas and populations without the least regard for "self-determination," then the welfare of such peoples as the Bamuns should lie heavy on its conscience. Such communities are not vooal, and therefore in these noisy days their interests are almost certain to remain unrepresented. But whatever the future may have in store for Njoya and his people, there is one who wishes them well, and to whom the period spent in Central Cameroons will ever be a pleasant memory.





INTOLERABLE burning sunshine suddenly gave place to torrential rains. Roads once thick with bitter acrid dust that stirred at the faintest breath of wind, turned to lanes of liquid mud, forest tracks grew soggy, swamps extended with every hour, while the Russians merely shrugged their shoulders.

"It is the rainy season. Nichevo!" they said.

Prospects of success for our proposed deep outflanking movement were based on fair weather. As the volumes of rain descended, so did our spirits take a similar downward trend. The conditions which governed the assembling of the troops troops were hardly calculated to produce feelings of elation. Living in a thick forest, beneath a rude shelter of branches, twigs, and leaves, the whole enveloped in & mosquito-net, possessed many charms when the sun shone; but in a heavy and continuous downpour of rain, one was apt to forget these former attraetions. It was a weary, miserable vigil, ere the opening of the first stage of the attack by the commencement of the approach march.

Groups of men, soaked to the skin, huddled around smoking


fires, while the ceaseless drip from the sodden trees descended upon them. Few words passed

just occasional outbursts of vehemence against Russia in general and Bolsheviks in particular. Depressing foreoasts were made of soaked biscuits, rain-washed tea, and damp ammunition. Sentries moved with slow indolent tread in and out amongst the trees, on guard over the corral of native horses, droshkies, and drivers. The Russians, men, women, and girls, crouched on their primitive carts, shielding their illclad bodies from the rain with coarse sacking. They watched with listless gaze these drab English, who waited for bad weather before they went to battle. The sole concern of the peasantry was for the horses and droshkies. Wherever their precious carts and animals were taken on the morrow, inte the midst of war and death and suffering, there would they follow. So they sat, silent and inert, waiting, while their animals, still in harness, shivered in utter wretchedness.

An occasional stray bullet whistled through the tree-tops, breaking for a second the monotone of falling rain and the dull murmur of voices in the wood. The close of the

weary afternoon brought signs of activity. Splashing through the mud of the forest roads, with heavily-laden mules, the engineers and signal companies arrived. Huge reels of cable, wireless sets, telephones, flags, spare horses-all smothered in mud and running with water. Batteries of 3·7 mountain-guns, loaded on to animals, appeared, led by bedraggled officers and men, whose faces bore signs of complete depression. They entertained small hopes of ever participating in the fight. Males could ford rivers and climb hills, but in swamps three feet deep they were helpless.

Rain was seemingly always associated with British attacks in France. Apparently the association extended to Russia also. Consolation rested in the philosophic reflection that the Bolshevik was equally wet and uncomfortable.

The fever of activity spread. Men dragged themselves away wearily from the assembled groups as officers walked by, summoning and giving orders. Amid the concourse of droshkies brisk energy was being displayed. Hundreds of ponies had to be unharnessed and fitted with pack-saddles. The docility of the animals was a contrast to the wrath of the peasants. The latters' indignation at having to remove their worn-out harness was intense. Outbursts of disapproval having no effect, the peasants walked away in contempt, viewing the proceedings from afar with sullen mien.

All battle stores, rations,

Lewis guns, and signal equipment had to be carried by pack-pony. Natural conditions prevented the use of other forms of transport, for on the right bank a river had to be forded, and on the left the marshes were too deep to allow of the passage of carts.

As the light faded, the Russian troops destined to assist in the operation arrived. They had been brought up river from a village some thirty versts away at the last possible moment. Straggled out along the muddy road, each battalion (numbering about two hundred and fifty bayonets) slouched along with no enthusiasm and complete lack of cohesion. Only one of the battalions of the Brigade bore any resemblance to trained soldiery, and that was commanded by Captain Posinykoff, a wealthy timber-merchant of Archangel, who was possessed of a positive lust for killing Bolsheviks. He had already been

awarded the British Military Cross for gallantry in a previous action on the Dvina front. His huge frame dwarfed his bodyguard, and officers and men regarded him as a mighty leader. Averse as we were to Russians, their general tactics and behaviour, it was nevertheless a genuine pleasure to weleome Posinykoff. His subsequent bravery drew forth our warm admiration. Having such a man commanding the otherwise nervous Russians, the task of the officer in charge of the attack on the right bank was rendered much less harassing

than that of his confrère on the opposite bank. The Russian troops attached to the latter's columns were the same wretched specimens who at one time had travelled about the forward zone with their regimental piane. Their general attitude to the proposed attack created the impression that they would be a hindrance rather than a help, and that pessimism was subsequently shown to be thoroughly justified.

fore all loads had been adjusted, Russians pacified, and troops sorted into their respective columns. The complete land forces were organised into six separate self-contained columns, three on each bank. Each column possessed its quota of infantry, machineguns, trench - mortars, artillery, transport, and each had its own particular objective: on the right bank, Selmenga, Gorodok, and Borok; and en the left bank, Seltso, SludkaLipovets, and Chudinova, in order of depth from the front line. The only possible chance of a great success depended on complete surprise. If the enemy had had the vaguest suspicion of 8 movement round both his flanks simultaneously, then the action might possibly have developed into a disaster for our numerically inferior force. Around his left flank the approach march to the as

During this afternoon of work, tribulation, and misgiving, the Navy oreated a furore by an affair with the Bolo. H.M. "Monitor 33" was at anchor in the "Advanced Position," lying in readiness for anything that might come along. Unusual interest was suddenly developed in her presence by the Bolo with two 42 guns mounted on the Selmenga road. The shooting was watched with some interest sembly position Was very as the enemy started very wide of the mark, and gradually orept closer with his shots. Observation was apparently good, for in a few minutes the monitor was hit. The captain decided to move, and while getting under way the ship was hit again, necessitating a retirement to the flotilla anchorage. Another monitor replaced "33" in the forward area, but the Bolo was either satisfied with his first performance, or had retired in anticipation of retaliation, for no further shots were fired that day.

Darkness had gathered be

lengthy. It had to be commenced two days before zero. Tremulous anticipation gave way to feelings of relief when a Bolo deserter strayed into the advancing column, with the

news that the enemy knew nothing of the turning movement nor the contemplated attack.

The forest track by which the columns marched in single file was in a terrible condition. At times it became impassable till the engineers had felled trees and laid them across the path. The mules, unable to make progress, voiced their feelings by loud screams, which

re-echoed through the forest, raising apprehensive fears that the enemy might send out patrols to discover the cause of the tumult. Most of the loads of the paok-animals had to be man-handled long distanees, a task exhausting in the extreme to heavily-laden men, who were already tired and wet through to the skin. Doleful surmises as to the condition of the ground over which the attack would be launched proved to be correct when the reports of the reconnaissance patrols were received. The mules, laden with the mountainguns, were unable to continue farther, and the battery had to be left behind, to the utter disgust and disappointment of the gunners. Less the guns, therefore, and the cavalry, which was also held up by the swamps, the columns on the left bank safely reached their assembly positions after many hours of dogged trudging through the forest.

The approach march on the right bank was less strenuous, a little more dangerous, and vastly more amusing. To ford the Selmenga river was the only really difficult task. At the point of fording, the river bank on the north side was very steep and heavily wooded. The ford itself was merely a bend in the river, where the water was a foot deep. Never before had it been used as on this night, and, judging by its depth at the end of the orossing, it will never be used again. The approach to the ford, precipitons as it was, entailed con

it was

siderable danger to the packanimals, and the possibility of alarming the Bolo was imminent.

The noise of the column descending the bank seemed, in the stillness of the night, to be appallingly loud. Branches snapped like pistol - shots, the mules orashed and reared through the thick undergrowth, and men and drivers oursed with heated volubility. The leads of the Russian penies were ripped off by the trees as the frightened animals attempted to bolt through the forest. Advance parties of signallers had laid telephone wires along the freshly-blazed trail, and in the darkness the horses' feet became entangled, and at points in the column confusion was chaotic.

The actual fording of the Selmenga was easily accomplished, though the whole operation took four and a half hours. Russian troops proved an intolerable nuisance. Reaching the river, they peered into the water in the semi-darkness, and then made vigorous signs to the superintending officers, endeavouring to ascertain the depth of water they would have to pass through. This being indicated, their succeeding action was to sit down on the bank, thereby delaying the whole column, to the anger these on the precipitous hill slope, and proceed in the most leisurely Russian fashion to remove their boots and puttees. Coercion was the only method of accelerating the fording when this occurred, and it had to be applied, to the resent


« AnteriorContinuar »