The Matabele Campaign 1896

Colonel R. S. S. Baden-Powell
13th Hussars
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society

Methuen & Co., London, 1897



From a sketch by Robert Baden-Powell



Umtali, Mashonaland,
12th December, 1896

My Dear Mother, — It has always been an understood thing between us that when I went on any trip abroad, I kept an illustrated diary for your particular diversion. So I have kept one again this time though I can’t say that I’m very proud of the result. It is a bit sketchy and incomplete, when you come to look at it. But the keeping of it has had its good uses for me.

Firstly, because the pleasures of new impressions are doubled if they are shared with some appreciative friend (and you are always more than appreciative).

Secondly, because it has served as a kind of short talk with you every day.

Thirdly, because it has filled up idle moments in which goodness knows what amount of mischief Satan might not have been finding for mine idle hands to do

R. S. S. B.-P.



THE following pages contain sketches of two kinds. namely sketches written and sketches drawn. They were taken on the spot during the recent campaign in Matabeleland and Mashonaland, and give a representation of such part of the operations as I myself saw.

They were jotted down but roughly, at odd hours, often when one was more fit for sleeping than for writing, or in places where proper drawing materials were not available, I would ask you, therefore, to look leniently upon their many faults.

The notes, being chiefly extracts from my diary and from letters written home, naturally teem with the pronoun, "I" which I trust you will pardon, but it is a fault difficult to avoid under the circumstances. They deal with a campaign remarkable for the enormous extent of country over which it was spread, for the varied components and inadequate numbers of its white forces, and especially for the difficulties of supply and transport under which it was carried out —points which, I think, were scarcely fully realized at home. The operations were full of incident and interest, and of lessons to those who care to learn. Personally, I was particularly lucky in seeing a good deal of Matabeleland, and something of Mashonaland, as well as in having a share in the work of organization in the office, and in afterwards testing its results in the field. Incidentally I came in for a good taste of the best of all arts, sciences, or sports — “scouting”

For these reasons I have been led to offer these notes to the public, in case there might be aught of interest in them. The "thumbnail" sketches claim the one merit of having been done on the spot, some of them under fire.

Several of the illustrations have also appeared in the Graphic and Daily Graphic and are here reproduced through the courtesy of the proprietors of those journals.

R. S. S. B. P.

Marlborough Barracks, Dublin
19th March, 1897


Chapter I Outward Bound
Chapter II State of Affairs in Matabeleland
Chapter III Our Work at Bulawayo
Chapter IV Scouting
Chapter V The Rebels Decline to Surrender
Chapter VI Campaign in the Matopos
Chapter VII Our Work in the Matopos
Chapter VIII Fighting in the Matopos
Chapter IX The Final Operations in the Matopos
Chapter X The Situation in Matabeleland and Mashonaland
Chapter XI The Downfall of Uwini
Chapter XII Shangani Column — Through the Forest
Chapter XIII Shangani Patrol — Return March
Chapter XIV In the Belingwe District
Chapter XV The Downfall of Wedza
Chapter XVI Clearing the Mashona Frontier
Chapter XVII Through Mashonaland
Chapter XVIII The Situation in Rhodesia
Chapter XIX After War—Peace
  Sketch Map of theatre of Operations

Colonel R. S. S. Baden-Powell.
The Matabele Campaign 1896.
Chapter I. Outward Bound.
Colonel R. S. S. Baden-Powell.
The Matabele Campaign 1896.
Sketch Map of theatre of Operations.
Map of Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia) showing principal locations of the Matabeleland & Mashonaland  Campaigns of 1896.
Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell,
Lessons from the Varsity of Life
Chapter VI: Matabeleland
Eileen K. Wade,
The Piper of Pax: The Life Story of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1924
Chapter IX.
The British South Africa Company Reports on the Native Disturbances in Rhodesia 1896-97. Published by the Board of Directors of Cecil Rhodes’ Company, these reports provide the Company’s perspective on events in Matabeleland and Mashonaland in 1896-97.
The Baden-Powell Library. A Selection of excerpts from the works of Lord Baden-Powell and works relating to his life and career.
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