K. Wade, The Piper of Pax:
The Life Story of Sir Robert Baden-Powell,
CHAPTER VII. SWAZILAND, MALTA AND
"Laugh and battle and work
And drink of the wine outpoured."
shooting trip to Knysna—first encounter with an
elephant—a mission to Swaziland—an
interview with Oom Paul—life in
Malta—adventures in many
countries—maneuvers in Ireland.
the Cape once more, B.P. began to devise further schemes
for adventure, and a brilliant idea came to him of
combining a shooting trip down the Zambesi River with the
collecting of information required by the Government
about the Portuguese territories there. He wrote home at
once for a collapsible boat and other necessary gear, and
conducted a trial trip before the great African hunter
Selous, who "considered the boat well suited to the
never came off, however, as at that juncture General
Smyth became Acting-Governor and was unable to spare his
useful military secretary for any length of time. It was
a bitter disappointment, but B.P. " smiled and
whistled" and went cheerily off to Knysna instead
for a few days shooting.
this trip he had his first encounter with an elephant,
and this is how he describes it in his diary of Friday,
April 12th, ’89:
three cups of coffee we started for the forest at 6
a.m. Cool morning after the rain, and lucky it was
cool, for the walking was simply awful. It has been
bad each day, but this day we started to go straight
through the bush to Gouna, sending our horses by the
path with Jourmet junior. The forest was all a dense
undergrowth of tree ferns and bushes and creepers,
etc., the ground all broken up with elephant spoor
and bog holes—scenery like the pictures of
tropical jungle, but the reality is not so charming
as the picture.
woodcutter told us of one spot where the elephants
certainly were, but where it would, to say the least
of it, not be politic to follow them. We had not been
going an hour before we found ourselves in this
stronghold of the enemy. And it was a place, a thick
jungle of tree ferns over one’s head, entangled with
a dense growth of creeping ferns, and a regular maze
of narrow well-worn holey elephant passages
circulating about in it. We got well into it but
found no elephants there: what we should have done
had they been there I don’t quite know, but I imagine
it would have depended chiefly on the good feeling of
the elephants themselves.
were rather glad when we got out of this place. Then
we struggled on; breakfast at 8 punctually but
frugally, viz. 1½ hard-boiled eggs and a cup of milk
and one of champagne (at least many people would have
supposed it to have been fresh spring water, but we
hypnotized ourselves to believe otherwise).
10 o’clock after a weary struggle we reached a small
open hill. As we were crossing this, Charley (the
boy) suddenly said he saw elephants!! We looked and
looked with naked eyes and with glasses, and at last
after a long time we saw them clearly enough feeding
along some rather open bush on the opposite side of a
valley. We got reins on to all the dogs and started
to approach the ‘oilyphants,’ as Jourmet calls them.
Left the dogs and Charley in a safe tree stump, and
then we proceeded to struggle through awfully thick
fern jungle up towards where we had seen the beasts.
At last we could hear them in front, tearing down
twigs and giving an occasional snort or a rumbling
growl. We climbed on to tree stumps to get a view
over the ferns, and presently the crashing of
branches and crackling of rotten sticks came nearer
till it seemed about 50 yards off—but the jungle
still too thick for us to see them. Suddenly I saw a
branch dragged down, and there was a great trunk
round it and a couple of long white tusks— and
for a second I saw the whole head of an elephant;
ENORMOUS it seemed. Two others were then visible to
me close by—i.e. within a hundred yards but too
far off to shoot at—directly they stood still
they became as it were invisible: it was only when
they moved that they were distinguishable from the
forest round about. Presently there was a pause in
their crashing and Jourmet excitedly whispered that
they had bolted—and so it was, although they had
made off without a sound. We followed the spoor for
some way, but it led into heart-breaking ground, and
at last, sick, tired and wet through (for we had had
two heavy cold showers), we gave it up and returned
to Charley and the dogs."
the following summer, B.P. was sent home to England for
short leave and change of air, and while there met Sir
Francis de Winton, who was about to start on a mission to
Swaziland, an independent native territory under
Umbadine, the King, situated southwest of Delagoa Bay,
bounded on the north by Portuguese territory, east by
Tongaland, and west and south by the South African
grazing and the mineral wealth of Swaziland had drawn
large numbers of Boers and diggers into the country, and
the Regent and the young King found themselves in
difficulties with the demands made on them for land. The
white population numbered 1000 during part of the year.
Altogether the country was in an unsettled state, and
after preliminary investigations it was decided to send a
joint British and Boer Commission, under special
Commissioners from England and the South African
Republic, to make full enquiry and to report on the
situation. Sir Francis de Winton was appointed British
Commissioner, and on his way via the Cape he picked up
B.P. and added him to his staff as private secretary.
October, B.P. wrote to his mother:
I am all right with Sir F. de Winton en route to
Swaziland. He arrived at Cape Town on Thursday and
received from me a letter and a resume of the
Swaziland question. We put him up at Government House
and he at once applied to the General for me and
apparently without much difficulty got me. We sailed
to-day (Saturday) and reach Durban on Thursday next.
Thence to Maritzburg to stay a few days and then to
Johannesburg and Pretoria, where we are to see
Kruger, and then on into Swaziland."
during this trip he kept a very full and interesting
diary which, although I can only give very few extracts,
describes the journey more adequately than I could write
November.—"After packing our kits had them
all arranged for the journey which is to go
thusly—we go by train to Ladysmith, thence by
coach via Harrismith and Johannesburg to Pretoria. At
Pretoria we are to be joined by our mule coach and
mule baggage cart. Two ox waggons in the meantime
take our stores and extra kit direct to Steynsdorp,
where we shall join them after interviewing the
President of the S.A. Republic at Pretoria."
Ladysmith a halt was made in order that the Governor, who
travelled with the party, might turn the first sod of the
new railway from Ladysmith to Harrismith. This
accomplished, they all returned to Ladysmith, the
Swaziland party changed into travelling clothes and
embarked in a "coach" (consisting of an omnibus
with ten horses) for Pretoria, which was reached after a
drive of five days, putting up at inns en route.
description of Johannesburg, as it was at that time, is
itself is a wonderfully big city (30,000 inhabitants)
and has only been invented within the last three
years. All the bigger buildings and offices are brick
or stone with zinc roof. The Grand National Hotel is
the best hotel I have seen so far in S. Africa,
accommodates 120 or more, is always full and charges
25/- a day. Everything in the way of food or drink is
very expensive, especially as they are only just
getting in supplies after recent famine, e.g. eggs
6d. each, cabbages 4/-, bottle of milk 1/-, etc. In
spite of its richness and good buildings the town is
still unpaved and unlighted at night. The streets are
therefore always ankle deep either in dust or mud.
Mud had it while we were there."
Johannesburg the party explored a gold mine—the
largest in Johannesburg, which gets "an average of
8000 oz. per mensem of gold."
a tip for Scouts from that day’s diary:
all had candles while below, and I got the knack of
carrying them in a draught—i.e. holding the
candle between the second and third finger with the
flame fairly close down to the hand."
seeing the mine, its workshops and offices, etc., we
drove back to the hotel. There we packed our coach, a
grand old conveyance just like Buffalo Bill’s
‘Deadwood coach’ with 8 horses. We started about 10
for Pretoria, 35 miles, and had three changes of
horses en route so went at a rattling pace."
arrival at Pretoria, after changing-and putting on
our tall hats, the British Agent took us to see the
President, Paul Kruger.
found him living in a long, low, single-storied villa
in a quiet side street. A lounging sentry loafed
about at the garden gate and only saluted us with a
steady stare as we passed in. We were presented to
Paul Kruger in his drawing-room. He was a big, heavy
man with flabby, heavy face, with big mouth and big
nose, but small forehead. Sir F. talked to him
through an interpreter, the States Secretary, Mr.
November.—"Sir F. had an official interview
with Kruger. Neither side got much out of the other.
In the afternoon we drove out and called upon General
Smit (the Boer Commander-in-Chief). Afterwards Sir F.
and I got horses and went for a ride on to Signal
Hill, on which stands the Timeball, a relic of the
English occupation of Pretoria."
November.—"We were taken out in semi-state
by Generals Joubert and Smit, etc., in three
carriages with an escort of Artillerymen. Broiling
hot day. Ten mile drive to the ‘Willows ‘ silver
ore, as it is brought up, is packed into sacks and
sent to England to be smelted, and even then pays
£20 a ton."
Commission remained at Pretoria until November 21st. For
this day we find the following entry:
paid a farewell visit to the President, when the
final details of the procedure of the Commission were
settled. At I2 noon we embarked in our own travelling
bus which we kind bought from the Natal Government. A
most comfortable conveyance, the top roofed in and
double canvas curtains all round, ten mules drawing
journey into Swaziland was enlivened with hunting,
shooting and fishing.
meeting with the Swazi chiefs on the 1st December, 1889,
B.P. entered in his diary the following record:
King’s adviser rode up with the Regent (a brother of
the young King elect), the Prime Minister, and a lot
of Indunas, and a Guard of Honour. We were all
introduced to each other and had a long interchange
of greetings and short explanation of our being here
and an arrangement that the Chiefs should be called
together to draw up a statement of what the wishes of
the Swazis might be as to the settlement of the
future procedure it was arranged that the representatives
of the British, Boers and Swazis should sit as a joint
Commission, of which Sir F. de Winton was appointed
chairman, with a Dutchman and B.P. as secretaries. The
British and Dutch Commissioners’ camps were placed side
by side at Kings Kraal, Embekelwein, and here the
Commission continued to work amicably towards a solution
of their problems.
29th December B.P. wrote to his mother:
we are back in Natal after an unprecedentedly short
journey from Swaziland. We had good mules and fine
weather and we came along at a tremendous pace doing
in thirteen days what would usually take about
twenty, or more, and in wet weather would take
probably from six weeks to two or three months. We
are all in excellent health, and I am only sorry it
is all over so soon."
Francis de Winton’s official report to Lord Knutsford was
accompanied by the following letter:
obedience with the instructions contained in your
Lordship’s despatches of the 22nd and 26th
September 1889, I have now the honour to submit
my report on Swaziland… .
Appendix to this report contains papers affording
full information on the different points to which
they refer, and among them is a paper by Captain
Baden-Powell concerning the military power of the
Swazi nation which I beg may be sent to the
have further to bring to your Lordship’s notice
the great assistance I received from the members
composing the mission, viz. Colonel Martyn, Mr.
Advocate Schreiner and Captain Baden-Powell, who
all rendered me very valuable aid and who
performed their duties to my entire
F. DE WINTON,
Late Commissioner for Swaziland."
his absence in Swaziland, Baden-Powell’s future had been
undergoing consideration at the Cape. Sir Henry Smyth was
offered, and accepted, the office of Governor and
Commander-in-Chief at Malta, and gave his A.D.C. the
opportunity of going with him as military secretary and
A.D.C., with the stipulation, however, that he must not
expect leave to go to any end of the earth where a fight
might be going on. This offer was at once accepted, and
early in 1890, after short leave to England, the new
Governor and B.P. took up their appointments.
way to Malta they called at Naples and Messina, and in a
letter written from the latter place, on the 25th
February, B.P. notes:
we are at Messina in Sicily. We had a very good time
Sunday 23rd we went over the Museum in the morning
and saw the Pompeii friezes, statues, bronzes, etc.
etc which were quite eye-openers to me.
we took the train to Pompeii and had a most
delightful afternoon in the ruins—Vesuvius
behaved like a gentleman, and, as soon as darkness
came on, he sent up some grand squirts of fire.
the afternoon we started in a Rubbatino boat for
Malta. We called in here (Messina) this morning and
then went over to Reggio for an hour.
our great surprise Sir Henry shines as an Italian
linguist and talks away quite happily with them.
we expect to be at Syracuse all day, and early on
Thursday morning at Malta."
March, Malta was reached, and B.P. settled down to his
new life of office work, dinners and levees, theatricals
not been there long when Sir Francis de Winton offered to
take him again on his staff on his mission to Uganda. To
this suggestion the Governor of Malta replied shortly,
"I have not the slightest idea of lending him to Sir
F. de Winton or anybody else!"
is awful," wrote B.P. to his mother. "I thought
once Sir F. de Winton had gone I should be rid of the
longing to be with him, but I feel more and more anxious
to be there. I can’t think of anything else.
you can’t picture that, what I should call camp
sickness that gets hold of one—a sort of hunger
to be out in the wilds and away from all this
easygoing mixture of office and drawing-room; clerk
of these illegitimate hankerings after active service,
B.P. managed to enjoy life in Malta to the full. One of
his first tasks was to get the armoury in the Palace
properly arranged. Amongst this armoury were many famous
pieces, one suit alone being valued at £8000.
the Governor moved his quarters from San Antonio Palace
to Verdala. B.P. describes his new home as being "a
very solid old square building—300 years
old—with a square tower at each corner and
surrounded by a dry moat. Huge thick walls and stone
floors, frescoed ceilings, dungeons and secret passages
all over the place; one dungeon opens by a tiny passage
into my bedroom and has the staples in the walls to which
they tied prisoners and then burnt them (the walls and
ceilings are still smoke begrimed)."
August, B.P. won two races at the Malta Polo Club
Gymkhana. He describes these as being "both first
prizes but small in amount because we chiefly do the
races for the fun and honour and glory without idea of
made a name for himself in Malta as being the friend and
helper of the soldiers and sailors in the garrison and
fleet. Lady Smyth writes:
of his great successes was getting each of the five
regiments stationed in the Island to give concerts,
one regiment taking charge of it each month, which
caused much competition among the men, giving them
great interest and evening employment in practicing
and preparing their respective programmes."
perhaps his greatest achievement was the formation of the
Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Recreation Club. For two years
before it was possible to open it, B.P. was getting up
concerts and entertainments to raise the necessary funds
for the project, and on March 31st, 1893, he wrote
proudly from the
AND SAILORS CLUB, MALTA.
do you think of the above heading? Well, it means I
have got my old Club started at last and handed over
to a Committee to manage, and I am free. But the
amount of writing I have been doing and still am
doing is almost stupendous. At any rate I hardly know
what it is to go out of doors now. But I’ve nearly
got to the end of it now, and then for home!"
club, which became very popular, was known colloquially
as the "Poultice," because when, at a meeting
of chaplains, B.P. was criticised for placing it
"among the drinking shops of the town," he
replied by asking, "Well, where would you put a
Intelligence Officer for the surrounding countries, to
which office he was appointed in August, 1890, B.P.
managed to fit in a good deal of travel amongst his other
activities. He visited Albania, Italy, Greece, Turkey,
Tunis, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes at his
own expense, sometimes at that of the War Office, but
generally managing to pay his way by writing and drawing,
for the newspapers, descriptions of his journeyings. The
Chief Scout has himself fully described most of these
trips in The Adventures of a Spy and elsewhere.
part of B.P.’s duties as A.D.C. lay in the arrangement of
levees, dinners, balls, concerts, etc. Of his prowess in
this direction Lady Smyth says:
was invaluable in helping to get up and arrange any
entertainment, being able, either himself or by
finding a friend, to fill up any gap. Notably once
when a lady failed to do her part of the dance on the
programme, he donned a lady’s dress and, amid roars
of laughter, gave a most attractive skirt dance, then
quite a new diversion to our audience.
of his characteristics was that he always seemed to
have people able and ready to do what he asked of
them, and we seldom had a party when he did not get
through a ‘lot of business,’ as he called it, which
meant generally that he had booked all or anyone to
join in some polo match, acting, dancing, concert,
lecture, picnic, etc. etc., which he had on hand.
Scouts could imitate his continual industry, whether
at work or play, and his thoughtfulness and kindness
to others, as well as his determination to succeed in
anything he attempted, it would go a long way towards
making fine Scouts."
remained in Malta until April, 1893, when, on the advice
of his old colonel, Sir Baker Russell, he resigned his
appointment as assistant military secretary to rejoin his
regiment, the 13th Hussars, then stationed at
Ballincollig, county Cork, Ireland.
the 10th April of that year he started for home, paying a
visit to Tunisia and Algeria, at the request of the War
Office, on the way. His first letter home after leaving
Malta is dated 26th April, 1893, from Souk-el Abra,
I am getting homewards by very small degrees for,
having got as far as this, I find maneuvers going on
behind me, and am just off back again to Tunis and
I shall make a fresh start and run along the coast to
the West End of Algeria. Meantime I am thoroughly
enjoying myself and getting together a nice
collection of butterflies. I shall be with you by the
end of the month in any case."
on the 9th June, he reached his regiment in Ireland, and
on this day he wrote:
is good to be back, everybody so cheery, and I feel
quite at home again. In the afternoon the 10th
Hussars came over to play us at Polo, so I saw them
all again, and an enormous crowd of local people to
look on and be tea’d, etc.
of course we beat them.
rooms look out into a park of open brilliant green
grass, with elm and beech trees. You could never
imagine barracks were anywhere here…. I have taken
over command of my old squadron. To-morrow we leave
for Ballincollig. About the 23rd we start for the
Curragh for summer maneuvers."
during these maneuvers at the Curragh that Baden-Powell
came once more prominently to the notice of Lord
Wolseley. He had devised the trick of sending a few
mounted men towing branches behind them which made a big
dust that lured the enemy’s cavalry away, and in their
absence B.P. popped in with his squadron and captured
their artillery. Lord Wolseley, who happened to be
watching, commended this use of " common sense and
cunning " to the assembled officers afterwards,
asking for the name of the officer responsible for it.
a direct result of this episode that in 1895 he sent for
B.P. at the War Office and told him that he was going to
send him out with the Ashanti Expedition, although it was
not a cavalry country—but he had observed that he
could use the four "C’s " necessary for
campaigning in that kind of country as elsewhere—
Common sense, Cunning, Courage and Cheerfulness.]
spent with his regiment at Dundalk and Belfast, during
which time he worked at a new edition of " Cavalry
Instruction." In September of that year he acted as
brigade major to Colonel French (now Field-Marshal Lord
French of Ypres), another staff officer being Douglas
Haig (now Field-Marshal Earl Haig of Bemersyde), at the
cavalry maneuvers at Churn, Berkshire.
From: Eileen K. Wade, The Piper of Pax:
The Life Story of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1924. Chapter
X: Old Places with New Faces.
VII. Swaziland, Malta and Home. A
shooting trip to Knysna—first encounter with
an elephant—a mission to Swaziland—an
interview with Oom Paul—life in
Malta—adventures in many
countries—maneuvers in Ireland.
VIII. Ashanti. The Ashanti
Expedition—experiences of a native
levy—the wages of a king the nigh] march to
Bekwai—hoisting the British flag— how
to avoid fever—Kantankye receives promotion.
IX. Matabeleland. Special service
again—troubles in Matabeleland—Sir
Frederic Carrington arrives—scouting in the
Matoppos—the Wolf that never sleeps—the
case of Uwini—home with Rhodes.
X. Old Places and New Faces. India
revisited—Officer Commanding 5th Dragoon
Guards—work and sport in plenty—a
shooting trip with Sir Baker Russell—on
special service to South Africa—ready for
XI. The South African War, 1899-1902. The
declaration of war—beseiged in
Mafeking—seven months beseiged—the
story of the stamps—food
shortage—arrival of the relief column.
XII. The South African Constabulary. The
hero of Mafeking—Lord Roberts’
despatch—a new job—the South African
Constabulary—home at last—an interview
with King Edward—appointed Inspector-General
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