In late November, 1899, a British military unit which included an embedded reporter was ambushed by an Afrikaner unit in what is now Natal Province, South Africa. This was during the Anglo-Boer war, which was to be the largest military adventure to date in the history of the United Kingdom. The British had been traveling in an armored battle train, a kind of tank-train hybrid that was being used in that war mostly with poor results. The train was partly derailed, and the British were under fire, their only hope to make a break for it, or to hunker down and wait for reinforcements which may or may not come. Suddenly and without warning one of the British soldiers threw up a white flag and surrendered. This moment of initiative caused confusion among both the Boer and British which in turn resulted in several Boer and British soldiers exposing themselves to each other’s direct fire. It is one thing to volley bullets back and forth and occasionally hit someone, but standing uncovered several feet apart and heavily armed, the soldiers on both sides collectively decided that taking what was now realized by some to have been a false signal as a valid appeal to surrender was a better choice than a massacre. The British Soldiers and the reporter were all taken prisoner. Over the subsequent month, the reporter was (against the standing rules of the time) mixed in with the soldiers, and they were processed and incarcerated in a facility in Pretoria.
On December 22, the reporter effected an escape which is one of the more remarkable stories I’ve ever read. It forms a chapter in his later writing, which I’ve cut down considerably for you to get the gist of the story. Below I’ll provide a link to the complete manuscript. Continue reading From Ladysmith to London: A Harrowing Escape